Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tucson Festival of Books

It is the time of year for the annual Tucson Festival of Books. This is actually the second annual, but I thought last years was a hit, so I ought to give you a reminder to go, if you are in the area.

Some of the highlights for our family last year were talks and signings by Gail Carson Levine, author of among other things, Ella Enchanted, Richard Peck and Jay Dobyns.

The Festival of Books is to Be hald on March 13th and 14th at the U. of A. campus.

And, don't forget that this Wednesday, my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. I was sent an advanced copy from Quirk Classics and by checking out my review on Wednesday, you can also sign up to try and win a prize pack that includes an advanced copy of the book, Audio books of the previous offerings in the series, A poster, a journal, postcards and more.

And, if you haven't yet, here, look at this.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hadassah's Festival

Today is Purim, when we celebrate the Story of Esther from the Story of Esther, found in the book of Esther, found in the Bible.

The story of Esther is the story of how, when the nation of Israel was exiled to Persia, the evil Haman tried to destroy them and the beauty Queen Esther and her cousin and guardian Mordecai worked to save them.

Here are a couple of things to know about Purim:

- The Book of Esther is the only Book of the Bible where God is not mentioned.

- Emily (my daughter) gives this overview of the Jewish holidays - The evil people wanted to Destroy us, God saved us, let's eat! An appropriate summary of the Story of Esther if you are hungry and only have a couple of seconds to summarize the holiday.

- Purim means lots. Sort of like dice that were rolled. On this holiday, they were used by Haman et. al. to decide when to wipe out the Jewish people.

- Xerxes (Esther's husband) is charmingly portrayed in the movie 300. He is pictured above with Gerard Butler as the Spartan Leonidas.

The same year, the movie One Night With The King was released, which was a little closer to the Biblical account. Omar Shariff and the guy who played Dr. Baltar in the new version of Battlestar Gallactica were in that movie.

In any case, look up the book of Esther in your Bible. It is an intriguing story.

Oh, and here, look at this.

Here, look at this.

Just got back from Phoenix where we saw, among other comedians, these guys. You have to take in this tune. Especially if you are a dork.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Food Fight

Diane and I will be celebrating eighteen years of marriage in a couple of months and sometimes it's fun to look back and remember some of the things that happened in the past. Other things are not so fun to remember.

We have had many fights, arguments, disagreements, etc. over those years, but I still vividly remember our first. It happened before we were even married.

We were a part of a just about to be married and newlywed group at our Church. Incidentally, the leader of our group new how to deal with fights. He had been the Base Commander at some Army Base in Germany and he told us about how, at the base concerts, they would invariably have fights break out all over the place. He believed that this was because of the spirit of anger and rebellion that the rock bands they brought in induced.

He fixed this fight problem by bringing in polka bands. Not surprisingly, he said, the fights went away and the concerts were peaceful. Someone did make the quip that it is had to have "fights" when only three people show up. But, that point aside, he knew how to deal with fights.

One night, our group planned a dinner at the leader's house. Incredibly, Diane signed us up to bring a salad. A salad? I was from Nebraska where our idea of salad was some iceberg lettuce with some of those chopped up carrot strings. If you wanted a fancy salad, you put blue cheese, thousand island or even some of that Dorthy Lynch dressing on it instead of ranch.

I asked her, and she admitted that she too had never made a salad. What was this woman thinking?

"You've eaten a salad, haven't you?" She asked through gritted teeth, her frustration clearly rising.

Well of course I had, but I had also eaten plenty of other things and I obviously didn't know how to make them either.

After plenty of angry back and forth, we went ahead and made the salad, and it was a hit. It turns out that salads are not that hard to make. Now we make them regularly. We even have the kids make them sometimes. It's always good to help them avoid some of the pitfalls we have faced.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I just added a new blog posting to my blogroll, the ashcraft family. The ashcraft family is the blog of our good friend Brea and her new family. Brea was an integral and enjoyable part of our church family at SouthPort Community Church, the Church we started in West Sacramento. She now lives in Boston, runs her own business and is a newlywed, recently joining the Ashcraft clan.

I also added some more responsibility to my life. I have been thinking and praying about returning to a ministry role and I was invited to help out with the Children's ministries at our church here in Tucson. I will be responsible for developing the leaders, putting together schedules, working with the kids and whatever else goes with it. For those of you that pray, please remember me in your prayers as I take on this challenge.

Note: The Ashcraft Family blog also features Nathan, Brea's husband. Didn't want to leave him out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Remember this.....

The majority of the books I read are non-fiction. I included these ones, which are four of them I am currently working on. Click on the picture for a little more information about each one.

But, I recently finished the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which I am slated to review for Quirk Books on March Third.

SO, I just wanted to give you a little reminder:

March 3rd
Tune in to my blog for the review of Quirk Books' Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.
You can also find a link on the review to how you can be a possible winner of one of fifty prize packs with a retail value of more than $100.

The prize packs include:
An advanced copy of the book
Audio books of the previous offerings in the series
A poster, a journal, postcards and more

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tactical Vision

Here is another episode that occurred at the McCook Police Department when my Dad was a part of it.

Someone in charge decided they needed a tactical team of some sort. The nearest S.W.A.T. team that could respond was the Nebraska State Patrol's S.W.A.T. and they could take an hour or more just to get a few guys in place and ready to roll. So McCook, being the metropolis of southwest Nebraska, needed a team all of it's own.

But S.W.A.T.? S.W.A.T. was a bit overused. Everyone had a S.W.A.T. team. Everyone had already seen S.W.A.T. on television. No, a better name had to be given.

So, the McCook P.D. formed the Special Service Unit, or S.S.U. With a name more reminiscent of the British S.A.S. or a developmentally disabled wing at a sanatorium, they could not go wrong. The only challenge would be finding a sufficient number of qualified officers in a department of 15 or so guys.

In moves that evoked the S.A.S. image, they were soon rappelling Australian style down some of the local buildings. While this was impressive, it was more than equaled by Dan and his friends, who crawled up the side of the 8 story senior living building in the heart of downtown.

In a move that evoked the developmentally disabled wing at a sanatorium image, they had an incident while working on clearing a house. Someone decided the exercise should be a live fire one. Practice as you play, so they say. I guess no one told them not to put their fingers on the trigger while they cleared the house.

And I guess no one taught them about sympathetic reflexes. The idea of a sympathetic reflex is that parts of your body will emulate the actions of other parts of your body. So if you are walking in a house and are startled , for instance, when your leg twitches and jumps, so will your finger. You probably wouldn't notice this happening, unless your finger was firmly on the trigger of your weapon.

Fortunately, a gunshot to the meaty part of the gluteous maximus is not fatal. I didn't hear much about the S.S.U. after that incident.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

If I was a poet, you wouldn't know it

Happy Valentine's Day!

In the anguished tradition of elementary schools everywhere, I decided to hand make some Valentine's Day cards for our children. Here is what I wrote:

For Abigail:

Roses are red, violets are blue
And today is Valentine's, this much is true
But it wouldn't be the same, if you weren't around
We probably would all
just sit here and frown

For Emily:

There was once a girl that lived all alone.
She had no family or friends of her own.

While she kept busy, doing this and that
She had no-one at all,
not even a cat.

You have probably realized
this story isn't true
And we are sure glad
this girl isn't you.

You are loved

For Ethan:

Far across the sea there is a small island.
On that island is a castle.
They say that this castle has more treasure than most people can imagine,
and the king and queen use it to buy anything they could ever think of.
That king and queen aren't nearly as happy as we are.
Because we have you!

These cards were, of course, all self illustrated. Soon to be worth a fortune, I am sure.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Has anyone read any of these?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Apparently these books are gaining in popularity. Pride and Prejudice was a classic and Zombies are more popular than ever, so I suppose it makes sense.

I recently read that Natalie Portman has signed on to star in an upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie.

I haven't read any of these books (Which include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters)...yet. But, I will be reading the next one that comes out.

I discovered that Steve Hockensmith, who writes the Holmes on the Range Series, which includes The Black Dove, is writing the next offering in the series, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Not only that, but Quirk Books is tossing out some free books to bloggers that will write a great review of the book on March 3rd. So, I emailed them and I now have, on this very desk, a copy of the not yet released Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

I must admit, at first I thought Mr. Hockensmith was joking when he announced he wrote the next installment. Turns out he wasn't.

My daughter says I have to read Pride and Prejudice first, but I don't think I need to. Jane Austen never sent me a free book and a poster (which I am not allowed to hang in our room), Quirk Books did.

So, tune in here on March 3rd and you'll not only see the review, but get a chance to win some prizes of your own from Quirk Classics.

And, if you are a blogger, it may not be too late to get your own copy for review. Hurry up and go here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Power Corrupts, Powerpoint Corrupts Absolutely

When I was in training for this job, they sent a string of teachers that came to teach us a variety of subjects. Invariably, before they tried to kill us with their droning powerpoint presentations, they would ask us why we took this job.

Ninety percent of the answers would be something like, "I took this job because I wanted to help people.", which is, of course, a line of ........nonsense. If you really wanted to help people you would be a televangelist and save their souls or a social worker and find them lunch or something.

Some of the more creative cadets would come up with a little better answers whenever this question was asked.

A few tried the honesty thing and said how they wanted to chase, fight, hit, or yell at people. Or that they wanted to drive cars around really fast. That is really the reason many of these adrenaline junkie juveniles with the Peter Pan syndrome took this job. Oh, and don't forget the opportunity to pepper spray and Taser people. Who else gets to do that?

Other answers that could be heard included:

"I saw an ad about how you could get paid to work out. I called, and next thing I know, here I was."

"Do you have any idea how much this job pays. I have no education whatsoever and I start out making this much? Who wouldn't apply?".

"I have a Masters in ________ (fill in the blank with any degree you can think of). I couldn't find a job that paid this much anywhere else."

"I have a good inheritance, so I can afford to live off of what I make here. And, I always wanted to chase/ yell at/hit people/ drive cars really fast."

"I heard you can get a discount at some restaurants. Do you know which ones?"

Ok, some of these might be slight exaggerations. This job is a proud and difficult profession that is closely scrutinized everyday by the public, media and management. But the academy is a whole different world and some of these answers definitely ring true (some of which I actually heard) for some people.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

High School Bullies, Hollywood Style

Recently, while we were at class, one of the guys pretended to threaten us by saying he wanted our lunch money. I told him he would be a better bully if he tried to get everyone's lunch money before lunch, instead of after. I think he should have learned from doing what I have been doing.

I have been watching the 1980 movie My Bodyguard on DVD. No, it is not the Kevin Costner Whitney Houston movie. This story is about a new kid in school that hires a character played by Adam Baldwin to protect him from school bullies that want his protection money and torment him in school.

The film climaxes as the head bully, played by Matt Dillon(best known for dating Cameron Diaz and appearing in many movies, including The Outsiders, There's Something About Mary, Crash and, most recently, the new release Armored), hires another really bad dude to be his bodyguard and fight against Baldwin, the original bodyguard.

The movie also includes Joan Cusack in one of her early roles, appearing as a High School girl named Shelly. Shelly's part in the movie is primarily the following dialogue:

Melvin Moody: Hey, Shelly. Do you want to go to the movies?
Shelley: Sure.
Melvin Moody: Okay, have a good time while you're there.

So, if you are in the mood for gym class and lunch room fights, intimidation in the bathrooms and locker rooms and 1980's sentimentality, be sure to watch My Bodyguard.

Oh, and do you remember the movie Drillbit Taylor starring Owen Wilson that came out a couple of years ago. In it, some boys tormented in High School decide to hire a body guard after putting an ad on the internet and going through a selection process. One of the potential bodyguards they interview is a disgruntled Adam Baldwin, who tells them that hiring a bodyguard is a stupid idea that will never work.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Scolded and Lectured

Our president recently scolded everyone by letting us know that, "When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."

Thank you Mr. President. However, this apparently doesn't apply to the government. The White House also recently proposed a $3.8-trillion budget for the fiscal year 2011, which projects a deficit of only 1.3 trillion, down from the 1.6 trillion from this year. Still spending 1.3 trillion dollars more than you have doesn't seem like a belt tightening tactic.

If you have 90 minutes, you can watch Dave Ramsey's take on this in this video of his "Town Hall For Hope". In it, he talks about:
  • A short history of capitalism in America
  • The necessity of personal responsibility
  • Three action steps you can take today to restore hope
  • The truth behind real estate, market fluctuations, Great Depression comparisons, the job market and much more!
So, check out a few minutes of it and see if you want to watch more.

Dave Ramsey - Town Hall for Hope 2009 from Central FPU on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A good line of sight

I will try to paint a picture of the setting for you if I can. It will be hard to picture if you haven't been there. Especially if you are from Tucson. It is very different than Tucson.

Main Street, which they call Norris Avenue (after the Senator who lived in McCook), goes down at an incline throughout the downtown, all the way down across "B" Street, which is also the highway, to "A" Street, which is the last street before the tracks. They have removed it in the years since then, but they used to have a foot bridge over the railroad tracks that you can walk up and over. I think someone finally realized that the other end of the bridge dumped out into the rail yard, so what was the sense of having the bridge there.

This picture is a picture of the train depot. Couldn't find one of the bridge. But, you could see the depot from the bridge. You could also see most of downtown Norris Avenue as it marched up the hill.

Downtown McCook had two pastry shops. One was Ivanhoe's. Ivanhoe's was mostly a donut shop that had the best apple fritters and also hosted the Methodist Youth Group for a time on weekend nights. The other was Sehnert's Dutch Oven Bakery. Sehnert's used to cook Runza's until the chain known as Runza said you couldn't sell Runza's, because that is what they sold. Sort of like saying you couldn't sell hamburgers because their is a restaurant called restaurant.

In one of the odder incidents in McCook's history, a woman decided to await her husband's exit from the Dutch Oven Bakery one morning from atop the railroad walking bridge, with a rifle.

I remember the picture in the McCook Daily Gazette which showed Ike and some other cop running up the walking bridge with their guns up and a woman slumped down on the bridge. After she shot her husband after he had his morning pastry, she apparently waited around for Rex, the department sniper, to shoot her. She probably realized, a little too late, that the bridge didn't really go anywhere.

That's it. Not as good as the story that my friend Jeremy told today, about an active shooter in the store in his hometown of Macomb Illinois. Especially since I have no idea why the woman thought she should shoot her husband or any of those sort of details. That would definitely make for a better story.

Oh well. My next foray into the history of the McCook police department I will tell you about the tactical team that never was.