Friday, October 28, 2005

Stardate 59823.69 - Ethan and Ellie

Since Steve (brother-in-law) complained that in the next post the picture of the entertainment center (which Cheryl and Andy [other brother-in-law] and I finished back when Cheryl and I lived in Vienna, VA and Andy was co-oping at my company and was staying with us)...and now I've lost my point. Oh, yes, Steve was complaining that there were no framed pictures of Ellie and Ethan (his kids) on the entertainment center. I had to tell him that the picture of the entertainment center is about 2.5 years old and therefore could have no pictures of his kids on it as they weren't born yet. Other clues that the picture is old include the VCR, the fact that the cable box is not a DVR, and the 900MHz cordless phone in the corner. Also the DS9 DVD box is out, and I finished re-watching all 7 seasons of DS9 about a year ago.

To make a long story even longer, in order to make Steve happy I've posted a couple of pictures here of me and Cheryl with Ethan and Ellie when we were visiting on vacation a couple of months ago (pictures are from a park in Salem, OR). Now you, faithful reader, can click on the link over on the right to go visit Steve's food blog where you can learn all about where and what to eat in Salem.

And here is your subliminal message to go buy a copy of Aidmheil.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Captain’s Log Supplemental – What I’m Watching

For some reason, my friends are under the impression that I watch a huge amount of television. That is incorrect. I watch an hour a day, on average, which is far less than the average household in America (the average household logs an average of 8 hours and 11 minutes per day – don’t these people have jobs?).

Here is what I am watching, and if I am watching it, it must be good. And if I am not watching a show you think I should be watching, then you have to tell me what show I have to drop in order to keep my average quantity of TV constant.

Two caveats…I do not include the news or The Daily Show in these totals. I consider the news to be “free”, sort of like celery when you are on a diet. Also, I don't watch re-runs, so while the list below looks to be more than 8 hours per week, usually enough shows are in re-runs so that the 8 hour per week average is maintained.

Oh, and the DVR…greatest invention…ever.

Family Guy – I still think the first season is the best, but I continue to watch. It was at its best when Stewie was trying to take over the world.

Deadwood – If you can get past the profanity, it is actually a pretty good story with really good characters. Short seasons however, and often in re-runs.

West Wing - Watched it for a while, then got out of it, now watching it again.

How I Met Your Mother – Rapidly becoming my favorite comedy.

Two and a Half Men – Was my favorite comedy, but How I Met Your Mother is currently beating it out.

NCIS – The Navy version of CSI.

Lost – If you don’t watch it, you don’t get it. And if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.

Law & Order – These usually sit on the DVR until a night with all re-runs and then we watch them.

Survivor – My guilty pleasure.

CSI – My father-in-law got me started watching this show, and I really enjoy it.

Battlestar Galactica – Greatest show on television, but it has really short seasons and they are sporadic.

((Cheryl watches What Not to Wear, her guilty pleasure, but I usually do not, or I am reading or something else while it is on.))


Captain's Log Supplemental - Work Baby Shower

Cheryl's office threw her a baby shower on Monday (she is the one on the left!) so I thought I'd put up a couple of pictures here. My recent posts have been picture-free, so I felt it was time to add in some pictures. Tomorrow is her last day in the office, as she is required to begin maternity leave 2 weeks prior to her due date. Monday is her first day of leave. Then she gets to experience spending all day in the apartment with me while I telecommute! I have a feeling I'm going to be banished to the study with the door closed. Cheryl doesn't seem to like my teleconference voice (too loud!).

Captain's Log Supplemental - Aidmheil

I know I keep pimping for Jessica Stover's soon to be published book, but since she takes the time to actually respond to my illiterate e-mails, the least I can do is point a few people over to her site.

Aidmheil can be purchased here.

Stardate 59820.44 - While the King is Away

Here is a little more of my writing. Started this a couple of years ago and have not gotten back to it yet.

While The King is Away…
A Forgotten Realms Novel

© 2004-5, Curtis M. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved


Vangerdahast, royal mage of Cormyr, looked wearily at the piles of papers still on his desk. Glancing out of the window, he noticed that the sun was setting over the capitol city of Suzail in a spectacular display of reds and oranges. The clouds looked like feathers, he thought, as he set his feather quill down onto the table and reached for a glass of wine. The glass was just hidden between two precariously stacked mounds of papers and scrolls. Affairs of state sat heavily on his shoulders that day, as they had for the week prior. Vangerdahast did not relish the monotony of dealing with these magical issues. He had a staff for that effort, and besides, he felt he was getting too old for it. Not that he looked his age. Vangerdahast had been King Azoun IV’s personal tutor when the King was but a child, and the King was now a man of more than 60 winters. It was rumored that Vangerdahast was more than 100 winters old. Yet, he looked barely as old as the King.

It was his staff that had caused the current situation, he mused; specifically, two inexperienced apprentices who had permitted official matters for his office to accumulate like snowflakes—slowly at first, with a piece of paper here, a scroll there, and suddenly a blanket of papers covered their desks. Now Vangerdahast was sweeping up their mess. For two straight days he been working his way through the drift, and as the stacks of paper melted away he vowed to never again hire on children of friends without references.

Returning the wineglass to its place, Vangerdahast picked up the next piece of paper. It was a copy of an adventuring party charter from the city of Arabel, marked with the seal of Baron Thomdor, the Warden of the Eastern Marches, and cousin to the King. Vangerdahast took notice that it was dated more than a year prior. Vangerdahast silently shook his head. The further he worked his way through the documents, the older they became. This particular matter should have been resolved at least a year ago! He quickly scanned the document. It was an adventuring party charter renewal.

The military history of Cormyr had long been one of guerrilla ambushes and running skirmishes, with its army only conducting set piece battles outside its borders. The Court was thus very sensitive to the presence of armed people within the kingdom. Lawless freeswords could not operate within Cormyr. Mercenaries couldn’t gather, while armed, in groups of more than five in any place save public markets or inns and taverns. Violators faced immediate disarmament, forfeiture of goods, and imprisonment at the hands of the local watch or soldiers of the king. The exceptions to this decree were when such fighters were operating under hire; under contract to someone authorized to hire them as caravan or warehouse guards, or as bodyguards; or by permission of the King. Save in times of war, permission of the king was granted only in the form of a royal charter.

“Renewal of the Adventuring Charter of Damage Inc. Be it known that the group formerly known as the ‘Knights of Mistmore’ is now incorporated into the adventuring group known as Damage Inc., with locations in the Thunder Peaks and the city of Arabel.”

The document continued by listing the names, experience, and professions of each member. There was also a notation, marked with another seal, indicating that the renewal fee had been collected. Vangerdahast recognized the names of both groups, as well as several individual names. They had been involved in several high profile events in Cormyr over the years. One of their early exploits had been to rid the city of Wheloon of a force of evil lizardmen, set to invade from The Vast Swamp to the south of the Thunder Peaks. They had also acquired a fair amount of power and wealth, and they now occupied a formidable keep in the Thunder Peaks on the eastern border with Sembia when not adventuring or hanging around Arabel, where they also owned property. He also knew that several members were all but retired; however the actively adventuring individuals were still powerful and numerous—even more so now.

Vangerdahast rubbed his chin and took another sip of wine. Two strong groups were now one. He was slightly concerned about the power Damage Inc. now commanded. There had been an incident in Arabel a few years back, he recalled. The Red Wizards of Thay, and evil organization seeking to dominate the land one kingdom at a time, had taken an interest in the group when they thwarted one of that organization’s plans for Cormyr. According to the telling by Damage Inc., they had been ambushed by Red Wizards to the north of Cormyr. The Red Wizards were defeated, but their leader escaped. One member of Damage Inc., a rash young wizard named Niteshade, was almost killed. While looting the bodies of the mercenaries, Damage Inc. had taken a powerful magical sword. Damage Inc. then continued on to Arabel. Unknown to them, the leader of the Red Wizards returned with a cleric and raised his troops from the dead. The lead mercenary took his troops to Arabel to retrieve his sword. They found several members of Damage Inc. in a tavern and challenged the keeper of the sword to a duel outside the city gates.

Several members of the city guard overheard this conversation, and they made sure that the ruler of the city, Myrmeen Lhal, knew about the duel. She arrived with a score of soldiers prior to the duel, and demanded fair play by both sides. The duel had taken place, and the mercenary leader was victorious. Since this outcome had not been to the liking of Damage Inc., they had rashly attacked the mercenaries. A terrible battle had ensued outside the gates of the city, and it was all Myrmeen Lhal could do to reestablish order afterwards. As punishment for their egregious violation of Arabel and Cormyrean law, she had sent Damage Inc. to the north on what she considered a suicide mission to defeat a blue dragon. They had killed the beast without losing a single person, however, and returned with the head to Arabel, delivering it personally to Lhal herself. Damage Inc. was almost so strong that if they decided to cause problems, nothing short of a party of Vangerdahast’s war wizards could stop them.

A second paper was attached to the first. Vangerdahast flipped to it. It was a complaint sworn out against the group by Baron Thomdor. One of their wizards had apparently forgotten to register his personal symbol with Vangerdahast, as required, upon reaching a specific level of mastery. The individual named in the complaint was known as “Misery” and he was actually quite delinquent, having surpassed the required skill level a significant time period ago. Apparently Misery had not been in Arabel for some time, and no action had been taken on the warrant. Vangerdahast was not surprised that no one from Arabel had been sent into the mountains to speak with Misery personally. The Keep was not in the safest location, and Damage Inc. may have simply refused to open the door.

A thought occurred to Vangerdahast and he quickly rifled through another stack of papers he had set aside to deal with later. When he found the one he wanted, he pulled it into the light. The city of Valls in the Duchy of Arcata was looking for adventurers to solve a little problem. That Duchy was once part of a Kingdom known as Damara. Their neighbor Vassa had invaded and the land was now fractured, consisting of autonomous duchies and baronies paying an oppressive tribute to Vassa in order to ensure some level of peaceful existence. He smiled to himself. Yes, this would do nicely.

Pleased with his decision, he once again brought the glass of wine to his lips, and relaxed into his chair, placing one foot against the corner of the desk. His dark cloak draped to the floor. He could finally envision an end to the mountain of paperwork on the desk, and he had deduced a method of sending a very powerful group of adventurers and potential threat to the Throne far away from Cormyr. He gazed out at the approaching darkness; the courtyards below were already in deep shadow. He briefly closed his eyes.

King Azoun IV swept into the room, trailed by two guards. He was a regal figure, still very strong and impressive regardless of his age, with a long purple robe trailing slightly behind him. He wore a beard, and his brown hair was shot through with silver. He was clothed in a white shirt with the Cormyrean coat of arms occupying most of the front and purple trousers. He was wearing low, soft boots. He smiled when he saw the wizard with his eyes closed.

“Taking a break, Vangey?” he inquired playfully. Vangerdahast scowled, but only to himself. This pause was the first time all day that he had stopped to admire the view out over the castle and courtyards below. Of course the King would choose this minute to stop in. Vangerdahast stood, pulling his cloak around him as a cool breeze wafted through the open window, and briefly bowed to his King and friend.

“Never again, your highness, will I trust to children what should be handled by men.”

The King smiled. “Almost out from under it?”


Azoun looked at the remaining papers rather doubtfully, but accepted his royal wizard and personal advisor’s assessment of the situation. “Anything else while I am here?”

Vangerdahast smiled. “Actually, yes. I think you know of an adventuring party we have had some help from and trouble with in the past, called Damage Inc.?” The King nodded and Vangerdahast continued. “I believe I can get them out of Cormyr and into a place where they are no threat to the Throne and might actually be able to do some good.”

The King raised an eyebrow. “Were they really ever a threat?” he inquired.

“Not to the Throne, but they could have easily taken any of our smaller outposts, if they had decided to.”

The King now frowned. “Would they have attempted it? I was under the impression they were mostly loyal to the throne?”

Vangerdahast nodded. “They were good at heart, I believe, and had actually helped Cormyr in many areas, but the group tended towards rash acts. They were somewhat unpredictable, and followed their own moral code, which was not always in conformance with Cormyrean law.”

The King chuckled. “What do you intend to do with them?”

“Send them to Damara, or at least, what is left of Damara.”

The King nodded. “Sounds fine. I’m never thrilled about a group of high level adventurers running around Cormyr, deciding when and where to follow the law.” The King thought for a few seconds, and then slowly nodded again. He felt good when a decision had been made. Better to decide and act wrongly than to delay, he believed. Vangerdahast ‘s mission, according to Vangerdahast, was to make sure the King acted correctly. “Let them go to Damara. At worst, Vassan forces will kill them. At best, perhaps they can be a thorn in the Witch King’s side.”

Vangerdahast smiled. “I agree with your assessment of the worst case. But I would not recommend underestimating this party. They may yet surprise us. And the Witch King as well.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Captain’s Log Supplemental - Friends

I have not put much of my writing up here, not that I have much writing just sitting around waiting to be published. Although I do feel like I should remind everyone that I am indeed published, as I contributed a chapter to this book and actually received a royalty check and everything. Anyway, this is mostly self explanatory. I will issue a quick caveat – I don’t want anyone reading this and then calling me up trying to save me from my depression. Some of this was written for effect, and when I write stuff like this it tends to come out darker and more depressing than I really feel about the subject matter. So don’t panic that I am in some type of funk. And anyway, I wrote this months and months ago.

Oh, and speaking of publishing books be sure to go out and buy Jessica’s book.

And now, I bring you a piece of melancholy writing I did one rainy morning…


I woke up at 4:30 AM the Friday morning after the Friends finale, dreaming of the characters. I’m not sure if it was the thunderstorm, the rain, or the end of the show that caused my melancholy and inability to return to my slumber that morning. Had the end of a sitcom affected me so? Why? Perhaps it is because in these uncertain times, with the hunt for Bin Laden still underway in Afghanistan and soldiers dieing every day in Iraq, Friends was an escape, something that could always be counted on to be there…until now.

I am not a big fan of change. I was deeply saddened when The Far Side and Bloom County ended. They are both associated with my college days, so that their end was a portent of the end of my youth. I was devastated when Calvin and Hobbes vanished. These comics were such a part of my everyday life that when they ended, they left a void. And while Bloom County has been partially resurrected as Opus, it isn’t quite the same (and don’t even get me started on Outland). I miss them all they way you might miss a friend who suddenly moves away. And Friends is not the only show I have spent time with that is ending this year. Frasier and Angel are also bidding us farewell. With so much change and uncertainty in the world, I like my television to be an escape from that change, not to reflect it.

The finale of Friends was quite an event for many people of all ages. I was at a They Might Be Giants concert a few months ago and they commented that every time they perform their audience seems to be the same age, i.e. it is getting younger all the time. It is weird to think that teenagers who are now hooked on Friends and lamenting its end were 5 or 6 when it started. I didn’t even watch the first season myself until it was in re-runs. And even though the show had fallen off my radar over the past year or two (Joey’s accidental proposal to Rachel was the final straw – how long and how many bizarre situations can they use to keep her and Ross apart?), it was nice to know that it was there for me, should I wish to return. And return I did, for part of this season, and for the finale. I looked forward to it, and to seeing how things would indeed end. I was not disappointed. Unlike the end of Seinfield, which left me cold, Friends left me with a warm feeling – Ross and Rachel together, Chandler and Monica with twins, Phoebe married, and Joey getting a spin-off. It was nice to know that things had worked out for the group, although it is always sad when friends move away. For as much as I am not a fan of change, I am a fan of closure.

Maybe I see somewhat of a parallel of my life over the past couple of years with the end of Friends. I lived and worked in the metro-DC area for 9 years before I moved to New York City in November 2001. My wife got a position with the United Nations, I felt I had hit a wall at my job, and so we moved. I continue to work for the same employer back in Virginia, telecommuting from my apartment and flying down frequently – I figured it would be a temporary arrangement, but as I mentioned, I don’t like change. This month I will have been at the same job for 8 years, 2.5 of them from NYC. Because my work and my friends are still in that area, I have not had much opportunity to meet people here in the city. Unlike the characters in Friends, I like in an upper-East Side apartment building where people share the same elevator without speaking. My work requires a lot of travel, and so when I am in town what I really enjoy is spending time with my wife and our two cats. While some of our friends and relatives are somewhat local (NY State, Connecticut, NJ, and Philly), and some are scattered across the country (Oregon, Texas, Ohio, and California for example), most of my friends and family are back in Virginia. So perhaps I subconsciously see the ending of Friends as the ending of my life back in that state, much as in the same way the end of Calvin and Hobbes signaled the end of my college days. Perhaps that is the reason for the melancholy.

I feel a little betrayed by Friends. They promised “to be there for you” and now they are not. I realize that life moves on, the only constant is change, and nothing is forever. But ten (or nine) years is a long time to spend with something, someone, or someplace that is suddenly no longer there. I know that one cannot live in the past, although with Friends by the season on DVD we can certainly visit it. I am sure that another show will catch my interest, the way Sherman’s Lagoon and Get Fuzzy now entertain me from the comics’ page, or the way a bike ride in Central Park has supplanted biking on the WO&D trail.

But a new show can only succeed Friends, it could never replace it.

Stardate 59818.04 - Hotel Rant

Here I go, complaining again.

In the past 4 years I have spent a lot of time in hotels. Although my travel schedule has slowed down recently (especially the international travel), I still spend a lot of time going back and forth to McLean for work. I have stayed at everything from the Ritz to Howard Johnson, and many places in-between. Right now, I am at one of those in-between places, the Doubletree. This is a hotel that I have never really been happy with, but they have a corporate rate that is within the per diem for this geographic location ($159).

The Doubletree is pretty mediocre, and I almost put it on my “no-fly zone” because their normal rooms don’t even have closets. They have this odd piece of furniture when you come into the room that is a small built-on closet like piece of furniture that says, “this is a cheap room!” Now, $159 per night is a lot of money to pay, in my opinion, for a mediocre hotel room. But amazingly I have stayed at Hilton’s and Hilton properties (like the Doubletree) so often this past year that I achieved “Gold” status in their club. So just as I was about to stop using the Doubletree, I hit gold and the next time I checked in they put me on the special floor for gold and above members, and the room was so much nicer than their normal rooms! It had a real closet! And a nicer bed! And nicer furniture! So I decided that I’d keep using the hotel.

Now you may find this hard to believe, but I get pretty aggravated if things don’t go smoothly when I’m staying at a hotel. Especially when I have hit their higher level status in their little clubs – if they want my loyalty, they need to keep me happy. The last time I stayed here I had my card key fail on the last day. It just stopped working. And of course it was about 11 PM, and I had my suit on a hanger and my laptop and no hands free and it was incredibly annoying to have to drag everything back down to the front desk to get a new card. Now that may seem a minor inconvenience, and indeed it did not stop me from using the hotel again (on my present trip).

But today they have me a crappy room. Not only did it smell like body odor, but it was on their normal floor. Crappy furniture, crappy bed (I didn’t even get a King like I requested), and no closet. My clothes are hanging out for anyone to see. And I’m too passive-aggressive to go back down and demand a new room once I have checked in (unless the room smells of cigarette smoke…for that I will demand a new room). And I am just staying the one night.

So I have to say, it is no-fly zone time for the Doubletree. Not sure where I’ll go now, as I don’t like the Holiday Inn (only $159 but really, really cheap furniture) and the regular Hilton seems to have a rate that keeps creeping upwards (about $179 these days). The Ritz is my favorite, but it is very hard to get an inexpensive rate there.

There are just so many business travelers that they can charge whatever they want for bad service and still remain fully booked.

Ok, end of rant.

Oh, and do yourself a favor and go buy Jessica's book.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Stardate 59812.7 - For Your Reading Pleasure

Some of you may be paying attention to the short list of blogs that I have links to over in the right-hand pane on this page. Some of you may realize and/or recognize that the list is full of friends, relatives, and some relatives who are friends. :-) There is also a link on there to Jessica Stover, and probably no-one knows why that link is there, since she is not a relative and none of my friends recognize her as part of that elite group (most of my friends know most of my friends...I'm a big believer in cross-pollination). And anyway, it seems a little presumptuous for me to call her a friend as I've never met her in person, we've never hung out, I don't have her IM address, and we've only chatted via e-mail.

I put it there because I think her blog is great, and I really enjoy reading it. She also is quick to respond if I drop her an e-mail, which either means she has way too much time on her hands, or she doesn't get much e-mail these days. It certainly is not due to my razor sharp wit or stunning good looks. Regardless, I feel way cooler when I see my name up on her blog, like I did when I contributed (pretty significantly, if I do say so myself [pats self on back]) to a story her readers were writing as a group. (Now you have to look through the comments to see my name, but believe me, I was in an actual blog entry before the story was finished!)

My point is, she has published a book, just in time to stuff your stocking. I've ordered one, and I recommend you do, too. If it is anything like her blog, it is going to be entertaining. And it may even tell you why Ninjas are better than pirates.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Stardate 59803.74 - Going for a Flu Shot

I usually do not get sick. I catch the occasional cold, but seldom do I ever get on-the-bathroom-floor-in-front-of-the-toilet sick. That type of sick has happened I believe twice in the past 15 years, and both times was due to food poisoning. So, confident in my constitution, I have never in my 36 years ever gotten a flu shot. But with a baby on the way next month, Cheryl's doctor and the hospital childbirth class instructor both recommended that Cheryl and I get flu shots this year. Luckily, the local office of my Firm is having a health fair today to include flu shots. So I am off to get my very first flu shot this morning.

Now to give you conversational whiplash: Cheryl and I saw the Wallace & Gromit movie a couple of weeks ago and we both give it two big thumbs up. Way up! Great movie. Highly recommend it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Stardate 59792.81 - New Look

We've purchased some new rugs for the apartment, and we finally got them all into place on Saturday. Here is the new, red carpet for the living room. It is much more plush than the jute rug we had in here before, and therefore much more appropriate for a baby to crawl on. Right now we have a little too much furniture in here, but we plan to move the yellow butterfly chair and its ottoman out and into the study/kid's room once we get the old futon out of there (now scheduled for this Sunday). We also just ordered a cotton rug for the study, so we'll finally have to roll up the Noah rug we bought at my cousin's gymnastic auction years ago. It might make a nice wall hanging but it has to get cleaned first.

We moved the jute rug into the bedroom under the bed, and we also purchased a new bedspread that seems to go pretty well with the rug. The wall hanging Cheryl brought back from South Africa a few years ago when she was there for business. We threw out the old carpet, which we had purchased back when we were in the house in Virginia.

We have a new carpet for under the dining room table as well. Magic had really adopted this carpet and spends a lot of time on it now, under the table.

And here are the cats, just hanging out in the living room. They usually don't get this close to each other, so this is an unusual pose.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Captain's Log Supplemental - DS9 and Lesbians

I got an e-mail from today that read in part:

We've noticed that customers who have purchased Star Trek Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season also purchased The L Word - The Complete Second Season on DVD. For this reason, you might like to know that The L Word - The Complete Second Season will be released on October 25, 2005 on DVD. You can pre-order yours at a savings of 41% by following the link below.

I didn't know DS9 fans were also fans of lesbians (not that there is anything wrong with that). A friend pointed out that perhaps this is due to the DS9 alternate universe "leather Kira" character.

Stardate 59785.11 - Baby Names

People keep asking us about what names we have selected. Cheryl has been very hesitant to actually produce a list, as people are free with advice before you actually assign the name to the child. No-one thinks twice about telling you that your name is crap before the birth, but people generally bite their tongues after the name is actually affixed to the child. So while we have a few names bouncing around, we're keeping them to ourselves until the big day.

But we will have our name finalized by the time we need it. In our child birth classes at NYU Medical they said that if you do not have a name when they are completing the paperwork that they officially name your kid "babyboy " or "babygirl " and that you have to go to court to have it legally changed. So that's a deadline we won't want to miss.

Relative: "What a cute baby girl!"

Me: "Exactly".

Relative: "What's her name?"

Me: "Babygirl".

Relative: "Yes, the baby girl"

Me: "Exactly but no 'the'".

Relative: "Nothee? That's not her name, is it? What's her name?"

Me: "Babygirl".

Relative: "Of course the babygirl, who else would I be asking about?"

Me: "Babygirl".

Relative: "Exactly, what's the babygirl's name?"

Me: "Not what, babygirl".

Relative: "The name!?!?"

Me: "Babygirl".


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Stardate 59782.14 - Cats in the Cradle

Well, in the car seat more specifically. We received the car seat as a gift yesterday, and almost as soon as I had it out of the box Magic decided it would make a nice bed for him. So I turned around from digging the instruction manual from the plastic bag and there was Magic, ready for a ride! He was too cute not to take a picture.

It has been a damp, cool, rainy, miserable couple of days. I had a dentist appointment yesterday and had to come home in the worst possible rain. I had an umbrella, but by the time I got from Lexington (my dentist's office is in the Chrysler Building - how cool is that?) over to First in front of the UN (for the bus) I was soaked from the thighs down, and my back had soaked through my jeans jacket, my long sleeved shirt, and onto my t-shirt underneath. I was damp and miserable when I got home. I put on sweats and socks and slippers and a warm shirt for the rest of the day. I think we are not supposed to see the sun until Saturday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Captain's Log supplemental - New York Annoyances

We have a great apartment for NYC, but I do have a few complaints about it. One of the blessings and curses is that we are on the Southwest corner of the building, both with southern exposure down second avenue and western exposure down 66th. We also live about 7 blocks north of the Queensboro Bridge, so we do get a lot of traffic and traffic noise heading for the bridge (the windows are not too soundproof).

Now, I've been up at 0330 before, and I was up at 0330 this morning. For some reason, maybe because it has suddenly gotten colder in the apartment, the cats were up at 0330 and decided it was breakfast time. Usually I ignore them and manage to get them to back off until the alarm sounds, but due to getting home late last night from the class I planned to sleep until 0700 and I did not want to get woken up again at 0600 (normal alarm time), so I got up to feed them. Usually things are pretty quiet at that hour. Sunday mornings, in particular, are pretty quiet for the city.

But what did I hear this morning? Loud truck horns...repeatedly and of long duration. For God's sake, it was 0330! There was no fracking traffic on the road! Why the hell would someone sound their horn for 20 seconds at 0330?!?

I tell Cheryl at times like this I want to mount some type of large bore weapon on our balcony and blow these early morning noise sources away.

Stardate 59776.63 - Breastfeeding Class

Cheryl and I went to a 3+ hour breastfeeding class at NYU Medical Center last night. First observation - there were a lot more husbands there than I was expecting. I thought I'd be the only guy there, but there were 6 couples and then three women without husbands (one of whom had been in our classes over the weekend). The information was really good, although I have found these nurses to be a little militant in their approach to this information. We were told, for example, to take our What to Expect The First Year book and cut out the entire chapter on breastfeeding and throw it away. I now plan to read it extensively to see why it is so "wrong" and out of alignment with the course we just took. The NY Times recently did an article about the What to Expect... books and the nurses both over the weekend and at the class last night took great pleasure in bringing up that article and how "it explained that the What to Expect... books are just wrong!" Well, I disagree. That is not what the article said. The article's main point, I believe, was that the old What to Expect... books did not cover all these low probability issues and problems that people can experience, and all of these mothers complained about how their specialty issue wasn't covered so now the books have swung in the other direction and they have information on every single possible thing that could go wrong...and some mothers are frightened by the information. I don't think the point is that these books are wrong, but the nursing staff seems to feel that they are next to useless. I disagree, and so do all the other mothers in my family and across my friends.

Regardless of that factoid, the class was highly enjoyable and quite interesting. They did spend too much time selling us on the benefits of breastfeeding, as everyone there was already convinced of the benefits. But we did learn how to get the little one to latch on and lots of other information and the instructor even gave everyone her home number in case anyone had any issues after the birth - I though that was a nice touch.

So we gave the class a resounding thumbs up...we just didn't like getting home after 10 PM.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Captain's Log supplemental - D&D Movie Review

I watched the D&D Movie on SciFi over the weekend. I had low, low expectations as the D&D Movie that was released in the theater several years ago sucked, sucked, sucked in a huge way. I was somewhat surprised in that the movie on SciFi was ok. Not great, but not awful. The special effects were what you would expect for a TV fantasy movie, and the acting was below average to average. For D&D fans, it is probably worth adding to your TiVo or DVR and watching when you are sitting around looking for something to do. I doubt I'll be getting it on DVD.

The biggest coolness factor with the movie is that it actually used monsters and character classes and races from D&D. Everything from a litch to magmen to orcs to elves were in the movie. If you looked closely you may even have caught a halfling or a dwarf in the background on a couple of shots.

And now, a warning. The start is very lame as the bad guy recounts his own history, motivations, etc. Very boring and not a great start at all. It is the same actor as the #2 evil guy from the first D&D movie. The rogue is one of the best characters in my opinion, and yet as an actor I think this is his first effort...there is nothing on him on IMDB.

Stardate 59773.76 - Baby Class

Cheryl and I spent most of the weekend in childbirth classes at NYU Medical Center. We went over everything from breathing during labor/delivery to bathing the baby to breastfeeding. Tonight we have an intensive breastfeeding class for 3 hours. I wish I had brought the camera as all of the life-like dolls lined up for us to practice bathing and diapering on looked quite freakish all lined up on the table. There were about 16 people total in the class and we even got to tour labor/delivery and the floor where you go once everything is over. I think Cheryl knew most everything they went over from all the reading she has been doing, but some of it was new to me. Getting the outfit on the doll with all the snaps and everything was hard enough...I'm sure it will be even more painful on an actual, moving child. Overall, it was beneficial and I'm glad we did it. With all the emphasis on the fact that 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after your due date is considered "on time", Cheryl and I began to get nervous about our lack of baby supplies. While we got a bunch of stuff at the shower, and we have purchased some items on our own, we are still short several critical the mattress for the crib. I think this weekend we are just going to have to go and purchase a bunch of stuff off the registry, just so we are ready.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Stardate 59763.45 - Squirt is Back Home

Squirt is back home and doing well after her visit to the vet yesterday. Turns out her broken fang had started to get infected, so they pulled it and went ahead and cleaned her teeth. Now she has to go back in a couple of weeks for a checkup. We also have to give her antibiotics twice orally for the next ten days. It went alright this morning, but I'm not looking forward to doing it twice a day for the next 10 days. She is not exactly cooperative about being held and having liquid squirted down her throat.

Cheryl and I have our accelerated childbirth class this weekend, all day Saturday and Sunday. Should be good. I think we learn stuff like diaper changes and probably pain management for the actual birth. I believe Cheryl is ready to just be done, but she still has 5 weeks to go. And the weather has been so hot and humid in the city these past few days. I think it is supposed to get cool this weekend, but it is also supposed to rain all weekend.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Captain's Log supplemental - Crib and Cats

I mentioned (I think) that the crib arrived and we put it together. We still need to get a few things for it, like a mattress, but it looks pretty cool:

Squirt had to go to the vet today for a dental cleaning. She also chipped one of her fangs about 6 months ago or so, and the vet wanted to take another look at it. Turns out it was starting to get infected, so he had to remove it. Also turns out that her teeth were fine so no dental cleaning was necessary. I guess that is the price you pay to keep healthy cats. We got her just after we were married so she is approaching 10 years of age. I have to go pick her up from the vet this afternoon after she has recovered. Here she is in her usual pose on the couch.

And ever since we got the new rug for the dining "room", this has become one of Magic's favorite poses:

They have very, very different personalities. Squirt cannot stand anyone but Cheryl or me, while Magic always enjoys being out and about when we have people over. The doorbell rings and Squirt heads for under the bed, and Magic trots over to the door to see who it is. And we have had Squirt since she was a tiny kitten, so I'm not sure why she is so afraid of everyone but us. She will occasionally come out for a quick visit as a party is dying down, but will make a hasty retreat if anyone moves suddenly. And no-one but Cheryl and me can touch her. Anyone else gets a whack from her right paw (or both front paws if they persist). But she is very nice and sweet and loves to sit on our laps in front of the TV or on the bed (especially in winter).

Cats are cool. My sister has dogs, which is fine on her mini-farm, but cats are cool for the city.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stardate 59758.11 - Command Center and Shower Pixs

For those people who wondered what my at-home work environment looks like, here it is. Here is the "Captain's Ready Room". And apparently I had just eaten something, as evidenced by the plate on the chair. Actually, that is Magic's chair. He has shredded it so much, and it is so old and has lost so much cushion, that I don't use it anymore. He sits in it next to me while I work.

He are Cheryl and me at the shower her parents' threw for us in New Jersey.

And here are Cheryl, Monique, and Denise (with baby Alison). They were all housemates on "S" street in Georgetown when they were getting their undergraduate degrees there. Monique is an attorney in DC now, and Denise is a Major in the Air National Guard.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Stardate 59752.5 – My Review of Serenity

A very brief history. Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel had a very brief series on television called Firefly. It was a space western, and was quite good. For a variety of reasons discussed at length elsewhere, it was cancelled after 11 episodes. When the DVD went on sale, it also included a few episodes that never aired. The DVD sold beyond anyone’s expectations, and so a movie was green-lighted. Serenity is that movie, picking up shortly after the final episode of Firefly. If it does well, there are supposed to be 2 sequels lined up. Serenity opened on 30 SEP 05.

Quick note to parents...there is a lot of violence and I don't recommend the movie for young children. The reavers are pretty terrifying.

Here begins the spoiler-free review. I’ll give you fair warning before I discuss any spoilers.

I agree with Entertainment Weekly’s review and give the movie a “B”. If I have to give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, Cheryl and I give it thumbs-up. It was good, but it was not fantastic. I know that a movie treatment of Serenity must by definition be different from a weekly TV show, but I was still disappointed here and there. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Characters Were Marginalized – This is the same issue that Star Trek: The Next Generation had when they moved to the big-screen. Only a few characters “led” the movies while the rest were relegated to bit parts. The same thing happens with Serenity. The Captain is clearly leading the film and the “main” character, while some of the other characters seem to get little to no screen time at all.
  2. The Tone Was Too Serious – One of the advantages of a TV series is that you can do silly episodes, funny episodes, and serious episodes all in the same month. In a movie, you have to stick with pretty much one tone for the entire feature, and Joss went with a serious tone and plot. I found myself missing the silliness of some of the episodes.
  3. Character Romantic Interaction Was Brief – One of the great characteristics of the show was the interaction between characters. The relationships between Mal and Inara, between Simon and Kaylee, and between Zoe and Wash were intricate and deep in the TV show. Some of these were explored in the movie, but it felt too much like Joss was trying to wrap up some things too quickly in case there are no more movies.
  4. Character Interaction Was Brief – The characters had great non-romantic interactions in the TV show. Lots of witty banter and discussions were exchanged, and there was nothing greater than seeing them all sitting down to eat together on the ship. There was such a feeling of comradery among the crew, even when some of them were at each other’s throats. That feeling is missing from the movie.
  5. General Sadness – Watching the movie reminded me how truly awful I felt as I watched the DVDs for the first time and realized that I could not get any more of Firefly because there was no more…4 DVDs were it. On about disk 2 I realized what a great show it was and truly what fantastic potential it had for a long run. And I felt awful. Seeing it on the big screen was great, but it made me realize again that I might be seeing the last new Serenity material. There may be 2 more movies, but there may not. And even if there are two more movies, that will be it…the end. It will never be a TV series again. And that made me sad.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a great experience and any fan of Science Fiction or of the Firefly series should see this movie. It really is quite good. But I was such a huge fan of the series (on DVD) that I wanted the greatest experience ever…and I was a little let down.

Alright, now I am going to drop a couple of spoilers. So stop reading right now if you haven’t seen the movie yet.










Couple of minor things first…I never really understood from the TV series that all of this takes place in a single, gigantic solar system. I assumed they were traveling between solar systems, but the movie makes it clear that is not the case. Weird, since they had to have the technology to travel between solar systems in order to get there from “Earth That Was”. So did they just turn that technology off? Lost of unanswered questions there. And my wife, who is a demographer, pointed out that an entire planet of 30 million people dieing would be noticed. You just cannot buy off that many relatives and friends to keep it quiet. Especially since it took place relatively recently. Very implausible.

Now for my biggest complaint. I should have known as soon as I heard that “some” of the cast had signed on for the sequel, coupled with Joss’ propensity to kill off main characters, that there would be some main character deaths. And I figured out pretty early that Shepherd Book was probably going to be killed. He wasn’t on the ship at the start, and it seemed pretty far into the movie before we saw him and his role was very brief. So I was not surprised when he was killed. I was disappointed that we will never learn his true history and his relationship to the Alliance, and I did like his character. So I was a little angry, but not surprised during the movie when he died.

What I was not expecting, and what I am still fairly pissed off about, is that Wash was killed. His relationship with Zoe was a great relationship. The way they felt about each other was very evident during the TV show. It was not as evident in the movie early on, and only once he was killed did the audience see how much Zoe cared for him (but see my “Character Romantic Interaction Was Brief” comments above. I also loved this character…he was great comic relief and I am so, so, so mad that he was killed off. I couldn’t quit talking about it at dinner afterwards with Cheryl. An entire TV episode was devoted to working out the Mal – Zoe – Wash triangle (Mal and Zoe weren’t romantic, but the military relationship was as deep and maybe deeper). I felt like that entire episode was a waste, as if Joss went back and erased one of the very few episodes that even exist!

I guess deep down I always held out hope that the movies would do well and that they’d go back to a TV series one day. But with Book and Wash dead, that hope is now dead. Firefly will never be back, and that makes me very sad.