Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Movie Review: Frozen


With just an hour and a half left to go in 2013 here on the east coast, I thought I'd get one last blog post in.

Having two little girls in the house that love to sing and dance around (allegedly they're related to me), we knew that Frozen would be a likely 'must see.' And so far, we've taken our oldest to it three times (though only once in 3d, aka 'the real version').

Frozen is a Hans Christian Anderson story - I think the original is called "The Snow Queen" or the "Ice Queen" or something along those lines. Basically, it's about two sisters in Norway or somewhere thereabouts. One of them has magic ice powers and they get out of control. The other must try to reach her and get her to somehow undo all of the freezing she's accidentally done.

The main sister, Elsa, fortunately doesn't suffer from having a personality outside of being angry, fearful, and then eventually empowered and sashaying around in a snowy evening gown thing. The younger sister, Anna, got engaged to a guy she's only known for one day. You're supposed to root for her even though she's insanely shallow. (Song lyric she sings: "I see your face, and it's nothin' like I've even known befooooorrreee!)

The dark horse love interest is a guy named Kristoff who would be cool except that he talks to his reindeer in a doofy voice and he was raised by some cutesy trolls who seem like they belong in a different movie. On the plus side, almost every song is really good and very catchy, so you won't mind going to it again. And again. And yet another time. And more.

As parents, it's definitely tolerable. The comic relief - the snowman Olaf - isn't as annoying as he seems like he'll be, though at least 1/5th of the time you do wish he would fall into a geyser. And sometimes he's actually funny. The graphics are cool, and the 3d effects are very subtle and add a lot of great depth. If you're wary of 3d, spring for it on this because it won't turn you upside down like Gravity or anything like that.

In closing, I'd just like to say that the ice castle that Elsa magically builds for herself on top of a distant mountain is very pretty but has no bedrooms, furniture, heating, insulation, kitchen, or bathrooms, and that without any kind of food or water, she'll very likely have starved or froze to death within a matter of hours had the movie taken a more realistic turn.

Happy 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

President Joseph Smith, Jr.


"It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind."

-President Joseph Smith, Jr.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Titan, by John Varley


Hoo boy.

Well, OK. So I have no idea how I came to be recommended to read this book. I thought it was from a blog that I regularly read, but I checked it and there's no sign of this. But someone said it was like a 'landmark' sci fi classic on par with Contact or 2001 or something, (both of which I read and neither of which I liked, so who knows even then what I was thinking) and I was interested enough to put it on my Amazon wish list for like 2 years.

Finally I found it at my local library. Not on audio CD, unfortunately, which meant I had to read it the old fashioned way. I found it...well...

OK so there's a ship called the something or other (it's been about 4 days since I finished it and the details are already gone). It's going to Neptune or Saturn or something to study one of its moons, Titan. Within about 3 pages the author establishes that the entire crew is romantically involved with each other, and that two Japanese sisters are in an incest relationship and that 'civilization has evolved to accept this.' I probably should have stopped there, but when the ship got attacked by a giant tentacle space monster that eats everyone for a year and then poops them up through the ground into a giant spaceship world thing with grass and air and sky and strange creatures, I was roped back.

Just when I thought I was out...

Anyhoo, half the crew is missing and the remaining people who survived, the ship ate 'all their hair' and 'all their clothes' and turned them all into lesbians.

I'd like to take a moment to pause here and note that per the book's dust jacket, Tom Clancy calls John Varley 'the best writer in America.' 

Meanwhile, on the ship planet thing, which they name...something like Gaea or something. Yeah, that sounds right. ...meanwhile on that, they meet some giant blimp aliens who fly around, and they meet some other weird aliens, and everyone's apparently naked and hairless. 

Many hundreds of pages pass. Some of the crew can talk to the aliens. Others wonder why they're all lesbians now apparently. They eventually meet some centaurs, who the author takes extra care to describe in full anatomical detail. He's really concerned that you will forget about what biological traits differentiate men and women in this universe of stupid.

Blah blah blah they do some other stuff and it gets even weirder, if that's even possible. They get to the end and it's actually somewhat satisfying, even though the previous billion pages were extremely bizarre and boring and nothing happened. 

If they ever make this into a movie it will cost about $750 billion dollars, will be rated X, and about 3 people will want to see it. So obviously Hollywood will probably try.

So why did I keep on reading? The weirdness factor and the fact that the author of the book that would get turned into my all-time favorite movie (Red October) seemed to think that this author was as good as it got in America definitely played a factor. But now I realize that Tom Clancy recently passed away and this quote was likely received via quack psychic post-mortem for a special December 2013 reprint of Titan, and was badly garbled in translation. I assume what he meant to say was, "John Varley has some very strange issues he needs to work out, and his books are great if you are a pervert and/or insane."

That said...two thumbs up. 

Just kidding. 

No thumbs up, and an index finger sideways, pointing you in the direction you should run when someone asks you if you'd be interested in reading Titan. I mean, it wasn't poorly written, I guess. To say something nice about it. It was capably written and, uh, imaginative, I guess. But seriously, if this is what is takes to be considered America's best author, then literally everyone on the planet should be able to write classic sci fi. This was straight-up Gentlemen Broncos-level.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child


If you're familiar with the Broward County Library system (and who isn't?), about 70% of their entire book on CD collection is in Spanish, and the other 29% is Stephen King. That makes long commutes difficult when one is attempting to switch things up from their typical podcast fare.

Which is why it was lucky that I came across The Cabinet of Curiosities. Written by Douglas Preston, who wrote the previous excellent non-fiction crime book, The Monster of Florence, I recognized the author's name when browsing through the audio book section at the library (El Resplandor, Cementerio de Mascotas, and so on).

This is a fictional book about a serial killer from New York who may have inspired a new copycat killer in 2012. It's good! Not super good, but good enough to listen to for a million hours on my commute Mondays through Wednesdays down to Miami and back.

A few things to note: there is no main character. Not even a little bit. The closest thing to a main character is Agent Pendergast - a Southern gentleman FBI guy who has nearly supernatural powers of observation and memory. He's the most important character, I guess, but he's only in about 40% of the book. The rest of the time is split between various other people; a reporter, a female archaeologist (they're called 'femarchaeologists, I think), the killer, a developer guy, a guy at the museum, some other people. etc.

Things I liked about it: it was an interesting idea and was clearly written to be made into a thriller-type movie some day, likely starring Tommy Lee Jones, Scarlet Johannsson, and like the guy who plays Thor probably. But it had some good 'set pieces' that would translate into fun scenes in a movie. I also liked that it was very clean. Apart from the subject matter, you could almost make it PG.

Is it worth reading? Sure. The audio CD reader guy wasn't that great, in my opinion, although he did do a good job of having to take on a broad variety of styles of voices. For that, the guy who read Monster of Florence blew him away. But this was a fun diversion - definitely worth picking up if you're faced with reading a Dan Brown novel and need an emergency alternative.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Random Thoughts 11/25/13


  • We all realize that Costco is short for "Cost Company," right?
  • The other day Maddie and I watched a video that had Darth Vader in it. When she saw it, she said, "Hey, it's the guy from Angry Birds!"
  • There are no Christmas trees for sale anywhere in Miami. However, there are quite a few lots that are selling some Arboles de Navidads. 
  • I ate a plantain for the first time the other day. It was like a flavorless banana that tasted like a cross between a potato and modeling clay and air. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Random Thought

They should remake The Apple Dumpling Gang today and have it be about some misfit kids who rob bakeries with their iPads.

Monday, October 28, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Paddle Your Own Canoe, by Nick Offerman


Where have I been lately? Here and there. I had a business trip to Colorado that took some of my time, and the rest has been a blur. There have been quite a few pretty late nights at work, though, and that's the main culprit.

But while I was traveling I did make time to read Paddle Your Own Canoe by Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman, or at least the first third of it.

It started out pretty good in that it was basically just an autobiography of Nick's life growing up on a farm in rural Illinois. He intersperses each chapter with a philosophical 3-4 page essay on some basic life lessons. And like his Parks and Rec character, Nick seems to be mostly libertarian in his politics, which means that he's economically conservative and socially very liberal, and he mixes in a healthy dose of Adam Carolla-like 'the modern generation is a bunch of wimps, real men and women know how to make things (i.e. he built the canoe and oar he's using on the book cover) and do things for themselves.'

He lost me when he got to creationists, who he casually dismissed as something like 'retarded fools' or something like that. It was really mean spirited and it pulled me right out of the book. I wasn't sure if he 'meant' it or not, and kept reading for a while longer. And then I got to his chapter on religion and found out he definitely meant it. He seems to think creationists are basically deluded zombie morons who foolishly try to govern from our own ignorance.

I had a big defense of creationism planned here, but eh. If you think that the monstrous insanity of the complexity of existence all just happened at random, nothing I can say will make any difference to you. You can look at conscious thought or the inner drive in people to seek out a higher power, or to feel shame or guilt, or any other combination of emotions that have no evolutionary or biological purpose and go 'huh, that's weird. Better to not dwell on that too much.' And that's fine, as far as 'willful ignorance' goes.

But if you can't at least be respectful of differences of opinion, if you can't tolerate opposing viewpoints without disparaging the intelligence or character of those with whom you disagree, then why should I finish your book?



"Some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere. Ask yourself, “Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?”

-Elder Russel M. Nelson

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jobs: 4th job

JOB: The Boulders, St. George, UT


TIME ON THE JOB:
9 months or so

The Boulders was/is a subdivision in St. George that my Dad worked at, selling lots for residential homes. He pulled some strings and got me and my best friend, John, a job with the developer cleaning up the construction sites. In retrospect, why the developer would have any interest whatsoever in cleaning up private construction sites is beyond me. I can understand cleaning up the empty sites, but unless you're selling all the lots AND building all the homes....oh, ok, so maybe they were the builder, too? My Dad will have to clarify this in the comments.

No, this is bothering me. Are there developments where you are forced to use a particular construction company as a builder? I ... suppose there could be? If so, it would have to be through the CC&Rs/HOA guidelines, so they could build everything to be matchy/matchy. Otherwise if you could just buy a lot and build any type of goofy home you wanted to, it would throw off the feng shui. You SHOULD be able to do that, but I suppose I can see that there would be places where you can't.

Anyway, so let's assume this was that type of place. Ultimately, what this meant for me and John was almost a year of riding around on a golf cart (which I somehow never ever remember charging) and listening to music and taking the golf cart off of jumps and even sometimes cleaning up construction sites.

It's not like we didn't work hard. We did work, and it was hard in the sense that it was St. George in the summer so it was a million degrees. But we made a very healthy hourly rate and performed the service of keeping construction sites free of debris, which we piled up in a gigantic trash heap on one of the lots (for some reason, one adjacent to the main sales trailer...you'd think we would have picked something a little farther away).

Did we throw away valuable things? I don't think we did, although we would have been the last to know. There was an irrigation ditch high up on the mountain that comprised most of the subdivision (it was on the side of a medium-sized mesa, which was covered in several really large boulders, hence...) and it was meant to come through the subdivision and be a river down a very fakey man-made stream, which they poured concrete into. They probably had to - any water that met St. George soil would likely evaporate before it even got out of the gate. Anyway, John and I frequently hiked up to the water canal to locate and eliminate large tumbleweeds. Instead of just throwing them away, though, we would capture them and haul them back to the trash pile.

At the end of the job, we had (with adult supervision) an enormous fire and burned the trash pile. It was glorious.

Two memories:

  • I retained a little bit of work at the Boulders after the job finished. One time I dug a ditch for a sprinkler because our family's relative, Terry, was putting in a sprinkler system. The ground was about 90% rock, and I had to dig the ditch with a pick axe. It remains to this day the only time in my life other than at water parks or the beach that I have taken my shirt off in semi-public. It was about 300 degrees that day and I honestly couldn't physically stand the heat coming off my shirt. I got the entire ditch dug and then staggered over to the house to get a drink from the hose. A little boy inside the house looked out the window at me, very alarmed. A half-naked teenager drinking out of his family hose, even though it was a million degrees and I was sunburned and exhausted.

  • My senior year of high school, I missed a few too many classes. This was usually due to not making it back to school on time after lunches. John and I would drive over to some shady trees by Dixie College in his 1972 yellow Ford truck, would drink our 32 oz Maverick mug refills of Mountain Dew, and would listen to his eclectic collection of 70s 8-tracks. I distinctly remember the Best of the Carpenters, Helen Reddy, Elvis, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Time somehow often got away from us. Anyway, I had to make up some 'citizenship' in order to graduate, and the civic project I proposed was to clean off a city street. I proposed cleaning off the city street right in front of the Boulders that I was assigned to clean off anyway for my job there, and it got approved. I fulfilled my citizenship, graduated, and got paid all at once. Do I feel bad about this? I probably should. I would do a more honest project nowadays, but it's kind of a victimless crime, so whatever.

Oh, and it was the best job I ever had. Hanging out with my best friend and making great money and driving a golf cart around and doing some manual labor that 1) didn't involve any other human interaction, and 2) was physically impossible to goof up, was the single greatest employment I ever could have ever had thought of. Set the job in a milder climate and I would have retired with it.

THINGS I LEARND ON THE JOB
That electric golf carts can get all 4 tires off the ground if you drive them down a very steep embankment and off a rudimentary jump that you created at the bottom. Also that construction workers all apparently smoke about 17 pack an hour, each individually.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jobs: 3rd job

JOB: Westates Theatres, St. George, UT

 
 
TIME ON THE JOB:
About 2 years the first time, and 2ish years the 2nd time
 
Finally, we've made it to my first good job. I still have no idea how I made it in, since the entire city wanted to work here and I had exactly two 'jobs' to my name, one of which lasted for less than 8 hours, and the other one involved washing cars. But when you're hiring 16 year-olds, you take what you can get.
 
It was a snack bar job, and would prove to be one of the most important jobs I ever had, leading me to meet people who would turn out to be my entire social base for pretty much the next 10 years. I still remain good friends with several of the people I met here, in fact, a full 20 years later.
 
The job entailed selling people food from the snack bar as you rotated through each of the 5 other theatres in town in St. George, depending on where you were scheduled. The same company owned every theatre in town. Let's go through the list:
 
  • Cinemas 6: This started out as the Cinemas 3 and got a 3-theatre upgrade while I was working there. This was the newest and fanciest theatre in town, so it got all the big new releases and was the most consistently busy theatre by far.
  • Movies 3: This was a much older theatre up on the red hill in the industrial area of town. These were by far my favorite theatres. Everything was dark wood and dark carpet and the theatres had this terrific feel and smell and the ridiculous poster guy kept all the cool posters for the last 20 years here up in a secret room upstairs. The 3rd theatre here was apparently an add-on because it had a completely separate entrance than the other two. If working there, you would generally be left in complete solitude.
  • Dixie Theatre: A mirrored monstrosity downtown by the Tabernacle, this place had no A/C and had a terrifying projection room. More on this in a bit. It had apparently been an old play house because it had a big stage and a balcony. Just one screen.
  • Gaiety Theatre (later, The Electric): The 'twin' theatre to the Dixie, this was just one block away. Later, when I would return to Westates as a projectionist and eventually a manager, I would find myself stationed at both theatres and would go back and forth between them to keep them both going. Also just one screen, this, too, had no real A/C (it had a swamp cooler that blew room-temperature air) and had an unfortunate mirrored remodel. The projector here was about 750 years old.
  • Flood Street: This wasn't part of Westates right away but they quickly bought them and turned them into the dollar theatres. This was the newest of the theatres but was cheaply made and was in a strip mall by the Home Depot on Flood Street, so named because of a divot in the road that would flood every time it would rain. This was basically like showing movies to prisoners. No one but maniacs and vandals and troublemakers would almost ever arrive, and they would always cause some scene, and as a manger I had to call the police on several occasions to break up problems.
The job duties themselves were fine. I didn't mind selling food and drinks and popcorn, and I got good at doing basic math quickly in my head, as there were no functional cash registers to add things up for you. The cash registers were glorified cash boxes. In between shows you cleaned the snack bar and even had time to do homework for about 45 minutes or so, assuming you weren't goofing off with the Foster Twins or the Fackrell Twins or any other of my friends there.
 
We (OK, I) came up with a treat called the 'Suicide,' which was a 8-oz cup of popcorn that was sweetened directly with, oh, 1/4 a cup of popcorn butter and a full tablespoon of the concentrated butter salt that you added to the kettle to pop entire batches of popcorn. If you were eating cocoa, it would be like eating 3 cups worth. It caught on like wildfire and became very popular. To be young and invincible again.
 
Perk-wise, you got free drinks and all the popcorn you could ever hope for, and could occasionally take home damaged candy. The Butterfinger BB's were a popular item that, gosh darn it, always seemed to get mysteriously damaged.
 
One time there was a bat at the Movies 3. We spent the entire 'in-between' while the movie was playing throwing ice at it and trying to coax it down from the 2-story ceiling in the lobby. The very young ticket taker they had (I think he was literally like 11 years old and I think his name was David) fashioned a weapon out of a board with a bent nail in it, and was swinging it around. One of the girls said 'Don't hurt the sweet little bat!' but then it flew at her, David caught it like a pop fly, and spent about 5 minutes pulverizing it as if it had killed his father. The girl immediately switched to 'Hit it harder!! Kill it!' Also the brave guy who was making fun of us for our bat vigilante justice and boasted that he could take out the bat single-handedly hid sheepishly in he ticket booth when the bat started swooping at us. I think I laughed till I cried that entire night.
 
Another time when I was a manager there and my sister, Hillary, was a projectionist, I cut out a bunch of eyes from magazines and plastered them all over the extremely spooky projection booth at the Dixie theatre. That was up 3 rickety wooden flights of stairs, past a bizarre 'apartment' that apparently had either a real person or a ghost living in it, and ended up in a scary attic that had no walls and tons of boards together that had plaster oozing out between them. Anyway, I think I got a good scare out of my friends, the Fackrells, when they turned on the lights there. Oh, and the light for the projector booth was IN the projector booth, so if you left it you had to walk down 3 flights of stairs in the dark.
 
When I was managing at the Dixie, I would have to call my brother, Griffin, and talk to him on the portable phone (wireless phone? I can't remember what they called those) while I walked around the theatre to close up. It was a freaky place-the lobby was completely mirrored, and you had to walk through the entire building after the movie was done to ensure no one was left in the building before you locked up. I would often do this while jogging through the building as fast as I could.
 
I also recall laughing at my friend, Lisa, who was a ticket seller, when a customer asked her what Stargate was about (people constantly asked what various movies were about-a fact that boggled my mind at the time and still is funny to me) and she replied, in her standard "I don't have time for this" tone, "They go to another planet." That was it, that was the entire synopsis.
 
So many more stories. The philosophical manager guy with the beard who taught me about honesty and how it was 'all about being true to the face you shave in the mirror every morning' despite the fact that it would be like 3 more years before I would have to shave, the blowhard owner, Tony (Do you know who I am?!),  the cool boss, Tim, with the very dry sense of humor, the creepy poster guy, the free movies, the midnight shows, the reeking of popcorn every night after work, the bringing home entire garbage bags full of popcorn for my siblings all the time...and finally, my last boss, the 60-something befuddled Hugh, who fired me for posting a sign at the Dixie that said the theatre didn't have any A/C, which he felt was 'the worst salesmanship' he'd ever seen. This, of course, led to one of the most hilarious things ever-a voicemail Nate Fackrell left for my sister as Hugh, hitting on her and explaining that he fired me because I was an obstacle to them being together and business and pleasure 'don't mix.' Man that was funny. You had to be there, but still, I think of that about once a year and laugh myself silly. 
 
I had a great time at the theatres and made several friends and went on a few dates and consider it one of my best ever jobs. If I could return to any of my jobs and still support a family, I would love to go back provided everyone else I worked with would return too.
 
THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE JOB
How to be social, how to be relatively normal, how to make friends, and how to make extremely unhealthy popcorn treats.

Random Thought

At the beginning of the movie "Armageddon" when Bruce Willis is chasing Ben Affleck around the ship and shooting at him with a shotgun, the movie would have ended really quickly if he would have accidentally shot Ben Affleck, killing him. It doesn't seem like a safe thing to be doing.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jobs: 2nd job

(For previous installments, scroll down).
 
Job #2: Golden Corral, St. George, UT
 
 
 
TIME ON THE JOB
1 day, somewhere in the early 90s
 


Of all my timeline questions, this one might be the most perplexing. It was only one day of my life, but I have no idea really where it fell. I want to say that I was maybe 15-ish years old and was in 9th grade or so, but it could have been later.
 
Anyway, I remember thinking I wanted to work here because I liked Golden Corral at the time (though as far as I know, I had only attended it once or twice in my entire life up to that point) and thought that I could get some good free food. This is what we now refer to as "making poor decisions based on even worse inputs."
 
I noticed they were hiring, went in to fill out an application, and was given an interview right there with the manager. The manager asked me why I would like this type of job, and I think I said I liked interacting with people-a bald-faced lie. He also told me that the job 'could' involve working 'later into the evening.' I said that would be fine, that I was a 'night owl.' This was and mostly is still true, but we'll soon see how this came back to bite me.
 
I was offered the job ON THE SPOT, which should have been my first red flag. I thought, "Wow, I must have really nailed the interview!" which I think was technically true in the sense that I was able to string sentences together in mostly the right order and I had a pulse and was willing to work at the Golden Corral.
 
The job: Dishwasher. This should be easy, I thought. You just load up dishes and put them into a thing and then go hang out for 45 minutes while it washed them.
 
I got there around, I think, 6 pm: just in time for the dinner rush. My trainer was a guy named, I think, Darnell. He seemed nice. And then he provided me with a hair net and I decided right then and there that I would be quitting. I asked if they were optional and he said they were mandatory per the health department. But no matter: even if the job had involved loading up the dishes and then eating Golden Coral food for 5 hours, I would have quit.
 
But we were just getting started. Someone brought a pile of disgusting dishes over to us and I found that we had to 'pre-wash' them off first, and that most of them were covered in filth and garbage, like used napkins and stuff. Plus most had been purposely messed up. Like people would put their toast into their cups and would just make a disaster of everything.
 
So, gagging, I had to scrape all the food off and clean up everything before I could put the dishes in the dishwasher. Finally I had that ready (Darnell told me I was going too slow-apparently other dishes were starting to pile up in a line, so this was a 'do this in about 1 minute' kind of thing) and we were ready to load things up for the dishwasher!
 
The dishwasher is a technical term. You put everything on this rack and then slide it down a path on some wheels and then you pull this big box thing down over the top of it, and it sprays out steam that is maybe only 200 degrees hot or so, and it sprays out onto your hair net, but you aren't supposed to notice that because you're supposed to be scraping food off the other dishes to get them ready for the 2ND DISHWASHER. The job never stops. You are constantly washing dishes. There is no single time in the entire night where you are not interacting with dishes, in a blazing inferno that is 7 million degrees hot, in a kitchen area that is extremely loud and clanky, where the cooks scream at each other all night long and fight over messing up the food or don't have the food ready yet, etc.
 
We did this for literally 4 hours straight, and then Darnell told me it was lunch time. It was 10:00 and we were only half way through the shift. And I was in like 9th grade and it was a school night.
 
Aft er the restaurant closed, we washed the remaining dishes for a few more hours and then helped clean up the restaurant and the kitchen and mopped and vacuumed. We finished everything and I wound up going home at about 1:30 am or so, dead exhausted. I think I had to call my Dad to come get me. I'm pretty sure I wasn't driving yet.
 
I returned the next day and told my boss this wasn't going to work out, that I couldn't possibly work that late on school nights. He said, "I thought you said you were a night owl." I said, "Sure! Like 10:00, maybe 10:30." And even that is technically fairly late for a school night.
 
I gave him my hairnet and left the Golden Corral in shame. I never got paid, either.
 
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE JOB
1) That I am ill-suited to certain forms of manual labor. Not all forms, just certain forms.
2) That about 95% of waitresses apparently smoke and badmouth the customers, and that when they go back into the kitchen, they only do so to get away from the customers and to hang out and smoke and badmouth the customers. They're not like 'helping with the food' or anything.
3) That I don't always make the best decisions.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman



Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, but it's kind of funny - his work, to me, is better 'as a whole' rather than specifically. Like, I really like certain characters, or certain settings, or certain plots, but it's difficult for me to find entire books of his that I really enjoyed from start to finish.

Neverwhere is probably the closest I've ever been to this. It's got great characters, an interesting story, an OK setting, great pacing, and realistic dialogue. Plus, it has some legitimately surprising plot twists and doesn't work out the way you think it does. It keeps you on your toes.

Briefly, the book has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with 'Neverwhere.' Have no idea where that name came from as it's not mentioned anywhere in the book. I guess it's the opposite of 'Everywhere'? Eh I think he just picked it because it sounded cool.

It's set in 'London Below,' which is an alternate London which exists underground. People who live in London Below typically can't be seen by anyone above ground, even if they are standing right in front of them.

The story is that a guy named Richard saves a girl named Door, and then inadvertently travels to London Below when he finds that no one can see him anymore. He discovers that when he saved Door, she accidentally pulled him into London Below. He also discovers that she is running for her life and that her entire family was just killed by two assassins. Can he help Door discover who has been trying to kill her and why, and can he get back to London Above? Answers: Yes, Sort of, and you'll have to read it to find out!

I recommend the book. It's a bit violent and has a small amount of language in it, but it's a good story and I liked the characters a lot, especially the Marquis DeCarabas. I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author, and I can't imagine experiencing the book any other way. He does every voice of every character himself, and he does an extremely good job. Honestly the best book reading I've ever heard. He understands all of the characters, which is why the audio version is so fascinating. You've got to be a great author to be able to play out such a story in real time and have all your dialogue work so well and feel so natural.

The only thing I didn't like about it was that the setting wasn't quite as creative as it could have been. Everything is ragged and dirty in London Below, and there are some limited magic power-type things (this is light fantasy-not too crazy to lose anyone who fancies themselves 'normal,' but not too normal to be boring) but Gaiman doesn't go very far with it. It makes one wonder why anyone would choose to live in London Below if all you can wear is gross dirty stuff and all you can eat are rats and things like that. I think that could have been explained a bit better, or that more could have been added to show why living there would be, at least in some ways, preferable to being above ground.

I found out that the BBC has recently put on a radio play of the book, and they have a killer cast featuring two of my very favorite actors:


Yep: Benedict Cumberbach and James McAvoy. You know it's good with their stamp of approval. I wish they'd make it into a movie and put them in it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

JOBS: a new series



I'm going to start a new series on the blog: chronicling all of the crappy jobs that I've had. There have been many; it will be a long series. When it's all done I'll extract it into my journal so I can have it documented for posterity, at the very least as a cautionary tale for others.


I'm probably going to get the timeline here mixed up. There were several years where one thing just kind of morphed into another. But this series will cover, with any luck, all of it. And if it's a bit depressing, know that I ultimately survived, and all this insanity combined to make me the normal and well-adjusted gentleman I am today.


JOB 1: Stephen Wade Auto Center, St. George, UT

                                      

TIME ON THE JOB:
Somewhere from 1-3 years

My first jobs were just little odd jobs here and there. The very first thing I remember ever getting 'hired' to do was to help out in a lady in our family friend Jeannie's ward by doing some yard work. When I got there, she felt I was too young to do the work so she fired me and replaced me with a Mexcian, but not before paying me $1 and giving me a Sprite. 

But my first official paycheck job was working at a car lot that my Dad worked at. I was hired for $3.00 an hour to paint a long fence that led up a long driveway that got you to the lot. It took about 2 weeks or so, and I painted it in July in St. George. It was regularly 113 degrees or so, but I don't remember drinking much water while working. I did wear a black shirt on the first day, though, and regretted that. My Dad set me up with a radio to listen to, and I painted the whole fence and slopped white paint everywhere but didn't really know any better.

Lots of people at the lot complimented me on freshening up the fence, and when that project was over, they put me to work picking up cigarette butts off of the asphalt on the car lot. That lasted for 2 more weeks, after which point I somehow parlayed it into working in the auto detailing garage. Since I had finally made it to the show, I asked me boss for a $.25 raise and got it. I was making $3.25, and was just 13 years old. I think official minimum wage was $4 or $4.25 but at 13 I was grateful for anything, and it gave me some money with which to sustain my horrible music habit at the time, which consisted of the entirety of Paul McCartney's solo career and Broadway showtunes. 

It wasn't the best environment but several days a week my Mom would take me over after school and I would work for at least 3 hours with high school dropouts and garage rat-type guys, who told the world's grossest stories and jokes and listened to nothing but Pantera, and would clean cars. They often talked about philosophy and what it all meant, and I tried to get my supervisor to go to church with me once but he told me 'the pews would catch on fire' if he attended. Oh well, I tried.

There was a cool blonde guy named Jarren who worked there and who smoked like a chimney but was really nice to me and taught me how to use the pressure washer. We were just in a garage and there was a constant stream of new and used cars to clean. 

The new cars were the easiest since all you did was take the plastic off the entire interior, give it a proforma vacuuming, and send it on its way. The used ones took a lot more work. We usually shampoo'd the carpets on the used ones, which wasn't super fun since it was rough on your hands. Every other day we would wash all the cars on the lot via a long hose, and I would be voted the monkey to have to go in and Windex the interior windows. Which was great because the insides of the cars were only about 175 degrees and the Windex we had was, I think, made out of Agent Orange. Somehow I didn't asphyxiate in the cars as we went on for hours making our rounds.

The whole thing ended unexpectedly when I got a new supervisor and he cheerfully advised me they wouldn't be requiring my services anymore. I think it had something to do with the fact that I didn't have a driver's license and thus had a difficult time working at a job that required you to constantly move cars around. 

He made it seem like I would be welcome back when business required it, and I took him up on that offer sometime later when I had my license. But I remember nothing about that subsequent experience other than that I was required to occasionally shuttle people to the airport who were having their cars repaired by the body shop, and one time I drove a nice lady and her young sons to the airport and got them all laughing with some kind of humorous banter I was doing, and the mom tipped me $5, which to this day is the biggest tip I've ever received.

THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE JOB:
That you could be surrounded by a bad environment but not let it rub off on you. Also, that if Earth is ever attacked by an indestructible super villain, the best place to put him would be inside a 1992 Geo Hatchback in July in St. George, UT. He'll be dead within seconds.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Delay or Defund

So on the whole Obamacare debate, I'm torn between two really interesting ideas, neither of which are mine.

First, I don't get the 'delay the individual mandate' strategy. Yes, it will have a negative impact on the economy. So? We didn't vote for it, so why minimize the pain? The part you want people to not get hooked on is the subsidies, and those start right away. So what's the point of delaying the individual mandate for a year? I don't get that at all. The more chaos, the better the chance of electing a president who can repeal the whole thing in 2016.

So onto the two ideas. The first is, 'let it burn.' Just enact anything the Democrats want and crash the system that much faster. If we believe in our ideals, and we do, then we believe that this law will all be a disaster. So bring it on. A really good article that illustrates this is from Daniel Henninger at the Wall Street Journal here. The key quotes are:
If ObamaCare fails, or seriously falters, the entitlement state will suffer a historic loss of credibility with the American people. It will finally be vulnerable to challenge and fundamental change. But no mere congressional vote can achieve that. Only the American people can kill ObamaCare.
No matter what Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies do, ObamaCare won't die. It would return another day in some other incarnation. The Democrats would argue, rightly, that the ideas inside ObamaCare weren't defeated. What the Democrats would lose is a vote in Congress, nothing more.
Republicans and conservatives, instead of tilting at the defunding windmill, should be working now to present the American people with the policy ideas that will emerge inevitably when ObamaCare's declines. 
If Republicans feel they must "do something" now, they could get behind Sen. David Vitter's measure to force Congress to enter the burning ObamaCare castle along with the rest of the American people. Come 2017, they can repeal the ruins.

This would be my default opinion as well. But then I read something like this from William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection, and I'm not so sure. The key quotes:
[Anatoly] Sharansky spent almost a decade in Soviet prison because of his activities on behalf of Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel. Sharansky was subjected to torture and other indignities, but never lost his spirit.
Sharansky spent nine years in the Gulag, a harrowing time in which he demonstrated what resistance is. More than 400 of those days were spent in punishment cells; more than 200 were spent on hunger strikes. His refusal to concede anything to the Soviet state was almost superhuman. This was true to the very last. When they relinquished him to the East Germans, they told him to walk straight to a waiting car — “Don’t make any turns.” Sharansky zig-zagged his way to that car.
Had it been the fight against Obamacare, supposedly wiser people than he would have counseled caution, urging him to wait until the Soviet Union collapsed of its own weight to make his stand.  Not realizing that stands such as that taken by Sharansky in the snow ultimately would cause the collapse.
Interesting choices, huh? 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Kid quotes 9/27/13


  • Today Maddie told me, “At church, someone told me Jesus can see through roofs of buildings.” 
  • This morning she said “I like telling jokes. Maybe that’s my destiny.” I said, “Your destiny?!” She got embarrassed and said, “Or watching shows. I love to watch shows on my pad. Maybe that’s my destiny.”
  • Tonight Emme turned to me and for the first time said "Hi." The only words she can say are Momma, Dadda, DeeDee (Maddie), and yeese (yes). And now, apparently, "Hi."

Random thought

People usually say that either "the song you brang to me" or "no one heard at all, not even the chair" is Neil Diamond's worst lyric. However, I think that "me and you are subject to the blues now and then" is a dark horse contender.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kevin D. Williamson


""Politicians are always building Utopias, but the curious thing is that none of them wants to live there."

-Kevin D. Williamson

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The 5 Best Discontinued Foods

Life is unfair. This I know because the universe has cancelled various foodstuffs over the years and has never brought them back.

There is a special kind of agony inherent with experiencing excellent food being cancelled. Knowing that it will likely never come back gives you a helpless feeling not unlike saying goodbye to someone who is dying. Sure, you'll see them again in the eternities. But that doesn't help me now, here on Earth, where there are stressful days to get through and a limited number of increasingly mediocre snackstuffs.

Tonight we pay homage to our fallen brethren. RIP.

5. OLD WISCONSIN HONEY TERIYAKI BEEF JERKY


While I lived in Wisconsin, I experimented and tried a local flavor of beef jerky from a brand called Old Wisconsin. Now, I am just guessing at the flavor name. I think it was honey teriyaki, but I'm not positive. All I remember is that it was one giant, long piece of meat, that was a little bit pricey (if memory serves, $8 or $9 bucks or so), and it was the single best piece of beef jerky I had ever tasted in my entire life.

I was only in Wisconsin for a little less than 2 years, but I bought it as often as I could afford to, not realizing that its days were numbered. One day, the store stopped stocking them. I went to other stores. They weren't there. I went to others. No sign.

Finally, I wrote my first-ever letter to a company. It was to Old Wisconsin, via their website. I asked where their incredible beef jerky went, and they said it was cancelled due to lack of interest. I told them that I found this news to be nearly devastating, and asked them to tell me as soon as it went back on the market. They said they would. I'm still waiting.

Today, Old Wisconsin has started back up a different line of beef jerky. When I saw that they had, I bought it immediately, even though the only option was like to by 8 at a time on Amazon. When it arrived, I was very worried to try it, for fear that it wouldn't be right. I tried it, and while it was good, it wasn't the original recipe. And it wasn't even close.

Old Wisconsin, bring back the old style. I will pay top dollar. Like, thousands, if you need. I will mortgage my home. Let's work out a deal.

4. COCONUT TWIX










This only existed for a really brief window around 2010 or 11 or so. I tried it just once-it was excellent. I love normal Twix anyway, but adding coconut to it was an inspired move. But like a TV show that gets cancelled after 1 episode, they yanked it almost immediately. Of all the items on this list, this one is the one I think has the least worst chance of coming back and being probably the same. I'll update this post in 20 years and we'll see if I'm right.

3. HONEY BBQ CHEETOS PUFFS


These were a pretty brief sales window as well, and I only ever got to have them in little snack sizes since the only place in all of Texas that I could find that sold them was my work vending machine. I bought up all that they had. They were delicious but awful. Like Sweet Spicy Chili-flavored Doritos, Honey BBQ Cheetos Puffs make you want to die. They were exquisite but made you feel like absolute garbage, like you were eating nothing but a bucket of grease and sugar. They were so good, they were bad. And they were done way too soon.

2. BBQ PORK, PANDA EXPRESS



Last year, for reasons unknown, Panda Express decided to pull a Spinal Tap and become 'more selective' in their appeal. Now, I like their Orange Chicken OK. But it's nothing without a serving of BBQ Pork to even it out.

The funny thing about BBQ Pork is that it was NEVER, EVER, EVER ready. They always had a spot for it, and I would always order it, and they would say ''it will take 4 minutes," as if that would deter me, and I would say, "great, I'll be over here, waiting," and they would go to the back room and get it and warm it up and bring it out and cut it up into pieces and get it to me. And it was incredible every time. Sweet and rich and delicious.

I figured it was only a matter of time before they discontinued it. Why else would they never have it ready? It must have been expensive for them (I assume so, since if it's anything like the cost of bacon, it's likely way pricey now), because they replaced it with a lame teriyaki chicken, which sucks.

So this is likely the only food on here whose existence I can directly blame on Obama, due to insanely high gas prices thanks to his anti-fossil fuel energy policies that drove up the cost of pork. Thanks a lot.

1. TERIYAKI FLAT IRON STEAK, GORDON BIERSCH



This was discovered entirely on accident. Jan and I had just been married about 1 month prior and we were in Pasadena on a mini-follow-up-honeymoon. I had to go there for my work so I brought her out and stayed a few days and we went to Disneyland and the beach and old town Pasadena and had a lot of fun.

But when it was time to go back to UT, we missed our plane and had to stay at a hotel near the Burbank airport. We didn't have our rental car anymore so we had to walk that night to find anything to eat. There was a Gordon Biersch nearby, which we had never heard of. We went in and I had the teriyaki steak.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say, it's the best steak I've ever had, anywhere, even comparing it to places where I've had steaks that were $75 each (fortunately, work vendors foot the bill on those outings-I'm not that crazy).

Every place we've ever moved, we have checked specifically for a Gordon Biersch so we can make sure we have access to the flat iron teriyaki steak. We were glad to see that there was a GB in downtown Brickell, which is right here in Miami close to South Beach.

We drove there about a month ago to fill up on steak and were floored when we checked the menu and found it wasn't there. We got back in the car and went elsewhere. I'm sure they have other nice things on the menu, but it's a pricey restaurant and I'm not going to pay top dollar for a distant 2nd place alternative.

If it ever brings it back, we'll return. But a company that decides to kill its best menu item doesn't instill me with hope. RIP, Flat Iron Teriyaki Steak. At least 2008-2013.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: Down a Dark Hall, by Lois Duncan


For the life of me I have no idea where I got the recommendation to read this book. Apparently Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) is trying to get this book made into a movie and is going to produce it? But that still doesn't account for what prompted me to seek this one out. I think someone recommended it on a blog, and the cover looked good?

Well, you know what they say about judging a book by its cover: before doing so, you should check and see if the book was written for 13 year-old girls in the early 70s. Because this one was.

Kit or Kat or Kate or something like that is the main character, and she's headed to Blackwood Academy, a fancy private school for girls deep in the woods in spooky upstate New York while her mom goes on a honeymoon with her new husband (her first husband, Kit's father, was killed several years ago).

When she gets there, she's amazed to find that there are only 3 other students. Ruth, Sandy, and...Julie? Julia? Something like that. Also there's a very stern headmistress, whose name escapes me, and a nice old man named Professor Something or other, and the headmistress has a 'dreamy' college-aged son. His name is Jules, which I remember because the girls spend much of the book flirting with him.

Everyone starts to have strange but incredibly boring hallucinations and dreams. One girl dreams that someone was in her room with her. Kat thinks she sees a guy behind her in a dark hall (apparently the same one from the title) in a mirror. And then the girls start producing amazing works of art and science, showing skills that they never had before. It's incredible! Where did these skills come from?

Answer: from dead people. The girls are all psychic, sort of, or at one point saw a ghost, and thus are on the right wavelength to have been specifically selected to attend the school and become an unwilling vessel for these famous people, who range from Schubert to Emily Dickinson and other girly celebrities from the 19th century, to use to produce the poems and music and paintings and advanced math they've been working on since dying.

The characters are about as deep as a puddle, and the story isn't scary. The book took me a very painful 4 weeks to read, and I refused to put it down because I was positive it was going to get scary or good on the very next page, thus confirming whatever it was that prompted me to wait in line for and eventually check the book out.

In the end, that never happened. As a 30-something year-old guy, I can't recommend the book to other guys of most any age. As a 13 year-old girl in 1972 or so, I think the book is dreamy and is horrifying, especially the part where there's a fire and a ghost almost appears but doesn't.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Garry Kasparov

 
"Sorry but I would rather have free people than free healthcare."
 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review: The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi


Ever since I stopped taking the train into work, I've had a lot of trouble maintaining my reading habits. I still read, almost every day-but not nearly as much as when I had 90 minutes a day of free reading time.

To supplement this, I've started picking up audio books and listening to more podcasts. My latest audiobook was The Monster of Florence - a fascinating true crime novel about Italy's 'Jack the Ripper'-style serial killer.

The book is pretty explicit about the murders-they're murders, of course. But the murders are the least interesting thing about it. The fascinating part is the investigation and all of the bizarre suspects and the insane twists that the investigation would wind up taking.

The murders occurred from 1968-1985 or so, and the officials actually even convicted several people of the crimes. The author makes an incredible case that they got the entire thing wrong and the actual killer roams free. They show how the police got onto the wrong trail fairly early on and just started ignoring evidence that contradicted their story.

Eventually the FBI did a profile on the serial killer for Italy, and Italy buried it because it didn't remotely match the profile of their primary suspect. Ultimately the author and his Italian counterpart would wind up becoming a part of the story when the police strike back at them for starting to expose the ridiculous loopholes in their case.

It's an incredible story, even though it's pretty frustrating to see the obvious murderer completely evade the slightest bit of police interest. If you are interested in it, I strongly recommend picking up the audiobook, which has an excellent vocal artist who reads it and does an excellent job on the various accents throughout. I absolutely can't imagine reading this book as opposed to listening to the CDs.

And be forewarned: there is a small amount of language in the book and the murders are very disturbing, and not in an 'entertaining' way the way modern TV would have you believe. This is true crime, so these poor people really did experience these terrible crimes. Fortunately there's a Higher Power to dole out justice in the end.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Screaming Cave



It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Idaville and Wikipedia Brown was just sliding up to the breakfast table. His father, Police Chief Brown, was having a warm cup of hot chocolate. Outside, the leaves on the trees had turned red and were starting to fall.

"Gonna be nippy out there today, eh Dad?" said Wikipedia. His real name was Leroy, but no one called him that.

"I'll say!" replied Chief Brown. Just then, they both heard a bone-chilling sound: a long and piercing scream.

"What in tarnation!?" they both exclaimed. They ran out of the house and hopped in Chief Brown's Land Rover, speeding off in the direction of the screams.

They turned down a dirt road, and went past a rickety old sign, which read "Screaming Cave."

"Screaming Cave? Why have I never heard of that before?" said the Chief. "We've lived here for over 20 years."

"That's because it wasn't named that before today," replied Wikipedia Brown.

"What? What did it used to be called?"

Consulting his smartphone, Wikipedia replied, "Booger Cave."

"Uh...that doesn't sound right to me," said the Chief.
 "Don't you believe me, Dad?"
 "Uh...well..."

Just then, another scream pierced the air. The Chief unholstered his gun and they jumped out of the car.

"Did you know this cave was originally used to smuggle millions of dollars of pirate gold?" said Wikipedia. "Son, we're in the middle of Canada-there's no possible way that pirates ever set foot within about 3,000 miles of here." "Dad, I wish you wouldn't question me all the time. After all, I'm always right! Well, eventually...unless I change my mind or someone corrects me."

They walked into the cave and the screaming stopped suddenly. Just then, it started up again, seemingly on a loop. Wikipedia Brown noticed a CD player on the ground, in a corner. "Did you know the CD was invented in 1997 by Charles Darwin, Dad? That's why it's abbreviated "CD."

But Chief Brown had his hands full. Literally! He was wrestling with a scary pirate! Wikipedia jumped back and exclaimed, "Goodness, it really was pirates! See! I was right!"

Chief Brown subdued the suspect, pinned him to the ground, and read him his rights. He wasn't talking, so he led him to the Land Rover and tossed him in the back seat, locking the doors.

"I wonder what that was all about?" he said as they drove to the police station.
"Isn't it obvious, Dad?" replied Wikipedia.
"How so?"
"Youuu'll see!"

They got to the police station and let the pirate out of the back seat. Wikipedia walked up to him and said, "I think the jig is up, Bugs Meanie!"

"Bugs Meanie, your school nemesis!?" said Chief Brown. "The same." Wikipedia clawed at the pirate's face to pull off a mask, but he scratched it instead, drawing a small line of blood.

"Holy mackrell, he's a real pirate!" said Wikipedia Brown. "But pirates went extinct in 7,000 B.C.!"

"Actually, my name is Princess Justine," replied the 'pirate,' "and I bring you peace from the Planet Naboo."

"He's just a lunatic!" replied the Chief, and he had him booked for disorderly conduct based on Idaville's Public Nuisance laws.

"Well, looks like another case solved," said Wikipedia.

HOW DID WIKIPEDIA BROWN KNOW THAT THE CASE WAS SOLVED?

A: Because Planet Naboo wasn't named one of the official planets in the Solar System until 6,000 B.C., so the pirate couldn't have been a real pirate. Also because the pirate's costume consisted of a plastic eyepatch, some board shorts, and a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt.


ANOTHER CASE CLOSED, THANKS TO WIKIPEDIA BROWN!

Next week: Wikipedia Brown and the case of the Robot Dinosaur

Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)


Hope you like swearing! And interviews!

So The Cuckoo's Calling is a fairly weak murder mystery from J.K. Rowling, who wrote it as a pseudonym, probably because it sucks. Now, it doesn't suck too much in terms of writing style; it's written competently, and the dialogue is very good, and the structure of the individual chapters is realistic and well composed. It sucks for reasons outside of those.

First up, the language. No need whatsoever for it to be so profanity-laden, and it does detract from the story. It also has some fairly ridiculous character names (the main character is named Cormoran Strike) and it has a very large plot hole that undoes the entire book. Below are spoilers.

A supermodel is murdered, but everyone, including the police, are flatly convinced it is a suicide. The model's brother hires a failing private detective to investigate it, particularly the mystery of a masked runner who was caught on CCTV running away from the murder shortly after it was committed, very late at night.

It turns out that the runner was the model's long-lost brother, who was visiting her at 2 am and was masked. Uh-huh. He saw her fall from her apartment balcony, and it spooked him so he ran. And the brother who hired the private detective was the murderer. So....

1) Why did he hire a detective to prove that his sister was murdered? What murderer does that?
2) Why did the long-lost brother flee the scene, and why was he even there at all at 2 am? No one would do that. And why was he masked?

The answers the book provides:

1) None, although you sort of gather from the subtext that it was so the detective could find the long lost brother runner, who you assume is a 'loose end,' even though when they do find him he is 100% convinced he witnessed a suicide. Why put the detective onto the murder idea? Why not just do a missing person investigation, like to find the runner so you can see if he knew 'why the model killed herself.' There are far less risky ways to have gone about this without hiring a detective to basically convict you of murder.
2) "She was eccentric" and wanted him to come over late at night. He was masked because it was cold, officially, but unofficially it was so that he wouldn't be easily identified on the CCTV, thus giving a reason for this ridiculous plot to exist.

There are other problems but it's not worth going into really, other than to say that 95% of the book is the detective interviewing suspects in real time. Each chapter is some other person he talks to and gets slightly more of the puzzle from. The limo driver, the fashion designer, the friend, blah blah blah.

It's not funny, it's not interesting, it's really not worth your time unless you're a dispassionate admirer of writing from a technical standpoint, and only then just on a chapter-level. Structure-wise, the book is a mess. Who wants to read 400 straight pages of witness interviews? There is no action in this book. Nothing happens to anyone. The detective makes appointments for his interviews and people go to them and he talks to them and writes it down.

I would say that I could write a better book, but of course if I could I would have done so by now and bloggers could be ripping on it AS WE SPEAK and I will chuckle from my writing mansion, saying 'sucks to be you, bloggers,' while I ride around on my solid gold horse. (It has wheels.)

But since I haven't done any of these things, your best bet is to read something else. Maybe this blog? I get like a penny or so every time you read something, so go read 100 things and I will be able to buy most of a fourth of a gallon of gas.

Yay?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dusk Sector Episode 1: The Grave Digger

 

You are traveling along a dark road. You don't know how you got here, or where you're going. Up ahead you see a truck stop. You miss it, but fortunately there's a light further ahead where you do a U-ie. You've just crossed over into...The Dusk Sector.

Meet Charles Major, age 39. It's been a long day and, tired from work, Mr. Major decides to take a walk to clear his head. Unfortunately, this may be the last walk he ever takes.

[Charles walks along a dark sidewalk. He stops to get his bearings, but he finds that the road is too dark and he can't read his map. Further away, he sees a dim light. He heads towards it, only to find it is on the other side of the spooky Oakville Cemetery.]

Charles: This certainly is a spooky old cemetery.
Gravedigger: You can say that again.
C: AAAaah!
G: Oh, sorry about that. I thought you saw me.
C: Oh, well, sorry, sir. I saw a light...that must have been you.
G: A light, eh?
C: ....
G: ....
C: *coughs*
G: Anyway, come with me.

Charles and the spooky gravedigger, who is just as spooky as the old spooky cemetery but even more so, walk through the darkness. They pass many statues and spooky tombstones. They reach an area where the Gravedigger has been digging a new grave. There is a lantern hung up in the trees. It is swaying spookily.

C: Ah-ha, this is where I saw the light coming from.
G: Must have been, I suppose. I need some light so I can do my work.
C: Well don't stop on my account. I just need to get my bearings.
G: Suit yerself...but I need to git back t' work.

Charles isn't sure why the Gravedigger has started talking like a prospector, but he takes out his map and tries to locate his surroundings. The Gravedigger keeps on digging a new grave.

G: Well, I think that's deep enough!
C: (Looking over) Yes, that looks pretty deep.

Just then, Charles notices the tombstone for the grave. It reads: Charles Major: 1921-1960. Lightning strikes across the sky and thunder roars.

C: It...it can't be!
G: Oh, but it is, laddie.

Now sounding like a Scottish highlander, the Gravedigger pulls a rope and a coffin drops from the tree, landing in the hole. The door pops open and inside lays Charles Major.

C: Nooo!
G: (Laughs maniacally)
C: That's so weird, he has my same name but he died over 53 years ago! How weird of a coincidence is that?
G: No so weird. Charles Major is a fairly common name around these parts. Buried about 3 of them in the last 6 months, in fact.
C: Crazy!
G: Indeed.
C: Well, I think I've found my way, so I'll be headed off. Have a good night!
G: You too! Travel safely.

Charles Major walks safely home to his wife and kids, and has a pleasant evening. Never quite realizing that he is lucky to be alive after spending a night in...The Dusk Sector.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I got my computer back!

For the last 6 weeks, my computer has been broken-an unfortunate victim of an accidental smashening. Miraculously, ASUS offered a free accidental damage protection insurance, which I fortunately qualified for. It took a very long time, but it was free, and my computer arrived back today in one piece! They had wiped off all its data, but 97% of it was backed up, so nothing too bad occurred.

So look forward to (or if you are not a fan, then dread) more blogging in the near future!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Greg Abbott, or "Wow, I'm really out of practice."


“The beast known as federal bureaucracy .  .  . is consuming this country and diminishing both the rights of states and individuals in a way that must be stopped.” There’s an inverse relationship between government and liberty, he told Evan Smith of Texas Tribune. “The more powerful the federal government, the less liberty individuals have,” he said. “It’s almost like a mathematical equation.”

-Greg Abbott

Thursday, August 15, 2013

PJ O'Rourke


"By observing the progress of mankind, we can see that the things that are good for everyone are the things that have increased the accountability of the individual, the respect for the individual and the power of the individual to master his own fate."

-PJ O'Rourke

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman


This was good! But Neil Gaiman almost always delivers. I've read three of his books and 2 of his short story anthologies, and all of them are really good.

Unnatural Creatures is his latest anthology, and he selected some decent stuff. I like that he finds things that are unusual but not too weird, and he is usually family friendly. In this book, he only contributed one original story while the rest are by other authors, but they all have a similar feel to them in many ways, so it feels consistent.

- The Spot by Gahan Wilson
A spot grows on the carpet and moves around the house in a large mansion. It was short of amusing but ends abruptly.

- The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, by E. Lily Yu
Meh. An odd story told from the perspective or warring wasps and bees. Not really a good fit.

- The Griffin and the Minor Canon, by Frank R. Stockton
This one's really good. A Griffin comes to a town to see his own reflection, which is a carving of him placed over a church. He is befriended by a priest. It had a good ending. Not scary or anything-none o these are. But a nice 'story' feel to this one.

- Ozioma the Wicked, by Nnedi Okorofor
A girl can talk to snakes. This one is very short.

- Sunbird, by Neil Gaiman
Another good one-this is about people who eat rare animals and attempt to eat the sun phoenix.

- The Song of Theare, by Diana Wynne Jones
A long story about Greek(ish) Gods who find out that someone will be born who will question them. Someone is born. He questions them.

- Gabriel-Ernest, by Saki
A very old (100+ years) story about a werewolf. Short and written, of course, in a very old fashioned style, but this was OK.

- The Cockatoucan; or, Great-Aunt Willoughby
A fun one about a land where a bird laughs and causes things to magically switch up. A good read.

- Moveable Beast, by Maria Dahvana Headley
This one was deliberately trying to be off-kilter. It has a twist ending. It's about a beast who lives in trees in the middle of a town.

- The Flight of the Horse, by Larry Niven
An OK one sort of about a guy who is sent back in time to retrieve animals and returns with mythical ones.

- Prismatica, by Samuel Delany
An excellent story, worth checking the book out just to read this one. A kind of fairly tale about a prince searching for a princess who has been imprisoned in 3 shards of a mirror. Fun, funny, adventurous, interesting-this didn't have any story clichés at all in it, and had a satisfying ending.

- The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me, by Megan Kurashige
Interesting set-up about mythical things in a museum that come to life (it's not as Night as Museum-y as I'm making it sound), but it has plot holes and unresolved story stuff.

- The Compleat Werewolf, by Anthony Boucher
Another excellent one-this one is really funny once you get the hang of the writing. A guy meets a 'real' magician who teaches him how to turn into a werewolf. He gets into some trouble. This does a great job of getting you to root for the anti-hero, who you initially don't like at all.

- The Smile on the Face, by Nalo Hopkinson
Skip it. It rips on Christianity and isn't good or interesting at all. A girl is assaulted and turns into a snake. Yay.

- Or All the Seas with Oysters, by Avram Davidson (4/5)
Not that good, and most of the interesting stuff is implied and isn't explored well. It ends abruptly too.

- Come Lady Death, by Peter S. Beagle
A strong closer about an eccentric and wealthy woman who throws big parties and decides to invite Death to her last big party. A good idea and an interesting read, well-executed.

That's it! I actually read two Gaiman's last week, so the next review will be his excellent new original novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Random Thoughts, 7/31/2013

  • Things I like about Miami:
    • I've never been remotely cold ever, and I have only sometimes been too warm.
    • The humidity in the summer is high but it's a lot more tolerable than I had been led to believe.
    • There are no mosquitos anywhere in the entire city that I can see. Unless they all show up from August 1st to September 25th and then immediately leave, the Miami mosquito reputation is completely unearned.
    • It's within driving distance of some really fun and interesting places. I've never had so many 'things to do' options in a city.
    • I so far have not tasted any good local restaurants with the sole exception of a small café here in Weston. But that restaurant is good, if pricey.
    • My job.
    • My boss.
    • The variety in my work weeks. I get to spend two days of the week up in our Pompano Beach office, and I love that.
    • The church here is strong. The Fort Lauderdale mission is the #1 baptizing mission in the US.
    • There is a temple being built less than 1 mile away from us. This is the closest I've ever lived to a temple since my brief time in the Temple Townhomes in St. George and the 'Real World' house I shared with some LDS roommates in Mesa less than 1 block away from the temple.
    • The winters, while I miss snow, are unmistakably mild and comfortable.
    • I saw a blimp here once.
    • Much of the city is very pretty.
    • They have a good zoo.
    • The Sev on the corner sometimes has the Trifecta, which is our family name for the best Slurpee combination ever: banana, pina colada, and cherry.
    • Our part of town, Weston, is very nice and is immaculately clean, groomed, safe, and landscaped.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Charles Krauthammer



"If you doubt the arrogance, you haven't seen that Newsweek cover story that declared the global warming debate over. Consider: If Newton's laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming -- infinitely more untested, complex and speculative -- is a closed issue."
 

-Charles Krauthammer