Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Days like yesterday make me truly question just how much reasoning end decision-making it takes lo survive long enough to get a driver's license.

It's not often that I'll go off on an insanely-angry rant. Granted, there have been some, end from time to time, they've been real doozies. Still, it's far from the norm.

However, the mess that I saw on the roads yesterday needs to be addressed. I mean, honestly, how have they made it this far into winter?

For those uneducated in the ways of writer, it goes like this - it snows, it warms up, melting the snow, then it cools down, freezing the water into ice. Then, snow falls, coating the ice with a skiff of snow. Further driving polishes the ice, making traction
a precious commodity, at best.

You might think that I wouldn't have to explain this but it is the internet and there are people who haven't experienced snowfall before. Also, I feel that I need to be extra-explicit for those drivers who have spent countless winters in Edmonton end JUST DON'T GET IT!
Days like yesterday, where the roads are treacherous and visibility is poor are not the right times to try that cool driving stunt you just saw on Youtube. Conditions like last night are not the right place for impatience, reckless hurrying or
this inane sense of entitlement you get from driving your brand-new Lexus, Just because your car is nicer doesn't mean that your desire for expediency supersedes my right-of-way. Back of the bus, Gus. And SUV-boy, this is reality, not Pole Position. Swervy-swervy doesn't go over so well with those of us whose vehicles weren't designed by the military. Pick the lane you need and stay there. Please.

See? I can be polite.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday morning musings

Thank God the Oakland Raiders are a worse team (by several orders) than the Houston Texans No matter what Houston did to try and hand the game to the Raiders, Oakland played the perfect gentleman, handing it right back.

Fumbles on three consecutive offensive snaps tells me one thing about David Carr. He's afraid. At no other point in Texans history have I actually wanted to see Carr replaced but there's a first time for everything. Hearing mention that Carr was not getting the job done in crunch-time, I made a point of paying attention at the times I thought were crucial. He did not complete a single pass when it was important. Van Pelt isn't the answer any more than the Sarge, so I don't see Carr losing his job this year, and I hope he gives me some cause for hope down the stretch because this game just made me sad.

The defense was made of stone today, though, and that was the difference. My boy, Glenn Earl looked good, and this looks like the unit that the Texans will come to rely on in this latest rebuilding stint. DeMeco Ryans won the DROY this week, in my opinion. He's everywhere, he's everything and the defense would be worse than
ordinary without him.

Welcome back, Jerome Mathis. Take away his one average return and he starts us off on our own 4, then the Raiders 3. Can't say he isn't exciting. Wynn was good, too, with the fake trick play. Brown sounded good, except the one miss, but Stanley needs
to be replaced.

It was nice to hear about Ron Dayne doing more than hurting O-Linemen. If I had a game ball for offense, he would definitely get it.

In the end, it was nice to see a win, but this game left me with more questions than answers.

-Who are the Houston Texans? Are they tying the record for consecutive completions, or are they struggling to break zero passing yards on the day?

-Are they giving up a record 22 straight completions or are they forcing 5 turnovers?

-Who is David Carr? Is he the Texans' future or is be the embarrassing past?

-Is the offensive-line improving Or are they still taking baby steps? Or are they backpedaling as quickly as they can?

At this point, your guess is probably as good as Gary Kubiak's.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blog my tablet - or - Friday Night Tablet Bloggin'

So.. it's Friday night and I'm writing yet another blog entry. This one, though, is in my handwriting.

That's right, I've got my Tablet back.

So, before you know it, the rest of my software will be installed and I'll be a tabletizing demon.

NOTE: This blog was posted Monday morning because of a delay in setting up my wireless router. It was still written Friday night.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

100th Post Spectacular

As I said before, this is likely way too self-centred, but I don't care. It's my blog, my post and your right not to read it.

Blog! The Blogging Blogger's Blogged!
This was my second attempt at a web-presence (therevolution.net/liam) and, in hindsight, this is a much easier one to maintain. In general, I just spout off about the internet.
Three teeth, one low, low price
I do my fair share of post-extraction whining
Milk in the tooth-hole and other horror stories
More whining, but it sure did hurt.
Into the bowels of the bowels of the library
Ah, the library book sale. I'd been to one in Lethbridge before, but it wasn't on the same level. Not even close.
Sean broke his alarm clock
Sean told me how and why he'd broken his alarm clock and I fictionalized it, although, according to the comments I received, it wasn't too far from the truth.
My rant against the proliferation of gratuitous sexuality in the media. Probably nothing original or different from what's been written thousands of times before, but it was genuinely felt.
Father's Day
Is there any holiday (other than Mother's Day) that is as richly-deserved as Father's Day?
Wake-up Call
A pre-natal scare taught me that nothing is as scary as the unknown.
Old Neighbour, New Neighbour
Since we moved in the middle of August, I haven't been Rob's neighbour physically, but we're still Beaver leaders together and he'll always be my neighbour, at heart.
Baptism by... um... God?!
I saw Father Roger this weekend, after a summer where he was in Ontario, doing some scholarly stuff. It was nice to see him again.
Two roads diverged in a wood and I- umm...
I was sick of not having anything new to report on the lack of promotion, so I posted this to get it out. It still didn't make the waiting any better or easier.
Something Else
I like this story. It made me happy to write about pining without actually pining.
100 things? Really? Wow.
This post was a marathon. I now know how hard it is to come up with 100 things about myself. At some point I should review these and find out how many are still true.
My Books
What else? They're my books, although this list is disgustingly out-of-date.
Slowps from the slopes
An updatey-type post. "35 Squat-thrust" penance. Ah, I'm such a card.
The Annual Great Halliburton Summer Picnic
More than just about anything, I miss the Picnic from Halliburton.
The Family Dog
Arr, Jack, you're a rogue and you'll never change. Thank God.
Damn Rights, You're Sorry!
Wow, so much rage. I'm so glad I like my job, now.
Hockey Cancelled Due To Pansy Participants. Next Week Cancelled Due To Pedicure
I never did go back and play with those guys.
How did I get so behind - or Schrodinger's catsup
A long updatey-type post.
Software Development
I could have made that program so much simpler if I'd known what I know now. Still, it works… or did, anyway.
The Johnstone House/A fairly innocuous laundry room, unt…/And this is the tree that we see whe…
Three posts dedicated to a photo-tour of the condo.
Good ol' Lillian. A constant joy.
I'm just about even with those bastards
I still haven't replaced the sweats, but I got a backpack (BACKPACK!) for Father's day.
A study in contrast
Now Preston and Lillian look identical when they grin.
Just going over this post, I cringe. Thank goodness that part is over.
Back at work
Wow. After all the stewing over whether or not I would get the promotion, my reaction to the positive news was surprisingly underwhelming.
And Team BisonWeb continues to spread its influence to all the dustiest corners of the World Wide Web.
This game is easier to read about when I consider it was against the eventual Super Bowl runners-up, but then I remember that it was Loserville and I just feel worse.
Battle of Alberta
I am an MS Paint Wizard.
Phenobaby no more!
Lillian came through that one like a champion.
Super Mario Bros: The End
A time-waster, but I enjoyed writing it.
Nicholas Johnstone: Game Designer
This one still makes me chuckle from time to time.
Required Cognates
Preparation for the next post.
Hank Ilesic
"This is the stupidest f#cking post ever!"‹punt› -Hank Ilesic
Lest We Forget
Remembrance Day is coming up right away, again. This time, I at least have my uniform.
If God were a typist
Few things are nicer than new electronics. I still love my keyboard.
Well, it's official
Last season was, to quote Gregg Easterbrook, "Cover-your-eyes awful." This season is better so far, even if I can't see much better than 6-10 or 7-9.
Boys, We’ve Hit the Jackpot
I wonder how that cream would taste right now…
Blast from the Past
A semi-fictional story about a turning-point in my life.
Another oldie
a.k.a. Liam tries his hand at ensemble-cast mystery/detective story.
Lillian's Baptism
So much to look forward to.
Not exactly on the Christmas list, but...
Ahh, Fingers… I miss your personality, but not your late-night hijinx.
Annual Goal
a.k.a. "Down in Flames, the Liam Johnstone story"
Song of Susannah
A book report.
Yesterday, I learned that one of my co-workers was...
It's still true. I wonder if that guy ever got a clue.
The Magician's Nephew
Another book report.
A Feast for Crows
Another book report.
Minigoal #2
If I'd had time to keep this up, minigoals would have been the way to go. Ah well… maybe next time.
Stupid Sprite!
At least I've replaced the Prydain Chronicles.
The Dark Tower
Another book report.
So, yeah, the car
Mom gave us her car and I blogged about it.
Welcome to "The Fold"
More reading goal postings
Memories of Ice
Another book report.
Three years?!
Sentimental reminiscence of meeting my wife.
Three New Books as Stories Unfold
I didn't want to read sado-pseudo-porn, so I gave up on Kushiel and crew.
Anansi Boys
Another book report.
Shaman's Crossing
Another book report.
Winter Camp as seen by a Leader of Beavers
My synopsis of 2006 Winter Camp.
Valentine's Day
I defend the "Romantic Holiday".
Minigoal update or: As the Slacker Turns
More goal-speak.
Queen of Demons
Another book report.
A New Job: I'll really be "Intuit"
Turning a corner. A big one.
Resigned To It
Quitting sucks.
"I quit." "You're fired."
Firing people is worse.
At Least the Milkshake was Tasty
A car crash outside my home interrupted some sweet frozen treat.
This Time Next Week
The final farewell to Halliburton.
A little family history for you
Auntie Anne and Cousin Mike let me know about some family history.
See? Sharp.
A fairly standard updatey-post with some funny hand-stabbing comments.
Haiku error messages.
California Dreamin'
Pre-California jitters.
Once more, into the books
Another library book sale, this time with synopses/justification for each book.
Now, was that so hard?
A review of turning 30.
The 2006 Texans Draft
A review of the Texans' draft.
Milestone Number One Reached, Four Days Late
Goal stuff.
With the first pick of the franchise's first draft, the Texans pick...
Review of the Texans' first draft.
But That Was Long Ago
Reminiscences of my University time.
50 books was too much for this year.
My Pod, i-Poddius
Gushing over new technology. [since broken]
Innovation meets technology
Gushing over new technology. [since broken]
Distraction by Bat and Jeff
One of the many stories I've concocted to mould my son.
The Eye of the World
Another book report.
Intuit Spotlight Award
Yay me!
Updates, updates, updates
Updatey-type post
Wizard of Earthsea
Another book report.
Keyless entry? Sure..
What happens when brute force wins out over stupidity.
How Can it Only Have Been a Week?
An unpublished post chronicling the shift in perspective over a week of house-hunting.
Weekend Updates -- WITHOUT Dennis Miller
Updates on buying a house.
A Change in the Wind
Philosophical murmurings
Mr. Darwin's Shooter
Another book report.
101 in 1001 -- in the spirit of ripping my wife off
101 goals in 1001 days
The Wizard of Oz
Movie review
Backseat Quarterback
Another book report.
Week 1 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Lamentable loss.
Week 2 vs. the Colts (or – This Sh!t’s Getting Old, Fast)
Disastrous outing.
Week 3 With no Rose-Coloured Glasses
Record-settingly bad.
Broken tablet, broken heart
Alas, my tablet is broken and on its way to repair.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Broken tablet, broken heart

The very day that I started looking into some of the things that people are doing with Tablet PCs (some of the more interesting are meeting note-taking, signing faxes, various art projects and photo-manipulation), I got a horrible phone call from my wife, telling me that the computer would not start up.

I got home that night and discovered, to my horror, that the tablet would not load a sys file. Not too worrisome. I have tech support, I have several avenues for system restore, and I have a wealth of knowledge, both on the internet and in my head for file-recovery.

I called tech support and after trying some things, we discovered that the only possibility was a destructive restore. I mentally shrugged, being a veteran of computer holocausts* and just wanting the computer to work so I could start getting into some of the things I'd researched.

*holocaust - a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.

The next day, compiling- and deploying-time (really quite a bit of my time is spent waiting for the changes that I've made to compile and deploy on a web server -- take, for instance, this blog-entry -- it was made during various compile-and-deploy sessions) was spent pulling files off of the tablet with the use of a knoppix live-Linux CD, onto my USB Flash Drive and onto the work computer. These are burned onto a CD. I managed to recover about 85% of my wanted files, pretty good for a kaputz hard drive.

Then came the challenge of restoring the computer. I started off with the restore CDs that shipped with the computer, but they failed. They could not see the hard drive. Then I tried with an MSDN copy of Windows XP Tablet edition. That didn't work either, for the same reason. Then I tried a Win 98 startup CD. I used this, and created an appropriate partition on the hard drive. Then I went to format the drive. 28 hours later, the computer was still trying to recover lost allocation units, leading me to the conclusion that the hard drive is irretrievably broken.

Fortunately, I have warranty, and Gateway is sending a coffin with which I may ship the carcass of my dead computer back to them. They will revive it with Frankensteinian precision, and ship it back to me, similarly free-of-charge and I will once again have a computer that accepts penly input.

God, I miss that machine. (Cinderella's You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone plays in the background)

Next up: the 100th post spectacular in which I revisit my posts. A self-serving, narcissistic look at the past year and a half.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Week 3 With no Rose-Coloured Glasses

Optimism was high as David Carr drove the team down to an early score. However, Washington drove right back and tied it up. I wondered how the team would respond.

Now I know.

I’ve put off writing this until Thursday, because I honestly didn’t know what to write. Who is responsible for the attrocious defensive play that resulted in yet another heart-breaking loss, this time at the hands of the Washington Redskins?

Generally, I would put that decision in the hands of management. I’m not the guy who determines who plays and who doesn’t play, I’m not paying anyone’s paycheque, my annual fieldpass subscription aside. I have my opinions as to who has played well and who has not played well, but as I said, I will defer to the experts who hold the clipboards, parse videotape, know what people are supposed to be doing, and get to make these decisions.

That said, those people have said that they accept the blame for this debacle. I refuse to follow my initial instinct and see it as the coaches throwing themselves on the grenade of scrutiny. If Gary Kubiak accepts the blame for the urine-poor play of the team, then he’s to blame. I’m still going to think that Ceandris Brown, Thomas “Big Yards” Johnson, Mario Williams, Morlon Greenwood and various others on the defense need to step it up big-time, but I don’t blame them for the loss.

That falls squarely on the coaches. If they are not properly preparing the players to play, which is basically what they’ve been saying, then they need to change their approach. If they can’t get the team ready to play, then they should be replaced.

I realize that replacing the coaching staff mid-season in their first year is not realistic, it’s harsh and it’s unfair. And I’m not going to carve Kubiak’s name into a piece of pink soap, but Kubiak himself has said that he’s failing. I’m not going to blame the players that this coaching staff thought were good enough to play. If they’re not good enough, they shouldn’t have made the team. And I refuse to believe that this team is so across-the-board bad that setting bad yardage records is, not only in reach, but seeming like an inevitability.

If the players are not good enough to play, Kubiak should not be taking the blame for preparedness, and I don’t think he would. In my opinion, it looks bad on him (not that anything in an 0-3 start with 450+ yards against/game would look good) but it’s not classy, it’s arrogant, to think that he’s bulletproof enough to be able to take the blame and keep going.

Enough with the negativity.

David Carr continued to improve, in my opinion. Despite what sounded like heavy pressure, he was sacked only once, and threw what sounded like a pressure interception. (Andre Ware said, anyway, that he didn’t have room to step up)
Shantee Orr could have had a defensive score.
Glenn Earl continued his goal-line stalking ways. He was an overturned call away from another turnover in the red-zone. (That puts him at 1 with 2 taken away) He’s starting to emerge as more than a solid starter, I think. People who have seen the games can feel free to disagree, of course.
Andre Johnson had a MONSTER game. It’s nice to see him doing what he’s supposed to be doing. He sounds like a man among boys, as it should be.
Mark Bruener got ANOTHER touchdown catch. I like that. Not quite as much as I would like to see Joppru in there, but it’s not like Jop would have gotten more points for the touchdowns.
Did anyone other than Dunta Robinson make a tackle in the second half? I swear, that guy was all over the field. Looks like he was embarrassed by his effort in the week before.

Thomas Johnson. Did this guy get cut? I don’t like him. I hear he has good work-ethic but COME ON! We lost six points and probably gave up a scoring drive on two of his antics. I’m tired of him.
22/22 – Can’t we get an incompletion? Can’t we hit him as he’s throwing to knock it off-line? GOOD GOD, DEFENSE, yell while he’s throwing, at least!
30-yard draw-play. I have no way of telling whose fault this was by the play-by-play on the radio, so I choose to blame EVERYONE.
91,74,82,70 – these were the drives that resulted in touchdowns. Make a freaking stop. We don’t need 3-and-out every time, but what about 5-and-out, 8-and-out, something?!

I think Houston can beat Miami on Sunday. Whether they will or not, I’m not sure. I’ll be there, though, listening, loving it, and hoping for Houston.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Week 2 vs. the Colts (or – This Sh!t’s Getting Old, Fast)

What can I say about week 2 of the NFL season? Well, I missed the start of the game. I was outside with my son, kicking a soccer ball.

When I got inside I kinda wished I hadn’t. It was 14-0 before I sat down and as I started the NFL Fieldpass radio, I heard Wali Lundy fumble the ball. Would we see the same uninspired football we’ve come to know and expect when the Texans were down big against a powerhouse?


It was nice to see the offense keep on trying. I understand that the majority of the offense came against a prevent defense, and that the team had basically no chance, coming back against the Colts after basically handing them a bunch of points, but I was encouraged that Johnson, Moulds, Daniels, Bruener and especially Carr went out there in the fourth quarter, down by a bunch, and didn’t hang their heads. The defense, however, should be ashamed of what happened to them.

With that in mind (and keeping in mind that I know only what I heard on the radio):

Pressure on the quarterback. It sounded like there was a lot more activity in the backfield.
Weaver against the run. I heard a couple of times when he had the runner for a loss.
Travis Johnson. All I heard from the radio guys was positive about him. Maybe it wasn’t a blown pick after all. (Time will tell)
Glen Earl. Two drive-killing plays in one drive. He can’t help that there was a penalty on his INT.
Samkon Gado. I know, this is a reach, but it sounded like he was comfortable back there and he knew where to be. Pretty good for a first game.
David Carr. (just wait… just wait) Four incompletions in a game, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Sure, it was in garbage time, but it happened. That cannot be denied. It sounded like he was making some throws down the field (the touchdown to Daniels sticks out) and when he didn’t have time, he was making the right decisions.
Playcalling in the 4th quarter. Again, it was against a defense trying not to lose, but the playcalling was aggressive, it got the team down the field and put points on the board.

Defensive coverage. I know, nobody can cover Peyton Manning teams. That’s not an excuse. 400 yards, 43 points. That’s just disgusting. These guys should hang their heads in shame (after the game, of course).
CC Brown. What the hell, buddy? Where’s the ball going? Where are you going? How the heck can you defend the pass when you’re five yards off the line of scrimmage? It just seemed like he had his head turned the wrong way all game.
Dunta Robinson. I don’t like to think that he would give up on a play, but it sounds like he did. Grow up, Dunta. Sure, you have to trust your teammates, but that’s no reason to give up when things don’t go right.
Charles Spencer. I’m not saying he didn’t play well. We lost him for the season. We have the worst offensive line in the league and we just lost the most important part of our line. I don’t know what else to say about that.
Ron Dayne. Nice job, sh!thead. I’m just kidding. He apparently ran pretty hard. He just ran at the wrong guy. (For those who don’t know, he put Spencer out for the year by breaking his leg)
Wali Lundy. I guess my expectations were just way too high for this guy. He was a sixth round pick. What was I expecting? Mike Anderson? And that fumble was just a killer.
David Carr. (That’s right) 3 fumbles in a game is unacceptable. I don’t care how they came, I don’t care what the situation is. You can’t spot a team like that Colts any points.
Playcalling through the rest of the game. 14 pass attempts through three quarters, when you're down by 14 before you can blink is just unacceptable. Granted, I understand the need to keep Peyton Manning off the field, but you have to do something to keep up with them, especially when you're down. If you can't run the ball (and all accounts I've looked at show me they couldn't), air it out, and let some things happen.

I guess what’s next is the Washington Redskins, but it seems like the Texans are their own worst enemy right now. I know it’s a cliché, but they have to stop fighting the ball. I would like to see them calm down and actually play the game.

If what has happened continues, Santana Moss is going to have a field day against the Texans. I can only hope they come out and play well, win or lose, for the whole game.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Week 1 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

My thoughts from listening to the game on FieldPass:

1. The Zone Blocking system is designed to open up cutback lanes and give the RB some room to make a play or two. I didn’t hear a single time where that was open. One of the backs found some room with a toss, but that was about it. Obviously, Philadelphia knew what to expect and J. Johnson found a way to counter it with defensive-line gap-discipline. His line also sounded like it was a lot better than Sherman’s.
2. It sounded like Carr had a good grasp of the offense and what Kubiak wanted him to do. There were some cases where he was waiting and waiting, but they were less than I would have thought. This gives me some cause for optimism. He had some brain farts around the goal-line and the results were very last-year-esque (tackle for loss, sack, sack). So that’s something to work on.
3. Eric Moulds and Andre Johnson are awesome! What a combination. And as the running game gets it together, these two are going to bust out huge.
4. I didn’t hear Joppru’s name at all. (Looking at NFL.com’s gamecenter confirms it). I’m sure he played special teams, but it would have been nice to see him get a few reps.
5. Why in the world was Lewis Sanders on the one Philadelphia Eagles receiver that did anything long? Granted, one of those long completions was said to be over Dunta, but McNabb and Reid saw something, obviously, and exploited it all day, with Sanders bringing up the rear constantly.
6. In the first half, Houston’s radio sideline reporter said that Mario wasn’t getting pressure by himself, but that there was a lot more activity than before. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds impressive, I guess. I heard a play where Babin and Peek met McNabb in the backfield and McNabb had to throw an incomplete pass. It’s nice to hear, but whenever they used the playaction (who the heck should Philadelphia’s play-action fool?) McNabb had all day to throw. That sounds like a case of too much thinking and not enough single-minded devotion to the elimination of an opposing quarterback.
7. Five sacks. That’s way too much for this offense to be giving up. I refuse to accept that protection continues to be this big a problem. However, as long as it does, and Carr doesn’t respond to blitzing with long completions and scores, opposing teams will continue to blitz and get gaudy sack numbers.
8. I was excited about how our team played early on and I look forward to more play like that.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Backseat Quarterback

Once in awhile, I'll read a book, and it will seem utterly absurd. The premise doesn't work, the writing is bad, the characters are fake, or the frame of reference is just off.

Backseat Quarterback, at first look, seemed to be an absurd book. The archaic language, the outdated name-dropping, and most specifically, the reference to the lifestyle of a professional football player. All these things seemed to me to be completely out of place. This was even knowing that the book was written in the 1960s. Granted, the NFL, pre-merger, did not have the high salaries that are commanded by today's players, but it was hard for me to believe in professional football players, living in the same hotel during the season, playing bridge together. I'm not saying that Perian Conerly is a liar. I truly believe that the events she wrote of in her book took place. It's just hard to see. I couldn't see, for instance, Drew Bledsoe getting together with Jason Witten on Monday nights to play bridge. It just doesn't work for me.

Another thing that struck me was the fact that professional football players, in those days, did not make enough money to retire on. Some of them didn't make enough money to keep from working another job in the offseason. One of the things that has always mystified me about the NFL is how commentators would say, “It's becoming a year-round job for these guys.” All I can think is, 'What else are they going to do? It's not like they have to sell TVs or anything.' When I think of the way the players have it now, compared to the way they're outlined in Backseat Quarterback, it makes me wonder what kind of perspective Bryant Gumbel, Warren Sapp and other mouthpieces have on the history of the league when they spew their venom, Gumbel characterizing Gene Upshaw as a lapdog and Sapp likening the lot of NFL players to slaves. I'm not saying they don't deserve the money they make. Football draws a lot of revenue and the people who generate the revenue should share in it. I'm just saying that because the NFL got a favourable collective bargaining, and because these people have to work for their money, people feel the need to spout off.

This book alludes to some players who ended up sticking around the game after they retired from playing, as broadcasters – Pat Summerall and Frank Gifford to name a notable few. It is my belief now that they didn't step into the broadcast booth because they wanted to stay connected to the game. Or not only that. They did so because they couldn't afford to retire. How crazy is it that former players are having to fight for their pensions when the dollars floating around professional football nowadays are bordering on obscene?

Perian Conerly does an excellent job of chronicling the life of a football player, organizing it into meaningful and digestible chunks and, in the end, she has told a story that culminates with Charlie Conerly's decision to retire. I have read a fair number of books about football players (usually by football players) and this is easily the best one. It makes me sad, a little bit, to realize that those days are gone and the innocence and purity of the game is now so polluted and diluted with the “me me me” attitude and the crime and chemical dependency that any wrongdoings in those days seem almost comedic.

Charlie Conerly died about ten years ago, but given what he went through, his tacit exterior and the ass-kissiness of some of his contemporaries, I would be very interested in hearing what he would have to say about the state of the game nowadays.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Wizard of Oz

The first thing that I remember when I think about The Wizard of Oz is the yellow-brick road. It begins at a point and spirals out until it's pointed in the direction of the wizard. I'm not sure what this signifies or what it means that they just HAPPENED to have a road begin right where Dorothy just HAPPENED to drop a house on a witch. Maybe it was prophecy. Maybe the munchkins are actually religiously devoted to Dorothy. Anyway...

Whoever played the witch did an amazing job of sounding like someone who would come from a small farming community and still be a really scary witch. The way she talked was not in evil overtones, but the way you would expect to hear a farmwife talk to her neighbour over the fence. This last viewing, I noticed that and was unconvinced of her evil until I remembered how scary the witch was when I was a kid, and I placed it in the concept of being a girl's dream. I guess everyone would talk like they were from a farm if you'd only ever been around farm folk. That said, the witch was brilliant.

How can this movie ever have been intended for children? A house falls on a witch and then her legs shrivel up and disappear. Then, the other witch dies when Dorothy foils a murder attempt on the scarecrow. She shrieks her death cries and what are the children left thinking? Probably something along the lines of, 'I hope daddy has psychiatry covered on his benefits.'

I never got the theme of The Wizard of Oz before this latest viewing. I like to hope that it says something about the time that it was written, rather than seeing it as a truism. A young farmgirl, pining for adventure and a change of scenery, is ripped from her comfortable surroundings, hailed as a hero and hand-delivered an adventure. Along the way, she completes her quest but is left abandoned by the so-called saviour. In the end, she is not permitted to leave until she realizes that everything she’s wanted was in the drab, black-and-white world of Kansas. So, the goal of her quest, rather than the search for some wizard, is a coming-of-age in which she ceases her childish dreaming and learns to appreciate what she has. It’s a charming little twist that comes full-circle to her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” dreams. The technicolor lure of Oz teaches her that she doesn’t need it.

When I think of movies that are influenced by The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz immediately comes to mind. The only thing I remember about The Wiz is that Michael Jackson played the Scarecrow and was accompanied by “Bacon”, a little puppet sidekick. I’m pretty sure that The Wiz missed the mark but it must have made some money, anyway.

Another medium affected by The Wizard of Oz is books. The Dark Tower, by Stephen King, is the most obvious example of a story touched by Oz. There is the immediate comparison – They go to Kansas and confront the wizard there. I believe one or more characters remark on the similarity. However, the overall story seems to hold the same type of quest that Dorothy undertook. Roland is looking for the tower and collects three friends. They follow a path, the beam, to a confrontation with a menacing villain, the Crimson King, who turns out to have no teeth. The wizard of Oz ends as a dream and, while I wont give you the end of The Dark Tower, many people view it as similarly unsatisfying.

All kinds of Modern Fantasy contains elements that were seen in The Wizard of Oz. The displaced hero, who just wants to go home, the magic item that allows the hero to contend with a foreign world and an enemy which destiny deems he will face. There’s even the idea of an obvious goal which turns out to be a red herring. Fear not, however, because the true meaning of the quest is just around the corner.

When I put all of this together, thinking of how The Wizard of Oz has affected modern fiction, movie-making and children’s nightmares, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Pretty good for a kid’s movie with a singing lion.’

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

101 in 1001 -- in the spirit of ripping my wife off

Because I like to take things that other people have done, change them and then pawn them off as my own, here is my list of 101 goals over the next 1001 days. That will put me squarely on Wednesday, May 13, 2009. I'll be 33, and well-ready to be done with this list.

Let me know what you think:

1. Finish “writing software”
2. Finish my book
3. Finish the dragon story
4. Finish the wedding story
5. Finish the samurai cross-stitch
6. Write one hundred non-updatish blog posts
7. Finish my football stat program
8. Start and finish another cross-stitch project
9. Outline part two of my book
10. Write part two of my book
11. Finish the installer section of my technical blog
12. Finish the Simpsons puzzle
13. Write a mystery story
14. Write a “101 things I’m grateful for” list
15. Write a letter to the editor
16. Get back into journaling
17. Complete all of the writing exercises I promised I’d do (scribe’s, and the two writing books)
18. Develop and deploy an application for PalmOS
19. Write a “101 things that piss me off” list
20. Finish the work on my walking stick
21. Make use of my coffee stir-sticks
22. Actually discuss things in discussion groups
23. Start a “favourite recipes” database – maybe with a simple front end – and keep it up
24. Write five short stories
25. Write five non-fantasy stories (of any length)
26. Write a “Wizard of Oz” writeup
27. Create, launch and maintain a family website
28. Create, launch and maintain a writing website
29. Submit a short story to an online magazine
30. Join an online debate and contribute regularly

31. Take my family on a vacation away from home
32. Finish Narnia with Nick
33. Start and finish Prydain with Nick
34. Adopt the boy
35. Start reading to Lillian
36. Get the oil changed in the car before or on the suggested date/mileage consistently
37. Move into my new house
38. Take my wife out dancing
39. Join the Ridgewood community league
40. Go on at least 1 field trip with Nicholas in grade 1.
41. Daddy-daughter day (once it’s feasible)
42. Dad-Nick day
43. Clean out the car once a month
44. Develop wedding pictures and pick some good ones to hang
45. Walks with lilly and the dog twice a week at least

46. Build a dog house
47. Build a shed
48. Turn the storage room into the workshop of my dreams
49. Transform the flex room into a downstairs bathroom with jacuzzi tub
50. Mow the lawn once per week in-season
51. Make sure that everything has a place in the new house
52. Tear down at least one wall in the basement
53. Fix the ceiling fan in the kitchen
54. Install and use Quicken Home Inventory for my home inventory
55. Wire network cables in the new house
56. Hang a clothes line in the back yard

57. Cut my to-read list in half
58. Catch up on all of the book series I am behind on
59. Get down to 220 lbs and stay there
60. Watch the first season of 24
61. Figure out calculus
62. Bake a cake
63. Barbecue some t-bone steaks
64. Write a letter to my former landlady and send it
65. Bring lunches to work daily.
66. Get up with the alarm for a month straight
67. Dedicate at least one day per month to the completion of these 101 in 1001 goals (daily routine aside)
68. Return to playing chess, taking it seriously enough to actually win now and again.
69. Stretch before and after each time I play a sport (pool excluded)
70. Focusing exercises once a week for two months
71. Apply at tigerfish for some freelance transcription work
72. Go canoeing (lake, river – something)
73. Join a committee or some volunteer thing like that at work and follow through
74. Finish either Metroid Prime or Zelda. Windwaker
75. Read the rest of “Lord of the Rings”
76. Buy two new pairs of work pants
77. Buy a pair of jeans that fits
78. Go a week without coffee
79. Go a month without eating out (work cafeteria included)
80. Play tennis
81. Drink water every meal for a month
82. Do engaged encounter weekend help at least twice a year
83. Donate blood

84. Ride the bike to work every day, weather permitting
85. Get rid of the “grinding” sound my bike makes
86. Tune up my bike (brakes, gears, chain, etc)
87. Long bike trip (details to come)

88. Completely organize my music
89. Completely organize our movies
90. Scan all of my drawings into the computer
91. Finish cataloging my book collection
92. Do a “Do I really need this?” on my book collection
93. Do a “Do I really need this?” on my CD collection
94. Do a “Do I really need this?” on my movie collection
95. Do a “Do I really need this?” on my clothes

96. Back up everything that’s necessary on the desktop computer
97. Reformat and reinstall on the desktop
98. Finish entering all the stuff I have on paper into the computer
99. Load all of my cds onto the computer (as MP3s)
100. Organize and store (or discard) every single email (work and home)
101. Finish learning web programming and Jakarta Struts

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mr. Darwin's Shooter

Take a God-fearing Christian, stick him in a boat with Charles Darwin, make them near-constant companions on a wildlife-collecting study and see what it does to the Christian.

Mr. Darwin’s Shooter is a fictionalized account of the life of Syms Covington, Darwin’s servant during his days aboard the Beagle, collecting specimens that laid the foundation for The Origin of Species. It involves Covington’s struggle to reconcile his beliefs with what Darwin is showing him about evolution.

The story bounces back and forth between Covington’s time with Darwin and some time in the future when Covington lives in Australia, his odd relationship with Dr. MacCracken, a man who appears to hold the key to Covington’s salvation.

Throughout the story, we learn more and more about Covington, where Darwin remains a distant, somewhat cold member of the gentry. An effort at characterization is made, showing how Darwin moves farther away from his belief in God as he goes deeper in his study of Evolutionary Theory and Natural Selection, but for the most part, he remains the same.

Covington comes of age in the backward-looking chapters. He loses friends, loses himself and falls in love. His charm is in his irrepressible spirit and his willingness to tackle anything that’s asked of him.

The older Covington is stodgy, set in his ways, and inflexible. However, he has an agenda of his own, and when, inevitably, he dies at the end of the story, it is in peace with his creator, and it is seen through his eyes as a reunion with all those he lost at sea.

Mr. Darwin’s Shooter was a pretty large step outside of the kind of books that I normally read – Fantasy, Mystery, Cop-Drama – and I was very pleasantly surprised by both the quality of writing and how moved I was by Covington’s desperate search for salvation and his need for the recognition of his master.

A Change in the Wind

A couple of questions: How much do the events of our youth affect us? I’m not talking about the day it was cold and someone made you walk to school. I’m talking about the jarring, I’ve-been-kicked-in-the-stomach-type things that change your perception of life and family.
How much should we let these things continue to affect us, half a lifetime removed from when they actually happened?
Is it reasonable to hope that things will get better by themselves, or is it best to poke at a problem to let some air out?
What happens when the cover falls off? Generally all hell breaks loose.

To make a long story short, I had a fight picked with me, then I was baited into a second fight. I fought back and knocked the cover off a fifteen-year-old secret that’s helped to shape the second half of my life. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Angry Liam? There is no Angry Liam.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Weekend Updates -- WITHOUT Dennis Miller

Below, you will find a hastily-sketched recap of our ho-hum weekend. It starts approximately 3:15 pm Friday afternoon.

I left early to go get condo docs. Drove home to change out of shorts that got ripped during lunch-time soccer. Drove downtown (eventually) to get to Kingsway Asset Management Ltd. Parked stupidly, thinking 102 was 104. Walked 20 min, went up 27 floors on the elevator, was told that the cost was more than I had on me (apparently this is my fault too) and that they don't have spare change, so the ATM in the lobby is not entirely sufficient. I took more money out there, and went hunting for convenience stores. Two (2) packs of sesame snacks later, I walked back to CN building and up 27 floors on the elevator, paid and left. Walked 20 min back to the car, drove to Milennium Place in Sherwood Park to deliver the condo documents to my realtor who was playing hockey with the realtor who needed the documents. That realtor had already left, but mine was still there. Gave him the docs, and left. Drove home. Got stuff ready, and drove back to Sherwood Park to get the Circlewood property inspected by "Handy" Howard MacPherson (my father in law). Then we drove around Sherwood Park, trying to find a property that "Mad" Mary Jane ( my mother in law) had been to, that was for sale. Our mindset was that we were still going to get the circlewood place at this point. I was so sick (I guess with lack of food, lack of sleep, too much sun, not enough water and the high level of stress, it was inevitable) that I was pretty much useless for the rest of the night. This was pretty much the low point for both Kim and I, of the weekend. We stewed the rest of the night, and part of Saturday. Then I got sick of stewing. The laundry-list of shortcomings that Howard sent us, along with the misgivings that Kim and I had about the place (not enough bedrooms, really, only one bathroom, no garage, stuff like that) were staring me in the face. I dragged Kim into a mad scheme to look for more houses in Millwoods, so that we would know how the CIrclewood house compared with the same price point in Millwoods. She agreed, and both our spirits rose immediately. We looked at houses for a couple of hours (mostly driving - I think we saw three houses) and we fell in love with a gorgeous house in Minchau. (if the link doesn't work, let me know and I'll send you some pictures) The owners seemed like great people and they even consented to a "Handy" Howard walkthrough later that night, despite the fact they were having people over for a dinner party.

Howard liked it, despite three major things: The hot water tank and the furnace need to be replaced and the driveway needs to be re-graded or jacked up. (did you know you could jack a driveway up? You can! With MUD!) So, we decided we would offer 3000 below their asking price, fairly confident that they would accept. However, we decided to sleep on it.

The next day, (sunday, for those of you keeping score) I called my realtor and told him we were not getting the Sherwood Park property and told him about this place. Before I finished, he interrupted: "That size, in Millwoods? You're paying 20000 too much." He then proceeded to send me a list of houses that had sold since January that had 18 houses on it. How such a limited sample of house-sales would sway me, I'm not sure. I called the people selling the Minchau house and told them of the realtor's concerns, told them that I needed to do some research and that I would get back to them. I did my research, found nothing on the market that touched this place (rose-coloured glasses aside) for a price less than 5000 dollars less than what we would offer. That 5000 dollars, in my opinion, is what gets us the gorgeous kitchen with the sun-facing windows, the ceramic tile flooring and the peace of mind that Kim is happy with a house, even if it's not in Sherwood Park. Cheap, if you ask me.

After a game of phone tag with Rudy and Laura, we agreed to meet them at 7:30. By the time we left at 9:00, contracts were signed, hope was generated, and I had the best house-shopping experience of my life.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Keyless entry? Sure..

Running behind for our appointment, I called to Kim, "Got the keys?" like I always do.

"Yup," came the reply from the sidewalk.

I locked up, and we went for the appointment.

Close to an hour later, we return, to the shocking realization that the house key was not on the ring.

We decided to try a set of keys that the MacPhersons were holding in trust for us. A short car-ride saw us in Sherwood Park's illustrious outskirts. The keys were transfered, and visiting took place. Thinking ahead, I grabbed a hammer and a slotted screwdriver.

Good thinking, Johnstone. Turns out, they were the old keys from before we changed the knob.

So, twenty minutes with the hammer and screwdriver (and enough noise to outdo the one roofer that actually showed up) and the bits and pieces of what used to be our doorknob filled a Safeway bag.

So now, on my list of accomplishments, which include smashing a leaf-blower to bits, building stairs with a sledge hammer and chainsaw (sounds like you'd undo the stairs with that) and (unintentionally) setting a computer on fire, I can add breaking and entering. Not the crime, but I broke and I entered.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wizard of Earthsea

According to Amazon.ca, Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968. The fact that it's still on the table in fantasy discussion, I think, is pretty impressive.

The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker actually kind of reminds me of this book. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was playing Zelda while I read it. Or maybe the similarities caused me to pick up the game again while I was reading. I don't know the chronology so I'll just shut up about that.

Sparrowhawk, or Ged, or THE "Wizard of Earthsea" (y'know, the one the whole story's about) learns a little magic from his aunt, saves his village with tricks, becomes a master's disciple and leaves him to go to the Magic Academy on Roke. (This whole story centres around a group of islands Ged refers to as the Archipelago -- I love that word) While in school, he calls up a dark spell he discovered earlier and unleashes his evil shadow. This destroys his confidence in his gift and himself, and he becomes a timid practitioner of the arts.

Unfortunately, the story takes forward-jumps through time that, when I realized they had happened, put me off a little. After one such jump, he has finished school and goes off to meet his destiny.

Along the way, he learns a little something about his powers, his enemy and himself. He meets people who work very well to set up a sequel, and all ends in goodness and happy thoughts.

I'm glad I read this book - as I've said before, I like books on boats, and this one also had a dragon or nine. I don't have any of the other Earthsea books but if they cross my path, I'll definitely pick them up and flip through their pages.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Updates, updates, updates

At the risk of offending Dylan with a mundane writing style reminiscent of Schrodinger's Catsup, this is what's up with me---

Life has finally settled down with the marketing release of Quicken Home Inventory [premiermanagerwhatever]. The name they finally settled on was Quicken Home Inventory Manager but it was kicked around and around for a couple of months.

Regardless, the installer was released with a couple of hitches and a lot of late, late nights drinking pop, coffee, watermelon juice, whatever it took to keep my synapses firing.

At the end of last week, Kim took Lillian and Nicholas on a camping trip with her parents to give me room to finish what needed to be finished.

As it turned out, that was documentation which was typed out laboriously in the living room of my townhouse, with TRON, The Hulk, and I-Poddius blaring in the background. (Not all at once, for sure.)

So, QHIM went away (sort of) with a whimper, rather than a mad rush of activity. Unfortunately, the installer shipped with a known issue that will have to be fixed in a future release, despite the fact that I discovered and repaired the bug before the product shipped. Fortunately, I will be staying with QHIM (probably) for the 1.1 release that will likely take place in November.

With that bitter taste in my mouth, I received a little bit of a spanking by way of “areas for growth” where I was told that I needed to be aware how important it was, on code-freeze day, to be available, and also how important it was for me to have been available on the weekend of that code-freeze, to fix the bug (that shipped with the release). I stood my ground, contending that I was available by phone all weekend and that I had slated 6 hours on Saturday for work, which I spent on some externalization design, rather than the bug. If they’d called me Saturday, or even Friday, when they discovered that the bug hadn’t gone away with my most recent attempt at a fix, it would have been dealt with in time, and the installer would have been more acceptable.

I’m not trying to deflect blame – I accept my failure to properly fix the bug and my lack of follow-up when dealing with QA but I am not wholly to blame. My bosses understood my point of view and accepted that and even rewarded me with a Spotlight Award (see previous post) and a comp day off, which I will use on Friday, to do taxes, change the oil in the car and renew my driver’s license.

In non-work news, Lillian is a crawling monster. Rather than rocking back and forth on her hands and knees, and crying out of frustration, she’s actually motoring around the floor, crying when whatever she’s found to get into is taken from her.

Nick has finished another season of soccer, and I completed my first year as an assistant coach. The year was wrapped up at Chuck E. Cheese, where the Skeeballs rolled and I was presented with a Coach shirt and gift certificates for Tim Horton’s and Red Lobster. It was a good season but there was something missing that made last season great. Kim and I used the Red Lobster card for supper when she got back from camping.

Biking to work continues and I’ve even managed to shed some weight. I played soccer, helped cubicle-mate-Dave move and threw the ball around with Sean “King Kong Awesome” Woods, and by Saturday, everything was back to normal. A faster-than-usual recovery for my creaky body.

As a final note, Serenity, the movie based off the series Firefly, was amazing. I’ve never watched Firefly, but I didn’t feel the lack. I just enjoyed the amazing characters and the fun storyline. “You’ve spent your entire life taking care of me. My turn.” - that’s the best line I’ve heard in a very long time.

---End of update… until next time

Intuit Spotlight Award

I found out, on Friday, that I am the recipient of Intuit's prestigious (although not that prestigious, since the person I talked to about it this morning had never heard of it) Spotlight Award. It's nice to know that I've chosen the right field and that they think so too.

Another blog post will be up sometime soon with updates beyond this, but I thought I'd let you all know.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Eye of the World

When I was in high school, my dad delivered Sears merchandise to a corner store that also sold what any good corner store does. Goodies, pop, books, comics, magazines, and so-on.

It’s the books, comics and magazines that were important at the time, because, as is common with my father, he became friends with the shopkeeper. What this resulted in was box after box of coverless literature. There were dozens of the same issue of Deathlok, Sleepwalker, Ghostrider and all the other popular comics of the day, as well as thirty or forty Auto Traders, Big Bike magazine and all other sorts of things.

It is this way, however, that I discovered Robert Jordan. One delivery of books brought The Eye of the World into my life and I read it, sort of knowing that I liked fantasy and thinking that this looked like a good fantasy novel.

I’ve never been pulled in by a book so completely in my life. The story starts in a serene little village where the weather is strange. It’s been winter far too long. Then a modest farm boy sees a mysterious stranger on the road, which leads to a whirlwind of adventure, excitement, terror, elation and sadness. This is the traditional fantasy story at its absolute best. The characters are believable, you can sympathize with them, and, unlike Jordan’s later works, they haven’t worked themselves into stereotypes or cariacatures of themselves yet.

The terror that follows the main characters is haunting, the evil they have to overcome daunting, and pages are turned with heart in throat.

The Eye of the World is the book that helped me to define myself as a fan of Fantasy (or Speculative Fiction if you’re one of those who finds the term Fantasy to be a negative one) and it has largely directed my reading toward that genre.

Today, I finished my (what, tenth, eleventh?) latest reread of this book and it remains my favourite.

In the impossible slowness of this incredibly busy day, I just thought I’d share that.

Distraction by Bat and Jeff

A desperately-needed distraction presented itself by way of two characters, Bat and Jeff. The distraction was necessary because of a meal-time tussle with number-one son over the consumption of a hamburger. Moving away from the conflict, I switched into “amicable-Liam” mode (not to be confused with “angry-Liam” or “Chinese-Liam”).

This is what came out (kinda—it’s been awhile, so word-for-word is unlikely):

Once upon a time, there were two boys, Bat and Jeff. Bat’s real name wasn’t bat – it was Bartholomew. But he didn’t like Bartholomew, so he asked everyone to just call him Bat.

Bat and Jeff had mostly the same classes, but they didn’t take Gym together. Other than that, they were mostly together.

Jeff had some odd habits, not the least of which was excusing himself to go to the bathroom and following teachers around the school. He was intensely curious and he would pick a teacher and follow that person throughout the day during various bathroom trips.

Well, one Tuesday, Jeff decided that Mr. Johnson, the principal, would be an interesting person to follow around the school. Throughout the morning, Mr. Johnson had a very normal day – he would go to his classes, go to the mysterious Teachers’ Lounge, and the bathroom, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then came the afternoon. Mr. Johnson, at precisely two o’clock, left the school and did not return. The whole day, Jeff kept an eye on Mr. Johnson’s office, and the other on the teachers’ lounge and Mr. Johnson was nowhere to be seen.

He explained this to Bat and suggested that the two of them keep an eye on what Mr. Johnson was doing the rest of the week.

Bat, who had known about his friend’s habit, had never joined him, but this mystery was too much to walk away from.

So, the two kids kept watch over their wayward principal, marking his trips to the bathroom, the teachers’ lounge and his classes in Bat’s notebook.

Then, Tuesday came around, and Bat and Jeff kept an especially tight watch on the principal.

At precisely two o’clock, Mr. Johnson left in his car and did not return. The two kids were stymied.

They enlisted the help of Bat’s older brother, “Pit”. Pit’s real name was Poindexter, but he hated the name and made everyone (except his mom and dad) call him Pit. This, as you may guess, was the reason Bartholomew had chosen Bat.

Pit didn’t have classes in the afternoon, since he was in college and could choose his courses. Bat and Jeff asked Pit to keep an eye on Mr. Johnson the following Tuesday and find out where he was going and what he was doing that kept him away from school on Tuesday afternoons.

Pit, liking his little brother very much (I think the name-thing had a lot to do with that), decided he’d help the kids out. He got in his car and followed Mr. Johnson at two o’clock on the third Tuesday of this story.

Bat and Jeff waited in Bat’s basement for Pit to return with the report. They had thoughts of a secret job as a spy, or a secret woman he would meet (they’d watched a lot of soap operas during the summer) or any number of fantastic things that Mr. Johnson was getting up to.

Finally, the door upstairs opened and slammed closed. Pit joined the two kids in the basement and gave his report.

“There’s nothing strange about Mr. Johnson leaving Tuesday afternoons. He gets in his car and drives out to Leduc where his mom’s in the hospital. He doesn’t have any classes to teach Tuesday afternoons and he spends all afternoon and evening with his mom before going home.”

Bat and Jeff were disappointed with the very ordinary explanation for their mystery but the solution was pretty satisfying in itself.


Granted, it’s not the best story that I’ve ever come up with (especially compared to the greatest hero in the history of Liam-kind – Rick the Robot), but it got Nick through supper and improved everyone’s mood drastically.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Innovation meets technology

When I was working at Halliburton, Sheldon Kryger (also known as that student-guy) introduced me to Tablet PC, a piece of technology that has a screen that you can write to. It requires the special pen that comes with the Tablet and it has a bunch of nifty software to make use of the hardware. I coveted his laptop for a long time.
Finally, yesterday, my dream computer became my reality computer. Combining the authorization of the Benefits Coordinator at Intuit, the Product Manager of Quicken Solutions Group and my wife, as well as Canadian Equifax, I’m sure, I was cleared for the money required to buy Best Buy’s best buy, a Gateway (insert model numbers here) Tablet PC.
So far, I’ve fought with the power cable and the wireless router. There was a little scare when the power cord would not power up the computer (fear not - it wasn’t pushed in far enough, and before you laugh at me, Sylvain at Intuit had the same difficulty as I did when he first got his).
The biggest inside joke of the purchase is that it comes with Microsoft Money 2006, the big competitor for Intuit’s Quicken. I had a good laugh over that.
Where do I go from here? Anywhere in the house, maybe in the yard, and currently at the office, though the wireless network here is secure and I can’t get on to configure antivirus, anti-spy ware and anti-adware. Someday…

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Pod, i-Poddius

For my birthday this year, my parents bought me an iPod.

I've never been one for getting the name-brand stuff. I would have been happy with some 512 Meg thing from a company nobody's heard of. However, my sister has elite-status tastes, and nothing would do but that her brother's music-box be the best. And so, she delivered the tiny, tiny Nano to my door one blistering Friday afternoon.

The first thing on the iPod? Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann (although it says it's ELO).

It's a great little piece of technology. I can fit an entire Robert Jordan book on it and still have room for 200 songs and the installer project I'm working on. It's got games (breakout, solitaire, paratrooper and a name-that-tune based on the songs currently on the iPod), notes that you can read through, reminders, probably an alarm that you can set on the computer and transfer to the iPod, and a stopwatch. I use the stopwatch to measure my times going to and from work on my bike (which I've ridden almost every day for the last month).

Thanks Mom, thanks Dad, and thanks Meghan for having elite-status tastes.




As of Monday, I have decided that I will no longer strive for the goal of 50 books in this year.

That does not mean that I'm going to stop reading or that my reading-list will change but work, life and overtime have conspired to keep me among the non-reading (except for Google search results on obscure windows API functions).

Instead, the time that I have that is free has lately been occupied by College Football 2003 (the one with Joey Harrington on the cover), family time and cleaning.

In news, it looks like I've finished the main part of my installer project for work - the status screen is the next hurdle but aside from some refreshing issues (as in, the screen won't refresh -- not that I am refreshed by the work) it's done too. Now to cross my fingers and hope it passes QA.

That is all,


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

But That Was Long Ago

The maudlin recollection of missed opportunities has haunted me, recently. A snippet of a familiar song dragged me through time and space to the trip south to Lethbridge. The time - a multitude of different long-weekends, start-of-semesters, and so on.

So often I would make my way down there and make my way back, proud of the fact that I could handle the entire trip in one go. What happened to the rest-stop at the side of the road? A chance to stop and step into the tall rows of whatever grew in the endless fields I drove past?

I saw Lethbridge - and my tie there - too much as a destination rather than a journey. I spent so much time figuratively counting down the days that I missed out on a good portion of my life. The majority of the people I met there were transient in my life - existing, to me, on a temporary basis because they helped to define my time down there. Do I miss the friends I made in Lethbridge? Few of them. And yet, a snippet of a familiar song can drag me back to a time of loneliness where my solitude was absolute, recalling it with a sad fondness. Not a longing but an acknowledgement of a time when things were simpler, and much sadder. I won't dwell on these feelings, but I do think they're worth writing down.

Friday, May 05, 2006

With the first pick of the franchise's first draft, the Texans pick...

In the past, I have heard that it takes 5 years to be able to properly grade a draft. I thought this was a good number to go by, since players take time to develop and they probably don’t really come into their own before two or three years in, and then they could just have a lucky season or two.

Regardless, in the fast-paced era of free-agency, the turnaround time has become insane. I think 4 years are plenty, nowadays, before you cast your judgment on a draft class.

With that said, here is my judgment on the Houston Texans’ 2002 draft class:

1. David Carr – He had three years of steady progress, learning under the gun, when he regressed seriously last year. Granted, he was under extreme pressure all year, both from coaches who feared for their own jobs and from defensive linemen who seemed to have no impediment to the quarterback. Considering he was a #1 overall pick, I believe that he has not played up to standards, with the caveat that this year will be his do-or-die season. No more excuses, no more coddling. So far, I would give this pick a C-.

2. Jabar Gaffney WR Florida – He had a solid season last year, and has been a consistent, yet under-used, target. He’s off to Philadelphia to battle with the likes of Jason Avant and Freddie Mitchell for the right to catch passes from Donovan McNabb. Considering the state of the offense, he has been a solid pick all the way around, and despite his disparaging comments about the Texans, I wish him the best. B

2a. Chester Pitts G San Diego – This has probably been the best pick of the draft for the Texans, so far. More than solid, Chester will get a chance to stick at one position under Gary Kubiak and it will be his position of strength, Guard. With a solid tackle beside him, Pitts should be the best lineman on the team, in a good way, rather than the “best-of-a-bad-lot” way that he has been in the past. A-

3. Fred Weary G Tennessee – I dunno. This wasn’t a great pick. I’m thinking it was a heck of a reach. I think he might do something in Kubiak’s Zone Blocking system, and he’ll probably get a chance to compete for a starting spot against Steve McKinney. So far, though, he’s been nothing. D

3a. Charles Hill NT Maryland – He was brought in to be a Capers system guy and was released early on. F

4. Jonathan Wells RB Ohio State – Great special-teamer, decent blocker, decent catcher, just didn’t run as big as he was. Still, he’ll be missed. B+

5. Jarrod Baxter FB New Mexico – Not good, not bad. Never played, but expectations for 5th rounders are limited. C-

5a. Ramon Walker SS Pittsburgh – I love this guy. He blocked two kicks against the Patriots and has been a steady force on special teams when he’s been healthy. I don’t know if he’s still on the team, but he’s probably my sentimental favourite first draftee. A

6. Demarcus Faggins CB Kansas – He’s probably the steal of the draft – hard to find anyone this far down, let alone a guy who can step in and shut down Marvin Harrisson in his first game as a starter. A

6a Howard Green DT Louisiana – Didn’t do anything. Another beefy guy who didn’t make the team. D

7. Greg White DE Minnesota – I have no idea who this guy is. D

7a. Ahmad Miller DT Nevada – See above. D

Overall, there were some surprises. They took Chester Pitts over Clinton Portis. I thought they should have taken Julius Peppers instead of Daid Carr, and then found a quarterback later in the draft, maybe Josh McCown or Rohan Davey.

I thought that drafting Gaffney was a huge mistake since Florida receivers just don’t seem to do so well in the NFL.
I’d say that they get a C- for their first draft, hoping that David Carr’s performance this year will boost it up significantly.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Milestone Number One Reached, Four Days Late

Four days, over the course of four months, doesn’t seem like all that much. Considering I almost gave this goal up when I got my new job, I’m pretty satisfied with the four days.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the list of books that I read over the last four months (and four days):

Bloody Sundays - Mike Freeman
A Feast For Crows - George R. R. Martin
The Magician's Nephew - C. S. Lewis
Memories of Ice - Steven Erickson
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Song of Susannah - Steven King
The Dark Tower - Steven King
Eragon - Christopher Paolini
Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
Shaman's Crossing - Robin Hobb
Queen of Demons - David Drake
The Horse and His Boy - C. S. Lewis
Nighttime Parenting - William Sears
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman
Prince Caspian - C. S. Lewis
Jackal of Nar - John Marco

Next, I move on to The Grand Design which is the sequel to Jackal of Nar in John Marco’s “Tyrants and Kings” series.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The 2006 Texans Draft

Well, the big off-season weekend for the NFL has come and gone. I had resigned myself to the likelihood of bad personnel decisions that I’d seen in the past and, while I wasn’t looking forward to it, I had resigned myself to the addition of Reggie Bush to the Houston Texans.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I know you’re supposed to grade a draft 5 years after, to allow the players a chance to learn, develop and all that other stuff. However, I believe that involves a lot of hindsight and second-guessing, so I’m going to comment on my team’s draft two days removed.

1. Mario Williams, DE, NC St. This is, in my opinion, the second-best guy the Texans could have gotten. I thought that their pass protection was worse than their pass-rush (though it’s like having an overacting contest between Jim Carrey and Al Pacino). I thought D’Brickashaw Ferguson would have been the guy to get here, even if the Texans couldn’t trade down. Regardless, this is a big area of need, he’s a huge physical force and he’s apparently got a heart of gold.

2. Demeco Ryans, LB, Alabama. It surprised me that, with Tackle Winston Justice (and Eric Winston, for that matter) still on the board, the Texans would dip back into the defensive pool. However, by all accounts, this guy could end up being THE leader on defense. He’s smart, he’s solid and he’s apparently another high-character guy. (the kind of guy that Winston Justice apparently isn’t)
Charles Spencer, T/G, Pittsburgh. Finally, I thought when hearing about the first of two consecutive picks in the 3rd round. Finally, they have an offensive lineman picked on the first day. I don’t know who this guy is, and with Eric Winston still on the board, I was quite baffled. But apparently, this guy could be the next coming of Larry Allen. He could be a big bust too, but apparently, they like the tools he’s working with, so I’ll support that.

3a. Eric Winston, T, Miami. YES! Two picks in a row and they’re both offensive linemen. Well, call the first day a complete success!

4. Owen Daniels, TE, Wisconsin. I was a little confused by the pick of a backup tight end when guys like Free Safety Ko Simpson (thought to be a first-round talent) and Strong Safety Darnell Bing were still on the board but I’m not going to pretend I know the things that the Texans’ front office knows.

5. Traded for Eric Moulds, WR, Buffalo Bills. I’ll take a Pro-Bowl receiver for a fifth round pick any day.

6. Wali Lundy, RB, Virginia. He’s the kind of guy that will fit into the offensive scheme that the Texans want to run. He’s a solid short-yardage back and apparently, he could be ready to step in and start in a couple of years.

7. Given up for Kevin Walter, WR, Cincinnati. I don’t know how I feel about this, given the next pick in the draft.

7a. David Anderson, WR, Colorado St. He’s small, he’s tough and he runs good routes. I guess we need our Wayne Chrebet, too.

All in all, it was the best draft day that the Texans have ever had, Reggie Bush hype aside. And regardless of whether five years from now, people are calling all of the Texans’ draft picks busts, for today, the front office filled needs, got the best players for them and leave me excited for the regular season.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Now, was that so hard?

All my life, there has been a stigma attached to April 24. It’s been a day I’ve looked forward to; a day that was surrounded by celebration, amusement and merrymaking. There have also been a fair number of these days that were marred by loneliness, sadness at the passing of time and some searching for a direction. Most of that was after graduation from High School and into my first couple of years of University. I’m glad to say that today is about the happiness and that I’ve found direction, purpose and a wonderful woman to share the passing of time.

Yesterday, at my birthday party, several people asked me what it was like, this inexorable march toward middle-age. Having given it some thought, I told them that it took me by surprise a little. I was expecting to take it like any other birthday, just a number going up, not a big deal. Then it hit me. I actually started to feel old. Not old, creaky and breaking down (although Saturday’s hockey game hit me like a tonne of bricks) but just like I’m not youthful any longer. Sure, older people will say, “wait ‘til you’re my age before you complain about being old.” Problem with that is, I’ll never be your age. You’re older than me now, you’ll be older than me in twenty, forty, seventy years, assuming we’ve managed to cheat Ol’ Man Death that long. I don’t know what sort of social stigmas are placed on 30. I know it’s meant to be a transformation from liberty, rebellion and fast times to responsibility, attachment to home and family but anyone who knows me knows that my life has never really been about rebellion, I’ve never felt any lack of liberty, and, quite frankly, my ass is far too large to accommodate any sort of fast living. (Maybe fast-food living, but that’s another matter entirely).

As I head into the fourth decade of my life, there are certain things I can look back on with a chuckle, where there was only dread embarrassment, heart-rending sorrow or some sort of boundless rage not seen since Ben Stiller in Mystery Men. It’s nice to have some insulation from those raw emotions and that pain. Sure, I still have scars from what I endured, but I would be as arrogantly egocentric as I was at 19 if I thought that anyone who’s made it to 30 has done so without his or her share of scars.

Some thoughts at 30:
First love is wonderful and it really, really sucks.
Getting out of bed after a day of sports may just be the hardest thing in the world.
My wife and two kids are the best thing to ever happen to me.
A life without distractions doesn’t seem like much of a life at all.
Neither does a life without focus.
Doing something you love doesn’t make it easier, it just makes it easier to try harder.
The saying: “Nothing worth doing is ever easy” serves as a good mantra when you’re doing something hard, but it’s basically bullshit.
It’s better to do the right thing that’s hard to do than to put it off by doing the easy thing. That always bites me in the ass.
Swearing is cool.

Next up: Sprint to the mini-goal finish-line.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Once more, into the books

The second annual Liam-and-Kim-and-Sean-attended Library book sale took place on Saturday, April 8, 2006. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the books I got.

Stephen King – The Stand
I’ve seen the movie and listened to part of the audio book. It’s pretty good, so far, and I guess has pretty strong ties to The Dark Tower, so I wanted to read the rest of it. And now I can.

Lloyd Alexander – The Prydain Chronicles
This, along with The Narnia Chronicles, was my first foray into the world of Fantasy. And now, just like Narnia, I want to read these books to Nicholas, and Lillian eventually as well.

Jack Whyte – The Sorceror: Metamorphosis
I actually found two copies of this. The first one was an old, beaten-up copy that had the first ten pages shoved back into the middle of the book. There was a hesitation when I found the second copy: I actually felt guilty about leaving a broken book behind.

Terry Pratchett – The Carpet People
This is apparently the first thing that Terry Pratchett wrote (or had published, anyway) and with all the good things I’ve heard about him, it seemed like a good idea to pick this up.

Stephen King – The Drawing of the Three
I love The Dark Tower and when I found my own copy of the second book, I jumped on it with both feet.

Marion Zimmer Bradley – Ghostlight
Kim likes Marion Zimmer Bradley – at least the Avalon series, so I figure I’ll give this one a shot.

Bill McKay – MageKnight: Rebel Thunder
I didn’t know, going in, that MageKnight was a Collectible Card Game but I’ll go ahead and read this anyway. It can’t be much worse than the Magic: The Gathering book that I have.

William W. Johnstone – The Last Gunfighter: Manhunt
I’m not going to not get a book by a guy who has such a close name to mine. That’s really the only reason I got the book. But I’ll read it anyway – who wouldn’t want to read about the LAST gunfighter?

ed. Mark Tier – Visions of Liberty
This looks like a lot of Science Fiction that I’ve read, seen or heard about. It’s a compilation of liberation stories by numerous science fiction writers. I’m not impossibly intrigued, but it DOES seem kinda neat.

Richard North Patterson – Protect and Defend
Y’know, every time I see a book by Richard North Patterson or Michael Connelly, or David Baldacci, or one of those guys, I wonder, “When will they run out of words to fit that pattern?” Because it’s always something along the lines of: Extreme Justice or To Serve and Protect, or Honour over Violence or something schlocky like that. I’ve since come to realize, though, that they’re never going to run out. There are too many words and too many combinations. Protect and Defend didn’t look like anything but standard Richard North Patterson fare but I was feeling it, and it was only 50 cents.

Sara Douglass – Hades’ Daughter
I’ve heard good things about Sara Douglass. I have a couple of her books that I haven’t gotten to yet: The Wayfarer Redemption, the Axis trilogy – and now I have a Greeky Geeky book to throw on the pile.

Diana Gabaldon – The Fiery Cross
I have no idea anything about this book. It has a nice cover and a lot of pages and it seems like it will be about something fantasy-ish. Now, I’ll be wrong and it will be some kind of romance novel that never ends… but I’m interested in finding out.

Elaine Flinn – Tagged for Murder
This looks like it’s based on crap but it’s a mystery and I likes the mysteries.

Steven Brust – The Paths of the Dead
This is the only book I’ve ever taken out of the Edmonton Public Library and I didn’t get a chance to finish it. Now, I can take my time.

Stephen R. Donaldson – The Gap Into Madness: Chaos and Order
I know nothing about this book, other than it’s written by Stephen R. Donaldson and I liked the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever enough to want to try this one.

Katherine Kurtz – The Temple and the Crown
I have some other stuff of hers and what I’ve heard of her is encouraging enough to intrigue me.

Andre Norton – Warlock
I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to get this book, other than the fact that Andre Norton died, either early this year, or late last year.

H. N. Turtletaub – The Gryphon’s Skull
Another Greeky Geeky book for me to read at my leisure.

Eric Van Lustbader – Jian
Apparently, the Jian is superior to the ninja. However, there are do not appear to be any ninja in this book. Or maybe that’s just because they’re so good at hiding.

L. E. Modesitt jr. – Wellspring of Chaos
I sometimes wonder why I continue this series. Between The Magic of Recluce and The Death of Chaos, this was a fantastic series. Then I read Fall of Angels and the ensuing books, and it took a serious down-turn. However, I’ve started the series, and it doesn’t offend me to continue, so continue I will.

Curt Benjamin – The Gates of Heaven
This one looked like it might be good. It’s the first book of a series about something. But the cover looked good. God, I’m superficial.

Richard Sherbaniuk – The Fifth Horseman
I’m guessing this is about Mr. T. I heard that Mr. T was the fifth horseman but he decided to take his van instead.

Orson Scott Card – The Crystal City
I really liked Ender’s series. This one is definitely different from that one but it’s also written very well. I look forward to getting back to these books.

Raymond E. Feist – A Darkness at Sethanon
All of my Krondor books went away, and this is my first (or second) step in the attempt to recompile them.

ed. Carol Edgarian – The Writer’s Life
Kim picked this out for me. I’m not sure what she was expecting. I’m not sure what *I* was expecting when I started looking through it but it’s basically a book of quotes by some famous writers. It’s pretty interesting, even if a lot of the quotes are taken out of context.

T. F. Banks – The Thief Taker
This is part of a series. I don’t know what to expect but it looks good.

Stephen King – Rose Madder
There were a whole bunch of Stephen King books for sale. Aside from The Stand and all the Dark Tower books that I found, I picked up a couple Stephen King books. Why I chose this one and not another, I can’t really say.

Elmore Leonard – Be Cool
I like the way Elmore Leonard writes. And the movie wasn’t bad either. I don’t know if he wrote this book just for the movie or if he thought it was a good premise all on its own, but it seems to work.

Timothy Zahn – Heir to the Empire
I bought three Star Wars books. I remember reading part of this one about fifteen years ago or so. Man, I’m getting old.

Anne Bishop – Queen of the Darkness
This is the first book of a series. I found book two somewhere but I didn’t pick it up. “Why,” I thought to myself at the time, “would I want a book two when I don’t have the book one?” I’m kicking myself, now.

Lynn Abbey – Thieves’ World: Sanctuary
There’s nothing wrong with a little sanctuary. Especially when you live on a world teeming with thieves. At least, I’m assuming that’s what this book’s about. We’ll see.

Robert Ludlum – The Bourne Supremacy
I’ve been told these books are much better than the movies. I found the first two and I’m looking forward to reading them.

Jon Land – Labyrinth
As far as I know, this book has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. Unless David Bowie shows up in this, too.

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – Good Omens
I’ve read the first little bit of this. It’s pretty good so far but I was hip-deep in other books when I started it. I’ll be able to give it the attention it deserves, in time.

Jack Whyte – Clothar the Frank
I really hope that Jack Whyte turns out to be good. I have a lot of his books, now.

Piers Anthony – Cube Route
I haven’t read a Xanth novel since before my university days. I hope it’s not too disappointing.

Irene Radford – Guardian of the Promise
How many books have there been about modern-day people interacting with people from Arthur’s time? Certainly, this can’t be as good as Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade (which, I guess, should be changed to Indiana Jones: The Second-Last Crusade).

David Farland – Wizardborn
I want to read the Runelord series. I have it in this year’s 50-book schedule, and this is the third book in that series. I guess if the first two are good, I’ll put this one in the schedule, as well.

Stephen King – Needful Things
I’m pretty sure Max Von Sydow is in the movie for this book, so I got the book.

Herman Melville – Moby-Dick
Call me Ishmael. I like books on boats.

L. E. Modesitt jr. – The Ethos Effect
I got this one because I want to start my way into Science Fiction and what better way than with an author I already know?

Dan Chernenko – The Bastard King
He’s a king, but he’s a real bastard. It looked good on the outside.

Jerry Pournelle – The Houses of the Kzinti
I swear, there were fifty copies of this at various tables. I got sick of it staring at me, so I bought it and the rest of the copies left me alone.

Curt Benjamin – The Prince of Dreams
The second book in the series. So there.

John Moore – Heroics for Beginners
I was somewhat impressed by a book on the same theme that I got last year, Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David. We’ll see…

Robert Ludlum – The Bourne Identity
Matt Damon could kick my ass.

David Morrell – Double Image
This is another guy with the random-title-generator.

Michael A. Stackpole – Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron
I think I played this game once. And I enjoyed the Wing Commander books…

Sir Walter Scott – Rob Roy
Never seen the movie. I hope the book is good.

Karin Lowachee – Cagebird
I got this book in the hopes that it would be better than the blurb on the back of the book.

Stephen King – The Gunslinger
I saw it and I wasn’t going to not get it.

Diana Gabaldon – Dragonfly in Amber
I got this one on the strengths of The Fiery Cross. Which weren’t much, but the book was 50 cents.

R. A. Salvatore – Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
I’d wanted to read this book before I saw Attack of the Clones but I didn’t. I’d like to, though, to see how they explain away that awful, awful love montage in the movie.

T. F. Banks – The Emperor’s Assassin
I really don’t know what to expect from this series. It sounds good but I’ve been burned before.

James Joyce – Finnegan’s Wake
I liked some stuff of his that I read in University. I’m hoping this will be just as dark and depressing as the rest of it.

Robert Silverberg – Sorcerers of Majipoor
In my hunting-down of the Majipoor books, I’d never actually heard of this one. Does that mean he’s still writing them?

Charles Dickens – Nicholas Nickleby
My dad always calls Nick “Nicholas Nickleby”. I want to see if I should be offended or not.

Mark Merlis – An Arrow’s Flight
Yet another Greeky Geeky book for me to read.

Roger McDonald – Darwin’s Shooter
Whether this is about an assassin, a photographer or an alcoholic, it should make for some good readin’.

Stan Lee – The God Project
Okay, okay, so it isn’t the same Stan Lee. The title (which I’m sure has nothing to do with the book) sounds intriguing.

J. Gregory Keyes – The Waterborn
He dropped the J. and wrote some good books (The Briar King and The Charnel Prince). I’m hoping that his first book will be as good as his last two.

Jack Whyte – The Saxon Shore
I bought a Jack Whyte book a couple of years ago and never got to it. It’s one of the Arthur books. While there are a lot of Arthur books out there, there aren’t a lot of GOOD Arthur books out there. I’ve heard good things about Jack Whyte and I hope they’re true.

Stephen Chambers – Hope’s End
This one, from the cover, looks like a good, solid Fantasy novel. So I’ll probably hopelessly disappointed by it.

George R. R. Martin – A Game of Thrones
I hoard copies of A Game of Thrones. I lost a copy and I had another one’s cover ripped to bits by some people my brother works with, so they could use the pieces of paper for cribbage pegs. (My brother got the bastards back, though. He smashed their board to bits with a sledge hammer. He’s so cool) So now, when I see a cheap copy of the book, I pick it up.

Robert Silverberg – The Mountains of Majipoor
I started collecting the Majipoor because I was intrigued in the brain behind the Legends compilation, featuring such fantasy luminaries as Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Terry Goodkind, Raymond E. Feist and a whole bunch of others. I’ve read the first bit of Lord Valentine’s Castle (which I picked up at last year’s library book sale) and it turns out the main character’s a good juggler.

Ursula Le Guin – A Wizard of Earthsea
This one seems to be a Fantasy standard. Kind of like The Lord of the Rings among others. I look forward to reading it.

Terry Pratchett – Hogfather
If nothing else, it’s supposed to make me laugh.

Christopher Hyde – Black Dragon
The title made me look at it but something that it said on the cover made me buy it: By the author of Hard Target. We all know what a masterful story that was. “No, you should know better!”