August 30, 2010

Deluding Myself

If you don't watch the pre-season games (which I haven't) and read more of the stories on chicagobears.com than on chicagotribune.com (which I have), you start to feel slightly optimistic towards the Bears upcoming season.

Yes, I know what I described above is a formula for failure. But I can't help myself. Sometimes I just want to find a reason to be optimistic about something, when all evidence suggests I should think otherwise.

August 28, 2010

Joker and Lex

In the special extra-large anniversary issue of Superman/Batman #75, the creative team of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo provided this pitch-perfect homage to the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip that stars Lex Luthor and the Joker.


I hadn't planned on buying Superman/Batman #75, but I've rad enough strong reviews - and now after seeing this - that I may be reconsidering that position.

August 26, 2010

Ian Starts Middle School - And Likes It

I drove Ian to football practice on Wednesday, which was also his first day at a new school. The trip also takes about 20 minutes, so there was plenty of time to talk.

Now while Ian will be tight-lipped from time to time, he still isn't at that age (or temperament) where he clams up around his mother and father. It take long for him to start telling me all about his first day as a 6th grader at the public middle school near us.

I heard all about the bus ride, finding his classrooms, what went on in the lunchroom, and in general the new experiences of being in middle school instead of elementary school.

It was all stuff I expected to hear, but still plenty fascinating because it was my son sharing his experiences with me.

What surprised me was when he commented on how he likes the freedom that middle school gives him. He enjoys the independence of moving from class to class, and being solely responsible for taking care of himself. His day isn't spent sitting in one room with one teacher moving the class as a group. The success of his school day was equally on his shoulders to be where he needed to be at the right time. It was an observation that I wouldn't expect from an eleven year-old. I'm proud of him.

Hopefully the next 9 months go as well as the first.

August 25, 2010

Silent Star Wars

I thought this was fun

August 22, 2010

Cicada' Really Are Ugly Bugs

Never realized how big and ugly a cicada really is until we had one in the house.

Last night one buzzed in while I was taking some garbage out to the trash can. The girls and I discovered it when I was taking them to the bed.

After promising - promising - to kill it before I went to bed, I realized that my promise was going to be a little more difficult than I thought. The bug had found perch on the second floor window of our open entry way.

A well thrown balled-up sock got the cicada flying again. Unfortunately the direction was straight for my head. Not only are those things ugly, but they make a hell of a lot of noise when they are flying.

I ducked to avoid the bug's kamikaze flight, and watched it bounce of the wall and into a floor fan. I then ended its life (and unintentionally bisected the winged beast) with a sturdy smack of my shoe. The two pieces (one still twitching) were scooped up and disposed of, but the memory of the rattle echoing off the hallway walls as that bug flew straight towards me will haunt me for some time.

August 21, 2010

All of Human History

I really think this piece by Nathan Pyle, which was up for scoring at Threadless (though closed now), is way cool.

Robin Without a Cause

Caanan Grall, he of Occasional Comics, was participating in some comic book character mash-ups and came up with this:

Fantastic.

August 20, 2010

Somethimes I Think Technology Fails Us

Last weekend we were over at my aunt's house to celebrate my grandfather's 93rd birthday.

A 93rd birthday is an achievement worthy of a blog post as it is, but it isn't what I am writing about today. Honestly, my grandparents on my father's side (who are both currently 93 years old) seem like they are going to go on forever. I completely expect to celebrate their 103rd birthdays.

No, what got me to thinking at Grandpa's 93rd birthday party was when my Aunt pulled out a box of old photographs that she had. When my grandparents have sold their condo and moved into an assisted living community tens years back, they divided up a number of their heirloom items across their five kids. Each kid got a box of old photographs.

A number of us were having a great time flipping through the photos and trying to guess who was who. A lot of the pictures were of my dad's side of the family from the 1940s through the early 1970s. But there were some photos in the mix that dated back to the 1930s, 20's, and some even earlier. There were shots of my grandpa and grandma as kids and the like.

As the photos got passed around he dinning room table and everyone excitedly tried to correctly identify not only the "who" but the "when" and "where" of the photos, it occurred to me that that we probably won't be able to have this sort of experience years from now.

All of Heather and my photos, or at least any photos taken in the last ten years and certainly all of them in the future, are digital. The images either sit on our computer or on some server somewhere. We rarely print out anything anymore.

When Heather and I are old and ready to pass on some of our items to Ian, Emma, and Zoe, what are we going to give them when it comes to the photographs that document our family's history? A thumb-drive? A password for a website? That seems so cold and impersonal. Especially when compared with the experience of sitting around a table holding photos, showing them to the person next to you, and talking about them.

Sure, having all these images in digital format is wonderful for preserving them for generations, but there is something more personal and immediate when you actually hold a photograph that was created 40 years ago. The rough edges of the photo paper. The slightly faded colors. It's like touching history.

No matter how clear and everlasting a digital image might be, I have a hard time believing that a digital photograph will ever elicit the same sort of emotional response that a box of old photos produces. That's where technology fails us.

August 18, 2010

They Really Don't Hate Each Other

There are times that I am convinced that Heather and I are raising children that are growing up to hate each other. I listen to the names the call each other, see the things they do to each other, and it leaves me depressed.

It at these times, when I'm convinced we've doomed our children to a future of therapy that I stop and remind myself that I should take those isolated instances as a symptom of problem that doesn't actually exist.

90% of the time (okay, maybe 80%) they are friendly and loving to each other. They play together. Have fun together. Help each other out.

I particular I like to reach back and pull up some "big moments" to remind myself that they do love each other.

Like back in the spring on Ian's first night with a retainer. At dinner he was visibly frustrated with the challenges of trying to eat with the new hunk of plastic and metal in his mouth. He was brought to tears because chewing hurt his mouth so much. When Heather suggested he try some applesauce (which wasn't on the menu for the evening's meal) and he decided that would be a good idea, Emma and Zoe both jumped from their seats to offer help. Emma climbed up on the counter to get out a bowl. Zoe ran to the refrigerator to retrieve the applesauce. They both worked together to get prepare the bowl for Ian.

Heather and I didn't have to ask the girls to do this. I could tell that they honestly felt bad for their brother and wanted to do whatever they could to help relieve his pain.

Or I might think about all the times this summer I've caught Ian reading to Zoe. The two of them sitting on a couch, Ian holding one of Zoe's favorite books in hand and embellishing the story with some of his own jokes as he reads it aloud to her. Zoe doesn't always understand the jokes Ian adds to the story, but I can tell that she loves Ian for spending that time with her and he loves her by taking not only the time to read to her, but try to make it more fun for the both of them.

And Emma gets equal attention for Ian as well. Like last night, when Emma was supposed to be having a sleepover at a friend's house two doors down. We received a call around 10 pm from Emma in which she announced that she wanted to come home.

Ian paced the top of the stairs with nervous energy until I arrived back home with Emma. He was concerned and worried that something had happened to his sister. He couldn't go to bed or even sit still until he saw her and learned why she needed to abandon the sleepover (she missed her mom too much).

It's these big events, and all the small things that happen during the day, that I need to store up in my reserves to get me through the times where they are throwing, or hitting, or calling each other names. They sure can act like they hate each other, but deep down I think I have the evidence that proves they don't.

August 17, 2010

Don't Kids Talk Anymore?

Ugh. I've seen the near future in our house, and it probably involves mountains of text messages.

Click the info-graphic to get the full picture.


Found via

August 13, 2010

Really? Ohio State #2 Again?

I know this won't win me any points on my wife's side of the family, but I was a little surprised when I saw this week's Sports Illustrated. It's the College Preview issue and on the cover the have the preseason rankings.

Ohio State is #2 - again.

A team from the SEC is #1 - again.

Now, I can understand an SEC team taking the top spot. That conference has built itself into a football powerhouse.

But to keep having an SEC team and Ohio State 1-2 is starting to seem a little played out now.

Yes, maybe the Buckeyes do have a stellar defense. Possibly great enough to stop a high-powered SEC offense. But how about we knock OSU down a few notches and let them play up (if that is really where they belong) instead of setting them up high only to end up disappointing later on.

Of course, this is all coming from the guy who stands behind Notre Dame every year and is disappointed when he doesn't see them in anybody's preseason top ten.

August 12, 2010

A New Batman

Grant Morrison has been the puppetmaster pulling all the strings around Batman for the last three or four year now. I have really enjoyed the stories he has crafted and what he has done with the character.

I have been a fan of Morrison's comics for a long time because of his ability to weave tripped-out, mind-bending pieces of fiction that always entertain. But it wasn't until I read this article over at the LA Times Hero Complex blog that I found another reason to admire him - he's finally breaking Batman out of the Frank Miller shell.

When Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns in 1985 and then followed that up shortly after with Batman: Year One, he essentially re-wrote the Batman bible for the next 20 years. Nearly every writer who tackled the Dark Knight post-Miller adopted that same raged filled, cynical, tough talking model for the character.

I love Miller's Batman work, and loved the Batman stories that followed his take on the character. But I also am excited to see Morrison challenging that take on the character and attempting to take him somewhere new.

Personally I think Morrison is succeeding. Batman has evolved into a even more fascinating character for me over the last few years under Morrison's pen. It refreshing to see a new version of Batman emerge. Now as Morrison slowly bring Bruce Wayne back to the present - and back to the mantle of the bat - I'm excited to see how he develops the character next.

Plus, Morrison is bringing back the yellow oval in the Batman costume. A small detail, but one that I have kinda missed.

August 08, 2010

I've Got the Pencil and Paper, But Not the Rest

The first time I read through Christoph Niemann's "Red Eye" I found Niemann's tale of an overnight trans-Atlantic flight funny and spot on.

(Not that I've flown to Berlin extensively, but I have flown on business enough to relate to many of his observations)

My second read through made me jealous.

Niemann has the talent and the skill to use just paper and pencil to create simple images that make a story take on life. He doesn't have to draw deeply detailed and meticulously rendered images to convey his meanings. The smallest pencil strokes and the slightest shadings are all that are needed to for the artist to communicate with us.

I envy that skill/talent.

August 06, 2010

The M. C. Escher Crowd Likes Me

Since I started posting regularly to this blog again I've seen traffic steadily increase. Not skyrocket, but slowly build upwards.

I'm sure if bothered to focus this blog on one topic - i.e. "classic films" or "challenges of being a dad" - and posted regularly traffic would really take off, but that's not what I'm about right now.

I'm going to ramble from day to day. Maybe you find something I write of interest. Maybe you don't.

Speaking of which, what a lot of people seem to be finding interesting right now is something I posted way back in November 2007.

According to Google Analytics, starting back on July 22 this page suddenly became very popular. Look at the graph.


That post about some M.C. Escher inspired image I found on Boing Boing currently accounts for 31% of my pageviews.

Wild.

But why July 22? What happened then to make it so popular?

The Google Analytics report shows that nearly all of the traffic is coming from Google, and all from people searching on M.C. Escher (or something similar to that term).

When I go to Google and search on "m.c. escher" - the search term sending the most traffic to the page on my site - I don't see my blog post anywhere in the regular results.

However, when I look at the image results for that same search term I see the image that I embedded in my blog post shows as the 7th item in the list of images.

So I know the "why the increase in traffic?" - that image is right at the top of Google Image searches. Plenty of people are seeing it.

But I still don't know why the image from my blog got ranked so high or why its popularity exploded on July 22.

At this point I don't think I'm inclined to dig any farther. Exploring the popularity of the page was an interesting diversion and I've had my fun.

Every Lightsaber Ignition & Retraction

Someone spent time documenting every on-screen lightsaver ingnition and retraction in the Star Wars films and edited them together.

I always knew that there was more lightsaber action in the second trilogy than in the original Star Wars trilogy, but watching this geeky-fun video verifies it.

August 05, 2010

The Dung Beetle

VW calls it the Bio-Bug. Gizmodo calls it the Dung Beetle. (That's the name I prefer)

Either way it is a VW Bug that runs on the methane gas created and captured during the sewage treatment process.

The cars recently debut in the UK to promote renewable energy options.

While I think the concept is fantastic, I can't decide what would make driving around in one of these cars more challenging:
  1. Driving in a car with the phrase "Powered by your waste!" on the side
  2. The jokes and noises my kids would make when riding along in the backseat.

August 04, 2010

The Doggy Has Landed

Ever before our cat, Bumper, died in January 2009 our kids would ask if we could get a dog when the cat was gone.

Heather and I always answered with "Maybe".

It wasn't that Heather and I didn't want a dog - we did. We both had grown up with dogs in our family (Heather more than I) and we both loved dogs tremendously. We just decided that we would need a break from pet ownership once the cat died. Owning a pet can be a lot of work. A little breather was all we were asking for before jumping back in.

About four months ago Heather and I both came to the conclusion that our "breather" time was about over. The search for a dog to bring home began. We started looking into dog adoption because we liked the idea of rescuing a pet that someone else couldn't care for and we thought we could avoid some of the struggles that bringing home a young puppy invariably causes.

After much looking and a few false starts, last Saturday we found a great pet: Ruby.

Ruby is a 7-month old female hound-mix that we found at an animal rescue in Plainfield, IL. She looks a lot like a beagle, but she is larger than your typical beagle. Not sure what other breed (or breeds) are mixed in there, but the result is a good looking - and so far - mild tempered dog who loves to play and sleep at your feet.

She has been a lot of fun to have at home, but not without introducing some new stress in to the house.

I knew that it would take some time getting Ruby accustomed to our house and our family. And that the adjustments and learning would be as much on Ruby as they would be on Heather, me, and the kids. I guess I just didn't anticipate how much this learning phase would stress me.

It's like having a new baby in the house. Everything seems turned upside down and slide over to the side. We working on re-establishing schedules and rules. It's a lot more work - and stress - than I expected.

I guess for all the discussions concerning finances, time commitment, living arrangements, care schedule, and type of animal that Heather and I had multiple times before making the decision to get a new pet, I never considered how the addition of a new pet on the scale of dog would impact or effect me. It's been un-nerving.

However, each day is another step forward. We are figuring Ruby out, and she is figuring out what we expect from her. It may take some time, but I am confident we will get to where we need to be.

August 02, 2010

Making Your Malady Your Money-Maker

The other night while I was helping Emma take her bath, she suddenly proposed an idea to me.

"You know what we should do?" she declared with a mischievously delightful smile. "We should make our house super messy. Then when the people looking for the messiest house in America finds us, they will clean everything up and then give us stuff."

She was referencing one of the latest entries into the never ending death parade of reality tv shows/games show, Clean House: Search for the Messiest House in the Country. I haven't actually watched the program, but apparently Emma has. What I have learned about it from Emma and heather (who has also seen a episode or two), is that there is this team of people gong into horribly messy homes. Cleaning the homes up. Showing the families how hey could/should organize their homes better. And, eventually, give them new stuff to have in their newly cleaned homes.

Whatever.

I'm not going to spend time explaining why I think the show is stupid, without merit, and possibly exploitative and harmful to the participants. Instead what concerned me more is what this show, and other shows like it, could possibly be teaching my kids.

When Emma suggested that we intentionally make our house messy in order to attract attention and possibly free stuff, it told me that what Emma was learning from that show is that people are rewarded for having problems.

I understand that the show partially positions itself like they are doing something noble: saving someone or a family from their destructive behavior. But when you spin it all up in a slick TV package and lavish the people with gifts, it sure makes it look like a great way to be rewarded for not taking care of yourself.

So that's why I told Emma that I think it's better to just learn how to keep a neat house from the start. The people from the TV show will only clean up your house once. To be successful you need to learn how to keep a clean house on your own.

Plus, I further explained to her, who wants to live in that sort of filth just for the chance of getting a new TV or couch? I know i don't. And what if he people from the show never find our house? Then we're stuck in our filthy house. I don't want that.

Not sure if Emma took my preaching to heart, but I could tell from the look on her face at she was thinking about what I was saying. And our house has stayed clean.

August 01, 2010

TCM's Summer Under the Stars

Turner Classic Movie's annual summer movie festival, Summer Under the Stars, starts today.

31 days, each day a different movie star is featured. See the whole schedule.

I was pretty excited to see that this year Bob Hope finally gets a day: Sunday, August 8th.

I've seen the Road To films, but I've really wanted to expand beyond that. I want to see some of the films Bob Hope starred in that weren't him and Bing Crosby goofing around. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like TCM shows non Road To films starring Bob Hope very much. That's why August 8th is a day that I have circled on my calendar.

Not surprising, TCM has scheduled all 5 Road To movies for airing on the 8th. I'll probably check in on those - I do enjoy them quite a bit, but there are other films that day that I want to try and watch.