Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shadows of Sanctuary

Shadows of Sanctuary edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, 1981, Ace Fantasy

More Thieves' World! Yes, I figured it was time to get to the third book in the series, so I took it off the shelf and read it over a couple business trips. It has the same consistency as the second volume in the series, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, but actually ends up as a better book because the individual stories are better. Where the second volume was all over the map (literally), the stories here focus more directly on Sanctuary itself, which helps focus things in.

The stories here still have the dark, oppressive mood of many of the typical stories in these anthologies, but I did find that a few stories actually broke that mold and went in different directions. A Gift in Parting, by the editor, focuses not on the criminal element in the city, but on the fishing community. Specifically, the focus is on one family, in which the eldest son is preparing to leave home and find his fortune. Through some events, the father finds a way to give his son the real gift that he needs to find success in life. The whole story has a nice, feel-good element to it that is often missing from these stories. In a simliar, but different, vein we have The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn. This story focuses on a local artist and how he gets wrapped up in events that could either destroy him or set his fortunes for life. The nice thing is that it involves someone doing their regular job, but the events he gets involved him help him to notice what is truly valuable in life.

The other stories are generally good, though I found the first story, Looking for Satan, to be somewhat ponderous and preachy. Overall, though, this was a pretty good book, and maybe the best one in the series so far.

The Castle of Cagliostro

Serious anime fans know that Hayao Miyazaki didn't just show up one day, found Studio Ghibli, and proceed to create all of these great movies. Like all people, he started from the ground up, working as an animator on early films and TV shows for different studios. The film that really got him attention as a serious creator for the first time was The Castle of Cagliostro, a Lupin the Third movie (based on the manga by the creator known as "Monkey Punch") about Lupin's adventures in a fictional European country. As usual, our thief is after some fantastic treasure but ends up chasing girls, instead, which some would say is actually another kind of treasure, so there you go. It is interesting to see Miyazaki put his fingerprints on another creator's work, as his more famous films were usually his own original creations.

In case you are wondering why I am writing about this, today is the day that Manga Entertainment is releasing a Special Edition of the movie on DVD in North America. I find it interesting, from my closet marketer perspective, that they are copying the Disney/Studio Ghibli releases as closely as they can in the cover art, with the red banner up top and the single image of the main characters on the front (as you can see below). Probably not a bad idea for those stores that put all the Miyazaki films side-by-side on the racks. Anyway, if you have an interest in the film this is your best bet for checking it out, as there as some solid extras on this edition of the movie, compared with the earlier release put out a number of years ago.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Someone Finally Said It

Many people don't like to admit that the world doesn't fit into their pre-conceived ideas, but sometimes you just have to face facts. The Brazen Careerist is facing facts right now. Like it or lump it, you have to deal with it.

We will send you to Detroit!

Yes, I find myself in Motown this week (and next, as well). I am helping with some SOX 404 work at an automotive manufacturing equipment supplier, which looks to be a barrel of laughs as nobody seems to have time to talk to me until Wednesday. Ah, well. That should give me lots of time to prepare for my meeting, eh?

This last weekend was fairly busy, but good. On Saturday I helped a friend get rid of his old washer and dryer and install a new set, I cleaned my basement, and I went to my older brother's birthday party. On Sunday I had another party as well as preparations for my Detroit trip. And I cleaned my front door and the filthy siding around my porch. I couldn't remember when I had last done that, and it looked like I maybe had never done it since I moved in, so I figured that was a sign that I should get to it. So, yeah, it looks like someone actually lives there now.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Back Home, for two days

My training is complete. Sorry for not posting all week, but we had limited access to the Internet during training and I they kept us quite busy so I didn't have the time to do any blogging. The training that I had was pretty good, over all. Some of the classes weren't very useful, but some were quite useful, indeed. The freebies from training weren't bad, either: Starbucks gift card, free T-shirt (we had choices, but since they were all stupid, it was a "lesser of two evils" situation), and free iPod. Yes, you saw that right. They gave us all free iPod Shuffles. I didn't want a Shuffle, though, I wanted something better. So, I was able to take it to my local Apple store and trade it in for $99 off of an iPod Nano. So, I have a new iPod Nano, 2G, that I am currently playing with. Not too shabby.

In other news, I will be in Detroit the next two weeks helping out another audit team on an automotive client. I will be auditing the sales cycle and the requisite accounting thereof. It shall be thrilling, I am sure.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back in Florida

Greetings from Florida, this time Orlando. I am here for the week as a participant in Advisory University, the annual training shindig for the group I transferred in to on July 1. I'm sure that some of the training sessions will be informative, but I suspect that the only real reason to have this every year is to have a big party every night and let people network and socialize with their colleagues from other offices. I've only been here a couple hours and I have alrady re-acquainted myself with some folks from our Chicago internal audit practice as well as meeting some consultants from Atlanta. I'm sure it will be more of the same as the week goes along. In fact, in a few minutes I am shutting down this computer and heading over to the big social hour party going on at the other end of the building. I'd be there already, but a man has to check his email at least once in the evening. :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hot Stuff

Sorry for not posting for almost a whole week. I'd say that I was too busy, but that wouldn't be true. In fact, I took time off on Thursday and Friday as I just didn't have anything to do at work. so what have I been doing? Mainly spending too much time playing Galactic Civilizations II (did I mention how much fun it is to design new spaceships?), and working on some Tunnels & Trolls articles for a gaming magazine. Yes, I am back to messing around with the second-oldest fantasy RPG game in existence. Much fun, but I do lose track of time. One of the things that I like to do, other than playing games, is to make fun of the company I work for. It shall remain nameless in this post, but you can probably figure it out pretty easily. This last week was the annual "focus on Information Technology" campaign, entitle "US IT delivers hot stuff." To reinforce this slogan, they gave us all gift bags of "hot stuff," as you can see below.

This is the gift bag from the front...

...and this is the bag from the rear.

My favorite item in the bag was the jar of salsa, labeled "salsa" (the truth in advertising people strike again!) with no notation of who made it or where it was made. The label only says "salsa" and then lists the ingredients. That's it. Maybe it is mystery, communist salsa! Or maybe my company is so cheap that they wouldn't spend more than 10 cents on a jar of salsa. The Hot Tomales were good, though.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Electricity and Bugs

The weekend was a little more interesting than most. Friday afternoon I lost power, as the feeder line for my part of the county went down. I had been planning on paying my parents a surprise visit on Saturday afternoon, but since I had no power and therefore couldn't cook dinner on Friday, I decided to head over on Friday, instead. I live 20 miles from them, you would think I would see them more than once a month. Anyway, on Saturday I drove down to Shaw Nature Preserve in the morning and hiked around for 3 1/2 hours. I learned that when you get to the park at 7:30 AM, you get to be the guy that takes out all of the spiderwebs on the trails. I literally take out 30+ webs, and at times had spiders riding on me. That wasn't cool, but I did hike to the river for the first time, and that was neat. I got some good pictures. Another thing that wasn't cool are the five chiggers currently embedded in my ankles. I guess I didn't spray enough Off! on my shoes and socks.

Later on Saturday I went to my friend Art's house to play some Shadowrun, and then on Sunday was church and The Gathering, which was interesting enough. All told, a more active weekend than I usually have, but sometimes you gotta get out and do stuff, man.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Yo Joe!

We have a Trader Joe's in St. Louis now. When I lived in Virginia, there were a number of Trader Joe's stores around the area, and they were hugely popular. It is a quirky grocery store, at heart, but they produce a lot of their own products, and they have a number of unique organic and free trade foods available. The St. Louis store, on Manchester Blvd. just west of I-270, is small in comparison to what I am familiar with from their other stores, but I can still get Virgil's root beer there, so I really shouldn't complain.

In other "interesting grocery stores" news, I finally made it into a World Market yesterday, as well. Now that is an interesting store. My favorite were the bottles of Russian wine, with the lables completely in Russian, such that if you couldn't read the language you would have no idea what you were buying. I was able to get some blackcurrant juice there, however, so I shouldn't complain. Seriously, you just can't get blackcurrant at any of the local chains, so I'm glad I found a place that has it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Good Citizen Day

I am declaring that yesterday was Good Citizen day for me, as I gave blood at a Red Cross blood drive in my office building, and I voted in the Missouri Republican primary. My main concern there was that my pick, Sandra Thomas, get the nomination to run in November for the state auditor position. This makes sense because she is an auditor and a CPA, and therefore actually knows how to run an audit, as opposed to the usual politicans we get in such jobs. She may not win, as she was running neck and neck with her primary challenger and not all votes have been counted yet. We can hope, though.

And the blood giving was not much fun, as always. When you have a phobia of needles, giving blood is difficult. It is a good thing to do, though, and they like my blood because I have a consistently strong red blood cell count, so I try to give every few months. The things we do to help our fellow man.

We Are a Nation of Wusses

I don't always agree with Mike Celizic, but I usually do, and I totally agree with his latest article. International competitions are super important, and we should pursue them with all of our country's assets. This is what chapped my hide during the World Baseball Classic, when George "I'm a big crybaby" Steinbrenner told his players to not compete because they might get hurt. You can always get hurt when you play sports, true. But thank you, George, for not noticing that the USA, and other countries, should have access to its best players when playing on the world stage. Quit yer whinin' everybody, and learn to take a hit for the team.


One of the things that I have noticed about myself as I have aged and matured is that my red-blooded American materialism has shifted form somewhat. I used to get very excited about Christmas and my birthday, as that meant people would be buying me stuff. I would prepare detailed lists of the items that I wanted as much as two months out from the event, so that my family had plenty of time to figure out what to get me. The last couple years, though, I haven't been able to muster much excitement about such things, however. In fact, I get more enjoyment now out of giving presents to other people, rather than receiving them. Crazy, I know.

I'm not sure why this is the case. I suspect it has two components. First, I have never been the kind of person that had to have the latest stuff. I have been happy for years to use second-hand kitchen equipment and furniture. In fact, I still have the old, natty couch that I have been talking about getting rid of for years. It is ugly, people. So why do I still have it? Because it is still super comfy and great for sleeping, and the $75 cover I bought for it makes it actually fit the decor in my home, so why buy a new one when what I have still works? I generally wait for stuff to break before I get rid of it, my home entertainment system being a notable exception, but I was buying a home at that time so spending money was the standard thing.

Every once in a while, though, I still get in the mood to buy things. Music is a good example of this. Back a few years ago, whenever I wanted an album, I would go out and buy it. I don't do that anymore, for reasons I don't fully understand. What ends up happening is that two or three times a year I get in the mood for new music, and I get a little crazy and buy a lot of stuff in one fell swoop. Case in point, over the last 3 days I have purchased 8 different albums (one of those actually being a 5 disc set) from Amazon and BMGmusic. When they arrive, I will enjoy an orgy or new music, and then won't buy anything else for months, probably not until the new Christmas music comes in vogue in November/December.

I can still be seduced by good design, but the end result is that I end up just eyeing the item for along time, probably never actually purchasing it. Here is a good case in point. It is a knife block, but the design is so different and compelling that I really want to buy one, even though I have no practical reason for doing so. I already have a knife block (that used to belong to a deceased grandmother) that works just fine. I can probably find a more practical use for the $125 it would cost to buy the new one. But man, is that thing awesome. Another awesome item I really want is this hat. This year I have been intentionally spending more time outdoors hiking and stuff, and a hat like this would be quite helpful on sunny days. And it would be super stylin'. Oh yes. But do I really need it? Well, no. I don't even know what my head size is (nor do I own a measuring tape to find out), so I can't even realistically order one. But it would be awesome.

And to attempt to retain some of my intellectual credentials, I am also very interested in this book. I can even make some claims on usability for this product, as I do a fair amount of writing at work, and improving my writing style would be a good thing. Still, I must admit that the real reason I want it is to read the difference in American and British English. That would be wonderfully interesting and rather useless in my current situation. I still want it, though.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bosses are Good

Granted, it helps when your boss isn't a total jerk or prone to bouts of fire-breathing insanity, but a good boss provides you many benefits, especially if you are like me and have a nasty tendency to get lazy about things. Seth Godin sums up some benefits of bosses, and I agree with his final point about bosses giving you momentum to actually get things accomplished. Check it out.

Expand your Vocabulary

I don't even remember how long I have been on this email list, but A Word A Day has always been an interesting source of new (and sometimes esoteric) words. In today's email, there is a link to a randomizer tool, so that you can pull up a random word to expand our vocabulary.

Give it a try.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Nothing is Happening

So I am supposed to be working on an Internal Audit project at Boeing the next few weeks. I had to fill out paperwork and fax it in to be granted clearance to get a temporary access badge so I can actually get in the building to do my job. I did all this last week, and haven't gotten any direction yet, as we have two projects going on, and the manager, as of Friday, didn't know which one he wanted me to work on. Well, it is Monday, and I am not at Boeing, as I have received no direction as to what I am supposed to be doing. I reminded the manager about this Sunday night, and was instructed to "hang tight" until I receive instructions. So, I am "hanging" in the office, wrapping up some paperwork from another engagement and doing administrative stuff. Excitement!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Best Best Western

So I am enjoying my time in Cincinnati. I am definitely working a lot, but that's the whole reason I'm here, right? As opposed to last year, when I stayed downtown at the Crowne Plaza and had a bad experience, I am staying at the Best Western Mariemont Inn, which has been a great experience. Get over the fact that it is a Best Western. How many Best Westerns have a restaurant in them that serves excellent pork chops with a plum sauce and grilled wild boar sausage? Not too many, I dare wager.

The entire Mariemont area is done up in a Tudor architectural style, and there are a number of great restaurants and shops (and a Starbucks, of course). The rooms are also very old-style, with many different room styles and roomy architecture. It is also 3 miles from where I am working, so the benefits are pretty obvious considering the trouble we had commuting to and from the lockbox last year. I met my friend Laura Werts for dinner at one of the local restaurants on Monday, and it was great. Good atmosphere, good food, good times all around. I can't even complain about the heat, considering it is over 100 back home, so this Cincinnati 92 isn't bad at all.