Thursday, November 15, 2007

Until Further Notice

I'm taking a hiatus from this blog (as if you hadn't figured that out already). I need to re-evaluate what I use this space for. I suppose sticking with random stuff that's going on with me is fine, but maybe it's just because I don't find much of what's going on with me that interesting to anyone else that I'm wanting to rethink this.

Who knows, maybe this entry will shake something loose and I'll get back into it. In any case, I'm going to continue to update the flying blog, I've posted 3 or 4 flights since opening it. So, if you find flying stories interesting, check it out.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Have a Little Faith in People

I just watched Manhattan again on TCM. What a great film. The things that always get me about it are the cinematography and music. In so many films NY is the backdrop for a plot. In this one it is actually the star and the story is the backdrop. In fact the story is really nothing remarkable in that it's about angst, vanity and lust. Naturally, it's a cut above similar stories because Woody wrote it.

I mean I love the scene where Woody's character Isaac is at a party arguing with a bunch of psuedo-intellectuals that physical violence surpasses "biting satire" when it comes to dealing with Nazis. After all, "...physical force is always better with Nazis. Cos it's hard to satirize a guy with shiny boots." Or when his best friend accuses him of thinking he's God. "I gotta' model myself after someone."

But no matter what's being said on screen your eye is usually drawn away from the actors and on to the City. And if you've been to the City and fell in love with it, it makes you a little homesick.

And if I was a brilliant filmmaker, this is exactly how I would've put it . . .

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Blog

No, I'm not getting rid of this one. I'm starting another one. I know, I know. I hardly update this one. How could I possibly keep up with two? Well, the 2nd will be driven, not by personal whims, but whether I've flown or not.

I've decided to start journaling all my flights so I created Eight Delta Fox. It is primarily for my own benefit. I want to be able to learn from past flights, relive the really amazing ones and, if you're interested, maybe give a friend or two a glimpse into that part of my world.

I'll warn you ahead of time, though. I'm not really writing with the non-pilot audience in mind. Some of the terminology I use may seem a tad esoteric. That said, I'll be more than happy to explain anything you might be curious about. The FAA can talk to my lawyer.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

RIP Sammy -- Long Live Lemmy

Of late, the 5pm Car Tunes segment on our local rock station, Xtra 99.1 has become one of the high points of my day. They almost always play some kick butt rock and roll like classic Ozzy, Boston and even Pantera. Yesterday the DJ announced he'd be coming back from a commercial break with some Sammy Hagar. I'd had a tough day and the prospect of hearing One Way to Rock or I Can't Drive 55 was enough to keep me hanging on through the commercials.

Instead they played some "new" Sammy Hagar song. The opening was so awful I was sure the DJ had screwed up and was playing Winger or something. But when the vocals kicked in, it was obvious this was Sammy. Or at least his shell. With some crappy rock ballad riff going on in the background Sammy crooned about opening your heart and letting your guide whisper in your ear. This was not Sammy Hagar. This was Celine Hagar. This was Jack Nicholson after the lobotomy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It was like being promised a shot of Jack Daniels and being served a Zima instead. I wanted to cry.

So today as I drove home I tuned in to Xtra again. Once again my confidence in their rock prowess was shaken when they actually did lead off Car Tunes with Winger. As I glumly watched the road contemplating the death of rock I blanked the song out. How could this have happened? My favorite station and one of my favorite rockers had been neutered. What was next? Hillary winning the election?

Just when I thought all hope was lost I was snapped out of my melancholy by the staccato bass riff of The Ace of Spades. My hand instinctively grabbed the volume control and spun it to the right. My sorrow was instantly turned to rapture. My faith in the DJs at 99.1 instantly restored. Lemmy descended like a vengeful angel of the airwaves wielding the mighty sword of RAWK!

It was the same feeling of exhilaration I felt in that final battle scene in Saving Private Ryan where the mortally wounded Tom Hanks is vainly firing his pistol at the approaching German Panzer. All around him his comrades are being cut to ribbons. Matt Damon is curled in a ball in the corner, wailing like a little girl. Then, just when you think it's curtains for everyone, the tank explodes and a P-51 comes blasting through the smoke and destruction. Lemmy was my P-51.

Long Live Lemmy!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Project Reinstatement: Pt. 1

A few of you may know that at one point in my life I was a flight instructor. I have since allowed my instructor ratings to expire. It was a stupid thing to do, really, considering how simple it is to stay current. But, I got caught up in the life of a "real job" and let them lapse. I've decided now is the time to remedy that situation, but in order to do so I will have to be "reinstated".

Reinstatement is the term that the FAA uses for re-certifying instructors who have let their ratings expire. Basically, it requires that I take a check ride and undergo an oral exam. It's not as simple as it sounds. Besides having to refamilarize myself with teaching flight maneuvers from the right seat of a small plane, I will need to brush up on my knowledge of the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations)governing flight instruction. Needless to say they have changed some since I made the last instructor entry in my logbook over 10 years ago. Getting reacquainted with the current set of rules will take some time.

Some of you may be wondering, "Why? And in particular, why now?" There are a number of reasons, but the main one would simply be taking care of a gift I've been given. I have the great fortune to work with some of the most talented graphic designers in any industry, let alone the one I'm employed in. One of the things that always impresses me about them is how they continually nurture their gift. It doesn't matter what job they have, they are passionate about design. The thought of letting that talent go to waste would probably be tantamount to sin in their eyes. And they'd probably be right. Ever read Christ's parable of the talents? I believe I've been given an affinity for flying airplanes, as well as instructing others how to. Only I've committed the sin of neglect. That would be the "why".

The "why now" has a little to do with nearing 40 and taking stock in my life. The bigger reason is that for the last several years I've had this gnawing conviction that I was wasting this talent, but I've done nothing about it. The catalyst for finally responding to it came as a result of recently having two CFIs (Certified Flight Instructors), both of whom I admire, tell me in separate instances that I should consider being an instructor. I had said nothing to either about what was going on in my mind about this, and they had both apparently forgotten that I had been one. I know I'd told them both before. In any case, it felt like I was getting a little nudge that the time was right to do this.

So, last week I called one of the aforementioned CFIs and told him I was serious about making this happen. He told me to go pick up a current copy of the CFI PTS (Practical Test Standards) handbook. I've just returned from the Flightstar pilot shop with that and a copy of the CFI oral exam guide. Step one is complete. Now the real work begins.

If I can maintain momentum, I should be reinstated in a month or so. Any of you who read this can feel free to check up now and again and ask me how it's going. I could use a little accountability to keep me on track.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


One of the things I wanted to do while Laurie and I were out here was give her a taste of California from the back of a Harley. You can ride along a stretch of road in a car, and no matter how beautiful the view out the window, it will always be more memorable on the back of a motorcycle. The main reason being all your senses are engaged. Not only do you see the avocado orchard gracing the mountainside, you feel the coolness of the shadows in the valley you're riding through below it and smell the scent of the cedars along the roadside. Talk about an imprint.

We rented a Road King for the day from Gary Bang Harley Davidson in Atascadero. After filling out all the necessary "understand-you're-screwed-if-you-wreck-it" paperwork they gave us a couple of helmets and the keys and waved goodbye. Since there was no limit on mileage we rode all day on just about every road I could remember riding in my, eh, younger days. Every road I could remember (and cover in a day) came out to exactly 239.9 miles worth. The temperature ranged from 58 on the coast to a blistering 90+ inland. Sometimes it felt like we were riding behind a giant hair dryer.

The picture with this post was taken on Santa Rosa Creek Road near the crest of the coastal range above Cambria, CA. The road winds its way down the slope in a series of hairpin switchbacks. The road itself is half as wide as my driveway in parts. But the relative danger and crummy road condition is well worth the effort as this picture will attest.

When we got back to the room, we freshened up a little and hit the San Luis Obispo farmers market. It's every Thursday and is three solid blocks of fresh produce, mouthwatering barbecue and an odd assortment of other vendors (i.e. snow cones, Libertarians and vegan societies). No trip down memory lane would be complete without it.

Tomorrow morning I take the motorcycle back and we spend our last day on the central coast. I'll probably spend most of it in downtown San Luis reading, loafing and, maybe, indulging in a cigar. Saturday we head back down to L.A. and come home Monday. It'll be tough to leave this lifestyle behind, but we're ready. See you Tuesday.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Central Coast High

We've arrived. Aside from battling rush hour on a Friday in L.A., the trip out here was a piece of cake. For those who don't know, Laurie and I are spending a week on the central coast of California. I wanted Laurie to see the California I remember, because it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the sprawl of southern California which, unfortunately, is the only California she's ever seen.

On the way up to our accommodations in Los Osos, we stopped for a bite at Pea Soup Anderson's in Buellton. All the split pea soup we could eat, plus a bottomless bread basket, for $9. Incidentally, Buellton, and the area around it, served as the backdrop for the movie Sideways. In fact, The Coach House where Miles (Paul Giamati) and Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) shared many a meal is right up the road from Anderson's.

And what would a trip to California with my girl be without a little text message ribbing from the guys back home. Somewhere around Santa Barbara McKee texts me that they're at a demolition derby. I reply that that's great, I'm looking at the Pacific. And without going into a whole lot of detail it devolved into text taunting. Only, I was driving, so I had to dictate all my retorts to Laurie who keyed them in and sent them. It was all very surreal.

For those interested in what our digs look like, go to and take the tour. Our room is the Appalachin. It's got a kind of Jed-Clampett-meets-80's California-chic thing going for it. Also, I'm sure Laurie will be posting pics eventually. She snapped quite a few on the drive up.

More later. Right now I'm going to take a stroll along the bay before bed. Just taking it easy for all you sinners out there.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Four to Go

In four days Laurie and I will be heading out to California for 10 days. I want to show her around the old stomping grounds. We'll be staying at a bed and breakfast in Los Osos which is situated on the central coast, near San Luis Obispo, about 120 miles north of Santa Barbara.

The goal is to just relax and see the sights, but already I'm starting to feel the pressure of doing things while we're out there. Accepting the fact we're not going to have time to will be essential to enjoying this trip. One of the things I'm most definitely going to do is rent a motorcycle and cruise up Highway 1. Dad and I used to ride 1 all the time when the family was out there. I'm glad I got to do that as a young(er) man, but I just wish Laurie could've experienced it with me. Of course if she had, at six years my junior, she would've only been 14 or so. I guess now would be better.

But before we can begin this walk down memory lane, I have four days to work ahead on projects coming due in my absence. Can't say I look forward to it. But if I can get it done, it will make the subsequent respite that much sweeter.

Finally, congratulations to Katie and Mike on the birth of their daughter. I know they will make stellar parents. Haley is one blessed little girl. You can probably find pictures of her here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sod On

About 20 minutes ago two flatbed semis loaded with sod showed up on Dropseed. They are busily offloading it with forklifts right now. I hope the neighbors aren't too peeved as one of the trucks has pretty much blocked the street. One driver said the "installers" will be here in about 45 minutes.

Laurie's blog will have pictures of the whole operation later today.

Monday, July 09, 2007

LD in the House

We’ve actually been in the new digs since June 26. Laurie, who has this month off, has been going gangbusters getting everything unpacked and transforming this place from a storage unit into a home. I can’t thank her enough. It’s actually been kind of cool to come home from work and see another room take shape.

Today I came home to find a new desk in the office. I had to trash my old one because its particle board anatomy couldn’t survive my clumsy attempts to disassemble it when we were moving out of the condo. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been using the dining room table. Not an ideal situation for either Laurie or I. I’d been planning to go out desk shopping but lo and behold I came home today and this sleek, aluminum framed, glass-paneled number was sitting in my corner of the office. Thanks babe.

There’s probably more I could touch on, but I’m short on time. Company will be here any minute. Now that we’re back online, though, and I have a sweet new office, I’m guessing I’ll be more inclined to sit down and write. So, for all you readers (or maybe just you)—more later.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hey Trent, Bite Me.

“Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”
Trent Lott

What is talk radio? Free speech. Yeah it may be dominated by one side commercially and another publicly, but it's still one channel for the free exchange of info and ideas. If it's a problem for you Trent, here's how you can deal with it. Stop pushing stupid legislation and we'll stop talking about it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Now We're Really Homeless

A while back I mentioned we'd sold the condo. Well, we closed on it Wednesday, but are still about two weeks or so out from moving in to the new place. Thus, we are now tenants at Casa Ma and Pa Stephens. They are rarely if ever home so we've had the run of the place for the last week. They also have cable, which Laurie and I did not have the entire time we lived in the condo, so I've been drinking deeply at the well of TCM and the Military Channel. Laurie's been feasting on HGTV which, in my book, qualifies as harmful television. When I watch the Military Channel I know I'll never be able to afford an F-18. HGTV, on the other hand, makes everything they do look entirely too possible. Do they make a V-chip for potentially costly TV programs? You know, nothing that blocks it entirely, but only when the cost for the work being shown gets above a certain dollar amount.

This weekend we're up at Laurie's folks for the baptism of our infant niece, Isabella (aka Ella). I only bring this up because everytime I stay here I have strange dreams. I don't know if it's the bed we sleep on or what, but they're always interesting. Last night, I dreamt that I was tapped for a role in an upcoming feature film because on my experience in community theater. I was invited to a first day rehearsal breakfast where I was to meet my costars. When I walk into the restaraunt I am introduced to Danny Devito and Clint Eastwood. I remember thinking to myself in the dream, "What kind of movie is this going to be? A comedy or another boxing drama?" I was also very concerned about who I approached first for fear of offending the other. I remember coming to the conclusion that the safe bet was to approach Eastwood first. For some reason in the dream I had a memory of sharing cigars and drinks with Devito and I reminded him of this. Then they handed out scripts and that's all I remember. I didn't even get to see what the movie was going to be about.

By the way, since we are homeless, about the only times I'll be able to check my home e-mail or post is when we have access to someone else's internet service. Mom and dad have glacially slow dial up and The Fist is preventing me from getting to my e-mail account at work. So, if you happen to reply to a post or try to reach me via e-mail and I don't respond right away, you'll know why.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Machinist

A while back Train Guy lent me a copy of The Machinist starring Christian Bale. I finally got around to watching it last night. I'd had this title in my hands many times at Family Video but would always end up renting something else. I think it was providential that it took this long, because the movie probably wouldn't have had the effect on me that it did if I hadn't read Crime and Punishment first.

Many reviews I've read about The Machinist make comparisons to Hitchcock, and rightly so. It's clear to me, though, that the writer and director had Dostoevsky in mind if only for the many intentional shots of the protagonist's reading material--Dostoevsky's "The Idiot". I own the book, but have yet to read it and am anxious to see what relevance it had to the plot. There are many elements of Crime and Punishment as well, namely the protagonist's isolation and mental anguish which Bale portrays brilliantly.

Without divulging too much, Bale plays Trevor Reznik; a Machinist who hasn't slept in a year. Discovering why is pretty much the point of the movie. I've never considered Bale a method actor but he disfigured his body horribly for this role. He is quite literally nothing but skin and bones. His appearance is so emaciated that at times I had to wonder if any of it was CGI. It just seemed impossible that he was actually that skinny and able to function. I think he's a good enough actor (probably the greatest of his generation) that he could have portrayed Reznik's spiritual condition without going to those lengths, but once the movie is over it makes total sense why he did.

I suppose I'm being pretty vague about the plot, but you really need to go into this one without too many preconceived notions. Do yourself a HUGE favor and check it out.

Vanity, Vanity . . .

I've been reticent to blog lately mainly because I've succombed to a slight case of melancholy that renders every endeavor not tied to survival somewhat pointless. That's probably putting it a little more darkly than my actual mental/emotional state, but it's close.

I won't go into detail as to why. That kind of discourse I save for God and my wife. Besides the world needs another pissing and moaning blog post like it needs another Amadinejad. Yes, I see the irony of pissing and moaning about pissing and moaning.

Speaking of irony, I have gotten a snicker or two listening to all the people damning Jerry Falwell to hell for damning people to hell. "Yeah, but Larry he was preaching hatred." Maybe so. I never listened to him much. Wasn't a fan. But hate is hate whether its fueled by errant religious doctrine or secular indignation and I hear just as much hate from Jerry's detractors as he is alleged to have spewed.

Adding to the irony is the fact that Fred Phelps, whom Falwell was often lumped in with, has also damned him to hell. For a real laugh check out Phelps' statement on Personally, I think Phelps is a fake who doesn't believe a word of what he's saying for a second. He's more like a religious Morton Downey Jr. or quite possibly an unbeliever simply out to tarnish the image of all believers. But I digress.

Hey, on a sunnier note, the house is going great. Laurie's got the scoop. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On the Home Stretch

For a quick update on the house project visit Laurie's blog. As you will see, we're probably just a month and half from being move-in ready. We've actually hit it off with our next door neighbors already. We've (or I've) passed that critical "You want a beer?" phase. They're a great couple with two adorable kids that look to be a lot of fun to live next to.

More later. Hopefully not a month later, but later.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

We're Homeless

Just sold the condo 20 minutes ago for $500 under asking. It's a good day.

That is all.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chicago Comes to Champaign

Laurie and I gave the new Rosati's on campus a whirl. Not bad. Not bad at all. I'd put it above most anything in the area except Filipo's. We got one mushroom/pepperoni and one S.O.B.--a sausage-onion-bacon house specialty slathered in BBQ sauce and loaded with cheese. We opted for thin crust for both. Very tasty.

Not since we had a Giordano's down here has there been something this good in Chambana. If you crave Chicago-style, check it out. Oh, and Thai lovers--there's a Basil Thai next door. I think I'll have to try that out for lunch some time this week. Anyone interested? All you single guys should be. The quad flowers are blooming.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Good men.

I saw The Lives of Others (Leber der Anderen, Das) at The Art last night. Next to The Last King of Scotland, this is the best film I've seen in the last 12 months. The story is almost an opera of sorts that takes place against the backdrop of communist East Germany in the late 70's. And by opera I don't mean melodramatic, but that it speaks to and about the deepest human longings.

It's about an East German Stasi officer who is thoroughly committed to protecting the Party ideals. His commitment has left him almost entirely devoid of any humanity and, more significantly, very much alone. He is assigned the job of spying on a famous playwright by a Party bigwig who has designs on the playwright's girlfriend. His mission? "Find something." Anything that the Party official can use to denounce the author and get him out of the way. The author is respected throughout the DDR by the highest Party officials, and is recognized by everyone as a good man. A simple denunciation will not do. The bigwig would need something concrete to take this guy down, hence the 24 hour surveillance.

That's all I'll tell you about the movie, which is not much more than you'll find in an IMDB synopsis. My wish is that you all get to see the story unfold as I did, with few preconceptions. And if you can, see it at The Art or any local theater in your town that supports great cinema, but see it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Claim to Fame

Driven by boredom and/or a pathetic need for validation I decided to see which celebrities in IMDB shared my birthday. Oldest to youngest, here are the ones I thought were interesting:

Charles Baudelaire--French poet and consummate sour puss.

Efrem Zimbalist Sr.--Daddy to Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Airport 75, Wait Until Dark, Hotel, The FBI) and grandad to Stephanie Zimbalist (Remington Steele).

Ward Bond--One of my favorite character actors and authentic badass (Rio Bravo, The Searchers, The Quiet Man, Hondo). A contemporary of The Duke.

King Faisal I of Saudi Arabia

Hugh Hefner

Cheeta--Chimp from 1930's Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Marty Krofft--Produced Land of the Lost, HR Pufnstuff, Bugaloos, Donnie and Marie and more.

Hal Ketchum--Country music artist/troubadour.

Dennis Quaid--Not as cool as his brother Randy, but cool.

Joe Scarborough--Former Florida congressman, now news show host.

Lisa Guerrero--Tuff sidelines correspondent of Monday Night Football fame.

Mark "Where's the Money" Pellegrino--Prolific character actor who's appeared in numerous movies (Spartan, Capote, Big Lebowski) and TV shows (The Unit, NYPD Blue, CSI, Dexter). You'll recognize him when you see him.

Paulina Porizkova--Aside from being the 80's hottest supermodel, she's the reason Rick Ocaseck knows there is a God.

Cynthia Nixon--Miranda from Sex and the City.

Jay Chandrasekhar--Member of the Broken Lizard comedy team (Super Troopers, Beerfest).

Jenna Jameson--I have no idea who this is. Honest honey.

Keshia Knigt Pulliam--Of course, Rudy Huxtable's all growns up now.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What Would a Free Man Do?

I finally caught up with the rest of the world and saw 300 last night. It was far better and more poignant than I expected. More on that later. I prepped myself by reading a review or two and watching the 1962 adaptation of the story, The 300 Spartans. The 1962 version was probably closer to historical accounts, from what little knowledge I have of the Battle of Thermopalye, but it was far less engaging than 300. Oddly enough, I think 300 actually did a better job of communicating the historical significance of that battle.

If Xerxes had not been slowed by the Spartans at Thermopalye we would be living in a very different world today. It is quite conceivable that democracy would have died right there on the island of Greece. Needless to say, I'm anxious to learn more about it, which means buying more books I will probably never read. At least not for another year or two.

On a more personal level, I found 300 to be a wake up call of sorts. I know what some of you are thinking, "Great. Here comes the political crap." No, I will spare you my views on this part. Frankly, I think 300 is more of a Rorschach test than any specific political statement. You'll see what you want to see in regards to that. What I'm referring to is my personal life.

For one, the Spartan ethic, as portrayed in the movie, of being willing to endure pain to gain something far greater was particularly challenging to me and my waistline. Hence, this morning I've reinstituted the 15 min workout. If I could just have Leonidas as my trainer, I'd be ripped before long. Or, killed. In either case, I wouldn't be whining about being out of shape any more.

The other thing that really stuck with me was the scene in which the horribly deformed Ephialtes comes before Xerxes seeking significance by giving up his countrymen. It's what Xerxes says to him that really got to me, "Cruel Leonidas demanded that you stand. I require only that you kneel." This was particualary challenging to me in my spiritual life. So many times I've knelt to temptations and self-destructive behavior that would have been easily defeated if I had only stood up to them a little bit longer. It might have hurt for a while, denying the self is always painful, but it wouldn't have killed me. The thing I so often forget is that as a Christian, the battle has already been won for me. I just need to claim the victory and stand.

Enough church. I'll be honest, I don't know how many of you read regularly, but I try to treat this blog as a conversation in public. I try not to talk about or say anything that I wouldn't say to people I think are reading unless I thought they really wanted to hear it. For the most part it remains a way for me to just keep in touch with friends and let you all know what's going on with me. Not that I won't ever touch on religion or politics, but I'll try to keep both to a modest amount. Maybe I'll start another blog devoted solely to those topics.

Time for work.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Domo Arigato If I Got To

I harbored ambitions of flying somewhere today, but laziness and sketchy weather forecasts have kept me grounded. Still, it's kind of nice to veg. I'm currently listening to the late Brad Delp singing about peace of mind, while drinking Coors Light and wearing house slippers. It's all very comforting. Speaking of rock nirvana, I experienced a little last Wednesday night with my brother and Tolemite. We went and saw Clutch at the Metro in Chicago. This was Luke's first live Clutch experience and I was as excited about that as I was about seeing the band itself. The openers were Five Horse Johnson and Dub Trio.

Five Horse is a straight ahead blues-rock quintet that has clearly been influenced by R.L. Burnside. Their riffs carry more than a little of the heavy electric delta blues sound of which Burnside was the master. The lead singer played a harmonica and reminded me alot of Donal Logue (Tao of Steve) if he was a homeless guy. Alot of head bobbing went on during their numbers.

Dub Trio is, surprise, a trio from Brooklyn that blends punk/metal fury, reggae rhythyms and lots of echo effects in an instrumental mish mash that is fairly mesmerizing. I don't smoke pot, but if I did, I'd listen to Dub Trio every time I sparked up. Toler said the drummer looked like Sid Haig (Devil's Rejects). He had the bald head and full beard thing going on, but not the acne scarred face. Up close the resemblance was even more uncanny. When I looked Dub Trio up on iTunes I found just two albums. New Heavy was the most recent and from the samples I listed to, that's what they were pulling from for their show. I may pick up a copy for when I need to zone-out distractions at work.

About 11:30 or so Clutch hit the stage and delivered the knock out blow. Five Horse Johnson and Dub Trio had softened us up pretty good, so when they launched into Big News I the audience was ripe. As I'd hoped, Luke was as awestruck as I had been my first Clutch show. We were on the main floor in front of the stage just on the edge of the mosh pit. Close enough we could dive in when we wanted to, but far enough out we could escape easily when our mid-30's bodies needed a reprieve. One of the things that's great about a Clutch crowd is they love to rock but they're not violent. So even in the mosh pit you're among friends. I did have a couple of interesting encounters though.

During the Five Horse Johnson set this guy that reminded me an awful lot of Doug Jarvis with a soul patch grabbed my arm and said, "Hey, isn't it sad about Kurt?" I gave a confused look and said, "I'm sorry, I think you've mistaken me for someone else. I don't know a Kurt." He responded by jabbing his finger into the logo on the Split Lip Rayfield shirt I was wearing. "Oh, Kurt! The guitarist. What happened?" Turns out he succumbed to cancer about two weeks ago. The guy said he saw my shirt and thought I knew. Guess I don't pass as a die-hard Split Lip fan, still I really am bummed about Kurt. He was an immensely talented musician.

The other incident took place during the lull between Dub Trio and Clutch. A kid that looked like what I imagine a freshman Chicken looked like stumbled up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and slurred, "Heeey maaan. Are you the guy from the Days Inn?" When I said no he got this very confused look on his face. "Are yoou sure? You look just like this guy me and my friends saw at the Days Inn. He's following Clutch around on spring break." He pointed to his drunken crew across the room who were all looking at me and making "you rock" gestures. When I quit laughing, I told him if I was still in school I might have done something that cool, but I was from Champaign and had to go to work the next day. With a look of lingering doubt on his face, he said, "Sorry man. You look just like the guy." He then attempted to give me high five, failed miserably and stumbled to the bar. Up to that moment I was feeling slightly out of place among the predominantly college aged crowd. Knowing that I apparently could still pass for a slacker on spring break was strangely encouraging.

And finally, I am happy to report things seem to be progressing rapidly on the house. Not two weeks ago it seems they had just dug the hole. Now the foundation is poured and 2/3 of the structure is framed. I guess that shouldn't be terribly surprising since the framers are Amish and, if Witness is accurate, can build a barn in a day. For all the details see Laurie's blog, here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Home Sweet Hole

As Laurie has reported on her blog, construction of our future abode has begun with the digging of a hole. With ground broken, a chain of events has now been set in motion that, if all goes as planned, will end with us moving into a house on the corner of Dropseed and Tickseed sometime in June or July. That's not that far away.

The whole thing is exciting and sobering all at once. Exciting in that we'll finally be in a home that is truly ours. One that won't have any history that does not include us both. The prospect of more living space along with a private patch of earth is fun to think about, too. The sobering aspects almost exclusively revolve around finances. Not that we'll be house rich and cash poor, but we'll be shelling out a lot more than we've been accustomed to. And we'll be 100% responsible for anything that breaks. Owning a condo first was a nice way to transition from renting to full-blown homeownership. I gained valuable experience searching for and buying real estate, along with some tax benefits, but have been spared the rigors of lawn care and exterior maintenance.

Needless to say, this isn't the last you're going to hear about this. I expect we'll have pictures of the pouring of the foundation before long. And then the framing and so on. Speaking of the framing, our builder uses Amish carpenters for all his framing work. He cautioned us about taking pictures when they're at work. We need to make sure they're not in frame when we do, otherwise they'll ask us to erase the image. I think this has something to do with their interpretation of the 2nd commandment (You shall not make for yourself any graven image . . .) and nothing to do with a fear of having their souls stolen. When he told us, I kind of laughed because I immediately thought of Amish Harrison Ford in Witness, threatening to strangle some tourist with her bra if she snapped his picture. Alas, YouTube didn't have that clip but they had this one, which I'll leave you with. It's Amish Harry putting the smackdown on some white trash:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

One Year Baby

Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of my marriage to Laurie. We often comment to one another that it feels like we've been married longer. Not that it's been a long year. I just find it difficult to remember what life was like without her. In all honesty I haven't really spent any time dwelling on it at all. Sure, I had some good times as a single guy, but I don't miss any of them.

If I feel anything, I feel richer. More balanced. Instead of being a solitary object hurtling through space, I now enjoy the gravity of another body. We are our own small solar system traveling through space and time in orbit around one another. Maybe its a silly analogy, but its the only suitable description I can come up with without becoming horribly maudlin.

We marked the advent of our anniversary with a wonderful extended weekend in Chicago. It truly was one to remember. From the incredible 57th floor condo we had overlooking the city to the amazing dinner at La Scarola, we had a blast. Laurie has already detailed it all in her blog, so head over there if you want to learn more.

While we were up there I spent just about every free moment I had trying to finish Crime and Punishment. I succeeded on our last day there. It truly is a classic. The setting may have been 19th century St. Petersburg, but Dostoyevsky's description of the human condition is still relevant today. While many may dismiss his overtly Christian point of view, I think you'd be hard pressed to say he didn't know what makes man tick.

I've Netflixed a 1969 Russian adaptation of the story that, by many accounts, is considered to be the most faithful despite the Soviet atheism that taints some of the screenplay. Like the novel, it's supposed to be pretty slow in spots. Still I look forward to hearing the characters speak in Russian. One of the frustrating things about being an English-speaking fan of Russian literature is that everything available to you is a translation. It always leaves you wondering how far from the real sentiments of the author your translator has taken you. Maybe I just need to quit complaining and take Russian. Or run knitting needles through my nipples. I hear both are equally painful.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Bitter End

Do you think Rex has been taken to a secret location to protect his throat from Urlacher's ringless fingers? Then again, Tank Johnson might be the bigger threat. He's on his way to prison anyway. Might as well go a hero.

Though they'll never read this, I raise a glass to the Bears defense. They are warriors. They played more minutes than any other Super Bowl defensive squad since the '85 New England Patriots and kept the Bears within striking distance all the way into the 4th quarter. They have nothing to be ashamed of. Did you hear that Boomer!?! Nothing. Let's see you play almost four entire quarters of football and stay at the top your game, you frickin' has been.

Finally, thanks to Deadspin for cheering me up a little with this.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ethanol: The SDI of Energy Policy?

Cruising Free Republic today I came across a link to this NYT article detailing Saudi plans to "temper" the price of oil. This is hot on the heels of the President's State of the Union address which highlighted a renewed US resolve to find alternative fuel solutions, the most promising of which is ethanol. I've also noticed a lot more stories about the increased production of ethanol in the last two years. The problem is, ethanol, for all its promise, is still a long away from being a viable alternative. Some of the very real and potential problems are reviewed in this editorial that appeared in the WSJ this weekend.

The story about the Saudis interest in moderating prices combined with all the hoopla over ethanol got me thinking--could ethanol be the Star Wars Defense Initiative of energy policy? For decades the Soviets relied on their ballistic missiles to keep the US in check. Reagan said the US was going to make them obsolete with SDI. The fact that SDI had yet to be proven a viable defense system, was irrelevant. The Soviets knew if anyone could pull it off, the US could. They also knew if Reagan said he was going to do something, they had to take it seriously. I also bet we let enough intel "slip" into their hands that they had to believe we were working in earnest. We all know how the story ends. The Soviets bankrupted themselves in an effort to keep up.

For decades the Saudi's and other totalitarian regimes have relied on their oil reserves to influence US and European policy in their favor. And up until the last decade or so, the US hasn't shown a ton of resolve to find alternatives to oil. But with so much government money being thrown at ethanol, I can't help but see a parallel to SDI. We may not have perfercted the use of ethanol just yet, but we can grow enough corn to keep trying until we do. I think the Saudi's see this and might be hedging their bets a little.

I'm not saying we should abandon alternative fuel research even if they drop the price per barrel to $1.05. Just as we shouldn't abandon development of technology that will make ballistic missiles obsolete. Any technological advance (or bluff) is worth the price if in addition to making life better, it puts despotic regimes out of business.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Currently I'm plowing my way through Crime and Punishment. And I think 'plowing' is an appropriate description here. Dostoyevsky certainly took his sweet time setting up the plot. I'm not saying I'm growing bored with the book, but I did catch myself thinking as I read one passage today, "Get to the point!"

I am not proud of this. It's more of a confession. As someone who writes for a living, I probably tend to venerate literary giants more than most. When I think things like that, I get much the same sense of dread I used to get as a kid when I'd mutter something rebelious under my breath and thought mom and dad might have heard me. It was like Dostoyevsky was standing over my shoulder, asking, "What was that young man?"

Ironically, one of the reasons I've wanted to read the book is precisely because of the painstaking detail in which Dostoyevsky told his stories. Another is that Crime and Punishment is considered by some to be a brilliant indictment of elitism. And I'm more than a little interested in how Dostoyevsky's faith shaped his writing. I guess today just reminded me that, as with any worthwhile endeavor, a certain amount dicipline is going to be required on my part to see this through.

In other news, Laurie learned Wednesday that she got the social studies curriculum coordinator job she'd been interviewing for. It's a big step up for her and one that could help her reach some of her long term career goals. She's already blogged about it, so I won't steal any more of her thunder. You can read about it here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

One Born Every Minute--Result

Just a quick followup to a post from about five months ago--

Back in June I related a story about an encounter I had with one of those door-to-door magazine salesman. Actually he was more of a saleskid, much like the Orlando Jones character in Office Space. You can read about it here. For those of you who recall, or prefer the Cliff notes version to reading the whole story, I was fairly certain I'd been scammed. I wasn't.

I've been receiving issues of Flying since October. I have no clue why it took so long but I hope the kid earned the trip to the Bahamas that he was gunning for.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


"With God's help it might be possible. --I mean, why did He encourage me to build a perfect timepiece in the first place? So the blacksmith might start work 5 seconds earlier or later? Or was it to give us the ability to explore His creation in safety, to move without fear in the space He's given us to inhabit?"

So says John Harrison, as portrayed by Michael Gambon, in A&E's brilliant adaptation of the book Longitude by Dava Sobel.

A few summers ago while attending a wedding in Aspen I stumbled across a paperback copy of Longitude while killing time in a small bookstore. I think I'd seen a preview for the A&E movie and that's why I bought it. In any case, I remember walking out of the bookstore, sitting down on a park bench and being totally absorbed for about 2 hours straight.

The book is about one of the most significant scientific advances in human history--the ability to determine longitude at sea using specially designed clocks invented by John Harrison. Up until the 18th century, sailors of all nations were able to accurately determine latitude using celestial navigation. There was, however, no reliable way to determine longitude. This made sailing on the open seas, out of sight of land, an extremely risky venture. We're all familiar with stories of sailors perishing in storms or sea battles. According to Longitude the losses from such perils were rivaled by the numbers of mariners who, attempting to cross the open sea, simply got lost and never saw land again. Or if they did find land, it wasn't usually where they were headed, as in the case of Columbus.

Every monarch and parliament of the time that engaged in trade and exploration knew that the first nation to devise a way to accurately determine longitude would rule the seas. Their naval and merchant fleets would be able to move about the globe at will exploring, plundering and/or conquering it. This is why in 1714 British Parliament passed the Longitude Act that promised 20,000 Pounds to the first of Her Majesty's subjects who could solve the problem. That John Harrison, a common carpenter and not a noted scientist of the day, solved the problem makes this story even more engrossing for me.

Without going into a ton of detail, Harrison (and many others) knew that if sailors could accurately compare London time with a noon sighting of the sun at sea, they could figure out longitude. The problem was clocks of the time were not suited for life at sea and would not keep consistent time. Temperatures and moisture effected the metals and the ships motion effected the pendulums. When you consider a difference of 30 seconds could translate into hundreds of miles difference in location it's easy to see why this was a problem. Harrison's ingenius clocks were able to keep consistent time in all conditions.

If you get a chance, Netflix this one. I still haven't finished the book, but this movie has all but assured I will now.