So many words, so little time....

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Christmas!

I got it all done to the best of my ability, but that meant I got to bed at 7:30 this morning. They woke me promptly at 8, and I've been fielding kids and family and friends ever since.

My brother-in-law is teaching my daughters how to play Texas Hold-em with my eldest. One of my daughters is threatening mayhem to her brother's social life due to his betting strategies. My younger son has dropped off into an Xbox-football-and-tryptophan-induced stupor on the couch, and I've served the pies and gotten the kitchen to the point where I won't be afraid to go in there without a whip and a chair to make breakfast before church.

I love having him here, but I just want to go to bed and pull the covers up over my head. I've finally caught the creeping yuck that's been going around the office just to top it off.

Merry Christmas. I'm always grateful, though. Somehow it always turns out. Even with all the madness we've been going through, it all came together and we've all had a good day. So thanks to God, to Foamy, to the several people who helped, to the family and their generousity, to the guy who went way above and beyond the call and made it possible for all of us to be here, to the kids for stepping outside their usual Tazmanian-Devil cloud of sibling revelry.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Are you...
... actively nauseated by the sight of the Halloween and Christmas displays side by side in the stores?

... contemplating setting out elf-traps to catch the little buggers who do this to your meticulously wrapped strings of lights in the storage shed over the summer?

... trying to find something in the store your cute little neice begged for over the phone last night, but you can't remember what it was called or anything else about it other than it was pink and frilly?

... certain there is something fundamentally disturbing about Garth Brooks singing a swing arrangement of "Sleigh Ride" or Barbara Streisand singing "Ave Maria"? Or, for the piece de resistance, Rush Limbaugh reciting "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (I actually own a CD with that on it, and no I don't listen to it EVER).

... more annoyed by the concept of wrapping another present than the kids' loud rap music?

... practicing how to smile graciously while gritting your teeth when your least favorite aunt "compliments" your cooking like she does every year?

... wondering exactly when did a glowing deer with an extension cord in it's backside start to say "holidays"? They are all over the place! And they could have at least wired the thing so the cord plugs in around the hoof or something.

Well, you're not alone. We've started the seasonal rush around here. I knew I was running late when they had the electric venison up on the roof of the mall before I got the lights out of their boxes. Then they Kringle'd the living daylights out of my usual Starbucks before I got my lists even written. Here we go again.

I'm dredging through the house, trying to find Christmas, and also trying to find the Christmas spirit. I have a batch of my infamous shortbread cookies baking, and I'm also trying to figure out how to hang the wall decorations I want to do. I wish I had a great idea of some sort. Simple and clean is harder than the usual eclectic jumble we have hanging around. I've had a few glimmers, but then when I try to put them in my diagram they look stupid. It's like the keyboard and the graphics pad keep the good parts for themselves or something. Or it could be that I have my wall section drawings reversed - it fits much better the other way. Sheesh.

The kids are counting down to the last day of school before Christmas Break and compiling their long long lists. We've had our in-house drawing for who gets a gift for who, so they're plotting and planning behind each other's backs in a good cause. I've gotten a few hints already, and this is going to be interesting. I did find the perfect gift for my boss, and my mother's favorite perfume. Yorick (the skull from Halloween) is currently perched on top of the pile of opened boxes of decorations and stuff. The kids had put him up next to my "Nightmare before Christmas" Advent calendar, figuring it sort of fit the motif. I don't think he'll be staying, though. Maybe I'll mail that thing to my mother this year along with her present.... But then I'd have to explain it. Maybe not.

I just found my Christmas CD's, so that helps. They were in a box marked "exterior decorations", or at least that's what it would read in Klingon - I must have been using a tube of lipstick or something to mark with when I got this stuff put away last year. Nat King Cole is wafting through the house crooning about flying reindeer and silent nights. And it is quiet. The kids are nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of the modern teen equivalent of sugarplums dancing in their heads. The cookies came out, so I have glistening golden stars all over my countertops and the whole house smells of butter and almonds. The printer is spitting out my cards for this year - Aaron Williams over at Nodwick has done it again.

I feel like this is the part of Christmas that's for me. The rest of the whirl and bustle are for the kids and family and friends. I love that part too, but it's not mine. This time, when I get to get everything ready is my celebration. I get to do some things I really enjoy that I rarely take time to do the rest of the year. It's busy, it's a terrible pain in the backside, but it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Or it will be, as soon as I get these ^)@%$* lights untangled.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

How to make a Proper Pumpkin Pie....

This recipe is not just a list of ingredients. The making of a proper pumpkin pie must follow the proper steps and take the proper time in order for it to be savored.

First, pumpkin pie must be made at oh-dark-hundred the night before the meal it accompanies. You do not do this at a time when normal humans (or the children) walk the earth. If werewolves aren't howling at the moon, give it another hour. This is for three reasons.
  1. If you make it, they will eat it. Now! Not after the dinner when you want it. The only way to foil them is to bake late and store securely. A decommissioned missile silo works well if available. I get by with a bank vault and a pirate's lair with lots of traps.

  2. You will never have time to do it earlier that same day due to the aforementioned children and all the other dreck you have to get together.

  3. Tomorrow you are going to have a velociraptor taking up the oven for nine hours, remember? I assure you, the only other thing that's going to fit is just enough of your hand to burn the heck out of it while basting.
Second, this activity cannot occur in a clean kitchen with counter space. I don't know why. It's a mystery. I just know that I've never had a bake turn out properly if I started out with a spotless kitchen. Besides, with the kids doing the dishes this is a mythological event.

Now you must assemble all your ingredients. This recipe makes four desert pies, and three breakfast tarts. Put the things you assemble into three stacks.

Stack 1
- four cups of sugar, plus an indeterminate scoop because that doesn't look like enough
- 10 grinds on the nutmeg grinder
- a palm of salt
- a palm of ginger
- a palm of allspice
- half a palm-full of cloves
- four palms of cinnamon
- several random shakes and grinds from the spice jars listed above because it doesn't look right
- eight eggs

Stack 2
- 2 large cans pumpkin (not that mix stuff)
- four 12 oz. cans evaporated milk

Stack 3
- four regular pie pans dressed with crust (Pillsbury only if minions have been particularly evil or kitchen in particularly advanced state of higgeldy-piggeldy)
- three of the holes in the mini-loaf pan dressed with crust
- 75 foot roll of Reynolds, of which you only need about a foot right now
- Three beers; two root and one stout
- half recipe worth of banana bread batter

Now it's time to start putting it all together. After you've washed the large mixing bowl from making the pie crust, open a rootbeer and put Stack 1 ingredients into the bowl, dry stuff first, then eggs. Beat sensless with rubber spatula. Add Stack 2. Beat senseless again with rubber spatula. Pour brown mess still left in bowl into the pie pans and the crusted mini-loaf pans. Cover edges of crust with strips of tinfoil, struggling manfully to not poke it into the mousse-part so it bakes in there like that. Fill un-clad mini-loaf pans with banana bread batter.

Remember you forgot to turn on oven, so read pumpkin can to see temp. Giggle at their dumb theatrics about preheating and that whole one-temp-for-15-minutes-and-then-turn-down gig. Set oven to happy medium and then remember it's witch-tit cold outside tonight so turn it up another five degrees. Put first two pies in immediately on the center rack with a baking sheet on the lower rack to diffuse heat and to make sure any spills are deflected directly onto the heating element while still baking into an evil black metallic object on the sheet. Consume rootbeer, read book, and shoo house-apes back into bed at random intervals for 55 minutes. Spend five minutes trying to find a safe spot to lay down book and figure out what kids did with hot-pads. Remove first two pies carefully from oven and place on cooling rack.

Put second two pies in their place in the oven. Open second rootbeer. Repeat last baking experience, only watch for smoke coming out of oven from baking sheet getting too hot to deal with the spills. Move cooled pies on rack to bank vault. Remove pies and baking sheet from oven. Pies go on rack, baking sheet goes across burners of stovetop where it can properly singe your eyebrows for next step.

Place mini-loaf pan in oven with the banana bread towards the front where the oven is cooler. Open stout. Continue to bake at exactly the same temp irregardless of the directions for half an hour. While this is baking, do dishes and clean up counters and do any other prepwork possible for tomorrow and consume the beer.

Remove cooled pies from rack and place them in pirate's cave (diversification is good in baking, too). Open oven and once you are done wincing away from the steam-burns on your corneas, poke banana bread with toothpick. If done, remove and shut off oven. Place rack across top of loaf-pan, and using a towel to hold it all together, turn as one unit and leave until the tarts fall out. You will be able to see this clearly because the pan is stilted up on the banana bread's tops.

By this time, beer will be done and so will you. Cover three loaves of banana bread and the three tarts with a kitchen towel to decoy the kids in the morning and hit the sack. Set alarm clock for six for humor's sake. Remember, tomorrow's the big day! ;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

If this server was a horse, I'd have to shoot it....

The servers at Blogger have their knickers knotted firmly around their ankles. Hopefully this gets through. I have several tomes of great signifigance to add, but I think we'll just try this first.

To keep you occupied, take a look at this piece of art. It's called "There Is Nothing Wrong In This Whole Wide World" by Chris Cobb. He re-arranged a bookstore's inventory by color. I don't know if it's art, but you can't help but feel something's going on here by looking at it. There's some pictures here so you can see for yourself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This sort of thing can't continue.....

On another board, someone sent in a link to this blog entry. Reading it ran a chill down my back. Not horror; sort of a "But for the grace of God..." kind of thing.

I wish I could tell this lady that her experience is unique, but I can't. Heck, I can't even say it's only limited to that particular type of business. I've seen this in all aspects of the software industry, not just games development. People I know tell me it's not even limited to computers - it's everywhere. There is a huge disconnect between the various layers of management, marketing, and development.

It used to be that when a guy got to a certain point in a business, it was because he either started the company, or started out as their entry level position and worked his way up the ladder. He managed the process of making chairs because he'd made a lot of chairs. He knew down to the itch of the sawdust on his nose what it took. With the rise of "management" as a profession, the process of doing the work became totally unhooked from most of the people who make the decisions. A guy in charge of the company may have never have held a saw in his life. Back in the day, there was no "marketing with a big M". Sales and advertising were handled mostly by the manager with a few flacks, but is now considered it's own animal and has absolutely no connection with how either of the other areas operate. This is causing major problems in all walks of business.

With software development, we can have several more festive variations on this basic theme. You'll often get a manager who has to ask his secretary how to paste a link into his email and has about as much of an idea of what you do all day as you do of what he does all day. You can get a former coder sitting in that corner office who is totally lacking in the skills to manage people or a project, which both sinks the schedule and you're now short his real expertise as well. Or, my personal favorite is when you get a guy who's so new or is completely out of his depth in just about every area and he doesn't have any technical or upper-level management skills (Can you say dot-bomb? I knew that you could).

Even without the open malice towards workers that is decribed in that blog entry, the whole situation still stinks. In far too many cases, marketing drives the schedule based on promises it makes to management. Management has no real way of assessing or handling either their requests or developments protests intelligently. They have no idea what it requires to actually do what marketing insists is necessary, so they throw it at a middle-guy along with an insane delivery date. In the worst case scenario, this person has absolutely no idea how any of the groups do what they do and who has the thankless task of trying to serve at least two masters and no authority, either. They then pass the savings on to the workers with sweat-shop grade working conditions.

Going with a small company is no garantee. I've seen this sort of BS in the biggest and smallest companies. I have stories you would not believe of some of the nonsense I've been through in the big houses. The small company I work for now used to be a nightmare until the CEO's face got so rubbed into the complete inability of the guy he had doing project management to deal with the machinations of the marketing guy that he took the reins back. They were literally driving the company into the ground, one customer at a time.

He's not a hardcore geek, but he built this company from a BBS back in 1987 to what it is today. He had delegated the project management jobs right before I started because they'd convinced him that the company had grown past that. He took back over and since then we've had a remarkable improvement in both our ability to deliver and our ability to add value to the product. It took nearly six months of 90+ hour weeks to get our feet under us after two years of Charlie Foxtrot, but we were glad to do it because we finally got to fix some stuff that had been making our jobs about a thousand times harder.

We've still got some loose tentacles on our octopus, but the body's been stapled firmly in place and that helps a lot. It's been a steady 50 hours a week or so for the last three months except for spikes caused by unexpected stuff (showstopper bugs found two days before ship, that sort of thing). That sort of thing is expected in any business, though.

It's no accident that most of the large and successful software firms are headed by former geeks who used to handle the code. They either had the management ability as well as the coding skills, or they were smart enough to realize where they were lacking and get their hands on someone they could work with who had them. There is where you get your Microsofts, your Oracles, your Pixars.

Bill Gates changed his role in his company very sharply several years go. In a highly publicized move, he announced that things needed to get back to brass tacks. He handed the reins off to Ballmer and got wrist-deep in the code again. Many industry people were pushing a standing eight on them and saw this as just a sort of highly paid retirement plan. It doesn't seem to be working out that way, though. The shifts in Microsoft's strategies are paying off, real progress in key areas have been made, and there's some amazing stuff on the way. I see this maneuver and it's success as an open acknowledgement that things can't go on the way they were. It makes a great case study of exactly why it's necessary. id Software's adventures with Doom, and Scaled Composites recent accomplishments are other examples of guys who know how to turn the nut jumping back in and driving the ship to success.

Companies must begin to realize that when actual product is involved, having experience generating that product is a considerably more important attribute than "management skills". Marketing needs to have all the calendars removed from their offices - they drive features, not the schedule. The attitude that "if you won't do it, there's a dozen just like you waiting in the wings" or even "just get some guys in Islamabad to do it" is just a shift, it doesn't actually fix anything and adds it's own set of problems. Besides, we're running out of other worlds to send work to get it done cheap. Wages in India are rising steadily in the high-tech fields, and a tide of gentrification is already starting to erode your new and magical profits.

I don't have a working crystal ball, and I don't want to make any gloom and doom prognostications. I do honestly believe that a shift has to be made though, before it's too late. We have got to get people who know how to do the work in charge of the work, and make some fundamental changes in the way we do business. At least if you ever want it done on time, to spec, or without killing your workers.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

All Dogs Go to Heaven...

My mother's dog died yesterday. It's quite a ways away and it isn't a dog I grew up with. I keep telling myself that, but it doesn't seem to be helping much. I'm left with a sadness of my own, and I have hers to help deal with as well.

Willhemina was her baby, now that all her real babies had grown up. She was teacup-sized miniature Dachshund; her name was bigger than she was. I never really did understand why the heck you would have a dog like that in Alaska, but she was Mom's and she loved her.

And the dog repaid her with unswerving devotion. Wherever Mom went, that was where she went, even if it really wasn't possible. Watching her go get the mail with Mom on a snowy winter morning was a Warner Bros cartoon come to life. She would jump from footprint to footprint, and when she fell out, she'd disappear into the snow until only her nose showed.

She was 12 years old, which for a pampered little dog isn't that old, but she had health problems. Three weeks ago, she was diagnosed with a form of leukemia. She had been responding well to the treatment, but the strain of it all on her heart was just too much. She died napping on my Mom's lap in her favorite chair.

In some very strange ways, that dog was sort of my proxy there. She gave Mom something to focus on besides her problems, she made her keep her schedule, and kept her company when she couldn't see enough to get around. When I called, she would "talk" on the phone to me. Mom called it "reporting in" and used to tease about what the dog had tattled on her about. She'd talk to the kids, too. We're so far away, and it's hard for both of us.

Now she's pretty lost, but at least her boyfriend is home from work for the winter so she's not alone. She's not quite sure what they're going to do. The local SPCA does have a miniature dachshund available, but they're not sure they're ready. I told her to take her time. Half the people she's talked to have pushed her to get another dog right away, the other half say she shouldn't. I say, whatever is right for you and the dog. I got the story on this other dog from the lady who's keeping her. She has already been through heck, and if Mom can't deal with it so soon, it's not going to help that dog any to get attached to her and then get sent back again.

I don't know. I just got off the phone with Mom for what feels like the twentieth time today. She's going to call me again later. Somehow we'll all know this out. But it just wasn't the same without that little high scruffy bark, and it isn't going to be for a while. When it comes down to it, all I can say is, "Thank you for all the help, Willie, and I hope we'll see you soon."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Unknown Heroes...

We keep hearing about heroes. How we need more heroes. How everyone needs them. IMHO, the problem isn't that they're thin on the ground, but that many people don't know about them. Here are a few I've found while looking up stuff about Spaceship One.

Very few people know what he did, but a lot of people know his name.
Capt. Glen W. Edwards was a promising test pilot whose life was cut short in the crash of a Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing jet bomber on June 5, 1948, along with the rest of the bomber's crew. He was a decorated combat pilot and already experienced in the exacting flying required for flight testing when he helped to set a transcontinental speed record in the experimental XB-42 pusher bomber in Dec. 1945. Ironically, the plane that killed him was a direct ancestor to the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. When the Air Force became it's own military branch and took possession of the facilities known as Muroc Army Air Field, it was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in his honor.

Back before civil rights, this was an even more amazing achievement...
Maj. Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., the first African-American to be chosen as an astronaut by either NASA or the military. He was born Oct. 2, 1935, in Chicago. He graduated from high school at 16 and Bradley University at 20 with a Bachelor's in Chemistry. He was Cadet Commander of Bradley AFROTC and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. He entered flight training, and after graduation became a T-33 instructor, training USAF & Luftwaffe pilots. He earned a Doctorate in Physical Chemistry from Ohio State. He graduated from the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards in June 1967, and was selected for the MOL programn at NASA. Sadly, he never got to fly in space. On Dec. 8, 1967, he was killed when his parachute failed to deploy properly during a test-flight of an F-104D. We didn't carry on as we started, though. The first black man to fly in space was a cosmonaut named Arnaldo Tanayo-Mendez who flew to Salyut 6 in 1980. He was also the first Hispanic, as he was from Cuba. The first black American to fly space was Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr. on August 30, 1983.

Sorry, Mr. Hawk. You do okay, but this guy is really E X T R E M E!
On August 16, 1960, a then Captain Joseph Kittinger jumped out of the open gondola of the Excelsior III helium balloon at 102,800 feet and free-fell to the ground. He was testing a multi-stage parachute for pilots who have to bail out at that insane altitude. He is currently the only human to break the sound barrier without benefit of a vehicle. Not only did he survive, he landed safely and is still working in aeronautics. Without him and his work on this and many other jumps and balloon flights, the space and flight suits, parachutes and other recovery apparatus for the space and aeronautics industries would be much poorer.

He retired from the Air Force in 1978, and began ballooning around the country and entering balloon competitions. Kittinger won the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race four times during the 1980s and retired the trophy after three consecutive victories. In November 1983, he established a new world record by flying a 1,000 cubic-meter (1,308-cubic-yard) helium balloon from Las Vegas, Nevada, to New York, covering 2,001 miles (3,220 kilometers) in 72 hours. The next year, Kittinger became the first person to fly alone by balloon across the Atlantic Ocean. Setting out on September 14, 1984, from Caribou, Maine, in the 3,000-cubic-meter-Rosie O'Grady, he floated 3,543 miles (5,702 kilometers), touching down in Cairo Montenotte, Italy, on September 18, by Kittinger's account, 83 hours and 40 minutes after launch. His flight set a record for both the longest solo balloon flight and a distance record for this class of balloon.

Although after this flight, his record-setting days ended, Joe Kittinger has never stopped flying. He has piloted 78 different types of aircraft over the years and received numerous military and civilian awards and decorations. He is an aviation consultant and a barnstormer, touring around the country with his open-cockpit biplane and taking children on their first airplane rides.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

By Klonno's Carborundum Claws!

I love my Mom. She sent me a birthday present, and getting a package from her is always an experience. She's lived in Alaska since she was 9. Back in the days when TV was two weeks behind the rest of the country if you got it at all because they had to ground-ship the tapes up there. Moving stuff around wasn't quite as easy as today, so when you shipped something you made damned skippy sure that the thing was properly wrapped and taped. It had to be able to stand freezing, bumps, mashing and all sorts of indignities. She's never got over the habit, I'm afraid, even in these days of FedEx.

I received a vaguely cube-shaped box that looked like it was wearing a space-suit. You could have shipped the thing to the Moon, at any rate. It was wrapped in white paper with the shipping information written on it in 100pt Sharpie-script, and then entirely mummy-wrapped in clear strapping tape. Once you hacked your way through the epidermis, you discovered a dermal layer of yet another complete wrapping of white paper and tape. Under that, lay a layer of duct tape, completely covering the box. Then you actually get to the box. Which contained another box, and several of those packing things that look like blown-up Baggies. Opening that last box revealed the treasure - six books. I kid you not, she armor-plated books to ship them.

Not that I'm complaining. You see, these books are special. I sometimes think she wonders exactly what kind of cuckoo brought me to her nest. She's very proud of me, but she really doesn't get this whole computer thing, and most of the rest of the stuff I do. But she went out and found something that I will cherish. Back in Jr. high I found them in that weird corner of the science fiction section that no one ever visited anymore. Among others, it was E.E. Smith's "Lensmen" series that was read and re-read during my time at that school. The librarian used to have to order me to turn them in so someone else could have a turn (but no one ever did). I'd let them sit for a week as per our deal, and then I'd go and get them again. I had a set of them I got when I was grown, but I lost them in the move to Seattle. Since I've gotten down here, I've only been able to find one - a first paperback edition of the last book, printed in 1966. It's the same edition our library had, except theirs was a library edition. I hardly dare to read the thing because it's fragile, but I like knowing it's there. I had bragged about finding that one a couple years ago, but we hadn't really talked about it since. She found that an obscure publishing house had re-printed the whole thing in trade-paperback editions with new forewards by such lights as Michael Straczynski, but with all the original artwork from the 1954 hard-bound editions. That's what she sent to me in that space suit.

So, you'll have to excuse me. I have Gharlane the Eddorian to vanquish.

Clear ether! ;)

Monday, October 18, 2004

From the Quotable Quotables department...

As I grow older and older / And totter toward the tomb / I find that I care less and less / Who goes to bed with whom."

Dorothy L. Sayers

Monday, October 11, 2004

Sorry. I'm afraid it's a bird, or a plane...

I read it in a newspaper nine years ago. Superman had met a real-life Kryptonite, and at that time they weren't even sure he was going to survive. Even if he did, he was going to be a quadraplegic. There was sadness, but in our hearts was a little part that didn't believe it could keep him down.

And he came up swinging. I have no doubt there were long dark nights staring at the suspended ceiling above that hospital bed where it was very hard to remember why. But he made it past them and with hard, painfully slow work began to come back. There was no doubt that one day he'd do it. Each little sign of progress they announced just fed the thought. He was doing it, slowly but surely.

But he never got the time. There are many who die from the same ignominous force that took him. Pressure sores and the systemic infections they often produce claim the lives of hundreds of paraplegics, amputees, diabetics, and bed-fast patients of all types every year. They are induced by a bewildering array of conditions, and the infections are armed with an even more bewildering array of germs. If I was going to start stumping for a medical cause out of all of this, it wouldn't be for stem cell research. It would be for septicemia research.

The lights in the Fortress of Solitude are turned out. Hidden behind a secret door in an unassuming bachelor apartment a stretchy suit with a large yellow "S" is slumped down on it's hanger a little deeper. There are those who are already working to pick up the fight and they will do it in their own way and time. But tonight there is a pair of very big red boots to be filled sitting on the floor, and a red cape with no strong shoulders to fly from.

Rest in Peace, Christopher Reeve.

Monday, October 04, 2004


This day held two events important to the closet space-hound, and they're in unfortunate opposition to each other. Today we exult, and we mourn.

Rutan's Scaled Composites LLC built it, and now we're a go. Spaceship One's second flight won it $10 million dollars and the first real street-cred for private space exploration. Mike Melvill's spiraling first flight and Brian Binnie's flawless second qualified them for the prize and so much more. They could have delayed another couple of days and still won the prize, but today had a bit of appropriate flavor, being the 47th anniversary of Russia's historic Sputnik launch.

The flight not only won them the prize, but it broke one of aviations longest standing records - altitude record for an airplane. Set by X-15 pilot Joseph Walker in 1963, that altitude was 354,200 feet (67 miles or 107.9 kilometers). Binnie's flight reached an altitude of 367,442 feet (69.6 miles or 112 kilometers) at it's highest point.

They also broke new ground for the concept of what makes an astronaut. Binnie is 51 years old, and Melvill is 61. Looks like Clint Eastwood's "Space Cowboys" was more prophetic than he might have guessed. The stringent restrictions NASA put on astronaut physical condition are being stretched to include quite a bit more of the standard population.

Not only that, but now the sky's the limit. There are big plans percolating all over the world tonight that yesterday were considered pipe dreams. Big money is being put up to go with them. Virgin's plans for space tourism are just the beginning. There is a certain sober knowledge that with this increased activity comes the risk of lives. But that is the case in every new frontier explored.

And this brings me to our sadder note. It was also announced that Gordon Cooper died yesterday at his home at the age of 77. Astronaut on board Mercury 7 and command pilot of Gemini 5, he was known for his cocky charm and his extreme cool under stress. In a story carefully recounted in the film "The Right Stuff", he was so calm during the countdown to his flight that during a hold he fell asleep on top of a fully-fueled Atlas booster. He was also the first American to sleep in space (his mission was the first to last more than a day), and he was the last American astronaut to orbit the Earth alone. When asked which of the astronauts was the best pilot, his answer was, "You're looking at him."

So I say, "God Speed!" to the men and women of Scaled Composites (and the other companies starting their own ventures), and to Astronaut Gordon "Gordo" Cooper. May we take to the skies in safety and may we never forget those who helped us get there.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I Am Un-American....

rant warning: condition red

It's recently come to my attention that I am un-American. I watch the wrong shows. Or because I don't watch the right news. Or because I haven't splashed my electoral choices all over my mini-van. Or because I have a huge Spitfire skateboard wheel logo leering out at tail-gaters.

The genesis of this rant comes from three emails I have received. The first was about two weeks ago. I've exchanged mail with this individual in the past about retro gaming and thought this was more of the same. Not so. I was chastised because I didn't carry a banner on my site proclaiming for all the world to see which side of the church I'm supposed to be sitting on that particular November day. Now why anyone who can see lightning and hear thunder would expect to find political information on a site called "Momgamer" is a tale for another screed.

This afternoon I've received two others. One from a rather insistent democrat who I know professionally. This individual had seen me leaving the parking lot of an ASP.NET user group meeting and they were enquiring why I didn't have a bumpersticker. They know of my other political activities and have participated from the sidelines, but for some reason they think people give a rat's bikini about what I decide to ruin my car's paint job with. Oh, and the skateboard company logo is Satanic. News to me.

The last was from what looks like some rather hardcore Republican PAC that should have ended up in my bloody spam-catcher but it has enough real info in it that it makes me think it was directed. Probably off the voter registration list. The Republican spam was refreshingly free of debate spin, but very harsh on Rush's recent Neilson numbers and made a stern call for anyone with an R in the box to tune in. I'm also supposed to boycott CBS and all their advertisers in retaliation for the recent kerfubble and give their organization money. Okay.

I have some news for people that might be very hard to bear. Be strong, and read these:

1) I DON'T DO ELECTRONIC POLITICAL ACTIVITY OF ANY KIND. What is confusing? It does absolutely no good. It's like the Hatfields cold-calling the McCoys - just not going anywhere. But they keep trying it, because most marketers and spin-meisters have to drop their trousers to count past 10. It's yet another tax on people who can't do math, except we all pay it in time and annoyance. The return rates are positively abysmal (less than 1/2 of a percent in many cases), and I assure you not enough strangers give a rat's bikini about my electoral opinions that my not wasting the bandwidth the banner would use isn't going to prevent anyone from being led towards my version of the light.

2) I DON'T WATCH TV. At all. I play games, and watch movies. I long ago cut that waste-and-nonsense-spewing line into my house and it's been the better for it. Yes, I don't watch Rush anymore, but you really can't watch him any less than I do, either. I came off his radar six years ago. And I assure you that Mr. Rather and the rest of them have struggled along just fine without me for that time as well so I don't think my buying Tide is going to affect their opinions.

3) I HAVE A LIFE. It's not a lot, but it's my life. My every interaction with other human animals or even some wildlife and vegetation isn't centered around this next election. In fact, I've been known to participate in those other activities while certain supposedly world-shaking political events have been going on. I'm sorry, I didn't pause and genuflect in the direction of the debates. I shall report for flagellation immediately.

4) LAST I CHECKED, MY VOTE WAS MY BUSINESS! And that's protected by law. Anyone who is bugging me about my vote will be told to go straight to the Alternative Destination by the most direct route possible. If I like you, you'll just get the $2 tour on the way. And no, you many not have my !@*(&# Social Security number, either! I feel the same way about it.

Do me a personal favor. Next time you feel the need to email me something like this, spend the time you would have spent concocting your brilliant gems of wisdom concocting an email for your congressional committee and your local election officials. Participate in a Get Out the Vote drive for whomever you support. Many organizations in your area can use your help as things really swing into high pitch. Get off your butt and really do something about your opinion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Home Improvement gives me gray hair...

My daughter ran a cardboard box through the wash, for reasons passing understanding. I have learned a great deal from the experience.

1.) Having an computer science degree means squat when there's an inch of water in the hallway.

2.) There are not enough towels in the world to deal with that much water.

3.) The amount of carpet that is soaked will be inversely proportional to the amount of towels you have, and directly proportional to the number of months it's been since you've had your carpets cleaned.

4.) Each fastener must have it's leverage part carefully concealed under some useless but pretty chrome bit that is physically impossible to reach around with a standard tool.

5.) The phrase, "Hello, this is the Applicances Department. Can I help you?" can be more accurately stated as, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

6.) Don't forget to turn off both valves in the wall before starting to unscrew the hoses. Just because that last load was a cold one doesn't mean they magically turned that spigot handle when your back was turned.

7.) Remember that cool thing in the toolbox with the magnet to hold onto all these important little gewgaws you're pulling off this machine? It's part of the robot being built in the boy's room now. Oh, and you'll only remember that when BEHIND the apparatus with a handful of real important-looking stuff.

8.) There will always be one smart-alec kid who applauds when you ask them to give you a hand. And they will only do it when you can't reach their scrawny little neck.

9.) The entire problem will always be caused by a little wad of something that shouldn't be in the machine in the first place. It will be about the size of the end of your index finger, and trapped in the drain filter.

10.) If you'd known that in the first place, you could have fixed it by removing three screws and one hose clamp.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Klingons for Kerry...

And just when you think you've seen everything, someone proves you wrong. I was dredging around on one my favorite boards and one of the other denizens posted a link to this story. I'm not making this up, and neither is the Willamette Weekly. Once I'd wiped the tea off my monitor, I re-read the article and realized the author was actually shocked about it. Weird.

It made me start to think. How does the average Trekkie feel about the election? Or the average comic-book fan? How does the Society for Creative Anachronism break down, politically speaking? How about the average computer gamer? Taking a look around the rest of the Alpha quadrant, we see some interesting things.

It turned out the Federation contingent seems to have some strong Democrat leanings, too. Kate Mulgrew's husband is running for Ohio governor as a Democrat, with the support of several of her famous co-workers, such as William Shatner. The Borg, at least in the person of 7of9, seem to tend Republican. Jerri Ryan's divorce papers from four years ago seem to have scuttled her ex's political aspirations to be the Republican senator from Illinois. But it's not just the actors. When it comes to regular fans it can get pretty hardcore, like that lady who wears her Starfleet officer's regalia to work every day, and insisted on wearing it while serving as a juror in the Whitewater trial.

People who aren't involved in really geeky pursuits often don't realize just how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to people who take these things to this level. The people who show up at their favorite movie dressed as a character do more than just watch the show. They actually build an identity in that context, and that includes all aspects of the life, from names and family relationships and personal life to political aspirations. My own geeky rule-of-thumb: If someone owns a costume for their particular world, you can bet they've made decisions in their life based on the precepts of that world. If they speak the language, you know they've made important decisions based on it.

It's the big things, and it's the little things. You can get married on the bridge of the Star Trek Experience in Vegas. Your local SCA chapter can also provide you with a medieval experience. On the other end of the spectrum, a friend of mine wears a "What Would Jean-Luc Do?" bracelet. And no, you may not tease me for my "Squidbob Cthulpants" t-shirt or my "ph34r t3h cute ones" screen background.

I personally like the idea. I would much rather see people making their decisions based on the pig-headed honor of the Klingons or the cockeyed optimism of the Federation than the dreary, dirty mess our world dishes out every day. I myself have been highly influenced by the harcore libertarian slant of the writings of Robert Heinlein. It's just my good fortune that the standard "costume" in many of his books is a birthday suit. It's a heck of a lot easier to hide under my daily wear than my light sabre.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bad Coffee and Good Friends....

I got to spend some time this weekend doing some real dredging around in the memory banks. I tracked some stuff out besides what I was looking for, and it's settling a little weird. My life now is very different than my youth. Just about as different as time and a middlin' distance can make it. I grew up in a town that had 200 people in the winter. They didn't bother counting in the summer because everyone was too busy fleecing, uh, I mean "serving" the tourists. My family was from there. They still are there. I'm the one who's out of place.

Rarely does it show better than when I'm having coffee. Coffee is not supposed to be consumed from a paper cup while perched on a chair designed by a Swedish soulmate of Torquemada. You drink it from an off-white Ironware mug with a brown ring around the rim while sitting on a cracked vinyl chair-seat. You don't season it with fancy brown sugar and three different thermos bottles of cream. You have three choices: pink packets, white packets, and the little dented pitcher with the lid sitting in the saucer of ice. You don't stir it with a long wooden stick or a straw. A slightly beat-up stainless steel spoon that can be rapped on the rim twice to get the drops off and then propped in edge of the saucer mixes everything just right. You don't order it in pseudo-Italian gibberish. You don't even have to say a word. You just sit down and turn over the cup. It doesn't cost $4 either. In the best establishments, you pay by the hour.

The conversation's a very different bird, too. Current events, work, and the concerns of this busy modern world are given short shrift. You get a good yarn with just enough truth in it that it gives the rest of the table a good starting point for the next one. These aren't so much tall-tales as they are medium-tales. They're about ordinary people, but with slightly larger than ordinary cause and effect. Like the time Uncle Joe's then new wife burned dinner so badly it set off the neighbor's smoke alarm.

The words are old companions, fitted together long ago and oiled with laughter and old joking mockeries. They've had years of re-tellings to show them the way out into the room. Even the other's skepticisms are well practiced and delivered with the precise timing of a vaudeville duo. These same stories have lined up every morning and punched their clock in and out for as long as anyone can remember, and they file past on their way out to their jobs just like any other working stiff.

Newcomers are welcome. They're good for tipping, and new ears are always a good thing. But that's not what you wait for. There are few things in life more proud than the day when a child or grandchild finally gets up the courage to pull up a chair and sit down, turning over their own cup for the first time. They've learned the motions from years of sipping soda in the booth across the aisle, turned around and leaning so they could catch every word. They've practiced their story, and when you give them the chance they slip it right in. Don't worry, it won't be perfect but that's all right. A stumble here and there just helps the rest of the gang learn their parts and they've got years to polish it up just right.

The old people are the ones who spend the time down at the Glenn-Rich yarning. The busy grown-ups, with kids and jobs and what have you do it their own way. Usually, the moms pick someone's house to meet at, and they all bring their kids and sit at the table over-looking the yard. They have coffee and field kids in and out the front door. Then, about an hour before the men are due home from work they all go home and start dinner and what have you. But they have two hours to get ready, not one. When they get back into town, the guys all go over to the Shop. It was my grand-dad's when he was alive, now some cousin by marriage owns it. It's a log building with a quanset roof, about 100' by 30'. Grampa built it when they upgraded the runway right next door and he wanted a place where he could work on the planes out of the weather. All the snowmachines, trucks and everything else mechanical seemed to drift in and out of there, too. And every night, all the men would come by to visit with whatever project they were running, have a beer, and talk. Then it was home to dinner and kids and what have you.

Maybe that's why it's hard to feel like I'm sitting at the grown-up table sometimes. From where my notions of these things sit, real grownups do this all so differently.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Walking around the shadows...

It's been three years. Many of us have found a way to walk around those two long shadows. Last year's footprints guide our feet, and we have a surer path to tread today.

The world is still a scarier place than it was before that day. I think many had never really faced the concept of inexorability before. They had always been masters of their safe little worlds, and watching that monolithic proof that there are things that they can't help, hurry, or fight has torn their souls into an older shape. They don't like it. I know I don't. I'd stopped maintaining the skills needed to keep going in the face of this sort of creeping dread. They're rusty and they creak alarmingly when I try to use them. And the fact I have to teach them to my children makes me very angry indeed.

I couldn't figure out how to handle things. There isn't a real sort of focus for events here. We're on the other side of the country, so we couldn't just go somewhere. Each one of us came up with one thing we thought would be a good way to deal with it and wrote them down on small scraps of paper and put them in a box. I opened the box, and read:

make something
fix something
remember the past
give presents

Each one of us had our own reasons for choosing these things, and we discussed them and how we were going to implement them. We decided to do them all. We made applesauce from some of the wild apple trees in our neighborhood. We fixed and re-painted our front door. We gave an azalea bush to a lady who really wanted a new potted plant for her deck. We prayed together down by the flag in the local cemetary. We went out to an old fifties drive-in for a late lunch on the way back home.

When I said "make", I kind of meant building something, but the weather and the fact that I live in an apartment didn't cooperate. However, my eldest son had a good idea. We'd had a storm yesterday and it had played havoc with the local trees. There are a couple wild apple trees in the area and they had lost a lot of fruit. We couldn't fix it, or make it not happen, but we could take something that was lost and damaged and turn it into something good. So we went to the trees and picked up the fallen, as well as anything that was ripe that we could reach and they are simmering away on my stove as we speak. He also picked up some big branches that had fallen and it's been cut up and added to our woodpile on the deck for this winter.

He was the one who turned in "fixing something", too. We looked around at what projects needed to be done and could be done, and we decided to fix our front door. That way it would be better than it was, and we would see it every day. It just needed a tune-up (tighten hardware, etc) and a paint job, and we had the stuff for it. So we took a couple hours and we have a nice shiny door that swings and closes properly.

My younger son wanted to give a present. Because he didn't die at the Pentagon, my uncle was there to give him a fishing lesson that he would otherwise never have had. We thought about who and what, and he remembered a lady he helped with her groceries the other day. She had a dead pot of tulips on her deck, and she'd mentioned that a squirrel had eaten the bulbs. So we went over to Home Despot and found her a nice azalea bush on sale and all its paraphernalia, and he bought it and we took it to her place and we all had a soda while he planted it for her.

My other daughter has been driving her church youth pastor crazy with questions, so I guessed correctly it her suggestion that we pray. She wanted to go back out to the cemetery. She worries about her uncle, and she was pretty upset at our recent 1,000-casualty milestone. I figured it was as good a place as any, so we all piled into the car and went on our way. Once we got there, we found a quiet spot out of the way just up the hill from the flag, and she led us in a prayer and a moment of silence.

My bookish daughter thought we should find some way to remember things. On the way out to the cemetery I got majorly lost, and we ended up somewhere off the beaten track. By the road was a giant orange sign shaped like a barrel with "XXX" across the front. Not what I originally thought it was. When we got closer we saw it had a bunch of classic cars in the parking lot, and it was a drive-in. We stopped and I got directions for my left at Albuquerque, and we went on our way. On our way back, it was a unanimous decision that this was the place. We went in, and spent some time oohing and ahhhing at the classic memorabilia hung on the ceiling and walls and the gorgeous rolling stock in the parking lot. We got seated and ordered a round of their signature root beers in huge frosty mugs. Sensibly splitting two of the 9" big burgers, we listened to classic oldies and chomped away. It was interesting to hear from them how they remember that day. We talked about my Uncle a lot, and my brother-in-law over in Iraq. Not just the sad times, but also the fun things. We yarned for a long time over our mugs, sitting back in those metal-flecked vinyl chairs. There was a silly re-enactment of the "Great Balls of Fire" scene out of Top Gun that I wish I'd had some way to record. We took pictures and the staff did, too.

This was all done mindfully. We didn't just go do stuff like any other busy Saturday. It was done thinking about things, and talking about them. There was talk about what this meant to the world, and to us. How we thought things should have been handled, and how we think things should go from here. Nothing to change policy for; just working things out for ourselves.

So, this is going to be our formula from now on to deal with this day. I'll keep these slips of paper, and next year we'll each draw one from the box and decide how they're going to do that. To make something new and good out of something that was lost. To repair things damaged and in that way remember what was broken. To visit the past to help us be mindful of how it is the foundation of the present. We will give a gift, as those who survived and their families were given a gift that day. And we will pray for all those lost and all those who must live with this changed world, and most especially that we don't end up with more days like this on our calendar.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Why Have I Been Listening to Country More of Late?

Now, I listen to just about anything, so don't get too crazy at me. But lately I've begun listening to country a lot more. I'd figured it was just because the local country station has the best traffic reports and the least commercials during drive-time. But it's happening at home, too. I've been hunting through one of my favorite playlists for something and the latter part of it seems to be getting pretty heavy in the hick department. That, and all the recent posting about it made me stop and take stock.

Variety is a great thing. Grab one of those "Now That's What I Call Music" compilations and listen to it, front to back. It's all homogenized, for your convenience. They've found the combination to lock on as large a percentage of ears from a certain age group as they can, and that's what they do. Over and over and over. Country isn't at that point, yet. It draws on several root genres, and even during the peak times when they concentrate on the newest music I can hear a straight up Zydeco number, have it followed by a weepy ballad, and then it'll turn around and hit the guitar hard for some good ole' Southern Rock. The roots of rap, pop, and rock have a wealth of sound to choose from. Where do you hear it on the top-40 stations? Mostly buried in a thumping bass and bleeped swear words.

To make matters worse, many pop and rock music writers are all running around stealing beats from each other and from their predecessors. Those playlists are doing stuff a mink-breeder wouldn't tolerate. I imagine that's why young kids like this stuff. They just hear that it's good. They haven't heard the other 30 years of songs that are being run through the music label's grinder, so it doesn't bother them to hear a song they loved peeking out between the bars of some gyrating thing. When a country song comes back out, it comes back out front and center. They'll just dig up the original track and let it run. Charlie Daniel's classic "The Devil Came Down to Georgia" is climbing the charts again, just as it was.

Country has always had a lot of the same stuff, mostly because vocals are still the centerpiece of the music and humans only have so much vocal range (unless you're Mariah Carey or Luciano Pavarotti). Having huge back-production doesn't really work. Even now there are live performances where you have three guys on a stage, with gituars and a bass. And I'm not just talking about the local honky-tonk. Check out Tim McGraw's newest, "Can't Tell Me Nothin'". Even the acts on the pop side (Rascal Flatts, Uncle Kracker) sound like a pick-up band compared to some of the Brittney-ized stuff. Since the voices have it, there just isn't the pressure to file the serial numbers off of anything that ever worked before and try to slide it under the door again. And even if they do it's not particularly noticable. Well, unless you're Big & Rich, and you find a way to shape it into something strange and wonderful.

It always makes me sad to see the latest pop starlet hit the fame-fanblades. Their fifteen minutes seems to be getting shorter and shorter. On the country side of things, longevity isn't an odd thing. There are people like Madonna in everywhere on the dial, but there's usually only a couple per station, and their old stuff isn't in play. When was the last time you heard "Holiday" on the radio, or "Cherish"? I heard a set on Friday that consisted of Patsy Cline (a classic - "Crazy"), Garth Brooks (old song, old singer - "Friends in Low Places"), George Strait (old singer, new song - "I Hate Everything"), and Gretchen Wilson (so new the sticker's still on both of them - "Redneck Woman"). And it's not just the biggest names, either. Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Down at the Twist and Shout" was on that day, too.

Since the background doesn't really matter, you can actually sing this music without a band of your own. Try an experiment. Think of your favorite current pop-song or rock song, and sing it with no accompaniment. All the way through. Make sure you take all 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Gets a little thin after that first verse and chorus, doesn't it? The backup music really carries the show. On the other hand, take just about any country song you know, and head for the shower and let it ring. Some of the alternative stuff works pretty good, too, but by and large if you like to sing the big stations aren't going to do you much good.

Every part of life can be front-and-center. On the other stations, just about every song is about someone in the 18-24 demographic trying to score, getting laid or recovering from the last jerk (of either gender). Sex and rebellion are the core of just about all of it. That's fine when you're in that demographic, but a huge percentage of them grow past it. Then what? Country has songs about babies, kids, and teenagers. There's adults and old folks. And they're all growing up and growing old and coming apart and coming together. The past and the present and the future are all in there. There's quite a bit of rabble-rousing and carousing, don't get me wrong, but instead of ninety songs in a hundred being about it, it's more like ten out of a hundred.

Beliefs aren't separated out. God is in there. I mean REALLY in there. Not just given lip service on the back cover acknowledgements, but actually discussed in context within a song. And it's not only the old guys - Jimmy Wayne's song "I Love You This Much" and Joe Nichols "If Nobody Believed in You" are recent hits, by new artists. Randy Travis hits one straight at the DOVE demographic with "Three Wooden Crosses". A lot of those rappers seem to talk a God-game during interviews and on the awards show stage, but if you listen to their music I just don't hear it on the Top 40 stations. It's pretty non-partisan, too. Let me rephrase that. I mean that there are artists on both sides. They're not quiet about it, either. The Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith are out on both ends of the political spectrum and they're not alone.

I guess I could have said it in one sentance, now that I look back. It's about a whole life. It's not all pretty or nice, but there's still the hope that it can become so. It's not fancy, either. Yeah, I do still usually turn off the radio when they dredge up some old Oakridge Boys b-side that's just a little too 70's for my tastes, but for the most part it's the place I'm in. Now I just have to figure out if I'm okay with that.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Can opened; worms possibly everywhere....

I'm so sadly behind, it's not even funny. I keep hoping to come up with something profound, and I end up coming up with nothing at all. Pathetic, really. My life just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, as per Alice.

Good news, I've finally gotten the kids off to school. They're all doing really well. My gray hair generator got a perfect weekly report this first time out, and we've survived the evil known as school pictures with my daughters. They'll find something to drive me crazy with pretty soon here I imagine, but for now things feel pretty good.

Now to go chase down those worms..... ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Dragon Dreaming....

It's late, and you're tired. Nice try, but I know you are. I can see you trying to keep your eyes open by arching your brows. It doesn't help. Even Bette Davis couldn't help you keep awake much longer. I know he's out there again. I'm sorry. I know you worry sometimes, but I can't seem to keep him out.

I wish I could, both for your sake and for his. He's stuck here, you see, in a world he doesn't want and doesn't understand. No dark caves for him to slowly carve a stone couch into - our fuzzy fake carpet is his bed. No gleaming hoard for him; his treasure is tangled cords of controllers and plastic game and DVD cases and my sppons and the occaisional pile of folded laundry. Instead of fair damsels and clanking heros who smell faintly of rust he has our boistrous, sneaker-clad flock roistering around smelling faintly of Axe and that vanilla-stuff you girls wear.

You have to tiptoe around him, my child. His sleep is restless. He dreams, you see, all the time. Just ordinary dragon things, like unlimbering his wings on a new morning and climbing up onto the wind's wide back. The tips of his wings and his nose twitch, and you can see his eyes moving restlessly around under his eyelids. Playing on the inside of his eyelids there's a beautiful tapestry of crystal spun clouds splaying god-rays along a green and gold washed hills and he doesn't want to miss a bit of it.

Let him dream. We're all sort of stuck here together for now, so we might as well make the best of things. I've re-arranged the living room a bit around him, oh so quietly. It'll be easier to get around him, and you can see the screen to play your games. You go about your daily rounds, and I'll manage him. When evening comes, he'll slumber out there in the living room, and you'll slip off to your sleep with the sound of his sighs to bring you your own dreams of light-washed skies and quicksilver scales dripping cloud-dew.

Sometimes, I feel almost used to him. I've learned his ways. If he wakes, I know what to do. My armor is ready, and I'll slay him again. But even as I do, I know it will only be a matter of time before he is curled up in front of the divan again, smelling faintly of brimstone and sugar.

Don't worry, my child. It isn't for forever. Someday soon you'll grow up and fly off to your own world. That day he and I will watch you mount the sunset's rays with your own young wings. Then we'll have to figure out how we're going to handle things from there.

So speak gently, and step softly for now. It's night time and all is quiet. He's resting, and I'll get some rest too. The usual battles will start again in the morning. Until then, he slumbers. Dear one, you should sleep too.

This is part of a series I've posted on the Fray trying to walk around discussing some of the issues in my life in direct terms. As time goes on, the allegorical meaning just seems to fit more and more.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Word according to Bob...

Yes, I know this is blasphemous and etc, etc. If it makes you feel better you can think of him as the patron saint of "random acts of kindness".

In the beginning, it was without form, and void. And Bob looked upon this, and saw that it was good. Unfortunately, some busybody down the street came in and decided to build a universe in there.

After looking through his building permits and realizing the interloper had it all in order, Bob stood back and watched.

Much of what he saw was good. But there were some things about this guy's design that had issues. Bob tried to make suggestions, but the guy just marked them all "Won't Fix" or "By Design" in his bug database and went on his way. He was busy, and was trying to teach the denizens of his universe some very important things and wasn't exactly rolling in time to do it.

As admirable as the goals were, it seemed very harsh to Bob. He sighed deeply, and realized that the only way things were gonna get better was if he lent a helping hand. Looking down from on high, Bob made a list, took it to the now harried builder who was busy dealing with the violent tendencies of some of his creations and a huge labor problem. The builder gave it a glance, and with a grateful look, approved the intervention.

Bob searched high and low for a proper way, and finally found some creatures with good silky fur. These he talked to, and convinced some of them that if they hung out with these others, and loved them, they would be cared for in return. And the house cat and the dog became our friends. And it was good.

Next, Bob looked around and saw that there was much toil in this world. Many creatures worked long and hard just to get by. Bob found several wonderous plants that gave all both warmth and energy. Even better, when they were mixed with other things, could be brewed into a elixir that even he grew fond of (this whole helping-the-world-thing is hard work too). And coffee and tea are very good.

Bob noticed that these creatures were always alone, it seemed. Even when they were in groups, they didn't seem to connect. They had been given beautiful feelings and the ability to tell what others were feeling sad or lonely or happy, but were lacking in ways to express them together. After experimenting, Bob realized that if the holding of the cat and the dog helped, maybe if they held each other it would help. This new way of communicating, called originally "Hugghhhh!" after an early adopter got a bit too over-enthusiastic, brought much joy to the world.

Another curious thing Bob found was that these creatures did something truly suprising. Under various conditions, they made this sort of odd sound that made them and all the others around them feel better. Intrigued and impressed by the builder's foresight, Bob found ways to help them do it more often. Some ways were better than others - the prat fall and practical jokes got rave reviews from everyone but the victim, but tickling got mixed results with anyone but babies when you blow on their tummies. Over time, Bob has found many many ways that we can all make this sound together and feel better.

Bob traveled around, completing all the items on his list. And still he travels today, adding simple comforts and companionship to the world. Some of the creatures saw what he did, and seeing that it was good, seek to emulate him. And so it spreads, and Bob sees and the builder sees, and it is good.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Mr. North, meet South. Mr. South, meet North....

I met my first magnolia trees recently. From a confirmed northerner's standpoint, these things were vague fictional ideas and wafting scents as you go by the cosmetics counters. You only see them through those plastic floral arrangements my Gramma used to keep in her bathroom.

When we moved our offices, the new building had these trees leading up to the back door. I didn't think much of them. I thought they were young versions of a tree I'd become familiar with in West Seattle called a madrona. They are have fleshy, shiny leaves, and instead of their bark cracking or growing with them, they shed it like snakes all the time when they get big. But one day about two weeks ago, I came by and what I thought was just a leaf-bud on the ends of a low-hanging branch had opened, and a white flower the size of my hand had opened up. I stopped for several minutes and just looked at it.

The scent was an odd combo of lemon and melon, with just a hint of something that says floral instead of fruit. When I touched the huge petals the scent came off on my hands. Now that I knew what to look for, I could see the green fisted cones everywhere, and smiled. This was going to be around for a while. I watched that flower closely as I came and went each day. It went through it's cycle of opening and eventually wilting, turning brown and falling away. There are hundreds of them now, all over all four trees. The scent when you walk by is just heavenly, sort of what Pledge wishes it was.

It has given me something that I never had before - a practical understanding of the whole metaphor behind the film (and play) Steel Magnolias. They are beautiful, in their big bold way with their strong scent and ivory blossoms. The connection with high-maintenance teased hairdos and fussy suits is easy to make. You can see the other side, too. They are really messy trees. They shed leaves and dead brown petals everywhere, and the pointed stamens of the flowers when they are done. The landscaper doesn't have very kind words for them because every week he has to clean all that out of the blocks of ivy that grow under them.

I love them, I have to admit. I would consider cleaning them up to be worth it, or re-work my yard's groundcover so their shedding just worked into the landscape. If I ever get a yard of my own, I want a corner of it with a group of these, with lavender and lilac bushes planted around their toes, and an old trailing wysteria vine arching over. All you would need is an Adirondack chair, a pitcher of sweet tea, and a trashy novel for a perfect summer day from April to October.

Been seeing an interesting phenomena elsewhere, too. Some plants from home have been cropping up. Back home, there's a plant called fireweed. It's a gangly thing (some varieties can be up to 7' tall) and a perniscious weed. When the shoots are young they make a tasty wild green, but that's about all they're good for. Except that for a time during the summer they will literally light the hills on fire with their tall spikes of fuscia flowers.

Driving around here, I've seen several patches starting. People must be dragging the seeds down here on their tires, and the rain washes them into the ditches on the rural roads and they sprout. Looking into it, they say that it can be seen all over the Western states, but down here it usually sprouts after a forest or brush-fire. For me, it's like little patches of homesickness sprouting by the roadsides.

I'm still finding stuff about this new place long after most people would no longer call it a new place. You just never know what you're going to get. It strikes me as kind of odd, though. The South came here to meet me, and the North is following in my wake.

Friday, July 16, 2004

I'm Late!  I'm Late!  For a very important date!  No time to say "Hello!"  Goodbye! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.....
We've gone a little nuts around here.  We have been having a long string of problems with our website at work that make it nearly impossible to use for just a few of our customers.  For them, it just stops dead.  We don't see a bloody thing when we test it, of course.  ARRGHHHH!
We think we just put several nails in the coffin lid, though.  So I'll be spending the weekend beating the living daylights out of our proposed solution to see if it gets the job done and doesn't break anything else.  Sometimes, this job is not as much fun as others. 
Razzle-frazzin' Norton......

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Raise them up in the way they should go....

....and when they are older they'll watch Star Trek re-run marathons with you. ;)

You've been raising this kid for what seems like forever. You see some things that strike you a little odd, and you wonder? Is that what they're all doing? Or are they a geek? How can you tell?

There are as many kinds of geek as there are kids, but there are some similarities. These are by no means absolute signposts on the way to tape-repaired glasses. Here are a few indicators that your child may be heading that direction:

Pop-culture Similes
My eldest son went on an activity with "the guys" from church this last weekend. For two whole days it was the just the guys, with all that that implies. He came back and was telling us all about it, and his first point gave a great example of what I'm talking about here.

He says, "Have you ever seen this town?" [Leavenworth, Washington]

Well, I hadn't but his brother had. He turns to me and exclaims, "You wouldn't believe it. It's like Du Loc incarnate!"

We all started laughing. We all knew exactly what he was talking about. In the film "Shrek", the realm of the bad guy (Lord Farquad) is called "Du Loc" and it is sort of a Disney-like realm in that cute little Snow White/Bavarian theme, complete with a little display that sings a cute little song about the rather draconian town rules. Leavenworth is a little tourist-trap town that dresses up like Bavaria and has a huge Christmas show every year. Knowing he was in the company of people who would understand, rather than going on for fifteen minutes describing faux-Bavarian architecture, he used a pop-culture simile to shortcut his description of the town.

Intensity of Hobbies
All kids get intense about the activities they enjoy and they will do them for frightening numbers of hours. There are geeky depths that you can hardly imagine, though. And with the way technology is being integrated into the schools and children's lives, just being computer literate is not a dead give-away anymore. Some ways you can tell if you're raising a geek rather than just a tech-savvy teen:
  • If your child makes up his own emoticons for his email and messaging, he's probably just a regular teen who has spent some time on a messaging program or text-messaging his buddies on his cell phone. If he makes his own custom smiley images in Photoshop and knows how to integrate them with his messaging program he's a nascent geek.

  • If your child can pull a 540 melon grab at the skatepark, he's a teen (and a fairly hardcore skater punk). If he's coded his own bit-hack of Tony Hawk Pro-Skater 4 on his PC so he can do infinite rotations, he's a nascent geek. Actually, if he understands that last sentence, watch him closely.

  • If he uses the word "reboot" in it's correct context or if your child knows what SDRAM is he got a decent grade in Tech class in school. If he uses the word "kernel" (and isn't talking about popcorn), that's a warning. If he knows who Linus Torvalds or Nathan Myhrvold is, he's most likely a hardcore computer geek.

  • If your child watches a TV show religiously to the point of scheduling their social life around it, they're just a teen (and most of the adults I know, too). Posters on the wall, computer desktop art, games, etc are all part of the normal teen range of experience. If they know the episode number of the show you're watching or if they point out continuity errors in reference to another episode of the show they're a geek.

Use of the Language:
If your teen uses words in ways you've never thought of, or seems to be dropping consonants all over the place, don't worry. They're ALL doing it. If your teen uses 'l33t speak, he's actually less likely to be a geek. Most geeks consider it pretensious and a sure sign of a newbie trying to fit in and look cool.

The good news is, other than making sure they don't do anything to harm themselves with their hobbies there is little or no difference between raising a geek and raising a more median teen. They're ALL pretty odd at that age.

Monday, June 28, 2004

A Cheshire grin hangs over this place....

Don't worry - I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Just under our development server. We're in ship-mode here at work, which basically means we only stop work for biological imperatives until we get this thing out the door and stable.

I'll be back in full effect soon, don't you fret. ;)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Soundwave! Play back Lazer's spybeams!

As you command! Soundwave totally jams out in this gorgeous piece of flash-back fodder for the Autobot and Decepticon geeks out there.

I don't know how much capture-work is involved here, but it's a damned find job if it is.

Friday, June 11, 2004

When did they get so tall?

My "baby" just got his class ring and will be getting his first letter (they don't get out of school until the 24th here). I went into the bathroom and cried into the hanging towel for 15 minutes. It's something that hits you every time they make a step forward. First teeth and first steps give way to first shaves and first bras. Tricycles give way to two-wheelers and then cars.

"Lasts" join the list, like the last day they are in elementary school and that one shopping trip when you realize this is the last time you'll be buying their shoes in the kid's section. You feel so old. I remember the last time I read them a story on the way off to bed - they do it themselves now.

It's a hard part of raising kids, I find. For me it isn't the setting up of things so much as the learning when and how to let things go. You go from requiring them to hold your hand crossing the street to letting them do it on their own as long as they're in bounds to hoping they are in the right zipcode and home by curfew. And the thing is, you have to do it. They grow up whether you like it or not. And no matter how much you hate it you have to let go.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Ronald Reagan...

Alzheimers is no respecter of anything, and what you and your family have gone through these last few years is as wrenching as can be imagined.

I will have more to say later, but I want to start with "Rest In Peace".

Monday, May 31, 2004

Memory Day...

I'm on the phone with Mom on Saturday, and she tells me that she and her sister just got back from taking care of the graves. For Memorial Day we always make sure they are all clean and the flowers are fresh. My grandfather, two uncles they never met, a cousin, and my aunt's first husband. My aunt handles things monthly for them and all the rest of the family there. It's kind of a drive for her, but there's no one closer now. My ex and I took care of it with the kids after Gramma died because we lived there in town. Now that I'm Outside, they both come in and do it together. Probably better anyways. Sometimes they don't talk so much anymore and this makes them take the time and do it. They go have coffee and hash over all the latest gossip and their old memories of people and places. This time it was a little heavier on the current news, I'm afraid. My aunt's cancer has come back and they had to talk about that.

There were ceremonies at the local cemetary today, and a full watch is kept all day and night. We went and watched the changing of the guard and walked among the graves, but it's different when you don't know any of the people that went by those names. The kids were quiet. We had brought flowers to leave at the bank of flagpoles in the center. A lot of people sort of took them to stand for the recent fallen. Most of the ones from around here are up at the veterans cemetary out in Orting where all the big doings are.

Back home, I am both sunburnt and windblown from our first trip to the pool for the summer. Seattle still hasn't decided which season it is yet, so it's playing highlights of both by turns. Dinner is cooking, and the girls are off raising Cain with their friends and the guys are playing video games. This is the strangest sort of crux between the past and the present and the future.

I'm here in the kitchen beating on my laptop's keys and basting the chicken in the oven, but my mind keeps going back and sitting on my grandfather's lap and playing with his watch and asking where he got the scar next to it while he drank a beer and talked to Jack Wilson about their next hunting trip. I remember my Gramma talking about how Gramma Emma would never again sew anything yellow after she sewed those two stars on their service flag. It's dim, though. Except for those few glimpses a five-year old keeps with them, most of these people are grainy black and white pictures and stories told over coffee cups.

My brain's over in the Atlantic, too. My brother-in-law called yesterday and talked to one of the boys for a while. He told my son he might be Jewish-by-marriage here soon. That was news for me; I knew he had been dating her but I hadn't heard he was thinking that direction. It's good he's thinking beyond all this. But I still worry. I don't have a widow's walk on this apartment, but if I did I would be out there with my lantern.

At least I have the stories. And my aunt has those grainy pictures. And my kids have heard how Grandpa Harold's unit had more casualties from frostbite than from fire (they were stationed in the Aleutians) and then in the Interior, and the specific beaches in Normandy where two headstrong Minnesota boys who ran away from home together to sign up died. They know how to properly salute a flag, and why we go and sweep off headstones and arrange those vases.

That is what this day is for me. To spend some time and at least once a year sit back a little, think, and remember. To remember what we had, what was done, what we've lost in the doing. To make sure that the next generation knows those things, too, so they don't have to make those same mistakes again to learn those same bitter truths. And this year, to think a bit about the stakes we're playing for in the things we're doing now. And to pray to anything that will listen that we don't have a specific grave of our own to decorate next year.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Things seem to change as they grow, but not really...

That blindingly huge grin you all know so well is still there, but the meaning changes.
  • A three month old baby usually needs to be changed.

  • A six month old baby may need to be changed or have it's mouth checked for foriegn objects it picked up off the floor and ate.

  • A three-year old just flushed something interesting down the toilet, or ate a bug.

  • A six year old just brought a "new pet" into your house, or made his little brother eat the bug.

  • A nine year old either lit something on fire or painted his little brother green.

  • A thirteen year old just got told that Tommy Johanson really really likes her by someone who promised not to tell, or just found that compact of really tacky eyeshadow you "lost" for her two weeks ago.

  • A seventeen year old just got told "Yes" by Tommy's older sister, or he narrowly avoided a traffic accident on the way home with a "cool" maneuver.

In any case, don't bother to wait for the stench, the upchuck, the water in the hall, the scuttling noise behind the couch, or the midnight phone calls. Take appropriate steps.

If you hear a sentence that starts with "Hey, do you know what happens if you..." prepare yourself. About half the time it means that whatever it is has already been tried, and they're trying to find a way to break the news about the damage caused to you without getting in trouble.

Any exclaimation of "COOOLLLLL!" you hear coming out of the bathroom, the kitchen, or the back yard merits immediate investigation. As they get older, check the garage as well.

Make sure to check the "Guest" login of the household computers every so often. Kindegardeners often try out every rude word they've heard to see if you can catch them. And high schoolers, welllllll, you know what to watch for.

Everything old really is new again. You can tell this because all your clothes have magically gravitated to their closet instead of yours. And they're not being used for tying into forts anymore or blotting up messes they don't want you to find out about anymore.

If the package on the liquid eyeliner says that it's "non-irritating", that means they're gonna try to paint stripes on their cornea with it at least once. Oh, and just as an FYI, in one case it was actually right and it didn't sting at all but the stripes didn't stick past the first couple blinks.

Live and learn, I guess. ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Photoblogging is KEWWWLLLL!

This is fairly wicked cool! Photoblogging may just get my Mom as many pictures as she wants!

Last winter's Snow Days brought out the Calvin and Hobbes in my eldest son.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

happiness is....
My doctor has been after me to go out and find something that makes me happy. She doesn't care how big or how small. I've been looking around, and this is all I've come up with so far for today between me and the kids.

...having two kinds of icecream on your cone.
...finding your skateboard tool(especially when it ISN'T where your mom said it was).
...the best tree-fort on the block.
...a yucky day, a good book, a fire in the fireplace, and the kids in school.
...DSL and time to kill.
...the kids are all asleep.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Porcelain Police Lineup...

The girls re-arranged their room this weekend so they would have the proper platform for primping all week for Friday's dance. They are so proud of themselves. I haven't had the heart to tell them that their arrangement of a very nice poster of horizonal abstract flowers with really long stems combined with all their dolls ranged in front of it looks remarkably like the Porcelain Police Lineup. They like those fashion dolls, not the baby dolls, so it's kind of like Marshall Dillon shook down Miss Kitty's place in there. The giant stuffed Minnie Mouse and the plastic shark over in the corner do add an interesting touch. The rest of the week is going to be fairy dust, frills, and frantic hair bending. Sigh.

My eldest got through his first week of performances of his school musical and now we get a breather until Wednesday. Last week was insane - they were at school until after 11 every night last week, and they have to be there by 7:15. That's a.m. And after three days of this, VERY VERY a.m. I am upset at the director - she was looking to get some of the props at 11pm the night before opening. Apparently she thinks "plan" is one of those four-letter words we aren't supposed to use. I'm careful not to say anything, though. He handled this, plus all his other responsibilities and his usual social round. He figured out where to cut out the fun because he had to do the work. Welcome to real life, when you have to take time out of things you want to do in order to accomplish stuff you have to do. Everything got done, but about all he got to do was sleep. By Saturday he was frazzled but he felt good about it. I'm proud of him. He's growing up so fast, and not just in a vertical direction.

My younger son is still in a holding pattern. They think they can do what they call a deferred judgement, which is a process very similar to the diversion process they use for midemeanors. If the judge agrees and he jumps through all their hoops, it will be removed from his record completely. Until then, he gets a lot of stern supervision. It's his best chance for coming out of this well. For some reason the prosecutor's office came out loaded for bear on this, and were trying to convict him of everything down to mopery and dopery in the waterways. Personality-wise, we had a bit of fun when we first got back from court but things are stabilizing. The reality of what is going on is sinking in, and it makes it hard for him to keep going. I can understand that, even when I want to smack him silly. I can't give in to it, though, or he will have no chance at all of coming through this. I have to hold the line so he holds it. There are days I get him to bed and I just sit on the couch and weep, though.

As for me, well, don't ask. Then I won't tell. ;)
The View from the Yellow Line...

I live between the white lines of polemic that bind the edges of the road. Though it can be hard to see from the edges, there is a nice yellow line to help point the way. Here are a few of the survey points that keep mine straight.
  • The foundation that all my thought stands upon is REALITY. What is, is. There is no amount of wishing or belief that will change that which is plainly there, and there is no amount of dreaming that will keep you from the consequences of not dealing with it in real terms. Open up your eyes and look around you.

  • I have faith. That faith is expressed with actions. There is no amount of praying that will feed that homeless man, or get dinner on the table for my kids. Get out there and do. But be careful. Blind faith is as much a menace as no faith. Countless atrocities have been committed based on belief, because there is no limit to what people can believe. Use your brains as well as your heart.

  • Responsibility and consequences. I am responsible for my life. I will take the consequences of my decisions, both good and ill. I believe that everyone should do the same. This is freedom distilled to it's essence, and the only kind worth fighting for. Anything else is banner-wrapped slavery with a good PR plan.

  • Have a simple, consistent, practical moral framework. You don't need to haul around a manual to know your point of view. You make choices and form opinions from a specific set of beliefs that don't change at the drop of a hat. Be sure there is enough room in there to live and get by.
  • Be tolerant of other's viewpoints. It doesn't matter what your views are, or what other people's views are. You just need to know that they exist and agree in enough real-world points to allow for safe societal interactions. The fine points can be argued over a beer to your heart's content. That they have a different viewpoint does not excuse them from the real consequences of their actions, though, just as it does not excuse me from mine.

  • Take each issue as it comes, on it's own merits. Outside of the simple precepts above, there are no overarching solutions to every problem, and there may be more than one solution to a problem. Question everything. "Why?" should be your watchword, just like a 3 year old.

  • Solutions should hold everyone involved accountable for their actions, but no more. For example, if you hit someone's cat with your car, you need to make amends. I don't care that it is black and you had a headlight out, you were responsible. However, that also means the owner who let that black cat out at night has to take some responsibility too. And balancing those two responsibilities lets you come up with a reasonably fair set of consequences that take the real issues into account.

  • Look beyond the surface and out to the peripherals to see the whole problem and it's underlying reasons. I'm not saying be a conspiracy theorist, I'm saying that you need to pay attention.

I don't have all the answers. Heck, I'm pretty sure I don't have the right ones, either. But I have enough that I can get through, for now. Beyond that, we'll have to see.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Jim! I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!

I fixed my washing machine today. All by myself. It's been broken for quite some time and I just wasn't able to get things together. Well, I'm quite handy and I figured I was no worse off today if I took it apart to see. I knew what had caused the problem. Somehow, one of the kids managed to run a cardboard box through the full wash cycle, and it had clogged it up to a fare-thee-well.

So, I went online and found a website called Repair Clinic that gave me the layout of the machine so I could find the filter-doo-hickey that was the probable cause of the problem and I just did it (after I cleaned out the mess that always seems to gravitate under there).

The clean up actually took the longest - once I got in there it only took two hose clamps and one screw to get to it. The whole mess was caused by a little wad of cardboard about the size of the end of your thumb. Took that out, put it all back together, and while I still had the thing out in the middle of the floor filled it part way and drained it out. Worked like a charm. Then because I was really paranoid I ran a light load with it out there - no leaks, all was well. So now it's back in the closet with a full load, and we're sitting pretty.

Now I just have about 25 loads of laundry to do. YAAAAYYYYYYY! ;)

Monday, May 03, 2004


What a great night. I got my dining room organized finally, I found my Yo-Yo Ma CD I've been missing forever, and I ran into an old friend online and he had some great news.

He has gone and gotten married. Congratuations Yuki and Gordon! May you live as long as you love, and love as long as you live.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The REAL Mom's Cookbook: How to make Kool-aid...

1) The pitcher must be washed. That means you can't get it directly out of the fridge, drink the tail end of whatever was in there, and then turn around and start mixing. This is a very bad idea, especially when the last stuff was green and this stuff was red. It turns an extremely unappetizing brown color and then nobody drinks it. And yes, you must wash the outside as well. Why? Because you just drank out of the top for one thing, for another, because it's entirely possible that the soap from washing the inside just might be on the outside and you should take care of it. You bloody well better have used soap! Plus, it's disgusting and I said so. The lid, too. Nice try.

2) Choose your poison, uhhh, I mean flavor. Only one flavor per pitcher please (see above paragraph). This is not a good area for experimentation, especially with some of these newer "magic twisted freaky" flavors or whatever - you have no idea what so ever what's coming out of that little paper packet.

3) Shake the envelope to put all the powder in one end. Tear open the end you are holding on to, not the end that was out there flapping when you shook it and therefore contains the powder (centrifugal force in action, kids!). Make sure to hold the envelope above the pitcher while opening due to accidents involving inadvertant diagonal tears and incomplete shaking problems. If they're not already there, pour the contents of the envelope into the bottom of the pitcher.

4) Add 1 cup of sugar. Yes, I mean one measuring cup. Not my coffee cup, which is the size of a beer stein. And don't get creative - ladles, spoons, spatulas, etc are not good measuring implements. And whatever you do, DO NOT POUR DIRECTLY OUT OF THE CANNISTER! If you do that you end up with like five pounds of sugar in there and that's too much.

5) Show me the pitcher. And yes, when I say put half of that sugar back I mean it. This is the solution for the mystery of why I have two sugar cannisters - one for regular cooking, and one for the kid's Kool-aid adventures. Come on! You could make rock candy with that.

6) Fill the pitcher up to the handily enscribed line near the top. Above the line is right out - you make water stirred with a color crayon when you do that. Below the line is also right out, except if you then proceed to the line. Otherwise you make fake vampire blood or some sort of strange gelatinous alien ooze (depending on your chosen flavor). Right at the line, gang.

7) Gently but thoroughly stir the contents of the pitcher with a rubber spatula or long-handled wooden spoon. Do 25 laps one way, and 25 the other. That lets you play the swirly-game in the middle there, but doesn't give you enough momentum that it flies out of the pitcher when you do.

8) Don't you dare just start drinking out of the pitcher! Ugh! Get a glass. And unless you're going to consume the entire pitcher, put the lid on it and put it in the fridge when you're done pouring.

Next Time: How to Make Toast