Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stop me if you've heard this

by Nathan Stout

Ok, this guy walks into a bar...

Season 3 was destined NOT TO TAKE PLACE. That's all there is to say about it. The fates have conspired to stop it. There is something in there that is so apocryphal that the very fabric of the universe is threatened. The powers that be have been sent to stop it at all costs.

As you all may well know or not know, the great hard drive disaster that took place in late April set us back a bit. You can read about it here, here, and finally here. The drive fell over on my desk and poof, all that work was gone in a flash. As you read the final post I reconstructed the data that was here and there until I got as close as I could.

I started working on Episode 1 of Season 3 first off. That was the project that I could knock out the quickest and have a little 'Dave Ramsey mini victory'. This would get me motivated to get back to the Season 2 stuff.

Fast forward to night before last. I am 95% done with Episode 1 of Season 3 (again). I got the rough edit done. I would need to rebuild the intermission, close credits, and do all the special effects and I would be done. This might take another week or two.


Jehovah walks up to the front door and knocks. Mighty Odin answers the door.

Well, well. What brings you here to the mighty
hall of Odin?

We have an issue.

I am a little amused that we gods of long ago
who have been all but forgotten we would have
ANY issue.

Forgotten? Speak for yourself.

Eh, just give them another hundred years.
You'll be in here eating with Buddha, Zeus,
and all the others every other Thursday.


Every other Thursday is Deity potluck.

Never mind that! We have a problem. I

Odin raises an eyebrow in surprise.

IT has been written.

Thor's balls!

Exactly. We need to do something about

Send you son.

He's been busy packing for the second
coming for the last four hundred years.
Look, there is three... well one of me. You
have all sorts of kin. I need you do some-
thing about it.

Odin shakes his head in disbelief.

If that joke is released on the world...


Leave it to me. I can put Loki to use.


That's what happened. I swear. So I am working on the show in my 'office' room. For those of you who know my place know this as the room with the thick blue carpet. My office used to be in the far back bedroom with the short tan carpet.
If you will recall in a post I made about getting motivated to do the show, you will recall that I thought that if I moved my office to the blue carpet room it would be cooler and I would be more motivate to work in there longer (on the show). Well... when I was in the back room I would place the external hard drives on the floor off to the side of the desk. I started putting them on the floor (laying down) after the hard drive disaster.
Now that I moved into the blue carpet room I placed my hard drives ontop of my computer tower (which sits on the floor under the desk) because the carpet is thick and would cause an overheating problem with the drives if I laid them on the floor.

You know where this is going, right?

So Monday night I worked on the show and got to that 95% point. During my editing I noticed my two external drives were getting REALLY hot lying flat ontop of my computer. I put them on their side (like I used to do before the crash). That is to say I put them up on their side so they were standing upright. This cooled them down quote a bit.
I finished for the night and reached down to turn them off and...
Loki, the god of mischief made me knock the 'reconstructed' hard drive over.
Just like before.
Exactly like before.
Twice in less than two months.

You have got to be fucking kidding me....

The hard drive didn't make those noises that the one terabyte drive did... but it did stop working.

That is how I came to the conclusion that the gods are conspiring against me to stop Season 3 from happening.

What does this mean I will do next? Should I send the hard drive out to a data recovery place.

I have a duplicate hard drive here that I will swap platters in and TRY to recover the data on my own. If I can't get it back I will basically be back where I was after the first major crash and episode 1 will have to be done for a 3rd time.

I am considering cutting my losses and stopping there. Once again the idea of a one-story line show has caused all this. If we had just been doing one-off sketches there wouldn't be all this catching up to do.

Curse you Loki!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Defining Kinds of Stuff (with Parentheses and Numeral Rules!)

by Chris McGinty

Nathan recently wrote a response to my post about getting rid of half of my stuff. He said I think too much. I find this funny, because he doesn’t realize that I’m almost finished with a two part post about the very subject of getting rid of my stuff that shows just how much I think too much. I also find it funny that he and Miguel were discussing me and my “trip,” as Nathan called it, about getting rid of half of my stuff, because my two part post starts by discussing how I think Nathan and Miguel are entertained by some of my extreme theories and beliefs, even though they rarely agree and often think I’m dumb. The point is they were discussing it, which makes me feel like my statement that they’re entertained is valid, and not just my ego ghost writing for me.

At first when I started reading Nathan’s post I thought I was going to have to smack him down (in writing of course) because it didn’t sound like he understood the difference between his stuff and my stuff. Near the end though I realized that he had probably actually read my whole post, and understood that I have stuff that is more a burden than a joy. Still I thought I would define how I view things, and where his stuff fits into that equation. He also, as an aside, asked a question about parentheses. I thought I’d research it and list my findings. And a bit about numbers.

Parentheses Note # 1: In the last paragraph, you will note that I used parentheses in mid sentence. I could have also surrounded it with commas. Parenthetical information is not always put into parentheses. Some feel that when commas can be used, parentheses shouldn’t be used. I admittedly don’t understand all the “guidelines” for when to use commas, dashes, parentheses. As I understand it, it is more of a style choice, kind of like throwing the word guidelines into quotes previously. It suggests that I’m discounting the value of the word. I used it because with grammar it is sometimes hard to define the difference between rules and guidelines. Also, according to “Strunk and White’s: The Elements of Style” “kind of” and “sort of” shouldn’t be used the way I used it. The proper use is, “A Ranger is a kind of Ford vehicle.” Improper is, “My Ranger is kind of unusable right now.”

Necessities & Necessary Luxuries – This is stuff that you absolutely need. It’s hard to define sometimes if a car is necessary. If you live in New York City, probably not. If you live in Fort Worth/Dallas, probably. Is a TV necessary? Even keeping food in the house isn’t necessary if you’re willing to leave the house every time you need to eat. So for sake of argument we’re going to define this category with some things not necessary for survival, but necessary to maintain a lifestyle that isn’t leaning toward third world country status. Let’s face it, we survived as a society before everyone had cell phones, but they do actually improve overall safety. Emergencies can be called in on the spot. If your car breaks down you don’t have to walk a mile or two to find a way to get hold of someone to help. TV and radio allow for weather emergencies and such to be broadcast. Again, we survived, but it improves overall safety.

Entertainment – Books, CDs, DVDs, computer, games, etc. Nathan talks about how my lifestyle probably doesn’t require as much stuff, but I think when he talks about enjoying his stuff, he’s probably mostly talking about stuff in this category. The truth is, most of what I will be keeping is in this category. I have one hell of a music collection. My issue is that I should have it organized in nice bins made for CD storage, cassette storage, or vinyl record storage, not haphazardly strewn amongst a lot of crap that doesn’t entertain me. Nathan is organized. I’m not. It’s a lot easier to enjoy your things when it looks nice when you view it.

Tools – Not just ratchets and hammers; this category can include cars, dishes, etc. Now there is a difference between a car that is more of a utility and a car for fun, but mostly what I’m talking about in this category is anything not used mostly for entertainment that has practical value. Unless your can opener has mp3 storage, it’s a tool.

Decoration & Nostalgia – For my purposes here, I will define this as anything that has no practical value. The Iron Maiden tapestry that I own from back when tapestries of your favourite metal bands were a hot commodity has no practical value (unless I’m freezing to death one night, and it’s the closest thing I have to a blanket). It simply looks nice to me. Arguably, photos preserve history and are practical from that perspective, but again unless you burn them to keep from freezing to death… I will be getting rid of a lot of this kind of stuff, but I wouldn’t tell everyone to. Like entertainment, the question is: Does it look nice when you view it?

Parentheses Note # 2: In the previous paragraph, I used the period outside of the parentheses. The reason for this is because the writing in the parentheses is not a complete sentence, so the period is closing the sentence that came before. I always default to putting it in the parentheses (apparently doing it wrong!). The reason I did this is because you typically close sentences in quotes like that, “You know,” Chris said, “like it is here.” Note the odd thing where there is an exclamation point and a period above. The period closes the sentence, while the exclamation point shows an emphasis to the parenthetical information (do you understand?). It’s considered awkward, and it is argued that you should just create a separate sentence. More on that later.

Parentheses Note # 3: Another weird one is with your typical list like this: My three favourite bands are Duran Duran, The Bolshoi, and a-ha. We understand that the use of commas here, and that the comma after “The Bolshoi” is not required. Look at the following: My three favourite bands are Duran Duran, The Bolshoi (who have been called the best band you’ve never heard of) and a-ha. I can ignore the comma before “and” by using the parentheses as a surrogate comma, or by considering that a comma is not required. Look at the following: My three favourite bands are Duran Duran (a friend of mine says they are the second greatest band ever according to her friend, but she can’t remember who the first was), The Bolshoi, and a-ha. Since the comma is required, and is part of the main sentence, it goes outside of the parentheses.

Trash and Throwaways – Trash is a clear concept to most of us, but there is a subsection of trash that sometimes isn’t so clear. I call it throwaways. I talked about throwing some of my decoration and nostalgia items away. As I stated before, I’ll scan photos and take video of things I held onto for memory sake, and then I’ll save them as computer files. It’ll be throwaway to me, but maybe not to somebody else with similar stuff. What I’m talking about here is stuff that is really trash, but seems like it may be important. Since Nathan made mp3s of all the audio shows, the original tapes can technically be thrown away. As long as we have backups of the mp3s and they’re saved to the web server, we no longer need the original tapes. (Nathan, don’t throw them away unless we properly back them up.) It just seems like they still have value. And if we still used cassettes to record our show then there would be an argument to reuse them, or if we recorded anything on cassette. Since we don’t, they could probably be simply thrown away, or at the very least given away to someone who would record over them. Somebody like Nathan, who is not a pack rat, typically holds onto very few things like this. Things of this nature are why I am getting rid of half of everything I own.

Parentheses Note # 4: In this case, I put a full sentence into parentheses. The reason is because it was parenthetical to the paragraph. In this case, the period is closing the sentence inside the parentheses, so the period goes inside.

Note about Numbers: According to “The Elements of Style,” the way that I’ve been serializing the parentheses notes I should use the numeral. Also as I write this, June 29, 2010, I would like you to know that you use numeral for dates as well. The exception is in quotes. Nathan said, “I read this on June thirtieth. It was 2011 though. I found note number two particularly helpful.” A rule that I’ve heard, and I’m not sure how official it is, is to generally spell out numbers under 100. We will be hitting 200 posts soon, so I should probably start reviewing ten posts a day, but Post # 75, posted by Nathan on March 23, 2010, is still one of the best written for the blog. Note again that the serialized number is a numeral as well as the date. That’s the best that I understand it at least.

I hope this was useful in a “number” of ways. I know that as I go through and edit our posts I will have to fix some parentheses stuff, because I wasn’t doing it completely right. Also, I hope I was able to give you a different way to think about types of stuff. Stay tuned for my different way of organizing; a way that will make Nathan think Julie Morgenstern is just someone who likes to clean house occasionally. Oh, and I’m going to have to write a post about aversion to self help gurus, because there are those who you should avoid and those you shouldn’t. I find it a curiosity when people just avoid the whole lot to be safe. Finally, below are the links I used to research parentheses. I actually used five pages, but one wasn’t written clearly and the other was a user submitted answer that did not match what the rest of the pages, and “The Elements of Style,” were saying. I went with the presumption that it was wrong.,7325,506571-,00.html

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's all happenin' at the zoo

by Nathan Stout

I do believe it.
I do believe its true.

Sorry my mind got stuck on that song. Sunday me, my wife, brother, and niece went to the Fort Worth Zoo... or as I like to now call it... 'Throw Us Your Change At Every Chance'.
Do you remember going to the Fort Worth Zoo long ago? I do. It is a very different place now.
I looked and looked and couldn't find any kind of 'retro' zoo page on the Internet. I think it would be awesome though.

Do you remember the small amusement ride section that used to be at the zoo? It had that Monster Mouse roller coaster, Himalaya, Tiltawhirl. Oh the memories.
The Fort Worth Zoo was built in 1909 and has expanded ever since. It was run by the city of Fort Worth until 1991 when the city turned over the management to the Fort Worth Zoological Association. The private organization did some MAJOR renovation and continues to this day to do so. You will remember that the zoo became better back then but it also became very expensive back then.

When I was a child it cost seventy five cents to get in. It's fourteen dollars now-a-days. Not only that but the price of food and drink is super high. Quite a bit like Six Flags infact. I really appreciate the great change that has come over the zoo but if they start charging for using the toilets I am gonna get bent out of shape. Sure, I know I charge people to use the toilets in Roller coaster Tycoon, but that's my park. It's only ten cents to use it as well... come on!
Anyway the other thing you will notice is that the zoo is littered with opportunity upon opportunity to give away your change. A large part of the funds for running that place comes from private donations and there are places for you to help donate scattered throughout the park.

I love the zoo. I tried to get several jobs there. I have applied for a security guard position, a audio/visual tech position, and system administrator position as well. I got the security position but the pay was six dollars and something and you simply can't live on that so I turned it down. I have loved the zoo since I was a kid and spent hours at the aquarium and herpetarium exhibits but could never make a living wage there.

My brother and I are big on nostalgia and when we visit places like the zoo or Six Flags we will point out 'the old stuff' to each other. The zoo is full of old stuff that is still there. Alot of the old animal enclosures along the hillside are 'original' and there are a ton of old visitor walkways still visible (but unused) that criss-cross the place. The removal of the aquarium and the herpetarium were two big blows to us 'old timers'. Those were essential parts of our childhood and like so much of the rest of that urban zoo it is gone and in it's place is more ways to make money with sugary sodas and foam crocodiles on a sticks.

The 'new' zoo has it's issues as well. What was new in 1991 is now becoming old. After the tear down of the old herpetarium the new MOLA (museum of living arts) was built. It is basically an updated herpetarium. It makes the older 'new' exibits look outdated (like the ape house). We visited the Texas Wild! weather theater show and I was VERY disappointed at this 'new' exhibit. The show is an automated theater that has some characters talk about the Texas environment such as the interaction of native animals and the wild weather. The whole gimmick is a thunderstorm that blows in featuring real rain and real hail. The theater gets somewhat dark, wind starts blowing, there is lightning sounds and effects then it starts raining up at the front of the 'stage' then hail starts raining down (at the front of the stage). If you are sitting in the front row you will get a little wet and might get a tiny hail or two. This is how it worked about three years back. When we went Sunday I noticed the wind didn't blow much at all, the light was still full (ruining the whole storm feel) and the they replaced the hail with small whiffle balls! What a cheese out! So even the 'new' stuff is getting dated and worn out.

Just because I am bitching about the zoo doesn't mean I don't still love it. I do. I suggest going there instead of the new Museum of Science and History which is getting bad reviews. It is a massive place full of neat stuff and if you pay attention you will see some of that old stuff too.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Looking through MY stuff

by Nathan Stout

Chirs has this problem... he thinks too much.

I love my stuff. America have been called 'the materialistic nation' and I agree. The fact is that I agree and I am a fully fledged member of it. I love having junk. Chris gave us a couple of examples from Julie Morgenstern's book about how we are all shit bags who care nothing about anything other than our own fatheaded selves (no not really) but he said she gave two reason (out of many I am sure) why we keep stuff. I don't feel the examples he gave fit me. I'm not the kind of person who feels my stuff makes me feel important or rich or anything. If that were the case I'd probably have better vehicles. I don't think I keep stuff for 'just incase' reasons like Chris thinks he does. I think my 'hoarding' (which isn't really hoarding) makes me feel comfortable.
As many of you know I am a home body. I don't go out and do a whole lot. The last movie I saw in the theater was Watchmen (which was early last year). Before that I think it was the Incredibles (which was like 3 years before that!)

*Note to Chris: Nathan needs some punctuation lessons STAT. Does the close parentheses come before or after the period/exclamation/etc? Also when the fuck do I write out a number and when do I use actual numbers. OK, back to the blog...

What I am trying to get at is that I like being home more than being out. With that I like having all my junk around me to entertain me. I like having my DVDs, my games, my books, and all that other crap.
Miguel will argue that every once in a while I will subconsciously fight this hoarding by selling off my junk. We did argue just that point just a few weeks back. We were discussing Chris' 'get rid of half my stuff' trip and Miguel told me he thought I was talking smack about liking to keep my stuff. I told him that I hadn't had one of my 'get rid of my stuff' attacks for several years and then he cited the selling of my MASH and Highlander DVD sets. I had to give him credit for that observation. My thought was that one day I would buy both series on BluRay if I were to buy them again so it was OK to sell them. If you remember I wrote a whole blog about my MASH burnout/mental breakdown so it was easy to get rid of it for the time being.
What Miguel was mainly referring to was my major 'stuff dumps' of years past. You see, I used to think too much (much like Chris does now). I would get it in my mind that all the crap I owned was just piling up on me and slowing me down. I would get this panic to get rid of it and 'free myself' of unnecessary stuff. My reason was different that Chris' reason (which was to save money on stuff like storage.) I would have these Ebay-a-thons and dump a truck load of stuff (at a huge loss of course). Now the stuff I would get rid of is probably a little different that the stuff Chris is talking about getting rid of. He talks about getting rid of a pack of envelopes he will probably never need. I would get rid of books, DVDs, CDs, etc and NOT stuff like Chris is talking about (although I realize he is getting rid of that kind of stuff too).
For some reason this stopped a few years back. Maybe when I got married? I don't know. I just know I stopped thinking about it so much. I just sit back and enjoy my junk.
I can totally see what Chris is getting at though. It is nice to have so little and be free to up and go and not worry about material possessions (and save money in the process). I can see it being an easy choice for Chris' lifestyle as well. He doesn't come across to me as someone who would keep a lot. It's a choice everyone of us has to make and I chose to keep it all. There might be a day when I want to dump it again, but I am happy now so I will just keep it for the moment.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chris's Poem: Never Ever, Ever Never

         Never Ever, Ever Never

I want to be done with half of everything I own
I’m broke anyway so it won’t hurt financially
I wish I could hold onto everything
But it just doesn’t help
When I need to find something specific

And I know that there are those people out there
And they want us to do all the work
To entertain them for a change
And I want be done with half of our audience
And I’d like to choose which one sticks around

And you know it’s not right this way
That we’ve been managing our lives and resources
I can think of half of our behaviors
That can go right out the window
Because they’ve never ever, ever done us good

      - Chris McGinty – 6-26-10 – 10:43 pm

Friday, June 25, 2010

Looking Through My Stuff

by Chris McGinty

I’m a pack rat. Have you ever seen that show “Hoarders”? I’m not quite so bad off that I would make a very good guest for that show, but I do have a lot of junk.

When I was doing writing prompts for the blog I got a question which was to name books that have changed my life. There are a few. I figured that as the blog went on I could in turn deal with many of them and how they affected me. “Organizing from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern was one such book. I read about half of it in 2007, and then I had to take it back to the library. What I read was information that I think every pack rat could benefit at least a little from knowing.

She deals with some of the psychological reasons for surrounding yourself with clutter, and I could see myself in some of the examples.

There is the need for abundance. You mistake having a lot of stuff with success. That’s not so much me. But the part about feeling like you will need something if you get rid of it. Now we have a winner. I’m one of those who looks at a box of envelopes that would cost very little to replace, but that I am unlikely to need anytime in the near future or not so near future and think, “But I might need them eventually damn it.” And you get enough of that kind of thing and suddenly you’re paying a monthly bill for storage to avoid paying less than a dollar for an envelope later. This tends to happen because eventually you just have so much stuff anyway that storage is already necessary so why not keep those envelopes.

For me there was more than just the realization of these things. Technology has made many things possible that were once not so possible. I’ve always been about backing up stuff. When you take your notebooks and photocopy them so that your can keep an offsite backup, you’re more protected against loss, but you take up more space. But now saving data to DVD makes backing up of information not only easy, but it doesn’t take up space. And having web space can be useful too. For me to lose important documents now there would have to be major catastrophic events.

Upon realizing how easy it is to backup information, but not take up space, I realized that I could face some of the psychological issues brought up in the book head on. Once I have a short story, chapters, notes, or whatever transcribed from the notebook to a word processor file I can still keep the notebook if I want, but the photocopies can go, and I can back it up many more times without incurring too high of cost or taking up much space.

I decided then to get rid of half of everything I own as the first part of my goal. Anything that has no practical value goes. If it’s just memorabilia I simply take video of it, encode the video, and backup the file. You can turn a whole box of crap into three DVDs of backed up data, and save so much room. It’s all very freeing.

Once I reach the first point of being rid of everything with no practical value, I will move onto the second point, which is to be able to store everything I own in my bedroom (aside from the car and truck, of course.) Even if it’s cluttered at that point, it would be cluttered without a storage bill.

It occurred to me that there are some things that I’ve written that would make for ok posts on this blog, so on occasion I will post some of them up. And how nice is it that I will have one more backup in addition to every other backup I have in place. I feel like I should be laughing maniacally. I feel like maybe I didn’t learn anything from that book after all…

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Wicked: The Musical

by Nathan Stout

I would start by saying that Wicked is a flippant girl's fantasy but it was written by a dude so I won't. The musical is based on the first in a series of books by Gregory Maguire that 're-write' the Oz stories. If you remember there were 60+ of L. Frank Baum's Oz books (most written by others after his death.) The books range in date from 1900 - 2007 as well as several alternative versions (including Maguire's).

Wicked falls into the whole 'new millennium, happy, no one is really bad, creamy, sappy, girly, everyone is different, different is ok, campy, pukes-ville sentimentality' story category.

I know it's harsh but that's what I get out of it's story. I'm not saying it's bad, just a bit too sappy for my taste. Maybe I'm annoyed because there is some fanboy out there that just couldn't well enough leave something interesting alone. That is probably it.

Ok, enough bashing of the story material. Let me get onto the musical.

Here is my thought as to how people who decide to make stories into musicals work on it:

"OK, we know the story..."
"Right boss!"
"Now, I have divided up the story into acts that fit our format."
"Right boss!"
"Now we need some songs."
"Right boss!"
"Let's write a song about this bit, that bit, and that bit."
"Right boss!"
"I have this great idea for one of the songs. You write the rest."
"Right boss!"
***** Months later *****
"OK, we have finished the first half to the intermission."
"Right boss!"
"I'm pooped but we are contractually obligated to finish it before the end of the week."
"Right boss!"
"Get to writing."

That's how it goes, I swear...

The first half of the show is really good. If it ended there I would be satisfied. The second half seemed the product of either a burnt out imagination or someone in a rush.

Now it is just fact that I am going to bash it because if you remember just a few short weeks ago we went to see the grandpa of the Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera.

Wicked is no Phantom of the Opera. Opera has had more than twenty years to 'age' like a fine wine. It has been subtly changed and gotten better over time. Wicked is still new and maybe one day it will be more refined. I already have noticed changes from when we saw it three years ago. Will it ever be AS good? Who can say.

The story of Wicked is the story of a misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West. She wasn't really wicked (barf), she was just misunderstood and used. The musical starts with the melting death of the witch and then plays out like a flashback. Elphaba (the witch) has a misunderstood and feared childhood because the color of her skin. She gets involved with Glinda during their days at university and eventually become friends. Elphaba is on the fast track to becoming the Wizard of Oz's magical adviser but things go sour and she is turned into a fugitive (through what amounts to be a smear campaign). There is a love story and some anti-animal theme and on several occasions events in the Oz universe are 'tied toghter' such as the where the tinman, scarecrow, cowardly lion, ruby slippers, etc come from.

The first half of the musical deals with he back story of the youth of the witch (just a nerdy, bullied girl) and ends when she becomes a fugitive while uncovering the somewhat evil nature of the Wizard. If it ended at the half I would have been satisfied with my experience. It was that good. The second half does alot of that 'tying up' of the events we know about in the Oz canon. It seems slower and there are not as many big set pieces and the songs don't seem as memorable. Actually very few of the songs are memorable (when you compare it to other musicals... ok, Opera) but the ones in the second half are lacking even more. This is of course my opinion because the woman sitting next to my wife was crying during the final song.

The sets, lighting, and effects were great. Once again I will remind you that THAT is the main enjoyment for me in coming to a musical. There weren't as many scares like Opera and no chandelier to come crashing down. The colors were great and all that green made my eyes bug out.

One of the complaints about the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas is the acoustics. At points I did have a hard time hearing the actors over the instruments and that kind of took away from my appreciation of the musical numbers.

Can I suggest going to see Wicked? If you are a chick I can suggest it 100%. This thing is made for chicks. The first half is cool for dudes with it's big production and tons of laughs, but they will loose interest in the second half. Some dudes will not enjoy it at all (such as the guy sitting in front of us who fell asleep at various points).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Hedgehog's life

by Nathan Stout

This is an epitaph of sorts for our hedgehog Saffie who, at the ripe old age of 3 passed away last night. Saffie is survived by her four thousand brothers and sisters (probably since we bought her from a breeder).

Three years ago my wife Candice wanted to a hedgehog. Why, I do not know but I indulge her so I let her have one. There are many different types of hedgehogs. There are wild ones all over Europe that can get pretty large. The ones you see people keep as pets are a special breed called African Pygmy Hedgehogs. They are tiny and only live two to three years. Here is a picture of our Saffie (that was in a local newspaper in their 'summer of Wise County pets' article):

She was the size of a softball when rolled up (which is something they do to protect themselves). Hedgehogs have these spines on their back which are called quills and they are very sharp. If you try to pick them up (and they don't want you to) they will jerk, jabbing you. They will also huff loudly to warn you stay away. The quills only cover the upper half of the body. The underside is a kinda rough fur. When you handle them the part that is covered with quills feels like they are wearing a mat of spikes that sits on top of their skin. As if someone has wrapped them in a Brillo pad.

Hedgehogs are mammals and omnivores. Saffie ate this fancy cat food and sometimes meal worms (which are like not-so-gross maggots). In the wild they eat insects mostly.

Saffie had a lovely split container home with her house igloo and food bowl on one side and her running wheel and litter pan (aka Frisbee) in the other container. Hedgehogs are nocturnal so they will run all night on a wheel if you let them. When you look at them they have these little stubby legs but if you ever watch them run, they stretch out really far. Hedgehogs can haul ass when they want to. Their toenails will grow very long and it will make it difficult for them to run on their wheel so you have to keep them trimmed up.

Hedgehogs have one annoying feature; they will hibernate if they get too cold. When I say too cold I am talking about somewhere in the 70's. Candice had to 'revive' Saffie several times when the house got too cold. Basically the hedgehog's body temperature will drop and they will go to sleep (for months apparently). The only danger is starvation. All you have to do is warm her back up and *poof* she is as good as new. This meant we had to have a heater in the general vicinity of her cage all the time. We used to have her cage in our master bath so it was always in the 80's in there.

You can't really cuddle with hedgehogs but you can hold them and if they have the right temperament they will stay still and enjoy being petted (usually on the forehead since they have the quills).

Saffie was quite an interesting pet and we hope we provided her with a wonderful existence.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Exorcise Video

by Chris McGinty

Nathan discussed his demons in Monday’s blog post, and I thought I’d deal with a few of the points, because it gives me something to write about. Nathan discussed how hard it is for him to get motivated lately. It’s about like pulling teeth. Oh yeah. I have an appointment in an hour. Systematic Mouth Injury (Part Two.)

Nathan needs to go read my column from a few weeks back about forced creativity. And now that I think about it I still haven’t emailed it to him.

Ok, well. Here’s the thing. We haven’t got together in a couple of weeks. Nathan is letting his feeling of blah seep over into our weekly meetings. The first week he simply wanted to use the evening to encode footage to meet a quota or deadline or something. And this was probably ok. Although sometimes getting a good break from a hard task can be helpful. The second week I just don’t even know what the problem was. This week I already know what the problemswill be. My new post starts at 9 pm, which will limit our options for getting together. Tonight is my night off, but my mouth will be numb and my brain will be zombie. Maybe we can get together on Saturday or Sunday a little earlier than 5 or 6 pm.

About Nathan’s writing to align his stories to meet the submission standards of some publisher. The reason why “Chris isn't too big on AT ALL” is because doing that kind of thing can kill the creative part of the creative process and leave you unmotivated. Ok, I’m just taking advantage of Nathan’s emotional state. The truth is that I am a fan of using limitations of what you can do in order to force creativity and to focus your efforts. In that way sitting down and saying, “I will write a story that fits Pill Hill’s submission guidelines,” can be a good thing, if like any other scheduled narcotic it’s used in moderation. If any of you wish to be a writer then you have one thing in common, which is that you should be writing everyday. Even on my least creative days, I write a page or two of my journal. Or I do a brainstorming session. Or I write a throwaway poem. The point is just to sit down and write. I do have my own demons in this department, which have more to do with not focusing my efforts where they should be. I start more ideas than I complete. I don’t suggest getting yourself into that habit.

We don’t really have a blog post a day, not individually anyway. We write seven blog posts a week between the two of us. But I do understand where Nathan is coming from. I find myself at times unable to think of something worth writing. I have recently posted three, not time sensitive, posts into the draft section, and it’s a very freeing experience creatively. Nathan you should really set yourself a goal for the daily blog to do this. Here’s the rule though, and incidentally what I’m doing. Once you have those three ready, you treat them like zero. Basically, in order to use one for an emergency posting, you have to replace it with another draft that can be posted up in an emergency. What this does is it forces you to write something before you post one of the emergency ones. Then you look at the four you have ready and decide which one you like best. It’s freeing because you know you have decent ideas ready to go if you need them, so you don’t feel as much pressure to write something worth posting up. Since three is zero, by the way, anything over three drafts can be posted up in an emergency without having to replace it.

I’m all for finding other people to work with, but not as a medicinal fix. My first wife would get into these slumps. She didn’t want to work. Sure she went through this occasional manic high where she would try to get a job and then get bummed out, because she didn’t want to have to learn to drive to get back and forth to work. She would get into slumps as far as being a homemaker too. I only ever bitched her out once, when we had maggots in the sink because she hadn’t touched the dishes. She seemed to think I should be helping sometime in between my two full time jobs. I didn’t find this reasonable. The point is that she said that all she needed was to live someplace where she could feel proud of where we lived. And we should get a more expensive apartment. I didn’t recognize the pattern yet. We had moved many times during out marriage up to this point, mostly because of financial circumstance. I was finally in a position where I had jobs and people didn’t want to lay people off left and right because of some supposed recession. So we moved, and it helped briefly, for a few months even. And then she let the house go again. I was still working two jobs because in order to afford the new rent, I had to. Her fix: “We need a nicer place.” Realizing the pattern I put a stop to it right there. You either make where we’re living, which is nice enough, a place worth living, or you just sit here all day miserable. The problem is not where we live it’s how you feel toward it. In this way, I would suggest that Nathan look inward first to what is causing him to feel unmotivated. Once you’re clear there then you’ll be getting other people for the right reasons. [Initially, I put a mesage here about not having time to do a quick read through before my appointment. Upon reading back though this, I will try to never do that again.]

Monday, June 21, 2010

That old demon (or is that deamon)

by Nathan Stout

It's that time again.
I'm getting listless.

*Are you tired, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Try vitametavegamin!*

No, I haven't been poopingout at parties. I don't go to parties. I am talking about getting burnt out. Now I don't want to get that extreme but I am not sure what to call it. My well runneth dry... how about that?

The old motivation-sucking demon is back again. I am sure you have had to listen to me drone on and on about it in the past but I wanted to let you all know how I am *trying* to deal with it.

The whole re-editing thing is dragging on and I can cite that as being one reason for the tiredness. I look at what is to be done and I just let out a long sigh. It's a beating just thinking about it. Here is how I motivate myself when it comes to the show.
I think about finishing an episode and posting it.
I think about having that 'feather' under my cap.
I think about getting it on television in Fort Worth (which we haven't done in more than five years).
I think how cool it is to have something new out there.

That's about all. It does motive a little but not much.
The next step I have taken is to move things around (literally). I have taken my desk and moved it to another room. One that is cooler than the back bedroom I have been using (and where the hated incident occurred). It's a fresh start (if you will). It helped a bit.

Ok, now that the video editing demon has been pushed back for a while there are some other demons lurking about. Let's deal with the writing one.
I have ten unfinished Word documents staring at me all day. One of the goals for this current ten week goal period is to write ten short stories. I have begun four of them and I do have the ideas for all ten but I have a lot to write. I created Word documents for each in case I get this urge to type something out. Getting those documents started (if even only to have a blank page) is my way of fighting that demon. I also try to think about the ideas I have while I am doing various tasks. I try to come up with scenes or ideas and then hurry back and write them out. Another point of motivation (which Chris isn't too big on AT ALL) is writing my short stories to align with Pill Hill Press' anthology books. Pill Hill publishes mostly writer submitted stories and so I have attempted to theme a couple of my short stories to fit what they are asking for. Chris doesn't really believe in this (his artistic mentality) but it is a VERY good motivational tool.

Another demon to beat back is the one that stops me from writing these darn blogs. Having a blog a day can be challenging. Well, having one that is interesting enough is challenging. This blog (for instance) is not so hot. Chris and I worked on a brainstorming exercise a couple of weeks ago and I have lists and list of things I could write about but I am afraid they just aren't all that fantastic and might run any potential reader off (at least off to sleep). I can't find much in the way to combat my motivation blues when it comes to the blog. I DO find that when we do some creative project it does provide me with blog fodder but we haven't done anything recently. Maybe that's the key.

My final demon (or daemon or deamon or whatever) would be shooting more show. We need to get onto Episode 2 of season 3 and it would be easy enough but I feel I need to spend my time working on getting episode 1 finished. SIGH. It' brings me back to my first demon. It's a never ending loop of demons.

What can I do to help all these? Well you might think I just need to tackle each one on it's own but I think I might have an answer. New blood (no, not some crappy tween vampire movie) but new people to join in the madness. I have gone around this subject before and Chris is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this but I think it would be good. Chris suggested going to TCC or Denton and finding the drama students/clubs. I am sure if we found them they would be more than willing to do some acting and stuff for us. I think that would be a great motivator. These dudes (and dudettes) would be giddy and such and their giddiness would be infectious. Poof! Demons banished.
I think I'll go do some looking.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Week Off from the Daily Blog – Day Eh, Whatever

by Chris McGinty

I stopped writing these. There was really no good reason I stopped since I ended up working the whole weekend. I think my biggest issue was that fifth day there was hardly anything to talk about and the sixth day was worse. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better that nothing interesting go on in your life than for interesting bad things to happen.

I thought during the week that on Saturday and Sunday I could write a follow up dealing with some of the stuff that happened this week, but Nathan posted something Tuesday, so I realized I could get away with one wrap up post.

I did start the systematic injury program at the dentist on Monday, and it was not too pleasant for the next couple of days. The procedure was pretty painless though, so I’m ok with that. The truth is though it’s good that I did almost a week worth of writing prior to this week, because I was not myself for the first couple of days after getting six teeth pulled.

I’ve worked three different posts this week somehow, and still got two days off. I think that’s all right.

I’ll take this moment to write some thoughts down about Nathan’s Kpart Six and Kpart Seven. The part about not selling bullets to a customer in the store who has a gun amuses me. I think in “The Terminator” he does that to rob the guns. You know, loading the gun and shooting the guy who is trying to sell him the weapons. But the mistake there wasn’t selling bullets to somebody who came in with a gun. It was handing both a gun and bullets to somebody who came in without one. The policy suggests that the old lady from Nathan’s reminiscence will then take the bullets, put them in her gun, and go rob the KCafe of their $5 worth of sales for the day. And when you think of it that way, certainly you shouldn’t sell her those bullets. Except that she could just as easily leave the gun in the car, buy the bullets, load up on guns, bring your friends, and then rob the KCafe. So the policy is dumb, because it only delays somebody long enough to realize that the snack bar where they sell the ICEEs will have more money.

I think the best part of the whole big heist story is… well I want you to imagine a movie (yes, this is my re-imagining of Nathan and Wade’s Excellent Heist.)

[So far in the movie we’ve seen an hour and a half of Nathan and Wade in The Vortex Room trying to get their loot. In order to accomplish this, we’ve stolen every screenshot Tim Burton ever used and mixed it with the style of Jurassic Park. It’s been really exciting.]

INT – KMART – Nathan and Wade walk with the two shopping carts overfilled with the merchandize stashed away months ago. They leave a trail of cooler sweat and probably human fluids. Co-workers make all sorts of accusations, knowing full well that the 53 inch plasma TV with HD was not on the electronics floor when the sale day started. And that it’s an anachronism. And that it shouldn’t have worked when they tested it after coming out of The Vortex Room, although the commercials it played helped pay for the movie. The camera shows quick shots of Nathan and Wade looking at each other, beat down, wondering if it was all worth it. They approach the checkout.

CHECKOUT LADY (handling wet merchandise, disgusted): I know you two have pulled something.

NATHAN: I assure you, Beatrice, that we found all this stuff officially on the sales floor.

BEATRICE: Is that so. Because I think you hid things in The Vortex Rooom.

(Music starts to build slowly Camera cuts quickly between the three of them and other workers and customers who because of the madness of “99% Off Day” look like they’re from “Mad Max”.)

WADE (shame on his face): We wouldn’t lie to you, Beatrice.

BEATRICE: Then explain this.

(Beatrice rolls over the two bowling balls, adjusted, and engraved with the names Nathan and Wade. Crazy quick cuts as the music reaches a horribly loud climax of aboriginal music.)

Nathan (whispering): No….

(Music stops suddenly as Nathan and Wade run from the store with their two baskets of merchandise, stones, spears, and flaming arrows randomly landing to each side of them.)

That part just amused me because of the audacity it took. Ok, that’s all I have, and I’m finishing this up on Monday morning to post up for Sunday, so I’ll just stop now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Week Off from the Daily Blog – Day Five

by Chris McGinty

It is June 12, 2010 as I write this, but I will discuss the day of June 11, 2010 as it was Friday, and my fifth day off from the blog.

Midnight to 6 am – After writing my blog I spent much of the rest of my shift watching “24.” It was my penultimate night at this post, and I did not want to be here. I was so tired from not getting a lot of sleep the last couple of days. A little bit before 5 am I gave Adam a call and finished out my shift

6 am to Noon – I drove home, finished my conversation with Adam, watched the last half of an episode of “24” while I ate breakfast, and then I slept for seven hours.

Noon to 6 pm – I woke up around 2 pm and watched “24” for four hours while tinkering with Farmville and other activities that I could do without missing too much of the show.

6pm to Midnight – I forgot to bring my phone with me to the kitchen, so I walked into my room at some point and saw missed calls and texts. I called my work back and found out that they would need me to work this post Saturday and Sunday after all. So much for penultimate. My dad also called wondering if I was going to get the library movies I checked out for my brother and sister, but it was too late, so I told him I’d stop by after work. As long as they’re in the drop box before the library opens it’s ok. I went back to sleep. At around 11 pm I was sure I would have no issues getting to work on time as I usually don’t start putting stuff in my car until 11:25 pm and still make it a little early. I signed in and did the Farmville crops real quick again and then left. I stopped at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in my neighbourhood to get some Dr. Pepper and something to eat at my post. They were completely out of Dr. Pepper! I think you get the death penalty for forgetting to order Dr. Pepper in the state of Texas. I disgruntledly bought two yogurts, and left. I stopped at a QT (Quik Trip) on the way and bought soda, and some how ended up a minute late in spite of everything. But I really shouldn’t be discussing that because that means it happened a minute after midnight and this section was supposed to end at midnight.

My Thoughts on Nathan’s Kmart Kpart Five – Unfortunately on the day that very little happened in my life, I also find myself with very little to say about Nathan’s post for the day. I did find it rather amusing with the loss prevention guys, and the part about crashing through the front doors for cigarettes. What I imagine from the way Nathan said these guys thought they were hot shit is this guy who used to relieve me from my weekday guard shift at a mini mall. We were allowed to sit inside the mini mall and check the parking lot about once an hour, but he chose to sit in his truck the whole night and challenge anyone who walked across the parking lot. When I did overnight on the weekend I sat inside, and checked the parking lot once an hour. I didn’t care what people did outside as long as they didn’t break into a car or into the mini mall. This guy told me that he missed his old post at an apartment complex because there was always somebody to challenge for questionable behaviour or something to investigate for questionable circumstance. Talk about a horrible guard post, but he loved it. That’s how I imagine the loss prevention guys being.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Week Off from the Daily Blog – Day Four

by Chris McGinty

It is June 11, 2010 as I write this, but I will discuss the day of June 10, 2010 as it was Thursday, and my fourth day off from the blog.

Midnight to 6 am – I spent most of my shift typing away. I also thought about some information I neglected to impart yesterday which is that I am going to a new post next week. I know you were all on the edge of your seats waiting to find out. It wasn’t until 5 am that something worth noting happened. My battery seemed to be dead on my car. The thing is it had done something like this before where there was no reason for it to be dead, and sure enough it wasn’t. So realizing that I’d have to push it to the other side of the yard I watch before the workers arrived I started pushing and was able to push start it, but not before setting off the useless alarm on it. I need to find the fuse that powers that. I let it run for a few minutes, and when I shut it off it was clear the battery drained again. When it was time for me to go, I started pushing to start it again, and one of the workers noticed. I explained what I was doing and he helped. It wouldn’t start this time. The battery was dead.

6 am to Noon – He helped me jumpstart the car, and I drove to my dad’s. I asked to use his car for the day so I’d have something to jumpstart my car to go get the battery tested. I drove him to work and then after a quick stop off at home I took my car to Auto Zone to get it checked. The battery was bad. And when I pulled it, I could see that it looked about as bad as it was working. I went home, my car now working just fine, and got something to eat and watched a couple of episodes of Boston Legal to let my breakfast settle before lying down.

Noon to 6 pm – I woke a little before 4 pm and went to get my dad from work. I had loaned him Cutting Crew’s “Broadcast” a week or so ago, and it was still in the CD player. When I got there he said he was surprised the CD wasn’t worn out yet, because he listened to it nonstop most of the time he had it. It is a great album. I went home and finished Season Three of Boston Legal and played some Scrabble.

6 pm to Midnight – After the roommates children were in bed I opened the door to my bedroom a little bit to let some cool air in, and went to the library where I picked up the beginning of Season Three of “24.” I went back home and napped for a while and then came to work.

My Thoughts on Nathan’s Kmart Kpart Four – I liked the part where Nathan pointed out that back then you could smoke in retail stores, because nowadays in Dallas TX you can’t even smoke in a bar. The task lists reminded me of the “deployment schedule” at Papa John’s that would tell us what we needed to accomplish before we left. I used to convince managers to write “Drive” under my primary assignment, as was the case for all drivers, and then write “Look Cute” under my secondary assignment. They knew I would do plenty of secondary work anyway because I was a career closer for a while. No one ever thought to make what to me is an obvious joke: “Oh, I see you can’t go home until you ‘look cute.’ It’s no wonder you’re always here so late.” Otherwise, nothing particularly springs to mind.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Week Off from the Daily Blog – Day Three

by Chris McGinty

It is June 10, 2010 as I write this, but I will discuss the day of June 9, 2010 as it was Wednesday, and my third day off from the blog.

Midnight to 6 am – Aside from writing yesterday’s post, I spent most of my work shift watching Boston Legal. Sadly, I could finish Season Three tonight with a concerted effort, except that I left the last disc at home. I may still watch the three episodes I have with me.

6 am to Noon – When I left work I went straight home and straight to sleep for about two hours, and then I got up, got showered, and made my way to my dentist appointment. I had six hours at work last night in which I could fill out the Patient Information sheet, and didn’t have a pen with me. When I got there I filled that out and this woman walked in with her little girl. She said, “Pick out a magazine young Padawan.” Or something to that effect. The little girl picked up a Newsweek, and it looked like it had some sort of Anime girl on it. I was curious. But you snooze you lose (and judging from the lack of sleep today, I’m the winner of the day.) She went back first, so I picked up the magazine. It was actually a painted picture of the Virgin Mary. The article was a point of view that the issue with the Catholic Church is that it’s an all men’s club, and needed the influence of women. I didn’t read very far, because it’s probably easier to fix the issues with health care in the US than it is to fix the Catholic Church. I instead read an article about 37 Signals, and found myself intrigued enough that I’ll have to go read their blog a bit. The dentist office was efficient. I barely had time to read the whole article between them bringing me back, doing the x-rays, doing the physical exam, and giving me a four visit plan to put me in a lot of pain, but come out on the other side with upper dentures. They were so efficient in fact that I can’t change paragraphs yet. I went to my dad’s work. First off, he will be paying for the work, so I was supposed to let him know how much. Since it was going to be less than he expected it might not be a bad thing to hear. Plus he works in a pharmacy (for a few more days at least since he’s retiring) so I thought I’d get my prescription for Amoxicillin filled. Turns out they are no longer licensed to fill scripts (that’s what they call them sometimes) from outside of the hospital, so it was off to Walgreen’s where I was told it would be two hours.

Noon to 6 pm – I went and got another small storage shed, because no matter how well you stack things, you can’t go over maybe five feet or things will fall. So I have a mess to clean up in my storage shed. It seemed reasonable to move it to where it’ll fit better. It also seems reasonable to get rid of half of everything I own, which I am doing, and discuss in one of my ready to go posts. I then ate, and went back for my medicine. Then I went home and slept.

6 pm to Midnight – I wasn’t destined to wake up at any point and feel like I had slept enough. I woke to Nathan calling to call off our Thursday meeting for this week, giving the excuse that he wants to encode footage while he’s still got the momentum going. I agreed. I’m sure I can find something to do that’s goal related. Maybe. About all my poor sleep deprived brain could handle was playing Farmville for a while, writing a little, and then going to work.

My Thoughts on Nathan’s Kmart Kpart Three – Oh, don’t we all have our devil doll stories? Actually that’s the problem. I don’t. Amusing tale though. I hate to say this, but my personality being what it is, that would have probably been my last day there because I probably wouldn’t have let the doll go on principle alone. It wasn’t store property, so the boss had no right to take it. I hope the devil doll came alive one night and strangled the boss. Maybe I’ve seen too many Twilight Zone episodes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Week Off from the Daily Blog – Day Two

by Chris McGinty

It is June 9, 2010 as I write this, but I will discuss the day of June 8, 2010 as it was Tuesday, and my second day off from the blog.

What did people do before copy/paste?

Midnight to 6 am – Once again I was at work during this time. I can’t say I did quite as much though. I wrote the “Day One” blog and spent much of the evening accessing my life. One question that has been prevalent lately is whether my dad should sell the house I live in. All indications point to yes. Not to put words in Dave Ramsey’s mouth, but from listening to his show so much I think he would suggest selling it and being rid of it since it’s probably doing more damage than good to my dad’s finances. Having recently read a book on creative thinking, I was considering the problem from a number of different points of view, and one idea sort of snuck into the forefront. It would take too long to explain it, so I won’t. The only reason I bring it up is because…

6 am to Noon – After work I went to my dad’s and discussed some things with him. I discussed my idea about the house. He still sounds like he wants to sell it, which is fine. It was just a thought. It may not have even been a good thought. I also explained what happened with my tooth. He told me to meet him after he got off work and we could go to his dentist. I went home, ate, got on Facebook for a bit, and then went to sleep. Again, I don’t really remember any dreams.

A Quick Thought – I said yesterday that I had a couple of thoughts I would save for a slow day. One such thought has to do with wealth. I once heard wealth described as: How long you could live at your current standard of living if you no longer had income? It changed the way I thought about money. It also gave me an interesting thought about this blog as wealth of material goes. As in how long could we sustain the blog as a daily blog if we no longer wrote new material for it? Right now I think it would be through the end of next week (or this week by the time this gets posted.) I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m writing a new post each day that I’m off. It increases that wealth, and hopefully will give Nathan a week off next week to build up his blog wealth too.

Noon to 6 pm – I woke up around 4 pm, showered, and went to my dad’s. We went to the dentist’s office and set up an appointment for me for Wednesday at 10 am. So early. But it was either then or Monday. I showed my dad the Tron Legacy trailer. He didn’t seem too interested. I paid my cell phone bill, and then went home. Then I went to get soda, because things were about to get ugly on the soda front.

6 pm to Midnight – I watched Boston Legal. I’m pretty far along in Season Three now. While I watched that I did some basic tinkering on Farmville. This may sound horribly lame, but the truth is that for the last week and a half I’ve done almost no TV watching or Farmville. Heck, I downloaded the updates for Magic Online, sighed, and didn’t play it. I needed some full on entertainment time. Nathan called me then and admonished me when I told him what I was doing. What was he doing? Trying to find Garbage Pail Kids. Eh, what can you do? We then verbally faced off on who has done more creative work lately. It’s what we do, I guess. When I got to work the guard I relieve told me that he asked about this post, and I’m thinking now that I may have misunderstood. She said something about our last weekend out here. It’s possible that we may not be doing weekend shifts now, but still have this client. That would drop me from 36 hours to 30, but give me a second night off, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind. I’ll probably try to call tomorrow to find out.

My Thoughts on Nathan’s Kmart Kpart Two – First let me say that my actual thoughts yesterday revolved around my first jobs. I worked a couple of really odd jobs until I finally got a dishwashing job at a local steak house in Sacramento, California (though it may have officially been in Rancho Cordova, I forget where the borders were.) I’m not sure I could do a whole week about my time there, but I bet I could do a post or two at some point. I was just frustrated because I saved Nathan’s post to read at work, which meant that I couldn’t edit it as I read. I know this will seem like a very odd thought to focus on out of everything than Nathan discussed in Part Two. The part where the employees were paid in cash, but they had to stop because people were getting mugged. I guess I’m curious if he ever spoke to someone who got mugged, or if that’s just the reason somebody gave. It would seem that the more likely reason would be to automate payroll. There are plenty of businesses where people walk out with cash every night between getting paid in tips and taking deposits to the bank. If Kmart was still taking cash deposits to the bank after stopping the practice of paying employees in cash, then I would suggest that the muggings were merely an urban legend. I’ll ask Nathan and comment later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coping with massive data loss

by Nathan Stout

As you well know by now I had a misshap with the external hard drive I kept According to Whim Season 2 and the first episode of Season 3 on. I also relayed my 2nd attempt to recover the data through a different company in Virginia. This blog post will give you the whole scoop as to what when missing and what to expect from your favorite Public Access Television show. NO, I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT BITS OF MANA! I am talking about us: According To Whim.

Here is a listing of what was on the hard drive (show-wise). I also had all my personal files on it but did have a backup of that data (that was a year old).

Season 2
  • Episode 1 - Finished and uploaded so it wasn't AS much of a loss. In order for me to get this show on public access I will have to 'decode' it from the DIVX files I have. It will look crappy but oh well.
  • Episdoe 2 - Same as episode 1 above.
  • Episode 3 - Total loss. 99% completed at the time of loss. That means I has all the footage done and was at the very end of editing (the most time consuming part).
  • Episode 4 - Total loss. 94% completed at the time of loss.
  • Episode 5 - Total loss 99% completed at time of loss.
  • Episode 6 - Total loss 89% completed.

Season 3

  • Episode 1 - 70% loss on this. I saved the project file as soon as the hard drive hit the desk and I had about ten minutes of footage still on another PC.


  • TRTC Video Contests - These 4 videos are like episodes 1 and 2 of season 2. The finals ARE online and that is all. The quality would never be good enough to bother pulling off YouTube.
  • Wise Regional Foundation donation - This video was a charity project I did for the hospital I work at. It is online only now.
  • Chris is sick - This was a 'dream' video I did using the SimMan medical simulation dummy from work. It was going to go somewhere in season 3.
  • Various footage - About forty minutes of various things I could use here or there.

Now, before I weep and moan too much all is not completely lost. Season 3 episode 1 can be recreated (and is at this moment). All the footage is still there all I have to do is re-encode it from the original tapes and re-edit.

Season 2 is a slightly different matter. I have most of the footage from episodes 1-4 but am totally missing episodes 5 and 6. That footage is somewhat still available. I have the tapes from the shoot back in 2009. There is 1 or 2 tapes that I recorded OVER sine I ran out of free tapes. This is the biggest loss. That footage is gone for ever. If you have ever read how we shot season 2 you will know we shot all scenes back to back but not in any order. That means one tape of missing footage will have scenes from all 6 episodes on it. Those holes will have to filled in. This will be done with reshoots or editing those pieces out completely.

All the special effects (and there are a lot) will have to be redone. You wouldn't think a show like this would have that many but it has a lot. Most of the effects are to correct issues with the footage and some of it is just to enhance scenes.

The editing will take the most time of all. I have spoken about how much editing a show like this takes and since I will have to re-edit 4 of the season 2 episodes this will be extra tedious. I know (from experince) that trying to recapture what you have done before is hard.

Now I am not doing the whole 'Nathan the martyr' thing (as Chris loves to point out). I am simply telling everyone what is going on. Season 2 and season 3 will be done. It will just take a lot longer... so hang on.

With all that laid out we are now looking for a solid backup solution for any future disasters. We have begun to accept donations to get the new hardware. We are asking our readers and viewers for help. Anything will help from one dollar on up!

PS. In true Nathan's luck fashion, my blogger decided to freeze up and not allow me to savet his blog. I quickly copied it and dropped it into a word document. I went back the edit list and it was there... the first paragrah. I swear WHY is everything trying to crap out on me?!

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Week Off from the Daily Blog – Day One

by Chris McGinty

It is June 8, 2010 as I write this, but I will discuss the day of June 7, 2010 as it was Monday, and my first day off from the blog.

Midnight to 6 am – I was at work during this time, because if there is one thing we can all rely on it’s the fact that I will be at my post between midnight and 6 am most nights. I spoke with my long time friend Adam for a while. I suggested that he watch “John Carpenter’s: Vampires” because it’s a good movie, and because it’s the kind of thing he’d like. He found it online, at Google so it’s perfectly valid, yo. We ended our conversation and I did some soul searching, and also some searching for something creative to write. What I finally settled on was my post for Sunday. On Sunday I finished up Saturday’s post about ET for the Atari 2600, and experienced some sort of issue with logging into the site. Yeah, Google can mange to keep their movies going, but not their blog site. I’m kidding. I know things happen. Since I was unable to post anything I hadn’t written the Sunday post. I wrote it, and then called Adam back. He had finished the movie, and agreed that it was a good movie, more action than horror, but at least no sparkly goobers who are allergic to vaginas.

6 am to Noon – The truly ironic part of my first day off from the blog is how much time I spent on the blog. It’s like a working vacation. And don’t get me wrong, I did plan to do some work for the blog during this time. I’m in a basic position of not only current but a few days ahead. I don’t want to squander that position. It’s just that I still couldn’t get signed in and the Blogger site still wasn’t showing any indication that they knew what was going on. I called Nathan to tell him, and he of course had no issues getting on. I went to turn in my time sheet and get my ultra-reliable work schedule. “Oh, Mr. McGinty, your schedule is going to change this week. The [ultra-reliable] post is over later this week. You’re definitely working Monday to Thursday. I’ll call you and let you know when else you work.” Thanks for completely invalidating the Midnight to 6 am paragraph. I went to the Public Access office and dropped off DVDs, since it was closed last Monday. Then I went to the bank and cashed my paycheck, since it was closed last Monday. Then I went to pay my storage shed, since I’m not sure if it was closed last Monday or not, but the payment wasn’t due until this Monday.

Noon to 6 pm – I checked in one last time to Blogger, and while it still wasn’t working for me, they had posted up that they were aware of isolated, regional issues with connection to the server. I went to sleep. At some point my work called and said I would be working Friday as well. Since I don’t remember what I dreamed about, I’ll deal with a dream that I’ve had frequently where my teeth start falling out. I guess having horrible teeth, it makes sense that I would have dreams occasionally where they fall out. I have and online friend from Tennessee though who has nice teeth, and she had a similar dream once a while back. It’s sort of interesting sometimes how we have similar dream experiences, and yet dreams are unique even when they are like others we’ve had.

6 pm to Midnight – So you can imagine that I was a little confused when I woke up and it felt like one of my teeth had broken off in my mouth. It felt like I must be dreaming, but no, I reached into my mouth and the crown that I’ve had in there for over a decade apparently has been rotting away on the inside and it broke loose. So don’t be surprised if a trip to the dentist comes up in this series of posts. I got up and thought about calling my dad to tell him that I might need to take him up on his offer to get my teeth worked on, but I figured it wasn’t going to do any good right that moment. I signed into Blogger, and they finally had it fixed. I uploaded the Saturday and Sunday posts, and then saved my three ready to go, but non time sensitive posts into the draft section. Then I took an hour nap. Then I did a little writing, a little Facebook time, and got ready for, and drove to, work.

My Thoughts on Nathan’s Kmart Kpart One – After reading Nathan’s Part One, don’t be surprised if an editing session comes up in this series of posts. Actually, I’ll be truthful. If that comes up, it will only partially be about Nathan’s post having so many mistakes for so few words. Mostly, I have been going through all the posts and trying to accomplish up to three things. I missed an opportunity when I wrote the reviews of our first 100 posts. I could have gone through and edited all the posts as I re-read them. In fact, I started to do that, but I did the majority of my writing on that post out here at my guard post. I eat Post rather than Kellogg, and I don’t know what I’ll do post writing this post. Maybe go to the post office and mail a letter with a post script. So I’ve been editing the first 100 posts a little bit at a time, because all of our writing needs some cleaning up, and surely my working vacation will be a good time to do that. It’s probably a good time to get started on the “Two Hundred and Counting” post, and while I re-read the posts for review I can edit those as well. Also, as I go through I can add tags to any posts that are currently missing them. You know what? I’ve written over 1,000 words here. I’m going to save some of my thoughts for tomorrow. This way if I have a particularly uneventful day over the rest of the week, I have things to talk about. If the rest of the week is very eventful, I can always come back here and finish up my thoughts after deleting this exceedingly long explanation of why I’m going to stop typing since I’ve typed so much all ready. It’s contradictory since I’m still typing, so it would be reasonable to go ahead and quit now. Sheesh. Over 1,100 words now. Since I’m only really going for 600 words a day dedicated to this blog, this is sort of ridiculous how much I’ve written. Yeah, I had the right idea when I thought that I should stop typing already. I’m going to end up making this too long if I’m not careful. Ok. Put the laptop down. You can pick it back up in a few minutes and take notes about the thoughts you’re saving for tomorrow, but you need to stop typing for today. Please. Oops. Went over 1,200 now. Sigh. Should have stopped typing…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kmart 7/7 - The big heist

by Nathan Stout

Oh yes, one last time... Quick jump through the time tunnel!

Welcome back to the year 1995. A year or so previous I quit my job at Kmart and because the Kmart on South Freeway in Fort Worth, TX was going out of business (I'm sure it was because of me leaving). I had left for greener pastures. I got a job as a security guard which paid better (only just) but I still had some ties to the good old Kmart.

My biggest tie was to Wade (which can read more about in blog 2), a guy I met shortly after starting back in 1991. A person after my own heart Wade introduced me to the faux pas of wearing short sleeve button-down shirts. He also introduced me more formally to Red Dwarf. Wade infact wasn't working at (that) Kmart anymore either. He had moved to another store a week before it closed, but (just like some movie) he had put a devious plan in motion months earlier that would come to fruition on the store's final day.

Now you are going to ask yourself what that plan was? Was the store full of booby traps that would active once the doors closed that final time, trapping the final few faithful employees inside, forcing them traverse deadly puzzles to win their freedom... no. That would have been cool though.

Here is what he did and how we finally got our due from Kmart Corp.

After heading through the time tunnel one more time we find ourselves about three months back when the store was first notified it was going out of business. The plan for headquarters was that the store was to slowly increase it's clearance discount until it was all 99% off on that final day. This meant that the first several weeks was a crappy 10% off. Then a few weeks later it went to 20% and so on and so forth. During this time it was relayed by management that no employees could set aside products to buy when the discount got bigger. All the stuff people hid away was put back on the floor... except what Wade had hid... mwahahahaaa!

During the initial clearance phase Wade began putting products back in the stock room like everyone else. The reason no one would ever find them is because of WHERE in the stockroom he put them. Wade hid the items in the Vortex Room.

As you can see on the map the Vortex Room was located behind the automotive department. It was basically the air conditioning cooling tower. Most buildings have their cooling towers outside but I guess older buildings would have them inside as well. A cooling tower is where the air conditioning coils were cooled down by running water. The cooling tower was about fifteen to twenty feet high, square in shape, the size of a bathroom and water would run down either side. The water would flow over the a/c coils and then be collected at the bottom and sent back to the top to do it again. The tower was inside the room. The Vortex Room was nicknamed so by myself and Wade because when you tried to open the door it would be very difficult because of the pressure in the room. Then when you got it open and went in you couldn't hear anything due to the blasting wind.

So Wade slowly took items into the Vortex Room to hide them for the final clearance. He would open the tower and go inside and place the products on the different 'shelves' inside the tower. They weren't really shelves but they worked just like it. This went on for weeks until Wade transferred to the other store.

Now, move ahead several weeks and the final closing day was upon us. I met Wade out front and we went in. The store was ravaged. There was practically nothing left but junk. It was 99% off day and it seems everyone turned out expecting there to be good stuff left. Wade and I made our way in and headed to the back of the store with two carts. At this point I was getting very nervous. I hadn't really known what all he hid but if it required two carts it must have been a lot. I stayed outside the stockroom doors while Wade went into the Vortex Room and retrieved out booty. The two carts were filled to overflowing. We hauled them all the way to the front of the store down the main isle. I honestly thought we might get mugged or mobbed. People stopped to watch our 'walk of shame' to the front. Some people grumbled, some spoke their outrage, others just shook their heads.

We made it to the checkouts and got started unloading the stuff onto the counter. Over near the service desk and front doors the store manager and some district person were looking disapprovingly. The store manager (not Mr. Wiehart) actually said: 'cohorters of the devil'. Really.

Now the one issue with our ill-gotten stuff was the fact that it was soaking wet. The cooling tower had the constantly running water and if you got close to the walls you would get some of the water on your. Well, all these items were sitting on those 'shelves' right next to the water so over the month they got wet and soaked through. The big black woman who was checking us out said: 'Where did you hide this, the sewer?' When the total rang up we shelled out $24 and some change. That means the original value was $2,400. I can't remember everything that was there but I do remember there was an electric shaver, a SNES bazooka light gun and games, 2 Lego Pirate ships, 2 bowling balls (that we had fitted and out names engraved before hand). There was a lot more and Wade took the lion's share but it was nice that he shared with me. I must say that the experience was worth more than the material items would have even been! We escaped as fast as we could and spent the next few hours opening our new junk.

This ended my Kmart experiences. From time to time we will visit one of the few existing Kmarts (usually the one down near Corpus Christi) and I will fondly walk the store and grab a little bit of the past through it's ambiance. Kmart was my first job and one of the ones I have the fondest memories about. At the time it was a sucky retail job but since we view the past with rose colored glasses I think that my time at Kmart was fantastic.

That was the last major story I have from my Kmart days but there were many smaller incidents of interest. Here are a few:

  • Our family moved to Joshua so I transferred to the Burleson Kmart and quit after a week. It sucked that much.
  • Once some trouble-causing customer told the store manager my coworker and friend Eric were singing dirty Christmas songs and we got into trouble. It wasn't true.
  • I used the television that showed hunting and fishing videos at the main counter to tune in the night the special Star Trek the Next Generation had the show with Spock in it.
  • Wade froze a Picard Borg ST:TNG action figure in the worm fridge's freezer and we eventually broke him apart.
  • I would photocopy funny bits from the HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy and pin them to the cork board above the time clock. The other employees just shook their head in sadness.
  • Wade and I were thrilled to learn that they were going to rerelease Star Wars with new special effects! We talked about it all night (little work got done).
  • I spied on my ex girlfriend as she walked through the store (with her new man) using those little one way mirror port holes loss prevention uses to watch shoplifters.
  • Kmart was the first place I ever saw a man seriously dress like a woman.
  • When I worked checkouts big black ladies would pay me in soggy dollar bills they just pulled from their bras... ewwwww.

See part 1 of my Kmart Memories

See part 2 of my Kmart Memories

See part 3 of my Kmart Memories

See part 4 of my Kmart Memories

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kmart 6/7 - Retail thy name is excitement!

by Nathan Stout

Just as a fun memory note, long before I worked at Kmart I remember the old Electronics are had the music (tapes and 8 tracks) behind Plexiglas and there where these holes that you could put your hand through and pickup and look at the different items. Weird huh? Remember that? If so, you too are OLD. Welcome to my world.

Now, do I even need to tell you...

Ok, so I am minding my business doing my Wiehart 'Imperialist List of Duties' at the South Freeway Kmart in Fort Worth, TX when a sweet old black lady comes up to the Sporting Goods counter.
"Hello sonny." She didn't say that, I'm just setting up the situation.
"Hello, can I help you?"
Now I am 'guessing' this is what I said way back then. It's typically what you said to customers. Since then I have worked at EB games and have learned that that question is a big no-no. You are never supposed to ask an close-ended question. EB games went out of business didn't they?
"I need some help." The old lady started rummaging through her hand bag and produced a shiny hand gun. "Can you help me find bullets for this?"
"Ekk!" I didn't say this but my eyes did pop open. I said something like "please put that up. You are not supposed to have guns in the store." There was a policy about this sort of situation and it said to escort the customer out of the store right then and there. I didn't do this. This lady was probably pushing 90 and I really didn't think she would have loaded the newly purchased bullets and held me up. I remember using my hands to motion her to put the gun away. I did help her and I did sell her bullets. I looked a the barrel and saw that it was a 38 and sent her on her way.

We sold a lot of bullets there. Especially 22 caliber and a lot of rifle ammo during hunting seasons. The 22 ammo was sold mostly to Hispanics who would come in (not speaking hardly a lick of engrish) and say: "you gotta de bullet de 22?" Wade and I would repeat that often heard phrase to each other to relieve a dull moment. I am pretty sure they were used to shoot off into the air on Saturday nights. I lived there on the South Side of Fort Worth too and could often hear them going off.

I am the kind of person who likes to learn as much as I can at my given job and when I transferred into Electronics and became 'cool' I also inherited the Hardware department I learned what I could. This included the paint section. I quickly learned from my long lost friend Jared how to mix up paint. There was a stand alone 4 foot section of shelving next the Hardware department with the paint color mixing contraption and the can mixer (that thing that shakes the paint can around). When a customer brought you the color they wanted you got the plain white paint and looked in the magic color mixing book and squirted the right base colors into the white then put the can in the mixer and turned it on to shake up (mix) the paint. Are you ready for a tale of how a can came open inside the paint shaker and went everywhere... well forget it. That didn't happen. What happened was probably worse. I cannot remember how it happened but one day while I working 'facing' the hardware area I heard a super loud crash. I ran over to the main isle and saw that the 4 foot long shelf under the paint color contraption and the shelve under it came loose and fell to the floor. Also something like 4 or 5 full gallons of paint went too. Now that I am writing this I think it might have been Jared's accident. The paint was EVERYWHERE like a unicorn vomited or something. It took quite a while to clean that mess up. Luckily June wasn't working that night and Ms. Compton just looked on amused.

Not only did I just implicate myself earlier in this post to breaking policy and letting a gun carrying customer buy bullets but I am about to bust myself for several acts of what can only be called fraud. Let's just say I took advantage of my situation working in Electronics. During my time in Electronics the Super Nintendo came out. This was a big deal and after the initial stock was quickly sold out and we replenished I opened one of the boxes and hooked it up to the main TV and played it for a while one night. I would also open a CD or two and listen to them while I cleaned up the department at closing time (I closed them back up and put them back on the shelf). I am pretty sure I'd be fired on the spot if they knew that at the time. One of the greatest board games (to me) came out at this time and I remember there being an end cap filled to the brim with HeroQuest. This dungeon crawling type game was too good to pass up and sure enough I opened one up and looked at all the cool parts. OK, so my transgressions weren't THAT bad but still I am sure Mr. Wiehart is looking disapprovingly down at me (where ever he is).

I promised to tell you about the blue light. This was back in the day before he was upgraded by marketing types into some sort of mascot. The blue light was considered a bad thing for some reason. If you will remember back if you will to your own child hood I am sure you heard some blue light jokes about Kmart, didn't you? I know I did. All the blue light was was a flashing blue light on a pole on a rolling box. When the store had a special they would get on the PA system and announce "Attention Kmart shoppers we are having a blue light special on women's bras for the next fifteen minutes." It's actually a clever way to get customer's to spend longer in the store if they are hanging around anticipating a 'flash' sale. Anyway that's about it. It was nothing special but for some reason it has this social stigma attached to it.

One final tale I would like to entertain you with (before the tale of the big heist on the final day of this Kmart Week blog series) is a tale of Sporting Goods, wooden floors, glass, and glade. One fine day I was organizing and cleaning the upstairs Sporting Goods stockroom (see, I was a neatfreek even back then). Now if you remember the comment I made a couple of blogs back about the stockrooms being basically wooden structures... done, OK. I was moving boxes around and I picked up one of the boxes of hunting back stock. There is this stuff called 'Doe Pee' that hunters use. It's some sort of attractant. Anyway... its pee... They used to (and probably still do) make it in glass bottles. The box I picked up had about 24 of these glass bottles in it. You know where I am going with this, don't you? Yep, I dropped it. It crashed to the wooden floor. Are you putting 2 and 2 together yet? The pee soaked into the wood rather quickly and STUNK TO HIGH HEAVEN. The box had not opened and I wasn't about to open it to pick out the non-broken bottles so I took the whole thing and chunked it in the dumpster chute that was down in receiving. I got nasty looks for the rest of the week (or until the smell went away back there). So I go back to the stockroom (gagging and squinting). By this time everyone knew of the Doe Pee incident and avoided our area. I went out to the sales floor and got two cans of glade and emptied them both (double fisted) straight into the wooden, pee soaked spot. Even after that it still smelled for quite some time.

That's almost everything I can think of when it comes to my exciting time at Kmart. With the exception of the big heist in the final part tomorrow. Stayed tuned!

See part 1 of my Kmart Memories

See part 2 of my Kmart Memories

See part 3 of my Kmart Memories

See part 4 of my Kmart Memories

See part 5 of my Kmart Memories