Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zombie Review: The Walking Dead, Vol. 7 The Calm Before

The Walking Dead, Vol. 7: The Calm Before by Robert Kirkman

ZPAA rating

Teens and above

Gore level

6 of 10--For this series, the zombie presence is quite minimal. There is some graphic human on human violence, but no where near the level of the extended torture scene from last trade paperback. Lori finally gives birth but the scene is barely PG.

Other offensive content

Plenty of bad language throughout; the aforementioned human on human violence; an amputation; some marital and extra-marital affairs which aren't too explicit; one disturbing suicide.

How much zombie mythology/content

Whether someone can survive being bitten is answered here.

How much fun

This part of the on-going story is not nearly as grim as the previous issues, as the title "The Calm Before" implies. The series is still very intelligent and make for engaging reading.

Synopsis & Review

I didn't give up on this series in spite of the temptation after the last volume, especially thanks to the encouragement of a previous commentator. The gang is all back together at the prison and getting ready for the inevitable arrival of the presumably hostile Woodbury townsfolk. Which means getting food together, more target practice and finally finding the National Guard depot and raiding it for supplies. Woodbury ex-pat Alice is integrated into the prison community and helps out with critical medical needs.

A variety of interesting issues spring up this time. Should they leave supplies sources like the depot or WalMart intact for further supply raids or try to prevent the Woodbury folk from also benefiting? Are a ring of zombies around the prison fences a helpful layer of defense against the coming attack or a hindrance to freely coming and going? Should Maggie and Glenn start a family right away or wait till things are better? It is fun to think about how you would act in these situations and others that arise.

One very interesting conversation centers around whether this zombie apocalypse refutes the Biblical account or is part of the biblical account in Revelations. Both sides are given their say and seem to be quite well respected by the author. This issue is also something interesting to think about.

The story seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern while we wait for the coming attack. A bunch of narrative threads are tied down (or is it tied off?)--Glenn and Maggie finally get married, Lori gives birth, Carol's insanity is dealt with. The drama is satisfying and well-paced. This volume is a very enjoyable read. I can't wait for the next volume.

Sample Text

Newcomer Alice on the importance of research: "You know what bugs me, Rick? Nobody is out here asking 'why?' anymore. And if they are--they're not doing anything to find out. Maybe you think the problem is beyond us, but I, for one, would like to at least attempt to find out the cause of all this insanity. And the only way to do that is ot study them--while they're still alive or whatever it is they are. And I can do that safely without anyone getting hurt. I'm a smart girl, Rick. I can do this. Think about the possibilities. What if I discover an easier way of killing them? Something that doesn't involve bullets--or anything else we could run out of. What if I find a cure? Or at least something to save us...So that we won't turn into these things when we die. this is worth whatever risks are there--and I'm telling you the risks are small."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Zombie-Proof?

Maybe you've been wondering how to zombie-proof your house for the coming zombie apocalypse. You've read The Zombie Survival Guide and want to stockpile supplies and board up windows. It's a lot of work to do, and who knows how long those boards will last?

In stead of going the fixer-upper route, why not get a house that's built with the end of civilization in mind:

Nice contemporary look that changes to...

...something Superman would be jealous of!

Designed by KWK Promes, this house isn't just a concrete block, it's a fortress of solitude that doesn't require Kryptonian tech. This house is designed for maximum security.

No moat?!? Where will I keep my Greek fire?
My favorite feature is the upstairs entrance with a working drawbridge. What a great way to keep out the ravenous horde! Aside from the retractable concrete walls, of course.

Why aren't drawbridges more in fashion? We probably have a better chance of finding one in England when we go. Certainly they have a lot more inventory than you can find here in the States. Even if we don't get such a house, we'll sure to visit lots of homes, castles, etc., and give assessments of how zombie proof they are. This all makes me want to watch Army of Darkness again, the classic text on fighting medieval zombies.

Thanks to Happy Catholic for posting about this house!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reason for Going to England #1-TV (of all things!)

Okay, so this isn't the primary reason we are going to England (my wife has accepted a job there is the real primary reason), but I thought I'd start a series of "why we are going" or "most anticipated things" about moving to England. The order will not be hierarchical or logical, just as the reasons come to me and I have time to write about them.

Might have more space than we need.
One of the things we love about England is the television programming. We just started watching Brideshead Revisited, the 1981 miniseries based on Evelyn Waugh's book.The story seems like a natural for us, for we will be Catholic in merry old England. My wife's interest was peaked by George Wigel's Letters to a Young Catholic, which mentions the show and the book. Also, it was partly filmed in the area where we will be living, though I don't think we can afford to live in the castle that served as Brideshead. We'd have plenty of guest rooms, though.

What we are most excited about can be summarized in this photo from one of our favorite local bakeries:

Yes, that is a Dalek, a Tardis, and a Slitheen. If you don't know the connection, they are all from Doctor Who, the longest running science fiction series on television. The Doctor is a Time Lord, a race of time travelers from the planet Gallifrey. He wanders through time having adventures in Earth history and the history of many other planets (and occasional space ships). Usually, he has one or more "companions" with him, typically Earthlings who provide the excuse to have all the fictional science and aliens explained to them. And yes, they often wind up in some sort of calamity from which the Doctor will save them by the end of the episode. Unless it's a two-parter. The series ran on the BBC from 1963 to 1989 and was recently relaunched in 2005 and is still in production as I write.

We've been faithful viewers of the "new" series ever since we watched an episode in New Zealand during our honeymoon. Being a faithful viewer has been challenging for us. We don't have cable TV here in the US, so we can't watch the episodes as they are broadcast in the States. Nor can we watch them online, because Hulu and other typical outlets don't have them. The BBC's iPlayer seems to be the only online spot to watch but is not available in the States. So we watch when the shows come out on DVD, which is often half a year or more after broadcast. It is a little weird watching the Christmas Specials in the middle of the summer. Practicing patience is a Penelopian plight.

But now that we will be living in England, we will be able to watch on broadcast TV. Or, more likely, online after the broadcast. That's how we watch all of our favorite American TV shows that are currently on air. By "all," I mean 30 Rock. We have limited time to watch and keep getting sucked into other old shows on DVD or instant streaming (currently, we're watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is quite delightful, and hope to finish before we leave for England). Experiencing the TV culture of England is something that we are looking forward to, if we can find the time!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Courting Fun

A couple of days ago, I took the children on a special field trip. We went to one of the hottest spots in Ellicott City, Maryland--The Orphans' Court!

You might say to yourself, "That's an exotic name for a restaurant/athletic facility/playground!" What sort of food might be orphan-themed? What sports can you play on an "orphan" court? Does the playground have restrictions based on the vitality of your parents (and does that means children of zombie parents get in automatically)? Don't worry about these questions. All these guesses are wrong.

The Orphans' Court is, in fact, a legal establishment at the county courthouse where, among other services provided, wills can be stored for a minimal fee and an interminable time. My wife and I had our wills drawn up a few weeks ago. The lawyer recommended storing them at the Orphans' Court, since it is inexpensive and more easy to access than a safe deposit box. Jacob, Lucy, and I dutifully had the documents stored. The ladies there were quite nice and loved seeing the little kids. I guess if you work at the orphans' court, you're bound to have such a fondness. They even offered the kids candy, though Jacob was uninterested and Lucy was too shy.

Jacob's favorite part of the visit was, of course, going to the potty. After going in the first door, Jacob was amazed to see the room only had sinks. Another door led into the room with toilets and urinals. Never seeing such an arrangement before, Jacob was filled with wonder. He was so fascinated, he even told my wife about it when she came home from work.

I'll admit to hoping there would be some sort of "scare you children straight" effect from going to the orphans' court. Alas, the court was not as Dickensian as it sounds. The inside was more of a mundane cubicle farm than a child's nightmare fate. I would show you, but they didn't allow cameras inside. The best shot I could get was this one:

The courthouse is on the left, far in the distance!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review: Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler

Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler by Kathy Pierce & Lori Rowland. Our Sunday Visitor, 2001, 169 pages, $8.95 US.

I read this book as part of my Lenten spiritual reading. As you will see, it should have been part of my pre-Lenten spiritual reading!

Brief overview of content:

Guiding Your Catholic Preschoolerlooks at some basic ideas and areas for Catholic parents to concentrate on or might need help with developing their preschooler's faith. Topics include developing a prayer life; participating in sacraments, especially Mass; memorizing prayers and scriptures; learning tools like books, toys, videos, songs, play time, etc.; handling holy days and liturgical seasons like Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter; advising on secular holidays, including 4th of July and Halloween; monitoring what they take in from television, internet, books, toys, and movies; rejecting temptations to neglect the child's faith development. Appendixes provide information on how to pray the rosary, other common popular prayers, popular Catholic saints, and media resources.

Author overview:

From page 169: Kathy Pierce, a native of Oklahoma City, holds a bachelor's degree in advertising and a master's degree in gerontology. She worked briefly designing and selling advertising, and for six years as the director of marketing for a large nursing home organization. She and her husband, Larry, reside in Edmond, Oklahoma, with their six children, all of whom have received homeschooling.

Lori Rowland, also a native of Oklahoma City, has a bachelor's degree in journalism. She worked as a public relations and advertising coordinator for a health care system, and as a coordinator for provider relations for the same enterprise. She and her husband, Paul, live in Jacksonville, Florida, with their four children. Lori is very active at the parochial school that her three oldest children attend.


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

While the book is short enough to read cover to cover, actual use of what's recommended should be on an "as needed" basis. In fact, in the introduction, the authors recommend that the reader does not try to implement every recommendation at once because that would be way too much to handle.

2. Readability.

The book is very accessible and written from a mom's prespective. The style definitely assumes the reader has fully embraced the Catholic faith. For example, when discussing how to live your faith at home: "...practice your faith in the way that you feel is best. Do what is necessary for you and your family to steadfastly grow in your faith and devotion. Do not be concerned with the opinion of your friends. Your God, and your family, come first. If your example affects your friends and their children, praise God!" [p. 21] I think that's pretty awesome, myself.

3. Helpful to a parent?

Many practical ideas are found throughout the book. Of special note is the discussions around liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter) and secular holidays, with plenty of great suggestions on how to celebrate in a Catholic way that is also appropriate for your preschoolers. Advice on how to handle young ones in church is always welcome, too.

4. Did we use it?

We were very close to creating a Lent calendar to help us pray, fast, and give alms this year. Life got in the way (and I read the book a little too late to provide enthusiastic support; we'll do it next year for sure). The book does make me feel a little guilty for almost always going to the cry room at church for Sunday Mass. We need to get the kids to behave better in church! We will implement some of the ideas for that, too.

Sample text

There are advantages and disadvantages to the Internet. It all comes down to choice: choosing to supervise or censor the accesss and content your children are exposed to. The good news is that the Internet can be used as a wonderful resource and tool for increasing one's own knowledge of the faith; a tool for increasing quality family time; and engaging in an activity that your children are exposed to daily as they grow. The positive or negative results of Internet usage rest squarely on the shoulders of the parent. Lead by example. As a parent, you must gain the knowledge and engage yourself in the world your child is growing up in. [p. 126]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Queen of the Stall

Lucy has been working on many skills lately, mostly trying to improve her parents' patience. Her main tool in this endeavor is stalling. She can stretch out many activities to two or three times their normal length.

Her bedtime routine has been undergoing some revisions, all motivated by her. At first, she added taking a book to bed, which we parents think is really awesome, because we love reading and we want to foster that in our kids. She can't read yet, so it isn't really a problem that she takes a book to bed at night when the lights are out and it's mostly dark in her room. She still happily flips through the pages and chatters to herself as if she is reading.

The challenge is her selection process. At first she would grab anything on her shelf that looked good. Now, however, she will spend a good deal of time trying to choose. If we start counting to ten, she will say,  "No counting! NO COUNTING!" She has also added an element of "I've made the wrong choice, please let me choose again." She'll be in the crib with her book and then decide she wants a different one. So far I have been caving on letting her get a new one, but it's the whole process all over again. Ugh!

Her other tactic is to throw her pacifier out of the crib and then cry out that she doesn't have her pacifier. So far she only does this once per bedtime (and not at every bedtime). As she approaches her second birthday, I suppose it's time to break her of the pacifier habit. That will definitely solve the problem.

Lucy also tries some tricks at meals or snack times. She will eat one or two bites of what we give her and then ask for something else. Usually her go-to options are yogurt or dried cherries. The coup de grace was at one snack time where I started off by offering her what Jacob was eating, namely graham crackers. She said no in her sweet little voice. The conversation continued like this:

Who can say no to such a face?
Daddy: Do you want cheesy crackers instead?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want Cheerios?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want peanut butter crackers?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want animal crackers?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want cheese?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want bread?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want yogurt?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Do you want cherries?
Lucy: No.
Daddy: Lucy, what do you want?
Lucy: Gra'm crack.
Daddy: But I offered that to you first and you said no. Are you sure?
Lucy, as sweetly as possible: I change mind.

Lucy has also developed some interest in potty training. She's been watching Jacob and wanting to try it out. At first she wanted to stand and pee like her big brother. That wouldn't work, so we convinced her to sit on the little potty. Now she wants to sit on the potty without clothes or diaper. And sit. And sit. And sit.

She'll read a book (ever notice there's two types of people in the world, those who read on the toilet and those who don't? I'm in the "don't" camp and really don't understand the "do" camp). At the Supermarkethas been her favorite, or at least the first four or five pages. By page five, she goes back to the beginning and starts again. Or she'll find another book. When she's finally done, she leaves the bathroom and doesn't want to get her diaper on or her pants. Asking why she doesn't want these, she typically responds, "I want to go potty!" And it starts again.

I know we're supposed to encourage interest in using the potty. So I don't want to discourage her. But waiting around for her to be done (especially when nothing is happening) is tough on the patience. I just need to offer it up for the poor souls in Purgatory. I'm sure they're happy about Lucy being queen of the stall.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Update on Jacob's Injury

Jacob and Mommy went to the orthopaedist yesterday for a follow-up to last week's injury, viz. his broken collar bone. The doctor put Jacob through a bunch of "range of motion" tests for his shoulder. Jacob performed satisfactorily. The doctor decided not to x-ray him (thus less exposure to harmful radiation) and said that he could go without the sling for now. He has another appointment in a month where they probably will x-ray his shoulder to make sure everything is okay. Jacob is free to resume regular activities with caution.

Jacob was happy with his doctor's visit. He told me about the room with all the toys. Turns out that is the physical therapy room, filled with balls and exercise equipment. Jacob was allowed to look but not touch any of the equipment. He is looking forward to going back to the orthopaedist next month. I'm looking forward to him returning to normal climbing, running, jumping, and general personal endangerment.

We did get x-rays on CD from the hospital that the doctor looked at. The CD was returned to us. I tried to open up the software on our home computer but it would not work. It would have been cool to post an inside look at Jacob on this blog. Then I thought I'd just take a picture of the CD, only to discover that our digital camera is broken! After several attempts to reset or fix it (the lens won't come out), I guess it's time for a new one. Sorry for the lack of pictures!

P.S. In case you are wondering about the whole orthopedist vs. orthopaedist spelling controversy, check this out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

All's Quiet on the Eastern Coast

The blog has been pretty quiet for the past couple of weeks. That's because life has been extremely busy for the past few weeks, leaving little to no free time for hobbies like blogging, reading, or sleeping. Here's what's been preventing blog updates.

We had a massive yard sale on March 19th to get rid of a lot of stuff that's been accumulating in the house. Granny came to visit and did the massive amount of work needed to make this possible. Thanks, Granny! We brought in a good bit of money and have a bunch of items posted on Craig's List that didn't sell, which are slowly selling every couple of days.

The yard sale wasn't just to get rid of clutter. It was also a preemptive strike before our big move to England this summer. My wife took an assignment that will have us in the Yorkshire area for the next three years starting in late June (at least, that's when we think we are leaving--more on that in a future blog post). We had a big, two-day meeting that went over all the paperwork and steps to move. That meant that Terri and Patricia and Sharon and Amy and Brian all got to babysit Jacob and Lucy over those two days. Thanks to you all and to everyone else from playgroup who volunteered to help! Many more babysitting opportunities will come up in the next months, I am sure.

Things were just returning to normal last week when tragedy struck our home. Jacob fell down our stairs and broke his collar bone! Neither of us parents saw it happen. He was carrying down some stuff and must have misstepped. Usually when he has a fall he is shaken up but shakes it off pretty quickly after watching a video on the computer. This time the video didn't do the trick. We called the doctor's office and decided to head to the emergency room. After a long time, an x-ray, and a consultation, Jacob came home with a sling on his arm and a four-week recuperation prognosis. A follow-up visit is scheduled for the end of this week with an orthopedist.

It's been really tough on our zombie overlord to have a broken collar bone. His mood swings rapidly and unpredictably. This morning we were about to leave for the grocery store when he demanded a toy from the attic (which is a sort of "lending library" so our house is less overrun by the toys). He went into total meltdown until I complied. Luckily, he calmed down by the time we got to the store. I can't blame him, though. It's tough not being able to climb and jump like he used to. I hope he recovers soon.

Sleep has definitely become a premium item in our household. Jacob has already summoned me three times as I've tried to finish this blog! I hope to write more soon.