Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back to Work

Currently Reading: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Well it looks like my little impromptu vacation is over. Last week I sent out letters to every place in the immediate area offering grooming services to see if anyone was hiring. Since I wasn't having any luck with the big places, I thought I'd take a shot at the smaller ones. Quite often in a salon you'll have a day or two where there's a whole in the schedule. So maybe these places don't really need another FULL time groomer, maybe they just need someone once or twice a week. Do the same thing for several salons and you've got yourself a real job right?

Well, as it turns out, there was at least one place looking for a groomer. Walnut Trace Animal Clinic, which is about a block away from where CC works, needs a groomer. I sent the letters out Monday, they called me Friday. I went in for the interview, filled out the paperwork, and got the "welcome aboard" before I left.

So when do I start? The 29th. I find that a bit ironic actually. You see, that's the week, three years ago, that I started at Petco.

This new place, it's not as big obviously. And I'll pretty much be the entire grooming staff. Just me. No bathers, no other groomers to share with. There is one other groomer there now but we won't be working at the same time and as I understand it, she's on her way out. She wants less hours.

So there you go. All of you who were worried about me not having a job, you can stop worrying. Come Monday morning I'll be back at it, shaving dog butts. Cat butts too in fact so I guess you could say I'm expanding :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Epic Obento!



"Food in Japan is famously prepared as much for the eyes as for the palate - Most preschoolers take an elaborate mom-made meal, called obento, to school every day - These are made by one woman & she understands the first byte is with the eye!"

Click on the picture to see more designs. They're AWESOME!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Decorations

Currently Reading: Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

With CC over in the Philippines until mid-December, I have to do quite a bit of the holiday things by myself. Obviously that's going to include a lot of the shopping (we'll have about a week after she gets back to pick up anything we missed) but also the Christmas cards and the decorating. Sure I could just put off the decorating until she gets back but that would mean dragging all the stuff out only to have to put it all back after a couple of weeks. Hardly worth the effort you see. The way I see it, if you're doing Christmas decorating, you want to have them up a good three weeks to a month to make it worth the effort.

Our main problem is that our tree is too big. Every year we add a little more furniture and accessories to the apartment which leaves us with less space for the tree. In previous years it hasn't been a major problem but we've had to make adjustments. Last year, for example, we left some of the limbs off the back of the tree so we could squeeze it in closer to the wall. This year that wasn't going to be enough. You see, we've got Sparky now, our new bird and his cage is HUGE. More drastic measures had to be taken.

I toyed with the idea of getting a real tree this year. I saw some on display at Lowe's and for the size we were thinking, the price was reasonable. I really did put a lot of thought into that option but in the end I decided against it. 'Tis the season to be saving money to make up for all the money we'll be spending on presents so I decided to try and solve the problem another way first.

In the end what I did was put an S curve in the lower branches which shortened them by about 4 inches each. that makes a very big difference all the way around the tree. I also noticed it makes it look quite a big fuller as well. Unfortunately it's not something you can realistically do to the entire tree because the upper branches are just too short already. Physics works against you. It took me almost an hour just doing the bottom 2 rows. Got quite a bit of exercise doing that.

As for the color scheme, that was CC's plan. Every year she picks a theme and this year it is black, gold and silver. Getting the decorations was easy enough. We've had previous silver and gold years so mostly I just recycled those. That made the decorations budget pretty small because all we really needed were some black ornaments and some black and gold garland. And there you have it.

It all came out rather well I think. CC's been showing off the pictures to her family and that makes me feel good. So far everyone has liked it. Now it feels more like Christmas. It's been a bit too warm lately but that will change soon. Supposed to be colder the rest of the week and hopefully it will stay that way for a little while. True, I did grow up in Texas so normally it's a whole lot warmer but I've gotten used to needing a coat come the end of the year.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Running Man

Currently Reading: Ender In Exile by Orson Scott Card

Due to genetics I've ended up with bacon blood. High triglycerides you see. My overall cholesterol levels are pretty good though, which is something. Just too much fat in the blood. I get that from my father. Thanks dad!

Anyway, now that I'm not working regularly, I decided I needed to get some exercise. You see, normally when I was working at the salon I was on my feet maybe 5 to 7 hours a day. We don't sit down. There's also a WHOLE lot of lifting. Light lifting, heavy lifting, medium lifting. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don't just hop up on the table no matter how much we wish they would. Then there's all the dog washing, the cleaning up. You can really get a good workout doing a job like that.

The question was: what kind of exercise should I do? Now, CC does all sorts of stuff here in the apartment. She's got a couple of different workout dvds that she'll use. She's been alternating between two lately. One is more cardio, the other is more of the classic style. They're both good, don't get me wrong, but I hate stationary exercise. Aerobics, yoga, all that stuff, it's good, it's good for you, I just lose interest very quickly with it.

Earlier this year I read a memoir by one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami. The whole premise was how he prepares for running a marathon. It's also got all sorts of information about various marathons he's run, including the actual ORIGINAL marathon route. I remember connecting rather well with him on running. When I was in high school and a little bit in college, I used to jog. I wasn't all that serious about it but every now and then I'd feel the need to do something more active so I'd put on some shoes and off I went. Back in junior high I even ran 5k and 10k races with my father. It was just something we did back then. Just made sense to go back to running.

I started this off on Thursday last week, the 4th, for no particular reason other than I said I would. Wednesday night I was sitting here at the machine and I decided that the next day I would run. Now, I didn't want to be the kind of guy who made a decision like that and then backed out later so after walking the dogs, I changed clothes and shoes, grabbed my MP3 player and hit the road.

Fortunately, thanks to Murakami, I have some decent running shoes. In his memoir he descries a conversation he had with a sporting goods representative. They were talking about Mizuno shoes and equipment. He said that while they may not have all the fancy bells and whistles of some of the other brands out there, the shoes are high quality and very dependable. He said they were the Subaru of shoes.

As luck would have it, I was in the market for a new pair of shoes for work, my other pair having fallen apart from all the abuse in the salon. So I figured if these shoes were made to stand up to the punishment of daily running or even marathon running, they ought to be able to handle 4 days a week in a dog grooming salon.

He was right. 100% accurate description of the shoe. Comfortable, light-weight, nothing too fancy or flashy. A high-quality shoe for a decent price. It was time to put them to use at what they were designed for.

It's now Sunday. I've run the same loop twice. I'm not really sure how far it is to be honest because I haven't yet taken the truck out to measure it. I do know that it takes about 20 minutes or so because I remember which songs I listened to along the way. You just add up the run time and there you go. I'm HOPING that the look is around a mile and a half. Back when i was younger I had no problem running a mile in under 9 minutes. Sometimes under 8 if it wasn't too hot or humid out. I'd REALLY be disappointed if it NOW took me 20 minutes to run a mile. Seems it would be faster to walk it. I'll measure this week.

So now, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning I'll be out there in the cold (it's in the 30's when I run), bundled up in sweats and a light jacket, MP3 player keeping me company while I get a little running in. You know what I like the most about it? My mind pretty much goes blank while I'm out there. Even the music is more in the background than anything else. It definitely helps clear my head.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Missing Month

Currently Reading: Ender In Exile by Orson Scott Card

I just updated the reading list this afternoon and I noticed that I haven't posted anything here in almost a month. My last entry was at the beginning of November. Sadly, there hasn't exactly been a flood of e-mail asking why I wasn't posting. That's ok. News from my world is trickling out through CC and via word of mouth.

So, what's been going on? Well let's get this ball rolling . . .

I'm unemployed again. No, really, it's true. Here's what happened. Slowly but surely I was losing money at the salon. Most of us were asked to work fewer hours to save money. No big deal there. Always a slow period before the holidays. Things were bound to pick up. Only they never really did. Worse, we've got a few people on payroll who just HAD to work a full 35 hours a week because if they didn't, they'd lose their benefits. So those people got their hours. The rest of us, we had to cut back. Again, not a big deal. Annoying, but not a big deal.

Then one day I show up and there's another groomer in the salon. She's misread the schedule and shown up on the wrong day. Boss tells her it's ok to stay and finish the day so she'll maintain her hours (even though falling short a few hours every now and then really doesn't matter). Now we've got a problem. Instead of flying solo for the day, I have to share everything with this other groomer. By the end of the day, her mistake cost me about a hundred bucks. That's how much of my business I had to give to her.

After a few days off, I go back on Friday and get into an argument about all of this with my boss. She doesn't seem to be particularly sympathetic at first but when I start bringing up numbers it sinks in. Here I am, been there longer than anyone but the boss and I'm having trouble just breaking $800 a month. Worse, with the holidays coming up, I was going to have to share even MORE of my days because corporate had this funny idea that there was going to be a huge surge in business. That was surely bound to take even MORE money out of my paycheck.

Well, during all this arguing, a bather, who's only been there a month, heard something she didn't like. Not really sure what it was because no one ever told me, but she wrote a little letter to the store manager saying she was DEEPLY offended by whatever it was she heard and she had no choice but to file a formal complaint against me.

Ok.

Next thing I know, the store manager is telling me I have to go home for the day because I've somehow offended this person (not that anyone ever told me what was so offensive).

Ok.

Next day I get a phone call telling me I'm "on suspension" while they figure out what to do about the whole situation.

Ok.

A week goes by before I finally learn that I have, in fact, been fired. Yeah, they left me hanging a whole week. When I finally got someone to tell me what was going on, all I he said was that they couldn't find my phone number to tell me. Couldn't find it? It's posted in at least two places in the salon not to mention in the computer in my personnel file.

So now I'm unemployed again.

I'm looking for work now. Been out there filling out applications anywhere I can find that's hiring and sending e-mail off to various small grooming salons and vet clinics seeing if they're hiring. So far no luck so what I've decided to do is offer my services freelance until I hear something. I printed up a flyer last week and posted it over at the mailboxes where everyone will see it. I checked yesterday and a few of the little number tags were missing from the flyer so I know at least a few people are interested. No calls yet but I'm sure something will come up soon.

CC, in the meanwhile, is over in Manila. She was supposed to be gone until the 12th but unfortunately that got changed to the 19th. Her boss wants her to stay a little longer. Can't turn down the boss in a situation like that.

You know, I suppose I should be a whole lot more bitter and depressed about all this. I'm sitting here in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week waiting to hear from people. My wife is on the other side of the planet. It's cold and gray outside. Christmas is in a few weeks so everyone's got that holiday-crazy look in their eye. But you know what? I'm actually pretty much ok with this. Yeah, it sucks but you know what? It can always be a LOT worse. All I have to do is open the newspaper and I can see how much worse things COULD be.

So I'll just keep on working at it. Every day I contact a few more people or put in a few more applications. I try to stay busy to make sure I don't get the blues or anything like that. Don't want to get lazy or go soft.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I LOVE This Game!


It usually seems like everyone around you is insane, but maybe it's just you. Opportunity's door may just lead to more killer robots.
Which Classic Arcade Game Are You?

Yeah, about that election . . .

Ok, so what are my thoughts about this election we had?

1. The press really is in the tank for the Democrat party (with only a very small handful of exceptions). I guess it makes for better ratings.

2. In a few months we'll have a black president. Can anyone honestly call us a racist country at this point? Some folks will need to re-think their position.

3. Thank goodness, no more wall-to-wall election coverage complete with the usual asides about how the Republicans are evil and somehow caused the worldwide collapse of the financial markets even though they haven't had a majority in Congress in years and the president really doesn't have much influence over those things.

4. What will comedians do for a punchline now that they're unable to fall back on a. Bush being stupid or b. Cheney being evil? They were pretty lame jokes anyway.

5. Could have been worse. Could have been Hillary :-)

6. They better not mess with Obama while he's President. I do NOT want to have President Joe Biden damnit!

7. Since Bush was the cause of every major problem in the world, from global warming to oil shortages to Russian expansion, does that mean in January all those problems will end?

8. Tina Fey did a pretty good Sarah Palin impersonation. Will she now don black-face and wig and try Michelle Obama?

9. Well, that's one way to get Biden out of the Senate.

10. No more damn election commercials! WOO HOO!

11. Oh dear, all those Democrats who fled to Canada and France during the Bush years will suddenly be flooding the borders coming back once he's gone. Will we have enough available jobs to handle all that extra labor? I mean, what with Starbucks closing so many locations, where will all those art and humanities majors get jobs?

12. Next time around, CC will be legal to vote. She'll be a citizen of this crazy place we call the USA. How cool is that? :-)

File this under I for Irony

Currently Reading: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

You've all seen the way my wife eats right? You know she has a fairly average filipino diet which means LOTS of pork and LOTS of fat. She eats the skin off the chicken. She eats the skin off MY chicken. She likes to get KFC and crunch that batter.

Me, on the other hand, I trim the meat extra lean. I don't like fat. I eat pork, sure, but not that often because it gives me gas. I don't eat the skin off MY chicken let alone off anyone else's chicken. And when I go to KFC, even though I love the taste of those 11 herbs and spices, I still take off the skin.

This being how things are, how come MY triglycerides are elevated into the bacon area and HERS are just fine? That's just wrong. I'm on my feet 6 hours a day and usually in motion for at least 4 of those hours. My weight is holding nicely around the 130 mark and rarely pushes close to 135. In fact it's more likely to dip down to 125 instead. My waistline has only gone up an inch, maybe an inch and a half since college. And I'm the one with the one month supply of Lipofen to get the bacon out of my blood.

Genetics. The one area where it really IS ok to blame your parents. :-)

It Could Be Worse I Suppose . . .

Currently Reading: Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Well, here we are. Election day has come and gone and now the dust is settling and we're all starting to get back to work.

Fall is a great time of year. Generally I have the most sinus/allergy attacks during spring and fall but the weather is great and the fall and spring colors are a nice change from the wash of green in the summer and gray in the winter. CC and I often travel this time of year, before the prices go up. Of course, since we did all our traveling over the summer, we'll be staying home to enjoy things locally.

Over at the salon you can tell it's fall. We're starting to see the regulars come back in more often. More rain this time of year means more muddy lawns. Cooler temperatures make the grass go dormant which adds to those muddy patches. Walk outside and chances are you're crunching leaves and little twigs. Ideal conditions for groomers. Dogs get messy. Their hair gets all tangled up. They'll need to be cleaned up :-)

It's certainly a lot better than it has been the past few weeks in the salon. Actually the whole store has been depressing. People haven't been out shopping nearly as much; they aren't even browsing. On the weekends, when we usually have a crushing load of work, we've been spending far too much time cleaning and re-cleaning or reading or just sitting there staring out the window.

Good to have work again :-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Uncle Orson Weighs In

Currently Reading: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This is a great article by one of the world's greatest Science Fiction authors. Ironically he's a democrat too.
____________________________________________________________________

By Orson Scott Card October 5, 2008

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?

An open letter to the local daily paper -- almost every local daily paper in America:

I remember reading All the President's Men and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

What is a risky loan? It's a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.

The goal of this rule change was to help the poor -- which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can't repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can't make the payments, they lose the house -- along with their credit rating.

They end up worse off than before.

This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Furthermore, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were making political contributions to the very members of Congress who were allowing them to make irresponsible loans. (Though why quasi-federal agencies were allowed to do so baffles me. It's as if the Pentagon were allowed to contribute to the political campaigns of Congressmen who support increasing their budget.)

Isn't there a story here? Doesn't journalism require that you who produce our daily paper tell the truth about who brought us to a position where the only way to keep confidence in our economy was a $700 billion bailout? Aren't you supposed to follow the money and see which politicians were benefitting personally from the deregulation of mortgage lending?

I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."

Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who were still pushing for these agencies to go even further in promoting subprime mortgage loans almost up to the minute they failed.

As Thomas Sowell points out in a TownHall.com essay entitled Do Facts Matter? "Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush's Secretary of the Treasury."

These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

Yet when Nancy Pelosi accused the Bush administration and Republican deregulation of causing the crisis, you in the press did not hold her to account for her lie. Instead, you criticized Republicans who took offense at this lie and refused to vote for the bailout!

What? It's not the liar, but the victims of the lie who are to blame?

Now let's follow the money ... right to the presidential candidate who is the number-two recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae.

And after Freddie Raines, the CEO of Fannie Mae who made $90 million while running it into the ground, was fired for his incompetence, one presidential candidate's campaign actually consulted him for advice on housing.

If that presidential candidate had been John McCain, you would have called it a major scandal and we would be getting stories in your paper every day about how incompetent and corrupt he was.

But instead, that candidate was Barack Obama, and so you have buried this story, and when the McCain campaign dared to call Raines an "adviser" to the Obama campaign -- because that campaign had sought his advice -- you actually let Obama's people get away with accusing McCain of lying, merely because Raines wasn't listed as an official adviser to the Obama campaign.

You would never tolerate such weasely nit-picking from a Republican.

If you who produce our local daily paper actually had any principles, you would be pounding this story, because the prosperity of all Americans was put at risk by the foolish, short-sighted, politically selfish, and possibly corrupt actions of leading Democrats, including Obama.

If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis.

There are precedents. Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension -- so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.)

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie -- that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad -- even bad weather -- on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.

If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth -- even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.

Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means. That's how trust is earned.

Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time -- and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.

Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter -- while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.

So I ask you now: Do you have any standards at all? Do you even know what honesty means?

Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?

You might want to remember the way the National Organization of Women threw away their integrity by supporting Bill Clinton despite his well-known pattern of sexual exploitation of powerless women. Who listens to NOW anymore? We know they stand for nothing; they have no principles.

That's where you are right now.

It's not too late. You know that if the situation were reversed, and the truth would damage McCain and help Obama, you would be moving heaven and earth to get the true story out there.

If you want to redeem your honor, you will swallow hard and make a list of all the stories you would print if it were McCain who had been getting money from Fannie Mae, McCain whose campaign had consulted with its discredited former CEO, McCain who had voted against tightening its lending practices.

Then you will print them, even though every one of those true stories will point the finger of blame at the reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation's prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor, and lay a fair share of the blame at Obama's door.

You will also tell the truth about John McCain: that he tried, as a Senator, to do what it took to prevent this crisis. You will tell the truth about President Bush: that his administration tried more than once to get Congress to regulate lending in a responsible way.

This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.

If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe --and vote as if -- President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.

If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats -- including Barack Obama -- and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans -- then you are not journalists by any standard.

You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a daily newspaper in our city.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Howling Jack!

Currently Reading: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Ok, here's what happened. Two weeks ago we took the doggies to the vet for a check-up. Katya has been scratching and itching a bit and I thought maybe it was just her usual, yearly attempt to yank out her undercoat and speed up her shedding. The vet says she's got allergies and points to the few little sores she's got on her. That's what she's been scratching.

The solution to this problem is an oatmeal bath for her. No big deal for me. I just have to take her to work with me and let her soak in the oatmeal shampoo for 10 minutes. Simple right? Sure it is. Well, I decided to take JUST her with me to work because Jack doesn't really like going to the salon. He doesn't like getting a bath either and since he didn't NEED one, I saw no reason to take him with us. I leashed up Katya and the whole time, Jack was hiding over by CC with a look on his face that said he REALLY hoped he wasn't going to get called out.

So Katya and I leave. Jack is home with CC all afternoon. The first hour or two, he gets a little moody and CC gets it on tape.



Sheesh you'd think he'd be a little happier that he finally got the whole apartment to himself right?

Election Year Reading

Currently Reading: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Yup, we're in another election year. Only way you can avoid hearing about it until your head explodes is to turn off your TV, lock the doors, don't listen to the radio, close all the windows and pull down the blinds. Don't go online, don't read your e-mail. Pretty much just go into hiding in a cave somewhere and have no contact with anyone or anything until next January. Yes, I know the election is in November but we're still going to keep hearing about it until they swear in whoever won.

And what do I think about the whole mess? Not much. In fact, these days I try to do as little thinking about it as possible. When I do let my mind wander into the realm of politics these days the one thought that most frequently comes to mind is: this is the best we can do?

There's a very old saying that states, "you get the government you deserve." There's a derivative version about how people who don't actually participate and vote have no business criticizing the government. I used to believe that second one right up until the primaries this year. After all that arguing, all the money thrown around, political ads, debates, etc., this is what we get? These two guys? Our choice is between the young, dashing, Chicago politician and the seasoned, veteran Senator. I'm trying to make this sound as positive as I can mind you. Our real choice is between the somewhat scary Chicago politician who talks a good game but who hasn't actually PRODUCED anything in all his years in politics (and don't let that Chicago label slip by you; we're talking a MAJOR hotbed of corruption there), and on the other side, a long-time Washington insider who, because he occasionally argues with his own party, got the label of maverick.

To put it even more bluntly, we've got two versions of more of the same. No, not more Bush. McCain isn't Bush, at least not current Bush. He may be Papa Bush, but he's not Baby Bush. And, in a return to the great stage, we have Jimmy Carter. So, Bush vs Carter? This is what we're dealing with here? And they wonder why young people don't vote. Imagine you're 18, fresh out of high school, first semester of college, or worse, that you're 21, just missed the LAST election and this is your first chance to vote for president. What a choice eh?

So, in the spirit of the grand game we're playing this October (and I'm not talking Baseball here folks) I've decided to break with my usual habit of reading only one book at a time and I've gone and picked out TWO that I think are appropriate for the season. I'm reading Atlas Shrugged, the classic and LONG novel about what happens when the folks who actually DO the work in the world say "to hell with this" and just stop. And on a lighter note, I'm reading the Zombie Survival Guide which is perfect for dealing with the more practical aspects of any election year. Both are FULL of useful information that should allow me to maintain my sanity until January . . . I hope :-)

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Housing Crisis

Currently Reading: Ghost in the Shell 1.5 by Masamune Shirow

This video, while a bit heavy-handed, does a pretty good job of explaining the whole housing crisis thing. It manages to put together all the little bits and pieces of information that have been trickling out ever since the big stock market crash.

Of course, in the end, it turns into a commercial for John McCain but the guy who made it at least went out of his way not to blame it all on Obama. He does point out Obama's tangental relationship to this whole thing and why it should matter. Give it a look.



Friday, September 19, 2008

Ninja Cat!

Currently Reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I just thought this one was cute . . .


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Manila 2008 Part 3: Origami

Currently Reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Well, once again I've had a rather slow, uneventful week. Fortunately I still have one more little story left from my vacation.

On the way back from the Philippines, we had a 3 hour layover in Tokyo. We killed some time in the lounge and did some shopping (probably spent as much at the airport as we did our entire stay in Manila). At one point CC suggested we find a hand cart so we wouldn't have to lug the carry-ons around so we started to explore the airport. We came across a little shop that sells candy and origami supplies. The origami side was set up a bit like a gallery and they had these HUGE displays of things people had made. REALLY cool stuff.

Oh but that's not all. Oh no. In addition to animals and little people, they had some really nice scenes done entirely in origami. I have NO idea how long it took them to do these but they must have taken forever. Naturally you can't touch them, but you can look really close and you can see all the detail that went into each little piece.

I've put up a gallery of pictures from that shop. You can see them here. It's amazing what they can do with just folded paper.

Here are a few other shots.










For more information about origami, have a look at this video. Sorry it's a little blurry. It was the only version I could find with subtitles.



Ok, yeah, that was just for fun. It's from a series done by a Japanese comedy troupe that makes spoof videos on all sorts of Japanese traditions. I thought I'd close with something fun.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Manila 2008 Part 2

Currently Reading: Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

So where was I?  Right, got to Tagaytay and slept.  This is where the Tagaytay pattern sets in.  You see, what most people do when they go on vacation up there is eat and sleep.  Not wanting to stick out as a tourist, I went native.  The day went something like this . . .

Woke up early. Had breakfast (CC's mom made pancakes, sausage, the works, it was FABULOUS!) then a nap.  Woke up for lunch out at a really great pizza place with a great view of the volcano.  Went back to the house. Slept.  

Woke up for dinner at the club house then spent a few hours playing video games with CC's brother Noel.  Slept. 

You may be thinking I'm exaggerating.  I'm not.  That's really all we did on Thursday.  Oh, well we also drove around the neighborhood and took pictures of this really cool castle-themed house.  But otherwise, that was it.  What can I say, this is what people do there when they're on vacation.  Who am I to argue right? :-)

So now it's Friday already, the day of the wedding, the reason we went to the Philippines in the first place.  We started things off with a little bit of TV.  The Philippines is 13 hours ahead of the US so whatever is showing on TV in Memphis Thursday evening is what's on TV in Manila Friday morning.  In this case, Olympic boxing.  I think I mentioned before, CC has this great little device that feeds cable from our apartment over the Internet to her computer when she travels.  That's what we used.

Anyway, after boxing we went to Mushroomburger for breakfast.  Now, I'm not even sure I can describe Mushroomburger and its cultural context.  It's pretty much an institution I would say.  You can't go to Tagaytay without going to Mushroomburger.  The two are just so solidly linked together.  When I first went to Manila back in 2000, we went to Mushroomburger and it wasn't too crowded.  We were there in the off-season, during the week.  THIS time though, we ate there twice.  The first time, Friday morning, not too bad.  Even though it was a long weekend and lots of tourists were driving up, they hadn't yet arrived so Mushroomburger wasn't too crowded.

As the name implies, it's a burger . . . with mushrooms.  They make two basic kinds.  You've got your 50/50 mushroom burger, that's half meat, half mushroom, and then your 100% mushroom burger.  All mushroom, all the time.

It's just a small place really.  Some tables inside, some outside.  Behind the restaurant are the cement buildings where they grow the mushrooms.   Some roosters patrol the eating area outside.  Simple.  But DAMN good burgers there :-)  If you're ever in Manila and you've got time for a day trip, head on up to Tagaytay and stop at Mushroomburger.  Your tummy will thank you :-)

Let's see, after breakfast we stopped at a store to pick up some ribbon for Meyan's wedding present.  Nice little store.  We spend lots of money there.  No, that's not really accurate.  We bought a lot of things but didn't spend that much money in fact.  I got a good chunk of my souvenir shopping done at that little store.

Ok, back to the house for, what else, a nap.  CC's mom made a roast beef for lunch.  You can see the pattern now I'm sure.  Eat, sleep, eat, sleep.  After eating a big breakfast, then a bigger lunch, well we all needed a nap so we had one.  At that point it was time to get ready for the wedding and off we went.

I was thinking about putting in a lot of pictures and details about Meyan's wedding but you know, there isn't really much I can say about it.  Besides, it was her wedding so she should be the one telling you the story right?  I will say that it was a nice little church up there in the Tagaytay area and the reception was at a bed and breakfast spa place about 5 minutes from where CC and I were staying.  Everything was great and I finally got to meet most of the people I had heard CC and Meyan talk about over the years.  Always good to put faces with names.  

Now, at some point we were supposed to go to the beach.  Obviously we were going after the wedding but at what time, we hadn't decided.  Saturday we made calls, sent text messages, waited, ate, slept, but didn't really get going towards the beach until around 1 or so.  At one point we were starting to wonder if we were actually going to MAKE it to the beach.  Finally we all got together split up into two cars and drove down.   Robin got us a nice little house at a great price and that's where we spent the night.  Along the way, we stopped at a market (not for the faint of heart or stomach) and picked up some meat to grill and a few other things.  Not much more to tell really unless you want the details on how we ate and slept again :-)

We spent Sunday morning at the beach.  It was a nice little beach in fact.  We had a great time.  I wasn't originally intending to go into the water but I took my trunks just in case.  More than anything I was concerned about getting water in my ears and that leading to some sort of weird, mutating ear infection.  But when we got there, everyone else was having so much fun and I kept thinking, how often do I get a chance to do this?  When will I get a chance again?  Probably be a while since Fall is around the corner so in I went.  Here's a little video of the beach.  No, I'm not in it.  This was not long after we arrived.




We went back to the house, packed up and said what we thought was going to be our last good-byes.  Turns out along the way we realized that we didn't have a group picture so we stopped right outside the sub-division where CC and I were staying and had a group picture there.  CC's brother Noel took the shot.  About an hour later or so, having packed up from THAT house, we were heading back to Manila and stopped at Mushroomburger one last time.  Guess who we ran into?  Yup, the whole group was there.  You just can't go to Tagaytay without stopping at Mushroomburger, I'm telling you.

So, we drive back down to Manila and it's kinda funny how you can actually feel the weather change as you make your way down the mountain.  You can also feel the pollution creep in as well.  The air gets heavier and heavier, more humid, more car fumes, etc.

CC booked us a room at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Manila.  Neither of us had stayed there but it had good reviews and I trust my wife when it comes to researching this sort of thing.  She leaves nothing to chance.  In this case, the main attraction was that it was near the Mall of Asia and that it had a free shuttle service.  Well now you can imagine our surprise as we pulled up to this place and it turns out to be one hell of a fancy hotel.  The whole  time CC's brother and I kept asking, "are you sure we can afford this?"  Yeah, it looked that great and it was actually quite affordable.  We spent less on a room there than we would have on a basic room at the Radisson.

So, how nice was this place in real life?  Well, have a look at this short video I shot of the pool area and you'll get an idea.




Monday, we hit the Mall of Asia.  Malls in the US just can't compare to the SM Malls in general but this one in particular leaves them in the dust.  The Mall of Asia, along with Megamall and Glorietta, those are how malls are SUPPOSED to be.  Everything you can ever imagine in one place.  You need it, they got it and again, I'm not exaggerating.  Mall shopping is like a national sport over there in Manila and they certainly do excel at it.  We even had a chance to see Batman Returns on the IMAX while we were there.  I don't know how it was in the normal theater but it sure did rock on IMAX.

And that was it.  That was the Manila vacation.  Gosh, it took almost a month for me to get the whole thing posted.  Sorry about that.  I had intended to get it done much sooner but things kept popping up at the last minute and I just didn't have the time.  Hope you enjoyed seeing little bits of our vacation.  Next week it's back to the boring, normal blog entries for me.  Sorry about that.  Who knows though, maybe aliens will land in the parking lot at work and need their 6 legged dog shaved.  I just hope they bring proof of rabies vaccination.  We can't take dogs without rabies vaccination.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Manila Blogs Part 1, Tuesday/Wednesday

Currently Reading: Confessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga

Now, I know I promised I'd get the details of the Manila trip posted MUCH sooner than I have. It's been two weeks since we've returned and all I've managed to get posted were some pictures and a link to more pictures. Yeah, that's my bad. The first week we were back I was a little tired from all the travel. Even with the two days to recover built into the trip I still wasn't running at full speed that first week back. The second week? Yeah I was just lazy the second week :-)

So, let's start at the beginning and go from there. We left Memphis on Tuesday morning, August 12. . .

Left Memphis around 9. Since CC is classified as Platinum Elite Status due to her frequent flier miles, we had access to the first class lounges in all the airports we visited for the entire duration of the trip. That means instead of waiting at the gate with the REST of the people, we were in a really nice lounge that had free food, free drinks, nice comfy chairs, big TV, just a WHOLE lot nicer than everyone else. The place also had free newspapers and it's generally quiet in there; most people speak in a whisper or at least in a low voice so as not to disturb the other people waiting.

On that particular flight, from Memphis to San Francisco, we'd been upgraded to First Class. Now, I will admit, it wasn't QUITE as nice as I had hoped. Traveling first class on a domestic flight really isn't much better than what traveling coach USED to be like 15 years ago. In fact, I think they use the same seats from back then, or at least they're about the same size. Yes, it is a noticeable difference but I'm not sure it's really worth the extra money. In our case it was free so it was worth every penny for sure :-) You do have a few OTHER advantages over the rest of the passengers though, most of which have to do with food. Before the flight even taxis out to the runway, you get a free drink. That's nice because you can end up sitting there waiting FOREVER. And when you're in the air, while everyone else has to pay 5 bucks for a SNACK box, we were given a hot breakfast. Again, I'm not sure that's WORTH the price of first class but it does make things a little more comfortable.

We arrived in San Francisco without incident. It was a pretty boring flight in fact. Not much to see really. Then we had to make a trek. It's the same trek I had to make several years ago on my last trip to Manila (which also went through San Francisco) They have two terminals there, one for domestic, one for international. Makes sense right? Sure, but they're not really connected in what you'd call a user-friendly way. You've got about a 10 to 15 minute trek from your arrival gate to your departure gate. Doesn't sound TOO bad right? It's not, I suppose, but you also have to go through the security check again because the link between terminals is on the OUTSIDE of the secure area, out where the ticket counters and stuff are.

From SF to Japan we were on an Airbus 330. CC actually had us fly out through San Francisco specifically so we could fly this type of plane. You see, in coach on that plane you get your own monitor and can choose your movies. That means you don't get stuck watching some really bad movie that only played for a week in the theaters before getting yanked. You also have a fairly wide variety of movies to choose from, not just limited to the films that have recently ended their runs in the theaters. Yes, we did have the option to watch Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda, but in addition to those we could have watched The Matrix or Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There were also several Pixar films available and some foreign films as well. It certainly makes the flight seem much shorter when you've got a little control over what your entertainment is :-)

We arrived in Tokyo at some point (by then I'd lost all track of time really) and we waited in the first class lounge until our Manila flight. I really couldn't say I remember much about that wait. CC has a few pictures of me pretty much crashed out in a chair in the lounge while we were waiting. Needless to say our stay there was uneventful :-)

Got to Manila at 10:30ish Wednesday local time. Yup, whole day just disappears when you fly in that direction. We breezed through customs and immigration though, which was lucky. There didn't appear to be any other flights arriving the same time we did plus we managed to get off the plane fairly quickly. Another perk of CC's Platinum Elite status is that our luggage gets priority handling so they're among the first bags unloaded from the plane.

When I walked outside, I was expecting the worst. Usually what happens is the humidity, smell and the sound of the city all hit you at once like an old, wet, used and very LOUD towel :-) This time though the humidity wasn't that bad which means we really need to fix the de-humidifier at work. In fact you could say that the general conditions at work over the past month really prepared me for the Manila trip. It didn't seem all that hot or humid or loud. As for the smell, well yeah that was pretty strong but having been there twice already plus our trip to LA last year, the smog smell doesn't really have as much of an impact as it used to.

From the airport we went right to Tagaytay. Slept.

And there you have it. Tuesday morning through Wednesday night. Travel day :-) Oh don't worry I've got MUCH more stuff to cover from the trip. It's just getting late and I have to work tomorrow. I'll post more about it later.

I should also point out, those aren't MY pictures in this particular blog entry. I borrowed them from other sites, mostly travel blogs, because I didn't start taking pictures until I was already in Manila :-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More photos

Meyan posted some great shots from our beach trip. You can see them here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Manila 2008, the short version

Currently Reading: Confessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga

As you know, CC and I went to Manila for a short but much needed vacation. We had a GREAT time and took a LOT of pictures. I haven't really had time to do much more than sort them out though but I know many of you are waiting to see what it was like. So sit back and hit the play button for the short version of our vacation. I'll post the details as I get a chance :-)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Two funnies from Kontraband

Currently Reading: Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Why they deleted this scene from T3 I'll never know. It's CLASSIC!



Ok, this may be the official song of the Olympics in China but I seriously doubt those are the official subtitles :-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Who's Watching The Watchmen?

Currently Reading: Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

I've finally finished Watchmen. I say finally because I actually started reading it back in 1990 I think. Everyone was going on and on about how it was THE best comic out there, so much ground-breaking stuff it was just going to blow your mind. So I started reading it and quickly got bored with it. Some of it was just confusing like the unnecessary and sometimes unmarked time jumps. Some of it was annoying like the parallel pirate adventure that runs through most of it. I gave up without ever finishing it.

Now it's back. Next spring, Zack Snyder, the guy who turned in a fabulous version of 300, is bringing Watchmen to the screen. I've seen several interviews with him online and seen the trailer for it and so that rekindled my interest. CC has a copy given to her as a gift so I decided I'd sit down and read it all the way through this time. Today I finished it and to be honest, I wasn't that impressed by it.

To be fair, I wasn't overly impressed by V for Vendetta either when I first read it and it turned out to be great summer film. I imagine Watchmen will be about as good, though unlike V, Watchmen doesn't have any really obvious heroes.

I know there are a lot of fans out there of Watchmen. If you dig into the reviews from when it was first released, people went nuts over it. Over and over again you read about how fresh the work is and how unlike any other comic it was. It's supposed to be a brilliant satire on super heroes and it's just DRIPPING with social commentary. Yeah, it's a satire, that much is obvious. Sometimes it's actually TOO obvious. Too many cliches I suppose. There are times when you have to wonder just what is being satirized and when that happens, what you end up with is a confusing, failed satire. As for the edgy, social commentary, seen from 20 years in the future, it reads more like paranoia.

I remember in one of the interviews with Snyder, he talks about how, after a screening of some raw footage of Watchmen, a studio exec said that it made Superman look stupid. A remark like that makes me wonder just how much exposure to modern comic books this studio exec has had. This sort of thing may have been cutting edge back in the 80's but now? Seen it. Been there, done that over and over to the point that it's lost any shock value. Maybe this will seem fresh and exciting to folks who only have limited contact to graphic novels but to me, it just seems dated. At best it fits in with the running theme of nostalgia that's woven through the story. For teens and young adults today I doubt this will make much of an impression. They've seen these type of plot twists before on CSI and Law and Order.

Will I see it? Probably. Snyder did a great job with 300 and said he was going to be as true to the original story as possible. That's got me curious already. The story is populated with so many unlikable heroes I have to wonder how that's going to translate on film (a concern the author had as well which is why his name doesn't appear in the credits). So, yes, I'll be in the theater with everyone else, hoping that it turns out to be at least as good as V. But I won't be one of those priests of the church of the Watchmen and run around preaching how wonderful it is. Maybe it's just a matter of taste. I like the concept, I like the idea, it's well-written. It's a good read, I don't consider it time wasted. But at the same time, I also don't consider it comic perfection.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CC's Flowers

Currently Reading: Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

I recently sent CC flowers while she was in Manila. There's a certain florist that I always use because they're very reliable on their deliveries and they always put together really nice bouquets. The flowers arrived at 8:30 am on the day they were supposed to be delivered and I received a confirmation e-mail that they'd been signed for. They even sent me an e-mail the day BEFORE the delivery asking that I double check the name of the recipient, just in case. Really great service with this place.

Today I get another e-mail from them.

Hi Stephen,
Your order has been delivered to Cecile Slish at 08:33 AM.

Our Delivery Drivers Reported:
Recieved By Noel Catanghal (Brother )
No Message.


**** Recipient Photos
Your order has been selected to be part of our "Recipient Photos" trials.

You may review your recipient photos by logging into our website using the link below.
Now this is one cool florist isn't it? They actually have someone there to take a photo of your flowers being delivered and they'll send you that picture so you can sort of be a part of it all. Normally I'm sure this works out GREAT but, as you may have noticed, the flowers were received by CC's brother Noel. Here's the picture I got:


Next time I send flowers, I'm going to have to make sure they arrive at a time when CC can sign for them :-)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sign this girl up for the major leagues!

Currently Reading: Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith


Now THIS is how you catch a foul ball! I love the part where she tosses it to the left fielder. Talk about making a guy look bad!

Worst Ninja Car Chase EVER!

Currently Reading: Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith

I mean, seriously, what is up with this? Is that a car? Is it a golf cart? What? And what's up with the ninjas? Roller skates? One of them has pink wheels!!! They sure don't make movies like this anymore, thank goodness :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chuck Norris Facts

Currently Reading: Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein

Somewhere out there, right now, as you sit reading this, Chuck Norris is doing something amazing! No, it's true. He's become an icon lately, especially on the Internet and doubly so with the troops in Iraq. There's even a web site (of course there is, there always is) with Chuck Norris facts such as:

  • If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more money than you.
  • There is no 'ctrl' button on Chuck Norris's computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.
  • Apple pays Chuck Norris 99 cents every time he listens to a song.
  • Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open.
  • Chuck Norris can eat just one Lay's potato chip.
  • Chuck Norris is suing Myspace for taking the name of what he calls everything around you.
  • Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.
  • Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.

And these facts, chosen by Chuck Norris himself!

  • When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
  • There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.
  • Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
  • Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
  • Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.
  • Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.
  • There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.
  • When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
  • Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
  • Chuck Norris’ hand is the only hand that can beat a Royal Flush.
  • Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch, HE decides what time it is.
  • Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.
  • Chuck Norris does not get frostbite. Chuck Norris bites frost
  • Remember the Soviet Union? They decided to quit after watching a DeltaForce marathon on Satellite TV.
  • Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship.
All of this goes to prove that, if nothing else, Chuck has a really good sense of humor about all of this. A lot of people would take this sort of thing TOO seriously and get all upset thinking people are mocking them. But not Chuck. He knows it's all in good fun.

There's a great article about all of this in the AP from Monday. I'll paste it.

Chuck Norris the only WMD in Iraq, say U.S. troops

By Mohammed Abbas

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Hollywood action star Chuck Norris, known for his martial arts prowess and tough-guy image, has become a cult figure among the U.S. military in Iraq and an unlikely hero for some in Iraq's security forces.

A small cardboard shrine is dedicated to Norris at a U.S. military helicopter hub in Baghdad, and comments lauding the manliness and virility of the actor have been left on toilet walls across Iraq and even in neighboring Kuwait, soldiers say.

"The fastest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris's fist," reads one message at the shrine, which consists of a signed photo of the actor surrounded by similar statements.

"Chuck Norris puts the laughter in manslaughter," reads one and "Chuck Norris divides by zero," reads another.

Known as Chuck Norris "facts", the claims have already become an Internet phenomenon, and scores are featured on www.chucknorrisfacts.com, including "Superman wears Chuck Norris pyjamas", and "There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Chuck Norris lives in Oklahoma".

The actor has visited Iraq several times and was made an honorary Marine last year. Some 20 U.S. military personnel and support staff spoken to by Reuters could recite at least one Norris "fact", despite many having not visited the Web site.

U.S. troops in Iraq say his support for them and Norris' invincible image has made him their idol and insist the exaggerated and satirical claims are not meant to mock him.

"The jokes all add to his legend. They're not derogatory. He's an icon," said Sergeant Joe Lindsay at a base in Falluja in Iraq's Western Anbar province, which Norris has visited.

AN IRAQI NORRIS

Bearded and muscled, Norris shot to fame fighting kung fu legend Bruce Lee in the 1972 film The Way of the Dragon, and later films show him devastating groups of men with one kick.

"Norris visited Iraq when violence was its worst and other celebrities were skittish. He's one of the guys," U.S. military public affairs officer Specialist Mark Braden said in Baghdad.

"The Marines love him. He's like a mythical legend," Staff Sergeant Amy Forsythe in Falluja said.

Soldiers cited many reasons for his appeal. Some appreciated his films and fighting ability -- Norris is a martial arts guru, and many of his films have military themes.

Others said the masculine and plainly dressed actor was an antidote to the preening and moisturized metrosexual male.

Some praised his Christian and political values. The actor recently endorsed Republican Party presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, though in the spirit of the Norris "facts", Marines argued it was Huckabee who endorsed Norris.

"He's helped us a lot. The appeal is also his martial arts, and sheer physical presence ... I don't think I go a day without hearing a Norris joke," said Corporal Ricardo Jones in Falluja.

Norris' appeal is not restricted to U.S. troops either. At an Iraqi police graduation ceremony in Falluja, graduates called out for their "Chuck Norris" to pose with them for photos.

"Truthfully, I didn't know who he was. I asked the Americans, and they said he was a great fighter, and that's why they named me after him. They showed me a video, and it's true, he's a great fighter" said police trainer Mohammed Rasheed.

With his handle-bar moustache, Rasheed has a vague resemblance to Norris.

Another police trainer said Chuck Norris was a role model for the police in Falluja, which until 2007 was an al Qaeda stronghold and the scene of fierce battles with security forces.

"I've seen his videos, he's a hero. He saves the city, he protects women and children and he fights crime wherever it is. We should all be like Chuck Norris," Khaled Hussein said.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

Kung Fu Panda!

We saw Kung Fu Panda on Sunday. It was GREAT! Go see it! No, right now. Stop reading this and go watch it!

Ok, you don't really have to. Here, let me post the trailer again so you know which movie I'm talking about.



If you don't like Disney type movies, probably you should skip this one, but otherwise, GO WATCH IT!

Accumulated Oddities

Currently Reading: Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein

Things have gotten a little weird in my universe lately. It all seemed to start right after we got that new car. No, there's no actual link between the two. Just coincidence there, and in fact, having the extra car has made the weirdness easier to deal with. Here's what's been going on (the short version because seriously, it would take me forever to write about it if I went into too much detail):

  1. We got the new car, you can see it over on CC's blog.
  2. The day after we got the car, I got a call from my manager telling me that I was going to the Winchester store to fill in for three weeks while they handled their vacations.
  3. Later that day I found out that corporate has decided that they no longer know WHO is going to the new store. So, I may not be going to the Collierville store when it opens after all.
  4. And speaking of the new store, it's no longer opening in June. Might be early July now, or later in July. And no one seems to have ANY idea.
  5. The afternoon of my first day at the Winchester store (which I refer to as being in exile), the apartment complex FINALLY replaced the AC unit in our apartment. Over that weekend, the coolest we could get the apartment was 82 degrees with the AC on.
  6. That night, again, while I'm in exile, the water heater sprayed steam into the sprinkler head that keeps the water heater from getting TOO hot and burning down the apartment. In short, it set off the sprinkler and the fire alarm, flooded the hallway of our apartment, summoned THREE fire trucks and flooded the two apartments below us (again, you can see the details at CC's blog).
  7. I've actually seen THREE summer movies and it's only JUNE! What's up with THAT?

Things are FINALLY starting to go back to normal now, almost one full week into exile. The carpet in the hall still has a damp smell to it that we're hoping the carpet cleaners can get out. They pulled up the pad and were supposed to be in yesterday to replace it but they never showed up. Maybe they'll be here today. So, the apartment kinda smells a little bit when you first come in and there's no padding under the carpet in the hall. Otherwise, we're pretty much back to normal.

See what I mean about weirdness? Yeah, just little things like that, one after the other. We got the AC fixed though. That's a good thing right?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer Is Here

Currently Reading: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

And away we go, summer is here. I know, not OFFICIALLY here, calendar hasn't said anything about it yet. Still not hot outside. Sure. But we're about to start Memorial Day weekend, most places will be closed on Monday in observance of Memorial Day and Friday, the 30th, actually IS Memorial Day and that's pretty much when summer starts. Even in Hollywood they're talking about the start of the summer movie season.

Now, before I forget, as a sort of public service, for those of you who forgot what Memorial Day is supposed to be about (no, not sales at the mall and bar-b-que) here's a quick reminder:

Memorial Day is a United States Federal Holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed in 2008 on May 26). It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. It is also traditionally viewed as the beginning of summer by many, since many schools are dismissed around Memorial Day.

Ok, so there ya go.

Speaking of cook outs and movies and stuff, CC and I are heading over to my parents' house for Memorial day. We're cooking the steaks. CC makes a killer steak using some spice packets she gets from the Filipino store. This weekend we'll be sharing that with everyone else.

And movies. Well I did mention movies. That's because I actually saw a few this past week. No, not at the movie theater, though we DID get to see Iron Man (it ROCKED by the way, go see it). No, we saw Knocked Up on cable and then last night I watched the Korean movie The Host. Knocked Up was actually a lot funnier than I expected from the previews. Not a bad flick though I don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much in the theater.

The host, now that one was definitely interesting. Imagine Cloverfield. Ok, now make the monster about elephant size or maybe, even better, great white shark size. Think of Jaws, but on the ground instead of in the water. That's pretty much it. But unlike Cloverfield, you don't have all that jerky camera motion and the gimmick about it being shown in first person.

With the host, it starts out pretty simple actually and doesn't mess around with a big setup. In fact, the whole setup is actually just some American doctor at the military base telling the Korean doctor to pour a bunch of old chemicals down the drain. The Korean protests because the drain eventually runs into the river, but he does it anyway. Yeah, I know, kind of a big hole there right? I mean, these guys have been dumping chemicals down that drain for AGES, how come THIS time it leads to giant, mutant lungfish? But hey, it's a horror movie. You don't ask for too much sense in a horror movie.

Anyway, fast-forward to present day where we're now at a park on the river. People notice something hanging from a bridge. What could that be? Hmm? Oh wait, it fell into the water. Cool it's swimming over. Maybe we should kinda back off. No, wait it doesn't look too bad. Oh crap. It's a giant, mutant lung fish! Oh crap, it's coming out of the water! Oh crap, run!

And there ya go. Lots of running from the monster. Military guys show up and try to keep everything quarantined. Eventually there are some attempts by normal people to kill the thing and, amazingly, they seem to work MUCH better than the military's dropping "agent yellow" gas on the thing. Ok, probably the gas weakened it so the normal people could kill it the rest of the way. But again, horror movie. You don't put too much stock into the science there.

It wasn't a bad flick. In fact, as horror movies go it was pretty good. After watching it, I'm thinking the guys who did Cloverfield ripped off a LOT of stuff from this one (which came out first). Different size monster. Different little details but there are way too many similarities in there. I suppose it doesn't matter anyway. I mean, just look at the slate of movies fixing to come out this summer. Remakes, sequels and plots ripped from other sources. Nothing they do in the movies is original anymore anyway :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer Travel

Currently Reading: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Just got back from Mars a few days ago and I came down smack in the middle of a Russian winter. Landed in Gorky Park in fact. Yes, I know, not space right? And didn't I just say in the previous post that I like to spend my summers in space? Yeah, ya caught me. But I do intend to return to space in a bit. I just got off on a detective novel tangent that's all. It happens some times and, again, also usually during the summer months.

We'll be doing a bit of travel for sure this summer. In June (at some yet to be determined date) I'll be moving to the Collierville store. It's official, at least for now (who knows, maybe corporate will change their minds again). Essentially I'm moving from one suburban city to another and at one point the two towns do actually meet. In terms of drive time we're talking about an additional 20 minutes or so depending on traffic. After I drive it a few times I may be able to find a shorter route using the GPS though.

August we'll be going to Manila for a wedding. We've made our flight reservations but we still haven't settled all the details. We'll need a place to stay of course and since I'll only have a week off, and 3 of those days will be tied up in travel, we'll need to plan things out as well as possible so we can see as many people as possible along the way. It'll be my shortest trip to the Philippines, that's for sure.

CC will be going to Manila in June. We're sort of wondering now if she'll be here when I first move to the new store or not. No firm dates on when that store is opening, just that it'll happen in June.

Oh, and she's got another friend getting married in Chicago in July. We'll try to swing that one if we can but as I already told her the other day, I can't make any promises on that one just yet. We'll have just opened the store and one of the other groomers is supposed to be going on vacation in July as well. Still, it's only Chicago, that's not very far. We may be able to fly in for a long weekend or something like that and get me back to Memphis with time to spare.

No pictures again this week. Sorry. Haven't really had much time to take shots of salon dogs or anything like that. We've got one groomer out on vacation this week so my days have been pretty full. Everything has been nicely spaced out so I do plenty of work but at the same time I'm not rushed to get it done or totally overwhelmed by it all. However, in place of pictures, I did come across this video online . . .



Is that cool or what? Of course it would totally scare the dogs and wouldn't run very well on the carpet anyway. Plus, I'm sure something like that is REALLY expensive, but still, isn't it cool?