Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Mist"

I went to see "The Mist" on Thanksgiving Day. Even though Cindy and I have a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas Day, it still surprises me when I see the kind of long lines I saw on Turkey Day for a 3pm movie. Aren't most people sitting down to their Thanksgiving Day dinner around this time? I guess not. I mean, I had the excuse that I was alone, from out of town and just looking to get out of the hotel room. There were several couples, groups of friends, etc. all lined up at the ticket window and concession stand.

It reminds me of when I used to be a bartender and DJ. The bar would open at 2pm on Thanksgiving Day and by 3pm every seat was filled. Don't these people have families to be with? Most of them, it turned out, did not and the rest were in the bar to escape theirs, lol.

Maybe the teetotalers go to movies instead of a bar to escape their Thanksgiving Day family gatherings.

"The Mist" is adapted from a Stephen King short story of the same name and the basic plot is a mysterious fog rolls into a small Maine town (all of King's stories, it seems, take place in Maine) with heretofore unseen and unknown creatures hidden in the fog, trapping a group of people in a grocery store. As is the usual case with King's works, the true horror lies not in the strange, man-eating creatures emerging from the fog, but within the hearts and minds of people who react with fear. That theme is followed from the very first scene to the last in various guises throughout the film.

I read this short story years ago and since my memory is not what it used to be I could only recall bits and pieces. The end, I already knew, had been changed by director Frank Darabont and praised by King as an excellent conclusion; one that he wished he had written. Obviously, I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that at a certain point I KNEW what the end should be...and it was. You'll probably have the same thoughts when you go to see it.

Because, although this is not a blockbuster movie by any means, I do recommend watching it as a study in human nature and group dynamics under pressure. Some, in fact, have suggested that the movie is a metaphor for the condition America finds itself in, reacting with fear and panic to the threat of terrorism emerging from the fog, as it were.

Just be sure to have a flashlight with you if it's dark or foggy when you leave the theater.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Rain Conspiracy

There is a conspiracy afoot here in southwestern Louisiana. Since my arrival in Lake Charles, every time I have a day off it proceeds to rain the entire day. When I'm working, the sun is shining and the weather is clear. When I'm free to walk around taking photos, it rains.

All day.

This weekend, the rain was accompanied by 45-50 degree temperatures during the day, making it seem that much more miserable. I look out my third floor window and see nothing but slate gray skies, heavy, ominous clouds and the constant falling of rain. So much rain that, as of a few minutes ago, Calcasieu (Kal-Ka-Shoe) Parish was put under a flood watch.

Glad I'm on the third floor.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Too Much Time Alone In The Hotel Room

Ok, my daughter sent me a link to this site where she and my son-in-law got "elfed" and I had the people in the next room banging on the wall for me to stop laughing so loud.

I couldn't help it, it was incredibly funny.

Obviously, I have too much time on my hands here alone in the hotel room as I have allowed myself to be "elfed" as well. You can see the full-blown hilarity by clicking here.

If you decide to "elf" yourself after watching me make a fool of myself, please leave the link in the comments so I can laugh at you as much as you're going to be laughing at me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly"

This is one of my favorite scenes from the BEST sitcom ever aired, WKRP In Cincinnati. This scene is from the 1978 pilot-season Thanksgiving-themed episode, "Turkeys Away" and the first time I watched Mr. Carlson utter those famous words, I almost fell off the couch laughing. I still love it to this day.

If you have the time, you can see almost the entire episode on YouTube, or better yet, get the first season DVD from Be aware though, that if you were a fan of the music from the series, you may hear some different songs on the DVD due to copyright issues.

Happy Thanksgiving

This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent away from Cindy since we were married almost 11 years ago. It is a little more difficult than I imagined it might be. I stopped on the way home yesterday and bought a Marie Callender Turkey and Dressing frozen dinner to cook in the microwave for my Thanksgiving dinner in the hotel room today and a small, individual size pecan pie for dessert. They don't make those little pies in mince meat, my favorite holiday pie.

Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Well, you shouldn't.

Don't get me wrong, I DO miss being with my family today, but I am SO very thankful for so many things that I count myself a fortunate man indeed.

My mother, for example, hasn't had my dad around for Thanksgiving since he passed away almost 8 years ago. My father-in-law didn't have his family with him for 6 or 7 Thanksgivings while he endured the torture and imprisonment of being a POW for 6 1/2 years during the Vietnam War. His family, likewise, spent those Thanksgivings without him, all the while hoping and wishing for his safe return. My sister-in-law hasn't had her mom around for Thanksgiving for the past 17 years, following her death in a commercial airline crash.

While I enjoy my frozen dinner today, there are people in this very country who will have nothing to eat other than what they may scavenge out of a garbage can. Some won't even have that and will go to bed hungry. What I have would seem like a feast to some in the world.

I have the love of a woman who is the heart of my life and the soul of my being. Every day, I thank the fates that brought her into my life and gave me her love. I never expected it and know that I never deserved it, but she came into my life and made me happier than I had ever been. I try to show her how much I love her, but fail miserably at every turn. Yet she still lets me stay around. I am so thankful for her.

I have a daughter who is still my "princess", even though she is a parent herself now. She makes me so proud every single day because of the kind of person she is. Despite my horrible example, she grew up to be a person of kindness, integrity and dedication. Her husband, my son-in-law, is one of the finest men I know. He does me the honor of allowing me to call him "son" and calling me "dad." Their children, my grandson and granddaughter, are the lights of my life. As the old bumper sticker says, "If I had known grandchildren were this much fun, I would have had them first." Having all of them in my life makes me extremely thankful.

My mom, even though she faces some health challenges, is able to live in an extended care home that gives her help, assistance and care she could not get anywhere else, while allowing her to remain close to her friends and her church, which is important to her. I am very thankful for that in her life.

My 2 step-children have somehow managed to grow on me over the years. I have watched them grow up, hurt when they have hurt and laughed when they were happy. They are an important part of my life, and not just because they are my wife's children. I have admired them and the way they make every attempt to live their lives in a forthright manner. Growing up and living in this world is never easy and there's always someone or something waiting to cut you off at the legs, but I have watched them persevere and prevail. I am thankful for their presence in my life.

My wife's parents are the absolute best in-laws there could ever be. If someone said, "We need to design the perfect mother-in-law and father-in-law" I would say, "No need, here they are right here" and point to mine. Just being around them and seeing their example makes me strive to be a better example to others. That's the kind of effect they have, not only on me but on others as well. To give you an example of what they are like, here's part of what they wrote in an e-mail to me yesterday: "Tomorrow there will be an empty chair at our house and we will miss the person who usually sits there. You are such a part of the fabric of our family. Not only will your little ones miss you, but your big ones too." I am extremely thankful for the kind of mother-in-law and father-in-law I have in my life.

I'm thankful for technology that allows me to talk to my wife several times a day, to share e-mails throughout the day and to see my grandchildren on webcams and talk to them over the computer. Those things help when you're away. And I'm thankful that, while I AM away and separated from my loved ones, it's nothing compared to how those who are half a world away serving and fighting in a foreign country are feeling on this day when they are separated from their families and friends. I'm thankful for their service.

And I'm thankful to you for reading this. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Photo Rank

Here's a new site where you can post links to your photos and have them rated by viewers, ala Digg. Even if you don't post your own (I'm not sure mine possess the quality needed to make the cut with those who might rate them), it's a great place to see some excellent work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Want One Of These!

This week's Newsweek magazine features a cover article on the new Amazon Kindle, an ebook reader that is so much more.

Not only does the Kindle improve upon the problem of reading electronically with its use of E Ink, which mimics the readability of the printed page, but the reader itself also mimics the feel of a book in its dimensions and weight. The Kindle will hold approximately 200 books on its own internal memory, plus you can store as many books as you like on as many memory cards as you care to own. Aging baby boomers can increase the font size for easier readability; researchers can search for specific words or phrases within a book; the battery will last 30 hours and completely recharge in only two, and you can write notes on the screen or highlight passages.

The biggest feature is that Kindle allows wireless connectivity through WhisperNet, an EVDO broadband connection service offered by cell phone carriers, which means connectivity anywhere, not just in Wi-fi hotspots. You can use it totally independent of your personal computer. Downloading a book is a one-touch process and Amazon currently has 88,000 books in digital format and ready for downloading, with more, including new and past bestsellers, being offered in the future.

You can also subscribe to newspapers (the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Le Monde) that are automatically beamed to your Kindle as the print issue goes to press, magazines (The Atlantic) and selected blogs. No doubt that as the reader grows in popularity, so will the list of daily and monthly publications available for the Kindle. You can also get on the Internet to check out Wikipedia, Google or to follow links on subscribed blogs. If someone sends you a PDF file to your private Kindle e-mail address, the file will appear in your library and be just as readable as a book.

The Kindle will initially retail for $399, but that price may well drop if it turns out to be the iPod or iPhone for the literary customer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Black Friday

Even though I am away from home, I have still been doing some of our household Christmas shopping (as has Cindy back at home). I bought one special item in the French Quarter last week, but so far the rest of my shopping has been done my favorite way; online.

This Friday is Black Friday, the one single day in the year that generally puts retailers "in the black" for their fiscal year because of the holiday sales they offer to consumers who are beginning or continuing their shopping for Christmas. Typically, the sales will begin anywhere from midnight to 9am, with shoppers lining up in cold, dark parking lots waiting for the brick and mortar stores to open their doors for business.

I hate that and have only done it once; 7 years ago when Cindy wanted to get a specific item from a specific place. We haven't done it since. If I have anything to say about it, we won't ever do that again.

On Black Friday won't have a cold, dark parking lot to line up in, but they will have a bunch of great deals to help you and your family and friends get holiday shopping done for less. This year they've created a special Black Friday page for holiday shoppers that you can get to by clicking here. will be offering hourly deals from 6am to 6pm PST along with thousands of products on sale for a limited time. Also, customers will get gift wrapping for $.99 per item. So, don't fight the crowds when you can shop online at from the comfort of your own homes.

Also, just a reminder, if you're shopping at at ANY time, using the link at the bottom of the right column will help this site.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The French Quarter in New Orleans

Last Monday, which was Veterans Day, I took the opportunity that being off work afforded and visited the French Quarter and Bourbon Street while I was still in New Orleans.

Frankly, I was not impressed with the city of New Orleans and, after spending a few hours strolling through the French Quarter, was at a loss to explain why anyone would be attracted to this part of the city either. The only clean part of the Quarter is Decatur Street, which is like a several-block long tourist trap full of little shops selling cheap trinkets, T-shirts and other various over-priced junk.

So, of course, I bought some.

A block or two over is a completely different story. The streets and sidewalks are cracking, crumbling and difficult to walk on safely because of their unevenness. The walls of most buildings are in the same condition. The streets are filled with bags of garbage as well as loose garbage and the air itself is filled with the stench of that garbage. I watched shop owners hosing down the walls and sidewalks around their businesses to wash off the urine and vomit that had been "deposited" the night before.

Maybe it's a different experience in the darkness of night with some alcohol in you, but in the harsh light of day and clear-mindedness of sobriety, it is not a pleasant encounter on the senses.

I have photos from my visit that you can see by clicking on the Flickr badge over on the right column.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Road Warrior

I'm leaving in a few minutes to drive to Lake Charles, LA where I'll be working (at least as of now, things can always change) for the remainder of my time in Louisiana. Lake Charles is about 200 miles west of New Orleans, so I have a three hour drive ahead of me.

Can't honestly say that I'll miss the city of New Orleans.

I did get to go waste spend a few hours in the French Quarter this past Monday. Hopefully I will be able to get the photos posted soon.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Little Lake Harris Photos

The last weekend we spent together Cindy and I were out at Little Lake Harris near Howey-in-the-Hills. Photos from there are over in the Flickr badge that's in the right column.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Orleans' Oldies Station, WTIX-FM

One of my favorite things about New Orleans, so far, is that they have a fantastic oldies radio station that plays a wide variety of oldies (not just the hits). WTIX-FM 94.3 plays on my car radio continuously during my commute to and from work and I've been able to enjoy so much of my favorite music and get reacquainted with some that I had forgotten, like the 1973 debut single, "Heartbeat (It's a Love Beat)" from The DeFranco Family. Clicking the link will allow you to hear a portion of the song (don't want to violate any copyright laws by posting the entire song).

Tim Leffel's Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer

Award-Winning travel writer Tim Leffel has outlined the Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer. This is a must-read for all travel writer wannabes.

Veterans Day

To all who have served and all who still serve, thank you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Respiratory Infection

Do you remember that low, guttural "Urrrrrggghhhh" sound that Lurch used to make on The Addams Family? Well, that sound is how I've felt since late Tuesday, when I started to feel some slight congestion in my chest and developed a small cough. Despite my taking Airborne before my flight out here, keeping my hands washed and wiping down surfaces here in the hotel room and at work with antibacterial wipes, as well as doubling up on my vitamins at the first hint of possible illness, something has broken through my defenses and caused a respiratory infection.

The blame, according to a co-worker, is the "Louisiana air."

Granted, I have not been entirely impressed with New Orleans in the few days I have been here, but I'm not quite ready to blame the air in this state for my chest cold.

Anyway, between full workdays and this cold I have not had time to post here. I'm off today, but the cold has kept me in my room and in my bed. I get up for a few minutes to read or send e-mail, then go lie back down for a while. Repeat. Now I'm trying to stay up long enough to post this.

Going to work each day as the sun rises and returning to the hotel room after dark has limited my view of New Orleans to not much more than their road system. I have a theory as to how the design process occurred. Someone grabbed a huge handful of cooked spaghetti, dropped it on the ground, looked at the ensuing tangle of pasta and said, "Let's build a road system that looks like that!"

And so they did.

And, if driving on the Huey P. Long Bridge twice each day is any indication, they used thin spaghetti.

I thought I got used to driving on narrow roadways after motoring around Scotland and France, but at least on those narrow roads there were strategically placed "pull offs" you could move onto when opposing traffic was approaching. Granted, on the Huey P. Long Bridge the two lanes on each side are going the same direction, but the lanes are so narrow that if two SUV's attempted to ride side by side with one in each lane, you'd be hard pressed to see 6 inches of daylight between them. The first morning I drove over the length of this bridge I had to peel my hands off the steering wheel when I reached the other side. I've since learned to try and stagger my compact (thank you, thank you, thank you for a compact car this time) car's position in the empty spots between other vehicles so that we're never driving side by side, but sometimes there's an idiot who wants to race by and is weaving in and out of the two lanes we're alloted. I look dubiously at the rusted railings on each side and wonder if they will hold when my car hits them or if I'll take the 135 foot plunge into the Mississippi River.

I have my doubts.

If you've ever driven across the Huey P. Long, then you know I'm exaggerating a little. The two lanes are a pretty standard 9 feet (each) in width. I think it's just the knowledge that if you go over the rail it's along way down. Supposedly there is a widening project in the works to change the bridge into three lanes that are 11 feet (each) in width going each direction.

In addition to the maze-like tangle of roadways, I've found that a good amount of streets are not blessed with signs identifying them by name. I don't know if this is a not-yet-repaired problem resulting from Katrina or if it's meant to add to the city's charm. I'd have to offer the opinion that if it's the latter, it's not having the desired effect. I've gotten lost a couple of times and probably will again if I go somewhere unfamiliar.

Anyway, I'm off work tomorrow and Monday (Veteran's Day, observed), so I hope on one of those days I feel well enough to go visit the French Quarter and take some photos during the day and maybe hit a couple of jazz clubs at night. I only have those 2 days to do it because in the latter part of next week I'm moving to an office in Lake Charles, La. which is about 200 miles west of New Orleans, near the Texas border.

Back to bed for a while.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Big Easy

Well, I came, I saw, I...nevermind.

First impressions have not been good, but my mama taught me that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

That's probably why I don't talk a lot.

I believe I may get to go down to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street this weekend to take pictures and sightsee, so I hope that is a better experience.

Photos are up on Flickr from the 6th Annual Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire at Howey-in-the-Hills this past Saturday.

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Orleans, Here I Come

I've been absent from this page for the past few days because I've been preparing to depart for New Orleans, Louisiana where I'll be spending the next 90 days, at a minimum, performing the duties that entail what I call my "day job."

In a little less than 2 hours from now Cindy will drop me off at the airport and then my flight leaves a little less than 2 hours after that. This will be the longest period of time that we have ever been apart from each other, so we've been spending as much time together over the past 4 days as we could, in between packing, errands, etc.

In fact, on Saturday we went to a Renaissance Faire up in Howey-in-the-Hills and hopefully I can get the pictures I took there uploaded this evening sometime, once I get settled in my hotel room.
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