Nothing less than the existence of God can explain this funny world. His edgy sense of humor is manifest in all things. This occasional blog helps you take comfort, of a sort, from that divine finger in your eye.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Beer Run in the Snow

Chris and I. looking for any excuse to get out in the snow, decided to walk down to our neighborhood Food Lion and buy some beer for the winter storm. When we got there, of course, they were closed but fortunately we had foreseen the problem and had a plan. We stood at their locked door and complained loudly that they were closed when we needed them. That was our plan. It went perfectly. After executing our plan (flawlessly) we decided to wander aimlessly around the shopping center (our new plan) and we discovered that the drug store was open and sold beer. Huzzah!
On the way back to the house we were passed by a number of snow plows. I really wanted a photo of myself with a snowplow in the background. But the first one passed before I could get out my camera...
... and so did the second...
... so I gave up on the self-portrait angle and snapped this shot ...
... and got a serious face full of snow as the plow went past .
It was a bit like losing a snowball fight with Optimus Prime.
It's been a long time since I have had an icicle growing on my hat. Marvelous. I do like a bit of winter weather in my winter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013 Haslup Newsletter

merryxmas by bigleehimself

This Page Intentionally Left Blank.

 . . .

No, I guess that won’t do.  I must ignore the cursor blinking on the blank screen and get on with this year’s North Carolina Haslups Christmas Letter.  So here goes.

We will start with Liam and Eva who turned two in November.

In other news, Chris and Reid are in the process of moving to the Washington DC area.  Reid is excited to have found a position teaching in a small school near Leesburg, Va. and she and Chris have moved into an apartment near the school.

Chris is still working in Raleigh for the present while he looks for a graphics design job in the DC area.  He does the weekly commute thing – living in Leesburg on the weekends and staying with us during the week – which is a bit of a grind but he is still young and seems to be bearing up well.  It is a treat for us to get to spend so much time with him but we miss Reid.

Amber and Lee have (again) had an absurdly busy but largely successful year.  Amber graduated from medical school in June and was accepted for a residency in emergency medicine in New Jersey.  Lee found a job teaching at a local college nearby.  She and Lee found and bought a charming hundred year-old house in Pennsauken, New Jersey, moved, started work, learned the joys of hundred year-old plumbing – Lee managed to match the original tile pretty well – all while taking care of two energetic toddlers. They are all busy, prosperous and rather too far away to suit the twins’ grandmother Irene.

Lee and Irene celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary twice.  The first celebration was a Valentine’s Day week cruise of the Hawaiian Islands on Norwegian’s Pride of America.  Irene had originally planned to schedule the cruise later in the year to be closer to our (August) anniversary but someone told her that if you want to see whales then February was the month to do Hawaii. The photo at right was taken from a boat that was taking us snorkeling. Irene is in the gray plaid.  Whales were everywhere. We had a wonderful time and Irene is already talking about doing it again in a few years.

The second celebration was a trip to Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center.  Disney is always fun (that’s what they do and they are good at it) but we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the Space Center.  They have a new-ish museum built around the Space Shuttle “Atlantis” and it is a fabulous museum.  We recommend it highly.

This note is sent in the sincere hope that it will find you and yours well, healthy and enjoying a wonderful holiday season and a successful and happy new year.

Lee and Irene Haslup

A Few more photos...

 Lee and Irene about to get really wet in Hilo, Hawaii
 Another shot of Liam and Eva

Chris and Reid's Dog

 A Christmas ornament Amber made out of salt dough at the age of four. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

NC Haslups Christmas Card Newsletter: Electronic Version

NC Haslups Christmas -- 2012

Christmas Day 2011: Lee’s sister Holly returns from Afghanistan

Let me start by wishing you and yours a happy and blessed holiday season -- a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Kwality Kwanza, or an Agreeable Paid Time-off from Work, whichever you prefer – and peace and prosperity in the new year.

About What Follows: All of the news that follows will be good news.  There were no funerals, divorces, bankruptcies or serious injuries.  Nobody is in Jail. I mention all this here at the beginning because Christmas is a busy time of year and some readers may prefer an executive summary, to wit:  We are fine. Merry Christmas.

Last Christmas and the Grandbabies: Irene and I first saw our new twin grandchildren, Liam and Eva, on Christmas Eve last year.  We had flown to Tampa and first saw the grandbabies in the airport.  They were one month and two days old.  It had been a difficult time for Irene; she had been a grandmother for five weeks and hadn’t been spat up on even once.

We did Christmas at dad’s house in St Petersburg.  When the presents were all opened we headed back across the bay to the airport again to meet my sister Holly when she returned from Afghanistan.  We stayed in St Pete long enough to see in the New Year and flew back on the 2nd.  The photo below was taken New Year’s Day on the Pier in St Pete.  It’s a nice shot of Holly and as for me… well… it makes a useful “before” photo of me for my diet.

The holidays in St Pete offered the usual lovely weather.  It was my turn this year to fall in the water while kayaking.  The camera was in its zip lock bag so there’s no photo.  You will have to take my word for the consummate grace I exhibited.

Irene had two more chances to visit with Amber, Lee and the twins.  They came over for a day at the Animal Kingdom Park when Irene was on her annual Disney Store Alumni retreat in January. Then, in July, Irene flew down again for a visit.

The McPhersons (Amber, Lee and the Twins): Lee teaches chemistry at a local college and to writes “apps” for smart phones and other mobile devices. His apps have won a number of competitive prizes, especially his 3D modeling program for visualizing complex molecules.  Amber will be graduating from medical school in May and is in the process of interviewing all over the eastern US for residency positions in her chosen specialty of emergency medicine.  This photo was taken at Disney World when they came over to visit spend a day with Irene who was doing her yearly Disney week with her long-time Disney Store friends.

Haslup – The Next Generation (Reid and Chris):  Chris and Reid are doing well.  They bought a house four or five miles across town from us. Chris still enjoys his job as a graphic designer at Capstrat and Reid continues to work as a chemistry lab manager at the university.  Most Sunday afternoons Chris and I go to the gym together to work out and then we join the ladies for supper.

In the photo below Chris and Reid have joined us for lunch at Fulton’s Crab House restaurant at Downtown Disney in Orlando.    Irene had arranged a long weekend Disney trip for my 22nd Annual 39th Birthday observation.  I hadn’t known Chris and Reid would be there.  It was a lovely surprise.

Momentary geek out: The photo above was taken with my new Rokinon f/3.5 8mm fisheye lens and de-fished using Image Trends Hemi Plugin installed in Photoshop Pro x3.  Lens and software were birthday presents I gave to myself.  I am very happy with them and am indebted to myself for the generous gift.  I must think of something nice to give myself to pay back the debt. It’s only fair.

Remodeling: Irene and I finally got around to having our kitchen floor repaired this past summer.  We had an icemaker leak a few years ago that had left the subfloor under the kitchen vinyl a bit soft. We had learned to step on the joists in the kitchen to avoid the saggy bits but had been unable to teach the refrigerator the trick. Last spring we noticed that the fridge had developed a noticeable list to port and decided to replace the floor before the fridge fell through altogether.  But you can’t just do the floor.  If you are going to do the floor you might as well do the cabinets at the same time, and if you are doing the cabinets …

Our floor repair wound up costing twice as much as our first house.  We had all of the downstairs floors and ceilings redone and had a new kitchen put in.  This meant that we had to move out of our downstairs altogether.  We rented one of those portable storage pods to park in our driveway and filled it with as much of our downstairs furniture as would fit.  What wouldn’t fit in the pod was moved upstairs and stacked in one of the bedrooms.

Since we were without a kitchen for about two months we turned our upstairs hall bathroom into a temporary field kitchen.

My Birthday at Disney World: My birthday weekend at Disney was an ongoing revelation.  I kept running into more and more people I knew, first Chris and Reid, then other family members, and then friends.  After the first few I knew that Irene had cooked up a surprise party for me but as I kept running into more and more people around the park, on the bus, in the hotel, my notion of the scale of the event kept growing. This slow-motion surprise continued until Sunday’s culminating dinner (for 30) in the Animal Kingdom Lodge where friends I hadn’t seen in years popped up.

It was a wonderful event and I was very touched that so many people turned up for my birthday party.  People came from all over the southeastern US.  Here is a photo of the lady who set it all up.  She did a good job.  I set up a surprise party for her once (a quarter of a century ago) and I may not have been quite as skillful as she was.  Last time I checked she was still mad.

Here is a photo that Irene took in front of the Tree of Life in the Animal Kingdom on my birthday weekend.  As well as being a nice photo of everyone in it – no one has their eyes closed, no one has a rude itch – it is also my selected “after” picture for my diet.

Halloween: Irene and I won prizes for our Halloween costumes at our friends’,  Calvin and Pat’s, party this year.  Mine was won under false colors, I am afraid.  I dressed up as the Monster from Young Frankenstein but everyone at the party thought I was a character from their favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was the accidental hit of the party.
But, of course, we only won because the twins were so far away.  How could we have competed with this?

A few more things quickly:  Here’s a photo from our annual fall foliage photo safari to the NC mountains with friends Bill and Caran:
  (another fisheye shot, by the way.)

In closing, here’s one more shot of Liam and Eva at one year old.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Separated at Birth? A confession:

I won a prize at a friend's Halloween party for my costume. Here it is:

My Prize Winning Costume
There seemed to be some confusion about who I was supposed to represent. Here are the two candidates:
The "A. Gentleman from "Hush" B. Young Farankestein's Monster

My wife and I think "B" but everybody at the party immediately recognized me as "A". I was a big hit. I won the big prize. I first became aware of a problem when someone, our hostess perhaps, took one look at me and said "I love your costume. That was my favorite Buffy episode!" I just stood speechless trying to figure out what she was talking about. That interaction was repeated with everybody I ran into at the party.

They all seemed delighted with my costume, and with the fact that not only did I look like one of "the gentlemen" from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Hush", but I had the same spooky mute stare. I was mute because I was trying to decide if I should play the wet blanket and straighten it all out, or just go with the flow. In the end, more or less by default, I decided not to correct the universal misidentification.

I had to hit Wikipedia when I got home to remember "Hush". I had seen it when it first ran and it was a good episode (nominated for an Emmy) but I had forgotten it.

Apparently the cadaverous gentleman from Buffy and I were separated at birth and it only takes a dab of grey-green makeup for everybody to see the resemblance. [Note to self: consider backing off on the diet a bit. I may be thin enough.]

This was all quite unfair to the Teleospouse whose costume was better than mine and who had done my make up (which was most of my costume).

So, I am posting my confession here, on my blog which nobody reads. That way I can be on record as having confessed that my brilliance was accidental without raining on anybodies fun.

bride by bigleehimself
bride, a photo by bigleehimself on Flickr.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Cheap Critic: Brave


Haven't been doing lots of reviews lately. There have been a lot of uniformly satisfactory movies that don't need more written about them. The Avengers was really good but that doesn't make for much to write about. Hey, that Josh Whedon, he can really direct. zzzzzzzzzzz. Similarly, Hunger Games was uniformly excellent. I didn't want to like the new Spiderman film; Just because you change the actor doesn't mean it is time to start over and the Spiderman franchise wasn't mired in the swamps of canon like Star Trek was. But, despite being cranky about the needless reboot, I liked the film. Nothing to write about there, either.

But Pixar's latest film, Brave, is another matter. It is a very nice little film. No question about that. But it could have been -- should have been -- almost was -- a classic. But they made a mistake -- and just a bit of the wonderful leaked out -- just enough to leave the film a bit flat at the end.

The problem is that you could tell that they were reaching for more than just an amusing story about a likable tomboy princess who takes a dim view of her parent's plans to find her a husband. They were reaching for the sort of high mythology that Disney achieved in, say, Pinocchio. You could tell they wanted mythos because they touched it at several points. But, in the end, they made a mistake in the story and let it get away.

Without giving away too much of the plot I can say that our heroine -- Merida (voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald) -- makes a thoughtless mistake which unleashes an evil magic. She puts herself and the people she loves in jeopardy and most of the film deals with her trying to put things right.

That is a promising enough plot framework and Pixar obviously had the talent on hand to make it work. But they didn't, quite, get it right. The problem is, that the screenwriter fell in love with his character and, unlike Pygmalion, where the love of the creator brings his creation to life, Pixar's love for Merida turned her to stone -- lovely but incapable of change or growth.

There is a scene near the end where Merida says to her mother, the queen: "Mother, you have changed!" and the response is "We both have." The problem is, Merida doesn't seem to have changed very much. She is sorry to have caused so much trouble but otherwise the film leaves here pretty much where it found her. This is fine for a nice little film... but not nearly good enough for a film that pretends to high mythology. Mythic adventure changes people, thoughtless mistakes lead to real suffering and evil magic always leaves a mark. The logic of myth requires a character like Merida to change in some important way -- to exhibit a slight sadness for a prideful, thoughtless misdeed that can be remedied, but not undone.

When Pixar decided to put Merida back in the end of the film, exactly where she had been at the beginning, their pretentions of high mythos collapsed.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Two Faces of Mitt Romney

I am seeing a lot of Mitt Romney ads on TV these days. There seem to be two kinds. One is fairly typical, consisting of centrist bromides that are carefully selected to appeal to moderates without hacking off his conservative base. Those ads are OK but dull.

The other ads are more exciting. They show Romney doing necessary, grown-up things, simply because they need doing, even if they are politically difficult -- even if they don't poll well. Those are the ads that make me like Mitt. They are the ones that end with the tag "I am Barack Obama and I approve of this ad."


Say, "Obama"... the name sounds familiar... wasn't he running for something, too?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Forty-five Years Before the Higgs Boson

Red Ball
1967: The Disch/Sladek Nullitron Emerges from the Target Chamber.

By now, because of the wall-to-wall news coverage, most people know everything they will ever be able to understand about the Higgs Boson and, in many cases, quite a bit more. But how many of you remember the discovery of the Nullitron, exactly forty-five years ago in 1967?

There are a number of intriguing parallels and some equally interesting differences between the Higgs Boson and the Disch/Sladek Nullitron. I'll let you read the original report on the Nullitron (linked below) for most of them, but I can't resist a few:

i) The Higgs Boson gives mass to matter but it was discovered too late to give any to the Nullitron so it has none.

B) Producing Higgs Bosons requires the CERN particle accelerator -- a gizmo so big that it straddles several of Europe's admittedly smallish countries -- while in 1967, for the experimental production of the Nullitron ... a "cyclotron one mile in diameter filled with alternate solid blocks of lead and quicksilver" was deemed "useful but not essential".

3) The Boson is a big deal but the Nullitron is physically bigger than the Boson.

IV. The Higgs Boson has no charge, no spin and no color charge while the Nullitron also has no charge, and presumably no spin since it is said to have no properties at all except for being red and rather shiny.

For more information about the Nullitron, see the original report -- The Discovery of the Nullitron -- from Galaxy Magazine, February 1967.

Photo Credit: Random borrowed photo of a red ball, entitled "Red Ball" by Rennett Stowe, on Flickr