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Monday, August 30, 2004

Dad and Mr. Scott 

It was sad news to hear about James Doohan's illness. Wil Wheaton reports that Scotty has Alzhiemer's and is retiring from public appearances. Wil helped to give him a great send-off.
Scotty was always my favorite character on the original Star Trek. I think I liked him because his character was rarely the focus of the show, but was always a great guy to have around when Trouble came knocking. I guess it's also because my Dad's an engineer, too.

Whenever something mechanical broke down, we'd call on Dad to fix it. Now, I know that fixing the timing on a car's engine is a far cry from re-aligning a warp core, but he probably saved our lives many times, just the same.
As Dad's condition continues to worsen, I feel a loss; the loss of all that knowledge. It's not like he never tried to hand it down to me. It's just that I wouldn't listen. Every time he tried to explain how he was fixing my car (and yelled at me for not paying attention) I consciously ignored him. "Dad," I'm sure I said, "don't bother. I'm sure I'll never fix my own car. I'm just not handy with tools."
Which is why car mechanics can so easily rip me off... but let's not go there.

I don't remember the exact date nor the actual issue at hand, a few years ago, when I realized that I could no longer call on Dad for his expertise. Actually, I couldn't trust him any longer. His mind had lost more technical information than I will even glance at in my lifetime. I was afraid that he'd mess things up more than they already were.
I have learned to do a few things: tighten a pipe, mount a bathroom shelf, lay small amounts of tile, and cut off all of a block of pine that doesn't look like my son's blueprint for his Cub Scout pinewood derby car. All thanks to the few things that did lodge in my deflective brain.
Because of his medical problems, Dad's memory and thought processes are swiftly moving in the wrong direction. Yes, I know that nature needs to take its course. I can do the math, too. He's 82 years old.
Old.
There are some good things, though. He definitely recognizes me. He's happy when he sees me (usually). But it feels strange when he doesn't use my name.
It really sucks when every time my cell phone rings, I'm scared it's my Mom calling. Mom wouldn't call me on the cell unless it was really important.
And it really sucks when I'm not sure if I should use pliers or a wrench, but there's no one to call to ask.
But it feels really great when I hang up that shelf and check it with a level.
"It's Level!!"
So maybe I'm not a total failure.
Thanx, Dad.



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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Who, me? 

I was in the book store, the other day. I had no intention of buying a book because my wife would kill me for spending money, right now. Sometimes it seems we're middle class one month and downright poor the next. We certainly weren't poor when she wanted to buy that $400.00 vacuum cleaner.
In any case, I was in the book store to do some window shopping. I need to give my wife a list of a few books to pick from for one of my Christmas presents. I could have done my window shopping virtually, but it's not the same as being able to hold the book in your hands and flip through it.
I was looking through the bargain books and noticed the clerk behind the register. I'm not sure why I noticed him and why I continued to look at him. He had dark hair, a slight build, was clean shaven, and looked like he couldn't be more than 22.
He was cute.
I said that to myself, "Gee, he's kinda cute."
Then I reminded myself that I was a heterosexual married man with two children. A regular Ted Bundy. Er...make that Al.
It started to freak me out. I mean, I'm always uncomfortable at the thought that sexual orientation can't be divided by some brick wall where you can only be on one side or the other.
"It's not like I'm picturing the guy naked," I said to myself, and at that very moment; I pictured him naked. I won't bother you with the description. But he... well... he was cute.
Okay, okay, it was only a fantasy. Maybe he was really hairy on every single part of his body that was currently clothed. That would not turn me on.
So I started to imagine that he was really hairy on every single part of his body that was currently clothed.
Then I noticed that he'd noticed me.
He was smiling at me.
It's not like I was so close to the counter that he would ask me if I needed any help. Too far away for that, but close enough for a smile. And a wink? Was that a wink?
I "nonchalantly" lifted my left hand and "unconsciously" scratched my forehead. Could he see I was wearing a wedding ring?
Would it have mattered?
I looked back at the book I was flipping through. Some kind of dessert cookbook. Gay, but not too gay.
Thank God the Gay and Lesbian section's upstairs. What if he'd seen me there?
All of a sudden I decided that my time was up. I closed the book and headed for the front door; not too slowly and certainly not too quickly.
I hazarded a glance at the boy.
Oh. My. God.
He waved at me.

Oh. My. God.
I waved back.




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Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Quick Drink 

I’ve gone to a bar to meet a few of my friends. It’s not just a bar, though: it’s one of those clones of a British pub that somehow never quite stands up to the real thing.
I’m walking across the floor; not paying attention to what I’m doing, as usual. I walk right in front of a guy who’s throwing darts. He pulls his throw in time and mutters, “asshole” under his breath. It would have been more fitting if he’d called me a twit, but the guy sounded like he’d come down from the Bronx. The only Brit in the place is the owner/bartender.
I see my friends waiting for me at a table in the back. I go to the bar and order Dos Equis Dark, just to piss off the bartender. When he informs me they don’t carry it, I ask for a few more international brews that originate at least a thousand miles away from any of the British Isles. I finally let him off the hook and order a black and tan.
I join my friends. Neil Gaimin is sitting across from me. To my left is Wil Wheaton. To my right, Charlie Kaufman. I ask Neil how it’s hanging and he gives me a dirty look. Don’t ask me why. I ask Wil how his latest book signing went and he tells us that, “it really didn’t suck. Big time!” It always amazes me how surprised he is when he doesn’t bomb. I remind him that he deserves the success and the respect he’s been getting. I try not to giggle every time I see a little bit of Wesley’s lack of confidence creeping into Wil’s alternate universe.
That’s the common thread we all share. Our alternate universes. Neil paints the most vivid works of art, but Charlie wins hands down when it comes to twisted weirdness. Wil’s universes are more normal. Like mine. The Career Universe. The Family Universe. The Universe of the Self. Sometimes we feel like the Raspyni Brothers. It’s too bad we’re always busy trying to flit back and forth between our universes, never really having the time to feel like a complete success in any of them. The Universe of the Self usually loses out the most.
It reminds me that I’d recently done something cool for myself. I do do that, from time to time. This time, I’d bought a new cell phone. I traded SIM cards between my broken Motorola and my crappy Nokia. I gave Terrible T the Nokia and bought a new Motorola. Text messages. Camera. Color screen. Cool. I show them the new phone, but no one seems as impressed as I am.
Charlie says, “I’m surprised you bought a Motorola, considering they laid you off after 21 years of loyal servitude.”
“I bought it because they make good phones. I try not to be too judgmental. Like those people who still think Wil is an asshole because they hated Wesley. Too bad you and Neil weren’t Next Gen writers.”
“That’s a scary thought,” says Neil.
The conversation wanders from ant infestations to two hours and 33 takes for what should have been 3 minutes of voicework.
I get a strange thought and share it. “Charlie, you oughta write a movie about us. I can see it now. The four of us are sitting in a pub just bullshitting and then talking about making a movie. Of course, you’d be the one to script it. I know,” I protest as I see that Charlie is about to interrupt me with the obvious, “I know it’s similar, but you’ll come up with something new. But we’d have to get Nick to play you, again. Sorta like a sequel. I don’t think anybody’d buy it with anyone else. And Wil could play himself. And Edward Norton could play Neil!”
“But who would play you?” asks Ed.
“Don’t know. Maybe Joe Pesci? No. Too New York. Too old. Who’s in their 40s? Hey. Maybe Bruce Willis. Except he’d have to wear a hairpiece.”
“A grey one,” sniggers Nick.
Ed informs us that he has to go siphon the python and I hear the sound system playing “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba. Shit. Now I’m gonna hear that tune swim around my neurons for the next five hours.
Nick is sitting there holding his glass full of ice left over from his vodka tonic like someone’s gonna try and steal it from him. He sucking on a cube and I can tell that his motor is running. I’ve planted a seed that’s likely to turn into something only remotely close to what I’ve suggested, but that’s okay. I know he’s going to ask me to play myself. And if we can get Spike to direct it, I probably will.
Wil reminds us that he’s taking the kids to a ball game tomorrow, gulps down what’s left of his Guinness, and heads for his minivan. “Night, Nick. Night, Bruce. Tell Ed I’m sorry I couldn’t wait.”
“Say, ‘Hi,’ to Nolan and Ryan. From Marc, “ I say.
Ed returns a few minutes later with similar sentiments. “I’ve got to take my kid to one of those hideous birthday parties. Fucks up the whole day, really.”
“Really,” I say, trying in vain to make fun of Ed who’d said it with an English accent. Just for practice. Just in case.
“Night, Bruce. Nick.” Ed heads for his Audi. I’ve tried to convince him to get one of those new hybrids. He says he’s considering it. I keep reminding him that he’s an actor, and has to keep up appearances. Fans are friendly to environmental friendly celebs. He’s almost falling for it.
“Guess I’m in the same fix,” I tell Nick. “Alex has karate class in the morning. Give me a call, tomorrow. Let me know what you’ve cooked up. I can give Spike the call, if you want. Just a scenario. That’s all I’ll need.”
“Night, Bruce.”
“Night.”
I walk out to my pick-up, laughing belatedly at a joke that Wil had made. I realize that I have no idea what Nick is driving. I was considering playing a practical joke. Leaving a nasty note on his car.
I drive home, writing one of my movie scripts in my head.
“I get knocked down, but I get up again...” NOW STOP THAT!
I go back to script writing. Not the sci-fi one or the fantasy about the accountant from an alternate universe. The one about the 45 year old corporate instructor who goes to a training conference intent on having an affair. I imagine Jim Carrey playing the guy and Sandra Bullock playing his coworker/confidant/secret unrequited lover. I think that Frances McDormand will play his wife. She deserves more than ten minutes of screen time, but she’d add a needed bit of reality to what amounts to a screwball comedy.
I think I’ll have another drink when I get home.





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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

You mean, there are other people who Blog?? 

It's fun to find other bloggers.
I just noticed a "next" button on my blog site and decided to hit it. Sure enough it sent me to
Johnny Dakota's web log. Specifically, a blog of his pictures from a visit to Barcelona Spain.
On his regular site, he also posted a message explaining his strategic purchase of a domain called
VRSoftware.com. Sometimes I wish I'd had the smarts to invest in a domain like that.
I'm interested in VR, of course, because it presents images in 3D. There are still a lot of issues to be overcome, in the technology, but I do think it will be more prominent. Someday.
Hey Johnny - If you decided to visit MLAAL - check out the linkzard on the right, for the NSA. If you're interested in learning more about 3D (old and new technologies) this is a great place to start...
If anyone wants to know more about present 3D photo software, and such, I can probably hook you up.


It's also "National Save Your Smile Week"
Are we supposed to save up our smile by scowling for a week?
No... it's just some deal to get us all to visit our respective dentists.
A conspiracy.
Yeah.



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Monday, August 23, 2004

The Fifth Element 

I was watching TV last night when I came across the movie, "The Fifth Element." So I watched it. Again. This is, like, the fifth time I've seen it. And I really don't know why I like it so much.
Try and follow this:
It stars Bruce Willis as a cab driver who'd retired from an elite military crew a short time before the story takes place. This all takes place in 2214 (or 2263, depending on your resource), when cabs fly through cities and Evil (Big E) is about to return to Earth. Gary Oldman plays a nasty bad guy, Zorg. (Is Zorg related to Ming the Merciless???) Gary is known for playing parts way over the top. In this movie, he outdoes himself.
The whole thing is rather silly. Evil, in the form of a rather large fiery planetoid, wants to destroy the Earth but will be defeated if four stones representing Earth, Wind, and Fire.. oh... and Water are returned to a sacred temple in the desert, along with The Fifth Element. Oh, and Bruce has to kiss the Fifth Element to get it to work.
Evil is the real bad guy. Even Zorg is afraid of it. I would be afraid, too, if Hershey's Syrup started dripping down my face every time Evil called me on the phone. Even without an apparent injury.
In any case, Bruce starts out the movie as a taxi driver just minding his own business. The Supreme Being AKA The Fifth Element is cloned from the hand that was found after nice guy aliens tired to bring her back to Earth in time to stop Evil. But bad guy aliens blew up their ship, if I remember rightly.(Are you following all this?)
The supreme being is played by Milla Javovich, who's quite pretty, if a bit flat chested for my taste. Certainly not "the perfect woman" in my book. After being cloned/revived, she escapes (I forget why and I missed the beginning of the movie, this time) by jumping off of a really really really tall building and landing in Bruce's cab. So - after the inevitable chase scene, he takes her to a priest who knows all about the Fifth Element and wants to take her to get the four stones which are being stored, conveniently, inside some opera diva's tummy. (Doesn't this all make a whole lot of sense?)
Bruce gets 2 free tickets to the Hotel where the diva is singing.
The military set it up because they want him to get the stones so he can save the world.
The priest wants to get the stones, himself. He steals Bruce's tickets.
Bruce steals them back and goes with Leeloo. Yes, The Supreme Being's name is Leeloo. For short.
One of Zorg's men fails to stop Bruce from getting onto the "plane" taking him to the hotel, so Zorg blows him up in a phone booth (they still have phone booths in 2214/2263? Try finding a phone booth, today!)
Then they throw in Chris Tucker as an annoying effeminate DJ (they still have radio, in 2214/2263) who screams all of his lines with that annoying shrilly voice of his. Did I say he was annoying? For some reason, all of the bit-part women in this movie swoon over Chris, even though he's usually wearing something that looks like a jumpsuit made of fur. And he's really annoying. Did I say that?
Milla kicks some alien ass and Bruce gets to blow things up. That's cool.
Bad guys kill the diva, which makes it that much easier for Bruce to reach in a grab the stones. Of course, they never explain how she got them into her mid-section in the first place. Did she swallow them? Suppositories?
Bruce takes the bloody stones (blue blood) and saves Chris, too. (Why oh why?)
The priest (who'd stowed away on board the plane) Leeloo, Bruce, and Chris steal Zorg's ship so they can zip back to Earth and save the day.
Zorg blows up with the hotel. Presumably, all of the guests managed to escape in less than a minute or so.
Evil realizes that they have the stones, so it zooms toward Earth, intent on crashing into it, thus creating evil havoc. (If it could do this, why didn't it just crash into the earth before Bruce and Co. found the stones?)
When Bruce and Co. reach the temple, the priest's assistant is with them, though I don't recall them picking him up, since he wasn't with them at the hotel. And why would they bother stopping to get him when there were only minutes left to save the world?
Annoying Chris Tucker actually gets to help save the world. Which is even more annoying.
Bruce kisses flat-chested Leeloo and bright light shoots from her up into space where it stops Evil in its tracks.
The End.

I wonder when it'll be on again.

This is National Truck Driver's Appreciation Week



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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Another Great Work of Toilet Literature 

I said that I'd write some reviews of the books I've been reading, of late. So here goes the first:

The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Annuls of Improbable Research
by Marc Abrahams (
Click to buy on Amazon)

Marc Abrahams is the editor of
The Annuls of Improbable Research, a magazine that recognizes our need to laugh at laughable research projects. The magazine gives out yearly awards to some of the best (or worst, depending upon your point of view) research projects that fit their particular criteria. To win an Ig Nobel Prize, first the research project "makes people LAUGH, then makes them THINK."
This book gives a short history of the contest and highlights of some of the funniest ever awarded.

This is a great book to read when you only have a snippet of time, now and then. Each story is only a few pages long and can be read while taking care of business. I put the book down for about a month and was able to pick right back up where I'd left off. No problem!
To give you an idea of the kinds of research considered, I'll show you a few past winners taken from the website:

The 2003 Physics Prize went to:
Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces."
The 2003 Chemistry Prize went to:
Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University, for his chemical investigation of a bronze statue, in the city of Kanazawa, that fails to attract pigeons.
The 2002 Interdisciplinary Prize went to: Karl Kruszelnicki of The University of Sydney, for performing a
comprehensive survey of human belly button lint -- who gets it, when, what color, and how much.

You get the idea, by now.
Personally, I feel that this book will never be an important classic of literature, though it may actually cure constipation. So I heartily recommend it to anyone who likes to keep track of all research with such global importance.


It's Southern Hemisphere Hoodie Hoo Day!



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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Book Reviews 

I've been trying to read more books, of late. And I've tried to keep track of which ones I've read and whether or not I've enjoyed them. Mostly, I do. Or I wouldn't finish them.
I want to review a few of them, here. It will take some thought. I'm no book reviewer. Not professionally, at least.
It will, however, be nice to record my thoughts about some of them.
My recent booklist includes, by the way:

Secrets of the Tsil Café
Thomas Fox Averill
***
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
***
Falling: How our Greatest Fear Became our Greatest Thrill ... A History
Garrett Soden
***
Smoke
Donald E. Westlake
***
Artemis Fowl: The Artic Incident
Eion Colfer
***
Anonymous Rex
Eric Garcia
***
Digital Fortress
Dan Brown

***
The Chronicals of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew
C.S. Lewis
***
The Color of Magic
Terry Practchett
***
Eragon
Christopher Paolini
***
Dragonball
Akira Toriyama
8/1/2004
***
Princess in Pink
Meg Cabot
***
Dancing Barefoot
Wil Wheton
***
Stiff: The Curious Life of the Cadaver
Mary Roach
***
Just a Geek
Wil Wheton
***
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Lynne Truss
***

The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Annuls of Improbable Research
Marc Abrahams (which I just finished 2 minutes ago!)

Stay Tuned!

An aside:

"Roses are grown
Violets grow, too.
Yesterday I went to the zoo."

Today is Bad Poetry Day



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Saturday, August 14, 2004

What was I saying? 

Damn. I knew I had something to say. I remember thinking about how to write it while I was driving to work, this evening.
Perhaps that's the problem. This 10:00 PM-6:30 AM schedule is sorta gettin' to me.
Not that I mind the work. The new students I'm teaching are very nice and seem to be very good workers. They're also very nice. And shit. Now I'm repeating myself. I'm repeating myself!
I guess I'm just tired. And my throat is hoarse.

Oh... now I remember!

One of the students opened a piece of mail, last night, and pulled out the payment coupon and check. I noticed that the card holder had written across the top edge of the check, "Vote Bush/Cheney!!" and then highlighted it, just in case we might miss it.
Now, what kind of an idiot writes political ads on their payment checks? Does this fool think that some poor schlep getting $6.50 per hour is gonna stop handling the mail to read it (though it was kinda hard to miss).
This is a semi-automatic operation - so even if the machine operator had the time or interest in reading it, does anyone think that the fact that this one guy wrote that one message across a check that they'd be convincing anyone to vote for Bush?
Shit.
I expect to see product placements in blockbuster movies.
I do not want to see political ads sent in with credit card payments.

Maybe I should have saved the envelope to get the guy's address... then I could have...
oh.
nevermind.

Today is International Nagging Day
Terrible T will be pleased!



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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

News I Like 

July 31, the Miami Herald ran a short article about some new 65th Anniversary View Master Gift Sets that are being released.
I love seeing any news relating to anything stereoscopic (3D)! If you see any good stories, please email me the links. I like to keep up with the world of 3D.
You can read this article, but the Herald may ask you to register with the site (for free) before letting you see it.
Strangely, View Master didn't put any information about the anniversary sets on their own web site. Hmmmm.
Luckily, they at least mention it on the Mattel website as part of their Mattel in the News section.
Check it out. Their article mentions the NSA (click NSA logo in my sidebar)! It also mentions Mary Ann Sell, from whom I've bought many a reel.

Okay. Enough of that.
What's your obsession?

Today is National Night Out.
What, on a Tuesday???



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