Friday, January 30, 2009

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
An excellent book that was followed very faithfully (although not exactly) by the movie.

I've really come to love McCarthy's writing style. I've only read one other, The Road, which I read last year and loved. The language he uses is very sparse and direct. This makes it very fast and easy to read. Some might be put off by that sparseness, but it made me pay more attention to what was there. In this case, it often forced the reader to connect dots in the narrative that weren't always explicitly stated.

The book tells the story of three different men: Llewellyn, a man who stumbles across a fortune in drug money; Chigurh, a nearly supernatural killer chasing him; and Sheriff Bell, an aging lawman trying to put the pieces together. Throughout the story, the reader gets a good idea of how each of these men view the world. It has many thrilling and frightening moments, but in essence the book is more of a philosophical character study at heart.

I really enjoyed it. If you liked the movie, I would recommend it so you can appreciate how well it was adapted. If you haven't seen the movie, I would recommend it still as a very interesting read.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Guess what?

What do these four words have in common?
  • Demontron
  • Rotunda
  • Ural
  • Quadron
Is Demontron a Transformer or a Decepticon? Or is it a giant screen at sporting events that allows you to see straight into Hell? Rotunda, that's part of a building, right? I only know Ural is a mountain range because of countless hours playing Risk. Quadron. Is that some sort of subatomic particle?

These were my guesses when Karen showed me this list yesterday. I was stunned/surprised/delighted when she told me these were the names of students who had come to her office to apply to the school.

I love names like these, although I really don't know why. I mean, it's pretty creative to make up a name. And why shouldn't we? Most names have some strange origin anyway that has generally been forgotten in time. Sure, there's the horror stories of girls named Female (pronounced Feh-MAHL-ay), but is that really all that bad?

It sort of reminds me of car names. There seem to be three styles of car names: there's the technical gobbledigook like RX7 or F150; there's the real-life word that is supposed to have some subliminal impact like Accord or Wrangler; and of course, there's the made-up words that I have no idea what they're going for like Altima or Xterra.

I used to hate the made-up car name words, but now I think I prefer them. It's fun to figure out what images they are trying to conjure. I've decided I hate the real-word car names. I mean, "Crossfire," really? You want to name your car after a dangerous military situation?

So, that's my mission for you. Pay more attention to the names around you, both for people and cars. What do they mean? What do you think they mean? All I know is, I begged Karen to keep bringing me these lists.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome to the 21st Century

Yesterday, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the first black President of the United States of America.

I feel pretty good about it. I'm not a rabid devotee that thinks he'll turn water into wine or balance the budget (he is still just a politician, after all), but I have been a fan since well before he announced his candidacy. I like his attitude and optimism, as well as his charge for Americans to assume responsibility. We'll see how that works out.

They say there were just under two million people in Washington, D.C. to watch the inauguration. Take a look at this satellite image to get an idea of what that means. You can see the full picture here.

I took a long lunch to watch his speech at home, but I was confused about the time. I missed all but the last minute of his address, which was quite a bummer. But I watched the rest of the ceremony on my new, widescreen, LCD, high definition television as it was digitally broadcast. Later, I downloaded the transcript from the Internet and streamed a replay through my Xbox. Now I'm blogging about it and including a satellite picture of the Washington Monument.

I've heard people say that what we think of as the "60s" really didn't start until about 1968. I've decided that for me, the 21st century really didn't begin until yesterday. Obama's election and his address were clear breaks from the past status quo. The technology at my fingrertips is astonishing. We may not have hoverboards or moon colonies or personal jetpacks just yet, but for the first time in a long time, I really believe I'm living in the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Okay, why has this become so iconic? I have no idea. But first off, here's a chart I shamelessly stole from another blog. It charts how many A's people use when searching for "KHAAAAN!!!!"
Next up, we have this fantastic action figure. I mean seriously. How many people are really going to want this? I mean, besides me. And my friend Dan. And possibly Dale.

You can read more about this action figure masterpiece here.

It is at this point that I am required to answer the call and post a picture of my Khan costume from my birthday party. Sadly, I'm at work so I'll have to come back and add it later.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


AnathemAnathem by Neal Stephenson

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fun in parts, but overall disappointing.

I've read several of the other reviews, and they've captured my thoughts much better than I could (or even feel like trying). I loved Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, but everything I've read since then has been a let down.

The book is set on another world where science has sort of taken the role of religion. What we would call scientists live like monks, sealed off from the rest of the world. That concept was pretty interesting. The story is told from the perspective from one of these "avout," as he experiences radical events and changes.

This brings me to one of the first criticisms made about the book: it's extensive made-up vocabulary. I found it very distracting at first, but eventually became used to it. It just seemed very unnecessary. I can believe I'm reading about another culture on another planet without there having to be a different word for everything.

Stephenson also spent a great deal of time discussing scientific and philosophical ideas. At times these were interesting, but they almost always detracted from the narrative.

Lastly, the end of the story just didn't work for me. Without giving anything away, I'll just say it was anti-climactic and somewhat predictable.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dodging Bullets

This has been a very interesting week so far, and therefore I guess it has started off being an interesting year.

Yesterday, I was in a traffic accident. A car wreck, actually. The roads were slick, I was looking at street signs, and I completely missed that the light was red. I slammed on my brakes, but too late. A car was crossing the intersection, and I slid and banged right into it. She spun around a bit, but stopped without hitting anything. I pulled over, then signaled and turned into a parking lot that was on the corner of the two streets.

Now here's the interesting part: she drove off! I had parked my car and was walking towards her to see if she was okay, and she started driving. At first, I thought she was going around to enter the parking lot from the other side, but nope. Long gone. Why would anyone leave an accident, especially one that wasn't their fault?

I ended up calling the police (two hours before the car arrived) to file a report. I felt kinda weird doing so, but I certainly didn't want someone else filing it and claiming I had left the seen. Oddly, the cop never asked me about the light, and I wasn't about to tell him I had run it.

This was the really fascinating part to me. Immediately after the accident, my thoughts were full of dread: worrying about injuries, damage, tickets, costs, etc. It never occurred to me to pay attention to details about the other driver or her car. When the police officer questioned me about it, I was at a loss. How much detail do you retain from a few seconds of an encounter? How old was she? How many people were in the car? What was she wearing?

Having seen the ship and aircraft recognition silhouettes that they passed out during World War II, I always knew I'd be terrible at that. But little did I realize how relevant that could be to every day life. When I tried to describe the vehicle, I was stumped. It was an SUV. I thought it was a Jeep Cherokee. But have you ever seen four or five of those from the side? The differences between a Nissan, Lexus, Jeep, who-knows-what-else are not that significant. And then he asked me the year!

In the end, I know I should be grateful for numerous reasons. It could have been so much worse in so many ways. But even the act of the other driver leaving the scene was strangely beneficial to me, in that my insurance won't have to cover her damage.

Today, I had a similarly harrowing, close-call experience. My company had lay offs. This is by no means a unique story in today's economy, but I had not experienced it first-hand yet. What made it a particularly close call is the fact that one of my fellow writers was let go. There are (were) only three of us, and I was the most junior. Granted, he had switched to contract work, which I'm sure made the difference, but it was still unsettling.

After writing so much about the accident, I don't really feel up to commenting on the lay off thing anymore. I know it's tough times all over, and I am thankful that I still have a job I like.

Hawaiian Mourning

As was pointed out to me by several friends, Alfred Sheehan died yesterday at the age of 86. He is credited with inventing the Hawaiian shirt. You can read more details here. Here's a picture of Elvis wearing a Sheehan design for his Blue Hawaii album. Well, for some reason it's not letting me upload a picture. I'll try again later.

I am very well-known for my propensity for wearing Hawaiian shirts. I was musing about this in a chat with a friend. She asked how many I owned, and I honestly don't know. Is it about 40? It's a lot, that's for sure. Not only that, I recently "culled the herd" a bit before I moved. I have about 25 in "regular rotation," about 5 "special occasion," and maybe 10 others that just don't get worn as often any more. You'd be amazed how much of a decision it is for me in the morning!

David Byrne wrote "People will remember you better if you always wear the same outfit." I can't say that was my inspiration for having so many Hawaiian shirts, but it certainly has proven to be true. When the weather got a little chilly, I was actually teased at work for wearing just a plain old sweater.

Another story from work: A couple of months after I started, they had a "Brightest Hawaiian Shirt" contest. Naturally, I won. In my defense, let me say that I pulled out all the stops. I have plenty of bright shirts, but I have one that is a real doozy, so that's the one I wore. Later, my boss told me she had actually lobbied against me winning because "he wears that kinda stuff every day!"

Sometimes I'll make up themes for the week, like all green, all orange, or all vintage shirts. Sadly, no one has ever noticed (or at least, they haven't commented). This week I'm wearing all black Hawaiian shirts in mourning for Mr. Sheehan.

Most (90%) of my shirts were acquired in resale/thrift shops. I love the thrill of the hunt! I'm much more selective nowadays, which is a good thing. However, the selection has consistently dwindled over the years. I wish I had bought so many more when I was younger and there were far fewer collectors/competitors. I don't believe any of mine are worth anything, though i don't know for sure. They're worth something to me, and that's all that matters.

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