Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look! Chris makes a political endorsement!

Here comes something that I haven't done in... what, at least six years?  To be honest I can't remember.  I think the total amount of times that I've endorsed a candidate has been less than three.

(Okay, I guess I kinda endorsed myself during that very wacky school board race in 2006, but that mostly came during the process of chronicling that process here on the blog.  I didn't actually come out and say "I endorse myself!" although that would be kinda funny...)

For many years I have had a policy and I have kept strictly to it, without any exceptions.  It is this: I will not vote for any candidate whose campaign runs a single negative ad against an opponent.  If a candidate cannot win on her or her own merit, then that candidate doesn't deserve my vote.  All a negative ad demonstrates is that the candidate running it is more interested in power and prestige than in the people.

I'm telling y'all here and now, that my ballot wound up having a lot of blank spaces at the very start of this campaign season.  I've been watching every race like a hawk, showing partiality to none.  Longtime readers also know that I am not partisan.  I vote for the person, not the party.  Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents... each and more have been represented in the ballots I've cast.

Incidentally, one of the most absolutely worst things that a person can do is vote a straight-party ticket.  Too many people fought and died so that we might have the rights of citizenship.  Those rights do not include casting votes without thinking about who you're voting for.

Some of these notions won't find approval with more than a few.  But I don't care.  You shouldn't come to this blog or that of anyone else and expect commentary fitting the status quo.  Around here, we laugh at silly concepts like conventional wisdom.

But anyway...

Here, with less than a week left before the election, after observing this season very closely, I can confidently attest that there is at least one candidate who has passed my test.  The same cannot be said of his primary opponent in the media, and it certainly cannot be said of the two "front runners" in this state's U.S. Senate race.

If this candidate runs a negative ad in the eleventh hour, I'm going to withdraw my endorsement.  But this far along, seeing what I have, I don't think that it's going to happen.

Say no to the negative ads!
Vote Mark Walker for Congress!
So it is that The Knight Shift and its eclectic proprietor gladly announces that in North Carolina's 6th District race for United States House of Representatives, I am going to heartily endorse Mark Walker.  Not only because his values and beliefs as in such close alignment with my own, but because he has run the cleanest campaign that I have probably ever seen for office at the national level.  Not one commercial - be it television or radio - has come out of his campaign aimed at an opponent.  And I seriously believe that he is going to win election in very large part because of that.  People are fed-up and tired of negative campaigning.  People are hungering for real character and integrity.  I would never intimate that Mr. Walker is a perfect candidate, because there is no such of a thing.  If he does win election to Congress, there will be things that I will disagree with him about.  That's just the nature of this carnal world where we each strive to see through the glass darkly.  But I can very confidently affirm that voting for Mark Walker will be one that for the first time in a long time will not be a vote that I see myself regretting.

If anyone asks, I'm not affiliated with the Walker campaign.  I haven't volunteered for it, I haven't made any phone calls or passed out literature.  I've never met Mark Walker.  I do know many others who do know him personally, and not one of them has not attested that he is a man sincere in his beliefs and convictions.   These are people who I respect a tremendous deal and if they say that about Mr. Walker, I'm inclined to believe them.

So again, Mark Walker wins this blogger's enthusiastic endorsement.  And I will encourage this blog's readers who are also in the 6th District of North Carolina to do likewise.  And if you want to know more about Walker, his background and what he stands for, click on over to his campaign website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GOG.com has released X-WING and TIE FIGHTER!

Today shall be a day long remembered...

Courtesy of the amazing folks at GOG.com (the GOG stands for Good Old Games), what are by far two of the greatest computer/video games ever wrought by mortal hands have gone on sale today, ready to be enjoyed by a new generation or by those who have longed to reminisce about those heady days of the early Nineties.

Stick it to the Empire in
X-Wing
...
And I would be saying that even if they weren't Star Wars titles!

X-Wing was an astounding and revolutionary game in its own right and when it came out early in 1993 it took the industry by storm.  With a brilliant combination of 3D graphics, rich user interface, an immersive storyline and balanced yet incredibly challenging gameplay, X-Wing was the Star Wars experience that everyone wanted but few thought we would ever get.  This was the combat simulator of its time and even by today's standards it holds up incredibly well.  At last, players could join the ranks of the Rebel Alliance in the fight against tyranny, with a variety of fighters: the X-wing, Y-wing, the ever-slippery A-wing and the powerhouse B-wing.

...or blow Rebels to smithereens in
TIE Fighter!
But not to rest on its laurels, the following year LucasArts released TIE Fighter: still considered by some to be THE best computer game of all time.  TIE Fighter turned the tables and let gamers take to the skies against the scum and outlaws that the Rebels really are (the intro sequence alone are enough to make one giddy about blowing Rebel fighters out of the stars).  TIE Fighter improved on everything that made X-Wing work, and then some.  An even more interactive story/campaign and array of craft (including the TIE  Defender and my personal favorite the TIE Bomber) gave you all the tools you'd ever need to show them pesky Rebels what's what.

And as of today GOG has made X-Wing and TIE Fighter available and 100% compatible with modern systems!  If you're still playing these classics with old CD-ROMs (or even the original floppies), you'll never again have to juggle disks.  For $9.99 each you can download a DRM-free single-file installer and set up either game (or both) on any moderately-equipped system from Windows XP on up.

Incidentally, for the ten bucks you're actually getting two flavors of each game: the original DOS version and the "Collector's Edition" that ran on Windows and required a joystick (the DOS games could be played with a mouse).  The Windows-based Collector's versions have prettier graphics.  But the DOS ones have the iMuse MIDI score that changes dynamically as events in the game are triggered (i.e. the Imperial theme starting up as a Star Destroyer suddenly arrives on the scene).  The Windows editions have Redbook WAV audio instead (meaning it doesn't change per combat conditions).  Personally, I'm going with the DOS versions at least at first.  Having an iMuse score with the game itself more than justifies the price tag.

So what are we waiting for?  Mash down here for X-Wing and aim here for TIE Fighter!

These two games have been the most hotly-demanded on any modern game-delivery platform and now after years of yearning GOG has given both Star Wars fans and general gamers alike what they've wanted more than most.  And along with these two GOG is as of today also offering other classic games from the LucasArts vault: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which some will argue is really the greatest PC game ever and not without reason), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the very twisted Sam & Max Hit the Road.  More LucasArts games are promised for the near future (maybe I'll finally get to play Full Throttle...)

So there it is: X-Wing and TIE Fighter for modern computers at long last.  Go get one.  Or the other.  Or get both.  Now.  You know you wanna.

(I'm holding off until after I finish writing my book.  Getting to play X-Wing again is going to be a present to myself :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

So... you wanna watch Chris play the Doctor Who theme on his dulcimer?!?

Sure.  Why not...

I've mentioned a few times that ever since late spring I've been taking lessons on playing the mountain dulcimer.  So far I've notched up quite a repertoire but I'm still learning the real basic mechanics of what is truly a beautiful instrument.  Still, I've come a long way in a short amount of time :-)

Anyhoo, from the very beginning I've had in mind to play the Doctor Who theme on dulcimer.  It's something that I've played around with for awhile now and... well, I think that I've got it.  Just needs a little more finesse, is all.  Only tonight did I figure out the last half of the second strain of the theme.  When I get really good I'll string them all together nice and flowing.

Okay, so if you want to see and hear what I've done so far ummm... well I can't post it on YouTube at the moment 'cuz for some reason YouTube doesn't like it when I try to publish from my iPad.  But fear not!  I've uploaded the video onto Facebook and made it public so that anyone can watch it.

Just a work in progress.  Next time it's gonna be even better but I'm still rather proud of how it's turning out already :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fixing iPad and iPhone "bricked" by iOS 8.1

So the other week I upgraded my iPad (it's an iPad 2) to iOS 8.0 and since then there was some significant slowdown of apps, and Safari seemed especially effected.  Oh it worked, just not at the brisk pace that I'm used to.  Anyway, last night I finally updated to iOS 8.1

Never, never again will I do such an upgrade to my ever-trusty iPad 2.  And yes, I know that I should upgrade the iPad itself.  It's three and a half years old, after all.  I guess it's seen me through an awful lot so there's that sentimental value.  If and when I finally retire it I'm thinking of putting it in a shadowbox and hang it on my wall.  But until then I'd still like to get at least a little life out of it.

Anyway, I started the update and went to sleep and when I woke up this morning it was supposed to have been all ready to go.  Except that it was even slower than it had been before.  So, I powered-down and waited 30 seconds then turned it on again.  And for the next 30 minutes or so I was staring at the silver Apple logo in the middle of a black screen and going nowhere fast.

I was immediately terrified that my iPad had become broken or bricked or something and that I would never see it or the data I had stored on it ever again.

Some Google-ing however indicated that I was far from alone: many people using older iPads (I've seen reports of iPad 3 and perhaps the generation after that) have been affected by iOS 8.1 and many iPhones going back to iPhone 5.  You would think that there would be some kind of thorough analysis and de-bugging, and at the very least have the device inform users when the newest iOS is incompatible with their device.  Some are wondering if this is apparently Apple's way of compelling consumers to buy the latest version of the hardware.

I know that the newest iPad Air is out this week, and I'm considering getting it soon.  In the meantime I do need my iPad now to be working.

Well, it took me an a hour and a half, but I did come up with something that gets the iPad un-bricked and if there's any consistency between the device itself and iTunes (note: make sure your iTunes is updated to the latest version) this will probably work for you too if your own device is hit with a "black screen of death"...

1.  Open up iTunes on your PC or Mac (I'm using Windows Vista... yeah yeah I'm a glutton for punishment).

2.  With your device unconnected to your computer, make sure your iPad or iPhone is already powered-on.  It's okay if it's still showing the black screen and logo: we're about to fix that!

3.  Connect the iGimmick to your computer/iTunes through the cable.

4.You should see iTunes acknowledging the presence of the device.  If your computer is anything like mine you will see that it's setting up new device stuff through the USB.  THIS IS A GOOD THING!  DON'T UNCONNECT YOUR iTHINGY UNTIL IT'S FINISHED DOING THIS!  You should know when it's done when your iPhone or iPad screen comes up as usual, with all your icons and wallpaper and whatnot.  If you can maneuver around the screen with your finger like usual that should indicate that the device has been re-set and back to normal.  But just in case I would leave it still communicating with iTunes for a little while (say, 10 minutes or so).

5.  While you're waiting for that, it's a good time to start backing up your iToy... so do that.  Do it now.  Or perish in flames.  It's your choice, but not really.

6.  After the backup is done (it took mine about 15 minutes because I had so many space-hoggin' apps on it... and other stuff) it is probably good to do.  Disconnect as normal and proceed to continue enjoying your iGadget as normal.

Last night I updated over the house network via wi-fi instead of going through iTunes, and I'm wondering if that is what was part of the problem.  Maybe, maybe not.  Worth pondering.  All I know is that once it was physically hooked-up with iTunes things started going back to normal.

Now, there's one thing that I haven't done so far.  I haven't powered-down and tried to turn it back on.  Because I'm kinda leery about doing so and having to go through this crap all over again.  I may try it tomorrow if I'm brave enough (I'm trying to get some book written  this afternoon/evening so while I'm in that groove).  If it works I'll let y'all know.  Or if it works for you, feel free to leave a comment about it.

Guess I'll have to get an iPad Air 2 sooner than later.  But that's okay.  I've had my eye on getting a 128-gigabites model for awhile now anyway :-)

EDIT 5:02 p.m. EST:  I should have mentioned earlier that after applying this fix following the upgrade to iOS 8.1, that my iPad 2 is functioning MUCH faster than it had been prior.  It's now comparable to the speed it was on iOS .  Even Safari.  And the touch screen seems a tad more responsive now also.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Get out your Bible and re-watch last night's THE WALKING DEAD

No need to discuss the "Bob-b-cue" or the "shish-ka-Bob" or whatever you want to call it at the end of last night's The Walking Dead 'cuz chances are that you've heard plenty enough of it today and Lord help you if you had to eat ribs tonight.

I'm re-watching "Strangers" right now and something that caught my eye...

After Rick finishes sweeping through Gabriel's church and the rest of the group come in, there are a couple of boards on either side of the altar at the front of the sanctuary.  On each board is an identical set of verses.

The verses are:

Romans 6:4
Ezekiel 37:7
Matthew 27:52
Revelation 9:6
Luke 24:5

Just out of curiosity I went to my Bible and looked up each of those verses.

What I found makes me wonder if that was something intentional on the part of the producers.  As if it's a clue or a sly wink or whatever.  One way or another, each of the verses is about death and/or resurrection.

 Very, very intriguing stuff.

And this show keeps continuing to demonstrate why it's the best on television.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Flatline": Chris declares this week's DOCTOR WHO to be nothing less than astounding and brilliant!

It's been 45 minutes since the transmission (heh-heh-heh, did you see what I did there, saying "transmission" like they always do in Britain?  That's all I got...) on this side of the pond of "Flatline".  And with each passing minute I'm coming to be convinced more and more that this episode of Doctor Who may be one of the very best since the legendary "Blink" of David Tennant's era.

Yes.  It's that good.

"Flatline" was classic old-school mystery/horror and along with the past few episodes I'm reminded a lot of the more terrifying stories from the Tom Baker years.  This was no exception, and along that trend "Flatline" is the finest of the bunch.  In fact, I would even go so far to say that this was the greatest episode of Peter Capaldi's run we've seen so far.  There were some real "hiding behind the sofa" moments in this episode and I think it will be a solid entry on a lot of fans' "favorite Doctor Who stories" lists.  It was also - it goes without saying - replete with plenty of humor (especially in regard to the teeny-tiny size that the TARDIS exterior begins to be).  You can tell that Capaldi is really settling into his role as the Twelfth Doctor and that he's having a wazooload of fun with it.  The chemistry between him and Jenna Coleman's Clara is a sincere delight to behold, and "Flatline" may be the best example yet of that.

So what made "Flatline" so awesome?

1.  The most terrific interaction we've seen yet between Clara and the Twelfth Doctor, despite the fact that they were rarely together (more or less).

2. Clara standing on her own two feet and showing what she's capable of when practically alone.

3.  The incredible shrinking TARDIS (and won't the toymakers go crazy with that one...)

4.  A cerebral concept that was brilliantly executed and was quite easy to follow along.

5.  Secondary characters that viewers could readily empathize with.

6.  The Boneless: perhaps the most original new monsters since the Weeping Angels arrived in "Blink" several years ago.  And just as horrific.

7.  The "I am the Doctor!" scene where the Doctor breaks bad and reminds us that no matter how afraid we may be of the monsters, the monsters will always be afraid of the Doctor.

All in all, "Flatline" is an absolute hoot of an episode and I'll no doubt watch it again from my DVR before the weekend is out (maybe before tomorrow night's The Walking Dead).

Something else that I've been meaning to mention.  I am really digging the music that Murray Gold came up with for the Twelfth Doctor's theme.  There is an epic majesty and sense of mystery to it that complements Capaldi's Doctor just as spot-on as "I Am The Doctor" was for Matt Smith's.  Here's hoping that the BBC won't be long in putting out a Series 8/Season 30-something soundtrack.  Then again, we're still waiting for that score from "The Day of the Doctor"/"The Time of the Doctor" from the fiftieth anniversary last year.  What's the hold-up on that anyway?!

But guess what?  I found out tonight that November 8th sees the return of Doctor Who to PBS!  That's also the night that BBC America broadcasts the season finale.  So that'll be at least two hours of Doctor Who spread out across two networks.  Doctor Who once again on PBS every Saturday...

...somehow, that makes things seem a little brighter in the world.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Best fried chicken recipe I've EVER had!

It was going to be finished by the end of June.  And then the end of July.  Then the end of August.  Then by the end of September.  That didn't happen so I projected the end of October.

More than halfway through this month and my book is still far from finished.  I'm learning the hard way (but what other way is there really?) about what it means to write a book.  And right now I'm going through entirely other frustrations about this, not necessarily related to the manuscript.

This is a very tough thing to do.  But I've grown so much from this.  I wouldn't take anything for it.

Anyway, it occurred to me earlier this week that I really have been throwing myself into this almost non-stop since mid-May.  I don't know if I could have started this before: being able to write this seemed to have come at just the right time.  I wasn't equipped or prepared before.  Now I am.  And I'm going to take this as far as it can.

But for the past few days I've taken a break from writing for the book.  As you can see the blog posts have been far more frequent.  Maybe if I give this site some tender loving care, a few more things will fall into place.

So right now (because it's the sort of random thing that The Knight Shift is famous for) I'm going to share a recipe.  Not just any recipe, but the one that I used for the best fried chicken that I've ever attempted!

Credit goes to Pepper Faircloth Romo for the recipe.  Thanks also goes to longtime friend Lenora Hendrix for drawing my attention to this.  When I saw it on Facebook and how delicious it looked I immediately took a screenshot of it with my iPad so I'd have it wherever I went.  After I used this recipe for the first time I knew it was something that I wanted to share with this blog's readers.

So here is...
I fried this chicken!
No, really, I did.
(And it tastes as delicious
as it looks!)
Grandma's Recipe for Good Old-Fashioned, Perfect Every Time Southern Fried Chicken
  • 10 pieces bone in, skin on chicken (can also use 12)
  • 2 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional, but adds good flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream or milk (I used heavy cream)
  • vegetable oil for frying
 Set the chicken out about 15 minutes before you are ready to fry. In a large Ziploc bag combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika. In a dredging type bowl/dish beat the eggs with the cream or milk. Using a large iron skillet (or other deep sided skillet, you could deep fry also), heat 1" oil to 350 degrees. Take each piece of chicken and dip into the egg mixture then place in the Ziploc bag and shake around till well coated. Shake off excess and place in the hot oil. Repeat with a few more pieces (do not overcrowd the skillet, I cooked mine in two batches). Cook for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is good and golden brown on the bottom, turn the chicken and brown the other side about another 7 minutes, continue turning and cooking the chicken another 6-8 minutes or until the internal temp. reads 165 degrees (white meat does not take as long as dark meat, so check after 15 minutes of frying). Remove chicken to a paper sack or paper towel lined plate.
There are many more recipe's on Pepper's Facebook page, so be sure to go and check it out! And tell her that you saw it on The Knight Shift :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horrifying for Jesus: The problem with "hell houses"

Hell-raiser?
Poster for hell house in Texas
The first time that I went to a hell house (we’ll get to what that is soon) it depicted a commercial airline crash.  It was pretty impressive really, all taking place within the basement of a Baptist church in Asheville.  Then we were taken through a series of rooms that showed what happened to the characters following their untimely deaths.  Some were lifted away by “angels” (younger members of the church in white robes absent the wings) and didn’t show up until later.

And then there were some who were condemned because of their unbelief.  These were hauled out of sight by other youth members in demonic makeup.  Their eternal destination was what could only be called the “Hell Room”: a very dark room that required holding onto a rope to navigate through.  Still more youngsters in glow-in-the-dark masks and faintly luminescent attire mulling around while an older man playing the devil himself ranted about how there was always room in Hades.  The kids would occasionally whisper “Ssssaaatan!” or some such.  The conclusion of the hell house proper was a room depicting Jesus and the good characters coming in to worship Him.

What followed after was that those of us in our group were brought into a normal classroom up a floor where another older man talked about the gospel of Christ and salvation.  The gist of the message though was clear: be saved or go through worse than what you just saw.

I will be honest: it was a show that even years later disturbs me.   But probably not in the way that the organizers had intended.

There are various names for them: “hell house” or “judgment house” or the like.  They’re meant to  be a Christian version of the haunted attractions that spring up around this time of year.  Some of those are pretty fantastic.   Others are unbelievably complex: Woods of Terror - a nationally renowned annual Halloween attraction - owned an operated by a devout Christian, incidentally - is just down the road from where I live and is a true wonder to walk through.

The “haunted” attractions have a straightforward purpose: frighten the bejeebers out of you momentarily, only to propel you forward into more good-natured horror.  You pay money and for the next 45 minutes you come perilously close to losing bladder control… all for fun, of course.

That isn’t what the hell house is meant to be.

They pop up in various churches every year at this time, just in time for Halloween.  For twelve bucks you pay to travail from the mortal realm on through the torments of the damned, after which you are sent into an indoctrination session to explain what it is that you’ve just witnessed and how to avoid it.  Doing such means turning to Christ for eternal salvation.

I absolutely can accept that.  We are most certainly kept in the arms of God from the moment that we turn to Him and surrender ourselves to His will.  We are told that nothing will separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39).  Do I believe that once we have salvation, that salvation is eternal regardless of what it is that we do in this life?  Yes.  Definitely.

But could it be that the people who go through a hell house are more being driven away from Hell than into a relationship with God?

There is a difference between the two.  And it’s one that seriously makes me wonder how much of the “repentance” is genuine and how much is motivated by a fear that could very possibly be as temporary as a weekend.

I call it “horrifying for Jesus”.  And there is something that is significantly troubling about that.

Look, I don’t doubt that the intentions of the people running “hell houses” or “judgment houses” are very sincere.  They have set out to do something that we as Christians are meant to do, and in some ways they do it quite well.  And that is, to cause others to wonder about their eternal destination.

But I have to question… as I have long questioned… the methods that are utilized toward that end.

I’m compelled to wonder if the reason why some say that they turn to Christ is primarily out of fear of the torment of Hell.

Now, do I believe that such a thing exists?  As much as I do believe in “once saved, always saved”.  As I have come to understand it over the years, Hell is something that God has to allow.  Hell is for those who not only turn away from Him: Hell is for those who absolutely refuse to acknowledge Him.  Because if they can not stand to be in the presence of God, then being in His presence for eternity would be an even greater torment.  It is something that they could not possibly tolerate.  Heaven would become just like Hell if such a thing were possible.  What is Hell?  It’s the absence of the presence of God more than anything else.

Are our reasons to turn to God because we long to be in His presence, or because we fear the absence of Him?

There is a difference between the two, I believe.  One is based in love.  The other is borne out of fear.  The two are for all intents and purposes incompatible with each other.

So what does it say about us as followers of Christ when we need stunts derived from fear?  How is it that horror has supplanted love and tenderness in drawing others to God?

The NIV version tells us that “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (2nd Timothy 1:7).  The KJV version might say it even better: “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear…”

Think about that.  The word of God instructs that we are not given over to be driven by fear, because He who is within us has conquered fear.  The Spirit within us has overcome the fearfulness of these fallen circles of the world.  We are meant to be beyond the realm of this fallen realm and the horrors that are too much a part of it.

So why is it that we are sometimes determined to drag some people back into that horror?  And for an admission fee at that?

1st John 4:18 is even more explicit: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

We are called to be bearers of the Spirit.  Not procurers of terror.

How is it that Christians are using fear as a tactic for winning others to Christ?

And does that, or does it not, speak of our failure as Christians that we have to resort to such things?  Particularly when we are told that this isn’t the way we are supposed to  be.

It’s like this: followers of Christ don’t need gimmicks like hell houses.  When we do so, we diminish the light within us.  We are shying away from showing forth the new nature that we are meant to show forth to the world around us.  We replace that light with darkness.  We are in effect admitting that darkness is stronger than light.

We aren’t supposed to be like this.  We shouldn’t need depictions of damnation to encourage others to seek after Him.  I believe that Christ is reality… and that should be more than enough.  Christ suffices.  Fear does not and never will, and is never meant to be a substitute for love.

As I said, I don’t doubt the intentions of those who organize judgment houses, hell houses, whatever.  They mean well.  But there is supposed to be something infinitely more powerful than terror that will draw people toward God.

And it doesn’t charge ten bucks and change, either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gone to Terminus


Don't even think of phoning or e-mailing or telegraphing or Pony Express-ing me for the next few hours.  At least not until tonight's season premiere of The Walking Dead finishes.

(Okay, there are a few who I am expecting to call if they need to, but that's it...)

Looking forward to learning more about Terminus.  It can't be that bad.  Can it?  Can it?

Will post some thoughts after the show.

EDIT 10:15 p.m. EST:  Okay I guess Terminus is a bad place after all.

"No Sanctuary" was a solid opening for the fifth season.  Although, I'm a bit confused as to the history of Terminus: was Lieutenant Tasha Yar and her friends all good guys before they got turned onto the other white meat?

Wait... I can't believe I just wrote that.

Carol must have pulled off the all-time greatest single-action zombie kill in the history of every media conceivable.  She was all kinds of bad-a$$ in this one.

This was an episode that pulled the group back together (absent Beth, but after seeing the promo for next week I'd bet that we'll be seeing her again soon).  It was an action piece designed to round up everybody and propel them into whatever's coming next.  I will admit that the Terminus storyline (if this is the end of it... see what I did there?) was a bit of a letdown after all of that build-up.  But if it was meant to be for sake of action and suspense as opposed to propelling the lore forward (though we did get a bit of that with what Scientist Dude said about the disease) then it served its purpose.

Next week: Father Gabriel Stokes!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

So, about what happened in North Carolina yesterday...

Celebrating that one unaccountable man has redefined more than six thousand years of tradition from across the width and breadth of human society with one stroke of a single pen.

Seems more than a little ridiculous to me.  To say nothing of arrogant and presumptuous in the extreme.

I've seen a lot of hate and viciousness since yesterday afternoon.  Most of it seems to be coming from those who were most clamoring for "equality of love".  I can't understand that.  Or maybe I can and I don't care to articulate why... because what would be the point?

It's not same-gender marriage.  Same-gender marriage is a contradiction.  It's an oxymoron.  It is something so illogical that it cannot exist.  There will be consequences. Legal and otherwise.  Especially legal.  Ramifications for both "sides" of this debate.

Personally, I'm not worried at all about yesterday.  Marriage is something beyond human establishment.  It's untouchable.  Those people - and I'm referring to both parties involved in this - can scream that it's a mountain all they want.  Still doesn't change the fact that it's a pebble.

Bear in mind that at the time I was against Amendment One.  For various reasons I am still against it.  There are some things which are defined by something higher than man.  Whether that is God or immutable law, there are concepts which can neither be defined or redefined by legislation or activist judiciaries.  I couldn't support Amendment One because I knew something of the spirit of the men who were most pushing for it, and theirs was NOT borne out of respect for that higher concept of marriage.

And ironically, neither is what happened yesterday.  But where does this end?  Will polygamy be next?  Will corpses be given legal rights so that necrophilia is legitimized?

How far does this now go?

I'm looking at the LONG-term ramifications. And there will be consequences of this trend.

Some have asked by what right am I to dictate how two people are to love each other?  Well , I haven't conspired or ever attempted to tell anyone about what they express to another person.  I do have to sincerely wonder though about defining and re-defining something that is derived from law higher than man's.  Let's be honest: is what happened yesterday about marriage, or is it about coercing those who do not agree with it into endorsing something that they do not believe in?  There are some businesses which do not cater to same-sex marriages.  Some bakeries have refused to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.  They have been "penalized" with fines and made to sit through "sensitivity" classes.  Are they to be forced to do so against their beliefs?  It is already happening.

If two people want to express their love for each other, fine.  Let them do it.  Knock themselves out.  But that doesn't mean that I or anyone else should be made to give it an official stamp of endorsement.  I didn't think that Amendment One needed to do that for traditional marriage and I don't think that one judge's decision "needed" to do that for "gay" marriage either.

I cannot reiterate nearly enough that marriage is something man can't define.  Our attempts to do that will only meet with disaster.  Perhaps not today, but eventually.


For what it's worth: I think a case can be made that Amendment One, and it's biggest proponents, paved the way for what happened yesterday.  It really was one of the worst-worded, worst-inspired amendments that I've ever seen (and I mean from a strictly legal perspective, not on whether one agreed with it or not).  The ones who were demanding it cared more for strutting their own egos than they were about anything else.  One cannot set out to do something with an impure motive.  Doing so will in time destroy that work.  And that is what happened here.  It became less about defending marriage and more about looking like players at the big table of politics.

There are many who would be wise to learn from this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Facebook post: My beliefs about politics, law enforcement (and other stuff)

 Earlier this morning, following some comments on Facebook, I posted a status articulating some thoughts about politics, government, and my take on respecting law enforcement.  Subsequently I've been feeling led to post it here as well.  It could be because I really haven't written anything here for quite a while about my beliefs on some things.

Anyway, here it is...



There are some people on Facebook who the better angels of my nature are struggling to keep me from referring to as "blithering idiots". Specifically, the ones demanding to know if I am "left or right".

Those who know me best know that I'm neither, and that I have long been above such... at least what I consider to be... an immature, inaccurate and childish paradigm.

I may be fiscally conservative, but I'm not a be-all, end-all "conservative". Neither have I ever thought of myself as "liberal". "Libertarian" doesn't fit either. "Anarchist" certainly doesn't.

I am merely the person God made and meant for me to be... and I will NOT be pegged as "left" or "right" or anything else on the political "spectrum". I'm not on that spectrum. I'm above it. I believe in personal freedom with responsibility. Apparently that is too much for some to comprehend.

Neither do I appreciate the insinuation that I "defend" the "wrong people" because I expect more, and better, from those who have chosen to *serve* us in an official capacity. This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There is no tier system separating "us" from "them". Neither is trust or respect inordinately bestowed on those who have chosen to take up a mark of such service. That level of respect and trust must be *earned*. It doesn't come automatically with a badge or a uniform. That kind of unquestioning "respect" is ultimately what has led to tyranny throughout too much of history.

I don't "disrespect" anybody. But if someone wishes to bear a mark of distinction from others, then they'd damn well better LIVE UP to that with honor. I am an Eagle Scout. Every day I do my best to live up to what that means. I can't add to the honor of that, but I certainly can take away from it. I don't want to do that, because if I did that would bring the honor of a lot of people - who I consider better than I - into question. The same holds true for law enforcement, or anyone else who puts on a uniform. There are some among those who "get" that. There are too many who don't. And lately more than a few of them are taking away from the honor of those that do strive to live up to that honor.

Yet some have recently implied that I'm worse than "wrong" because I choose to question the honor of anyone at all.

We, each of us, are citizens of this country. It is the responsibility of each of us to respect the rights of others and to uphold the Constitution. There are some who have ostensibly chosen to make doing so a paid career of that. If so, then they SHOULD be held to a higher standard than other citizens. They SHOULD be held accountable for what they do with the power and authority entrusted them.

I don't say that out of disrespect toward anyone. But neither can I ascribe a "respect" that is synonymous with fear, toward those who believe they must be feared because of their chosen profession. I can't disrespect, but neither is my respect so cheaply gained. Neither should it be for anyone else.

I believe in accountability on the part of ALL of us, without partiality.

Just as I will not only NOT be branded as "left" or "right" or whatever, and in fact I loathe those who demand that of me.

I am simply what God has led me to be after much life and experience. I am what He would have me to be.

And if others don't have the capacity or the desire to understand that, then that's their problem, not mine.

Monday, October 06, 2014

That show you like is going to come back in style


It's happening.  No joke.  Right on time.  Just as dream-Laura said to Dale Cooper.

Twin Peaks, arguably the most influential television show of all time, is coming back.  We will see it again 25 years after that final episode of its second season in 1991.

Not a remake.  Not a relaunch.  It's going to be an honest to goodness continuation of the ground-shattering series.  With creators David Lynch and Mark Frost writing the episodes and Lynch himself directing every one.

The nine episodes of Season 3 (jeez did I really just write that?) will run on premium cable channel Showtime in 2016.

Earlier today Kyle MacLachlan tweeted that he would be returning as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.  The last time we saw him in 1991, "Coop" had been taken over by the ultra-malevolent spirit Killer BOB, smashing his own head into the bathroom mirror and screaming in mock rage about Dale's girlfriend.  Except it was strongly implied that the real Cooper was still trapped in the Black Lodge (sort-of a Hell dressed up to look like a French bordello, and everyone in it talks backwards).

Deadline Hollywood has tons more about Twin Peaks' return as does The Telegraph.

Look!  Official announcement video from Showtime!



This is a big, big deal.  That cannot be stressed nearly enough.  I was intending on being in "radio silence" on the Internet for this coming week as I finish up writing the third part of my book.  This news totally jerked me out of that.

Or maybe there was something more amiss.  During the weekend I came across my CD of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, composed by Angelo Badalementi.  It was released in September of 1990 and I bought it that first week.  I was thinking of putting it on my iPad for listening while I work.  No question about that now.


2016.  Plenty of time to get some damn fine cherry pie and clean out the percolator...

Friday, October 03, 2014

Just watched the premiere of STAR WARS REBELS

I had heard only insanely good things about Star Wars Rebels: the latest animated series taking place in that galaxy far, far away.  It's also the first real Star Wars production since Disney took over the franchise.  And additionally, it's the first installment of Star Wars since the new canon policy was announced earlier this past spring.  The gist of that being: anything that Disney does with Star Wars from now on is canonical so far as the lore goes.

Tonight was the premiere episode, an hour-long special titled "Spark of Rebellion".

What did I think of it?

Star Wars Rebels is already the most fun, the most unadulterated, the most mature, and purest Star Wars experience that I've enjoyed in a very, very, very long time.

 I can't think of a single thing that I didn't like about this.  Where the prequels failed, Star Wars Rebels is already succeeding.  Eventually it didn't register with me that I was watching a computer-animated series.  This is Star Wars the way it should always be.

It will be two years ago this month that the announcement came about Disney taking over Lucasfilm and its properties.  A lot of people wondered then... and have since... what was going to become of this beloved saga now that it was at the Mouse House.

Based on what I saw tonight: be of good cheer, friends.  Star Wars is in good hands.  And it may be in the best shape that it's ever been in yet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look! Chris makes a political endorsement!

Here comes something that I haven't done in... what, at least six years?  To be honest I can't remember.  I think the total amount of times that I've endorsed a candidate has been less than three.

(Okay, I guess I kinda endorsed myself during that very wacky school board race in 2006, but that mostly came during the process of chronicling that process here on the blog.  I didn't actually come out and say "I endorse myself!" although that would be kinda funny...)

For many years I have had a policy and I have kept strictly to it, without any exceptions.  It is this: I will not vote for any candidate whose campaign runs a single negative ad against an opponent.  If a candidate cannot win on her or her own merit, then that candidate doesn't deserve my vote.  All a negative ad demonstrates is that the candidate running it is more interested in power and prestige than in the people.

I'm telling y'all here and now, that my ballot wound up having a lot of blank spaces at the very start of this campaign season.  I've been watching every race like a hawk, showing partiality to none.  Longtime readers also know that I am not partisan.  I vote for the person, not the party.  Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents... each and more have been represented in the ballots I've cast.

Incidentally, one of the most absolutely worst things that a person can do is vote a straight-party ticket.  Too many people fought and died so that we might have the rights of citizenship.  Those rights do not include casting votes without thinking about who you're voting for.

Some of these notions won't find approval with more than a few.  But I don't care.  You shouldn't come to this blog or that of anyone else and expect commentary fitting the status quo.  Around here, we laugh at silly concepts like conventional wisdom.

But anyway...

Here, with less than a week left before the election, after observing this season very closely, I can confidently attest that there is at least one candidate who has passed my test.  The same cannot be said of his primary opponent in the media, and it certainly cannot be said of the two "front runners" in this state's U.S. Senate race.

If this candidate runs a negative ad in the eleventh hour, I'm going to withdraw my endorsement.  But this far along, seeing what I have, I don't think that it's going to happen.

Say no to the negative ads!
Vote Mark Walker for Congress!
So it is that The Knight Shift and its eclectic proprietor gladly announces that in North Carolina's 6th District race for United States House of Representatives, I am going to heartily endorse Mark Walker.  Not only because his values and beliefs as in such close alignment with my own, but because he has run the cleanest campaign that I have probably ever seen for office at the national level.  Not one commercial - be it television or radio - has come out of his campaign aimed at an opponent.  And I seriously believe that he is going to win election in very large part because of that.  People are fed-up and tired of negative campaigning.  People are hungering for real character and integrity.  I would never intimate that Mr. Walker is a perfect candidate, because there is no such of a thing.  If he does win election to Congress, there will be things that I will disagree with him about.  That's just the nature of this carnal world where we each strive to see through the glass darkly.  But I can very confidently affirm that voting for Mark Walker will be one that for the first time in a long time will not be a vote that I see myself regretting.

If anyone asks, I'm not affiliated with the Walker campaign.  I haven't volunteered for it, I haven't made any phone calls or passed out literature.  I've never met Mark Walker.  I do know many others who do know him personally, and not one of them has not attested that he is a man sincere in his beliefs and convictions.   These are people who I respect a tremendous deal and if they say that about Mr. Walker, I'm inclined to believe them.

So again, Mark Walker wins this blogger's enthusiastic endorsement.  And I will encourage this blog's readers who are also in the 6th District of North Carolina to do likewise.  And if you want to know more about Walker, his background and what he stands for, click on over to his campaign website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GOG.com has released X-WING and TIE FIGHTER!

Today shall be a day long remembered...

Courtesy of the amazing folks at GOG.com (the GOG stands for Good Old Games), what are by far two of the greatest computer/video games ever wrought by mortal hands have gone on sale today, ready to be enjoyed by a new generation or by those who have longed to reminisce about those heady days of the early Nineties.

Stick it to the Empire in
X-Wing
...
And I would be saying that even if they weren't Star Wars titles!

X-Wing was an astounding and revolutionary game in its own right and when it came out early in 1993 it took the industry by storm.  With a brilliant combination of 3D graphics, rich user interface, an immersive storyline and balanced yet incredibly challenging gameplay, X-Wing was the Star Wars experience that everyone wanted but few thought we would ever get.  This was the combat simulator of its time and even by today's standards it holds up incredibly well.  At last, players could join the ranks of the Rebel Alliance in the fight against tyranny, with a variety of fighters: the X-wing, Y-wing, the ever-slippery A-wing and the powerhouse B-wing.

...or blow Rebels to smithereens in
TIE Fighter!
But not to rest on its laurels, the following year LucasArts released TIE Fighter: still considered by some to be THE best computer game of all time.  TIE Fighter turned the tables and let gamers take to the skies against the scum and outlaws that the Rebels really are (the intro sequence alone are enough to make one giddy about blowing Rebel fighters out of the stars).  TIE Fighter improved on everything that made X-Wing work, and then some.  An even more interactive story/campaign and array of craft (including the TIE  Defender and my personal favorite the TIE Bomber) gave you all the tools you'd ever need to show them pesky Rebels what's what.

And as of today GOG has made X-Wing and TIE Fighter available and 100% compatible with modern systems!  If you're still playing these classics with old CD-ROMs (or even the original floppies), you'll never again have to juggle disks.  For $9.99 each you can download a DRM-free single-file installer and set up either game (or both) on any moderately-equipped system from Windows XP on up.

Incidentally, for the ten bucks you're actually getting two flavors of each game: the original DOS version and the "Collector's Edition" that ran on Windows and required a joystick (the DOS games could be played with a mouse).  The Windows-based Collector's versions have prettier graphics.  But the DOS ones have the iMuse MIDI score that changes dynamically as events in the game are triggered (i.e. the Imperial theme starting up as a Star Destroyer suddenly arrives on the scene).  The Windows editions have Redbook WAV audio instead (meaning it doesn't change per combat conditions).  Personally, I'm going with the DOS versions at least at first.  Having an iMuse score with the game itself more than justifies the price tag.

So what are we waiting for?  Mash down here for X-Wing and aim here for TIE Fighter!

These two games have been the most hotly-demanded on any modern game-delivery platform and now after years of yearning GOG has given both Star Wars fans and general gamers alike what they've wanted more than most.  And along with these two GOG is as of today also offering other classic games from the LucasArts vault: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which some will argue is really the greatest PC game ever and not without reason), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the very twisted Sam & Max Hit the Road.  More LucasArts games are promised for the near future (maybe I'll finally get to play Full Throttle...)

So there it is: X-Wing and TIE Fighter for modern computers at long last.  Go get one.  Or the other.  Or get both.  Now.  You know you wanna.

(I'm holding off until after I finish writing my book.  Getting to play X-Wing again is going to be a present to myself :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

So... you wanna watch Chris play the Doctor Who theme on his dulcimer?!?

Sure.  Why not...

I've mentioned a few times that ever since late spring I've been taking lessons on playing the mountain dulcimer.  So far I've notched up quite a repertoire but I'm still learning the real basic mechanics of what is truly a beautiful instrument.  Still, I've come a long way in a short amount of time :-)

Anyhoo, from the very beginning I've had in mind to play the Doctor Who theme on dulcimer.  It's something that I've played around with for awhile now and... well, I think that I've got it.  Just needs a little more finesse, is all.  Only tonight did I figure out the last half of the second strain of the theme.  When I get really good I'll string them all together nice and flowing.

Okay, so if you want to see and hear what I've done so far ummm... well I can't post it on YouTube at the moment 'cuz for some reason YouTube doesn't like it when I try to publish from my iPad.  But fear not!  I've uploaded the video onto Facebook and made it public so that anyone can watch it.

Just a work in progress.  Next time it's gonna be even better but I'm still rather proud of how it's turning out already :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fixing iPad and iPhone "bricked" by iOS 8.1

So the other week I upgraded my iPad (it's an iPad 2) to iOS 8.0 and since then there was some significant slowdown of apps, and Safari seemed especially effected.  Oh it worked, just not at the brisk pace that I'm used to.  Anyway, last night I finally updated to iOS 8.1

Never, never again will I do such an upgrade to my ever-trusty iPad 2.  And yes, I know that I should upgrade the iPad itself.  It's three and a half years old, after all.  I guess it's seen me through an awful lot so there's that sentimental value.  If and when I finally retire it I'm thinking of putting it in a shadowbox and hang it on my wall.  But until then I'd still like to get at least a little life out of it.

Anyway, I started the update and went to sleep and when I woke up this morning it was supposed to have been all ready to go.  Except that it was even slower than it had been before.  So, I powered-down and waited 30 seconds then turned it on again.  And for the next 30 minutes or so I was staring at the silver Apple logo in the middle of a black screen and going nowhere fast.

I was immediately terrified that my iPad had become broken or bricked or something and that I would never see it or the data I had stored on it ever again.

Some Google-ing however indicated that I was far from alone: many people using older iPads (I've seen reports of iPad 3 and perhaps the generation after that) have been affected by iOS 8.1 and many iPhones going back to iPhone 5.  You would think that there would be some kind of thorough analysis and de-bugging, and at the very least have the device inform users when the newest iOS is incompatible with their device.  Some are wondering if this is apparently Apple's way of compelling consumers to buy the latest version of the hardware.

I know that the newest iPad Air is out this week, and I'm considering getting it soon.  In the meantime I do need my iPad now to be working.

Well, it took me an a hour and a half, but I did come up with something that gets the iPad un-bricked and if there's any consistency between the device itself and iTunes (note: make sure your iTunes is updated to the latest version) this will probably work for you too if your own device is hit with a "black screen of death"...

1.  Open up iTunes on your PC or Mac (I'm using Windows Vista... yeah yeah I'm a glutton for punishment).

2.  With your device unconnected to your computer, make sure your iPad or iPhone is already powered-on.  It's okay if it's still showing the black screen and logo: we're about to fix that!

3.  Connect the iGimmick to your computer/iTunes through the cable.

4.You should see iTunes acknowledging the presence of the device.  If your computer is anything like mine you will see that it's setting up new device stuff through the USB.  THIS IS A GOOD THING!  DON'T UNCONNECT YOUR iTHINGY UNTIL IT'S FINISHED DOING THIS!  You should know when it's done when your iPhone or iPad screen comes up as usual, with all your icons and wallpaper and whatnot.  If you can maneuver around the screen with your finger like usual that should indicate that the device has been re-set and back to normal.  But just in case I would leave it still communicating with iTunes for a little while (say, 10 minutes or so).

5.  While you're waiting for that, it's a good time to start backing up your iToy... so do that.  Do it now.  Or perish in flames.  It's your choice, but not really.

6.  After the backup is done (it took mine about 15 minutes because I had so many space-hoggin' apps on it... and other stuff) it is probably good to do.  Disconnect as normal and proceed to continue enjoying your iGadget as normal.

Last night I updated over the house network via wi-fi instead of going through iTunes, and I'm wondering if that is what was part of the problem.  Maybe, maybe not.  Worth pondering.  All I know is that once it was physically hooked-up with iTunes things started going back to normal.

Now, there's one thing that I haven't done so far.  I haven't powered-down and tried to turn it back on.  Because I'm kinda leery about doing so and having to go through this crap all over again.  I may try it tomorrow if I'm brave enough (I'm trying to get some book written  this afternoon/evening so while I'm in that groove).  If it works I'll let y'all know.  Or if it works for you, feel free to leave a comment about it.

Guess I'll have to get an iPad Air 2 sooner than later.  But that's okay.  I've had my eye on getting a 128-gigabites model for awhile now anyway :-)

EDIT 5:02 p.m. EST:  I should have mentioned earlier that after applying this fix following the upgrade to iOS 8.1, that my iPad 2 is functioning MUCH faster than it had been prior.  It's now comparable to the speed it was on iOS .  Even Safari.  And the touch screen seems a tad more responsive now also.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Get out your Bible and re-watch last night's THE WALKING DEAD

No need to discuss the "Bob-b-cue" or the "shish-ka-Bob" or whatever you want to call it at the end of last night's The Walking Dead 'cuz chances are that you've heard plenty enough of it today and Lord help you if you had to eat ribs tonight.

I'm re-watching "Strangers" right now and something that caught my eye...

After Rick finishes sweeping through Gabriel's church and the rest of the group come in, there are a couple of boards on either side of the altar at the front of the sanctuary.  On each board is an identical set of verses.

The verses are:

Romans 6:4
Ezekiel 37:7
Matthew 27:52
Revelation 9:6
Luke 24:5

Just out of curiosity I went to my Bible and looked up each of those verses.

What I found makes me wonder if that was something intentional on the part of the producers.  As if it's a clue or a sly wink or whatever.  One way or another, each of the verses is about death and/or resurrection.

 Very, very intriguing stuff.

And this show keeps continuing to demonstrate why it's the best on television.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Flatline": Chris declares this week's DOCTOR WHO to be nothing less than astounding and brilliant!

It's been 45 minutes since the transmission (heh-heh-heh, did you see what I did there, saying "transmission" like they always do in Britain?  That's all I got...) on this side of the pond of "Flatline".  And with each passing minute I'm coming to be convinced more and more that this episode of Doctor Who may be one of the very best since the legendary "Blink" of David Tennant's era.

Yes.  It's that good.

"Flatline" was classic old-school mystery/horror and along with the past few episodes I'm reminded a lot of the more terrifying stories from the Tom Baker years.  This was no exception, and along that trend "Flatline" is the finest of the bunch.  In fact, I would even go so far to say that this was the greatest episode of Peter Capaldi's run we've seen so far.  There were some real "hiding behind the sofa" moments in this episode and I think it will be a solid entry on a lot of fans' "favorite Doctor Who stories" lists.  It was also - it goes without saying - replete with plenty of humor (especially in regard to the teeny-tiny size that the TARDIS exterior begins to be).  You can tell that Capaldi is really settling into his role as the Twelfth Doctor and that he's having a wazooload of fun with it.  The chemistry between him and Jenna Coleman's Clara is a sincere delight to behold, and "Flatline" may be the best example yet of that.

So what made "Flatline" so awesome?

1.  The most terrific interaction we've seen yet between Clara and the Twelfth Doctor, despite the fact that they were rarely together (more or less).

2. Clara standing on her own two feet and showing what she's capable of when practically alone.

3.  The incredible shrinking TARDIS (and won't the toymakers go crazy with that one...)

4.  A cerebral concept that was brilliantly executed and was quite easy to follow along.

5.  Secondary characters that viewers could readily empathize with.

6.  The Boneless: perhaps the most original new monsters since the Weeping Angels arrived in "Blink" several years ago.  And just as horrific.

7.  The "I am the Doctor!" scene where the Doctor breaks bad and reminds us that no matter how afraid we may be of the monsters, the monsters will always be afraid of the Doctor.

All in all, "Flatline" is an absolute hoot of an episode and I'll no doubt watch it again from my DVR before the weekend is out (maybe before tomorrow night's The Walking Dead).

Something else that I've been meaning to mention.  I am really digging the music that Murray Gold came up with for the Twelfth Doctor's theme.  There is an epic majesty and sense of mystery to it that complements Capaldi's Doctor just as spot-on as "I Am The Doctor" was for Matt Smith's.  Here's hoping that the BBC won't be long in putting out a Series 8/Season 30-something soundtrack.  Then again, we're still waiting for that score from "The Day of the Doctor"/"The Time of the Doctor" from the fiftieth anniversary last year.  What's the hold-up on that anyway?!

But guess what?  I found out tonight that November 8th sees the return of Doctor Who to PBS!  That's also the night that BBC America broadcasts the season finale.  So that'll be at least two hours of Doctor Who spread out across two networks.  Doctor Who once again on PBS every Saturday...

...somehow, that makes things seem a little brighter in the world.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Best fried chicken recipe I've EVER had!

It was going to be finished by the end of June.  And then the end of July.  Then the end of August.  Then by the end of September.  That didn't happen so I projected the end of October.

More than halfway through this month and my book is still far from finished.  I'm learning the hard way (but what other way is there really?) about what it means to write a book.  And right now I'm going through entirely other frustrations about this, not necessarily related to the manuscript.

This is a very tough thing to do.  But I've grown so much from this.  I wouldn't take anything for it.

Anyway, it occurred to me earlier this week that I really have been throwing myself into this almost non-stop since mid-May.  I don't know if I could have started this before: being able to write this seemed to have come at just the right time.  I wasn't equipped or prepared before.  Now I am.  And I'm going to take this as far as it can.

But for the past few days I've taken a break from writing for the book.  As you can see the blog posts have been far more frequent.  Maybe if I give this site some tender loving care, a few more things will fall into place.

So right now (because it's the sort of random thing that The Knight Shift is famous for) I'm going to share a recipe.  Not just any recipe, but the one that I used for the best fried chicken that I've ever attempted!

Credit goes to Pepper Faircloth Romo for the recipe.  Thanks also goes to longtime friend Lenora Hendrix for drawing my attention to this.  When I saw it on Facebook and how delicious it looked I immediately took a screenshot of it with my iPad so I'd have it wherever I went.  After I used this recipe for the first time I knew it was something that I wanted to share with this blog's readers.

So here is...
I fried this chicken!
No, really, I did.
(And it tastes as delicious
as it looks!)
Grandma's Recipe for Good Old-Fashioned, Perfect Every Time Southern Fried Chicken
  • 10 pieces bone in, skin on chicken (can also use 12)
  • 2 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional, but adds good flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream or milk (I used heavy cream)
  • vegetable oil for frying
 Set the chicken out about 15 minutes before you are ready to fry. In a large Ziploc bag combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika. In a dredging type bowl/dish beat the eggs with the cream or milk. Using a large iron skillet (or other deep sided skillet, you could deep fry also), heat 1" oil to 350 degrees. Take each piece of chicken and dip into the egg mixture then place in the Ziploc bag and shake around till well coated. Shake off excess and place in the hot oil. Repeat with a few more pieces (do not overcrowd the skillet, I cooked mine in two batches). Cook for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is good and golden brown on the bottom, turn the chicken and brown the other side about another 7 minutes, continue turning and cooking the chicken another 6-8 minutes or until the internal temp. reads 165 degrees (white meat does not take as long as dark meat, so check after 15 minutes of frying). Remove chicken to a paper sack or paper towel lined plate.
There are many more recipe's on Pepper's Facebook page, so be sure to go and check it out! And tell her that you saw it on The Knight Shift :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horrifying for Jesus: The problem with "hell houses"

Hell-raiser?
Poster for hell house in Texas
The first time that I went to a hell house (we’ll get to what that is soon) it depicted a commercial airline crash.  It was pretty impressive really, all taking place within the basement of a Baptist church in Asheville.  Then we were taken through a series of rooms that showed what happened to the characters following their untimely deaths.  Some were lifted away by “angels” (younger members of the church in white robes absent the wings) and didn’t show up until later.

And then there were some who were condemned because of their unbelief.  These were hauled out of sight by other youth members in demonic makeup.  Their eternal destination was what could only be called the “Hell Room”: a very dark room that required holding onto a rope to navigate through.  Still more youngsters in glow-in-the-dark masks and faintly luminescent attire mulling around while an older man playing the devil himself ranted about how there was always room in Hades.  The kids would occasionally whisper “Ssssaaatan!” or some such.  The conclusion of the hell house proper was a room depicting Jesus and the good characters coming in to worship Him.

What followed after was that those of us in our group were brought into a normal classroom up a floor where another older man talked about the gospel of Christ and salvation.  The gist of the message though was clear: be saved or go through worse than what you just saw.

I will be honest: it was a show that even years later disturbs me.   But probably not in the way that the organizers had intended.

There are various names for them: “hell house” or “judgment house” or the like.  They’re meant to  be a Christian version of the haunted attractions that spring up around this time of year.  Some of those are pretty fantastic.   Others are unbelievably complex: Woods of Terror - a nationally renowned annual Halloween attraction - owned an operated by a devout Christian, incidentally - is just down the road from where I live and is a true wonder to walk through.

The “haunted” attractions have a straightforward purpose: frighten the bejeebers out of you momentarily, only to propel you forward into more good-natured horror.  You pay money and for the next 45 minutes you come perilously close to losing bladder control… all for fun, of course.

That isn’t what the hell house is meant to be.

They pop up in various churches every year at this time, just in time for Halloween.  For twelve bucks you pay to travail from the mortal realm on through the torments of the damned, after which you are sent into an indoctrination session to explain what it is that you’ve just witnessed and how to avoid it.  Doing such means turning to Christ for eternal salvation.

I absolutely can accept that.  We are most certainly kept in the arms of God from the moment that we turn to Him and surrender ourselves to His will.  We are told that nothing will separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39).  Do I believe that once we have salvation, that salvation is eternal regardless of what it is that we do in this life?  Yes.  Definitely.

But could it be that the people who go through a hell house are more being driven away from Hell than into a relationship with God?

There is a difference between the two.  And it’s one that seriously makes me wonder how much of the “repentance” is genuine and how much is motivated by a fear that could very possibly be as temporary as a weekend.

I call it “horrifying for Jesus”.  And there is something that is significantly troubling about that.

Look, I don’t doubt that the intentions of the people running “hell houses” or “judgment houses” are very sincere.  They have set out to do something that we as Christians are meant to do, and in some ways they do it quite well.  And that is, to cause others to wonder about their eternal destination.

But I have to question… as I have long questioned… the methods that are utilized toward that end.

I’m compelled to wonder if the reason why some say that they turn to Christ is primarily out of fear of the torment of Hell.

Now, do I believe that such a thing exists?  As much as I do believe in “once saved, always saved”.  As I have come to understand it over the years, Hell is something that God has to allow.  Hell is for those who not only turn away from Him: Hell is for those who absolutely refuse to acknowledge Him.  Because if they can not stand to be in the presence of God, then being in His presence for eternity would be an even greater torment.  It is something that they could not possibly tolerate.  Heaven would become just like Hell if such a thing were possible.  What is Hell?  It’s the absence of the presence of God more than anything else.

Are our reasons to turn to God because we long to be in His presence, or because we fear the absence of Him?

There is a difference between the two, I believe.  One is based in love.  The other is borne out of fear.  The two are for all intents and purposes incompatible with each other.

So what does it say about us as followers of Christ when we need stunts derived from fear?  How is it that horror has supplanted love and tenderness in drawing others to God?

The NIV version tells us that “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (2nd Timothy 1:7).  The KJV version might say it even better: “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear…”

Think about that.  The word of God instructs that we are not given over to be driven by fear, because He who is within us has conquered fear.  The Spirit within us has overcome the fearfulness of these fallen circles of the world.  We are meant to be beyond the realm of this fallen realm and the horrors that are too much a part of it.

So why is it that we are sometimes determined to drag some people back into that horror?  And for an admission fee at that?

1st John 4:18 is even more explicit: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

We are called to be bearers of the Spirit.  Not procurers of terror.

How is it that Christians are using fear as a tactic for winning others to Christ?

And does that, or does it not, speak of our failure as Christians that we have to resort to such things?  Particularly when we are told that this isn’t the way we are supposed to  be.

It’s like this: followers of Christ don’t need gimmicks like hell houses.  When we do so, we diminish the light within us.  We are shying away from showing forth the new nature that we are meant to show forth to the world around us.  We replace that light with darkness.  We are in effect admitting that darkness is stronger than light.

We aren’t supposed to be like this.  We shouldn’t need depictions of damnation to encourage others to seek after Him.  I believe that Christ is reality… and that should be more than enough.  Christ suffices.  Fear does not and never will, and is never meant to be a substitute for love.

As I said, I don’t doubt the intentions of those who organize judgment houses, hell houses, whatever.  They mean well.  But there is supposed to be something infinitely more powerful than terror that will draw people toward God.

And it doesn’t charge ten bucks and change, either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My prayer for this day

Dear God,

Please show me how to believe, without needing to understand.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gone to Terminus


Don't even think of phoning or e-mailing or telegraphing or Pony Express-ing me for the next few hours.  At least not until tonight's season premiere of The Walking Dead finishes.

(Okay, there are a few who I am expecting to call if they need to, but that's it...)

Looking forward to learning more about Terminus.  It can't be that bad.  Can it?  Can it?

Will post some thoughts after the show.

EDIT 10:15 p.m. EST:  Okay I guess Terminus is a bad place after all.

"No Sanctuary" was a solid opening for the fifth season.  Although, I'm a bit confused as to the history of Terminus: was Lieutenant Tasha Yar and her friends all good guys before they got turned onto the other white meat?

Wait... I can't believe I just wrote that.

Carol must have pulled off the all-time greatest single-action zombie kill in the history of every media conceivable.  She was all kinds of bad-a$$ in this one.

This was an episode that pulled the group back together (absent Beth, but after seeing the promo for next week I'd bet that we'll be seeing her again soon).  It was an action piece designed to round up everybody and propel them into whatever's coming next.  I will admit that the Terminus storyline (if this is the end of it... see what I did there?) was a bit of a letdown after all of that build-up.  But if it was meant to be for sake of action and suspense as opposed to propelling the lore forward (though we did get a bit of that with what Scientist Dude said about the disease) then it served its purpose.

Next week: Father Gabriel Stokes!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

So, about what happened in North Carolina yesterday...

Celebrating that one unaccountable man has redefined more than six thousand years of tradition from across the width and breadth of human society with one stroke of a single pen.

Seems more than a little ridiculous to me.  To say nothing of arrogant and presumptuous in the extreme.

I've seen a lot of hate and viciousness since yesterday afternoon.  Most of it seems to be coming from those who were most clamoring for "equality of love".  I can't understand that.  Or maybe I can and I don't care to articulate why... because what would be the point?

It's not same-gender marriage.  Same-gender marriage is a contradiction.  It's an oxymoron.  It is something so illogical that it cannot exist.  There will be consequences. Legal and otherwise.  Especially legal.  Ramifications for both "sides" of this debate.

Personally, I'm not worried at all about yesterday.  Marriage is something beyond human establishment.  It's untouchable.  Those people - and I'm referring to both parties involved in this - can scream that it's a mountain all they want.  Still doesn't change the fact that it's a pebble.

Bear in mind that at the time I was against Amendment One.  For various reasons I am still against it.  There are some things which are defined by something higher than man.  Whether that is God or immutable law, there are concepts which can neither be defined or redefined by legislation or activist judiciaries.  I couldn't support Amendment One because I knew something of the spirit of the men who were most pushing for it, and theirs was NOT borne out of respect for that higher concept of marriage.

And ironically, neither is what happened yesterday.  But where does this end?  Will polygamy be next?  Will corpses be given legal rights so that necrophilia is legitimized?

How far does this now go?

I'm looking at the LONG-term ramifications. And there will be consequences of this trend.

Some have asked by what right am I to dictate how two people are to love each other?  Well , I haven't conspired or ever attempted to tell anyone about what they express to another person.  I do have to sincerely wonder though about defining and re-defining something that is derived from law higher than man's.  Let's be honest: is what happened yesterday about marriage, or is it about coercing those who do not agree with it into endorsing something that they do not believe in?  There are some businesses which do not cater to same-sex marriages.  Some bakeries have refused to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.  They have been "penalized" with fines and made to sit through "sensitivity" classes.  Are they to be forced to do so against their beliefs?  It is already happening.

If two people want to express their love for each other, fine.  Let them do it.  Knock themselves out.  But that doesn't mean that I or anyone else should be made to give it an official stamp of endorsement.  I didn't think that Amendment One needed to do that for traditional marriage and I don't think that one judge's decision "needed" to do that for "gay" marriage either.

I cannot reiterate nearly enough that marriage is something man can't define.  Our attempts to do that will only meet with disaster.  Perhaps not today, but eventually.


For what it's worth: I think a case can be made that Amendment One, and it's biggest proponents, paved the way for what happened yesterday.  It really was one of the worst-worded, worst-inspired amendments that I've ever seen (and I mean from a strictly legal perspective, not on whether one agreed with it or not).  The ones who were demanding it cared more for strutting their own egos than they were about anything else.  One cannot set out to do something with an impure motive.  Doing so will in time destroy that work.  And that is what happened here.  It became less about defending marriage and more about looking like players at the big table of politics.

There are many who would be wise to learn from this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Facebook post: My beliefs about politics, law enforcement (and other stuff)

 Earlier this morning, following some comments on Facebook, I posted a status articulating some thoughts about politics, government, and my take on respecting law enforcement.  Subsequently I've been feeling led to post it here as well.  It could be because I really haven't written anything here for quite a while about my beliefs on some things.

Anyway, here it is...



There are some people on Facebook who the better angels of my nature are struggling to keep me from referring to as "blithering idiots". Specifically, the ones demanding to know if I am "left or right".

Those who know me best know that I'm neither, and that I have long been above such... at least what I consider to be... an immature, inaccurate and childish paradigm.

I may be fiscally conservative, but I'm not a be-all, end-all "conservative". Neither have I ever thought of myself as "liberal". "Libertarian" doesn't fit either. "Anarchist" certainly doesn't.

I am merely the person God made and meant for me to be... and I will NOT be pegged as "left" or "right" or anything else on the political "spectrum". I'm not on that spectrum. I'm above it. I believe in personal freedom with responsibility. Apparently that is too much for some to comprehend.

Neither do I appreciate the insinuation that I "defend" the "wrong people" because I expect more, and better, from those who have chosen to *serve* us in an official capacity. This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There is no tier system separating "us" from "them". Neither is trust or respect inordinately bestowed on those who have chosen to take up a mark of such service. That level of respect and trust must be *earned*. It doesn't come automatically with a badge or a uniform. That kind of unquestioning "respect" is ultimately what has led to tyranny throughout too much of history.

I don't "disrespect" anybody. But if someone wishes to bear a mark of distinction from others, then they'd damn well better LIVE UP to that with honor. I am an Eagle Scout. Every day I do my best to live up to what that means. I can't add to the honor of that, but I certainly can take away from it. I don't want to do that, because if I did that would bring the honor of a lot of people - who I consider better than I - into question. The same holds true for law enforcement, or anyone else who puts on a uniform. There are some among those who "get" that. There are too many who don't. And lately more than a few of them are taking away from the honor of those that do strive to live up to that honor.

Yet some have recently implied that I'm worse than "wrong" because I choose to question the honor of anyone at all.

We, each of us, are citizens of this country. It is the responsibility of each of us to respect the rights of others and to uphold the Constitution. There are some who have ostensibly chosen to make doing so a paid career of that. If so, then they SHOULD be held to a higher standard than other citizens. They SHOULD be held accountable for what they do with the power and authority entrusted them.

I don't say that out of disrespect toward anyone. But neither can I ascribe a "respect" that is synonymous with fear, toward those who believe they must be feared because of their chosen profession. I can't disrespect, but neither is my respect so cheaply gained. Neither should it be for anyone else.

I believe in accountability on the part of ALL of us, without partiality.

Just as I will not only NOT be branded as "left" or "right" or whatever, and in fact I loathe those who demand that of me.

I am simply what God has led me to be after much life and experience. I am what He would have me to be.

And if others don't have the capacity or the desire to understand that, then that's their problem, not mine.

Monday, October 06, 2014

That show you like is going to come back in style


It's happening.  No joke.  Right on time.  Just as dream-Laura said to Dale Cooper.

Twin Peaks, arguably the most influential television show of all time, is coming back.  We will see it again 25 years after that final episode of its second season in 1991.

Not a remake.  Not a relaunch.  It's going to be an honest to goodness continuation of the ground-shattering series.  With creators David Lynch and Mark Frost writing the episodes and Lynch himself directing every one.

The nine episodes of Season 3 (jeez did I really just write that?) will run on premium cable channel Showtime in 2016.

Earlier today Kyle MacLachlan tweeted that he would be returning as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.  The last time we saw him in 1991, "Coop" had been taken over by the ultra-malevolent spirit Killer BOB, smashing his own head into the bathroom mirror and screaming in mock rage about Dale's girlfriend.  Except it was strongly implied that the real Cooper was still trapped in the Black Lodge (sort-of a Hell dressed up to look like a French bordello, and everyone in it talks backwards).

Deadline Hollywood has tons more about Twin Peaks' return as does The Telegraph.

Look!  Official announcement video from Showtime!



This is a big, big deal.  That cannot be stressed nearly enough.  I was intending on being in "radio silence" on the Internet for this coming week as I finish up writing the third part of my book.  This news totally jerked me out of that.

Or maybe there was something more amiss.  During the weekend I came across my CD of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, composed by Angelo Badalementi.  It was released in September of 1990 and I bought it that first week.  I was thinking of putting it on my iPad for listening while I work.  No question about that now.


2016.  Plenty of time to get some damn fine cherry pie and clean out the percolator...

Friday, October 03, 2014

Just watched the premiere of STAR WARS REBELS

I had heard only insanely good things about Star Wars Rebels: the latest animated series taking place in that galaxy far, far away.  It's also the first real Star Wars production since Disney took over the franchise.  And additionally, it's the first installment of Star Wars since the new canon policy was announced earlier this past spring.  The gist of that being: anything that Disney does with Star Wars from now on is canonical so far as the lore goes.

Tonight was the premiere episode, an hour-long special titled "Spark of Rebellion".

What did I think of it?

Star Wars Rebels is already the most fun, the most unadulterated, the most mature, and purest Star Wars experience that I've enjoyed in a very, very, very long time.

 I can't think of a single thing that I didn't like about this.  Where the prequels failed, Star Wars Rebels is already succeeding.  Eventually it didn't register with me that I was watching a computer-animated series.  This is Star Wars the way it should always be.

It will be two years ago this month that the announcement came about Disney taking over Lucasfilm and its properties.  A lot of people wondered then... and have since... what was going to become of this beloved saga now that it was at the Mouse House.

Based on what I saw tonight: be of good cheer, friends.  Star Wars is in good hands.  And it may be in the best shape that it's ever been in yet.