Friday, June 30, 2006

Identity Confusion

After purchasing my Superman Returns tickets at, I realized that I had not received a Best Buy Reward Certificate in a few months. Sure, that's a leap, unless you've purchased tickets online before and have been directed to the "$15.00 cash back" reward site for shopping at places like Best Buy. So, digging through my wallet for my membership card (ok, someone needs to make a "universal" membership card so we don't have to carry 10 cards in our wallet), I logged into the site, viewed my balance and then wrote a complaint that I have not seen any coupons. I went to my profile to verify the address and what do you know, it was my parent's address. So, my account has my email, my password, but my parents address. I called my Dad, and sure enough, he had purchased a Rewards membership when he purchased his digital camera, and somehow, Best Buy added his information to my account. I am used to the USPS confusing us, but, this is the first time it has happened with a merchant. Let's see how this works out.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Patriotic Trombones

Last night at Orchestra rehearsal, it dawned on me that I have been playing the trombone for 26 years. On my sixteenth birthday (celebrated by going to the swamps with George and Mr. Mace and then catching a sneak-preview of Gremlins with Jay at the Bush River part of that, besides the poster for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was getting to drive home with my new license), I got the Conn 88-H that I still play today. I participated in marching band at Airport High School and the University of South Carolina and even majored in Music Education. During my Air Force days, I did not play that much, but still had my trombone with me in Japan. Once we settled into a church, we joined the Orchestra and I get to play at least twice a week (Wednesday Night and Sunday Morning). On the whole, I consider myself to be a decent enough player, and I enjoy what I am doing.

I was definitely never as good as these young ladies. So, to kick off the Fourth Of July weekend, here is a John Phillip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, as played by this fine Trombone Quartet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Look, In the Sky!

You know, I am really looking forward to seeing Superman Returns on Friday. I have vivid memories of seeing Superman: The Movie with my sister at the Dutch Square Twin back in 1979. I never saw II or III in the theater, but, unfortunately, saw IV at the Columbia Mall Theaters. I knew that it was a cheap production because it was produced by Golan and Globus (King Solomon's Mines), written by Christopher Reeve (red flag here) and...the nail in the coffin, music arranged by Alexander Courage (Star Trek) based on John Williams original score for Superman: The Movie. For you non-musicians, let me break that last one down: the made the music from the first film fit the movie. Basically, Jay and I did this with Indiana Jr and the Eggs of Doom (if you missed it, you have missed out on one of the greatest adventure films of all time). If I knew there was a real job there, maybe I wouldn't be in Va right now. What a horrible way to end a series.

But, comic book fans fall into one of two camps: DC or Marvel. I usually stand in the DC camp, but I still love Spiderman, Captain America and The Hulk. I really liked the direction that Batman Begins took. It was gritty and realistic. It did not feel like plastic, and that was my major problem with X-Men III: it just didn't feel right, and it definitely did not do justice to the source material. But, Superman takes a special place for me. It was the first comic that my Grand Daddy Bryan bought for me (I still have it) and was the first comic that I bought when I started collecting in college. I never liked when they messed with the formula: when they tried to update him and make him more modern. With the cynicism that comes with age, there was something innocent and charming about "Truth, Justice and the American Way" even if all three of those vary greatly depending on your point of view.

So, I am hoping that Superman Returns brings some of that charm back. We certainly need it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Side of Brunch, Without the Brunch Please

During my recent trip to SC, James, Frog and I went to the Vista to take in some brunch. Guess what? No brunch on the Vista! We ended up having a breakfast at the "Ye Olde" IHOP. Somehow, brunch just sounds nice: not quite lunch, not exactly breakfast. Brunch. Mmmm. However, IHOP conjures images of stuffing people into boothes and cramming your mouth full. After Brunch, your pants can still buckle; after IHOP, you are going for the sweatpants. Perhaps next time, I'll put my trusty Google to use, or at least get recommendations from the cashier at IHOP.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Office Public Service Announcements

I discovered The Office near the end of the season and found it funny in the same way that I find Dilbert funny. Cindy finds both very un-funny. Anyways, head over to NBC to check out these fake Public Service Announcements

When you're playing pickup basketball, and someone tries to make you feel bad about calling a foul, remember, it's ok to call a foul. Don't let anyone make you feel ashamed.They know what they did.

Performance Review

Who likes to write their self evaluation for a performance review? Anyone? Mine is due today and I can't believe I have waited until the last day to begin writing. I have wondered if the self evaluation actually does any good.

Performance Reviews are like report cards, and I hear that they stay on your permanent record. Best of all, you don't have to get them signed by your parents. So, don't sweat them. However, they can be used as justifications for pay increases, so, don't completely blow them off, or it might come back to haunt you. For your convenience, I have developed a handy "Performance Metric to Report Card Grade" comparison Chart.

  • Below Expectations (similar to a D or F...your gonna get in trouble for this)

  • Met Expectations (a C...which has become known as average. Since everyone is average, expected a lot of these)

  • Exceeded Expectations (maps to a B...You did something really good for someone)

  • Greatly Exceeded Expectations (maps to an A...this rating is actually an urban legend in cubeville).

So, I know what you are thinking, since there is no way that you can get a GEE, you certainly must "Exceeded Expectations." Common mistake, but wrong. You are, most likely, going to have"Met Expectations." Why? The Person who is evaluating you may be trying to give you decent feedback, but, they are also distributing these ratings based on a bell curve. And at the top of that curve? You got it: Met Expectations.

So, does your self review really matter? Sure it does. If anything, it gives you an opportunity to reflect back on what you have achieved in the past and plan out where you would like to be in the future. Should you wait until the last day to compile this reflection? Probably not.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Questions from a Kid

Recently, Katie, eight, asked me, with all seriousness in her eyes, how to fart. I was curious about the nature of the question, for she has demonstrated this bodily feature ad infinitum, and at times with much gusto. Not wanting to brush her off, I asked "What do you mean?" Hesitantly, she looked around for momma, and then said, "you know" and stuck her right palm under her left armpit and the flapped her left arm like a duck. "Oh, I see now. No. I can't."

Thanks go to Marty for "Keeping it Fresh."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day

When it comes to fatherhood, I still feel like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark: I feel like I am just "making this up as I go along." On a day to day basis, it is hard to see how much progress I am making in my adventure, and often leads to the ultimate self doubt question: have I made the best choices? Unfortunately, I know that answer: no. But judging my day to day progress is like looking at the individual dots of paint in Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon." You have to stand back and look at them all (mistakes and all).

Today, we went to Bush Gardens in Williamsburg right after the 8:00 am Church Service. Park attendance was light, so the queues were fairly quick. We got to ride the Loch Ness Monster and Escape From Pompeii twice. Katie and Cindy rode Apollo's Chariot while Megan and I took it easy on the Elephant Run and the Turkish Delight tea cup ride. Finally, we queued for forty five minutes to ride Roman Rapids: the wait was worth every drenching ounce of fun. We spent five hours in the park and it was time to go. Traffic from Williamsburg to Chesapeake can be hectic on a Sunday afternoon, and we got home around five thirty. Overall, a very fun Father's Day.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cars: Varoooooommmm

As a daddy of two girls who both like movies, I see an awful lot of crap out there. So, when I see something that is above the average (e.g. Madagascar, Over the Hedge etc), I sometimes fool myself in elevating that to the "classic" level. But, when a real classic comes my way, you know if for what it is.

Cars is a classic.

I first saw a trailer for Cars just before The Incredibles. I thought that Pixar might strike out with this one: after all, I am not a NASCAR fan. Great news, you don't have to be. Rick wrote about the story over at Good Coffee. I have to agree with him on the story, but, I just want to tout the technical side. A computer animated movie is a "special effect" in itself. Each company has a style that identifies who made it (Dreamworks, Pixar, Blue Sky, everyone else). While you are watching the movie, you notice things such as the texture of Princess Fiona's dress, or Marty's mane. But, it is Pixar that really pushes this envelope. Cars pulls something extremely familiar (driving) and animates it flawlessly. There is a cross country scene where the main character (Lightning McQueen) is being taken to California for the big race. It is a montage, with "Life Is a Highway" (performed by Rascal Flats) playing. I was beside myself at just how good that looked.

So, we really enjoyed this movie. Remember to stay through the credits, because Pixar keeps the movie going up until the end. There is a classic John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) gag during the credits. I believe that John has voiced a character in each of the Pixar films. Anyways, I'll say no more. Just enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

It makes me Sick

While waiting for Google Earth 4 to install, I happened upon Westboro Baptist Church's Video's on You Tube. This is the church that is going out and demonstrating that God hates the soldiers. While they are at it, the list the other people that God hates including homosexuals. When pressed, a spokes woman said that their church (not associated with any main line baptist) is under 100 people, and 80% family. See, there's the problem right there. But, seriously, I have gone round this many times. They focus on Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood to show that God Hates People. But, they certainly do not focus on the cross, where He sent His son to die as the fulfillment of all those Old Testament Laws. God does not hate people, but he abhors Sin. He loves them to death.

Ro 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
1Jo 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Mt 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rainy Days and Mondays

This morning is a rainy Monday, and the weekend just flew by. At least the coffee this morning did not spill over on the counter because I forgot to do something sensible (like emptying the grounds from the day before...age). I play in our church's orchestra. It affords me an interesting vantage point as I can look out and see the various faces in the congregation. What a palette of expression. I can recognize the "I feel uncomfortable singing in public" face all the way through the "In your presence Lord" face. Sometimes, the IFUSIP is sitting next to IYPL, and maybe that is why IFUSIP feels uncomfortable. But truly, of late, I have felt more like IFUSIP and not IYPL. Lord, why do you seem so far away? Do you remember the "Footprints" picture? In it, two sets of footprints are going down the beach. At some point, there is only one set. The remaining set belongs to God, and He is carrying the owner of the other set of footprints. I think another "Footprints" should be done. This one shows two sets of footprints walking down the beach. Suddenly, one pair goes off in another direction. Those are my footprints. God has not gone anywhere. He has not left me. I have simply wandered away from his side. When I examine my prayer life, am I even attempting to communicate with God (or, am I dropping a dime when everything is rosy, or I am in trouble)? Am I trying to know him better through his word? Or, am I just inventing a God based on my preferences and the opinions of others?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ducks, Ducks, Ducks

It was only a matter of time. I have watched them pass over the pool many times, always at a high altitude. It was only a matter of time before they would spot the pool on their overflights. Now, they have decided to take up residence. I need suggestions on how to get rid of ducks.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

D-Day, 1944

I am sitting here, in front of my computer, wondering what my Grandfather was doing 62 years ago today. Marvin G. Morton left behind a wife and infant daughter when he went to fight in World War II. On this day, 62 years ago, he would land on Utah beach with the 4th Infantry Division.

Many are familiar with Omaha Beach from Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Utah, by comparison, went smoothly. The invasion force landed some 2000 yards south of the planned beach on a beach not as heavily defended. Stephen Ambrose's book, and the HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers, tells the story of the E 2/506th Division (Easy Company). One of their main objective was to take out a battery of 105mm Howitzers targeting Utah Beach and give the 4th Infantry a chance to secure the beach head.

I have only known my grandfather from a single photograph that sits in grandmother's house. It is of the variety that would have been taken at boot camp. Recently I have started asking more questions about Marvin, approaching the subject carefully. I have learned that he would bring relief to the 82 Airborne at Ste. Mere Eglise, help the French in the liberation of Paris and then, later in September, would go through Belgium to attack the Seigfried Lines. And that would be the end of his story. Marvin was wounded during a mortar attack, and would later die in a field hospital. It left my Grandmother a widow, and my mom without a father.

Over the past several thanksgivings, grandmother has shared more stories and more letters (there are some private letters that she has told me about, but she does not want those read until after her death. I assume that they are personal letters from Marvin). I have read many of the telegrams informing her of Marvin's injury, and she has shown me the very spot in her house where she stood when Army representatives came to her door confirming her husband's death. My grandmother never remarried, raised a daughter and worked in textile factory well into her eighties. Without a doubt, she is the strongest woman I have ever known.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Review: Over the Hedge

"OTH" is not my favorite DreamWorks animation film to come out ("Shrek" ,"Madagascar" and "Shrek 2"), but it is light years better than "Shark Tales." Also, it is better than the other two animated films that I have seen this year ("Chicken Little" and "Ice Age 2"). But still, I found my mind wondering through out the film. The kids, however, absolutely loved it. They are at a point where they "get" the jokes, both overt and subtle. And that was as much fun to watch as the movie.