Monday, April 27, 2009

The First Step Down The Long Path Of Image Rehabilitation

It's through the looking glass time. Barry Bonds, the former slugger who is now baseball's most prominent pariah thanks to steroids, just dropped by the Giants' broadcast booth for a couple of innings during tonight's game against the Dodgers. He was completely charming, said generous things about his former teammates, and shared master class level comments on hitting. He has been known to be disarmingly friendly when it served his purposes, but was much better know for being surly and selfish to teammates and media alike. It is hearing him share knowledge of the game at the highest of high levels that is the revelation. He could be a powerful resource for young players based on his knowledge, not his (tainted) records. It will be interesting to see if his little publicity turn develops into something lasting and productive.

There is just the little matter of that indictment for perjury to worry about first.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Approaching Suburban Perfection

After only seven months of residency, we reached a milestone today:

We've had one car in the driveway since we moved in, with boxes and other random bits of our life surrounding the one car we could fit in the garage. With some judicious consolidating of box contents, ruthless scrapping, and plain old unpacking, we managed to clear out the second spot in the garage. This makes us a little unusual among our neighbors, but it gives me satisfaction. What could be more suburban than two cars in the garage and bikes hanging neatly upside-down, unused?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Computers Say The Darndest Things

If Art Linkletter were still around, he could develop a new franchise around the bizarre malaprops generated by speech recognition software. (Okay, so it might be a really low-rated franchise.) I use a dictation program that is remarkably efficient and capable. It can transcribe what I say into Word with surprisingly few errors. The errors that come through, though, can be startlingly revealing.

Stachybotrus is a form of mold that has come to some level of fame in recent years, as it has formed the centerpiece of high profile litigation over mold found in homes. It's the gross, black stuff that you find after water has gotten into your house. According to my computer, Stachybotrus is "sticky boxers."

I can't say that's entirely wrong.

But, eew.

The Worst Investment I Ever Made

... and it wasn't even my choice. It seems that the good money that was thrown after the bad money really hit it off and decided to run away together.

Domino one: Chrysler to declare bankruptcy.

Domino two: GM to default on bond payment on its way toward bankruptcy.

Monday, April 20, 2009


This post is unremarkable in appearance, but a big deal on our end of the keyboard. After a couple of weeks down, the iMac is functional again. We returned from vacation to find the computer on permanent vacation with a disabled hard drive. The rest of the computer is fine, but that is like saying that the patient's brain is great, but the heart doesn't work anymore.

Replacing a hard drive is not a unusual task; I have done it before with other computers. My first computer eventually had much in common with Washington's axe; very little that remained in the case at the end (including the hard drive) was an original part. Replacing any part in the elegant, slim case of an iMac, however, is quite a different than popping open a typical PC case. Thanks to very detailed resources on the internet (accessed through the old PC the kids use), I was able to open the computer, install a one terabyte (!!) hard drive, close the whole thing up again and reinstall our software. Like so many of stylish Hollywood types who embrace Macs, the iMac's slim good looks are achieved largely through plastic and tape, quite unlike the clunky metal screws that hold PC cases together. This makes disassembly and reassembly a tricky proposition (I took many pictures in case I got lost during the rebuild), and not one that can be repeated often, but this operation was a success.

Losing the hard drive, on the other hand, with its three years of financial data, written documents and spreadsheets, and irreplaceable pictures, has been traumatic. We are looking into companies that claim they can retrieve data from busted hard drives; for nearly the cost of a new computer, they might be able to collect all the data we were foolish enough to neglect to back up.

Gotta go now; I need to set up the automatic backup system.

Close Enough For Government Work

I feel so cheated. It turns out that Four Corners, the point at which Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah come together (the only such meeting of four states in the U.S.), has been situated in the wrong place for 130 years. The actual junction is two and a half miles away. The pictures I have of myself there years ago are just frauds now.

This error never should have happened. All they had to do was to follow the big lines until they crossed. Sheesh.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For A Future Vacation: Munich

We have a lot of generalized plans about places we want to visit as a family. Hawaii is high on the list, an American heritage trip through New England is a possibility, and a trip to China to visit my old pals Greg and Kate (who go wherever the State Department sends them) is tentatively slated for next spring.

One place I find myself contemplating is Munich. I think a trip to Europe, if we can manage it, would be a very important experience for the kids, and a lot of fun to boot. I had the opportunity to spend parts of three summers in Munich in the 1980s. I still have a lot of indelible memories. I can still hear the streetcar conductor call out the "Sendlinger Tor" stop. I can see the little glasses of warm Coke they would serve with meals (a thought that came to me just two evenings ago when I observed that the standard drink glass provided to me by Fuddruckers must have been at least 64 oz -- full of icewater, I'll have you know). I would love to find the place on the Marienplatz where we would get doughnut-like pastries right out of the cooker on a Saturday morning.

The city of Munich itself is rich and varied in its history (including a dark chapter as the birthplace of Hitler's Nazi movement), culture and attractions. I would love to show the kids around, and revisit some of the places I saw. There are great little Alpine (literally) villages nearby that would be worth a day trip. I imagine that I might even notice some of the changes that have taken place over the intervening 25(!) years.

More alarming than the thought that it has been 25 years since I visited, though, is the creeping realization that we need to start thinking seriously about taking this kind of trip ... before Kelly leaves home. Only six years left. Ouch.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where Middle Age Begins

I finally figured out where the boundary line of middle age is. It is the day you host your daughter's 12-year-old birthday party and you realize that you can no longer participate in the party as the ever-present cameraman. You are no longer a benign, unnoticed part of the landscape. You are the Old Guy who is, like, just about to be, like, Totally Creepy Old Guy if you take just one more picture.

I ceded camera duties to Cheryl and took refuge in the TV room for most of the party, I think to the relief of all.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Just Desserts?

A Ferrari crashed in the local hills last Saturday. The driver apparently took a turn too fast and flipped the car. Fortunately, she was not hurt. Unfortunately, the car was not hers; it belongs to her boss, who gave his 23-year-old employee permission to drive it.

No word on the reaction of the boss's wife to this news.

Magical Moments

We've been away for spring break, our first extended getaway as a family in about two years. We kids knew we were headed to San Diego; they did not know we would be stopping at Disneyland on the way there. The surprise was, I think, more for the amusement of the parents than the entertainment of the kids. Listening as the realization that we had pulled off the freeway into the Disneyland parking structure worked its way into the kids' brains was well worth the trouble of keeping the secret.

The kids were definitely happy, although they did not go bezerk when they finally worked out what we were doing. They revealed later how much it meant to them, though. Later in the day, I helped Michael down from a wall where he had been resting after several hours of traipsing around the Magic Kingdom. He said, "thank you, Daddy," in a way that made me look at him and ask him what he was thanking me for.

"Thank you for bringing us to Disneyland."

That kind of unprompted gratitude, occurring at an utterly random moment during the day, made me feel like Father of the Year.