That Damn Black-banded Leporinus

Black Banded Leporinus
Originally uploaded by catxcatxx

My black-banded leporinus has done it again. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how my black-banded leporinus had been attacking the other fish in my aquarium, killing the albino tiger barb. Well today it murdered the only other fish in the aquarium that really swims around a lot, the red-tail tinfoil barb. There is also a plecostomus in the aquarium, but it does not swim around much, at least not when people are watching. So help me, if this fish starts attacking the pleco, I will have to get rid of it. Of course then I could restock the aquarium with all new, and hopefully less-aggressive, fish.


Mel and I both used vacation days, this final day of 2009, so with Emma at preschool, the two of us went to see Avatar. We saw the movie in 3D, and it was well worth the extra cost to do that. I thought Avatar was a fantastic movie. For maybe the first two thirds of the movie, I thought it was really good, but that it wasn't living up to the hype. However, by the time the film was over I had changed my opinion on this. I thought it was absolutely amazing! First of all, the special effects were awesome! The alien characters and their environment seemed so real, and when actual people were in the same scene, it appeared to be so seamless. I really liked the characters as well. The main character of the film started out as a sympathetic character, but then he lost my sympathy and I started to really dislike him, but by the end of the film, he was again a hero. The big battle at the end of the movie was one of the best I have seen in a movie in a long time. I am not sure if it was the 3D glasses or what, but I was so engaged in the film at that point that I could feel my heart rate increase dramatically from just watching it. Avatar is a movie I will definitely see again. I'd see it again in the theater, but there are a lot of other movies playing right now that I would like to see, and we so seldom get out to movies that we probably would go see something else instead. However I will be watching this when it is available on DVD.


Furniture Shopping

For a while now, we have really needed some new living room furniture. Mel has owned the sofa and love seat we have for quite some time, and they were used when she got them. Holes are starting to form in the fabric of the seat cushions, and they are rather dingy. So tonight we went to Slumberland to check out some new furniture. We decided to go because their ad for the week that was in Sunday's paper showed a sofa that we could buy and then get a free matching love seat. Well we checked that sofa out, and it was alright, but upon touring the store, we found a better sofa. And while it does cost more than we intended on spending, it seems like it will be more durable. The sofa and love seat that we are buying are also larger than the ones we had gone in specifically to look at. And to top it all off, they both recline! Mel's family is coming to our house for Christmas this Friday, postponed from last weekend, so we were hoping to get the furniture by then. However, they didn't have what we wanted in stock, so we will have to wait three to five weeks for it. It looks like the new furniture should arrive just in time for when the new baby arrives as well.

Back to Work

After four days off from work, six if you count the weekend, I am getting back to work. I am starting a little late this morning as I just returned home from taking my sister to the airport. I enjoy the time off to spend with family, but I don't mind getting back to work. It probably helps that I like my job for the most part.


My Dead Pool Results for the Year

This year I participated in a celebrity dead pool at TheDeadpool.com. Unless someone else on my list dies by the end of the year, I will have only earned a pathetic 37 points for the year. The only people on my list who died this year were Ted Kennedy and Bea Arthur. Perhaps I will do better for 2010.


I had a great Christmas yesterday. Emma actually slept fairly late, not waking up until almost 8:00. She was excited to see that Santa Claus had been here and had left her presents. She was excited, but quite patient. She checked out the contents of her stocking first. In that, she got some M&Ms, some Hot Wheels cars, a Fisher Price Little People figure, and a few other things.We then waiting to open other presents until my sister came over. As she the driveway of her condo hadn't been plowed yet, I went to pick her up.

When I returned home with my sister, Emma opened her Christmas presents from both Santa and from Mel and me. Mel and I also opened our presents to each other, and we had Rebecca open one of the presents we had gotten for her. Emma got another baby doll. She also got accessories for the doll, including a stroller, extra clothes, and baby dishes. She also got a Mr. Potato Head, which she also enjoys playing with. From Mel, I got a bear from the Build-a-Bear Workshop which is dressed as a Jedi knight. Very cool!

Later in the afternoon, after both Mel and Emma had taken naps, we all went to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner. We had gone there on Christmas Eve after church in the afternoon where we participated in their family Christmas celebration. Last night though, we hung out for a while, visiting with my aunt and uncle as well as my uncle who lives in North Carolina who is in town visiting. One of my cousins and her family came over shortly and we all had dinner. After playing Uno Attack for a while after dinner, we took my sister back home and then returned home ourselves.

Despite the fact that our plans for celebrating Christmas were completely thrown out the window because of the snow storm, we still had a good Christmas. We plan on doing more Christmas celebrating next Friday with Mel's family. Now we just need to figure out when to see my mom for opening more presents.


Tay Zonday sings "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"

You may remember Tay Zonday from his performance of his song "Chocolate Rain," but then again, maybe you don't. Anyway, by popular demand, he has released a performance of himself singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a very merry Christmas!


Snowmageddon 2009

It looks like I'm not going anywhere today, aside from church and my aunt and uncle's house just a couple of miles away, this afternoon. I have already cleared six inches of snow from the driveway and I have heard that we should expect at least another foot before the entire storm is finished.

Oscar the Grouch Hates Christmas

Continuing my series of non-traditional Christmas videos this week, here is Oscar the Grouch singing "I Hate Christmas."


Trip Cancelled

Emma, my sister, and I were going to drive to my mother's house in Iowa tonight so we could celebrate Christmas with her and the rest of my family. I was really looking forward to this trip because both of my cousins who live in Germany, as well as their spouses and children, are back in the United States. I haven't seen them for quite a while, and the only time Emma ever met any of their children was when she was still an infant. However, this big winter storm that is coming has cancelled our plans. We could possibly have made it to Iowa if we had left early enough today, but we likely would not have been able to get home on Christmas day as we had planned. Since Mel would have been unable to go along with us, and Emma and I wanted to be back home on Christmas to spend the day with her, we are staying home. I am not sure yet if my sister is going to try to make it to Iowa on her own, but she has to be back to the Cities for something on Monday, so she might not go either.

As well as cancelling a trip to Iowa, Mel's family in Iowa who were planning on coming to Minnesota to celebrate Christmas with us on the twenty-sixth may not be able to make it either because of the storm. It looks like that celebration may need to be rescheduled as well.

At least Emma and I get to spend Christmas with Mel. And assuming the weather isn't absolutely horrible tomorrow, we will be able to see my aunt and uncle who live down the highway from us, as well as my uncle who lives in North Carolina as he is here visiting.

Happy Festivus!

I would like to wish you all a happy Festivus, if "happy" is the right word for it.

The Muppets: Ringing of the Bells

Today's Christmas song is the Ukrainian Bell Carol performed by the Muppets' Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal.


Merry Christmas...If That's Okay!

Here is another Christmas carol, or not, from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to help you to celebrate this joyous season.


A Christmas Carol from Mystery Science Theater 3000

Here's a nice Christmas video to help get you all in the mood for Christmas.

New Cell Phones

Mel's cell phone has been acting up recently, giving really bad reception to the people she talks to, so since we were at the end of our two-year cell phone contract, we went out to buy some new cell phones yesterday. While we would have loved to get smartphones, we really couldn't justify the added expense we would incur with the required plans for those phones. Besides, Mel already thinks I am on Twitter and Facebook too much as it is. With a smartphone, my usage of those would only increase. One requirement that both Mel and I had for our phones was a QWERTY keyboard. Both of us have begin texting more since we bought our last cell phones in December 2007, and a full keyboard would really help with texting.

After being shown the three non-smartphone phones in the store, we had a decision to make. We quickly narrowed our decision to between two phones, the LG Chocolate Touch and the LG enV3. The touch phone looked really cool, having a touch screen and no physical keys, but with the discounts we were getting, it was still going to cost us $110 more for both of us to get that than if we got the enV3, which we would get one free when we bought one. With the discount we were getting for upgrading our phones, the first of the two enV3s was already free. So when it came down to spending $110 versus $0, that made our choice fairly simple. Besides, I think I like the feel of actually having a physical keyboard to use. I think it makes it easier for me and my big fingers. So while the LG Chocolate Touch looked cooler, we each got an enV3 phone, which still look pretty snazzy. Fortunately that had two different colors of this model of phone in stock. So now Mel has a maroon phone and I have a blue one. That will help us keep the two phones straight between us.

Now this next part of my blog posting is a bit morbid, but I am going to include it anyway. While we were at the desk with the salesperson, I received a text message on my old cell phone which was still active. It was a text from a coworker of mine in Iowa City. She was letting me know that Brittany Murphy had died. So I told Mel what the text was. Both she and the salesperson were quite surprised by that news. To confirm the news, and to get additional information, the salesperson immediately looked it up on her Blackberry. Now to my readers, it might seem a bit odd that a friend of mine would text me when someone who neither of us knew personally, although I was once on a flight from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids with Brittany Murphy, died.

This all started this past summer when Michael Jackson died. I was talking on the phone with this coworker the next day and she expressed mock disappointment in me for not informing her of the death of the King of Pop. Now I would have called her once I learned the news, but once it was confirmed, it was after our normal workdays, so I assumed that she would be at home or somewhere where such news would be spreading like wildfire. She was however working late that evening. So every time I learned of a celebrity death since then, no matter the caliber of the celebrity, I have either called, emailed, or texted her to let her know. I can only assume that since she hadn't heard from me when she learned the news, she assumed I didn't know, so she returned the favor and texted me. Now this all reminds me that I need to get to work on my picks for my death pool list for 2010.


And Then There Were Three

I must be a really bad aquarist. Today another of the fish in my aquarium passed away. My albino tiger barb had not been looking well for the past few weeks, and it especially seemed to go downhill after my two remaining tiger barbs started disappearing from the aquarium a few weeks ago. This evening I noticed that the black-banded leporinus was really going after the albino fish. He was really digging into it. While drying dishes this evening, I noticed that the albino tiger barb was swimming upside down. It was still alive, but I knew it wouldn't last long. And indeed, within a couple hours, the fish was gone. So now I am left with the black-banded leporinus, a red-tail tinfoil barb, and a plecostomus. I'd like to get some new fish, but that won't happen as long as these remaining fish survive. Any new fish would be too small to introduce into an aquarium with these larger fish.


Alec Baldwin and his Schweddy Balls

As soon as I saw the commercials for Saturday Night Live's holiday special that aired last night, I knew that they would have to show the Delicious Dish sketch from December 1998 in which Alec Baldwin's character, Pete Schweddy, talks about the tasty balls he makes for Christmas.


A friend of mine posted a link to this video of some high schoolers performing Handel's Hallelujah chorus. I thought it was cute, so I am sharing it with you all here.

Emma's First Performance

On Wednesday night we went to Emma's daycare center for their holiday program. Emma and her classmates sang three songs, "I Am a Little Snowman" (to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot"), "Santa's Reindeer" (to the tume of "Frère Jacques"), and "Jingle Bells" (also to the tune of "Frère Jacques"). It was cute to see Emma and all of her classmates stand at the front of the room singing these songs. Emma sang a little bit, but some of the time she just stood there smiling. At least she seemed to have a good time.


Christmas Video of the Week: Kathy Lee's Hip-Hop Christmas

Okay, this video is just awful, but I am going to share it anyway. This is Kathy Lee Gifford's Hip Hop Christmas.


A Lot of Hits Recently

I've noticed that I have been receiving a significant number of visits to my blog from people who searched for "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sexist" or "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sexism" on Google. It appears that as of a moment ago when I checked, my blog comes up either second of fifth in the Google search, depending on which phrase is used. I never imagined that my blog entry about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would garner such attention.

Starting Christmas

On Sunday, Emma and I went to Mel's grandmother's house in Iowa for a Christmas celebration. Mel did not come along because she has found such long drives to be somewhat uncomfortable with her about seven weeks from giving birth. Travelling with Emma sure makes the trip interesting, and a bit longer than it was before she was out of diapers. We ended up making four potty stops during what should have been a three-hour drive, but we made it accident-free!

Dinner was good, and Emma had an especially good time opening presents. She got a dolly, which she barely lets out of her sight when she's at home, some Play-Doh, and a large stuffed ladybug which turns into a pillow. I got the 2009 Star Trek movie on DVD. This is somewhat ironic, because I got the present from Mel's brother, and it was for him that I bought a Christmas present, Star Trek on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, his wife also got him that movie, so I guess one of them will be going back.

Our drive back to Minnesota took even longer than our drive down. Not only did we have numerous potty stops, but we had to get gas and stop for dinner. We did make it home eventually, and Emma was very happy to see her mommy again. She told me that she missed her when we were gone.


Christmas Video of the Week: R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas

From the Meco Mondaro's 1980 album Christmas In the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album, here is the song "R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas." This song is the first professional recording by then seventeen-year-old Jon Bon Jovi.


A Creepy Christmas Song

I went to YouTube this morning and I saw a video titled "Christmas Is Creepy" in the "Spotlight: Music Tuesday" section of the page. Wondering what it was, I decided to give it a watch. It is a video by Fred Figglehorn, whom I had not heard of prior to watching the video. Apparently his YouTube channel is the second most subscribed to YouTube channel in the United States. Who knew? Anyway here is the video of "Christmas if Creepy" followed by his video for "Christmas Cash."



Yesterday Mel and I went to see the Titanic exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with my sister and our friend Martha. We left Emma with my aunt and uncle since we didn't think she would have a great time. And if Emma were along not having a good time, we probably wouldn't either. Our visit started by watching the film Titanica at the Omnitheater. It was good film which documented an exploration of the Titanic wreck. Both my sister and I wondered about one aspect of the film. There were photos of one of the survivors of the Titanic. I would think that the people rushing to the lifeboats would not have taken the time to grab personal possessions, such as cameras, when they left their rooms, but I guess I am wrong about that.

The exhibit itself was fascinating. It was really interesting to see some of the things that survived the sinking intact. There were a couple of bottles, including a champagne bottle. I am surprised that these did not break under the intense pressure of the water. The stack of dished that remained stacked neatly in there resting place at the bottom of the ocean were also fascinating.

Another Visit With Saint Nick

Saturday, Mel went to a craft show with my sister, so that left me alone with Emma. I wanted to go to the Mall of America to do some Christmas shopping, so the two of us set out for the mall. We spent a few hours roaming the mall, mostly just window shopping. There was one store in particular that I intended to make a purchase from, and I did find something there to buy.

While at the mall, Emma and I ate lunch at McDonald's. Now McDonald's isn't my preferred quick service restaurant, but it is one which Emma enjoys. As usual, I ordered her a Happy Meal. Since Emma is a girl, the cashier automatically specified with the order that a "girl toy" be placed in the Happy Meal. The current toys that McDonald's has for girls are Strawberry Shortcake rubber stamps. Now these toys suck for two reasons. First, they aren't really toys, and second, they make a real mess. The toys they have that are specified for boys are mini Nerf toys. I had them replace Emma's rubber stamper with a Nerf toy, and I am very glad I did. Emma got a little Nerf cannon which shoots plastic darts at targets. She absolutely loves this toy.

After we finished our shopping at the mall, we went to a nearby Walmart to pick up a few other things that we needed. Like the weekend before, there was a Santa Claus at the Walmart, so Emma got her picture taken with him as well. Of course, as we then shopped around the store as we waited for the photo, Emma kept asking to go back to see Santa again. He shift had ended though, so we did not. We had a fun time shopping, and I think we are done seeking out Santa Clauses for this Christmas season.


Bonus Christmas Video: John Denver and the Muppets - The 12 Days of Christmas

I was just going to post Christmas videos on Thursdays prior to Christmas, but as today is the thirtieth anniversary of the television special John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together, I am including a video from that special today. Here is John Denver and the Muppets performing "The 12 Days of Christmas."


The Bathroom Is Almost Done

In July of last year, while Mel and I were on RAGBRAI, we had the bathtub and sink replaced in the house. As a result of that, the floor of the bathroom has looked horrible since then. There were tiles under where the vanity had been, and there was a gap in the subflooring in front of the bathtub. Well today I finally put new tile on the floor, using self-adhesive tile squares. The hardest part of that was cutting the tile for the curves it had to go around. Now that it is done, it looks much better. I still have to install moulding around the perimeter of the room. I will try to get to that this weekend.

Tonight I fixed the exhaust fan in the bathroom as well. I had bought a fan about a year ago. A few weekends ago I tried to install it, trying to fit the motor and the part it was connected to into the space that was in the ceiling. It did not fit and I ended up breaking it trying to get it to fit. Tonight we found a different fan at Menards which happened to be the same model as the one that had been installed in the ceiling previously. It was very simple to slip the motor and blades of the fan into the existing housing. Now we have a working exhaust fan in the bathroom.

Neither of these tasks was really that difficult. I do not know why I didn't take care of them a year ago, but at least they are done now.


Emma has now completed her first week in the preschool class at daycare. Prior to Thanksgiving, Emma had been spending some time in the afternoons in the preschool class, but beginning this Monday, Emma has spent the entire day in preschool. Well actually, Monday through Wednesday, I dropped Emma off with her old class and she went to preschool after breakfast. But Thursday and Friday she went directly to the preschool class. Emma seems to be doing really well in that class. I had been worried that she would not do well since the teacher she really loved is still with the toddler class, but Emma appears to like her new teachers. She also likes playing with her new classmates. I guess I had nothing to worry about.


Rudolph the Sexist Reindeer

Last night CBS aired the classic 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We decided to let Emma stay up to watch it as she has recently taken an interest in Christmas-related television programming, watching part of The Santa Clause with us this past weekend. We even let Emma stay up past her bedtime to watch the entire program which ran until 8:02. Why it had to be an hour and two minutes long is beyond me. I suppose they needed those extra two minutes of advertising revenue.

We all enjoyed watching Rudolph, although Emma, who primarily watched shows on commercial-free Playhouse Disney, did not seem to understand why the show went away every ten to fifteen minutes for commercials. She kept saying that she wanted the snowman, the narrator voiced by Burl Ives, back. In fact, I think the Sam the Snowman was her favorite character in the entire program as she kept asking where he was. Emma did not get scared by the Abominable Snow Monster of the North. She did say that he was not nice though and was a little concerned when he showed up at the very end when he helped to decorate the Christmas tree.

One thing about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer that really stuck out to me was the dialog was quite dated. One can tell, just from how the narrator speaks, that this program was made decades ago. People just do not talk like that anymore. Another aspect of the show that shows that this show was from a different time was the sexist nature of some of the dialog. A couple of examples from the show, both spoken by Donner, Rudolph's father, were when he was going to set out to search for Rudolph, Rudolph's mother and girlfriend wanted to come along, Donner told them that they could not come along because it was "man's work." Then later, after being rescued from the Abominable Snow Monster, Donner says that the women need to get back   home. I wondered why. Did they have to get back to cook and clean before he got home himself?

Another thing that bothered me was how much of a jackass Donner and the other adults, including Santa, the jolly old elf himself, were toward Rudolph simply because he was born different from all of the other Reindeer. I can understand that the other reindeer children gave him problems, after all kids can be unkind like that. And besides, the song kind of requires the other kids to leave him out. But even his own father showed extreme disappointment in Rudolph, directly to him, because of his birth defect. Not only was Santa a ass to Rudolph, but he just mean in general. He did not seem to care for his elves, finding their song to be annoying and not good enough. And his wife wasn't much better, insisting on fattening him up. She apparently did not care about his health.

And what was wrong with the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys? She seemed fine to me. Also, so what, the elephant had polka dots on it? Did all toys in 1964 realistically depict whatever it was they were supposed to be? Today no one would think twice about a toy elephant that was not gray like real elephants are. Finally, do elves not care about their teeth? The very idea of an elf being a dentist was just ludicrous to Hermie's supervisor. But I guess that when you live at the North Pole and make toys year round, you don't need good teeth?

I seriously doubt that this show would be made in this way if it were made today, or even a decade ago in fact. Nevertheless, I look forward to many more Christmas seasons of enjoying Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with Emma and her little brother.

Christmas Video of the Week: Wham! - Last Christmas

Today, and for the next three Thursdays, I will be posting a different Christmas video. This week's video is from 1984. Here is Wham! performing their song "Last Christmas."


The Golden Girls on Marriage Equality

The Golden Girls was really quite a progressive program for its time. This clip from an episode in 1990 or 1991 shows Sophia explaining why Blanche's gay brother would want to get married.

Made My Decision

Yesterday I wrote that I was trying to make a decision regarding buying an electric shaver to replace the manual razor I have been using for years. I decided today to go ahead and buy the Philips Norelco SpeedXL 8240X, which was the least expensive of the three shavers I was considering seriously. I went to Target to see how much they were charging for it. Their price was $79.99. At Amazon.com the price was $10 less, so I ordered it from there. In addition, I have a form for a $10 rebate on the razor which will bring my final price down to $59.99. Since I want to receive it as soon as possible, as my current razor blade won't last too long, I signed up for a free 30-day trial membership of Amazon Prime. With that I get free two-day shipping. Once I am done purchasing any additional Christmas presents that I may want from Amazon.com, I will cancel that membership. I definitely would not get my money's worth out of it during the rest of the year. I hope this shaver does a good job, otherwise I may end up sending it back to Philips Norelco and giving a different one a try.


Electric Shaver?

Last weekend I really cut the hell out of my face using a manual razor. This got me thinking again about switching to an electric shaver. I have been using a Gillette Mach 3 razor for a while, and it usually does a decent job, but my most recent blade has just not been satisfactory for me. I would switch to the Fusion razor, but those blades are really damn expensive. In fact, the blades for the Mach 3 are a bit pricey too. Except for the initial expense of buying an electric shaver, using an electric would be much less expensive. In fact, it would pay for itself rather quickly as I would not be buying blades as frequently.

The question then is which razor to get. I have been reading reviews online, and that just makes it more difficult to choose. One option is the Braun Shaver Series 5 570cc which is actually on sale at Target this week. The reviews I have read for it at Amazon.com are mostly favorable, although there are not many there. Then there is the Philips Norelco arcitec 1050X, which was named the best rotary electric shaver in an article I found online. However, its reviews at Amazon.com are not as good. The final shaver I am considering at the moment is the Philips Norelco SpeedXL 8240XL. This one has really good reviews at Amazon.com, and is less expensive than the other two razors under consideration. One drawback with this final shaver that comes up in several of the reviews is that there is no warning when the battery is about to run out. I guess it will run while plugged in though, so maybe this is not a major issue. One advantage that the two Norelco models have over the Braun though is that Norelco lets the buyer return it in 45 days if not satisfied. This may play a major role in my decision making. Whatever I decide to do, I need to do it soon, otherwise I will need to buy more blades for my Gillette Mach 3 razor.

Weight Watchers Week 1

With Thanksgiving over for this year, it is again time to get serious about watching what I eat. So today the Weight Watchers resumes. My initial weight is 226.6 pounds. By May 4, I should be at my goal of 205 pounds.