Saturday, January 29, 2011

Meats for the Belly and the Belly for Meats. Plus, Other Stuff.

OK, so it's Saturday at the moment - and a beautiful one at that! Not a speck of snow anywhere! You could say we're buried 8-feet deep in sunshine. If I were cruel, I'd rub it in. MUAHAHAHA!!! I'll have to let Mattson Tomlin rub it in... apparently, he's here in San Diego visiting, no doubt taking a long, well-deserved break from the epic effort to finish up Solomon Grundy. I dropped him a quick note, but no doubt he's got dozens of people clamouring for his attention, so doubtless he wants to be left alone.

I watched the movie Red the other night, and was impressed. It was a fun action movie that didn't take itself too seriously. My expectations weren't too high for it going in, and it easily exceeded them. Great cast (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, "that lady from Weeds", and others). If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend it.

It's about a bunch of older former CIA spies who have to (somewhat) reunite in order to find out why the CIA seems to be trying to have them all killed. That's the nutshell synopsis, and if it sounds formulaic and cliché, you're right. But it's done really well. It also has Brian Cox and Richard Dreyfuss in it, as well as a cameo by Ernest Borgnine. Admittedly, I kept waiting for Karl Urban to say, "I'd cut off your head, dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground." But he never did...

I like the French movie poster better...

At least, I think that's French...

So lately, I've been watching Season 3 of Man v Food on Netflix Watch Instantly. It's so cool to watch Netflix stuff streamed onto my iPad using the Netflix app. Of course, I only do it at home when I can use the built-in wireless (read: free!). I'd never dream of using my 3G allowance to stream movie content... ANYWAY, I watched an episode where Adam went to San Diego, and one of the featured stops was a local BBQ place called Phil's BBQ. They showed an amazing-looking tri-tip sandwich that I just had to find a way to try. They recently opened a new Phil's in San Marcos (About 15 minutes from my house), so I took the family there today to eat, and got the sandwich. And yes, it was every bit as amazing as I'd hoped it would be.

Wonderful, thinly-sliced tri-tip with a solid, peppery kick and the amazing BBQ sauce. You need to try this, if you are in SoCal. In fact, go get one to go, and rent Red and make a night of it. You'll thank me later.

I went this morning to that writer's meeting in Vista again, for the NaNoWriMo writers. There were only 4 of us there today, but that didn't stop me. In fact, I got more done this week than last. Though, admittedly, I've been working on a memoir-type "book" as a gift for a certain someone's upcoming 21st birthday (ahem... Eldest Daughter... ahem). It's a surprise, so if you know her, please don't tell her! I know she won't read about it here, since she doesn't read this blog (much like my wifey). For various reasons, I thought it would be a good idea for her, if I wrote her a loooong letter (a book, so to speak) that covers a bunch of my early history, how I met her mom, things going on in my life around the time she was born, why I made certain decisions that I did, etc., as well as all the cool stuff that I love about her, as a person. It can't be easy to grow up with parents that are at times extremely contentious.

Bottom line, it has obviously caused me to revisit a lot of the decisions I made just out of high school, and has been sort of an eye-opener for myself as well. I intend to have it be a constant work-in-progress, and hopefully send her an updated, expanded edition of it each year, for the time being. Who knows how long I'll be alive? I don't want to take with me to my grave certain things that really should have been said and shared. I might write similar tomes for all my kids, and maybe my wife and parents as well. Who knows.

This video, ladies and gentlemen, is ENTIRELY generated by computer. Nothing is filmed. It is the highest quality CGI I've ever seen.

If you liked that, there's a longer video called The Third & The Seventh that is also amazing, if you're so inclined.

I read another short story by Ted Chiang, in his collection that I've been reading. Once again, a creative, fascinating premise. The story is called Hell is the Absence of God, and here's the premise. It centers around the reality of angelic visits. Imagine if angels routinely appeared in our world, with proclamations from God, performing miracles, etc., such that they were news stories ("the Angel Nathaniel appeared in ____ today, and his message was ____. 8 people were healed, 3 killed, and damages were estimated at $8.1 million.") The visitations are not uncommon, but actually seeing one is a rare privilege, and usually, a support group normally forms comprised of those that witnessed the visitation, and those who were effected by it, either experiencing an associated miracle, or being harmed or losing a loved-one in the event.

One character has lost his beloved wife. When the angel appeared in town, she was eating in a cafe by the main window, which shattered, spraying her with broken glass, and she bled to death before help could arrive. Her soul was seen to ascend up into heaven. Others who were killed were seen descending into hell.

I found it really fascinating, and oddly, it seems to fit scripturally and logically... the idea that the same "visitation" or "move of God" could be a blessing to one, while being a tragedy for another. The main character's struggle is wanting to make sure he goes to Heaven when he dies, to be reunited with his wife, but being mad at God for taking her away from him. He'll need to love God in order to assure he'll go to Heaven, but he doesn't want to love God, since he's mad at Him.

That doesn't spoil anything, really. It just sets the stage for the story. There are two other characters with intriguing plot lines, and they all ultimately intertwine in a really satisfying way. Again, highly recommended reading.

As per usual, I have a butt-load of work-related projects I am avoiding at this moment, so I can write this post. I feel I've procrastinated long enough. Going to bail for now.

By the way, I'm tinkering with some ideas for more Wagnervana web comics. Maybe I'll have another up soon.



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Short Stuff, Not High Enough and Lord of the Potty Dance.

Dear Lord, are there really two new Matrix movies on the way? Please, say it ain't so! And did my eyes deceive me, or did Toy Story 3 actually score a Best Picture nomination today? The world, as I know it, has officially ceased to make sense.

Sounds like a good time to pick up Jeff VanderMeer's book, The Third Bear. According to Logan's review, the short stories in VanderMeer's book are terrific, and so bizarre as to defy description. Sounds just up my alley (if you'll pardon how painful that sounds).

On the topic of "short" things, future filmmaker and screenwriter Kris has an extensive post highlighting some short films. As usual, a great collection of movie trailers anchors the post. Well worth your time, if that sort of thing intrigues you.

And I read another lengthy short story (oxymoron!) of Ted Chaing's in his Stories of Your Life collection. It's called "Seventy-Two Letters", and honestly, I had to constantly look up while reading it, since a lot of it sailed overhead. The premise is fascinating, as is his custom. Let me lay it on you, to see what you think: it takes the idea of God creating/animating things via the spoken Word, and lays out a very detailed scientific explanation for it. There are scientists who specialize in finding out the very specific "names" that can animate different objects and creatures (the names are each 72 Hebrew characters, arranged very precisely in 12 rows of six). Then these scientists are faced with a potential "end of the world" scenario which requires them to... well... I don't really know how to continue this explanation. The scientific explanations of how objects and creatures can be animated and altered based on "names" was so esoteric, it almost was too much. But the conundrum they are faced with, and how they come about their proposed course of action, was easy enough to follow.

Hard to explain in summary. I cannot imagine how hard it was to actually write. It boggles the mind how on earth Chiang even generates the concepts, much less develop them so thoroughly and convincingly. In a league of his own, this chap is.

I read an article today about a woman that tried to commit suicide by jumping from the 23rd story of a building in Buenos Aires on Monday. She ordered coffee at a restaurant, waltzed outside onto the patio, took her shoes off, climbed the rail and jumped. And survived. She landed on a taxicab, in the "seated" position. She would have landed in the drivers seat if the roof had been missing, and would have driven away or something. The driver just barely fled the vehicle before she hit, or he would have died. He saw a cop looking up, mouth agape, and followed his glance up to see the falling woman, and hopped out of the vehicle just in time.

Can you imagine jumping from 23 floors and surviving? That's gonna suck when she wakes up. You'd think 23 floors would do the trick, eh? Wonder what God will do with her now? Maybe she'll be someone that travels around telling people about the miracle of her survival and how God changed her life, etc.

How harshly will I segue out of that story, you ask?

And now, Lord of the (Potty) Dance...

Kind of a "one-joke" video, but still, made me laugh. Laughing is good. Laugh it up, I say! Enjoy it while you can! The time for weeping will come soon enough, no doubt...

If you're looking for more words to feed your brain, go see Paula's blog and Rebecca's blog. And leave a comment on each! That is your homework, class. I have links to both blogs in the links bar on the right side of the screen, in case you need them in the future... ah, good writing is like good food!

But this blog is more of a snack. Just filling enough to tide you over to your next meal...

Adios, y'all.

Dave the Gump

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sick Tummy Day, Marathon Madness and Writing In Public.

Today was Sick Tummy Day for me. Must have been somethin' I et. Stayed home from church - I trust Jesus will understand. Had a persistent "mild to moderate" nausea all day. Hope it dissipates by tomorrow. Got a full day on the rug truck planned.

Slept a ton. Midnight Saturday to Noon Sunday, then again from 3pm to 6pm. That's a lot of sleep; wish I could remember what I dreamed about...

Wifey ran a marathon today. It's odd... she had an exceptionally hard go of it, but was beaming when she came home. Said by mile 14 she was on the ground, legs cramping, in extreme pain. She stopped at every "aid station" from that point forward, trying to get her legs to work right. She ended up walking until mile 22, where she decided she'd run the rest, and she did. Not sure what the point of it all was, but it meant something to her to finish. She said she'd never felt pain like that before - and she's given birth several times!

Well, good on her, I suppose. Not sure I'll ever "get it."

This video is amazing...

So on Saturday, I went to a writer's group meeting in Vista (about 1/2 hour from my house). It's for a group of NiNoWriMo writers, who have decided to forget the "November only" meeting schedule, and meet year-round instead. Since I'd signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2010, I am on the email list. I keep getting the notices about "this Saturday's meeting", and decided I should try it out. Maybe it would be inspirational and I could get some writing done...

There were about a dozen writers there, including me and three other first-time attenders (which was a cause of amazement for the regulars), and we all either sat alone at tables (in a corner of Panera) working on our stuff, or chatting in groups. I'd say half the people were actually working, and the rest were rather-inanely chatting. Seems like a good bunch, though. I got about 90 minutes of good, uninterrupted writing done, which was a good feeling. I think I'll go back again next Saturday.

Cultural Faux Pas #314

Between noon and three today, when I took family out for lunch at the mall (I had about a quarter-bowl of chili and water... sick tummy, remember...), they went off to wander, while I decided to grab a coffee and sit on a bench with my iPad. Stopped in GameStop to peruse their rapidly-dwindling section for PC games, and had an interesting conversation with the salesman there. I asked him how long he felt the PC Games section of the store would exist, what with the increasing popularity of digital retail and delivery. I confessed to him that I used to buy at least one game a month from his store, but now I get my stuff all online. He said there's still enough activity to warrant keeping the section, so I guess that's good. He cited the WoW games, which you can't get on Steam, as driving forces behind keeping the section alive.

Well, I thought it was interesting, in any case. Sorry, Paula...

Also chatted with a salesman at the Verizon booth about the iPhone. He said he prefers the Android, as do many folks who in the past year have switched from the iPhones to an Android. Ah, more decisions. The "upgrade" I've been holding onto won't affect the iPhone price at all, whereas I will get a substantial discount on an Android.

Wow, that was boring. Better liven things back up with some White Ninja...

Hmm... that one was kind of a "miss"...

I blame Sick Tummy Day...



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life Is A Stage, Stories of Your Life and I'm Reading A Book, Man!

Another week draws to an end. 'Tis odd, how inexorably time pushes on, eh?

I was leaving Target the other night, heading into the parking lot toward my car, when I had one of those disorienting, Twilight Zone moments... I've had them before - the same thoughts, too - to the same effect, but it never ceases to catch me off-guard and bring me up short.

Every now and then, I get this feeling -- as cliché as it sounds -- that life is merely one large stage, and that I'm surrounded by actors, and being watched by a huge, invisible audience. Sort of like that Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show. Sounds thoroughly Narcissistic, doesn't it... but, really, the feeling I'm saturated with is that of a bizarre mix of "relief" and "adventure". Think of it - if life really is like a big play, then we can each improvise and cater our actions accordingly! Play it up for the crowd! Do right, when no one is watching... since really, a jillion people really are watching! Absorb each challenge as though it's a scene in a play - a scene in which you, the lead actor, can have a certain direct impact on the way it plays out, and the resolution.

As Christians, we seem to be big on saying that "God has a plan for us", and that He crafts our days so that we face certain challenges, and go through things for our benefit, so we can learn and grow. So why not embrace that concept, and go into each conversation and situation thinking, "OK, Lord, what is going on here? What are you doing?"

I tend to close myself in, so to speak, and cruise through my day on auto-pilot, not wanting to rock the boat in any way, content to soak in my comfortable routine. It's safe, in that it's what I'm comfortable with. And it's safe, in that I can avoid the potential big mistakes that are inherent in doing things out-of-the-ordinary... while also apparently being willing to forgo any potential joys and rewards that are also inherent in risking like that.

All that to say, every now and then, I'm jarred from my introspective routine and mindset by this wild and ultimately-appealing idea that life really is a big play, and that there really is no reason to keep playing it safe, comfortably ensconced in my own little world... all Heaven is watching us! And we will be rewarded for our actions (we reap what we sow)... and that those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, while those who sow abundantly will reap abundantly...

Does any of that make sense? In my head it does...

Now THAT is a dream bathroom! Look at that magazine rack! Holy mackerel! 

So I've been reading a book. I wanted to finish it first and spring a surprise book review on y'all, but I can't wait that long. It is a collection of short stories by a jaw-droppingly good author named Ted Chiang, and the collection is called "Stories of Your Life: And Others". Now, I realize I have gushed shamelessly over certain authors and books in the past, and that sometimes a few of you will read the objects of my praise and have different takes on them, which is fine. Tastes in writing vary from person to person, and that's understandable, people being different and all. That having been said, I shall now load up my Shameless Praise Shotgun again, and fire off a blast in Mr. Chiang's honor.

I first heard of this book over on A Dribble of Ink, where Aidan included Stories of Your Life among the very best books he read in 2010. Further investigation revealed universal praise for the author and his works - including numerous Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards (no small feat!). So I bought the digital version of it on Kindle and dove in.

The first story had such a ridiculously cool premise, I gobbled it up in one sitting: imagine that the Tower of Babel had actually been finished, and mankind had reached into Heaven. Trust me - I don't know if that premise sounds cool to you or not, but it is a fantastic read. The stories that followed were, quite simply, stunning examples of the smartest writing I have yet to encounter. Division By Zero features a brilliant female mathematician as she faces the stunning (and demoralizing) realizations that accompany her discovery of a mathematic formula that proves irrefutably that all math is meaningless. Lol, it is so good. But as good as it is, it pales beneath the sheer brilliance of Understand, which features a man who was trapped under a frozen lake, revived with severe brain damage, given an experimental treatment to repair his damaged brain, and has to handle the unexpected side effect of a MASSIVE intelligence gain. I mean, Chiang made me contemplate things I've never even had an inkling of before, developed them so far and so fast, I could barely keep up, and wrapped it inside a thrilling tale that is in parts a spy thriller, a superhero-esque confrontation and a study in the perils of not just over-reaching the limits of one's intelligence, but blowing by the limits like a bullet. Please believe me when I say, Understand is one the most intriguing, satisfying and brilliant pieces of writing I've ever injected into my brain via my eyeballs...

The latest story from the book that I read was Story of Your Life, which is an equally fascinating take on a female linguist who is charged with trying to learn to communicate with a group of aliens that show up one day in orbit around Earth. It's hard to believe by the sound of it, but her journey to document - and ultimately become proficient in - both the spoken and written forms of the alien language, and the profound impact it has on her outlook on life, the world, and her future, is both amazingly fascinating and thought-provoking, as well as entertaining.

I had never heard of Ted Chiang before catching wind of him on A Dribble of Ink. He mostly writes speculative science fiction, which is likely the reason. But I am so glad I heard of him, and that I have his stories to look forward to as I head off to sleep each night. The Kindle edition is only 8 bucks. Get it, read it, enjoy it.

WARNING: The following song will get stuck in your head!

Sooo funny. Dang, I love that video. Julian Smith is officially on my short list of People I'd Like To Meet Someday So I Can Shake His/Her Hand.

Hey, I have an idea! Let's all have a great Friday! Whadaya say! Is it a deal?

One last Funny Picture...

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

Adios y'all. Back soon with more...


Monday, January 17, 2011

Pro Crastinator, Comparing Groups and Game of Thrones.

Monday, my friend! How are you!? Hmm... well, grumpy, I see... cheer up, my friend... tomorrow, you will be Tuesday!

When the weekend comes, I don't want to work.

My problem (among many others) is, I am never at a loss for work-related things to do. And as the weekends approach, I psyche myself up to get a lot done with the time I have. Two full days! Think of all the stuff I could accomplish! But then Friday night, I'm like, "Hey, it's Friday. I've worked all week. I'm gonna take some time and unwind." So I play a game, or surf around some of the fun/funny sites I like to browse, and I look up, and it's after midnight! Well, at least I've got Saturday.

Saturday morning, same thing. "It's a beautiful day! I think I'll fart around a while, get in the zone. Prepare myself to work on some stuff in the early afternoon." I look up, it's after midnight! Where'd the day go? Well, at least there's Sunday...

I put the "pro" in "procrastinate". So much to do... so much that didn't get done...

OK, I'm going to make an odd observation here... don't be offended, please... I'm going to draw a parallel between "being a Christian" and "being gay"...

Wait, hear me out, here...

OK, while I'm certainly not saying they're two sides of the same coin, I do see some weird similarities between these two subcultures (for lack of a better word), which is curious to me, since there seems to be little-to-no overlap between them.

  • Both groups have a very small subset that are the most vocal, while the vast majority are low-key about their "beliefs". It's pretty safe to say that it's the relatively-few outspoken ones in both groups that tend to cause the stereotypes about each group to exist, and set the tone for the way the rest of the world perceives the group as a whole. Whether it's the flamboyantly gay parade marchers with the in-your-face costumes and attitude, or the Bible-waving, street-preaching, sign-holding pseudo-evangelists railing against "sin", the very fact that they're most visible leads (I believe) those outside of their group to think "they're all like that". All gays must be over-the-top hedonists, all Christians must be over-the-top self-righteous or "hateful" (like those Westboro freaks) or at least backward stooges.
  • Somewhat related, both of the groups complain about being persecuted. Oddly, it seems that its the small vocal subsets that complain the loudest - and the small vocal subsets that seem to be the cause of the persecution they complain about! Don't believe Christians complain about being persecuted? Listen to how we whine on the radio stations about the way Christians are portrayed in mainstream media and Hollywood...
  • Both groups claim they were "born that way." Though with the Christians, we call it "being pre-destined". Actually, we Christians have another wrinkle, too... we were born sinners, too... and then we were chosen for salvation by God before we were born. It seems to me, in both cases (and in both groups), it's used as a way to avoid taking responsibility for our decisions. If we choose to be a Christian (or to be gay), then deal with the repercussions! Take the good with the bad! Yes, I realize there are verses that seem to support the idea of being chosen before we were born. But there are also numerous verses that talk about each of us being rewarded in exact accordance with our actions.

I'm certainly not trying to justify or promote being gay, don't get me wrong. People can choose to live that way if they want, I don't care. Just "man up" and take the hit when you get grief for it. It's a "head vs heart" thing. No one can convince me, no matter how logically sound their argument, that it's "normal" to be gay, because my gut tells me otherwise. With my head, I hear the arguments, and many of them sound legit. But in my gut, I know the simple biological fact of "it takes a man and a woman to make a kid" overrides any argument that being gay is the same as being straight. It's not the same, and it's not "just as normal"; it's abnormal. Quit trying to make me put them both on equal footing!

By sheer proof of numbers alone, being gay isn't "normal." Even by the gay communities' best guess, they're only 10% of the world's population (which I think is still far too high a guess). So by definition, the 90% group is "normal", and the 10% is not.

Now, if you want to think of "normal" and "abnormal" in terms of positive and negative connotations, that's your call. To me, in this case, they're neutral terms. And I'm not saying that the "normal" group is justified in vilifying and mistreating the abnormal group, based on numbers. Numbers should mean exactly squat. Either be a Christian or don't be, whether anyone else is or not. And take the benefits with the drawbacks. And when people mock you for believing in an Invisible Man up in the sky, take the hit and don't squawk. Own your choice; let God sort the rest out, I say. And if you choose to be gay, quit whining about the flack you get... and don't tell me you were "born that way"... that's ridiculous. Own your choice, take the good with the bad.

But I think those three main points are where similarities cease. For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone would want to go to such great lengths to define themselves by their sexual preference. Seems such a shallow, vapid way to define oneself. Then again, perhaps not all gay people define themselves that way, and I'm a victim of my own observation, in reference to forming my opinion of the whole based on the retarded behavior of the vocal minority... who knows...

All that to say, I think these traits (the vocal minority, the complaining about being persecuted, and claiming you were "born that way") are more traits of human nature itself, rather than a byproduct of one of the two belief systems I've commented on. I'm sure in just about any group, there's the loud front lines types, the whiners and the justifiers/excuse-makers...

Would have saved about 6 hours of movie if it had played out like that! Go Gimli!

So it looks like Game of Thrones will begin airing on April 17th, on HBO. As much as I'd love to see it, I can't justify subscribing to HBO to watch it, since I don't want the rest of the filth on that channel in my house. Now that I mention it, I'm sure Game of Thrones will have a boat-load of filth in it as well, if the books are any indication. When I first heard of a proposed deal to bring Game of Thrones to HBO, I remember thinking it made perfect sense. HBO has the budget to bring the series to life in a grand way, and GRRM's series has the sex, violence and language to fit in with HBO's normal line-up. So, I'll likely wait for the DVDs to come out, so I can do a little strategic fast forwarding...

Still, you can't help but be stoked watching some of the trailers. Here's the latest, and it's a gem...

Here it is, ten o'clock Monday night, and I have projects I'm avoiding. Better steel myself and get back to it, otherwise I'll look up and it'll be after midnight!

Hope my "observations" about didn't offend anyone. Just rambling, really... and for all I know, I could be full of soap. I mean, in a sly, quiet way, I do sort of admire the vocal minority in the Christian community... the evangelists who go out there to "save a lost world"... I usually just play video games...

Adios y'all.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Movie Review, Low-Carb Diets and Fate & 15th

Friday night, wootie woot!

Went to the theater tonight, eh. Saw a movie, eh. Which movie did I watch, eh? Well, here's a mini-review!


The King's Speech: A Mini-Review, Eh

Starring some of my favorite actors, The King's Speech did not disappoint. In fact, it's one of the two best movies I've seen in the past year! Of course, it's also one of the two worst movies I've seen all year... since I've only seen two movies, this one and Inception.

Colin Firth is the Duke of York, second-oldest son to King George V of England, just prior to WW2. Guy Pearce is his oldest brother David, next in line to the throne. When the King dies, and David is crowned King -- and then quickly abdicates the throne amidst a scandal -- Colin is called upon to assume the throne, at the very onset of World War 2. The trouble is, he has a rather strong speech impediment -- which is a problem for a person who must be called upon to speak with strength, not just to his country, but to his troops, and to the whole of the British empire, as war begins.

Enter Geoffrey Rush, Aussie speech therapist.

This film is riddled with Oscar-Nomination-Worthy performances. Firth and Rush, as well as the always-amazing Helene Bonham Carter, deliver the goods here, and the vast array of secondary actors and bit players bring their A game as well. The story is solid -- not sure how many liberties were taken with historical accuracy -- I'll leave that to the historians among us.

The acting and story make the film. The weaknesses reveal themselves in the form of a lackluster score, and occasional odd shot framing. Example: picture Geoffrey Rush sitting at a desk, writing. He is facing to your right. He is all the way on the right of the screen, his nose practically touching the edge of the screen. Behind him is a vast expanse of wallpaper, and nothing else. If he were facing left, looking out into that open space, it would have been less awkward. Again, same scene, cut to his wife, seated in a chair by the fireplace. Again, facing left, all the way on the far left side of the screen, nose practically touching the left edge of the screen... with a vast expanse of wallpaper stretching out behind her, nothing to balance it. Cut back and forth as they have a bit of a conversation.

On paper, perhaps you say, "Hmm, big deal, Dave." In execution, you might pipe a tune more in line with mine. It was, I suppose, a stab at being "artsy"... it didn't work. Thankfully, there weren't too many oddly-framed shots/scenes like that. There were a number of them, but not enough to sink (or even shake) the ship.

Summary: Great performances, great story, good (often great) dialog, solid direction, a successful "period" feel, a good attempt at revealing some of the complexity behind the King and why he stammered, some sporadic odd framing, and a bit of a forced feel-good ending. Overall, 4 stars out of 5.


OK, that's out of the way...

Since we're on the subject of British history, here's a cool video you might also enjoy... a colorful, amusing and interesting Beefeater gives a tour of the Tower of London, along with a bunch of fascinating historical tidbits.

Even if you don't like history, you should give it a go, since it's fun and funny as well. It's actually part two in a four-video series. You should watch all four parts! Part One, Part Three and Part Four.

I mentioned briefly in a previous post that the wife and I are trying out a "slow-carb" diet. It's actually easy. I've been on it (with minimal cheating, lol) since Monday, and I've dropped 4 pounds so far. That's with no exercise, and a few changes to my diet, that have not been hard. No breads (or rice, tortillas, pasta, etc), no fruit or fruit juices (cuz the fructose actually induces weight gain!), and little-to-no dairy or sugar. HOWEVER: I can eat as much meat, veggies, beans, and lentils as I want, including eggs.

Here's the novelty: breakfast should be eaten within 30 to 60 minutes of waking up. AND the fun part - you hold the diet for six days a week, then on the seventh, you can (and should!) binge, eating as much of whatever you want, no exceptions. Junk food, breads, pastas, sweets, all of it is a go. Why, you may ask? Well, apparently, it lets your body know that you aren't lacking in calories, so it won't downshift into calorie-hoarding mode. The lo-carb diet during the week gets the pounds to start dropping off, and the binging actually helps that continue full-throttle.

Sounds odd, but it's in a book, so it must be true!

Actually, the author is one of those somewhat obsessive documenters and testers, and has tested all kinds of combinations of diets, supplements, and things on himself, to see how it all affects his body and blood levels. He's loaded, so he can afford not only to travel the world testing different approaches, but he even has a lot of the machinery to test himself, and document everything. He's got chapters on everything from diet to exercise to weight/muscle gain, to better sleep, and lots of other body hacks. It's a fascinating read.

End of commercial. If you check it out as well, let me know what you think. One thing I've found is even after just one week, I'm getting much better sleep, and just feel better. Probably getting all those sugars out of my system... well, most of them, anyway. Like I said, I do cheat a little now and then.

So, yeah, I'm getting in better shape. Now my wife will love me again...

Well, I'm going to go avoid my To-Do List by playing a little Left 4 Dead 2. Nothing makes a man feel as good as saving the world from the Zombie Apocalypse!

By the way, Logan has a very cool little "micro fiction" series called Fate & 15th, going on over at his blog. Check it out, but only if you enjoy bite-sized chunks of solid, creative writing.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Odd Day, Reality TV, and Filling the Empty Hole...

A new day, a new post. What dost thou know?

(A little King James for ya there... actually, would it be more appropriate KJV to say "What knowest thou?")

What an odd last 24 hours...

It began Monday night, when I was practicing cooking, using some things I bought for the new "lo carb" diet that wifey and I are trying. I whipped up some eggs, chopped steak and spinach in a frying pan and gobbled it down. In the middle of the night, the spinach revolted on me, and I spent from about 5 to 6 am watching it make its reappearance. Yuck. I hate vomiting.

So I went to work late, as a zombie, desperately needing sleep. But the show must go on, so out on the road Yanni and I went, to spend the day on the van picking up and delivering rugs. And that's when the weirdness really started. All of our encounters were strange today, for one reason or another.

The first lady kept asking her dogs in a high-pitched squeak if they wanted cookies. "Who wants some cookies? You want some cookies?" That was odd, but manageable. The next lady had a very large (13'x17' or so) Kerman rug with a lot of wear through the field. She wants all the wear rewoven. Ain't gonna happen. She loves her rug! Sometimes, people that love their rugs think anything is possible. "I'd rather pay 5 or 6 thousand dollars to get it re-woven than have to pay another 250 grand to replace it!" She'll find out soon that we're not set up to tackle such a huge project. But, hey, we brought it in for wash anyway. So that was odd. The third lady had a wicked cool British accent. So, I guess, other than being out of the ordinary, it wasn't "odd" per se...

The fourth lady didn't like the job we did in cleaning her rug. She had an old blueberry stain that she had treated with not one, but several "no-no" products, which had basically locked the stain in, making it impossible to remove. I told her as much when I picked it up a week or two ago, but she wanted to try it anyway. When it came back with the stain still there, she was not pleased. She proceeded to school me on the basics of stain removal, and things I should have tried on her rug. Things that, had I tried them, would have ruined her rug. I tried to explain that to her, but she was having no part of it. It's hard to have to stand by and be condescended to like that, but I smiled and was pleasant, and told her she didn't have to pay a dime, since our work is all guaranteed. I politely explained the situation to her again - she was listening now, once she realized I wasn't going to make her pay. Before, she thought I was making excuses. Now that she knew she wouldn't have to pay, she understood. By the time I left, she'd offered to pay half, which is cool. But very odd.

The fifth lady was moving into a massive retirement community. We arrived the same time as the furniture movers. The family was nice (even gave us a tip) but the movers from the other company were jerks. Not often we run into unprofessional jerks from other service companies, so that was odd. And the sixth (and final) lady had a big poodle that was a chronic crotch sniffer. I had to keep politely pushing it away, while the lady kept scolding her dog, "Oh, quit being so nosy, Clementine!" Creepy dog.

So, yeah, all things considered, it was an odd day.

Wow, that was a long ramble. Wonder if anyone actually read any of it?

I have a confession to make. There's a reality TV show that I not only watch, but am consistently inspired by. And it's odd, because it's not like I'm overweight - a little pudgy, sure. I could stand to lose ten pounds and get into better physical shape. But I'm nowhere near grossly overweight. So why I find Biggest Loser so fascinating, I don't really know. Yet it never fails to hold me captive, and inspire me, even though I realize they edit and shoot the show in such a way that purposely manipulates the viewer's heart-strings. I guess I just get something out of watching people that have come to a turning--point in their lives, acknowledging past mistakes, and then working their butts off to turn things around. Seeing some of the transformations that people have affected in their lives is really stunning.

If you haven't dropped by Kris' blog lately, go on over. He has a couple great recent posts - one is a movie trailer round-up, with his thoughts on upcoming films, and the one prior is a great post (and healthy comments-discussion) on the Star Wars trilogies, and their upcoming release as a set on Blu-Ray. Go check it out, and join the discussion, eh! I added his link back to my Link List on the right side over there, but here's the direct link, if you're too lazy to scroll up.

And Paula is posting on her blog again! Yay! Now if we could just get Havah to start hers as well...

Now that Verizon has announced that they'll start carrying the iPhone in mid-February, I have a decision to make. I've been holding onto my upgrade, waiting to see if the iPhone rumor was going to prove true... now I need to decided if I should get one or not! Or even a Droid or one of those cool new Windows phones. I have an old Razor that has serviced me just fine - I don't really need bells and whistles. I have to try and find out if I'm just trying to fill that hole in me again - the one I contemplated shoving a new car into last post... my old car is fine, why would I need a new one? My old phone is fine, why would I need a new one?

Still struggling to dig my way out from under my To-Do List, which has evolved into a fanged monster. Wish me luck.

I'm out. Hope your week is a good one.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rapid Fire, Star Wars and Eminem

I think that road sign means "bottle of wine ahead"...

Yes, I know, I should be working right now. But I'm SOOO not feeling it. So I thought I'd blog it up instead, while I psyche myself up to be productive...

Kind of a gloomy day today.

See? You check in, and get a free weather report!

And now, for sports...

Not sure how "dribbling two balls at once" will benefit the kid on court, but it certainly looks like he's got the skillz.

Rapid Fire:

  • Got two new newsletter clients. 
  • Redesigning the rug shop website again. 
  • Wife has shingles. 
  • I've discovered I like Guinness. 
  • Apple sells apps for Mac computers now. 
  • 3D movies suck. 
  • Windshield still cracked after almost 2 years. 
  • St. Bryan's Day is the 15th. 
  • Trying Tim Ferriss' "Slo-Carb" diet. 
  • Knight and Day was actually a very good movie, I thought.

And now, some Star Wars funnies, for the geeks among us.

Recently signed with indy label Carbonite...

glug glug...

Aww, ain't he cute?

I think I've distilled my "feelings" about Eminem's music down to the bottom line. I *really* like several of his songs. Not all, of course, but several of them really click with me. I think this is why.

- His lyrics are clever and smooth, and he performs them crammed with emotion.

I think the emotion thing is what gets me most. I've been programmed to either ignore, suppress or otherwise fail to acknowledge emotions for my whole life. I've always wanted to just rage, you know? But in a smart way, not just thrash out. But be able to channel all my pent-up angst into an emotional blast that also is intelligently elucidated. Be able say what I need to say, effectively, and with the full force of both emotional barrels. Some of Eminem's songs bristle with that energy - and in those few cases, I don't mind the profanity, it fits.

Now, I'm not technically a fanboy - I don't advocate you run out and get any of his CD's. A lot of it is absolutely not worth listening to. But certain songs where he talks about the loss of his best friend, his difficult upbringing, his difficulty dealing with life in the spotlight, the hard marriage he was in, and /or the intense love he has for his daughter are very, very potent to me, and I get a type of emotionally cathartic release by listening to them - ideally with the volume cranked way up.

I guess in a way, I envy and appreciate his ability to channel emotion in such a smart, eloquent way.

Sorry about the music.

So, I've been wanting to buy a new car all year, sort of as a gift to myself for turning 40 and having my 20th anniv., but I can't justify the new debt, especially in light of the fact that I own my current car outright, and there's nothing wrong with it (beyond the cracked windshield). I've been daydreaming again about a BMW 3 series - which I've always wanted. But even good used ones are 20K, and I'm not doing that at least until my credit card debt is gone.

But I came up with a good idea in the interim. I think every month, I'm going to squirrel away 50 bucks or so into a savings account. Then maybe twice a year, I'll rent a really nice car for a weekend. All those high-end cars I've always day-dreamed about - they can be rented. So maybe that will satisfy the itch to drive a really nice car, without having to actually pull the trigger on buying one. And I can rent a different make/model each time. Drive it, give it back. Then if I'm ever in a position where I could afford one, I will have driven enough of them to know which one I would want.

Space bar...

I think I'm done for now. Time to get work done. Or play Defense Grid. One or the other. Or both.


Dave the Gump

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mt. Doom, Stop Motion Love and Religious Absurdity

That's either Mordor, or that Icelandic volcano from last year... you decide...

Yep, I'm posting again. I saw the coolest video just now, and didn't want to wait to post it - I know how flighty I am. I just know I would have forgotten about it if I went to sleep before posting...

Now THAT is the coolest thing I've seen all year. Yeah, we're only a week in, but still, very cool. I'd like to shake the hand of the crew that put the time into making that stop-motion masterpiece...

Made a slight modification to the blog header. I'm sure I'll swap it out for something a little lighter (both visually and tonally) soon, but for now, angsty is in. Besides, no one voted on the other options I posted!

I've been chewing a lot lately on just exactly why I like a certain subset of Eminem songs a lot, while the majority of the others I've heard of his I will never want to listen to again, ever. Eminem is a fascination to me. My thoughts are almost done cooking on it; I'll post some of them soon, if I can get them into coherent form. Trust me, it will dovetail with several topics that might be of interest to you, even if you care not a whit for Eminem or his music. Stay tuned!

Religion + MMO mash-up comic, from Penny Arcade. 

You'll either "get it" and it will be hilarious, or it would take waaay too long to explain, and you still won't think it's funny. Ah, well, life is hit-n-miss, ain't it?

Lemme try this one, from White Ninja...

Religion + Over-the-top absurdism...

Thought I'd stick with the religious theme. Big fan of absurd humor. Keeps me sane.

Guess I should give a shout out to my cyber-pal Josh's newest website - a theology-heavy site called Post Calvinism. Definitely food for thought, if you like your Christian theology heavily seasoned with "in your face" common sense, freshness of thought, and fearless postulation. Besides, I designed the "Terminator Calvin" banner for him. Take a peek, if you dare... MUAHAHAHA!!!

I'm going to check Facebook to see if I have any Scrabble plays waiting my attention, and then head off to bed. Adios.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Looks, New Books, and Crazy Russians...

Greetings again. Thought I'd post again. You know, just to keep you guessing...

Also thought I'd tweak the look of my blog a bit. You'll notice a nice, dark grey theme instead of the usual white one. And of course, the new header. I made a couple new headers to try out, but went with the moody one for now. Here are the others, in case you want to vote!

Mostly landscapey-type shots... but as pretty as they are, they're kind of bland. I'm looking for something a bit more edgy and angsty. I'll keep experimenting - not completely sold on the black, moody one I chose - though I do like the big ghosted letters in the blog title. Yes, I realize you can barely see the letters... that's the point! Sheesh!

It does fit my mood today, at least. Was thinking about death again. Hang on, bear with me here. Every now and then I get flooded with a realization that everything and everyone dies, great and small, famous and anonymous. How many billions of people have been born, lived, died, that we know nothing of? I really do think that death is just no big deal, in the grand scheme. Nothing to fear, in other words. It happens to everyone - how scary can it be? It doesn't take any special skill or ability. I can't picture God being that particularly bothered by it. By now, He's seen deaths by the jillions. Caused a lot Himself, if the Old Testament is to be trusted.

I was thinking about many of the Old Testament heroes, and what their trials would be like if they were alive today. You know they'd be arrested and put on trial. How many Bible Greats would be considered mass- or serial-murderers? King David would be tried for war crimes, and compared to the most bloody, brutal rulers in history... I mean, that guy personally killed A LOT of people. Elijah called down fire from heaven, which consumed 100 soldiers and 2 captains... plus single-handedly slew the prophets of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel. Moses killed. Gideon killed. Elisha cursed those kids that mocked him, and the two bears came out and gobbled them up. Joshua. Judges. Samson, of course. Samuel hacked the King of the Amalekites to pieces with a sword. David's Mighty Men ran wild. Seems a lot of death was perfectly fine with God. That's why I tend to think that it just isn't a big deal to Him. People die by the thousands every die across the world. I wonder if it moves Him at all anymore?

Yeah, I know, I've likely talked on this before in this blog. But, hey, it's on my mind of late, what with the odd chest pains I've been having.

OK, I'll shift gears.

Question: What should a sane man do when he has a shelf-full of books waiting to be read? Answer: Buy more books, of course!


I stopped by Barnes & Noble today after work, to unwind by drinking a frap and wandering the wonderful aisles of books, and I saw the new KJ Parker book, The Hammer, which was released today, actually. I had a B&N gift card burning a hole in my wallet, so I snatched it up. I also looked for Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton and Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, but they didn't have either in stock. Guess I'll buy the Kindle versions...

One could possibly wonder why I'd buy the Parker book, when I haven't even finished the first book of his/her Engineer trilogy yet. What can I say? I am nothing, if not a man skating on the edge of sanity!

And now:

Something that Absolutely No One but Me Will Find Interesting: A year or two ago, the makers of one of my favorite games ever, Battlefield 2, created a new Battlefield game that was free to play online, called Battlefield Heroes, which, honestly, appealed to me NOT AT ALL, for many reasons. It was cartoony (like Team Fortress 2, another game I don't like), and it was third person. I'm an FPS guy, sorry. Anyway, the game fizzled. The good news (and the part that's interesting to me) is that they regrouped and decided to tweak the original Battlefield 2 game, which I dearly love, and are going to make that game free to play! Woot!

[By the way, when I say "free to play", I mean, you don't have to buy the game or pay to play it... you know, a free game. As in, you don't, like, pay anything. It's... uh... free!]

The reason I bring it up is that I will be contacting each of you, personally, to find out what role you'd like to play in the new BF2 clan I'm making for us. Think of it! We can squad up every night, and hit the servers, and own some noobs! Of course, I'll be Anti-tank, and lead the squad that focuses on defending control points. The rest of you will form up into 4-man squads for coordinated assaults. We'll go over the specific, targeted strategies for each of the maps, have exhaustive practice sessions several nights a week, and communicate in coded messages, based on a variation of the Nazi's "Enigma" machine from WW2, in case other clans try to hack into our practice and listen in.

Think of it! O, what fun we will have!

Speaking of crazy Russian motorcyclists with a deathwish, watch this....

Yeah, that just about made me simultaneously lose my lunch and soil myself.

I'm done with this post. Who knows what 2011 will bring? Let's find out together, shall we?