Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stardate 61746.15 - Reaper

Cheryl and I watched Reaper last night from the DVR after Loren went to bed. We both give it a thumbs up.

In the same spirit as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in Reaper the hero Sam turns 21 only to find out he is manifesting some odd powers. Turns out his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born. Now Satan wants Sam to collect escaped souls and return them to hell, serving as a type of bounty hunter (or "Satan's favorite tool" as he is described on the Reaper website).

We laughed out loud several times during the show, which is a pretty good indicator that we like it. I think it will become more polished as time goes by, but there is a tremendous amount of potential here. For the first episode of a series to be this engaging and laugh-out-loud humorous is a rare thing. I only watch an hour of TV per day (on average) and this show is now on that list. With Battlestar Galactica and 24 not starting until later in the viewing year, I'm still under my 7-hour per week limit -- thank goodness I don't have to figure out yet what show I have to drop to keep Reaper on the list!

In short, Reaper is a keeper.

Reaper is on the CW Tuesdays at 9 PM (2100) Eastern.


Stardate 61746.03 - Loren Discovers the Balcony

On Saturday Loren discovered the balcony. "Open door and go outside?" I convinced her we should take her chairs outside to sit on, as she wanted to sit on the edge with her back against the railing and that made me too nervous. Again, as they have every Saturday for months, the construction was going on across the street so Loren liked watching "elevator goes up" and "people getting off the elevator!" The external, construction elevator is directly across the street from us so we have a great view of it (and we get to hear it all day while they are working).

It was a slow day on Saturday. Loren had a fever and threw up (very rare for her) when she sat down at the table for breakfast so we spent the day playing with play dough, reading books, watching some Dora on TV, drawing with crayons, and sitting on the balcony. When she got up from her nap she really felt bad and was very whiny and laid down on the floor with her head on my leg and stayed that way for probably 20 minutes - another rare event for her.

This morning she asked for milk as soon as she got up and she seems to be much better. Fingers crossed that it was just some 24-hour thing and she's over it now.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stardate 61743.32 - Sactionals?

When we first saw this sign on the Straight from the Crate we thought they misspelled "sectionals". But then we noticed that they misspelled it twice - once on each window of the store. So I Googled sactional and apparently it is a legitimate piece of furniture, but not so legitimate as to be in Wikipedia yet, or on the website for Straight from the Crate.

Stardate 61743.3 - More (De)construction Photos

Just some quick photos we took this past Monday. Pretty good progress since then.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stardate 61730.51 - Coastal Cruising Pictures

As I mentioned in my last post, I took the ASA's Coastal Cruising standard this past weekend and successfully passed. We went out on Gratitude, a J/105 owned by the Manhattan Sailing Club. 105 means 10.5 meters, or approximately 32 feet and indicates the boat length. The J/105 is a racer, and not really a cruising boat (which is what I am interested in) however she was perfectly acceptable for this course and was quite responsive (even if you wouldn't want to spend a week sleeping on her).

We started in North Cove and then went over to Liberty Marina to take on fuel and to practice docking procedures. Right after we finished with that, it started to rain. The forecast was for 80 and sunny, but the instructor wisely told us to bring a waterproof jacket. We then practiced anchoring in the rain, and finally stopped to eat in the pouring rain.

The rain finally eased up a bit as we started our trip down to New Jersey (Atlantic Highlands). We passed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and slowly headed to our marina for the night.

After spending the night in NJ, we were greeted by beautiful weather on Sunday - sunny and warm. It made for a great day for practicing man overboard drills and jibing. Here I am running the mainsheet.

Here I take the helm under the watchful eye of the instructor.

There was a lot of traffic but a lot of great shots to be had as we returned to North Cove to conclude the course.

Jose took all these great shots, and you can see more of them by clicking here. Thanks, Jose!!


Stardate 61729.71 - Basic Coastal Cruising Certified

I am now ASA certified in Basic Coastal Cruising (103). I took the course this past weekend (through the Manhattan Sailing School) and easily passed the written test, and also made it through the practical portion as well. I now have successfully completed the following ASA standards:

101 - Basic Keelboat Sailing
103 - Basic Coastal Cruising
105 - Coastal Navigation

Next on my list is to do the Bareboat Chartering (104) course, but we're still working the details for that one. Next season, schedule willing, I'll also get serious about taking the Manhattan Sailing Club's Skipper exam so that I can serve as a skipper on the J/24 sailboats the club has (right now I'm crew).

There were a couple of cameras present during the class so I hope to have pictures up soon. I'll also post a longer post later regarding the weather, the boat we were on, and other details of the experience.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Grand Day Out

Curt is out in New Jersey with his sailing class tonight. I noticed it's been over a week since we posted any good pictures of Loren (that one from my cell phone is pretty hideous). To start off, a sign of fall: apples from the Wednesday Greenmarket near my office.

Today Loren and I went on an excursion to the Children's Museum of Manhattan. Every time I go to the Upper West Side, I remember why I almost never go to the Upper West Side... lovely neighborhood, but it requires a bus-to-subway combo for us to go anywhere north of Lincoln Center. Luckily Loren was excited about the trip and was reasonably well behaved, meaning she only stood on my lap and jumped up and down rather than trying to run away down the subway car. Yes, I have very low expectations.

The Children's Museum has very impressive ambitions: "CMOM’s three priority areas flow from the strategic plan and are designed to meet specific needs within the community: early childhood education prepares children to enter kindergarten; creativity in the arts and sciences inspires creative and analytical thinking skills for lifelong learning; and healthy lifestyles programs provide a blueprint for a family's physical, emotional and environmental well being. These priorities are met through exhibitions, presentations by artists from authentic traditions, and arts and science workshops." Here is Loren being inspired to think creatively and analytically. The PlayWorks room was lots of fun and had lots of different art and science activities for the under-4 set, as well as a climbing structure, a bus and a fire truck, and a giant dragon that announced the letters as we fed it alphabet blocks. Our visit coincided with one of the "presentations by artists from authentic traditions": a teen-aged mariachi band that played for the 11:30 circle time. Loren wouldn't sit for the circle time but she did bop to the mariachi music as we fed letters to the dragon. All in all, kind of a combination Gymboree/LeapFrog on steroids... I mean that in the nicest way. Loren had a blast and I had to drag her out when it was time to leave for lunch/nap. I'm sure we'll be going back.

We also visited the sellout to corporate funding... I mean the Dora the Explorer adventure exhibit on the second floor. I kind of hesitated to take her there because part of the reason for the excursion was to keep from having to fend off Loren's begging to watch Dora all day long. But I knew she would love it. Here she tries on Boots's boots. Who knew Boots wore fake Uggs?

Did I mention that it required a bus and subway ride to get there? As we left, the skies opened up. The forecast as of last night called for nice weather so I didn't check the weather or radar in the morning and we were caught out without an umbrella. There was no way we were making it the 4 blocks to the subway so I decided on an unplanned lunch out at the first restaurant we passed, which turned out to be Artie's deli, a facsimile of a 1930s Jewish deli that opened in 1999. I'm sure it's normally mobbed on weekends but since 99.9% of the Upper West Side population was occupied with Yom Kippur it was pretty empty. I say I'm sure it's normally mobbed because a) even mediocre brunch places are mobbed on weekends in NYC and b) the food turned out to be quite decent. Loren had the famous frankfurter and finished the entire jumbo dog. Based on the one bite she let me have I could see why she ate the whole thing - it was delicious and it had the nice thick skin I remember from the Sabrett hot dogs we used to get on the way home from the beach (reference that only my family will get). I had the corned beef Reuben. I was expecting a regular deli sandwich, maybe a little heavy on the meat in the NY deli style, but what arrived was an immense open-faced with a mountain of corned beef and a huge slick of melted swiss cheese. In case that wasn't enough fat, they brought an extra pitcher of Russian dressing on the side.

The wait staff was very gracious and cheerfully cleaned up the little white dish that broke when Loren knocked it on the floor. And the pieces of hot dog bun that she threw to announce that she was done.

By the time we finished the rain had slowed down enough that we were able to go across Broadway to the nearest Duane Reade and buy an umbrella for the walk back to the subway. Other than some shoe shopping excitement after her nap (what fun for Loren to pull down 5 pairs of Crocs in different colors and line them up and step in each of them in turn!! what fun for me to find cute blue Mary Janes for her for the fall without dragging around to multiple stores) the rest of the day was uneventful.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stardate 61721.79 - Coastal Cruising

Tonight I start the ASA course 103: Basic Coastal Cruising. I've already completed 101: Basic Keelboat and 105: Coastal Navigation. We're working right now on scheduling a trip to the BVIs for January where I'll take 104: Bareboat Chartering. I'm taking 103 through the Manhattan Sailing School (where I also took 101 and 105).

There is a 2-hour "classroom" session on the boat tonight, and then 2 full days on the boat (a J/105) Saturday and Sunday. Sunday evening we take the exam. I have not prepared for this one as much as I did for 101, and I don't have the multiple weeks of homework and studying as I did for 105, so I hope I pass the exam the first time through. It will be quite embarrassing if I don't! Wish me luck!!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stardate 61715.88 - Construction Starts

These are not the best pictures because not only did Cheryl take them from her phone, but also the lighting is not that great late in the afternoon right now, since it is getting darker earlier. But you might be able to just tell in these photos that the wall to Loren's new room is mostly completed. Also the pile of deconstruction material in the middle of the living room has been replaced by a pile of construction material.

So progress is being made!

I can't wait until I'm back in town at the end of the week and can see an entire week of progress. The project manager told Cheryl that he would need the light fixtures in 4 weeks, so we hope that means that they will be very far along in 4 weeks. We don't think they'd put the new lights up before the ceilings are painted, for example, and we're pretty sure painting is far down on the list of things they have to do.

Here Loren ran towards the camera, but nevertheless it is a picture of her in her new room and you can see the new wall to the right. The other side has the drywall up but the side that opens into her room is still incomplete. Also, Cheryl said that Loren's room felt bigger with the wall up than she expected. It was always hard to judge without the wall in place exactly how big her room was going to be. They still have to build the closet, but she said the room felt like a good size.

Also Cheryl told me she can really get a feel now for where the furniture is going to go in the living room, so we can start planning that a little more seriously now. We have a lot of large pieces of furniture to get rid of (pieces that were fine in the suburbs of Virginia, a little crowded in our rental, and will be quite crowded in our co-op), which means some new furniture will need to be purchased.

But things are progressing!

O'Fallon, IL

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Stardate 61713.27 - So Very Warm

Just look at these great temperatures! It is finally feeling a little like fall, and while I am going to miss both those lazy Saturdays on the beach and also the sailing season, I do enjoy the cooler temperatures that arrive with fall. I enjoy switching to jeans, being able to wear a blazer to dress up a little, and the nice cool breeze blowing through the windows as I telecommute from home during the day.

Yes, as much as I morn the passing of summer, there is something about the fall that seems to energize me in some way. I do enjoy a slow, gradual progression towards winter.
Of course, I'm not actually in New York this week to enjoy it. Instead I am back in O'Fallon, Illinois where summer's death grip still clutches the land. Instead of upper 70s and maybe 80 I get to experience upper 80s to 90 degrees this week.

In a suit.

Driving back and forth between 3 different places where I have meetings today.

Oh, the joys of travel!!

O'Fallon, IL

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stardate 61704.96 - Demolition

We hired our regular babysitter Friday night and Cheryl and I went to see The Borne Ultimatum. We both enjoyed it, although some of the fight/chase scenes were over the top. Two thumbs up. Cheryl gave it a grade of "B+" and I agree.

Afterwards we stopped by the new place so Cheryl could see the progress of the demolition.

Then we went to Bistro 61 for Mussels and Fries and Wine. Bistro 61 is closer to the new place than to our apartment and I think we may be going there a little more often after we move.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Stardate 61702.32 - Push for 100+

A little over a year ago I asked all my readers for a favor. I asked them to visit the Eventful site by clicking on this link and "demanding" that Jessica Stover's movie be made. Jess is a friend of mine in LA who is trying to get her screenplay greenlit so it can be made into a move.

A good movie.

Better than what is out there now.

Over the past year the demand has grown to 95 locations and 589 total people.

We'd love to get the demand up to over 100 locations. So if you haven't demanded the movie yet, please do so. Here is what I am asking you to do:

  1. Click on these words to go to the Eventful site for Jessica Mae Stover.
  2. Find your city or one very close to your city in the list and click on the "Demand It!" button, or EVEN BETTER if your city isn't listed make a new demand for your city!
  3. Enter your e-mail address.
  4. Confirm your request when you get an e-mail from the Eventful site.
It is that simple.


That is all I need you to do.

Be part of the undeniable future victory of getting this film made!


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stardate 61695.6 - Neverwinter Nights 2

A little over a month ago I wrote about how I was starting to play Neverwinter Nights 2 - a computer game I purchased some time ago and started but never had the time to complete. Well, I finally played the last hour of the game today.

First, I'll say that I loved the game overall. The NPCs had real personalities, decisions you made in the game caused you to gain or lose influence with them, and at one point you gain a keep and staff and have to repair/upgrade it--which I thought was one of the coolest things ever. Overall I highly recommend the game. It provided quite a few hours of enjoyment and was a nice mental break over the past month.

However, I was somewhat disappointed in how the NPCs were handled towards the end of the game. There was a lot of good material early in the game, but you quickly ran out of fresh dialog options with the characters. For example, I was pursuing a romantic relationship with one of the female characters and some of her dialog seemed to imply it was possible, but later I found out there was only one female NPC and one male NPC available for relationships--regardless of what may have been implied in earlier dialog. As another example, the female NPC I did end up in bed with constantly refused to tell me about her Druid "circle", even after we found out what had happened to them and resolved that quest. I still got the same response from her after that event as I received before the event. It was an early warning that as the game progressed the amount of time spent on it seemed to decrease. This was especially evident at the end of the game.

Finally, the ending was pretty poor (I'm talking about the very, very end). It seemed like they ran out of time and had to throw something together really quickly (like over a week-end, and that is being generous). The voice-over at the end was one you hadn't heard at any point in the game before, and it was not a professional voice actor--I think it was Larry from Accounting. They were setting up for the sequel (due in October), but the ending nevertheless was handled very, very badly. I won't go into details so as not to spoil the game for anyone still playing (most people purchased and finished it at the end of 2006, but you never know), but I was very disappointed at the end - both in how the story ended and in its execution. (And for those of you who care, I was playing a character that ended up Lawful Good at the end, and yes I know the Evil character ending is supposed to be somewhat better).

Regardless, I still give the game a thumbs-up overall. And I'll probably get the sequel next month.


Stardate 61695.27 - Sunday Activities

On Sunday Cheryl went down to the gym and I took Loren over to the playground by "the new place" (which is what Loren calls the co-op we purchased).

Afterwards, we went to FAO Schwarz where Loren enjoyed playing with the display car.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Stardate 61659.18 - Renovations Have Begun

It has been 7 months since we made the initial offer.

It has been 6 months since we submitted our purchase package to the board

It has been 3 months since we closed and got the keys.

But today, on September 10, 2007, after much paperwork, aggravation, and murderous rage, renovations finally began!

I'm not even going to guess as to when they will be complete and we can move. We'll let you know.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stardate 61687.52 - Saturday in NYC

This weekend we decided to stay in town and get some things done around the apartment in preparation for our eventual move into the new place (don't ask, we'll let you know). After running some errands in the morning we went out to Jackson Heights, Queens to Sripraphai (a Thai restaurant). We went there just over a year ago and we are reposting the picture from that trip below for comparison with the picture from the trip today.

The food was really good, with one slight exception. For appetizers we ordered pork & crab rolls and watercress salad with squid, shrimp, and chicken. The rolls were fried, and quite tasty. The watercress in the salad was also fried, which was a bit of a surprise. I also ordered one of my standard Thai dishes, Panang Curry with Chicken. It was the perfect level of heat. Loren spotted the fountain in the garden area and spent the entire meal wanting to get up to go see it, so finally we let her go outside and she was fascinated by it.

After returning home for her nap we went to the playground across the street, but Loren wasn't really into it. We did swing for a short time together.

Then we got ice cream, and once we were done eating we stopped by the library for some books.


Stardate 61687.1 - Talladega Nights

I watched Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby over the past 2 days (an hour Friday night and the second hour while Loren and Cheryl ran out to do some shopping late this afternoon). In a word:


Really, really bad.

I got the impression that there was a lot of improv around a very lose plot line, the results of which was a movie that was uneven, unfunny, and "un-entertaining". And the direction the movie was heading in was obvious about 20 minutes in - but during that first 20 minutes I found myself asking multiple times, "What is the point of this?". While there were a few funny parts they were few and far between and most jokes were drawn out way too long - the movie could have been 30 minutes shorter. What is it people say? "Cut for pacing".

After I committed an hour I felt as I had to complete it, but I almost didn't even finish it. We had it on our list because after a succession of depressing dramas we felt we needed a few comedies.

Thumb down. Cheryl feel asleep Friday night 30 minutes into it and had zero interest in completing the movie.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Stardate 61683.21 - Perfect Picture

Jessica Stover recently wrote about the difficulty in capturing the essence of a person in a single frame - an almost perfect picture. Here is a picture of Cheryl, taken in France at Versailles. There was a little outbuilding (I think it even had a little graffiti on it) and I asked her to stand in the doorway and I snapped a shot. To this day, she still says it is one of the best pictures of her, maybe even the best.

What about you? Do you have one?


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Stardate 61680.73 - Basic Instructions

If you read Scott Adam's blog, then you already know all about the comic Basic Instructions. If you don't, however, I want to draw your attention to a comic that I find pretty funny, and would easily list it in my top 5 or so comics (which is bad news for Scott Meyer because now I want a new comic EVERY TIME I GO TO HIS SITE and not just once per week).

I urge you to read this week's comic, "How to Deal With a Rash".

And specifically for James, I give you "How to Stop Drinking Caffeine".

If you smile or laugh, then check out some of the archives. Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert, in case you didn't know) has been working with Scott Meyer on how to get syndicated. When Scott's comic is in every newspaper and he is huge you can say you were in the know before he became super-famous.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stardate 61675.04 - Fun in NJ

On Saturday we drove out to the beach, but forgot the bring the camera. After a great day of fun on the sand, we went to Cheryl's parent's house for dinner and stayed the night. We borrowed Cheryl's parents' camera for Sunday, and Sunday morning after church (and some playing with the "big sailboat"),

we went to Longstreet Farm again for Loren to look at the animals. We also stopped by the playground for a short time. She was pretty tired by the end so we went back to the house for lunch and for her nap.

After lunch and nap we had a great time playing with the noodles at the pool.

And I would like to point out to James that I am twice the man that he is, noodle-wise.