The Fanboy Menace

Way back during my first month of blogging, I wrote about my the last time I saw a Star Wars movie in the theater. It was probably the sixth or seventh (or maybe eighth) time I saw Return of the Sith in the theaters. But my rationale for going was sound. As I wrote at the timeI figured there won’t be many more times that I can say a Star Wars movie is playing in the movie theaters.

Well tonight, the opportunity presented itself as Star Wars Episode I opened in 3-D in theaters. True, The Phantom Menace is the worst of the six Star Wars movies. But it’s an entertaining flick, and if I’m going to catch the other parts of the saga when their 3-D release hits the theaters in coming years, I might as well start with the first movie.

For a 12-year-old movie not originally shot in 3-D, the conversion wasn’t that bad. There were some scenes that didn’t feel like they had any 3-D elements at all. There were some (like the space scenes) that felt like there should have been more use of 3-D. And there were others where it felt well done.  Overall, I’ve seen the movie a lot and I was surprised at the number of things (mostly in the background) that I haven’t seen or noticed before.

There were a lot of kids in the theater, who seemed entertained, which was nice to see. There was a boy next to me who really enjoyed the movie. I’m glad for him that they just get better from here on out (and part of me couldn’t help but think that The Phantom Menace could have been so much better had George stuck to his original script).

So if things keep to their current schedule, we’ll get a Star Wars movie in 3-D each year over the next six years. Even though I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve gotten to see these movies (in the theater and at home), it will be nice to see them again. And by the time the Original Trilogy gets out, just maybe I’ll bring Hope along.

The Marketing Era Is Over

I’ve been writing the Kingdom for the last six and a half years. Traffic for the blog is what you would expect for a blog about someone’s personal life. My promotional efforts for the blog have consisted of cross-posting entries to my Facebook wall and Twitter feed and sponsoring a page on BaseballReference.com.

For the last three years (maybe longer), I sponsored the player page of Hideki Irabu. Cost me about $20 each year. According to my Google Analytics numbers, since early 2008, Baseball Reference has sent 271 visitors my way. I wasn’t sponsoring the page for the traffic, but rather to recognize a player that I had been a fan of. The message was simple, something that I had written on the blog about Irabu:

For two months in 1998, Irabu was the best starting pitcher on what would become the greatest team in baseball. King Tom still has two Hideki Irabu t-shirts.

Last week, I got an e-mail from Baseball Reference saying my sponsorship fee was going up to $80. I decided to pass. Today, I went to Irabu’s page and now they’re asking for $135 to sponsor the page for a year.  I can kind of understand the hike, Irabu’s name was unfortunately in the news last year.

I don’t begrudge Baseball Reference trying to make some money. Their site is great and I liked supporting them. But at the same time, it’s a lot of money to spend for less traffic than I got from Blogs.4Bauer.com over the past four years. I may sponsor a page in the future (there are plenty of players on the Yankees teams of the 90s that aren’t taken yet).

But for now, I’ll just rely on people Googling Hideki Irabu rather than getting here through his Baseball Reference page.

Off to See the Groundhog?

With the weather we’ve been having lately, it seems like winter is over. Unfortunately, due to the laws of karma (or something like that), we’ll probably get below freezing temperatures and feet of snow in late March.

The Naming Non-Game, Round II

With another child on the way, one of the things The Civee and I have been talking about a lot lately is names.

We’re not planning on finding out the baby’s sex, so we have to come up with two names. We’re pretty sure we have a girl’s name picked out (and no, I won’t share it). But just like last time, we can’t quite agree on a name for a boy. Unfortunately, most of the boys’ names I liked last time around are still on her “definitely not in a million years” list (I also have the same standards for choosing a boy’s name as I did back then).

Still, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind. I’ve been looking at some lists of names, and while nothing has jumped out to me as the perfect name, I’ve seen some possibilities. Many of the lists contain the rankings of the most popular names over the past few years. And while I may like some of the names, the fact that it’s one of the most popular names for boys makes me less likely to choose it.

One particular list, over at familyeducation.com, had some interesting rankings. Take a look at names 24 and 25:

I’m not a huge fan of either name, but it has to be more of a coincidence that those two names are ranked back-to-back. Maybe I should add Jules or Mace to my list of contenders.

Coming to Our Galaxy This Summer

The Civee and I are having another baby.

The Civee is 18 weeks along and is feeling a lot better than she was a few weeks ago. The baby is due around June 27. It’s been tough to keep this news off the blog for as long as I have, but The Civee and I wanted to go for her ultrasound before making it public.

Because Hope was born with a cleft lip and palate, the chances were greater that any other children of ours would be born with one also. Hence, the waiting and a slight bit of nervousness leading up to today. However, in an ultrasound session that seemed like it lasted all day, the technician and doctor declared the baby healthy. While they can’t tell about the palate, the lip is intact, which has taken a lot off of our minds. We also chose not to find out whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, and even now after the ultrasound, we’re fine waiting until late June.

We know Hope will be a great big sister. But she doesn’t know yet. While we’re very excited about the new addition, part of me wishes we could have Hope to ourselves for a little while longer. But I think just like Hope, the new baby will be a lot of fun.

It seems like right now, the baby is enjoying itself in its current environment. The technician managed to capture this shot of the baby giving us the thumbs-up sign, telling us everything’s going to be okay.

But that means more than just everything’s going to be okay. Because Hope has some speech delays, we’ve used some sign-language with her. In our family, the sign for Da-da is the thumbs up. I don’t know how baby number two knows sign language already, but its first recorded communication has made me happy.

*and yes, the titular line of this post is a Star Wars reference

Like Her Dad, Hope Loves Weezer

Yes, I’ll admit it- I listen to a lot of Weezer around Hope. I listen to other music too, but it just so happens that I listen to more Weezer than anything else.

And Hope has picked up on the Weezer awesomeness. As I’ve mentioned before, Weezer has a lot of kid-friendly videos. And every now and then, Hope and I will watch Buddy Holly or Keep Fishin’ (for some reason, she cries when she sees the puppies in the Island in the Sun video). Earlier this evening, we were watching the Buddy Holly video and she started going crazy.  I captured some of it on camera, but this is tame compared to what she was doing at the start of the video.

I don’t know what’s better- her reaction to the video or her correctly identifying The Fonz at the moment when he walks in. Although, the whole going to get No Neck and fixing the chair thing is cute too.

The Parents Doctors Get Warned About

Earlier, at the behest of The Civee, I read a blog entry written by a mother whose daughter was recently denied for a kidney transplant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The story stuck with me in a disturbing way. Not only was the daughter denied because of developmental disabilities, but also because of the general attitude of the doctor and social worker in the story. I’m not the only one who felt this way- a slew of people have blogged about this and commented on the hospital’s Facebook wall, enough to make the hospital put up a special  response to this case. It’s an interesting occurrence- an entity responding publicly to a private matter- and one that is likely to happen more frequently as people air their grievances electronically.

But as a parent, the line in the original story that I keep going back to was something the doctor said: “I have been warned about you. About how involved you and your famliy are…

I’m surprised that a medical professional (or anyone involved in caring for children) would be amazed that a family would have that type of reaction to bad news. These days, people can educate themselves (with varying degrees of credibility) on medical conditions. And they have the right to ask their medical or care providers for their options.  Parents want what’s best for their child and will be involved as much as they can to make things right.

When The Civee and I found out Hope would be born with a cleft lip and palate, we did a lot of research. One of our doctors told us if we ever read anything online, feel free to ask him to clear up any confusion. Even with that advice, we didn’t always get the answers and guidance we needed. When Hope was born, the staff at the hospital did not know how to handle a cleft baby and we did not get some necessary services or even simple answers to our questions. Because we were in a hospital and first time parents with a newborn, we were overwhelmed. We didn’t know how persistent we needed to be when the head nurse did not visit as promised, when the lactation specialist told us to Google advice on pumping or when the occupational therapist never showed up despite us being told three times that she was on her way.  We were counting on them to care for us and our child. We won’t make that mistake next time.

As for the care she’s received since then, Hope has gotten nothing but excellent care from her cleft team at Columbus’ Nationwide Children’s Hospital. They’ve been responsive and have continued to improve their services.

And the asking questions/being involved as a parent thing doesn’t just apply to medical care. Because of the speech delays that typically accompany a cleft palate, Hope receives services from the county’s early intervention program. Hope goes to a school three days a week where she gets speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Last month, The Civee and I were in a progress meeting with Hope’s teachers, therapists and the center’s director. We are very happy with the care she receives and we let them know that. We also asked a number of questions which were answered and we feel good with their plan. Considering I was the only man in the room and how extremely welcoming they were, I had a feeling that not a lot of fathers show up at these meetings.

Not every parent has the time, skills or knowledge to be as involved with their child’s care as they’d like (and The Civee and I still feel we can do more).  Sometimes it seems the system would prefer parents who were more passive rather than those who bring up the difficult questions.  But those providing care should not be surprised when parents ask questions or simply express their desire to be more involved.

Grilling Season Starts When I Say It Starts

Late yesterday afternoon, the temperature in Columbus hit the fifties. That combined with the fact that it was a Friday and I had some pork chops in the fridge made me feel like if I didn’t grill dinner, than I would be wasting a perfect opportunity.

I started things up right around dusk, about the same time the outside temperature seemingly dropped 20 degrees. Even with less light than I’m used to (thanks to the shorter daylight hours) I was able to get the grill started. I had to scramble to find all of the grilling equipment that we had put away for the winter.

Even though I had a good flame, things felt different. Not just the cold or the dark, but even the flame, which stayed blue the whole time I was warming up the coals in the chimney starter. I’ve never seen a blue flame last that long, because usually it dies out once the top coals start burning.

Along with the pork chops, which I had brining since that afternoon, I made some potatoes on the grill and some peas on the oven.

As expected, dinner was great. And it was nice to have some food fresh off the grill in early January.

Weezer in ’97-’98: Indecision and Abandoning the Past

I originally wrote the following for the All Things Weezer blog a year and a half ago. However, ATW recently went through a redesign and the blog is no longer available. So I’m reposting it here, in one part (it was originally broken up into three on ATW). This was written before Death to False Metal, Mikey’s Facebook posts and the release of the Pinkerton Diaries. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

“…and tomorrow we go to LA to make our new record”

Rivers Cuomo spoke these words to a Boston audience on January 14, 1998. With Pat Wilson manning the drums, Weezer’s fans, both those in attendance and those who would later hear the show through tapes and MP3s had reason to be optimistic. Sure, Pinkerton wasn’t a commercial success, but for the band’s fanbase, it was the perfect album. There was some discord among the band during the post-release promotion and tour schedule, but here, in Boston, half of the band was on the same stage, playing together once again. And while Rivers slowly began to distance himself from the Pinkerton material, fans were pleased with these new songs.

Indeed, Weezer was off to Los Angeles to make a new record. But Weezer’s third record wouldn’t hit stores for another three years, during which time the band lost and gained a bassist, the fanbase would swell thanks to filesharing and Rivers Cuomo and his music would each undergo dramatic changes.

This is not the story of the third album, 2001’s Weezer (The Green Album). Rather, this is the story of Rivers’ final months in Boston through the time the band ceased recording in the fall of 1998. Just as information from this time period is sparse, so is the musical output. As Karl Koch put it, the band “refused to let their management even hear what they were doing for the most part, and shared only a small fraction of the music then or since.” Pat calls the time period “one of indecision and abandoning the past.” This is an attempt to explore the time period using the little available news from the era, along with the words of the band and their friends, and to shed some light on one of the most fascinating (if only because little is known about it) periods in Weezer history.

In August 1997, Weezer returned to the United States after supporting No Doubt and headlining their own shows overseas. The band had been through a heavy period of emotional turmoil; dealing with the reaction to Pinkerton, members wanting to focus on their side bands and the deaths of fanclub founders (and some of the band’s earliest supporters), sisters Mykel and Carli Allan and their sister Trysta.

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