A Twist Of Fate
March, 2011 Entries
"I have made good judgements in the past. I have made good judgements in the future." - Dan 'Potatoe' Quayle

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(03/31/11 - 8:02 PM)
Finished Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's latest, "Gideon's Sword" tonight.

The book introduces a new character to the working family of Preston & Child, Gideon Crew.

Let me begin by saying that I own ALL of Preston's works - even the obscure ones it took me YEARS to put together. I also own all but TWO of Child's works - his earliest still elude me, as he was only the editor.

What does this mean? It means I respect and enjoy immensely what these two dynamos of the written word bring to the table on damn near every outing. Occasionally, they will disappoint on some levels, but still write an interesting novel. And I usually learn something in the reading process as well.

I have never - NEVER - given a bad review to one of their works. I like them so much, in fact, that I highly recommend them to friends and family often, and have even gotten my Father hooked on them

So it pains me to write the following: This book was so bad, I very nearly burned it and gouged out my eyes after reading it. All I could think was, "This COULD NOT have been written by the authors I have come to know, respect, and love. It's just not possible."

The premise was flimsy, the 'suspension of rational thinking' factor was beyond high. And, they used the topic of social engineering as a plot device. And the way they used it made me very nearly scream at the inanimate form of the book before me. This is a topic - coupled with hacking and cracking - that I have read extensively on. I have a whole section of my personal library dealing with the topic, and it is one of the larger sections. So I know how it's supposed to work, and I know the subtle nuances of it, and I know what's just plain ridiculous. This was the latter: It was just insane to think that things would come off as they presupposed within the pages.

After posting my short-review on my FaceBook pages, I wandered over to Amazon.com to see how the book was being received. Apparently, I was not alone in my disappointment, nor my sentiment. In fact, the majority of reviews seemed to have been written by readers like me. Readers who absorb these two author's works as soon as possible, and enjoy the hell out of them. Not so here. Here I read reviews that echoed - eerily, in fact - my exact sentiments.

The few glowing reviews I saw seemed to be from individuals who just weren't among the erudite fans of this duo's works.

So, all I can say is this: If you're a lover of their work, don't even read it. If you've never read their works, then I can point you to a whole host of better ones to begin a long - and addictive - journey. I would strongly recommend that you check out my other reviews of their books here, and then choose a premise from available descriptions online to make your final selection.

To Preston and Child, I say the following: I'm disappointed. You guys are near-deities in the world of fiction, and this offering feels like you wrote it while drugged in a hospital bed after severe head trauma. You guys are amazing, and so much better than this.

I eagerly await your next work. It can't be any worse.

(03/30/11 - 6:40 PM)
Finished Nicholas Basbanes' first novel, "A Gentle Madness" today. This was a book I had bought a couple of times in signed hardcover, only to receive something inferior and have to send it back. I FINALLY got a decent signed copy - though, again, with several unnoted flaws - that I finally said, "Screw It" and kept, because it's so damn hard to find a signed first edition these days. I really wanted to read the thing, and the thought of waiting months longer to do so finally got the better of me.

This book was the first of several installments chronicling the history of passionate and prominent book lovers. And I don't mean people who like to read. I mean people who look at books with a nearly unnatural lust in their eyes. People who love the sight, feel, and smell of the things; the history each holds within the confines of its provenance. I'm talking about rabid Bibliophiles.

As I read chapter after chapter, documenting the history of individuals who fit this mold from the beginning of written history, I was enthralled. Here was a history of some of the most prominent collectors and libraries in history: their passions, their insane desire to collect, and the preponderance of volumes they had amassed.

When I got into the post-incunabula period (1501 and on), I began to feel a kinship further still with these individuals. When I got into the more modern era, I finally realized that this book was written about me. I am one of these individuals who takes the collecting of books to a higher level; makes it an art form. I always knew I was a little crazy on the subject, but not to the point where I fit a profile. Apparently, I was just not well informed enough.

I love books. I love reading them. I love thinking about where they've been; who's held them. I often take the first minute or two before reading a new volume to touch it, to feel it's texture and make up. Then I smell the interior, followed by examining the physical structure of the book. Finally, I flip to the first few pages. I examine the layout, the number lines, the author's prior works. I savor those pages. Then - and only then - do I gently begin to read the volume. I do so in a manner that makes it difficult to know that the book has, in fact, ever been read. I do this for two reasons: First, I wish to keep the value intact on something that is, typically, a pristine copy. But I do this also for the next owner.

For, like many Bibliophiles, I understand that I am merely a steward of the volume for a finite period of time. While the book itself will go on far longer than I may ever imagine. And the more pristine and desirable it is, the more certainty I have that, one day, someone will be telling someone close to them that they not only own a wonderful copy, but that it was from the author Heath D. Alberts' own private collection.

Nothing would make me happier after my demise, than to know that words such as this were being spoken.

Which seems a little more than insane, I realize. First, because I will have to achieve even marginal success as an author. This is, without question, iffy at best. In fact, the odds are against it. But I don't care. I write because I love the act. And, if it takes me no further than having a few close friends who enjoy it, then I'm still content with the act. It's a self-serving thing.

Secondly, I will have to amass a seriously impressive collection. Amazingly, a few months ago, I found myself in wide-eyed wonder of this very fact. Somewhere along the line, my collection had begun to take on a proper shape. 'Junk' books were slowly purged over a number of years, reaplaced by more desirable editions, volumes, and titles. I don't know when it happened, but suddenly I had begun a collection that seemed impressive to me. And it made me truly happy.

Not happy like marrying my wife - that's a pinnacle happy that will never be matched. But happy nonetheless in a strange and wonderful way.

I look forward to continuing to surround myself with good, quality, desirable books until the day comes when it is time for them to move on to someone else's collection. Ironically, I see this happening in my living years. I know that taking these to the grave with me isn't what I want. I want to be there when the collection is moved on. This is another strange facet of the Bibliophile: building an esteemable collection during one's lifetime, only to watch it be dismantled decades later.

And - amazingly - I look forward to that day. It's strange, I know. But I do, nonetheless. In the meantime, however, I plan to enjoy being surrounded by my inert friends; enjoy sitting and looking at them - individually or en masse; enjoy the warm feeling I get when I think of the acquisition of each volume, and what the contents meant to me.

This, truly, is the blessing and the curse of the true bibliophile.

(03/29/11 - 6:22 PM)
This one comes compliments of my friend, Adam: Click Here!

(03/28/11 - 7:13 PM)
I don't often talk about new music that excites me. Today, I make an exception. A couple of years ago, I found an entire free album by a band. This is a rarity, and usually ends in disappointment, as it turns out to be free for a good reason - usually suckage.

This band, however, was different. They were good. Really, really good. I'm talking about The Damnwells. And their latest album, "No One Listens To The Band Anymore" turns out to be anything but true.

The whole album, once more, shows what a talented group these guys are. The songs move from mood to mood with no particular end in mind, and it just floats you along until you suddenly realize that it's over.

Some of their former offerings haven't been this strong. Nevertheless, this is a band that I have earmarked on my radar to acquire whenever something new comes along.

If you're not familiar with their work, this is a perfect place to start. And I highly recommend "One Last Century" as well.

(03/27/11 - 10:06 PM)
I decided to Google myself this afternoon in a show of self-aggrandizing. It's finally getting more solid, with the exception of one errant page about an apparent lawsuit that has nothing to do with me.

I'm such a douche.

(03/26/11 - 9:15 AM)
Today I wrap up the 2-year overdue, 2nd installment in Patrick Rothfuss' 'The King Killer Chronicles', "The Wise Man's Fear" (all 996 pages of it) and will surely find myself thirsting for more.

For lovers of Rowling, Tolkien, or Narnia, this series is a no-brainer. It's something truly special and rare. We follow the continuing chronicling of the amazing and wonderous life of Kvothe, an epic hero and living legend in his own time. As his life is ending, he is recollecting all he has seen and done to a traveling scribe in troubled times.

What sounds simple is so complex and layered it makes for something beyond a fascinating read. A great many individuals chided Rothfuss for taking nearly 2 years longer than expected to finish the second of three installments. It was, for me, just a desire for more. And Rothfuss did it right. He didn't release the book prematurely under pressure, and it has to be a better product for it.

The monster volume makes for a read that will make you shun sleep and food, and fly through page after page eager to see what the next chapter; the next page; the next paragraph offers.

It's really that compelling.

I can't say enough about this masterful work that hasn't already been said, and said better. I can only chomp at the bit awaiting the final volume, while bemoaning the fact that it will be just that: the final volume.

One cannot help but hope, however, that one as creative and young as Rothfuss has more in store for his growing legion of rabid fans.

(03/25/11 - 5:13 PM)
Inked a contract today at work for a new Mazak Vertical Machining Center. It will be our 4th in the cell, and will add yet more revenue to a positive stream. Of course, this thing costs more than my house, so it will take roughly 8-10 months to pay for itself. Still, not a bad investment in the long run.

Now I just have to figure out how to get a standard PC attached to it for post-processing - something I've never done before, but figure I'll get right in the end.


(03/24/11 - 7:22 PM)
This one comes courtesy of my wife:

Aaaack - Where'd That Come From?!

(03/23/11 - 09:22 PM)
For those of you interested, here is a sample chapter from one of the two novels I am currently working on. Let me know what you think, and enjoy!

Hal looked at his cheap digital watch again. They had been waiting for Destiny in Avril's for nearly three hours now. The smell of bacon would have pervaded the hole-in-the-wall diner to its very soul, if it had had one. Bacon was an integral part of who it was. It was five minutes to midnight.

"You know," Calvin said to no one in particular, draining his cup down to the black dregs, "I think coffee has actually gotten worse over the years."

"Hey! You guys don't like it, you can always go somewhere else you know," the surly man behind the counter retorted.

Calvin, Hal and the man behind the counter were the only three people in the entire diner at this hour, which was indeed strange. Normally, the bar crowds began hitting sometime after eleven and didn't stop until sometime around five o' clock in the morning when the breakfast crowd began showing up. Tonight though, was different. And this had not gone unnoticed by the owner. Especially since he was one of the three occupants, and the other two he knew to be trouble.

"He's just yankin' your chain Avril. I think it's great coffee," Hal said to the man behind the counter with all the sincerity of a televangelist evident in his voice.

"Damn straight," Avril said. "Make it myself. Old Hathor recipe. Been making it pretty much the same way for centuries. Never had one complaint about it - not one - 'til you bums showed up." Avril considered himself a bit of a coffee expert and coinessouer. He had spent centuries among coffee traders in the middle east before finally coming to The States.

"Hathor?," Hal found himself asking aloud to no one in particular. Only Calvin heard him.

From the side of his mouth, Calvin said quietly, "Female Genies, Hal. Better not to ask."

Hal simply shrugged, and mouthed the word 'o-kay.'

Avril continued his half-hearted tirade, "Speaking of you showing up, who exatly are you waiting for? You guys've been here for almost three hours, and that ain't like you. Come to think of it, it ain't really like you to come in here much at all. And twitchy there has been looking at his watch like a nervous parent. What gives?"

"Grant me three wishes, and I'll tell you Avril," Calvin said, chiding him.

"Har, har, har - very funny you -," but that was all the further that he got.

"What's wrong Avril?," Hal said, noting the owners sudden lack of movement. The clock above the dining counter now read twelve o' clock midnight. The second hand had stopped moving, and it was now parked squarely over the twelve.

At that very moment, Hal saw Destiny hastily approaching the diner through the glass door, and sheepishly he waved to her. Her eyes were wide - almost feral, and her pace was rapid. She entered quickly and took off her leather jacket. She was dressed now in something more akin to normal, nearly fashionable. Hal's heart nearly burst from his chest. She was radiant. How was it that he had never noticed this before?, he wondered.

Calvin unceremoniously shattered the mood, "Well? Where are they? Who've you summoned?"

"Forget that for a second," said Hal, looking once again at the silent owner across the dining counter, "what happened to Avril? He's gone all funny. Why'd he stop talking like that?"

Destiny shook her head and flourished her hand in the air while rolling her eyes in a fashion that said 'I have no control over this, and don't like it any better than you do."

Before anyone cold speak further, a sound like sheet metal being scraped and compressed could be heard from above the diner's grill.

"What the...?" Hal said.

"Oh, no. Your Ladyship. Please, please tell me that you didn't....," Calvin pleaded. It simply couldn't be.

Destiny nodded, dejected. "And you know how he just insists on making a grandiose entrance."

It was true, Calvin thought. The guy loved his entrances like no one he had ever met.

WHAM!! Something large hit the grill with the brute force of dead weight in the clutches of the harsh mistress known as gravity.

"Oh...," said Destiny.


"...my...," said Calvin.


"...WOW." Finished Hal, eyes bulging at the sight before them.


Sprawled on the grill for all to see was a muscular tank of a man. He was dressed in a crisp red, single-breasted suit, and sported a close cropped white beard. He wore a snow-white shirt and a crimson tie with a diamond tie tack that matched his large lapel pin and the stud in his left ear.

Immediately, the man on the grill jumped down. His voice was stern and rough - as though he had had far too many cigarettes in his day. "Oh my wow? What's that supposed to mean? And what the hell kind of greeting is that?"

Calvin and Hal both looked to Destiny. In what seemed one voice they both said in unison, "Santa?"

And us without cookies even, Calvin thought sarcastically. Santa was dangerous. Not to mention certifiable - but that could work both ways.

Destiny nodded with a devious smile. Willy would never know who hit him.

(03/21/11 - 11:59 AM)
The Darth Vader Panic Button.

(03/20/11 - 8:03 AM)
My name is Heath, and I'm an asshole.

I tell people this often when I first meet them. On some levels, it's self-deprecation to keep people on edge. On other levels, it's simply true. I am, in fact, an asshole.

I abhor stupidity, which neatly sums up about 80% of society at large. I'm sick of a world around me who make poor decisions - often at my indirect expense in some way, shape or form. I don't appreciate vainglorious bastards who think the world revolves around them, or should. I also have a SERIOUS issue with individuals who... you know what? Let me tell you a story from yesterday that made me want to punch a mother of two:

My wife and I were having a lovely, moron-free day. It was sunny, and I was in good spirits after having run some errands and going in to work for a bit. I decided it was too nice to stay indoors, so I asked if Wanda would like to go to lunch.

We went to a local favorite, and were seated in a booth abutting another, filled on one side by a young woman, and on the other by a middle-aged mother of two young girls, who could have been no more than five tops.

We sat down. We got a sub-par waitress who was either overworked, or decided that we only needed fleeting moments of her precious time. Fine - whatever.

It was hard not to notice the boisterousness of the children in the booth next to ours. Over my wife's head, I could see them standing, jumping, taking off clothing, putting on clothing, covering Mom's head in clothing while she talked a blue streak to the young lady across from her and texted at the same time. The kids were both loud, obnoxious, and invading my wife's space.

For some twenty minutes this went on, as though everything were fine. I then noticed something else. We had had to wait, and there was still quite the queue of folks waiting their turn to eat. I noted that no eating was happening in the booth across from ours. It became clear, in fact, that they had been finished since we arrived.

I can't really begrudge anyone wanting to hang out and visit, but I also couldn't help but wonder if there weren't some other place they could be doing it, as a courtesy to others.

Perhaps I expect too much. I don't know. At any rate, these two girls continued to - literally - treat their mother like a piece of playground equipment and a mannequin all in the same go. After some twenty minutes of this, the mother noticed in between texts and loudness that there were people behind her who might not think her children were so amazing. She turned, saw me, and said, "Oh! Sorry!"

If I had been alone, I would have looked her dead in the eye and said, "Bullshit, you liar."

As it happens, I restrained myself. I even - for the briefest of moments - gave her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe something in her life was precluding her from doing what was right just now.

Nope - the kids never really stopped, and she began texting and talking once more.

I don't think she was sorry in the least.

Near the end of our meal, they finally left. I began to consider the fate of those children. I considered what they might have otherwise become in a rigid but nurturing environment, rather than a static and ignorant one.

I gave it up. I've seen it too often.

I figured that this was a friendly reminder why I try not to do anything anymore. People are just too damn disappointing, and it angries up the old blood.

Next we decided to stop at a store in the area and pick up a small houseplant to replace the one that my cat spent all winter masticating into oblivion when we weren't around to scold him. Incidentally, my cat is better behaved than those children were - and he's prone to biting, even.

We got to the store, then to the checkout. A light was on, and we saw a young lady return to the farthest register. We began walking over. She looked at us, gave us the 'deer in the headlights' look, and quickly shut her light off when we were only feet away.

I said something under my breath to my wife, and I think she may have heard me, because she began calling after us to come back.

When we finally returned, she said, "I can take care of you. I'm not really open."

I couldn't take it, "I thought that the light on was the international sign of open."

In the end, I think she was just glad to be rid of me. And, in truth, I of her.

Incidentally, I bought succulent cacti (similar to an aloe plant, actually) in the hopes that the cat will not visit his predelictions for foliage upon them. I'd actually like to see him try it, truth be told. I know - that's mean.

But like I said in the beginning: I'm an asshole.

(03/19/11 - 7:59 PM)
Finished Joe Abercrombie's latest offering, "The Heroes" tonight.

First, let me say this: Joe Abercrombie is one of the finest writers I have ever had the pleasure to read. I have - and still continue to - rank him on par with Tolkien. He's that impressive.

That being said, his first trilogy was thrilling not only because of his amazing, enthralling, writing style, but also because of the fantastic world that he - like Tolkien before him - spun for the reader. There were backstories so compelling that they deserved books of their own (someday, hopefully), and yet these were only components of the larger story.

This, in and of itself, is damned impressive.

With the advent of his fourth book, however, we began to become more introspective about the internal politics and alignments of the characters who had managed to live through the first few books (Abercrombie knows - and shows - that war is hell, and no one is immune). This was acceptable due solely to his amazing writing. With the advent of the fifth book, however, we find that we - the reader - are further corralled from a large and inviting fantasy world, into a single epic battle. All 496 pages (the British true first edition - the American edition is slightly larger in page count) are devoted to the beginning, middle and end of this single battle. And while an engaging read nonetheless, it begins to wear on the reader on some levels.

For me, it was just extremely difficult to follow the factions-within-factions of individuals involved in the fray, and also previous factions and alignments referenced from prior works. And there were many. I also found myself experiencing wanderlust within the novel. Wishing for a brief glimpse of those far-off places within his universe as a detour from all of the fighting. Unfortunately, none arrived.

This - in a nutshell - is my biggest complaint here. It's a great book, don't get me wrong. What it isn't, is a grand adventure that leaves you thirsting for more. And in Abercrombie's robust world, that proves a shame. I can't help but think that I'm not alone in wishing he had focused his efforts more on some other place - or several - rather than a hill in the middle of nothing that everyone wants for all the wrong reasons.

In summation: This book shows that war is hell. And shows it well. I just hope that he takes another grand tour of his virtual domain in the next book, rather than compartmentalizing so much.

I, for one, can't wait.

(03/18/11 - 7:22 PM)
The Theory of Evolution makes my head hurt. It's something that my brother and his wife espouse, as opposed to I and my wife who are aligned with the 'creator being' faction.

In my brother's defense, his reasoning is about as sound as anything else. His primary argument is that, is it more feasable for some omniscient being to have created all this, versus it just happening.

And when you don't factor in faith or other threads of thought, it's a compelling argument.

Here's where I'm at, though: I can't fathom that a single celled organism emerged from nothing. >Pop!< It exists.

Taken a step further, it adapted to its surroundings to the point where it became sentient, developed ambulatory movement, and then adapted to flight - something that we as a thinking society couldn't even get our scientifically-driven heads around until the end of 1903.

When you couple that fact alone with the mechanics and bio-diversity of not only the fauna, but the flora of our planet as well, it starts to get infinitessimally intricate. Then, just as your brain may be about to go >PLINK!<, you take a different tack: What if, like a good machine, this was designed?

All the tumblers then click neatly into place, except one: Alright, sure... but by whom?

Here is what we know (or rather, don't know):
The Universe is expanding in such a way that is indicative of an extreme outward force at some prior time (i.e. - the 'Big Bang' theory.) If this is so, then where is it expanding to?

My conclusion is simple: We're not wired for comprehension of some things, so our default setting is 'does not compute'.

And maybe that's the point: If there is a creator being, maybe we've been programmed for limited understanding. This, of course, leads to the next logical line of questioning: If someone created us, then who created them?

Which, essentially, leads potentially back down the path of evolution, but on a deified level.

So, what do I believe? You might not want to read this. I believe in a creator being who, like a brilliant engineer, created us for some unknown purpose of their own. I believe that we - as individuals and as a whole - were engineered. I don't believe we just 'happened' randomly. That being said, how do I explain who created us?

The short answer is that I don't - I can't. But I have faith that he/she/it exists. And that faith is something that I feel is programmed into my psyche based on historical evidence that we all need to feel that there is something more - something greater - than ourselves in the insanely large Universe.

But is this thing God? In the traditional sense, I'm not sure. But I feel compelled to believe that - whatever it is - it's benevolent. So, in my mind, God, in the traditional sense - is as good an explaination as any. While evolution just falls short.

Back to my brother's relevant arguement: I agree that it is difficult to believe that something greater than ourselves somehow exists, and has created us, rather than us just 'becoming'. The reason that I can, is that I have faith in this fact. And faith is the only key difference here.

Someday, I hope to move on from this corporeal place and, if faith proves out, become enlightened as to our purpose, as well as the mind behind humanity.

How cool would that be? My imagination simply runs away with itself, attempting to contemplate such gargantuan issues as infinite universal expansion, the possibility of the mechanics of a black hole, time as a relative concept, and on and on. Think big, and your mind soon fizzles out and attempts to collape in upon itself. And don't let the educated few fool you - they're just as clueless as you are. The difference is that they've been trained to sound smarter about it than you.

But think these thoughts! Too often individuals grasp onto beliefs without considering everything. To whit: How many religious individuals consider any of the above, rather than believing in God because their parents did, or they were taught he exists?

I was taught likewise. The difference being, that I didn't let my teaching be my only guidepost. I spent decades in relative unsurety about the existance of God. Then, one day, I found that it was the right answer for me. Faith - true faith - blossomed within me, and a comfort was gained. Perhaps gained isn't the correct term. I feel like I earned that comfort; struggled for it, and finally attained it.

I'm sure that to some this will seem like words to villify me by, while to others I will be dismissed as a crank. And frankly? I don't care. I'm comfortable in the spiritual shell I have enveloped myself in. I have to be - I'm stuck here for a lifetime.

(03/17/11 - 7:16 PM)
I did something out of character for me recently: I gave a gift for no reason at all.

One of my nieces had a fantastic prediliction for, and fascination with, rocks. On our last visit to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's home, it was all she played with, and I was told it was an ongoing curiosity for her.

I thought back on this day for weeks, and one day sat down and ordered the most informative-yet-picture laded book on geology, gemology, and minerology that I could find. Total cost? Around fourteen bucks.

I'm not attempting to sound all benevolent and vain - I'm going somewhere with this.

It was at the point when my wife told me how the gift was received, I came to the realization how much of an influence my Grandfather was in my life. I had always, begrudgingly, accepted that no matter how many poor choices he made, he was still a very smart man as well as one of my prime intellectual examples growing up.

That got me to thinking about my love of books, which I've already acknowledged stems a great deal from his influences. What I hadn't pondered before was the nurturing that he had done for me with regard to this facet of my life.

I began considering all of the books that he had given me for no apparent reason, or given to me because he 'just didn't want them'. I realized that he was, in fact, purchasing them with the intent of giving them to me because it was about something I was interested in, while trying to avoid the moniker of 'unfair patron' with regard to my numerous cousins.

He was sharing his interests with someone he hoped someday would benefit from that cross-pollenation from his mind to another.

And I'll be damned if it didn't work out just that way. For years, as I got older, he and I would converse alone for spans of time about anything and everything. My Grandmother would try to keep me out of his basement office/man cave by letting me know he didn't wish to be disturbed. Partly, I think it was her trying to protect me because he was sauced, and I might not understand, being young and impressionable. The other part though, I believe, was that this was true - he liked his solitary moments. What amazes me, when I consider it, was that he, in fact, made an exception for me. I'd like to think it was because he enjoyed stimulating conversation - even if it was with a kid. Especially when he could regale said kid with stories of his life that meant something to him, while fascinating a new - and captivated - audience.

So while he was something of a bad egg, there was some good in him as well. And I'm taking this moment to acknowledge his positive influence upon my life. I may have learned a great deal of what not to do from him, but I also learned a great deal about the importance and humanity of sharing knowledge that excites the mind.

Some day, I hope to sit down with my niece, and have a good long talk about rocks.

(03/16/11 - 9:22 PM)
Of late, I've been taking the time to watch more movies. Probably, in part, because I now have time to do so, since the Media Library is complete, and they're all there for the asking. Also, in part, because we have Starz for free for twelve months.

Any-hoo, I made my way through to "Hudson Hawk", a movie that I've been aware of since it's 1991 inception into the cinematic annals, but had never availed myself of any knowledge of.

If the term "Wacky-adventure-stinker" is ever adopted, I think this film would be an appropriate poster child.

This pile of suck started out intriguing, and ended up being ridiculous with extreme prejudice.

How in the world this movie has become a four-star, cult classic, I'll just never understand. The whole problem seems to be that the movie has trouble qualifying itself: Is it an adventure? A Comedy? A wacky romp? A romance? It is all and none of these, while at the same time struggling for credibility. Had it picked one - two at the outside - the film might have been marvelous. But my head began spinning trying to pigeon-hole the thing the whole way through, and then it was just... over.

Not a film I'll watch again. Ever, really.

(03/15/11 - 8:16 PM)
Driving through town today, I noticed something that, frankly, angered me. Specifically, our township's fire station was getting a gorgeous expansion that effectively doubled its size.

And before you start reaming me as a hater of fire-fighters, let me say that I'm sure it was necessary. I don't hate you, fire-fighters. I just don't love you quite as much (to the point of physicality) as my Sister-in-law - let's at least be clear on those two points.

Here's where my beef is: We've had a well or two in town for YEARS that aren't up to standards. The radium, for one, it too high. My biggest complaint, however, is that our water smells like it was pumped directly out of a Port-A-John. It's really THAT bad.

So why in the world would our township's leadership exercise the financial muscle to build this massive, gorgeous, addition to a fire station, when you can't afford to supply your township with clean and safe drinking water?

One seems slightly more important than the other, to me. Fire protection and prevention are exceedingly important. But the fire department is adequate for our small town, or at least adequate enough to continue on for another year or two while the well situation gets straightened out.

I could be wrong. Hell, I'm usually wrong. But I just don't get it.

(03/14/11 - 9:53 AM)
As though my wicked, plague-like cold weren't enough to screw up my biological clock, I now have Daylight Savings Time to contend with.

I've been sick since last friday. And I don't mean a sniffle, I mean a crippling cold and fever to end them all. I've been well all winter, so it was probably a long time coming. The sore throat and joint pain, surprisingly, are diminished to next to nothing with the assistance of my meds for my back. I can't even imagine what they might be without them, so I'll count my blessings on that front.

I started feeling better yesterday, but today I seem to have back-slid. I've slept so much in the last 8 days that I feel like Rip Van Winkle, and my sense of time is all shot to hell (hence my opening statement.)

I hope to read some more today, though truth be told I don't know if I'll be able to stay awake for it.

(03/12/11 - 7:22 PM)
Wow! Back-to-back!

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was letting me know what was wrong with one of our mills today. With this information came what we needed to do to fix it, as well as a monologue on the ineptitude of my Boss in these matters.

I couldn't disagree more, but hey - who am I?

Then he showed me two nuts and two bolts.

"See? These are soft. When they're soft, they strip out, and you have problems. Look at these (points to a cluster of three, hex-head bolts on another part of the machine). Those markings on the heads mean that they're hard. That's why the markings are there. Any time you see markings, you know it's hard."

I knew I shouldn't argue. But I knew - KNEW - that he was WRONG.

"Actually," I said, "The markings are indicative of what material was used to manufacture the bolts, as well as whether they're hard or not. Just because they're marked, doesn't mean they're hard. This way, you can distinguish what they are in-situ and make appropriate assessments for replacement."

"No, it just means they're hard - trust me, I know."

Uhhhh... Here's why I'm right, in case anyone's interested. *(Click on the image, and it will enlarge so you can actually read it.)

(03/11/11 - 8:06 PM)
The story you are about to read is true. All of it. I can't make this stuff up.

And now - ladies and gentlemen - your favorite and mine - Mr. Phillips Screwdriver...


I was in my office doing some quoting when I heard him coming. Like the harbinger of doom riding piggy-back on the Grim Reaper, he arrived.

"What's up?" I asked, pleading for simplicity.

"Why in the F%$! did we need to stress relieve this part?"

Not a problem, "Well, based on the final configuration, I figured it would be easier to achieve the tolerances if we did, and we were sending a batch out anyway."

"Well, I don't know why we had to do that."

Now I'm sensing something deeper, so I ask the inevetable, "It's already done. You're making the part. Why is this important?"

"Why!?" came the surprised response and then, more dulcet, "Well, I F%$#ed it up, that's why."

Alright, at least now the question made sense on some level. "What happened?"

"Well, I was >MUMBLE MUMBLE< and the whole thing fffffft right out of the vise - I don't know what happened. The part is destroyed."

In my line of work, there's 'destroyed' and then there's 'DESTROYED!'. So, I began to ask, "So we can't wel..."


One more time. "So we can't weld it or..."


I'm not giving up that easily. "So, we can't weld it or otherwise save it by any means? It's a complete loss?"

"YES! It's GONE. The stock we have looks like shit. We're going to use THAT?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa... what?

"I ordered that particular piece of stock. We didn't have any. I will have to order some more to re-make the component with."

"No, it looks like shit. I mean, I'll use it if you want to but... >shakes head like I'm a moron< I don't know."

If you could only have heard the incredulity in his voice, I swear it would add so much more right now. Not only do I not know what he's talking about but - in his mind - I've already forced him into making a bad decision.

"Explain what you mean, because I ordered this stock specifically for this job."

"Well, our stock looks like shit. I mean, I'll use it if you want me to but - I don't know."

WOW! That cleared up your last statement! Repeating it made TOTAL sense there!


I'm putting it together, so I walk him through it, "So, you're saying that you've taken it upon yourself to go into our stock room and find a replacement piece, but the only thing we have is aesthetically unpleasant."

"Well, yeah! I Mean, I'll use it if..."

Got it. "Alright, here's what we'll do. Go out and see Jim. Let him know what happened, and show him the stock. Based on his thoughts and needs, I'll trust his decision, but let it be his decision.

Head shakes, shoulders shrug, off he goes.

Now, my rightful action at this point would be to go out and assess the damage. But when someone is so emphatic about something being destroyed, I usually believe them. And Jim is perfectly capable of handling this, and he's already out there on the work floor.

I probably should have known better, so shame on me. More on that later.

I hear him depart, but I also hear him run into Jim at the door to the shop floor. I hear mumbling, and then I hear Jim's response, "Is this a print question?"


"Then you need to see Heath. He handles print questions."

Which is true, and what I've asked Jim to say so he doesn't get distracted with stuff he can't answer - it's not his job, and he's got enough to do.

Aggravated mumbling, and then I hear the door close. Then I see Jim - and he's doing other stuff not related to what I just asked for.

"Jim," I say, "I sent him to you so that you could assess the material he found, and see what you wanted to do."

Puzzled look from Jim, "What?"

I spoke with Jim, and explained the situation to him, less all the Screwdriver-isms. He was notably surprised and flustered.

"That's TOTALLY not what he said!"

I let him know that what I heard bolstered that fact, and could he please just handle it?

He exited to the floor to do just that because he's a professional.

Three minutes later, he returned, notably annoyed.

"Will the piece he found work, or shall I order another one?"

Tactfully, he asked, "Did you even go out and look at the part?"

I mentioned, knowing better, that I had not. Then I mentioned that I should have, and shame on me for not doing so. He was right to point this out. I knew better.

"The piece he has will be fine. But I have no idea how he did what he did to it. You really need to go out there >other employee< is literally scared at the moment because of that tool crashing into the part / accident Mr. P.S. just had. Also, Mr. P.S. asked me a print question on two slots. I couldn't find where they were called out on the print, and neither could he. I told him to come and see you, but it would be best for you to go and see him, probably, because it doesn't seem as though he's coming."

It became clear that I needed to be involved, and get more information - Jim was 100% right - so I went to the floor. When I saw the part that was 'destroyed' I had two thoughts at once: It was not destroyed - far from it - and I could already see it was a non-issue based on how the component looked when finished. I could also see that the crash had to have been powerful based on his having described the component coming out of the vise, and the striations from the wayward cutter marring the whole top surface.

I began speaking to Mr. P.S., and over his shoulder I could see the other affected employee waiting to weigh in.

"Mr. P.S.! This part is totally salvageable!"

"I know!" Laughs.

"You told me it was destroyed. It's far from 'destroyed'!"

"Yeah, I know!" Laughs more.

Now I'm angry, but I maintain my composure. But before I can speak again, I hear the employee behind him speak, "I told him he was running it way too fast. It scared the hell out of me."

Noted. And by all appearances, he's dead on correct, and a little spooked. Knowing what it would take to result in what I was seeing, I think I would be too.

"Mr. P.S. - listen - this isn't funny. In fact, I'm a little upset here. You're in there telling me that there's no way to salvage this, talking over me, and taking the time to find more material. Yet this component is perfectly able to be salvaged.

Still laughing, "Well I know!" As though I'm a moron for thinking otherwise.

I keep my cool. "Alright. So just to be clear, we can fix it by doing >explain the obvious<. Are we on the same page?" "Alright, I'm over this. But next time you tell me something is 'destroyed', make sure that it really is. I can't make good decisions with bad information."

MOVING ON, "Jim mentioned that you had a question?"

"What? No, we're going to use this piece and make it work."

In my mind, I'm rewinding, and remembering that Jim specifically mentioned a question about two slots, "I understand that. We're beyond that now. Jim mentioned that you had a print question that you were asking him."

"What? No! He didn't know that I had come to you already and that we're going to use this material."

Maybe I'm not being specific enough,"He mentioned that there was some confusion over some slots - two of them. Which ones are they?"

Same response as before.

"So," I finally say in frustration, "There is no print question?"


"So Jim is just making stuff up - you have no idea what I'm talking about?"

"No. We're going to use this material."

Once more, just so I'm sure. I look him dead in the eye... "So Jim is just in there making stuff up - you have no clue what I'm talking about?"


Check and mate.

Here is where I don't know whether to laugh or cry, so I just walk away.

As I'm walking away, scared employee confides in me in private what happened in more detail, and also assures me that Jim is not 'making stuff up'.

Which, I already knew, but it's nice when people stick up for the wronged parties. I liked scared employee even more at the moment for his need to do the right thing, and do so in private. I mentally hugged him for being forthright.

So, I re-enter the safe confines of my office, and I tell Jim that in no uncertain terms that he's making stuff up. When he looks at me, perplexed, I explain the whole dramatic event to him.

His response was pretty much what anyone's would be.

About five minutes later, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is once more in the office, this time holding a pair of 24" digital calipers (a measuring instrument, of which we have two pairs in the shop.)

"Where are these?" he asks.

Amazingly, I respond without thinking, because with him, you never really know what he means, so it isn't always the thing that first comes to mind. "Where are what?"

He shakes his head, raises his eyebrows, and moves the hand holding the calipers up about an inch. Apparently, this is some sort of Mr. P.S. speak for, "What, are you stupid? Guess, you moron!"

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"These!" up goes the caliper-laden hand once more, "Where are they?"

"Well, you have them in your hand, so I assume that you mean the other pair."


"They're out. One of our vendors..."

"Oh! OK, so they're out for calibration."

"No. One of our vendors is doing a project for..."

"So they're out for calibration, then."

I'm not giving up, dammit. "NO. One of our vendors is doing a project for us, and needed them for a day or two."

"Oh." ... "Well, it would have been nice to know. you couldn't leave a note or something?"

"I could have, but we have two pairs so that during the day I can have one set in the inspection area, and the floor has a set. This way we don't get all over each other looking for them. Everyone on days knows where they went, and on nights I'm not here to need them - and everyone knows we have two pairs and where we keep them - so I didn't think I needed to let you guys know."

"Well, you could have left a note or let us know. Because >I< didn't know!"

The amazing thing here is the fact that he's already got hold of the other set - which are perfectly servicable - yet he's taking the time to berate me for not telling him where the other set - that he doesn't need - are.

"Well, I didn't think it was necesaary. I apologize."

>MUMBLE MUMBLE< ... exits the office.

I hear Jim from behind me. "You know what? I'll be the bigger man on this one. I'll put a note out there."

It's ridiculous, but he's trying to be accomodating. "That's fine except... what are the odds that he's putting one out there right now? Taking the time to put it there, on our behalf, on company time?"

Ten minutes later, Jim is in my office with the note. Mr P.S.'s note. It is a full-page post it, outlining the whereabouts and return timeframe of said calipers.

"I can't say I'm at all surprised," I say to Jim. "Probably should just leave it out there at this point."

"I replaced it with the one I wrote," he says.

And we both just marvel at the whole situation.

At 6:30 that evening, Mr. P.S. Blows up another cutter in the same piece, once more scaring the already once-frightened employee and creating another issue in the same component.

On a scale from one to ten, I think this story easily merits a forty-six. The whole thing was so insane that one could not possibly make it up. It's all true - it all happened.

(03/07/11 - 8:22 PM)
It's been a while. Ladies & Gents! 'Heath Tries To Be Funny!'

"Your momma so ugly, she went to a wife-swapping party and her partner said, 'You know what? It's fine. I've got this on my own.'"

Q: What kind of flowers do Zombies give their girlfriends?
A: Reincarnations

Thank you! Until my brain makes another one up, see you next time!

(03/06/11 - 7:41 AM)
Last night, Wanda went out to dinner with a friend. I was home alone, so I decided to hit a few documentaries trapped in the DVR. The first was "Capitalism: A Love Story", a Michael Moore flick.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, they can be thought-provoking at their best, and inflammatory at their worst. You have to be careful what you elect to latch onto, but there ARE important points to be made in each film - some more so than others.

I know I found some components of this film to be a little 'fringy', but I also know that he was speaking to a problem that was near and dear to my heart - the bizarre bailout of the large banking firms, and their overt penetration into our governmental infrastructure as a whole.

For once, I agreed with Mr. Moore on damn near every point in the film. With his others - and especially "Bowling For Columbine" - I feel like his message was a good one, but his presentation either got off point, or became too sensationalized.

Not so here. Here he is genuinely pissed off and questioning - and I'm quoting here, "What the FUCK happened?" Rarely am I a fan of profanity, and I've never heard this one from him. Yet it seemed a perfect fit in light of the question at hand. It's the question I've asked time and time again about this topic to anyone who will listen.

I can't recommend all of his films, unless you want some thought provocation. This one, however, should be a must-see for every taxpaying American. I was already pissed off - and if you're not, then shame on you. Now I feel like we, as a whole, at least have a voice.

And BRAVO to those brave few Senators and Congressional leaders who had the testicular fortitude (yes - even the women) to stand up to what truly amounted to - in my mind - wholesale robbery of the American public. Especially Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur who is now on my list of personal heroes for her plain out-spokenness. Marcy, I wish I could vote for you. If you ever run for public office where I can, I will - you've got guts.

Watch this movie. Voice your opinions with your vote. Join a protest - ANYTHING. This movie re-vitalized in me the belief that the little guy can win, if we all band together and cry foul in unison. 'E Pluribus Unum' never rang more true.

For the second film, I watched a 2009 Canadian documentary entitled, "Don't You Forget About Me". It chronicled a two year quest by four Canadian youth filmmakers to capture what it was about the films of John Hughes that were so lasting, and so poignant in the lives of teen-agers, even to this day.

I learned so much about a man I had known third-hand through his films, and the oft-mentioned pop cultural references. The films, for me, were an awakening to the latent and inherent potential in us all to give a big middle-finger to the world around us when it tried to encapsulate who we were (or, more often, were not).

For me, the singular pinnacle was "The Breakfast Club", a film that on the surface seemed so simple that most film critics destroyed it out of hand, yet on deeper levels spoke to damn near every teen and tween who watched it. The irony is that Hughes is now lauded as a creative genius for this film, but I can't help but wonder how he took the initial reactions to something that I personally have to believe meant so much to him.

Very few films warrant my attention more than once, yet this film I have watched time and time again. Even the thought of it brings a tearful stirring within me that reminds me of the time in my life when this movie first connected on a physical and mental level.

I teared up a little, even watching the documentary - his films are just that powerful and meaningful to me. And seeing the pleas at the end from all of the other individuals whom he had touched in the same way, pleading for him to end his reclusive ways - even for a single interview or a private lunch - filled me with a whole new level of reverance for this man.

Then came the deathblow: I learned that he had died on August 9th, 2009. How had I missed this? Had the world missed it as well?

Gone were my now fresh desires to encounter him in any form - print, visual - I didn't care. This film had re-ignited in me a desire to hear more from this man, and now I was faced with the brutal reality that there would be none forthcoming.

My next thought was, "Please let there be memoirs - somewhere - that will be published in a public manner, posthumously." And I'm still willing that to happen, even as I write this.

If you're not familiar with his films, then I encourage you - young or old - to watch them. All of them. Not all will speak to you, nor do so in the same way. But I can very nearly guarantee that if you're a human being, something within you will be moved in some meaningful way.

(03/05/11 - 5:28 PM)
Went to work this morning (54 hour week this week - finally!) and then came home around lunch time.

Finally finished Tim Dorsey's latest, Electric Barracuda, and while while not his strongest work, it still managed to be entertaining. My biggest complaint with this one was the sheer absurdity of the ending. It felt as though all possible outcomes somehow got thrown into a blender, yielding a confusing amalgam. Then again this IS Dorsey & Serge we're talking about, after all...

Wanda has gone to dinner with an old friend, so I'm off to relax away this God-awful cold some more.

(03/04/11 - 7:38 PM)
I believe I have contracted my Shipping/Receiving Manager's cold. I've gone all winter avoiding everyone's everything until now, so I suppose on some levels I was due.

The upside is that the anti-inflammatory I am on for my back, coupled with the other meds, seem to work miracles on a painfully sore throat.

Thank heaven for small miracles, anyway

Work this week has been an exciting nightmare. I've stepped up to being the bigger person by forgiving a former employee his transgressions and inciting his return to work for us. I realize that when he left, I was a poorer manager than I am now - I freely admit that.

My hope is that we've both grown enough to respect one another in a professional environment. I believe we have, and for that I am excited to have his talents once again.

We're so busy that we're all chasing our proverbial tails. The upside is that it's been two years since we've had this volume of work, and we've used those two years to build (and in some cases, re-build) infrastructure and grow and hone our individual abilities. So watch out, competition - there's a big shark in the water.

(03/03/11 - 6:22 PM)
It's Thursday. Feel free to freak the hell out after you've watched this:

(03/02/11 - 8:22 PM)
My wife picked up Arby's for dinner tonight. It was so bad, I went out of my way to get online and send feedback. Here is what I wrote:

"I've been a patron for years, so my expectations are fairly reasonable. What I experienced last evening was a decided low point. I ordered a large fries, and received less than my wife who ordered a regular that was still far from being a full order. Further, they were undercooked, to the point of actually finding a cold spot in one. The roast beef also somehow managed to find itself lukewarm, and the beverage - to top it all off - seemed to have been mis-mixed with regard to ratio of carbonation to syrup. And all requested sauces were absent from the order entirely.

My wife was forced to wait a great deal of time, even though no other customers were present, and was then asked to pull ahead, even though no one new had arrived. I expect a certain level of quality from you and your franchise holders, and our experience last evening proved how misplaced those feelings can be.

I hope to never again experience a meal so mediocre from your franchise again and, if I were to do so, would cease purchasing from that establishment in future all together. I've never been compelled to write to a company such as yours before now - it was just that bad an experience that I felt I would be remiss in not doing so."

Then I went to submit the whole works. This is what I got in response:


And two other lines of meaningless-ness on an otherwise blank screen.

I though maybe it was my 64-bit browser. So I tried the 32-bit version: Same thing. Two alternative browsers later, I learned that they don't seem to mind you filling out the document, so long as you just don't submit it.

WTF, Arby's?

(03/01/11 - 9:17 PM)
I was watching a television show tonight, and a portion of it was centered around a San Francisco not-for-profit called, "Food Not Bombs" that takes food from dumpsters and feeds people free of charge.

At first, I thought, "Ewwwww...". Then I watched. And the more I watched, the more the concept made sense to me. By the time the segment was over, I was a convert.

What these people do is so simple: they take unwanted food that is still perfectly serviceable, other than being past its arbitrary expiration date or being imperfect in the visual department, take it back to a well-stocked and staffed kitchen, and make something amazing with it for anyone to come and enjoy.

The movement has dubbed itself, 'Freeganism', in light of the fact that they do not serve meat. Amazingly, this seems not to be a problem, as the meals are well made, diverse, and draw protein from elsewhere.

I could go on and on, but as usual, the above link speaks volumes more than I ever could. Suffice it to say, I applaud what you folks are doing. It's amazing, and I'm inspired. Keep it up!

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