October 31, 2006

The Legal Team at DC Comics Needs to Contact This Guy

picture of George Perkins - ap photo

AMERICUS, Ga. - So many bats have infested the town's historic district that the sky turns black with each sunset and the neighborhood is calling on Batman to come to the rescue.

That's what the local bat remover goes by. George Perkins often makes public appearances in the caped crusader's costume and drives his own Batmobile — a retro-styled Chrysler Prowler with bat emblems. Callers to his office in Eufaula, Ala., known as Bat Cave 1, or Union Springs, Ala., known as Bat Cave 2, hear the "Batman" TV show theme while on hold.
If the character of Batman can survive Joel Schumachers' 1997 Batman & Robin, I'm confident it can survive anything. Even some old dude dressing up like the Caped Crusader to rid people of their bat infestations.

Read more about George in the full story: Batman helps Ga. town infested by bats

Ghosts In the Movies

In the spirit of Halloween, Worth1000 is hosting a contest for people to work their best Photoshop magic and make the actors from popular movies look invisible.

I liked this one from the Lord of the Rings movies.

invisible people in Lord of the Rings

Sleepy Urbanite

Hey, check this out. Yvonne Doll, a former co-worker and friend, has put together a pretty cool art concept up on the web. She's spent time riding around the CTA snapping photos of sleeping train riders using the phone in her camera. She calls it Sleepy Urbanite

screen shot from Sleepy Urbanite

There's also a story about Yvonne and her project on the Chicago Tribune website.

This Day In Stupid

Some people need to get out of the gene pool right away before they posion it beyond repair.

Dude thought his taped-together $100 bill with no face and Bill Clinton's name was real.

Deputy Nathan Stephens said he was dispatched to Express Mart 2 at 1045 St. Louis St. around 2:30 Friday morning to take a report from the clerk, identified as Dustin Peterson, regarding counterfeit money being passed at the store.

“Peterson said a black man came into the store and passed the bill to purchase a package of Newport cigarettes,” Stephens said. “Peterson said he thought the bill didn’t look right but didn’t want to argue with the customer, but after looking at the bill further decided to call us.

“The bill was unmistakably fake due to the fact that the ink was running on the bill, the president’s face was missing and for the president’s name, it had the name Clinton on it.”

While Stephens was taking the report, the man who allegedly passed the bill came back into the store and was identified by the clerk, according to Stephens.

“I pulled the subject to the side and identified him as the listed suspect. I asked him if he had passed the bill and he said yes. I asked him if he knew the bill was fake and he stated no, he thought it was real,” Stephens said.

Not only did the guy try to pass the sorriest example of counterfeit money in the history of the world, he came back to the store.

October 27, 2006

Hellboy: Sword of Stones

The first Hellboy animated movie will debut this Saturday on Cartoon Network. I am looking forward to watching Hellboy: Sword of Stones, but not sure if I will be able to. It will be released on DVD in February 2007, but I was hoping to see it for free on TV before making a commitment for picking the DVD up.

I've been following the development of the movie on the director's blog, and I think it and the second movie (Hellboy: Blood and Iron) look fantastic. Hopefully Cartoon Network will re-broadcast it later, or I can catch the debut of Hellboy: Blood and Iron when it is aired.

Then again, I bought the first live-action Hellboy movie DVD before ever seeing the film. I bought it on the strength of my experience with the comics and the reviews/word of mouth I had read/heard. And even though it was a Hong Kong bootleg of marginal quality, I still loved the flick. Maybe I can take the same chance with the animated flicks as well.

hellboy animated movie screenshot

October 26, 2006

Apparently I'm Actually Interested in Stamps

This year the U.S. Post Office issued a sheet of stamps featuring DC Comic heroes. In 2007 they will issue a sheet showcasing some of the superheroes from Marvel Comics.

image of marvel comic stamps

The stamps seem nice and all, but even though it might be neat to have the complete set (DC and Marvel) hanging on the wall of our home office, I'm just not that big a fan of Marvel's characters. I'll stick with my one set of DC heroes.

On the other hand, I think the Jimmy Stewart stamp looks fantastic.

image of marvel comic stamps

Classy. Just like the man himself.

He Sat And Simply Enjoyed It

Wired magazine invited a group of writers and designers to channel their inner Ernest Hemingway and write a 6-word story. They received entries from the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, William Shatner, Joss Whedon, Margaret Atwood, Michael Moorcock, and Kevin Smith.

You can see the whole list on Wired's site.

My favorite entry was from writer Alan Moore, the mad genius behind V for Vendetta and Watchmen

"Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time"

October 25, 2006

Patty Knows What I Want

patty burgerThe former CEO of Jimmy Johns, Gregg Majewski, opened a new venture right here in Chicago this week. It's called Patty Burger. The aim is to simply serve up burgers, fries, and shakes (though it has an egg sandwich on the menu for breakfast and a veggie burger for the tree huggers), with a classic 1950's sensibility in style. (That's "Patty" of Patty Burger over on there on the right)

There is one restaurant here in Chicago - downtown at 72 E. Adams - and another up in Milwaukee. The food review I read for Patty Burger wasn't exactly glowing, but they don't slam it either. The downtown Patty Burger location would be a quite a hike for me if I go there for lunch, but I might still give it a try here before it gets too cold.

I love my burgers and I'm always ready to try a new one.

Look What They're Selling at Wal-Mart Now

Yep, just a few quarters and a steady hand can get you your very own child from some of the new vending machines popping up in Wal-Marts through-out the Midwest.

Or, you can call the fire department to get them out too.

October 24, 2006

Notre Dame Rollercoaster

I was going to write more about this game, but as we get farther and farther away from the game any potential post seems mildly dated. And I don't like that in my posts.

Suffice it to say that's why I'm keeping this short.

While Notre Dame really hasn't done anything to prove that they deserved the preseason #2 ranking and all the hype that came with it, they certainly have been making watching the games exciting this season. The defense continues to struggle and the offense, while certainly potent, has a tendency to disappear for quarters or even whole halves of the game at times.

I think it is debatable whether Notre Dame is worthy of being a BCS top ten team or not, but they certainly can play with those teams. Just not sure if they deserve to be mentioned with USC, Auburn, and Texas.

In the end they win, but it isn't without plenty of theatrics. Sure it's exciting, but some nice 30-point blowouts would be nice once and awhile too.

jeff s. running in the winning touchdown against UCLA

The Golden Age of Saturday Morning Cartoons

If I was going to be in New York City this fall - which I'm not - I'd want to stop in at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. Not only because I love comics and cartoons, but because of a new exhibit that is opening there this November.

Starting November 18th, MoCCA will be celebrating 60 years of television animation, focusing on the "Golden Age" of Saturday morning cartoons, which lasted from 1966 to 1990. The exhibit will also explore television animation from the 1940's and 1950's, plus examine how television animation has changed since 1990.

From what I've read in press releases and other reports, the collection is going to be huge. Character roughs, storyboards, series bibles, scripts, and toys are just some of the items that will be on display. And the collection will cover over fifty different shows. I was reading through the list and was reminded of some cartoon shows that I haven't seen in years and still fondly remember them from when I was a kid.

It's no secret that with the rise of cable television and its ability to niche program (and do it 24/7), the major networks abandoned the Saturday morning cartoons in the classic sense, leaving the kids programming to Nickelodeon, CartoonNetwork, and others. Saturday morning cartoons have come around in the last few years, but a weekend morning full of cartoons doesn't have the "event" feel to it like it did when I was a kid. And why should it when kids can see any of those same shows on CartoonNetwork Monday through Friday or call it up whenever they want with on demand video.

In the end, I'm happy I get to experience some of the Golden Age of Saturday morning cartoons. Saturday mornings were a lot of fun for me, and my brother and sister, growing up as we would fit over shows, coach space, and the last crumbs of the Fruity Pebbles while my Mom slept in late oblivious to our activities. This exhibit would be great way to revisit some of those shows, and those Saturday morning experiences, one more time.

A Third Reason to Die Before I Get Old

1) I'll never see any of the money I've been pumping into Social Secuirty all these years

2) As the World's oil supply dries up, fighting over the remaining energy will put us into constant global war

3) Even if we live with perpetual warring for oil, there might not be anything to fight for: "Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends"

That's what the WWF conservation group reported today. According to their studies, humans are basically creating waste from resources at a faster rate than the planet can replace those resources.

We should consider ourselves lucky it is only two planets' worth of natural resources. If everyone lived like an American, we would need 5 planets of resources each year come 2050. Says a lot about our culture, doesn't it?

October 20, 2006

Got's Me A Nasty Head Cold

I can't remember the last time my nose ran and I sneezed so much as result of a head cold. Getting through the workday today has been a bear. I want to go home and lay on the couch.

common cold

October 19, 2006

I Love The Internet

It allows me to enjoy these types of moments. An email from my Aunt about planning my Dad's 60th birthday party (please, it's not a surprise).

There's something corny and fun about being a grown adult and getting an email full of emoticons from you aunt talking about buying alcohol.

October 18, 2006

Bad Costume Ideas

There are bad costumes - like wrapping your body and arms in tinfoil, slapping a pot on your head, and calling yourself a robot - and then there are bad costumes . . .
whoopie cushion costumetoilet costume

Now that is just wrong. Who would subject their children to that? You don't send you kid out dressed like a toilet, carrying a wimpy little toilet paper purse. How much crap do you expect your kid to take?

And it's just not kids being subjected to bad costume. Apparently there are dorks out there who want to dress their iPod up for Halloween and are willing to drop $20 to $40 to do so.

bunny costume for an ipod

iAttire has a huge collection of costumes for you iPod. Whether it's a regular iPod, Nano, Mini, or Shuffle, iAttire has something to dress it up.

It all seems pretty silly, if you ask me.

Well, except for the pirate costume. That might be fun.

pirate costume for an ipod

Chicago Bear Factoid of the Day

Monday's game against the Arizona Cardinals was the third most watched program in cable television history.

ESPN's airing of Monday Night Football earned a 10.8 rating - 10.8 million homes were tuned in to watch the "Monday Miracle."

That follows only a 1993 debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot and the September 25, 2006 airing on Monday Night Football, which featured the return of football to New Orleans.

I Swear, I Meant It In A Good Way!

I call the kids all sorts of goofy names. Emma will go by Emma-Lemma, Ms. Cranky-Pants, or Princess. Zoe gets Sparky or Tank. Ian might get called Johnny Short Pants or McGehan, though he is on the receiving end of the most variations. Flash, Maynard, Tommy Two-tone, Ringo. Heck, I refer to all three of them as the Clan, the Pack, the Angry Mob, the Wild Bunch, and Hector and the Slumber Bunnies (don't ask).

I make up names on the fly when I'm playing with them or just asking them to do something. Usually the name that comes out is something I have used before or something relatively safe or goofy. We all have a good time with it. Until last night.

Zoe was brushing her teeth while standing on the toilet seat. She dropped her tooth brush and I bent down to pick it up. After washing it off in the sink, I handed it to her and said, "There you go, Sphincter."


I can vividly remember my brain thinking the name "Sparky," but somewhere between the thought and the movement of my mouth the signals got changed to "Sphincter."

At the time Heather was in the hall putting something away in the closet. She slowly leaned her head into the bathroom and asked, "What did you just call our daughter?"

Secretly I hoped Heather hadn't heard, but apparently I was caught. I had no defense. I explained to her that I really, really meant to call her Sparky. I have no idea how the other word came out. Luckily Zoe doesn't know what a sphincter is, and Emma and Ian were already out of the bathroom, so they didn't hear what I said.

I was so completely embarrassed that I gave Zoe some extra hugs and kisses before letting her go to sleep.

It the first time anything like that has happened, but I don't want it to happen again. I will need to be more vigilant in my filtering.

October 17, 2006

Sixteen Straight, Baby!

I know. I know. After talking about taking it one game at a time and not getting caught up in the Bears frenzy, this seems a tad bit hypocritical of me. But dammit, I don't care. I think it's neat.

sixteen straight t-shirt

The shirts are $16 (ha!) and come with an orange Sharpie marker to check each Bears' victim off the list. Order yours today at www.sixteenstraight.com


Chicago bears celebrate cardinals failed field goal attempt

I sat through the whole thing. Well, at least from the second quarter on after I had gotten Ian back from karate class and into bed. I had been dealing with an upset stomach all day, and watching Grossman and his six turnovers didn't make me feel any better. Certainly in the third quarter I had thoughts about cashing it all in and going to bed. But my stomach wasn't going to let me sleep, so I stayed up to remain loyal to the Bears. And I glad I did. While it wasn't pretty, it sure was a blast to watch.

What else can be said? Last night's game was un-frickin'believable. The Chicago Bears get thoroughly beaten for almost 3 quarters by the hapless Arizona Cardinals, then pull out the victory 24 - 23.

Rex Grossman and the rest of the offense were abysmal. It conjured up memories of the last few seasons, not this season where the Bears have been very effective and efficient on offense. But even the defense was dead in for most of the game.

No doubt Matt Leinart is a very good quarterback - maybe even a great one, but there's no reason he should have had his way with the Bear's defense like he did last night. Even after the Bears defense scored two touchdowns and the special teams unit provided a final touchdown to put the Bears in the lead, Leinart didn't seem to have much trouble marching the Cardinals down the field to get into field goal range. Luckily, Neil Rackers is having a crisis of confidence in kicking the long ball. How else do you explain a Pro Bowl kicker pushing a 41-yard field goal to the left? For any NFL kicker worth his weight in soccer boots, putting a 40-yarder through the uprights is a given. Neil might need to dust off his resume soon.

Chicago bears logoHopefully this little scare had taught our Bears not to believe their press too much. That's the only explanation I can figure. The Cardinals, who could be a good team with the talent they have if they can figure out how put together a full 60-minute effort, were obviously pumped up after reading all week about how badly they were going to lose Monday night, and came out to prove a point. The Bears may have been too lax in their approach to the game, or at least haven't fully realized how big the target is becoming on their back as the win more games and the national sports press starts to praise them more.

It's a situation that other teams in the league have to contend with. Indianapolis, Seattle, Pittsburgh. You establish yourself as the league champ or an elite undefeated team, and then every opponent you face gets ready to take their game to a higher level because they want to be the one to knock you down. The Bears have to start preparing for games like this. They can't approach the games in the future like they did the first six. They have to raise themselves up higher because all of their opponents (good or bad), will be coming at them harder and with more tricks.

If the Bears meet the challenge each week then we go to the Super Bowl.

If they fail to meet the challenge, then everyone in Chicago will be wondering what Lou Piniella is up to.

October 13, 2006

BlueSky Studios Challenge

BlueSky Studios is the group who created the Ice Age and Robots animated movies. They have a blog where each week a challenge is presented to the group and different artists at BlueSky post the response to the challenge.

Strange animal combinations, favorite Pixar characters, and favorite 80's cartoon characters are just some of the topics that have been taken on in the last few weeks. Below is what artist Jony Chandra submitted for the Muppets challenge.

Fun stuff. I plan on checking it regularly.

There are no DIES in my games!

Last night Heather needed to attend a meeting at school being held for parents of second graders making their first Communion. Yes, we're moving into the next big sacrament stage of Ian's religious education.

Heather left right after dinner and wouldn't be back until after the kids' bedtime, so I was left to my own devices with all three kids. After cleaning the kitchen up a bit, Zoe asked if I would play with her. Ian was reading a book and Emma was playing by herself, so I agreed.

No sooner did Zoe and I sit down in the family room, then Emma asked the two of us if we wanted to play House. This game is becoming quite popular with Emma and Zoe, and my part is usually fairly easy - sitting around pretending to be a kid, baby, or dog asking for food or going to sleep while Emma and Zoe dote on me - so I agreed.

Emma decided that I would be the "baby," she would be the "pet" - a dog named Sparkles, and she asked Zoe if she wanted to be the "Mommy." Not only was I surprised with Emma asking her little sister what role she wanted to play (these roles are usually decreed with the force of canonization from the will of Emma), but also with Zoe's response. Zoe didn't want to be the Mommy. She wanted to be the "big sister."

I guess I figured that with a baby and a pet, Zoe would jump at the chance to be the ranking member of our little imaginary clan. These games of House can quickly dissolve into elaborate power plays. Why not grab the top spot if it is open? The request to be the big sister took me by surprise.

But then I discovered Zoe's master plan.

Zoe's Too CuteAs Emma was bouncing around barking and asking for more dog food, Zoe coolly pushed her toy grocery cart stacked high with stuffed animals and DVDs over next to me and said, "Your mommy and daddy died, and I'm going to take care of you."

A-Ha! Her endgame was clear. Kill off the parents and the "big sister" takes control of the family. Ingenious. I applauded Zoe on her somewhat Machiavellian tactics and played along.

It wasn't long before Zoe tired of simply being the big sister, and in typical Zoe fashion, stirred the game up with what she does best. She died.

Ask anyone who has played any sort of game with dolls or action figures with Zoe for more than fifteen minutes and they will tell you eventually some, if not all, of the dolls/figures will die at some point. They die. There is much pretend crying and gnashing of teeth. But then they get better and things move.

Zoe likes to bring in the dying twist when playing house or any other pretending role-play game. She will lie down on the floor, announce "I die," and then stick out her tongue and close her eyes.

Trust me, it's hysterical.

Emma, however, has apparently grown tired of Zoe's dying. Last night, as soon as "big sister" Zoe suddenly laid down, declared her new deceased state, and stuck out her tongue, Emma launched into a frantic declaration of one of the rules I didn't realize we were playing under.

"There are no DIES in my games! There are no DIES in my games!"

And she meant it. She didn't want anyone dying during her game of House. One of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Later last night, after the kids were bed and Heather was home, I told her this story.

"Oh yeah," Heather said, "Emma absolutely hates when Zoe dies during their games. Hates it when Zoe gets "sick" too."

Remarkably, I was able to find resolution with Emma and Zoe by getting everyone to agree that Zoe wasn't dead, but rather just sick. I think Emma was willing to accept a "sick" Zoe because I introduced a new character into the game, a stuffed cat as the doctor who would listen to Zoe's heart, look inside her ears, and tickle her belly before making her all better. Soon "big sister" Zoe and "Sparkles the dog" were making repeated trips to Dr. Pretty Kitty

Even though I was able to smooth things over, for the rest of my days I will have that scene etched in my memory. Zoe laying on the family room floor, her tongue out and crooked to the side, and Emma running across the room yelling, "There are no DIES in my games!"


Olympics in Chicago?

Chicago Olympic logoMayor Daley and other movers and shakers in Chicago are really going all out to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. They've got all sorts of plans, have been talking to all sorts of influential people, and today they even unveiled a logo.

I think the logo looks great. The subtle changes in blue to green in the handle reflect Lake Michigan and the huge Chicago park system (or Chicago River - ha!). The flame is obviously a stylized representation of the wonderful Chicago skyline - one of the prettiest skylines in the world, in my humble opinion. Plus, by representing the city with the flame, there's a small nod to the Great Chicago Fire.

But great logo aside, I honestly think Chicago is a long shot at getting selected as the official U.S. candidate, let alone getting picked to host by the Olympic Committee. I just don't see how all the events could be logistically hosted in Chicago. Some sports would have to end up in Southern Wisconsin or Northwest Indiana, at which point the venues are all over the place and hard for visitors to get to. That has to play heavily against Chicago.

It is a great logo though.

October 11, 2006

I Wonder If the Rain Delays Are For Sale?

Chicago white sox logoI guess when you lose out on a chance to go back to the World Series and cash in on all the sweet endorsements and perks that comes with being a World Champion, you have to find the money elsewhere.

The Chicago White Sox have sold the weeknight game start time to 7-Eleven for $500,000.

You read that correctly. The White Sox have sold the naming rights for when they start their baseball games on weeknights. The games will start at . . . yep, 7:11pm.
7-Eleven"It's a fun way to insert our name into fans' hearts and minds," said Margaret Chabris, a 7-Eleven spokeswoman. "We think it's worth way more than $500,000."
Insert you name into fans' "hearts and minds?" Ms. Chabris, you're frickin' 7-11. I don't think a whole lot of people are saving space in their heart for a convenience store best known for the Slurpee.

Doesn't this sound ridiculous? Sponsor a game start time. Ha! Is there nothing that can escape having a logo slapped on it or a corporate sponsor attached to it? I understand the need for teams to make money and remain competitive, but the game start time just seems too much. Who cares about the frickin' start time? Who even really pays attention to it?

And only $500,000? What can the Sox do with that? That won't even get them a decent player.

What Does the President Do?

John Stewart tries to answer that question for us in this hilarious segment from The Daily Show

Today's Moment of Zen

A shed and the colors of turning trees are reflected in a pond in Phillipston, Massachusetts October 10, 2006. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

And a much needed moment considering the tension Pyongyang is generating.

October 10, 2006

Widescreen Video iPod?

It's a rumor that has been around nearly as long as the iPod itself (or at least seems that way). The widescreen iPod with touch-screen controls. Every time an Apple announcement is planned, the online community goes into overdrive with crazy rumors and hacked photos of what new products Apple will be unveiling. It's gotten to a point that most of the major Apple-focused blogs give lip service to the rumors and they will wait for the official announcements (or official 'leaked' announcements) before reporting anything.

Engadget admits as much in a post today about a possible widescreen video iPod with wireless capabilities. But they also admit that they have heard the same story from multiple trusted sources, so there might actually be some meat on this bone.

Could Apple have held back the announcement on a widescreen iPod from the huge September 11 new products and services unveiling so it could shine alone in an early November release just in time for Christmas?

Guess we wait and see. I know I won't get excited until I hear something from Steve Jobs himself.

How To Make a Green Lantern Ring

I don't have the skills, resources, or materials . . . but if I did, I'd follow these steps to make myself a wicked-cool Green Lantern ring.

homemade green lantern ring


Last night I was watching the local news after Studio 60 ended (great show!). Obviously, one of the lead stories was about North Korea's claim to have successfully tested a nuclear device.

The important part of that story is that North Korea tested a nuclear device. They detonated a bomb a few miles underground. But what does the NBC affiliate show while the news readers are delivering the story? File video of missiles launching and flying through the air.

Now, I am just as concerned about a crackpot like Kim Jong Il getting a nuclear arsenal as anyone, but do we need to stoke the fears any higher or faster with distorting what actually happened? I'm sure that because of NBC-5's video last night, there are plenty of people walking around thinking the North Korean army launched nuclear missiles yesterday.

That's irresponsible journalism in my opinion. Stick with facts.


What's the deal with traffic in the left lane on Ogden Avenue at 7am in the morning? On my daily trip to the train station I travel along Ogden for while. I'm headed eastbound for about a mile or two, before turning off on some more side streets.

Overall I think I've found a nice route to the train station that helps me avoid a lot of traffic, especially around Waubonsie Valley High School.

However, the traffic on Ogden confuses me. The road is 4 lanes - 2 eastbound and 2 westbound. But consistently the far left lane on the eastbound traffic has three times the amount of cars in it.

Normally that wouldn't be a problem; I'd just shoot along in the right lane. But to get where I am going I have to make a left off of Ogden. So I am forced to join this parade down the street at some point. I try to hold out as long as possible, but eventually I squeeze myself in.

It baffles me. Why does everyone want to be in the right lane?


bob sirott photo from nbc-5 siteThe mild disgust I had for NBC-5's handling of the North Korean nuclear test had hardly subsided when I realized that regular male newsreader Warner Saunders was back in the chair next to Allison Rosati. Warner had been out sick for about a week or so. Filling in for Warner had been one of my favorite Chicago personalities and bona fide TV news journalists, Bob Sirott.

I know that Warner and Allison are the highest-rated and longest-paired newsreader team and Warner has won a bunch of awards, but that doesn't make them good together. Sirott projects more personality in 30 seconds of on-air time than Warner will in the full 30-minute news broadcast. Not to mention that even though Warner has been in television news for almost forty years, he still can't seem to read a teleprompter without tripping up once or twice a broadcast. And if I hear that guy say Twenty-oh-six for 2006 or nine-eleven while referencing the terrorist attacks on September 11th one more time I might just put my fist through the screen. Just because he's a decorated journalist means he's qualified to anchor a news broadcast.

Please, NBC, don't leave Sirott sitting on the 4pm broadcasts. The man is too good to be hidden like that.

October 09, 2006

Google Buys YouTube

google and youtubeGoogle announced today that they are buying Internet start-up YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock.


It's not like Google didn't have the cash. Their stock has been soaring since their IPO.

Apparently Google wants to make sure it has all the cool toys on the block. YouTube has yet to actually make a profit, but that didn't stop Google to make sure this wildly popular video-sharing website was part of the Google stable of services.

I wonder what Yahoo!, AOL, and Microsoft are going to do now?

This Is Getting Good

The Chicago Bears completely dismantled the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday. I have to admit, I was a little concerned about the game. Even though the Bills were 2-2 coming into the game, they had beaten the Minnesota Vikings the week before and very nearly beat the New England Patriots and NY Jets - two very solid teams.

Thomas Jones of the Bears beating the BillsBasically, the Bills weren't the Packers or the Lions, and therefore posed a real threat to the Bears so-far unbeaten season. Would the Bears come in still flying high on their domination of the defending NFC champs on national television a week before? Were the Bears beginning to believe what people are writing and saying about them? Is Rex really for real?

Apparently so.

The Bears came within one Cedric Benson fumble of pitching a complete game, but had to settle for giving up the lone TD for the 2006 season and won 40 - 7.

As some of the sports writers have pointed out. Sure the Bears beat up the Packers and Lions, but you cannot not be a balanced, talented team when you dominate another team like the Bears did with the Bills on Sunday. Net-net: these Bears are for real.

I didn't get to watch as much of the game as I would have liked - I was busy with some work around the house - but I enjoyed what I saw of the second half and what I saw in the recaps Sunday night. Rex continued to play strongly and demonstrate confidence and command of the offense out on the field. Thomas Jones showed why he deserves the starting spot and Cedric Benson (late fumble aside) finally showed what he is possible of. (He had one 9-yard run in the fourth quarter where I was shocked at how fast he exploded through the line. It was like the guy was shot out of a canon. I love Jones, but he's never shown speed like that before).

Bears logoBerian played well. The defense played well. Robbie Gould continues to be automatic. And how about rookie Mark Anderson? For having a name like an accountant, this guy is doing a fantastic job of making his presence felt on this team. 9 tackles, a fumble recovery, and 5.5 sacks - and we're only through 5 games.

With each game the Bears win the echoes of the Super Bowl Shuffle start playing a little louder. I think I heard at least six different times on Sunday that the last time the Bears were 5-0 was 1986, the season after the 1985 Super Bowl. The Bears have the bye this Sunday, so they will have a full two weeks to prepare for the lowly Arizona Cardinals. I almost feel sorry for Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James, and Co.


Heaven on a Stick

Heather and I had my sister and brother-in-law over for dinner Saturday night. I mentioned this modern food miracle to them, but I wasn't sure if they believed me. So here's the proof.

Apparently there's blueberry flavor also. That's good eatin'

300 - The Movie

cover to 300Set in 480 B.C., 300 tells the true story of the Battle of Thermopylae when King Xerxes of Prussia began his invasion of Greece. It was in the tight mountain pass of Thermopylae that King Leonidas and 300 Spartan warriors were able to hold off the vastly larger forces of the Persian army long enough for the Greek forces to organize. King Leonidas loses the battle of Thermopylae, but not before proving that power of the Spartan army, the resolve of the Greeks, and that sometimes in order to win you have to lose first.

As with most books from Frank Miller, I loved 300. Miller brought all his tremendous storytelling skills into play when he created this book. This is what I wrote about the comic back when I first read it, "The battle scenes are breathtaking. The staging of the action of every page reflects the skill and expertise of an award winning comic book storyteller. Miller's artwork, gloriously assisted with Lynn Varley's colors, is original in every way describable. It can be soft and poetic or rough and violent - whatever is called for by the story."

My only complaint was some of the clunky dialogue which made King Leonidas or King Xerxes sound like a Jersey street punk at times. But that, I thought, was forgivable considering everything else Miller accomplishes in the book.

For some time now I've know that Warner Brothers is working on a movie based on Miller's book. I've seen the stories, saw some pictures, but overall didn't pay it too much attention. Not sure why, but I was letting 300 the movie fly under my radar.

Until this weekend.

On Friday the first 300 movie trailer was relapsed. I watched Friday night at home.


That was my response after my first viewing of the trailer and the fifth viewing Sunday night. I don't like to judge a movie too much by a trailer, but if 300 is half of what this trailer conveys then I want to be first in line when that film opens in March 2007. Even though I hadn't read the 300 comic in about two years, I clearly recognized some of the scenes lifted directly from Miller's artwork. And not only were they clearly lifted from Miller's images, but they captured the feel and the emotion that Miller would punch you with in his comics. That's fantastic. That makes me want to see 300 the movie because it instills some confidence that the movie makers understood the source and figured out how to adapt it to the big screen.

After paying little to no attention to this film, 300 has quickly shot up to the top of my list of films to see.

Seeing this trailer also makes me feel unworthy as a Frank Miller fan since I still haven't seen the movie adaptation of Sin City. That movie was the first great adaptation of Frank Miller's work - one where Frank served as co-director on the project. Miller's involvement with 300 was considerably smaller than Sin City, but so far 300 doesn't look any worse for that fact.

October 06, 2006

Lucky Bastards

A family from Ohio won what I would consider one of the greatest vacation packages ever - a morning to themselves at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL.

mickey mouseThe Spanglers, of Randolph, Ohio, were the first to win a marquee prize in Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration. One of 50,000 online entrants, they were rewarded with a morning at the Magic Kingdom all to themselves -- and a VIP tour.

By noon the family had been on Space Mountain, to the Dumbo attraction, on a carousel filled with Disney characters and on the Jungle Cruise, where 11-year-old Ashley Spangler got to drive the boat. All were free of lines, of course.
Heather and I haven't done the Disney World trip with the kids - yet. It's planned to occur in a few years. We're waiting for Zoe to be old enough so that she will have fun and remember the trip.

I remember our Disney World vacation as a kid and I remember how crowded things were - and that was in the mid-80's. Since then I think the park has increased in size 10-fold. I don't like even thinking about what the crowds and lines are like during peak season these days. In fact, Heather and I are already considering when we do make the trip taking the kids out of school and traveling to Orlando during the off-peak season.

All of that would have been un-necessary if I had know about this contest, entereded it, and won. Simple, I know.

Interesting Approach to Family Planning

While it may not be the type of guidance most couples are expecting, you can't argue with the effectiveness of the advice presented on this sign.

family planning sign

[via boingboing]

No More Tilting My Whirl

Every fall the Church we belong to holds Mercy Fest, a four day festival featuring a 5k run, carnival, beer garden, music, and a lot more. We haven't attended the festival much in the past, but as the kids are getting older and we settle into the church community, we are finding more and more reasons to attend.

Case in point: the carnival. Ian and Emma are ripe for many of the rides and Zoe is bold enough to charge in even when she might be too small. On Thursday night, the first night of Mercy Fest, they run a special where you can buy an armband for unlimited rides all night. Now the number of rides at the Mercy Fest carnival isn't huge. There's essentially four rides geared towards small kids (Dragon Wagon, cars the drive in a circle) and four rides geared towards older kids (things that spin super fast or take you up about 100 feet in the air and then drop you), with some carnie games thrown in, but still a lot of fun for our three little monsters and worth the price of the armband. So Thursday night I went straight to Mercy Fest after getting off the train to met Heather and the kids and spend some time riding rides.

Zoe enjoyed the cars that drove around in circles. In fact she wouldn't get off. When the ride stopped, she demanded that the carnie worker let her ride again. Lucky for Zoe the 40-degree weather and school-night situation kept most kids away (our kids don't have school of Friday, thus no concern on keeping them out late for Heather and me), so she could just park herself on the little motorcycle and go around and around and around and around. Whew.

Picture of a Dragon WagonEmma wanted to ride all the rides. Her favorites being the Dragon Wagon, a sort of mini-roller coaster, and the giant slide. She did a lot of running around with Ian doing everything together. Zoe was content to follow her own interests. Consequently, Heather and I spent plenty of time separated from each other watching kids at opposite ends of the carnival.

Ian found himself in a funny spot in regards to the ridesl. He's almost too big (both age-wise and size-wise) for many of the kiddie rides, but he's not entirely ready for the bigger kid rides. None the less, he really wanted to try the big tower drop. Because of his enthusiasm and because he was tall enough for the ride, we let him. Heather and I watched with a little apprehension as our little boy disappeared up into the night sky all by himself and then came flying back down to Earth. When the ride came to a sudden stop about 10 feet from the ground and we could actually see Ian again, we could hear him clearly say one thing, "Okay, that ride is too scary."

It was kinda funny. He wasn't crying or acting scared. The line was delivered in a very matter-of-fact nature. Like you might say, "this soup is too cold," or, "that flower is red." Ian determined that the tower drop was too scary and he didn't ride it again.

He did ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and found it decidedly "not-scary." The first time he rode it Heather went along with him (neither Heather nor I had armbands, so we had to buy tickets to get on any of the rides. Consequently we were rather selective in what we would accompany Ian on.). They both had a great time. Ian confessed that he felt like he was gonna throw up while riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, but "I just covered my mouth."

Good boy. Swallow that puke right back down.

Later in the evening Ian said he wanted to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl again, and he wanted Heather or me to come with him. Now Heather had already been on the ride and complained of a woozy stomach afterwards. I figured it was just because she hadn't eaten much of a dinner beforehand. Regardless, I don't think any adult should have to ride a Tilt-a-Whirl more than once in a 24-hour period, so I agreed to accompany Ian. One ride wasn't going to hurt me.

Tilt a Whirl pictureI remember riding the Tilt-a-Whirl when I was a kid. It was always one of my favorite rides at carnivals. Ian and I got on and prepared to be have our stomachs spun up into our throats. It took a while for our cart to find its groove and hit some of those high g-force spins, but we got there eventually. A couple of times I saw Ian hold his hand to his mouth and close his eyes, but no sooner would I see that than he would be back laughing and yelling and telling me to lean into the spins.

The ride was fun for me up to the last minute or so. It was a blast to ride a Tilt-a-Whirl again, I don't think I've ridden one in 25 years, and get caught up in Ian's excitement. By that last minute or so of the ride the excitement had worn off and my stomach was starting to tell me that the Tilt-a-Whirl was better suited for a younger stomach. I stared at the carnie operator every time we came around in hopes of willing him into turning the damn thing off. My Jedi-mind trick skills aren't all they should be, so I suffered until the operator remembered that it was time to stop the spinning.

I was glad when the ride came to a stop and we could stand on solid ground again. Ian was running and jumping around, apparently immune to any ill-effects the ride can create. I, on the other hand, just wanted to sit down and fill my stomach up with something to kill the queasiness. That would have to wait; however, there were still more trips on the Dragon Wagon and the giant slide before it was time to go home. I suffered in silence while waving to Zoe on each pass of her motorcycle.

Later that night, after the kids were cleaned up and off to bed, I still had a funny feeling in my stomach. It could have been the cold hot dog that I was served in the beer tent, but I actually think it came from my trip on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Even after eating some normal food at home. Four hours after my spin around that steel ride and my stomach still hadn't recovered. I don't remember the fallout from a Tilt-a-Whirl ride going like that when I was a kid. I guess I'm getting old.

There is one advantage of getting old; you do a better job of learning from your experiences. Last night I think I learned something very important. I won't be letting my stomach, or any other part of my body, on a Tilt-a-Whirl ever again. Ian's just gonna have to start riding it himself.

October 05, 2006

More Star Wars Cartoons Coming

I though that once George Lucas finished up the Star Wars saga of films, he was going to take some time away from that little corner of the universe, get fatter on his DVD sales and licensing deals, and explore other film making options.

I guess I was wrong. The guy just won't leave the Star Wars sandbox.

clone wars artworkAP LOS ANGELES - The wars aren't over for "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. Lucas said Wednesday he's making an animated TV series of "Clone Wars" that could air next year, although he hasn't sold the show to a network yet. The series is set during the time when the Republic is fighting a civil war against separatists led by Count Dooku.

The mythic period hasn't been dealt with too much in the popular "Star Wars" movies, so "it's a fun place to go," Lucas said.

"It basically has all the main characters" such as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lucas said, but the stars who played them in the movies won't voice them for the TV show.

"There's nobody famous," Lucas told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The show is planned as a continuation of the Emmy-winning "Clone Wars" that aired in 25 episodes on the Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2005. That series used limited animation. The new version will use 3-D computer graphics.
Obviously the picture up top is from the outstanding Cartoon Network "Clone Wars" show. The mention of 3-D computer graphics for this new "Clone Wars" does make me a bit queasy. My concern is that this new "Clone Wars" will end up looking more like Barbie: Fariytopia and not like Toy Story. I guess we wait and see.

Dad's Birthday Present

My Dad is turning 60 this year. Yep, he's one of the original Baby Boomers.

My brother, sister, and I decided to throw him a big ole party to celebrate this milestone. No suprise party, that's been done to death for my Dad. We let him know about it - even let him help put together the invite list.

Anyway, we've been so busy planning and figuring things out for the party that we haven't had time to think about a gift for the old man.

Until today.

Today I found a item that fits my father's abilities and needs perfectly. It will make a great birthday gift. And considering we are being so upfront about the party, I thought I'd go ahead and share my gift idea here.

DVD Rewinder

dvd rewinderThe DVD Rewinder has a great black and fluorescent green color scheme with high tech styling! The DVD Rewinder will spin discs backwards and plays a “rewind” sound. You can also record your own “rewind” sound which provides unending possibilities. For the tech hip, the DVD Rewinder also has an additional MP3 port and plays a separate “rewind” sound. Rewind all types of disc media DVDs, CDs, and Console Games. But not just novelty, the DVD Rewinder has utility. It has a built in compartment that holds a disc cleaner. This compartment can be used to hold the cleaner, loose couch change, tooth picks, keys or other small items. A truly unique product with a truly unique design!

No more griping from my Dad on the phone about how long it take to rewind all those DVDs after he's done watching them.

This product is great!

Roses From Maple Leaves

This just seems like a really cool thing to try.

Someone has posted a step-by-step HOWTO on folding maple-leaves into roses. You apparently need at least three good sized leaves to make one rose, but the results look like they can be quite spectacular.

I wonder if any of the trees in our backyard are maples?

[via boingboing]

October 04, 2006

This Better Not Be Boomtown All Over Again

I don't watch a lot of television. I use our television set for watching football, cartoons, and movies - be it on DVD or broadcast. Other than that there is very little TV I want to watch. There are exceptions. The first few seasons of Alias I made a point of watching regularly. I enjoy Scrubs when I watch it - which isn't often. Beyond that, I can' think of a show since Seinfeld and Frasier that I've gone out of my way to watch in the last ten years or so.

I take that back. There was a show on NBC a few years back called Boomtown that I enjoyed watching and made a point of sitting down to watch each week. Set in Los Angeles, the premise of the show was each week a criminal investigation would be shown from varying view points of the different characters in the show. It was fascinating stuff. I loved the ensemble cast and the solid storytelling. It was definitely different than anything else that was on TV at the time. It was nominated for a bunch of awards, even won a Peabody Award for television excellence. Unfortunately all the critical praise couldn't save the show, and NBC pulled the plug after one season.

Studio 60Now I find myself in what I am afraid might be a similar boat this TV season. NBC debuted the highly anticipated Studio 60 a few weeks back and I bought into the hype and the glowing reviews. I watched the premiere and loved it. Based on that strong first show I've made a point of watching the show the last two weeks - even if it meant watching the reflection of the screen in the window above the kitchen sink while I washed dishes. Three shows into the season and I am still enjoying the great ensemble cast, stellar writing, and the overall strong storytelling.

Here's the bad news: the audience is running away from the show at a high rate. 19% over the last two weeks. Is this Boomtown all over again? Maybe not. NBC certainly is giving Studio 60 plenty of more support than Boomtown ever got. Plus, with the popularity of TV shows on DVD and in iTunes, the Peacock network might be more inclined to stick with what they know is a high-quality show and give it time to get its footing. If nothing else, the broadcast airing can be a loss-leader for digital downloads and DVD sales.

It's not unlike the approach NBC accidentally fell into with The Office. There is a show that had plenty of praise from critics, tons of positive buzz, but the audience just wasn't showing up. NBC started running it on iTunes, drew some people in, and suddenly they had a top rated show winning Emmy awards.

My hope is that NBC will sit on what it knows is a solid, quality show. They just need to give it time to find its audience base and Studio 60 will perform well for the network. And if NBC gets antsy and pulls the plug, well, I guess I could always buy the season one DVD when it comes out next year.

October 03, 2006

I Made It Through Two Podcasts

Last night some really nasty storms rolled through Chicago. If you want, you should ask Heather about them - she was out grocery shopping when they hit.

edited Metra logoAnyway, the storms a considerable amount of damage around the greater Chicagoland area. Lost of trees were knocked down, there is plenty of flooding, some lightening damage, and the requisite tens of thousands of people without power thanks to Commonwealth Edison. When I checked the morning news, they were reporting on problems with the commute related to flooding and traffic lights not working. When I got to the train station to jump on my 7:22 express to downtown, I learned that Metra had managed to find a way to use last night's storms to delay their schedule as well.

Their excuse: signal problems

The result: the train I was on was a full 60 minutes late getting to the station. We sat in one spot (around Westmont, I think) for 25 minutes without moving. I made it fully through both last night's PTI podcast and this week's Sound Opinion podcast during the train ride in. That's roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes of material.

Now, I'm sure there were legitimate problems with gate crossing signals in some areas because of power outages. What gets me fired up about this is Metra's poor customer service. 90% of the time when there is a delay, they blame it on the ubiquitous "signal problems." (The other 10% is when there has been an accident on the tracks. In which case they let us know that a vehicle or person has been nailed by a train. I think it's their way of public safety announcements)

What the hell are "signal problems"? They happen frequently enough - or at least the little voice that explains why trains are going to be late blames signal problems frequently enough - that I would think Metra should put some a group together on how to figure out how to cut down on their signal problems.

Making the trains run on time is difficult. I understand that. I guess I would prefer to have what sounds like a legitimate explanation provided for why trains are running behind other than always blaming the poor signals. But I don't expect too much from Metra. Customer Service has never been their forte.

October 02, 2006

I Didn't Come Here Looking For Trouble, I Just Came To Start a Super Bowl Shuffle

If you think I'm crazy for give this entry the title I did, then you don't know many Chicago sports fans. Give us a little glimpse of greatness, power, or hell, competency, and we'll start buying championship game tickets. Doesn't matter if it's the first game, fourth game, or last game of the season. Are championship pro teams are few and far between.

So let's review. The Chicago Bears:

  • thomas jones photo taken from Yahoo SportsA dominate defense that has picked up right were it left off last season. They've given up one touchdown in so far in the 2006 campaign and no opponent has been able to earn more than 10 points.

  • Rex Grossman appears to be the player everyone thought he would be when he first stepped on the field in 2003. Already 1,000 yards passing and averaging 265 yards a game, he has a season 100.8 QB rating. When has that ever happened for a Chicago Bears Quarterback? Rex is the real deal.

  • Thomas Jones found his legs against the Seattle Seahawks last night. He rushed for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, and overall just looked to have more pop in run. Even Cedric Benson made it in for 11 carriers and 37 yards

  • Lets repeat how the Bears' defense is probably as good or better than the monster it was last year

  • Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Desmond Clark - these guys get open and catch the ball . . . consistently

  • Robbie Gould is automatic when kicking the pigskin

  • The defense, the defense, the defense

  • rex grossman photo taken from Yahoo SportsThe Bears are developing into a well-balanced, conplimentary team; evident by the fact that the Bears Defense leads the league with only allowing 29 points to be scored against them this year, while the Bears Offense is third in the league with the amount of points scored this season (116). Keep that up and they will win every game this year.

  • Finally, they put the smack down on the reigning NFC champs, the Seattle Seahawks. Sure the Seahawks were without last year's MVP Shaun Alexander, but even as great as Alexander may be, I doubt he was going to make up the 31 point difference in last night's score. He certainly couldn't have prevented Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck's two interceptions which were converted by the Bears into 10 points. Hasselbeck's turnovers alone would have allowed the Bears to win the game.

  • Call Bears fans crazy, but when you look at those points you have to excited about Chicago's chances at playing in the Super Bowl this February 2007. I know I am excited.

    Halloween Preview 2006

    Ian and Emma attend a Catholic grade school that, like many other Catholic grade schools across the country, is in a constant struggle to fund itself. There are the typical fall fundraisers where parents are expected to sell (and meet quota) a bunch of crap, bake sales, and walk-a-thons. Some of the fund raisers ideas, like the fall dinner and casino night, are a lot of fun, while others are not. Every year a few new ideas get trotted out to see if they will produce cash for the school.

    One of the new ideas for this year is a Halloween costume swap. The premise is families at the school lend their old, un-used Halloween costumes to the program. Then for $5 you can "borrow" one of the costumes for you kid to use this Halloween. After the spooky season you get your old costume back and the school pockets the money as a sort of administators fee.

    I don't know if it will raise a lot of money, but I think it's a fairly neat idea. Heather, being a huge school booster, found a way to participate. She found costumes that both Emma and Zoe are absolutely wild about wearing this October 31st.

    Consider this your Halloween Preview.
    Halloween Preview 2006 - Emma Halloween Preview 2006 - Zoe
    Emma plays against type and dresses as an angel Zoe fulfills a young dream of actually becoming a pink CareBear

    P.S. Before her afternoon nap Zoe watches a TV show - usually Dora, The Explorer. Today she watched the only CareBear DVD we own, while clutching her pink CareBear and wearing the costume. Heather told her she had to take it off before she got in bed.

    Feeding My Classic Movie Appetite

    cover art for Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio EraWhile I was waiting for another great movie to start on Turner Classic Movies, the channel ran a promotion for a new book that they had produced: Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors Of The Studio Era. It is a guide to what TCM considers 50 of the best leading men from the 40's, 50's and early 60's when the movies were filled with actors and actresses who were larger than life.

    The book is a companion to one TCM published back in the spring, Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses Of The Studio Era.

    Both books provide a brief career overview, an annotated list of essential films, filmographies, trivia, and Academy Award wins and nominations for each of the actors and actresses profiled. Each entry is at least four pages long.

    I think both of these books would be fantastic to own. I've got my favorite actors from the studio era - namely Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall - ah, hell, I like them all pretty much - but there are still plenty of actors / actresses that I am not familiar with. Not only would these books help educate me on some stars to be on the lookout for, it would provide me with a great list of movies to watch. On TCM, naturally.