Friday, November 27, 2009

Well, Laura and I did it. We got up, sat in line, and charged through a store like crazy people. We weren't planning to, and then last night around 7pm my dad looked up from the paper.

"Nebraska Furniture Mart has laptops for $229."

I bought my laptop in 2005. Laura bought her computer in 2004. Both are slow, cumbersome, and basically falling apart. Her DVD drive quit working over a year ago, and I don't trust mine any more. And it's been a while since I could run more than one program at a time. Make icons AND listen to music? Ha! So we talked and talked and talked, and finally decided to go for it.

We got everything out the night before, went to bed at 9pm, and woke up at 3am this morning. It was barely above freezing, and the store didn't open till 7am, so we knew we were looking at almost 4 hours outside. I put on: two pairs of socks, a pair of comfortable exercise pants underneath a pair of jeans; a thermal undershirt, a t-shirt, one of my dad's insulated work shirts, and a jacket; a scarf, a knit hat, gloves; my woolen cloak.

Waiting in line wasn't too bad. Aside from my face, I was actually quite warm; in fact, my face being a little cold ended up being good, because my core was almost too warm. The last half hour was a little bad, because my toes, as well as Laura's toes, got a little too cold - tennis shoes are so porous, no matter how many socks you have underneath.

They were giving out vouchers in the form of wristbands for the eight big-ticket items: two HDTVs, a Blu-Ray player, a Dyson, a netbook, a computer tower, a computer package with monitor and printer, and the laptop. Laura and I were a bit overwhelmed when we saw how many people had camped out with tents, but the first half of the line just didn't look that packed, so we tried to stay optimistic. Then, as the time for the vouchers to be handed out drew near, and people started packing up their lawn chairs and their tents and the propane tanks hooked up to God knows what (no lie), and everyone stood up, we realized we had around 250-300 people in front of us. It was going to be close.

The Blu-Ray player came first. Laura went ahead and got a voucher for it just in case nothing else made it back to us. Then the 32 inch HDTV came by, and I got that one. The man in front of us, who'd driven an hour in the hopes of picking up a Dyson, got one and was so happy, it was a pleasure to just be in the company of someone radiating undiluted contentment. And then, tragedy!

"We are all out of laptops! The laptops are gone!"

So shouted the man no more than thirty people ahead of us. We'd waited in the freezing cold for hours what was essentially the middle of the night, and it was all for naught. As we walked to the line forming in front of the doors, a young woman asked if we wanted a voucher for the computer tower. Whatever. Fine.

Another forty-five minutes, and then the doors opened! I have never. It was I don't even. Like, literal thousands and thousands of people running, pushing, shoving, yelling, grabbing, blocking. I saw people knocked over. I saw someone climb on top of a pallet and start throwing digital picture frames to their family behind them. I had a cart run into the back of my legs so hard that I had visions of the Pamplona bulls. But Laura and I ended up getting all of the smaller items that were on our list: two $10 DVD players, a personal DVD player for Sarah for $40, $9 wireless headphones for Marshall, four pairs of earbuds for 97 cents, a rice cooker for $12, and an LED flashlight for a dollar. Then we stood in the voucher line.

Three and a half hours in line outside, now another hour in line inside. We called our parents, we talked. Mom and Dad wanted the HDTV, but didn't care about the Blu-Ray player, and neither Laura nor I wanted to get it, either, so she took off that wristband. We went back and forth, and decided that the tower was a really good deal. 6 gigs of memory. My laptop has 256mb, so that's 24 times as much. 640 gigs of hard drive space. My computer? Has 40. We had planned to pick up 1tb external hard drives to go with the new laptops, for $90, but 640 would be plenty. Plus, Laura already had a monitor, and we have two other extras floating around the house, so that wouldn't be a problem.

So we both got the desktops. $299, which was about $50 of retail. The more we talked about it, the more we convinced ourselves that this was a better deal both financially and in the long run than getting the laptops. By the time we were ready to check out, we were pretty psyched.

And then we saw the line to check out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Eating Lots of Food, Watching Random Marathons and Out-Of-Order Parts of The Christmas Story, Putting Up Christmas Decorations, Taking a Nap, and Occasionally Feeling Guilty For Not Remembering To Be More Thankful Day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

• I left my wallet and cell phone at home this morning. Good thing my van has a top speed of 40 mph!

• Today I had students named Oleg, Alejandro, and Paloma. Awesome.

• One of these days I'll sing for all of you my original pop hit, "Gotta Take Some Advil (Oh My God My Head)," recently composed in the kitchen.

• My grandpa's new dentures remind me of that scene in Dennis the Menace when Dennis replaces Mr. Wilson's front teeth with Chiclets.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

So it's been an interesting couple of weeks. On Sunday the 8th my parents went to Petsmart to buy a light bulb for my dad's aquarium. My mom moseyed over to the cat adoption room, and when my dad finally found her, they both fell in love with a six month old kitty. He was sweet and affectionate, and very pretty, but he also sounded sick, and we already had two cats at home.

When they came home and told us that they were very close to adopting him, I was heartbroken. All it took was a little bit of encouragement, and they agreed that if I paid the adoption fee, we could get him. So my mom called his foster mom, who wanted to keep him a few more days to get him better. We picked him up on Thursday the 12th. When we met at Petsmart, his foster mom told us that he'd been sick for a while - she actually brought him home from the Humane Society because he'd been sick with an upper respiratory infection and needed to get better. She assured us that he was almost over it, since she'd been giving him antibiotics. Just a cough and a little sneezing, but no mucus anymore.

She lied.

He got sicker and sicker, wasn't eating much, slept all day and night, and had very little energy, and so this past Tuesday my mom and I took him to the vet. She gave us a prescription for an antibiotic and injected him with fluids under the skin. I now believe that his foster mom either wasn't giving him an antibiotic, or was giving him the wrong dose or the wrong kind, because his recovery has been miraculous. The next day, he was running around and playing. Now, just a few days later, he's galloping up and down the hallway and leaping up the walls.

I would like to introduce you to the newest member of the family.



This is C. K. Dexter Haven. He's not scowling at you. That's just his face.

Monday, November 16, 2009

So it begins. This morning we got rain, then hail, then sleet. Thankfully it's been pretty warm, so nothing has really stuck, but still. Winter.

I actually don't mind the first half of winter that much. Thanksgiving and Christmas, pretty lights, holiday food - winter weather is just part of the package. January isn't so bad, either. But by the time my birthday rolls around in late February, I've pretty much had my fill. I am reminded of my first year in Austin. I expected hot weather in August, and even September. The first of October, the locals assured us that within a few weeks the temperatures would drop; I usually woke up in the 7:30-8:30 hour, and it was almost always in the 90s already that early. October came and went. "Oh, it'll cool down by Thanksgiving," they told us. I came back from Thanksgiving break to days still in the 80s quite a bit of the time.

After Christmas break? Still warm. Oh, it wasn't ungodly hot anymore, but a January in the 70s? Bizarre, and I actually kind of didn't like it. But then I thought about my sister, going to KU, routinely trudging through snow and ice on her way to class because they wouldn't cancel even if it wasn't safe for the buses to run. Then I didn't mind it too much.

The weekend of my birthday approached. Unlike my entire childhood, I would have a lovely, warm birthday. I would be able to go out, have fun, and I wouldn't have to worry about bundling up or dealing with icy roads.

February 25: It was about 25 degrees outside, and we got three inches of ice. In Austin, Texas. I think it was warmer in Kansas City.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Catherine's post on Lady Gaga's new music video - which I totally love, BTW - made me think about some of my favorite music videos over the years. I love videos. They're not as tied to narrative as the other major film forms, they can really experiment with a lot of fun things and actually be quite innovative, and finding ways to interpret a song is always a creative challenge that, when it pays off, is quite awesome. These are in no particular order.

Smashing Pumpkins - "Tonight, Tonight"

Gorgeous. If you're not familiar with this video and its iconography, this is based on the very influential George Méliès film "A Trip to the Moon" from 1902, generally considered the first science fiction film. The Smashing Pumpkins manage to perfectly capture the look of the original film while still making it work in video form - it's absolutely right for the song, as well.

Kenna - "Hell Bent"

The video was originally an Academy Award-nominated stop-motion animated short film, which was recut and used by Kenna a few years later. I would never have guessed, because it works with the song so seamlessly.

Sigur Ros - "Glósóli"

When you're an Icelandic band, all you have to do is point the camera outside for an amazing, scenic, epic video.

Radiohead = "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"

My favorite music video of all time. The black and white cinematography is unreal, the moving in and out of slo-mo within a shot, the jumping women and breaking glass - all of it, perfection.

Monday, November 9, 2009

There are many different ways to keep track of extended periods of time. The most common is the calendar year, which lasts from January 1 to December 31. Another is one's personal year between birthdays, commonly referred to as one's age. An important way to keep track of time for children and young adults is the school year, which is roughly synonymous with the TV year.

The most important way to keep track of time in this household? The college basketball year. From early November until, if we're lucky, early April, one or two times a week the heavens open and bestow upon us a Kansas Jayhawk men's basketball game. This basketball year looks to be a very promising one; we're the consensus number one team in the nation, we picked up one of last year's top high school recruits, and two of the players from our 2008 Championship team, who definitely could have gone into the NBA this year, decided to stay one more year. We had a lot of new players last year who were a little green, who have now had a year to settle in, gain some experience, and get used to playing as a team. It's a good start.

Sports, and in my case college basketball, can be a lot like religion. The only thing missing is that for the most part, sports don't answer any of life's burning questions like: Why are we here? How was this world created? What happens after death? But other than that, there are a lot of similarities. The team you root for depends a lot on where you're from and how your parents raised you. One of my earliest memories is jumping up and down with my mom and dad when KU won the National Championship in 1988. Things might change when you go away to college, and are introduced to new teams, maybe even different conferences, but it's hard to completely sever your ties with the team you grew up with.

There's an incredible sense of community. Even just watching the game alone in your home, you're connected with all of the other people watching the game. You know that you're cheering when they're cheering, groaning when they groan, screaming at the refs when they scream. Of course, you can always go to a sports bar or one of those restaurants with lots of shit hanging on the walls, or, if you're lucky, to the holy of holies itself, the actual game. In KU's case, Allen Fieldhouse. I've only been a few times, but I'm pretty sure the deep sense of awe and respect that suffused my spirit as I walked inside, found my seat, and then watched a game with 15,000 other fans, was not that much different from how people feel when they go to church.

Just like religion, you feel like your team is obviously and objectively the best. Everyone else who roots for other teams is deluded in some way. If they'd only sit down with you and listen, you could explain to them why KU is the best team. First of all, our first coach invented the game itself; he's like a prophet, bringing down a ball and a peach basket from heaven. And if someone disses your team? They're not just insulting the school, they're insulting you and everything you stand for.

Of course, like many religions, there are moments of clarity where you think, this is kind of strange. Why am I getting so much joy out of watching some strange boys play a game? But joy there is nonetheless, and that's what keeps bringing you back. There may be bad times, off seasons, blown second round games and overtime losses, but you know that deep down, the game will always be there for you, when you need it most.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New October Media

Books
42. Sixty Days and Counting, Kim Stanley Robinson. 10-4.
43. Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk: Growing Up in Polygamy, Dorothy Allred Solomon. 10-10.
44. How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, Adrian Goldsworthy. 10-16.
45. The Palace, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. 10-23.

Movies
54. She’s Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein (1999). 10-1.
55. The Haunting (1963). 10-17.
56. The Skeleton Key (2005). 10-23.
57. The Road to Dracula (1999). 10-24.
58. When A Stranger Calls (1979). 10-25.
59. The Phantom of the Opera (1925). 10-30.

Television Episodes
397. How I Met Your Mother - 2x01 - “Where Were We?” 10-5.
398. How I Met Your Mother - 2x02 - “The Scorpion and the Toad.” 10-5.
399. Heroes - 4x03 - “Ink.” 10-6.
400. How I Met Your Mother - 2x03 - “Brunch.” 10-6.
401. Heroes - 4x04 - “Acceptance.” 10-6.
402. The Office - 6x02 - “The Meeting.” 10-7.
403. Father Ted - 2x09 - “Cigarettes, Alcohol and Rollerblading.” 10-7.
404. Glee - 1x06 - “Vitamin D.” 10-7.
405. Father Ted - 2x10 - “New Jack City.” 10-8.
406. The Office - 6x03 - “The Promotion.” 10-9.
407. The Office - 6x04 - “Niagara.” 10-9.
408. How I Met Your Mother - 2x04 - “Ted Mosby, Architect.” 10-11.
409. Heroes - 4x05 - “Hysterical Blindness.” 10-12.
410. How I Met Your Mother - 2x05 - “World’s Greatest Couple.” 10-12.
411. Glee - 1x07 - “Throwdown.” 10-14.
412. How I Met Your Mother - 2x06 - “Aldrin Justice.” 10-15.
413. How I Met Your Mother - 2x07 - “Swarley.” 10-15.
414. How I Met Your Mother - 2x08 - “Atlantic City.” 10-15.
415. The Office - 6x05 - “Mafia.” 10-15.
416. 30 Rock - 4x01 - “Season Four.” 10-15.
417. Star Trek: The Next Generation - 5x16 - “Ethics.” 10-17.
418. Modern Family - 1x01 - “Pilot.” 10-17.
419. Star Trek: The Next Generation - 5x17 - “The Outcast.” 10-18.
420. Star Trek: The Next Generation - 5x18 - “Cause and Effect.” 10-19.
421. Modern Family - 1x02 - “The Bicycle Thief.” 10-20.
422. Modern Family - 1x03 - “Come Fly With Me.” 10-20.
423. Glee - 1x08 - “Mash-Up.” 10-21.
424. Modern Family - 1x05 - “Coal Digger.” 10-22.
425. Modern Family - 1x04 - “The Incident.” 10-23.
426. The Office - 6x06 - “The Lover.” 10-24.
427. 30 Rock - 4x02 - “Into the Crevasse.” 10-24.
428. Dollhouse - 2x02 - “Instinct.” 10-25.
429. Dollhouse - 2x03 - “Belle Chose.” 10-25.
430. Dollhouse - 2x04 - “Belonging.” 10-26.
431. How I Met Your Mother - 2x09 - “Slap Bet.” 10-26.
432. Father Ted - 2x11 - “Flight Into Terror.” 10-27.
433. How I Met Your Mother - 2x10 - “Single Stamina.” 10-27.
434. How I Met Your Mother - 2x11 - “How Lily Stole Christmas.” 10-27.
435. Father Ted - 3x01 - “Are You Right There, Father Ted?” 10-28.
436. Modern Family - 1x06 - “Run For Your Wife.” 10-28.
437. How I Met Your Mother - 2x12 - “First Time in New York.” 10-29.
438. How I Met Your Mother - 2x13 - “Columns.” 10-30.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween weekend was crazy! Sarah told me at the beginning of the week she didn't think she'd go trick-or-treating; she told me Thursday night she was. So I spent Friday running everywhere getting the components of her costume, which included buying pink netting at Hobby Lobby and making a tutu with Laura. She was having her friends over here, and I was going to drive them around Saturday night, so there was a lot of cleaning during the day. I also decided to make a cake and my mom wanted Halloween cookies, so in between cleaning, I also got to cook.

Oh yeah! And we carved pumpkins, too. (Click for full size.)



Guess who carved what for cash and prizes!



My amazing cake.



Sarah in the early stages of preparing. She had a moment where she could have chosen to go as a pretty, pretty princess or ballerina or something like that. Instead, she chose...



She's Old Gregg!



Yeah!



Sarah and her friends. That pirate outfit was crazy; she had pirate heads screwed into shoulder pads. Amazing.

And if you're unfamiliar with Old Gregg, as I might well imagine you are, here's a primer. I'd say he's Sarah's favorite non-regular TV character of all time; we've been hearing her say things in an Old Gregg voice for at least a year now. The show is The Mighty Boosh, arguably the strangest thing I've ever seen in my life.