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Friday, December 31, 2010

THIS is how to remake HAWAII FIVE-O!

I ain't seen the new Hawaii Five-O series on CBS yet, but I bet it's got nothing on what my lifelong best friend Chad Austin did when he visited the Aloha State a few months ago! Turns out that he's been holding back on me and has been doing some filmmaking of his own: witness this AWESOME spoof of the opening credits from the original Hawaii Five-O series!

Speaking of Chad, I've heard that people who've seen The People vs. George Lucas have really enjoyed his portrayal of George Lucas from our film Forcery (clips of which appear in the award-winning documentary). And Chad swears that he's going to start blogging again soon. Maybe we are witnessing a new cinematographer in the making? :-)

Did I deep-fry some turkey for Christmas?

Ohhhh yeah, I deep-fried the turkey! Three of them, in fact! All on Christmas Eve. Two 12-pound full-sized birds for friends and a turkey breast for my own family gathering.

Here's the first bird that I did...

The second turkey...

And the turkey breast: smaller but no less succulent!

And hey, look who showed up! None other than Tebow Wasmund, the popular pup (who was recently seen as Sandy the dog in a production of Annie) and his mistress Peggy! Tebow is well known around here as he is often courting admirers at iCoffee in nearby Summerfield. It's a great lil' coffee house and well worth visiting!

I guess you just can't keep a good dog away from the scent of fried turkey :-P

And 'twas a good thing that I got all that frying done on Christmas Eve 'cuz the next day, we got our first real White Christmas in almost fifty years...

In case anyone is wondering, I used Lost: The Final Season as the soundtrack to which I fried this batch of turkeys to.

Incidentally, I have come up with a pretty... shall we say, "interesting?"... idea for a new turkey fryer. And there is already someone that I am conspiring with to make it into a reality. Guess that'll be a project to work on for 2011. Expect pictures and YouTube video if/when we pull it off.

And, that wraps up turkey frying for the 2010 holiday season! So help me, my hands will be smelling like garlic butter for a whole 'nother month.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fox 8 story about my living with bipolar disorder

Chris Knight showed his creativity in one of the first Youtube videos to go viral. But there was another, darker side that he struggled to contain.

Last week Bob Buckley from WGHP Fox 8 came to my house along with photojournalist Chris Weaver to interview me about my recent public disclosure on this blog about my having bipolar disorder. We filmed about an hour's worth of material (and Chris got some terrific outdoor shots with his cinematography skillz :-).

The story aired last night during the Fox 8 News at 10 as a Buckley Report feature. A lot of people have told me since its broadcast that it turned out great and that hopefully it will bring encouragement to others suffering from bipolar (which, is one of the reasons why I felt led to write about it on my blog).

Here's the story, in case you missed it last night (or if you happen to live in London or Tasmania or Chula Vista or somewhere else outside of Fox 8's broadcasting area)...


Here's the link to the story's page on the Fox 8 website.

In the past few weeks, God has placed it on my heart that... this can be a kind of ministry opportunity. Last month a friend of mine who is associate pastor of a nearby church shared 2nd Corinthians with me: how Paul wrote about God putting afflictions in our lives so that we might be a help to others going through the same thing.

If so, then I certainly must thank God for not only letting me go through this, but also His bringing me through to this place in my life. To a place where I can have the life that I have always longed for.

There was so much said during the interview last week and not all of it could have made the final cut. I remember telling Bob and Chris at one point that I was better than I was a few months ago... and I'm not as good as I will be a few months from now.

And if God has given me this experience, for whatever reason He had in allowing it, well... I'm going to play it to the hilt for everything that it can.

Thanks to Bob Buckley and Chris Weaver for a job well done! :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

20 crazy things the U.S. government spends OUR money on: Grateful Dead memorabilia, WORLD OF WARCRAFT and more

It's fiscal criminal insanity: more than $440,000 to study Vietnamese male prostitutes. How about roughly a million dollars spent to compose poetry for zoos? Then there is more than a hundred grand used to construct a "critter crossing" for salamanders in Vermont. The University of California at Irvine received a grant of $3 million to study the online video game World of Warcraft. And over $600,000 was given to another California university to digitize Grateful Dead concert tickets and T-shirts.

Those are just some of the examples of horrid waste - funded by our tax dollars - by the federal government documented by The Economic Collapse blog. Also on the list of 20 craziest things that the United States government directs expenditure from the public treasury for: studying flatulence from dairy cows and the renovation of a pizzeria's store front to give it a "more inviting" feel.

Ya see, this is part of the reason why I have no faith at all in temporal politics, regardless of who or what party winds up "in charge" in Washington. This kind of irresponsible spending has been going on for as long as I can remember and darned FEW seem to be serious at all about slashing it.

Meanwhile, our Republic dies a death by a thousand cuts...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grow your own Bhut jolokia!

"Weird Ed" Woody, my filmmaking partner, is quietly attempting to murder me.

That's the only reason why I can conceive of his sending me this link to ThinkGeek's product page for the Grow Your Own World's Hottest DIY Pepper kit... because Weird Ed is well aware of my fascination with spicy hot food and he knows that I'm not going to pass up on the chance to grow my own Bhut jolokia!

This pepper, native to northeastern India, was written about more than three years ago on this blog and at the time some enterprising folks were looking at how to market it to the wider world. Well for a few bucks and some scratch you can get this pop-top can, open it up and give it water and sunlight, and in a few weeks you'll get your first sprouts. The pepper comes in at more than a million scorching Scoville units of heat. By comparison, your typical bottle of Tabasco sauce is 2,500 Scoville units. A few weeks ago the Bhut jolokia was dethroned as the hottest pepper on official record by a hybrid (which is based on the Bhut jolokia), but it's still the hottest-known naturally occurring pepper that's on the market.

Here's that link again if you dare. If nothing else, maybe you'll get lucky and get your Grow Your Own World's Hottest DIY Pepper kits by Christmas: 'twould be something different to give than those Chia Pets you always wind up buying when all other gift ideas fail...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A small meditation upon Christ and Christmas

Why do some people express such bitter disagreement about when exactly Jesus was born?

Seems the important thing is that Jesus was born at all.

But, that could just be me...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Word Lens: Visual universal translator thingy for iPhone

Holy crap! This is amazing! A new app for the iPhone called Word Lens from an outfit called Quest Visual uses the phone's camera to translate visual words on-screen in real time.

Check out this video of Word Lens in action...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"No matter where you go, there you are."

Awright, first person who can tell me what obscure mondo-bizarro film that is from, can buy themselves a candy bar and pretend I got it for them.

I'm... not quite ready to return to this blog at the usual frenetic frequency that all two of my loyal readers have come to appreciate. According to my figures there had been an average of five new posts a day for quite some time now. But if you look at the front page that I'm seeing right now, there've only been twenty-five posts since mid-August!

Clearly, something has been amiss with Your Friend and Humble Narrator.

I'm not retiring The Knight Shift (well, not planning to anyway: some claim that this blog has caused more mischief than WikiLeaks... and look at where that site has gone lately!). But there is certainly - and there has already been - some significant "shifting around" of sorts behind the scenes as I have had to wrestle with quite a bit in my personal life. And I may or may not have divulged more than enough of that already.

What can I say? I believe in being honest and sincere. And most especially to and about myself. As the Bard wrote in Hamlet, "To thine own self be true".

I believe that. Even when my own self is wracked with common human foibles and frailties and a few more common than we often care to admit.

This blog has always been about things that interest me, that I believe others might find interesting as well, and as a place where I can share my thoughts and reflections on various matters. This site in its seven years of operation has done quite a lot: from movie reviews, to chronicling my running for public office, to premiering movies that I have made with friends, to documenting the exploits of the last great American moonshiner, to taking on a multimedia giant in a copyright dispute (and prevailing in the end), to recipes, and well... just about anything and everything in between.

And now, there is something else that I'll be writing about and reflecting upon. Not a new thing, but something that I'm inclined to believe is important enough to share some perspective about. And maybe others will come away from this blog even a bit wiser and more enlightened for the time spend reading from it. In the end, that is all any writer is really hoping to accomplish.

So that is what I'll be doing. Along with everything else that readers have come to expect from this blog. And Lord willing, I'll be doing more of that sooner than later.

In the meantime, to The Knight Shift's regular and faithful readership: Hello again! And to those who will be coming across this blog during the next few days: Welcome! Hope you like what you find here :-)

By the way, in case any of the regular readership is wondering if I deep-fried any turkey this past Thanksgiving...

Ahhh c'mon: y'all didn't think that I wouldn't properly document something like that, didja?!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To my beloved Lisa (and for anyone else who has suffered a spouse battling bipolar)

Edit 5:12 p.m. EST: I have been asked to remove this post. And, I will honor this request.
EDIT 5:22 p.m. EST 11/18/2010: I am not going to repost the original text that was here. But increasingly, I am being led to post something about what I have gone through. Maybe - just maybe - God might use it to spare others the grief that I have gone through and that I have put too many other people through.In my last post (which really was meant to be farewell for now) I publicly disclosed that I have suffered from depression for many years. I also have had to struggle with bipolar. And I do understand that I am likely giving up a lot of great potential in coming forward with that.Well, whether I want it or not, it is a part of me. It is part of my identity, which I will have to deal with for the rest of my life on this earth. And don't think that I haven't cried out to God about it. Indeed, especially in the past two months as I have begun to regain my understanding of things, I have cried out to Him harder than ever before.I have especially asked God why He gave me this, when it led to certain things happening which are, as best I can understand them, things He is against. Like divorce.For whatever reason He has, God allowed me to be stricken full-bore with bipolar, which on top of the depression and very many medications that I have been given in the past several years to fight this, turned me into a very different person than what I really was. A different person than who I like to think God intended for me to be. I became someone who put the ones closest to me through hell. And I was completely powerless to do anything about it.Bipolar, depression and all other kinds of mental illness are not a sin. Not at all. They are a kind of disease: one as real and destructive as cancer, hemophilia and diabetes. In some ways having a mental illness is far, far worse. If God had to stricken me with something, I wish He had given me cancer instead. That is something, at least, that pretty much everybody can understand.So I would like to say some things to two groups of people. First of all, I want to address those who, like me, have been afflicted with bipolar.Please know: this is NOT your fault! You could not possibly have wanted this or asked for this condition. And if you are like me, you probably weren't even aware of your own mind turning against you until it was too late. You know where I'm coming from, and I know where you are coming from too. The feeling of being alone in a dark, deep prison cell from which there is no light, no hope, no escape. Being trapped in your own mind, having to watch helplessly as you do things beyond your control. Things that you know you would have never done otherwise.I know what it's like to feel rejected by God and rejected by those closest to you. They don't understand this. They can't understand it, not without experiencing it themselves. And like me, that is something that you - since you know what this is like - would never wish on anyone. Not even your worst enemies.I know what it's like to tell God that it's just not fair. That if He was going to allow your health to be destroyed, to let it inflict harm on your flesh. To suffer something that takes away your judgment and your common sense and your spirit for living... how can that be fair? And yet, God let it happen to us.Don't give up hope. Please, don't give up hope. And as for why God would allow this to us, the only answer that comes to mind is from the story of Jesus healing the blind man, as is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 9:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?""Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
That is the best that I have been able to locate in scripture during these many weeks. And perhaps I should be rejoicing that God let me go through this: that if it means He will be glorified in the end, that He chose me because He knew that I could take it.
That doesn't mean that I necessarily like it one bit. After all, depression and bipolar have cost me friendships, opportunities and even my marriage. I wish that I could see how this is going to end, so that my burden might be lessened from knowing that God is going to use this.All I have to go on is faith and hope and trusting in Him. I don't know how the story ends. For now I'm a struggling character in a story that He is still writing. There are moments when I wish He did use someone else. But then, that would have been someone else suffering. And how much faith would any of us have if God didn't put us in places where we were in pain and misery and crying out to Him for deliverance?In the end, God is good. Even though things are so very dark. I will be thankful that as silent as He is now, He is listening.Now, for the second group that I want to address: the people who have to live and deal with a loved one suffering bipolar...Your mother, your father, your brother or sister, your husband or your wife who has bipolar: you have no idea what kind of a hell they are having to endure. They didn't ask for this.And neither do they deserve being abandoned and left alone.Would somebody abandon a loved one because that person became sick with cancer, or hemophilia, or leukemia? Of course not! At least they should not do such a thing. Conditions such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and everything else under the umbrella of mental illness are just as much a disease as cancer or muscular dystrophy. With much the same cause: something going wrong physically, deep inside the brain. It could be brought on by trauma or it could be neurochemical in nature.These people who have bipolar, they are good people, who have been hit with something beyond their control. And it is a cruel thing to leave them because of their illness.Wanna know something though? I don't hold anything against those who have left me because of my own condition. Because as I've said, you have to go through it yourself in order to understand. And this is something that I never want those I care about to have to suffer.Folks, please: your loved ones who may have bipolar, they don't deserve to be left behind. They need to be loved and cherished. You need to love and cherish them harder than you ever have before, and I do know how hard a thing that is to ask! Just know that however much hell they are putting you through, they are being put through hell far, far worse. They don't mean to hurt you or humiliate you or otherwise bring embarrassment to you. If they are anything like what I am now going through, the eventual recovery from bipolar is going to leave them cursing the day that they were born. That is the magnitude of grief and shame that people feel when they realize for the first time how much hurt they have done to those they love most, when they couldn't have helped it.Trust me: a person with bipolar is going through more than any person should ever go through in this earthly life. To not be forgiven for what they are by the people closest to them, is a far worse thing than the condition itself.I am not forgiven. By God, yes. But not by those who I have hurt. And I would do anything to be able to take it all back, if I possibly could.And those who suffer bipolar that you, dear reader, might personally know: I've no doubt that they feel the same way.Please, don't abandon those whose own minds have turned against them. Pray for them. Be patient with them. Most of all, dare to love them in spite of their illness.More certain am I than of how my own story is becoming, do I believe that Christ will be lifted up and glorified by those who do love and cherish and forgive those who cannot help the situation of mental illness.All things work for the will of God. Even mental illness. The question is: how willing are we to choose to glorify Him in spite of ourselves and our pride?

Monday, October 04, 2010


"Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

-- Chief Joseph, 1877

I have suffered from severe depression for more than ten years. I have fought it as hard as I possibly can and it hasn't been enough. It has cost me dear friends, potentially wonderful opportunities, and worst of all it has cost me the wife who I loved and held precious more than anyone else that has ever come into my life.

The sufferings I have been through, I would not wish on anyone. Not even wish them on those who have wanted to hurt me.

I am saying this because there is only so much that the enemy, the lord of this world, can do to me. He can take away everything that I hold dear. He can destroy the relationships I have with others. He can even take away my health and end my life.

I am saying this because I will not curse God. Even though in the past several days I have cried out to Him about my hurt and my guilt and my anguish and in spite of it He has been distant and silent.

I am not going to curse God. To follow Christ does not mean an easy life. I have followed Him for almost fourteen years and I have failed and fallen more times than not. There have been times before when I have cursed God in anger.

But I will not curse God this time or ever again.

God is good.

"Whatever they plot against the Lord he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time."

-- Nahum 1:9

I will not curse God. There is little left that can be done to hurt me. I am not even afraid to die anymore, if it comes to that.

So let everything left be a praise to His glory.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An apology

To those who I have hurt over many years, I am sorry. Please forgive me.

This blog is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gone for a few days

Back soon!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

On God and repentance...

God has never desired for us to change a thing about our habits or our lifestyle. But He does desire for us to have a change of heart.

If this much is chosen, then everything else follows naturally.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Happy Labor Day

It's like May Day, but without the socialism!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bev Perdue - AKA "Worst Governor EVER" - suspends gun rights STATEWIDE ahead of Hurrican Earl (what the?!?)

Just got the word from Matt Mittan that North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue - also known on this blog as "Worst Governor EVER!" - has suspended the rights of North Carolina residents to "to use or carry firearms outside their premises" during the state of emergency declared for Hurricane Earl, currently taking aim at our coast.

Here's what really raised my eyebrows: this is apparently a STATEWIDE suspension, and not merely along the North Carolina coast. In other words, folks around Sylva, Waynesville and other fine places waaay out in the North Carolina mountains are also affected by the gun rights suspension... even though it's extremely doubtful that they will be affected by Earl in the least bit.

What the hell is Governor Perdue thinking?!

I would like for someone to show me where this is just a matter for the coastal areas. But even if that were the case, it does not make me feel the least bit comfortable that Perdue has taken it upon herself to say that the Second Amendment no longer applies, regardless of how big or small an area is affected by Earl.

And then the woman has the gall to say that those who decide to ride it out are "on your own". So what are they supposed to use to defend themselves against potential looters? Like the guy in Aliens suggested: "harsh language"?

This woman hasn't a clue. Like too damn many other elected officials in this country.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Music video: "Rip It Up" by Death Proof!

Hey y'all, been a few days since an update. All that can be said at the moment is that I've got a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak :-)

Here, maybe this'll make up for it. My good friend and brother in Christ (not to mention fellow Star Wars ubergeek) Joshua Ausley shot, edited and produced this head-slammingly rockalicious music video for a band called Death Proof out of our very own Greensboro, North Carolina!

Behold the pure awesome that is "Rip It Up"!

And if you wanna know more about Death Proof then click on over to the band's Myspace page.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A message to Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the "Restoring Honor" rally

Dear Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and attendees of today's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C.:

America does not need a "religious rebirth". America and her people do need to experience genuine contrition before God. And the two are absolutely NOT the same.

Honor is good. But humility is far better.

Chris Knight

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans five years ago

Five years ago tonight was when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore and beat the city of New Orleans to within an inch of its life. The photo is a now-famous one taken of the storm surge as Katrina made landfall.

Katrina started out life on August 23rd, 2005 as a tropical system in the southeastern Bahamas. It did substantial damage and caused a number of deaths as it went across the Florida peninsula. And then Katrina entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico... where it became the monster that would ultimately cause the worst natural disaster in American history.

Five years later and Katrina is being debated as hotly as ever. I thought at the time that the situation became one of the worst clusterf-cks ever for government at all levels (and both major parties, mind ya).

But there were also quite a lot of stories about the positive aspects of human nature as well that came out of Katrina. The tale of Jabbar Gibson - the 20-year old who stole a schoolbus to evacuate fellow New Orleans residents to the Houston Astrodome - was one of my favorites. So too was the bar in the French Quarter that never closed. And then there was the photograph of Nita LaGarde, 105 years old and in a wheelchair, holding hands with Tanisha Blevin, the 5-year old granddaughter of her nurse. LaGarde and Blevin had spent two days trapped in the attic of a house as the flood waters rose before being rescued.

(I still think that the Interdictor blog is going to make for one helluva movie someday, with the right screenplay and director behind it.)

There is something dreadfully fascinating about hurricanes. And if you were reading The Knight Shift at the time you'll remember well how, ummm... nuts I went in writing about Katrina.

Let us hope and pray that another such opportunity will be a long, long time in returning.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man... in LEGO!

When you've got a massive amount of LEGO bricks and inspiration from one of the greatest comedy movies of all time... who ya gonna call?!?

That is absolutely insanely AWESOME!! And if you want more, GeekTyrant has this and another version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scene from Ghostbusters recreated in LEGO.

Elvis spotted at Sheetz in Eden, North Carolina this evening

I wasn't going to make a blog post this late but I was still up working on stuff and this report came from a longtime trusted source. And as this blog has become one of - if not the most - viewed and respected sources of reliable information about Rockingham County matters, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not pass along the following...

The title pretty much says it all: Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll who allegedly died in 1977, was witnessed at the Sheetz in Eden just a few short hours ago.

Sightings of Elvis are not unheard of in Rockingham County but this is the first time in more than a decade and a half that Elvis has been verified as being in the area. Previously Elvis had been riding around in a white stretch limo, including one visit to a convenience store in Ridgeway, Virginia in 1993 that was authenticated by the News & Record out of Greensboro.

If anyone else spots Elvis in the vicinity, send your report to theknightshift@gmail.com. 'Course it goes without saying that photos will be especially welcome!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Thursday evening theology...

God will always take us just as we are, and if we let Him then He will always make us more than we were.

What do they know that I don't?

For the past week or so, I have noticed that The Knight Shift is receiving an inordinately high number of visits from law firms.

All of them are coming in through the "front door" (the blog's main URL at theknightshift.blogspot.com), not at any one particular post. And it's not just been legal firms in North Carolina. If anything visits from law firms in my own home state are being vastly outnumbered by visits from across the country: places like Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Washington state, Texas, Alaska...

I am totally clueless as to what is going on that is leading so many lawyers to visit this site.

Dunno if this means that my activities as a blogger will be propelling me to a lawyer's office but at this point, after going through that twice already, I'm starting to get used to it :-P

Dude gets shot in head... and doesn't find out 'til 5 years later!

Robert Chojecki, a fella out of Herne, Germany, went to his doctor because he had been suffering severe headaches for a year and didn't know why.

So his physician took some x-rays of Chojecki's head... and found a bullet nestled between his skin and his skull.

It had been there for five years. At the time Chojecki, now 35, thought that he had either bumped his head or been hit by a firecracker during a New Years celebration. But apparently the 22-caliber bullet came from a bullet that had been fired during the same festivities (note to self: stop firing guns at parties).

Read more about the heady case of Robert Chojecki here, including video depicting the x-rays and the bullet!

Told y'all this was coming: glasses-free 3D television!

Two months ago I discussed some reasons why I wasn't particularly led to jump aboard the 3D television fad just yet. The most prominent among them was my understanding that we could fairly soon expect 3D teevee technology that worked without those clunky glasses (which many are now saying not only induce headaches but are just a plain ol' nuisance to deal with).

Welcome to the future.

Toshiba is set to be the first manufacturer to roll out glasses-free 3D television, according to news site Breitbart citing a Japanese newspaper. The electronics and entertainment giant "has developed a new system that emits a number of rays of light with various angles from the screen so that viewers can see stereoscopic images without glasses". It's added that "People can enjoy images in three dimensions from various positions and suffer less stress."

If true, this will be the big breakthrough that leads to large-scale adoption of 3D television. The first of these sets are reported to be going on sale before Christmas and retailing for several thousands of dollars. Give it a few years' time and this kind of stuff will likely be more standard than not.

See? This blog just saved y'all several hundreds if not thousands of bucks!! :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Got the LOST Complete Collection Blu-ray set today!

Am enjoying it right now. This is by far the most intimidating behemoth of a box set that I have ever added to my personal library. I mean, you not only get a whole heapin' bunch of Blu-ray discs (or DVD discs if that is still your flavor) but also a touchy-feely relief map of the Island, a Senet board with black and white playing pieces, a cryptic note, and an even more mysterious DHARMA Initiative pen-sized dark light that can be used to illuminate the box (and finding hidden... stuff, with it).

Watching Season 6 at the moment. Am pleased to report that picture and sound quality is amazing. But the absolutely first thing that I had to watch was "The New Man in Charge": the 12 minutes-long "mini episode" that follows up on the events of the series finale. And in twelve minutes we get to see darn nearly and maybe all of the still-lingering questions get answered! Wondering about the food drops, the "Hurley-bird", Room 23 and Walt? Well those and many more matters get addressed to satisfaction.

If you're thinking about getting this set soon, you might wanna drop by your nearest friendly neighborhood big box store and get it this afternoon or evening: they were going fast at the nearest Best Buy (in fact mine was the last copy they had and the nice lady at the register said people had lined up outside the store this morning to buy the Complete Collection and the regular Season 6 set that also came out today). If you're anything at all a nut for Lost, this is definitely a must-have :-)

(And I learned yesterday that the Lost Season 6 soundtrack CD will be out next month! Followed in October by the 400-some pages Lost Encyclopedia.)

EDIT 7:35 p.m. EST: I just found the hidden disc. Yup, there is another disc in this set and you have to look for it: it's not anywhere that you can readily spot. And this is a huge box set. I'm beginning to wonder if it might be booby-trapped...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Three reasons why "the mosque" should be built

Personally, I find the "mosque at Ground Zero" - the Islamic worship center that is being planned for construction not far away from where the two towers of the World Trade Center once stood - to be as big a "non-issue" as there's been in recent memory. It, like too many other things, is a distraction from matters that are of more dire priority.

So I honestly haven't given the issue much thought until someone over the weekend - and a devout Christian, incidentally - remarked that he hadn't seen one rational argument as to why there shouldn't be a mosque built at that location.

After spending the past few days ruminating on it, I have to conclude... that my friend has observed accurately. And that there even might be more good reasons to allow the mosque to be constructed than raw emotion might have us believe.

My gray matter can tick off three of 'em quite readily...

1. It will be built on private property - As someone who believes that there is a fundamental right to do with property as one sees fit unless it interferes with the rights of others, I am obligated on principle to defend the right for those planning the project to build the so-called "mosque".

2. People have an absolute right to worship God as best as they understand Him - Regardless of whether or not I agree with how they worship God, I must respect the right of others to seek Him, in the good faith that their doing so is as sincere as I would appreciate their respecting my own seeking after Him to the best of my ability and understanding. Put simply: we each have the right to worship God in our own way... but that right ends where the right of others to enjoy the same begins.

3. It will demonstrate that Americans are SERIOUS about the freedom of religion - Some will no doubt claim that I've "gone liberal". I think it's more in line with what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (namely, Romans 12:20): that if one opposed to us is hungry or thirsty then provide for his needs, as this "will heap burning coals on his head". And if Islam is the intolerant ideology that some contend that it is, I can think of few things better to counter it than to prove without exception that we of the Judeo-Christian ethic dare to love all others... which includes those who might be lusting for our destruction.

So yeah. I don't see why the mosque shouldn't be built. As one who holds to the rights of the individual and as a follower of Christ, I can't see where others should be deprived of the liberties that I am also thankful to have.

'Course, if the mosque is built and it does wind up used for nefarious purpose, I also can't but believe that the mosque should be razed to the ground and the site desecrated with pig fat (along with the corpses of any adherents responsible for such acts of violence). Parse that as you will...

Scott Adams tries to build a "green" house

In addition to being a great cartoonist and creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams has emerged in recent years as being a brilliant and respected commentator on a wide variety of subjects. In a piece that he wrote for The Wall Street Journal Adams turns his keen intellect on the challenges of building an eco-friendly house... and the quickly-mounting problems that come with seriously undertaking the endeavor.

Here's a snippet...

As a rule, the greener the home, the uglier it will be. I went into the process thinking that green homes were ugly because hippies have bad taste. That turns out to be nothing but a coincidence. The problem is deeper. For example, the greenest sort of roof in a warm climate would be white to reflect the sun. If you want a beautiful home, a white roof won't get you there. Sure, you could put a lovely garden on your roof, because you heard someone did that. But don't try telling me a garden roof wouldn't be a maintenance nightmare. And where do you find the expert who knows how to do that sort of thing?

Second, the greenest sort of home would have few windows because windows bleed heat. In particular, if your lot has a view to the west, forget putting windows on that side because your family members will heat up like ants under a magnifying glass. Try telling your architect that you don't want a lot of windows on the view side. He'll quit.

Remember to skip the water-wasting lawn. White pebbles are the way to go if you want to save the Earth. I was born with almost no sense of style whatsoever, and even I hate looking at pebble lawns, although I do respect the choice.

There's plenty more at the link above. Or just click here if you're lazy. Hey, it's Monday morning...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Happy 90th Birthday to Ray Bradbury!

On this, the occasion of ninety years since he first arrived in our world and in thanks for the many new worlds that he has since given us - as well as daring us to look at our own anew - The Knight Shift and its eclectic proprietor wishes author Ray Bradbury a very Happy Birthday!

Jack Horkheimer - AKA the "Star Hustler" - has passed away

Late last night the sad news arrived that Jack Horkheimer, known to millions as the "Star Hustler" and host of PBS's long-running Star Gazer, passed away Friday afternoon. He was 72.

There's a whole heap o' amateur astronomers and no doubt quite a few professionals as well who can say that Jack Horkheimer, with his exuberant style and enthusiastic love of astronomy, was one of the biggest reasons why they took up naked eye stargazing. Every week since 1976 we'd see Horkheimer sitting on one of Saturn's rings (gotta love cheapo chromakey done clever) as he effervescently described the heavenly spectacles for the coming week.

A very cool guy, who I am told was just as nice and energetic in real life as he was on his television shows. He will be missed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How I spent my Saturday night

This evening I was on stage three times. Two of those I was appearing as either Elvis Presley, or as Jacob Black (the werewolf guy) from the Twilight saga.

Yes, there are pictures. And if y'all behave nice I might post them...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Classic SESAME STREET: Adults finally see Snuffy!

Thank the Lord for YouTube. 'Cuz without it, I would have probably gone the rest of my life without ever seeing this legendary moment for myself!

Kids watching Sesame Street these days are used to seeing Mr. Snuffleupagus mixing it up with his best friend Big Bird and all the other characters. But once upon a time the situation was very different. "Snuffy" was introduced to the show during Sesame Street's third season in 1971. He and Big Bird instantly became best friends. And Big Bird was eager to introduce Snuffy to all his other friends on Sesame Street, including the adults. Especially the adults!

But every time Big Bird hatched a plan that would introduce Snuffy to the grown-ups, something would always happen that would keep it from happening. Usually Snuffy would wind up splitting the scene right before the adults arrived. Other times, the adults would have their heads turned looking at something in the dire opposite direction of Snuffy, dashing Big Bird's plot once more.

This went on for... get this... FOURTEEN YEARS! It came to the point where hardly anybody believed Big Bird at all: to them, Snuffy was Big Bird's "imaginary friend".

But at long last, for Sesame Street's seventeenth season premiere on November 18th, 1985, Big Bird's scheme to reveal Snuffy to the world finally succeeded.

Reasons have varied for why Snuffy was outed. Many of the show's staff have said that by the mid-1980s there had been a lot of cases of child abuse and exploitation and the fear was that children wouldn't be believed if they had to tell their parents about "important things".

But it could also be argued that after fourteen years of "just barely missing" Snuffy, that Sesame Street's writers had completely run out of ways for the adults to keep from seeing him. Rather than stringing it out any longer, Sesame Street producers finally gave up and let Big Bird win his long battle for credibility.

I'd heard about this scene but until a few days ago had never actually witnessed it. This is... a HUGE thing for a guy like me, who did grow up watching Sesame Street and wondering if the adults would ever see Snuffy. My life is a little more complete now for getting to see this :-)

So without further ado, here is Big Bird - with a plan involving an early appearance by Elmo - revealing Mr. Snuffleupagus to the shocked and stunned adult cast of Sesame Street!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

About Roger Clemens and Congress...

My final thought for the day:

Why is Roger Clemens in trouble for lying to Congress... when Congress lies to us ALL the time and always gets away with it?

Chris sez that LIMBO is SUPER MARIO BROS. as envisioned by David Lynch!

I have not yet finished playing Limbo (click here for official site), the new game from Danish-based independent Playdead Studios for the Xbox 360. A few days ago I finally beat Batman: Arkham Asylum... after owning it since its release a year ago this month! Hey what can I say: Bane had been kicking my butt since February.

Anyhoo, since I'd committed to only playing through the Dark Knight's exploits during the evening hours, my nighttime gaming needed a new cerebral experience... and Limbo is it! And even though I haven't reached the end of the game, I absolutely must pass along word of it to this blog's readers. Why?

'Cuz Limbo is like Super Mario Bros. had it been envisioned by David Lynch! Yeah, imagine Mario from the same mind that brought us Eraserhead, and that will be Limbo. It's a side-scrolling platform game (something we don't see much of anymore), totally rendered in a Gothic black and white palette and with a bare minimum of background noise. The nameless protagonist - a silhouetted little boy - is bereft of any features save two points of light depicting his eyes. You control him as he sets off to find his lost sister.

And between he and his goal are some of the nastiest, most brutal deaths that I've EVER seen in a video game. So far I've watched our hero be drowned, impaled, decapitated, and numerous other grisly bad ends. The first time he stepped into a steel-jawed trap that took off his head, my mouth couldn't contain the prolonged scream of abject shock that came from my lungs. And Limbo contains many such moments...

Limbo is a testament to how an excellent game (or even a movie or television series) doesn't need a ridiculously exorbitant budget and high-end production values. All it takes is a little creativity and a daring imagination to pull off a memorable experience that will engage, entrance and enchant the player. Limbo is available for 1200 points on the Marketplace for Xbox Live Arcade. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Salvation: Plain and simple

I haven't reported much lately about the nefarious goings-on of local cult leader Johnny Robertson and his "Church of Christ" (which again, has nothing to do with the real Churches of Christ). Number of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I've been quite busy this summer with ummm... "other projects". And because as one good friend noted: Robertson and his cronies (and the bisexual criminal that they give so much business to) aren't really worth getting into a huff over. That I've got bigger and better things in my life. Heck, Yours Truly was the most-watched person on television across the continent of Australia last night! And this blog gets many more more - and altogether a better quality - readers than the cult gets viewers. That's been enough to make me content...

...But I couldn't resist posting and sharing this next item, because it is a positivalutely brilliant and exceptionally clever point.

A reader named Jessica e-mailed me the following thought this afternoon:

"Johnny Robertson makes salvation complicated for simple people. Jesus Christ makes salvation simple for complicated people."
Very, very true.

And that's something that doesn't just pertain to, as one person put it, "Hypocrites On Parade". It applies to a lot of people.

It's something to think about for anyone who believes that we have to somehow "earn" or "merit" our salvation by being perfect in every way imaginable. When in truth, such a thing is simply not possible!

God isn't waiting for us to be "correct" in our spirituality, in our doctrine, or whatever. God is waiting for us to do nothing more than to desire Him and to cry out for His grace... because without that grace alone, we are lost.

We are taught from scripture that "Ask, seek, and ye shall find." That is a promise. To those who seek, however it is that they might be seeking, they will certainly find. Maybe not to our own satisfaction, but certainly to God's.

Who are any of us then to complicate the matter with our own expectations?

Bang? Multi-flavored popsicles look like real handguns!

Call them "Pistol Pops"? European inventors(?) Florian Jenett and Valentin Beinroth have come up with popsicles that look like actual handguns! It started when they made life-like guns out of ice a few years ago. But last year they began flavoring their creations with Coke, licorice, and cherry.

(These guys should bring their product to market here in the states. I bet they'd be a huge hit at pro-Second Amendment events!)

Hit the link above for more photos of these tasty trigger-happy treats.

Department of Justice seeks to hire "Native American Medicine Man"

How is this not an example of racial preference in hiring?! Hell, this is explicitly a sexual preference too. Isn't that what government isn't supposed to be doing?!

Well anyway, it's a tough job market out there but if you happen to be Native American, a man and a practitioner of sacred healing, you're in luck! The Bureau of Prisons divison of the United States Department of Justice is hiring a "Native American Medicine Man" to work at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth, Minnesota.

Here's the official job description...

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, FPC Duluth, Duluth, MN, intends to make a single award to a responsible entity for providing the services of Native American Medicine man to the inmate population as outlined in the statement of work. The anticipated date of the award will be approximately October 1, 2010 subjected to funds availability for the next fiscal year. The duration of the contract will be from the date of award through 09/30/2011. The contractor shall perform all services at FPC Duluth, in the Religious Services Department, located at 6902 Airport Road, Duluth MN, 55814.

The contractor will conduct Native American ceremonies and provide instruction to inmates in the Native American Faith.

General Topics for Contractors - Native American

1. Red Road
2. All My Relation
3. Medicine Wheel
4. The Sacred Pipe
5. Sweat Lodge
6. Elders
7. Circle of Life
8. Traditions/Rituals
9. Prayers
10. Ceremonies
11. Fasting
12. Smudging
13. The Drum
14. Grandfather/Grandmother
15. Dances
16. The Medicine Pouch
17. Offerings
18. Decision-making
19. Ritual Objects
20. Eagle
21. Eagle Feathers
22. Nature Lessons
23. Family Relations
24. Parenting
25. Learning
26. Healthy Relationships
27. Culture
28. Healing Traditions
29. Herbal Medicines
30. Understanding Self
31. Respect
32. Traditional Games
33. Traditional Foods
34. Seasons
35. Healing Self
36. A Grateful Heart
37. Cleansing Ceremonies
38. What is the role of faith and Community Re-entry?

The contractor will supply all of their own religious garments and books. The contractor will control, supervise, and be responsible for all government materials and equipment and will ensure that such equipment and materials are used only for legitimate program purposes.

The contractor will provide 4 sessions per year. The sessions will either be on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Pipe ceremony) or on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (sweat ceremony). The day and time of these services is subject to change with agreement of the religious services department and the contractor. A session will consist of 4 hours to include entry and exit.

The contractor will adhere to all regulations prescribed by FPC Duluth for the safety, custody, and conduct of inmates. All contract personnel providing services within the confines of the FPC shall have a complete investigation conducted in accordance with BOP Program Statement 3000.02, "Personnel Manual". Any contract personnel who enter the FPC on a regular basis shall be required to attend a four-hour institution orientation program prior to assuming his or her responsibilities under the contract. A "refresher" orientation must be completed annually. The CM (Contract Monitor) will be responsible for scheduling training for contract personnel.

Awright, I have to ask: is the Native American Medicine Man contractor allowed to conduct peyote rituals for his inmate congregants?

I'm 1/16th Cherokee Indian. And I'm a guy. Maybe I should drive up to Minnesota and apply for this :-P

1 in 5 Americans believe Obama is a Muslim

Read the story here.

I don't know what faith President Barack Obama professes to belong to. And in all honesty... it's not really my business to be concerned with it anyway. He could be Christian. He could be Muslim. He could be Hindu. He could be a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all I care. As has been said before on this blog and I'll state it again: I believe that every person has the right to seek God as best he or she can understand Him, so long as it's understood that this right ends where the right of others to have the same begins. Barack Obama certainly enjoys that right as well.

I merely expect Obama to be President and uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, as he swore an oath to do. More than a year and a half into his term, Obama ain't shown yet that he's up to the job.

"It is better to be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian," Martin Luther is said to have observed. Unfortunately for the United States we've suffered nothing but foolish people - irrespective of creed - for twenty years at least! And it doesn't look like our prospects for wise leadership are going to improve any time soon...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I was featured on GRUEN NATION on Australian nationwide television last night!

Niall Doran, a regular reader of this blog from Down Under, e-mailed to inform me a short while ago that I was seen on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's hit show Gruen Nation last night!

Here's Niall's report...

As a regular browser of your blog, I was surprised to see you make an appearance on Australian television earlier tonight!

A regular part-humorous, part-analytical & highly popular program on our national broadcaster (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, or ABC) is normally called the "Gruen Transfer", and unveils and discusses the techniques behind commercial advertising. However, we are in the final throes of a federal election, for which the "Gruen Transfer" has become the "Gruen Nation", with a series of specials focusing on the techniques of political advertising in particular. Tonight they showed your infamous Star Wars ad, although in the comments afterwards they unfortunately didn't raise the copyright issue that you fought and won.

I just can't believe that nearly FOUR years later, that my first campaign commercial for Board of Education is still making waves! That wasn't something that I saw happening at all :-)

Niall says that it's Gruen Nation Series 1 Episode 4 and that you can watch it here at ABC1's website for the next 14 days. Unfortunately I won't get to see myself on Australian TV 'cuz the site only lets you watch streaming vids if you're in, of all places, Australia! Gonna see if I can find a copy floating around the Internets to download via torrent or whatever.

Thanks for the heads-up Niall. And to all of y'all visiting The Knight Shift from Australia today: welcome! Hope y'all like what you find here :-)

EDIT 4:25 p.m. EST: Good friend Brian Fesperman reports that you can watch the show stateside! Click here to check it out and you won't have to wait long 'cuz it's the very first spot they run. They ran the entire commercial... including all of Melody Hallman Daniel's dramatically awesome voiceover!

And after seeing it at last I am chuckling too much for one's own good. Especially giggling at host Wil Anderson's line about "I really wish his favorite movie had been Boogie Nights!" and saying that Kevin Rudd "would have been more convincing if you'd been holding a lightsaber!" You can also download the whole show in MP4 or WMV format for later viewing.

What more can be said? I'm thoroughly delighted that I got to be a small part of Oz's political landscape this season... and that my ad brought some good-hearted laughter to Down Under from Rockingham County, North Carolina :-)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Things I think about when I'm in the shower...

Fred Flintstone and the people of Bedrock were the very FIRST to employ biotechnology.

(I mean, you can't get much hardcore than using a velociraptor for a garbage disposal...)

Monday, August 16, 2010

HE DID IT!! Heang Uy completes epic bike ride across America

On June 23rd, Heang Uy departed from Cannon Beach on the coast of Oregon on his bicycle. He's been pedaling ever since.

Two day ago and 3,578 miles later...

...Heang arrived at Folly Beach, South Carolina!

Here's Heang's account of reaching the finish line for his amazing journey.

Congratulations Heang! You were always uber-kewl in my book, and this accomplishment puts me in awe of you even more bro :-)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BIOSHOCK INFINITE coming in 2012

I was going to write a review of BioShock 2 months ago but never got around to it for various reasons. One of them being that I wanted to play it again to properly absorb it all. Personally, I loved BioShock 2. Even with a few issues (I had hoped to be able to explore around Rapture more) I thought it was a superb follow-up to 2007's BioShock: a title that is on my short list of greatest video games ever.

Well today, like a bolt out of the blue, Ken Levine - the guy who created BioShock in the first place (but didn't work on the sequel) - and his Irrational Games announced that BioShock Infinite will be landing in 2012.

Here's the trailer. And I have to ask: "What. The. %@&#?!?"

HOW does the BioShock saga go from being set in Rapture, a city on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 1968, to a city floating at 30,000 feet... in 1912?!?

"Okay Chris, take deep breaths. Remember: Ken Levine is back at the helm of a BioShock game. Trust him."

I am completely wog-boggled by the direction that BioShock is taking. And at the same time, more intrigued by an upcoming video game than I can remember being in quite awhile.

Remember my post last week about solar flares and earthquakes?

Here's the link if you wanna look at it. It was about the massive discharge of highly-energized particles that the Sun threw out at the Earth early last week. As a result there were some astonishingly brilliant aurora reported at the northern latitudes.

Well anyway, in my post I wondered aloud if there might be any earthquake activity that would happen as a result, 'cuz I've noticing for the past few years that whenever this planet gets hit by particles from a solar flare that it seems to agitate the inner workins enough to cause pretty good rumblin' soon afterward.

I wrote that last Monday, August 2nd. Today, August 12th, there have been two earthquakes reported in the past several hours. A 6.0 quake hitting the island nation of Vanuatu and then a short while ago a 6.9 quake striking just over a hundred miles away from Quito in Ecuador. No reports of injuries from either earthquake.

Not adding any further commentary. Just wanted to pass along the information for anyone interested in such things.

What I've come to realize about denominations in Christianity

There is no such thing as "denominations". Christ is not divided.

There is, however, a great many perspectives of Christ, Who is too magnificent for any one person or group of people to fully comprehend.

As it should be.

Who is another or others then, to tell me - or anyone else for that matter - that my perspective of Christ, as one of His followers, is the wrong one?

Slow day today...

And since it's been asked for by a number of you, here once again is a photo of my ravishingly beautiful and sweet cousin Lauryn! As an added bonus, you also get to see my equally beautiful and sweet cousin Karissa, who just got married this summer!

Thank you ladies. You have contributed some much-needed loveliness to this site :-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thoughtcrime: Music festival organizer PRE-sues bootleggers

If you're going to attend the Mile High Music Festival this weekend in Denver, don't even think about bootlegging the music. Merely considering the notion means you've already been sued by event producer AEG Live. The company has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against "John Does 1-100, Jane Does 1-100, and XYZ Company" for illegal bootlegging... which hasn't even been committed yet. Since nobody exists (yet) to contest the lawsuit, it moves ahead in court. It also means that AEG Live can get "law enforcement involved by using the lawsuit to ask the court to order US Marshalls, local and state police and even off-duty officers to go ahead and seize and impound the bootlegged material."

Techdirt has more about this legally ridiculous situation, including the full text of the filed lawsuit.

(How soon will it be before we start seeing companies like Viacom using this sort of tactic against YouTube users? Can't help but wonder about that. 'Course, I of all people have more than enough reason to wonder...)

BACK TO THE FUTURE timeline chart... and two graphs that (might) help ya understand INCEPTION!

A substantial majority of my two or three regular readers (yeah looking at you Ed and Eric) are hardcore fans of Back to the Future and its two sequels. Well, all that mucking around with history can be a pain to keep up with for some people, so a smart dude named Sean Mort has put together a terrific timeline chart of the Back to the Future saga, taking into account the events of all eight different timelines! Seriously, I had no idea there were so many until I saw how Sean put it all into proper perspective. I'm gonna print this out to have handy when the Blu-ray set comes out in a few months.

And with Inception still going strong at the box office, plenty of people might still be trying to figure out its labyrinthine structure. Cinema Blend has put together a great illustrated guide to the five levels of Inception's plot. And an artist calling himself "dehas" has come through with an Escher-esque "Inception Infographic" that has already become widely popular as a reference guide to the movie. Check 'em out... but do beware of spoilers if you ain't seen the movie yet.

(Same goes for that Back to the Future chart... but if you haven't seen those movies yet, what the heck is wrong with you?!?)

Color photographs of the Great Depression

How easy it is to think of eras gone by as being more drab and subdued than our own time. Especially the Great Depression: I think imagining it as being all black and white must be the "default" setting in the minds of many.

And then photos like this of a grocery store in Washington D.C., taken in 1941, show us otherwise...

Between 1939 and 1943 the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information made some of the only known full-color photographs of small-town life during the Great Depression and early years of World War II. These became part of a Library of Congress exhibit in 2006 called Bound for Glory: America in Color. And now the Denver Post has made them available online. Some of the photographs are curiously sweet. Others are especially haunting. And each of them brings to stark crisp life a forgotten facet of the way we used to be, once upon a time...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The ______Act of___ passed by U.S. Senate

That's it. I've had it. Throw the whole sorry lot of 'em out. ALL of them. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Show them no quarter.

And whoever among our legislators were so irresponsible in voting for this, should have the word "STOOPID" branded into their foreheads so that the rest of humanity will know to steer clear of them forevermore amen.

Call it "The Law With No Name" (sounds like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington directed by Sergio Leone). Nancy Pelosi has brought the House of Representatives back into session for an emergency vote on a bill that, well nobody has any idea what the hell is in this thing. And the Senators who approved it didn't even bother to give it a proper name. It's officially listed as "The ______Act of___".

And if you ask me, this bill is a ________ pile of bull____.

Click on over to Slashdot to read more about this... thing.

(Obviously, the question arises as to whether this bill was read aloud in the Senate... or if it was even read at all.)

A new model of quantum physics has begun formulating in my mind

It had been percolating across my gray matter for the past several weeks. It started when I found myself contemplating certain problems with the forces of gravity and electromagnetism.

About 3:30 a.m. this morning a possible solution was hit upon. Doesn't look like it's the re-invention of Wheeler foam. Not yet anyway. I can't help but think it's too much like that and at the same time it's more than a tad different.

I'll probably be pondering it at length throughout the rest of the day. Particularly as I am reclining in the chair at my friendly neighborhood dentist's office later this morning.

For now though, my beef with gravity and electromagnetism is satisfied. Until I no doubt wind up chucking the theory out because of one tiny little incongruency that will certainly invalidate the whole thing...

(Why can't I have a normal mind like everyone else?)

Monday, August 09, 2010

One state's wonky finances: Hawaii has $1.4 BILLION in unspent revenue (but the politicians want MORE taxes!)

Ten years ago this summer I went to work as a full-time reporter. It was with a... well let's just say they don't make outfits like this anymore. Probably one of the last of the newspapers with that old-school journalistic 'tude. Anyhoo, my very first assignment was to investigate the budget that the General Assembly had proposed for North Carolina's next fiscal term.

A full decade later and I still get fits of anger just thinking about the crap I found in those hundreds of pages of monetary monstrosity that I picked through line by agonizing line.

(A space shuttle launch complex for North Carolina? Really? And how much money did we spend trying to put that here when there's already a good working one in Florida?)

Even if it's a long drive and a fair swim away from the Tarheel State, what fellow journalist/blogger and friend of The Knight Shift Danny de Garcia II forwarded to me this evening about his home state of Hawaii brought back those memories of wrath and disillusionment from a decade ago. Danny and colleague Kyle Shiroma just went public with the findings of their investigation: Hawaii has $1.4 BILLION sitting unspent in its coffers... even while many of its elected officials insist upon higher taxation!

From the report at Grassroot Institue of Hawaii...

Hawaii’s taxpayers might be shocked to discover that while numerous voices in and out of the local political establishment are calling for an increase in the General Excise Tax to cover any future budget shortfalls in education or other state services, upwards of $1.4 billion dollars in unspent excess funds may be sitting in special funds, several of which were tagged by the auditor almost a decade ago for repeal.

According to the Department of Budget and Finance’s “Reports on Non-General Fund Information: Fiscal Years 2006-2012,” some 186 special funds spread across twenty different departments hold an estimated $1,412,357,203 in unspent revenues over and above their operational requirements. In plain language, if the estimates provided by the Department are correct, the state has more than just pocket change stuck in its seats.

Until recently, few members of the public were aware of how many special funds existed, what their purpose was or how much money the State of Hawaii was holding in these accounts. For this reason, Grassroot Institute analysts decided to review the Department’s worksheets and itemize all the special funds to see just what they contained.

The Department of Transportation is reported as having $582,449,161 in unspent special funds (41% of the state’s excess balances), Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has some $327,412,159 unspent (23%) and the University of Hawaii holds another $119,225,732 (8%) making them the top holders of excess revenues.

The worksheets show figures such as $6,968,895 unspent in the Works of Art Special Fund (AGS 881) for public aesthetics and art education – a fund which was advised by the Auditor to be repealed in 2001 and its balances lapsed into the General Fund – and on the opposite end of the spectrum, zero balances in the Agricultural Park Special Fund Escrow Account (AGR 141HA) which also continues to exist despite a recommendation for repeal.

Why should taxpayers approve an increase of taxes to balance the budget when the state’s own reports show over $1.4 billion in excess sitting in their accounts collecting interest? If these excess balances were divided equally among the population, there would be checks of close to $1,100 going to every man, woman and child in Hawaii.

If this kind of financial mis-sight is going on in a state like Hawaii then... is it too far to assume that much the same - if not worse - is going on in other states as well?

This kind of thing might... emphasis on might... entice me to give North Carolina's budget the hairy eyeball again for the first time since 2000. Provided that I have at the ready a glass of whiskey, a gun and two bullets. Just in case.

Arguments to the contrary are most welcome...

One who believes a vote must be chosen between two parties in order to win has already lost.

Movie posters rendered in LEGO

Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs is one of Amusing Planet's collection of 26 movie posters recreated with LEGO bricks and minifigs. Also in the set: Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds and Kill Bill Volume 2, Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Forrest Gump.

Hat tip to Chad Austin for the great find!

BLACKSTAR WARRIOR: A Star Wars blaxploitation trailer. 'Nuff said.

"Get between this brotha and his woman, and space ain't black enough to hide from him!"

About time somebody made a fan film about Lando Calrissian going up against the man!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In memory of Mike Ashley

"The good die young."

Those were the words of my grandmother, twenty-five years ago this evening. And when those words were the most semblance of comfort that an eleven-year old kid had to grasp - even if he didn't really understand what it meant at the time - on what was at the time the absolute worst day of his life...

...well, they kinda stick with ya, even a quarter century later.

Heck, I can even still remember what I was wearing that day, what Granny was wearing, the most miserable dinner of pizza that I would ever have, all of the vehicles like neighbors' cars and the ambulance and the deputy sheriff cruisers that descended on our farm that afternoon. I can even tell you what show that I watched on television that night, trying and failing to lose myself, to stop thinking about it all...

...but most of all, I remember crying. Being inside the house with my sister and our two dachshund puppies, watching from the windows. I still remember calling my life-long best friend Chad, telling him about what happened: now I realize that I was desperate for a voice to talk to. And I couldn't stop crying. Harder than I ever had before until that day.

It was the ambulance arriving that first made me panic. The lady who took care of my other grandmother in the house across the road, she came to our front door. The first words that came out of me were "Did something happen to Dad?!"

No, Dad was okay.

But Mike had been killed.

Mike Ashley: 19 years old. Brown haired, a little bit of a mustache. As upstanding and Christian of a young man as you were ever likely to meet. He knew Dad because Dad had been friends with his father. And early in the summer of 1985, Mike started working on our dairy farm as a hired hand.

Being able to say that I grew up and worked on a dairy farm: that is something that I am very proud of. And with each passing year I realize how much happiness there could be found in that. I couldn't do too much, being about ten when I started. But on occasion Dad did let me help a calve to be born. And I can honestly say that I have milked cows by hand (go watch that scene in Witness where Harrison Ford's character is up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows on that Amish farm... and then imagine your friend and humble blogger doing that :-).

It was the people that Dad hired to work on our farm that I remember most vividly. Maybe that had something to do with my outlook on human nature, 'cuz at a very early age I had come to know so many kinds of people. They were white. They were black. They were migrant laborers from Mexico (some of whom spoke not a word of English, but we all seemed to understand each other somehow). They were my cousin Craig and my Uncle John. Some of them were characters in their own right. Others were - in their own way - downright silly. All of them worked hard, sometimes for a season and then going back to whatever or wherever, sometimes coming back to work again.

Mike Ashley though...

He worked as hard as anyone. Always cheerful, always smiling and with a twinkle in his eye. He was looking to go into farming as well, so this was kinda like college for him.

He was with us on the farm for two months. And in that time, well...

...he became the closest thing to an older brother that I would ever have.

I fast came to look up to Mike. Maybe it was the noble qualities that he had: qualities that in retrospect, I decided that I wanted to have in my own life. He became a role model to me.

And the thing is, I was admittedly pretty offbeat even as a kid. Mike was the first "grownup" who I had any extended time with who was sincerely interested in the things that I was interested in. And that had a lot of appeal to me.

So a lot of times in the afternoon, after Dad and Mike and whoever else had lunch and Dad took his usual nap before the afternoon milking, Mike would want to see the books that I was into. He enjoyed reading my comic books. He really loved going through my stash of MAD Magazines. And he even thought that my Transformers toys were very cool.

That is the last, best memory that I have of Mike. He was in my room on the afternoon of August 6th, and I was showing him how to convert my army of Autobots and Decepticons into their respective cars, trucks, guns, cassette tapes, what have you. Mike was instantly hooked on them! Pretty soon he was transformin' 'em just as well as me or anybody.

That was the afternoon of August 6th, 1985. And that night I found myself thanking God for the friendship that I had with Mike.

It was the very next day that Mike died on our farm.

He had been on a tractor, scraping cow manure into a manure spreader. And if you don't know already cow manure is some of the best fertilizer imaginable. On a small farm it is a very valued and precious resource. And it was something that had been done like a zillion times.

It worked like this: the manure spreader was parked below the high end of a ramp. Whoever was on the tractor would tow a bladed attachment and scrape manure that had come out of the barn and cattle stalls, off the ramp and into the spreader.

That is what Mike was doing.

To this day we don't know what caused it to happen. Maybe he saw a deer off in the field and was momentarily distracted.

The tractor drove over the top of the ramp and flipped over. Mike was killed instantly.

It was Dad who found him a short while later. He saw smoke coming from behind the barn. And then he saw the overturned tractor with Mike pinned beneath it.

A short while later the emergency vehicles and lots of cars and trucks started arriving. Mom got the call at work and rushed home immediately. She dropped my sister and me off at her mother's that night.

That's when Granny remarked that "The good die young."

Twenty-five years later and I'm still trying to suss it all out. I'd still like to know why God took Mike away from us: so young. So upstanding. So good...

He would have been 44 now. He should have known what it was like to be a husband and a father, 'cuz there's no doubt in my mind that he would have been the best. He should have had all the opportunities that a person as sweet and virtuous as he was... well, I think good people deserve more, anyway!

It's enough to make me question my own life. I'm now 36. Still young (and like to think that I'll always have that childlike quality no matter how many years go by), but I've had many more years than Mike ever got. Almost by twice as much. I look at myself and I don't see a necessarily "good" person. I see a flawed, messed-up guy who... doesn't deserve anything at all.

So help me, I have told God more times than I can count how unfair it is. That He would take someone like Mike Ashley from us and leave me - a complete screw-up who fails too many times more than I've ever succeeded - still here.

(Yeah I'll go ahead and admit it, for the first time: I am now divorced. And there is more that I am feeling led to write about that and have been feeling it for some time, but for now God is making me wait on that. It's not something to be proud of but at the same time, I cannot but feel that God has used this period to grow and mature me and make me appreciate His grace more than I ever have before... but that's an essay for another time.)

My life has been one cluster-#&@% after another. Why couldn't God have taken me? Why, why did He take Mike instead? Why does He seem to always take the people who deserve to have long, full lives on this earth?

"The good die young."

That is the closest thing to an answer that I have ever had. Maybe more so now than I ever did then, I have to draw some comfort from them.

Because God's ways... really aren't our ways at all. We expect Him to hand out goodies to us, rarely stopping to understand that this world is still a fallen place and tragedy does come from it.

I might still question Him at times. But, I am no longer angry with Him. About anything that has happened in my life. At long last I can see, and be thankful, that in spite of ourselves God doesn't mess up. That from each thing, for those who do love Him and seek after Him, He will never cease to eternally labor for our benefit.

A quarter century later, and I am thankful to God more than ever before: that He put Mike Ashley into our lives, for however brief a span.

And now you know, dear reader, that once there was a man and his name was Mike Ashley. And that he was a good man. He was someone that I have long strived to honor (and often missing the mark) with my own life and my own actions. And if others had the honor of knowing Mike, he would have left them with just as wonderful an impression from his strength of character, his humbleness, and his enthusiasm.

He was taken from this earthly realm twenty-five years ago today. I still miss him. And I still love him as the older brother that I never had.

And I do rejoice that he was here... and that he will be waiting for us all someday.

Friday, August 06, 2010

ABC's V next season featuring the return of Jane Badler!

Yeah you read it right. And not only that but Badler will again be playing evil Visitor baddie Diana: the role that she is still notorious for nearly thirty years later. In the relaunched series however Diana will be the mother of Anna (Morena Baccarin's character), the Visitor who's been leading the invasion of Earth. So it's two different characters, but each named Diana and each played by Jane Badler. Got it?

Ain't It Cool News has more info, including the official press release heralding Badler's return to the V saga.

I'll admit that I've only seen a bit of ABC's V. It's shown some great potential, but thus far hasn't quite lived up to it. Here's hoping that the second season will have this series finally coming into its own. That Jane Badler is being brought back makes me cautiously optimistic.

But that's gonna be dashed to piece if the second season premiere (the first episode that Badler will appear in) doesn't have a scene like this one, from Part 1 of the original NBC miniseries V in 1983...

I was ten years old when I first saw that. And I still get wigged out just thinking about it.