Sunday, October 31, 2004

Rental Cars

I can't say enough good things about Hotwire.com as a place to rent cars from. I've used them several times and always gotten a great price and had no problems with a car. On my trip to St. Louis, I rented through hotwire and got a car from Hertz for $13/day! Granted, you aren't getting a flashy car for that (I got the crappy Chevy Malibu), but what can you expect for $13 a day? It got me where I needed to go.

When in Texas, my rental car (also from Hertz but not through hotwire this time since it was paid for through my job) was a Ford Mustang. I was excited about that at first, but it ended up being a huge disappointment. The Mustang was uncomfortable to sit in, had very little trunk space (I had to force my big suitcase in there) and had almost NO power. I swear that car would have had trouble beating my old Toyota Corolla in a race, and wouldn't even begin to compete with our Highlander. Ridiculous for a sports car.

Life in Dallas

Well, I just got back Friday from spending eight days in Dallas. It was a lot of long hours (15+ hour days sometimes) at work, all on the computer, so this accounts for how I didn't feel much like blogging last week.

So, some thoughts on Dallas and my trip:

Very humid and hot for October. Plus it rained almost every day I was there, I think. Anyway, it was freakishly hot outside, but then inside our building at work it was literally freezing. I had to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts and often a jacket to stay warm while I was inside. That might also be somewhat attributed to the fact that I got sick with a nasty cold while I was there. One of my coworkers had it first and infected many others like a modern-day Typhoid Mary.

Housing prices were phenomenal. Pretty nice houses available for $190-210K! Wow! Amazingly low compared to California.

People seemed generally nicer in Texas, and I didn't see many signs of the slowness of things that often goes along with that. For example, the last time I was out there, we had a really friendly server at one restaurant, but it took forever to get drink refills or anything because she talked to EVERYONE. None of that this time, so it was all upside and no downside in that department.

I stayed at the Radisson hotel in Richardson. Pretty nice and for a decent price. Although I will say that when you stay in a place for 8 days, you notice a lot of "little" things that you would probably just overlook on a 1 or 2 night stay. Like the fact that there was no light switch that I could reach from the door. Given that we worked late virtually every night, I would get back to my completely dark room, have to set my laptop, etc. down and then stumble around in the dark to get to a light switch. That gets old fast. So, I left a very detailed comment card of the good and the bad that I experienced there. Overall a pretty nice experience. Except one more thing - they didn't have FoxNewsChannel on their TV!!! What is that about??? They had MSNBC, but not the number one rated cable news channel? Ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Two sentence movie reviews

The Manchurian Candidate: Have you ever been to a movie where every single person that saw it walked out thinking that they could have made a better movie from the same general storyline? Now you have.

Home on the Range: Lame, family-friendly fare. Lame animation, lame plot, lame singing: lame.

Saved!: Mostly entertaining look at how people view Christians, and the stupid things a lot of us do to bring that view on. However, I don't really agree with the preachy, politically-correct, tolerance-fest that the movie concludes with and which was possibly its main point.

Man on Fire: Good movie, but did anyone else notice you have to wade through 2 hours of mostly fluff to get to where Creasy starts kicking butt and taking names and spewing out a couple of great action-movie lines? Did anyone else have to watch the movie twice to actually see the whole thing through once because they kept falling asleep?

Dodgeball: Low expectations were the key here. Funny cameo by Lance Armstrong.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Book Review: Red Rabbit

I haven't been reading as much recently, so that's why there have been no book reviews on the blog. I decided to do a little fun reading to get things kick-started again, especially since I've been on planes a lot recently, where I find I have a harder time doing heavier reading. So that being said, I just finished up reading Red Rabbit, by Tom Clancy, on my way out to Dallas (where I am now). Echoing the sentiments of the couple of reviews I read on Amazon, this is definitely his weakest book. It was still an interesting read and I was eager to finish it, but it just wasn't up to his normal brilliance. First off, any time you do a prequel you are definitely operating under some constraints, and those are certainly in evidence here. Secondly, is the man going senile? I swear there were several instances of him making the exact same reference to things twelve times throughout the book. How often can Jack Ryan be thinking about how he likes to fire a .45 better than a 9mm? Maybe he did this in his other books as well, but it has never stood out to me as much as it did in this one. Honestly, the pacing of the whole book seemed a little stilted, whether that was due to the aforementioned prequel constraints or not, I can't say. However, this is still an excellent book, just not masterful like his better works have been.

Here's an author who's books WON'T be getting reviewed or read by me anytime soon: John Le Carre. Look, you can certainly dislike foreign leaders, but it's a whole different game to be telling citizens of a different country how to vote. Especially if you're a pseudo-intellectual with no understanding of how the world actually works. Ridiculous. I've actually lost quite a bit of respect for him from this little stunt. And, while I would never have considered myself a huge fan of his, I have read three or four of Le Carre's works. No more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Restrooms

Has anyone else noticed how airports always seem to be at the cutting edge of restroom technology?

Here's what makes a good restroom.
1) Can enter and exit without having to touch a door handle (so you don't touch the same thing as the guy before you who didn't wash his hands. Why would you not wash your hands? What's wrong with these neanderthals?)
1b) for smaller spaces (can't have the entry walkway that airports have so that you can get in without a door and still be private), it is acceptable to have a trash can near the door so that I can open the door with a paper towel and discard it as I go out.
2) No levers/buttons to press to flush the toilet
3) No handles for the faucets
4) Nothing to press to get paper towels. Automatic blowers are NOT an acceptable alternative. Nobody wants to stand in the restroom for the 6 minutes it takes these things to dry your hands.

Most airports have all of these! Why can't more places use the motion sensors for everything? It seems that in the long run this might even save money, as nobody can ever accidentally leave the faucet running or anything.

O'Hare even goes a step further in the cleanliness genre with what I affectionately refer to as the automatic toilet condom, that wraps the toilet seat in plastic for each user. That's more than is necessary, however, as the normal boxes with the safety seats (aka "butt gaskets") in them are ok.

Yahoo! News - Edwards Chides Rice Over State Speeches

Hmmm....isn't this ironic, don't ya think? "'George Bush will go to any length to cling to power, even if it means diverting his national security adviser from doing her job," Sen. John Edwards. That might have a little more meaning if you'd shown up in the senate in the past year, John.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Illinois

There's been no blogging since Wednesday because I left EARLY last Thursday morning to fly to Illinois for a wedding. I had to get up at 4 AM. For those of you that know me, that wasn't easy. Then we stayed up that night until 4 AM talking. The wedding was for one of my college roommates, so all of us that were friends in college had a lot to talk about. Plus we played EUCHRE!! Double-deck euchre!! It just doesn't get more exciting than that. One of our other friends (who I was supposed to share a rental car with) had his original flight from Newark to St. Louis cancelled and had to route through Chicago instead. So he got into St. Louis way late, and got a speeding ticket on the way up to where the wedding was (about a 2 hour drive). So he didn't roll in until 1 that night. I had not waited around for him that long, so I was in long before that.

Friday was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, but before that we went shooting. I got to shoot an AR-15, which I can't do here in CA. The dinner was outside under a tent (where the reception was the next day), and it got a little cold. Everyone else complained a lot, but I was loving it! I've waited a long time to be cold. I don't like it to be cold a lot, but sometimes it just stays hot for too long out here. There was a hayride beforehand, which was fun, but would have been even more fun if my wife had been with me.

The wedding was on Saturday and was very nice. I didn't get a lot of sleep Friday night either, but didn't really feel that until after the wedding. I was a groomsman, and it seemed like a really long time to stand. I think that means I need to lose weight again. That was not helped by the huge amounts I ate this weekend! The reception was a lot of fun, though still a little cold. The best part of the whole reception was when they drove off....in a tractor! That was awesome! And the DJ was blaring "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy". Good times.

I got home LATE Sunday. It was nice that the later flight let me sleep in a little later on Sunday, but I would have preferred to get home a little earlier. I had a very long layover in Minneapolis. I watched the Sunday night game while I was waiting, but I was surrounded by Vikings fans while I semi-rooted for the Saints, since I have fantasy players on the Saints.

I spent the whole weekend without internet access, so that's why there were no updates.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Another pet peeve

Here in California, we have these nice lanes where you can just turn right without stopping at a red light because YOU HAVE YOUR OWN LANE EVEN AFTER YOU TURN. You just have to merge in later. However, sometimes people still stop at the light, causing me to almost run into them. DON'T STOP FOR NO REASON!!!! ARRRGGGHHH!

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Doctor Is In: Debating Federal Tort Reform

This is pretty much exactly what I thought when Kerry said that stupid "But it's less than 1 percent of the total cost of health care" line in the debate the other night about the effect of medical malpractice lawsuits. And it's from a doctor, so he's a little more credible than I am.

Man, I'm really liking this guy's whole blog. Check out his post on prescription drugs from Canada too.

CBS, NBC cash goes to Democrats

Another "shocking" story that might lead one to think there is a little media bias. Even the employees at FoxNews, typically portrayed as a right-wing bastion, only gave about a fifth of their donations to Republican causes. NBC? ZERO% of $146,585 to Repubs.

King's game

Hey, we got free tix to the King's preseason opener last night. Fun time, even though the Kings lost. Didn't matter as it was preseason and they were obviously rusty. A lot of anticipation passes where the guy would end up running the other way and the ball would just go straight out of bounds.

My wife's uncle has season tickets and gave us his for the night, even including free parking! Got to love that.

Apple Hill Harvest Run

Check out where I'll be running November 7th - Apple Hill Harvest Run. I'm not anticipating a fast time or anything as I am totally out of shape. This will be a good motivator for me to get going with running again. My long term goal is run a 5K in less than 25 minutes, but right now I struggle to maintain a 10 minutes/mile pace. This race is a little longer than 5k (it's 3.5 miles) and very hilly, so I will have pretty low expectations for it.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Yahoo! News - THE ABC OUTRAGE

Oh really? SHOCKING!

Do you believe in miracles?

Niners Win! Niners Win! Although they lost Julian Peterson for the season. As if they didn't have enough problems.

Tradition

In keeping with the fact that you grow up just like your parents, I made pancakes this morning for breakfast. My Dad used to make pancakes or waffles (and sometimes omelets) every Sunday morning for as long as I can remember. I've actually done it a few times, although it's harder for me b/c I don't like to get up very early.

Weird

Not sure what happened with the last post. I thought I posted it on Friday, but I guess it crapped out and never made it. So blogger saved it as a draft and I finally got it posted today.

Anyway, I didn't get everything on the list for Saturday done, but I did most of it and some extra. When I got the edger, I got one that is actually an edger and a weed whacker, so I both edged our driveway (which looks a lot better, but I think you can tell I was learning how to use one) and trimmed around the entire back yard. Our backyard has a concrete edge around the whole lawn that separates the plant/bark section from the lawn. It looks really nice, but it makes it kind of a hassle to mow parts of it, especially in one corner where there is no way to get the mower in there. But the weedwhacker took care of all of that handily. I did end up having to trim back a couple of bushes that were there too - a rose and some kind of berry bush. I wasn't able to finish the whole lawn, because part of it was quite swampy. Our backyard doesn't drain very well, and it rained at about 3 AM yesterday. I also trimmed back the two trees using the new lopper. All together, I spent about 7 hours on this stuff yesterday, counting the time I spent going to Lowe's and getting the stuff, assembly on the new trimmer, and actually doing everything else.

So that leaves mowing the swampy part of the lawn, which I'm leaving for tomorrow when it will be warm enough to burn off the water there (hopefully); I have all the backyard sprinklers off in the meantime. I also then have to fertilize the lawn - the backyard in particular because we have a couple of bare spots. Plus I still need to wash the highlander.

That was probably way more than you ever wanted to read about my adventures in yard care, but if I can spend all day working on the yard, you can spend 3 minutes reading about it!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Busy week

Sorry for the few updates this week. Had a busy week at home and at work, so just didn't have time. I led our couples' Bible Study this week on Wednesday on John 13:1-17. I think it went well. We did this little exercise at the end where we wrote down an idea for something we were going to do to serve our spouse over the next week (following with Jesus' example in John 13) and then the paper is going to be handed to your spouse next week to see if you did it. Service and Accountability - two of our big goals for life groups!

Tuesday night I did get a chance to watch the VP debate, but then immediately had to run to soccer (actually caught the end of the debate on the radio). We lost our consolation playoff game, so we ended up finishing fourth in our league. I can't believe we finished so poorly, as I remain convinced we have the best team in the league, particularly because our girls are so good. We just suddenly lost the ability to put the ball in the net.

Last night I ran home and tried to do some home stuff - mowed the front lawn, cleaned out my old car that we're getting rid of, did a wash, looked for plane tix for Christmas at my sister's, etc.
Saturday looks to be another full day - starting at 9:30 AM helping a friend move, then going to Lowe's to use gift certificates from our wedding to buy lawn fertilizer, an edger, and tree loppers (is that the scientific term?) - the thing with the rope that lets you cut really tall tree branches. I trimmed one of our trees last Saturday, but didn't get the top stuff done because it is WAY up high and I fell off the ladder working on the lower stuff and didn't really want to be off balance cutting and trying to reach limbs up at the top. Then I need to use all the stuff I bought - edge the driveway, fertilize the lawn, and trim the top of the big tree and all of the other tree. Plus I need to mow the back lawn, as I have kind of let that go for a few weeks and it is definitely getting pretty long. I also need to wash our new car - starting to get dirty. I also need to make some phone calls to people (stay in touch using my free weekend minutes). Then I will collapse and fall asleep probably. I guess I will be missing OU-Texas, which I would kind of like to catch. Oh well, I had to give up college football a long time ago.

NO NO NO

Changing the Constitution for no reason is BAD. And I even like Arnold, but I have no idea why we would want to change something that hasn't been a problem for 200+ years. I generally err on the side of assuming the founding fathers knew what they were talking about.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

RIDICULOUS

Why would we ever want to be like Europe? This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. If this story makes sense to you, I'm pretty sure I know who you're voting for in November.

Are the Swedes going to be fair and charge extra taxes for things women do that are worse than men? Perhaps it should cost more for a woman to register a car since they are historically worse at parking? Yes I know it's a stereotype. That's the point. The whole thing is ridiculous.

Where have you gone, Joe Montana?

Wow. The 49ers have just looked AWFUL recently. I feel foolish for even mentioning the possibility of a 5-11 season. Based on statistics, I have to assume they will win at least two games, but that isn't because I see any matchups that they should probably win. Playing Arizona at home this week should be one of their better shots.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Best Commercial of 2004

I don't want to only focus on the negative here, so thought I might mention that my favorite commercial so far this year has been the Starbucks commercial where Survivor sings (to the tune of Eye of The Tiger) to the guy as he is going to work - "Glen's the man, going to work, got his tie, got ambition....", etc. That ALWAYS is good for at least a smile from me.

Late thoughts on debate

Well, I haven't had time to blog my thoughts on the debate until now, so I probably will have nothing to say that you haven't already heard a thousand times before. But it's my blog and I'll type what I want to.

First off, I missed the first 15 minutes of it due to getting out of work a little bit later than I was planning. Definitely a drawback of living on the Left Coast. So, given that caveat, here are my impressions.

1) No clear winner
2) K seemed smooth, much better than anticipated. But what did he really say?
3) President George W. Bush seemed less confident (lots of umms and uhs) than the aura he normally projects. Baffling.
4) No one really got in any humorous zingers. Thought this was one area where President George W. Bush would really be able to stand out from K, who looks like he might not have a humorous bone in his body.
5) Bush definitely hammered on the point that K is not fit to lead, due to waffling and statements made that undercut support of troops in Iraq. Hammered those points almost to the point of being annoying.
6) Ummmmm......what exactly does K stand for on Iraq?? and how is it really any different than what George W. Bush stands for? I STILL DON'T KNOW.
7) I think most of the debate brought up nothing new for even the most casual follower of the elections race (Bush: K can't lead, is a waffler. K: Bush has made mistakes (Iraq), can't admit them, time for a new leader blah blah). What I hope some of these casual followers do pick up on is the difference in belief in national sovereignty. As George W. Bush correctly pointed out, K's belief in the international test or whatever, his support for the international criminal court, and his ridiculous and slavish devotion to having the French, Germans, etc validate everything we do really do indicate someone who believes the United States cannot simply act in its best interest. That person is not fit to be our president.


Everyone knows I had high hopes for George W. Bush, and the only way I can see people think he lost is that he didn't meet those expectations and K exceeded the low expectations everyone had for him. However, what of substance did K accomplish? Nothing! Bush was the front-runner before this debate and will still be after the debate. The gambling line has moved a little towards K, but not much. I don't think the debate really influenced anybody too much as to how they will actually vote (even among those who think K won the debate). So, GWB should easily be able to correct his presentation mistakes in the next two debates, and then K won't be able to win on substance or style.


Worst Commercial of 2004

Are the stupid McDonald's Chicken Select ads where the people defend their Chicken Selects from imaginary foes the worst ones of 2004? I can't think of any that have been more annoying.

Friday, October 01, 2004

More on Country Music

Further proof that country music is not just bad, it's bad for your health:

"One student who knew how to track down radio station play lists helped Gundlach and colleague Steven Stack discover that people who listened to more country music were indeed more likely to commit suicide."