Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Oh My Aching Neck

Got ahold of some flu yesterday - fever, aches, weakness, the whole bit. Stayed in bed most of the day, submitting to Nicole's conscientious care, was feeling better by nighttime. Woke up and the fever was mostly gone. Unfortunately, I couldn't turn my head to the left without excruciating pain in my neck. Consultation with Nicole's nurse stepmom, books, and the Internet confirmed that doctors can't do anything about it. Only heat, ibuprofen, and time will help. If my neck, shoulders, and back are not perfectly aligned, it hurts. So I'm walking around like C-3PO.

I really hope this blog doesn't turn into a litany of complaints...I'll post about something happy next.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Third-World Ameren Strikes Again

Ameren UE, our local electricity monopoly, has a record of service and reliability that is the envy of the nation. Unfortunately, that nation is Bangladesh.

Last night, 4000 more St. Louisans were without power for six hours, for reasons known only to the Ameren Kommissars. My family was 3 of those people - just what I wanted to come home to after a business trip. By my count, this is the sixth (yes, 6th) significant power outage at our house in the last 15 months. And I live in one of the most densely populated areas of the city, not at the end of a dirt road somewhere.

Hey, I understand. Things happen. Things particularly happen to you, if you're an utterly incompetent corporate monopoly. But I do have a few questions:

How many elderly people has Ameren killed, through a combination of rate increases and recurrent summer outages?

Do you think Ameren CEO Gary Rainwater feels even the slightest twinge of guilt about this, when he's zooming around in his corporate jet and lounging around his vast mansion (address unlisted, unfortunately)?

How many times has the power gone out at the palatial home of Ameren CEO Gary Rainwater?

How long does it take to train a monkey to answer a phone and say "Sorry for the inconvenience"?

Is Ameren CEO Gary Rainwater seeking psychiatric help for his pathological greed?

Does the concept of "executive responsibility" mean anything more than the responsibility to demand ever-higher rate increases?

I await answers from Ameren CEO Gary Rainwater. I think I'll be waiting a long time, but I've gotten pretty good at that - I'm an Ameren customer.

(This is a reprint of a post I made in the forums at stltoday.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Wading Game

How do you enjoy being outside on a 95-degree Sunday? We took Ava to the wading pool in Tower Grove Park yesterday. It wasn't too crowded, so we staked out a shady corner of the pool, dunked our feet in, kept a water bottle close at hand, and hardly noticed the heat. Ava made friends with another little girl who had a little toy turtle with her. Ava didn't bring any toys, but a leaf she found floating in the pool served just as well - Ava called it her "water leaf" and hung onto it most of the time she was in the water. A couple of unruly hoosier kids were terrorizing large parts of the pool, pouring buckets of water on strangers and helping themselves to other kids' toys, taking advantage of the hesitancy of yuppie parents to discipline children. Their chain-smoking, snaggletoothed, prison-tattooed mother sure as hell wasn't going to say a word. I don't get how some parents can just sit there while their kids are acting like such bastards. I was ready to make a scene if they came within ten yards of my kid. Luckily, they stayed away, and we were able to have a nice time without having to yell at anybody.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oh My Aching Calves

Riding a bike really helps you get to know the topography of your town. I now understand that Grand and Morganford each run along ridges, while Roger and Kingshighway are at the bottoms of valleys. In a car, you'd barely notice. On a bike, those slopes are brutal - especially if you're out of shape and riding a heavy-frame one-speed. I rode for a mere half-hour Saturday night, and there were times when I felt like I was dragging the bike uphill. Ugh. Now, I was trying to push myself, taking the slopiest routes I could find. But I must've pushed myself too hard, because when I rode Monday night, my legs immediately started hurting. I guess the real lesson here is: I am ridiculously out of shape. I wonder if I could ride an exercise bike while I work...

Melting Away In Clearwaterville

I'm not sure why this seems so significant, but I was mildly freaked out to see that my parents drink beer on the rocks now. Part of it is simply that it's a change - I can specifically remember my Dad scoffing at the idea of putting ice in beer, many years ago. But more than that, there's something really "Florida" about it to me. I don't think I've ever seen anybody in St. Louis drink their beer with ice. Maybe most people in Florida don't either, I don't know. Maybe Florida has nothing to do with it. Maybe it's just a personal quirk of my parents'. But it's not one they picked up in St. Louis. There weren't many people more saturated in St. Louisness than my parents, and ice in beer seems like one more way they're turning into Floridians. Time marches on. Or melts into something else.

Birthday Girls (And Now, Boy)

My daughters each had birthdays last week. Can Veronica really be 11 now? I hope she likes the graphic novel I picked out for her - I'm really excited that she's into comics. She's got more natural writing talent than I ever had at her age, especially in terms of understanding emotion and plotting. So I'm trying to turn her on to stuff that will deepen that understanding, and show her the possibilities of storytelling. At least once a day, I'm surprised and delighted by Veronica's intelligence and wit (not to mention how tall she keeps getting).

Ava turned three ("free", as she pronounces it). It's funny how she reacts to presents: she rips open the paper and then just stares at the present, dumbfounded and overwhelmed. People might mistake it for rudeness, but she's just too excited to show any emotion. She's so sweet and imaginative and sensitive and smart. I couldn't be more proud of my girls - my greatest accomplishment.

Oh yeah - on Ava's birthday, my sister Lizzie had her first child, a baby boy named Isaiah Jordan Toon. (The names "Kareem", "Magic", and "Bird" didn't make the cut, I guess.) He looks like his mom. Welcome to life, Isaiah! And happy birthday, Ava and Veronica!

At The Picture Show

With two kids and a job and a band, I don't get to watch many movies. But it just so happens I've seen three in the last few days, and - fortunately for me - not one of them was a waste of a valuable movie-watching opportunity.

Brothers of the Head (on DVD now) is a mockumentary about a pair of conjoined twin brothers in late '70s England, who are essentially sold to a showbiz impresario with the idea of turning them into teen idols. But they have ideas of their own, and their band (the Bang Bang) winds up as an aggressive proto-punk outfit, with the boys wringing maximum shock value from the knot of flesh connecting them. The music, written by Clive Langer of the legendary Langer/Winstanley production team, is surprisingly great - I wish I could find the soundtrack, for the song "Sitting in a Car" alone. Harry and Luke Treadaway, the real-life non-conjoined twins who play the conjoined twins, are perfect - sullen and sensitive at just the right moments. They manage to make the two twins into distinct personalities without resorting to, like, funny hats or something. Mixing faux-archival footage and talking-head interviews with the occasional surreal sequence, the movie isn't for everybody, but if you have any interest in punk rock or carnival sideshows, it's pretty fascinating.

Another unheralded young Brit who gives an awesome performance is preadolescent Thomas Turgoose, star of This Is England. Not only is it the best skinhead movie ever made - it's also a gritty, moving look at life in a hard-edged Northern English town during the grim, grey early '80s. It's showing at the Tivoli for one week only, starting Friday, August 10 - if you like the trailer, you'll love the movie.

On a completely different tip, I took Veronica to see Ratatouille on her birthday. I found it funny, atmospheric, engaging, lovely to look at - great, really. I'd gotten a little bored with the surfeit of computer-animated kids' features, because so many of them now are, you know, kinda crappy. Ratatouille shows the genre can still be as exciting as A Bug's Life and The Iron Giant.

What's The Point?

Why bother to start a personal blog at this late date? Aside from the usual personal-expression stuff, two reasons: first, to keep my friends and family apprised of what's going on in my life and in my head. Second, for all the writing I've done in my life, I've always had trouble writing about myself. I'm hoping this blog helps me learn how to do that. I've got several posts lined up to launch today, but that's a one-time start-up bonanza - don't expect 4 or 5 every day. 4 or 5 a month would be fine with me. 4 or 5 a week would be the greatest feat of my writing life.