Thursday, December 14, 2006

'Shark' has a touching bite

'Shark' is a really, really good show. James Woods is fantastic, the stories are compelling, and I've cried during every episode I've watched because I've been touched by the relationships between the character Woods plays, Sabastian Stark, and his daughter Julie, played by Nickelodeon star Danielle Panabaker.

I'm not a critic, so I won't wax poetic. Just watch the show. It's good.

Monday, December 11, 2006

'Challenger Park' hits home

Just finished reading "Challenger Park" on the plane and I'm awestruck by it's human-ness. I was initially drawn to it because of it's setting and content ... the space program in Clear Lake, Texas, where I grew up.

But what was more awe inspiring, or terrifying even, was the human interactions that Stephen Harrigan brings to the story. In reading the book I already had an intimate knowledge of the setting (Clear Lake, not space), but there are so many other story lines that I could relate to. ... especially having a child with asthma -- though I fear that more with my wife than with my son.

I heard about the book during the Texas Book Fair and kept an eye out for it at airport bookstores and supermarkets for weeks before getting a copy from the library. I haven't experienced that kind of anticipation for a book in a long time ... probably since the last Harry Potter release.

I gobbled up stories and the interviews I could find with Harrigan talking about the book ... I was drawn to his explanation of the inspiration behind the book ... of being at a relative's soccer game in Clear Lake and someone leaning over and pointing out a mom at the side of the field, saying "she was in space last week."

How could I not be intrigued by that? It's a convergence of childhood with adulthood ... growing up in the shadow of the space program -- I could see Johnson Space Center from my back yard -- And now, as a parent and a husband, I can feel all the other emotions in the book, too.

Louis and Walt questioning faith ... well, I struggle with that almost daily. I've given my life to Christ, but that doesn't stop me asking, wondering, seeking ... I'm not immune from too many questions, too much humanness and selfishness.

What a wonderful and frightful collection of feelings all flying together at once. Maybe I am the perfect storm for this book, but I think Harrigan has weaved a wonderfully complex and for me personal web here. It's reached me like no other book has since William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition," though that one crept into my life more than nailed it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Beta Blogger broke my archvies

I switched to the Beta version of Blogger tonight, and while I like some of the new features (labels, an updated dashboard, etc.) and can appreciate the underlying changes (datebase-hosted instead of html pages), going to the new platform BROKE ALL MY ARCHIVES!

I did check all the help docs for known issues and the like, but didn't find anything regarding archives. I sent a note to the help desk and got back an automated message that says, basically, don't expect to hear back from us 'cause we're really busy fixing your problem.

The Zilker Christmas Tree

The Zilker Christmas Tree is one of those "Keep Austin Weird" things ...

iTunes mix

Trying a new thing here ... the iTunes iMix. There are actually supposed to be two more songs from the BoDeans ... Black, White and Blood Red and Going Home, both from Joe Dirt Car.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Boys will be boys, but today that's terrorism

Four teenagers were arrested this week in Hays county for having "bomb" materials. What this amounted to is they mixed styrofoam and gasoline to make a napalm-like flamable gel.

That was my secret to winning the fire-building contest in Boy Scouts when I was a kid. I also made gunpowder with sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter. We, too, had a copy of the "Anarchists Cookbook".

I made nunchucks, had bottle rocket wars and all kinds of things that today would get you thrown into Guantanmo Bay. We were just boys doing what boys do.

Now, four kids' lives are ruined for practically nothing. I'm so glad I grew up in a pre-9/11 era.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Everything you need to know about money

I came across this list in some literature from Vanguard. We used to do great on most of these ... a perfect short list.

* Make a will.

* Pay off your credit cards.

* Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.

* Fund your 401(k) to the maximum.

* Fund your IRA to the maximum.

* Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it.

* Put six months' expenses in a money market fund.

* Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discoutn broker and never touch it until retirement.

If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges a percentage of your portfolio.

From Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Virtual fĂștbol juggling

Charlie Brown won!

What is up with Charlie Brown? Charles Schultz dies and suddenly the boy who taught us it is OK to fail suddenly beats the marbles out of the bully!

In case you missed it on Monday, there was a new Charlie Brown special. Here is a synopsis from an MIT site.

He's a Bully, Charlie Brown

A new TV special titled He's a Bully, Charlie Brown will air Monday, November 20, 2006 from 8:30-9:00 (Eastern/Pacific) on ABC, just after this year's broadcast of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This special tells the story of a game of marbles that becomes too fiercely competitive for some of the children. When Charlie Brown is called upon for help, he finds that the only way he can finally prove himself to be a neighborhood hero is to match wits with the marble-playing bully. Is he up to the challenge? The show is based on Peanuts comic strips from April 1995. Charles Schulz was working on the idea for this special when he passed away, although he did not complete a script for it. (November 1, 2006)

I was happy enough that Charlie Brown was a blockhead and a loser. Maybe it is OK if not everyone is a winner. Next, they'll have him kicking the ball out of Lucy's hands.

I think one of the reasons my kids have such a hard time when they do lose or don't get the trophy is because it is such a rare occurance these days. It's OK to know you were not the best, because then you have something to strive for.

I think, anyway.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Science Fiction in Bastrop?

I couldn't remember the science fiction author that moved to Bastrop, so I looked it up. It was Michael Moorcock, the author of Elric of Melnibone.

Why Bastrop, Texas? I know at some point we talked to him in a Statesman article, because that was when I first heard about it, but I don't recall the reason. I'll look it up when I get a chance.

Recognizing the pattern of YouTube

Another 'Pattern Recognition'-esque deal on YouTube, much like LonelyGirl15 that I wrote about a couple of months ago ... I read in the Oct. 15, 2006 edition of American Way magazine about another YouTube clip dubbed 'Bus Uncle'.

It takes place in Hong Kong ... an older man in his 50s berates a youngster for 10 minutes about talking loudly on his cell phone. It became a sensation after being uploaded onto YouTube, with t-shirts quoting lines from the clip, to parodies and animations and other bits copying it.

Eventually someone tracked down the man, and he had no idea about his celebrity. He was a simple old man.

* A pretty good take by someone else on the similarity of LonelyGirl15 and Pattern Recognition.

It really is a good book.

Friday, September 22, 2006

'Pattern Recognition' develops a pattern

Concepts from William Gibson's novel 'Pattern Recognition' keep popping up in real life. In this one, there is a blog item in E-media Tidbits about LonelyGirl15 and her identity.

You may (or may not) have heard about the LonelyGirl15 controversy on YouTube. This was a series of videos created by "Bree," ostensibly a homeschooled, cute, 16-year-old from somewhere in the U.S. She developed quite a following, and many of her fans (and non-fans, for that matter) put a surprising amount of effort into figuring out whether she was a hoax.

This is much like the story line of "the footage" that Cayce Pollard is tracking in the novel. Though, the ending is quite different, as LonelyGirl15 turns out to be a big fake.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My mid-life crisis

I've never cared at all about age. I don't care how old I am because I am what I am. Some might say I act younger than I am because I'm immature.

But I think I'm hitting my mid-life crisis. My son got a skateboard for his 9th birthday and I've been going to the indoor skating rink with him. Mom allowed me to buy my own board and I've been "shreading the half-pipe" and having a ball.

Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle on Christmas Eve. I didn't go to the doctor ... it swelled up and bruised, but it eventually got a little better. A month and a half later I was skating again, before it was fully healed, and tweaked it again. Now I'm having trouble walking, and I'm eyeing that skateboard, really wanting to go again.

I'm sad that I can't skate. It's bothering me. I'm really worried that I'll never be able to go again. (Or walk normal again, frankly.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Growing old, staying young ... the typewriter

The other day our family was on a car trip (to Enchanted Rock) and we were playing a sound game. It is a CD of different sounds and you guess what they are. Like a car horn, or a train whistle.

In the truck was my wife and I, and our two sons, age 7 and 9.

One of the sounds was a typewriter. Cory and I had to laugh ... Our kids had no idea.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Narnia/Aragorn allegory question

It's brilliantly blatant that "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is a Christian allegory. Much has been written about it. Fellow British author J.R.R. Tolkien was also a stout Christian and I've heard Lord of the Rings as an allegory, though I can't find a reference off hand. I see it clearly if loosely in the story of Aragorn, and it breeds a question:

In both stories the savior in the story (Aslan and Aragorn) free an army to help defeat evil. In the case of Aslan, he takes Susan and Lucy to the White Witch's castle to free the prisoners there before taking them all to the battle Edmund and Peter are fighting. Aragorn travels the Paths of the Dead to collect an undead army, bringing them to Gondor. Both armies turned the tide of the battle rather decisively.

So, is there a connection in the Bible I don't see? Or is it two friends using common storytelling tactics in their stories?

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