Thursday, January 29, 2009

The circus! The circus! I love the circus!

We went to the circus last night for the opening performance of Ringling Bros.' "Zing Zang Zoom." The girls enjoyed it to a point, but after about an hour Emily asked if we could go home. She claimed that she was hungry, but really she was just tired of sitting still (she'd eaten dinner before we left the house).

Misty and I were having fun, but we didn't mind leaving too much -- and we knew there would be whining if we didn't. Having seen a few different Cirque du Soleil productions, we've become somewhat spoiled. "Greatest Show on Earth" or not, Ringling Bros. still doesn't live up to Cirque du Soleil.

We'll be seeing the "Saltimbanco" show up in Huntsville this April. Until then, here's a video clip from last night's event.

Ringling Bros. Circus in Birmingham

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Birmingham blogger meetup scheduled

This morning I had a meeting with Andre Natta to discuss blogging. He (representing The Terminal) and I (representing are collaborating to put together a monthly meetup for anyone in the Birmingham area who writes a blog. If you're interested in joining this little social gathering, meet us February 17 from 5-7 p.m. at Bottletree.

Eerie (but welcome) coincidence

I finished my lunch about an hour ago, and since then I've been sitting at my desk craving some M&M's. I had just been thinking that I should go down to my car and rummage for some change so I could buy some Peanut M&M's from the vending machine when a FedEx package landed on my desk. Inside, along with a screener copy of The Velveteen Rabbit movie, was a package of Peanut M&M's. Thank you, Edify Media and Family1 Films!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Yes, Viginia, hot dogs are made from cow poop

I just made hot dogs for the girls for dinner while Misty is shopping at Sephora. As we were eating, Emily asked me, "Are hot dogs good for you?"

"No," I replied. "Not at all. They're not even real meat."

"What are they?" she wanted to know.

"They're made from all the leftover parts of the cow that nobody really wants," I explained.

"Oh," Emily said, knowingly. "So it's their poop?"

I expected a meltdown when I told her yes, but just accepted it and kept eating.

Tim Brantley show at Barnes & Noble

Here's a video clip from the Tim Brantley concert I mentioned that I went to Friday night. This one was shot with my regular camera, and I feared it would be the only thing I had to show from the event.

Tim Brantley - 'The Race,' live at Barnes and Noble

Luckily though, I was able to salvage the other videos from the Flip camera. You can find them in my write-up about Tim Brantley's in-store performance at Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kendall's latest speech and communication skills

Lately Kendall has begun pairing words together to form simple phrases. It's mostly things like "Night-night, Dad" or "Bye, Mama." What's so cute is that she leaves a long pause between the words, as if she's thinking about which one comes next, so it comes out like "Bye... ... Mama." And though I didn't hear it firsthand, it made me proud when, coming home from work, I pulled my car into the garage and Kendall started clapping and saying "Dad home!" We're working on the word "please" now, and it's adorable to hear her little voice say "milk, peas."

She's at the stage where it's become pointless to keep count of how many words she knows. The list has doubled in size within the past month to more than 100 words.

This week Kendall made a couple other notable leaps in her communication skills. Misty's mom was playing a game with Emily and was counting with her eyes closed. After she got to five, Kendall piped in and said, "six." Again last night, Misty and I were counting something with Emily, and after we got to seven, Kendall jumped right in with, "eight, nine." It was as if she'd known how all along, but she had just decided to show us.

Keen on seeing what other secret knowledge Kendall was harboring, Misty paused during the prayer she says with the girls each night. "May angels watch me thought the...," Misty said, waiting. Kendall took the cue and chimed in with "night."

Flip video camera frozen - can anyone help?

Flip Mino Unboxing
Originally uploaded by jaxmac
I'm having a problem with my Flip Mino video camera. While filming a clip at a concert, I pressed the red record button to stop, and the camera froze. It was stuck in the on position, with the last frame of the video I'd been shooting on the screen. I couldn't turn it off, and none of the other buttons responded, either.

There were three videos on the Flip camera, including the one I'd just been recording, and I didn't want to lose any of them, so I was afraid to press the "reset" button (which is a pinhole hidden inside the tripod screw hole). My computer would not recognize the Flip camera when I plugged it into a USB port -- it didn't even register that there was something connected. My solution was to leave the camera on overnight to allow the battery to run out -- then, I thought, I might be able to get a result when plugging it into the computer.

When the battery ran out, I tried again, but I got the same result. The computer does not register that the Flip Mino is plugged in. The Flip camera will not turn on now, either. Figuring there was no other option, I finally triggered the reset button, but still the camera will not turn on, nor will the computer recognize it.

I'm stuck as to what to do here. The Flip Video Camcorder troubleshooting page doesn't address this problem. I use the Flip Mino a lot for work, and I'd prefer not to have to send it in for repair -- especially if there's an easy home remedy. Does anyone out there know how to fix it?

I left the camera plugged into my computer for about 15 minutes this morning, and as soon as it had enough charge, it kicked back on. All videos were intact. Hopefully the drama will not repeat itself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Resolving to read more - yet again

Unread Books
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
I have a gift card for Barnes & Noble, but I'm stuck as to what to buy with it. Just a few minutes in the bookstore, and it's easy for me to find a dozen new things I want to read. Unfortunately, I can't keep up.

This is a picture of the unread books that currently sit on my shelves at home (Bonus fun: Click the photo to see if you can name them all) -- and this is just the fiction. Some were gifts, and some I bought myself. Some I've started but never finished. Some, to be quite honest, I don't think I'll ever get around to reading.

Another thing this picture reveals is just how anal I am when it comes to books. They're alphabetized by author on my shelves, just as they are here in the stacks I made. I also keep fiction and non-fiction separated, and I organize non-fiction by category (though not using the Dewey decimal system -- I'm not that bad).

Lately I've gotten better about checking books out of the library instead of buying them. In fact, that's part of the reason that such a large number of unread books remain on my shelf -- I'll pick something out from the library, and the return date compells me to give it priority.

The point here is though, that I want to read more. I want to catch up on reading the books I already have. As I mentioned recently, my goal has typically been to read 12 books per year. This year, I've resolved to raise that number to 18. My reasoning being that the library loans out books for three weeks, so I should be able to finish one within that time frame (and if you can't figure out that math, that comes to about 18 per year). Also, if I reach 18, I'll surely think to myself: "Why not 20?" And if I reach 20: "Why not 24?" (since that would be two per month, doubling my usual goal).

So far this year, I'm on track. I've finished When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, and I'm about half way through Wicked by Gregory Maguire (which I wanted to read before I see the musical in April). Time will tell whether I'm able to maintain this pace (which is relative to that of a geriatric tortoise).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cold morning at an icy waterfall

Misty and I got up early Saturday morning for a Fresh Air Family trip to Lake Guntersville State Park. Crawling out of bed at 5:15 a.m. wasn't made any easier by the cold weather -- it was the perfect day to just stay bundled up under the covers. Nevertless, we set out for Guntersville before the sun rose. On the way there, we noted that the temperature outside was 22 degrees.

When we got to the Resort Lodge, we had the option of signing up for one of several different outings. Our trip was supposed to be an "eagle watch," but everyone in our group opted for visiting High Falls Park instead. A ranger led the way on about a 20-minute drive to the falls (which are not actually in Lake Guntersville State Park).

Thanks to the cold weather, there was a lot of ice around the falls and the adjacent natural bridge. We hung around for about an hour, walking along the banks of the water on both sides. On one side we saw a number of abandoned beaver dams. No eagles, though.

The area was beautiful, and Misty suggested that Fresh Air Family plan another trip there in August so that people could swim beneath the waterfall. The ranger pointed our a trail were the bottom was easily accessible, or, he said, we could just jump down from the natural bridge. I think we'll forgo that idea.

Here are a few more pictures from our trip.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Better than a talking chiuaua

I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie.

'Coraline' movie trailer

... not just because it looks like a lot of fun, and it's directed by Henry Selick (who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas -- one of my favorite movies ever), but also because ever since Emily saw the preview and found out that I've read the book, she's been bugging the heck out of me about it. She repeatedly asks when it's coming out, and wants to know every detail about the story and the characters.

The trouble is, it's been about five years since I read Coraline, so I can't answer her questions too well. I do remember thinking that the "other mother" and "other father" who have buttons for eyes seemed really creepy. The movie doesn't look like it will be too scary, though.

Another reason to be excited -- Daily Show Resident Expert John Hodgman is the voice of Coraline's father (and other father)!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Our brains have been McWane'd

McWane Trains
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
As Misty was getting ready for a Fresh Air Family event yesterday, Emily was downstairs throwing a tantrum. She'd been acting up and for whatever reason ended up being sent to her room, from where she proceeded to pound on the door and continually wail, "Can I come out yet!?" (which she began asking about 2 seconds after entering her room).

Despite the fact that Misty was the one who sent her to her room, Emily was mad at me. I'm generally the "enforcer" at home, so in her mind it's always Dad who puts a cramp in her style (her style being rambunctious).

In an effort to calm Emily down, Misty told her that if she would start acting nice, she could come along with her to Oak Mountain for the owl presentation. It worked. Emily was entranced with the plan, especially since it meant getting more mommy time without having to compete with Kendall for attention.

What she didn't know was that I had passes to the McWane Science Center, and I'd been planning to take the girls that afternoon. When I shared this news with Emily, her eyes got wide and her jaw dropped. I told her she could pick which thing she wanted to do, and her allegiance shifted. "I want to go with Daddy," she said.

Our visit to McWane was fun, as always. We got to see the new model train exhibit, which was really spiffy. Kendall's favorite is always the aquarium, so we spent a good deal of time down there. Also, this time Kendall abandoned her usual timidity regarding the "Just Mice Size" play area, and followed Emily right up into the top of the castle. We played and explored until they announced that the museum was closing. Emily declared it her "favorite place ever" and said that she wished we could live there.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hike to Peavine Falls

My thighs are sore today. While the girls stayed behind with Misty's mom, Misty and I joined yesterday's Fresh Air Family "Winter Tree Hike" at Oak Mountain State Park. I am pleased to say that it was one of the most enjoyable events I've attended with the group. Our guide, Henry Hughes, pointed out different things to look for in the leaves of trees as we hiked down to Peavine Falls. I hadn't seen the falls before, and it was worth the trip. What I didn't realize was how out of shape I am, as the steep climb back up became rather strenuous. The cool weather with only an occasional light dripping of rain made it easily bearable, though. Nevertheless, I'm glad the girls weren't with us -- someone probably would have ended up with a broken leg, or, at the very least, fallen into the cold water.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Batman though the eyes of Emily

Batmonkey, by Mai Le
Originally uploaded by MaggieMason
I watched The Dark Knight last night after the girls had gone to bed. Emily made a play to try to stay up and watch it with me, but as a responsible parent, I wasn't going to allow it. It's not just that it's violent and scary, but it's also far too complex a movie for a four-year-old to comprehend.

In the morning though, it because obvious that she wasn't going to let this go. Immediately upon waking up, she came into my bedroom and began talking to me about Batman.

"Sometimes at Mimi's house we watch cartoons, and the other day I watched a Batman cartoon," she told me. "There were all these monkeys, and they were green, and Batman told his friend not to eat all the money, but he did it anyway."

I rest my case.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Resolution recap: Two out of three ain't bad

Before I talk about my resolutions for 2009, I wanted to look back at how well I did with those from last year. Though I didn't write them down (no evidence!), I'm pretty sure I had three goals:

1. Read at least one book per month.

This has been a consistent a goal of mine for the past decade or so. It may sound simple, but for years I failed to reach it. I'm pleased that I've now managed to read at least 12 book per year for the past three years. Here's what I read in 2008:
  • The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman
  • The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
  • I Am America, And So Can You - Stephen Colbert
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
  • Slam - Nick Hornby
  • Harry, Revisited - Mark Sarvas
  • Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
  • Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me - Ben Karlin, et. al.
  • The English American - Alison Larkin
  • The Prince of Frogtown - Rick Bragg
  • Saturday - Ian McEwan
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake - Sloane Crosley
  • The Shack - William P. Young
  • The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher - Rob Stennett

    2. Write at least one blog post per week.

    If you look back at my archives for 2008, it's obvious that I didn't meet this goal. I always mean to write about things, but I put them off too long and the words in my head lose their luster. Added up, I had 59 blog posts for the year, so as an average it sounds a little better. However, 17 of those posts came from December. I'd like for every month to look like that, but as it is, a couple months had only a single post to them. My efforts feel pathetic.

    3. Start recycling at home.

    It's rather inconvenient to recycle where I live. There's no curbside pickup, so I have to drive our recycling downtown. As such, I spent nearly five years throwing away recyclable products, and I've always felt bad about it. Finally last year, I bought bins for the garage to sort out plastic, cans, glass, and assorted paper. When the bins fill up, I drop the contents off at the Alabama Environmental Council's Recycling Center on my way to work. And now I feel better about my impact on the environment.