Monday, June 12, 2006

a poem

A close personal friend of mine has written a poem about the gap she perceives between the character of Christ and the judgmentalism among the Religious Right -- and, she notes, in her own heart as well. My favorite portion:
So I gotta say
I love you
Because my father told me to
So I love you James Dobson
Even though you are mouthy and opinionated
And you have bad Republican hair.

Friday, June 09, 2006

the artist in movies

Evangeline had her big motion picture debut today with her final research project for the school year.

For her project this time around, Evangeline decided she wanted to research movies. I never need to encourage her much to try new things, and since everyone else does the poster presentations (and since she already did one poster, and a written paper), I turned her this time onto the idea of making a movie that she could show to explain how movies are made.

We started the work back in April, actually, with a few phone calls that finally led to Evangeline videotaping an interview in early May with a close personal friend of mine named Tim who makes movies from man-in-the-street interviews for his church.

She also interviewed her little sister, who reciprocated and interviewed Evangeline herself, about why she enjoys movies, and what her favorite movies are. She also read two books about making movies, and to cap it all off, we made a stop-motion animation movie using our refrigerator magnets.

When we finished that stage, Evangeline had 25 minutes' worth of footage on our video camera.

About a week ago, Tim came over and loaded the entire video onto his laptop computer, and we began the painstaking process of editing the movie into its final format. That began with the setup, where we deleted clips from the girls' interviews with one another to get rid of extra silence and repeated sentences, rearranging the remaining clips so that everything flowed nicely, and adding the opening credits.

The actual movie went pretty smoothly. Tim was a great interview, and gave Evangeline all sorts of useful information about how he makes his movies, from describing the filming and editing process, to showing her how he could add special effects, and even videotaping her videotaping him.

We cut a few snippets out here and there -- Tim let slip the seven-letter W/M word, for example -- and Evangeline had a hard time keeping the camera focused on him, so we got rid of some footage of the floor and his lap -- but by and large this went nicely.

The third and final section began with Evangeline's description of how we made the animation movie -- including the bit that it took us close to 25 minutes to make a 25-second clip -- followed by the animation itself.

Bridging the sections were black screens with section names, dubbed over with music -- Tim also added some sound effects to the animation, which included a Toys for Tots train accident, and a snake made of several of our magnets -- and closing it all out were some end credits to all those involved in the movie, including the composers whose music we used, and that was that.

Because of the nature of the work, Evangeline didn't personally do the same percentage of the work on this project as she did on the others, but she still was involved in the entire process.

Tim let her delete individual clips under his supervision, she conducted the entire interview, and we followed her direction on each stage of the editing process, although we always provided guidance and recommendations. All told, it was still a heady learning experience for her.

She was feeling pretty good about the whole thing, and on Wednesday it paid off. After the school installed Apple Quicktime for Windows on a PC in her classroom, she showed her presentation to the class, answered a few questions from the students, and was still riding high at the end of the day.

I'm getting a DVD copy for ourselves, and probably for grandparents as well. If I ever feel like it when I have access to a high-speed connection, I may even put the video up on the Internet for others to watch if they feel so inclined.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Copyright © 2006 by David Learn. Used with permission.

fresh strawberies ... yeechh

Never let it be said that I don't do things for my wife and children that I don't personally enjoy.
Strawberries, for instance. I don't know, but I've never liked them. Can't stand them, really. Still, Natasha and the girls love them and love to eat them. We buy them constantly at the supermarket, usually when they're on sale but often when they're not.
Well, last year I bought two strawberry plants and put them in our garden out front. Over the course of the summer, the plants multiplied and spread and assumed control of about half the admittedly small garden. Once strawberry season hit this year, the plants began churning out the fruits at a steady clip. Every day for the past week-and-a-half, I've gone out in the morning and picked off a half-dozen or more strawberries for the three of them to split.
Yesterday, Evangeline gave me the highest compliment a home gardener can
get from his child. She said: "These are even better than the strawberries we buy at the store!"
She gets it. She really gets it. Home-grown produce is the best sort. Even if -- and I absolutely mean this -- even if it's not the sort of produce you like to eat yourself.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

out of the sewer

Three hundred dollars later, here we are. The line is working again, and we have a better picture of what goes on in our sewers.
Proper drainage requires a healthy slope so all the slude we trudge can sludge downhill. Unfortunately, when the sewer line begins in the basement, it's already starting pretty low. And since the sewer main out in the street is also underground, the slope from basement to sewer main is not exactly substantial.
Additionally, liquid flowing downhill picks up speed as it moves from a larger pipe to a smaller one. That's a pretty basic hydraulic principle that is true in the inverse -- the pressure and speed drop as the liquid flows from a smaller pipe into a larger one. Our pipe has a low slope, and out near the sewer main, it widens into a pipe about the same size as the main itself. Ergo, when the sewage arrives at the main, it has little pressure going for it, and easily builds up.
Righting this problem would require relaying the pipe to create a better slope, and installing a several hundred dollar pump to get the water from our washing machine to flow uphill and into the pipe. We're talking several thousands of dollars by the time it's all said and done.
So, instead, the plumber needs to use some 90 feet of coil to work everything free, and we're stuck paying some $200 or $300 every time we need him to come out.
I feel better knowing all this, don't you?

life in the sewer

Continuing a longstanding tradition, we have called the plumber once again to clear our sewer line. For reasons that remain unclear, this line keeps clogging and sewage backs up into our laundry tubs in the basement. We have dealt with this every year since we moved into the house, making this the first summer where it has become a problem.
Quite frankly, I'm sick of this crap. We've tried organic techniques, like waste-eating bacteria; we've tried mechanical techniques, like using a rubber bladder attached to the hose to give the sewer an enema and blast everything loose.
Nothing works.
I was going to fill this entry with tons of synonyms for the brown stuff, but I don't feel like it. I'm sick of this shit.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

humpty dumpty

I was cleaning out my hard drive, when I found this file. I don't remember writing it, so I'm not sure how it got on my hard drive since I don't remember getting it my e-mail either, and it's in Word format too. Still, if I did write it -- and it's possible I did, I suppose -- I can't say I think much of the worldview it expresses.

The top of the wall was in sight now; just a little further, and he would be free. What a shock it had been that morning, when he had discovered the fate that awaited him and all his relatives. How he had argued with them, fought to convince them to join him in this desperate bid for freedom.

"I can't see what your problem is," his sister had told him. "It's our fate; it's what we're born to."

"But there's so much more to life," he had pleaded. "Don't you see? We don't have to end like this. We can become so much more."
"Get off it, buddy," someone else had said. "It's not that bad. At least you'll make someone happy when you go."

Not me, he thought resolutely. No one, not even the king himself, is going to make an omelette out of Humpty Dumpty.

The top of the wall was in reach now. With a mighty lift, Humpty Dumpty pulled himself up. In the forest outside the palace there were chickens still undomesticated. One of them would take him in, hatch him, and raise him up so he could explore his full potential. He was going to make it. He sat down to catch his breath, and inadvertently sent a few pebbles falling down into the keep.

A mounted guard heard the noise and called out to him. "Stop! In the name of the king, who goes there?"

Humpty looked down at the guards who were gathering in response to the sentry's challenge and looked wistfully out at the life he had nearly found.

"It is I, Humpty Dumpty, a true egg and no breakfast to any man!" he cried, and with a mighty lunge, he threw himself to the ground in front of the guard's mount, where he fractured his shell and spattered yolk everywhere.
Still, I shared this piece with two friends of mine, Aaron and David. Our ensuing discussion follows, duly color coded:
Mr. Dumpty preferred either liberty or death to bondage.  I personally find
it an admirable stance.

It's a rather bleak message, I think. "Accept the fate others have decreed for you, or perish." And he wasn't slated for slavery anyway -- just breakfast. As it is, the ants got him.

Oh, well, in that case, never mind...  =P

Wellll, since we're on the topic:

1. What was little Bo Peep doing that she managed to lose a whole flock of bleating sheep?

2. Why was little Boy Blue tooting his own horn? (See #1)

3. What was nimble and quick Jack running away from, and why was there a candlestick in his way, and why didn't he just go around?

4. How did the three blind mice know where the clock was, and how did they pull off an "Everest-climbing" feat by touch alone, without guide ropes or picks to aid them?

5. If woodchucks can't chuck wood, why do we care how many of them could do it?

6. Why are pecks of pickled peppers growing to be picked? Doesn't Peter have to pickle them himself?

7. How cold were the farmer's hands that the cow was able to jump the whole way over the moon?

8. Why was the itsy bitsy spider climbing a spout? What's at the top of the spout worth going to see -- unless this was "Amazing Spider WaterSlide Park?"

9. Studying the forensics of this crime, did Jill push Jack down the hill and then slip herself, resulting in their early demises, or were they both just complete klutzes?

10. Why did the old woman choose to live in a shoe, instead of a condominium? How did she manage to fit in a shoe? Was it a platform pump or a sling-back heel, or maybe a combat boot? And why did she have so many kids, especially if she didn't know what to do with them, and where was Mr. Old Woman -- had he left her for Goldilocks?

11. Why was Jack Horner sitting in a corner to eat his pie (was he in trouble? Or did he sneak off with it?), and why did he call himself good if he was nothing but a common thief? And who the heck puts plums in their pies anymore?

12. If you recognize the twinkles to be stars, why the hell are you wondering what they are? Don't you already know? (They're STARS, stupid!)

These are challenging questions, and I don't expect you to have answers for all of them.