Monday, December 24, 2007

To those of you who read this fledgling blog...



Friday, December 21, 2007

Mars Attack!

A newly discovered hunk of space rock has a 1-in-75 chance of slamming into the Red Planet on Jan. 30, scientists said Thursday.

"These odds are extremely unusual. We frequently work with really long odds when we track ... threatening asteroids," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This should be interesting to watch... from afar, of course.

Good News...

... Dad comes home from the hospital tomorrow morning. He's recovering well, and is able to stomach real food now. Needless to say, he's happy to get outta there. He'll be staying with one of my brothers for the short-term as he'll need to take it easy at first. He'll also have a physical therapist and nurses visiting three times a week (lucky guy) until he's strong enough to be on his own again. He'll also have to visit his cardiologist to go over, monitor and check out the old ticker. But, overall, he's in much better spirits. As one of his granddaughters said to him today while visiting him at the hospital, "You look like grandpop again!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kasparov Pulls Out... and Putin is Man of the Year???

Garry Kasparov has pulled out of his fledgling run for president of Russia. [hat-tip to First Things]:
Former world chess champ and thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side Gary Kasparov has called it quits: He will not continue his bid for the Russian presidency as the “Other Russia” candidate.
Kasparov has been a none-too-subtle critic of what he considers a thugocracy in the original Russia. But it seems that opposition to opposition has made a viable candidacy untenable, to the point where Kasparov couldn’t even rent meeting space.

Meanwhile, Time Magazine selects Putin as the "Man of the Year"???

Odd... very odd.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ridin’ that emotional roller coaster...

So... Dad's back on the up-swing again. I'm sure this is wreaking havoc on him, physically, emotionally and psychologically. I know it's certainly doing a number on me and my siblings.

Here's the upshot: He wasn't able to keep food down, and they had to put the NG tube back in. It's still unclear whether or not he also went into another congestive heart failure during this episode. The doctors ran a bunch of tests and found........ nothing - no blockages, no additional adhesions, nothing. They believe that they moved him too quickly onto solid foods, and his stomach wasn't ready to handle it so soon after the surgery.

As of this morning, they removed the NG tube and he's to start on pure liquids only (water first, then apple juice/grape juice, clear broth, etc.). If that goes well, then they move him up the proverbial food chain to apple sauce and similar soft foods - all with the intention of gradually working him up to solid food.

I talked with him today, and he's tired but in good spirits. He's glad the tube is out. Depending on how he's able to handle the slow upgrade of various forms of nourishment, the doctors hope to have him leaving the hospital before Christmas (maybe even before next weekend). But that's putting the proverbial cart before the horse. As you can see, this whole thing is very proverbial.

Thanks again for the continued prayers and well wishes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More prayers needed...

Just got off the phone with my sister-in-law a few hours ago. Dad took a turn for the worst last night into this morning.

I simply ask for continued prayers during this difficult time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dad update...

Thanks to those of you who have offered prayers and sent well wishes regarding my Dad. After a rough ten days he has made significant improvements. He had to go into emergency surgery to relieve an intestinal obstruction. They were about to remove a part of his intestines, but once they opened him up they realized that it was only abdominal adhesions that formed over the years from previous surgery scars.

He was in ICU for quite awhile as he not only had to recover from the surgery, but he also had congestive heart failure due to excessive fluid buildup in the lungs. It was touch-&-go there for awhile, but things slowly improved. He was eventually taken off the respirator and the intubation. A few days ago he was moved out of ICU, and is now in telemetry. And just this morning they were finally able to remove the NG tube, and he was able to eat real food (such as it is: Jello, soup, etc...) for the first time. With the last of the tubes out it makes it much easier for him to talk, so I'm hoping to be able to talk with him over the phone tomorrow morning.

So, thanks again for all of your thoughts and prayers. It has been greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Veep Spot Speculation...

Katheryn Jean Lopez over at NRO starts her recent column with this intriguing sentence:
I don’t know who the Republican nominee for president of the United States will turn out to be in a few months, but whoever he is, his vice-presidential pick should be Bill Bennett.

The whole column says what I've been thinking for quite some time. I'd actually prefer if he was on the top of the Republican ticket, but I'll taken him in the #2 slot if the eventual nominee is Thompson or Hunter.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sorry, Mitt, but I'm not impressed...

So, Romney felt the need to talk about his faith. Jimmy Akin ain't impressed. Neither are most other people (except for the typical Romney shills).

I'm not impressed either. Aside from the issues that Jimmy points out, my additional concerns include the fact that Romney (to me) comes off as a Slick Willy redux with a non-conservative track record as governor of a liberal northeastern state.

Sorry, Mitt.

I'm not thrilled with ANY of the presidential candidates from EITHER party.

But, for the time being, I'm sticking with either Duncan Hunter or Fred Thompson as the most favorable to me of a sorry lot.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dad update...

I've been in constant contact with my siblings back east. Dad's surgery went much better than expected. Turns out that the blockage was due to... (gee, flashback to 1996)... abdominal adhesions. The surgeons were able to fix the problem WITHOUT having to remove any intestines. He came out of surgery and recovery okay, and is currently in ICU. He was intubated and was on a breathing machine for a couple days, and has subsequently been taken off of those devices.

He's not out of the woods yet. He has fluid in the lungs (though it has gotten better since before the surgery), and the doctors want to make sure this doesn't turn into pneumonia.

Thank you all for the prayers and well-wishes. They have not gone unheard by God, and they have been much appreciated by me and my family!


GKC on EWTN...

Hat-tip to the ACS... (who hat-tips to Mark Shea) that a tele-play production of G.K. Chesterton's play "The Surprise" will air on EWTN on Thursday, Dec 20, at 5:00 AM (ET). The official premiere will be on Friday, Dec 21 at 10:00 PM (ET) [7:00 PM (PT)].

Another airing will be on Christmas Eve @ 1:00 PM (ET) [10:00 AM (PT)].


More on Kasparov, Putin and the Russian elections...

From yesterday:
The former world chess champion is awaiting his opponent's next move.

Garry Kasparov, released from jail after serving a five-day sentence for leading a protest against Vladimir Putin, acknowledged Friday he holds the weaker position in his confrontation with the Russian president.

But Kasparov predicted the upcoming election season, which begins with Sunday's parliamentary vote, will force the secretive Putin to reveal his strategy in the nail-biting political game gripping the country as Putin's time in the Kremlin runs out.

As the campaign for the March 2 presidential vote gathers pace, Kasparov said, the Kremlin's beleaguered, fractious opponents can regroup for a new push aimed at "dismantling Putin's regime."

He hopes their ranks will be strengthened following Sunday's vote, which will also push dissenting voices further to the margins.

More news today:
Russians voted Sunday in a parliamentary election where the only question was whether President Vladimir Putin's party would win a strong majority of seats or a crushing share.

The election follows months of increasingly acidic rhetoric aimed against the West and efforts, by law and by truncheon, to stifle opponents.

A huge win for Putin's United Russia party could pave the way for him to stay at the country's helm once his presidential term expires in the spring. The party casts the election as essentially a referendum on Putin's nearly eight years in office.... Putin is constitutionally prohibited from running for a third consecutive term as president in March. But he clearly wants to keep his hand on Russia's levers of power, and has raised the prospect of becoming prime minister; many supporters have suggested his becoming a "national leader," though what duties and powers that would entail are unclear.

It continues:
Opposition parties, meanwhile, claim authorities have confiscated campaign materials and that the managers of halls have refused to rent them out for opposition meetings. Police have violently broken up opposition rallies — most recently in Moscow and St. Petersburg last weekend — and national television gives the parties hardly any coverage.

In contrast, Putin's speeches to supporters have been broadcast in full and repeated throughout evening newscasts.

"The fact is, they're not just rigging the vote. They're raping the democratic system," said chess champion and opposition leader Garry Kasparov on Sunday.

Kasparov, who was jailed for five days after the Moscow protest, spoiled his ballot by writing on it "Other Russia," the name of his opposition umbrella group.

Sunday's vote "meets none of the criteria of a free, fair and democratic election. In effect, it is not even an election," Andrei Illarionov, a former adviser to Putin, wrote in a commentary for the Cato Institute think tank.


Friday, November 30, 2007


As I type this my Dad is about to undergo emergency surgery to remove a part of his intestines to bypass the blockage. Given his condition, age and medical history, it's high risk but absolutely necessary.

A humble request for more prayers for my Dad.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Requesting prayers for my Dad, who's in the hospital...

Just got word from my sister last night that Dad (who lives back east, as does the rest of my family) is in the hospital. At first they thought it might be a bad case of the flu or stomach/intestinal virus. Word this morning is that there is some sort of blockage. No further details as of yet. He's on the edge of 82, is not in the best of health (given his past medical history), and has been heartbroken ever since Mom passed away five and a half years ago.

As I drove into work this morning it hit me that - in a very, very surreal way - several significant factors in my life right now have combined in such a way as to make me relive 1996 all over again. It's as though the months of September through December of eleven years ago are re-imprinting themselves onto my current life. The timeframe, the situations, the minutia of details, and all the emotions connected to everything. Just so, so very surreal.

I simply ask for some prayers for my Dad's health.

I also humbly ask for prayers for myself. I've come a long way in these last dozen years. I've grown and matured as a man and as a child of God. It seems, though, that God wants me to grow and learn some more - at least in one particular aspect of my life. To take an emotional risk. To go further down a certain path of opportunity and to see it through, whether it's only meant to be for the short-term or whether it's meant to be longer lasting. And to challenge others to do the same.

My apologies for being cryptic. I just re-read that last paragraph. Although it sounds like I'm talking about my relationship with my Dad, I'm not. That relationship is stronger than it's ever been. So has our faith in God and Jesus Christ. Oddly, though, in recent years we've shared a similar struggle. Both of us have been dealing with a void in our lives. He having lost his soulmate of 50+ years. And I... well... given that I'm still single, that void has been there since day one for me.

God puts you on a path, and you walk it. And maybe some of the choices you made weren't the best. Maybe some decisions were right because the time, the person, or the situation wasn't right. Or maybe you only went so far and then stopped and changed course out of fear. But sometimes, though, God allows you a do-over. Some of the details have changed, some of the specifics are altered. But enough similarities are there to jog your memory. And you're flashed back to a time when you gave up to easily. You've grown since then. So now God says to you, "Okay, what are you going to do this time?"

What do you do?

You risk your heart.

Even if you don't get someone elses heart in return.

You risk your heart.

Because one day that someone will be found.

You risk your heart.

Because that is what Christ did, and does, for all of us... for all eternity.

Because, eventually, God does keep his promises.

On His time, not ours.

But we still have to do our part.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kasparov arrested again...

I've told you here, here and here, to keep an eye on Russia & Putin. Garry Kasparov has been arrested again during a protest demonstration.
Russian riot police detained another key opposition figure among 200 demonstrators in Saint Petersburg Sunday, a day after a court jailed opposition leader Garry Kasparov for a similar protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The disturbances, exactly a week ahead of December 2 parliamentary elections, came 24 hours after police dispersed a similar march of around 2,000 people in the Russian capital Moscow and arrested Kasparov.

A court late Saturday sentenced the former world chess champion to five days in jail and his lawyer told AFP Sunday he was being held at Moscow police headquarters.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yep... it's time to take a shower again...

It's time to take a shower again... a Leonid Shower!

Yep! This weekend is the time for the annual Leonid Meteor Shower. Hopefully, there will be clear skies for optimal viewing, wherever you are. Best time to observe 'em will be Saturday night into Sunday morning.

So, yet again... make a wish upon a "falling star" (just remember to dress warmly).

Che, Chavez and Iran... oh, my!!!

Hat-tip to Belmont Club:

The children of Che Guevara, the revolutionary pin-up, had been invited to Tehran University to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their father’s death and celebrate the growing solidarity between “the left and revolutionary Islam” at a conference partly paid for by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

Read the whole thing here.

Weather Channel Founder Comes Out Against Global Warming...

Hat-tip to Newsbusters, RWN, and Redstate:

John Coleman, the founder of The Weather Channel and Joe D’Aleo Director of Meteorology for it's first 6 years on the air and Professor of Meteorology have come out against all the hoopla.

It's definitely worth a full reading:
It is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the “research” to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus.

Environmental extremists, notable politicians among them, then teamed up with movie, media and other liberal, environmentalist journalists to create this wild “scientific” scenario of the civilization threatening environmental consequences from Global Warming unless we adhere to their radical agenda. Now their ridiculous manipulated science has been accepted as fact and become a cornerstone issue for CNN, CBS, NBC, the Democratic Political Party, the Governor of California, school teachers and, in many cases, well informed but very gullible environmentally conscientious citizens.

The entire text can be found here

National Right to Life endorses Fred Thompson!!!

Directly from the official press release:

Marking the first major endorsement by a national grassroots organization in the Republican presidential contest, National Right to Life, the nation’s largest pro-life organization representing pro-lifers in fifty state affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, today announced its endorsement of former Senator Fred Thompson for President of the United States.

“As the first major grassroots organization to enter the Republican presidential race, National Right to Life is proud to endorse Fred Thompson,” stated Wanda Franz, Ph.D., president of National Right to Life. “Our endorsement is a testament to Senator Thompson’s long-standing pro-life record, his commitment to unborn children, and our belief in his ability to win.”

RedState has some interesting early analysis here.

And Hugh Hewitt started crying crocodile tears about the whole thing. I once respected Hugh. He was the major influence in my decision to start blogging, and he can great, persuasive arguments. But I've always known that he's a "party over principles" kind of guy. The cracks began to show in his surface persona when, in the months leading up to last November's mid-term elections, he became too much of an apologist for the GOP and he downplayed how badly they would do come that inevitable Tuesday.

It got even worse when he devoted a whole book to Romney, and has been a blatant shill for the Mass. Governor for well over a year now. He refuses to admit this obvious fact, even while he continues to bash and downplay all the other Republican nominees for president. Today, on his radio show, he started bashing the NRLC for their endorsement, claiming that Romney is "the real pro-lifer" that deserves the endorsement. Sorry, Hugh. You're blind to the fact that everyone is onto you're Romney-shilling shtick, and they don't buy it.

I'll be rooting for a Thompson/Hunter ticket for 2008.

Friday, November 02, 2007

G. K. Chesterton & Christmas...

What's Christmas without Christ?

What's Christmas without a book by Chesterton?

What's Christmas without a Christmas tree?

What's Christmas without Christmas tree ornaments?

What's more perfect than ordering your very own G. K. Chesterton Christmas Tree Ornament from the American Chesterton Society?

I just ordered one for myself, along with a copy of Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" (I had bought a copy of the book a year ago, but ended up using it as a gift for a family member, so now I'll finally have my own copy to read and enjoy).

P.S. This is not a paid endorsement for the ACS. But it is a good idea to join. The subscription to Gilbert Magazine and the member discounts on GKC books makes it all worthwhile.

Prayers for EWTN host...

Last night I turned the TV channel to EWTN to catch the primetime program "Life of the Rock", which is normally hosted by Fr. Francis. Sadly, the program began on a somber note as another friar broke news that Fr. Francis is taking a leave of absence to "discern his vocation". Additional information was conveyed as the friar read from a letter written by Fr. Francis to EWTN. Needless to say, fervent prayers are needed for Fr. Francis at this time of spiritual crisis.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Illustrated Man - stage play (review)

This past Sunday evening I attended the final performance of the one-man stage production of Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man”. It was another fine production by the Rubicon Theater Company at the now-famous Laurel Theater in Ventura. Tobias Andersen (veteran actor of TV and regional theater) gave a stunning two-act performance that lasted nearly two hours.

The play is loosely based on the concept of Bradbury’s famous novel, “The Illustrated Man” which centers around a wandering soul of a man with intricately designed full-body tattoos that eerily come to life and tell their tales. The stories used for the play were, instead, taken from other Bradbury short stories and novels.

From hilarious little stories about “The Murderer” (a man who confesses to killing off all the technological gadgets in his home), “There Was An Old Woman” (who is visited by the grim reaper who calls for her soul, though she’s determined to put up a fight), and the “Anthem Sprinters” (about a bunch of Irishmen who make a competition of racing out of movie theaters before their dreaded national anthem begins to play), to poignant stories such as “The Chicken Ranch Motel” (loosely based on Bradbury’s childhood memories of his family driving across the country during the Great Depression).

One story (“The Fog Horn”) was the lone weak segment of the performance. A story about an ancient sea monster who comes out of the ocean when it begins to hear the plaintive cry of a fog horn, thinking that it is another sea monster calling out in loneliness. As a short story it’s a wonderful piece of writing, but it didn’t translate well on the stage.

Easily the most powerful stories were two segments from Bradbury’s famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451” (the cautionary tale of censorship… or, more accurately, self-censorship). Andersen gave a rousing performance as the words just poured out of his mouth like a flood of truth. Absolutely stunning.

Ray Bradbury (87) was in attendance, and the audience give him a much-deserved round of applause when he entered the theater. Seated in his wheelchair in the front row, one could tell by his reaction to the production that he was thrilled to hear his own words tumble forth from the stage.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet him a few times in the mid- to late-90s, and I’ve always loved his writing. Sam Weller’s biography "The Bradbury Chronicles" is a wonderful read and a unique peek into the life of this most prolific writer. And, of course, read lots and lots of Bradbury!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

35 Inconvenient Truths...


For those of you who continue to genuflect to the "god of global warming hysteria" (especially now that he's been bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize), I give you...

35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie

"... in October 2007 the High Court in London had identified nine “errors” in his movie An Inconvenient Truth. The judge had stated that, if the UK Government had not agreed to send to every secondary school in England a corrected guidance note making clear the mainstream scientific position on these nine “errors”, he would have made a finding that the Government’s distribution of the film and the first draft of the guidance note earlier in 2007 to all English secondary schools had been an unlawful contravention of an Act of Parliament prohibiting the political indoctrination of children."

The lengthy article continues to spell out in detail not just 9 errors, but 35 errors and exaggerations:

"We now itemize 35 of the scientific errors and exaggerations in Al Gore’s movie. The first nine were listed by the judge in the High Court in London in October 2007 as being “errors.” The remaining 26 errors are just as inaccurate or exaggerated as the nine spelt out by the judge, who made it plain during the proceedings that the Court had not had time to consider more than these few errors. The judge found these errors serious enough to require the UK Government to pay substantial costs to the plaintiff."

Click here to read the 35 detailed points of refutation.

(Hat-tip to PoliPundit)

P.S. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee, remember, has previously awarded the "Peace" prize to the likes of:

Kofi Annan (the thoroughly corrupt former head of the United Nations - remember the multi-billion dollar the Oil-for-Food scandal?),

Yasser Arafat (the now-deceased Palestinian terrorist thug),

Shirin Ebadi (for her "successful" championing of democracy and human rights in Iran???),

Rigoberta Menchú (the Guatemalan who falsified significant details about her family's past - that "history" was the basis for the Nobel committee's decision to award her the prize),

Mohamed ElBaradei and the U.N.'s IAEA (for doing such a bang-up job of preventing nuclear proliferation attempts in the Middle East in such peaceful countries as Iraq, Iran, Syria),

Wangari Maathai (who, after being awarded the Peace Prize, went on to claim that HIV/AIDS was deliberately created by Western scientists to decimate the African population),

Jimmy Carter (the absolutely worst president and ex-president of the U.S., who never met a communist leader or tin-horn dictator he didn't like).

And now Al Gore *sigh*

And that's just in the past 15 years.

Yet, the committee always seems to avoid giving the prize to the likes of Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II (yet they managed to give it to Gorbachev???).

UPDATE: I forgot to add this additional link from which challenges the so-called consensus on global warming. It's a must-read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lame attempts at being artistic #4...

A particularly windy day on the coast.

Taken while at an outdoor concert.

Partially buried in the sand by the water's edge, among the cobblestones.


P.S. Click on each pic to enlarge.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Like a slab of bacon...

... I'm a bit smoky.

Thanx to the slew of brushfires currently aflame across parts of southern California since this past weekend. The Santa Ana winds have kicked up (as they usually do this time of year). With the dry weather we've had all year it was inevitable that these fires would easily spark up.

I woke up yesterday morning with winds howling like crazy, though the air was fairly cool. That didn't last long. By 11:00 AM you could begin to smell the hint of scorched timber. By 2:00 PM the once-clear sky turned a pungent grey and the sun was a glowing orange disc. By 3:00 PM the sun waxed a deep red before quickly waning to nothingness as the sky had transformed into an eerie shade of smokey pumpkin; flecks of ash flittering to the ground like a surreal snow flurry from hell. The air was caustic for several hours while the winds tried to decide which way to shift. Finally, the sky began to clear up a bit as it came close to sunset.

Today and tomorrow brings more winds (with gusts in certain areas as high as 90 MPH) and dry weather, before if finally starts to let up by the end of the week. Luckily, I don't live near the areas being affected. And I'm not at any serious risk (although two limbs from a tall eucalyptus tree right by my apartment came crashing down yesterday due to the winds).

I ask for urgent and fervent prayers for all of those who are directly affected by these fires.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Update on Kasparov in Russia...

The former world chess champion Garry Kasparov entered Russia's presidential race on Sunday, elected overwhelmingly as the candidate for the country's beleaguered opposition coalition.

Kasparov has been a driving force behind the coalition, which has united liberals, leftists and nationalists in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. He received 379 of 498 votes at a national congress held in Moscow by the Other Russia coalition, coalition spokeswoman Lyudmila Mamina told The Associated Press.

Kasparov's place on the March ballot was not assured. His candidacy still needs to be registered and is likely to be blocked.

Remember, when the media uses phrases like "liberals, leftists and nationalists" in reference to opposition to the leadership in the former Communist superpower it's not the same as using those phrases in describing Western "leftist" ideology.

More of the story here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lame attempts at being artistic #3...


Taken when I attended the annual British Car Show at Channel Islands Harbor.


Taken at the annual Ventura County Fair. I could just tell by the way he was looking at me that he was just begging for an apple.


Kinda speaks for itself. A little out of focus, though.


Part of an old iron, tile & concrete serpent at the playground of my old neighborhood. Plenty-a-skinned-knee crawling through this monstrosity as a kid.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Writing Resources...

Some book/resource suggestions on writing:

For scriptwriting, there are a slew of resources (more than there ought to be, actually), the main ones being from the following list of authors:

Robert McKee:

David Trottier:

Syd Field:

Linda Seger:

Blake Snyder:

William Goldman:

J. Michael Straczynski:

Michael Hauge:

Viki King:

Final Draft is the main screenwriting software program - recently updated. MovieMagic's Screenwriter is another good software formatting program.

For lyric writing (used only as a guide to various formats/song structures, and as a way of showing fine-tuning) is Sheila Davis' "The Craft of Lyric Writing". Remember... lyrics are not poetry... though lyrics can be very poetic, and poetry can be very lyrical.

For poetry, Ottone M. Riccio's "The Intimate Art of Writing Poetry":

For novels, "The Weekend Novelist" by Robert J. Ray (there are two editions, and they are very different from each other, so make sure to get the original early edition):

James Frey's "How To Write a Damn Good Novel":

James Zinsser "On Writing Well: 30th Anniversary Edition":

Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft":

There are many other (probably better) choices for novelists, but there is also a LOT of dreck out there. It seems EVERYONE has written a "how-to" book for novels and short stories. And 90% of them are written by people who couldn't write a novel or short story, so they wrote a how-to book instead (so true... too true).

Of course, the indispensible books for your desk (along with a good dictionary): Strunk & White's "Elements of Style"; Norman Lewis's edition of "Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form"; the "Rhyming Dictionary by Clement Wood"; Ray Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing"; and, of course, the Ralph Keyes's book "The Courage To Write: How Writer's Transcend Fear".

I'd also add "On Being a Writer" edited by Bill Strickland (a decent collection of essays/interviews/articles by various famous writers about being a writer and the writing process -- includes Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Vonnegut, Capote, Carver, Bradbury, Jong, Robbins, Rod Serling).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Words that make you go, "Wha-???"

So... how come you always hear about someone being "undaunted"... but you never hear about someone being "daunted"?

Or someone being "unhinged".... but you don't hear about someone being "hinged".

People are always "unfettered", "unhinged" and "unscathed"... but what about the girl who's living her life "fettered, completely hinged, and has come away scathed"?

If you are not impervious to attacks... are you "pervious"?

If you are not implusive... are you "pulsive"?

If James Bond is not incommunicado... is he "communicado"?

If you don't make a presumption... is it a "sumption"?

And if someone does not receive an award posthumously... does he receive it "humously"?

What about a location that's not nondescript... does that mean it's "descript"?

And if you break away from convention... is it a "vention"? Or are you "proventional"... but that can't be right because you're against the convention, so I guess you would be "conconventional".

I don't want to approach this whole subject nonchalant... so, does that mean I'm "chalant"?

And, if you don't contradict this whole absurd post... would that mean that you're "tradict"?

And if it's not absurd... is it "surd"?

*sigh*... words that make me go, "Wha-???"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ted Nugent sums it up perfectly...

I don't know if this is a legitimate quote, as it came via a friend through one of those email chains, but it's hilarious nonetheless. Ted Nugent is an no-nonsense, up-front, in-your-face, conservative, pro-2nd amendment bow-hunter. This just sounds oh-so Nuge:

Ted Nugent, rock star and avid bow hunter from Michigan, was being interviewed by a French journalist and animal rights activist.

The discussion came around to deer hunting.

The journalist asked, "What do you think is the last thought in the head of a deer before you shoot him? Is it, 'Are you my friend?' Or is it 'Are you the one who killed my brother?"

Nugent replied, "Deer aren't capable of that kind of thinking. All they care about is, 'What am I going to eat next, who am I going to screw next, and can I run fast enough to get away.' They are very much like the French."

The interview ended at that point...

"Pro-Life" PA Dem. Senator Flip-Flops on Abortion Vote...

Hat-tip to the Curt Jester for this one. So-called "pro-life" U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. (Democrat) does a major flip-flop on an important abortion vote in the senate last week.

"Democrats who take a strong stand against abortion are few and far between -- especially in the United States Senate. When Bob Casey defeated Rick Santorum for a Pennsylvania seat in the Senate pro-life advocates hoped Casey would vote the same as his predecessor; but, Casey cast his first pro-abortion vote last week.

"Last Thursday, the Senate debate an amendment to a bill sponsored by pro-abortion Sen. Barbara Boxer of California regarding the Mexico City Policy.

"Boxer's amendment overturns the policy that President Reagan first instituted and President Bush revived in 2001 that protects taxpayers from funding groups that perform or promote abortions overseas.

"Pro-life groups strongly opposed the Boxer Amendment, but it was adopted on a 53-41 vote. Just 20 minutes later, pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback offered an amendment to undo the Boxer amendment but senators defeated it by the same margin.

"Casey voted for the Boxer amendment and but also for the Brownback amendment -- taking a seemingly contradicting stand on the abortion funding issue.

"On Monday, as David Freddoso of National Review notes, Casey said on the Senate floor that he had made a mistake -- but not because he voted to fund foreign abortions and abortion advocacy.

He said that, on the pro-life Brownback amendment, 'it was my intention to vote ‘nay.’ Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to change my vote since it will not affect the outcome of that vote.'

It goes on:
" 'If the Boxer Amendment, which Sen. Casey regrettably supported, was enacted,[' said National Right to Life legislative director, Douglas Johnson] 'it would force the removal of family planning funds from private organizations that stick to non-abortive methods, in order to give those funds to organizations that are committed to the promotion of abortion,' Johnson explained."

Pennsylvania voted out Santorum (an excellent senator, to say the least, and a 100%-firm pro-life senator) last November for this joke of an empty-suit politician with popular name-recognition (his dad, Bob Casey Sr., was PA governor).

PA was my home state for 30 years, but I've been a CA resident for the last 13 years... so, I don't have room to brag given that Boxer is my senator. But at least I always knew Boxer's stripes (and I've never voted for her). But, the Casey charade I saw from 3000 miles away. Yet PA still got duped.

Sometimes, you get what you deserve. Perhaps the citizens of the commonwealth of PA will wake-up and smell the coffee. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

Challenge to Scientific Consensus on Global Warming...

And this is just the tip of the iceberg (so-to-speak):

"A new analysis of peer-reviewed literature reveals that more than 500 scientists have published evidence refuting at least one element of current man-made global warming scares. More than 300 of the scientists found evidence that 1) a natural moderate 1,500-year climate cycle has produced more than a dozen global warmings similar to ours since the last Ice Age and/or that 2) our Modern Warming is linked strongly to variations in the sun's irradiance...

"Other researchers found evidence that 3) sea levels are failing to rise importantly; 4) that our storms and droughts are becoming fewer and milder with this warming as they did during previous global warmings; 5) that human deaths will be reduced with warming because cold kills twice as many people as heat; and 6) that corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies are adapting well to the routine reality of changing climate."

Read the whole article.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you when...?

I was sleeping in bed in my California apartment. My alarm clock must have gone off earlier, and I must have hit the snooze button, because I faintly remember thinking that I had a dream about a plane crash of some sort.

I eventually woke up, and went to the bathroom. Then I headed toward my front door, opened it, and picked up the morning newspaper from the welcome mat.

As I re-entered my apartment the phone rang.

It was my sister, Valerie. She was hysterical. She asked me if my TV was on. I told her I had just woken up. I asked her what was wrong. She kept saying, "Just turn on the TV... turn on the TV right now!"

And there it was...

That strange dichotomy of the whole world both in utter chaos yet also standing still is stunned horror...

And all I kept saying was, "We're at war... Oh my God, we're at war."


Monday, September 10, 2007

OBL's 2nd tape, and more info on the Germany/Denmark captures...

Capt. Ed posts some more info about a supposed deadline for the terrorists who were captured in Germany and Denmark last week. Jihad Watch investigates that is could have involved up to 50 people.

Capt. Ed also mentions a second video tape by OBL, referencing 9/11 and one of the terrorists from that day. And Jihad Watch says that OBL is most likely in a remote northern area of Pakistan (Chitral).

Given that German surveillance tapped a phone call in late August from Northern Pakistan to the German terrorists who were caught, and that some of those same terrorists were recently trained in Pakistan, it makes sense that that's the location of OBL.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Osama Bin Hidin' sends us a little video greeting...

Yes, it's true... the demise of OBL has been greatly exaggerated. He decided to stick his head out of some cave and deliver us a message from his heart. His black beard is a sign that he's leading a jihad, otherwise it would be forbidden him to dye his beard. The fact that he mentions the new pro-American Prime Minister Sarkozy of France means that the message was recorded since the May French elections. He also is quoted as saying, "several days ago" Japan marked the 62nd anniversary of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings. That places the time frame of the recording of the video to only four weeks ago.

Great updates and analysis from Jeffrey Imm over at Counter Terrorism, John Hinderaker at PowerLine, Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters, Robert Spencer's Sept 7 posts over at Jihad Watch, and Little Green Footballs. You can even read the entire 7-page transcript here (in .pdf format).

I urge everyone to read the transcript, and then read all of the analysis links. They're spot-on. They also point to the utter vapidness of the left-wing's take on the war in Iraq. When OBL practically quotes verbatim all of your key political talking points it's a sure sign that you're on the wrong side of the critical issue of our times.

Now remember... all we have to do is covert to Islam and submit to Shr'ia law, and all will be forgiven. As Capt. Ed puts it:

Isn't that sweet? If we just agree to live as slaves under our new Taliban masters, we can finance our homes at a flat 2.5% fee. Think of how liberating that will be! Well, except for the burqas, the barbers, the end of music, dancing, Judaism, Christianity, voting, the press, the 13th-21st centuries, science...

The Terrorism Timeline...

It's that time again to remind everyone about the extent of the actions and effects of terrorism throughout the world, and especially against the U.S. The following list (which I've posted here twice before) has been updated, but is by no means exhaustive:

Sep 4-5, 2007 --- Eight suspected al-Qaida linked terrorists arrested in Denmark (9/4) and another three arrested in Germany (9/5), foiling plots to attack U.S. and NATO sites in the respective countries.

Jul 21, 2007 --- Report alleges Iraqi smuggling ring works out of Chaparral, NM (can you say, "Secure the borders!"?).

Jul 20, 2007 --- TSA warns of dry-runs at airports. The seizures at airports in San Diego, Milwaukee, Houston and Baltimore included "wires, switches, pipes or tubes, cell phone components and dense clay-like substances, including block cheese."

Jul 5, 2007 --- San Diego airport checked baggage found containing two icepacks covered in duct tape. The icepacks had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.

July 2007 --- Michigan: The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday declared a Dearborn-based charity a front for the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and is an arm of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, a group with offices in Lebanon and elsewhere that the U.S. government said funds the designated terrorist groups Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and aids Palestinian suicide bombers and their families..

July 2007 --- Al-Qaeda threatens to escalate attacks in North Africa

July 2007 --- U.S. Muslim convert gets 10 years for Al-Qaeda training, participation in Somali jihad.

July 2007 --- links between British Jihadist investigations and threats against the USA included July 5 report that 45 doctors had used UK jihadist web site to make plans to attack US facilities such as the shipping facilities for USS John F Kennedy in Jacksonville, Florida, July 6 reports that two of the UK car bomb doctors sought work in Philadelphia, and July 4 report that AQ attacks in USA would follow attacks in UK. On July 6, it was reported by AP and the Philadelphia Inquirer that two of the UK car bomb doctors sought work in the United States in Philadelphia.

Jun 30, 2007 --- Jeep Cherokee driven into the glass doors of the main terminal of Glasgow International Airport, and burst into flames. A suspected car bomb failed to detonate, and the driver of the car, Kafeel Ahmed,[6] on fire after allegedly dousing himself himself in fuel, together with a second suspect Bilal Abdulla, accused of being the Jeep's passenger, attacked the police.

Jun 29, 2007 --- Two unexploded car bombs were discovered in London.

Jun 4, 2007 --- Milwaukee, WI: The carry-on baggage of a USPER contained several items resembling IED components, such as a wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes, and two blocks of cheese.

Jun 3, 2007 --- John F. Kennedy International Airport terror plot. Thwarted homegrown Islamist terrorism plot to destroy the fuel supply system for the airport located in New York City and cause a large amount of causalities by blowing up the connecting pipeline system that runs through densely populated neighborhoods.

May 7, 2007 --- Fort Dix attack plot: Six men inspired by Jihadist videos arrested in the US, in a failed homegrown terrorism plot to kill US soldiers.

Apr 28, 2007 --- Saudi Arabia announced it has arrested one hundred and seventy two people in an Al Queda plot to attack oil facilities, military bases and public figures using civilian aircraft as suicide missiles.

Apr 12, 2007 --- A U.S. federal grand jury indicted Christopher Paul, 43, a U.S. citizen and resident of Columbus, Ohio on charges of joining al-Qaida and conspiring to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. government facilities and military bases overseas.

Nov 21, 2006 --- “Fly Imams” incident in Minneapolis Airport (U.S. Airways).

Nov 20 2006 --- A suspected terrorist bomb explodes on a train in India (West Bengal).

Nov 8, 2006 --- Houston, TX: A USPER’s checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals, and pipes.

Sep 19, 2006 --- Military coup in Thailand by a Muslim General.

Sep 16, 2006 --- Baltimore, MD: The checked baggage of a couple contained a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.

Sept 2006 --- Threats to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI.

Sep 12, 2006 --- Failed U.S. embassy attack in Damascus, Syria.

Aug 10, 2006 --- UK to USA flights (arrests made - foiled plot to involve 10 airplanes over Atlantic Ocean)

Jul/Aug '06 --- Hamas & Hezbullah (kidnapping and bombing of Israel)

Jul 31, 2006 --- Koblenz & Dortmund, Germany (two unexploded suitcase bombs on trains found)

Jul 11, 2006 --- Mumbai (Bombay), India (train bombings)

Jun 3, 2006 --- Toronto, Canada (17 arrested - foiled plot to use 3 tons of explosives in Toronto)

Mar 7, 2006 --- Varanasi, India bombing

Oct 1, 2005 --- Bali bombing (two locales)

Jul 7, 2005 --- London bombing (trains/underground)

Jun 2005 --- Operatives discreetly practiced a mock attack while riding the London subway in late June 2005.

Thru-out '05 --- repeated suicide bombings throughout Israel

Thru-out '05 --- Paris riots

Sep 9, 2004 --- Bali bombing (Australian embassy)

Sep 4, 2004 --- Beslan school hostage (Chechen)

Jun 29, 2004 –-- Northwest Flight#327 from Detroit to L.A. The “13 Syrian Musicians” dry-run (confirmed as a dry-run by declassified Feds report in May 2007).

Mar 11, 2004 --- Madrid bombing (trains)

Aug 5, 2003 --- Jakarta bombing (Marriott Hotel)

Oct 26, 2002 --- Moscow theater (Chechen)

Oct 12, 2002 --- Bali bombing (Kuta)

Thru-out '02 --- Daniel Pearl and others kidnapped and beheaded

Dec 13, 2001 --- New Delhi, India (Parliament bombing)

Oct 29, 2001 --- New Delhi, India (bombing)

Sep/Oct, ‘01 --- Anthrax letters in the U.S. Postal delivery (5 dead, 21 illnesses)

Sep 11, 2001 --- WTC/Pentagon/Western PA

Oct 12, 2000 --- USS Cole attack

Dec 31, 1999 --- The failed attempt at major terror attacks on the Millennium (thanks to a sharp Washington State border patrol officer who stopped one of the terrorists trying to drive across the border, and found explosive materials in the trunk of the car.)

1999 --- Second planned attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Manila (the Pope cancelled trip due to illness)

Aug 7, 1998 --- Nairobi (bombing of US Embassies – Kenya and Tanzania)

Jun 25, 1996 --- Saudi Arabia (Kobar Towers bombing)

Jan 1995 --- Planned assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in Manila (Ramzi Yousef injured himself before the attempt)

In 1995 --- attempted airline bombing plot over Pacific Ocean

In 1994 --- Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing

Oct 3, 1993 --- Mogadishu, Somalia (Black Hawk Down)

Feb 26, 1993 --- NYC (the first WTC bombing)

Dec 21, 1988 --- PanAm 103 (Lockerbie, Scotland)

In 1985 --- TWA flight 847 hijacking (Athens, Greece)

Oct 7, 1985 --- Achille Lauro (cruise ship killing)

Oct 23, 1983 --- Beirut (US Marines barracks bombed)

May 13, 1981 --- Assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II by Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Ağca (hired by Soviets)

1979-80 --- Iranian hostage crisis (444 days)

Sep 5, 1972 --- Munich (Olympics - Israeli hostages killed)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

YES!!!... happy dance-happy dance...

I have successfully avoided jury duty service this week (woo-hoo)!

By just one number - the usually dreaded "group number" - I have avoided even the need to show up at the courthouse. They assigned me to Group 46, and they're only calling in Groups 1-45 for the week.

Now, I'm not against doing my civic duty. It's just that, since I've already served on two separate murder trials - and I'm in my mid-40s (ouch, that stumbled off the tongue a bit hesitantly) - I figure that I've more than fulfilled my lifetime supply of civic dutiness. Unfortunately, "they" don't seem to agree with me on that point. But that doesn't matter, for I am in the clear - at least for the next 12 months.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Links for some Catholic Humor and some Spiritual Common Sense...

Curt Jester has a hilarious post that will only make sense to fellow Catholics.

And First Things has "the secret" to spiritual common sense.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lame attempts at being artistic #2...


Round Two of my fledgling attempts at being artistic with a simple digital point-n-click camera.


These are obvious close-ups of some items just laying around on the coast. They both had some intriguing details.


I came across this little display that was propped up by someone and then just left there. The incoming tide eventually knocked it down.


Cropping is everything. This was the best of only three similar pictures I took that day. I just cropped it with a simple computer program, and "Wah-LAH!"... a perfect poster for framing (yeah, right).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Have you heard the one about...

... the militant environmentalist who drove around with a "What Would Jesus Drive?" bumper sticker on the back of his beat-up VW Beetle?

At a stop light he pulls up behind a huge pickup truck with several tool chests in the flatbed, a lumber rack on top... and a bumper sticker that said:

"Jesus Was A Carpenter"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hsu Hsu Pseudo fund raising...

Well, well, well... whaddaya know. The Democrats have one of their own Abramoff-type scandals. Not that Jack Abramoff was "bribing" only Republicans (he was an equal-opportunity "lender"), but this Norman Hsu is pretty much a straight-ticket Demos -only kinda guy. And Hillary is on the top of the list.

For the last 15 years, California authorities have been trying to figure out what happened to a businessman named Norman Hsu, who pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish.

"He is a fugitive," Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview...

Hsu, it seems, has been hiding in plain sight, at least for the last three years.

Since 2004, one Norman Hsu has been carving out a prominent place of honor among Democratic fundraisers. He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York...

He earned a place in the Clinton campaign's "HillRaiser" group by pledging to raise more than $100,000 for her presidential bid.

Records show that Hsu helped raise an additional $500,000 from other sources for Clinton and other Democrats...

Laura Ingraham, on her radio program this morning, read off the 4+ page list of Who's-Who whom Norman Hsu has "donated" to or "raised" money for. Let's see how much play this gets in the mainstream media.

(Hat-tip to Michele Malkin and Laura Ingraham)

Pic of Steve Carell during Monday's shoot...

Here's a pic of Steve Carell of the TV show "The Office" during the shoot last Monday. The building with the green awnings is where I work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lame attempts at being artistic #1...



So, every once in awhile I'll take my Canon PowerShot A530 point-&-shoot digital camera with me somewhere, and I'll attempt to take some artistic pictures. Some come out okay, while others end up blurry, pedestrian, or even downright lame.


Anyway, from time to time I'll post a few of the better ones. This post being the first. Just click on each pic to see a larger image.

You are certainly not required to comment (unless you feel strongly compelled to do so - either in praise or in derision).


The four pics in this post are of a fountain in downtown Ventura, across the street from the San Buenaventura Mission. Someone dumped a bottle of dish soap in it, and the bubbles were all over the place. But it gave a beautiful glow with the lights. I tried various settings on my camera, and these four came out the best.


This last one is intended to be abstract (at least, that's what I tell myself).

The Office at... well... the office!

Forgot to post about this yesterday.

The NBC hit TV show "The Office" was filming a scene Monday for an up-coming episode... right outside the front door of my place of employment! Location scouts came by a little over a week ago and asked if it was okay to shoot a scene by the building.

Both Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson were here as well as a ton of production crew & equipment. They were here for only about three hours, then they drove off to another location just a few blocks away for shooting a second scene. The cast & crew even had lunch in our secondary foyer. Some of the guys in the office (uh, our office) had the chance to meet some of the cast & crew people. I was too busy working, but I had a great view through the window from my desk as they went through the motions of shooting the scenes.

Pretty cool.

The episode will air on October 4.

All I can tell you is that the scene involves the characters of Michael and Dwight, a car, and a lake.

Monday, August 27, 2007

... of computer problems and Crowded House...

UPDATED to include pictures (below), and one correction.

I started having computer issues last night when my weekly, comprehensive Norton scan got hung up during it's scanning process. I didn't realize it until I went to my computer and noticed that the scan (which normally takes about 50 minutes) was still going for well over two hours, with the file counter going much higher than it should and the file names were nothing but identical little rectangles of pixels. So I force-stopped the scanning process.

The night or so before, I had updated my iTunes program to version 3.2.1.whatever, but after I stopped the file scan I couldn't load iTunes (getting a missing file error). Re-downloaded the entire update, attempted the re-install... same error. Then I tried a System Restore from a point that I thought was before the iTunes update.

Uhh-oh. Took way too long to find (or, rather, not find) a bunch of files, and then finally rebooted to a message that said that it couldn't successfully restore to that point in time. But I did get my computer working again (whew!). I already had most of my files backed up on my flash drive, but I ended up double-checking and adding a few more recent files to the flash stick. There's no way to add the concert videos I took over the past few weeks (files too large), but I still have them on the camera's memory cards. I'll also have to go through all of my old emails to see if there's anything that I want to save (as a precaution). Also need to make a copy of my browser's bookmarks, and my "address book" from my email program.

The main thing, though, is all of my iTunes files. I haven't bought/downloaded anything from the iTunes store, but I have loaded all of my CDs... nearly 3800 songs. The thought of losing all of that importing time and effort is annoying beyond belief. I'm going to try to do another System Restore from an earlier point in time, but I won't attempt that until I finish making copies of whatever extra files I need to save.

Basically, it could mean one of two things: either the iTunes update blew out some of it's necessary files and will leave me without access to it, or my hard drive is soon to die. I've had this computer (an HP Pavilion) since early 2003. The hard drive should last a bit longer than this, but... whaddayah gonna do, right? I don't have the $ to get a new computer, and I'd rather wait until the new year if it's necessary. I might switch to a Mac, but preferably not until after the Leopard (10.5) operating system is out (with Boot Camp), and all of it's spots are in order.

the Crowded House concert on Saturday night was phenomenal! Pete Yorn opened up for them, and he certainly is talented. But he played three songs too many, and the crowd (pun intended) was getting antsy. The Santa Barbara Bowl as a great venue that holds about 4500 people in an outdoor Greek amphitheater-style layout, with a breathtaking view of the hills to the left and the coast on the right. I took a couple pictures of a gorgeous rising moon at twilight just before the band took the stage.

Crowded House played for nearly two hours, playing a great selection of songs from five of their albums, including their hits: Don't Dream It's Over, Something So Strong, World Where You Live, Locked Out, It's Only Natural, and six or seven tunes from their brand-new CD, "Time On Earth". They opened up with a haunting version of Private Universe, and their live rendition of When You Come was great as usual, but maybe just a tad too slow in tempo.

These guys are consummate musicians, and Neil Finn is another of those great troubadours and tunesmiths. They may take their craft seriously, but they certainly don't take themselves seriously - always having fun and joking around, and definitely getting the audience into it from the get-go. This was my fourth time seeing these guys, and they've never disappointed.

Peter Frampton in late-October may be the next concert destination.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"It's just a FANASTY (whoa-oh-oh-oh)... it's not the real thing..."

This has not been a good week (relatively speaking, of course). From dealing with billing issues with a major shipping company (I won't use any names, but their favorite color is brown), who suddenly decided three weeks ago to start "dimensionally weighting" their own boxes on my employer's invoices. What this means is that if a box's dimensions are larger than a certain size then the minimum weight of box will be set to a predetermined value. Makes sense when you're using over-sized plain brown boxes since it takes up so much space. But when you're using the shipper's own boxes, with their company logo plastered all over it, it could be a problem.

For instance, most of what we ship weighs less than three pounds. The shipping company supplies us with "free" boxes for 2-Day and Next Day shipping. But the dimensions of these boxes are such that the three smallest boxes have automatic minimum "weights" of 2, 3, and 4 pounds, respectively. Which causes a problem if you've already billed a customer a set dollar amount for shipping, and then a week later you get your shipping bill with extra "weight" charges. Which means that you end up essentially paying for advertising the shipper's company by using these "free" boxes.

ALL of the major shipping companies do this to some degree or other. Sometimes (like this time) they just decide to do it without telling you, hoping that you won't audit your bill and catch what they're doing.

In other words............. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Then I had problems with my satellite dish losing its signal, and tussling with the darned thing for almost an hour before finally getting the signal back. How'd I lose the signal to begin with, you might ask? Apartment complexes don't allow you to "permanently" attach the dish to the building. Now, even though I can count at least a half dozen satellite dishes that are permanently attached to other apartments, even as I look out the window as I type this very post... I, being the nice guy that I am, followed the rules, and have my dish by my front door, on a pole, against the railing, held in place by plastic zip ties.

Problem is, any robust gust of window will sometimes shift it just slightly enough to lose the signal. What else causes it to lose the signal? Why, the neighbors downstairs who have a tendency to slam their Fort Knox-like screen door every 20 minutes, thereby shaking the building like a nice 5.8 earthquake. This pleasant sound is rivaled only by the periodic wailing of one of their children, a colicky little 3-year-old who seems to cry on cue..... oh, every 10 minutes or so. Uh-oh, their she goes right now! See??? *sigh*

Add to this the fact that they seem to like cooking their meals at around 10:30 at night... outside... on the barbecue... exotic, ethnic fragrances wafting its way up to and through my bedroom window, which happens to be only a few yards from whatever may be brewing below.

I'd be more than happy to (in a nice, calm, respectful tone and composure) mention these issues with the nice young couple below me. But it wouldn't do me any good, seeing as they can barely speak a word of English. *sigh - again*

Next? Well, for the last couple days everyone in the office was rushing to get things ready for this major in-house event on Sunday - an all-day seminar to demonstrate our software products to high-level clientèle. I'm designing a 24"x36" poster for this event. I finish it, proof it at least a half a dozen times (I'm the guy who checks our ads and emails for typos and such), and then dash off to Kinko's.

Today, I pick up the poster, along with 20 letter-sized color glossies. I get back to the office. I show it to our sales manager. And...

... wait for it...

The phrase "Keyboard Fantasies" is spelled... "Keyboard Fanasties". (D'OH!) And, like that, $86 worth of printing just got 86'ed in a matter of 10 seconds flat. So, I go back to the computer to fix the typo, burn the file to disk, and fly off to Kinko's for "Poster Printing - Take 2".

It just has not been my week. I don't know about you, but I'm getting a pizza for dinner. Maybe I'll save a slice for just before bedtime, and I'll ask my neighbors if they wouldn't mind plopping on top of it some of whatever it is they're sure to be cooking tonight.

Tomorrow night? Relaxing to some great music at the Crowded House concert. That'll get me in a better mood.

P.S. Don't be surprised if their are any typos in this post. I'm sure there are.

And I don't care.

'Til next time...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to Ray Bradbury (87)

Yes, it's Ray Bradbury's 87th birthday today. One of my all-time favorite writers. Back when I was 12 or so my brother, Ray (yes, I have a brother named Ray), gave me his worn paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles. I was immediately rocketed into space by this master of the metaphor. I've read that book countless times, and have since devoured many of his other tomes, including his period-piece detective/suspense thriller, "Death Is A Lonely Business" (another favorite of mine).

I'd highly recommend any (if not all) of the following classic titles:

The Novels:
The Martian Chronicles

Fahrenheit 451

Death Is a Lonely Business

The Short Story Collections:
The Illustrated Man

Bradbury Classic Stories 1 (which includes R is for Rocket and Golden Apples of the Sun)

Bradbury Classic Stories 2 (which includes S is for Space and Medicine For Melancholy)

The Toynbee Convector

On the Process of Writing:

Zen In The Art Of Writing

The Sam Weller Biography:
The Ray Bradbury Chronicles

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RAY... from one "crazy" to another!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ArtWalk Summer 2007...

It was that time again. Last Saturday was the second of three ArtWalk events regularly scheduled throughout the year in downtown Ventura. Various shops, restaurants, businesses, galleries and studios open up their doors to the general public to display the latest works by local artists. I spent the better part of three hours that evening walking around with my cup of decaf and checking out some of my choice locations for viewing some great paintings and sculptures.

This time around, though, I didn't come across too much that was new and different. One woman was displaying her watercolors at the StoneWorks Studio's garden. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up her business card or to jot down her name, but her paintings were vibrant and detailed. The next time I come across her work I'll make sure to write it down and post it here.

Otherwise, I ended up just enjoying the latest works by some of my favorite local artists. So, I just recommend you click on each of the links below for you to peruse. Enjoy!

Norman Kirk

Christine Beirne

Gerardo Segismundo

Ira Meyer

Ricky Maldonado

Linda F. Peterson

David Rivas

David Blackburn


Lee Hodges

Dan Holmes

Friday, August 17, 2007

Personality Types...

Julie over at Happy Catholic posted her results of this comprehensive personality test.

I remember this test from way back in my college days. It was used as a career test to help you determine what type of jobs/careers would best fit your type. There were two books at the central library in Philly - one for taking the test to determine your code, and the other that listed potential jobs/careers linked with all the possible combination of codes (e.g., ENTJ, ISFP, etc.).

I also remember taking the test at the time, and ended up with a four-letter code that had .................................... ready for this, now ? .............................. NO jobs/careers connected to it! I think it was the only four-letter combo (INFJ) that came up zippo.

Boy, did I feel screwed.

They've since "adjusted" the second book to list careers. The website goes into further detail. Pretty interesting, though. I didn't need to take the test on-line. Oh, I remember my past results vividly.

What were my results? I'm an "INFJ - The Confidant":

"INFJs, making up an estimated 1% of all people, are the most rare type (males even more so). They are introspective, caring, sensitive, gentle and complex people that strive for peace and derive satisfaction from helping others. INFJs are highly intuitive, empathetic and dedicated listeners. These traits tend to act as a "tell me what's wrong" sign on their forehead, hence the nicknames Confidant, Counselor or Empath. INFJs are intensely private and deeply committed to their beliefs."

This link reveals some very interesting things about this type... it's almost dead-on. Here's a link to get to this second website's detailed profile for all 16 types.

WARNING: Ignore the bogus "ennegram" nonsense in that last link. Only the Myers-Briggs stuff is legit.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Time to take a shower again... a meteor shower...

Yes! That's right. This weekend is the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Best viewing of this annual wonder will be late Sunday night into early Monday morning when the peak period will offer an average of one per minute. Just look up into the Northeast and catch a glimpse of a few falling stars. This year, Mars will also be in the general vicinity - just look Northeast for a bright reddish dot.

Those of you in or near cities might have a more difficult time due to the light pollution. But there is no moon to diminish the viewing ability this year. So, find a nice isolated area (with a clear sky, of course), and catch a few. Go on... take a look! Make a wish! And say a prayer!

The Bangles and The Motels...

Four concert performances in six days! *whew*

So, Thursday night I went back to the Ventura County Fair to check out The Motels with Martha Davis, who opened up for The Bangles.

The Motels only played for about 30 minutes or so, and Martha Davis sounded pretty good, but she has lost a little of her vocal touch. They really didn't get the crowded into it much - which was kind of surprising given that the performance strong. They did do their three big hits: Suddenly Last Summer, Only The Lonely and Take the L (Out of Lover) - all of which were very well done.

After a 20 minute break, on came The Bangles with three of the original four members: the Peterson sisters and Suzanna Hoffs, plus a new female bass player and a guy playing keys. I must say that, for being a 48-year old mother of two, Suzanna Hoffs still looks HOT!

The band played for 90 minutes, and did all of their major hits: Manic Monday, If She Knew What She Wants, In Your Room, their version of Simon & Garfunkel's Hazy Shade Of Winter, Walk Like An Egyptian, and an encore of Eternal Flame (as the evening fireworks started to go off).

These girls were known for their pop/"jangle rock" sound with great vocal harmonies, and last night they proved that they still have the chops both vocally and musically. They certainly had the ladies in the crowd goin' all night. I'm sure the guys in the audience were pleased as well, though possibly more so visually than aurally... I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. There was this one guy standing beside me who kept yelling at the band, "You're hot!" He was a drunken idiot, but I had to agree with him. ..

So... four performances in six days for a grand total of.... drumroll please........ $41. Not bad... not bad at all, if I do say so myself.

BANGLES TRIVIA: Suzanna Hoffs played the part of one of the band members of Ming Tea (Gillian Shagwell) in the Austin Powers flicks. She is also married to the director of those movies, Jay Roach.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ENVOY Magazine has returned!

Yesterday I came home from work to check my mailbox, and what to my wondering eyes hath appeared... but a brand-new issue of ENVOY Magazine! Patrick Madrid's periodical on Catholic apologetics was a witty yet informative fledgling mag that went dormant for a long period of time. But now it's back, and better than ever. You can either order a 1-year subscription to the mag, or you can order it via the electronic edition for less than half the cost.

And while you're at it, you should also join the ACS and get a year's subscription to Gilbert Magazine (to get your regular fill of all things Chesterton).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Al Stewart with Peter White - in concert

As you all know, I finally started taking guitar lessons back in June (slow going, but I'm getting there). Anyway, I was surfing the web looking for guitar tabs to an obscure Al Stewart tune with a great little guitar lick ("House of Clocks"). I went to his website and he had the info right there, so I printed it out and later that night tried (very poorly, I might add) to play the beginning riff on my semi-hollow electric guitar. Well, anyway… while I was on his website, I decided to click on his "Concerts" button just to see if he happened to be touring. Needless to say, I was shocked to see that he was performing near Woodland Hills on Sunday night (just two days later!!!).

So, I took a drive down yesterday evening to see if they had tickets available, and I lucked out with this incredible opportunity to see Al Stewart teamed up with his long-time recording/writing/playing partner Peter White. The two of them hadn't played together on stage in 14 years, and this was the only chance to see them together as Peter was currently on tour to promote his solo material.

It was an intimate outdoor setting at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon – a small, Greek-style amphitheatre with only about 400 people in attendance. It was just the two of them playing acoustic guitars while another guy played percussion, harmonica and flute. An incredible, and at times hilarious, 2+ hours of great music and storytelling.

I was stunned to hear him opening the show with none other than "House of Clocks," and I fumbled with my camera to record the performance (the venue was very cool about allowing people to take pix and stuff… the only rules were no eating and no smoking).

He ended up playing not only his known hits – "Year of the Cat" (with a flute solo in place of the sax), "Time Passages", "Carol", "On The Border" – but also some more obscure tunes such as "Katherine of Oregon", "Antarctica", "Merlin's Time", "Paint By Numbers", and "Coldest Winter in Memory". There were a few times when Al would stop playing in the middle of a song because he'd forgotten what to sing next (hah!). With "Paint by Numbers" he stopped at the beginning of the second verse and said, "Uh, does anybody know what comes next?"

A guy in the audience yells out, "She painted me in a corner!" To which Al just stares, dumbfounded and retorts, "That's exactly right!... How do you people know these things?" And with that he picked up right where he left off and finished the song.

Another comical moment was when he suddenly stopped in the middle of "Year of the Cat" and burst out laughing, "This is GREAT! I lose my place on 'Year of the Cat'… of all songs! I'm just watching Peter playing and then I forget what I'm supposed to be doing next."

A little anecdote regarding "On The Border" – Peter had just joined Al's band when he was only 20 years old. Al only knew him as a fantastic piano player, and he said one time that he needed a Spanish guitar player for this new tune of his. Peter said that he could play Spanish guitar, but that he didn't have a guitar to play it on. So Al gave him his own guitar to use – a "cheap piece of crap" that cost only 26 British pounds at the time. And that's the guitar Peter used on the recording!

They played two sets with a 15-minute break in between, plus a 4-song encore. In the middle of both sets they had two brief sit-down Q&A sessions with Al's biographer (the book's available on, as well as re-issues on CD of many of his old albums). Note: They were recording/video taping the event last night, so I'll keep my eyes open for when it becomes available.

After the show I had the chance to meet both of them and to get their autographs on the concert ticket as well as on another Al Stewart DVD which they had on sale at the venue.


Al is one of the great "Troubadours & Tunesmiths" of the last 40 years - an incredible storyteller with his songs. It was such a pleasure to see him in concert with Peter White in such a unique and intimate setting, and to meet them both in person and get their autographs (and I'm not an autograph hound).