Sunday, July 31, 2011

Discussion about The Running Man and a Cooler

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Last year (I think) I started reviewing Stephen King books that I’m reading and movies that I’m watching. It’s not that I’m fully neglecting it as much as I don’t read that fast. I’ll have to go back and see what I wrote then, and see what I’ve read since then. I know I was reading “Night Shift” at that time. But today, I’d like to talk about “The Running Man” specifically.

On Thursday night I was trying to finish reading Richard Bachman’s fourth novel, “The Running Man.” I was reading it in “The Bachman Books” collection, and it was the last one to read in the collection. I was at work, and the sun was starting to go down. I got out of my truck, and sat on the tailgate. When it got too dark to see, I found a mini-flashlight I had and sat down to finish the 22 pages I had left.

I want you to keep in mind that I’d used this mini-flashlight the night before, when I went to relieve another guard and to work that post. He claims he wasn’t asleep, but I yelled at him, honked my horn, and shone the flashlight in his face. It wasn’t until I knocked on his window that he heard me. He claimed that it was because he had his radio loud, which it was very loud. But just the next night, mini-flashlight didn’t work. I examined it, and somehow that day the battery had burst in the heat.

So I decided to start up my laptop and do something else. I figured I could finish reading the book later when I was running my truck to charge my laptop. I could turn on the dome light then and read. Except that when I had put the laptop on standby before coming to work, it didn’t shut down all the way. So having been there four hours, the laptop battery was dead. It looked like I’d be charging it and finishing “The Running Man” sooner rather than later.

Then I got a call from another guard who was at a nearby post. He described a situation where there was a vehicle sitting across the street. I told him to call our dispatch number and see what they thought, because I wasn’t familiar with his post. When he called me back he said that dispatch was a little worried about it, because it was suspicious. More out of curiosity than anything, I called the dispatch number and asked if they would like me to drive over there and check it out since that guard couldn’t unlock the front gate. They said yes, so I drove off to go check it out.

As you may remember, my tailgate was down. Somewhere along the way, the cooler that I keep my soda and food in fell out. I noticed when I got to the other post. It turned out the truck across the street was supposed to be there. The thing is that all that took about ten minutes. Surely my cooler would be sitting wherever it fell out. Nope. Someone had already picked it up. I’m not sure why anyone would drive along and go, “Look someone dropped an old cooler. I think I’ll take it.” But they did.

And I didn’t finish reading “The Running Man” that night either.

I did finish it the next night though. It was good. Not the best of the early Bachman books, but it was good. I remember liking the movie as a kid, but I suspected that the two stories had some major differences to them. The major one being that I couldn’t imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the character in the book, and not just because of physical description. I spoke with my dad, and he said the movie was very different.

So I looked up the movie on You Tube, and it was there. Three minutes into the movie, and I was already realizing that they took the basic story concept and just wrote their own story. Thirty minutes into it now, and I’m really wondering if they even read the book. It almost seems like they just had a list of character names (not even occupations) and a basic plot outline. I’m sure I’ll finish watching it, but I’m not really thinking it’s all that good now. It was turned into an action hero movie, when it was an anti-hero story. I guess the screenwriters misheard. I wasn’t a fan of “Commando” either, so it’s not just because I recently read the book of “The Running Man.”

And in case you’re wondering, Nathan bought me a cooler as a souvenir when he and his wife went on vacation. It was smaller than the one I lost, but it was similar in design, so he said, “I’ll get that for Chris.” I am now using that.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Thirty - The Strange Story of the Blackjack Game

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - DAY - HANGMAN'S HOUSE OF HORRORS]

(Chris, Nathan, and Miguel stand around a tied up Ole Pillowcase Head... who is no longer Ole Pillowcase Head, but some dude none of them know.)

NATHAN: Got me.

MIGUEL: Unless you are Thorogood Marshal, who found a time machine, and is, like, thirty years younger, I've never seen you either.

NATHAN: Thurgood Marshall was a black Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. You of all people should know that. I think you mean George Thorogood.

CHRIS: Really?! All this... mess and you aren’t even someone who we know?

(Chris kicks unknown dude viciously.)

DUDE: You should know me.

NATHAN: Really?

DUDE: Yes...

MIGUEL: I don’t understand half of what’s going on, and I even read the first 26 episode synopsis. How are you related to the professor, Quincy, Paul, and all them?

DUDE: All in good time my dark friend.

(Miguel looks around for Modestor, but sees no one else.)

MIGUEL: Get to ‘splain’in.

CHRIS: Yeah.

NATHAN: Yeah. I’m tired of waiting too. This better be good. I’ve vested a lot of time, pain, and carpal tunnel to this AND you should see the state of my yard... totally neglected.

DUDE: Fine...

(The screen wobbles as the past is shown.)

[INT - DAY - LOSESTAR CASINO ]

(Chris is in the men’s room, in a stall, with wads of cash doing some calculations. Nathan is impatiently waiting outside the stall. A man walks by as Nathan is talking.)

NATHAN: Would you stop playing with it? Don’t you know the germs that live on it, how many people have handled it... and you know it probably has traces of cocaine on it... that’s what Snopes says...

(The man rushes away in Miguel-like homophobia.)

CHRIS: I am counting the batches out so I can keep them separate. There is a precise method I am working at here. Trust me.

(Chris finishes counting out the stacks of forty and twenty dollars, and such, and picks up the rest that were lying on the toilet seat.)

CHRIS: Ok, I have divided up what we won on the “Dead President and Satanic Symbols” slot machine, and the “Alcoholic Leprechaun” slot machine. I think we now have enough to do the real stuff... blackjack.

(Chris and Nathan leave the restroom, and head to the table games.)

NATHAN: Remember the rules and what we talked about.

CHRIS: You don’t have to tell me. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing on Yahoom!, and I have the game down pat.

(The two sit down at a table and give their cash to the dealer. She is an unbelievably hot chick who winks at Chris.)

CHRIS: Hi cutie.

CUTIE: Breaking one!

(Chris leans back with the loudness of the declaration that she makes. He recovers when he realizes she was calling her pit boss to announce she was making change for Chris’s toilet cash.)

CHRIS: Do you come here often?

CUTIE: Every night.

(Chris grins a cheesy grin, just as an even hotter chick comes up behind Nathan and places a hand on his shoulder.)

WAITRESS: Drinks anyone? Can I get you anything big stuff?

(She runs a long fingernail along Nathan’s chin sending chills up Nathan’s... spine.)

CHRIS: Yes, Dr. Peppers for both of us.

WAITRESS: Right away.

(Two more hot chicks arrive at the table and sit in the seats on either side of them, both ready to play with some big stacks of cash. Nathan leans to Chris.)

NATHAN: I gots a good feeling about tonight.

CHRIS: Let’s just wait and see how the cards are dealt.

(Cutie shuffles and deals out the cards. Chris and Nathan both get Aces on top, and the dealer gets a two.)

NATHAN: Yes!

CHRIS: Wait for it.

(Once the dealer is done they look at their bottom cards, they are both face cards. Both have blackjack and win right off the bat.)

CUTIE: Winners! You fellas are gonna have a good night. I’m known as the luckiest dealer in the casino. My Native American name is Big Boobies Wins a Lot.

NATHAN: That’s a bit sexist isn’t it?

CUTIE: Sexism laws don’t apply to Native Americans on their land.

CHRIS: Hot damn! This IS going to be a good night!

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – LOSESTAR INTERGALACTIC PLANETARY CASINO – DAY, NIGHT, WHO CAN TELL IN A CASINO?]

(We see Chris and Nathan are having an amazing time at the blackjack table with Big Boobies Wins a Lot, aka Cutie, who is the luck… eh, you know what’s going on, which is more than I can say for Chris and Nathan, either in Ole Pillowcase Head’s flashback or out.)

CHRIS: You know what Nathan, I’m going to split these sixes and then double down on both, even though the dealer is showing an eight, and you know why?

NATHAN: Because we’re at the table with the luck… eh, you know what’s going on.

CHRIS: Yep.

(Chris splits the sixes, and comes up with two more sixes, so he splits those sixes too. He then doubles down on all four hands using gobs and gobs of chips that he has accumulated in the hour with Cutie.)

WOMAN NEXT TO CHRIS: Can I kiss you for good luck?

CHRIS: Sure.

(Chris holds out his cheek to be kissed. The woman looks at him funny, then grabs him and tongue kisses him hotly, while running her hands all over his chest. When Chris comes back from French Kissing in the USA Land, his hair is all over the place, as though he just woke up after a 12-hour nap.)

CHRIS: Whatcha got, Cutie.

CUTIE: Just a hint of jealousy, hon. Ever had two women fight over you before?

CHRIS: Um, I’m not sure of anything that may have happened before that kiss.

(Cutie flips over another eight.)

CUTIE: Dealer has 16.

(Cutie flips over a queen.)

CUTIE: Dealer busts…

NATHAN: A nice one at that.

CUTIE: Everyone wins! I’m so happy.

(She jumps up and down a little, and Chris and Nathan’s heads bob along.)

CHRIS: We picked the right night, the right table, the right…

CUTIE: Oh my shift is over.

(Overhead, a fluorescent bulb shatters and sparks, making the table slightly darker. Cutie waves goodbye to everyone. She walks away, and a less than attractive man approaches the table. Neither Chris nor Nathan is aware that in the future they will be listening to this man tell this story.)

NATHAN: Um, should we cut our losses, you know since we are currently winning?

CHRIS: Are you bad to the bone, sir?

(The dealer scowls at them. The scowl makes them both shiver with fear and disgust. Behind them, at a Texas Hold ‘Em table, a unicorn is hit by the evil of the dealer’s scowl, and has a heart attack.)

NATHAN: Um, should we, I’m thinking yes, cut our losses, you know since we are currently winning?

(Chris lifts an ear to the overhead speaker system.)

CHRIS: You hear that?

NATHAN: Um, no.

CHRIS: “The Reflex” by Duran Duran on the overhead speaker. Let’s play.

(Chris places his bet. He turns to the woman beside him, hoping to get another good luck kiss, but finds an old woman in the throes of causing herself a terrible lung cancer with a cigarette with the filter cut off.)

CHRIS: Where did my future ex-wife go?

OLD WOMAN: She used the term “someplace far away from that crazy fucking dealer.”

(Nathan slowly turns his head to see if the woman beside him is gone. He finds an old man causing his own lung cancer with cigars, and lip cancer by chewing tobacco simultaneously.)

NATHAN: Um, should we, I’m thinking yes, fucking definitely and definitively, right now please, Chris, oh please, Chris, cut our losses, you know since we are currently winning?

CHRIS: You know that they won’t slow down the roundabout, Nathan.

NATHAN: I’m not even sure what that means.

BAD TO THE BONE DEALER (BBD): It means place your bets, or let someone who smokes sit down and play.

NATHAN: I might start.

(Nathan places a bet. And the dealer deals to the four people with two healthy lungs between them. Chris comes up with two eights with the dealer showing a six. Nathan has a five and a six. The two smokehouses also have decent cards. Nathan doubles down. Chris splits and then doubles down. The others do their thing, and the dealer pops up two face cards.)

BBD: Dealer busts. Everybody wins. Fuck you all.

NATHAN: Um, I don’t like this guy, Chris.

(Overhead the song changes to something by Gordon Lightfoot. The next hour is pure hell for everybody involved. Chris’s pile of chips dwindles and dwindles. Nathan starts talking about going to the ATM. The smokers go through a pack and a half each. At one point the dealer is showing a four and everyone bets accordingly. The dealer turns up a two, all but ensuring that he will bust, until he pulls up another four and a five.)

CHRIS: Fifteen. This has to bust him.

(The dealer turns up an ace.)

CHRIS: Sixteen anything above a five busts him. A four pushes my twenty. An ace, two, or three and I still win.

(The dealer turns up a five.)

CHRIS: And a five and we all lose. Who the hell are you?

BBD: I am the best dealer here, because I spread bad luck everywhere, and the casino wins. Not that you idiots need bad luck. This long-haired guy is the only one who is playing right anyway.

KING OF SPADES: Are you going to put up with that?

NATHAN: Um, I suppose not.

(Nathan floats above the table and grows battle armor.)

NATHAN: Chris, let’s cut our losses, especially since they’re really losses now.

(Chris forms a protective bubble shield around him. He points at his chips, and they start multiplying.)

BBD/OPC: This isn’t what happened guys.

CHRIS: Why are you bitching at us? You’re the one telling the story.

BBD/OPC: There is something wrong.

MIGUEL: There’s nothing wrong. We happy.

(Chris, Nathan, and BBD/OPC look at the table next to them, and the see Miguel getting a foot massage from Samuel L. Jackson’s character in “Pulp Fiction.”)

MIGUEL: You were right, Chris.

CHRIS: Nathan, your waitress is trying to get your attention.

(Nathan looks expecting a cute woman, but instead finds himself face to face with Quincy in a waitress uniform.)

NATHAN: What the hell is going on?

QUINCY: Motherfucker! Turn the ray up higher. We’re slipping into this weird dream state thing again.

(Chris notices that they’re not even in the casino anymore. It seems to be like any other hideout that they’ve seen since this whole set of events started. He sees one of Quincy’s henchmen adjusting something on a device that has the look of a creation of the professor. Everything shifts back to normal. Samuel L Jackson is gone, Nathan loses his body armor, but Chris is still floating in his bubble.)

CHRIS: They don’t call me Bubbles for nothing.

(Miguel bursts the bubble, and Chris falls to the floor.)

MIGUEL: They don’t call you Bubbles at all.

QUINCY: Put them in lock up.

(The henchmen grab Chris, Miguel, and OPC, and Quincy grabs Nathan.)

NATHAN: Didn’t we just get rid of you?

QUINCY: You always seem to think so.

(They are thrown into a seclusion room that is big enough for a couple of dozen people. There are benches for them to sit on, and on the benches…)

SHAG: Hey, hey, my brothers from other mothers.

DENTRE: Oh good. Maybe you guys can figure out how to get us out of here.

NATHAN: Didn’t we just get rid of you?

SHAG: That weird dream phenomenon is trippy, man.

MIGUEL: Does anyone know what’s causing it?

DENTRE: No idea. We ended up here the last time it happened a few days ago, and that normalcy ray that the professor gave them seems to keep it under control pretty well.

CHRIS: Sounds like we’re going to be here a while. Pillsburycase Head? You want to finish your story since we’re stuck here?

OPC: I guess so.

(End Episode Thirty)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Living a 'double' life

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

What?! He is going to confess??? Well no. This isn't a confession about how I have a wife and two kids in Nebraska or anything like that. Today's blog is about tyring to get as much out of my life as possible.

There have been times when I been thinking about some of my friend and coworkers and feel that I am living double to what they are living. Now I'm not talking about living large: watchin' eagles fly, riding a bull named fu-man-chu or anything profound like that, just doing a lot with my time.

One of the biggest time wasters I try to stay away from is the television. I'm not talking about watching my DVDs or a NetFlix rental I am talking about the time and brain melting broadcast TV. Entertainment tonight, Extra, Diners Drive-in's & Heartburns, Lost (premis), Oh Brother, Survivor if you can watch and not die, Okra, and stuff like that. Nothing can suck you in quicker and steal your time than television. If properly planned out you can do just fine but most people just get trapped. You look up and it's time to go to bed already.

I try to utilize my time in a way that is both enjoyable but measurable. I know that sounds very Tony Little but it's true. At the end of the day if I can lay down and think about the stuff that I needed to do (at work, at leisure, or around the house) that was not a waste of time then I am happy.

When I get off work (which I attempt to get as much of my own personal stuff accomplished as possible) I get home, eat then chat with the wife then off to chores or projects. When it cools down enough I get outside and work on outside projects or the yard. When it gets dark I usually take a break and get in the pool for thirty minutes or so (in the hot months at least). Afterwards I spend some more time with the wife, usually see her off to bed then I either spend some me time playing a game or I get on the blog and write (or read Chris' stuff). I feel that by the time I go to bed I have wasted less than 10% of my day on uselessness.

I have just grown up thinking that my time is important and time is not to be wasted. True, there are times when I don't feel good or get involved in some show or game but I try to make sure those times are few and far between. I'd be lying if I said EVERY day was like the one I described above.

I hope than when all is said and done and I am in old age all this extra work and productivity has paid off in some way or another.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt - Episode Three

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Welcome to Episode Three of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis Conway Twitty.

Last week, I discussed how my boss did me a solid, and hired Genghis part time. At first, I thought the number of hours Genghis would work might end up being one of those things that we had to argue about, because he said he wouldn’t get enough sleep, and I explained that I’m losing sleep too, and it’s not even my money problems. Once he saw being a guard as a part time job wasn’t all that bad, he picked up an extra shift on the weekend, in addition to working on both of his nights off. The three shifts didn’t come out to too many hours, maybe around 20, which means that a lot of his first check will go to his uniform, but at least there will be something there, and in two weeks it will be a little better.

The nice thing about Genghis having a part time job is that, unlike his full time job, child support won’t be pulled out of his check. This means that for every hour he works he will have a full amount, minus taxes and the initial uniform cost, to throw at his debt.

So he started on July 13, 2011. I led him to the post, and gave him directions home. I was on my way to Nathan’s to finish shooting the scripted portions of Season Two, when I got a call from Genghis that he had a flat tire. A rock punctured his tire. He wanted me to bring him Fix-a-Flat to see if that would work rather than him having to put the spare on. I told him it would help him pass that time to put the spare on. Sounds cruel; but let me explain about his tires.

In February of 2011, which is actually where most of his trouble started, the Fort Worth/Dallas area had a very bad few days with ice. My boss approved me for overtime that week so that I could pay for a hotel room two miles from my post, and I could cover the post as many hours as possible. It was an odd time. Genghis, meanwhile, was driving to or from work, and lost control of the van, and hit a curb pretty hard. He broke something on the axel. Since then the van has had alignment trouble, and wears through tires like fucking crazy. This is why a rock was able to puncture his tire. He had no tread.

This is why I had to go the next day to get him a used tire. One goal in all of this is to get the van fixed, but I’m not going to loan him money for brand new tires that will just wear out in a month. I’m not sure if rotating the tires very frequently will help or not. It’s something we might have to look into. Who cares if they’re properly balanced if the tires are just getting eaten away anyway?

After this, I just hit this point where I had to catch up on some sleep. Truthfully, this may or may not have hurt the cause. If he does qualify for another payday loan that can stop the late fees and the eviction, then I should have got up Friday morning and helped him. If the title loan can be transferred, I should have got up and helped him. But I was so damn tired.

The next time we got together to work on this problem was the following Monday, July 18, 2011. At the guard job we get our schedules on Monday, and either turn in our timesheets, or the alternate week we get our paychecks. Luckily, this was timesheet week, which means that Genghis will get a check sooner, but, unfortunately, with less on it.

After this, we went to a payday loan place across the street from my former Papa John’s Job. Genghis had mistakenly listed one of his previous payday loans in his phone as being from ACE. It turned out that this place was another branch of the place he got one of his loans. She brought up some sort of title loan that was structured more like a bank loan than a payday loan. Genghis explained that he already had a title loan.

She told him that he was using payday loans wrong, “You should only use them in emergencies. You got a loan with us for $500, and you’ve probably already paid back $500, without paying any part of the loan.” She gave us a list of places that could do signature loans, and one woman who she said was pretty good about getting the loans made. We will likely look into this soon to see if we can at least get rid of the payday loans, and their excessive fees.

We went to ACE next, since he apparently didn’t have a loan there. Here’s the thing. They offered him a loan for $400. I was reluctant to tell him to take it, because it wasn’t enough to cover the rent and the fees associated with it. The apartments told us the eviction process would be stopped if we at least paid the rent portion. He was willing to believe them, though I wasn’t quite so trusting. So I told him to go ahead and get it, figuring that if they still tried to push the eviction, I could cover the fees, very reluctantly.

So we were waiting on the $400, and he looked at me and said, “The only thing I’m asking from this is $20 to get cigarettes.”

I just said, “No.”

He said, “Why not?”

I said, “Because this doesn’t cover your whole rent, and you’re about to get evicted.”

I could not believe that after everything that this guy was still making the immediate leap from “I have money” to “I have to buy unnecessary things,” completely skipping “I’m in a terrible financial situation, and need to get some bills paid.”

I promise you, I’m not going to put up with this shit for too long, even if it means no feature. Remember I mentioned there was a last time that I helped him? The reason one of my stipulations was that he listen to me 100% is because the last time we had arguments every two weeks that he had to have cigarettes, he had to have his day of beer drinking (because he only got to unwind once every two weeks), and he had to have $20 to rent movies. This was nearly $100 out of every check that was going to his vices when he was in bad financial shape; not as bad as now, but bad enough. I basically refuse to have those arguments every time again.

Join me next time when I talk about our further attempts to fix his situation, and I explain why I went ahead and bought the fucker cigarettes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Swiss Family Robinson book (a toungue in cheek review)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Look out Al Gore! Beware PETA... here come The Swiss Family Robinson! Tree huggers and animal kisser beware this family is out... FOR BLOOD!

Ahem... sorry about that. The Swiss Family Robinson was written in 1812 by Johann David Wyss and edited by his son (junior). It was Johann's retelling of Robinson Crusoe with a more moral, family focus.

The story is about a Swiss family who is shipwrecked at some remote location where they have to fend for themselves for more than ten years. The story takes you through every step of the first several weeks and on through until the time when they are found. Oops, I hope I didn't ruin it for you.

The father and his four sons learn all sort of useful things through their adventures in this wilderness. The book painstakingly describes everything from the skinning of certain animals to the husbandry practices of birds. The father is a walking encyclopedia of information. Infact I found it a little distracting that he has so much knowledge at his fingertips. I could just be a modern day dunce but man can that dude recall facts! Back in the 1800's it could be very true that someone who is relocating to Australia as basically a pioneer could be that smart but somehow I disagree. He pulls facts out of his ass with so much regularity that it isn't believable at time. Oh well, it's just a book right?

The father and his sons go about the uninhabited location shooting every animal in sight. I swear there is more animal bloodshed in this book than anything I have ever read or seen in my life. The are killing animals left and right. The father always points out ways the dead animals can provide this or that for the family but really, it's like apocalypse now for the PETA crowd.

As I began the book (listening to the audio book) I quickly became amused with how often the family stopped and prayed. It was getting out of hand there for a while. I looked up information on this book and discovered that it was written by Mr Wyss who was a minister. So that explains it! Soon with all the animal killing I didn't notice the praying so much anymore.

The book chronicles all the animals the family comes across as well as all the plant life they encounter and are able to cultivate and grow. The family is indeed well cared for, they have everything you can think of. On some more reading I discovered how the book was bashed by people because it had animals and plants that have never been on the same continent even. It appears to be a mish mash of locations... a fantasy isle if you will.

Ten years down the road they finally come across a British ship and eveyone is so happy. They plan to leave but most have second thoughts and all but one of the kids stay on the island to live in their paradise of unnatural killing and death. I kid I kid!

I enjoyed the book but it really could have been cut down quite a lot with the lengthy descriptions of absolutely everything they did from day to day but since this book was written so long ago I just need to shut my mouth and move on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Trouble with Planeswalkers

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

This is about Magic: The Gathering, so if you have no interest in Magic, or CCGs, or whiny writers, please read some of our other blogs. I will try to make this mildly funny for those of you who are mildly interested. Why did the chicken cross the road? Well, I mean, when the Godfather is offering you protection and steady work that doesn’t involve batter and a frying pan, and all you have to do is rat out a road that never did nothing but create road kill. Nevermind, I’m not going to try to be funny.

Recently they had to make a couple of card bannings in Standard. This wouldn’t have caught my attention at all, except that one of the banned cards was a Planeswalker. To be honest, this wouldn’t have caught my attention either, if not for the first time I saw it, when I thought, “Oh, that’s a mistake.”

Before I go on, I want to explain what kind of player I am. I’m the type of player who enjoys thinking about what I can do and what I should do. I’m the type of player who likes to play against people with a similar outlook. Unfortunately, I play on Magic Online most of the time, so I rarely play games of that nature.

When I play Magic, I build a deck where I get to do as much as I can. I don’t understand players who build decks that do nothing but look for the win combo. It’s like circling a Monopoly board and doing nothing, except hope you land on both Boardwalk and Park Place; and then when someone else buys one of those two properties, you announce that you’re going to go watch TV instead.

If I could do something in absolutely every phase of the game, on my turn and on my opponents turn, I would. The only time I skip through my turn is if it’s very early game, or if it’s more of a disadvantage than an advantage to do anything, or if I have a bad hand. Even if I don’t attack, I at least think about whether I should. I would hate playing a game of Magic where I skipped through my turn for half of the game waiting to draw a specific card or cards.

I play with cards that give me card advantage, not to get through my deck to my combo faster, but so that I can do more. I play with cards that are useful, but more powerful when there is a condition met (Cruel Revival is a great example). I use cards that, once on the battlefield, give me options for unused mana, and for reactionary play. I like it when the board reaches a game state where I can do something with my deck that 98% of the time I would never pull off, but I notice it, I do it, and I put myself at an advantage.

I want to deal with why Planeswalker is the one card type I really don’t like. I want you to keep in mind that I’m the type of person who would like to, over time, use all of the cards printed in Magic in at least one deck, even if I have to do some proxy decks. I doubt this will ever happen, but if I could I would. I look at a card and I don’t think about whether the card is good or not. I think about what can be done with it, whether to good effect or not.

An example of this is that I like the Onslaught Cycling lands. Having a land card that can be easily cycled for another card in late game is great. It sucks in early game though when you have to play them to have mana. Then I got hold of a copy of Hallowed Ground. It’s an enchantment that allows you to return a non snow covered land to your hand for two white mana. The idea of tapping the Cycling land for its own mana, and paying two white mana to return it to your hand and cycle it, once you have enough land out, is great to me. It’s not very powerful at all. I just like that fact that it works.

So for me not to like a card, it takes a lot. Here are some flaws about Planeswalkers.

They’re Enchantments with Life Totals – Yes, I said it. They are not even that interesting of a card type. They are powerful, and if you like power cards, then that makes them interesting to you. In function though, they get put on the board and sit there like an artifact or an enchantment. The big difference being that Magic R&D made a strange decision a long time back. They would not print a card that read “Destroy target Planeswalker.” They would create cards that said that in a roundabout way, but not exactly. Terror, Shatter, Naturalize. These are all highly effective cards that help keep cards from being banned. Instead, what will destroy some Planeswalkers is having a Lava Axe handy on your first turn after a Planeswalker comes into play. Not a Shock. Not a Lightning Bolt. And Lava Axe isn’t effective against all Planeswalkers. Call me a spoil sport, but if I build a burn deck around killing my opponent with a Lava Axe, which I do like to do, I want to use it on my opponent. Karn Liberated effectively reads: 7 generic mana allows you to gain 6 life, unless your opponent chooses to ignore this card, then you may gain 4 more life and your opponent exiles a card from his or her hand, and if he or she happens to be running ten lands on the board and two Lava Axes, you better hope he or she has to exile one of those. Now, I realize that there are those out there who might say “Just run Vampire Hexmage.” The problem is that when every deck has to run the same answer, the game suffers. I have only ever won two games where my opponent played a Planeswalker, and one is only because I drew, and played, Confiscate.

They Circumvent Mana – It seems like every time they ban a card it’s the same culprits. It either has an alternate casting cost, or it was too efficient at splashing into parts of the colour pie that it shouldn’t (usually artifacts). While Planeswalkers require mana to be cast, they have abilities that have no cost. They’re activated abilities that might as well be triggered abilities, because who would choose not to play them, and who would choose not to use the add ability, at least until you can use the big ability? If you had to pay mana you would consider your options at least. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t think of too many cards that have ongoing advantage that don’t have a cost of some sort. Even Bushido requires blocking or being blocked. Even Hollow Dogs requires that you attack.

Rarity Is a Minor Factor Except in Draft – Another way to circumvent mana is to cost a card lower based on the fact that it will come up less in limited play. If I could foresee Jace being banned as a casual observer, then maybe Magic R&D should have seen it. To be fair, I look at most of the Planeswalkers and think they’ll be banned, so maybe it’s not that I specifically predicted Jace, but that I at least predicted a Planeswalker would be. Jace was just the one where I looked at it and thought, “It costs that much to draw a card, and this guy does a lot, lot more than draw a card.” Being a “mythic rare” does not mean, “cost this card about three or four mana lower than it should have been.”

Control Decks – Any card that can win more or less on its own as long as it’s in a heavy control deck should be very suspect. Planeswalkers are designed with that in mind. Look! Here’s a card that as long as you can counter all of your opponents spells that would get rid of it, you can win in about two to three turns after you have it out. Even if you don’t win your opponent will be so crippled that they won’t recover. And look! Here’s one that is severely undercosted in blue, where you get all those handy dandy counter spells.

Power Level – I worry sometimes that what has happened in Magic is that there were sets in the past that allowed turn one wins in a Standard environment. I think that most players don’t want that, but I wonder sometimes if R&D is afraid of not selling cards if they slow down the game even more than they have since then. And if the players on Magic Online are any indication, they should be afraid. These are people who will concede before turn one if they can’t mulligan the cards they want into their hand.

Lack of a Way to Deal with Them – I discussed this above, but I felt it could be revisited briefly. The company that brought you the “can’t be countered” hoser cards has twice in the last few years said, we’re going to create cards that can’t be hosed. There will be ways to deal with Planeswalkers, but they will be largely ineffective, and won’t be worded to be an obvious hoser. Then they said there will be no way to deal with Poison. Bret Michaels won’t go away, so neither should our precious counters. At least if poison just did two damage rather than giving you a counter, you could gain life to avoid losing. Let me also state for the record that encouraging players to play counter spell decks just because it’s almost the only way to effectively deal with two recent strategies, is pretty regressive.

With all of this said, I have been pretty happy overall with the game of Magic. Sometimes I see cards that I don’t want to have to face when I’m using my lower powered decks, but I recognize that they are interesting cards. My issue with Planeswalkers is that I see them as poorly designed overpowered cards. I find a couple of the actual abilities to be interesting, but not the card type in general. I bagged on Infect above (in a roundabout way, like Planeswalker kill cards are written), but at least when I saw the mechanic I thought it was a pretty brilliant idea. I just feel that you should be able to hose it. I guess it makes damage prevention more powerful than it was before. If nothing else.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Junkiety Junk Junk

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Yes, this is another one of those blogs where I talk about stuff in general via bullet points. Being very behind on piratically everything in my life the blog suffers as well. Let's go!
  • I saw this story about the death of 4 teens in Wise county involved in a head on collision at 3AM (no, they weren't the living dead, they died after the wreck). My first reaction is... why are 17-19 year olds out at 3AM speeding and passing other vehicles in the middle of nowhere? They should be home in bed. Where are the parents??? I'm sure that is a question the families of these kids will be asking themselves for years to come so I should just shut my mouth.
  • I am getting really behind in school. Nothing critical but my comprehension has suffered.
  • One thing I am not behind on is my preparations to have gutters put on the house. I finished all the painting I wanted to get done before they were installed... only thing is it's been nearly a month an no word from them. Perhaps I need to light a fire.
  • BTW I bought a new doodad. A 1970 VW Beetle. I SWEAR this is the last one (until I can sell one of them).
  • I got a fancy shelf built in my largest closet so I could move my board games to a more 'visible' location so it's not so much of a pain to go pick a game.
  • I still have projects to do outside including replacing the shed door, getting the fence back up on the side of the house, and getting the trellis rebuilt on the front of the house.
  • It's been FAR too hot to do anything before 8:30 in the evening. After that I have like thirty minutes to do my work.
  • I accidentally left the water on Saturday night in the pool. It was running (over) for like 10 hours! I don't want to see that bill. Better start with some overtime.
  • In the political spectrum it's nice to see fiscal conservatives standing up to the president.
  • You can't spend your way out of debt... I know this fact, I've tried.
  • I finally purchased a game from the App Store on my phone. It's Fruit Ninja.
  • Since I have spent my cash on the new doodad it's time to start Ebaying in earnest to get some cash built back up.
  • I see that Silver is back above $40 an ounce. Maybe I need to get ready to sell the other half of my collection.
  • I am toying with the idea of a b2b computer consulting business. A coworker and I have been discussing it. It could be a proper business that would support me if I did it right.
  • In case you didn't know I have a blog of my own (which is much less writing intensive that this one) over here. Click here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Lost Ten-Weeks and Finding a New Ten-Weeks

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I went to Nathan’s Wednesday, on a rare day off that only happened because I requested off for a show that didn’t happen. I probably would have called in and told them I could work at midnight, if I had slept before going to Nathan’s. I slept for about fifteen minutes in my truck once I got to Nathan’s, but that didn’t help a whole lot.

We didn’t do anything specific when I went out there. We played some Net Runner, which turned out to be a couple of odd games really. Nathan claims that it was because I was so tired that I wasn’t making good decisions. I don’t agree. I think I was so tired that I wasn’t making good decisions. Ok, maybe I do agree.

We ate and then we went outside so he could water various plants that live on his land rent free. Freeloaders. Nathan and I discussed many things as we watered the plants (literally, not the euphemistic way that would have us pissing on things). We discussed a possible movie project that I can’t really say much about at this point, because we don’t know what we’ll be shooting yet. We just know that we have access to at least one actor that we didn’t before, and maybe others. This is something we will be leaning into and see what happens. The actor in question called today, and asked to speak to me soon about her script. If I get up early enough today I will.

Nathan and I played some more Net Runner, and then we played a few games of Shut the Box. I lost five games in a row. We sat down with some old goals, and discussed the new ten-weeks that starts on July 25, 2011. We really got off task the last ten-weeks, and Nathan wanted to get back on task. He was supposed to post the goals we discussed. When I get home, I’ll see if they are up there, and if they’re worth copy/pasting, or if I should just discuss them broadly.

What I do know is that I need to specifically get on task myself. I’ve been busy the last ten-weeks, and I did do a lot of creative work, but as usual, I need to be a little more clear about what I should be completing and what I do. I may have done more creative work than I set out to do, and I would never know it, because I wasn’t planning it and examining the results. The more likely scenario is that I did less than I set out to do, because I know that when I give myself a To Do List, it often feels like I just can’t squeeze enough time out of my normal day (or night). I get distracted or sidetracked, and I find myself behind. I wanted a perfect year this year, as far as planning and doing went, and anything close to perfect would have been fine, but it’s been very imperfect so far.

I talk about checkpoints and restarting when you get sidetracked, and so that’s what I’m doing now. Nevermind the imperfection of the rest of the year. I’m going to do my best to get it right from this point on.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Twenty-Nine – Please Don’t Choke Anyone

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - DAY – CHRIS’S HOUSE]

(Chris, Nathan, and Miguel are lounging at Chris’s house waiting for the upcoming second part of Ole Pillowcase Head’s torture video.)

NATHAN: I say we just bail. This guy is nothing but trouble, and I doubt we ever even met him before. He’s probably mental.

MIGUEL: That goes without saying. You walk around with a pillowcase on your head all the time and...

CHRIS: I swore.

NATHAN: Let’s just take your collection and hide it.

MIGUEL: Do you realize he is eventually going to hurt you?

NATHAN: Yeah, remember the first time we experienced that? I think he was just warming up. I’ve been tolerant this far simply because I have been between a woman’s boobs more in the last two weeks than ever before in my life, but I am about done with this.

CHRIS: This guy... he has a beef with us, and I think it’s only fair to hear him out. Clear the air, that sort of thing.

NATHAN: I’m not getting hurt again.

CHRIS: Come onnnnn.

NATHAN: Na na na.

CHRIS: You sure are a funny kid Nathan, but I like you.

NATHAN: What happens if I don’t show up?

CHRIS: My collection...

NATHAN: Well, you better make plans ‘cause I ain’t doing it.

MIGUEL: Me either.

CHRIS: Fuck you both. This is Simon and friends we are talking about here.

NATHAN: I understand, and totally agree, that they are important, but this is our health we are talking about.

(Chris walks over to his closet, and swings open the doors; not looking inside, but imploring Nathan and Miguel to look.)

CHRIS: I never wanted to show this to you, but here it is. They are my life, my happiness. I would do nothing to endanger them.

(Inside the closet is a shrine with a full group shot of Duran Duran as its center piece. There is a glossy 8x10 of each band member (even Warren Cuccurullo) with a mostly melted candle in front of each. There are incense in front of the group shot, as well as concert stubs, and various other Duranie memorabilia. The shelves on either side of the shrine (where the music is kept) are totally empty.)

NATHAN: This is a whole new level of weirdness.

MIGUEL: Is this what he is going to take if you break your promise?

(Chris turns to look at his shame (and his precious) and shrieks like a little girl when he sees that his tapes and CDs are all gone. The 1986 Argentinean Burger King Duran Duran Pepsi Collector’s Glass shatters at the sound.)

NATHAN: Quincy would be impressed.

CHRIS: My music!

(Chris crumples to the ground.)

CHRIS: No.

(Nathan and Miguel look at each other uncomfortably.)

CHRIS: No.

MIGUEL: You know I could download their complete discography, in like two minutes flat ,off of Grime-Wire or Nappy-Skank.

NATHAN: Yeah! I could do it to off Toilet-Torrent in a heartbeat. Probably even tracks you don’t have.

CHRIS: But this...

(Chris gestures in his grief to the closet.)

CHRIS: This was MY collection. Each of the tapes and CDs I obtained had a story connected to it. Some were hard-fought, and others were gifts; each precious, each unique.

(Chris bows his head, face covered by his hair.)

MIGUEL: Uhhhhhh.

NATHAN: Ummmmmm.

MIGUEL: Fine. We’ll go.

NATHAN: Yeah.

(Chris stands up instantly, an “all is right with the world” manner.)

CHRIS: Ok.

(End Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – DAY CHRIS’S HOUSE]

(The trio is surveying the damage, and cleaning up a bit before they leave to meet up with Ole Pillowcase Head. They listen to the “Carnival” EP, because luckily, the vinyl collection was kept separately, and was unharmed. It turns out that the house wasn’t really ransacked at they originally believed, but that Chris is just messy.)

NATHAN: Um, Chris. I don’t mean to upset you any more than you already are, but he apparently broke the frame of your 8x10 glossy of Andy Taylor.

CHRIS: Actually, I did that. It was right after he decided to quit the greatest band in all of existence for the second time. Once? Blame it on youthful ignorance. Twice? What an idiot.

MIGUEL: I’m not sure why Chris, but he went through your Net Runner collection and tore up all your copies of Tycho Extension.

NATHAN: Actually, I did that.

(Chris and Miguel look at Nathan disappointedly.)

NATHAN: What? I only did it once. Blame it on youthful ignorance.

[INT – DAY – HANGMAN’S HOUSE OF HORRORS]

(Having straightened up as best they could at Chris’s house, the trio make their way to their visit with Ole Pillowcase Head. They walk in and find him waiting with his Princess camera.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Ah. Here we are. Now today, I would like no more delays. I would like to tell you, and the world, exactly… um, Chris…

(Chris has taken off suddenly, and is running at Ole Pillowcase Head. He grabs him by the pillowcase, and drags him across the room by it.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAAD: What are you…

CHRIS: Shut up! And start going by your initials again.

OPC: What are you doing. You swore on your…

CHRIS: My Duran Duran collection? You bastard!

(Chris starts to tie up the Pillow Breath Bastard.)

CHRIS: You took my cassettes and CDs. We are no longer playing by your rules.

OPC: But I didn’t…

CHRIS: Have you ever seen “24”?

OPC: A couple of times.

CHRIS: Well, consider me Jack Bauer, and consider every limb of your body to be suspected of terrorist activity.

OPC: Miguel. Nathan. Help me.

MIGUEL: Chris, stand aside. Let me deal with him. You’re too emotionally close to the situation.

NATHAN: Well look at you. Did you actually remember to bring your good cop badge?

MIGUEL: Shut it, Nathan.

(Miguel walks up to Pillow Pants, or whatever.)

MIGUEL: Now, unlike my rash friend here, my interrogation methods are more like Darth Vader. I’m patient as long as you’re doing what is expected of you, but if not…

OPC: Who is Darth Vader?

(Miguel stares. For a long time. For a long, long time. For a long, long, long time. He finally blinks.)

MIGUEL: From “Star Wars.”

OPC: I’ve never seen “Star Wars.”

MIGUEL: Go ahead and break his leg.

CHRIS: With pleasure.

(Nathan steps forward.)

NATHAN: Wait! Let me deal with this. Clearly, neither of you can think clearly.

CHRIS: Clearly.

(Nathan approaches OPC.)

OPC: Oh good. Nathan you’ve always been my favourite. From the moment I first saw you, I thought you were likeable, like Norm from “Cheers.”

NATHAN: Chris. Break both of his arms while you’re at it.

OPC: Waaaaait! Listen, just turn on the camera. You can unmask me.

CHRIS: I won’t do it.

MIGUEL: Will you do it for a Scooby Snack?

CHRIS: Where did you get that?

MIGUEL: A nice kid who’s always standing on the corner in my neighbourhood.

CHRIS: You do realize that’s meth, right?

MIGUEL: Um. My avoidance of pop culture has failed me again.

OPC: While I appreciate that you’re not currently trying to physically harm me, I was trying to make an offer. You can unmask me. I’ll explain what my issue with you is. Then you can untie me, let me go, and we’ll just pretend this never happened.

CHRIS: Fine. Let’s get this over with, but part of the deal is that we let you go when my Duran Duran collection is back in the shrine closet.

(Chris pulls the pillowcase off, and…)

CHRIS: Um, maybe I’m just not good with faces, but who are you?

(End Episode Twenty-Nine)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt - Episode Two

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Welcome to Episode Two of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis Connick Jr.

Genghis called me that night with all the before mentioned financial ailments, and he admitted that he needed help (Step One… hmmm. Maybe I should look those up.), and that what he was doing just wasn’t working. He said he’d even do that budget thing. To explain what he meant, because that makes him sound, unfairly, dumb-ish; he was referring to the way I helped him last time… yes, he got into this kind of situation before… no, he didn’t seem to learn anything. I’ll discuss this previous situation later if I need material, or if it becomes relevant.

The first thing I insisted on was that if I helped him, he would listen to everything I say, without arguing with me about things like buying cigarettes and beer. The second thing I insisted on was that he get a second job at least part time. This was one of the first mini-victories.

My boss at the guard job recently told me that if I knew anyone who was looking for a job that he would hire them by my referral, and not hold it against me if it didn’t work out. I spoke with him the next day about Genghis’s situation, and asked if he could be put to work immediately. He said he could. That was what I accomplished on Monday.

On Tuesday morning, I went and got Genghis and took him to interview for a guard position. They had to do a background check, and told him to call later to see if he would be working Wednesday. After that, we went and started looking for ways to pay his rent and his title loan. The first thing I had him do was call and ask for an extension on the title loan until July 25, 2011, which is when he will get his first guard check (I know, I gave away whether he passed the background check, yes, he did). More importantly, it was when I would get mine, in the event that I have to loan him money.

We stopped at a payday loan place. I would never, ever recommend a payday loan to anyone, but since he already had them out, was getting hit with late fees on pretty much everything, and had no money, I saw it as a way to stop the late fees, and prolong the time he had to get some more income in.

I never knew that payday loans were so bad. I knew they were bad, but I didn’t know they were so bad. The place we talked to said that if he qualified for $800, they would give him a month. At that time, he would have to pay them $1,000. If he couldn’t, he had to pay them $200 to renew the loan for a month, and then in a month he would have to pay them $1,000. That is fucking crazy! As we went to get the information he needed, I bitched him out for being dumb enough to get one, nay three, nay four (if you count the title loan), of those in the first place.

The math guy in me didn’t want to slow down the progress of getting his bills caught up by getting another payday loan, but the guy who didn’t want to blow the $1,000 cushion he had in his bank account didn’t want to risk running around broke. This meant having to get a payday loan, but only if it was enough to stop all late payments.

We went back to the payday loan place with all of the necessary documentation. I want to make a quick aside here, which is – be careful what you wish for. This payday loan place is in the same location as a Papa John’s I used to work at. I’ve passed by it a number of times, and I’ve always been tempted to go in and see how it looked now, but I never wanted to walk in and be like, “Oh, this isn’t Papa John’s anymore? Silly me.” Well, now I had my excuse. It looks basically the same with carpeting in the place of white tile, and all the counters and things torn out, replaced with desks and a new counter.

They ran his information, and he qualified for exactly nothing. Since he has over $1,000 in payday loans out already, they wouldn’t give him anything. This, unfortunately, led to a number of irritating discussions about how the only reason was because one of the companies that normally doesn’t show up when they’re checking his ability to qualify, showed up this time. We just had to go to another place, and they would give us the money. We had no real choice, but what costly optimism that payday loans will save you.

As we drove away, he saw a place and he said, “Oh wait, that’s a title loan place. I already have one, so we can’t go there.”

On a whim, I pulled in anyway, and asked the guy if they were willing to buy a loan from another company. It turns out they were. At the time of this writing, and I’m writing a few days ahead of when I’m posting, we haven’t done this yet; but it might be a small victory, because it would put off the date by which to make payment by about a month. It wouldn’t help with any other expenses, but it would delay one. We may still do it if we can.

Having exhausted most of that day, we went and bought crickets for his wife’s geckos. This is something that I would presume not do, but I’m not cruel enough to let pets starve, and finding someone to take the geckos would probably take more time than getting crickets and the time he’ll have to work to pay for them. We then put the rest of the $20 that I broke doing that into his gas tank.

A quick tally before we end this episode. He thinks he owes me $40. I think his wife paid me that back that $40, but until I either talk to her or remember for sure, I’ll presume he does. He also owes me another $8 that I’m sure of. After the crickets and gas, it was $68 he owes me. On two separate occasions he found $3.18, and $1.21 that he gave to me. I put $26.53 in his gas tank later, and I had to buy him a used tire at $25. This equals $115.14 that he owes me (unless the $40 isn’t owed), and that will come out of his paycheck immediately before we continue on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not Proud to Be A Primerican

by Miguel Cruz

Chris' posting of his run in with a Primerica rep brought back semi-fond memories of early 1998. I had just graduated college with a degree in Radio, TV, Film and was ready to embark on my career that would eventually earn me my Academy Award and 2.5 billion in worldwide box office revenue sometime in the future before I die. I was holding down my job at the Wal-Mart electronics department while sending my resume to any and everyone I could find that did something related to video. One morning I got a call from a guy who wanted to interview me for a job. Hot diggity shit! A prospect!

By this point, I was well aware that this wasn't the kind of job I was looking for, but maybe it would be better than where I was. I was immediately impressed by the fact that the interview was taking place in a place where people sat at desks, wearing ties, and answering phones. This seemed way cooler than the dopey blue vest I had been wearing for the previous year and half having to stand all day. I was told that they were Primerica and that they did financial something or other.

It was fifteen minutes into the conversation before I noticed the guy was missing one of his fingers. "How did he lose it?" I wondered. I had thought about how James Doohan, Star Trek's Scotty, had one of his fingers shot off storming the beach at Normandy. This guy was way too young for that, but as he held his hands out illustrating the enormity of the company I envisioned a German machine gunner targeting his digit, the fuck you finger as it just so happened.

But more importantly I was struck by the hard sell I was being given. This was the exact opposite of my job interview experience up to this point. I already knew that it was more customary for the interviewee to do a song and dance, pour your heart and soul into convincing the interviewer to give you a job, to have all your effort be met with a dispassionate, "We'll call you to let you know." And then never to get that call.This was more like talking to a car salesman who'll swallow every drop of your cum if you just make a purchase. That was enough to put me on guard while not completely writing off the prospect.

A week later, I was invited back to a seminar at the same office. I was ushered into a room with about 20 or 30 other people where we were given a presentation by some other fella about how great it was to work for Primerica. Then he put up the overhead (we, the culture, were still using these then) sheet explaining the money we would have to pay to come to work for them. At a minimum it would run about $200 to get some kind of license to sell whatever the hell Primerica sold. Although I had yet to hear this piece of wisdom at that point, the "you should never have to pay to work for someone" advice just had so much common sensicalness to it that it never needed explaining to me. I was done at that point and when the guy-who-can't-flip-the-bird kept calling I had to tell him I wasn't interested to get him to stop.

So when Chris mentioned it just the other day, I realized that I hadn't thought to check them out on the web. Everything points to their being a pyramid scheme, a concept I was only faintly aware of in 1998.  Over the years I've been hit up with other various such pyramid schemes. Some people at the post office where I work are knee deep in the Stream/Ignite pyramid scheme. A few years back some former co-workers of Kim's tried to sell us on Quixtar after having told us prior to the meeting that they weren't involved with Amway. Quixtar, by the way, was the new name Amway had given itself to get one over on the folks in North America who had grown weary and suspicious of Amway. Thus

My basic problem with the pyramid scheme. Aside from the problem of the numbers it requires to really make something of it, you have to go out and pimp really hard. If I was that dedicated of a salesman, if I felt no unease trying to sell someone on something they aren't interested in in the first place, I could have just started my own damn business a long time ago. Realistically, if I sunk all the money to get started on all the "opportunities" being offered by these schemes, I know that very quickly I would simply give up trying to sign up all my friends and acquaintances into joining my "business".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

As you well know by now I am a lover of audio books. I talked about it in this post. Last week I finished listening to Books On Tape's 1979 edition of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. This was one of those older 9 tape library editions that I picked up at the Decatur Library during one of their book sales sometime in the last year. It was a buck so I knew I couldn't go wrong. I love book sales and the very first place I head is to the audio books. If you have ever looked online at the cost of library edition audio books you know they are expensive. This edition was probably around a hundred dollars when it came out.

Anyway the book is considered to be one of the first in the sub genre of Time travel. It is about a man living in modern (modern back in late 1800's) Connecticut who is knocked unconscious and wakes up in the year 528, in England around the court of King Arthur. After coming to the realization that he is not in a dream he fights Merlin for supremacy as Arthur's councilor and quickly becomes known as "The Boss". The use of his modern day knowledge allows him to not only become one of the most powerful men in the country but enables him to make changes to the brutal Noble run society of the time.

The books seems to be a commentary about society (society at the time of its publication). The book is written from the perspective of Hank (the main time-traveling character) finding the cruel and nonsensical ways of the gentry and the church. Mark Twain seems to have had a bit of a beef with the Catholic Church. I guess we should have all slight beef with them since they appeared to have stifled learning and enlightenment for several hundred years. I approached the book from the perspective of a fun look into what it would be like to have all the knowledge of a modern person in a world of superstition. Hank learns that people simply believed whatever you told them since they were all so simple and guileless.

The book is filled with humor and the absurdity of very modern things (well, modern for 1899) happening in the Arthurian world. One particular scene involves Hank and Arthur, roaming the countryside dressed as peasants, getting sold into slavery (one of the more obvious commentaries about the times Twain lived in) and about to put to death when up over the hill the knights appear in record time to save the day... riding bicycles. I really wasn't expecting this and I laughed heartily. The reader just know the knights will arrive in time but it was totally unexpected to have this image pop into your head. The absurdity of it is perfect.

Hank introduces all sort of technology into Arthur's world such as telephone service, rail roads, a new monetary system, an army, etc. He sneaks all this new technology slowly into society to where he has effected many changes and works to change the way the nobility do business (in relation to their 'freemen' and slaves). These social changes are the hardest as he discovers that hundreds of years of this beating down of the common man has bred itself deep into humanity.

I really enjoyed the tale and how it progressed. The story could have literally gone on and on and I would have continued to enjoy it. I felt the book ended a little too abruptly. In the end Hank becomes unconscious and Merlin (who is an utter charlatan) tells everyone he put a spell on Hank so he will sleep for more than a thousand years. Hank's second in command tells the others to hide Hank deep in the cave they are to sleep his unwaking sleep. The narrative ends with the old Hank simply lying in his bed back in modern times (presumably having slept for eons then picking up his life as if nothing happened) and dying of old age. It is really fuzzy (aka nothing was explained) how anything resolved and how Hank re acclimated back into our time or anything like that. I am guessing we live in a too-modern age where everything has to be spelled out for us to be happy.

If you are a fan of the movie: Army of Darkness and know about the ending, it happens much the same way with the hero Ash taking a potion and sleeping for centuries in a cave where he would wake back up in his own time. In the alternate ending to the movie Ash drinks too much potion and wakes up after the apocalypse... doh!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hodge Podge of Thoughts

by Chris McGitny (According To Whim .com)

The big problem that I see with blog posts about various subjects is that they have to be written over the course of time or you quickly run out of anything interesting to say. Just go look at some of my previous “thoughts” posts. In spite of that, I’ve been meaning to do one lately. I’m sure I have no thoughts worth putting down, but I guess I have to start putting them down eventually, right?

J. Lo and M. An – At no other time in all of my life would I have cared that Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony decided to divorce. The problem is that Jennifer Lopez has ended up on my radar this year. When I tag this post, I’ll already have her name available to auto-tag, because I wrote about American Idol at the beginning of the year. I recently, finally, sat down and watched “Jersey Girl.” Then just because people told me that I might like “The Cell,” I finally sat down and watched that one as well. “Anaconda” and “Selena” anyone? I might get to those at some point this year. I just can’t seem to get “Enough.” And yet, I have no opinion about the end of her marriage to Mark Anthony. It’s just that since she’s spent so much time on screens that I’ve been watching this year, I feel like I should.

Super Hero Watch – I was told a while back that they were going to do movies surrounding the super heroes that were “Avengers.” I didn’t know, or really care, if it was true. I see that they are releasing “Captain America: The First Avenger” now. With $140 million budget, I guess it had better make some money, unlike “Green Lantern.” I wonder what will happen if it doesn’t. The Hollywood machine seems to be on the “Super Hero Movie” setting lately, and as long as those movies are bringing in the money, it will probably be set there for a while. But what if they stop making money? The problem is that once again, I don’t really care.

Sales Pitch – I was sleeping the other day. That’s what I do. My phone rang, and I answered it even though I didn’t know the number. I usually ignore numbers I don’t know unless I’m expecting a call. “Hello,” I said.

“Hi, I’m calling because you were given as a referral.” She mentioned my roommate, and I was pretty sure this was something where the application, or whatever, asked for referral, and not something where he felt I would want to be referred. She continued on about something that I wasn’t following, and then said, “I was just calling today to see if you’re keeping you career options open.”

I was barely keeping my eyes open. I said something profound like, “Um.”

She asked if everything was ok, and I explained that I was asleep up until the point that my phone rang. She may or may not have comprehended that, and repeated, “Well, I was just calling today to see if you were keeping your career options open.”

I don’t speak sales pitch fluently, and while I realize that sales pitch is more of a dialect than a language, it doesn’t mean that it’s anymore comprehensible. Whatever this person was trying to accomplish, she needed to just tell me what it was, and I could have replied with an intelligible sentence that told her whether or not I could help her accomplish it. But instead she got me asking, “Who is this?”

She explained that she was from Primerica (I think that’s what she said at least) and, yeah you guessed it, “I’m calling to see if you’re keeping your career options open.”

“Can you be reached at the number on my caller ID?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, let me call you back when I’m awake, ok?”

“Oh, don’t worry about calling back.”

So I didn’t. She needs to listen to Lord Brian Tracy about how to consider what it is that your prospective sale/client/employee needs in order to be sold on your pitch, because she failed horribly to figure that out the whole time we were on the phone. I’m pretty sure that whatever it was, it wasn’t actually a sales force as much as it was a scripted dialogue, and she couldn’t proceed until I answered Yes or No to her career options question.

Conclusion – I think that’s about it for today. For the next post of this nature, I will probably write my thoughts on various things, and compile the smaller thoughts that aren’t long enough for a whole post rather than sit down as I’ve done in the past and hope I have something to write.

The reason for this today is that I was supposed to go to Nathan’s today, and then go into work at midnight. They called me in for 5 pm. I was going to write about what we did while I was over there and post it before midnight. I’m working two different posts today though, and I need to stop for soda on the way to the other post, where normally I would just go straight to the other post. So I figure I can stop at McDonald’s too and use their free Wi-Fi to upload this. Otherwise, I would have called Nathan and asked him to post for today.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Season 2 Reshoots Last Week

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This last Wednesday (July 13th, 2011) Miguel and Chris came over after work to get some shots done for Season 2 of According To Whim. We focused on Episode 6 and several shots that were lost in the Great Hard Drive Disaster of 2010.

Chris called up on Monday with Miguel on his party line (remember when that's what it was called... well I don't). So anyway Chris calls three-way with Miguel and asks me abruptly (in his usual manner) "are you free on Wednesday"? I answer in the positive knowing full and well what Chris wanted to do (since Miguel was on the line too). Chris wanted to get together after work and do some reshoots for Season 2. Miguel is having a 'Summer of Love' so he is a lot more free than he is normally so we jump at every chance to get him to join us on stuff.

Wednesday rolled around and they showed up. Chris was running a little behind because he had to train a new security guard he got hired (which he talks about in his last Thursday Blog... what a story). When they both arrived we pulled out the script and I booted the PC to show them the bits we had and what we needed to reshoot.

Episode 6:
  • Nathan is driving up to the house.
  • Nathan gets out and goes into house.
  • Nathan is looking for Chris in house.
  • Chris and Nathan walk to truck, talking.
  • Chris opens truck door.
  • Chris and Nathan walk to door.
  • Chris has a heavenly vision (I can't give it away so I will just write that).
  • Chris and Nathan find letter on door.
  • Voice over from Miguel.
All of this was previously shot and edited before the hard drive crash so we all knew generally what we needed to do but it's been 2 years so all of our memories were a little foggy. The first thing we did was reference the footage we *still had* and make sure we are wearing the right stuff. There is a scene in the middle of all this that we needed to match so we needed to be a little careful.

We got outside and started shooting. We didn't have too much daylight left so we had to rush a bit. I am sure we won't be able to match the original shoot but we did our best. I know that the 'heavenly vision' scene was really well done and I don't think we matched it as well. Oh well.

I had to make sure Miguel understood that the outside of the house has changed drastically since the original shoot 2 years ago. I made sure he shot a little as possible of the actual front of the house so you couldn't tell that's it changed so much.

With the exception of three scenes EVERYTHING that was originally scripted has been shot (with the extra exception of the final scene which I decided to change).

Does this mean it's over... not on your Nelly. Like I have written before in previous posts what is scripted and how that gets filmed is usually very different (time wise). I have discovered that each episode is coming up about ten minutes short. This means we have to shoot a bunch of filler scenes. We have done this several times but there is more to be done. Keep an eye out for more about Season 2.

PS: Incase you didn't see it we did a photo shoot during the last Season 2 filming day. Check it out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Bolshoi – Giants EP

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

In light of an amazing discovery I made today, at least it’s amazing to me, I figured I should go ahead and write a blog post about the first EP by my second favourite band, The Bolshoi.

You Tube Play List for The Bolshoi - Giants EP

At that link you can find an 8-song play list I just put together. The first video is a video that was only uploaded to You Tube three days ago, and is what has got me so excited. I was only vaguely aware that there was a video for “Happy Boy,” but for all I could be sure, it was merely a rumour. The Bolshoi did very few videos over the course of their EP and two full length albums. (There is also a rumour of a fourth album that Beggars Banquet has not released. Possible proof of this is a number of new songs The Bolshoi started playing at live shows in 1988.)

I was able to find 5 of the 6 tracks from the EP on You Tube. “Sliding Seagulls” is the only one that I couldn’t find. The other three songs on the play list are b-sides, one of which I’d never heard until today (their cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”). The biggest problem with this play list, I’ll warn you, is that “Fly,” “Sob Story,” “Boxes,” and “Crosstown Traffic” cut off a little early, but right at the end of the songs.

I first heard The Bolshoi on late night MTV. It was the video for a song called “A Way” from their “Friends” album. I was totally mesmerized. It was like finally hearing the band that I was always hoping to hear. I stayed up for a couple of weeks after that hoping to hear it again, and I did. The only problem is that I wasn’t ready to tape it with one of those fancy VCR things we had.

Later, I met my friend Derek, who I am still friends with to this day. We met on the school bus (I was in high school at that time), and the discussion quickly turned to music. When I realized that Derek seemed to have more interesting taste than most people I knew, I asked him if he’d heard of The Bolshoi. He had, and actually owned “Giants” and “Friends.” He said he didn’t like “Lindy’s Party” as much. When I finally bought a copy of “Lindy’s Party” I had to respectfully disagree with his assessment, as I liked it as much as the other albums.

Derek wisely loaned me “Giants” first, so that I could experience them somewhat chronologically. I listed to “Giants” over and over and over.

You have to understand that when I started listening to The Bolshoi, I had not yet heard Duran Duran’s “Big Thing” album, and “Notorious” while being one of my favourite albums in my collection at that time, felt a little bit like a step down from everything Duran Duran had done before, at least at that time. a-ha had followed up their first album with two albums that were better than the first, so why was Duran Duran experiencing this slump of sorts. And then here was a band, The Bolshoi, which appealed to everything that was musical in my body, mind, and soul. The Bolshoi very nearly dethroned Duran Duran as my favourite band.

Two things happened that stopped this from happening, though it took a while for the repercussions of these events to become clear. The first is that I heard “Big Thing” and fell in love with my favourite band again. The second is that The Bolshoi disbanded, and after a few years, the lack of new material lowered their status a little. Not enough that a-ha would have dethroned The Bolshoi as my second favourite band, but enough that Duran Duran would remain on top.

The “Giants” EP is their most punk/dark/gothic work. While there are keyboards present on the EP, they were simply a three piece band at the time with a singer/guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. It also contains all the pent up creative energy that seems to be present on many first albums. In spite of all of this, it is not my favourite of their albums. I will likely always think that “Friends” was their best work. “Giants” or “Lindy’s Party” could each be my second favourite depending on if I’m in a dark mood, or a lighter, but still bemusedly cynical mood.

Highlights of the album for me (well, aside from the whole album) are “Fly” which takes the energy to eleven, and “Hail Mary” which remains to this day one of my favourite songs of all time, musically and lyrically. Though, if you would have asked me as a teenager, the title track would stand out as the song that defined the whole EP.

One last tidbit: I had a dream when I was eighteen or nineteen that I was laying in a bean bag, in the TV section of a K-Mart, watching TV. A video for “Sliding Seagulls” came on. As far as I know, there was no video for “Sliding Seagulls.” I remember realizing when I woke up that the video in my dream looked an awful lot like the video for “TV Man” from “Lindy’s Party.”

If you listen to the play list, I hope you enjoy it. I will try to edit it later if I can find additional tracks (“Sliding Seagulls” and the other b-sides) and if I can find the tracks that cut off in complete form.

This is probably the best website for The Bolshoi:

World of The Bolshoi and Trevor Tanner

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Twenty-Eight – A Few Good Keywords

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - NIGHT - HANGMAN'S HOUSE OF HORRORS]

(Miguel operates the camera while Grrrls 1, 2, and 3 seductively tie up Nathan and Chris. Chris seems amused and Nathan seems paralytic with pleasure.)

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: So you think this will work?

MIGUEL: Well, it will get people watching, I don’t know if they are going to pay much attention to your tale.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: As long as we can get people watching the video, that’s all that matters. The story and eventual torture will keep people around.

CHRIS: That tickles cutie.

(Grrrl 2 slaps Chris hard with her leather clad glove.)

GRRRL 2: Shut up slave!

MIGUEL (whispering): THAT will get ratings.

NATHAN: Goo goo goo.

(Grrrl 1 just looks at Grrrl 3 and raises her hands in perplexment.)

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Oh this is good.

MIGUEL: Cut!

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: What?!

MIGUEL: That’s all for now. They are tied up. Thanks ladies.

(The Grrrls leave abruptly. Ole Pillowcase Head splutters as they leave).

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: What in the world is going on?!

MIGUEL: Well we are done with this part.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: I haven’t even spoken one line or caused one ounce of pain to those two idiots!

MIGUEL: Well this is for YouBoob, right?

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Yes.

MIGUEL: The website ain’t live. People can’t watch while it happens.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: But...

MIGUEL: You see, I will post this first segment and add all sorts of Keyword tags like: “boobs”, “slaves”, “hot chicks”, “Brittany DillSpears”, “beheading”, “orgasm”, “lucas”, “rape”, “death”, and such.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: But hardly any of those things relate to this.

(Ole Pillowcase Head points to the two tied up captives.)

MIGUEL: Well, no but those Keywords will get people looking at the video.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Aren’t their huge tits enough?!

NATHAN: Gooooooo.

MIGUEL: Well yes, but you always hedge your bets.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Then what?

MIGUEL: We do this again tomorrow night, and THEN you get to tell your boring story. It better be good because the moment the audience don’t see huge tits they might bolt.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Tomorrow!? I have to wor... worry about other evil plans tomorrow night!

MIGUEL: We could do it earlier in the day.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Fine!

(Ole Pillowcase Head turns viciously on Chris and Nathan, pointing an angry finger.)

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Listen up you two! Be here tomorrow at five thirty!

CHRIS: What again? This constant scheduling is torture enough.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Swear on your Duran Duran collection.

CHRIS: Againnnn?

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Yes. It seems to work very well. I have no idea why you are being so responsible on this matter. Most people would just run and hide.

CHRIS: Fine! I swear.

NATHAN: Goo cause like drama and he is usually bored.

MIGUEL: Ah, Nathan has come out of his stupor.

CHRIS: That’s a lie. Well, OK it’s not. Yes, I am bored and drama involving me is interesting.

NATHAN: Remember back at Six Flags when everything stopped being about him and he got really upset?

MIGUEL: Yes, but I am paying huge sums of money to a psychiatrist to forget all that.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: What are you talking about?

NATHAN: When we were having massively crazy, and almost impossible, adventures with Paul, Shag, Dentre, The Professor, and Quincy there was a big “to-do” at Six Flags which landed Miguel in the hospital.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: I had some very specific instructions for (at least some of) those goons and they can’t even... sheesh!

(Ole Pillowcase Head waves a hand dismissively.)

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Nevermind! Be back tomorrow or it’s “Goodbye... Forever.”

CHRIS: Uh, that was Arcadia again, actually.

OLE PILLOWCASE HEAD: Get!!!!

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

NATHAN: Let’s go see Danny Daewoo play at Hungman’s House of Whores.

CHRIS: They played earlier. Miguel here didn’t do very good planning to get us time away where we could do something fun, like… wait, why do you care about metal music all of a sudden.

(Chris remembers that Grrrl 1, Grrrl 2, and Grrrl 3 all work at Hungman’s.)

CHRIS: Oh, nevermind.

NATHAN: Goo.

MIGUEL: We could always go home and go to sleep. It is 4:30 in the morning.

CHRIS: I can’t go to bed so early.

NATHAN: There’s nothing open at this time of night, except Whatacowpatty, and I’ve learned my lesson about going there with you at night.

CHRIS: The casino is open. We could go there, break into the security office, watch the cameras to look for someone counting cards, and then scare them into thinking we’re going to beat them up.

[INT – NIGHT – LOSESTAR CASINO – EMPLOYEE’S LOCKER ROOM]

NATHAN: I want to know at what point in my life I became so weak willed.

CHRIS: Just hurry and change into your floor security outfit.

MIGUEL: This is kind of cool. I look like I’m in a Tarantino movie.

[INT – NIGHT – LOSESTAR CASINO – SECURITY OFFICE]

NATHAN: That guy is definitely counting cards.

CHRIS: Yeah, but he’s still losing. What an idiot.

MIGUEL: Hey guys. You know how you have me reviewing tapes from previous nights to look for people who seem to constantly be winning big?

CHRIS: No. When did this happen?

MIGUEL: When we came in here.

CHRIS: Oh. It wasn’t written. I’m glad you gave that exposition. Did you find something?

MIGUEL: It depends on how you define something.

CHRIS: The same way as the dictionary.

MIGUEL: Oh, well then, I definitely found something. I was looking through this tape that says “Female Locker Room” that is actually the male locker room, and look at this.

CHRIS: It better not be Garrett’s schlong.

MIGUEL: No. It’s the Hangman’s outfit hanging in a locker that wasn’t properly closed.

CHRIS: That’s a towel.

MIGUEL: Are you sure?

CHRIS: No, but I don’t care. Is nobody counting cards tonight?

MIGUEL: Do you ever feel like we’re missing something that the audience figured out long ago?

CHRIS: Everyday of my life. Nathan, you found anything?

(Chris looks. Nathan is asleep.)

CHRIS: Eh, let’s just go to my house.

[INT – SUNRISE – WHATACOWPATTY]

(The three sit around bored, looking at their Cowpatty Chicken Patties Sandwiches.)

MIGUEL: Maybe we should have ordered from the breakfast menu.

[INT – EARLY MORNING – CHRIS’S HOUSE]

MIGUEL: It’s just as boring here.

CHRIS: Why do you think I’m always coming over to your places and going to see shows? We can play some old Commodore 64 games.

MIGUEL: No thanks.

NATHAN: Let’s just lounge around until it’s time to go see Ole Pillowcase Head again.

[INT – RANDOM SOUNDSTAGE]

LOO-KEE: Hi, I’m Loo-kee. You may remember me from such shows as “She-Ra: Princess of Power.” And well, that’s about it.

(Chris steps into the shot.)

CHRIS: Why is the second part of these episodes, lately, just 80s cartoons in review?

GUNG-HO: Because the writer has no original thought.

CHRIS AND LOO-KEE: Gung-Ho!

GUNG-HO: There are two basic forms of comedy writing: good writing and parody. The writer of the second part doesn’t use either of these.

CHRIS: And now I know.

GUNG-HO: And knowing is half the battle.

(A “GI Joe” logo appears, and a brief “GI Joe” jingle is sung. We see the three of them standing there.)

GUNG-HO: Umm. This is really weird.

CHRIS: Oh, we were in the middle of Loo-kee’s end segment. We weren’t done.

GUNG-HO: Oh, sorry brah. My bad.

LOO-KEE: Think nothing of it. Did you find me in today’s episode?

GUNG-HO: Yeah, you were in Whatacowpatty inside their breakfast.

(There is a flashback.)

CHRIS: Eh, let’s just go to my house.

[INT – SUNRISE – WHATACOWPATTY]

(The three sit around bored, looking at their Cowpatty Chicken Patties Sandwiches [where we see Loo-kee].)

[LOO-KEE: Here I am!]

MIGUEL: Maybe we should have ordered from the breakfast menu.

[INT – EARLY MORNING – CHRIS’S HOUSE]

MIGUEL: It’s just as boring here.

(We come back from the flashback.)

CHRIS: And as an added bonus, can you find the Duran Duran song title and the a-ha song title hidden in that scene?

GUNG-HO: No, I don’t listen to that gay British music.

CHRIS: a-ha is from Norway.

GUNG-HO: Really? Now I know.

CHRIS: And knowing is half the battle.

CHORUS: Flash! Ahhhh!

(End Episode Twenty-Eight)

Friday, July 15, 2011

On having renters 4

By Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is the next part in my renovation story. I am working on getting my mom's rent house back into shape after the previous tenant really screwed the place up!

On the weekend of July 2nd & 3rd I did a two day work weekend since my wife was working and I basically had the weekend free to myself. On this second day I set out to do more 'little stuff' to the house because as I have said it's the little things that eventually end up getting things done.

I came up with a solution for the uneven joints where the newly repaired floor and the old floor met. I used some wood filler (which will really get hard once dried) and built up the lip of the support boards so that the new plywood floor would be close to even with the old flooring. I messed with this for a while then left it to dry. This will almost make the floor joints even but it will require more wood filler to smooth it all out next time I work on it. Next visit I will screw the new floor down and use that filler to smooth and fill gaps.

I retouched up more of the holes I patched (the patching stuff will sometimes crack if there is a lot of it). I also took a good long look at the all the gaps in the living room where they guy put new drywall up but never finished it out. I decided that I needed to use caulking to fill in those gaps (where are pretty big... see photo).
That's a good quarter inch gap between the ceiling stud and the surrounding drywall (this is the after pic).

 I had used up a whole tube of caulking and I only got like 1/8th of the work done. I considered just leaving the gaps there but a small detail like that looks good when you don't notice it. Once I get it all caulked I will paint it all white. I am ditching all the different colors they painted the place and will just go with all purpose white.

After that I did a little cleaning up and some sweeping. I am trying to stay on top of everything by keeping it clean as I go. I tried to get some more of that do it yourself wall paper off the walls but gave up quickly. I also disassembled the living room lights, added the proper bulbs (60 watt max in a mobile home), cleaned and put them back.

My next set of goals for the upcoming visits are to get measurement for the living room floor. The guy started putting down wood tiles but stopped so like 80% of the floor has 1/2" thick wood tile and I can't pull it up without a hell of a lot of work. I am going to basically put 1/2" plywood in the places he didn't finish to bring the floor up flush then it's getting carpeted. I will also start painting and trying to figure out what the hell to do with the kitchen walls. They need to either be sanded down and re-textured or just built up for a thick wall texture, either way it will be hideous.

One final note on the weekend. It seems like everything there is broken. The bath faucet has a crack in it and when you turn on the shower it sprays out the crack making a big mess. The kitchen faucet hand hose thing has a crack in it and when you just turn the kitchen water on it sprays out of the handle too. Jeeze.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt - Episode One

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Hello, and welcome to the newest feature on the According to Whim blog:

Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

Episode One will be a means by which to explain the scenario and give the disclaimers. You know what? Let’s start there.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

Oops. Wrong alert.

DISCLAIMERS!!!!

The events of this feature are true. I will of course change the name of the person I’m helping. I am not formally trained in personal finance, nor am I a financial advisor. The advice that I’m giving is the advice of a friend to a friend. I am helping him free of charge, and only because he asked me. While I am going to make light of this for entertainment sake, this is pretty serious situation as you will soon see. If you are facing anything like this, you should seek professional assistance from a certified financial counselor.

So what is it exactly that is going on, and why do I think it will make a good feature? What is going on is that a friend of mine contacted me Sunday night. We’ll call him Genghis Conner. Genghis explained to me that he is facing eviction and repossession of his van. He perhaps did his best, but his best was unfortunately based on emotional decisions that put him in a worse position. He has a wife and children, and for that reason he can’t just scrap it all and start over.

Genghis explained to me that the reason he’s facing eviction is that he only had $265 of the $610 rent. He felt that should be enough until he got his next paycheck on July 20, 2011, until the served him papers for an eviction hearing on July 22, 2011. The eviction papers read that he owed $710, plus $10 a day in late fees. Every two weeks he makes $960 before taxes. Around $160 is pulled out every two weeks for child support for a child from a previous marriage, as is an additional amount for health insurance required by the child support order. This usually leaves him with around $600 net pay.

Here’s where the trouble comes in. He has a title loan on his vehicle for about $1,500, which was taken out in February “because we were about to get our tax return anyway.” The problem is that the child support is in arrears, and so the tax return was garnished in its entirety. His wife filed an “Injured Spouse” form to get her half of the return. When she received her half, they paid down the loan a bit, but he ended up borrowing it back

Furthermore, he has three payday loans out: $250, $265, and $600. These were taken out over the last few months trying to keep up with their slipping bills.

His wife gets child support from a former marriage that is somewhat sporadic depending on how much is being garnished from her ex’s paycheck. She pays the car insurance and the cell phone, but has no other income and does not help on the bills otherwise. To be honest, many of their problems stem from an odd idea that even though they are married and live in the same apartment that he’s going to do what he wants with his money and so she’s going to do what she wants with her money.

It’s weird because when my younger kids were ages that ranged from 2 to 7, they would sometimes get in fights over toys. Their arguments sounded oddly like many married couples I’ve heard fighting about money. When my kids fought over a toy, I took the toy away from all of them, regardless of who started the fight. They learned really quickly to settle their toy conflicts calmly and quietly. In the case of Genghis and his wife, they’re fighting over their toys (their transportation and home) and they’re about to have them taken away.

So why am I writing a blog feature about it? Here’s a quick list of reasons:

American Idol Isn’t On – I used to have a regular topic of discussion each Thursday, which was American Idol. As I wrote recently, I’m a little jealous of Nathan who has a rent home to renovate after a tenant gutted it, and so Nathan has a somewhat frequent topic to write about. Since Genghis has gutted his financial stability, I now have a little hobby.

I Don’t Know What Will Happen – This is as close to a reality show as I’ve ever been involved in. Even after spending a couple of days considering his problems and trying out a few leads to fix it, I can’t definitively say that his vehicle won’t get repossessed. I also can’t definitively say that he won’t be evicted. And even if he manages to not be evicted this month, I can’t definitively say he won’t be evicted next month, or that he’ll have electricity in his apartment. I can’t even definitively say that his wife, who is visiting her mom with the kids for the summer, will come home to this mess.

It’s Like a Game – Like I said above in the disclaimers, this is a pretty serious matter, but it is something that I can win or lose. And different levels of it exist. Maybe we can manage to sweet talk enough, and get close to enough money together while we’re at it, that they won’t evict him, they won’t take his vehicle, and they won’t cut off his electricity. But can I help him in such a way that I don’t ever have to loan him my own money? Can I help him through a full recovery? Can we do it before Christmas so his younger children still have a Santa Claus (not that I’m a fan of the whole Santa Claus thing). Can I help facilitate all of this where he loses as little money as possible to false interest?

If I’m Losing Sleep, I Better at Least Get a Blog Out of It – I don’t get much sleep lately anyway, and now I’m wasting time on someone else’s problem. I’ll lose sleep to do interesting things, but I do interesting things so that I have something to write about and here it is.

Illustration – I can rattle on all I want about my beliefs about what is bad money management and what is good, but using real life examples, and risking being proved wrong, definitely illustrates it in a way that theory can’t.

So each week, I will post between 800 and 1,200 words about our attempt to fix this whole mess. In my estimate, he will have to listen to me at least until the end of the year, so if he does, this will be a little over 20 episodes, and I should have a chance to cover a lot of theory and actual events. If he doesn’t listen to me, or tells me he can handle it himself, or ends up evicted, I guess it won’t be that many. So join me in the weeks to come as I discuss the last time he needed my help, my first mini-victory, and a number of mini-defeats.