Wednesday, March 31, 2010

All Your Waves and Breakers Have Swept Over Me. (Psalm 42:7)

Oh, man, today (Wednesday) is going to be a killer. It is a little after 7am at the moment... I went to bed about 1 am last night and slept exactly *not at all* the entire night. A perfect storm of issues conspired to keep me awake all night, including acid reflux, an achy head cold that seems impervious to medicine, and the fact that I got a latte at Starbucks on the way home from the Tuesday night writer's group meeting. That was about 7:30 pm or so.

Anyway, the caffeine, the acid reflux and the head cold means I am going to crash and burn soon, hopefully not while on the road. I'm going to surprise my mom and go into the rug shop early today.

Wish me luck.

After I regain my equilibrium, I'll be back to post more. Just killing time before Jimbo's opens at 8am. Gonna grab some healthy food this morning on the way into work.


Monday, March 29, 2010

He Who Shared My Bread Has Lifted Up His Heel Against Me. (Psalm 41:9)

Greetings! It is I, Dave the Lame, here to help transition you through the week by singing the Happy Monday Song!

OK, everyone, we need to work together to make this song awesome. Abbie and Krista, you join in with harmonies on the refrain. Logan, you play your mandolin Jimmy Henrix-style behind your head. Havah, I want you to make that tuba come alive! Mom, I'm going to need you to take up smoking again real quick, because when I signal you, you'll come in to sing the baritone section, especially during the bridge. Joseph, improvise something on that xylophone, but don't get carried away. I'm trusting you here. Paula, the bagpipes are important in the intro. It sets the mood for the whole song, so don't choke! Vye, get on the mike and pass wind as you see fit. And Rebecca, you can do an interpretive dance, if you keep it tasteful... remember, this is a family-friendly blog.

The rest of you, clap along on the off-beat. But no tambourines!

OK, The Happy Monday Song, by the My Little Corner of the World Blog Choir and Barber Shop Quartet, in A minor.


Wait, where's my top hat? Darn it, I can't sing without my top hat!

You know what, forget it. The moment has passed.... I better post a cute dog picture, and then get on with tonight's post...

So I decided I was going to try a new hobby: Binge Swearing! The idea is to just randomly cut loose with an unrelenting barrage of foul language so harsh and uncalled-for that everyone within earshot is left aghast and mildly nauseous. And then, while everyone is standing there, stunned, you rifle through their purses and wallets for any loose change and/or small bills. Oh, it's all the rage with Christian youth these days. It's sort of a post-modern thing.

OK, so I decided to practice here on the blog tonight, to see if it carries the same effect in text form. OK, ready? Ahem...

Wait, where's my top hat? Darn it, I can't use a tub-full of four-letter words if I'm not wearing my top hat!

You know what, forget it. The moment has passed.

Man, I'm 0-for-2 tonight so far! Better post another cute dog picture...

Hmm... that's the best I've got left. I better troll the funny pic sites again and replenish my archive...

So I was at Target tonight, and was walking around the place, looking for Wifey, holding a Smoothie from Jamba Juice in my hand, which I bought for her, so she would love me again. I was weaving through the human flotsam that was clogging up the aisles, and I maneuvered to the far right side of the aisle, making my move. A large wicker basket was sticking off of one of the shelves, and it clipped the drink out of my hand as I passed, and I dropped it on the floor, by way of my foot, by way of my pantleg. So just like that, I was wearing Wifey's smoothie. Needless to say, the ploy to get her to love me again failed. I shall regroup and try again tomorrow.

I've been working on my novel, for those of you that were wondering. What? You weren't wondering!? What kind of friends are you!? I mean, I've known you my whole life! The fun times we used to have, playing around the neighborhood, riding bikes and skateboards, selling drugs, running from the cops... all those good times, for nothing! You don't even care about my novel! I've poured my heart and soul into this book, and all I get from you is apathy and indifference!

That does it... where's my top hat?

Darn it!

I'm forced to use the very last funny dog picture on you. When you see it, you'll understand why it's the last one...

A pug with two butts. This is what I've been reduced to. It is a sad day, indeed. And to make matters worse, I didn't win the autographed copy of The Name of the Wind from Logan. Krista won it. I'm happy for her, and sad for me. So very sad.

By the way, Kris posted a review of Pixar's movie Up over on his blog, and it initiated a lively discussion in the comments section about which Pixar movie is the best. I voted for Monster's Inc. Everyone has a different answer. Which Pixar film do you all like the best?

Don't just think your answer, silly! Write it in a comment! Sheesh!

Dave the Odd, signing off....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2 Reviews: Lone Survivor and Up In the Air

Review: Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell (and Patrick Robinson)

I got this book from my Step-dad for Christmas in 2009, and could tell from the blurb on the back cover that it was right up my alley, as far as books I enjoy reading - though admittedly, I can only take books like this once in a while. The emotions and tension, intensified by the fact that it's a true story, means I can only take so much.

Here's the text from the back cover:

On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission: to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader. Less than 24 hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive.
This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. But it is also, more than anything, the story of the men who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left. Luttrell recalls their valiant efforts in one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare -- a stirring tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

You may wonder if that back cover blurb is hype. In my estimation, to the contrary, it is understated. This tale, once it gets rolling, grabs you by the throat.

I say "once it gets rolling", because really, the first half (or so) of the book focuses primarily on first Luttrell's childhood, and then a detailed account of the incredible training that a Navy SEAL must undergo before earning his trident. They aren't just pushed to their limits, physically and mentally, but beyond. It is necessary to cover the training so thoroughly, since it helps put into context the mission and the men, the unity and camaraderie among SEALs that transcends anything we can grasp, really, unless we have successfully gone through it ourselves. Having read the detail about the training, a reader (like me) can come as close to grasping that unity and brotherhood as possible -- without this section of the book, I doubt the real survival part of the story would carry as much weight.

Once the doomed mission begins in earnest, the writing pulls no punches. Sent deep into the Afghani mountains, about as isolated as men can get - yet supremely confident and capable - the team was compromised in the most random manner. Perched on a ridge overlooking a village, perfectly camouflaged and still, they monitored the village, looking to identify an al Qaeda leader rumored to be among the residents below. Before they can make the ID, three goat herders out with their flock of goats just happen to come over their ridge and literally step right  onto them. They didn't see them until they literally were right on them.

The SEAL team holds them at gunpoint out of view while they decide what to do. It truly is an impossible situation. If they kill the goat herders, there will be this big flock of goats milling around, and soon more villagers will come investigating, probably bringing arms with them. It is common knowledge that our "rules of engagement" do not allow for injury or death of unarmed civilians (like the goat herders), and they know they can immediately contact Al Jazeera and get word of the deaths on the news immediately, which would mean investigation and likely trials for murder back in the states. This may seem silly, but it is, in fact, a very real concern, and the cause of no end of bitterness and anger from the troops over there, who feel they can't fight the way they need to in order to ensure victory.

The other option is to let the goat herders go, which they ultimately do, and hope against hope that they don't run right down and notify the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces that overrun the mountains there. They release the goat herders, and fall back, knowing that they likely just wrote their own death warrants. And, as they fear, less than an hour later, it is on, as 200 armed enemy fighters initiate a desperate fight to kill the four SEALs, including Luttrell.

His story of survival must be read to be believed.

I haven't read a book like this since With the Old Breed, by Eugene Sledge. It really wrung me out, and raised my already-high respect level for SEALs and fighting men in general up even higher. It has profanity, as you can imagine, but it also is a showcase for Marcus Luttrell's faith in God, as he reaches the very limits of his strength, endurance, sanity, hope...

Summary: 5/5 Highly recommended. An incredible survival story, made more intense by the knowledge that it actually happened.


Up In the Air: A Review

I watched the movie Up In the Air last night. Easily the best of the movie's I've seen that were nominated for Best Picture earlier this year. Terrific writing, great acting, well-filmed and edited. A little melodramatic in places, but it really worked well on many levels.

It's the story of a man (George Clooney) who travels the country, firing people for large companies that have to lay off lots of people, and don't want to do it themselves. Clooney isn't a freelancer - he is one of many agents that work for a company whose purpose is to come in and fire people, then leave again, to the next town, and next business in the throws of downsizing. He is good at his job and loves his life. He is also a motivational speaker (of sorts) who fits in speeches to groups about the advantages of living as simply as possible, without being burdened by things or other people.

His world is rocked by news that his company will be transitioning from in-person firing to a web-based remote system that will take him off the road and stick him in a cubicle at the home office from now on, firing people via webcam. The young woman (Anna Kendrick) who came up with this new system is (in Clooney's eyes) naive, unaware of the realities of actually having to fire people. She doesn't see why it has to be done face to face. Clooney's boss (Jason Bateman) wants to introduce the new system, but Clooney strenuously objects. Bateman proposes a compromise - Clooney must take the young, naive system designer out with him on the road for a few months, so she can get some real world experience.

The story is a good one, really, and the movie is peppered with tons of really effective, minor performances. I think my favorite was Amy Morton, who played one of Clooney's sisters in the film. But everyone, major and minor, turns in strong performances. Several sub-plots all wind themselves together, and there is a rather surprising turn of events at the end. By the time the end credits roll, it becomes evident that the name of the movie applies on several different levels, to several different characters. It really is well done.

There is a good amount of profanity, and a scene with a bare tush, if that bothers you. Otherwise, highly recommended.

Summary: 4/5 Great movie. Enjoyed it much more than Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker.

Friday, March 26, 2010

He Set My Feet on a Rock and Gave Me a Firm Place to Stand. (Psalm 40:2)

OK, here's the part where I whine about how tired I am, and then you ask me why I'm up so late... and then we'll be at the part where I say something brilliant like, "I'm so tired, I can't sleep." And you say, "I'm bored with this post already - I wonder what Logan posted today?"

Then we'll be at the part where I weep softly into my stein full of root beer...

Hey, if you really want to be bored, I can go into more detail on my time on jury duty... or I can bombard you with details of the video conversion problems I finally solved today, regarding Rug Care Central and Traffic Geyser... and the new, bizarre obstacle that dragged everything to a halt yet again...

But instead, here's a Funny Picture...

I followed a cool link to a page that has tons of great prank ideas for the upcoming April Fool's Day - yet another holiday I don't really celebrate. In my old age, I think I should give more of these minor holidays a shot... anyway, HERE is the link to the page, if you want to chuckle for a few minutes, scrolling through the pranks. Not all of them are good, clean, wholesome fun, but most of them are pretty clever.

I like the device you sneak into a friend's keyboard that randomly activates the All Caps key as they type... they also have a light-activated device that you hide, that plays audio of a dripping faucet when the lights are out. When someone finally gets up to see which faucet is dripping, turning on the light in the room, the noise stops... until the light goes off again. MUAHAHAHAH!!!

They even have a device that you attach to a phone cord, so that 25% of the time, a call will purposely be misdialed, resulting in wrong numbers, even if they are punched in correctly. Dang! One clever item is an alarm clock that is embedded inside a dumbbell. When the alarm sounds, to shut it off, you have to do 10 bicep curls, lol.

They have several other links, to pages about pranks to play on a person's computer, or certain mischievous add-ons you can add to your friend's Firefox browser, if he/she uses that, and lots of other stuff. Like the "Mento + soda" prank... which I may have to try on one of my daughters...

And now, the ultimate romantic gift... a bouquet of bacon roses!


OK, this is the part where I realize I have nothing left to say. I need sleep.

I've been hearing from a couple people that comments aren't getting posted here for some reason. I have no clue why that would be - you know how addicted to comments I am, I want as many as possible! They did make some changes lately to blogger, so maybe they gummed up the works. All I can say is, sorry for the inconvenience.

OK, I'm tipping over now, I'm off.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let Me Know How Fleeting Is My Life. (Psalm 39:4)

Having NO IDEA whether any of you have any interest whatsoever in hearing about the case I just served as a jury member on, I will preface tonight's post with a simple warning.

WARNING: If hearing summarized details of a random robbery case would be about as interesting to you as hearing the dictionary read backwards, scroll down to the Funny Picture of the cops examining the large manure deposit some anonymous bank customer dropped off at his/her bank, in an act of protest (an act, by the way, which I would like to replicate myself, on the doorstep of my local Wells Fargo, for past grievances).

So, the trial finished up today! We agreed unanimously to drop a pair of "Guilty" verdicts on a hapless tool that tried to rob a small candy store in El Cajon with a toy gun.

OK, stop me if you've heard this one before...

A guy goes into a Spanish candy store (aka "dulceria") and chats with the owner of the store (a Spanish lady) about some of the pinatas that she has on sale. He leaves, and her only other customer leaves shortly thereafter. 5 minutes later, the same man enters, produces a gun, points it at her, demanding money. She screams and darts down the side aisle to the back of the store, to warn her other employee (also female) about the situation. The robber follows her back.

Meanwhile, a man exits from the tailor shop next door, hears the scream, and comes in to investigate. The front of the store is empty, so he calls out. In the back of the store, the robber holds the fake gun at his side, tells the two ladies to get on the ground. They refuse, the owner saying that if he wants money, they have to go back up front. She leads him back up front, the robber quickly hiding his fake gun, seeing the man who just entered to check out the scream.

"Sorry, we're closed," the robber says to the man. The man doesn't believe him, and suspects something is up. The robber just smiles and says, "This lady is crazy, don't mind her. She just owes me money." Turning to the owner, who is now behind the counter, the robber says, "Come on, lady, give me my money." He reaches across the counter and starts pushing random buttons on the cash register. In the back, the other employee calls 911, but they don't answer.

Back up front, the owner opens a drawer below the register, grabs a tazer and tries to taze his hand as he's pushing the buttons on the register. It didn't work, since she forgot to turn it on first. So she grabs pepper spray from the same drawer and starts blasting the robber with it. He's wearing big sunglasses, so initially, it didn't seem to effect him. He comes around the counter to her side, still demanding "his" money. She is still pepper spraying him. He looks into the open drawer (where the tazer and spray came from) and sees a gun. It is a toy gun, but he doesn't know that. He grabs it.

Now the male customer knows for sure the guy is a robber - he's holding a gun! So the male customer backs out of the shop and looks for a passing cop (busy street, tons of traffic outside.) The robber finally decides to abandon the robbery and flees, taking the shop's toy gun as he fled. They all watch him disappear up the block and around the corner.

They flag down a patrol car, give the cops a quick description and the cops take off after the suspect, sending out a call to police in the area.

2 blocks away, the robber has removed everything he was wearing except his shoes and pants. He is on a bike, riding down an alley, toward a safehouse of some sort. In a stroke of luck, there happens to be an undercover officer right in that alley, accompanying two welfare officials on some unrelated business. The robber brakes to a stop around a short wall, and is face to face with the detective, who just heard the call over the radio about the robbery. After a brief verbal exchange, during which the sweating, crying perp slowly tries to back away, the detective figures something is fishy, so he detains and cuffs him.

The now-cuffed perp asks the detective if he would please take the shirt the perp had hanging on his bike and wipe his face with it. The detective obliges, and then immediately feels the effects of the pepper spray that is on the perp's face, which he just wiped, lol. He radios it in. Cops arrive, find the two fake guns in the pantlegs, and his clothing scattered between there and the candy store.

The owner, the employee and the man who watched the robbery a few minutes earlier are all brought one at a time to ID the suspect, which they easily do - mostly because of the very distinctive pants he had been wearing, which he hadn't had time to ditch yet. DNA match on the abandoned clothing cinched the deal.

That's the long and the short of it! A completely incompetent, unlucky tool.

Here's the problem that caused a slight delay in coming to a unanimous decision today.

While we all easily agreed that it was proven the defendant was the man who tried the rob the store, there were questions about the way the charges were presented.

One charge was Felony robbery of the owner lady, for taking the toy gun from the store (that's all he got away with). The other charge was Attempted Robbery of the other employee - the lady in the back of the store.

Now make sense out of that!

Turns out, if you take something from someone by force or fear, regardless of it's value, it is felony robbery. I thought it was more along the lines of shoplifting, if that. I felt it was ridiculous to consider that robbery a successful, completed robbery attempt, because he took the toy pistol with him. Going to send a guy to jail for several years for *that*?

And the charge of Attempted Robbery, attached specifically to the other employee, and not to the store itself, or even the owner? He never demanded money from the other lady, he wanted the cash in the till! He did tell her to lay down, but never even pointed the toy gun at her. She didn't comply in any case.

But it turns out, if you try to rob a store, you are also technically trying to rob the owner and/or the employees, since they have authority over the contents of the store. So if there had been 6 employees, there would have been 6 Attempted Robbery charges, whether he even knew they were in the building or not. Weird.

So, by the letter of the law, he was found guilty on both charges. But I still don't know why it wasn't just a simple case of Attempted Robbery against the store, which failed. The guy was a moron, really.

So that was bizarre. I know he was the guy that tried to rob the place - but did those two specific charges get proven beyond a reasonable doubt? Honestly, it took some pretty heavy twisting and turning to make them fit.  He was obviously the robber, and he couldn't skate unpunished. But the charges themselves just seemed a little odd...

In any case, he's heading for jail, one less toolbag on the streets.

You're welcome!

The question now remains: Is it a crime to deposit a blanket-full of manure at the bank, in protest? Felony or misdemeanor? It looks easily removable - it isn't like it was smeared all over, or fed into the ATM deposit slot (which is what I would have done, lol). I despise Wells Fargo, and have long tried to think of a way to express my extreme displeasure to them in a way that is both effective and legal. I'll have to ponder this one...

I decided to give Hawkwood's Voyage by Paul Kearney another shot. It's a book I tried to get into early last year, and it ended up on my Unfinished Book Shelf. But I was done with Lone Survivor, and I needed to find another paperback that would fit into my coat pocket, to read today on the bus and while on break. I think I'm sufficiently hooked this time around to continue it.

But I need some new books to read. My shelves are pretty combed-through. Any suggestions?

OK, I'm going to end it here and go get some sleep. Got some catching up to do on some work I missed while I was doing my Civic Duty, for both Piranha and the Rug Shop. Gonna dig in and get some stuff done on Thursday.

Hope I didn't bore you too much with the trial stuff. I needed to dump it all out while it was fresh. I won't bring it up again.


Monday, March 22, 2010

My Guilt Has Overwhelmed Me, Like a Burden Too Heavy to Bear. (Psalm 38:4)

Isn't that a nice sky?

It's too bad, that old saying about nice skies finishing last....

BUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!1!!!! Oh, man, I'm so funny! [Dave dabs his eyes] Man, there's nothing like a great pun...

Too bad that was merely mediocre....

Sounds like a band name... "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the stage MERELY MEDIOCRE!"

OK, before I get started on tonight's post, I have to post a video. And yes, I need to post it nice and large...

Come on, you knew the video was going to be wind related... I mean, this is me we're talking about here....

A bizarre day of jury duty today. It started out really early - well, for me, anyway. I got up at 6:15 am... do you pity me? I went to the main bus depot in Escondido, never having ridden the bus form of mass transit before. I didn't know I needed to buy the ticket on the bus itself, from the driver! So I'm wandering around, looking for a ticket window, like a tool. Then I didn't know I needed exact change and that the driver couldn't give me any change back... until after I put my $20 into the money machine at the front of the bus. So my $5 ticket cost me $20. Oh, well... live and learn, eh?

Got downtown early, and read Lone Survivor (Marcus Luttrell) for about an hour before Jury Duty was supposed to begin (at 9am). And I kept reading until they actually called us, at 9:30. Then we heard one witness for about 10 minutes before being sent out on a 20 minute break while the lawyers dealt with something. Then back in for the very beginning of the next witness, before being stopped by a sidebar, and then sent out on another 30 minute break, so the defense lawyer could attend to something in another courtroom. We returned to hear approximately 15 more minutes of testimony, which took us to 11:30 am, at which time we were dismissed for a 2 hour lunch break. I kid you not, between 9am and 1:30, we were in the court for about 45 minutes, the rest was spent on "breaks."

After lunch, they let us in late, we heard about 10 minutes of testimony, and yep, we were sent on another 15 minute break which stretched into 90 minutes. We returned about 3:15 pm to hear a bit more testimony, and were released for the day at 4, which was a half-hour early. The majority of the day was spent on break.

The good news is, I'm almost finished reading my book. If you ever want your heart broken, while simultaneously developing unbelievable respect for what Navy SEALS do, read Lone Survivor. It will chew you up and spit you out, and leave you wanting more. AMAZING book.

The other good news is, we were told the Prosecution will wrap up their case Tuesday morning, after 2 more witnesses. The lawyer promised to have both final witnesses ready to roll at 9am, but we'll see. The judge said we should begin deliberating Tuesday afternoon. So much for a week-and-a-half trial! Took Friday, a bit of Monday, and (supposedly) a bit of Tuesday. I think the Prosecuting attorney was expecting a much more robust defense attempt by the defense lawyer. The defense attorney looks exactly like Joaquin Phoenix, by the way, which is weird. I keep expecting him to put on an ivy headpeace and give thumbs up or thumbs down to the witnesses...

By the way, does this count as violating the "don't talk about the trial" rule? I'm not mentioning specifics of the case... I hope by chattering about schedules and mild frustration at waiting, that's innocuous enough.

Funny Picture Time!
Yay! Twilight humor!

By the way, if you ever want to spend/waste a bunch of time on cool web browsing, go to TIME magazine's website, to the section on The Top 10 Everything of 2009. As the name implies, they break down the top 10 lists from all kinds of disparate topics, from News, to Science, to Entertainment, to Pop Culture and beyond. Very cool.

In fact, here's a screenie, and if you click it, it will take you to the page I'm talking about! How cool is that!

But don't click THIS LINK, or you will get Rick-Rolled...

I have to go to bed now. Another early day tomorrow!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dwell in the Land, and Enjoy Safe Pasture. (Psalm 37:3)

Yeah, yeah, I know... The weekend is over, and now a new week begins. No need to get all angry at me about it! I don't control time! I can't just hit the cosmic pause button and make your weekend last longer! I'm just a man! And a tubby one at that!

But while I can't control time, I can control my bladder. And for that, you should be rather grateful...

Yay! Jury duty! Yay!


Did it sound convincing? Meh, oh well.

I'm on a criminal case as a jury member, in case you didn't figure that out yet... I'm juror #8, which actually means I'm in the front row of the jury box, right near the witness stand. So I get to look right in their beady little eyes and try to blink secret messages at them in Morse code, in an effort to get at what *really* happened! Those shifty lawyers! I don't trust them to figure it all out by themselves! They need my help!

Of course, I'm kidding. I'm a good little juror, and I take seriously what is happening. It is pretty interesting, though I admit it is hard to keep an open mind and be conclusion-free before hearing all the testimony and evidence. Hard, but not impossible. Seems a pretty straight-forward case thus far, but we're still early on in the trial. Should be an interesting week. I keep fighting the urge to wait until a tense moment in testimony and release a really large, loud fart. Then I'd shoot to my feet and shout, "Your Honor, I object! And I move for a mistrial!" Then I'd run for the door. The Bailiff would tackle and cuff me, and I'd be hauled off weeping and calling out for my mom.

But I've resisted the urge thus far.

I did solve my little transportation problem, thankfully. I'm just going to park at the main bus station here in Escondido and ride the Express Bus right into downtown, slick as snot. Then ride it back on up at the end of the day! How do you like them apples?

OK, too much talk. Funny Picture time.

Na na na na na na na na Catman! I'll give you three guesses what happened to Robin...

I have a confession to make.

I stayed up really late on Saturday night, watching something I shouldn't have been watching online... yes... I'm talking about 9-11 Conspiracy videos! I watched a whole series of them on troublesome facts about the events surrounding that day. I know, I know... it shouldn't intrigue me, but it does. I can't help it. So much happened as a result of that day, and there seem to be so many things that don't sit right about it all with me. Maybe I'm just an easily-manipulated gump, who knows? I saw an author interviewed on Colbert last week, who has a book out on why sometimes seemingly intelligent, normal people feel the need to believe really wacky conspiracies about certain things, and I might buy it. Perhaps I can get insight into myself on this particular issue, because, really, the whole 9-11 thing just stinks to me, for a myriad of reasons.

But I better shift gears before I offend people here. Touchy subject.

I sat down with the family (at their request) to watch the movie 2012 over the weekend. Wow, it was every bit the turd I thought it would be. If I hadn't promised the family, I would have bolted the room after about 15 minutes. The only good thing I can say about the film is that a novel writer gets to be the hero! How cool is that! Small consolation being a hero that saves his ex-wife and kids, when 99% of the earth's population died...

OK, one more Funny Picture and I'm out for now...

Avian Nonconformity...

Adios for now.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Your Justice is Like the Great Deep. (Psalm 36:6)

Greetings all y'all!

So, how was your St. Hat Trick's Day? Did you score your three goals? You know, St. Hat Trick was the patron saint of hockey, right?

Hmm? What? Oh! St. Patrick! Nevermind....

First things first! The Name of the Wind giveaway!

Our good ePal Logan spent the day in the car on Wednesday, driving to a reading/book signing by every guy's favorite author, Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind. Other than my mother, the females that I know who've read the book haven't been that impressed with it (Abbie! Rebecca! What gives!). Anyway, Logan was able to secure an extra autographed book to be given away on his blog! W00t w00t! I'm torn about mentioning it here... I get an extra entry into the random giveaway if I mention it here on the blog... but if you all go enter it, it lowers my chances of winning! So hooray for the book giveaway! But I won't be heartbroken if you shrug your shoulders and wish me good luck on winning it...

Here's the inscription on the inside cover, in case you want to gaze longingly at it with me, while sighing.

Yes, I know it's ironic that a published author of Rothfuss' caliber would misspell "congratulations", but I don't mind much. I want it anyway!

Here's a blurry pic of Logan and Pat.

I'll let you figure out who is who. Or is it "whom?"

And here is a picture of Cookie Monster going rogue:
C is for Crime Spree... that's good enough for me...

And here is a picture of George Washington battling a tiger during a hurricane:
No wonder he got his face on the quarter! That's hardcore!

And finally, here is Batman fighting a Great White with a light saber:
Words fail...

So I went downtown for jury duty today, answering the call of civic duty. I had to be there at 7:45am, which is a few hours earlier than when I normally wake up... I went to bed early, and woke up just about every hour, because I kept dreaming I overslept and got to jury duty late. It was a long, fitful night. But I made it down ontime, parked at a nearby lot that charged me a staggering $22 to park for the day, and then proceeded to sit around until lunch, reading Marcus Luttrell's book Lone Survivor, in the jury lounge.

When I returned at 1:30, I got called in with the first group, and yes, it looks like I'm going to be selected to serve on a criminal case. I have to go back Friday morning to finish the selection process, but right now I'm in the #8 spot in the jury box. The lawyers still have their 10 "boot me" cards to pass out, so maybe I'll get booted and then be done for the year. Otherwise I'll be occupied at the courthouse at least through the end of March, probably into the first week of April too, counting deliberations.

I'm sure if I serve, and after the case is over, I'll feel ok discussing the case here (in brief), but at the moment, I'm not allowed to discuss it... I am nothing, if not a stickler for the rule of law!

I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the last time I went in for jury duty, I was placed on a criminal case, and it was interesting, to say the least. I was responsible for almost hanging the jury... our deliberations took longer than it did to present the case! But ultimately I got hoisted on my petard and had to change my vote to be in line with the other 11. I felt the prosecution did a terrible job presenting the case, and did not prove it beyond a reasonable doubt... but I made a deal with the rest of the jury, and it backfired on me... if I had been able to pull it off the way I planned, it would have forced the rest of jury to change their votes to be in line with me, lol.

It almost worked. If you want details, I can elaborate. Otherwise, I'll spare you.

In any case, I hesitate to get involved in another scenario like that, since I really get uncomfortable when people don't like me for whatever reason... and I made 11 other people quite upset that time, lol. There's a chance that if either lawyer on Friday asks me for details of that other case, they'll dismiss me, since the charges are very similar. Who knows.

I'm short on time now - gotta go grab dinner for the family. But I wanted to post a cat video here that I found on TBT. If it has an ad before it, I apologize. When I return, I'll look for the clip on YouTube and replace the embed. In the mean while, enjoy this clip, eh!

EDIT: ok, I found it on YouTube, so it's all good...

I'll be back. Adios for now. I have more to share...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Those Who Fear Him Lack Nothing. (Psalm 34:9)

"It's here to stay" or "it's here Tuesday", which one?

Greetings everyone! Especially those of you checking in from Athens, Greece!

I was checking my Google Analytics page today, and I made a rather fascinating discovery... while the vast majority of the visitors to this blog in the past 4 weeks are from the US (1,212 visits), the country with the next highest number of visitors is Greece! Isn't that wild? 80 visits from Greece in the past month. 63 of them from Athens! 15 more from Iraklion, and 1 each from Thessalonica and Kallithea.

The other countries in the top 10 (after the US and Greece) are Canada, Germany, Slovenia. UK, Australia, Spain, Belgium and India.

The US visits are predominantly from California, but visitors from 39 other states have popped in as well, the rest of the top 5 being North Carolina, Washington, Kentucky and New York.

Who would have thought there'd be so many people around the country/world that had nothing better to do! It's so cool!

Sunroof FAIL

Speaking of things that are cool, two of your fellow blog readers (that have blogs of their own) have recently interviewed published authors about their most recent books! Kris Denby has an interview with Ken Scholes, author of Lamentation (which some of you have read, I know), and Shellie (at Layers of Thought) has an interview with Blake Charlton, author of the buzzworthy fantasy release Spellwright, which I may add to my read list.

How cool is that? Getting to interview a published author about their stuff. These aren't self-published wannabe's, these are big names! I wonder what I'd have to do to score an interview with someone famous like that?

I've been recently compiling a series of "Favorite" lists, for different games, books, movies, albums, etc., that I love, and I've been revisiting the game Oblivion. It came out in 2006 and I've put hundreds of hours into exploring the game, and tinkering with dozens of mods. It really is a terrific game. So I got the itch today to look online for any news of the next Elder Scrolls game - it's been 4 years, I thought there'd be info on it. Nothing official from Bethesda, but I did find a quote supposedly from one of their developers talking about a new Elder Scrolls title possibly coming out in 2010, after Fallout: New Vegas is released.

I bring it up because I wondered if I just wrote an email to Bethesda and asked them, if they would sneak me some info on the new game, and some screen shots, so my blog could break the news of the game to the world - a world exclusive scoop! It would be even better than interviewing an author, wouldn't it! And with my global audience, it would be the perfect platform for them to make the first public announcement of the game!

No, of course, I'm not serious. Sheesh! They wouldn't give me the exclusive... especially since I was banned from their official forums, lol... let's just say their forum rules make no allowance for my type of humor...

The latest PCGamer has the first screen shots of Crysis 2, which looks amazing. Looks like it takes place (at least in part) in New York City, which is overrun with alien baddies. If you played the original Crysis, you know how incredibly photo-realistic the graphics were, on that tropical island. Imagine a new, better, more-optimized graphics engine, rendering NYC and Central Park... I can't find the screenies online anywhere! I may have to scan them from the magazine and post them here - you won't believe the clarity. HERE is a video of the game engine, for PS3. HERE is another.

I found a couple smaller screenies on Gamespot of Crysis 2...

Meh, not bad. The pics in the magazine are better, including some great foliage shots from inside Central Park. In fact, these two pics might even be concept art, instead of in-game screenies.

Anyway, I hope the next Elder Scrolls game has a similar engine. Something like this would be nice...

Even though someone posted that pic on the Elder Scrolls V forum at Gamespot, I doubt it is really from the new game. But I think it shows what I hope the final graphics of the new game would look like. Yes, that's done with software, it ain't a photo. Man, if ESV comes out this year, I would be a happy boy...

Speaking of gaming tech advances, check this nonsense out...


Yeah, I know, I'm torn as well... equal parts cool and ridiculous. No one is going to have one of those things in his/her house. A giant hamster ball... HERE is a link to an article on it, if you'd like more info...

And now, the Ka-Flump of the Day.

I started a new book last night: Black Sun Rising, by C.S. Friedman. It's sort of a fantasy-sci-fi hybrid. The prologue didn't do much for me, but I'll give it a few more nights to hook me.

I think I've covered enough disparate ground for the night. I'm going to pull the plug for now.


PS Oh, I forgot to mention it! I will end up owing far less in taxes this year than I thought I would! Yay me!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

From His Dwelling Place He Watches All Who Live On Earth. (Psalm 33:14)

Yay! Saturday! My favorite day!

What? Saturday's over? Crap!

Oh, well, better move on then....

Ladies and gentlemen, book lovers of all ages, I give you, the Librería El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina...

A Theater (obviously) that was converted into just about the coolest bookstore ever. Come on, admit it... you get goosebumps looking at the pics, right?

Makes you want to browse your favorite section while wearing a tux and belting out Brindisi from La Traviata, doesn't it...

OK, just pretend that's me and Wifey in that video... come on, use your imagination... we sing together like that all the time! Just, you know, around the house and stuff! Or waiting in line at Starbucks! Yeah, It's true!

OK, I lied...

GAAHHHH!!!! I'm turning 40 this year! :O AAAAAA!!!

Dang, that harsh realization snuck up on me again, sorry...

It's been a while since we had a Gutbuster of the Day, from This Is Why You're Fat... so here's a little number called The Hickory Rancher...

The Hickory Rancher: 1/2 pound beef patty, meunster cheese, 7 pieces of maple bacon, sauteed onions and honey hickory BBQ sauce, on a kaiser roll.

Yes, I know it looks tasty! Still, I think that would bust my gut for sure.

Not over-the-top enough for you?

Fine, here's The Flatline Burger...

The Flatline Burger: A double bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter, deep fried and served with chipotle mayo.

There... sufficiently gutbusterish enough for ya? Don't make me have to bust out The Chubby Girl Scout... (which is: a bacon-wrapped Samoa Girl Scout cookie, deep fried and topped with maple syrup and powdered sugar)  *shudder*...

I came across this cool video yesterday, of a Toyota Simulator...

Come on, that's funny... admit it...

I dropped my tax documents and receipts off at my tax guy today... hopefully I'll have a good idea of how much $$$ I'll owe the feds by Wednesday. It won't be good... oh, well... there's worse problems than being broke and owing a lot of money... at least I still have all of my legs! Man, if I was missing a few of my legs, I don't know what I'd do... probably just sit around in front of the computer all day...

[3 second pause to wait for the blatant irony to wear off]

Hey, what do you mean you haven't checked out the blog 100 Awesome Things lately!? Well, go check it out! Go ahead, I'll wait...

[15 second pause to wait for people to go check out 1000 Awesome Things]

Hey, cool, you came back!

If you hadn't returned, you would have missed this funny, geeky picture...

Makes me wish I had twins...

Remember that time I had an awesome, narcissistic website called Wagnervana, and I let it die on the vine? Remember? Yeah, I suck like that... in fact, this should be my license plate...

What? A Volvo is a safe, reliable car! Mock me not!

Good grief, I'm all over the place tonight.

Church Day tomorrow. That reminds me... I better go prepare a Sunday School lesson.... drat! We lose an hour tonight!

I've decided this time around, I don't particularly care for the end of The Name of the Wind, with that whole part where Kvothe goes to Trebon, happens to meet up with Denna, and then does the Draccus thing. Strikes me as fairly incongruous with the rest of the book. It bums me out a bit.

Uh oh... craving... black licorice....

[3 second pause to wait for sudden craving to pass]

I watched Gran Torino last night. Trite, cliched, contrived, poorly written, poorly cast, poorly acted. I'm rather boggled by the good press it received. A lot of people I know liked that film. Well, in cases like this, I realize the following: I am right, and all the rest of y'all are on some sort of controlled substance... that's the only logical conclusion.

Speaking of logical conclusions, I am done.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

When I Kept Silent, My Bones Wasted Away. (Psalm 32:3)

What is today? Thursday? Sheesh, I lose track of time so quickly...

Gathering my tax papers and docs and receipts to drop off at my tax guy on Friday. Wish he wasn't so expensive. Is $600 normal for tax preparation? Wish I knew how to do it myself. Just seems like a bit much...

I went to Starbucks today to try out their new Dark Cherry Mocha Frappucino. The Verdict: It is delightful! In fact, it was scrumptrillescent!

I don't know if you've ever seen that SNL skit, but unless you know The Actor's Studio and who Charles Nelson Reilly was, you have no idea how spot-on both of those impressions are. Who knew Alec Baldwin could do such an amazing impression, eh! Hilarious. That guy was really like that!

I made a joke a few weeks back about an Ultra-compact model of Smart Car that was kind of in poor taste (considering someone had died in that crash), but I saw this today, and I thought I'd share it here as well...

That's a two-person electric commuter car called a "Lumeneo Smera." It's actually going into production. I don't know if it will be street-legal in the US... probably just a Euro car. Still, I don't know that I'd ever feel comfortable tooling around in that "car"... unless it was an indoor car, and I just used it in my mansion to run down the hallway to the bathroom... Anyway, HERE is the article, if you want more info.

Though you'll probably find this one more interesting...

That is not a Photoshopped picture. It's a legitimate product, called a Uno Electric Motorcycle. Is that insane, or what? Yanni would get a kick out of that. A motorized unicycle. HERE is an article about it (one of many, if you want to Google it yourself). There are more pictures of it there.

And while I'm on the topic of taking things to the extreme, here's a pic of a waterslide some of you might enjoy dropping in on...

I don't know where it is, but if you're intrigued by it, nose around online, eh! As for me, just looking at it makes me want to find a nice bench to sit on...

I'm trying a new piece of writing software, called yWrite, to see if it can help me keep track of my novel, and the storylines and characters, etc. I could actually write the novel in the software itself, if I wanted, but I think I'll do what some people suggest, and write it in Word and copy/paste it in, as needed. I like the feature set in it... you can designate deadlines and daily goals, set placeholder chapter and scene points for parts not yet written, drag-and-drop chapters/scenes around to rearrange things. It tracks which characters are used in which scenes, whose point of view each scene is from, and it generates storyboards automatically, so I could see at-a-glance the way storylines overlap. There are other cool features as well.

Anyway, I'll let you all know how it goes. Still making good progress on the first draft, but the more I write, the more I want to add. I keep fighting the urge to expand minor characters into major ones...

One last Funny Picture, and then I'm out of here. This one is for the console/Street Fighter fans among us...

If I need to explain it, you won't think it's funny, sorry. You'll either get it or not.

Until tomorrow (or so), adios!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Have Become Like Broken Pottery. (Psalm 31:12)

Hey, how goes it! Dave here, and at the moment, it's 1am, smack in the middle of that awkward transition period between Monday and Tuesday. Worked from home today - got several items checked off of my "To Do List", which always makes me feel good. Still sore from my wild-man weekend up in the snow. I could use an ibuprofen and a hot bath... but, hey, it's 1 am... can't rightly take a bath that late/early, can I? It's unseemly!

So I decided to whip out a quick post instead.

First: Quick Stories About my Youngest Daughter That No One But Me Will Find Interesting!

I know, all dads think their children are the smartest and most beautiful kids in the world, I get it. But if there actually was a way to measure such things and see which dad really does have the best kid(s), I think I might be up there, as far as Maggie (my 4 year old) is concerned. She can whistle now! She's been trying for weeks to teach herself, which has been a source of unending amusement for me. Then a couple days ago, she finally got it. It's wild to see a kid that little whistling.

But even cooler was this morning. She came downstairs when I was still in my half-zombie mode on the couch, trying to wake up. I'm sitting there, hunched over, eyes closed, half asleep, while Mags is sitting on the floor nearby. She's stacking a bunch of crayons in a pyramid, and doing the "look dad! A pyramid!' routine, and I nod and grunt and yawn. A minute or so later, she says, "dad, look at my crayon rainbow!" I look down, and she has arranged all the crayons (about 20 or so) in a line, by color. "I organized my crayons" she says, which is nice vocabulary for a 4 year old to begin with. Then I look a little closer. And I kid you not... the crayons are arranged in a row, from red to violet, just like in a rainbow. I mean, they go red, to orange to yellow to green,all the way through, exactly how a rainbow is supposed to be, with the blended shades in the right place.

I did that thing dogs do, when they tilt their heads and look at something funny, with that, "Huh?" look on their face. What. The. Heck.

What could I say? I told her, "That's right, sweetie. That's a rainbow all right."

"I organized them, dad."

See? It's the little things that make being a dad so great. I loved that story, and even as I was typing it out, I was thinking how insignificant y'all would likely think it was. Yet I bet you have little stories like that about your kids (or wee friends/relatives) you could trot out.

Anyway, speaking of dads, here's a music video I watched tonight, by none other than Eminem, that talks about the pressures he faced as a dad. It's a "clean" version, so fear not. The video is ridiculously powerful - I highly recommend you giving it a watch...

Dang. Takes my breath every time I watch it. Maybe it's because I'm also a dad that loves my kids more than anything. He has other videos that are just as powerful. He really is quite a talent. He's had a hard road to travel.

Like this guy!

"How was golf, honey?" 
"Don't ask..."

Well, I think I'm going to turn in. Mellow, meandering post tonight, sorry. Just the mood I'm in, I guess. If you'll pardon the cliche, we'll see what tomorrow holds...


Sunday, March 7, 2010

He Trains My Hands for Battle. (Psalm 18:34)

"Ground beef" or "bound grief", you decide...


I have returned from the snowy mountain-tops, and I *think* I'm ready to try and do a re-cap of sorts.

Let me start off by saying this: I'm glad I went.

I wanted to get that out of the way from the outset, so you know where I'm going with all this. And also for those of you with no time to wade through all of my elaboration, and just wanted to grab the summary and move on. Hey, I respect that! If that's you, thanks for dropping by! But you're going to miss a funny story...

You will laugh, I'm sure of it - especially if you know me in "real life", since what I did this weekend is so far out of the box for me, it's in a different zip code. If I had known what I was getting myself into, there is no way on earth I would have attended - and I would not have got the benefit that I did. I would have missed out.

That having been said, let me get the punchline out of the way first. This was basically one of those "he-man" Christian boot-camp type of retreats, where there's a "drill sergeant" type who is trying to whip a bunch of Christian dudes into outdoorsy warrior-types. When we all assembled out in a snow-covered field and the call went out to "drop into push-up position, now!" I knew I was in trouble...

Seriously. Here I was, with about 100 other men, out in a field, doing push-ups in the snow with a DI barking orders at us "Up! Down! Up! Down! On your feet!" etc. If someone messed up by pushing up too soon, we started over... I resisted the overwhelming urge to stand up and walk back to my cabin, grumbling under my breath. I tried to hang in. I did about 10 push-ups, failed, shifted to girl push-ups, failed. Then just laid there.

And that was just the beginning.

What followed was 3 more hours of "team building" exercises, which included sitting in the snow, passing big tires over my head to the guy sitting behind me, then running to the back of the line, and passing them over head again, etc. We then stood in a line, passing a big length of wood (like an 8x8 or something) overhead, again running to the end of the line and passing it over again. Then we formed ranks and marched in unison, arms locked, across the field, chanting stuff. Then they had some people grab these big shields and form an interlocking circle around the pastor, while the rest of us pushed in on all sides. Then they used the shields to form a "turtle" and the rest of us bombarded them with snowballs.

There was more!

The whole time - the whole weekend, in fact - I was saying "This is so retarded! I get it already! We're 'brothers' and a 'body' and we're supposed to work together and help each other and protect each other."

But you know what? Every time I said I was just going to stroll over to the sidelines and watch instead, I would say, "ok, fine, I'll participate, maybe God will show me something." Without fail, whenever I actually did the activity, I benefited from it. As lame as all of this "team-building/warrior" stuff was, I was glad I tried it. It kicked my butt, I was cold and wet, but I wasn't really miserable. I've been such a loner for sooo long, it was really weird to do these things with a bunch of whooping, hollering men, being Christian "hoo-ah!" marine wannabe types.

Like I said - so far out of my normal mode of operations, it's ridiculous. I kept thinking, "if anyone I knew actually saw me doing this, they would laugh their butts off." Me sitting in the snow, passing big tires over my head. What is that! lol....

Here's the "shield wall" thing they made...

And here's a quick clip of the crowd pressing in on the shield wall... 

That bald guy at the end in black and red was the Drill Instructor guy.

Here's the "turtle" inching across the field, under a snowball barrage.

We ended the afternoon by forming ranks up on the road and jogging to the meeting hall, like you see in the movies, where the DI jogs along side chanting something, then everyone repeats it, lol. Then when we got to the meeting hall, the chanting continued for like 10 more minutes. "Brotherhood!" echo "Unity!" echo "Sacrifice!" echo, you get the idea. Yeah, I rolled my eyes too.

The main speaker was a guy named John Burns, who talked (of course) about being a man, and dealing with man-related issues (anger, porn, relationship stuff, figuring women out, etc), and was quite entertaining.

You'd think I would have slept like a log that night, but I was very uncomfortable all night, and slept very little. When I did finally sleep, I had a dream that my senior Pastor died. In the dream, me and our other pastor (Stan) were helping our senior pastor climb up a set of stairs, and once he got to the top, he shrank and fell over. We helped lay him down, and he was dead. Then a voice said, "Well, now what will you do? Now that there's a vacancy." Then I woke up. Not sure if the voice was asking me, or Stan, actually.

The next day, it began to snow, so I thought, "Awesome! No more outdoor nonsense - they'll keep us inside and someone will preach or something." No such luck. Back outside, into the snow we went. I told myself there was no way I was participating again - I was going to duck out and go to my cabin and relax and read The Name of the Wind all afternoon. The rest of the yahoos could go romp in the snow, but not me. But no such luck. We were formed into groups of 3 men - so my absence would have been noticed. I didn't want anyone to get in trouble because of me.

So out to the snow we went, to do more team-building exercises. We dragged tires up a hill, 2 people pulling, one person scouting ahead for the best route up...

The symbolism was supposed to be carrying our responsibilities in life, which is hard, but made easier by sharing the load with others, and seeking advice/guidance from those who have gone before, etc. OK, fine, I got it. But I participated anyway, in my slick-bottomed shoes, lol, falling frequently.

We played rugby in the snow, with the ball representing our dreams, which we pass to team-mates, so we help each other achieve our goals, etc. OK, fine, I got it. And I participated.

We made giants out of snow, to represent Goliath, and then we took turns grabbing a big machete, calling out the name of our "giant" (Anger! Apathy! Doubt!) and then "cutting the head off" of that giant with the machette. There were other activities as well...

Then we ended with the DI giving the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V, while we stood in the snowfall, shivering together...

There's a quick clip, to show you I'm not making this up.

Bottom line, it was equal parts ridiculous, and ultimately very cool. There's no way on earth I ever would have participated in such things if I'd known about it ahead of time. But every time I made myself participate, I was glad. Yes, the points they were making could easily have been conveyed in a sermon in a warm room somewhere, with hot cocoa. I understood the concepts, even though my MO has *always* been to do things myself, alone, as if a real man can handle his stuff alone, without help. The concept of looking out for one another, and helping each other, in a "brotherhood" kind of thing is foreign, but understandable to me. And though the concepts were clear to me, there was something about actually doing these things that took it to a different level.

There was more teaching that night from Jon Burns which was good, then we ate, got chains on Orion's vehicle, and headed for home, well after dark, with tons of snow falling. The guys I rode up with were all good guys, who have been through a LOT of hard road in their lives, including numerous stints in jail, etc., but they were geared up and ready to move forward doing right, and I hope they keep that momentum. As for me, I'm glad I went. It is absurd, I know, to picture me doing such things, but I'm really quite glad I did.

Lots of other detail, which I will spare you. If you've read this far, thanks. I know that must have been pretty tedious.

I'll be back to my silly, vacuous self next post. Just needed to unload all of this. Hope your weekend is a good one.