Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Non sequitur

So – I’ve got a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about this week. There is absolutely NOTHING that ties them together – so I won’t try. Welcome to my non sequitur.

First – I live in a Pontiac town. I don’t know what that means, exactly. I mean – I know what it means. A lot of the cars that I see daily are Pontiacs. What I don’t know is what that means. I don’t really have a problem with Pontiacs. I think the front ends are pretty creepy…and I tend to free associate “Pontiac” with “child molester” in my mind. There’s no reasoning for that – just how it happens. Anyway – loads of Pontiacs around me.

Next – when did my yard turn into the frakking animal kingdom? I love animals – I really do. I love all the birds that have made nests around my house – they are loverly to wake up to each and every morning. I love the rabbits and squirrels that I see around my yard daily. What I don’t love – or don’t understand is the rabbit that is digging up my front yard to make a little burrow for her babies. Did she learn nothing from the duck and eggs that were eaten? My front yard is NOT safe! It’s a rabbit – big ears – surely it has heard me MOWING! I think the animals get a false sense of security from my dog. He barks to keep things away…but he cannot attack because he is behind a window? Or maybe they keep making these nests outside his window so that they can tease him. Regardless – bunnies – leave now. It’s not safe. I can avoid mowing for a few weeks while you grow – but I cannot protect you 24 hours a day, nor can my dog. ps – I hate you for digging up my yard…3 times.

Finally – so I’ve been working on my design for the Scottish play at IRT for next season. I am in the stage of super excited. This afternoon we had a fruitful design meeting. I’m working on the model and really eager to see it start heading to the stage. There is always a little bit of magic when I see it go from very little to full size.

One more thing – Indianapolis has been granted the Super Bowl for the year 2012. I had an interesting conversation with some co-workers about this phenomenon this morning. I feel like the NFL is really doing a great thing by allowing different cities to bid for the Super Bowl. Sure, ultimately there is a LOT of money made both by the NFL and players – but it actually does great things for the community. It brings all kinds of revenue to local businesses, it makes the city get its act together since it will be on display – and in the case of Indy it is bringing some great new sports/practice facilities to some local schools that are in desperate need. According to the local news it is this “Legacy Project” that sealed the bid for the NFL owners. So, I think it is a good thing. Sure 2012 is years away – but it is something to look forward to.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another year over…a new one just begun – but let’s just discuss last week-ish.

So last was a big week in these here parts. On Tuesday we had the opportunity to vote in the democratic primary. The race has been extremely tight this year between Sen. Barack Obama from Illinois and Sen. Hillary Clinton from New York. I do always take advantage of my right/duty to vote on these types of things. I try to do my own research so as not to get swayed be the barrage of commercials that flood in the days before the polls open. Yay for voting! So, for the first time in my lifetime, Indiana had a primary that counted. Unfortunately I fear that when it comes to the actual presidential election my vote will not count/matter. Thank you outdated Electoral College. Thank you “red” state.

In other news – for those of you that didn’t already know – I am designing at IRT in the fall. Janet Allen has given me the opportunity to design the Scottish Play, which she will be directing. I cannot even being to tell you how excited I am by this opportunity. Monday was scheduled to be the first design meeting, and rest assured I gathered all kinds of research and ideas. Unfortunately I also gathered some type of stomach virus and spent all of Sunday night and most of Monday morning prying myself away from (what felt like) certain death. Janet and the rest of the design team were gracious enough to let me attend the meeting by phone. It was certainly not ideal, but given the circumstances…

Anyway, I am feeling better now. I am still excited about the show (cursed as it is), and I will hopefully get the ball rolling in the rest of the meetings soon.

This week also marks the end of my second year teaching at Franklin College…and they’ve even invited me back for a third year. I don’t know how many people do this – but I frequently look back at “life plans and goals” that I’ve set for myself and see what I’ve actually accomplished. One thing that was not on my list – being a college professor. One thing that was on the list – design for IRT (working on that). Another one that was not on the list – getting married and then maintaining said marriage for nearly 8 years. That’s right – this June will be 8 years!!! It is almost unfathomable – in a good way.

I am continuing to work with iFanboy. I am shooting the promos (advertisements) as part of the weekly video podcast. I am also writing a weekly column for them. It comes out every Friday around 12:00 am EST. Fear not – you can read it in the morning when you wake up.

Beyond that things are mostly status quo here in sleepy town. We are continually hoping and waiting for more 30 somethings to move to Franklin. Clarity – 30 somethings that we want to hang out with. We’ve only lived here for 2 years, but there is the seeming start of a shift to a younger community here. Maybe by the time it is in full swing we’ll be old and people will hope that we shuffle to Florida or wherever old people go.

Cayuga is doing well. He turns five this month. Contrary to popular belief that does NOT equal 35 in dog years. The smaller the dog, the more “regular” the aging, unless you venture into the teacup variety. Thank you vet for filling me in. Anyway, that means that Cayuga is five and acting like he is five. He is still a ball of energy that loves to play and be rambunctious. We love him and spoil him…and certainly don’t help the situation. I guess that is our prerogative as his “parents.”

And finally – our house. Amy is eager to work on the bathrooms and the yards this summer. I am less eager, but I see her point. So hopefully I’ll knock down a wall and get the remodeling juices going again.

And there you have it – a self-indulgent update on my life. And – guess what? I can be self-indulgent because this is my blog. I’ll keep you posted if there’s more. Suckers.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mario Kart Wii - FINALLY!

After reading all sorts of previews, reviews and other general hype about this game I could not wait to get it in my hands. Not only was I looking forward to playing the game - but I was also GREATLY looking forward to silencing all the other opinions. I wanted to debunk all the crap. But before I get there, let me tell you my history with the game and why I was so excited to get it.

As many people know the game has a long history. It began in the early 90's with Super Mario Kart on the SNES. This game was fine, and certainly holds plenty of merit, but my true love affair with the series came with Mario Kart 64 for the N64. My roommate, Ron and I would play this (and GoldenEye) nonstop in our college dorm room. We even learned that if you pick a "heavy" player and crank the subwoofer way up, on certain jumps you can really shake the room. As soon as this was discovered it became, for us, the games only purpose. Late one weekday night our downstairs neighbors came upstairs and starting banging on our door…angrily. Apparently Bowser’s landings were not only making our room sake, but actually knocking things off the walls in their room. Oops.

We did become more careful with our hour to volume level ratio – but the game was a staple. We played it ALL. THE. TIME. Sadly, we have both grown up and moved apart. My wife sold my N64 along with the game, so I have been Kart-less for nearly 8 years. Kart-less, until now.

When it came to buying a new video game system, the prospects of this game pushed me to my final decision of a Wii. A decision which I do not regret at all. This game only solidifies my hopes.

I purchased the game and an extra wheel, so that anybody playing it at my house can use the wheel. Actually, I will make the rule that you have to use the wheel. And that brings me to my first point about the game. Much of the hype and many of the reviews talk about the different control options. One can use the wheel (comes with the game), the Wii-mote alone, Wii-mote and nunchuck, or either of the traditional controller options. I’ve read that if you want precision and tight races, use the controller options.

Precision? Tight races? WTF?!?! This is Mario Kart. You’re telling me that I can play with a steering wheel? A wheel that makes it even harder to control – thereby making it more fun? For goodness sake – I didn’t think that this game could get any better.

The wheel is AWESOME. It is absolutely the best thing that could have happened to this game. Now instead of having people mash buttons in an attempt to drive a “kart” around a track, you can look like a complete idiot while steering you “kart” off a cliff. And that is why the wheel is a mandatory rule in my house.

Now – what about the other improvements to the game? Well, to be honest I’ve only been able to play a little bit, so I know I still have plenty of work to do to really figure everything out. But, I can tell you about the second best thing to happen to this game – motorcycles. Sure, they tried this years ago with Diddy Kong Racing – there were no motorcycles, rather it was planes, karts and hovercrafts – but the idea of alternate vehicles were there. The problem was that Diddy Kong Racing sucked. The motorcycles (dirt bikes, scooters and racing bikes) are fantastic – and they are even HARDER to control with the wheel.

The other thing that I think can be potentially great with this game is the ability to race my old roomie Ron, and other friends that have the game. I know that people whine and moan about the “online” play that Nintendo offers – but I have no problem with it. It’s free and fairly easy to do. I have the option to play people I don’t know (bah) or play people I do know (yay). That’s all I really need.

I know that I still have plenty of exploring to do with this game, and I fully intend on doing that. However, I can say that if you have a Wii – and you want something fun – this is a good place to turn. Just remember – it’s fun. Don’t get to heady about it. Precision. Feh. It’s Mario Kart.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life gets in the way of life.

This spring has been an interesting one for us. For many years and many houses Amy and I have had backyards. In the spring that leads to all sorts of birds moving in and making nests around the yard. I’ve always enjoyed it because (despite the bird poop) it is nice to hear the chirps and see the new life. But this year lines have been crossed.

For the most part the birds have always made their nests in the trees. We have AMPLE trees in our yard. Occasionally they would find some little sneaky spot on the house – and that was fine, too. Birds, for the most part, seem to be smart enough to steer clear of the areas that are high in human traffic. For the most part.

It started a few weeks ago when Amy was cleaning leaves out of the bushes in the front yard. She disturbed a duck that had made a nest under one of the bushes. I was working on something else when I heard the scream. I looked up to see a pale Amy running to me with a large duck flying behind her. You never really think about how big a duck is until it’s flying out you. Sure, it’s no goose – but it’s also not a robin. Anyway – we quickly got as far away as we could in hopes that mother duck would go back to the nest.

Eventually she did go back to her nest and her eight eggs. I formed a pretty good relationship with mother duck. I gave her plenty of space, and I tried to give her warning if I was going to have to get near. I did my best to let her know that I was no a threat. Eventually – about three weeks after discovery – mother duck was attacked in the night. I’m not sure what attacked, but there were a lot of feathers and eight broken eggs. Maybe it was a cat, or a raccoon – or the neighbor’s dog? I’ll never know. I just wish I could have done something to help.

For a while we were not using the garage – I mean we were using it, but not to park in. So we were not in a routine of opening and closing it daily. Well – that apparently encouraged a robin to make a nest on the light that hangs right next to the garage door. Normally, if I had caught it earlier, I might have “encouraged” that she build someplace else. But, alas, the nest is there. Every morning mother robin and I have our littler interchange – she flies to the yard, I get my bike out, reverse and repeat. I’m OK with it.

Well – now that we have increased the usage of our garage – the light above the front door has become home for a little sparrow (which does not make as tidy a nest as a robin). Again, it was not caught in time that I felt I could encourage a “move.” So, the sparrow and the robin have conquered the front of our house. If you come to visit you will most likely be greeted with a chirp and a flyby.

It’s the backyard where things have gone awry. Last summer a robin made a nest in the downspout of our gutter when we did not get rain for a period of time. I thwarted all those efforts this year with some screen and gutter covers. A family of starlings attempted (every year) a nest in our soffit – but I finally got something that they couldn’t get through this year. Go me! The starlings have since relegated themselves to a knot in one of our trees.

The problem is/was with a sparrow couple. One night while sitting on the patio I noticed – or thought I noticed a sparrow fly into my dryer vent. I decided the next day to inspect and it appeared that it would be virtually impossible for this to have happened. See – under the hood there’s a metal flap that seals the vent from the outside world. How could a bird possibly open that? How could it open with nest making materials? There’s no way there were any birds in there.

Well – guess what? When I did laundry on Sunday I learned that there were birds in there. The kindling – or “nest” as the sparrows call it – did not catch on fire, fortunately. A lot of it blew out the vent – and the rest I pulled out. And I felt AWFUL while doing it. We needed to do laundry – but I certainly did want to be a home wrecker. Since Sunday the sparrows have been hanging around a lot. I cannot decide if they are just pissed at me – or if they are scheming about getting back in. Either way it pains me to think about it.

Well – if only that were the only bad bird decision. There is a robin that is trying to build a nest on my outdoor speaker control. Sure I don’t use the speakers EVERYDAY, but frequently enough that a nest would be burdensome. Not that I am blaming the robin – she’s picked a spot that is well protected. So, each morning and afternoon I have been trying to take down the random twigs and strings that have been brought over…and as soon as I do it they are back.


It wouldn’t be so annoying if there weren’t a plethora of trees in our backyard – but there is a plethora of trees. Actually – I’m not sure what a “plethora” is – but we have like six large trees in our yard. Of those I can confirm one bird family living in one tree. So – I’m no ornithologist, but it would seem that there is plenty of room. I understand that we (people) have completely destroyed nature and we need find ways to coexist – but this house has been here for over 40 years without these issues.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

This is getting out of hand!

So - I know that my theory was silly. What are the chances that I can cause an earthquake by NOT watching TV at night? About ZERO!

Yes, it was odd that it happened twice, but I wasn't really taking myself seriously.

Well - I decided not to watch TV on Friday night...and guess what? Don't believe me - here's the NY Times article...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waste not, want not. Happy Earth Day!

So I was watching Oprah the other day (thanks DVR) – and the subject was about families that create great amounts of personal waste. Waste in all forms – garbage, power, food, consumerism, etc. The show was obviously produced to encourage other “average” Americans to evaluate their living standards and see what they can do to cut back on excessive waste. I went into it thinking that the families that were picked were going to be extreme cases – but as the show went on we learned that, in fact, they are pretty average.

In one case a family of five was creating 4 entirely different dinners. Now, in theory I have no real problem with this – if they were making the meals individual sizes. But, instead the mother was cooking and entire box of pasta for her son – and throwing out the rest. An entire box (I just checked) is 7 servings. First of all – why cook it all – and if you do – why throw it out? The family then goes to the grocery store and buys it all over again. This was just the tip of the iceberg – they cranked the heat up to 82, they left all sorts of lights and devices on. It was fantastically ridiculous. To their credit – they also thought it was ridiculous and they did make enormous improvements in their lifestyle.

Another family that was spotlighted was dealing with similar issues – but the thing that stuck out the most with the second family was the amount of time they let their five-year-old play video games. He played roughly 3-5 hours a day. A DAY! This family also made dramatic changes for the better after living through an experiment that involved giving things up/trying not to waste so much.

As vain and as superficial as I might be about myself – in most circumstances I try not to judge. Certainly in the case of my students (where it is my job to judge their work) I judge but I try to be constructive about it – and I try to stay on task (don’t believe a word that my co-workers say to the contrary). Looking at these families, in my heart of hearts I know that they need to just work through their issues and I should not condemn them. However, we are sharing the same planet and dipping from the same resource pool. If these families represent a “normal” slice of America, it’s no wonder we’re screwed as a nation and as a planet.

I will make no claims that we are perfect in our house – as a matter of fact I can list things that we need to be better about. That being said – I feel like all the good things that I do are just negated by the “everyday” actions of those around me. This is where I get on my high horse – so if you don’t want to read, stop now.

Let’s start with the actual house. There are only two of us (and a little white dog) so we don’t need a lot of room. That being said, in the event that we start a family, there is plenty of room in this house to do so – at roughly 1800 square feet, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, there is more than ample space. The house is also an older home. It was built in the early 60’s. We looked at a few new and newer homes – but when push comes to shove – isn’t it better to use what is already there? The materials that we have used to fix this house and make it not only livable, but also attractive are far fewer than what it would take to make an all new house. Additionally, all of our appliances are “energy star” and most of our utilities are as well. The improvements to be made there are with the type of water heater and water softener that we have. So – once we can afford to change those and/or something goes wrong with the ones we have – we will. I’d also love to convert the house to at least partial solar power – but I feel like there is still a lot of other work before I drop the expense on that.

Inside the house we have some halogen lights – so those use halogen bulbs. However, in most places we try to use CFLs. Sure, they’re not perfect with their mercury lined interiors – but they are certainly more efficient than a regular incandescent, and the color is good now. Ideally, LED technology will be all figured out within a year – but that stuff is not really fully available to the consumer market.

We use cloth napkins and wash EVERYTHING in COLD/COLD on the washer. It works the same, folks. We recycle everything that we can – although our curbside has recently changed what all they pick up (now they take less). Still, we produce approximately one kitchen size bag of trash every other week. We do NOT compost, but we don’t really have anything to compost. Most of our food is eaten the first time or as leftovers.

Neither of us smokes or has a Starbucks habit – so we aren’t producing a lot of consumer waste that way. I tend to eat out for lunch once, maybe twice a week – but again – I am careful to recycle what I can from those meals (bottles, etc).

The question is, does it matter? When a majority of the people around me are so cavalier about these things, does it matter what I do? At my place of employment I frequently see people throwing away recyclables – not even things that are hard to recycle – they are throwing away bottles and cans. Does the school need more bins? Would it matter – it seems to happen that way even if the trash can is next to the recycle bin. While I appreciate that you are not littering – I’d almost rather have you throw you trash on the ground so that I don’t have to dig through the rubbish bin after you to save your recycling.

I routinely see all sorts of lights and equipment left on. And, while I realize that there are safety codes for buildings, is there any reason that they have to look like shopping centers at night? Why are there so many emergency lights? The problems that I see are not limited to students – they are just as prevalent in the faculty and staff. That means that some of my colleagues aren’t even trying to set an example – unless the example is “how to kill the planet.”

I would like to reiterate that I do not do everything perfectly. I still have plenty of room to grow – and I push myself everyday. These past few weeks we have been purging our lives and trying to remove things that are overcomplicating and crowding our home and lifestyle. I know that the little things add up – but I feel like we need big change.

How long do we passively do this? I don’t want to be a jerk and get in faces – but somebody has to, right? Otherwise our entire nation will continue to deplete all our resources and seemingly not care. Or at least not care until it is too late. We can ban smoking – but we cannot ban SUVs? We can enforce all sorts of laws (some ridiculous) – but we cannot get people to recycle? It’s just dumb.

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

What the?

So - no TV last night.

Earthquake - AGAIN!

I think I will be watching TV before somebody gets hurt.