Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last chance for cuteness in 2008

This site is listed as an example of what you can do with a blogging system I'm looking into, but it distracted me from whatever work I had planned to do with said system. After playing on it for awhile, I passed it on to my boys to share with my grandchildren, and their response was enthusiastic enough that I thought I'd share it with the rest of youse. Their mission is simple: "ZooBorns brings you the newest and cutest exotic animal babies from zoos and aquariums around the world."

Pics. Videos. Abundant cuteness to make up for this crappy year and point you in the right direction for the next. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A good comic is always relevant

Note that this "Frazz" is from 2002, but it's certainly timely this weekend and has been much on my mind the past couple of weeks. (As always, click on the image for a larger, more readable version.)

Frazz is one of the smartest strips around, but it's so consistently good that I find myself rarely commenting on it. I do have the signed original of the strip below, also from 2002, which I found masterful in the tangle of cultural references -- you really have to be plugged in to a lot of different things to follow this cascade of cultural references, which is the fun of Frazz.

Jef Mallett works on the assumption that an educated person is one who doesn't simply know one set of things, and who has no problem reading well-written books (Frazz's school is named as an homage to Bill Bryson, and Mallett is also a Richard Russo fan), knowing something about classical literature and popular music and also following the NFL, and he riffs across a broader spectrum than any other cartoonist I can think of.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shaped by my Christmases past

My interest in cartoons didn't just happen. My father was a good artist with a particular talent for cartooning that he never really developed but which gave him and those close to him a great deal of pleasure over the years. It also provided some pleasure for those not close, since they'd get the annual Christmas card each year to show them what the Peterson clan was up to now.

This was the card in 1953, when my brother Tony was the news -- that's him in the manger at six months, with me the surprised magi and my older siblings, Rick and Frances, playing Mary and Joseph. And that's dear old dad in the background, playing the puzzled patriarch as he generally did when he appeared in the cards.

For years, I thought his being a child of the Depression and of parents who were nose-to-the-grindstone types had stifled an artistic career, and perhaps it did, but he and I spoke about it as we each grew older and he truly didn't seem to regret MIT and his years as an engineer. I think the artwork was a pleasant hobby that he could put some effort into but that he didn't really want to try to turn into the main focus of his life, which was his family. It did mean that we had some interesting cartoon collections around the house, however, as well as a willing reader to us of the Sunday funnies.

In any case, he was a very, very serious man, as the photo below demonstrates. Much too solemn for cartooning.

I went over and spent the evening with Johanna and Tobias and their parents tonight, and tomorrow I will drive up to Plattsburgh to see the rest of my grandchildren and their parents.

Christmas is a good time to be a grandfather, particularly if you had some good training in that whole how-to-be-a-dad thing. And I did.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

By Request

After I posted my first blog entry from New Hampshire, it was suggested that I post the same 360-degree view after winter had set in. I must say, I hadn't expected to be able to fulfill that request quite so soon.

So here's how the place looked on Hannukah, with a white Christmas very much in the wings despite rumors of rain. Note that, in February, it will likely look much like this except that the snow will be deeper. Considerably deeper. You certainly won't see the edge of the porch as you can here.

I should point out that, the last time I did this, there was a half-unloaded UHaul in the background, silently chiding me for shooting video when I had other things I should be doing. For continuity's sake, in this version, I have positioned two big piles of snow in the yard, which are actually piles of firewood that should have been stacked on the porch three weeks ago.

Well, at least they won't mold.

There is some lack-of-continuity in this: The dogs were wandering around the yard in the first video. In this one, they are not. Instead, they were here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tobias Isaac Meerts
born December 14, 2008
8 pounds, 9 ounces
to the delight of his sister, Johanna
(and their grandfather, not shown here)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

In our last exciting episode ...

I realize I haven't said much about my life since I landed here in New Hampshire. Since we've made the news with our weather, I guess this is as good a time as any to catch things up.

To begin with, my view has gone from the above to the below. You'll see that the lake isn't entirely frozen over, but it has been. But about the time a skim of ice forms, a front comes through and there is a night of wind that breaks it up again.

The lake is about four miles long by a little over half a mile wide, so when a north-south wind strikes up, it gets rolling pretty well. And my house is right at the receiving end, so I've taken down the wind chimes which I'm sure are charming during the summer but, as the first good winter storm rolled in, were kind of a constant annoyance all night long, as if they were in a dryer. Incidentally, those X's are a marker where there is about a 15 foot drop off to the lake. I suspect I'll have a pretty good buildup of ice jam and snow down there by the time winter is truly over.

So, about that storm: It pretty much passed us by in the immediate sense. I didn't know how bad it was until I got to the office and people started calling in to say they'd be working from home. I never lost power and, while the roads weren't good, they weren't surprisingly bad. However, I was in a fairly narrow window of safety -- there were significant outages to the north and to the south of us.

I took this picture at the local airport, where even the birches weren't getting off the ground. (Our photographer began snickering at that line and accused me of spending more time thinking up cutlines than shooting photos. And she's right.) But the planes -- little Cessnas -- were back in the air by mid-morning.

When I went back up that afternoon to confirm that they were getting planes off the ground, I spotted this chain link fence. The sun had begun to melt the ice and I caught it at the time when the ice had melted back off the fence itself but hadn't broken up.

Cool, huh?

They opened up the gym at the high school in Gabe's school district as a shelter (he teaches at the middle school), and had I think five families the first night. The next day, they picked up that many families again from a fire which burned them out of their building -- which isn't the same as losing power but is very likely traceable to the storm, though the Red Cross is going to have to find them some place else to stay while they come up with a more permanent plan, because I think everyone else will be going home soon.

For the most part, I think power is back on to most of the homes in our area. The aforementioned photographer and I spent most of Friday driving around looking for dramatic shots and didn't find much -- I think most of the outages were from branches over individual powerlines. We didn't find any downed powerpoles or anything that visually astonishing. Gabe had lost power at some point in the night but it came back, and I never lost it at all. We lost it overnight at the office but, when I got in, it was back up, though our office manager, copy editor and general jack-of-all-trades was trying to restore a critical computer program (which she did).

The job is good, the people are good. I'd seen the paper and recognized a lot of need for improvement, and I was really afraid I'd come into a situation where nobody else felt that way, but the staff was eager for some direction. This is largely a first-job shop and I'm doing a fair amount of mentoring, but when people want to learn, that's fun. I've also got the support not only of the boss/owner/publisher but of the rest of the management team, which makes a tremendous difference. And people are seeing a difference since I got here, though it's a gradual process. We're not where we need to be, but we're doing a lot better and it's recognized.

The town is a city compared to Farmington -- about four times the population -- but I'm able to go home at night and have a lot of quiet, so it's more than acceptable, and it's fun to have Gabe, Sarah and Johanna in town -- and they will be adding a grandson in the next week or two. That's more fun close up than at a distance.

And there is a rail trail for me and the dogs to take our constitutional. Life is good.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mother England to the rescue!

In which Prime Minister Gordon Brown shows how much more fun it is to govern in a land where the opposition is allowed to laugh at a slip of the tongue. Well, fun for the onlookers, anyway ...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Um ... I've got nothing to add here ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Having just praised some pretty terrific artists, here's a cartoon I love that, well, doesn't exactly rely on draftsmanship. And it's not always Safe For Work or Fun For The Whole Family. And it's often too geeky for me to understand.

And that's okay. I don't have to understand them all. This one captures absolutely one of my biggest, lifelong, ongoing, incurable perceptual problems, without a lot of elaborate artwork:

"xkcd:A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." Geez, how can you go wrong?