Saturday, October 30, 2010


Well, it's Halloween.  We had lots of fun carving this year's pumpkins, all of which can be seen here!

I'm especially proud of the "abduction" pumpkin!  Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Election fun

Just a brief entry this week.  As we get closer to the election, there are more and more ads, particularly for a very close Pennsylvania senate race between Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey.  My daughter Olivia turned 18 in September and immediately registered to vote, and she has been paying closer attention to the election than ever before.

The attack ads from Toomey against Sestak have been especially nasty.  Despite their idiotic names like "Citizens for Responsibility" and so forth, it is clear from their content that some of the ads are paid for by the NRA or the National Chamber of Commerce.  The NRA ad makes it seem like Sestak, a retired admiral in the US Navy, is going to come to your house in the dead of night and take away your guns.  Toomey is painting him with the same "liberal" paintbrush that implies that "liberal" really means "treasonous."  (I love how these Tea Party idiots conveniently forget that the United States was originally founded by a bunch of liberal free thinkers.)  Sestak's congressional record is being tied to the dreaded "Pelosi agenda" (whatever the hell that is) and just in general he is being made to look like a man in favor of taxation, abortion, free love and peace without honor.  (Sestak's ads have been pretty straightforward, commenting largely on Toomey's role as a Wall Street lobbyist and questioning the wisdom of his Tea Party endorsements, the implication being that a stamp of approval from the likes of Sarah Palin is not worth much.)

When Olivia first saw the Toomey attack ads, she thought that they were, in fact, ringing endorsements FOR Joe Sestak and decided on the spot that she was going to vote for him.  The very qualities which the Republicans were decrying were in fact her -- and my -- core values.

Chew on that, Mr. Toomey.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back from Boston

Recently we spent a few days in Boston visiting university campuses to see if any of them were a good fit for my daughter.  We spent the most time at Boston University and at Northeastern.  Both schools are on Olivia's short list because of their excellent programs in both biology and studio fine arts.  She is still torn between graphic art and bioengineering, but I think her innate sense of practicality is winning out, in that she realizes that becoming a successful comics or graphic novel artist is difficult (to say the least) and that she is going to need a day job, at least for a while.  And if you're going to have a day job, pick one that you love.

Bioengineering caught her interest last year in junior biology when her class did things like inserting plasmids into bacteria and teasing the DNA out of strawberries.  When I took high school biology we didn't even get to dissect the frog.  Our teacher was too busy making inappropriate remarks toward the female students and showing us how to make blowguns out of glass tubing.  And this was the chairman of the science department at one of the finest high schools in the country.  Go figure.

The differences between my daughter's education and mine are profound.  She has access to things like computer animation and is creating bacterial colonies that glow blue under special light.  I still used a slide rule in my high school physics class and did not have access to a computer until halfway through my college career.  It just blows me away.

Boston remains a beautiful city, and we were lucky enough to have spectacular weather while we were there.  B.U. was not quite what Olivia is looking for, although it's a wonderful school, but Northeastern seemed to be a very good fit for her.  She like the people there a lot more and was interested in Northeaster's "co-op" program of internships and community service.  Finding this out was more than worth the trip.  Add to that the fact that we got to have a spectacular dinner (French/Cambodian fusion at The Elephant Walk) with an old friend whom I had not seen in entirely too long, and you come up with one of the best trips our family has taken in a long time, albeit a pricey one.

And seeing the Ossining Correctional Facility, aka the former Sing Sing Prison, overlooking the Hudson River on the trip home was a nice bonus too.  Scary prison, October foliage, great trip.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Something With Which I'm Wrestling

After all the heavy posts about the dog and about my ill health (and please, people, I want your comments!) I have decided to tackle briefly a topic with which I have been wrestling in my own mind for some time:  When in the name of all that we hold dear did the Sci-Fi Channel (excuse me, "SyFy") become the home of the World Wrestling Federation??!?

I'm deadly serious.  This bothers me.  A whole lot.

If we accept the definition of science fiction ("syence fyction?") as "literary fantasy involving the imagined impact of science on society" then we accept, I think, the idea that this is a pretty intellectual exercise.  To extrapolate the impact of certain possible, or even purely speculative, developments in science and technology requires a certain amount of, oh, I don't know, intelligence on our part.  Professional wrestling, however, does not.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for the broadest possible definition of what qualifies as appropriate for a television channel devoted to science fiction.  It doesn't all have to be Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica reruns.  I love the cheesy movies, like Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus.  (I swear I am not making that up.)  I love that they also show fantasy and horror and everything from Bruce Campbell B-movies to vampire romance.  But wrestling??!?  Seriously?

I just cannot get my mind around whatever Venn diagram they are using that shows a significant enough overlap between sci-fi fans and wrestling fans to make somebody think this is a good idea.

Surely there is no shortage of appropriate programming for a science fiction channel.  Surely there are enough wrestling fans out there to warrant a separate wrestling channel, or at least to devoting part of an existing sports channel's programming time to wrestling.  Does somebody -- somebody who I'm sure makes way more money than I do, somebody with a ton of responsibility at the network -- honestly think that the folks watching Stargate: Universe are going to stick around to see who the Undertaker is going up against this week?  Or conversely, that the wrestling fans are going to stay tuned for Sanctuary?  Really?

Get wrestling off of my science fiction venue and onto the Nascar channel where it belongs.  Give that time back for something I will actually enjoy watching instead of steroid abusers badly acting out juvenile scripted adventures.  If I wanted to watch that, I'd tune in to Supercroc.

Yes, I'm an elitist snob.  So sue me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Well...HERE'S What:

If you've been following the Dog Saga (see most recent post) you know that we have had some biting going on; a friend of my daughter's as well as my wife.  In subsequent days, I have also been nipped, in the act of putting on a doggie raincoat.  My family and I had made an agreement before taking on the dog that any biting was an immediate deal breaker.  One bite and gone.  One strike and you're out.  They have reneged and I am very unhappy.

Instead we have re-consulted the Dog Listener.  Her advice is that we have a very, very stubborn dog who is nervous rather than vicious.  He does not understand his place in the pack and thinks that he is being forced to be, you should pardon the expression, Top Dog.  It is making him stressed.  Her further advice was to continue with the training techniques we have already begun and to additionally otherwise ignore the dog while around the house.  No playing, no eye contact, no petting, no encouragement outside of his other training.  I have no problem with this, apart from the fact that we are doing it at all rather than approaching his previous owners about taking him back.

The stubborn little so-and-so has, of course, dug in his heels and is resisting us mightily.  We were warned by the Listener that things might get worse before they get better.  They have.  We have had indoor urination every day since beginning the newer regimen.  Often it's occurred right after his regular trip outside, so it's some dog thing, and not relieving an urgent physical need.  I am very tired of dragging our carpet steam cleaner up from the basement.  And I don't think it will improve soon.  We have to lock him up when we have company.  We have to lock him up when we go out.  And we have to lock him up during the night lest I step into a puddle on my own nocturnal trip to the john.

I don't want to do this any more.  Any affection I may have begun to feel towards the animal is rapidly dissipating; I am strictly continuing with this (as opposed to delivering an ultimatum) because I love my wife and daughter and don't want to add to their unhappiness.  But the unhappiness and stress that I am experiencing is, I believe, influencing my already shaky health situation.  My Crohn's Disease has been flaring up badly for over two months in spite of prednisone therapy, a massive increase of my immunosuppressant drugs, and every trick that my gastroenterologist can think of to try.  I believe that the continued stress of living with the dog and the problems he has brought with him are at least partly responsible, and I have no idea how to balance my concerns and my health with the desires of my wife and daughter.  I refuse to let this situation jeopardize my family or my marriage, but I am deeply worried about my own health.  We have some college-search trips planned for the near future and in my present state, I have no idea how I am going to be able to make them.  Well, you get the idea.

I can only hope that these latest techniques cause a breakthrough soon.  Because otherwise I don't see how I can deal with this for very much longer.