Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#113 In which our hero survives -- and even enjoys -- Christmas.

Christmas has come and gone, and all was well. Presents were opened, meals were eaten, football in front of a blazing fire was enjoyed. Some highlights:

Christmas Eve service

Our pastor who, quite frankly, is a tad more pushy then we care for, convinced us to participate in the service. Our job, as a family, was to light the "Jesus candle." Now, I had zero religious upbringing as a kid, and The Scientist was raised a strict Catholic (they who do not go for touchy-feeling things like "Jesus candles") so we really had no idea what we'd be doing.

Our "script" was dropped off at the house that morning. In it, I was to do a reading (Isaiah 9:2-7, for those who care), then The Scientist was to read a thing of about 100 words, then the little girl and I were to light the candle.

After The Scientist read it, we had a conversation that went something like this:
THE SCIENTIST: Did you see our script?
ME: Yeah?
TS: Did you see my part?
ME: Yeah?
TS: I'm not doing it.
ME: You're not doing it.
TS: Nope.
ME: Why not?
TS: You know I don't like this stuff!
ME: What? Speaking in public?
TS: Yes!
ME: It's not that big a deal. You just have to read what's on the paper. And you can read fine.
TS: I'm not doing it.
And she didn't. I handled all the reading parts, and she and Lily lit the candle. If anyone noticed our deviation from the script, it didn't get back to us.

Christmas Eve candles

In addition to the "Jesus candle," the service ended with the lights being turned down and everyone lighting a small, hand-held candle. Lily -- who, remember, is two -- got ahold of one of these things, and would not give it up. So, when the fire came around, we lit her up.

I should also mention that she insisted that I hold her.

So, I'm holding this 35lb. kid in one hand, a lit candle of my own in the other, and she is waving around her candle like it's a sparkler. This provoked three thoughts in my head, in this order:
  1. Lord, please don't let her catch my hair on fire
  2. Does giving my 2-year-old a burning candle make me a bad father?
  3. I wonder if someone will report me to child services for this?
But instead of igniting her father, she spent the moment blowing out the candle and saying, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" Then she'd make me re-light her, only to repeat the process.

Like I said, I'm not that religious, but holy crap that was cute. I hope she doesn't miss me when she's in heaven and I'm stuck in hell with her mother.


I got Sports Night - the Complete Series Boxed Set! Thanks girls!

I got a chest freezer! Thanks, Mom!

I got ST:TNG season III! The best part of this might be that I requested season I, but my brother-in-law was geek enough to say, "Eh, season I and II kinda sucked, I went right to the season with the Borg." Thanks, Chris!

I got a big-ass soup tureen that matches my china pattern. Does it make me gay that I both know the pattern of our dishes and that I was really excited to get another matching piece? Thanks Dick and Barbara!

I got a cool digital kitchen scale! Which doesn't work. Sorry, Tracy and Mike!

And I got some other odds and ends, all in all, a nice haul.

The car

The Scientist and I wanted to get Lily a play kitchen for Christmas. Unfortunately, we waited until just about the last possible shopping day to get one, only to find that all the stores were sold out. I was at work, so The Scientist made a command decision to buy this, instead.

And just for the record, it's not nearly as metallic-looking as they make it seem in the photos.

Anyway, I was more than a little bummed that she couldn't find a kitchen, and more than a little pissed that she bought something else without checking with me, first. But, in The Scientist's defense, it was last minute, and she was scared that if she waited, we'd end up getting our eldest daughter NOTHING for Christmas. So.

But, of course, Lily LOVED the car, and I looked like a big dick for ever doubting my wife's decisions. And, just so there's no confusion, let me say:


Now, can you stop giving me that smug look every time our daughter gets in her new car?


#112 In which our hero is no kind of plumber.

Christmas is damn near here, init? We are hosting the big family get together this year (mostly The Scientist's family -- my family has the good sense to gather in sunny Virginia). This will be our first Christmas in the new house. We could never have done it in the old house, i.e., the two bedroom bungalow with ONE bathroom... and even so, it's rather ill-advised in the new house anyway. It's just a lot of family in one place at one time.

So what could make a potentially stressful situation about a google times more stressful? Two words: fucked plumbing.

Our plumbing woes quickly went from bad to worse yesterday. As you may recall, we had our kitchen faucet replaced on Monday. While the plumber was here, he checked out our hot water tank. He declared it old and full of sediment, and recommended we replace it. "Call the office after the holidays and we'll come out and install a new one," he said. Sounded good to me.

Meanwhile, I noticed the guest bathroom was losing pressure in the shower -- but just the hot water, strangely. I figured it was full of the previously mentioned sediment, and all I'd need to do it clear it out. I cut off the water (which took some doing in and of itself -- why do they hide the shut off valve?) and took apart the hot water tap. It was chock full of sediment, which I cleaned out the best way I could think of: I turned the water back on.

Now, understand... everyone in the house is asleep at this point, and the guest bath is upstairs. So I took off the hot water assembly, went downstairs, turned the water back on for a minute, then came back up. I figured the water would come blowing out the nozzle and clear out any gunk that was left in there. And, since it faced the tub, I figured the water would be mostly contained.

Well, I was right about the water gushing out, but not so right about it being contained in the tub. Water everywhere. So I cleaned it up, put everything back together and tried it again

Still no hot water pressure. Even less, if that's possible. I tinker with it for another hour before saying, "eh, screw it," and go to bed.

Flash forward 24 hours.

Now we are less than a day away from a house full of people, and there's no hot water in the guest bath. Now, I'm personally not overly concerned about this, because we have a fully functional shower in our bathroom. It's not a tub, just a shower stall, but so what? People can still get clean. So I'm pretty casual about it.

The Scientist, on the other hand, decides that the best course of action is to FREAK the FUCK out.

She's horrified at the idea that everyone will have to share a bathroom. In my way of thinking, everyone but she and I were going to share the same bathroom anyway, so what's two more?

This, by the way, was not the right answer.

To this tragedy, add the fact that the house needs vacuumed (my response: so what?) the floors needed mopped (eh, they're good enough) and that none of the beds were made (people can't make their own beds?) it pushed my normally rational wife over the edge.

Bottom line: I spent the morning at home while the plumber (same guy who was there the day before for the faucet) replaced our hot water tank and taps in the bathroom. I also used the time to vacuum, mop and clean the bathrooms.

And now... how about a few good fucking tidings of joy, huh?


#111 In which our hero tries to fix the sink.

Dear Powers That Be,

About that home warranty thing? We get it! Yes, yes, we looked at the renewal notice and said, "Eh, we don't need to drop another $300 on this thing," and pitched it only to have the furnace crap out days later. And I know there's only something like five days left on the damn thing... we're going to renew, I swear to God! Okay? Please stop breaking parts of our house!

So, in the kitchen we have one of those faucets where the head pulls out and is a sprayer. Wait... Internet, please show them. Okay, get it? The faucet is the sprayer, there's not a separate sprayer on the side.

We didn't pick this style of faucet, it's what the house had. We didn't care either way, but it was handy. But, several months ago we began to lose pressure. I assumed that there was some sort of gunk stuck in the sprayer, and a quick rinse would solve everything. So, I take the thing apart and everything looks okay. And... Jesus, this is boring. Let me skip over the trip to the hardware store (x2), the call to Moen customer service and the late night tinkering and get to the interesting part when the Scientist GOT INVOLVED.

Now, I think I've written about this before. Most of our home repairs involve me beating something with the side of a wrench until my wife steps in and solves the problem. So, last night when she offered to help -- because it had gotten really bad, the water was but a trickle -- I was actually a little relieved. Not that I'd ever admit that at the time, of course. But, The Scientist had no more luck with the damn thing than I did... we took apart all the take-apartable pieces and couldn't see any sort of blockage. Finally, we decided that it must be in the neck of the thing.

Problem was, you can't get the housing of the neck off without first removing the hose. And here's the part that chapped my ass: I had that damn hose off just the night before. And now, we couldn't budge it. It's a stupid tight fit under the sink to start with, so there was the unfortunate combination of The Scientist being small enough to get the tools in place, but not having the hand strength to turn it, and me having the strength but not being able to get into position.

Finally, the vice grips where employed.

Generally speaking, this is a bad sign. In my world, if it won't turn, you need to turn it harder! For whatever reason, The Scientist was blinded by my thinking and supported my plan.

Bottom line: we never did get the hose loose, but we did manage to bend the living shit out of the copper pipes under our sink. To the point where if we could have gotten the fitting loose, it still wouldn't have slid out of the housing. Or neck. Or whateverthefuck it's called.

My plan to completely remove the sink -- as in, take it out and put it on the floor -- was also approved by The Scientist, but was thankfully short-lived. I think the final vote was, "Eh, fuck it. Let's call a plumber."

Which I did this morning. I called my wife to give her the news and the conversation when something like this:
ME: I told the dispatcher that we tried to clear the blockage ourselves, but I left out the part where we mangled the crap out of it.
THE SCIENTIST: Probably a good idea.
ME: The plumber's going to be like, 'Did monkeys get under here?'
TS: More like two retards with a wrench.
And yes, this will be covered by the home warranty. Which we will be renewing shortly. Please don't make our roof cave in.


#110 In which our hero's daughter is awesome.

As I write this I am sitting in a 55 degree house. I have several layers on, and the hood of my hoodie is tightly pulled around my head. It’s freakin’ cold! Apparently our furnace decided to shit the bed at some point during the night. Amazingly, we still have ELEVEN days left on our home warranty -- the same home warranty that, when it came due for renewal a couple of weeks ago -- we decided wasn’t worth the money to re-up. We have since altered our opinion. Especially if it ends up being as expensive as we fear it could be.

Anyway, I’m waiting for a service technician to call to tell me he’s on the way. All the phone lady at the HVAC repair place could tell me was that they would come “sometime today.” That’s a pretty wide span of time. I mean, in what other business would it be okay to say, “We’ll fill your order sometime between now and 10 hours from now” ? I expect a story to be coming out of this.

In other news: my daughter is completely awesome!

If there was any doubt as to who fathered this little girl (not that there is, just about everyone is amazed at home much she looks like me. I don’t really see it, but so many people have said as much that I’ve bought into it) those doubts have been dashed by last night’s actions.

Now, I’m a comic book geek from way back. I remember trying to quit reading them in the fifth grade… I knew I had a four-color monkey on my back, and apparently by 10 years of age I had hit rock bottom. I stopped cold turkey for about a year. Then, like so many before me, I fell off the wagon and have been on a 27 year bender since.

So when Lily occasional likes to have a kitchen towel tired around her neck like a cape, it warms my heart (Jesus, I could use some warming right about now!). But last night, I came home to find The Scientist, Macey and Lily on the couch watching The Incredibles. Apparently, as soon as they got home, the conversation had gone something like this:
LILY: Supaheroes! Supaheroes!
THE SCIENTIST: You want to watch the superheroes, honey?
L: Ya! Ya!
The Scientist opens the DVD to put in the Incredibles disk only to find that there’s an Elmo disk already in there. I imagine a tense moment, shot entirely in slo-mo, when she turned to gauge Lily’s reaction to this reminder of her fuzzy red svengali …
L: No! Elmo out! Supaheroes!
Oh, Lily… you’ve made your papa so proud!


#109 In which our hero controls his kids.

I have something to say.

To the lady that took one look at our kids and said a little too loudly, "Ugh, I hopes they don't cry!" while we were being seated at Appleby's last night: Fuck you. It was Appleby's on a Saturday night... be glad that you weren't seated next to an over-caffeinated HS football cheerleaders squad or somesuch... it ain't the Ritz, y'know.

And for the record, our kids where great. Macey fussed a bit, but was generally very quiet for a 6-month old. And Lily was too busy filling her mouth with hot dog and broccoli to cause much of a ruckus.

In an odd synchronicity, there is an article in today's Plain Dealer about kids in public. Well, about noisy kids in public. It occurs to me that not so long ago I was one of those people bemoaning kids in public. Matter of fact, I used to bitch about babies in particular. It seemed like no matter where I went, there was a screaming baby just waiting for me... restaurants, movies, check-out lines. But now that I have children of the melt-down-unexpectedly-at-any-moment age, I find myself... well, just about as intolerant as ever.

You would think that I would be more easy-going about it, but I'm not.

People need to take responsibility for their kids... that's all there is to it. The Scientist and I take great pains to make sure our children are not out of control monsters. On the few occasions that there has been an atomic explosion in public... we got the hell out of public. Kids -- or, our kids, at least -- are easily distracted. By walking them around or engaging them in something else (a book, a toy) we can generally shore up the dam again. Now, we also try to be aware of the time of day and make sure we're home for nap time. If for no other reason that daddy likes to take a nap, too.

OH! And here's something that drives me crazy: ever see a little kid trying to get their parent's attention? "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" -- ad infinitum. Lily is at the age where she does this, but you know how The Scientist and I deal with it? We answer our child! When Lily says, "Dada! Dada!" I say, "What is it, honey?"

Problem solved.


#108 In which our hero strives for Serenity.

Everyone knows I'm a geek, right?

I mean, I'm not an uber-geek or anything, but I played more than my fair share of Dungeons & Dragons in my youth (and my not-so-youth) and I still read comic books and love bad sci-fi movies... you get the idea.

What I'm getting at, is that I'm about to geek out and I want you to be prepared. So... deep breath. Okay.


Now, before I even begin, let me be clear: I intend to talk about things that are huge spoilers if you've never watched the show or "Serenity," the movie that came afterwards. Seriously, if you have any interest in the show at all... stop now. I made the mistake of reading "just a little bit" of a site that had spoilers in it about the movie and it really screwed up my enjoyment of the film. So stop. Sheri -- I'm looking at you. I'm going to make you watch this show sooner or later and I'll be buying the film on DVD so... quit it!

Okay. Firefly is, of course, Joss Whedon's failed western-in-space series that was axed by FOX after only 11 episodes. I have to say that I tuned in with great anticipation being that I was a huge fan of Buffy and was all ready to be blown away by another Joss epic.

But I wasn't. I was, honestly, unimpressed.

The visuals were nice, and the world setting was interesting and the characters were... familiar. But not in a good way. I walked away from the first episode thinking I've seen all of these guys before:
  • Tough on the outside/caring on the inside captain
  • Aggressive warrior-woman
  • Hooker with a heart of gold
  • Wacky comic relief
  • Strong but dumb hired hand
  • Cute girl/woman mechanic
  • Preacher who has lost his way with God
  • Arrogant city-slicker that needs to learn how things really are
  • Gifted but damaged waif of a girl
The dialog was fun, as we have all come to expect from Mr. Whedon, but I wasn't really moved by the characters. After the show was cancelled after the 11th episode, I wasn't surprised. I had lost interest long before.

Now, if you're any kind of geek at all, you know the whole sordid story about how FOX execs demanded that Whedon scrap his intended first episode and start with a more "action-packed" one to get viewers hooked. And that this out of order schedule is what doomed the show. I blew that off as a weak excuse... it was the characters that bored me, not how the show played out.

Well, years later, on the insistence of a friend I went back and watched the show again (it didn't hurt that said friend also burned all the DVDs and gave them to me for free). And after watching the eps in the order they were intended, I walked out with this conclusion:

Holy shit, was I wrong.

Firefly was, in fact, a fantastic show. I was dumbfounded that simply changing the order of the episodes would make such a difference. But it did... to everyone that ever told me as such only to have me reply, "Pfft! That's bullshit." I sincerely apologize.

What made all the difference was the background on Capt. Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds. See... in the first aired episode ("The Train Job") he acts tough, talks tough... but we see him do things that indicate that he's "conflicted." A man of honor making a living as a thief! A hard-nose soldier with a tender heart! This is clearly a complicated man! And it all seemed so spoon-fed that I was instantly turned off.

However, in the first episode that was supposed to be aired, we learn more about his background, his motivations... and for some reason, that brought it all home to me. I suddenly did care about this character.

I even found myself grooving on the theme song, which I thought was just a dumb little ditty before.

What this is leading up to is the fact that after watching the entirety of the produced shows, I realize that I had to get my ass to the theater and see "Serenity" on the big screen before it was too late. It was still playing at the cheap-o theater near my house, so... one night after wife and children were in bed, I rushed out to catch the 10pm show.

By myself! This may not seem like a big deal, but I absolutely HATE going to the movies alone. I think I've done it maybe twice in my life before this. It just seems so sad... do I have so few friends that I can't find at least one person to go to the movies with? But, by God, I wanted to see "Serenity" and I went for it.

So after falling in love so hard with the series, what did I think of the movie? I thought it was okay. I wasn't blown away. The problem is that Joss Whedon tried to wrap everything (or just about everything) up in one 2-hour flick. It was just too much to ask. I thought that Mal's actions seemed forced and not consistent with his actions from the TV series. I think that what we were seeing was and entire season, or several seasons worth of action (say, 23-46 HOURS) and of plot crammed into two hours.

My thoughts on the big elements of the movie (seriously, look away now if you don't want to ruin it!):

Reavers: I love how this was explained. It's clear that Joss Whedon had this element of the show well thought through. And I appreciate that the crew of the Serenity didn't wipe out the Reavers with a miracle drug or somesuch... just exposed the truth. They're still out there ready to eat your flesh.

As an aside, I've read criticism online about Mal's disguising Serenity as a Reaver ship. "You just strap a few bodies to the hull and that's all it takes to fool the Reavers?" Well... yeah, it is. Did you SEE the mindless, bloodthirsty savages as they tired to eat the crew alive later in the movie? Do you really think they have a sophisticated communication network between ships? I think their entire "advance awareness" system is a guy looking out the window and making sure a ship doesn't have an Alliance logo on it.

Shepard Book: How much does Ron Glass kick ass? I watched a lot of "Barney Miller" as a kid, and I enjoyed him in that show. I would never have expected him to actually be a good actor and make this character come alive. That being said, as much as I loved him on the show, I didn't miss him much in the movie. And honestly, he didn't have much of a part to play before being killed... and his death was the stereotypical gasping last words of importance before dying in your arms shtick. Blah.

Kaylee: Holy boner, Batman! I had read how the actress was asked to gain 20 pounds for the series. And she was cute and all as the tom-boy mechanic... but she lost the weight again after the series was canceled and suddenly in the movie she's a total piece of ass! Nothing really revolutionary happens with her character -- yeah, she finally hooks up with Simon, we al saw that coming -- but I thought her new-found hotness warranted a comment.

Wash: This is the big one, isn't it? Wash dies... suddenly, needlessly, and, many have argued, pointlessly. But I don't agree. Wash dying was brilliantly done. Unlike the dumb death of Book, Wash's death was sudden and without comment. He didn't bravely sacrifice himself to save everyone else, he didn't even know he was about to die. Actually, he was jubilant in landing the ship in a difficult situation then BOOM! You're dead! No last words. No lingering goodbyes. Just death on a stick.

Now, here's where reading spoilers ruined the movie for me. I knew Wash was going to die. And I knew Book was going to die. But, I also knew that no-one else was going to die. BUT -- if I hadn't have known that, the stand-off scene that follows would have been incredibly tense. I mean, Joss Whedon just killed off a major character without a second glance... maybe this stand-off isn't going to come to a Hollywood ending after all... maybe the whole fucking crew IS going to die!

And this leads to my major criticism of the movie: Zoë. Second-in-command Zoë was the big, tough, warrior-woman in the TV series that didn't speak much... and she was pretty much the same in the movie. Out of all of the characters, I found her to be the most two-dimensional. Yeah, she talked about wanting to have a baby, and she questioned Mal at times... but by and large she kicked ass and followed orders. One hopes that if the series had survived that she would have been better fleshed out.

So, in the movie, Wash dies at the hands of the Reavers. They don't have time to grieve as the big showdown is coming. Jayne says something to the effect: "Zoë, now ain't the time for revenge," and she replies "I know what I have to do."

And that's it. In my world, here's what would have happened:

Zoë would have lost her shit. Totally and completely. There would have been uncontrollable tears and snot and heaving chest. She would have wailed and pulled at her hair. Fallen down and been unable to move. Mal would have seen all this and kneeled down at her side and made her look at him.
MAL: Zoë, are you going to be all right?
ZOË: No... no. I'm never going to be right again. Not without Wash.
M: Zoë, are you going to be able to do your job?
Z: (visibly collecting herself): Yes... yes sir.
And then the scene could have gone on as it was.

People that speak of more Serenity movies or the series coming back to television are just kidding themselves. Ain't gonna happen. I'm right there wishing with you... but it's over.

The Browncoats lost.