A Twist Of Fate
November, 2007 Entries
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(11/30/07 - 11:12 PM)
"Ladies & Gentlemen! Boys & Girls! Presenting the smartest man in the world! Misterrrrrrr Philliiiiiips Screwwwwwwdriverrrrr!"


On Tuesday, I hit this guy with a pre-emptive strike. I knew there was a problem with his machine. I knew what it was, and when it would be tentatively fixed. So, I hit him hard and fast as he came in for his shift.

I told him the problem. I told him the root cause of the problem. I explained, in detail, why the problem existed. I explained what we were doing to resolve it, and specifically how - step by step - it would be resolved. I outlined a timetable. He acknowledged. I was in heaven!

Then, today. He hits the door, and chooses a nuclear retaliatory strike. He explains that there is a problem with his machine. He explains what he believes it is - possibly the thing we had already talked about at length - but more likely something out of left field that he knows nothing about. I asked how he could have possibly made this determination, without first fixing the original situation in a classic process of elimination, but he was not to be swayed from his wild stab in the dark. Then he went on to suggest that we follow a course of action for repair with all haste - a course of action that I had outlined on Tuesday - and what that course of action should consist of. Then he re-iterated the root cause to me, as I had imparted it to him only four days earlier, as though he had done some serious Hardy Boy-esque sleuthing to come up with this conclusion.

I didn't even know what to say. What do you say? I told him all of this four days ago. I outlined all this. He acknowledged this. And now, here he was standing before me and God regurgutating this information as though it were his own - indignantly, no less, at his plight of having to not only use a sub-par machine, but at having to find the apparent source of his misery on his own.

I have no explaination. I have no answer involving reason. I can't even laugh, because it's just too bewildering.

(11/29/07 - 11:02 PM)
Voom Networks offer a bunch of eclectic channels on my Dish Network system in the high 9000's that are interesting, in an odd sort of way. I'm not sure what they're trying to accomplish, but based on the lack of commercial sponsorship, I don't think they're doing it. This is actually sort of disappointing, as some of these shows are not only interesting and well presented, they present ultra-specific topics that have not been covered before by the mainstream networks. Admittedly, some shows are almost cry-out-loud sad, but I can't help but wonder if the rest of these guys will catch on.

(11/28/07 - 10:27 PM)
Da-Da... Da-Da... Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da... Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver regaled me tonight on how stress relieving and normalizing steel is the same thing. And how normalizing and stress relieving are done at 375°.

I feel compelled to explain this to those of you who just went, "Huh?"

Steel, in its raw form, retains stresses on a molecular level. When a cutting implement removes some of this material from the original whole, those stresses are allowed to act upon the remainder of the material. Usually, the result is the material twisting, bowing, cambering, etc. The premise behind stress relieving is to take the raw stock, now cooled from its initial manufacture and forming into a usable state, and heat it up to a point where the molecules can get a little more organized and re-configure themselves into a more homogeneous state. The result is a material that has far less tendancy to move around when you cut it.

Normalizing, while a similar process, has an additional end in mind. The principle behind this is that sometimes materials get treated with heat to reconfigure them further. Usually, this treatment is done once the component is complete, or near complete. It is typically a hardening process designed to add a case, or hard outer shell, to the material to prevent early wear or to allow certain surfaces to take more abuse in the application of use in the field. During this heat treating process, metals tend to gain stresses, or move during quenching. To alleviate this eventuality, materials are normalized by heating them up to a temperature exceeding the temperature at which they will be heat treated. For example: If a material is to be heat treated at 1100°, one might normalize the material at 1200°. This does two things: It inherently stress relieves the component, and also allows the molecules to organize at this temperature. The theory here is that the material will have no need to move at 1100°, because its already been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. As such, you achieve a great deal less, if none at all, distortion and movement during the heat treating and manufacturing process.

Alright, so... if normalizing were truly done at 375°, then why wouldn't my company simply buy a Hotpoint oven and cook us up a batch of steel on premesis? And maybe some cookies too, while we're at it. The answer is: we wouldn't, because this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. It's one thing to impart knowledge to someone who is truly interested - especially if the knowledge is factual. It's another thing to insult someone's intelligence by telling them they're wrong and then proceeding to tell them that "I used to work as a heat treater", when clearly there is no way in hell that you did. Or, that you did, but you had no clue what you were doing as someone above you set you to various tasks.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, I love you. The blog-o-philes love you. Without you, we would have far fewer truly excellent stories.

(11/27/07 - 11:03 PM)
My brother tried to call me last night, but I got home so late that I didn't notice until today. During Thanksgiving dinner with our family, he received a phone call that a friend of his had gone missing once more. This was not an isolated incident, as he had done this before and had tendencies toward self annihilation.

I had met this individual on several passing occasions, years ago, and recall him as being a pretty decent guy. My brother was calling to inform me that the worst had been confirmed. They had found this individual's body on a golf course, having apparently taken his own life.

I have known others who have done so as well, and each time I find it incomprehensible to understand. What makes someone so despondant that they feel that this is the only answer? I also feel sympathetic to the individuals surrounding these people, who often try and lay blame upon themselves by asking questions regarding what they may have done to prevent this situation. More often than not, I feel, the answer is probably not a great deal more - if anything more at all.

Still, as empathetic human beings, we find ourselves asking these questions. Case in point: recently, someone I knew chose to have an abortion. I attempted to dissuade them from doing so, but there was no room for argument. I thought about this, I prayed about this, and I wanted desperately to do something. All the while as the day drew nearer, all I could think about was the fact that I personally was now responsible for that life. That if that life were taken, and I had somehow missed an opportunity to do something, I would be as responsible as the party actually going through with the procedure.

As I contemplated this, I had many ideas that I did not follow through on: I could ask to adopt the child. I could consult all of the ministers that I knew, and hope that they could be more convincing, etc. This individual asked that I not get involved, and I chose to respect that. Yet everyday I am absolutely devestated by the fact that I could have probably done more, and should have. That I am now responsible for the taking of a life, and will never be able to cleanse myself of this fact. And it torments me a great deal.

The parallel between the two events is something that I am thinking about at the moment. We, as a society try so hard to keep individuals alive, but only the ones who have escaped the womb and have become somehow near and dear to us. Why is this? Why do we, as a society, attempt to find new and varied ways of keeping everyone alive, while shipping people off to unjust wars and allowing abortion to occur?

I'm not attempting to prostelytize here - I obviously hold my own views, and I'm not here to argue with or discount yours. I am simply asking a question that makes sense to me. What justifies whether a life is worth saving, and what justifies an acceptable time to potentially extinguish that life?

I feel absolutely awful. About my brother's friend, about the child that I will never see smile. All of it. And I can't stop thinking about it.

(11/26/07 - 11:44 PM)
Worked late. Wanda worked late because she had to go back to her previous job to help out again. She's there alot lately, and those guys still don't seem to get it: their decision to hire this new lady in Wanda's stead was egregiously bad. In fact, the only reason she hasn't totally tanked and curled up into a fetal position under her desk, is because Wanda has been her personal helpline/counselor.

Oh, when will employers learn?

(11/25/07 - 11:03 PM)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 was an... interesting movie. It was Tarantino, through and through. So, I decided to watch Kill Bill Vol. II for something to do late tonight - mostly for the sake of continuity.


This movie not only explained a great deal of what was clearly lacking in the first film, but it was good - really, really good. Great, in fact. I absolutely loved this movie, and the ending was both trite and phenomenal. How do you achieve something like "trite and phenomenal?"

(11/24/07 - 10:21 PM)
Occasionally, I'll watch Mythbusters on television to glean some useful knowledge from amongst all of the flotsam and jetsam that now seems to plague the show. I was not disappointed this round though, as the gang proved that Elephants are, in fact, afraid (or at the very least wary) of mice; and that sharks won't attack something with a dolphin around. I was pretty amazed that they not only found excellent ways to test these myths, but that they had excellent data to prove that without these antagonists (i.e. - mice and dolphins) the elephants and sharks acted as they ought to. The footage was amazing as well. If you get a chance to see these, I would recommend checking them out.

(11/23/07 - 11:03 PM)
I watched a movie from China (at least, I think it was China - they were speaking Mandarin and Cantonese - so it must have, at the very least, been in the vicinity) last night. I think that it might have been good if I could have had one simple question answered: Was the girl in the first part of the film supposed to be the same girl in the second? If yes, then it was good; if not, then I have no idea what I watched.

It was called "Chung King Express" and was all arty in nature. It was about two lonely policeman on odd night shifts and the people they met on their beat. It involves a woman who is trafficking in narcotics until her boss double-crosses her. She then kills alot of people, and the first policeman chases her to no avail. And then - and this is the sketchy part - changes her identity to work for her uncle in a food stall where she meets another policeman. She tries to get his attention, but he's too hung up on his last girlfriend who was no good for him. So she goes to some extremes (no, nothing dirty, you perverts) and he finally asks her out. Then she leaves the country without so much as a goodbye.

I told you it was arty.

In the end, they meet once more, a year later. She now has the same job that his ex-girlfriend had - stewardess - and they ambiguously speak about their feelings for one another. Then the movie ends without resolution.

Really arty.

Still, it wasn't a bad movie.

(11/22/07 - 11:03 PM)
Happy Thanksgiving from me - Plinky the House Elf! Yep, Heath's making me write his entry again today. I thought it was a one-shot deal in July - you know, a Harry Potter tie-in and all that. Clever Mr. Heath; always making fun of the obvious like a four-year old or an MTV writer does with a poo joke. How can lowly Plinky ever hope to match that rapier wit? Perhaps if I slept while typing this, I might tone-down to that abyssal level of humor.

Seriously, since he's not around, I'll level with you. He spent his day gorging himself on delicious animals and a few plants as well. Then he was off to the sugar and fats group, only to find a bit more room in his spleen where he no doubt shoehorned in another piece of pie while saying through a mouth full of food, 'Oh, I couldn't possibly!'

All the while I froze at home, where I'm lucky if he casts a stale doughnut my way once a month in my little 'living quarters' beneath the stairs. Yeah, sleeping on concrete expends alot of energy in the form of calories trying to keep warm and fending off the perceived sexual advances of his halitosis-wrought demon-spawn cat. But does he think of me? Oh, no. No, not until he needs something does he once more recall that I'm even here on the hard concrete under the noisy stairs which he traverses like an elephant to water day in and day out.

So here I am, typing this entry. Oh, and get this: He tells me to make sure to clean the computer while I'm in here. I don't even know where the toast goes in, let alone how to clean this contraption. I don't know...

Anyway, I did a blog entry for him. Sure, it wasn't about how great his family is or about how even greater he is, like he asked. But he's not here, and I know that if it doesn't involve cleaning, he won't even notice anything that I've done. He'll probably even forget that he asked me to do this, and if he's drunk or sleepy he might just beat me with the washing machine hose that he 'Just couldn't bear to part with because he might need it someday.' For what? That's right - for beating me. It doesn't leave a bruise, so it makes him feel more upright about the whole situation. Still, I love him like a father. That's gratitude for ya.

Okay, I made the beating part up. He's a jerk, but not to that degree. Welp, now for the cleaning of this techno-whoozit computer thingee. I'll just open the front and - ewwww. Man, it's gross in there. Hang on...

... okay. Let's try this, since I can't get my little hands in there. I'll just put the hose in this hole and...


(11/21/07 - 10:04 PM)
Tonight, we had to run to a local store to purchase caramel for a concoction that we were making for Thanksgiving. Normally, I abhor the local stores, as they are:

A. ) Politically evil
B. ) Overpriced *(unless you have the super-special mega-saver bar-code key-tag whiz-bang "savings" card. Then they're overpriced and offensive to my intellect and sensibility)

The prior only had Magic Shell (which Wanda had never heard of, to my surprise) so we headed to the latter.

We arrived. We found one of the last two remaining things of caramel syrup. We went to checkout. We were going to make it! Nothing stupid or untoward had happened! A flawless trip to the store and then...

Then the cashier. The cashier looked as though he had taken a moment to get off of his skateboard to insert himself behind a register for just long enough to be able to purchase the new copy of "Thrash!" magazine, a couple of doobies and some fast food. The kid looks at our lonely little jar of caramel on the belt, looks at us and says, "The self-checkout broke?"

WOW. Okay, I figured I was in the mood, so I said, "No. We just thought that you might like to keep your job."

Undeterred, he parried with, "Oh, they'll never take over our jobs."

Now I was on a roll. "Give them time. With that attitude, they will."

Now he's into it too. And he's got all the answers, "No, see, they don't work with big orders. Plus, alot of people can't figure them out or are scared of them (at this point I get a look that says 'Like you are'). So they'll never take over."

In for a penny, in for a pound (rule, Brittania!), "Technology changes - fast. Give them time. And people will change if their options are limited and forced upon them. So they could - and probably will - take over."

"Nah", he says, "Never happen."

Lamont, eat your heart out; you're accidentially trying to lose your job - this guy was giving his away.

(11/20/07 - 11:31 PM)
Flannery O'Connor was a name that I stumbled across earlier this year. I no longer recall where. It was a name, in hindsight, that I was surprised that I had not encountered before. Perhaps this was because her body of work encompassed only two novels, a handful of short stories, and a plethora of letters. Be that as it may, her most inspired work, "Wise Blood" is a fairly substantial, second tier, player on the historical literary scene. Though a short novel, it moves with a fast pace, and manages to drive its message home with a great deal of intensity.

The book centers around Hazel Motes (a guy, not a girl). Hazel is a former Christian who finds himself doubting. And he does so in a way tantamount to being antithetical. He is so impassioned about this loss of faith that he preaches to all who will listen the word of what he dubs "The Church Without Christ." He empahtically attempts to convince anyone at all that the only things worth believing are those that you can touch and perceive with your own two eyes. The unmentioned irony is that this act, in and of itself, is contradictory to the message that he is ceaselessly attempting to propogate.

Throughout the course of the novel, we see him settling into a small town, and girding himself for what he feels is the work he is destined to do - to convince people that Jesus does not exist. That God does not, in fact, exist either. What I find interesting is that we are presented with a man who is so emphatic about debunking deified individuals who do not, in his mind, exist. So why the need to debunk? Why not just stop believing, and be done with it, allowing all others to believe what they will, knowing full well in your own mind that you are in fact right. In my mind, this sheer will of mind to disprove speaks volumes about what he knows in his heart to be true. Why else would he go to such lengths? (Why do people still do it to this day?) And I think that this precise point is a centerpiece of the novel itself.

As time passes, Motes is usurped by a man who has appeared amongst the impromptu listeners. The man claims to be a disciple of Motes, and Motes refuses to accept his snake-oil chicanery. It does not gel with his true mission - to merely spread the Gospel of nothing. The man is revealed to be a professional swindler, and soon the tables are turned on Motes. And as the story progresses, we see Motes commiting sins - both Cardinal and Venial - with abandon.

From the ashes, we see a man dead to the world around him. A man so choked on his own dissociation with his beliefs, that he follows them full circle to a silent repentance once more.

In the end, we do not know what truly happens in Motes' mind. But we are led to suspect. And I can't imagine a more powerful finality to this work than allowing for the individual introspection of the reader themselves.

While this novel is not particularly spectacular, for having been written in 1952, its message seems a bit ahead of its time. For this, I think the book deserves credit. And for its message that requires some heavy thought about faith, it is certainly worth reading.

(11/19/07 - 10:47 PM)
After reading Jim Dodge's most renowned work (with the literati, anyway), "Stone Junction", I was intrigued enough to seek out other works by him. The first one I encountered was "Fup". I had no notion of what it was about, but I figured that if it was anything like what I had just finished reading, it would be worth a go.

Imagine the Westminster Chime as I say this. Ready?:

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong... Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong... Wrong... Wrong... Wro... Well, you get the drift, here.

What the hell is this piece of crap? "Beloved California Folktale." Beloved by whom, precisely? "Hilarious! Heartwarming!" Are you SERIOUS? This book was a 94-page disaster that felt disjointed and went nowhere. Now, I am not an afficionado of the folktale - far from it, in fact. So with this in mind, perhaps I don't know a gem when I see it. To this I say, "I don't care, it still sucks." If there were anything more emphatic in HTML than the italics tag, this is where I would use it. Profusely.

The book is about a man who attains quasi-immortality by drinking grain alcohol (no, he's not Dean Martin.) The recipe for said alcohol was given to him by a stabbed indian in the back alley of a bar as he was peeing. What a twist!

So he makes the alcohol, drinks a ton of it, lives a long time, his grandson comes to live with him, there's a wild boar that likes to break stuff, the grandson has a bizarre attraction to building fences (so much so that he ignores girls, friends, college, etc.), and to top it all off, he finds a baby duck in a fencepost hole one day. Delightful! But the duck is some kind of mutant who gets huge, drinks, eats like a horse and watches movies and television. Which has the capacity to be seriously funny, I suppose. But funny never makes it to the party; never even RSVP's, in fact. I wonder if funny even got the invitation? Now that I mention it, I wonder if an invitation was even sent to funny. "Beep-boop-beep - the emotion that you are seeking - FUNNY - is busy or does not answer. Please try your call again later. Message T-264."

I look forward to getting my hands on his only other novel-length work, "Not Fade Away" in the near term (he's got some poetry books floating around out there, but I have yet to find a poet who doesn't make me go, "WHAT?", with perhaps the exception of Poe.) In the interim I hope that I can purge my brain of the literary black hole that was "Fup".

"Dean-O! Pour me a triple, no ice!" Man I need a drink...

(11/18/07 - 9:53 AM)
Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" is possibly his most notable work here in the States (in Japan, who knows.) Certainly it tends to be the most expensive of his books (reaching $600.00 or higher for a pristine copy), although to be fair there are a few of his earlier works that fetch princely sums as well - if and when one finds them for sale at all. Oddly, his first book released here in the U.S., "A Wild Sheep Chase" is not among these more expensive works. Perhaps this is because it was chronologically his third book released in Japan. Again, who knows.

At any rate, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" seems to expound upon to the Nth degree everything that "Kafka On The Shore", "After Dark", "Sputnik Sweetheart", and "South Of The Border, West Of The Sun" has already presented in one form or another: cats, parallel worlds, curses, islands in southern Asia, loss, introspection, intrigue and mystery.

This book centers around one man's sudden string of loss, and his experiences coping with said losses in an attempt to right them. His wife leaves him suddenly, his cat disappears, he receives bizarre phone calls at all hours from people intimately familiar with him, but entirely unknown to himself. As he struggles to understand his predicament, he is drawn inexplicably into a dark world of strange occurances, stranger people and inexplicable compulsions to perform strange feats of the mind. I'm not really doing the work justice here, but it is next to impossible to explain this novel in a short synopsis. Even a long synopsis wouldn't do it. Trust me here.

On the whole, the novel managed to be engaging at the very least. I know that numerous individuals and reviews are absolutely enamored with this work. I was not. It all felt like yet another re-hash of things I had already read in bits and pieces in other Murakami Tales. For whatever reason, he seems to run themes through his novels, and these themes don't ever really seem to modify themselves into something new (much like Janet Evanovich's numbered Stephanie Plum series, where all the jokes and storylines feel like they just get shaken up and tumbled in a new way with each new book; Murakami parallels this in a less satisfying way.) For me, this borders on tedious. Further, I get annoyed with his off-the-cuff naming of things and people.

I wish that I had lived in Japan for at least some length of time, so that I could say, "Oh! I see! In Japan, such and such is a normal occurance." Unfortunately, I have not done so, and so many veins of the story seem not only foreign to me, but entirely unimaginable in their glib and nonsensical unfolding. I don't know. Maybe Japan's culture truly is as these novels portray in their entirety. Somehow I doubt this though.

I can't recommend this novel, as to me it was nothing more than an engaging read, as stated earlier. I did not feel wedded to the story in any way, nor was I sympathetic or empathetic to any of the characters in any way. On the whole, I felt like a detached - and somewhat bored - observer of a sitcom on a gloomy and rainy day, watching a television that received only one channel.

The only truly interesting component of this book lay in one of the many story arcs - specifically the one about Japanese occupation of Manchuko during the late stages of World War II. This component felt very isolated, but in a good way (though it did tie into the story.) I found myself interested in the events taking place around the individuals outlined in the story, and these portions seemed very well written. Almost to the point of feeling as though two distinctly separate authors were at work on this single novel. These arcs were written in such a manner that I found myself interested in reading about these fact-based events that occured during the late stage of World War II - a topic that ordinarily I have no real interest in whatsoever, with perhaps the execption of aircraft.

Also, the jacket on this book is an absolute work of art. I love the colors, the fuzziness of the photograph, and the way it wraps around the book. Even more, I like the subtle overlining that appears to "show" the inner workings of the metal bird on the cover. This overlining also translates to the actual boards of the book as well, making the whole book a visually stimulating experiences.

If you follow Murakami's work, then you have to read this book. If I had to recommend one Murakami book to read, I don't think this would be it. Perhaps after you had a taste of his work, but certainly not as a first experience.

(11/17/07 - 9:23 PM)
I FINALLY got the opportunity today to get all of my yardwork done. Sure it was raining, but I had a Saturday off (mostly - I went to work in the morning.) And the weather isn't about to get any better. So, I mowed the lawn nice and high as it rained and the temperature remained mild (which was good for the lawn, I figured) and then proceeded to burn all of the stuff I've had piling up for weeks, as well as the "leftovers" from the last burn.

The biggest problem, that I had not anticipated was that my mulching mower (a Honda that obliterates everything in its way, under normal circumstances) would not be nearly as effective as I would have guesses at such a tall height setting. Hmmmm... crap. The solution? I had to rake. Ugh, manual labor.

"Si senor?"

"Oh, hello! No, I meant manual labor, Manuel. Not Manuel Labor. Is Labor even a hispanic surname? Sorry, Manuel. I didn't mean to bother you."

"It's okay, cabron."

Sweet guy, that Manuel. "Cabron" must be some sort of term of endearment.

Anyway, I went and got my rake, put a positive spin on the situation (one day a year, Heath - stop bitching and rake) and began raking. I was nearly finished when my wife came home from work at one of her many part-time jobs. For this, I do not envy her; every time she leaves a job, they still want her there, doing things. Anyway, she said her hellos and proceeded to ask the obvious question:

"Why aren't you using the leaf blower/vac thing to do that?"

DAMMIT. I forgot I even had the thing, which boggles my mind as it is probably the most fun tool I have in the arsenal. I could not believe how stupid I was to have forgotten this. In fact, I have a SECOND, brand spankin' new one in a box at the top of my garage stairs that my Mom was getting rid of, and that I'm holding on to for my brother and sister-in-law for when they get a home of thier own. So I had not one, but two opportunities to remember!

Alzheimers Acres, here I come!

And now, an interlude: Presenting the Alzheimer's Acres theme song!:

Alzheimer's Acres is the place to be
Or so I've been told... probably
I may or may not adore green Jell-O goo
The chick I like here is only ninety-two

Alzheimer's Acres is where I'll stay
Everything is new here, everyday
I get to re-meet my family on visiting day
Hey there nurse, can you help me find my toupee?

Fond memories? Who cares!
No broken hips, because there's no stairs!

No pain or strife
Goodbye, normal life!
Alzheimer's Acres I am there!

Now, who am I again?

At any rate, I finally feel like a responsible adult for the first time in months, as my imminent chores around the house are beginning to dwindle - though I still didn't get my painting and staining done before winter. Oh, well. There's always next year.

(11/16/07 - 11:21 PM)
I wish there were a radio station (not on my Satellite television - real radio) that one could listen to that played nothing but Singers & Standards. The Andrews Sisters? Kay Kaiser? Tommy Dorsey? Sign me up!

I grew to love these simple, sincere, and sometimes silly songs as a young boy growing up next to an older couple who made a habit of sitting outside on Sunday, reading the paper under a tree and eating fruit. These guys know how to enjoy the simple things, and after nine kids and fifty years of marriage, they're obviously doing something right. In fact, I have aspired to be like them in many ways, and am glad that the woman I married is so keen as to help me to achieve this lofty goal.

Anyway, music. The music of today seems to become worse the older I get (sound familiar?) While I don't reject all of it out of hand, certainly, I do find that my tastes tend to stray from everyone else's that I know. I cannot listen to a single radio station for extended periods of time, with the exception of Country, and even this is becoming a stretch as the years roll on.

Yet, I have developed a small collection of Singers & Standards of my own that never fails to disappoint. These songs hearken back to a simpler, and more morally structured, time that in some ways I wish I could have been a party to. Ah, to have been alive in the thirties when men wore suits everywhere, every job was important and taken seriously, art deco and Empire were all the rage and the war was only a storm cloud on the horizon.

Perhaps I'm romanticizing it too much in some ways, especially when one considers that smoking was rampant, the depression occured, and that driving was a disappointing adventure all unto itself. But if I could distill the essence of what made that period great, and subsequently live there, I think I would be happy.

Now, as I am sometimes caught listening to these songs at work in the evenings, my employees comes in and gives me a look like I have a frog reciting poetry embedded in my forehead. No one even asks about, recalls it, or stops to listen. Nope, it's just, "What the hell are you listening to?" This coming from the guys who listen to Gangster Rap, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, and predominantly senseless Pop.

"Something good, and something long forgotten", is usually my reply. A reply that leads, disappointingly to no further questions.

(11/15/07 - 11:08 PM)
Amazon.com has an amazing engine behind it that provides buyers a profoundly succinct (mostly) list of items that they may be interested in, based on past purchases. My problem with this, is that I didn't tell the engine that when I'm buying books for my wife that she likes, that I'm not really interested in crossing over into other authors in the Contemporary Christian genre. Soooo... I now get lots of "We think you'll like this!" messages from way out in left field; or Heaven, or wherever. Amish love stories? WHAT?

The other inherent problem with this is that I keep getting recommendations for stuff that I already have, but I've been too lazy to let the engine know that, "Hey! I already have these, thanks!"

I finally broke down and spent about an hour letting it know, "Thanks, but no thanks" on a gajillion things, in the hopes that my recommendations will finally start producing once more. This, in the beginning, was how I got turned onto some great authors and musical artists. Over time, though, the waters got so muddied that the recommendations not only began to lose their meaning - they became somewhat comical based on gifts I had purchased for others. Suffice it to day, I don't want young adult books about girls and how mean they can be, nor do I want the soundtrack to the movie, "Cars". Thanks loads, anyway.

(11/14/07 - 7:01 PM)
Today I was eaten by a large quadruped monster who answered only to an unpronouncable Japanese name. It was dark and hot in there, and I won't bore you with the feats of daring that were required to escape the confines of its hoary stomach. Suffice it to say, I was pretty amazing on the whole.

Then, I went and got some lunch. On my way there, I foiled a bank robbery, and fought some day-to-day crime as well, but you'd just be somnified if I went into detail.

Oh, and I ran into Jim Morrison and Elvis holding hands in the park - AGAIN. God, those two need to so get a room. We get it, guys - you're famous and supposed to be dead. And don't think I didn't see Garcia over there in the shrubbery throwing water baloons at the bicycle cops again, shouting incomprehensible statements about "the man" and tofu. WE SEE YOU JERRY.

I decided to actually do some work, but I got sidetracked when Alan Alda dropped through my office ceiling followed closely by his cadre of ninjas in pink tights (don't even ask me to explain about that one.) Ed Begley , Jr. was close on his tail, yelling something about having to fix the ceiling and the environment, which was kind of funny until Alda kicked him in the head and stole my wallet. It was a good wallet too. Those Taiwanese sure know how to mass produce them.

I thought about calling someone about my experiences, just to unload a little bit, but I couldn't think of anyone to call except for my wife. And she prefers that I not call her. At all, really.

So, I ate some tacos for dinner, and blogged it. I figured, at least this way someone knows what went down, in case the Feds show up again and start asking all those questions that you can never quite answer right, like:

"Where were you on the night of June fourteenth?" Seriously? I don't even recall where I am now, let alone on some random day.

"Which statement describes you more accurately: A psychological meltdown waiting to happen or a tooth fairy?"

And my favorite, the one Agent Hedberg always asked: "Answer yes or no - have you ever eaten sugar, or PCP?"

It was pretty much a normal day. The kind of day, in fact, where making up things like those above are far better than actually describing actual events that might have indeed occured.

Uh-huh. >Lip curl< Thank you - thank you very much.

(11/13/07 - 9:11 PM)
Happy Tuesday the thirteenth! Mindless trivia time. Ready?

Where in the heck does the term "Mayday" come from, and what does it mean? (i.e. - when someone gets on ye olde citizens band radio and hollers about their single engine Cessna going down in the Canadian wilderness.)

Turns out, like all crazy things, it originates with the French (who gave us a nice present of a gargantuan chick in a robe, only to forever be snubbed by us everafter - shows what generosity gets you around here, no?) It comes from the term "M'aidez" which apparrently translates to, "Help me." Or so I'm to understand, as I never did even remotely master (or, let's face it, even try one iota to learn) their language.

One more thing we took without further gratitude from the French. I, for one, wish to say thank you France for all the keen stuff. I don't hate you. Now, New Jersey, on the other hand...

Mmmmm... saturated fat! This giant woman will eat us all! Oh, ho, ho! It's Jerry Lewis!

(11/12/07 - 5:58 PM)
Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" is a rather interesting departure for her, and certainly a departure from the everyday life that we all know today. This book is set in the not too distant future, where men and women have extreme difficulty procreating, and the scriptures are misinterpreted to help deal with this specific problem. Further, a totalitarian regime of religious zealots and fanatics are running individual fiefdoms in the now factionalized and fractured United States of America.

This book chronicles a woman's struggles as she becomes a handmaid, a woman specifically used as a vessel for procreation - and nothing more - for childless couples. It provides an intimate glimpse into the twisted world of her everyday life, and is a chilling reminder of how close we are at all times to just such a potential fate. What struck me as most ironic (and it was probably intentionally so) was how willing the leadership of this new regime were to kill with impunity anyone who disagreed with their stances, or had performed roles in their lives prior to the regime ensconcing itself that were deemed retroactively unfit to allow them to continue living. This was a strange dichotomy, as the whole book surrounds a society desperate to procreate, while at the same time destroying exponentially more life than they could ever hope to replace.

This book was an interesting read, if not a little on the dark side. It reminded me very much of Orwell's "1984" or Huxley's "Brave New World, albeit from a slightly different perspective.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the aforementioned - you'll enjoy this one too.

(11/11/07 - 7:38 AM)
Everything after 10/14 is "new" - I haven't posted in a while, and to the few loyal readers (and Gary Sr., too) I say thank you, and I'm sorry. Mom's house and work are once again taking a great deal of time, and I haven't had the energy to keep up on this (which is a shame, because it's a fun outlet for me.)

Anyhoo, today I cull! Today is one of those rare days where I go through the book collection and do some serious pulling to make room for bigger and better things. If anyone is looking for anything that I might be getting rid of, let me know (already in the pile are Pratchett, Dunning, Gibson, Cherryh, and on and on. If you're interested in looking, or getting a full list, let me know and I'll hang on to the books until you get a look.) Also, I'll assume that Kathy is raising her hand, so I'll hold them for you, anyway.

Also, it's Salvation Army day. Also a rare day where I re-assess my posessions and decide, "Do I really need this anymore?" The rule is usually six months without use, although I always make an exception for my Tupperware deviled egg holder. That thing rocks.

Finally, I've got a line on a guy who's agreed to sell some of my better junk on e-Bay for a comission. This means I get money for stuff I don't want, and my lazy butt doesn't have to lift a finger. Plus, he gets a cut for his trouble, so it should be win-win.

The downside is that this all sounds alot like work...

(11/10/07 - 7:38 PM)
Went to Mom's again today and while Wanda painted, I hung lights (except for the one in the two-story hall - she helped me with that one.) The new place is finally coming together, with the exception of the basement still needing paint, and the remaining wall of the garage also requiring paint (it's too cold to finish now >sigh<.) I got the basement wiring all straightened out (mostly), so that was a bonus that I didn't plan on.

I just wish I could say, "It's done!", but there's still the painting, and another ceiling fan to install (we got one done today - another bonus) as well as tile, plumbing (both things I don't get directly involved in) door hanging, towel bars, bathroom lighting, picture hanging and other odds and ends.

(11/09/07 - 11:21 PM)
Finished Jim Dodge's "Stone Junction", and didn't know what to think. The story ripped right along for a while, but then became "tired" in spots, and in some places was downright tedious. It's the story of a boy who doesn't know who his father is (nor does his mother), who grows up in a series of hippie-like communal situations only to be cast out on his own when his mother is killed in a failed diversion to steal Uranium. He goes on a journey of self-realization with some of the craziest people he's ever met, learning to crack safes, play professional poker and achieve enlightenment in the midst of nothingness. This book is all over the map, and while a fairly good read, it gets a bit thin in places. Were it not for this, I could easily see this book being at the pinnacle of the craft, but the storyline gets too lost, and the pace too slow, to achieve that end.

I can recommend this book to those of you who enjoy Kerouac, or perhaps Coupland. But if the premise sounds boring to you, then it probably is.

Incidentally, I discovered this book in Peter Boxall's "1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die". This was the third book that I had culled from its pages to broaden my reading horizons, the first two being Jeffrey Eugenides "The Virgin Suicides" and Bret Easton Ellis' "Less Than Zero". So far, Mr. Boxall and company haven't been too far off the mark. Next up from this tome: Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale".

(11/08/07 - 10:42 PM)
I saw a guy hanging Christmas lights in out neighborhood the other day. Stores already have their Christmas items in full bloom, and I found myself asking, "Does anyone get this anymore?"

Let me explain. Christmas, while mis-guided datewise, is intended to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. There, I've reminded you. Now, I realize that it has devolved into something wholly separate from this, and I respect everyone's right to disbelieve. That's your choice. But here's what I don't get: Why do we feel compelled to get our Christmas shopping done in July? Why do we bitch about shopping at all? No one forces you to shop and buy gifts. No one forces you to put up lights in August. I'm all for festivity, sure, but frankly I'm beginning to find this offensive. Christmas shopping, if done at all, should be done out of a sense of love and giving - a time to show someone you care about that you are thinking of them by purchasing them something useful or personal - specific to their desires or needs. It should never be done out of a sense of forced duty, as so many people see it now. If it feels that way to you, then don't do it. Further, one does not celebrate little Billy's June birthday by placing "Happy Birthday" mylar baloons on their mailbox in January. It's absurd, and if left unchecked, it ends up cheapening the whole experience. Christmas is like fireworks: It should be revered with awe once per year, in a compartmentalized timeframe so that it does not lose its meaning or sense of place. What it should not be is a cheapened experience with twinkle lights in August because they're pretty and you're a redneck hilbur who has no notion of why you're stapling all of those little lights to your soffits.

Alright, I'll get off my soapbox.

(11/07/07 - 11:53 PM)
I scored a pristine copy of Robert Pirsig's first book, the 1974 classic "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". This is a book that I had been passively looking for for some time now in this condition, and at the right price. In fact, I check my e-mail at work for one particular booksellers list of monthly finds, and there it was. I e-mailed him immediatly, and it was a good thing I did; he had three more offers to buy on that very same day.


(11/06/07 - 11:27 PM)
ABE Books is like crack >sigh<. I've become a fanatic about editions, conditions, signatures, etc. And ABE is right there to offer me everything that I don't need. Life was simpler when I could actually allow myself to read the books I bought without freaking out about spine condition. Still, It's fun to find that special something to make your library that much more interesting. Fun, but expensive.

(11/05/07 - 11:53 PM)
Season six of "Scrubs" is without question the best season thus far. The problem? Right smack in the middle is the worst single episode of anything that I have ever seen. Singing episodes are nothing new. What is new is a singing episode where the songs are so tacked on, and so poorly sung that I literally wanted to repeatedly insert something blunt into my ears to stop the madness.

(11/04/07 - 10:37 PM)
I think I would like to put together a page called, "Worst books ever." What I would like is for everyone to submit to me the title of the absolute very worst book that they have ever read. Just one. The only criteria is that you have to have finished it. Even if you don't read the blog, let me know what your friends and family think. This might be fun... especially if we're sadistic enough to read each other's "suggestions". Muhuhahahahaha..

(11/03/07 - 11:18 PM)
I would like to take a moment to thank my web site host - Mr. Steve Hansel - for his generosity in hosting this site for free. Interested in a site of your own? I can put you in touch with Steve, whose rates are very fair. There. My first real blog ad. Woo-hoo!

(11/02/07 - 11:04 PM)
I was watching a show the other night about art, and they profiled a guy named Oskar J.W. Hansen. Old Oskar created a pair of sculptures for the Hoover Dam project that he called the "Winged Figures of the Republic." These things absolutely blew my mind, and art isn't usually something that I'm into. And when I am, I'm extremely picky. Here are some links so that you may see for yourself:

Full Monument View
Other Views

(11/01/07 - 11:28 PM)
There's a city in California called Ukiah. This is Haiku, spelled backward. I wonder if that was intentional, but I'm too lazy to check. Interesting, though.

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