Friday, February 29, 2008

Liam Franklin

Liam played an interesting role in a special museum event at school today. The second graders all picked a historic figure to research and portray in a live-action museum. His teacher was tickled when he wanted to pick Galileo or Copernicus! But they couldn't find too many interesting pictures of those cats. So Liam chose Benjamin Franklin! His "favorite founding father." Hey, works for me!

Anyway, I bought him the spiffy duds along with the keen spectacles. He liked them, but didn't dig the wig-thingy I found. It was one of those balding-wigs that covered his forehead and has cascading gray hair down the sides that REALLY made him look like Ben Franklin. But the color of the skin on the wig didn't match anywhere near the color of Liam's skin. And he wasn't hearing it when I said Mommy could put some makeup on it.

("I'm not wearing makeup! I'm a boy!" he said. There ya go, buddy!)

Even without the wig, I thought he looked pretty cool. Like a young Benjamin. He had an awesome speech, too. When you pushed a "button" (ie: sticker!) on the back of his hand, he would stand up and do a soliloquy about his life as Ben Franklin.

Really good stuff. I'm glad he didn't pick Sponge Bob or Elmo or Peter Pan.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Any rest in sight?

Last week, it was a mental Iron Man Triathalon. Dealing with the unwashed mass of eBay buyers for all my auctions. Dealing with the horde of would-be architects. Squeezing my builder. And dancing with lenders.

This week, it is a physical challenge. Tuesday I hit the gym and concluded 3 sets of 400lb angled leg presses with an hour of Sun Salutations. Yesterday it was an hour of ballroom dancing, including the foxtrot and the waltz, but we went live and danced as couples. (I had no idea formal dancing could affect my upper thighs and hips like that!) And today my circuit training regiment made the leap from three circuits to four complete circuits. Normally, but the end of the third, I'm panting like a dog and drenched in sweat. But after the fourth circuit today, I was panting and sweating and ready to puke from so much exertion. And of course, I followed it with an hour of yoga.

My weekend won't be any slower. (I finally get to install the window casings, Meg has another party on Sunday, and I have to prepare 30 items to ship out to eBay bidders.)

And next week includes a ton of logistical planning (hotel room for Kimmer, finding a plasma cutter for the cast iron tub, getting another dumpster, getting two more truckloads of dirt) as well as the physical aspect of actually doing all the demo work at the end of the week.

Is there any rest in sight?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Their Blissful Slumber

A couple of example pictures from my typical night. Notice the books by the bed? They help me unwind. And the water bottle? Just in case. But notice what is conveniently covering my entire side of the bed? Not one, but two unconscious monkeys! And neither of them have any intention of allowing me to put them back in their cages without a fight. (Though I admit I smiled when I saw Meg snuggled up behind Liam!)

Until recently, it was like this every night. And as the monkeys get older, my spine pays a higher toll. So we've been TRYING to get them to sleep in their own beds on school nights, and save the trips to our bed until the weekend.

Usually, Liam is drenched in sweat. Most of the time there's a very obvious head-shaped wet spot on my pillow. I have to flip it over or it icks me out.

And 99 times out of 100, when I'm trying to haul Meg to her room, she'll stretch out her arms and legs and become as rigid as a plank. Sometimes I have to fight for balance. Sometimes she'll kick a wall or punch a door. Rarely she'll talk me through her dreams. But she almost always does, "The Midnight Meggy Stretch," before I can get her to bed.

So I captured the moment for posterity before relocating them. It was almost one AM. I hated to interrupt their blissful slumber. But morning was rapidly approaching. And I had to find something resembling sleep for myself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

MOVIE: 88 Minutes

Either 88 Minutes went straight to DVD or the trailer was so utterly forgettable that it didn't register on my radar. I was surprised to find an Al Pacino movie from 07 that I had no idea existed.

For the record, I'm something of a Pacino fan. Particularly enjoyed Scent Of A Woman and Insomnia. I was hoping this would be on par with one of those. But I should have been alarmed by the fact that it was completely unknown, at least to me.

Being the adventurous type, I decided to give it a shot. And 88 Minutes turned out to be about Jack Gramm (Pacino) a forensic psychiatrist who works for the FBI and helped put away a dastardly serial killer, Jon Forester (Neal McDonough). However, on the day of the Forester's planned execution, Jack Gramm (according to the tag line) suddenly discovers, "he has 88 minutes to solve a murder. His own."

Unfortunately, I'm very torn over 88 Minutes, though. Very much on the fence here.

What I liked:
  • Started off well, with some phenomenal nudity
  • Very good acting from Al Pacino
  • The subject matter (ala the mind of serial killers) has always fascinated me.
What I didn't like:
  • Pacino was the only faintly shining star in the film. Everyone else was unremarkable. No chance of any awards being given out to anyone for this movie.
  • The character development was weak. Nobody outside of the protagonist even remotely held my interest. The antagonist bored me. And because of my apathy, I really didn't care either way if the villain's plot succeeded or failed.
  • The plot was too far-fetched and I had to surrender too much disbelief and rolled my eyes through much of it. It was almost comic-book like with some of the plot elements.
  • And the ending was extremely predictable, anti-climactic, and un-fulfilling.
I hope this isn't the first nail in Pacino's coffin. But this certainly wasn't worthy of his time and efforts. God help him if he needs the money THIS bad.

Most folks will want to avoid this flick. However, very forgiving Pacino fans with an extra $3 for Blockbuster, and a couple of free hours might want to pop it in the DVD and help cure their insomnia.

TOOL: Leatherman Skeletool

Being part man, part monkeyboy, and part lizardbrain, I'm very susceptible to tool lust. If a tool is metal and/or shiney, bonus. If the tool can fit in a black case on my belt, bonus. If the tool in any way at all folds, big bonus! If the tool has a blade in it somewhere, bigger bonus. And if the tool has a sinister sounding name, SUPER BONUS!

Enter Leatherman's Skeletool. Let me say that slowly: skel - eh - tool! It's like a spooky old skeleton, but it's a tool! Nice, right? Plus it has all the naughty lusty features (see above) that immediately had me reaching for my wallet.

Trust me, it is even better in person. And after it was revealed at work, nobody with a Y-chromosome could resist playing with my skeletool. Every chimpy monkey lizard boy at the office took a turn opening it and clipping it on their belt and folding out the knife and playing with the locking mechanism. The cool kids figured out that the loop on one handle can also be a bottle opener. The uberbrainiacs noticed the extra screwdriver bit cleverly concealed in the handle, too. Every male loved it. Every male wanted one. (I should have sold it at a substantial profit while the lust was upon them!)

Two features I didn't mention: it is very very light but very very rugged. Not the least bit flimsy even considering its lack of heft.

Two features I didn't like: the price is a smidgen steep ($80+ with the case) and the removable bit is so thin it is hard to grip/extract sometimes.

All in all, a most manly investment. Slightly expensive however pleasing to wield and a pleasure to taunt the other chimps with!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Meg's Dias Especial

Six years ago today, Meg joined us. Six years, already? She's been counting down the days. Even the hours. Waiting for her moment in the limelight. It's the equivalent of winning American Idol for her, but it happens once a year.

I wish every day could be Meg's birthday. She was so happy and polite and cheerful. She was smiling all day and singing and dancing and spinning in circles. Just being a girl. A joy to be around.

To help pass the time, we grabbed some lunch at High Cotton. Meg kept asking, "How much longer?" Counting down the hours until her party.

Gigi showed up first. She brought Meg a couple of pink dresses. One of which Meg had to put on immediately. For all I know, she tried them all on (in a matter of seconds) and picked her favorite. That girl can change clothes quicker than a girl her age should be able to. Anyway, I caught a picture of her and Gigi. The Glamor Girls posing for the camera.

Then the cousins came over. Alex and Darby and Lindsey and Babyboy Tollar. I snapped a picture of Meg and Alix. They're only a couple of months apart in age. And they play play play for hours, with the dolls and the dresses and the puppet shows. Cute as buttons the two of them. Especially around lunch time, when Alex comes over with her little voice: "Uncle Jon, can I have some apple juice?" and she sounds like a princess on helium.

Anyway, their arrival was follow by the grand parents, Pawpaw Raybourn and Granny Pam. Nana (my mother) and Great Grandma joined us, too. Good times, all around. Tollar (my wee nephew) was running all over the place. Playing with Liam's old Rescue Heroes. Being bashful. And screaming every time his Mommy left his sight. Talk about a bad case of Detachment Anxiety? That boy has it waaaay bad.
We lit up the cake and everyone sang. Cindy carved up the cake. (Complete with one of Meg's favorite red-heads, The Little Mermaid, from Dairy Queen.) I had been picking on Meg and told her I mistakenly bought a "9" instead of a six, for her cake. It was funny the first three times, I guess. She got mad after that. But looking at the picture made me remember the joke.
And Meg started to open the presents.

Some ponies. Some WebKinz. Some clothes. And finally, after weeks of waiting and hoping, a pink Nintendo DS. She was waving it around screaming and jumping and singing. I tried to snap a decent shot, but it was a wee bit blurry.
All in all, a good day for Meg. I think she's happy. And if she's happy, we're all happy.

If nothing else, she's six now. And she can check out library books!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

MOVIE: The Spiderwick Chronicles

A rare treat to find a movie aimed at children that holds my attention throughout the whole thing. But The Spiderwick Chronicles did just that.

It is based on the series by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi. Featuring Freddie Highmore as Simon and Jared Grace, Sarah Bolger as their older sister Mallory, Mary-Louise Parker as their mom, Nick Nolte as Mulgarath, and David Strathairn as Arthur Spiderwick.

It's about Jared's adventures following in the wake of his Great Uncle, Arthur Spiderwick. A clever tale full of Celtic legend and Irish mythos. Truly enjoyable as long as it is taken for what it is: an escapist movie designed to entertain young audiences, to keep their minds wondering, and their hearts lightly racing. If that's all you expect of the movie, you'll get exactly what you signed up for.

When I was younger, I was fascinated by the lore of faeries and bean sidhe. And I'd covertly work that into my fiction and my role playing games.

It continues to intrigue me because our ancestors were using their myths to explain how their world worked. And today we do the same thing, but we use terms like Higgs Boson particles, Planck units, pions, quantum entanglement, and strangelets.

And while our ancestors had their myths and we have our science, neither of us are any closer to really knowing anything other than that's in front of our noses. And a century from now, our descendants will consider all of our finest sciences to be 21st century folklore.

Anyway, today Liam and I enjoyed Spiderwick. Good entertainment. Won't win any Oscars, but it was worth the price of admission. And I'd certainly recommend it for other parents and their kids.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Special delivery

This was odd.

I should have known Ron would be involved.

A DHL truck pulled into the driveway at 9:30P. The driver got out quickly, looking at the darkened corners of my house for a few long seconds. He was smoking a tremendous cigar. The cherry glowed brightly in the too-warm-night. He left the truck running as he shuffled to the door. He was sweating and unshaven.

I signed, waving the smoke away before it could waft into the house. The driver eyeballed my signature and nodded to me. "Gracious, senior," he said. Then he winked at me. And trotted back to the truck.

In the package was a t-shirt, an iPod, and a dead bee. The shirt was too small. It might fit Liam, but not me. The iPod was brand new. The bee was very dead. Its legs curled tightly against its crisp insect belly.

I held the iPod nervously and put the buds in my ears. It lit quickly and only had one track. On it, a live band played a slow, anguished blues rendition of La Bayamesa.

Then Ron starts talking, telling the band to stop. He says they're giving him a headache. He sounds tired as he steps closer to a microphone I imagine is older than I am.

"The shirt is too small for you. It should fit Liam. Tell him Uncle Ron says hello. Don't show him the bee. That's for you. It's dead. And all balled up. In some insectille fetal position. It reminded me of you."

He pauses. Takes a sip from something I imagine is mostly rum, sugarcane, and Laudnum.

"It's hot here, McD. Too hot. I never should have gotten into politics. It is killing the honeybees. We are dying."

He must make a motion to the band, as they start playing La Bayemesa.

"I hope you like the shirt. It's all the rage here. Except among honey farmers."

I hate special deliveries from Ron.

Friday, February 22, 2008

This Olde House - Architect Hunting Part III

When last I wrote about my home renovation, I was questing for a home architect. A local fellow wanted $6000 for his efforts. A gent from NOLA wanted $4000, but had been dancing with me on committing to the project for months. So, I had posted a project on soliciting bids to draft the plans for the add ons to my house. Within a few hours, I had six people offering.

And now for something completely different! Friday, the number of submissions had reached 17, and I was getting bombed with emails and questions and requests. So I closed the doors to new applicants.

...I had offers coming from all across America, coast to coast: AZ, ID, IL. IN, MA, MI, MO, NC, ND, NY, OR, PA, TX, WA.

...the hourly rates quoted ranged from $35/hr up to $110/hour.

...the per/foot rates quoted ranged from $0.50/foot to $6.0/foot.

...the flat rates quoted ranged from $200 (riiiiight) to $2000.

The difference between bids floored me. The variance on the rates was huge. If there's some kind of "standard rate," it wasn't showing up on my radar.

And I thought it was a very interesting to note that many of the submissions appeared to be looking for a quick, easy buck. I think some of them may have been scam artists. Bottom dwellers submitting to every project in the hopes of enticing a payment then vanishing into the ether. For "professionals," some of the emails I received were questionable, at best.

So I had to thin the flock. I wrote each of the applicants that I'd like them to take my suggestions and product a "rough draft" for me. I didn't elaborate any further. I just wanted to see what they would produce.

And that is when things got interesting.

..6 out of the 15 never responded.

...1 responded that he would "do no work for free." (Sorry, Stephen, but I don't drive a car without test driving it!)

...1 who had been VERY communicative and emailed me more than anyone else stopped once I asked for a creative sample of his work.

...2 out of 15 said "I'll get you something soon,," for a week

... and 5 out of 15 (33%) sent rough drafts.

I've posted a picture (above) of part of the best submission. All told, Christopher sent blueprints, 3-D renderings, and a "fly through" of what he envisioned. "For free," I thought it was an incredible effort and extremely professional. So he's going to be rewarded the project. (Oh, even though his price wasn't the lowest, it was still less than half of what I'd been quoted by the local folks.)

I'm also posting a picture of another "rough draft." I'm not sure if this guy was pranking me, or not. I think he drew it up on a cocktail napkin and scanned it at Kinkos. If the drawing had been done in pink crayon, I'd think my 6-year-old had done it.

Anyway, I'm hopefully going to speak with Christopher in the next day or two, make sure we're of the same mind on the project, and award it to him.

And that's my experience using, thus far. I'm pretty happy with it. And it certainly put me in touch with somebody I'm much happier with than the people that I found in the local Yellow Pages.

Hopefully in the next two weeks, I'll have a finished product to give to my builder. And I'll have it for a fraction of the cost of using a traditional architect.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

MOVIE: The Band's Visit

I doubt this one had much screen time in America. The lack of Arabic and Hebrew speakers in "main stream" audiences likely contributed to the movie's lack of an appearance.

"The Band's Visit" is a very subtle, intriguing tale about the the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra that flies from Egypt to Israel, to perform at the opening of an Arab culture center. They get lost. And subdued drama ensues.

There are no gun fights. No bombs. No political statements. And no sub-titles. But I don't know if I would have appreciated the movie more if I could understand exactly what was being said. I intuited a good bit of it. And the rest was spoken in English. So it is likely the Director (newbie Eran Kolirin) wanted English audiences to fend for themselves.

Anyway, the Arab band gets stranded in an foreign Israeli town and they have to get to their gig the next morning. During the wait, a couple of the band members hang out with an Israeli family and talk about typical topics such as children, relationships, and how a man meets a women. Another band member (the handsome violin/trumpet dude) goes out on the town with a pair of local boys and their dates. They roller skate. And he ends up teaching one of the boys the subtle nuances of wooing womens. Finally, the band conductor goes on an odd date with a lonely restaurant owner and she shows him the local hot spots.

Very much a movie about the "human condition" as well as the interaction between to supposedly diametrically opposed cultures.

Exceptionally good flick. Mondo points all around for acting, directing, dialog, pacing, and cinematography. I was also very fond of the subtle references to old American tunes. Funny how everyone seems to know "Funny little valentine."

Worth renting. And if it ever comes out on the Big Screen, a very good Date Movie.

Rodent words

At the office today, Tuckerville stomps past and says:
Weasels! This place is infested with weasels!
I agree. Too many rodents hereabouts.

MOVIE: Inside Man

Wish I had seen this on The Big Screen. It was strongly engaging, intense at times, and surprisingly clever in the light of some of its tried-and-tested theatrical techniques.

I was particularly fond of the subtle mix of racism, power, gender-conflict, and politics. It all went down fairly smoothly with very little elements threatening to ruin my willing suspension of disbelief.

Inside Man had all my favorite characteristics: good writing, good directing, great pacing, fantastic acting, and an ending that I did not see coming.

Well worth renting. To say more would diminish its impact upon future viewers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Me & The Grinning Moon

In his classical minimalist style, my buddy Rasta pinged me seconds after 10PM:
Less Go outside.
So I went outside. And the shadow of our sweet Earth was almost completely draped across the cold pale moon. Only a sliver of pure white luna firma remained. I'd caught it in mid-vanish.

I'll have to thank Less, tomorrow. I would have missed it without his timely intervention.

Quickly, I crept back into the house. To the bedroom. Scrounging for the camera and waking Cindy in the process.

In her classic minimalist style, my bride Cindy pinged me, "Huuuh?"

"The eclipse," I said. Fumbling across my nightstand in the dark.

"Whuuuuh?" she creeked, like a tired, un-oiled door hinge.

"The dragon is shallowing the moon."

She sighed. She does that when I try to be clever. It usually indicates I failed in my efforts.

And she drifted back to sleep. The sigh lingering a moment on her lips.

Alone in the warm February night, I photographed the moon. An exceptional sky. Crisp and cloudless. Perfect weather for viewing the only eclipse this side of 2010.

I sat on the sidewalk. Braced the camera on one knee and tried to keep still. Holding my breath to stop my the shake in my hands. There were ghostly limbs from the old wateroak stretched across the sky, trailing thin leafless branches against my view of the moon. I wanted to photograph that view. It felt haunting. Sinister. But I've little skill with the camera. And my photos all failed to capture the experience.

I reclined on the cold cement. Leaned back on my elbows. Just me and the stars. And the grinning moon. That slow smile of white spreading further and further.

A quiet event. Rare and beautiful. Meanwhile, the rest of the house slept.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The truth about Castro's departure

I knew strange things were afoot when Uncle Ron called me two nights ago at, at 2:29AM.

I knew it was Ron because he simultaneously calls my cell phone, Cindy's cell phone, and my home phone. And keeps calling until somebody answers. (I dare not ask how he got Cindy's number.)

"Johnny Boy," says Ron. When he calls me Johnny Boy, it is like George Lucas saying: Long Long Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away.

"It is two damn something in the morning," I says.

"Is it?" He sits there, where ever he is, taking a slow drag off something that would likely kill me with the second hand smoke.

"Yes, Ron. It is. That throbbing noise you hear is my brain pulsing because it craves slumber. This is the time when normal, decent humans sleep," I says.

"Look here, Johnny. Let's say you had two point seven five million and you needed to spend it. And let's say you were interested in a secluded economy. One with a low cost of living, a cheap labor force, and little (if any) regard for human rights violations. But it has to be a quick hop from American soil. And it has to have access to a plethora of fundamental human vices."

"You couldn't have asked me about this in the morning, Ron?"

"You can turn your back on a person, Jon, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye. " And he pauses again, taking a drag, and listening to the slow death of my sleep-deprived brain cells.

"Well, there's always Cuba, Unc. It's pretty much a third-world. Hookers, booze, cigars. Your three basic food groups. And I think a year's worth of labor costs as much as a pack of chicklets. But that sadist Castro has his talons in everything. And he doesn't take kindly to gringos mucking up his machinations."

"Yeah," says Ron. "But that big doughboy is like Pooh Bear guarding the honey pot. And ain't no man can get between me and my honey pot. See you soon." Then the line goes dead.

- - -
I woke up next to Ron, in an 18-wheeler going 130 miles per hour, passing a sign saying, "Florida, the sunshine state."He's wearing a really bad Hawaiian shirt and singing Beatles tunes.

"Morning, sunshine!" he says.

I rub the sleep from my eyes, taste a mouth full of mold, and try to remember the last time I was conscious. Watching MMA? Nope. Nepal? Nope. Oh yes! When I opened the door at 2:35A to find Ron trying to bump the lock, with an 18-wheeler in my driveway, and a rag soaked in chloroform.

"I got sixteen pounds of C-4, twenty pints of PCP from Salton Sea, California, nine Galil sniper rifles, and one of those inflatable speedboats, Johnny. I need you to take the rig back and watch my dog for a few days."

- - -

Back home, I open my email. There's a picture of Ron smoking a cigarette in front of a rack of servers he setup in a cantina in La Villa Blanca. The email reads: "Don't forget my pooch, Johnny boy."

And today, Castro resigns.

A baggy affliction

It has been a phenomenal couple of weeks on my circuit training regiment. Hitting new personal records every few days. Recently I started doing dumbbell bench presses with 60lbs in each hand. Starting doing 350lbs on the angled leg presses. And started squatting 200lbs. None of those things were on my radar last year.

Today, I had an odd personal problem: My shorts kept falling! I've never had to deal with this. I'm not a "baggy pants" kind of guy. I don't roll like that, yo! But today, I needed a belt or something. I couldn't go 10ft without having to pull up my shorts.

The scale at the gym broke, but the way my clothes were dropping, I think I've lost more weight. And maybe some inches?

For the better part of my life, at least from high school through my first 27yrs, I was down with size 30 in the waist. Life started catching up on me after Liam was born and I advanced to a size 32 in the waist. Sometime after we moved back to the Gulf Coast, I swolled up a smidgen and started to push closer to a size 34. When I threw out all my old clothes a few weeks ago, I only kept stuff that was size 34. They fit well.

But now I've got this baggy affliction, Maybe I'm back down to 32?

And I'm heading toward 30 again!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Liam fixes a feast

Liam decided he wanted to cook something for us!

He sat down with Cindy and waded through a couple of issues of Real Simple, until they found just the right recipe. Our chef would craft his first dish: Chicken Parmesan.

He broke the eggs. And whipped them into a nice batter for the chicken that Cindy sliced up.

Then he dipped all the pieces in the egg batter. Coating each one evenly. Lightly pressing them into the bread crumbs. Making sure everything was covered and it wasn't lumpy or bare in any places.

Next he and Cindy cooked the pieces in oil. He helped cut into them and made sure they weren't the least bit rare in the middle. When they were done, he helped wrap them up while everything else was cooking.

And Liam helped prepare the noodles! Keeping an eye on them. And stirring them, until they were ready.

When he was done, we sat at the table and ate Chef Liam's first meal, as a family. Liam ate the noddles with butter and grated Parmesan cheese. I think he had four pieces of chicken! Meg even tried some of it. Cindy and I thought it was top notch. And we all had a great meal, thanks to Liam and his efforts.

Hurrah for global warming

The kids went outside and ran around hours and hours. It was perfect weather. Clear and in the upper 60s. No sign of winter. I, for one, welcome Global Warming. Won't be long before we only have two seasons down here: Hot and Hotter.

Liam unboxed one of his presents from his cousins and put together the battery-powered, remote-controlled airplane. More of an assisted glider, really. Two little motors that make more noise than thrust. But Liam put it all together by himself, figured out how to pilot it, and flew it around the yard with Meg's help.

They'd throw it as high as they could, chase it ten feet (screaming at the top of their lungs the whole time) and then try to catch it on the way down. Over and over. It was the highlight of their day.

And we're supposed to be in the middle of winter? Um, yeah.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Back To eBay

Forty Eight auctions later and I'm nearly ready for bed.

I listed a couple of dozen books, last week. I posted the remainder of my stacks this week. Plus some cards. And dice. And t-shirts. And more unused hardware. I hope it all sells. I don't want to have too many more weekends filled with hours of posting auctions.

Any progress towards de-cluttering our lives is good progress, in my book. And much has been made today.

FIGHT: Tank Abbott vs Kimbo Slice

So my long lost brother-I-never-should-have-had, Ron, calls me up and asks if I'm going to watch the Kimbo Slice fight. Being something of a self-professed Kimbo-connoisseur, I was saddened to confess I didn't know he was fighting. But I said I'd do anything short of gnawing off my own sphincter to watch it! Ron, you know Ron, said if I didn't want a mouth full of fist and a butt full of lead, I'd better watch. (That's how Ron shows his love, either that or he grabs you by the back of the neck and headbutts you in the bridge of the nose.)

Since I didn't want to be spitting out my teeth, I turned to the power of TEH GOOG and discovered the fight would be carried by EliteXC. Some card called "Street Certified." An incredibly jocund title (I believe Liberace rose from the grave, pointed a flowery boa toward EliteXC, and said, "Come on, Queen, who are you trying to fool?") but my local cable provider was kind enough to make introduces in a timely manner. And I had ring side seats just in time to see Kimbo get fired up to roll with none other than Tank Abbott.

Now Tank and Ron have much in common, including choices of haircut, a god-given propensity for violence, and fists that taste like soupbones. Neither Tank nor Ron suffer fools lightly. However in Tank's case he is getting paid to fight. Ron does it just to eliminate the competition during full moons when he prowls the streets of PA looking for womens.

Anyway, the fight was short, but pleasant. Tank vs Kimbo, that is. (Ron vs Womens is like watching six cats tango in a blender, lots of blood and a few painful seconds of high-pitched shrieking.) Not sure if it was worth the price of admission, but I will say:
  • Tank tried. You can see he comes out swinging and he's visually upset when he fails to connect with a couple of monstrous uppercuts.
  • Tank's got a chin like an anvil. If I took even a glancing blow from Kimbo I'm sure I'd wake up a fortnight later thinking my name was Robin Williams and I was preparing to film the sequel to Hook.
  • Kimbo was out for blood! He was damn-near pushing the referee out of his way, like Clubber Lang trying to get a sweet piece of dough-boy Rocky (the first fight, before Apollo Creed introduced him to soulfood and taking long runs on the beach.) Relentless aggression from Kimbo! He was on Tank like ugly on an ape.
  • I wanted more! However, the fight was still grimly satisfying. Much better than many of the UFC fights (ie: Rampage Jackson vs Chuck Liddell) because at least this knockout was staggeringly apparent and it wasn't some glancing blow that was only caught from one obscure camera angle. This one was short, but glorious.
In the meanwhile, Ron has come up with a new title for Mr. Abbott: Turtle. Because of the way he balls up on the ground and tucks down his head. Turtle Abbott. Nice ring to it. I'm sure when he puts his jaw back in place and finishes collecting his check, Mr. Abbott will be combing the streets of PA for a tattoo'ed wiseguy that likes to give out clever nicknames. And maybe we can see that on EliteXC's next ticket: Fabulous Boyfights.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

FOOD: Carnaval De Brasil

Cindy and I didn't get to go out on Valentine's Day. But we had a date tonight. She didn't know what was on the game plan, though.

I took her to Carnaval De Brasil, at the IP Casino, in Biloxi. It is a Churrascaria, or Brazilian steakhouse. The style is famous for its flavorful churrasco (ie: barbecued) meats. It is like a open-flame rotisserie. In the ones I've visited before, the Passadors (literally "meat waiters") are not only the servers, but also the cooks. And places like Fogo de Chao and Texas de Brazil, in Atlanta, GA, have more than a dozen different Passadors swarming you with a vast multitude of meats to feast upon.

Carnaval De Brasil has several distinct advantages to call its own. The design work throughout the restaurant is phenomenal. The atmosphere is very romantic and geared toward private, intimate meals. There is a very unique drink menu, which we were delighted to sample, as well as an extensive tapas menu.

Before we flipped over our meal cards (GREEN = Bring the meat! RED = Bloated!) we visited the salad bar. Though I'm not an avid salad fan, I really enjoyed the one at Carnaval De Brasil. Not only did it have some very exotic (though tasty) dressings, but it also had an abundance of roasted vegetables, as well as world-class soups. Everything there was so exceptional, we could have spent our entire time at that salad bar!

After a couple of plates of greenery, we flipped our cards. Our server brought us a plate of garlic mashed potatoes (wonderful,) fried plantains (smooth and sweet,) and some very depressing "brazillian greens" which were indistinguishable from poorly prepared turnip greens. Then the Passadors started circling. We had a couple of different slices of beef (great!) and lamb (a bit gamy) followed by bacon-wrapped-fillet (delicious!) and sausage (ick!.) Cindy also had some seafood like tuna (tasty but too rare) and shrimp (over cooked.) But that was it. I enjoyed almost everything I had, but I was severely disappointed that there were only five cuts of meat, compared to more than a dozen at other churrasco shops. I think anyone who had visited other similar restaurants would feel compelled to make the same observation. But I didn't let it spoil our night. I still had a belly full of goodness and a tasty buzz.

We didn't have any room for dessert. The selection looked good, but neither of us wanted to push our limits.

All things considered, I would certainly recommend
Carnaval De Brasil to anyone wanting to spend some quiet, romantic time with their partner.

Great food. Good service. Moderate prices. We'll be back.

BOOK: Interface

I have been reading this one for a while. That's not a good sign, though.

The writing is very clean and succinct. The characters shined. They were very well created and entirely fleshed out. And it had fairly good pacing.

But the story itself was far from impressive. It rarely had any surprises. And the actual technology was not the least bit creative. All told, it was a fairly boring book.

I wouldn't recommend Interface to any science fiction fans. But for readers that enjoy good writing and powerful characters it may be worth picking up from a second-hand store.

Friday, February 15, 2008

MOVIE: Smokin' Aces

I didn't know Guy Ritchie (ie: Director of Snatch and Lock Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels and husband to Madonna) had experimented with cloning, covertly managed to reproduced himself, and named his new-self Joe Carnahan. But that fact became abundantly clear as I watched Smokin' Aces. It has Guy's style written all over it and I loved every ADHD-afflicted moment of it.

The movie is about Buddy "Aces" Israel and his efforts to survive the various clever attempts by a multitude of assassins to try and collect a bounty on Israel's head. There are hookers, bullets, knives, drugs, punks, booze, cops, snipers, lesbians, goths, and several other colorful elements in the movie. All of them working directly or indirectly together to lay siege to the entrenched object of their desire: Buddy's head. However, he's quite attached to it. And he's not keen on parting with it any time soon. Bedlam ensues as the party quickly comes to fruition.

Most enjoyable. Likely not a date movie. But it goes well with beer, pizza, and a complete lack of children. Well worth a rental.

My Pending Director Position

Yesterday, the data center in Las Vegas unexpectedly lost power. The grid just dropped offline. Neither of the generators spun up. All the UPS batteries started screaming. Their howl slowly died as they were drained dry. And every server that hadn't been shutdown took a dirt nap. Meanwhile, since nobody could find a key to the utility room, they had to drill out the locks. Shortly thereafter, the grid came online. And there was much rejoicing.

I immediately seized upon the moment and started to try to climb the corporate ladder. I wrote to several VPs and Executives:
"Where can I put in for Executive Director Of Power & Electrical Services? Surely such a position is needed to meet the explosive growth [our company] is now experiencing. I can deliver all the appropriate policies and procedures, build upon inherent synergies between the excellence of our staff and static cling, train the corporation to maximize our passive power yields, and I will significantly increase the ROI on our electric expenditures.

I’ll only need a modest but sycophantic staff of eight, a Swedish personal admin, and a Monster Truck."
There have been no replies. Yet.

Food arithmetic?

Liam: Daddy, what's the square root of meatloaf?

Me: The huh?

Liam: Chicken.

Me: Huh?

Liam: What's the square root of yogurt?

Me: Forty two.

Liam: No! It's pudding!

Me: Pudding is the square root of yogurt?

Liam: Yes, it is a new math I'm inventing.

Me: Based on food?

Liam: Yeah. I'm writing a book on it. And I'm going to invent a calculator. And a pocket book. And a formula.

Me: Food arithmetic?

Liam: Yeah, Daddy! That's what I'm inventing: food arithmetic.

So. That's what he's inventing. My boy. The Isaac Newton of culinary sciences.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

V-Day At Chateau McDougal

It turns out that St. Valentine's Day is a very big events for kids in these modern times of ours.

Meg tiptoed into our room at 2AM (ie: TWO IN THE MORNING!) to wish her Mommy, "Happy Valentines!" Then she rolled over and her out-stretched arm punched me in the mouth. When I protested she hit me with a sugary, "Sowwwy Daddeee." And my heart promptly melted.

Sometime thereafter, Liam joined us. He's like a ninja, now. Can creep under our covers without anyone noticing, until he digs his boney knees into your ribs. But that's a tale for another day.

This morning, the kids were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:15AM. They hopped out of bed seconds after Cindy did and followed her down the hall, asking "Did we get anythng special today?" At which point Cindy grunted in her early-morning-CroMag-way and gesticulated toward the kitchen table. (Click the picture for a larger image.)

Liam named his stuffed animal "Lil' Bear." Meg named the pink unicorn "Olivia." Of course there were cards and candy for everyone. But the plushies were the star of the show.

The kids proceed to play for hours, while I proceeded to sleep.

Meg's going to take Olivia to school for "Show & Share" tomorrow.

Liam fell asleep with Lil Bear across his chest tonight.

Life is good at Chateau McDougal!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Cindy and I tried ballroom dancing tonight.

It wasn't bad. I didn't die. Or trip over my own feet.

The instructions were easy to follow. Everyone was in a good mood.

We learned the fundamentals of the foxtrot. Left, right, brush step, together. I don't think I did badly. I didn't injury anybody. Or trip over their feet.

The hour went by quickly. A good first start. But next week they throw in music. We'll see who is foxy then!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On the down low

Liam asked me to print up a document for him. He emailed the text to me, but it didn't make too much sense. At least not to me. So I asked him what it was. This was his reply via email:
"A secret form for Defence against girls school it's confidential. VERY SECRET"
Um... It's confidential? Dude? You are in second grade! You can't go around using big words like that. I don't think I used that word accurately until I was in my twenties.

However, a secret is a secret. I printed it up. And I agreed to keep between us, on the down low.

Monday, February 11, 2008

This Olde House - Architect Hunting Part II

Very excited today. With about an hour of effort, I've gone from having only one potential architect to having TEN. And I owe it all to

Here is what I did:
  1. Created an account on Guru. (Time spent: 5min)
  2. Posted my project: "I need an architect and/or draftsman to help finalize a floorplan for additions to my existing structure and create plans that I can present to my builders. The plans should include plumbing, electrical, etc.

    I am looking to add roughly 1000' feet onto my existing home. The new space would include: 1) A new "master suite," 2) A laundry room, 3) A large home office, and 4) A "family room."
    "(Time spent: 15min)
  3. Watched as six "pros" responded within the first twelve hours. (Time spent: 0min)
  4. Watched as a total of ten "pros" responded within the first twenty four hours. (Time spent: 0min)
  5. Emailed a form letter to each of them, with additional details, and my sketches for the add ons. (Time spent: 30min)
All of them seem very professional. And almost all of them are within my price range.

So now, I'm very happy. VERY BUSY wading through email today, but very happy to know that I have so many options. And I won't have to blow a huge chunk of my budget on having the plans drawn up. More money I can spend elsewhere!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Odds & Ends

  • Good: My auctions on eBay are going well. Several larger items will sell. I'll be able to free up a ton of space in our bedroom (after selling the books) as well as the garage (after selling the computer parts.) Positive movement toward my goal of de-clutttering my life.

  • Bad: I haven't slept well for the better part of three days. It's depressing and chews at my sanity. I want to sleep. I want to feel rested. But my mind won't downshift. I have long periods where I go over things in my head for hours. Usually a laundry list of "To Do" items. And reading hasn't been as helpful lately.

  • Good: My circuit training has been going real well. I hit 350lbs on angled leg presses. I hit 135lbs on deadlifts. And had another round of 100m sprints. My personal progress continues and I'm constantly raising the bar for myself. Very encouraging.

  • Bad: Aside from eBay, I didn't do much this weekend. And I hate to be unproductive. It bothers me to have too much idle time.Angers me to know I could have moved the ball forward, but squandered what little free time I had. Very discouraging.

  • Good: The kids are full of more surprises. Liam has started to enjoy playing football with me. (He hikes the ball to me, then runs, and I pass it to him.) And he sunk two baskets on our 8' basketball goal. I need to take pictures of it. He does much better than I was doing at his age. And Meg has exploded into reading. The librarian covertly lets her check out 2nd grade books, but she chews through them like a shark through a skinny dipper. It's uncanny for a kindergartener to read so well. I need to make another video of her. She's doing infinitely better than Cindy or I was doing at her age. As a parent, I couldn't be happier. I'm blessed beyond belief.

These are the days on my life. Fortunately they are more good than bad.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

MOVIE: Ask The Dust

I don't know who suggested this to me. I almost enjoyed it, though.

It is a tale of a small town writer with big aspirations. And a naive young waitress trying to escape societal limitations.

Thumbs up: Writing is very crisp. Dialog is mostly smooth. Moderately interesting plot. The whole movie stays in character very well. Oh, Salma Hayek gets all kinds of naked.

Thumbs down: Collin Farell didn't do the role any justice. Too stilted. Too forced. The completeness of his failure overpowered my enjoyment of the flick.

I would have liked it a lot better with a different male lead, like Christian Bale or James McAvoy. Otherwise, a very enjoyable movie. Something to watch on a slow, stormy night.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

MOVIE: Jarhead

Jarhead is the stunning memoir of Anthony Swofford, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He is a Marine sniper fighting in Gulf War V1.0. He and his unit are ordered to stay in constant readiness for a battle that almost never arrives. "It's the waiting -- that's our life," Swoff tells the camera.

I was Swofford's age when the first bombs fell on Baghdad. And his struggles could have easily been my struggles. It's easily the struggle of many people in my generation.

Jarhead is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually powerful. It is funny. It is dark. It is intense. And touching. Many of the visual scenes are striking. The acting is perfect. The writing is fantastic.

Loved the flick. Honestly can't think of any negative things to say about Jarhead. Well worth a rental. And not likely to disappoint many Generation X viewers.


After my very disappointing attempts trying to sell some un-used books on eBay this week, I blasted a nastygram to every executive I could uncovered at the auction site.

Nobody responded.

However I did get an interesting email this morning:

Dear Jon,

Thank you for writing eBay in regard to listing your handbook on eBay.

I understand your frustration in trying to list your item. We are aware
that the virtual item ban is causing some difficulty in listing
non-virtual items such as guides and trading cards.

I have reviewed the issue and you should now be able to list your items.
Please let us know if you have any other problems or concerns.

It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing eBay.

That tweaked my curiosity. I tried to repost a "World Of Warcraft" guide. It worked. I tried to edit all my other posts (scheduled to launch tomorrow) and they worked, too. Not any sign of the system blocking me for posting "virtual items."

Could they have resolved my problem by just flipping a bit somewhere? Surely they didn't actually fix the filter. More likely they have some covert flag on users' accounts, and now I'm able to bypass the filter.

I certainly understand eBay's stance on the matter. However their implementation of blocking the virtual goods is very clumsy and appears to be a potential impediment to everyone, not just traffickers in virtual wares.

Anyway, I'm glad to be unscrewed. My venom is spent. And I'm back on course. I'm going to unload all these books and shift back to just being a Buyer.

Circuits & Breathing

More circuit training today. I've grown to enjoy it. It feels much more effective. I'm sweating more and breathing harder than my previous methods. And whereas I used to hit the weights for up to two hours, it only takes me twenty five minutes to cycle through two complete circuits.

Two new personal records today.
  • My first set of "dumbbell chest presses" included 55lb dumbbells. Before today, I had never tried anything higher than 50lbs. I did 55lbs x 12. And I think I could have done the same with 60lb weights.

  • My second set of "angled leg presses" included 250lbs. Last week, I was doing 200. And 250 wasn't a very dramatic effort. I think I'll move up to 300lbs next week. (In the meanwhile, my homeslice Adam has moved up to like 425lbs. Still well ahead of me, but not entirely out of reach!
Wrapped up with an hour of hatha yoga. Focused on twisting poses and a good bit of pranayama, or breathing techniques. The instructor lead us through a few rounds of "Sun / Moon poses" where we alternated breathing through each of our nostrils in a methodical manner. After a few minutes, regular breathing was so effortless. And my lungs felt lighter. My sinuses had opened and it helped me relax. Amazing and nearly indescribable to go through just a few basic moves and feel such an instant and significant impact. Again, it was all very fulfilling. And as I was driving home I felt an unmistakable sense of clarity and calmness. It's like a mellow runner's high. Or a light wine buzz. Very smooth and subtle. Completely refreshing.

With the increase in my strength, the increase in my cardio, the extra flexibility and the unfettered clarity, I'm already looking forward to my next trip to the gym.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

MOVIE: The Bourne Ultimatum

Rarely does The Bourne Ultimatum stop to catch its breath. Bourne's running. Bourne's stalking his opponents. Bourne's driving. Bourne's jumping through windows. Bourne's fighting. Bourne's eluding snipers. Bourne's crippling your brother. Bourne's all over the place!

Action movie? Thriller? Detective movie? Espionage? Where does it fall among the genres? I don't know. It breaks off a piece of each and welds them together into a satisfying conclusion to the Bourne Trilogy.

Good pacing. Good writing. Good direction. Great settings. Great chases. Great fights.

The camera effects, the way the point of view jittered and rarely kept in place, was distracting in places. Too noticeable. And got in the way sometimes.

And the ending (a foregone conclusion) was a bit thick, taking just a little too long to not go very far. It could have been tied up more cleanly. However it did carry the story to a worthwhile completion without being overly dramatic or unbelievable.

I'll miss Jason Bourne. But I enjoyed his tale.

This Olde House - Architect Hunting

Cindy and I need more space. The house is too small. Even renovated.

We are going to add on a couple of rooms to the existing structure. A new master suite. A new home office. Possibly a new family room.

We have an idea of what we want. But we need an architect to help with suggestions. To finalize the ideas. And to draw up the plans. We have a builder lined up. We have an interior decorator. We just don't have any blueprints.

So, how do you find an architect?

I asked around. Nobody really had any suggestions. Nobody in my family. None of my friends. Nobody at work.

I had to wing it. And when in doubt, there is only one thing to do: consult the oracle. I went to and search for architects close to my house. There were 10. I called three of them. One called back, so far.

Gary Dunn came to the house today. He looked around a bit. Checked out my drawings. Gave a few quick suggestions. But ultimately he took a copy of everything and said he'd rough out some suggestions by Friday. And he'll email the basic ideas to me so I can look over them with Cindy. He'll quote us a flat rate based on his guestimate of hours.

If we like his suggestions, we'll go with it.

I'm eager to get this under way.

I want to be in the new rooms before it gets too hot.

August is coming.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

MOVIE: Transporter 2

Blockbuster should have thrown this steamer into the bag with my paid-for movies, for free. It's a 90 minute car commercial inter-spaced with a couple of shabby gun fights, a couple of really unbelievable fist fights.

Bad writing. Bad effects. Bad acting. Unbelievable plot.

The only 8 seconds of non-merde material in this entire movie was the brief scene where Popstar Pink is mostly naked and entirely drenched, walking through some flames carrying a couple of silenced pistols. (Let's have an entire movie based on that!) The rest of Transport 2 should have never seen the light of day.

I'd rather get an un-sedated vasectomy at the hand of the resurrected corpse of Katharine Hepburn than have to suffer through a repeat of this flick. I may already be sterile by having watched the whole thing.

Virtually screwed by eBay

When did eBay start to suck? It didn't used to. But epic levels of suckage ensued today as I tried to rid myself of an eight foot stack of books I'll never read.

Here's the backstory: eBay doesn't want to broker "virtual game items". They passed this dictum "due to the legal complexity associated with these types of items." And it is the root of my woes.

Here's the problem: eBay polices this policy by filtering the "title" of your item on such words as "gold," "coins," and "world." The filter doesn't care WHAT you are selling. It only cares that you have used a naughty word that might be associated with a "virtual game" and that's verboten. And you don't get to argue with the filter. You just get shown the door.

Here's my issue: So even though I am trying to sell a book entitled, "World Of Darkness - Core Rulebook" (See example at Amazon) the braintrust at eBay scans the title, blocks my auction from listing and tells me:
Attention Seller!
It appears you are offering virtual game items (gaming accounts, currency, leveling, etc).
These items are not permitted in the eBay Marketplace as a stand-alone product or as a bonus item.
Please revise your listing by removing the non-permitted items.
And that's it. I'm get stuck. Have to blindly edit the auction. Hope I appease the eBay gods. And try again. But fail again. Try again. Fail. Edit. Fail. Edit. Fail. Fail. Fail!


So here's my point(s):
  1. Um, it's a book. The system even recognized the ISBN number and automatically added specific information about the book to the auction. If the front end knows it is a book, why doesn't the back end figure it out?
  2. Which "non-permitted items" bother you? Something in the title? Something in the description? What exactly do I need to change? You didn't tell me what isn't permitted.
  3. It's a book, not a virtual anything.
  4. There's no way to get anybody on the phone and discuss this like civilized human beings. Instead I have, "Ron B" in the "eBay Live Help" chat room wasting my time and sending me to a URL that says I need to email "Listing & Posting" and expect a response sometime in the next 72 hours. Seventy. Two. Hours.
  5. B - O - O - K
  6. The amount of time I wasted on this adventure in futility is more expensive than the amount of money I may potentially make on the few books which I was able to post before I got tired of it and surrendered.
But I have no say, no voice, in this situation. I've been summarily Tried, Judged, and Sentenced by a microscopic piece of cold Boolean software. It is asymmetrical warfare. And the filter catches me. Over. And over. And over. Until I give up. It is very tiring.

Once I wade through all these books, I won't be re-visiting the site as a seller. I don't enjoy being virtually screwed by eBay.

UPDATE!!! See this post, but it seems eBay can (and will) easily fix this for their sellers, if asked. They fixed it for me within 48hrs of emailing them a nastygram about it. No problems since!

Monday, February 04, 2008

MOVIE: Casino Royal

I checked this out solely based on recommendations. It didn't live up to the hype.

Yes, the action in the beginning was good. Especially the opening scene.

Yes, James kicked a lot of buttocks. He did it in new and interesting ways. They were certainly entertaining and I enjoyed them.

Yes, the "torture scene," was unique. Truly creative. Painful to watch.

But the story was trite. The action waned too quickly. It was depressingly predictable. The ending was far too long in the coming. I was bored silly and eager to push STOP.

If that were not enough for me to melt the DVD so nobody else is exposed to its banality, I was personally insulted by the school-girlish attempt to introduce "love" into Bond's repertoire. If it had failed a little less, I would have found it laughable. Instead, it succeeded in completely emasculating James Bond to the point where Liberace rose from the grave and called him a bitch.

Not a flick I'd recommend to anyone other than a tried-and-true James Bond Hater who longs to see the man broken and ruined.

Down down down

I have avoided scales for the better part of thirty six years. They never told me what I wanted to know. When I was younger, I was too thin. I could never gain a pound. When I stopped being young, I was too heavy. It refused to drop for me.

And now, beyond the one-third point in my life, I find myself approaching the scale once a week. And the more it drops, the more my thoughts drift to it.

208 this week. Down by seven pounds in three weeks.

Approaching the one-third point of my goal.

It took long enough. But the scale is finally saying what I like to hear: down down down.

Liam's New Belt

A couple of weeks ago, Liam tested for his Brown Belt, in TKD. He was supposed to go to the award ceremony last Thursday. Bbut we had tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms in the area. So we stayed home.

Today marked his first class, as a Brown Belt. And he officially received his rank. It wasn't the same as being among all his peers and accepting it in front of everything. But we still enjoyed it. The assistant instructor, Mr. Eric, did the deed and strapped him up. (Eric and I work at the same property down here. He's also great with the kids and very encouraging with them.)

After a year in karate, Liam is back to being low man on the ladder. His new class is just Brown Belts (2 of them tonight,) Red Belts (8) and Black Belts (4.) He's also one of the youngest kids. Inversely, the highest ranking kid in the class is Liam's age, in his grade, going to his school. With some patience and a lot of practice, this time next year, Liam will be on the top of the ladder with that other kid.

Oddly enough, but eventually exciting, they started with sparring tonight. Liam, it must be said, loves to spar. And as a father and a man, it is a joy to watch my boy rush across the mat and try to put his fist in another kid's face. Tonight, he fought three matches. He won three matches. One of them was against a black belt. His opponent was more than a foot taller. Two of the matches were flawless. His opponents didn't score a single point during the round. Only the Black Belt touched him.

Then they went on to start their new pattern. Seventh Degree Black Belt and Senior Master Calhoun showed them the form they'd need to learn in order to progress to Red Belt. Maybe 30 moves. Liam could learn it in two days, if he needed to. But testing won't be until March. So he'll take his time.

Afterwards, Master Calhoun posed with Liam. My boy and his first Sensei.

I'll save this one to show at his wedding.