Friday, March 28, 2008

55FFF - Chapter XXIII

The Vegas Strip, 4 hours later...

She had her money, and whatever it was her father had stolen from the government. She knew how to get it back to them, and how to use the money to disappear.

She'd done that too many times before.

She started to read the note. "Too many memories," she thought, tossing it away...


55FFF - Chapter XXII

She reached into the small of his back, knowing the money would be there. Pulling it out, she saw her father's handwritten note.

Sirens wailed in the distance--she knew they'd get closer soon. Time to get scarce. The note would wait.

She slipped out the front door, jumped into the van, and headed for safety.

55FFF - Chapter XXI

"...and don't reach for..." CRAP, too late.

As he reached for the pistol she reacted. She struck with her right foot. He gasped for air that would now never come again through his crushed windpipe.

"You wanted it to end this way, father," she said to him softly, tenderly.

She cried softly as he died.

55FFF - Chapter XX

Before he could move, she stepped on his hand with her left foot, placing her right foot a hair above his throat.

"The money," she growled. "I know you have it with you."


"Because I worked with you, I know how you think. How else could I have gotten inside your defenses like that?"

55FFF - Chapter XIX

He backed away from her warily, slipping into a defensive kata.

They circled each other slowly, carefully, probing each other's weaknesses.

His left leg fired out in a high kick, but she knew his style. Anticipating the move, she slid down and kicked his right out from under him.

He landed on his back, stunned...

It ends today

So I'm part of the 55 Flash Fiction nation (thank you, Susie, for turning me onto this, albeit indirectly) and I've been writing this multipart saga about Kathryn and the fat man, which still has no title and probably won't. Anyway, last night I was thinking about all the things I wish I'd done differently with the story, but how I really like it anyway and couldn't wait to get started on a new story arc with completely different characters. So...

The story ends today.

Not right this minute, silly heads. I'm going to do multiple 55FFFs today (assuming I can fit them all in but I am pretty sure it's do-able), and draw the story to its stunning and thrilling conclusion today.

Will I dump these all out at once, you ask? Oh no, gentle readers. I will parcel them out like the last few precious morsels of a sweet delight that you absolutely live for, but know that once it's gone there ain't gonna be no more for a while. Or something. Know what I mean?

Anyway, look for the first of, oh, I'll say 3-4 more chapters in the story, in an hour or two...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Should I be insulted?

I'm taking a sick day today, I'm in between naps, and I was I was cruising blogs. I came across a FOAF (Friend Of A Friend) blog who had this widget that told me the required reading level for his blog. Hm, I thought...I use pretty big words, abstract concepts, deep I was thinking I'd score at least a high-school reading level on this blog. WRONG...

blog readability test

So, uh, should I be insulted? Hey, I wonder if I can sandbag this thing by using words in my posts like "erudite", "unpremeditated," or "antidisestablishmentarianism."

Should I wax philosophically about the Dionysian rites practiced by neo-pagan religionists as they recently celebrated the coming of the vernal equinox?

Would I appear smarter if I echoed the single phrase I remember from my high-school studies of Shakespeare (even though I don't remember exactly what it means) and describe, in great detail, the literary device deus ex machina?

THERE. Those 25-cent words ought to get my rating up, at least a bit. Now I can go back to writing That happens. With people. And things...oh crap, now I'm back to elementary level reading again...

UPDATE: CRAP. Even after using all those big words, I still only rate Elementary School reading level. *sigh* Oh well...

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Music Monday

Whoops, I plum forgot today was new music Monday. Good thing it's still Monday...

Being as how yesterday was Easter--and I hope you all had a great one!--I thought something relating to the Easter story might be good. So this week's record is a bit old but fits in quite well. It's Passion, by Peter Gabriel.

This project is the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's excellent film, The Last Temptation of Christ. I read the book when I was in college and absolutely fell in love with it. The movie was true to the story, and the music really helped it come alive.

There's no mistaking the fact that this is a modern soundtrack--traditional beats and rhythms, etc. But what makes it interesting is that Gabriel used musicians who were little known in the US, but who were well-known in the Middle East and Africa. Gabriel helped pioneer bringing "world music" to the US, and this album was a seminal contribution to this effort. Gabriel also won his first Grammy Award for this album. has a great article about the album here. Although it was originally released almost 20 years ago, it was remastered (along with the rest of Gabriel's catalog) in 2002 and is easily found on and other sites.

If you're not a world music devotee, give it a listen and see what you think. It's good mood music and, in fact, is on in the background as I write this post now.

More later...

Cross posting--I'm becoming an expert...

I just posted this on my running blog a few minutes ago, and I thought it was maybe worthy of a cross-posting here, too...

I'm rapidly becoming an expert in an area that I never thought I'd have experience with, and definitely did NOT want to get any better at.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen...I am becoming an expert at not running marathons...

The week of my 20 mile run I had the flu, so I only got in about 5 miles. I figured I'd be strong enough based on the rest of my training to do at least a run/walk.

Flip forward to last Tuesday. Hm, chest feels a little congested and I'm coughing. Almost like an asthma attack.


So I went to the doctor Saturday, and again today, and the short story is I have pneumonia. That pretty much means I can kiss goodbye both this weekend's Shamrock Shuffle 8K downtown in Chicago, but also next weekend's St. Louis Marathon looks to be almost an impossibility.

Turns out the STL Marathon organizers will allow you to switch from the full to the half marathon, so there's a chance there--but that depends on me getting a LOT better in between now and then. Right now that's the only hope, but it's very slim indeed.

Let's review my training/not running marathoning history:

- 2006: Trained for the Chicago marathon, but dropped out after week 11 because of plantar fasciitis.
- 2007: Trained for and started the Chicago marathon, but couldn't finish because of the course being closed after 4 hours.
- 2008: See above.

Am I disappointed? Yes, absolutely. But I know that skipping it is the right thing to do...there's no point in causing more damage to myself, taking longer to recover, etc.

I'm signed up for Chicago this fall, and training should start around the June timeframe, so we'll see how this goes.

I'm trying to look on the bright side, though--not running marathons opens up a whole new world of possibilities! I thought that someday I could run the world majors (Chicago, Boston, New York, London, and Berlin)...then, I looked at the qualifying times for Boston and New York. Yeesh! But with little to no effort at all, I can not run all of those marathons! Think of the money and time I'll save!

I kid, I joke. Laughter has always been a defense mechanism for me, and I'm deflecting the upset and the negative emotions I feel. The good news--I ran 90% of the miles in my original plan, I ran faster than I ever have (in fact, completed 5 miles just last Monday at a 9:15 pace), and after a little rest and recouperation there's nothing that says I can't try again.

So Sara, from the excellent Running From The Law blog, I know you're running St. Louis--do well, finish strong, and make me proud! (C:

Run strong, y'all...

Friday, March 21, 2008

55FFF - Chapter XVIII

The agent's wary eyes never left Kathryn's. He clicked the cuffs in place and reached for the gag.

Without warning, Kathryn whipped her forhead toward his face. Instantly his nose erupted in a shower of blood.

"One down, one to go," she thought.

The fat man stepped back into a defensive crouch, awaiting her attack...

More later...

This game is COOOOOOL....

The annual Game Developer's Conference is the video gaming industry's premiere venue to strut its stuff and show its new wares. The game that was the talk of the show this year wasn't a shoot-'em-up, or some elaborate game with almost-real graphics and physics models...rather, it was something so simple as to inspire one of those "Duh why didn't I think of that?" moments.

The game that stole the show is called Crayon Physics Deluxe. I could explain it, but it's easier (and cooler!) if you watch the embedded video below:

The game appears to have taken on a life of its own, even to the extent of having its own blog here. I'm going to download it and give it a try later today...looks like a great time waster--er, great way to have fun and, uh, study physics. Yeah that's it.

More later (including another chapter in my Flash Fiction story... (C: )...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here's a job I'd love...

Explainer is looking for a new freelance writer (see job posting here). While I have a day job that I really really love (and would marry, probably, if I could) and I'm not a fit for the freelance job, still...I think it'd be hella-cool.

What is Explainer, you ask? Well, let, explain. It's a regular column that appears on (in? what's the right preposition when a website is involved?) Explainer's tag line is "answers to your questions about the news." They take an issue from current events, and give you some of the story behind the story (today's column is about comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor for Sen. Obama).

I'm endlessly fascinated by trivia, and the more obscure the better. It's a running joke with Mrs. jtj3 and me--I'll whip out some obscure factoid, she looks at me and says "How do you know that?", and I invariably respond "I have no freakin' idea."

Like...well, here goes. Did you know that the first product in the world to have a bar code on it was Wrigley's Doublemint gum back in 1971? Or that there was no women's version of the Olympic marathon until 1984--and the first one was won by Joan Benoit Samuelson? Or that there were a total of 7 different shark models used in the filming of "Jaws"? Or...well, I could go on and on and on...

See, folks, not only do I entertain, but I inform. Think of me as your infotainment blog. Or your edutainment blog. Yeah edutainment. That sounds cooler.

Oh and for more answers to those questions that have always bugged you, you can't hardly beat The Straight Dope...check it out also!

More later...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Someone stole my title!!!

Yesterday I posted about a case coming before the Supreme Court, District of Columbia v Heller. I thought I was being clever by titling the post "Lawyers, Guns, and Money." Turns out I got scooped...the law-related blog "Sentencing Law and Policy" had a post yesterday entitled "Another round of lawyers, guns, and money."


All my good ideas get taken. Ask me about my idea I had back in 1970 for a way to record TV shows onto tape for later viewing...or my idea in 1988 for a portable digital music player. Go ahead, ask me. OK I didn't really have those ideas, but if I did, I'd be filthy stinking rich right now...

*sigh again*

More later...

2003 + 2001

Two news items caught my eye...well, I guess my ear, since I was listening to the radio...on the way into work this morning. One relates to the year 2003, one to 2001.

First the 2003 marks the 5th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. I was going to say 'the war with Iraq', but that's not really accurate. We're not fighting the country itself, but against an ideology. So how do you know when you've won?

Last year on this date, when I wrote this post, I had a strong feeling we'd still be stuck in this quagmire a year later. The facts and figures I quoted in that post are relevant but now out-of-date...but the bottom line is we're still pouring too much time, money, and too many precious lives of our young men and women into a mess we created, a battle we shouldn't be fighting, and an ideological war we'll never win. How long will we be there? Who knows...maybe our next President will find a way out of this mess. It's clear the current President won't.

Onto our next story...writer Arthur C. Clarke died March 18th at the age of 90 ( obituary is here). Clarke's most famous work was 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but he had many other significant contributions. He was also an early proponent of telecommunications satellites, served as chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, and was a prolific fiction- and non-fiction writer. Last night I heard an excerpt from one of his speeches, and he talked about how when he wrote 2001 he had no idea how many of the concepts in it would end up becoming reality. What an interesting man...we've lost a great visionary and thinker.

That's all for now, folks...more later...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

"Send lawyers, guns, and money...
the sh*t has hit the fan..." - Warren Zevon

Listening to the news this morning, I realized it was all about lawyers, guns, and money at the US Supreme Court today. Allow me to explain...

The Court hears oral arguments today on a case called District of Columbia v. Heller. The case centers around the constitutionality of DC's law which bans the posession of handguns by all except current and retired law enforcement officials. The Court has decided the key question in Heller is this: "Whether the [DC handgun ban], violate[s] the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?"

Interestingly, the Supreme has only addressed the 2nd Amendment question one other time, in United States v. Miller in 1939. That case, however, did not decide whether the right to bear arms is a right granted to an individual citizen or to a group (a "well-organized militia", as the amendment states).

This case could affect handgun bans in other cities like Chicago. It could also have a far-reaching impact on legislation designed to control and regulate the use of guns--assault weapons bans, laws which prevent felons or the mentally disabled from owning firearms, etc.

I'll come right out and say that I am a gun control advocate--that those who use guns should register them, and should be subjected to reasonable limits on their posession and use. I've heard all the arguments in favor of unrestricted gun acess, and I don't buy any of them. There are plenty of statistics both for and against unrestricted gun ownership, but I'm betting those stats do nothing to change the argument one way or the other. They just help you dig yourself into an even more firmly entrenched position.

Either way this plays out, I expect this case will affect us for a long time to come. As news comes out on the case, I'll post updates and opinions.

More later...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Music Monday

Yes, I'm still alive. (C: A combination of travelling and the flu has gotten me down, but I'm back to normal--er, back to what qualifies as normal in my life. I'm digging out of task hell right now but hadn't posted in like forever, so at least wanted to get a "Music Monday" post up...

Today's album goes back a bit, but not quite as far as I did with my last MM post. The choice for this week is George Strait's live album "For The Last Time: Live From The Houston Astrodome."

It was recorded during Strait's set at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2002--the last year it was held in the Astrodome before it was torn down. Strait has a long history with the HLSR, and even talks about it in a monologue on the record.

Before I bought this record I knew who Strait was but wasn't very familiar with his work. It caught me right from the beginning--the crowd goes wild when his band starts an instrumental Texas swing version of "Deep In The Heart of Texas".

Strait is one of those artists that does a quality recording whether it's live or in studio. His voice never varies, and he doesn't lose it on any of the high or low notes. He does some new stuff and some old stuff, and you can tell he's really having a blast with the concert.

If country music doesn't completely turn you off (and it does some people, I know), this disc is definitely worth a listen. It's one of my all-time favorite CDs.

Anyway, that's it for today boys and girls. Good to be back in the posting mode.

More later...

Friday, March 7, 2008

55FFF - Chapter XVII

She asked, ""

"Come now, Kathryn. I didn't teach you all my secrets...I still have some tricks up my sleeve."

The faux agent entered the front door and said, "They'll be here soon, sir."

"Put the cuffs on her, and gag her," the Fat Man said. "No mistakes this time."

"I understand, sir."

Side note--it came to me today how this will end. I'm not kidding...I got off the elevator, was walking into my office, and it hit me. And no, that's not a hint as to how it will end. The thing is, I don't know how many more chapters it'll take me to get there, and I have no idea how the story will get from here to there. But I know it will.

More later...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Music Monday...on Tuesday

As I was drifting off to sleep last night it occurred to me that I hadn't yet posted for New Music Monday. So here it is,, on Tuesday...instead...

I'm going back a ways for today's record...all the way back to 1986. The album of choice today is Miles Davis Tutu.
A bit of back story--I grew up in a very small town in a rural part of Illinois, where all there was to listen to was gospel music, Top 40, and country. I had little to no exposure to other types of music, including jazz.
Fast forward to my college days. I discovered jazz in abouat 1985, and instantly fell in love with it. Miles Davis became one of my favorite artists, and this is my favorite of all of his albums. In earlier years he was very much a purist--he'd do small ensembles consisting of bass, drums, guitar, etc. This record is a departure, in that he uses a lot more synthesizers and electronic sounds to enhance the clean, brassy sound of his horn.
I had the privilege of seeing Miles in concert twice, and both times were exceptionally good shows. He continued recording and releasing quality records up until his death, but to me this is the pinnacle of his later years. In an odd coincidence--he died the same day that Mrs. jtj3 and I got married.
Anyway, if you're into jazz, or even if you're looking to experiment, this is a great record to start with.
More later...