The Family Business

There is both good and bad in working for a family business. I’m not sure what the good is, but the bad includes:

  • overfamiliarity with your co-workers
  • family holidays (such as Thanksgiving and Christmas) lose their significance
  • the familial bond is often overshadowed by the work relationship
  • bad feelings regarding business can translate into bad personal feelings

Custom Box Service is a unique environment. Nick, Tony, Jeff, and I are brothers (well, Nick is a cousin, but is as good as a brother). We’ve done our jobs so long, and we know them so well, that they take much less time to do than when we started (or if someone else were to do them). For example, it takes Jeff much longer to do a price quote than it takes me. Yet, it would take me much longer to organize a delivery schedule than it does for him. Also, I’ve written custom software for price quotations that is much more flexible and quicker to use than that which Dad wrote when he started the business. (I have an order entry program and an invoicing program, too, but I haven’t done much work with them for over a year — they’re in a beta stage and need to be completed.)

This price quotation program, coupled with various procedures I’ve developed and the organizational system I’ve erected, cuts my workload in half from what it used to be. My brothers have made similar adjustments in their areas of responsibility.

This increased efficiency, combined with the best crew we’ve ever had, allows us to ship more boxes than ever. Last month was a record month. This year will be a record year (~$1.25 million in sales).

Often, though, we’re dead. There are periods of days — or weeks even — during which our efficiency means we haven’t much to do. When this happens, we read, or play games, or write weblogs, or comb eBay for ancient coins, or read the lawn tractor discussion boards. Because we tend to talk about these slack times more than we talk about the busy times (there’s not much to discuss about work, really), some of our friends are under the impression that Custom Box is some sort of wonderland, that all we ever do is play.

Not true.

The environment here is much more relaxed than most businesses, but we still have work that needs to be done every day.

And sometimes we get swamped.

Against all odds, and contrary to prior history, we are currently swamped. November is usually a slow month, and the week before Thanksgiving an especially slow week. This week, however, we’re going to ship nearly $25,000. That’s a bit more than we’d expect to ship in an average five day week. What’s more, most of what we’ll ship this week has been ordered in the past day or two. Everyone wants their boxes now now now.

When the workload increases, tempers can flare. Things around here are mostly peaceful. We all complain about each other incessantly, but things don’t often build to a head — each of us recognizes our own complicity in this environment. Sometimes, though, one person will slack too much, or another will feel overloaded, and then trouble can occur. Jeff and I had a big shouting match in February 2002, for example.

There was another row this morning.

Stressor number one. Tony has been on his high horse lately, complaining that the rest of us don’t do anything besides spend time on the computer. (We, in turn, think he doesn’t do anything besides sleep in and then run errands for his in-laws.)

Stressor number two. I left at noon on Friday. I left one quote and no orders. When I came to work yesterday, there were several quotes and 22 orders in my basket, but nobody had bothered to work on them. That’s a huge workload to face on Monday morning.

Stressor number three. The phones were busy yesterday morning, yesterday afternoon, this morning.

Catalyst. Tony came in this morning with an order he wanted done for today, despite the fact that the guys worked til ten last night and came in at five this morning, despite the fact that we’re telling everybody else that we can’t produce anything until next week.

The shit hit the fan. We had ourselves a row. Tony thought he was right (and he was, in part), and I thought I was right (and I was, in part).

Nothing was resolved, but at least we’re not grumpy with each other anymore. I think.


On 25 November 2003 (12:57 PM),
dowingba said:

How does the Hierarchy work there? Who is the boss? From your description, I think I would like working at a place like that. I certainly sounds like hard work, but that isn’t what makes or breaks a job. What really matters is the atmosphere.

Found Photo

Kris’ Aunt Jenefer and Uncle Bob are in town for the weekend, spending time in beautiful metropolitan Canby. We’ve eaten a lot, and shared a lot of family history. Tomorrow we’ll drive up to the Columbia Gorge to visit Bob’s mother.

Today we spent the afternoon in Aurora, shopping for antiques. In the large store, our favorite, there was a white baby grand piano for sale for $2500. At one point, a young woman (in a pink knit cap) sat at the piano and rolled off five minutes of beautiful classical music. The sound was rich and warm, and it moved me. I sat on a bench and watched the snow fall outside (our third snowfall of the season!), listening to the piano.

Kris walked to where I was sitting. “Do you like this music?” she asked, and I nodded. “I’d like it if you learned to play the piano,” she said. “Then I could sing while you played.”

I’ve always wanted to play the piano. I’ve admired my friends — Kristin, Kim, etc.) — that know how. During my freshman year of college, I took piano lessons for a semester. They went well, but I had trouble because just before the semester started, I broke the ring finger on my right hand while playing touch football at Kim’s house.

(I didn’t know the finger was broken for several days. I was making boxes, and it hurt to flip the sheets of corrugated while we slotted the boxes, so I went to the doctor. I had a fracture. It’s the only broken bone I’ve ever had.)

Despite my broken finger, I persevered and finished the class, but I never took further lessons. I regret that. I love music, but I cannot sing, so I ought to play an instrument.

Maybe someday I’ll take lessons again. I wonder how well adults learn to play. I wonder where I’d find someone to teach me…

In one of the antique shops, I idly picked up a photograph of a dour looking couple. I flipped it over and saw that the photograph was of Sam and Hannah Nofziger. I furrowed my brow and frowned, then put the photo back. Sam and Hannah Kauffman. Why were those names familiar?

When we got home from shopping, I checked my genealogical program; sure enough: Hannah Roth was my grandfather’s aunt (my great-great aunt?). I rushed back to the antique store and bought the photograph.

[photo of Hannah and Samuel]

This couple is actually key to our family history, especially to my brother Jeff’s family history. Hannah, as I mentioned, was our great-great aunt. Jeff is married to Stephanie Nofziger. The Samuel Nofziger in this photo was the brother of Stephanie’s great grandfather. In other words, he bears the same relationship to Stephanie as Hannah does to Jeff. This couple tied the two families together; three generations later, Jeff and Steph tied it together again. Fun stuff!

Jeff recently brought me this photograph, given to him by a woman at church:

[photo of four young Mennonite boys]

This photo shows four young Mennonite boys in front of an unidentified house. From left-to-right, the boys are Daris Eash (spelling?), Ben Kauffman, and the twins Joel Roth and Noah Roth. Noah Roth was our grandfather, the nephew of Hannah in the previous photo.

Here’s a detail of the above photo:

[closeup photo of Noah and Joel]

My grandfather, on the right, looks very much like my father did, and like I did when I was younger (and skinnier). It’s uncanny.

Jenefer has given Kris a pedigree chart showing family history on the Gates side back to the 1600s. I’ll have to get that data entered into my program. I think it’s fun that once again, as the winter sets in, I’m getting interested in family history. This is the third consecutive year I’ve had the bug to dig into my family roots.


On 22 November 2003 (05:36 PM),
Tammy said:

I don’t know how to feel,Jd. Sometimes I almost feel like crying when I look at old photographs. The people were actually living vibrant people; just as alive as I am today. And yet now they are dead. Stone dead. Cold dead. It’s just so sad! Someday will someone find an old picture of me in an antique store and rush to buy it? Probably not. People are losing that sort of thing. What am I trying to say? It’s just that nothing seems to mean much to the generation that comes after us. They are too far removed from the ties that bind us to our history. There’s been so many changes in the world in the last 20 years what with the advances of technology and stuff it just seems that nobody cares anymore. Now it’s all hi tech. I better quit . I don’t think I’m getting across what I’m trying to say. I feel very nostalgic tonight. Nice pictures.

On 22 November 2003 (09:04 PM),
Ron said:

Is Ben Kauffman a grandpa’s cousin?

On 22 November 2003 (09:15 PM),
mac said:

Kelly Kurth teaches piano lessons, J.D.

On 24 November 2003 (08:44 AM),
Drew said:

You need a stage piano like the Roland RD-700. Conveniently, I have one that I could let go at a better than fair price. 🙂

On 24 November 2003 (09:33 AM),
Denise said:

What’s up with that bowl-cut? I realize that all decades seem to have the crazy haircut that everyone likes, for example, the 80’s had the mullet. But I have to ask, what made men think that shaving off their hair an inch (or more)above their ears while leaving the top long actually looked attractive? It’s like an inverse donut cut – how scary is that?

On 24 November 2003 (09:40 AM),
J.D. said:

You need a stage piano like the Roland RD-700.

Right, Drew, because you know I just happen to have $2000 budgeted for a piano…

On 26 November 2003 (01:18 PM),
pril said:

Adults can learn, and learn well. I started playing bass when i was 26. I’d taken piano when i was younger (and was terrible at it), as well as French horn in middle school (again, i was terrible). Learning as a kid and sticking with it is like learning a language and sticking with it. But adults have something they may not have had when they were kids trying to learn- patience and the ability to attack problems from different angles than the obvious ones.

So, i’ve been playing bass for seven years, and also taught myself some guitar, some piano, some drums, some violin, and on the violin i retuned it a couple of different ways to work on aspects of the different, non-fretted strings like cello.

Basically what i’m saying is that is you have a yen to learn the piano, or any other instrument, don’t let anything stop you. An added, positive side effect to learning an instrument is that your singing will improve. 10 years ago no one would have expected in a million years that i would get on a stage, let alone play an instrument, or even sing a song, but i do all three now. And i make a bit of moolah here and there at it, too. 😉

I did take some courses at the local college, too, for playing. So if you have a community college with a music program, look into taking a couple of classes. A beginning theory class in conjunction with piano does wonders.

The Literary Canon

Our book group discussion of Robinson Crusoe was one of the best that we’ve had in a while. Sometimes we read good books but have mediocre discussions; sometimes we read mediocre books and have good discussions. The discussion tonight was thoughtful and varied, though none of us thought Robinson Crusoe was particularly great. I get most out of book group when the discussion is engaging, regardless the quality of the book.

One tangent we explored for a few minutes was the idea of the literary canon. (The link leads to an excellent introduction to the notion of a literary canon, and covers much of what I’m about to discuss below.)

Most of us learned about the canon through high school or college English classes. The canon comprises that subset of literature which time and popular opinion have deemd most worthy of continued exploration. How does one decide what works appear in the canon, several of us wanted to know. In particular, Lisa and Aimee wanted to know why a book like Robinson Crusoe, which to our modern sensibilities is not of particular merit, remains an integral part of the canon despite its obvious flaws. Is it right that a substandard book remain part of the canon simply because it plays a particular role? (In this case, Robinson Crusoe is considered the first English novel.)

I would argue yes, a work ought to be considered for its historical significance as well as for its artistic merit. To draw a parallel, The Original Dixieland Jass Band‘s 1917 recording of “Livery Stable Blues” is part of the Jazz canon, not because it’s a good song (it’s mostly just a novelty record), but because it is the first jazz recording. It’s important for that reason. Joel mentioned ancient fertility fetishes, which are basically lumpy bits of pottery. They’re now highly prized and important pieces of art, yet if Joel were to create a similar piece, it would be worthless. Some of us believed that a work merits inclusion in the canon due to its historical significance.

There are, as most of us learn through our liberal arts educations, tremendous problems with the canon. Though it is an informal structure, it is a deeply flawed one. It comprises, in general, the work of Dead White Males. In this era of cultural revisionism, this is a Bad Thing. (And, to be honest, it is a Bad Thing despite the era in which we live — our tendencies toward cultural revisionism simply magnify the problem.) Where are the books by women? Where are the books by black writers? Where are the books from China or India or South America?

Some complaints can be addressed by noting that the literary canon, as it is commonly discussed, refers simply to Western literature. Nobody is claiming that Western literature is superior to Eastern literature, or that Eastern literature ought not be read. Rather, for one to be familiar with both Western and Eastern literature is rather much. If one were consructing a canon of world literature then sure, steps would be taken to be as representational as possible. However, when we, in the United States, discuss the literary canon, the implication is that we are discussing the Western literary canon.

That still doesn’t address the problem of lack of minority representation in the canon. This is a complex and thorny issue, and one that will be resolved in time. If the canon, as it stands, primarily comprises the work of Dead White Males — Jane Austen and George Eliot notwithstanding — how can reparations best me made? I believe that quality and important work by anyone ought to be included in the canon, regardless of race or gender. (See feminist questions about the literary canon.)

Aimee argued that if Robinson Crusoe holds a place in the literary canon simply because it is the first English novel, and if the book isn’t particularly good, perhaps it ought to be replaced by something like Aphra Behn‘s Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave. This piece of fiction, written by a woman, explores some of the same themes (e.g. slavery) as Robinson Crusoe, but is (apparently) better written, and was published some years before Defoe’s work. Why is Defoe’s book in the canon and Behn’s not? Ought Oroonoko be added now?

When can a work be added to the canon? When should one be removed? Kris argued that new works should be added, but that when something new is added, something old ought be removed. I disagreed strongly. I think there’s room in the canon for a great number of books, and that a work ought not be removed unless it has become completely irrelevant. “What about Animal Farm?” asked Joel. He is of the opinion that it has lost, or will soon lose, relevance and, not being a particularly great book, should not be considered a part of the literary canon. Again, I disagreed strongly (though in this case, more than in the previous case, it’s a matter of opinion).

Lisa noted that even formalized lists of the literary canon, such as Clifton Fadiman’s wonderful Lifetime Reading Plan change from time-to-time. Lisa own a recent edition of the book; I own an older edition. We’ve been meaning to compare the two to determine what books Fadiman has removed and which books he has added. (Mortimer J. Adler, of course, famously created his Great Books program, an attempt at a formalized canon. The Malaspina Great Books site has a copy of the original Great Books core reading list. Here is another Great Books site.)

Jennifer made an important and perceptive point: the canon is a basis for shared cultural experience, which allows us to have a prolonged Great Discussion. Using the canon, thousands and thousands of readers are able to select the same books — quality books — and from reading these same books, have a common ground for an ongoing discussion. When we read the great books, are reading of magazine articles and our enjoyment of films and music, and life in general, is enhanced. We better comprehend the liteary allusions all around us. It makes our communication richer.

All of us seemed to agree that the important thing is for each person to construct a personal literary canon, based on the common canon, from which he or she selects books to read. This list can include books a person has not read, but believes to important. For example, I’ve never read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, yet I consider it a part of the canon. (Here is one man’s attempt to construct a personal canon.)

What books are in the canon but do not belong? What books do you think ought to be considered a part of the canon? Does a book like Angela’s Ashes belong? Why or why not?

Other links of interest:

Send me others!


On 17 November 2003 (07:25 AM),
J.D. said:

Arguments about the literary canon are many and varied. For example, here is a letter for the most recent (December 2003) issue of Harper’s:

If Joyce Hackett [“The Reawakening,” Reviews, October] were to reread my article in Harper’s Magazine [“Say it Aint’ So, Huck,” Criticism, January 1996] about Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, she would not distort the point I made, which was that, in my opinion, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not as great as it has been portrayed by critics, especially those writing during the Cold War, and that Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not as bad as it has been portrayed by critics who dismissed it for decades as being unworthy of inclusion in the American canon. I did not write anywhere in the essay that Uncle Tom’s Cabin “was a greater novel than Huck Finn because it denounces the institution of slavery,” though I did remark that Stowe’s more uncompromising and complex analysis of slavery better suited my taste.

In a subsequent storm of letters to the editor, my right to like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and find Huck Finn boring was challenged in every way, but the fact still remains—a reader is free to prefer one novel to another, since the essential characteristic of being a reader is freedom of taste. If it is indeed true that my essay has been “widely taught and discussed in the academy,” as Hackett states, then perhaps it has achieved the only thing I intended it to achieve: more readers for a worthy and important novel, which is always a good thing.

The Great Discussion rages through the ages, as exemplified by this decade-long debate in the pages of Harper’s. It’s this kind of discussion that the canon fosters. It is a dynamic, living thing.

On 17 November 2003 (07:30 AM),
Dana said:

I think this is a part of a larger issue — what should an educated member of a society know and/or be exposed to? Does it need to be the same set of things, or are a few things from a set of recognized ranges important?

Not an easy question, really.

On 06 April 2005 (06:44 AM),
bilbo said:

I thimk literary canons are dumb! because at shcool our teacher is obbsesed with them and i think its gay.


We’ve just returned from Uwajimaya, the Asian grocery store in Beaverton. Along with the rice and the curry and the shrimp paste and the blueberry flavored bubble gum, we bought a bag of coconut flavored candies.

“These are good,” Kris says. “Try one.”

They’re White Rabbit brand. Each wrapper shows a happy little white rabbit. I pop a candy — which is shaped like an English toffee — into my mouth. I suck on it for a moment, but that’s unsatisfying. The flavor isn’t coconuty, it’s plasticy.

I push the candy to the side of my mouth and chew. Or try to. The candy is stuck to my bottom teeth. I chew again, and the candy comes free, but so does something else. My rearmost molar feels naked. I can feel the thin metal shell that is my crown, floating in my mouth, still attached to the candy.


The dentist makes room for me late the next day (today, if you’re keeping score). In the six months since my last appointment, they’ve modernized the office. All of the patient charts and records are computerized and digitized. In each room, attached to the chair, is a flat-panel monitor from which the hygenist can access all of the patient information. It’s pretty amazing.

I’ve left my crown stuck to the candy, which the staff finds amusing. Dr. Martin wants to know how the candy tasted, but I really can’t say. It was only in my mouth for a few seconds.

As she cleans the crown — chatting about Uwijamaya and how she and her son once tried to find the most expensive thing (per pound) in the store (my first instinct? saffron!) — Dr. Martin discovers a hole in it. It’ll have to be replaced. She reseats it with temporary cement for now, but asks me to come back to have it replaced in a few weeks. “And bring one of those candies with you,” she says. “Removing crowns can be difficult. Let’s see if we can’t get it off with the candy.”

I really do love my cats. I’m typing this on my iBook while seated at the library table. Toto is sitting a foot away, staring at me from the top of the scanner. Behind me, Simon is scrunching the back cushion of the love seat (it sinks beneath his fat ass). He’s propped up, looking out the window. Nemo sits below him, on the actual cushion seat, watching me and Toto. And, just now, Toto has left the scanner and insinuated herself into my lap, where she is purring loudly. They’re waiting for two things: for Kris to come home from work, and for me to feed them.

I wonder if they’d like some coconut flavored candy?

The “on this day” feature is distracting lately. I want to say to my year-ago self: “Don’t do it! Don’t try to play soccer! You’re only going to hurt yourself and it will cost you thousands of dollars to get things fixed and then you’ll get even fatter because you’ll sit around more, etc.”

If only.


On 10 November 2003 (09:03 PM),
Denise said:

How interesting! I recently got an onlay done and part of my still existing tooth just chipped off last Friday. I have to go in this Thursday to start the process all over again!

Whoopee! Gotta love the Dentist!

On 11 November 2003 (08:59 AM),
Tiffany said:

I am so glad those photos are of your candy and crown. When I first opened the page the one on the left looked like a dead duck!!
I only got cavities while I was wearing braces. My braces were removed when I was a freshman (about 16 years ago). So, I am just waiting until the filling come out. My dentist says that most wills last about 12 years, but mine are still holding on. I have already decided that I will replace my fillings with the white porcelain instead of the silver/black metal that is in my mouth now.

On 11 November 2003 (12:00 PM),
Joel said:

But if your past-self hadn’t played soccer, become injured, and sat around a great deal, would your present-self be friends with Rich and Mart? Be interested in Premiere League? Would I have gotten that experience of playing keeper which has changed my whole game?
Er, sorry. I’m reading a time travel novel, so these issues are at the forefront for me.


Joel and Aimee and Kris and I enjoyed a very Senior experience yesterday. We dined at Top-O-Hill Restaurant, the local greasy spoon, and then we ventured to the Canby Adult Center for a rousing evening of BINGO. We were like a siphon on the poor oldsters’ winnings. We weren’t the youngest of the thirty-seven players, but we were close to it. Amy Ratzlaf would have said of the population: “Their average age is deceased.”

Kris paid $16 to play (a buy-in pack, a blackout pack, and a dauber), I paid $21 to play (a buy-in pack, an extra pack, a blackout pack, and a dauber), and Joel and Aimee each paid $13 to play (a buy-in pack and a dauber each). Our party paid $63 to play BINGO.

Here are the rules for last night’s BINGO Extravaganza:

  1. Player must BINGO on the last number called.
  2. It is the player’s responsibility to yell BINGO loud enough for the attendant to hear.
  3. Permanent-type makers must be used on all games.
  4. No smoking.
  5. Players must display buy-in receipt at all times.
  6. Each player must purchase his own buy-in packs.
  7. You must purchase a minimum of one pack to be seated.
  8. Splitting a pack is prohibited and will invalidate any winner.
  9. The numbers on the flashboard are for the player’s convenience only.
  10. In case of multiple winners of a game, the published payout will be divided equally among the winners and may be rounded up to the nearest dollar.
  11. Door prize tickets may not be altered.
  12. The Canby Adult Center will not be responsible for lost cards, buy-in receipts, or personal property.
  13. Please keep noise and talking to a minimum while games are in progress.
  14. All BINGO rules will be administered and all disputes settled by the floor manager, whose decision is final.

Thank you and Good Luck.

Things began inauspiciously. The first round was large-picture frame BINGO. We misunderstood the hostess: we thought we got all of the border squares for free, so the four of us blotted them out. Oops. Turns out those border squares weren’t free; they were our objective — those were the squares we needed to fill to claim BINGO. The grandmas were sizing us up as easy marks.

Things looked brighter quickly, though, as I claimed a share of the prize in the large picture frame round. My half of the winnings was $8.40.

The next few rounds, regular BINGO all of them, were rather frantic. Because I’d bought two packs of cards (each pack contains six cards per round), I had twice as much daubing to do each time a number was called. Plus, for the first half of the night, I had trouble detecting the seven standard patterns that allow a person to win at regular BINGO. My companions did not, however; Joel won $18.75 during one round, and Kris and Aimee were two of four winners during another round, each winning $4.75. I did manage to be one of three winners during one of the final BINGO rounds, adding $6.25 to my winnings.

The highlight of the evening, for me, was Bonanza Blackout BINGO. For $1, players could purchase special BINGO cards from Charles, an amiable big bearded fellow roaming the hall with a money belt and a fistful of BINGO cards. There was a special board posted in the back of the hall on which 45 of the 75 numbers were already “called” — these numbers could be marked off the Bonanza Blackout cards. Then, when the games was played, if a person had blackout within the first five draws, he won $300. If he had blackout on the sixth draw, he won $75; on the seventh draw, $25; on the eighth draw or later, $20. If, when you purchased your card, you didn’t like your odds, you could trade in for a new card for only fifty cents.

Joel and Aimee bought a couple of dollars worth of cards. Kris bought a single card. I bought two cards, and then kept trading them in for new ones. Then I bought another card. And another. I had four cards when the game began, including one that wanted only five numbers to win. I did win the game (and $20), but I did it with a different card, one that needed eight numbers at the start.

Of the sixteen BINGO games played, our youthful table had winning shares in six of them, including the Bonanza Blackout.

At the end of the evening, our balances stood like this:

Player Paid Won Net
J.D. $27 $34.65 $7.65
Joel $14 $18.75 $4.75
Aimee $14 $ 4.75 ($9.25)
Kris $17 $ 4.75 ($12.25)
Total $72 $62.90 ($9.10)

So, on average we spent $2.28 each for three hours of BINGO. That’s a bargain!

After the games, Joel took us up to look at the BINGO machine. It’s quite a contraption, but I couldn’t help thinking that everything could have been accomplished with a simple BASIC-program on an ancient PC.


On 09 November 2003 (10:44 PM),
dowingba said:

Don’t trust random number generators (which is what the BASIC program would be based on). They aren’t actually random…

On 10 November 2003 (07:40 AM),
Joel said:

Charles was a hoot. Although he had those giant scary mechanic thumbs and an unfortunate tendency to loom silently, he really took us under his wing. At one point he sat down and explained Bonanza Bingo to us: “There are two strategies. You want to get a card that needs the fewest numbers to win. [Laborious explanation further illuminating that remark ensues] Of course, I’ve seen ladies here [dismissively indicating the table in front of us] sit on one number the whole round and not win, and I’ve seen ladies who need ten numbers win.”
Me: “So it’s all just chance.”
Charles: “No, you want to get a card that needs the fewest numbers to win.”
He never told us the second strategy for Bonanza Bingo, a secret he may well take to his grave.

On 10 November 2003 (08:54 AM),
J.D. said:

Kris reminded me that I forgot to note the following:

At the beginning of the night, the assembled BINGOers were asked to vote on the issue of whether youth should be continued to allowed at the games. The four of us fidgeted in our seats. Did that mean us? Were they calling this vote because we’d crashed some geriatric funbinge? We were given little slips of paper from which we were to choose:

  • No youth.
  • Youth good.
  • Sure, let in youth over ____.

I voted for youth over ten, Kris for youth over eighteen. How were the other people in the room voting?

In the end, the anti-youth measure failed miserably. And later in the evening, several actual youth joined us: some kids came in and joined their parents.

It was an awkward moment, though, when we thought we were being chastised for joining the fun. Of course, if they could have forseen our drain on the coffers, they might have opted to kick us out right there! 🙂

On 10 November 2003 (09:21 AM),
Kris said:

Jd is lying. He didn’t vote on the youth issue. Instead, he passed his ballot to me for a “proxy vote”. I voted for “youth over 9” on both ballots. True, if you take the sum, it does turn out to be 18, but I would never deny youth between 10 & 18 the many pleasures of BINGO. Under ten, the little snots can go play Old Maid.

On 10 November 2003 (04:00 PM),
Tiffany said:

Can I come next time, sound like fun?

On 10 November 2003 (05:30 PM),
Denise said:

If you have your own dobber, can you bring it, or do you have to buy one there?

Do they have snacks? 🙂

The Greatest Science Fiction Films

Lynn, a newish foldedspace reader, is proving herself full of good information. She provided the tip about the library book sale (albeit via Denise’s weblog), and yesterday she mentioned The Oregonian‘s list of the fifty greatest science fiction films of all time (as selected by fifteen science fiction authors and “hardcore buffs”)..

Being a science fiction fan, I couldn’t resist tracking down the list. Follow the link to read expanded commentary on each of the selections, or just take a gander at the summary below.

  1. Alien (1979), which Dave and I just saw in the theater on Halloween night. This is a reasonable choice for the top spot.
  2. Blade Runner (1982), giving Ridley Scott the two top spots. Is this really the second-best science fiction film ever made? Pam would disagree. I would, too.
  3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), which Dana loves. I only saw it once, long long ago.
  4. Metropolis (1927), which I’ve never seen.
  5. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  6. Star Wars (1977), which captured the imagination of a generation.
  7. The Matrix (1999), a film I enjoy more each time I watch it.
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which has always bored me.
  9. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which I recently saw on the big screen; I love the first half, don’t like the second half.
  10. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Ugh.
  11. Terminator 2 (1991), say what?
  12. Alphaville (1965), which I’ve never seen.
  13. Aliens (1986), which is okay, but a little over-the-top sometimes.
  14. A Clockwork Orange (1971), which is very disturbing.
  15. Brazil (1985), a fine film dystopia.
  16. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), which is fun, but number sixteen?
  17. The Thing From Another World (1951), which I’ve never seen.
  18. Solaris (1972) — uh, no. This film is t-e-d-i-o-u-s.
  19. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), which I’ve never seen.
  20. The Terminator (1984) — I’ve never been a fan of the Terminator films.
  21. Testuro: The Iron Man (1988) — hm, a film of which I’ve not ever heard�
  22. Things to Come (1936), which I’ve not seen.
  23. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), a good Star Trek film, and one of my most-watched movies of all time.
  24. Mad Max (1978), which I loved when I was in high school.
  25. Forbidden Planet (1956) — how can you not love Shakespeare in space?
  26. Back to the Future (1985), which I haven’t seen in a long time, so I just added it to my Netflix queue.
  27. The City of Lost Children (1995), which Joel and Aimee love, but which seems too artificial for me.
  28. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), now this gave me nightmares when I was a kid. The giant spider was just too much.
  29. Them! (1954), which I’ve never seen.
  30. Akira (1988), which I’ve never seen.
  31. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), which I’ve never seen.
  32. Farenheit 451 (1966), which I saw once long ago but no longer remember.
  33. Repo Man (1984) — Can you believe I’ve never seen it? It’s at number 46 on the Netflix queue.
  34. Planet of the Apes (1968), which has some good scenes, but also looks like a TV movie-of-the-week in most spots. Read the book.
  35. 12 Monkeys (1995) — Boo-yah! I love this film.
  36. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), which I’ve never seen straight through.
  37. Delicatessen (1991), which I have not seen, but want to.
  38. Fantastic Planet (1971), of which I’ve never heard.
  39. The Fly (1986) — come again?
  40. Jurassic Park (1992), one of my favorite thrill-ride films, I love the T-Rex sequence.
  41. Silent Running (1971), which I cannot sit through, so I’ve never seen the entire thing. Boring.
  42. Return of the Jedi (1983), which should not be on this list — George Lucas beginning to lose restraint.
  43. The Brother From Another Planet (1984) — I’ve never heard of this, either.
  44. The Fifth Element (1997), while agree that elements of this film are visionary, other pieces are utterly annoying.
  45. The Thing (1982), which I’ve only seen once, while drunk in college.
  46. Dark City (1998), which I didn’t like as much as Roger Ebert (who loved it), but it’s on my Netflix queue anyhow.
  47. Pitch Black (2000), which I’ve not seen.
  48. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), an indication that this list has degenerated into silliness.
  49. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), which I have not seen.
  50. Starship Troopers (1997), which received poor reviews but which I rather liked.

I’m pleased to see that neither of the recent Star Wars films made the list. I may watch them from time-to-time, but it’s simply out of nostalgia, because I’m part of the Star Wars generation. I skip whole scenes (thank you, DVD!). The Oregonian also has a list of the five worst science fiction films of all time, and local celebrities listing their favorite science fiction films.

There are some science fiction films that I particularly like that didn’t make the list. They may not be particularly good, in an objective sense, but I always enjoy:

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), which I feel is the second best film in the franchise, much better than the over-rated Star Trek IV (which is just painful to watch now): “Double dumbass on you!”
  • When Worlds Collide (1951), a cheesy 1950s science fiction film that I first saw in the theater — it frightened me!
  • Outland (1981), with Sean Connery. This film fits perfectly with the Alien/Blade Runner-type dystopic near future.
  • Buckaroo Banzai (1984), which is pure goofy fun.
  • Logan’s Run (1976), which has a fascinating story poorly brought to screen. A remake might be good, eh?
  • The Black Hole (1979), which is dreadful really, but for which I have a soft spot in my heart.

What science fiction films do you love, and why?


On 08 November 2003 (11:57 AM),
Dana said:

Ye gods, that list is awful. I agree with about half of it. Alien, while good, is not the best ever made. It’s acceptable as a first choice, but it wouldn’t be mine.

I’ve heard of all the films you haven’t, but a lot of them I haven’t seen, either.

I think part of the difficulty is that it’s hard to actually find 50 good SF films. There is at least one horrible ommision. Contact. Contact is one of the finest SF movies ever made.

I will spare you all my own, personal, list, however. =)

Oh, yeah — I’m pretty sure you misspelled Tetsuo: the Iron Man.

On 08 November 2003 (12:00 PM),
J.D. said:

Come on, Dana. Give us your list. I want to make fun of Time Bandits! 🙂

And, you’re right — Contact is a fine film, one which belongs near the top of the list. I’d forgotten it, too.

On 08 November 2003 (12:22 PM),
Dana said:

Okay, my top ten. How’s that?

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Contact
3. Brazil
4. The Truman Show (you’ll probably argue this isn’t SF)
5. The Empire Strikes Back
6. Bladerunner
7. Forbidden Planet
8. The Day the Earth Stood Still
9. 12 Monkeys
10. Back to the Future

I have trouble generating rankings, though. I could easily give you a list of the 50 SF films I think are the best, but ranking them beyond that, saying this is absolutely better than that one is pretty hard. So I think these are probably the top 10, but they may not be very exactly ranked.

And, of course, this is just my opinion. There are a number of films on the original list that I have not seen, so perhaps I’d include them if I’d seen them.

On 08 November 2003 (12:29 PM),
Joel said:

Contact, hmm, now that’s the one that’s all about destruction, right?

On 08 November 2003 (12:33 PM),
Joel said:

In the top 50, I’d want to include more movies that make me laff, like Sleeper and Deathrace 2000.

On 08 November 2003 (12:38 PM),
J.D. said:

Dana’s right; it’s difficult to actually rank my favorite science fiction films. I can tell you what they are, but not the order in which I like them:

  • Alien
  • Blade Runner
  • Outland
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Buckaroo Banzai
  • Contact
  • The Matrix
  • 12 Monkeys

What? No older films? Nope. As much as I like Forbidden Planet and When Worlds Collide, they’re not in the same class. If I could include fantasy, I’d add Spirited Away.

Y’know, I’d love to see some of the old serials I remember watching on television as a kid: the Buck Rogers, the Flash Gordon, the Commander Cody serials. I wonder if Netflix has them…

On 08 November 2003 (12:52 PM),
Dana said:

I should clarify — My above list is what I think qualify as the top ten Best SF Movies.

They are not my ten Favorite SF movies. Because in that case Buckaroo Banzai would be #1! Swoon!

On 08 November 2003 (02:56 PM),
Dave said:

I don’t know that I could come up with a list that was ranked one through ten, but here’s what I would put into that pool of the top SF movies.

Star Trek II
Blade Runner
The Matrix
The Empire Strikes Back
Total Recall
The Road Warrior

Maybe I’d put Outland on the list, but I’d have to see it again. I keep getting it mixed up with Saturn 3. Not good…

On 08 November 2003 (03:01 PM),
Dana said:


Total Recall

GACK. Kindly allow me to eviserate you with this spoon…

Gattaca is an excellent choice, and should have been in my list. Replace Back to the Future. Unforgivable omission (Note: remember to kick self).

On 08 November 2003 (04:06 PM),
J.D. said:

Gattaca is good. Very good.

On 08 November 2003 (11:10 PM),
dowingba said:

I am a big fan of Terminator 1 & 2.

On 09 November 2003 (10:11 AM),
Denise said:

I like Terminator I & II, and Highlander. Go figure. Clancy Brown is great in Highlander. I have to say, though, my all-time favorite SF movie is Aliens II, followed closely by Aliens I. Wrath of Khan is great, too, though – especially those ear slugs!

On 10 November 2003 (07:28 AM),
Dave said:

How can you not like Predator!? Sure, it’s not deep, but it has such killer lines as: “This stuff will make you a god damnned sexual Tyrannosaurus…” from the later to be governor of Minnesota. Oh, wait. I guess Dana didn’t vote for the Independence Party candidate in the last election…

And as for Total Recall, what can I say? I like Phillip K. Dick’s stories, even butchered.

On 10 November 2003 (07:34 AM),
J.D. said:

And, if nothing else, Total Recall marked the first time I’d ever seen Sharon Stone in a film. And what an appearance! Hubba hubba.

On 10 November 2003 (08:27 AM),
Amanda said:

Pitch Black is a must see. A low-budget scifi extravaganza with Vin Diesel–what could be better! The first time I saw this movie I was freaked out for days… although it may have been the massive amount of weed I consumed prior to the viewing. Hmm.

On 14 November 2003 (07:33 PM),
chris said:


On 07 March 2004 (09:53 PM),
Carson Gilmore said:

I would like feedback on the following, which through years of research I have come to deem, in their respective time periods, the most influential science fiction films ever made:

Metropolis (1927)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Thing From Another World (1951)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Blade Runner (1982)

Any comments would be appreciated

On 20 March 2004 (05:44 PM),
Hugh said:

I cannot beleive this list nor the fact that you have not seen some of the greater films on it… SEE them, and watch some of the below!!! For your own good!

mad max II
soyulant green
omega man
invasion of the body snatcher ( leonard nimoy/donald sutherland remake )
planet of the apes ( series )
demon seed
fantastic voyage
black hole
forbidden planet ( origonal )
repo man
12 monkeys
the man who fell to earth
pitch black
logan’s run
12 monkeys
the andromeda strain

A couple of examples – total recal: excellent book but butchered to pander to the masses, predator? same – excellent story but given some “glitter” to make it sweet enough for mass release. 2001: READ THE BOOK – brilliant, written whilst the film was being made, you will never watch the film again after this. Bladerunner: Ridley Scott makes this film – don’t read the book as the film is highly adapted from the book ( good book in it’s own right but doesn’t stand up to Ridley’s film ). The Thing – even the origonal is good – the remake? Brilliant, read the comics for the expansion on the films ( that goes for a lot of these films – read darkhorse comics for a starting point ). Carson, Amanda and JD have the right idea but if you were to watch the selection I have listed you would see that good Sci-Fi films are out there – watch them!

On 16 September 2005 (08:41 PM),
Joe said:

— My Top List —

I can’t choose the best out of these movies:
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
1. Blade Runner (1984)
1. H. G. Wells’ Things to Come (1938)

The Great and Influential Classics:
4. Forbidden Planet (1956)
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
6. Metropolis (1927)
NA. La Jetee (1962)
NA. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Intermission 1. The beasts, creatures and weirdo’s that don’t really interest me, but everyone lists as influential sci-fi:
NA: Frankenstein (1931)
NA: The Thing (1982)
NA: King Kong (1933)
NA: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 78)
NA: Them!

The Great Thinking films:
7. The Matrix: Reloaded (Shows more of the Matrix world than the first film.)
8. A Clockwork Orange
9. Solaris (1972)

For the imagination, special effects, influence, and re-watchability:
10. Star Wars (1977), Empire Strikes Back
11. Alien
12. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

Intermission 2. Fun, Funnny, and Must See Films:
NA. Dark Star (Phenomenology)
NA. Young Frankenstein (1974)
NA. Spaceballs
NA. Galaxy Quest

Uh… Good for Some Unknown Reason:
13. Silent Running (1971)

More Great Thinking Films:
14. Star Trek: First Contact
15. Total Recall
16. Gattacca
17. Pi
18. Primer (2004)
19. Cube
20. The Andromeda Strain
21. Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Uh… Good for Some Unknown Reason:
22. The Time Machine (1960)

Worth Watching:
NA. Sci-Files (Documentary)
NA. THX 1138
NA. eXistenZ
NA. Soylent Green
NA. A. I. — Artificial Intelligence
NA. Donnie Darko

Flashy and Recommended:

23. Equilibrium
24. Dark City
25. Brazil

Video Appliance

Kris and I will soon purchase a new video appliance. It seems that we’re destined to buy a DVD/VCR combo deck, of which there are many. What I’d really like, though, is a device that combines the following four functions:

  • VCR: Video Cassette Recorder, so that we can play all of our old movies.
  • DVD: Digital Video Disc Player, so that we can watch all of our new movies.
  • PVR: Personal Video Recorder, such as TiVo. My mother-in-law has been using TiVo for two years (to record Survivor and General Hospital and I don’t have it yet. And I call myself an early adopter? (Nicole just got her TiVo!)
  • Wi-Fi: Wireless networking functionality so that the device can play media files (mp3, mpeg, etc.) across network.

I know that each of these functions is available separately, or in certain combinations (DVD/VCR, the Gateway wireless connected DVD) but is there any device that combines all four in one unit? If we had to, we could forego the VCR component of the device and just use our old VCR.

Yes, I could google to find out, but I’m asking for first-hand experience first.

(It seems that Matt has been on a similar quest lately; I’ll have to rummage through the archives of his PVRBlog to find out what he’s learned.)

It was a near thing, but we managed to take advantage of 25 for 25 this time around. Last night we joined the Gingeriches for a trip to Laslow’s Northwest.

Laslow’s Northwest is housed in an old Victorian house at the corner of 23rd and Kearney. There’s a less-formal bistro on the main floor and a more-formal dining room on the upper floor. Both offer the same menu.

The dining room was cozy and close, very conducive to chatting. Our server was helpful, if a little obsequious. Most importantly, the food was outstanding. My Caesar salad, featuring whole leafs of lettuce and thin slices of fresh parmesan, was better than it had a right to be. Me entrée, a chicken breast in a smoky sauce, was even better. The sauce was so tasty that I mopped it up with a slice of bread, Old West style! My dessert, a chocolate pot du créme was earthy and rich, with a strong taste of cocoa. All in all, a very good meal, one that achieved the purpose of the 25 for 25 promotion: we were able to sample a new restaurant without breaking the bank, a restaurant to which we will return in the future. A win-win situation.

Finally, the “On This Day” for 2002 features a description of the moment I tore my ACL last fall. Ugh.


On 05 November 2003 (09:25 AM),
Dave said:

Other than the VCR, it sounds like you want a multimedia PC. You could probably use a SFF case like a Shuttle with a DVD RW and an ATI All in Wonder video card with a WiFi network card. At least, that’s what I’m thinking of building for our place.

On 05 November 2003 (10:24 AM),
Dana said:

I don’t have a TV.

I have an ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 7500 that I’m quite pleased with, both in terms of 3d performance (it’s not blazing, but it’s okay) and multimedia capabilities (and price).

I also have a DVD-Rom unit on that computer, and it’s completely possible to hook a normal VCR up to this dohickey, too (the All-in-Wonder has a normal co-ax connector on the back).

And it has TV-out, so you can buy a big cheap TV instead of using your monitor to watch stuff, if you want.

Or, of course, you could look into stuff like this.

On 05 November 2003 (08:08 PM),
Drew said:

I’m with Dave. I’d go for a Shuttle sb65g2 with a Radeon 9800 All-In-Wonder. Pimp that baby up with a matched set of Corsair 512’s @ 400, a Plextor PX-708A DVD-RW, a behemoth HD, a P4 @ 3.0 G’s, and a Viewsonic Pro 17″ LCD and you’ve got a bitchin’ entertainment center. All in black, because we all know that black computers are faster. Once the rock is paid off, I’ll be dropping a wad one of these, yes sir.

On 06 November 2003 (07:22 AM),
Joel said:

Such a machine could not be built, for it would satisfy all desire. And without our desires, we are nothing. And if we are nothing, how could we build such a machine?

On 06 November 2003 (10:01 AM),
Denise said:

Yikes – that’s a lot of guy-speak….and it’s all greek to me! But you know – I’m a firm believer that your computer shouldn’t cost more than your car…..

On 06 November 2003 (10:02 AM),
dowingba said:

But computers are so much more useful, and necessary, than cars.

On 06 November 2003 (10:26 AM),
Denise said:

I think that depends on where you live….when you live in the boondocks a car can be pretty useful – but don’t get me wrong – I’ve got my computer with my DSL hook-up….so I know the importance of each!

On 06 November 2003 (10:51 AM),
Dave said:

Although I normally wouldn’t disagree with Drew on something like this, I don’t think that I’d put a 3 ghz P4 into the computer, nor would I use a Radeon 9800 (but for different reasons). I wouldn’t use a 3 ghz chip because you probably don’t need that much horsepower on the machine and because it would build up a boat load of heat. This would require a fairly noisy fan to dissipate and I don’t want to be listening to my computer’s fan while I’m watching Amadeus on DVD. Of course, if you used a liquid cooling scenario you could probably make the thing run absolutely silently…

As for the Radeon 9800, sure, if you had the extra $$, that would be a sweet card to put into the machine, but the 9600 is perfectly servicable and will save you a couple hundred dollars PLUS give you the ability to receive FM radio as well (somethine that the 9800 doesn’t do I don’t think).

Of course, if noise and money aren’t issues for you, then yes, that’d would be a pretty kick ass media center system. I’ll stop drooling now.

On 06 November 2003 (11:07 AM),
Dana said:

You definitely don’t need a 3GHz processor for this.

You can get a Via 800 MHz C3 processor based mini-itx board that can be run FANLESS and which can use an external FANLESS (ie, laptop-style) power supply, for about the SAME PRICE as a Radeon 9600. This unit will also have on-board TV out and built in ethernet.

I wouldn’t ever use a shuttle box as a media PC. Too expensive, too loud.

But that’s just me.

On 06 November 2003 (11:38 AM),
Lynn said:

Let me get this straight. You would want to watch these movies on a 17 inch computer screen? At your desk? In an uncomfortable desk chair?

On 06 November 2003 (11:58 AM),
dana said:

No, see, you can hook them up to a TV of whatever size. You just don’t use the channel tuner in the TV. It all comes from the computer (which can play DVDs, mp3s, various video files, etc). That’s what TV-out is for. =)

Really, though, it’s more expensive than just buying the various components seperately.

Douglas Adams’ definition of a nerd was someone who would use a telephone to talk to other nerds about telephones. That’s kind of what this is. Oooh, look what I can do with my computer!

It’s the male geek version of talking about cars…

On 06 November 2003 (12:06 PM),
Dana said:

Plus, if you install Mame and get a couple of joysticks, you can play old arcade games on your television…

On 06 November 2003 (02:39 PM),
Denise said:

Ok – playing old arcade games on your tv would be cool – and something that I understand!

Cats That Won’t Stop

“There are some cats that just won’t stop.” — Kris, about Nemo the spazzkitten

The cat situation remains unaltered. Three cats are much more work than two cats.

To summarize: Simon loves Nemo, and thinks of him as a little brother, or a personal chew-toy. Nemo loves Simon and thinks of him as a big brother, or a big fluffy tackling dummy. They play together often. They’ve even begun to sleep together. A little bit. Until Simon notices Nemo is in his space and leaves.

Toto hates them both. Toto hates everyone. Except me.

At seemingly random moments, Toto will begin to growl at one, or both, of her brothers, and may even get up and stalk the evil intruder from room to room. When she stalks Nemo, Nemo mostly ignores her. When she stalks Simon, Simon gets a thrill from it, and in turn tries to provoke her into a fight.

Nemo likes to sleep on the bed with us. Unfortunately, Toto likes to sleep on the bed with us, too, and that’s always been her spot. Her growling and hissing prevents us from getting good sleep, so we often shut her in the back room.

Nemo’s great. He’s affectionate, playful, and smart. He’s the heart of the family.

Simon’s fat.

Toto’s a bitch.

I love all three of them.


On 04 November 2003 (08:18 AM),
Tiffany said:

Since you are sharing cat stories�last night Gaz (the kitten) spent 3 hours fetching mouse toys. You might think no cat will fetch for 3 hours, but it is true. Normally, the fetching does not last that long because three of the four cats fetch and run over each other. This distracts them and they end up chasing each other instead of the toys. This time the other three cats were sleeping on the bed, so, Gaz had me all to herself.

On 04 November 2003 (08:56 AM),
Lynn said:

Tabby has arthritis in one of her knees, therefore, she does not involve herself in any play activities that require more than upper body movement. When it gets cold like this, ole arthur rears his ugly head. She prefers to cuddle up on a heating pad or sleep an 18 hour marathon on the flannel sheets.

On 04 November 2003 (11:39 AM),
Tammy said:

Bang Bang!

Oops methinks poor kitty dead!

On 04 November 2003 (05:50 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

Toto likes me, too — except if I try to pet her while she’s eating. -G-

Silver just ran out into the cold. Pretty soon he’ll be jumping up on the back door and hanging by his claws, looking in, letting me know he wants back in the house. On these cold nights, both he and Chester have climbed up on me early as I’ve been reclining in my recliner, reading, and have curled up cozily until I have moved them out of the way while I got up and got ready for bed. It’s neat the way they get along as they both lay on top of me (although they don’t get along so well when I’m getting them their cat food) — so different than Kraft used to be with Chester, and that’s the only thing I don’t miss about him: his attacking Chester in the evenings while Chester was reclining on my lap. Stevie is happy to stay inside all day and sometimes jumps up on my computer desk or onto my lap while I’m in the recliner. She stays pretty aloof from the other two, though, and won’t get near my lap if another cat is on it.

To me, there’s nothing that feels quite as cozy as a cat or cats on you. And I love all three of mine, too! 🙂

in Cats | 613 Words