Wednesday, March 31, 2004

How to Tell You've Been Living Too Long in DC....

Parents, if your kids answered in the affirmative to today's Washington Post KidsPost Fact,

Did you know that Condoleezza Rice took figure-skating lessons for years as a child?

it might be time to involve them in some know, soccer, music lessons, that sort of thing. Not so much the Young Republicans.

It just seems like a weird fact nobody's kid should really be expected to know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Godfather Party

Ben had never seen the movie The Godfather when he bought The Godfather DVD Collection. He decided it was worth having a viewing party for the movies. That was a couple of years ago. Since then, Ben has bought and moved into his own home. He showed it off last weekend with a Godfather party.

We bought him a propane grill as a housewarming present and helped set it up. After grilling of food and much drinking of beer, we sat down to watch the movie. I think I was the only other person there who had not seen the movie. We had to rewind a couple of times as people sometimes talked over the key scenes in the movie, but overall it was fun to watch with a crowd.

I enjoyed seeing the movie, both for the movie itself and for all of the references (e.g., "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.") that I will now understand when people make.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Drywall Party

OK, I'm a week behind on this, but last weekend George came over to help us and show us how to put up some drywall in our laundry room. Somehow, our contractors had found it within the scope of finishing our basement to put up a wall and insulate it, but not to drywall it. Ben stopped by later to help.

Before and after...or...halfway through.

Christina learns how to cut the drywall.

They put me in charge of guarding the T-square. (Photo Credit: Christina)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Up to #18

Christina and I went over to the Santa Fe Cafe Tuesday night for a little NTN playing. (And 1/2 price hamburger night.) Unfortunately, we couldn't play because they hadn't had the charger for the game boards plugged in for the past several days. Sigh. That place is really going downhill.

Since we were more interested in NTN than 1/2 price hamburgers, we made the drive up to Damons Arundel Mills, where we enjoyed a NTN-filled (and smoke-free) dinner. As a result, I made it up to #18 on the Santa Fe list (ironically), and Christina made it to #48. We've debated the ethics of turning in #47 for having a name that violates NTN's terms and conditions against offensive names. More likely, we'll just have to find a new location if things keep up.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Friday night, we went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on opening night. After the aforementioned trip to the wine store, we had a nice dinner at Remomo. In theory, the Dining Miles should top up Christina's account enough to get a free ticket to Mexico. Anyway, after I had read one reviewer describe ESotSM with, "This is the best movie I've seen in a decade," it seemed worth a shot. It's by the same guy who did Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, so if you saw either of those movies, you have an inkling of what you're in for. But just an inkling -- one piece of advice I'd give you is not to read anything about the movie -- just go see it. Part of the fun of the movie for me was figuring out what exactly was going on. (As in a puzzle, not as in a muddled plot.)

I don't know that I'd describe it as the best movie I've seen in a decade, but it was definitely an excellent film. One I'd definitely watch again. 5 stars.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Wine Cellar

After watching Simply Wine With Andrea Immer we headed out to Corridor Fine Wines in Laurel last night to pick up some wines. Now that we have that and our wine chiller, I wanted to keep better track (so I can remember we liked in the past). I found You can see our "wine cellar" here. In particular, the idea of getting a California Sangiovese and a Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo came from the show.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Tourney Update

Well, Day 1 of the tournament wasn't too kind to my picks. In retrospect, Dayton, Southern Illinois, BYU, Arizona, and Princeton weren't the best underdogs to pick. In retrospect, Nevada and Manhattan were. I picked 5 underdogs? And none of them right? Yeesh. I'm off already today, with 2 underdog picks already backfiring on me. Fortunately, I didn't pick the underdogs very far through, so I still have all of my second round picks alive.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Tourney Time

Well, the NCAA tournament has started again, and this year both of my alma maters are in the NIT. Well, Georgia was in.

My picks are here. I picked 4 ACC teams in the "Elite Eight". Hmm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Render Unto Caesars

We had a nice weekend vacation. Saturday night we headed to Newark, Delaware. OK, that wasn't the major part of the vacation. We mainly chose it because it was on the way to Atlantic City, and it had a Hampton Inn, which allowed us to notch our 20th Hilton Hhonors night of the year.

The next day, we headed off to Atlantic City and Caesars. Huh. I just noticed that the web site refers to it as "Caesars", not "Caesars Palace." I guess that's only for the Vegas location. Christina's friend Heidi was celebrating her 40th birthday, and we joined in. We had a lot of fun, but I didn't pull out the camera until Monday morning, as we were leaving the parking garage. Sorry.

I had never been to Atlantic City before. I found it like what I imagine Las Vegas would be -- if you put it in New Jersey. Sigh. Still, it whetted my appetite for a potential visit to Las Vegas this December for a math conference.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Where have I been?

Inspired by Jeanene's post, I am creating maps of places I've been to. I'm only counting overnight stays as visits.

I've also added these to the bottom of my travel page.

Christina has her own maps.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Laundry Room Remodel

We have a number of things on our to-do list for the house. Remodeling the laundry room was lower on the list. That was the case, that is, until recently. It's a long process to how we got to the need to do this, but it started, strangely enough with an EPA regulation.

The EPA told water authorities to start removing organic material from its drinking water. (Leaves and stuff.) Soon afterwards, water pipes throughout our area started springing pinhole leaks. Including some of ours. Fortunately, most of our cold water pipes are not in the side of the basement that we're currently finishing. Unfortunately, the one that leaked was. So we had to make that unexpected repair on a fairly urgent basis. Our plumber warned us of the lousy condition the rest of our cold water pipes were in; we resolved to get those done relatively soon.

Fast forward to the present -- our plumber asks us whether we really want to tie the new pipes into the enormous old, rusting laundry sink. We consider this, and despite our suspicions that this is a good way for the plumber to drum up extra business, it makes sense. So we order a new laundry sink.

Once we have everything pulled up, however, we have a rare opportunity to get at the entire floor of the laundry room. Though we weren't planning to re-do the floor just yet, why spend more energy doing it later, when we have the chance now? This, too, makes sense. Further, the wall behind the (former) sink and the washer (now moved out of the way), is pretty nasty, so we'd probably better do something about that.

This is how we ended up last night resurfacing the basement wall. All because of an EPA regulation. (Don't get me started on how the pipes need to be replaced before we can get DirecTV in more than one room.) Here are some pictures.

Here is the wall before much resurfacing has transpired (although you can see some on the right-hand side). The pipes tie into the former laundry sink and are due to be replaced (tomorrow).

Here is the wall post-resurfacing. There's still more to be done, but the part behind the (new) laundry sink and the washer is the most pressing.

While I'd like to be able to take credit for this remarkable transformation, I proved rather inept at my abortive attempts at resurfacing. I instead assisted Christina, who has done the lion's share of the work on this project. I'd better hurry up and post this before she gets back with the glue for the new vinyl floor tiles.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Up to #19

Well, after a couple of recent outings, I've made it up to Number 19 on the Santa Fe Cafe's NTN rankings. Number 18 is within striking distance, though I don't have any immediate plans to play trivia. Christina has dropped to Number 49 despite some recent play, due to other people around her ranking playing more.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Tour of Duty

Last week, I finished reading Tour of Duty, by Douglas Brinkley. I started reading it before the Maryland Democratic primary, in part to figure out for whom to vote. The book left me with mixed feelings. I ended up voting for Kerry, but it was perhaps in spite of the book. Not that the book made him unlikable...

Of course, since I voted absentee ballot, my vote wasn't counted until after Edwards had already dropped out, so I'm not sure what the point of all that was.

The book made Kerry seem like a thoughtful, principled man. I like the idea of having a President who reads books and thinks about things. You know, like the good old days. Nevertheless, I'm a bit concerned about electing somebody who feels so defined by Vietnam. I recognize (even more after reading the book) that Vietnam was an important part of last century's American experience, but I might prefer someone a bit more forward-looking.

On the other hand, Edwards started hitting the protectionism note a little too hard and began to seem a bit inexperienced. So I went with Kerry. And I'll go with him again in the general election. I'm just wondering...should I read A Charge to Keep first?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Mall Walking

After too many times of staying in the same hotel when I come to the Twin Cities, I decided it was time for a change. In fact, my only New Years Resolution was not to stay at any Residence Inns this year. Last week, I stayed at the Hampton Inn Minneapolis/Bloomington (Airport Area) (not actually the closest Hampton Inn to the airport). It was OK, but not great.

This week, I'm at the Homewood Suites by Hilton® Minneapolis-Mall Of America. It's basically Hilton's version of the Residence Inn. It's great. I can't really explain why I like it better. It's got the same features -- a hot breakfast (thought after a series of flight delays yesterday, I overslept and missed that), a manager's reception, a kitchen in the room. I can't convincingly argue that any of those features is particularly better. But I just had a series of minor annoyances at the other hotel -- no soda (or juice) at the manager's reception one evening, newspapers gone most mornings by the time I got downstairs -- that I am happy to be at a place where everything is going smoothly.

One thing about this place amuses me. It is (literally) across the street from the Mall of America. Yet they still run a shuttle to the Mall, every hour, on the hour. Ah, America.

Eschewing this service, I walked across the street tonight to do some quick shopping. It seemed sort of weird approching on foot this giant structure surrounded by enormous parking garages. But after a minor detour, I made myself in and found my way to my destination, The Walking Company. I had originally wanted to get brown versions of my black dress shoes. I was told, however, that those shoes had been discontinued, and I was offered an "updated" version of them. Whatever. I still spent what I planned to spend, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Minnesota doesn't levy sales tax on shoes. Good deal.

I walked out of the mall a few minutes later -- I was amazed at how quick a trip I had made to any mall, let alone this mega-mall. I crossed the street behind a group of businessmen (they didn't wait for the light -- they must not be from Minnesota), and was happy to realize I wasn't the only one who chose to walk tonight.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Christina's new site

Recently, we started the process of moving Christina to her new web site. The weblog is the first thing to move. I mention it mainly to give me an excuse to link to it, so Google will notice it.

This is Funny

I came across a recent article at The New Republic, which answered a question that had been going through my head. The Republicans have been attacking Kerry for things he said and did 30+ years ago. Do they really want to move the debate in this direction? Here's a good example:

Kerry in 1970: In His First Campaign For Congress, Kerry Wanted To Defund CIA. In 1970, Kerry told The Harvard Crimson he wanted "to almost eliminate CIA activity." (Samuel Z. Goldhaber, "John Kerry: A Navy Dove Runs For Congress," The Harvard Crimson, 2/18/70)

Bush in 1972: After Smashing Into Trash Cans, Bush Wanted To Fight Future Head of CIA. "In a now famous incident, [Bush] took his then-16-year-old brother, Marvin, out drinking and ran over a neighbor's garbage cans on the way home; and when confronted by his father, he challenged him to go 'mano a mano'outside." (Lois Romano and Mike Allen, "Guard Records on President are Released," The Washington Post, 2/11/04)