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July 01, 2005

Sing along: "I want to ride my bicycle."

So I bought a bicycle the other day.

I already have a Marin Muirwood mountain bike that I use when Fabulous Babe and I go biking. (Not much of that over the last year and a half.) It's very nice and has served us very well.

Then, somewhere in my grandparents basement in Kentucky, I have a chrome 1980 Schwinn Voyageur 11.8 which needs to come up this way on the next trip home. It will need a good cleaning but it is still regarded as one of the best road bikes Schwinn ever made. (Nice derailers, etc.)

So what did I buy?

In 1999/2000 Schwinn made a "cruiser" called the Panther that wasn't like anything else in the line. It was a single speed, all black bicycle that looked like nothing else in the catalog. It was lite as a feather, it looked amazing and when I saw it at the bicycle store in Redmond I fell in love.

Of course they sold out instantly. Doh!

It didn't help that shortly after they came out someone entered a race with one without any modifications and came in first. *sheesh* After that they became rarer than hens teeth.

For 5 years I've been looking for one on Ebay, at bike stores, etc. Finally I found one which I brought home on Monday. A couple of scratches here and there but she's beautiful.

In theory this was my Father's day present but the fact is that this one will be passed on to Jack at some point. It's like the Miata: I'll drive it for the next few years but at some point it's going to be his.

I'll post pictures this weekend.

Posted by Jim at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2005

"I'm convinced our neighbors own a munitions factory..."

...based on one of the craters on our street. No flames can be seen from my window and the sounds of sirens have yet to reach my ears so I'm guessing everything went well for everyone.

We watched our neighbors fireworks from the back deck and when the time came simply shifted our chairs to catch the display from the city. I'm always pleased that our city, for all the terrible things the Cottage Grove City Council inflicts on us, still hasn't lost sight of the need for a nice display of fireworks on the 4th of July.

That being said our city is losing the pool wars

We went to dinner with the Racetrack's on Friday night. (Las Margarita's of course.) Over dinner we talked about taking the kids swimming. They recommended the city pool in Hastings which was fine by us. (The Cottage Grove pool is old, part owned by the YMCA, and nothing to get excited about.)

On Saturday we saw what your tax dollars should be buying.

Hastings doesn't have a "pool" they have a "Family Aquatic Center". Whatever the name it's designed for kids. Not hoodlum teenagers but the 12 and younger set. Tons of attractions and a great layout. Better still I saw 7 lifeguards on duty and they weren't the preening "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" types, they were the "Your kid won't drown on my watch" types. We may be taxed to bejeezus and back by the Minnesota Communist Farm Labor party but at least in Hastings they give you the courtesy of a nice "Family Aquatic Center" for your trouble.

Kate and Jack romped for over an hour and by the end were pretty tuckered out. Jack dozed in the car on the way home and his afternoon nap was pretty serious. (Our little man favors froggy jumps and dad made sure to give him a series of never ending ones.)

Sunday was dinner at the Parents of Wonder Woman and The Rickmeister. Sofia is growing at that pace that makes you realize how fleeting the timespan of being an infant is. Wonder Woman's father almost killed us all when he set a massive firework display on an uneven keel. It tipped over after the third shot and yours truly had to dive in and kick it so that it was no longer aiming directly at the party guests. Two shots launched before I was able to turn it but mercifully didn't cause any harm. All I could think as I was dodging through the smoke and flame was that I'm getting too old for this stuff.

Speaking of flaming death we saw "War of the Worlds" on Friday night at the drive in. *yawn* Fabulous Babe thought it was too violent and I thought it was as bad as Minority Report or A.I. depending on which you hated more. The glowing and gushing reviews I had seen just reminded me of why you should never trust Hollywood promoting Hollywood. The cool moments were far outweighed by the yawn inducing rest of the movie.

My verdict? Rent, don't buy. If you really have to own it just wait a month after release when the rental stores will be blowing them out for cheap. Dreamworks needs a comeuppance for the absolute merde they've been shovelling lately. That and Tom Cruise still needs to be locked in a room with about 25 women going through post partum depression and armed with baseball bats. What a maroon.

The birthday plans for Fineous Fogbottom proceed apace. (The boy has been a factory of noxious gas lately, hince the new nickname.) My father has the "little red wagon" angle covered and Farmer Mom and Dad have provided Jack with a telephone to play with. Grand Ma Ma sent Jack some money and that will go towards some stock.

Our trip to Target on Saturday produced a toy cellphone that Jack now plays with instead of our own. It chirps and rings but also has a record feature that lets you record a message for your child. When Jack presses the right button the voice of Fabulous Babe rings out with "I love you Baby Jack" which then produces big smiles.

As the big day draws closer Fabulous Babe has been getting more and more emotional. It's hard for her to talk about but she did say that part of it is his no longer being a baby and I can understand that. It's a bit like the first haircut: He's growing up and we can't stop it. The last year has gone by at a record pace and there's no sign of it slowing down. (Or Jack for that matter.)

So what will the next year bring? God only knows but if this picture of yours truly at the age of two is any indication:


We're doomed. (I'm particularly fond of my inverted bowl of hair.)

Posted by Jim at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

"Tank Porn!"

As a kid one of my favorite activities was putting together plastic models of tanks. (The Testors fumes were pretty thick for a couple of summers in a row.) As I grew older this turned into an appreciation of all things tracked and heavy. Despite my grandmother's best effort I turned out to be a "treadhead". (It's genetic so the odds are strong Jack has inherited the malformed gene.)

Among tank enthusiasts any pictures of tanks doing what they do, i.e. moving fast, firing their guns, being big and heavy, etc., are jokingly referred to as "Tank Porn". (Only the truly sad get excited over pictures or movies of armored vehicles but that's par for the course.) Don't believe me? Show a tank enthusiast a picture of an World War II German King Tiger and if they exclaim "Ooooh! The Porsche Turret!" you might as well offer them a cigarette.

I discovered Chuck's blog a few weeks ago. He's coarse. He's not politically correct. (You've been warned.) But realize that he's with C Company, 2-34 Armor, The Fighting Aces, and is, as Chuck likes to say, the most pointy end of the spear in Iraq. Chuck has more than once used the term "Tank Porn" when he's posted pictures of his unit and the first time I saw it I almost snorkled my Coke.

What was already an engrossing weekly read turned upside down a couple of weeks ago when Chuck was wounded after an IED, improvised explosive device, went off while he was nearby.

Chuck's now back home at Walter Reed. He's in good shape all things considered and his wife, God love her heart, has been keeping the faithful readers in the loop as to his progress. Her last update included this note from Chuck to himself:

"When falling off a canal river bridge wearing body armor, it is never smart to fall in head first."

What Chuck is making light of is that after the explosive went off he was knocked unconscious when he went into the river. It was only the quick action of his XO that saved his life.

Keep Cpt. Chuck Ziegenfuss and his family in your thoughts in the fuzzy afterglow of the 4th of July. It's the actions of men like him that are giving others the opportunity to create and enjoy a holiday as splendid as our own Independence Day.

Read along here.

Posted by Jim at 01:01 AM | Comments (0)

"Curse this glass wall! Mother, release me!"

After a certain hour 2/3rds of our family is in pj's. Fabulous Babe changes into her nitey night pj's after a long day at work and Jack gets the changeout when we lay him down.

Tonight Jack wasn't having anything to do with going to sleep. Despite making the hand sign, rubbing his eyes and knocking back half a bottle the little stinker fussed until we got him back downstairs.

One of the things that Fabulous Babe really missed last year was her garden. (The first half of summer it was physically impossible for her to work on it. The second half was a bit busy.) This year her garden is in full bloom and she's got a number of plants on the back deck that she has been tending and caring for. Tonight she went out to water them, shut the door and...


Our little prisoner crawled right over, stood up, put his face up to the glass and began pounding for Mommy. (Those are her bare feet.)

That's a good indication of how mobile Jack is at this point. He can crawl over to a flat surface and then walk his hands up it to the point he can then stand up. We've had to move some things to counter this newfound mobility but nothing to extreme.


That's Jack with Grillzilla behind him on the deck. When you think where we were a year ago it's pretty amazing.

Posted by Jim at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

"Where's Tenzing Norgay when Jack needs him?"

So this past week brought us this ambulatory development:


That's right. Stair climbing.

Kate across the street has already been doing this for a couple of months but she's also auditioning for the Wallenda family so you have to take that into account. (She's also the only 1 year old I've ever seen do cartwheels and round offs.) Either way it's new to us.

Fabulous Babe will cringe when she sees the stained wall in the photo. That's a souvenir from a munchkin at our Christmas party that has resisted all our best efforts. I sense a paint job sooner than later.


"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful and I can climb stairs."


Mr. Saggy Bottom has climbed up the stairs to the landing once so far. (He's also fallen backwards from the first step and conked his head on the floor once as well.) He's still trying to get the rhythm and hang of the whole thing but it's just a matter of time.

My Grandparents had a gate on the top of their stairs to keep me caged. (Their stairway is a deathtrap.) At this point we're trying to decide if we put a gate on the top or the bottom. He's always under some supervision but we're trying to hedge bets. Any thoughts?

Posted by Jim at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

"Will this ever end?"

With Jack's developing motor skills the remaining CD shelves have come under siege more frequently. This has prompted an effort to get the rest loaded into the computer before he destroys them or discovers they can be thrown like a Frisbee.

This means that as I write these entries or do other things on the computer I'm loading up great swaths of music and then chucking the CD's into another box to take into the basement. That's me, Mr Multi-task.

The last few nights have been interesting music wise: The Best of Rick James, some Prince albums that escaped the first efforts, all (and I do mean all) of the INXS albums, The Police, Man or Astroman, Rob Zombie, Siouxie and the Banshees, yet more Ska albums, Luscious Jackson, etc. The list is long and that's just two nights worth.

Part of me wants to lug most to a University, set up a table and sell them for $2 a piece. Another part of me knows the moment I do that the hard drive will crash and I'll be screwed.

Another few days and I should be through most of "my" albums. That just leaves the majority of Fabulous Babe's music and then we're done.

Then what will I do with that big empty bookshelf?

Posted by Jim at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

"No. It didn't come with a big plastic ball for me to ride it in."

Saturday night I rode the new bike over to the neighbors house to run something for Fabulous Babe. While I was there they asked if it was new.

"Yep. It's a 2000 Schwinn Panther."

"A Hamster? Why would they name it Hamster?"

Amid the gales of laughter my new bike's nickname was born. *sigh*

I found the catalog it was in the other day. I'll post pictures and post the catalog page in a day or so.

Posted by Jim at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

"Perhaps a living as a 900 number operator?"

Ever have an accident that defies description?

On Friday I was sitting at work and swallowed. Immediately there was a sharp pain and a *pop* noise just below my larynix. From then on anytime I spoke, moved my neck or swallowed I had severe pain.

Thinking I had strained a muscle somehow I tried to just muddle through. By Sunday my steady diet of ibuprofen wasn’t doing much and by Monday I was trying not to talk. (I was also having some trouble breathing when the ibuprofen wore off.) Having put off urgent care as long as possible I finally broke down and made an appointment today recognizing that things weren’t getting better.

Doctor Molotov doesn’t work on Tuesdays so instead I got to see Doctor September. (She just eloped and was sporting that “I’m a new bride!” glow that is cute to see.) After checking for swelling and looking in my ears, nose and throat she called, brace yourself, an ear, nose and throat doctor. His guess:

A.) It’s a muscle or tendon that has either strained, sprained or torn. (Painful but it will heal eventually.)

B.) One of my vocal cords has strained, sprained or torn. (Possibly long term effects. Ugh.)

They’ve prescribed Hydrocodone (Vicodin) for the pain. (It helps some but it's so strong that I can still feel pain through the fog.) If things aren’t better by Thursday they want to scope me to see what is going on. I had more swelling problems last night and that’s not much fun.

Right now my voice borders between Barry White and a rasping squeek which is worthless at work. On top of this my new sexy, husky, dulcet tones haven’t effected Fabulous Babe in any way: she still manages to resist me. Curses.

Posted by Jim at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

"Dancers to the left. Elephants to the right."

Since Jack's awareness of his birthday party is pretty minimal at this point we're going to bump it a couple of days to Saturday. We're trying to time it for his nap but are hopeful it will go well.

Loads of pictures. I promise.

Posted by Jim at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

"I think it's time."

It was just over a year ago, as of right *now*, that we started our trip to the hospital. At the rate the contractions were coming when we left Fabulous Babe was convinced that she was going to have Junior in the car.

It’s funny to refer to Jack as Junior. I haven’t done that in a year despite it being his name for almost a year before he was born. Now, despite a given name, he saddled with nicknames like Stinkerbelle and Fineous Fog Bottom.

Fortunately for us, and the Tribute’s interior, we didn’t have Jack in the car. We made it to the hospital in no time and settled in for a long night of Nubane and contractions. While Fabulous Babe dozed I tried either reading a book or trying to catch a catnap. (We had been up really late the night of the 5th and up early the morning of the 6th so we were already beat.)

By early the morning of the 7th there was some dilation but our son’s gargantuan head was stuck in my wife’s pelvis. After the decision was made to go ahead with the C-section things moved pretty quickly. Jack came into the world shortly before 12:00.

When I first picked Jack up to show him to Fabulous Babe he was bundled and blanketed. I can remember how his weight surprised me: I treated him as the most fragile and precious thing I had ever held but then discovered that he weighed a lot more than I had expected he would. Fabulous Babe’s tears streamed past the oxygen mask she was wearing and the smile she had as I held Jack next to her was a million miles wide. After all the effort, the morning sickness, the life she bore for so long was now a little person in front of her.

I remember some things from that day very clearly: Jack’s crying when I started taking pictures of him, calling my father and grandparents, receiving a text message from El Jefe on my cell phone, etc. I can still remember my father’s voice cracking when I told him we named Jack after his father. (I'm sure it was static on my cell. Yeah right.)

My timeline from Jack’s birth: I carried him to the waiting room where Fabulous Babe’s parents were waiting. (They weren’t allowed in the surgical ward.) I then walked Jack to the nursery where I had to turn him over to the nurses, made a few phone calls and then typed up this update to let everyone else know what was going on.

In hindsight this website may be the smartest thing I’ve ever done. It’s kept everyone we know and love around the world in the loop as to what’s been going on before and since Jack arrived. At times, like Jack, it can be frustrating but I know the reward will be a thousand times greater than any of the grief.

There are very few pictures of me holding Jack from those first few days. (Or the last year for that matter.) As I’ve stated before I suffer from Armstrong syndrome and someone has to consciously remind me to hand off the camera. I’m going to try to do better. Honest.

Parenthood isn’t for everyone: It is hard work. Too often in our society people abandon their responsibilities as a parent for something selfish or material. I wouldn’t wish parenthood on anyone not prepared to accept the burden. You can try to explain the struggles and equal rewards but until you actually have a child it’s next to impossible to truly relate.

Jack has been showered with love and friendship since he arrived and I have to thank all of you for that. It has come in a thousand different forms: kind words, cards, presents, the neighborhood kids who all yell “Baby Jack!” when they see him, people I’ve never met dropping me an email to let me know they like the website, etc. I know he’s rich in friends and family and it’s your genuinely good nature that lets me know how loved he is.

It might take a village to raise a child but we’re blessed with the good fortune to have Jack’s village be one of seemingly limitless borders and wonderfully diverse cultures. There are times when I hope Jack will grow up to serve in the diplomatic corps simply so that he can travel and meet all of you who’ve been reading along. I always hope that the joyful experience of being a parent will cross beliefs, politics, etc.

Fabulous Babe’s parents referred to Jack as the miracle baby. To say my wife is career focused is like calling Australia an island. The decision to have Jack didn’t come easy and was one of the hardest she has ever made. That may be why she’s struggled this week with Jack’s birthday: That 1st year, while long on paper, is as fleeting and quick as lightning. It’s bright and wonderous but lasts for such a brief amount of time in comparison to the breadth of a storm.

Enough of the sappy stuff. It’s Jack’s first birthday so for everyone reading this: go have a beer, eat some cake, dance wildly with strangers, smooch the ones you love and live it up. Birthdays should be riotous celebrations of life, who we are and what we want to be, not lackluster affairs filled with bad food. Go live it up folks.



Posted by Jim at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005

"Dialup users should brace themselves. It's going to be a long weekend."

Despite the party being Saturday it just seemed cruel to not let Jack have some presents on his actual birthday.


This is Jack in his new Radio Flyer wagon courtesy of my Dad and Stepmom. As you can tell Jack’s not sure if he likes the bucket seats.


Then Jack discovered how easy it is to pick up girls in his new ride.


Lots of girls.


Who want him to go places with them.


Our son the ladies man.


Jack at one point was applauding and laughing when I was pulling him. He seems to like the sound of the wheels on the road. (He also likes it when Dad pulls him fast.)


Our little stinker.

Notice how clean the shirt is? That’s pre-dinner.


Jack’s helping sort the Racetrack’s Mail. (They’re away and we’re watching the house for them.)


Post dinner. (Thus the stains.) Fabulous Babe has just introduced the present from my mom, a green stuffed frog. As the frog does froggy jumps like Jack does this was a big success.


A boy and his frog. (With Fabulous Babe sporting a .NET t-shirt courtesy of El Jefe.)

Posted by Jim at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

"It's called what?"

Did you know that Johnson & Johnson makes a nasal equivalent of KY Jelly?

Neither did I. Unfortunately my gap in that area of knowledge has now been filled in.

Friday morning I went to the Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. (Tip of the hat to Doctor September for strong arming them into taking me on short notice.) A bit of poking and prodding just confirmed where it hurt so we went with the scope.

The scope is essentially a fiber optic camera with a light that goes in your nostril, through your nasal passage and then down your throat. This way your doctor can see what’s going on and you can feel like that person in the circus freak show that puts pencils into their nose.

I have a hematoma on my larynx. (No we don’t know how it happened, it just did.) Essentially I’m not supposed to talk and to rest my voice while the swelling goes down, the muscle knits and things repair themselves. If it’s not dramatically better by Monday I need to go back for another look. *shudder*

The doctor still has me on the Vicodin for the pain but has me on some steroids for the muscle repair. (No breasts yet but I’ll let you know if they start to come in.) The end effect is that the steroids cause me to be extremely jittery / nervous anxious and the Vicodin make me tired. Essentially I want to run a marathon while I’m laying down.


Posted by Jim at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2005

"The scariest Cookie Monster ever."

#1 birthday party went fine. (I'll release the photos and text Monday evening.) We're worn out from the weekend and Jack's got a cough that is proving to be a little stubborn so I keep having to go into his room and rock him. Monday's are early morning gym day for Fabulous Babe so I have late night duty.

More on the title later.



Posted by Jim at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

"You have to look pretty but I can't tell you why."

We let Jack go crazy on Saturday as we were getting ready for the party. Mostly it was just letting him go free range baby until it was time for his nap.


In the interest of those of you with dial up connections I'll add the rest of the post below. Then you can click on it and open it at your own pace. (I'll do this will all of the picture heavy entries from the weekend.)

Here’s Jack contemplating the stairs. It’s pretty clear he wants to climb them but so far he’s not stable enough to make it more than a few stairs up before he slips and starts to tumble.

The colorful ball next to his feet is a Sesame Street monstrosity that Jack and I picked up at Target that morning. It spins and wheels around and makes funny noises. When I take Jack to Target with me I walk down the toy aisle, pick items off the shelf and present them. Most things get a half hearted reaction at best. The ball brought out feverish clutching and I knew we had a winner.


Jack menaces yours truly in his best Godzilla fashion. I was laying on the floor playing with him when he decided to crawl over and tackle me.


At Target I found some suction cup frogs for our guest bath. (Currently Jack’s spa.) I’m sure that my Mother in Law will like the decorations the next time they’re here.


Slightly better view of one of the frogs.


After a while it was time to give Jack a bath before his pre-party nap. Here’s a picture of Jack doing something I remember doing when I was his age: chewing on the washcloth. Jack just started doing this about a week ago. I suppose it’s hereditary


He really is a sweetie.


With sharp pointy teeth.


In a desperate effort to stave off having to get out of bed we’ll sometimes give Jack some toys to fiddle with if he’s not drop dead tired when we put him to bed at night. This usually means that at some point in the middle of the night he drops them over the edge of the mattress and they wind up under the crib.

About a week ago Jack stood up in the crib, grabbed the mobile, and pulled which sent the small animals attached to it flying and Mister Inquisitive tumbling back. Since then Jack’s been playing with the animals and I now have an “under the crib” tool for getting the Nuks and Peek-a-blocks that are in out of the way spots. This was Saturday’s pre-nap harvest.


Just look at him. Dressed for a party he doesn’t even know he’s going to have. Of course Jack’s ready for anything: Jack’s got his Soggy Froggy and a spare Nuk.

Posted by Jim at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

"No Jack, you can't have balloons every day."

We timed the party on Friday to start at the time that Jack usually wakes up from his nap. This gave us a couple of hours to finish cleaning and straightening and hauling out the balloons, etc.


When I brought Jack downstairs the first thing that he saw was the balloons. Jack has never been around balloons to any extent before and he was absolutely fascinated. Here’s Jack checking out the weight the balloons were attached to.


The Racetracks were first to arrive and Kate was dressed to the nines. Here’s an action shot from the floor where you can see Jack with his new best friend the balloon weight and Kate answering the phone. Aida lurks in the background seeking refuge from the multiplying hordes of children.


Somewhere behind the gift my wife is opening is Jack. Obviously the unwrapping frenzy that has gripped my beloved was contagious as Kate is getting in on the act. Kate eventually did a balancing act on the box she’s starting to climb there. Jack eventually crawled out from underneath the mountain of paper my wife buried him in.


Jack trying to figure out what’s going on.


Birthday boy eating hot dogs and cheese. The balloons on his chair were a big hit.


“Barkeep! More cheese!”


Miss Kate and her Mom. Between Fabulous Babe and Mrs. Racetrack we needed a mop and bucket to clean up all of the hotness the two of them spilled all over the place.


Our neighbors Gear Daddy and June with their family. Strangely enough their kids lined up in the picture from youngest to oldest: Upchuck, Miss Pink and the Athlete. After things wound down a little Gear Daddy and I went to the basement with the kids and let them run trains for a while. (They were getting that slightly glazed look which is a silent cry for rescue from boredom.)

Posted by Jim at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

"Mmmmmm. Cake!"

After the gifts and food it soon came time for the cake:


Here we see my wife menacing Jack with the cake. Jack attempted to knock the cake away but was unsuccessful. (He did snag some icing though.)


So close and yet so far. What a cruel world.


The Athlete watching Jack eat the cake. Having seen Jack spit out white, chocolate and other types of cake Fabulous Babe made the decision to get his birthday cake in a flavor that she wanted. My input was never sought or asked for which, alas, is typical when it comes to deserts. (I love Fabulous Babe dearly but she still can’t see my side of the three eggs instead of two eggs in the brownies argument.)


“Cake: fun to play with but still not a food of choice.”


“Cake: More fun that biting the legs off of Little People. Less screaming as well.”


At the end we sat Jack and Kate down for some quick photos on the stairs. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in such a brief period of time. We’ve gone from infants to a little boy and girl in what seems like such a brief period of time.


“I’ll clap and you wave.”


“No, I’ll clap and you clap.”


“Screw it. You sit and I’ll hold my hands."

Posted by Jim at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

"Good friends."

By the time Saturday was over Jack was snoring and we were pretty much ready to do the same. Sunday morning came too soon…


When I brought Jack down he was still amazed by the balloons. He would grab them whenever he could reach them. Even though this is a lousy picture you can still make out Jack playing with one of the balloons tied to his high chair.

When we lived in Seattle we were blessed with a great pair of neighbors, the Ex-Neighbors. They ended up having a son about a year before Jack was born and Mrs. Ex-Neighbor and Fabulous Babe were the best of bestest friends. (Similar in so many ways it was scary.) Mr. Ex-Neighbor and I have a pile of those one words moments that can make both of us laugh out loud. ("Wingdome!" "S*******!")

This past week the company that El Jefe and Mrs. Ex-Neighbor work for sponsored a big meeting in Minneapolis and Mrs. Ex-Neighbor was in town. (Without the armed guards her trip to South America would have required.) On Sunday we got a chance to catch up at the Mall of America while she and her co-worker Miss T. were waiting for their flights.


This is why you have friends. Because good friends, no matter the length of time between visits, can always bring out smiles this big.

We hung out for about 3 hours at the MOA. Some shopping but mostly just a chance to catch up and give Mrs. Ex a chance to see Jack for the first time.


Jack had his moment of glory of course. Here’s Mrs. Ex-Neighbor and Miss T. making a Jack sandwich as we took them to the airport in my truck. He was in heaven the whole ride and giggled and cooed as they played with him.

Note the leopard skin car seat. Jack says it works like a charm. Grrrrrr.


Alas all weekends must come to an end at some point. Jack’s just a little earlier than usual…

Posted by Jim at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

"One small step for Jack..."

It's official: Jack's walking.

Sunday night Jack took what might or might not have been a step. We weren't sure and it certainly didn't seem like anything to brag about. ("We think our child either took a definitive step or he twitched, we're not sure which.") In the crazy pace of Sunday it came and went without much thought.

Monday night after dinner we were both in the floor with Jack between us and lo and behold he started trying to take steps. Steps designed to move him forward, not just the hokey pokey. For about 20 minutes we worked with him to get him used to what he was trying to do and by the end were rewarded with about 3 good steps before the balancing act came undone.

Tonight after dinner we tried again. This time he was managing to close the gap between us, roughly 5 feet, with only the occasional fall. By end of a half hour he was tired but making great progress.

It's an experience like no other I've ever had. Jack's excitement at accomplishing walking between us is visible on his face and how he raises his hands in triumph. There's all the things we know as adults, the joy of accomplishment and a task done well, but there is also the joyous discovery of new ability. It's that joy that makes these moments so special. When Jack is so happy with making it across those 5 feet to stand before me that he reaches out and hugs me because he doesn't have any other words for it you can't help but smile.

I had a really long crappy day at work today. (My throat is killing me.) Its funny how all of these things fade away when you have moments like this.

Parenthood has rewards that you can try to explain but words truly fail to convey. This is one of those moments.



Posted by Jim at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

I need help with a t-shirt...

I've been thinking for a while about doing a t-shirt for the website and have finally figured out something that I *think* has universal appeal.

The front:

A cartoon piece of buttered toast over the words: "Going Toastal"

The back:

The text from this entry.

Would you buy one? Would you wear one?

Let me know your thoughts.

Posted by Jim at 06:26 AM | Comments (0)

"Like I'm ever going back there again."

We took Jack to the doctor for his 1 year checkup this afternoon. He's fit as a fiddle but had to get three shots and then have blood drawn for some tests.

Not a happy camper.

Loads of tears and a lot of confusion. The looks of dismay are the hardest. When I was putting him down for bed he drank his bottle and then, curled in my arm, just turned towards me and held me. I just kissed the top of his head and rocked him for a few minutes before he sighed and I put him in the bed.

Being a parent has some pretty amazing rewards but the hard moments are like being punched in the kidneys with a stiletto.

I took pictures today but we were all pretty beat tonight after the whole day and I'm ready to head to bed.

Jack's now walking about 8+ feet before falling over and has demonstrated a complete lack of fear. (In day 3 of walking he's already trying to turn as he goes.) I'll take pictures Thursday night.

I'll also take pictures of Jack with some very thoughtful presents he received from Sanad. They arrived safe and sound and Jack's got a new friend: Jamal.

Posted by Jim at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2005

"In theory my average speed is around 12 miles per hour."

Of the two of us I have the uglier commute. Mine is a 26 mile free for all that can see me going along at 70 mph only to have it slow down to a 1 mph crawl. Usually the entire thing takes anywhere from 50 minutes to *worst case* something short of 90 minutes.

One of my salvations has been the iPod that Fabulous Babe got me for Christmas. I can load up all sorts of things that can keep me from a.) falling asleep or b.) bashing my head against the wheel.

Mercifully I'm not prone to road rage. I used to work with someone who had road rage and it just wasn't pretty. His old carpool buddy had moved and, living near me, he asked if I was interested in taking his place. I agreed to give it a try and it was a big mistake.

The driver, will call him "Lance", began fuming at the first stop sign we hit and before long was calling people things I had never imagined. By the time we got to work I was worn out. This went on for a couple of days until one morning when he was in full rant mode I chimed in and said:

"Drink his brain "Lance"! Drink his brain!"


"What did you say?"

"Well that's about the ONLY thing you haven't said "Lance". Give it a go! Tell him you're going to drink his brain."

*awkward silence*

Later that day "Lance" walked up to me at work and said that things just weren't working out carpool wise. I've never been happier. I promptly began commuting with Moose and we got along perfectly.

If there is one thing about the commute that bothers me it's the time away from Jack. Even if my commute time was halved that would give me an extra 5 hours a week with him. *sigh*

Posted by Jim at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

Battlestar Galactica Podcast

I'm a sucker for podcasts. I've been downloading these things for a while and am starting to flesh out what I want to do with mine. (I think it's just going to be me reading books for kids.) I love the notion of "home radio" and the nature of the beast lends itself to some really great stuff that would never get on the air any other way.

One of the podcasts that I've discovered in my prowling around the internets is by the executive producer of the new version of Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore has done a handful of these so far and they're just wonderful. They make my hellish commute pass very quickly.

If you aren't watching the new show it's simply one of the best things on television. It's about people on an aircraft carrier and how they get along first, the science fiction bits come second. (Ron Moore's words, not mine.)

I've listened to three of these shows so far and what he talks about in his podcasts are things that everyday people, not just obsessed fanboys, will find interesting. He mentions backstory on the characters that hasn't come across in the show yet. He talks about what movies or actors have inspired different things in the show.

If you have any interest in what goes into making a hit television series, and from all accounts the new show may be the runaway smash of the last couple of years, give them a listen. They're designed to be listened to while watching the episode but if you've seen the episode recently you can follow along.

In the second of his podcasts Moore quotes a line from Peter Pan: "All of this has been done before. All of this will be done again." There is very little original creative work in television and the movies these days. The success of Battlestar Galactica is in large part due to the show's portrayal of characters in a way we would expect people that we know to act, not in the way that "formula" demands that they act.

Case in point: In the first podcast Moore talks about the contrast between Will Riker on Star Trek Next Generation and Sol Tigh on the new Battlestar Galactica. These two characters have similar roles but the differences could not be more clearer.

Riker is the typical executive officer on a Sci-Fi show: he usually agrees with the captain, occasionally says something like "Are you sure" and generally plays 2nd banana. He also gets to have all of the sex the captain would like to be have but that's the one perk. (The first season of Next Generation is ample testimony to this.)

Tigh? A recovering alcoholic with lapses. A veteran of some of the worst hand to hand fighting from the first cylon war and not all of his scars are on the outside. He's a lousy people person and he's not political but in a fight he's the balls on guy you want in your corner which is why Adama keeps him around. He struggles every day with his demons and somedays he loses, big time.

There are obsessed critics of this show that can't get past the changes Moore has made. ("Starbucks a woman!") Odds are the dwellers-of-their-parents-basements never will. For the rest of us in the real world, the one where we interact with people every day who are human and not television and movie stereotypes, we should thank people like Ron Moore for actually bringing entertainment like this to life.

Here's the link for the Battlestar Galactica podcast homepage.

Highly recommended.

Posted by Jim at 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2005

"A review of the Carbone's in Cottage Grove, MN"

*Update on March 1st, 2007*

Since I posted the following review the restaurant has changed hands. (No surprise.) Since I haven't been back since the first experience I can't tell you if the restaurant has changed for the better since we were there.

As with all things: Buyer beware.

Fabulous Babe, Jack and I went to the new Carbone's the other night. That's Carbones in Cottage Grove, MN at 7155 Jorgensen Lane S, off of 70th street at "The Shoppes at Almar Village".

The summary? Avoid at all costs.

Why? Because it was the worst dining experience we've had since we moved here. Even worse than the dreaded Ho King which is saying a lot. Awful's sister Terrible and their cousin Wretched are all words that are applicable.

The shame in this is that Carbone's everywhere else has a well earned reputation for great food. That's part of our disappointment and why you should be warned and why Carbone's should yank their franchise away. What you expect from a Carbone's you will not find here.

The restaurant was about 20-30% occupied when we arrived. There were plenty of wait staff and a couple of people waiting to pick up to go orders, including a guy in a yellow shirt. We'll come back to him. We were seated by 5:45, ordered an appetizer and drinks and then ordered our dinner: Half an order of Spaghetti and two small pizzas.

After 45 minutes we hadn't seen any food short of a side salad. Jack was melting down from hunger, Fabulous Babe was pissed and it was rapidly turning ugly. When I went to find out what was going on the answer I received was that they were busy and that something would be right out. The restaurant was now about half full and there were 16 order slips hanging for the kitchen staff to start making. The take out customer in the yellow shirt was still there.

At 6:45, an hour after we were seated, the waitress came to our table and gave us an order of cheesy bread to make amends for our wait. Meanwhile we were hearing horror stories from other people nearby: a.) pizza's ordered that were never delivered, b.) meals that took over two hours to arrive, c.) people having been sick after eating there. We discovered that the other customers were like us and this was their first time as well.

At 7:00 with Jack's head almost on the table from starvation the food arrived. (We had wisely cancelled the appetizer.) The pizzas were lukewarm. After a few bites we packed it in and headed out. The poor guy in the yellow shirt was sitting on a chair looking really depressed.

It turns out that the owners decided to install a small oven in the restaurant instead of a traditional large one. This means that when the restaurant is busy the orders stack up and food has to be rushed through the dinky oven. This explains our lukewarm pizza's and might also explain why I spent some quality time doing some reading on one of our bathrooms that night.

Since then we've spoken to some of our other neighbors and friends and the horror stories abound: Long waits are typical but a couple of the stories involved power outages, how food was witnessed being delivered, etc. Even Mrs. Dawn and our babysitter Miss Brittney had tales of woe. When teenagers say a pizza place wasn't any good that's a red flag.

The owners are already looking to sell the restaurant for a rumored $850,000 despite only being open for a month or two. My advice would be to wait a month or two and simply pick the place up when the property owners are eager to replace the former lease holders.

My other advice to prospective buyers is to replace the smaller oven with a larger oven. The current owners seem to have thought that the success of the business depended more on purchasing the tricked out new Chevy Avalanche that they park out back of the restaurant than being able to meet customer demand. As a one time only patron I can assure you that their decision making path was flawed.

Out of 5 stars the Carbone's of Cottage Grove gets a -1 and an angry look from our son who was forced to eat the stale crackers in his diaper bag because they weren't competent enough to bring food in a reasonable amount of time. A kid friendly restaurant it isn't.

Posted by Jim at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

"Make way, make way. Package coming through."

Thanks for the patience folks. The remodel is almost over with.

Here's hoping you like the results.



Posted by Jim at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2005

"Walk 10 feet, plop. Walk 10 feet, plop."

Jack's now walking to where he wants to go about half the time. Jack’s balance and coordination are improving and he’s mastered turns pretty well. His recipe for disaster seems to be when he gets excited and starts moving too quickly. Sure enough he starts tip over and then does a face plant. Jack usually manages to catch himself with his hands so the ratio of falls to contusions is pretty light.

Of course all of these mobility moments have simply been yet another heaping on the cat’s litany of misery and suffering. Aida already runs when Jack crawls after her. The ability to walk at an even faster rate has led to Aida getting more exercise in a week than she’s seen in a year. I swear she’s already starting to look thinner.

To make things more interesting we’ve begun to phase out the ubiquitous Jack accessory: the bottle. This has led to a few dicey moments but nothing too fierce. Nighttime has been a challenge with the last bottle of the day the most likely candidate for the longest retention.

Otherwise it’s been one of those weeks where the time seems to just slip past. Between Mr. Snicklebritches and work neither of us have been up to doing very much in the evenings.

“Honey-do” list for the weekend is starting to look big: The Miata’s brakes are acting flakey so the baby car needs to go into the shop. I have to finish off the office and the spare bedroom for an impending In-Law arrival. I’ve sworn I’ll get to the regular tour of bookstores this weekend and I have some other plans in mind. Of course, to paraphrase, no plan remains intact after initial contact with the Red Hot Baby Jackness.

So it’s time to do your $2.50 good deed for the month. A while back I mentioned the blog of Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss. He’s at Walter Reed right now and the recovery is going pretty well. That being said he could use some get well cards so it’s time to get off of your lazy butts and do a nice deed for a total stranger. Send them to:

Captain Charles W. Ziegenfuss
P.O. Box 59051
Washington, D.C. 20012

I would suggest finding “Thank You” or “Get Well!” cards that border on the risqué or mildly offensive. (He could use the laughs.) His wife is there with him but between the skin grafts and the other things it’s going to be a bit of a long haul. The odds are I’ll send him some water wings, to help out the next time he goes diving into a river with full kit.

It seems to be the week for sick call. I received word from my brother that a mutual friend of ours has an inoperable brain tumor. Babar is a nice guy and certainly doesn’t deserve this sort of thing. Chemo is on deck and will be the first step to see if they can shrink it. He’s already losing motor control of his right hand. *sigh*

I was talking to Archaeon tonight and he told me that Brother Ray, one of our former co-workers, is undergoing a scope of his heart to see the extent of his problems. Perhaps this is all just proof of how old we’re all getting but it’s still scary to hear. Brother Ray was one of the funniest people I used to work with and inspired the Brother Ray song: “Brother Ray, Brother Ray, Brother Ray, Brother Ray, Brother Ray, Brother Ray, Brother Ray!” There are more lyrics along a similar nature but you really have to consume an astonishingly large amount of cold Newcastle to understand the genius of the song.

Brother Ray’s also astonishingly good with a song so politically incorrect and offensive I can’t even type its name. I will however provide a link to it if asked but you’ve been warned. (That reminds me of the fact that despite great effort by everyone we were never able to come up with a rhyme for duck billed platypus.) Brother Ray’s married with two wonderful kids and I’m praying all goes well.

I talked to Moose as well tonight. He’s good. His company was recently purchased by another and, in a pleasant twist on what he had told me previously, they’re keeping him and the rest of the staff. Huzzah!

Website stuff is almost done so soon you’ll either sing praises or delete your bookmarks. I’m also working on the first podcast over the weekend and am trying to decide what children’s book to read first. I’m leaning to Cowboy Bunnies but we’ll see.

Posted by Jim at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005

"We're not number 1! We're not number 1!"

West Virginia leads the nation in toothlessness!

So many jokes. So little time.

(Kentucky is #3 so there's not much room to talk.)

Posted by Jim at 06:45 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2005

"Wanna listen to an old man wheeze into a microphone?"

In an effort to keep up with sweeping trends on the internets The Special Project will soon have podcasts.

Podcasts, as if Blogs themselves weren’t already an exercise in vanity, are audio broadcasts you download and listen to in your free time. Odds are that if you can think of it, then someone, somewhere, is probably making a podcast devoted to it.

What to expect?

My intent it to read excerpts from books, mostly kids books. I’ll read either the first chapter or a short story if it is a collection of some kind. Books for kids Jack’s age are a bit short. While I can try to describe the subtle nuances of Cowboy Bunnies, I’m just not sure I can pull it off. I may venture off into the odd genre or two or read excerpts from some favorites of mine but those departures won’t be the staple.

I’ll provide information on the author, the book itself and anything interesting. I’ll always include a link to the book here on the website so that if you like what you hear you’ll be able to purchase a copy. Here’s hoping that what I choose leads you to discovering something that you never knew about or rekindles memories of old favorites.

Length is a consideration. I not going to try to read every word of something like Anna Karenna. Odds are the “episodes” will be 15-20 minutes. That’s my target time but these things are fluid. If this works out well I’ll submit the feed to Apple’s iTunes podcasting area.

I think the first “broadcast” will be a story from the Henry Reed collection I bought for Jack. Not sure which one yet but the donut maker story is a lead candidate. After that… If you have book or two that you want to hear feel free to make some suggestions.

I might need to draw on the Astronomer for the plug in for Movable Type but we'll see. (Wish him luck this week. He's interviewing for a job.)

Posted by Jim at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

"Hammer time!"

My good friends Archaeon and Moose, Brother Ray and Squirrel Bottom all play a game called "World of Warcraft" online. (As does Mr. Racetrack who stunningly abandoned his Everquest addiction.) All of them have played these games off and on for years.

After much prodding and poking by everyone involved I was finally nudged into giving it a try. It's fun and clever and this is the first time in a long time we'll all have a chance to "play" together in a long time.

The other night, when I first logged on, a couple of the guys were playing and came over to wish me luck. Moose was the first to ramble over and his giant blue troll with orange hair was a sight to behold. The fangs, very large, were a nice touch.

Then there was Archaeon.

Archaeon plays these games a lot. More than Mr. Racetrack. He's the power gamer of power gamers. His computer is screaming fast and he's got macros, new user interfaces, etc. He's got several characters for World of Warcraft that are already at the maximum of experience possible. At this point I think he's done everything there is to do at least a couple of times.

Archaeon's character the other night was a 60th level orc. When he walked up I started laughing because just looking at the character I knew instantly it was him: the orc had really nice armor, his weapons just oozed danger and he instantly came across as a bad ass. I'll not even get into his steed which was equally flashy. If there were style points for orcs Archaeon's character took first and second and then grabbed third because he could.

We chatted for a while and then, just as we were getting ready to leave he made his character dance.

This isn't unusual. All of these sorts of games have "emotes" to let you do things like bow, wave, yawn or dance in the game. It helps convey sentiment or gives you a chance to just have some fun with people. In World of Warcraft the races of man, gnomes, elves, orcs, etc., all dance differently.

How do orcs dance?

They dance like M.C. Hammer in the video for "U Can't Touch This!"

Watching Archaeon's Orc dance across the screen was a riot. Here's the orc of orcs, war leader and threat to all of the good peoples, spinning and dancing from side to side.

It was the next best thing to seeing Archaeon dance like that himself.

Oh, and before you ask, my main character is *******, a 12th level Rogue.

Posted by Jim at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2005

"A boat for the Pirate King!"

I've always loved toy boats. When I was little my father gave me a wonderful metal wind up submarine that I played with for months until it finally gave up the ghost to rust.

As I grew older I became aware of things like this:


"Marklin Battleship “Boston” - This classic 40in battleship is from Marklin’s acclaimed second series of toy boats. These realistic yet toy-like boats were made between 1906 and 1918, and were offered with electric- or steam-powered options. This excellent example has a live steam power plant that operates the twin screws. Play value includes two operating cranes for the lifeboats. Marklin boats of this quality are seldom seen at public auction. Estimate: $50,000-60,000."

That's from the description of the auction catalog that this boat appeared in. At the auction the "Boston" went for $71,500 after two bids. (The scheduled opening bid was $20,000 but the first bid was $60,000 and the only counter was $65,000.)

It's great to think of little boys, 8 or 9 years old, getting one of these things to play with on a Christmas morning or a birthday. It's got to be the equivalent of my old neighbor Dean getting Ape City when the rest of us were lucky to get an Astronaut. (Obscure Planet of the Apes toy reference.) A 40 inch toy battleship. If it were me I might just pass out if I found that under the tree.

So what to do for the junior Pirate King?

Oh, how I should never have found this.

Go look. I'll wait. (Turn down your speakers first.)

$4500 AUD! $5000 with all the trimmings! Even after the exchange rate the $3790 is more than I paid for the Miata.


Until the Sultan of Brunei decides to gift Jack with one of these I'll just have to look at the website and dream.

The mental image of a 9 year old Jack lowering the U.S.S. "Incorrigible" or the U.S.S. "Contemptuous" into the lake for an afternoon of boating is pretty keen though.

Thanks to Toyzine.com and Noel Barrett auctions for the above image of the Boston. Thanks also to the late Ward Kimball who preserved the Boston for over a half a century.

Posted by Jim at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)