Sunday, December 9, 2012


Warning this post has some serious spoilers.

Skyfall: Before I begin in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I am a huge Bond fan. But less you think that means I will somehow be unable to impartial and/or to critique the film, have no fear.  I have left Bond films before so disappointed I was close to demanding my money back or at the least wanting to give someone a good talking to. [1]

I was thrilled when Casino Royale was made and they decided to change the Bond movies from a self mocking, low brow waste of time, more worried about cramming as much advertising, locations, retarded gadgets and skin as possible than about making a movie that made any sense whatsoever [2] into a more serious movie.  Not serious as in Schindler's List, but serious as in we're telling a story.  Sure it's an action story, but it has a plot and everyone is acting their part and none of those parts are intended to be comedic relief.

Anyway, this review is about Skyfall and not Casino Royale.

I had a few problems with the movie. [3]

Let's start with the Excavator on the train.  What exactly was he going to do with it?  Was he planning on slamming the bucket into the bad guy?  Because while they didn't exactly say that he was a super genius, I don't think he would have just stood there and watched it hit him.  Excavators don't exactly move at lightning speed.  Also they have limited reach.  Here's my idea of what would have happened.

Bad Guy sees excavator moving at him at max speed. [4]
Bad Guy thinks to himself: Is he seriously trying to hit me with that?
Bad Guy spends some time pondering his career choices and whether this is worth it.
Bad Guy reminds himself that Bond has run out of bullets and thrown his gun away.
Bad Guy reminds himself that he has already shot Bond in the shoulder and thus Bond is hurt.
Bad Guy spends some more time wondering about career.
Bad Guy scratches itch.
Bad Guy takes two steps back out of range and either waits for Bond to get out of cab of excavator or simply walks away.

But instead the script had him shoot the coupling between cars.  Another option.  But perhaps not the best.

Another problem was the whole point of Silva's plot.  It seems to me the thing he wanted to do most of all was to kill M.  So why didn't he just do that?

Why exactly did he need to set everything up so that he could get arrested and get the British Secret Service to move their base into the underground bunkers?  As far as I can tell the answer was so that he could then escape and kill M.  This all could have been achieved much more simply.  He could have simply waited for M to actually get back to her office and then blown her to kingdom come.

But he wanted to talk to her face to face and then shoot her, you reply.  Okay, then he could have come to London and shot M in her house.  It doesn't seem like that would have been to hard.  Bond broke in no problem.

Also, how and why exactly did he blow a hole in the ceiling so that the subway could fall in and not really come close to killing Bond?  When exactly did he have the time to set up those explosives?  And assuming we can get past that problem, why did he do it?  Or rather how did he know that Bond (or anyone for that matter) would be chasing him and catch up to him at that exactly place and time.  And that there would be a train coming by at that point.  And as previously stated, it didn't really succeed in doing anything.  Bond took the tactic Bad Guy in the train scene should have.  He just stepped to the side. [5]  If Silva actually knew Bond (or whoever) was going to be there at that time, then he should have put the bomb where it would have exploded and killed Bond (or whoever).

Anyway, there are a couple of other things like this that strained the bounds of contrivances and made Occam's razor rusty, [6] but let's move past that.

I still liked the movie.  I am fully prepared to admit that that fact is probably because I like me some Bond movies, but whatever.  I do disagree with some articles I read about the film that said it was the best Bond movie ever.  Casino Royale was easily far superior (imho).  But it was other engaging and fun.

Perhaps the thing I like most about it is how it managed to both continue the Bond mythos on it's already set path at the same time it managed to reboot it as well.

They brought back a car from an old film linking this one to the past at the same time they introduced a new Moneypenny as if she was there for the first time.  And there's once more a stuffy British dude sitting in the red chair and if his mode and manner are very similar to the man who used to sit there so much the better.

Skyfall: B

[1] - For instance, Die Another Day was aptly named, because anyone who watched it died a little bit that day.
[2] - But then I already talked about Die Another Day.
[3] - Betcha didn't see that one coming.
[4] - Something roughly in the neighborhood of 3 m.p.h.
[5] - Okay jumped, but the train was actually moving fast, as opposed to the excavator bucket.
[6] - Like even a first year agent knows you don't hook a strange computer up to your network.  Nevermind somebody who's supposed to be a computer maestro.

Henry's Louisiana Grill

Henry's Louisiana Grill:  If you like Cajun/Creole food at all, go to this restaurant right now.  Seriously, stop reading this blog.  Get in your car and go.  It is that good.

Why are you still reading this?  Large portions of amazingly good food for a fairly cheap price.  What more do you want?

Go now!

For the record the Pook and I had between us:

Shrimp Creole
Red Beans and Rice
Jalapeno Hush Puppies
Corn Bread (w/ Jalapenos)
A side salad with Blue Cheese dressing and Blue Cheese Crumbles.

See, even the side salad was worth mentioning.

Seriously.  Go! Now!

As soon as we find some money and someone to watch the kids, we're going back.

Henry's Louisiana Grill: A+

Moby Dick

Moby Dick:

Call me Mr. B Grades.  Some weeks ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my wallet, and nothing particular to interest me on my shelf, I thought I would go see about that watery part of literature that people often talk about but nobody has ever seemed to have actually successfully read. For instance, my brother has assayed the task twice and given up. [1]  But I've come across the first chapter in several places previous and have thought that I might be up to the task despite others failures.

And so I set out on my journey. [2]

The truth is, the story of Moby Dick, Ishmael, Queequeg and Ahab is really rather short.  But wait you say, the very version you have linked to is just shy of 600 pages.  How can you say it is a short tale!?

Well the book may be ~600 pages, but only about 150 of them are given over to any type of story. [3]  The vast bulk of the book [4] is nothing short of a primer on whales.  Identification and categorization of whales.  The biology of wales.  How to harpoon and kill them.  How to dismember them and then how to get the various and sundry things that one might be inclined to find in whales out of the them.  The history of whaling.  The relations ship of whalers and whaling ships to other ships and other people.  The economics of whaling.  And lots and lots of pages about why wales (and the sperm whale in particular) are awesome.

In truth the book should be titled: Herman Melville's Cetology Primer (Now with a free short story entitled Moby Dick!).

So, if you ever wanted to know how to separate a whale from his head or how to peel a whale like and orange, then I highly recommend the book.

If you want a story about whaling.  The actual story is pretty good.  But you've got to wade through a lot of stuff to find it.  In fact, a fair amount of what does make up the "plot" of the book, is merely a device for Melville to move from talking about how to boil whale blubber to talking about how to throw a harpoon.

Also the first 100 pages or so occur before Ishmael even makes it onto the boat.  So when you are all said and done the actual story can pretty much be summed up like this: [5]

A bunch of whalers set out to kill whales.
The captain is nuts and wants revenge on a whale that bit off his leg.
They sail all around the world looking.
They find the whale and it kills everyone except the narrator.
The end.

There you go.  And I didn't really leave much out at all.

Oh yeah, and Moby Dick himself is only in about 10 pages tops. [6]

Moby Dick: B-
Herman Melville's Cetology Primer: A-

[1] - And it seems to me that is twice more than 99.9% of the rest of the population.
[2] - Of reading the book.  The journey to get the book was a simple one of walking to the bookshelf in the garage.
[3] - And I'm probably being generous by saying 150.
[4] - And boy is it bulky.
[5] - Warning huge spoiler ahead!  Not that you're going to read the thing anyway.
[6] - And it's the last ten pages.

 P.S. - You can get the book on Kindle for free.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012   Have you ever thought of something really clever and wished you could get it printed on a t-shirt?

Well has you covered.

But wait you say, I also wanted to get it on my iPhone case, a poster, a mug, a speaker cover and about forty other things. [1]

Well has you covered.

But wait you say, I don't have a witty saying, I want a cool picture or graphic on my shirt.

Well has you covered.

Basically these guys have made a very successful business out of printing whatever you want on whatever you want.  And if they don't actually have the thing you want, they are always accepting new ideas for new things to print stuff on.

But wait you say, I'm not that creative.  I need somebody else to come up with the clever sayings and cool graphics.

Well has you covered.

Because once somebody creates something, they can post it online for the world to see.
And buy.

For instance:

make custom gifts at Zazzle

Anyway, I like A

[1] - Here is a nearly complete list: iPad cases, laptop bags, pacifiers, playing cards, shirts of all types and sizes including hoodies, sweat shirts and baby clothes, bags, messenger bags, buttons, hats, keychains, necklaces, ties, belt buckles, invitations, cards, stamps, labels, envelopes, mugs, stickers, magnets, calendars, aprons, coasters, stationary, pet bowls, pet clothing, photo sculptures, ornaments, 3 ring binders, water bottles, pillows, napkins, placemats, kitchen towels, pitchers, candy jars, plates, teapots, tiles, gift boxes, plaques, puzzles, notebooks, notepads, pet tags, cake toppers, luggage tages, clocks, dry-erase boards, dart boards, yard signs, awards, business cards, mousepads, planners, posters, wrapped canvas, wall decals, iPhone cases, kindle cases, galaxy cases, Droid RAZR cases, MacBook sleeves, speakers, bumper stickers and skateboards.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What I'm Thankful For

What I'm Thankful For: This was going to be about how Thanksgiving is the only truly American holiday.[1]  But now it isn't.  In part because I just wasn't feeling it, but also because I wanted to talk about other things.

So instead I thought I would take the more traditional route and talk about what I'm most thankful for.  Don't worry, this isn't going to be a smarmy list of sappy sentimentalism.  Instead this is a slightly different take.  This is how I am so very thankful that the Pook puts up with me.[2]

To illuminate why this is maybe not such an easy thing, I present the following three bits of evidence.

1) I'm seriously grumpy in the morning and she doesn't really mind.  I'm not talking about normal levels of grumpy.  I mean super-mega-seriously-don't expect more than a grunt from me-levels of grumpiness.

The Pook on the other hand generally springs out of bed in the morning ready-to-go and full of pep.

She later told me that the first month or so that she got to experience this, she thought I was mad at her for something.  Every morning.

Typical morning conversation.  Me in shower.  Pook cheerfully doing whatever it is that Pooks do in the mornings cheerfully.

Pook: I thought tonight we could go out to eat and then to Target.
Me: . . .
Pook: We don't have to go to Target if you don't want to.
Me: . . .
Pook: We could stay home too.
Me: . . .

I'm quite the witty conversationalist.

2) I never notice anything.  Seriously, the world could end and I would miss it.  Last night I spent ten minutes searching everywhere in the bathroom for some medicine of mine and finally gave up in frustration.  She walked in and found it in half a second sitting in plain sight. [3]

A better example is given by this actual conversation:

Pook: Did you see that sign about [something I would be interested in] on the way to work?
Me: No?  Where did you see that?
Pook: It was in front of that house that is shaped like an igloo.
Me: There's a house shaped like an igloo?  Where?
Pook: Seriously? It's just around the corner from our subdivision.  We pass it every morning on the way to work.
Me: There's a house that's shaped like an igloo just around the corner?  Where?
Pook: It's just after that big swampy area.
Me: What big swampy area?

In my defense, we usually pass this way in the morning and I'm not exactly alive at that point. [4]

3) My dreams sometimes get the better of me and by way of collateral damage her too.

For instance, one time I dreamed there were giant spiders on the floor of the bedroom. [5]  When they started to come up onto the bed I started actually screaming out loud: GET OUT OF THE BED! GO! GO! GO!

The Pook jumped out of bed in what I assume is a state of pure panic and confusion.  Of course, at that point I had woken myself up as well and I said, "Oh. Never mind."

Another time, I was having this dream that I was hiding behind a slim post.  There was a "bad guy" coming up from the other side with a gun and for whatever reason he had yet to see me and I knew that as long as I stayed still he wouldn't see me.  However he was also getting closer and would eventually discover me no matter what I did.

There was a three foot section of 2x4 [6] leaning against the same post.  I knew that if I waited for the right moment he would get close enough.  Then if I was quick enough, I could grab the piece of wood and slam the bad guy with it.  Of course if I was too slow, he would shoot me.

I waited as he got ever nearer.  Then at the last second I sprung into action.  WHAM!!!  I got him!

The next morning as I was washing my hair in the shower, I suddenly thought to myself.  Did I slam my pillow into the Pook while she was sleeping?

It was all very fuzzy and vague.  Also, I'm not the most alive person in the mornings. [7]  I decided the best course of action would be to say nothing unless she did.

Almost immediately after I had finished the thought, the Pook suddenly stopped doing whatever it is that Pooks cheerfully do in the mornings cheerfully and said, "Did you slam me in the head with your pillow last night?"

Evidently, I had sprung up onto my knees.  Grabbed me pillow.[8]  And slammed it down onto her head.[9]  I then laid down and went back to sleep.

All I can say is thank goodness she's a world class sleeper.

Anyway, this is just a short list of the many ways that living with me ain't easy.

Thanks Pook.

The Pook Putting Up With Me: A+

[1] -  Yes, July 4th is our independence day, but lots of countries have independence days.  Only Thanksgiving is about eating too much and watching TV.
[2] - Betcha didn't see that one coming.
[3] - Or at least that's what she claims.
[4] - Refer to item 1 above.
[5] - Two to three foot across big hairy ones.
[6] - Big piece of lumber that would make a big club.
[7] - Refer to item 1 above.
[8] - Or 2x4 if you prefer.
[9] - Or onto the bad guy's if you prefer.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spicy Chicken Sandwiches

There was a time in my life, about ten years ago, when my craving for a great spicy chicken sandwich suddenly became too big to ignore.  Thus, assuming my body knew what it was talking about, I set out to find the best spicy chicken sandwich I could.

As fate would have it, at that time just about every fast food restaurant had a spicy chicken sandwich to offer. [1] At the time I was working at a place that was in Atlanta and generally near several big business areas, so I had no problem getting to most of my options.  To fulfill my quest I then set out to methodically visit every restaurant that was offering what could potentially be my culinary holy grail.

Here then are the results of that endeavor.  Granted it has been quite a few years and I may have forgotten some of the finer details, but the final results are, I assure you, accurate. [2]

Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich: I started with Wendy's because I thought this could possibly be the beginning and the ending of my quest.  After all, the commercials at the time showed people eating the sandwich and melting hockey rinks!  I made my first pilgrimage to the house of Dave. [3]

The chicken itself was of good thickness and looked nearly as good as the advertisements.  Much to my surprise Wendy's offering was anything but acceptable.  The sandwich had some spice to it, so you could taste a flavor difference, but it had little to no actual heat to it.  It was a fine piece of chicken, but it was about as spicy as my grandmother. I was completely let down.

Checkers Spicy Chicken Sandwich: There wasn't a Checkers near my job, so one day I traveled to a suitable Checkers that was about halfway between work and home.  Like most of Checkers food the sandwich was cheap, so I bought two.

It comes on a standard Checkers' bun which was fine.  There was the smallest dab of mayo on both sandwiches.  Just enough that when you bit the bite that would contain the exact center of the sandwich you might notice it. [4]  And there were a couple shreds of lettuce put there almost as an afterthought.  The chicken itself was a cheap thin patty with sad breading on the outside.

Unfortunately, there was again no spicy.  In fact, both of the sandwiches were so not spicy I came to the conclusion that they must have gotten my order wrong and given me plain chicken sandwiches.  For those of you unaware of how Checkers works, it is essentially a drive through only, so by the time all of this was discovered, I was miles away.

I was in fact so convinced that this must be the case, that I went back a few days later and ordered two more spicy chicken sandwiches.  This time being sure to carefully enunciate and confirm my order.  Sadly, the comestibles I got were just as completely unspicy as the last pair. Complete failure.

KFC's Zinger Chicken Strip Sandwich: KFC had recently come out with a range of chicken sandwiches.  They were not actually chicken patties, but instead they would put three of their chicken strips on the bun and dress them up in different ways.  Included in this series was a sandwich with spicy zinger sauce on it.

The sandwich itself was actually one of the better chicken sandwiches you could get at the time.  It had a good bun, lots of lettuce and nice piece of tomato.  And because it had three chicken strips instead of just one patty, it meant you got more crunchy coating in the middle bites than you typically would have.

The zinger sauce was also quite tasty.  It also had good spice to it.  Unfortunately, because the spiciness wasn't actually part of the chicken itself, but instead a sauce applied on top of the lettuce by whoever made the sandwich, the amount of spiciness you got was very random.  Even if you asked for extra zinger sauce [5] it still meant it was very easy to have many bites without spice.

Burger King's Spicy Chicken Sandwich: My memory is failing me on this one.  Either Burger King had a spicy chicken sandwich for a limited time and I failed to purchase one in the appropriate time window or they never actually had one at all.  Either way, it means the King let me down.

McDonald's Spicy Chicken Sandwich: Fortunately, McDonald's also had a spicy chicken sandwich that they were offering for a limited time.  They had them on their dollar menu and they sometimes had them on sale for two for $1.  As I was on a pretty tight budget back then, thus this was already very appealing.  However, McD's isn't really known for their culinary prowess, so I didn't get them expecting very much.

The bun was no surprise and the typical McDonald's offering.  It too had the amazingly small dollop of mayo and the sad lettuce just as the Checker's sandwich.  Also like the Checker's sandwich the chicken itself was a thin and covered in breading.  It was there the similarities ended though.  Because the McDonald's sandwich was amazingly spicy.  Not so spicy you couldn't eat it, but way more spicy than you had any reason to expect from a restaurant that typically caters to small children who's biggest adventure in eating is mustard.

I was right and properly gobsmacked.  I consumed my two sandwiches in happy bliss and when finished I reveled in the slight after burn.  They didn't look like much, but the McDonald's sandwiches were by far and away the clear winners.  My quest ended in an unlikely spot with well known gold[6] and I returned there many times in the following weeks.  I must admit I was truly sad when the promotion ended and the spicy goodness could no longer be had.

In truth, the reason for my writing this post is that I happened to be at McDonald's the other day and the spicy chicken sandwiches are back.  They are again a dollar each, but I don't believe that they had lettuce on them this time.  In fact, it's making me doubt that there was lettuce last time either, but it doesn't matter.  I wasn't eating them for the green stuff.  However, they also were not quite as good as my memory tells me they were in the past, but that could in a large part be because of a later entry to the field.

Chik-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich: At the time of my original quest, Chik-Fil-A didn't have a spicy sandwich and thus was a non-contender.  However since that time they have joined the fray and they brought a heavy-weight.  Their spicy chicken sandwich is amazingly good.  It has all the plump chickeny goodness of the regular Chik-Fil-A sandwich, but it is coated in mouth burning awesomeness.  This is now my go-to sandwich for when I have a hankering and in truth I no longer even order their regular sandwich at all.

I do have to say that when they first came out I think that they were actually spicier than they are now, because the first several times I had them I could hardly eat them.  I was truly amazed by how strong the spiciness was.  In fact, the first day they were offered the Pook and I both got one. [7]  She couldn't even finish hers and has never ordered another. Now-a-days they are still plenty spicy, but I don't find them nearly so powerful.  Of course, that might just be my getting used to them, but I really don't think so.

You can also get them with pepper-jack cheese on them, but I've never been a big fan of that cheese.  I always find it to be a lot of spicy and no real flavor.  So, I've never actually gotten one.  I prefer mine with a packet of their honey roasted bar-b-cue sauce on it.  It's glorious.

Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich: D+
Checkers Spicy Chicken Sandwich: F-
KFC's Zinger Chicken Strip Sandwich: B-
Burger King's Spicy Chicken Sandwich: n/a
McDonald's Spicy Chicken Sandwich: A-
Chik-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich: A+

ENDNOTE: If anyone should know of any other contenders, I'm always looking for something new.  Assuming it's a restaurant I can get to without too much hassle, I'll be glad to give it a shot.

[1] - I'm not sure if this is pure coincidence or if all of these restaurants knew of my upcoming yearnings and thus all provided me with their offerings.  Of course the more cynical minded of you might think that it was I who had either knowingly or unknowingly succumbed to the power of advertising.  But that's just silly.
[2] - To within an acceptable deviation at any rate.
[3] - Thomas that is.
[4] - But probably not.
[5] - A request that was not always allowed.
[6] - en arches.
[7] - There was a promotion and if you made a "reservation" online you could get a sandwich for free.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


IMDB: I've mentioned IMDB in several posts so I figured I should talk about it a bit and give it a grade.

In a word this web site is simply awesome.

Okay that's two words, but whatever.  The point holds true.

For those of you unfamiliar with this website, IMDB stands for Internet Movie Data Base.  It is a collection of all of the information you could ever hope to need about every movie or TV show ever.

It is for anyone who's ever been tormented by trying to remember who was the actress that was in that movie about dancing and welding back in 1983.  For IMDB that's no problem. [1]

Didn't that guy from Dallas do a weird TV show in which he could breathe underwater?  IMDB will tell you that he did indeed. [2]

Type in the name of any movie, actor, director, TV show, producer or just about anything else you might think of and IMDB has you covered.

It also has trailers, reviews, trivia and more as well.

After hearing about the new Die Hard movie coming out next year, you begin wondering if they are ever going to make a new Lethal Weapon.  IMDB can tell you.  [3]

Wonder who was born today?  No problem.  Assuming you are talking about October 28th the answer is Julia Roberts, Joaquin Phoenix and Dennis Franz among others.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

If I could, I would thank the person who thought up this brilliant idea, but I can't.  Because it was thought up by every person who's ever seen a movie since computers could do more than add numbers.  And it was wished for by everyone who saw a movie before then.

IMDB succeeds at what Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert used to try to do with their instantly outdated movie books and then multiplies the goodness by 1000.

On a scale of 1 to Gary Bussey, IMDB scores a Chuck Norris. [4]

The only real question is why hasn't this been copied by the music industry?  It can't be that hard.  Media Play [5] used to have a little terminal in their stores called "Muse" that had a workable database for basic searching by artist, album title, etc.  Somebody just needs to step up and put it online.

UPDATE: Turns out I was just not paying attention. has got it all covered.


[1] - It was Jennifer Beals in  Flashdance.
[2] - Patrick Duffey starred in Man From Atlantis back in 1977-78.
[3] - Apparently it's in the writing phase and could possibly be out as soon as 2015.
[4] - Semi-inside joke, but you get the point.
[5] - The loss of this store still makes me sad :(

Safe House & the American

It worked out that I had a free evening last night. [1]  I decided to squander away my time watching movies.  I'd recently gotten a copy of The American and after a brief run to the used CD/DVD store I decided to pair it up with Safe House.

I pretty knew the gist of what Safe House was about [2] and thought that the American was similar. Which given the cover the American seemed a safe bet.  [3]

I began the double feature with Safe House.

Safe House: Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds "team up" in this one.  Denzel Washington takes a rare turn at playing a bad guy. [4]  To be honest I'd forgotten it was Ryan Reynolds in this one and if I had paid more attention at the store would probably have thought twice about buying it had I remembered.  It's not that I don't like the guy, it's more that I don't like the guy.

To be clearer. I haven't actually seen a ton of movie with Reynolds, but I've developed the impression that he's a bit of a goof ball and I expect more of a frat boy performance out of him than that of a soldier/spy.  This is probably in a large part because of Van Wilder and the Green Lantern movie, neither of which I saw. [5]

Safe House has definitely improved things.  He was completely believable and did a great job.  Granted it was an action flick and didn't really call for too much depth of acting, but nevertheless I enjoyed his performance and the movie in general.

If I have any real bone to pick with the movie it's that it fails in the same way that every movie of this ilk seems to fail. [6]  Which is that the "surprise" bad guy in the movie was about as much of a surprise as plain white toast. [7]  Anyone who didn't know that he was a bad guy the first or second time he was on the screen probably screams in terror every time the toaster pops-up.

The American: So if you've seen this movie and you read my assumptions above you have already realize what I'm about to say in the next sentence.  This movie was not at all what I was expecting.  It did have some violence and a sort of a car chase [8] and guns, but it is not an action movie.

Instead it's a movie about a guy whose life is sad, lonely and boring.  He then comes to realize how sad, lonely and boring his life is.  He decides to stop living a sad, lonely and boring life.  This naturally results in the ending that movies of this formula always end with. [9]  Thus, my biggest problem with this movie is that the "surprise" at the end was no surprise at all.

A minor problem could be the slow pacing and lack of action, but then again that is probably more a factor of what I was expecting versus what I actually got. [10]

Safe House: B+
The American: B+

[1] - Meaning the Pook took the boys to a Halloween party and I was free to do as I like.
[2] - Guns, violence, explosions, car chases, etc, etc.
[3] - George Clooney running with a gun.
[4] - Sort of.
[5] - Looking at his IMDB listing doesn't really change that opinion either.
[6] - So it's more of a bone to pick with these movies in general.
[7] - Just to be clear, by that I mean none-at-all.
[8] - Motor scooters count, right?
[9] - And of course, somewhere along the way he falls in love with a prostitute.
[10] - So more of a problem with me than the movie.

Three Bear Vignettes

Three Bear Vignettes:  If you are unsure of who the Bear is you can check it out here.  All three of these tales took place in the recent past, so he is about three-and-a-half-years-old in all of them.  Also, I didn't give this post a grade.

Story 1: 

While hanging out with his Aunt Lyndsay [1] the two began to have a conversation about outer space and the planets. [2]  The Bear started telling her about the rings around Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  The following conversation then took place: [3]

Lyndsay: I don't think all of those planets have rings.
Bear: Yes, they do.
Lyndsay: I don't know.  I think only Saturn has rings.
Bear [Talking very matter-of-factly]: Aunt Lyndsay, I think I know more about planets then you do.

Story 2:

At the Bear's day care, there used to be a couple of girls that were older, but they've gone on to Kindergarten and such.  Thus now the Bear and one other girl are the oldest.  There are also a couple of other infants.  The other girl is essentially the same age as the Bear and they are evidently thick as thieves.

He spends every day playing cars and other typical boy stuff.  The other girl apparent likes to play "getting married".  As the only potential groom, the Bear evidently usually suffers through this with good graces.  However the other day she was evidently taking too long, which prompted him to finally blurt out:

"Are we married yet?  Because I've got things to do."

Story 3: 

Driving in the car the other day with the Bear, we began a conversation on the differences between backhoes and excavators. This is a discussion we frequently have.  You'd think it would be easy to definitively say one way or the other, but it isn't.  Especially as the British seem to have a different set of names all together for their trucks. [4]

Bear: Do backhoes all have tires?
Me: I believe so.
Bear: Don't some of them have tracks. [5]
Me: I think only the really big ones have tracks and those are excavators.
Bear: No, Daddy.  Backhoes and excavators are the same thing.  I know it's hard to understand.

[1] - It's not polite to reveal a woman's age, but I will say that she's only a few years younger than the Pook
[2] - If you spend more than ten minutes with the Bear you should probably expect this conversation to come up.  I suggest having already chosen a favorite planet
[3] - In the interest of full disclosure: I didn't actually witness this conversation, so all quoted lines are likely slightly different from the original.
[4] - And a fair amount of the youtube videos the Bear watches about construction trucks seem to come from across the pond.
[5] - Meaning treads like a bulldozer or tank.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Into the Great Wide Open

Into the Great Wide Open: I've always been a big Tom Petty fan.  At the end of the 80's and in the beginning of the 90's he changed his style from his previous heavier, more metal sound [1] to a cleaner, poppier sound.

The first album to come out this way was the solo effort, Full Moon Fever in 1989.  The most notable song from that one is Free Falling.

Two years later he reunited with the Heartbreakers to continue the sound on Into the Great Wide Open. [2]

There's nothing about this album that I don't like.  Every song is a keeper from the opening track (Learning to Fly) to the last (Built to Last).

I would try and tell you about a few favorites, but then I'd just have to go track by track through the whole album, because I literally like every single one of them.

Just do me a favor and give it a listen.

Into the Great Wide Open: A+

[1] - Note I did not say he was metal.  I said the sound was more metal.
[2] - Wildflowers finished up the trio of albums in '94.  His first greatest hits also came out during this stint.  It included the new song, Mary Jane's Last Dance which has the same general sound.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Super Stick Man Golf

Super Stick Man Golf: Noodlecake Studios makes computer games.  In particular they make games for cell phones.  In even more particularness they make Super Stick Man Golf.

I came upon this game while searching through the free games section of the app store on my iPhone.  The game evidently wasn't always free, but I guess having made enough money on it the folks at Noodlecake decided to start giving it away.

Whatever the actual reason, I thank them heartily because I love this game.

No seriously, I love it.

Okay, not actually love love it, but I love it as much as you can love any collection of 1's and 0's being used to represent a small stick man whacking a tiny white circle around an increasingly bizarre set of courses.

The game itself is simple enough.  You are a stick man.  You play golf.  You try to get the ball into the hole in as few shots as possible.

There are approximately 37 or so courses in the game.  Each is nine holes.  They are supposedly grouped according to difficulty, but I suspect they are more grouped according to some other characteristic.  [1]

Like all good games there are achievements to earn.[2]  Things like getting a hole-in-one or ending a course at ten under par or better.  There are also some goofy achievements related to some of the enhancements you can unlock. [3]

The enhancements are mostly special balls.  The ice ball will freeze a water hazard and thus allow you to avoid losing two strokes to a bad shot.  The sticky ball will adhere to any surface (besides water) and allows you to take your next shot hanging from the ceiling if that's what thrills you.  The super ball flies ten times farther and is consequently on fire.  etc.  etc. You get the idea.  There are also a couple of enhancements that change the course instead of the ball.  Like the hazard swap that makes all the water traps on a hole into sand traps and vice versa.

You can put up to seven special enhancements into your "golf bag" for any course.  Thus, you have to choose wisely.  Though a perfectly good way to play is just to take seven mulligans.  They let you undo your last shot and try again.

Anyway, back to my undying love for this game.

How much do I love it you ask?  Well let me tell you how much I've played so far.

The first time through I just played all of the courses and unlocked all of the enhancements and earned all of the achievements.[4]  Some of which are not easy.  Of course, I did all of this without using any of the enhancements save the mulligan.

Having done that I played all of the courses again until I had scored a gold star on all of them. [5]  Again, I naturally did this without using any enhancement except the mulligan.

Now I'm going through course by course and determining what is the lowest score you could get using the enhancements and then I am attempting to get that score. [6]  For instance, I've gotten a -36 on the Purple Haze course.

If you are dying to know how I'm playing each course.  Don't worry, I've got a chart I'm working on that will tell you which enhancement to use for each hole and what is the best score you can achieve.  I'll publish it once I've finished.

You might think I have a problem.  It's not a problem.  It's love. [7]

Super Stick Man Golf: A+

[1] - There are a couple of pretty tough courses in the 'beginner' set and some of the 'advanced' set are downright easy.  I'm willing to bet that they are actually pretty much grouped according to when they were made.
[2] - Okay like all games lately, good or bad.
[3] - Like sinking the flaming super ball into a water hazard.  More on that later.
[4] - Except for the multi-player ones.  Our relationship is a private one.
[5] - A gold star means you scored ten under par or better.
[6] - I'm calling it a success if I get within four strokes.
[7] - A love that will never end.  Or anyway, won't end until Super Stick Man Golf 2 comes out later this year.  Color me excited.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Sushi:  I wouldn't call myself a culinary adventurer.  Andrew Zimmern has nothing to fear from me.  For instance when a friend of a friend offered me some straight from Scotland haggis, it didn't take me long to say, "no thanks".[1]

However I also wouldn't call myself a culinary recluse either.  I'm usually more than willing to try new things, I'm just not desperate to find the next comestible highlight in the backwaters of the barely edible.

Which brings us to sushi.

My first and only [2] experience with sushi came about when I was in the last year of studying for my undergraduate degree.  As part of our requirements for our degree, I and a female classmate were both
interns at a law enforcement agency in Atlanta.  The semester was almost over and it was our last days of interning.

She didn't have to come in until later that day but arrived around noon and asked if I wanted to go out to lunch to celebrate the end of the semester/interning/college/etc.  Unfortunately, I had already eaten, but in the spirit of day, I said I'd be glad to go with her and provide company. [3]

Since I wasn't going to eat, she decided to go get sushi.  In the interest of full disclosure, the sushi bar in question was actually attached to a food court in an upscale mall nearby.

You sushi defenders are now saying things like, "well of course it wasn't very good.  If you'd only have gone to a better restaurant!

That is not the case at all.  We, in fact, went to this place instead of a to a just as easy to get to nearby sushi bar, because she had been to both before and said this was in fact as good if not better than most of the sushi bars she'd been to. [4]

So back to the story.  She got a plate full of sushi stuff.  Don't ask me what type of sushi it was.  I don't know and at this point frankly don't care.  Because the drinks from the sushi bar were small and limited, I got us both extra large drinks from one of the food court restaurants.  They weren't quite 55 gallon drums, but close.[5]

We chatted while she ate and then she asked if I'd ever had sushi.  I admitted that I hadn't.  She offered some of hers.  I declined.  Not because I thought it would be bad, but I'd already eaten and she didn't have that much of it and I didn't want to eat her lunch.  I explained as much.  She said she didn't mind and offered again.[6] So I said, okay.

As I was saying at the beginning of my tale.  I've eaten my share of less traditional food.  I've at least tried food from many places around the world and have enjoyed most of it.  I've eaten some strange things.[7]  And while I haven't loved or even liked some of it [8], I've never had something where, if it was the only thing available to eat, I would have starved.

Until that day.

That bite of sushi is the only morsel of food that I've ever eaten that I had to actively stop myself from throwing up.  My gag reflex was trying to work overtime and my brain was desperately trying to play it cool and keep a lid on things.

What I wanted to do was eject the stuff from my mouth.  But I also didn't want to completely offend and/or turn off the lovely co-intern across the table.  An internal debate between my brain and my stomach proceeded that went something like this:

Brain: Swallow that!
Stomach: Not ever!
Brain: Do you see that girl across the table?  Well we'd like to see her again.  Do NOT blow this.
Stomach: I don't care about the girl across the table.  Remember that lunch we ate about a half hour ago?  If you don't want to see it and the sushi on that selfsame girl.  I suggest you do something!

Meanwhile, I had instantaneously broken out into a cold sweat and my face had become pasty white as all blood retreated from the area.

I attempted to slyly and calmly spit the offending item into a napkin without literally losing my lunch.[9]

I then proceeded to drain my entire giant drink in one long swallow.

Things hadn't gotten much better internally.

Having watched this entire proceeding, she offered me her drink and pushed it across the table.

I proceeded to drain her entire drink in one long swallow as well.

At this point the wild look in my eyes subsided as the battle between forces of upchuck and 'smile-as-you-suffer-through-it' turned slightly in favor of the latter.

I'm proud to say I ultimately did not spew forth that day though it was mighty close.  Of course, I never saw the girl again either.  [10]

Thus from that day forward I have never had sushi again.

When people ask me why and I tell them this tale inevitably I then get barraged with comments like,

"Well what type of sushi was it?"
"If you tried such-and-such, I bet you'd love it!"
"You just don't know what you're missing?"

My response is always the same.  Who cares!

When you come microns away from making a technicolor rainbow, the last thing you do is go and experiment to see if you can identify exactly what brought you to the brink.

I don't eat sushi.  My life is no less full for this fact.

Sushi - F-------- [11]

[1] - Haggis, if you were unaware, is Sheep's stomach filled with stuff that look about like what you'd expect to find in a sheep's stomach.
[2] - Because that's not telling of how this is gonna go.
[3] - I'd also be lying if I didn't say that she was very cute and the possibility that we might see more of each other outside of school would have been agreeable.
[4] - She evidently ate the stuff on a regular basis.  She actually later went and got a part time job at a sushi bar just so she could get the stuff more often and cheaper.
[5] - Nickel difference!
[6] - She loved sushi so much she was essentially acting as a sushi ambassador.
[7] - Among other things: opossum, alligator and these strange white sausages in Paris that I later found out were stuffed with intestines.
[8] - I've never been able to get behind Indian curries.
[9] - I succeeded in getting it to the napkin.  I failed completely at the sly part.
[10] - When an ambassador offers you delights from their country and it takes all of your willpower not to yak, the possibility of future relations between countries tend to dry pretty quickly.
[11] - For the record, that's and 'F' with eight minuses behind it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Pinatas: I want you to close your eyes and think of a pinata.  Picture a blindfolded child swinging a bat at the pinata.  The pinata moves out of the way as the person at the end of the rope makes it jump about wildly.  The child swings again and again.  The Pinata continues its merry dance until the randomness of its erratic movements and the swinging of the bat brings the two into destructive contact.  The Pinata explodes and a shower of treats rains down on the ecstatic children below.

Now open your eyes and face the reality of a Pinata.

They never, and I do mean never, explode into a shower of treats. [1] The children all line up and each take their swings, but even if they should make contact the Pinata holds firm.  Like a sadistic piggy bank refusing to give up its coins.  Eventually the kids and the adults get tired of the whole endeavor.

First, they stop pulling the rope at all, but even hanging still it doesn't produce any results.

Next the blindfold is discarded.  The children's interest is renewed, but rapidly wanes as even the benefit of sight produces no better results.

Ultimately we end with the pinata lying on the ground as one of the larger kids (or even an adult) beats the thing like the proverbial horse.

Should someone actually get lucky enough to breach the pinatas exterior while it is still airborne, no explosion of candy results.  Instead, if you are lucky one or two sad pieces of candy slide out, but no more.  More likely nothing falls out and the hole just serves as mockery while the pinata continues to hold fast. [2]

But before we completely turn away from the concept of a pinata in disgust.  Let's look at a few more facets of the endeavor.

First of all, who is really getting any joy out of the thing?  In reality the only ones are the adults as they laugh at the children swinging wildly and ineffectually.  In other words, this is mocking our youngsters while they fail at a task they have no hope of completing.

Secondly, about half the time the children end up getting the last laugh as one of the "helpful" adults in the area [3] ends up taking an essentially deserved shot to a vital area as little Billy starts swinging wildly before they can get clear.

And thirdly, now-a-days pinatas are made to look like our kids TV and movie heroes.  Not the villains, mind you, because that would make sense.  So instead of having them beat the tar out of evil doers and villains, we have them beat the tar out of Superman or Elmo or Curious George.[3]

In conclusion, while I would love to regale you with tales of pinatas past and multi-colored torrents of confections erupting from within, sadly I cannot.  Instead I can only tell you of one Dora.  Who having done nothing more offending than explored where her curiosity would take her, ended up with her head hanging high overhead while her decapitated body lay on the ground taking repeated blunt force trauma from a five iron.

Pinata perfection.

Pinatas: F

[1] - Or a shower of anything for that matter.
[2] - It's only a flesh wound.
[3] - Most likely its the one who spins the blindfolded kid around before letting them loose with a blunt weapon
[3] - Take that you simian freak!  And tell that yellow hatted man if he knows what's good for him he won't show his face around here!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake:  I went to my niece's birthday party today and it got me thinking about Birthday Cake.  This is the dessert that is supposed to be the piece d'resistance of the birthday celebration.  The culmination of a party full of activities.  The final capstone of the event.  And yet generally speaking birthday cakes are, simply put, bad.

Here are the usual suspects in the birthday cake line-up of offenders:

Sheet Cake of Doom: This was usually bought from a grocery store bakery.  The cake itself is totally unremarkable and forgettable.  In fact, if you stop right now and try to think about what the last giant sheet cake you ate tasted like, I suspect the answer you'll come up with is "????" [1]  It has a thin layer of icing on it that also tastes like nothing.  Of course this monstrosity has two big upsides.  The first is that it is large enough to play a decent game of football on and will feed 900.  The second is that the store will gladly air brushed your tot's favorite TV or movie character on it. [2]

Mount Icing: The cake part of this one could taste fine, it could be great or it could be horrible.  You will never know because it is buried under enough sugar icing to send Paula Deen into a coma.  The cake to frosting ratio is roughly: 1 to infinity.  Unfortunately the icing doesn't taste like anything except sugar.  And because there wasn't enough on it already, it is adorned with letters made of clear colored icing with the textural consistency of snot and the flavor of more sugar. [3]

Ridiculously Expensive Boutique Cake: Whoever paid for this one will be sure to mention where they got it about 60 times.  Of course, you've never heard of the place so even if you are paying attention it won't matter.  It's covered in fondant that is probably adorned with icing flowers, edible beads [4] and other overly fancy decorations.  However while it may be beautiful and look like the cover of a magazine, it has the flavor of the inside of that same magazine.  Also it is as dry as the Sahara.  People will line up for cake, but will rapidly disappear like a David Copperfield  trick [5] once they see the faces of the lucky people who were first in line. [6]

Ridiculously Expensive Boutique Cake That is Overcompensating for the Mistakes of the Previous Cake:  This cake looks exactly like the previous cake except that the cook evidently soaked the inside in a flavorless liquid.  Taking a forkful is akin to biting down on a damp sponge. [7]

The Ice Cream Cake: This cake attempts to wow you by taking out of your hands the presumably tricky game day decision of "do you want cake, ice cream or both?"  Hopefully the purchaser of this delight picked flavors you can at least stand. [8]  But you actually don't have to worry, because regardless of what flavors they say it is, the end result is relatively flavorless ice cream on completely flavorless cake.  If your lucky there are some Oreos crumbled between to two layers so you can discern the difference.  As an added bonus, the cake starts out extra dense so the ice cream doesn't melt straight into it and then the whole thing was put in the freezer for the last 48 hours.  Result?  It's all hard as a brick and requires a chain saw to cut.

The Tasty Cake: This is a myth and doesn't exist.  You may think you remember once having a delicious cake at your cousin Lucy's 14th birthday, but it's really a fantasy you keep in the corner of your mind to keep hope alive.

There are other cake miscreants out there that I haven't mentioned [9] but I believe I've covered the main offenders.  And you can get cakes that aren't bad, but they aren't the great birthday finale that you want either.  For the record when my birthday comes around and the Pook asks what dessert I want, I usually go with non-cake choices.  To me there's something more special about a Cannoli or Seven Layer Dessert than yet another entry in the faceless parade of bad birthday cakes.

Birthday Cake: C-

[1] - Meaning, "I can't remember."
[2] - So you are trading off flavor for being able to argue over who gets to eat Superman's face.
[3] - Later all anyone will remember of this cake is the spelling errors.  "Hapy Birtday. Dog."
[4] - That are "not food".
[5] - But with less smoke and scantily dressed women.
[6] - If you are serving this one, expect to end the party with a lot of uneaten cake or a lot of full dessert plates hidden around your house.
[7] - Depending on what you used the sponge to wipe up, the sponge probably has more flavor.
[8] - What?  Everyone loves Pistachio Ice Cream with German Chocolate cake.
[9] - Like the one with the strawberries or cherries on top that are covered in a syrup evidently made out of Vicks 44D.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Book & Movie)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Book & Movie):  Stieg Larsson is the Swedish author who wrote the novel and its two sequels.  If you are anxiously awaiting his next novel, you're going to have a long wait. [1]  Hopefully something that you did know is that in 2012 they made a movie out of the novel.  The movie starred Daniel Craig. [2]  The novel starred whoever you pictured in your mind as the lead character.  Since I saw the movie before I read the book, Daniel Craig got the spot by default.

For the movie, the screenwriter stuck very close to the source material.  Which isn't always true. [3]  Which means that every scene in the movie is nearly identical to the same scene in the book.  [4]  What it doesn't mean is that everything that happened in the book is portrayed in the movie.  Large swaths of material [5] are left out of the movie.  But the movie doesn't suffer too badly for it as long as you are fine with missing out on a lot of the motivation and inner thoughts of the characters. [6] Also the bulk of the story line surrounding Blomkvist's trial and what happens later is completely missing.  Which is understandable as keeping it in would have made the movie twice as long.

Of course they could have saved some time by not expanding on the scene in which Salander beats up her social worker. [7]  Watching that scene in the movie just made me cringe.  When I started to get close to that part in the book, I was mentally gearing myself up for the worst, but the book was completely tame in comparison.

I must also admit that in the movie there were a couple of times in which several minutes were devoted to showing us all of the pictures that Blomkvist was sorting through.  I had no real problem with the pictures themselves, I just wish it had been a bit clearer what it was we were looking for.  The book does a much better job of that.

I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy and I believe that they are making a movie out of that as well . . . checking the Interweb . . . confirmed, but no dates mentioned as of yet.  I will probably try to see the movie when it comes out.  [8]

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [Book] - A
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [Movie] - B [9]

[1] - He's dead.
[2] - Yes, he's current James Bond.  Yes, he totally did jump out of a helicopter with the Queen of England during the Olympics. That really happened.
[3] - Lawnmower Man and Running Man to name two off of the top of my head.
[4] - Unless of course you have an over active imagination, in which case all bets are off.
[5] - Could make a really big dress.
[6] - Long scenes of people thinking don't make good cinema
[7] - Granted he had it coming.
[8] - I suspect the Pook will not as she found the first to be too off putting.
[9] - Yeah, I didn't need to see all that.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ham Steak

[Full disclosure: This one is by request.  Not sure why the Pook thinks I should grade this, but here you go.]

Ham Steak: In case you aren't sure what a ham steak is, it's a giant slab of ham that typically has a small bone in the shape of an "O" just off center.  If that doesn't bring anything to mind, when you get ham with a breakfast plate, it's typically a smaller piece of the giant ham steak whole.  If that still doesn't clue you in to what we are talking about, look at the bottom of this post at the link to the Amazon page where you can buy one.[1]

Given that much of what comes from a pig is so very, very good (bacon and sausage to name the main two [2]), you would think that ham steaks would be right up there at the top with them.

You would be wrong.

I totally agree that it sounds like a winner.  Large piece of pork, typically fried up in a skillet in the same method that makes the previously mentioned bacon and sausage oh so yummy.  Only there's a disconnect somewhere along the way that leaves ham steak falling well short of the gastronomical Utopia achieved by its culinary cousins.

The taste isn't awful or anything.  It's really just kind of salty.  In fact, the number one adjective you can honestly apply to ham steaks is just that.  Salty.  A drink lots of water and still be ready to realize about an hour after you've eaten that your mouth is a desert kind of salty.

Which would again make you think that I'd really go for ham steak as I am usually all for the salty.  But it's a no-go in this case.

In truth I really think the problem is the lack of fat.  Bacon and sausage are awash in the stuff [3] and while a ham steak does have a few streaks of white goodness running through it, it just doesn't compare.

Some restaurants will attempt to bring a dish up a notch by including an enhancer of some sort.  Typically for ham steak this is 'red eye gravy'.

Red eye gravy?

What kind of name is that?

Further, why is it called that?

It is a little red, but I don't know what it has to do with eyes and the fact of the matter is that if it does actually have something to do with eyes, I don't wanna know.

Also it's the sad type of gravy.  The dark runny type that could just as easily be called au jus and have you dunking a sandwich in it.  Which is probably what you should do because it certainly isn't going to stick to a ham steak in any kind of a satisfactory fashion.

The best part of a ham steak is actually the marrow.  This is the small dollop of stuff that is sitting in the middle of the little circular bone that I mentioned earlier.  It's actually pretty tasty, but I suspect that it's probably really bad for you.  Which really brings it right up to the level of bacon and sausage.

Ham Steak: C

[1] - Or Six as it happens.
[2] - Or really the only two.
[3] - And it's good!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

No They Can't

No, They Can't: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed:  As mentioned in a previous blog, I had the pleasure of meeting John Stossel last year.  Since he was nice enough to come and talk at a public school, I figured I would be nice enough to buy his book.[1]

If you've seen much of Stossel's previous work on ABC and his current work on Fox then you've already read this book.  It isn't anything that he hasn't said before many times.  The gist of it is simply that the cumbersomeness of government makes it ill suited to handle most of life's problems in any type of an efficient way and that the framers of the Constitution never intended the government to handle them anyway.

And as I've said before, he's got a pretty good point.  Government (any bureaucracy really) is inherently inefficient.  I don't think there are too many people out there who really believe otherwise.[2]  Throughout the book's thirteen chapters he reiterates this point over and over.

Stossel's solution is free enterprise.  In other words, government get out of the way and let the market handle it.  There's no need for an inefficient government to try and duplicate the success that the market creates on a daily basis.

Okay, so enough with the nice-nice.  What you really want to hear is what's wrong with the book.

The first thing I always think about when I hear somebody say something along the lines of, "that's not what the framers of the Constitution intended" is 'perhaps but then again the framers of the Constitution aren't here.'  In other words, maybe we can figure out what they were thinking back then, but we're not back then.  We're here in the present.  In a world that is so different from back then, I think if Thomas Jefferson were to suddenly be transported to the present day he'd declare a lot more than independence, if you get my drift.[3]  Once he'd calmed down and had a few things explained I suspect even he would say that some [4] of the ideas from the Constitution might need to be adjusted for the modern world.

If we are willing to except that, then the question simply becomes determining which things the government should be doing and which it shouldn't.

The other big problem I have with the book is the chapter on the war on drugs.  If you are willing to accept Stossel's assumptions then his points are valid and correct.  However, I don't accept them.  I agree that the war on drugs is a failure, but I don't agree that we should just give up or that we never should have started in the first place.

Finally, the book starts out [5] on a fairly positive note.  It essentially was saying, here's some issues and here are some solutions.  Perhaps we should look at them and at the least have a discussion about them.  The book basically ended on a note that was saying, 'things will never get fixed, so we're all doomed.' [6]  If you want to get people on your side of an argument, making them feel like the whole thing is pointless isn't the way to do it.

No They Can't: B-

[1] - And get him to sign it of course.
[2] - Okay there are plenty of people who might think that they believe otherwise, but there aren't too many who would believe that if they've dealt with or worked for the government on any kind of regular basis.
[3] - If you didn't, I meant he'd say a few choice words in his astonishment and perhaps wet his pants.
[4] - Not all or even nearly all, but some.
[5] - Or at least for me it seemed to start out
[6] - Of course his last chapter was about the skyrocketing debt problem, so it's hard to not get a bit depressed.


Sunday, August 19, 2012


Chicken: How do we eat thee? Let me count the ways . . . actually let's not because I don't have all week.  Perhaps a better way to ask it is, are there any ways that we don't eat chicken?[1]  And for that matter why do we eat chicken so many different ways?

Well if you were an alien staring down at us you might think it's because it taste super yummy, but you'd be wrong.  Think about it.  What does chicken taste like?  I'll tell you what it tastes like, it tastes like nothing.  It's nearly flavorless.

But that's okay!  It's chicken's non-flavor that makes it so great.  Because whatever flavor you like best, it's no problem getting your chicken to taste that way.  Chicken is the ultimate empty palate of the cooking world.

Of course the other great thing about chicken is that it comes from a quickly renewed source.  Did you know it only takes about six weeks to go from egg to tastiness on a plate?  Only six tiny weeks.  What else can you grow to full size in six weeks?  Not much at least as far as meat is concerned.[2]

And now to offend the animal rights people.

Some people say that it's horrible that we breed chickens in tiny cages and then mercilessly slaughter them and then cook them and eat them.[3]  I freely admit that I'm no chicken expert.[4]  But a quick check on the Internet will probably confirm . . . hang on . . . yep they got brains the size of a lima bean.  Which basically means they aren't likely to form a coalition any time soon.  Neither are they likely to care that they don't get to wander around much.  That time wandering around mostly being sent in a biologically driven constant hunt for food and trying to avoid getting eaten.[5]  Especially since, in their cage they get to lay on their butts as the food comes down a chute directly to them.  I'm pretty sure I could name five or six people who would sign up for that life in a heart beat.

Of course there are free range chickens.  In case you don't know what these are they are chickens who have the privilege of living in a place where the door to their coop is left open so that they can freely wander around to their heart's content.  If you ever go to such a place you're likely to see a bunch of chickens sitting around in a chicken coop.  Turns out that even free range chickens don't care for the wandering around so much.[6]

Anyway back to my original point.  Chicken!  Fry it. Roast it. Slice it. Chop it. Shred it. Make it spicy.  Make it sweet.  Make it crunchy on the outside or not.  Serve it over rice or between bread.  Stuff it with bread or cheese and ham.  Make a soup. Make a casserole.  Make a pot pie.  But whatever you do, make no mistake it can be as tasty as you want it to be.

Chicken: B-

[1] - Besides raw, I'm going to guess the answer is no.
[2] - That mold in your fridge doesn't count.
[3] - Which you have to admit is better than not killing them before you cook them.  Just ask a lobster.
[4] - I don't know nothing 'bout breedin' chickens.
[5] - By predators like a fox who aren't so particular about the killing before eating part.
[6] - Maybe someone should form a coalition to get them better educated.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Prolonging the Magic

Prolonging the Magic: This is an album by the band Cake.  You remember Cake, they had a big hit with The Distance [1] off of their Fashion Nugget album.  Except that wasn't Cake.  I mean it was Cake that put out the album and sang the song, but it wasn't really Cake.  For that album they got a new producer or somesuch that totally "redesigned" the band to make them more marketable.  The result was The Distance and while it did well on the charts and all that, it made Cake into not Cake.[2] Prolonging the Magic is the album after that where Cake said 'forget that nonsense we're going to be Cake and not not Cake.'[3]

This is a great album.  They've really hit the stride they were trying to find in their first album and were forced to partially move away from in their second.  It's got all of the goodness you expect from Cake: sarcastic lyrics delivered in a serious voice, obscure references scattered throughout, trumpets scattered throughout and the band using everything that they can think of as a musical instrument.[4]

Some of my favorite songs off of the album are Sheep Go to Heaven, Cool Blue Reason, When You Sleep and even Satan is Motor.  If you want to give yourself a chuckle surf around the various 'lyrics meanings'   websites and see what people say this song is about.  On one sight there were about twenty different explanations, each one containing a section in which the erstwhile explainer politely apologizes to all of the previous posts about correcting them for how wrong the previous explanations were and how right theirs is.[5]

Also there's a pig on the CD cover.  That's got to be worth some positive points.

Prolonging the Magic: A

[1] - He's going the distance.  He's going for speed.  He's all alone (all alone) in his time of need.
[2] - What?  Are you confused?
[3] - Except that they didn't literally say that, but it would have been cool if they had.
[4] - I sometimes think the band tried to be a part of Stomp but got rejected for using things for instruments that were just too weird.
[5] - fwiw I am not 100% sure what it means but I do know that McCrea (the song writer) has emphatically stated that it is not a satanic song.  Personally I think it's just saying that we can dress ourselves up in shiny clothes and look nice, but were all base impulses on the inside.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bubble Witch Saga

Bubble Witch Saga: I used to play a fair number of games on Facebook.[1]  But after the initial fun wears off, they get kind of tedious.[2]  When I realized how much time I was spending playing these things I quit and suddenly had time to waste starting a blog.[3]

Fast forward to a few months ago.  I'm sitting around bored with a few minutes on my hands and none of my Words With Friends games need me to continue dominating my opponents.  So, I decided to see what new nonsense FB had to offer.

Enter Bubble Witch Saga.

Ostensibly you are trying to help these witches get rid of the baddies, but it's really just a bubble shooting game.  You shoot up the screen trying to match colors to pop bubbles and get the board cleared.  There's nothing new about the concept[4] but BWS has added a few things.

The benign things are that they've added trickier bubbles in later boards.  Like bombs that explode if you don't get them off of the board fast enough or skull bubbles that cause you to lose a life if you shoot them at all. And these virus bubbles that infect everything and make you crazy.

The completely evil things they've added are that they've made it into a money generating monster.  You can buy potions that help you a minor amount with in-game coins, but they also have bunches of stuff that you can buy with real cash.[5]

If you run out of bubbles on a level you can buy ten more for 30 cents.  And that's part of the genius of their evil scheme.  Thirty cents is nothing!  I can just picture some sucker making that purchase over and over because it is such a small amount.  Of course at the end of the month you get your credit card bill and see that you've somehow blown $330 on imaginary bubbles.

Of course if you've got a sizable amount of money that you feel like blowing you can buy one of the charms.  There are at least 14 of these things.  I'm on level 85 and I've opened up that many and I'm sure there's more out there to be revealed.  There's one that adds three to the max number of lives you have and it costs a mere $9.90.  Another let's you see the next three balls that are coming into play instead of only seeing the next two.  That one will run you $12.90.

Are you kidding me?  If anyone reading this blog has actually been stupid enough to buy any of them, please call me immediately.  I have a bridge and a swamp to sell you.

But the award winner is the Charm of Immortality.  This will give you unlimited lives for a mere $79.90.


Please, please, please, please tell me that nobody has actually bought that.  They have to be kidding right?

If there is anyone out there that's bought it, please send me your address I need to come and slap you.[6]

Anyway, if you haven't guessed I'm addicted to playing the game.  Fortunately you run out of lives fairly quickly so it doesn't really take up much of my time.  Despite my lack of cash funded bonuses I've managed to get pretty far with just the free stuff.  Now if I can just come up with a game to milk suckers out of their money.  Maybe something about clicking a cow.

Bubble Witch Saga [The Game]: B
Bubble Witch Saga [The Scheme to Soak the Feebleminded of their Cash]: A+ [7]

[1] - Yes, it was me spamming you asking for some bricks to finish my hen house.
[2] - Sure, this time I'm collecting Terra Cotta Bricks and not just normal bricks, but in the end it's all just a bunch of clicking.
[3] - jk, I stopped playing FB games long before I started wasting time on a blog.
[4] - Snood players you can gloat about being there first if you'd like.
[5] - Let me be up front and say that I have not nor will I ever actually be dumb enough to spend money on something as stupid as this, but I can certainly image people who are.
[6] - You can press charges if you want, but when the judge finds out they'll just dismiss the charges and slap you themself.
[7] - An evil, evil, evil A+, but an A+ nonetheless.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man: A lot of people's complaint with this movie was simply that it was too soon to reboot Spider-man.  I like Tobey Maguire's adaptation and would have been glad to see another with him in it, but my understanding is that he said 'no thanks'.  So, I have no problem with the restart.  In fact when everything was said and done (and seen) I say, 'thanks!'.

There were definitely some changes to the traditional Spider-man genesis story but nothing too egregious. When I saw that Martin Sheen was going to be Uncle Ben I thought it a perfect match.  When I saw Sally Fields was going to be Aunt May I groaned, but not because she wasn't a good fit for the part, in truth she was perfect.[1]

I appreciate the director not rubbing our noses in the death of Uncle Ben.  It has to happen.  It happens and we move on.  I also appreciated some of the stuff that was cleverly left out of the movie.  For instance not giving Norman Osborne a visible face.  Meaning they can cast whoever they want later on.  Also doing the same thing with J. Jonah Jameson.  And they left the capture of Ben's killer unresolved for future goodness in another movie.

I also like that they didn't skip the Gwen Stacy part of Peter's life.  Good to see that arc finally show up in a movie.  Even if it doesn't end well in the end.[2]

I do think that the face of the Lizard was kind of lacking.  Don't know if it was a conscious choice or more of a CGI limitation choice or what but his face was less Lizard and more Voldemort imo.  In fact in the one scene where the Lizard has Spider-man in his grasp and he leans forward and says, "Poor Peter Parker", I was struck by how the look of the scene and the intonation of the Lizard could almost have been Voldemort holding Harry saying, "Poor Harry Potter."

Finally, I can't finish without acknowledging the groan inducing "feel good" scene with the cranes.  Of course, I also have to acknowledge that similar groan inducing scenes tend to show up the Spider-man comics from time to time[3].  So, I can't fault them for staying true to the comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man: A

[1] - More because somewhere along the line I've developed an odd aversion to Sally Fields showing up in stuff.  Then once I actually watch whatever it is, I get over it.  She's a good actress.
[2] - But in the end I like Mary Jane better anyway.
[3] - The ending of the Maximum Carnage arc almost killed my soul.  (At least I think it was that one, I'm blocking the memory.)

The Dark Knight Rises

Probably going to offend some people with this one, but that's never stopped me before.  Also, warning that there are some spoilers in here.

The Dark Knight Rises: I'm not necessarily going to call Christopher Nolan the greatest anything, but with movies like Inception, Memento and the previous two Batman movies to his name Nolan is definitely a major heavy weight when it comes to the movies.  So when the third of his Batman trilogy was released it goes without saying that I was more than a little excited to see it.

I guess this is yet another lesson in the realm of don't set your expectations to high.

Don't get me wrong it's a pretty good movie, but it's a pale shadow compared with the Dark Knight.

The biggest problem with it is that it just fails to build and maintain any momentum or energy.  It wasn't boring per se.  There were plenty of good elements and the plot is sufficiently dark and twisty.  It's more that there was too much story for the movie and thus we are rushed quickly through something that should have taken twice as long to tell. If you want to leave a scene with the audience feeling a specific emotion you have to build towards that emotion and that takes time.  To me it felt like we were shorted some of the connective tissue and thus we failed to reach the desired emotions along the way. [1]

Thus, I wasn't very worried about Bruce Wayne hiding in his house.  I didn't really care about Gordon being in the hospital.  Catwoman's betrayal didn't shock or outrage me at all.  I wasn't concerned about the police getting trapped in the sewers or about all of Gotham getting isolated from the rest of the world.  Bruce's escape from prison was more a foregone conclusion than thrilling. And when the big twist revealed who the real bad guy was I went, 'oh.' [2]  Which I don't think is what Nolan was going for.  In fact I wasn't worried or concerned the entire time.  So the movie ended with a fizzle instead of a KABOOM![3]

I've heard a lot of people complain about Bane.  Granted he isn't really one of the iconic Batman villains, but he was fine.  I wish they hadn't nerfed the idea that he was hopped up on a drug that made him super strong (called venom in the comic books), but I could deal with that.

A lot of people complained about Bane's voice. I know that in the original preview of the movie people complained that they couldn't understand what he was saying.  So it wouldn't surprise me if they went back and overdubbed his lines so that he was more clear.  Personally, I was fine with it.  It made him sound a little different, but that's okay he was a Batman villain, different is normal.  More weird to me was his accent.  It sounded like Nolan told the actor to do the worst Sean Connery impression he could.[4]

I'm not sure if there is supposed to be another movie after this one.  I kind of hope there is because I need a better final movie than this one.  If I can vote on a villain, I've always wanted a movie with Zsasz in it.

The Dark Knight Rises: B-

[1] - fwiw, I don't presume to tell Nolan how to make a movie, but this is the best analogy I could come up with to explain why the movie just didn't grab me like I wanted it to.
[2] - small 'o'. No exclamation point.
[3] - And when the final scenes of the movie revealed Blake's "secret" I went, 'whatever'.
[4] - In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out it was dubbed over by Sean Connery doing a bad Sean Connery impression. does not confirm this.  But then again it doesn't deny it either.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Olympics

The Olympics: If, on a regular basis, you do anything other than contemplate your navel, you're bound to hear people ranting about politics and about how the other guy[1] is a horrible person and how they're going to ruin America.  In fact, patriotism, or the lack there of, seem to always come up in some form or other.[2]  Similar arguments are heard when things like immigration, manufacturing and getting involved in other countries problems are discussed.[3]

And so we come to the Olympics.  For as much as people shout and rant about how much they love America, Patriotism, the Flag and anything else that is symbolic of our great country, you would think that the Olympics would be a Super-Mega-Gigantic-Huge!!!! Event.  But some how the Olympics get dismal ratings every time they come on.

Which simply stuns me.  What more could you want?  You would be hard pressed to come up with any way to better show how great a country we are than the Olympics.  In fact, the Soviet Union found the Olympics to be so important that in a country that struggled to keep people fed, they gave their potential Olympic athletes the best of everything so that they could win and rub our noses in their superiority.  In America, people watch the opening ceremonies and then once the parade of nations starts they flip back to the reruns of American Idol they have saved on their TiVo.

In case you haven't guessed how I feel about the Olympics let me quit beating around the bush.

The Olympics are beyond awesome.  A competition between people who have essentially dedicated their lives to trying to become the best in the world in their sports, competition, etc.  And for the most part why do they do this?  Not for the money, that's for sure.  No they do it so that they can represent their country and hopefully stand proudly, just a few inches higher than the guy who came in second while our national anthem plays and our flag is flown.

And it really doesn't matter what kind of sports you like, the Olympics has you covered.  Just about every team sport is represented.[4]  There are races of every variety: on foot, on a bike, on a boat, even on a yak and that's just the summer Olympic.[5]

Needs some violence?  Okay how about boxing, or judo, or taekwondo.  This year they even added in girls boxing.  There's weight lifting.  There are several events that involve guns.  There's two types of volleyball.  Countless things that are thrown, flung or shot through the air.  Need something a bit prettier?  How about so much gymnastics you think you're going to puke?  Or synchronized swimming?  

There's even Olympic Ping Pong.  Seriously ping pong.  And as silly as that sounds, go watch them play, it's astounding.  Same thing with badminton.  Yeah, I know you play badminton in your back yard and you think you're lord of the shuttlecock.  Trust me, compared to these guys you look like Slow-Poke Rodriguez.[6]

Maybe you simply don't like sports.  That's okay too.  It's the Olympics!  There's enough pageantry to overload even Morningside and Fields.[7]  Plus they spend plenty of time telling you all about the athletes, their successes and their trials and tribulations, that you practically feel like you've been rooting for them since they first picked up a racket, baton, oar, reins or whatever.

And how does this great nation do?  This nation that everyone seems to think is falling apart at the seams.  This nation that compared to some nations practically ignores its Olympic athletes.  We totally kick butt, that's how we do.  Out of the 16,321 medals awarded in the modern Olympics, we've taken 2,549 of them.[8] For those of you afraid of math, that's a little over 15.5%  The second highest has 1204 and that's the Soviet Union.[9]  How about on an individual Olympic basis?  Still dominating.  We usually end up with most medals and often the most gold medals.

Anyway my point is this.  These people spend their lives getting up at the crack of dawn to run, swim, ride, work out, etc, etc for essentially their entire lives.  The least you could do is sit on your butt and watch them. As they represent our country.

Now if you'll excuse me, some guy I've never heard of, from some country I'm never going to visit, is about to compete and I've got to go listen to Bob Costas make it poignant for me.

The Olympics: A+

[1] - As opposed to whoever it is you are listening to rant at the moment.
[2] - I know this post was supposed to be about the Olympics, hang on I'm getting there.
[3] - Heck, Glen Beck could probably use your liking Ketchup as a means to prove you're a commie, but then again he's an idiot.
[4] - Granted there's no football or rather American football.
[5] - Okay, I made up one of those.  But then you realize I was pulling your leg when you read the word 'boat'.
[6] - It's Speedy Gonzales' cousin, but you've probably never heard of him, because in a fit of PC stupidity, Warner Brothers caved and hid him in a closet somewhere.
[7] - IMDB it.
[8] - Not counting this year.
[9] -  And you don't have to worry about them getting any more