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The image above is a plaque in one of the pubs located in Liverpool, England – which my wife visited on her latest trip to spend time with her mum and family…
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On This Day In:
2018 Intensity Doesn’t Make It Correct
HF2: 1940’s Grapes
2017 Proof Sits In The Oval Office
2016 Tragic Determinism
2015 Maybe It Should Be Clearer
2014 Make It Your Strength
2013 Four Score
2012 The Ruler
2011 Forever
2010 Just Cuz
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
It’s Alive!! (3rd Pair Shoe Review)

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My wife’s favorite flower is the daffodil.  Before I met her, I never thought much about flowers.  I knew what a rose was (is) and I knew they came in different colors.  I didn’t know the variations had different names or much of anything else.  I used to buy my wife roses several times a year.  Not for any particular reason.  Just to make her smile.  This stopped after a few years because she said she didn’t really like flowers – except daffodils.  When we moved back to Liverpool in the early 1990’s, I found out why.  They (Liverpool city) have fields and fields of daffodils and they all bloom at roughly the same time each year – in February / March.  Here are some of the photos from my Hil’s trip home last year (2018).

Photo of 2018 Liverpool Daffodils

2018 Liverpool Daffodils (1)

Photo of 2018 Liverpool Daffodils

2018 Liverpool Daffodils (2)

Photo of 2018 Liverpool Daffodils

2018 Liverpool Daffodils (3)

Photo of Hil w/ Daffodils

2018 Hil w/ Daffodils

Photo of 2018 Liverpool Daffodils

2018 Liverpool Daffodils

Photo of 2018 Hil's sister Lynn w/ Daffodils

2018 Hil’s sister Lynn w/ Daffodils

Several years ago, Hil began planting bulbs in front of our house.  They never seemed to take.  They would pop up (bud), but never bloom.  Then about 2016, the “miracle of Spring” began.  (Unfortunately, we had to remove the tree shown in the first picture.)  For whatever reason, we seem to get a few more each year…

Photo of 2016 Feb Daffodils

2016 Feb Daffodils

Photo of 2018 Feb Daffodils

2018 Feb Daffodils

Photo of 2019 Feb Daffodils

2019 Feb Daffodils (Thur)

Photo of 2019 Feb Daffodils

2019 Feb Daffodils (Sat)

On Monday of this week, they were just buds.  On Thursday, the first five blossomed.  The final photo is from this morning…
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On This Day In:
2018 But Take Heart
Poetic Marker
2017 The Few, The Many, The Most
2016 To My Brother
2015 For Junior
A Roman Rome
2014 Hmmm
2013 What’s A Motto With You?
2012 Worthy Companions
2011 Bourne Again
Which Ten Are You In?

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Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good plays, good company, good conversation – what are they?  They are the happiest people in the world.
   —  William Lyon Phelps
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On This Day In:
2015 Jumping Into The Dark
2014 I Would Be Sillier
2013 It Keeps Happening Anyway
2012 Take Time
2011 A Mother’s Lesson
2010 3rd Pair – Shoe Review (DOA and Final)

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As an adopted son of Liverpool, one is inevitably forced to take a side – to make a choice…  Because my wife made the mistake of buying me a book about growing up in Liverpool and the author stated Liverpool was home to the two greatest soccer teams in the world: Everton and Everton Reserves…  With my wife (and her father and brother) being committed Reds fans, you might say I was destined to be baptized a Blue…

Image of Everton F.C. jersey patch

The Everton F.C. kit jersey patch

Notice at the center of the patch is a round tower.  This is an image of the magistrate’s tower where the police held drunks and criminals for overnight stays.  I didn’t see the original tower for many years – even after I lived there (in Liverpool) for almost a decade.  Still, visiting the “Tower” remained on my bucket-list.  In my imagination, this is what I pictured…

Image of Glendalough Round Tower

Glendalough Round Tower

or

Image of a Round Tower in Northern Ireland

A Round Tower in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

The reality was not quite as impressive…

Image of Everton Lock Up Looking Up Hill

Everton Lock Up – Looking Up Hill

and

Image of Everton Lock Up Looking Down Hill

Everton Lock Up – Looking Down Hill

And here’s a historical image…  (The sheep “cutting” the grass just kill me.  LOL!)
 EvertonLockUp_Old
Sometimes the reality of a bucket-list item just doesn’t quite live up to the spirit of the item.
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On This Day In:
2014 Penalty Period
2013 Theft
2012 Cranky Old Man
2011 A Man’s Got To Know His Limitations

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Thomas Robert “Tom” Laughlin (August 10, 1931 – December 12, 2013)
Before Steven Seagal (all three word title movies), before John Rambo (“Rambo” series), before John McClane (“Die Hard” series), before Paul Kersey (“Death Wish” series), before Kwai Chang Caine (“Kung Fu” TV series) – there was Billy Jack in “Born Losers” (1967).  Tom Laughlin brought to the big screen the start of the modern vigilante movie genre with the character of Billy Jack.  It seems strange how a little martial arts on the big screen, mixed with some social awareness and righteous indignation can affect people’s lives.
As a twelve year old kid I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve got to learn how to do that!”  What I was looking at was Hapkido – a Korean form of Karate (open hand fighting).  Ten years later, I found a Hapkido dojo in Germany and studied it for almost a year during my off hours (I was in the Army).  That was set aside once I returned to civilian life…  Until I found Judo, while I was in college.  I took that for a semester, too.  When I moved to England in the ’90’s, a friend from work (who was a black belt in judo) said he’d love to get me on a mat and asked if I was interested in going to a dojo to learn Aikido.  My friend (Dave) and I found a local dojo and began our lessons.  We continued on with that for about two years.  It was great having someone who was a lifelong martial artist as a co-student because he could explain things in much greater detail than I could ever have gotten (except in one-on-one personal lessons).  For his side, he got someone who was bigger and heavier who he could throw around for a couple of hours twice a week.  We both moved on and I stumbled on to a Philippine “combat” style of Aikido while I was in Saudi Arabia which I tried for another year.  And then finally, once back home in America, I was back to traditional Aikido at a local dojo for several years (until I developed AFib and went on blood thinners).
Practicing martial arts, of course, lead me to read about martial arts, which in turn lead to me reading about martial philosophy and then philosophy in general.
Did I ever “become” a martial artist?  No.  Did I ever learn how to do that?  Not hardly.  I never took it seriously enough to be more than what I was – a novice and a bit of a dojo sampler.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes, very much.  Did it affect me?  Yes!  And for at least some small part of that, I have to thank Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin).
Beyond the enjoyment of playing Aikido itself, I learned timing, balance, grace, philosophy, and I gained a certain amount of inner peace.  For all of which, I will always be extremely grateful.
R.I.P. Tom
Signed,
KMAB (A Fan)
[Please also go check out the song lyrics to “One Tin Soldier – (The Legend of Billy Jack)” on my poems page.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 All Aboard
2011 Sail On, Sailor

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The Marine Corps War Memorial

The Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

Around the base is inscribed:
In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since 10 November 1775
Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue
To a Marine, the sky coloring was unusual – a light blue, thin and distant.  The scene was Arlington National Cemetery.
On a single pedestal before me stood the memory of five men; the glory of one nation; the pride of one corp.
They fought for peace, justice, and freedom in a war plagued, strife wrought time.
They stand bronzed, still, silent.  Reassuring, uniting, proclaiming.
Above them, what they and their friends fought for, lived for, died for; a piece of cloth; a dream of man’s; a fraction of history.
Their bravery is America’s life.  Their willingness is America’s pride.  Their strength is America’s glory.
[The text above was written on Nov. 18, 1969, before I had ever actually visited the statue or cemetery.  Based on the pictures I’d seen, I didn’t realize there were six Marines in the statue.  —  KMAB]
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Back on December 14, my younger brother (Sean) called and I made a typically crude male joke about a recent “minor” procedure he just had to remove a sore on his tongue.  He’d had a similar procedure about five years ago, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.  His response shook me: “Yeah, about that.  I’ve got cancer.”
Of course I didn’t believe him and thought he was trying to punk me with a riff off of my joke, but when I said, “Man, you’re just kiddin’.”  He replied, “No, really.  I just got off the phone with the doctor and they just got the biopsy back.”
I felt dizzy…
We spoke for a few moments.  I told him how much I love him and how I’m here if he needs anything.  He broke down crying and said he had to hang up now.
I waited about an hour and called back.  We talked some more and he sounded better.  He apologized for earlier and said he just had to get used to the news so he could move forward.
About a week later, I went to the doctor with him and his doctor said it was “good news, bad news”.  The good news was the earlier operation appeared to be successful and they got it all off of his tongue.  They took off a bit around it and there was no cancer there (more good news).  But just to be safe (the bad news), my brother really should agree to another – more lengthy – exploratory procedure in his neck (his lymph glands) to see if the cancer has spread.  The doctor was reassuring, saying it was probably only a 25% chance they’d find anything, but better safe than sorry.  He wanted to get my brother’s agreement so he could arrange for the surgery in early January.
Well, to make a longer story shorter, tomorrow is the procedure.  It’s supposed to take 6+ hours, so it’s not a trivial “nip-n-tuck”.
If you believe in God (and I do) or some ultimate force for good in the universe, please offer up a prayer for my little brother.  (He’s bigger than I am, but he’s still my “little” brother.)  If you don’t believe, just think a positive thought for him.  To quote John Coltrane: “One thought can produce a million vibrations…”
I love you, Bro…

Sean and me at the Grand Canyon

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Book Review:  “Everton Strange But Blue” (2010©)
Last Thursday I finished reading: “Everton Strange But Blue“, by Gavin Buckland (2010©).   The book was originally published in 2007, but it is updated yearly.  The author is what is affectionately known in England as a “stathead”.  That is, someone who loves (and does) keep track of the arcane knowledge of something – in this case, Everton Football Club, otherwise known as “the Blues”.  Fans of the team are also known as “Blues”.
First, a little background information.  Everton is one the oldest football (aka: soccer) clubs in England.  It is one of the two best clubs on Merseyside (aka: Liverpool), the other one being the Everton Reserves.  (Just kidding.  It’s and old joke, but it still works…)  The other, of course, being the Liverpool Football Club, otherwise known as “the Reds”.  (Manchester United fans might dispute this as their club is also know as the “Reds” and they are only a stones throw up the Mersey River.)
Anyway, getting back to the book, this was a going away present from a friend (a Blue) at the end of our trip to visit Hil’s family during this last summer.  Everyone knows I’m a avid reader, so I’m easy to get presents for.  Anyway (again), this book is a collection of short stories about interesting and unusual statistical facts about Everton F.C.  The book is well written with obvious enthusiasm by someone who clearly loves both the Blues and statistics.  There in lies my problems with the book.  “Footie” in England is not essentially a sporting event.  It is intertwined with the culture in a way that is not fully approachable for an outsider (like me) to appreciate.  The U.K. is a small enough country that you can actually attend many of the away games by car and until recently (the last 15-20 years) was reasonably enough priced that the average person could attend many home games.  The closest social / sporting equivalent in the U.S. would be the American football SuperBowl.  Even this isn’t the same, because it’s held on neutral ground, it’s only one game a year, and tickets are virtually unobtainable for the average person.  But we do hold SuperBowl parties which create the social / cultural equivalence (somewhat).
My point being, (you knew I’d get around to it eventually) while the book is full of wonderful trivia, which I normally love, I don’t have the lifelong fan experience to appreciate much of the nuances of trivial subtleties the author covers.  For example, games with four goalie changes, or games which are lost by multiple own-goals.  They are interesting occurrences, but I have not shared in the emotional depression of such a loss and so mean less to me (except as historical footnotes).  I remember being shocked by the murder of a South American player because he has scored an own goal in a World Cup match and his country was eliminated from the tournament.  The player was machine-gunned down at a restaurant after returning home.  Now THAT is a fan taking your sport a bit TOO seriously.
The second problem I had with the book – which is why it took me so long to complete – was there was no discernible theme.  By this I mean, there were no clear sections, “Here’s a few of our worst losses”; “Here’s a few of our greatest wins”; or even, the most simple – chronological – highs and lows from the earliest days to the present.  Having said this, I should say the 50 stories are chronological, it’s just that the stories don’t seem interesting that way.  Two or three goalie stories may be separated by 30 or 40 years, so by the time you get to the second or third story, I had lost track of the first.  This happened to me repeatedly while picking the book up and putting it down and I never got the feeling that reading the book straight through would have altered the perception.
The best thing about the book was (and is) the language.  “Scouse” is the local dialect of British English spoken on Merseyside.  For Brits, it’s an inflection or slurring or dropping of syllables and words.  For me, Scouse is poetry and imagery and humor.  It’s an imprecise description which means nothing and yet says everything.  One example: “the center-half finished the match courageously.”  What the heck does that mean?  Who was he (no name), what did he do (not stated), and most importantly what was courageous about it (undefined).  It says nothing, but it leaves it to your imagination to fill in the blanks.  In some ways, this is the greatest of storytelling.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this to someone interested in enjoying the flavor of Scouse storytelling or to anyone who is a hardcore Blue stathead.  I would moderately recommend it to anyone who is a casual stathead or a Blue fan who wants to know more about the history of the club.  I’m not sure many others would find the book anything else but “quirky” and nerdy.
And by the way, thanks to my friend Dave, who gave me the book and who is one of those great Scouse storytellers, himself.  Over the years and during this latest trip, I’ve spent many hours enjoying Dave and my brother-in-law Robbie (another Blue) trading stories over a pint.  It’s a shame he doesn’t write his own book (or blog) on growing up in Liverpool, following Everton F.C. and working at Ford’s.  Now, that would be book worth reading!
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Back at work now for a week after my thirty days off for vacation.  Hil, Sarah and I flew to Liverpool, U.K. to visit her family for three weeks (Sarah has stayed an extra two weeks and will be back soon).  We flew out of Oakland, to Portland, on to Amsterdam, and then into John Lennon / Liverpool International Airport (aka Speke Airport).  The return trip was via Seattle instead of Portland.  All the flights were surprising comfortable and there were no problems at all.  The most interesting thing was we took a turboprop on the initial leg of the trip (from Oakland to Portland).  This was only the third time I’ve ever flown in a propeller aircraft and it was the first time it was quiet.  I would say it was quieter than a jet – particularly on the takeoff and landing.  I was expecting to have to shout to Hil, but we could speak at normal volumes.
We had a wonderful time visiting with family and old friends and I felt particularly relaxed by the whole experience.  We stayed close to Liverpool and just enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the jewel at the mouth of the Mersey.  The weather was surprising agreeable – in fact, I would say the first four days we were there it was “hot” (in the low 80s).  Very pleasant for us coming from Concord, CA (in the 90s).  I was hoping for more rain.  We did get some, but it was mostly intermittent and not a bother at all.  “Just enough to keep the dust down,” is how it’s described in Scouser.
Books
I took a number of books along with me, hoping to be motivated enough to get through them.  I wasn’t.  I made the “mistake” of purchasing a Sudoku book at the airport and ended up wasting many hours in simple entertainment.  I find the pattern matching in Sudoku to be extremely relaxing even though it seems to also involve a great deal of mental concentration.  Anyway, the three books I did complete were: The Art Of Pitching, written by Tom Seaver (1984©) with Lee Lowenfish, “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons“, written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (1976©), and “A Christian’s Pocket Guide To Islam“, written by Patrick Sookhdeo (2001©).
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you probably are aware of my re-kindled interest in baseball (in general) and the San Francisco Giants (in particular).  Hil and I have watch most of the games this season and I would estimate we’d seen some of all but three games – up until we left for our vacation.  Anticipating I was going to be suffering from baseball withdrawal, I took along Tom Seaver’s book to ease my suffering.  The book is an excellent guide to learning about the mechanics of pitching and I would highly recommend it for a junior level baseball coach or 10 to 12 year old who dreams of becoming a high school, college, or Big League pitcher.  For me, there were many insights into the mechanics, but not a lot on the strategy of pitching to a specific hitter or work a game.  Seaver does spend the last chapter going pitch by pitch through a game (he wins it), but it was somehow lacking in what I was hoping for.  I’m not sure what I was looking for, but this didn’t quite “get it” for me.  Anyway, it did help me get through the three weeks without watching a game and I do highly recommend this short volume to anyone interested in the mechanical side of pitching and picture preparation.
Many years ago, I read a few of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  The one which struck me the most was “Slaughter House Five“, but I enjoyed the couple I read and I bought several more intending to complete more of his works.  Well, life got in the way and I’ve never gotten around to them.  I found a few of his quotes on another blog I subscribe to (and copied them to my own), but they tickled my fancy about getting back to the ones I’ve not read.  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons” is one of those unread works.  This is actually a terrific little book about science fiction, life, war, peace and honesty.   I highly recommend it!!  One story on Biafra was particularly touching; another (a SciFi story) on prolonged life was particularly frightening.  As I said – highly recommended.  And now I really do want to read several of his other works which have been sitting on my shelf for thirty odd years…
The third book I completed, “Pocket Guide To Islam“, was a very thin book I found at Hil’s mum’s place.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect reading it.  It seems to be written by a Christian minister who has spent some time studying Islam.  I would say the book captures the basic story, philosophy, historical facts of the religion, but I don’t feel the book conveys the depth of feeling or nuanced interpretation of a Muslim.  Of course, not being Muslim myself, I may be completely incorrect, but my direct experience with Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Arabic Muslims is not in complete agreement with some of the minor facts in the book and therefore I find it difficult to accept the whole of the work.  Still, I do feel the author seems to be coming from a willingness to accept conversion to Christianity by Muslims.  I’m just not sure the author says anything which would help a Christian convert a Muslim, even if the Muslim were personally willing to listen to an attempt at conversion.
Movies
Including one movie I saw after I got home from Liverpool, I’ve seen fourteen new movies during my thirty days off.  They include: The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle, The Green Hornet, A Law Abiding Citizen, Grand Torino, Transformers 3, Defiance, Invictus, True Grit (the new version), Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2, Battle: Los Angeles, The Lincoln Lawyer, Country Strong, and Captain America (in 3D and normal the following day).  Wow!!  (That’s some sittin’ around on your duff – even for me!)
The Adjustment Bureau: another good, solid performance by Matt Damon.  Is life pre-ordained or is there free will?  See the movie and then you decide…  Highly recommended as an adult, thinking movie.
The Eagle: a surprising entertaining movie about Romans in England (Scotland, actually, but why nit-pick).  Reminiscent of the first battle scene in Gladiator (which I also enjoyed), but this is the longer, drawn out version.  Not great, but a solid “man’s” movie.
The Green Hornet: mostly a dud.  Very disappointing.  I’ve never seen Seth Rogen in anything before and this movie will go a long way in making sure I make NO effort to see him again soon.  Reminiscent of the Adam West Batman TV series, but I don’t think they were going for the high camp that made the TV series tolerable (sometimes very funny).  Save two hours of your life and do something else besides watching this.  You’ve been warned…
A Law Abiding Citizen: if you liked The Usual Suspects, you’ll probably like this movie.  I enjoyed them both for what they are – good, solid, adult, storytelling.  Perhaps too much implied violence for the young or squeamish, but otherwise, solid entertainment!
Grand Torino: Wow!!  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much watching a serious movie.  Clint Eastwood at his best!!  Shades of Archie Bunker from “All In The Family“.  A serious movie about racism, hope, coming of age – AND it is laugh out loud funny because it’s so well written and acted.
Transformers 3:  Not as good as T1 or T2, but still pretty good summer entertainment.  If you want to see robots kicking each other around, this is it!  The down side is you have to sit through about 45 minutes of blah, blah, blah about the hero (Shia Labeouf) and why Megan Fox isn’t in the movie.  Next time, just say, “the part of Megan Fox will be played by…” and get on with the robots fighting.  Another thing: you don’t HAVE to include every character from every earlier movie.  Still, I’ll pick it up when it comes out in DVD for X-mas (cause I’m that kind of guy).  I saw this opening weekend, in 3D.  I’m not sure it added much to the movie.  Again, I’m left unimpressed with 3D technology…
Defiance:  an interesting movie about some Russian Jews who resisted the Nazis during WWII.  Based on a true story, it’s not a documentary and it’s not “entertaining”.  Worth seeing and interesting.  Stars Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.  Okay acting – moderate recommendation.
Invictus:  I was expecting a rugby version of Rocky, but instead this was a major bio of support for Nelson Mandela with Rocky thrown in for good measure.  If you like leadership movies and or sports movies about underdogs who win, this is for you.  I highly recommend it (on both counts)!!  Oh, yeah, Matt Damon stars (again).  He is rapidly compiling a significant body of work.
True Grit (the new version) – pretty much follows the original John Wayne classic and then disappoints (me) at the end.  It’s a more realistic ending, but who cares – it’s not a four-poster.  I’d watch them both if I were you and then let me know which you think is better.  This version has Jeff Bridges playing John Wayne (I mean Rooster Cogburn) and it’s a good solid performance.  Oh, yeah, there’s Matt Damon again…  Recommended, but definitely see the first version too.
Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2: a good, solid movie and ending to the series.  I am not a devotee to the books, but I felt it was fairly close.  Interestingly, they did not make the same mistake as Transformers 3, they assume you saw the other movies or read the books, cover the transition into the part two movie in about ten minutes tops and get on with the rest of the story.  I saw this on opening day with Sarah, in Liverpool, in 3D.  For some reason, the things not immediately focused on were blurry.  I’m not sure if this was meant to increase the feel of the 3D or not, but I did not find 3D added much to the movie.  I will definitely pick this up on DVD (in 2D).  Highly recommended if you’ve seen any of the other earlier movies…
Battle: Los Angeles: this was probably the surprise movie of the bunch for me.  I did NOT expect anything from the movie except the pleasure of (once again) seeing Los Angeles get destroyed.  Unfortunately, LA gets saved, but at least it gets thoroughly trashed before it gets saved and the movie is a good action movie.  It’s gung-ho, Marines, oo-rah, but who cares…  It stars Aaron Eckhart (who I first noticed and loved in The Core) and he makes a surprisingly good Marine sergeant.  It’s definitely over the top for the military and the Marines and I loved it.  Great summer entertainment.  Highly recommended.  Oo-rah!!
The Lincoln Lawyer:  a smart law / lawyer movie.  Who would have thunk it?  Stars Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer who does much of his work from a mini-office in a classic Lincoln towncar (oh, I get the title now).  Of course, he’s also out to do the right thing and help the down-trodden – just like ol’ Honest Abe (oh, I get the title now).  Not as interesting as A Law Abiding Citizen (above), but another entertaining adult movie.  Recommended, but not quite highly recommended.
Country Strong: first let’s get the facts out of the way – 1) I listen to country music (a lot), and 2) I think Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful and talented actress.  Still, the movie didn’t reach me.  The songs were not that good and the performances (of the songs) were not that good either.  I just didn’t believe Paltrow was a star or the up and coming male singer was up and coming.  I also just didn’t buy into the story of the producer / husband, either.  I know there’s a lot of that in all forms of the music industry – I just didn’t buy it.  This movie came highly recommended by my daughter (Rebecca), but I think she misjudged me on it.  It was okay, but I would not really recommend it and I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it (it was on the flight home).
Captain America:  This was a first for me…  I saw the movie twice – on consecutive days – first in 3D and then in normal 2D.  I was supposed to see it with my son, James, over the weekend, but I went up to visit my brother, Sean, and he wanted to go see it with his son.  So the three of us went to his local movie house.  I really enjoyed the movie!  Of course, it’s VERY over the top on patriotism and rah-rah America, but it’s about World War II and Captain America.  If you can’t get past that, why did you plan to go see the movie?  Chris Evans is much more believable in this role than he was as the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies.  I think it’s because Evans really does play the role seriously (completely unlike Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet).  I also feel Hugo Weaving made a great Red Skull (the bad guy).  I noticed the same blurring of out of primary focus characters in the 3D version (the same effect I saw in HP-Hallows Part 2).  I did not notice the blurring in the 2D version, so again, I’m thinking it’s something the director is trying to do to add depth to the movie or it’s the result of something funky in 3D movie technique.  It doesn’t work for me.
While I’ve stated several times I am not a big 3D fan, I must admit when I watched both versions in close proximity, I missed the 3D effect.  Somehow, my mind remembered and I was expecting it, and I noticed not getting it in the 2D version.  I doubt this will ever happen again, because I doubt I’ll pay to see two version so close together – but it was an interesting sensory experience.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  You get a No-prize and a promise I’ll try not to do another marathon blog like this for a while.
I’ve got more to say about our trip to Liverpool and photos – but that’s for another day/blog.
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Well, all in all, it’s been an eventful few days…
On Wednesday, Sarah (my youngest) graduated from Concord High School.  We went up to the Concord Pavilion for the ceremony.  The weather was cool during the day and chilly for the evening, so much more pleasant than Rebecca’s and James’ ceremonies (where it was in the 90°s).  It was almost too cool once the sun dropped.  The main thing was how proud we are of them and of ourselves to have gotten all of our kids through high school (as I told a co-worker) with no prisons and no pregnancies.  Of course, it’s great they all seem to have grown up as good people too.  We are looking forward to Sarah continuing to grow up into the beautiful young lady she has already started to become.
Hil and I were both a little sad to see the Concord Band instrument van drive into the school parking lot one last time.  The band (and our travels) has brought us lots of good memories.
On Thursday, Hil, Sarah and I drove down to Los Angeles for the weekend to attend multiple ceremonies for our oldest daughter (Rebecca) graduating from UCLA.  Bec had finished her finals, so we picked her up and took a quick trip over to Santa Monica to see the pier and have dinner down in the shopping district.
On the Friday was the first of the graduations.  This was for the full senior class.  Sunday’s was for only the Political Science Department (Bec’s major).  The event was in the afternoon, so Hil, Sarah and I went down to Hollywood to see the Walk of Fame.  We took some photos (which I’ll post later) and just hung out then headed back to Drake Stadium for the ceremony.  We were there for the opening, so we pretty much got to sit wherever we wanted, which was way up top so we’d have the best view.  There really wasn’t much to see from the field, because she was one out of several thousand and they don’t call your name – they only ask your department to stand.  That narrowed it down to around 500.  Anyway, they had two big event display screens so you could see the speakers and the view of the campus was beautiful.  We were cautioned (by the school web site) to dress for warm weather, but it was actually quite pleasant – in the high 60’s with a steady breeze.
Afterwards we headed back to Santa Monica for dinner on the street of the shopping district.  We ate outside and the food was pretty good, even if the service wasn’t particularly.
On Saturday, Hil and I went for (about) a two hour stroll around a park near the hotel we were staying at (the Ramada Inn at Marina Del Rey).  The walk was quite pleasant.  It started off a little warm and humid, but then started barely spitting (very light drizzle) which made it perfect for walking – LA sights with SF weather.  We got back to the room and I rested my back and knees for a bit before heading off to pick up the girls and visit the Getty.  (Sarah was spending the nights at Bec’s dorm.)  When we got there, Bec asked if it would be ok to skip the Sunday ceremony and just leave early.  She said she was tired and still had a lot of packing to do and we’d have to skip the Getty as well.
Neither Hil nor I minded skipping both as Bec definitely still needed help with the packing and I preferred to get out of LA before the Sunday mid-day traffic.  And that’s pretty much what happened.  We completed the packing.  We had take-out Thai food for dinner in her dorm and the next morning we were back at 9:00 AM for a quick load of the van and trip home.  We left at 9:30 and managed to get home in great time – by 4:30 – so we were home in time to catch the Giants 4-2 come from behind victory over the Reds.
Re-reading A Classic On Conservatism
Because we were going to be travelling, I wanted a light (weight) book to carry with me to LA.  I took along “The Conscience Of A Conservative“, by Senator Barry Goldwater (1960©).  This is a book I originally read as a college student, because I had heard of it and knew it represented the bedrock of Conservative political theology (oops, I mean theory).  When I originally read it thirty odd years ago, I remember thinking, “Wow!  I didn’t realize how conservative I am!”  I didn’t agree with everything the Senator was saying, but some of it struck deep chords with me.
This time around, although there were still a few (VERY FEW) notes which struck me as well written, my overall  impression was, “Wow!  It’s like reading Peters and Waterman’s “In Search Of Excellence” – almost everything has been proven incorrect by the passage of time.”  As I do with most of these types of works, I began underlining things I intended to quote on this blog and respond to / comment on.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem feasible as almost eighty percent of the book is underlined!  Time and again, what is stated is either factually unsupported (and unsupportable except perhaps anecdotally) or has been proven incorrect by history.  It’s amazing that someone can get it (a prediction for the course of history) so wrong.
Having said this, the book is still definitely worth reading and I highly recommend it – less for it’s predictive value of American freedom and more for its descriptive value of the American Right (Neo-Conservatism / Corporate Capitalism) today.  If you substitute the words “Corporate Capitalism” for “USSR”, “Soviet Union” or “Communism” in Goldwater’s book, you have the current threat to the liberty and freedom of America today.
Other Notes:
The pier and beach at Santa Monica are good full-day visit.  We only spent a couple of hours, but could have easily spent a lot more shopping and wandering around.
The Ramada Inn – doesn’t look like much on its web site and the room was a bit musty smelling, but the location was excellent.  Other than the initial smell, the room itself was quite pleasant – roomy, adequate seating (couch and two chairs) and clean.  The continental breakfast was more than adequate (pastry, fruit, cereal, toast and yogurt) and the staff were friendly.  We would definitely stay there again and, based on the experience, consider Ramada’s in other locations, too.
Marina Del Rey –  looking back, we definitely wish we had more time to explore the area and local restaurants.  We also missed out on the chance to explore Venice Beach.
Los Angeles driving – believe it or not, it was not that bad.  I believe we were fortunate not to get in any accident related stop-n-go situations and we were also fairly lucky in being able to find parking (even – shock of shock – around the UCLA campus)!  Hil and I actually felt like we knew how to get around a bit from Bec’s apartment (in Westwood) to our hotel (in Marina Del Rey).  Only one negative comment: the gas prices were extremely variable.  On I-5, the price was $4.40/gallon; at Westwood $4.30; about half-way between there and the hotel, we filled up for $3.95 per gallon; and about 400 yards down the street from our hotel it was $3.90!!!!
In-N-Out – Hil and I had our first experience with “In-N-Out”, which we visited twice for lunches – once on the drive down (off I-5) and once in Westwood.  The I-5 was superb!  We got there at 10:00 AM, just as they were opening and we were customer number 1!!  Needless to say, everything was fresh and hot.  The Westwood – not so bad.  NOT McDonald’s average, but nowhere near as good as the first time.  In any case, we would visit them again if they ever open a place up here in Concord, CA.  (Hint, hint…)
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Well, if there was much doubt about my review the other day about “The King’s Speech“, it was laid to rest tonight when the movie won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay at the 83rd Academy Awards.  Bravo Colin Firth!  Well done, lad!
I must admit, “Inception” did not do as well as I thought it was going to when I first saw it.  I felt it was a brilliant movie and would have a long term impact on the industry and society – much like “Matrix” did.  But it (“Inception“) never has.  It also won several awards tonight, but they were technical awards mostly about sound.
Friday night, I re-watched “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen“.  I must admit it was much better on the smaller screen and I was able to follow the fight action much better with the limited view of having everything directly in front of me instead of having to shift my eyes or head as I would have to do at a theater.   I’m going to watch T:I and T:II again before T:III comes out later this year.  I think, so far, the first was better than the sequel because the first had more (and better) humor, but T:II had some pretty good moments too.  I particularly like the action shot of the carrier being destroyed by the Transformer bad-guy “meteors”.  That was a very well done action sequence.
Last night (Saturday), I re-watched “The Guardian” with Kevin Cosner and Ashton Kutcher.  It’s a cross between “An Officer And A Gentleman” and “The Karate Kid“, but it really works for me.  They both worked individually (for me) so there is no reason to think a combo wouldn’t.  The movie is about the US Coast Guard elite jump-swimmers (they jump from helicopters) who save lives at sea.  Of the two, I’d rate Guardian over T:II if only because it was less comic bookish.  All in all, a good weekend for watching movies and relaxing.
Non-Movie Notes:
Friday I got a permanent crown put in.  I got the temp a couple of weeks ago.
Yesterday, Hil and I went out for another meal with Donnie (my son’s god father).  He’s going away on vacation for a couple of months, so it was kind of a farewell dinner.
Hil and I went for an afternoon walk around Lafayette Reservoir this afternoon, after church.  It was beautiful – sunny but with a nice cool breeze.  It felt good to spend some time out with Hil – just walking and enjoying the air, view and each other’s company.
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Last Thursday, I had my 1,000th workout at the gym in the building where I work.  Friday was off, Saturday was Christmas and yesterday was Boxing Day.  Today, it was back to work.
And of course, that meant back to the gym – for workout 1,001.  When you say you’ve done something one thousand times, it sounds like such an achievement.  When you say you’ve done it a thousand and one, you put it back into perspective.  To me, it’s not: “Did you win the race?”  It’s: “When did you run again?”  Or as some would say: it’s not the goal, it’s the path.
Today was my last day for a while.  I’m going on a detail for work back to Baltimore, Maryland.  The detail is 120 days.  I’ll be leaving in January and back in May.  I’ll be documenting it (the trip) on this blog.  I’m not sure what to expect.  With the exception of Saudi, most of my trips away from my family have only been for a week at most and I’ve usually stayed in a hotel room.  I’m told I’ll be in some kind of longer-term accommodation.  I’m not sure what that means exactly.  I think it means a hotel room with a small kitchen.  We’ll see…
I’ll be taking some books with me, but mostly I’m planning to work, workout and blog.  Again, we’ll see…
I don’t know how many times I’m going to  get opportunities to visit the east coast, so I’m hoping a bit to get a chance to visit some of the Civil War battlefields – Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas are the one’s which come to mind.  Gettysburg is a must.  The other two are names which have always struck me when I’ve heard them, but not being a “true” Civil War buff, I don’t currently know much about them.  Again, I’m not sure what I’ll find when I go looking, but I hear their names calling to me across the haze of history through the fog of bitter conflict.
Reading
Last Friday (X-mas eve), I finished reading “Shit My Dad Says” by Justin Halpern (2008©).  This is one seriously funny book!  More than once, I laughed until I cried.  It is just sooo hilarious.  I highly recommend it!
Movie Reviews
Yesterday, I went to see “Tron: Legacy” with my son James.  It’s a sequel of TRON, a movie which came out way back in 1982.  The funny thing is I remember seeing the original, but it could not have been before 1987, because I didn’t start programming until late 1986, so the movie would not have meant anything to me before that.  As it was, I felt I was inside a little club of folks who knew something about a world that most people didn’t.  I knew about TRace ON (TRON) and TRace OFF (TROFF), CPUs, bits, bytes and the whole speed of light, MHz cycles (light-cycles), etc…
Anyway, this version is not nearly so enthralling.  The animation / special effects are superb, and the story is fairly deep, but it just wasn’t entertaining enough for me.  Pleasant, but not enjoyable.  Reminiscent, but not inspiring.  I’m not sure how to describe a movie you expect to touch you one way, which does mean something, but just doesn’t quite reach you there.  I’m glad I saw it.  It’s worth the $7.25; but, I’m glad I didn’t pay full price and definitely glad I didn’t splurge for the 3D version.
After I got home from TRON, I had dinner and watched a terrific movie with my Hil: “Julie and Julia“.   It’s a movie about a woman who decides to write a blog about cooking her way through a cookbook written by Julia Childs.  Meryl Streep plays Julia Childs and she is fantastic.  The movie is wonderful on many, many levels: a story of newly-weds starting out, a woman finding herself, a new blogger, a new writer, a woman deeply in love with her husband and with living life, cooking (of course), and food.  Some of the levels are Julie.  Some of them are Julia.  And, some of them are both ladies (and all of us as viewers).  I would say this though, it was an intimate movie which I enjoyed watching at home (with just my wife).  I’m not sure it would have been as enjoyable on a big screen and with a crowd of strangers.   Just an observation.
And one final movie review: “Miracle On 34th Street“.  This is simply my favorite Christmas movie of all time.  If you haven’t seen it recently, you need to see the original (in black and white).  It is incredible “Americana” at it’s best.  The details are everywhere.  You really can see history in movies which are meant to be contemporary when you view them 60 to 70 years later.
Art is supposed to speak to us individually.
Enjoy all three – then drop me a comment and let me know if they spoke to you, too.
Oh, yeah.  1,002 may not be for a while, but tomorrow I start jogging at home – after work…  I guess that will be 1.
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Just because one can never have enough photos of your wife and yourself on the web, here’s another…

Sunset at Crater Lake - Hil & Me

Sunset at Crater Lake – Hil & Me

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I have today off to recover from driving Rebecca back to UCLA for her senior year.  She’s living in an apartment this time, instead of in the dorms like last year.  The place is reasonably large and looks comfortable enough.  I’m sure Bec and her roommate will enjoy the year.
The drive was surprisingly easy.  We left early (5:30) and there was very little traffic.  We stopped for a quick brecky at Mickey-D’s and were unpacking by 12 noon.  I was back on the road by 12:30 and back home by 6:30.  The drive back was fairly boring with no one to talk to, but I cranked the music up and sang along with some favorites – The Everly Brothers, The Commodore’s and Jimmy Buffett.  I’m going to have lots of lyrics to add to my site!!
Speaking of which, I’ve added two more of my own poems (for a total of 9, now), and six more song lyrics.  The lyrics are a mixture of old and VERY old, with one exception (a patriotic song).  Anyway, here’s the brief intro to each:
Mine: For Those That Might  –  There is a saying in Japan that it is the raised nail which meets the hammer.  This is true universally, but until the hammering actually starts, the other nails don’t know there is a raised nail.  The interesting thing about nailing is, once your start, you frequently have to hammer the nails around the raised one as well.  The transfer of energy by the wood “raises” the neighboring nails, so the good carpenter has to give them all a quick tap as well.  Of course, this has a rippling effect to the nails around them, too.  Is there any doubt that a small group of dedicated individuals can change history…  They are the only ones who ever have!!
What’s A Woman Worth?  The physical beauty of youth fades with time like the glory of kings and civilizations.  But true, inner beauty – deepens and grows until, finally, it replaces the illusion of youth and strength.  Making beds, washing clothes, holding hands on long walks, quiet conversations between the lights going off and the arrival of sleep – these are some of the millions of “little” things that mean love.  This poem came out of two ideas – smelling a fragrance in a pillow and life being like the pages of a book.  The rest just flowed from that…
Lyrics: Signs – (Written by Les Emmerson and performed by The Five Man Electrical Band) is one of the great “Who died and made you Ayatollah?” songs of all time.  Not really a “protest” song as much as a rant of the young against the established.  (If you don’t recognize my “Ayatollah” reference, you weren’t around in the early ’80s.)  …And yes, I’ve dropped the same message into the collection basket (on more than one occasion).  I’m not sure the person opening the envelope “gets” the reference, but it brings a smile to my ironic heart to think God’s getting my missive (and thanks!)
Just An Old Hippie – (Written by Howard Bellamy, performed by The Bellamy Brothers) is one of those great, country story songs.  I’m not sure how younger folks relate to it because there are a lot of historical references, but for me – it’s damn near 100% accurate.
The Greatest Love Of All  – (Written by Linda Creed; Performed by George Benson) is probably more frequently associated with Whitney Houston, but I always think of it by George Benson.  Sadly, (for me,) this wasn’t one of the songs he played at the recent concert I attended.  As selfish (Ayn Rand-ish) as this may sound, I’m not at all sure you can truly love someone else unless you do love yourself.  This is the philosophical “true” love I’m referring to.  Of course, you can “truly” love someone else (and devote your life to them) and still not like yourself (low self-esteem issues), but I don’t rate this as equally “true” love.  “I love myself AND I love and sacrifice for you, too!” is for me a purer form of love.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ –  (Written by Barry Mann, Phil Spector and Cynthia Weil; performed by The Righteous Brothers; Bobby Hatfield has passed away, Bill Medley has his own site now) is one of the greatest songs of all time.  Is there any greater expression of lost love than a person not closing their eyes when you kiss them or no tenderness in their fingertips – or eyes, when you reach for them?  The funny thing about this song is Wikipedia reports the song almost never came to market because it was considered too slow and almost a full minute longer than what was the standard playing time (for back then on the radio).  How fine is the line between never reaching air and becoming the most played song in American radio history…
Treat Her Like A Lady – (Written by Ali-Ollie Woodson and Otis Williams; performed by The Temptations) is one of those up-tempo songs the Temptations are famous for.  There are not enough songs about being a gentleman and this is definitely one of the best.  If you look this up on YouTube, be aware there is more than one version, and the version which seems to pop up the most does not match with my lyrics.  The explanation is lyrics are sometimes changed to match a venue or occasion.  I briefly considered using the alternate version, but decided against it, because it’s not the way I remember the song – and because the alternate really doesn’t make any sense.  The main difference is the substitution of the word “celebration” for “liberation”.  Liberation makes sense; celebration does not.
An American Soldier – (Written by Chuck Cannon and Toby Keith; performed by Toby Keith) is the patriotic lyrics I alluded to earlier.  I’ve heard this song many times and it’s always struck me, but I listened to it intently on the trip with Rebecca and it made me tear up.  It’s hard to communicate to someone who’s so young, that the message in this song is EXACTLY why we should NEVER be fighting for oil – in any part of the world…  Because our bravest WILL go if asked.  They will go and they will try and some may die – but not for freedom – for OIL!!  Having been a volunteer soldier in a time of peace, I cherish the lives of those who serve – particularly those who serve in times of real battle.  God Bless You!! All who serve – God Bless You and keep you safe to come back to us soon.
As usual, read the lyrics then go listen to the music…
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I grew up in San Francisco, CA.
Everyone from San Francisco has a favorite song about “The City”…
For some it’s “We Built This City”.  For some it’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay”.  For a lot it’s Tony Bennett and “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”.
For me, there are actually two songs – one from early childhood and black and white movies.  It’s Jeanette McDonald singing “San Francisco“.  The other is from much later in my life.  It’s a song about growing up and how things change from what you hoped for or expected.  It’s called “Taxi” by Harry Chapin.
As usual, read my version of the lyrics and then go find the songs on-line somewhere…  [Note: the lyrics for “San Francisco” are actually Judy Garland’s version, because Jeanett’s was mostly background singing during the movie and although it’s Jeanette’s voice I hear when I remember the song, it’s Judy’s version.  I know, a trick of memory, but still true…  KMAB]
Oh, and here’s the link to the City’s web site.
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