The Universe and Me

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Handled with care

Movie: Dear Frankie which ought to be familiar to anyone who’s rented a DVD lately because it’s trailer has been a preview in nearly every one. While I’ve been long sick of the trailer, the entire movie is a charming little gem set in Scotland. The always engaging Emily Mortimer plays mom to deaf son Frankie. She’s told him his father’s away at sea, encouraged him to write letters which, unknown to him, she answers, and then has to scramble for a solution when the ship she made up ports in Glasgow. Faced with the choice of telling Frankie the truth and breaking his heart or not telling him the truth and breaking his heart, she hires the Phantom of the Opera who, with an understated intensity, influences all their lives. Best line: “I did not come up the Clyde in a paper boat.”

Friday, July 29, 2005

This is the cruise ship shaped Westin Lucaya hotel in Freeport, Grand Bahamas where my niece and her husband spent their honeymoon. She took a thousand or two photographs, many of which could be postcards like this.  Posted by Picasa

Quote for the day

As seen on someone else's blog:

"To have a blog means to be perpetually behind."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sweet hitchhiker

And I’ve found a new band to like! Lights on the Highway. It shouldn’t be any surprise they are from Iceland. They play ambient guitar pop, sort of like an acoustic, unplugged Pearl Jam. Similar to Iceland’s Tenderfoot (whose first CD was released in America this summer while I wasn’t looking) or Ireland’s Guggenheim Grotto (whose first CD is due 9 September after what feels like a lifetime wait, although they have no US release date.) Lights on the Highway have only been a band for about two years. One of their mp3’s “Said too Much” can be found misspelled at the above linked Airwaves site. Their self-titled album contains 12 songs, all excellent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Skating away

Movie: Ice Princess. Suspension of all disbelief and a tolerance to saccharine required. Following that, it was much better than I expected. Made me grateful I’m not a teenager, having to deal with the pressures of the intense competition that’s in school, and on the ice, these days, though. The very Disneyesque message of following your fleeting dream doesn’t make much sense if it means giving up a Harvard scholarship. I agreed with Joan Cusack’s character, that it would be a waste to end up in Has Beens On Ice when “there’s no shelf life on your mind” and I thought she changed her mind only for the sake of the movie. I believe in my much younger days I was best friends with that Jumping Shrimp. Dreadful soundtrack. But hello Hayden!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sit and drink pennyroyal tea

Green Tea
Green Tea...
You are Green Tea!
Strong and very smart you prefer peace to violence
and very rarely take action if it involves
confrontation. But you make up for this with
your keen insight and understanding of the
world and people around you, you have a very
mysterious nature. Many people see you as laid
back and that may be true but you are very
intelligent and make good decisions.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Is it buoyant?

At a garage sale, John bought something called a Skurfer for ten dollars. Terry and Tanner tried this on the lake, but couldn’t manage to stand up and surf behind the boat. John figured the Skurfer was a useless relic from the past that someone unloaded on him but the next night Jerry tried it from his boat and stood up on the first try. And he zipped along, having what looked like a blast. To be funny, he planned to ski up to our boat and splash a few drops on us but he underestimated the little Skurfer’s abilities and we were all drenched by a tremendous tidal wave. Luckily all cameras survived and the water felt refreshing on a 90 billion degree day, although I did end up looking less attractive than the Swamp Thing.

A precursor to wakeboards, the Skurfer was developed in 1985 by a San Diego surfer named Tony Finn who wanted to combine waterskiing with surfing and ended up with something like skiboarding. The Skurfer, almost banana shaped, is extremely buoyant so if Letterman ever has it on his “Will if Float?” segment, yes, it sure will float. Because of its thickness, it floats high on the water and requires an experienced and strong water-skier which is why Jerry had no problem with it. He also said it was similar to the rudimentary boards he used way back when. But today’s wakeboards are a definite improvement.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Where in the world is Mr Vee?

Here's a drag and drop game to test your knowledge of European geography that I played this morning. I did better than I thought I would, placing 33 out of 45 countries in their proper location. That's 73% correct with an average error of 68 miles. The site gives you the opportunity to play as many times as you might like, with the countries appearing in a different random order, so I did give it a second try and proved I'm not too old to learn something. I placed 37 out of 45, or 82%, of the countries correctly with an average error of 29 miles. Mr Vee may be disappointed that I missed his homeland of the Czech Republic both times, although I was slightly closer the second go around.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Thanks for all the Fish Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The downside of pathetic

Movie: The Upside of Anger. If there was one, I didn’t see it. Call me confused at the reviewers on Amazon who think this is one of the best movies of the year. Cinematically a pretty bad year, then. I’m with the person who described it as “choppy, often dull.” I’m sure it didn’t help that I fell asleep after about ten minutes and had to backtrack. Not a very exciting plot. A woman whose husband disappears assumes he’s run off with his Swedish secretary so she becomes bitter, critical of her daughters, drinks too much and doesn’t even deserve hack actor Kevin Costner. “Make a left at pathetic” is right. The actors all did okay. Even Costner was tolerable. There just wasn’t anything intriguing in the script until the misplaced end reveal about the missing husband. And who names their daughter Popeye? That’s not acceptable even on a soap opera.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


We were out on the lake last Monday night (and Tuesday night, but that’s another story) and at one point I happened to look up at the clouds and see this prism of light shining through. Terry said it was something called a sundog. Since I keep getting older, it may be that I don’t remember hearing about this optical sky phenomenon but I should since it is rather common. Sundogs are vertical bars of coloured light that form when light refracts off the ice crystals (“diamond dust”) in cirrus clouds. Usually they appear in pairs on either side of the sun when it rises or sets. The one we saw was to the right of the setting sun. The clouds to the left were too thick for anything to shine through. What really has me confused is how there could be cirrus clouds containing ice crystals in such beastly hot weather.

That night we also rode up to watch some of Chautauqua Idol but it wasn’t very good. One of the contestants butchered the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and I kept cringing until I looked at Shannen and saw she was also cringing, then I had to say something none too kind. Lori seems to think if I was a judge on American Idol, I’d be Simon, but I took a lame Internet quiz that said I’d be Randy Jackson, whoever that is. Although Simon was a close second.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Shipwrecked and comatose

I loaned my brilliant and lovely niece Shannen series 1 of the old BBC science fiction comedy Red Dwarf to see what she thinks of it. I didn’t have any movies to watch yesterday, so I popped in series 4 again, the year the show really starts taking off. Here are some quotes:

  • It’s a small off duty Czechoslovakian traffic warden.
  • I better go and take the penguin for a walk.
  • It’s a yellow fruit that you unzip and eat the white bits.
  • Glad you could make it this millennium.
  • Is it possible you could go a little faster so we’re not being overtaken by stationary objects?
  • He’s got mad droid disease.
  • I thank you from the bottom of my rehydration units.
  • The way the light catches the angles of your head, it’s enchanting.
  • You must think me as stupid as a photocopier.
  • You look like a giant half-chewed rubber tipped pencil.
  • We’ll always have Parrots.
  • No matter how hard I twiddle it, I can’t seem to pick up Jazz FM.
  • No wonder humans don’t have a zoom mode.
  • No vacuum cleaner should give a human being a double Polaroid.
  • Spare head 3, he’s got droid rot.
  • Screw down my diodes and call me Frank.
  • It appears my intelligence circuits have melted.
  • There’s no Eskimo word for Eastbourne.
  • I’m fine, thank you Susan.
  • What a guy!
  • If you’re interested, I’ll be in my quarters covered in taramasalata.
  • I didn’t know your bread was buttered that side, Bongo.
  • Lunch is on Nellie.
  • Would it make any difference if it was hummus?
  • I’m strictly butter side up.
  • Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.
  • Love the Cuban heels.
  • The man’s a maggot.
  • I am completely smegging ungripped.
  • I still feel there’s a solution, probably involving triangles.
  • We don’t like existentialists around here and we certainly don’t like French philosophers poncing around in their black polo necks filling everyone's heads with their theories about the bleakness of existence and absurdity of the cosmos, clear?
  • Now all the corpses that litter that battlefield can just lie there safe under the knowledge that they snuffed it under a flag of peace and can now happily decompose in a land of freedom.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Does this plane stop in Keflavík?

In the past few weeks a couple big names in American rock music have given impromptu concerts in Iceland. First, around the beginning of July, it was Bruce Springsteen, who I used to call Bruce Stringbean. While en route from Berlin to the States, his private jet stopped at around 2 in the morning to refuel at Keflavík International Airport. Rather than be bored waiting around, he took an acoustic guitar into the terminal and played six songs for the staff working the overnight shift. Last week the Foo Fighters took a break from their ever vigilant fight on Foo to once again visit Iceland. They dropped by a few years ago and while dining at a lobster restaurant in a village called Stokkseyri (population 500+) heard some interesting music from a nearby garage. They followed the sound and met up with a group of four teenagers who call their band Nilfisk. Led by Johann Vilbergsson, Nilfisk has very little to do with Swedish vacuum cleaners of the same name and more to do with Foo-ish type rock. There are some mp3’s of their songs at here. Last week the Foo Fighters, who were in Iceland to play at Egilshöll Stadium and spend some quality time enjoying The Blue Lagoon, returned to Stokkseyri and jammed with members of Nilfisk at the Ghost Bar. We can only guess who might be next.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Lori, Shannen, Erin, Matt, Terry Posted by Picasa

The Big Bash

When my niece Erin was a few years old, we visited Midway amusement park and her father Terry took her down the slide for the first time. She squealed all the way down, but when they came to a stop at the bottom, she stood up and said, “Go again?” I was reminded of this when after her wedding ceremony on Saturday, she said she enjoyed it so much, she wanted to immediately do it again. I thought the wedding went splendidly and was so beautiful. Erin and Matt were smiling to the point of beaming with so much joy the entire time, it was great to see and share in such a special moment for them.

Getting to the church a little before they were seating people, I snuck back to look at Erin and could only tell her how gorgeous she looked, so much like a princess, because I was starting to get teary-eyed. Then I saw Shannen, Erin’s sister and maid of honour. I don’t think I could say much beyond “Wow!” because it was like being in the room with a movie star, in particular Julia Stiles. I’ve been telling her for years she could be a model. Somehow I managed not to cry during the wedding, but it wasn’t easy, especially when I saw Corrie, Erin’s cousin and one of her bridesmaids wipe a tear away. I had to tell myself “do not look at Corrie again!” She (as well as the best man Ethan) sang a song and afterwards she said the only way she could get through it was to keep thinking of something else.

It will be a while before I get my pictures developed but I’ll try to post one here I stole off Shannen’s blog. My brother-in-law Jerry had Erin pose for a silly picture where she’s trying to bar the church doors with a panicked expression on her face. And then he had Matt pose on the other side, desperately trying to get out. The hired photographer was there and snapped a picture of Erin at the church door with her typical smile which you can see if you go to his website. In the opening montage, Erin is the first (and loveliest) bride shown. At the same site, if you click on menu, then galleries, then go to Page 2, the last picture (#30) is of Erin & Matt hugging.

It wasn’t until yesterday when I went out with my sisters (and I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I have the greatest sisters in the world!) that I learned a few things that went on behind the scenes. Shannen had 97 bobby pins in her very long hair and is determined never to wear her hair up like that again! It took three hours for the girls to get their hair done. Lori was supposed to stand up when Erin and Terry were at the door entrance and her cue was when Kim changed to a certain song but when Kim changed to the song, Lori didn’t see anyone in the doorway. She didn’t know they were hiding until everyone stood up so that Matt wouldn’t see Erin until she reached the aisle. Corrie said something that I had been thinking: that it seemed very dreamlike, very surreal. It feels like it’s still to happen.

The kids are presently honeymooning in the Bahamas. Erin called to say they arrived safely after some unexpected and worrisome changes to their plans. They were switched to a different flight and ended up having to leave their house at 3 a.m. to drive to Pittsburgh. When they reached the airport, two hours early, others ahead of them wanting to board were being turned back and sent home. They were told if they wanted to make the flight, they’d have to run, so they did. The heat index in the Bahamas is presently 100. I hope they don’t suffer heatstroke and get a chance to parasail and do other touristy things she had wanted. We’ll hear her stories when they return.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Í dag er afmæli

Your Birthdate: July 11
Your birth on the 11th day of the month makes you something of a dreamer and an idealist.
You work well with people because you know how to use persuasion rather than force.
There is a strong spiritual side to your nature, and you may have intuitive qualities inherent in your make up, too.

You are very aware and sensitive, though often temperamental.
Although you have a good mind and you are very analytical, you may not be comfortable in the business world.
You are definitely creative and this influence tends to make you more of a dreamer than a doer.

What does your birth date mean?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Meltdown expected

Movie: Dirty War. I watched this a few weeks ago but never got around to blogging about it, not that it wasn’t blog-worthy. With the recent bombings in London and evacuation of Birmingham, the movie’s images have returned to my poor brain. Originally a BBC production, this fictional documentary on biological terrorism was also shown on HBO and PBS here in the States. A bomb with radioactive material explodes and scatters the radioactivity over a wide area which not only affects people in the present, but will cause illnesses, particularly cancer, for decades. Being a 24 fan, I couldn’t help thinking they desperately needed Jack Bauer to diffuse the situation and thereby save England as only he can. If only he was a real person. In contrast to the fast pace of 24, I found this movie slow and I didn’t think it packed as much of a wallop as it intended. At the end, people seemed to return to their normal lives. How is that possible?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Erin and Matt Posted by Picasa

Taking the plunge

Tomorrow my lovely and effervescent niece Erin is marrying her longtime boyfriend Matt. The past few months they’ve spent sprucing up the cute little house with the white picket fence where they’ll be living. I had a dream last week that the people living in the house next door to her were terrorists. I thought the dream may have been some sort of freaky 24 flashback, but did ask Erin if she knew anything about her neighbours. She said a nice older lady lives in the house next door. She’s probably not a terrorist. My oldest sister asked me right then if I’d seen The Pacifier. I did watch it a few weeks ago. Never blogged about it as it contained nothing thought-provoking. Maybe that’s where the terrorist neighbour dream came from. Here’s hoping the wedding goes splendidly and is fun and nobody ends up with a towel over his or her head at the airport on CNN.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Packing my bags for the Misty Mountains

You scored as Misty Mountain Hop. Rock On!!

Misty Mountain Hop


Achilles Last Stand


Ramble On


The Rain Song


Four Sticks


Stairway To Heaven


The Ocean


Rock and Roll


Dazed and Confused


Moby Dick


Fav Led Zeppelin Song

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Inside I'm Dancing

Movie: Rory O’Shea Was Here. Or in Ireland. A quadriplegic befriends another twenty something with cerebral palsy he meets at an institution and convinces him to petition for independent living. Somewhat of a chick flick, somewhat of a showcase for James McAvoy’s acting talents, snarky attitude and smart mouth. I liked it more than the Oscar winner below. I’m not sure much of the disabled community approved as it does make a point of making the point that they have limitations, in particular that they shouldn’t be in relationships with the able bodied. Rory brutally berates Michael for his crush on Siobhan, their caretaker who looks more Scandinavian than Celtic. But the film and Rory are also an affirmation about the need to experience life to the fullest, even if that includes heartbreak and prejudice. Bit of a contradiction there. Rory needs to have a discussion with the guy from The Sea Inside. Clearly he’s never been to Spain.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

Movie: Million Dollar Baby. Was it really shot in just thirty days? If so, that’s impressive. Maybe because I’m not into boxing or the boxing world, I only saw this as a good movie with great performances by Swank, Eastwood and Freeman. But I don’t know if I would have voted to give it the Oscar. Maybe it didn’t have the impact it would have on me if I had seen it in the theatre and hadn’t had time post-Oscars to guess what happened to Maggie. And there were some flaws. She was of such impeccable, brave, determined, decent character, I doubted the clichéd trailer trash mercenary welfare family was hers at all. And unless I fell asleep or my attention wandered, I heard no explanation of Frankie’s rift with his daughter. And I had no idea what the purpose of the Danger character was. Best quote/concept: Maggie’s hometown being “somewhere between nowhere and goodbye.”

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles

Movie: A Very Long Engagement. French. Starring the waifish Audrey Tautou who is probably sick of being called waifish but may find it funny that I can’t pronounce her last name as anything other than tattoo. I’ll start with my only gripe first because this was a beautifully filmed and performed piece. My gripe is that I’m not French nor fluent in French so the abundance of characters made it a little tough in places to follow the action and discern who was who and who was doing what. Onto the praise. Audrey has a vulnerability in her face and large round eyes that makes her sympathetic no matter what type of role she takes on. In this serious one, her fiancé is one of five soldiers sentenced to execution for trying to get out of the war. The French army doesn’t want to take responsibility for their death, so they send them over the trench into No Man’s Land and their fate. It’s later, while trying to piece together their last hours that Audrey discovers some discrepancies, conflicting stories, mysteries and stumbles onto a series of clues, secrets and codes that she is determined to piece together to learn the truth. Interesting cinematography, what with the sepia tones. Excellent and realistic depiction of World War I trench warfare. Also a marvelous cameo by Jody Foster whose impeccable French accent, as far as Swedish me could tell, made me do a double take to make sure it was truly her.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Cat

The Cat Lies Down on Park Drive
(This cat has nothing whatsoever to do with biology or any other cat. It just lies down on Park Drive.)

Late Friday night in Hoten
Genesee winds blow on the land.
The Library has shut its doors,
Science students crowd the Temple’s floors.
Security Norm’s on his midnight rounds,
Chasing Canfield off the grounds – get out!
It seems they can not stop their game.
There’s something inside them wanting fame.
And the cat lies down on Park Drive.

Nighttime studying dulls their brains.
Bookstore puts up the chains.
Mental motion comes in bursts,
But Willard J can quench that thirst.
Suspension memos from Dean Danner,
Canfield shrugs in a cynical manner.
And out of the Campus Centre,
Male Premedical Egoist Kid
Exits into darkness, bio book hid.
And the cat lies down on Park Drive.

The cat seems right out of place,
But the Park Drive street scene
Puts Security on the chase.
Somehow its lying there brings absurdity to the air.
Though the Temple’s light at night is very bright,
There’s no lab assistant
On the Chem 4th floor in a coat of white.
Male Premedical Egoist Kid
Hides his flask of butyric acid.
And the cat lies down on Park Drive.

Security tired, his work all done,
Thinks funny, sonny – flee on, peon!
This time they’ll be no warning,
The Dean will know by Monday morning.
Brookside women, you should draw your blind.
They don’t look at you, they don’t have time – they’ll fail!
Nights in the lab they’re popping no-doze,
Lord knows they want 4.0’s.
And the cat lies down on Park Drive.
On Park Drive.
They say the lights are always bright on Park Drive.
They say there’s always magic in the air.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Do NOT mess with Chloe!  Posted by Picasa


Our favourite character on 24 (aside from His Kieferness) is Chloe O'Brien, CTU's best tech who's a walking personality disorder. Annoying but likable. A computer genius with uncomfortably poor people skills. Portrayed with finesse and a marvelous pout by Mary Lynn Rajskub. Don't ask us how to pronounce her last name. We can only hope that Jack Bauer will some day wake up and realise Chloe is his perfect match. Here are some of her quotes from Season 4:
  • You know you’re really transparent, Sarah.
  • As usual Edgar, we can’t hear you.
  • I’m not comfortable doing this.
  • I’m not in the mood for a confrontation.
  • I’m really not in the mood to play the part of a scared student at the principal’s office.
  • I was gonna quit anyway.
  • I can do the math as well as anyone.
  • Amateur!
  • Quit being territorial and just give me the password.
  • You and your husband are separated, and then you fall in love with Jack, I guess… And then they end up together and your husband ends up taking a bullet that saves Jack’s life. What do you do with that?
  • I was inappropriately blunt, wasn’t I? I do that a lot. Sorry.
  • I need you to release your system.
  • They’re field agents. They have guns. They don’t need you to cuddle them.
  • I really hope you don’t give me so much resistance next time.
  • I hope I’m not some psychopath.