Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Favorite Unprofession

I grew up reading comic books. Even though I haven't read one in nearly a decade, and even though I chew through fiction each night until my eyes cross, everything started with comics. And for many years after I graduated from school, even in my early college years, I wanted to write comic books. Somewhere, yellowing with age and impressing exactly nobody, I have a couple of comic scripts that wasted more time and braincells than I'll dare to admit.

My desire to write came from reading comics written by an Englishman named Alan Moore. In 1986, he started a series call Watchmen. Mr Moore (at least in my opinion) single-handedly transformed the genre. It was groundbreaking. It forged new roads and reached new readers. It cast out all the traditions of typical comics. Most of the "super heroes" in Watchmen weren't super. They were almost all normal men, with abnormal costumes. Moore's "heroes" were selfish, cruel. They hurt people. They had flaws. Instead of fighting costumed supervillains, they were fighting internal battles, their own personal demons. And the main protagonist, Rorschach, was very much an anti-hero. They type you loved to hate.

I wanted to follow in Moore's wake. Wanted to write comics with literary teeth. Write something that depended on the depth of the story as opposed to the skill of the artist. Something to challenge the readers' thoughts. Something unique.

Mr Moore's career continued with staggeringly brilliant works such as V For Vendetta, Brought To Light, and later The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell.

My comic career, however, went exactly nowhere. I sent several scripts to Wildstorm. They were all politely rejected by a lad named Drew Bittner. And thus, my life as a comic writer never blossomed and lies at the bottom of a molding box. It exists in the form of mostly-unread scripts, and several well-read rejection letters. They're all that remain of my favorite unprofession.

I mention all of this because even though I'm a huge fan of Alan Moore, inspired by and in awe of his writings, even though I've read all most of his comics and seen pictures of him, watched him on The Simpsons, and read dozens of articles and interviews with him, I'd never actually seen him speak.

Until today. The Mindscape Of Alan Moore was posted on Altertube. Every intriguing. Great documentary worth a watch for any fan of truly good comics. It further deepened my appreciation of him. And I enjoyed his personal and direct take on many aspects of this modern world. He also shed a lot of new light (new to me) on his previous works, as well as his own life before breaking into the comic world.

Seventy seven minutes of Alan Moore helped rekindle long forgotten memories of my own magical dreams and aspirations. Made me want to find those scripts. Modernize them. Try again. Who knows, maybe there's still a possibility for my unprofession.

But, probably not.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One thousand meters later

Today was a "slow day," for my eight week program. While it might look like "slow" + "day" means I take it easy, it was actually the opposite. I ran 100m sprints. And unless my memory is far worse than I know, I think it is the first time in my entire life I've run aaaannnnnyyyy sort of "sprint."

The indoor track is about 150m. So I'd run two thirds the distance (the back sides that go mostly unseen by the sweating masses) and walk the other third.

I ran 10 laps. (10 x 100m = 1000 meters!) It wasn't bad at all. Except the 8th and 9th laps. I was pretty winded by then. Breathing hard during the all-too-brief walking stage. But I slammed the 10th lap, knowing it was the last. It was over before I knew. And it didn't kill me!

I don't know if the corners are tight, or I'm just extremely inept, but I suck at turning. However, for never having done a sprint in my life, I thought I did a fairly good job.

I bet it looked funny to see a 200+ pound computer geek trrrrrrying to run full-tilt without letting people see him. It'd probably be very funny... if it were anyone other than me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two weeks in...

I weighed in today. First time since discovering I was two hundred and fifteen pounds.

I'm either 210 or 212. A lose of between 3 - 5 pounds.

Not bad. Not earth shattering. But I'm that much closer to my goal.

I've been watching what I eat. I've been circuit training. I've been doing pilates. And yoga. And running 100m sprints.

One eighty five, here I come.

McDonald's ain't healthy?

I'd like be optimistic and blame "McDonald's worst December" on the fact that Americans have finally woken up and realized that consuming mass quantities of fast food is the same as inject raw sewage directly into your bloodstream. Maybe the masses woke up and realized that 30% of Americans are "obese," that childhood obesity has gone from 4% of our kids (in the 1970s) to 17% (in the 1990s,) that early childhood diabetes has gone up 350%.

However, I know that I'm stupid for thinking that way. And the conventional wisdom of the "market analysts" says that the decline is due to "weaker consumer spending and weather that kept customers at home."

Well, good to know that it's just "the recession," and not something like a rise in consumer awareness of their health and what they're doing to themselves.

No Cletus, McDonald's ain't healthy.

Devil's mark

Maybe this is gross. But it is real. And it is part of my life.

Back in 2004, I went to the Emergency Room in Atlanta, GA, after having horrible pains in my abdomen for three straight days. I thought I'd pulled a muscle or something. After the ER doctor found blood in an area that isn't supposed to be bloody, it turned out to be diverticulitis. But to confirm that diagnosis, I had to get a colonoscopy. That procedure indeed found a couple of inflamed diverticula, but it also revealed several pre-cancerous polyps. Those were removed, but according to my doctor, "it could have been six months, six years, or sixteen years, but they would have become cancerous."

All this at the age of 32. Not very common. Not the least bit pleasant to go through. And not something that sits lightly in the back of my mind.

As a result, I was supposed to get "checked" every couple of years. However, moving to the Coast and recovering from Katrina put a crimp in my chain, and I "accidentally" (yeah, right!) neglected to reschedule another "exam."

Until this week.

Yesterday, I finished "prep-ing" (gory details retracted) and rolled into the doctor's office at 0630. It was cold. It was dark. I hadn't eaten in 36+ hours. And I was weak as a kitten from the preparations. But, honestly, it was a breeze. The worst part was the IV, but even that was tolerable.

Once I was in the OR, the Nurse anesthetist injected some magic into my IV and said, "Roll onto your left side, and make yourself comfortable."

I rolled over, compressed the pillow under my head and sighed. I heard the doctor roll up to the table. Somebody fumbled with my gown. I thought about saying, "Hey now! Not on the first date," but I blinked first.

And Cindy was there. By "there," I mean the recovery room that had unfolded around me after I opened my eyes. No doctor. No nurses. Just my bride.

"Well, that's disorienting," I said.

"What is?" she asked quietly.

"I was just in the OR."

"That was half an hour ago." she said.

"I just lost half an hour of my life. This must be what an alien abduction feels like. "

"How do you feel?" she asked, touching my face, handing me my glasses.

"Pretty good." I eased into a sitting position. "Thirty minutes?"

"Yeah. Wanna get dressed? Let's get some pancakes. Hey..." she closes the gap between us and holds my hand. "What's this?" She turns my wrist, shows me my own forearm.

There's some kind of abrasion. The skin is reddened. It looks like like the letter "D" has been lightly branded onto my arm.

"I dunno," I say. "I think it's a devil mark."

"A what?"

"Devil mark. Sigillum diaboli. Like a witch gets when she partners up with Satan."

Cindy sighs. Gives me the stink eye. She doesn't like when I'm trying (ie: failing miserably) to be clever.

"It's not a devil mark. It's probably from an EKG pad. Or some tape to hold the IV," says my wife, the nurse.

"Okay. Okay," I say. (Nurses take the fun out of things like devil marks.) "Let me get dressed. Any IHOPs get rebuilt around here, yet?"

"Yup." And she walks out, leaving me and my gown to ourselves.

But the doctor says he found "three small polyps." He didn't think they were anything to worry about.

Until he gets the biopsy results, I'm going to worry, anyway.

At least we had a good breakfast.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rail-related gibs

A decade ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger strolled the streets of New York, effortlessly wielding not one, but TWO rapid-firing, liquid-cooled high velocity rail guns while putting puppy-sized holes in James Caan and his cadres of misled groupies.

Today, harkening back to 1996's Eraser, the world's largest (known) rail gun was delivered to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, VA by BAE systems. This one only rolls at 34-megajoules per shot, but and according to BAE, this is only the first step toward the Navy's goal of developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted weapon.

That final weapon would have a muzzle velocity of 2500 m/s and be able to accelerate a thirty three pound projectile to Mach 7.5 in the same out time it takes to say, "ouch!" It could hit any target on the horizon in 6 seconds. It could use ballistic fire to hit a target around 200 miles away in six minutes. Anything hit by such a projectile would be instantly turned into a smoldering mound of liquefied pain.

Of course there are still a couple of problems to overcome before we start parking these off the Persian Gulf. They consume a metric poopton of power (three million amps!) with each shot. Using current technology, the projectile frequently shreds the barrel of the weapon after only one shot. And they have been shown to increase the rate of bladder cancers in rats.

Until those obstacles are overcome, we'll just have to keep watching Arnold for our fill of rail-related gibs.

Hard wired

I'm always fascinated to find Easter Eggs hiding in brain. Little oddities that reiterate how little I really know about this crazy dance of life.

Here's how to reveal a bug in human wetware:
While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction. There's nothing you can do about it.

I can't explain this one. Maybe somebody can. But doing so would ruin the magic. I say it is hard wired. A glitch left over from yesteryears.

Hyperfied eats

Not sure if I believe this page. But if it is true, there's only one word necessary: FEEEAST!

The Snickers: Charged is supposed to contain 60 milligrams of caffeine, taurine and other B vitamins. Considering a weak cup of coffee has the same amount of caffeine, I'm impressed. Pick up one of these AND a cup of joe, and get the morning off to a rocket-like start.

Hopefully it doesn't taste like cardboard.

Tool + Math geekery = Serenity

I caught this video online today and vegged to it for a while. Color me nerdy, but I'm like a deer in headlights when infoporn like this scrolls across my screen.

The author of the clip details some pretty obscure Fibonacci numbers hidden within Tool's song Lateralus.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

MOVIE: Apocalypto

The good: Visually the movie is vibrant and awe-inspiring. The colors. The textures. Almost over-powering at times. Yet embracing a pure, unashamed simplicity that comes through in very few movies. It certainly achieved its goal of capturing the look and feel of the Mayan civilization. Equally impressive was the acting and the direction. It was completely enthralling and I'm saddened that I couldn't have seen it on The Big Screen and listened to it Digital Dolby Surround Sound.

The bad: The violence matches the vibrance of the film. It's as brutal as it is beautiful. And I can't stress that enough. It's every bit as painful to watch the non-stop trials of the protagonist Jaguar Paw as it was to watch Jesus' back being flayed off in The Passion Of The Christ. I get it. I do. Primitive civilizations were unimaginably cruel and inhumane. However knowing it and seeing it are two very different creatures. I could have lived without being exposed to the graphic horrors of Mayan spiritual practices.

Equally annoying is Mel Gibson's inability to escape the confines of Braveheart. He keeps telling the same story, but in different times and different languages/accents. We've got the same theme spanning Braveheart, The Patriot, and now Apocalypto. However this time he brings women and children into the excessive circle of violence.

Final verdict: I shouldn't let my being a wuss impede my enjoyment of a fine production. It is a dramatic, thought-provoking movie of epic proportions and intent. I'm glad I stuck with it. And I'd recommend it.

MOVIE: Atonement

Absolutely spectacular cinematography. Interesting (if sometimes annoying) directing. Impressive acting. And a musical score that revolved around the scenes (ie: banging an umbrella on the car, a typewriter, machine gun fire) in an effective manner rarely possible in most productions.

However the movie took a realllllly looooonnnnnng tiiiiiimmmmmme to go nowhere. Especially the war scenes. Sure, they were gorgeous and helped to visually set the mood. But plot-wise they were about as needed as an inflamed
appendix. If all the frivolously long scenes were removed and the characters weren't allowed to reflect on their never-to-be-reclaimed joys of former lives, the whole thing would have been thirty minutes long.

Ultimately, I'm tainted. I was offended by the suggestion that writing is essentially dishonest. Perhaps if that overtone wasn't thrust upon me as a parting blow, I'd recommend it as a good "Date Flick." However, I'm wounded in places I don't like to admit. So, I'll waste my falsehoods on other flicks. This movie is dead to me.

MOVIE: 8MM

Picked this up because I missed it in theaters 10yrs ago. In it, Nicholas Cage plays detective / "surveillance specialist" Tom Welles. He gets hired by a nearly-mummified widow and she asks him to figure out the origin of an 8mm film that the widow's husband had stashed away in his safe. It seems to be a snuff film of a young girl being murdered.

Then Welles goes on a tour de force of the Smut Underground. Starting with strip clubs. Progressing to bondage pits. And ultimately ascending the smut ladder to meet up with actual producers and cast members.

In his wanderings, he joins forces with Joaquin Phoenix (aka Max California.) And they end up doing battle with Peter Stormare (Dino Velvet,) James Gandolfini (Eddie Poole,) and Chris Bauer (The Machine!)

I thought the tone and theme of the movie was well done and maintained throughout. I also liked how the plot unfolded. Especially the pseudo-detective work draped across everything. But I found the character of Tom Welles to be barely believable. Everyone else was gritty and painful and effective. But I just couldn't suspend my disbelief that a) Wells would have called the real authorities at multiple points, and b) Wells would have been dead dead dead several times if this had been fact and not fiction.

That being said, I actually enjoyed the acting and thought it had many entertaining settings. And I really liked the overarching moral theory that: "bad things" don't happen for some Aristotle-esque reason, atrocities happen because people want them to happen, people make them happen, and people let them happen. We either accept that, or we don't.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie, especially for a slow weekend. Certainly worth a $2 rental.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tested by TKD

At 8:30AM this morning, Liam tested for his brown belt in Tae Kwan Do. He's been doing karate since he was six. Has been sparring for the past year. He took a little break this summer, but is back in full force and (if everything goes according to plan) he will be testing for his black belt this time next year.

I video'ed the event, mainly so the family could see it, and Liam could study his own style. The first clip is pretty short, only about thirty seconds. They have to do their "pattern" and Karate Kid gets it right the first time. (We used to call these "katas," two decades ago when I took Kempo.) Liam and I had worked on "looking at the opponent," keeping the chin up, and doing each move cleanly, with control. I thought he did a great job, until the last kick, when he over-rotated. But he passed this stage with flying colors.

The second clip is much longer, almost seven minutes. It's the sparring stage, where he puts his skills to actual use. And Liam looooooves sparring. He's a completely different kid when he puts on the gloves. He's aggressive and looks to dominate his opponent. He studies them and figures out their style, then adapts his and tries to "fight his fight," not letting the other kid control the match. He listens well and incorporates most of the things we do when we train. As a father, it is an absolute pleasure to watch.

The first match is against Trey. That kid is always hyper and bullish. But when the instructor says, "Fight," watch Liam rush across the mat and force Trey backwards. At one point, Trey tries a jumping front kick, but Liam stuffs a front kick on him. And sometime Trey pops Liam on the side of the head. Liam doesn't dig that at all. A few seconds later Liam pops the kid in the chin, and Trey looks up at the instructor like, "Ow! He hit me!" He didn't try any more headshots.

The second fight is actually against a Senior Brown Belt. The kid is really good and keeps Liam on his toes. I was proud to see Liam chaining up a bunch of good combinations, mostly punch-punch-kick, a couple of double kicks, and even some crescent kicks. Throughout all the matches, he throws a good number of jumping front kicks. He just started doing that! And I was proud to see him do it so aggressively and so repeatedly.

The third fight was a complete surprise. The brown belts needed one more person to have even numbers, and the Instructors picked Liam. The third kid was a brown belt and had at least twenty pounds on Liam. If he wasn't winded from the first two matches, I think Liam could have run circles around the guy. At one point, Liam gets tripped, but he hops right up. And he didn't back down! First time he ever fought three rounds back to back. He loved all of it.

Unofficially, he's a brown belt. Officially, we're all very proud of him.
video video

Friday, January 25, 2008

BOOK: Halting State

A staccato, rough-edged crime novel with a thick cybernoir patina. Charles Stross conjures up a near-future amalgam of social networking, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, international hacking syndicates, and thick Scottish brogues.

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the story swirls around Sue Smith (a Sargent in the local PD,) Elaine Barnaby (forensic accountant,) Jack Reed (MMORPG programmer) and their efforts to thwart the machinations of an online gang of villains who have somehow plundered an online bank within a newly minted MMORPG.

His quick, smarmy prose is steeped in ultra modern language, seemingly ripped from any contemporary online forum or newsgroup. And his first person point of view only heightens the story's pace. The characters, the technology, the accents, and the slang. They all came together like old friends and furthered my enjoyment of the novel.

To say more would ruin its potency for any would-be readers, so I'll refrain from any other potential spoilers.

Previously, I'd never read anything from Charles Stross, but I'm planning to pick up more of his novels. (Seems he's written around a dozen!) A good read. Seasoned with detective work. Lightly humorous. Tastefully futurismic. The end game blurred by a bit rapidly for my liking, but easily one of the better novels I've read in the last year. Highly enjoyed. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recharging the biological machinery

Tonight, I concluded an hour of circuit training with an hour of hatha yoga. Sun salutations. Triangle. Corpse pose. Pranayama (breathing techniques.) Chaturanga. The whole thing.

Been at least two years. Nothing serious since I moved to the Gulf Coast. In Atlanta, I spent almost four years studying Iyengar's style with Donna, at Yoga Salah. Did try a smaller studio down here. But the schedule and the location didn't work for me. So I abandoned yoga.

Until tonight.

It is amazing how it all subtly comes back to you in mid pose. I slipped into Ujjayi breathing without any conscious thought. I'd remember Donna's instructions telling me, "engage your knees, don't take shortcuts." I remembered to move my thoughts towards my worst muscles (hamstrings) and coax them into relaxing, dropping me slowing into deeper poses. All the old tricks slowly returned. It was like revisiting an old friend.

And the benefits quickly came back. The whole reason I became deeply involved with yoga:
  • After sitting at a computer for 8 - 12 hours a day, yoga rapidly uncompresses my spine. Twists and lengthening poses are the only thing I've ever tried that can loosen the concrete of muscles around my lower back.

  • Adults rarely breathe right. Watch how children breathe. They FILL their lungs. They draw breath down into their belly. And when they sleep, they are completely relaxed, breathing deeply and letting go of all their anxieties and fears. Adults have to focus and practice to achieve the same results. Yoga does that for me.

  • Yoga poses and techniques help create additional space and draw more blood into our internal organs and core muscles. It helps recharge our biological machinery. Not to be overly graphic, but I've never been as "regular" as when I've been practicing yoga. I digest better, I feel better, I think I move better and I can relax more. Without booze, I've never been able to get there, until I found yoga.
On the way back to the car, I had a clarity of thought I haven't had in ages. My shoulders were relaxed. My legs weren't aching. I was completely invigorated.

I felt good.

And I want to keep feeling this way.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Powertools & Library Books

My cordless nailgun arrived. Party time this weekend! I'm going to shoot down some floorboards in the kitchen. And case out the windows in the dining room and kitchen.

Liam wants to help. At least he thinks he does. We'll see how it goes. He likes helping with the mitre saw. And since I won't need a loud air compress for the nailgun, I think there's a good chance he'll like that, now.

Picture of him wearing his "work goggles," and modeling the gun. Click to enlarge.

Meg's tale of the day was that she "finally got to check out a library book." She's in kindergarten and couldn't check out any books until now. But she's already reading like a champ. I don't know how much she taught herself or if she absorbed some of it from her brother or if the "jolly phonics" from last year are just very (VERY!) effective. But I caught a video of her reading part of the very first book she ever checked out.

video

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Finding Fitness

I'm dreadfully sore today. The squats and lunges from Sunday LITERALLY kicked my ass. My glutes ache. My thighs howl. Walking isn't pleasant. I'm sore in places I haven't been sore in years. But I'm fully committed to this eight week program and a little pain isn't going to hold me back. So I'm going to keep raising the bar and push myself to new limits.

To that end, there's a new gym in town: E-Fitness & Wellness. Cindy and the kids have been going for a couple of weeks. I've been sticking with my old gym. Unfortunately, my gym doesn't offer too much other than weights and cardio gear. And, sadly, the Men's locker room reeks. I don't know what died in there or left its stink on the place, but nothing they do seems to diminish the foul funk. It seriously turns my stomach every time I'm there.

Today, I tried E-Fit. Goods and bad with this place:
  • Good: Only took me 15 minutes to get there. Plenty of space. Very clean. Spectacular locker room. Cardio machines everywhere. Fitness rooms (ie: aerobics, yoga, etc) everywhere. An indoor track. An indoor pool. And a very nice cafe with some decidedly good-smelling meals available. And I mean MEALS, not just snacks or smoothies.
  • Bad: They wouldn't let me try it out before buying a month membership. It's pretty crowded. I could only find one poorly-located water fountain. And I did NOT like their free weight room. The weight "areas" are too far apart and doing "circuits" between free weights and machine weights is impossible. Not to mention that I honestly think the machines at my old gym feel more natural.
That being said, I still had a freakin' phenomenal workout. This new program is killer. I break a sweat within 15 minutes and power through the circuits. Had to hit leg presses. They were brutal. But I fought the urge to quit, and did the complete workout.

Afterwards, I started to find a treadmill or a cycle machine to do a 5min cool down. Instead, I found a pilates class. Full of women, of course. No other males. Some ladies actually chuckled as I took a spot in the back. They weren't laughing mid-way through when they were struggling and I was still firing on all cylinders. Grrrreat way to cool down. I was sweating like a Boyscout at Neverland during the first quarter of the class, but after I settled my breathing and slowed my pulse, it was a great stretch. And my legs stopped aching!

I don't know how well an hour of pilates fits into my new training program, but I don't think it does any harm. Onward and upward...

The streets of ATL

Before I moved back to The Gulf Coast, I worked in mid-town Atlanta, GA. The last week I was there, I noticed people running to the windows and looking down. Below us, in the street was Baton Bob. He was wearing pink tights, waving to passing traffic, and high stepping his way south. People would press their face to the glass as he slowly marched out of view. When he was gone, they'd all go back to their cubes.

On my last day in Atlanta, as I was returning to the office from lunch, we stopped for a red light at the corner West Peachtree and 5th Street. Bob arrived. We waved as he marched past. He waved back and twirled his baton. I couldn't help but smile. It's one of my favorite memories before Katrina. I wish I had a picture of that moment.

Today, my buddy Kim Hall sent a picture of him and Baton Bob. That's Bob in the middle. On the right is Kimmer. Big, bald, and loaded with more juice than Zeus. He's my favorite muscled-up bruiser. (On the left is Pabian, Jeff Pabian. Doubt he remembers me from our days at EarthLink/MindSpring. I used to call him Scarecrow, he looked like Ichabod Crane. Looks like he's got some gray creeping up on the wig)

Bob and Kimmer make a nice couple. Though I think Bob has much nicer legs!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just rewards

I bought a treat for Meg because she tried something new this weekend. A pink lion. Possibly a shaggy dog? I'm not sure. Ultimately it is up to Meg, but I'm leaning toward lion. (Click to enlarge)

She named her, "Pink Lily." And wrapped around the new pet when she went to sleep tonight. That's always a good sign.

Liam wanted a treat, too. "I tried a corndog," he said. And he did try one yesterday, but only one bite. I said I'd give him a worth-while treat once he tried several bites of something new.

With great risk comes great reward.

Meg also graced me with a tale. A story about "John." Jesus' cousin. She learned it yesterday and told us all about it today. I captured it on our little handy cam. Not bad for $30!


video

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Untired

Meg is out like a fat kid playing dodgeball. All sprawled across the sofa. Completely oblivious to the world around her. Wish I could sleep like that. But nothing resembling sleep approaches.

I should be tired. I tried a new gym routine from Men's Health for the first time. An eight week program. Circuit training at first. Thirty minutes of it broke me out in the same sweat that usually takes me two hours to build up. Squats for the first time in my life. Only 80lbs, but it is a start. I'm worried about blowing out a disk. Taking it slow. Did lunges, too. I know why I've been avoiding them, now. Tricky suckers. Eight weeks, it says. I'll see how it goes. One day at a time.

I wish I could sleep like my kids. I wish I could just abandon myself like that for a couple of hours. Sweep everything under the rug and relax for a while. But it is all barbwire and spotlights behind my eyes.

MOVIE: Cloverfield

Interesting cinematography. Good (though all too rare) special effects. A few good lines.

Otherwise, a wearisome snoozer.

Ineffective acting. Unimpressive and fairly predictable plot. Not enough special effects. The ending is disappointing. Too much confusion and too much pointless rampaging. The monster itself is completely ponderous as nothing about it is explained or implied. It apparently does little more than attack sprawling urban meccas and crawl around in lazy circles, howling and dropping off spawn which bear no resemblance to their creator.

A contemporary spin on Godzilla? If that was the intent, it fell short. At least Godzilla had entertaining enemies to battle. The Cloverfield Creature only had moronic twenty-somethings for antagonists, and the battle was entirely one-sided.

Possibly worth a $5 early entry. Certainly not worth the price of full admission. And nothing to expose a potential-suitor to. Unless you want to be rid of her!

Knots tied

I hear that congratulations are due to friend and former-coworker, Lisa Mooty. Formerly Mooty?

Lisa and I worked together at MindSpring/EarthLink and were both managers for a while. I wandered off to Air2Web and Lisa eventually found her way to cBeyond, where she later met her new husband.

I certainly wish The Bride & Groom a life of happiness and fulfillment. Long may their love last.

And good luck in D.C., Lisa. Maybe you can get our country out of this rut? You have my vote!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Checking them off

Cold. Rainy. Overcast. The perfect day to chew through some of my short term goals and check them off my list!
  • Goal: Streamline our finances. Did it in a couple of hours and did it for free by using the online "Bill Pay" provided by my bank.
  • Goal: Decrease clutter in our lives. Furthered that cause by signing up for "paperless statements" offered by most of my vendors. No more paper statements from insurance companies, credit cards, or utility companies. Everything possible goes to email. Still have miles to go before we sleep, on this goal.
  • Goal: Drop excess chubbage. Hit the gym this morning. Created a training plan (thanks to Men's Health) and a diet plan. Planning on trying Cindy's gym and making use of the extra facilities there to raise the bar on my fitness levels. Again, miles to go on this goal.
One step and one goal at a time. I'll get there, sooner or later.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why there's no need to see Untraceable

A) The tag line "A cyber killer has finally found the perfect accomplice: you" is fruiter than Hawaiian Punch.
B) The plot was obviously NOT written by somebody familiar with technology, because any first level fresh-out-of-college techsupport weasel could tell you, "Nothing is untraceable." And I've little doubt the producers will try to come up with some pseudo technical hogswill to try to unsuccessfully convince me otherwise.
C) THE PREVIEW TELLS THE WHOLE STORY! Why do I need to see it, when I know the whole plot and conclusion already: An ubercreepy hax0r cum-serial killer is going to cybercast in-process murders and the killing accelerates as more viewers hit the site. The FBI has to stop the killer. The killer outsmarts all of them. The killer stalks the best agent (Diane Lane) and her daughter. The agent almost gets put on a webpage of her own, but the killer somehow turns out to REALLY be Wile E. Coyote, and Diane Lane tricks him into defeating himself, but just barely.

Thanks to the brilliance of the guy who spelled out the whole story in the span of a 1min previesw, I saved 1.5hrs and $5.

Note to movie industry: DON'T SHOW ME THE WHOLE DAMN STORY!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Meg & The Magic Fruit

Meg tried something new, tonight. We had supper after her bath and she decided to try some of the Green Beans that Mommy cooked.

Here's a picture of the majestic event.

Hopefully she won't be climbing into bed with us in the morning.

Beans. Beans. The Magic Fruit. The More You Eat, The More You....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MOVIE: 28 Weeks Later

A notable sequel that fluidly picks up with the first left off.

Only six months after the "Rage Virus" spread across the population of Great Britain, America has stepped up and uses its military to help to secure a piece of London for the survivors. They're supposed to repopulate and start again. But (imagine this) not everything goes according to plan.

I thought the corpse of Briton was done well. The protocols they followed to re-establish the population weren't too off the scale. And I enjoyed the gradual build up of tension as the protagonist crept toward the "you know it's coming" moment.

Once the action began, it rarely stopped. Lots of the ol' ultra violence ensued. (It had to, this is a zombie flick, after all.) The heroes dwindle. The villains multiply. Escape dangles just out of reach. Fairly formulaic. Fans of the genre will rejoice.

However, one scene was too much for me. I think any viewer will know it when they are upon it. It still haunts my thoughts. I wish I could un-see it. But the damage is done.

One over-done scene aside, it was a worthy successor to the first. And I'd recommend it to anyone with a tougher stomach than mine and an extra hour to (pardon the pun) kill.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MOVIE: Clerks II

Q: What do the following all have in common:
A: They were sequels that actually managed to SUCK LESS than Clerks II.

Outside of anything by Uwe Bole, there have been maybe three movies in the past thirty years that I've stopped watching in the first five minutes. Seriously. And Clerks II is one of those three.

I suppose the overwhelming vulgarity can eventually be saturating to the point of polymorphing itself into something remotely approaching "funny." I suppose the complete lack of acting ability is part of the humor. And perhaps the dialog is supposed to be stilted and trite.

Maybe I'm too old. Maybe I'm not cool enough. But I definitely do not "get it."

So I turned it off.

I've lost those five minutes of my life forever.

Kevin Smith owes me, big time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

MOVIE: Michael Clayton

I missed this one when it was on the Big Screen. I wish I had seen it when it was out, with Cindy and some popcorn.

It is a tale of morals, or the lack of them. Risk has reward on many stages of this grand theater we call life. And throwing away your principles can bring a large return on investment.

In the movie, a powerful NYC law firm has abandoned all moral standards and attempts to conceal evidence while will prove their client (an ominous agriculture company) willingly brought a poisonous product to market and (*shudder*) traded the death of untold farmers for a tidy profit.

Michael Clayton is a "fixer" for that law firm. He works behind the scenes. Greasing palms. Calling in favors. Making the right introductions. He's the firm's dirty little secret. Their aces up the sleeve. At least until he uncovers the evidence they've been doing their best to bury. And then he has a moral decision to make.

Opposite of Michael is the "Lead Council" for the law firm. She's outward cool and composed, seemingly capable of cutting down anyone who gets in the way of victory for her firm. She's a viper in the tall grass, slithering around in the shadows, waiting for an opportune moment to inject her venom. The Yen to Clayton's Yang. His counterbalance.

They dance. Lock horns. Almost get down to fisticuffs. In such conflict, there is only ever one victor. And their duel is an enthralling one, throughout the whole movie.

All in all, a smooth, enjoyable flick. Good pacing. Creative narrative elements. Great dialog. World-class acting. Well worth the price of admission. And sure to rack up a number of awards in the near future.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Grrrr

I've spent most of the last 20 years working on computers. Building them. Fixing them. Taking them apart . Putting them back together. But tonight, I spent THREE HOURS (with only partial success) trying to get Microsoft Office to work on my PC. GRRRRRR!!!!!

It runs fine, if I'm logged on as Administrator. But that's it. Even though other accounts are setup with Administrative permissions, none of the Office applications will launch. They just die without any log entries or error messages. I've re-installed and updated the program three times. And I've wasted my whole night trying to get it to work. I can't find anything on teh GOOG. Nobody else appears to have this problem. I'm some kinda of singular freakshow of unmatched sorrow.

All this so that I can use Frontpage, to edit HTML, and post some auctions on eBay.

And I've nothing to show for my efforts....

GRRRRR!!!

I'm going to bed.

Never enough

There's no such thing as "enough power tools." Not in this universe. Not in a parallel dimension. Not anywhere men exist.

Men also can not stand to see or use or be around a good power tool he does not personally own. Having borrowed Robert's (my father-in-law's) nailer for a couple of weeks, I can't bear to know I'll part ways with it and have to work without one.

So I bought my own nailer. And a cordless one at that! An 18v devil from Dewalt. Straight from the internet to my house. For half the price of one from Lowe's or Home Depot.

There's plenty of work on the horizon, and plenty of nails to shoot. And I'm gonna shoot 'em all with my own power tool! Too much is never enough.

MOVIE: The Kite Runner

Having young children means I don't like watching movies which depict problems for young children. I don't like to watch anyone suffer, but it rips me in half when kids are involved.

That being said, I would recommend The Kite Runner to anyone, especially parents. It is a beautiful, touching movie. Well directed. Well written. Fantastic musical score. Great acting. Great cinematography. Great everything.

It makes me appreciate my life and my upbringing. It makes me appreciate my family. Appreciate my children. Appreciate my home. And my life. And my friends.

It was also a great follow up to watching Charlie Wilson's War. Both fantastic flicks. Both need to be seen on the big screen.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

BOOK: Roo'd

I've been into "free" fiction lately. Usually stories published under a Creative Commons license. Most recently, I downloaded a copy of Roo'd, from Joshua Klein. And if Roo'd is Joshua's first book, I'm absolutely impressed!

It is a story about a young programmer (Fed) finding his path in a tech-rich world of immersing technology. After a prolonged absence, Fed re-establishes contact with his older brother, and finds himself wrapped up in a tangle of hackers, under ground technology, radical body modifications, and world-spanning mafias. The rabbit hole keeps getting deeper and Fed, along with his brother and a motley cadre of cohorts, find themselves slipping further and further into it.

Joshua's pacing of the story is fantastic. It rarely slowed and he quickly dragged me into the story. I didn't want to put it down. I kept wanting to read what happened next. The locations and situations were equally fascinating. And I was completely smitten with the technology and its adoption by society. Best of all, very little of the tale lurked beyond our horizon. It wasn't far fetched or unreasonable.

I liked the idea of radical body modding. I wanted more of it. Especially from Fed's brother. And even more details about the mod fighters.

I liked the communication-based technologies. Fed's chording. Cessus' glasses.

I liked Cessus' ideas concerning cognitive abilities and the training he gave Fed. I was very glad to see the story didn't become a cyber version of Fear And Loathing, dripping in futuristic drugs and booze.

Joshua has a knack for fleshing out his characters, but I didn't think he treated them all equally. Some of the primary characters felt under-created. Felt flimsy. I thought they all had enormous potential, but some didn't have enough time in the limelight. However, perhaps the lack of depth helped speed the pace. And slowing the tale would have diminished my enjoyment of it.

I did think there was a glaring plot hole about 2/3rds the way through. The store reaches critical mass and the characters have to recover some missing data. Perhaps I missed something, but I thought the data should NOT have gone missing because of the precautions Fed and crew took. It's just a technical quip, and I'm going to write Joshua to get his input.

Other than my lone complaint, I was thoroughly enthralled with the novel. It is a shame it was not picked up by a publisher. I think it would make a much better contribution to the scifi genre than many other books I've read in recent years.

Joshua, give us more one day!

Old baggage

My family played a big role of my return to the Gulf Coast. And my Father was a big part of that decision. He's always had a huge influence on my work ethic. I grew up seeing that working hard and treating people with respect is the foundation of a successful career.

In 2005, before Katrina, he received an award for Employee Of The Year. Out of 3600 employees! I moved down and joined him, not long after that. Everyone knows him. Everyone knows my Mom, too. Jason and I just ride their coat tails.

But today was Dad's last day working Front Services. After four (or five?) years, he's saying goodbye to the crowd. But he's only changing roles. Going from the front of the house, to the back of the house. Like me, he's going to be an ENGINEER! But unlike me, he's working with the real engineer group, doing repairs and changes to the property. I just move packets.

So it is a new adventure, for Dad. I wish him luck. I know he'll continue to make us proud, no matter what he does.

Contemporary Productivity

A short-term goal of mine is to unclutter the various spaces in my life: work, home, car, gargage, mind. To meet that goal, I cleaned out my closet and dresser for the first time in years. I pulled out anything I haven't worn since we moved back to the Coast and anything I don't plan to wear this year. Ended up with bunches of shorts and t-shirts and button-ups and some faded bluejeans. I'm going to donate them to the Humane Society. I hope they find a good home for my former duds. They served me well, but I'm past the "torn jeans" and "concert shirts" stage in my life.

Also managed to capture several hours of video off the camcorder and load it onto the PC for future posting. The kids and Cindy sat with me and watched most of it. Brought back some memories (snow in TN, Meg's bday, Liam's bday) and inspired me to record more of the events in our lives. I really don't want to lose these days, while the kids are young and loving. God knows I'll probably have to edit out most of their teen years. My collection of video will go from, "Hey, we're at Disney World," to "Meg's first day of college."

And snuck in some gym time. Shoulders and legs. Four more miles on the treadmill. Up to 16 miles this week. I don't think I ran that much in the first twenty years of my life combined.

Going to keep cleaning tomorrow. Hopefully get more drawers organized, more clutter removed, and maybe even get some stuff on eBay. I don't need much of this crap, but somebody (somewhere) might pay good money to add it to their collection.

The exchange of clutter from one household to the next: contemporary productiviy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Notes from abroad

Heard from three of my amigos, today.

First, my buddy Less (aka: Rasta) IMed me from Amsterdam, of all places. He was on a train and we swapped messages about the weather and his trip. He sent me a snap from his adventures in Dublin, Ireland. Unless I'm way off base, I think it is supposed to be Peter painted as Che Guevara. I want this tattoo'ed on my buttocks.

Next, I talked to Adam (aka: Icetre) about Pinball and Penn Jillette's new web-based shizzle, "Penn Says."Every time I'm in Las Vegas, I debate going to see Penn & Teller. If it wouldn't put such a dent in my wallet, I'd see them every time I stopped through their neck of the woods. But these days a hunded dollar ticket is a hundred dollars less I have to spend on the kids or student loans.

Also said goodbye to a buddy/coworker, in Las Vegas. Kevin (aka Kevin!) is moving to the San Jose area with his spouse. He was a great resource to have available at work and we talked a great deal about our private trials and tribulations. I'll miss him, but hopefully he'll pop up on AIM every now and then to let me know how his adventures are going.

Finally, talked to Kim (aka: Alpha Dawg) about unemployment and the fact that he's going to be a Grand Pappy this year. I suggested he give his lady (Nenna) a baby. Then his second child and his first grandchild would be the same age. He said I had a knack for F'ing up his good moods.

All in a day's work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Working it off

Two more hours in the gym today.

Back. Biceps. Cardio.

Twelve miles of running so far this week. At least twelve hundred calories melted off my many layers of blubber.

That's the secret: working it off.

There's simple math lurking behind my madness. One pound of corpulence = 3500 calories. If I work off 1750 calories, that's half a pound I've shed. Combine that with a 1750 calorie reduction in the food I eat each week, I stand to lose a pound of flesh. Keep that up for six months, and that's a potential loss of 24 pounds. The more aggressive I get, the more I stand to lose.

I think it is doable. I think my math is sound. So I'm going to keep trying to work it off.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Goo goo

Oh, sweet blissful sleep! I've missed you, old friend. I truly missed you.

I ran four more miles yesterday (and today!) then skipped any writing, skipped any reading, and crawled straight into bed. Believe it or not (I barely believe it myself!) by 9:30P, I was completely unconscious.

It has been weeks, months, and maybe years since I was asleep so early. I think Haley's Comet is more common!

Out by 9:30, awake at 7AM. Almost ten hours of down time. I slept like the proverbial baby! It was greatly needed. And I felt fantastic all day.

(sigh)

Oh, well. If only I could do that more often. I'd have far less to kvetch about.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Anyone can

If I haven't mentioned it before, I was never active as a child or even as a young adult. I was very small most of my life and showed nothing remotely promising on any physical level. I am not now nor have I ever been an athlete. I don't like working out. I can't stand running. And I hate hate hate to sweat

But today I ran four miles in 30 minutes. My iPod raged in my ears. I was drowning in sweat. My legs ached every step of the last mile. I could barely keep a decent pace with my breathing. But I did it. I pushed myself with every every heart beat. And I refused to quit. Oh, I wanted to! But I didn't quit.

I don't want to be inactive any more.

I don't want to be over weight.

I want to be healthy. I want to feel good. And that doesn't happen by magic. It doesn't happen over night.

Whatever it takes, however long it takes, I'm going to stop making excuses and make it happen.

If I can do it, anyone can do it. I've got two children, a wife, I'm renovating a house, and have quite a demanding job. I'm a geek. A couch potato. A book worm.

If I can, anyone can.

BOOK: Ventus by Karl Schroeder

I've been reading a good bit lately. It helps me grow closer to sleep at night.

The other day, I downloaded Ventus as a free book from Karl Schroeder's site. Printed it up and gnawed a chapter or so each night.

I don't think I've read anything from Mr Schroeder before, but I immediately enjoyed his writing style. It is light and unencumbered and makes for easy reading at the end of a long day.

Ventus is science fiction, but also has many slightly fantasy elements. The story centers on a planet (called Ventus) that is unique isolated from the rest of the inhabited universe because it is tended by biomechanical lifeforms. These caretakers teraformed the world and even built large estates for the first colonists. But something went wrong and the nano-sized machines became detached from the people who arrived and started to destroy any advanced technology that arrived or was developed. The nano effectively kept the entire planet in a perpetual pre-industrial age stage.

It is an interesting mix of sci fi and fantasy. But the character development was a little under done for my tastes and the writing had a tendency to "tell" rather than "show," especially involving the characters' feelings and motivations.

Other than a lack of depth in certain places, I enjoyed the book and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone fond of science fiction. I liked the universe of Ventus and I hope I can find or Mr. Schroeder can write more tales inside of it.

Live TV Is Dead

Sadly, I grew up watching television. I didn't play outside. I didn't do anything constructive. I had a full time job watching television. I ate thousands of meals and spent hundreds of thousands of hours watching it.

So, in theory, I should be the perfect victim for broadcasters. Somewhere in the dark lizard-like curves of my forebrain, there is a gland or a batch of cells that only relaxes when exposed to the light of a large CRT. If I could relax and get into it, I'd let them illuminate my eyeballs until they bake and bleed.

However, I barely watch three or four shows a week. And what I do watch is recorded.

I almost NEVER watch live television. I refuse to spend 25% of my time (15 minutes out of every hour) watching ineffective advertisements for products I will never purchase and never consume. And the truly obscene thing is that it is practically impossible to avoid the hordes of commercials because all the major broadcasters are in collusion. They coordinate their schedules so perfectly that almost every channel is showing a commercial AT THE SAME TIME. You can not avoid them. You have no avenue of escape.

Not me. Not any more. I set my PC to record a few shows, and it automatically removes the commercials. Then, when I'm ready, at my leaisure, I catch up on a week's worth of shows in an hour or two.

This, my friend, is the only way I will ever, ever, ever, ever watch television.

What does Jon record? Fight Quest. Intervention. Paranormal State. Ghost Hunters. And Monster Quest. And when it is a new season, I record The Ultimate Fighter.

Notice that none of those shows are on ABC, NBC, or CBS? (Fox gets a reprieve because I record House M.D. when it is a new season!) The "Big Media" channels hold nothing of interest these days. There's almost nothing original or interesting or even remotely creative on "prime time." Nothing to challenge the viewer. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

So, I watch what I want, when I want, and how I want. And I watch it without surrendering a quarter of my time to advertisers.

I've washed my hands of most of it. I've divorced "the tube." Live television is dead to me. And I'm holding no funerals to mark its passing.

Monday, January 07, 2008

MOVIE: Rize

I was grazing the fields at Block Buster when I came across this title. Interesting cover. Interesting caption: "A visual miracle!" Since it wasn't directed by Uwe Boll, I gave it shot. (Uwe, by the way, is most likely the worst "Director" to ever put his stink on a movie. He's like an Anti-Midas, anything he touches turns to shite!)

At first (for probably half the movie, actually!) I thought it was a very straight-faced mockumentary. Maybe I'm a very sheltered geek. Or maybe I'm far too crackerfied to really know anything about "West Coast" social movements. But I've never even imagined there'd be a style of dance developed by a clown, who was looking to make a defying statement against the 1992 L.A Riots. Not only did it get aptly named "clowning," but a radical fringe group of clowners broke off and mutated the style into "krumping." It sounds like science fiction and I kept looking for the punch line. ("Ha! You fell for it!) But the social movement of clowning and krumping are completely authentic, and well documented in Rize.

Without the slightest bit of sarcasm or persnicketiness, I will admit it was a tremendous pleasure to watch this movie. I was hypnotized! By the people. By their stories. By the amazing development of this sub-culture. And especially by the seemingly impossible moves displayed by everyone in the show.

On top of the incredible content, the direction is perfect. The pacing flows extremely well. The musical score is phenomenal. And it is all pulled together with such precision that the movie seems to create itself without any outside influence or support. How this slipped past everyone's radar is beyond me. I can only imagine it is due to the obscurity of the subject matter being so far beyond anyone's usual interest (outside of California) that it was a complete sleeper when it hit the theaters.

I still can't believe I'm writing about this movie! I still can't believe it isn't fictional! I want more. I want to see parts two, three, and four. I want to know what happened once the cameras stopped rolling and all these people had to go back to their lives.

I want a sequel!