Monday, March 31, 2008

Hrmmm #6

Some late night Hrmmm.

· Santee Cooper raises cost of coal-fired power plant - $1.25B (at least) for continued dependency on the rapidly dwindling supply of fossil fuels. How about we spend $1.25B on a renewable source.

· Investigation: Dangers of Gas Pipelines- Saw this and thought, “Dang! I’d love to see 400 foot flames!” Also thought, “Hey, too bad we didn’t have $600B to fix problems like this!”

· Massive Securities Fraud Ring Exposed In New Jersey - Interesting undertones of criminals across a large area using modern technology to commit ancient crimes. Also like to point out that for everyone one of these criminal cadres that get shut down, three more take its place, improving on the flaws that got the other group busted in the first place.

· School Districts That Got Recalled Beef Are Listed - Um, why aren’t parents being informed directly that 71,500 TONS of recalled beef was sent to our school districts? Why do we have to wade through a 226 page document to see if we’re affected or not? Affected parents should be notified at the slaughterhouse’s expense.

· West Bengal culls poultry to contain bird flu - Anyone other than me completely unaware that India has been fighting bird flu since January? What I like was the mention of villagers hiding ducks and chickens inside their houses.

· Health Agencies Grapple With Labor Shortage - A quarter of a million job openings in the next five years for the Health Department. I don’t know how much of a dent that will put on unemployment, but it should help.

· Washington state passes RFID antispying law - Rare example of our government actually understanding the problems with modern technology and trying to head off future disaster. I expect to see a lot more of these, and eventually a national law. Saw it here first, though.

MOVIE: Talladega Nights

I'd like to quote from the Prayer Of Ricky Bobby:
Dear Lord baby Jesus, or as our brothers in the south call you, "Jezus," we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Dominos, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family. My two beautiful, beautiful, handsome stricking sons, Walker, and Texas Ranger, or TR as we call him. And of course my red hot smokin' wife Carley, who is a stone cold fox.
And it only gets better from there.

Great writing. Quite an original story. Outstanding comedic acting. Even manages to throw in a pancake-loving Frenchman. Wish I had a six pack of Woodchuck cider and a deep dish pizza to enjoy while watching it. Instead of a peanut butter sammich and glass of chocolate milk. But that's how I roll these days.

Anyway, good movie. Questionable date flick. Not right for Lady McD, but womens with a funny streak would enjoy it. Older kids would get a big kid out of it. Grown kids (ie: men) will certainly be Ricky Bobby fans.

I'm praying for a sequel. I... love... crepes.

MOVIE: Babel

I've coined a new phrase just for this flick: Crapumentary.
  • I don't like sitting around for two and a half hours listening to foreign languages, subtitles or no subtitles.
  • Yes, yes, I get it. You were trying to be clever by NOT USING SUBTITLES. I'll be over here picking lint out of my navel while you're being clever. Let me know when you're done. Dick.
  • Japanese girl was hot, but the shrub out front needs a pruning. Big time.
  • Totally don't believe the plot with the little kids. Nope. Don't believe it.
Maybe the writing was good. Maybe the acting was good. Maybe the settings and scenes were good. Maybe it won some nominations or awards. Hey, yo, maybe it offered to fix me a martini and a chicken pot pie, but I didn't dig it.

Babel finds itself on the very short list of movies I couldn't finish. I cut it off after about an hour and a half. Couldn't stomach another hour of jabber jabber jabber, yoink yoink yoink, ching chow ching. Color me shallow, but I just couldn't get past all that shizzle. It wasn't clever. It was a crapumentary.

Gifts from Kevin B & Chris

My wayward amigos from San Francisco, Kevin B and Chris, surprised me with a package from Amazon, today.

(Brief distraction : Whomever wrapped the books did a fantastic job. If the kids hadn't made short work of the presents, I would have taken a snap of them as they had arrived. They were very lovely. Just stunning in simplicity and subtle elegance. Never had such a nicely wrapped gift in my 37yrs on this earth.)

Inside were Disinformation's "Far Out" and Warren Ellis' "Crooked Little Vein." Just in time, too. I'm nearly out of reading material and was going to have to make a run on Amazon this weekend.

Thanks, Kevin! Thanks, Chris! I really appreciate the gifts and I'll let you know how they turn out.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

MOVIE: King Of California

Smiling loon, Charlie(Michael Douglas,) returns home after a couple of years to weigh down the life of his estranged daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood.) It doesn't take long before Charlie's madness boils to the surface and a long, strange adventure follows.

King Of California unwinds calmly and patiently, like a good meal. It is served up with some very interesting storytelling effects (the animated flashbacks,) a bowl of funny, and a Super-Sized portion of creativity. And the ending doesn't disappoint.

An all around impressive movie. I liked the acting (though it was more comical than dramatic.) Enjoyed the dialog, the writing, and the pace. Especially enjoyed the plot and the well-timed effects.

Great date flick. Not something children would find interesting. But well worth a rental and a bottle of wine.

MOVIE: He Was A Quiet Man

One word: WOW!

Christian Slater has come a long way since Heathers and Pump Up the Volume. His portrayal of a covertly insane cubical monkey in He Was A Quiet Man is impressive, powerful, and ground breaking. In my limited opinion, it is the best performance of his career.

He Was A Quiet Man is about Bob and a clever goldfish. They have a little bet going about how Bob will handle certain situations at the office. And, of course, few things ever go according to to plan.

The writing is phenomenal. Extremely original and refreshing. Fantastic dialog. Creative plot. Great action/effects (given the budget.) And fairly good acting.

It is hard to say much else without spoiling the flick. But I'm going to put it on par with Michael Clayton and Smoking Acres for my list of best movies I've seen in the last year.

I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a break from the mundane or somebody interesting in a mentally challenging movie. I only wish I'd been able to see it on the Big Screen.

This Olde House - Kitchen Ceiling

First time in a week that I've been able to lift my left arm above shoulder-left. So I put my newfound mobility to good use.

My father came over to help. I needed it. We planned on scraping the popcorn ceiling in the kitchen.

It really isn't difficult. Just time consuming. It takes longer to prep the room andclean up the mess than it takes to actually remove the popcorn.

So Cindy and Liam put paper down on the floor. Taped it in place. And Cindy hung plastic over the kitchen appliances and cupboards. Fortunately, she listened to my promises about the lack of dust, and we didn't have to put plastic over the vents or the doorways.

Once the affected areas were prepped, I used a handsprayer to soak the ceiling. About four feet at a time, I'd get the popcorn wet and then Dad would use a long handled scraper to bring it down in long strips. We eventually took turns scraping. But once the open areas were bare, we both worked on the corners by the cabinets and by the light box. It took maybe an hour of work.

When we were done, we were an inch taller. The popcorn had collected on the bottoms of our shoes, like thick white pancakes. We had to cut it with the scrapers. It came off in one giant piece, a perfect mold of our shoes.

Afterwards, we rolled up the paper, rolled up the plastic, and Cindy swept. Two hours to prep and clean, half that to get the tough part done.

Not bad for an early morning project.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

MOVIE: Stomp The Yard

Don't ask why. I just did.

And now, I'll admit it: You were right.

I'm way too wonderbread for this flick.

I'll never reclaim those thirty minutes that I lost while watching this at double speed.

Should have listened to you. You're always right. That's why I love you.

MOVIE: Children Of Men

The last child was born in 2005. Everything went to poop after that. Frustration, paranoia, and war soon followed. Then the forces of anarchy and chaos birthed out right proper dystopian society. Something like Orwell meets William Gibson. And that is the world of Children Of Men.

The unfortunate protagonist, Theo, is a miserable, down-and-out, former-political activist. He unknowingly get entangled in an underground revolt with a young girl, Kee, who (insert dramatic music) is pregnant. The first pregnant woman in almost two decades. And he has to go through a Herculean series of challenges to get her into the hands of the mysterious Human Project.

Interesting movie. Kinda low budgety. English accents nipping at the nerve endings. Lots of progressive action. Very zombie-flickish. Writing and directing were good. Acting wasn't too bad. Dialog was unremarkable. But the plot itself is absolutely predictable, bordering on disappointing.

Not a date flick. Not good for the young kids. But I'm sure angry teens would dig it. And it would make for lightly entertaining during a thunderstorm or similar event that threatens to keep you indoors long enough to pop it in the DVD.


Praise Jeebus! I didn't wake up hurting. First time since Monday!!

Now my neck/shoulder has gone from sharp, mind-numbing pain, to more of a dull, very perturbing ache. Much improvement from the previous days. The weakness in my left side is diminishing. No more trembling. No more nausea. My range of motion is returning. And no pain killers all day!

Maybe I'm on the downward slope of this ride. Thank you, Jeebus!

Friday, March 28, 2008

GAME: Dawn Of War - Soulstorm

The Immortal Emperor be praised! Following on the heels of Dark Crusade, Relic Entertainment brings Soulstorm, and all is good in the Empire at last.

Notable highlights include:
  • Four different planets
  • Two new races (total of NINE races at war)
  • All new "Air Units"
Fans of the previous entries in the Dawn Of War saga will fall in love with this, the final installation of the series.

The new races (Dark Eldar and Sisters Of Battle) are great to play. The new maps are some of the largest and most complex to date. The graphics are superb. The new characters and their story lines are enthralling. The depths of the WH40K universe continues to be completely immersive. And I didn't encounter any bugs during game play. All around, a great experience.

On the downside, the Air Units don't really add much depth to the game. There's almost nothing innovating (as far as RTS games go) about this installment of the series. And the old units didn't receive many (if any) make overs. Also, I was hoping to have some kind of spectacular CGI ending, but the last scene was rendered within the game engine.

I really enjoyed Soulstorm, but thought there could have been some more improvements for the old races and a bit more of a bang at the end.

RTS fans should love it. Warhammer fans will want to marry it.

Hurting V

Bad news: Still hurting. And while in the shower, I discovered that my ability to look up and look down is greatly impaired.

Good news: While I'm still hurting, it isn't as bad as yesterday. There's a marked improvement. Though the difference between "Very bad," and "Bad" is negligible when both states involve significant amounts of pain.

However, Cindy bought a new pillow for me. One of those contour jobs that adapts to the shape of your neck and shoulders. I think it helped.

And I took a darvocet. That wee beastie really helped me sleep. And while it was tinting my perception of pain, everything was nice and smooth. Just dandy.

Also visited the chiropractor, third time this week. He put the mojo on me.

So good night sleep + pillow + medication + adjustment = Better day for Jon

Still a long way from normal. But not as depressed or as lethargic. I think I'm firmly on the road to recovery.

Hrmmm #5

Some early morning Hrmmm before I hit the road:
  • Oil hovers near $108 record level - Three points I rarely see shared when it comes to TV newscasters. First, the price of oil is currently being driven by traders, not supply or demand. All the guys who used to make a fortune off buying/selling debt (ie: mortgages) have shifted to oil trading. Second, as the value of the dollar drops, it is going to take more dollars to buy a barrel of oil. Third, the demand for oil in the US is actually going down for the first time in a decade. None of those points get mentioned, at least while I’m watching.
  • California utility to turn roofs into solar power plants - Jolly good news here. Wish other big spenders would see it an copy the business model. For example, down here in MS we are looking at spending $5B on a “llignite” (ie: liquid coal) plant. How about we spend $5B on solar panels, instead?
  • NRG's estimate for Texas nuclear reactors still climbing - My main concern here is “There’s a total absence of the U.S. supply chain,” because we haven’t built any nuclear plants here in decades. So in order to slough off the oil addiction, we have to spend MORE money than we thought because we can’t find parts for our fancy new power plants locally. Niiiiice! I wish some big spender would see this and say: “Hey! Here’s an opportunity to supplement the supply chain, make some money, diminish the cost of building much-needed-nuclear-plants, and create some much-needed-American-jobs!!!”
  • Anti-Missile Gear Tested On FedEx Planes - WOW! FedEx with frickin’ laser beams. People need to know about this. Also, consumers need to be aware that terrorists are targeting our shipments of cookies and eBay items.
  • Chicken Genome Leads to New Vaccine to Fight Poultry Disease - A cure for a disease that costs $1B per year of damage to our poultry industry needs to be mentioned somewhere other than an obscure internet site! Oh, also let it be known that American owns the chicken genome!
  • Killer fungus threatens wheat production in western areas - A threat to the global food security might need to be mentioned after that whole chicken thing, too. I don’t know who Ug99 is, but if I catch him sneaking up on my wheat, he’s getting a foot in his butt.
  • USDA Might Limit Meat Recall Information - This won’t be seen on any major newcasts because there’d be a public revolt. It basically means the organization chartered to protect the public is going to obscure the identity of any major retailers that expose the public to tainted meat. If I find the guy responsible for this policy, he’s getting a infected chicken and a bag of Ug99 in his butt.
  • GA city moves forward on uranium-removal plan - This caught my eye because I used to live in Lawrenceville, GA, and I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed drinking water pulled from a well that contained excessive concentrations of URANIUM!
  • UN raises alarm on AIDS epidemic in Asia - UN says “there’s an AIDS epidemic in Asia that could kill 500,000 per year,” and the US newsrooms print, “Britany’s Return to Television is a success.” Grrrreat! Maybe we can fly her to Asia?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hrmmm #4

Just a couple of things that caught my eye today:
  • Approval for mobiles on aircraft – Good news is that FINALLY somebody is unpuckering their butt and letting cell phones (ie: “mobiles” to the English) on airplanes. I hope the trend drifts across the Big Pond. Bad news is that the airlines will like find a way to charge the passengers for the service. Likely American airliners would be the first ones to charge for it!
  • Minnesota preparing for deadly fish virus - I could be wrong, but isn’t it a pretty significant event if this viral hemorrhagic septicemia gets into the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River? Not sure that I’m comfortable with Minnesota being the first line of defense on this thing. Definitely not comfortable with the pitiful coverage this is getting.
  • Honduran cantaloupe recalled after salmonella outbreak in Canada, US - Firstly, I didn’t know we got cantaloupes from Honduras. Second, I didn’t know we could get salmonella from fruit. Again, I could be wrong, but shouldn’t this be front page stuff? Somebody out there is gorging on cantaloupe that was sprayed with infect pig feces or something and they ought to know what they're putting in their mouth.
  • Government sees overhaul of AIDS vaccine effort - Would have been nice to see GOOD news like this on TV for a change. Glad we’re going to devote some of our resources to resolving such a horrible problem. Would have been much easier if we had an extra six hundred billion to throw at it.
  • Firefox update fixes critical security vulnerabilities - Love me some Firefox. Couldn’t get through my day without it. More people ought to know about it. Just wishful thinking on my part, though. It can never have enough press coverage, IMHO.
  • Defects Go Unfixed for Years in Dozens of Dams - What is it with dams lately? Color me crazy, but if there are “defects” on something as critical as a dam, I’m not going to be able to sleep until it is fixed. How the heck can problems go unfixed for YEARS? And I'm betting for every one dam we know if broke, there are ten waiting to surprise us.

MOVIE: Proof

If this surprisingly-good movie graced the big screen, I completely missed it. However I picked it up based on an obscure web recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed it.

In Proof, a daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes to the aid of her dying father (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant math professor who's lost his grip on reality.

The movie turned out to be a very interesting demonstration on the creation of a mathematical theorem. While that understandably sounds extremely boring, the writing was fantastic, the acting was well done, the dialogs and pacing were great, and there were actually some surprising moments that caught me off guard.

Very engaging movie. Likely a good date flick. Likely not good for the ADD crowd (ie: kids). A remarkable piece of cinema that should have made a bigger public splash than it did.

MOVIE: Hannibal Rising

Trying to capitalize on the "Hannibal Lecter" franchise, I believe Hannibal Rising was supposed to be an enlightening prequel. The sort of thing that exposes how and why our favorite madman initially lost his grip on his sanity. A prolonged look at the character's early life. Experiences as a child. Transition to adulthood. First brush with murder. Initial dances with law enforcement. That type stuff.

Plot is somewhat interesting though it takes far too long to barely go anywhere. The action is mostly mild. The acting isn't going to win any awards. The writing will likewise go unheralded. And the viewer is quick to realize that a young Hannibal Lecter is a fairly boring Hannibal Lecter.

Though briefly entertaining as background material, ultimately instead of a fleshing out (so to speak) the origins of a beloved anti-hero, Hannibal Rising only manages to reduce him down to a few unremarkable psychological traits.

Perhaps it was a good book. It did not transform into a good movie.

MOVIE: Fracture

I actually watched this on a flight home from Las Vegas several months ago. It was didn't resonate within me to write about it until I saw it at Blockbuster yesterday.

Interesting concept, but unfortunately in the first five minutes of the movie I spotted the "twist" and spent the next 90 minutes waiting for them to reveal what I knew they were going to reveal.

Acting was okay. Pacing was a bit slow. Originality was questionable. Plot was simplistic and predictable.

So, didn't enjoy this one. Had I not been on an airplane, I probably would have turned it off after 15 minutes.

Possibly a good flick if neither of you can spot the Plot Monster as quickly as I did. Not something to share with the kiddos, though.

MOVIE: Unbreakable

Harking back to the year 2000, I finally checked out Unbreakable.

It is M Night Shyamalan's modern spin on comics books. With easily 20yrs of former comic book experience under my belt, I think I'm qualified to say: it works! Considering it came half a decade before Heroes on television, I'd say it was the first step in the right direction for transitioning non-underwear-based comics to the big screen.

The character archetypes are very well done. Bruce Willis plays the protagonist. Samuel L Jackson plays his mentor. The pacing and development of the story is superb. Terrific storyline. Loved the personal growth and back-stories of the characters. Loved the subtle hint of costumes and character names. The perfect dash of drama. A satisfying clash of good and evil. Grrrreat ending.

Not a date movie. But acceptable for my youngish son.

My only disappointment is that there has not been a follow-up in the eight years since Unbreakable was initially released. Were a second installment to be released, I certainly wouldn't skip that one!

MOVIE: Last King Of Scotland

Forest Whitaker's performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is hypnotic. And James McAvoy's role as Doctor/Advisor Nicholas Garrigan is a stunning feat for a relative newcomer.

Well written, well directed, well acted. Fantastic movie whose only flaw is that I wanted more more more. The film seemed too short. And I was eager to have more sensational dialog from Whitaker. The film was all about the interaction of the two characters, and I couldn't get enough of it.

Great rental for a rainy day. Not sure if is would be good on a date. Definitely not something for the kids or the elderly. But just right, for me.

Savannah's Wee Leprechaun

Okay, it isn't really a Leprechaun. It's my buddy, Chris Miller.

He's rocking the St. Patrick's Day action from somewhere in Savannah. I wish the image were full length. Dude is probably wearing black socks and sandals. Or even worse, green socks and black sandals.

That's how he rolls. Chris Miller. A god among insects.

Hurting IV

Good news: Found two new solutions to lessen my agony. First, I'm sleeping on Cindy's funky-shaped pillow. (It supports my neck different.) And if I don't roll around too much, I don't hurt too much. Second, if I get on the floor and put a rolled-up towel under my neck, directly supporting my spine, it greatly diminishes the pressure.

Bad news: Still hurting. Mostly the same symptoms. However no nausea or trembling today.

I see the chiropractor again, first thing tomorrow. Probably three times next week, too.

I'm tired of this constant ache. I pray for normalcy again. I long to get back into the gym. And sleep for more than a few hours without waking.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hrmmm #3

Notable under-reported events I stumbled upon today:
  • FBI charges 19 in mortgage probe - I can only pray this is the first of many stings against those peddling slippery mortgages. What few (if any) reports mention when they cover the "Mortgage Crisis" is that people profited from this. The bankers, the Realtors, the mortgage brokers. All of those trades are very much to blame for their involvement in years of irresponsible lending. At every step of the journey, these people profited. I think by the tens of thousands, each of those villains should be held accountable for their role in the crime. At the very least, reclaim the loot they plundered, at the best, bring criminal charges and ruin their ability to do this to people in the future. I want to see a hundred thousand repeats of "Operation Homewrecker."

  • TB threat 'worse than AIDS' - The TB threat isn't new to me at all. Even three years ago, when we were in Atlanta, Cindy started to talk about the return of TB. There was then and there is now a shortage of people trained to handle TB. But to hear that it is a worse problem than AIDS should be a wakeup call.

  • Dams Pose Growing Risk - I'm chalking this up to "we see the train hurdling down the tracks but we're not going to get out of the way." We've got faulty bridges, faulty gas tanks, and now faulty dams. Wouldn't it be great if we were spending six hundred billion on our own American infrastructure that is slipping further and further into disrepair each day? We can have safe bridges, safe gas stations, and safe dams, or we can have more bombs, bullets, and tanks than anyone else on earth? Hrm.... decisions, decisions...

Old Man McDougal

Notable historical facts for March 26th:
  • Poet Robert Frost's birthday
  • Playwright Tennessee William's birthday
  • Singer Diana Ross' birthday
  • Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's birthday
  • Poet, musician, photographer, director, actor, and alien Leonard Nemoy's birthday
  • Chicken Democract Nancy Pelosi's birthday
  • Ornery old cur Jon G. McDougal's birthday
He doesn't know it, yet, but I bought him a Blockbuster gift card with $62 on it. See how long that holds him down.

Happy Birthday, Pop! We love you.

Hurting III

Good news: Nothing good, today.

Bad news: Slept horribly last night. Maybe three hours. Woke up (by which I mean "I finally dragged myself out of bed" after vegging there for hours) and felt worse than yesterday.

Same symptoms: Neck and shoulder pain. Inflexible range of motion without sharp pain. Weakness in my left side.

Rolled into the chiropractor and he took me much more seriously today. Really got into my neck and make some major adjustments. Much more effort put forth and it put a significant dent on my discomfort.

But I've still been dropping the Ibuprofen every couple of hours and I couldn't sit in my chair at work without getting gnarled up and uncomfortable. So I came home at lunch time and worked from here. Was able to get more done because I wasn't as confined and could get up as needed.

I'm due for another visit on Friday. I'm hoping this adjustment holds longer. But I'm likely going to have to see him several times a week for at least another week.

All this from sleeping incorrectly?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hrmmm #2

Things that struck me as odd during my Internet wanderings today.
  • Many gas stations' buried tanks too thin; state requires double walls to avert leaks- 43% of underground fuel storage is out of compliance? Almost half? Over ten thousand tanks that can leak their content into the environment. A known issue, a ticking timebomb, but nobody is going to be held accountable, and nobody is going to step up to resolve it.

  • Nuclear Energy breakthrough- Good news, here. It would allow us to ramp up nuclear energy production while diminishing the harmful byproducts. Reduces the cost of managing nuclear waste to one tenth the current level and reduces the volume of waste material down to one percent of the current level. Major stuff given the rapidly dwindling supplies of oil and coal. I think this would be headline news.

  • US wants FDA inspectors stationed in India - If the US government is saying they are worried, then you know there is something horrible lurking under the surface of this situation. I'm sure India isn't the cleanest place on earth, but if we're going to station inspectors over there, it has got to be bad. But then again, what could we possibly need to import from India? Anything other than curry?

  • Holes Plugged in Kerberos Security System - This one caught me off guard. I think less than 1% of the population of the US has any idea how deep this problem goes. If Kerberos is compromised, then most (if not all) corporations running Windows or Novel would be at risk. This is a "highly critical risk," and yet there's no mention of it anywhere in the mainstream media.

  • Word executes injected code - As above, this is an enormous issue and thousands (if not millions) of people and companies are at risk. The JDE is everywhere inside a corporate network and that puts everyone and everything at risk. But I haven't seen a single word mentioned by any major sources.

  • Eagle Creek Park lake drains - The picture above is no longer relevant, since the lake is now in the act of disappearing. Main point here being: an American resource has been known to be at risk for years, and funds have been requested for years, but nothing was done to prevent the inevitable. And now, the Eagle Creak Park dam he busted and the lake behind it has drained. Would have been great if we had say.... six hundred billion to fix our American resources.

Hurting II

Good news: I slept. First time in two days. I dropped off around 9PM and didn't move until 7:30AM. I didn't even know that Cindy and the kids had woken up and left for school.

Bad news: I woke up in pain. Maybe I'm slightly better, but not significantly. Same symptoms as yesterday: numbing levels of pain in my left neck and shoulder, weakness in my left side, reduced range of motion for turning my head, and an inability to get comfortable for very long.

I'm dropping three Ibuprofen every six - eight hours. But I'd love to have something stronger. The Ibuprofen takes off the edge, but it doesn't stop the bigger jolts of pain if I move too quickly, turn too quickly, or try to lift too much with my left arm. I'd love something stronger. But I don't want it to affect my mental facilities or my ability to handle the kids. So I'll tolerate the pain.

Another very rough day, but I have another appointment with the Chiropractor tomorrow morning. I can make it until then.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hrmmm #1

I'm an information junkie. Especially about current events. Each day I wade through four dozen different sites (at least) and pour over the events of the past twenty four hours. Almost every day I find news that does not appear in the mainstream news for some unknown reason. I call it my, "Hrmmm Moment."

So I thought I'd post the links/news which inspire such moments. I'm operating under the theory that some day I'd look back and think: Wow, should have seen THAT coming.
  • Aviation Week : Northrop Crafts Multimission N-UCAS - The Navy is testing an "unmanned combat aerial system" which will be armed with "compact directed-energy weapons." Um... combat drones with freakin' laser beams! Cool. Cool. Cool. I'd sign up for the Navy tomorrow if I could get a gig operating these monsters. I, for one, wish to welcome our future aerial overlords.

  • 74000 Bridges at Risk, Rarely Inspected - Local News - Almost one hundred thousand bridges are classified as "structurally deficient." Sure would be nice if we had, say, maybe, um... six hundred billion dollars to spend on our infrastructure. These are bridges used every day by thousands of cars. And they're eventually going to cause deaths of men, women, and children. Would be great if we were working on our own problems.

  • Air controllers alerted military to unresponsive airliner - Two upsetting points buried in here: 1) That both pilots may have fallen asleep, 2) Jets were never scrambled. Neither of those facts will help me sleep at night.

  • Web sites under attack - Organized criminals from another country systematically attacking our citizens and reaping millions (if not billions?) of dollars. Money which is pouring out of our country never to be seen again. Rarely do I approve of government involving in our lives on a major scale. But this sort of attack needs to be fought on a higher level with more powerful resources than businesses and citizens can bring to bear. Also, I only see this getting worse, not better.


Something, somewhere, somehow went terribly wrong. My neck is a complete disaster. It feels like it did the months after my car wreck in 2002. My left side, from my ribs to my ears, is extremely weak. (Being left-handed sucks right now!) I barely slept. Bolts of pain shot through me whenever I'd move and ruined any chances of sleep. Several times today I was literally trembling with pain. Nausea caught me at odd moments. And because I couldn't eat, the weakness was worse and I drifted toward light-headedness. Hated life most of the day. Hated it.

Fortunately the chiropractor was able to slip me into his schedule. I felt much better after an adjustment, but I don't think I'm too far down the path to recovery. When something hurts this back, recovery takes more than one session. And any relief is usually measured in hours, not days.

I don't know what caused it. I did NOT do anything strenuous this weekend. And I haven't worked out in at least three weeks. If this is a result of sleeping incorrectly, I'm going to start sleeping less.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

This Olde House - Failed Project: Hall lights

I get depressed when things don't go according to plan. Totally depressed today. Didn't get anything done after an early setback. Just too bummed to be productive.

I had bought seven recessed lights to go in the hallway. New ones to replace the horrible disco tract lighting in there currently. I measured out the hallway and figured out the distance between each light. Measured the studs and recalculated. Found marked and measured. Marked and measured. Marked and measured. Got each location down perfect and had some tape to mark the exact center for each light. Finally, unbelievably, both Cindy and our decorated (Cheryl) actually approved my plan. They said it was perfect. No arguments or wrestling matches needed.

With everything blessed by the dynamic duo, I took an awl and pushed through the ceiling. Something got in the way. Maybe some petrified drywall? Picked up a hammer and tapped lightly. The didn't budge. Tapped harder. Nothing. Tapped MUCH harder, and heard the familiar sound of metal striking wood. Followed by the realization that the awl was now embedded in something rather wood-like.

So a trip to the attic was needed. And it was there that I'd see my downfall.

Not only does the ceiling of the hallway have wooden slats traversing the entire length of it (which I'd have to drill through in order to push up the lights) but squatting ominously midway down the top of the hall was my prehistoric ductwork. At least 70% of the hall is covered by several feet of metal. There is absolutely no room between the bottom of the ducts and the top of the ceiling. Maybe, possibly, one inch. Absolutely no chance of getting six plus inches of recessed lighting. Would never happen.

Turns out I had wasted my time, my money, my mental cycles, and Cindy's approval on a flawed plan. I should have checked out the attic FIRST. Instead I didn't think about it, until it was far too late.

We'll have to come up with something else to illuminate the hall. Maybe sconces. Maybe some other tract lights.

I was defeated and depressed. And squandered the rest of my day in a hot bath of anger.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

FOOD: Jazzeppi's

Today was my birthday. Kimmer, Rasta, and Kevin buzzed me to wish me well. The kids woke me up with some cards. Cindy bought me an awesome pair of shoes. And I treated us to a parents-night-out at one of my favorite steak houses on the Gulf Coast: Jazzeppi's, in Biloxi.

I suppose most folks down here (including Cindy) would call Jazzeppi's a seafood restaurant. Most of the appetizers are seafood. And at least half the menu is dedicated to fresh-caught seafood. Even many of the steaks are topped with some form of ocean life. But I'm quite hooked on their ribeyes. So I call it a steak place.

For drinks, Cindy ordered a glass of pinot gregio. And I had an "enlightened cosmopolitan." (They have an incredible martini bar in the back, but you can order any of them in the dining room.) We started off with an order of spinach and artichoke dip. Jazzeppi's has the most incredible spin on it: they serve it with fried bowtie pasta instead of chips. Delicious. Delicious. Delicious.

As mentioned before, the menu is full of splendid dishes, mostly seafood, but also traditional fare. I had the ribeye, medium rare, with steamed green beans, and angelhair pasta. Cindy had an interesting eggplant lasagna with shrimp and a very rich cream sauce. We both had plenty of leftovers for later.

We wrapped it up with a slice of Bavarian chocolate cheesecake. Super chocolaty. I consumed most of it.

The bill was right at $50/head. But considering we had a three course meal, the calibre of the food, the quantity of the food, and the two drinks each, the price was extremely fair.

Great night. Great service. Great meal. I'll have to find another valid reason to go before my next birthday!

This Olde House - Slab Removal

Along the lines of knowing that my skills are insufficient for a task, I also have a knack for knowing when it is quicker and more effective to pay somebody else to do a job for me.

Case in point, the destruction of an ancient slab behind my house. I had 30' bx 20' worth of material to remove. Some of it over a foot thick. I spent $500 and had somebody else do it for me.

This young guy, Shane, came over with his equipment, ripped up the slab, put it in his dumpster, and hauled it off. I didn't lift a finger other than to write the check.

If I did it myself, the equipment rental would be $150. The dumpster rental would be $250. At least $400 of hard cash. Plus my own time to pull up the old slab. Plus my own time to move the pieces to the dumpster. Plus my own time and gas to haul around the rental equipment.

So I could have maybe, possibly, saved $100. But it would have taken up my entire weekend. And my time is worth more than what I potentially saved.

When it makes sense, pay.

This Olde House - Hallway Mudding

I've been tackling many projects myself, with help when it is available. And most of the time I really don't have much (if any!) experience doing some of the things I've been doing.

But I am a firm believer in knowing my limits. So of this stuff is an art form and requires lots of practice to do it correctly. One such art is taping and finishing drywall mud.

I've tried it many times. My basement in Atlanta. My garage on this house. And never once have I been happy with the results of my own efforts. I spent waaaaay too much time doing it incorrectly and the end results were disappointing at best, embarrassing at worst.

So I've come to realize that once I hang drywall, I should leave the rest to a professional. And enter my secret weapon: Troy! He's is to gypsum mud what I am to computers. A god among men. I was fortunate to bump into him at the office one day, and I've been making use of him ever since.

Troy is blindingly fast. He doesn't waste any materials. He is extremely clean. And his rates are exceptional. What he does in an hour would take me eight hours. And my results would always pale next to his. So I pay for him to do it quicker and better than I could. And it is worth it, each and every time.

Anyway, Troy came over today to hit the hall. He's also going to work some magic on the ceiling. He does one pass to put down the tape and fill the bottom of the nail holes. He'll do another pass in a couple of days (after work.) And his third pass will be to sand any extra. He should be finished by the end of next weekend. And Cindy will be painting during Spring Break.

Already we keep saying, "I can't believe how much bigger the hall looks!" And we can't wait until it is finished.

Friday, March 21, 2008

This Olde House - Failed Project: Dual Flush Toilet

I've been researching so called "dual flush toilets" for a couple of years. The short version is that the toilet has two buttons on it. Push #1 when you make #1. Push #2 when you make #2. Pushing the first button only users six tenths of a gallon of water. Pushing the second button uses considerably more, but the full 3 gallons that my current (50yr old) toilets use. And wasting 3 gallons of water every time I pee is a bit excessive. These dual flush units can reportedly conserve 60% of your water use each year. That's a good thing. I'm all about good things.

So I selected a unit from Caroma (in Australia) and found a semi-local distributor. (Semi-local meaning "in Florida.") I rifle through their catalog and work with the rep to make sure I have everything ordered correctly. We get all the paperwork setup and confirm everything is in stock. And then comes the disappointing part.

A normal toilet (ie: water hog!) goes for <$100. A dual flush goes for $350. I was going to bite the bullet and do the right thing. Until the rep contacts me and says, "the freight charges are $150."

The what are what?!?

So the "All In Cost" would be $500. For one toilet??

(insert long sigh)

Now I have to scratch that off my "to do" list. No way I can pay 500% more. Not on this renovation. Hopefully in a couple of years the dual flush solution will be more widely used. I'll adopy it when I build a house.

But for right now, it is too expense to do the right thing. At least for me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Digital irony

Found this on my wanderings and had to chuckle. Click to enlarge, but the error reads:

"A system call that should never fail has failed."

I can imagine my response if this user called: "Sorry to hear that, Ruth. But better you, than me. That system call never fails for anyone else. Evah!"

Fine example of digital irony.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Clever Business Card

Found a post about this old business card and thought I'd preserve it for posterity. Must pre-date even telephone numbers.

Out of curiosity, I consulted teh goog and found this article from Mr. W.W. Green:

Looks like it was written right around the time WWII was starting to erupt.

Anyway, thought it was interesting. It says:


W. W. GREEN, President

Wars Fought Stud Service
Revolutions Started Tigers Tamed
Assassinations Plotted Bars Emptied
Governments Run Computers Verified
Uprisings Quelled Orgies Organized

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dumpster Dive

Last time I rented a dumpster, it took me five weeks to fill it.

This time, I did it in two weeks. Five days if you only count the time I spent loading it.

It filled before I realized it. The remains of our deck, an old carport, the hall, and the bathroom.

What an adventure.

RIP - Sci-fi master Arthur C. Clarke

The Associated Press just put it mildly:
"Aide says science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke has died in Sri Lanka at the age of 90."

I wasn't the biggest fan of his fiction, Mr Clarke wrote something in the last days of the 20th century that has always clung to the back of my mind: Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
Dec 16, 1917 - March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

This Olde House - Bathroom Demo Part Two

Oh, where is Kimmer when I need him? I thought removing the tub from the small (5' x 7') bathroom was going to be the hardest part of the project. I thought wrong. Terribly wrong. As it turns out, removing the old tile was far harder! And took much longer!! And created an exponentially larger mess!!!

But, a man has to do what a man has to do. So I did it. I took the entire bathroom down to the studs and prep'ed it for a complete makeover.

Pictures: The first is a picture of me, AFTER the tiles were down and the mess was on the floor. I'm actually sitting on several hundred pounds of tile and stucco. The second is my spectral bride, lending a hand by cleaning up the dirt under the debris I was just sitting on. The third is a picture of the exposed piping for the tub. The fourth is a picture of the exposed piping for the sink.

Time Spent: Six hours of destructive labor plus six hours of clean up labor. Not enough hours spent resting.

Tools Used: For the demo, my new girlfriend, the Demo Hammer was the main weapon of mass destruction. I also made extensive use of the FatMax Extreme Fubar, a claw hammer, a 10lb sledge, and a prybar. For the cleanup, Cindy and I used a wheelbarrow, two shovels, a shopvac, and a lot of sweat. For protective measures, I used some heavy gloves, kneepads, a weight lifting belt (for my back) and filter masks. Even with those measures, I still got all cut up on my hands, arms, shins, thighs, and knees.

Process: The first day, I rented a 35lb electric demo hammer and hammered all the tiled walls down and cleaned half the mess. I initially tried to get the drill and/or claw hammer behind the tile and pull them off without damaging the rest of the wall. That was a really stupid idea and wasted a lot of time. Tiled walls back in the sixties were prepared by nailing steel mesh between pieces of wooden lath and then applying several inches of concrete-based stucco to the mesh. It is like a vertical concrete wall, very heavy and very sturdy. But it cracks like crazy if you whack it enough, and there's no going back once the first cracks appear.

HOWEVER, the stucco (usually with tiles glued on top) doesn't ever fall out of place. It is completely hardened around the steel mesh. Firmly in place, completely unyielding. And that mesh is nailed every couple of inches to wooden lath, which is on the studs. Layer upon layer upon layer of material to remove.

So after I started seeing cracks everywhere, I figured out it would ALL have to be removed. This meant I had to carve through the tiles, through the cement-based stucco, and through the steel mesh with the demo hammer. I tried to get close to the studs. And when I'd sectioned off a strip of it, I'd pull it loose from the nails (in the studs) and let it collect on the floor. But this stuff weighs a ton. Only a couple of square inches weighed a pound. So I had to work in small sections, going as high as seven feet up, and hammer out manageable pieces. It took about four hours of pure grunt work to get the tiled section down. None of that first day was spent on the sheetrock or the floor. After the tiled walls were down, I cleaned up half of the mess (three wheelbarrows full) and called it a day.

The second day I cleaned up the second half of the mess, with Cindy's help. Three more wheelbarrows full of tile/stucco/wire debris. Then I jacked up the floor. About an hour there. It was much easier because I found the right angle to hold the hammer and found the layer where the tile met the slab and edged along it. It came up quicker and was much lighter than the walls. Finally, I removed the remaining sheetrock. (At first I was going to leave it. But a) it is nearly 50yrs old so it isn't mold or fire resistant, and b) there was NO INSULATION!)

Then we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned. Very dirty job. Lots of small pieces. Many surprises. (Including, the two boxes of antique razor blades hidden in one of the walls!

What's Next: Aside from a lot of sleep? I still have to remove hundreds of nails (some supporting the steel mesh and others supporting the drywall), put in insulation, put in concrete board (on the walls and floor,) then get a pre-fab tub/shower unit, put in tile, put in new drywall, and put in all the fine hardware I bought (including the vanity, medicine cabinet, vent, and dual-flush toilet.) And it is on to the next job!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mud goblins

The other weekend, my builder came over with an excavating machine (ie: small crane on treads) and helped tear up the back deck (rarely used) and back car port (rarely used.)

Being a generous lad, I asked if he'd help remove some damaged fencing from my neighbor's (Ms Dee's) yard. He was glad to help, but the Earth was not. His excavator went into the ground like a knife in warm butter. Before I knew it, the machine was bogged down, sunk well below its treads, and taking a very long time to go nowhere, other than down.

Fortunately, he had an ungodly four-wheel-drive truck (ie: redneckmobile) and plenty of chain. And I pulled while he drove and the excavator popped loose of the Earth. However, now there were colossal fissures rent into Ms Dee's lawn. It looked like a Monster Truck event had taken place between our houses, and nobody had signed autographs afterward.

Being generous is one thing, being lazy and tired and not wanting to get dirty is another. So I pretty much left the lawn unattended for a week or two. But the kids and Cindy came to my rescue today. Now I could be wrong, but I think they were lured by the prospect of having fun and getting dirty more than any altruistic motivations.

Still, they filled in most of the gaping chasms and smoothed out some of the minor ruts. The yard isn't going to win any beauty contests, but it isn't going to be swallowing any unsuspecting passersby any more.

Needless to say, more of the work was done with their hands and feet than any mundane tools. And if possible, they used their faces.

Photos were taken as evidence, in case anyone reported vandalism being wrought by strange and foreign mud goblins.

Fortunately, they clean up pretty nicely once you take them home!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Boogie People

In an unusual break from tradition, Cindy and I went out tonight and had a good time. Eating, drinking, and dancing at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center's "Boogie Nights 2008."

There was food from many of the local eateries, like LookOut 49, The Blowfly Inn, Outback, Rumors, and Marig's. Thankfully, the Island View Casino brought some steakish stuff and there were tons of deserts. Otherwise, everything else was seafood. I would have starved without some sliced fillet and burritos.

They also had a plethora of drinksies. Many local wines (YES, we have wineries in South MS!) including a really addictive "sparkling" White Zin as well as an assortment of (ick) beer. And somebody brought several large drums of fresh made mojitos. And another clever lad came up with an incredible mixture of clear cranberry + Hpnotiq, of which I consumed at least six.

We took a snap on the hood of some freshly-painted VW Beetle. Click for a larger image, from left to right: Cindy, Carla, David ("Vote For Nixon"), Phyllis, and me. David and Phyllis were dressed up. The rest of us normally look that uncool. Especially me, with the gang signs.

Finally, the music was brought to us by Mighty McFly, a retro cover band that showed no shortage of energy and kept the jams pumping for many hours.

In my not-too-dependable-memory, it is the best time that Cindy and I have had for many years. And certainly the first time she's had more than a single glass of wine without paying a heavy price for several days. Good times had by all. I still have "Let It Whip" going through my head, and I'm planning to dress up like Disco Elvis, next year.