A Twist Of Fate
July, 2011 Entries
"Fiction writing is great, you can make up almost anything." - Anonymous

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(07/31/11 - 9:29 AM)
Today is the day!

I've been tight lipped about our new business endeavor for the past two weeks (I think only two people outside the group know), and I am going to continue to be so until the meeting today is over so that I don't jinx it.

If all goes well, I promise you a blow-by-blow on the birth of a new corporation that will hopefully, one day, turn into something greater than the sum of its parts.


(07/30/11 - 7:22 PM)
Woke up early with the wife, and it was a good thing because the driveway sealers showed up at 7:20 in the morning. It's finally getting done today, after two post-ponements. So, yay, on that count.

Went to work this morning for a little while as well, and then home to work on the neglected media library. I've had stuff piling up that needed entering, so I figured that after a couple of weeks, I really needed to get at it. I still haven't touched the fifteen or so free samplers that I've downloaded because I just can't make myself do it: They take forever to change the files to be the way that I want them, and then break them up by artist besides.

I have also stopped downloading them from Amazon.com because I know that it will just kick my OCD into high gear and make me nuts, knowing that there's even more there to do.

But the link above works, in case you want to start sucking up all the tons of free stuff they will throw your way every day. It's well worth the effort because, in the end, you WILL find new music that you like. I promise you that.

Believe it or not, taking this giant step of stopping was, for me, like breaking an addiction to crack. I know no one but Wanda will probably understand the severity of my inability to stop working on this thing, but it's true - take my word for it.

Then I spent some time reading (more on that when I finish the book.)

I also might have nodded off.

The back pain was tolerable this morning, but then it migrated to my left front thigh amd knee, followed later in the afternoon by yet another migration to my left calf. When all of that was said and done, it just parked in the small of my back once more, and decided to hurt like all get out.

I'm still waiting for the injection to kick in, in some meaningful way, rather than just causing me a different sort of pain.

I've been back on my meds for the last two days, because the pain has been so heightened I thought it foolish to continue to simply pretend that it wasn't there.

I am still cautiously optimistic that this second round of epidurals helps in some way, becase after that they can only do one more. And I certainly don't relish the thought of feeling them a second time - let alone a third.

(07/29/11 - 4:25 PM)
Happy Friday.

Today, I got a letter in the mail from one of my banks. Specifically, the bank where my Health Savings Account resides. Way back when, I chose to use this bank - even though they were out of state - because they didn't have any crazy usage fees. Over the years the bank has changed hands twice, and things have gotten progressively more interesting.

Specifically, I am now told that I must have one thousand dollars more on a daily basis in the account so as not to be charged a monthly maintenance fee. I'm still in the clear, but what in the hell are they maintaining, exactly? Next, I am told that all transactions will cost me $2.00 a pop. So, if I get a $4.00 prescription, I am charged another two dollars for the priviledge of doing so with my money that they are using to make money on.


But it gets better! I am now informed that the physical act of closing my account will now cost me $25.00 - just for leaving! I'm positing whether this is even legal, because the account exists and closing it shouldn't cost anything.

I have also been made aware that the statements I used to get for free, quarterly, will now be sent out monthly (which I don't need), and each time they send me one, they intend to charge my account seventy-five cents for the priviledge of me getting to see what's going on over there more often than I need to.

What the hell, banks? I realize that you screwed yourself during the housing boom - you made stupid decisions you had no business making and you gambled that no one would notice, or that your local market would not tank. Whoops! Probably shouldn't have done that.

So now, I am not just a 'customer' of your bank in name, I am also forced to 'purchase' goods and services from you that, in fact, provide little to no value for the money. All the while, you sit on my pile of cash, and make interest on it on loans that are still functioning.

Am I sympathetic that you lost your shirt? Perhaps a little. But if things were the other way around, you had better believe that I would not be afforded the luxury of treating you like this.

(07/27/11 - 6:42 PM)
Today I went to see a pain specialist about my back/hip issue. This was physician number five, if you're keeping score. After nearly a year of drugs, a declination for candidacy for surgery and physical therapy, I was now sent to visit with a pain management specialist.

I had no notion of where this was going, but I figured I had nothing to lose, since my doctor cut off my meds and left me adrift in a sea of irritation.

So, after a visit that lasted nearly three hours, I was let go. In those three hours, I met an sextaugenarian doctor whose bedside manner I immediately took to, and who spoke straight and seemed to know his stuff. He summed up the problem, as he saw it, showed his work, and told me what he wanted to try.

I was the recipient of a pair of Lumbar 4 epidurals (one left, and one right), and suffice it to say that I have a whole new world of respect for women who go through this, just before they are also to go through birthing a child. My hat is off to you, and I only had the seven minutes of discomfort.

Specifically, the epidurals were like nothing I would ever wish upon someone. The feeling was horrid, the after- and during-effects were obnoxious, and you just feel gross, disoriented, and violated in the end. That last bit probably had something to do with my white-honky ass hanging out a squidge so they could get to where they needed to go. No one should have to suffer that - especially not the medical staff.

In an effort to keep my mind off of what was happening, the doctor told me a joke (terrible) and then made a comment about, 'inching forward, millimeter by millimeter.' When I didn't comment, he explained why it was funny. I immediately said, "I'm not having trouble with it: a millimeter is .03937 inches". Which seemed to stun and impress them both but, truth be told, I'm converting metric to English and back for half of my work day (a goodly number of our blueprints come to us from outside the United States, in a veritable Benneton ad of nationalities), so it comes naturally to me on most days.

Still mildly amusing impressing someone by accident, I suppose.

All in all, I'm supposed to have two action-packed, fun-filled days of numerous un-fun things, followed by a five day stretch to feeling better, which then leads to a second round of (oh, goody!) epidurals.

Yep: I get to do it all again next week. Only now I know what to expect, which makes none the easier.

(07/26/11 - 7:14 PM)
Once again, my wife finds something amusing for me to giggle at:


(07/25/11 - 9:22 PM)
A mutual friend of my brother and myself turned up this little gem on YouTube recently. It's a promotional video for the town I now reside in, Rockton, Illinois. After watching it, I didn't know whether to laugh, or cry: or a little of both.

Alright, assuming that you've watched it, here's where I'm flustered. A goodly number of those businesses are now degraded or just plain gone. The boom of this little town has gone bust, as taxes have risen progressively higher to levels that drove a number of us out of the surrounding area and up here in the first place. The town has been riddled with infrastructural problems for years (think the still radium tainted water supply). And it sort of goes on and on.

And all of that - from shining beacon of suburban hope to cultural mediocrity - in a span of just over a decade.

So what the hell happened?

(07/24/11 - 10:06 AM)
Cheyenne Versus The Chimpmonk - The Staring Contest:

One wants to eat, and one just wants to taunt mercilessly.

(07/23/11 - 6:06 PM)
Spent the morning sleeping in and then off to work. I was about done for the day, when I remembered that I had to change out a keyboard unit and bezel in one of our Vertical Machining Centers.

It was as hot as Hell in the shop, and the corner where the machine is receives about zero airflow. And I wasn't about to take the fan that normally blows there away from the employee across the way who was using it.

Now, you have to understand that the cabinet that this thing resides in is about eight inches deep, by twenty inches high by about eighteen inches long. In addition to the fact that there's a whole lot of stuff already crammed in there, there is also a rear access door that only opens about 60° to allow access to said cabinet. If you look at the picture, the dude furthest away has his hand on the keyboard I'm talking about:

The FADAL Machining Cell

So, being a 6' 3", nearly 300 pound guy doesn't really help matters when getting one's head and hands in there.

I'm sweating profusely, I'm cranky, and the thing is layer upon layer of screws both inside and out. I finally get the unit removed, after searching all over for Allen wrenches (mine have somehow disappeared from my toolbox since I last used them - I'm looking at you, Dave ).

It takes almost an hour, but I finally get the new panel and bezel all sandwiched in. I'm literally on my last screw when it decides to pick up a chip and gall both the screw and the hole. So now I have to figure out what kind of screw it is (#8-32 Oxided button-head, in case you wondered) and also re-tap the hole in the aluminum bezel.

I struggle for a few minutes until I realize that I have somehow found a #10-32 tap - and not a #8-32. Which explains why the hole is so openly mocking me at this point.

I finally get it right, and head home to take a much needed shower.

Afterward, Wanda and I begin discussing lunch plans, and we decide to head to a local place for a sandwich. When we pull up, the pet store across the lot has a Winnebago County Animal Control Services van out in front picking up a dog... from the pet store. We look at each other, wondering what the story is there, before going in.

The place is deader than Amy Winehouse (who died today, also), and we are seated in a comfortable corner booth.

Four years later a waitress arrives. And while the food was stellar, the time-space lag time between waitress visits is not. Especially since we seem to be her only table.

Upon arriving home, I did a few things around the house, and then turned a half-hour nap into a one and a half hour affair until Wanda had to leave for a dinner at church.

And now I'm writing this, ready to take on whatever the evening brings. I may read for a bit, or just hunker down to a movie. It's a mystery!

(07/22/11 - 7:08 PM)
As I was pulling out for work this morning, I saw a huge, yellow moth on our front screen door. I immediately phoned Wanda back in the house, and let her know it was there. Here are the photos she took of this amazing creature:

Mothra, eat your heart out!One more for scale

As near as I can figure, it's a Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli): something I heretofore never even knew existed, but it's a beaut, nonetheless.

(07/21/11 - 8:26 PM)
Every year, the owner of our company purchases a half-sheet cake for everyone to share on the anniversary of every employee's date of hire. It's a nice way for everyone to recognize another year hard-won, and to give everyone a sugar buzz, I guess.

This year, our driver went to get mine. When he arrived back to show me the cake he had bought me, he regaled me with the following story:

"The woman who was doing the icing letters seemed to be having a hard time with your name, and I was like, 'This is the Boss, so make sure you get it right! How would it look for me if you didn't?' "

So he explained to me how he carefully explained to her how to spell my name. The woman replied, "Don't you worry! We'll get it right an make you look good."

He finished his story, and I'm grinning from ear to ear, trying not to laugh. Finally he can't take it any more, "What?" he asks.

"That's a pretty funny story. But it's not my birthday."

At this point his jaw goes slack, and we look to the top of the cake between us one more. "Aw, shit!" he says as I die laughing.

The poor guy was so flustered and focused on getting my name right, he missed when she wrote the wrong word.

Suffice it to say, everyone had to be offered an explaination when they inquired why I had a birthday cake in the shop, or when they wished me happy birthday because they didn't know any better.


(07/20/11 - 10:42 PM)
Have you ever heard the term: 'The right tool for the job?'

I'm guessing Mr. Phillips Screwdriver hasn't. This is how our story begins...

Our second-shift operators are all working at their machines on their respective projects. One in particular makes note of a loud banging coming from the far end of the shop, but doesn't think too much of it. My employees make all sorts of loud, scary noises during the course of their workday (go ahead - insert a fart and burp joke here - you know you want to), so we don't get too frightened until we hear a tool break - then we jump to stop the machine from running. And that sound is pretty distinct.

So: this loud banging goes on for some ten minutes before this operator's curiosity gets the better of him, and he decides to see who and what in the hell are making all that racket.

As he moves toward the sound, he sees an unthinkable act being performed before him. There is Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, with a zinc hammer, wailing on a custom-painted, metal drill cabinet. Over, and over and over again. The bottom of which is now all bent and dented to hell.

"What are you doing!?!" my good employee inquires (and rightly so, bless him).

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver stops long enough to explain that the cabinet sits a little too far back on the cabinet it sits atop of. So, his logical solution was to leave it loaded with 500 pounds of drills, and hammer the shit out of it until it had scooted along the few inches he thought it needed.

If I only had video, this would make a lot more sense, I realize. But do the best you can in your head to envision it, and it's probably close enough.

He went on to say that he had felt that it needed to be moved for a long time, and that since no one else had moved it, he felt it was his duty alone to do what others refused to. And the best way to do it, apparently, was not to unload it of some or all of its burdens; not to seek a second employee for help; not to do the right thing: let me know you want it moved, and give me a chance to help you. Nope! A hammer and ten minutes of damage was TOTALLY the right way to go here!

Uh... what? >SIGH<

At least I got a blog entry out of the deal. I just feel bad for the poor cabinet.

(07/19/11 - 11:15 PM)
This evening, poor Wanda had a migraine coming on, so she went up to bed early to segregate herself from all offending noise and light to ride it out. I always feel awful during times like this, because there's not a whole lot I can do about it, and I hate to see her uncomfortable.

About a half-hour into the headache, we had two quick brownouts. Then we lose power altogether.

And it stays out.

Neighbors come outside, and are hollering at one another across the way. Our neighbor in particular decides now would be a good time for he and his wife to yell at one another in the front yard. Their kids decided that they want to play a raucous game of catch on our property, underneath the bedroom window where Wanda is.

Then, the alarm panels in the house beging triple-beeping every 90 seconds, to let me know there's a problem, and they're on battery backup power (well, DUH!)

Which makes Wanda most cross indeed, along with the fact that it's still 95 and humid out - possibly the warmest evening of the year so far - and the AC has just called it quits.

Four hours later, the power comes back on. We're both pissy and too hot, and I just say screw it and go to bed.

What are the odds? Not a night I'd care to relive any time soon, to say the least. I just felt so awful for Wanda.

(07/18/11 - 8:55 PM)
Finished reading The 30-Second Storyteller: The Art and Business of Directing Commercials by Thomas Richter. This pile of suck is probably of some use to someone, but it just seemed like a lot of logical pablum to me. Though, to be fair, I don't believe I fell into the target audience he was trying to address. I thought I might, but I think it was honed to a finer edge than what I required. Four-and-a-half stars it was not, though.


(07/17/11 - 6:41 AM)
Finished George R.R. Martin's third book in the 'Song Of Ice And Fire' series, "A Storm Of Swords", and I must say that this, by far, is the best book in the series thus far. We FINALLY get some much-appreciated forward momentum out of the over-arching plotline! (But just barely.)

The downside is that we lose a majority of important characters in the doing. But, it does allow for something of a more 'clean' read: there were just too many of them to follow, though many that were 'removed' made me feel like I had been cheated, after investing so much time in their stories.

What I don't care for is that after nearly 3,000 pages and three books, the story still feels like it hasn't really gained any serious momentum. I realize that some might think that's an insane statement, but the pacing and 'adventure' aspects are all but gone in these works. And that's a shame, because the kingdom seems fairly rich in it's heritage, yet we find that we're forced to read through a fast-paced (by historical standards in this realm) time of change that seems to defy centuries and eons of well-worn political and social interaction. And that just confuses me, really.

On the whole, this book breathed new life into my desire to continue reading this series. I want to find out how it ends now. The problem is, does Mr. Martin want to find out as well?

(07/16/11 - 7:46 PM)
Well, it's semi-official: Wanda and I, along with two old friends, will soon be starting a new, for-profit business venture. I'll keep you posted as the company begins to take soild shape.

Specifically, we've elected to dip our collective toes into the making of local television commercials. Ironically, this comes at a time when IFC has just begun airing a show about said-same. To clarify an important point: this wasn't the impetus for the business, but it was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back and finally moved my butt into action.

For some time now, I've been looking for a business that I can attempt to grow on my own, now that my work schedule is so much less demanding than what it once was. Work, for me, has changed drastically as we have brought on more seasoned help in the form of my second assistant, as well as delegating more responsibility to individuals that we've been grooming for years for the tasks. And, so far, it's working out great.

This, fortunately or unfortunately, has left me with somewhat more time on my hands. And while the housing market continues to languish inconsolably, property flipping isn't even a considerable option.

So, I've been looking for a business that I can sink my teeth into. And this one seems like a good one. My very old and dear friend Dave has actually produced commercials, as well as indie movies, before. He has the equipment, software, and know-how to do what needs doing where I have no clue.

Likewise, my old friend Jim (from my geek days!) is the digital arts director for a minor league hockey team, and has done other national projects as well. He brings the digital art integration and software to the table, and tons of experience as well.

Wanda has the acumen and vast experience to deal with the accounting, as well as handling the web-based, HTML & FaceBook integration: she has tons of experience there, as well as other valuable marketing experience.

And me? I'm probably bringing the least to the table of the group. I plan on handling the corporate stuff: accounting, structure, some marketing, research, etc., as well as being an 'idea guy', and doing some of the writing. I'll be essentially 'running' the company itself: something I do daily for a $3 million dollar business already. So it shouldn't be something that I can't handle.

While everyone's tasks will be amorphous, and cross over to some degree, I can't help but feel that we've got a solid group who can cross boundaries and do what needs to be done to get a business like this in motion. And if the above sounds glib - it is meant to be. My instincts tell me that any or all of us may (and will) cross-over on tasks where we have some strengths, even though they may not be on the caliber of others in the group (i.e. - I can be a bookkeeper, but Wanda is a lot better at it, so she's the better choice. But that doesn't mean I won't be involved, or help.)

It should be interesting, all in all. We plan on getting together next Saturday to hash out the specifics, and see if we want to persue this for certain. I have no idea what the future will hold for an endeavor such as this - if there is to be a future at all. But I can say that I'll be doing my damndest to make sure that there is.

And I know I've got the right people there doing it with me.

(07/14/11 - 5:41 PM)
It's been quite some time since I've had a decent cashier story to tell you. Today, I break that drought:

I went to pick up my monthly medication at the local Wally-World, and was helped by a short man who would not have looked uncomfortable in plate-mail armor and wielding a battle axe.

"Last name?" the man asked.

"Alberts," I replied.

>Tap tap tap< on the keyboard, and then, "I don't have anything for you today," he says.

"I got a call yesterday saying that it was ready. I'm sure it's here."

The man rolled his eyes, but checked again. A moment later, he says, "Oh! There is something. I must have mis-spelled your name."

Now I can't just keep my mouth shut, because sarcasm is in my nature. So I jokingly respond, "It's a good thing that my last name isn't daiquiri, Albuquerque, or onomatopoeia, then."

I expected something - a laugh, a chuckle, a giggle - something. What I got was a dead cold stare, no smile, and this response, "I can spell all of those. It's the simple ones I seem to have a tough time with."

Now I'm not one to call a man a liar, but I'm fairly certain that most of America can't spell most - if not all three - of those words. Maybe I'm wrong - I don't know.

So, the moral of the story is that people are apparently awesome spellers and I just don't know it, so I should not dare joke about it in the future.

Still, I'm pretty sure had I called him on it, he would have failed all three. I'll never know now, but I really, REALLY wanted to.

(07/13/11 - 8:16 PM)

"Never let fear or common sense stand in the way of getting a job done." - Alex Debogorski, "Ice Road Truckers"

(07/12/11 - 7:22 PM)
This one comes compliments of one of my Assistants:

A man and woman who had been married for nearly 60 years had taken note that, in recent months, they had begun to forget things more and more. They sat, one day, talking about what to do, and came to the conclusion that they should begin writing things down, so as not to forget.

One afternoon, a few days later, the man and woman were on the sofa watching television in the evening, when the man asked the woman, "Would you care for some ice cream? I believe I'd like some."

"That sounds good, yes. I'll have vanilla, with strawberry topping."

The man nodded, and began making his way toward the kitchen.

"Don't you want to write that down?" the wife asked.

"Nah, the old man replied, "It's just ice cream. I'll be back in a minute.

One minute turned into fifteen, and just as the wife remembered to worry, the man re-emerged from the kitchen, and presented her with a plate of over-easy eggs and some strips of bacon."

The woman rolled her eyes at him, and said, "I told you to write it down! I knew you'd get it wrong!"

"What's wrong with it?" the man responded.

"You forgot the toast!"

(07/11/11 - 6:45 PM)
Happy Apu Day!

I finished reading George R.R. Martin's second book in the 'Song Of Ice And Fire' series, "A Clash Of Kings" yesterday, and while not disappointed, I will say that - AGAIN - there's just too much happening in too many places to too many people. It's mind-boggling trying to keep a handle on all the comings, goings, rivalries, co-dependancies, and mergers happening across the land.

I can say that it was good enough to warrant my continued interest in the next three books, but my expectations have been raised a great deal after having read this second installment. I'm still waiting for the 'wow' moment.

(07/10/11 - 8:55 AM)
Spent a nice afternoon at Wanda's sister's house yesterday. Hamburgers with the works (always a nice treat), followed by a long game of Apples To Apples - a game I had heard so much about, but had yet to play. Suffice it to say, I ordered mine (with expansions) last night.

Thanks again to Dena for the food, fun, and hospitality.

Today, I finish the book I'm on, and hope to get into the next one in the series. There's two more in publication, and the new one is due out soon, so I want to keep going to ease right into the new one for the full effect.

And that, in a nutshell, sums up my plans for the day.

(07/09/11 - 7:21 PM)
Normally I don't read too much into stuff like this. But this one caught my attention, and did get me wondering...

"Obama: Where are his girlfriends? Strange that none have popped up. Strange to the point of being downright weird.

OK... this is past the 'birthers' questions.... this is just plain old common sense, no political agendas for either side. Just common knowledge for citizens of a country, especially American citizens, who even know that Andrew Jackson's wife smoked a corn cob pipe and was accused of adultery, or that Lincoln never went to school or Kennedy wore a back brace or Truman played the piano.

We are Americans. We are known for our humanitarian interests and caring for our 'fellow man.' We care, but none of us know one single humanizing fact about the history of our own president.

It's niggled at me for ages that no one who ever dated him ever showed up. The simple fact of his charisma, which caused the women to be drawn to him so obviously during his campaign, looks like some lady would not have missed the opportunity.

We all know about JFK's magnetism, McCain was no monk, Palin's courtship and even her athletic prowess were probed. Biden's aneurisms are no secret. Look at Cheney and Clinton--we all know about their heart problems. How could I have left out Wild Bill before or during the White House?

Nope: not one lady has stepped up and said, "He was soooo shy," or "What a great dancer!" Now look at the rest of this: no classmates, not even the recorder for the Columbia class notes ever heard of him.

Who was the best man at his wedding? Start there. Then check groomsmen. Then get the footage of the graduation ceremony.

Has anyone talked to the professors? It is odd that no one is bragging that they knew him or taught him or lived with him.

When did he meet Michele and how? Are there photos? Every president gives to the public all their photos, etc. for their library. What has he released?

And who in hell voted for him to be the most popular man in 2010?

Does this make you wonder?

Ever wonder why no one ever came forward from Obama's past, saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend, etc.? Not one person has ever come forward from his past.

Very, very strange. This should really be a cause for great concern. To those who voted for him, you may have elected an unqualified, inexperienced shadow man. Did you see a picture called "The Manchurian Candidate"?

Let's face it. As insignificant as we all are, someone whom we went to school with remembers our name or face; someone remembers we were the clown or the dork or the brain or the quiet one or the bully or something about us.

George Stephanopoulos of ABC News said the same thing during the 2008 campaign. He questions why no one has acknowledged the president was in their classroom or ate in the same cafeteria or made impromptu speeches on campus. Stephanopoulos also was a classmate of Obama at Columbia - the class of 1984. He says he never had a single class with him.

While he is such a great orator, why doesn't anyone in Obama's college class remember him? And, why won't he allow Columbia to release his records?


Looking for evidence of Obama's past, Fox News contacted 400 Columbia University students from the period when Obama claims to have been there, but none remembered him. For example, Wayne Allyn Root was, like Obama, a political science major at Columbia , who also graduated in 1983. In 2008, Root says of Obama, "I don't know a single person at Columbia that knew him, and they all know me. I don't have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia ... EVER!

Nobody recalls him. Root adds that he was also, like Obama, "Class of '83 political science, pre-law" and says, "You don't get more exact or closer than that. Never met him in my life; don't know anyone who ever met him."

At the class reunion, our 20th reunion five years ago, who was asked to be the speaker of the class? Me. No one ever heard of Barack! And five years ago, nobody even knew who he was . The guy who writes the class notes, who's kind of the, as we say in New York, 'the macha' who knows everybody, has yet to find a person, a human who ever met him." Obama's photograph does not appear in the school's yearbook, and Obama consistently declines requests to talk about his years at Columbia, provide school records, or provide the name of any former classmates or friends while at Columbia.

*(NOTE: Root graduated as valedictorian from his high school, Thornton-Donovan School , then graduated from Columbia University in 1983 as a political science major in the same class in which Barack Hussein Obama states he was.)

Some other interesting questions:

Why was Obama's law license inactivated in 2002?

Why was Michelle's law license inactivated by court order?

It is circulating that according to the U.S. Census, there is only one Barack Obama but 27 Social Security numbers and over 80 aliases.


The Social Security number he uses now originated in Connecticut where he is never reported to have lived.

No wonder all his records are sealed!"

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but it is interesting to consider.

(07/06/11 - 8:16 PM)
Finally finished Robert V.S. Redick's anxiously awaited final installment in the Red Wolf trilogy: "The River Of Shadows", only to find the trilogy has now spawned an extra volume and become a quadlogy?

Alright, I can live with that. I've never even considered complaining when a decent series offers more of itself.

BUT - that being said: This book hinted at some amazing things. The two preceeding volumes had built me up into something of a frenzy to find out what happened in this book. And, unfortunately, it was something of a let down for me. I had such high hopes for where this story was going, but this foray just felt... ordinary. I felt as though all of the amazing premises he had been building to were explained in the most monotone way. And that felt like being cheated.

That isn't to say that the book wasn't interesting: it was. But in comparison to the prior two, this one just didn't hold up. It felt more like a placeholder than a book unto itself. I just sincerely hope that the next volume brings the magic back. The problem being that he's revealed a great deal, and the revelations have felt disappointing. There isn't much left to keep us, as devoted readers, in thrall.

All in all, still worth the read and a very good book. But I may not have the vigor and passion for this series that I once did if the next book doesn't deliver - and deliver big.

(07/05/11 - 7:21 PM)
I promise to banish dirt to the land of wind and ghosts!

(07/04/11 - 9:56 PM)
Happy Independence Day, America!

We elected to stay home and just relax, as Wanda had food pantry this evening (why, I'm still not sure). Suffice it to say, it was a lazy day and well received.

(07/03/11 - 10:45 AM)
Big entry this week because... well... not a whole lot happened of note.

This past week, Wanda and I were on vacation. We didn't go anywhere, because work wasn't at a point where it could permit it, and we couldn't take five days off for the same reason.

Still, four days off and working on friday was better than nothing.

Over the course of the week, we got a number of errands run, the shrubs all received a haircut, and we went to breakfast - twice. Which is unheard of.

On a whim, I had purchased a couple of Nintendo Wii games friday afternoon. This proved to be both fortuitous and a time-suck, as we spent hours upon hours playing co-op on LEGO Harry Potter. Yep - we're nerds. But these LEGO games are highly addictive, and fun even for a hardened video gamer such as myself, as well as a relative novice like my wife. And - no - that's not meant as insulting. It just means she hasn't given over months of her life on end to the things.

This, naturally, prompted a re-visiting of the movies themselves. So we spent a good portion of time in movie marathon mode watching them all (except the most recent, which we had just watched, and which kind of blew in comparison.)

Even I am astounded how much time we devoted to these two endeavors, yet I can't say that I actually regret any of it. It was a nice diversion of the work beckoning around us (my company called so many times that I lost count, and on Tuesday, I actually ended up there.)

I'm also pretty sure at this point that my foot is, in fact, broken. I'm not sure which bone it is, but about three inches back from the offending toe, I find that the pain is colossally localized, effectively limiting my ability to walk. Due specificlly to this fact, we were unable to do some of the things that we had looked forward to doing on our time off. I just felt bad for Wanda being saddled with a gimpy husband - again.

On Sunday, I spent time with a co-worker, Wanda's cousin, and my old and dear friend Dave, who I hadn't seen in 15 years. The event was loosely predicated on trying some rare scotch I had purchased (a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label), but it was more about getting together with a unique group and having a conversation. And it didn't disappoint.

Dave brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Swing: A scotch I had never heard of and, I was told, was available for purchase on cruise ships and in duty-free shops (I haven't been able to prove or disprove this). What I will say is that I expected something gimmicky from both drinks. In actual fact, the pair were among the very best scotches I had ever consumed. And that's saying someting. In the end, I was pretty happy that he had been thoughtful enough to bring it along.

Wanda and I also took the time to visit the McEachran Homestead Winery - a winery we had gotten wind of in Caledonia, IL of all places. We had no idea what to expect, so we had no pre-conceived notions. Having been to several wineries over the years, however, nothing really prepared us for this.

We arrived to a beautiful farm spread, devoid of all human life. As we wandered toward what we thought might be the entrance, a charismatic octogenarian greeted us and introduced himself. He advised us that he was the owner, and showed us the entrance.

Upon entering, we were a bit disconcerted to find no real formal tasting area, and no real formal tasting associate. We were welcomed, and asked to sit down. A bit uncomfortable, we did so, and the tasting began. It turns out that the woman assisting us was actually the mind behind the blends and flavors we were about to enjoy. While nervous and a little out of her element, we immediately warmed to this woman. In her voice and actions, she bespoke pride and warmth. We felt instantly at ease, and were very interested in what she was telling us. For some twenty minutes we tasted and talked about this very new endeavor. It was clear by then that this winery was in a very, very young state. And like most businesses, it was on the verge of booming or shrivelling. Yet I couldn't help but think that this woman's passion was enough to make it all work out in the end. The time we spent talking and tasting was some of the most enoyable I have ever experienced at a winery - albeit a bit outside the norm.

We ended up running back into town for some cash (they're not set up for credit cards just yet, we found out a bit too late) and returned to purchase two full cases of wine. We had heard that it was a little on the expensive side - and it is, in point of fact. But we now understood the reason: the grapes are ALL grown on site. And this woman's passion - and product - were enough to dissuade us from dismissing the wine out of hand based on cost.

The bottlings are, in fact, so small that they go very, very quickly. Sometimes, never to return. And based on not only the grapes (19 varieties on site, if you can even believe it) but the fruit they grown on site as well (raspberries, peaches, plums, and on and on) there are different seasonal and experimental blends. I, for one, cannot wait to go back and see what they're up to in the fall.

As an interesting aside, they are also a sesquicentennial family farm. For 150 years, the farm has been in the same family. Since, in fact, it was homesteaded by the patron upon his arrival from Scotland. This, in this day and age, is no small feat. And I thought it quite interesting, and added something to the already pronounced mystique. Plus, it got me in touch with my Scottish side (go clan Donegan!) for a brief moment, reminding me of my roots.

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