Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Wise Men beat up the Little Drummer Boy. Who Knew?

The Top 50 Amazing-but-True Holiday Facts for 2007

Some of my favorites:
  • Contrary to the rosy picture painted by the song, the little drummer boy was in fact taken behind the manger and beaten by the three wise men for repeatedly making the baby Jesus burst into tears with his loud drumming.

  • Although the popular song, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," is meant to be whimsical, 20-30 people are tragically killed every year in reindeer collisions -- more than half of them elderly women.

  • When Good King Wenceslaus went out, historians have proven that he took with him an ancient form of the current-day treat, cole slaw.

  • Played in reverse, the opening line of "A Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...") eerily predicts John Lennon's untimely demise.
If you know of some others (or just make them up) add them in the comments...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tink in Las Posada festival

Tink portrays Mary in the traditional Mexican festival Las Posada at her school.

The little ham...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Something I've Never Quite Been Able to Understand...

Why in exactly would a kid not play with this toy just because he's a Charlie-in-the-Box, and not a Jack-in-the-Box?

I mean does a kid really care what his name is? I've never quite understood why he was a misfit toy.

Well, other than the fact that he had a really disturbing, scary voice, looked like one of Joker's henchman and sat around all day feeling sorry for himself...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Christmas Meme

I got tagged for the Christmas Meme by Frank Murphy....

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
A little of both. However, if it's a choice between the two, it's a gift bag all the way. I hate wrapping, and am not very good at it...

2. Real or artificial tree?
We used to have a real tree but it just got to be too big of a pain to get in the house (and expensive) so we got one several years ago that's (ta daa!!) pre-lit! But of course, since the lights built in don't blink we still string a couple of strands of blinking lights. Just to accent things :)

3. When do you put up the tree?
Well, this year we actually put up the tree a couple weeks ago, but it say with only its built-in lights until this past weekend when we finally found time to decorate it...

4. When do you take the tree down?
It's been known to still be standing until several days into the New Year... again, it just depends on when we have a spare moment to take it down.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Gag. Can't stand it. Way, way, too sweet and cloying. It's like liquid Brenda Lee.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Has to be this baby. As a matter of fact, it's still up in my mom and dad's attic - last time I checked, I'd reassembled it for my son to play with...

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes, we have a really nice ceramic set that sits on a shelf over the TV (no symbolism intended). What's nice is there's a lamp just above the set that shines down on it... We also have a stuffed one the kids made long ago that still sits down on the hearth. Well, if we unpacked it the cats would drag away all the pieces but at least the stable is there...

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I really can't think of a bad Christmas gift I ever got. Certainly nothing my *parents or *wife ever got me!

(* readers of my blog)

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
We mail our cards. I don't know if I've ever sent a serious Christmas eCard. Maybe something as joke, but not intended to be real. There's something special about paper, in the mail Christmas cards. Our sessions putting our own together every year, finding just the right picture and just the right message, is always a highlight of our Christmas.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
"A Christmas Story" is obviously the best Christmas movie ever (why do people like "Christmas Vacation" so much??? you got me...). But a close second is the ever-popular Rankin-Bass, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
If I do much actual shopping, it's online so that's done...whenever. If I ever actually go physically shopping somewhere, it's never until a few days before. Laura does a lot of her shopping on Black Friday and in the week or so after that. We're usually done with all our major shopping pretty early.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
One thing is Laura's aunt's cheesy potato au gratin they serve every year....mmmmmmmmmmm. :) Plus all the good ham you can always get around Christmas. But my favorite food is always my mom's sausage balls - we had them all the time when I was a kid, and lately she's made an extra batch just for me ;) Thanks mom!

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Well. I love colored lights and Laura loves clear lights.

Guess what's on our tree :(

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
"O Holy Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" are my favorite carols, "Sleigh Ride" is my favorite secular standard song, and probably "Snow Miser/Heat Miser" is my favorite "novelty" song. Does that count? Oh, and I do have a warm place for Amy Grant's, "Tender Tennessee Christmas".

Of course, I also just have a warm place for Amy Grant, but that's another story.... (don't tell my wife)

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Late Christmas morning every year, after the kids have opened their presents, we drive to Jackson, TN to spend a few days with Laura's extended family. It's a great tradition, especially since there are so many kids these days. When everyone's there, there are about 10 kids with BrainyBoy being the oldest.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen. And Rudolph. And Bruce...and Marvin...a-a-a-a-a-aaand Clyde! (hee haw!!!)

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?
A star - I think an angel just looks odd on a tree. Call me a traditionalist.

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
My parents let us open one present Christmas Eve, and I've extended that tradition to my own family. But everything else is on Christmas morning. Otherwise, what exactly do you do Christmas morning?

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Unfortunately there are a number of things in recent years that have become quite annoying: The everpresent start of the Christmas "hype" sometime around mid-October (if we're lucky). But some things are annoying, not in and of themselves but in people's reactions to them. Some folks get all bent out of shape over not being "allowed" to say Merry Christmas, or recognize Christmas in a religious manner - I haven't seen anyone yet that did more than gently request a more ecumenical recognition of the holidays. It's not like Winter Nazis are marching the streets, forcing everyone to say "Happy Holidays". Relax, say what you like, and don't worry about offending the offended...

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
Laura loves to collect Santa ornaments, so almost every ornament on the tree has some sort of Santa on it.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Homemade cookies or fudge, and a glass of milk.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
I really get tired of "Deck the Halls" for some reason. It's just something about the way it's structured musically got old to me many years ago....

23. Favorite ornament?
One of the ornaments that the kids really like (and I do too) is Santa flying a red biplane. It's pretty cool.

24. Family tradition?
For a long time we left "reindeer food" out on the front porch. I also always make sure to open the glass doors on the fireplace a crack so Santa can get in easier. Hey, always trying to do my part...

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Even services?
Our church always has a 5pm and an 11pm Christmas Eve service. We always go to the 5pm, since the kids need to get in bed. I'm not sure if I've ever been the 11pm before the kids were born...

I'm not sure who to tag, but glancing around at various blogs I visit that haven't played yet, I'll tag the usual suspects: Michael, Tish, LissaKay, Will, Julie, Becky, and Logtar.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday's Feast

Feast One Hundred & Seventy Two

Appetizer - Make up a word and give us its definition.

A while back an online friend of mine was pregnant, and I used the term "preggerventures" to describe the trials and tribulations she was going through. She thought that was pretty funny and suggested I sent it in to Urban Dictionary. I did, but never heard anything.

Soup - What is currently your favorite song?

For a long time, my favorite song was "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles. I've long since passed my Beatles fascination phase but not many songs have come along to replace it. Probably the only one that comes close is "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio.

Salad - What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?

Well, I already posted about this but my wife seems to think it's not very feasible and even less likely I'm getting it for Christmas. Fine, when I do get one, I'm going back in time to when she was a kid and picking on her mercilessly. Then she'll think twice about messing with a guy that can time travel in a Ford Focus.

But seriously, at the very top of my real Christmas list is respect, something I've sorely lacked this past year.

Main Course - Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life.

Speaking of my wife, when we were first dating she wore a perfume called "Colours" (sp?) that, well, let's just say it was a very unique and memorable scent :)

Dessert - Who is someone on television that you feel probably shouldn’t be, and why?

I find it difficult to see Martha Stewart back on the air as if nothing had happened, as if her "fans" just ignore the real behind-the-scenes person she seems to be. Not that anyone doesn't deserve a second chance, but it's just odd that she seems to have slipped right back into her "domestic diva" role after being in jail pretty easily.

I also get tired of Donald Trump sticking his ugly toupee'd face into things at NBC. The first couple seasons of "The Apprentice" were decent, but he's just become a parody of himself.

Now, if you asked who is someone who shouldn't be on the radio, I could give you Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levine, Michael Savage, Neal Boortz and a host of other past and present radio show hosts that should never have graced the airwaves with their one-sided, reactionary, egotistical farcical shows. (Remember when G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North even had shows? Good grief. Are they still on the air? I hope not...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hillbilly Hawaii

Question of the Day: Does anybody remember if the Beverly Hillbillies ever went to Hawaii, or tried to wear Hawaiian-type clothes?

If so, leave a comment - I need to find some images of hillbillies in tropical/vacation clothes (don't ask me why, it'd only confuse you).

Someone Took a Wrong Turn

This is our jalecat Kitiara again, getting into misadventures way up inside our half-decorated Christmas tree...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Brainyboy shoots a free throw - and hits!!!

You Can Now Call Me Captain Dunsel

Captain's log, stardate 4729.4. The M-5 computer has been installed onboard ship, and we have left the space station for test maneuvers.
Looks like I've been replaced by a computer. Or should I say third party website design company.

To all extents and purposes, my function now is basically to upload stuff and make changes after the fact.

Glad I could help.
Commodore Wesley: "Our compliments to the M5 unit, and regards to Captain Dunsel; Wesley out."
McCoy: "Dunsel? Who the blazes is Captain Dunsel?" (Kirk stiffens and walks toward the turbolift) "What does it mean, Jim?" (to Spock) "What does it mean?"
Spock: "A dunsel, doctor, is a midshipman's term used at Starfleet Academy; it refers to a part that serves no useful purpose."
Fire up the M-5, Dr. Daystrom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Right on the Very Tippy, Tippy Top of My Christmas List

Back To The Future Flux Capacitor Replica
A Diamond Select Release! Get your own time machine up and running with this high-tech replica from the 1985 classic Back to the Future! Reproduced with full light effects and adjustable power settings, the Flux Capacitor replica recreates the 1.21 jigowatt-controlling heart of the De Lorean time machine. Measuring over sixteen inches tall and twelve inches wide, each replica features hand-numbering with a matching box, Certificate of Authenticity and Care Instructions!"
I know, it doesn't come out till April of 2008 but once I get it, I'll just install it in my Ford Focus, hop back 4 months, and give it to myself (from you) as a Christmas present!

But then, of course, I won't be able to keep from crowing about it. Which means you'll know I already got one and then you won't order it for me...which means I would never get it in April, and would never go back in time to give it to myself, which then....

Time travel gives me a headache.

Thank You To My Fans on the Pacific Rim *

Hopefully these awards aren't made out of cookies... Wait, maybe they are... Anyway.

Tish gave me the "Christmas Spirit Award". According to Santa, these bloggers “have a generous and caring nature. They care about others. They have a kind word to say or a broad shoulder to lean on in the times that others need that. They display the Spirit of Christmas.”

And from her co-blogging site, BlogsWeLuv, I received the "Good Buzz Award". The Good Buzz Award is intended “for blogs that have generated a happy hum in the blogosphere. Whether it be for their blog in general, one outstanding, unusual or controversial post, or for something cool the blogger has done.” Well, thank you :)

If I'm Tracy Jordan or Jenna Maroney, Tish is my Liz Lemon for sure because she gives me all these great awards I don't deserve yet I display proudly anyway ;) Thanks Tish, you're the best (and any comparison to Tina Fey is always a bonus!)!!!

As usual, since my readership is limited and I'd just be awarding the same people over and over, feel free to assume you're one of the recipients ;)

* - If you don't already, you have to watch 30 Rock...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pooch Kick

Man who placed kicked a dog gets light sentence (Knoxville News Sentinel)
A man convicted of kicking a dog like a football and killing it has been sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Chad Crawford had faced up to a year in jail after being found of aggravated animal cruelty in October.


The man accused of holding the Yorkshire Terrier for the kick is also facing a trial.
I hate this story. I can't understand how someone can do something as deliberately cruel as this to anything. And I think the sentencing should've been more severe. But as vile and disgusting as both the act and the lack of real punishment are, there's something tremendously funny about that last sentence regarding the guy holding the terrier.

Does this mean there are also charges pending against whoever was the long snapper?

You're Only as Old as You Feel

There's a strange byproduct I've noticed about getting older. Everyone else seems to be getting younger.

While this is hardly a revelation to anyone's whose looked at today's high schoolers and college-agers and thought they look like little kids. But it's more than that, at least to me.

For years I've never felt I was quite my age. And I mean that, when I turned 30 I didn't feel like I was 30 and all that entails. I still felt like I was in my 20's or mid-20's - physically, mentally, emotionally. I was just entering the main job I would have in my life to that point (still there, as a matter of fact, 10 years later) and very much low man on the totem pole. I had no one reporting to me, and was pretty much at the call of all the clients in the health system who needed websites for their hospitals or facilities. We'd not been going to our current church very long, and tended to hang out with couples who already had kids in school (10 years ago BrainyBoy was 1 and Tink wasn't even a thought yet). So automatically everyone was older than me. Just as a matter of course.

I might have peers, those my own age but there weren't many of them. And even fewer that were younger we interacted with.

Or so it seemed.

By my nature, I'm still a big kid. Really. I love cartoons, I love the things my own kids love - Disney, board games, video games, playing with blocks on the floor, whatever. I tend to still treat most everyone around me in some kind of non-peer relationship as older than I. It's been that way since i was in my 20's, I suppose. That's why it's difficult today to see understand that probably more than half the people I interact with personally, professionally or casually are as old as or actually younger than myself.

I'll be 41 in about three weeks... I don't feel the slightest bit like I'm 41. As far as I'm concerned, I'm 27. That's probably how I'll feel the rest of my life - just out of college, newly married, young kids (although in real life kids didn't come till I was almost 30 but who's arguing). Therefore it's sometimes shocking to think of people I speak with or work with as my age.

This waitress, that cab driver, this bank teller, that politician. This cop, that pharmacist, this doctor, that major league baseball player. They didn't go to sock hops, or protest the Vietnam war, or experience Kennedy being shot, or watch the Nixon administration collapse (and know what was going on). These people sat in front of their TV's in the jammies on Saturday mornings and watched H.R Pufnstuf and Land of the Lost and Scooby Doo. They begged their parents for quarters to play Space Invaders and Asteroids and Pac Man. They danced to Michael Jackson when he was good, and listened to Journey and Whitesnake and Aerosmith. They saw Back to the Future with a date and experienced Star Wars originally, through a kids' eyes. These are people with the same experiences as me, in positions of responsibility and leadership and authority.

It can be a little overwhelming when you're so used to the older kids being in charge. They still are, to an extent, but it's your generation now and the one behind you that are really beginning the run the show. And it's hard to wrap my brain around that...

I still feel like I need to be subordinate to people I go to meetings to. It surprises me when I realize those folks watched Gargamel chase the Smurfs or those wacked out Ninja Turtles battle the bad guys...

I don't want to grow up. I doubt I really ever will (thank goodness). But I do hope I can learn to relate correctly to everyone around me, regardless of whether they cared who shot JR?

Friday's Feast

Feast One Hundred & Seventy One

Appetizer - What was the last game you purchased?
The last board game was probably the expansion set for our cool came called "Carcassone". The last video game was Star Wars Lego II, just after I subscribed to World of Warcraft. They're great time-wasters :)

Soup - Name something in which you don’t believe.
That's an interesting question. I don't believe in the Designated Hitter rule. I don't believe in the NFL's Sudden Death overtime. I don't believe nobody doesn't have some good in them somewhere.

Salad - If you could choose a celebrity to be your boss, who would you pick?
George Lucas or Disney President Bob Iger - as long as I worked directly for or with them, and they weren't, like, my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss's boss.

Main Course - What was a lesson you had to learn the hard way?
You have to have a lot of patience to even think about getting what you want or feel you deserve... And even then sometimes it never comes, and you have to learn to deal with that, too.

Dessert - Describe your idea of the perfect relaxation room.

My living room on a warm, spring day. The sun is shining in the windows, there's a gentle breeze coming in the window. The ceiling fan is turning. I'm laying on the couch reading a good book or just drowsing, there's some good music on and I have a big glass of iced tea and a full bag of chips. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Simpsonize Me!

Frank Murphy did it, so I thought I'd give it a try...

What do you think? Kind of uncanny. Like looking in a mirror. Ok, maybe not so much but it was still fun to do.

Go Simpsonize yourself! I would personally challenge Michael, Tish and anybody else to post their SimpsonSelves on their sites...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Evolution of My Blog

This is a really tough post. Tish tagged me to come up with a brief story of how my blog came to be, and how it evolved to this point. The trick is we have to use five posts from throughout the site to illustrate the changes here and with me along the way...

Sometime around 2001 or 2002, I participated in a Yahoo! Group called "K2K" which may or may not be still around. It was a discussion forum for Knoxville/Knox County issue. and a number of regular folks and politicians alike took part in rolling conversations of the local issues of the day. This was just before blogs started coming on, and as time went on several of the participants starting building their own sites to chronicle their own lives and experiences. Randy Neal, aka "SouthKnoxBubba", was a heavy participant in K2K and also created probably the first blog I ever saw. After a few months of commenting on his and others' sites, in January 2003 I decided to create my own and relate my experiences online. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to write about, so one of my first posts outlined my search for an online identity: Who am I? Who am I? I'm Jean Valjean!.

To be honest, and compared to Tish's evolution, not much has changed in my home life really in the almost 5 years I've been blogging. My kids have grown from 6 and 3 to 11 and 8, undergone a couple of name changes. I decided early on to keep them anonymous so they were BrainyBoy and GiggleGirl (who eventually became Tink). I still have the same job, same house, my wife also has the same job, we go to the same church and we all still have the same problems any normal family does. I did get mentioned in the News Sentinel for one of my posts (A Round Dog Day) so I started getting some exposure fairly soon. I was also one of the first to join the Rocky Top Brigade, which was the group of Tennessee bloggers who helped each other by commenting and linking to each other.

I had a lot of fun posting about my 20th High School Reunion in 2004 (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) that was a source of a lot of introspection for me. At that point I realized it was kind of ok to be in your late 30's...

In early 2005 I posted what would be the most popular post I've written, the one that still gets lots of Google hits today: "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz" - The Unplayable Symphony - this sheet music is a mess, and hilarious for anyone who's ever played (or tried to play) in an orchestra. Folks continue to return and return to the site to download the music sheets.

In June of that year I posted my experiences on trips to both Virginia/Washington DC and Orlando (both links are beginnings of several posts - just read the whole month to be safe). I love to travel, and I love to write about the interesting things that happen when I go to new places with family and friends.

That fall I also get back into what would begin to be a good productive theatrical streak for me, Diary of a Musical Director (Part 1) where I write over the next month and a half about my experiences as the Musical Director for "Annie" at the Oak Ridge Playhouse. I was able to break a long dry spell with that production and proceed to do about 5 more shows over the next couple years, culminating with "The King and I" last fall. I'm taking a break right now but will be Musical Director for "Grease" next spring in Oak Ridge.

To be honest, other than my big Blogging From Orlando (keep scrolling) series I did last month, my blogging hasn't been terribly meaningful or prolific in the past year or so. I attribute that to nothing really more than my own continuing flat attitude toward the outside world and my own contribution to life and the blogging community. I'm hoping things will pick back up soon, but thank all of you for reading this far.

And thanks, Tish, for pointing this way. I hope you enjoy a walk through the Inn of the Last Home.

Oh, I think I'll tag some of my long-time blogger friends: Michael, Rich, SayUncle, Logtar and The Beast.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Website Grand Opening and Video World Premiere

Yes, Tennessee plays for the SEC Championship today.

Yes, the Atomic Horns play tonight at a Christmas party for a bunch of engineers.

But the really special thing about today is the opening of! is not my new website, but I feel like I've had a bit of hand in its birthing. My college roommate Gary (aka "Rex") and his brother Philip (aka "The Beast") are huge amusement park fans. I've blogged about them many times before. They just collaborated to open the internet's most comprehensive and entertaining amusement park website/blog to date:

Even more exciting than that is the project the three of us worked on while we were in Orlando in October. Click below to watch the exclusive World Premiere of the new web video, "Mission: IOA 2 - Universal Revenge" starring Gary as "Rex", Philip as "The Beast", and myself as "Keys".
"Mission: IOA 2 - Universal Revenge" (13:38): Friends/rivals/hit men Rex and The Beast have put aside their differences and resumed their partnership. However, a shady character from their past threatens to pull them apart and send them all careening to their destiny....

They're Going Down, and They're Going Down Hard....