Thursday, November 25, 2004

Triptotrivia

I watched a few episodes of Dinner for Five this evening. Good show. Anyways ... I learned that Charles Nelson Reilly was at the Hartford Circus Fire as a kid. He was talking with Charles Durning (who sounds like a fascinating guy) about how he can't watch a performance of anything from the audience. If he tries, the sounds of the crowd call back that memory. Then he sat on Dom DeLuise's lap and they did the "other guy's hands" bit that I remember doing with Dat.

In another episode, Alec Baldwin was far more interesting interesting to watch than I would have guessed. I guess that's what I like about the show, it reveals aspects of these people that you would never guess were there.

At Thanksgiving, a little Dinner For Six at my mom's house, my grandfather was up to his usual tricks. He's trying to sell Tif on making some horseradish for me, it was hilarious. We're all sitting around eating, talking about this and that, and the conversation turns to wine, winemaking, and then (naturally) to horseradish. (I love horseradish.) So he invites us over -- he's got a patch of horseradish ready to be dug up, all we need to do is grab a shovel, get a root, and he can tell us how to prepare it. Now, it's just started raining and I've got no intention of going out in the dark, cold, rainy night to dig up horseradish but he's all fired up now and you know after you dig it up all you've got to do is cut off the ends and peel it, but make sure you're wearing goggles because this horseradish, you really don't want any of it in your eyes. 'Any of it' isn't just a stray shaving or you've touched it and then you rub your eye without thinking (remind me to tell you my dad's story about the habaneros some time), 'any of it' is any of the air within ten feet of the thing. The vapors will drop a draught horse. So you peel it with your goggles on (which I don't have) and you really ought to wear gloves too -- and whatever you do, don't try to peel it inside, peel it outside. And, not to near the house either. I'm really not digging the prospect of the cold, the rain, the shoveling, the goggles, the gloves, the whole ordeal, but I do like horseradish, so I'm borderline tempted to try to sell Tif on the idea, then Ginny throws in the added bonus that this horseradish patch isn't just horseradish, it's laced with this amazingly virulent poison ivy that you don't even have to touch to get the rash from, you just have to be standing near it when the wind blows and any part of your skin that's exposed gets it. Nice. Needless to say, we just took home some leftover turkey, stuffing, turnip, and cheesecake.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Kim Stanley Robinson Watch

The December issue of Wired, guest edited by James Cameron, will have a piece by KSR. Is it to fanboyish of me to speculate that this connection may be the first new hint that Cameron is still in some way planning to develop a film based on one of the novels? Um. Yeah. Drats.

Friday, November 12, 2004

'04 Prediction Check

Here's what I wrote back in January:
1. Dean.


2. Red Sox in 6.


3. 3 UConn players drafted in the first round.


4. The world events equivalent of "US v. Iraq" in 2003 will be "China v. somebody" in 2004.
Results:
1. Well, he's still in the news.

2. Close enough ... it was Red Sox in 4.

3. Gordon, Okafor, Taurasi. That was a gimme. I should've predicted the dual National Championships. 2004 turned out to be the greatest year in the history sport.

4. Not really close. Although ... a Chinese sub just showed up off the coast of Okinawa and the Japanese aren't thrilled about it. "US v. Iraq 2004" is the closest world events equivalent to "US v. Iraq 2003". Looks like more of the same for 2005.

An American Dekalogue?

Soderbergh and Clooney are slated to produce a miniseries that sounds quite a bit like Kieslowski's The Dekalogue, ten short films each examining one of the Ten Commandments. If it weren't Soderbergh, I probably wouldn't give it a second thought.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veterans Day

I was 5 years old on July 4th, 1976. My dad had a pig roast for Fourth that year. It was a special cookout that year not only because of the Bicentennial, but on account of so much of the far flung family would be coming together. My Uncle Jim was a Marine stationed in the UK, he and his family came -- I was excited to see the cousins I'd only met once before. (Matt & P.J. are in the service now, Adam served in the first Gulf War.) My Uncle Don and his family were there too, they all came in from Texas. Don was also a Marine who'd served in Vietnam. (It's only in the last few years I've heard about the trail of busted up bars he left up and down Main St. East Hartford when he got back ... funny stuff now, but it sounds like he's lucky the police were busy enough cleaning up the messes behind him that they didn't catch up to him that night.) My Uncle Robert was there too, he'd spent a long time in the hospital up in Springfield when he got back from Vietnam. I'd only seen pictures of him and don't really remember seeing him that day, he'd gone into the house and the kids were told not to bother him. I knew he'd been injured, but not how bad, nor how long he'd been in the hospital.

What I remember most about that day is playing army with my cousins, watching the fireworks, running around and jumping into somersaults and sprawling out on the ground after the giant booms and how my grandfather had to ask us to stop. The way he asked has stayed with me to this day. I never saw him look like that before, like he might cry. It scared the hell out of me. He told us how Robbie was having a hard time with the sound of the fireworks and now wasn't the right time to pretend to be blown up. Then, all I could think was how sad it was that fireworks (fun!) could make somebody feel so bad that it could make my grandfather look that worried for him.

That's almost thirty years ago (man, I feel old saying that) and even now I get a knot of Angry-Sad-It's-Not-Fair in my throat thinking about those fireworks, my grandfather, and my uncle. Rob has always had "Favorite Distant Uncle" status. He got me my first computer ... a VIC 20 with a tape drive and a modem. I played Shamus and read a Bulletin Board he posted to back then, The Democratic Secular Humanist Egg. He was (and is) the coolest.

My family is full of veterans and active duty ... but it's my Uncle Robert I choose to honor first and foremost.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Stacking the Deck

Companies Sue Union Retirees To Cut Promised Health Benefits [WSJ.com]

When a deputy sheriff came to his door with a court summons, George Kneifel, a retiree in Union Mills, Ind., was mystified. His former employer was suing him.


The employer, beverage-can maker Rexam Inc., had agreed in labor contracts to provide retirees with health-care coverage. But now the company was asking a federal judge to rule that it could reduce or eliminate the benefit.


Many companies have already cut back company-paid health-care coverage for retirees from their salaried staffs. But until recently, employers generally were barred from touching unionized retirees' benefits because they are spelled out in labor contracts. Now, some are taking aggressive steps to pare those benefits as well, including going to court.In the past two years, employers have sued union retirees across the country. In the suits, they ask judges to rule that no matter what labor contracts say, they have a right to change the benefits. Some companies also argue that contract references to "lifetime" coverage don't mean the lifetime of the retirees, but the life of the labor contract. Since the contracts expired many years ago, the promises, they say, have expired too.
And yet yet they didn't stop paying when the contracts expired, they suddenly realized 'lifetime' meant until the end of the contract years later. Right.
Employers that want to cut union retirees' health coverage or make retirees pay a larger portion could just impose changes and wait to be sued. But by suing first, they stand a chance of choosing the jurisdiction. This is important, because federal circuits' appellate courts tend to take differing positions in these disputes. Indeed, the unsettled nature of the law on these issues -- with employers' arguments sometimes succeeding and sometimes not -- may be a factor prompting some companies to have a go at gaining the legal right to change benefits.
Choosing the jurisdiction ... hmm ... I wonder how they can tell which judges might be sympathetic to corporations looking to break their contracts with retirees?

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Cons Fading

Sci-fi fans not getting out as much as they used to now that they can get the autographs and collectibles on e-Bay, reports the Springfield Republican. The stars of SG-1 have overtaken Star Trek lumninaries in popularity. MacGyver surpassing Kirk?! Never.
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