Archive for July, 2011

deathly hallows II

I finally went and saw the last Harry Potter movie after work today – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I love going after work, as well as a couple of weeks after the initial release. There were only seven other people with me in the theater and that makes things a lot more pleasant, as far as I’m concerned. I even made it through the whole movie without having to take a restroom break in the middle. Now that’s an accomplishment.

I enjoyed Part 2 more than Part 1, but I still think that people who have not read the book will be a bit lost. I also felt that way about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The problem is that I can only judge from the perspective of someone who has read the books (I haven’t been able to figure out how to un-read a book yet). Perhaps someone who has not read the books is just as able to follow the story. I’ll have to ask if I ever find someone like that.

It’s almost a relief to have the series wrapped up, or at least that story line. It would be nice to have more stories in the same setting with the same or similar characters, but as standalone stories rather than as part of a whole story arc. Maybe that wouldn’t hold people’s interest as much, I don’t know. I would think, though, that it could be made to work. I guess it’s up to J.K.

If you are a Harry Potter fan and have seen all the other movies, I can’t imagine you not seeing the last in the series. If you somehow have decided to blow it off, don’t. It will be worth your while. If you haven’t seen any of the other movies, don’t jump in on this one. You will be wasting your time.

turning green

No, I’m not becoming more energy efficient, nor more ecologically correct. I mean that I am becoming bilious over the continued political posturing of the president and his team over the budget situation. It has gotten to the point that I literally cannot stand to listen to his bullshit anymore. If I hear him, I have to turn him off.

I am sick of politicians who want to keep on spending, spending, spending. It is not a matter of raising the debt ceiling. I don’t care how many politicians think it is not a valid comparison, but if I am in debt up to my eyeballs, is it a good idea for my credit card companies to raise the limits on my credit cards so that I can afford to live? How long will it be until they need to raise the limits again, and what happens when I can no longer afford to make even the interest payments on my lines of credit?

For the life of me, I cannot understand how politicians cannot see that there is a limit beyond which the government cannot spend. The only answer to their fiscal madness that I can divine is that they eventually intend to take everyone’s entire paycheck and then give it back to them only after it has been filtered through the government bureaucracy, with the government giving you vouchers for only the goods and services they say you need. How else can it work in the end?

We need real spending cuts – now! Not ten years from now, not next year, and not a promise that cuts will be made in the future. I am not yet retired, but I recognize that I will not be retiring at the same age my father retired, if at all. That’s the way it is. Changes must be made to those entitlement programs and I know that I will be affected. I would rather have my benefits delayed or reduced, however, than to have the government stick their grubby, fat hands deeper into my pockets.

Here’s a fun fact: if next year’s budget were frozen at this year’s budget levels, the government would calculate that as a spending CUT of $9.2 trillion dollars. That’s right; the way they calculate things in Washington has nothing to do with reality. When they talk about any new budget proposal containing, oh, let’s say a $1.2 trillion dollar budget cut, what they are really saying is that they are going to INCREASE the budget by only $8 trillion dollars, instead of the $9.2 trillion it was going to increase. You may call that government accounting, I call it lying.

Damn, I’m sick of this. I sure hope that fiscal responsibility wins out in the end. How come I doubt it?

seven twenty-five eleven

Another day in paradise,
Every day is such a slice.

bite me, borders

Sometimes I don’t pay enough attention. I got another email from Borders saying they are clearing their stores and everything is 40% off. That’s interesting, I thought, and went to their web site to compare the price of a book I want – 40% off their price or amazon.com’s regular price. It turns out that amazon.com had a better price even at Border’s 40% off. However, I needed to get out of the house so I decided to trek on over to the Borders store and see if I could find anything else that might be interesting at 40% off.

I walked into the store and there was a big banner hanging from the ceiling – “40% off” – so I went over to the literature section to check on a specific book. Hmm, what’s this? A sign that says 10% off all literature books? Wait a minute; what happened to 40% off? That’s when I checked out the banner a little more closely. It said UP TO 40% off. Well, hell.

A quick walk around the store verified that there was very, very little for sale at 40% off and nothing that I wanted. So it was “Bite me, Borders,” and I left the store wondering why in the hell there were customers scarfing up books at such a small discount. The only thing I could figure was that they either had “Border’s Bucks” to spend from Border’s bonus program, or had gift cards they knew would have no value in short order if not spent now.

I won’t be going back to the store. I doubt that they will be selling anything I want at a price that can’t be beat elsewhere. I certainly don’t need any store fixtures. So, bye-bye Borders. Been nice to know ya.

borders bites the dust

I just got my official email. It appears that another bookstore is going to bite the dust. Borders apparently can’t find anyone willing to buy them out of bankruptcy. After they sell everything off, fold their tents and slip off into the night, the only major bookstore left around here will be Barnes and Noble.

I love bookstores. I have very happy memories of wandering the aisles of Krochs & Brentano’s with my girlfriend (later my wife) so many, many years ago. A personal library of over a thousand books is evidence of this activity. Unfortunately, Kroch’s and Brentano’s closed their doors one sad day in 1995.

When my son starting working, one of the early jobs he had was working for Crown Books. Interestingly, Crown Books was founded the same year that Borders was founded – 1977. He really enjoyed working in a bookstore and I think that job had a lot to do with his love of reading. Unfortunately, the Crown Books store he worked in was closed and the entire company was liquidated by 2001. At one time they were almost as big as Borders. Seems like getting big is death for a bookstore.

I am torn about this turn of events. As much as I have loved bookstores, I have hated paying their prices. Just the other day I had a little time to kill so I wandered into a nearby Borders to have a look around. I found a couple of books that I thought I might like to buy, but when I looked at the price I had to ask myself why anyone in their right mind would plunk down that kind of cash when they could probably get the same book for almost half the price on amazon.com. Yeah, I know, that’s why the brick and mortar stores are closing; too much overhead to have the low prices you can find online.

I wish I were wealthy enough to not have to worry about the price of a book, but that ain’t the way it is. For books that I want to read but don’t think it likely that I will want to own, the library works for me. If I want to own it, amazon.com is the first place I look, and usually the only place. Sad, but true.

Just as sad is my expectation that eventually there will be no more books printed. I truly believe that all books will eventually be published electronically. There may be some collector’s editions printed, but the price for those will be out of range for most people. I will personally hate to see that happen, but I don’t think there is much anyone can do about it. The economics just make too much sense; no trees needed for paper, no ink and the chemicals required for printing, no warehousing or shipping – what’s not to like?

Well, for me, it’s the physical relationship with the book. I love the smell of paper and ink, the heft of a book, the ability to read it anywhere and anytime. It’s a very personal relationship and much different from the one I have with the Kindle app on my iPod. My son has a Kindle, and while handy, it just isn’t the same. For one thing, I can’t see how a coffee-table book will ever be published effectively in an electronic format. Maybe that kind of a book is destined for extinction, to replaced with an electronic version that would play on the television when no one is watching a show.

Anyway, I’m sorry to see Borders close. I wonder who is next.

good morning

It is a beautiful day here right now. I’m taking a vacation day so I didn’t have to get up when the alarm told me to. The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the temperature wonderful, the humidity low. I’m not hurting too much so far. Besides all that, it’s pay day (yeah, the money has all been spent before it’s earned, but that’s life). I feel good

If only I could feel this good every day, life would be worth living. How the hell do I arrange that?

endless bull

I am perturbed. Or perhaps that is too weak a word for how I feel as the president of my country proves – once again – that he is an ass. The budget talks are ongoing, looking for  a solution that everyone can live with. It is not an easy job, but one thing is clear; the American people do not want any additional taxes. They made that point quite obvious in the last election. So what does Obama insist needs to be part of any “solution” to the budget problem our country is facing? Income tax increases.

No, that’s not what makes me call him an ass today. Today he tried to scare senior citizens by saying that if a deal could not be reached in time that, “I cannot guarantee that those checks [social security checks] go out on Aug. 3 if we haven’t resolved this issue, because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.” I cry foul, and bullshit besides. This is nonsense and he knows it. Man, I just hate this kind of manipulative political grandstanding. What a disingenuous, despicable way to try to influence the negotiation process.

Than again, I don’t really expect anything different, sad to say.

nature: the opportunist

A single, lonely sunflower. Where would you find such a thing? Click on the image above and see. I’ll wait.

Yep, a volunteer from the bird feeders. I couldn’t bring myself to cut it down as I was trimming the lawn. I first found it growing there when it was about six inches tall and I didn’t think it would be strong enough to grow  big enough to bloom. I happened to glance in that direction when I got home one day and spied a bright spot of yellow. The reprieve I gave the plant paid off.

Nature is an amazing thing. A plant doesn’t make a decision to grow or not to grow. If the conditions are right, it has no choice. Kind of like when we are born. We have no choice in parents, the conditions into which we are born, the color of our eyes or hair – it is all there from the beginning. Regardless of how we may feel about our circumstances, to nature it matters not a whit. In the end, it works, as evidenced by the fact that it keeps on working.

cautious admiration

If it were not for his irrational, ignorant attitude towards firearms, I would be wondering if Rahm Emanuel is really a Democrat. I grudgingly have to express my admiration for how Chicago’s new mayor has (so far) been dealing with the city’s budgetary problems. Every day he does something that seems to make perfect sense. Perhaps that’s not so difficult in a city where everything has always been done in the interest of influence peddling, but for a Democrat to be cleaning up the manure pit that is Chicago politics is pretty astounding to me. I wonder if he will, or can, keep it up. I hope so.

long may it wave

Stars and Stripes - Long May It Wave

Happy Independence Day – the 4th of July – to all Americans, everywhere. We declared our independence in 1776 and fought to achieve it. In the end we stood as an independent nation. Let us hope not only for continued success in defense against foreign nations, but also against those who would change the very character of the United States government to something totally foreign to our founding fathers.

I took the opportunity today to finally get my flag displayed on my house. I had the pole holder up some time ago, but the pole itself had no good way to mount the flag to it. I attached a couple of eye bolts to the pole and used a plastic tie to attach the flag to the eye bolts. I’ll stop at the store and pick up a couple of snap-type latches to use instead of the plastic ties, but those will work for now.

I hope you all have a grand day today, and in addition to enjoying a day off (unless you work retail – sorry about that, son) I hope you take a moment to reflect on the bravery, determination, and sacrifice of our forefathers in the founding of our country.