Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas creeps - part 2 

I mentioned yesterday that I was creeped out by the Vision Forum catalog. Just too darned whitebread-Confederate for me. But I have to say, I have more respect for their product line than that of the Life Way store we shopped at yesterday. I walked into the store and was overwhelmed by the good ol' American materialism. Who would have thought that the Bible could inspire so much merchandise? I guess my problem isn't that there are Christian tchotkes out there--I did go in there to do some Christmas shopping, after all. It's just that I found so much of it to be lacking. Do we really need candy with little Bible messages on the wrapper? And then there were things that struck me as just plain wrong. the most egregious (this time around) were the "Almighty Heroes" action figures. Basically, these blasphemously named toys are guys from various Bible stories redesigned as carbon copy, Northern European superheroes. All of them feature bulging biceps, colorful costumes and a couple of accessories. And all of them, in my opinion, are poorly created. Take Daniel for example. Maybe Daniel worked out, maybe not. But I doubt if his administrative duties, as described in scripture, required him to be armed with a sword and spear. Which story of Daniel, exactly, are little Jewish and Christian boys supposed to be re-enacting with this toy? The one where Daniel brings along his weapons just in case he mis-interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream? Or maybe when Belshazzar summons Daniel in the middle of his morning fencing lesson? I know, it must be when the angel closed the mouths of the pygmy lions in the lions' den so Daniel wouldn't have to dirty his spear. Sheesh! If you want your kid to play superheroes, then buy him some superhero dolls.

Um, I think my rant got a bit off track there. I think the point I wanted to make is that both the Vision Forum folks and the creators of various "Christian" merchandise try to sanctify secular things and ideals by tacking religion onto their "products". There's nothing wrong with strong families, protective fathers and beautiful girls. Nor are dolls, candles or coffee mugs inherently evil. They're all good gifts from God, gifts that He's given to Christians and non-Christians alike. Why do we need to try and make them "holier" than they really are?

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas creeps - part 1 

The Christmas shopping season has begun! Noodles and I ventured out to do some shopping today and I've already got the creeps. Actually, I've had two creepy moments, one today and one earlier in the month. That earlier one was the "Beautiful Girlhood" catalog that I mentioned two weeks ago now. The actual name of the company is The Vision Forum. Somehow we got on their mailing list and every year they send us a catalog showcasing their books and videos and toys. The feeling I get when looking at their catalog is creepy. On one hand, I should be in agreement with their philosophy--they're all for encouraging strong, Christian families; for living up to one's ideals and raising one's kids to do the same. The problem is, they come across as so limited. To them, the proper strong, Christian family is one with stereotypical manly men and fragile women. It's an American family, of course, from one of the Southern states. Papa was a soldier, or at least reads books about them. Mama has lots of pretty dresses and makes a beautiful home. Again, I should be in agreement. There's nothing wrong with any of those things. The problem is, both America and Christendom is so much more than what they offer in their catalog. They have books about "Stonewall" Jackson, but nothing about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. You can dress your doll as Puritan girl or a Medieval princess, but if you want to dress her as an Italian immigrant, you're out of luck. I can buy all sorts of toys to let my nephew pretend to be a soldier from various eras, but there's nothing to let him pretend to be a doctor or a farmer.* When I flip through the pages of the catalog, I have to wonder why. Maybe they're just filling a niche market. Or maybe they're ideals are just limited to the picture their catalog paints. Or maybe the Vision Forum just pushes the right buttons to unleash my own prejudices. I don't know. All I know is that every year when the catalog arrives we have a day or two of eye rolling and, at least for me, a case of the creeps. But it could be worse. God willing, I'll get to that tomorrow.
*Okay, I have to admit that my nephew would undoubtedly much prefer the three-man slingshot to a doctor kit. Heck, I would, too.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Praise and thanksgiving 

So Thanksgiving has come and ('tis almost) gone. I hope you had a happy one. Mine was okay. One downer was that I haven't been feeling to Thanksgivingly. I first noticed it last Friday. We were at a prayer meeting and for a prayer topic, our leader suggested we think about those thing in the past year for which we were exceptionally thankful. The problem was, I wasn't feeling exceptionally thankful. Sure, I had plenty for which to be thankful--a decent job, good health, a loving family, a big bag of dark chocolate M&Ms--but none of them were causing my heart to well up with thankfulness. Instead I seem to just be taking them all for granted. A very foolish attitude, I know. I think I'm subconsciously longing for some thrill, something novel in my life to distract me from the daily routine. Not a terrible rut to be stuck in, but a rut nonetheless. Anyway, I have no point to make with these ramblings, so I think I'll just stop here.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


'Tis the season, again. Time to start working on the Christmas cards. We've been making our own for years. Coffee draws the picture, Noodles gathers quotes and writes original thoughts for the insides and I turn the whole thing into something we can photocopy, fold and mail out. Of course, we haven't done that for the past three years. In '05 and '06 we were in China and last year we sent out a family newsletter instead. But this year we're back to the basics. Sort of. Things have changed. In the past, we came up with an idea and asked little Coffee to draw us a picture. This year, I inquired about using a drawing she had already made. She politely declined, pointing out that said work was a charcoal drawing that had yet to be fixed. She didn't want it to get smudged on the scanner. She did offer, however, to sketch out a few variations on the theme and then render a final version of whatever sketch we liked. When did my kid grow up? When did the creative tyke become a commercial artist? Is this the little girl I carried? Is this... ahem. (Sorry. Sometimes my inner Tevye slips out.)

Getting the Christmas photos taken is another process that has changed. We started shooting out own Christmas pix before China, but it used to be I'd load up a 12 exposure roll of film, shoot all 12 frames, then rush down to Paradise Studios to get the film developed. Hoping, of course, that one of the shots were good enough to use. This year, I again shot a dozen pics. But I headed down the stairs rather than down the hill. I looked at the pictures on the laptop, found the photos a bit lacking, and then went and shot another handful. We went down to Bartell's for the processing (Paradise, alas, has gotten out of the photo processing business.) and were able to walk home with a big pile of prints, ready to mail out. Very nice. (Well, except that the digital prints are slightly inferior to the old C-41 prints.)

I wonder what surprises await me when I try to print out the actual cards. Of course, we still have a bit of work ahead of us before we find that out.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008


Now yesterday was the day I missed posting. I was too busy up to the point where I got too tired. Sorry. As you might suspect, I won't be writing a novel this month, either.

I've added a new blog to the blogroll. It's a blog by a friend from high school, Dave. I definitely had mixed feelings when I heard he was going to blog. On the good side, Dave's funny and is a good writer. Plus he plays in a band, The Lennys, so he knows all sorts of lyrics to use as titles for his blog posts. The down side is that Dave started blogging to keep all of us informed about his batlle with Waldostein's Macroglubb..., er, Waldingstern's Macroglibbul..., no, um, Walgreen's Mac.... oh, grumpf! (cut) (paste) Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia. It's a blood cancer. It sucks.

Anyway, I doubt if both of you readers will actually follow Dave's blog, not knowing him and all, but this is what's on my mind so this is today's blog topic. Tune in tomorrow when I might talk about church politics, or visiting people in nursing homes, or Bollywood movies, or gathering stamps in my Library passport, or one of the many other little things that comprise my weekend.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not again... 

Yes, another day of working overtime and watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.... I felt cheated--Anjali takes a minor role in the second half of the film, but even then she is much more enticing than her half dressed sister. Um... don't tell my wife I said that.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I just want to say, for the record, that I did not miss posting yesterday--I blatantly skipped posting yesterday. Instead I wrote a couple of overdue e-mails, read a Nitpicker's Guide and watched part of a Bollywood movie. No, not the same Bollywood movie. Soon after I took Baghban back to the Library, I received word that Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... was waiting on hold for me. Unlike Baghban, which stars Amitabh Bachchan as a father in conflict with his grown sons, Kabhi stars Amitabh Bachchan as a father in conflict with only one of his sons. At least I think it's only one. I'm only part way through the film, so maybe he starts squabbling with his other son as well. Even so, it's still only two sons compared to the four in Baghban.

In all seriousness, Kabhi is a cut above Baghban, though it still is a bit surreal to this American boy. I wonder if that's not part of what's behind this Bollywood kick of mine--trying to capture a bit of the confusion of living overseas, where you're never quite sure what's going on. Of course, it isn't quite the same. China didn't have subtitles. Or the big dance numbers.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

We're all special 

For the sake of convenience, I stopped in at Albertson's to pick up a few things. As I checked out, the cashier asked if I had my Preferred Customer card. I honestly admitted that I didn't have one. (That is the best policy, because if you do say you have one, they don't believe you and make you show it to them.) So the cashier whips out a card, swipes it over the scanner and I saved a total of $1.28. That was nice, but I have to wonder: What preference is showed to the card carrying Albertson's shoppers if they give out the discounts to any old guy off the street?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Orient Express 

(A Hamburgerland restaurant review.)
(I know, it's incongruous to have a review of an Asian restaurant on a blog called Hamburgerland. Maybe one of these days, I'll get around to reviewing hamburgers. Yeah, one of these days...)

Ugh, ngóh báau lak. We just got back from dinner at The Orient Express, a new Asian restaurant in town. If you know Seattle, you might have driven past Andy's Diner on Fourth Avenue South. For those of you from other lands, Andy's was a classic greasy spoon diner located in a number of railroad cars. The food was so-so, but the ambiance was great--small tables squeezed into a passenger car, the walls festooned with railroad photos and paraphernalia. But Andy's Diner, alas, shut down a while back. The doors were locked shut and a temporary chain-link fence sprouted up around the cars. My family and I mourned it's loss and wondered if this south end landmark would go the way of the Twin Teepees restaurant of days past.

Well, one day, not so long ago, I drove past Andy's and saw that the railroad cars had been painted bright green and orange. I wondered if this was graffiti gone amok, or if it was the prelude to some sort of demolition process. (I can take a pessimistic view of life at times.) A week or two later, I discovered that it was quite the opposite. Someone had affixed Chinese characters onto the restaurant's sign. A day or two later, the English side of the sign went up--Orient Express. We were delighted that the place had found new life and curious as to what kind of place it would be. A take out joint? A buffet? Dim sum? We were hoping it would open up by my birthday, so we could we could fit a trip to the restaurant into our very limited dining budget. However, my natal day came and went before the grand opening (I pigged out at Red Robin instead) so it looked like we weren't going to check the joint out anytime soon. Shows how much we knew. After this busy weekend and all the overtime I put in, we figured a restaurant treat was in order.

So how was our dining experience? Quite good actually. We first encountered the restaurant's ambiance. The owners of the Orient Express really didn't make too much effort to remodel. It was basically Andy's Diner with new booths, a fish tank at the entrance and a shrine where Andy's cashier used to be. The train pictures are still hanging and the 1950's flatware still adorns the tables. The food, of course, is totally different. Orient Express' menu has both a Thai and Chinese section. We pretty much went Chinese, ordering pot stickers, Kung Pao chicken, Szechwan string beans, stir fried beef and noodles and a beef-onion-ginger dish. We also ordered a Thai appetizer--satay chicken skewers with peanut sauce. It was all delightful, almost as if we were back in Yunnan. (I even had a moment when I accidentally gobbled up a chunk of pepper with the seeds in it. Tears running down my cheek, I desperately shoveled rice into my mouth to try and ease the burning.)

The best surprise was at the end. We got our bill and discovered that we had come on the last day of Orient Express' grand opening promotion--20% off the bill. Even without the discount, the price was quite reasonable. Dinner would have cost our family of four around $50. We left with full tummies and two doggie bags. My only complaint was trying to eat such fare with Andy's big old forks. Those utensils were great on steak and potatoes, but next time I'm either going to ask for a spoon to eat Thai style or chopsticks to eat Chinese.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008


I was planning on writing about this catalog we got celebrating "beautiful girlhood" among other things, but work has gotten in the way. Rather than working a couple of hours last night, I figured I'd go in today and put in a half day. Well, first my work took longer than I thought, so I expanded that half day to six hours, then we had a emergency fix that involved a recalcitrant film processor and I ended up staying past the 10-hour mark. So now I'm to tired to write. So maybe I'll dissect the catalog some other day. I'm bound to get that desperate for a post topic again before the month is out.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Tapping the past 

I don't know what to write. I was so desperate I grabbed my old journals from the '80s off the shelf to see if I could steal material. Do you realize that I only had one entry from November the 14th? Do you realize that it was about five lines of totally boring drivel? I shudder to think how much of those writings I would excise if I were to go through and edit my ramblings. I never was one for content. I did have a few creative page headers, though. Maybe that could be my next fad--grab a new set of markers and start writing in a spiral bound notebook again. Maybe I'll do that for December.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Yeah, I know, I missed a day. Hey, what do you expect? I mean I got in over two hours of overtime and then I had to rush home for dinner and then I had to rush off to a discussion about church politics with the opposition and then I had to rush home and have a discussion with my wife about the previous discussion and then I had to check my e-.... Oh. Wait. It's not past midnight yet. It sure feels a lot later. Never mind....


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Ah, whatever shall I write? I'm currently at the Library, downloading radio programs for Noodles. I can't afford a DSL connection, but with an AirPort card and free WiFi at the Seattle Public Library, I don't have to. The Library is quite busy this cool and rainy afternoon. There were so many kids running about that I thought there must have been a class having a field trip or something. I'm wondering how we ever fit this many people in the old library building. Or has patronage at this branch really picked up?

Hmmm, it seems that my Mac or Firefox or whatever has an efficient method to help me monitor my downloads. I start the file downloading, then switch to this window and start typing. When the file has finished downloading, my cursor mysteriously exits the text field and my keystrokes go straight into the ether. Wunnerful.

Not much on the agenda for tonight. Last night I went to the InDesign users group meeting where they demonstrated all the new wonders in the CS4 applications. I was dutifully impressed, but the skeptic in me wondered how much RAM and processing power those bells and whistles sucked up. I guess I'll find out in about ten years when I'll be buying the computers and software that are new today.

Ah, finished with the shows from 2005. That should keep her busy for a couple of days. Think I'll post this sucker and maybe browse the stacks a bit.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A film by Ravi Chopra
Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Salman Khan, Mahima Chaudhary
(and others not listed on the DVD case)

(Today's blog post is a movie review.)

I checked this Bollywood flick out of the Library this weekend. It was over 3 hours long, so I figured it would contain a dance number or two. It's the tale of a devoted father, Raj Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan), who is on the verge of retirement. He is rich in happiness and reputation, but his financial savings have gone to build a good life for his family and friends. When retirement comes, he and his wife Pooja expect his four sons to provide for him--a reasonable expectation in traditional Indian society. The sons and their spouses have a slightly different idea. that conflict and its resolution make up the rest of the film. (Well, that and the musical numbers.) (They're very nice musical numbers if you're into Bollywood.) It was an enjoyable film, though it kind of reminded me as an emotional comic book film. In a comic book film, the action is larger than life with way cool special effects and feats that would be beyond belief if you hadn't leave your logic at the door. In Baghban, the drama is also beyond belief. The characters of Raj and Pooja are all but demigods of kindness and generosity. Everybody loves them, everybody treats them with respect and similar generosity... except those few characters slated to be the bad guys. Those benighted souls are awash in selfishness and pettiness. Once Raj has made his request to live with his kids, the love of his sons and daughters-in-law vanish. They seem suddenly incapable of showing the smallest bit of respect or affection, even as total strangers continue to bend over backwards for the couple. I wonder if it's some sort of cultural thing, some nuance that is invisible to an American like myself but is totally obvious to an Indian viewer. Or maybe it's just like an American comic book film--you watch it to engage your emotions, not your intellect. As an emotional ride, Baghban is very fulfilling, with moments of joy, sorrow, humor and anger. And you can dance to it.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Soccer Pop 

Looks like today's another short post day. We've got to take Bunnah to the Magnolia Community Center for her gymnastics class. (Yeah, I know Jefferson Park's program is much closer, but back when the child started gymnastics, J.P. wasn't offering them.) She gets to run and jump and tumble and swing and the rest of us take a stroll in a neighborhood we could never afford. Then it's back to the gym where we all grab our books and pretend not to be watching the child in action. Don't want her to get self conscious, ya know.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008


Okay, so I promised the tale of online ordering at Yoyodyne. Let me first explain the situation at our shop. There's two of us pre-press guys that make up the art department of our shop. John Silver is the lead operator because a) he's been there longer, b) he has a wider range of experience with computers, traditional lithography and print shops, and c) he cares a lot more about the job than I do. Most of the time I'm quite content to toil in his shadow, but from time to time I do feel a tinge of envy. I am the lesser employee when compared to him, but I'm not without my own skills and years of experience. There are times when I wish the powers that be would come and ask me to take on a project* rather than always run to him.

Be careful what you wish for, eh? A number of weeks ago, I started overhearing the bosses talking to John Silver about some web design project. Seems that John Emdall had bought into some online ordering service, MyOrderDesk, that one can have customized for one's own company. Or one's customers. Now, at Yoyodyne we always look for a cheaper solution--used equipment, older software, using all available manpower when needed. So rather than having the dudes at MOD design our site, they were asking John Silver to draw upon his computer expertise and create the skins we'd need for the order site. In addition to his other duties, of course. So, J.S. tries his hand at it and ran into a roadblock. He just couldn't get a handle on how to dig into the site and set up the things he needed. He tried to tell the powers that what they were asking for wasn't possible. They were telling him that it certainly was. (The MyOrderDesk salesmen told them so, after all.) I only overheard about 75% of these discussions, but for whatever reason I started to think that if I had the chance to take a stab at it, I could possibly break thorough where J.S. was getting hung up. After all, I've changed the fonts and colors on many of my Blogger templates.

Anyway, two weeks ago I got my chance. I had been asked if I had any web experience and I mentioned that I had done some basic html. So they asked me to take a stab at it. After doing some poking, I discovered that once again John Silver knew what he was talking about. The powers were envisioning a site that would seamlessly link to a customer's site, taking on all the design elements and delivering full functionality. Well, that was possible, but only if you buy a package for each customer. Our single site could be fully customized, but we'd have to pick which customer to flatter. To my credit, I did make a bit more headway into manipulating the site, but then again, I also had less daily crises to tend to. I reported my findings to the powers and after some consultation with the pros at My Order Desk, we all came up with a plan wherein we'll drop the MOD window into customized pages that will be hosted at our site. We'll pay the MOD folks to create our first page and then John Silver and I will start creating the versions for our variety of customers.

Of course, this is going to take a lot of work. In addition to making it look pretty, we have to set up the various forms and databases for each customer, as well as altering our current workflow to make use of the service. This is all unscheduled work, which means that the sales people will be screaming for it while the production manager will be screaming for the paying jobs. Ah, well. So far it's proving to be an intriguing challenge, as well as another item to add on the resume.
*Yeah, I know. I'm the company FSC dude. I sent that ball into John Emdall's court and haven't heard about it in weeks. I've a feeling that'll be on the back burner until a customer starts inquiring about it again.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008


I was going to tell the tale of my newest job responsibilities, but my wife wants the computer. She's listening to talk radio shows which we downloaded onto the laptop. (It being our internet computer and all.) I would have written and posted earlier but I was taking a nap. And come to think of it, she was using the computer then, too.

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Friday, November 07, 2008


Not much to comment on today. 'Twas a typical Friday rush at work. I managed to slog through my stack of work and have ten whole minutes left over to work on our new online order system. (Did I mention the online order system? No, I didn't. Maybe I'll get to that tomorrow.) I also skipped my regular breaks, instead working my daily blog and comics check in between sundry tasks. One item of local interest was a discussion about this post on the Beacon Hill Blog. When Wendi asked people to list the things they liked about Beacon Hill (in a previous post), she got nice, positive responses. When she asked about things to improve, well, that started to generate controversy. When your looking to clean up the 'hood, you will invariably try to get rid of someone's sacred cow.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

One more thing 

Bunnah was looking over my shoulder and is very annoyed that I use the pseudonym "Coffee" when referring to her sister. The truth of the matter is that Bunnah was the one who came up with the nickname and I shamelessly stole it from her. So now the truth has been told and I can go have some supper with a clear conscience.

Bunnah also insists that I sign this.

Very Sincerely,
aka Hamburger Lad

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Out of the mouths of babes 

This is scary. My children are showing quite an interest in the recent election. Not only were they checking in on the election returns throughout Tuesday night, but right now, two days later, they are still asking questions about about it. Now in Coffee's case that would make sense--she'll be old enough to vote in the next presidential race. (Obama vs. Palin?) But Bunnah? She's wayyy to young for this sort of thing....

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Hmmm. If--I'm speaking hypothetically here--if I were actually posting every day in November, which, of course, is pretty far fetched, what would I write about today? Election Day delivered its usual mixed bag of results. The results of some races were welcome news, others were rather disappointing. So I didn't spend last night dancing in the streets or anything. (We did go dancing, but that was mainly because I want to go to the InDesign Users Group meeting next Tuesday.) Today was pretty uneventful as well. I did have a Deacons meeting at church, which in its own way was as unsettling as the election results that disappointed. I find myself feeling quite out of place at church these days. Not when we're actually "doing church". When it's time to worship, I feel just fine. It's when it comes time to socialize or do the various and sundry tasks of maintaining the organization that I get out of kilter. When did I get out of sync with the flock? Or was I only deluded when I thought I was fitting in before? Ah, well. 'Tis a mystery. One I can probably ignore until the next church function on Saturday morning.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 

I just wanted to say that I've found this presidential campaign to be very disappointing. We've received a high number of political phone calls this week and all of them came when I wasn't around to talk on the phone. I sooooo wanted to tell the campaigners that I was voting for McCain--that I felt sorry for him that no one had called me to tell me to vote for him. But alas, I have been unable to pull that prank. It's very disappointing.

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Monday, November 03, 2008


Have you heard about National Blog Posting Month? I did. Today. Pbbbbbbbt!

Hmmm, since I missed the chance to blog once a day for everyday in November, maybe I should just alter the rules a bit. Maybe I should just post once in November. Yeah, I think I manage that.

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