Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jackson Brings the Funny as Tahoe Trip Winds Down

Again, I still can't believe how much snow there was on our trip to Lake Tahoe. Check out the drift on our rental house in the photo to the right, and that was on our last day there after the snow had already done some serious melting. You could barely see our house from the road.

After our blizzard-like day of skiing at Homewood on Day 1, we had a brutally windy Day 2 at Alpine Meadows.

But then, as you see in the rest of these photos, Day 3 at Heavenly on the south side of the lake was probably the most perfect day I've ever had for hitting the slopes. Heavenly looks down on the brown valley of Nevada on one side, the lush forestry of California on the other, and the crisp blue lake in the middle.

Jackson was a trooper. He didn't ski at Heavenly, but had fun hanging out in the lodge, climbing the snow banks (pictured), and riding up the massive Gondola. He was great on the flights as well, entertaining everyone who was interested. (He is becoming quite the cheeseball entertainer, and took full advantage of the stage at Alpine Meadows to put on a show for me with his plastic toys and makeshift puppet gloves and socks.)

On the way back, we had a layover in Phoenix so Rachel asked a Southwest attendant if she could have a 24-hour stay so Jackson could see her grandmommy's Scottsdale house for the first time. I had to get back to work, but it worked out well for them. I'm told Jackson was very good, checked out everything in the house, asked nicely for a jellybean, and held grandmommy's hand everywhere they went.

They went to Target and bought clothes and bathing suits, since it was not anything close to Tahoe and DC weather there. Grandmommy wanted to buy Jackson a $50 bike, but he instead wanted some tiny toy hammock with a bear in it for $3. Grandmommy and Jackson were up till 11:30 in the kitchen together and she was very impressed by his utensil-sorting skills and engineer-like mind. He walked throught the whole house with a flashlight finding new things to look at.

When Rachel told him she was tired, he said, "You can' t sleep, you'll miss all the fun things I'm going to do tonight."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Snow, Snow, Snow at Lake Tahoe

This is amazing! As I said in my last post, I've never seen this much snow anywhere. In some places, there were 40 to 50 foot drifts. Not sure where all this is going to melt off to, but Jackson sure is appreciating getting to make snow angels. He may not be much of a skier yet (after all, he just turned three in November), but the boy can climb just about everything, and he's getting some good practice in while we're here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Skiing Is So Much More Fun Than Airline Travel

After an horrendous day of Delta Airlines travel on Friday, yesterday's first of three days of skiing made up for it. We went to Homewood, right near our house in Tahoe City, California. It's a great little resort with three lifts and not many people, and it's known as a place for locals rather than tourists.

Normally there are great views of Lake Tahoe, but not with all this snow swirling around. At one point, the wind actually pushed me backwards on my skis for several feet.

Jackson slept in the car for the first two hours, so it was easier for Rachel and I to swap off taking turns up the mountain with a happy little boy playing in the snow at the bottom.

Our house and everything here is covered in a down-right scary amount of snow. There are 30 or 40 foot drifts along just about every roadway and piled up above first- and even second-floor windows of all buildings. I've never seen this much snow. Not even close! (see the video below for some proof)

All this snow is making skiing phenomenal. The trip out, as I mentioned, was another story. We had a one-hour layover in a busy Salt Lake City airport that turned into six hours because the toilet broke on our second plane, and an additional hour after they decided to de-ice the plane after we taxied out to the tarmac. By now, of course, I was missing all of the North Carolina Sweet 16 game against Marquette.

Finally, we arrived at our rental house and there were a bunch of ladies drinking Bud Light and watching TV. They had it rented for three months. So the rental person came and met us and took us to a different property of hers. It's OK and will do.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do Large Pigs Have the Ability to Control Us All?

As noted here previously, I've begun reading a collection of Phillip K. Dick's classic sci-fi short stories.

"Beyond Lies the Wub," from 1952, is one of his most famous. And surely one of his most pointed.

A spaceship crew captures a large pig-like beast called a "wub" who has the power of sophisticated conversation. The wub even alludes to a possible talent for mind-control. One crew member protests when the captain disregards this nonsense and demands that they kill and eat the wub.

After the captain takes some bites, he asks the horrified crew member to continue the conversation they were having about the travels of Odysseus. The only thing? The crew member had been having that conversation with the wub, not the captain.

I haven't researched what points Dick was attempting to make, but there are several ways to look at it. Ambiguity is always my favorite trait of the best science fiction. It makes you stop and think. In this case, it makes you think about how easily others can take control of our minds and may even be a statement on the pig-headedness of some humans insisting in conquering other species and being closed-minded to the obvious signs of their needs.

If these stories continue in this direction, I'll be adding Phillip K. Dick to my shelf of favorite sci-fi authors, alongside Robert A. Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, and Douglas Adams.

****1/2 out of ***** stars

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Winter's Bone Opens Door on Meth World of the Ozarks

Winter's Bone was a darling of the awards season, but apparently not for the depth of the thin plot.

However, the inside look at how patches of Heartland America are being torn apart by meth labs, dealers, and addicts was certainly the eye-opener for elite Academy voters, who nominated it for best picture.

Life is tough for Ree Dolly, played with genuine Ozark-Mountains wherewithal by relative-unknown Jennifer Lawrence. At 17, she takes care of her two younger siblings while her mother dwells in their shack, no help and staring blankly into the ether. We don't learn what happened to her, but it obviously had something to do with her no-good missing husband.

Ree needs to find her father to keep a bail bondsman from taking the family's property. So this leads her to have to deal with her father's meth-world associates. Not a pretty or nice bunch.

Well worth enjoying, but, at the same time, a little painfully slow and uneventful. Not as fun as all those canoe rides I took down Missouri's Current River in my youth.

***1/2 out of ***** stars

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scott Pilgrim More a Video Game Than a Movie

The first half hour of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is as good as any rom-com you'll find. But the last hour is likely to test the patience of rom or com fans who like their doses of action and video-game fantasy in small doses.

Shaggy-haired Canadian rocker Michael Cera is very funny revising every role he's ever had since his brilliant run as young George Michael in Arrested Development. He falls for a multi-color-haired American wanderer named Ramona (played by the mesmerizing Mary Elizabeth Winstead). That part is endearing. Then the movie gets weird and tiresome as Scott learns he has to fight all seven of Ramona's exes before he can truly win his love. Something seems missing from Ramona's character, and I'm not sure we ever learn just why these exes need to be fought off.

Some of the famous bit players also don't measure up to the standards of Cera and Winstead. Jason Schwartzman lacks humor in his role as the mastermind of the evil-exes plot. And Kieran Culkin and Anna Kendrick are underutilized.

*** out of ***** stars

Phillip K. Dick Uses a Cuckoo Clock as a Metaphor for Psychotic Murder

I've read a good amount of science fiction over the years, but somehow missed the works of Phillip K. Dick. And after enjoying so many of the movies based on his stories (Minority Report, Total Recall, and Blade Runner, not to mention the new The Adjustment Bureau, which is high on my list of must-sees), I figured it was time to start with some of his short stories.

The first one I read in a $1.99 Kindle edition of The Best of Phillip K. Dick is a curious and simple little tale called "Beyond the Door."

In the story, Larry Thomas buys his wife Doris a cuckoo clock, but she holds it against him in a way that leads us to believe that she doesn't like her husband at all. She seems to build a relationship with the clock, essentially replacing her husband with the cuckoo.

Then one morning, while Larry is working, Bob Chambers visits Doris. But when Larry arrives home, he kicks Bob and his wife out. With Doris out of the house, the cuckoo oddly never announces the time anymore. But when Larry finally gets around to trying to fix the evil little thing, it bursts out of the box and pecks him right in the eye. He falls off the chair he's working on, breaks his neck, and dies.

Very simple and short story, but effective imagery of a seemingly psychotic wife who, indeed, may be considerably "cuckoo." And murderous.

**** out of ***** stars

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ugly Stars Dot Georgtown Hoya Universe

Another year of season tickets ended Saturday with a great time had with seat-mates Peter and Justin. Unfortunately, it was a pretty sour note to watch our Georgetown Hoyas lose our last two home games. The first loss was to Cincinnati that included an ugly broken hand for star Chris Wright. The last loss was to the always-despised Syracuse Orangemen and their rabidly annoying fans.

The only redeeming part of the Syracuse game was the star power in the Verizon Center. Georgetown grad Bill Clinton sat near the Hoya cheerleaders and got his photo taken with them. Former NBA and Hoya great Alonzo Mourning received an award at halftime and also chatted for a bit on the sidelines with Clinton.

And ugly was in the house. Although he actually didn't seem like a bad-looking guy at all, Sam Cassell, voted "Ugliest NBA Player of All Time," sat next to us in the scout section (see photo above).

Another proud member of that list was in the house. The seventh ugliest NBAer, big man Gheorghe Muresan, sat alongside the truly primitive Geico Caveman.

Speaking of ugly, it was pretty rough having to sit through home defeats this year to Cincinnati, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh. Let's hope the Big East and NCAA tourneys, as well as next year, look a little better.