Archive for June, 2007
Yippie-ki-yay! John McClane is back.
Itâ€™s been a long time since Hollywood came up with a decent action movie. Fortunately, Live Free or Die Hard helps reestablish a genre that has been on the recent decline.
The story begins when McClane (Bruce Willis) is assigned to pick up hacker Justin Long (Matt Farrell) and take him to FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. Thinking itâ€™s just another routine assignment to pick up a computer nerd, McClane unenthusiastically goes to Longâ€™s apartment only to find himself involved in a shoot out with people intent on killing the suspect.
After some intense and very slick action sequences in which McClane takes care of the bad guys, the pair heads off to Washington D.C. Once they arrive, the entire city begins shutting down. After a brief talk with the FBI, they conclude an Internet terrorist group is bent on shutting down the entire country by taking over the countryâ€™s vital computer systems.
But McClaneâ€™s not letting a bunch of computer geeks shut down the United States. What follows is two-hours of some of the most original and innovative action sequences in an action movie. Whether itâ€™s taking down a helicopter with a police car, driving a 18-wheeler over a collapsing freeway system, or escaping from an SUV before it plummets down an elevator shaft, McClane shows that nothing can stop him from getting the bad guys.
Action and adventure type movies are never big on creating characters that the audience will actually care about. But thatâ€™s okay. There are just good guys and bad guys in this film. But like any good action movie, the audience will root for the hero and cheer when bad guys meet their demise â€“ never mind the fact that the bad guyâ€™s motives for shutting down the entire country are a little weak and the plot a bit implausible.
Willis is one of the most underrated actors and delivers another great performance as the hero who always keeps his cool even if the world around him is falling to pieces. He knows just how to deliver the scriptâ€™s one-liners and come across as a regular guy who wants to save the world.
My only real complaint is that they killed off the best bad guy, played by Maggie Q, too early in the film. Qâ€™s character was the most interesting of all the villains and it would have made the move better to see her in final climatic fight with McClane instead of the lacklusterÂ mastermind played by Timothy Olyphant.
Live Free or Die Hard is a perfect way to escape from the summer heat, reality, or any in-laws that may be visiting during Independence Day. Fans of action-packed, shoot-â€˜m-up movies will love the latest Die Hard installment and audiences will leave the theatre excited that once again John McClane saved the day.
Letâ€™s hope Live Free or Die Hard is the first in a series of improved action/adventure movies that will come out of Hollywood.
*** stars (out of four)
June 29th, 2007
The final edits for Room for Two were accepted by the editor yesterday.
â€¢Â It goes to press July 15.
â€¢Â I get to see the cover art next week. (Crossing my fingers that I like it.)
â€¢Â I should be in bookstores sometime in September though Iâ€™ll be selling copies on my website sometime in August.
Part of me canâ€™t believe that Iâ€™m pretty much done with it. Even though it was three years ago, it seems like yesterday I started writing Room for Two, and just dreaming that it would be published.
All my hard work and perseverance has paid off.
My dream is about to become a reality.
June 28th, 2007
In case anyone was wondering….
Thanks to HitCoffee for the link.
June 28th, 2007
The most beautiful thing I saw while on our vacation to Idaho was a patch of flowering cacti. Most of area in Idaho we vistied was very green: lots of trees and farm land. But while taking a walk with Aidan and StevenÂ and I discovered a patch of cacti that was in full bloom.
It was the last thing I expected to see and maybe part of the reason I found it so beautiful.
June 27th, 2007
Exercise is often two steps forward and one step back.
Since February Iâ€™ve been working my tail off to bench my own weight. Iâ€™ve made great progress. Last Friday I maxed out at 190 pounds (thatâ€™s approximately 86 kilos for all those who prefer the metric system). It was a personal best and only five pounds away from my weight when I started the whole weightlifting program. Needless to say I was ecstatic about the accomplishment.
My elation was short lived, however, once reality set in.
When I started this aggressive weight lifting program I weighted 195 lbs. Since then Iâ€™ve added 15 lbs. of muscle to my body and top the scales at 210 lbs. (I should add that Marathon Girl is very happy with my added mass.) After maxing out at 190, I initially thought I was just five pounds away from reaching my goal. Then I realized I was 20 lbs. away from it.
If I end up in hell, I can see my punishment being trying to bench my weight. Every time I get close, it will turn out that Iâ€™ve added on a couple extra pounds of muscle to my body and have to try again. This will, of course, go on for all eternity.
The good news is that while Iâ€™m alive on Earth, when I finally do manage to bench my weight, Iâ€™m going to be benching an amount I never thought would have thought possible.
June 25th, 2007
I finally mailed that suspicious package the post office returned the other day. After a 15 minute wait in line, I was finally able to speak to a mail clerk about the problem. I gave her the package and told her I would like her to inspect it and have it mailed. The clerk looked at the package and read the note the post office had attached to it.
â€œIâ€™ve never seen this label before,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ll be right back.â€
With package in hand she left and returned a few minutes later with someone who I assume was her manager or supervisor. He started to explain to me that they because of increasing terrorist threats, they couldnâ€™t just take packages with stamps on it and that in the future it would save everyone a lot of hassle if Iâ€™d just take a few minutes and show any future packages to one of his trusted employees. Then he stopped in mid-sentence and looked at the package.
â€œThereâ€™s only enough postage on this package to ship it by ground,â€ he said.
â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ I replied. â€œIt was less expensive that way.â€
â€œThen thereâ€™s nothing to worry about,â€ the supervisor said. â€œThese restrictions only apply to air mail â€“ not anything shipped on the ground. Iâ€™m sorry for the inconvenience.â€
The supervisor them removed the warning label from the package and tossed in a nearby mail cart and told me it would be sent out that afternoon. (Sorry, Gabby. I guess the package wonâ€™t come with a police/military escort after all.)
I donâ€™t know what I should be more worried about: the fact that they donâ€™t screen their ground mail for suspicious packages or the gross incompetence of the people supposedly screening their mail.
Either way, Iâ€™m thinking about using the post office thatâ€™s closer to home to mail anything in the future than the one close to work. Aside form this incident; Iâ€™ve had some recent bad experiences with the post office near my office.
For example, if I return a Netflix DVD and it goes through the post office close to home, it always arrives the next day. However, if I send it from work it takes two, three or sometimes four days to arrive at the Netflix receiving facility.
Both post offices are roughly the same distance from Salt Lake and the one close work is supposedly a post office hub which means things should arrive sooner, rather than later. But when does anything work the way itâ€™s intended to when youâ€™re dealing with a government monopoly.
June 21st, 2007
Letâ€™s be clear on one thing: I am not a terrorist.
I donâ€™t condone blowing up innocent people or hijacking airplanes and crashing them into buildings. Terrorists are incredibly evil and I generally support efforts to eradicate them from the planet. The world would be a much better place without them.
I bring this up because apparently mailing books can get you in trouble with the U.S. Postal Service. Who knew?
Last week I did my first book purge and mailed three books off to those who wanted the books.Â Yesterday one of the books â€“ the Matthew Iribarne book of short stories â€“ was returned, opened, with an ominous warning attached from the U.S. Post Office:
â€œWe regret that your mail is being returned to you because of heightened security measures. All domestic mal, weighing 16 ounces or over, that bears stamps and all international and military APO/FPO mail weighing 16 ounces or over, MUST be presented to a retail clerk at a post office. Postage that is affixed to the returned mail may be used for re-mailing the item.”
Apparently I made the mistake of metering the package on my own instead of standing in line for an hour and checking it with the trusty U.S. Postal clerk. And all I wanted to do was save time by not waiting in line.
Although I appreciate the warning and will check future packages that weigh 16 ounces or more with the post office before I send then, I canâ€™t help be a little concerned over their screening procedures.
See, this is the second book weighing more than 16 ounces that Iâ€™ve sent in this way. The other book, Skinny Dip, was mailed two days before the book of short stories and it hasnâ€™t been returned. Somehow that book wasnâ€™t considered a security threat. (Actually, I donâ€™t know if it made it past the post office inspectors. Maybe they destroyed it with one of those bomb destroy robots in route to the Midwest. Jo, please let me know if it arrives.)
So, Gabby, Iâ€™m checking the package with a mail clerk today and resending it. I donâ€™t know when it will arrive but it might come with a police and/or military escort. Please let them know Iâ€™m not a terrorist and all I mailed you was a book of short stories.
June 19th, 2007
One of my heroes is Orson Scott Card. An award-wining writer and gifted storyteller, Card has a talent for writing wonderful novels with believable characters, solid plots, and, ultimately, positive messages.
But itâ€™s more than Cardâ€™s ability to write well-crafted, entertaining novels that make him one of my heroes. What I really admire about Card is his dedication to his family and how seriously he takes his role as a father.
I was reminded of this after reading a column he wrote for The Rhinoceros Times. Card, who has been teaching at Southern Virginia University for the last two years, gave a final exam to the students in his Contemporary American Novel course. He asked his students to compare the American culture depicted in novels they had read to their own experiences with American culture.
As Card read the essays, one of the themes he found throughout them was the comments about decisions the studentsâ€™ parents made. For example, some fathers had taken lower paying jobs so they could raise their kids in a small community rather than a large city. Some mothers made the decision to stay at home. Other parents had made decisions to move their families to more family friendly neighborhoods instead of more affluent ones. Many rearranged their lives or made other sacrifices so that at least one parent could be at home and that the children had easy access to both parents.
Reading about the decisions these parents made forced Card to re-examine the decisions he was making as a father. Card wrote:
What was I doing, driving three hours each way to teach at a university? I would leave on Tuesday morning and not be home till late Thursday night. I still have a newly teenaged daughter at home.
What message was I giving her, compared to the message these other parents had given their children?
Wasn’t the message: “Being a professor and getting to do cool stuff at a university is so important to me that I will miss 3/7 of your remaining years at home”?
In other words, I was saying: “Other people’s children are more important to me than you are.”
I had thought that I was doing something quite noble and wonderful — and, in the long view, it’s hard to think of a nobler and more wonderful profession than teaching.
But most parents who absent themselves from their children’s lives believe they’re doing something noble and wonderful.
Until I read about what my students’ parents had done for them, I couldn’t see how I was not practicing what I preached.
Even as I told people in essays and speeches that the most important gift parents can give their children is their physical presence in a loving home, I was going off to another city three days a week — and I couldn’t even pretend I had to do it for money, because that isn’t how I made my living.
Then Card announced his decision to stop teaching â€“ for now anyway. Once his youngest child is in college, heâ€™ll consider going back to the roll of mentor. In the meantime heâ€™s rededicating himself to a career as a father with everything else relegated to the status of a job or hobby.
Reading Cardâ€™s column a week before Fatherâ€™s Day, struck a chord with me. As a father of three young kids, it made me consider how Iâ€™m doing as a father.
Am I spending as much time as possible with my kids or am I filling my time after work with â€œmore importantâ€ things like checking e-mail or other activities that can really wait until the kids go to bed? If I come home from work tired and frustrated, am I taking my frustration out on the kids? In short, what kind of example am I being to them? Am I showing them that theyâ€™re important to me and that I value my time with them?
Iâ€™m far from being a perfect father. Iâ€™m still learning how to control my temper when my boys spill flour or frozen vegetables when Iâ€™m cooking dinner. And I could probably do a better job of paying attention to my six-month-old daughter when she coos at me late at night when sheâ€™s sitting next to me as I work on my next book.
But Iâ€™m doing something right â€“ at least I think I am. I think Iâ€™m doing a reasonably good job of not only spending free time after work with them but taking an interest and being involved in their activities.
After my three-year-old goes to bed, I sit next to him and talk with him about whateverâ€™s on his mind. Usually these talks evolve into some sort of tickle game but I know those five to ten minutes together are his favorite part of the day and the part he always makes sure Iâ€™m going to do as I help him get ready for bed.
Because the practice proved successful with my three year old, I started spending a few minutes with my 19-month-old son after he goes to bed. Even though heâ€™s not as excited about it as his older brother about his alone time with dad, his eyes do light up when I enter his room, sit next to him in bed, and talk.
Hopefully Iâ€™m not just paying lip service to the importance of fathers but showing my children that they are important enough to me that can put some things aside and focus on them.
Fatherâ€™s Day is a great day to recognize the important roll of fathers and the influence theyâ€™ve had on our lives. But itâ€™s also a good time for fathers to pause for a moment and make sure theyâ€™re not only giving their children a loving home to live in, but their time and presence too.
Thank you, Mr. Card, for reminding all fathers everywhere what our real focus should be and for not just mouthing the words of a hero but acting like one too.
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This essay was originally published on FreeCapitalist.com. You can read all of Abel’s FreeCapitalist essays here.
June 15th, 2007
Congratulations to Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers for pitching a no hitter last night against the Milwaukee Brewers. Put that achievement next to your Rookie of the Year trophy.
Iâ€™m telling you that Tiger pitching staff is good. If they return to the World Series, itâ€™s going to be on the strong arms of Verlander and others.
I can almost see myself watching baseball this October again.
I pleasantly surprised that my book purge was so well received. I had five requests for Skinny Dip and three for Sheâ€™s Come Undone. The book of short stories by Matthew Iribarne is still available if anyone wants it.
The giveaway went well enough that Iâ€™ll be doing it again in the near future. Iâ€™d much rather give books a loving home than send them to the landfill or thrift store. Look for me to offer more books before the summer is out.
Update: The Matthew Iribarne book has found a loving home.
June 13th, 2007
Â Iâ€™ve admitted that I have a hard time throwing books away. However, I donâ€™t have a hard time giving books away. In fact I like it when books find a good home.
I bring this up because Iâ€™m going through a bookshelf purge. This happens a couple times a year when my bookshelves become so full of new books that I have to find a home for some of the ones I havenâ€™t read in awhile, have two or more copies of, and/or no longer have an interest in having them on my shelves.
Instead of donating these books to a local thrift store, I thought Iâ€™d see if any of you are interested in them. I thought Iâ€™d start with three books and see how they were received. If the program proves to be popular I may add a couple more books next week.
The three books Iâ€™m giving away are the following:
- Skinny Dip (Hardcover) by Carl Hiaasen. This was the first book I read by Hiassen and I must admit it was a quick, fun read. Looking forward to reading more of his work.
- Astronauts & Other Stories (Hardcover) by Matthew Iribarne. This book is a collection of short stories. I actually blogged about one of the stories in this book many years ago. I had a love-hate relationship with his work. I either really liked his stories or really hated them.
- Sheâ€™s Come Undone (paperback) by Wally Lamb. I had a hard time with this book. Too depressing for my tastes. Good story though, once I made my way through it.
Update:Â Skinny Dip and She’s Come Undone have been spoken for.
If you would like one of the above books, please read the following rules:
- You have to send me an e-mail stating which book you would like. Donâ€™t email any shipping info. Iâ€™ll email you back and let you know if youâ€™ll be received the book. At that point you can send me a mailing address.
- You can only request one book. No fair asking for all three. However, if you first choice is already taken, you can e-mail me again and request another.
- Books are sent out on a first come, first serve basis. So if youâ€™re the first one to e-mail me about one of the above books, youâ€™ll get it.
- Iâ€™ll mail the books anywhere in the world. However, if you live outside of the United States or Canada I might have to slow boat the books to your country if shipping them first class is too expensive. Youâ€™ll still get the book, it just might take awhile for it to arrive.
- I reserve the right to add more rules at any time and without notice.
If youâ€™re still reading and want one of the above books, what are you waiting for? Send me an email!
June 12th, 2007
About 10 days ago Marathon Girl paid a visit to a very good sports medicine doctorâ€“ one that sheâ€™s seen since high school â€“ to see why her leg was hurting so much when she ran.
The verdict wasnâ€™t great: She has a stress fracture in her fibula.
The good news was that the injury was healing and should be completely healed before the end of June. The doctor also said she could run the dam marathon without risking further iinjury to her fibula butÂ she’d probably have to run itÂ very slow and with a lot of pain.
Needless to say Marathon Girl was heartbroken at the prospect of not running a marathon fast. Sheâ€™s been training very hard since Molly was born and was really looking forward to competing again. She loves running so much and itâ€™s hard for her when she canâ€™t do it.
Since the diagnosis, Marathon Girl has been doing her best to stay in shape without running. Sheâ€™s been swimming like a madwoman at the local pool. (The swimming has had some nice side benifits — for me anyway. Itâ€™s added some very nice tone and definition to her arms and shoulders that I find very sexy.)
Her leg is feeling tons better since she hasnâ€™t been running on it. Should all go well, sheâ€™s going toÂ train forÂ the Deseret News Marathon on July 24. This should still give her plenty of time enough time to adequately train for the St. George Marathon in October.
Despite her inability to run the marathon this weekend, we’re still heading to Idaho for a much wanted and needed vacation. The dam marathon, however, wonâ€™t be part of it.
Note: The above image is not an x-ray of Marathon Girl’s fibual. Marathon Girl’s fibulas are much sexier.
June 7th, 2007
Iâ€™m probably one of the few people who actually like Londonâ€™s new 2012 Olympic logo. Admittedly, the first time I read about it, my thought was â€œWhat theâ€¦.?â€ But I have to admit itâ€™s grown on me. Itâ€™s a bold new step in Olympic logo design and more interesting than the Chinaâ€™s 2008 Olympic logo and Vancouverâ€™s 2010 logo. This isnâ€™t to say the logos for 2008 and 2010 games arenâ€™t interesting. But theyâ€™re really just a repeat of what most Olympics have done for awhile: colorful logos in an eye-friendly pattern or some cute design.
Boring. Boring. Boring. It’s like you stretched out the Olympic rings. What did that take you? Two mintues?
Isnt’ that cute. I bet the dolls based on that logo will be a big hit.
And Londonâ€™s logo is vastly superior to Salt Lakeâ€™s Olympic Logo which I thought was dumb and boring the first time I saw it. (Then I had to see it every day for many years until the Olympics came and went. It was like a living hell only with snow every six months or so.)
Maybe the more standard Olympic designs sell a lot of t-shirts (or stuffed animals) but people will get sick of it once the games are over and they realize how uninteresting and unimaginative it really is.
So my hatâ€™s off Londonâ€™s edgy design and their attempt to make something that people might appreciate years after the games are over. And it was a good idea to have the logo come in four different colors. (I’m a fan of all of them except the pink one.) May it last well past the 2012 games and influence Olympic logo design for the next 20 years.
Update: ChicagoJo pointed out that Chicago has a very cool logo for it’s 2016 summer games bid. I do like it better than London’s logo. See image below.
June 5th, 2007
I think Aidan was under the impression that the carnival in the park across the street would stay forever. He and Steven had a great time Friday night riding the rides and looking at all the people and lights. They didnâ€™t want to go home.
After church yesterday I found Aidan staring out his bedroom window with a long look on his face as he watched the carnies dismantle the rides.
Aidan: Why are they breaking it?
Me: There taking them down so boys in other towns can ride them.
Aidan (voice full of hope): Maybe theyâ€™re making it bigger!
Me: No, theyâ€™re packing them up. Theyâ€™ll be back next year.
Aidan: Next year?
Me: Yeah, next summer. Theyâ€™ll come back and we can ride on them again.
Aidan: Why canâ€™t they stay for this summer?
Me (quoting from Madeline and the Gypsies â€“ one of Aidanâ€™s favorite books): Gypsies do not like to stay. They only come to go away.
Aidan: But theyâ€™re coming back, right?
Me: Yes. Next year.
Aidan (smiles): Okay. Letâ€™s go read books Daddy!
[Aidan takes my hand and walks me to the bookshelves where we spend the next 30 minutes reading.]
June 4th, 2007
Well, this sucks. Nothing Good About Grief has stopped blogging. And she was one of my favorites reads.
I understand and respect her decision. I made the same decisionÂ many years ago and forÂ similar reasons.Â However, I did come back later and started blogging about my new life.Â (Hint, hint.)
If you ever start blogging again, Lisa, let me know. I’d love to read it.
June 4th, 2007
Q: Itâ€™s been forever since youâ€™ve blogged about the Detroit Tigers. Are you still a fan even after their disappointing World Series loss last October?
A: Of course! I still follow the Tigers and will always be a fan.
Q: Then how come you havenâ€™t blogged about them recently.
A: I only have so much time to blog and just havenâ€™t had much time to write about them yet.
Q: So whatâ€™s your opinion of this yearâ€™s team?
A: Theyâ€™ve been inconsistent. I man they take a series from division leading Angels, then get swept by the Indians and lose a series to the Devil Rays of all teams. Iâ€™m glad they have a winning record but they donâ€™t seem to be playing quite to the level they were last year. They shouldnâ€™t have any problems with a team like Tampa Bay.
Q: Do you think theyâ€™ll make the playoffs?
A: Yes, but mostly because teams like the Yankees that are a usual playoff lock are faltering. (Ha ha ha!) Also the Indians seem to be
Q: Whatâ€™s the weakest part of their team?
A: Middle relief. Their starters are solid and Todd Jones can be counted on to close out the game. Itâ€™s what happens between where the problems begin.
Q: Will you blog about them more in the future?
A: Count on it.
Q: Youâ€™ve never given us an update about Marathon Girlâ€™s injury. Is she still running The Dam Marathon?
A: That has nothing to do with the Tigers. And, yes, I do have an update on her injury but canâ€™t write about it quite yet. Look for an update early next week.
June 1st, 2007