Saturday, November 02, 2019

Circle of life piece names!

My modest proposal for the desired piece names for the new, smash game "Circle of Life" that can now be played at Board Game Arena.  ...  I am putting all of the stress on size and shape and mapping that to well known animals.  Whether the predation scheme makes sense or not, I'm much less concerned about.  Although I think it does for the most part.  Also, notice that all of the 3 or less hex pieces are a sort of insect and all of the tetrahexes are higher life forms.  I thought that would be important and helpful.  ...  If you like abstract strategy games, you should give this one a try.  Very interesting so far!


Monday, October 31, 2016

In time for Halloween ...

Today, with much joy, I discovered that my ghost pepper plant has borne fruit.  It's small still, and green.  But, if the weather holds, I could harvest a good ghost pepper this year.  What I'd do with it isn't clear, since they're so spicy -- more than 100 times as hot as a jalapeño -- that even if you made a bathtub full of chili with a single ghost pepper, it might still be too hot.  But, for now, I must just hope that this is a problem which I'll have to solve when (if!) the peppers get ripe.  ...  Happy Halloween!!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Blokus Solitaire Success

Yes, it can be done.  The rules of the excellent game Blokus describe a solitaire version where you play the game with all of the normal rules, except one person is playing for all four colors and is attempting to get every single piece onto the board.  It is a difficult task to complete.  I'd tried it and failed at a least a couple of times before I succeeded.  Naturally, I took a picture in case there are any skeptics out there.  And, yes, I did manage to place the "dot" piece last for all four colors.

Knowing how hard it is, I went in to this exercise slowly and as I placed pieces, I tried hard to imagine what other pieces I would later place between them.  So, you can see that the corners are tightly packed where my plans worked well, but it got much messier as things moved into the middle.

I think that Blokus solitaire can retain the all important re-playability.  What I suggest is that once you've solved it starting with one particular piece, you try it again starting with another piece.  Therefore, this is my "Z" solution, since I used the Z-piece to start off each color.  (...  Of course, you could start the different colors off with different pieces, but that will make it quite a bit more difficult.  One step at a time.)

Update:  A cleaner image of this solution:


Friday, December 19, 2014

This weekend's DPRK approved movies!

There's a new censor in town! Don't be sad. Our movies have always been censored, even by Hollywood itself when it closes out projects that rub them the wrong way!! So, let's get right to it and see what the Supreme Leader has in store for us this weekend.
  • Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb : Totally unacceptable. This abhorrent, so-called movie portrays the known imperialist dog Theodore Roosevelt as a kind and humorous person.
  • Annie : We allow it. Shows how the capitalist system exploits children for the benefit of the rich. Peasant child Annie overcomes Western indoctrination, in heart-warming story of revolution.
  • Mr. Turner : Forbidden. This is a very confusing movie. It could be censored on many grounds. Ultimately, the reasons are of no consequence to you. The Supreme Leader has spoken.
  • After the Fall : This film shows the consequences of capitalist exploitation. Family man loses his job and must turn to crime to survive. You will all go and see this movie. Persons who do not view this film within four days of its release will have disappointed the Supreme Leader. Do not disappoint the Supreme Leader.
Please Enjoy your DPRK approved movies this weekend. However, do not enjoy them to such an extent that it would be unseemly and capitalistic.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

review(not): The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

I haven't seen this movie. I suppose that sooner or later it will turn up on a DVD in my house at which time I may.

Anyway, my son wanted to taunt my daughter, who is a fan of Twilight, and made this image. Good job, Chris! No review could sum up the series better.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Kia Epic contest

Well, I don't even dare to imagine that I was one of the first five to finish the final puzzles and win a car. (See One Epic Contest.) But, after missing the Super bowl while trying to win a car doing these puzzles, the world must know that I persevered and finished all 10 tortuous levels!

... Damn, there'd better be a consolation prize!

(Update: If you want more info', Kia has a facebook page for the Optima that talks about the contest. But, as of Monday night, no winners have been announced -- they're still verifying.)


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Review Round-up

  • Reds *
    Yeah, that "Reds" -- with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton. It was good. I appreciate that, although Mr. Beatty is sympathetic to his communist subjects, he didn't go overboard in whitewashing the facts of the story. (At least, not as far as I can tell.)

  • Red (2010) *
    This is the sort of popular junk I normally pan. But, keeping in mind that it's not a particularly serious movie, Bruce Willis keeps it fun enough to push it over the line to one star (worth watching). Vaguely reminiscent of "The Whole Nine Yards".

  • Strangers on a Train (1951) *
    Merry Christmas to me! I got one of those cheap collections with four Hitchock movies on 2 disks in one case. It was outstanding.

  • True Grit (2010) **
    The Coen brothers have done it again. I loved this movie. The Coens' versatility in being able to remake this movie, yes, better than the original is simply astounding.

  • Salt 0
    This movie has some redeeming qualities. Jolie is pretty good. I just can't recommend it, though.

  • Wild Hogs 0
    The only reason I'm reviewing this is to say, it's not as bad as I expected. Just regular bad.


Friday, December 10, 2010

review: Into Thin Air

This book, by Jon Krakauer, has been out for some time -- and sitting on my shelf for most of that time. I finally picked it up recently and wow -- it was great. It's about the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where several climbers lost their lives. Krakauer was along on one of those expeditions and four people in his party died, including his lead guide.
"Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet."
... So begins chapter 1. It was great writing to put the anti-climax of reaching the summit right up front in a brief first chapter that also talked about the deadly results of the climb. This isn't a mystery novel after all. These events had been much in the news.

From there the story goes back to the beginning, the very beginning. He gives some brief and fascinating background on the discovery of Everest and many of the earlier attempts to climb it. Krakauer then sets the scene of the expedition and includes many morsels along the way on subjects like the background of some of the guides and clients -- including himself and his wife's unhappiness about his decision to undertake the trip. Still, the ending, which the reader already knows, hangs over it all. It gives a special, sad fascination to the entire book.

The art and science of climbing Everest were especially interesting to me. It's a massive undertaking and the whole thing takes many weeks and involves many stays and moves back and forth between various camps at different altitudes. Every bit of this book is great, but the summit climb and the slowly unfolding disaster that followed it are riveting, though terrible.

I guess what really gets me about this story is that, while I could grasp the dangers, I still remained caught up in the excitement of the climb and impressed by the magnitude of the challenge. Even knowing the doom that lay ahead, I completely empathized with the climbers that pushed on to the summit though the planned time to turn back was past. I think that's a credit to the author's clear presentation.
"Attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act" -- Jon Krakauer

Sunday, November 14, 2010

review: Avatar

It's got to be said: this movie disappoints. I'm giving it zero stars (same old crap).

It's a feast for the eyes, OK. But, the essence of a movie is its story. And the story in Avatar was a badly recycled cliche. The evil military-industrial complex oppressing the noble, nature-loving natives. This movie was little more than "Dances with Wolves" plus "Star Wars" (plus some pretty impressive CGI). Before 30 minutes had passed, I knew the entire plot -- and that really ruins a movie. It didn't help that none of the characters were particularly interesting.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

review: Tombstone

This is a [sort of] old movie that I watched again recently with my son -- whom, incidentally was not yet born when it was made. I've come to the conclusion that you should not try to review a movie you haven't seen in years because you may have been watching it with different eyes way back then. On several occasions I've seen a movie from years gone by and been hugely disappointed that it wasn't anywhere near as good as I'd thought when I was younger. This was not one of those occasions.

I really enjoyed Tombstone. It's proof that a movie done well at every level doesn't need any gimmicks or novelties to succeed. As a bonus, I looked into the historical accuracy of the movie later and found that it very closely followed the actual events that it was based on. A great movie and a little history to boot!

(Tombstone (1993): One star)


Thursday, July 01, 2010

review(not): The Last Airbender

Sometimes I read something just so shockingly stupid that I can't ignore it. In the third paragraph of that link (a review of "The Last Airbender") there is this amazing statement:
The chances of the series ever reaching four movies will depend on worldwide acceptance of a children's fantasy wherein kids save the (imagined) world while adults offer not much more than enthusiastic coaching or outright villainy.
Where "reaching four movies" means being successful and having sequels. Now, the movie (which I've yet to see) is apparently pretty bad, based on a large number of bad reviews. But, a "children's fantasy wherein kids save the world" is neither an original plot device nor the slightest impediment to success. Compare "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". ... And "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", ad infinitum. The Harry Potter blockbusters are just one recent and notable example. Last time I checked, children like fantasies where children save the world. (And, if the Harry Potter series is any guide, adults can put up with them, too.) It may not be believable, but this is fiction. The statement that that aspect of "The Last Airbender" is some sort of deficiency is inane beyond comprehension.

It is sad, however, that the movie is being received so poorly. I have watched the television show and it is one of the best children's shows on the air. It is one of the best children's shows ever made. It's perfectly done. It blends action, humor, and drama masterfully. I suppose we should all skip the movie. But, if you haven't seen it, go get the TV show on DVD!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

review: Shutter Island

Pretty darn good. Definitely a little different for Scorsese. Well worth seeing.
(One star)


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Next Board Game

I'll make this short -- since I have yet to actually play the game Carcassonne live against human opponents. So, I couldn't reasonably review it. But, I think I'm going to get it soon and I've taken it upon myself to read the admirably short rules (PDF). Then, I went a step further and found JCloisterZone, a free java version of the game which will allow you to play against your computer.

Here's what I like so far:
  • Takes from 2-5 players.
  • Isn't very long
  • Well regarded, very successful game
  • Relatively simple rules
  • Fairly complex/interesting strategy
Those last two are key. The perfect game is the one with the combination of the most simple rules and the most strategic depth. This is not "the" perfect game. But, for what appears to be a light, sociable game, it is outstanding in both of those areas.

For anyone who wants still more information, the Carcassonne page on BoardGameGeek should be helpful.

I've played the game several times now, and it is as great as it looked! It's easy to learn and easy to play. It plays pretty quickly; there's not the huge amount of computation needed that cause some games to be slowed down by a lot of thinking. A really great aspect of Carcassonne, is that it plays pretty much the same way whether you have 2 or 5 players (or 3 or 4). That's a huge, and rare, advantage for a multi-player game. There is an element of luck (in drawing good or bad tiles), but it's not as large as you'd expect and, at any rate, perfectly acceptable if you just take this as a lighter game, which can be enjoyed with non-hardcore gamers and serious gamers alike.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

review: Alice in Wonderland

Abominable. Usually, when I don't like a movie, my family will argue with me. "Oh, it wasn't that bad." But, in this case there was full agreement. My wife got up to check her email during the movie. My son -- who has defended dozens of mediocre movies to me -- simply said, "it sucked." With Tim Burton and an impressive cast, I know it's hard to believe, but it really was that bad. (negative one star)Does it say something about me that I'm more motivated to write a bad review than a good review?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BoardSpace: the Lost Games

Last Friday was the one year anniversary of my registration with the games site BoardSpace. I didn't really know what I was getting into! I love strategic board games (chess, go, etc.) and this site has nothing else -- 32 of them as of this writing. As the year has gone on, I've repeatedly discovered another game there that I like, and then another. You can play any of them live against another person and, for most games, against a computer opponent as well.

What's fascinating about BoardSpace is the selection of games. They're all lesser known games, some of them pretty obscure. But, it's not just an arbitrary mish-mash. The site owner makes sure to select good games.

Even after a year, I still haven't tried all of the games there. I haven't even tried most of them. That's mostly because I prefer to spend my time playing the games I've already learned. These are the games I'm enjoying and playing the most now:

  • Santorini: This is my favorite game at BoardSpace. It's a remarkable game. The rules are so simple yet the play is very complex. (That combination is my primary criterion for a good game, "go" being the exemplar.) It has a chess-like feel to it, in spite of the fact that the players have only two pieces each, and on a 5x5 board! It packs a lot of strategy into a small space and a short game. A player's first few games will be "interesting" because there are several traps and gotchas that one will probably run into (also like chess). ... The computer opponent is a great trainer, but has stopped being interesting for me. I really want to find a good human opponent and see if this game holds up well under serious analysis. I think it will.

  • Dvonn: My most recent discovery there and I can't stop playing it. It's radically unlike any other game I've played before. It's challenging and requires a lot of foresight and calculation. The rules are few and straightforward, but I won't repeat them here. See the official site.

  • Tablut: This is a really cool game. First, it's asymmetrical. One side is trying to get the flagship off the board and the other side is trying to capture the flagship. All of the pieces move like rooks in chess. It's based on an old Viking game.

  • Warp6: This is a racing game, with dice as pieces. The bit of chance introduced by the dice should not usually determine the outcome. It's like backgammon in that way. (It could be called "Space Backgammon". ... "Spacegammon"?) It's a fun, lighter game.

  • Cannon: This game only came to the site a couple of months ago. It really got me started playing a lot on BoardSpace again. It's a great capturing game with the interesting mechanic, as the name suggests, of being able to capture pieces at a distance if you have three pieces lined up in a "cannon". As the summary at BoardSpace notes, it's "a very tactical game."

  • Medina: I've only played this game once, but am anxious to try it again. It's a multi-player, requiring 3 or 4 players. The computer opponent can only fill one seat, therefore you always need at least one human opponent to have a game. ... The rules are a tad more involved than I normally like, but it seems to be well worth it to learn.

  • Hive: This is the most popular game on the site. It has a broad appeal. It's fun and easy to learn. It just seems like everyone who tries it likes it. It has no board either! You simply place or move the hex pieces and the pieces themselves sort of become the board.

You should give this site a try. Anyone can play anonymously as a guest to check it out. But, it's good to register and get a rating and picture. And, here's a quick tip for new players: When you're trying a new game, play an unranked game against the computer before you start playing regular games.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blazing good game

(I wrote this review on some game site because I really, really enjoy this game and it hasn't gotten the love it deserves!!)
This game has been a very pleasant surprise. My son bought it on a lark while we were out looking for one of those other $50 "A" games.

The first thing to be aware of about this game is that it is a challenge.
I like that in a video game, but young children would probably become frustrated with a game this difficult. Of the 20 missions in the main campaign of the game, there were many that I had to play multiple times to complete. The missions are challenging from the beginning and, still, they get harder and harder, so that the game remains engaging even after you have acquired some skill in it. Several missions introduce new skills and challenges, like landing a disabled plane or a high speed chase through a narrow crevasse. The campaign was just great and took me many hours over a couple of months to complete. (Granted, I have a job!)

Even once you've finished the campaign, you will want to go back and replay missions. One reason for this is that if you do particularly well on a mission you get a medal. All of the medals seem to be real historical American or English medals. I really liked that and the many other historical aspects of the game. All of the campaign missions themselves are historically based and in chronological order, and all begin with a short movie that has narration while showing an animated map of the main action. All of the planes are historical as well and include brief descriptions of the plane's reputation. Most of the planes are unlocked by advancing in the campaign. And another part of the fun is replaying the early missions with a later, more advanced craft.

In addition to the main campaign, there are the ace duels, arcade mode, and the mini-campaigns, each of which give various upgrades to the planes when completed successfully. And, of course, there is the head-to-head mode where you can dog-fight another player! (Split-screen, not on-line.)

There are many other great aspects to this game, like the wing-man commands, the follow camera, the ing and rocket missions. One thing I never tried is some of the alternate controller configurations -- some of which appear to be more realistic and maybe more difficult, but with better control I expect. For example, you can't really do barrel rolls with the default "arcade" controller configuration.

I like everything about this game. But I've got to reiterate the important thing: it is just plain a blast to play. ... And chase, and run, and blow up lots of stuff!


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dumb Bunnies

You could almost call it an infestation in my neighborhood now. ... The important thing is to see them before the dog does at night or he'll chase and jerk your shoulder.

I took this photo in my own front yard. (Yes, I need to cut the grass.)


Thursday, June 18, 2009

My favorite beers

I can't even say what exactly my criteria is for this list. Cost plays a factor, but a small one. I'll pay for the good stuff. Availability is important, too -- if I can't get it at the grocery store, I'm not making a special trip for beer. (Might as well be drinking alone?) Really, I mostly need this list as a reminder. Sometimes, my wife is going to the store and asks me what I want. So, here it is, with short comments.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Best all-around beer.

A great everyday beer. It's flavorful and malty but not heavy.

A paler, lighter beer that really, really does taste great. A bit on the pricey side, though.

This is a very pale beer that is not found at the grocery store (not mine anyway). I had it at the beach this year. I would describe it like this: what if someone took Corona and made it really good.

Samuel Adams Boston Ale / Anheuser Busch American Ale
In a big surprise Anheuser makes the list! Their new American Ale is great and easily on a par with S.A.'s Boston Ale. Anheuser's other attempts at real beer have been weak (Amberbock: bleh.) These are heavier. (These share a spot because they're very alike and the S.A.B.A. is hard to get by itself.)

Dos Equiis Amber
The standard for ambers.

Samuel Adams Scotch Ale
Has some bite to it. Wish I could get this by itself.

Pilsner Urquel
The original pilsner. Worth the money.

Another great everyday beer. Not too light, not too heavy, just right.

A great paler beer, featuring flavor!

So, what did I miss? My tastes change over time and I may return and update this when it happens next. Go for the good stuff!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

review: Night at the Museum: Battle

Do whatever you can to miss this awful movie. Pretend you're sick if necessary. (negative one star)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

About movie ratings

(Who am I kidding, exactly? I don't live in the world of a professional critic. While Mr. Bowman's system remains my inspiration, I have to add the "negative one star" in order to separate "the usual crap" (no stars) from the "physically painful to sit through". When you're negotiating DVD rentals with your family on a Friday night, brother, you'll thank me to know the difference.)
I've read the movie reviews of one James Bowman for many years. Mr. Bowman is as much a cultural critic as he is a movie critic. I love his reviews and usually learn something more from them than just whether I should see the movie or not.

In addition to being a wonderful writer and incisive thinker, Mr. Bowman has identified a major flaw in the traditional 5 star movie rating system. You can read his explanation on his own site, of course. Here I'll give my thoughts and explain why I use the same system.

Five stars are much more than are needed. All it really accomplishes is to capture one man's opinion of the fine shades of mediocrity that we encounter in most movies today. What exactly is the difference between a 3-star movie and a 2-star movie, anyway? One is merely pretty crappy and the second very crappy, I suppose. But, this is no longer part of a useful critique; rather it is a sort of consolation prize for movie-makers who rose above the awful to make something merely unremarkable.

To the point then, the system I'll use here only has three possible ratings:
  • Two Stars : Wonderful. Must see.
  • One Star : Good. Worth seeing.
  • Zero : The usual crap.
And to be clear, the default is zero. Time is valuable. If a movie is just "O.K.", then I will give it no stars. I will only give it a higher rating if I would actually recommend to my friends that they see it.

Having read many of Mr. Bowman's reviews, something that sticks out is his view that Hollywood is a business. (Well, obviously.) And, their biggest customers are teenagers. Ergo, a large number of movies are adolescent pablum. And, even when a movie is not obviously so, I believe that quality is often secondary to keeping the pipeline full of new movies. Understand this and you'll understand why you often leave the cinema disappointed.

So, be careful: You can never get a refund for two hours of your life.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"bumpkiss" is bubkes

This is my first entry into the field of linguistic research! I was reading a Yiddish glossary the other day. I wanted to see if "meshuginah" was really a Yiddish word or just something that Stephan Pastis had made up. (Turns out it is a real word and it means "a crazy person.") I ran across an entry for "babkes," meaning "nothing; beans." In a moment of immediate inspiration, I thought, "Yes, like 'bumpkiss.'" And, then, I realized these words must be related. I set off on researching "babkes".

First thing I found is that it's spelled in many different ways. Brace yourself. From three sources, I found 7 different spellings:
  1. babkes *
  2. bupkis *
  3. bupkes
  4. bobkes
  5. bubkes *
  6. bopkes
  7. bupkus
The first was from the Yiddish glossary, the next 5 came from Wikitionary (which prefers "bupkis") and the last one was added by Merriam-Webster On-line (which, nevertheless, preferred "bubkes"!).

Well, believe me, I stopped digging right there. I don't want to know any more ways to spell this bloody word! Ongapatchka.

So, I went to Wikipedia and looked into word formation. After a bit of reading, I've concluded that this is a case of phonetic matching. The original "bubkes" is awkward to the English tongue and just morphed into the compound of familiar matching words "bump" and "kiss". I might also theorize that the word "bumpkin" influenced the evolution by making the "-ump-ki-" combination familiar.

I don't know what constitutes proof in the world of etymology. I have found an intermediate form: "bupkiss" and I feel very confident in my basic explanation. (Any further research on my own part would no longer be fun. And, I'm getting paid bumpkiss to do this.)

I've used "bumpkiss" for years and never had any idea. A web search will show I'm not the only one. Still, being a linguistic reactionary, I'm now going to try to start using the original, Yiddish word. I'm thinking "bubkes". (If you're going retro', you might as well distinguish yourself from the neologism and lose the 'p'.)

Nevertheless, I'm believe that "bumpkiss" is here to stay and I call on everyone to add it to their dictionary.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

review: Burn After Reading

Perhaps the grandest farce that I've seen come out of Hollywood. I laughed out loud. And yet, almost miraculously, it's populated with realistic characters, with real foibles and, sometimes, real hearts.

It gets my highest rating. (two stars!)


Friday, January 04, 2008

Broken mouse?

My daughter comes into the den to tell me something the other day. She never waits for the commercial either. She just starts blabbing. As if whatever she has to say is more important than "Seinfeld" re-runs.

So says she: "The mouse is broken. I move it and nothing happens."

I say, "Well, ...." Then she interrupts, "And, it's really plugged in, I checked." Good one! She remembered one of the troubleshooting steps from the last time around.

This is a Windows machine, the kid's machine. (... Uh, not that we're terribly well-off or anything. It's just that I love my computer. I love my computer like some men love their power tools or their car. And, I was really tired of the sticky keyboard and the little finger-smudges on my monitor.)

So, the cure-all for 99% of all Windows problems is simply to reboot. It can be tricky to reboot XP from the login screen without a working mouse. You just hit tab until it highlights the "Turn off computer-name" button in the bottom left corner, then hit enter and you get the turn-off/restart dialog which has underlined hot keys.

But, no!, rebooting does not work this time. And, I was feeling so damn clever showing the kids how I could work a computer without the mouse!! ... I'm a little flummoxed at this point, I admit. But, I keep my cool. The trick to computer troubleshooting is to break things down into the basics. So, I try moving the mouse left and right. Nothing. I try moving it up and down. Nope, cursor doesn't budge. So, I try moving it around in little circles. Yeah, little circles, that's just the thing. Still -- NOTHING! And -- although it makes no sense at all -- I was a little surprised that the little circles didn't work. You see, that's where my steely nerves, nonsensical optimism, and suave, Bond-like, good humor under-fire paid off. After the "little circles" plan failed, I immediately picked the mouse up to give it a good hard what-the-h3ll-is-wrong-with-you look. During this psychic interrogation, I turned the mouse over and what did I see? Not the red laser light that I was expecting. I saw a yellow, smiling face, a sticker to be precise. A small child's sticker that was completely covering the light-emitting/motion-sensing orifice of this poor, innocent, and completely functional mouse.

We didn't exactly have to dust for prints on this one. The six year old boy had been kind of hanging around to see what was going on. Really, I don't think he remembered putting that sticker on until I turned it over. And, then he was kind of lurking around the chair to see how I'd react. (The little sweetheart was probably still thinking he had deniability, in the case that things went badly. I love kids.) Anyway, I laughed my rear-end nearly off. I called in my wife and the other children to see and they laughed, too. You should have seen the little guy beaming at his clever joke -- and doubly so when I broke out the camera to record it for posterity. I suppose we shouldn't be rewarding him for sabotaging computer peripherals. But, come on, he irritated his big sister and greatly amused his father all at once. I've rarely been so proud.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nail too close

I was doing some screen repair on our porch where the dog ran through it. He didn't really scratch it up so much as he walked right through it. (He was such a cute puppy but has grown into a monster.) The old screen was pretty simple: cut to size, stapled up, and then some molding was nailed over the staples. So, I got this fancy new dog proof screen (actually works, too) together with screw-on plastic tracks that you spline the new screen into.

To the point then: I wanted all of the old nails out. But, there's this one near the corner that slipped through the molding when I removed it and this guy is snuggled up in a corner where he just can't be pried out (picture above). It's a smallish finish nail with a very narrow head or I might have been able to work something out.

In retrospect, I probably could have just driven it in all the way, flush with the wood, and been done with it. It would have been out of the way (with 99% certainty). But, that plan didn't occur to me -- I took out the others and I wanted this booger gone, too. ... This sort of obstinate perfectionism might be the reason that the simplest home-fix-it jobs seem to take me about triple the time they do other people.

I suppose some of the (many) stories of my various home-fix-it disasters and mishaps might be better reading. At least more amusing. But, today, I revel in my triumph. Brain has bested brawn once again and I removed the nail with ease and without the slightest bit of damage to the surrounding wood. I had mentally reviewed and rejected several plans that all resulted in terrible gashes and gouges. (Guess how I already knew that those other plans would have gone badly.)

The problems were that the nail head was too small and the hammer claw too greatly curved. (Coming at it from 90 degrees off the angle in the first picture was impossible because the board was in the way of the handle.) The solution, pictured here, was just to grip the head with pliers and then use a pry bar to lever the pliers.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Junior learns to crawl

Crawling may sound like a good and wonderful thing, but it's not. It's terrible. ... All of this time you've known that if you put the child down somewhere he would stay there. Now, you turn around for a second and he's gone. Welcome to hell.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Clicking a bird

One of my sons got binoculars with a built-in digital camera for Christmas. My younger son got a cheapie digital camera, too. These things won't just show up as a removable USB drive on the computer. You have to install the software that comes with them. Ugh, more junk software on my computer, just what I need. Thank you, Santa.

So, I finally get the blasted software to work and recognize the camera. First I installed it. That wasn't enough. Didn't help if I plugged in the camera first or if I started the software first. Then, finally, I had the Windows new hardware wizard search for the drivers, but not on the web and not on the CD*. Incredibly, this worked and the next time around the software could find the camera. I guess it found the drivers that the software had installed (in the wrong place). Clearly, the boneheads in China that developed this stuff have not heard of Windows XP! (*I had a bad experience with trying to let Windows install the drivers directly from the CD with another cheapie kid's camera. Yeah, I know that was dumb.)

Now, let us view the first work of my wildlife photographer, prodigy son. ... OK, buddy, let's try to hold still while we're taking the picture. There were many like this first one. This particular one I thought looked pretty cool so we saved it anyway. And, I don't mind. It gives me a chance to talk about exposure times and other technical camera stuff that I know little about, but sounds really intelligent. (And, you don't want to try that crap with adults. Could backfire.)

But, I've got to hand it to him, he did come up with one pretty good one. Check this out. Very nice. Some sort of woodpecker maybe. I say it's a sapsucker. Mainly because I just like to say "sapsucker."

Anyway, there's more. There's always more. Now he wants to know what all of these different birds are. Come on. They're birds! They're all the same. It doesn't matter if you call it a black-capped chickadee or a tufted starling. All they do is fly around, wake me up too early, and then relieve themselves all over my damn car.

Fear not. I didn't tell the boy that. It will be many years yet before his natural sense of wonder and curiosity are finally crushed like a dumb squirrel under an Expedition. (... I mean, the squirrel was three quarters of the way across the street. Why did he turn around!?)

I don't know how the kid found out about these special books where they list all the different birds with pictures. Maybe his darn natural sense of curiosity and wonder again. But, it looks like I'm fixing to be out ten bucks.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Stra! Tee! GOOO!!

Stratego! The post title recalls the Stratego television commercial jingle of my childhood. Great commercial. Really great game. I got it for Christmas. You didn't. :P

So, I just played it again today for the first time in very many years. I beat a ten year old. And, I mean I wiped the map with him. I want you to know that I read him the strategy tips in the instructions. But, he wasn't listening much at that point. Big mistake. So, he made the rookie error of locking all of his highest ranking pieces on the back rows. I sent in a Major -- a mere major! -- and cut him to ribbons. He's moving all these pieces around trying to get a colonel out to stop me. Where could he move them? Right into Major Meatgrinder -- there was no other place to go.

I suppose I could have taken it easy on the child; at least let it be close. But, that's just not me. I feel like integrity demands that you give every opponent your best game in every contest. (And, my fragile, battered ego refuses to pass up any victory, no matter how small.)
Anyway, the boy is a good sport and he's ready to go again tomorrow. He's definitely internalized the strategy tip of keeping some firepower on the front.

I might try an older opponent. Then again, I may build my confidence first by whipping up on the ten year old a few more times.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Banana Yin Yang

God has smiled on me today. Two bananas, practically identical in size and shape, except one is a little ripe and another is a little green. So, I like bananas, big deal. But, my joy comes from the inspiration that I had to photograph these beauties to share with you. Enjoy. (... Much as I did the ripe one shortly after this picture was taken.)

"All things have their opposite. Though, this is relative. No one thing is completely Ripe or completely Green. Each contains the seed of its opposite. The Ripeness and the Greenness should be kept in balance. ... Otherwise, your little sister will cry when she must eat an over ripe, black banana."
(Liberally adapted from wikipedia)


Monday, May 08, 2006

The Lonely Hair

Bed head? Or dead head?
So, I'm walking through the den one saturday morning. My daughter points at me and says, "Hey, what's that bald spot on your head?"

The child is given to outbursts of dubious propriety, so by itself, this really meant nothing. My wonderful wife, however, was sitting on the couch at the time and instantly burst into raucous laughter. I mean she held her stomach, she gasped, she convulsed. The woman very nearly fell on the floor she was laughing so hard. Again, by itself, this wouldn't mean so much. Perhaps she has an impaired sense of humor. But, there's more.

For some years now, I've harbored a deep suspicion that my forehead was growing. The first time I noticed that something may be amiss, I think I was getting out of the shower and left my wet hair slicked back and accidentally saw myself in the mirror. "Hmm. That doesn't look right." Now, I can't recall if I went straight to my wife for an objective opinion that first time. But, the seed of doubt was planted. Over the next couple of years I would go many times to my trusted life partner, holding back my hair, thusly,

Normally, I like wide open spaces.
... and saying, "See here. The genetically inevitable calamity has begun. Woe is me." (My actual words may have been less dramatic and more panicked, like, "Honey! Honey, look. My hair!") But, no, she reassured me, nothing has changed. Time after time she told me that it's the same as it ever was. And, "You're being silly." ... It was an easy sell, really. That's what I wanted, desperately, to believe.

But, on that fateful Saturday morning, when my daughter asked about "the bald spot" and my wife laughed until she cried, then! then was the truth laid bare!

O, thou treacherous woman.

Now, here's the kicker. After this episode, which immediately set off a fresh round of close forehead inspections on my part, my darling wife actually had the gall to try to keep up her ruse. She said, it was just the funny look on my face at the time that caused her to be so amused. Just how gullible are men, anyways? I suppose one must consider that she may merely have been trying to forestall some sort of mid-life crisis. One might then take her deception as an act of kindness. (I don't.)

But, I admit, I'm not exactly Mr. Clean. Yet. There might still be room for argument. But, I can't go on that way. The matter must be settled. That way I can at least gripe about the (thankfully) glacial expansion of my forehead without being called silly. So, I'm on the case. With a renewed sense of certainty, the forehead inspections finally turn up the smoking gun. No more quibbling; no more looking for old pictures. I spotted the Lonely Hair.

Clearly, the hair on one's head all grows thickly together. Ah, but that's not necessarily the way it falls out. One by one, the little guys finally succumb to the ravages of time and go up to the floor of that great barbershop in the sky.

The Smoking Gun
Case Closed
Looking at the Lonely Hair, once surrounded by comrades and now a good quarter of an inch away from his nearest fellow, we can say with certainty that IT has begun.

Hang in there little buddy. Hang on!!


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Passing thoughts on marital bliss

No matter what woman you marry, she'll always end up being a wife.

I think my wife hates money. She's always trying to get rid of it.

My wife asked me, "Does this dress make me look fat?" I said, "Don't blame it on the dress, baby."

They say that a fool and his money are soon parted. But, a husband and his money sometimes never even meet.

If you want to know what she really thinks, marry her.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What about floss?

There are a few things my wife is not allowed to buy. Number one on the list is toothpaste. (Computer software and kites are in the top five.) Our household's "tube per capita" is now four. I don't know how this happened.

I'm starting to think that the kids just don't like to brush their teeth and it has nothing to do with the brand or flavor of the toothpaste. Every problem has a solution -- and like a good all-American mother, my wife knows that the solution is in a store somewhere. Yes, you may be tempted to think that my family has the cleanest teeth in town. Don't. If the solution really is in a store, it's in some other store that my wife never goes to.

With so many different choices there must be one that the kids like. I think there's a couple that they can tolerate. "Blueberry bubblegum blast" was not one of them. So, following the precedent set by so many vegetables in this house, it falls to me to dispose of the blue stuff. It grows on you. The real satisfaction comes from stopping my money from going straight to the trash can. The pictures on the tube are OK, too.

Some days I take a break and use an adult toothpaste. I mean, I've got a giant toothpaste buffet in my bathroom! Would be a waste to not try some different stuff.

Like any all-American dad, I'm cheap. Sorry. It's one of my major Too much of a good thing?life goals to get my money's worth and finish all of this toothpaste. But, I use such small toothpaste blobs. It takes me a long time to finish a tube! And, it's not like the kids are any help. ... With so many tubes, though, how can I ever be sure that she didn't slip a new one in there some where?

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