Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why Yes, I'll Take An Extra Second!

Congratulations! On July 1, 2015, you will live for one second longer. Why, you ask? Because we'll be experiencing not a leap year, but a leap second.

Surely, you're scratching your head at this point. I'll explain.

As the Earth rotates on its axis, we mark a day as one complete revolution. In twenty-four hours, the Sun will make one lap through our sky. Though, it's not exactly twenty-four hours. In the early 1900's, astronomers determined that a day was a fraction off from being exactly twenty-four hours long. This is due to the rotation of our planet not being completely constant. Various factors drag upon the spin of Earth. Overall, our planet's rotation is slowing down, second by second. A chief influence upon Earth is our own moon, which pulls upon us with tidal forces. Other natural events, like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, shift us off the rotational axis in very minuscule, but noticeable amounts.

Thereby, our days because shorter in a mathematical sense. If we didn't insert a leap second, over time the day would become warped and not match current measurement standards.

Surprisingly, this isn't the first time a leap second has been used. Since 1972, we've had twenty-five other instances of the leap second being inserted. More than likely, you won't notice the added second at all. Your day will continue on as planned, not being affected in the slightest. This doesn't hold true for computers and network systems, where an extra second can wreak havoc. When the last leap second was employed in 2012, it caused airline problems and sent many popular websites offline temporarily.

I find it amazing how one second can have so much power, yet never be noticed. Perhaps the next time you glance down at your watch, you'll reconsider how important a second really is.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What To Do With The Wii U.

By any decent measure, the Nintendo Wii U console has not been a success. As of this writing, the Wii U has moved 9.5 million units since being released in November of 2012. It holds the title of being Nintendo's slowest-selling console ever -- even worse than the now praised Gamecube. In the Wii U's short, less than three-year lifespan, it has failed to generate any major buzz with gamers outside of a few franchise titles -- Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. to be specific. There's Star Fox Zero on the horizon, along with the highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda... but the next adventure in Hyrule is a year away and may not even be a Wii U exclusive. Rumor has it that The Legend of Zelda will be released around the same time or after the next Nintendo console, tentatively called the 'NX' -- it may see a dual release, just as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess did for both the Wii and the Gamecube.

In short, the Wii U is about to reach the end of its short life.

Dedicated third party game support has long since abandoned the Wii U. Publishing giants like Electronic Arts, Bethesda Software and Ubisoft ceased software support in 2013. As the release schedule for new Wii U games has dwindled to a trickle, many Nintendo fans are questioning where the company is headed. Some suggest that Nintendo should become a software-only publisher and exit the console arena. Sega went this route in 2001 when they put their last console, the Dreamcast, to rest. Let me be clear -- I do NOT want this to happen.

The Nintendo NX console, or whatever it may actually be called upon release, is already in active development and will probably be available at retail in 2016. Word has it that third party publishers are much more positive about the upcoming console and what it has to offer. Many fans, myself included, are hoping that the NX will finally put Nintendo in the same league as the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation -- more powerful, nimble and with an increased focus on third party development.

So where does that leave the now wilting on the vine Wii U?

Honestly, the current Nintendo console is in quite the predicament. Most video game players are aware of Nintendo's upcoming NX console, leaving them little incentive to purchase the Wii U if they haven't already done so. I fall into this category. For some time, I've been on the fence about purchasing the Wii U. There are some great games available for the system, but they are so few in number. Of those games, they're nearly all in-house Nintendo legacy franchise titles -- the only exception being the awesome LEGO series of licensed games published by Traveller's Tales. The biggest roadblock in my eyes is the price of the console. The Wii U typically costs in excess of $300 in the United States. For a console that's obviously nearing the end of its retail life, that's just too high. Consider the Sony Playstation 2, which cut its price to just $199 many months before the release of the Playstation 3.

The Sony Playstation 3 - nine years old and eight times more successful than the Nintendo Wii U.

Ironically, I've considered purchasing a Playstation 3 instead of the Wii U. The PS3 is cheaper, has a larger game library and is still receiving software support from publishers a whopping nine years after its initial release. That's shocking! At 77 million units sold, the PS3 is a certified success.

In my opinion, the only way Nintendo can save any face with the Wii U is to drastically lower the price and flood as many units as possible into the market. They need to move a high volume and extinguish their lingering Wii U console supply. Obviously, they won't make any money on the Wii U by doing so, but they'll reap the rewards on the back-end when new Wii U owners purchase Nintendo-published software titles. A fire sale is the only way Nintendo can recoup some of its losses on the Wii U. They need to put the Wii U to rest and double-down on the upcoming NX.

Otherwise, Nintendo may just go the Sega route.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Armadillos Rock!

Tonight's regularly scheduled program will not be seen. In it's place, I present to you the funniest and cutest videos of armadillos that I could find. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gnome-where Left To Hide.

It was a dark and stormy night...

Yeah, that's the actual opening to this story. You see, I live in the land of total make believe. I drive a rainbow-farting unicorn to work every morning. My job? Making golden Easter eggs and hiding them under the pillows of good little boys and girls all over the globe. My next door neighbor is Bigfoot and Santa Claus coaches my son's little league team. I have no idea how the hell I got here, or who brought me. One minute I was flipping pancakes at the Waffle House. The next... well, my feet were dangling in a river of marshmallows and a purple cat was licking my face.

Leap ahead ten years...

I married the Sugarplum Fairy and she hooked me up with this cool job at the egg factory. In that time, we received two deliveries from a stork. One was my son -- a half dolphin, half tomato hybrid named Felicio. The other special package was our daughter -- a genie named Glendaria with three legs. Unfortunately, she can only grant wishes for gophers. Boy, let me tell you... gophers are into some kinky, disgusting crap.

As I was saying... my gingerbread house shook terribly. Thunderous cloud booms erupted from the pink sky above. As the fluffy cotton clouds shattered like peppermints hitting concrete, tiny drops of licorice struck the roof. Candy has never been so terrifying. Reaching for my blanket of woven yak hair, I curled against my couch and closed my eyes. Another skyboom, then another... and another! Sweet treats were surely filling my gutters by now. You haven't lived until you have used a toilet plunger to unclog your water spouts.

My family was away from home visiting their relatives in Neverland. Being alone for two weeks with nothing but your pet lawn gnome to keep you company is enough to drive you mad.

Wait... am I already mad? Or will I be mad at some point in the future? Am I so mad that I've worked my way back to being sane? Or, it that just the madness talking?

Paddy the Gnome hopped on my lap. In his tiny, pathetic voice, he squeeked...

"Hey dirtbag, when are you going to change my water dish, you prick!"

The wife picked Paddy out at the local gnome mill. If it wasn't for her putting a curse on me, I'd shove a poker up Paddy's ass and roast him in the fireplace.

Rising from my seat, I floated into the kitchen on my hoverboard and poured some fresh water in the petite man-child's bowl. When he wasn't looking, I spit into it... just for good measure of course.

"Serves him right. Knick, knack, Paddy is WHACK!"

Unbeknownst to me, Paddy was watching from around the corner, toothbrush gripped fiercely in hand.

"Think you can poison me with your meatbag saliva? I've been waiting for this day for a long time."

Leaping with the power of six, no SEVEN jackalopes, Paddy landed squarely on my chest. His dirty claws sunk deep into my chest, hitting the sternum. I squelched in pain, not noticing the toothbrush he was about to shove...




Blinded... I was unable to see anything with my right eye. He'd maimed me in a way that no narwhal one night stand had ever before. My cries for relief went unheard. Sliding the blood-drenched toothbrush from my orbital, he quickly jabbed it into my left eye. Everything went dark. Shoving me to the floor, the tiny terror made short work of my neck, ripping and tearing at my throat. I could feel the life force oozing out of me, one momentous spurt at a time.

Squirt. Squirt. Squirt.

"You see... No one puts the lockdown on the Gnome King... you son a of a bitch. Say hello to that bastard Kraken in hell for me."


For once I was blind, but now I can see.

"I need a french toast with peach jam and three flapjacks, almost burnt. Two eggs sunny side up. Butter on the side!"

Marleen the waitress belched her order from the service window. Snapping back into reality, I noticed the spatula in my hand. Before me were all sorts of tasty breakfast items. They sizzled and popped with grace, beauty and perfection.

I was back home.

Taking the order to Marleen just a few minutes later, I happened to glance into the dining area. There, in the dimly lit back corner, was a small garden gnome. It stared at me with a fiery passion that I just couldn't seem to put my finger on.

Have I ever told you that I hate gnomes?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage.

Today was a monumental day for the LGBTQ community. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Same-Sex Marriage, thereby making it legal in all fifty states. Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the majority ruling, stating that...
"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
The majority decision in favor of Same-Sex marriage was backed chiefly by the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which was originally enacted in 1868 to provide equal rights to former slaves.

I honestly have little to say on this matter. The truth is simple, pure and straightforward. I'm pleased with the ruling and fully support equal rights for all citizens. For years, I've reiterated what the Supreme Court has now confirmed -- the Fourteenth Amendment is a powerful tool against bigotry and hatred. Though I may not be a homosexual, I can readily identify discrimination when I see it. If I were a homosexual, I would hope for my fellow citizens to recognize the struggle.

Today, the Supreme Court has done just that. For now, I choose to let actions speak louder than words.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

If Morons Want The Confederate Flag, Let Them Have It.

Good grief... it's amazing how much difference a few days can make in the modern digital age.

Pick one. Either you're an American, or you're a Confederate.

On Sunday, I reported on the recent Charleston Mass Shooting. In that article, I made clear my thoughts on the Confederate Flag. To reiterate my comments -- neither the federal government nor any state government should fly the Confederate Flag on public land. The only national flag that should be flown on government and public property is the American Flag. The Confederate Flag represents a sovereignty, the Confederate States of America, that has not existed since 1865. Hence, its flag should not fly on US Government property. It's simply a matter of formality, honor and common sense.

Leap ahead from Sunday to today. The Confederate Flag has become all but outlawed in the public arena.

Every time I read or watch the news, I see yet another example of the Confederate Flag being banned from sale or display. Retail giants like eBay, Amazon and Walmart have pulled items from their marketplace that bear the Rebel Flag. Apple has gone so far as to remove games that feature the flag, even though those games are historical Civil War simulations.

What worries me most about this knee-jerk reaction is that it doesn't actually fix the problem of racism. I'm disappointed, but not surprised, at how this Rebel Flag kerfuffle has unfolded over the past few days. Though I do not want the Rebel Flag to fly over public and government property, I don't want it to be banned outright, either. If someone wants to own a piece of property that bears the Confederate Flag, that is their right. Let me be clear -- I have no interest in the Confederate Flag at all. While I think the Rebel Flag is for the most part trashy and obscene, that doesn't mean I get to be the thought police. You'll never catch me driving a car with a Rebel Flag bumper sticker, nor trotting down the beach in a pair of Rebel Flag swimming trunks. It's just... tawdry. But, what someone chooses to like or dislike is their business -- as long as it isn't causing anyone else harm.

The South will not rise again.

Just so we're clear...

Rebel Flag on government property? Not okay.
Rebel Flag on private property? That your business.

If you want to stamp out racism, then it has to begin in the home. Children must be made aware of the outside world. They should have equal access to a broad education. Parents must change their outdated views on race, facing the challenges of a cohesive global society head on. Most importantly, we must teach children not to live a life based upon fear. Fear gives birth to racism.

Much of this negative response has actually lead to the erasure of the Confederate Flag in a purely historical context. Unfortunately, you can't change the past. What happened can not be rewritten. For five years, Americans were split based upon slavery, personal ideals and commerce. Some states chose to band together as the Confederate States of America and start their own country. The Confederacy was represented by the Rebel Flag. That's fact. No matter how wrong the Confederates were in their positions, we can not make that dark aspect of our national past just disappear. To treat the Confederate Flag as if it doesn't exist devalues the courage of the men and women whom fought to rejoin our nation. It also discredits the enslaved Africans whom died trying to survive in a climate of hatred and dehumanization.

The Confederate Flag can be shown in a historical context without glorifying what it represents. This holds true for the flags of all murderous regimes, despots and dictators.

We can't surgically remove the Nazi Flag from existence. Nor can we make the Flags of North Korea or Lenin-era Soviet Union vanish. The Confederate Flag symbolizes another open wound in the long and tumultuous history of humanity. Yet, as long as the Rebel Flag is withheld from public property, then let the People do with it as they wish in their own homes. It's just a matter of personal liberty. Certainly, I wouldn't advise anyone to fly a Rebel Flag on their property, but I nor anyone else has much say in the matter. Your property and your personal preferences are your business.

If these morons want to waive their Rebel Flags, that's their problem.

Look at it this way -- allowing people to sport their Rebel Flag makes it a whole lot easier to identify actual racists. Not all who love the Confederate Flag are racists, but all racists sure do seem to love the Confederate Flag.

As if the white robes didn't make these racist assholes easy enough to see, 'X'  literally marks the spot!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy Birthday Crystal!

Today is a very special day -- it's my better half Crystal's birthday!

She's 29 years old -- forever! And don't you forget it. As per her usual request, her birthday meal is always kabobs. They came out quite tasty, consisting of steak, green peppers, pineapple, squash, tomatoes and mushrooms (for me). We also enjoyed some sliced squash bulbs with butter and garlic. Oh boy, was it tasty.

In lieu of a birthday cake, Crystal asked for a pumpkin pie. Who am I to argue? We'll chow down on the pie momentarily.

Also, as a side note, you'll notice how tall the sunflower near our grill has grown. As of my last update, it was about eight feet tall. Today, it's roughly twelve feet. Many small flower heads have appeared along the length of the stalk, but no main flower head has sprouted at the top yet. It seems the sunflower will continue to grow taller and taller. Maybe we've got a world record going here... I'm just not sure.

Everyone be sure to tell Crystal Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Country French Dressing Is a Lie!

If there's one thing that really pisses me off...

It's that people do not seem to understand the difference between French Dressing and Catalina Dressing.

Ahhhh... it drives me insane.

When I order a salad from a restaurant, I'll always ask what dressings they have. More often than not, they'll claim to have French Dressing, which I prefer over Ranch or Italian. Yet, when I receive my salad, the French Dressing is never actually French; it's Catalina!

How in the hell can you not tell the difference? They look different and taste different!

I believe the source of the problem is that French Dressing has experienced an identity crisis here in America. As if Catalina were too difficult to pronounce, it's been rebranded as "Country French" Dressing. Thereby, genuine French Dressing has taken on the moniker of "Creamy French". What the hell? When you visit a restaurant, most nudniks fail to understand that there are two versions of French (even though there's really only one). Thereby, they accidentally use the Country French Dressing (aka Catalina) thinking it's French Dressing -- which it clearly is not.

This is French Dressing.

This is Catalina Dressing.

See the difference?

What you've been eating as Country French is really Catalina. If I ask for French, I don't want Catalina. What is so hard to understand?! Catalina Dressing, or "Country French", tastes like crap.

Okay, my salad dressing rant is over. Thanks for listening.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

In the pursuit of trying new things and broadening my horizons, I did something today that I've never, ever done before.

I cut my hair really, really short.

Not once in the entirety of my life have I ever buzzed my hair -- not even when I was a kid. My hair has always been kept longer. Being a red head, I take pride in my luscious locks!

Today, I said screw it... let's cut my hair off and see what I look like underneath. The weather is extremely hot and I hardly ever see anyone, so why the hell not?

Here I am before I cut it all off...

Without further ado, here I am with my hair buzzed down short...

The first thing I noticed after cutting my hair short was how much my brother Joshua and I look alike. He usually keeps his hair short like this. Wow... if I didn't have such a big head, we'd look even more similar. Secondly, it was very liberating. I don't feel so hot and I can easily put a hat on and off. Third, I can tell where my hair has gotten slightly thinner towards the front of my scalp. Not too thin, but I can see a difference. I guess that's what happens when you get older. Finally, I noticed that some of the hair that was cut off had solid white strands in it. Again, a sign that I'm getting older. It doesn't bother me actually.

So, what do you think? Does short hair make me look younger? Cooler? Sexier? (Say yes to all three, hah!)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Racism, Guns and the Confederacy.

In the wake of the Charleston Mass Shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church allegedly (I use this term purely for legal protection) carried out by Dylann Roof, there has been a broad public discussion about many interlinking subjects.
  • Do we still live in a time of racism?
  • Should guns be banned?
  • Does the assailant represent a larger consensus?
  • Should the Confederate Flag be removed from all government facilities that currently display it?
These are all valid points of discussion, to which I'd like to comment. This attack and the revelations proceeding it unfolded while I was away from home. Here, for the first time, I'll state my case on the matter.

Do we still live in a time of racism?

A segregated drinking fountain, common before the Civil Rights Act.

Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. Anyone that claims we now live in a post-racial society is either willfully ignorant, politically motivated or simply naive. In my humble opinion, we exist in the greatest time of racial divide since the Civil Rights Era of the 1950's and 1960's. I live my life by a standard that all people are the same -- there is no such thing as white, black, yellow, brown or any skin color in between. Yet, many people do not. This holds especially true for individuals that believe their country is being taken away from them by minorities. Fear is the greatest generator of divisive racial propaganda. Fear breeds distrust between people whom live within the same community. Fear begets racism.

Should guns be banned?

A large gun expo recently held in Pittsburgh, PA by the National Rifle Association.

This is a delicate matter, one that men much more accomplished than myself have attempted to solve for decades on end. Firearms are a fluid notion -- they can be a tool, a means for self defense or a weapon. In the hands of a game hunter, a firearm is a tool. In the hands of a responsible citizen, a firearm provides security against violent aggressors. In the hands of an irresponsible deviant, a firearm suddenly becomes a weapon. How do you insure that firearms stay out of the hands of the reckless? There's no method which can 100% guarantee that guns are kept out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable (short of destroying all guns, but that's a Utopian ideal most people won't even consider). In studying this matter, I've come to two conclusions.
  • End the inflated American gun culture, where firearms are idolized.
  • Make obtaining a firearm more difficult, much like earning a specialized license. Strenuous background checks simply aren't enough.
When it comes to swiftly delivering death, firearms are really great at that. Hence, why are they not revered and looked upon with caution? Firearms certainly aren't something everyone should own. The more Americans that have uncomplicated access to firearms, the easier it is for incidents like the one in Charleston to occur. Many proponents of firearm proliferation would say that the church goers whom were murdered might still be alive had they been carrying a pistol of their own. To that I would say...

We should be able to live in a world where we don't have to carry instruments of death everywhere we go.

Does the assailant represent a larger consensus?

A group of Ku Klux Klan members burn a cross in Florida during the early 1970's.
There was a time when racists didn't need to hide in plain sight. At least you could see them. Today, they covertly live and work among us.
Image Credit -- State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/134613

Yes, just in varying degrees. The vast majority of those that hold contempt and anger for people not of their own skin color would never carry out such a violent act. That's the scary part, though. While said racists won't go through with shooting unarmed citizens, they will let their bigotry influence other more far-reaching aspects of their life. The most influential and dangerous racist is the one whom hides in plain sight, never letting on to their biased agenda. This represents the largest contingent of racists in the United States -- they're your neighbors, your friends, your family, your political leaders, your clergymen, your farmers, your bankers; I could go on and on. You probably already know quite a few racists without even realizing it.

Should the Confederate Flag be removed from all government facilities that currently display it?

The Confederate Flag still flies outside the South Carolina Statehouse.

Absolutely, this is a no-brainer. First and foremost, any and all government facilities within the United States should fly only one national flag -- the Star-Spangled Banner. State government facilities can and should also display their own respective banners. The Confederate Flag represents a republic of states, the Confederacy, that failed to thrive. Existing a meager five years, the Confederate States of America is a long dead construct. To fly the flag of a nation that no longer exists on publicly held grounds is absurd, much less disrespectful. Say what you will about the motivations of the Confederacy, but the Rebel Flag largely reflects a culture of oppression, segregation, ignorance and poverty. I fully realize that not all whom wear the Rebel Flag today are racists. In fact, the vast majority of those that celebrate the former Confederacy do so because of their deep admiration for Southern culture. Though, it's obviously ingenuous to turn a blind eye to how most other Americans (non-Southerners, minorities) view the Rebel Flag -- especially those whom would have been persecuted under it. If you're going to display the flag of the Confederacy, don't be shocked when others automatically assume you're a racist. It's just common sense.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


"Nothing ruins a good barbecue quite like the rain."

Orla Grannath had a knack for packaging reality into these neat little pieces of wit. Just as she had always done, Orla comforted her best friend Sonya over her last breakup. Never one to keep a boyfriend for longer than six months, Sonya had a distinct knack of her own -- picking losers to date.

"Perhaps you need to lay off the dating scene for a bit. Traveling would be good for you. We've never been to Hawaii."

The wonderful weather, kind people and awesome cuisine of Hawaii was enough to grab Sonya's attention. Yet again, Orla had spun a keen method of recovery for her wounded friend.

"You know... you might be right Orla. I'd be so lost without you."

"Nonsense," said Orla. "You'd do just fine on your own. I just got lucky enough to be your best friend."

With a smile and a nod, Orla opened the passenger door of Sonya's car. They'd often meet at the San Felice Cafe for their impeccable Stromboli. Parking on the street was limited in front of the restaurant, but they caught a break today. Shutting the vehicle door, Orla leaned through the open window and reassured her best friend one last time.

"I'll see you on Tuesday for coffee. Get back out there and conquer the world... and to hell with men!"

Sonya chuckled and squeezed her friend's hand.

"Thanks, girl. I owe you.. again."

"Don't mention it."

Orla backed away from the passenger side window and waved. It would prove to be her very last living moment. In an instant, a local television news van lost control and veered into the side of Sonya's car. With no idea of what just hit her, Orla suddenly found herself pinned to her friend's car. Shrieking in horror, Sonya watched as the life in Orla's eyes went dim, then vanished.

The one constant in Sonya's life was gone.


Orla's death came and went in a flash. Sonya, still heartbroken, couldn't find the strength to attend the funeral. She sat motionless, staring at her ceiling. The weeks following her friend's death had taken a severe toll on Sonya. Floating through her daily existence, it took everything Sonya had inside just to make it through the day.

Emerging from the dark crypt that had become her bedroom, Sonya trotted into her kitchen for coffee.

"Coffee... we met on Tuesdays for coffee."

With a hot mug in hand, Sonya retreated for her bedroom once more. Placing the cup on her nightstand, she sat on the edge of her bed and sobbed. Glancing forwards, she noticed her old high school year books lining a shelf. Reaching for her senior year edition, she flipped through and stared at the photos from her and Orla's youth. They played softball together, performed in drama class, painted murals for the local library. Staring at the various autographs and notes scribbled throughout, she noticed for the first time a tiny number written next to Orla's senior portait.


What did it mean? Who put that there?

Frantically flipping through the pages and running purely on intuition, Sonya landed on page 49. She noticed that one of the corners had been flipped over. Lifting the edge with her thumb, Sonya read...

"Friends are like constellations in the night sky. No matter how far apart the stars may be, they are always together. -- O."

When sunset flows into golden glows,
     And the breath of the night is new,
Love finds afar eve's eager star—
     That is my thought of you.
-- Robert Underwood Johnson, Poems [1902]

Friday, June 19, 2015

Notes From The Road, Part II

Hello everyone! I'm still traveling and away from home. I spent this morning in the company of horses and shoveling their manure.

No, literally... I was shoveling horse manure.

This definitely wasn't a bad thing, though. It's a great workout and gives you a sense of accomplishment. After that, I visited with more family, then promptly took a satisfying swim. The heat has been unbearable recently, so the swim was really pleasant.

As of now, I'm spending the evening with my brother. Beers have been ingested. Steaks have been eaten. Oh, what a wonderful day.

Yours from the road,


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Notes From The Road, Part I

Hello readers,

I'm away from home visiting with family today. It's quite nice to step away from the sun-baked piedmont of North Carolina and visit... well, the sun-baked tidewater region of Virginia. I got to see plenty of turkeys and chickens today, as well as some sheep and goats. Spending time with farm animals is relaxing, honestly. They don't demand anything from you, other than food and petting, of course. If only the same could be said of most people.

Tomorrow, I'll be traveling north towards Richmond to visit with more family. In the recent visits I've taken to the River City, I have noticed how many areas are experiencing a degree of revitalization. Good for Richmond, I say.

Writing to you from the road,


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jurassic World Review - Plenty of Dinosaurs, Too Many People.

The following is a spoiler-free review of Jurassic World. I will allude to certain events without directly detailing them. You read at your own risk.

Here fishy, fishy, fishy.

I sat down to watch the fairly streamlined two hour summer blockbuster that is Jurassic World yesterday. I've had a reasonable amount of eagerness to see the film -- I'm a lifelong nut for dinosaurs. Certainly, I didn't expect the film to surpass the magic of the original Jurassic Park, but I did expect it to quench my dino-thirst.

It certainly did that, though... there just seemed to be a few too many characters involved in the plot.

Less people, more dinosaurs -- that's an equation that always works.

What did I like about Jurassic World?

First off, I appreciate the diverse range of dinosaurs presented in the film. That's probably the biggest issue I had with previous movies in the Jurassic Park series. I can only look at a Tyrannosaurus rex or a Velociraptor so many times before I feel like I'm being beaten over the head with them. It has become blatantly obvious that those are the two favorite dinosaurs of the franchise stewards. When in doubt, add more raptors! I don't think this always works, considering how one-dimensional the raptors have been presented in the past. With Jurassic World, at least the raptors get some actual character development. I can respect that! Also, I finally saw an ankylosaurus on film. Hurrah, my favorite dinosaur!

I really hate these 3-D jigsaw puzzles.

I did like lead star Chris Pratt in this film. His charming character Owen Grady basically shepherds the plot along from point A to point B. He's the audience's tour guide, channeling the viewers through the rip-roaring events of the movie. There's just something likable about Pratt -- he's a modern day Tom Selleck or Harrison Ford. The classic archetype of a strong yet humble, funny yet dangerous alpha male is something cinema has portrayed since the silent era. Pratt is another prime example. He'll have a long and successful film career, barring any personal catastrophes. Kudos to Mr. Pratt. We're certainly all eager to see him in his next film, as well as in the obvious Jurassic World sequel that'll be coming in the future (Jurassic Wars?).

There are scenes of violence in this film, but I was very thankful in how they were presented. I am not a fan of gore in movies, simply because it makes me uncomfortable. There is some human-munching that takes place, but it's filmed in such a way that you don't actually see it. There are lots of cutaways and scenes of blood being splattered on windows. Jurassic World smartly leaves the violent horror to the viewer's imagination.

Finally, I liked the ending sequence. I won't give away any details, but it's a jarring spectacle that reminded me of the best entries in the long-running Godzilla series. This was a titanic tussle that won't soon be forgotten. I'm usually a fan of practical special effects being used in movies, but there's some fantastic CGI employed here (and throughout the film, for that matter) that looks extremely real.

So... what didn't I like about Jurassic World?

There were way too many characters in this movie. Maybe it's because the theme park was fully operational and loaded with guests; I'm not quite sure. Many of the secondary characters simply didn't serve a purpose other than to be eventually turned into a dinosaur's lunch. Other characters had a handful of lines, but even then not amounting to much of anything in importance.

Jake Johnson, of New Girl and Let's Be Cops fame, is severely under-used as tech operator Lowery Cruthers. As a source of comic relief, that man could make Lucifer giggle like a school girl. He needed more involvement in the plot, that's for damn sure. Perhaps we'll see him in a sequel (that's a hint to the producers -- put him in the eventual sequel!).

I'm going as Ellen Ripley for Halloween.

Of course, much of the plot involves finding two teenage boys lost in the park. I found this to be the most boring aspect of the movie. They were painfully employed as MacGuffins. Jurassic World could have easily existed without their presence in the movie. In pursuit of these two boys is their aunt, portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard. She stars as Claire Dearing, the operations director of the Jurassic World theme park. What annoyed me the most about her character was her total abandonment of her position and inability to lead any sort of reasonable evacuation operation. It'll make you wonder how she got the job in the first place. That's not to say I didn't like her character as a whole, but the leaps in her personality didn't make much sense to me.

Troubling to me was some of the portrayals of the dinosaurs, specifically in how they would have looked or acted. I can't say much here without spoiling plot points, but you'll notice it throughout the movie. The dino science involved was a little wonky, to say the least.

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

Overall, I liked Jurassic World. It's great to see the Jurassic Park franchise, which sat unused for far too many years, continue on. The ending leaves open so many possibilities for future iterations in the series. I can easily imagine a sequel being similar to the old Dino Riders toy series (you '80s kids out there will immediately know what I'm talking about). The movie isn't perfect, but I didn't expect it to be. It's basically a flick about dinosaurs breaking out of a zoo -- so perfect never enters into the equation. There are worse ways to spend two hours at a cineplex. Parents -- you should be able to take your children to Jurassic World without them being scared too much. The on-screen violence is minimal.

Jurassic World gets the Jared Unzipped Seal of Approval!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rachel Dolezal and the Meaning of Racial Labels in America.

There's a great deal of furor over Rachel Dolezal, the now former President of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Though born to parents whom identify themselves as Caucasian, Rachel has presented herself as an African-American for some time now. Because of the outrage presented through the national media and via the internet, many have called into question her ability to represent people of color and the NAACP organization.

This is absolutely ridiculous.

Honestly, I'm disgusted at how much press this incident has received. Someone whom has spent their entire life apparently devoted to racial equality has been lambasted because she didn't look how many would expect her to appear. Rachel is a graduate of Howard University, a historically black college. She completed her Masters degree in Fine Art in 2002. There is no doubt in my mind that Rachel cherishes racial equality. In my opinion, she has harmed no one and does not deserve the attention she has received.

That being said, this incident with Dolezal raises a much deeper, more thought provoking notion.

What qualifies someone as black?

Does being black look a certain way? Does it mean you wear your hair in an approved style? Does it mean you dress in a specific manner? Does it mean your skin has to be within a particular range of shades? Does it mean you talk with a certain dialect? Where do you draw the line on these issues?

Is this woman black?

How about this man. Is he black?

Is this couple black?

Is this child black?

Here's the point I'm trying to make -- race is just a superficial label that most people cling to. It provides an inherent sense of instant community, but it also divides us in ways that many would never even consider. In the case of Dolezal, she found comfort and support among other people whom also identify as African-American. She obviously loves the nuances and interests of that community. What's not to love? People of African-American descent have given so much to the United States. Without such people with a proud heritage, our nation would not exist. Thereby, Rachel chose to reflect those traits in her physical appearance. What Dolezal does with her body is her business. You, I, nor anyone else for that matter has any reason to object.

Oh, but you might say "Hey, she's not black. She can't just darken her skin and say she's African-American!"

Are these girls trying to be black?

Yeah? Well tell that to the millions of Americans whom visit tanning salons and use skin bronzer. People who identify as Caucasian have darkened their skin unnaturally for decades on end. Are those people trying to be black? Much less, let's flip this around. Many African-Americans have done their best to appear as light as possible. How many times have we seen one person accuse another of being "light-skinned" in a negative manner? Far too many, in my opinion. Are those people trying to be white?

You're not "white" because of what you look like.
You're not "black" because of what you look like.
You're whatever you choose to be at any given time, regardless of skin color, hair style, manner of dress or personality.

People are so much more complex than a silly color or community label.
As human beings, our deep ancestry can be traced to a mutual point. Africa is typically regarded by scientists as the starting point of the entire human race. Thereby, are we all not of African descent? Do we all not come from the same origin? We are all one big, seven-billion strong family of Homo sapiens.

At the end of this discussion, we have to really analyze what labeling yourself by race does. I don't support racial labels because there's no evidence that any of us are different. We are all the same, no matter where we were born or who our parents were. Many of you would look at me and say my race is Caucasian. You're wrong -- the only race I'm a member of is the HUMAN race. When I am asked my race on a form, I always mark 'mixed' or 'other'. I say we treat others with that same manner of respect, Rachel included.

Just be who you want to be... and to hell with what everyone else thinks.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trippin' Balls.

I didn't plan on being out so late this evening, thereby I wasn't able to finish the article I started much earlier in the day. You'll get that gem of an article tomorrow.

In the meantime, sit back and stare at this image for a few minutes. Completely lose yourself and relax. You'll be trippin' balls soon enough.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

There's No Such Thing as a Shark Attack!

News broke earlier today that two teenagers were severely bitten by a shark while swimming off the coast of Oak Island, North Carolina. Just last week, another teenager was bitten by a shark only a few miles away from today's incidents. While I certainly feel sorry for those children and wish for their speedy recovery, let's not get the facts twisted.

If you're swimming in the ocean, then you can't get "attacked" by a shark.

Expecting a shark not to bite at a potential food source is like expecting a crocodile not to eat a water buffalo -- it's ridiculous to think such a thing. A shark is a shark; all it can ever be is a shark. If it sees a defenseless creature swimming along the surface of the water, then its instinct is to prey upon it.

How do we combat against such unfortunate incidents?


Don't want to become a shark's lunch? Great -- stay out of the ocean. It's just common sense. The ocean is a realm filled with numerous predators; the shark is just one of many. When you enter that realm, you're willfully submitting to the whims of those predatory forces. Keep that in mind the next time you get riled up about a supposed shark "attack".

Getting senselessly assaulted by a mugger is an attack.

Getting shot by an enraged spouse is an attack.

Getting bitten by a shark is your own fault.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mr. Barstock Explores Online Dating.

Everyone knew that Norton Barstock was a man not to be trifled with. He killed two men with his bare hands on the eve of his brother's wedding six years ago. No charges were ever filed because the incident was deemed a case of self defense. Those two hellions jumped Norton coming out of a bar. While those men had it coming to them, there was still cause for concern when in Norton's company.

You see, Norton was never the same after that night. He had a tendency to get real angry. Televisions and chairs were common targets of abuse. His rage even left a giant hole in his front door one morning. Norton heaved a fire extinguisher through it after locking himself out. Don't ask how he put his hands on a fire extinguisher so quickly.

Norton was dangerous, to say the least.

While certainly one with a penchant for collateral damage, Mr. Barstock was not a solitary man. He definitely enjoyed the company of a lady. Unfortunately, his pool of potential dating candidates had gradually shrunk to nothing in the years since the deaths of those two men. In a moment of desperation, Norton Barstock did what any irritable, lonely man would do.

He set up an online dating profile.

After spending six weeks getting a near endless stream of rejections, Norton finally found a match in one Maureen Turtlebaum. She was a brunette, 5' 5" and worked as a mortuary assistant about an hour away. After going to dentistry school for a year, she dropped out to pursue other career opportunities. Her dating profile said that she liked cats, enjoyed classic horror movies and had four tattoos. A real treat of a lady, at least by modern standards. Oh, and not to be overlooked -- Maureen drove a fully restored hot pink 1973 AMC Gremlin. What a catch!

The initial meeting between Maureen and Norton was awkward. They exchanged pleasantries over a cup of coffee, then proceeded to play a few rounds of billiards at a local dive. Maureen was a surprisingly good shot and much more skillful than Norton. His patience was not made for games such as pool, but he kept a lid on the temper as best as he could.

After being beaten twice in a row, Norton tossed in the towel and gave up.

"Have another beer?"

Maureen slid the black, thick-framed glasses off her face for a moment, wiped them clean, then returned them to their previous position.

"Do wasps have wings?"

The cavalier debutante carefully slipped into a booth, as to not rip her skirt. When Norton returned with two drinks in hand, she gracefully accepted her brew. Before Norton had taken a seat, she'd already gulped a third of it down.

"So tell me, Mr. Barstock... what lead you to online dating?"

The words in Norton's mouth seemed to churn like thick butter. He fumbled for a quick excuse, trying to avoid his past.

"My boss said I should try it. Been on a bit of a dry spell."

A sly grin arose on Maureen's face, though she wasn't quite ready to show her hand.

"Come now, Norty. You can tell me! My best friends are dead people. I've heard all kinds of ridiculous crap."

Did she talk to dead people? Norton glossed over the idea. And just who was she calling Norty?

Before he could spill another excuse out of his mouth, Norton and Maureen were abruptly approached by two rather unpleasantly dressed men. They both stank of stale beer and cheap cologne. The immensely taller one bent over the edge of the couple's table and spoke, letting droplets of spittle fly.

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say I could smell a piper!"

A piper? Norton racked his brain, unsure of what this cretin even meant.

"Look here jobber, are you sure you want to do this now?"

Maureen added some extra emphasis to the word jobber, as to let the punks know how she really felt. It wasn't necessary, honestly. Norton had already slugged the guy with every ounce of his being. His fist made a thunderous impact, which returned with a few teeth stuck in the knuckles. The low-brow lumberjack took to the floor instantly. His friend, a portly fellow with a few chins too many, grabbed a pool stick.

Yeah... that would only succeed in pissing Norton off. A stick... really?

With the first blow to the shoulder, Norton sunk an arm-bar through the pool cue, snapping it in half. Delivering a swift uppercut and a broken stick in the abdomen, the swine-like goon was quickly coughing up blood. Preparing to drop his legs through the schmuck's throat, Norton failed to notice the other ruffian get to his feet. As he was about to be pelted with three billiard balls, something miraculous happened. A tune that could only be described as haunting filled the room. The two ruffians seemed to freeze in place, giving Norton and Maureen a moment to look at each other. Maureen had a strange-looking flute held against her lips. She was the one playing the tune, it seemed. As Maureen blew ever so carefully into the iridescent cylinder, it seemed to glow like a ripe, full moon. Norton had no words.

"Look here, Norty. I know what happened to you all those years ago. I've done my research. You didn't tell the cops everything about that night, did you?"

He didn't. What did Norton fail to mention about those two men he killed? Well, they didn't look like men when they attacked them. They were... not human.

"In about thirty seconds, these two clowns are gonna morph into something ugly. Shove this into that fat one's forehead after he changes."

She flipped a large, silver dagger into Norton's hands. Instinctively, he caught the light, nimble blade. Something about it just felt right.

"Norton, make sure you scramble his brains. It's the only way to put that pig down for good."

Grumbles from the two would-be attackers could be heard as Norton and Maureen readied their plan. What once was human... suddenly wasn't.

Maureen readied her own dagger. A witty smile spread across her face.

"It's going to be okay Norty. The couple that slays together, stays together. Ready, set..."

Norton gulped.


Friday, June 12, 2015

St. Louis, Here We Come!

Looks like I will finally watch my first live Cardinals baseball game at Busch Stadium in September. I'm beyond ecstatic!

Crystal and I decided that our vacation this year would be to St. Louis, Missouri. We'll drive through West Virginia and Kentucky to get there. Along the way, we'll camp in Lexington, KY and enjoy the Kentucky Horse Park.

Also on the itinerary is a tour of the Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., which produces the mighty flavorful Kentucky Ale. They also distill various varieties of authentic Kentucky Bourbon.

Here I am finishing a leftover Kentucky Bourbon Ale for breakfast back at Christmas 2014. What are the odds that I'd be visiting their brewery?

After that, well trek on to St. Louis. Besides the baseball game, we're going to check out the Day Fresh Tour at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. This allows us the opportunity to visit with the Clydesdale Draft Horses, then follow their beer production from start to finish. While I'm not a fan of Budweiser beer, I am eager to meet those horses and see their brewing process!

The famous Budweiser Clydesdale Horses circling through Busch Stadium.

While there, we'll also be taking in the Laumeier Sculpture Park, which features some interesting art installations. The Missouri Botanical Garden is also on our to-do list. It seems like we hit a massive garden in every place we visit!

Before our ballgame, we'll explore the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, where hopefully I might run into some former players. Who knows?

Of course, we'll also visit the magnificent Gateway Arch and take some photographs.

We'll be attending the September 9 day game, in which the Cardinals will be hosting the Chicago Cubs -- the best friendly rivalry in sports, in my opinion. If you happen to be watching on TV, look for us behind the First Base line.

The hotels are booked. The tickets are purchased. September can't get here soon enough!