Thursday, January 31, 2008

So! How's the Weather?

Hey! You know what? It's still cold here, though not as bad as the last two days. But guess what? You know that FIFTY DEGREE temperature difference we talked about yesterday? Guess what else a FIFTY DEGREE TEMPERATURE DIFFERENCE will do? Especially when the temperature drops from forty degrees one day to minus eleven the next?

That's right! All the snow that started to melt on Sunday and Monday froze again on Tuesday and Wednesday! And you know what else? It freezes slick!!! Really slick! Smooth and slick, especially on hills where the melt started to run downhill just a bit so it froze in a smooth slick featureless ice pack as hard as rock!

So, if you, for example, thought you could take advantage of relatively tolerable temperatures today and take your dog to the dog park, so he could run around and work off some energy--guess what? You would be royally hosed! Unless you, unlike me, had thought to pack your mountain climbing gear--crampons and ice picks and safety ropes and stuff. Because I didn't!

Not only that, but humans are evolutionarily challenged under these conditions, compared to dogs. Dogs have a low center of gravity, four feet for stability, and claws that can take advantage of the small irregularities in the ice. Humans, however have: a higher center of gravity; only two feet, so that if one foot slips, there is a lot higher likelihood of wiping out; evolutionary weak points in our knees and back; no claws but only some rubber treads on the bottoms of our boots.

I managed to follow Bermondsey about a third of the way around our usual route, and then called it quits. We made up the difference by going to PetSmart and letting him run around there instead.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Weather Report

It is cold today.
It is very very cold.
It is soooooo cold. . .

How cold is it?

It is soo cold that:

  • the lawyers have their hands in their own pockets
  • that the new dishwasher has to thaw before I can run it, because it's frozen solid
  • that the dishwasher installer guy was an hour late because his one week old van wouldn't start, and had to be towed into a warehouse and thawed.
  • it's more than FIFTY degrees colder than it was on Monday.
  • that I shorted out my iPod by taking off my winter coat and releasing a shitload of static
  • that my face is chapped from where it didn't fit under a hat or inside my scarf after a 14 minute dog walk
  • my dog started running up the sidewalk to every house in the neighborhoood--"can we live here now? Please? If we did, we'd be home by now!"
  • school grades are dropping--a 93% looks like 47%, if you figure in the wind chill factor.
The picture is from an email my MIL sent me--it's allegedly from a town in Switzerland named Versoix, which looks as cold as it feels here today. Typically, however, a Minnesota winter is blazingly cold, but not nearly so picturesque.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Napa Valley, Here I Come

So, how do you make a small fortune out of a vineyard in Napa Valley?

You start with a large fortune. . .

Well, the ever fabulous suefunky is moving across the continent, from San Francisco to Washington D.C. This is okay with her, as Mr. Funky has a fabulous new job, and suefunky has been working on east coast time while living in California, as all her co-workers, clients, etc., were located there, so she's just cutting down on her business travel.

But! What about me?!?

Because, of course, it IS all about me.

And with suefunky no longer living in California, what will my excuse be to go out there anymore?

I am going out one last time, to help her with the move. The original reason I offered to help was that it was looking like suefunky was going to have to drive cross-country, to transport the car and the dog, and she couldn't possibly do that alone. Since then, she has decided that she is going to fly, reasoning that 5 hours on a plane is better than 10 days in the car, since the dog likes neither option. But, she claims she still wants me to help her wrangle said dog, along with her computer and other carry-on stuff, since she is limited to 2 items, and the dog counts as one.

So, I have arranged to fly out on a Friday--and the fabulous suefunky has arranged for a trip to Napa on Saturday. Hey, it beats loading a U-Haul.

In fact, suefunky, Mr. Funky, three other friends and myself are booked on a tour of the Del Dotto winery, which is called "Del Blotto" at Chez Funky, because there is so much nice wine to taste. There is also a wonderful lunch planned as well. Did I mention that suefunky is fabulous?

But back to the winery. Just take a look at the montage of photos on the homepage. You look at that--the whole "cathedral of wine" thing they have going, and it's possible to overlook the fact that running a winery is basically. . .

. . .farming. Sure, it's farming with great PR for the crop, but at its heart it's no different from the old guy in Iowa running a John Deere through the soybean harvest. It's all about when it rains, and how much, and when it gets cold, and how cold, and if the birds ate the crops before you could harvest them. Plus, in Napa, you can't run a John Deere through the vineyards to harvest--you have to hire migrant workers.

Not that you can tell any of that from the promotional material on the website. It's all about the glamor and chicness of wine. Not that I am going to complain. I have driven through Iowa, and through Napa, and I'll take Napa every time.

The Dishwasher. Again.

Well, sadly, despite three .separate appearances of the dishwasher repairman, the old Whirlpool doesn't seem to be whirling enough to actually get the dishes clean. So, instead of throwing good money after bad, Mr. Sweetie and I bought a new dishwasher this weekend.

I did some internet research before hand, and then did a sweep of appliance stores to see the actual machines. And the winner is. . .

. . .I'm having a little trouble with the envelope. . .

A Bosch!

Mr. Sweetie's only request was that it be quiet. I wanted something that would last more than 5 years. The Bosch looks like it will fill the bill. The delivery and installer guys are coming sometime on Wednesday.

Plus! Mr. Sweetie and I went to the hardware store and bought a tank repair assembly, and now the downstairs toilet works properly!

You know, when you are young, and starry eyed, you think getting married is all rose petals and candlelight dinners and sweet nothings whispered by your sweetie. Then you get married, and you realize that life has more trips to the hardware store than it has bouquets of roses--and that is just fine, because you LOVE going to the hardware store with your very own Mr. Sweetie.

And that's how I know I married the absolute right man.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

U2 in 3D--part two

Because we are complete geeks, Mr. Sweetie and I went to see the new Imax U2 concert film. The only place it is showing here in the Frozen North is at the Great Clips Imax Theater at the Minnesota Zoo(TM). Neither of the kidlets were really interested, preferring to stay home and watching Disney Channel to going out in the cold and seeing "parents music."

We caught the first show on Saturday, which was full of people our age, who had clearly left their kids at home. There were a few attendees under the age of 12, but not many. Not even many 20 year olds--they must have either seen it on Friday night, or think of U2 as their parents' music as well.

Because we were an audience with an average age of about 46, we were very well behaved. The line to get into the theater was quite long, and before they opened the doors, they had to give us the standard "Imax theater" speach--food and drink is okay, but no gum or trash; 3D glasses will be handed out, etc. etc. Then they opened the doors and the line began to move. One man called out "rock and roll!"--which was appropriate, because it did feel like we were Spinal Tap, wandering the distinctly non-rock-like hallways, trying to find the stage.

The movie itself is a collection of performances from several South American venues of the Vertigo tour, which Mr. Sweetie and I saw here in September 2005. (Man! Hard to believe it was that long ago!) This is not a movie one can really review--if you love U2 like we do, you will see it. If you don't love U2, there's no reason to go.

What I found interesting was being able to see The Boys up so close. And I mean close. Something about the 3D effect made them more human, less iconic. These were not Rock and Roll Stars so much as they were four men who worked hard to make music.

And I came away with a renewed appreciation for the music, and how these four human beings have created something that tens of thousands of people at a time will come to hear and respond to. Yeah. It was awesome.

My only quibble? The theater management needed to TURN UP THE VOLUME!

U2 in 3D

Fountains of Diet Coke, or Fun With Science!

Surely, you have seen the Diet Coke and Mentos videos? Well, I don't pretend to match the spectacular display seen here, but here's a quick and easy way to make an impressive Diet Coke fountain at home.

This actually works, as I have performed this feat my very own self!

  1. Live in Minnesota during an extended period of sub-zero temperature days. The colder, the better!
  2. Buy a six-pack of Diet Coke. Place in trunk of car. Forget about it for approximately one week.
  3. Remember Diet Cokes. Retrieve and bring indoors.
  4. Decide you can't wait until it thaws. Open bottle.
  5. Voila! Diet Coke fountain.
What is the science behind this? Well, I am no scientist, but it appears that after a week of extremely cold weather, the water in the bottle freezes, but not the carbonation or the Coke syrup. This, you have a large bottle shaped block of ice, which is surrounded by the remaining, darker liquid, leading a casual observer to believe that there is much less ice than actually exists.

It is especially dramatic if you just crack open the bottle cap, because then then the Diet Coke shoots out the sides, making dark stains on the surrounding walls and floor!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Poisoned Apple

If you had asked me, as recently as Sunday, what was my worst addiction, I probably would have said "Diet Coke (TM)." I have been known to brave inclement weather, or worse, actually gone to the grocery store when I have run out of that Sweet Elixir of Life. The day becomes palpably brighter once I have that first golden caramel colored, aspartame sweetened, decaffeinated, carbonated drink. Poured over a veritable mountain of ice--a 1-to-1 ratio of ice to drink is best--it has got to be second only to oxygen on my personal Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Or, if not Diet Coke (TM), then perhaps I would have said that internet access has become like a life-support system, and I can barely function on my own once I have been unplugged from The Machine. Sure, I can breathe, and my organs function properly--but can it truly be called "living" if I don't have access to email and gossip and all the wondrous opportunities for self-education offered by this worthy successor to the Library at Alexandria?

But, I would have been wrong. Despite all the time and attention I put into maintaining a reliable supply of Diet Coke (TM) and high-speed internet access, they are not my most crippling addictions. After all, there are other things to drink, and other ways to occupy my brain, and if I had to live without either of them, I would be able to do so.

What I cannot live without is my iPod.

Sunday night was Family Movie Night here at Chez Evil, and so despite the fact that I was listening to a mystery novel, and the detective had gathered all the characters around to reveal whodunnit. . .I set aside the iPod and joined my family to watch The Emperor's New Groove. Which I had seen before. But, really, I do make noble sacrifices for my family.

Once the movie was over, and the kidlets sent off to bed, I decided to pick up my mystery again. But my iPod. . .. . .wasn't there!

Oh horrors! O mores! O tempores! Oh no! I couldn't find it anywhere! Worse than that, I couldn't remember where I had set it down before sitting down to watch the movie. I had considered taking it with me, but I knew that I'd keep listening until I finished the book, and that was going to take in excess of 45 minutes. So, just like a cigarette fiend only smokes outside, I forbore to even have the temptation on my person, so I would be able to participate in the life of my family. But where had that been?

I looked all the likely places on Sunday night--was it in the playroom, where we watched the movie? It wasn't anywhere in there, or in the dining room, or the kitchen, where I was listening while cleaning up after dinner. Oh, well, I had the audio book on iTunes, and so I listened to the ending there. Yesterday was Martin Luther King holiday, and the kidlets were home from school, so I couldn't really have buried myself in another audio novel, so I let it go. I did ask the Famille Evil if any of them had seen my iPod, but got no affirmative responses.

By this time, I had been 24 hours without my iPod, and I was starting to feel like I had lost a limb. I got in the car to run an errand--and there was no iPod to plug in, so I had to listen to the radio! Quel horreur! I wanted to see if I had properly loaded the Hindi lyrics to the Lagaan soundtrack. . .oh, but wait! I need an iPod to do that!

Things came to a head today. I was preparing to take the dog for his walk, which is an incredibly boring thing to do, as I have no interest in the smells he is so fascinated by. The iPod is perfect for keeping my brain entertained as I trek the 7-10 blocks His Highness needs to work off his energy. I can listen to a novel and keep my ears warm at the same time! But! I. Had. No. iPod.

So, while dog danced and moaned, visibly anxious to get out the door--I prowled around looking for my fix. I checked all the horizontal surfaces on the first floor, checked under pillows and cushions, crawled around to peer beneath furniture and radiators. How could it not be here? It's not like it's a Shuffle, which is only slightly bigger than a postage stamp. It's a full sized iPod, at least the size of a pack of cigarettes. Plus! I have it in a silver aluminum case with crystals across the face of it. It should sparkle, or glow, or something!

No luck. I had to take the dog because he just couldn't wait any longer. I ended up with a paperback novel, which I had to juggle with the leash and the bag of "canine waste" and let me tell you it isn't easy to turn pages while wearing gloves.

I got into the EvilVan to go down to my studio, and had to listen to the radio. Worse, I had to listen to the radio once I got there! This was ridiculous! It seemed like every five minutes I kept having to remember that--I lost my iPod! Waaaaaah!!

This was Damsel-in-Distress territory, here. What was I going to do without my iPod? How would I live? I would I stand a lifetime of walking a dog with no music or books in my ears? I needed a knight in shining armor to rescue me from this debacle.

Cue: Mr. Sweetie. Of course it was Mr. Sweetie! He is my rescuer all the damn time. And tonight he came downstairs after checking in with the girlies who were doing their homework. "Bunny," he said, "was listening to music and was all 'Okay, Dad, but NOW can I get back to my homework?"

"Wait," I said. "What was she listening to?"

Mr. Sweetie didn't know--after all, she was wearing earphones, so he couldn't hear.

"But, she doesn't have a computer. . .maybe she borrowed her sister's iPod. . ."

Later in the evening, Bunny came downstairs to use the main computer, so I asked her.
"Were you listening to music while you were doing your homework?"

Her expression suddenly became both guarded and coy. "Maybe."

"Were you listening on my iPod?"

"Could be."

"Can I go into your room and get it back?"

"Actually, I put it into your room" she said.

I didn't actually fly up the stairs to be reunited with my Precioussssss--but I wasted no time. And now I have it back. Let the addiction resume!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dish Water Blues

So, Dishwasher Repair Guy is here. This is his second visit. Can you guess why?

Well yes, because my dishwasher is broken is technically correct; however it is not the answer I am looking for. Alex Trebek wouldn't take it either, not even in the form of a question.

The reason Dishwasher Repair Guy is back is because dishwasher repair is not what it used to be. It takes some gigh level engineering.

I first noticed some difficulty with the dishwasher right before Christmas. Stuff wasn't getting entirely clean. Maybe it was the dishwasher, but maybe it was my fault. (Never miss a chance to blame yourself for anything that happens--it promotes active mental health!) Maybe I had just not rinsed off all the stuff I should have rinsed off before I loaded it? So, I started being an Extra Good Rinser! No more would stray rice grains or slivers of cheese remain on plates before they were loaded. Kind of like a Japanese soaking bath--the plates were basically clean before they got into the jacuzzi.

But still--stuff came out with cheese stuck to it. Glasses that had held milk came out with a haze across the bottom third. Could my dishwasher be. . .lactose intolerant?

Enter Dishwasher Repair Guy. I called the day after Christmas--we successfully had quite a few people for lunch and dinner on Christmas, and the washing up was not too heinous, being as quite a lot of it was china and should have been hand washed anyway--because I didn't want to keep doing that.

According to DRG, the trouble was . . .well, let's see: can you guess it?

The drain? Nope.
The soap dispenser thingie didn't open? No.
Problems with clogged water jets? 'Fraid not.

It was the motherboard.

Who knew? Who knew dishwashers had motherboards?

Apparently, the motherboard was directing the motor to run backwards, so that while the dishwater was on the wash cycle, the motor was on drain. Then during the drain phase, the motor was trying to rinse, resulting in a significant amount of water in the bottom of the dishwasher after every use.

DRG managed to obtain a new motherboard and install it on New Year's Eve day, which was really nice of him to squeeze it in between a weekend and a holiday. Hooray, hooray! It's a great day!

Except that the dishes still weren't getting clean. Milk and dairy especially. Called DRG again. But wait! He was out of town!

It took until today for him to come back. This time it turned out that the arms weren't turning. Sure, there was plenty of soap and water, it just wasn't getting moved around. It had something to do with checking the sensors as well.

So, in my Over Privileged, First World, Spoiled way, I am rejoicing because now I don't have to wash all the dishes by hand!

Meet George Jetson. . .

Okay, remember the Jetsons? Extra points if you are willing to admit you are old enough to have seen it on broadcast. HAH!

That was a pretty standard representation of what we thought the future would look like. Flying cars--cool! Domestic robots--hey there, Rosey. Could you get me a snack? Giant screen picture phones, where you would see the person you were talking too.

Fast forward 40 years. Flying cars? Nope. We may need them if we don't start investing in infrastructure pretty soon. Domestic robots? Nope. Sure, we have microwaves and convection ovens and laser guided dishwashers and washer/dryers with complex microcircuitry, but we still have to cook and load and sort and clean and all that in almost the same way we did fifty years ago.

Giant screen picture phones? Maybe. . .

We have giant screen tvs. We have webcams. We have VOIP and Skype and instant messaging. We don't actually have giant screen telephones. What we do have is the insistent convergence of phones and computers.

Slate has an article today about why the new, sexy, ultra-slim MacBook disappoints. The lowdown is that right now, telephones/PDAs/Blackberrys are so powerful now, that laptops seem sadly behind. List all the things the new iPhone can do, and compare it to a computer: the computer loses. Especially when it comes to internet access:

Phone and laptop technology is converging. The iPhone and other smartphones have as much processing power as the desktop workstations of five years ago, and laptops are getting smaller and more portable. It's only natural to expect that the advances seen in laptops would come to phones, and vice versa. So, why has Apple failed to make foolproof, always-on Web access—the iPhone's killer feature—a standard component of its next generation of computers?

I found this amazing, but believable. "Phones today have as much processing power as the desdktop workstations of five years ago." Personally, I have become convince that my little RAZR--no pretention to being a "smartphone" has more computing power than NASA had when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

The future is bound to be in smaller and integrated machinery, but we will have to change some fundamental ways of thinking. Does it bother you to throw away perfectly good CD-ROM disks, even if it's just an AOL promo? What would you do if you had a completely integrated machine--computer, phone, GPS, mp3 & video player, and the phone stopped working? Would you replace the entire thing? Or would you, as I think I would, look for a cheap phone to replace the part that isn't working?

The kidlets' school has a tech program that requires laptops for the students from 7-9th grades, and possibly longer. They sent out a survey to gauge the effectiveness of the program. It's a great program in my view--education comes first, and the computer is used as a powerful tool to support the learning. But why is homework still assigned in huge textbooks? Why do kids have to carry enormous backpacks, plus laptops, plus instruments, plus athletic gear? At least the homework should be available online or by some storage device, right?

Maybe, by the time my kids graduate from high school, they will do all their homework on something about the size of the iPhone.

Take that, Jetsons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

So! How's It Going?

You want to know how the sleep thing is going? The dear old CRAP machine? How sweet of you to ask! Bless your little cotton socks.

It's still a bit of a hassle, sleeping connected to a tube the size of a vacuum cleaner hose. At least that's what I hear, as I don't think I have actually seen a vacuum cleaner hose. Evil geniuses don't do housework, you know?

I am noticing that I am much less tired. I have spent quite a lot of time being too tired to really implement my evil plans, having to spend entirely too much time yawning and dragging my sorry ass around. Tired down to the bones. Sometimes that means being actually sleepy, and sometimes it means just being ground down and slow--mentally and physically.

These days, I actually wake up feeling refreshed, which is not something I have really felt for a long long time. Mr. Sweetie says that even when I don't wear it, I seem to be sleeping better. He might even say that I snore less, but since anyone who says I snore gets turned into a particularly repulsive toad, he doesn't say that.

So, the nights wear on, and I'm sleeping noticeably better, which makes the whole castle a cheerier place. As much as a dire fortress of grey stone wedged on a barren mountain can be, that is.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why I Don't Follow The News

I am growing increasingly crotchety these days, here in my desolate Stronghold of Evil, perched high atop Mount Impatience--especially about news. Even more especially about news about our President, who has managed to rub me the wrong way since Day 1.

I don't know what it is about him--maybe he's really a great guy and a ton of fun and charismatic to boot in person, but I just cannot stand to listen to the man. There I am, merrily running Errands of Evil in the Van of Evil, listening to the public radio news station, when BAM! There is the President in an audio clip about something that happened. And I cannot get the radio station changed fast enough. And then I have to go pour bleach into my ears to get the sound out as well.

One sign of my increasing Evil Geezerhood is that I have found myself talking back to my radio, and not saying helpful or even thoughtful things about our C-in-C. Just the other day, NPR was reporting on the President's Mid-East trip. The following dialogue between myself and my radio is substantially accurate in content, if not actually word-for-word correct.

Radio: President Bush has met with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and announced that the peace process can be completed on his watch, and that he has a deadline less than twelve months from now.

Me: Yes, because these people have been fighting for 60 years, but hey! Sure! You say we have to get it all done in the next 12 months because after that you're out of office? Anything you say!

Radio: President Bush says he believes that the peace process can be concluded before the end of his presidency.

Me: Yeah, well, President Bush believes he farts rainbows too.

Yes, I am embarrassed for myself. But not so embarrassed that I didn't post it.

In Which I Acknowledge My Failure To Post

Wow. I just flew in from the coast. . .and boy, are my arms tired! Seriously, folks, it's great to be back here at the Old Blog Place. This is truly a special place, and I mean that. Sincerely. So! Anybody here from out of town?

That's just great, just great! So, what's the deal about this blogging thing anyway? It's all over the place! Just the other day, a priest, a rabbi and a Scotsman logged onto a blog. . . .

</obnoxious comic imitation>

Yes, I've been busy. Yes, I've not blogged in a while. The good news is that I have been busy with Life and Family and All Manner of Good Things! and thusly have been too busy to post. Also, Miss Bunny's laptop has now completely died, and her solution is to grab mine any time I am not actively using it. Stepping away to, oh, go to the bathroom, make dinner, let the dog out--I lose access to my machine. Sure, there are other computers I could use--I could go to the library even, but I prefer to wait it out until I get my own machine back. Because I have configured this one to the way I like it best. Plus, it's MINE. If I were a dog, I'd pee on it. Fortunately, I'm not a dog. Because dogs can't type. So why would a dog want a computer anyway?

So, now I'm back and getting back into the swing of regular posting, so I'll stop here for now. No point in overdoing it. Plus, the bar is closing. You can tell because the comic is winding up his act.

. . . ."LAIDTHEOLDLADYTOO!" And that's how yodelling was invented! Thanks, thanks again. You've been a great audience! Last call, and don't forget to tip your server! Good night, and God bless!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

LOL Dogs?!?!?!?

Alert all news stations! Stop the presses! There is a new website for us dog lovers: I Has A Hotdog.

Check it out:

funny dog picture, loldogs, cute puppy pictures, safari
moar cute puppy pictures

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Walking With Sherlock Holmes

Once again, it is I, John Watson, M.D. For several years now, I have had the immeasurable privilege of friendship with the World's Greatest Consulting Detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. As our friendship deepens and grows, I have found myself examining his methods. Although the adage asseverates that "familiarity breeds contempt," to the contrary I have found that continual observation of Holmes' methodology only increases my respect for his inhumanly keen detection skills.

I refer particularly to an incident that occurred just the other day. Holmes and I were walking the streets together. I find I often have to lengthen my stride, and his preferred pace is half again as fast as my natural saunter. The wind was quite brisk, needling its chill through the good wool of my suit, but the sun was bright, and the combined effect of the chill weather and gleaming snow was felicitous. I was admiring the trim and well maintained gardens which lay to our left, when Holmes suddenly stopped.

Often, on such occasions, Holmes will emit a sharp, barking laugh, as if to say "Oh ho, my good Watson! The game is afoot, and we shall challenge danger yet this night!" On this day, however, I was brought up short, realizing that Holmes remained several paces behind me.

As I turned, I found him fascinated by an initially unremarkable snowbank. He had lowered his head to examine the item more closely, his nose all but buried in the frozen stuff. Yet the position was not yet close enough, or perhaps the bright sunlight had created a brittle crust that obscured that which he sought.

I saw him scratch with the most delicate gesture, removing the offending obstruction without disturbing the fragile substance itself. This seemed to give him the access he sought, for after a few moments only of close observation, he leapt to attention and started off eagerly. And once again, we were off!

Life Is Good

You know what is great?

Sinking into a two week break, wallowing in the soft and enveloping arms of family time, no alarm clocks, nibbling leftovers and cookies, wrapping Christmas presents and then opening them, new books, family game night, fireplace, and more cookies.

And then--going back online and discovering that while you have been idling (idylling?) away your time, your favorite bloggers have been posting, and there are literally dozens of new fun posts to read!

And still having four more days of the break!

Happy New Year everybody!