Letters to Holly

Thursday, December 31

Homes and Holmes

Your Sister doesn't do vacations where one sits around. She moves forward always. In between grading papers, she's combining the guest bedroom space and the office and beginning the transition between Old Office and Nursery. Yesterday she finished construction on the guest bed, elevating it from the floor and affixing the Hitchcock boards to the bed frame and the wall. She reassembled her office desk in the guest bedroom.

We also finally donated some of my old furniture, and I, also not so grand with inertia, cleaned out the DVD closet. We're donating a heap of VHS movies. Owning them is needless when we can stream them online anytime. Included in there is Twin Peaks, my college obsession. It makes a better cultural document than a watchable series. Also, it's on DVD now, and I would upgrade if I wanted to watch it again.

We snuck out of the house before the sleet came down and caught a movie.

Sherlock Holmes is instantly forgettable. If not for the stunt casting of Downey, it would get no attention. I wonder if this is a similar scenario to Saving Private Ryan: a by-the-numbers script is taken to Olympus by Very Big Names.

As the opening production credits rolled, it made me wish someone else had taken a crack at adapting From Hell, the the Alan Moore comic about Jack the Ripper. Then I realized this film is an accidental sequel to From Hell. Even though the bad guy is never linked to those murders, it's an obvious avoidance of identification. In that perspective, I liked the film.

The "update" of Holmes is mild. Instead of the immaculate intellect we're used to, we instead get the cliched slob-genius, seemingly for no reason. Downey could have been directed to play this straight, and it would have worked fine. But this "new" direction is mild. It hedges its bet, and leaves very little impression. Same with Law and Adams as the other leads. They're just walking through stale roles.

However, they set up a sequel very well, and with another bit of stunt casting, it could be fun to watch. But I'll be watching actors, not characters.

We walked out to an iced car and drove to the grocery store for dessert: doughnuts and red velvet cake. We crashed into bed with a quick sugar plummet.

Picture of the Day
Jeepers, the cops!

Monday, December 28

It's Not Avatar-ible.

I got back from Mom's around 2 on Saturday, and that can only be the result of a time-warp. I can't be sure what happened; I was falling asleep as I entered my city limits. That night I inhaled 6 turkey-and-tomato rolls while I flipped channels on the new HD signal. It's hypnotizing. Unfortunately, we have 3 dozen shopping channel to wade through.

On Sunday, we did our usual grocery run before I cleared the driveway of the remaining ice. I thought it might take an hour. It took almost three. Only NPR programming got me through. When Says You ended at five, so did I. We had talked about catching Avatar later in the day, and I found a theatre showing it in two-and three-D. We arrived at the cinema about 20 minutes before the movie, and we discovered a shocking brain failure by the staff: They scheduled five movies to start at the same time, including the two viewings of Avatar. The lobby was a mob scene with one guy -- one small, old guy -- directing traffic. The vast majority of the ticket holders were there to see the film in 3D, and that left us in a small but crammed theatre.

It's a gigantic movie. About halfway through it, I realized I hadn't seen a film on this scale since Lord of the Rings. I mentally declared that it took four years for an effects-heavy film to compete with that trilogy's new standard of FX. When the film ended, I notice that WETA, the Rings FX people were the prominent FX company for the film. Of course.

It's clearly a step up from the Robert Zemeckis motion-capture animation style (Polar Express, Beowulf, Christmas Carol), but it also cheated a bit by focusing on non-humans to carry the film. Still, it had sweep and more than a little art doing the heavy lifting. It's impressive. It's also the definitive Cameron film, combining all his previous films. There's even a nod to True Lies when a character dangles by a locked missile. I suspect that felling of the big tree surpassed the emotional wallop of all of 2012. I'm glad I saw it. Glad Sigourney Weaver had a prominent role too.

We snuck into the soon-to-close Krispy Kreme for our post-movie ritual and drove home. I slept hard. I was exhausted.

Picture of the Day
We all fear the Math Witches.

Wednesday, December 23

Productive Anger

I left work around 3 in order to beat the freeze. I got to Your Sister's school to pick her up and noticed the tremendous reduction in death ice. It was now mush and pavement.

Her phone is a curious device; it will always connect to my phone immediately, but it won't accept the signal from my phone when she's at school. I call her whenever I'm back in town, and I did so again yesterday.

Of course the phone doesn't pick up, and I leave a message. The problem here is that I don't have a school key, and, if I'm picking her up, I have to stand outside the school, banging on the thick glass in hopes someone will hear me. This routine has gone on since before we married. This is the important part: This has happened for years. It's the norm.

I get to the school, park as I did yesterday morning, and slop around to the front of the building. By this time, I've had a frustrating day. Let's wrap it all up in senioritis. I'm counting the minutes until I have a vacation. And after I drive home in the slush and gunk, I have to summon Your Sister by playing building bongos. She hears me, comes to the door, and asks wide eyed and sincere, "why didn't you call?"

I lose it. "I DID." It's officially a spat. As we walk to the car (sitting on the other end of the still ruinous parking lot), her phone receives the message I left ten minutes earlier. This happens every time. Why is this such a surprise for both of us? I fume all the way home. She pulls up the garbage bags arranged to melt a walkway, and I grab the shovels. I shoo her inside eventually and chisel away the ice between the road and the garage door. Burning with anger, I keep at it until I have a walk cleared. It takes 90 minutes, and I finish just as my light disappears. The anger's gone. I've spent it.

I get inside and find Your Sis has made me my first hot toddy. It's good. It's welcome. And we're fine. She gets to bed early, and I go back to the workshop to finish her Christmas gift. It'll be in flux until the last second.

I think I can clear the road next to our yard enough to allow all of you to parallel park next to the snowbank. There's no way I can clear the driveway for parking. The snowplows have packed the glaciers in front of it.

I'm almost finished with Christmas shopping. One more thing to get ...

Picture of the Day
I'll start the garden early this year.

Tuesday, December 22

Work Ahead

It's warmer but not by much. If we're going to host people for Christmas, I'm going to have to spend Christmas Eve shoveling. It's inescapable. I'm still a bit stiff from chopping away at the road on Sunday. Hopefully, the sunlight and forecast warmth will help me out.

I'm going into work today for a half day and going home before the road refreezes. I took Your Sister to work, but the school parking lot is not plowed. We parked on a back road, and I escorted her to the building. I don't know why they wanted teachers to work when they didn't clear the lot. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Picture of the Day
Lego Hoth.

Monday, December 21

Snowpocalypse

The two major weather reports -- NPR and Wunderground -- said it was gonna snow. Not maybe, not might. And we'd get a lot of it. We did. It poured snow and ice Friday, and you've seen the pics of us from that day. It continued until Saturday morning. From what I can tell by scraping the car,we got six inches of snow topped by two inches of ice. Our road was a sheet with deep tread troughs. There was no way our car could move for days.

I had to take the shovel out of Your Sister's hands and remind her she was pregnent. No work for her. Instead, I went to the road to see what I could do. It took me 90 minutes to carve away 30 square feet. A neighbor came down to help only because he couldn't make headway with his driveway ice. When I cleared a runway for the car, I hoped it would be enough to get us to the store. Your Sister and I checked the road beyond our street, and there was no stinking way. It was all ice. And I was beat up from digging and a slapstick black-ice fall. I took to the couch with the heating pad for a few hours, and we've since watched three movies: Capote, There Will Be Blood, and Alien Nation.

This morning we talked to you, and we have since gone to the store. The road was bad, but the troughs were so deep, the car slipped through. Ever seen kids bowl with the gutter bumpers? That's what we had. The store was packed and oddly hot. All those caffeinated bodies made it thick with dry heat. We nervously approached the road home, and I spied a blinking yellow light. It was a snowplow pulled to the side of the road. And then I saw it was not pulled over. It was titling over. It was stuck just before it tipped over on its side in the neighbor's yard. Some crew guys helped us slip by, and then they had to move their truck from my cleared out bay so we could park and unpack.

Since then, the plow has been righted and is now scrapping our road, and I worry it will bury my car as it sits at roadside. I'll try to clear it out in a few hours if need be. I'm sure we can accommodate the family for a Christmas visit even if we park the cars at the school and shuttle people back and forth.

Picture of the Day
Lost pairings.

Friday, December 18

Second Visit

It's a snow day, and we're both at home.

We saw the doctor for the first time in a month.

Your Sister weighed in at 155 and seemed happy with that. Her blood pressure was "perfect." Our nurse used a baby CB contraption to hear the heartbeat. We could also hear Roo moving. The heartbeat was 150, also "perfect." It was a relief. We see all the signs of Roo's occupancy without seeing Roo. It's like living with a teen.

Dr. Hernandez popped his head in to ask if we wanted an ultrasound. She deferred until I said I wanted one, and then she leaped up to have it done. The office was demo'ing a new 3D scanner and wanted to test it more. After sitting for a while, he came into the room with the new toy and gooped up her tummy. We saw much more development: backbones, skull, limbs, the pulsing umbilical cord, the heart and stomach chambers. The doc thinks we saw boy parts. We're not sold yet. It might have been girl stuff. Perhaps labia. We're calling it "maybia."

I had a rush of nausea and lightheadedness, and I fretted about getting sick in the office. So I was panicking over a possible panic attack. I breathed it through, but she noticed and suggested it was the same spell she had last Friday. I wonder. Was I disappointed that it might be a son? Did I feel that strongly about a daughter? Was it the reality of a baby smacking me around? I thought I had gotten past this. Maybe it was my wonky brain computing strong emotion. For her. For Roo. I dunno.

We go back Jan. 14.

This morning, school was canceled "for students." No word on what teachers were to do. I walked Your Sis to the school, and we found only one other teacher there. Also the Pepsi guy was filling up the vending machines. After 20 minutes, a notice was placed on the school website that everyone was to stay home. We packed up and trudged home. We've since split into our offices for work-done-getting.

Picture of the Day
I'm getting winter skin.

Thursday, December 17

Frankly, My Dear, She Doesn't Give A Damn.

Forgot to mention a failed experiment after the grading dinner Tuesday.

Your Sis and I plopped down on the luuuuuuuuuvseat and activated the magic speakity box. I found Gone With the Wind, and it had been on for only 20 minutes. I again tried to get Your Sis to watch it -- to endure it, mayhap even enjoy it -- and she only lasted 20 minutes. She hates Scarlett so much she can't enjoy the reactions of those around the character. I knew marrying a Cape Cod girl would bring me frustration eventually, but I never figured I would:
a) grow to enjoy the movie; and
b) marry a woman who didn't.

Alas.

Yesterday, I cruised the mall to find knickknacks for Your Sister. I intentionally made a circuit near the mall Santa and was lucky enough to catch him between kids. I didn't approach him, but I did walk close enough to catch his eye and wave. And he waved back. That made my day.

She's now call herself fat, and I remind her she's preggers. She is definitely showing. Oddly, her arms look thinner. I don't think it's relative to the belly. I think her mass is moving to the tummy. We see the doctor again this afternoon.

She reported that my mentored student earned the second lowest oral-presentation score among all the seniors. The worst grade belongs to his girlfriend.

Picture of the Day
Frustrated by Your Sister's driving, the redlights are ending it all.

Wednesday, December 16

The Hammer Falls

We met up with two other teachers to grade the community volunteer section of the senior projects. The students had to present their products and the crafting process to the layman. The volunteers score the presentation in 20 categories; we added the scores over dinner.

The students have to speak no less than seven minutes and no more then ten. I knew my student couldn't do it, and he did not. He spoke for five minutes and had nothing left. I didn't tally his sheet; I didn't want him to have any leeway to gripe. I was assured it was unlikely he could complain, but I wouldn't risk it. I did see the final grades he earned from the volunteers. He bombed it. He averaged 85 points, the lowest of all the seniors this semester. It's also a near-record low from these local folks who want to help the kids succeed. They are an easy crowd, and he couldn't win them over. That's pathetic.

I'm not happy with his grade, but I'm satisfied with it. This counts 20 percent of the final project grade. I remain curious about his final overall grade.

The grading dinner is always fun work. We take over a table at the Mexican restaurant and crunch numbers over cheap food. This year, I did not drink. I'm still wary of drinking in front of Your Sister. It sometimes seems mean.

Picture of the Day
Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane as the leads in the new Addams Family musical. I'm geeking out over this.

Tuesday, December 15

Stunned.

When Your Sis and I went window shopping Saturday for maternity items, we also kept Christmas shopping in mind. I told her before we left that I would point out items on my list for her to catalog. The understanding being, I thought, that she could note the items and decide what to buy later. Instead, I pointed out an item, and she picked it up to buy. I was stunned.

"No, wait. It's just a suggestion."
"I know. But you want this, right?"
"For Christmas, yes."
"Right. For Christmas."

Now when I say "for Christmas," I mean "if you're going to buy it for me, don't let me see it." I like Christmas gifts as surprises. That's why we wrap them. But she refused to put it back.

"When am I going to get a chance to be here again to buy it?"
"Dude. Amazon."

A few hours later, at another store, I showed her an item I had considered to get her. I showed her some options to leave the mystery. The final specific item would be a surprise. Instead (again) she picked one out and carried it to the register. More stunnage.

This isn't how I do Christmas. So now, I'm gonna ambush her with whatever strikes my jolly-elf fancy. Christmas should be a mix of surprise, joy, and gratitude. It's date-specific altruism.

When I arrived home last night, Your Sister had just returned from more Christmas shopping. As she recounted her day, she said "oh, and I bought [those other items] you asked for." Super stunnage.

"OK, please. If you're buying me anything else for Christmas, don't tell me what it is. Please."
"OK."

Maybe it's the pregnancy. She didn't do this before.

Picture of the Day
Line forms on the right.

Monday, December 14

Window Shopping

We're thinking of hosting a meal for the family at Christmas/New Year. Would you be up for it?

As the semester nears its end, Your Sister seeks to avoid the pile of papers and again wished to get the hell out of Dodge. She needed some clothing items, including unmentionables. She's definitely showing. And growing. She leaped two cup sizes. We bought a belly wrap called a Bee Band. It covers unbuttoned jeans and fills third-trimester jeans immediately after birth.

She saw the mall maternity store. It's slim pickin's, and it seems to cater to the last trimester and first six months of motherhood. I walked in there by myself a few weeks back and got the hair eyeball. I think they thought I was a fetishist. We looked at kids books at Barnes & Noble and traded notes on what we read as youngsters. I found Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure. She found Beatrix Potter. We decided to skip the Winnie the Pooh library for now, but it's inevitably coming to our house.

We picked up two jumpdrives for two students who claimed they couldn't afford them. We could find none smaller than 2 gigs, and they were only $10 each. Amazing.

I put up the tree yesterday. A little Star Wars here, old Bullock ornaments there. It looks fine.

Picture of the Day
Greetings, citizens! I am your bright yellow sentinel of the night! Enjoy the safety of my guard as you rest your weary heads! I hope my bright yellow radiance doesn't blast your eyes while you chase the blessed release of sleep! Carry on! Don't mind me!

Friday, December 11

A Man With A Plan

I bought a digest-sized magazine called Make. It's a geek craft title. My nesting instincts are driving me to expand my knowledge base, including making stuff. I can design it. I can decorate it. It's that crucial corporeal component that eludes me. I wanna work on that. This issue is geared toward kids, and that sounds like the perfect entry point for me to hop aboard.

I ordered HD for our satellite service, and it will be installed the day after Christmas. We've had the TV for almost a year without making that final step. Now I think we're ready to be gobsmacked by every broadcast image. I ordered early to avoid the inevitable rush after many an HD TV are unwrapped this year.

If there's a food Your Sister is craving, it's cheese. It's quickly emerged as the common ingredient in all our dishes. Maybe it's the salt. We check to see if it's pasteurized, and in it goes into he dish by the bucketful. Instead of thawing leftovers as we planned, she asked if we could zip to the local Italian place for pizza. That we can do.

Suddenly, it's December, and suddenly, it's two weeks from Christmas, and I don't have clues what to buy people. You mentioned kayak stuff, and we'll be glad to do that once you give us details. So give us details. Everything I think to buy Your Sister is immediately disqualified by her hologram in my head.

Also, it's shockingly cold.

Picture of the Day
No introduction needed.


Thursday, December 10

A Brief Whine

Obviously the next six months will be tougher on Your Sister than on me. I've had very little inconvenience since we discovered we were pregnant and began alterations. One of them was her edict that chicken is out the door. She lost the taste for it. That included, of course, buffalo wings, a staple of my weekly diet.

I've had them once a week for ten years. It was true comfort food, synchronized with the roughest work days. It was usually a Monday because that's when the alt-weekly went to press; I often worked 11 hours to prepare and FTP the issue. We recently moved it to Fridays to cap off our work week. But it's gone now, and I acceded sincerely. What she needs is what we'll do. I'll treat the pregnancy as frat-food Lent. Why should she suffer alone?

So I haven't had buffalo wings since October. Only two months. Not much of a hardship. (So far, the whole pregnancy has been an easyship. It shouldn't go this well, should it? The shoe has to drop, right? The baby will be born with faces on its knees or something.) I don't have the heart to grumble about losing wings while she deals with daily nausea in front of schoolkids. Sickness with an audience even sounds hellish.

But let me just exhale heavily at the cruel fate that decided that the new business that opens next week across from my office windows is a wing restaurant. Fucking fuck.

Picture of the Day
Da wonna wonga is Bib Fortuna's best pick-up line, I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 9

It's Not Quite Over

After all the entire semester, after all the alleged cramming between the end of Thanksgiving and yesterday, after giving me the runaround and then asking for one last big favor, after slamming together a rudimentary semblance of a comic, and after a last-second mentor review, he didn't turn it in. As of lunchtime yesterday, his teacher didn't receive the final product. He may as well not have done any work at all. From what I saw, he practically didn't.

The project has three graded elements: a 5-page-minimum paper discussing the field he chose, a portfolio documenting his progress of the product, and a 7-minute minimum oral presentation on the whole effort. Two of them are utter crap from what I hear, and he hasn't said seven total minutes of anything to me since we met in October.

He's not alone though: a number of seniors blew off the deadline. But they know they have another chance next semester if there's enough room in those classes scheduled to host senior projects. If they can't get in, they fail. If they get in and bomb their second project, they fail. And a good number of them have to apply for college and worry about their other classes too. It's a tough spot they put themselves in.

Your Sister called up the local comic store and bought a replacement copy of the Hellboy issue he trashed. That gets extra smooches.

Headslapping Picture of the Day
This is what he made after two months of advice and examples. He taped 24 sketched panels onto the final pages.

Tuesday, December 8

Is It Over?

Your Sis got home at 8 last night and handed me the folder with my minicomic stuff. It was all there. The full-size Hellboy issue was trashed, and it feels like it was drenched before drying. I should have bagged and boarded it. Also inside was his final product, the comic he wanted to make beginning in September.

It's tragic. He didn't follow my templates. He merely folded letter-size pages and cut them into strips. There were no page numbers. Also, instead of drawing on the pages, he cut out and taped his sketch work onto the pages. Those panels are about a quarter of the size of each minicomic page. The lettering is horrid. Yes, high-school boys don't necessarily have good penmanship, but when the lettering is technically artwork, it needs to be clear. Legible would be nice. I remembered late last night that I had suggested he do a minicomic to make his final product heftier and more impressive. Had he worked at a traditional size, we might have gotten three pages stapled at the corner.

The mentor verification form was filled with a pencil instead of the mandatory ink, but he did list the correct number and dates of our meetings. He actually undercut the length of the first meeting by half, and I didn't correct him. I had some questions to answer, and I noted I couldn't verify he had completed 15 hours of work outside our meetings. I also wrote a paragraph saying his final product didn't look anything like the examples I had shown him nor did it represent the standards I had set for him. I wanted to write more, but Your Sis said the point was made. I asked her to xerox the form I completed before giving the original and minicomic back to him today.

His teachers already know from my emails how his project failed to materialize. I think my participation is now over. I may be called to explain what went wrong to a group of teachers who grade the projects, and I'll use my notes as reference. I emailed one teacher to thank her for approving the original zombie-comic project and to offer mentoring on a similar project in the future. What a disaster.

I promised myself I'd tackle some home projects when my one-pager and this project were done. The DVD closet needs an overhaul, and I may have to finally chuck all my VHS tapes. I'll try to convert my theatre recordings to DVD at least. Also, we need to put up the tree before the weekend.
+ + +

Your Sister's students recommend Beau Hunter as a name for Roo. Impressive.

Moving Picture of the Day
Finally found it for you.

Monday, December 7

Today, My Favorite F-Word That Ends in K ...

is flunk, because the senior I mentored damn near guaranteed that he has.

A week ago today, he called me to say that he forgot to do any work on the comic during the Thanksgiving holiday (five days off of school). While he was on the phone with me, I could tell he was reading the template instructions for the first time. He set up a meeting time for 12:30 this Saturday at the library, at our usual time and place.

Your Sis and I arrived at 12:15. She had a book and found a corner to sit in. I usually sat outside to meet him, but it was cold and wet (not cold enough for us to get any of the snow that befell our mountains). I made sure to take the first visible seat inside the library, in the periodical section. I grabbed a Village Voice and waited. And waited. I wasn't bored, not with all those wonderfully tawdry advertisements. Man, I miss alt-weeklies.

He has never been on time for a meeting. We've had three of them. This was to be our fourth, the bare minimum required by the senior-project guidelines. After half an hour, I called him. Again, that was nothing new. At earlier meetings, I would wait 15 minutes and ring him up to see if he was en route. He's a teenager. I cut him some slack.

But this time he said that he was not en route. He had spent the night at a friend's house, and they were on their way to the dump. He still had to go back home, get the comic stuff, and get a ride to the library.

Me: Why didn't you call me to let me know?
Him: Uh ...
Me: Yeah. I'm wasting my time here, and my wife [a well-known teacher at this school] is here too wasting her time. When are you gonna be here?
Him: Uh ... ... ... ... uh ... ...
Me: Come on, be decisive. When are you going to be here?
Him: Maybe ... half an hour.
Me: I'll give you a half hour. You call me when you're on the way. Got that?
Him: Yeah?
Me: You're gonna call when you're on the way?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Bye.

I sat next to Your Sister and apologized for the delay. She smiled and went back to reading. I started sketching Wonder Woman because the fucking song won't leave my fucking head (get us out from under, Wonder Womaaaaaan). Travis came by to chat, and we caught up on the pregnancy and holiday plans. I told him that a kid was half an hour away from failing his senior year, and we traded stories from our days as lazy students.

The senior called me at 1:28.

Me: Hey, where are you?
Him: Um, well ...

Thereby hung a tale. He said he got home too late to get a ride from his mom, and he was trying to talk his dead into bringing him, and I'm relating this without the hundred of "uhs" and "ums" that signify bad lies and panic.

Me: So you're not coming?
Him: I'm really sorry I wasted your ...
Me: Yeah. Listen, I'm going home. You're gonna take all the stuff that's mine and whatever I need to sign to the school on Monday and give it to [Your Sister]. When I have it in hand Monday night, I'll call you to confirm I got it, and then I'll send back whatever I'm supposed to. Got that?
Him: Yeah. I'm really sorry ...

I repeated the directions and hung up. I went back to Your Sis and Travis. "Well, he just failed."

I had two emotions fighting for prominence: anger and disbelief. Disbelief was winning. I couldn't fathom, and still can't, that a kid would ask for such a fun project, get it approved, and then blow it by not doing any of the work. There are seniors learning how to rebuild engines, bake cakes, cut hair, learn EMT procedures -- real, actual toil. He was allowed to spend a semester sitting by himself and crafting a zombie story in comic form. And he blew it. My jaw can't hit the ground hard enough to create an appropriately loud crash. I have shock, and my shock has shock. My shock is sitting next to me on a bench, and we're looking at each other in shock.

I got home and emailed his teacher with the update. I was supposed to sign a form confirming we met the minimum amount of times for the appropriate hours. That didn't happen. He was supposed to take photos documenting our communal effort on his project. That didn't happen. I took pics of our first two meetings. I gave him assignments to move his project along cleanly. None of those happened.

Your Sister offered me ideas to meet with him or allow him to get the forms back from me earlier, and I shooed them away. He's gotten enough chances and benefits of doubt. He's screwed, and he has screwed himself.

He emailed me Sunday morning saying he needed the photos of our meetings. I replied that I would email them to him when I had all my stuff in hand Monday night. I don't think he realizes that I won't get them until around 8 tonight; Your Sis is hosting an AP lab and won't be home before then to give me whatever he brings to school. Either way, I have two photos of meeting with him. That's not enough for his project-related portfolio which he'll now be working on within 12 hours of the project's deadline. He didn't take any pictures, as was assigned. I thought I was being helpful, adding to the documentation he would provide. In the end, my few pics were the only documentation. Again, I refer to flunk.

As I told his teachers, I don't begrudge the senior project or resent volunteering to mentor. This had the makings of a fun project. Unfortunately, he thinks, as I did as an underclassmen, that he'll pass because teachers won't hold him accountable. He's too smart, too nice a kid. I grew out of that as a junior, thankfully before I took on projects that could ruin my senior year.

I honestly don't see how he can pass. I give him a 5% chance of it. I say that without joy. Hopefully, he'll learn from it. Double hopefully, this won't count against the next kid who wants to try a similar project. I'd be willing to help that kid. This senior, though, has met the end of my kindness.

+ + +

Your Sis had a rough week of indigestion. I blame a particularly rich weekend diet. She's hit the ravenous stage, and I am cautiously joining her, well aware that I will put on weight in a much sloppier fashion if I match her bite for bite. She slept a lot, even for her, this weekend.

We're at 12 weeks today. The baby book details the skin conditions she might experience and how to treat them. It also mentioned tests for cystic fibrosis. Roo should be at 2.5 inches from rump to head.

EDIT: I was wrong. He only had to meet me three times, but I was supposed to see his final product and sign off on it. That won't happen before he turns it in tomorrow.

Picture of the Day
The gay marriage rhetoric chart.



Thursday, December 3

Must I Rage? Rage I Must.

One thing about Your Mom's office visit on Tuesday: She mentioned that the delay in deciding to be pregnant was Your Sister's doing. She said she knew I wanted kids, but Your Sister was focused on work. I mention this to preemptively set the record straight in case you encounter this line of thinking. It's completely wrong.

I immediately told her it was a long-standing and constantly affirmed mutual decision to remain a duo. No one is "at fault" for us remaining childless for, as My Mom puts it, "so long." The change of position was a yearlong adjustment from both of us. No one can be said to have instigated the decision. Those regular questions we asked each other about maintaining our duo-hood began to get new answers, and they came from both of us. There was no peer pressure, no ticking clock, no fear of remaining outside the definition of a "real family." The Debacles began as a family in 2004. We're bringing in an 18-year tenant. We're building an addition.

Just FYI. If she continues to pass this along, and I'm asking you flatly to rat her out, I'm gonna sit her down and repeat the facts until she can recite them back to me. She often assumes the worst about her daughters, and it's often dismissed in a cloud of stunned dismay. Not this. I won't allow it. Your Sister will not be accused of refusing to be a mom, of stubbornly, cruelly denying me offspring, especially while she's with child.

Damn it. Now I'm mad.

Suddenly it's almost Christmas, and I have no idea what to buy anyone. I'm totally baffled. I'm baffled and mad.

Pictures of the Day
This is the first inked draft of the comic. I hand lettered it, and it failed to make the grade. I re-lettered it on the computer before I tweaked the art digitally. It's due tomorrow, and I'm doing last-second polishing of the faucets on the Titanic.


Wednesday, December 2

Progress

Your Mom dropped by the office to hand me pants expanders for Your Sister. We're now officially using maternity wear. She can no longer suck in the little pouch. Makes sense; we are just shy of 12 weeks.

She walks to work and back unless it's raining, like today. She says it's becoming harder to make it up that hill and blames Roo. I pointed out that it's also colder out there, and breathing hard goes with outdoor fall activity. She shrugged it off and said, nope, it's the pregnancy. OK. I know not these things.

We're asked often about deliveries and plans, but we rarely talk about it. Your Mom wondered about a pool birth, and I think we'll deviate from the standard dry, prone method only if the doctor recommends it. We focus on the current necessities: diet, clothes, exercise. We have plenty of time to transition to the delivery and everything after.

I printed out a draft of the comic for Your Sister to read. It went over well but needs tweaking to sell the humor. I decided to try digitally drawing the corrections using my small tablet. This morning, I redrew a panel on the computer, saving myself the time of sketching, inking, and scanning. I can see a total digital transition for my comic work if I get a bigger tablet. It's damn convenient. The comic is due Friday, and I have plenty of time to adjust it before the submission. Unlike my senior student who will need superhuman efforts just to complete his project. I shouldn't be smug about competing with a teenager for comic production, but my process is again proven to work.

Moving Picture of the Day
This Spanish language trailer for Lost reveals more than the English promos.

Tuesday, December 1

Allegations and Bad Planning

My senior student called me last night to say he had just opened his template package. He claimed to have forgotten about it over the holiday break. He couldn't hear my eyes rolling. He claims to have finished all his preliminary work and is ready to begin in earnest. He has exactly one week to draw 24 pages (his new page count) and the covers and Xerox four copies and assemble them into individual issues and prepare his senior portfolio. I have folding money that says it's gonna be crap. We're to meet Saturday to finalize the project, and I intend to warn his teachers about his lazy-ass ways. What he turns in cannot be regarded as what I tried to teach him. I think the one-page story I'm turning into the school literary magazine will show the distance between his lame work and a designed comic. I turn that in Friday.

+ + +

My theatre liaison called me yesterday afternoon to ask again if I'd direct a play next summer. He had mentioned this most recently when I saw the Halloween play he directed, and it was a suggestion he made in script committees a few months back. He called on behalf of the latest artistic director, his replacement, who wanted the directors all set before the new season started.

Before, I had said I would have to see about directing the offered play (Mousetrap). It's a much larger challenge than directing the one-act this past spring. I had my doubts about it even then. Directing a one-act took up so much of my time that I dreaded tackling any three-act play, much less the longest running play in theatre history and the standard for parlor mysteries. My answers weren't coy. They started off as "hmm, maybe"and quickly shifted to "I can't do it." Now I was asked point blank to say yea or nay. I did, and I added the best alibi possible: My wife is expecting. I may not leave the house next year, I said. Congratulations followed as did the newest eye-rolling, head-slapping story of the local company.

The theatre leases the local Legion Hall to host its shows. It's a five-year contract with the option of doubling that. The Legion has been good about working with the theatre for upgrading the premises. The theatre has installed a nice new curtain system both on and offstage. Plans are afoot to renovate the kitchen and pantry to allow for more variety in intermission food sales. One big project was scrapping and rebuilding the green room. After some stupendous estimates from an architectural firm, the theatre was saved by an offer from the Legion. They would provide the labor free and build the green room if the theatre bought the new equipment (window units, lights, furniture, etc.). The estimate shrank from $50,000 to $5,000 to about $2,500. It was a godsend for a cash-strapped company. The Legion recently went the extra mile and offered to host a fundraising BBQ, with a chunk of the money going to the theatre to pay for that green room. The Legion advertised it in the paper and around town.

What did the theatre do? Stayed completely away. No one showed up to either volunteer or buy food. The Legion folks are pissed and declared they will not provide any labor for any projects, including the green room. That's gonna double the current estimate again. And the Christmas show starts in a few weeks.

My liaison is no longer my official theatre connection. He decided to relinquish his positions and step away, except to direct an upcoming show. He and I can equally share the freedom from entanglements in bad decisions and follow-through. Good night and good luck.

+ + +

Your Sister had a hankering for Ruebens last night The sandwiches, not the artist. I had never made nor eaten one. They're pretty good. Sauerkraut isn't bad at all. We didn't have any of this where I grew up. The closest we got to sauerkraut was boiled cabbage. Your Sister liked what I made and followed it with the rest of the cranberry salad leftovers.

+ + +

We got our second creditor phone call with a year looking for my ex-wife. I suspect she's gone off the grid and living with someone whose name is on every bill. Jesus, am I glad we didn't have kids.

Picture of the Day
These are the initial sketches for the comic story. I knew I wanted to talk about running and where the mind goes. On the top right of the first image, you can see the page design I envisioned: lots of boxes with prose outside the art. That changed to a more traditional format, seen below. The title, Running Through My Mind, was a no-brainer.


Monday, November 30

I'm Gonna Babble About How We Got Here

Now I can finally post about what's really going on in the house: Baby preparations.

Your Sister snacks constantly to ward off nausea. She got sick for the first time Saturday night, and I blame the restaurant's olive-oil dip. Also, she devoured the complementary bread after a few hours of an empty stomach. That couldn't help. She slept all day yesterday. I mean, all day. I'm worried she's going to be insurmountably behind in her weekend grading.

I, it turns out, am nesting. Without knowing it, I've become focused on home improvement. I was told last week that this is an instinct. Your Sister was warned by a parental magazine and disregarded it. The next morning, she says, I announced the gutters needed my attention. It's continued since. I'm a slave to nature.

We ate the Thanksgiving leftovers and the rest of the BBQ last night. Thanks again for that; it was bueno. Your Sis has declared chicken verboten in the house for now; the thought of it makes her ill. The pork you brought hit the spot.

We told Your Aunt about Roo on Friday, and she called back to suggest two names: Balthazar and another that sounds like "Brasilius." We thanked her, hung up the phone, and threw it into a fire. Your Sis talked to My Mom Sunday, and we all compared notes. Mom explained that she was stunned when we told her and gradually grew to happiness. It had to set in. She said she had written us off as breeders because we had been married so long (only four years, I reminded her), and we hadn't told anyone we were trying.

The second item probably requires some clarification. No, we told only a few people, and those were folks I knew from high school who have become moms. I wanted anecdotal advice from people at a distance. Then we had actual news to relay, we'd announce it to the world. I was worried about how long it might take to be pregnant, and I didn't want Your Sister subjected to fertility advice and requests for updates. I didn't want outside impatience to badger her. Luckily, we had no problems. As in, it was virtually immediate. That was a jolt. Turns out the abstinence-only advocates weren't spouting total gibberish after all. But let's hear it for Planned Parenthood and sex ed for allowing us to start a pregnancy when we wanted and when we were ready.

And we do think we're ready. We talked about this off and on for a year and decided in spring to make arrangements. That's when we started our name list (Good, Maybe, and Oh God No). When we found out we hit paydirt (Oct. 25), we began to skulk around store baby sections to check the equipment. We even printed out random registries at Target so we'd have an alibi if we were caught by friends. Mom offered to buy all the baby furniture, and we told her we appreciated it, and there was tons of time to window shop and make our must-have lists.

Your Sister suggested we tell you in advance, and I poo-pooed it. It's my fault. She mentioned it again recently, and I asked her if it was really a good idea to drop that bomb via a phone call while you were preparing for exams. I reminded you that a certain dim bulb did something similar, and she agreed we'd wait. It quickly becomes a burden to have such info that can't be shared. We each almost leaked to several people, and the wait was painful. Then, wouldn't you know, she was in wrenching tears Thursday at the thought of telling her family. She was terrified at the possible reactions. So I jumped on the grenade. That's why I was the one to say it. She admitted later she was silly to panic. Wild emotions are apparently par of the pregnant course.

Me, I have no nerves. I realize our convenient schedules will be compromised, and we will not know a decent night's sleep for years. Then I recall why we decided to do this: Not only will Your Sis make a great mom, but we feel the need to intelligently raise a kid. To combat through benevolent nurturing the madness we see around us. Our kid is an investment, a literal vessel of hope for better. This wasn't done because we're bored or envious of parents. We debated this for a year and checked our motives each time. We can do this right, and we can't wait much longer. In we jumped. Off we go.

We made a gingerbread house with Brooke Saturday as her parents enjoyed a night out with friends. She clung pretty tight to me starting Thursday afternoon and all through the weekend. We all went to the Grove Park Inn to see the gingerbread houses, and that scene was a zoo. Carrying her for two days was a fantastic workout. It also somewhat proved that we can watch a child without anyone exploding.

This blog won't change to cuddly-coo baby stories. I assure you. But I'll let you know how we're doing. We're officially at eleven weeks today. Roo is the height of a small lime and has fingernails, so the guidebook says.

Picture of the Day
The impending golden child in no way infringes upon our geekdom.

Monday, November 23

Saturday Signing

The new comic store in Asheville held an artists signing. I met webcomic creator Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots) in this year's Asheville's HeroesCon back in June. This was the store's first signing, and it was a smash. I got a sketch, and we talked shop for a bit.

To thank the store for arranging the signing, I shelled out for a big comic. I discovered that the artist and I worked for the same website some years back. She did comics, and I wrote long reviews. The site wasn't that well known, but the owner had heard of it was surprised to find she and I were connected with it.

I also ran into Mazel Tov Cocktail of the local roller derby team. She's a jammer, one of the few team member who score points by lapping the other team.

Possibly inspired by the signing, I set up my one-page comic page in the kitchen and drew at the counter so I could face the TV. I pounded out the majority of the comic over the day to my surprise. I have almost two weeks to ink and letter it. It's a lark of a notion, but it's shaping up nicely.

Your Sister and I watched Saving Private Ryan. She hadn't seen it before. I still hate the script, but I appreciate the movie made with it.

I promised Your Sister to finally model the suit I bought for the August work convention. She approved. I still fit in it. I finally ran again Sunday morning right before the cold rains came.

My Mom is reconsidering coming to Thanksgiving. She's upset by her appearance, no matter how much I try to assure her she's exaggerating it. She says she has a Thanksgiving invite from the neighbors, and that would at least allow her to be with someone on the day if she won't come up. I offered to get her and take her back home. She's still mulling it over. I hope Susan has plans too.

Friday, November 20

Hay Hay Hay. That's What I Say

I called Mom, and she's generally OK. She thinks there's more numbness and possible actual droop on her face, but she may be imagining it. She can eat fine. She needs a draw to drink until she picks up the knack. Hopefully the palsy will subside before then. She's in good spirits, again because this could have been so much worse.

We caught a one-act package at the high school last night. We actually only caught the first two one-acts. I promised a teacher's daughter I'd watch her monologue. She wants to work with the local theatre, and I'm kind of a role model for working with them. If she only knew. I wrote a note for her mother to pass along to her after school tomorrow. She has the basics down. Good energy, good projection. She clearly has more instruction than the other kids we saw, and that's no fault of theirs. She got good laughs.

My car was hit by a bale of hay this morning, giving credence to my theory that Matrices are magnets. It fell off a truck in front of me. There are some scratches, but no steering damage.

The senior didn't pick up the templates waiting for him in Your Sister's classroom. My enthusiasm for helping him has plummeted. I've offered to meet him again tomorrow and ensure he grasps the templates. Mentally and physically.

This is from ABC:
ABC ANNOUNCES THE PREMIERE OF THE SIXTH AND FINAL SEASON OF "LOST," WITH A SPECIAL ALL-NIGHT EVENT ON TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2

ABC announces the premiere of the sixth and final season of "Lost," with a special all-night event on Tuesday, February 2. A recap special will kick off the night from 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET, followed by the much anticipated two-hour premiere from 9:00-11:00 p.m.

The series will then air in its regular time period Tuesday nights from 9:00-10:00 p.m., ET beginning the following week, on February 9.

Well, crap. The show was a Wednesday mainstay for the previous five years.

Picture of the Day
Kenny baker indulges.

Thursday, November 19

The Day After

I talked to Mom yesterday, and she was exhausted from worry but relieved it was "only" Bell's. She was given eye medicine and told the symptoms should be gone in about two weeks. I tried to help her relax and said "the biggest question, however, is can you still hold the cigarette in your mouth? Do we need to get you a headband?" She laughed. She intended to go back to work today, and I'll call her when she's likely to be home.

I feel a bit odd being here still after she went through this scare, but all I could do is sit and stare at her while she sleeps it off. She's totally lucid. There's no other neurological damage. She's relatively fine. I don't want to hover, to suggest she should be anxious -- more anxious -- about what she went through.

I made french onion soup last night, and I had hoped this would be a dish I can easily make for you when you visits. And then I remembered the four cups of beef broth and scratched that off the list. I have recipe books; I'll find new recipes to master. We clearly can't have sushi while Mom is visiting.

I also made minicomic templates and instructions for the senior. This lasted into the wee hours. I doubt it will help. I suspect he'll slap everything together the weekend before it's due and try to coast through. That's what I would have done at his age. I'll show him how the template works by assembling a minicomic in front of him if need be, and then that's all I can do. He has to show a skill set learned during this semester and he has to offer a product of that skill set. It's in his hands now. Literally.

Picture of the Day
This week may make my head a'splode.

Wednesday, November 18

Emergency Room

I got a call from a doctor couple who work with My Mom that she went to the emergency room with some arm weakness and facial droop this morning. She's lucid and relaxed. Preliminary diagnosis is a TIA, a pseudo ministroke whose effects may vanish within a day or a few hours. She's undergoing tests. I'm still in NC. Mom didn't want me to be informed until she had a concrete diagnosis, and I'm staying put until I get the word. This is how we handled her gall bladder when it flared up this summer. The doctor wife called Your Sister who called me to wait for the doctor husband to call me. All this contact is behind Mom's back.

At best, she'll realize this is a warning to knock off that fucking smoking and eat some meals. At worst, she'll be reliant one someone else to a degree. But that's for later planning.

Now you know as much as I do. Tell no one else until we get news.

Twenty minutes later: It's Bells Palsy. She's on the way home, but I haven't talked to her directly and don't know what she was told to expect or to do. Still sitting tight.

Tuesday, November 17

Blasphemy!


R2D2 is in the new Star Trek movie. Gizmodo says he was placed there by ILM, the Lucas effects house who worked on the film.

I'm making a page template for the senior to follow.
With letter-size paper, he can draw, fold, and cut his minicomic using less than 20 sheets to make 4 32-page comics. I even used math. I'll have Your Sis hand it to him this week at school, and our weekend meeting will confirm he knows how to use it. It takes some work out of my hands, and I can't complain. I'm now getting eager for my one-pager for the arts magazine.


Monday, November 16

Virtually Glad It's Monday

As hesitant as I am to bitch about a long work day to a medical student, Friday was a shrew of a hag of a chore, and I'm glad to be rid of it. I got to work at 9 and left after 7. It was all magazine work, and it reminded me too much of the bad ole alt-weekly days. A small teacher party was waiting for me back home, and I arrived before it broke up. I was informed they had beer, snacks, and ... '80s Trivial Pursuit? And would I like to play?? Pardon me while I lay waste to your homelands! I destroyed them. I went home with the afterglow of conquering.

I discovered the next day that only 90% of my gutter repairs worked. I recaulked the leak, and I think it will hold for now. We'll have to get new gutters next year, I'm pretty sure. I'm also concerned about the deck.

Sunday evening was spent coordinating Thanksgiving plans with Your Parents and My Mom. Your Mom is a little scattered about making plans for the girls. Things are still up in the air, but Your Sis and I aren't worried. We obviously know the town. We can offer options, something we can't do in Birmingham.

I managed to find the one copy of the Ultimate Blu-Ray edition of Watchmen (deleted scenes and tons of extras) at Best Buy. I hope to watch it when I we get five hours. I also set up the PS3 to stream NetFlix on our big TV. It's all so sci-fi. When we have you at the house, we'll plop you down in front of the TV. We have DVDs. We have video games. We'll spoil you a bit.

I met my senior kid this weekend, and I'm worried he's gonna blow this project. He has three weeks to draw, letter, and print a 32-page comic. Even I can't do that. I've warned him and related the meetings to his teacher. I fear he's gonna turn in something done at the last second. He has virtually no sketches, his rough script (unfinished) has no dialogue, and he hasn't thumbnailed a rough of the comic. It will take charity to get a passing grade.

Your Sis and I walked again in this very bizarre, warm evening air. It helped inspire notions for the school arts magazine for which I've been asked to submit an item. I'm gonna do a comic on running. I spent the weekend sketching a format I want to experiment with, and I've already chucked my first big idea (a collage of small drawings) for a straight-forward comic style, and I've got my first and last panels. I know what the comic will be about and roughly how many panels. I feel good. It's due Dec. 4. This is feasible. Unlike that the kid wants to do.

His teacher emailed me to say that I can't print and assemble the comic for him. He has to learn the skill set for the entire process. That means more work for him, less for me. I can live with that.

Picture of the Day
Invasion at the White House!

Friday, November 13

A Bit

I'm doing much better, and I credit everything Your Sis did and my cheap lunch of two bananas. Only 30 cents at the nearby Ingles. Your Sis has, not surprisingly, picked up a variation of the icky ick and only worked a half day. I tired to pamper her, but she did demand the panned dinner of fajitorittos. We've got it down to a precise formula of ingredient increments: six shells (wheat and corn), two peppers, one small onion, and a half-pound of [protein vehicle].

I've heard no more about the library signs since I sent the sketches. I passed along my cell phone number and wait to discuss the signs in detail. I was also asked to contribute an art piece for the school arts magazine. I still need specs for that. I'm thinking of doing a comic story about running.

We didn't get the magazine out yesterday, and now I'm swamped at work. Ta.

Noisy Picture of the Day
And now: Instant Chewbacca.

Thursday, November 12

Slighty Ill Babble

If this is a flu, it's the mildest case I've ever had. The headache is gone this morning, and my face has that fuzziness usually associated with horrible congestion. Your Sister leapt into spouse-nurse mode and fixed me up with tomato soup and popcorn (try it). I took some vitamin cocktails and Vitamin C pills and ginger ale. DayQuil and NyQuil were employed. The sick bed was used. I know I slept heavy because I woke up in the same position I had laid down. For lunch yesterday, I bought bananas and wolfed them down. I think I'll be OK by the weekend. I wonder if my running hiatus helped this sneak in. I haven't run since the Halloween race.

+ + +

We watched half of a Russian vampire movie called Night Watch. It's disjointed in a way that suggests aggressive editing. Or it might be a Russian sensibility. It's stylish in what many used to call the "MTV style" back when MTV showed jump-cut videos. Now it's more likely to be called "video-game style" as it looks like the animated narrative scenes between playable parts of games.

This director went to to make Wanted last year, and I liked that film's energy. That guy and the one who made District 9 this year have enjoyed big-studio success. Combine them with Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), and big-action films are no longer the territory of domestic film students. The action movie is truly going global.

Technically, it's going global again. John Woo was the master of low-budget Hong Kong action films, but his American productions are scattershot. China and Japan have cranked out some nice genre films in the past 20 years, mostly period films with samurai and wire-fu, and thank God for them because they indirectly gave us The Matrix. The director of those films, the Wachowskis, are clearly American kids who are influenced by movies from beyond our coasts, and that's why their films (V for Vendetta, Bound, Speed Racer) are distinctive and exciting. They have a new movie coming out this holiday season called Ninja Assassin. Looks dumb as rocks, but fun dumb.

Picture of the Day
From Big Picture: Miranda Galan (center) was one of 80 third grade children from the North School that made a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston on a field trip from New Hampshire on October 30th, 2009. In the spirit of Halloween students got a surprise gift from MFA director Malcolm Rogers and Bob Gallery, Massachusetts President of Bank of America when they handed out Egyptian masks and toured the "Secrets of Tomb 10A" exhibit.

Wednesday, November 11

Working

Maybe I have the bug. You know, THE bug. Hamthrax. Maybe not. It's possible I have allergies from Gulf of Mexico gunk thrown our way by the hurricane.

Your Sis has the day off while I work. We're trying to get as much work done and mailed before Thanksgiving. We're still packaging convention coverage in print and online, and I'll be glad to have it our from over my head. No, I don't mind being at work today if it gets me closer to that.

Your Mom is bouncing between Your Sis and me for Thanksgiving arrangements, and we're telling her the same notions independently. There's no reason to contact any hotels when we live just an hour away. I do that commute practically in my sleep.

Picture of the Day
Observe and learn the chart everyone.

Monday, November 9

Mister Fix-It.

Because of a recent episode of This Old House, Your Sister was paranoid (her word) of the dryer causing a house fire. Some installations use a vinyl duct to connect the dryer to the outside vent. Lint can get stuck there, and if a gas dryer's intake line is to close to the outtake connection, the vinyl can melt, and the lint can catch fire. Our dryer has a pipe extension that goes under the house. I went to Lowe's for a new dryer duct and clamps. I also bought gutter sealant for the leaky gutters. Saturday morning, I went under the house and found the dryer's outtake is a solid pipe. We're safe there.

I got on the ladder and saw the gutters needed more than a sealant. They needed spackle. I'd rather replace that bad section, but the gutter spanning the back of the house seems to be all one piece. It would take three people just safely remove it before a replacement connection can be made. I took the dryer stuff back to the store and traded them for a hardcore spackle. I caulked the gutter with that and let it dry before sealing it the next day. We should get rain this week, and I'll see how it worked. I also gave the lawn what will likely be its last mow this year and mulched and bagged the leaves with it. Could be the last hurrah for our ancient mower, and it's served us well with its insatiable grass hunger.

As we ate at the soda shop on Saturday morning, Your Sister said, and I'm paraphrasing here slightly, "For the love of God, get me out of the house." And so I got her out of the house for the love of God. We window shopped. We browsed. We shared a Starbucks drink. We talked about Thanksgiving and students. The senior and I were to meet that afternoon, but he informed me that he hadn't done the homework I assigned him, and I told him to get it done for next week's rendezvous. Your Sis thinks I handled it right.

Meeting without that work in hand would be a waste of time, and this kid now has a month to write and draw and package a comic book among all the other assignments he'll receive. I want to help him, but he has to learn that you don't simply vomit through a pencil and make a comic. I told him this early on: It's a research paper that you draw. There are outlines and rough drafts. Plus, I argued, he ahs to show a progression of ideas and art to fill out his project portfolio. Without it, it doesn't matter that the finished comic looks like. Fail the portfolio, fail the project, fail senior year.

We walked along the county bike path Sunday enjoying, as you noted on FB, weird-ass November weather.

I've seen many references to the Wall coming down 20 years ago, and I can tell you exactly where I was when I found out: In my drama classroom, five days later. I missed the whole thing as we were on a drama trip to Columbia, and we didn't turn the TV on once. It wasn't mentioned in my house when I got back, and My Parents hated watching the national news as it was "always depressing." So, no, not until my drama teacher mentioned it Monday morning did I have a clue that the world has changed. And I made myself a promise that I would never be that clueless again.

Picture of the Day
I like to get all my opinions at the same time.

Wednesday, November 4

A Scoash

Mom has become more chummy with the newly widow neighbor. She gets to lead someone through the experience of the sudden loss and recovery. The widow had it rough, what being married to an utter bastard, and she has to discover a world without that looming shadow. But there's a danger of her clinging to the buoy instead of swimming. Mom's wary of being a crutch and already has plans to create some distance. She also related to me that one of her longtime friends considers me a nice young man. I reminded her that I'm almost 40 and maybe he confused me with a grocery bagger.

Your Sister has managed to stave off the swine flu (hamthrax), and I haven't heard of additional cases at the school.

I'm sending the library sign sketches to the school official today. I'm curious how many of them will make it through the process.

The NFL Bet
Her Teams (boo!)
AFC
New England (5-2)
Pittsburgh (5-2)

NFC
St. Louis (1-7)
New York Giants (5-3)

My Teams (yea!)
AFC
New England (5-2)
Pittsburgh (5-2)

NFC
Philadelphia (5-2)
Atlanta (4-3)

Picture of the Day
What a great idea, and what a wonderful perfume you've discovered.

Monday, November 2

Run and Play

I posted my race log on the Book of Face. The costume went over well and caused no race problems. The gloves no hang in my workshop near the lucha masks. After the race, we watched The Shining, the first movie we saw together, back when I was spoken for by someone else. The new DVD player and TV made it a whole new movie experience. We had two clusters of kids seeking candy, and we have lots of candy leftovers. Not that I'm complaining.

I went to the last day of the current play on Sunday. This was a show my liaison was keen on directed for years and had performed a few times in Florida. it was a late entry, I think, in the script consideration, and I was worried about it based on the theatre cliches: it's one set, set in the '50s, and features lots of drinking and "darling" dialogue. There needs to be a name for this kind of theatre. Parlor drama, maybe.

I've complained so much about the company that I want to take the opportunity to praise what they did right. Firs of all, they opened up the stage by eliminating the wing pieces. That adds eight feet of total space, and the stage is in widescreen now. The lighting gave it a warm tone, and the set included roof timbers, making the ceiling look huge. That stage has never looked better. The cast was good. Charming, especially the leads. This is the standard the other shows should aspire to. A good audience too. The theatre installed acoustic curtains in the back, and they work like gangbusters. I admit I felt those twinges of theatre competition. I shooed them away so I could watch these folks do their stuff. I made sure to congratulate the folks I knew after the show. I was asked to direct the summer mystery play, and I played coy.

Before the play, we composted the jack 0'lanterns. It was appropriately ghoulish to check these faces into the bin and stab them with a shovel repeatedly. The clock change helped me get up really early this morning, a habit I hope to keep until the clocks go forward again. I'm almost done with my first round of library sign sketches.

The senior was working a charity booth during the town festival, and I told him we'd meet next weekend. I heard Thanksgiving will be held at Your Parents' house this year, and you're welcome to stay with us while you're in town.

Picture of the Day
A Russian Soyuz capsule approaches the space station.

Friday, October 30

Race Eve

The weather looks sucktastic for the race. That might spook off the casual runners (oh hey, that's me) and leave the runners who demand to run in costume (oh hey, that's me too). If it's a thunderstorm, they'll have to postpone. I hope they don't hold it the next day; I'm going to the local play Sunday. I promised the director. Although, I might leave the play early for the race if need be, and look at me making plans for things that haven't happened yet.

Your Sister and I went to the school for a light workout. She feels horrendously out of shape and a failure, and I remind her she's run maybe two miles during the entire year. She can't compare herself to me at this stage. When she builds up her cardio and readies her knees, then we can be good-naturedly competitive. We ran some stadiums and jogged a bit. She's worried about winter weight. I would like to run in the mornings when the clocks change this weekend (reminder to all exam-crazed med students), but I'd still face school traffic. No thanks.

She's at home today for the second of her furlough days, and she's up to her eyes in paperwork. Granted, that's not that tall a stack, but the point remains. I'm supposed to meet the senior tomorrow, but the annual fall festival might put the kibosh on that. The library will either be closed to avoid constant bathroom requests or the parking lot will be commandeered by tourists. Also, a few hours after the scheduled rendezvous, the 5k race will take over the adjoining parking lots and the entire road for a half mile. During this, trick-or-treaters will start heading out. There's one leg of the race that goes right by the most popular candy-giving neighborhood in the county. That neighborhood already gets traffic rerouted around it. The police are presumably (hopefully) going to close off the usual detour road for the runners. This could be a mess.

I'm not worried. I have my costume, and I have my goal time of sub-28 minutes. That's all I care about. I won't get a trophy. I'd really love to be among the first 100 finishers. That's be nice.

Picture of the Day
Summer's really gone, I guess.

Thursday, October 29

The WorldBrain Has Spoken.

I know nothing about iPod Touches, other than I lust for one in a gee-whiz haze of geekgasm. I do need a new cell phone, but we live in an area with un-good AT&T coverage. The iTouch would be an awkward iPod to run with too. Here are the answers I got yesterday:

  • Geek Squad or Apple Store might be the most obvious options. She might be proper fucked as far as getting it repaired, though. Apple's stuff isn't known for being easily repairable.

  • It really wouldn't hurt her to take it to the Apple Store. I know that I have had friends without the warranty left on it get a new one for a deal or even free.

  • A later comment says: They don't fix iPod touches at the Apple Store. She can repurchase a refurbished one at a discount.

  • Here is a link to Apple's support for the ipod touch: http://www.apple.com/support/ipodtouch/ Give tech support a call, they will open a case and advise what to do. If it's under warranty they'll provide shipping labels so you can send it free to have repaired / replaced. If it's not under warranty they'll give a quote on the repair cost.

  • Apple probably won't even be willing to touch it if it's water damage. It can be repaired but based on past models, repair from water damage always leaves issues. It's not likely going to be as good as new.

  • Try ifixit, I've done multiple ipod repairs using their instructions and parts. I'll warn you ahead of time iphones and ipod touches are specifically built so that they aren't easy to open. good luck.

  • If it's within the 1 year warranty they may just give her a new one at an Apple store (a later comment says this: "not for water damage"). If not they'll probably try to sell her a new one, with a discount taken for the broken iPod.

  • I suggest lying and not mentioning the water part. (a later comment says: "All ipods and most modern electronics have built in indicators for water exposure.")
Couldn't hurt to ask local Apple folks, if there are any. Best Buy has an Apple section these days, and that might be your best option. Also, they offer in-store warranties that might cover water damage if you have to buy a new one.

Your Parents called me Sunday to ask advice on HD TVs. Your Dad saw a flyer for a Panasonic with a free Blu-Ray player, and the price was too good to pass up. They supposedly bought it later that day, but I've heard no updates.

I ran last night for the last time before Saturday's race. I had a very good time. Your Sis wants to run tonight at the school, and I volunteered to chaperon. I wanted to buy old-fashioned tube socks for the boxer costume, but they apparently no longer exist. Also, you can only buy single pairs of tube socks for $10 each at sports stores, so no thank you, sir. I figured that my boxing gloves would make it difficult to operate my iPod during the run and will make me look like I'm repeatedly punching my appendix.

As the World Series began last night, the Yankee Stadium played the Imperial March for the visiting Phillies. The Yankees got the awards ceremony music flowing into the main theme for the ending credits. The game was broadcast by FOX, so I guess they have the music rights and the good sense to use that to lure in casual fans like me.

Picture of the Day
Bert sees all. Bert demands information. Bert will transmit the recorded data to his overlords on Muppetron IV. Bert is programmed to operate for 10,000 years, and he will outlive us all, and his final words will be "whither the pigeons [computebootundo] ?"


Well, that was more depressing that I intended.

Wednesday, October 28

My Disappointment Is Inexhaustible

I learned earlier this week that the previous theatre company has scheduled 12 shows between the current Halloween play and Christmas 2010. Twelve. No one does this. Not colleges, not amateur companies nor professionals. No one has the talent or money to do a decent production at a clip of one a month.

They also decided to drop Annie, the one show that would bring in guaranteed box office and a flood of young talent and new volunteers for future shows. When I was still meeting with committees, this would have been Spring, that was the show felt by theatre veterans that had to be announced ASAP to lure actresses and families away from their 2010 summer vacations. I didn't hear the reason why Annie was scrapped, but I can imagine: Who can fit 20 young girls on that small stage for a three-weekend run? Who wants to corral that mob for two months?

Among the reasons I stayed away from the current production was concern that chaos and drama would enter via the crew. No matter who was put onstage, I assumed the director would sit on any divas enough to make the show work. The crew, however, are often chosen without the director's input or he has to settle for whoever he can find at the last second. It appears my cynicism was founded: The director and the stage manager are at odds, and what a lovely distraction that must be for five actors working a three-act play. One has to wonder how the group manages to attract this quality of professionalism. It must be some sort of mountain magic that lures them to a locus of theatre calamity. We're Las Vegas in the community-theatre version of The Stand.

As my liaison leaves this fall, he removes my true obligation to the group. I recently turned down another nomination to join the board. I'm staying away. Even though the group is doing big-name shows this season -- Odd Couple, Mousetrap, Glass Menagerie -- the backstage whirlpool isn't worth hopping into a big play. Nor is it rewarding to surrender two months of time and brain work to perform before 50 people. Snobbish? Perhaps. Soul-crushing? Always. The building can hold four times that number. I believe the company could lure larger crowds if they cut back on the number of shows. Better posters, also. You can't draw in people off the street with clip art found online on letter-size paper carrying 200 words of information. When the posters are taped to shop windows and bulletin boards, they vanish amid the other flyers. I'm tired of presenting my sales pitch to make the posters. It's been two years.

The only good news is that college may allow its theatre students to work in the local theatre's prouction, ending the boycott. That will get new blood, but they need veterans to help them learn the craft, and all of us are running into the night.

So why do I despair about this so often, you may ask? Two reasons:

1) Everyone else I know in town is through Your Sister, and while she makes good friends, I'm dependent on her for a social network. That's a bind. The theater gave me a conduit to more people.

2) The theatre is so physically close to our house that, if I were to be involved, I'm pretty sure I would be the closest of any other theatre person to the building. That, combined with me knowing my stuff, would make me a major contributor to the company. That's appealing. So much so that I constantly question my judgment about previous theatre meltdowns. Was it really so bad? Couldn't I bow up and muddle through? Then I read some of the blog posts on those shows and think I wouldn't do that again if they paid me.

2b Bonus Reason Cheap At Twice the Price) No one gets paid. It's all volunteer. That means there's no incentive to do more than the bare minimum nor is there an attractor for the best skills. What do we get? An inordinate amount of dingbats and drama queens (which might just be the name of my new rock band) eclipsing the energetic cheerleaders and the eagerly competent.

Picture of the Day
Mars orbiter photos show dark sand whirls that scientists suspect are made by dust devils turning up the topsoil. This doesn't even look like a landscape. We've stared at Mars for hundreds of years with our state-of-the-art technologies, and we're still surprised by it.

Tuesday, October 27

I Am Just A Poor Boy And My Story's Seldom Told

I spent my lunch break standing in a Halloween store debating between two boxer costumes: the Everlast and the Rocky. The Rocky came with a short white robe, small gloves, and these shorts.
Except the shorts looked much cheaper, and "Rocky" replaced "Balboa." The other set, however, had larger gloves and longer shorts, and I worried they would drag me down in the Saturday race. I picked the latter set because I could be any boxer. In the first set, I would have to be Rocky, and I don't want to do a Stallone impression.

I did not wear it during my run last night. This was my first 5k run in the new shoes, and my mind would be on distracted enough by them, I thought. Nope. My feet were fine, and the thicker soles are a big temptation to bounce more in my run. It certainly helps when running downhill, which I now do at near full stride.

Your Sister and I decided to walk together after my runs, and we left the house near the same time last night. I took a different route to replace the last half mile I'd lose by meeting her at the school, where she was ran stadium steps and jogged the track. On the second half of my run, I saw a kid running in the direction of the school. Now this was just as the big downhill starts, and I figured he was either running Saturday's 5k route or heading to the school for the rescheduled JV game. He was delayed by a red light, and it still took him a half mile. But he was zooming at a pace I couldn't match. I watched him pull away ahead of me and was convinced he was a regular runner testing the 5k route. I again accepted my age and relative lack of training and picked up my stride a bit to think of other matters.

I could see him when he passed the road that makes up the majority of the 5k route and realized he was both headed to the school and slowing down. By the time I reached the school, I saw him shuffling forward at a dead walk with his hands on his head. He was beat, and I was still going, feeling solid in the third mile. Before I could pass him, he heard me and turned to watch me pass by, and I knew the dark night would hide my smile. Your Sister was right there to watch us both. She just finished her new workout, and we walked home to make pizza.

I modeled the costume after I added one of my boxing t-shirts. We gave each other rabbit punches with the gloves. I used to be a big boxing fan before the sport degraded into one-punch bums. Tyson affected a whole generation who thought a haymaker was all they needed to be rich. What they forget is that, early one, he was a very smart fighter who just happened to be a devastating puncher. His defense was perfect.

Picture of the Day
My 5k race costume. Very fit guy not included. I won't run in the robe, but the gloves and shorts shouldn't be a problem during the race. They're light. I still need to buy tube socks though.