Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bean Museum

When Eddie and Peter did virtual school, we went on a couple of field trips. These field trips were somewhat different from those you’d experience at a traditional school. Usually, they were for multiple grades. They included students from all over a large geographical region, and each family unit was responsible for their own transportation. During these field trips, you’d stick largely with your own family. It was more of a correlated event than anything.

Last week, I went with Peter on his first traditional school field trip. It was also my first traditional field trip as a parent chaperon. We went to the Bean Museum. Yeah, yeah, everybody (including me) makes the same jokes about that. It was not a museum showcasing the many varieties of beans that exist. It is, more officially, the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. And by “life science,” they seem to mean “dead animals.” At least, that’s primarily what the museum consists of. It’s kind of a glorified taxidermy display. That being said, we did spend a good chunk of our time in an auditorium learning about taxonomy. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and the presenter brought out a few live animals: a tarantula, a frog, and finally a python. The kids were allowed to pet the python on their way out of the auditorium. My little group of four kids was the first to exit the auditorium, so we got to pet the least germy version of the snake. Bonus.

After the presentation, we were allowed to roam the museum for 30–40 minutes. That was ample time for the modest-sized museum. Fortunately, there were a couple of things that kept the kids’ attention for several minutes and helped to pass the time. First, there was a fake tree that the kids could climb in and then slide out of. It was a baby-sized slide, but these 6– and 7-year-olds were all over it. Next up was a system of mock ant tunnels. There were no ants, but there were little magnetic tokens inside that could be moved around with little magnetic wands available to museum patrons. You could try your hand at maneuvering a token through the intricate tunnel system. The kids liked that quite a bit.

After the museum, the buses took us to Discovery Park in nearby Pleasant Grove. We ate lunch, and then the kids were allowed to play on the playground equipment. The playground resembled a fort built entirely of Lincoln Logs. There were some “secret passages” in and around the fort (as I’m calling it), and Peter loves that sort of thing. He really enjoyed himself. I listened to podcasts on my mp3 player for what seemed only a brief time before we were all called back to the bus. I had a hard time finding Peter, but eventually took my other three kids back to the bus, only to find that Peter was already there (as I had come to hope and expect). We then drove back to the school, arriving an hour before school would end. I gave Peter the choice of going home with me right then or sticking around with his class. He chose to go home. Good call.

I’ve taken some photos, which I’ll share here. You can tell Peter was enjoying himself because he adopts a pose of victorious jubilee in many of the photos. If you’re really interested in seeing more of the museum, you can do so at their website (linked above). There’s even a photo of the tree slide, if you’re particularly excited about that.

On the bus.  Bean Museum, here we come!

"Hooray!"


My favorite display: a butterfly made out of real (but dead) butterflies.

Selfie!



At the park, a playful Peter peers in proximity to his peers.

A wider view of the park.  You can still see Peter if you look closely.

The end!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More Than a Feeling

I had my one-week post-op follow-up appointment today for my second carpal tunnel release surgery. At my first post-op follow-up, which was two weeks ago and only for my right hand, the doctor came in and asked, “So, do you feel a lot better?” I said, “Um, no, I feel the same.” The doctor’s face went ashen and he said, “Ohhhh shizzzz….” Well, no, that last part isn’t true, but the doctor did seem surprised and not pleased to hear that there had been no noticeable improvement to my carpal tunnel symptoms. He said that about 70% of people experience at least some immediate relief. This was discouraging to me. I already knew there was some possibility that the surgery wouldn’t help the symptoms, even if it prevented them from getting worse. There is always a possibility that nothing will change after having the surgery and you’ll spend the rest of your life feeling as numb as you were before having the surgery. The doctor tried to put me at ease, though, saying that he wouldn’t really worry about my sensation returning until three months had passed. He said that some patients wait until exactly three months before they suddenly improve. That could be me. “Keep your fingers crossed—if you can even tell what the hell you’re doing with ‘em!” the doctor guffawed. Okay, he didn’t really say that last thing.

The surgery on my left hand went even better than on my right hand. Or, at least, my recovery from it has been even easier, which is saying something since it was already pretty easy-going with my right hand. Even so, a week after my surgery, my left hand feels the same to me as it did before the surgery. My left hand was significantly less problematic than my right hand—before the surgery, I mean—so I don’t have much to complain about. It’s only the very tips of my fingers that feel just a tiny bit numb. But again, it’s disappointing that nothing has changed.

Here’s the good news. At my doctor appointment today, they redid some of the testing that they do to measure your carpal tunnel. They have a little wheel with a series of prongs on it. There is a single prong, and then there are various pairs of prongs, each with a slightly wider gap between the prongs than the last. They have you close your eyes, and then they place either the single prong or a double prong on your fingertip and ask you to report whether it’s one prong or two. When I did this before having any carpal tunnel surgery, I performed miserably, especially on my right hand. The prongs had to be fairly far apart for me to distinguish that two were touching me and not just one. Well, at today’s testing, despite my continued numbness, I actually scored like a normal person on this test. Even with my right hand. The doctor was very impressed and said this is very good news. He said that despite my inability to recognize subjectively the process I’ve made, I’ve definitely improved. He said the numbness and tingling may still take a few months, but despite those things, I am getting somewhere.

As ridiculous as it may sound, this news made me quite giddy. I left the doctor’s office in the mood to celebrate. I have yet another follow-up appointment in six weeks, but for now, I’m just supposed to start trying to live as normally as I can. There are still weight restrictions, and there will be tenderness for possibly another several weeks. But I feel like today’s appointment was the last little to-do before I am again a normal human being. That thrills me. It’s hard to believe my fingers ever really will stop being numb, but I’m trying to be optimistic. And being able to move on with my life, tingly fingers or no, is an exciting prospect.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The New Pornographers, 2014

Last night, Melanie and I went with my sister Khrystine and her husband Saeed to a concert by The New Pornographers. This was my second time seeing The New Pornographers live. Many aspects were the same as the last time I saw them perform: it was shortly after my birthday, it took place at a smaller venue that had some seating but was largely standing room only, the band did not engage a great deal with the audience, and exactly 50% of the songs they performed were the same as three years ago. That being said, it was still a much better concert. Even some of the repeat songs were much more “authentic” this time around, as Neko Case and Dan Bejar (two vital vocalists, each of whom sing lead vocals on several New Pornographers tracks) were both in attendance. They had both been absent when the band came to Tallahassee in 2011.

The concert took place at The Depot in downtown Salt Lake City. The opening band was The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I wasn’t familiar with their stuff, but they sounded quite good. They have that hint of 80s sound to them that many bands seem to have nowadays. Before the concert got started, Khrystine bought a CD from the guitarist and lead singer of the band, Kip Berman. He seemed very friendly. Khrystine told him her favorite song, and when they performed a short time later, Kip introduced that song as “For Khrystine.” Khrystine was quite giddy about that.

While The New Pornographers were slightly more personable than they were in Tallahassee, this concert was once again about the music. They didn’t waste a lot of time on chit-chat. That’s fine, I suppose. We got 24 songs out of them, which is 8 more than last time. We even got a double encore. Dan Bejar was a funny fellow. He was onstage only for those songs on which he sang vocals, and if he ever wasn’t singing, he would turn his back to the audience. He was on– and off-stage constantly. It was rather amusing. I can only assume he’s super shy. I know he’s absent from many of the official band photos I’ve seen. Even when he sang, he seemed to avoid eye contact with the audience. But I’m glad he was there. His vocal styling is definitely unique, and it isn’t the same to have someone else do his vocals for him.

Unlike in Tallahassee, we stood for the entire concert. We weren’t very far from the stage. The crowd thickened throughout the show, but I managed not to topple over, what with my gimpy left foot and my bandaged left wrist preventing me from my bracing myself very well. My feet hurt like crazy after the show. I could barely walk. It’s like my legs had forgotten how to work after nearly 3.5 hours of standing in basically one spot.

As I did three years ago, I’m going to share the entire concert setlist by way of YouTube videos. The videos aren’t the point so much as the songs. (These aren’t always official videos anyway.) Embedding the videos (and thus the audio of each song) seems a more fun way of recording the setlist than simply enumerating the songs. And so, here are the songs I enjoyed last night, in the order I enjoyed them:

Brill Bruisers
(from the album Brill Bruisers)


Myriad Harbour
(from the album Challengers)


Use It
(from the album Twin Cinema)


War on the East Coast
(from the album Brill Bruisers)
NOTE: Dan Bejar sings lead vocals on this song, but even in the music video, he has fellow band member Carl Newman lip synch for him. That’s Dan walking next to Carl throughout the entire video, however.


Moves
(from the album Together)


All the Old Showstoppers
(from the album Challengers)


Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
(from the album Twin Cinema)


Fantasy Fools
(from the album Brill Bruisers)
NOTE: This is a live version of the song, which is all I can find right now. Neko Case’s backing vocals are conspicuously absent, but it still sounds pretty good.


Another Drug Deal of the Heart
(from the album Brill Bruisers)
NOTE: I can’t find this one at all! Crap!

The Laws Have Changed
(from the album Electric Version)


Testament to Youth in Verse
(from the album Electric Version)


Crash Years
(from the album Together)


Adventures in Solitude
(from the album Challengers)


Spidyr
(from the album Brill Bruisers)


Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
(from the album Together)


Backstairs
(from the album Brill Bruisers)
NOTE: One of my very favorites from the new album, but I can’t find a video. Poop!

Silver Jenny Dollar
(from the album Together)


Champions of Red Wine
(from the album Brill Bruisers)


Born with a Sound
(from the album Brill Bruisers)


Mass Romantic
(from the album Mass Romantic)



ENCORE #1
Dancehall Domine
(from the album Brill Bruisers)


The Bleeding Heart Show
(from the album Twin Cinema)



ENCORE #2
Sing Me Spanish Techno
(from the album Twin Cinema)


The Slow Descent into Alcoholism
(from the album Mass Romantic)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

XXXVI

I’m 36 now, and hopefully improving with age. I don’t see much evidence of that, but let’s not be pessimistic when writing about a birthday, eh?

My birthday celebrations kicked off last Friday. Melanie and I left our kids at my parents’ place and then went to see David Fincher’s brand new film, Gone Girl. We went to a downtown movie theater I hadn’t been to in years, but which still seems fairly modern. That combined with seeing a fairly big movie on opening night, in a downtown theater no less, made it feel special. The movie was great, which only added to how enjoyable it was. After the movie ended, we lucked out on some free street parking and made our way into City Creek Center, the luxury mall built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and opened only two years ago. Putting thoughts about the Church’s involvement with a luxury shopping mall to the side, I really liked the place. It was clean and airy, great and spacious. It was twilight hours, so it was lit well enough to see without artificial light, but still dim and atmospheric. The air was crispy cool. Very pleasant. We made our way to The Cheesecake Factory, easily the most crowded location at the mall. We had a 30-minute wait before being seated outside and enjoying a good and very expensive meal. Melanie and I discussed life, the universe, and everything. Well, okay, spirituality mostly. But it felt like it had been years since we’d talked so much, and it was extremely lovely and rejuvenating for us. I’ve always been smitten by Melanie, and it’s nice to have an opportunity to interact in ways where that becomes clear. We’re truly best friends, and it’s easily the greatest thing about my life. The friendship in our relationship is so strong. Yes, I’m bragging.

My bride and best friend, sitting directly behind my second-best friend, avocado egg rolls.

Chicken Madeira about to be devoured by the birthday boy.


Birthday shenanigans continued on Sunday night, when we had a birthday dinner with Melanie’s side of the family. Per my request, we had pot roast (with baby carrots), rolls, salad, funeral potatoes, and for dessert, apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious, and the leftovers made a nice lunch the following day.

My apple cobbler, with a slightly melted candle sitting therein.  Can you see the secret message?

Eddie and Peter have already gone Gothic.  I thought I had a few more years before this crap started.

Proof that Creegan was there.


On my actual birthday, Melanie and I again splurged on eating out. We had CafĂ© Zupas for lunch, after which we drove to Best Buy, where I picked up the brand new Weezer album (released that very morning). That night, we went to my parents’, where for the first time in perhaps years, I was with all of my siblings at once. My parents treated me to Chinese food, which was super delicious, and Melanie made yet another birthday dessert for me. This time, it was “Better than Sex Cake,” or “Candy Bar Cake,” if you prefer a more family-friendly moniker. Despite the large crowd in a small apartment, things went really well and I very much enjoyed myself.

The birthday fun didn’t stop there. I have since had carpal tunnel surgery on my left wrist, and it has gone even more smoothly than it did with my right wrist. I also received a package with a new book (The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl & Fiona Givens) and a new Robert Plant CD. A modest little birthday package, if I do say so myself, and yet one that I am quite excited about. Melanie and I will also be going to The New Pornographers’ concert tomorrow night. They happen to be playing in SLC just a few days after my birthday, not unlike three years ago when we they played in Tallahassee shortly after my birthday and Melanie and I both attended. I have my hopes up that a SLC performance will be much, much better than what we got in Tally. But even if it’s on par, the music will be good. I’m very excited.

The end.