Monday, December 31, 2007

Stardate 61999.57 - USS Excalibur

It is that time of year again, when I post the crew roster for the USS Excalibur (and other ships) and explain how this blog got its name, why I have stardates in all the titles, and in general what it all means.

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 friends as our crew. During our tenure at Virginia Tech, we updated the roster each year. My friend James Fitzgerald 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 the "official" history a little to make it line up with the "history" as we were currently writing it, but we kept the name and the ship the same.

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 where there was originally only one (the Excalibur), 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 for those who are interested, here is where you can find the page with this information, the history of the ship, and the latest roster. I think a couple of more people made Captain for 2008, I mean 2385, and now have their own ships.

Enjoy! Happy New Year! Peace and long life!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stardate 61996.85 - Last Post of the Year (Probably)

Saturday we stayed pretty close to home, but on Sunday we went to NJ to visit with Steve and Rachel and Ethan and Ellie (and Cheryl's parents). Cheryl's parents caught something from all the family togetherness and were not feeling well, so after using their place to meet up we left for Longstreet Farm. We've been there before, and before, and before. It is a nice location for the kids to run around outside, and is close to Cheryl's parents' house.

We then met Cheryl's parents at Macaroni Grill for lunch. Ethan's hair-trigger vomit reflex was "on" and he threw up once between bread courses. Not to be out-done, Loren managed to give us a concussion scare, combined with a voluminous vomit episode.

What happened was that she fell out of her chair pretty hard and landed flat on her back. We didn't think she hit her head (Cheryl was actually worried about her shoulder being broken), but when Cheryl picked her up Loren had a very loud, hysterical, gasping for breath crying episode, which then resulted in her throwing up all over Cheryl and herself. It was quite spectacular, and happened in waves so we ran out of restaurant napkins to contain it.

Then, after Cheryl settled her down Loren started to fall asleep sitting up in her chair. It was really bad after Cheryl and Rachel got her cleaned up and changed into new clothes. Even though she was an hour past nap time and might have just been really tired, I also know that vomiting and passing out are two signs of a concussion so I went into full panic mode.

We ended up calling our doctor on the way to the emergency room at a nearby hospital, but the on-call physician at our pediatrician's office said to let Loren nap and wake her up in an hour. He said if we had trouble waking her up or if she was behaving oddly to take her to the ER, but not to do it right then. So we aborted the hospital trip and instead diverted to home. As it turned out Loren woke back up when we put her in the car and stayed awake for a good 30 minutes before falling back asleep again and sleeping the rest of the way into the city (with a 40-minute backup at the tunnel it took us almost 2 hours to get home, when it is normally around 75 minutes).

We woke Loren up after an hour as we were crossing Central Park and she seemed fine, and she has seemed fine all evening--even eating dinner and asking for milk. So we think the vomiting was a combination of being really tired and the shock of the fall and the hysterical crying that followed. And all that activity just wore her out and combined with missing her nap just made her exhausted and so she fell asleep (she never "passed out" as even asleep she was resisting me taking her milk cup away and resisting being picked up).

So that was a nice scare for the afternoon, and I think next time we'll just let Ethan win the vomit contest. :-) Here is Loren at the resturant, pre-fall.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stardate 61987.50 - Christmas, Part Four

After we opened gifts on Christmas we went outside where it was pretty balmy and took some pictures of Loren and Ellie in their matching outfits.

For lunch we went to Cheryl's Grandmother's condo at the beach, and somehow managed to cram 15 people into her place. It got pretty warm in there, and at one point I propped the front door open to get some air moving. While Loren napped (it was a very late nap) we played the game Apples to Apples, and Cheryl's Mom won the game barely fighting off a last-minute surge from Cheryl's Dad. Apparently we never took the camera out, however, as we have no pictures from lunch.

Once Loren was up we drove back to NYC, and Cheryl went back to work on Wednesday and Loren went back to school. Uncle Andy and Aunt Jen came into the city on Wednesday and after a visit to The Met came down to our place for dinner. Cheryl cooked up some chicken and the same Gorgonzola salad that was such a huge hit at Thanksgiving. They went back to NJ Wednesday night so they could get in some more visiting with Steve and Rachel Thursday morning before heading back to the Northern Virginia area. We're supposed to get together with Steve and Rachel and Ethan and Ellie again before they head back to Arkansas, but I'm not sure when.

I had planned to work half-days this week, but with new DVDs to watch and things to do around the apartment (like un-decorate the tree and post Christmas photos to this blog) I've taken more Paid Time Off than I originally planned. But things are really, really slow at work right now (most people are off until the second or third of January) so it isn't a problem. I do have some things I must get done this week before our vacation starts in early January so I have a feeling I'll end up working a full-day tomorrow. Not that I would put anything off until Friday.


Stardate 61987.48 - Christmas, Part Three

Christmas morning we had to wake up Loren as she didn't fall asleep Christmas Eve until after 10 PM. So around 7:30 AM we all got up and went out to open our stockings. We all got some good stuff, and Loren especially has been playing with a fishing game every day since Christmas. Of course, on Christmas day she had a lot of fun just playing with Bill and Carol's birthday balloons and the old pirate ship from their basement.

After Church we waited until Steve and Rachel and the kids arrived to open the presents under the tree.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Stardate 61985.05 - Borat

Cheryl and I stayed up way too late and watched Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan last night. It was pretty damn funny. There were a few scenes where I was cringing (one in particular), but in a good way. This is one where the DVD extras have the potential to be as funny as the movie. We recorded it off of Cinemax HD, but may still get the DVD through NetFlix just to watch the extras.

In a nutshell, this is a spoof documentary where Borat (of Kazakhstan) visits the US to learn how we do things, and as part of that experience they set up meetings with real, actual people and groups who are not in on the joke. Hilarity ensues.

Two thumbs up.


Stardate 61985.00 - Christmas, Part Two

On Sunday we had Cheryl's Aunt Janice and Uncle Steve over. They live in California and were out for the holidays and wanted to spend some time in the city. So after some sight-seeing in the rain, they came over (our first guests in the new place!) and we spent some time visiting and then we all went out to dinner at Bistro 61. That place never disappoints! Steve and Janice had the Mussels and Fries, I had the burger, and Cheryl had another seafood dish. I cannot remember which one it was, as I was reading to Loren when she ordered it. Loren did pretty well for a "long" restaurant trip--usually getting one slide of pizza is the limit of her restaurant tolerance. Steve and Janice then returned to NJ after dinner.

On Monday we drove out to NJ to Cheryl's parent's place. Bill and Carol's tree is in the photo above. Cheryl's brother Andy and his wife Jen put a huge amount of effort into a meal Monday night to celebrate Bill and Carol's 60th birthdays (and for the usual Christmas Eve celebration). We had 20 people over at Bill and Carol's, so handling dinner for that crowd was no small feat. We contributed a couple of dishes, but Steve and Rachel were delayed by a day on their flight out, so they were not able to make the dessert as planned (Andy and Jen had to make an emergency run out for a replacement). So a big shout-out to Andy and Jen for a job well done!

The event went very well (much better than two Christmases ago as no-one ended up in the hospital this time), and there was plenty of food and dessert. We opened gifts with the aunts and uncles and cousins, and then had dessert.

Loren particularly liked her cupcake.

We spent the night in NJ, and the next post will talk about Christmas morning.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stardate 61976.37 - Children of Men

Cheryl and I watched Children of Men last night. In a post-apocalyptic world only England has any sense of normalcy (aside from violently deporting all aliens), while fertility has dropped world-wide to zero. Let me say up-front that I have not read the book upon which the movie is based, but the movie was not great. It didn't have enough action to be an action movie, but it wasn't cerebral enough to be a thinking-man's movie. Apparently it was intended to be a criticism of the US and President Bush specifically, but that criticism was far too subtle to truly be effective (or even noticeable most of the time).

Cheryl and I also didn't like the fact that the apocalypse was never explained. There was a 10-second news program you glimpsed that had names of places (like New York) with pictures of destruction (like a mushroom cloud over Manhattan) but nothing more specific, and nothing on why England was apparently spared. I realize that the world-wide destruction may have been secondary to the fertility story, but if you have a movie where the world has pretty much ended I want to at least know what happened.

To me, it was too slow to be an action film and too subtle and vague to be a commentary on society. Cheryl (and I) went in with high expectations based on reviews (and the subject matter is highly relevant to her work), and the movie didn't live up. We will, however, probably read the book now.

Two thumbs sideways (Cheryl even said maybe three-quarters up).


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas, Part I

We had our first installment of Christmas today. This morning we opened the gifts sent from Virginia by Curt's family so that Loren will have time to enjoy them before we take her away to New Jersey on Monday. She got lots of nice clothes (that she couldn't care less about, but I appreciate), books and toys. In the picture she is playing with a huge Dora coloring and sticker book, and wearing a Crayola backpack full of drawing supplies.

Today was kind of a lazy day around the apartment, other than a trip to the Container Store to get some organization ideas. Curt didn't blog about a major milestone we reached this week: all of the major furniture pieces we ordered--bookshelves, sleeper sofa, dresser and nightstands -- have arrived, and on Thursday Curt unpacked the last box that was sitting out visible in the apartment. This is not to say that we are fully unpacked -- there are still a few boxes in the closets, our bedroom has suitcases stacked in it, and the closets are still pretty disorganized because we were throwing things into the closets just to get them out of boxes. Hence the trip to the Container Store. But we no longer have to look at any moving boxes, and the kitchen, living room and Loren's room are really starting to come together. After the holidays we will shop for a TV stand, armchair (or two), and counter stools. My new favorite furniture store, Room & Board, has their annual clearance sale starting on the 26th, and I am looking forward to seeing what will go on sale.

Tomorrow some of my relatives will be coming into the city, assuming they don't get scared off by the monsoon rains in the forecast. Then Monday we go to NJ for my family's big Christmas celebration, which this year will also be a 60th birthday party for my mom and dad.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stardate 61965.61 - Improvements

John took the Christmas Tree picture (without the flash) from my entry here and lightened it up to make it look better. I just prefer natural light over the flash, but I don't have the time to go back and tweak the pictures after I take them. So I put up the best, unadulterated photos on the blog, but sometimes "the best" are still not that great. But I think John improved the picture.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stardate 61963.09 - Fruit!

Nana and Kracker sent us a bunch of fruit for Christmas, and Loren loves fruit! She wanted pear AND apple AND orange the other night when Cheryl offered her some for a snack.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Stardate 61960.95 - Loren Sings

Loren has been singing a lot recently, so I tried to capture a video of her singing. For some reason this afternoon she only would sing if the piano was playing, so we have here a cacophony of Loren's singing and the Fisher Price piano in the background. It isn't even that great of a video, but her singing is really cute and I wanted to post something today.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Stardate 61954.19 - 300

Late yesterday afternoon and last night (while Cheryl was out celebrating her birthday with her co-workers and I was home on Loren duty), I watched 300. I thought it was ok. Almost the entire movie was filmed in front of blue/green screen in a studio, and the surroundings and effects were pretty over-the-top (similar in some respects to Sin City). But, since it is based on a graphic novel that didn't bother me too much. I had pretty low expectations, so I guess I was surprised to some extent. However, this movie is really just a lot of combat. Sure, there are some other plot threads that make a token appearance, but in reality this is just one big battle. Not a great film, but if you just want to sit back and watch a lot of over-the-top fighting you will probably enjoy this.

Thumb sideways.

P.S. I watched most of it before I picked up Loren from daycare, and the rest of it after she went to bed.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Stardate 61951.51 - Christmas Tree

On Sunday we walked up a few blocks to where we've purchased Christmas Trees in the past and got a tree. Loren was very interested in helping decorate for about 10 minutes, then lost interest. She also has really gotten into hats recently, telling Cheryl and me we "need a Santa hat!" or "need a cowboy hat!" In one of the pictures below she is wearing her cowgirl hat.

And here is a funny story from the other day. Loren was playing with her doll house and she said, "The Daddy speaks Spanish! Vamanos! Lets Go!" She then jumped the daddy across a peg board Nana and Kracker gave her, counting in Spanish, "Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro, Cinco, Seis!"


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stardate 61948.8 - Saturday Activities

On Saturday we took a subway ride down to SoHo to look at furniture. We got there a little before the store opened, so we stopped for a quick bite. We complained about the prices until the food arrived. Loren's croissant was huge! And she was interested in my chocholate muffin as well! And tried to steal it!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stardate 61946.26 - The Iron Giant

I watched The Iron Giant over the past few evenings. I thought it was pretty good, although I think some of the themes (the red scare, the hysteria following the sputnik launch) will probably be lost on children. And this is a children's movie. Other than the killing of a deer by hunters, there really are no other deaths in the movie and the hero is a young boy. Essentially, the Iron Giant crashes on earth with no memory and the befriends the boy. There is a constant struggle to keep the giant fed (must eat metal) and hidden from the Government agent sent to investigate.

I don't think this one did very well at the theater, and maybe it was because of the time it is set in. Children may just not "get it". The humorous thing to me is that it could be set in present day and the subtext would be just as impactful. For a movie released in 1999 its lessons are very timely in this post-9/11 world. Perhaps if it had been made just 2 years later and set in present day it would have been more successful.

Thump up.

Approved for the kids.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stardate 61943.85 - Miami Vice

I was not a fan of the TV show Miami Vice when it was on back in the 80s. Everyone was watching it, everyone in High School was going on and on and on and on and on about how good it was--and all that hype made me really NOT want to watch it.

I did, however, record the movie Miami Vice on the DVR and watched it over the weekend. In a word: awful.

As far as I could tell it bore no resemblance to the TV show, except for the main two characters having the same names as the TV characters. Now, I only watched a handful of the TV episodes, so I could be wrong here but I doubt it. The characters here didn't even act like their TV counterparts. This movie could have been called something else entirely and it wouldn't have mattered or been noticed by anyone.

The characters were poorly done, with very little historical information to establish their credibility. Am I to expect that two Miami cops have more experience dealing with drug runners than the FBI and a joint task force? Am I to believe that a joint task force in Miami on drug runners didn't involve the Miami police? Am I to believe that the Miami Vice unit has the funds to purchase cigar boats and private planes and enough guns to make the Terminator jealous? That's just crazy-talk.

I watched it to the end, but I didn't enjoy it. I found myself just waiting for the inevitable ending where the bad guys would get theirs.

Thumb Down.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Stardate 61940.56 - Daddy's Boots

When we get ready to leave (and sometimes when we first get home) Loren wants to wear "Daddy's Boots!" Much to the annoyance of our downstairs neighbors, I'm sure, she puts them on and then walks around the apartment.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Stardate 61939.38 - Loren's "Boat"

When we purchased our new Panasonic 42" flat panel plasma HDTV for the new place, it took me a few days to get rid of the box. At some point Loren became interested in the box, and wanted to play in it. I put the bottom part on the floor and told her it "looked like a little boat". She spent the next two days spending all of her time at home in the box, wanted to be read to "on her boat". She didn't even watch a Dora episode for 2 entire days! She wanted to play "in the boat"! Of course, now I have a huge box that I'm not sure how I'm going to get rid of...maybe she'll lose interest soon.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Stardate 61933.48 - Loren at Daycare

Here are some pictures of Loren at daycare that they recently sent to us.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stardate 61929.58 - Trip to the Aquarium

The Saturday before we moved into the new place we went to the New York Aquarium. Earlier in the fall we joined the Central Park Zoo (actually the Wildlife Conservation Society), and our membership also includes the Aquarium and provided us with some free parking passes so we drove out to Brooklyn for the Aquarium and lunch.

For the first time the TeleNav software on my phone let me down - I punched in "New York Aquarium" and it was trying to send me to some other place, but not the actual Aquarium. Luckily, Cheryl remembered the exit numbers from the last time she was there (high school?) and other than one wrong turn trying to get into the parking lot we got there without incident. We used TeleNav to return and she took us on the scenic view through Brooklyn back to Manhattan. At one point on the return trip Cheryl pointed to a building and said, "That is where my friend Inna's family lives!"

The Mommy Walrus had recently had a calf, so the walrus tank was a big draw (not that the place was crowded, it was in fact pretty empty).

For lunch Cheryl picked Totonno's Pizza, which is pretty highly rated. Loren was at the end of her patience, so it was not a particularly pleasant meal for us or the people around us (it was empty when we arrived, but about 50% full by the time we left) but the pizza was good.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Stardate 61927.98 - The Guardian

The Guardian is another move that was on my NetFlix list, yet as I was browsing the HD movie channels I found it and recorded it. The Guardian is very much a passing of the torch story, where an older US Coast Guard swimmer essentially trains his replacement. I had very low expectations on this one, because I don't remember it doing very well in the theater, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story won't surprise you, and you can pretty much figure out everything that will happen along the way, but the action is good and the training scenes are very cool as well. And as a sailor, I have a great appreciation for the US Coast Guard and what they do, and God willing will never need to call on them for the type of assistance they provide in this movie.

Thumb up.


Stardate 61927.96 - Flags of our Fathers

I watched Flags of our Fathers this week during my lunch breaks (since I work from home I don't lose time by going out for lunch, I waste my lunch time by watching a little TV). I don't remember this movie doing very well in the theater, but after watching it I think I understand.

It tells the story of the soldiers on Iwo Jima who raised the flag in the famous picture everyone is familiar with. The problem is that it intersperses present day with the battle on Iwo Jima with the main story (what happens to those marines and navy corpsman immediately after the picture becomes famous). There probably isn't enough war story to keep someone watching for the war story happy, and there is probably too much war story and graphic violence to keep someone watching for the "after" story happy. And the cuts to the present day (done as the son of one of the flag raisers interviews survivors) adds somewhat to what became to me a confusing narrative. As is common in movies like this, there are a lot of characters and a lot of names and a lot of them die. And since they all dress alike in uniform, it is difficult to keep everyone straight.

Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Not sure. I guess I give it a thumb-sideways.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Stardate 61922.00 - We're Still Here

I'm sure everyone is wondering when we'll be posting more about the move and the new place. We're still here, but we're also a bit overwhelmed right now with the aftermath of the move (and the big items still outstanding, like the refrigerator and the phone connections). Some things went well, and some were more complicated (like the device Loren is trying to figure out in the picture above!).

We have some pictures and stories and we'll get them posted as quickly as possible.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We've moved!

The cable was hooked up today so we are back on line. I won't go into detail about the move itself. Other than the moving company forgetting to send a packing crew on Monday -- which took a few stressful hours to resolve, but ultimately turned out not to be a huge problem -- the move went pretty smoothly. Curt stayed home with the packers while I went to work (no need for both of us to sit around being in the packers' way). Here is what I came home to:

Loren and Curt watched one last Dora on the old couch. The couch was supposed to be sold to a woman from work who never quite managed to get a truck to pick it up. Sometime we'll have to blog retrospectively about the joy of selling our furniture on Craigslist and the intranet bulletin board at my office. The good news is we got rid of almost everything we wanted to. One of the moving guys wound up taking the couch and armchair.

Tuesday morning I took Loren for bagels and then dropped her off at day care. Curt stayed with the movers at the old place while I did some last-minute vacuuming, swiffering and washing in the new place. The contractors got things mostly cleaned up but there was a layer of dust on everything -- they were working up until the last minute on Monday. I snapped a few shots while the place was still empty. Before you look, you may want to look at the "before" pictures or the "during" pictures.

Here is Loren's room (looking at her closet and across to the other side of our L-shaped building).

For those who wanted to see the paint job in the master bedroom. It's pretty boring. I don't have new bedding picked out so I wanted to keep the walls a very neutral cream (Benjamin Moore Cameo White). The only work done in this room was the floor. And I put new pulls on the closet doors.

I didn't take any good pictures of the living room, but here is the angled view out the living room window and you can see the paint job and the new radiator cover.

The bathroom with the vanity and medicine cabinet in (I know we posted some pictures of the tile but I don't think these were up yet), and accessories installed. I'll take more pictures once we get the light bulb replaced and there's better light in the room. You can see the detachable shower head but not the rain shower. The shower system turned out AWESOME. The rain shower is like being under a waterfall, and the detachable shower has great water pressure and is almost like a massager. My shower last night was fabulous. I am looking forward to another one after finishing this post. Instead of coffee we will have to have guests over to try the shower.

The kitchen turned out great too. Here you go, the very first kitchen pictures (taken as Curt arrived ahead of the movers). I was waiting to take pictures until the tile went up, and it was the very last thing done. You'll note the gaping hole where a fridge is supposed to be. Long story, let's just say it involves a damaged (though working) fridge that I refused to have installed. It's currently sitting in the living room and should be replaced by late this week or early next week. We will stage some real "after" pictures once the moving boxes are cleared out and the fridge is in.

And lastly, here are Loren and Curt in her new room unpacking the doll house. Loren was thrilled to open her new closet and find all her toys inside.