Friday, January 30, 2009

If you see only only one movie this year about an alien leading Vikings to kill a monster from outer space, make it this one.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gizmodo has a timely piece on how to avoid getting fleeced at liquidation sales.

Just to give one example, I popped over to Circuit City over lunch to see if they had any deals. I didn't see anything particular impressive, unless you count the rechargeable AA batteries (the only item in the store that I actually need) priced at 30% off of $18.99. For the math impaired among you, that's $13.29 for a pack of items currently selling across the street at Target for $10.99.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On the family bed.

We just had our little disease vector's 6 month checkup (at 7 months, but who's counting, right?), and we got the "is she sleeping in her crib yet?" question. My dodgy answer was "some of the time."

But it's a much harder question than it seems. I mean, yeah, I'd sort of love to have her sleeping in her crib, but the best time to transition her is the weekend, and it's pretty hard to find a weekend when she's not fighting a virus of some kind or another. And given the ravages of colic, it's not like we really had a choice about doing a family bed.

Before we had kids, I had all sorts of opinions about family beds. I don't remember if I shared them with my friends who had kids or not, but all I can say now is that I get it. What you lose in sleep you gain in the warm, fuzzy feeling of having your child snuggle up against you in the night. It's going to be hard to give that up.

But we're going to have to transition her before she's old enough to kick me in the junk in the middle of the night, because I've had that experience, and it's not fun. And we don't really have room in our bedroom for a king-sized bed.

The Bacon Explosion

If I'm ever dying anyway, make me one of these. It'd probably kill me, but what a way to go!

Actually, I just went to the allergist, and he wants me to back off on the shots, and thinks I might be able to go shot-free within a year. He even cleared me to experiment a bit, foodwise, but I'm still pretty nervous about that. Anaphylaxis is majorly unfun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Via Hilzoy, this Ben Stein column is worth reading for its laughable cluelessness, even if schadenfreude isn't your thing. And then you realize that he's talking about actual people, not just characters on some MTV 'reality' show, and it gets more than a little sad.

And then I remember that one of Ben Stein's favorite hobbies is telling the rest of us how we ought to be living our lives, and I stop feeling sorry for him.

How did Stein end up writing in the NY Times, anyway? I stopped thinking he had anything meaningful or useful to contribute back in the Enron days when he wrote that everyday, ordinary people could solve the California energy crisis by, I kid you not, asking their pool man to turn the heater down a few degrees on the pool.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

There are some things she loves to eat, like laptops,

And some things, not so much.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

I got tagged by Jen Hawke, and since I never get tagged, I figured I oughta do something about it:

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged.

1. I'm a foodie, and a junk food addict. I have very strong opinions about which drive-thru has better chicken sandwiches (Arby's), or whether Oreos are better than Hydrox (they are!)
2. I worry constantly, about the most unlikely things. Imagination is not my friend.
3. I twitch when I'm falling asleep.
4. I rarely initiate them, but I love hugs.
5. I believe my hair is thinning on top.
6. I'm vain about my eyes.
7. I love having sawdust in my hair.
8. I'm craving a root beer float right now for no apparent reason.
9. It doesn't matter how cold it is outside, I still want ice cream. Baskin Robbins, if at all possible.
10. I have a weakness for jackets and bags. Given unlimited wealth and space, I would have a closet full of tailored jackets and dozens of custom briefcases, portfolios, and backpacks. I think it's about the pockets.
11. Given #10, it's not surprising that I have a passion for sorting and organizing things. Which is handy, given my profession.
12. I look in windows and eavesdrop on public conversations.
13. I make up stories about people based on what's in their grocery store cart.
14. I get quiet when I'm angry.
15. I get quiet when I'm angry because I'm afraid I'm going to say or do something really hurtful.
16. I didn't tell her at the time, but one of the reasons I married Christie was because of how good a mom I knew she'd be.
17. I'm 5' 7.5", but I tell people I'm 5'8", and feel that rounding up half an inch is perfectly acceptable.
18. Reading a really good poem gives me the same feeling in the pit of my stomach as cresting a steep hill in a fast car.
19. I am a feminist, and consider our patronymic naming traditions to be sexist, but I get a little charge out of hearing my wife introduced as "Christine Terry".
20. I almost never do it, but really enjoy wrestling and other forms of what my mother called "roughhousing".
21. I'm uncomfortable with luxury. Fancy cars make me nervous, and being waited on bugs me, except in restaurants, where I don't mind being waited on, but hate being doted on.
22. Because of a food allergy, I haven't had beef or pork for years, and my mouth still waters every single time I go to the drive-up ATM by the steakhouse, or whenever I think about Gates and Son's BBQ spare ribs. In fact, my mouth is watering right now. Spare ribs and a root beer float would just about hit the spot for dinner.
23. When my daughter is sleeping, I frequently check to see if she's still breathing.
24. When my wife and daughter are napping together, I will sneak into the room and stare at them. I could do that for hours.
25. I'm not going to tag 25 people with this meme because I'm too insecure. Instead I'm going to use it as a delurking tool. If you're a blogger and you read my blog, consider yourself tagged, and put a link up in the comments.
This is a very familiar scenario around our house. Pink eye is done, possible sinus infection on deck. Plus I just had a checkup with my allergist, and my GP wants to see me before refilling my narcotics prescription for migraines (I'm a new patient, so this makes sense, inconvenient though it is).

I've been averaging two doctor's office visits per week for the last two months.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

That giant credit card security breach that was just announced? The one they announced on inauguration day because, I'm sure, they wanted to be sure we all heard about it, so they picked a day when we'd all be watching the news, right?

Apparently, mine was one of the hundreds of millions of cards compromised. On the bright side, there were no wonky transactions. On the bummer side, I have to deal with having no debit card for a while.

In a way, this sort of reinforces the futility of internet-paranoia. I mean, yeah, I never use my debit card on the net. But that doesn't do a hell of a lot of good if the company that processes my in-person transactions has lousy security, the waiter who swipes my card has a coke habit, or the bookstore doesn't shred their paperwork.
Remember my Father's Day watch from last year? Well, not long after the kid was born, it quit working reliably. When I wind it, it runs anywhere from an hour to a day, then stops. I suspect that it just needs cleaning and lubricating, but our local horologist charges about 5 times what I paid for the watch to tune up a wind-up watch.

You know where this is going, I imagine. Here's my tab so far:

$18 - Book on watch repair
$14 - Watch oil
$ 2 - Project box so I can leave things in mid-repair and not lose small parts
$ 7 - Precision screw driver set
$14 - Project light with magnifier

So far, I've spent $55 on this little money-saver, which is still less than I spent on the watch itself, but not by much. On the bright side, I'm still well shy of the $300 it'd cost to have it professionally done.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Address

I thought Obama's speech was fantastic. I watched it in the breakroom at work, and the crowd was remarkably quiet for a warehouse lunch break.

Basically, it struck me as a speech written by and for intelligent adults, and Obama did a good job of reminding us that, when the times call for it, American's are capable of extraordinary things.

I know it's only a matter of time before Obama does something to disappoint me, and I'm fine with that. Right now I'm just glad to know that reason and empiricism once again have a place of leadership in our nation.

Update: Steve Benen has a more intelligent take here. I've love to steal it and pretend I wrote it, but instead I'll just say "exactly". For those allergic to clicking through, I'll just say that he, referencing others, agrees that the theme of the inaugural address was "it's time to grow up."
I'm thinking of writing a new children's book. I'd call it "If You Give a Bank a Bailout..."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So I joined Facebook finally. For the same reason I hooked up with LinkedIn, I guess, but on the social side, rather than the business side. And also so that I could see pictures of my friends' kids, since that seems to be one 'safe' place people put up those kinds of things. And I keep running across people with hundreds and hundreds of friends.

Maybe I'm just a cranky old introvert, but that sounds exhausting.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Every time Billie suggests a vacation in Mexico, this is pretty much how I picture it going.

Memo from the Dept. of Unfortunate Abbreviations

I understand that when you have a magazine called "Popular Woodworking" it must be tempting to refer to it casually as "Pop Wood" but that sort of means something else.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

After four nights of being unable to sleep horizontal, The Girl finally was able to lay down last night. Which means that Christie and I didn't have to take turns letting her sleep upright on our chests, which makes last night the closest I've come to 8 hours of sleep in almost a week.

So why I am I so much more tired today than I was yesterday?

Oh, who cares? I've got my girl back. We went all day Sunday without a single smile, let alone a giggle, and it sucked. Withdrawal from baby smiles is a bitch.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm not naming names, but when a retired grandmother starts writing letters ostensibly from her dog, she has reached a certain threshold in terms of life stages that there may be no coming back from.

It was a nice gesture, though.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Have you ever seen how they keep a 6-month old infant still for a chest x-ray? It's this contraption that looks a bit like a clear plastic corset, with the sides on hinges, and you have to hold the baby's arms up over her head, then they swing the sides together so that she's trapped there, with her elbows at her earlobes, until the tech takes the picture.

And I had to help get her in there, then go behind the barrier with the tech until they snapped her pic. That may have been the least fun I've ever had as a parent so far.

On the bright side, her lungs are fairly clear, and there's no sign that the respiratory ick that landed one of her classmates in the hospital is taking that severe a turn in her. Not that it's going to stop me from worrying.

There's a David Bottoms poem in his anthology Vagrant Grace about sitting outside his daughter's room, trying to read a book on the Civil War while listening to her breathing as she tries to sleep while fighting bronchitis. The whole thing is worth reading, but the opening stanza will give you a taste:
Rough sleep from the room across the hall.
Mouth open, my daughter breathes the little noise of wheels
on dry axles. I've cut the ceiling fan
to hear her, but rain intrudes against the house,
along with something quieter
and more disquieting,
some muffled trudge
like soldiers crossing our soggy yard,
ghosting cannons east again toward Kennesaw.
I first read it years ago, and admired the craft of it, the layering of feeling and experience, both first and third-hand. But it has literally been years since I've read it, and last night it came back to me hard as my daughter slept, upright against my chest so she wouldn't cough, and I wondered at the cruelty of littering our literature with dead mothers and broken children, the canon like a Chinese menu of heartbreak, so I can't even get through the Muppet Christmas Carol without tearing up at the death of Tiny Tim.

So, anyway, she's fine, mostly. The doctor just called, and it's not pneumonia, just bronchiolitis. This is the 21st century, and there's so much more we can do than hold her hand and hope she gets over it, especially when the hospital is just down the road. But I'm not sure it feels that different to a scared parent listening to their child's chest rattle in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Working around Vista's "enhancements"

We bought some picture frames for Christmas, and I spent a lovely winter Saturday printing things out to fill them. Some were very straightforward, though I was frustrated to notice what appears to be an enormous disconnect between the sizes photo studios print out and the sizes frame manufactures provide.

Back in the dark days of XP, when different programs had their own print managers, I could load things up into an image editor, crop it square, then tell it to print me a 2 inch by 2 inch photo. Easy peasy.

Now every time I try to print, no matter what the software, I get sent to Vista's miserable fucking photo printing wizard, which lets me print only a handful of sizes, most of which don't come with dimensions. How big, for instance, is a "wallet size"? Apparently it varies. When I dig into their marketing help materials I'm told that "to fit the variety of frame sizes out there, Vista allows you to print in a variety of different sizes!"

It's a perfect storm of stupid. First they reduce the functionality, and then they act as though their now-lobotomized print functionality is a great new feature. It's like when a chip company puts less chips in the bag and calls it "Low Calorie".

There may be some kind of work around that lets you tell Vista's crappy wizard to take a hike, but I was able to get around it using First resize the image to the size you need (the DPI defaults to 72 dpi, but that's horrible for printing. Set it at something like 600), then use the Canvas Size command to put your shrunken image into a 4x6 background. Then you can print it as a 4x6 photo, and your actual picture will be the size you need.

I suspect this may be part of Microsoft's plan to take moderately informed users and frustrate them so much with Vista's infantilizing enhancements that they become expert users, at which point they will uninstall Vista and use something else.

Mike's Rules - One I suck at

This one's a direct quote from the best advise anyone ever gave me, but it's something that I suck at so badly that sometimes it keeps me up at night:

Ask people questions.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mike's Rules - in installments

In honor of my relatively recent 38th birthday and birth of my first child, I thought I'd write down a few rules I try to live by. My rules for being me, as it were. I have to admit, part of what got me thinking about this was Karl's dying last fall. I feel like I've worked fairly hard to figure out what little I know for certain in life, and if something were to happen, I'd like it to be stored someplace my daughter could find it when she gets older. How's that for a cheery thought? And now is always a good time. In fact, that's today's rule:

If you're thinking about doing it, do it now. I don't know about you, but the thing that stops me from doing stuff, particularly unpleasant jobs like taking out the trash, is desire. And if I'm thinking "I really should take out the trash", it's a pretty good bet that I'm never going to want to take out the trash any more strongly than I do at this particular moment.

And somebody's got to take out the trash. But that's another rule, for another installment.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I'm reading a Charles Stross novel, and just ran across a scene that my brain just wouldn't parse until I got to the end and then read it through again. It's a discussion between the narrator, a nurse, and a cop. They all have clearly different agendas and are otherwise were easy to distinguish, but when it got down to pronouns, my brain sort of gacked. My problem was that my brain read cop and thought "male" and read nurse and thought "female" even though the text clearly said that the cop was a woman and the nurse was a man.

I like Stross quite a bit, and one of my favorite things about him is his willingness to mess with expectations, especially when it comes to gender. This is a tiny scene in a light comedic novel, but he managed to use it to remind me of my own sexism.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational [baby in a cute hat]!


Around our house, we refer to this as the magical hat of forgiveness. We could totally cut off somebody in Target, take the last jacket off the clearance rack, and then cut in line at the registers, and totally get away with it because everyone would be too busy going "Awwww" at the baby.

Hypothetically, I mean. We would never actually do any of those things. That would be wrong.
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

First word?

Does "Dada" count as a word if she not only says it when she's looking at me, but also at Christie, the women at daycare, the couch, and her toy giraffe?

I mean, I can justify her saying it to other people, because I figure she's just telling them how awesome I am. But I'm having trouble rationalizing the toy giraffe.