Video Killed the Telephone Star

I just have to say, I’m sure this is going to come back and bite me at some point, but I am totally stoked about this video conferencing I now have at my desk at work.

I just dial some one like regular on my phone, and if the person I’m calling has the same camera/software on his or her computer, video of them pops up on my screen automatically. No muss, no fuss, it just works.

Love it. LOVE IT.

I may never have to leave my desk again.

The Week Alone

Last week I set a number of tasks for myself whilst the family was vacationing in New Jersey. Now comes the time to check my work:

1. Regrout and seal the kitchen tile.

Done. Done and done. Yup. All done. May I never feel the need to tile anything ever again.

2. Fix the hall toilet.

Found the part I needed, didn’t need to replace the whole thing. Yet.

3. Buy a bow and arrow, finish creating the rope swing.

Did you know that the Sports Authority here in NorthEast Atlanta doesn’t carry bows and arrows? True story. I ordered a set online, but it hasn’t arrived just yet.

But I did buy a heavy bolt at Lowe’s, and who’d a thunk but it turns out I can throw a heavy bolt up 40 feet and hit a two fit diameter target area. It only took me two hours. I actually did it twice, but the first time the string I was using broke when hauling up the actual rope swing rope. The second time I just left the string there until I could get some medium-weight cord to haul up as an intermediate stage to the actual rope. And then I need to do it all again on a second tree. The end result is that rope will hang out at a 45 degree angle from each tree and meet in the center, and then hang straight down from there, forming a “Y”. A “Y” using about 80 feet of 1″ manila rope.

An observation on how the mind works: I spent the first hour wildly missing the target area until I took a second to visualize the bolt going over the branch the right way. The next two throws were very accurate, the second one hitting the mark. I felt like Lightning McQueen, chanting I Am Speed to himself.

4. Finish chainsawing up the fallen tree, and haul away.

Done. I estimate this tree was about 50 feet, comparing it to my measurements of the rope swing tree1. It took about 3 hours to finish sawing it into manageable size logs and branches and moving the pieces into the woods or the firewood pile. I declare I have never sweat so much, ever, except when I worked in the insulation warehouse that one summer. The insulation warehouse was itchier work, but I didn’t have to pull a tick off my leg at the end of the day, so… pros and cons.

So, 3.25 out of 4 not bad.

I also did a deep cleaning of the refrigerator, pulling out all the shelves for scrubbing and discarding anything that wasn’t recognizable or appetizing. Anyone have a guess as to how many bottles of mostly-full salad dressing we have in there?2

Every scrap of dirty clothes were cleaned and put away, and Scout’s dressers purged of too-small or out-of-season clothes.

I watched the first few episodes of Weeds, Season 1 via Netflix Instant Viewing. Funny.

A good week, but I have to admit I did not find as much joy in being on my own as I expected. I was awfully glad to see the gang when they got back.

Also, through no act of negligence on my part, one of the goldfish died. I replaced it with a identical fish. RocketBoy, if you’re reading this some years in the future, I apologize for deceiving you, but really, you’ve already spent more time contemplating mortality at age 5 than I would prefer you to.

Also, I didn’t want the nickname fishkiller.

1 When planning the rope swing, I used some sticks, paper and trigonometry to estimate the height of the target branch of each tree at about 42 feet. Using markings on the string I threw over, it showed almost exactly 40 feet. Let’s hear it for MATH. Who says you don’t use that stuff in real life?
2 Nine. 3 Italian, 2 balsamic vinegar. Three additional bottles mostly empty.

Grout & Peanut Butter

I am alone in the house this week. Which hasn’t happened… well, maybe ever in this house.

Friday night, RocketBoy had his friend J_ over while J_’s parents, steakums, my MIL and niece all went to see the opening at Georgia Shakespeare. So, I managed two 5 year olds, a 2 year old and a very excited dog for the evening. Everyone survived.


Making It a Blockbuster Night

My MIL and niece D_ are in town this week. RocketBoy, D_ and I went to Blockbuster last night to pick up a few somethings. Y’know, for the kids.

While we were waiting in line to check out, RocketBoy was babbling away excitedly about the videos he’d picked out (his first time in a video rental store, I believe). A few of our fellow line-waiters were getting half-smiles on their face at such a display of unbridled enthusiasm. Finally, his excitement came to a crest and he shouted out “I JUST LOVE SHOPPING WITH YOU DAD!”

You haven’t lived until you’ve had the entire population of a Blockbusters laughing at you.

Book Log – The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass

The Subtle Knife and
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (Books 2 and 3 of the His Dark Materials Trilogy)

After finishing The Golden Compass (or, Northern Lights in Europe) I wanted to wait to see the film before continuing on in the books. But I heard the film was a bit unfortunate, so I never got around to seeing it. So, thus, during last week’s beach vacation, I knocked out the last two books in the trilogy.

I have to say I enjoyed the final two more than the first, which is not to knock Compass. The second two moved along better, with action and adventure and really wild things. Regardless of how good (or bad) the first film is, I would still love to see the last two adapted, because there’s a heck of a lot of exciting stuff to put on the screen.

I very much enjoyed Pullman’s inversion of Paradise Lost, not because of any antipathy to the Christian religion, but because it’s always good fun to flip the convention of tradition. I would have enjoyed an inversion or re-imagining of the Greek/Norse mythology just as well (Gaiman’s American Gods, for instance, or Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul come to mind amongst many others).

While I thought there were a moment or two of weakness in the writing quality, I think by and large Pullman’s technique is superior to other fantasy epic writers, and here I’m thinking of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, possibly even J.K. Rowling. I’m not sure I can authoritatively say why, but my best guess is effective use of Show Don’t Tell.

A few words on the title of the first book… I mentioned that I preferred The Golden Compass to Northern Lights as a title, and given the titles of the next two books, it just makes better sense. The Compass, the Knife, and the Spyglass are each plot-significant handheld objects introduced in each of their respective books, and make for a nicer “title rhythm” for the trilogy.

Oddly enough, The Golden Compass was a misunderstanding… Wikipedia entry:

Pullman earlier proposed to name the series The Golden Compasses. This term also appears in the poem Paradise Lost, where it poetically refers to the [drafting] compasses with which God shaped the world, an idea depicted in William Blake’s painting The Ancient of Days. Due to confusion with the other common meaning of compass (the navigational instrument) this phrase in the singular became the title of the American edition of Northern Lights (the book prominently features a device that one might label a “golden compass”1).

A few words on “atheist”2 themes… I had heard that the book was more anti-dogma than anti-belief, and quite honestly, I’m not sure whether this trilogy can be classified in such a way. It’s a speculative fiction novel, a huge “What if?” It’s got Angels, and God, and (a) Church… and they’re certainly the Bad Guys. But this series wouldn’t convince anyone to be a atheist, or even agnostic. It’s not an allegory; It’s just taking some existing traditional characters and turning their story on its head.

But, were I a believer, I’d have a tough time overlooking God as Bad Guy, even for the sake of a good story.

1 And I believe actually described as such in the book.
2 Can it be an Atheist novel if God is a character?