Saturday, December 31, 2005

As I write this, it is already past midnight on the East coast. The new year has started. 2006. I will turn 33 years old this month. I will celebrate my sixth wedding anniversary. (Like how I did that-got married in 2000, so as long as I know what year it is I will remember how long we�ve been married. Will come in handy 20 years from now.) Madison will turn 3 in April and Morgan will turn 12 in September. Amy says she will stay 29 again this year.

Nobody can ever say I never did anything. I moved and experienced new things.

My resolutions have already begun. Read 50 pages of something every day. Do 50 push ups and 50 sit ups every day. Easy stuff to do. That�s on a personal level.

On another level, I will be even more loving to my wife and kids. This is the source of all happiness. The happier they are, the happier I will be. I don�t know what the philosophers would say about that good deed.

2006 will be a good year. Everything is pointing up.

Superman #224 dated February 2006

Ahhh, a set-up issue. This issue sets up bigger and better things to come.

It works with Luthor and Superman both struggling at the same time through different dilemmas to show that they are different. Luthor grasps strength through his hatred for Superman and Superman gets his strength from his love of doing what is right.

This is an Infinite Crisis crossover issue. Luthor is fighting OMACs, apparently derived from his technology.

This issue leaves off with some kind of collision coming between Luthor and Superman. These issues are necessary and I am glad they still do them. A whole issue that sets up what a cataclysmic fight is coming up. This builds character, suspense.

The only thing I dislike about this issue and is prevalent in quite a few I read nowadays, but there is no explanations. Superman starts fighting this crazed woman named Blackrock (that looks almost too much like she�s from the pages of Witchblade). I have seen her once because I have seen her in another comic. There is nothing explaining her powers. There is nothing telling me why she hates Superman or where exactly her powers come from, or for that matter, nothing telling me exactly what her powers actually are.

Do they not want to pay letterers? I remember growing up with text boxes, explaining what the heck was going on. Nowadays these text boxes are just being used to tell the inner dialogue of the characters, a thing started, I believe, by Frank Miller in Batman: Year One. Bring the text boxes back!

DC Comics Presents #57

DC Comics Presents #57 from May 1983

Superman and the Atomic Knights—yes, that’s a big Dalmatian the knight is riding.

I always loved tales that told of the nuclear future. Star Trek had World War III in the 90s—that’s how Khan became a leader. But in Superman?

It is actually a well-crafted little story. Nowadays they could take this concept and craft a six-issue limited series out of it.

Superman is having some strange dreams about the future after an atomic war. He doesn’t know what’s happening and the dreams are beginning to affect him and the world’s computer systems. He goes to the perfect woman at S.T.A.R. Labs to talk to. With apparently no detective work, he remembers some strange government experiment where a man was left in a sensory deprivation tank to see how ordinary men would cope after World War III. Somehow this guy has taken over computer systems and robots and is able to manipulate them to try to achieve a real World War III to make his fantasy reality. Superman saves the missiles from launching by rapidly pressing buttons on the computer, with one second remaining.

Then it gets preachy to finish with. The guy spouts about how we have to do what we can to prevent World War III not see how we will survive after it. He says that humanity is on 1 on the countdown. Preachy.

The idea could be taken and made better.

Harlan Ellison

Ever read an author that you don't particularly understand why people consider him so great? Is it because of one good piece? Is it one good idea in a story that people hold onto?

I just found and read a Harlan Ellison short story at called "The Pale Silver Dollar of the Moon Pays Its Way and Makes Change." It was all right. It was interesting how he wove in the greater world history with the events that this character relates. I found it intriguing that little bit on Carl Sandburg re-writing his poetry years later so that it could be saved by some library.

This was the guy that wrote the best Star Trek episode ever called "The City on the Edge of Forever." That's the one where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy unwittingly get sent back in time. They realize that the only way to put history right is to let a woman die, not save her. Classic.

Do we remember that one story of his? Are there better stories that I haven't read? This wasn't even written all that well, just seemed a series of ideas.

Nome can be pretty. Here is another sunset with Sledge Island in the distance, about 30 miles away.

This is a picture of our apartment on a rather messy day. Hey, it is after Christmas and all. Some of the clothes are out because Madison goes through a couple outfits a day. It is home sweet home. We found out the other day at the AC grocery, because of their monthly heating bill giveaway, that the average heating costs around here to heat a two-bedroom place is about $350-400 a month. That makes the rent here much easier to swallow as we don't pay for heat. Now it is cheaper than back in Seattle.

Madison wanted me to take a picture of the two of us together. I haven't exactly figured out that delay feature yet. It was fun just to hold it up. She is a happy kid.

The hallway is exactly like a dorm. Here Amy sits next to Becca from across the hall with the kids.

This is Puppy. That's the dog's name. He belongs to a family in the complex but is always outside. It is actually remarkably warm and not windy in that doghouse.

Our apartment building stands behind the school. There are 20-some units in here. We are at the far end on the top left here in this picture. Those cargo crates in the picture actually belong to families in the complex. That is a major form of storage here and can be seen here and throughout the downtown area too.

My new digital camera has a "scene assist" feature. Here I take a picture of a sunset in Nome from the other day. One of the things that I notice here in Nome as opposed to Seattle is that it feels more open. I don't have trees hemming me in and cutting off the view of the horizon. Look at those colors.

Madison and Morgan are bookends to one of Morgan's best friends that lives downstairs.

Morgan has absolutely loved the snow here in Nome. For years back in Seattle, she has wanted snow to play in. I think it may have snowed a few inches the entire time I was there, all together. Morgan is outside constantly.

Madison. Now only if we can stop that pacifier habit.

Madison is getting ready to go outside here. She has to wear snow pants, gloves, hat, scarf. She loves playing outside but she gets cold really fast. It is so nice to see the kids get to play in the snow!

Madison is getting her cape on. She loves Princesses right now. Anything to do with a Princess. She calls these dress up clothes her "pretty dress."

All the kids play in the halls. It reminds me of the dorms at Western Illinois University.

Madison even likes to pose. She cracks me up with her new verb when I have the camera out: "Cheese me, Daddy."

Madison loves to play dressup. Here she is in the hall of our apartment/dorm. She is playing with her best friend Lupe from across the hall.

Friday, December 30, 2005

NFL Picks Week 17

Let's see how I finish up for the regular season. This last week is usually weird because some teams don't play as hard as they could, saving up for the playoffs. I expect some upsets. GO BEARS!

Denver over San Diego
Colts over Arizona
Giants over Raiders
Ravens over Browns
Buffalo over Jets
Carolina over Atlanta
Chiefs over Bengals
Pittsburgh over Detroit
Patriots over Miami
Tampa over Saints
Seahawks over Packers
49ers over Houston
Jacksonville over Titans
BEARS over Minnesota
Washington over Philadelphia
Dallas over Rams

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Image Post part II

from Charlie:

Do you have any particular style of storytelling you holad as a standard of good storytelling or subject matter you prefer or that completely turns you off.For my part I follow creative teams or individuals that have delivered what i consider good entertainment. like you I've been around since 92ish and just cannot afford to buy a comic because it's X-men or Batman. I expect a certain level of quality for my 3 dollars and following a property doesn't increase my chances of getting a good book.Because of that i don't follow mush continuity in comics universes therefors i'm able to bounce from ultimates and back again without any much care for the surrounding events in marvels other 28 titles. I ignore crossovers completely as well as the company that publishes a book.I make a few rules as possible for myself either than creative team takes precedent for me. It also allows me to be exposed to new comics, for instance if I'm buying a book with John Romita Jr as the artist, I'm exposed to writers like hudlin, JMS, Millar, Jenkins and if I like what they do on that Jrjr book, i follow them to another project, which exposes me to a new artist whom if I like exposes me to new writers.That way I'm always getting something of value with my comics, which at todays prices i can't get following 4 spider-man titles or what have you.I'd really recommend this approach to you, you'll find over time that you'll cross into every publisher and dozens of genres and be exposed to alot more variation that's available in comics today, all the while having a far better success rate at finding the quality you seek in story and art.Just my humble suggestion.

That is a good rule. For instance, I get anything done by Peter David. I would never have picked up the Hulk otherwise. I remember way back in 86 I bought a New Universe title called MERC (only thing in the grocery store that day as I remember). I ended up buying it every month, even though it didn't last. Years later when I go to catalog my stuff into a computer system, I notice lo and behold that Peter David was the author on those first issues. No wonder I liked the title.

I think I started following properties because that's what DC and Marvel did a lot of the time. Superman had those triangle numbers that went through all the titles. Justice League relied on knowledge from other titles. Marvel ran Mutant crossovers all the time.

When it came down to it, I liked the new X-Factor circa 1992 because Peter David wrote it. I bought X-Force because I thought I had to keep up with the universe. That was when a comic was still $1.25 or so. Can't do that now. (Boy, I wish they'd go back to newsprint, but that's another topic.)

Comic Books

So I put in a big order at Mile High Comics for a bunch of old comics. I love this crap. Almost all of these are a dollar or less, down to 75 cents. Most of these fill in holes in my Justice League collection or my Superman collection. I also got a few mini-series and the starts of a few series that I always wanted to try. This is why I worked at Hanson's grocery for those few days. Some of these are dumb to others, I admit. But I love this stuff. And this is cheaper than paying full cover price nowadays. A new comic costs $2.25 at the least. The good ones cost $3 or more. So this is a super sale. There are over 130 comics coming, even a few trade paperbacks. Every single one of these divides out to be less than a dollar a book, including those trades. You can't beat that. This will tide me over for months. (Also--remember the quote I have at the top of this web page from William Shatner. I should also add the line from Polonius in Hamlet: "This above all: To thine own self be true."

ACTION COMICS (1938) #585
ACTION COMICS (1938) #692
DR. FATE (1987) #1
DR. FATE (1987) #2
DR. FATE (1987) #3
DR. FATE (1987) #4
FIRESTORM (1982) #1
FIRESTORM (1982) #2
HARD TIME TPB (2004) #1
HEX #1
HEX #2
HEX #3
HEX #4
HEX #5
HEX #6
HEX #7
HEX #8
HEX #9
HEX #10
INFINITE CRISIS (2005) #3 (JIM LEE) Out-Of-Stock
LEGION '89 #48
NEW GODS (1989) #1
NEW GODS (1989) #2
SPECTRE (1987) #1
SPECTRE (1987) #2
SUPERMAN (1986) #64

Image Post

I posted a general question at the message boards on about if there were any old Image titles worth reading. Got some good responses, although one guy said to read all 120 issues of Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen. I remember getting the first three way back when Image started and it stunk. If this was supposed to be such a big deal that they had to tell these stories under a new publisher for the “freedom,” and if these first three issues were any indication of what those guys were peddling (along with the crap Spawn for the first 15 issues), then I wanted no part of it. However, some of these comics are in the cheapo racks at Mile High Comics. If there’s anything there worth reading, then I wouldn’t mind spending 75 cents to a dollar on an issue (that’s over HALF the price then originally published).

Matt, it really depends what you expect from comics. What your preference to the approach to the storytelling is. Do you like your books to have a reverence about them. Nostalgia. Do you like them to break from tradition. Big dumb fun. All of the above. None of the above.Image doesn't really have a house style so i'm sure like any publisher there is something there that fits your requirements as a reader.

That's a good question--what do I really like or expect from comics?

I just put in an order with Mile High. I got some old back issues to fill the holes in a collection that I want more of:

Some early Justice League International and Justice League Europe, you know, the Giffen and DeMatteis era. So the Formerly Known as the Justice League coming back STILL knocks my socks off. Those are my favorites, I think.

Some Superman. I just plain love Superman, in almost any shape or form since the reboot in 1986.

I got some old DCs of series that I always wanted but couldn't afford as a kid way back when. When I see the ads or the cross references in the other books now, I want them all the more. I got some HEX, that futuristic reboot. Some other Justice Leaguer inidividual titles. I like DC super heroes.

I gave HARD TIME a try in the new TPB. This was a series that when it came out, it really sounded good, but I knew it wouldn't last. And it didn't. Now I can buy it cheaper than the initial cover price (don't get me started on prices).

I got the ESSENTIAL HOWARD THE DUCK as I flippin loved those as a kid.

I got a couple issues of WASTELAND from DC's Piranha Press as that intrigued me.

You know, I think half of it is that I want to branch out. I never like what most consider mainstream. I want nothing to do with X-Men now (collected a ton of those in late 80s) or this new Ultimate universe, even the House of M. Doesn't interest me. I could never get into Spider-Man all that much. I hate it when Superman is among those must-buy books because of a hot artist. While I like art, I always look to the story first and foremost.

See, I think Image and X-Force turned me off comics for a while. I couldn't see how these books were so damned popular. I still don't see Rob Liefeld as any good. Spawn never delivered. That's why I am asking now, in retrospect. Cut through the chaff. Get only the good stuff. This may be completely against the love of monthly comics and may hurt the current industry, especially if others are following suit. But I don't care. Maybe it is an age thing. Do I like the 80s and very early 90s comics because that is when I read most of my comics, during high school? Maybe. I think some of it has to do with the fact that I don't have the money to buy a million titles every month, can't give new stuff a try sometimes.

I remember in the 1970s and early 80s when the Voyager probe took all those pictures of Saturn because my mother would always show me those pages specifically. I think I can attribute quite a bit of my love for space to her. Mom always helped me open my imagination. That is probably why I am more of a dreamer than most other people. And I thank her for that because realism only goes so far--true intelligence must be blended with creativity. This is a picture of Saturn's moon Mimas seen with Saturn's glorious rings from the Cassini probe. I remember way back with those old papers that my mom showed me that they discovered more than just the couple of rings around Saturn. There are new pictures out there every day now, from Hubble and Cassini and others, that show deeper clarity than anything we have ever seen before. It is a little hobby of mine to keep up on these pictures.

Sounds like an Aesop fable...

I thought it was a joke. I thought I was reading the Onion or another such "Fake News" page. No, there really is a story of how a baby hippo got separated from the others during the tsunami and got adopted by a 130-year-old tortoise. Amazing. Am I shocked by that alone or am I shocked that the Associated Press is actually following that story?

The northern ligths were out again on this very clear night. I tried to take a picture with my new camera, even on the "fireworks" scene assist but it didn't work. They are beautiful to look at. They are definitely one of the bonuses of living this far north.

Even Morgan gets into the act and spins around. They are both not camera shy, that's for sure.

"Now you sit on floor, Daddy," she says as she spins around.

Madison LOVES her new princess dresses.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Essential Back Issues

Here's a question about back issues. I want to collect some old classics, but I don't know where to start on some titles. For instance, Warlord from DC in the 1980s. Had a 150+ run but I have no idea which storylines are the best to start with.

Thinking of old series, even mini-series, which runs would you say that your collection couldn't be without? For instance, you could only save 100 back issues (not trades), what would you save?

Post on X-Men

Some guy named Shoegaze99 posted the following at the message boards at I had to chime in.

I used to be a major X-Men fan back in the day (the day being the 1980s, as well as those 1970s books), and then again for a short stretch in the early 90s (until I realized I wasn't liking what I was reading). The X-Men books were always dense with characters and ongoing subplots and lots of history, one of the things I liked most about the book. I really like most of who I consider to be the "core" X cast.But having been away for more than 10 years, is it even possible to jump back into the fray? Some podcasting talk about this House Of M thing kind of has me interested in seeing what's happening with my old mutant friends ... but trying to sort out the different X-books on the rack, seeing which I need to follow and which I don't - well, no thanks. That's one of the major reasons why I dropped the mutants in the first place. WAY. TOO. MUCH. Seems to be that even if I put in the effort to navigate that web (and I'm not so sure I'm inclined to), there is 10 years of history I'd have to educate myself on so I could catch up. And the 18 X books to sort through, of course.

I was the same way: a big fan of Uncanny X-Men from about issue #190 to about #300. There were too many friggin X-Books to follow and when my subscriptions came up for renewal, I just didn't have it in me to renew.

I did manage to get into the New X-Men in trade paperback form. But after Volume 2 I just don't see the point. And I did manage to read the first 13 of Astonishing X-Men and was very pleased. It was great. But there was too much history that I just didn't understand. How could Emma be a good guy? What the hell happened to Colossus? And I realized quite quickly that if I hadn't known anything about X-Men, I would have been simply lost beyond belief.

Remember when X-Men had text boxes? Remember reading the same lines over our characters time and time again, like Wolverine's "He is the best there is at what he does, but what he does isn't very nice." Do you remember text boxes that explained a character's powers?? Over and over, ad nauseum, to the regular reader but completely necessary to someone who has no idea how or why Emma looks like a diamond? I had no idea that she had this power or what it did/does.

X-Men? I couldn't jump back into that ocean. Not unless it is in an easily digestible trade paperback form anymore.

New Year's Resolutions


by Walt Whitman

Come, said my soul,
Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
That should I after return,
Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
(Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
Ever with pleas'd smile I may keep on,
Ever and ever yet the verses owning--as, first, I here and now
Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

Walt Whitman

A new year is approaching. One in which I turn 33 years of age. There's not much I need or require. I have it. I have wonderful children. I have a wonderful wife. I have a job and a roof over our heads. I just put in a back issue order at Mile High Comics. Life is good.

But like in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, one always strives to achieve self-actualization. Like the Radiohead song says, "I want a perfect body; I want a perfect soul."

50 is a key number for some reason. I am going to resolve a few things that will not overdo anything. These will only enhance my life, not get in the way.

I resolve to do 50 pushups and 50 situps a day. Maybe not altogether, but a day.

I resolve to read 50 pages of something a day. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it adds up to 50 pages. I will be keeping tally on this website in the lower right hand corner of the reading that I accomplish. See, that Whitman poem above is one page. May not be a full page of text, but being a literature major, I get a lot out of it and have always wanted to read the whole damn book anyway.

Nothing earthshattering.

John Cleese

Finding inspiration sometimes comes in the weirdest places. I get this new education magazine that I discovered comes from the George Lucas Educational Foundation called Edutopia. It is even better because it is free to educators. Flipping through the latest issue, I saw a last-word type of column from none other than John Cleese, none other than Basil Fawlty and one of the members of Monty Python. (The 1970s British sitcom Fawlty Towers is the best sitcom of all time, hands down. It only had 12 episodes, produced years apart. If you were a Butcher growing up in that household, you knew every single line by heart. I still spout off "Fawlty Tower-isms" to this day. It was a magnificently intelligent show. Even Amy has begun saying them now. Nothing else in my household as a kid was quoted so much--except maybe for the movie Strange Brew.)

Anyway, John Cleese analyzes that we teachers have to remember that we are in education because we always got it in school usually. We always at least learn faster or better than most. I have to remember that on a daily basis. I am always glad when someone else points this out, when someone else notices exactly what it seems I am going through. Education is a lonely field for all the people that we deal with. I don't get to talk with colleagues in the middle of a class, for instance. I have to do a lot of analysis of my teaching abilities on my own. I reproduce that article here from Edutopia because it was so inspiring. It's also funny as hell. Thank you, Mr. Cleese.

Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind

By John Cleese

I was a history teacher for ten years and I enjoyed it very much indeed. But today's educational trends, which focus on specific metrics of accountability, represent a fundamental change in mind-set that demands some pretty astounding creativity on the teacher's part.

I've been interested in what makes people creative ever since I started writing forty years ago. My first discovery was that I would frequently go to bed with a problem unsolved, and then find in the morning not only that the solution had mysteriously arrived, but that I couldn't quite remember what the problem had been in the first place. Very strange.

Then I came across research done at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s by Donald W. MacKinnon. He had examined what made people creative, and he found that the professionals rated "most creative" by their colleagues displayed two characteristics: They had a greater facility for play, meaning they would contemplate and play with a problem out of real curiosity, not because they had to, and they were prepared to ponder the problem for much longer before resolving it. The more creative professionals had a "childish capacity" for play -- childish in the sense of the total, timeless absorption that children achieve when they're intrigued.

This is fascinating, but it's completely countercultural. Our current business ethos dictates that the only real kind of thinking is quick, logical, and purposeful. Any other kind feels sloppy, amateur, self-indulgent, because we're supposed to be busy saving time. I was reminded of this recently, when I saw this irresistible offer in a mail order catalogue:
"The World's 100 Greatest Books Audio Cassette Collection. If you were to read each of these 100 great books at the highly ambitious rate of 4 per year it would take 25 years... . But now with each book condensed onto a 45-minute sound cassette you can absorb much of their knowledge, wisdom and insight in just a few weeks and acquire a depth of knowledge achieved by only a few people who have ever lived."

Now, there's efficiency for you.

There is of course a point in doing some activities quickly, but hurrying has become a mind-set. The assumption is that the kind of thinking we should be using all the time is fast, purposive, logical, computer-type thinking. Poppycock!

We often don't know where we get our ideas from, but it certainly isn't from our laptops. They just pop into our heads somehow, from out of the blue. They're not the result of fast, purposeful, logical thinking.

We all understand that the slower kind of thinking regularly works for us. Yet, for some reason, we don't quite trust it.

Which is why I was overjoyed to find a book Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less, by Guy Claxton, an academic psychologist. Claxton uses the phrase "hare brain" to refer to the sort of deliberate, conscious thinking we do when we apply reason and logic to known data. "Tortoise mind," on the other hand, is more playful, leisurely, even dreamy. In this mode we are contemplative or meditative. We ponder a problem, rather than earnestly trying to solve it, by just bearing it in mind as we watch the world go by.

Why, then, has the tortoise mind become neglected? One reason is that the hare brain is articulate. It can explain its thoughts and solutions because it's consciously aware of its own activity. As the math teacher says, you can show your figuring as you go along. The hare brain can always justify itself.

So we must not mistrust the tortoise mind simply because it's not articulate. We must be willing to give it time to find ways to express itself before we let our articulate hare brain in to analyze and criticize its ideas.

When we're stuck, when we see we're just digging the same hole deeper, that's when we need to use our tortoise mind. I promise you, it will always produce new ideas.

John Cleese starred in the Monty Python TV and film series, created and starred in the TV comedy classic Fawlty Towers, and wrote and starred in many blockbuster movies. He's also written self-help books and owns a training-video business.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I actually understand a rather stupid parental phrase right now. Remember when your father would actually say, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" Well, Madison has been into the Playdoh and already left a couple of messes. I cleaned it up again and not twenty minutes later, she is wandering around and crying, "I want my Playdoh!" I couldn't get her to stop crying. I laid her down on the couch amidst a crying tantrum. I caught myself before I said it, but I actually wanted to say that phrase: Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about! FYI: Nothing happened. I laid her down with Monsters Inc on the DVD and she fell asleep. She was just tired. But at least I don't have to pick up the Playdoh again. (Who got her Playdoh for Christmas anyway?)

Nothing to do, everything to do

I worked yesterday morning and this morning from 6-10 am at Hanson's grocery. Not bad because all I did was block shelves! They call it "facing" here but it is the same thing I have done hundreds of times at Art's. It's easy. They only have six aisles altogether. It is a much smaller store than Art's though. These aisles are half the size of the six that Art's had when I started working there. The actually have more room in the back and upstairs than they do floor space. That was the same thing with Art's. Hanson's reminds me a lot of what Art's felt like when I started working there when I was 15. I'll have to take some pictures now. (And the music is still the same. I can't believe how eerie it is that the music is exactly the same. I swear I heard the entire repertoire of Huey Lewis and the News over the past two days.)

Other than that, I have some papers to grade before we go back to school on January 5th. The semester ends January 13th so those have to get in the gradebook. I also have to do a bit of planning for next semester. I have a couple of books I am just going to photocopy and go through page by page. They are writing fundamentals, grammar, usage, spelling plurals and such. That is what they need more than anything. I'll have them do a research paper later and some freewriting and such but I don't think they can just write to write yet. That is what I did when I taught 9th and 10th grade for the past two years. That's where they are cognitively able to string sentences together to form coherent paragraphs. I think they need more mechanics and understanding of sentences and language first. And since I have no prescribed curriculum but the Grade Level Expectations, or GLEs, then that is what I think I need to do.

I am re-reading a bunch of comics. I am putting in an order at Mile High Comics for this week. I can actually get back issues cheaper than new comics. I loved the era of comics that I read, so I am going to read more of them. The only ones I read on a regular basis now anyways are the Superman titles and JLA when I can get them. Even new ones that I think I would like, I just need to wait a while to get them cheaper through back issue or trade paperback.

Now I gotta go pick up someone from the airport.

Madison is modeling her new clothes with ponytails in her hair. She loves the camera. She has created a new verb: "You cheese Morgan now?" That means, "You will take Morgan's picture now?"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Morgan and Daddy are happy on Christmas morning.

This is a picture out our back window from Christmas Day.

Madison is dressed in one of her princess outfits this morning. She sings, "Ballerina! Ballerina!" and spins around.

All Madison knows is that she can finally open all these packages!

Morgan is happy it is Christmas! Imagine being 11 again, waiting for Christmas morning!

Christmas 2005

Christmas 2005

Watching Christmas through the eyes of your children is experiencing the holiday at a whole new level. Back in Victorian England when Christmas started catching on, the parents liked the holiday because it let them pamper and spoil their children for the day and they didn't have to provide an excuse for it. That spirit is contagious.

We let them tear into presents early. Amy actually woke up early, about 6 am which is extremely rare. She bounced out of bed in a way that I have never seen her greet the day. She was more excited than the girls. She went and woke them up early!

We made our special Christmas coffee, a special pecan cream blend. I sliced the chocolate torte cakes and brought those out to snack on. Then the kids started opening presents. Madison was actually wonderful because she made sure that her sister had a present to open each time too. She is at that perfect age where she can open the presents herself and then smile with giddy delight at what she received. She once squealed with pleasure over a simple little Winnie the Pooh book. "Mom, I got a book!" She realized quickly that the squishy presents not in boxes were clothes and ended up peeling open one part of the present to make sure and then tossed it to the side. That was funny.

Morgan received lots of cool presents. She opened boxes that contained an iPod Shuffle 512 MB (which I am gonna steal if she doesn't take care of it), a volcano to create, a microscope/telescope set, a grow-your-own-carnivorous plants set, and a Build-a-Bear that she wanted. She got lots of other little things and clothes. Too numerous to list.

Madison received some Disney princess outfits as she loves to play dress up. I must have switched clothes on her 40 times. She got a tea set; baby doll with all the furniture like a crib, stroller, and high chair; and all sorts of Dora the Explorer figures and Little People. She got tons of clothes which got chucked to the side to be worn later and plenty of kid stuff.

Amy got a DVD of the Kevin Smith movie Dogma, one of her favorite movies. I also managed to acquire a Buddy Christ bobblehead that is prominent in the movie as they are trying to modernize the church in the movie. Jesus is winking with thumbs up. It's hilarious. She got a Rachael Ray cookbook and a George Foreman Grill. She needed a new one since the one we had got busted in the move back in August.

I got a couple of sweaters (which I have been wearing a LOT more often here in Nome), one of which is a Seattle Seahawks hoodie that still has that store inktag on it to prevent theft. I don't know how I am going to get that off. The best present I received, which is really a family present, is my new Nikon Coolpix 4600 digital camera.

The big family gifts we received were two TVs. One new one, a 20" DVD TV flatscreen goes in the living room and then that old one goes in our bedroom. The girls got a 13" TV for their room. The best part is that the cable works on them and we don't need additional boxes. Can't watch HBO though because the channels don't go up that far. But it works. We also got two radio-controlled Polaris snowmachines. Plenty of snow here for those!

So Christmas Eve, I made my clam chowder from scratch as always and then I had that for lunch. We hung out all day. I got to watch the Bears beat Green Bay to clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. We had a ham that Amy made for dinner that was perfect.

Watching the kids play with their new toys on Christmas is more fun than receiving anything. Madison is developing an imagination and playing with her dolls. The most important thing of all is to develop these good memories for Madison and Morgan so that they can share these feelings one day with my grandchildren.

NFL Update

This is the best time of the football season. I am constantly going over to to check out the playoff picture. I love looking at all the formulas for what it takes to get into the playoffs. I love to see what winning records make it in, as some years have better records than others. This is one of those better record years. All division leaders except one have a 10+ win season.

The Bears will end up playing Seattle to get into the Superbowl. Now that will be a great game. GO BEARS!

Atlanta over Tampa Bay--LOSS
Cincinnati over Buffalo--LOSS
Carolina over Dallas--LOSS
Detroit over New Orleans--WIN
Jacksonville over Houston--WIN
Giants over Washington--LOSS
Pittsburgh over Cleveland--WIN
San Diego over Kansas City--LOSS
St. Louis over San Francisco--LOSS
Miami over Tennessee--WIN
Philadelphia over Arizona--LOSS
Seattle over Indianapolis (I knew it!)--WIN
Denver over Oakland--WIN
BEARS over Green Bay—WIN!
Minnesota over Baltimore--LOSS
New England over Jets—Monday Night game

That puts me this week at 7-8, by far my worst week of the season. Now I am at 152-84 for the season, or 65.3%. That's not too bad, considering that I just saw that Mike Ditka's season pick record from ESPN's NFL Monday QB show is at 63%. I'm beating Ditka!

Week one: 8-8
Week two: 9-7
Week three: 9-5
Week four: 8-6
Week five: 8-6
Week six: 11-3
Week seven: 10-4
Week eight: 9-5
Week nine: 12-2
Week ten: 11-3
Week eleven: 11-5
Turkey Day: 2-0
Week twelve: 9-5
Week thirteen: 11-5
Week fourteen: 10-6
Week fifteen: 7-6
Week sixteen: 7-8

Saturday, December 24, 2005

NORAD Santa Tracker

This site is big in our house. We have used this site to track Santa for a good few years now. Madison shouts, "Look! It's Santa! It's Santa!" This site gives little videos of Santa in each time zone so that you can monitor his progress on his way to your house. The best part of the site: As a parent, you now have proof that Santa is on his way!

This article is from the Associated Press that I took from Yahoo that explains how all this started. Kind of interesting that it was all a big mistake back in 1955!

NORAD Marks 50th Year of Tracking Santa

Associated Press COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The military agency dedicated to detecting any threats against the United States and Canada is marking the 50th year of reporting Santa's sleigh ride.

With help from several civilian companies, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, operates a Web site reporting Santa's progress and helps answer telephone calls and e-mails from people around the world.

The reported track began at the North Pole, of course, and NORAD said Santa Claus was "spotted" in New Zealand, followed by Australia, Japan, China, Nepal and India.
Last year, the tracking Web site at received 912 million hits from 181 countries, and the Santa Tracking Operations Center answered nearly 55,000 phone calls on Christmas Eve.

According to NORAD lore, the tradition began in 1955 when Sears-Roebuck placed an ad in The Gazette in Colorado Springs telling kids to dial a number if they wanted to talk to Santa.

But the number was one digit off. When the first call came to NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, Col. Harry Shoup told an eager child he would check the radars for Santa.

We've been listening to a lot of Christmas music around here this week. There are some Christmas songs that I have to hear at least once that week or so before Christmas in order to put me in that Christmas spirit.

1. "One More Sleep til Christmas"--Kermit the Frog
2. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"--Rosemary Clooney
3. "Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)"--David Bowie and Bing Crosby
4. "Happy Xmas (War is Over)"--John Lennon
5. "Holly Jolly Christmas"--Burl Ives
6. "Winter Wonderland"--Eurythmics
7. "Jingle Bells"--Frank and Dean? (off this one Xmas disc we have with no song credits)
8. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"--Pointer Sisters (Morgan's favorite)
9. "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree"--Brenda Lee
10. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"--tie between singers--Gene Autry or Jack Johnson

I wait until Christmas Eve to listen to Stevie Nicks singing "Silent Night."

Hardrock, Coco, and Joe

My mother introduced me to the Chicago Christmas classic called The Three Little Dwarfsstarring three lovable elves going by the names Hardrock, Coco, and Joe.

It's only a three minute cartoon-type show. It goes hand in hand with Suzy Snowflake.

Good memories. I showed it to my own kids online here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Morgan edited this picture of Madison runing naked through her grandmother's lawn.

New Superman Pictures

Payton and NFL Week 16

NFL Week 16 picks:

Atlanta over Tampa Bay
Cincinnati over Buffalo
Carolina over Dallas
Detroit over New Orleans
Jacksonville over Houston
Giants over Washington
Pittsburgh over Cleveland
San Diego over Kansas City
St. Louis over San Francisco
Miami over Tennessee
Philadelphia over Arizona
Seattle over Indianapolis (This one hurts. With the suicide of the son of Colts’ coach Tony Dungy, I just don’t think Indianapolis will care too much with already wrapping up homefield advantage. My prayers are with that family right now through this ordeal.)
Denver over Oakland
BEARS over Green Bay
Minnesota over Baltimore
New England over Jets

Oh, and on Christmas Day is a Fox special program celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest teams of all time.

Twentieth anniversary special on the Chicago Bears' championship season to air Dec. 25 at 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET on FOX

The following was taken from, on December 23, 2005. This is put here for my own sake, to save all these ideas of the team that have been surfacing. I wish I had been doing a blog back then so I might have some of these memories in writing. When it comes down to it, even though I may be talking silly stuff sometimes, these are the memories that we remember.

Excerpt: Payton on Super Bowl XX

Note: The following is an excerpt from the book, PAYTON, released last month by Rugged Land Publishing and NFL Publishing. Click here to buy the book.

The city of Chicago had been intimidated by Al Capone in the twenties and ruled by Richard E. Daley in the sixties and seventies, but it wasn't owned by one man outright until the eighties. In 1984, Chicago was Walter Payton's. The kings and emperors that shaped the destinies of ancient cities had always been dreamers. Walter Payton was no different. The dream he shared with his adopted city was a vision of victory against the rest of the NFL and against the tide of history itself.

Training camp in the summer of 1985 saw the Bears operating at a door-kicking level of confidence no one had ever seen before. Reporters and well-wishers overran practices. Jim McMahon sported a Mohawk, and Chicago's '85 first-round draft pick, a gigantic defensive tackle from Clemson University nicknamed the Refrigerator, was getting pumped for quotes and photos. Chicago's Junkyard Dog defense was declared heir to the famed Monsters of the Midway defensive line of Dick Butkus's day. For the national sports media, it looked as if the Bears were the team to beat in '85. And for Chicago's championship-starved fans, it was almost too good to be true.

As always, Walter Payton used training camp to recharge his batteries after another impossibly grueling solo off-season workout schedule. Payton came down from the Hill in Arlington Heights mindful of the year 1985 could become. He knew he wasn't going to be working by himself anymore-he had a team that was ready to win. Payton was ready to play and ready to lead. "For so many years I was by myself, and then finally, for the first time, I had these guys saying, 'Hold on, I'm gonna lift this arm, and I'm gonna lift that arm, and I'm gonna help you up.' We all pulled together as a team. We all worked together. We were the perfect unit, and that is the reason. The myriad personalities were a perfect combination to just make it right. We all had mutual respect, and we all felt like every guy was giving 110 percent-every practice and every game."

In Payton's mind, the remaining hurdle the Bears needed to clear for the championship was simply a matter of focus. Payton had dreamed big and seen his dreams become a reality. The Bears as a team could do the same, but only if they shared that one vision as a team. As the season began, Payton's concentration narrowed and intensified. And it spread to his teammates. "During that season especially, I saw Walter having focus," Mike Singletary explains, "I think it was the season where he really began to vocalize and verbalize a little bit more of what he felt. For the first time, he began to speak, he began to talk in the huddle, he began to talk at practice and he began to talk before the game. 'Hey,' he'd say, 'let's go out there and do what we have to do.' I think everybody looked at him and said, 'Wow, this guy is really serious about this. This is it. We can really do it. Walter believes we can do it.'" Matt Suhey felt it too. "Walter helped that team feel free to express itself," he says.

"Everyone felt that if Walter can do it, then I can let myself show a little."
They began 1985 with a come-from-behind win against Tampa Bay, then romped for their next seven games and cleared the first half of '85 with a perfect 8-0 record. Payton and William "The Fridge" Perry formed an offensive symbiosis during the Bears' 21-7 pounding of Green Bay. When Ditka wasn't using Perry for short yardage breakthroughs, Payton was free to use him as a battering ram. Payton's power and Perry's size were a lethal combination.
In the second half, the Bears' momentum and the fans' postseason anticipation grew to outrageous proportions. The Bears were a bona fide national sensation.

Everywhere they went they were known by name. "That team was really a great group," remembers Connie Payton. "They were fun to watch and had so much personality and character. You just don't see that anymore. You fell in love with everyone on the team. They were all so much fun. It was amazing how it all kind of took off. They were America's team."

But the Bears hadn't gotten to the threshold of another Super Bowl on personality. The players all had grit to spare, and the coaches, Mike Ditka and defensive coach Buddy Ryan, were ace tacticians and stern taskmasters. It wasn't an easy road. In any season tension was a given, and in a winning season, with so much at stake, the pressure was relentless. But Payton, as always, kept the team's sights on winning, not on each other. "He wasn't just the best player on the field, he was the best leader off of it," remembers Matt Suhey. "That team would have exploded had there not been Walter there to keep it together, especially because there was friction from the coaching staff. All the chemicals were there for an explosion, and Walter proved he could instead turn it into the right mix. That was maybe his most important role on that team."

Any superstitious fear of cursing their postseason prospects by speaking of them outright was long gone. The Bears talked up the Super Bowl openly. And not only did they talk about it, they sang about it. The day after their only loss of the season, a handful of team members met to record a song for charity called "The Super Bowl Shuffle." In the video, the Bears shift their feet uneasily in the studio, like boys in an unfamiliar neighborhood, as they chant:
We are the Bears' shuffling crew.Shufflin' on down, doing it for you.We're not here to start no trouble,We're just here to do the Super Bowl shuffle.

It was a sensation. "The Super Bowl Shuffle" made folk heroes out of the team and even charted in the Billboard Top Fifty. Payton loved it. "This is the kind of stuff the guys do behind closed doors," Walter said to the cameraman. "In the bathroom when nobody's there, or in the house when everybody else is gone." In the video's outtakes, Sweetness clowned around and kissed McMahon on the cheek. A Soul Train veteran, Payton pulled rank and cheerfully declared Singletary's team choreography "third-grade level." Each featured Bear star took a verse. Walter Payton was first up, appropriately, and every word he sang was true.

Well, they call me Sweetness, and I like to dance.
Runnin' the ball is like makin' romance.
We've had the goal since training camp
To give Chicago a Super Bowl champ.
And we're not doin' this because we're greedy;
The Bears are doin' it to feed the needy.
We didn't come here to look for trouble,
We just came here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

The carnival atmosphere that descended as the Bears and New England Patriots converged on New Orleans the week before Super Bowl XX was unprecedented. Chicago's rock-star swagger was a perfect fit for New Orleans, and the team partied late and trained early. Jim McMahon, who'd had no trouble generating headlines in the regular season, mooned the press. Through it all, Walter Payton remained what he'd been all season and for the nine seasons before-a stabilizing influence and the conscience of the team. It was a circus, but they were there to play under the big top on January 26, 1986. It would become a day of team triumph for the Bears that remains in the record books. And it would be a day of both pride and disappointment for Walter Payton.

The Bears wiped the field with the Pats, 46-10. But there was one very conspicuous exception to Chicago's scoring free-for-all. The team's beloved captain, their inspiration, their class cutup who had sweated, bled and led from the front every time, hadn't been given the opportunity to score a touchdown himself. Payton was the Bears' sacrificial offering. He'd single-handedly distracted the Patriots' defense so completely-he still managed to gain sixty-one yards-that it freed up the rest of his team's offense to make Super Bowl XX the scoring freak show it became. By being the living legend that he was, by having taken the game to the Patriots and every other team the Bears had faced for a decade, Payton had sealed his fate. He was so good at his job that his opponents expended themselves trying to stop only him from doing it. By putting a muzzle on Payton, New England unleashed the rest of his team. Chicago's gladiator willingly fell on his own sword, taking hit after hit after hit with the abiding dignity that he'd demonstrated for ten straight years with the Bears. "I knew I was going to be a decoy today," Payton said after the game, "and I was prepared for it." His teammates were ensured a victory worthy of his sacrifice.
"It would have been great to score one," Payton later said. "In the days and weeks after the game, yes, I was bothered by it. But I was blessed to have parents who instilled in me that things happen for a reason. You may not understand it when it first happens, and it might not be something that you're going to be happy about, but down the line there will come a time when it will be shown to you."

Jim McMahon confessed, "On the touchdown that I scored, it was a play designed for Walter, but the truth is I don't think anyone recognized it during the game. I know I didn't." Mike Ditka agreed. "I really didn't realize it. I never thought about the individual thing so much," he later admitted. "That was stupid on my part." Ditka's coaching intensity was notorious-he'd once broken his hand punching a blackboard to emphasize a point. He had been focusing on the game, on the win, not on the individual players. That was his job, and he got it done just as well as Payton got his own job done. But the omission of a Payton touchdown troubled Ditka for decades: "That was probably the most disturbing thing in my career. That killed me. If I had one thing to do over again, I would make sure Payton took the ball into the end zone. I loved him; I had great respect for him. The only thing that really ever hurt me was when he didn't score in the Super Bowl." McMahon harbors a similar feeling about Payton's scoreless day in New Orleans. "He had played for so long, and he had been the Chicago Bears for so many years," McMahon explains. "It hurt me not seeing him score a touchdown."

Christmas special

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus's "the true meaning of Christmas" quote is Luke 2:8-14 from the King James translation of the Bible.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men.

That's the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown.

In a sidenote, in the cartoon Frosty the Snowman, the ticket taker tries to route a trip for Frosty to the north pole via Nome, Alaska. No train tracks go through Nome.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Frank Miller is a superb writer of comics, or graphic novels, call them what you will. Without him, Batman may have languished into a small little character. He wrote the absolutely amazing The Dark Knight Returns and rewrote Batman history to what is considered the only viable origin tale in Batman: Year One. Those two books alone are the two best comics ever written and depending on which fan you talk to you get a different response.

Frank Miller also wrote a ton of other stuff. His groundbreaking run on Daredevil was the source material for the movie starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. He is the creator of Sin City. He created a manga-samurai-future-world with Ronin.

Going into the creative well of Frank Miller is a pleasure. Yeah, he can write superhero comics but he can also write real tales. He is a visual writer, in every sense of the word. He does not draw panels that do not advance the story. In effect, Frank Miller is a director of comics. He just can also draw and write really well.

300 is a little known graphic novel. I actually only knew of it from a trip to the library in Bremerton, Washington, and they had it in their comic section. It is a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae between 300 Spartans and Xerxes' Persian army. It is an excellent tale. The drawing is fantastic. The frames move the comic along. I could actually envision Frank Miller thinking that this was being written for the screen.

I am going to go read Dark Knight Returns again. Go check out the Warner Brothers website on the upcoming movie based on 300.


We used to joke when I was in high school that the supermarket we worked at, Art's Supermart in Sandwich, Illinois, was one of the nexus of the universe. It seemed that everybody worked there at some point (four of my five immediate family members did) and that we would constantly be going back there. We could take off for sports and Art's would let us come back. We could come back from college and Art's would let us work. I could probably go back now.

Yesterday was the final day of school before the PC winter break (remember, it's not Christmas Break anymore). Amy signed me up to work a couple of days at Hanson's Safeway store here in Nome. I worked 8 to 4 today just stocking shelves for $10 an hour. Not bad. Easy money.

I can't believe the flood of memories that returned. I worked for Art's from the summer of 1988 when I was 15 to about 1994, if memory serves. Even the music sounded as if it came out of that 1990 era: I had my fill today of Chicago love songs, Rick Astley, and Taylor Dayne. If I had heard Wilson Phillips, I would have made them change the station. I felt like I was 16 or 17 again, running down the aisles with boxes and carts. I even remembered to face the products (what we at Art's called "blocking").

The best part of all of this, as I told the people that recognized me from school and wondered if I had left the school or something, is that I get to keep this paycheck all to myself. I always joke that I don't know what color money is. My check gets directly deposited and Amy takes what the household needs. It's great, actually, because I have told her not to give me money. I spend it. I spend it when I probably shouldn't and for frivolous things. Yeah, I could use another latte or I've been wanting that CD. If I have to ask, then that spending urge dies.

This is all fun money today.

When I started at Art's, I made $3.35 an hour, the minimum wage at the time. I eventually worked my way up to a whole $6.00 an hour there. But if I equate the pay then to now, and of course compare the price of comic books which is another way I judge time, then I can buy just the same amount of comic books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blue Beetle

Superhero crash-lands in El Paso
Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

El Paso Times

Metropolis has Superman. Gotham City has Batman. And next year, El Paso will have Blue Beetle.

El Paso is getting a superhero (Great Scott!) with the publication of "Blue Beetle" by DC Comics, according to reports on comic book Web sites.

Blue Beetle, who wears a blue-and-black, bug-themed costume, will be a new version of a hero of the same name killed earlier this year.

The Blue Beetle comic book, scheduled to hit shops March 29, is thought to be the first major superhero series set in El Paso. DC Comics is home to superstars such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

"Most (comics) take place in (fictional) cities like Metropolis and Gotham City. ... It makes me feel good that El Paso is in comics," said Mark D. Hajunga, owner of Comics, Cards & Collectibles store in Northeast El Paso.

The new Blue Beetle's superpowers, secret identity and other details are still secret. A DC Comics publicist declined to talk about the series until closer to its launch date.

Hajunga said anticipation among local fans has grown since the mystical scarab that gave the original Blue Beetle his powers crashed into El Paso at the end of the recent "Day of Vengeance" mini-series.

"There are a few little things in there that I hope people in El Paso will notice, though I won't say what," Cully Hammer, the artist for Blue Beetle, told, a comic news Web site. "On the other hand, I've never been to Texas, so I'm relying on Internet research. Hopefully, I won't make any glaring mistakes."

El Paso receives good national exposure in comics, said Michael Almanca, owner of Rebel's Comic Vault on the East Side.

The city was the setting for a couple of comic story lines in recent years. El Paso was in the crime noir DC Comics series "100 Bullets" and in "Coyote Crossing," a Marvel Comics story in which hero Wolverine avenged immigrants who died locked in a tractor-trailer. "Coyote Crossing" included area landmarks such as Paisano Drive.

Blue Beetle

•The new Blue Beetle will be the third character to use that moniker. "Blue Beetle" No. 1 is to hit shops March 29.

•The original Blue Beetle was policeman Dan Garrett, who dressed up in blue chain mail to fight crime. First appearance: "Mystery Men" No. 1 by Fox Publishing. Cover date August 1939.

DC Who's Who.


•Dan Garrett was later made into an archaeologist who discovered a mystical blue scarab that gave him superpowers.

•The second Blue Beetle was inventor Ted Kord, who used gadgets and a flying "Bug" ship to fight crime. He was a member of the Justice League. He was killed by a villain this year. First appearance: "Captain Atom" No. 83 (original series, 1966.)

DC Who's Who.

Blue Beetle also recently won Wizard magazine's "Hero of the Year" award, basically for getting killed, but for being valiant and staying a hero to the end. He was always one of the jokesters on the Justice League. Anyone that reads Countdown to Infinite Crisis cannot help but love this character.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

See? Warmer.

It is warmer here in Nome, Alaska, today than it is in my hometown of Somonauk, Illinois. Just thought I'd throw that out there. That's for all those out there that thought (or still think) I'm crazy. Ha!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Traditions

This Christmas season has been a little different because we don’t have some of our stuff. We still have a storage unit in Bremerton, Washington, that has a bunch of books and items, along with is our Christmas stuff. We had every intention to have our stuff sent on, but time got away from us.

We have an artificial tree in storage. We did manage to get a nice little two foot tree on a stand with a snowman. We’re missing some real Christmas elements for me though right now. Christmas ornaments have always been a big part of Christmas. Every year, my two sisters and I got to pick out a new ornament at Frank’s Nursery and Crafts when we got our new tree from their real tree lot. Then my mom worked at Hallmark in Sandwich, Illinois, and we got tons of new ornaments every year. I still have them all. Every one. It is a remembrance to pick them out of their boxes every year. They are like good friends returning.

One of the rather new traditions that we don’t have this year is just a decoration. My Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer figures that came out a few years ago bring such a feeling of wonderment and family to me. They look just like the old CBS show that I love to see them. I remember watching it every year with my family. Now I watch it with my own family. Actually, with Madison’s recent destructive powers being two years old, it is probably a good thing that we don’t have those this year.

I absolutely have to have a dessert on Christmas morning called torte. Chocolate torte. It is this cake that my mother always got every year through Swiss Colony or Figi’s. Amy and I also buy a real gourmet coffee for Christmas morning to enjoy our torte with.

We were never allowed to wake our parents up until 7:00 am. This is a tradition that I have kept alive. I remember many sleepless nights in eager anticipation for Christmas morning. I remember gathering all sorts of comic books and Christmas favorites for that evening, to read for most of the sleepless night.

There are probably more things that I am forgetting. Christmas is a wonderful link to the past and the future. I think about the traditions that my kids will keep. For instance, my mother probably never thought that the torte was that big a deal. It ended up being everything for my Christmas.


This morning I woke up and thought I was dreadfully late for something. I turned over and saw that my Superman alarm clock would chime in a couple of minutes. I was frantic. Did that clock say 6 o’clock? It did? I’m late!

Then I realize that I don’t have volleyball practice. The season’s done. I am, if anything, early. I am still up before everyone.

I take my morning shower. I know why I am such an early riser. I had to be, growing up. I have two sisters. The only way to get a bathroom in the morning was to beat them to it.

I make coffee and hear the faint rumblings of life coming into the apartment. Morgan’s alarm clock blares. Madison sleepily drags her blanket down the hallway. I can hear a “Hi, Daddy” come out around the chewpy (her nickname for a pacifier, where that came from I have no clue) in her mouth.

Amy still slumbers a bit. She has to go in for a bunch of meetings at work later this afternoon. She also is going to run to the store because I forgot the staff Secret Santa gift. She’s awesome.

Now I have to go to school and find out which copier is working so I can make copies for the day of classes. I don’t have a book or a set curriculum so I pretty much gather some stuff together in order to teach. They have to have some kind of written work. I wish I had a prescribed curriculum. Today, we are going over nouns and watching a cheesy video on it. In my fourth period class, I have to find some kind of primary work to keep them busy.

Christmas break is almost here. Two weeks off. Ahhh. It’s times like this that it is good to be a teacher.

What a Bears game!!

Man, oh, man, what a great game! It is so great to root for the team you grew up with. With all the drought years, I stuck in there. I was still a fan last year at 5-11. I always have my Bears wallhanging up. That was one of the first things I put up on the wall in the new apartment.

I have been a Bears fan forever. I remember watching Walter Payton just fly over the endzone. I had just turned 12 when the 1985 Bears beat the Patriots 46-10. I remember that season. I remember that the only game they lost was against Dan Marino's Dolphins. I remember loving hard hitting and defense.

This may not be a Superbowl Shuffle year, but they have a great chance. They have a better chance than that one a couple of years or so ago when they got a first-round bye in the playoffs and then lost that first game rather handily.

They just beat the Atlanta Falcons 16-3. You know Vick is explosive and they contained him. The drama with Rex Grossman coming in and then leading the team with some real offense was needed and appreciated.

Could this be the year? Twenty years later? Superbowl XX and then Superbowl XL?