Daily Relief for Stressed Men

I think I may have inadvertently discovered a way for men all around the world to have a bit of "me-time" during the hustle and bustle of home life.

Running water.

Running water shuts out the sounds of the outside world. While previous experiments with loud music or TV were ineffective against sonic emanations from wives, mother-in-laws and children, running water has recently been found to successfully shield the harrowed and peace-seeking man.

First, "number 1", followed by a toilet flush (two instances of running water). Then, hand washing, also under running water.

During my testing I have been totally oblivious to two requests for cat-litter changing, 3 notifications expressing displeasure at something I did, numerous altercations between cat, dog, and one or more children, and at least one discussion where I was not required, regarding the purchase of new linen and/or manchester.

You're welcome. Men, enjoy your 3 minutes extra "me-time" today.

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Appreciating Talent

I love basketball. I think I was around 16 or 17 when I started playing as a big, extremely uncoordinated boofhead running the court, pulling down the occasional rebound and not scoring a single point (and definitely not dribbling) in my first season in F grade.

But I fell in love with the sport anyway. I kept practicing and playing against anyone I could find, and being 6'4" (193 cms) probably helped when playing against the local homies, school friends and my younger brothers.

I did eventually find an upper limit to how far I could go with basketball, and now I'm content to watch NBA on TV and shoot around in the backyard with the kids.

Which brings me to the whole point of today's story: professional basketballers, the ones on TV, are good. Crazy good. Check this article over at Basketball-Reference which is a great reminder of the fact:

...I always laugh when some fans are watching a game and say "I could do that!"... Well, no, you couldn't. The average fan seems to have a shaky grasp at times on the vast, gaping, astronomical chasm that exists between their own abilities (or even the abilities of the best basketball player they've ever known/played with) and those of the worst NBA player who ever played...
I know I came away from the article with a good appreciation of the enormous talent that professional basketball players (and other high-level athletes) have, which as a fan of the game is sometimes easy to forget.

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Movie Review: The Road

The Road, originally
uploaded by marklarson

The Road (Wikipedia, IMDB) is probably not for everyone. The movie follows the Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son who are heading south in a world where there's literally nothing, set 10 or maybe 15 years after an un-named global devastation. There's no crops or animals and shops and buildings are beyond looted; the people that the Man and his son meet are interested only in pure survival, and the future looks bleak.

I liked this movie (which very closely follows the book of the same name by Cormack McCarthy) because it's about people and relationships...and it's a sci-fi :-)

The Road is not a thriller or horror. There's only really 5 or 6 characters including flashbacks of the Man's wife (Charlize Theron) and the people that the Man and his son meet on the road. The Man tries to train and teach his son about "being the good guys" and maintain hope. I wonder what I'd do in a similar situation? Would I be as strong?

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie and recommend it for the performances by the two leads, moments of tension and its bleak scenery. My rating for The Road is 9/12.

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A Letter To My Wife On Movie Nights

To my wife: When it comes to entertainment, there's movies both you and I enjoy, there's movies that just I like, and there's some that only you can watch (and I find horrible and repellent). Though this sounds easy, recently I got a little mixed up.

You see, I'd been thinking that you felt the same way I did about snuggling in to watch the X-Men trilogy and than rave about just how great the latest post-apocalyptic sci-fi film at the cinemas was going to be. I thought they were "both you and I enjoy" moments, not realising that I was putting my preferences onto you.

I'm sorry I took your tastes for granted. Wifey, I'm glad you chose P.S. I Love You the other night. It was clearly a chick-flick that probably should have come with its own box of tissues, but regardless, I still enjoyed watching it with you.

I'll remember from now on that we have different preferences, and that our joint preferences are not decided by me.

Oh, and I'm open to watch any of your movies as long as they don't feature Matthew MacCanaughterary or Maria Carey and don't have any variation of the word "sleep" in the title.


Avatar in 3D

See Avatar in 3D. I'm sure the movie looks amazing without 3D, but to really experience the lush, strange and beautiful world where Avatar is set, you'll need 3D.

After seeing it in full 3D glory last night (and itching to go again - anyone interested?) I'm starting to wonder why all movies aren't made this way.

There's nothing amazing about the story (love this quote on Rotten Tomatoes: "A wonder to behold, a story to forget"), but the 3D effect manages to fully immerse you in a film that has the most realistic computer-generated imagery and attention to detail of the setting that I've ever seen.

Unlike previous gimmicky 3D movies - Nightmare on Elm Street 3D, I'm looking at you - the effect is often subtle and used to build up depth and layers in scenes, not just to poke something "out" of the screen at the viewer. The glasses were comfortable and weren't the red/blue cardboard things that I was expecting (note: Avatar 3D can't be watched without the glasses).

I'm a sci-fi fan and probably enjoyed the movie more than my wife, but as an experience and spectacle, it's really, really worth seeing in 3D.

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Our Vanuatu Family Trip

On Wednesday we returned from 9 glorious days in Vanuatu, a holiday Olivia and I had been promising each other for 10 years since we last visited on our honeymoon.

This time, with the kids and a couple of days' visit from my parents, we had an even better time than in 1999. We stayed at the same resort - Le Lagon - as we did all those years ago, and even had views of the Erakor lagoon from our room:
Kids on balcony at Le Lagon, December 2009

While in Vanuatu we did a couple of snorkeling activities, went horse-riding near Hideaway Island, enjoyed a sunset cruise thanks to Mum and Dad, relaxed by the pool, and generally had a blast in a fascinating country (click on a photo for more information):

Olivia and I Horse Riding, December 2009

Olivia on the Meridien Sunset Cruise, December 2009

The Melanesian Feast at Taewe Beach was a highlight for everyone:
Melanesian Feast, December 2009

Visiting Mele Cascades early in the day was stunning:
Me and the kids in Mele Cascades Waterfall, December 2009

Mele Cascades pool, December 2009

Olivia and I still love Vanuatu and can't wait until we get to go again. The kids had a fantastic experience and it was fun to travel together. Did I mention I can't wait to go back?

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Heath's Cold Sores, and TJ Can Read Minds...

We had a good ole'-fashioned home weekend this weekend because we thought Heath had school sores (highly infectious), but it turned out he had cold sores (yeeech...apparently his immune system will build up):

Of course after a weekend in, the house looked like a bomb had hit it. TJ demonstrated previously-unknown mind reading powers* late Sunday when I asked him to clean up the lounge room where the kids had been stacking cushions and jumping on them.

I was about to give him specific instructions regarding the better cushions which should be returned to the family room:

Me: TJ, can you pack up the lounge and take those two yellow cush...
TJ (quickly): Yes.
Me (slightly annoyed, ready to remind him not to interrupt my monologue, and about to chide him that he couldn't possibly know what he was saying "Yes" to): Yes what?
TJ (without skipping a beat): Yes, I will take the yellow cushions and those other cushions to the family room.
Me (defeated): That's what I was about to say. Right then.
* I think TJ got lucky with his guess. He thinks he read my mind :-)

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Can Video Games Be Taken Seriously?

I enjoy playing video games. They're not for everyone (I'm in a minority among friends even of my own age) but I see them as part of a diet of valid entertainment along with TV, movies, books, board games and the occasional YouTube video.

I've heard a whole range of different opinions on video games - from "that's kid's stuff" to being overly violent, bad, addictive, boring, too complicated or just fake.

Maybe one day video games can be taken "seriously" as a medium - the story, cinematics and emotions that a game creates can be analysed like films are today, with less of the the current (often petty-sounding) headlines concerning faster graphics cards, Playstation vs XBox, or out-of-proportion heroines...who cares about that stuff?

I read a couple of great articles today (thanks to Simon Parkin at Chewing Pixels) which ask if video games can really be taken seriously, far more eloquently than I can:

Steve Gaynor at Fullbright compares video games to a "middle child" and believes that because video games require interactivity there's an entry barrier that TV and movies don't have:

"The most popular entertainment is the work that requires the least foreknowledge, the shortest attention span, that supplies the most instant gratification...Video games are the only popular entertainment that you can actually fail at."

Matthew at Magic Wasteland talks about the maturity of video games as a medium, in summary comparing video games to an adolescent:

"So before we can confidently come forth with our own particular offerings towards the sum of human cultural output, the light of civilization, it seems we must continue to gyrate through this adolescent process of self-discovery, as awkward and humiliating as it can be."

There's a reason video games are not movies, but still, I look forward to a future of watching David and Margaret discuss the quirkiness of Braid or perhaps just being able to talk to normal people about the baddest video game bad guy or a cult classic game or the latest game episode of Fable 2...

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Unexplained Neck Soreness Considered Painful

My neck was feeling a little painful over the weekend, and I couldn't work out why. Stress at work? Too much time playing the addictive Civilization Revolution with Wifey on the XBox? Maybe a bad night's bad sleep?

I figured out my unexplained neck soreness today. It was headbanging to Muse's Knights of Cydonia on Friday night...hey, I was dancing around with the kids, who thought the headbanging was hilarious.

I'm certainly not the young, grungey Gen X-er I once was.

See also: eHow's guide to how to headbang (along with accompanying warnings)

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Last Tuesday we were eating dinner when we experienced a small earthquake.

It happened very quickly. We heard a loud noise and felt a shudder - like something big had hit the back of our house - then a rumbling sound. The whole experience took 2-3 seconds.

We stopped eating and looked at each other, wondering if there was more to come, if it was worse elsewhere, and who else had felt the earth move. TJ and Maya wanted to know all about earthquakes, which lead to an interesting discussion about tectonics, disasters, and emergency plans.

Luckily there was a way to find out more at the Geoscience Australia site. Here's the details of the quake (it turned out to be two quakes, close together, that had originated near us in Pearcedale):

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