Monday, December 31, 2007

Applying the Statute of Frauds in my living room

GREAT law school joke last night; or, in the alternative, if you didn't go to law school, AWFUL joke consisting of a grouping of words that would only be funny to those who went to law school (or, as illustrated here, to those who lived with those who went to law school).

The setup: The Wife and I are watching the Arizona/Memphis game last night on TiVo. An Arizona player tries to drive the lane, and a Memphis player gets called for a blocking foul. Commentator Steve Lavin uses the wrong word to describe the foul as it is shown in slow motion:

Lavin: And as he drives the lane, he initiates the contract with the other player.

The Wife: Huh...what was the consideration?

Brilliant! Five points to Gryffindor! Yet another sad example of what living with me can do to a healthy adult mind. I'm like a pre-1968 television: I'm fun to be around, but you really shouldn't sit too close to me for extended periods of time.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The 2007 Esqys

It's that time again...time to look back at the past year, and see what made the highlights, and what was second best. As always with the Esqys, I have a good shot to win most categories. But as always, wagering.

Best Trip of the Year (Non-Family): Lake Tahoe. It was a lovely drive, the weather (mostly) cooperated, and we played some great poker. Relaxing and fun...what every trip should be.

Best Trip of the Year (Family): Kentucky. Got to see everybody, got to see lots of great NCAA basketball, and even got to see our respective alma maters. Nice.

Best Book I Read This Year (Serious): [tie] The Shotgun Rule, by Charlie Huston. Action-packed from page one, this suburban tale of kids with too much time on their hands getting in way over their heads resonated with me due to my own childhood, as well as the various children I work with today.

Best Book I Read This Year (Serious): [tie] Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris. Concise and impactful, this is a great dissection of faith in America and one of the first books that helped me feel good about my lack of faith in gods.

Best Book I Read This Year (Fun): World War Z, by Max Brooks. I feel a little bad about putting books that are a fun read into a different category than more serious books; this is the same reason a comedy will never win Best Picture at the Oscars. But I also have to admit that, while I really enjoyed this book, it impacted me in a different way than the others. Still, a great time, and now I have another reason to remember Yonkers.

Best Movie I Saw (Violent): No Country for Old Men. Wow. If you have not seen this movie, do so. Some of the best dialog I have seen in a movie in a long time, and yet I think some of the best scenes had no dialog at all (the scene in the hotel comes to mind; right in the middle of this scene is when the woman sitting in front of us chose to fight a peppermint candy out of its crinkly wrapper. Apparently, the wrapper bested her, as the fight went on for some time. I think it would have been legal for me to kick her; or, at least, no jury would have convicted me).

Best Movie I Saw (Non-Violent): Once. Wow. If you have not seen this movie, do so. If this movie does not touch you, then you are made of stone, or some stone-like substance, and I am not sure I can be your friend. Sorry to be harsh, but if even my blackened, snarky self can just sit back and be pleasantly entertained by this beautiful movie, I have faith it will work for you, too. Give it a try.

Best purchase: a plan. This year, instead of making big, splashy purchases, we instead met with and have been working with a financial planner. We're currently working on managing our remaining debts, saving for a downpayment on a house, and making plans for the future that include retirement and educational planning for some loved ones. Peace of mind is expensive, but worth it.

Best Supporting Actor: Me, on The I win again! Wow, I was just thrilled to be nominated! So many people to thank. Um, well, thanks to Steve for not only printing my letter, but writing back and asking for a photo of me looking "pathetic." Is there any other kind?

Not a bad year, and looks like I will have to clear some more mantel space for my many, many awards. Hope you had some award-winning moments yourself. See you next December; one of these years, we'll have some real competition in the "Best Route to Jet-Pack to Work" category. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Boxing Day

I am still not completely sure what Boxing Day is, but I can tell you this: it is a great idea. I took yesterday off, and wow was it necessary. Besides needing it to finally wrap up what was either a nasty stomach virus or (more likely) my body's lack of preparedness for a very rich meal filled with lots of great tastes (which, although they taste great together, were probably never meant to actually go together), it was a fantastic opportunity to just get some stuff done. I got all of our thank-you notes written and in the mail, cleaned up the kitchen from The Wife's Bake-a-palooza (every year around the holidays, she turns our kitchen into a cookie factory...that Keebler Elf sweatshop has nothing on her...), got some much-needed laundry out of the way, and still managed to make time to kill hundreds of Nazis and just randomly blow the bejeezus out of stuff. A good day all around.

Of course, if my dreams had come true (read: if I had a few hundred extra bucks lying around), yesterday would have been, let's go with, Wii-tastic, and I would be well on my way to rock godhood by now. But, that can wait. I've never been, nor felt the need to be, the first kid on my block to have the newest toy, and I have a sense that now that the holidays are over, the madness will slow down a little, i.e. the prices will go way down, availability will go way up, and wii will be rocking out at my house before too much longer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back home: Brendon 1, Sunburn 0

We got home from our "free" cruise yesterday; back in September, the Wife won a poker tournament on a cruise ship, and first prize was...another cruise...on the same ship...two months later. This "free" cruise was the most expensive free thing we've ever done, once you add up the airfare to Florida, various taxes, and $5 pina coladas on the Lido deck (FYI: no Gopher anywhere). Anyway, although cruising is not something we're very into, it was a fun time, and it got us out of the house and away from work for a week.

I will post stories and photos from each port below as if I was posting from the ship...which I could have done, but it would have cost me dearly, as internet time onboard is 50 cents a minute, and their connection made me long for the days of 56K dial up. Sorry, but no; you will have to pretend along with me.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cruise, Day 7: Wrap it up

Day 7 of the cruise was a "day at sea," which means you do not get off the boat. It was actually very nice; we slept in, the Wife went back to the spa, I finished my book, and we played some more in the casino. I tried to beat the strongman, but he won.

It was also a good day to tie up some loose ends. On the last day, you are given tip envelopes, along with suggested tip amounts, for the people who directly served you throughout the cruise (waiters, assistant waiters, and cabin stewards). I got the impression some people were irritated by the idea of an "expected" tip, but these people work hard, long hours, every day of the week, and I think they more than earned their pay and more than deserved gratuities.

I am glad that this last day on the ship was a restful one, because the trip home the next day was pretty awful. Delayed planes, missed connections, and long waits in various airports added up to us getting home about seven hours later than expected. Yuck.

Did we have fun? Yes. Was it relaxing? No. Would I go on another cruise? Doubtful.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cruise, Day 6: No mas

Day 6 dawned with us in Cozumel, Mexico. By this time, I was officially done. I was tired of standing in line, tired of listening to Angry Dad spout off about how this was a terrible ship and he was having a terrible time...on this, his tenth cruise. If people love to cruise and do it often, that's great; but I cannot tell you how many people we were forced to listen to gripe and moan about how disappointed they were, only to later learn that they are regular cruise people. No entiendo.

The Wife was pretty done as well, so Cozumel was a quick one. We got off the boat, took a cab to the main shopping area, window shopped for duty-free watches and other classy merchandise (see photo), had lunch at a "Mexican" restaurant (it was very tasty, but it was American Mexican food like you would get anywhere here), and made our way back to the ship. It was pretty hot and sunny, and on the walk back to the ship, I enjoyed a Sol beer, complete with lime, and for the first time actually understood the appeal of Corona. That appeal, by the way, is exclusive to being in a very hot, tropical climate, and should not include frat parties. We went back to the ship, took a nice long nap, and that was about it. Actually, one of our nicer days.

Note to self: when we gear up for another trip to Mexico, like the one we had planned before this "free" trip came along, make sure that where we are headed is NOT a cruise ship destination.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cruise, Day 5: A day on the farm

Day 5 of the cruise found us docked in Grand Cayman. Back in 2004, Hurricane Ivan devastated the island, leveling large portions of the structures and leaving most of the island under water for quite some time. Our tour guide pointed out all of the new buildings as we drove along, noting that just about everything is new construction. Part of the problem is that the highest point on the island is 60 feet above sea level, which meant that the island was a blank slate before and after the winds. I was impressed with the rebuilding efforts, and can only imagine that most residents are wondering when the next big one is coming. Once again, we were one of many ships in the harbor, and we were told that this is the slow time of the year. Normally, there are apparently up to nine of these monstrosities in the harbor on any given day, flooding this tiny island with thousands and thousands of tourists, the main source of income for the island. I was glad to be there on a slow day, even if the locals would have preferred more of us.

We visited Boatswain's Beach, which is billed as an "adventure park" but is basically a ranch where the main livestock is green sea turtles. Our tourguide explained that 70% of the turtles are bred for tourism and breeding stock, 20% are released into the wild to help replenish the dwindling numbers...and 10% are for food. We were reminded that the Cayman Islands have no natural resources, and overfishing has resulted in diminishing returns for other seafood, so turtles are a part of the diet in the area. I have no idea why this bothered me, as any other form of ranching would involve numbers of an inverse proportion, but it did. I think serving turtle soup in the gift shop is a bit much, but again, I am admittedly anthropomorphizing here.

Here are a couple videos I made of the turtles...some are cuter than others...

We also stopped by Hell, which is a tiny town/post office in Grand Cayman, so you guessed it, send postcards from Hell! Ha-HA! We realized too late that we didn't have any addresses with us, and we've become so reliant on having that information written down somewhere that I could barely remember our own zip code, let alone anybody else's. Opportunity...missed.

Back aboard. we went and watched the Mariner Masters Poker Tournament final table, and had a nice time. We even met Captain Johnny, who was kind enough to pose with us for a photo. Nice day, but by this time, we were really starting to wear down. Lots of fun things, but not a lot of relaxing fun things. Tomorrow would need to be different.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cruise, Day 4: [inhale]

Day 4 found us arriving in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I inhaled deeply off the balcony, hoping to catch a whiff of cooking jerk chicken, mixed with some marijuana, but all I could smell was diesel fuel. My preconceived notions were shattered. To jump ahead in the story, we didn't eat any food in Jamaica, and I regret that; the time constraints would have made it very difficult to eat anywhere other than immediately off the boat at one of the three huge duty-free malls that were in convenient walking distance of the ship, and I have a sense I can find more authentic Jamaican food here at home than there. Oh well.

Once off the boat, we headed to Dolphin Cove to swim with the main attractions. This took me way outside my comfort zone, and I was very nervous to be in the water with large animals. I do not swim for fun, and I have a fear thing about not being able to touch the bottom and being in "their" (read: out of my) environment. However, the Wife thought this would be good for me, and as usual, it turned out she was right. We (and by we, I mean the two of us and five other people, so a small group that allowed a lot of interaction time) swam with Nemo, one of the younger dolphins there, and he was a bit sassy. It was early (according to the trainers, dolphins don't really sleep in the same sense we do, so I am not sure what is "early" for a dolphin?), and he was apparently not in the mood to go through the normal motions with us. I actually really liked the idea of Nemo sort of giving the middle finger (fin?) to his handlers and us; it was reassuring to me to think that he was intelligent enough to demand extra fish to allow the big white guy to touch him. When it came time to take the kissing photo, instead of one tap on my cheek, he did it like 12 my mind, Nemo was being ironic, and I pretty much laughed for the entire time we were in the water with him. I had hoped for a photo of the three of us (me, the Wife, and Nemo), but the staff said that Nemo didn't do that. I have a sense Nemo would have been fine with it, but that would have meant me only buying one photo instead of two, and apparently it is pretty expensive to feed a dolphin, let alone the 10 or so they have at the park. As much trepidation as I had, I have to admit, that was an amazing opportunity, and I am very glad I did it. Would I do it again? Probably not, but some of the fear is gone, and that alone was worth the price of admission.

The rest of the park was kind of sad; I got excited about feeding time at the shark tank, until I saw they were all nurse sharks, which I believe are the nerdy computer programmer cousins in the shark family. Here's a short video of them circling, which reminded me more of a morning commute than anything cool:

After the dolphins, we went across the street (literally) to Dunn's River Falls, which seemed to be a must-see on every tourist list. The falls themselves are very impressive, and the surrounding park was very pretty. There was the standard hawking of crappy chotchkies, and one guy even secretively offered to sell me weed. I assumed this was all part of the tourist experience, but was told later that undercover cops abound throughout the tourist areas, hoping I guess to make their quotas of arrested Americans. Sorry to disappoint. The guy who offered to sell me the weed did take this picture of us, though, so if he was a cop, he's a better photographer than police officer.

Back aboard, we were entertained that evening by Ice Under the Big Top, an ice show in the bottom of the boat. Full-on triple axels, on an ice rink that looked like it was the size of my living room, in a moving ship...and nobody fell. Impressive.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cruise, Day 3: Haiti. Yes, that Haiti.

Day 3 found us sailing into the port of Labadee, Haiti. You read that right: our cruise ship docked for a port excursion in the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. But don't worry: Royal Caribbean has gone to great lengths to ensure that there is no, I repeat no, resemblance between Labadee and the rest of Haiti. This article explains it in greater length, but the short version is that Labadee is a small peninsula that is wholly leased and operated by the Royal Caribbean corporation from the government of Haiti. Labadee is literally a walled-off theme park version of the third world, complete with "natives" in polyester clothing and nametags, and the whole thing is sanitized for your pleasure. I think it is fair to say that Labadee encapsulated my overall creepy feelings about cruising, made worse by the fact that I had a lovely time.

We skipped the "Flea Market" (where "Haitians" hawked their made in China wares in an "authentic" setting) and went to Malfini beach, a semi-private excursion for twenty people max to have some quiet beach time. The trip to the beach involved a smaller boat, as well as a tour guide who made safe, if pointed, jokes about Columbus "discovering" the New World and all of the people who already lived there. Upon arrival, the twenty of us were greeted with fun rum drinks, and then shown our beach chairs and water floats. No arguing, no lines...very nice. So nice I even got in the water, something I wasn't really sure would happen, but I am glad I did: bathwater warm. I didn't even sink my float, something I was a little worried about.

There were a couple natives present who may not have been vetted by RC. Here's a short video of one of them:

As uneasy as the entire faux-Haiti thing made me feel, we did have a nice time, we drank rum out of coconuts, and didn't get sunburned. Fantastic.

BTW, if you look closely at this last photo, you will see that, in my wanting to wear a white shirt to the beach and maybe be a little cooler, I for some unbelievably dumb reason picked the one that says "Public Defender: I AM a real lawyer!" Funny in the right crowd...but a cruise ship is probably not the right crowd. I had one older Angry Dad intentionally walk up to me and tell me how much he hates lawyers, and therefore hates me. Nice, right? He then said, "You know what lawyers are?" I thought I was going to hear a good lawyer joke, which I always enjoy, so I said "What?" He then described the excretory process of whales in the ocean, which distinctly lacked a punchline. I laughed it and him off, which I think pissed him off even more, and then laughed some more when his wife started yelling at him for being an old coot. I guess sometimes you have to make your own entertainment where you can.

Back on board, the Wife played in the first round of the Mariner Masters poker tournament. 25 players who won their tournaments returned for the final tournament. The Wife played well, but took a horrible bad beat, having her full house beaten by a bigger full house. Ouch. She had, of course, hoped to make it further, but she played well and just got unlucky. Not fun, but that's poker.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cruise, Day 2: Sleep All Day

Day 2 aboard our cruise saw the sun rising majestically above the horizon of the Atlantic...or so I am told, as we slept till around noon. This was without question the most relaxing day on the cruise for us; no alarm clocks, no lines, no Angry Dads. I had room service bring me a pot of coffee and some pastries, and I sat out on our balcony for a couple hours, watching the waves and reading a book. Absolutely marvelous.

I should take a moment here to describe our room. You can see a photo of the room here, a layout of the room here, or see a short video of it here. I did not take any photos of it myself, but trust me, this is exactly what our room looked like. The balcony made a huge difference; not only did it make the room bigger, but the ability to be "outside," but still in the privacy of your own room, was really great. We used the balcony as a refuge from the mob many, many times.

Day 2 was a pretty lazy day, and we really needed it. After getting up, we made our way to the pool deck, where we found some shade, read books, and enjoyed $5 cocktails. I mention the price mostly again as a warning to you, gentle reader, about the pitfalls of an "all-inclusive" vacation. I won't go so far as to call this a scam, but I think bait-and-switch may be fair. Your cruise vacation is long as you only drink water or coffee. You want anything else to drink? It'll cost. You want anything with alcohol? It'll cost. You want anything above and beyond the bland food at the buffet and dining rooms? It'll cost. And here's where the cruise line is genius: they make it SO EASY to pay. When you get on, they require an open credit card line so you can open your SeaPass card. With this card, you can pay for everything on board with an easy swipe. Drinks? Swipe. Jewelry in the duty free shop? Swipe. Money to gamble? Swipe. Amazing.

I played in a poker tournament (swipe) in an attempt to win a seat and join the Wife in her Mariner Masters tournament, but came in third. So close.

Day 2 was Formal Night, which is I guess an attempt at pretending that we're dining and sailing on the Queen Mary, and not a floating Golden Corral. I think it is smart of RC to not specify what "formal" really means, but rather just say that flip-flops and shorts are not permitted. In fairness, there were people wearing tuxes, and in fact, you could rent a tux on board. In retrospect, I wish I had done that, as it would have been one less thing to pack. Here's a shot of us at formal night; we clean up pretty good.

This is an example of the many critters that we encountered upon coming back to the room. The cleaning staff, and for that matter the entire staff, was pretty impressive, and given the hours they work, and how hard they work, it is even more impressive. Here is a site that advertises cruise jobs and sample salaries; sadly, I imagine these numbers are actually higher than normal. However, I also imagine that cruise salaries may be tax-free for most employees, and I also think that these salaries are in US dollars, which may still be stronger than some of the currencies of the world. Maybe.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cruise, Day 1: Up All Night

Day 1 of our relaxing vacation got off to a rough start. We caught an overnight flight to Orlando, sitting in the last row of the plane by the bathrooms, ensuring that (a) our seats would not recline, and (b) any other chance of sleeping was eliminated by the constant congregation of people waiting for the bathrooms. Nice.

We arrived in Orlando at around 6AM local time, thus ensuring that we were first in line for the bus to the port...which was scheduled to leave at 10A, but was closer to 11. After a 45 minute ride to the port, we were kept on the bus for another 40ish minutes by a 90 year old Royal Caribbean employee appropriately named Dick, who waited the full time before revealing why we were being kept on the bus. Very smart, Dick. Several lines and hours later, we were finally on the boat.

Once on, things smoothed out. We were aboard the Mariner of the Seas, a floating city, complete with ice rink, shopping mall, and its own Disney World theme park. Only one of those is false. We enjoyed a trip to the spa for much-needed massages, attended a welcome cocktail party for the Wife's poker tournament (she was given a free shirt, which was a men's polo shirt, size L. If you have met my wife, you probably know that she is not a size L, and not a man. This was the first year of the Mariner Masters poker tournament, and they have a lot of things to work out if they do this again), went through our muster drill, and got in line for our first night at dinner.

I should take a moment to talk about the lines. If you have not been on a cruise before, and are considering it, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do I like having every moment of my day planned down to the minute by somebody else?
2) Do I like conforming to that schedule of events, including standing in line for every one of those events?
3) Do I like standing in those lines behind Angry Dads, who answered questions 1 and 2 with an affirmative, and now will show their affirmation by talking out loud to no one in particular about how angry they are that the schedule is late and the lines are not moving?

I strongly suggest that you be able to answer "yes" to at least two of those questions before booking your cruise.

Day 1 ended in our cabin, with me and the Wife collapsing into coma-like slumber on the surprisingly comfortable bed. Day 2 was a day at sea with a minimum of scheduling, and so was one of the few days we would not have to set an alarm. We took full advantage of this.

PS. If you are a man who is a size L, or know a man who is a size L, and would like an ugly polo shirt, let me know. We have a couple available.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pedophile shopping list?

This is a photo of the back of a minivan I saw in a parking garage not long ago; I have been morbidly fascinated by these stickers for some time now, and thought this one was the coup de graceless. Why do people do this? Didn't the plot of any number of after-school specials warn us against sharing our names and how many kids there are in the family with strangers?

I don't understand the appeal of this; is this the next incarnation of the equally dumbfounding "Baby on Board" signs? There are several websites where you can buy these things, in any number of politically-correct shapes and poses, and I even found this blogger singing the praises of sharing personal information with people who didn't want it in the first place.

No se, no entiendo.

Monday, November 12, 2007


This site popped up as a banner ad in my Gmail this morning when I was reading a comic strip; love that Google AdSense! Based on the bad spelling and oddly nice accommodations, I am guessing this site is advertising for either

(a) a cleverly (if thinly) disguised casting call for a new reality show,


(b) a serial killer who got tired of waiting around.

I really hope it's the former.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


My quest for internet stardom moved forward this week when The Sneeze posted an email I sent in after my lifestyle failed to become more rock and roll upon wearing his rock and roll t-shirt. There's probably a lesson to be learned here, but learning is not very metal, so I say "nay" to learning.

I will continue to rock, but honestly, it's hard to type with both hands permanently in devil horns. My seventh grade typing teacher would be horrified at what this does to the home row.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

TK421, thank you for being away from your post

Went to a wedding today; it was a full Catholic mass, and I was amazed that, although it's been twenty years or so since I went to church regularly, I knew every word and every step. That alter boy training was thorough. I thought using white wine for the blood of Christ was very California. Probably a nice Chardonnay.

Anyway, the reception was great: cupcake tower, chocolate fountain, and open bar. Nice. But the REAL excitement for me was when four Imperial troopers (two stormtroopers, and two scout troopers) showed up and made me giggle like a little girl. Here are the photos; my face ached from smiling so much. Enjoy.

ps. I brought along our wedding invitation, in the hopes that we could make a video for YouTube of me, eating cupcakes, and the Stormtroopers asking to see my invitation, and me telling them that they did not need to see my invitation, and that these were not the cupcakes they were looking for. Didn't happen. Too bad; that would have been fantastic.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You, shake your junk!

Another good earthquake Monday night, and once again, the cats were useless. It could be I just don't know how to read their body language, but if sleeping and grooming are their way of telling me that the ground is about to start heaving violently, we are apparently in for a HUGE one soon. This article talks about the lack of scientific evidence that animals have any sort of "heightened sense" of looming disaster. My anecdotal evidence is probably this: living a block away from the train stop rattles my windows enough that our cats are probably used to it by now, and the odds of them giving us any Lassie-like warnings are slim to none.

Once again, the cats fail to earn their keep.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Last weekend, the Wife and I took some time off for a much-needed break, and drove north to Mendocino and our first bed and breakfast experience. We found a B&B that we really liked, not only for what it was (centrally located, fantastic breakfast, stylishly appointed, fun art in the courtyard), but also what it was not (not a doily or flower-print, Victorian-style anything in sight). If you are heading that way, we highly recommend it.

We had a great weekend. We relaxed at a spa, ate fantastic food (as well as some bland food masquerading as fantastic), and did a lot of wandering around and window shopping. We bought very little, in part because most of the stores sold the same generic items you find in every other vacation/destination town: fudge that is not very good, but very expensive; a "fancy" toy store that sells the same stuff you can get anywhere, but for a whole lot more money; and the inevitable local artists and their galleries of marginal landscapes that I guess is meant to be a more upscale way of taking home memories. Mendocino does not have an old-timey photo place, but it's pretty much the only thing missing. The other reason we didn't buy much is because, for some reason we were not able to figure out, everything closed at around 2PM and didn't reopen till around 5. Some sort of hippie siesta, I think.

We also wandered around the coast, which was sunny enough to be beautiful, and cool enough to warrant extra layers of clothing. There are various chains and old pieces of wharf still on the trails; apparently Mendocino was a very busy port, but due to its crashing waves and irregular surf, a lot of the shipments had to be picked up by cranes off of the boats and swung ashore. I tried to pull one of the chains out of the ground...I was unsuccessful. I had this fantasy that, if I had been able to yank it out of the ground, the end would have been affixed to this giant bathtub plug, and the whole town would have been sucked into the Pacific. I guess, in retrospect, I am glad I was unsuccessful. My car was parked there.

This is a video I made of the surf; I included my own sound effects, in case years of CGI has ruined your imagination and the majesty of nature is not enough for you. Enjoy.

Great weekend, very relaxing, and something I hope happens again before long.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I got a letter from the government the other day...

Just finished The Postman, by David Brin, and not surprisingly, I liked it a lot. If you know me, you know my love of (a) novels set in a dystopic future, and (b) stories in general that deal with the breakdown of society and how people interact when there are no laws, no rules, no order (Lost, come back to me!). This book fit both bills nicely, and I would recommend it.

Now, however, I am faced with a dilemma: do I take the chance of potentially ruining this positive experience by watching the Kevin Costner movie? I think I knew the answer to this question before it fully coalesced in my mind (quick, name a good Costner movie that's not Bull Durham...see?), but after reading Brin's own review of the movie, that answer has solidified into a firm "no." Here's my favorite quote from Brin's review:

...watching Kevin Costner's three hour epic is a bit like having a great big Golden Retriever jump on your lap and lick your face, while waving a flag tied to its tail. It's big, floppy, uncoordinated, overeager, sometimes gorgeous -- occasionally a bit goofy -- and so big-hearted that something inside of you has to give... that is, if you like that sort of thing.

With ringing endorsements like that, I think my Netflix queue is safe.

Ps. Brin, slow down on the exclamation're not Elaine.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nice start, but...

On a couple of occasions when I have forgotten that I have TiVo and don't have to watch commercials, I have seen some ads for this group, touting themselves as do-gooders because they are providing free or reduced prescription medicines. One of the commercials I saw has grateful recipients (or actors playing such), talking about how they would have died or come close without this program.

Big Drug Companies, this is a nice start, but it's really just a drop in the bucket. People should not be dying simply because they cannot afford your pills, and they shouldn't be grateful that you dropped your exorbitant prices in an attempt to clean up your image, no matter how many times you put Montel out there with his "this is serious" look.

Here's an idea: how about a "luxury tax" style upcharge on your boner pills to really fund this program? Put your money where your [ahem] is, Pfizer, and I just might start believing that you care.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

If The Wife ever wises up and leaves me...

...I go here for a few years, get my head straight, and come back a lean, centered, Kung Fu killing machine. And apparently I do so for very little money.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Embedded in Hayward

This morning, the courthouse I am assigned to was evacuated due to a bomb scare. Long morning; the highlight was the giant explosion when the bomb squad detonated a suspicious garbage can after the sniffer dogs marked it as containing "something." Since there was no evidence of any explosive devices, I suppose that could have included a chicken salad sandwich.

After they blew up the suspicious garbage can, we were allowed back inside. Imagine my surprise when, over two hours later when we left for lunch, the destroyed garbage can, complete with garbage and other jagged metal shards, was still lying around. The Social Services Agency is across the street, including Child Protective Services; maybe this was some new "parenting obstacle course," and if you don't let your kids play with the shrapnel, you get to take them home?

Here's a little video I shot, in case you were hoping I was exaggerating:

I feel like I'm ready to be a correspondent in Anbar province.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Over the weekend, I took what was possibly the worst bad beat in poker I have ever taken; it was the true definition of a "bad beat," in that I had this guy dominated at the turn, and the river brought the one card in the deck that could have saved him. I lost a little over $40 on one hand, and that pretty much cooled my play for the rest of the weekend.

However, where most online sites do not offer bad beat jackpots, I came close the next day. I had put my name into a contest on Full Tilt; if you earned 7 poker points in one day, your name got entered into a random drawing for $77. Imagine my surprise when, the next day, still steaming more than a little, I get an email saying that $77 has just been deposited into my account.

I realize it was a random drawing, but I want to believe that the Poker Gods looked down on me and said, "That was pretty sick. How about a do-over?" Thanks, guys.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Goodbye, Sam

I guess it is appropriate that, on the anniversary of the third day after the anniversary of the death of Diana, Bret chose to cut Sam, the people's skanky bitch. I had hoped for a Sam/Jes final two, but now it is not to be. Sam, you lived your time in the Rock of Love house like a candle in the wind...a purple and black skull candle from Hot Topic with a Hello Kitty ribbon tied around it (for the irony, of course), but a candle none the less. I will miss you, even though I have to admit that I agree with Bret that the likelihood of you handling his touring/groupie lifestyle is suspect at best. "Winning" the show for the "privilege" to date a balding rock star from the 80s may no longer be in your future, Sam, but you're a winner in my books.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tired, but worth it

Dropped The Wife off at the airport this morning; she is going on a cruise with her mother this week, and, if this map is correct, they should dodge Felix by a wide margin.

After the airport run, I drove straight up 101 to the River Rock Casino for their Saturday morning No Limit Hold 'Em tournament. I liked the structure a lot; reasonable buy-in, lots of players, T10,000 in chips, and 20-minute blinds. Having a lot of starting chips and slower blinds allows you to actually play poker, instead of encouraging crazy all-in moves from the start. I will definitely make the drive again. I made the final table, coming in 7th place, and got back my entry fee times two. Nice. Then, it was on to the 3-6 Limit table, where I played for about three hours, and managed to almost triple my buy-in. I hit some very nice hands, including winning four large pots in a row that made up the bulk of my money. Limit poker is all about patience, and even more so when you are playing in person, and you see a fraction of the number of hands you see online. Today, I was the spider, and their chips were the flies.

Which, BTW, is a very appropriate analogy, since there were several flies buzzing around the poker room (it was over 90 degrees in Geyserville today). If it weren't for the hundreds of extra dollars I went home with, I would be very disgusted right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thumbs WAY up!

Watched this weekend's ep of Ebert & Roeper this morning, and along with Roger, something else was missing. Even if you don't watch the show, you may be aware that Roger Ebert has been off the show for quite some time, recovering from cancer. They have had a parade of guest hosts come through, some more interesting than others, but they have all stuck to the same formula: thumbs up, thumbs down.

However, on this week's show, the thumbs were absent. At first I assumed this meant that Roger may finally be fully retiring, and the show was being reformatted. However, I did a little Googling, and I found this article which explains that Roger, as part of his contract negotiations, decided to take his thumbs with him, and is not letting the show use his trademarked grading system.

I will admit, the thumbs up/down is a little simplistic at times, but I think I like it that way; it forces you to grade each movie against itself, and not against others. Make them pay, Roger.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Backhanded compliments

We were watching an episode of Big Love last night, and after yet another scene where Bill, the husband, has to untangle the Gordian knot of infighting between his multiple wives, I mentioned casually that I would be a bad polygamist. The Wife, answering so quickly that I got a little frightened that she can, in fact, read my mind, and therefore sees through the various gauzy veils of ironic deception that make up my life, (such as how I only watch Rock of Love because I used to listen to Poison as a young man and keep waiting for the episode when C.C. DeVille shows up at the house, rather than the truth, which is I am worried that it will come down to Sam and Jes, because then who will I root for? The creative editing for next week's ep seems to imply that Sam may finally have her meltdown and need to go, but I am holding out hope for my fave rocker grrrl) said, "Yes, you would be a terrible polygamist."

"Terrible"? I mean, I don't want to be a polygamist, and I had already admitted I would be bad at it, but terrible? Isn't that a little harsh? I mean, I know I would be bad at the stern-father-figure/"laying down the law" portion that seems to be important on the show, but I like to think I could learn how to do it over time and with some practice.

If you have been married as long as we have been, you probably know where my thought processes went from there. Now I secretly want a couple more wives, solely to prove to Wife #1 that I can do it, and therefore prove that Wife #1 is wrong.

Ah, spite...the salt and vinegar potato chip of emotions.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I just finished A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon, and I enjoyed it. I should put a caveat on my enjoyment by pointing out that, although told with heart and wit, this is not a happy story. But then again, few of us live ideal lives, so this snapshot of a family, teetering on the brink of collapsing in on themselves, felt real to me.

Part of what I enjoyed about this and Haddon's previous novel (which I liked even more than this one, and recommend very highly) is it is unabashedly British. I am not exactly sure what "knackered" means, but in context it made sense to me, and added to the context of the story. Made the whole novel a little more gray, a little foggier. Brilliant!

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I am a man of many titles: husband, attorney, barbecue sauce spokesperson. But now, thanks to my new see-through grills, I can add one more: pimp. That's right, pimp. My motions in limine are straight gangsta, yo!

So far, so good. I am into my second tray, and the first few days of each tray are tight, rather than painful (so far). After a few days, they are easier to get in and out of my mouth, a maneuver that still finds me hiding in the bathroom stall, for fear of people seeing me dig in my mouth and the inevitable drool. So sexy.

The main goal is straight teeth without conventional braces. However, the unintentional, and unforeseen secondary goal may be weight loss. I have to keep them in for 20 hours a day; while in, I cannot eat, and I can only drink cool, clear liquids. So, this means snacking is now more trouble than it is worth, and drinking is limited to water and vodka. I could be imagining this, but going into week 2, I noticed that my pants feel a lot looser. Suddenly, the 24 month program doesn't seem like such a bad thing, and I might ask to go a little longer.

But next time I want platinum and diamonds. Because that's just how I roll.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Green, please...

Some pointless nostalgia...enjoy!

And who could forget...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thank you! Come again!

In what may be the best movie promotional campaign ever, 7-11 converted twelve of its stores into Kwik-E-Marts to promote the upcoming Simpsons movie. When I found out that one was within easy driving distance, I knew my mission was clear. As you can see from the photo, many people shared my mission, to the point where they had a bouncer letting people in a few at a time. If you wanted to just buy something normal...sorry...

Immediately inside is your Hindu friend and mine, Apu, welcoming all customers and assuring you that you will be gouged. Other life-sized supporting characters include Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Ralph, and the most inspired, Jasper inside the ice freezer as Frostilicus.

There was a small selection of show-themed items, including Squishees, Buzz Cola (fountain, not cans...dammit...), Frosted Krusty-Os cereal [sold out, "should get more tomorrow"], issue #711 (get it?) of Radioactive Man [also sold out, also theoretically in tomorrow], and of course, Homer's favorite pink donuts, here being stocked by a Kwik-E-Mart employee who, like his coworkers, seemed very surprised that there were so many people intentionally coming into his otherwise crappy store.

A good pilgrimage, and certainly worth the drive. I guess I am sort of okay with them being sold out of the cereal and comic books; I can't imagine eating the cereal, and both would have sat around until The Wife decided it was time for them to be thrown away. I did have a Squishee, which tasted suspiciously like a Slurpee, and I did buy two of Homer's donuts, and how can you screw up donuts? Good trip, good time, and looking forward to the movie.

No answer

Question: if, as I would be inclined, I named/dressed my team for the World Series of Pop Culture in Simpsons-themed sports garb, most likely either the Isotopes (obvious) or the Meltdown (more obscure and therefore cooler/nerdier), would the producers be less likely to include Simpsons questions for us? If my homage to the greatest television show ever would decrease the likelihood of getting Simpsons questions, would it make more sense to go a different route (like "The Solar Sailors" team with Tron, Sark and Clu shirts? That would be pretty tubular), and increase the odds of getting Simpsons questions so that I may devastate all that stand before me?


BTW, I went to the movie site, and built my alter ego, complete with an Isotopes t-shirt (think of this as a dry run for '08). Looking good, cartoon Brendon!

Friday, July 13, 2007

I don't get it

I saw this sign in the back window of an older model BMW yesterday:

I was (and still am) confused. Is this referring to people getting turned down for credit cards, which seems almost difficult to do lately? Is this referring to people not having good credit histories? More importantly, what would possess someone to put a sign like this in the rear window of their car?

The guy driving had a bad tan, way-too-open shirt, and was wearing several ugly gold chains. No question in my mind: this guy is getting credit!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


This site is about the only one left where I could find the trailer to the as-yet untitled JJ Abrams project, due out in...January '08. Made me very excited; watch it while you can!

BTW, it is running in front of Transformers, which amazed me: how can a three-hour movie about huge, fighting robots be so dull? The trailer was the best part.

UPDATE 7-10-07:

Looks like JJ is going legit, littering the web with all sorts of viral marketing that makes me squeal like a geeky little girl. Here are some fun sites: the trailer, a puzzle, a blog about the puzzle (and, if you need some help like me, a walkthrough for the puzzle). I have no idea what this movie is about, but I am IN!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You've got the touch!

In honor of tomorrow's opening of the ninety-minute explodathon, long dreamt of in my youth, I bring you the following YouTube movie. Not only is it pretty funny, but the fact that it includes a sports-training montage set to Marky Mark's version of "The Touch," from the original version, makes this pretty tubular. That's right...I'm bringing back "tubular." Deal with it.


Thanks go to Jen for reminding me of how tubular that song is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I get're sexy!

And, most likely, unachievable for the likes of me. I see you everywhere I go, reminding me of just how unattainable you are, but as frustrating as it is, I can't stay mad at you.

See you in a couple years.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

See this movie!

We just got home from seeing Once, and I am still smiling. This movie is a beautiful, tender story, told over and around the music written and performed by the two leads. Being a jaded moviegoer, I kept waiting for the ugly part, and thankfully, it never came. If you have a chance to go see this movie, do so; if you are disappointed, I will be amazed.

Prediction: on Sunday, February 24, 2008, Falling Slowly will win Best Original Song at the 80th Academy Awards. Mark your calendars.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Market Has Spoken

I haven't actually seen any of these movies, but I can't say that the death of torture porn makes me sad. In fact, the way it is dying actually gives me hope; instead of angry politicians and offended parent groups calling for boycotts and tougher ratings systems, people are simply not going to see these movies as much. As the dollars dwindle, so will future offerings, like this one I keep seeing advertised on the train.

Good job,'re growing up.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Feed me, Seymour...

The Wife and I took advantage of a rare sunny day in the City and took a walk today to the Conservatory of Flowers in the park. It reopened a few years ago, and I loved that the renovations kept the older style in mind.

The special exhibit currently on display features carnivorous plants, which was a lot of fun to look at, but unfortunately, none of them were actively feeding when we were there. I guess it's not like the zoo...bummer.

It's warm (they keep it tropical and moist in there), and it's hard to take a bad picture. Nice afternoon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

No business like Shoah business...

Finished My Holocaust, a satirical novel by Tova Reich about selling the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Reich skewers everybody, leading up to the final battle to determine whose tragedy wins Worst Genocide Ever. Like other novel-length satires I have read, I thought the story petered out at the end, but this is a fast, funny (in a cringing sort of way) read and worth the trip. I'll go B.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bless me, Father. I ate a lizard.

I just finished A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr., yet another in my recent string of post-apocalyptic novels (not sure that says healthy things about where my mind is these days?). In three acts, the book covers almost one thousand years of "history" after an all-out nuclear (or, as our President would say, "nukular") war almost wipes out humanity. On its surface, the book follows the canonization of Saint Leibowitz, a pre-war scientist whose work to preserve knowledge becomes increasingly mythologized over the centuries, leading to his eventual sainthood. On a deeper level, I think this book is about the seemingly inevitable, cyclical nature of humanity, both in its ability to grow and destroy itself, and I also think this book is about how the distance of time can create Gods from regular people.

That latter theme is one I wrestled with for a long time. When I was growing up, I got into regular arguments with my father about attending his church, an institution that was preaching absolute faith in what could, to my mind, at best be described as allegorical stories and fables. I remember asking him if, a thousand years from now and under the right circumstances, people will be worshipping the Lorax, and if entire holidays will be built around where you can and cannot eat green eggs and ham? Looking back, maybe that wasn't a very fair question, but I was thirteen, and fairness (to others) wasn't very high on my to-do list.

This book was slow at times, but the payoff was worth it. I have decided not to read the "sequel," as I worry it would only detract from my enjoyment of this novel and my respect for the author. Solid A.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Overheard on the train

On the train, going home last night:

"Oh, come on. Let me guess, she has some winning lottery tickets in her purse, too?

- Unidentified, bitter man behind me, speaking after a very attractive woman, wearing very little and carrying a big pizza box, got on the train and asked someone if this train stops at such-and-such street, because that's where her boyfriend lives.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Paying people to rub me

Over the weekend, The Wife and I took advantage of the nice weather to head up to Sonoma for some sun, wine, food, and relaxation. As part of our daytrip, we went to a spa; we have been to this particular spot a couple times before, and have enjoyed our past visits. On this particular occasion, however, several events occurred that gave me pause; I would love to hear any thoughts/ideas on how to handle such things:

  • The Talkative Masseuse: the woman who did my massage would not stop talking. On top of that, it wasn't just chatter; she wanted to have an active conversation about her belief that human society has gone too far, and all of our backs would be better if we still squatted and sat on logs, and how I should quit my job if I can't get a better chair in my office. Ugh. Instead of asking her to stop talking, I took the passive route, reducing my responses to monosyllabic grunts, which did seem to slow her down, if not stop her altogether.

  • Overexposed: it is inescapable that, during a massage, there will be parts of your body not normally shown to strangers that will be, if not outright exposed, at best very thinly veiled. I am not sure what this says about my self-esteem and/or modesty, but when there's a lot of Brendon showing, I normally feel sorry for the masseuse, rather than self-conscious. This time, based on both the breeze and the lack of fabric I was feeling, there were definite draping issues. I didn't adjust the sheet, and neither did she; I wondered if it was one of those situations where adjusting the sheet would only have served to call more attention to it, and embarrass both of us, and if we both ignored it, we could both pretend not to notice it? Tough call.

  • Tipping: I always get a little anxious about tipping a masseuse, in part because I am not sure how to calculate the tip. Are you tipping based on time, based on what type of therapy you choose, or is it supposed to be a straight percentage of the overall cost, like a waiter? I have always gone the waiter route, say 15%-20% of the total cost of the treatment before tax, and it looks like most tipping guides agree with me. Given that no waiter has ever rubbed me, I figured it would be more, but that again may say more about me than the industry norms.
I should note that none of what is described above was really unpleasant or bad enough to make me reconsider going back; in fairness, I should also say that the massage itself was one of the best I have ever received, and I guess the chatter was worth the lack of pain today. Next time: bring the iPod.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TK421, why aren't you in my closet?

When your spouse tells you that you will be attending a wedding for one of his/her co-workers, I imagine your response is similar to mine: ugh. But when The Wife told me that we will be attending the upcoming wedding of a particular co-worker, I may have actually giggled with delight. Here's why:

This particular co-worker is marrying a nice young man...who happens to belong to the Golden Gate Garrison of the 501st Legion (the fighting 501st!), the self-billed "definitive Imperial costuming organization." I have been told that, although there may not be any Stormtroopers at the actual wedding (which there should be, if this is going to be a recognized union within the Empire), I can expect to see at least a small attachment make an appearance at the reception. You know what this means: pictures of me with Stormtroopers. Even as I am typing this, I am giggling again.

I got so exicited that I had a fleeting thought about building my own costume and enlisting...but that dream lasted about five minutes. Check out this site for instructions on building your own Stormtrooper suit. The short version: this is a long, expensive, time-consuming and potentially dangerous process that requires a LOT of money and a LOT of commitment. Of the voluminous materials needed to build a suit of armor, the only one I own is "the dream," and even that can get expensive.

UPDATE (5-21-07): The 501st made an appearance at the Bay To Breakers 12K yesterday, and a local station posted some footage of them (and others) here. Very cool!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

All the way home

I would be shocked if I am the first person to bring this up, but apparently introductions may be in order.

Please meet...

You two have a lot in common, and should be making a lot of money together. Discuss.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fun in the snow

This time last weekend, we were in snowy Lake Tahoe for a weekend getaway that almost didn't let us get away (see what I did there?). We stayed at the Montbleu, one of the casinos built about 2" over the Nevada state line, and had a very nice time. It was a good trip; we had some spa time, some poker time, and some us time. All very needed, and all very fun.

My better half ruled the poker tables; she monied in a tournament, and then took down a couple locals at a cash game, netting us enough money to almost pay off the whole trip. The cash game was a step up for us; we played $1-$2 No Limit, a style of poker we play in the tournaments, but there is a HUGE difference between throwing tournament chips into the pot and throwing actual money in there. We played for a couple hours; she almost tripled her buy in, and I walked away with $14 more than I sat down with. Both wins, right? Right? By the way, we didn't play at the CalNeva; I took this pic in memory of any number of law school discussions about venue that always took place at the CalNeva. Nothing like a good venue joke.

The only stressful part was when, Saturday night, an "unexpected Spring storm" blew in, bringing a nice coat of snow with it (you can see it blowing in the pic if you look closely). When we woke up Sunday morning to leave, we were told by the front desk to just put our chains on, and we'd be fine getting home. When I mentioned that we don't own chains, the lady asked me, "Well, you have four wheel drive, right?" When I explained that our Mini Cooper has four tires, but not much more than that, we were told to "drive very slowly." Done and done. By the time we left, the chain controls were off, and we got home without incident, but covered with salt and sand. Worth it.

We'll be back, Tahoe...but next time, several months into summer.