I am an Atheist

I am an Atheist.

I state that not as a means to bring on some new identity, or some type of spiritual coming out of the closet. Merely as a fact.

Check out the church of the flying spaghetti monster

Check out the church of the flying spaghetti monster

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Upon returning..

A belated Happy New year to you all. So whats new? Or is it same old. Do you believe in new beginnings or new starts, or do things just continue? They do continue don’t they? Myself I’m more with the latter, although the new year is a convenient break point to freshen a few things up should I want to. I’m not one for New Year resolutions. Pointless.

I enjoyed my time away from the blog, although I was relatively busy with work, but I did get in some nice family time, and of course with a 2 year old boy, there was  fun to be had. Really I had next to no time for the blog at all. The free time I did have went on other non writing projects or just leisure time. It was enjoyable to the extent that I genuinely wondered whether to return at all. Should I just take an even longer extended break from the blog?

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The Monday Mess – End of year break – 17 Dec 2012

Back Monday 14th Jan 2013

Back Monday 14th Jan 2013, or maybe the 21st
(see more below)

The Monday mess, a weekly post that I have fun writing and playing with, and experimenting with small poetry forms, over the last few months, has something to announce. I am taking a break. I have too much work on over the Xmas and New Year period, which is a good thing, and the time I can get off I wish to spend with my family, relaxing or doing family things. At a push I could get in some writing, but realistically, I should use the time wisely. If I write, it should be on my other projects. Will I get chance to? I do not know.

So with that in mind, I’m taking the next four to five weeks or so away from the blog, with the intention of being back somewhere around the 14th January or the 21st January, depending on how it goes. This also means, because I shall be severely limiting my internet time, that I will not have much time for your blogs during this period either. Maybe a little reading, here and there, but will I get chance to? I do not know. So please, during this period, do not think I am ignoring you, I shall continue to read and hopefully catch up a bit when I return.

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Music Albums of the year 2012

Regular readers know I like a music post from time to time. This one is my end of year look at this years best albums. For me, this year had plenty of good albums, but not one I think that stood out as something really special, or ground breaking. Mojo magazine went with Jack White’s album, as their number one which shows what I mean. Good, but a bit retro. I like this album, but I haven’t played it in a few months. So for my number one, I went with something different.

Fiona Apple - The idler wheel. Best of the year?

Fiona Apple – The idler wheel. Best of the year?

Album of the year

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

For the second year running, I’m selecting an album by a female artist (last year it was PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake”). This one a more unusual choice for me in the respect that I had never bought anything from Fiona Apple before, prior to this year. This means to me she was pretty much a new artist, albeit one with a back catalogue to explore. However with running this blog this year, I took more of an interest in poetry, short story, song lyrics and that whole area. Fiona’s album has a clever mix of intelligent lyrics. and phrasing, and the way she delivers or sings them, with subtle adjustments in her voice, mean there is lots to continually find. It made a good balance for me against the aforementioned interests. Musically it is also pretty subtle, a little low key, a lot of percussion, but it lends a touch of freedom which shows through in the album as a “whole” (speech marks intended). Try “Werewolf” or “Regret” as examples.

Runners up, were Bat for Lashes (another female artist), which I like a lot but as a fairly recent release, I’ve not lived with it long enough. Tame Impala with its neat way of live band dance music, and rolling drum beats, is also pretty cool, and a good soundtrack to various things going on in my life.

Further close calls include Bob Mould’s “Silver Age” (regular readers will know I’m a big fan and only recently saw him live for the first time). Bruce Springsteen also had a good, accessible record in “Wrecking Ball” which seemed to fit in with this election year (in the US). See also honorary mentions which I think are all good albums work checking out.

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The Monday Mess – The 2012 TV roundup – 10 Dec 2012

The Monday mess, aka me, is looking  forward to the return of “Justified” in January. Although I like my deep, layered drama shows, I also love this one. It has a great mix of fun, good dialogue, good characters, story, and guns. I suppose that implies the show isn’t multi layered, thoughtful, like The Sopranos was, or The Wire was. Well it isn’t, but it never tries to be. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It is pretty much an Elmore Leonard novel correctly brought to screen (the character is Elmore’s from his short story “Fire in the hole” which Elmore used again inspired from the series, in the recent novel “Raylan”). It is great. Hmm. It inspired me to give some thoughts on this years TV drama. Run away if you wish, but here they are, with added highly useful / useless, three word summary:

One reason for January to hurry up...

One reason for January to hurry up…

  • Justified – Maybe not as rounded a story as Season 2, but still great. Criminally ignored at the awards shows in favour of supposedly more serious fare. Loved the show. If you recall the line “They are saying I disarmed him”, you’ll know what I mean. – 3 word summary: Crisp dialogue king.
  • Breaking Bad – Short 8 episodes, but sweet as you like. The drama seemed a little bit rushed in some ways due to the reduced episodes, but there were plenty of good set pieces, wow moments, I cannot believe they did that moments, and the usual great acting. It opened with a clever scene from a year further down the line, which we have still to get to, and ended with a good cliffhanger. Cannot wait for the final 8 episodes next year. If you have netflix, and haven’t seen this show, catch up now. – Walter, Holy sh*t.
  • Mad Men – Back after a break and still on form. Slight dynamic change, some interesting character endings and repositioning of characters. Roger’s acid trip perhaps the highlight. Clever and stylish still. Again,  if you have netflix, and haven’t seen this show, catch up now. – stylish, cool, thoughtful.
  • Game of Thrones – Beautiful to look at and well acted. Some things trimmed from the second book, some moments appearing in different form from the early part of the third. Looking forward to how they deal with the rest of the third book. Best episode this time was the episode focused around the assault on Kings landing, was the best.  – Tyrion, the tall.
  • The Killing – Finished off the story. Improved on the first season in some ways, and made mistakes in other ways, like the “mad for a day” moment the two main characters had in separate episodes. One also took a bad beating but seemed ok enough a day or two later. The show was cancelled after this. That I wasn’t disappointed, says it all. Glad its over.
  • The Walking dead – perhaps on it’s strongest run so far. Good stories, good zombie kills / special effects, more tension between human vs human characters which drives the story much better.  Nice ending to the mid season finale. Looking forward to this one coming back. – No, Andrea, no.
  • Boardwalk Empire – Despite that they killed off my favourite character at the end of the previous season, I think I enjoyed this season the most. This show for me has always been very stylish, but maybe lacks the tension and tight dramatic drive of other shows. It is still decent though, employs great actors, for example Stephen Root who did a great job this season, and I loved the way they wrapped this season up. Great to see Richard involved. Interested to see where they go next year, as I was a little apprehensive to begin with this year. – Go Richard, go.
  • Hell on Wheels – Beautifully shot, never really had the dramatic tension that it ought to have. Quite a bit of it is well, a bit obvious. I tend to know where this is going most of the time. I will still watch it if it returns for another season. Needs more tension.
  • Treme – Have this season on the recorder but not watched it yet. Nothing to add. – Better watch it.
  • Homeland – Half of the season watched which was excellant. They changed track, but really this had to happen in the story. I have heard reports that the second half of the season is a bit weaker, but I guess I shall see. – Better catch up.

My Fave show of the year through nonet:

Oh sunday evening drama time

what a great selection to see

but when I look back and think

which of these is my fave

gut feeling selects

the dialogue cool

Justified.

Its back

soon 🙂

Have a nice week, and tune in somewhen further down it for the next brainsplats blog post.

Lexicon word of the day: specious.

Thoughts on owning a Prius, and my obsessiveness

I have one of these, in this same nautical blue colour.

I have one of these, in this same nautical blue colour.

I have owned a Prius for two weeks now. It was my “Black Friday” purchase. It allows me to take a snooty look at other cars and say to myself, I am being kinder to the planet than you are. Owning a Prius though, does makes me think I have more evidence in favour of me having mild OCD. Does that sound like a positive thing? I don’t mean to mock anyone with a serious level of OCD. Let me explain. My wife says I’m OCDish because I organise my wardrobe and clothes draws. I like CD’s and DVDs to be the right way up in the boxes. I always make a sandwich the same way. You know, I like to do it that way. In return I say she is OCDish because she always has to double and triple check the door is locked when we leave the house, and has to check the hobs and oven before we go to bed, even when it is hours since she used it, and has been in the kitchen several times since. We joke that our (almost) 2 year old has it times ten, as he likes to keep his toys in certain places. If we move some when he is not around, to another room, he does not get upset. But a little later when he discovers them, he will just carry them back to where they belong, then carry on with whatever he is doing. If nothing else, it is cute.

The Prius feeds into this obsessive behaviour for me. The Prius, Toyota’s best seller among the hybrid cars, gets a great mpg. Now you can just drive it and get a better mpg than most cars. That is not enough for me. I want the best mpg I can get. Or at least I want to see how much mpg I can get. So I like to switch driving modes often, not using the “power” mode (more on that in a minute), unless required, even though really, that is the most fun to drive in. At least in a sporty sense. I’m frugal with the air con, because that too burns gas. I long slow brake where I can, because that charges the battery a little more with regenerative braking. Getting 45 to 50 mpg is a good thing. Getting 50 -55, or better mpg is an obsessive challenge I enjoy. My wife, as she reads this, is no doubt pleased that I use this car to drive to work and back, without her in it.

Also obsessive with the Prius is the way I use the smart key, which by the way, I looooove. The gist of it is that the car can sense when the key is inside it. Then you use a power button to start it, and later, to turn it off. It is also smart because the front doors, and boot (trunk), can tell that the key is next to them, and you can open them by placing your hand on the handle, or sensor, and it unlocks. The doors can be locked the same way moving your finger across a sensor or onto a button at the boot. All this means is you can use the car without taking the key out of your pocket. I can go out and the first time the keys need to leave my pocket, is when I need them to unlock the front door when I return home. I’m obsessed with that too.

Thankfully the features I love don’t end there. There are several driving modes. “Normal” the standard mode, “Eco” which reduces the power output and uses the battery more, great for stop / start traffic (especially in southern California). “Power” which increases the output, gives you quicker acceleration for those situations where it is required, and “Evo” which gives a half mile or so of battery only. I’ve no idea where I would use the latter, I’ve not even tried it.

There is a touch screen stereo which reads my iPod just fine, has sat nav, and a few features for finding fuel, or listening to Pandora. Oh it has Satellite radio too. The air con is set by temperature (which can also be adjusted from the steering wheel), then you leave it alone to get on and achieve it.

Minor downsides, the steering doesn’t have great feedback, a bit too much power steering, but I find it a whole lot smoother compared to the older car I was driving, so that is relative. The brakes are decent but a little “not entirely sharp”, but that is how regenerative brakes work. Again they are better than the older car I was driving. Yep, relative, and honestly, if you need to stop quickly, they more than do the job. The normal drive is slightly sluggish in acceleration but not too bad, and the engine whines a little bit in power mode, but the car is a hybrid, what do you expect? All in, I think it does a good job, and so far I really like this car a lot. I like driving it. I could understand why it won’t suit all people, but it suits my habits, and little obsessions, just fine. Plus I can feel good that whilst I need to drive, compared to other cars, I’m being pretty kind to the planet too.

Lexicon word of the day: belabour.

The Monday Mess – When I moan about U.S. food, I moan – 4 Dec 2012

Once upon a time I lived in a quaint old place, old enough to have history. Oh hang on, I opened with this line a few posts ago. Anyhoo, said place wasn’t the greatest place for food until loads of europeans, and people from Bangladesh moved in, bringing good food with them. Spoiled with this, and the Brits ability to make decent snack chocolate, moving to the US provided some, we shall call them “annoyances”.  Your average American who is more tuned into simple, easy to understand food and beverages, like Hamburger, Cola, Burrito and Hamburger just doesn’t see what they are missing. Um I used a variation of that line a few weeks ago also. But joking aside, where I live in Southern California is good for a lot of foods, and most of it good. There is choice and plenty of it. But I am a Brit, and I do need to find something to moan about, because I sure cannot moan about the weather here. Furthermore, my grievance is more to do with snack foods than meal foods, but I kind of liked that intro so I kept it. On the snack front, and using an inappropriate metaphor in line with the introduction, here is a few “choice cuts”:

Avoid this thing or use it as a frisbee.(image courtesy of microsoft clipart)

Avoid this thing or use it as a frisbee.
(image courtesy of microsoft clipart)

  • Pretzels – In one of my sons books, Sesame Street’s Cookie monster is out of cookies and goes on the hunt for some. Big Bird offers him some Pretzels, and rightly so, Cookie monster complains about them being too salty. I always have to add the line “Uurgh, Pretzels are the worlds most overrated snack”. What? Best teach them early eh? Unless they are the tiny pretzels they serve on the Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow to LAX, those are the exception to the rule. But otherwise, what a piece of crud. I cannot think of a single redeeming quality on those large ones, having neither good flavour, or texture, and erm, taste. Cover them in chocolate? I say why? I now also say, Big Bird is not to be trusted.
  • Cheese – This is where I know I’ve been out of the UK too long when the cheese is starting to grow on me. We complain the US cheese is tasteless, which it mainly is, but that is because they prefer their cheese to be creamy with a vague hint of cheese. The Brits prefer cheese to taste of something. Sharp cheese in the US. About as sharp as a rubber door stop.
  • Salted Caramel – Me I love caramel and toffee. I f**kin love it. (Thats two “O”s there). Here, what is the obsession with adding salt to it? If I wanted salt I would add it. Caramel is supposed to be sweet. And while we are on the subject, why does toffee always have to arrive with nuts on it? I don’t mind nuts, I would just like some toffee without it from time to time.
  • Fudge – Something else I love but slightly ruined in the US by it adding chocolate to the mix. Now chocolate with many things, except Pretzels obviously, is a good thing. Fudge, it just doesn’t mix like it should. The fudge has its own taste, it can live without chocolate. But then it is also somewhat ruined as described in my next point.
  • Chocolate – Generally speaking, US chocolate is pretty ropey. Hershey chocolate has a slight waxy texture, a slight soapy taste. Licensed Cadbury’s chocolate isn’t bad but not quite the same, I cannot put my finger on why. But it isn’t called chocolate here because of some rule I don’t recall, or have no wish to look up on google, about what ingredients are considered to be chocolate. Still I am addicted to Cadburys Creme eggs, and partial to a bit of the old “fruit and nut”. Oh, Trader Joe’s caramel chocolate bars aren’t bad either.

And this being monday, annoyance in Nonet:

If I were religious, I would ask

for a cheese with a mature taste

or chocolate that does not

taste like washing dishes

or caramel not

been seaside dipped

I’m not. Still

pretzels

no

And that concludes my tongue in cheek wishes for this week.

Have a nice week, and tune in at a later date, for the next brainsplats blog post.

Lexicon word of the day: rollick.