Sunday, July 30, 2006

Alton Brown, interrupted

I was all set to watch the Alton Brown channel, a.k.a. the Food Network, yesterday. Ten episodes of "Good Eats", followed by a show of background and bloopers, followed by the premiere of his new show "Feasting on Asphalt".

All was going to plan until a little headache kicked in. I took my standard 600 mg of ibuprofen, but that didn't help. Uh oh. That meant a migraine was on the way.

My Dilaudid was depleted, but I had two Percocet left - somewhere. I had taken them on the camping trip of a few weeks ago, but I couldn't find them. Uh oh, uh oh.

I had some expired prescription Motrin, which is only more ibuprofen. I also squeezed some nasal Imitrex into a nostril. That works half the time, but not last night....

The pain sent me to my darkened bedroom, and I had to cancel my date with Alton.

Elvi arrived home about 9:00 p.m., and soon later I asked her to take me to a hospital emergency room. It's something I've done once before, when neither the painkillers nor the Imtirex worked.

I have an appointment with my GP a week on August 10, but the emergency room whisked me ahead of everyone else. There's something about severe acute pain that punts one to the head of a queue.

A nurse plugged an IV into my arm and added a painkiller called Max-something. It worked, slowly. We got back home by 12:30.

Now, I'm watching "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" with Child Two - the "Tequila" song just started - eating Hungarian cabbage rolls, sausage, and washing it down with pomegranate juice. Yum, as Jane Espenson would say.


My lovely family taped Alton for me, and that's on deck.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Reader's Digest finally killed the paranormal story I was fact-checking. Too much of it couldn't be confirmed. Go figure. I still get paid for my hours of work on it.

I hadn't posted much of screenwriting value in July because I haven't done any screenwriting in July. That story left me so drained that it cut into the rest of my work. I had plans to finish "By the Book" this summer and do a further rewrite on "Sheep's End", but that's not going to happen. I have notes in piles on my desk, but nothing's in the scripts yet.

I spent this week catching up on work for Alex and decompressing. I did some work for him, but another stone fell out of the heavens and hit my on the head. I'm not sure whether to blog about that in detail or not, but it's keeping me awake at night, and that's cutting into my productive morning time even further. It's enough for now to say that it involves my children, the education they deserve and desire, and my inability to provide it.

In brighter news, we inherited a large file cabinet and I transferred my 101 Squadron research documents into it. I still get a kick out reading this stuff, which is why it took me all evening.

Beyond historical value, some of this stuff is tantalizing. I'll never know what prompted acting OC Maury Mann to write this, for example:

Among the documents, I found two floppy disks and a Zip disk that I'd forgotten about. The Zip disk has high-quality versions of dozens of photographs. I think Boris Senior gave me one of the floppies, which may contain the English manuscript of the autobiography that was published in Hebrew. I don't know what's on the other floppy, but I'll find out this weekend.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My beef with Sportsline

On July 19, MLB changed the official stats of Greg Maddux. wrote: "A scoring change from a May 24 game against the Marlins has taken five earned runs away from Greg Maddux's record, lowering his ERA from 4.99 to 4.60. Scorer Ron Jernick said he made the change after the Cubs appealed the May 24 ruling to MLB. The reversal also takes a hit away from Hanley Ramirez and gives Ronny Cedeno an error."

Sportsline, however, refuses to make this change for the Irrational League or for any other fantasy-baseball league. This is ludicrous policy, astonishingly outrageous. I've asked twice, and the responses I get from the Sportsline reps amount to little:

Response (Commish Sam) - 07/21/2006 02:42 PM
Your league is automatically updated to reflect official MLB statistics corrections that occur up to seven days after the game has been completed. If the change is made any later, it will not be included in our statistics and your official Fantasy scoring will be based on the original statistic.

Response (Commish Herman) - 07/24/2006 09:47 AM
Also please understand the MLB does make corrections to stats, we have up to 5-7 days after the games is played to apply any corrections to stats from MLB, after this time the stats are official. This correction was made after the deadline so these corrections will not be applied to your league. I do apologize for this inconvenience.

In the meantime, those five earned runs are the difference between my team having a fantasy ERA of 4.63 and what should be 4.56. It will almost certainly make a difference in the standings, and may cost me hundreds of dollars. It may affect many other Sportsline customers as well.

I'm astonished at the disinterest Sportsline displays based on what seems to be an arbitrary deadline. The whole concept of fantasy baseball is to play pretend with real stats. If you don't even get the real stats, what's the point?

This is customers' money that Sportsline is toying with. Some enterprising sports journalist should take this scoop and run with it.

Bonus phone news:

Our phone line is back. Thursday night's storm apparently blew the phone fuse. I didn't know phone lines even had fuses in homes.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

When puppets go off

I looked forward to "Greg the Bunny" when it was on Fox in 2002.

I didn't know it had been a cable-access show before that. It moved to IFC to intro movies with puppet parodies before Fox turned it into a sitcom. I didn't know it migrated back, sort of, to IFC last year.

I was channel surfing this evening and found an episode of what's called "The Greg the Bunny Show". Bizarrely, Seth Green played Seth Green and the set-up seemed to take place behind-the-scenes as the gang made the cancelled sitcom . The whole thing lasted maybe 15 minutes, and featured topless women, human-puppet orgies, and Warren DeMontague pleasuring himself while Greg is fired from the show.

A bit of searching turned up the origins of Greg the Bunny and the Web site of the new IFC show. The IFC site lets you watch one episode, a mildly amusing parody of "Annie Hall". The episode I saw was much funnier.

Even without Eugene Levy.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Land line's out

Our phone line has been out of order since the thunderstorm Thursday night. Our neighbours, customers of Bell, still have service. We use Primus, whose reps have told us they have eight business hours to respond. Since we only notified the company Friday afternoon, we are without phone service for the weekend. It's time to reconsider who we choose as our telephone provider.

If you need to call me, use Elvi's cell phone.

Of course, this puts a big crimp in my ability to do research for Reader's Digest, but at least the Internet connection is up. Score one for VoIP.

Bonus fantasy baseball news:

Made my first trade of the year. Three teams are clustered, fighting for second behind Frank (I'm in third, two points back). I have huge leads in the RBI (41 RBI lead) and batting average (.012 lead) categories, and I'm in second, 23 HR over third in that category, but wins are tight and I could gain some points in WHIP and ERA if my guys pitch the way they can. I traded Brad Hawpe and Alay Soler for Bronson Arroyo and Larry Bigbie. I'd be able to add a bat in our monthly add/drop more easily than a top-notch starter.

More good news is that Matt Wise might finally start to close games for the Brewers. That won't gain me points, but it will help me keep the ones I have.

.294 batting average (1st)
169 HR (2nd)
646 RBI (1st)
70 SB (7th)
4.65 ERA (8th)
1.39 WHIP (4th)
46 wins (tied 5th)
17 saves (6th)

Friday, July 21, 2006

All Your Snakes Are Belong to Us

There's even a tenuous link to 101 Squadron: Pee Wee Herman is played by Paul Reubens, who was born Paul Rubenfeld, son of Milt Rubenfeld, one of 101 Squadron's original pilots.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Writer's group meeting

The screenwriter's group I took part in last fall and into the winter disbanded and reformed in the spring to meet Tuesdays. The group focused on specific exercises that frankly did not appeal to me and chose to meet on Tuesday, my hockey night. I dropped out, but stayed in the e-mail loop.

This summer, the group has started to switch days, I'm not playing hockey, and the format has loosened. I attended a meeting last night.

We were eight people, all of us working writers of one sort or another. One person was new to me, the rest I knew from past gatherings. Much of the old group's deadwood has been cut away. The old group was so large so as to have been unwieldy, and many of the attendees were folks with too many words of not enough value. They're gone, and discussions now focus on outlines and structure and art vs. entertainment, and nobody offered to share how they would have written someone else's idea.

Bonus photo of Child Three:

Current L.A. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin was also a catcher for NDG, once upon a time.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israeli Air Force news

After I started the virtual 101 Squadron in WarBirds, several Israelis flocked to fly with us. One of these was an adolescent who flew under the name of Flyboy. He was 13 at the time.

As nearly all Israelis do, he joined the IDF at 18. He applied for and was accepted into pilot training. This weekend, he sent us news. He passed the last sorting flights of the "check Krav" course (vertical sorting) and was selected to continue as a fighter pilot.

The ranks of the virtual 101 Squadron have included fighter pilots in the past, but this is the first of our members to grow up to become one. It's with a little naches that I mention this.

Speaking of aerial exploits in that part of the world, I was sent a pointer to a page with targeting cam footage taken from Israeli aircraft during the current unpleasantries. Most of the footage shows he bombing of bridges and buildings, but you can also see ground crew working on an F-16 and an Israeli MLRS in action.

My favourite movie is "katyusha_130706384k_stream001.wmv". That video shows Katyusha launches from a Hezbollah position in some trees. The launches stop, then troops flee the site as they realize they're under attack. The explosion is spectacular.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Back from camping

The organizer of this camping trip, the father of two boys, set it up as a fathers and sons trip and invited me and Child Three, along with men and boys of a few other families. Then the organizer's brother decided to come with his daughter, and another father decided he wanted to bring both his children, one of either sex, and my girls thought it sounded fun, so it became a fathers and children weekend.

Each family was to be responsible for one meal. We chose Saturday dinner.

We arrived at Voyageur Provincial Park mid-afternoon Friday. I took the tent out of the bag and I immediately remembered our last camping trip, in upstate New York to see the Geneseo air show last summer. It had rained a lot. We had meant to dry out the tent when we got home. We didn't.

The tent was in surprisingly good shape. It smelled a little musty, but you got used to it quickly. It wasn't overpowering.

We set up and sat around. The others weren't up to doing much. Nobody was. It was too hot. The father delegated with bringing wood brought little, so the campfire was only lit once it got dark lest we run out too quickly.

Friday was hot as hell. Saturday was wet as Atlantis. In late morning, the skies opened up. There were about seven children in my tent (a big, two-room affair; Elvi and I registered at REI). I was in the van with my craven dog, who hates thunder, water, and even the sound of rain.

The kids soon burst into the van because the tent was leaking. I thought that was odd. Although too big for a fly, the tent has a water-resistant roof, and it has never leaked before. Child One had put books, clothes, and other items beneath a tent formed of the two air matresses. The pillows and sleeping bags where on the ground. Had the water in the tent been dripping from the roof, that might have worked. The water, however, was seeping up from the floor despite the tarp below. We'd pitched the tent at the bottom of a slight slope - no way around it, really. The tent floor had sprouted puddles.

It stopped raining by 1:00 p.m. or so. We ate lunch and I spent the afternoon in damage control. Fortunately the campground provides washers and dryers. After scrounging enough quarters, I put the wet sleeping bags and pillows in the dryer. I used a large towel to sop up the puddles in the tent, wrung out the towel outside, then repeated until it was dry.

A few small puddles get creeping up, but within a few hours I had saved the weekend. The others went swimming while I stayed to prepare supper:

3 lb skirt/flank steak
1 lb boneless chicken
2 onions
3 red bell peppers

1 C olive oil
juice of 4 limes (about 6 T)
1.5 T grd cumin
1.5 T chili powder
16 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T salt
1.5 T ground pepper

Cut meat into strips and marinate. Skewer meat with cut vegetables. Grill.

It's fajita meat, and good stuff, as was my homemade guacamole. The meat was too tough, which is entirely my fault - I hadn't found flank steak and had to go with round, I think. It was also cooked unevenly, which was not my fault, but was due to the method I had to choose to feed some folks who are finicky about grills.

It was an uneventful weekend after that, although Child One threw up Sunday morning. We were, with one other family, the last to leave, and we couldn't find Child Three. We searched and called. The other father and I thought that Child Three had gone to the beach with another family, and we tried the cell phone but only got voice mail. We decided that I would follow him in cars to the beach (I didn't know where it was). As we pulled out, I spotted Child Three. He was returning from the bathroom. He hadn't told anyone that he was headed there. A minute sooner or later, and we would have left without him. Take that, natural selection!

What is it with my kids?

Bonus list of wildlife members of my family got a kick out of seeing:

syrphid fly
eastern painted turtle (which we rescued before it got crushed by traffic)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Off camping

The children and I will be camping this weekend. Feel free to keep visiting the blog and to click on the Google ads.

I had meant to post an all-star break update on the Irrational League.

Bonus all-star break update on the Irrational League:

We're in second place, four points back of Frank.

.292 batting average (1st)
154 HR (2nd)
582 RBI (1st)
65 SB (7th)
4.64 ERA (8th)
1.40 WHIP (4th)
44 wins (tied 4th)
17 saves (6th)

Alay Soler be damned.

One of my favourite jokes

Before I started blogging, my vocabulary was small. Now, it's big.


I first saw a form of that about a dozen years ago, on a Web site called the Wall o' Shame. It's still there - both the site and the joke. NSD covered the Wall o' Shame on November 1, 1994 (NSD 00.27) and again - to notify fans of the site's server move - on March 16, 1995.

Good times....

I only have the time and energy to post that joke. I find myself fact-checking an article on what I'll charitably describe as the paranormal. I know, I know. Believe me, I know. Worse, it's a 40-page book excerpt. And there are so many mistakes in this thing. Even within its fundamental errors, the text has mistakes - in spelling of names; in definitions; in descriptions.

I'm on page 11, I've worked 20 hours, and I have more than 60 sources already. It's good money, and I'm free to assess this as I feel is correct, but it's draining. My brain could use a good shave to rid it of the fuzz this crap grows. The loot on this job will buy a lot of razors.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fun weekend

The wife and I spent one a night out on the town Friday. We started at the jazz festival, or as I think of it, the Montreal International Festival of Women on Display.

Elvi (the aforementioned wife) and I differ in our approaches to the jazzfest. She likes to walk around and find surprises. I like to find a specific performance to attend beforehand. See, I don't like to listen to jazz - which isn't as much of a problem as you'd think. The jazzfest encompasses a wide variety of musical genres under the jazz banner. Swing, bluegrass, and zydeco all find a home.

That's why I like to have a performance as a destination. It helps me avoid the hard-core jazz, which does little for me. Actually, it does do something for me - it annoys me. I prefer mindless repetitive melody in my music (and that explains why I like this little ditzy - er, ditty.). As a musician, Elvi appreciates skill and technique that just pass over my head.

We tried and failed to meet Giz and Marcel, two of Elvi's DUBB bandmates, at the General Motors stage. We ended up watching a band with impressive technical skill, Elvi tells me. I think the band was called Bombolessé. It was a big band that played what sounded like improv jazz with rap and some salsa influence. I'm all for salsa influence - it was the rest of it that I didn't need.

I'm not as much of a cretin as I paint myself here, I want to add. Last year, or maybe two years ago, we stumbled onto a jazzfest band that played a compelling mix of Quebecois folk and traditional Chinese music. That, I liked.

After an eternity, or maybe it was two songs, we abandoned Bombolessé and headed toward the Downchild Blues Band. It sounded like some good old southern rock blues, but the band ended its set just as we got there. As we wandered, we met Andre, another DUBBer. I'd had enough jazz by that point, so Elvi and I left to go dancing.

We walked to Crescent Street and into Electric Avenue, where we proceeded to dance the night away to songs of the '80s. We like it there because the music is OK, and the crowd skews older than your typical bar scene. I suspect they water down their booze, however. The rum and diet Cokes had no apparent effect.

When we returned home, I ate a pepperoni stick and an apple turnover. Elvi drove her aunt, the babysitter, home. She got back and we, uh, consummated our night out.

I couldn't fall asleep. I felt... uncomfortable. I felt like I feel when I have a migraine, only there was no pain. I had stomach cramps and nausea. At 4:00 a.m., I dashed for the bathroom and lost it - first from the bottom and then from the top. At least I flushed between the two. While the bottom remained stable, the top continued to contribute to the city's ancient and leaky sewer system. I was able to sleep about two hours, then I woke up to coach NDG novice baseball at a tournament across town (in Villeray).

I don't think it was the alcohol that made me sick. I rarely have hangovers, and this didn't feel like one. I was perfectly fine the rest of Saturday, except for the smell of vomit inside my nose which is just now wearing off. I've had two more pepperoni sticks since Friday night. I've had another turnover, too - strictly in the interest of science, as I really should not put pastry into my body (my physiology turns carbohydrate into triglycerides and sets them loose in my blood). I kept both foods down.

If it wasn't the alcohol or the food that made me so actively ill, that leaves two possible culprits: live jazz or sex. I'll let you know which it is, next summer.

Bonus naches:

One of the other coaches said of Child Three, "Boy, he can really whack the ball." Child Three's not the strongest of the kids on the team, but he's among the top five hitters and makes perhaps better contact than any of the others.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Site for entertainment news and networking

You may or may not be aware of Jeff Gund's entertainment industry mailing list. It has blossomed into, a Web site of like information. Eventually, registration will cost you money, but anyone who signs up now will assure themselves perpetually free access.

If you register before the end of July, you may win one of a number of door prizes, including Final Draft or a $1,000 worth of portrait photography.

To register, visit the site, and don't forget to say I referred you. Paste my e-mail address (nyveen[at] for values of [at] approaching @) in your registration form where it asks who referred you to I might win a copy of the Hollywood Creative Directory, which would make a number of of my tasks easier.

What do you get? A listing of jobs and workshops, generally in the LA area. I'm not sure how much use the site is for out-of-towners like me, but it's worth a look. If there's anything I've learned, it's that networking and contacts grease the skids to success. Any small step can help.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Contracts signed

I just got back from signing my Concordia teaching contracts. I'll be teaching JOUR 202 Tuesdays 12:15-2:30 and JOUR 319 Wednesdays 9:15-11:30. this is the first year in a while that I won't be teaching on Monday in the fall semester, which will be a pleasant change. Because of holidays, Monday classes end with consecutive sessions on the Monday and Tuesday at the end of the semester. It throws a wrench into assignment scheduling.

All you students ought to sign up for 319 rather than 318. Really, how much QuarkXpress can you swallow?

I've spent the last two weeks turning Child Three into one heck of a ball player. He's hitting ropes off the T-ball tee pretty much every time now. His fielding is smooth and he always had a good arm. His improvement is impressive. Now, if it would only stop raining during practices, he could show off his skills to the entire NDG (our neighbourhood) coaching staff. Looks like those two credit hours of Coaching Baseball with Coach Bubba Bland at Rice have paid off for me.

Speaking of sports, I need to find a new hockey league to play in. Any of you soft, pasty writers have a spot open? Heck, I'll even play softball, except I can't throw with this bum shoulder. I never was a good fielder, either. But I can still smack that ball around. I think.

Off to pick up Child "The Hammer" Three from day camp....

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jim Baen

Jim Baen died June 28. Baen intrigued me not only because I once consumed large quantities of science fiction, but because he was an experimental pioneer in the file-sharing arena.

As the publisher of Baen Books, he established the Baen Free Library: full-content texts of Baen Books publications. He established it to test the marketing value of open-content media. This was one of the threads I myself followed for NSD. Here's what I wrote for NSD 7.01 (January 14, 2001):
Baen Free Library Offers Free Books

One day, SF author Eric Flint got into a virtual brawl with a number of his peers over online piracy of copyrighted works and what to do about it. One school of thought holds that the problem is best handled with the "handcuffs and brass knucks" of tougher law enforcement and technological fixes. Eric, on the other hand, feels that online piracy is at most a nuisance, and that any losses it causes are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which free book copies usually engender. His publisher, the extremely experienced Jim Baen, told Eric to put his money where his mouth is and make his own books available for free. Eric obliged, and after some reflection so did a number of other prominent authors in the Baen Books stable. And so we are blessed with the Baen Free Library, where Eric Flint, David Drake, David Weber, and other top selling SF authors offer some of their books for free: unabridged, no strings attached, and with the full blessing of their publisher. Visit the library for no other reason than to read Eric's lucid take on the whole issue of content piracy. While you're there, download the books in several popular electronic formats. A brave experiment.

I followed up a year later in NSD 8.16 (April 26, 2002):
Free Content Leads to More Sales - A Study

Can giving away intellectual content increase your profits? If the Baen Free Library is any indication, free, unencrypted information leads to dollars, lots of dollars. Jim Baen is a science fiction publisher. One of his authors, Eric Flint, challenged him to put texts of books up on the Web for free download. Baen agreed, as long as Flint's books would be the ones to go online, and so it happened (see NSD 7.01). Other authors, including Harlan Ellison, claim that pirated texts on the Web cost them royalties - and all of us know about the battles over online music. In this little experiment, Baen and Flint discovered that sales of Flint's titles increased dramatically once they appeared online, sometimes by over 200%. Flint analyzed the numbers and came up with this essay, linked below. While primarily anecdotal in nature, it provides some healthy support for the notion that free electronic content promotes hard-copy sales. Toward the end of his essay, Flint throws out a bit about textbook publishing - when college presses post free e-textbooks, sales of the hardcover books rise for this genre as well. Information may not only want to be free, it might want to make you money....
NSD 7.01:

David Drake, in his Baen obituary, writes that "while e-publishing has been a costly waste of effort for others, Baen Books quickly began earning more from electronic sales than it did from Canada ($6,000/month). By the time of Jim's death, the figure had risen to ten times that."

SF is fine and all, but Baen earned my admiration for putting his financial butt on the line to demonstrate a principle.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Here's a fun video for all you aviation nuts. The star of the clip is a Sopwith Camel, but about two-thirds of the way through, it flies lead in echelon with a Spitfire (Mk IX, I'm fairly sure).

It's rare to get a top-down planform view of a warplane in flight, rarer still for that aircraft to be a classic like a Spitfire. It's a perspective you usually only get in flight sims. Enjoy.

The marketing of "Cars"

I finally saw "Cars". The name of the movie, and the characters, had led me to understand that the movie was based in the racing world.

Yes, the movie starts and ends on the oval. maybe the people in charge of advertising and marketing the movie aimed to draw the NASCAR crowd to the theatre. I'm not a fan of the continuous left-hand turn, so I took a while to get into a theatre to see the film.

While the main character is a race car, the movie takes place in the American badlands. Not about racing, the film is an homage to the sights we don't see anymore as we drive interstates from urban center to urban center. (Yes, I prefer to spell the words "theatre" and "center". Yes, it's inconsistent. Deal with it.)

The end credits of "Cars" indicate this with long lists of thank-yous to out-of-the-way people, places, and attractions. The folks who made this movie love that land. So do I. The animated vistas enthralled me, reminded me of the times I've spent driving across Utah and walking through Montana.

About a week ago, I watched "The World's Fastest Indian", which shares the same love of wasteland/badland/desert scrub, the folks who live there, and their - ugh - values. Those values are an American myth - in the sense of a shared story, not a falsehood.

Disney has a series of videos at its "Cars" Web site. Look for the one titled "Kickin' in on Route 66". You see the moviemakers beginning to grasp the myth on a personal level.

My favourite in-joke in the movie is unusual for its irrelevance to Pixar (for those, see Wikipedia). It's the "Serpentine, serpentine!" line borrowed from "The In-Laws" (the 1979 original). I was the only person in the theatre to crack up at that.

The movie's original title was "Route 66". See, that worked. "Cars" is too generic, and with a lead character covered in racing stickers, it misleads the potential audience. This isn't a movie about cars or racing. It's a movie about the abandoned territories we often now call flyover land.