Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some Bad Food

Trying to write and Cindy stumbles out of the bed. Holding her stomach. Notice the time. Almost midnight. Well past stumbling time for my bride. She's usually observing the back of her eyelids at this point.

"I'm real nauseous," she says. "I hope it wasn't something I ate. Some bad food."

I hope she isn't pregnant and ask, "What can I do to help?"

She shakes her head and goes back into our bedroom. Her and the nausea and Meg.

Crisis Of Credit

Found an interesting high-level description of the current financial spanking we're receiving right now:

My problem with the narrative is that it completely under-plays:
1) The damage done by over-leveraged Credit Default Swaps (roughly $43,000,000,000,000 - $70,000,000,000,000 (that's TRILLIONS!) of them were taken out and need to be accounted for. The story only faintly mentions them, but they're a far bigger problem than the number of foreclosures on the market.

2) The fact that the "investment banks" bought the CDOs and put them on their financial books at a value of (X) but have NEVER devalued those CDOs even though everyone knows housing prices have gone down. These are the "toxic papers" we keep hearing about. The CDOs do not have a real value and the banks are refusing to let anyone put a value on them. The banks say they're worth billions, and could only be worth a few pennies on the dollar, if even that much.

3) The fact that not only did we buy too many McMansions, we also bought too many Ford Expeditions, too many 55" flatscreens, and too many Blue Ray Players. We bought so much that the "businesses" had to ramp up to meet our demand. So "The Big Three" automakers got used to selling 15,000,000 cars per year, and builders were used to getting $600/foot for housing in California, and all of these businesses had to "borrow" in order to increase their production. So after about 5 years of binging, we had filled every room and every garage and every warehouse space with crap. Not only did we run out of credit, but we ran out of needs! And suddenly "The Big Three" only need to produce 7,000,000 cars per year. And builder's realized they had more houses than we had families. But the homeowners were in debt to their eyeballs and the businesses had over built and they're in debt to their eyeballs. My point being: the businesses all over sold to the market. Nobody NEEDS to buy any more. We already have everything we NEED for our lives. But our "businesses" are addicted to our over consumption. And our "businesses" are forcing our government to perpetuate the buying and the endless debt. Lower our taxes so we can spend more. Give us a $15K tax credit to buy a house we don't need. Give us a $7K tax credit to buy a car we don't need. And we should all ignore the fact that our government and our "public services" are only alive because of these taxes that we're not going to be paying. And that this money is a debt upon our future generations.

Anyway, I propose that unlike the cartoon's theory, the banks could handle people foreclosing. They can't handle paying back the credit default swaps or the damage of re-pricing their CDOs. And our businesses can't handle the adjustment to a non-debt-based economy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

MOVIE: The Promotion

Another great movie that I had never heard of until recently. The Promotion centers around two assistant managers competing for the same position. At 33, Doug Stauber (Seann William Scott) is ready for a promotion. He's married, wants to buy a house, and is assistant manager at a Chicago supermarket that's building a new store in his neighborhood. His boss tells him he's a shoe in to manage the new store. Then Richard Wehlner (John C Reilly) arrives. Transferred from Canada. Richard has a deeper resume than Doug, is really nice, has a wife and daughter, and wants the promotion to manager, too. How should Doug behave toward Richard - as a friend, a colleague, a competitor, or an enemy? Richard, it seems, has demons and a past, but with the help of motivational tapes, he's resolved to succeed. Fortunately, the competition gets ugly.

Great, light hearted comedy. A bit worn through and thin in some places. However the writing was fairly fresh, the dialog was entertaining, and the plot unfolded evenly thanks to some mellow pacing.  Not on par with Pineapple Express or The Wackness, but better than Nacho Libre.

Could be a good date flick for an appropriatedly moody couple. Almost safe for the kids, but not quite. Good rental for a slow weekend.

Something Gritty

Didn't see this one coming. (Pardon the pun.) Cindy's eyes are hurting.

"Feels like I have sand in my eyes. Or dirt. Something gritty."

She wrestles down a couple of drops of something magick. And is off to bed.

That's her version of "Good night."

Monday, February 16, 2009

MOVIE: Primer

Released back in 2004 and never heard of since, Primer blew the warm gray goo straight out the back of my head. I read a lot. I watch a lot of The Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel. I've got a degree or two somewhere. Yet with all pistons firing full blast, I could barely keep up with this flick. Hours later, I'm still scratching my knoggin', trying to unravel all the layers of this puzzle.

Primer is a full on geek fest about phsyics, computers, and odd overlapping possibilities. The tagline is: "If you always want what you can't have, what do you want when you can have anything?" On the surface it is about four friends and their experimental startup company. They are trying to find and fill a niche market with cutting-edge niche hardware. Exotic parts. Rapid development. Quiet, stealth operation. What results is one of the most trippy, hard-science, mind humps since the final scene in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Subtle, inconspicuous writing. Smooth dialog that doesn't interfere with the narrative. Careful, measured pacing, that slowly coils upon itself and threatens consume its own tail. Made on a low budget, it has no effects worth mentioning. Instead it depends on the strength of its writing and the performances of the actors.

For a pair of geeks, it makes a good date flick. Kids will be bored out of their skull. But worth renting immediately for those whose taste slides toward science or technology.

Not A Headache

It's Monday. Cindy's got some digestion issues. I'm sure she could elaborate with some wicked medical terms to help explain. But I'm just glad it is not a headache.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

MOVIE: The Fall

The Fall follows a wounded Hollywood stuntman (Lee Pace) in the 1920s as he helps narrate an imaginative tale with another patient, a young foreign girl (Catinca Untaru) with a broken arm. The two spin one of the most amazing yarns this side of the Canterbury Tales. And the resulting epic is a true work of art.

My brief summary doesn't do much justice to the movie. It is possibly the most strikingly beautiful movie I've seen in the 21st century. According to Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, he spent sixteen years thinking about it, four years to film it, and had to trek across 10 countries to get it done. Gorgeous, stunning, sublime, and exquisite are a few appropriate words. The visuals alone were worth the price of admission.

It is a well written story about story telling. The writing is superb. The dialog is enthralling. While some of the actors could have put forth more effort, the performance of Catinca Untaru is heart wrenching. And the sub-story about the masked man and his companions broke new ground and reset the bar for creativity.

I wish I had seen it on the big screen with Cindy. Potentially phenominal date flick for a couple that likes such creative films. Somewhat dramatic toward the end for the kids, but nothing that will scar the little ones. (Though they may catch a scare.) I very much endorse The Fall for a rental, as soon as possible.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Karmic Retribution

Thirty years ago, when I was in my prime, Jason and I would pray to our slow Southern gods for mountains of rain. In those days, the gap between our yard and our neighbor's yard would easily fill with half a foot of clean, pure water.

Much to my dear Mother's horror, on the frequent occasion that our prayers were granted, we would immediately rush to that vast expanse of rain with our make-shift skim boards (sheets of un-used wood panels) and proceed for hours to get thoroughly drenched from tip to tail.

Mom called it "ditch water." We called it fun.

I caught a double barrel dose of karmic retribution from Liam today. I watched in parental horror as he ran through a fresh puddle of rain water. Proceeded to get drenched from  head to toe. Soaked through and through. Watched my ghost made flesh. Sprinting through mud and mire. All those pangs of fear and concerned that I thrust upon my Mother were returned in full to me. Every one.

I called it "ditch water." Liam called it fun.

MOVIE: The Contract

Not sure where I got the recommendation for The Contract. It is a movie about a mercenary (Morgan Freeman) that botches a job and during his reparations gets involved with a sullen school teacher (John Cusack) and his sullen son (Jamie Anderson.)

Was supposed to be good. Was supposed to be powerful. Couple of big name actors in it. Middling sized budget. Powerful acting. Different plot. Etc, etc. But it rapidly turned out to be a massive, steaming pile of regurgitated Hollywood sewage.

Here's the problem: it was the scientific definition of the word: trite. Horribly written. Poorly conceived. Not an original or BELIEVABLE moment in it. I spent the first thirty minutes trying (TRYING!) to stomach the horror of it. It kept getting gradually worse. Crap on top of crap. I don't know which high school drama teacher wrote it, but I had to abandon The Contract before the mid-way point. An even lower-point for Morgan Freeman than the bowel shaking Feast Of Love. Cusack's worst movie evah! (Okay, I briefly forgot about Con Air.)

So, I didn't finish it. Wouldn't suggest it for anything other than a break-up date. Wouldn't subject even orphans to it. And I'll flip the channel when this comes on SpikeTV in the next six months.

V-Day 2009

Photo from the morning. Meg's hands (with the rainbow of ink) surrounded by Liam's hands (in the middle) surrounded by Cindy's hands (with the nice nails.)

Everyone gets a card. I get a tee shirt. Meg gets some nice chocolates. Liam gets a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. Cindy gets a crushing migraine that keeps her in bed most of the day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Her bad veins

Cindy says her leg has been hurting for two days. Says it is her bad veins. They hurt. And she points them out to me. Or tries to.

I call them spider veins. I didn't know they were painful.

Cindy says hers hurt.

And that was our conversation before she went to sleep.

Celebrating The Epoch Second

Today, February 13, 2009, at exactly 17:31:30 (Central Time), Unix time was equal to '1234567890'. Parties and other celebrations were held around the world, among various technical subcultures, to celebrate 1234567890 day.

I was home, with the kids, when it happened. Snapped a ghostly image of the exact second. Froze it in time. 1234567890. One brief moment where we all celebrated the same heartbeat.

Grabbed a screenshot of it from:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

MOVIE: Hellboy - Sword Of Storms

Hellboy was originally a comic book. There it was a movie. And then it was a cartoon movie?

In Hellboy - Sword Of Storms a wizzened college professor reads from a forbidden scroll and releases two ancient Japanese demons who (imagine this) want to sieze control of the world. Fortunately, the world has the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defenseand they dispatch War Rocket Hellboy to bring back the demons' bodies.

Liked the mythology involved. Didn't like how the plot unfolded. A touch amateurish for an adult-flavored cartoon. A bit long. A bit more slow. Need more butt kicking and less dialog. Had potential but fell short.

Wouldn't work for a date movie. Would work for the kids. (Though Liam didn't care for it.) Entertaining in dude-ish way, if rented for cheap.

MOVIE: The Wackness

It's the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip-hop. Set against this backdrop, a lonely teenager named Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) spends his last summer before university selling marijuana throughout New York City, trading it with his unorthodox psychotherapist (Ben Kingsley) for treatment, while having a crush on his stepdaughter (Olivia Thirlby.)

I not a fan of NY or pot or hip-hip. But I really enjoyed The Wackness.The writing was very fresh and entertaining. A glimpse of The Fly Girls. Great actors were able to elevate the story through great dialog. Mellow pacing. Some unexpected plots and situations. Suprisingly enjoyable soundtrack. And great scenes. Somehow all of it coming together to give me an odd pseudo flashback to the early nineties.

Should be an interesting date flick. Not for the young folks. Very worth a rental.

Beetle Build - Day Three Point Six

Aaron has been working on the interior of the Beetle. Clobbered the rust. Taped up all the glass. Put down a coat of black liner (to prevent future problems and absorb sound.) And painted the interior the finest shade of green on Earth. Love the color.

Unfortunately it was dark. The pictures didn't turn out. But makes for a good bit of teasing.

Unseen, but worth mentioning, the trunk (bonnet, per Roger) is fantastic. Completely restored. More liner to cover the old worn places. Will have to get some better pictures soon.

Can't wait to get this thing running.

Goal is April. Or sooner.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

FOOD: Grate Grills & More in Gulfport, MS

This is why I need to lose fifteen pounds. Delicious, Southern BBQ.

Grate Grills & More started off selling backyard grills, Green Eggs, and all manner of charcoal-based finery. Recently they renovated part of their shop to include a kitchen and a dining room.

It is a very lowbrow, comfortable place. Plenty of room. Nice tables. A wide, flatscreen playing the Blues channel. Great menu. Super courteous staff. And good prices.

Oh, the food? BAM! I had a brisket sammich. Very tender. Extremely tasty. Side of simply incredible diced potatoes. And some baked beans. Man, the beans. Great sauce with a hint of shredded meat in there.

Top notch place. I'd eat there three times a week if my wallet and wife permitted it. Will certainly go back and take the family or friends.

A Mason's Sky

Driving home. Sun in my face. Big bang of a headache in my left eye. Slow construction-induced creep. And I notice a unique pattern of lines crossing the horizon. Couple of triangles? Jet trails, for sure. But they're in some kind of shape. Almost a pentagram. Not quite. And then I see it. A compass and a rule. Lodge symbols. It's a mason's sky.

Grabbed a snapshot. But the scope of the pattern is too big. Doesn't capture more than a fraction of the whole thing. Like walking the streets of DC without noticing that the city planners had incorporated Masonic symbols in the architecture. Average man wouldn't see it. A few would. Like the sky today. It was up there. The compass. And the rule.

I saw them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Project Closer: Before and Afters and Tool Reviews

My buddy Fred over at One Project Closer just announced that once again this Summer they'll be running a big Before and After Event to support Habitat for Humanity.  Same as last year, here's the concept:  bloggers (and regular folks too) submit their best Before and After pictures and a story of a renovation they did on their own home.  Each week, One Project Closer will choose two winners and give each of them a $25 gift card to the home improvement store of their choice (gifts are yet to be finalized, but this is the minimum).  Plus, they'll make a $25 donation for each winning entry to Habitat for Humanity in the name of the winner.  At the end of the Summer, the community will vote for a winner who will receive a yet-to-be-named Grand Prize.  It's sure to be good and I hope you'll participate for a lot of fun and to support a good cause.

If you haven't heard of One Project Closer before, they run all sorts of articles, including tool reviews (like this one on the tools required to lay hardwood floors, and another one on an inexpensive refurbished bostitch pneumatic nailer kit that is about $100 off the retail version of the same).  They also run posts daily about the work they're doing around their house, in the community, and online.  It's a good read all around.

Monday, February 09, 2009

MOVIE: Max Payne

It doesn't help knowing that Max Payne is based on a computer game. Or that the game is actually pretty impressive and has a semi-cult following. Max Payne, the movie, is a pale, flimsy imitation of the much-beloved game.

In the movie, Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a DEA investigating the loss of his wife and child. He eventually teams up with an assassin (Mila Kunis) who is out to redeem her own sister's murder. And (imagine this) everything co-mingles until the true tale of angels and devils unfolds.

I'm of two minds on Max Payne. One side of me really enjoyed the effects and noir overtones of the film. It some honestly sublime scenes and several unique cinematic elements. I was especially fond of the swirling snow and burning embers.The other side of me thought the writing was pretty bad in most places. It dragged the plot. It stiffled the dialog. Pretty second class writing. Bordering on offensive. And worst of all were the bland, predictable, overly prolonged and woefully unbelievable fight scenes. In a movie based on a computer game, the fight scenes should have carried more weight. Unfortunately they were some of the weaker parts of the film.

Few couples would likely find it to be an enjoyable date movie. Not safe for kids. Dedatable qualities for a rental. Worth waiting until it comes out for free on SpikeTV next year.

Short Road Trip

Standing outside my car, I realize have no keys. Not in my gym bag. Not in my pockets. Meaning that I left them inside my now-locked-house.

Knowing what I'll find, I try all the doors and windows to the house. They're locked tighter than a nun's knees. I'd have to try brute force. Of course my luck is such that I'd only end up hurting myself and I'd still be locked out.

Grudgingly, I call Cindy. But she is ensnared by the early-Monday-morning woes of a bunch of elementary kids. She can't rescue me.

So I walk. Button-up shirt. Dress pants. But 6o degrees and two blocks to the school. It's a short road trip. Almost uneventful. Almost. Maybe five houses away from the school. A blur of white and a shrill screech of barking suddenly announces a Jack Russell Terrier. When I don't run away screaming, it realizes I'm markedly bigger than it is, and trots back to the safety of its driveway, yapping all the while. I snap his picture and wave goodbye.

Grab Cindy's keys.

Walk back home.

Unlock the front to fetch my own keys.

Drop off the loaners to my beloved bride.

And head to the office.

Just a short road trip today.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

MOVIE: Fragile (aka Frágiles)

Not a big fan of horror movies. Even artisticly created ones. Fragile (aka Frágiles) didn't do much to change my mind.

It is the story of Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart,) a pediatric nurse who lands a new job where she finds herself having to protect the children from chaotic, unexpected attacks by an unknown villain. Some detective work. Children's scream. Apparitions. A couple of people wind up getting snuffed out in clever manners. And a floppy denouement to seal the deal.

Maybe fans of the genre will like it more than I did. I didn't think it had many redeeming qualities. The plot wasn't too bad, but did drag. The writing had a touch of originality but fell short of impressive. Effects were interesting. Had a grainy, antique look to it. Dialog was pretty trite. Very canned. And aside from one or two fleeting moments, the horror factor was on par with opening a can of old chili.

Maybe a decent date for teens. Almost watered down enough for younger kids. Horror fans find it worth renting in between episodes of Saw. I'm surprised that I actually watched the whole thing. Guess I'm just a glutton.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

One Tooth Lighter

Meg took a single bite of her dinner roll and found herself one tooth lighter. She's sporting a right gnarly smile now.

They grow up far too quickly.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Woes Du Jour

Cindy thinks her blood pressure is causing problems again. Switching to a different med. Third time is hopefully the charm.

Liam's belly acts up. He goes home with Nana for a long nap and a day off.

Ringing returns to my right ear. Really disappointed. Only two days of peace. Have to find the cause before the vertigo returns.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gym Time

A less-than-triumphant return to the gym. I haven't trained seriously in maybe six months. The vertigo made me into a coward. Didn't want to risk an attack while I was under some weights or too far from home.

With the sudden disappearance of the ringing, I knew I would safe and hit the weights first thing this morning. Like 7:30A. 23 degrees outside. Maybe 43 degrees inside the steel shell of the gym. I had two shirts and a jacket on the whole time.

Back and biceps. A bit of abs. Kept it light, though. Then a two mile run on the treadmill. Very happy to be back. I hope I stay on track a while.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

MOVIE: The Wrestler

The Wrestler is a heart-wrenching tale about Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) and his slow, painful spiral from world-famous superstar to a broken, minor league has-been. Along the way he attempts to come to terms with a fumbled near-relation with an exotic dancer (Marisa Tomei,) balances his infuriating day-job against his rapidly-dwindling wrestling career, and makes amends with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood.)

An absolute MUST-SEE-MOVIE for anyone who grew up watching wrestling on the weekends. One of the most well-rounded, enjoyable, and moving films I've seen in a while. I was absorbed during every minute. Didn't want it to end. Wanted one more match. One more dance. One more pint of potato salad. One more groupie. One more visit with Ram's daughter. More. More. More.

The writing was extraordinary. Perfect on every level. The pacing was smooth like butter. The direction pulled all the right strings and carried the audience along on pins & needles. Majestic, unforgettable, worth-seeing-twice acting. On all parts.

One of the very few movies that lives up to the hype surrounding it. Probably not a date movie for sensitive folks. Not sure if Cindy could see the beauty beneath the violence. Not not not for the kids. Late teens, maybe. But they wouldn't appreciate the "old school" of wrestling like older viewers might. See it while it is on the big screen. Worth the price of admission, and more.

Cursed By Cheese

Cindy's woe of the day: her belly is bloated. It don't feel pretty, either.

The story goes: She made a turkey and cheese sammich for lunch. Took a bite. It tasted funny. Took another bite. It smelled funny, too. Took a third bite. Still tasted and smelled bad. So she threw it in the trash. Came home, checked the label on the Swiss: expired in January.

Now her belly is cursed by cheese.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Right Ear

Just after lunch, the ringing in my right ear stopped.

Still feel some pressure. Hearing a little muffled. But the constant tone is gone. For now.

Praying that it is the new med from Saturday.

Haven't been dizzy in two days.

Maybe I can avoid surgery.


Monday, February 02, 2009


Few things can make a father's heart soar like seeing his son grab an electric guitar and try to shred on some Iron Maiden or Ozzy.

I gotta get this kid real lessons.

He's already a renegade of funk.

MindSpring Revisited - Nahum Nicholas

While I was in the NOC, Nahum was in Network Engineering. (NetEng.) They used to pawn of all the worst projects on her and she'd swing by to get some solutions to problems nobody else wanted to tackle. She toughed it out every time and climbed out from under a pile of projects that would have crippled most other folks.

I recently swapped emails with Nahum and she had the following updates:

* How were you involved with MindSpring?
First as receptionist, then customer service, then provisioning coordinator then as configuration management specialist.

* What was one of your favorite adventures at MindSpring?
The Friday afternoon parking deck beer parties.

* Share a memorable event from MindSpring?
Company meetings with Charles' dogs and guitar.

* What are you up to these days?
Work: Application Security Project Manager at AT&T
Home: Tucker, GA, remodeling my house

* Did you learn any lessons at MindSpring that you still carry with you?
The CV&Bs

*Most fun part about working at MindSpring?
McQ's feelings about work attire: "If you can make it to work without being arrested, then you can wear it to work."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wax Job

Cindy's feet are tormenting her. To extract revenge, she dips them in molten paraffin wax.

Of course it is too hot. And I get drafted. Enlisted to splash liquid paraffin on top of each foot. And on her heel.

Multiple locations for the wax means I dip like six or ten times before she's coated. By the time both feet are done, I'm coated, too.

She gets softer feet. I get four fingers. 

MOVIE: The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd is based on a John Le Carre novel. And it is one of the best adaptations of a book that I've seen in a while.

In the film, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) believes in America. And he sacrifices everything he loves to protect it, even his relationship with his wife (Angela Jolie.) Though the true depth of their marriage is questionable at best. And I'd hazard to say that that Edward had no real relations outside of work. It's his whole world. Everything else is a distraction.

Damon does a fantastic job through out the whole film. One of his most powerful performances to date. Great direction from De Niro. He unfolded the story gracefully, with a purpose. Very good writing. And great dialog. It all comes together in the end.

Possibly a good date movie, though it isn't for a light mood. Not for the kids. Great rental. Certainly a dude flick.