Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Old Book, New Book #15: The Dark Frigate -> Pet Sematary

The Dark Frigate

Finally got around to finishing "The Dark Frigate". A brief review is here. Wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to read next and when I ended up at the library I had a few ideas of things that turned out not to be available at that library. Next time I should probably do some planning in advance and made put in some hold requests. Any suggestions?

In the end, I picked up "Pet Sematary", an old Stephen King novel that I haven't read before. We'll see how it goes. I suspect it will be quicker reading than "The Dark Frigate".


Newbery Foray #3: The Dark Frigate

The Dark Frigate

As I work through this vast list of Newbery Medal winners, my method of choosing which to read next has been to simply look at the list and choose the oldest one I haven't read yet that is available at the library I happen to be in, the exception of course being the first one I read, "Dear Mr. Henshaw". The one I just finished, "The Dark Frigate", won the Newbery Medal in 1924, which really isn't that far off from being 100 years ago. I suspect that may explain some of the strange words used in it. Or maybe that's just a product of the book being set in 17th century England. Not sure.

In brief synopsis this is the story of an orphaned boy who ends up on a ship that is then captured by pirates and he has a brief adventure. Strangely though, he doesn't end up on the ship for maybe 80 of the 250 pages. And even then the story moves pretty slowly. I nearly gave this book up many times, but stuck with it out of principle. Thankfully, the plot picked up a bit toward the end, and the last third was fairly enjoyable.

Not sure I'd recommend it, but in the end I didn't hate it. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Jazz are making it happen!

...taking their chances as they come. The Jazz are making it happen! Working their way to number one!

Sometimes I feel like I have to have big news to be worth a blog post, but I guess maybe that's not the case. In any case, last night I went to the Jazz game against the Suns and had a lot of fun. My buddy Eric suggested a few weeks ago that we ought to go catch a game sometime, and as he is a traitorous Suns fan, he really wanted to go to this game. Turns out the Jazz had a "Family Night" special going on, where we were able to get 6 LOWER BOWL tickets for $180. That's $30 each for tickets with a face value of ~$95. Oh, and a free hot dog. Can't forget that. Though for some reason they made me hike upstairs to get my free hot dog. Apparently the classy lower bowl folks don't want us economically-minded folks getting in the way of their concession time.

Anyway, we rounded up 4 more friends (*No family required for "Family Night") and gathered from various parts of the valley to the EnergySolutions Arena. We enjoyed watching Steve Nash make pretty much every shot he took in warm-ups, but once the game started, it was all Jazz for the first few minutes. They jumped out to an early 12 point lead, only to squander it by the end of the quarter. The 2nd quarter was all Suns as they built up an 11 point lead on some scorching shooting by one Goran Dragic, who finished the half with 24 points. Every one of his 3-pointers had Eric giggling with glee. (Jerk!)

The 2nd half looked to be more of the same as the Suns extended their lead to 17 with just a few minutes left in the 3rd. The only other game I've attended this year was a loss to the T-wolves, one of the worst teams in the league. At this point I was wondering if my presence was bad luck for the Jazz and seriously questioning my plans to attend at least one more game this season.

Then the Jazz inexplicably went on a big run to close the quarter and cut the lead to just 5. Their momentum continued into the 4th quarter as they closed the gap and finally took the lead in the final minutes and then pulled away for a 9 point win.

Good times.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's Wrong with Our Income Tax #1: Yarr!

Just got my W-2 at work, and was taking a minute to dig into the tax code to try to figure out if I was going to get much of a refund or not. I know (or at least have heard) that charitable donations are deductible, but was trying to find that in the tax code, so I went to a section on "Charitable Donations", where I was bemused and a little frustrated at this section that was just thrown in there in the middle of a list of things that were deductible:

Expenses of Whaling Captains

You may be able to deduct as a charitable contribution the reasonable and necessary whaling expenses paid during the year in carrying out sanctioned whaling activities. The deduction is limited to $10,000 a year. To claim the deduction, you must be recognized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission as a whaling captain charged with the responsibility of maintaining and carrying out sanctioned whaling activities.

Sanctioned whaling activities are subsistence bowhead whale hunting activities conducted under the management plan of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.

Whaling expenses include expenses for:

  • Acquiring and maintaining whaling boats, weapons, and gear used in sanctioned whaling activities,

  • Supplying food for the crew and other provisions for carrying out these activities, and

  • Storing and distributing the catch from these activities.

Glad to know that whaling activities are specially mentioned and explicitly deductible (assuming you have the blessing of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission). Not sure why this falls under charitable donations, though.

The Big Digital Goes to the Opera

Long-time readers may recall that a few years ago in the monthly discussion group I attend, we had a discussion about Opera. Finally, a year and a half later, I actually have gone to see an opera. And I have to say that for the most part I really enjoyed it. A friend who works with the Utah Opera and Symphony invited me to join her last night for a performance of "Carmen" at the Capitol Theatre here in Salt Lake. I said, "Why not?" and last night showed up in my Sunday best ready to get me somma dat culture stuff. :)

Turns out that working for the opera has its perks. We sat on the first row in the balcony. Amazing seats! I could see everything perfectly, including the orchestra and conductor who were definitely interesting to watch. My favorite was the guy who spent most of his time playing the tambourine. Do you have to practice to play the tambourine?

In addition to great seats, we also were able to go to a VIP reception at intermission where they had free food, including caviar on tiny potato skin things. So I figured I should at least try some since I'd never had any. The funny thing is that maybe I ate it wrong or something, but all I could taste was the potato. Huh. Anyway, this reception was deep in the bowels of the theater. I swear we went down 4 flights of stairs to get to it. I asked Melissa if we were going to a secret underground lake.

I seemed to remember that Carmen might have been one of the operas that our presenter that night suggested as being good for first-time opera goers. If so, he was right. As soon as the music started, I recognized two super famous pieces. I didn't know their names (do opera songs have names?), but one was a tune that I mostly commonly associate with the "Bad News Bears"
and the other was a tune that I commonly think of as "Neither a borrower nor a lender be". Some quick Googling indicates that I think that because there was an episode of Gilligan's Island in which the castaways performed a musical version of Hamlet set to music from Carmen. Okay....

Anyway, here's the prelude from YouTube, I suspect you'll recognize the music:

The first part of the prelude shows up again briefly in the final Act, but I don't know what it's called. The "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" tune is called Toreador and here's the scene from Act II (its 7 minutes long, so don't feel like you have to watch the whole thing):

In the first act, you also get this famous tune (apparently called "La Habanera"):

Finally a thought on the plot of the opera. **SPOILER ALERT** Carmen is this hot chick who messes up a guy's life (gets him sent to jail and then to desert the army) and then dumps him for the next hot thing that comes along. He kills her out of jealousy, one of those "If I can't have you, no one can, kind of things". So, I guess the take home lesson is, ladies, 1) don't date psychos, and 2) if you make the guy psycho, I guess it's partly your fault when he stabs you to death. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Laughing at Illiteracy #2: Can't forget about bocce!

From a random Facebook photo I was looking at today:

"Playing a little bit of Bocce Ball...That's definitely an entertaining game...Kept us memorized for hours!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adam Sandler's a Light Weight


50 First Dates! Ha! Small potatoes! :)

Last night, I went on a (mostly) blind date with a girl who was, assuming my records are accurate, the 100th girl that I've been out with. I don't bring this up to brag. In fact, you'd think that after 100 different girls I would have either a) found someone by now, or b) given up. :) There's a demotivator poster that says "Quitters Never Win, Winners Never Quit, but those who Never Win and Never Quit are Idiots". Clearly I fall into the last category. :) But somehow I have managed to keep enjoying dating and meeting girls that I am sufficiently interested in to keep taking out on dates.

An old roommate once said that he'd heard from a bishop that a good goal was to date 100 different girls before you get married because then you'd have a good idea of what you like and what you don't like. I thought that was an interesting (and astronomically high) goal to have, so it's never been a goal of mine to reach 100, but it is what inspired me to think back on how many girls I'd been out with up to that point (that's where any likely inaccuracy in my records would stem from) and start keeping track going forward.

Lastly, before I sign off, I just want to emphasize that I am not in dating for the numbers. That while there are 100 girls I can count that I've been on dates with, not once have I asked someone out just for the statistical glory of it. My keeping track of it is really just a form of journal keeping and self-evaluation. Just wanted to make that clear.

demotivators stupidity

Monday, January 04, 2010

(Floating) Bullets on (Butterfly) Wings

I've had a lot of thoughts running through my head the last week or so and most of them aren't really congealing into anything that seems like it wants to be a cohesive idea that merits publishing.

A few of the (slightly) less ephemeral:
  • Saw "Savior of the World" on Friday night, and the main thought that came home with me was, "Wow, there are a lot of these "miraculous" things surrounding the birth and resurrection of the Savior that are outside the scope of what I would consider "normal" life. Mostly the whole angelic messengers part, but also resurrection itself. Stuff that the scientist in me has a hard time wrapping my mind around.

    But I guess its okay if I would be shocked to be visited by an angel. Most of the people in the stories are, too. In any case, it inspired me to read the scriptures and listen in my church meetings with new ears. And that's been a good thing so far.

  • Feeling a little bit unattached from things socially of late. I'm sure that part of it stems from having been out of town for most of the last 2 weeks, and another part stems from transitioning to a different ward after 5 and a half years. Don't know if I'm not trying as hard to reach out to my friends or if they aren't reaching out to me as much. Just had a lot of nights lately with nothing going on.

    Most all of my friends are in my "old" ward and I don't really know many people in my "new" ward, and have yet to do anything socially with any of the few people I do know there. Kind of uncertain about where things go from here in terms of trying to make new friends in the new ward but still hang on to the old friends. Also, losing one roommate and getting two new ones. All this coupled with the start of a new year has me feeling like I'm in between. Not sure what I'm in between, just that I am. In between.

  • This is the first year that I've started without being enrolled in school since the mission. So that's definitely a new thing. One of the (few) things I miss about school is that it always provided an easy set of things to work on/toward. Now that I'm just working, sometimes its hard to figure out what things I want to/should want to work toward.