Monday, September 27, 2010

My Fall TV Watching So Far

Hey, it's the New Fall TV Season. Time for great new shows and for all your old favorites to come back and keep you company as the weather changes. What am I watching? I'm so glad you asked.

First, let me start by saying we changed over to the DVR system on Comcast and got rid of the TiVos that we had in the house. This was a necessity due to the changes in the digital TV set up and the fact that we have an HD box from Comcast that we couldn't hook up directly to the TiVo. I will say this, the menu and set-ups on the Comcast box are terrible when compared to TiVo. Comcast, will you please roll out some TiVo service on your DVRs in Chicago? Thank you. Why do I mention this, well, we realized how many things we had set up to record years ago and forgot to reset. We missed recording all the NBC shows on Thursday night. I have no idea what happened on The Office. Was it good?

On to the shows. In the recurring category I'm watching House, The Office (when I catch up), The Mentalist, The Amazing Race (kind of), Castle (maybe) and Modern Family (always good). That's all I can remember right now. I thought the first House episode was a little boring, but The Mentalist was pretty good. Wasn't that a great review? But this post isn't really about returning shows it's about, The All New Super Awesome TV Shows That Are Unlike Anything You've Ever Seen! Or, that's what they want you to believe.

Let's start with Hawaii Five-O. While I remember the original version of the show by name, I can't remember if we actually watched it in our house when I was a kid. It's seems like something we would have watched, maybe by the time I would have been watching it my got tired of it. The show was on for twelve years so it is possible.

I did enjoy the new show. I wanted to check it out since it had Daniel Dae Kim from Lost and Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica. Those were two of my favorite shows over the last few years so I had to give it a try. I will say I enjoyed it, but some things bugged me a little bit. I thought the two main guys were a little on the cliché side, but I didn't hold that against this show too much since it was the pilot. Maybe the writers and producers can lighten them up a little bit. While I think the mix of action was good, some was a little too unbelievable, but again, it's the first episode. We'll see how Hawaii Five-O develops, but I think it has a chance of being good. If only they will listen to me. (My email is on the "about me" page...)

I watched The Event today. Two things right of the bat on this one. 1) Let us get to know who the people are a little bit before you start flashbacking all over the place. 2) That was the best title for the show? I know you don't want to give anything away in the title, but come on. Does this mean we won't know what The Event is until the end of the series? Because you guys are going to piss some people off that way.

The show wasn't terrible, and the ending was interesting, but there was too much set up (and flashbacks) that we had to sit through to get to that. Those of you who watched The Event, if they took out all the flashbacks, would the show lose anything? I say no. I say it makes me want to come back and find out why that guy was on the plane. Or what was the deal with the weird, hippy travelers, or, most important, where the Hell did that plane go? See, it's good to leave some lingering questions in the audience's mind, but that questions shouldn't be, "What day is this now? Why is this so confusing?" Because if it is, you've lost your audience. Having said all this, I will keep watching a few more episodes to see where it goes.

Jenn checked out Mike and Maddy and said it was good. She also recorded some other show that I can't even remember. I think we made it to the first commercial break on that one. Always a good sign.

I think there are a few more I'm going to try out. But I'll leave that for another post. I hope you can wait!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Weekend Assignment #335: History

Wow! I actually have something ready on time for the weekend assignment and it even includes pictures. This week the topic from Karen is local history.

We don't all live near the site of a battlefield or other world-famous event, but any place has its own history: political, cultural, even natural history. How aware are you of the past of the town, city or state where you live now? Share with us a story of local history.

This worked out pretty well for me. I've been meaning to get pictures of this old windmill that I had found out about. So I made plans to go out there last week and I figured I'd tie it in with this week's assignment.

First a quick photo of the windmill:

It's called the Fayban Windmill now since it was once owned by a General Fayban who had it moved out to his land back in 1915 after it fell into a state of disrepair in it's original location.

According to what I can find out here, this is an actual working Dutch windmill that was assembled in 1875 in what is now Lombard, Illinois for two farmers. It was Dutch-built prefabricated kit that was shipped out there to be put together. I guess houses aren't the only things that you can buy prefabricated.

It's was bought in 1915 by General Fayban and moved in 1917 to it's current location. Again, it was disassembled and re-assembled. Not unlike a big Erector set. It stood, and was used, in the current location until 1937 when the counter acquired it after the general passed away. Then it just sat there and was a tourist attraction, and still is today.

Back in 1997 the county hired a third-generation Dutch millwright, Lucas Verbij, who declared it to be a great specimen that should be restored. This was completed in 2004. It is open on weekend for tours, which I didn't get to do, but I'd like to now, and they still mill grain on occasion for tours.

I really want to go inside this now. Who's with me?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach: A Sort of Review

No, I don't review books here often, I leave that to the professionals like Florinda, but I enjoyed Packing for Mars so much that I wanted to talk about it.

First, let's step back a little. I haven't read any of Mary Roach's books before, actually I've never heard of her. Sad I know. Anyway, I happened to catch her on The Daily Show with John Stewart back in August. Normally when I watch The Daily Show I skip the interview part, but when John Stewart mentioned the book was about space exploration, I knew I had to watch. Wow, was I glad I did. After watching the funny interview Jenn even told me that the book was right up my alley. She wasn't kidding.

So, now to the book. I will warn you about spoilers now; humans have been in space and to the moon. You knew that, right? Good. Packing for Mars, as the name suggests, is a look at the science of space travel, what we've done already and what we need to study in order to make it to Mars. But this isn't written by your average science teacher-type person who puts you to sleep after a page or two. Nor does it look at the types of things you normally think about when you hear about space travel. Let's say it's more a long the line of everything you always wanted to know about space travel but were afraid to ask.

What do I mean by that? Let's just say there is a lot of talk about poop in space. Actually poop, urine, food and vomit which, when you think about it, go hand-in-hand. Now, it's not all poop talk, because that would get old, and gross. There is a lot of talk about gravity and how it screws with your body, as well. But Mary Roach takes a decidedly different approach to the space program than your average author would. This is what makes the book great, in my opinion. Who wants to read another boring book about thrust vectors and approach angles and all that stuff? I want to know what happens what a poop ball gets loose in space! Or, would I chock to death if I barfed in my space suit?

I'm not saying this book makes fun of NASA or the space program. Not at all. It's quite the opposite. You can tell Mary Roach appreciates all that's been a accomplished, and the things she writes about are just as important as the rocket that sends the astronauts up. Without the wast collections systems, food systems, space suits, etc., they would never be able to stay up there more than a few days. But, there is also no reason that we can't read about these things and have fun at the same time, right?

So, if you want to read about all the science behind the space program that you never even thought about, go out and buy Packing for Mars. It is a really fun read. Also, it looks like Mary Roach is on tour. If you live in California you can still catch her, but at only one event it seems. Sorry I'm late on that. Looks like she didn't come to Chicago this year, which is probably good since I'd go and look like a dork laughing at the poop talk.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yes, I survived the Oak Brook Half-Marathon

I haven't talked about it here lately because, well, I wasn't so sure I'd succeed, but I finished The Oak Brook Half-Marathon. The first thing I want to say is, ouch. I'm not as sore as I thought I'd be, but I do not feel normal. My knees hurt, my hips hurt and my left ankle hurts. I don't know why only my left ankle hurts, but I also don't know why my legs aren't killing me. Though I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I didn't run all that fast.

I signed up for this race a long time ago thinking I'd have plenty of time to get ready. I did have plenty of time, but my aging body isn't as cooperative as my brain. I've run long races before, including one in a deluge of rain, but never a half-marathon. I decided to do it this year since my usual long race was moved up to August and we were going to be out of town. So when I was looking for a long race to do this one popped up. It's looked like a cool route and it was close. I wasn't so sure about doing a half-marathon, but Jenn talked me into it.

Let me saw this now. I am not good at running long races. I do them, but just so I have something to work for so I don't become a fat slob. I have terrible eating habits and this helps keep things in check, for the most part.

Anyway, for this race we planned to stay at the race location. The start was just off of the McDonald's campus (or Hamburger University), so we stayed at the Hyatt Lodge that is on the campus. Let me tell you, this is one of the nicest corporate campuses I've ever seen. I'm sure there are some nice ones out there in other states, but here in Illinois we don't have that many nice ones.

By staying on the campus we could sleep a little later since the race started at 7am, and, with the kids at the grandparent's house, we could go to bed early with out all the commotion. It worked out really well. Well, expect for Jenn waking up with a migraine and unable to run, and me leaving a little later than I wanted to and the race start a little farther away than I thought. It had to be close to a mile away (!) but I made it to the start before the gun went off.

I was happy to see the clouds in the sky, and little drops of rain. I was hoping they'd both stay around to keep me cool. The rain didn't but the clouds did.

The first 6 miles went really well. I wasn't too tired. My legs felt okay, but I was a little hungry. I met up with Jenn just before the six mile point and had some of my Sport Beans (made by Jelly Belly) and had some water and continued on.

Here was my first problem. Just after Jenn went off to meet me later on the course something went weird in my right knee. I don't know if I went down a hill at an odd angle (there were a LOT of hills) or what, but it felt like something was out of place. I kept trying to bend it more hoping it would go away. Luckily, after about a mile, it did. Phew. Crisis averted.

The next couple of miles I just kept trying to do the countdown. How many miles left? 6? No problem! I thought I might be getting in trouble when I was between mile 8 and 9. I couldn't remember what the last mile marker was. Did I pass 9? It felt like it. I looked at me GPS watch to see what it said: 3.66 miles?! Shit! I stopped at a port-a-potty and forgot to restart the damn thing. I was only wearing it to keep my pace in check and now, when I really needed it, I realized I screwed up. This was when I started thinking I might not finish this thing. I was so confident at 6 miles now at nearly 9 miles, not so much. It's amazing how much can change in 3 short miles.

Oh, before I go on, let it be known that I did take some walk breaks. Not long, and mostly at water stations, but I don't want it to look like I'm better at this than I really am.

Anyway, I made it past mile 9 and met up with Jenn again at mile 10. We walked together a bit again as I had some more Sport Beans, Gatorade and water. She kept telling me I only had a 5K to go, which was helpful, but I was spent. My legs felt like limp spaghetti noodles and I still felt a little hungry. I walked a little bit after Jenn ran off to meet me at the finish line and started to jog again after some high school runners came by us and cheered us on.

The last three miles were the longest I've run, but I somehow managed to do it. The last half mile was lined with people who had already finished, and their families, all cheering us on. I actually was able to speed up at the end, fueled by their nice words. I made it.

Here is a picture Jenn took of me coming through the finish. It's little hard to see me since I was running so fast (HA!) but here is proof that I made it.

Jenn tried to tell me I should try a a marathon after I finished. It was probably not the best time to get me to contemplate running a race twice the distance of the one that almost killed me. No, I'm not doing a marathon. Ever.

Overall, it was good and I'm glad I did it even if I did feel like my calves were being chewed off by squirrels after I was done. And, I got a nice medal to show off. I think I'll wear it to work next week.