Sunday, January 31, 2010


Laura blogged tonight.

I did not.

Now she's making me go to bed. G'night.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Uncle John

Growing up, I think all my dad's male family members (who were older than him) had been in the military at one time or another. My memory is somewhat sparse so it plays out probably more as a caricature of who they were than as they existed.

There was an Uncle Joe (my dad's uncle) who fought in the Korean War. He rolled his own cigarettes. I vaguely remembering him saying that there were so many Chinese that they fought against in that war that bodies would pile up to the point that they would actually have to readjust their machine guns to shoot over the bodies that were there. He also said something along the lines that the North Koreans and Chinese would actually send people into battle without weapons and that when the people who did have weapons would fall in battle, those without would just pick up where they dropped off (meaning that there were some Chinese and N Koreans with weapons). Uncle Joe is dead - I remember how angry my dad was in how they buried him (his words - in a small pine box).

Uncle Bobby was older (my dad's brother-in-law) but I'm not sure that he actually served. I'm not sure that he didn't either. He still lives in Atlanta and I should probably call him about this. Uncle Bobby doesn't smoke.

There was an uncle Johnny - uncle Johnny only had one eye. As a small child (like under 5) he was very scary. There's not much I remember about him except that I think he rolled his own cigarettes too. He was also one of my dad's uncles. He was a Shannon (my granny's maiden name), as was uncle Joe.

This post, however, is not really about any of them. This is about John Wayne. I used to think that John Wayne was a distant relative of
ours, or a really good friend of my dad's. Part of this might be due to the fact that if the television was on (especially during the weekend and even more so after we got basic cable) we were watching a western.

My daddy's favorite westerns seemed to star John Wayne.

To me, he kind of resembled my dad (which might be another reason for the association). To some degree, I believed that all men knew how to handle a gun, had a southern / western accent, used brill cream and served in the military or was a cowboy (or both). The distance between then and now is great. I know how to handle a gun, but that's where the similarities end. Most people tell me that I don't really have an accent (being their words and not mine, I wonder if most of them think that my accent is in fact nondescript or if there is a geography that it might belong to). I don't use brill cream, but I do sometimes use pomade, wax or gel. I was never in the military. I own a cowboy hat and I've worked in a couple of fields but I've never roped a calf (though... I've known a people who have worked some rodeos).

The distance doesn't end there though. There's the realization that maybe manhood wasn't about that - but that whatever it is, I still don't measure up (and don't know a lot of people who might). There's the reality that all my dad's uncles, my dad... and John Wayne... are all dead. There's the reality that everything uncle John (Wayne) did was an act.

He did it to make money.
He did it to make movies.
He did it to make believe.

Strange that even when looking at an image of a somewhat type-cast multi-personalitied western idol... I still think of lazy summer afternoons in Alabama. I think of sweet tea in mason jars that would sweat just as much as we did, but taste and feel like a little bit of heaven on earth. I think of falling asleep in a t-shirt and a my tighty whiteys while my back was against my daddy's (he would normally wear the same thing). I remember afternoons that never seemed to end as they were inundated with black and white pixels intermixed with commercials for local tire stores and national brands. I remember humidity so thick that it was hard to breath and afternoons that were so hot that we all thought we would combust. I think of my dads menthol flavored Benson & Hedges and how their smoke would waft around the room - how it went in through his mouth, found its way through his lungs and then back out from where it came.

Honestly... this makes me want to rent a few westerns to fall asleep to.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What we do when we get bored...

Laura and I started playing around last night (this probably isn't going where you think it's going) and found these weird animated screens in the Photo Booth on Snow Leopard.

So we played - and here's a little something we came up with.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leggo my LEGO's

When I was younger, I loved playing with LEGO's. And when I say loved, I mean that there wasn't much else I would play with.

Times were kind of strange for us, I guess. You see... I never had a Nintendo. I never had a Sega Genesis. I never had a Commodore 64. However, I had an Atari 2600. I also had buckets of LEGO's. Stranger - I was never allowed to have GI Joe's (not until I was older than 10 I think). A lot of this is discussion for another time, but for now we'll focus on the LEGO's.

I used to build, disassemble and then build again. There was nothing like opening a brand new box, following the directions to a T and then deciding the fate of various parts on my own. For me, most of what I built revolved around space ships and futuristic vehicles (I was also enamoured with Star Wars). I always enjoyed showing my dad what I had "invented."

I guess it's that whole idea of creating something that tends to get us going - right?

In any case, here are several sites where people have taken LEGO sculpting into an entirely different (by different, I mean stratospheric) level:

This is a sculpture by Nathan Sawaya - out of the three that I'm linking to tonight, I probably liked
his stuff the best. Everything on Nathan's site is so creative and detailed - I definitely think that it's worth your time to check it out. You can see more of his work by clicking here.

Another LEGO artist was Henry Lim. The interesting sculpture he had was of a massive Stegosaurus (or...LEGOsaurus - har har). You can view his site by clicking here.

Lastly, there's Eric Harbarger - I'm more amazed by the sheer amount of work he's done with LEGO's. Visit his site by clicking here.

So... don't get me wrong - this isn't an all-inclusive list - but it's something of a start. I know that there's a lot more out there - but this is what I could find tonight. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Apple unveiled the iPad today - but it looks likes someone beat them to it three years ago. Check it out.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Laura and I drove to the Schuylkill near the Art Museum so that we could walk the dog tonight. I did a little running while we were there.

On the way back, I took a few pics with our cheap (it was literally given to me for free 3 or 4 years ago) HP Digital camera.

We always like that the pics and movies from this camera always come out a little grainy - you can even see it in the blurriness of a lot of what I'll be posting. Altogether, picture taking while driving at night is more of an exercise in drawing with light than it is in composition or perspective. I hope you enjoy them at least half as much as I did taking them while waving a camera around (if you do, you can check out more by clicking here)...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Amazing things you can find in and around Philadelphia, PA

I was looking up a local grocery store and found the first link that you'll see tonight. Frankly, I am quite dumbfounded by the website (you'll have to click through to see what I mean). Sometimes, people try really hard to capitalize on something that just doesn't make any sense - this is one of those times.

Click here to check out the website for African Sunshine.

You might think, judging by the quality and lack of intuitiveness of the website, that I made this up. You, my friend, would be entirely mistaken. It's the real deal.

This next one is something that people around here go crazy over - something that I never knew existed before I moved here. On my first day in the office, I had a few of these babies on my desk. Welcome to Philly. Click here to check out the City of Brotherly love's affront to Little Debbie. In all seriousness, I've actually seen Tastykake as a sponsor of local running events. No Joke.

Crown Fried Chicken is something that I've had only once before. The reason: They are ubiquitous in this city. I've probably seen more Crown Fried Chickens here than all fast food burger joints combined. You can read about it here. Or, you can check out how another person will make you your own Crown Fried Chicken website by clicking here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More samples please...

Looks like (with little surprise) is much like the Sams Club of books - doling out free samples so that you might buy more.

Check it out by clicking here.

I know this sounds gross, and is a total tangent, but I used to love microwavable Chicken Cordon Bleu from Sam's. I think... when I was a teenager... that it meant I was more refined.

Really, I was (am) just fat.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review.

I have opinions. This is one I posted on Amazon tonight.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Because I travel a lot...

If you know me (on a personal level) then you know that for the past couple of years I've traveled a lot for work. In fact, I think I spent over 70 nights in hotels in 2009. That is nearly 1/3 of my regular business days when you factor in vacation time and holidays.


So, when I travel for work, I generally try to abide by a few rules to make things more fun for myself.

  1. Pack light. And by light, I mean try to fit a weeks worth of clothes (to include a few casual changes and workout wear) in one bag.
  2. Take the train. There's only one place to book a train too - Amtrak. This makes things simultaneously easy and frustrating. However, the train is cheaper 90% of the time, it goes to most places I need to travel, it is (by far) cleaner than driving, there is always a bathroom and it is faster than driving 95% of the time. Yes, both percentages are fairly arbitrary guesses.
  3. I wear out googlemaps. There is little better in trying to find a place to eat than searching, "Restaurant near X," when X equals my location. I use this even though I bring along my GPS.
  4. Eat local. I break this rule from time to time, but I generally stay away from hotel food and chains. Generally. It keeps locals in business and lets me try something that I may have never had before. I can always eat at a Chili's, TGIF, Cheescake Factory, etc (and be summarily disappointed that I didn't try something different) at home - I can't eat at City Steam Brewery unless I'm in Hartford.
  5. If I don't know what's best, use UrbanSpoon. I like this site better than most other review sites because you have two choices (stars are so subjective and reviews are all over the board) and only two choices... you either like it or you don't.
  6. Bring a good book (you can check out some of the books I've read and reviewed on Amazon by clicking here). This is one of the things that keeps me a little sane when I'm eating alone. I don't like to sit at a bar and I (generally) don't like to talk to my waiter / waitress - unless they have something good to tell me about the menu.
  7. Cash. You wouldn't believe how many places don't take credit cards. Just a thought - but I often wonder if these same places claim my cash meals on their taxes...
  8. Extra Underwear. I'm just sayin'.
  9. Your own [drinking] cups. If you don't know why, then you're one of the few people I know who haven't watched this. There's usually a simple trick to find out if your glasses are being replaced (and they should be replaced - a maid shouldn't be washing out glasses in the bathroom or with glass cleaner). Many times, there is a sticker on the bottom of the glass - write your initials on the glass and fill it with tea or something else - leave it at least half full. When you come back the next day, check the glasses to see if any of them bear your initial. On a strange side note... I've also marked glasses with a permanent marker because it was all I had. By the way, if this (see the video) happens to you - tell the front desk.
There are other things to take into consideration depending on my mode of transport. These are the foundations of what I do when traveling for business though.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Earth: Destroyed

You can read about a Near Earth Object (scheduled for 2029) at Wired by clicking here. I could be wrong, but I think that the Russian space agency is trying to convince the world that this one has a better chance of hitting the earth than NASA thinks and that we should be doing everything in our power now to prevent a collision in the future. You can actually read that story by clicking here.

And these are pretty crazy numbers - they're saying a 1-in-37 chance! NASA scoffs and says, "No, it's more like 1-in-250,000."
Either way, the odds are better than dying via tsunami or fireworks discharge (see here). The odds are absurdly better than winning the lottery (see here).

But what if it wasn't an outside force that destroyed the earth?

What if what destroyed earth, as we know it, was earth itself?

Did you know that Yellowstone is one of at least seven super volcanoes around the world (
see here). If she blows - it doesn't matter where you are, it will be cataclysmic.

What about a reversal of the magnetic fields? It can happen and
some scientists say that it is happening. Many scientist, such as those who practice science on the Discovery Channel, say that this won't be a harmful event. This guy thinks that it could start a new ice age. He further states that the fact that winter is cold might be proof that we're moving into that new ice age!

What do you think? Does any of this really matter (as obviously, it matters a lot more to some people than it apparently does to me)? Why would it matter?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The experiment is not a bust...

I'm just spending a birthday / anniversary weekend with my wife and where we are is a place that literally doesn't have very many three-pronged outlets. So...the experiment is still on, but since I never made a resolution I don't feel guilty about not blogging earlier (I've found a three pronged outlet - which is how I am currently blogging).

Five years and one day married.
Twenty-nine years living.

So - Happy Annibirthary to me!

We walked through two small towns today and I did my short run. Also, I finished reading the book I mentioned earlier this week (review to appear within seven days - mark my words).

I received a birthday shout out from my mom and my parents-in-law too.

All's well.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Where spam gets reeeeal big...

My favorite line is the "Viking's Secret."

Why would anyone buy any of this crap (and you know...someone has to be buying it, otherwise you and I wouldn't get these spam messages).
There's a lot there about unfulfilled promises and a twisted picture of what a man (or manhood) should be. But...tonight I'm too tire to talk about it.

Instead, you get a picture of my spam folder.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

When I Used to Write

When I was in the sixth grade, I fell in love with writing.

Unfortunately, that love affair (as a compulsive and ever-present desire) only lasted through my sophomore year of college.
Every now and again, there would be glimpses of that love again - but nothing as it was before. Now, most of my writing tends to be somewhat "journalistic" as opposed to "creative," or "poetic." Most of what I write now has been condensed to one line (or one sentence...or one run-on sentence) about what my current "status," is. Or, more tritely, a one line zinger about your status.

But...I want to fall in love again.

What got me interested [in writing] in the first place was the fact that a teacher in a class I had (it was called ACE - but I never knew what it stood for; when I lived in Huntsville, it was called SPACE) really encouraged me to write. He encourage our whole class to write.

And to think.

And to dream.

It was one of the first times that I felt like the things that I could produce had the potential to be special - even if it was only to me. We produced a literary journal to sell to our other middle-schooled classmates.

As you might imagine, these were pretty hot commodities.

But, as I've already stated, what made this so much of a formative thing for me was the fact that my life was no longer ruled so much by what I could learn or experience by means of math and science nor was life so much about what I could gather from reading another's prose or poetry. Life meant that I could create with words (as opposed to LEGO's, or tinker toys, or plastic model pieces with plastic cement) and that I could manifest a world that was simultaneously other and familiar.

His name was Mr. Craft (I think his first name may have been "Bart," or "Barthlomew"...). He is one of teachers in my life who has really stood out - someone who helped me to sort of shake the snow globe that is my life and realize that there isn't just another side to the globe, but that there's a world outside of it too.

So if you've kept up - part of this experiment is as much about remembering who I once was as it is about telling you about who I am and who I want to be.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Recent Amazon Reviews (Jan 5, 2010)

I felt like it was the best thing (but not the compulsive thing) to list a date as it seems I've used a very similar title before.

Sometimes...I review stuff on Amazon just because I can. I can be strange in that way. I'll have you know, howeve
r, that I never review something that I don't own. Thanks to Amazon for giving me a place where I can let my undoubtedly helpful reviews be known to the world.

So, to take a breather for the evening (because I'm admittedly already exhausted by this Obsessive experiment) - here are a few things that I've reviewed recently and one thing that isn't recent, but seems to have a somewhat legendary status (out of three hundred reviews, it's one of the three spotlighted on the product...)

A Forizzle Frying Force
(Cuisinart Chef's Classic Fry Pan) My review of a frying pan.

Read it for the Subplots
(Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger) A nice book I read "recent"...

They Are Spoons
(Oxo Good Grips Soft 6-Piece Measuring Spoon Set, Black) They are measuring spoons...and they apparently make some people (who are not me) very angry...because those people don't know how to wash dishes very well.

For the Happiness it Brings
(Panasonic ER421KC Nose and Ear Hair Trimmer, Wet/Dry, Lighted) One of the best investments I ever made. The ladies love a clean inner nose...

Monday, January 04, 2010

Uncertain, scared and mentally blocked...

One of the things I worry about in this fantastic experiment (mentioned in yesterday's post) is the fact that, at some point, there has to be a form of creative exhaustion. There will only be so many times that I can write about washing my hands before things become truly OCD on my part.

In any case, I've made a hard stop to read a book that I received from Amazon while I was out of the office - Street Shadows: a Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption.

Already, the book is sounding like a repeat of the Night of the Gun (David Carr's own memoir - you can find my review of that book by clicking here and searching [ctrl+f] for my name), which would not be such a bad thing as it is much shorter.

I picked the book because I thought that it might help me to understand some of the culture that I currently live in.

We'll see how that works out.

In the mean time, I'll think of something witty (or not so) to say. One of the things I've been thinking about lately refers to a comment I overheard at a recent holiday party. Essentially, this person asserted that the Bible couldn't be trusted because the people who wrote it were doing so with an agenda. I can agree to that - postmodern criticism would push us to the understanding that no one writes, thinks, speaks, etc. without an internal or underlying bias. But, the argument of what that agenda means and the implications of that agenda is something that's been on my mind a lot today.

Plus...that one's a lot easier than the other points brought up - inequality as practiced by the church, hoarding of wealth, denial of guilt / wrongdoing, etc.

I only mention it without writing about it because I'd like to handle it in a somewhat scholarly manner - you know...with footnotes and stuff. anyone still reading [this] blog anymore?

By the way...I head that agenda was to [in the future] sell vacuums and anything else that would look nicer with Jesus posted all over it (dental services, medical services, real estate, restaurants, etc.).

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The grand experiment...

I've decided that this would be the year that I would take on some of the traits of an obsessive compulsive without the detriment of having an undesirable and otherwise inexplicable compulsiveness.

So really...I'll just become obsessive with things. This, however, is probably a bit of an underlying trait I carry anyways.

Though many of these will seem like resolutions, they aren't - I'm not promising anything and I'm not necessarily trying th change anything about myself (as I believe resolutions are usually meant for). Also, I think that the general non-commitment of a non-resolution will ultimately aid me by not causing me to feel guilty about something else I haven't done and why I haven't done it.


So, here are a list of things that I'll experiment in being obsessive with over the next few or twelve months and we'll see how it pans out. BTW: If you notice me washing my hands to the point of bleeding or checking the locks four or five times before I leave the house, please help me.

1. I'd like to blog everyday. This could be anything. It could be a picture or a blurb. I'd like to do it just for the fun of seeing how things turn out over the course of the year. I'm also hoping that this gets me into taking more pictures - which is something I used to love to do.

2. I'd like to run a mile a day. Big whoop, right? Again - something I used to love to do but just haven't been in to since I have such a long commute. A mile isn't a huge commitment though - something I could do in a short amount of time before I leave for work in the mornings (and even on the road). I really wouldn't mind setting a goal of 1,000 miles this year (I didn't run yesterday, btw, but I'm fairly certain that I walked over a mile).

3. I'd like to spend an entire month posting pictures. Look for it. I live in a beautiful city with unique scens I'd like to share with you and the rest of the world. Did I ever tell you that I took a photography class in college? Well, I just did.

4. I would like to read 26 books. Easy - if there's a book I'm in to, I can usually read through in a day or two. I more than likely read more than this in 2009 but just didn't keep track. I'm reading Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris right now. Utter hilarity.

5. Have someone to our house for dinner once a month. That is...someone I don't know very well. There are a lot of people I'd like to know better. That's only twelve meals.

6. Begin martial arts training. Sike.

I think that this will keep me busy while still leaving me time to do that thing I do to pay the bills.

Also...I think it will be fun. You know...if I don't become OCD...

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year...

It is 2:33AM.

I am baking bread.

It is the new year.

The night is more still than what I'm used to. Probably because it is now 2:34AM.

There is an occasional car that drives down one of the main streets. For some reason...none of the mufflers here seem to work too well.

At midnight, there were fireworks. I was mixing dough.

It is in the stillness that I can hear the clock ticking. My heart is beating. There is a low hum coming from the fan that Laura turns on to produce white noise when we're asleep.

And occasional car.

Have I ever talked to you about my idea of the relative nature of time? I've talked to Laura a lot about it. This minute now is the fastest minute I've ever experienced, but it's not the fastest minute I'll ever experience within the breadth of all of time.

More importantly... does the shortness of this minute matter any more or less than the span of the minutes preceding or following this point in time?

In terms of

In terms of substance? Maybe.

I look at our Christmas tree. It's been up for nearly a month. This is something I've thought about for a while now, but just haven't found the time to write it out (until I decided to finish making bread at 2:43AM). That is, this Christmas tree is carrying the weight of sadness from the past. There are relics and ghosts who call out only to find themselves locked behind glass or lamps or plastic or yarn. They show the burden of years and bear memories whose depths are more than may be measured.

2010. Bread.