Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lost: The Package

Desmond is the package!  Is Desmond, the Package, the secret weapon to fight the Man in Black?  How does Widmore know so much about the island and the Man in Black?  What has he and Eloise been cooking up state-side in all of those years since leaving the island? 

Desmond is an anomaly on Lost.  He is the only character that I know to be drawn to the island alone.  He was not part of the Dharma initiative.  He was not an “Other.”  He was not on the Black Rock.  He was not on Oceanic 815.  He came by himself on a sailboat.  He life does intersect with other characters, Jack, Charles Widmore, Eloise, Libby, etc., but his “drawing” to the island is different from everyone else.  Both Widmore and Eloise both push Desmond to towards the island on a few different occasions, but we are never given a reason why (shocker) and there has not been any interaction between Desmond and either Jacob or the MIB.

Desmond was one of the four Islanders to not return to the island.  Walt, Aaron and Ji Yeon (although unborn while on the island, I still think she counts) are the others.  Everyone else that has been to the island is either dead or still there and some are even dead and they still came back.

Desmond also caused two significant events to occur on the island.  He inadvertently caused the electromagnetic event that caused 815 to crash and through direct choice, he caused the massive explosion that destroyed the Swan site.

When Martin Keamy and crew first appeared on the island, Desmond thought he was going crazy.  Desmond’s mind kept traveling back and forth in time, along his own timeline.  He imagined himself still in the Royal Scots Regiment 8 years before the plane crashed on the island.  Daniel Faraday explained that the trips through time would become longer and longer, growing longer exponentially, until Desmond would lose his grasp on reality and die.  He told Desmond that he needed a constant, something or someone that he truly cared about, to latch on to, to stop this from happening.  Desmond chose Penny.  And later, Daniel chose Desmond to be his own constant.

Desmond dreamed of future and past events on many occasions.  Saving Charlie’s life, the woman parachuting onto the island and when he dreamed of finding Eloise and helping to recruit all of the Oceanic 6 back to the island.  At that time, Eloise warned him that “the island was not done with him yet.”  Jacob did say that someone was coming to the island, it might be Desmond that he was referring to. 

Is Desmond different from the rest of the characters?  He doesn’t seem to be affected by time the way the rest of the other characters are.  I have read several theories suggesting that Desmond is special, but no one has yet to determine why.

So how does Desmond fit in with what is going on?  Not a clue.  Why is he a secret weapon against MIB?  I don’t know.  Am I happy to see him back on the island?  Yes I am.  Why have I spent over 450 words talking about only 10 seconds of last night’s episode?  Because I think it is much more important than Sun forgetting how to speak English.

I guess I should mention something about the other events in the episode.  I don’t think MIB could do anything with Sun once she knocked herself out.  I don’t think he is can force anyone to do anything, they have to choose to do it of their own free will.  MIB mentioned that everyone, including the candidates had to leave the island in order for his plan to work.  Maybe that is why the Oceanic 6 (Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sun, Sayid, and Aaron) had to come back to the island, since they were all Jacob’s candidates.  I think Kate is a candidate, I swear I saw her name written on the wall of the cave.

That’s all I have for tonight.  Let me know your theories and comments.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lazy Writing

I recently read an article on the that asked a few authors for their personal dos and don’ts of writing.  All of the tips were great and hearing them from some of authors that I really respect made it home even more.  You have probably noticed that I am not a very good writer and any guidance, especially from the masters, is useful.

The one tip that struck me most was from Geoff Dyer.  He recommends, “If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto­correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: “Niet" becomes "Nietzsche", "phoy" becomes  ­"photography" and so on. ­Genius!”

Autocorrect is a wonderful feature.  Ever since it started showing up in office applications, I have loved it.  I left “office” in lower case because I am assuming that Microsoft Office isn’t the only software out there doing this.

I cannot count the number of times when autocorrect has stepped in and changed “teh” to “the” and “recieved” to “received”.  The main reason is because it is transparent and doesn’t require your input.  It does it automatically, hence the name “autocorrect.” 

It’s not that I do not know how to spell these words, it is that I am “teh suk” at typing.  My mind is usually not in-sync with my fingers, especially when the left hand has to type 2 or more characters in succession, followed by something from the right, or vice versa.  Like the word “spirit”, regardless of how many times I have to type this word and how much conscious thought I put behind typing it, it always comes out “sprit.”  My fingers have to go left, right, right, left, right, left, but what they really want to do it always go left, right, left… 

Knowing that I have this issue, I created an entry in the auto-correct dictionary to always change “sprit” to “spirit.”  I just have to bite the bullet anytime I really want to write the word “sprit.”  I don’t think I have ever intentionally need to write the word sprit before and when I do have to type it, it is part of bowsprit and exempt from the autocorrect.

It has not ever occurred to me to use autocorrect as a means to increase productivity.  I am all for increased productivity.  I have experimented with Quick Parts in Outlook, but they take some time to set up and I have found they are only really useful with large pieces of text, not individual words. 

Here are some useful autocorrect shortcuts and their translations:

  • srvr – server
  • srvc – service
  • wbst – website
  • eml – email
  • appl – application
  • proj – project
  • mchn – machine
  • db – database
  • produ – production
  • uat – the monkeys banging on the keyboard phase. As in “the project is in uat
  • pos – good application. As in “this is a pos.”
  • stb – experience prolonged downtime. As in “the server stb
  • brb – Nap time! WOOT!
  • lol – That’s a great idea, we will work on that
  • wtf – Brilliant, I was just thinking the same thing
  • omfg – I recommend that you be taken out back, blind-folded and then shot
  • ass – user
  • dh - customer

Let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions.

I would really like to use the autocorrect feature to the fullest, but I am running into some issues.  Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel have the autocorrect feature, but Microsoft Office Communicator doesn’t.  You know what I mean if you have ever been on the receiving end of one of IMs.  The cool thing about Word, Outlook and Excel is that they share the same dictionary.  Windows Live Writer (which I am using to write this post) doesn’t (which is instrumental in writing this post because of all of the intentional misspellings).  InfoPath doesn’t.  Gmail doesn’t.  I just have to be aware of where I am whenever I write something.  If you get an IM from me and it reads “no, the wbst did not stb.  it must be something the ass is doing wrong”, just remember that it really means “no the website is not experiencing prolonged downtime.  it must be something the user is doing wrong.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


On my way to robotics club, my iPod transitioned to Get Ready from (hed) p.e.  This needed to be loud.  I spun the volume dial until it reached 18.  Get ready, ready!  Woo!  My people get ready!  I glanced at the dial again, still 18.  It has to be 18.  When it's loud, it's 18.  Medium volume is 12.  When it needs to be low, the volume reads 6.  19 is bad, it can never be 19.  Odd numbers are always bad.  Except for 3 and 5.  3 is good because two 3s will get you 6 and that is good.  And four 3s will get you 12 and 12 is good.  5 and multiples of 5 are always good.  You get the picture.
What I am describing is my quest to use patterns and repetition to create order and well-being.  Some people can describe it as a mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety, or by combinations of such thoughts and behaviors.  I don’t believe I have hit bottom yet, but the behavior is definitely there.
There are certain things that have to be a certain way or I don’t feel comfortable.  I am sure we all have little quirks and efficiencies to make life easier.  Creating patterns to follow allow you to function without having to think about it.  Reducing everyday and repetitive tasks down to muscle memory and simple mnemonics make these tasks easy.  Don’t we all keep our cash in denomination order, largest to smallest from the outside in, and alphabetical order by serial number?  I don’t total up all of the bills to ensure they equal a good number, that would be silly.  (Hold please while I check…yup we’re still good.  Some times the little bastards get out of order in your pocket and you don’t realize it until you have to pay for something.)
I don’t know if I was always like this.  I know that my CD’s and DVD’s (cassette and VHS tapes in times long ago) have always been in alphabetical order, music by artist and release date, movies by title and sometimes when there are multiple versions (i.e. director’s cuts, digital enhancements, uncut, etc.) they go in release order.  Of course with kids, this makes it a little difficult.  They don’t understand order.  They just grab a movie and put it back on the shelf in random order, if they put it back at all.
These things aren’t compulsions or obsessions (yes, I have to keep reminding myself of this), they just make things easier.  If I want to watch the Blade Runner Final Director’s Cut, I know it is the third DVD in the Blade Runner section, which, of course, comes right after Black Hawk Down and right before Body Double.  It is extra special because two Ridley Scott movies happen to be right next to each other.
Isn’t it better to know that it takes 4 turns to completely close the cap on 16.9 oz. Coke bottle?  With those 4 turns you can be assured that your soda will not go flat.  You don’t have to count each time (but it helps), you just learn to do it that way.  You don’t have to unscrew the cap and do it again just to be sure it was 4 (but it helps).
And who doesn’t make sure that all of their t-shirts are right side out and folded so you can see the printing on the front?  Everyone keeps their white t-shirts separate from their colored t-shirts.  And their grungy work t-shirts separated from their everyday, ok-to-be-seen-out-in-public t-shirts.  Right?
Sometimes my little quirks efficiencies conflict with those around me.  Mostly it is my wife, who also has her own set of quirks. Right now I am concerned that my word count doesn’t exceed 648 (2*18*18).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost: Ab Aeterno

“From the beginning of time.”  Along with 8 years in Catholic school, I took 4 years of Latin and 1 year of Greek.  Hot damn, money well spent.  In addition to scoring well on my SAT verbal and being able to say the Our Father in Latin, I can now translate the titles of two Lost episodes.  Tabula Rasa was the other.  At dinner tonight, I mistranslated “ab aeterno” to be “to the end of time.”  Ab is from, ad is to.  Oh well.

Richard’s story was enlightening in many ways.  There were a lot of answers in tonight’s episode.  I still think there are many lies out there as well.  Neither Jacob nor the MIB seem to like telling the whole truth whenever they are questioned.  Jacob said right out that he doesn’t like forcing people to do what is right, so maybe that is why he withholds the complete story.  And if either one of them is really the Prince of Lies, then I guess that makes sense. 

According to tonight’s tale, the Island is a cork holding in the evils of Hell.  Jacob and the MIB must remain sitting on the cork to keep it in place.  If one dies, one must replace them.  Jacob has his list of candidates in case that ever happened and he has some plan in the works for choosing the right one.  The MIB doesn’t seem to care if he has a replacement or not.  But what does that make Jacob and the MIB?  I was hoping to at least put a name on the MIB tonight, but I guess we will have to wait for that. 

Is the Island Purgatorio? (BAM! some mo Latin for yo ass.  I think it is actually Italian.  Close enough, same country)  Do Jacob and the MIB judge the dead and pass them on to the next life?  Do they hold the world in balance, like the Jedi and the Sith?  Is it all really about midichlorians?  Jacob wants to remain on the Island and keep the cork in place, but as we have heard many times in the past few weeks, the MIB just wants out/off.  The discussions between Jacob and the MIB that we have seen are reminiscent of the old testament wagers between God and the Devil.  One side believing that man is inherently good and the other believing that man is inherently evil, always wanting to prove the other wrong. 

Jacob said that he doesn’t want to take an active role in persuading his test subjects into doing good.  This is very similar to how God is portrayed in the old testament.  Speaking to his followers, sending his prophets (Richard, Ben, Locke), giving them trials and tests of their faith, but never forcing good, never removing free will.  The MIB takes on the classic role of the devil, spreading evil through his lies and empty promises.  He fueled Claire’s hatred, but in the end, didn’t turn over her baby.  But in every lie, there is a little truth.  Isn’t that what makes the best lies hard to spot?

Last week, Not Locke spoke of crazy moms.  Could the crazy mom he referred to be Eve, having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, causing man to be kicked out of Eden?  That sounds pretty crazy to me.  There have been lots of theories that the Island is in fact Eden and that the bodies of the man and woman in the cave, were Adam and Eve themselves.  In Ab Aeterno, the MIB (pre-Not Locke) talks of having once been a man and that he had been stripped of his humanity.

Note:  In my vast theological studies, I have many interpretations on the events in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  I believe that Eve wanted to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, not to become gods, not to know good and evil, but to invent shopping.  If you recall, the first thing Adam and Eve did was clothe themselves.  I’m sure the first shopping mall soon followed, because she had to find shoes to match that fig leaf.  She was probably looking for the tree of the knowledge of knick-knacks and rustic country, but came across this one first and so it was ab aeterno.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ultimate Comfort Food

In the last 30 minutes before bed time in our house, my family and I gather together to watch a little television.  This is the “calm down” period right before bed.  We try to find something that works for everyone, something that is age appropriate and educational.  That usually rules out most networks and leaves us with either the Discovery Channel or the Food Network.  This weekend we happened to catch an episode of the Ultimate Recipe Showdown.  This episode’s challenge, the ultimate comfort foods. 

This is a bad thing for me to watch at night.  I like to eat.  I writhe in anguish as I imagine eating the wonderful dishes that they prepare, knowing that my next meal is almost 12 hours away and the bowl of Frosted Flakes will not even come close to these culinary delights.  This night was different.  As we watched, the contestants made a lot of dishes that looked amazing, but one struck deep in the pit of my stomach.  One called to me.  Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese.  I didn’t want to eat this, I needed to eat this.  I had to make this.

We often see a lot of food on the Food Network that we would love to have, but we never actually attempt to make it.  This time it was different.  I set out on my weekly grocery shopping trip, with the recipe already displayed on my Droid’s browser.  I carefully selected all of the ingredients, salivating as I placed them in the cart. 

Note: the customers and staff at the local supermarket must think I am a little crazy.  I have a tendency to talk to myself while shopping and I have also been seen dancing and singing along with in the in-store music.  Normally I am with one or both of the boys, I imagine that it doesn’t look quite as strange, but on the rare occasion I am alone, I get some weird looks.  Mothers pull their children a little closer, old ladies give me the evil eye, but there is no stopping the urge to shake your ass a little in a George Michael-esque fashion when you hear Faith come over the loud speakers.  Screw ’em, if I have to do the grocery shopping, I am going to have some fun doing it.

Saturday evening, we went out for dinner.  On Sunday, since the weather was so nice, we planned on barbecue chicken on the grill (a favorite of the kids).  I waited patiently, knowing that Monday I would have it.  I rushed home from work, by rushed I mean I ran up the stairs from the basement two at a time, and started to gather the ingredients on the kitchen counter.  The recipe called for 1 hour to prepare and cook and it took every minute of it.  By 6 PM, we sat down to eat.  A choir of angels broke out in hosannas as I dished out the plates.  I tasted it and it was better than I imagined.  It was great!  The kids even liked it.  They picked through and ate all of the chicken first (which is what they do to most meals). 

You could taste everything, the bacon, the different cheeses, the hot sauce, the garlic.  I was impressed that I could actually follow the recipe and have something come out as good as it did on television.  I am not a chef, I can barely make the basics.  I end up charring at least one out of four grilled cheeses.  But I made this and it was good.

This attempt has given me some confidence.  My next attempt will be the Crawfish and Andouille Sausage Pizza as soon as I can find some crawfish that look remotely fresh.  I hope that the kids will like this one too, cuz you gotta have faith.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Ducks Attack

My wife is a smart person.  She is college educated and does research in neuroscience at prestigious medical school.  She raises three wonderful and intelligent children.  She is an avid reader, she can go head to head against me in Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit and any other trivia game (except for Star Wars).  She has two issues, 1) she married me, 2) she has an irrational fear of birds, the official term for this is ornithophobia.  The first is an issue because I am an irreverent ass and will write about the second issue.

We normally don’t come in contact with many birds.  I don’t know about you, but in my experience, birds keep a safe distance from humans.  That is not always the case with my wife.  She seems to attract birds.  There have been several incidents in the past where birds have singled her out for their awful vengeance.

The Hungry Hawk - Last summer, while she was on the deck watering the plants, a large red shouldered hawk swooped down from the sky and snatched a rabbit sitting in the yard only 20 feet away from where my wife was standing.  Mr. or Mrs. Hawk sat on our fence (the same one that needs to repaired) and proceeded to eat the rabbit.  The kids and I enjoyed this display and recovered the rabbit’s broken and bloody skull for analysis later.  The skull was actually retrieved by our dog and had to be pried from his mouth.  He was not very pleased to have such a tasty treat taken away from him, but he got over it.

The Swooping Pigeon – A few years ago, my wife and few coworkers were walking to work and a pigeon flew up from the side walk “right at her head”, forcing her to duck and cover.  According to eye witnesses the bird was half way down the street and didn’t even come close to her at all.  I, of course, believe my wife, if she said it flew at her head in a menacing, threatening fashion the way those viscous, murderous pigeons are known to do, then I believe that she was in grave danger (is there any other kind? – damned IMDB doesn’t have the quote of course) and took the necessary avian evasive maneuvers.

The Horny Robin – One spring, when we were living in a town house, we had a very aggressive male robin visit us daily.  And by daily, I mean, all day, every day.  He would spend hours flying at and crashing into our sliding glass doors leading from the living room out onto the patio.  He would do this nonstop from early morning to early evening.  When he got tired or sore, he would sit on the gas grill and shit.  And by shit, I mean pour gallons and gallons of poop all over the patio and grill.  The black plastic grill cover looked a plaster cast of a gas grill. 

Nothing we did would keep him from battling his bitter rival (if you don’t get it by now, it was his own reflection).  We kept a pile of soft dog toys near the sofa, and when he would appear, we would throw them at the door to attempt to scare him off.  That would only scare him away for 15 minutes if it worked at all.  Finally, we had enough (and by we, I mean my wife had enough and therefore, I had enough). 

I was now at war with a robin.  I set up my encampment behind enemy lines, i.e. in a plastic patio chair next to the shed.  With weapon at ready (a garden hose), I patiently waited to spring my ambush.  I waited for about an hour and a half before the enemy showed on the field of battle. 

The first shot went wide right of the target, but the enemy was still dazed a little from his initial assault on the sliding glass door and I had time enough for one more attack.  I did not aim with my hand, he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.  I aimed with my eye.  I did not shoot with my hand, he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.  I shot with my mind.   I did not kill with my gun, he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.  I killed with, well, I killed by trapping the bird in a plastic shopping bag and snapping his neck.  I said a few words in honor of the quixotic robin and buried him unceremoniously in the trash can.

The Duck Family – A few days ago, while walking the kids to school, we saw two ducks setting up a nest in our neighbor’s hedges.  I used this opportunity to educate my kids on the life of ducks.  I explained how Mrs. Duck would build the nest in the hedges and lay her eggs.  She would sit on them and keep them warm until they hatched.  Mr. Duck would stand guard of the nest and go out and forge for food.  I told them how cool it would be to see the little ducklings come and how they would follow mommy and daddy around in a little line.  I also told them not to get to close because we didn’t want to scare them off.

My wife also saw the ducks.  Her take on the situation was a little different.

Transcript of the chat conversation:

Wife: Did you see the ducks

me: Yeah, I got some pics.  We have to walk on the other side of the street now

Wife: That’s so funny! Why would they pick there? Soon there will be baby ducklings running around. They may be apt to attack someone walking by. Oh God.

me: Yeah, those people are going to have an issue getting out of their front door

Wife: As I typed that I realized thank god not our house. That's like my worst nightmare.

me: OMG.  They are ducks!!! Not velociraptors

Wife: Yes, but what if they flew at my head or pecked at me or something.

me: dork

Wife: But why would they pick that bush of all places.

me: They like areas like that

Wife: Never been there before

me: The male has a bright green strip on his head.  No wonder she picked him, and such a nice neighborhood for their home

Wife: I saw them. You should let the dog go up to them

me: They fly away if the dog gets within one house of them

Wife: I would call animal control or I would take the dog outside with me whenever I had to leave 

me: Seriously, you may need to seek help at some point.  It’s a duck, we are like 10 levels higher than them on the food chain. They are not even dangerous

Wife: Yes, I know that. For a number of things.

me: They don’t have teeth, or poison or claws

Wife: They have Sharp Beaks!


I fear that I may have to do something about this if it gets worse.  She will not stop, she is like the terminator.  If they come near the house, the situation will come to a head.  If you see me outside, sitting behind a bush with a garden hose and a plastic bag, you will understand way.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lost: Recon

Mommy issues.  Everyone has issues with their parents at some point in their lives.  Sometimes it is something that happens late in life which causes a rift between adults, sometimes it something that happens in our childhood that rears its head later.  We all have them, it’s ok to admit it.  The characters on Lost are not immune to this either, as we have seen in the past.  Jack and his constant struggle to succeed in his father’s eyes, Kate and the alleged murder of her step-father, Penny and Charles, Ben and Alex, Ben and his dad, Michael and Walt, the list goes on and on.  This theme is recurs almost as much as “the numbers” or “black and white – good and evil.” 

In this week’s installment of Lost, we saw that the James Ford Sawyer in the LA-verse is still dealing with the murder-suicide deaths of his parents.  And it seems like his LA-verse life differs from his Island-verse life in the fact that one became a cop and one became a criminal, while both are still attempting to track down the man that caused his parents’ death.  The LA-verse is still not providing me with any answers, it just seems like fodder to fill up an entire hour long show.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the secondary storylines, but I don’t think they are going anywhere.

The meat and potatoes of Recon didn’t have anything to do with the Sawyer-centric storyline.  It was with Not Locke and Claire.  Claire’s attack on Kate was not surprising at all.  Neither was Not Locke’s reaction to it.  I think he almost wanted it to happen so he could dig his claws into Kate a little.  The attack left Kate weakened emotionally, so she would be ready for his influences.  Kate’s will is too strong to be completely controlled by MIB, but I think she is definitely open to suggestion and a little manipulation, especially if Sawyer is following along too. 

I like how Not Locke openly admits to his lies, once they are discovered.  He completely disarms his accusers (Sawyer, Ben, Kate, Claire) when he tells them he had to lie to them to get them to do whatever he wanted.  I wish it worked that way in real life, “Honey, I lied to you about not having any Cadbury Creme Eggs in the house.  I had to protect you from the awesomeness of them.  They could have destroyed you.” 

Not Locke also uses his silver tongue to persuade and cajole.  After the incident between Kate and Claire, Not Locke attempts to bring Kate over to the dark side.  Again, I don’t think he will, but he certainly got her thinking.  He uses his own story (true or not) to show he had his own mommy issues.  This is an interesting new development.  I am not familiar with any such reference in the Bible to crazy moms.  I think that is because the bible doesn’t give much credence to women, unless they are whores or the mother of god (WARNING: this video is NSFW and I would not recommend clicking on it if you are offended by someone mocking Christianity).  I am not as fluent on my Egyptian mythology as I once was and I am not sure if there is a relevant connection here.  I will do some more research on this and get back to you.

Not Locke compared his own troubles with having a crazy mom to Aaron and Claire.  He made it seem like Kate might need to keep her role as Aaron’s mom.  Is this makings of a new deal for Kate’s cooperation?  Claire’s apology to Kate near the end struck me as authentic and not at all like the Crazy Claire we have seen so far.  Is Not Locke’s power waning over Claire now that she knows her baby is safe?  Can the infection be cured?  I was so sure last week that both Claire and Sayid were lost forever.

Ok, that is it for now.  I have to go make my children resent me.  I have to tell the 5 YO that it is time for bed and to turn off the TV (oh the horror!).  He told me tonight that even though he doesn’t watch it, he turns it on so he doesn’t feel lonely.  Then I have to pick the 7 YO up from religion class (the hate burns in his eyes on Wednesdays when we tell him he has to go).  Maybe their stories will make it to network television in time.  One can only hope.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Upcoming Projects

Spring is quickly approaching, it is only a week away.  My mind is whirling with the number of things that I need, want and/or have been told to get accomplished this spring and summer.  I have said before that I love doing projects and I actually hate it when I don’t have something to do.  This winter was especially rough on me.  Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was having the new baby, but I didn’t get to work on stuff as much as I was hoping.  To be completely honest, there was more than one weekend when I just didn’t have the energy to start something new or brave the cold garage to resurrect something unfinished.
With spring comes new life and maybe it will bring a renewed energy that laid dormant over the past several months.  I hope to write about these projects as I work on them.  And I would like to hear what you are working on.  I am NOT a master craftsman, carpenter or a master of anything.  I just like to create things (hence 3 kids and being a software developer).  I sit back at the end of a project and say “I did that, with my own hands.”  Sometimes it is not even close to being perfect, sometimes it could have been done cheaper or quicker by a professional, sometimes it wasn’t necessary to do at all.  But it is mine, it has my name on it.
Here is my list of upcoming projects (in no particular order):
  • Fix the truck (power steering done gone and broke itself)
  • Fix the tractor (she ain’t hauling like she use ta)
  • Finish R2-D2 (skin, detail and dome are still waiting to be completed)
  • Raised garden (building a 20’ by 10’ bed for veggies and such)
  • Composter (building a two stage compost bin)
  • Replace broken split rail sections (there is a 50’ run of my fence that needs to be replaced)
  • Remove tree stumps (get a stump grinder and do some shreddin’)
  • More garage organization (there is too much crap in there and I need to find a way to at least store seasonal stuff out of the way)
  • More basement organization (the basement has started to catch garage overflow and that cannot happen)
  • Stone patio off the deck (I am not sure if this is really something I want to tackle myself)
  • Attic insulation (I have someone already picked out to do this.  I’ll pimp their services as soon as I can remember their website address)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ovum of the Gods

Spring brings rain, warmer weather, and the NHL playoffs (less than a month to go).  Spring also brings the most wonderful thing of all, the Cadbury Creme Egg.  This amazing confection has been a staple of my spring time diet for many years supplanting 3 Musketeers and Cadbury Caramello as my snack of choice. I’m not talking the caramel ones or the minieggs (although either will do in a pinch), I am talking about the chicken egg-sized milk chocolate shells with creamy fondant centers, the little ovum of the Gods. 
Cadbury Creme Eggs only grace our presence for a brief period every year and then disappear again at Easter.  They are a little like Easter in reverse, they appear around Ash Wednesday and then disappear at the same time Jesus is resurrected.  I wonder if Jesus and Cadbury Creme Eggs can’t be in the same place at the same time.  Maybe it will cause some apocalyptic convergence of awesomeness? 
I am doing research into the true story of the Last Supper because I believe that Jesus actually shared Cadbury Creme Eggs with the bread and said something like “Take this egg, all of you, and eat…On second thought, screw that.  Watch this all of you and see me eat this amazingly delicious egg...”  And that is why I choose to be a Catholic, because we all have Cadbury Creme Eggs and y’all don’t.  (Wait.  You don’t have to be Christian to purchase and consume Creme Eggs?  WTF, anyone know how to convert to Buddhism because this No Meat on Friday stuff is driving me a bit crazy?)
Aside from its religious connections, the great thing about Creme Eggs is that they can be eaten in various ways with little or no preparation at breakfast or anytime of the day.  Here are some tips to make your Cadbury Creme Egg season overflow with awesomeness:
  • Creme Eggs and Ham – wrap a Creme Egg in a slice ham
  • Creme Moons Over My Hammy – crack a Creme Egg over a grilled ham steak
  • No-Bake Jelly Belly Quiche – mix 1 Creme Egg with assorted Jelly Belly jelly beans and chocolate milk
  • Cadbury Shotgun – poke a hole in both ends of the Creme Egg and suck out the contents, leaving the milk chocolate shell for the end
  • Thin Mint Egg Sandwich – serve one Creme Egg between two Thin Mints.  This requires some skill and a large mouth, attempt it only when you are ready.  You can attempt with the mini Creme Eggs, but you lose a substantial bit of flavor.
  • Creme Pigs in a Blanket – wrap mini Creme Eggs in bacon as perfect appetizer or hors d’oeuvre for any occasion. Pro tip- make the bacon first or you will have a huge mess.
  • Pink Eye – crack a Creme Egg into a glass of Strawberry Quick or Strawberry Yoo-hoo.  This is the ultimate in hang over remedies
  • Lilliputian Style – crack the Creme Egg, either Big-Endian or Little-Endian depending on your own political persuasion, and eats the contents
WARNING: Please, under no circumstances, attempt to consume four or more Creme Eggs in one hour, even if a friend bets you that you can’t do it and offers to buy even more Cadbury Creme Eggs for you.  The sheer awesomenicity of four Creme Eggs can induce a state of hyper-reality where time seems to crawl similar to bullet time from the Matrix. This may be cool for you, but the others in your place of business may see it as a little odd when you demand to be called Neo and jump from cubicle to cubicle doing weird limbo type maneuvers.
Thank you, Easter Bunny.  Baawk-Baawk.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Paranormal Activity

My wife and I found an hour and 30 minutes to spend alone together last night.  When the kids fell asleep, we snuck downstairs into the basement to be alone.  Not even the dog was allowed to follow.  This is a pretty rare event, no kids, no dog, my wife awake after 9 PM.  Why did all this happen?  The reason is Paranormal Activity came in the mail from Netflix for this weekend. 
My wife and I can rarely agree on a movie watch together.  She’s not into sci-fi or fantasy, I’m not into romantic dramas, she loved Titantic, I abhorred Titanic each of the 5 times I was forced to fracking see it in the theater.  But there is one genre that we always agree on, the dark, psychological thiller/horror flicks.  I already told you our first date was to see The Silence of the Lambs.  Some of our favorite movies are The Exorcist, The Shining, Se7en, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.  So when Paranormal Activity made it to DVD, we knew there was a late night date night ahead. 
Neither of us were disappointed.  I heard all of the hype about the movie, I know it cost around $15,000 to make, but I really didn’t expect to be as amazed at how good the movie was.  If nothing else, this movie spurs your brain into motion.  It may not even be conscious thought, and I bet you some of those thoughts you don’t want to think of at all.  The wonder of this movie is that there are no special effects.  There is only one camera, one location, no more than 3 actors on screen at any time and I swear to you at times I didn’t know if what I was seeing and hearing was in the movie or if it was part of my imagination. 
The purpose of most movies is to “show” a story.  The huge Hollywood blockbusters of Michael Bay and the like, leave almost nothing at all to the imagination.  Everything is played out for you in mind-blowing special effects, in 3D.  The characters and narrators fill in for everything that you can’t “see.”  I am not complaining, but trying to show how wonderfully simple and amazingly complex Paranormal Activity is.  There are only a handful of visual and audio effects that you see and hear in the movie.  Your mind continuously supplies the myriad of other noises and shadows and bumps in the night.
My wife said the next morning that Paranormal Activity is the wrong movie to watch before you go to bed.  I completely disagree.  This is the type of movie you watch on a windy night around midnight in a large room with the lights out, so the edges of the room get lost in the shadows.  Oh yeah, watch it alone, with no one else in the house, or maybe you’re not alone, wait, what was that, was that from the TV, is that the wind? 
That’s the result of this movie, to make you question those noises in the middle of the night.  To make you doubt your senses and your memory.  To make you flip on every light on the way from the kitchen to the bedroom.  To deprive you of a little more sleep once you get there.
It worked. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lost: Dr. Linus

TANSTAAFL.  In the last episode of Lost, we see again that the gifts of Jacob and the MIB come with a price to pay, most of the time it is a very high price.  So it proves once again, that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, you get what you pay for and in the end, you pay for what you get.  Ben and Richard both sounded off with their own tales of what they had gone through in the service of Jacob.  Ben escaped certain death with the help of Not Locke and had the chance to confess to Ilana why he murdered Jacob.  Ben’s cathartic confession was the second most powerful moment in the Lost series, right behind the final moments of Sawyer and Juliet in The Incident, Part 2. 

Ben explained the sadness, hate and confusion that he carried  since watching his daughter, Alex, die right in front of him.  Ben admitted to letting his daughter, “the only thing that really mattered,” die at the hands of Martin Keamy.  He let Alex die to save the island, to save Jacob, and since then, he spiraled downward into despair and self-loathing.  Ben is one of my favorite characters on Lost and Michael Emerson, the man that plays Ben, is probably on the best and scariest actors on TV.  And this scene proves it beyond doubt.

Warning: I am about to get Old Testament on your asses again.  The wonders of a Catholic education never cease.

Both Ben’s and Richard’s stories reminded me of the trials of Job.  Job was considered a pious man who had everything in life; money, power, family, etc.  God and Satan made a bet, Satan believed that Job was only pious because he had everything he could want, God believed that Job would still be pious even if he lost everything.  So God allowed Satan to destroy Job’s entire life, take away his money, possessions, business, power, and kill off his entire family.  In the story, Job, while extremely distraught, never once cursed God. 

This story seems very similar to what happens to Ben and Richard.  They are both given great gifts by Jacob.  Ben was given power and Alex.  Richard was also given power and extremely long life.  But both were subjected to extreme hardship in their service to Jacob, both had to witness their entire lives come crashing down around them and the loss of everything that they held dear.  Both men were asked do some pretty awful things, kidnapping, extortion, and genocide for what they were given.  Ben even had to kill his father and adopted daughter.  Both were resentful, unlike Job, and cursed Jacob for what he had done, Richard in word alone, Ben in words and deeds.  In the end (at least what we know so far) both men repented and came back to the fold.

Ben’s repentance in the Island-verse mirrored the decision he made in the LA-verse.  He was given the chance to have power but also destroy Alex’s chances for getting into Yale.  Ben rejected the chance and seemed to be at peace when he saw the smile on Alex’s face when she told him of the excellent recommendation letter she received from Principal Reynolds.  (I was floored when I got to see William Atherton, AKA Professor Jerry Hathaway, AKA Walter “Dickless” Peck, AKA  Richard Thornberg, show up.  He was a perfect choice to play Principal Reynolds.)

It was also interesting to see Jack’s transformation from a “man of science” to become more of a “man of faith.”  But it took Jack’s “seeing” to lead to his “believing.”  The plan that Jacob discussed with Hurley outside of the lighthouse seems to be working.

The sides have now been drawn.  Last week, we saw MIB gather his army, and in the end of Dr. Linus, we saw Jacob’s team unite at the beach.  I think Claire and Sayid are lost to Not Locke for good, but I think Sawyer and Kate are wild cards. I guess we only have 9 more episodes to find out.

So ends my sermon, go now in peace. Praise be to Lost.  (But come back, please!) 

Does your child watch too much TV

I think one of mine does.  A few nights while we sat reading a new book (yes I know this seems weird in a post about my children watching too much TV), my 5 YO was struggling to read because he had a stuffed up nose.  After sniffling repeatedly, I asked if he thought a tissue might help out, and he said, “No I think I need some Nasal-next.”

“Don’t you mean Nasonex?”

“No, I think it is nasal-next.”


This isn’t the first time he has quoted some commercial or infomercial.  On several occasions, I have been woken up (usually by my wife) to go downstairs at 2 or 3 in the morning, to tell him to turn off the TV and head back to bed.  At 5 YO, he doesn’t have a real good grasp on time, so I usually forgive these incidents.  The fun starts the next morning, when my wife and I get a very succinct recap of various products marketed at that hour of the night.  One particular morning we were informed that we must go out and purchase a “Big City Slider Station.”

“Um, ok, what the h-, um, what is that?”

“It’s a fast and easy way to make mini-burgers. Just scoop, press and cook. Mommy will love it.”

This had my interest.  Not because it involved food, but because I could recall having heard that exact same thing before.  I flipped on the TV in the kitchen, selected a channel that is usually laden with infomercials and “As seen on TV” products, and we ate our breakfast listening to the TV.  Within 15 minutes, we were lucky enough to hear Billy Mays (may he rest in peace) extol us on the virtues of the “Big City Slider Station.”  And yes, my son was able to repeat a majority of the commercial verbatim. 

Skip ahead a few days, I hear the familiar “Ahoy thar matey’s” of the Spongebob Squarepants’ theme song.  As soon as the song ended, I heard my 5 YO say “aww, this is one where Spongebob <interject some hilarious Spongebob event>”  Peaking around into the family room, I saw that the episode hadn’t even started yet.  Interested that I might have found yet another one of his TV eccentricities, I sat through the 12 minute episode with him.  This isn’t torture for me, I actually enjoy Spongebob.  My all-time favorite episode is Sailor Mouth.   At the start of the next half of the episode, a short title screen was shown and I asked my TV addicted son what this one was about.

“Umm, this is where Patrick <interject an equally hilarious Patrick event>”

I repeated the experiment over the next several days of Spongebob episodes.  Sometimes I asked if he could read the title page, no.  Sometimes I switched the channel right after the title screen and asked him for a more in-depth description of the show.  He was able to retell the entire storyline and describe much of the action that takes place.

I presented my wife with the results of the experiment, gave her a demonstration.  She was not impressed with either his uncanny ability or my painstaking research.

Over the past few years, we have been able to divert some of his couch-potatoness to things like Mythbusters, Time Warp and Discovery Kids.  This has not always proved beneficial, especially when he began quoting Discovery Health when my wife was pregnant with our 3rd child or when he describes things from Dr. G Medical Examiner at dinner. 

I can’t wait until the day he and I can sit and watch Dune with the volume off and not miss a line of dialog.  “The beginning is a very delicate time.  Know then that it is the year 10,191.  The Known Universe is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, my father…”

Note: My children are very active, they do not watch TV all the time, do very well in school and they are actually avid readers as well.  But they do seem to have inherited the trait of turning on a TV set every time they enter a room whether they watch it or not.  I really don’t need a visit from CPS.  Thanks.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

53.5% of my life

Today marks the 19th anniversary of when I first started dating my wife.  We don’t have a big celebration, we don’t give each other cards or gifts, but we do use this day to reminisce on all of those moments that we have spent together.  I joke with my wife a lot about, but I am very proud that we have been together this long and it reminds me of how much we care for each other and how hard we work to make it “work.”

We went to the same high school together for 3 years, but our paths never crossed.  We even worked at the same country club for 6 months and never came in contact with each.  I was working on the grounds crew for the golf course and she was a waitress in the restaurant.  When the summer ended, I was offered the chance to “come inside” and work as a dishwasher in the kitchen.  I don’t think for the first several months she even knew I existed.  She denies this fact, but I know that I am invisible to most.  I think it was in February that one of her friends suggested that I should ask her out. 

On our first date we went to see The Silence of the Lambs.  This may not have been a great choice for a first date, especially when you arrive late and walk in just in time to hear Multiple Miggs say his infamous line.  I thought that this was the end, that I finally got to go out on a date with a cool, older woman, but the night seemed to go as smooth as a junior in high school could expect.

That first date triggered almost 2 decades of amazing times – attending the same college together, getting married, buying our first home, having three children, watching them grow and learn and speak and talk back and cut their own hair and chip their teeth and … and many other happy and wondrous things.  Together we made it through rough times and worked together to get through them.  I think that is what life and marriage is all about - working at it.  There is no other secret than to want to make it work, to be able to laugh together and laugh at each other.  Being able to laugh at each other is important.  WARNING: you have to be able to also take a sucker punch to the kidneys and to learn to love sleeping on the sofa.  Men seem to learn this early on, but women are slow learners.  Maybe in the next 19…

I have also learned some pretty useful tips for relationships and marriage:

  • Some things do not go in the dryer – mainly sweaters and cats
  • If it is rusty and has flaking paint and hangs on the wall or sits on a table, it is country and rustic.  If it is rusty and has flaking paint and sits in the garage, it is “shouldn’t you get rid of that thing, you don’t need it anymore.”
  • The ability to control your snoring (HOW IN THE HELL am I supposed to do that?  Is it even possible to control what you are doing when you are unconscious?)
  • Never use your cell phone to make a digital recording of your spouse snoring to prove that maybe she is waking herself up
  • Not every meal should be hamburgers
  • Feelings are not measurable things, there is no such thing as a mood meter
  • Logic and reason have no place in arguments
  • The Bachelor is someone’s quest to find true love, it is not whoring yourself on national television

The most important thing is to stick by each other, through thick or thin, right or wrong.  That’s a hard lesson, but one worth remembering.

Thank you, my lovely wife and partner through the past 19 years.  I can’t express to you how happy you make me.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An (un)lucky find

I had a meeting yesterday with one of my peers to try to fix an issue with a website that we manage.  This problem has been plaguing us for a long time now, but it only impacts a handful of the 100,000s of users that we have so it has never been high on the list to fix.  After months of missed meetings and meetings cut short because of other things, we finally agreed that we would set aside time to work on this.  Meeting time arrived and when my phone rang, I picked it up and heard…nothing. 
I checked my VOIP phone, it was displaying some weird error message.  I tried instant messaging him and Microsoft Office Communicator lost its connection.  Outlook, the same.  I recycled my VPN router, hoping that would at least bring back the phone, but that did nothing.  Next step, check my FIOS router/modem.  I opened the small utility closet in the basement that houses all of the utilities that come into my home, gas, water, electric, and phone.  The closet is small and dark, so I just reached my arm in to unplug the router.  I sent an email from my cell informing my co-worker that I was having technical difficulties. 
After a minute or two I went back to the closet.  As I approached it, I noticed the discoloration of the concrete floor.  “That’s odd.”  I knelt down to feel it and it didn’t seem more damp than the normal colored concrete.  I heard a faint tick-tick-tick noise close to my head.  I leaned closer to the water meter attached to the main water line coming into the house.  The noise seemed to be coming from there.  With my handy-dandy Leatherman (yes even working from home, I keep my Leatherman clipped to my belt), I cut through the plastic vapor barrier to expose the water pipe.  What I saw ruined my Thursday
I saw water dripping with a 2 Hz frequency from a bell shaped valve attached to the main incoming water line.  This certainly wasn’t condensation.  I promptly dialed our plumber.  I am normally a handy person, I will take a stab at pretty much any home improvement or DIY project.  But plumbing and I don’t get along very well.  In fact, the relationship is downright disastrous.  Every plumbing project and repair job that I have ever undertaken has ended in me calling in someone more skilled to finish.
The dispatcher at the plumbing office asked me if I wanted someone to come that night or some time tomorrow.  It would be an extra $100 for someone to come over the same day.  After a little mental math, 1 wife + 3 kids + 1 dog + having to actually go to the office the next day for the first time in 3 months, $100 is an acceptable loss.  She informed me that the plumber would be out shortly and he would call me before he came over. 
I received a call from Mr. Plumber in a few minutes.  I described the issue.  “Hmmm.  That sounds like a pressure reduction valve.  I don’t have one of those on my truck.  I can try one of my buddies, and if they have one on their truck, I can get it from them.  If I can’t find one, I will have to open a ‘storeroom’ and that is an extra $150.”
What I wanted to say - “$150 because you didn’t stock your truck this morning?  This extra $150 isn’t to BUY the part, it is because you have to drive past your office, which you refer to as a ‘store room’, and pick a part you keep in stock there.  $150 is the cost of your unpreparedness.  Do this also cover the Vaseline that you are using to…”
What I really said - “Umm, ok, well can you can see if you can get one from one of your buddies?”
20 minutes later, Mr. Plumber called back and informed me that his partner has one and he is on his way.  Two hours later, we were the proud owners of a new pressure reduction valve, were reconnected with life sustaining water, and also several hundred dollars lighter in our bank account.
The Good – finding a water leak before it caused major property damage (the leak was about 8 feet away from about $2,000 worth of electronics).  Cory, aka Mr. Plumber, for saving the day.
The Bad – missing yet another opportunity to solve our domain authentication issue.
The Ugly – dropping a lot of money on an emergency visit from the plumber.  My plumbing deficiency.
BTW – recycling the FIOS router brought everything back online, but by the time I got back to it, the day was over.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lost: Sundown

For every man there is a scale… and mine has tipped all the way to “wrong.”  I am big enough to admit when I am wrong and also spineless enough to switch over to the opposing argument (But I swear by all that is holy, I will never be a Apple fanboy).  I am now firmly entrenched in the “The Smoke Monster is Evil” camp.  It is a shame to see Locke, even though he is possessed by someone/thing else, fall so far from grace.  I always enjoyed the duality of Locke versus Jack, faith versus science.  I always hoped for a scenario that had both men as the leaders, one man of faith and one man of science, but that seems less likely now.  We may see a chance for Locke to redeem himself, and that might even make a good ending to the whole thing – “At the last moment, Locke’s spirit wrests control back over his former body and confounds the bad guy in a crucial moment, leading to his defeat.” 

The title of tonight’s episode is Sundown and it gives us a big hint to what was going to happen, the beginning of the darkness, when the intentions of Not Locke and his followers become apparent and the action begins.  The current story line reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s novel, The Stand.  In The Stand, the world’s population is devastated by a super flu and in the aftermath, the survivors align themselves in “armies” of good and evil.  The two sides battle in the end in an apocalyptic showdown.  It looks like Lost is gearing up for a similar conclusion.  Richard and Ben are the only surviving leaders of the old Others, but it looks like Not Locke and possibly Jack may face off as the new leaders of the opposite sides.   Ben might not have much longer to live, according to the trailer to next week’s episode, but I have read that Ben might not be going away to quickly. 

It was interesting to hear Dogan speak of how he came to be on the island.  He discussed the choice offered to him by Jacob, the choice to save his son’s life, but to never get to see him again.  Not Locke also made a similar offer to Sayid, giving him the chance to be with Nadia again.  What other choices/offers have been made?  Did Richard make a deal to never age, what did he have to give up in return?  Did Ben have to make a deal when Sayid shot him?  Are there two levels of Jacob’s involvement, the first stage, or the “touch of Jacob” and then “the deal”?

One thing that really struck me in tonight’s episode came close to the end, when Sayid, Claire and Kate emerged from the temple to meet up with Not Locke.  There was a burning cross that was very prominent in the middle of the scene.  The producers of Lost pay close attention to continuity and imagery, so I don’t think it was a coincidence that there was a cross burning in the same scene when all of the infected meet up with their leader.  My wife mentioned to me this morning that she read that maybe Not Locke/MIB/Smokie cannot see Kate.  I am trying to find the article/theory that mentions this, because I would see what evidence they present.  Not Locke did have a peculiar look on his face as he glanced in Kate’s direction, but I imagined it to be more “Oh look, another one in my fold” as opposed to “I think I see someone there, but I am not sure.”

I don’t know what to make of the alternate time line.  I have not been able to come up with any clues or new answers from anything that has happened in the LA-verse.  It is interesting to see what everyone’s life would have been like had they never come to the island, but it hasn’t helped me come to any conclusions.  I’m sure that what is happening means something.