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Friday, April 27, 2007

Everybody Scream

I've loved scary movies for a very long time, and began watching them before I was a teenager. While a bloodfest is enjoyable, even if it's comedic, the thrillers that get into your head are the ones that I really get excited about.

I remember seeing Nightmare on Elm Street at around 9 years old. My sister and I were watching it and there is a scene where Freddy calls the main character Nancy and says "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy". Right after that scene, the phone in my sister's room rang and she screamed so loud I swear it cracked her bedroom window. That's the kind of thing I love about horror movies, they give you that unsettling feeling, like the main character experiences. If it's a good movie, you'll actually start squirming in your chair as if you were in any kind of danger.

For some reason I got sucked into the series films like Nightmare on Elm Stree and Friday The 13th, because I wanted to see just how far the directors would be willing to go to keep the story moving along. Personally, my favorite movies from both of those series are the last ones.
"Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday" was well done, I thought, and "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" had an impressive number of cameos on hand to bid farewell to the gloved one.

**All links take you to a Wikipedia film page which contains spoiler alerts**

With the release of
"The Ring", a new breed of horror movies was unleashed which was far more terrifying than the films that relied on buckets of blood and guts. The Ring is the kind of movie that gets under your skin, as the character brings her wrath on anyone who watches a special videotape and gets a phone call saying "seven days", referring to the amount of time before the viewer will die.

The Ring was followed by
"The Grudge", an American remake of the Japanese film Ju-On, both filmed by Japanese director Takashi Shimizu. In this film a family is killed in a small house in Japan and a caregiver is sent to the house, not knowing of the curse that lurks inside. The character is similar to that of the ring, with an eerie appearance and very disturbing crawling movement accompanied by a horrible sound. The director did a very good job of relying on scaring the audience with a terrifying character instead of using gore.

I saw The Grudge with my wife Kacy and for 97% of the film she had her eyes covered. Even as the terrifying character provides the stuff that nightmares are made of, just hearing the row of girls screaming behind us was enough to keep Kacy from wanting to see the screen.

I did not see the sequel to either The Ring or The Grudge but someday I might give them a shot. While I used to love sequels, I am of the opinion that a good horror movie can stand on its own and a sequels are made only for profit......of course, there are exceptions.

Even after years of seeing horror movies, both genuine and laughable, nothing prepared me for the two films created by
Rob Zombie. If you don't know who Rob Zombie is, you've missed a lot. After finding success in the music business, he turned to filmmaking to show another side of his creative abilities. He directed all of his own music videos, and provided the psychadelic LSD hallucination sequence from "Beavis and Butthead Do America." After four years of filming, Rob released his first feature film as a director, titled "House of 1,000 Corpses." The film was successful from a financial standpoint and became a cult favorite for horror film fans, considering it was slammed by many film critics. The success of "House" opened the door for a sequel, "The Devil's Rejects", which received a much warmer reception from critics and displayed a much more mature style of filmmaking.

**More information on both of these movies can be seen on my Must See: Movies post**

"Halloween" is regarded as an instant horror classic, but remains the only horror film that spawned sequels which I never closely followed. One of the original film's biggest fans is none other than Rob Zombie, who will release his version of Halloween on August 31st, 2007. After receiving the blessings from John Carpenter, creator of the original film, Rob quickly got to work on shining new light on the origin of Michael Myers. Carpenter told him to "make it his own" and that's exactly what Rob Zombie is doing. During interviews on the set, Rob has expressed his wishes to tie up some loose ends by explaining some of the events from the original and provide some backstory for how Michael became a killer.

Rob Zombie's Halloween will hit theaters on August 31, 2007 and I can honestly say that aside from his first two films, I've never been more excited to see any movie. TRAILER

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Drive Thru, Please........

Over the years, I have eaten a lot of fast food. During my teenage years and into my early twenties, I rode a bike everywhere, upwards of 30 miles on weekends, so it never showed on my body. I still eat fast food these days, not as often but more than I should, and there is one common factor that links all of my experiences together...BAD SERVICE!!

My most recent experience, which pushed me over the top and forced me to put this on my blog, involves Burger King. My wife and I were coming home from Merced after a weekend with her parents and dinner with friends.

As usual, when fast food ideas get tossed around, neither one of us wants to commit to one place but BK came to mind so we went with it. We stopped, ordered, and pulled away trusting that our order was right which is where we made our mistake in this visit. Kacy's food was fine, although her burger was ridiculously deflated looking. I ordered a Texas Double Whopper, which is supposed to have 2 patties, bacon, cheese, sauce, lettuce and tomato. I got a smashed bun with two staggered patties, some crap smeared on it and some lettuce; no cheese, no bacon, no resemblance to the magnificent burger in the picture on their menu. Five miles down the road, and after years of buildup, I reached my boiling point with fast food companies and the imbeciles that they hire.

I must have missed something along the way through all those years of buying fast food. I thought that the responsibility of giving you the correct food was that of the employees. The person who takes your order has a simple choice: pass the food on to you from the cook, assuming it's right, or open the bag and make sure it's right. Some places claim to have order checking in place, but that will only ensure that you get the right number of items in the right size in your bag so even if they do check it, it all falls on the cook (I use that title loosely). There is no incentive for the cook to make sure you get what you ordered, other than avoiding a complaint. They make minimum wage or maybe a dollar more, after working there for a few years, and all rather than concentrate on your food they're watching the clock waiting for their shift to end. I guess I wouldn't care much about the food I was preparing if a whole months' pay covered very little other than rent, either.

I think what really aggravates me is the fact that in most cases, when ordering from the drive thru, you'll be far enough away that it won't be worth turning back if they screw up. Just based on that fact alone, I would want to make sure everything was right if I worked the drive thru window. Think of a family travelling on the road, two parents with two kids around 7 or 8 years old. The father is driving and they leave the drive thru and get back on the freeway. Mother opens the bag and sees that the happy meals got left behind and dad's burger is covered with onions after politely requesting "no onions". Now two kids are starving and upset, and dad's burger is ruined and they have to drive 10 miles to the next off ramp just so they can go back and hope that it's right the second time around. Do you think that after causing the customer such grief, they would be even slightly remorseful? If you said yes, you are sorely mistaken. They'll act like they're sorry, and maybe offer one larger size item to make up for it but the second you drive away they will laugh it off and move on to screwing the next person.

After all that being said, as much as I love to bash the idiots that work fast food I think the ultimate failure rests on the shoulders of the manager. That's the one that sits in the back room and orders milkshakes from their desk in the heat of a lunch rush. Maybe they're too fat and lazy to help because they have an extra employee meal on their shifts. I have been a manager in the food business and worked with that kind of manager that sits in the back room, on multiple occasions. I know from experience that customers love to see a manager on the front line, sweating it out during the rush and greeting people as they arrive. On very few occasions I have seen that manager and usually I will let them know that I appreciate it. I think a manager who sits in the back sends a message that he/she is too good for the kind of work that the employees do, which is basically the fast-lane to people to having people walk out on you very inconveniently. There are managers who make 50K per year and more, and there is no way they deserve that kind of money for sitting around on their ass while paying minimum wage.

Part of what inspired me to share this with you happened long before my recent Burger King disaster. On three separate occasions, within a two-month period, me or my wife have been the recipient of hair in our food.

The first incident came from Cold Stone Creamery, the place where ice cream and chosen fillers are folded neatly into a concoction of guiltful sin. Ice cream is a top craving for my wife, being that she is pregnant, so I made a run to Cold Stone for us. After arriving home and starting our sinful indulgence, my wife pulled a long wavy hair out of her ice cream. I was proud as she simply shook it off and proceeded, but the second curled hair that hugged the side of her bowl put a quick stop to her craving being fulfilled. With a very stern voice, I called the store and left a message explaining the level of disgust I had from the experience along with my knowledge of required precautions for health reasons, namely hair nets or hats. During my voicemail tirade, I remembered the girl who served me with her long, greasy hair, completely unrestrained. I received a call the next day from a manager who tried to save face with stories of hair nets or hats, or having the girls pull their hair back at the very least. We were offered a free ice cream at any time and an apology, to which I replied that we may or may not return to claim it.

The second incident came from Round Table Pizza, which my wife and I both love and usually call when we want pizza. Nearly an hour after ordering and being quoted a 35-minute delivery, I received a call from the delivery boy asking directions. I really wanted to cancel because I figured that the cheese had gotten cold and solid but we were hungry and I am smart enough to know that you don't keep a pregnant woman hungry for too long. He arrived shortly after and the pizza didn't look as bad as I expected. That's what I thought right up until the point where one of my slices had a big hair coming out from under the cheese. I was in shock, primarily because of the experience I had with Cold Stone only a week or so before. I grabbed the hair and proceeded to pull it out, but noticed that this hair gave some resistance, which meant that it was embedded into the crust. I know that these places buy dough balls and form them so the culprit was the guy or girl who turns the balls into the round crusts and their hair got kneaded in. What may surprise you now, and still surprises me, is that I didn't call. I lost my chance to get a free pizza and I would have had so much fun screaming at the manager and giving them the same lecture about health precautions as I did to Cold Stone. To this day, I have no idea why I didn't call. We just finished eating and just shrugged it off as bad luck. After the day passed, my argument would have sounded like a complaint made up just for free food. I know this because I dealt with customers at Jamba Juice who would drink 90 percent of a smoothie and then complain of it being too tart or chunky or something like that, expecting a free smoothie card. Once you know how to detect a con, you see more and more of them.

Our next "hair-raising" adventure came when Kacy's parents were in town and we had lunch at BJ's brewhouse restaurant. They have the biggest potatoes I have ever seen and they put all kinds of fun toppings on them. For lunch, I always get a half baked potato and a wedge salad. The food came out and after enjoying my salad I moved on to the potato. About halfway through, I looked at my potato in horror as I saw a long stringy hair poking out from under the cheese and sauce. I didn't want to ruin anyone's lunch so I quietly took the hair out and set it on my salad place in plain view of anyone who even glanced our way. When our server came to collect our plates and ask how everything was, I just said that my lunch was great, with the exception of the hair in my potato. My lunch was removed from the menu with apologies and I was satisfied with the server's manner in handling the situation. It does not excuse the fact that there is an obvious problem in the kitchens of these places that have no concern for health practices.

When I was a manager, our company had what were called OSE's (Operation Standards Evaluation). Our regional manager would come out and grade us on every possible thing, down to dust on the merchandise shelves. They were unannounced, which I agree to be the only true measure of any business and their level of competence. It seems to me that every company needs to have these often and unannounced until the managers start taking cleanliness, and the health of their customers, more serious.

The health department actually requires any food service outlet to post their "grade" for health practices in their window for all to see, like the Scarlett letter of food service. If you are a food service manager and your facilities are not up to par, everyone who approaches your restaurant will know about it. That alone should be a huge incentive to get very involved because most managers have a stake in the business for bonuses.

Aside from health cautions and bad drive thru experiences, one thing that I've also dealt with is rude servers and I'm not going to ramble on about it but I will say one thing. I am a great tipper and all that I ask for is an occasional stop to check on beverages and to make sure our food came as it was ordered. If my steak is overcooked, just cook another steak for few minutes less than the first and bring it out on a plate. I don't need an entire new dinner just because the cook can't tell the difference between medium rare and beef jerky. That was an Applebee's experience a few weeks back, and yes I did eat both piles of mashed potatoes in case you wondered.

In the restaurant world, my worst experience had to be in Santa Cruz on the wharf. The restaurant has been replaced by another, so you're safe from the kind of experience I had. I ordered swordfish with asparagus and a beer. I asked that the asparagus be on the firm side because if I can tie my shoes with it, it's not going in my mouth. I reminded the server three times about my beer and it finally arrived in a nice warm glass, just out of the dishwasher no doubt. When asking if they had any glasses that would better suit a cold beer, she said she'd check on it but never had an answer. I asked twice for some garlic butter melted for my fish and our server disappeared for a long time. I ate most of my food and it wasn't until only a spec of food remained that she finally brought out a tiny cup of butter, with parsley sprinked on top. I told her that 20 minutes had passed and I didn't feel like waiting for my food to be cold for the butter and she gave some excuse that I can't remember. She asked if I wanted the glass that my beer came in and I accepted, thinking it was her way of making an offering in the wake of her incompetence. The bill came, including an 8-dollar souvenir glass. That was the point when I asked to speak with a manager and the server gave me the nastiest look possible. I explained everything to the manager and he said that the glass must have been a misunderstanding and took it off the bill, not meant for me to have but only not to pay for it. I left, giving the impression that it would be the last time, and it was.

The moral of this story is: cook at home. Watch Rachel Ray, Giada, and Bobby Flay on the Food Network and buy their books to learn some good stuff. Food cooked at home will always be better, for your bank account and your waistline. My wife and I have started making up a menu for the week and buying what we'll need for it. We still eat out, but it's going to become more of a treat like it's supposed to be. America has started to rely too much on fast food and restaurants to feed them, and those places have gotten their egos boosted way too high to care anymore. In order to change things, everyone needs to do their part and speak up when your food is not as you ordered.

Do not fear for tainted food as the result of your defiance of accepting others' mistakes, but instead stand tall when you return it, knowing that you are smarter than someone who can't assemble a burger to order.

**If you need any other reasons to start eating at home and putting fast food in your past, watch the movie Super Size Me, starring and directed by Morgan Spurlock, creator of the reality TV show 30 Days.**

Monday, April 23, 2007

Getting inked.......again

Long before I got my first tattoo, I always liked the idea of them as being a piece of permanent art that represents a piece of who you are.

People who know me well know that I have a huge fascination and affinity for sharks, and I knew that it would be a great choice for a tattoo (so glad I didn't go with the Van Halen logo). Being that tattoos were a whole new venture for me, I started trying to speak with people about where they got their work done and why. The common thread in many of the stories was American Graffiti, a midtown Sacramento shop that boasts great artists whose work jumps off the skin.

My sister Kris and I went there together back in 1998 because she was thinking of getting a tattoo also and we thought it would be fun to do together since we're pals. I met Jim Vanis, a great guy and even better artist. I told him what I was going for and he drew it up quickly, and the drawing itself exceeded my greatest expectations.

My idea came from the end of "Jurassic Park" when the T-Rex has trashed the lobby area and lets out a huge roar as a banner dropped across him which read "when dinosaurs ruled the earth". Being that sharks existed before dinosaurs I thought it would be a nod to that idea to have a shark wrapped around the earth, my version of "when sharks ruled the world". Jim did an amazing job (in only 45 minutes) and it remains a favorite of my own and among all I've seen, for more reasons than it being my first.

Kris got a pose of the Cat in the Hat on her arm. It looks great, almost like Dr. Seuss himself drew it on her! Overall, we both had a great experience getting our first taste of ink. Little did I know that it would become such an addiction (different than drugs). I won't speak for all people who have tattoos, but it changed my approach to seeing art and thinking of its potential as it translates on skin. I have always loved art in general but never thought of how it would look as a tattoo before getting one of my own.

Almost a year after getting my first, I started to feel the itch for some more ink. One of my employees from Jamba was dying for a tattoo and it was her birthday. I took her to a shop where one of our customers was an artist. She knew Jim, who did my first tattoo, so I was instantly comfortable with her as my choice. My friend from Jamba decided on some fairy wings on her back and the artist did an amazing job. I had an idea for a tattoo but it turned out that it worked much better on paper than it did on skin. I got the tattoo and knew shortly after that it didn't work as I expected, especially when I would hear "what's that"?. I can't fault the artist for the outcome, because she only did what I asked her to do. I just put that in the back of my head for a cover-up job later on.

Almost eight years later, I decided it was time to turn that mistake into something to admire. I went back to American Graffiti and met Ryan Tanton, who did a fine job. I told him that I wanted a hammerhead on my back to cover up the old job. He drew up a stencil pretty quickly and wasted no time in getting to work. It's really impressive how these guys do what they do, they truly are artists. They are able to draw pretty detailed pictures in short time and their imagination and signature style always show on their work. I know that cover-ups are not a favorite thing for most artists, since they are made responsible for fixing someone else's bad work (in this case, idea gone wrong). The only thing I would prefer to be different about the hammerhead on my back is the placement, but I understand why it was placed as it was. The shark runs vertically from high on my right shoulder blade to my middle back on the right side. I guess if it would have been horizontal, the tail would have come out on my side and looked funny. The one thing you need to keep in mind with any good artist is that they have just as much at stake in doing the work as you do in having it on your body. An artist's work is like his business card so they want to make sure that you're happy and that they're giving a good representation of their work. After the hour and 45 minutes in the chair, minus a few short breaks, I was done and very happy.

To give some background on my next project, rewind back to 2003 in Maui. My dad, sister, and I walked through Lahaina near the Banyan Tree and thought we'd take a peek in a local tattoo shop. There amongst the wall of art was the best looking Greek key design I had seen to date. I was dying to get it but because I was a little sunburned they would not do the work. I was disappointed but understood because a reputable shop will not do tattoo work on sunburned skin.

**Sunburned skin will not heal as well and the integrity of the work will most likely be compromised, creating a regrettable experience and a blemish on an artist's reputation. If you have a sunburn on a desired area for a tattoo, wait until the burn goes away before approaching a shop to save a trip.**

Even though I was turned away, I kept the idea in mind because I knew I wanted it later on and a couple years ago Kacy and I found a great design at a local shop called Liberty Tattoo. I knew of their work because Bill Liberty is a very well-known artist on the convention circuit and a former manager of mine got some amazing half-sleeve work done by Jennifer at that shop. I took the design home and tried to color it in different ways to see what would stand out the best. Unfortunately, I had the artwork in my car (or so I believe) and my car was stolen and stripped to metal, most likely for parts. After my dad said that he would buy me the tattoo for a birthday present a few years back, we finally went in and set the appointment.

Upon completion of my Greek key armband tattoo, I will post pictures of all of my tattoos with artist and shop name with links for each one. I am very proud of the artwork that I have and I want to give proper credit where it's due and help generate some business for these great artists and people.

Personally, I think tattoos are very gratifying if the artist is good and your design represents you as a person. I think gimmick tattoos like band logos are bad decisions, as well as anything that will date you. Don't get a band's name on your arm because you love them if you're in your teens or twenties. When you're sixty and your tattoo looks like a big blurry birthmark, you won't think it's so cool anymore.

ABOVE ALL, AVOID THE RELATIONSHIP TATTOO CURSE.
I happen to know of 3 instances, personally, where a relationship has ended after a guy put his girl's name on himself. It goes both ways, so don't think if you're a girl you'll escape the curse. Think of it as an advertisement of your failed relationships when they go bad. Who wants that?

**For those of you have questions, see the Q/A page for Liberty Tattoo. It is very well written and thorough.**

Thursday, April 19, 2007

LCD Monitor buying tips and a review

I wanted an LCD flat panel monitor for my home computer for a long time, after having a few of those clunky space-swallowing CRT's. Being that I'm a techie, I always have to look for the best specs at the best price.

There was a Samsung model that I always had my eyes on because you could use it for TV too, as it had inputs for cable and included a remote. That was a while ago though, and it was pretty pricey. I searched the tech-friendly sites like Zip Zoom Fly and New Egg, and Cnet.com for customer reviews.

**If you're ever going to buy any electronics, always find a site that has reviews from actual buyers. Even if the people writing them are complete morons, you might find the pieces of info you need to make your decision.**

I walked through a Best Buy store and didn't see anything I had to have yet, so I kept searching online. Shortly after, I went to the Best Buy website and found the monitor I have now.

CLICK HERE for a well-written breakdown of the specs and features most desirable in a flat panel monitor.

A few of the specs that made this monitor stand out for me were the response time and the contrast ratio.

The response time, simply put, is the amount of time it takes for the crystals in the display to change from an on and off state (change from one color to another, as in moving pictures or movies). Just like with Golf, the lower number means better performance and crisper images. This monitor has a lightning fast 2ms response time, which is the best I've seen available.

The contrast ratio is basically the difference between the whitest whites and the darkest darks. On a monitor with low contrast ratio, the dark colors will appear more washed out while a contrast ratio such as this monitor (3000:1), the different shades of color are very distinguishable and appear as they should.


One thing to watch out for is native resolution. Most monitors are set at 1280x1024 and that's a pretty good setting for easy viewing. Resolution is the physical number of pixels on the screen (horiz/vert). Many of the larger monitors, especially widescreens, are set at 1440x900, which is torture for your eyes. The problem comes when you adjust the resolution to your liking because the native resolution represents the best possible viewing of that monitor. In summary, just pick a monitor with a native resolution of 1280x1024 and you'll be fine.

**If you have a resolution of 1024x768 and use a desktop wallpaper that is lower in resolution (800x600) the screen will stretch out the image to make it fit the screen which is why it would look blurry.**

If you are shopping for an LCD monitor is highly impressive and worth its weight in gold.
The product page at best buy has all of the specifications in detail and a "so low you feel like you're stealing it" price of only $249. For that price, you cannot find a monitor with specs even close to this one; believe me, I looked. For those of you who are picky about colors, it may not match your old sun-faded beige tower. If that's the case you may want to give it a facelift with a new tower case to match the sophisticated style of this monitor with its ultra-thin silver bezel (the frame around the LCD screen) and black stand.

If you purchase this monitor and still need some kind of reassurance that you've made a good purchase (meaning you don't trust me), visit the Apple site for Hi-Def movie trailers. The animated movies work best, like Shrek The Third. Watch the large (720p) trailer (must have Quicktime installed on your computer). In seconds, your monitor will prove its worth.

If you have any more questions about this monitor or advice about another, leave some comments and an email address.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech incident

Yesterday, I heard several conversations about the shooting at Virginia Tech, carried out by one of the students who many teachers were in fear of, vocally.

The student was feared as suicidal by his parents and had been taken to a mental health institute after stalking two female students. Obviously, he was not well and a possible danger to others. That does not justify the criticism dished out towards the faculty of Virginia Tech for not preventing what happened.

After something like what happened at Columbine, I personally would think that people would be more prepared for another incident. Then the immediate response is "who could possibly prepare for something so horrible?" Arguments I heard involved questioning why the school wasn't locked immediately once it was known that shooting was in progress. Those arguments, especially from the likes of Bill O' Reilly, are simply ignorant remarks coming from a place of arrogance in the face of terror. In the shoes of those who were actually there, I doubt the critics could've done any better because they didn't know firsthand what it was like to be there. No one can say how someone should act or how to handle a situation of that magnitude. At Columbine, there were two students running wild shooting at nearly everyone in sight. Most of the students and teachers were simply trying to survive, most likely the same scenario at Virginia Tech.

I'm not going to try and say what could've been done or what should have been done to prevent these tragic acts. I have no right to say anything in criticism because I have no idea what it's like to be in such a terrifying situation. I hope that maybe after going through something like that, it would help people survive if another situation presented itself.

I know that the NRA is going to put up their best "guns don't kill people" defense as usual when such an event occurs. Personally, I think that guns should not be available to anyone outside of law enforcement agencies who are trained to handle guns in order to uphold the law and protect people, like the victims of these events and many others. People buy guns in "self-defense" but do not take care to keep their guns locked away and their children are killed as a result of negligence. People buy guns to kill animals for fun, and they had to do nothing more that fill out a form and wait for a little more than a week.

A criminally insane person could walk into a store tomorrow, fill out a form and come back after the waiting period, and walk down the street shooting as many as he could before he was taken down. The 2nd Amendment of The Constitution allows them to do that, and most likely will never change.

During my time as a manager for a retail food outlet, one of my employees killed himself with a gun he purchased, probably at some sporting goods store. His parents would still have their son if stores wouldn't sell guns to just anyone.

Of course if you remove the ability to buy guns legally, people who want them for all the wrong reasons will get them on the street. So unless cops start becoming more involved in maintaining justice and getting guns off the streets, these kinds of activities will continue.

My heart goes out to the parents and families of all those who were killed and injured during both of these tragic events.

It angers me greatly that these gunmen, in both incidents, acted so strong and self-righteous until the point when they took their own life. They contradicted all of their actions by showing what cowards they truly were. While no amount of justice would be sufficient for the families of those lost, having the shooters in custody would be a start.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New Rush album Snakes And Arrows (5/1/2007)

I was browsing through a few music sites earlier today and saw a link to a new song from Rush called "Far Cry", from an upcoming album called Snakes And Arrows.

I visited the Rush website, http://www.rush.com, and heard the song for myself.

Being an aspiring drummer, Neil Peart of Rush is my hero. Rush's music has never gotten tired or old sounding to me, even songs as old as "Tom Sawyer" or "Subdivisions". Each time I hear their music, it sounds fresh and new to me. The instrumentals they often include on albums showcase the musicianship of this incredible trio.

I had always heard of Rush growing up and loved "Tom Sawyer" but never paid much attention as far as collecting albums, until 1992. My dad and I took a trip to the bay area and he played the Roll The Bones album for me. It was the very next cd I bought and got played nearly every day. Every song caught my attention, especially standouts "Face Up" and "Bravado". The instrumental on that album is amazing and spacial, you feel surrounded by sounds in all directions.

The next album, Counterparts, came out right when my love for Pearl Jam had ignited and it was released on the same day as "Vs." which was the sophmore album for PJ. I had just installed some new speakers and a deck in my car and it sounded better than ever. "Stick It Out" has always been my favorite song from Counterparts and in my top 5 songs from Rush.
Once again, the instrumental "Leave That Thing Alone" grabbed hold of me and would not let go. This one really showcased Neil's drumming more than anything, which is fine by me.

After Counterparts came Test For Echo, another great album. Personally, I think those three albums are some of the finest music that Rush has put out since the "Tom Sawyer" days.

Their last studio album, Vapor Trails, is a good album but I never really got into it like I did the previous three I mentioned.

I'm curious to hear the new material and see how they've evolved, while holding on to their signature sound. Upon hearing the album, I'll update this post with some new insights.

VISIT RUSH'S WEBSITE FOR 2007 TOUR DATES!!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Anticipating parenthood and all that comes with it

The arrival of baby Gavin is approaching quickly and all things related are becoming the main subject of our discussions, with each other and with friends and family. We are finding it hard to stop shopping for him as we see all of the clothing wherever we go. Most people will say that girls are much easier to shop for and that girls' clothes are much cuter than those of little boys. I happen to disagree with the latter of the two statements. The tiny hiking boots they make and little camouflage Vans are EDIBLE!

I do agree that as girls grow into their toddler years, the style choices are more abundant than those of boys' clothing. Girls have shorts, skirts, dresses, and different kinds of pants. Boys get shorts or pants and whatever kind of shirt that goes with it.

Of course, beyond putting clothes on Gavin's back, we are starting to explore how we want to approach parenthood. Last night, we spent some time with my nephews while their parents endured another Sacramento Kings loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. My nephews Bryson and Devin are 7 and 3 years old, respectively. Like any other siblings, namely boys, they have their issues but all in all you can tell that they are glad to have one another. I do my part as an uncle to keep them in line without interfering with their parents' style of parenting. I have thoroughly enjoyed unclehood as I have the part of the cool guy that shows up now and then to hang out and be the non-parent but authoritative figure.

I received some Kudos from my wife Kacy in regards to my methods of handling some of the issues that took place during the evening. Being that she is a teacher of small children, it filled me with some encouragement and faith in my instincts.

**TANGENT ALERT**
Teachers truly have the most difficult job of all time and I realize it every time I'm around kids. Not only are they trying to educate their students, they have to act as the voice of reason that kids block out when their parents are not in plain sight. Of course, we have to mention those parents who load up their sick kids with Tylenol and send them off to school. That works fine for about 2 hours and then the kids' noses are running wild and they're wiping their germs on every toy, book, and flat surface in the classroom. The message that teachers get is that work is more important to many parents than getting their kids well, not to mention the health of the other kids and teachers at school.

OK, thanks for baring with me on my rant but it had to be said.

**END OF TANGENT**

Now is the time in my posting when I "toot my own horn".
Everyone always has the nicest things to say to you when you're expecting, whether it be words of encouragement and prediction of good parenting, or simple wishes of luck and health. I am one of the guys as an expectant father that uses those words as reference when I say that I do believe I'll be a great father. I won't be accepting any father of the year awards that I can predict but I know that from a hands-on point of view I think I'll suprise people. I've changed more diapers than most would think and I have a knack for putting babies to sleep on my shoulder. If my nephews' memories would date back to those times, they could back me up.

I just know that my main goal is to simply raise a kind man who will follow in my footsteps of general outlook and behavior. I know how ridiculously presumptious that sounds but I know for fact that many people think I'm a truly nice guy and I pride myself on it. I think in this day and age, when people are strung out on drugs, robbing and killing people, parents have more responsibility than ever to make sure that their children become active contributing members of society. That's not enough either, though. As Justin Timberlake claimed to bring "sexy back", my wife and I are bringing manners back. What happened to "please" and "thank you" and asking nicely for things or simply taking no for an answer once in a while. If there is one thing I will focus on in raising Gavin, it will be the simple manners that most children do not exercise. I do not expect to create a perfect gentleman, but I do expect that he will be the kind of man that any woman with pride and self-esteem will feel lucky to have.

Traits that I do not want to pass on to my son are my financial practices and driving approach.

I've never taken money seriously, and I pay the price now. I've had jobs in the past that paid very well and the money was spent on the most ridiculous of things. Savings was never in my vocabulary, and still to this day I haven't gotten into the habit of putting away for tomorrow. Of course that will have to change very soon so Gavin will have options after high school.

As for driving, I've had more tickets than most of my friends COMBINED. It's not that I love to go super fast either, I'm laying down my victim card in saying that I'm just the recipient of bad luck. I'm always in radar view when I happen to break the speed limit. I have proof of my victim theory too, and his name is Daren.

**MILD TANGENT ALERT**
My friend Daren has owned a Toyota MR2 turbo, a Corvette, and a Dodge Viper. I've been in all three of these cars and sometimes at white knuckle speeds. He's gotten a ticket for a U-turn while visiting family and me here in Sacramento, and maybe one speeding ticket.

I've owned an old Toyota Celica, a big slow Chevy truck, a Camaro IROC, and a Honda Civic before my current car, a Mitsubushi Montero SUV. While I admit that I took my IROC to 120mph on Highway 99, that is really the extreme of my speedy tendencies. Any other instances are simple moments of being at the right place at the wrong time. There seems to be a strange correlation between the volume of the music in my car in relation to my foot as it connects to the pedal and I'm still working on that one.

**END OF TANGENT**

In summary, it is important that my son learn to follow speed limits carefully not just to avoid tickets but for safety reasons as well.

Regardless of what others think of me as a father, the person I want to win over the most is Gavin, obviously. I'm already ahead of the game though; I found the best possible person to be his mother.