Thursday, November 30, 2006

Goalie pics

As promised. View the album here.

(The arena lends the pads, but is short of sticks. My father will buy Child Three a goalie stick for Chanukah, so long as I "tell him it's no way to make a living!!!")

Bonus proof that the world is ending:

In Montreal, it's 15 degrees C and we've had a half-hour of snow this season.

In Vancouver, they have blizzards.

Rice University's football team was invited to its first bowl game since 1961. When I went to the school, I saw the football team win a home game for the first time in four years.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


My blog traffic quadruples Tuesdays and Wednesdays because this is the blog that shows up when folks search for "House" on Google. Sorry, Diane.

My teaching duties have ended for this year. The pay is OK, but what makes the effort worthwhile is when you get an e-mail that says "Thanks for a good course. I learned a lot!" And I did.

I have a long list of obligations to complete before I get back to original creative screenwriting. Oddly, blogging isn't on the list, and yet....

I have just signed a contract for writing/editing/updating/research on some Montreal travel info. As I mentioned previously, I was offered the contract as a direct result of this blog. I'd like to ask all you Montrealers to add a comment to this post with your favourite things to do and places to go. Make my life easy.

Now, I'm off to get a haircut, call ACTRA, and write up a Reader's Digest report all at once.... Multitasking's where it's at.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A funny "Studio 60" and other observations

Dang. I had a post earlier, but Blogger lost it. Let me try to recreate it....

"Studio 60" made me chuckle last night. It seems like the show finally let Matt Perry do the funny in a way he's comfortable with. He gave a performace that seemed... joyful. He gets to cock his head in that Matthew Perry way. Although his appearance has been poorly advertised, the episode gives show collaborator Mark McKinney some face time. Even playing a somber deadpan, he cracked me up with his first line.

(Posting about "Studio 60" before its shown in the US gives me a bit of a thrill. I asked Alex if that makes me a bad person and he said maybe, but it for sure made me a Very Good Canadian.)

The show is certainly getting funnier. It addresses an early critique of the show, that this drama about a comedy wasn't funny enough.

Laughing is good, but I seem to only remember odd, disturbing dreams. Friday night, I dreamed that Elvi had left me to take up again with her Husband One (I'm her Husband Two). Last night, I dreamed that she'd come back from music camp, which in the dream she'd attended with her band. (In life, she'd gone with a gaggle of high-school girls.)

In the dream, she returned home with many tattoos. Her bottom was covered in a small fishnet pattern that had a rose at every intersection of the lace. Even within my dream, I thought thath the elaborate pattern had to be painful - but Elvi told me she'd been drunk so it didn't hurt much. Her bandmates had tattooed signatures on her back. Down from her hips on the front of her thighs, the tattoo artist had written vertical sentences that alternated in black and orange ink. He'd written business card info and "care of" instructions.

I argued with her about the tattoos, but then had to leave to join family at a meeting in a sort of dining hall. The meeting before ours was some sort of Israeli-Palestinian workgroup. I entered the hall and sat with my (deceased) grandfather, my dad, and Child Three, also male. (The three older of us are all first-born males of their fathers; Child Three is a first male, but third child. That probably means something.)

They say you dream every night. Why do I only remember the harsh ones? I'm a dream analyst's dream, I guess.

Next, I'd like to point you to Craig Mazin's blog. I discuss my experiences with migraine and other headaches occasionally
I doubt too many of my readers don't read Craig, but in case you don't, I'd like to point you to his Artful Writer blog. He posts about how he gave up caffeine and got rid of his migraines.

Am I misjudging the situation, or does this NFL season feature far more shutouts than usual? Anybody know? Anybody industrious enough to crunch the numbers?

As I composed the first draft of this post, I received an e-mail from a travel-writing outlet, an e-mail that could help show that Blogging Does Pay. The editor had found my blog and expressed interest in hiring me for a freelance gig. Let's see how that turns out.

Bonus observation:

This is what it looks like when a wife errantly feels herself too dignified to laugh at a whoopee cushion.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Child One and Wife One (and Only) spent the better part of the weekend at music camp. I've spent the last few days with Children Two and Three. They didn't have school Friday, so I had them to keep me busy.

Elvi (Wife One and Only, or WOO) had taken the camera, so I have no pictures of Child One in goalie pads. We worked on half butterflies in practice this week.

Today, I'm reading a script for Alex and preparing quizzes for this last week of classes.

I hear a nap calling....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I once could see

I wish my American readers a Happy Thanksgiving Day - or, as we in Canada call it, Thursday.

Tuesday, I started feeling human enough to put my hard contacts back in my eyes. Yesterday, my right eye was slightly irritated, not enough to do away with the lens, but enough that I took the lens out to clean it and re-inserted it.

So, at 4:45 last night (it gets dark early here by the North Pole), I'm waiting for oncoming traffic to clear so that I can turn left onto Somerled from Grand (southbound). Just as I have the room to go, I blink, and out pops my left contact lens, the one that had been fine.

Normally, a lens will rest on my cheek, and I can grab it - but this one is not there. I try not to move more than necessary as I scan my jacket and lap. Within seconds, the cars behind me start honking. I either have to drive, and move my arms to steer, or sit there and clog traffic while I look for the missing lens. Admittedly, it's not "Sophie's Choice", but it is a $150 contact lens.

The eye that can still see is my keratoconoid eye, which remains a bit astigmatic even when corrected with a hard lens. The eye without the lens might as well be made of glass. And it's night out already, remember. There's no point in looking for the lens. I had to complete the turn.

I drive to our destination, Child Three's hockey rink. I sit still. I ask Child Three to look me over to see if he can see the lens. He checks me out with the all the dedicated concentration of a goldfish on cocaine. He doesn't see the lens on my jacket, on my lap, behind the rear view mirror, or in the glove compartment.

I also look, futilely. I have no choice. I have to get up. I hope the lens falls out of my clothing onto the driver seat, but I'm not that lucky. I carefully peel off layers of clothing. Nothing. There's not much more I can do with one modestly good eye, no light, and an antsy six-year-old.

Child Three has always wanted to play goalie. (So did I when I was that age, and I did for a few years, until it got boring.) Tonight is the first practice in which the organization will distribute goalie pads and sticks to prospective goalies. I know the basic goalie techniques and I've been teaching them to Child Three off ice, but now I'm going to have to go skate with 45% vision. It's doable, but I go on the ice hoping I won't crush a kid on my blind side. I'm the only parent or coach there who has any goalie knowledge, so sitting out is not an option.

The practice went well. In drills, Child Three was super. He's handling the stick properly, upright and flat on the ice. Unfortunately, he lost focus in the post-practice mini-game and went flopping on his belly. I'll take pictures at the next practice, Saturday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Watch "Studio 60" tonight (spoilers)

You Americans should watch "Studio 60" tonight. It's a heck of a lot better than last week's episode, and that's not faint praise. The episode is about the show and post-show after the events in Nevada. It left me thinking by the end of the episode, "Wow, that all took place in real time."

Writers especially will appreciate this week's show, from the use of basketball overtime periods to designate acts to the advice to introduce a sidekick to help avoid voice-over exposition. That made me chuckle.

Those of us who watched last week's "30 Rock" can compare how the two shows treat the issue of product placement. "30 Rock" made fun of the issue, with blatant mentions of Snapple, comic to the point of an actor in a Snapple costume. "Studio 60" takes a more serious perspective through Danny and Jordan's discussion - which does its part to throw out some brand names. One cut from Danny and Jordan to the writers' room reveals Ricky sitting behind a beautiful MacBook, Apple logo front and center. Danny also fetched some sort of food from a vending machine at some point, but I didn't catch what that was - if that was product placement, it was ineffective.

The fictional "Studio 60" crew comes up with an elegant solution to product placement: they will design a set around LA billboard culture. I'm guessing the real "Studio 60" will be adopting that set for the same reason. It's a nifty recursive solution.

That these two NBC shows about TV writers raise the issue leads me to wonder if a directive on product placement came down from NBC management one show cycle ago.

I don't object to product placement. Last week's "House" had John Larroquette's waken-from-a-decade-in-a-vegetative-state Gabe ask what an Ip-Od was. Cute.

Bonus breakthrough:

As I drifted off to sleep Saturday night, I had a great new slant on the beginning of "Sheep's End" pop into my head. It's down in note form, but I don't have time to write it for a few weeks. It helps solve some nagging issues I had, with plot and cliche. And it adds a new joke, of the non-ass variety.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In hot water!

Saturday, while the rest of the family visited friends to shower, I waited at home to receive a replacement hot-water tank and the gentlemen who would install it.

They showed up and refused to either remove our old tank or leave the new one. Our house had two breakers of 15 amps leading to the water heater, but the tank needed at least two breakers of 20 amps, they said. I don't know much about electrical systems, but I do know it's relatively simple to replace a breaker. I promised we'd do that if they switched the tanks, but they refused.

Their steadfast commitment to the letter of the law might have been admirable had they not decided to spend the time meant for the replacement sitting in the truck doing nothing. They were still there when I left 20 minutes later to pick up Child Three from a birthday party.

Our friend Charles, who is skilled in the electrical arts, installed the correct breaker for us, and removed a wire patch as well. We got the new tank this morning. Luckily, the company sends crews out on Sunday.

I did shower yesterday, at my cousins', but it's nice to get the dishwasher back.

Bonus note to Shecanfilmit:

I read the Didion piece, and while I can relate to the misery, her facts are dated. There are now medicines that will stop migraines in progress, like Imitrex and Zomig.

I did try ergotamine therapy, but because I almost never get an aura, it doesn't work well for me. Someday, I'll write an essay on my migraine experiences - but the migraine itself was only a small part of my malaise of the past few days. I still have a bit of a tension headache....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Answering Mr. Dixon

I slept another 11 hours last night.

Tracy, my physiotherapist, worked on my shoulder a bit, then decided to try to help me with my headache. She used her fingers on my neck muscles near the skull attachments, in a way I can describe as either deep massage, pressure-point acupuncture, or plain old poking. She reduced the severity of the headache, but tension headaches are muscle-based after all.

I took some ibuprofen at night and was feeling good by bedtime, but the tension headache was back when I woke up. More ibuprofen banished it again.

Will Dixon asked in a comment to my last post if I've tried Zomig. I haven't, but I do have a prescription for the similar drug, Imitrex. I use the nasal spray delivery, but I didn't try it yesterday because of my cold. In hindsight, I should have.

(Zomig claims an efficiency of only 6% over placebo in the first ten minutes, rising to 40% better after two hours. Those are better response rates than Imitrex claims. Might be time to switch.)

Mr. Dixon also asks if there's anything to be done about brilliant, disruptive children. I'll limit my suggestions to practical solutions - one one one teaching would work well, but I can't pay for it, nor do I have the patience to home-school.

In Child Three's case, the disruption is a clamouring for attention, we think. He's the youngest of three and I've noticed that he has usually had to be loud and repetitive to be noticed. I'm of the school that thinks the behaviour pattern is primarily ingrained rather than learned, but reinforcing the behaviour can't help.

The strategy we're going to try is to try to get Child Three to appreciate that he can get attention with results. I don't think there's a way to restrict his quest for attention, so the correct tactic is to target it in a more productive manner. It boils down to ignoring behaviour we deem unacceptable - not punishing it, but ignoring it - and awarding acceptable behaviour with attention.

In my e-mail sig, I quote the character Grandma Woody from "Northern Exposure": "All we are, basically, are monkeys with car keys." I believe that profoundly. We are the way we are because our genes dictate that. We can learn to change, but our nurture is only the veneer on our nature.

I have to admit that part of me says do nothing. The disruption only harms the other children and thus gives the disrupter a competitive advantage. But that's just the Darwinist in me talking.

Bonus point for house:

Sometime yesterday, our water heater started to hemorrhage - wait, that's not accurate. It started to aquarrhage from its base seal. We rent our heater, which is financially inefficient but should mean that when we have problems, they are fixed promptly.

We'll be buying our next heater, elsewhere. And moving up from 40 gallons to 60 gallons, so we can stop rationing shower times when we have houseguests. Should we go for 80 gallons?

Bonus bonus:

Kudos to the Gazette for the subhead on the story of the company that owns Victoria's Secret buying local lingerie company La Senza.

The story, on the front page of the Business section, continues on page 2 of the section with this subhead:

LA SENZA Bras helped bring two sides together


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Still feel like crap

But now, I have a little crap cherry on top. My last 24 hours:

11:30 am: Manage to teach through an entire class despite a head full of phlegm and cramps. I drive home and do some work for Alex.

1:30 pm: Child Two comes home from her half-day of school. I'm feeling exhausted so I ask her to wake me at 3:00 so I can go pick up Child One's school carpool on time.

2:30 pm: Phone call for me.

3:00 pm: Child Two and I do carpool then retrieve Child Three from a friend's house. We shop for dinner fixings.

4:30 pm: We ge home and I collapse on the couch. I still feel exhausted and my legs feel like lead weights.

6:45 pm: I force myself to eat a bit despite my low-grade stomach ache.

7:30 pm: Parent-teacher interview with Child Three's parents. He's brilliant and advanced, but disruptive and disorganized. I was never disruptive.

8:00 pm: Back home, I climb onto the couch and watch the Habs beat the Bolts. I take two Tylenol nighttime cold pills.

10:30 pm: Go to bed.

4:15 am: I wake up with a migraine. Take a Dilaudid (2mg). I try to read, but give up. I wander around because lying down is too painful.

4:45 am: I take another Dilaudid because the first does nothing.

5:45 am: Still in pain, I take a third Dilaudid. I hop in the shower because it's the only thing I can do standing up.

6:15 am: I go back to bed. The pain is bearable, not gone. It feels like a standard tension headache.

10:15 am: I wake up. I read the sports section of the paper before I again succumb to headache and exhaustion and go back to bed. I also fell nauseated.

11:30 am: The migraine's back full strength. This pisses me off. At least when I took Percocet, those pills would kill the migraines. I became inured to the Percocet and asked my doctor for something stronger. These Dilaudid aren't so effective. I take two more. I wonder if I'm going to make my 3 p.m. physio appointment. I haven't done any of the exercise for about a week anyway - my first lapse of more than two days since I started. And because I went to sleep with wet hair, I make Einstein look like a jarhead.

Now: Excuse me, but I think I have to go throw up.

Bonus pun from six-year-old Child Three:

"Dad, Uranus is like Jupiter because it's full of gas!"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Minor changes

I massaged the blogroll. Goodbye, I Am Trying to Make You Laugh and Agents Are Evil. Say hello to the Word Demon and the jaWiki.

My synopsis went to Robert Saturday evening. I wish I'd been able to find a copy of the book, but I'm not displeased with my work.

I have two more weeks of school, then a week of grading. I'm chomping at the keyboard bit. I can't wait to have large stretches of time to devote to my waiting scripts once December rolls in.

Friday night, I shared a delicious Vietnamese dinner with my small Montreal screenwriters group. We talked food more than writing, but one of the ideas thrown around the table was a collaboration. Collaborative writing - and I don't mean two or three-person partnerships - is entertaining and can be good exercise, but my four dinner-mates were taking it a bit more seriously than that. I'm not sure I'm up for a serious collaboration, beyond what I do with Nearmiss. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What was real in "Borat"

Salon has the info you're looking for, oh, ye users of Google who find themselves here.

Salon's article looks at the sequences in the "Borat" movie and gives you the skinny.

Briefly: the only folks who knew what was going on were Pam Anderson and the hooker, who was played by an actress.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Feel like crap

I have some sort of virus. I'm achy and tired with an occasional headache. It's probably just a cold, but I'm more tired than usual.

Maybe I'm tired because I had to get up extra early yesterday to go to a father-daughter breakfast at Child One's school. The school served bagels and lox and Andy Nulman as guest speaker. Good stuff, all.

I met with Robert the director after the breakfast. Also good stuff. A producer has asked him for a synopsis of a fairly popular British novel with the idea of hiring him to write a draft. He can't do that alone - he has a sense of story, but he has trouble writing. In terms of the actual banging on the keyboard, he may be dyslexic. In terms of what he tries to bang at, he has a tendency to write to what he has in his head without putting that down in words. It makes his work difficult to understand to others. He needs an editor - me.

He's brought me on board as a partner, and I'll get to work on his version of the synopsis today. Shifting into a Bridget Jonesy mode now....

Bonus entertaining visitor log entry:

At 9:44 p.m. Eastern Time last night, somebody in Toronto found 101 with a Google search for "in kenny v.s spenny did kennys mom die". That was 14 minutes into last night's episode of "Kenny vs. Spenny". Looks like Spenny isn't the only schlemiel in that city.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Digging through my archives

One of the nice consequences of the Great Cleaning of 2006 here at the Webs household is that we get to open and rummage through boxes that have been packed since our last move or two.

I found copies of "the Web", a glossy British magazine from IDG which offered me a column on media in 1996. Upon rereading my work, I didn't find it as crappy as I thought it might have been.

Beside my desk, a foot-and-a-half pile of old file folders waits for me to dissect it. I flipped through it. One of the items is my first ever script, a spec of "Northern Exposure" that back in the early 1990s got a few reads by agents. I still have an electronic copy of that, so the find wasn't as impressive as the blue binder with the label "The Battle of Kadesh: 1299 BCE/Egyptian vs. Hittite/Raamses II vs. Mursil II" on it.

In the fall of 1985, I took Hist 363 with John Guilmartin (then at Rice University). For the class, I designed a wargame instead of writing a common final paper. I've kept the maps and unit counters close, but these blue-bound rules got lost in the shuffles - until now. What makes this so great a find is that my digital copies of the rules have become corrupted and cannot be rescued. A bit of scanning and a bit of OCR and I'll get them back.

What I tried to do with the wargame was establish tactical and strategic phases of maneuver. Each general controlled divisions on a large-scale map. When contact is made, the battle transfers to a map of higher resolution.

I've played the game once, with Guilmartin. It went well, although we decided that we'd need to create some sort of rule to reduce the flexibility of the archers in selecting targets. They could act far too much like modern artillery, firing east, then wheeling and sending a volley north, for example. Each archer may have had that ability, but the group would not have the communication to launch sequential attacks in multiple directions with cohesiveness. (Note to self: maybe step their attack value after changing facing.)

Computers would lessen the complexity of the move from a strategic game to a tactical game, and I've often wondered if I could find programmers to get a computer version of the game out. Now that I have the rules again, I wonder if it's worth the effort.

Bonus archival history:

It's no surprise to me that "Borat" is raking in the cash. Opinions of the film spread by word of mouth should be highly positive, if my observations of the preview audience I was part of mean anything.

For those of you who missed that post of a few months ago and who are too lazy to click the link, here's the key passage: "You'd think Borat wouldn't be for everyone, but the older couple on my left laughed as hard as I or Simon on my right did. I offer my fullest admiration to co-star Ken Davitian for his bravery during the hotel fight and subsequent chase scene. That takes balls."

Balls. Hehehe.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Intardweb takes notice of Child One

The photo of Child One's pumpkin has begun to spread across the Intardweb like... - well, like a pumpkin vine.

A blog called Written Wyrdd - A Speculative Fiction Zone has reposted the photo and linked here.

Written Wyrdd is trying to write a novel. I'll be sure to post the text here if and when he gets published.

I kid, sort of.

What I should have mentioned previously is that not only did Child One design her pumpkin, she carved it herself as well.


Japanese fishermen have captured a dolphin with a pair of hind flippers.

I love stuff like this. Some cetaceans (whales and dolphins) have vestigial hip bones and some occasionally have malformed protuberances where the hind limbs once were, but this example has a full-blown case.

The flippers are about the size of a man's palm.

I hesitate to link to the Associated Press story (here at Fox News) because the reporting is so bad from a biological standpoint, but it's what I can find online.

What's wonderful about this find is not that these hind flippers show up right where hind limbs might have been predicted to reappear - and, I assume, contain the proper homologous bones. No, the wonder here is the theory of the hopeful monster. For those too lazy to click this link to Wikipedia, I'll explain briefly.

Hopeful monsters are the engine of macroevolution. Mutations create instances of gross morphological change in organisms. Because these organisms are radically different than the normal form, they are monsters. The "hopeful" applies to the possibility that these gross changes will prove a benefit.

While most modern evolutionary theory remains based in the standard theory of very small mutations that accumulate over time, the appearance of these flippers seems to show that hopeful monsters exist.

Almost certainly, a four-flippered dolphin would be less equipped than a two-flippered dolphin. The flippers are not used for propulsion, so an extra set would lead to drag without much benefit. Still, consider this a stepping stone for an interesting thought experiment. What if a dolphin with four flippers learned to be a shallow-water ambush predator? Four flippers might provide a more stable base on which to rest and leap from the seabed. If so, the presence of hind flippers would make the animal better equipped, and its similarly equipped offspring would outcompete its two-flippered conspecifics.

Given enough time, these creatures might evolve into an animal that could forage on land for short trips. Mutations that strengthen the four flippers and make them sturdier might stick if that proved an efficient strategy. Before you know it, we might have land-dolphins terrorizing the small fauna.

What's that? Something like this happened already?

Oh, I guess that renders my thought experiment moot. Or not.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"How Not to Make Movies"

"How Not to Make Movies" is a fun satire of student short films, made as a student short film in Turkey.

I learned of filmmaker Nemo Ramjet (great name for a superhero, eh?) through Darren Naish's blog. Nemo is an illustrator primarily, and he enjoys drawing the results of hypothetical evolution. Some of his work reminds me of "Alien Planet", which aired on the Discovery Channel last May.

Enjoy the short.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween chez Webs

First, Child Three:

By coincidence, he looks a lot like this fellow:

Geek test: what is that a picture of, and where can you find it?

Child Three's pumpkin design:

Child Two:

And her pumpkin(s):

I love the face on the victim.

Lastly, Child One:

And her little masterpiece:

Bonus recipe:

What do you do with leftover bacon when you have no tomatoes? You make a BAM. That's bacon, Granny Smith apple (thinly sliced), and mayo. I put this together the other day, and it's delicious. Just make sure you have good bread. The quality of a sandwich relies on the bread. I used Portuguese rolls - well, the plugs of bread that were left over from turning the bulk of the roll into a breadbowl for soup. Yummy!

Laptop resuscitated!

With the help of the AGW hive-mind, I diagnosed the problem with my laptop. The battery was dead.

Wall juice comes into the laptop through the cord and is routed through the battery if it's installed. A dead battery dams those electrons and not enough get through to power the screen or wireless card.

When I removed the battery, the wall juice followed a different path, and the laptop powered up normally.

Now all I've got to do is buy a replacement battery. That'll run me $70 or so on eBay.