Tuesday, July 29, 2008

California Vacation

Having left Paragon City to attend to domestic responsibilities, we decided it was high time we took some time together away from those domestic responsibilities. (Makes sense to me . . .) So, we went to visit family in Santa Barbara, California. Good times, good food and wonderful weather were enjoyed by all.
One highlight of the trip was watching the 1991 film Oscar, with good ol' Sylvester Stallone as "Snaps" Provolone, a comical 1930's gangster trying to go straight. It features such great lines as "Of course I knew. I just had no idea!" and touching family scenes like this:

Lisa Provolone: ...I wanna lay on the beach in Honolulu!
Snaps: Do whatever you want, just don't leave this room!

Snaps: You're going to marry this bum. Just as soon as I get my hands on him... And after the wedding you'll move into a nice ground floor apartment.
Lisa Provolone: Why a ground floor apartment?
Snaps: Because after I break his legs, he's not gonna make it up any steps!

We also went to Santa Barbara's Museum of Natural History. I've always liked the Museum, especially their bird room. You step into the room and hear a symphony of bird calls as great, majestic birds look down on you from above. Imagine my annoyance at finding out that they were rebuilding/revamping their bird room! Thus, not only were we not able to enter it together, but the presentation (my favorite thing at the museum) is gone forever.
The museum's big draw is undergoing some changes, also. The SBMNH's claim to fame is the large blue whale skeleton prominently displayed in front of the museum which has, until now, been a favorite photo op spot for families and tourists. Someone at the museum realized that all this human contact (not to mention exposure to the elements) was deteriorating their skeleton (is this a surprise to anyone?), even with the protective coating they put on it. It is now in a tent-like shelter, safely chained away from would-be touchers.
No matter where a hero goes, his talents are called upon. My family was putting on a skit about the trevails of the LDS pioneers when they reached the Salt Lake Valley, in dealing with massive swarms of crickets who were devouring their crops. While these crops were eventually saved by flocks of seagulls who ate the crickets, the skit also detailed the efforts made by the early settlers of Utah before the seagulls arrived on the scene. The show was to begin in a few minutes and one of the actors hadn't shown up. While theatricality isn't one of my trademarked superpowers, it's certainly part of my personality, so I stepped in to save the day, donning a straw hat and a thick dialect to provide for our missing man: Boy #2 (a crucial part . . . really!).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gamestop Grievances

Even all this time after its development, the Wii is almost impossible to find in stores, unless you are either very determined or very lucky. So, when a "refurbished" Wii was made available at our local Gamestop store, we snapped it up, congratulating ourselves on saving a few dollars. My wife also picked up Spyro: The Eternal Night for said Wii, also used. This is when the trouble began.
My wife presented me with the Wii, the WiiFit and the game as an early birthday present and I eagerly popped in the game. The game began taking me through the tutorial, and everything was going fine until I was given the instruction to thrust the "nunchuck" attachment forward to whack an enemy in mid-air. I thrusted - nothing. I thrusted harder - still nothing. I threw my shoulder out of joint - ow. And still nothing. So, we took the nunchuck back to the store and replaced it with another used one. Minor inconvenience, nothing more.
We returned with the nunchuck, I restarted the tutorial and, before anything else, I tested the nunchuck. Worked like a charm. So I got through the beginning of the tutorial again, to the part where I needed to use the maneuver and thrust my nunchuck forward - nothing. I thrust, shook, tapped, jabbed and flicked the nunchuck - nothing.
I rebooted again and, through experimentation, discovered that the nunchuck thrust maneuver worked perfectly until I hit an enemy, at which point it gave up. Aha, I said to myself, it must be a software issue! So we took another trip to Gamestop and exchanged Spyro for another game, Mercury Meltdown Revolution. Avoiding the issue of the nunchuck entirely, this game uses the internal tilt sensor on the Wii to tilt a table as you guide a blob of mercury through a circuitous route, similar to the old game Marble Madness. I popped in the game with great anticipation (though somewhat less zeal than before) and started up the tutorial.
This time, the problem was more immediately evident - the table was stuck. It seemed to believe that the Wiimote was perpetually tilted down and to the right. Only if shaken VERY, VERY hard did the table do so much as twitch. Aha, I said to myself, It's a problem with the Wiimote this time! After trying Nintendo's online technical assistance (replace batteries, resynch Wiimote, reset Wiimote, hit Wiimote button-side down into the palm of your hand, etc.) we made another pilgrimage to Gamestop and returned the Wiimote, picking up another used one in its place.
With fingers crossed and a degree of consternation I started up MMR again - and the Wiimote worked. Everything finally worked, and it looks as though we will continue to have fun with MMR for quite some time.
Now, up until this point in the narrative, I can imagine what you're probably thinking. It's not Gamestop's fault, you just misdiagnosed the problem. But wait, there's more!
One of the options with the WiiFit is to run together, each person with a Wiimote in their pocket to track their running speed. My wife and I decided that it would be fun to do this together, so we used the last bit of the Fat Fund to buy another Wiimote (Used, of course - it's $5 less!). We brought it home, synched it up and ran together. The new Wiimote seemed to be responding sluggishly, since my wife quickly fell behind, for all that she pumped her legs like they had hyperactive hydraulics. We then tried using it for other purposes and discovered that neither the tilt sensor nor the light signal on the front were functioning up to spec. Oh, crud I thought to myself, not again! After trying all the available tips, it was back to gamestop *yet again* and got *another* Wiimote, this time a new one - we had seen enough of Gamestop for a while.

Moral of the story: Don't get used stuff at Gamestop. Just don't. You'll spend more on gas than you'll save getting it used.

Happy Birthday to Moi

It's been quite an exciting last few days for me - my birthday was on the 20th, but we've been celebrating since several days before.
A bit of explanation is required at this point. First of all, it must be known that I am NOT the svelte superhero I once was. The picture of me in the blue spandex is a few years old, and my wife and I realized that the time had come to take seriously our goal to drop a few pounds.
My father and I, to that end, had a weight-loss contest last year, which I won, losing 30 pounds (10 of which I have since gained back) and gaining $500. The question since then has been what to do with that money.
I considered putting it toward an upgrade on our computer at HQ, but my departure from Paragon City has made that a less crucial need. Discussing this, we decided that the money should go toward something which, while entertaining, would encourage further weight lossThus we come to the aforementioned Action Simulator - a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit.
In addition to being a lot of fun, this combination provides some powerful tools to help develop and maintain good health. This isn't technically a birthday present, since it was purchased with money from the "fat fund," but it's been a major feature of my birthday. (More on this in my next post)
The other big feature of my birthday is the Wheel of Time series (commented on before here). My parents bought me the Entire Series as a birthday present - I've got a lot of reading to do, as does my wife.
We're both looking forward to some time in sunny California, at my parents' invitation. It will be nice to see the family again, and see what they've done with the old homestead. Temperaturewise, the "high" for our trip is expected to be 72 degrees. Compared to the high 90s we've been getting here, it will be a sweet relief.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another book list

The 100 Favorite Novels of Librarians - - - they should know a thing or three:
1. Pride and Prejudice by Austen
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee
3. Jane Eyre by Bronte
4. Gone with the Wind by Mitchell
5. Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
6. The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
7. Little Women by Alcott
8. A Prayer of Owen Meany by Irving
9. The Stand by King
10. The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
11. Mists of Avalon by Bradley
12. David Copperfield by Dickens
13. Kristen Lavransdotter by Undset
14. Beloved by Morrison
15. Age of Innocence by Wharton
16. The Shell Seekers by Pilcher
17. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Hardy
18. The World According to Garp by Irving
19. Catch 22 by Heller
20. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Auel
21. The Horse Whisperer by Evans
22. Pillars of the Earth by Follett
23. Prince of Tides by Conroy
24. Possession by Byatt
25. Rebecca by DuMaurier
26. Follow the River by Thom
27. My Antonia by Cather
28. The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
29. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne
30. Sophies Choice by Styron
31. Snow Falling on Cedars by Guterson
32. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez
33. Name of the Rose by Eco
34. The Giver by Lowry
35. Cold Mountain by Frazier
36. Cold Sassy Tree by Burns
37. Atlas Shrugged by Rand
38. Bridge to Terebithia by Paterson
39. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Tyler
40. The Hobbit by Tolkien
41. Les Miserables by Hugo
42. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Lewis
43. Wuthering Heights by Bronte
44. A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
45. Huckelberry Finn by Twain
46. Alice in Wonderland by Carroll
47. The Wind in the Willows by Grahame
48. The Bean Trees by Kingsolving
49. Ben Hur by Wallace
50. And Then There Were None by Christie
51. The Secret Garden by Burnett
52. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Taylor
53. Busman's Honeymoon by Sayers
54. Schindler's List by Keneally
55. Emma by Austen
56. The Color Purple by Walker
57. The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
58. Charlotte's Web by White
59. Anne of Green Gables by Montgomery
60. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Wells
61. Lady Chatterly's Lover by Lawrence
62. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith
63. East of Eden by Steinbeck
64. The Once and Future King by White
65. Enders Game by Card
66. The Fountainhead by Rand
67. A Patchwork Planet by Tyler
68. Gaudy Night by Sayers
69. Shogun by Clavell
70. Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck
71. Handmaid's Tale by Atwood
72. Lonesome Dove by McMurtry
73. Outlander by Gabaldon
74. Pigs in Heaven by Kingsolver
75. Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut
76. Jude the Obscure by Hardy
77. Time and Again by Finney
78. Misery by King
79. A Christmas Carol by Dickens
80. The Accidental Tourist by Tyler
81. Giants of the Earth by Rolvaag
82. Persuasion by Austen
83. Fried Green Tomatoes by Flagg
84. Tisha by Specht
85. The Thornbirds by McCullough
86. Christy by Marshall
87. Lost Horizon by Hilton
88. The Little Prince by St. Exupery
89. Fahrenheight 451 by Bradbury
90. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway
91. Frankenstein by Shelley
92. Bleak House by Dickens
93. Boy's Life by McCammon
94. Chesapeake by Michener
95. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Adams
96. How Green Was My Valley by Llewellyn
97. Howard's End by Forster
98. I, Robot by Asimov
99. Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck
100. A Passage to India by Forster

I've gotten 20 on this list, still have a ways to go. At this rate I'll have to start up another blog just for literary stuff.

Something a bit more uplifting

This one was written during my mission days, when I was first diagnosed with clinical depression. While it begins with a darker tone, the conclusion is a ray of hope.

From the Front Lines

My sleep is but a shadow of a dream, bringing no rest to my soul and mind.
My eyes seek to close in slumber, seeking rest, respite, refuge, but none are found.
The waves of opposing troops have taken their toll
and contine to suck the life force out of me.

What can I do to bring rest to my soul?
Where can I find succor in my times of anguish?
I call to the Lord, but the pain leaves no room in my heart
for the spirit's sweet softness to fill and caress me, to take away my pain.

I have witnessed the falling away of so many by the wayside.
We are a reduced band of poorly trained infantry on the front lines of a bloody battle,
with casualties on all sides,
against a foe which grows in strength day by day as our forces dwindle and perish.

I know our Commander will never fail us, but oh, how often we fail him!
So many who, when they begin to equip the armor of God,
decide it weighs too much
and leave it in a heap upon the ground.

Why am I weakened?
Why can I not summon the spirit of victory to rally the scattered troops?
Why must so many fall by the wayside?
Beloved friends and bretheren,

struck down by the shafts in the whirlwind,
the fiery darts of the adversary piercing their hearts such that they are consumed from within.
Arms and ammunition are running low, morale is failing,
and only meager reinforcements are on the way.

Every step of the journey is harder,
skeletal hands reaching from the debris to clutch my ankles and drag me under.
I refuse to go down,
but already my strength has failed me.

I lean upon the sword of the spirit
and watch it sink into the muck below.
My helmet is dented, my breastplate battered,
and even the truth girt about my loins has lost its golden shine.

My feet are shod with the blood of my allies,
the gospel's sole being worn out long ago.
I must continue, in hopes of slaying another foe,
winning another ally, but the battle grows long, and I am weary.

Yet the great Commander holds my shield on high,
a gleam of light on the crimson sky,
calling me to lift my sword again and sound the battle cry,
"Hosannah! Hosannah! To God and the Lamb!"

The forces rally and we march again,
in the strength of our commander and the light of the shield of faith.
With holy zeal, we join the fray,
the spirit's blade gleaming with celestial flame as every stroke disarms a foe.

With every prayer, the blade is cleansed and sharpened,
ready to conquer the enemy and his minions.
We battle not against armies of flesh and blood,
and the weapons which seek to strike us are made of far more subtle things than steel and iron,

But our commander gives us strength and power so that,
together, we can conquer the prince of darkness and his malign power.
We battle not for power nor dominion, but for the glory of our Commander,
and the freedom and welfare of our brethren, our country, and our families.

A bit of poetry

I'm going to break the 4th wall a bit today and reveal a bit about my mild mannered alter ego. Sometimes, at times of idleness, I indulge in a little poetry. The following is a bit of poetry I wrote before I started seeing my counselor. Life has gotten a lot more positive since then, but I thought I'd share.

Today, I bought some flowers
and a card, thinking of you.
Today, I bought some flowers,
blooms of every shade and hue.

Today, I bought some flowers,
roses, red and very bold,
Today, I bought some daisies
and I bought some marigolds.

Today, I bought some flowers
and I put them in a vase.
I bought some flowers, just to see
the look upon your face.

If only you had been here.
If only you could see.
Today, I bought some flowers.
I guess they were for me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

True story from the field

In addition to developing hobbies, personal anecdotes (more commonly referred to as "war stories") make for popular conversation around the water cooler. Since no one wants to hear about lost memories of childhood, I've come up with a few tales of my own to fill in holes. A friend at work recommended that I record some of them for posterity. Here's one of my favorites:

I was a young missionary in Guatemala, serving temporarily as an ecclesiastical leader (Branch President) to a small congregation on the coast. We were fairly recently established in the town of Sipacate and had a small chapel constructed of materials better designed for a temporary shelter. The interior walls didn't reach the ceiling (making private conferences difficult, if not impossible) and the ceiling was made out of something only slightly more durable than paper mache.

Serving with me was a young man from Honduras (I'll leave his name out of this account), who was slated to take my place as Branch President when I moved to another area. Our congregation's Christmas party was coming up, and in Guatemala that means fireworks - lots and lots of fireworks.

I put forth a few dozen Quetzales to buy an assortment of fireworks. My Honduranian companion picked up a few large, triangular packages wrapped in red paper. Being from California, my experience with explosive devices was nil, so I assumed that he was being helpful, which was my first mistake, and that he knew what he was doing, which was my second mistake.

That evening, we went to visit some members in the area to ask them for a huge favor. I needed every ounce of diplomacy and spiritual aid I could muster, as we were asking something extraordinary. As we crossed the large field leading toward their house, I heard a faint, repeated clicking noise behind me, followed by a rustling in the tall grass. I turned to my companion, who was hustling forward past me, and was about to ask if he had heard something when the first explosion erupted in the bushes behind us. He had decided that the best way to be diplomatic was to blow up their lawn!

I realize that this reaction was a very Gringo point of view, as Guatemalans are quite used to firecrackers going off near Christmas time, but I was unnerved, to say the least. But this was only the beginning. He set off two more explosions, over my protestations, as the children of the house came running out to see what was going on. It was dark, so I couldn't see if any actual damage had been done to the field. The family laughed it off, and we eventually (after regaining a measure of calm and composure) achieved our goal.

It was on the way home that my young companion truly proved himself Darwinian fodder. We passed by our little chapel on the way home. My companion fell behind a few steps and I heard that familiar clicking noise. I thought he had only purchased 3 of the miniature bombs, but it turned out that he had gotten a fourth, somewhat larger than the rest, which he was now lighting.

With a cry of "Watch this!" he lobbed his smoldering explosive . . . onto the roof of our chapel! I have to assume that he meant to throw it over the roof, but didn't quite have the strength. We watched in horror as a bright flash of light erupted atop our chapel roof and echoed hollowly from the structure. We could see nothing in the dark, but we returned in the morning to assess the damage.

When we entered, we saw a large pile of confetti strewn around the room and a hole in the roof slightly larger than my head. The reinforced paper mache ceiling pieces were also strewn across the room. I told my companion to clean up while I thought about what to tell my regional leader.

Incidentally, when I told my leader the situation, he assessed the situation and asked to speak with "Brother Pyro."

As another P.S., after numerous jokes from the congregation about air conditioning and umbrellas, we realized we had a few extra roof tiles and replaced the damaged one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Equipment upgrades

With great power comes great responsibility. With great responsibility comes a need for a great HQ to coordinate that responsibility. With great new headquarters comes great new equipment, and with great new equipment comes great expense. While this chain could be continued further, this is sufficient for my purpose.

Alba and I have been considering the possibility of adding an action simulator to our headquarters in an effort to prepare us for any eventuality. We recently acquired an audio-visual data input converter from Alba's old mentors (wonderfully useful birthday gift) and realized that what we really needed to complete the package was a larger command screen. Our old one was, perhaps, a 10' screen and wasn't nearly sufficient for our needs. Last night, we found a great offer on a 30' screen. It's honestly a little large, but it's still much better than our old one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Greatest, not the Latest

Now, compare this with Eaton Press' list of the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written and see how you do:

1. A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
2. A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
3. A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Twain
5. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle
6. Aesop's Fables
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Carroll

8. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
9. Billy Budd/Benito Cereno by Herman Melville
10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
11. Candide by Voltaire
12. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
13. David Copperfield by Dickens
14. Don Quixote by Cervantes
15. Euripedes by Euripedes
16. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
17. Faust by Goethe
18. Great Expectations by Dickens
19. Grimm's Fairy Tales by Grimm
20. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. The History of Early Rome by Livy
23. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
24. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
25. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
26. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
27. Little Women by Alcott
28. Lord Jim by Conrad
29. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
30. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
31. Oedipus the King by Sophocles
32. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
33. On the Origin of Species by Darwin
34. Paradise Lost by John Milton
35. Plato Dialogues on Love and Friendship by Plato
36. Poems of John Keats by Keats
37. Politics and Poetics by Aristotle
38. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
39. The Rights of Man by Paine
40. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
41. She Stoops To Conquer by Goldsmith
42. Short Stories by Oscar Wild
43. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson
44. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Poe
45. The Federalist by Hamilton
46. The Aeneid by Virgil
47. The Alhambra by Washington Irving
48. The Analects of Confucius by Confucius
49. The Arabian Nights by Burton
50. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Franklin
51. The Birds and the Frogs by Aristophanes
52. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
53. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
54. The Comedies by Shakespeare
55. The Confessions of Jean by Jacques Rousseau
56. The Confessions of St. Augustine by Augustine
57. The Decameron by Boccaccio
58. The Descent of Man by Darwin
59. The Divine Comedy by Dante
60. The Essayes by Francis Bacon
61. The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Emerson
62. The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
63. The Histories by Shakespeare
64. The Iliad of Homer by Homer
65. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
66. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
67. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Stern
68. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
69. The Odyssey of Homer by Homer
70. The Oresteia by Aeschylus
71. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
72. The Poems of John Donne by Donne
73. The Poems of Robert Browning by Browning
74. The Poems of W.B. Yeats by Yeats
75. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
76. The Prince by Machiavelli
77. The Red and the Black by Stendhal
78. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
79. The Republic by Plato
80. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
81. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne
82. The Sea Wolf by Jack London
83. The Short Stories by Dickens
84. The Tales of Guy de Maupassant by De Maupassant
85. The Talisman by Scott
86. The Three Musketeers by Dumas
87. The Tragedies by Shakespeare
88. The Way of all Flesh by Butler
89. Three Plays by Henrik Ibsen
90. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
91. Treasure Island by Stevenson
92. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
93. Two Plays by Moliere
94. Two Plays for Puritans by George Bernard Shaw
95. Two Plays The Cherry Orchard/Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
96. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
97. Vanity Faire by William Makepeace Thackeray
98. Walden by Thoreau
99. War and Peace by Tolstoy
100. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

21 of 100. I've still got a lot of reading to do

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leaving Paragon City

Heroes are not immortal, even the superpowered ones. While I have invested so much of my life into protecting the citizens of Paragon City, the time has come for more common adventures - those of domestic life. I bid farewell to my friends in Paragon City, and leave them my fondest hopes.
Nickarr, my dear old friend, may your sword shine bright forever. You've been my friend from the beginning, and we made an unstoppable pair. May the Spirit always guide you, and may the glory of the Lord rest upon you.
Kick Back, you've been a mentor and a friend to me. You helped me make my start in Paragon City and have always supported me. Any time, day or night, I could find you patrolling the streets, making Paragon City a better, cleaner place to live. Keep hope burning bright, and keep busting up the bad guys.
No matter where I go, no matter what I do in life, the spirit of Paragon City will live on in my heart. I will continue my battle against the forces of evil wherever I may be. Heroes of Paragon City, I salute you. Farewell.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just for fun

I realized that my posts had been a bit dark of late, so I decided to pay a visit to Dr. Blink (and when I say pay a visit, I mean pay a visit. His rates are kind of high, but he's the only one in town licensed to treat supers), and he gave me an interesting personality quiz. While I'll leave most of the personal details out of it, I've posted the basic results at the bottom of this blog. Feel free to take the quiz yourself!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Helpless Hero

There's an old idea that I first heard on Garfield and Friends, though I also found out that it's been said by Homer Simpson, among others. There's 2 kinds of problems in this world: Problems you can do something about, and problems you can't do anything about. So, there's never a need to worry. You don't need to worry about problems you can't do anything about, because you can't do anything about them anyway. And there's no sense worrying about things you can do something about because you can actually do something about them. Don't Worry, Be Happy, like the song goes.

Sometimes, though, much as you try not to worry, you find yourself in a situation where you feel completely helpless. Most of the time, superheroes don't feel that way for long, or else they don't live to tell the tale. Yet I find myself in a state of disquiet which can only be described as helplessness.

You've doubtless heard about the Gap Fire in California. It has come frighteningly close to my home town, where my family and friends still reside. I wish I could help them, but what help is radiation against a blazing inferno? I can only watch the smoke clouds on the radar map and hope and pray for the thousands upon thousands of firefighters gathered from across the nation who have come together to save them.

Even worse than the helplessness is the nagging fear. Will I hear that they've had to evacuate? Would they tell me if they had to? Would they wait to tell me they were in danger until the danger had passed? If worst comes to it, would I hear about their condition from someone else?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Further literary musings

While discussing literature with my friend, Mega Ray, she introduced me to this list and invited me to participate. While I find it interesting that there are some odd repititions in the list (Both Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are on the list, for example), I thought it worthwhile to examine.

The Big Read says that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Mark (in red, strikeout, etc) ones you would never read even if someone paid you.
3) Reprint this list so we can try and track down these people who've read only 6 or less and make them read.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And now..... THE BIG READ TOP 100

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter Series JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (okay, I may have missed a sonnet or two)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh .
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen .
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown Not gonna. Seriously.
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez My Spanish teachers would kill me for not having read this one yet.
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan .
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry .
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery in French, no less.
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Read: 28. I'm glad I was raised to be a reader.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Flight of Fancy

It's amazing how much work and study going into maintaining the illusion of a mild-mannered alter ego. One must make time, for example, for "hobbies," if only to have something to chat about around the water cooler with "the guys." It's hard to mingle when your genuine interests have nothing to do with sports and the latest episode of "American Idol," but I've found something which both holds my interest and provides for good conversation at the office: Fantasy literature. Now, people may question why a superhero would have an interest in fantasy - aren't we living a fantastic life already? But heroes can learn from good fantasy novels. Chivalry, honor, love of one's fellow man and an endless dedication to fight for that which is right, to the death and beyond - these are all things for which a hero must strive. Alternatively, darker fantasy can provide useful insights into the villainous mind.
Recently, I've stumbled across an author who truly fires the imagination - Brandon Sanderson. Virtue, adventure and humor abound in his works, and I only wish he had more books already written. I was first introduced to his work with Elantris, a novel which simply can't be put down. Among my supergroup, we now refer to "pulling an Elantris," indicating staying up until the wee small hours of the morning finishing something. It's THAT good. The rest of his works are great, too. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is a wonderfully humorous book which shows us that evil and secret combinations can be literally anywhere.
He's now working on the final book of the famous "Wheel of Time" series, which is sufficient incentive for me to want to pick up all 10,000+ pages of the series. I'd read the first 7, but found that I didn't like what the characters had become - they no longer represented any sort of heroic ideal for me. Knowing what the conclusion is likely to be like, though, I'll plow through it all again.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Liberty and Justice for all!

Ah, the 4th of July. As you can see from the liberty bell on my costume, the freedom which America represents is very dear to me. July 4th is rich in tradition for me, the most important of which is the musical, 1776. While the historical accuracy is, at times, questionable, a great deal of it is deeply rooted in fact and history. For anyone who has ever had an ounce of pride in America, in its founding and in those who founded it, it is a marvelous play/film.
As good as Alba is with fire, fireworks are somthing else entirely, and we went to the show at Thanksgiving Point, a good half hour long program with a nice variety of fireworks. I'm a big fan of color changing and shaped fireworks, as well as screamers. Alba really likes the "wiggly ones" - the ones that look like swarms of fireflies or ants and take off in random directions in midair.
We knew we'd have to leave before traffic arrived in our area for the Stadium of Fire, so we also saw Wall-E at the Thanksgiving Point megaplex. Another Pixar winner - HIGHLY recommended to everyone. The trouble with Pixar is that their advertisements, while cute, never do the show justice. Half of Pixars trailers leave me scratching my head, then the films are fantastic. I think they need a new P.R. department or something.
In Wall-E's case, the trailers give you no idea of the plot - they just tell you there's a robot love story. It speaks nothing of the social issues addressed, nor of the eventual triumph of man over machine and, in the end, over himself as well. A truly heartwarming tale of sacrifice, friendship, devotion and the evils of sloth.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Birthday wishes

Alba's birthday was a great day. She received numerous games, assorted music, much beloved classic Mickey Mouse cartoons and a small, plush monkey. Yes, superheroes like Mickey Mouse - clean entertainment for today's youth will make for a better tomorrow. We had a lovley dinner at the Olive Garden and we received a surprise visit from her sister and her sister's husband. We couldn't make it to the theatre that day (fortunately, plans were flexible), but we went to the dollar theatre the next day and watched Nim's Island, a film which hasn't received much media attention here in Paragon City, but is a great family film. An agoraphobic/germaphobic writer who has an Indiana Jones clone as an imaginary friend sets out to save a little girl on a volcanic island - quite funny, but also touching. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good, clean laugh.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vibroman's revenge!

[7 years ago, California . . .]

Vibroman and Sapphire Sting wrested on the edge of the San Andreas fault as the earth trembled beneath them. Vibroman's dastardly device was rapidly aggravating the motion of the tectonic plates, and would soon begin causing damage to nearby towns. Sapphire Sting shot a stunning cosmic blast of radiation from his fist into Vibroman's chest and flew to the device. Using every ounce of his strength within him, he released a miniature-scale equivalent of an atomic blast, destroying the device. The tremors began to slow as Sapphire Sting hovered above the gap, but the stunned Vibroman lost his balance and tumbled into the void. Sapphire Sting was weakened from his effort and could only watch helplessly as Vibroman vanished into the black of the abyss.

[Today, Provo, Utah]

An all-too familiar tremor shakes the building where Mild-Mannered Stephen Watson toils at BYU Independent Study. It seems that, somehow, Vibroman lives on. This time, though, he seems engaged in a secretive war of attrition to wear down Sapphire's nerves. Timing his work carefully, the ground shakes in unison with a nearby construction crew drilling into the earth. Everyone in the office claims that it's simply the work of construction proceeding, but Sapphire Sting's instincts tell him otherwise. To protect the innocent, however, persuit of Vibroman (or his successor) will have to wait until the construction crew has moved on, as they would be easy victim's to Vibroman's mad plot.

Which classic Superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Superman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
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