Thursday, October 15, 2009

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman; interesting concept and well written. I'll warn you it's a darker sort of fantasy novel -- you won't spend a lot of time laughing on this one. But it's definitely worth reading and, after Neverwhere and American Gods, while Gaiman isn't on my must read list, he's on my probably read list. Since the must read list doesn't finish off my reading appetite, I'll likely pick up a few of my own over the coming months . . . instead of waiting to borrow one from a friend again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Boca Knights by Steven M. Forman

I ended up disappointed by this one. To start with, if you take out the various history lessons you have about half a book. I'm actually fairly interested in history and have read an historical book or hundred on purpose -- but I'd rather they be written by an historian and not a fiction writer. I don't order chicken at the Oyster Shack and I don't read history by fiction writers.

With the half a book left, it had the occasional moment -- at one point I approached almost thinking about considering the possibility of laughing (well, chuckling) out loud -- but overall I tended to not be involved in the characters or story arc. Everything was pretty predictable, with indistinguishable characters. As a semi-aside, I always find it interesting when characters (or people) tend to rationalize violence when in support of their ideology, but find it abhorrent when in support of those in opposition. While that could be a topic for a later blog entry, the part of the aside that makes it semi is this book marked the first time I've had a character -- via first person writing -- explain why the two are clearly different. I think the convoluted rationalization it took to pull that concept off was the funniest part of this book, though not intended to be humorous.

Overall, not a lot of imagination in the stereotypical characters, and nothing story-wise to hold my interest, but I did read to the end so it had some merit.

I'll add a standard disclaimer: I like raw oysters, SWMBO hates 'em. In other words, different tastes yield different results; you might love it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Log 101109

Wow, it has been awhile since I put anything here. I think I'll start again utilizing this blog occasionally -- if for nothing else, I'll use it to log the books I've read. I have a bad habit of buying books I've already read, primarily because I read enough that they can fake me out the first few pages. I may throw another post in here or there along with the books.

So, to start, I'll list the last few books I've read; it won't be an exhaustive list since the last time I blogged about books, as I've no idea what all should go there. I'll just start with the ones from this week.

I had never read Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged and decided it was high time -- particularly considering the current political trend and the general knowledge I had of Rand's book. I think there is one key point any reader of Rand can agree on -- she was verbose! I won't go into depth on the ideology and, as mentioned long ago in this blog, I'll have limited review of the books, but it was an interesting view that, though much simplified, has a hard truth: you can only bleed folks for so long.

Many Americans seem to have a distorted view of how our republic works. They think "the government" should pay for this and "the government" should pay for that. The government has one means of paying for anything, and that's to take it from those who earn it. So when someone says, for example, "the government should ensure I have availability to good health care" what they mean is "since I haven't provide the means to pay for my health care, I think the government should take the money by force from those who have earned that money and cover my health care cost." It's a viewpoint, I suppose, but folks just need to understand that the money ain't coming from the government. We are rapidly heading to the point where two families are living next door in the same neighborhood, driving the same brand of car, shopping at the same stores, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, only one of the two are paying for both families to live at that social level. Eventually the working folks will decided it isn't worth working, and the Ponzi scheme of socialism will crash.

But I digress.

After Atlas Shrugged, I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It's the first book of Gaiman's I've read, and found it pretty interesting. I borrowed it from someone else, along with American Gods (another Gaiman book), in a "loan swap" where I loaned her the first two Dresden books by Jim Butcher.

After finishing Neverwhere, I read John Sanford's latest Virgil Flowers book; enjoyed it, and have now loaned it to my brother who took it on a trip to Arizona.

I'm currently reading a couple of books. I started American Gods, but was in Barnes & Noble and picked up a few books including Boca Knights by Steven M. Foreman, which I started reading in the bookstore while waiting for SWMBO to finish hitting the mall. So I'm sort'a reading them both at present, and reading two at a time is something I rarely do. Not sure which one I'll finish first, but I'll make another post when I complete one or the other.

And that's the book log for today.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fall From Reality

So SWMBO and I are picking up a prescription when a guy comes up and asks if he can go ahead of us. We let him, because he looks like he has problems . . . considering he has horse hooves where his hands should be, metal replacements for legs, and a two foot finger growing out of his stomach. Face it, you gotta let this fellow cut line for drugs. While waiting, he complains about the government stopping his benefits from his service in the Vietnam war, where he got these various and sundry replacement parts grafted on to replace missing body parts. I'm thinking first that the doctors who did this should be shot, and second that it still doesn't explain the giant finger growing out of his stomach. I don't ask, though, because I've always made it a practice not to say anything that could tweak the sensibilities of hoof-handed, bionic-legged Vietnam veterans.

He gets his prescription and drives off in a go-cart with plywood attached to the sides and back, where he does doughnuts and trick driving in the parking lot until he crashes and, somehow defying gravity, goes flying over the top of an eighteen wheeler -- at which point SWMBO and I are in the trailer of an eighteen wheeler which has been outfitted as a camper; full kitchen, bath, and -- oh, yeah -- a bed in which we were sleeping and, turns out, I was dreaming the go-cart riding Vietnam Vet.

While riding along in the eighteen-wheeler trailer/camper, we had crashed and our eighteen-wheeler camper/trailer crash coincided with the go-cart crash of the dream that woke me. When I get out to see what caused the crash we are actually not in an eighteen-wheeler trailer/camper but in a train car (I recently read Water for Elephants – may be the source of the train car). Climbing down from the train car I realize it makes no sense that we would be riding around in a train car so this must still be a dream. (Apparently hoof-handed, bionic-legged folks with fingers growing out of their stomachs make enough sense to pass for reality.) I mentally shake myself and wake up at home in bed with SWMBO, though for some reason I’m sleeping crossways along the foot of the bed. Well, a few other odds and end happen in the next couple of minutes (of dream time anyway) at which point I actually do wake up; I'm not sleeping cross ways along the foot of the bed but in the normal position and had been still dreaming. So, of course, I grab a cup of coffee (obviously needed) and sit here now typing this out.

For reasons of brevity (yeah, I know, you're thinking "too late now") I'm leaving out the potlatch tank, the Christmas die-cast truck contest, and waking up lost and parked in someone's driveway. Along with more mundane happenings, these all occurred in last nights fall from reality. I’ve dreamed I was dreaming before but I think this may be the first time I ever dreamed I was dreaming that I was dreaming that I was dreaming. Assuming my waking up parked in a stranger's driveway was a horizontal and not vertical experience, I think that’s as deep as it goes because I think -- I think -- I’m awake now. But if you would, do me a favor and pinch yourself to be sure your awake; hey, if your awake while reading this then I must be awake as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Brought to you by FloMax

Every now and again I check the source of visits to my blog to see what might be bringing folks here. Visits are rare in any case, and when I say I’m checking “now and again,” I hadn’t actually looked since last August. I’m basically hoping to see what google searches lead folks to the “personal mental ramblings set to pixel” I have on display.

My thought in monitoring was to find some search requests that I could fold into a blog post for humor, but I really haven’t had much luck. Since I tend to avoid those offbeat words that might bring the strangely interesting or twisted searches (along the lines of butt plug, hermaphrodite, or Paris Hilton), the search requests that lead to Mississippi Ramblings are fairly benign. Most of the time search engine referrals are based on my BBQing or square foot gardening posts, but when I checked this time I did notice an upward trend of late based around, of all things, my post titled
The Pee Race
. There were a couple of searches that included the words “pee” and “bus” or “pee” and “school trip” and I suppose I can see where those might arise, but I was surprised at how many had two things in common: they were specifically about pee races and they were from Italy.

I’ve never been to Italy and chances are I will never go, though I've always thought it would be a great place to visit. Still, the closest I expect I’ll come is the Mario Batali recipes I occasionally prepare or the Chianti Classico I enjoy drinking. So granted, the mental image I have of Italy is poorly formed and when I think of Italy -- which is rare in itself -- the things that pop to mind are the afore-mentioned food and drink as well as the (in?)famous tilted bell tower in Pisa, Sophia Loren (remember Houseboat?), and . . . well, actually, that’s about it. My image of the boot-shaped country has never gone much deeper than that, but now I’ve got this a image forming of a fairly quiet, probably purposely suppressed subculture of Italian Pee Racing.

I’ve been trying to figure out what the rules could be for such a race. I started with the assumption that it’s purely a male sport -- at least, I hope that’s the case, because I didn’t want to go down the mental road that otherwise must be followed. It may just be my old-school, old man gender bias coming to the forefront, but nevertheless I left that one alone.

But even if you assume an all-male sport, there are a lot of questions to be answered. The first question that popped to mind was to wonder if it’s a relay race. Being a guy, I know in a relay race there’s the worry in the heart (and gonads) of every contestant to keep clear which hand has the baton and which hand has the . . . well, accidents would be both dramatic and painful if you passed with the wrong hand. “Ohhh, Bob, that’s a rookie mistake right there; and he was just married. Really tragic.”

You also have to wonder if distance comes into play in more than one aspect. What about accuracy? Staying power? This could go on and on (with enough beer for the contestants), but I stopped with those questions because it didn’t take long in the thought process for me to decide Italian Pee Racing is a sport I don’t plan to think about any further. I’ll leave this particular activity to those Italians who have been disappointed when visiting my blog and not finding pointers (no pun intended) to help in their next match. I’ve already decided if the Golden Shower Cup series (brought to you by FloMax) ever hits the ESPN International channel I’ll find something else to watch.

All in all I really I wish I’d never learned of this phenomena. As mentioned above, I always figured Italy would be a lovely country to visit; great food, beautiful countryside, historic architecture, and some great wine country. Now, though I'd still love to go, I'm a tad worried. While I’ll still enjoy the Chianti, the food, and the Houseboat reruns on Turner Movie Classics, without knowing the language I fear in visiting the country I'll somehow get caught unawares and end up at a local Italian Pee Race competition and find out it's a spectator participatory sport!

I cleaned up my desk area here at home today and, in so doing, ran across my Wacom pad. I decided, however, that this post isn't one to start back adding my drawings; I hope you'll agree.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Uncle Elwood

SWMBO’s uncle passed away Sunday morning. Married to SWMBO’s maternal aunt, I was introduced to Uncle Elwood some thirty years ago while dating SWMBO and over the years have only spent a small amount of time with him; family get-together at Christmas or Thanksgiving, occasionally at other times, but rarely saw him otherwise. There was one lunch we had together when I was in the area for some reason or other and dropped by his barbershop to say hello, but not much else. Yet, even with the small amount of time together, Uncle Elwood always impressed me.

The thing that made me decide to write this was thinking about the commercial from the Marines, who are looking for “A Few Good Men.” Now, I have all the respect in the world for those who serve in the military. They do something most of us either can’t or don’t, and in the world we live in they are necessary. But I couldn’t help thinking about Uncle Elwood. Uncle Elwood was a kind and gentle man. I never saw him angry and from all reports it wasn’t because I just missed those times – they didn’t exist. I heard someone say at his visitation last night that they, who spent much more time with Uncle Elwood, felt the same. Married for over fifty years, he ran a barbershop in a small town until he retired for health reasons a few years ago. During his working years, someone else told me, Uncle Elwood treated everyone who came into his barbershop the same, no matter their “station” in life. Young, old, grungy or well kempt, they were greeted with a smile and made to feel welcome. And, as to the visitation last night, over the years Uncle Elwood touched a lot of people. The line at the funeral home was over an hour deep from five o’clock to the time we left at about eight; kind and gentle will make friends of everyone.

So, back to the Marine commercial, and what crossed my mind. Even though Uncle Elwood served in the military during the Korean conflict, I can’t help but think if the world was made up completely of good men like Uncle Elwood, we wouldn’t even need the ones who go to war. Bless you Uncle Elwood; as I get ready this morning to head out to your funeral, I know if I can just emulate some of your traits then perhaps I will see you again one day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dreaming with Ponce de León

Remember (think back, waaaaaay back) when you would wake up in the morning refreshed and feeling alive, full of V&V (vim (*Note 1) and vigor), ready to face the world? Remember when you fell into bed after a hard days play and got up ready for another hard days play? Getting older (can't bring myself to say "old") sucks.

I go to bed sleepy, exhausted, sore muscles, aching bones, creaky joints. I wake up slightly less sleepy, exhausted, sore muscles, aching bones, creaky joints and with a free bonus of stiff neck and a head full of sinus drainage. Where did those days go when the exhaustion and sore muscles disappeared during the night? Not to mention you didn't even go to sleep with the remaining ailments, and there were no crappy bonus additions when you woke up, either.

I don't think enough money is being spent on getting a good, refreshing night's sleep. Let's take, oh, say five billion from the military's budget for designing a left-handed ink-pen-shaped pocket laser and create a new study. Put the best minds at work figuring out how Rick (*Note 2) can sleep better and wake up feeling as he did when he was twelve (you get your own study -- I'm looking out for number one, here).

Now some might say that no amount of money can bring that feeling back, that these things are going to happen as the years roll by -- but let's at least try first, give it our best shot. And we can start by taking a billion off the top of the five billion dollar budget and just giving it to me. I guarantee, no matter what the end results of the other four billion spent in the study, with a ten-figure bank balance I'll sleep better at night.

Ah, well, maybe a refreshing night's sleep is out of the question at my age. Maybe I need to head to Florida, see if Ponce missed anything while he was thrashing through the underbrush. There's gotta be some reason all the old folks head there.

*Note 1 - I've never actually known what "vim" was - I could have given a reasonable guess, but for those like me without a dictionary knowledge: Ebullient (*Note 3) vitality and energy.

*Note 2 - I haven't checked, but this may well be the first time I've spoken in third person of myself. Not sure what that says, but it did cross my mind.

*Note 3 - Ebullient: Zestfully enthusiastic. I want to be zestfully enthusiastic again. Heck, who am I kidding - I'd take peacefully optimistic.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Random Childhood Memory: The Pee Race

I started school in 1965 and, living in the sticks like we did, rode a school bus to Saltillo (MS) school which was 1st through 12th grade. At the time, at least at Saltillo, kindergarten didn’t exist but there was a buffer for beginning students to help prepare us for school. I can’t remember how long it lasted, maybe two or three weeks, but during that time there was an introduction to riding the bus to school, going to a class, and some field trips -- you know, kinda lure you in with the fun trips which, of course, stopped immediately when the for-real 1st grade classes started.

The only trip I actually remember was the train ride we did where we were dropped of in one town and rode a passenger train (this was pre-Amtrak days) to another town, where we were picked up. The only image I have of the ride was the pink snowball Mom had packed for my snack, and eating it while looking out the window watching trees go by. The pink snowball was sort of a hemispherical twinkie the size of half a softball, with pink icing and coconut sprinkles; I can't recall having seen one since that train ride.

The bus ride everyday to and from school was a bit lengthy, though after all these years I can’t remember how long it took. In fact, other than the train ride, I don't remember very much about the pre-school (which is, I believe, the term they used for this intro to the scholastic experience) time at all. But there is one memory, one that has stuck in my brain for, as of this writing, going on forty-two years.

I was the last kid dropped off every day on the school bus route, and we were closing in on my house. But I had a major problem -- I had to pee. Bad. Really, really bad. Now, from the title, I know what you are thinking: it’s a race to see if I make it home before I pee. Nope. I failed that one some distance from home, quietly walked to the back of the bus, held on to the sides of two seats and raised myself off the floor (don’t remember why), and let it go into my pants, run down my leg, and puddle on the aisle floor of the bus. Apparently my bladder was disproportionally large for my size (I was a skinny kid, believe it or not) because a lot of liquid puddled on the bus floor some six or eight inches below my propped-up feet. Now you’d think it couldn’t get much worse than peeing in your pants, but you’d be wrong. See, I had already figured out if I could let it out and then get off the bus without discovery there be no way they could pin it on me. I'd deny everything during any whodunit investigation, no matter what they tried, and there were no witnesses to dispute my claim. But then the pee race started.

As mentioned, it was a large puddle . . . and it began to flow. Forward. Toward the driver, who I had no doubt would immediately notice a stream of liquid flowing up beside his seat. This was not in my plan at all, totally unexpected. I had figured if I pulled off the pee-on-the-bus-floor plan without being noticed from the mirror, I was home free. Now this turn of events. While I’d be able to deny everything the next day, it’d be much tougher to pull off with a huge wet stain on the front of my pants. I was a good liar even back then, but not that good.

So as we trundled and bounced on down the dirt road on which we lived, I fearfully watched the flow run farther and farther down the aisle; amazing, really, how far it was stretching out. I mean, I went to the back of the bus for a reason, yet this yellow stream was approaching the front three or four seats -- and, no, I wasn’t riding the “short bus.”

Sitting here typing this I can still picture my view while propped up in the aisle of the bus, hands on the back of two seat backs and feet on the seats, watching the stream elongate farther and farther toward the front of the bus. It was a race: would the pee make it to the front and get noticed by the driver before I was dropped off or would I make it to my stop and off the bus before the stream ran the distance? It was a close call, but I did make it off the bus and, unlike my fears during that night, never heard a word about it again. I never mentioned it again, either. Till now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Day Five

We drove home; the end.

Okay, one or two more details I suppose. We had bought boogie boards and beach toys but left all of those behind, yet still had problems getting everything into the car. It seems the stuff we brought had expanded while at Destin. It took three or four tries to get everything to fit and still leave room for the five of us, but it finally was arranged with enough room for comfort. Breakfast prior to leaving was Krispy Kreme doughnuts, lunch was Cracker Barrel, and dinner was bought back home at P-Town. All in all a really nice trip.

And with that, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” for 2007 really is at an end.

. . . .

Um, those cheers are because you enjoyed it, right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Day Four

Day four was the final full day at the condo, but since the yoots didn’t make it to Big Kahuna water park the day before, their primary mission on arising was to get to the water park as near to opening as practical (for Number One Daughter, who tends to sleep late). SWMBO and I dropped them off around ten or so and then headed back to the condo. I only spent a small amount of time on the beach, instead using most of the time to work on the last paper needed for my business finance class (final results a 95 and an A for the class). SWMBO spent a little time down at the beach and we ate lunch in the condo.

Around four in the afternoon the kids called and said they had finished with their water park fun, but had one more ride they wanted to do. Number One Son and Number One Daughter were going to the Cyclone and wanted to know if we wanted to watch. Actually, I would have preferred to be forever in denial that they would get on such a contraption as this thing, but ended up going and watching. The Cyclone is basically an eighty-foot propeller with buckets stuck way out on the each end. Passengers (two per bucket) are loaded on and it spins in one direction for a bit, then spins in the other direction. While the seat does pivot, leaving the slight possibility that you could rotate all the way around and the chair would pivit to keep you upright, it appeared to me that upside-down is just as common a position on this ride. In the picture here, clickable for a larger version, you can’t get a feel for how high up it goes or how fast it spins but suffice it to say I cringed wondering about little things like bolt strength, preventative maintenance routines, and the quality of the workmanship. But what you gonna do? They, of course, loved it.

Afterward we cleaned up and then made a trip out to a place called the Village of Baytowne Wharf, a collection of shops, restaurants, and clubs in Sundestin, a bit east of Destin. I really didn’t want to go and griped about it a fair amount -- yeah, I’ll admit to acting a bit of an ass about going because I didn’t really want to do a lot of walking around, but keep that to yourself -- SWMBO isn’t aware that, upon occasion, I can be a bit of an ass; it’d shock her should she find out. However, after arriving, it was an interesting place and I’ll plan to go back the next time we are in the neighborhood -- but it was a lot of walking.

My walking ended once we got to the restaurant where we were planning to eat that night, a place in the Village called Poppy’s Seafood Factory. They had an outdoor bar (as well as an indoor bar) along with the restaurant, so I put our name down for a table, plopped down at the outdoor bar, and had a couple while the rest of the gang did some Baytowne Wharf site-seeing. After a bit of a wait, we got a table outside where we could watch and listen to the live band, playing Margaritaville style music with a lot of Jimmy Buffet covers.

The best part of the night, though, was Number One Daughter’s first try at a whole lobster. Now, Number One Daughter can’t even handle shrimp at the table when the head is still on but somehow got the idea that she wanted a whole lobster ($30/lb, but that’s another story See note below). So our server brought one out for Number One Daughter to approve -- which, of course, Number One Daughter couldn’t do, couldn't even look at the thing. The reason she couldn’t approve any lobster was because she couldn’t, personally, sentence the poor bugger to death (never mind the fact she was sentencing some mud bug to death when she ordered it; these are her rules not mine). She told the server to pick one for her but to not let her see it ahead of time.

The second picture you see above is her reaction to the lobster when served, along with Number One Son showing a little brother’s heartfelt empathy for her plight. But as the last picture shows, she did manage to finally dig in; it was an interesting time getting to that point. As for the rest of us, we had various seafood thingies and enjoyed the meal and the music. It was late by the time we finished the meal, so it was time to wrap it up and call it a night.

Note: SWMBO and I discussed going somewhere like Ruth Crisp or the Copper Grill for some really nice steaks but I decided it would be too costly; as I told SWMBO, we would end up spending close to three hundred by the time the meal ended. When all was said and done, the total cost at Poppy’s Seafood Factory? $366.68. Never try saving money -- when will I ever learn?