Nov 25, 2010

Its beginning to SOUND a lot like Christmas.

Its Thanksgiving.  I was toying around with the notion of writing the traditional "I'm thankful for..." post, however I have decided to forgo this option.  Don't get me wrong, there are things I am extremely grateful for.  And I could actually make a list that is quite extensive.  But for right now, I'm thinking about something else entirely.

It's almost Christmas!!

I have to admit, I get pretty exited for the holidays.  I don't get as excited as Costco does (after all, they break out the Christmas decorations around freaking Halloween).  For me, the official start of the Holiday season begins with Thanksgiving.  Its like some sort of starting line for a marathon of cheer and good will, culminating with the festivities of New Year's Eve. 

But I love the Holidays.  People are generally in a better mood at the Holidays.  Except of course, for those who are shopping on Black Friday and fighting over the next big thing. Those people are generally miserable. Fortunately for me, I never go out for the Black Friday sales, so I never have to deal with those people. And so, I can rely on my idea that people are generally in a better mood during the holidays, even on that day.
So how do I start celebrating Christmas?  What do I do to start getting in the holiday mood? 

I start with Christmas music.  I love Christmas music.  However, people seem to think its somewhat socially unacceptable to listen to it prior to Thanksgiving.  But there appears to be an unwritten rule that says as soon as the Presidential Turkey is pardoned a person can play Christmas music without fear of retribution, or at the least, weird looks.  So it is with every year I start looking forward to the time when I can break out the Christmas play list.

Now the catalog of music out there, focusing on the holidays, is extensive (which is really quite an understatement).  So, in order to help narrow the field a bit, I will be providing to my top 10 favorites, and why these musical selections have managed to make the list. 

Special note here: These are some of my favorites.  Certainly, not all of them.  And while I have labeled them my favorite 10, I have not numbered them, because they are not in any particular order.

Without further ado, I present my 10 Favorite Christmas Songs:

Baby It's Cold Outside, as performed by Zoey Deschanel and Leon Redbone.  Originally written by Frank Loesser, for he and his wife to perform, the rights to this song were later sold to MGM in 1948.  Since then, the song has been performed and recorded in numerous venues and performances.  My favorite, though, happened to come from a Will Ferral movie: Elf.  I generally hate Will Ferral.  I think he's an idiot.  And probably the only reason the song makes my list (given its questionable appearance in a Will Ferral movie) is Mr. Ferral has absolutely nothing to do with the soundtrack version.  Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone.  Stupendous.  Really.  And even though it never makes a reference to Christmas or the holiday season in general, it certain evokes the feeling garnered from a warm fire on a cold night, a warm drink and someone to share it all with.  And what more can a person ask for from the holidays?

Silent Night, as performed by Sarah McLachlan.  First off, we take a Christmas classic.  Regardless of your religious beliefs, its a beautiful song.  Top it off with Sarah, and you have the makings of something so much more.  I admit, I have a bit of a thing for Sarah.  Whats not to like? She's beautiful, her music is addicting, and her voice is dead sexy.  So how can you go wrong?  She approaches this piece of music with the utmost respect and reverence.  And I'll say, once you hear it, you'll be wondering two things: 1 - Why had you never heard this before?  2 - Where can you get it?  Try the winter collection EP, titled "Wintersong."  You won't be disappointed.

Good King Wencelas, as performed by Loreena Mckennitt.  The story of the good king goes like this: King Wencelas and his page go out on St. Stephen's Day (hence, the Feast of Stephen) to feed and clothe the poor, and provide them the warmth of a fire. However, it is cold and walking through the snow the page almost gives up, urging his master to go on without him.  However, the king comforts him, and miraculously the page finds warmth by walking the footsteps of the king and is able to go on.  Obviously laced with Christian undertones of charity and religious lessons on faith, and simply look at people in the selfless service of others. And what's not to like about that?  As a further note, Loreena's album, The Visit is one of my favorites.  If you have the chance, you check it out.

The Little Drummer Boy, as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  First off, we are not here to debate religious beliefs.  But, religious beliefs aside, one can hardly argue that the Tabernacle Choir is something to behold.  This particular piece is performed with very little musical accompaniment, and is simply fantastic.  I suppose, once again, the message is laced with religious undertones, but hey, its Christmas, so why not?  I'm sure we all have, at times, felt like we needed to give something of worth to someone, and felt like all we could give was not enough.  However, should we all give what we can, and do in earnest, then gift itself really doesn't matter.

Carol of the Bells, as performed by George Winston.  Mr. Winston, a famous pianist, is probably most notably known for his for albums titled Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.  Each contains piano pieces centered on music and themes that embody the season he is looking to represent.   Mr. Winston was pioneer in the genre that would later be know as New Age. The Carol of Bells, dating back to 1916, is performed by Mr. Winston perfectly.  If you have ever heard the carol sung by a choir, as it was originally meant to be, you can't help but appreciate this presentation, and respect his ability to present it.

O Holy Night, as performed by Celtic Women.  Again, classic and timeless.  I also have a certain afility for celtic-type music.  The afore mentioned Loreena McKennitt is one of my favorites, and so when I happened accross this version of the hymn, I couldn't help but make sure it was part of my Christmas Play List.  At one point, the women of this group hit a crescendo as they say, "Fall, on your knees. O hear angels voices. O night, divine."  Chilling. Stirring. And just plain good.

Happy Xmas (War is Over), as performed by Sarah McLachlan.  First off, I don't see anything wrong with a repeat performer making my list.  And once again, it's Sarah, and once again I say, her voice is dead sexy.  John Lennon wrote this song in 1971.  An instant Christmas classic from the former Beatle.  Many years later, Sarah redoes the song.  Its presentation is nearly identical to John's, obviously not wanting to intrude on the legacy of such a man.  And here, between Sarah's and John's version of the song, my preference is nothing more than my preference.  This one can be found on Wintersong as well, a celebration of Christmas and a plea for world peace all in one.

Little Saint Nick, as performed by The Beach Boys.  Come on, really?  What list of favorites would be complete without the Beach Boys? Released in 1963, the Wilson's were at the top of their game.  Churning out songs about muscle cars, surfing and girls, who would have thought the guys could create an instant holiday classic?  But Brian and the guys were quite arguably the best American group of the time.  Perfect harmonies backed by a surfer's attitude, they guys even managed to throw a shout-out to Saint Nick.  Well played, guys.  Well played.

Feliz Navidad, as performed by Jose Feliciano.  Who doesn't like this song?  Its interesting to me, as to what makes a Christmas song a classic.  What makes it that song that everyone looks to hear when driving through town looking at Christmas lights.  Jose knew. Feliz Navidad, Jose.  Feliz Navidad.

Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy, as performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby.  Bing had a career that spanned 50 years, and his unique baritone voice made him one the best selling recording artists of all time.  David Bowie is no slouch in the recording world either.  Combing one of the best America had to offer with an incredibly talented British rocker and you end up with a rather surprising experiment now famous the world over.  Giving the fact these two musicians are so talented in the particular genres, its a wonder they were able to sit at the piano and mesh so seamlessly. 

This aired on a Christmas special with Bing Crosby in 1977.  I was born only a year prior to this.  While I certainly have no memory of its original airing, I watch it and listen to it every single year. 

So there you have it.  Every one of these selections is on my play list.  And every year, about this time, You can hop into my truck and there is a good bet you are going to hear one of the above either playing or at the least, cued up.

Up next in my preperation for Christmas?  Tree shopping.

Nov 22, 2010

Running My Arse Off.

It’s a little over half way through the original training schedule of 9 weeks to run a 5K (remember folks, a 5k is 3.1 miles). Of course, I have lengthened that schedule out to a total of 15 weeks in order to accommodate my desire to hit 5.75 miles. Don’t ask me how many K’s that is, its more math than I really want to attempt right now.

Ok, before I could continue, I had to figure the K’s involved in running 5.75 miles. So, a little fact checking, and a little multiplication, and the answer was simple. 1 mile = 1.61 kilometers. So, simply put, we multiply 5.75 by 1.61, and the answer is 9.25K. Of course, no one wants to say, “I’m running a 9.25K.” So I’ll let it suffice to say, “I’m going to run 5.75 miles.” Although, it sounds like I’m going a longer distance by saying 9.25K.

At any rate, let me get back to issue at hand, a sort of progress report.

Anyone who knows me knows I am sort of a geek when it comes to planning things. I like to do all sorts of research. I like to have graphs. I like to have detailed and written plans. So when I started this plan, I did some research. I was looking for a training schedule that would accommodate my specific needs. After a little looking, I came across The Couch to 5K Running Plan. It’s a 9-week plan, training three days a week. When I first came up with this plan I was saying I didn’t want to make excuses for myself. And I still stand by that. However, I do have limits, and I have to approach this whole idea with a certain amount of caution. This plan seemed pretty reasonable, and pretty attainable.

And so I embarked on my mission. First thing I did, I got a notebook. Then, I transcribed the weekly plan to my notebook, along with some various graphs in order to keep track of distance, calories, and a simple weight routine in order to provide an overall fitness as opposed to just simply running and building up the cardio endurance. And for the most part, I have actually stuck with the plan. However, this last week, I faltered a little bit. The end result on this is going to be a repeat of Week 5.

For a little reference, here is the general prescribed routine:

1 – Three times a week I am on the treadmill. Since beginning, I have been increasingly changing the ratio of walking to running. As it stands right now, I’m running more than walking.

2 – On the off days, I am either using the elliptical or taking the day off.

3 – On run days, I am doing a light weight lifting routine. Remember, I’m not looking to bulk up here. I have no ideations of heading down to Malibu and showing off my pectorals to the locals (after all, I live on Lost Coast, and in order to accomplish something like I would not only have to actually have huge pectorals, but I would also have to hit the tanning booth, given the lack of sun around here).

So, since I started this endeavor, I have stuck to the plan with surprising regularity (this last week being the one exception, which I’ll get to in a little bit). So, generally speaking over the last 4 weeks, I have been at the gym 4-5 times a week. Even when we were in Denver, I managed to make my way to the gym and run in the morning. This week, however, I only made it twice. This is not due to my being lazy, or a lack of motivation. It was simply circumstances. In light of this week’s inactivity, though, I’ll be repeating week 5, just for good measure.

So, without further ado, I’m going to put some stats, covering a period of the last 5 weeks:

Official Count in Weeks: 5
Total Number of Trips the Gym: 19
Total Distance in Miles on the Treadmill: 28.17
Total Distance in Miles on the Elliptical: 13.43
Total Calories Burned on the Treadmill: 3,991
Total Calories Burned on the Elliptical: 1,605
Time Spent on Running Days with Weights: About 60 minutes
Time Spent on Elliptical Days without Weights: About 30 minutes
Average Miles Per Trip to the Gym: 2.1 miles
Average Calories Burned per Trip: 294

What do these numbers really mean? Not a lot. About the only thing it really does is prove I have actually been attending and sticking to the plan (which, in and of itself, is a real accomplishment).

So, Week 6 begins today. However, as stated before, I’ll continue my program be repeating Week 5 due to my poor attendance.

Stay tuned for more.

Nov 18, 2010

We get coins, we get shirts, we walk a lot of places, get dissapointed with the cab service, and in the end, we complete our quest.

Its over.  Our quest has ended.  We are victorious.

We saw Brandi, and it was good.  But before I delve into a review of the event, I'll do a quick sum-up of the weekend leading up to the concert.

Denver itself is actually a pretty nice city.  And the Lower Downtown (commonly referred to as LoDo, which sounds kinda dumb to me; that would be like calling Old Town Eureka "OlToe", that sounds about as appealing as a bad case of toe jam) is really nice.  In particular, the 16th Street Mall is the place to be.  16th Mall is fantastic.  Its probably close to 8 or 9 city blocks long.  16th Street is closed to through traffic.  In fact, the only vehicles allowed to drive on 16th Street are the free shuttle buses and the police. 

I should make note that pedestrians walking 16th Street need to be very wary of the the shuttle buses.  They hurtle down the street like ballistic missiles, screech to halts at every corner.  On the plus side, if you do happen to get tagged by one, the police seem to patrol this area very frequently, so emergency help is always close by. 

The plethora of places to eat in Denver is astounding.  There are a ton of good places.  Two places we went, and really liked were Rock Bottom Brewery and Macro's Coal Fired Pizza.  Both of them had excellent food.  I would recommend either to anyone who travels to LoDo Denver. 

Two points of interest made on our trip:

1.  The Unites States Mint Denver, CO  -  Seriously, this place was pretty cool.  It was like going through airport security getting in, and the mint has it's own armed police force.  And they follow you through the entire tour.  Once inside, it was a numismatics's dream come true (a numismatic is a collector of coins, just so you know; I don't what idiot came up with that name, but I guess it has more of a professional ring to it than "coin collector").  Sadly we didn't get to see any coinage being made due to the three day weekend.  But I did lay my hands on a sealed case with $140,000 in one dollar coins.  Oh, it was lovely.  The unfortunate thing about the mint: No pictures inside.  No cameras allowed, and cell phones must have the batteries removed.

They did have a gift shop, which I considered myself lucky to have escaped and only spent about $60.

2.  The Miller-Coors Brewing Factory in Golden, CO  -  If you like Beer, this is a good tour.  If you find a little bit of American culture interesting, this is a good tour.  One of the things that struck me more than anything else was the city of Golden itself.  Golden, from all appearances is everything my home town of Eureka wants to be.  Eureka, though, fails miserably.  Golden is small, clean and friendly.   Its downtown area wasn't littered with trash and over run with homeless people.  It was, in all honesty, a nice place to visit.  The brewery, while one of the major revenue makers for the city, wasn't the only industry, as evidenced the various businesses we passed on our trip there.

Go figure, a small town that welcomes business within it's own city limits?  And they appeared to be successful.  I would imagine most travelers who come touring through the city of Eureka generally keep driving. 

One point of.. Confusion?  -  The cabs in Denver had no idea where anything was.  Seriously.  Without the aid of their dash mounted GPS, they would have been lost.  Two examples.  #1 - We got a cab and asked to go to the brewery in Golden.  The brewery is massive.  It sprawls out of a couple hundred acres.  Its also famous. Who, in America (whether a beer drinker or not) has heard of Coors, bottled in the Rocky Mountains?  What did our cabbie ask us when we told him our destination? "Do you know the address?"  #2 - The Denver Performing Arts Complex.  During the time we were there, along with the Brandi Carlile concert, it was hosting the Denver Film Festival.  This appeared to be a huge event.  And people were dressed really nicely.  And again, what did our cabbie ask us? "Do you know the address?" 

So disappointed. 

Now, onto the meat of the post here.  Brandi Carlile, Live with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. 

We arrived at about 7.  The show was scheduled to start at 7:30.   We checked out the B.C. gear for sale out front, then headed to our seats.  Boettcher Hall (apparently that's pronounced "bet-cher") is a fantastic auditorium, with seating completely encircling the stage.  I don't really think there were too many bad seats in the house.  Promptly, at 7:30, the lights went dim and Brandi was introduced.  Her and the band came to the stage, and together they performed for about 30 minutes.  Then they announced they would take a short break while the orchestra set up.  Then they returned and played for about an hour. 

The show was excellent.  I wish I could describe how all the anticipation we went through had paid off in full.  Instead, I'll simply say we truly missed out on the prior two attempts to see her in concert.  On the flip side, we have decided we want to see her again, we enjoyed it that much.

Now as I sit here, I think its sad how easy it was to write about the anticipation; and how a weekend date to wine country had become a personal quest.  And now that its over, I am left feeling like this posting is a little on the anti-climatic side as there are no cliff hanging finishes or suspense filled promises of more to come. 

In stead, our quest is simply over. 

Clearly, we need a new one.

Nov 9, 2010

Vegas lights, Sheryl quits, and we get Ugly.

When we last checked in with our intrepid concert goers, they found themselves in Petaluma, CA; smack dab in the middle of California’s wine country….

For anyone unfamiliar with Petaluma, it’s really a nice little city. It’s a little too big to call a town, but it’s still a little small to call a metropolitan area. With a beautiful downtown area, a marina on the Petaluma River (a tidal estuary which snakes down to the San Pablo Bay, providing access to the Pacific Ocean), and access to the sprawling vineyards that cover the rolling hills throughout the region, a person can literally do nearly anything from the city proper with little to no effort whatsoever.

As I was driving home Sunday morning from said city, D and I were both thinking none of these things really mattered. For our hopes had been dashed to pieces by a cruel twist of fate called Illness.

(I should say, though, the weekend wasn’t a total loss. We did eat at Guy Fieri’s restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s. We only had lunch there, which for us, consisted of burgers. But they were really good burgers. I would wager, based on what little experience we had there, the rest of the menu is pretty solid as well.)

Time moved on. We told our story to friends and family, who all chuckled at our misfortune. All in good nature, we took it in good stride, and we simply decided we would try again. As mentioned in the previous posting, the rescheduled concert was set for the end of June. D was off to New York City and Ben was with me. Figuring the logistics of it all simply were unfavorable, we didn’t go.

But we were undaunted in our goal to see Brandi live. And so we kept our eyes open for another show to see. At the same time, we started thinking about what we wanted to do for our third anniversary. The idea if catching a show somewhere came up, and I quickly went back to the tour page of

What did I find there, you may ask? Well, none other than a show with Brandi and Sheryl Crow at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas! Jokingly, I made mention of this, and to my complete shock and awe, D was all for it; and seriously too. There wasn’t a hint of sarcasm in her voice. Well, it wasn’t too much longer and we had reserved a flight to and hotel room in Vegas. The actual coordination of this trip was far more extensive, and horribly complicated, but that is really a story for another time.

As soon as this trip became a reality we started bragging to our friends, Francis and Meghan, who had actually seen Brandi live in our place in Petaluma. And it wasn’t too much longer we were making our plans together. After all, why not visit Sin City with good friends who can sin with you? It makes the whole experience so much better.

So the fateful weekend arrived. Concert tickets were in hand, bags were packed, spirits were high, and the wallets were full of spending cash.

We arrived in Vegas, checked in to the New York, New York Casio and Hotel, and quickly got ourselves settled into the business of soaking up everything Vegas could throw at us. We ate some good food, we drank a few drinks, we played cards, we played craps, and we wandered the strip and did thing tourists do with cameras and things like that. But, let’s face it: With all the things to do in Vegas, we were there for a very specific reason. And everything up until that point was just so much fluff.
(Outside the New York, New York on the replica of the Brooklyn Bridge.)

Don’t get me wrong, the fluff was fun. We hit every major casino on the strip in the course of two days. We spent quite a tidy sum on souvenirs, on food, and of course on the slots. Vegas has the cream of the crop when it comes to the slots. They are new. They are flashy. They have sweet mini-games. And they practically call to you in your sleep. What little sleep I actually got there was inundated with visions of spinning reels, flashing lights, and big wins.

Surprisingly enough, I managed to go most of the trip without making too much of an ass out of myself. Probably the biggest blunder I made was guestimating the walk from the strip to the Rio to be “not that far.” It was probably about 95 degrees out. It was sunny. And it was easily over a mile. And it should suffice to say, we hadn’t been drinking enough water. The four of us made it there, and we even managed to stay on speaking terms through it all. But we also took a cab back to the strip.

Saturday morning came along, and Francis and I met down on the casino floor for a lesson on Craps. Some Guido looking guy gave the lesson, which was entertaining and serious all at the same time. Once the lesson was over we met up with D and Meghan to plan out our day. After all, we had to be out at the Hard Rock early enough to get ourselves situated comfortably for the show. I was sitting at a ginormous Wheel of Fortune machine and I had just won seventy dollars and we were gleefully chatting about the evening’s activities, wondering how we could possibly fill our day when our anticipation of the evening’s event was foremost in our minds.

Then, my phone buzzed, and the chime that signals a new email sounded. Most of the time I ignore this sound and catch up with it later. But for whatever reason, I pulled my phone from my pocket and read the subject line.

I don’t remember what it actually said, but in my mind, it looked something like this:

From Ticket Master: Your concert has been canceled. You are a loser.

What the #*%?!?!?!? Really? How is this even possible? Thanks to the advent of the smart phone, I was able to hop on the internet and check Ticket Master. Sure enough, it was posted that Sheryl Crow was sick, and the event for that night had been canceled. Yes, I said it was canceled. Now, Brandi had missed two concerts. Brandi, who previously hadn’t missed a single performance, had now missed the two we had been trying to see.

We sat bemoaning our fates, drowning our sorrows in free drinks and deluging our senses with the sound of slot machines. They no longer held the same magic though, and bells and whistles now seemed far off, like a fog horn blowing in some distant bay in the middle of October when it’s socked in with fog.

We did our best to rally from this devastating blow to our scheduled activities. And instead of going to the concert, we went to Coyote Ugly. Are there any readers out there that have seen the movie which shares the same name as this chain of bars? I don’t know if the movie inspired the bars, or if the bars inspired the movie. But in the end, they are pretty much just like each other. And dirty. And not the kind of dirty a little kid gets into when he goes out to play in the schools football field just after a heavy rain. However, to keep mom (who I know will be reading this post) from going into apoplexy, I’ll reassure her that was largely a spectator in this endeavor. For the rest of you, I’ll include the following picture (and only this picture, but rest assured I have many more).
(Again, to the defense of my character, I was mostly a spectator here, mostly. However, there were some things that happened here, that I saw with my own eyes, that I would have thought never actually happened in really life.  Go figure. Also, to the defense of my character, going here was not my idea.  Of course, I don't exactly remember objecting very strenuously either.)

The next morning, we did our best to wipe the sleep from our eyes and haze from our minds, and made our way to the airport. All in all, it had been a fun weekend. However, the sting of disappointment after losing some money, missing yet another concert, and nursing a little bit of a headache was all to real.

And so, again, we headed home with our tails between our legs. But still undaunted, now determined more than ever, we would try again. This was no longer just a show to see. It was past something of an obsession, it was now far beyond a mere goal to see Brandi live.

It was a quest, a mission; it had become our calling in life. We were now determined more than ever. We would succeed.

It would be less than twenty-four hours later, and our next attempt would be set in stone. But of course, that’s a story for another time (which will more than likely be tomorrow).

Stay tuned.

Nov 8, 2010

A concert canceled leaves us wanting more...

Determination comes in many forms.

For example, it comes in the form of the determination to run a race in Trinidad.

For another example, it comes in the form of working ones arse off over the course of a weekend, and getting only about 2 hours of sleep before starting the weeks worth of night shifts, in order to finish the patio.

But I have gone on way too much about these two topics as of late.

So, in a final example, its comes in the form of two people working like mad, and spending ridiculous amounts of money, just to see a person in concert.

This is one heck of a long story, really, so I’ll be breaking it into three parts.

And here begins the story that spans the better part of the last year….

One night, D and I were in bed together (now before you go thinking about the appropriateness of the upcoming content, remember we have children who read all this; you dirty minded people, sheesh). We were actually watching an Indigo Girls concert on HDNet. For those of you unfamiliar with HDNet, they broadcast all sorts of concerts, all day long; and the Indigo Girls are one of our favorites.

About half way through the concert, they brought out a special guest, a singer/songwriter/guitarist named Brandi Carlile. Brandi looked unassuming, but when we heard her playing with Amy and Emily, strumming out some of our favorite tunes, we were instantly hooked.

The next day I started looking for music on iTunes, and was pleased to find a large catalog of available music. About twenty dollars later, I had all sorts of new music to add to my play lists. And the next day, I found myself checking out A click o the tour link listed a whole slew of concert dates. One of these was in Petaluma, at the Mystic Theatre.

A quick lesson in geography: Petaluma is only about a three and a half hour drive from Eureka. Google maps actually clocks in at 4 hours and 17 minutes. But a little math quickly tells me that computation is based on a 55 mph traveling speed. When the speed of travel actually averages at about 70 mph, the travel time is quickly recalculated at 3.5 hours, a far more accurate estimation.

And so it was, we booked a room, and traveled to Petaluma in March. The weather was a little chilly that night, but it was clear and crisp outside. We parked in a public parking garage and walked a few blocks to get in the lengthening line of fans awaiting admittance. We went in, ordered a couple of drinks, and settled in for what promised to be an evening of excellent entertainment.

The opening act came out, playing a sort of bluesy rock, which was entertaining, but certainly not what we had come to see. And after a small intermission, Brandi and her crew hit the stage.

Together, the combination of Brandi, and her twin guitarists, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, acompanied by their drummer (who was a female of unknown name) began by together singing a song a capella. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the song was, but they sounded fantastic. Then, another song, a little more lively, and little more energetic. Again, I don’t remember what the song was. I was a rookie at this point, unfamiliar with all of Brandi’s catalog.

And then she abruptly left the stage. There was a brief respite, then the twins took the stage, by themselves. Together, to the tune of a single guitar, they sang a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” It was so good. They were right on, and rocked it without ever raising their voices above the one crescendo that both Paul and Art so masterfully ascended to when it was written in 1963. Sadly, this song is not an option on the iTunes catalog, nor is it anywhere, that I can find. For reference, it was so good, I would happily donate a kidney to a person were they able provide me with a copy of said song in trade. (As of yet, no one has answered to this offer in the affirmative. I think I should consider myself lucky, though I would still love to have a copy of this cover.)

When the brothers wrapped up their performance, together they left the stage, to the sound of… not silence, but a standing ovation.
(Sadly, this was the look of the empty stage, after it was completely deserted)

It was about 10 minutes later when it was announced that Brandi was sick. She had hoped she could muscle through the performance, but in the end her illness won out and the concert was canceled.

According to the news given, this had never happened to Brandi before. She had never missed a performance (remember this fact, as it will be playing into part two of this story).

Further, we were told if we waited a few minutes, we could receive a ticket that would get us into a concert to be rescheduled. And so we waited, we got our tickets, and picked up some pizza on the way back to the hotel. The next day, we drove back to Eureka with our tales between our legs, instead of lasting impressions left by an amazing performance. But we took it in stride, and simply planned to make the rescheduled date.

Sadly, the reschedule date conflicted with D’s trip to New York City with eight, fourteen and fifteen year old girl scouts. And so we gave our tickets to a friend who, in company with her daughter, would enjoy such a show. Together they went to the Mystic Theatre, together they saw a kick-ass show, and together they drove home with nothing but lasting impressions of a very entertaining night.

In our next installment, we revisit the idea of seeing Brandi in concert, we travel to Vegas, and Sheryl lets us down.. Big time. Stay tuned.

Nov 5, 2010

Motivation stays strong in some areas....

Lets face it:  When a guy has a few goals, some hit the mark and others seem to fall by the wayside.

And so it is with this guy. 

Goal number 1: Running the Clam Beach Run.

I been maintaining a regular gym attendance.  About 5 days out of the 7 day week.  Pretty darn good.  I have lost 6 pounds (I'm sure I could lose a little more were I to really alter my diet, but I end up so hungry after hitting the gym I just want to keep eating).  But my cardio level has gone way up.  I don't really pay attention to my heart rate when I am running the treadmill, but I do on the elliptical trainer.  My target heart rate is 149 for a cardio session, and I have to really work my self in order to get my heart level that high.  Further, I am currently doing a little over two miles on the treadmill.  On a 15 week training program, I am looking at being right on target for the 5 3/4 mile run on January 29th. 

Goal number 2:  Blogging:

I don't know why it is I can't seem to make time to sit down and hammer out a post.  Over the course of the last week I have started several entries, but to no avail.  They all seem to be swallowed up by the murky abyss that is a jumbly concoction of procrastination, writers block and sheer laziness. 

And of course, the time I feel most motivated to write anything is at work?  When, arguably, I should be doing other things. Weird.

So OK, there is the update as it stands.  Its not huge, but its progress.  And with that, I am happy.
I'll be hitting the elliptical trainer tomorrow morning before bed time, that should kick me up to nearly 10 miles in total distance this week so far. 

I can see the finish line now....

Oct 28, 2010

Weekend Update

Well, as is usually the case when a person goes a week and a half between posts, there is a certain amount of catching up to do.  And so it is, with a whole lot of pomp and circumstance, I will jump right into the meat of two different subjects.

Update Numero Uno:

About two or so years ago, I came to the conclusion it would be necessary to remove the deck from the back yard.  There was actually a two part post about this whole subject at the time I started the project.

You can refresh your memory of Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking the links respectively.

This last weekend, my father-in-law and I decided to tackle the project head on and get it finished.  In part 2 of the refresher coarse, you could see a pretty nicely laid out square, with a wooden border and gravel filling.  This was quite an undertaking at the time, and the half finished project was actually better looking than the deck itself.

Over the course of 2 and half years, though, it became rather unfinished looking.  But money and time kept getting in the way of progress.  But now, the money was there, and oddly enough so was the time.  And I had a willing helper there in the form of a father-in-law. 

The bulk of the project took the better part of three days.  A full yard of gravel and nearly 2 full yards of sand, and 167 12" x 12" paver stones.  And thus, we have the finished project.

Over all, I couldn't be much happier with the project.  Of course, as the guy who did the main bulk of the paver laying, I could sit and tell you all the little imperfections in the finished project.  But instead, I will tell you how much nicer the yard looks.  And, if you'll not the to BBQ's offset  from the side of the patio, I'll take a lot of the credit for.   I wanted my BBQ's on the new patio, but didn't want them taking up a lot of room on the patio itself.  So we made the simple addition.  And now, I can grill in comfort.  As time goes on, I plan to get some patio furniture and fire pit as well.

Its a welcome addition to our backyard, and a tremendous improvement. 

Update Numero Two:

The quest to complete a 5 3/4 run continues.  My plan of action seems to be on track at the moment, and after this week (of about 2 miles at a shot on the treadmill) I'll be upping the distance to about 2.5 miles at a shot.  I can see the finish line now.  Its a little far off, but its completely attainable.  
More to come in the near future. 

Oct 21, 2010

Ankle pain, I scoff at thee; or, How I got motivated to actually run a race.

I'm beginning to feel a bit like a broken record.

"I want to blog."  "I want to revitalize my blogging."  "I wan to do this... I want to do that...."  The worst part about this habitual complaining, which is promptly followed by absolutely zero followthrough, is it has slowly affected other portions of my life as well.

My prime example, and general focus of my posting here, is my gym membership.  I have had a Cal-Courts membership for over 3 years now.  There was a time, at the very beginning, where I was a regular attender.  And in the space of about 2 months, I had whipped myself into the what was arguably the best shape I have ever been.

But of course, as with anything that actually requires commitment and follow though, its so blasted easy to skip a day here and there.  And once you start down that path, you get to where I am.  I am no longer in a state of fitness.  I am in a state of Un-Fitness.

Yes I know, that's not really a word.  But it is certainly a state of mind and overall well being.  Lets rewind the clock about 20 years, shall we?

Afflicted with habitually sore ankles, at the ripe age of 12  I found myself undergoing major surgery on both ankles.  The Doc, who mumbled a lot and had the bedside manner of a Troll with a bad case Giardia, was actually a brilliant surgeon.  Even still, his prognosis for continued happiness when it came to my ankles was bleak.

"You'll be looking at ankle fusion at the age of 20," he mumbled.   And so it was I mentally limited myself in all things strenuous.  I couldn't possible do cross county with all my friends.  That would hurt my ankles.  I couldn't possible run in track, that would hurt my ankles.  I couldn't possibly do many things in life that boys the age 12 and 13 should be doing because I wouldn't want to hurt my ankles. 

Really?  That was my excuse for being a completely lazy teenager?  What a joke. 

Now, at the ripe age of 34, I seem to be suffering from a bad case of Motivation.  I want to go to the gym.  I want to be active, and I want to do some of the things I have always told myself (for some stupid reason) I could not do.

So its back to the gym I go.  This time, however, its not just a half assed attempt at being a little more active.  Remember, I've got Motivation.  So I actually have a plan.  Yes, a plan.  And as part of my plan, I have a goal.  Something to strive for at the end of a finite time.  A simple and yet realistic and totally attainable goal.

First, the Goal.  After all, its the goal that determines the plan, right?  What is one thing I have always held myself back from doing? Running.  And what, around here, and all over California, do people do all throughout the year?  They run races.  So I got online and started looking around.  There are two main runs here on the Lost Coast. 

The Foggy Bottom Milk Run, which is in March.  After a little consideration, I decided this was too far in advance.  I needed something closer and more attainable. 

And so it was I decided to run in the Clam Beach Run.

Every year, in January, hundreds of people gather to run from the city of Trinidad, down Scenic Drive, and then to Clam Beach, ending at Strawberry Creek.  Its cold, its wet, and people look like they are having one heck of a good time.  This is an attainable goal.  The CBR is broken into three run lengths: 3 miles, 5 3/4 miles, and 8 3/4 miles. 

And so it is I chose to make the 5 3/4 mile run my goal.  And now, a plan.

First off, register for the race as soon as possible.  My logic here: although the entry cost is only $18, any money spent will bestow a certain amount of obligation to see matters through. 

Second, a training regimen that will prepare me for the run.  I have about 15 weeks to get myself ready.  And so it is I am back to the gym.  I found a 9 week training schedule for the purposes of preparing a complete couch potato (like me) to run 3 miles (or what is typically known as a 5K).  With a little imagination, I was able to extend this program out to have me running 5 miles within the required time, which at the start of this plan was 15 weeks. 

Three days a week I'll be running the training program and working an easy weight lifting regime.  This, in and of itself, should have me in a general state of Fitness (not Un-Fitness) in about 2 months.  On the off days, I'll be using the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes of solid cardio training.

I have a note book with my schedule in it, and I'm tracking my progress on a daily basis. 
And finally, in order to cement the idea in stone, I called my pops, who has been an avid runner for as long as I can possibly remember.  Both he and mom, a couple of fitness junkies, are both in for the challenge.  And besides, something like this should be done in a group.  It should make it far more enjoyable. 

And so it is I'm setting out to do something I have never done before.  At any time in my life, I think the farthest I have run in one stint is about 2 miles.  So I am looking to up that by 3 1/4.  Not too shabby.  I have to admit, I feel a little sill about the whole thing.  After all, I'm 34.  I should be in better shape than I am now.  I shouldn't have waited all this time to actually do something like this.  On the flip side, there is a first time for everything.  And you have to start somewhere. 

And so it is, with all the gusto I can muster, I'll be going to the gym.  A lot.  But I have the support of my wife, and the support of family, and even some friends. 

How can this go wrong? 

More to come later....

Aug 12, 2010

I procrastinate the heck out of everything.

Three things: One, I love camping. Two, I actually enjoy the chore of preparing for a camping trip. And three, I am a horrible procrastinator.

Lets break things down, one by one, shall we?

1. I love camping:

Ever since I was a little child, even as far back as I can remember, we have been a camping family. As a child I have fond memories of racing our bikes around the loop at Fallen Leaf Lake, or hiking to the crater at Mt. Lassen, driving for hours on end as we made our way into Canada in order to do genealogy projects, or just taking a road trip across the salt flats on the way to Utah to see relatives who live in Holiday.

Back then, we didn’t have DVD players in cars and we didn’t have iPods. We drove station wagons, and our entertainment came from each other, from the use of the CB Radio (which we always had when traveling in a family caravan). And if all else failed, we always had books (What? Reading? What is that?). So for hours on end (and if you have ever driven across Nevada on Interstate 80, you know there is almost nothing to see there; once you get to Utah and salt flats start, there is even less to see). But as a whole, I don’t remember complaining too much about being bored when traveling. Once we reached our destination, tents were made, fires were lit, bikes were ridden, and lakes and streams were swum in. And once things settled down, we sat around the campfire pit and roasted marshmallows and ate smores.

Now, a few years later in life, I still enjoy all of those things, except maybe the bike riding around the loop. But I love to swim, I love to sit around the campfire, and I love to be away from the hustle and bustle of life at home while I sit around the campfire with a warm cup of coffee.

In a few days, Iver and I are headed to Albion for five days of fun on the California coast. The worst part (or the best, depending on how we look at it) is our wives are not going. And without them there to keep us in check, there is a good chance the two of us will do something stupid.

So what’s not to love about that??

2. I enjoy the chore of preparing for a camping trip:

When I was young and just a lazy kid, I rarely had to go through the pain of actually making sure things were ready for a camping trip. So I can’t say much about that. That particular task probably fell to my father who never bothered to check in with me about what he was doing. But now, if I want to go camping, the task falls to me. And this is something I enjoy.

Sadly, the next two nights are going to be very busy for me. I have a union meeting tonight, I have to go to the gym, and I haven’t done a thing to actually prepare for this trip (which I will be covering in more specific detail in the next section). So tonight, after I run at the gym, I’ll be in the garage getting things together for my trip down to the coast. And I can’t wait. I enjoy going through my gear, finding the things I need, weeding out the things I don’t need. And for this particular trip, I’ll actually be packing pretty light. I don’t need a tent, or mattress. So I don’t need the tarp or some of the other accoutrements that goes along with that. I don’t need to pack a stove, nor any other cooking utensils.

I need my sleeping bag, a pillow, clothes and personal items, my dive gear, and some miscellaneous food items. And that’s it. Sounds easy right? So why on earth, after having three days off, did I not get this all done when I had plenty of time to do it?

For this answer, I come to the next section.

3. I am a horrible procrastinator:

This, in and of it self, should be pretty self-explanatory. What else is there to say, really? I had three days off. And I had very little that actually needed doing. And I got none of it done. So what can I really say about that? Procrastination has always been one of my weak points. In fact, as far as I can remember, it’s always been one of my weak points. So I’m simply planning on it always being a weak point that I need to over come.

So tonight, I will begin the process of getting packed. I have tonight and tomorrow night that I need to get this done. Saturday night, after work, I’ll be going to Iver’s to load up the truck with firewood. And Sunday morning we are planning on leaving.

So I need to get the packing complete so the stupidity can begin.

Aug 11, 2010

My chicken was curried.

When I was a wee lad I had to make my own lunches for school. At a quick glance, one might think my mother was either uninvolved or simply uncaring, but nothing could really be farther from the truth. In fact, my mother was quite involved and caring, and made my lunch for me every single day, up until the day when I complained so relentlessly over the contents of my lunch she told me something like this, “If you don’t like the lunch I make for you, you can make your own.” And so I did. And if I didn’t make a lunch, I simply went hungry at school, and I had no one to blame but myself. And thus I began to cook for myself.

Over the years I had spent more and more time in the kitchen, but my forays into the culinary world were somewhat brief and rather timid in their very nature. It all began with the egg sandwich. A devilish little bugger, the egg sandwich can be varied according to whatever whim strikes you at the moment. Want ham on that? You got it. Want a different kind of cheese? You got it. Want a biscuit instead of bread? You got it.

And thus I entered the realm of making food according to my own desires and whims. Granted, this wasn’t a very big step towards culinary greatness, but it was a step none the less.

Over time, my ambition into the realm of food has grown, and I have found myself taking bigger and bigger steps. This is not to say there hasn’t been some stumbling along the way. For example, I made some fried bananas not to long ago and was extremely disappointed with the results. Our friends, who were with us for dinner and attempting to eat this dessert, made a good showing of pretending to like it. Of course, there have been some great successes long the way as well. For example, I tried my hand at baking not to long ago, and made crepes for a desert. And wow, were they tasty. Tasty!!

I am somewhat sad to admit, though, I am a timid chef. For one, I am completely lost and confused when it comes to the subject of spices and herbs. Any baboon probably knows salt, pepper and garlic are one of the sweetest combinations on earth. So what about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme? According to Simon and Garfunkel they go well together; but even if they do, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue what type of food to prepare with such a concoction.

And so it is with me. I do love food. And there is so much of it out there, and so many ways to prepare it, and I am too lazy to look for them.

Pathetic, I know. But now I am working to overcome this deficiency. This weekend, I am going to prepare one of my favorite dishes: Yellow Curry Chicken over Rice. There are lots of types of curry in the world; this particular version originates in South East Asia.

I have spent my entire weekend here at work obsessing over this venture. I have scoured the internet looking for curry recipes. I have read eleventy-billion comments people have written on the different recipes. What I really want to do is basically recreate a recipe from a little diner in Arcata, called Japhy's.

Japhy's, located in hippie heaven, is really quite an amazing little restaurant. Soups made to order and the curry of the day.

And the curry, wow. So good. Thus far, I think my favorite is the yellow curry. And it is worth the drive to Arcata just to try. I highly recommend you do so.

So with some determination, and a little bit luck, I set out to recreate this recipe. I had an idea of how I wanted to do it. So first I went to the Asian market. Ten bucks later, I was on my way home with some curry paste and coconut milk. I did a little chopping of vegetables, and a smashing of garlic, and everything went into the slow cooker. I threw the chicken into the cooker as well, thinking to let it just sit in the combination of broth and milk and spices for about four hours before I return to it.

About 4 hours later I returned and removed the chicken and shredded it. Then, stirred it back in, added in some cilantro, and let it sit for about another two hours. And walla!!

So good, so juicy, so tender, and poured over rice, so comforting in the belly.

What?? I strayed from the easy and predictable formula and found myself doing something new and fun and wham-o! Dinner was a complete success.

So what does this tell me? I need to stray from the formula a little more often.

Jul 27, 2010

Money Matters

Lets face facts here, I am not a financially responsible person.  In fact, I am diametrically opposed to such a title.  If there were a title for a guy like me, it would be really long and take up too much space, include a few swear words, and in general could be summed up with something simple like this: I am completely incompetent when it comes to matters of money. 

D, on the flip side, is ridiculously meticulous with the ledger books.  I'm not sure how she got this way, really.  From the horror stories of her past financial dealings, I don't know that she was really much better than me.  But some how, some way, she grew up in this area. And now, at any given time, she can track our finances to the penny.  And she does it all with a pencil and paper. 

So, given these two examples, of financial greatness and fiscal incompetency, its really a wonder to me that she ever trusts me with anything financial.

(Que the dream sequence chimes as we fade to the scenario of a few days ago....)

There I was, getting ready to run a few errands with Ben and D asked me to stop by the bank and, (a) deposit a check, and (b) withdraw twenty dollars.  Seemed simple enough at the time.  And like most people on earth, we have more than one account.  So she specified which account she wanted it in and which account she wanted the twenty to come out of (which was the same account; again, simple enough). 

So I put on the charm, flashed my winning smile, and reassured her that her worries were for naught, and I would make sure and put everything where it was supposed to go.   The boy and I then left, check in hand, and went to the bank.  I pulled up, went to the ATM, inserted my card and found myself taking a pop quiz.

"In to which account would like to deposit this check?"

Since when did going to the ATM involve multiple choice questions?  And of course, the accounts are labels by nothing but numbers.  It might have well asked, "What is the square root of 432,444,541,937?"

So I panicked.  And I made my choice.  I thought, for the moment, I made the right choice.  I so overwhelmed by the task at hand, and then so relieved I had made the "right" choice I completely forgot to get the twenty out.  So I had to re-insert my card and start a new ATM transaction. 

"From which account would you like to withdraw twenty dollars?"

Another multiple choice question. This time, though, for some reason that is unknown to the universe at hand, I didn't even balk at the question and simply made a choice (which, in hind sight, was the wrong one).  And I moved on to take Ben to a promised dinner of just he and Dad.

It was about five  minutes later when there was a thunderstorm of activity in my brain that said, "Hey stupid, you are really stupid!!"  I then found myself looking at the receipts from the two transactions and realized none of the numbers matched the consectutive transactions like they should have. 


Now, in theory, this really should be a simple thing to fix.  Hop on the internet, log on to said bank web site, and make a few balance transfers.  Boom!  Done!  No hastle!  Right??


Remember, that was nothing more than a theory; and as we all know, theories are often proved to be wrong.  Like mine just above.  For the one who does everything twice its a lot more complicated than that, and the tone in her voice as I described what happened told me all I needed to know.

Funny how these things work really.  In a rather abrupt and somewhat unfinished feeling closing to this post, I'll end by saying this:  D is quite the accountant.  And I owe my generally good financial situation to her and her alone.

So for that, I'll take the grumpiness when I manage to send things a fowl in the banking department. 

Jul 17, 2010

The Great Two Wheeled Dilema

I have been wrestling with this post for a few days, and in the interim, I simply posted some fluff regarding stupid commercials. Now, however, its time to actually say my peace about a particular subject.

About, oh, 12 years ago I purchased a motorcycle, a 1994 Honda Shadow VT600CD. A simple and fairly entry level bike with an engine size of 583 cubic centimeters. In the world of motorcycles this is considered a small bike. And really it is. With just me on it, it’s a nice ride. With a passenger, though, it really begins to lag. But I am generally the only rider, and I am really quite content with it for now.

For a bike that is 16 years old it’s in great shape, and quite honestly, a lot of fun. So for the next few years I rode the heck out of that thing. I commuted to work, I went on Saturday rides, and I was all over the place.

Then I moved to Humboldt County. I had no one to ride with and slowly I rode less and less. And eventually, the cost of a little maintenance got in my way and I garaged the thing.

Fast forward six years to the present. My good friend Dean, after making some life changing decisions, decided he wanted to get a motorcycle. His wife was supportive and soon the purchase was made. I know what some people may be thinking, something like, “Oh my! Those things are dangerous! He’ll kill himself!!”

To these nay-sayers, I say, “*%#* off.” In actuality, there is just as much chance as any accident happening to me or anyone else, as soon as I wake up in the morning. Are there some inherent dangers to riding a motorcycle? Well of course. But as long as one is responsible, and takes the proper safety precautions, it can be an extremely enjoyable thing to do.

And so I began the quest to get my bike in running condition. It’s been a rather lengthy process, but overall, hasn’t been too bad. In the meantime, Dean had to opportunity to ride north into Washington with a friend, and he took it.

The other day, I got a phone call at home from Iver. It started like this, “First off, I want to assure you that Dean is OK.” This, for everyone’s reference, is not the way you want any conversation to start. Long story short, he had a pretty good wreck while in the area of Longview, WA. He has been in the hospital with a little bit of internal bleeding because of a lacerated spleen. He has been recovering, and is scheduled to come home today, and spend some time recovering.

Now comes the question I have: Will he ride again? There are going to be a slew of people who are going to be stopping by to see how he is doing, and then will turn around and tell his wife and say, “I just knew he shouldn’t buy a bike. You’re not going to let him ride anymore are you?” And to those types of people, with that particular attitude, again I say, “%#*& off!”

There are a dozen things we do every day that could kill us. And lets face the honest truth, at any given time, under any given circumstances, getting into a vehicle accident is a simply a possibility. But if it’s something a person enjoys, then let the person alone to his own devices.

I have had to sit on the sidelines, watching with great envy as my friend spent his weekends riding around the north coast. My bike is coming home from the shop, hopefully today, and will be in perfect running order. And I have to admit, I hope this doesn’t sour my friend on motorcycle riding.

I know it won’t be my decision, I know I don’t want to be some sort of influence that is contrary to what ever he and his family may decide.

But I can still hope, can’t I?

Jul 16, 2010

The network is pandering crap to my kid.

Anyone with a child will know exactly what I am about to complain about.

I'm talking about all these stupid products sold on television stations like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network.  For example, I just watched a commercial for what is called a Fushigi Gravity Ball.  This is used for the "sport" of contact juggling.  What, pray tell, is contact juggling?  Well, lets refer to you tube.

The first time I saw something like this was watching the Jim Henson movie Labyrinth (which, by the way, is a great movie and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Jim Henson's work).  I myself have attempted this little feat, to no avail.  Either its really hard to do, or I just suck (I would tend to lean toward the latter on this one).

But these blasted commercials make these things look like its a perfectly natural and easy process to make this sphere appear to defy gravity.  And of course, it can all be yours for the most affordable price of 19.99, plus shipping and handling. Do I really expect the boy to be able to acquire one of these crazy items and actually pick it up and simply start wowing the crowds?

What about Floam?  Anyone familiar with Floam?

Looks pretty neat, huh? Its all good in commercial format. But lets look at the reality of the crap the are pandering to little kids across the world:

I'm pretty  sure if my kid opened that sticky, slimy mess on Christmas morning, after paying anywhere from 10 to 30 bucks (plus shipping and handling of course) I would be pretty pissed off.

I don't exactly remember these types of commercials being played when I was a kid (although I'm sure they were there).  But what bothers me is watching the glitter in the boy's eyes as he sees something incredibly cool on one of these commercials and I have to be the one to tell him whatever the wondrous product is, its crap.  Lucky me. 

Now, on a further note, I watched a commercial last night for these little pasty things to attach to your boobs to giver yourself an instant lift.  And of course, they are only ten bucks, plus shipping and handling.  But wait!!  Act now and they will double the order!  That's 20 pasties for the price of ten!  I too could have a more supportive look and a little cleavage. 

Lucky me.  Perhaps its time I started reading more often.

Jul 11, 2010

Revitalization and the Social Network.

Over the last couple of months, I have come to a realization:

Facebook has been completely detrimental to my blogging.

Over the course of about two years, I was a routine blogger. I had not a care in the world about posting; indeed, I would type out a post like a musician plays the piano. Imagining the letter keys to be the ebony and ivory of a keyboard, posts on various and sometimes completely random subjects would find there way into the blogosphere in much the same way as a piano concerto fills a concert hall.

But suddenly, and unexpectedly, I thought I had lost my voice. No matter how I tried, I simply couldn’t get myself motivated to actually post something. Surprisingly, I can actually pin it down to one event that caused such a tragic decline in something I really enjoyed: the creation of my Facebook account.

Social networking is, in and of it self, more invasive than the crab grass in my lawn outside. It’s in everything. You can access it from any computer on the planet with even the slowest of internet connections. My android phone has an app for it that makes it even easier to post status updates on the go. Even my XBOX 360 has a link, so I don’t even have to get up off my couch and look for either my phone or the laptop.

Really? Have we, as a society really made our lives this fricking easy? Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the social aspect of Facebook, and firmly intend to make use of it in the future. I really like the way it’s made it so easy to reconnect with friends from my past with whom I have lost contact over the years.

Sadly, a quick post here and there to the status bar became a regular and easy process, and I suddenly felt as though I had nothing important to say. Or at the very least, I was feeling quite redundant.

So Facebook became the regular thing, and D constantly made fun of me for being part of a social network she classified as a “juvenile” endeavor. I won’t even get into the fact that my Facebook page has been overrun with Farmville and Vampire Wars postings (all because of her). I’m pretty sure most of my friends completely ignore anything I post because of the sheer volume of these games by Zynga. But that is really a whole other subject in and of it self. Lets get back on track.

So I have attempted, here and there, to revitalize my blogging. And I rarely post to Facebook anymore anyway. And even when I do, my posts simply disappear in a deluge of Zynga game spam about mystery eggs and vampiric assaults. Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, but it is what it is.

(Case in point: as I am typing this I received an email from Zynga letting me know I received a mystery gift from a person on my friends list.)

Then, the other day, I noticed my dear friend Iver managed to do exactly what I have been kicking around for months, he started posting again. Yes, I admit, some amount of jealousy ensued. And why not? I have been wanting to do exactly the same thing for a while now, but to no avail. But its not just the fact he managed to post something, it’s the fact he somehow linked it to his Facebook profile.

Is this perhaps the perfect union between a love/hate relationship with Facebook and my long lost friend, my blog? Perhaps, only time will tell. As it stands, I have set so many goals for myself and very few of them have I actually accomplished (OK, lets be honest, if my goal was to sleep more, I might have accomplished that one).

So, here I go again. back into the blogosphere. There will be more to follow. Now, if I can just figure out how I can get this post to show on my Facebook profile....

****Small udate****

Getting this to post to my facebook profile has not been the easiest thing in the world to do (no thanks in part to IT, who has blocked Facebook from the county internet).  I'm working on it.  Really, I am.

Feb 15, 2010

An Update on Creative Writing

Well, its been a long haul getting this week's piece together.  The main bulk is written and I am looking to make some editorial changes this evening and post it up. 

Stay tuned.

Feb 6, 2010

My deadline wasn't met. I'll be on track this week.

Deadlines.  Holy crap, deadlines.

I have been working, a little on my newest piece, but I have also spent my entire weekend with my son (which takes precedence, I'm sure you people understand).

So, I am taking the liberty of postponing my posting of my first SCUBA experience for a few days.

I'll be back in touch soon.

Feb 2, 2010

A Critique of Myself.

And now, my own review of my own writing, after all, I will be my own worst critic.

Critique numero uno:  I am not a man of paptience, and I fear this may hinder my goal of publication within the year.  Over the course of last week I a made an effort to work on my little piece at least once a day.  I really put some effort into the whole idea of putting some effort into this project.  As the week went on, I realized I am so used to writing "just the facts" I was getting impatient with the whole story process because I wanted to get to the meat of the story faster than I was. 

Details, details.  Really?  I know, that's one of the main points of these writing exercises.  Details.  Its about telling a story.  One of the worst parts about this whole "Flat On My Back" story is there is when I got to the end of the story I really didn't have much to say about it.  Isn't that rediculous?  So I need to be a little more particular about my choice of story material.  Another aspect of this simple story was the end was really the end.  There was nothing more to say.  I couldn't even come up with anything to make it an open ended story.  I felt as though I reached the climax of my story and when all was said and done and I was out of breath, I really just fealt disappointment. 

Now, on top of that, I purposefully chose not to edit the whole thing.  I read in a number of places editing is a writer's worst enemy.  And as I was typing I had to fight the urge to go back, re-read, and make changes.  And while this is supposed to be good for the writer, I found it irritating  more than anything else.  I have only re-read my last entry once.  I can see a few places where I would have made a change or two.  So in my next installlment I intend to do a small amount editing in order to better to get my point across.

We'll see how that goes.

So, I'll be starting my next peice tomorrow.  In it, I will attempt to delve into my facination with SCUBA diving and the underwater world.  I should be able to be a little more open at the end, as its more of a continuing story rather than a single event. 

Stay tuned for more.

Jan 29, 2010

Creative Writing: Flat On My Back

In keeping with my goal of publication within the next year, I will be posting something (or really anything) in an attempt to work on my written proficiency, but to garner a little creative criticism from friends and family.

So, feel free to dissect and put some criticism out there. I welcome it. I may not like it, but lets have it anyway.

One thing of note: this is completely unedited. I haven't gone through and re-read, because I didn't want to feel like I needed to make changes here and there. In the future, though, I will make editing more of a priority.

So, without further ado, I present my first creative writing piece:

Flat On My Back

I had come home in this fashion roughly 1547 times. It’s amazing how many times a guy can come home from work in an eight year span. And nearly every time, it’s the same routine. I come through the back gate in the alley. As I do, the stubborn motion detector (that has never worked quite right) either turns on the light or it doesn’t. I wish I could say the odds were 50/50, but that would really be an optimistic guess at the rate of success and brilliant light versus the rate of darkness that generally prevails on nights like tonight. So I entered the side yard in total darkness.

It had been raining off and on all day, and although the light was not recognizing my presence, I was comforted by the fact it was not currently raining and I actually had a chance to grill the steaks D and I were planning on eating for dinner. I’ve tried to BBQ in the rain. It’s not very fun. In fact it’s the complete opposite, its miserable. It’s tough to get the coals ready. It’s difficult to get the grill up to temperature. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a stable cooking environment. It’s a nightmare. And I was not going to subjugate myself to such a masochistic ritual as trying to BBQ in the rain.

I entered the house, where there no lights were on. I have exited and entered this same door more times than I could even attempt to count. I could walk from the entryway to the bedroom with my eyes closed. It’s not a treacherous walk, but there are plenty of obstacles that could impede my trek from the entryway to the bedroom. The terrarium for Kaboobie, our little box turtle, is immediately inside the door. While the terrarium is not technically in the way, it is there and an object inside our home. The first obstacle is out of the way.

But the light is on, and Kaboobie is out and looking for food. Her terrarium light lights the path for me to move safely on to the next area. I moved into the area between the refrigerator and the bookshelf. And while this area isn’t exactly treacherous, it is a smaller space. Well, narrow, anyway. And since the earthquake it always makes me wonder what it would take to topple these monolithic shelves packed with volumes and volumes of books D has read. It is impressive, really; she has read and completed more books than I have started and abandoned; there are easily a couple of hundred books there. Up above one of the bookshelves, near the entryway to the bedrooms, is my hanging pot rack: one of my greatest accomplishments in the goal to save as much space as I can in the kitchen. But again the earthquake comes to mind. In the best of circumstances, it makes a horrible racket with the slightest disturbance. I can only imagine what an earthquake rated at a 6.5 magnitude would cause.

I enter the bedroom from there, and continue with normal ritual. With my work clothes shed and some comfortable nighttime-type clothes on I decide to wash the dishes. The biggest problem with the dishes is I don’t like doing them. The other problem is, they won’t do themselves. So I set about the task of doing the dishes. It’s really an easy task. It doesn’t even take that long. It’s a matter of mind over matter. Before I really know it, the dishes are done. The multitude of coffee cups I own are on the counter drying, along the hurricane glass.

The other night we got together with a friendly couple and watched American Idol on Tuesday night. Its become a weekly ritual. We gather, we eat, and we watch the show and decide who should really get through and who shouldn’t. it’s amazing how serious we take this whole thing. It’s quite the event. So Amy makes drinks, and for whatever reason, when all is said and done, there is one hurricane glass that still needed washing. So I wash it and set it out to dry. About fifteen minutes later I am putting these various cups and glasses away and last is the hurricane glass.

The hurricane glasses are kept above the bed, in the cupboards in our bed room. I grab the glass and head in there. I hop up on the bed and open the cupboard. The glass goes in and the cupboard is shut. All I have to do is get off the bed and make my way into the living room and relax.

So I move to the edge of the bed and put my hand down and look to support myself as I hop off the bed. Somewhere in this process I missed the edge of the bed and my hand slipped. I quickly turned and landed on my back. I have to thank all my training in defensive tactics, and the training in falling for what happened next. I landed on back and bounced off the bed like a trampoline. In the air I managed to flip over. I could see the ceiling fan slowly turning as I flew through the air.

Then there was impact. I landed flat on my back, the small of back hitting a split second before the rest of me. As I hit the ground I crashed into the closet doors. I remember at the time, aside from thinking, “What in the hell just happened?” I also thought, “We are going to need new closet doors.”

It took me a few moments to actually realize what had just happened. As I lay on the floor, flat on my back, my first action was to take account of my extremities and to make sure I could still move them. Fingers moved, toes moved, and amazingly enough nothing really hurt; at least, not yet.

Standing up I looked around, trying to figure out exactly how I landed flat on my back, I decided to check on the condition of my closet doors. With a little bit of moving them around I found them to actually be workable. And with a little force exacted at just the right place they popped right back into place.

It was a few hours later when I realized my back and neck was a little sore, and stiff, but otherwise I came out of the whole incident with nothing more than a rather large bruise on my rear end.

And with that in mind, I went and made dinner.
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