Space Mountain

Here are a few things that scare me: heights, roller coasters, The Dark.

Imagine my terror, then, when I rode Space Mountain on my first trip to Disneyland in 1987. I had just graduated from high school, and was in Anaheim for the annual convention of the Future Business Leaders of America (a high school club that boomed during the 1980s).

I’d already been on Pirates of the Caribbean, which I loved. (In fact, I still love Pirates so much that to this day it’s the ride I want to do first and last when visiting the park. Once when a group I was with wanted to watch some silly parade, I rode Pirates over and over. It was awesome.)

Visiting Disneyland with my high school pals, we didn’t really have a method, and it took us til late morning to reach Tomorrowland. We rode Star Tours (newly opened at that point, I think), a Star Wars-themed ride, and watched Michael Jackson as Captain Eo. Then we entered Space Mountain.

“What’s this like?” I asked somebody who’d been to Disneyland before.

“It’s like a roller coaster in space,” he said.

I was a little worried, but not much. I stood in line, took my seat, and the ride began. I was in the rear car, and as we entered the dark core of the ride, I began to get nervous. Nervousness turned to fright as we took our first drop. The entire minute or two we whipped around, I clung to my seat as tightly as I could. I did not have fun.

I hated Space Mountain.

…time passed…

Kris’ uncle Bob works for Disney, and when we visit her parents in San Bernardino, he’s often able to sign us into the park. (For which we are very grateful. Thanks, Bob!) Over the past twenty years, we’ve visited Disneyland three or four times. In this time, I’ve made a discovery:

Space Mountain is a blast if you are seated in the front-most car.

On one visit I was seated in the front car by sheer chance. I knew I was going to be scared, but I was ready for how giddy the terror would make me. When you’re seated in the rear of the train, you can see what’s happening to the people in front of you a fraction of a second before it happens to you. This isn’t true when you’re in the first car. When you’re in the first car, you can’t see a thing. Everything that happens is unexpected. And it makes a huge difference.

Riding in front is scarier than riding behind, but it’s such an overwhelming fear that it’s fun. (Here’s a secret that Bob once told me: when you get to the front of a line, you can ask the “cast member” to seat you in a particular spot. They’ll often ask you to step to the side for a minute or two, but then will seat you in the spot you’ve requested. This is an excellent way to get the most out of your rides.)

All of this is just a belabored intro so that I can share this virtual recreation of Space Mountain that I found via Boing Boing. Enjoy!

Now I look forward to my next journey inside Space Mountain!

IPR: Irrational Public Radio

Something else for Kris and her smug little lab friends:

This isn’t critical of NPR — merely mocking. And I think we can all agree that NPR could use some good mocking.

Actually, this is basically for every single one of my friends, all of whom seem to be NPR junkies. I call NPR “noise pollution radio”. It’s not that I object to its content — it has good stuff — but I cannot fathom listening to it non-stop like Kris does. Dad used to say, “I can’t hear myself think” whenever I had on something that distracted him. NPR is like that for me. (Especially those blathering car brothers.) I am constantly engaged in extensive internal dialogue, often trying to figure something out. That’s why I like driving techno music. It helps me get in the zone. NPR? NPR takes me out of the zone and forces me to focus on whatever is being discussed, thus “noise pollution radio”.

A Cat Post

I know that all you folks really want to see is cat pictures. To that end, I dug the camera out of its nest last weekend and stalked my children in the yard. First of all, for Lee, who complains that of course she can’t remember Nemo’s name because, after all, I never write about him, here’s a picture of him:

Actually, that’s Max/Meatball/Meathead in the front, looking pretty, and Nemo rolling on the sidewalk in the background. Nemo is in constant motion, which is one reason we don’t have any good shots of him. Nemo likes to bonk people. He actually has a small bald patch on his forehead from bonking all day long. He’s silly.

Oh look. Here’s a real photo of Nemo:

Toto joined us outside, too, so we actually had “family time” (which is what Kris and I have dubbed the strange nexus when all six family members occupy the same space). Doesn’t she look pleased to be with us?

She’s thinking, “I want Auntie Pam.”

In the following photo, you can see Max, Nemo, and Toto all in roughly the same spot. Simon thought this was too good to pass up, and shortly after this image was made, he began to pick his siblings off one-by-one.

First he tackled Meatball. Max was game, but is still rather scared of Simon. He beat a hasty retreat. Next Simon took down Nemo, who squawked and fled. Then, in a surprise move, he charged Toto. At the last moment, he veered off and trotted to the grass. “Psych!” he said. Toto hissed and ran inside. Simon is king of the house. Or is Toto queen?

Later, Oreo the neighbor cat came for a visit. He likes our yard. He considers this his space, a claim that Simon doesn’t much care for.

Max is rather wary of Oreo, and Oreo is wary of him.

Finally, here’s a photo from my mother’s Flickr stream. I’ve cropped it and enhanced the exposure. I think it’s fun.

Silver, the tabby, is Simon’s sibling. And Socks is Meatball’s sibling. We have this same fight in our house, but with a different set of actors.

Yay, cats!

I Can’t Get No Rest

I had a tough time getting to sleep last night. We went to bed early enough, but I made th mistake of composing a weblog entry in bed before turning off the lights. Sometimes this works, but most of the time it’s a recipe for trouble. My mind races. I lay there, unable to drift off. Such was the case last night.

I rested on my side, listening to “Hawaiian Rainfall” on my iPod (i.e. white noise), trying to keep my mind blank. I practiced meditating, being mindful of my head, my shoulders, my breathing, etc. But all I really noticed was Toto growling and Kristina snoring. I thought that perhaps I should get up and have a little whiskey, or take some melatonin, but dismissed these ideas. “I’ll be asleep soon.”

When the Hawaiian rainfall ended, though, I realized an hour had gone by. (I’d heard parts of that soundscape that were new to me — I’ve always fallen asleep before.) I was still wide awake. Kris was still snoring. At least Toto wasn’t growling anymore.

I opened my laptop and surfed the web, trying to kill time until I got drowsy. It never happened. Eventually I fell asleep sometime around one o’clock.

Max and Nemo woke me at 5am, ripping through the house, scampering over the bed, tumbling down the stairs. They love to tussle in the early morning.

I got out of bed and worked a bit on my sites. I made a vow that, when I to Custom Box, I would finish all my work quickly so that I could take a nap (or meditate), and then have time to get new entries up at every site.

Things went well at first, but then the phone started to ring. Each ring was an interruption, a further delay of my nap. Eventually I discarded the idea altogether. I needed to get my weblog entries posted. I started to work on those.

Then Nick arrived and wanted to speak to my in that cryptic way of his where I have to guess what he’s talking about. I like to talk with Nick — he’s an intersting man — but, as Tony once said, “Talking to him is like talking to the wind.”

After Nick left, I spent half an hour on the phone with somebody discussing a future series of articles for Get Rich Slowly. (Can you believe I have business calls about my blogs?)

Finally, at noon, I forced myself to sit down and meditate for twenty minutes. I’ve been using recorded mp3s of guided meditations in order to relax and ground myself. Nothing mystic. Just good, solid mindfulness.

Of course, this didn’t work either. Nick came in after ten minutes to tell me that he’d seen Little Miss Sunshine over the weekend. While he talked, I tried to do some box quotes. The phone rang. Several times. Then Trent IMed me to let me know that my sites were down. “I think all of Dreamhost is down,” he said, referring to the company that hosts my web sites (and his). (Dreamhost has been a flakey mess for months, and they seem incapable of fixing the problems.)

Nick came in again. The phone rang. My computer beeped to let me know I had new e-mail.

I was going crazy!

Finally at about two, everything calmed down. I found time to whip out four quick weblog entries. At 3pm, I sighed, put things away, and headed home. “At least I can meditate or nap at home,” I told myself.

When I got home, I put all the cats outside so they could not bother me. I turned on the heat. I put on my slippers. I found a fleece blanket, pulled it over my head, closed my eyes, and turned on my iPod. I was going to do a pzizz nap, and goddamn it, I was going to enjoy it. The music started. The narrator began to guide me to sleep. I was drifting off when…


The telephone jarred me awake. I swore. I started the nap over from the beginning, but again the phone rang. It was Nick with a box crisis.

The universe was conspiring against me to keep me from getting any kind of decent sleep. I gave up. I sat down and wrote this entry. And once I schedule it to post tomorrow morning (or now, since you’re reading this), I’m going to get up and play the Wii.

I’d better be able to fall asleep tonight.

When Kris got home, I told her my tale of woe. She listened patiently and then asked, “Do you want realistic Kris or sympathetic Kris?”

“How about a little of each,” I said.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you,” she said. And here she made a mocking voice, “Oh poor me. I’m not able to meditate at work. I can’t write my weblogs.”


I guess she does have a point.

Birthday Weekend

It was a quiet, low-key weekend at Rosings Park. I turned 38. We celebrated by being frugal, and by loafing around the house.

On Friday night, Tiffany joined us for dinner. We made meatloaf using beef that we purchased in bulk last fall. With our meal, we drank a $3 bottle of wine. After dinner, Tiff and Kris sipped tea. I played Wii. (Kris and I have been playing a lot of Wii lately, actually.)

On Saturday we spent time in the yard. Kris worked on her flower gardens while I weeded the lawn with my weed-popper. I went for a walk. While walking, I listened to The Secret, which is a maddening book. It purports to share the important truth that great minds throughout the centuries have known: The Law of Attraction. It dresses this garbage up in pseudoscience. There’s some valuable stuff here about positive thinking and setting goals, but the core of the book — The Law of Attraction — is pretty much just bunk.

On Saturday night, we went out. We stopped at Powell’s for a while, where I drooled over their notebook selection. I exercised restraint and only bought one: an amazing book with 100 tiny little lines and about 20 columns. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be used for, but I love it.

“You know,” I told Kris. “I just had another great idea for a weblog.”

She groaned. I’m always having great ideas for a weblog. (I haven’t even told y’all about my million-dollar idea, but that’s because I need to register the domains.) “You don’t need another weblog,” she said.

“This one’s easy,” I said. “It’s all about notebooks. I’ll only post to it a few times a year. Whenever I find a good notebook, I’ll buy it and post it to the blog.” I paused. “I even have a great name for it! I can call it Spiral Bound.”

Yes, dear readers, I have registered, and soon I will have a notebook blog. I can sense you all simultaneously laughing and crying, but I don’t care. The Foldedspace Blogging Empire will be triumphant!

After my notebook epiphany, we went across the street to the Bagdad Theater to catch a 7:50 showing of Children of Men. “Is this line for the movie?” Kris wondered aloud. People were stretched down the block. We were amazed. Admittedly we don’t go to the Bagdad often, but we’ve never seen a line before. Usually we walk right up, pay our three bucks, grab some pizza, and head to our seats. Not this time. This time there was a wait.

There was a longer line for food. “Yikes,” I said. Kris went inside to save seats. I was only halfway through the line when the film started, so I gave up. I went to stand in the entrance while waiting for the line to end. I watched the first 20 or 25 minutes of the film standing up, missed a few minutes, then had a seat.

Children of Men is a bleak and interesting film. It’s from the same genre as THX-1138, which I reviewed last week, though it’s of a much different style. It is amazingly well made. Midway through I leaned over to Kris and whispered, “This film scares the shit out of me.” And it did.

Children of Men posits a near future in which the entire human race has gone infertile. It’s 2027 (or thereabouts) and the last child was born in 2009. The world has descended into chaos. Countries have been nuked. Terrorism is rampant. The human race is dying out. For some reason, England is the last bastion of civilization. There’s a huge illegal immigrant problem. (Why? Is it because England is the last bastion of civilization? I’m not quite clear on that.) Why is the human race dying? Is there hope for the future? That’s what this film’s about.

I liked it. I felt it lacked something at first, but the past 48 hours have only improved the film in my mind. In fact, I intend to purchase it tomorrow to add to my science fiction library. I’ll probably watch it again before this weekend, taking care to analyze things.

(It was only later that I realized why I found the film so frightening. I believe that many of the scenes were filmed in one take. Looking back, for example, I cannot remember a cut during two scenes: the motorcycle attack and the escape from the farm. I think these are filmed all in one take, and that adds a huge visceral element to the film.)

On Sunday, we lazed around the house. Kris baked me birthday cookies. I mowed the lawn — or half of it. During the mid-afternoon I became nauseated and had to halt my mowing. (I hope I can finish today.) Instead, I wrote. I got a lot of writing done.

Also this weekend, I spent some time working on a list of goals. I hope to share that list sometime later this week…

In all, this was a fantastic birthday weekend. It was relaxing. It was productive. It was fun.

The Golden Compass ‘Sizzle’ Reel

I have a couple of real entries in the works, but I couldn’t let my birthday pass without posting something. And what I’ve decided to share is awesome (assuming it’s not pulled from YouTube). Here’s the ‘sizzle’ reel for The Golden Compass:

Outstanding. I love the look. I first wrote about this movie in January, when I shared a set of film stills. I’m very excited about this film.

The best part? Peter Jackson is not involved with this production.

30 Minutes

This entry is in response to those who were concerned about my last entry, in which I described speeding to work in an attempt to make the journey in 25 minutes. This is not something I do very often.

My normal drive is a sleepy sort of thing in which I listen to an audiobook: Patrick O’Brian, Thomas Hardy, or something about personal finance. It’s not perfectly legal, but then few drivers ever make twenty mile trips completely within the law. As I mentioned before, it usually takes me 28 or 29 minutes to make the trip.

Out of curiosity, I made the trip on Friday obeying every traffic law — I used cruise control to keep me within the speed limit. How long did it take me? Exactly thirty minutes.

Also: I don’t speed through school zones. I’m pretty careful about that. It does frustrate me when people can’t read the parameters for school zones — “20mph 7-5 on school days”, “20mph when lights flash”, etc. — and simply drive 20mph through the stretch all the time, but you’ll never find me exceeding the posted limit.

25 Minutes

Most days it takes me 28, 29, 30 minutes to drive to work. I should know. I time the trip every day. It takes me roughly ten minutes to get from our house to the middle stoplight in Oregon City; it takes another ten minutes to get from there to the first stoplight in Canby; and then it takes ten more minutes to get to the office.

On days with bad traffic, or when I hit the lights wrong, it can take as much as 32 minutes to make the drive. A good day is 27 minutes. Sometimes, in the summer, if the roads are dry and maybe there’s a holiday, I can do it in 26 minutes, but that happens maybe five or six times a year.

I have never been able to make the drive in 25 minutes, though goodness knows I’ve tried.

This morning it hadn’t even occurred to me to try for this golden goal. I wasn’t late (the usual impetus for trying such a feat), and I didn’t feel especially in a hurry. I planned to be alone with my thoughts on the drive to work.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the clock on the dashboard flicked from 6:33 to 6:34 just as I was pulling out of the driveway. There’s always a greater chance of a good time when the clock flips as I’m starting. (It buys me an extra thirty seconds on average, you know.)

When I made it through the middle stoplight in Oregon City at just over seven minutes (I’ve never made it in seven), thoughts of a personal best began to flit through my head. Then I made the stoplight at the tracks and the one at the top of the hill. “Whoa,” I thought. “A clean run through O.C. Eight minutes. I have a real chance here.”

My chances improved when traffic between Oregon City and Canby was light, and I had two cutters in front of me. A “cutter” is any scofflaw willing to break the speed limit, clearing the path ahead of me of any possible law enforcement. If I’m in a hurry, I try to find a cutter and then linger a quarter-mile back while he takes all the risk. With two 65mph+ cutters in front of me, things were looking great.

I made it to the stoplight in Canby at 6:51, seventeen minutes after I’d started. This is a great time (I’ve never done it in sixteen minutes), but what made it better was that the light was green. And, in a sort of miracle, so was the next one! (On average, these two lights probably stop me 1.4 times per trip.)

I took the smugglers’ run, turning off the highway and onto the side street in order to bypass the next light, but this is standard operating procedure. I have to make a left-hand turn against the flow of traffic, so if I didn’t do this, I’d be stuck waiting for a minute or more. I turned onto Ivy and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t encounter any obstacles. I was pleased to see that the car in front of me took the school zone at 40mph (which is something that I won’t do — I stick to 30mph max). No problem there. I was even more pleased when the final light was green.

I don’t think I’ve ever made the trip without hitting a light until today. It was perfect. What’s more, I was on target for 25 minutes. It was in my grasp. That coveted target would be mine.

There was a slight snag on the Marquam highway, though. Two cars ahead the driver was following the speed limit. That’s fine. On normal days, I follow the speed limit, too. But this wasn’t a normal day. I was chasing a goal! I wanted to be free, unfettered, able to lay into the accelerator. Because the driver was traveling the speed limit, it didn’t bother me much, but I confess to getting a little antsy.

I turned onto Gribble Road at 6:58. I had less than two minutes left to realize my dream. It was doable. To my delight, there was no traffic. Here I committed the gravest driving sin of the trip, flying down the center of this narrow country road at 80mph. The clock turned 6:59 just before the Kayas’ house. I knew my work was cut out for me.

I turned onto Oglesby and floored it. Again: no traffic. I flew past the chicken farm — 6:59. I flew past Mom’s house — 6:59. I flew past the Carlsons’ — 6:59. I had it! I had it! I was going to make the trip in 25 minutes! But then, seconds before I turned into the driveway, the clock flipped to 7:00.


My goal of making my commute in 25 minutes remains unfulfilled. I came close. A couple of little things held me back. If only I’d realized at the start of the trip that a record was possible! I could have picked up my speed on River Road. I could have stayed closer to my cutters on the highway. I could have used my secret nuclear arsenal to destroy the cars in front of me coming out of Canby…

Ah well — maybe next time.

(Note for picky readers: Yes, I realize that what I’m actually describing is an attempt to make the drive in 25:59 or less. That’s fine. My definition of 25 minutes in this case is loose, and only makes use of the starting and ending times on the dashboard clock. It’s a small intellectual conceit I allow myself.)

The Waltons

Nick’s been after me for years to watch The Waltons. “It’s great,” he tells me. “I think you’d really like it.”

I remember The Waltons from when I was a kid, though I never watched it then. In fact, I remember making fun of it in grade school. “What makes you think I’ll like it?” I asked.

“It’s about the pastoral lifestyle,” he said. “Plus it has a lot of old-time stuff from the Depression. You like that stuff, right?”

Finally, after years of sitting on our Netflix queue, the first disc came tonight. It’s alright. It has potential. I do like the pastoral setting, the large family, the “wholesome” storylines. Elements of the show remind me of gorwing up in the country and seeing my cousins down at Grandma’s place.

The episode I’m watching right now is cracking me up, though, because it’s a total conglomeration of all the things I like. The Waltons are in bad financial straits. They’re broke. The family uses too much electricity. The truck brakes an axle. When their milk cow gives birth, they face a hard choice: they’d like to keep the baby, but it’s a bull, and a bull has no economic value. (If fact it’s a liability.) They sell the calf for $9.

This upsets the children. Worse, it upsets its mother. Ma and Pa Walton (or whatever they’re called) hold a discussion about how animals have emotions, and how the cow misses her calf.

And, of course, there are the ever-present trappings of the 1930s: the old cards, the magazines and books, the family gathered around the radio listening to Edger Bergan and Charlie McCarthy.

Meatball loved this episode. He sat on the coffee table and stared at the television for more than twenty minutes. He was especially interested in the cows.

I do like how The Waltons reminds me of my childhood, but I’m not convinced I need to watch many more episodes, But if Max likes it this much, I’m willing to get at least one more disc…

Goose Nexus

Custom Box Service is located in farmland outside of Canby, Oregon, which itself is rather rural (though less rural than it once was). About a mile from the office there is a pond. In the late winter and early spring, this pond is home to hundred (thousands?) of geese.

For whatever reason, every couple days these geese get into a fit about something and start clucking and squawking. Most of the time they stay back by their pond, and we simply listen to what their complaints.

Sometimes, though, they engage in a display of goose fireworks. They rise above the tree-line and take to the sky, flying in great V-shaped platoons. Several platoons cluster together, crossing back-and-forth among each other, individual birds dropping from one V and joining another. The entire battalion of birds swarms through the sky, honking a fearful din, moving slowly to some new destination.

Today this army of geese took flight and passed directly over my office. What a noise! I had been preparing to go outside for my walk. But I put off my exercise a bit for fear of the bombs this air force might unleash. I’ve been pooped on before by a goose. It’s not pleasant.

Though I’ve returned to my regular posting pace here the past three or four months, I still get people who tell me I’m not writing enough. I think this is really just code for, “What’s going on with the chicken?”

I looked out the window just now to see what was making such a ruckus. Here in the country, we often get strange machines roaring and rearing in the nearby fields. In this case, something had been growling for a couple of minutes, but I couldn’t see what it was.

“Oh look,” I said to Jeff, who had just come into the office. “That silly chicken is up here foraging for food.” I hadn’t yet fed it its daily chicken-flavored cat food. “I should take a photo with my computer,” I said.

But when I went to open the window, a fat juicy yellow jacket dropped from the blinds. This happens often during this time of year. I don’t know where they come from, but yellow jackets spontaneously appear in my office. They especially like to pop out from the light fixture.

I have a bee phobia, so when this happens, Jeff knows his duty. He strips the ball cap from his head and thwack thwack he pummels the poor bee into a pulp.

“Thanks,” I said. And I leaned out the window to take a couple snaps of my chicken friend. Enjoy!

Look carefully. The chicken is in the lower right, between the two bushes.

Ours is a free-range chicken. Note the mossy sidewalk.