Monday, June 30, 2008

So Where Have I Been?

After two and a half months of just about daily posting, I vanish for a week. What gives?

Well, y'see...last Saturday, we buried my Grandma ("G.G" to the Offspring), and then I spent the rest of the weekend with my sister, mother, cousins, aunts, and occasionally uncles/father/wife packing up her house.

And I spent the last week wanting to write about that, not quite able to, but not feeling free to do anything else. Not sure what's changed given the passage of a mere 8 days, but...something has, I guess.

Normal posting shall resume.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

So Glad I Don't Live 40 Miles West of Here

HotAir relates the dreadful story of Barbara Wagner from Oregon:

Oregon’s state-run health care plan won’t cover a new drug that could extend her life — which is, after all, the entire point of health insurance and health care — but will gladly pay the bill if she decides to stop costing the state more money.
Wagner is, of course, not the first or only one who's experienced this
local oncologists say they’ve seen a change and that their Oregon Health Plan patients with advanced cancer no longer get coverage for chemotherapy if it is considered comfort care.
Ed Morrissey's analysis is spot-on:
This is the entirely predictable result of the shift in thinking of human life as sacred to an entirely materialistic view. Human life becomes a commodity, especially when the state has charge of it and responsibility for its costs. When the state assumes the cost for the most personal and private functions of its citizens, the private and personal become public, and the limits of government disappear.

Do you like French fries? Those cause heart disease, which costs the government X billions of dollars per year, so those are out. How about tanning booths? Skin cancer treatments cost $X billions, too, so we’ll outlaw those. Finally, so what if you want to extend your life an extra couple of years? You can’t generate enough revenue to make up for the cost of the treatment, so the state won’t allow it. If you’d be so kind as to drop dead now, though, that will save some money for a badly-needed sex-change operation.
For those who are too lazy to read the link, there is a happy ending. Genentech, the pharmecutical company who makes the drug she needs, is going to give her a one-year supply (at least). Imagine that...someone putting medicine in the hands of the is that too complicated for the state? Oh wait...they're too busy making sure people don't pump their own gas...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ohhhh, I'm a lousy parent

Just got done watching tonight's Doctor Who on SciFi ("Silence in the Library") with TLomL and the Offspring. Then tucked the Princess and Arnold in to bed. What's Arnold muttering as I leave the room?

Hey, who turned out the lights? Hey, who turned out the lights? Hey, who turned out the lights? Hey, who turned out the lights?...*

* yeah, yeah, I know there's only like 3 of you that get why my 4 year old saying that is funny/disturbing...but you 3 really get it

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Knew I Should've Gone to Law School

Just didn't realize I should've done it before I became a dad...

A Canadian court has lifted a 12-year-old girl's grounding, overturning her father's punishment for disobeying his orders to stay off the internet, his lawyer said today.

The girl had taken her father to Quebec Superior Court after he refused to allow her to go on a school trip for chatting on websites he tried to block, and then posting "inappropriate" pictures of herself online using a friend's computer.

The father's lawyer Kim Beaudoin said the disciplinary measures were for the girl's "own protection" and is appealing the ruling.
If your stomach is strong enough, the rest of the story is here at The Brisbane Times' site.

As kletois said when he showed me this piece
if you are in Canada heres a helpful tip: GET OUT

"...and pants to match."

I wasn't sure what I was going to talk about tonight--maybe the nasty-sounding, un-appealing looking, uber-expensive "The Burger" from Burger King in London--but, darn it all, it was going to be something wordy...but then I'm doing my typical check o' the ol' blogs, and Alan Sepinwall throws a monkey wrench into that by throwing up links to some of the best Newsradio clips on youtube. I watched this first one so many times I probably just about crashed the site, laughing the whole time.

I apparently missed this episode in syndication, but oh I have to track it down...why doesn't Vicki Lewis get more work? Why won't Tierney get out of that drab drama and get back to comedy? And Dick? ohhhh man...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Princess and the Fish

My father continued his efforts to introduce my children to that scary thing called nature yesterday by convincing The Princess to play hooky and go fishing (wasn't that hard to convince). She'd never been before, so this was a pretty big deal. We were all pretty glad to see her go--sadly, not because we were glad she got the experience, but because from the time she got up until she was picked up, she made sure to announce to whoever was near, "I'm going fishing!" every five minutes or so (maybe every three).

She, her cousin, and Grandpa (or, as Arnold has taken to calling him "Grond-paw") seemed to have a pleasant time, and on the whole were able to enjoy sitting by the edge of the river uninterrupted by removing fish from hooks. Thankfully, they weren't totally skunked--the Princess was able to bring in this bluegill (if I was better with GIMP, I'd doctor the photo just to help her ego in years to come when she pulls this photo out. I just hope she realizes that not every fishing trip will be this exciting and eventful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Bout Sums It Up for Me

Once again, Greg Dean over at Real Life Comics puts my thoughts into words and art for me...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mr. Monk in Outer Space

If I had more energy, I'd go through the archives and see how many of Lee Goldberg's Monk novels I've talked about, but I'm pretty sure my take on all of them is pretty much the same: theyyyyy're grrreaaat! The latest, just released in paperback (making it cheap enough for Frodo to give it to me for Father's Day) is no exception.

Essentially, the novel centers on the death of the creator of a Star Trek-like show at a con. Monk has a hard time understading the obsessive nature of the fans and is convinced these adults walking around in costumes are tripping on acid. Hilarity ensues. Goldberg is able to spoof fandom, TV reimaginings, not to mention TV in general. He doesn't do so meanly, there's respect, affection, and understanding. Which is a pleasant change--normally fanboys are painted with the broadest brush in these circumstances and played for only cheap laughs, Goldberg resists this impulse (generally), which results in better jokes.

Outer Space's mystery holds up a little better than it's fore-runners, but as with the show, the mystery is secondary to watching Monk navigate through society--particularly one as strange as SciFi fandom. I laughed out loud a lot at this one--but it was more than just a comedic romp. There were some good, more serious, moments that really get ya in the cockles----as they do in the TV episodes featuring Ambrose (oh, did I forget to mention that Ambrose makes his first appearance in the books? Silly me). They, along with Monk's final appraisal of fandom, really elevate the book.

Another solid outing for Goldberg--his best yet, actually. Can't wait for the next installment.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

We celebrated Father's Day at La Maison Newton yesterday, and I felt a little embarrassed at how well I was treated. Typical for us, it was low key day with little fanfare, but what little fare we had was well fanned. (or was the fan well fared?) TLomL strained my waistband with a couple of special meals, and I got some decent quality time in with the kids. Particularly with Frodo, who finally talked me into teaching him how to play Risk. It took me three hours to finally wipe him off the board (there was at least one point where I feared he'd do the same to me), and turn him into an addict. And I have to mention the cake the boys picked out for me (pictured to the left)--visually great, and just the perfect level of lightness--I could've eaten three of those and not noticed.

The gifts from my kids were the best kind--those that showed their personality, as well as showing a good deal of thoughtfulness. For example, Arnold gave me a new watch--something I've needed for about 2 years--it looks just like Frodo's, only bigger (I think he's hoping I can get to be as cool as his idol). TLomL gave me The Traveling Wilburys' box set--a true sacrifice on her part, and one her ears probably regretted within a couple of hours (and not just because I can't help singing all the Dylan parts...she's just lucky I don't think I can do a George Harrison or Roy Orbison impression). It'll be worse for her when all four of the kids are singing "The End of the Line" by Friday...what we do for love, eh?

But really, as great a day as they gave me, yesterday was just the cap to a week where everyone doted on me. My wife was there for me every step of the way through the surgery and recovery. Everyone reacts a little differently to anesthesia--I apparently become an antagonistic jerk (a couple of you are wondering how anyone could tell), but she was there, with a lot more patience than I deserved. After that, she was loving and supportive through incredible discomfort and intense pain--from her expression it sometimes seemed she felt it more than I did. My kids all went above and beyond the call both in help and understanding.

I gave Samwise and Frodo a pretty good description of what happened to me, and what I was going through in recovery. Thursday, I had to do something that at least sounded quite unpleasant, and I was having a hard time getting in the right place mentally to give it a shot (not to mention physically). Both of them were right there with to encourage me. They fed me my own words in a heckuva 1-2 punch combination. Frodo kept telling me, "You know you have to do it." And Sam would follow up with, "If you do it now, you won't have to worry about it later." Not only were they inconveniently right, but they were sincere. In another five years or so, their words would be tinged with sarcasm and mockery, and I'd have felt justified in my desire to strangle them. In their earnestness, I knew such was an over-reaction.

I know the idea of the idea of the day is to make money for Hallmark and assorted companies honor fathers, but really, being dad to this group is honor enough.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shuffle Up and Improvise

In the tradition of This is Spinal Tap, Best of Show, A Mighty Wind, etc. comes the improvised mockumentary The Grand directed and co-written by Zak Penn, who pays off some of the great debt he owes movies for Elektra and X-Men: The Last Stand.

The film centers on a motley bunch of competitors in a 10 million dollar poker tournament. And, um...well, come to think of it, that's pretty much it. Penn's reportedly a big poker player, and recruited some of the best of Hollywood's players to be in the film--and Phil Gordon, poker commentator to-boot (gets some of the best lines). The players include: David Cross, Judy Greer, Woody Harrelson, Gabe Kaplan, Richard Kind, Cheryl Hines, Michael McKean, Chris Parnell, Ray Romano, and Dennis Farina (always fun to see him to comedy). Those are more than enough to fill 104 minutes--but the film manages to pack in even more.

I really want to go on about this, but really that's all there is to say. Strange characters, well-to-brilliantly played; poker; an overall plot that holds up better than Christopher Guest's flicks; and say 100 minutes of laughs (pretty sure there've gotta be 4 minutes of dead time...maybe up to 8).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Windmills are Still Standing

For all his tilting, all too many windmills are still standing. But Ron Paul dropped out of the race last night. This Don Quixote did create many a faithful Sancho Panza, and will continue the work in the Campaign for Liberty.

Never fear, I'm dropping that metaphor before I stretch it even thinner--just gonna say, go check the Campaign out, get involved.

Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a false government security blanket beckons.
In the final analysis, the last line of defense in support of freedom and the Constitution consists of the people themselves. If the people want to be free, if they want to lift themselves out from underneath a state apparatus that threatens their liberties, squanders their resources on needless wars, destroys the value of their dollar, and spews forth endless propaganda about how indispensable it is and how lost we would all be without it, there is no force that can stop them.

Oh, Fer Cryin' Out Loud!

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — On a Monday morning last month, highway patrol officers visited 20 classrooms at El Camino High School to announce some horrible news: Several students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.

Classmates wept. Some became hysterical.

A few hours and many tears later, though, the pain turned to fury when the teenagers learned that it was all a hoax — a scared-straight exercise designed by school officials to dramatize the consequences of drinking and driving.
FOXNews has the rest.

This is simply stupid. How is this not going to blow up in their faces?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Now I've Seen Everything

Okay, I thought the whole 'unicorn' deer thing that was all over 'teh InterWeb' yesterday was strange enough...but this just takes the cake.

A piglet scared of wallowing in mud has overcome its fears with the help of some Wellington boots.

Six-week-old Cinders appears to suffer from mysophobia, a fear of dirt, after refusing to join her siblings as they splashed around in the mud.

Owner Andrew Keeble from Thirsk, North Yorks, said his daughter Ellie, 12, suggested kitting her out in the tiny footwear which had been on a key ring.
Click the link there for more details from BBC, including video.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Baseball Finals

Doesn't he look tough there?
Finally, getting around to talking about Samwise's Little League Tourney. Sorry for the delay, life and stuff interrupted.

So the team entered the tournament having finished the season in First Place--and, Sam wasn't a small part of that (wasn't a huge part, don't get me wrong, but he's was a role player), so they got a bye for the first game and the lowest seeded team for the second game. Which basically served as batting practice for the team--although there was a moment or two where it looked like the other guys could make it interesting.

Sam's coach spent the week walking the tightrope between an intense desire to win and trying to keep things fun for the kids--he succeeded for the most part, but came close to running the kids ragged with practices on top of their games. If it wasn't the end of the season, it'd have been cruel.

Then came Saturday--the big day. 2 games guaranteed--one more elimination game for the four remaining teams and then either the consolation game or the championship game. The team they faced first (at 8:30 in the morning! How mean!) was no slouch--finished the season in a close fourth. This was everything that a parent/fan/coach/player could've wanted. Some decent defense (great defense for this level, if you grade on a curve), great offense, dumb young kid mistakes...a real nail-biter for too much of the game. In the end, Sam's team won and the 4th place team went to the consolation game (they ended up winning in an offensive slugfest, at one point it was 17-14 and they played a couple more long innings after that).

So we get a few hours off (nap time for the dad who came straight from work for the early game). Thankfully, the second place team ended up in the championship game with them--the third place team had beaten Sam's team twice and had this psychological hold on them, and would've likely won. Sadly, they were hurt by illnesses (flu, pneumonia, etc.)--one player in the second game wasn't feeling good enough to play in the first of the day. They had enough to field a team, but had no bench to draw from.

This game wasn't as good--both teams were tired (Sam's had a couple more hours of rest tho), neither team's big hitters were able to do as much as they wanted to, which was frustrating to all. The end of this game was never in any real doubt--thankfully. The lack of bench came into play towards the end--in the penultimate inning, the "big gun" on Sam's team hit this monster line-drive right into the face of the girl playing pitcher. She got a small cut by her eye, a bloody nose and a trip to the ER (seemed okay, but parent's were being understandably paranoid). The game really ended right there, although another full inning was played.

Typically, the parents on the losing team took it harder than their kids--on the whole, the parents on the winning side muted our celebrations because of the injury (the players really didn't...breaking into an impromptu cover of "We are the Champions" shortly after congratulating the other team).

Then there was the award ceremony--and, like I mentioned the other day, Samwise now has a trophy that had nothing to do with participation. An actual trophy, signifying an actual accomplishment and victory. Couldn't bee prouder.

Of course the thought that occupied my mind for the rest of the day was..."what nimrod spends 6 hours at a baseball field without a cap on a sunny day?" OW!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why Politicians Scare Me

From Politico:

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), son of the one-time presidential contender, said Obama’s victory overwhelmed him.

"I cried all night. I’m going to be crying for the next four years," he said. "What Barack Obama has accomplished is the single most extraordinary event that has occurred in the 232 years of the nation’s political history. ... The event itself is so extraordinary that another chapter could be added to the Bible to chronicle its significance." (emphasis mine)
from John Stossel:
Parents aren't responsible enough? The politicians need to make these decisions for them?

[Mayor Robert Correia of Fall River, Mass.] replied, "Parents do have a chance to decide that through their elected officers. That's what a democracy is all about."

Really? I had no idea democracy was about voting on who gets to tell you how to raise your kids.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Well, that's that

Back home now, and feeling surprisingly well. Had the rudest post-op nurse. Refused to really answer any of my questions, ignored what I said about how I felt, kept telling me I wouldn't remember any of what she said, no matter how coherent I told her I was (I think the fact I was using coherent correctly within a minute from coming out of the general should've got me a little consideration).

Oh, and, as for not remembering anything? I could give a pretty accurate transcript right now--not Archie Goodwin verbatim level, but pretty close.

If I keep feeling the way I am, the biggest challenges that face me are keeping the diet restrictions (can't eat for 8 hours before and 24 hrs after! good gravy!) and finding some way past the sentry tonight to make it to work.

I Don't Like Mondays

(really, have no problem with Mondays, but am listening to this for no apparent reason as I type, and it seems to fit. Go ahead and open it in a new tab and listen as you read.)

I know I've made a couple of references over the last few months to having kidney stones for the second time in 12 years (am shooting for 22 this next time...), but honestly, I wasn't that sure it was what was going on, because as dim as my memory was I remember it being more than just very uncomfortable-to-moderately painful--which is all it had gotten to. But my urologist had a CT scan performed, and did a cystoscopy a couple weeks back and found "a really big one, maybe two" stuck along the way. And don't think a cystoscopy isn't twice as much fun as it sounds like.

And then the next day that pain I remembered, that Life Changing pain, the pain that let me know with a certainty no CT scan could ever give, kicked in. Spent a few hours in the ER on some sort of cocktail of miracle drugs, thanks to the insistence of TLomL. But that/those little sucker(s) have stuck around.

Fast-forward a week and a half, and I'm back for a follow-up. We're supposed to talk about "surgical options"--for me there is no option, it's not a matter of "if," but of "when." The good doctor actually tried to convince me that it was the right move--as I'm sure he has to do that a lot, but after 3.5 months, I didn't need that. He started to get the picture and asked how next week worked for me--I said fine, unless he was free that afternoon.

Then he really got the picture.

So, assuming everything goes according to schedule, about right now, I'll be well under the spell of a general anesthetic so that I can undergo the following four things: a ureteroscopy, a laser lithotripsy, stone extraction (that's the good part), and probably the insertion of a stint.

At first I was just happy that it was ending--after a couple of hours I started to get a little worried and am not so much looking forward it. Perhaps...just perhaps, I shouldn't have looked up those fun words on google, eh? (especially the article with nice color photos). With my liver biopsy 2 yrs ago...I was just stupid to not think it through, but in retrospect, it was good I didn't think about the fact that part of an organ was being ripped out. But not thinking it through spared me a lot of fretting.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not worried worried, just mildly-concerned worried. That, and, not-at-all-looking-forward-to-the-recovery worried.

If I don't stop rambling soon, the whole thing'll be over before you get a chance to finish reading. See you on the flip side :)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Down Time

The Little League season ended last week, which I figured signaled that our lives were going to get back to our regular pace--and then had one of those weeks.*

Anyway, this weekend is the first since sometime in March that has been baseball-free. Actually, it's been totally free: nowhere to go, no one to see, nothing to do. And, that's pretty much all we've done--nothing. We've been home. It's been very refreshing, but a little dull.

Most of us have been home anyway--Frodo's off camping with my parents, sister, and pretty much everyone from my father's side of the family. Not sure when it was that we stopped getting invited as a whole, but Frodo was apparently picked to stand in for the rest of us, and was the only one invited. From the silence of our phones, there's no cell-signal where they are, and TLomL is starting to go crazy from the silence from her first-born. Watching her deal with this three-day separation really makes me dread what'll happen in 9 years when he moves out. **

That's not to say we've done absolutely nothing around here. Last night, Samwise unlocked a new character on Mario Kart Wii, and, um...we've re-assigned seats around the dining table. It's remarkable how such a slight little thing can really throw off everyone. Meals have been surprisingly lively. I do wonder if this alteration is going to be the tipping point for Frodo's latent OCD upon his return.

Anyway, that's it from the Newton Household--a much-deserved dull time. Tomorrow I've got something scheduled to post that's the opposite of dull--at least for me (here's a quick teaser: it involved lasers!! oooh, you really want to read it now, don't ya?)

* Been meaning to write something up on that...the fact that I haven't should say a lot about the week. Short version, Samwise has a trophy on the mantle that has nothing to do with participation.
** I realize that by talking about him moving out one day that I've earned a week on the couch.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Swearing Off Cusack

That's it, I can't take it anymore. John Cusack is one of my all time favorite actors--top five, at least. I can't think of a single thing he's done that I couldn't/haven't watched multiple times (which is why I've avoided a few of his projects--like Max, 'cuz I don't want to feel any sympathy for that particular failed Austrian artist depicted in the film, and 1408 because I don't want to enjoy that kind of movie). But I'm going to have to stop watching his movies now, that's all there is to it.

Well, maybe I'm being rash--maybe I can just swear off all films with him and kids, that might be the way to go. If he's a record shop owner, a hitman with a crisis of conscience, a high school kid sturggling to make the team and get the girl (okay, okay, he's probably not going to make anymore movies like that) and so on--I can take it. But when he's a dad--like in The Martian Child or Grace is Gone (the last two things I've seen him in)...forget it, I just can't do it, I just don't like crying at movies that much.

Grace is Gone is not a great movie, in many ways, it's not even a really good movie. But it has three stellar performances--those by Cusack and the two girls who play his daughters. Shélan O'Keefe and Gracie Bdenarczyk are so good it's scary.

The movie's about the human cost of war, the grief, the loss, the lives. And it's just gut-wrenching. The performances of the three leads are perfect. Subtle, nuanced, careful, and...perfect. Can't think of another word. This movie could be a rival for the Turing test--if you're not moved by Cusack (much less O'Keefe) throughout, or by any of the three in the film's climax, you're a machine. Simple as that.

I should also add that Clint Eastwood's simple score is deceptively so, and captures the essence of the film in a way too few scores do. I think this is the first time Eastwood's written for a film he hasn't directed, but it proves that any time he wants to stop acting and just sit in front of a piano, he can keep busy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Will on Colbert

This had me in stitches. I think Will gets the better lines, but typically, they're so dry they're easy to miss.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Warning: Enlarged Right Parahippocampal Gyrus Ahead!

No, really.

The New York Times reports
today (and yet, it's likely true) that neuropsychologist Katherine P. Rankin's located the part of the brain that perceives sarcasm: the right parahippocampal gyrus. I can only imagine how much my "rpg" is working most of the time compared to say, the part of the brain that remembers how many pints there are to a quart or what the capital of Genosha is.

Give it a read, it's actually interesting and potentially practical. (seriously)

Obviously, starting tomorrow, we'll be doing what we can to stimulate growth in that part of the brain of The Offspring, so they can finally understand what their father is saying.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Jobamania Gets Hit with a Dose of Reality

Joba Chamberlin, the great hope of the Yankees (for the next 15 years), got his first start tonight. Didn't see it televised, but caught the second inning on MLB's Gameday. Ouch. Over 2.1 innings he threw 62 pitches (38 in the first inning!)/32 strikes, 4 walks, 3 K's, 1 balk (!), 1 hit, 2 runs, ERA of 2.43.

I knew the kid was going to have rough times ahead of him...was just hoping it wouldn't be his first inning. I fully trust he's going to bounce back after this, and won't turn this chance into another fiasco like Kennedy and Hughes made of April (still have trust in those guys, too...not sure why).

Meanwhile, Kyle Farnsworth is well on his way to make sure that Yankee fans everywhere miss Joba in every 8th inning for the rest of the season.

Is Roger Clemens serious about retirement?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Give or Take 202

No, not talking about how close a certain Senator is claiming the delegate count for nomination to be, I've got something far more serious in mind.

In 1970, a certain Mr. Owl claimed it took a-one, a-two, a-three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. But just five minutes ago, in a totally unscientific study, my son, code-named Samwise for the purposes of this blog, counted 205.

So, there you go--the latest in public service findings from those of us at White Noise: It takes 205 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop.*

You're more than welcome. We're here to serve.

* +/- 202

Sunday, June 01, 2008