Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stardate 62081.64 - What a Diffference...

I arrived at the St. Louis airport on Tuesday morning to 67 degrees and clear skies. I opened the sunroof on my Toyota Highlander rental car on my way to my client site, and turned on the vents full blast. I considered turning on the A/C, but that just seemed wrong.

After lunch I was coming back to the client site and there was this large, black, wall of death sweeping across the plains heading towards me. Suddenly the sky was black, the wind was roaring, my car was being pushed around on the road like a discarded fast food bag, and the temperature started to drop.

and drop.

and drop.

and drop.

By the time I left the office at the end of the day, there was a half-inch of snow on the ground, my car was covered in ice, and this is what my laptop said:

50 frack'n degrees!!! The temperature dropped 50 frack'n degrees in something like 2 hours!!! I'm out here freezing my ass off right now!!!!

O'Fallon, IL

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stardate 62077.81 - Artemis Eternal Website Launch


"Independently financed, this sci-fi fantasy film is currently in preproduction, shoots this spring and is intended for film festivals. In days of past, only royalty were able to patronize and influence the arts, but now you can, too: Continue through to the website to discover how you can support independent film and see your name in the credits of the movie."
---Artemis Eternal Facebook Group

As an early supporter of the film, I encourage you to visit the movie web site, make a donation, see your name in the credits - it is that easy!

O'Fallon, IL

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stardate 62075.29 - She's Back!

Paige Davis is back hosting Trading Spaces on TLC again!

Trading Spaces used to be my little guilty pleasure, but I wasn't a big fan of some of the formatting changes they made. Once Paige left it was the nail in the coffin and I stopped watching altogether (some of you may recall that she is on my list). :-)

The past Saturday night was the start of a new season and the return of Paige (and some of the designers who apparently left as well). The show has turned a little more touchy-feely as the lives of the homeowners are taking a more prominent role (Saturday night the people trading had previously been married and had a child together, and one of them had re-married after the divorce), but the old-style format is back. I've added this one to the line-up, and thanks to the writers' strike I'm still below my one hour of TV per day.

Thumb up - way up!

Trading Spaces is on TLC on Saturdays at 9 PM eastern.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stardate 62073.09 - How to Eat a Cookie.

We visited Denise and Greg and Alison and Max on Sunday up in Monroe, NY and in this video Alison very dramatically shows Loren how to properly eat a cookie.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Catching up

Here are a few photos from last weekend. They kind of got forgotten in the midst of all the vacation posts.

Loren has started Tumble Tots on Saturday mornings at Asphalt Green, an athletic complex up on 90th St. Loren loves to turn anything -- curb, retaining wall, etc. -- into a balance beam, so I figured it was time to let her try out the real stuff. She loves it, especially the trampoline, balance beams and bars... although following the teacher's directions is not her strong suit. She is there to use the equipment, and doesn't want to waste her time doing boring warm-up exercises.

Here Loren and I use the small trampoline.

She also learned to roll down the wedge-shaped mat. She has been practicing her rolling on the living room floor this week.

On Sunday, we went out to Forest Hills, Queens for a birthday party. Here I managed to capture a picture of Loren and the birthday girl, Arisa, on a trike.

After the party, we went for dinner at my friend (and now boss!) Francois's house nearby.

Today we had a low-key day of gymnastics and a Costco trip. Tomorrow we are off to upstate NY to visit our friends Denise and Greg.

And here's one funny story from tonight. We were eating leftovers out of the fridge and Curt heated up a small piece of steak that we broiled a few nights ago. When he sat down at the table, Loren looked over at his plate and her eyes lit up: "Chocolate!!" We have clearly been giving her too many desserts lately. We explained that it was beef and she gamely tried a bite, but it was not what she was looking for.


Stardate 62069.43 - The Fountain

Cheryl and I finally watched The Fountain last night. Actually, I watched it and Cheryl dozed on and off during the movie. She tried to watch it, especially since I told her it was one of Jess' favorite movies in 2006, but she felt (and I agreed) that it was uneven in terms of pacing. During the "present day" segments the story was "gripping" (Cheryl's word), but the future story was slow. James outright hated it, and you can read his post and Jess' rebuttal here. Warning: James' entry contains significant spoilers, which I suggest you do not read before actually seeing the film.

This movie was by the same writer director (Darren Aronofsky) as Requiem for a Dream and Pi. Cheryl and I both watched Requiem and liked it a lot, and Cheryl watched Pi (and seemed to like it, as I recall). Here are my thoughts on The Fountain - as a work of art it was quite stunning. The visuals, the use of light and shadow, and the transition across the three time spans were all quite remarkable. The story was alright, and (at least for my poor brain) a little difficult to piece together. The movie was more a work of art than a film, if that makes sense. Cheryl felt the same way about The Fifth Element as I did about this film. I think by the end I had everything tied together, but I'm not sure that I was supposed to be trying to tie everything together into a logical narrative, and instead I should have just immersed myself in the art.

I think that people who see this film looking for some time of science fiction, time-jumping film will be disappointed. If you have seen the director's other movies then you will be better prepared for this film. If you watched any of the trailers and then went to see this film you'd probably be disappointed. If you want an experience that challenges you and is unlike any other film in recent memory, then you will enjoy this film. If you like film as art you will enjoy this film. I enjoyed this film, although I do feel like the pacing was a bit off as there were moments I was almost on the edge of my seat and others when I said out-loud to Cheryl, "This is a bit slow". I'm glad I watched it and I enjoyed it, although not in the same way I enjoy "traditional" films. It is really hard to put into words the experience - you'll just have to watch it and decide for yourself. I think Jess' roommate had it right when he described Requiem as "it affects different people different ways".

I really did like the movie, but more for the art of the film making and the experience of watching it, and less as a "traditional" narrative/film.

I still give it a thumbs up.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Stardate 62066.38 - Last of the Vacation Pictures

It is the gift that keeps on giving! But these are the last vacation pictures we'll bore you with. These were taken by Thomas, our skipper and my ASA instructor for the week. I promise something new tomorrow!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stardate 62063.82 - Extra Vacation Photos

Here are a couple of extra vacation photos from our time in the US and British Virgin Islands. These were taken by Thomas, our skipper. Here the Sawyer family poses at the helm.

Here we take on water at Marina Cay. It is amazing how fast 5 adults and 1 child can go through 160 gallons of water!

For those who were interested in the layout of the boat, here is a diagram showing the 4 berths. There were 3 doubles and one room with 2 bunk beds. It was a 44-foot boat so it had a pretty good amount of room. I'm worried that I'm spoiled now, because if we go back we'll probably have fewer people and we'll have a smaller boat (32 or 35 feet) with only 2 cabins.

Last of the Vacation Photos


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stardate 62062.35 - Vacation, Day Ten (Last Day)

On Sunday morning, after sleeping 10 straight hours, we packed up and took a quick walk into town for breakfast at Bumpa’s.

After a nice breakfast with a view, we went to a souvenir shop where we purchased a mermaid book for Loren, a small bottle of Rum (important to the story later), and some cookies.

We then went back up the 99 steps to our hotel, but we walked past the entrance and up to the gate to Blackbeard’s castle. We paid our entry fee and walked around the area, looking at pirate statues and also climbing to the top of the tower. It turns out that this area was never really a pirate home, but instead was a military fort now converted to a pirate themed complex. We could only spend a short amount of time there, as we needed to check out of the hotel and get to the airport.

We walked the very short walk back to the hotel (really just across a parking lot) and Cheryl asked the owners to call us a taxi. 15 minutes or so later, a pickup truck style taxi arrived to take us and 2 other people to the airport. In a safety situation that would make most American parents cringe, there were no seat-belts and no real safety equipment of any kind. Tell me again why we lugged that car seat around with us?

We got to the airport and made our flight with no problems, save one. The last time I packed a bottle of liquor in my luggage (probably 10 years ago) I carefully wrapped it up and put it into my carry-on. I did the same here with our bottle of rum, completely forgetting that the f****** terrorists have made it impossible to carry liquids on board in carry-on. We remembered to pack our 2 oz bottles of hand sanitizer in the packed luggage, but had a complete mental block on the rum. So the TSA employees in St. Thomas probably are enjoying my Pusser's rum right now, since it was confiscated at security. Oh, well--lesson learned for next time.

Overall, while it was not a traditional super-relaxing beach vacation, we did have a really good time and we're already planning our next trip. I purchased real charts of the Virgin Islands, and also purchased a cruising guide for the Leeward Islands, in case we want to go back to St. Martin sometime for sailing. We're taking applications for people who want to join us on our next trip, and I'll only make you call me Captain most of the time! :-)

Extra Vacation Photos


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stardate 62059.66 - Vacation, Day Nine

We turned the boat back in at 1000 and after a quick brunch I took my ASA exam while the iguanas watched, scoring a 92.

Betty left for her hotel first, and once my exam was done Thomas and Wei left for theirs. Cheryl, Loren, and I hung around for Loren to nap and then took a taxi to our hotel, The Green Iguana, which was high up on a hill next to Blackbeard's Castle. The hotel didn't have a pool, and it was way away from the beach, but for a single night essentially just waiting for our flight the next day it was fine (and cheap!). It did have either Dish Network or DirecTV (cannot remember which) so we caught up on the news while Loren watched some Dora and we all enjoyed the air conditioning. Here is the view from our balcony.

After showering and just sitting around for a while, we climbed down the 99 steps into Charlotte Amalie. Much to our surprise, the town shuts down on Saturday at 5 PM, presumably because the cruise ships leave at that time.

We walked around the virtual ghost town for a while, then went to Cuzzin's for a very early dinner. Because we had eaten a late lunch during Loren's nap, and because there was nothing to do downtown so we'd arrived at the restaurant very early, we were not too hungry which was too bad, because the food was pretty good.

We took a taxi back to the hotel and slept for a solid 10 hours that night.

Vacation Day Ten


Stardate 62058.14 - Vacation, Day Eight

On Friday morning we left Jost van Dyke and headed over to St. John to check back into the US, but first we stopped at Sandy Cay so I could practice anchoring. Sandy Cay is a small, uninhabited island near Jost van Dyke. After we anchored, Cheryl, Loren, and I went ashore with the dinghy. We thought we'd explore and sit on the beach, but the surf was pretty heavy and we had to keep an eye on the dinghy, which kept breaking its anchor out of the sand and trying to escape back into the ocean. Here is a picture from the beach, looking back at Jost van Dyke.

We then went to Caneel Bay on St. John, and since it was raining Thomas thought we could go ashore at the resort there and then take a taxi over to Cruz Bay to check into the US. We found out that until we cleared immigrations and customs, however, we could not go ashore there and we had to take the dinghy around the point (a 10 minute ride) and into Cruz Bay and had to go directly to immigrations/customs. We also thought that we (Thomas and I) could check in for everyone, as long as we carried their passports. But the friendly border control folks told us that everyone from the boat had to pass through passport control in person. By this time it was pouring rain, and the office was closing in an hour. Thomas and I found out that the office opened at 0630 the following morning, waited until the rain was light, and went to pick up dinner for everyone. When we got back to the boat the office had closed, so we had dinner on the boat and decided the rest of the crew would clear in the following morning. That meant that we were on the boat for the sunset that evening.

P.S. Loren came down with the croup Sunday night, so we had to keep her home Monday and take her to the doctor so that is why we didn't post anything yesterday. She was much improved Monday during the day, and seems fine this morning but we are keeping her out of school one more day. There are just a couple of vacation posts left!

Vacation Day Nine


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stardate 62053.17 - Vacation, Day Seven

On Thursday Thomas, Cheryl, Loren, and I went to the restaurant and had a buffet breakfast at the Bitter End Yacht Club. It was a pretty good breakfast, even though it rained on us.

We even spotted a rainbow!

Here are some shots of Loren watching Dora down below.

Afterwards, we casted off and headed out on a long sail (which turned into a long motor) from Virgin Gorda to Jost van Dyke. Here is Thomas, checking our GPS waypoints. The last couple of days we had minimum wind, as the trades slowed down due to some one-off weather pattern.

There was nothing but ocean to the north of us as we traveled along the north coast of Tortola. Thomas told us it was a straight shot to Newport, RI.

Finally we made it to Little Harbor (our last stop in the BVIs), although getting in was a little interesting because the buoys were missing that were supposed to mark the channel into the harbor. Luckily we could see where the water color changed and could also see waves breaking so we knew what to avoid as we entered the harbor.

Cheryl and Thomas later walked up this road and took some pictures back into the harbor.

That's our boat, Ocean Spirit! Wei, Betty, Loren, and I were all still on the boat when Cheryl was taking this pictures.

Our boat is the one in the center.

Cheryl and Thomas ran into many goats on and off the road.

Loren, Cheryl, and I went ashore later to pick a restaurant. Here I tie a round turn with two half-hitches to secure the dinghy to the dock.

The restaurant experience was horrible. The food was just ok, and the service was the worst of the entire trip. We had reservations for 7 PM, and I think it was nearly 8 before we even saw a menu. It rained on us (this time we had remembered to close the hatches), which meant that Loren was confined to the restaurant and couldn't run around on the beach. By the time the food arrived it was closing in on 9 PM and Loren was very tired and bored and had a biting incident which prompted me to whisk her off and threaten to take her back to the boat without Mommy. We ordered a second round of drinks that never arrived, and they grossly overcharged Thomas for his meal (Wei caught the error and had it corrected). There were also a powerboat couple there who could have been in the dictionary beside the entry "ugly American". They were drunk, rude, condescending to the natives, loud, and crass. We were glad when they left.

Vacation Day Eight