Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stardate 60914.64 - USS Excalibur

As we approach Stardate 61000.00 (and the start of a new year), it is time for the annual explanation of how this blog got its name and the annual crew roster update.

In 1989, my college roommate, Cheryl Wimer, and I were sitting around watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS), and we started talking about what "our" ship would be like, if we existed in that "alternate reality". :-)

Before long, we were drawing up our crew roster, with our friends as the crew. During our tenure at Virginia Tech, we updated the roster each year. My friend James and I even wrote some "fan fiction" about our ship, which we placed in the time frame of ST:TOS. With my interest in fantasy, we decided to use the name Excalibur, which was actually a starship destroyed in a ST:TOS episode. We decided that we would be the new crew for the rebuilt ship.

Later, we decided to update the time frame to that of The Next Generation (ST:TNG), but we kept the name. Imagine our surprise when the Excalibur appeared in a TNG episode! So we have had to fudge our history a little, but we kept the name.

After graduation I continued to update the crew roster, adding and deleting people as friends and friends' significant others came and went. The core crew has remained on the roster, however. I even attempted to roughly follow the US Navy's time frame on promotions (thanks to Major Denise Donnell, currently of the New York Air National Guard and formerly of the US Navy, for technical assistance). As command staff (line officers) have reached the rank of Captain, they have been given their own command. So now there are several ships on the roster.

So here we are, 18+ years after the first crew roster was created, and I am still updating them (some would say I am still wasting my time, but I have to put that creative writing minor to some use).

So here is where you can find the latest roster - be advised that I do tweak the roster somewhat throughout the year, but the roster found here is the definitive roster.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stardate 60912.33 - Loren on Picture Day

At daycare it was picture day on Tuesday so we dressed up Loren a little bit, although with the scratch on her nose and her crazy hair we're not sure how they will turn out.

Additionally, Loren had her 1-year check-up this morning at the doctor's, and her measurements are:
  • Height: 30 1/2 inches - 85th percentile
  • Weight: 20 lbs 4 oz - 40th percentile

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stardate 60909.04 - Dumping 2.5 Men

I am finally going to have to dump Two and a Half Men from my DVR line-up. I have not been happy with the way this season has started (neither has James), and it seems to be getting worse, not better. Jon Cryer's character has gone from being the lovable loser to completely unsympathetic and annoying. With Charlie Sheen's character already the lovably unsympathetic one there simply isn't room for another. And Charlie's character has gone from being merely unsympathetic to downright cruel. Additionally, as Angus T. Jones has gotten older and his "small child cuteness" factor has diminished, he has been given fewer lines and less of a role and has just become a parody of the "fat loser kid" relegated to one-liners.

I don't know if the writers suddenly changed over, or if they felt that Alan Harper having a steady girlfriend was too upbeat for the character and they needed to completely change direction or what, but I felt like this season has been a real downer and just isn't that funny. Any trace of cleaverness has been replaced by crude sex joke after crude sex joke. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional crude sex joke just as much as the next guy, but you cannot build an entire episode where the only comedic moments are sex jokes only marginally related to the plot.

I feel a little bit sad because I've been watching the show since the beginning, and I was a huge proponent early on. But now I just don't enjoy it anymore, it is no longer funny, and I have other things I can be doing with that 30 minutes (or ~22 once the commercials are fast-forwarded out).

Two thumbs down (although, to be fair, Cheryl never really liked it before, but now she actively dislikes it).

If you want a really funny Monday night comedy, watch How I Met Your Mother. That is a very funny show, and gets two thumbs up from the Sawyer household.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Stardate 60906.65 - Unhappy

On a recent post, James commented:

I know I've commented on this before, but Loren sure does seem to be a happy baby. She always seems to be smiling.

That is because we don't post the tantrum pictures. Here are a couple unhappy photos to show you that while in general is she a very happy baby, she is most definitely not happy all the time.

Here latest trick is to lie down on the ground when she gets really mad, and go limp if you try to pick her up. I call it her "resisting arrest" mode.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Stardate 60904.67 - Movie Reviews

Cheryl and I saw two movies over Thanksgiving weekend, Murderball and Le Battement d'ailes du papillon (Happenstance).

Murderball was good. Very, very good. We both really enjoyed it. It is about world wheelchair rugby, and is a fascinating movie to watch. We highly recommend that after you see the movie, you watch the extra post-movie interview with Joe Soares - it gives you an extra dimension to his character, which comes off a little like the villain of the movie. There is a moment in the movie where he does something that makes you really wonder about his marriage, and he talks about it in the interview. Overall, outstanding movie, highest praise, two enthusiastic thumbs up!

In Le Battement d'ailes du papillon two people are destined to end up together after a brief meeting in the subway at the start, but the entire movie is all about the intersections of the lives of the people they encounter along the way. It is also very good (although Cheryl feel asleep about half-way through). It is in French with English sub-titles, in case that turns you off. It is a little tough in the beginning to see how everything interconnects, but by the end it is pretty cool how it all does. Amazing, how just the simple act of throwing a shoe in the street results in an inheritance for a loser (who has a bit of a redeeming moment at the end of his story arc). Thumb up.


Stardate 60903.54 - Getting Out of the City

On Saturday we got the car out again and drove out of Manhattan to do a little hiking and touring on a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the upper 50s.

The first thing we did was to stop at one of the scenic view points along the Palisades Parkway.

We are always in a hurry or on some type of schedule when we drive up the parkway, but Saturday we were not so we stopped for a short time.

Loren enjoyed running around in the grass for a bit, and the stop we were at had quite a nice facility with a place to get diner-style food and clean restrooms.

Second, we went to Manitou Point Nature Preserve to do a small hike.

This hike was on a narrow trail right on the edge of the Hudson River. Could this be a Numen spotting below?

We had the place to ourselves, and Loren fell asleep in the backpack about half-way through the hike. The National Headquarters for Outward Bound is located here in a gorgeous home with stunning river views. If I had all the money in the world I might like to buy a place like this to get away from it all (as long as it had a deep-water dock for my sailboat, which is high up on the list of purchases for when I win the lottery!).

After the short hike, we continued on to Beacon to go to the Dia:Beacon modern art museum. They have taken a large manufacturing plant and turned it into a huge modern art museum, capable of displaying immense works of art. Loren did alright in the place to start, but then started getting loud and complaining so we had to cut the visit a little short. Cheryl thought that the red berries on the trees in the parking lot, contrasted with the blue sky, made for an interesting look so I snapped a couple of pictures.

The trip back was easy (except for the normal backup transitioning from the Harlem River Drive to the FDR), and we were happy to be back home after a great day out!


Friday, November 24, 2006

Stardate 60898.81 - Thanksgiving

With the rain and wind we decided to move Thanksgiving to NJ on Thursday, rather than have everyone try to drive into the city. Cheryl's parents hosted the event, and we had good food and a good time. We left early in the morning to beat the traffic and got out there by 1000 on Thursday, and we left about 1000 this morning to come back. Loren is still fighting this cold, so her face still looks bad. But the pictures were just too cute not to post (even with the bad-looking chapped skin!).

We decided to go to the Central Park Zoo this morning once we got back into the city, followed by a quick trip to a playground for Loren to run around. She seemed to really, really like the zoo - especially the children's zoo with the petable animals. The goat she is petting is a nubian, the type we had on our "farm" growing up.

And she liked looking at the monkeys, even if they were far away from where we were standing.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stardate 60890.69 - Dollar Coin

One of my platform issues for when I am elected President is the elimination of the dollar bill. It looks like the US Mint is moving a little more quickly on the issue. Why a coin? "The changeover to coins could save the Treasury an estimated $500m a year because they last up to 40 years, compared with just 18 months for notes."

Now if I can just get the country to go metric...


Stardate 60890.21 - Loren's Snowsuit

Since today was in the 30s, we decided to put Loren in one of her snowsuits this morning for the trip to daycare. She has had a cold for 5 days or so now, so her nose and chin are a little chapped.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Stardate 60887.18 - Date

Cheryl and I hired the sitter for Saturday night and went out on our first "date" in months. As much as we love Loren, it is nice to occasionally go someplace for dinner that doesn't tolerate Cheerios on the floor!

We went to Crema in Chelsea for dinner, selecting it due to its proximity to our after-dinner entertainment. It is French-style Mexican, which I think means "expensive" Mexican. The food was pretty good, but it isn't worth a special trip to Chelsea just to go to this place - not when we have a perfectly good expensive Mexican place right around the corner from us (not to mention 879-Taco, which has excellent, cheap Mexican food). And I am the only person who chokes a little bit when I have to pay $12 for a mixed drinks? Anyway, the food was tasty and the drinks were good and it was a special occasion so overall 2 thumbs up on the restaurant.

After dinner we went to the UCB Theatre for a comedy show entitled Mother: The Soundtrack. People bring in iPods and music on CD for the group, and they perform improv based on an audience suggestion for their first act, and then improv based on the supplied music as soundtrack for their second act. "Mother uses your CD's and Ipods as inspiration, spinning your music collection into a wicked web of stupid-smart insanity," according to the web site. The show was pretty good, but the problem with a lot of improve is that it is inconsistent. Clearly, their better stuff was generated based on the music, but even then there were some parts that were just not that funny. We enjoyed the show, but I don't think we need to go back to see it again (which many people apparently do). It was pretty cheap as two tickets were just $16.

Now here is my gripe for the evening (which will probably be longer than the rest of the post). The UCB Theatre has an awful method for the ticket process:
  1. Use the web site to "reserve" the number of tickets you want
  2. Line up outside while you wait for the earlier show to end
  3. Proceed down some steep steps into the 20x20 "lobby" to the ticket window and purchase your tickets.
  4. Proceed back up the steep steps, go outside, and get in line again.
  5. Go back down the steep steps, past the ticket window where you just purchased your ticket, and enter the theatre to take your seats.
This process is not well-explained by the employees, and since the doors were opened into the theatre most people got their tickets and proceeded into the theatre as step #4 instead of going back outside. This lack of proper procedure really set off some of the workers who started almost yelling at the customers to get out of the theatre as "we have to close these doors before we can let you in!" Huh?!?

Here is my suggestion, good people at UCB. Don't let anyone in at all until you are ready to seat them for the show. That way, people buy their tickets and immediately take their seats, rather than having to go back out-side and line up again, only to go back inside 5 minutes later. This process annoyed me (big surprise!) and didn't exactly set the mood for a humorous show. And for the record, lots of people in line were complaining about the process (not just me!), and one person even sarcastically said, "At least they were nice about asking us to leave!"

Even with the ticket unpleasantness, the overall date got two thumbs up. And icing on the cake was that Loren was sound asleep when we got home.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Stardate 60882.01 - New Look

I recently upgraded to the beta version of blogger, and so far I am pretty happy with the changes. I now get the title of the post along with the poster's name and comment in the e-mails sent to me every time someone leaves a note (previously you only got the comment and trying to figure out which post he/she left it on was somewhat of an exercise in futility). As part of the upgrade I also upgraded the template, and since I was never really happy with the font before, I took this opportunity to completely change the base template. Let me know what you think.

And since Andy asked in a comment about why a certain picture wasn't posted from the birthday event in NJ, here it is. The lesson is - be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Supplemental - Loren's Close Up

We have a utility loaded on the home computer that scrolls through pictures as the background image, changing them every 8 hours or something like that. The picture above (which is from a trip to a Central Park playground a few weekends ago) was the background when I booted up this morning, and the more I looked at it the more I liked it. I'm not sure if it is the close-up, or her expression, or what - but I thought it was pretty cool. So I decided to post it this evening.


Stardate 60879.78 - New Home Office

As I may have mentioned earlier, we finally turned the study (my home office) into Loren's room last Friday. This transformation required finding a new place for my office. We debated using the dining room, the part of the living room near the windows (furtherest away from the door), and a corner of the bedroom. We finally settled on the bedroom. We just didn't want to give up our "formal" dining room, and the thought of moving all the living room stuff down 10 feet was not appealing - plus my work area can get a little cluttered at times and having that clutter in the middle essentially of our living room was not appealing to Cheryl (or to me).

What we didn't realize was how painful moving the desk would be. I think moving the entertainment center in the living room would have been easier! At its narrowest point the desk is 29", and the doorway out of the study...I mean, Loren's room...and the doorway into the bedroom are both about 28.5". So it took some creative twisting, lots of grunting, and some swearing to get it first out of Loren's room and then secondly into our bedroom. But we were successful in the end, our marriage survived the experience, and after some re-arranging of furniture my new set-up was complete.

It is a better than the study in that I now face out a window both from the desk and my small table. I also have much better light with both a Southern and a Western exposure (we are on the SW corner of the building). We plan to replace the round table with an actual computer desk so I can use the actual desk for writing and stuff, but we first have to decide what type of computer desk to purchase - and for some reason we tend to take a long time to decide on that stuff.

Regardless, I've been in the new set-up for a week, and I am pleased with the arrangement - and everyone who knows me knows that it is all about me. ;-)


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stardate 60877.06 - Fat Cats

I haven't posted a picture of the cats recently, and I decided to do so after someone recently looked at Magic and said, "This one is pregnant?"

Since Magic is a neutered male, that is unlikely.

I think they are just getting older (Magic is 6, Squirt is closing in on 11) and less active. And with Loren, we haven't really had the spare time to force the cats to exercise around the apartment.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stardate 60874.03 - Birthday at Daycare

We had a small party for Loren at daycare Tuesday afternoon, and with this event I think the birthday season is officially over for Loren.

Loren watches while we work with the teachers help get things set up.

Loren checks out the birthday table.

Here is "Lady Loren" at the head of the table.

Loren receives her birthday cake (but she still doesn't know how to blow out the candle).


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stardate 60871.86 - Video of Loren and her Cake

Here is a video of Loren on her first birthday and her birthday cake. She doesn't quite know what to do with the candle.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Stardate 60868.61 - Happy Birthday Loren!!

It was Loren's First Birthday on Saturday, so we had a party for her here in NYC and also on Sunday out in NJ at Cheryl's parents' house. Loren got all kinds of great clothes and toys and stuff and seems to love it all! Thanks to everyone who was able to attend one of the events! In the photo above she is opening her presents from me and Cheryl first thing Saturday morning. I haven't posted many of the pictures yet as I wanted to get this post up (since I haven't posted since Thursday). I'll post more pictures and the story of our flat tire adventures tomorrow.

Here is Loren's birthday cake at home.

Here Cheryl helps Loren to open presents in NJ.

Loren received a Winnie the Pooh robot doll that is supposed to speak her name, let her know when events appear on her calendar, and many other things. But first I have to program him, and I haven't gotten a chance to do that yet. But Loren liked just carrying around the silent (for now) bear.

Loren's Great-Grandmother created a cat cake for the party in NJ.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stardate 60857.68 - Humor on Dilbert Blog

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has a blog that he updates almost daily. If you read it, you see that he is a sick, sick man - but in a good way. I will warn you that Dilbert is quite tame compared to some of his blog entries. His entry today actually made me laugh out loud. I suggest you check it out, and if you like the entry I suggest you start reading his blog. It is on my must-read list.

The set-up for the blog, in particular, reminds me of John and his need for special drinks when on travel. Imagine my surprise when John's entry today is focused on one of his special drink needs!


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Supplemental - Rumsfeld Resigns

The news just keeps getting better:

Worst case, the Senate is now split 50-50. With a Webb victory in Virginia (which we may not know for weeks) the Democrats will have taken control of Congress. Time will tell if they can actually do something, or if they will just fall on their swords.


Stardate 60854.28 - Election Results

"The core of America is not racist. It is not hostile to women. It is increasingly offended by gay bashing. Yet it abhors government waste. It believes strongly in fiscal responsibility such as balanced budgets. It is pro-economic growth. It is concerned about the environment. It is intolerant of people on welfare who disdain the notion of work. But it wants poor kids to have school lunches and it wants to spend money to have good schools. In sum, most Americans are sensible, good-hearted, and prudent. The issue, then, is whether there is a political party that can welcome them home."
—Senator Paul Tsongas

I'm a pretty happy guy today. Although I'm registered as an Independent, I do tend to lean Democratic (at least until we get a real Moderate Party with actual candidates established nation-wide). And I think the current administration is arrogant, unaccountable, stubborn, and without the ability to admit mistakes. I think the Iraq war was poorly conceived and poorly executed, and the administration lied to (or at a minimum extremely misled) the public to push it through. Perhaps with the Democrats in control of at least the House (and maybe the Senate?) there will finally be some accountability.

What the Democrats need to do now, however, is to be a force for positive change and not just be the anti-Bush party (although I think the Democrats had such huge gains because the public - rightly or wrongly - lumped all Republicans together with Bush and expressed their frustrations by voting against them as a unit). It will be a short-lived victory, however, unless the Democrats can get some things accomplished over the next 2 years.

Last night I heard someone in the administration talk about non-partisan unity. I think the last time we heard that language from the administration was during the Presidential elections 6 years ago. Anyone remember "I'm a uniter, not a divider"? Well that turned out to be wholly inaccurate. Perhaps now the administration will be a little more inclined to listen to the other side.

Bush had a tremendous opportunity with world opinion on our side to do some good, and Afghanistan was an excellent first step. But Iraq was not a good second step, and he squandered all that political capitol, while North Korea went on to build their nuke.

"To be locked into partisan politics doesn't permit you to think clearly."
—Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

I've voted for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Greens in the past. But yesterday there were no "X"s beside any Republicans on my ballot. Yes, I lumped the lot of them in with Bush, and while that was probably narrow-minded of me, it was my way of sending a message to all of them - if you continue to play partisan politics, blindly support Bush, and side with the religious right you will never have my support - or any other moderate.

I'm tired of the world thinking we are all a bunch of arrogant asses. I'm tired of this poorly executed war in Iraq. I am tired of the Republicans believing they are the party of God and all liberals are heathens. I'm tired of the Republicans saying they are the only party that can protect this country. I'm tired of the Republicans thinking they are the patriots and Democrats want to destroy this county.

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the right."
—Senator John McCain

I'm not sure if this election can truly change the state of the world, but it certainly should be a wake-up call to the Republicans to get their act together.

And I'm disappointed in both parties for the extremely negative campaigns. For example, George Allen in Virginia slamming his opponent Jim Webb for the fictional novels he has written? Without actually having read any of them? Both parties were guilty across the country.

I'll leave you with one final quotes (although I'm sure the hard-core Republicans have stopped reading by now and are posting flaming comments), and then I'll get off my soapbox.

"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all."
—Thomas Jefferson


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stardate 60851.81 - Elevator Woes

We have three elevators in our 17-story building, two regular passenger elevators and one service elevator. There are rules about not taking pets or laundry or large packages on the passenger elevators (which everyone seems to ignore), and rules about delivery staff always using the service elevator (which everyone seems to obey, except for food deliveries). One of the two passenger elevators was recently taken out of service for about 2 weeks for maintenance.

On Monday, I went down in the elevator to get the mail (we live on the 14th floor). A woman got on at 10, but proceeded to hold the door as she was getting on so she could yell at a child (I assumed she was a nanny) to go back inside his apartment. I could hear another woman (I assumed she was the mommy) also yelling at the child. This entire encounter took probably 30 seconds, but meanwhile she was holding up the only functional passenger elevator, and wasting my time. Finally the Mommy seemed to have control of the child so the nanny finished stepping on and released the door. And then she pressed 9.


That’s right! She held up the elevator, wasted my time, and all so she could go down one floor. I was so close to saying something to her in the typical NYC passive-aggressive manner, but I refrained.

The elevator continued down to 3, where it stopped and two people got on. At first I thought maybe they were tired of waiting and had pressed both the up and down arrows to ensure they'd get a car. But alas, they pressed 1. Now I have to tell you, if I lived on the 3rd floor and one of the two elevators was out of service, I’d be taking the stairs. In fact, I'd probably always be taking the stairs whenever I was sans stroller. Thanks to the nanny on 10, they probably waited longer for the elevator to get to them than a trip walking down two flights of stairs would have taken. Again, I was so tempted to say something like that to them, but I refrained.

What’s wrong with people?

And P.S., here is your reminder to go vote today.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Stardate 60848.83 - More Photos from the Park

On Sunday I took Loren over to Central Park again, but this time to the Billy Johnson Playground. It was not as toddler friendly as the E 72nd Street Playground (which is where we were on Saturday) as it was much more concrete and rocks and cement and not the soft type of asphalt they had at the other park. There were also more older kids running around at this one. Loren still seemed to have a lot of fun, and especially enjoyed the slide and just running around in general.

Sunday was also the ING New York City Marathon, which we luckily avoided. We were a little worried because for breakfast we went over to the new Le Pain Quotidien on First Ave, and we had to cross Second to get there and the runners come up Second Ave. Luckily, we'd finished breakfast before the first runners arrived on Second and we were able to cross the street with no problem. Le Pain Quotidien is an outstanding place to eat, by the way, and if you ever visit us in NYC you should remember to ask us to take you there for breakfast or brunch. The bread basket is not to be missed, and easily feeds 2 people for the entire meal.

The playground was close to the finish line (close enough I could hear the cheering and applause) but not so close as to cause any problems (other than larger than normal crowds in the park).

Since I didn't have Cheryl with me (she was off looking for a winter coat for Loren) I didn't take the camera. Juggling Loren and the Camera seemed to be a bad idea. So here are two pictures from Saturday that didn't make the cut for that posting.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stardate 60845.94 - Central Park Playground

We went to Central Park on Saturday to get Loren some fresh air and sunshine.
We spent some time letting her run around the East 72nd street playground.

She loves the slide and really shows no fear as she just climbs over everything.

Here is a brief and probably boring video of her on the tire swing.