Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: Hellboy in Hell Vol. 1 by M. Mignola et al.

Hellboy in Hell Volume 1: The Descent story and art by Mike Mignola, colored by Dave Stewart, and lettered by Clem Robbins

After dying in battle with a dragon, Hellboy faces his afterlife. He's dragged into Hell by a spiteful opponent, though it seems like the last thing the denizens of Hades wanted. Mignola's capital of Hell, a city called Pandemonium, has been abandoned by all the princes and dukes of the damned lands--they heard Hellboy is coming. Only Satan himself remains, though mostly because he is too sick to move. Hellboy pays his dad a cryptic visit and then has all sorts of odd run-ins with various characters in Hell. His two brothes want Hellboy's Right Hand of Doom for their own so one of them can be the new ruler of Hell. Hellboy doesn't want the job but he definitely doesn't want them to have it either. Hellboy winds up in a lot of the same sort of battles he had on Earth.

Mignola stepped back into the artist's role for this series, giving his distinctive style an unbridled lease on creativity. The visuals are very striking and imaginative, evoking the murkiness, strangeness, and horror of Hell. The story meanders a bit, as if the grand scheme is not some earth-shaking plot but more of a travelogue of the bizarre. Mignola blends in Milton, Macbeth, and Dickens as he weaves his tales, giving some structure and some foreshadowing to the tales. I read these stories as individual issues back in the early 2010s and it's great to revisit them.

Recommended, highly for Hellboy fans.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Movie Review: King Kong (1933)

King Kong (1933) co-written and co-directed by Merian C. Cooper

Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is a movie director of jungle action pictures, but his latest project is sure to be his biggest ever. He's got a secret map from a Norwegian captain that shows a Pacific island governed by a great brute known as Kong. Denham's hired his usual ship and loaded it with lots of rifles, ammunition, and gas bombs. He only needs one more item, the most potent bomb he ever carried--a blonde bombshell named Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). His previous pictures all lacked a romantic angle. The critics and distributors think his next film will make twice the money with a female in it. He reluctantly agrees though is quite enthusiastic about the "beauty and the beast" angle. Most of the crew share his reluctance, though their anti-female stance seems mostly based on inexperience. When they get to the island, things don't run according to plan. Ann is captured by Kong. The rescue effort is costly in human life but profitable when they capture Kong and bring him back to New York as "the Eighth Wonder of the World." The New York situation doesn't run according to plan either.

This movie is a classic for many reasons. The special effects, which look dated today, were state of the art and are still impressive given the resources at the time. A lot of care and craft went into scenes of Kong fighting the humans or the other prehistoric giants on the island. The performances work really well. Denham's honesty and straightforwardness seem at first really square but he is the sort of fellow to take charge of a situation even if he can't control the situation. He's a showman of the first caliber. Fay Wray is famous for screaming her way through her performance but she has her charming moments as well. She certainly doesn't have the depth of Naomi Watts's character in Peter Jackon's remake, but Wray isn't a cardboard cut-out either. The New York sequence is perfectly paced and has the iconic Empire State Building ending. The movie is thrilling and satisfying, well worth watching and rewatching.

Highly recommended.

The movie is discussed on A Good Story is Hard to Find Podcast #185.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: Seven Ideas That Shook the Universe by Nathan Spielberg and Bryon D. Anderson

Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe by Nathan Spielberg and Bryon D. Anderson

Scientific revolutions are often like political revolutions. A previous paradigm has to give way to new forces or ideas that attempt to correct or improve upon (or flat out replace) what has come before. Rejecting a comfortable if inaccurate system is not easy. But it happens throughout history and usually is an improvement. This dramatic sweep of change is the central conceit behind Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe. Nathan Spielberg and Bryon Anderson go through seven fundamental changes or advancements (sometimes the change is just adding onto what came before) in science. They have a flair for the dramatic (hence the hyperbolic book title) and communicate the ideas within their historical context. This helps the reader to understand what's so revolutionary about the idea and how the idea is an advancement on what came before. The book is very readable, though later chapters are more challenging. Here are the seven ideas:
  1. Copernican Astronomy--Starting from the ancient Greeks (who used data from the Egyptians and Mesopotamians), the authors look at the shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of the solar system. The Greeks were aware of both theories but favored the geocentric; their opinion was dominant for 1800 years until seriously questioned by Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer working in the early 1500s. He published his heliocentric theory as a theory that made calculating calendars and planetary positions easier, even though not more accurate, than the Ptolemaic theory dominant since circa AD 150. As data collection grew more thorough and more accurate (the telescope wasn't invented until the early 1600s), the heliocentric theory gained more traction, though it still didn't achieve universal acceptance until Newtonian Mechanics came along.
  2. Newtonian Mechanics and Causality--Galileo worked out all sorts of information about the acceleration of falling objects (even if he probably didn't drop stones from the Leaning Tower of Pisa). He also recognized the principle of inertia, that an object in motion will stay in that same motion until something else acts upon it. The day after Galileo died, Isaac Newton was born. He was a brilliant mathematician who used both inductive reasoning (using data and experiments to reach conclusions) and deductive reasoning (using principles to reach conclusions) to work out a simplified and unified system that explains all forms of motion, from planetary interactions to horses drawing carts. His three laws of motion, along with laws on conservation of mass and momentum and his universal law of gravitation, described motion in the universe almost perfectly. He inspired other scientists to build on his work or to look for fundamental laws in other fields of human knowledge (like economics or sociology). His system gave rise to the idea of a clockwork universe, where everything is interconnected and predictable, given enough information.
  3. The Energy Concept--One component of reality that Newton's system didn't fully explain was energy. His laws cover motion, which is like kinetic energy. His system does not explain potential energy or heat. With the advent of the steam engine in the 1700s, scientists worked on a theory to explain how heat works. The popular theory at the time was that heat was a caloric fluid inseparable from items that had it. The theory couldn't explain everything, especially in the case of friction. Two hands rubbing together produce heat without a heat source, so how can caloric fluid transfer? British physicist James Joule devised an experiment in the 1840s that shifted thinking from the caloric-fluid model to one based on movement of molecules, the accepted theory today.
  4. Entropy and Probability--In making heat engines more efficient, scientists discovered another principle--entropy. No engine is perfectly efficient, converting heat energy into equivalent work. There's always some energy that radiates off or is "lost" somewhere in the process. Entropy is not a thing in itself; rather, it is a parameter measuring the internal energy state of a system. Oddly enough, the more entropy a system has, the less energy is available to transform into other forms of energy (kinetic, potential, radiant, etc.). The energy falls into a more disordered state and the process cannot be reversed. If applied on the largest scale, i.e. assuming the universe is a closed system, eventually the energy of the universe will be less and less available until it reaches a maximal state of disorder and dispersion and life is no longer viable. Such a process will take a long time, much longer than our lifetimes.
  5. Relativity--The discovery of relativity started with Galileo and Newton. Newton gave definitions of "absolute" space and time but recognized that in different frames of reference, different measurements were possible. With further discoveries about the nature of light and electromagnetism in the 19th century, new interest in determining the absolute speed gave rise to a variety of experiments to detect ether. Ether was thought to be the medium through which electromagnetic waves traveled. All attempts to detect ether failed, eventually leading scientists to work out a theory of special relativity, in which there is no way to explain the medium through which electromagnetic waves travel, rendering ether into a meaningless concept. Albert Einstein was the first to publish the theory, though other scientists were close. Einstein was far ahead of others when he published his theory of general relativity, applying the principles of accelerated frames of reference as well as inertial frames of reference. (If you want to understand the difference, you'll have to read the book because I just barely grasp it and thus can't summarize it here).
  6. Quantum Theory and the End of Causality--Much like the title of the book, this chapter's title is a bit of hyperbole. Quantum Theory isn't so much the end of causality as it is the end of certitude. According to Newtonian mechanics (i.e. classical physics), if one knows the position and motion of every object in the universe than every last thing is predictable, i.e. we live in a strictly clockwork universe. Quantum Theory, in an attempt to explain anomalies that arise with classical physics in extreme cases (extreme temperatures or extremely small sizes), applies wave theory to matter as well as to energy. But the application has ambiguity, because the subatomic particles of matter are so small that any attempt to measure their position or velocity will alter that position or velocity, rendering the data collected not so objective as science demands. The book gives a fairly good description of how Quantum Theory is applied in other fields of human knowledge (sociology, economics, etc.) and how the analogy between fields of knowledge can be helpful or unhelpful in grasping concepts. There's also an interesting discussion of how helpful models are in explaining scientific theories. Quantum Mechanics has brought many scientists to the point of rejecting models and instead using mathematical formulas in the interest of having a more accurate description of reality.
  7. Conservation Principles and Symmetries--When scientists got to the point of studying the particles that make up the nucleus of an atom, they discovered that the conservation principles recognized since Newton still apply even on the sub-nuclear level (even smaller than the sub-atomic level!). New principles had to be added to explain observed characteristics of sub-nuclear particles. These principles include the groupings of particle families in symmetrical patterns. The authors then describe the quark model that is accepted by scientists as a correct understanding of sub-atomic reality.
The book is very well written. The science is not dry and technical (for the most part). The authors also write about the impact of scientific discoveries on other fields of human knowledge. Providing both the history and the context of physics makes it a much more accessible subject.

The version of the book I read is the first edition, published in 1987. A second edition was published in 1995 with updated material and a third edition in 2006 which according to Amazon is not available. Maybe if it is reprinted I will get it. From what I've read online, it looks like this text is used widely as a "history of physics" survey. Naturally, a lot has changed in thirty years for the final chapter, so it is probably the part that had the most updating with new information.

Highly recommended, even with thirty-year-old information!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Savage Fest 2018

We took our prescholar to the 2018 Savage Fest in Savage, Maryland. Most of the activities were on the lawn of Carrol Baldwin Hall in the heart of Savage (which is not a big town to begin with). We had fun exploring a variety of activities.

One street of Savagefest

They had a petting zoo, which was a big hit with the older kids in previous years. Our youngest was a bit too young to want to feed or even touch the animals. He liked looking from a distance. He did not want a pony ride.

Ducks and our son too shy to make contact

A little porker

Nearby was a "crazy hat" station where visitors could try on silly hats. Again, our boy was too shy to give it a try. I had to step in.

Me, hot-headed?

Luckily, the Savage Fire Department was nearby to help me out. Our boy was brave enough to stand by the truck's tires, which are as big as he is. He also wanted to get in the cab of the fire truck, which was fun to explore.

Fire Department on display

Almost as tall as the tire

A fun ride

Close up of above

Tools of the trade

The most fun thing at the fest was the bubble-making guy on the central lawn. He had a large plastic tub full of solution and two sticks with a loop of rope between to make the bubble wand. He blew some enormous bubbles. He had a smaller set of sticks that other people could try out. Of course, for the kids the main attraction was popping the bubbles, especially the enormous ones.

Bubbles in the air!

A large one

Such a weird shape

Dad and daughter try out the small wand

A bubble bigger than a person's head!

A stage had a rotation of live bands. We listened to some music right after we bought a snow cone for our son.

Band on the fest

We saw a corn hole game and our son wanted to try. Since the targets were over fifteen feet apart, he had a tough time making the shots. He had a lot of fun, though.

A good throw

We had a lot of fun at Savage Fest and look forward to next year.

Monday, June 25, 2018

TV Review: Attack on Titan Season Two (2017)

Attack on Titan Season Two (2017) directed by Tetsuro Araki

Picking up where the action left off from Season One, the seemingly last band of humanity hiding behind massive walls has become more vulnerable than ever. Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen the first season, look away now!

It turns out the show's hero, Eren Jaeger, isn't the only human who can transform into a Titan. Another had been discovered in season one and a bunch more show up in season two. If this wasn't enough plot development, something weird is discovered about the walls and a whole new group of Titans are attacking inside the second wall. The locals are panicing and the soldiers put everything on the line to stop the menace and find (and hopefully plug) the hole in the wall. Even with such a simple plan, everything is not as it seems. This season generates more mysteries than answers.

The plot moves along at a breakneck pace with more cliffhanger endings than the first season of Alias. The season is only twelve episodes and was made four years after the first season, so there's a lot of manga storyline to catch up on. I felt it moved a little too quickly to make proper sense of many of the characters' decisions. The action is still exciting and the premise is still intriguing, but I am a little nervous that it's a lot more mystery-building than world-building and things won't resolve satisfactorily by the end. The next season is supposed to start in July 2018, so I may watch it.

I watched Season Two on Crunchyroll, a streaming service that caters to anime fans. I didn't pay the subscription fee so I had to watch commercials, which wasn't so bad. The streaming did occasionally crash (the site uses a Flash player and my Mac browsers didn't always cooperate), which was annoying. Reloading the page and skipping 30 seconds ahead was the workaround for me.

Recommended, though not nearly as good as the first season.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Book Review: Monet: Itinerant of Light by Salva Rubio and Efa

Monet: Itinerant of Light written by Salva Rubio and art by Efa

Claude Monet was one of the founders of the Impressionist movement in the late 1800s. His style focuses on how light reflects off objects, how they appear to the eye. His passion became to paint outdoors whenever he could, to show the effect of the brightest light. Like many revolutionary painters, he struggled for a long time before achieving success. He wanted to work apart from the established classical system and create a new way of painting. He had many sympathetic colleagues (Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, to name a few) who joined him in setting up a rival to the Salon, the main art exhibition in France. Their work was mocked at first but eventually gained acceptance. Monet himself went through a similar arc from rejected outsider to an accepted master.

The book lovingly recreates some paintings of Monet as they tell his life story (occasionally they use other painters as well). The back of the book explains all their cribbing. The notes also say they were a bit loose with the historical details in order to make a compelling story. Even so, they are honest enough to show the unpleasant parts of the man--he was egotistical and in some periods cared much more for his art than his friends and family. The book is an enjoyable and quick read, filling in some detail for the life of the painter. I'd still like to read a more standard biography of the man.

Recommended for art fans or those curious about the lives of artists.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Movie Review: Freaks (1932)

Freaks (1932) directed by Todd Browning

A gold digger named Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) has engaged guy Hans (Harry Earles) totally wrapped around her little finger. His fiancee Frieda (Daisy Earles) is distraught, especially because Hans has an inheritance which seems like the gold digger's real interest. He winds up marrying Cleo, only to have some awkward moments at the wedding reception with his co-workers. The co-workers are ready to help him get revenge when it becomes clear she is poisoning Hans.

What sounds like a typical film noir is anything but typical, because the workplace is a traveling circus. The gold digger is a blonde trapeze artist and the guy is a dwarf. His fiancee is also a dwarf and they hang out with the other side show acts--the bearded lady, the bird woman, the siamese twins,  the half-woman half-man, the legless guy, the legless and armless guy, etc. They are the eponymous "freaks." So Cleo isn't exploiting just some film noir chump. He's a disrespected minority already being exploited for his abnormality. The film doesn't skimp on depicting her as a horrible person. She's romantically interested in the circus's strong man, Hercules (Henry Victor), who also mocks and laughs at Hans and his comrades. Cleo clearly plans to be with Hercules after she inherits Hans's fortune.

After they discover the scheme, the side show crowd bands together to enact a horrible revenge (viewers know this is coming because the opening shows an urban freak show where Cleopatra has wound up, though viewers don't see what has happened to her). Both Cleo and Hercules are pursued on a literally dark and stormy night. The action is tensely directed but before they are actually attacked, the film cuts back to the urban freak show where Cleo's new side-show appearance is revealed. The punishment fits the crime and is also too awful for words. The movie ends with a bittersweet reunion between Hans and Frieda.

The movie is highly sympathetic toward the deformed characters who are played by people with actual deformities. The issue of exploitation is not just internal to the plot, the movie itself blurs the line between an honest depiction and a salacious exploitation. For example, the film hints more than once at the awkwardness of sex given their various conditions. The main characters are well developed. The filmmakers strive to make their life look as normal as can be and succeed to a great extent. But the cast is large enough that a lot of people seem to be there for little more than appearance. It's hard not to be troubled by their plight and it's hard not to sympathize with them as they stalk Cleo and Hercules at the end. They have the same potential for good or evil that every other person has. In a moral sense, the movie affirms the normality of the so-called freaks. They are human beings and are (mostly) treated as such by the filmmakers if not by the characters in the film.

Recommended, though this movie is very tough to watch and not for the squeamish even though there is no real blood and minimal violence.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

St. Mary's Block Party 2018

Our church, Saint Mary of the Mills, held a block party in early June. The main reason for the party was to raise money for Saint Joseph Church, a sister parish in Carcasse, Haiti. The church and the town are still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew in 2007.

Our church has been working with Health and Education for Haiti, Global Solace, Inc., and Just Haiti Coffee to raise money and provide support for the Carcasse community. Conditions are improving but they have a long way to go.

The original plan for the block party was to celebrate in the parking lot of the church hall but that particular Saturday was rainy. So the festivities moved inside.

Inside the church hall

Display on Haiti

The Knights of Columbus were still outside grilling under pop-up canopies. They had plenty of burgers and hot dogs, which were the first course of our meal that night.

Not a good angle for the hot dog

Inside were table of foods from the various communities that make up St. Mary's, including Filipino, Caribbean, African-American, Italian, etc. In order not to offend anyone, I took a little bit of each.

Second course

The Knights also had a bar set up with beer and wine. The beer option included three beers brewed by parishioners. I sampled the Belgian brown ale and the Marzen. Both were delicious (that's the brown ale up in the picture).

Our kids liked the food but became obsessed with the corn hole game. They spent most of their time playing with other kids, making up their own teams. And their own rules. Happily, they are old enough to police themselves and were having a lot of fun. And we parents could relax and enjoy our meal.

Our children--on different teams!

Going for a high shot

It was a fun evening. We almost bought raffle tickets until we realized we weren't staying the whole evening (the party was supposed to go till 10 p.m.). We put our money in the donation jar instead.

Statue near the parish center

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review: Experiencing Film Music by Kenneth LaFave

Experiencing Film Music: A Listener's Companion by Kenneth LaFave

Kenneth LaFave covers the broad history of music in film, starting from the first films before sound recording technology was integrated into movies. Silent films were accompanied by local musicians who used appropriate music culled from their repertoire and from cue sheets suggesting bits of music that would enhance various parts of the movie. With the advent of talking pictures, musical creativity moved from local musicians to  studio music departments where orchestrators worked with directors in crafting music to support the film. The book was published in 2017 and covers movie music all the way up to 2016, a wide span.

The book, after discussing the transition from silent to talking films, looks at genres chapter by chapter, discussing how music is used. LaFave's main idea is that "the film score's task is to be both unnoticed and indispensable at the same time." (p. xxi) That's a tricky balance. He hits a lot of highlights from movie history, usually going in depth with one or two movies per genre. The detail can get too detailed for the amateur listener, delving into chromatic and modal scales, diminished fifths, and other technical jargon. I still got the general sense of what he was trying to say even though I don't know all the technicalities.

The book is also full of his personal opinions on things, so readers' agreement will vary throughout. He admires only the score from Planet of the Apes, considering the original 1968 film obvious and silly. Concerning the main conflict in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, he says "civilization, as we all know, depends for its existence on ritually sacrificing nature." (p. 155) I didn't know that and can hardly agree. On the other hand, he does have interesting insights on many things, like the complimentary use of Danny Elfman's score and Prince's songs in the 1989 Batman film.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as a walk through the history of films with a focus on how music has contributed to the enhancement of the viewer's experience.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Father's Day 2018

We went out for lunch on Father's Day 2018 to Frisco Tap House. The appeal for me was the beer and for my wife the pretzels. The kids weren't particularly excited. Still they had a good time.

Inside Frisco Tap House

We ordered the home-made pretzel appetizer because that is our new favorite thing. We received two pretzels, which weren't hanging like at other restaurants but were still delicious. They looked like happy faces, which we thought was cool. The cheese sauce was much more popular than the mustard sauce in our family.

Smiling pretzels

 My first beer was the Peabody Heights Unforgiveable Curses Tripel (9% alcohol by volume). It was very tasty, with the nutty flavor of Belgian beers. It went well with the pretzels.

Tripel with a third of a pretzel

For my meal, I ordered jambalaya which was spicy and yummy. The kids ordered pizza and a cheeseburger. My wife had the lamb sliders which were yummy. 


I ordered a second beer that was also awesome. It was Wicked Weed's Dark Arts Rum Barrel. It was rich and creamy and super-potent at 15% alcohol per volume. I liked it a lot and didn't drive home. Also, we were a bit shocked to see it cost $15. It's the most we have ever paid for one serving a beer. It probably wasn't worth that much but it did taste awesome.

Dark Arts Rum Barrel with reflection of Jambalaya

I received a bunch of cool presents at home, including a book about saints from Africa and the board game Space Alert which we look forward to playing. The preschooler made an awesome card with home-made art...

Card front

Card back

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 2 by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2 by Hiromu Arakawa

Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are in pursuit of something to heal them. Edward has a metal arm and a metal leg from when they tried to bring their mom back from the dead. Alphonse is now a soul trapped in a suit of armor, so he needs the fix even more. One of the other alchemists was developing the Philosopher's Stone, powerful enough to do amazing transmutations. As they search for the stone, they run into other alchemists of dubious character. The worst of all is a guy named Scar, who has been killing state alchemists because he thinks they are a blight on reality. Alchemy isn't natural, after all.

The quest for the Philosopher's Stone gives these stories a larger story arc, making the ongoing story more interesting for me. The rogue alchemist killing other alchemists also raises the stakes. I guess I'm hooked and will read more.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Movie Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water (2017) co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro

In 1960s Baltimore, a mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a janitor in a top secret government facility. She has a lonely and monotonous life. Her best friends are the starving artist in the apartment next door and another janitor who does all the talking for them both, mostly complaining about her husband. Elisa goes through the same routine, working the overnight shift at the facility. Things change when a specimen is brought in from the South American jungles--a fish man (also mute) who surreptitiously develops a connection with Elisa. The Man in Charge (Michael Shannon) is much less friendly with the creature and he's planning to vivisect it to find out as much as he can. Elisa naturally wants to free the fish man with the help of her friends. There's also a Soviet mole in the facility who is supposed to kill the creature before the Americans can discover anything valuable, but he believes more in science than in Stalin and becomes a willing accomplice for Elisa. A breakout ensues.

The movie looks gorgeous. It follows the Vertigo style of deliberately chosen color schemes for locations and characters. The creature (played by Doug Jones in a prosthetic suit) looks an awful lot like The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Abe Sapien from Hellboy, which seems deliberate. He looks both amazing and derivative. He has enough character to make the love story believable. They have chemistry on screen.

The love story is the primary story among the mix of fantasy, horror, and Cold War thriller elements. The romance is touchingly told and has a nice arc to it. Unfortunately, the Cold War stuff is all Hollywood tropes and cliches, making for very uninteresting storytelling. The villain might as well just be referred to as "The Man," considering how one-dimensional he is. The movie does spend a lot of time with him which could have developed him as a character, rather than constantly re-emphasizing what a hypocritical Christian, sexist, and narcissist he is. That whole part of the drama is thin and uninteresting, which is unfortunate since that's what drives the plot forward.

So why did this win the best picture Oscar? Probably it's another The Departed, the fairly average film that won Martin Scorsese his overdue best director Oscar. Classic Hollywood musicals and other films (Elisa lives over a movie theater) play a minor but persistent role, which probably also appealed to Hollywood Oscar voters. If you want to see del Toro's most Oscar-worthy work, Pan's Labyrinth is the film to watch.

I'm glad I watched it but probably will never rewatch it. The visuals and art direction are amazing, the love story is touching, but the narrative has too many uninteresting parts that are given too much time.

Parental warning: The movie has punctuated moments of violence that put it in the PG-13 range, but the sex scenes with nudity make it R-rated and only for adults.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

End of Year Cub Scout Activities 2018

The Cub Scout year is coming to a close for us. Here are some of the last things we did before going on summer hiatus!

My son's Cub Scout pack went to a local cemetery to put flags on veterans' graves for Memorial Day, which we were proud to do.

Saluting a soldier

The graveyard

Proud of his pack's accomplishment

The pack also went to the Baltimore National Cemetery (which is Catonsville just outside Baltimore proper) where we joined other packs, troops, clubs, etc. The cemetery has over 40,000 interments. As they say, many hands make light work. We finished our section in about twenty minutes. We decided not to stay for the ceremony.

Baltimore National Cemetery



A job well done

The pack's Raingutter Regata was, ironically enough, rained out. The make-up day is in July, so hopefully we'll be in town for that.

The Bridging ceremony was the final official meeting of the year. My son crossed the bridge but didn't get a new neckerchief.

Receiving awards from the cubmaster

Crossing the bridge

As a Webelos transitioning to Arrows of Light, he received his patrol patch. The boys chose the "Masked Marshmallows" as their patrol name, along with this fine patch.

Beware the Masked Marshmallows!

More stories will come in the Fall, if a Summer update doesn't come first...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

GOTR Race Spring 2018

My daughter joined the Girls on the Run group at her school this spring. The two-month program  teaches girls to run a 5K race by the end. More importantly, it teaches them confidence, a positive attitude, and team spirit. The goal of the 5K is just to finish the 5K, not have the fastest time ever. Each girl needs a "buddy" runner at the final event. I was that buddy.

Happiness on arrival, even though it was 7 a.m.

We arrived at the race's staging area only to discover we were the first from our group to show up. So we walked over to the Celebration Village, where the sponsors and vendors had booths.

The lonely school flag

One booth provided hair styling which consisted mostly of putting cool colors in the girls' hair. My daughter got some red and purple for the race.

Spray color

Checking her hands for coloring

Later, the coach put some face makeup on her. Specifically, my daughter had two pink lines put under her eyes, like many athletes get (though usually they are black).

The final touch

8 a.m. finally rolled around and our group headed over to the starting line for the race. We were in Wave 2, so pretty close to the front.

Packed in to run

The rest of the family had arrived at this point and  ready to cheer for us about half a mile down the road.

Noisemakers get ready!

They didn't have long to wait for us to arrive.

An initial batch of runners

My daughter and I did a combination of running and walking. I let her take the lead on when to walk. We did a good five and a half minutes before our first walk.

My self and my daughter

Our family was able to move to a different part of the route and cheer us on again later.

Going at her own pace

Occasionally I had to inspire my daughter to get going again at full speed after a walking break. I'd say we'd start again in a count of ten. Usually, she'd take off before the full count and I'd have to sprint to catch up!

Leaving daddy behind

We runners had a good time, especially when we hit the water tables. The course was set as a big loop around a bunch of office parks, so it was relatively flat and very unpopulated on a Saturday morning. It's a perfect 5K location.

The finish line was the same inflatable as the starting line, so we ran through from the other side of the picture below. The other side says "finish," not "start."

Finish line viewed from the wrong side

After the finish line, the girls got their running medals for which they were proud.


They also had snacks set up for us, including water, bananas, apples, breakfast bars, and fruit bars.

Getting some post-race snacks

I picked out a bar labeled "Pineapple Banana." The fine print also mentions kale and spinach. When I opened the wrapper, it seemed like they were emphasizing the wrong ingredients.

Only thing more disappointing than having to wear a pink shirt

I don't see any pineapple or banana

Being a parent of a prescholar, I had a food tester handy to make sure it was edible.

"Here, son, have a bite!"

Nonplussed consumer

I finish the bar

My daughter had a great time, even though it was challenging. She enjoyed her breakfast bar.

Eating a normal-looking snack

We went to a local Panera Bread to celebrate with mid-morning snacks. For my daughter and me, it felt like lunchtime already. We enjoyed a croissant and a cinnamon scone. And sitting down!

Next year, my daughter is threatening to have Mommy run with her.