Monday, October 30, 2006

The Science of Playing Dead

The Texas A&M football program is apparently not the only beast that plays dead. Nature is full of examples of animals that feign death when facing down predators. Laying motionless, versus fleeing, seems counter-intuitive. As one scientists notes: ""If you're a pizza and you play dumb, I'm still going to eat you." Yet, this behavior may actually work, according to scientists.

Some animals really get into it. The little hognose snake actually rolls on its back, mouth agape, creating a very cadaverous look (not unlike Joan Rivers). The linked article delves into this fascinating natural behavior. Read it to make your brain more smarter.

The Science of Playing Dead

Week 4 Kickball Update

Our intrepid kickball squad faced its toughest foe of the season Friday evening: Austin rush hour traffic. The kickball fields are in the Southeast corner of Austin, and a 6:30 pm game time made for a brutal hourlong drive down I-35.

There's an old joke about giving driving directions in Austin: you always start out with the phrase, "First, you want to stay away from I-35..." Kickball is vitally important, so we took our medicine this time.

Only seven players from our squad actually showed up, but our friendly opponent lent us a female player to reach a quorom. This week we played a green-clad band of Mass Communications graduate students called the "Commandos."

Grad students generally aren't the most atheltic folks out there (apparently less so than our merry gang of rag-tag players). We won this one 8 to 4.

Game notes:
-The Ball-Busters played one player short in the field, but we were still able to hold the Commando offense in check. Shannon played another solid game at first, including a tough catch on a pop-up. Her eyes were completely shut, but she made the grab.
-Chris Floyd and I continue to completely lock down the entire left side of the field on defense. We are also a combined 20 for 24 at the plate (.833 batting average)
-Manny pitched a wicked kickball game with fast, erratically bouncing, borderline-illegal pitches.. I spotted some brown gunk on his pitching hand that turned out to be a chunk of dirt.

We're still rolling, but a game with league powerhouse "The Bumblebees" looms ahead next week. Will we pull off a shocking upset and remain undefeated? Stay tuned to find out later this week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Drawing a Blank

I'm drawing a blank for posting today, so here's some random stuff for you to enjoy:

Daylight savings is coming this weekend. This means that I will be even later to work on a regular basis.

College Football: Baylor battles Texas A&M in the "Battle of the Brazos" this weekend. This game has become very amusing in recent years thanks to an improving Baylor and a floundering A&M program. This is the game that also endangers the marriage of good friends Sarah and Clay (Baylor and A&M grads, respectively...almost a crime against nature). We'll see if Franchione brings the extra-powerful little Debbie snacks this weekend.

Shannon's 30th birthday is this Saturday. We're celebrating at Buca Di Beppo. Drop her a line and some metamucil/geritol if you get a chance.

We all grew up with Nintendo. I remember feigning illness to get some sweet, sweet Super Mario and Zelda time (with a little Fall Guy and C.H.I.Ps mixed in). Well, the next generation of Nintendo is on it's way, and I've got some major geek gadget lust. The Nintendo Wii sports a new motion sensing controller that will actually reward my spastic body language.

Koala bears are not really dangerous, but they will hug the everloving heck out of you. Did you know that they have remarkably human-like fingerprints? With a Koala, you could commit the perfect crime.

Finally, The Ball-Busters have a crucial kickball game this evening. It's so important that Chris Floyd is shortening his Dallas trip to make the hellish drive down I-35. Here's hoping for another stunning victory.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of Mice and Miatas

You pull into a crowded parking lot and begin weighing risk and reward. Do I risk driving up into prime parking territory for the reward of an anomalous open space? Or, do I take the safe bet at the back of the lot to avoid driving around like a fool (also emitting greenhouse gasses, warming the global climate, melting the ice caps, and drowning some poor polar bear who was just about to crack open a Coca Cola.)

Well, this time, you take the gamble. And your gamble pays off. A tell-tale gap between parked cars appears up ahead. Smugly, you slow down and turn the wheel slightly to enter your parking glide path. Suddenly you see 'It'.

It's small, red, and dingy. A cloudy clear plastic rear window hangs loosely from a tattered convertible top. This is some sort of child's toy, not an automobile. And it's in the parking space you so coveted. Yes, you just got Miata'ed for the umpteenth time in your parking career.

The Miata is an abomination in our Super-sized world. Cars have gotten bigger, morphing into asphalt crushing U.S.S. Nimitzes. Yet, this annoying rodent of a vehicle dares to scurry among us.

How many hopes and dreams of a better parking space must be crushed by the sudden appearance of a Miata? Luckily, our government is working to ensure that noone should ever have to drive a car smaller than, say, a Ford Explorer. Until the last accursed Miata sputters into oblivion, please be careful. That open parking space up ahead may not be what it seems.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Keep Your Ear on the Ball

A quick blog plug: Old friends Keith Maitland and Patrick Floyd are currently working on a worthwhile documentary film project, Keep Your Ear on the Ball.

Shot on location in Austin, TX, Keep Your Ear on the Ball explores the lives of students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Spanning the ‘05-’06 school year, this film follows two blind seniors, Chas and Meagan, and their teammates on the school’s goalball team. Forced to confront the world without sight, they share their inner-visions of the outer world.

Pat and Keith are uber-talented and creative guys, and this movie is shaping up to be something special. They have set goals to premiere at presigious film festivals like Sundance, Cannes, and SXSW next year. This is a true independent film effort with the team working literally 7 days a week for as long as I can remember out of their own pockets to keep the ball rolling.

They're currently in post-production (editing, scoring, etc.) and fund-raising mode. They are telling a compelling story here. I look forward to supporting Pat and Keith and this film. Check out their web site, watch the trailer, and learn more. (Donations are fully tax deductible if you are so moved).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

In Vino, Veritas:

Many of you have asked about the wine that was served at the rehearsal dinner at Castle Hill Cafe. One of the red wines stood out and paired great with the food that evening. The wine: Seghesio Zindfandel: Sonoma County 2004 bottling. This stuff was stunningly good, and it sells for under $20 at mid to upscale wine stores. I'll probably snag a case (or two) soon.

Tasting Notes:
SEGHESIO Zinfandel Sonoma County Sonoma 2004 Pushes ripeness to the edge of jam, with juicy, complex boysenberry and blackberry fruit. Has ripe, integrated tannins, with a touch of cedar and plum on the finish. Drink now through 2009.

Regarding the Zinfandel Varietal:
Zinfandel, also known as Zin, in Europe known as Primitivo, is a red-skinned wine grape. It's also popular in California for its intense fruitiness and lush texture. Typically, Zinfandel tastes of bramble and fresh or fermented red berries.

Try this wine. You won't be disappointed.
Rating: 5/5 Bloggies

Monday, October 23, 2006

Blog Feature Mea Culpa: Comment Issues

Faithful Blog Audience,
The comment feature at this blog has not worked well over the last few months. Many of you have been thwarted and prevented from posting your thoughts by the clunky, dysfunctional comment interface here.

This child attempted to post a comment using the old system.

So, on Sunday, we deployed a fix that should make commenting much easier (and anonymous). A log-in is no longer needed. You may post anonymously and quickly.

So, please try to leave us your thoughts using the new, simplified comment interface. It should work smoothly now, and we would love to hear from you.

Top 10 Television Shows

With the growth of the internet and of video games, television faced a dire challenge. Insipid sit-coms just wouldn't cut it any more. I know I wasn't watching any television. These days, it appears that television has responded. With the rise of Tivo, the development of show with deep, continuous story arcs (that aren't 'soaps'), and the maturation of reality programming, these are good days to bask in the warm glow of television.

Here are ten of the best shows:
10. Project Runway: We get a fascinating look into the bizarro world of fashion.

9. Mythbusters: This show appeals to the inner prankster and intuitive geek in all of us. We're talking about thirty minutes of subtle humor, cool explosions, and great takes on urban legends. It's like live action

8. Heroes: I'm not entirely sold on this series, but so far, it has the feel of a decent dark sci-fi movie.

7. America's Funniest Videos (post Bob Saget era): You Tube is all the rage now, but this show started it all. Man, I love watching kids get chased by homicidal geese, and there's just something beautiful about the cataclysmic, frothing failure of chintzy above-ground swimming pools.

6. Good Eats (Alton Brown): The jokes and skits that Alton does are really, really terrible…but the tips and science textbook explication of cooking is great.

5. Battlestar Galactica: Sometimes the real world parallels are a bit ham-fisted, but overall this is one of the best series in years. You gain instant membership as a nerd if you are into this show.

4. Six Feet Under (in syndication on Bravo): We get a dramatic look at life, death, and deeply characterized, flawed characters behind the doors of a family funeral home. Bravo shows this former HBO series, but the best way to watch is by renting the seasons on DVD.

3. Lost: Yes, the show is riddled with goofy, unresolved plot lines. I keep watching just to figure out just what the heck is going on.

2. My Name is Earl: Red-neck and slapstick humor taken to its pinnacle.

1. The Office: The US version will never equal the brilliant BBC series of the same name (ran for two tragically short…but absolutely perfect seasons). But, as an office drone myself, it's great humor.

Agree? Disagree? What are you watching? What's the deal with the polar bears on Lost?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Bloggings of Dot Commish

Commish (Michael Floyd) is an old family friend and a great blogger. It's not updated incredibly frequently, but the stuff there is pure gold. Check it out:

Hungers I Have Known

Kickball Update: Defense Wins Championships

On a brisk Autumn night in Austin, the Ball Busters played championship caliber defense, recording a 9-5 victory. With a 9:30 p.m. start, there was some concern of a sloppy start or of a post-happy hour hang-over. These concerns were quickly set aside thanks to a great team effort.

Girls can catch, indeed:
Shannon caught everything in sight at first base. On this night, she was battling more than just a bouncy, elusive red playground ball; she was battling naysayers and critics from her past.

Years ago, she was a pig-tailed grade-schooler playing first base in a kickball game. That's when a chance encounter with a deeply troubled schoolyard bully changed her life forever. Between innings, Tony Cox approached suddenly and slammed her in the stomach. Before walking off laughing, he snarled, "Girls can't catch!"

Years passed, but Shannon never forgot his words. And so, when kickball began she wanted to face the haters and the critics and prove them wrong by playing first base. And prove them wrong she did. On play after play, she was implacable. Her hands infallible. The outs: innumerable.

Other Highlights:
Chris Floyd played another great all-around game with clutch hitting and his trademark kamikaze base-running. He made the catch of the night with a diving snare of a fast-dropping ball at the edge of the infield.

The rest of the defense was solid. We turned several double plays, and we caught virtually every ball kicked into the air. And so, we take our 3-0 record into another tough matchup next Friday. Can you see us now, Tony Cox? Picture us rollin.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I've Autumned, and I Can't Get Up.

The first cool weather of the year arrived yesterday in Austin. Autumn took its sweet time getting here! Fall is one of my top 4 favorite seasons:

1. We finally get a reprieve from absurd electricity bills (~$200 per month). Windows are in perma-opened state these days.

2. I dust off some old favorites from the 'cold' section of my closet. Long sleeves and sweaters are back, baby! Some items do look a little faded and funky though. I wore that all fall last year?

3. Pumpkin freaking pie. Enough said.

4. A dying holiday, halloween, approaches. Trick-or-treating is on the way out. What's so wrong with taking candy from strangers, anyway? Kids today are so weak. For adults, the party heads down to 6th Street for crazy costumed debauchery. Estimated percent of males dressing as pimps: 42%.

5. Shannon's birthday is on October 28th. She's going to be 30. We're not as young as we used to be, for sure.

6. Our cat becomes friendlier. I know Velcro uses us as a heat source. He does at least go through the whole purring and acting sweet act to make us feel better about the arrangement.

7. Good old Thanksgiving is coming: Gluttony, family bonding, and Texas Longhorns crushing the Aggies for the 7th straight year.

This is a great time of year!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Believe it or not, the venerable old schoolyard game, Kickball, is in the midst of a nostalgia-fueled resurgence. And Shannon and I are right in the middle of it.

We play on an adult co-ed kickball team with some of Shannon's old co-workers from her Austin nature center days. Our team name is (sigh): The Ball-Busters. We're not very polished. We're a a little 'Bad News Bears', and we make plenty of mistakes. We're an awful lot like the sants Dawgs baseball teams of yore (inside reference from my youth). You see, we specialize in fun. Well, most of us do. I specialize on being way too intense and competitive, but that's just me.

A Hard-Fought Victory:
We won our first real game under the Friday night lights in a heated, testy match with a squad of trash-talking teachers. We taught them a few lessons, took their lunch money, and sent them home to mommy with a note to be signed.

Dear Mr./Mrs. Kickball Foe:
_______ did not demonstrate good citizenship or winning kickball today. He/She lost 7-5. We are very disappointed him/her as we have very high expectations for our students. Please sign and send this note back to school. Best regards, The Ball-Busters.

We had some great moments. Chris Floyd impersonated an umpire, tricking one of their base runners into dejectedly leaving his base for an easy tag out. Shannon made a clutch hit to drive in a much-needed run (she was running faster than I have ever seen her move). Finally, we came from behind with a game-winning 3 run homer and a 1-2-3 out defensive stand to preserve the win.

Mojitos: The Adult Take on Post Game Juice Boxes:
The game was followed by a nice evening of Mojitos, Mofongo, and plantain chips with mojo at Habana. The post-game happy hours are a huge part of the adult kickball experience. We've come a long way from juice boxes and orange slices.

Weekly Ball-Buster Watch:
Record 2-0 *(one forfeit victory)
Last Game: 7 to 5 victory
Embarassing Moment of the Week: Male teammate (now possibly nicknamed "Bulldozer") levelling a female opponent with an overzealous tag.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sometimes Left Behind...But Never Forgotten

Q: What is titanium, round, size 10.5, and sitting on my bedside table?
A: D'oh!

I've never worn jewelry. Well, I think back in middle school I had a series of ill-fated gold chains that never seemed to last long. I got them at the mall. They were the type of gold-plated bling that could turn skin green and that definitely should not be taken into our neighborhood pool.. Oh, I suppose I wore a woven friendship bracelet or two in elementary school. I think I also wore a few of those 'jelly' bracelets back in the day. The Textile Embodiment of Friendship

Thankfully, I never pierced my ear. That's about the only bad jewelry fad I missed.

This wedding band thing has thrown me for a loop a few times. I take it off to sleep, and sometimes, in my horrific pre-coffee morning state, I forget to put it on for the day. Symbolically, this is not a good thing.

Overall, I have failed to wear "The Ring" 3 times since September 16 for a success rate of about 90%. A ring is a small piece of metal. Don't sweat the small stuff, they say, but they never had to face down a disappointed Shannon.

Gift Showcase Happy Time!

Gift #3: Le Creuset 3 Quart Dutch Oven
Uses So Far: Now this is some serious cookware, right here. A hearty hand-cast iron core surrounded by gleaming enamel gets hotter than a Ford Pinto in a fender-bender. This baby has transformed many pairs of chicken breast into sustenance. Is it a little odd for a male to be this excited about cookware? Probably. But I don't care. It's fabulous!

Overall Thoughts: This is another absolute treat for an aspiring cook. This cast iron cookware does pose a hernia risk if we try to lift it, so it stays on the stove, ever-vigilant and ready.

Gift #4: Staccato Place Settings
Uses So Far: We've been putting food items onto and into this gift. Then we use our brand new Nortica flatware to shovel it down. This food is transformed into energy so that Shannon can mold the minds of tomorrow and I can tinker with spreadsheets.

Overall Thoughts:
We're finally all grown up now! Our plates, bowls, saucers, and mugs all actually match. We've been carting around a hodge podge of not-so-fine china. Now, the cupboard is a monument to sweet dishwasher-safe homogeneity. We need to find some fresh-faced college student to take our old dishes so the circle can begin anew.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Congratulations to Mrs. Sieber

The world's greatest science teacher (even cooler than Mr. Wizard, in my opinion) has earned high praise from her students at

From one student's rating:
"mrs.kennedy is pretty cool. she gives a lot of homework sometimes. but i loved her as a teacher. she was totally awsome this year. she has the best eye for gum so watch out."

That goes for the rest of you. Gum in the trash can now. She's only going to ask once, then it's detention city.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

New Blog Feature: Gift Showcase

We are in the exciting honeymoon phase where everything is sweet and happy...and we get to start using our fantabulous wedding gifts. So, to pay tribute, we'll feature some of the gifts we have received. So, without further ado:

Gift Showcase Tuesday:
Gift #1: Shun Classic 8'' Chef's Knife and Shun Classic 6'' Santoku Knife:

She isn't just beautiful, she's sharp as a tack, too!

Uses So Far: Chopping an onion for tortilla soup, slicing up chicken breast like it were warm buttah, mincing garlic into subatomic particles (garlictrons), slicing tomatos into tissue paper thin slices, and scaring Shannon by throwing a piece of paper in the air and chopping it in half midair with this ginsu blade of doom.

Overall Thoughts: I'm an aspiring cook, and having a great knife enhances the whole cooking experience. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don't need to be with these.

Gift #2: Krups Ice Cream Maker

Uses So Far: Made the the best vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberry that I have ever tasted. We also made Reese's Peanut Butter Cup gelato last night.

Overall Thoughts: This was the first gift we received in the mail, so it was a special moment. Shannon grew up eating homemade ice cream, so she and "I screamed" (get it?) when we opened it.

I'll post more of these mini showcases in the future. If your gift doesn't get featured, please don't be sad. We still love it!

Monday, October 02, 2006

My 16 Days as a Sieber

Well, I've been a Sieber for exactly 16 days. The signed marriage license is in my posssion, my kids are calling me, Mrs. Ken...Sieber, and I'm trying to find new ways to answer the question, "does it feel different?"

The negatives:
  • I've found that initialling SK is much less difficult than my new SS on passes, and my former signature which consisted of "shlkdy" now is a mushed up version of shlksieber. It's hard when you've perfected a signature over the last 15 years of your life to all of the sudden change it!
  • Doing all of this name changing stuff is HARD! Social Security Cards, Driver's License, Passport, oh my! At least I get to change the signature on my social security card from my 5th grade handwriting!!!!

The positives:
  • I've found that my husband (teeheehee-I said "husband") has become much sweeter now that I am his wife! I know that wasn't part of our vows, but I'll take it all the same!
  • When my school e-mail changes, that "i" before "e" can seriously benefit me by drastically reducing the number of parent e-mails! Woohoo!
  • I think the cat has taken kindly to being Velcro "Charzar" Kennedy-Sieber, he's hyphenating!
  • Christopher now owns 49% of the cat, that means 49% of scooping the poop!

I can't wait to have many future years as Mrs. Sieber. I know the initials and signature will come in time, the school parents will probably replace my preferred e-mails with phone calls, and Velcro will start urinating on all that is Kennedy very soon, but I'm looking forward to my new adventures with my new husband and family.