Handyman! Who knew?

The other day, just in time for our month Iron Chef dinner parties, our oven decided to die on us. The burners worked fine but after several hours of baking a ham, it still hadn’t finished pre-heating. So it wasn’t totally dead, but in the words of Princess Bride, it was “mostly dead”.

So after lamenting the possibility of having to buy a new oven, I decided to look online and see what I could find out. I found out that it’s usually the baking element (that wire thing at the bottom in an electric oven) having problems if the oven won’t ever come up to temperature. So I opened up the oven and checked the element. It looked a little funny, so I touched it. It fell apart. Guess that needed some help.

So we went on Ebay and ordered the part. It showed up today and I took out the old one and put in the new one (go me!). I turned on the oven and there was heat. So now we just have to be able to cook a meal and not have the house burn down and I’ll feel it was a success.

Here’s a shot of the old heating element.


Why I Didn’t Like the Dark Knight

Yes, I finally got around to seeing the Dark Knight last night. They joys of having a 2 year old!

Before I get around to explaining my disagreements, I should start out by saying that as far as acting and accomplishing an emotional reaction, I thought the movie was very good. And I can definitely understand why Heath Ledger got the Academy Award.

But my disagreement with the movie stems from the fundamental premise of the movie. If it hadn’t been a “Batman” movie, I would have avoided it, since I’m more of an action or fun movie type of person. This is my same beef with the new James Bond movies with Daniel Craig.

I disagree with the movement to take these larger than life characters and dragging them down into the degraded,
“real” arena. These characters were meant to be larger than life. Of course they had their fatal flaws, but good always triumphed over evil in the end and the good guys came out alright and the bad guys were locked up or dead. And you usually felt better after watching them!

The fact that I fell like writing something like this after watching the Dark Knight should be enough to point out that I didn’t feel better after it, regardless of it’s technical expertise as a theatrical art piece (which was VERY impressive). I know the current trend is toward “reality”, but there’s a reason that a majority of the timeless classics (I know not all) are of the love story that works out in the end (i.e. Cinderella) or the where the hero triumphs over evil. I mean, who would have remembered the Cinderella story if she had ended up with a small house, two kids and a job?

I think the characters like James Bond and Batman, which have long histories of being the grandiose, larger than life superheroes, should be left that way. I don’t think if Batman had started out like he’s portrayed in the Dark Knight, as someone who has to suffer to do right, the franchise would have made it through innumerable comics, a TV series and a bunch of other movies.

And maybe these new movies are meant for a different audience, but while I continue to hope for the best and shell out my money to see them, I’m not impressed. I think the world needs it’s heros and fantasies. They bring people up and remind people that a more ideal scene is possible, even if only in the movies and books for now. If I want a dark story, I can look on the news. There’s plenty of that in real life. Want to talk about suffering, look at India. Want to talk about unsung heroes, look in the plethora of wars over the past years. Want some really crazy people, look at the Unibomber or the guys that flew into the World Trade Center. But that’s not what I want when I go to the movies–especially when it’s based on characters that have a long history of winning against all odds and keeping their sense of humor while doing it.

And my point doesn’t include movies like Watchmen, which are meant to be more “dark” from the beginning. They’ve never been something else, so they stand on their own metaphorical feet when it comes to drawing an audience.

But I guess I don’t like horror flicks either, so there’s plenty of people out there that will disagree with me. But I want to point out one thing: the biggest money making genre is the action movie, where the heroes are inevitably larger than life and usually come out in the end beat up but having triumphed over all.

Writing Again

One of my goals for the year is to try to get another book written. As part of that I figured I would post some of my writing up here as I worked on it. One caveat though for those of you expecting a sequential set of posts that culminate in a book: that’s not going to happen.

First off, I don’t write sequentially. I write the parts that I feel like writing or which are the most fun to write. Then I tie them together.

Secondly, I’m throwing up first drafts, so though something similar may appear in the final form, I wouldn’t count on it remaining unchanged.

So without further ado, the first real writing I have done in quite some time. I hope you like it.

Paul laid down in the cold, impersonal sheets of the hotel room. It had been a long day of travel, having been shuttled half way across the country and then had to stop due to storms preventing his connection from making it through to Atlanta. So there he was in a hotel room right outside the Dallas/Fort Worth airport at 12:30 am. He laid his head down on the pillow and thought of his bed at home the last time he had been there. Had it been a week already? He had been traveling to make some business deals and to do some research, but at that moment, he wanted nothing more to be home in his warm bed.

He closed his eyes and could see his wife laying there. Her gold hair spread on the pillow as the blankets rose with each breath. Her arm the only other part of her showing. He had laid there for while knowing he would be heading out in the morning and it would be several weeks before he would be home. He knew he would miss laying next to her and listening to her breathe and feeling her warmth as he snuggled closer to try to stay under some measure of the covers as she wrapped herself more and more tightly against the colder ambient air.

Why she liked to turn the heat down at night he would never understand. She claimed it was to save money on the heating bill, but that couldn’t be the real reason. The heating bills were never that high and the bills weren’t ever that tight. But he loved the mock arguments in the morning when they got up to the cold temperatures.

And then there was the little blonde haired beauty. The other love of his life, who at just under two, was quite a dynamo. She had come in that night before he had fallen asleep with a tear in her eye because something had scared her in her bed. No one could have refused the plea to come into the bed. And he didn’t really mind as she climbed in between he and his wife, snuggling in and asleep within seconds.

That was the reason he did what he did. Not only for the paycheck to help support them and to be able to buy toys and presents and keep up with his wife’s seemingly insatiable gardening and farming projects. No, that was only part of it. That everyone should be able to experience that was the other reason for his long nights, hard work and extended times away. Everyone should be able to snuggle next to their spouse and have their children with them without having to worry about things like the heating bill. That was why he did what he did.

But that was little consolation sitting there in that dark, plain hotel room with the lights of the city off in the distance. So he turned on the TV, set it to turn off in twenty minutes and rolled over, pushing the nostaglia from his mind and quickly falling asleep to how the latest and greatest, super absorbant towel could be had for slightly less than he had paid for dinner that night.

Iron Chef Nights

Several years ago when Chris and I worked at the Delphian School, we hosted Tuesday night dinners with the other you staff. There was a group of us that would have dinner each Tuesday and trade off cooking. It was a lot of fun. But then we moved farther away and some of the other people moved to New Hampshire and it just fell apart.

But a few months back Chris had the idea to start a similar thing up again, but instead of just trading off the cooking, it would be potluck style with a theme (like the show Iron Chef on the Food Network). So she emailed around and got a bunch of people intested.

We’ve had two of these now (one of which doubled as my birthday party), and they are a blast. People come with all sorts of food and everyone gets together at one of our places and eats and talks and has a good time.  And since a lot of us are a bit older and have little children, even they get to come and share in the fun.

I’m looking forward to the next one. I think the theme is apples and it should be good!

Gas Prices

I think it’s funny (though not really) that we now view gas prices around $3.25 as low. What a joke! It’s definitely lower that the $4 we were approaching/hit, but it’s still ridiculously high. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that gas is quick to follow the increase in the price of barrels of oil, but quite slow to follow the deline. I’d love to get a copy of the plans and programs that some of these high oil executives are operating on. I think they’d make interesting reading. Almost as interesting as those behind the banking/money industries!

Dealing with Daphne

I don’t know if this is true for all kids, but I remember Brett going through this phase and Daphne is definitely going through it. It’s the phase of “deal making”. She understands well enough now that we can really talk with her. So now when we want her to do things we can tell her and she will usually do them as he’s very into trying to “he[l]p”. But there are sometimes when we really need to make sure she gets something, or it’s something we think it’s unlikely that she’ll just accept or do. On these occasions, we’ve started to explain things to her really well in succint steps and get her to agree to each step. It’s very cute.


Mom/Dad: “We’re going to put your shoes on now, but you have to keep them on, ok?”

Daphne: “K”

M/D: “We will get food, but first we have to buckle the car seat, ok?”

Daphne: “K”

M/D: “I’m going to go to the bathroom and you need to stay here, ok?”

D: “K”

M/D: “And you can’t cry, ok?”

D: “K”

And she does a really good job of keeping her word. She tries really hard to do what she’s agree to do or not to do. It’s sooo cute to watch her try not to cry when she has agreed not to. She gets this HUGE bottom lip and holds it back as long as she can. It really makes you not want to go do what it was that you needed to leave to do.

Daphne’s Learning to Talk

Daphne’s really starting to learn to talk. Before it was a word here and a word there. But she’s picking up about a word (maybe more) per day. She’s starting to work on two-syllable words and joining them together to better get her point across. Sometimes I have a really hard time understanding her because I am trying to figure out what she is saying using on the words that I think she knows, but she is actually saying something totally different using words that I didn’t think she knew yet. It’s quite exciting and very cute.

Canceled Flights

I’m once again off to DC for work, but on the way this morning I got a call from the person that booked my ticket for me that the airline had changed my itinerary and I was going to spend the whole day and night in airports and airplanes and not get there until tomorrow morning. Needless to say this wasn’t workable either from a work standpoint or from the viewpoint of keeping my sanity.

So first off, I should say that this was with US Airways. And so far I have been quite unimpressed with them as an airline. They charge for everything. First checked bag: $15. Drinks on board (like water and soda): $2. Snacks on board: $5. It’s brutal. Instead of handling the tough times airlines are having by having good service and promotion, they just are opting to charge for everything.

So back to this morning. Here I am in the car already to go to the airport and I get this news. I was going to be early anyway so I just decided to handle it once I got there and I told myself to remember that it wasn’t the people at the desk in Portland that made this blunder so I shouldn’t take it out on them–though I was prepared to do so if things didn’t get sorted out.

But I got there, and the ladies were very nice. They ran through all sorts of scenarios to try to figure out how to get me there, including trying to book me a hotel (at the airline’s expense) in Baltimore so that I could fly to that airport. Finally we found a flight on American Airlines that I could get on that would get me in only two hours later than I was going to be, plus I didn’t have to fly on US Airways (saving the baggage fee and I should get some drinks in flight!).

So here I sit waiting for my flight having averted what could have been a very disastrous and upsetting day. And I wanted to point out that while I think US Airways as a whole is a crappy airline, the individual agents in Portland were very nice so it worked well to not lose the individuals within the conglomerated mass.

Extreme Programming

For those of you that don’t know “extreme programming” is actually a real term that has to with a certain method of programming that follows certain rules and tries to make projects as successful as possible.

But I don’t mean that. Those of you who know me technically know that I can get a very good product, but that I can be cavalier at times (we can get into that some other time :).

But lately I’ve been given several projects and some of them have been presented as “we have this HUGE target and we need it done NOW or we lose a LOT”. I love these kinds of programming assignments, though I’m sure my wife isn’t so thrilled with them as she gets ignored a bit. These assignments often turn out to not be as bad as was initially thought, but the crunch time is where I have the most fun. There’s not enough time to think or try a bunch of things or have lots of meetings or whatever other distractions can come up. It’s just a straight line of intense pressure to the end. I love that. I guess it’s sort of like the geek equivalent of jumping out of an airplane or being that guy in the movies that has to disarm the bomb as the clock ticks down–what a fun job.

And I’m pretty good. I don’t usually miss on these. I usually get them done and have everything calmed down in the process. It’s the slower projects that are much more methodical that I have more of a hard time with since I just get bored. I have fun planning it all out and figuring out what needs to be done in what order, but then most of the game is already handled and it’s just plodding along the path. It’s sort of like copying a book by hand at that point. I can’t imagine being a monk in the old days!

I guess I’ll just have to keep getting the high pressure, big jobs to keep my interest up (not to mention my paycheck, since these kinds of projects usually pay a bit more 🙂