Tuesday, April 24, 2001

The Weekend and Unitarianism

Ah, lets see. The last entry was made on Sunday but written about Friday. So I’ve got Saturday, Sunday and Monday to write about.

Saturday the family went over to my mother-in-law’s house to help her move some heavy stuff. She’s having her house remodeled and we needed to clear out the master bedroom and move some of the living room stuff out of the extra room and back into the living room. It was pretty easy once we got started. And she treated us to the buffet at Pizza Inn for lunch.

Sunday we went to church. This is the third weekend I’ve taken Duncan to the local Unitarian Universalist church. Duncan’s five and has started asking questions about the religious elements of western culture that we inadvertently rub up against in daily life. Tamara and I have developed our own version of anti-establishment liberal agnosticism. At the very least we’d like a church that teaches ideals and views closer to our own beliefs and includes a healthy dose of tolerance and acceptance. I know I’ve lived through enough fire and brimstone preachers for the both of us. So I checked around on the internet and came to the Unitarian Universalist Association. After reading much of their views on theology, religious diversity their stand on social justice, I figured this would be a better place than most to handle Duncan’s indoctrination into western religious culture. I also figure that if we just ignore the whole issue he’s more likely to find some radical sect later on. Not that he wouldn’t snap out of it later on, I did, but if we can nip it in the bud, then so much the better.

This week in Duncan’s religious education class they glued some wood together to be like carpenters – they were talking about the early life of Jesus. At this stage the UU church seems to be keeping the stories pretty light. The older elementary kids participated in a Seder as part of the UU Easter and the adults heard a lecture from a professor of religious psychology on the pre-Christian origins to much of the story of Christ and the “passion play.”

Last week, in honor of earth day, the adults heard about stuff we can all do to pollute the planet less. The only thing that I thought was missing was a concise rebuttal of the objections to environmentalism. Republican, nationalistic, and pro-business concerns have only a handful of reasons that they use oppose most environmental actions. I won’t go into them here but an outline of what they are and how to rebut them would have been nice (I may try and scan the literature to provide this information at a later date). The talk was based on the premise that it is a moral imperative to preserve the planet. This view was accepted last year by the general assembly of the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association).

After church I lazed around and let it rain on us. After the rain I lazed around for no particular reason.

Monday was a pretty dull day. I worked in my office and went to meetings. After work I watched Duncan at his dance class and then the whole family went out for Chinese food. While reading Duncan his bedtime story – “The incredible journey to the planets” – he remembered that we haven’t been doing our exercises. So I stopped after the asteroid belt and we did some push-ups and sit-ups. If I don’t forget we can pull out the hand weights and do curls and triceps extensions tonight.

Sunday, April 22, 2001

Taxes, Farscape and Iron Chef

This entry is about Friday so that’s a good thing all by itself. I’m mainly working on the plan for the next fiscal year while trying to keep up with the demands for this fiscal year. It’s a weird mix of research, memos, brainstorming, programming, meetings and troubleshooting. I’ll be pretty happy when we’re overworking more than one person in web services. As it stands now I’m the only person in my department. That’s all fine and dandy as long as no one wants too much. But the web is like a tidal wave. And I’m a surfer lookin’ at a 200 foot swell.

My mom works over in the main hospital in the NICU. I took my lunch over to her unit and we ate together. It also let me get some papers signed to take over to the county assessors office. It seems that they’ve dramatically overvalued the house that we are renting from her and we have to go through all the red tape you can eat to get the valuation (and consequently the taxes) lowered to a reasonable amount. We’ve already gone through the initial contest of valuation. The result of that was so lame that that we had to file an appeal. They’ll mail us an appearance date and we’ll present evidence of the need for reduced valuation. It’s all pretty boring. But if it works it could save us hundreds of dollars in taxes over the next several years. If it doesn’t it’ll still cost us a couple of hundred dollars to try. What a gamble. I think the main thing that pushes us forward is that we find it galling to have the house so over valued in a neighborhood that’s declining. That’s right, I don’t live in a very good neighborhood. It has it’s advantages but being in a good neighborhood isn’t one of them. So after lunch I drove the paperwork downtown and went back to my scattered work environment.

After work I went home and waited. And waited. And waited. Tamara was at softball practice until 6 but it was almost 7 before she called. Duncan had been invited to a birthday party down the street from my Mother-in-law’s house that would feed him dinner and not be over until 8. We went to Cap’n Dees and ate some greasy fish with fries.

There was a new Farscape on tonight (it’s a bummer but next week will be a rerun). Tonight’s episode was kind of weird and involved the killing of several major characters that also ended up still being alive. There was a madman running amok on a wounded Leviathan, Crase nearly dead and his ship Talon fairly well damaged, and most of the cast running around not knowing what’s going on until fairly late in the episode. As usual they’ve given Criton quite a few good lines with lots of earthisms thrown in for color. I’m not going to give a complete synopsis of the episode, there are enough web sites where you can get that, but I will say that this is one of the few TV shows that I watch (Survivor and the Robot shows are some others I don’t like to miss).

And of course I would be totally remiss if I didn’t recount the secret ingredient in tonight’s episode of IRON CHEF. It was abalone (clams). And like most Iron Chef shows they were big and they were alive and squirming. The challenger, a Japanese chef who was considered a master of the seaweed broth, beat the Iron Chef Japanese. Too often the challenger will use the main ingredient but won’t design dishes that showcase it. The Iron Chefs have an advantage here because they know what the judges are looking for. This week the challenger did a good job making all sorts of abalone dishes I just don’t know if I could eat. So far the battle that’s made me the hungriest was the Pork Battle. I’m pretty sure it was Iron Chef Chinese fighting a Chinese food chef challenger. It was pretty good but I can’t remember who won. As for the abalone battle I just will never forget grated abalone – it looked like a big wad of lumpy pus. Now wasn’t that a pleasant thought to leave you on.

Friday, April 20, 2001

Bombing Thoughts, Guitar and Survivor

Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. I started my day off reading an account forwarded by someone who was working in the area at the time of the blast. It was fairly emotional and made me think back to what I was doing and the people I knew that were in Oklahoma City that day.

I was in Las Cruces, NM with Tamara. We heard about it on the news and spent the next few days watching it on TV. We called Lee, a lawyer friend that works in downtown Oklahoma City. She wasn’t feeling well and had called in sick that day. A friend of her’s that worked in the Journal Record building, across the street from the Murrah Building was severely injured as the glass from her office windows turned to shrapnel in the blast. Another friend, Mark, who also worked in the Journal Record building was on the night shift and had left the area already.

The closest call was my brother, David. He had an appointment for 9 am in the Social Security Office of the Murrah Building. If he hadn’t been running late and blew off the appointment then he would have been in a part of the building where there were few, if any, survivors. But his inherently absentminded nature saved him. All-in-all a pretty good record.

As days go that was pretty much the highlight. There was work for 8 hours with some leftover Mexican food for lunch. Tamara made salmon patties with oven fried potatoes, carrots and peas for dinner. Duncan and I are pretty lucky having someone who can cook as well as Tamara does.

I went to my guitar lesson. I’m working on Shocking Blue’s Venus. It was covered by Bananarama and has just been picked up as the jingle behind a new razor aimed at women and named “Venus.” It’s a pretty easy song (lots of Em and A for the verse and Am, D, C and Bmaj7 for the chorus). We’re doing all the chords as barre chords so that makes them even easier, although I do sometimes get a cramp in my left hand from all of the barring.

Tonight he transcribed the short solo. It’s trickier than I thought it’d be but being short makes it easier. At least it’s not tricky and long. I think after I have this one down we’re going to start on something that is tricky and long – Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.” I have the Bob Dylan version too but I think my guitar teacher wants to do the Hendrix one. I’m open to it. I was able to get through the solo for Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” so I imagine it’ll just take practice for this too.

I almost forgot. I watched Survivor tonight. We tape it when it comes on at 7 (8 on the coasts) and then watch it after Duncan has gone to bed. This way we can watch it without interruptions and even rewind if we miss some cutting remark hurled at one of the contestants.

Tonight they had a lame, but nice, challenge. Everyone got to chat with relatives back home and get a Danish and coffee at the Survivor Internet Café. The winner of the challenge got a 30 minute chat and a 500 dollar gift to give the folks back home that they could buy on-line. The hard part was that the families back home had to answer a trivia questionnaire and the winners corresponding survivor would win the challenge. Tina won that.

The immunity challenge was an interactive test of listening comprehension. Colby won but only because Keith dropped one of his locks on the way back to the finish line. Everyone was shackled and told a tale of the original penal colony settlers of Australia. They then had to go to various stations and answer questions based on the story. Correct answers unlocked parts of the shackles. After all of the locks were off they had to carry the whole lot back to the finish line. This is where Keith lost it. Tamara groaned because she’s tired of seeing Colby win.

At tribal council the remaining Ogakor tribe held together and voted off Roger who had campaigned for his expulsion so Elisabeth could stay on longer and potentially win more money.

Well, that’s it. That’s my lame day and my equally lame comments about television.

Since I’m using lame a lot you might think I have something against people who don’t have the full use of both legs. Well, I don’t so get over it. I’m sure by now lame isn’t even what you would want to call a person reflective of that situation – although I think crip or gimpy are still OK. (Do I really even need to insult you by putting a smiley emoticon here? Nah, I didn’t think so.)

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Flying Kites and Chinese Food

Yesterday was a pretty blank day. It’s the kind of day where you get stuff done but you just can’t think of what any of it was. I just remember working on something in the morning, and then getting interrupted to go eat Chinese food at the Golden Rice restaurant. The guys in Network Services like that place because they have both a buffet and Mongolian BBQ. After we got back I worked on some other nameless stuff and was interrupted by Tamara calling to tell me not to be late coming home because she had a softball game at 8 (She’s coaching a girls 14 and under slow-pitch softball team. This is her third year coaching the team with her mother. They really don’t get any better but they have fun.)

I left earlier than my usual 5:30 to 6 pm and got home to leftover porcupine balls (kind of a meatloaf made with rice instead of bread crumbs and then put into meatball shapes dinner with mashed potatoes, green beans and corn). After dinner Duncan wanted to go to the park to play. We drove over to the closest local park and there were no kids so we drove to a park near my mother-in-law’s house and there were no kids. So we drove further to Eldon Lyon Park. Duncan had been there the Saturday before Easter for a community Easter egg hunt and had wanted to climb up a hill that is at the edge of the park. Today we did that. I’d climb up behind him in case he lost his balance – he never did but he did ask for my help a couple of times. We climbed up and climbed down a couple of times. Duncan wanted to slide down on his butt but I didn’t think that was a good idea – both for the damage that would be done to his pants and for the damage that could be done if he slid down the wrong hill and went into a roll (some parts of the hill were pretty steep).

After that we went and played on the swing set and slides but again there were no kids. Being a little chilly, very windy and a Wednesday, I figured most kids were either at church or being held captive in their houses. There was a guy at the park flying a kite so I thought we could go get one ourselves and take advantage of the wind before the sun set. We went to a K-Mart and eventually found the end cap with all of the kites. Duncan picked out a kite featuring characters from the soon to be released Disney film, Atlantis. But he put that back pretty quickly when I showed him the kite I found – Sponge Bob Square Pants. We took Sponge Bob back to the park and flew him until it was too dark to see.

On the way home Duncan wanted to stop at Braum’s and get some ice cream. He wanted a tub of half vanilla and half chocolate. I told him they didn’t make that and he pointed out that they did make one with three flavors, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (called Neapolitan for some arcane reason known only to the aficionados of ice cream trivia).

Then we went back home and while Duncan washed himself in the shower I watched the last battle on the first of two episodes of Robotica on The Learning Channel. The match was a classic David and Goliath story – except David usually doesn’t get pushed off of a 12 foot high 16 by 16 foot battle arena. During the second episode we ate our ice cream. In this one a robot named Viper narrowly defeated Panzer Mark I to make it to the Robotica finals.

At this point Tamara returned home from the softball game. They lost. They have a team of 18 girls and since it was Wednesday (a church day) they only had 11 of the girls show up for the game. As far as I know all of the missing girls were nice enough to call beforehand but that still disheartened Tamara, especially when they lost by 16 to 1. She was kind of bummed and went to the bedroom to call her mother and rehash the game some more.

I put Duncan to bed and started a cassette tape of music from the Japanese animation film “My Neighbor Totoro.” He likes to listen to music while he goes to sleep. Tamara and I then watched the Star Trek: Voyager episode Author, Author. It wasn’t bad but most of Voyager falls into that category. There’s only 5 episodes left until the series finally. I still remember that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine got to do a series finally story arch that took up most of the final season. Tamara and I both agree that DS9 has been the best of the Trek series.

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Buffy, Angel, and Foundation novels

I did some work on an internet project that lets people log into applications from their browsers so that we can move most people off of the VPN here at work. There's a three meg client piece that has to download before you can run any of the applications. The intranet piece worked fine but the client wouldn't download from the internet. After some testing I figured out that it was a website configuration problem. I spent part of the afternoon comparing the settings for the websites for the intranet and the internet versions of the applications portal. I did find one setting that was different. With that changed the problem went away. Yippee!

Back on the home front it was a good night for TV. There was a new Buffy and a new Angel. The storylines they're doing on Buffy now involve her mother dying and an epic battle with a minor god. This last episode had Dawn, Buffy's little sister who is really the key to some cosmic gate the minor god wants, tries to use magic to bring their mother back from the grave. This is really not a good idea but Spike helps her get the stuff she needs from a kindly old man whose mind wanders -- not to mention the lizard tail that sneaks out from under his robe and the evil black stare he gives her at the end of the conversation. As in most TV it all turns out for the best. Dawn raises the dead and her and Buffy have this blow up and cry and hug conversation as the unseen creature makes its way to the Buffy house. At the end of the episode "mom" pounds on the door and Buffy runs to answer it. At about this time Dawn realizes what a bad idea this all is and destroys the photo of her mom that is the key to sending the undead back. No mom is seen.

Angel was pretty funny with a visit from the vampire Harmony, an old high-school buddy of Corelia (the office manager at Angel Investigations). In the end the vampire Harmony is just too evil to hang with the good guys. The episode had some very good lines in that Harmony is a clueless, shallow person that has the ability to get on everyone's nerves without even trying. Another good plot line involved a vampire pyramid scheme (that ensnared Harmony so she could reach her full potential as a vampire and nearly got the rest of the group - including Cordelia - killed). In the end all the vampires either ran away or were dusted. Cordelia almost dusted Harmony but in the end gave her a break telling her to get out of town or she'd kill her the next time she saw her. So much for those high school buddies.

On a more personal note, I'm learning "Venus" by the Shocking Blue for my guitar lesson. Last week I was working on an acoustic version of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." I'm not perfect but it sounds like the CD. I'm still not quite at the point where I can play and sing with a song. I should probably practice that more.

I also finished the last book in the second Foundation Trilogy (Foundation's Triumph). Overall the series moves the Foundation and Robot stories of Isaac Asimov into some very disturbing directions. Since these novels are bracketed by Asimov novels that happen before and after there's no dramatic turn around of events that would affect these later novels. But the degradation of the human condition and the options for its further development are kind of disheartening. I also found it kind of disturbing that the concept of no alien life in the galaxy was addressed with legions of giant terraforming robots sweeping the galaxy clean for humans prior to colonization. The obvious problem here would be if there were already established galactic empires (like in Brin's galactic alien novels). These advanced races could probably have stopped the teraformers and punished humanity as a whole for the hubrus of a few radicals. But it does give me some ideas for stories. I mean there's the one I just mentioned and also the viewpoint of being on a planet that is being approached by a terraformer robot (or fleet of them).

That's enough for today. Tonight is Robotica on TLC so if I think of it I'll write about that tomorrow. If I don't it could be months before there's another entry.


How else could you explain the fact that I have ignored my blog since December 18. It is inexcusable. I have an entry but I'll make it its own entry.

My couch-potatoism is insidious and I'm easily distracted by shiny objects. Consequently I haven't written nearly as much as I should have in the few decades I've been alive. I'm trying to remedy that this year (it's my only real resolution). For all the good it has done me. I've spent the first quarter of the year ignoring this and barely writing anything. I'll try to be better. There maybe I can use guilt to keep me writing.