Nov 252006

Well, it’s been a while, so I have a lot of stupid stuff to talk about, but I’ll try to be brief to match my attention span. (note — I failed)
KrisDi and I went to Chicago for her ten year reunion. It was fun. They had five hours of open bar. I sat around drinking, staring at people I had never seen and (for the most part) hadn’t heard of, and delivered lots of drinks to KrisDi and her friends whom I had already met. And, amazingly, I didn’t spill on myself. Here’s photographic evidence.

While we were in Chicago, we saw the musical Wicked, which was pretty cool. I like it because it make the good guys stupid and/or bad and the bad guys good but misunderstood. Also, the ‘special effects’ (I don’t know if that’s what you call it in theater) were pretty cool. The Wizard’s big impressive face thing was both big and impressive.

Let’s see, I also broke my camera, but it has since been fixed. Then KrisDi’s parents came to visit us and borrow KrisDi’s car to go for a drive for the 32nd anniversary (congratulations to them!). They went to Linn’s Fruit Bin and bought an olallieberry pie, which was the best berry pie I’ve ever tasted.

KrisDi and I have started swimming laps. Yes, I’m intentionally doing something for exercise. Unfortunately for me, I have 20 years experience being comfortable in the water without really knowing how to swim effectively (or efficiently), so KrisDi had to start by trying to erase my bad habits (of which there were many). Also, I think the only time I’ve ever actually done any endurance training of any sort was the one year in seventh grade (12, 13 years ago) when I was in track. So, I suck at swimming. After three weeks, I have now accomplished over 3/4 of a nautical mile in about an hour (KrisDi isn’t even close to winded by such a paltry effort), KrisDi tells me my technique is greatly improved (it doesn’t take much to improve on a catastrophe). We also had a session where she tried to teach me how to flip-turn (well, she might have been trying to drown me). All I managed to do was filter about half the pool through my nose. After hitting bottom on several attempts, she advised me, “Well, try just not going so low.” Which is meaningless to someone who doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing.

And, of course, Thanksgiving was yesterday. We made a 22 pound turkey, and three people showed up (two of them two hours after we finished). We also had stuffing, kidney bean salad, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, tortilla chips and taco dip, a cheeseball and some crackers, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and oatmeal raisin cookies. I now have leftovers to keep me from starving while KrisDi’s gone in San Diego for a couple weeks. Here are some pictures of cooking, and the big day itself.

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. By now you probably have figured out that Gaiman’s one of my favorite authors. That’s because I like the stuff he writes. Like Anansi Boys. He wrote it, I like it, I think people should read it. The idea is that Anansi dies and his sons have to figure out basically who they are and how to deal with being the children of a god (and also how to deal with being brothers). If you like American Gods, you’ll like this.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. I read this while I was waiting for KrisDi to get ready to go somewhere. I see now why it’s an American classic.

The Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling. Not a lot to say about it. It’s another Harry Potter book. I wanted to read it, and I like it, but it doesn’t inspire much, because it’s really not that much different than the first two. After all, it’s a kids book. Why am I reading it?

Cars. Lets see, I don’t like Owen Wilson or Larry the Cable Guy. At least I didn’t have to look at them. I enjoyed the movie anyway, because it was funny.

Secondhand Lions. Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, as well as Haley Joel Osmont. I couldn’t tell if the Osmont kid was just acting poorly or playing a stiff character. He played a 13 year old (I think), and he was probably 14 or so when they were filming. I really liked this movie. One of the best I’ve seen in a long time. I recommend it to anyone. It’s kind of a serious comedy. Or something. Just watch it.

I put this one last because it’s really long and uninteresting.
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. For the most part, I very much enjoyed this book. It’s kind of historical sci-fi, since they use time travel but they go back to Medieval times. The beginning was good, and most of the end was good, but there was a long section in the middle where nothing in particular was happening. I’m guessing the author was using it as a venue to describe how she imagines the middle ages (which is definitely not an idealized version). Anyway, lots of people die, it’s pretty dark, and one of the things I found most interesting was the idea that the fabric of time protects itself from paradox. If a time traveller wanted to take technology from the 21st century and share it with the 14th century, the drop won’t work or the technology will be left in the 21st and the 14th century won’t ever see it. Which led me to think about probability, the ‘infinite parallel universes’ thing, and solutions to large equations. Lets say there is an infinite number of universes based on the idea that every possible event, however improbable, can and does occur in some parallel universe. Now, if we assume time travel is possible, you bring in a possibility of paradox. In Back to the Future, paradoxes will destroy the universe (not a viable universe). In math, in particular polynomial equations, there are often multiple solutions (x^2=4; x= 2 or -2). Higher order polynomials have larger sets of viable solutions, but of course there’s still an infinite number of nonviable solutions. For a polynomial of an infinite order, there is an infinite number of solutions (and effectively an infinite number of infinite sets of nonviable solutions). I was thinking of this as an analogy for how the universe might ‘protect’ itself from time-travel induced paradox. The only universes that can exist are the ones in which a paradox does not occur, and probability is the mechanism by which the nonviable universes are culled out. Whatever ridiculously unlikely series of events would prevent a generous 21st century person from sharing technology with 14th century people will occur, or the universe would not exist. So, if Prometheus wants to travel back to 1300 to show people how to make guns, he never will because someone will press the wrong buttons on the time travel machine, or he’ll be killed by a flying beer bottle, or he’ll bash his head and forget how to make guns, or have a sudden change of heart, or some exotic event will prevent his tools from going with him. So, there might be an infinite number of parallel universes in which time travel is possible, but only ones in which no paradox occurs. And that’s the sort of thing I think about while I’m dozing at work.

Nov 052006

Pictures added:

Airshow at Edwards Air Force Base. I like the miniature astronauts.
Pumpkin carving. You would not believe how much time I spent on my Johnnie Walker pumpkin.
Peanut Butter and Dill Pickle Sandwich. This guy at work kept saying these things were good and wouldn’t listen to criticism from anyone who hadn’t tried one. So I tried one. My mind couldn’t grasp both flavors at the same time. It was very strange, but not as horrifying as I thought it might be.

Thing I remembered:

The other day, I was discussing God’s creatures of which I have not already partaken (I want to eat reindeer, preferably with a bright red nose!), and someone brought up pheasant, which I distinctly recall eating on two occasions. However, the flavor is not part of those memories. The older of the two is probably the more amusing: Dad ran a pheasant over on the highway (accidental), tossed it into the back of the truck (intentional), and brought it home to feed it to his children (ummm…thoughtful?). However, he had to ask a neighbor how to pluck it and cook. The neighbor thoughtfully did so, and then told dear old Dad that it was illegal to keep it (I’m guessing you need a hunting license or something). The other time was apparently a bird that Elder Brother shot. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that when you shoot things with shotguns, they have lots of little metal balls in them. That’s typically what makes them stay on the ground unmoving until fetched. These same little metal balls are not particularly appetizing.


The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This is a long book, which is a little difficult to read because Russian names aren’t the same as English names. Luckily, the copy I have has an index of the main characters full name and nicknames. It still took me a while to realize that Nikolay and Kolya were the same person. Anyway, the story seems very much like a soap opera to me, which would normally be very boring (and in fact, after the very beginning but before the second half was fairly boring), but I liked these characters more than the characters I imagine are in soap operas (not having had the patience [or desire for self-punishment] to ever sit through a soap opera). To a certain extent, though, I thought the soap-operatic turns of events were contortions intended to create situations about which the main character (or the author) could wax philosophical, which I did find interesting. Overall, I liked the book. Plus, it had a pleasingly unhappy ending. I’m always a sucker for those.

Deathstalker Rebellion by Simon R. Green. I just finished this yesterday or the day before, I don’t remember which. As you most certainly don’t recall, I thought the first book was cheesy. This was more of the same. Character names like Razor, Silence, d’Ark, Random, Journey, Edge, and of course the title character Deathstalker. Fortunately for Mr. Green, I have a soft spot for cheesiness. Unfortunately, there were a few glaring plot holes which I had a hard time ignoring (disbelief is precariously suspended). I should just give up and buy the rest of the series, because I know perfectly well I’ll read them. Maybe I can find them in a library somewhere.


Muppets from Space. It was a muppet movie. How can it go wrong?