Saturday, April 27, 2013


Out on vacation for the next 10 days or so with a work conference and then we have family visiting from out of town. Have a great early May everyone!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Random Thoughts 4/23/13

  • On Miami freeways, the correct speed limit is 'whatever you're driving, plus 10.' So if the actual posted speed limit is 70 and you're going 70, everyone will drive 80. If you're driving 80, everyone will drive 90. If you're driving at the speed of light, everyone else will drive at the speed of light + 10 mph. 
  • I am done with Jeeps. Our Grand Cherokee has been very reliable but my garbage Patriot has been a disaster. Despite having a great nickname (Patsy). Next car: likely a Ford SUV. An Explorer, if we can find an affordable one. Give us another 2ish years or so...
  • I run as much as I physically and mentally can. And I can't stand it. I truly hate everything about it. I don't enjoy the fresh air, I don't feel a sense of accomplishment, I don't feel healthy. I just feel like I'm wasting time and causing tremendous pain to myself, sapping every ounce of energy from the next day. But what's the option? To not exercise? What will that accomplish? 
  • I would almost like jogging if I enjoyed my music more, but I've listened to it all so much that none of it has much of an impact on me. I've burned out on it all, I think. Having MP3s kind of does that. When you have LPs or CDs, you have to deliberately pull an album and put it on and find the song you want to hear. You have to work for it, in other words. But now, when you can instantly hear anything you want, it all becomes somewhat disposable. This is why we should all look forward to old age. When we lose our memory, our music collection will actually sound fresh and new to us. 
  • They say you don't sleep in heaven, that it's constantly daylight and you have 'no need' to sleep. This sounds great to me, in that I should go insane in the equivalent of about 3 Earth days, and whatever heaven medication they give me should knock me out. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Andrew C. McCarthy

"Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress."

-Andrew C. McCarthy

Monday, April 22, 2013

Original Story: The Delivery Man

The delivery man is out making his daily rounds when he receives an unexpected phone call. With a truck outfitted with a special 'mobile telephone,' all his customers' calls are routed directly to him.

"Hello?" he says, his voice hurried but friendly.

"Yes, this is Fred," says the voice on the other end. "I need you to come over right away."

Fred was one of the delivery man's most demanding customers. A single man who lived in a small yellow house on his route in suburban Pittsburgh, Fred had a habit of asking the delivery man to go far beyond the scope of his job.

"Well, I don't know, Fred," he said. "I have quite a few packages to deliver."

"But you don't understand," said Fred. "I need someone to help me make a rainbow!"

There it was again; another odd request completely unrelated to package delivery. Having been in the business for several decades, he had known his share of kooks. He was reminded of the stern chef who lived across town and who would constantly invite children over to view his bakery, only to berate them when their baking attempts didn't conform to his exceedingly high standards. Or the soft spoken Chuck, who was constantly in and out of work, bizarrely jumping from endeavors such as a precious metals security guard one minute to the owner of a music store the next.

"I'll see what I can do," he said, and hung up.

Rainbows, huh? How on earth was he going to pull this one off and deliver all his packages? He phoned back in to headquarters.

"This is delivery agent #A-834. Requesting direction on a customer invite."

"Acknowledged, agent #A-834," said the dispatcher. "Who is the customer?"

"10294 Reading Way."

There was a rustling sound as dispatch started flipping through his log book that contained all customer records. In an unusually brief moment, however, dispatch was back on.

"Hold for Mr. Johnson, A-834," he said.

Johnson? The escalation was extremely odd. Peter Johnson was head of the entire Northeastern US Region. He'd only met him once, a few years back at a dinner the company had for some employees celebrating 20 years of employment with them. He had received a watch and some company stock options.

"A-834," said Mr. Johnson.

"Yes, sir."

"You get back to that house IMMEDIATELY. Do you understand me?"

He was shocked. Mr. Johnson was all about speed. Get as many packages delivered as quickly as humanly possible. To indulge an eccentric local was far outside of his character.

"But sir, it's just that I..."

But Mr. Johnson cut him off with a clear, "Don't bother with the stupid packages! You get yourself back to 10294 Reading Way now, and you do whatever that man asks you. Are we clear?"

"Yes sir, I guess so."

"Good," said Johnson. And he hung up.

Confused but with a growing sense of panic, the delivery man hung up the phone and drove back to his home to try to find something that could make a rainbow. He considered a flashlight and a water spray bottle, but couldn't get the right effect. Running out of time, he tore through his closet and turned up a box full of prisms and a projector. He had come across the prisms when a package he delivered tore open, spilling its contents across the pavement. His attempts to repair the package were futile, so in his guilt and embarrassment, he had stuffed it all into his closet instead.

Why was Johnson so nervous about crazy old Fred, he wondered. He had heard whispers from other delivery men at his company that there was some type of shadowy figure that called all the shots even higher up than Mr. Johnson. For some reason, he thought of old Fred, but quickly laughed it off. He was a harmless old man who played with toys and liked to dress up. The boss he had heard of was ruthless-threatening to punish failure by transferring people out of the district so far they may as well be transferred to Never-Never Land.

He pulled up to 10294 Reading Way and gathered his things.

Who was that fearsome boss, he thought. It was said that there was no part of town that his control didn't reach. If he wanted to visit a dairy farm, he could place one phone call and he'd be there 10 minutes later, leaning all about heifers and holsteins on a personalized tour from the head farmer. Schools, fire departments, manufacturing plants: it was all the same. With one call from the boss, the entire city stopped what they were doing and allowed him to pay a visit. He would never leave without taking something, either. Today, it was a fire helmet. Tomorrow, it might be something bigger. Much bigger. Did the boss have mafia ties? No, he thought. This was something else.

Even more frightening, he apparently had to know how everything worked. They say that he was into some kind of black magic and apparently had a frame on the wall that would show him anything he asked it to. Want to know how crayons are made? He could conjure it up with a simple incantation. Bubble wrap? That too. It's been said that he who knows how to make everything also knows how to un-make it. Could thus be his sinister design?

Fortunately, there was no more time for make-believe. He walked up to the door and knocked. But he shuddered as a shadow came to the door. Why couldn't he get this strange fear out of his head?

Fred opened the door, looked at him, and smiled. "Come on in," he said. "Isn't it a beautiful day in the neighborhood?"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sew what?

Remember to go here and vote for contestant #2, my cousin, Catlin, so she can win some sewing swag!    She also did the best job of the contestants, so you also get the benefit of an honest vote!

Edmund Burke

"Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny."


"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

That's the tooth

A silly picture I drew for a family member that braved the dentist.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Longer Review: Green Mountains, Dark Tales


If you couldn't tell, I was disappointed with this Citro offering. Joseph A. Citro wrote one of the very best, if not the outright best, books I have ever read on the paranormal and just plain fascinating supernatural mysteries, called "Passing Strange." It's a must-read if you're into that kind of thing. He also wrote the very good "Green Mountain Ghost, Ghouls, and Unsolved Mysteries." I know these seem a little odd if you're not into cool and interesting things, but trust me-they are odd! But so good.

So I tracked down this one, and right on the cover is a picture of a ghost materializing along another ghost that is only a torso. That's cool! What's that story? Unfortunately, the book's contents are nothing of the sort.

Citro specializes in Vermont. And being limited to just Vermont, you're bound to run out of stories that wouldn't be able to be found without some serious digging. He reads newspapers from the 1800s all the time to try to find interesting historical quirks. You'd have to go into people's journals at this point, since I think he's pretty well captured most everything unusual that has happened in Vermont in the last 250 years or so.

So this book is just about quirky people and unusualish things. I suppose it's somewhat more interesting than a normal history book, but when you've read the best, all that's left is 'the rest.' There were stories of guys who tried to mine for silver but NEVER FOUND ANY. And there were some witches, supposedly, but they didn't really do anything. He crams in some cryptozoology, but it was too little, too late.

With spelling and grammar errors throughout, and a completely unexpected and uncalled for swipe at Joseph Smith in a chapter on 'mysticism,' I was left thoroughly unimpressed. Especially the JS comment; surprisingly small-minded for someone who prides themself on supposedly being so open-minded. Funny how often that happens...

Book Review: Green Mountains, Dark Tales, by Joseph Citro

This book sucked.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cynical Movie Review: The Muppet Movie

In a faraway time and place (1979), Kermit the Frog lives in a swamp, happy with his swamp friends and his banjo. He runs into a Hollywood agent, portrayed by some guy who was probably famous in the 70s and may or may not be Paul Prudhomme, who encourages him to go to Hollywood and become an entertainer, where he will make 'millions of people happy.'

Kermit packs up and heads to Hollywood on his Schwinn bicycle, but runs into Doc Hopper, a restaurant mogul that specializes in southern food-particularly a chain that sells frog legs. He offers Kermit some money to become the new advertising face of Hopper's restaurants, but Kermit refuses to participate in what to him is cannibalism. This drives Doc Hopper crazy, and he starts to pursue Kermit across the country.

Along the way, Kermit meets up with the rest of the Muppets and has some amusing adventures with the notable exceptions of an interminably long 'romantic' music number with Miss Piggy and the newly introduced fact that Doc Hopper has escalated things to the point where he has hired a 'frog assassin' (who explicitly states that his job is to 'kill frogs,' which he demonstrates by firing a trident-like projectile at a Kermit target practice thing). 

Around this time, the children watching the movie start to wonder if they should be watching what is essentially Blade Runner with more music numbers. It all leads to an extremely tense showdown, lacking even a hint of levity, in a ghost town in which Kermit makes an impassioned plea for his life and Hopper advises his assassin to 'kill him.' 

Fortunately, it all end happily when a hellishly large Animal breaks through a roof because he ate some growth pills and roars, scaring all the bad guys away. Unfortunately, they never get their comeuppance, and likely redirect their efforts to murdering Shari Lewis' beloved 'Lambchop' character.

Meanwhile the Muppets get a movie contract and film a terrible retelling of the entire movie we just saw except with ridiculous plywood sets and props. An accident causes the sound stage to collapse and Kermit closes things with the lyrics, "Life's like a movie, write your own ending." So if you were hoping for the movie to end, you are out of luck.

Why Jim Henson thought this would be the right plot for what had to be a lifelong dream to bring the Muppets to the big screen is anyone's guess. All I can think is that he must have had a dark side (after all, Muppets Take Manhattan is based around the hilarious and similarly child-friendly premise of Kermit being hit by a car and left to die in the street) and for some reason thought that modern kids just need to cry themselves to sleep a little more.

Incidentally, he wasn't alone in this perspective. I don't know what it was about the late 70s/early 80s that had people like Steven Spielberg causing beloved alien E.T. to fall into a ditch, get pneumonia, and literally die. Mark Steyn once wrote that he didn't like Sesame Street because it sanitized the 'monsters' in the world and cocooned kids into not knowing that the world was dangerous. Though I disagree and think some childhood innocence is not a bad thing, I assume Jim Henson and others traveled into the future, read that article, and decided to work overtime to horrify children with murdering Muppets and putting scary things in Labyrinth and so on. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Drawing on my phone

So my phone has a little 'S-pen' thing that you can use to draw pictures or notes. Incredibly, I found I was way more comfortable drawing with a mouse over actual freehand drawing.

It's probably worth another attempt tor two. Here is the ridiculous first attempt.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher

"The can be no liberty if there is not economic liberty."

"The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

-Margaret Thatcher

Friday, April 5, 2013

Song Share: Second Hand News by Fleetwood Mac

I recently came across an excellent classic Fleetwood Mac song that I had never ever heard before. The lead track to the landmark album, Rumours, it took me completely by surprise.

I've always liked Fleetwood Mac, but never really thought they were brilliant. Talented pop writers who had a few classics like "Big Love," "Little Lies," and "Medium Antipathy," sure, but I never really thought that they had the capability for something truly superb.

But with an even beat, strong melody, and extremely capable vocal mixing that blends Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and doesn't actually sound like a goat singing a duet with the Marlboro Man, "Second Hand News" is plainly one of their very best, if not their best. And I know I am prone to hyperbole, but it's no exaggeration to say that the 'pow pow pow pow' chorus is the best thing that has happened to all of humanity including bubble gum ice cream and conscious thought.

What's more, it's surprisingly clean, given that the entire band has been having an affair with themselves for their entire existence. And get this: the bridge is about mowing the lawn, my very favorite house chore! Who doesn't appreciate a great tune about good clean yard work? Not me! Because I appreciate it a lot.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: Old House of Fear, by Russell Kirk

Written in the early 60s by a conservative intellectual (a contemporary of William F. Buckley) named Russell Kirk, Old House of Fear is the longest wait I've ever had to read a book.

It started on Halloween, 2005. National Review's Corner, which is kind of a group blog for their writers, mentioned the book as being one of the few fictional books that Kirk had written, and said it was a very good Halloween read. It also said that it was out of print and was extremely difficult to find. 

So, I did what anyone else would do and I put it on my Ebay saved search list. If anyone on the planet listed a copy of the book, I would find out about it. Nearly 8 years later, in early 2013, I was cleaning up my search list and came to "The Old House of Fear" by Russell Kirk. Curious, I realized that I hadn't received a single email about it ever. So I did a quick search to see if there were any plans to bring it back into print.

Incredibly, I found it immediately for sale used on Amazon for $.01. Only it was called 'OLD house of fear" and not "THE old house of fear" as I've been searching. The 'The' prevented any emails from reaching me all this time. 

Thrilled to finally find it and to find that it was only a penny (knowing that I would have literally paid 100x that to read this book), I bought it and put it in my reading queue. 

Was it worth the wait? It's was! A good read, and I really enjoyed it, though some will find it a little heavy on dialogue.

At a very very short 193 pages, it moves much too quickly. You wish that you could spend a lot more time in this world. It was billed as a 'gothic horror' story, but it only hints around the edges at supernatural elements. Mostly it's a psychological drama/romance/adventure that's written in one of the most unassuming prose I've ever read. That is to say, you scarcely notice the author at all. He's not showing off with grand phrases or deep imagery. In fact, I'd even say that the entire book was an exercise in trying to say the most amount with the absolute least amount of words.

Briefly (because with a book this short, too much detail would completely spoil the plot), it's about an eccentric millionaire who sends his trusted attorney to Scotland to try to buy an island that has a castle on it that was in his family almost 200 years prior. He runs into a lot of trouble along the way.

The book has many strengths, but one of the biggest is that it's a puzzler; the lead character, Hugh Logan, solves every problem with just his mind. And he's not a genius or a detective or even that unnaturally smart; he just figures out how to get out of situations and he (mostly) succeeds. It was great to keep guessing at how he would get out of each predicament.

The only detraction I have-and it's not even that-is that the book ends insanely abruptly with zero epilogue. It's kind of like if Return of the Jedi ended with throwing the Emperor down the thing, and the credits started rolling. You would assume that Han and Leia would get together and that there would probably be some kind of party and that Luke would be visited by all of his ghost friends (probably). And that would all be very likely. But I completely understand why Kirk didn't do that here; he felt that it was totally unnecessary. And technically, it really is. But still, I wanted to read all of that just 'to make sure.' 

If this is at your local library, pick it up. It's a very quick, very clean book. And there's even a few little passages, here and there, that take some well-deserved jabs at Marxism and Socialism. Even better, they do it completely within the context of the story, so it wasn't like he was going out of his way to make a point. 

This would be a good movie. I would maybe cast Ginny Weasley as Mary and James McAvoy as Hugh. Everyone else would be CGI. They're all just normal humans, but not enough movies create normal CGI humans just for fun, and that needs to change.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Random Thoughts Volume V

The reaction to my latest lame random thoughts was the highest page views I've had in 2 months, so we're going to give the people what they want! Namely, the deleted items I felt that were too dumb to include in the last one.

  • Apparently the plot to the new Wolverine movie involves a guy promising Wolverine that he can make him mortal so that he can die. To do this, Wolverine has to undergo some insanely painful procedure. Maybe it takes his adamantium skeleton off? That part is unclear. However, why doesn't he just jump into a volcano? Just because your injuries heal and you have a metal skeleton doesn't mean that there are no other conceivable ways to die. 
  • In retrospect, the PregNancy Drew spin off series was probably a mistake.
  • I work with a guy named Jose who failed his driving test because he needed to get new eyeglasses. He made arrangements to see an eye doctor and was given a new pair of glasses. When he got back to work, I went over to him and said, "Jose, can you see?" It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
  • I haven't yet had the opportunity to say, "No way, Jose." When that happens it will likely be the 2nd best thing ever.
  • Who rents those rip-off movies that they have at video stores/machines? Like, "oh, Summer Switch. Starring Jake Thandlson and Alice Smith. Sure, looks good." Is your free time worth so little? For example, I watch nothing but best picture Academy Award winners. Not even the ones that got nominated. Just the winners.
  • The value of having the biggest TV to me is wearing off. I still want one, but the main show we watch currently is 'American Pickers,' and it's one of the few shows where higher definition makes it worse.
  • I like a lot of songs by The Lower Lights, an LDS 'supergroup' that plays mostly banjo-type covers of Christmas songs and hymns, but I heard their version of "Ye Elders of Israel" and they had a girl singing it. No offense, but this should be illegal. It's like having guys sing "As Daughters in Zion" or whatever the Beehive song is. It's illegal and wrong.
  • It's funny how the 'treehouse' mentality is present with other 'maintstream' Christian churches that don't want to let Mormons into their Christianity club. As if they own what Christianity is. That being said, I don't enjoy hearing about declining membership or attendance or scandals at other churches. The world needs religion-Christianity, specifically, and the more tarnished some churches make that brand, the worse off we all are.
  • "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' is one of the extremely few songs in all of existence that was dramatically improved by a saxophone. There are only like 1-2 others, and for some reason I want to say that one of them is a Daryl Hall song. 

Monday, April 1, 2013