June 29, 2007

Genius!

The mystery to creating anti-gravity has been solved.

how to create anti-gravity[via]

Thoughts on the Supreme Court's School Integration Decision

I guess some people wish to perpetuate complex, convoluted solutions that don’t actually solve problems. How else can I explain the New York Times’ editorial this morning that decries the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that school boards cannot implement segregation policies that take explicit account of a student’s race.

The Times’ editorial calls Seattle’s and Louisville's plans “modest”, but the woman from Kentucky who initiated the case that eventually found itself in front of the highest court in America was told by her school board that her son was to attend a school that is a forty-five minute drive across town instead of the school that is a five minute walk from their house. That doesn't sound modest to me. It sounds disruptive.

Shouldn’t a school reflect the neighborhood it serves? That was always my belief. A school provides a central spot for the children of the neighborhood to gather and learn with the same kids they were playing with in the backyards at home. As you moved up the schooling system – middle school, high school, possible college – the coverage of the school would widen as you become aware of the wider world you live in.

Third graders don’t care about race quotas. They want to run home and play with their friends they made in class that day, or go to school in the morning with their friend from across the street. That can happen when some of the kids on your block go to one school, while you go to a school all the way across town.

Sure, at the neighborhood grade school level the student population might be 90% white, but by the time they reach high school, and the multiple neighborhoods served by the school, the race demographics would shift to reflect the community.

The Times criticizes the Court’s decision, claiming the Justices in the majority have turned their back on Brown vs. Board of Education and its plan “to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society.” But forever busing kids forty-five minutes across town for schooling was never the intent of the ruling. At least that’s what I understand from comments made by the lead lawyer in that historic case, Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Justice Marshall has stated in interviews that the point of the case was never to force white kids and blacks kids to sit next to each other in a classroom. It was about forcing all-white school boards to start properly funding schools in predominantly black neighborhoods. Start moving the kids around and the racist school boards would be forced into equal funding for all schools. Ultimately the kids could return to their neighborhood schools and the sense of community that could be derived from them.

It was good plan at the time, but I don’t think it holds up now. Schools are funded equally now. Unfortunately today that means under-funded. But at least the lack of money is distributed equally across schools in every neighborhood. The concern of school boards shouldn’t be about hitting racial diversity quotas, but instead delivering the quality education equally to children that will prepare them for a global workforce. There shouldn't be a reason to bus a kid forty five minutes for that in America anymore.

June 28, 2007

Batman: Help Me!

You've gotta check out the ultra cool just-under 2 minute animated short Batman: Help Me! that was created created by Barcelona animator Isaak Fernandez. It is the first of what is suppose to be a series of animated shorts. But considering it took Isaak three years to create this in his free time, I won't be holding my breath. I'll just keep enjoyng the 2 minutes he has given us.

I love the dramatic use of color and light, and the movement of his character through the scenes is so smooth and energetic.

batman: help me by issak fernandez

It's Okay To Not Implement New Ideas

Dear Kellogg's

I know million of kids across the United States love your cereal. Hell, my three rug-rats are part of that group. Plus, I know that Fruit Loops is one of your most popular brands that you want to squeeze as much revenue out of as possible.

But sometimes, maybe just sometimes, some ideas for product extension are just plain bad.

fruit loop cereal straws
[via]

I'm Only a "G"?


I was hoping for at least a PG-13. I guess I've been too tame in my posts recently. I'll have to spice things up a bit.

Into The Photo Archives

Yahoo! Photos is shutting down.

Who knew?

Yahoo! Photos was a site I used to store images until I found Flickr a few years back. I'd archive photos that had been showcased on my website there.

Since Yahoo! bought Flickr about a year ago, they don't need their Photo service anymore and have decided to retire it. They sent me a little notice, so I had them transfer all the images from Yahoo! Photo to my Flickr account.

The transfer completed last night, so I was perusing my old collection of photos this morning and finding I have quite a lot of photos. These are all pre-digital camera photos - which means the photos were taken, developed, printed, and then I scanned them in at work before uploading them via 56k modem. It was a arduous task that didn't always result in high quality website photos.

There's still fun to look at though.

ian_6month2

ian0600_13

heather2

June 27, 2007

I Think It's a Tie

Via The Comics Curmudgeon, probably the two best examples of comic strips going after a gag in a totally inappropriate way that I have seen in a long, long time.

Popeye
popeye 06.27.07

Six Chix
six chix 06.27.07

The Popeye is particularly bad. Who actually thought that was funny?

Zoe-berry Shortcake

Maybe it's just me, but I can't help but see a resemblance between Zoe and the new version of Strawberry Shortcake
St Patricks Day 2007 Photo 03
strawberry shortcake

June 26, 2007

DC vs. Marvel

Are You Feeling Big Mike? posts his breakdown of what makes DC Comics different from Marvel Comics, and why the two shall never meet.
The two companies are to this day influenced by the time period in which their conceptual underpinnings are rooted. For Marvel, this is the 60's. For DC, it's the end of the Great Depression and the New Deal. In my opinion, this means that DC's characters are an outgrowth of creativity based upon the pursuit of the American dream while Marvel's are an outgrowth at of a society so disillusioned that it questions the very existence of that dream.
dc vs marvelWhich I think is a perfect definition on how these two companies approach their characters and why I prefer DC so much. Ultimately, from my fiction and especially from my comics, I prefer a sense of optimism. There needs to be something positive and bold to aspire to. The stories shouldn't all be about questioning and fear.

It's why the films of the 1940s and 1950s appeal to me so much. Those films were developed alongside the same societal backdrop as those DC comics, and reflect a similar world view.

Pollyannaish? I don't think so. Sure there is strong sense of hope and the belief that hard work will allow you to overcome any obstacle, but I think those notions are tempered against an honest evaluation of the state of the world and challenges being faced. I'll take heroes that believe in a better world and fight for it every day over those that react to a world they believe is sliding into self-destruction.

Big Mike further acknowledges DC's broader, more positive approach, when he sums his thoughts on DC and Marvel up.
The DCU is a fantastical realm, far broader than our own with magic, intrigue, space opera, and even the old west! It's breadth and scope are why it's tales comprise a cyclical epic predicated on that uniquely American dream of creating the world that we'd want for our children. Marvel's heroes, on the other hand, are foils to an increasingly eerie dystopia.

Here I agree with Big Mike again. The appeal of DC is there epic storytelling. The tales told in their comics sweep through time and space, but ultimately the endgame is for the heroes to preserve and protect so that humanity can flourish. The name of the game is superhero comics. I want characters who are larger than life playing out stories that stretch the imagination. I want modern day Greek gods. Which is what DC can deliver.

June 25, 2007

Neat Bookends

I so totally want a set of these bookends

quote bookends

A Quest to Fix an iPod

As I mentioned last week, my beloved iPod played its tune and clicked its last wheel. Had me in a rather pissy mood all week. That iPod helps keep my morale up while drugging through forty minute train rides and car with no functioning radio.

my sad ipodBecause of all the painting I wanted to get done in advance of our carpet being installed in the basement, I didn’t have an opportunity to investigate my options for dealing with the sad iPod until later in the week. After trying all the troubleshooting tips I could find online, I resigned myself to the fact that my iPod was indeed suffering from hardware failure. There would be no wiping it clean and re-installing software and music. The hard drive, or some other component, was busted. My choices were to throw it out or try to get it fixed.

I depend on my iPod too much to just throw it out, so I took a look at Apple’s iPod Service. Even though no technician had diagnosed the specific cause of my iPod’s sad face, Apple Service was able to provide me a quote for the work: $271

A brand spanking new iPod costs $249 and shipping is free.

Now I understand that Apple considers the iPod to be more of an appliance with a fixed lifespan and Apple actively tries to generate the urge for iPod owners to upgrade to the newest versions of the music/video player, but to hammer you with a service cost higher than the product you are selling seems a bit dubious.

If I can’t afford to buy a new iPod right now, then I certainly can’t afford to pay Apple’s service fee. Apple wasn’t going to be any help to me. But I’m not sure I’m ready to toss the iPod in the trash yet.

There are a number of online vendors that offer to diagnosis and possibly fix an ailing iPod, but the feedback I’ve read on these services are less than encouraging. Lost iPods, over-charging, sending back the iPod still broken, taking six to eight months to return an iPod – pretty annoying and customer un-friendly stuff. Sure, people who have bad experiences tend to be more vocal, but I really don’t need or want the hassle. Even if it’s just the possibility of a hassle.

But then I found a company that didn’t show any negative feedback on the review websites/message boards I was visiting. In fact, I only read good things about iResQ. Located in the heart of Kansas (good Midwestern values!), these guys will provide a mailer for me to send in my iPod for diagnosis and then email me a quote for repairs. If I elect not to have the work done, they buy broken iPods.

At this point I figure I’ve got nothing to lose. For all intents and purposes I don’t have an iPod anymore – which seriously makes the three hours total I spend commuting each day less enjoyable. I’m willing to roll the dice with iResQ to see what they can do. Cheap enough repairs – I get my iPod back. Too costly – I get cash to put in my “Buy Brendan a New iPod Fund”

June 22, 2007

He's Back in the Fedora

This makes me smile.

Harrison Ford as Indy on set of Indiana Jones IV
Harrison Ford on-set in the familiar fedora and outfit of Indiana Jones.

Photo by Steven Spielberg

Our New Basement - Day 29

Now we’ve got ourselves a basement!

Basement - Day 28I know it’s been a long time between Basement Rehab updates, but because of my own laziness not a whole lot was going on between the completion of the construction and the install of the carpeting.

However, the carpeting was installed yesterday and it looks and feels great. The color isn’t nearly as green as Heather and I remember when we were picking it out – which is probably a good thing – but it’s still nice.

Over the past two weeks Heather and I have been talking about how the basement really didn’t feel like a finished space as long as we could still see the grey concrete floor. For as much as we were concerned, it was still out boring old basement – just with some new wall coverings.

Now with the carpeting in – and with all the walls primed and ready for paint – the basement looks like honest to goodness real living space. The room is just screaming for some chairs, the old NES, and the kids toys.

Basement - Day 28Of course there is still some work to be done before the room is complete. The portions of the basement covered in conventional drywall need to be painted (hence the blue tape you will see in all the photos). They’ve all been primed, but I haven’t gotten to the painting part. Partially because we wanted to see the carpet color again and pick something that would compliment it nicely.

I also need to stain the wood on the banister and around the windows, and I would like to put a second coat of ceiling white on the soffits that were built in the basement.

Then if we can get Owens Corning out to fix the poll wrap and remove all their garbage we can finally call this project done.

The Basement Rehab Photo Gallery

Captain Marvel Castng Rumor

captain marvelI'm a fan of the Big Red Cheese. I actually prefer Captain Marvel over Superman when you get down to character concept. Though I will admit more interesting stories have been done with Superman than Captain Marvel.

None the less, as it looks like a Captain Marvel movie is a sure thing, when rumors start circulating on who might play Capt I take notice. Raised a Cubs fan, I've learned the hope springs eternal. So a Shazam movie is another opportunity to see something fun and entertaining done with Captain Marvel.

black adamDwayne Johnson's name (aka The Rock) has been mentioned for the lead. Sure, Johnson's got charisma to spare and could probably carry the lead of a movie like this, but I think he would make a better Black Adam in a Shazam movie. Let him play the villain, it's nothing something he has done yet (right?). It's usually the meatier role anyway. Johnson could have fun with that.

I'd rather see another guy whose name has been thrown into the rumor mill to bring Captain Marvel to life on the big screen: Brandon Molale.

Yeah, I never heard of him either. His acting resume includes a lot TV and a bunch of movies like Mr. Deeds and Dodgeball. But apparently He loves the Captain and wants the role. According to Molale he has been contacted about the part, so the rumors have some fact to them I presume.

I haven't seen any of the movies Molale's been in, nor any of the TV shows, so I can't speak to his acting chops. But take a look at the guy. He sure looks like the real-world dead ringer for Captain Marvel.

molales and captain marvel comparison
The broad chest, square jaw - dude's even got the black bushy eyebrows. The guy gets my vote.

Let's see what develops.

June 21, 2007

Dramatic Chipmunk

It's being called the best 5 seconds on the Interwebs - and I'm of the flavor to believe the hype.

June 20, 2007

The Tooth Fairy is in SO Much Trouble

Talk to any adult and they can probably list a few traumatic events from their childhood that they will never forget. The resulting impact of these experiences could be positive or negative, but they certainly contributed to defining the person the child would become.

I have to wonder if I didn’t play spectator to one of Ian’s defining experiences this morning.

Last night Ian was eating a piece of candy he had received from a birthday party his sisters both attended this past weekend. It was something all sticky and gooey – perfect for dislodging the loose tooth he had. With much excitement he placed the tooth under his pillow before going to bed with anticipation of the monetary award that would be waiting for him in the morning.

Except the Tooth Fairy never came last night.

tooth fairyThere was much gnashing of teeth and surprised looks shot about this morning – and that was just between Heather and I – as we tried to figure out how the Tooth Fairy had managed to skip over Ian’s tooth last night.

Ian was understandably upset. Not only did he not receive cash for his recently liberated tooth, but he was apparently snubbed by the Tooth Fairy. Who gets snubbed by Tooth Fairy? How do you mess with a little boy’s psyche like that? If you ask me, that Tooth Fairy has got a lot of explaining to do.

What made it even more difficult for all of us this morning was last night, before he went to sleep, Ian spent time wondering aloud how the Tooth Fairy knew when a tooth was ready to be picked up from a kid’s pillow.

Did she just make a habit of visiting every kid, every night?

Ian - Self Portrait 1Maybe, because she is a fairy she could probably magically pop in and out everywhere, Ian theorized.

Or maybe she had special sensors that alerted her when a tooth was ready for pick-up. Ian liked that idea too.

One thing was certain for Ian. However she did it, the Tooth Fairy always knew when a kid had another tooth come out of their mouth. He didn’t have to do anything. Just put it under his pillow and everything would be taken care of.

Damn!

That Tooth Fairy better make things right in our house as soon as possible.

June 19, 2007

The Dark Knight Movie News

Saw both of these yesterday.

First, pictures of Christian Bale in the slightly redesigned Batman costume for Batman: The Dark Knight

new batman costumeIt looks pretty much the same, but there are some changes. One, the suit itself is made up of a lot more pieces, which should make easier for Christian to move around in it.

Two, they completely redesign the mask. No longer is it firmly attached to the neck and shoulder of the costume. The mask redesign was based on a motorcycle helmet, making it completely separate from the neck. The result: Batman won't have to turn his whole body anymore when he wants to look to the left or the right.

The mask changes alone should finally give us a movie Batman that moves more naturally than in the previous five films.

Second, Warner Brothers released photos of the "Batpod" - basically the Batcycle to compliment Batman's Batmobile - which will get screen time in the sequel.

From the LA Times article:
… it’s tricked out with grappling hooks, cannons and machine guns. The front and rear tires are both a monstrously huge 508 millimeters, and the engines are in the hubs of each wheel. Steering isn’t by hand but by shoulder, since there aren’t handlebars. Instead, there are shields that fit each arm like sleeves and have the ability to rotate around the bike’s frame. The two foot pegs are set 3 1/2 feet apart on either side of the tank, which the rider lies on, belly down.
I loved the new Batmobile from Batman Begins. It looked powerful and imposing - a perfect vehicle for Batman in an urban landscape. The Batpod kinda leaves me with a "ehh."

Maybe it will look cool on screen.

Filming is starting up this week here in Chicago for the film. I kept scanning for reports from the sets, but nothing yet. Probably by the end of this week something will turn up.

June 18, 2007

Sucky Start to a Day

Day started off pretty sucky, and it being a Monday and all I don't have much hope of things improving.

Attached my iPod to the Mac at home to update the weekend podcasts so I can listen to them on the train ride home this evening, and what do I see in the iPod screen?

sad ipod face
Yep. And that threw me into immediate emergency mode this morning. Instead of eating breakfast or properly prepping to leave for work, I'm spending time on Apple's iPod support site trying to figure out how to troubleshoot.

I tried running through some things, but wasn't having a whole lot of success in the twenty minutes I afforded myself. I thought I was able to force the iPod into Disk Mode, which according to Apple would suggest that the problem isn't hardware related, but it was only briefly and I wasn't able to ever get the Mac to recognize the iPod.

I'll try again this evening, but I'm so far behind in my work in the basement I'm not sure when I can (or should) be addressing this. This might be the end of my beloved iPod, unless pony up the cash for some help.

Not a great way to start the morning. Mix in another 90+ temperature day, a stack of work in the office, a severe dis-satisfaction in the condition of the basement, and general malaise I appear stuck in and this is one sucky day.

At least Rob's talking ass made me smile.

How Does He Do That?

I know it's because of my regular reading of The Comics Curmudgeon, but when I saw today's Get Fuzzy all I could think was, "Why is Rob's ass and groin doing all the talking in panels two and three?"

06.18.2007 get fuzzy
But maybe Darby intended today's comic to be a subtle homage to the never ending comic strip adventures of Mark Trail. Like this strip which features a talking potato in panel one and gigantic talking bear in panel three.

mark trail panel

June 15, 2007

Odds and Ends

  • Seems like ever since I publicly sang the praise for Lynn Johnston's For Better of for Worse, Lynn has swerved the comic strip into unbelievably sappy melodrama. It's almost to a point I can't read it any more. Sure it's fun to read The Comics Curmudgeon make fun of the inane storylines, but I actually found this comic strip parody / critique more satisfying.

    panel from Foobetter 'r Foowurse

  • Best news story headline I've seen since "Butts Charged With Stealing Toilet Paper"
    Stan Lee Does Paris : Disney Looks Away
    Stan, you old dog!

  • Sure it's a hoax, but I think that Adam Korford's Laugh-Out-Load Cats, and the elaborate history he has built up around the strip, make for a really fun comic strip.

    a LOL cats strip
  • June 14, 2007

    Space Walk

    While reading a story about yesterday's computer failure on the international space station and how the astronauts from the shuttle Atlantis assisted the Russian astronauts until the space station's systems were back online, I saw this photo.

    Atlantis astronaut Jim Reilly
    It's a photo of Atlantis astronaut Jim Reilly during a space walk working on space station construction.

    Two things caught my attention. One, the clarity of the photo. Even on my rinky-dink monitor here in the office, Reilly looks like he could float right out of my monitor. Is it the lack of oxygen and all the junk floating around in our air on Earth that allows this space-taken photo to be so clear? I don't know. But it sure is cool.

    Second, how about that the red, white, and blue rainbow streaking across the background? I imagine it was created as a result of how the photo was taken in space. None the less, it made me think about all the amazing visuals the astronauts must get to experience when they are floating high above the Earth's atmosphere.

    Space is cool.

    20 Things That Annoy Me

    This week's writing prompt that I am responding to requires me to first come up with a list of twenty things that I annoy me.

    This isn't a list I would normally put together (see #5 below). But since it's part of the exercise and I've completed the list, I thought I would share it so everyone would know what to avoid (or in Elizabeth's case - revel in) when they are around me.

    20 Things That Annoy Me
    1. Gum chewing

    2. People who crank up their walkman/ipod/whatever so high that I can hear their crappy music

    3. Loud cell phone talkers

    4. Drivers ignorant of the rules of the road

    5. Complainers

    6. Laziness

    7. Indecisiveness

    8. People with no sense of humor

    9. Clutter

    10. People walking slowly

    11. People who leave their yappy dogs outside barking for more than 2 minutes

    12. Companies that don’t let me do business with them on the web

    13. Convoluted and overly repetitive automated customer service phone systems

    14. People who can’t deal with stress

    15. Overly intense people

    16. Windy days

    17. People who bunch up around where the train door is going to be when/if the train stops, and then surge towards the entrance before the train doors have even opened

    18. Humidity

    19. Sticky things

    20. Loud eaters

    June 12, 2007

    Mr. Wizard Dead at Age 89

    don herbert - mr wizardDon Herbert, who assumed the persona of Mr. Wizard on television and introduced countless kids to the world of science, passed away today at the age of 89 due to complications from bone cancer.

    Herbert's first turn as TV's Mr. Wizard was well before my time, but my Dad enjoyed watching Herbert's science show. So when Mr. Wizard made a comeback in the mid-1980's on the cable channel Nickelodeon, he made sure my brother and I got to watch it. My parents didn't have cable back then, but my Grandpa did (he's always been an early technology adopter). So episodes were taped for us to watch.

    Kevin and I thought the show was fantastic. The experiments were cool and we liked making fun of some of the kids Mr. Wizard would have on to assist him. We marveled at how dense some of these kids were.

    Luckily for us, Don Herbert has put together a great website where you can buy copies of his original show from the 1950's or the modern show from the 1980's. Check out Mr. Wizard Studios to learn all about Herbert's contribution to science education.

    12 Reasons Why I Love Her

    I purchased 12 Reasons Why I Love Her as a Christmas present for Heather last year. Knowing me for as long as she has, she's developed a small interest in comics, but because she's not tremendously interested in superheroes I try to find stories or titles that might appeal to her tastes. Based on reviews and summaries I had read online regarding 12 Reasons Why I Love Her by James S. Rich with art by Joëlle Jones, I thought it would be a good match for her.

    She’s since read it and enjoyed it, so I decided to pick it up and give the book a spin.

    12 Reasons is labeled a romance graphic novel told in twelve individual vignettes that explores the relationship between Gwen and Evan. The vignettes are not presented in chronological order, in fact the last story in the book presents the first time Gwen and Evan met each other. So instead of approaching this work as simple narrative, the reader is expected to take the 12 snapshots of these two people lives and put them together to understand the intent of the work. The result is a look at how a relationship is really the collection of moments – small and large – strung together, and not a story or plot.

    James Rich’s approach is interesting and his choice in scenes – and the order in which to present them – makes this book a compelling read. By jumping around through the timeline of Gwen and Evan, as an observer you make connections that Evan and Gwen are obviously missing, or see the unfortunate results of actions you haven’t read yet.

    What I found to be most telling about how strong Rich’s script is by his choice for the first scene. I took it to be technically the twelfth and final vignette if you were ordering them chronologically. It certainly has that feel to it. But at the same time there is no certainty that scene one is how Rich leaves Gwen and Evan. He layers in enough doubt that even after I read and re-read that first scene and compared it with some scenes in the middle of the collection I could not be sure of where Gwen’s and Evan’s relationship ends up.

    Rich doesn’t propose to provide a clear narrative line. He wants to demonstrate how moments in life contribute to the whole, how to people meet and fall in love, and how small moments eventually build into something larger. Depending on the reader’s interpretation of the material, that “something larger” can be different things.

    It really is an excellent book. James Rich handles story with creative skill and a perfect ear for dialogue. Evan and Gwen come off as genuine people, not ciphers, with real emotions, thoughts, and fears.

    Along the way Rich is masterfully accompanied by Joëlle Jones’ clean and simple art. I had never encounters Jones’ work before, in fact I thought I remember reading this was her first work in comics, but I instantly became a fan. Jones brings Rich’s scenes to life with passion and a clean line. I think it is a perfect indictment of an artist’s skill when I read a comic and cannot imagine it being illustrated by anyone else. Jones’ artwork is perfect for Gwen and Evan and their story.

    Oni Press, which published 12 Reasons, labels the comic a romance. I think that label does the book a disservice. 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is more of a life book - exploring how relationships are formed, tested and sustained. Highly recommended.

    June 11, 2007

    Why I Walk Around Mad All Day

    Recent studies show that when people get mad they make better decisions.
    Despite its reputation as an impetus to rash behavior, anger actually seems to help people make better choices—even aiding those who are usually very poor at thinking rationally. This could be because angry people base their decisions on the cues that "really matter" rather than things that can be called irrelevant or a distraction.
    So don't fucking tell me to be happy. Soon as I start letting the sunshine in my razor-sharp decision making skills will go to all fuckin' hell - and where will that leave me?

    Exactly.

    So shut the hell up, you ass-monkey.

    This Is Confidence

    Last week a retired police chief and a retired captain from the United States Marine Corp helped the flight attendants on a Minneapolis-to-Boston flight subdue and restrain two passengers who had become unruly and was frightening the other passengers.

    It’s a pretty funny story when you hear Bob Hayden, the retired police commander tell it, in that all the younger – presumably more able-bodied - men on the flight averted their eyes when the 65-year-old Hayden was looking for someone to assist in slapping cuffs on some guy. He eventually found his help from another older man – the retired USMC captain sitting next to him.

    However, the best part of the story is when the reporter brings in Katie Hayden, Bob’s wife.
    Hayden's wife of 42 years, Katie, who was also on the flight, was less impressed. Even as her husband struggled with the agitated passenger, she barely looked up from "The Richest Man in Babylon," the book she was reading.

    "The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading," Katie Hayden said. "Bob's been shot at. He's been stabbed. He's taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody's neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end."
    “I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end.” I love that quote! A simple statement all wrapped up in confidence and love, with a touch of honesty, that perfectly captures how Katie relates to and views her husband.

    June 09, 2007

    Our New Basement - Day 19

    Construction is finished!

    Maybe it took a little longer than expected, but Heather and I are very pleased with how the room has turned out. Our contractor worked especially hard this past week to wrap everything up and get our basement looking the best it could. Just like he had done earlier when he strong-armed Owens Corning into supplying more light fixtures and additional materials so he could do the project right, Sam took time to put in some special details to give the room a finished look. This included capping the entire lower stair wall in oak, and not just the banister. It more for me to stain, but I am very pleased with the work.

    Basement - Day 19Everything isn't perfect, of course. The warps for the basement polls have been a problem. Sam had talked to both Heather and I about how the new material Owens Corning was using for the poll wraps didn't work nearly as nice as what they used two years ago. Not only was that apparent in the days it took Sam to even get the poll wraps to stay in position correctly, but in less than 24 hours after he finished one of the poll wraps had already pulled apart almost an eighth of an inch. Obviously we will be calling Owens Corning back to correct this. They guarantee all work up a year, so 24 hours clearly falls into that time frame.

    Other than that, now it my turn to take over finishing our basement rehab. This weekend I was out picking up primer and ceiling white so I can start priming the drywall and painting the soffits and interior of the under-stair closet. Then I need to stain the oak on the stairwell and the oak that was installed around the windows.

    Our carpeting is scheduled to be installed on June 21. Heather and I are very anxious for the date. Not only will it mean the project will be nearly complete, we will finally see if our decision for the carpet color is was a good one. At nearly 700 square feet of carpet, this isn't a room we plan to be able to afford replacing carpet anytime soon. Hopefully the green will look right in the space.

    Basement - Day 19After the carpet is installed it's back to the hardware store to pick out paint for the stair well and the existing walls down in the basement. Right now Heather is thinking we do something generic in the stairwell that will blend nicely with the off-white color of the basement panels. However the walls in the basement that I need to paint could end up with more color. Possibly something that compliments the carpeting and brings everything together. Because the existing drywall walls that were installed by the previous owners basically make up the south-end of the room, we can use them as an accent wall to the room to bring in another splash of color.

    Considering our basement is supposed to be used by Owens Corning as a showcase place, we are putting a top priority on getting the room finished off as quickly as possible. Besides wanting to have the room done and ready to be used, if we can make a positive impression on people visiting the showcase we stand to make a little money. Possibly enough to pay for the carpeting.

    Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    The Basement Rehab Photo Gallery

    June 08, 2007

    Redefining the 5-Second Rule

    A college professor from the Connecticut College in New London has proven that the 5-second rule - which states that if you pick up food that fell on the floor within 5 seconds of dropping it, the food is still safe to eat - is a sham.

    You actually have something closer to 30 seconds.

    The professor and two of her students dropped apple slices and Skittles on the floor of a very busy school cafeteria in triplicate for specific intervals that ranged from 5 seconds to 5 minutes. The food was then tested for the presence of harmful bacteria.

    What they found was that moist food (i.e. apple slices), remained good to eat for up to 30 seconds. Dry food (i.e. Skittles) remained within a healthy zone for up to a minute.

    Of course, your mileage may vary. It all depends what you are dropping your food on. If an apple slice lands on a carpet in a house inhabited by two dogs and a cat, I don't care how quickly you jump down to pick that thing up - it's coming up with animal hair on it. 5 seconds or 30 seconds, no way I'm eating that thing.

    June 07, 2007

    50 Things I Love About Superhero Comics

    1. Batman

    cover to Gordan's Law #12. James Gordon – coolest supporting character in comics.

    3. DC Comics’ pantheon of heroes – They’re a modern day version of the Greek / Roman gods.

    4. There’s always something new to be found and enjoyed - And by new I don’t just mean those books published in the last few months. I’m talking about discovering stuff like Kirby’s Fourth World or Nexus years after they were published.

    5. Going to a comic book store on a Saturday afternoon with your kids

    6. Comics (and not just superhero comics) are totally portable entertainment

    7. Joining words and images together – what other medium asks the user to join the imaginative (words) with the literal (pictures) to create their own unique experience of the art?

    8. Superhero comics are the quintessential form of escapist entertainment

    9. Nightwing

    10. Robin

    11. All the licensed crap you can buy based on superheroes

    cover to New Gods #112. Jack “The King” Kirby

    13. Paul Dini

    14. Ra’s al Ghul

    15. José Luis García-López

    16. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World

    17. Jim Lee

    19 The Justice League of America

    20. They can be so much damn fun

    21. Batman has been in his 30s for the last sixty years, and he continue to be in his 30s for the next sixty years

    22. Secret identities

    23. Superhero comics deliver more “F*@% Yeah!” moments than any other medium (for definition of a “F*@% Yeah!” moment see Dave’s Long Box blog)

    cover art to the Flash tv show dvd set24. The Flash TV show from the 90s

    25. Superman

    26. Comic covers look great hanging on the wall of your office

    27. Barbara Gordon (Batgirl / Oracle)

    28. The Paul Dini / Bruce Timm Animated DC Universe

    29. That Bruce Wayne can buy all that technology to build batmobiles, batplanes, and sort of gadgetry and computers and no has connected the dots

    30. That the Daily Planet’s best reporter never figured out the dude behind the glasses was Superman until he told her

    gordon and batman talking31. That I think Commissioner James Gordon knows Batman is Bruce Wayne but chooses to ignore that fact

    32. Grant Morrison

    33. Spider-Man

    34. The Multiverse

    35. Company cross-overs

    36. That there can be five different writers handling Batman in five different books and it doesn’t matter.

    dick grayson and barbara gordon37. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g . . .

    38. Captain Marvel

    39. Neal Adams

    40. A superhero costume in a comic book looks way cooler than it would in real life

    41. Frank Miller

    42. Take away Green Lantern’s ring and he’s a regular dude like you and me.

    43. That DC Comics set up two 1-900 numbers back in the late 80’s to determine whether or not Robin lived or died.

    44. That with a pop can top around my finger and a flashlight covered with a piece of green cellophane I could be Green Lantern for an afternoon

    45. Secret identities

    batman and ra's in a sword fight46. Batman and Ra’s al Ghul in a sword fight

    47. Superman and Batman teaming up

    48. Characters will time travel like it’s no more difficult than crossing the street

    49. Capes – capes are cool

    50. That superhero comics can be whatever the writer and artists wants it to be

    June 06, 2007

    I Do Not Like Blue Superman

    Back in the late-90's, the editors of Superman had him lose his traditional powers and gain some rather unconventional ones instead. The result was having a Superman no longer in the familiar red-and-blue.

    Looking back it was a fairly unremarkable storyline whose only real purpose seemed to be to give Superman a different costume for a couple months.

    The Roar of Comics deftly and creatively sums up the general dis-interest that the story was met with by the comic book reading public - with a little help from Dr. Seuss.
    i do not like blue superman

    Batman TV

    Just found the perfect TV to put down in our soon-to-be-finished basement:

    batman lcd tv
    Made by Hannspree, it's a 15-inch LCD TV - so it's on the small side, but how cool would that look in our . . . um, okay, maybe I can take the Batman thing too far.

    No Pirate Ninja's In My House!

    I broke my damn toe last night. Or at least I think I did. It could just be a nasty sprain. None the less, it's amazing how much pain and discomfort can be generated by something as small as a toe.

    Pirate NinjaAs you would expect, there isn't any cool, macho story about how I broke the toe. I didn't injure it kicking a pirate ninja in the face when he surprised me at the dinner table or anything. I was coming in from the garage and instead of taking each step I tried a little hop from the garage floor into the house - about two feet up. Instead of landing safely, I caught my right foot squarely on the door frame. I was only wearing socks on my feet.

    The initial pain was unbelievable. Intense and slightly blinding.It's been a long time since I felt anything like that. I iced it for awhile until the pain lessened a bit, then finished taking the trash out for the night.

    I spent the rest of the night sitting on the couch with my right foot elevated and ice on the toe next to my big toe. The nail looked shattered and the toe was starting to swell up.

    After getting to work this morning I checked to see what WebMD's site had on broken toes. The symptoms they list seem to match up with what I'm experiencing, so maybe the toe is actually broken. And for treatment they recommend ice and elevation. Good.

    They also recommend rest, in particular, "Avoid any strenuous exercise, prolonged standing, or walking."

    So I guess the quarter mile walk through the train parking lot in Aurora and the six blocks I walk from Union Station to my office downtown were probably not a good idea.

    Oh well, at least I get to walk with a cool limp and tell people I busted my foot caving in the face of a pirate ninja who broke into my home last night.

    June 05, 2007

    Do The Right Thing / Sesame Street

    Pretty awesome remake of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing using Fisher-Price's classic line of Sesame Street "Little People" toys.

    Ian Learns to Ride a Bike and I Learn That He is Listening

    Two years ago right around this time, we got Ian a new bike. He had just finished kindergarten and was much too big for any of the little kid riding toys or tricycles we owned. Plus, we wanted to start prepping Ian for riding a two-wheel bike. So we kept an eye of bicycle prices and one Saturday afternoon marched over to Toys-R-Us to pick one out.

    Because of Ian’s height, we had the option of buying him either a 16” bike that automatically came with training wheels or a 20” bike and buy some training wheels for me to install afterwards.

    After Ian sat on a few bikes in the store and I was able to gauge Ian’s interest and comfort with the different bikes, I decided that we could go with the 20” bike. He really liked the style of the 20” bike, and even though it was slightly larger than what he might be ready for I figured he would do fine. The kid was growing like a weed; he’d be the perfect height for the bike in no time. On the flip side, if we bought the 16” model we would be back in the market for a larger bike in 12 months because he had already outgrown the one we had.

    We brought the 20” bike home with dreams of seeing Ian flying around the neighborhood on his new bike. What I’ve learn since then it is probably better for the kids learning to ride a bike to start smaller and work their way up.

    Ian - Self Portrait 1After a few times on the bike that summer Ian lost interest in riding. What had started out as something he was excited about doing had become an activity that he would devise elaborate excuses to avoid. Heather and I suspect the larger size of the bike frightened him a bit. Sure, it had seemed safe enough while he was sitting in the store with his Dad right next to him. But when a five year-old Ian got on the bike by himself he wasn’t so confident in his abilities to remain up-right and injury free.

    (And for the record, he never once fell over and hurt himself that first summer)

    The summer ended with Ian not enjoying his bike very much and far away from being ready for riding on just two wheels.

    The following summer we had high hopes of showing Ian how much fun he can have riding his bike – especially with the training wheels off. Unfortunately it was also the summer we moved. With everything going on Heather and I had little time to actively encourage Ian to try his bike again. See, he was still under the influence of his experiences from last summer. So even though he had grown considerably, and now fit the size of the bike perfectly, we think the fears of riding still prevented him from getting back in the saddle.

    Ian is of a character that once he makes his mind up about something it can be difficult to persuade him to consider other possibilities. It takes a lot of talking and a lot of encouragement for Ian to peak outside the box, and we just did have that kind of time last summer. So left up to his own devices, and choices, he pretty much avoided riding that summer.

    So another summer ended with Ian not enjoying his bike very much and still far away from being ready for two wheels.

    This summer, however, Heather declared it would be different, and I agreed with her. Heather and I got ready to help Ian tackle his fears about riding a bike head on. We talked Ian up on the excitement of riding your own bike unencumbered of training wheels, I waxed poetically about the freedom he would enjoy being able to jump on his bike and ride, and we all discussed riding his bike every day with the goal of being able to ride on two wheel by the end of the summer.

    Ian seemed excited for the plan, but reluctant to join in its execution. With plenty of prodding and encouragement, however, Heather started getting him out on the bike after school during the week in late spring. After a few turns with training wheels, we decided to just remove that crutch and go for the two-wheeled gusto. One, we all agreed (Ian included) that it would help speed along learning to ride. Two, Heather and I secretly believed it would help with Ian’s confidence. He was a little embarrassed to be a seven year-old with training wheels on his bike.

    April proved to be pretty rainy, which hampered practicing, but in May the weather was in our favor and Ian got on the bike a lot. Heather and I started using different ways of holding/running with the bike while Ian practiced balance and pedaling. He would still come up with excuses to stop practicing, but Heather and I were firm in our resolve to have him out there working at it. All along we continued to encourage him and talk up the fun of riding a two-wheel bike.

    Then Ian had his big break-through this past weekend. We had been holding and letting go a lot with Ian and you could tell he was ripe to finally take the next big step. I was out practicing with Ian on Sunday and growing a little frustrated with his hemming and hawing about how I should be supporting the bike when he rode. I really felt like he could ride the bike without any assistance, he just needed the push – both metaphorically and physically.

    So I did just that. I told him that I wasn’t going to hold the bike at all. I was just going to steady him for a second, give him a strong push, and then the rest would be up to him.

    Surprisingly, he seemed game to give it a try.

    I steadied. I pushed. He started pedaling . . . and pedaling . . . and pedaling.

    Ian - Self Portrait 2I was running a few steps behind him. Close enough to help him if he fell, but far enough back so that he couldn’t see or sense me as a safety net. Ian had to ride it on his own and he did it perfectly - all the way from our house to the end of the block. Then he stopped, turned around, and after another push from me, rode the full length of the block like a pro. It was pretty fantastic to watch, his legs pumping away while riding up and down the block on his two wheel bike. I felt a sense of relief and pride.

    After a few more trips up and down the block he decided to stop for the day. But this time it wasn’t out of frustration, but tiredness. That was Sunday. On Monday night after dinner we all went outside to play a bit before bedtime. Emma on her 16” bike with training wheels chased after Heather on her bike, Zoe rode her tricycle, and Ian and I played football. Ian kept watching Heather and Emma shot back and forth in front of the house (Emma is a wild one on her bike. The girl obviously loves speed). After about 15 minutes he decided he was going to join in the bike riding – no prodding from me or Heather. He donned his helmet, saddled up, and with a quick push from me (still working on getting started), he was off once again.

    While putting his bike away at the end of the evening, Ian turned to me and said, “You were right, the more you learn how to ride your bike the more fun it is.”

    His declaration made me realized that Ian was listening to me all those times I was telling him how much he would enjoy riding his bike. Sure, when ever I brought it up he would dismiss my comments and say that he just wasn’t interested in riding, but now I know that some of the things I am trying to explain and teach to him are taking hold. Sure Ian might want to verify for himself the nuggets of wisdom Heather and I are trying to share with him, but hopefully as he continues to see how Mom and Dad really are steering him in the right direction that by the time he is older and we are trying to explain things that can have a more dramatic impact on his life than riding a bike he will be ready to listen and learn from the beginning and not test things out on his own.

    (photos are Ian self-portraits)

    June 04, 2007

    Our New Basement - Day 14

    We’re starting week four of the basement project. Things are almost done, but not exactly the “two week” timeframe that everyone associated with Owens Corning had talked about.

    Basement - Day 14Not that it really surprises me. Even if I hadn’t seen the Money Pit and how many jokes the film is able to mine from a contractor’s promise of being done in two weeks, I’ve heard it from enough contractors myself to know that the two week completion statement is meaningless.

    None the less, considering the advertised ease of installation of the Owens Corning product, I am surprised we are at a week four. My suggestion to Owens Corning salespeople would be to better recognize the challenges each individual basement presents. In talking with Sam (our installer) it appears that Owens Corning tries too hard to productize the whole basement install, which ends up causing problems when the work actually begins. Sam has been slowed down because removing the existing electrical wiring the previous owners had installed was more difficult and took longer than expected and because of lack of sufficient materials. Owens Corning, we learned, orders the amount of supplies for the install based on the square footage of the basement area. They don’t take into consideration, or not enough consideration, the particular layout of the basement.

    Sam’s had to put in orders for more lights and trim pieces because he needed them to get the job done right for the space, not by what the product rules might dictate. I appreciate Sam’s commitment to getting the job done right; it has also slowed things down. I think if Owens Corning hadn’t pushed the ease and efficiency of their product, I don’t think I would have been holding the mindset that our basement would be completed in a tight timeframe. The project will be as long as it needs to be in order to get things done right.

    Basement - Day 14So we’re starting week four. The poles are nearly wrapped in wood. The drywall is all in place – just needs the taping finished and to be mudded. And I’m still waiting for the hole the electrician knocked in the wall to be repaired.

    My lingering concern is about Sam’s comments that he is scheduled to start a new install this week. Obviously Owens Corning believes their claims at two week installs and already has him penciled in to start someone where else. Where does that leave Heather and me? Sam knows he has to finish our basement; it’s what he’s contracted to do. Things have gone along so smoothly that I’d hate to see this whole experience dissolve into what happened last year. Fortunately, last summer’s hassles with a contractor taught me how to be a complete asshole to a trade worker in order to get contracted work completed. I just hope I don’t have to do it again.

    June 03, 2007

    Why Batman is the Coolest

    Of late, a number of bloggers with an interest in comics have been posting a list of the 50 things they love about super hero comics. I have my list almost together, and will be publishing it shortly. As you might expect, at the top of my list is Batman. One of the reasons I love Batman so much is his versatility as a character. You can put Batman in just about any story and he will work.

    Steven Padnick of The Roar of Comics shares this point of view on the Caped Crusader and recently identified the many different types or incarnations of Batman. I thought the list was great and perfectly illustrated one of the reason I love Batman and love comics.

    So, with all proper credit to Mr. Padnick, I give you the Many Faces of Batman:
    Batman the Detective: Sherlock Holmes in a funnier hat, Batman can be the genius detective Commissioner Gordon calls in when the crime is too brilliant or bizarre for the average investigators on the police. This is the Batman that loves gathering mud at crime scenes and running it under a microscope.

    Jim Lee Batman from ASBARBatman the Vigilante: Batman can also be the untouchable crusader who takes on the criminals the cops won't investigate, the powerful, the connected, the rich. This Batman threatens corrupt politicians in their very bedrooms.

    Batman the Spy: James Bond in a cape, Batman uses his stealth, disguises, and sophisticated gadgets to sneak high security bases and sabotage weapons of mass destruction. This Batman gets his kicks hijacking enemy communication technology to his advantage.

    Batman the Adventurer: Batman travels the globe, charges in to right wrongs and saves damsels in distress. And there's nothing he loves more than swinging in on his bat-rope.

    Batman the Horror: Batman sometimes scares the hell out of his enemies. He stalks them like the killer in a slasher film, striking from the shadows and picking them off, one by one. Greatest pleasure: leaving one behind, knocked out and tied up, for the rest of his enemies to find.

    Batman the Asskicker: And sometimes he drops all subterfuge and just beats the holy hell out of the bad guys. Whether using Asian martial arts, old fashioned fisticuffs, or hitting criminals with other criminals, sometimes Batman is just about hurting people.

    and finally,

    Batman the Superhero: The Batman in the Justice League, who fights colorful, gimmicky supervillains, trains apprentices, occasionally goes to other planets and fights aliens and dinosaurs and robots and shape shifting mud puddles, THAT Batman isn't any of the ones above, and yet he's all of them.

    Which is what's so great. You can tell almost any story with Batman, and still he remains, at his core, Batman.
    Well said. You can tell any story with the Batman as the protagonist, and that's why Batman is the coolest.

    June 02, 2007

    TCM Funday Night at the Movies

    Back in March I found a book being showcased on TCM.com called The Best Old Movies For Families by Ty Burr. The book provides suggestions for adults looking to introduce classic films to young movie watchers. I thought it was a great idea. I haven't had an opportunity to search the book out yet and possibly sit Ian, Emma, and Zoe down in front of some of the suggested films, but that's okay because this summer TCM is taking care of that for me.

    TCM Funday Night at the Movies with Tom Kenny image
    Every Sunday night starting this June 3rd, TCM will be airing classic films perfect for kids. To help bridge the gap between the modern and the classic, TCM has tapped Sponge Bob Square Pants to host the weekly festival (actually it's Tom Kenny, the voice of Sponge Bob, but I love the marketing twist in there).

    Funday Night starts out strong with grand-daddy of classic kid-friendly movies, The Wizard of Oz and doubles up with a modern fantasy classic by master animator Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away, for slightly older kids.

    In the following weeks we get Bringing Up Baby (one of my personal favorite films), Sounder, and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein - which I would love to see Ian's reaction to.

    The films start at 7pm Central, so we should be able to squeeze them in before bedtime. I'm really looking forward to watching some of these films with the kids. I think it will be great fun, and it might cut down on how many times I have to hear, "your watching an old movie again" from the kids.

    June 01, 2007

    I've Started A New Blog

    I've started a new blog.

    It's more of an online exercise in writing.

    Go take a look: brtawp.brendanmckillip.com