Pre race pump up.

Jo jo

This past fall, I worked for the title sponsor (Grand Dynamics International) of the Ultimate Towner obstacle course race to build and run two of their races on the East Coast. One in Lake Placid up in the Adirondack Mountains, and one in Syracuse, New York. This was a blast.  Basically the race is 4 miles over varying terrain with 25 obstacles (mud pits, walls, more walls, tires, sand bag carries, balance beams, etc) that add up to one challenging course. There are two heats: a fast class (where you are timed and must complete every obstacle) and a fun class (which is as the name implies, for fun.)

ultimate_logo

The main thing that distinguishes the Ultimate Towner from say, Tough Mudder, or Warrior Dash, is that they hold the races primarily in small towns, focus on overcoming obstacles through teamwork and passion, get the community involved, and a part of the profits go to a local charity. It is a super fun and inspirational event. Tim Walther (pictured in white, above), president of Grand Dynamics, starts off the race with a large group pump up/ dance/ aerobic work out craziness and it goes on from there. The race is open to all ages, and I think we had a two year old on the course at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid.

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So yeah. Lot’s of fun. Great people. Hard race. What more do you want. Oh yeah, also, cheaper than the other races too. So register for one near you. Or travel to it. The one in Jackson, WY is awesome. Be sure to check out the links up top for more info on races near you. Here’s some more pics from the New York races:

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Tuffy Slacklining at Whiteface Mt.

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The Over Under Through walls, in the beautiful Adirondacks

 

Teton traverse wall

Teton traverse wall

 

At mile 3, that's a tough climb!

At mile 3, that’s a tough climb!

The "Love Life" wall

The “Love Life” wall

 

Overcome your Obstacles

Overcome your Obstacles

 

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Potato sack race obstacle

Racers get a fun spray down from a young spectator!

Racers get a fun spray down from a young spectator!

I am currently reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin and decided to do a bit of an experiment. You see, people have been recommending that I read the books, or at the very least watch the show on HBO for a while now. I normally like sci-fi and I find that I have to be in a certain mood for a Fantasy novel of any length, let alone an epic series where each book is 800+ pages. (I’ve never been one to balk at length, it’s just that it’s a commitment that is sometimes difficult to make before you know if you’ll even like it or not.) Anyway, I started the novels, then had a thought. I’ve read enough of the first book to get a handle on the plot, so I’ll watch the first episode of the HBO show and see how I like it. See if it’s true to the book (always a huge deal for me) and maybe it will help me solidify the characters in my mind. If I can put a face to a name, then I can tell Arya apart from Sansa more easily. Or so I thought.

Well, it turned out that I had read just enough so that the show didn’t have any spoilers for me. I read another hundred pages or so and watched episode two. Rinse, repeat. Great.

But then I got to thinking. This wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. A few weeks before, I watched the beginning of “Treasure Island” (1991 version) with my son because we were reading the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson yarn for bedtime and I thought it might interest him to see how what we had just read looked like in “real life.”

But now, for the rest of the book, Jim Hawkins will look like a young Christian Bale to my son. And Long John Silver can’t look like anything other than a crusty Charlton Heston. treasure-island7

And the same is true for me now. Danaerys  Stormborn will always appear in my minds eye as Emilia Clarke ( yes, there are worse fates.) Ned Stark is Sean Bean. Etc. That’s when I had a terrifying thought:

We are letting our imagination wither and die like an atrophied muscle.

Our kids watch cartoons about other fictional kids going out to their backyard and having adventures where they imagine that they are astronauts, cowboys, wizards… But my kids aren’t doing any of that! THEY ARE SITTING INSIDE, WATCHING A TV SHOW ABOUT KIDS WHO HAVE IMAGINATION! (I’m lookin’ at you Backyardigans!)

Caution___TV_is_not_a_friend

AHHHHHHH!

How do we fix this?

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All right, I’m not a spokesperson for Stihl, but they come close to my point. We need to get our kids (and ourselves) outside more often. We need to sit under a tree and dream. We need to create. No matter what you think your talent is or isn’t, you can create something.   If you’re good with your hands, make something. If you’re “too out of shape/ too fat/too clumsy/ etc.” that’s not stopping you from writing an amazing story or composing a beautiful song, making a stunning piece of jewelry or woodwork. The author of the books I’m reading now doesn’t have what most people would call an athletic build (see below), but he has created an amazingly detailed epic book series. No excuses. Go from a consumer of culture to a creator of it.

Everyone dies

Everyone dies

Terence McKenna had a thought along similar lines:

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”

― Terence McKenna

Turn off your smartphone, turn off the music, stop doing things just because they will make a #clevertwitterhashtag or Facebook post later that will def impress your “friends” or “followers.” Live Life. Rediscover your passion and be amazing at it.

CREATE!

Ring a ring a rosie

A pocket full of posie

Ashes, ashes,

We all fall down!

Innocent enough children’s rhyme, right? Hold hands and dance around in a circle before falling to the ground and giggling. Yeaaaa!!!!!

No.

Like many children’s rhymes, songs, and poems, this particular rhyme contains a hidden meaning. In medieval Europe, they had outbreaks of the plague. The first symptom was a circular red sore (ring of roses). As people started dying, the bodies piles up in the streets. The stench was unbearable and some people put herbs and flowers around their neck or in pockets to try and mask the smell of decaying flesh (pocket full of posies). When the bodies were burned, the ashes would rain down on the city, on young and old alike (ashes, ashes). Ultimately, many people could not escape the plague and ended up dead (we all fall down…dead).

Wonderful. And kids sing this like it’s the happiest song ever.

After having kids of my own and reading many of these poems and songs, I realized just how many of these things have a deeper darker meaning.

Here’s another.

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Like many things from hundreds of years ago, this rhyme has several meanings, but the version I like best is that  the duke is Richard, Duke of York born in 1411. There are a few other contenders like James II born in 1633 and Prince Fredrick born in 1763.

Richard, with 8,000 of his troops, was surrounded in Sandal Castle which was built on a hill. (he marched them Up) He was awaiting reinforcements, but decided to instead sally forth (down the hill) and fight the siege army nearly three times his number. Richard and many of his army were killed, and having ceased to exist, were (neither up nor down)

The next rhyme may be from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Sing a Song of Sixpence,
A bag full of Rye,
Four and twenty
Black Birds,
Bak’d in a Pye.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Was not that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting-house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
There came a little blackbird,
And snapped off her nose.

Apparently there really were recipes that instructed how to bake a pie with live birds inside so that they would fly out when the pie was cut open. At least if the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes is to be believed, an Italian cookbook from 1549 tells the baker just how to accomplish this feat. There is no explanation why a maid would be forced to suffer such a fate in a rhyme. Maybe it made the Nobles feel better to subject their servants to abuse in song, in addition to real life. At least some later versions include:

They sent for the king’s doctor,
Who sewed it on again,
He sewed it on so neatly,
The seam was never seen.

Another one that always struck me as terrible is the classic lullaby:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

There are many theories as to the meaning of this rhyme. One popular theory is that it originated in America in the 1600s when colonists saw Native American women rocking their babies in birch bark cradles swung from tree limbs. The idea being that the wind would rock them to sleep. However, the poem first appears in print in England in 1765, so this would appear to invalidate the American ownership.

Another theory comes from a local legend in Derbyshire England where Luke and Kate Kenyon lived with their eight children in a huge Yew tree. They hollowed out one of the limbs for a cradle while Luke made charcoal in Shining Cliffs wood in the Derwent Valley.

There are some cool political overtones to the rhyme though. Another theory focuses on a footnote ( “This may serve as a warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last”) published with the original, and goes along with a second lesser-known verse:

Rock-a-bye, baby, thy cradle is green;
Father’s a nobleman, mother’s a queen;
And Betty’s a lady, and wears a gold ring;
And Johnny’s a drummer, and drums for the king.

The baby is said to be James II, who was believed to be someone else’s child smuggled into the birthing room to provided a Roman Catholic heir to King James I. The “wind” may have been the Protestant wind blowing from the Netherlands, bringing James’ nephew and son-in-law William of Orange, who would eventually depose King James II in the revolution. The “cradle” is the royal House of Stuart

This post is by no means exhaustive on the subject, and I only did my research online. But I hope I have been able to illuminate some commonly sung rhymes that we memorize when we are kids and don’t know the hidden, darker history to. As always, I’d love to read your thoughts and reactions. Thanks!

 Other resources can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Old_Duke_of_York
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1904/whats-the-nursery-rhyme-sing-a-song-of-sixpence-all-about

I recently read “The Yellow on the Broom” and “Red Rowans and Wild Honey” by Betsy Whyte. (Bonnie wee Scottish lassie, isn’t she?)

Betsy Whyte

Bessie, as she answered to when she was a wean, writes her memoir of her childhood in the 1930s as part of a family of Scottish “traveller” people. Tinkers. Mist People. Gypsies. (Although they would disapprove of the ‘Tinker’ designation.) The book is wonderfully written and attempts to describe the life and philosophy of travellers. Why they live in tents and move from place to place most of the year, only settling down when they have to in winter. Working on farms, pearl fishing, making willow baskets and many other odd jobs. How they view the country hantle.

And here we are. “Hantle?” Yup. That’s cant for “people.” Her book is rife with strange words. So much so, that I became intrigued. Was this different than Scots? Yes. Was there anywhere online with a good glossary? Not really. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a thorough one at the end of Mrs. Whyte’s book. I don’t think she’d mind if I shared some of my favorite words with you, as she lamented that it was dying out within her lifetime.

The cant that Bessie spoke was unique to the Highland travellers. Irish Tinker cant, often called Shelta, or Gammon, would be completely unintelligible to her. Regardless of which group of tinkers were speaking, the purpose of cant was secret communication, often right under the noses of the country hantle or hornies (police). Two travellers could be asking a cottar if they could boil some water for tea, but if one of them notices something is amiss, they could alert the other one in the midst of speaking to the cottage resident.

What follows is a list of my favorite cant words. This is by no means comprehensive, as I have left out many other words that are included in Betsy Whyte’s books which are published by Birlinn publishing out of Edinburgh, Scotland. (This is reproduced with their permission.) As always, please comment with any thoughts or questions.

agley- in the wrong direction

anonst- unknown (to somebody) going hunting in the field anonst to the landowner.

bagle- a lazy fellow, one who breaks sexual taboos

bang- a crowd, especially domineering and overpowering people.

barming- flighty, foolish

besom- a sweeping brush, an unpleasant woman

birse- to bristle, feel annoyed or angry

bogy roll- a twist or roll of tobacco

breenge- a lunge, an attack

broonie- supposedly a very helpful spirit creature: manshaped, ugly, covered with brown hair, with long feet and red eyes. He usually attached himself to a family, nearly always millers or farmers, and did the work of ten men.

buck- a person who as taken to the travelling life, or with only one real Traveller parent.

bullyrag- to order somebody about, to demand a lot

bung- taken, jailed

burker- an intruder. Originating from William Burke who murdered people and sold their bodies for medical research at the universities. Travellers were often his target.

caber- a heavy log for tossing at the Highland Games, slang for (you guessed it) penis.

cannyways- cautiously

chuckie stane- a small smooth pebble

cleek- to walk arm in arm

conyeeched- spoiled, petted

coorie- to crouch or snuggle down

cottar- a farmworker in a rented cottage

country hantle- the settled, house-dwelling country people

Cruelty- ‘A Cruelty’ was an Inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or any official of a local authority

dander- a stroll or leisurely walk. to take a dander might mean a short walk away from camp to relieve oneself

dreich- dull, wearisome

drookit- drenched or soaked

drumly- applied to stream water, this means disturbed, muddy, unsettled. Applied to a person, it means they are confused, mixed up.

dwam- a faint or swoon

ettling- being eager or impatient to do something

fang- the venomous side to one’s nature. to go off the fang was to lose one’s temper.

forfochen- worn out

gadgie- man

ganch, ganch- to talk too much. to bore someone by talking in too much detail

gaswork cinders- coke (soda)

gie- to give. gie us a crack- give me some conversation, let’s have a chat. gie him his tatties- give him what he deserves

glaikit- silly, senseless

glaggen- the sheen over a field of grain, hay, or over a moor

glaur- mud, ooze

gloaming- dusk, twilight

granny sooker- a pan drop, a peppermint sweet

guffie- a boorish, unfeeling, cruel person

gurly- applied to water, the weather, this means cloudy, rough. So, applied to a person, it means they are grumpy, in a bad mood.

hap- to dress a child; to tuck up in bed

haver- to talk nonsense

hornies- the police

hurl- a lift on the road

in-aboot-  to enter into an encampment from any direction and move about greeting people at their various occupations

John Barleycorn- wiskey

jugal- a dog

keek- to peep

knickit- made pregnant

lee-lang – whole

limmer- a rascal or rogue, a loose girl

moich- foolish, mad

mootyay- a rabbit

nakens- Travellers

nash avree!- get moving!

oxter- armpit, to lead by the arm

paggering- a beating

peekit- sickly looking

peevie- drunk

plank!- hide!

ploops- the police

plouter- to potter about on trifling tasks

pluffen- tobacco

plukie- faced – pimple-faced

polis- the police

puckle- a small quantity

raise the wind- to earn enough to survive

rax- to stretch, overstrain

reel-rall- helter-skelter

reenge- a pot scrubber made from tying heather together

scaldified- behaving like scaldies, town dwellers of the lowest class.

scalpions- roguish young men, eager to work off high spirits by tormenting others

scouff- freedom, sufficient space to romp and play

screich- the first light of dawn

shan- bad. really objectionable, unsavory, causing shame

shaness!- an exclamation meaning ‘bad word’ , ‘bad deed’ or ‘bad situation’ but it can be used in many different ways

shuch- the private part of a woman

sleekit- sly, cunning

smeeked- smelling of, and cheery with, drink

snooled- made to feel low or downtrodden

souch, sough- a murmur: of the sea, a river, the wind, distant voices, birds wings…

thrang- crowded, close together

thrash- scared

thraw- to argue, to contradict

toll- a cant word for skirlie, the dish made from oatmeal and dripping

trauchled- overburdened, overworked

troosh- to humble or frighten someone

tuggery- fine clothes

walsh- dried up and bad tasting

want- When we say that a person has a want, we mean that they are otherwise quite normal, but has an obsession or distorted view about some thing (or things). Such a person is usually very touchy about the subject and the ability to recognize such a ‘want’ helps one to humor the person.

whammel- to turn upside down

wheesht!- hush! be quiet!

yirdy- a toad

younker- youngster, child

So I finally got to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movie last night in all its 3D high frame rate glory. The verdict?

Terrible… with some shining good points.

But Dan, you say, I thought you loved JRR Tolkien and the Hobbit? Yes. Yes I do. Why do directors/screenwriters feel the need to mess with something that has been a well-loved classic for millions? WHY! If it has enjoyed success up to this point with the story that exists, why change it? And don’t tell me, “For the story/ narrative.” The narrative worked just fine, that’s why there are Tolkien fans world-wide. So if you’ll indulge my nerdy wrath, let me tell you the various reasons why I was disappointed in the film.

The whole backstory with Azog the goblin. Yes he existed, but he was dead long before the company of 14 left Bag-end. I kind of see that the writers needed a stronger antagonist for this cut-up part of the story, but come on. Here’s what really happened:

After Smaug took the Lonely Mountain. Thror gave his Ring of Power to his son Thrain, and left with a friend, Nar, to go to Moria. When he got there, the gate was open and his friend warned him not to go in, but he walked in like an heir returning. Nar waited outside for many days before the body of Thror was tossed out, headless. The head was also tossed out and on it was branded AZOG. Nar was told that Azog was the new master in Moria and to go back and tell the dwarves. Of course Thrain was furious and the dwarves spent three years amassing an army before they finally marched on Moria in 2799. That is the scene in the movie where Thorin and Thrain are battling the goblins. That scene is accurate in that it shows how Thorin got his nickname Oakenshield, but that’s about all. Nain is the dwarf who battles and is killed by Azog, and Dain (of the Iron Hills), son of Nain, revenges his father and kills Azog, beheading him. Not just cutting off his arm for him to fight another day. Dead. Storyline ends there. Bye bye Azog.

Years later, Thrain, Thorin’s father is captured on the outskirts of Mirkwood and is taken to Dol Guldur where he is tortured and the Ring of Power is taken from him and delivered to Sauron in 2845. Five years later, Gandalf enters Dol Guldur and receives the key to the Lonely Mountain from Thrain before he is killed.

Whew! History lesson over. OK. Next.

The beginning of the movie is fine. The dinner party at Bagend is great. Where it departs from Canon is with the Trolls. First of all, it was pouring rain, not a nice day. Second. The whole party voted that Bilbo should go check out the firelight, not go chasing after some lost ponies. Third, Bilbo is discovered but manages to get away when the trolls start fighting amongst themselves, then the dwarves start showing up one by one and get put into sacks so that they can’t warn the others. Thorin manages to get in a few licks with a burning branch, but he too is captured and Bilbo is punted up into a tall bush. Then Gandalf comes back and impersonates the Troll’s voices so that they end up arguing about how to cook the dwarves until daylight turns them to stone. All in all, the movie didn’t change too much, and the scene is not pivotal to the plot. But if it wasn’t so important, why change it at all? It was fine as originally written.

Then the movie goes on a lark with Radagast the Brown and tries setting up how Sauron is amassing power in Mirkwood, but that doesn’t really enter into the Hobbit at all. Gandalf just mentions that a “Necromancer” is gaining power in Mirkwood and Radagast the Brown shows up in the Hobbit for all of ONE SENTENCE, while they are on the way to Beorn’s house.

And the whole business about being chased by Wargs before “escaping” to Rivendell? Rubbish. They missed the whole fantastic scene in the book where the company enters Rivendell at twilight and the elves sing/make fun of them from the trees. Also, still on ponies and horses. They didn’t run away after their ordeal with the trolls.

Rivendell itself was spectacular as it always is, but the whole council with Galadriel and Saruman never happened.

The Stone giants scene was cool and I’m willing to forgive a little creative license there, but they still had the ponies with them, and Gandalf too, when they were captured in the cave. Bilbo remains with the group the whole time during their escape, which was a ridiculous affair of Disney theme ride/ Ewok village rope bridges in the movie, where in the book it is all dark low passages. When the goblins catch up with the group a second time, Dori, who was carrying Bilbo on his shoulders, is grabbed from behind and Bilbo is knocked out and overlooked. When he awakes, he fumbles over The Ring on the ground, he doesn’t watch it fall out of Gollum’s pocket.

The Riddles in the Dark scene is great, except that it’s not dark. When Bilbo finally escapes, he losses his brass buttons trying to squeeze out the final door to the outside, away from Gollum and the goblin guards.

The scene where the party goes from the frying pan and into the fire was well done except for the whole showdown between Thorin and AZOG, who as we found out, was already long dead.

When they are rescued by the Eagles, (who just look down and see the fire with their good eyesight and don’t have to be informed via butterfly mail) we miss out on the whole scene of the dwarves being taken up to their Eyrie that night and wondering if they are going to be eaten for the Eagle’s dinner. And then they are brought to the Carrock, and so we leave them there., gazing at the nonexistent view of the Lonely Mountain.

After all that, here’s what the movie did right: Visually stunning. The HFR was incredible, but hard to get used to. At first, it looks a bit like Spanish daytime soap operas. You know, that hard light where everything looks very realistic. After a while, you begin to appreciate the detail, but it takes time. Erebor was amazing and the golden hoard was a sight to behold. All the characters were wonderful, and Bilbo and Thorin were spot on, even though they participated in scenes that shouldn’t have existed. the Wargs were awesome, and the goblins were perfect. Just different enough from LOTR’s orcs to be just right. The Goblin King in particular was wonderful.

Overall, I think that Peter Jackson has a great vision for the world of Middle Earth, and he did better than most would. But why didn’t he just stick to the beloved story? Tolkien fans should watch it, but you have been warned to not expect it to be true to canon.

What do you think?

P.S. I think I’m so upset, because I grew up with Tolkien s’ works. It’s different than, say, The Walking Dead graphic novels versus the TV show. I read and enjoyed the comics first, and noted the differences when the show aired, but since it wasn’t ingrained in my childhood; since I didn’t spend hours drawing maps of Georgia, or making hand-drawn board games of The Walking Dead, I wasn’t as upset. Or take any modern series. Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Yes, it bothered me when the movies departed from the novels, but it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

Here are some more of the tribal-style designs I’ve drawn over the years. I’ll add that you are free to use these as you will for personal use, but if you intend to make money off them, please give me my due. And if you actually get one of these tattooed on you, I want a picture!

 

 

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New smartphone ushers in new era

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags:

Well, finally got a smartphone. I imagine that this will affect the frequency and quality of my subsequent posts. I’ll try not to dumb it down too much.

I just installed a new (old/ reclaimed) front door.

Front door after. Left swing inwards. We got this door in very rough shape from a neighbor for $40. After a lot of scraping, sanding, patching, wood putty/ bondo, and new paint, it looks natural in its new home!

Front door before. Right swing inwards.
Ugly old paint and lots of glass as a potential security risk.

Continuing my DIY series, I’ll show you how to re-glaze old windows.

Step 1: Remove the old glazing. I’ve found that a sharp paint scraper will do the trick. If you must, use an old chisel you don’t care about because there is sure to be metal glazing points buried under there just waiting to wreak havoc on a chisel blade. Once you have removed the glazing, take out all the old glazing points, and carefully remove the old window pane. If you are doing this to replace a broken pane, remove it recklessly :-)   Just watch out for broken glass. Once you have the window frame prepped, roll a thin rope of glazing onto the ledge where the window will sit (pictured below). This creates a good seal for the window, and also cushions it a bit. Rolling a tiny worm of glazing can take some time, so if you really need to go faster, you can use caulk here if you must.

 

Step 2: Gently place the new window pane onto the rope of glazing compound or caulk. Press with even pressure to smoosh the caulk flat but don’t break the window!

 

Step 3: Take your paint scraper (or even a tile trowel with a nice big handle) and push glazing points into the frame symmetrically around the pane. If it’s a small pane, two per side is fine. Bigger panes need more support, so add more accordingly. Try to get the point as flush to the frame as you can.

Read the rest of this entry »

Another good year for books. Since I got a Nook, I read even more than usual. But I still kept a lookout at the library and when I spied some new addition to a series I enjoyed. I will say though, the Nook contributed to some reading A.D.D. I definitely started a good deal many more books than I finished this year. And switching to digital has spoiled me in some ways too. I found myself reading a real paper book and getting annoyed that I couldn’t just touch and hold a word for an immediate definition. Or that it took my 12 seconds to turn the page when I was reading on my side in bed with one arm under the covers; instead of just a push of a button. ‘Tis the way of  the future I suppose. Anyway, I hope you get something out of my list. Happy reading!

Robopocalypse: A Novel

A welcome change from all the zombiepocalypse novels I’ve read lately. Basically the military experiments with AI and, what do you know, it escapes and decides to “destroy” the humans. When you read it, you’ll understand the quotes. The book is well written and follows several disparate groups along their path to fight against Big Rob. The book is also written completely from the perspective of recorded digital footage gleaned from a hard drive. So, all conversations, movements, etc. appear from a robot’s sensors. This is not nearly as tedious as it sounds, and was quite cool.

Indulgence in Death

Possession in Death (In Death Series)

Treachery in Death

Assassin of Secrets

A good old spy thriller set in the 60’s. If you like James Bond or Jason Bourne, you’ll enjoy this romp through Europe at the heels of the best secret agent in the US as he tries to snare the organization that is systematically killing off top operatives all over the world.

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse)

After reading about spies, robots, and New York City Police Lieutenants, it was nice to get back to a really good space opera. Although one of the main plots follows a detective following his nose in classic Noir. This book was political without trying too hard, and seemed to accurately predict what society might be like after a few hundred years living in the outer Solar System on asteroids and on the outer moons. Tension builds well throughout the book and, much as I try to escape it, I still ended up reading about zombies. (kind of).

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

A zombie novel centered around a secret government organization (think NSA, CIA, + Seal Team Six) trying to stop the first outbreak before it becomes public knowledge. Oh, yeah, also, the zombies are terrorist bio-weapons, designed for maximum contagion by radical Muslims. A fun, bloody stroll through terror suppression, but since it is contemporary, it doesn’t totally redefine the world like “Feed” by Mira Grant.

Engaging the Enemy (Vatta’s War)

This is the 3rd in the series, however, after trying to sync up my reading schedule and library holds, I just couldn’t wait any longer to start at the beginning. It was a pretty good military sci-fi tale.

Command Decision (Vatta’s War)

Context

I like everything this guy has written, so that said, this is a great collection of essays (blog posts) about writing, life in the digital age, copyright, and other cool issues. Dig it.

Rule 34

Yes, that rule 34. A good mix of detective yarn and political thriller set in Edinburgh around 50 years from now. I liked all the cool gadgets like the augmented reality spex that the police use (much like Google is designing now) and the cheap 3D printer/ fabbers running in back garages, making things for the black market using illegal feedstock disguised as…well I don’t want to ruin it.

Victory Conditions (Vatta’s War)

Seed

A desolate, distopic, ecopunk vision of America after extreme climate change. The only way people can scrabble a living is using genetically engineered seeds from an all powerful corporation, Satori. But that’s just the beginning.  This was a supremely creative work, filled with Chicano slang, genetic engineers who can literally see the helix dance, sleek military vehicles growling across the desert, and a city made from living flesh and bone.

The Dervish House

A book that you can really delve into, sinking slowly past layer upon layer of character, location, culture, and cutting edge science that all coalesce into a magnificent whole: Istanbul. The city features in this cool near-future mystery through the streets of the Queen of Cities.  And it even has a very satisfying ending! One of the best I’ve read in a while.

Coffee is Good for You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-Carb and Detox Diets, the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims

Foolish me, I thought the whole book would be about coffee. Still an interesting read. I generally eat pretty well anyway, so I already knew many of the things to stay away from, or eat more of.

Hell’s Gate (BOOK 1 in new MULTIVERSE series)

I usually limit my fantasy intake to one or two a year, but this seemed to have enough sci-fi in it to qualify. Also, I was between books and this had been recommended to me (thrust into my hands, in fact) and so I gave it a chance. Once you get over the fact that there are multiple universes that can be travelled to by passing through portals, it isn’t too bad.  Basically, two scouts come face to face in a wood where neither one expected to see other humans. One guy is from a culture that is based on magic. They use spells in everyday life and think nothing of it. The other guy is from a culture much like our own around the 1890s. They have steam power and machine guns, but still use horses to travel. Also, a section of their culture has mental powers, such as the ability to communicate over long distances, or visualize terrain. This was a bit of a sore point for me, as I thought the story would have been better had the technological civilization been modeled more closely on our own, without the mental “Talents.” Either way, the story pulled me along to the point that the book was constantly in my pocket or in my hand. The story itself follows a husband and wife, among others, as the two cultures deal with the fallout of their two cultures clashing in violence at their first meeting. It will definitely read the sequel as I have already invested 1400 pages so far.

Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine

A great primer on wine, written with a fresh insight and a knowledgeable hand. Read this, and drink more of the Good Stuff.

The Games

A fast-paced thriller about the future Olympic gladiator competition where the contestants fight to the death and the only rule is that they can’t have any human DNA.  Pretty good. I think I read it in two days.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I’m almost ashamed to say, this was my first time reading the Holmes stories. This also marked my switch-over from paper to digital e-books. As proven by history, the Sherlock Holmes tales are superb and rightfully deserve their place in literary classic literature.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Dover Thrift Editions)

Before the Strand  by Amanda Raymond

A great novel written by my oldest friend. (we met when I was two) Succinctly, a novel that centers on Sherlock Holmes’s secret son. The author is a true Holmes fan, so I assure you that everything makes sense, fits with earlier timelines, and is accurate to the nth degree. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as you can see, I read it right in the middle of reading all the classic Holmes stories and it rang true. Her tale is well thought out and fast paced, taking the reader on a tour of Old London and Cambridge following Holmes’s son Jonathan as he comes to terms with who he is as a man, and struggles to escape death at the hands of one of the most famous murderers in Europe.

A Study in Scarlet

A great mystery of intrigue and Mormonism.

The Sign of the Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles (with illustrations by Sidney Paget)

One of the greatest tales of Sherlock Holmes.

Sh*t My Dad Says

Hilarious. That’s all you need to know.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Just when you were missing the shorter tales, he’s back!

Kill-Basa by Sean Graham

A cool collection of zombie short stories.

Countdown: A Joe Ledger Short Prequel Short Story to Patient Zero

This works as a short story, only if you don’t plan to read Patient Zero, because it”s basically just the first chapter of the novel. Patient Zero was fun though, so give it a try.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse)

The sequel to Leviathan Wakes.

Exogene (The Subterrene War)

The Subterrene war from a clone’s perspective. Very bleak, with much existentialism and religious control thrown in. A chilling read on the future of warfare. Really good.

Chimera (The Subterrene War)

The final subterrene novel. This was a crazy trip through war, kind of like “Heart of Darkness” meets “Apocalypse Now” meets “Blade Runner” Really cool. Very dark. The main character is a classic anti-hero. A masterful capstone to the trilogy.

Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box

A chilling short story from the author of the Newsflesh trilogy.

Heat Wave, Premium Edition (Nikki Heat, Book 1)

The first Nikki Heat novel by fictional crime writer Richard Castle from the ABC show Castle with Nathan Fillion. This was a great quick read. I found it especially interesting because if you are a fan of the show, you can gain insight into the authors decisions for how the “journalist” and the detective interact. It was better than you would think a book based on a TV show about writing crime books could be.

The Book of Rules: The Right Way to Do Everything

This was a fun book. I thought it would funnier than it was, but no it IS actually a book of rules for life. However, there are some good ones. Having to notify and obtain permission from your neighbors if you plan on installing wind chimes. Bending Q-tips in half after use so they won’t be reused inadvertently. Stuff like that.

Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile (Book 2)

The adventure continues and widens in scope.

The Book of Swords

If you are a fan of swords, knives, axes, knights in shining armour, vikings, etc. then you should really read this book.

The Cold Commands

A great sequel to “The Steal Remains.” My biggest complaint with the first book was that there was too much explicit gay sex. It seems that the author listened to his fans as the intimate moments in this volume are toned WAY down. Far from detracting from the realism of the story, my enjoyment was increased by their absence. By the way, I don’t hate gay people, I’d just rather not read very descriptive sex scenes all through a fantasy book. The Cold Commands expanded on  the world-building of the Steal Remains and followed an ever tightening circle of mystery to a cool climax.

7th Sigma

I was sure exactly what to expect with this book and I was pleasantly surprised. The main character is a young boy who falls in with an Aikido master in the American West… after a mysterious event happened where that part of the country is infected with robotic bugs that devour all metal. A cool mix of serene martial arts, undercover spy novel, and western, with crazy bugs thrown in.

Foreign Influence: A Thriller

A good thriller that I was semi-forced to listen to on a roadtrip, but when we got back home, we were only halfway through. So I had to finish it.

Weather by Alastair Reynolds

A great short story about knowledge of self, sacrifice, your life’s work, and of course, space pirates.

Blood Oath

One of my first Vampire novels besides Dracula. I stick more to zombies. Anyway. I thought this was really good. The basic idea is that the President has had a Vampire working for hi since 1860 or so. He’s like the ultimate secret agent and Seal Team Six rolled into one. It did a good job of explaining the vampires physiology and limits. An interesting idea, well executed.

Casino Royale (James Bond)

The first Bond novel. Very good. Stark.

The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds

A cool short story about the consequences of trying to mess with physics and multiple universes.

Live and Let Die (James Bond)

If there is one word that would describe the essence of this book, it would be: negro. Yeahhhh, I know. It was first published in the 50s and it is now very dated. Once you get past the awkward language, it’s a great spy story.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

What can I say? I love pretty much everything this man has written. A great, fast paced ( I think I read it in 2 days) novel that pokes fun at Trekkie tropes and yet creates something new.

Little Fuzzy

I read Scalzi’s reboot last year, so I thought I should check out the original. It was good, but I preferred the updated version.

Amped

A great cautionary tale about how society reacts to scientific advancement and change. Mirroring apartheid, humans that have undergone intelligence amplification quickly become outcasts from society and have to fight for equality against public opinion and a shadowy organization.

Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)

A decent steampunk yarn, but somehow I was expecting more.

Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy)

The conclusion of the greatest zombie trilogy out there.

Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella

How it all started. A must for Newsflesh fans.

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura (Rot and Ruin))

A cool take on living post zombie apocalypse. I read part of this novel as a short story and the idea captivated me. Benny Imura’s brother is a bounty hunter for zombies. People still remember their loved ones, so they take old pictures to “erosion artists” who paint them as zoms. Then they hire bounty hunters to go out and kill their zombified relatives to give them peace. But the novel is so much more than that.

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat)

The second book by fictional author Richard Castle from the TV show. This one drew far more on plot points from previous episodes in the show, but that didn’t make it bad. The actual mystery kept me guessing till right near the end.

Moonraker (James Bond)

I’m sure this was a great story in the 1950s. But it is very dated today. It’s still a good Bond story though.

The Great Bazaar and Other Stories

Fans of Arlen and the Demon Cycle will really like this collection. I like the one about his searching for the lost tomb.

The Passage: A Novel

Wow. Cronin writes beautifully, and the 850+ pages fly by. I wasn’t sure how I would like yet another vampire book, but this is believable enough that it makes sense. You know the deal. Military is working on biological enhancements for soldiers, oops they escape. World ends. But the whole milieu is great. A classic quest tale.

The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Illustrated by the Author

Classic. I read this to my son for bedtimes the last few months. It’s still such a good tale. If you haven’t read this yet, you really need to.

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms (Volume 1)

I got this series as a gift. It is much more fantasy than sci-fi in the beginning, however it has a way of turning inexorably towards a bigger picture. Like most trilogies, the first book doesn’t really come to a conclusive end, so I must press on. It’s also interesting that the humans are the bad guys.

The Tamarisk Hunter

This is a short story that can be found here: Pump Six and Other Stories  A realistic look at what may happen in the American West when fresh water and water rights start becoming super important. Important enough to destroy cities and alter society.

Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and Stars (Volume 2)

Book two. The far side of the world. What would happen when one species is separated early in it’s development and then develops along two very different paths? Well, we know from all the varied cultures here on Earth that anything i possible. My one big complaint with this series so far is that the timeline of events is not clear. Everything with the main characters is fine. I’m talking about planetary developments throughout history. Regardless, I will finish the 3rd book in the series within the week.

Total 59

Sunrise on Whiteface Mt.

Just got back from a trip to the mountains. More later.

Image  —  Posted: September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

I just finished installing my second hardwood floor, so I feel I have enough experience to tell, at least the beginner, how to do it.

  • First, prepare the sub-floor. This would include pulling out all nails or staples sticking up, sanding down uneven spots, and pulling off baseboards and trim.
  • Second: Lay out your boards in the general pattern that you want. This helps to visualize what the final floor will look like so you can plan out which boards to put where, which ones you need to cut, and to make sure you have enough to finish. Before you do this, lay down an underlayment layer to help with squeaks. Tar paper works for me.
  • Gather your tools: I would say that the most useful tool besides a hammer and nailset, or the specialty hammer you can rent, is a good chop saw. This way, you are guaranteed straight cuts that you can do fast.
  • Next, set the first row: You will need to measure the width of your boards, then take your measuring tape and take 5-7 measurements off the wall you are starting at. Then take a chalk line and snap a good clean line on the average of all your marks. Some old houses were built before they invented right angles, so if you just put the first row of boards flush with the wall, by the time you get across the room, you could be attaching the boards crooked, compared with the other three walls. So line up your first row on the chalk line and install it with brad-headed nails. Put them in at a 55* angle right above the tongue. Use a nailset to push them all the way flush so that the groove in the next board will fit perfectly. In the picture below, the nail in the back ground is set flush, and the nail in the fore ground show the correct angle.
  • Hammer and cut away! If you’re doing a room of considerable size, I would recommend spending the extra bucks to rent a floor installer hammer. This is a pneumatic or hand powered nail gun that will make things go much faster. When you cut boards for the side, remember that you can leave yourself a little space because you will most likely be installing quarter round trim to finish.
  • For the last board, you need to cut or chisel off the tongue so that it will fit. In some cases, you will need to use a table saw to rip the boards down to the correct width. Then use nails and your nailset to fasten them so that the holes will end up underneath the trim. For this particular room, I knew I wouldn’t have enough boards to cover the entire floor ( we bought the wood at a garage sale. 90 sq. ft. for $30) so I planned to build a window seat and built in bookshelves to take up the remaining space.

2011 Reading List

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

This year was another good year for reading. Audio books helped me burn through novels while working on mind-numbing tasks, and I also found time to enjoy real paper books in a sun-dappled hammock.

Vengeance in Death

A great Roarke-centric episode in the absorbing Eve Dallas mystery series. I liked the balancing act with Summerset as well.
Holiday in Death

Another good addition to the series. J.D. Robb writes so well and really conveys true relationships between people well.

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World

A great DIY inspiration. Filled with great and not so great stories of not being afraid to tackle projects yourself.

I Am America (And So Can You!)

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

A very good simple book on how to eat healthfully.

Conspiracy in Death

Darkly Dreaming Dexter: A Novel

The first Dexter novel. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, but rather than watch the show, being me, I had to read the book first.

Surface Detail (Culture)

A great Culture book. Very cool big idea and thoroughly enjoyable ship Minds, as usual. Gotta love SC scamps! I love Bank’s predictions of our future and the vast implications they hold. Really cool story. Banks still writes the best Sci-Fi around.

Financial Peace: Restoring Financial Hope to You and Your Family

A good book on personal finance, but not as good as his later one, the Total Money Makeover.

Pattern Recognition

This was a fun read whose main character is super sensitive to upcoming fashion trends, and logo in particular. I love that she is frightened and nauseated everytime she sees the Michelin Man.

I Am Legend

A great novel of the trials of the mind…and vampires. Much better than the movie.

Loyalty in Death

Another great one from Nora Roberts. I love the way her characters interact with one another. And this is the one where two certain characters finally get together after building up the anticipation for two or three books. Very fun.

Witness in Death

What can I say about a series I’ve read 20 + of. I like it. I like the characters, the style, the setting, and her wonderful writing.

The Windup Girl

Pretty cool. Very different take on the future. I’ve read some of his short stories and this was different but not bad. The entire book builds to a great crescendo.

The Invisible Fist: Secret Ninja Methods of Vanishing Without a Trace

This book is hilarious. It gives one or two practical methods of not being seen (throwing sand in your enemies face) but the mystic stuff is a bit much.

Betrayal in Death

Seduction in Death

The Way of Shadows (The Night Angel Trilogy)

This was a decent fantasy. Assassins are fun but I’m not down with magic as much as I used to be. I think I’ll give book 2 & 3 a miss.

Reunion in Death

Another great Dallas book. What can I say, I love ‘em. This delved further into eve’s past. Very good.

Purity in Death

Another good mystery. I really enjoy the characters.

Partisan (Hostile Takeover, No. 2)

I can’t wait for the final chapter of the trilogy!

Portrait in Death

What can I say, another good Eve Dallas book. It’s getting to the point where I look forward more to the character development more than the actual mystery.

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (Vintage Departures)

A gripping account of Russia’s Far East and it’s mysterious tigers. It really focuses on one account of an attack. This tiger was pissed at a hunter. The tiger found his cabin in the taiga, and systematically urinated on and destroyed everything that had the man’s scent on it. Then sat out in front of the cabin and waited three days for this guy to come home. Then GRRRRRRR! After it gets the taste for Man flesh, it eats one or two more people, with one kill only leaving enough remains to fit in a shirt pocket. A great account of a crazy true story.
On the Beach (Vintage International)

A stark story of a post nuclear apocalypse world where only the Southern hemisphere has survived, but the nuclear fallout is slowly spreading southwards. It begs the question, how would you spend the last year of your life knowing it was your last? Would you continue going to your job? Planting a garden that will never grow? Fixing a car that you will never drive, because gas supplies ran out last year? Kind of depressing.

The Snow Empress: A Thriller (Sano Ichiro Novels)

At Home: A Short History of Private Life

I will venture to say that this will be the most fascinating, intriguing, and interesting book you will read this decade; never mind this year. From why we have salt and pepper on the table and not salt and cinnamon, say. Or why your stairs are built at the angle they are. You will find out forgotten tidbits about Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Jefferson, Queen Anne and Victoria.  This book is the best book of near- history (18th – 20th century) I have ever read. Every page is packed with astounding facts that you will be surprised how  many were forgotten until now. I know this is a tired cliche…but, If you read one book this year (which is terrible, last year I read over 60) read “At Home” by Bill Bryson. I just can’t say how cool this book is. That said, about one quarter of it is about architecture in one sense or another. But it’s so fascinating that even if you hate the history of building styles, Bryson’s wit and knack for researching the story behind the story will pull you along. READ THIS BOOK!
Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus Novels)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

Imitation In Death

Another good Eve Dallas mystery. I’m proud to say that I called this one early on, but it wasn’t easy.

Out of the Dark

Ohhhh, this would have been such a good book except for the Deus ex machina. Almost the whole book is a great account of how Earth would be invaded by an advanced alien species in the near future (2013 ish) I love the fact that the aliens are normally used to conquering civilizations that are barely out of the dark ages, and so vastly underestimate how good we’ve become at blowing each other (and now them) up.  A great disaster tale about survival, preparation, guerrilla warefare, and… then there’s the ending. I may still read a sequel though, cause it was a fun read.

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

The God Engines

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (v. 1)

The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us (v. 2)

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes

This was a VERY thorough guide on how to prepare for an emergency. He doesn’t specify what (tornado, flood, zombie apocalypse) but he goes through all the steps you need to survive a prolonged disaster when “the grid” goes down and the government fails to respond. It’s a shame he did such a good job cause this was the next book I was going to write.

The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology

This was a stellar collection of zombie short stories. Each one dealt with a slightly different aspect of the genre. Very good.

The Complaints

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100

Revolutionary (Hostile Takeover)

This  was a great conclusion to the series. A vast political conspiracy with many intriguing characters.

The Deceivers

Fight Club: A Novel

Redemolished Alfred Bester Reader

Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

Rich Dad’s Conspiracy of the Rich: The 8 New Rules of Money

Make Money with Small Income Properties

Rich Dad’s Increase Your Financial IQ: Get Smarter with Your Money

Lost and Found: Three by Shaun Tan (Lost and Found Omnibus)

Essentially a children’s book, this collection is so beautiful you can’t not read it. Shaun’s art is quirky and right up my alley.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

A good simple business book. If you can build 1,000 raving fans, you can take your enterprise wherever you want to go.

Germline (The Subterrene War)

A sweaty, in the trenches look at future warfare where superclones are the norm and envirosuits are necessary for survival in the wastelands of the modern battlefield.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars

The Chessmen of Mars

Manhattan Noir

A great collection of shorts in the best Noir tradition.

Visions in Death

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

The classic tale. My three year old loved it.

Reamde: A Novel

Neal Stephenson does it again. I would say I liked this better than “Anethem”. The whole plot unravels around a MMORPG where a group of hackers take over a users computer and steal their files to hold for ransom. The user then has to go into the game and pay 1,000 in-game gold, ($78) to get their files back. Except… they stole some files from the russian mafia. With great characters, locations, and cool tech, this book builds to a gripping conclusion that doesn’t disappoint.

Aftertime (Luna Books)

A so so zombie book with some interesting takes on what society may become and how a regular mom would go after her missing daughter.

Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1)

One of the best zombie books I have read.

The Starter (Galactic Football League, Volume II)

Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2)

SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper

Missing in Death (In Death Series)

*Hey Sterling Middle School students! I hope you all do an awesome job on your project. But remember, no copying. If you plagiarize, you only cheat yourself.

Now write that paper like a BOSS! Go Fight’n Pioneers!

As someone who reads a lot, words and their origins (Etymology) interest me. I got curious enough to do a bit a research and here are a few idioms I found interesting.

Shambles: untidy, chaotic, Originally from the Saxon word scamel, meaning a stall displaying meat, it eventually transformed to shambles and came to mean the street containing butchers shops and markets. After a busy working day, the street would be littered with the messy refuse of the trade, and came to the meaning it has today.

Toast: to celebrate with a drink, Back in the twelfth century, drinks weren’t as good as they are today, so drinkers dunked spiced toast in the cups to draw the bad flavors from it. In the 1600’s, party guests raised a toast to a special guest who was the figurative piece of toast that improved the flavor of the wine.

Nicknames: In days of yore, surnames were not in frequent use so people used additional names to distinguish between Tall John and John the Blacksmith. Eke is Old English for addition. These were ekenames. Over time, “an ekename” changed to “a nickname”

Flying by the seat of your pants: to improvise or go forward without a plan. Back before airplanes had many dials, pilots relied on the feedback they received from the plane body itself, and the place they had the most contact with the fuselage was in their pants, sitting on the seat.

Over the top: foolhardy or excessive, from trench warfare when troops had to go over the top of the trench in a last ditch charge. This tactic was notorious for troop fatalities as they were just mown down by the enemies machine guns.

Hunky Dory: everything is just fine. During the 1800’s a street in Yokohama Japan became famous among American sailors looking for a special lady to share their shore leave with. Honcho-dori became synonymous with a good time and it caught on quickly with only a few changes.

Green with envy: Sappho the lesbian poet once described a lover in pain as having a green complextion. The Greeks believed that if someone was jealous, their body would produce green bile.

Bikini: in 1946, Louis Reard and Jacques Heim both premiered a new type of swimsuit on the beaches in Cannes. That summer, the US military also destroyed a small island in the pacific called Bikini with a thermonuclear bomb. The swimsuits, it was said, had the same effect on the Male mind. I would agree.

In cold blood: Back in the 18th century, people believed that when one was angry or excited, their blood became hot. Since angry people typically have reddened faces, I could see where they got this. Murder, being a situation where one’s temper or general constitution would be elevated, is a prime example. So when police encountered murderers who killed with seeming calm emotions and mind were said to be cold blooded, and their victims were “killed in cold blood.”

Time immemorial: In the year 1275, apparently there were many legal cases that dealt with crimes from long ago. So it was agreed that the year 1189 was legally, the time beyond which no one could remember. It goes without saying that people could not try cases for crimes which no one could officially remember.

Nightmare: in Old English, a maere was an evil fiend who stalked about at night. This eventually came to mean bad dreams people had at night.

Cut to the Chase: from movie speak, get away from the boring dialogue and cut to the chase scene where action increases and the film moves more quickly.

Jesus H. Christ: The Greek monogram IHΣ (iota, eta, sigma) took the first two letters of Jesus’ name and tacked on the last letter at the end. At some point, the Greek capital letter eta was mistaken for the Latin letter H. Since it was in the middle, it became the Son of God’s middle initial.

Dead as a doornail: this phrase originated from the carpentry technique called clinching in the 14th century. A doornail would be hammered through the door and then bent over flat to prevent it from being pulled out, rendering the nail “dead”

To Make ends meet: From 17th century bookkeeping, just making the income and expense columns match each other at the bottom of the page.

Jaywalk: Supposedly, if you take a jaybird away from its natural habitat, it will be so confused it won’t know what to do or where to go. If someone doesn’t recognize that they are supposed to cross the street in the zebra-striped crosswalk, they are as confused as a jay and are jaywalking.  — Personal side note. Both my wife and I heard the phrase: “Naked as a Jaybird” when we were young and originally thought jaywalking was crossing the street in the nude!

Kick the bucket: to die. Not surprisingly, this has a morbid beginning. If someone decides to commit suicide by hanging themselves, they might stand on some object like a chair, stool, or bucket while the rope is tight. Then, to finish the terrible act, they would kick the bucket away from their feet, leaving them to dangle in a slow, agonizing death.

Stick in the Mud: Someone who’s no fun, a party pooper. From Pirate law, when they needed to execute someone but were on land without a plank for the accused to walk. They buried the unfortunate buckaneer up to his neck in sand at low tide, then waited. Incidentally, no one wanted to end up being a stick in the mud.

Willy nilly: back in the 17th century, many people worked as servants. As such there were tasks that they were required to do, whether they wanted to or not. These were “will I, nill I” situations. ‘Will I’ meaning one’s desire to do something, and ‘nill I’ meaning the opposite. Many people can attest that if you are forced to do something, you may perform such task in a less than satisfactory manner. Doing something in a sloppy or incomplete manner shifted into the modern meaning of doing something without a plan or a sense of order.

My research included a lot of web perusing, but was also helped greatly by the book: “Flying by the seat of your pants. Surprising origins of everyday expressions” by Harry Oliver. I really tried to summarize in my own words and not just plagiarize.

9 Years ago today, I was driving my Toyota Tacoma to work on I81 when I hit a patch of ice going over a bridge. The rear wheels slid out to the left and I tried to steer out of it. I didn’t want to slam on the breaks and go spinning out of control. I realized that I was heading towards the guardrail so I did a little mental checklist before I hit:

Seatbelt? Check,

Airbag? Check.

“OK God here I come.” Check.

I hit the rail at 65 miles an hour and the truck flipped over onto its roof and slid one hundred feet before coming to a rest in the snow bank. The air pressure blew out the back window so snow flew everywhere. I ducked instinctively when I felt the vehicle flip and it was a good thing I did. When it came to rest, the ceiling was only three inches from my fingers on the steering wheel. I heard the tires still spinning and realized that the techno CD I was listening to had stopped playing. Since I was an EMT, I knew the dangers of neck injuries and other trauma. I cautiously wiggled my fingers and toes before I moved my neck. I hunched my shoulders and took a deep breath to see if any ribs were broken. (This is all while I was upside down) Then I unclipped my seat belt and flipped/ crawled over to the passenger side which wasn’t as crushed. The airbag never went off. My Mom bought me an emergency hammer that can cut seatbelts and break glass. I stowed it under the driver’s seat, but because everything had flipped over and snow was everywhere, I couldn’t find it. I pulled out my Leatherman and tried to break the window. I slammed the point of the pliers into the glass repeatedly but it wouldn’t break! Since the CD stopped playing, I assumed power was out, but struck by a sudden thought, I tried the button for the window. Whirrrrrr. It rolled open and I crawled out…right into the arms of my coworker who was a certified first responder! But get this. It was her day off. She just happened to be passing moments after my truck slid to a stop. I also knew a few of the EMTs that arrived minutes later. How many injuries did I receive? None. Does God exist? Yes.

To top  off the day, I took my then girlfriend (now wife) out to dinner at Bangkok Thai in Liverpool. During dinner, I showed Joy (our waitress) the above Polaroid and got a free fried ice cream for surviving!