Archive for January, 2007
Does anyone use pencils any more or have they gone the way of the dodo bird?
I have one pencil on my desk that I use occasionally for editing. Iâ€™ve finally worn the graphite down to nothing and canâ€™t find a pencil sharpener anywhere. In fact, I canâ€™t even remember sharpening the pencil or how this pencil even got on my desk in the first place. Time to call Mulder and Scully.
Until this pencil somehow arrived on my desk, I canâ€™t even think of the last time I used one. I do most of my writing and editing via the computer and when I do take notes, I always use a pen.
Is it just me or are most people penciless?
And does anyone know where the nearest pencil sharpener is?
January 31st, 2007
After talking with a friend yesterday I realized that, outside my immediate family, no one friends ever remembers my exact birth date. For the last 20 years Iâ€™ve always celebrated my birthday on Super Bowl Sunday and people have just become accustomed to whatever day the big game is played is the day itâ€™s usually celebrated. This means the week before the Super Bowl I receive a lot of emails and phone calls from friends wishing me a happy birthday usually included with some sort of apology for not knowing the exact day. Such was the case with talking to this friend yesterday.
The fact that no one seems to remember the exact date isnâ€™t a big deal. The Super Bowl has only fallen on my exact birthday a handful of times in the last 20 years. And now that the game is played the first Sunday in February, it will never be played on my birthday again. For the last 10 years these big game parties have been more of a Super Bowl party than a birthday celebration. If it wasnâ€™t for the fact that Marathon Girl wants to do something to celebrate me getting older, I probably wouldnâ€™t make any effort to blend the two together at all. Iâ€™m perfectly happy with just having a big Super Bowl party.
So Happy Birthday to meâ€¦whatever day it happens to be.
January 30th, 2007
Iâ€™m always floored how my Super Bowl party becomes more popular every year. I donâ€™t even want to guess at the number of people that are going to show up this year even though I really should. I donâ€™t want to run out of food.
Speaking of food, for the last five years or so Iâ€™ve been making buffalo wings for the party. Theyâ€™ve proved to be tremendously popular so Iâ€™ve decided to share the recipe should anyone need some tasty food for their own Super Bowl party or any other occasion. Enjoy!
Abelâ€™s Super Bowl Buffalo Chicken Wings
What You Need:
- oil for deep frying
- 1/4Â cup butter
- 1/4Â cup hot sauce
- a dash black pepper
- 1/2Â cup all purpose flour
- 1/4Â tsp paprika
- 1/4Â tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4Â tsp salt
- 10 chicken wings
The key to the recipe is the type of hot sauce you choose to use. I prefer Frankâ€™s Red Hot. (I use their original hot sauce. Iâ€™ve never tried the one specifically for Buffalo wings.) Itâ€™s thicker than most hot sauces and has a bit of garlic thrown in. Use this and your wings will have a nice, thick coat to them as well as a little flavor that other hot sauces donâ€™t have.
- Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). The oil should be enough to cover the wings an inch or so deep. Combine butter, hot sauce, and black pepper in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir together and heat until butter is melted and mixture is well blended. Remove from heat and reserve for serving.
- In a small bowl mix together the flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Place chicken wings in a large nonporous glass dish or bowl and sprinkle flour mixture over them until they are evenly coated. Cover dish or bowl and refrigerate for 60 to 90 minutes.
- Fry coated wings in hot oil until parts of wings begin to turn brown. Remove from heat, place wings in serving bowl, add hot sauce mixture and stir together. Serve.
January 28th, 2007
The outlook for humankind is bleak. At least thatâ€™s how many â€œseriousâ€ movies about the future view it.Â And even though the movie Children of Men takes this future-is-miserable attitude to a new level, it avoids being just another the-world-is-coming-to-an-end film though the subtle messages of hope and faith.
Based on the P.D. James novel, the movie is set in 2027 England where we lean that women are infertile and the youngest person on the planet has died at 18. Since there are no babies being born and no one can figure out the cause of the world-wide infertility or how to solve the problem, society has disintegrated into lawlessness. England, weâ€™re told, is the only country soldiering on â€“ an island of stability in the midst of chaos. But even England isnâ€™t immune to the problems. There are bombings from terrorist groups and everyone seems to go about their day without hope. People who are too miserable to live are encouraged to use state-sponsored suicide kits.
Clive Owen is superbly cast in the role of Theo Faron, a former political activist who is now a London office worker. He finds himself meeting up with his radical ex-girlfriend (a poorly cast Julianne Moore) who persuades him to help escort a refugee across the country. Halfway through their journey Theo discovers that the refugee is pregnant and only then does he realize the urgency of his mission. The hope and future of humanity might very well be in his hands. The question is whether or not he can hide the womanâ€™s pregnancy from those who would either kill the baby or use it as a political tool.
Despite the gloomy and lonely feel to it, Children of Men is a story of hope. The real message of Children of Men is that people are assets. Without a reason to pass on a better future onto our children, mankind has no reason to keep their humanity and work to make the world a better place.
Director Alfonso CuarÃ³n does an excellent job of portraying a world of 2027 that looks a lot like todays only with minor technological changes. Itâ€™s easy to get caught up in the idea that weâ€™re not watching something on a Hollywood lot, this really is our world. CuarÃ³nâ€™s wise of handheld camera sequences gives the picture a news/documentary feel to it at adds to the filmâ€™s realism.
Only two complaints about the movie: first, there are a few scenes â€“ such as the final need-to-save-the-woman-and-child sequence â€“ that are almost too violent. I understood that the world is falling apart in the first 15 minutes. Thereâ€™s no need to rub it into our faces. Second, itÂ has someÂ overtly political overtones to current social issues, such as the Iraq war, that is distracting and unnecessary and deter from the filmâ€™s central message of hope and redemption.
The Children of Men is gritty at times but does show how people need a reason better future to continue living. If you can stomach the violence and overall sad atmosphere of the film, thereâ€™s a rewarding message of hope and redemption interwoven amidst the depressing and sometimes very bloody background.
Abel’s rating: B+
January 26th, 2007
Indian Jim by Michael Keogh
Some of my dad’s photography titled The Photographic Jounals of Lewis Victor will be on display at the Brigham City Art Museum January 26 – February 24, 2007.Â The Photographic Journals of Lewis Victor is a love story written with a camera. The photos span three decades and are a manifestation of Victorâ€™s love for his wife Marion, his family, including 13 children, his friends, his faith and the beauty of nature.
You can read more about the exhibit here.
January 24th, 2007
I’m in the midst of preparing for my radio show when the cell phone rings. Caller ID shows it’s Marathon Girl. Marathon Girl rarely calls while I’m preparing for my show unless it’s important. I answer the phone hoping that everything is okay.
“What’s up sweetie?” I say.
I listen for sounds that Marathon Girl’s in the car or other signs that she accidentally dialed my number. I hear nothing.
“Is everything okay?” My heart rate increases. What if something’s seriously wrong with her or one of the kids?
Then I hear the soft sound of breathing on the other end of the phone.
“Hi, Dad,” Aidan says. “Can I watch Cars?”
I let out a sigh of relief. Aidan’s dialed my number. This is the first time he’s ever called my phone. I wonder how many other people he’ called before reaching me.
“No, Aidan. You can’t watch Cars. You’ve already seen Cars once this week. Play with your toys.”
“Can I watch Cars?” Aidan asks again.
“No,” I say. “Play with Steven.”
“Steven’s playing with trucks,” Aidan says.
“Where’s mom?” I ask.
“I need to talk to Mom, not Molly.”
We go back and forth like this for another minute. Finally I have to hang up because I need to head to the radio studio and go on the air.
“I have to go Aidan,” I say.
“Bye, Dad,” Aidan says in a chirpy voice.
I head to the studio with a smile on my face. The kid has just made my day. On the way over my cell phone rings again. It’s Aidan calling back. Wanting to talk to Daddy. My smile gets bigger as the show goes on the air.
What a great kid.
January 22nd, 2007
Thereâ€™s something about a crowded parking lot three days before Christmas that brings out the worst in people.
Nothingâ€™s better than seeing the excited faces of your kids on Christmas morning.
Car dealerships have the worst waiting areas. They could improve them by adding a television, wireless internet access, and a toy area for the kids. It actually might make going there a more pleasant experience.
Full screen movies bother me so I never rent or buy them. But for some reason the local video rental store has the need to stock 75 percent of its new releases in the full screen format. If I wanted to watch a full screen movie, Iâ€™d turn on the TV. I really need to sign up for Netfilx.
My website receives around 20 hits a day from people who Google my name. Thought I never wonder why someone in South Carolina, Tennessee or England would be Googling me, when someone from my hometown does it, I start to wonder whoâ€™s checking up on me.
Itâ€™s nice to see that the producers of LOST are discussing how long to keep the show going. Knowing when the show will end will give the writers a time frame when to tie up loose ends and answer all the questions weâ€™ve been anxiously waiting for. Thereâ€™s nothing worse than seeing a good show that doesnâ€™t know when to end it (read: The X-Files).
Running when the temperature is just above zero is not a pleasant experience. You never really warm up.
Marathon Girl looks sexy in her Under Armour running clothes.
The NFL playoffs are always fun to watch because the teams know each game is all or nothing. Too bad college football hasnâ€™t adapted a similar format.
When Marathon Girl and I take our kids to the doctor, they give us questionnaire to fill out. It seems like half the questions are about the health of your child and the other half are to determine whether or not youâ€™re a good parent.
Thereâ€™s nothing like cuddling up with the person you love and watching a good movie.
January 18th, 2007
I’m thrilled to announce thatÂ Robert Greene, the best-selling author of The 48 LawsÂ of Power,Â The ArtÂ of Seduction, andÂ The 33 Strategies of War,Â will be a guest onÂ The Abel HourÂ Wednesday, January 17. It should be fun and entertaining show.
To listen click here or go to The Abel Hour websiteÂ on Friday andÂ click the Listen Live button from 11 a.m. to noon MST (1 p.m. EDT).
January 16th, 2007
I might just have to amend one of my 2006 Awards. Back in December I was unable to come up with a 2006 movie that I loved. However, Marathon Girl had a rare night out alone this weekend and saw the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. By far that was the best film of 2006 â€“ even though I waited until 2007 to see it.
(There might be some spoilers if you keep reading so do so at your own risk.)
The Pursuit of Happyness is about the true story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith) a struggling salesman who decides to enroll in an unpaid internship with the hopes of making big bucks as a stockbroker. His wife has recently left him so he has to find time to care and provide for his son while working at the internship.
We all know how movies like this are going to end. How many of us shell out seven bucks to see a movie where the guy everyone is rooting for loses? What sets this movie apart from other inspiring but cheesy flicks is the realistic struggle and emotions that come across in the film. Anyone’s who ever had to struggle with the burden of supporting a family and or wanting able to provide for their children can easily relate to the emotional rollercoaster Garnder goes through. Which is part of the reason we celebrate and cheer with him when his hard work and determination finally pay off at the end of the movie.
However, the emotional reality made certain scenes difficult to watch â€“ not because of crudeness, gory violence or excessive nudity â€“ but because they were so heart wrenching. There’s one scene where Gardner is sleeping on the floor of a public restroom with his son. Someone is pounding on the door, wanting to get in. Gardner clutches his son and weeps silently. All I could think about during that was what if it was me on the bathroom floor holding one of my kids. Let’s just say the tears flowed freely.
The father son relationship is very realistic. Gardner isnâ€™t a perfect dad. Thereâ€™s times when heâ€™s short with is son (played by Smithâ€™s real life son Jaden) because of the stress he experiences but itâ€™s also quite obvious he loves his son very much and Gardner does his best to keep look after the needs of his son despite the lack of financial resources. The on screen chemistry between the two Smiths is perfect.
The only complaint I had about the movie was that when Gardnerâ€™s wife left him, I didnâ€™t feel they had shown us enough of her frustration and helplessness that we could empathize with her when she finally made the decision to pack up and leave her husband and son. The movie runs a little over two hours as is so maybe the powers at be felt there wasnâ€™t time to go in her character more which was unfortunate. I wanted to understand her feelings and thoughts behind her decision to leave â€“ even if it was one I didnâ€™t agree with.
But even with that one flaw, the movie was fantastic. The audience we say it with erupted in applause as the movie ended. If you havenâ€™t seen it already, go see it. (And when you do, bring plenty of Kleenex.)
**** stars (out of 4)
January 15th, 2007
It is 3:30 in the morning and Iâ€™m sitting on the couch trying to put Molly to sleep. Through the slits in the blinds Iâ€™m watching the wind blow the snow through the neighborhood.Â Molly is cuddled close to me, staring at my with her big owl-like eyes. She has no interest in sleeping right now. She just stares and sucks her pacifier. At time like this, I wonder what sheâ€™s thinking.
Iâ€™ve been meaning to write you for some time but three kids keep Marathon Girl and I very busy. It seems like thereâ€™s always two of them that need something. And when all three of them are fussy or having a hard day, sometimes I wish that, for a few minutes, life would just consist of Marathon Girl and me. Donâ€™t misunderstand. I wouldnâ€™t trade my kids or my time with them for anything. One day theyâ€™re going to be grown up with lives of their own and I know Iâ€™ll look back on these times and long for the days when I could cuddle with Molly on my lap and see the joyful looks on the boysâ€™ faces when I come home from work.
I appreciated the email you sent me and the family the week before Christmas and the happy and sad memories it brought back. Itâ€™s been years since I thought about that long hearse ride to the cemetery and you leaning on my shoulder from sadness and exhaustion. Itâ€™s hard to believe that all that happened five years ago. Itâ€™s also strange to think Iâ€™d be married to Krista eight years if she hadnâ€™t died. Sometimes those days and memories seem so far away like they happened a different life time ago. I guess in some ways they did.
Marathon Girl is running again. She always does better when she can run. Right now her mileage is short â€“ three or four miles a day â€“ but within the next 30 days sheâ€™ll up the mileage and start training for the Ogden or Salt Lake marathons. Weâ€™re unsure at this time which one she will run. Weâ€™re also looking at other marathons in late summer early fall outside the state that she might want to run too.
Iâ€™ve been making the push the last few weeks to time my runs in the morning. I thought that if I concentrated on speed for a little bit that Iâ€™d be able to keep up with Julie. Iâ€™ve been able to shave nearly a minute a mile off my time since Christmas. Itâ€™s not enough. Already Marathon Girl running faster than me. (She just had a baby six weeks ago!) She ran three miles yesterday and beat my best three mile time by two minutes. The woman is an amazing runner. My only wish is that I could run with her. But the weather and my work schedule does not allow for that right now. Hopefully, after the weather warms, Iâ€™ll be able to run with her on Saturdays again.
After her runs Marathon Girl comes home and does crunches. (Her stomach is looking great, BTW.) Aidan thinks crunches are cool and tries to imitate them. Itâ€™s so fun to watch him struggle to do things as well as his mom. What a fun kid.
At work, one of the things they always ask is if youâ€™re a person that loves his or her life. If you do not love your life, what can you change about yourself and how youâ€™re living so that you can love it again? I think about this from time to time and realize how much I do love my life. I donâ€™t mean to imply that Iâ€™m perfect because there are many things that I still need to work on. But Iâ€™m trying to do the right things. The Lord has blessed me so much with a beautiful and understanding wife and three wonderful kids. I really do love my life. I wouldnâ€™t trade it or any of my experiences for anything. I feel so blessed to live the life I have lived.
I will write you more tomorrow. I need to give you an update about my book as I have both good and bad news about it. I hope the holidays treated your family as well as they treated mine. My eyes are heavy and I need to put Molly, who is now sleeping peacefully in my arms, to bed.
January 12th, 2007
MY radio show co-host, Jon, is going to try out for The World Series of Pop Culture on January 27. To help prep him for the tournament, I’ll be peppering him (and maybe some others) with pop-culture related questions on my radio show Friday, January 12. It should be fun and entertaining show.
To listen click here or go to The Abel Hour websiteÂ on Friday andÂ click the Listen Live button from 11 a.m. to noon MST (1 p.m. EDT).
January 11th, 2007
Letâ€™s say you own a pizza restaurant. One day I come in to your restaurant hungry for some pizza but have no money. Instead, I offer you my baseball hat. Since you like the hat, you agree to trade a large pepperoni pizza for my baseball hat. Is that a fair trade?Â
What if I had no money or hats to trade for your pizza? What if I said I would spend an hour washing dishes in exchange for the pizza? Is that a fair trade?
What if I had some money in my wallet but instead of U.S. dollars I had Mexican pesos. You agree to give me a large pepperoni pizza in exchange for my pesos. Is that a fair trade?
In a free country, people should be able to trade whatever they want for anotherâ€™s products and services whether itâ€™s oneâ€™s time, labor, money, or something else. So long as there is no deception or coercion involved when I trade my baseball hat, labor, or pesos for a pepperoni pizza, we both come out winners. I satisfied my hunger and you received something that you considered more valuable than the pizza.
One Texas business owner understands this. Antonio Swad, president of Pizza Patron, announced over the weekend that his restaurants would now accept Mexican pesos for their pizza.
Like any good business owner, Swad knows his customers. Roughly 60 percent of those who patronize his pizza restaurants are Latino and Swad realized that some of them had pesos in their pockets and would spend them if it was convenient to do so.
Unfortunately there are many people who view Swadâ€™s business decision as an insult to our nationâ€™s immigration laws or being unpatriotic by accepting foreign money (a common occurrence in many towns on the border with Mexico and Canada).
Yet thereâ€™s nothing unpatriotic about Swadâ€™s business decision. He works in a highly competitive business and competes against national chains. Because he was thinking like a capitalist, Swad noticed an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition while providing his customers with a valuable service. Thanks to his innovative thinking his customers can now spend their pesos while receiving something they want to eat. Instead of being ridiculed, Swadâ€™s decision should be celebrated.
Swad not only understands that exchange creates wealth but that a unique business move combined with some savvy PR skills can do wonders for business. Because of his decision, his pizza chain received millions of dollars in free publicity in local and national press which will give him a chance to grow his business even more.
Time will tell if Swadâ€™s decision to accept pesos makes some dough from his Pizza patrons. In the meantime we should all be glad that capitalists such as Swad are working to come up with innovative ways to improve our lives.
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This essay was originally published on FreeCapitalist.com. You can read all of Abel’s FreeCapitalist essays here.
January 10th, 2007
Read this today and thought it could apply to much more than writers and writing.
Many young writers give me a pain when they complain about how hard writing is and how tough it is to make a living out of it. They talk too much, bellyache too much. Of course everyone knows that good writing is the most difficult of all occupations; but it is a self-imposed one. Writers should be writing instead of talking.
Â Â – William Targ, Indecent Pleasures: The Life and Colorful Times of William Targ
January 7th, 2007
From an Associated Press story:
An Indonesian jetliner that vanished with 102 people aboard did not issue distress signals or report any mechanical problems, a top aviation official said Thursday, contradicting earlier reports.
Meanwhile, a fleet of aircraft took to the skies, ships scoured the sea and soldiers battled rugged jungle terrain for the third day, searching a 28,000-square-mile area — roughly the size of California. But by late afternoon they had seen no sign of the wreckage.
Letâ€™s hope everyone is okay and that the plane didnâ€™t end up here.
January 4th, 2007
One of the many things I love about Marathon Girl is that sheâ€™s an excellent gift giver. She has this second sense about what people need or want so when it comes to your birthday, Christmas, or any other reason to give a present, you can be 99 percent sure that you will be pleased with what Marathon Girl gives you.
So this Christmas after opening all my presents, I happy with everything she gave me except one: a game based on the LOST television show. I usually go out of my way to avoid games that are based on TV shows. Not much thought is usually put into them and theyâ€™re simply an excuse to make a couple of extra dollars off those who like the show. I was a little perplexed as to why Marathon Girl bought this game for me. She knows I love LOST but also know that I despise games based on pop culture sensations. However, later in the day I opened the game and read how to play, I realized that LOST: The Game isnâ€™t your typical, run of the mill TV show game. Some actual thought went into making an entertaining and very addictive game.
The best way I can describe the game is that itâ€™s a mix between The Settlers of Catan and Risk. The game comes with Location Tiles that you use to build the island. (The size of the island varies depending on the number of players and how long you want to play.) Itâ€™s nearly impossible to draw the same island tiles over and over again so each game youâ€™re playing on a new island. You then have a main character that you move around the island exploring, trying to survive, trap other players, or picking up other characters to become part of your time. The object of the game is to become the leader of all the other characters on the island. Itâ€™s not as easy as you think. To do this requires a lot of strategy, planning, and a lot of luck. There are also things like The Monster and The Others to contend with and if youâ€™re not careful your character or those that are following you could end up dead. (During one of the first test games I played, my main character died off after two moves. Talk about bad luck.)
The best thing about the game is that you donâ€™t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy the game. I played it with two of my brother-in-laws last week who have never seen an episode of LOST and they both really enjoyed playing the game. If youâ€™re a fan of the show, youâ€™ll understand the why some characters have certain special abilities and why The Monster is so powerful and unpredictable so it simply adds to your enjoyment of the game.
My only complaint about the game is that the instructions that initially came with it sucked. Not only did they do a poor job explaining how the game was played, they were poorly written and could have used some diagrams. (I can say this since Iâ€™m a recovering technical writer.) Fortunately the people that put the game together realized this and released some updated instructions (links to PDF) on the LOST game website. (Thank goodness for the Internet.) These instructions to a much better job of explaining how the game is played and erase a lot of the confusion I had when first learning the game.
The came has quite a bit of a learning curve and takes a few times before you get the hang of it and understand some of the strategy needed to win. Anyone who wonders if this game is something theyâ€™d be interested in playing should check out the website and instructions on how to play. For those who are willing to invest a little time into learning the game, it will give you hours of fun.
(Jon you need to come over and play this game. I think you would love it. Bring your friends.)
Speaking of Jon and good Christmas gifts, he gave me Princeâ€™s Purple Rain CD for Christmas. This is significant for several reasons: 1) I can actually say that I now own a CD. 2) If I ever thought of owning a CD, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would be one by Prince 3) Iâ€™ve been listening to it quite a bit. In fact, I had it turned up rather loud at work in the mornings before anyone else comes into the office. From six to eight a.m. Iâ€™m partying like itâ€™s 1999. 4) Iâ€™m starting to look forward to the Super Bowl halftime show.
Can Marathon Girl and I accompany you and Maria to Vegas to see him perform?
January 2nd, 2007