Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beautiful Blogger Award

So it's been a few months since I wrote my last blog post, and there are a few updates.  The most significant of course, was tying the knot with my beautiful wife Sonnia.  She already wrote a blog post and put a few pictures up, which you can check out at her blog if you so desire.

The purpose of this particular blog post is to accept the Beautiful Blogger Award, bestowed upon me (coincidentally) by Sonnia.  I'm supposed to give the award to seven other blogs (yeah, it's another pyramid scheme blog award; but I felt like participating since I haven't written anything in a while, so there).

Right, so without any further ado, and in no particular order, here are the blogs I've selected to bestow this prestigious Beautiful Blogger Award.  The check is in the mail lol.  These are some blogs which I have enjoyed reading over the last couple of years.  The bottom one hasn't had a post in quite a while but the posts are hilarious, so...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Booker Award

I found out recently I was a recipient of The {Booker} Award.  Granted, it came from my fiancee, but it also served as a reminder that I haven't devoted any time to my blog of late.  As such, I both thank Sonnia for the award, and I take this opportunity to write something of note.

Upon receipt of this award, one is supposed to blog about five of their favorite books or authors and give the award to five bloggers that I follow or read.  These rules seem a bit too chain-letter-like for me, so I'm going to do a variant on the above.  For bloggers that I follow, I would suggest readers of my blog check out who I've been following - there's some good stuff there :-)  And as for authors, I'm going to list out the ones that I've been reading most of late.

I've been largely concentrating on supernatural fiction books over the past few years.  I've been borrowing books from the local library, since their online request system makes it easy to get the books I want delivered to my local library for pickup, and based on volume I'd otherwise be spending a LOT of money on reading about vampires, werecreatures, witches, wizards, etc.  In some ways it's kind of a throwback to how I used to haunt the SciFi/Fantasy section at my local library as a kid growing up.  No, I didn't just go there in summer for the free A/C.

Anyways, here's the list of supernatural fiction book authors and series' that I've been reading and enjoying:

Charlaine Harris - The Sookie Stackhouse books - here's where I started, largely because I wanted to read the books that formed the basis for the True Blood series on HBO.

Laurell K. Hamilton - The Anita Blake series and the Merry Gentry series - Got here after the Sookie Stackhouse books.  Lots of sex mixed in with the stories and supernatural critters, but then, that's part of the intrigue isn't it?

Patricia Briggs - Mercy Thompson series and Alpha & Omega series - Mostly shapeshifter oriented, interesting dynamic between the main character being a walker rather than the more commonly written werewolf.

Kelley Armstrong - Women of Otherworld series - Nice mixture of stories set in the same world but with different books written from the perspective of different characters in it (werewolf, witch, etc.)

Carrie Vaughn - Kitty Norville series - Here the main character is a werewolf out in the open who conducts a regular radio talk show.  Brilliant premise.

Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels series - These books have a multifaceted cast of characters but tend to be a bit darker than other authors in this list.

MaryJanice Davidson - Undead series - So as a stereotypical guy I have zero knowledge of shoes or fashion which are obsessions of the main character.  However, the writing is so entertaining and downright comedic at times (in a good way) that I became a quick fan.

Rachel Caine - Morganville Vampire series and Weather Warden series - Plot twists abound in both series, with the former having various Orwellian undertones regarding human/vampire interactions and the latter being just out there in an interesting way.

Jim Butcher - Dresden Files series - Gotta love the hardboiled detective style of series mixed in with supernaturals and magic.

If you have any suggestions for other authors similar to the ones I've listed, please let me know in a comment.  In the meanwhile, happy reading!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Credit Card Business Practices

Over the years I've made a lot of purchases at businesses and restaurants using both credit and debit cards, and have become familiar with the various practices regarding same.  Some stores and restaurants have a business model whereby they eat the cost of allowing customers to use credit and debit cards to make purchases, accepting that doing so reduces their profit.  Some places will choose to charge a fee for all purchases or purchases under a certain dollar amount in an attempt to lessen this hit to the profits.  Some places choose to not allow certain types of credit cards (like American Express, which is notorious for the percentage it charges merchants for using its system), or to not allow credit cards at all, limiting purchases to point of sale via debit cards.

This evening, though, I saw an example of what I would consider to be an extremely unethical practice regarding credit and debit card purchases.  We visited the Tapioca Express in Union City to beat the heat with some pearl drinks.  I couldn't help noticing the sign by the cash register explaining their policy regarding credit and debit cards.  Their policy said that only debit cards were accepted and that using same would result in a 49 cent surcharge regardless of amount.  The kicker, though was that the sign said that the reason for the surcharge was that "the credit card company was charging the 49 cents."

Talk about your out and out lie.  The credit card company wasn't the reason for Tapioca Express charging 49 cents for debit card transactions.  The credit card company charges Tapioca Express X amount of money per debit card transaction.  Tapioca Express has CHOSEN to charge customers 49 cents per debit card transaction to try to alleviate the fees charged to it by various banks.  Trying to pass the "blame" for the debit card surcharge to the "credit card companies" is a gross misrepresentation and distortion of the facts.

Mind you, I don't have any particular qualms about how a business sets its credit and debit card practices.  The economy is tough, and not every business in the world is in a position to be able to absorb fees charged to it by various financial institutions for credit or debit card use.  What I do have an issue with is when a business lies about what it is doing.  Just tell the truth about the nature of the charges, or better yet, just say what the charges are, period without an explanation.  Don't lie and try to blame the surcharges on the credit card companies, your mom, global warming or rent being too damn high.

Let's face it - if you're willing to lie about why you're trying to charge 49 cents for paying with a debit card, what else are you lying about?  What other unethical practices are you performing?  And in the end, why should I bring you repeat business?  Food for thought, or in this case, pearl drinks for thought?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Doing Right While Others Do So Wrong

In my wanderings through the world, I'm generally inclined to live and let live.  I strive to treat others the way I'd like to be treated.  More often than not, I give people the benefit of the doubt, even in circumstances where I might be inclined or possibly justified to be suspicious or doubtful.  Unfortunately, more often than not, I experience scenarios or situations, sometimes repeatedly, wherein I learn that such and such a person is untrustworthy and unethical.

When such situations arise, I often strangely find myself surprised, wondering why on earth someone would do whatever it was they did...or did not do?  Surely they understand that their actions are malicious or unethical?  Surely they realize the consequences of what they do or do not do?  After all, I would never do what they did because I see how wrong it is!  How is it they don't see things the same way?

I suppose that some people are just not cut from the same cloth, as it were.  Not everyone tries to do right all of the time.  Not everyone is capable of knowing whether what they are doing is right or wrong.  Not everyone has an active conscience and certainly not everyone is ethical.

Mind you, I'm no saint, and I'm certainly not perfect, nor would I ever claim to be.  I am, however, capable of looking at my actions from an impartial third party point of view, or from someone else's point of view, and when I have wronged someone or have done something wrong I am able to admit it, ask forgiveness if needed, and make the changes I need to in my life to learn from my mistakes and become a better person.  It is a frustrating reality for me that there are some folks I know that are just not open-minded in this manner.

At the end of the day, I realize that life is a long journey.  Every time I get surprised by someone's lack of empathy or unethical behavior I get a little bit stronger and am able to deal with what ends up happening.  Sometimes I even manage to plan for what in my heart of hearts I stubbornly believe that I ought to not have to, because the person I'm dealing with will eventually learn and not do what they ought not to do.  I pray that one day having to so plan will cease being a source of frustration due to its frequency of occurrence.  I also pray that one day such planning will cease becoming necessary, but being realistic, I fear that such a day will not occur in my lifetime, let alone 100 lifetimes from now.

Dealing with other people's lack of ethics and untrustworthy behavior is my least favorite chess game to play.  I'd much prefer the ones with the board and the pieces.  P-K4?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Minefield of Online Product Reviews

After having spent an hour or so looking at reasonably priced futons and reading the customer reviews on same, I've decided that the world of online product reviews is a veritable minefield.  In going from site to site, I'm finding it absolutely impossible to be able to figure out who's reviews I can actually trust and rely upon as actual customer experience and factors upon which to base my decision, and which people are just shilling for the competition and writing bad or mediocre reviews for the items I'm examining.

My fiancee is a Yelper, and I usually rely on her for things like determining what restaurants we should try next because she's much better than I at sifting through the crud and BS reviews and figuring out what the real scoop on a place is before we go.  She does this by looking at the status of the reviewer (elite versus not), quantity of other reviews by the same person, content of other reviews by the same person, etc.

Here's the thing, though.  When I'm shopping online for something (like a futon), I don't want to spend a bunch of time having to sift through people's reviews to try to figure out which ones are real versus fake so I can make a decision.  It already takes long enough to look around, and given that I generally hate shopping anyways, the prospect of figuring out what to get is enough for me to start tearing out my hair.  I almost want to go to actual brick and mortar stores to take a look at some futons, try them out, and then come back to the computer to figure out where I can buy it for cheapest.  However, that doesn't work so well unless you're going for the more boutique-y kind of futons that are much more than I can or would want to afford.

What would you do, dear readers, in this situation?  How would you navigate the minefield of online product reviews?  [Or would you even bother?]  I'm open to suggestions here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zig Zag

When most people think of Zig Zag, they think of the famous brand of rolling papers.  Rolling papers are used primarily for hand rolling cigarettes, or, for some, other substances.  Interestingly, though, for me, Zig Zags have always served a different purpose.

Strange as it might seem, I've never rolled a cigarette or anything else with Zig Zags.  So why do I know about them?  Well, I first encountered Zig Zags when I was around 10 or 11 years old as an aspiring clarinet and saxophone player.  It is sometimes the case that when playing clarinet or saxophone that a pad will get saturated or will sometimes get a spit bubble underneath it, resulting in a warble sound when playing notes with that pad open.  This type of problem can easily be cured with the use of a Zig Zag rolling paper!  All you have to do is place the rolling paper between the hole and the pad, close the pad gently, and pull the paper out from between the hole and pad, thereby eliminating any spit bubble or excess moisture.

Of course, not everyone know of this usage of Zig Zag rolling papers.  As a result, I got a lot of good-natured ribbing as a teenager from folks who saw the pack of rolling papers in my clarinet and saxophone cases, especially from adults in our local community band.  If I was being sarcastic, I'd say most of the uninformed were brass players lol j/k.

I did encounter Zig Zags one time outside of playing clarinet and saxophone.  After attending a Black Crowes concert at UC Davis as an undergrad, I was chagrined to discover I had forgotten to hit the ATM for some cash for a souvenir shirt.  Fortunately I had $3 in my pocket and that was enough to buy a pack of Black Crowes branded Zig Zags (fitting, right?)  Let the good times roll...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for Yuengling

A couple of years ago I found myself in Philadelphia, PA, while touring the east coast with California Repercussions, one of the bands I play with regularly.  We had a couple of hours to kill sight seeing after our gig at Independence Hall.  On the advice of some locals we consulted, we wandered our way down to Jim's for authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.

Summer had just started, and as you can probably imagine, it was quite warm.  By the time we finished walking to Jim's, I was very much dying of thirst.  My fellow Reapers advised me that some Yuengling would be great to quench my thirst and wash down my sandwich.  The line was pretty long, so based on that recommendation I got two Yuenglings.  Best decision ever :-D

I later found out Yuengling is the oldest brewery in America, with its headquarters in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, about 97 miles from where we were in Philadelphia.  So, it was only fitting to seek out some Yuengling for liquid refreshment while in Philly.  It certainly did the trick that hot summer day.  I think we ended up having some Yuengling later on in the week as the tour made its way to Washington D.C.  Certainly Yuengling is a great east coast choice with historical significance to boot.  Cheers!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X Marks the Spot

I decided for this blog that instead of talking about the usual X words (X-ray, xylophone, etc.), that I'd instead go with a phrase instead of a word and approach the topic from an off-kilter retro angle.  I know that X marks the spot is usually a phrase about treasure and pirates and such.  In this case, though, I'm going to write about something from old school Sesame Street.

In the days of Sesame Street prior to Elmo, back when Mr. Hooper was still alive and Mr. Snuffleupagus was still invisible, almost all of the skits or animations in a given episode were tied to a specific letter or number.  In the case of X, there was this mysterious, kind of creepy sounding (to a little kid) song called X Marks The Spot.  This song went over all of the common uses of the letter X (marking the spot, standing for danger, railroad crossing signs, poison warnings), described the letter (2 straight lines crossing over in the middle), all via a song by a muppet on a set showing all of these things.  

Reflecting back, it was actually a decent educational song about the letter X.  It did mention the word xylophone as an afterthought at the end of the song, but it was less kitchy than, say, a song entirely about xylophones or x-rays or what have you.  Frankly, this song kind of cemented my opinion as a kid that the letter X was really cool, and to this day I still like the letter X.

And now that I've written this blog entry, hopefully the earworm of the aforementioned song will eXit (pun intended) my head and leave my thoughts clear for the next couple of days/letters.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Wrestling

This blog post is not about Olympic or Greco-Roman Wrestling.  Rather, it's about that physical soap opera, the stories of larger than life heroes and villains brought to life, ultimately to settle their differences once and for all in the squared circle.  Yes, this blog post is about professional wrestling.

My initial exposure to professional wrestling as a kid was actually via Saturday morning cartoons.  Hulk Hogan's Rock and Wrestling debuted in the Saturday morning lineup, and (to a kid) was pretty good.  I wanted to know what this was all about and where these characters came from.

The Rock and Wrestling cartoon led me to what was then WWF's one hour program late Saturday morning.  Here I saw all the professional wrestlers upon whom the cartoon was based, such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper, among others.  From there, I discovered other professional wrestling leagues with TV shows, namely AWA and the lesser known UWF.  I eventually discovered NWA, where I witnessed Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen for the first time.

My mom used to watch the shows with me.  I later found out that her grandma used to watch professional wrestling too, so apparently it's in the blood.  For the record, my mom's grandma's favorite wrestler was a guy by the name of Wild Red Raspberry.  Go figure.  Anyways, we had a good time watching the shows, especially WWF Primetime (which eventually became Monday Night Raw), and it was always interesting to see where story lines were going to go or what would happen next.  It was also a rare time for me to occasionally stay up late to watch WWF's Saturday Night Main Event, which routinely showed bigger matches than what was on during the day, especially title bouts, steel cage matches, etc.

I stopped watching wrestling for a long time after I graduated high school.  So, I missed the whole "Attitude Era", the Monday Night wars between WWF and WCW, and all that.  But, I did catch the tail end of ECW, and have been watching WWE and Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA).  

One of my favorite things about the advent of social media has been the connection into professional wrestling.  Via twitter, you can see more of the person behind the character, and sometimes can interact with them.  To me it makes me respect more what these wrestlers do as a profession, and just how hard they work in striving for the goal to put on shows and entertain fans.

My fiancee and I went to our first house show last year (Impact Wrestling in San Francisco), which was fabulous, with tons of interaction with the wrestlers, and we would totally go again if they come back to the bay area.  A WWE house show or PPV would be a nice bucket list item, but we already know that the seats would probably suck and the chances of interaction are a lot less (or at least a lot more pricey).

Yes, I know the action is scripted, but that's not the point.  As was painfully obvious watching the Tough Enough reality show, professional wrestling takes a LOT of physical and mental skill and agility to be able to do  the needful.  It's something I'm not able to do, and as such, I respect all practitioners of the craft.

Oh yeah, my favorite wrestlers as of today?  For WWE I like CM Punk, Sheamus and Beth Phoenix.  For Impact Wrestling I like Jeff Hardy, Velvet Sky, Angelina Love and Winter.  I also wish I had found Impact Wrestling earlier, because I didn't see much of Daffney before her time was cut short with injuries.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Volcanoes

I've been fascinated by volcanoes pretty much my entire life.  At their core, volcanoes are a reminder of just how active and violent our planet can be.  Their eruptions are both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.  They can form new islands in the ocean and can also destroy everything in their nearby radius.

My interest in volcanoes started when I discovered the portion of the non-fiction section of the school library with books on various kinds of natural disasters and events.  I read everything the library had on tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and storms.  My favorites, and the ones that I ended up checking out again and again were the ones on volcanoes.  I also watched PBS specials on volcanoes on TV when I could, and was fascinated by footage of volcano eruptions.

As a young man, one of my favorite camping destinations with my family was Lassen Volcanic National Park.  I very much enjoyed hiking to the top of the Cinder Cone and Mt. Lassen, both dormant volcanoes.  Other hikes, such as the Bumpass Hell trail, offered views of bubbling mud pits, steam vents, and similar, allowing one to see (on smaller scale) related geological action.

I have been to Hawaii a couple of times as an adult, but have not yet managed to go tour the active lava flows; I would like to go back to do that someday.  I have enjoyed visits to other areas of volcanic in the northernmost part of California and Oregon.  Crater Lake in Oregon, for example, is actually contained within what was once a massive volcano that collapsed a long, long time ago.  I'm always interested to visit sites of volcanic activity and marvel at the awesome potential of our earth.  What can I say; I'm a fan!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Up

Up in the most commonly used sense is a direction.  It's the direction I'd prefer my bank account balance to be going at all times (don't I wish).  My most memorable use of the word up is for the movie.

Up was a date night movie that I saw with the woman who would become my fiancee.  This was very soon after meeting in person, and we were just getting to know each other.  It seems fitting to me now that this movie, which has a recurring theme of forever love, was something that my fiancee and I got to experience and witness so early on.

I don't particularly want to describe the plot and information about the movie in great detail; if you would really like the details you can check it out on  It suffices to mention that it's one of a series of truly excellent Pixar animated films.  The story as a whole has as much substance and is as engaging as the prowess of the computer animation techniques used as its medium.  And at least for me, I'll always remember it as one of the first dates I had with the woman with whom I plan to spend the rest of my life.

That made a better U post than my initial Umbrella idea, eh?

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Thin Mints

Thin Mints, also known as cookies laced with the equivalent of crack cocaine, are my favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie.  To be sure, I do like some of the other Girl Scout cookies, such as the coconut/caramel Samoas and the peanut butter and chocolatey Tagalongs.  If I was only allowed to get one box, though, it would be Thin Mints.

There's something to be said about a simple cookie, part dark chocolate, part mint that is a can't miss combination.  In the candy market, York Peppermint Patties and Junior Mints utilize the same combination with great success.  Thin Mints go one step further, though by being highly dunkable in milk, which allows for a nice balance to the bite and sweetness of the mint against the dark chocolate.

I've also heard (though I haven't done this myself yet) that Thin Mints freeze well, so you can get your Girl Scout cookie fix later on in the year, long after the swarms of elementary school aged girls grace the entrances to grocery stores and supermarkets.  To my way of thinking, that just seems like you're not eating your Thin Mints fast enough. :-D  Though I suppose to someone who likes Girl Scout cookies as much as I like Cadbury Creme Eggs (and mourns their loss after their season passes just as much), perhaps stocking up and freezing a supply isn't that bad of an idea.

All I know is, when it starts getting to fall/winter time, it's time to be on the lookout for Girl Scout cookie pushers.  The Thin Mints are delicious, are pretty inexpensive still, and support a great organization.  Box of Thin Mints, please.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Shaggy

I've had the nickname Shaggy for over half of my life now (man, there's something to make one feel old figuring out the math).  People these days mostly tell me I look like Kid Rock or Jesus or that one guy from the Doobie Brothers (go figure), so where the heck did this Shaggy name come from?  Let me tell you the tale.

In October of my freshman year at UC Davis, my dorm decided to have a "mega-beard" contest.  The basic gist was for all of the guys to not shave for a month.  Then, at the end of the month, whoever has the biggest beard would win a prize; probably a new razor (lol).  I decided to participate, even though my whisker growing prowess was pretty insignificant.

October was nearly over and the Aggie Band was doing its annual (at the time) dress-up show for Halloween.  During marching practice, some people looked at the stubble on my chin and said hey, this guy kind of looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo.  Being a ham, I naturally went into a Shaggy impression, saying Zoinks and so forth, which went over pretty well.

Feeling inspired, I hit the local thrift stores, got me an old green shirt and brown pants.  I got an old Wheat Thins box and decorated it up to say Scooby Snacks.  Some moccasins and a little slouching walk with an occasional Zoinks thrown in and my dorm and the band decided that I was Shaggy.

My hair is longer now (hence the Kid Rock/Jesus comparisons mentioned above).  I know that someday my hair will thin out and I'll have to decide whether to do the Hulk Hogan bald on top long on the sides thing or whether I'll cut it short at that point.  Who knows?  I'm fairly confident, though, that no matter what I choose I'm going to be remaining Shaggy.  Like, how did we get here Scoob?  Zoinks!

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Roller Skates

It's all my preschool's fault, really.  They took us on a field trip to Cal Skate to go roller skating.  I got the rest of my family to try it.  And all of a sudden going roller skating on Saturday at Cal Skate was a weekly thing for like 8 years or so!

My roller skating style was technically proficient.  I wasn't flashy and couldn't do cool dance steps like I saw some of the adults doing at the time.  However, I could skate forwards, backwards and sideways.  I could spin and shoot the duck.  My sister and I went through the various lessons, but we stopped when they wanted to start teaching us axel jumps and ice dancing (no thanks).

Years later, I took my love of roller skating to UC Davis.  I found skating around the flat campus and town of Davis to be a fun alternative to biking around.  I still recall one time arriving late to class where I skated into the classroom, spun around and sat down in a chair in the front row.  Even the professor laughed at that entrance.

These days, I don't get as many opportunities to skate as I like.  It's hard to find flat roads and surfaces and the roller rinks are fewer and further in between than they used to be.  Fortunately my kids like to go skating, so occasionally when we visit my folks we go hit up Cal Skate.  You know, for old times sake.  Funky Town?

Q is for Questions

So I'm a scientist, well an engineer to be more precise.  I deal with facts and information, and I'm well aware that there's a lot more out there in the world that I don't know than what I do know.  So, I make my way through the work world, and indeed through life, by asking lots of questions.

We start out at a very early age, not long after learning how to ask for food that we start asking all kinds of questions about the nature of the world in which we are living.  Why is the sky blue?  Why are the clouds white?  How does wind work?  How come we don't fall off the earth into outer space?  It is only be asking and getting answers to our burning questions that we can derive context out of this brief time we live on this planet.

Hopefully none of you reading this are the type of folks who never ask questions.  I know some folks who never ask questions because they think they know all of the answers all of the time.  Sometimes they get lucky. But most of the time they just show their ignorance of how little they actually know.  I implore everyone to be one of the brave and humble ones who know that they don't know everything, and as such need to seek knowledge and ask questions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pinball

"Ever since I was a young boy I played the silver ball" as the famous Who song goes.  Well, I haven't been to Soho or Brighton yet, but I _have_ played quite a lot of pinball over the years.  I dare say pinball has reigned supreme to video games for me as time has continued to pass.

I still remember my first pinball game.  My family had traveled by ferry to San Francisco from Sausalito to spend the day.  After a walk from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream sundaes, riding the cable cars and a taxi back to Pier 1 we found ourselves having a snack in a little cafe waiting for our boat to arrive.  My dad brought me over to the resident pinball machine, Big Indian, popped in some quarters and we shared a game.  And another.  I was immediately fascinated by the sounds, lights and the frenetic movement of the ball.

We repeated that trip a subsequent year, and this second time around I played the original KISS pinball game.  Yes, that one, with the imitation guitar sounds when the ball ran over the rollover targets.  Needless to say I was indefinitely hooked.

I played pinball games whenever and wherever I could.  The local skating rink, A&W and local pizza parlors all got my business.  Years later I discovered the huge treasure trove of pinball at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, although recent visits have revealed that the pinball machines have given way to first person shooter video games and ticket games.

My pinball obsession still gets to get fed a few times a year though.  The annual Pacific Pinball Exposition in San Rafael brings together pinball games from the very beginnings to present day in a huge auditorium, with everything set on free play.  California Extreme is an annual video game and pinball show usually located in Santa Clara that has a decent selection of pinball games (and usually less traffic because of the video game draw).  There's a smaller show in Dixon called Pin-a-Go-Go which I haven't been to yet but I hear it's pretty good.  And, in terms of permanent fixtures, nothing beats a little trip to the Pacific Pinball Museum located in the quaint town of Alameda (yes the town, not the county).

I'll leave you with a partial list of favorites in no particular order (Twilight Zone, Banzai Run, Addams Family, Gorgar, Theater of Magic, Rock, Space Shuttle, Firepower, Black Knight 2000, Eight Ball Deluxe), and an invitation to go play some pinball if you haven't in a while, or maybe haven't ever.  It's kinetic art!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Online Shopping

Man, I _hate_ shopping.  Well, that's not completely true.  I do like to go shopping from time to time.  I'm not very fond of some of my fellow shoppers who invariably wander about getting in my way, being rude, having bad hygiene (thankfully THAT'S usually rare).  I don't like long checkout lines or inefficient customers or checkers.  I also don't like going to a store only to find out they're out of what I wanted, forcing additional trips, usage of gas for the car which is already expensive, etc.

Wow, the above paragraph makes me sound pretty grumpy, eh?  I'm actually not.  I'm just the type of person who likes to decide what they want, go to the store, get it, and get out, no fuss, no muss.  Anything that gets in the way of accomplishing that goal is not good.

Hence, the boon of online shopping.  Here, the only barriers to you finding what you want and getting it bought is either your own indecisiveness or poorly designed web storefronts.  The tools available are fabulous too, from being able to search out the lowest prices for a particular item, do comparisons, read reviews.  Unless I've been procrastinating, I try to do all of my gift buying online, especially at Christmas time if I can help it.

Of course, there are _some_ things that you would like to actually see in person before buying.  Still, in those cases, though, you're probably doing the aforementioned researching of the item before going to the physical store, so you're still reaping the benefits of online shopping.  I guess the real question is, for those who don't shop online, why not?

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Naps

Back when we were kids, I remember naps as being torturous and absolutely horrible.  They were usually precipitated by some bad behavior, probably because of needing some downtime from going full tilt since the early morning.  However, being energetic kids with enough juice to be able to power a small city, the prospect of being told to lay down in bed in the dark and go to sleep for a period of time usually 1-2 hours was impossible!

I tried all kinds of things to make time pass.  I would practice holding my breath, looking at the second hand on my wristwatch to see how much time passed.  I would try to sneak my transistor radio and have it on low, muffled by the pillow.  I sometimes would try to read a book with a flashlight, but that got squelched after getting caught a couple of times.  I couldn't wait until it was time to get up and go play again.

Fast forward to adulthood.  These days, naps are not a chore - they're an honest to goodness _luxury_.  I love it when there's enough free time to be able to sack out and snooze under a warm blanket, especially in the middle of the afternoon after a good midday meal, or maybe after having run around getting some errands done.  Heck, even a good 10-15 minute power nap can be a revitalizing force when a workday is getting overwhelming.

In terms of locale, I'd have to say nothing beats taking a snooze under an umbrella on the beach, under a tree in a park, or sometimes in the warm sun on a picnic blanket.  A warm blanket, nice pillows, and oh yes, sometimes a snuggle partner all help to bring sweet nap time dreams.  Zzzzzzz...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mafia Wars

Ohhhh man, where do I begin?  I already wrote about how much of a blessing social networking in general and Facebook have been in terms of connecting with old and new friends.  For me, it's impossible for me to talk about Facebook and not talk about my favorite online game within it, namely Mafia Wars.

I've been playing games on Facebook for some number of years now.  Mafia Wars has been the one that I have most consistently played.  I did the whole "Games" module thing, played Rock Legends, Treasure Island and Poker for a while, but Mafia Wars has always been the one I came back to.

When I started out playing Mafia Wars, I originally eschewed the social aspect of it, and was trying to do everything myself.  Unfortunately, I found that this only worked to a certain point, because you needed to have a certain number of "family members" in your Mafia to be able to respond to requests for help in order to finish missions, earn certain goodies and prizes and the like.  At first, I just added all of my friends that I could, but not everyone was into the game long term., so this had limited success.  I added more folks by trolling Mafia Wars forums connecting with other folks looking for active players.  This too had limited success.

The biggest blessing, if one could call it that, was eventually finding an active group of players that were committed to helping each other succeed in the game and who played Mafia Wars smartly and efficiently.  This was the element that I was missing.  Once I joined the group (in this case the Mistyfied group), my enjoyment of the game grew on multiple fronts.  First, I wasn't struggling against the process elements of the game (e.g. slow progress due to lack of assistance from others).  Second, I had a group of peers who I could both get help from and who I could help (and who were happy at receiving my help!).  Most importantly, though, I now found that same amazing social networking connection that I derived from Facebook transferred into Mafia Wars.  Being a part of a group of folks geographically dispersed over the world, all working on the same tasks, helping each other, striving to do better and celebrating successes has been wonderful.

I've got gripes about Mafia Wars and Zynga in general, as many players still do.  I still stubbornly refuse to pay any of my own money to play Mafia Wars, and the day that becomes an absolute requirement is going to be the day I quit the game.  In the meantime, though, I've got a free game that I find fun, that serves as a break in between getting work and chores done, and which gives me another way to participate in a community on the Internet, albeit not for the most noblest of causes lol.

If you decide to check out Mafia Wars, make sure to add me in your mafia hehehe.  Also pop by the Mistyfied page and say hi.  Tell them OG Shaggy sent you. :-D

L is for Legacy

My childhood dreams resonated of the same commonalities shared by many of my friends.  We all talked fancifully of being rich, having power, being famous and ultimately having the freedom to be able to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  No limits.

Of course, as I got older and learned the ways of the world, I quickly discovered that it's very difficult to achieve all of the above.  I also discovered that there are downsides in life to the possibilities of being rich, powerful or famous, and that in fact, reaching those conditions isn't necessarily something that I would want to have in life.  One only needs to read entertainment magazines about the various problems and tragedies happening to the most wealthy, powerful and famous folks to gain some pause and wonder about what's so great about all of those things.

As it turns out for me, I apparently am in no danger of having to worry about material and social standing related problems.  I am far from being rich, or powerful or famous.  I'm just a guy trying to make it through life, be a good person and do right for the people around me.

Given my lack of material and societal resources, then, what will I have to show for this life of mine?  For starters, I am a father to two wonderful children who are growing up (faster than I'd like) to become a young man and young lady.  I will be (soon) a husband to a wonderful lady who has brightened my life and rekindled my faith in fairy tale love.  I bring music to the masses in my own eclectic ways, particularly spreading the awareness and love of the bass saxophone wherever I can.  I try to be the best person and best Christian I can, treating those around me the way I'd like to be treated.  I willingly embrace all of the circles of wonderful people around me, from family to school friends, band and musical group friends, and others who I've come to know over the years and cherish.  It is my hope that eventually when I leave this world that it's a little happier, a little more musical and a little more friendlier than before I came into it.

What are you going to leave behind in this world when you pass on?  What will be your legacy?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Karma

I was brought up as a Christian, and specifically a Lutheran by my folks, who were both Lutheran.  I would not call myself a model religious person by any means, and I've had periods of time where I did or did not go to church and such.  Still, I consider myself to be a good person, and I do try to be tolerant and open-minded about my fellow human beings, and generally try to treat others the way I'd like to be treated.

In fact, it's a fair statement that I naively expect decent and humane behavior from those around me.  The Christian in me naturally looks for the good in all of my fellow people.  The software engineer in me, who deals all day with facts and data, naively expects truth and goodness.  It is only when someone acts inappropriately or treats me badly that I would then be on guard about such a person.

Naturally, this being a world populated with all sorts of people, I have encountered people from time to time who have wronged me or those I care about in varying degrees.  As a Christian, we're taught to turn the other cheek.  The realist in me, however, loathes to naively do so once wronged.  My sense of justice, in fact, tells me that what goes around comes around, and whoever does intentionally bad or evil things will at some point reap their return.  This is where the concept of karma comes in.  When you bring bad and do bad, you'll get bad back, and not in the "cool" sense of the word bad.

The irony for someone like me, who is inherently good and tries to be a good person, is that when someone wrongs me, I don't wish to see them intentionally wronged or harmed.  I don't take pleasure in the needless suffering of others.  I'm a live and let live kind of guy, and if we don't get along, I'd rather that you go your way in peace and I'll go mine.

What really blows my mind about karma, though, is that for folks that have truly wronged me in evil ways, through either deliberate intentions or blatant disregard for anyone's position but their own, I've seen karma come and cut the legs out from them and give them a strong taste of their own medicine.  I won't go into details because I don't believe in airing others' dirty laundry so blatantly, but suffice it to say the volume of bad karma was definitely proportional to what I experienced.

By contrast, I've been on the good side of karma.  I've experienced having someone pay for my toll at the bridge, or pay for my meal at the drive-through before.  Talk about your rush of good feelings!  Invariably I would end up doing something nice for someone else, passing the good vibes around, just because.

Now, one _could_ say that doing something nice for someone is trying to collect some good karma for yourself.  But you see, that's not the way karma works.  If you do something good because you think you're going to get something good in return, that's not so virtuous, is it.  Truly good works are done just because they're good, and not because you're expecting payment or favors or privileges in return.  Good deeds truly can be their own reward.  And truth be told, the more often you do something good for someone without expecting anything in return, the more often good karma does genuinely come to smile on you.  True story.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jelly Belly's

Growing up in a middle class family, our traditions were often low key but consistent.  Take Easter as an example.  Every Easter we always dyed eggs using typical (weird smelling) mixtures of food coloring and vinegar.  We'd wake up in the morning, and kind of like Christmas, we'd miraculously find the Easter eggs hidden around the house to be found, and Easter baskets containing chocolates and candy for us to enjoy (from the Easter Bunny).

As a little kid, my least favorite part of the Easter baskets were the jelly beans.  I don't know where my folks got them from in the earlier days, but they weren't so great.  I naturally avoided the black ones like the plague (and still do to this day - NOT a fan of black licorice!)  But some of the other colors were often these weird spicy or weird flavors - nowadays you'd think you were probably eating through a bag of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans as opposed to some delicious treat.

That all changed for the better, however, that fateful day when we took a little trip out to Fairfield, CA to visit the Jelly Belly factory.  This place was like a huge jelly bean paradise to a kid like me.  I found that Jelly Belly's were a) fabulous tasting, b) available in what seemed like a gazillion flavors that were (for the most part) very accurately done all around, and c) the gift shop had all of these flavors in these huge canisters that just invited you to pour out and buy Jelly Belly's in massive quantities.  Gone were the days of hoping to find one good flavored jelly bean - here almost ALL of the flavors were good, and you could get a huge bag of just your favorite flavor, or two, or twenty if you liked!  Also, did someone say free samples?  I'm getting a sugar rush just writing this post :-D

Anyways, from that point on, I always looked forward to the entire Easter basket, because I knew that the jelly beans would be Jelly Belly's.  Actually, as it turns out, Jelly Belly is the genius behind the real world version of the aforementioned Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans that got popular with the Harry Potter craze.  If you find yourself in Northern California, I highly recommend a stop at the Jelly Belly factory, or take the easy way out and just buy some Jelly Belly's at the grocery store.  Once you try Jelly Belly's you'll never go back to regular old jelly beans again.  My favorites are too numerous to mention them all, but I'll namedrop marshmellow, pink bubblegum, blueberry, coffee, and A&W root beer to get you started.  Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Inspiration

"If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done."  As an on-again, off-again procrastinator, these words often served as a valid description of circumstances, most notably during my school days when faced with mountains of homework.  My folks once gave me a plaque of Snoopy lounging about in a hammock, wearing headphones, reading magazines and sipping root beer, with the caption "Genius at Work" commemorating some of my more grandiose displays of putting off until tomorrow what could have been done today.

I've gotten better over the years about getting to work and staying on task when circumstances require it.  I have found, though, that it is much easier to apply my best efforts when I want to; that is to say, when I am inspired.  If time is a luxury, I much prefer to take an organic approach to chores and work, because I find that when I am inspired to produce, I work much harder, pay more attention to details and outcomes, and ultimately get better results.

In the face of time pressure, then, when inspiration may not be naturally present, one has to manufacture inspiration.  My constant prime sources of inspiration are my children, my fiancee and my family.  The loved ones around me are the ones who inspire me to greater heights and give me the reason to walk the rough roads in the face of adversity.

When you need to turn it up, what inspires you?

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hearing

I've been both a musician and a music lover for most of my life.  I've attended my share of extremely loud concerts, stood in front of towers of Marshall stacks and had my entire body be vibrated by walls of sound.  I've played in multiple kinds of bands and organizations and have spent many years playing marching band and marching band style music.

As any doctor would tell you, repeated exposure to loud sounds, such as the concerts I have attended or playing in band gigs and rehearsals will result in permanent hearing damage.  I have been concerned that I have already suffered hearing loss from my musical endeavors.  I've directly observed in others the difficulties presented by other symptoms such as tinnitus, and ultimately I knew I would need to take some preventative action to maintain what hearing capabilities I have.

As it turns out, LSJUMB (Stanford's band) periodically offers its members the opportunity to purchase professionally and individually fitted ear plugs, bringing in a specialist to do the fittings.  This time around, my schedule permitted me to be able to participate, and I was able to use my new earplugs at tonight's LSJUMB rehearsal for the first time.

All I can say is, what a difference professional earplugs make.  The volume of sound was dramatically reduced, but not to the point where I could not hear myself or the musicians near me.  The only difficulty I noticed during rehearsal was in hearing the toobz during parts where the full band was playing over the far distance from where I was standing with the tenrz.  I'm thinking that's a limitation that I can live with if it results in better longevity of ear health.  

One of the biggest surprises that awaited me was after rehearsal when I took off my earplugs, and realized that my ears didn't have that typical "stuffy" feeling like after going to a concert.  I didn't have to raise the volume of the radio any higher than normal on the way home.  I'd call the earplugs experience a rousing success.

I would implore any musicians or any people who go to loud concerts and events to strongly consider getting fitted earplugs.  Your hearing is a valuable commodity that once lost or damaged cannot be regained or repaired.  Earplugs like the ones I got can be used in such a way that they do not impede your musician abilities.  There are no excuses any more.  Take care of your hearing.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Golf

Do you have some activity, craft or sport that you like to participate in even though your skill level is, shall we say, less than worthy?  It's an odd combination, as many people (myself included) would much rather do things that we are good at, as it's more fun.  For me, golf is one of those strange pastimes that I enjoy partaking in even though I know I'll never come close to becoming Tiger Woods, or his caddy, or his caddy's neighbor, or his caddy's neighbor's bartender.

I had golf one quarter in high school, where we learned swing basics and spent a lot of time using 9-irons to hit whiffle balls stuffed with TP around the grass.  At the end of the quarter, we had an opportunity to hit real golf balls, and it was fantastic being able to watch ball after ball soar high in the air and land around the distance of a football field away.

Years later I was fortunate to be able to pick up the game.  I was graciously given my first set of golf clubs by my ex-wife's (now late) grandfather, may he rest in peace.  He took me and my ex-wife's brothers out to the course and allowed us to make mistake after mistake.  The satisfaction of hitting the ball where I actually wanted it to go and seeing the ball go into the cup after a nice putt were gifts.  

As time continues to pass, I've had periods where I've played a lot more (or sometimes a lot less!) golf.  Right now I'm in one of those waning periods, even though there are several courses and ranges within easy driving (pun) distance from my house.  Golf takes time to practice and master, and it frankly does not always fit in my budget.  The desire to play never goes away.

I spend much of my time during the week indoors, giving the high tech nature of my job.  One of the most wonderful and zen-like qualities of the game of golf is the stark contrast in atmosphere, namely being outdoors. Out on the golf course, away from computers, cars and stresses, the air is calmer.  You are out among the trees, grass and water.  You hear birds chirping and sometimes see wildlife.  And when you manage to calm your mind and not be worrying about how to do your next shot, and you are able to just be, you are at peace.  And if I see you at the 19th green, I'll buy you a round.  Cheers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Facebook

I initially joined Facebook several years ago at the urging of some of my fellow bari sax players from the Aggie Band-uh!, as they were using the new social media as a way to stay in contact, organize section activities and the like.  Little did I realize what a boon Facebook and indeed social networking as a whole would become within my life.

Never did I imagine that I would be able to reconnect with so many friends and acquaintances from bands and college.  The biggest surprise was the migration of so many high school friends to Facebook, some of whom I hadn't spoken to in years or decades.  Eventually, several of my family members also ended up on Facebook.  I have been truly amazed by the volume of connections I have reestablished as the result of an enabling platform like Facebook.

Facebook has its drawbacks as well.  The OCD side of me hates missing updates, and so I do sometimes find myself obsessively checking it to see what everybody is up to.  Mafia Wars, my favorite social game on the site can sometimes be a massive time sink.  [Although technically that's more of a gripe about Zynga, its creator, than Facebook itself].  The idea of so much transparency into folks' lives also sometimes makes one want to withdraw from time to time from the online world.

For its faults, though, Facebook and social networking have enabled beneficial changes in my life.  I have reconnected with so many people and rekindled friendships.  I have a way to get in touch with such a huge volume of people.  And even when life gets too busy to be able to see folks in person, Facebook allows me to be able to keep up with the lives of people I care about, and its virtual community is able to exist even when physical distances or circumstances are obstacles.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Exercise

Growing up I always had a love-hate relationship with some of the activities eventually we as adults often do for exercise, namely going to the gym, lifting weights, etc.  My misgivings largely stemmed from some negative experiences in the weight room in junior high where some of the guys who had already been lifting and conditioning for Pop Warner football and such ridiculed me pretty hard because I couldn't lift very much (duh - because I was a complete noob and hadn't done any formal weight training to that point).

So I eventually found myself at 30, after a decade of software engineering work with a metabolism that started slowing down.  I stopped being able to automagically disintegrate various candies and snacks that I'd often eat while working, having developed the habit during my college days.  I started noticing my stomach getting bigger, particularly when I was sitting down at my computer, and concluded I needed to do something about this.  So, I joined a gym and started working out.

My exercising and working out has varied quite a bit over the years that followed.  I've learned a lot about my body and what it can and can't do.  I have had some success in working on my upper body, despite decades of doing nothing but lower body work (track/cross country/marching band), though I've got a ways to go to get to where I'd like to be.  I've dealt with and come back from a couple of scary (to me) injuries.  [Side note - never try to use P90X as a mass building program - you'll get RSD and rep-related injuries once the weights get high enough].  I've increased my overall strength such that marathon sessions playing my bass saxophone (e.g. at Picnic Day at UC Davis) doesn't result in debilitating soreness for days after.

Exercise is a great reminder for me that life is a journey.  Each time I work out I strive to do a little more than I did the last time.  I celebrate the successes and let go of any failures, as temporary setbacks are just that - temporary.  It is my hope that what I do now to try to maintain myself will allow me to continue to be able to do the things I love to do and to be healthy for my fiancee, my children and perhaps someday many many years from now my children's children.

Find something physical you love to do and just do it.  Everybody exercise!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dice

Dice have been a source of fascination for me at various points in my life.  I'm not just referring to your typical board game experiences, though I certainly had my share of those.  The luck of the throw, the difference in numbers resulting in the victory of landing on Go versus that $2000 hotel in Monopoly; the unpredictability was intoxicating.

I have two favorite dice memories from childhood I'd like to share.  The first is the Dice Game at the local skating rink.  This was the game where the DJ would put out 6 cones numbered 1-6 and play a song.  When the song stopped, you'd have to go skate over to a cone.  Then, the DJ, or someone he/she designated would get to roll this HUGE felt covered die by hurling it far down the length of the rink.  People would have to leave the floor depending on the rule the DJ made up, and eventually you'd be down to a small group of people that would win a prize.  I was very lucky to be picked a couple of times to be the die thrower, and it was AWESOME.  As a kid, that die was huge, hard to put your arms around it actually, and you got to skate around with it while the music was playing.  They played the dice game rarely, but it still remains my favorite skating rink game to this day.

My other favorite dice memory was the games of Dungeons & Dragons with my friends.  We all had our containers of all of the different kinds of dice, ranging from 4 to 20 sided.  One of my friends had this insane actual 100-sided die that almost resembled a sphere due to the tiny size of the triangles making up the outer surface of it.  Some people's sets were plastic, some metal, some color matched and some (like mine) all mixed up, but we all thought our dice were the best.  And we all wanted to use our OWN dice for those crucial dice rolls that would determine whether we would slay the dragon or fall down a spiked pit.  I still have my dice packed away somewhere.

My favorite pair of dice is a purple fuzzy pair that has Jack Skellington heads for pips that I got for a Christmas present several years ago.  They're hanging from the upper shelf of my computer desk, reminding me that you can take your fortune in hand whenever you wish.  Roll 'em!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Chicken Fried Steak

When I first started going to diners for breakfast, I started out getting the stereotypical Grand Slam-esque combinations containing eggs, some sort of meat and a syrup-requiring product like pancakes or french toast because they were the cheapest things on the menu other than coffee and blueberry muffins.  Over time, I got tired of eating the same kind of thing all of the time, and was looking for a change.  I had once tried biscuits and gravy, and liked the gravy, but the biscuits I had gotten (from Denny's, mind you) were so dry that I was loathe to try that combination again.

However, I soon found another way to get gravy (without the dry biscuits) - namely, chicken fried steak.  I found that chicken fried steak breakfast combinations usually got served up with eggs, some sort of potatoes and toast, and (usually) plenty of country gravy.  Add in some coffee and I was set!

To this day, chicken fried steak and eggs remains one of my favorite things to have when I go out to eat breakfast.  I use it as a barometer when I try out a new breakfast place - if the chicken fried steak is good, the rest of the menu is probably good as well and I'll be back for more.  My favorite all-time chicken fried steak and eggs can be gotten from The Country Way on Mowry in Fremont, CA.  They only have the homemade to-die-for white country gravy on weekends, and you had better go early, because when they run out that's it!

Oh yes, and before you even have a chance to ask, yes I also am a huge fan of that other breakfast combination with the word chicken in it - namely, chicken and waffles.  But that's fodder for another blog entry.

Now I'm hungry.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bass Saxophone

I would be totally remiss if I wrote about anything but bass saxophone for today's alphabet blog.  There's a really good reason that my blog URL and twitter account reference the 2nd largest of the saxophone family.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year at UC Davis, I was an ennui-suffering clarinet player in the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh!  At that time, I was good enough that the clarinet was just not providing enough challenge to hold my interest.  I was looking for a change.  And boy, I sure found one, in the suggestion of then faculty director Jonathan Elkus, who clued me in to the existence of a 1920's Buescher bass saxophone sitting idle in the music department.  I acquired it, started playing it with the Aggie Band, and have been forever hooked on bass saxophones ever since.

I was fortunate enough to play that Buescher horn for 2 years, during which I learned to play it (without hyperventilating from lack of oxygen), high step using just a neckstrap during football shows and the like, sight transposed and memorized music hodgepodged together from sousaphone and bari sax folders, and enjoyed the sound of it and attention I would get whenever I would play.  After graduation, I had thought I would never again have such an opportunity to be able to play such a wonderful horn.

Years later, I would be fortunate to acquire a Depression-era Holton bass sax, which today is still my absolute favorite horn to play.  I play with several organizations, including the Cal Aggie Alumni Marching Band-uh!, California Repercussions and LSJUMB (Stanford Band).  I have enjoyed playing in the annual San Jose Saxophone Christmas event for the past few years, and have managed to get myself recorded in various venues.  I figure I had better play as long as I can, because at some point I know that hefting around a 19 pound horn with most of the weight resting on my right thumb might eventually become too much to do.  I guess I could always switch to bari sax :-)  Or piccolo lol.

I feel fortunate that I have been able to find a way to express myself musically that is both unusual and eclectic. It won't ever make me any great amount of money, but that's not what this is about.  I love bass saxophones!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z April Blogging Challenge

I created this blog quite some time back, but never really found a good reason or an excuse to get started with blogging.  Call it laziness, call it inertia, call it procrastination - I just never could find a way to get the ball rolling.  I always thought I should start off with an initial post all about me.  However, every time I thought about writing a blurb about myself I started thinking about how that just sounded so trite, so egotistical, so self-absorbed.  Which, being a Leo, isn't too far from the truth - well, the egotistical part anyways lol.  It also just seemed like a chore which I never ended up wanting to do.  And so, the blog sat empty, with the dashboard just being a convenient way for me to be able to find the blogs I liked to read.  Until now.

My fiancee alerted me to the A to Z April Blogging Challenge (referenced in my banners above), where the simple assignment is just to write one post a day based on the current letter of the alphabet.  I thought about it, and figured that this would be a good way for me to dabble a little into the world of blogging and decide if it's something I'd like to do with any sort of regularity.  

And so, I give you, my non-existent (except for my fiancee) readers my very first blog post.  Today's entry is to be based on the letter A, so I've naturally chosen the A to Z April Blogging Challenge itself.  Notice how I deftly avoided using the "A" post to write about myself, which would have also been a valid topic given that my first name is Alan hahaha.

We shall see where this blogging adventure goes.  Hope some of you that stumble on this blog enjoy my musings and feel free to comment or message me about what I write here.