Allez cuisine!

Allez cuisine is the traditional cry for Iron Chef, a cult cooking show. Basically, the show has a small stable of "Iron Chefs" who can be challenged by famous (and not-so-famous, but still highly skilled) chefs. Each week, the battle is different, since the theme ingredient (hidden until the start of the show) changes.

Like most cooking shows, it looks erally impressive, and fairly easy. Of course, they're professionals, and most people are a bit lost when they get too far beyond a familiar family recipe or something out of a box. I am no exception - I have tried to cook some of the food that I have seen on shows, and while it was edible, it certainly took me much longer than the recipe indicated. It also made a much bigger mess.

Still, I think it is good to try something beyond our abilities, once in a while. Otherwise, we get too stuck in a routine, and forget how much fun it can be (and, to be sure, how frustrating) to discover something new.

I guess that's why it's so fun to watch Kevin, or any other small child. For them, everything is new - and while they get frustrated, it's still amazing to watch them discover the world arounf them.


30 minutes down, 90 to go.

Once again, I have slipped a couple mental cogs. This time, I have decided to participate in a half-marathon, at the shrine of the Mouse. I haven't run competitively in about 15 years, and haven't run for fun in probably 10. I used to bike a lot, until about 3 years ago, but even that has slacked off considerably.

So, I am back in training. I am running on a treadmill 3-4 times a week, and building up time. I am up to 30 minutes, but my pace is still a feeble 6.5 miles per hour. At that rate, I need to be able to run just over 2 hours, hence the title. I actually plan on increasing my time to 45 minutes over the next couple weeks, and then holding at that time while improving speed.

The sad thing is how much of a difference there is between now and high school. Okay, I am not running twice a day, and running on a treadmill is substantially different than running in a race, but my times are pathetic compared to my not-so-great-but-not-so-terrible times when I was 17. Actually, it's probably not as bad as I think it is - I am comparing my current speed and times to the pace I could do toward the end of the season, not the start, but it's still demoralizing.


Marvel vs. CoH (not news, but olds really)

Marvel Comics is suing, NCSoft, the makers of City of Heroes, a MMORPG. The reason, according to Marvel, is that the character creation engine allows players to make characters in the game which are duplicates of certain Marvel characters. The character creator allows a player to choose a basic body shape, and then add a wide variety of costume features. So, yes, someone could create a character with appearances and powers essentially identical to those of the Hulk. Heck, they might even be able to name their character (or "toon") as The Hulk, or some variant, such as Teh Hulk, The Bulk, Hulkster, etc.

And, if they are really lucky, they might get to play it for a while before one of two things happens: (a) someone reports it to a moderator, and the toon is deleted; or (b) a moderator notices the toon, and deletes it.

(Actually, I suspect that many Marvel and DC names are already "taken" by the design crew, so that no one may create a character whose name is identical to a comic book characters. I could be wrong though.)

The problem with blaming the game for having such an open-ended character creation engine is that the same argument could be made regarding blank paper and a pencil. After all, with a lot of practice, you too could be churning out illustrations of the Hulk, and showing them to your friends. It might even become popular enough that you do a satire about Marvel heroes, and put it out on the web.

Anyway, this battle is being satirized here, in an onine webcomic, PVP. Definitely worth reading, even if you don't care about Marvel, CoH, or the rest of this post.


Writer's block I

It's not a good sign that I sit down to the keyboard tonight, and find that I am experiencing writer's block. This blog is only a week old (give or take), and already with the blockage? Not a good sign.

I'm not sure if I am intimidated by the quality of some of the blogs out there (you know who you are - those of you who write cohesive agruments in complete sentences), or just plain tired. I suspect the latter - it's been a long day, and a fair drive, from where I got up this morning.

We're back home, which is good, since it gives Kevin a chance to crawl around on familiar territory, and see all of his favorite toys. What was not good was the solid mass of snow blocking our driveway - apparently the snow melting product I put out before we left was insufficient to melt the snow - or even make a dent. On the plus side, I did finally get to try out the new snow thrower.

Okay, so I did manage to grind out something tonight. It's not a discussion on genocide, but it is something.


It's a good thing my hobbies are a bit limited. . .

I went to a model train store earlier today, because I noticed the "Huge Sale" ad in their window. Now, while I am not into model trains, a lot of the same materials can be used for building terrain for my wargames. So, a sale is always a chance to at least root through the stuff and see if there is anything useful. N and HO scales can both be used, but neither is the right scale for most games, so it keeps me in check.

Some of the stuff was 50-70% off, however. This is a Bad Thing(tm), since it starts the following train of thought:



You know, a lot of this stuff would be great for a 15mm game.

Yes it would.

And, a lot of it is geared for late 1800's.


Don't we have a copy of Johnny Reb, a 15mm American Civil War miniatures game?

Fortunately, at this point, self-preservation kicked in, and I sternly reminded myself that this would entail buying (and, in theory, painting), two or more armies. For a game which I do not know any nearby players, and is not widely played.

I got out of there with only relatively minor damage to my wallet, after waging another inner battle to remind myself that I am not interested in model railroading, and until Kevin is, I do not need to pick up engines, cars, or tracks, no matter how good the deal is.

On the other hand, I suspect that it is an annual sale, meant to clear out inventory. We'll stop back next year.


Thoughts while at the mall

Kevin, my mother-in-law and I went to the mall today. The basic idea was that I would watch him at a play castle while she did some shopping, and then she would watch him for a minute while I looked for a couple movies.

I did find the movies: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Yankee Doodle Dandy. I found them both, but not at prices I was willing to pay just now. But, that's not the main point of today - just an endorsement of two classic films. (I was looking for them yesterday as well, but "settled" for several others.)

For those readers who do not know, I am a full-time, stay-at-home dad. My wife and I are fortunate enough to be in a position where we could make that choice, and since she was making more than I was (and would, barring a minor miracle), I got to stay at home.

Now, being home all the time is pretty odd. For most of my day, I don't converse with adults - and since Kevin's language skills are pretty limited still (uck, ba-ba and ma-ma are pretty much it), I just don't get to talk about much of anything. Try it for a while, and you'll understand why much of my postings are likely to be semi-rambling - there's just no normal ebb and flow of conversation to help maintain meter, style and verbal poise.

But, I digress. (Big shocker, considering the above, I know.) Where being a SAHD is rough is that, many times, when you take your child to a playground, or out to a park, or a play area in a mall or other locale, you're the only adult male. If you're lucky, there might be a couple others somewhere, but they never sit in a group, and rarely talk to each other - or anyone else for that matter. If you look at the women, they're sitting in a group, offering tips on child care, comparing stories, and generally helping each other out.

So, it can be kind of lonely.

I have found that some women are more than willing to talk with a dad who is there with his kid(s). They love that there are guys out there who are willing to do a job like this. And then there are the ones (sadly, the majority) who view your exit from the workforce as something involuntary. As though you lacked the skills to hack it in the real world. And everytime I run into one, I want to ask them why their decision to devote their lives to their children is noble and self-sarcificing, and why my decision is because I am a failure.


Some things you probably shouldn't advertise

And this would be one of them. Now, call me silly, but if I were of a less-than-legal mindset, someplace like this would be easy pickings. According to the article, the police will only investigate if they have some sort of corroboration, such as an eyewitness or video feed. So, if you have nosy neighbors, you're fine, but if you have a fancy security system and a lot of privacy, you're hosed.

I can understand the budget crunch, but why not just charge a fee for every false alarm?

Here's Johnny. . . .

Johnny Carson has passed away. It's a sad day for a lot of people. Sure, he left the Tonight Show back in 1992, and a lot of younger people never really got the chance to watch him. But, with all his work over the years, the influence he had on entertainment media will be felt for at least another generation.


Little boys and wooden toys

There's something timeless about little wooden toys. Whenever we visit with my wife's parents, Kevin (our son) gets a chance to play with a couple old-fashioned wooden toys. They're not really old, perhaps 35 years, but there's a little fire engine and one of those phones you pull along on a string. They might have some plastic bits, but the bodies of them are wood. They've lasted longer than I've been around, and been played with by probably a dozen little kids, but they're still in great shape. I doubt that Kevin's plastic toys are going to fare any better, and I suspect that most of those toys won't be passed on to the next generation.

Kevin's currently doesn't have a favorite toy. Or rather, he does, but it's more of a category. He loves to play with his "uck". It's as close as he can come to saying "truck", but really means anything with wheels. Cars, trains, trucks, semis - they're all "ucks" to him, and he bounces from one to another without pause.

We're not sure where this came from. We didn't sit down every day and say "Truck". We didn't push trucks around and say "Vvvvrrrrmmm" and make other rumbling noises. We do now, but this mild mania certainly wasn't planned. It's cute, and only mildly distracting to hear "uck! uck!" every time we pass a semi on the highway.

Oh the weather outside is frightful

And not just from the snow.

Tonight, I had the somewhat dubious joy of driving from Michigan into Chicago. I don't mind Chicago traffic in general - drivers tend to be more skilled than those in Omaha or Battle Creek, and drive faster.

Normally, faster is good. It's when the snow is falling that it becomes a problem. When the snow is coming down, and sections of the road are not visible, then, in general, you probably shouldn't be trying to drive 70 m.p.h. Unfortunately, a lot of people assume that, since they have a four-wheel drive vehicle, little hazards like snow and ice no longer apply. Nice theory, but Newton cannot be denied.

This is why, along the stretch of the tri-state tollway, I saw a totalled SUV, one spun out along the median, and a couple trucks on the side of the road. Oddly enough, I didn't see any of the small cars on the side of the road.


The Apprentice

Or, where do they get these people?

Last night, I was watching the series premier of The Apprentice. (Yes, they can call it a season premier, but since the "cast" changes each season, it really is more of a series, IMO.) Instead of diving the teams into men vs women, Trump decided to divide it into college grads/non-college grads. Intersting twist, and it could make for interesting intergroup dynamics.

But that's not the point of this entry. The grads lost last night (and boy, did they deserve to!), and in the time between losing and the boardroom (where one is "fired"), they showed some of the standard scheming and pre-vote arranging. Anyway, one of the women (I think it was the one who proclaimed "I'm going to show all those male chauvinist pigs that a woman can be smart, successful and beautiful") was almost in tears over the decision on who to throw to the wolves.

C'mon! They've known each other for a week. They're supposed to be competing for a very well-paid, high-stress job in the business world. I wouldn't have any problem throwing some of those people out. Heck, there are people that I have known for years that I would glady stab in the back (metaphorically speaking, honest!) if I were in that position.

If they were having to choose between monetary success and a life-long friend or family member, I could understand the conflict. But this was a total stranger (or nearly so). It wasn't agony over "This makes our team weaker", but more of a "I just don't know what to do."

As a final note - while the grads had a terrible marketing strategy, they really lost because people were tired of waiting in line and walking out. Anyone who has worked in fast food could have told them that you need every available register running during the lunch rush. And why did they put people with no register experience on the registers? Sure, the registers are touch screen, but it does actually take some time to acquire speed and accuracy.

Cheating housewives and other offers

A good friend of mine (whose blog is http://toehold.blogspot.com) notes today that having pornopgraphic keywords (such as "free porn" in his example) can cause people to hit your blog and drive up the traffic. Now, while I do want at least a few people to read this, I'm not sure that any random, porn-searching surfer is actually going to stay, once they realize that my blog has no pictures of naked celebrities (or anyone else, for that matter).

Anyway, it got me thinking about my daily spam. I get the usual variety of stuff - cheating housewives, various enhancement offers, free webcams, free pictures, etc., plus the odd financial spam. Of course, most of the financial spam is based on where I lived several years ago, so until I plan on buying a house in the Champaign-Urbana, Il. area, it isn't going to pertain.

My ISP does have a spam filter, but, to be honest, since I have been dealing with the spam manually for the last couple years, I haven't gotten around to getting it set up. Aside from the fact that it's kind of buggy, I think I would miss the satisfaction that comes from deleting all those messages.

I do wonder about how many people actually take them up on those offers. The numbers are probably out there somewhere, but it would probably just depress me.


Stupid weather reporters

Okay, so I am watching the news last night, and, once again, I found myself talking to the TV. This is not an uncommon occurance, due mainly to lead-ins like this:

It's cold tonight, Tom. How long is it going to last?

OKay, it's Michigan, and it's winter. It's going to be cold until spring. It's not even as though it were extremely cold. If it were 20 degrees below zero without the wind, I could understand it. But it's not - it's appropriate to the season.

And, naturally enough, I did the same rant last summer. Only then, they were asking why it was so hot in Nebraska in the middle of August. I know they have to write filler dialogue, but this goes beyond inane.

Random brain dribbles

Or, why the heck did I start this thing, anyway?

Well, that would be a boring, pointless, and basically meaningless story. . . which, if I had more time (or inclination), I would post. Suffice it to say that I am finally giving in to the Dark Side.

Now, when do I get to start crushing tracheas?

Why is it, by the way, that all the good Jedi get to do is lift X-wings and do kung-fu flips, while the bad Jedi have to be content with force lightning and trachea-crushing? I know which path I would choose.

I could return to my original thought, whatever that was, but it would most likely be even less coherent than I originally thought.

So, today I will just wrap things up with the immortal words of Socrates: I drank WHAT?!