Friday, September 30, 2005

What's On the Plate...


  • Date night with Laura - dinner at Olive Garden, saw "Flightplan" with Jodie Foster. Wow, Jodie isn't 15 anymore...


  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Watch "The Wizard of Oz" at Market Square. Y'all come!

  • Auditions for "Annie"
  • Tennessee - Ole Miss (prediction: UT 35 - Ole Miss 17)

  • Auditions for "Annie"
  • Titans-Colts

    Have a good weekend!
  • Bibbidy Bobbidy Bye!

    Eisner leaves mixed legacy as Disney chief

    Today's the last day of Michael Eisner's 20+ year reign as head of the Walt Disney Company. It's been a rollercoaster (ahem) career for the former head of Paramount Pictures and ABC Television, as he took the reigns of a dying, creatively bereft company in 1984 and turned it into the international media conglomerate it is today. But not every step or decision made by Eisner was met with universal acclaim - as with all modern businesses, bottom lines must be maintained and in the entertainment industry sometimes imagination and wonder must be sacrificed for practicality and necessity.

    Eisner at times, fueled by his own ego and wish to be the new Walt Disney, took things too far. After ten years and a string of animated successes ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Lion King," not to mention the advent of the Pixar partnership beginning with "Toy Story") the previous ten years have seen stockholder upheaval, layoffs, theme park neglect and consistently bad creative choices. Beginning with the death of partner Frank Wells in 1994 and continuing with rifts between Eisner and key collaborators like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Ovitz, Roy Disney (Walt's Nephew and keeper of the legacy), Stanley Gold and Pixar president Steve Jobs, it was clear that the honeymoon was over.

    Today Eisner steps down as head of the Walt Disney Company and Bob Iger takes over. What will the next ten years hold? Who knows, but it's up to Iger to pull the company back to the lofty position it held ten years ago. Good luck, Bob.

    And, in the immortal words of Lenny and Squiggy:

    M-I-C... (See ya real soon!)
    ...K-E-Y... (Why? Why not?)

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    I Had No Idea This Was Out...

    As I walk along, I wonder
    What went wrong with our lives,
    Lives that were so strong...

    I'm walkin' in the rain,
    Tears are fallin' and I feel the pain,
    Wishin' you were here by me,
    To end this misery,
    I wonder...

    Put it on my Christmas list!

    One of my favorite TV series ever, "Crime Story" is out on DVD. This gritty cop drama was set in the early 60's Chicago (and later, Las Vegas) and followed hard-boiled cop Mike Torello (a pre-"Law and Order" Dennis Farina) and he and his team's pursuit of mob boss Ray Luca (Anthony Denison). Though it only ran for two seasons in the mid-80's, this was a favorite around the dorm rooms at UT. In my opinion, the best cop series ever and a shame it only ran two years.


    Does anyone remember what happened that last episode of the second season? Turello and Luca and their men were fighting hand-to-hand in a runaway plane over open water, which eventually crashed into the ocean. The look on their faces when, locked in mortal combat, they both realized at the same time their own demise was imminent was priceless. I guess if the show had been picked up for a third season at least some of them would have survived, but since it wasn't - I guess they probably all died. Too bad, I guess.

    But anyway, I'd recommend it highly.

    I Love It...

    James Lileks, speaking about the anti-war rallies:
    "There were “No Blood For Oil,” signs - the rally equivalent of shouting “Freebird!” at a Skynyrd concert."
    So true. It's all just a big rock concert now.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    The Game Ball

    Little league baseball is a funny thing. In different parts of the country it's a passion approaching college football and other spectator sports. Elsewhere it's a laid back, relaxed approach to giving kids something fun to do with their afternoons. Either way, it's one of the best ways to teach young boys and girls teamwork, sportsmanship, strategy and coordination.

    Brainyboy (v9.6) is playing what's called in these parts, "Fall Ball": 9-10 year-olds playing organized, kid-pitch baseball in leagues of about eight teams in round robin format. What's different about "Fall Ball" than regular spring baseball is that play is a little more relaxed, it's more fun and there's less emphasis on competition and more on learning and enjoying the game.

    Although they do keep score, wins and losses are not felt too strongly - a good thing, since our team hasn't won a game yet. But that's ok, because they're improving and most importantly learning how to play the game of baseball.

    And BB - well, this is the first time he's played in a couple of years after taking some time to play soccer. He can catch pretty well but needs a lot of work on throwing and batting. He's struck out every time except for one walk, and never gotten to second base - but he's not discouraged. He's kept his chin up and acknowledges that he will get a hit sooner or later.

    His fielding is minimal - most of the time he's in left field, where in this league balls are rarely hit. He's played shortstop a couple of times and third base last night, and showed me he's been watching his teammates, because he knows where to go and what to do.

    Last night in the bottom of the second his team was in the field with BB in left. The other team was already ahead 6-3 or so, and was starting another rally when their hitter knocked a sharp grounder between short and third. It went into left, BB snagged it with his glove and made a sharp heads-up throw to second to hold the runner to a single. A routine play any competent outfielder would make in the big leagues, but in this league it's always a hit or miss. In fact, I can't remember a fielder actually getting to a grounder this year and they always seem to roll to the fence for extra bases. Rally temporarily averted.

    After the game (we held on to lose) the coach gathers the team to talk about the game and point out players who made particularly good or smart plays. After mentioning several players, he looked at BB and said, "And with a great play in left, on a ball that was headed to the fence - the play of the night."

    And tossed him the game ball.

    The look on BB's face was priceless. So was mine, probably.

    He walked back to the car full of good feeling and emotion, confident that sometimes all it takes is one play, one act, one small gesture to do something good. He'll continue to improve and hopefully collect more game balls. This one he'll put on the shelf next to some other mementos he's collected.

    But hopefully he'll take away more than that. The knowledge that if you keep your head in the game you can accomplish anything. And make the coach proud.

    And the dad.

    My New Car

    2005 Ford Focus ZX5

    I haven't quite figured out where to install the Flux Capacitor, but I will.

    Oh, I will...

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

  • Will is having a bumper-sticker contest. Everybody play!

  • Is anyone from Knoxville going to see "The Wizard of Oz" this Friday at Market Square?

  • Tragic News of the Week: I've lost one of my shoes. How does one lose a shoe? I can't figure it out - my comfy brown loafers I've worn to work every day for like the last 5 years is now half missing. I'm wearing my slightly nicer but not as comfortable dress shoes now, and it's pressing on my anklebone something fierce. I want my shoe back. If found, treat with love and return promptly...

  • Speaking of ankle bones, I twisted or popped or otherwise spindled and mutilated my right ankle last week. And it still hurts. Pardon me while I milk this for all it's worth...

  • My wife Laura has officially joined the Fantasy Football craze, and is now in a Yahoo! league with me, my dad, my brother and his girlfriend, his girlfriend's dad, yeah, Michael. And I fear I have created a monster, because she knows more about Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger than I do...
  • So, About That Starting Quarterback...

    Just a few days ago, Phillip Fulmer named Eric Ainge the starter for the LSU game, and
    indeed, for the rest of the season - intending to shelve the two-quarterback system that had worked so well for us against UAB and Florida, and provide some stability to the team.
    Ainge started the opener and then came off the bench against Florida while rotating with Rick Clausen. Partly as a result, Ainge has not looked as sharp and sometimes confused. But this week coach Phillip Fulmer finally settled on Ainge as the quarterback.

    Um, what now?

    Clausen storms back
    Clausen, who began his career at LSU and then transferred to Tennessee, came off the bench to rally the Vols into a 24-24 tie by passing for one touchdown and running for another, then getting James Wilhoit in position to kick a 28-yard field goal with 2:02 to play.
    What does Fulmer do? The easy answer, of course, is to start Rick against Ole Miss on Saturday... but that's what happened against Florida and he was ineffective and was benched finally for Ainge - who, while he didn't tear up the turf in that game was nonetheless more effective than Clausen. So Ainge got the starting nod at LSU and, well, we see what happened then.

    Do we keep switching starters around, based on what they did the previous game? Based on evidence over the last three games, each starter was pulled and the backup finished the game - will that repeat itself Saturday, and throughout the season? And what kind of message does it send to the team when a coach declares a kid the rest-of-the-season starter, then yanks him the next game?

    It was perfectly fine for Fulmer start Ainge Monday night, and even fine for him to announce the end to the two-quarterback rotation. But in my opinion naming Ainge starter-for-life (so to speak) was a mistake that might cost him some morale points and some respect.

    So does he effectively break his word and start Clausen Saturday against Ole Miss? He probably should. Should Ainge still play? I think so, if the game is in hand. But that doesn't repair some of the damage Fulmer's broken promise will have.

    I like Rick and enjoy watching him play. I hope he gets the chance to compete and excel this his senior season. But if he's stinking up the joint, I hope they put in Ainge. But more than that, I hope someone develops enough of a consistency to be the number one guy from here on out.

    Good luck.

    The Road to Insolvency

    Well, we bought a new car. On the same day we made downpayment for the four of us to go to New York with the kids' show choir, and paid up front for Lion King tickets.

    I'm still not sure what happened - it all happened so fast... What year is this?

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Friday's Feast

    Feast Sixty-Three - Friday, September 23, 2005

    Appetizer - Name something someone has done lately that impressed you.

    There's a married couple at our church who are both pediatricians. They have a family of three young girls - including one that's less than a year old - yet each parent spent a week helping take care of sick and injured kids down in New Orleans. That's pretty impressive.

    Soup - Do you have any relaxing rituals? If so, what are they?

    The most relaxing thing I do is sit at the computer at home and just explore...

    Salad - If you could spend the winter season somewhere other than your current location, where would you choose to stay?

    Barbados, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. name it.

    Main Course - When was the last time you had dinner out, and what was the name of the restaurant?

    Question is, when's the last time I didn't have dinner out ;) Actually, technically it would be at church Wednesday night but the last time we went to a restaurant was Tuesday evening at the Food Court at West town Mall. I got a slice of Sbarros pizza, Laura got a Petro, BrainyBoy got a hot dog at Frank'n'Stein's and Tink got a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal at McDonalds. A well-rounded dinner.

    Dessert - If you had a boat, what would you name it?

    Wow, I've often wondered this, because naming a boat is a most sacred ritual and responsibility. I'd have to be careful and not to tempt myself to name it "Enterprise" or "Millenium Falcon," because, you know, people would laugh at it. "Sleuth" comes to mind, which was the Hardy Boys' speedboat. It would have to be something very memorable and perfectly suited for me or my family. I'll have to think about it.

    I'm Going to Get Very, Very Angry...

    Gasoline has crept up again from $2.59 to $2.89, and Rita hasn't even made landfall in Texas yet.

    For those of you playing along at home, that's 30 cents in about 3 days. Over nothing.

    Don't tell me about futures, don't tell me about possible reduced refinery capacity, don't tell me about slow repairs on existing refineries that were damaged during Katrina.

    It is gouging by gasoline companies, slowly and surely, and there's nothing we can do about it. And some people say gas could go up to $5.00/gal in the next few days, after the 'cane hits the coast and maybe nudges the refineries around a bit.

    I wish I had access to three concurrent sets of data: 1) A list of all hurricanes to hit the US Coast in the last, say, 10 years, their categories and their damage results, and 2) a general map of where all those on-shore and off-shore refineries are along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and 3) a graph of the price of gasoline over those time periods immediately preceding and following hurricane strikes. Also I'd need to take into account proportional oil price increases, if they happened during those times.

    I've been buying gasoline for over 20 years, and I seriously don't recall until Katrina seeing gas prices take such huge hikes (10-25 cents/day) after a hurricane. Can anyone provide concrete evidence where gas has jumped significantly before Katrina?

    And if not, are we supposed to suddenly accept that two hurricanes in a row, even if they strike that same general region, could produce such a shortage or disruption in distribution?

    And if the answers to all these questions are still suspicious, I don't have any idea what we can do about it.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Sliding Under the Tag...

    The Orange One himself has tagged me - here goes:

    7 Answers to 7 Questions

    7 things I plan to do before I die:

  • Hang glide
  • Visit Europe
  • Direct or act in a major production
  • Spend some long quality time on cruises or vacations in the Caribbean
  • Watch my kids graduate, get married, walk Tink down the aisle...
  • Write a novel or play
  • Play with grandkids

    7 things I can do:

  • Sing, play the guitar and piano
  • Sing all five parts of "Your Fault" from Into the Woods by myself
  • Play first base
  • Do dead-on Goofy/Mickey/Donald voices. Also Winnie the Pooh, Captain Hook, Tigger and Eeyore. My daughter even thinks I can imitate Walt Disney, whom she's never heard so I just fake it for her.
  • Make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs
  • Teach my kids right from wrong
  • Enjoy every waking minute with my family

    7 things I cannot do:

  • Remember even the most mundane things told to me 5 minutes ago, although I can remember theme songs to kids shows and commercials from the 70's...
  • Think with my head rather than my heart
  • Get a bad impression of someone - it's very difficult for someone to rub me the wrong way.
  • Find a way to give up my dependence on chips permanently, get to the gym consistently and finally lose 30 pounds
  • Code and design websites the way I want to, in the style they're being done today.
  • Find a way to be professionally and creatively satisfied in my work and hobbies
  • Eat peanut butter without gagging

    7 things that [used to] attract me to another person [before I got married and lost all notice in women other than my lovely and talented wife whom I love more than all others]:

    how's that for a disclaimer?

  • Intelligence
  • Silly sense of humor
  • Kindness and spirituality
  • Boobs
  • Legs
  • Hair
  • Sense of the absurd

    7 celebrity crushes:
  • Mia Sara
  • Elizabeth Shue
  • Amy Grant
  • Annette O'Toole
  • Ally Sheedy
  • Jamie Buchman (as played by Helen Hunt)
  • Salma Hayek

    (Gee, am I a kid of the 80's or what?)

    and bonus if-I-were-15-again-celebrity-crush:

  • Emma Watson (who would have me drooling and mooning and trying to carry her books like I did for all the other girls I liked when I was 15...)

    7 Things I say the most:

  • "Great Scott!"
  • "All right, everybody just hush!"
  • "Touchdown, Tennessee!" (not so much lately)
  • "Is Star Trek on yet?" (not so much lately)
  • "Flux capacitor....fluxing"
  • "Arrested Development and Doctor Who......why???" (just kidding!)
  • "Welcome, Foolish Mortals..."

    7 bloggers I am tagging:

  • Will
  • Gary and/or Phillip
  • Interstellar Lass
  • Jen
  • Danielle
  • Scorpy
  • April
  • Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    Site Changes

    Arrrrr, Talk Like a Pirate Day is over, and back to work...

    I did make a couple of changes on the site regular visitors may have noticed. I've swapped out the summery leaf background on the Inn banner for something a little more "autumny". It's something I may do seasonally if the mood strikes me come December or so. Remind me if I forget.

    I also changed my site motto from "Omnis Caro Faenum" ("All flesh, grass" - Isaiah 40:6) to "Ex Astris, Scientia, Ad Astra Per Aspera" which is an amalgam of sorts of the Latin mottos of Apollo 13 and Apollo 1, respectively, with one slight change that Michael will probably get. They basically say, "From the stars, knowledge, and to the stars, hope." The syntax may not be correct when squishing them together, but it gets the meaning across.

    I need a new picture - Tink's hair is way shorter now, and that photo up there is a year old. I'll see what I can dig up. Any suggestions?

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Fiery Goblets

    Download or stream the new trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire here and here.

    Pork - It's What's For Dinner

    Instapundit is asking reader to help identify states and congressional districts that are wasting money on pork projects, when they could better be used in Katrina relief and other worthwhile projects. The Truth Laid Bear is listing all the submissions.

    Good for them.

    The only one listed for Tennessee, at post time, was this:
    339 $2,400,000 Plan and construct a bicycle and pedestrian trail, Smyrna TN (High Priority)
    355 $1,200,000 Plan and construct a bicycle and pedestrian trail, LaVergne TN (High Priority)
    Estimated budget: $ 36 [I'm assuming they mean $3,600,000 - Barry]
    Added by: [Not Specified]
    Date Added: 9/19/05
    District: Tennessee - 5th district
    Representative Cooper, Jim (D)
    Senators Bill Frist (R)
    Lamar Alexander (R)
    [Submitter's comment:] bike path, we don't need bike paths right now, this is not high priority, it is low priority
    There was space for comment, and here's mine:

    First of all, I'm assuming this means $3.6 million instead of $36.

    Second, I have no idea how much a bike trail costs, and I'll wager neither does the person who submitted this.

    Thirdly, is this federal, state or local money? I'm assuming it's too steep for local - even for Nashville.

    Finally...I don't think this really qualifies as pork. Neighborhood beautification and transportation (yes, it's partly transportation) projects crop up all the time, and are benefits to the entire communities. Especially if, like in Knoxville, they connect up with other existing bike trails and provide non-polluting access to and from different parts of a city. Maybe this does, maybe it's not, but no details were included. It sounds like a bit of a cheap shot to me, without knowing any history of who requested it and how long it's been in the hopper to be done.

    Big Orange Michael lives in Smyrna, TN - have you heard of this project? What's your take on its necessity?

    Oh wait, I forgot something. Arrrrrrrrr.... There.

    Drink Up, Me Hearties, Yo Ho!

    Friday's Feast

    Feast Sixty-Two - Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Appetizer - Do your closer friends tend to be male or female? Why do you think that is?

    They actually tend to me female, usually because most guys I know seem to spend less brain energy thinking about familes and arts, and more thinking about their jobs and golf games. I'm typically the only male at a birthday party, or other gathering involving my kids so I am friends with more women than men.

    Soup - If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would it be?

    I was about to say something like playing the cello, but I realize I already have the musical talent to play instruments, I just haven't applied it to the cello yet. I would love to have the talent for extemparaneous public speaking, and the ability to engage a group of people or an audience by storytelling or something like that.

    Plus I'd like to be able to, like, build something.

    Salad - Name a household cleaning item that you would recommend to others.

    I run across people I'd like to just recommend simple shampoo too, but that's not the real point of the question. Household cleaner? Well, not that I really get too intimately involved with Spic 'n Span, but there is a brand of pet-stain cleaner we've used that works great. I couldn't tell you the name, though....

    Main Course - What do you strive for in life?

    I strive to be a good parent, a good husband, a good Christian and a good human being. If I achieve success in other areas, it's icing.

    Dessert - On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how funny do you consider yourself

    I consider myself to have an above-average sense of humor, and am able to almost always make my kids laugh. Interestingly I wasn't always like this, but I remember in junior high a kid named Matt was the class clown, and always seemed to charm the 7th and 8th grade girls - so I tried to be like him and develop an outward sense of humor. It never got me any girls, but as I developed the funny, I sure began looking at life differently - a perspective that has lasted through today.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    The Penultimate Potter

    I finally finished "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" last night - the end was a page-turner, similar to the end of the others in the series. If you haven't read this one yet and are still intending to, I'm going to add some spoiler space because I want to talk about this book, the rest of the series, and where J.K. Rowling may intend it to go....




    First of all, I like the series. I really do. Before this book came out, I went back and re-read the previous two installments to catch up. I've seen all three movies with BrainyBoy, and he enjoys them as well - although "Prisoner of Azkaban" got a little intense for an 8-yr-old, I thought, what with the "angel of death"-like dementors floating around and sucking out souls. But that's beside the point. It seems to be fairly light fantasy, with just the right amount of mythological creatures (giants, centaurs, sphinxes), spells, ghosts and other things that go bump in the night to please most any fan.

    But, being primarily a children's series, it doesn't stray too far into the heavy fantasy realm. It's not a Lord of the Rings, or a Dune, or even a Dragonlance (my personal favorite), which sweep the reader into epic landscapes filled with complex people solving complex problems. The Harry Potter story is about a kid who's just trying to grow up in a very strange world. He's thrust into a role he never wanted and has no control over. Surviving the magical attack of one Lord Voldemort at the age of one has given him a certain notariety (as I'm sure all who are bothering to read this are familiar with) that forces him to act certain ways as he grows up. There is the over-arching battle of the magical forces of good, the Order of the Phoenix, against Voldemort and his dark army of Death Eater soldier mages and the floating dementors. But at the heart, it's about a poor kid going through adolescence with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

    Keeping Harry's personal conflict as the heart of the narrative was vital, and overall Rowling does it pretty well. When we first meet Harry he's 11, and through each subsequent book he ages a year at time, till now in book 6 he's finally about to turn 17. All the requisite pangs of growing up appear in good order, from frustration of being the best athlete, to being a good student, to missing his parents, to wondering about where he's supposed to fit in, to conflicts with bullies and of course his first cases of puppy love and infatuation. These conflicts are reflected in his friends Ron and Hermione as well, and a whole range of adolescent insecurities are shown by these three throughout the six volumes.

    But this seems to be the book where he must grow up. He's sixteen, going on seventeen (ahem). It's his next-to-last year at Hogwarts. The war with Voldemort has begun to consume people he cares about - primarily his godfather Sirius Black in the previous book. Each new edition of the Daily Prophet newspaper reveals more deaths, more disappearances and more mayhem, which brings him closer and closer to the reality of the world in which the wizards live. This would be the book where he grows up, to face the finality that the seventh book would bring. This would set him on the path to the ending.

    But, you know, it really doesn't.

    At the first of "Half Blood Prince", Harry's just turned sixteen. At the end he's two-three months from being seventeen. But most of the actual events of the book take place outside his sphere of influence, until the very end. His mentor, Dumbledore, takes him on several journeys of memory recall where the story of the origin of Lord Voldemort takes shape. Through these vignettes we're able to piece together what the Dark Lord's short-range plans might be. Interspersed between these scenes Harry tries to deal with Ron and Hermione's on-again, off-again romance as well as one of his own. He deals with suspicion of Snape, of Malfoy, of the potted plant in the corner.... all the key elements of the plot swirl around him, while Harry watches, frets, and gripes about the injustice of it all.

    Is he really growing? I just can't quite tell. Maybe I'm too far removed from sixteen to remember what that time of a boy's life feels like. Maybe that's the point - that at sixteen, we all want desparately to be in control of our lives, but none of us really are. Events take place that affect our lives greatly, that we have no real influence over. We fall in love (or infatuation) and suffer for it because the girl three rows over in Calculus doesn't know you're alive. You try and try to conjugate the verbs correctly in French but it just doesn't take, and the jerk who trips you every day outside the cafeteria doesn't help. Your parents are too involved in their work, or country clubs, or TV and booze to pay much attention to what you're going through.

    And so on, and so on.

    And that's great commentary on life, but does it really make for stimulating reading in a fantasy novel?


    Here's the thing. Harry goes through this entire book reacting to things, and thinking about them and commenting on them, but until the end he never actually does a lot about any of them. And it's not his fault - he's tied to his lessons, and the rules of the school, and his loyalties to Ron and Hermione, Dumbledore, and his obligations to the Order of the Phoenix.

    Oh, there are times he breaks off and acts - he tries to break into the Secret Room to spy on Draco Malfoy. He plays a lot of Quidditch (and if I never read another description of a Quidditch match, it will be too soon). He enlists house elves to tail Malfoy, as well. He's just not that proactive in this book, and it got tedious after a while. I kept waiting for someone to do something, rather than watch it, comment on it, complain about it, and then move on.

    Does it make for a good commentary on growing up? Sure, I think so. Is it stimulating fantasy? No, not really.

    I enjoyed the book, I just think it could've been better as the Penultimate Potter.

    Here are some other thoughts:

    • Sometimes it bothers me when the characters are painted with such a brush as to continue to be hopelessly one-dimensional and unable to grow. Take poor Hagrid. For six books now, he's been the same sappy, gruff, big-hearted but ultimately clueless Magical Creatures teacher. The huge spider Aragog attacked Harry and Ron back in "Chamber of Secrets" and nearly fed them to his spider army, but in this book the spider has died and Hagrid is torn apart with grief. He even invites the friends to the burial. Ron is of course confused why Hagrid still has friendship with the spider, and we are too. The half-giant mourns the loss, and refuses to admit the truth of what happened. This kind of schtick happens through all the books, where otherwise dangerous creatures that bite, sting, stomp, burn and otherwise plague our heroes are treated as poor, defenseless mice by Hagrid. Ok, ok, he's kind to the animals. We got it. Can you give him a little common sense, please? Thank you.

    • After tiptoeing around the subject for five books now, we finally see Ron and Hermione take their first real steps toward getting together. It's kind of cute, and I'm rooting for the two of them. Harry, however, suddenly comes out of nowhere with feelings for Ron's little sister Ginny. It's been telegraphed a bit in previous books but it seems to have little emotional basis. Ginny's never really been part of their group, and whenever she's with them it seems forced. I think Rowling realized Harry needed some kind of love interest and Ginny was there, so she had him develop feelings for her. But that's what it felt like - a writer making an editorial decision, rather deus ex machina-ish, rather than something that evolved on its own. Maybe it will turn into something special in book 7, but judging by how book 6 ended, I'm not sure.

    • I'm going to get to the fate of Dumbledore and Snape in a moment, but look at the locket that's found at the end. Someone got to the locket before Harry and Dumbledore, and switched it out while leaving a note behind. The note was signed with the initials "R.A.B." (I believe). Who is "R.A.B."? Hermione does some brief research just before the end of the book and can find no relevent wizards with those initials. I'm certain it's a key mystery that will be solved in Book 7, but who could it be?

      I'm thinking it's Sirius Black, and Harry's godfather is not really dead. There would have to be some revelation about his real first name, and some explanation on how he survived the trip through the Gateway of Death. I just never got the feeling he was really and sincerely dead. I think we haven't seen the last of our Animagus friend.

    • Ok, Snape. Snape's main thing is that he's rotten, nasty, rude, ugly, mean and his mother dresses him funny. He's a former Death Eater and ally of Voldemort. He's head of the Slytherin house and champion to Draco Malfoy, Harry's worst enemy. He makes Potions class (and later, Defense of Dark Arts) classes a nightmare for Harry and his friends. He's an all-around bad piece of work. And yet, he's a (reluctant) member of the Order of the Phoenix and for some reason - in spite of all the rottenness and mistrust he engenders - he has the complete and utter trust of Dumbledore, which allows him to remain on staff at Hogwarts and in the Order.

      But Snape kills Dumbledore.

      Yes, he does it. After apparently betraying the Order early in the book and behaving even more suspiciously than normal throughout, Dumbledore seems to stand behind Snape till the bitter end. And bitter it is, as he's blasted off the top of the Astronomy Tower to end up in a crumpled heap on the ground below, courtesy of Snape's Killing Curse.


      So, either one of two things. Did Snape really did pull the wool over everyone's eyes, and Dumbledore just completely misplaced his trust all these years? We're shown over and over and over that Dumbledore has a special sight, and is head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of wisdom, insight, etc. So doesn't it seem like an enormous betrayal of his character, by Rowling, to finally prove that Snape so utterly played him for a fool after all these years? Are we to believe that Dumbledore was simply wrong? After so much was invested in the character, can it be destroyed as easily as his body was?

      I smell a rat, and it ain't Peter Pettigrew.

      I think it's the other thing - I think Dumbledore had complete trust in Snape, and still did until the end, and it was still rightly placed. Draco boasted that Snape was a double agent, working for the Order but secretly still working for Voldemort. I think it was the other way around, he was secretly/not-so-secretly working for Voldemort but still working for the Order.

      I think, either by planning or happenstance, they both realized the ultimate act that would ingratiate Snape to Voldemort, and put him within arm's reach of the Dark Lord - killing his worst enemy. If Snape killed Dumbledore, freely and with malice aforethought, the former Death Eater would finally have "proved" his loyalty in blood. Perhaps Dumbledore finally realized that a straight assault/defense by the Order would not defeat Voldemort (side note - why can't these guys have short names like "Fred" or "George"? oh, me achin' fingers...) so Dumbledore and Snape realized there was only one thing to do. And they did it.

      Now Snape (and Malfoy) have escaped, run off to Voldermort. Snape is now a hero to the Dark Lord, and in better position than ever before to help destroy him.

      But was it worth it to lose Dumbledore? I mean, to the Order and the cause? Dumbledore's the greatest living wizard in the world. Could the Order afford to lose him, just to get Snape closer? Well, Dumbledore had been weakened lately - his hand was withered, he was tiring. I think he realized his usefulness was almost at an end, and decided to take advantage of that position by sacrificing himself.

      The Order would continue - McGonagall would keep the school going, Lupin and Tonks and Mooney and the Weasleys would continue the work of the Order, and Snape would work from his unique position within.

      I may be proved absolutely wrong - Snape may end up truly being a bad guy through and through and his murder of Dumbledore may be a serious setback for the Order. I hope not, though, because it lessens Dumbledore's character seriously to have been so completely fooled and taken in. Very seriously.

      One final thought about Snape. The revelation of he being the actual titular "Half Blood Prince" seemed anticlimactic and almost an afterthought. If my theory is wrong, and if Harry had seen fit to show Dumbledore the book, and the old man had correctly deduced who the previous owner was, would it have make a difference in his opinion of Snape? Enough difference to tip his trust away from him? I don't know. But I do know that the whole story of the "Half Blood Prince", and the book, and the identity seemed to be a Maguffin that had no real bearing on the whole saga. And that seemed odd.

    • Finally, what about Harry? You remember him...young fellow, glasses, big scar on his forehead. The Chosen One, that sort of thing.

      Well, Star Wars apparently has caught up with Harry Potter. The Princess and Han Solo have gotten together. The Evil Empire and its Dark Lord are plotting their final assault on the Rebellion. And Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi have just died. What does that mean for young Luke/Harry?

      Same as it does in every myth, from Obi-Wan/Luke in Star Wars to Merlin/Arthur in Camelot, to even Gandalf/Bilbo for a time in Lord of the Rings - the mentor must die or be otherwise transformed for the hero to achieve his final growth. You could see it telegraphed from book 1 that Dumbledore wouldn't survive the series, and now it's happened. He's led Harry from adventure to adventure, helping out whenever possible and teaching as he went along. Harry was "one of Dumbledore's people" and admitted as such to the headmaster, which touched him deeply. But now, work is unfinished. Harry must find the last of the magical soul-storing "horcrux" devices of Voldemort but without his mentor. Ron and Hermione will accompany him on this final quest, but they will do it alone.

      As they should, because when you grow up it's time to do it on your own.

      I'm looking forward to seeing how they do...

    (Edited to correct spellings)

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Why, How, and other Deep Questions...

    Why can't people take responsibility for their own lives?

    Why do people not recognize when their actions take an emotional toll on the ones around them?

    Why is it so difficult for people to realize that it's possible for friends to care enough to enquire about your well-being, and they're not personal attacks or being "meddlesome"?

    Why can't we all just get along?

    Ok, enough of that.

    Oh, I just bought a new guitar. That's a good thing. Look for me at venue near you... What should I play?

    I'd love to get up and just do a half-hour to 45-minute show, with funny songs, cute songs for kids, songs from my childhood that would invoke nostalgia from the audience, and tell stories that would amuse and entertain. What should I play?

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Leapin' Lizards...Yeah, and There's That "Tomorrow" Song, Too..

    My next show:

    I'm will be musical directing "Annie" at the Oak Ridge Playhouse in October and November. This should be fun - large-scale, big budget (relatively speaking) musicals are always great, and I've never done Annie before. Of course, I'll be ready to strangle the next person who sings "Tomorrow" by the second week of rehearsal, but that's to be expected. And there will likely be 300 little girls at auditions, all singing the same song..

    But hey, that's show biz.

    Last One on my Block

    I finally started Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night - yes, day late and a dollar short.

    But I didn't fancy (see, I'm picking up on that British talk) purchasing the books themselves, so I put myself on the waiting list at the library. And when they say wait, they do mean wait. I believe when it first came out there were over 200 people on the list, and when I finally got around to putting my name on it was down to about 100.

    I re-read the two previous books, "Goblet of Fire" (soon to be a major motion picure) and "Order of the Phoenix" to refresh my memory, so it's on the brain at the moment.

    Let's see if it's any good... those of you who have read it - non-spoiler comments on quality are welcome.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Now I've Seen Everything

    Actual slap-down on the Lego website, when you type in If the fine people at the Lego corporation think that 100 million people calling their products "LEGO bricks" or "LEGO toys" instead of just "Legos" is going to dilute their brand name one millionth of a degree, they took w-a-a-a-y too many notes in marketing school. I deal with brand identity in my job all the time, and in our marketers' wildest dreams they never would have come up with something like this.

    Well, at least they're getting paid well.

    Although I may have to make something like that for this site...

    Hat tip to Busy Mom.

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    And I Was Also....The Mayor! Yeah, That's The Ticket.

    I love it.

    FEMA director's qualifications questioned
    "[Michael] Brown's biography on the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site says he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," and a White House news release in 2001 said Brown had worked for the city of Edmond, Oklahoma in the 1970s "overseeing the emergency-services division."

    However, a city spokeswoman told the magazine Brown had actually worked as "an assistant to the city manager."

    "The assistant is more like an intern," Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him."
    Note, the references to Edmond, OK seem to no longer appear on the FEMA page.

    Looks like Tyler Harber probably has a bright future in federal disaster relief, as well.

    I wish someone would ask Brown point-blank whether he was an assistant city manager, with emergency response oversight, or an assistant to the city manager with no oversight. Clear that up real fast.

    Hey, remember in the X-Files movie that came out several years back - Mulder deduced that FEMA held the real power in government. Heh. Yeah, you were really on to something there, Spooky...

    All I Want For Christmas Is..

    ...a gift certificate to this place.

    I mean, where else you can get this: authentic Walt Disney World monorail car for the low, low price of only $250,000??

    C'mon, you know you want to buy it for me....

    I'm Shocked, Shocked To Find That Fundamentalism Is Going On In Here!

    Poor Don Williams. Like so many other people, he's been knocked sideways and backwards by so many things he's looking out the hole in the side of the football helmet.

    In his column today in the Knoxville News Sentinel, he offers a welcome, and some advice to evacuees entering our fair town. A laudable effort, and most of the column is of the down-home, breezy sort we usually ascribe to Sam Venable. But he does mention this:
    "You'll likely meet folks from a lot of religious traditions, but fundamentalist Christians predominate, and they'll do their best to save you - body and soul. Don't be put off."
    Um, Don? I know you're so far left that it just seems this way, but everyone who gets up on Sunday morning to go to church isn't a "fundamentalist". In his view he apparently counts every Baptist church as well as any church that doesn't lean liberal as "fundamentalist". And now you've gone and colored the perception of those just coming off the plane that read your article to believe we send missionaries to the airports to hand out Chick Corea tracts and take up Lottie Moon offerings when we hand you your fries at McDonalds.

    fun·da·men·tal·ism Pronunciation Key (fnd-mntl-zm)

    1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
    1. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
    2. Adherence to the theology of this movement.
    I grew up Baptist in Knoxville, and switched to the Methodist Church several years ago. In all that time, I've never considered the religious community in town to be predominantly "fundamentalist". Strict, perhaps. Conservative, absolutely. But Fundamentalist?

    The word "fundamentalist", taken literally from the definition above, might be fairly accurate but that's not what Don means - he means, "Fundamentalist", with a Capital F. You know, the bible-thumpers, the sin-shouters, the far-right-conservative-fire-and-brimstone preachers that pronounce doom and gloom on everyone who doesn't believe the way they do. The ones that denounce and ridicule the people who dare to think differently than they, that look down on those less "enlightened" than they.


    Methinks the columnist doth protest too much.

    But Don's columns used to be interesting, giving the alternate liberal perspective to a, true, predominantly conservative mindset in Knox County and East Tennessee. But like so many other Democrats and liberals their hatred for Bush winning the 2000 election automatically required them to hate and protest the war in Iraq and hate all the folks who support it, so what can you do? I mean, really, it's right there on the membership card. To vote Democratic in the 21st Century means you have to consider Bush the worst threat to peace in the last 1000 years and oppose all that he and his administration stand for in the War against Terror. There's no discussion, no room for actual thoughtful consideration of facts and logic. Liberal? Sign here, pick up your blinders at the next table and Fundamentalist manual as you leave.

    Nerd, Geek or Dork?

    Modern, Cool Nerd
    60 % Nerd, 52% Geek, 17% Dork
    For The Record:

    A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
    A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
    A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

    You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

    Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and "geek is chic." The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!


    Also, you might want to check out some of my other tests if you're interested in any of the following:

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Professional Wrestling

    Love & Sexuality


    Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

    My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
    free online datingfree online dating
    You scored higher than 52% on nerdiness
    free online datingfree online dating
    You scored higher than 71% on geekosity
    free online datingfree online dating
    You scored higher than 20% on dork points

    Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

    Found via ChattieKat

    Friday's Feast

    Feast Sixty-One - Friday, September 09, 2005

    Appetizer - Who is the easiest person for you to talk to?

    Well, that's easy to say that it's my wife, Laura. We talk about anything, anywhere, and she's always there for me. 'Nuff said.

    Soup - If you could live in any ancient city during the height of the quality of its society and culture, which one would you choose?

    I think I would be interested to live in the time of the Ancient Greeks - something about that culture always fascinated me, and while I'm sure they were nowhere near the height of civilized living, they probably weren't as decadent as the Romans. So, I guess Athens.

    Salad - What is the most exciting event you've ever witnessed?

    The cheezy answer would be when I was in the marching band at the 1986 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, when UT beat Miami 35-7. Other than that..well, I've never seen a shuttle or other rocket launch. I've never witnessed a large fire or other disaster or huge wreck. I've never skiied down a mountain side pursued by sinister Soviet agents, with only one ski and a Baretta at my side, nor have I launched the final torpedo that destroyed the evil battle station. Maybe the most exciting event I witnessed was the opening day of the 1982 World's Fair....

    Main Course - If you were a celebrity, what would you do for a publicity stunt?

    I wouldn't. If my "celebrity" couldn't stand on its own merits, I don't need to be thought of as a celebrity.

    Yeah, I know, easy for me to say.

    Ok, ok. I would forced myself to have a torrid affair with Mia Sara from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", but that's ALL. I mean, if it's ok with you, dear....

    Dessert - What do you consider the ideal age to have a first child?

    BrainyBoy was born almost 10 years ago when I was 29, and I think it's a great age so I'd recommend it. When they graduate from high school I'll still be in my 40's, and hopefully won't be out of my 50's or so when they gets married and have kids (knock on wood).

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Bein' Green

    Jim Henson's been gone for over 15 years now, and the popularity and reputation of the Muppets may have tarnished a bit, but his life and legacy still resonate - especially with me.

    Chris Barry at Jim Hill Media has been running a series of his recollections as an intern with Jim Henson Productions back in 1990 - in fact, he met with Jim only 9 days before the Muppeteer's death. All the stories are interesting from a behind-the-scenes perspective, but his recollection of Jim Henson's funeral are amazing: poignant, silly, heartwarming, cheesy and best of all, funny.

    Where else could you go to hear a pipe organ playing "The Rainbow Connection," and watch Carroll Spinney in fully Big Bird costume perform, "It's Not Easy Bein' Green" -- and not a dry eye in the house.

    Read the article and remember one of the last true creative dreamers we've had.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005


    Ok, bear with me. This is going to be one of those posts my kids are going to Google, or Googleplex, or whatever, 20 years from now and think, "My dad posted about that??? What a fleeble."

    Good ole' Sheila, who has stressful memories of Gilligan's Island from when she was a kid, has started a great discussion about the show.

    I wanted to offer my own insight about why the show was what it was in one particular way. That way was why did none of the castaways ever hook up? Why, after years and years and years on the island did none of the three unmarried men ever hook up with any of the two unmarried women? Even in a farcical sitcom, how realistic could that be?

    Take a look at it like this.

    Imagine a world where there was no color red. At least, our eyes couldn't make out the correct wavelength for the color red. The visible spectrum started at violet and ended somewhere around yellow-orange. Nothing red exists, and everything that was red in our world is yellow-orange (not a bad deal for a UT fan).

    Now try to understand, or even comprehend the color red. It can't be done, because it has to exist in nature in order to be conceptualized. If it doesn't exist as part of the natural world, it doesn't exist period.

    Here's another example (bear with me). Try imagine writing the description of whalesong to someone who's been deaf their whole life. Sound is such an alien concept if can't be understood anywhere near what it actually is like in real life. The concept is out of their microcosm.

    So it is (here we go) on Gilligan's Island. These poor people live in a world, or at least an island where there is no procreation. No sex, no sexual desire, really - only vague teasing, winks, come-ons and suggestion. They live on a permanent junior high school, and that's the limit of their reality. Just as if they lived in a world with no red or whalesong, their world exists without anything less chaste than a sexy walk or a bare midriff. I'm not sure Ginger ever really even showed that much cleavage - all her sexuality was bound up in that little beauty mark.

    So every time the redhead tried to get something she wanted with Gilligan:

    (whispering seductively) "Gilligan...don't you want to let me have the radio you're guarding in the hut? So I can listen to the Hollywood news...please, Gilly-willy-willigan?"

    She'd just let loose the charm and give Gilligan the vapors (and usually knock him cold on a nearby bamboo pole). That was the limit of the affection they could show to each other.

    Then there are the Howell's - they were actually married, but did we ever see anything between them that hinted....ok, we won't go there. But I never saw anything more than a simple frou-frou kiss between them. They even had twin beds in their hut, a la Rob and Laura Petrie (which I'm sure Dick Van Dyke still regrets to this day...).

    So these poor, poor people really aren't so unlucky after all - the next time you watch the show, don't cry for them, America. It's not that they ain't gettin' any. It's just that they don't know they can....

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Doing Our Share

    Covenant Health of Knoxville, Tennessee responds by donating bed space, medical supplies and matching employee donations up to $100,000:

    Covenant Health to Assist Victims of Hurricane Katrina
    Covenant Health has initiated systemwide efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina through collaboration with state and federal agencies to provide medical care at the health system’s facilities and a corporate match of employee donations to relief organizations.

    Along with other healthcare organizations in the state, Covenant Health is working with VHA (a nationwide cooperative of non-profit healthcare organizations), Tennessee Hospital Association, FEMA, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). TEMA is acting as the central coordination body for delivering assistance from Tennessee. The agency is contacting all hospitals in the state regarding their ability to assist.

    Under the auspices of TEMA, Covenant Health will designate 75 inpatient beds throughout the system to accept transfers as needed from hospitals in the Gulf Coast area. Other health system services will also be utilized on an as-needed basis for storm refugees who need care. Covenant Health has already seen patients from the affected areas at its hospitals.

    In addition, Covenant Health will match up to $100,000 of employees’ total donations to five selected agencies, all of which have been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The relief agencies are: American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund; Catholic Charities, USA; Salvation Army; United Methodist Committee on Relief, and America’s Second Harvest.

    Covenant Health is also reminding employees of the importance of participating in the upcoming area United Way campaign to assist local agencies that provide disaster relief and year-round care for those in need.

    “These agencies will need increased support from United Way, and the continued strong support of Covenant Health employees is particularly critical this year. We hope employees will be generous in supporting United Way, which is often described as ‘the best way to help the most people,’” said Tony Spezia, Covenant Health President and CEO.

    “It will be a long time before the storm victims can return to their homes or recover a sense of normalcy in their lives,” Spezia said. “The thoughts and prayers of employees throughout are system are much appreciated.”

    In Case Anyone is Interested...

    Gasoline is now $3.45 at the stations near my office.

    That's $1.00 higher/gallon than the day I drove to Nashville to see the Titans play.

    And, for the record, I feel really stupid complaining about the price of gas right now.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Here's a Question That Occurs To Me...

    Wherever you go, there are three grades of Gasoline: Regular Unleaded, Unleaded "Plus", and Premium Unleaded.

    Your names may vary, and let's disregard diesel for a minute)

    Are there any cars out there that are required to run on Premium or "Plus" gasoline? I don't mean run better, just run at all...

    I'm not sure I've ever gotten Premium or "Plus" gasoline for my car in my life, except a couple times I accidently pushed the wrong button or something.

    Of all the gas sold in America, what percent is Regular, what percent is "Plus" and what percent is Premium?

    I just wonder how much of that Plus and Premium is sitting unused, and if in this crunch refineries could be easily retooled to only produced regular unleaded. How much of an increase in the supply would this mean?

    I'm just wonderin'..

    Open Hearts, Open Schools

    My kids' school, The Episcopal School of Knoxville, is opening their doors for children who have been forced out of their homes in Gulfport, MS. So far, two new kids have already been enrolled in classes there and will start next Tuesday. I don't know how long they'll be here, but I'm certainly glad to welcome them.

    We have Parents Night tonight, and I'm sure that will be a big topic of discussion.
    The headmaster has also offered to let students come in the fall, and is looking for host families.

    It's hard to comprehend the word "refugees" applying to someplace in the US, but it's true. Four years ago, it was 9/11. Today it's a hurricane. Pray the next one isn't worse.

    (edited to add details)

    Sometimes They're Pretty Accurate

    This is a little spooky:

    Your Birthdate: December 30

    Your birthday on the 30th day of the month shows individual self-expression is necessary for your happiness.

    You tend to have a good way of expressing yourself with words, certainly in a manner that is clear and understandable.

    You have a good chance of success in fields requiring skill with words.

    You can be very dramatic in your presentation and you may be a good actor or a natural mimic.

    You have a vivid imagination that can assist you in becoming a good writer or story-teller.

    Strong in your opinions, you always tend to think you are on the right side of an issue.

    There may be a tendency to scatter your energies and have a lot of loose ends in your work.

    You may have significant artistic talent and be very creative.

    Hat Tip: Interstellar Lass