Friday, March 28, 2008

This and That

Just a few odds and ends today.

Good old American ingenuity. This may very well be the best invention I've seen in a long time. A bar in Atlanta has installed self-service beer taps at their tables. How freakin' cool is that? The system meters the beer and you pay by the ounce. It cuts off when it reaches a preset amount and the staff has to evaluate the situation to determine whether to turn it back on (with a large group, for instance). They have a variety of beer but only two taps per table and if you want a specific brand you have to reserve a table in advance. One of the only drawbacks I can see at the moment is that without bartender involvement you can end up getting charged for foam but let's see how it plays out. About the only way this could get better is if the utility company would run a beer line along side the water line into my house. Maybe this is something the cable company could get into - "On Demand" movies and "On Demand" beer! Sign me up.

On a different note. I use Google's Gmail for my email accounts. Overall I'm pretty pleased with it. One thing that they seem to do well is intercept Spam and direct it to a Spam folder pretty reliably and accurately. The stuff that goes into that folder is almost always Spam and very little gets through to my Inbox. I periodically check the Spam folder just to make sure I didn't miss anything and then routinely flush the contents down the cyber toilet where it belongs. For some reason the subjects of those junk messages are generally restricted to just a few categories: Imitation Rolex watches, Vitamins and other discount drugs, and Male Enhancement products. Normally I scan down the list, hit "select all", then "delete for eternity". A couple of weeks ago one of the subject lines caught my eye and confused and amused me to the point that I saved it. Since then I've been reading a little more carefully and saving others ('cause, you know, I needed something to blog about) and now I thought I'd share (I saved them with the intention of sharing but I wanted it to sound impromptu (and I wanted to use the word "impromptu")).

"Release the fire in your crotch" At first I thought this was for male enhancement but then I realized it's probably for some sort of pharmaceutical ointment. Ouch.

"Girlfriends are dreaming about big dummy" I don't really know what the hell this means but it struck me a funny.

"Enormous cucumber is your wealth" Obviously this one is for a fortune telling service. They're good too because somehow they knew that my wife and I are starting a garden and they're telling me about my cash crop. I better pick up some Miracle Grow.

"Enormous bell-rope is a dream of every girl" Clearly this is a religious reference and is speaking of the bells in a cathedral. What girl doesn't dream of those huge strikers moving back and forth, vibrating the walls, powerfully shaking the Earth, causing her heart to race, taking her breath away and making her feel close to God? Is it no wonder that Esmeralda could see past Quasimodo's outward appearance once she realized how he could work that rope?

"10 new ways to caress breasts" 1o NEW ways?! Ten?! Christ there are only two breasts. And I'm still working on the old ways.

"I entered her secret garden" Yeah, I had to enter her secret garden because I'm a stalker and she had a restraining order. Then I was attacked by her huge friggin' Rottweiler and while I was running she shot at me with the biggest damn handgun I ever saw. If only I had seen the "Forget the Dog, Beware of Owner" sign on the entrance to her secret garden.

"Rejoice in your new found girth" Okay, at first I thought this wasn't spam and that a friend was trying to make me feel better. I mean, it had to be from someone that knew me. Someone who has noticed that I've put on weight and that my belt is straining as I stubbornly refuse to let it out to the next notch. A friend who was telling me to be me and be happy with myself and to go ahead and scarf down another handful of Easter candy. That's what they meant, right?

And now for my favorite. This is the one I originally saved...

"Behind every great man lies a huge secret in his pants." How about that for a mental picture? What the fuck are they trying to sell? Adult diapers? What, to be a great man you have to be incontinent? You can control world events. Just not your bowels. Hey, you can't have everything. We all know that our politicians and leaders are full of shite but this puts a whole new spin on things.

Sorry folks. I hear or read a line and I go where the though takes me. Sometimes it's an interesting little stroll.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Time to Brag on My Wife

Yesterday's post was about romance novels. Guess what! Today's post is too.

Movies have Oscar and the Academy Awards. Television has the Emmys. Music has the Grammys. Mystery Novels have the Edgars. Science Fiction has the Hugos. And Romance Novels have...

...The Ritas!

The Rita Awards are presented annually by the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Just as in January, when Hollywood is abuzz over the announcement of the Oscar nominees, the end of March brings anticipation and butterflies to stomachs all over the Romance writing industry. Yesterday the calls went out and my wife Leslie got one! Her book "She's No Angel" is a finalist for Best Contemporary Romance of 2007.

She's been a finalist twice before and here's hoping that the third time is a charm. The award ceremony is a black tie affair that is held at RWA's annual conference. This year that will be in San Francisco and I have until Saturday August 2 to get in shape to squeeze into a tux. Good thing we just joined a gym.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Leslie, you're amazing. I could not be more proud of you nor could I possibly be more in love with you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Plug for a Friend

If you've been around here for a while then you know that I'm married to a Romance Writer. My wife and three of her friends, all writers, have their own blog that's dedicated to romance writing and interacting with fans. One of the four, Julie Leto has a new book being released next week on April 1st and as a way to introduce and promote it she's posting the complete prologue and the first six chapters on their blog site. Starting yesterday and continuing through April 1st you can read through chapter six of her new book "Phantom Pleasures"

AND by simply posting a daily comment, have a chance EVERY DAY to win a $20 gift certificate to either Amazon or Borders. Julie is using the blogosphere to spread the word so check out her book then you tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends and so on and so on...You get the picture.

Here's what she has to say:

"This week starts something very exciting…every day, I will be posting a chapter from my book PHANTOM PLEASURES, which is officially released next week on April 1. That’s seven chapters! (Okay, six chapters and a prologue…but let’s not quibble.)

I wanted give everyone more than just a little excerpt…I want you to know, by the end of the week, if this is a book you will enjoy enough to buy–a book you’ll want to tell your friends about.

I’m also offering a chance for anyone who posts a comment or asks a question to win a $20 gift certificate from Amazon or I’ll pick a winner every day, but you’ll have to come back the next day to see if you’ve won. Regular jungle contest rules apply!"

She started posting yesterday and as usual, I'm a day late and a dollar short but you can go back and read the prologue and still have six more chances for the daily gift certificate drawing.

Julie is a fantastic writer and a great friend. She's also a great cook but I'm not giving her a plug just so I'll get some of her amazing bread pudding...really, I'm not.

Get on over to PLOTMONKEYS, check out her writing, spread the word, and buy her book. In that order. You won't be sorry.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Comic Book Superheroes

I've always been a big fan of comic books and superheroes. I started out like most kids following the adventures of our icons Superman and Batman.

Even as a kid though, I felt that Superman was just a little too squeaky clean and preferred the whole "Dark Knight" aspect of Batman. He didn't have superpowers per se but I think he was/is borderline psychotic and is just this side of the line that separates him from the criminals he fights. That made his story a little more interesting to me.

Superman and Batman are of course DC Comics as are Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and a whole host of others. I have to say that honestly I was never really captured by the DC Comics line up. They always seemed to be missing something for me. Although around the time I was ten or twelve there was one DC super hero that I became VERY interested in.

I guess I developed a preference for smart, hot, assertive blondes with great legs early on. And when you're ten or twelve there are only certain magazines they'll let you buy.

So anyway, it didn't take me long to gravitate to the other big dog in the comic book yard, Marvel. Of course there was Spidey.

But my personal favorite was always The Fantastic Four. I WAS Johnny Storm. I believe I may have even uttered the phrase "FLAME ON!" once or twice in my childhood (okay I ran around the house shouting it while pretending I was flying). Hell, I yelled it the last time I watched the movie - just a couple of months ago.

The X-Men, at least in my memory, weren't as popular when I was a kid and I didn't really discover them until I was an adult but once I did I quickly became a fan. Especially of Wolverine. He's a smart-ass who quickly dispatches the bad guy then, with blood still dripping from his claws, lights up a cigar. What's not to love?

If you had asked me as a kid why I liked Marvel over DC I don't think I could've given you an answer other than "they're way more cool". Thinking about it as an adult I've come to the conclusion that it was because the Marvel characters were dysfunctional. They not only fought the bad guys but they were always fighting amongst themselves. Sometimes it was more of a sibling kind of thing like Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm and other times it was much worse than that. Wolverine and The Thing came close to killing each other on more than one occasion. In addition to their powers, they all seemed to have personal flaws that made them more human and much more interesting from a character development perspective. The stories also seemed to wrestle with larger issues that went beyond the good guy vs. bad guy theme that DC tended to stick with (at least from my experience) and the heroes themselves wrestled with their own powers as well. Like in real life things weren't black and white and while they were the "good guys" they weren't always a good guy. Those quirks, flaws, and demons gave them dimensionality and made you want to invest in their story. Probably why I gravitated to Batman over Superman.

I was never much of a Captain America fan (he always seemed more DC-like to me) but I was partial to some of the lesser known of the Marvel group. Actually they were pretty well known back then but you don't see much of them now. Thor and Ironman come to mind.

It was Mr. Tony Stark aka Ironman that inspired this post. Seems he's making a comeback in the form of a feature film starring Robert Downey, Jr. and the trailer kicks ass.

When it comes to the film versions of superheroes I think some of the movies hit it out of the park (Spiderman, X-Men, Christian Bale's Batman) and others failed miserably (The Hulk, Electra, the last Superman movie). I have high hopes for Ironman.

So what makes a guy stay interested in comic books and superheroes from the time he's a kid all the way into adulthood? Well they're entertaining. Then there's the character studies and the moral and sociological issues that I mentioned. But when it comes right down to it I guess I like them now for the same reasons I liked them as a kid. They're COOL. And...

I really, REALLY like the artwork.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Vernal Equinox

Mayan Temple of the Seven Dolls
Dzibilchaltun, Yucatan

Mayan Pyramid Kukulkan
Shadow cast on the stairs at noon on the equinox represents a serpent

Inside Cairn T at Knowth in Ireland
Sunrise on the equinox illuminates this stone at the end of the passage inside the mound

Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

"Sun Dagger" appears on the spiral at various times during the year marking the Sun AND the moon

This is from the Anasazi culture and is around 2,000 years old if not older.

This is during the Summer solstice (I couldn't find a picture of the equinox but you get the idea)

Maybe it's me but that spiral reminds me an awful lot of this one:

I took this picture myself. It's the curbstone at the entrance to the mound at Newgrange. In Ireland. As the mound at Knowth (just over the hill from Newgrange) functions as a marker for the equinox, the mound at Newgrange marks the Winter Solstice. I've been inside the one at Newgrange and it's an amazing piece of engineering thats estimated to be older than the pyramids in Egypt.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cheers to My Alma Mater

Those of you who have been hanging around this blog for a while know that I ain't no sports fan. I know enough about sports to hold a conversation and I know what's going on when I see a game. I never played anything particularly well and I don't usually derive any enjoyment from watching sporting events on TV but I have enjoyed going to games in person and I do have a passing interest in a few teams, mainly because I rooted for them as a kid. I just don't understand the feverish, I-cannot-miss-this-game obsession with being glued to a TV screaming at the team as if your children had been kidnapped and the outcome of the game will determine whether they live or die.

This month is a huge time of year for sports fans. The NCAA College Basketball Tournament happens every year in March and thus it is appropriately dubbed "March Madness". Basketball fans from all over get hyped up, fill in their "brackets" trying to predict who the champion will be at the end, glue themselves to TVs and otherwise hoop, holler, and consume beer. With the exception of beer consumption I have here to fore been immune to this malady and have never shown the slightest symptom. Imagine my surprise and concern when this morning I noticed the tiniest, almost imperceptible twitch. Whatever could've caused this? Well, I'll tell ya...

Last night I watched a college basketball game (GASP!). On ESPN no less (double GASP!). My alma mater, Mount Saint Mary's University (they were a college when I went there), made it to the tournament last week and last night they beat Coppin State 69-60 in the opening game. That means they've earned the right to play powerhouse University of North Carolina in the first round on Friday night. Mount Saint Mary's, a 1,500 student school with a 19-14 record vs. UNC with 28,000 students (they have twice as many faculty as the Mount has students) and a 32-2 record. Hmmm. Can you say David and Goliath? By all accounts the Mount is expected to get crushed and they very likely will. But you never know. And in the meantime, at least until Friday, they're still in it. And it sure was fun seeing them win the opening game.

Yes, I do plan to watch on Friday. I have to see if this twitch is going to get better or worse.

Congratulations to the Mount and best of luck guys!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Paddy's Day everybody. Rather than give you a couple of generic pictures from Google images and a random leprechaun graphic I thought I'd post a couple of pictures from our family trip to Ireland three years ago. It's an amazingly beautiful place and I was ready to go back the day we left.

The Cliffs of Moher (taken fresh off the plane in Shannon after a trans-Atlantic flight with no sleep and jumping into a car with the controls on the wrong side)

Real Irish shamrocks growing outside the County Cork cottage (how's that for alliteration?) where we stayed for a week.

Mizen Head, the Southern-most point in Ireland

Cemetery where I found my Great-great-great-great grandfather. Very cool and very eerie.

Me kissing the Blarney Stone (yeah, imagine that).

And of course, St. Patrick's day wouldn't be complete without an Irish joke or two.

Mary Clancy goes up to Father O'Grady's after his Sunday morning service, and she's in tears.
He says, "So what's bothering you, Mary my dear?"
She says, "Oh, Father, I've got terrible news. My husband passed away last night."
The priest says, "Oh, Mary, that's terrible. Tell me, did he have any last requests?"
She says, "That he did, Father..."
The priest says, "What did he ask, Mary?" She says, "He said, 'Please Mary, put down that damn gun!'

One day an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman walked into a pub together. They each bought a pint of Guinness. Just as they were about to enjoy their creamy beverage, three flies landed in each of their pints, and were stuck in the thick head.

The Englishman pushed his beer away in disgust.

The Scotsman fished the fly out of his beer, and continued drinking it, as if nothing had happened.

The Irishman, too, picked the fly out of his drink, held it out over the beer, and started yelling, "SPIT IT OUT, SPIT IT OUT YOU BASTARD!!!!"


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Have a Penknife...

...therefore I am educated.

But not always real bright.

Friday March 7th. A day like any other day. Normally I have every other Monday off but since my birthday was this past weekend I arranged to take my day off on Friday so I'd have a three day weekend. I got to sleep in, wake up next to my beautiful wife and have a relaxed day of pampering. Later in the day we decided to venture out to run errands one of which involved going to Lowes home warehouse so I could pick out a new shop-vac. While there we also picked up a few other things like gardening supplies to get ready for Spring, and a new dog gate.

Since we got the ShihTzupoop for Christmas we've tried to keep her in the kitchen and family room which are non-carpeted. From this area there are two primary routes of escape. There's a doorway of normal width which goes to the dining room and a much wider doorway which goes to the entrance foyer and front door. We had one kiddie/doggie gate of normal size which functions quite well at the dining room checkpoint however we've had to improvise at the other wider, and much more heavily traveled route. This improvised barrier consisted of the ironing board (which is rarely used for its intended purpose and happily volunteered for service) laying across the doorway and backed by various other objects like a suitcase and a cardboard box. It looked remarkably like this:

The new gate is much more practical since, in addition to being wider, it actually mounts in place and has a hinged gate that opens and closes with relative ease. It is also tall enough and sturdy enough to hold back the hounds of hell so it has the added benefit of being able to keep the puppy contained should she suddenly sprout wings and fly. Here it is post installation:

So there I am on Friday evening back home from the adult-male-toystore. I'm standing in my kitchen and I decide that I'm going to put up the new gate. I remove all the pieces-parts from the package and realize that the actual gate portions of the pieces-parts are secured together presumably to keep them from rattling around in the box. They are secured together with nylon zip ties. I suppose someone at the factory thought that in the event the gate parts got high on PCP and went on a crime rampage the police would be saved a step by having them pre-handcuffed. Naturally I did what any educated (male) person who just returned form the home warehouse would do. I took out my trusty penknife.

Now here's that part where I have to issue the obligatory warning. I am a health & safety professional. I have been trained and train others to perform their work safely. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AT HOME.

Taking the penknife in my left hand and holding the gate in my right I sliced through that nylon tie wrap like it was butter. In fact the knife went through that thing so fast that it was embedded in my right hand before I ever knew what happened. It took about a half a second for two things to occur. 1) For me to register that I was cut, and 2) For the blood to start flowing like a freakin' river from the vein I hit. My middle daughter was standing there when it happened and when the blood came I'm not sure who's eyes went bigger hers or mine.

Fortunately I'm a former Emergency Medical Technician and I remembered the training. I put direct pressure on the wound, first with my bare thumb, then with a now ruined dish towel. I asked my daughter to get the first aid kit and took the opportunity to show her how to apply a proper pressure dressing. Then my wife and I had some quality alone time on a Friday night in the Emergency Room.

I actually make it sound worse than it was. I caught myself in the fleshy part of my hand between the thumb and forefinger. Since it was a stab rather than a slice the actual cut wasn't very long. But like I said, I did get a vein so because of that and the location it wasn't going to close by itself. It needed two stitches. And of course the always fun tetanus shot.

And the moral of this story is...

Though you may be educated, you may not always be smart. Or...the sign of an educated man is pointed but so is a dunce cap.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Recap of Last Week Part Uno

Come with me now to those thrilling days of yesterweek. Okay so it's Sunday March 2nd. I'm sitting in my end of the reclining sofa. Everyone knows it's my end because it's perfectly conformed to my ass. If there's ever an argument over that issue it would be easily solved by contacting the FBI and having them match the butt-print with the one in their national latent butt-print database (Homeland Security has definitely gone too far). So anyway, I'm sitting there filling out a form for the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles. That statement alone should tell you where this is heading. But first let me give you some background.

We formerly lived in Florida. We have two cars, both registered in Florida. When you come to Maryland you're supposed to transfer your title and registration within 60 days. For various reasons largely having to do with the housing market a period of 27 months elapsed between the time I came to Maryland to start my new job until we sold house in Florida/bought house in Maryland/became "official" Maryland residents. That whole car registration thing wasn't high on my priority list. Needless to say I missed the 60 day mark by oh, about 90 or so days. Florida does their car registration by the birth month of the person whose name appears first on the registration. That would be me and my birthday falls in March so being faced with the expiration of the Florida tags, it seemed like a good idea to register the cars in Maryland. Which brings me to last Sunday filling in the form.

In going through the instructions I realized that because we missed the 60 day "grace period" we were now going to have to pay excise tax in the amount of 5% of the vehicle price in addition to the title fees, application fees, registration fees and K-Y jelly restocking fees. We were looking at $500 to $600 for one car. A five year old car. That I already paid tax on when I bought it. That had 100,000 miles on it. That I was still making payments on. That I was going to have to replace the shocks and struts on in another couple of months. That liked to randomly fuck with me and talk to me in that creepy computer voice from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I started to think that perhaps this was not the best possible outlay of cash. That's when my wife and I started talking about a new car.

I did some quick research on the internet comparing models and prices then we packed up and went out to cruise the car lots to do some looking. It was late Sunday afternoon by then and the dealerships looked like this:

Only with cars. Dealerships close early on Sunday and you can wander unmolested. We had a price range that we had to stick to and we found a particular make and model in that range that we liked a lot...because it had personality and looked like a Transformer. Specifically a Decepticon, so naturally the girls named it Megatron.

We went home and did more research on that specific model and decided to go back and test drive it the next day. On Monday, as we drove into the dealership it looked like this:

I've never seen a car lot with more salesmen than cars. We felt like chum. Our old car was like the security of a shark cage and we were afraid to get out. I won't go into all the gory details. Suffice it to say that after all the research, test driving, comparisons, haggling, credit scores, number crunching, financing, etc, etc, etc, we got a new car. And yes, it was the first one we looked at. It's cleverly disguised as a 2008 Dodge Avenger in Silver Steel Metallic.

You can call him Megatron.

Outta my way mortal human commuters.

That covers up to about Wednesday or Thursday. Tomorrow I'll tell you about Friday and my encounter with the symbol of an educated man.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Breaking Radio Silence... thank Malach the Merciless for the award which he bestowed upon me.

Thank you sir.

I haven't been hiding. It's just been a very eventful week. I will recap in the next few days. Thanks all, hope you have a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wanted: Living Goddess...

...all males and any female over the age of 12 need not apply.

Hmmm. That sounds like a sex AND an age discrimination lawsuit to me. Fortunately the position is not in the United States so litigation will not be an issue. No, no this job opening is in Nepal. It seems that although one can no longer reincarnate without the proper permit in Nepal you can indeed hire and worship a living goddess.

It seems that as part of a centuries-old tradition, "three medieval towns in the Kathmandu valley worship pre-pubescent girls as the living embodiment of the goddess Taleju." The present living goddess (called a Kumari), eleven-year-old Sajani Shakya, has held the position for nine years but must step down because of another centuries-old tradition. She's gotten married. Symbolically, but married none-the-less. To a fruit. No, not that kind of fruit. A real fruit. Of the botanical variety. Here's a photo of her new husband posing with his family at the wedding.

To quote the little girl worshiping crop conjoiners, "we have a tradition to get our girls married to a Bael (Aegle marmelos), a fruit dedicated to Lord Shiva, around the age of 10 or 11." There is no word as to whether she has been pollinated.

Hey, I can't make this shit up. Here's the article:
Living goddess wanted in Nepal: young girls only please

So if any of you out there have daughters under the age of 10 you may want to consider applying. Good colleges are getting harder and harder to get into. I can't imagine that putting "Living Goddess" on your application would hurt your chances of acceptance. You may not want to mention the marital status though.