Sunday, November 1, 2009

High Museum - Da Vinci Exhibit

Last Sunday I took advantage of a day off to visit Atlanta's High Museum of Art specifically to see their limited time exhibition, "Leonardo da Vinci - Hand of the Genius", because, well it's da Vinci!

Back in May of 2007, I had the opportunity to visit da Vinci's final home in Amboise, France with Cindy and my mother-in-law. Le Clos Lucé is now a museum and, like High Museum, does not allow video or photography inside the house. It is difficult to describe the feeling of walking through the hallways, bedroom, study and work areas that this master also walked through. To see his work, sketches, engineering drawings, sculptures, paintings, machines and works in progress is to constantly marvel at the man many have called a genius and who, for all intents and purposes, personifies the Renaissance Man. Here is a photo of the exterior (one of many) that I took during that visit.

So of course, when I arrived in Atlanta and read that the High Museum was hosting an exhibition of some of da Vinci's work, well I HAD to go.

I walked about a half mile from my hotel to the MARTA station and within 20 minutes found myself in the arts district of Atlanta. The High (as Atlantans refer to it) is an impressive building with an obviously designed aesthetic sense to make the viewing of works of art as pleasurable as it can be, both inside and out.

Before even entering the museum you can see a larger-than-life statue of a horse based on sketches made by da Vinci. Inside, you find that originally he had planned for the horse to be rearing back on its hind legs, but concluded the cost of supporting the weight of such a large size statue at that angle was prohibitive.

Even on a Sunday afternoon, the exhibit hall was crowded with people who had the same idea that I did. The exhibit features approximately 50 works, including some 20 sketches that sculptures and unfinished works were based on. Some of these have never been on display in the United States previously. I can also say that most of the exhibit that I saw was not part of exhibits I saw at the Louvre or at Le Clos Lucé, and not surprisingly since many of them were labeled as being on loan from the Queen of England.

The exhibit highlights 3 aspects of da Vinci; his work as a sculptor, his work as a student of masters such as his mentor Andrea del Verrocchio and Donatello, and his influence as a mentor himself on students such as Rubens and Rustici. If you're in Atlanta and you have an opportunity to visit the exhibit, I would urge you to do so. Below is a photo montage of the exterior of the High Museum.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween - Thriller

When the Thriller album was released in 1982 (along with the music videos that accompanied it) it would mark the last appearance of the Michael Jackson I grew up with. After that, much like the transformation of his character in the video into a werewolf and zombie, he began morphing into something unrecognizable as the previously standout member of the Jackson Five. But the Thriller music video was a genuine collaboration of genius between performer Jackson and director John Landis and has become the de facto anthem for Halloween.

It's close to midnight
Something evil's lurkin'in the dark
Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream
But terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze
As horror looks you right between the eyes
You're paralyzed

You hear the door slam
And realize there's nowhere left to run
You feel the cold hand
And wonder if you'll ever see the sun
You close your eyes
And hope that this is just imagination, Girl
But all the while
You hear a creature creepin' up behind
You're outta time

They're out to get you
There's demons closing in on every side
They will possess you
Unless you change that number on your dial
Now is the time
For you and I to cuddle close together, yeah
All through the night
I'll save you from the terror on the screen
I'll make you see

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'alls neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller

'Cause this is thriller
Thriller night
And no one's gonna save you
From the beast about to strike
You know it's thriller
Thriller night
You're fighting for your life
Inside a killer

Thriller night
'Cause I can thrill you more
Than any ghoul would ever dare try
Woo Hoo!
(Thriller night)
So let me hold you tight
And share a
(Killer, diller, chiller)
(Thriller here tonight)

'Cause this is thriller
Thriller night
Girl, I can thrill you more
Than any ghoul would ever dare try
Woo Hoo!
(Thriller night)
So let me hold you tight
And share a
(Killer, thriller)

Halloween - Joke

Why did the ghost go to the bar?

For the boo's.

Halloween - Monster Mash

I was 7 years old in October of 1962 when Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers released "Monster Mash", a novelty song that would become a Halloween favorite. I remember being at Halloween parties and dancing to this song, and thankfully no film or video exists of that scary sight.

Alas, there is also no film or video of the original group performing this hit (at least none that I could find) but this is a cute video using Lego-people to stand in for the various characters.


I was working in the lab late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the mash
He did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
He did the mash
It caught on in a flash
He did the mash
He did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes

They did the mash
They did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
They did the mash
It caught on in a flash
They did the mash
They did the monster mash

The zombies were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolf Man
Dracula and his son

The scene was rockin', all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, "The Crypt-Kicker Five"

They played the mash
They played the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
They played the mash
It caught on in a flash
They played the mash
They played the monster mash

Out from his coffin, Drac's voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
He opened the lid and shook his fist
And said, "Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?"

It's now the mash
It's now the monster mash
The monster mash
And it's a graveyard smash
It's now the mash
It's caught on in a flash
It's now the mash
It's now the monster mash

Now everything's cool, Drac's a part of the band
And my monster mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

Then you can mash
Then you can monster mash
The monster mash
And do my graveyard smash
Then you can mash
You'll catch on in a flash
Then you can mash
Then you can monster mash

Happy 13th Anniversary!

It was 13 years ago tonight at approximately 9pm that Cindy and I first met. I was working as a DJ in a club and she came in dressed in a Medieval wench dress for our Halloween costume contest and asked me to play a song for her.

Within a few months I asked the little Witch (I say that in the most positive sense) to marry me and to my everlasting joy she said, "Yes."

These past 13 years have been the happiest of my life. Here are The Shades of Blue, performing how I feel, just for you babe.

Happy Anniversary!

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

I have kissed your lips a thousand times
And more times than I can count
I have called you mine
You have stood by me in my darkest hour

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

In our years together
We have had stormy weather
But our love has been so strong
That somehow we carried on

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

Girl you brought joy in my empty life
And all that was wrong you've made it right

Our love
Our love
Our love

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

Oh how happy, Oh how happy
Oh how happy, Oh how happy
Oh how happy

You have made me
You have made me
You have made me
You have made me

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kindle vs. Nook

It looks like the battle of the e-readers is shaping up as Barnes & Noble announced the release next month of their reader, the Nook. For the last year and a half Amazon's Kindle has been the king of the e-book readers, enjoying a major dominance due mostly to it's ease of downloading books from the Amazon site, something other e-book readers could not compete with.

But now B & N has built in that same ease and convenience for e-books from their online catalog and the war, it would seem, is on.

Amazon had announced a few days ago that the Kindle was their most purchased item. B & N announced a couple of days ago that, since they announced the upcoming November 30th release of the Nook on October 22, pre-orders for the device have led their sales! It looks like lots of people will be getting one or the other for Christmas this year.

Cindy was an early adopter back when the Kindle was first released and she loves it so much that she has just about worn hers out. The battery will barely hold a charge anymore and I know she'll be looking to get a new reader soon, especially before we move to Maggie Valley. I haven't talked to her about this particular subject yet, so I have no clue if she'll prefer to stick to the Kindle or give the Nook a whirl.

Me, I'll keep reading my e-books on my iPhone. It's always with me, small and easy to use. And, to my way of thinking, much cooler.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Governator Gets Subliminal

Saw this over on Ken Ashford's The Seventh Sense blog.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger returned a bill to the State Assembly Tuesday night with a little note explaining why he was not signing the legislation. As he explains in his note, he feels the Assembly has failed to act on real concerns in the state.

Simple enough, right?

But Wednesday morning, some sharp-eyed readers felt that the Governator was sending a subliminal message to the state lawmakers.

Is this real? Apparently it is, and if it is it's pretty amusing know...a bad sort of way.

More News Release Gaffes

I am still amazed every morning at the spelling and grammatical errors I read in news releases that cross my desk, supposedly written by professional journalists. Is this more evidence of the "dumbing down" of America? Is this the quality of graduates that journalism schools are producing? Did spell check break? Was the copy editor napping?

Or am I just too damn picky?

Everyone makes mistakes, I understand that. I do too, all the time. That is why you have proofreaders for manuscripts and books and copy editors for magazines and newspapers and Denise for this blog. And it's why you do those things BEFORE you publish the piece.

Before I met and married the love of my life I used to date a copy editor for a (formerly) great metropolitan newspaper. I would routinely, sometimes daily, dissect the incorrect phrasing of an article or point out the spelling and/or grammatical errors of articles in the paper (that were not in the sections she edited) and she always wondered aloud why I didn't get a job doing what she did.

Anyway, here are the gaffes that came across my desk yesterday morning, along with my snarky remarks.

"...hadn't been in her basement for two weeks, and low and behold she had water in it." Well, now this one makes sense because the basement is "low" in the house, right? However the correct phrase is "lo and behold" which is still rather conversational for a news piece. By the way, "lo and behold", means "look and behold" not "get down and behold", lol.

"What it did, it shook the house and jared the sheet-rock and made it crack." Is that Jared, the Subway Sandwich guy? Is he now "Jared the Sheetrock"? More likely is that the writer meant to write "jarred the sheetrock" though simply stating that it cracked the sheetrock would have been sufficient, given the context. Oh, and yes, "sheetrock" is one word, not hyphenated.

"...determined that it needed to be demobilize and..." Let's just forget about those silly grammar rules that say verb tenses should agree. In other words, if you use a past tense verb in one part of the sentence, any other verbs must be past tense as well. Otherwise you sound like...well, we'll leave that part out of this.

Interestingly, I just received the November 2009 issue of The Writers Network News (a free monthly newsletter available from Zebra Communications) and it has this little piece on proofreading:

Why the world needs editors and proofreaders

Many, many years ago when I had my first newspaper job I had to both write and proofread my articles. I covered a local wedding and wrote "...the bride was draped in Chantilly lace, except I didn't catch myself, and the story ran "the bride was raped in chantilly lace..." and THAT's how you really LEARN. Alvin Guthertz

The Writers Network News is an excellent resource for writers. Go check it out!

I think my desire to read proper English (especially if it is written by professional journalists and writers) is perfectly natural, but Laura Miller has an article up on Salon that says I'm stuck up and should just get over it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Google Wave Requested

Well I just signed up to receive an invitation to use Google Wave. Let's see IF I get an invitation and, if so, WHEN I get an invitation.

I'll let you know here first.

Treats, No Tricks

Sunday night was a treat for me. The plan was to chat with Mikey and Heather on webcam, but Yahoo Messenger seemed to be having problems so we consoled ourselves with a phone conversation. It would have been fun to see them, but it was still nice to talk to them on the phone for a few minutes and hear their voices and my daughter's. I don't know how other people are, but I imagine it's the same for most people; it always makes me feel better to hear my kids' and grandkids' voices when I'm away from home. I slept like a baby Sunday night.

Monday night was another treat for me. Cindy's mom and dad stopped in Atlanta on their way back to Orlando from the mountains of North Carolina and we had a chance to visit when they invited me to dinner at...wait for it...wait for it...CRACKER BARREL. That was a surprise, wasn't it? We all love eating there. If that chain ever closes we'll probably just drift apart, lol.

I've said before I'm very fortunate to have the in-laws that I do. Most people just endure theirs but I enjoy mine and always look forward to an opportunity to spend time with them.

We caught up with each other over dinner and I was able to get photos from them that they had taken on Sunday of the cabin progress. I had brought my laptop and we put my father-in-law's camera memory stick in my reader and downloaded away, then enjoyed viewing them on the laptop screen. I'll have them uploaded soon. And my mother-in-law suggested that when we move to Maggie Valley that I write a blog about the adventures of a pair or flatlanders during their first year in the mountains. I'm kind of liking that idea. What do you think? Would you read such a blog?

Our time together was over much too quickly, but it brightened and lightened my spirits.

So far this Halloween week, it's been all treats and no tricks. Just the way I like it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Florida Writers Conference Missed

Once again, I ended up working out of town when the 8th Annual Florida Writers Conference was held this past weekend.

I'm pretty sure I know what will happen now. Since this will be my last year living in Orlando during the annual conference, at some point in the future I'll find myself off during the conference, but I'll be living 10 hours away in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Well, I'm sure Cindy will find it to be a good excuse to visit family in the Orlando area.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Thoughts

None of these are mine, but I've seen them all over the 'Net and in e-mails and I generally agree with most of them. Your mileage may vary.

- I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

- More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

- Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

- Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

- I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

- Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

- There is a great need for sarcasm font.

- How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

- I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

- The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

- What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

- Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

- I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

- If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

- Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

- You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

- There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

- I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this. Ever.

- I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

- Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

- It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

- I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

- Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it.

- Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

- It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on and the link takes me to a video instead of text.

- I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

- I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

- I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Could Save Your Life!

This always confuses and, frankly, irritates me. A TV station will air a promo for an upcoming piece on their newscast. It's Saturday afternoon and here's the promo:

(A black and white skull and crossbones appears on screen and the voiceover begins) "It's a dangerous product that everyone uses and it could kill you and your loved ones. This exclusive interview from channel blank's Jane Doe reveals information that will save your life! Thursday on the 11pm news broadcast!!"

Wait a minute! You're going to make me risk my life for 5 days waiting for this information just so you can pump up the numbers for your low-rated Thursday 11pm newscast???? If it's that damn important, tell me now!

Guess who won't be watching, life-saving information or not!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Cap'n, She Canna Tae Much More!"

I'm checked into my new hotel room. Everything is good though I'm not thrilled that there are no thermostat controls in the rooms, only fan controls. I assume it's because this is an "atrium" style hotel (most of the rooms open into the enclosed atrium - see photos below) and they want to keep the temperature at a moderate level, but I usually prefer to have my room a little cooler than most people. I'm sure I'll adjust, especially since the good points heavily outweigh that one negative.

View from my door looking across the atrium.

View looking down in the atrium.

Plus I've had my first amusing experience here. I had come up (I'm on the top floor, which is the 10th) to check out the room before bringing my luggage all the way up to the room. One thing I didn't do was turn on the TV's (one in the front room and one in the bedroom) and I know better but for some reason I didn't do it. Later, after I had unpacked and was settled in, I turned on the front room TV to be greeted with sound but no picture. I checked the bedroom TV and it was fine. I called down to the front desk, explained the situation, and the clerk replied, "No problem sir, I'll send the engineer up."

Whoa! They have an electrical engineer on staff at this hotel? I mean, it's a nice hotel but not THAT nice.

A few minutes later there was a knock at my door and when I opened it I was greeted by...the maintenance man. He came in, quickly identified the problem as an encryption card issue that required a simple reset, and in a few seconds my TV was fully functional. As he was about to leave I said, "So, you're an electrical engineer?" and he replied, "No, hotel maintenance. But we handle most of the simple problems."

Ah, the desk clerk must have meant maintenance engineer.

Sheepback Mountain Cabin Progress

Last week, Cindy flew to Maggie Valley to spend a week with her friend Rebecca and look in on the progress of our Sheepback Mountain Cabin. It's difficult not to get excited when you see the street sign for the road you got to name and the walls going up on the first story above the basement. Not to mention the light dusting of snow that fell on Saturday and Sunday and what the view will be like from my future office window.

Here's one of the photos Cindy took and the others can be found here on Facebook or here on Flickr.

Monday I'll get some more photos from Cindy's mom and dad when we meet for dinner here in Atlanta and I believe Rebecca has some as well that she will be sending. I'll post those when they arrive.

Our cozy little cabin on Sheepback Mountain is slowly taking shape.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Things That Make You Feel Good

The highlight of my day today was when my grandson text-messaged me from my daughter's phone to ask if I could chat with him on Yahoo Messenger this Sunday. We coordinated a time and I'm looking forward to it so much. As I told him, I was thinking the other day that I would like to chat with him on the webcam. And now we will!

Hermit Crab

I'm moving to a new hotel Saturday. It's one that is closer to my office and, frankly, has nicer amenities than the one in which I'm currently staying. Plus it's closer to a Publix, where I prefer to buy my groceries, and to some popular restaurants when I want to eat out. In fact, Cindy and I ate at the Cheesecake Factory in that area when she visited me back in May.

But the biggest reason I chose this particular hotel is because last week I had checked our staffing list and did not see anyone from my office staying there. Not that I don't like the people I work with, because I do (at least most of them) and they are great people, but I am just not the type who enjoys a lot of social interaction. I can fake it very well (I'm told) when I have to, but deep down inside when I get back to my hotel at night after a long day I'd rather just be a hermit in my room and that becomes problematic when your co-workers are staying in the same hotel. You know, when they find out you're staying there too they want to go have a drink after work or go to dinner together after work or go do something together on your day off...and that's very seldom my preference. As I say, I like my co-workers and they're fine people, but I can probably count on one hand the ones I'd LIKE to spend time with when I'm off work (and if you're reading this, please be assured you ARE one of those, lol). So I booked a reservation thinking I could be my "hermit" self without going through the scenes above.

But today the main reason for my hotel choice was blown apart after I discovered that several of my co-workers had just moved to the same hotel. Some of them are very gregarious and outgoing. One of them, upon finding out today that I was moving there, has already said, "Let's get a drink together one night." I said, "Oh yeah, that'd be great" but you probably already know what they didn't; that I wasn't entirely honest in my response. Now I'll be trying to figure out how to sneak into the hotel each night and make it up to my room without being spotted, or making up lame excuses or, in some cases, just giving in and doing it so as not to offend anyone.

When I was a kid I'd pick up hermit crabs on the beach, never dreaming I'd become one someday, lol.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eating Healthy In Spite Of Myself

I went to Cracker Barrel for lunch today (the one on Jimmy Carter Blvd. in Atlanta) and ordered my usual favorite, which is the fried chicken tenderloin sandwich on grilled whole wheat sourdough.

The last time I got one of these, I was so determined to be good that I didn't even use the mayonnaise they give you on the side, choosing to eat it "dry", so to speak, to avoid the fat and sugar in the condiment. The sandwich is tasty enough without it, so that was no big deal. I'm trying to alter my tastes and expectations to eat a little healthier.

So I'm on my lunch hour, which means my time is limited, and the server mistakenly brings me a GRILLED chicken tenderloin sandwich on grilled whole wheat sourdough. I look at it for a moment, realize I don't have time to wait for a replacement and it's going to be healthier for me anyway, and take a nice big bite.

My tongue: Hey! This is pretty good!

My brain: (in a pouting tone) But it's not as good as what I usually get.

My tongue: I think it's very tasty. Don't you feel all those pleasure signals I'm sending to you?

My Brain: Oh...yeah that IS pretty good!

My heart:
And it's better for me, so we're good all around.

Me: When did my internal organs start talking?

Anyway, sometimes I eat spite of myself.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

50 Useful Blogs for Writers

Over on The Word Blog, Randy Ray has compiled a list of 50 Useful Blogs for Writers. He's broken them down into 21 blogs of Writing Tips, 10 Word of the Day blogs, and 19 Grammar blogs.

Plus, if you read down into the comments, there are links to some other blogs for writers that might be of interest.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Undeserved Authority

Today was one of those days that make me think I should just get into writing full time.

Unqualified people with undeserved authority simply burn my biscuits.

That's all. Thanks for letting me vent

A Quandry

Do I want to buy it...

...or take it out on the water?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Takin' Care Of Business

Today was a "mostly at my desk" day doing paperwork and preparing an agenda and collateral documents for a large conference call this coming Wednesday, so I took advantage of the seat time to listen to music on my iPhone using the stereo Bluetooth headset so no one could hear my tunes.

Everything was fine until, apparently, I got into the music a little too much. Foot tapping, arm waving, air-guitaring and head shaking to Takin' Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive earned me some funny looks and is NOT a good idea in a big government agency office.

Taking care of business and working overtime
Work out!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Swine Flu Scare Escalates

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Here's another suggestion my brother sent me that is of particular interest to people who enjoy words and expanding their vocabulary.

Artwiculate is a Twitter-based word of the day competition. To play you just use the word of the day in the proper context in one of your tweets. Other tweeters vote as to how effective your use of the word was in your tweet. You can earn points when people like your use or retweet it. But for wordsmiths, the real fun is in constructing a tweet using the word in the best way possible and in seeing how others use the same word of the day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Myriad Musings

Last night or early this morning I had a dream that my mother, who is in an assisted-living facility, was living on her own and had bought an alligator with a bum leg as a pet. She said it was a safe pet because with its bum leg it couldn't move fast enough to catch anyone.

I have NO idea from which strange recesses of my mind that dream might have originated. It was almost as outlandish as my dream involving Mariah Carey a few nights ago. But not nearly as fun.

I think one of my co-workers was ticked today that I didn't take her hint that she wanted to go to lunch together so she could talk about office politics, but I really prefer (and in this case, needed) to have some time to myself and NOT have business on my mind. I'm such a social hermit anyway.

Wow, just found out today that a lot of my friends in other departments are being sent home on Saturday.

Thinking about going to the High Museum here in Atlanta to see the Da Vinci Exhibition on Sunday. But since it's my only day off this week, I may wait and see if we get 2 days off next week. I love just about anything to do with Da Vinci. This exhibit is scheduled to be there through February of next year so as far as I know I have plenty of time.

Today a woman walked into the men's room of my office building while I was in the stall. I could see her through the opening between the door and the wall and was about to cough as a hint she was in the wrong room. But just before I did she spotted the urinals on the wall and beat a hasty retreat out the door.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hit The Road Jack - Albany Georgia Visit

Tuesday morning I had to drive 3 1/2 hours from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia for a visit with an elected official's staff. I had lunch in Albany and while there used part of my lunch hour to take a photowalk in the city's beautiful Veteran's Park and the Ray Charles Plaza. In case you didn't know, the late Ray Charles was born in Albany, and the city has a unique shrine dedicated to their favorite son. As you can see in the photos below, part of the plaza has a giant-sized piano keyboard.

The walk was a nice break before climbing back into the car for a 3 1/2 hour trip back to Atlanta. By the way, the first part of the title of this post "Hit The Road Jack", was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks beginning the week of October 9, 1961, just over 48 years ago. I think my very favorite version of the song is from the 1989 movie "The Dream Team" where Peter Boyle and some of the other patients at a mental health facility sing it during a bus trip to a baseball game. If you don't crack up when Boyle sings the chorus, I just don't know what will ever make you laugh.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Difference Between

"It is not always easy to tell the difference between thinking and looking out the window."

Wallace Stevens 1879-1955

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


No, I'm not referring to the magical word that transforms young Billy Batson into Captain Marvel. Nor am I talking about Gomer Pyle's favorite word of exclamation.

I'm talking about another app that makes me love my iPhone.

If you're not familiar with it, Shazam is a "music discovery engine" application that allows you to hold your iPhone or other handheld device where it can hear a song playing and in about 20 seconds it will identify the song, singer, album AND offer you a link to download it if you so choose, and much more.

I've had the application on my iPhone for a while, but didn't try it out until the other night when I was "holding court" in the hotel bar, getting soused with beautiful women hanging on my every word as I told wild, outlandish stories and regaled them with my life of action and intrigue.

Ok, that's not entirely true.

I WAS in the hotel bar, which is also a restaurant, but I was sitting alone having dinner and reading a magazine. See how exciting my life really is, lol? Around me people in groups or couples were talking, the TV's were on and on top of all that the bar was playing music over it's sound system. I was checking Facebook and Twitter when I thought, "Hey, what's that song they're playing? Wait! I have an application that is supposed to be able to tell me." So I opened up Shazam, clicked the "Tag This" button and then held the phone and watched it listen to and record the sound, send the clip to Shazam's database, and return the name of the song, the artist singing it, the album it was on and links to buy it on iTunes, watch a video of the song on YouTube, tweet the tag, read a biography of the artist, look at the artist's discography and read the lyrics. Wow!

I did it 5 different times with 5 different songs and it identified 4 of them. I'm pretty sure it was just too noisy in the bar for it to recognize the one it couldn't identify. But in spite of all the noise and warring sounds, Shazam successfully tagged 4 out of the 5.

Shazam! Your magic word for exclaiming when a song is identified for you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

H1N1 Handshake

My employer is holding a series of H1N1 awareness classes and this past Friday morning was my turn to attend with about 30 of my colleagues. We learned to cough into the inside of our elbow and that "the bump" is gaining acceptance as a substitute for shaking hands. The President and First Lady probably had no idea they were exhibiting a precursor to staying healthy and not passing germs and bacteria around when they gave each other that famous show of affection.

Whenever I leave a meeting at a Senator's or Congressman's office and I've been shaking hands so much it seems like I might be like a politician myself, I always get out the bottle of Purell I keep in my car and liberally douse my hands and wrists before driving away. Maybe now I can convince them that we should just do "the bump."

Wonder Twin powers activate!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Doubletree Dismay

I like the hotel I'm staying at. I stayed here for more than a month earlier this year and never had any problems. But I've been slightly ticked at the front desk staff at Doubletree this past week. I had a package arrive on Monday, October 5th. They never called my room to advise me and I didn't know it was there until Thursday morning when I stopped by after breakfast and asked the desk clerk if I had a package. He then proceeded to interrogate me as to what kind of package, then finally produced it from beneath the counter. He thrust a pickup sheet at me to sign before letting me have the package and when I asked why I hadn't been called when it arrived on Monday, he just shrugged his shoulders.

Update: I've decided that the morning desk clerk is just a sour person. I stopped by the desk after breakfast Friday to ask if he could change a ten dollar bill for a five and five ones so I could leave a tip for the housekeeping staff that services my room. I laid the $10 bill on the counter between us. The way he reacted, You would have thought I asked him to just give me money free and clear instead of change. It seemed that he wanted to draw out the process as long as possible to let me know what an inconvenience it was to him. He counted out the ones three times and then snatched the $10 off the counter before handing me the change, as if he was afraid I would run off with both the change and the $10. I'm pretty sure that one more incident with him will require that I speak to the Front Desk Manager.

I never had this problem when I was here earlier this year and I don't remember this unfriendly desk clerk being here then. He is definitely not in the right job. His (lack of) personality makes him unsuitable for a job dealing with the public.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Georgia Flood Disaster Slide Show

Last Sunday I was out in some of the hardest hit communities that were devastated by the Georgia September 2009 flood with our team of Community Relations specialists. These hardworking folks blanket disaster-affected areas from sunup until sundown with recovery information by going door to door. They took me to a mobile home community that had homes in one section that were completely submerged by the flood waters. Here is a small slide show I created using some of the photos I took from that area. The sights, sounds and even smells are heartrending. News media reports are that 10 people lost their lives by drowning as a result of this flood.

This is my first time using Picnik to create a slideshow, so I hope it works when I post it. If you do not see the photo captions in the top right-hand corner of the screen, roll your mouse over the slideshow photo area and a "Captions" button will appear at the bottom. Left-click that once and the captions should appear. Then roll your mouse off the slideshow area so the menu will disappear.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Grammar Gaffe

It's a sad situation when AP posts something like this;

"The exciting and important thing about this prize is that it's given too someone ..."

They have since corrected it, but it hit me like a slap in the face this morning when I was reading their news releases that were coming across my desk.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good News!

I'm scheduled to have a day off Saturday. I would love to spend it sleeping all day, but I do have laundry to do and I need a workout.

Blast it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Want You Back - 40 Years Later

On October 7, 1969, producer Berry Gordy and Motown Records released "I Want You Back", the first single off the inaugural album of The Jackson 5 entitled "Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5." The song was an instant hit, going to number 1 on the U.S. charts (knocking the Beatles’ hit "Let It Be" out of the top spot), and selling over 4 million copies around the world. In December of that same year, when the album was finally released, it landed in the number 5 spot on the U.S. charts, but "I Want You Back" would be the only singles hit off their first album.

I was 14 years old and I remember the local rock n' roll radio station played it as often as I suppose the FCC would allow. I bought the 45 single and then the album. I wish I still had them today. That song, which kicked off a string of number 1 hits for the brother group, is probably my favorite Jackson 5 song of all time. The first piano chord riff grabbed my attention and the following bass guitar line held it throughout the song while Michael sang like few 11 year-olds ever would.

Today, 40 years later, the previously unreleased Jackson 5 song "That's How Love Is" went on sale exclusively through iTunes and is the first single from "I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters", a Jackson 5 album collection of 12 tracks recorded by the group between 1969 and 1974. They've been sitting in the Motown vault all these years (along with enough songs for 4 more albums), deemed unworthy of release until now, following the death of Michael Jackson. The album is scheduled to be released on November 10, 2009.

I'll admit I'm torn. I stopped caring anything about Michael Jackson following the accusations, not once but twice, of child molestation. But I still like listening to Jackson 5 songs and some of MJ's earlier stuff. I would probably like the style of these unreleased songs. But do I want to feed the machine?

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


This is a nifty little search engine site that my brother sent to me. The reason he sent it is that he knows I travel a lot and Goby is a search engine "that's all about finding fun ways to spend your free time, from a weekend to a week off."

You can search what you'd like to do, where you'd like to do it and when you'd like to do it. Since I'm in Atlanta I searched for book events in Atlanta this weekend and Goby returned 28 book or book-related events taking place in Atlanta this weekend. Now, if I were only off this weekend!

Give it a try and see what you think. If you like it you can thank my brother. Thanks bro!

Monday, October 5, 2009


"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."
E.L. Doctorow

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hyundai? No Way!!

Here's a car I will NEVER buy and, if I have any say in the matter, will never accept from a rental car company again when traveling.

I don't know what it is about the design of this Hyundai Accent (which is similar in overall size to other compact cars I have rented when traveling for my employer) doors and seats, but I have to fold my 6'4" frame like a pretzel to get into the driver's seat. That's aggravating enough because yoga is not my thing and as I get older I'm not as flexible as I used to be in my gymnastic days. But today was the icing on the cake when, in attempting to bend my body into a weird enough shape to squeeze into the car, my hip case for my iPhone snapped off at the clip, rendering the case unusable.

So again I say; Hyundai? No Way!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Something's Afoot In Atlanta

Been going full speed since I arrived here yesterday afternoon and I can see it won't stop for a while. It has been good to see a lot of people that I haven't seen in a long time. Some from as far back as 2007 when we worked in Orlando together. Sunday I'll be on the road and out in the community with another division of our department for some program familiarization and Monday I'll be driving to a community briefing and conducting a meeting of my own. Then I have various office visits to make with elected officials throughout the remainder of the week.

I haven't had a lot of time to even talk to Cindy. I slipped in a few minutes at lunch today. I may miss posting and if so you'll know why, but I'm hoping to put something up every day as I do normally.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Heading Back To Atlanta

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

For whatever reason, "It was a dark and stormy night.", the opening words written by Edward Bulwer-Litton, an English 19th Century author, have become the standard and accepted phrase to denigrate a story. It's even odder when you know that Bulwer-Litton was considered to be an outstanding writer by his contemporaries. Still, to this day, his choice of opening words is universally used to indicate that a writer's work is substandard or that the writer is a hack.

Whether it's a novel, short story, magazine article, news story or column, most people decide if they will continue reading based on the first few opening words. That is one reason why writers of all disciplines do their best to write words that will "grab" the reader's attention right at the beginning.

Over at The Travelers Notebook, Joshua Johnson has posted his choices for 15 Immortal Opening Lines from novels. If you're even moderately well-read, you'll recognize most of his choices. That would not be surprising since it would seem logical that widely-read books would possess memorable opening lines (see paragraph above).

Of his choices, I would say my favorite is "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." from George Orwell's 1984. I can still remember the slight "What?" I felt the first time I read those words at the age of 11.

My favorite, outside of his choices (and frankly I was surprised that it wasn't included; not because it's one of my favorites but because it is so well-known by the majority of people, even those who do not read a great deal), is the opening paragraph from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Everyone knows the first twelve words:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

What opening words of a novel grabbed your attention?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

William Safire's Rules For Writers

William Safire, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and newspaper columnist for the New York Time, former speech writer for President Richard Nixon and wordsmith of deserved renown, passed away Sunday at the age of 79. I always liked his Rules For Writers and present them here for your reading pleasure and edification.

* Remember to never split an infinitive.
* The passive voice should never be used.
* Do not put statements in the negative form.
* Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
* Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
* If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
* A writer must not shift your point of view.
* And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
* Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
* Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
* Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
* If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
* Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
* Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
* Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
* Always pick on the correct idiom.
* The adverb always follows the verb.
* Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

William Safire 1929 - 2009 R.I.P.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life The Week I Was Born

Google has digitized every issue of Life magazine and made each issue available for online viewing, all from the comfort of your computer. I thought it would be fun to look at the issue that hit the stands the week I was born.

I used to run an in-house advertising agency for a company that sold electronic equipment. By "run" I mean that, for the most part and excluding a short amount of time that I had an assistant, I wrote the copy, drew line art, composed and pasted up mechanicals for ads and catalog pages and oversaw the printing. So looking at the ads in this issue and seeing how wording, page composition and graphics have changed was a big part of my perusal pastime. In advertising, the goal is always to entice the viewer to buy the advertised product. But it is interesting to see how the manner in which that goal is reached has evolved over the years.

Life magazine was famous for its photography and this issue is full of photos. It was enjoyable to see a photo of a much younger Queen Elizabeth on page 33. The photo montage of customers trying out the new escalator in a bank in Chile and headlined "Scares from Moving Stairs" on page 67 reminded me that my late grandmother always refused to use escalators because she was convinced her foot would be caught and mangled in the moving steps. Finally, the "Vassar 40 Year Reunion" photo spread beginning on page 135 is like seeing little slices of time.

The cover of my birth week issue of Life shows the crew of the USS Constitution on her decks. It's an important moment in our country's history, to be sure, but when I was growing up my favorite issue of Life was the one dated March 11, 1966 with Adam West as Batman on the cover. I wish I still had the copy I talked my mom into buying for me, but it is long gone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lark Or Owl?

Are you a morning lark or a night owl? A morning lark is up early in the day, rolling out of bed full of energy and ready to tackle the work of the day. A night owl finds higher energy levels and the ability to form sensible sentences out of words to be easier later in the day and into the evening.

I know a lot of writer advice begins with something that reads like this; rise at 5am while the day is young and begin writing. Do not stop until you have reached _______ (number of) words.

Let me tell you, if I rose at 5am to write, I'd still be struggling to reach three words by the time lunch rolled around. I'm a night owl and always have been. Mornings are not kind to me and the feeling is mutual. Cindy is a morning lark, or as I like to call her; Tigger. She bounces out of bed with boundless energy, fully awake and mind racing. It took a few years, but I finally convinced her, through a series of grunts, groans and sign language, that asking me any kind of question that required me to think was pointless if I hadn't at least had my hot shower and some time to adjust to the ungodly light outside the windows.

Unfortunately, most of my adult life the jobs I have held and/or family responsibilities have required me to wake and work the opposite of my cycle. And I can adjust, but it is difficult. Most of the time, if I'm looking at you, talking and maybe even smiling before noon, you can be sure I'm wishing I was still in bed sleeping soundly instead. No offense.

If I were making my living as a writer and I lived alone, my normal waking hours would be something like 11am until 2am. I love sleeping in late and being up working at night. That just happens to be my body's natural circadian cycle. Up in time to make lunch my first meal, run a few errands during the afternoon and then sit and write for hours through the evening and night past the witching hour. Ah, that sounds SO nice. Well, not the living alone part, but you know what I mean.

So are you a lark or an owl?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Book Introduced You To Science Fiction?

Over at SF Signal, they have posted an interesting piece where they ask several (mostly) writers of science fiction the question, "What Book Introduced You to Science Fiction?"

It's kind of satisfying to see that most of them began with books and authors that are considered to be the cream of the crop when it comes to science fiction. Authors like Heinlein, Norton, Bradbury, Asimov and Bova, or books like A Wrinkle In Time and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I was also happy to see that two of the authors responded that the book(s) that introduced them to science fiction were the same as the books that introduced ME to science fiction at the tender age of 7. I say books because I don't remember the specific title of the first one I read, but it was a Tom Swift book and I eventually read ALL the titles in that Tom Swift series. It may have been "Tom Swift and His Flying Lab" (pictured), but I can't be absolutely sure. It wasn't long after that when I moved on to Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and others, but it was young Tom Swift who first introduced me to science fiction.

Did you know the "Taser" was inspired by one of Tom Swift's fictional inventions?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

20 Most ReTweetable Words And Phrases

If you are a fan of Twitter and you want to know the best way to get your 140-character gems ReTweeted, Fast Company has posted "Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter" for you. Although there may be some debate about some of their points and charts, I was most interested in their list of the 20 Most ReTweetable Words And Phrases.

I'm not surprised by number one since "you" is a universal word in successful marketing. I WAS surprised that number 8, "free", was not at least number two, if not number one. "Free" is one of the bedrock words in marketing, so to find it in the number 8 slot was a bit confounding.

Personally, I don't think I've ever said anything worth retweeting. But it might be interesting to try to put together something using as many of these 20 Most ReTweetable Words And Phrases as possible to see how often it might get duplicated on Twitter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

McDonald's New Burger

I despise McDonald's food offerings and only go there when my grandkids visit and insist (yeah, Ronald's got the little ones wrapped around his marketing finger) on eating there. But this new burger McDonald's is advertising turns my stomach even more than usual. Come to think of it, we never know what's in ANY of the burgers, do we?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

National Punctuation Day 2009

Don't fear the semicolon!

Today is National Punctuation Day. For both writers and readers, punctuation is an important part of any group of words.

Celebrate National Punctuation Day; take an ellipsis to lunch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lex Luthor Visits Magic Kingdom!

Sunday morning I had the pleasure of getting my brother, sister-in-law, niece and her fiance into the Disney Magic Kingdom park. It's been more than a year since I have seen my brother, so I was excited to get the chance to spend some time with him. Everyone else was a bonus.

So it turns out that about a week ago my brother shaved his head bald and also shaved off his beard, something he'd never done in the past and thus caught me completely off-guard. My first thought was "Holy $h!7!!" because I was so surprised and it was such a different look for him, but I didn't verbalize that. I remember many years ago when my parents hadn't seen me for a while and came to visit. I had been letting my hair grow out for quite some time. When they arrived on my front porch and I opened the door the first thing my mom said wasn't "How have you been?" or "I've missed you" but rather, "Good God, you look like a woolybooger!" It scarred me for life and I could not be responsible for affecting my brother in a similar manner. So I bit my tongue and enjoyed just getting to see my brother, hug him and spend a small amount of time with him. However, brothers being brothers, I could not resist the urge, later when I was taking photos, to say, "I'm going to name this picture 'Lex Luthor Visits Magic Kingdom!'" and everyone laughed.

Here are some of the photos I took and one I'm in with my brother. It WAS good to see him!

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