Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Clock is Ticking

I know that the posting here has been pretty much feast or famine recently, but I've had quite a few things distracting me, from work issues to personal issues to crappy health. But one of the biggest distractions has been my fighting through the denial generated by the news that in two months time one of my best friends in the world will be leaving. And I don't mean "got a job in another city/state" leaving; I mean "will be shipping off to boot camp, OCS, and eventually, overseas to war" leaving.

Yes, that's right: Cap'n Shack-Fu has decided to add yet another level to his Rescue Action Hero status by going active duty in the U.S. Army.

Now, Shack has been contemplating this move for a while, but it's only within the last month that it has moved from slight possibility to definite course of action. I found out yesterday that he has officially set his review board date for March 19th; odds are good that he'll be shipped off to boot within a week of that, two weeks at the outside. I have a feeling that the next two months are going to fly by in an instant, especially with a group of Singles (including Shack-Fu and myself) heading off to Breckenridge, CO for a ski trip tomorrow* -- nothing makes time disappear like a vacation. So, in what will probably seem like a blink of an eye, my Best Friend and brother will be plucked from my everyday life and placed in harm's way halfway around the globe.

I am no, as one might guess, a happy camper at the prospect, nor are most of the other people in Shack-Fu's life. But, at the same time, I realize that this is what he feels called to do, and me trying to talk him out of fulfilling what he thinks of as his duty to God and country just because I'm going to miss hanging out with him is, if not the height of selfishness, then at least pretty far up there.

Now, I have voiced my concerns to him, not the least of which is that the kind, caring, compassionate soul that I've come to admire and respect so much over the past year and a half could be hardened and damaged beyond recognition by the horrors of war -- an extreme, worst-case scenario, to be sure, but since when I have I ever kept my fears and worries at a manageable, non-hyperbolic level? But at the same time, I assured him that, while I will miss him terribly and worry and pray about him constantly, in the end, I understand that he's doing what he believes is right, and I will support him in any way I can.

So, I have now powered through my denial and depression, and am now trying hard to focus on optimizing my remaining Shack-Fu time for maximum fun and HyperForce activity.

*So, yeah, don't be expecting any blogging until next Wednesday at the earliest, and odds are good I'll still be recuperating from all the fun and won't be up to doing anything productive until Thursday.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Colors Commentaries

A few more True Colors related anecdotes for you.

During the workshop, one of the Greens I supervise turned to me, pointed out his low Blue*, and said "You're my point of stress, boss." I informed him that, as a Blue, that hurt my feelings greatly, but since I was a peacemaker, I would forgive him.

Speaking of the "point of stress" idea, I did want to point out that, yes, people with the same color scheme as you can also be your point of stress; for example, Oranges tend to be very competitive and crave the spotlight, and can be very put out if another Orange threatens their status as center of attention.

As I mentioned in the previous post, pretty much every cubicle has their colors posted, generally following the standard we used when labeling ourselves for the workshop: four equally sized dots arranged left to right from highest color to lowest. Well, pretty much every cubicle in the two units dominated by traditional Golds; in the Blue/Green dominated Serials and Electronic Resources unit our colors are displayed a bit more creatively; one coworker has a bar graph showing her score on each; another has a donut graph doing the same; I stuck with the circles, but had them arranged vertically, not horizontally, and varied the size of each to demonstrate which colors were strongest; and, finally, one coworker broke out of the chart/graph box completely:

On the individual tests, I often come out showing slightly more Gold than Green, whereas when I read the personality descriptions themselves, the Green feels much stronger in me; I think that may be because so much of Gold behavior is learned behavior, and most of the Gold questions have to do with following rules, and I tend to follow the rules not because I think all rules are there for a reason as because my high Blue leads me to avoid conflict, and why rock the boat when you don't have to?

Zinger turned out to be low Blue, marking yet another good friend for whom I am a point of stress; he was also low Orange, which happens to be the highest color of his wife, Pooh-Bear. Of course, Pooh-Bear also scored a zero on Gold, and three guesses what Zinger's strongest color was . . .

Out of curiosity, I tried out some other online personality exams, particularly the ones associated with Meyers-Briggs style analysis; took five different tests, and got five totally different results, not a single one of which spoke to my true personality as much as True Colors did -- do with that what you will.

*The same Green remarked more than once that the color results were fitting for him because, quoth he, he has "all the emotion of a rock."


Monday, January 21, 2008

Movie Mon. - "Motion Sickness Was Only the Beginning!"

Joshua: Psychological thriller about a sociopathic little boy who decides to put his parents' unconditional love for him to the test after the birth of his little sister. Let me start off by saying this: move over, Cameron Bright, there's a new contender for "Creepiest Little Kid on the Planet" in town, and his name is Jacob Kogan. This is a pretty highly contested film over on the IMDB boards, with some calling it one of the worst movies they've other seen, and others citing its brilliance; I fall more on the side of the latter. Were there some problems? Sure; in particular the scene with the child psychologist bugged the heck out of me, as it almost always does in a film when someone jumps to the wrong conclusion on little evidence and then becomes filled with righteous indignation. Still, one or two "oh, come on!" moments are not enough to ruin a film for me, generally speaking, and there were ample character moments and instances of dark humor to earn my admiration. In fact, that dark humor was one of the big selling points for me, and I got the feeling from most of the negative reviews that the humor slipped right past most of the haters. And I absolutely loved the song Joshua performs at the end, which was, incidentally, written by Dave Matthews for the film, who also performed his version over the end credits. Sadly, it's not available for purchase anywhere, so if I ever feel the need to listen to "The Fly," I have to rely on YouTube.

Cloverfield: Best summed up as Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla, this horror movie is told entirely through camcorder footage as a group of Manhattanites react to the giant creature destroying their city. If you get motion sickness easily, stay far away from this one, folks*; both PigPen and Li'l Random got pretty nauseous when we went to see it, and neither of them are prone to that** -- poor PigPen had to leave early, it got so bad for him. But, if you think you can handle the jerky camera work, and don't mind some ambiguity in your pop culture entertainment, you might find giving this a look worth your while. Tad predictable at times, yes, and it has its fair share of "why are they doing that, what are they thinking?" moments as most horror films do, but for me, the person-on-the-street style of storytelling worked pretty well. Not the greatest movie ever made, but far from the worst, as I've heard a few claim.

*Favorite audience participation moment of the film: one of the characters says "I feel dizzy" and some guy about three rows behind us yells out "Me too!

*Of course, the fact that we got into the theater really late and had to sit on the very end of the front rows probably didn't help all that much.


Friday, January 18, 2008

My True Colors Shining Through or "The Moody Blue vs. Orange Power"

Last week at work we spent the day in a "True Colors" workshop. "True Colors" is a personality profiling system which assigns a specific color to four distinct personality types: free-wheeling orange, structured gold, logical green, and sensitive blue. The idea is to determine which color is your primary color, which your secondary, etc. and to utilize that knowledge in how you deal with others in both your personal and professional life. Just reading the descriptions on their website beforehand, I guessed that my "True Colors" color scheme would be Blue Green Gold Orange; sure enough, when I did the super-quick and easy assessment -- based mainly on a "which grouping of words best describes you" questionnaire -- that's how I came out. Well, to be honest, I came out with Blue 24 (highest possible score), Orange 6 (lowest possible score), and Green and Gold tied at 15 apiece, but as the workshop went on it became clearer and clearer that it was the overly-analytical, skeptical Green that ruled me more than the structured, detail-oriented Gold.

After we had determined our colors, I started leafing through a hand-out the lady leading the seminar had created with some broad descriptions of the colors. It was scary just how accurate the Blue description was for me: "Want to be genuine caring, and understanding. Relationship oriented . . .may have their feelings hurt easily and take comments personally . . .tend to use more abstract words in their speech . . . want [friends} with whom they can share their deepest feelings . . . belong to groups for the opportunities to make friends and form new relationships . . ." Yeah, it was the "feelings hurt" and "take comments personally" things that really set of the "That's me!" alarms, but a lot of stuff in there clicked. And, the stuff that didn't could be easily explained by my overly-sensitive Blue being tempered by my secondary color, Green, which was described thusly: "Seek knowledge . . .Want to have a rationale for everything . . . Skeptical . . . think through every detail before making a decision . . ." So, overly emotional with a tendency to over-analyze the actions of all around them; that's me to a tee!

The seminar leader pointed out that some of the colors are generally diametrically opposed, and those whose two highest colors fall into this category are usually much more prone to stress, anxiety, etc. Three guesses as to whether Blue and Green fit into this category . . .

Another thing we were cautioned about was that people who ranked high in whichever color was our lowest would be a "point of stress" in our daily lives. My lowest color was Orange, which is described as "Action oriented . . .Generally excited . . . Absorbed in the action of the moment . . . Seek adventure and stimulation . . . [prefer] to be spontaneous . . . enjoy the camaraderie of team sports . . . find it hard to follow rules . . ." Three guesses which of my closest friends is a text-book Orange . . .

A-ha! I am the Orangiest Orange that ever Oranged! I WIN!

When I informed The Lovable PigPen that he was my point of stress, he cried out "YES!," did a celebratory arm pump, and told me that he took that as a personal point of pride.

One of the interesting things about the process was seeing what color patterns my co-workers fell into; ever since the seminar, everyone has posted their colors up on their cubicle walls, and conversations are now peppered with phrases like "my Blue is really strong today" and "stop being such an Orange!" The vast majority of our office were high Golds, which isn't surprising, since supposedly over 50% of the adult population falls into the Gold category, and the number is usually even higher in library workers, since the Gold is described as "lik[ing] responsibility, accountability and predictability . . . serve and do their duty . . . protect and preserve . . . look to the past and tradition . . . like ceremonies and rules . . . security and stability . . get the right things at the right time to the right people . . . excellent with detail . . . " Sounds pretty librarian-ish to me. Of course, the unit I'm currently supervising is the exception to this: three Blues, two Greens, and not a Gold in sight. It sort of makes sense: when working with the constantly shifting world of Serials and Electronic Resources like we do, being focused on structure and tradition will just drive you insane.

One of the things I liked about the True Colors personality schema was the fact that in addition to being pretty user-friendly and intuitive, it fully embraced the idea that while each of us might have a dominant personality trait, none of us are totally one color to the exclusion of all others. In other words, we all exhibit some trace of each one. My Orange may be low in terms of seeking excitement and adventure and spontaneity, but it shows up big time in terms of my competitive nature -- a competitive nature that, perhaps not surprisingly, comes out the strongest when I'm dealing with that champion of Orange Power, PigPen. Also, out of the different personality evaluations I've seen, this is the first one that really seemed to have me pegged, but I'm sure your mileage may vary depending on whether you are one of those who can easily be pigeonholed by the test's specifics or not.

In the end, I realize that this sort of pop psychology has little scientific foundation, but at the same time, it can be a great tool in helping people examine how they relate to each other.

If you're interested in seeing where your True Colors fall, you can use this page to take a key-word evaluation like the one we used, or you can go here to take a much more story-problem style test. And please feel free to share your results in the comments section; I'm unendingly curious about where all of you blog monkeys fall.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tardy Tuesday - Playing Catch-Up from Missed Movie Monday

Today's reviews will be going from "Best" to "Worst," just because I feel like it

Juno: Off-beat comedy about a teenage girl (the excellent Ellen Page) who decides to carry her unexpected pregnancy to term and then give the baby to a well-off couple with fertility problems (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). Some people who didn't like the film cited the overly precocious dialogue, feeling that it was too self-concsiously hip, complaining that teenagers wouldn't talk like that, saying it's like one gigantic episode of Gilmore Girls. And if any of that sounds like it might turn you off, then please, feel free not to see the movie. But for me, the dialogue worked, the characters worked, the humor worked. I don't know if I'd buy into the "best movie of the year" hype, but definitely one of the better comedies I've seen recently.

Eagle vs. Shark:
Quirky comedy from New Zealand about a social misfit who falls in love with another social misfit (Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords) and travels home with him to witness his planned revenge on his old high school nemesis. Loved this movie, but be warned, it is most definitely not for everyone. Some have made the observation that it's almost a Kiwi Napoleon Dynamite, and I think there's some truth to that, as the humor is derived from the strange, quirky, but dead-pan behavior of the protagonists and their family and friends.

3:10 to Yuma:
Remake of the classic Western about a rancher fallen on hard times (Christian Bale) who volunteers to help guard notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) as he's transported to prison, all the while being pursued by the outlaw's bloodthirsty gang, led by his psychotic second in command (the increasingly creepy (in a good way) Ben Foster). The update was quite a bit more violent than the original, which was to be expected, and the addition of the whole rebellious son angle made me roll my eyes a bit, but I was pretty much all in on the movie until, oh, the last 15-20 minutes, when the writers of the new film decided to change the reason for Wade's decision to play along with the run to the train. In the original, the reasoning held true to Wade's twisted sense of honor and obligation; in the remake, it merely left you scratching your head while you did the mental gymnastics necessary to get the Wade of the rest of the movie to match up with the Wade of the last part. Not enough to ruin the movie for me, thanks to the bulk of the film being energized by excellent performances from all of the cast, but definitely enough to keep me from jumping on the "This is the best Western since Unforgiven" bandwagon that almost all of the critics seem to have joined.

Boy Eats Girl: Mildly amusing Irish horror-comedy about a teenager whose mother tries to bring him back to life with magic, only to unwittingly unleash a plague of zed-words on the town. As far as zed-word comedies go, this one ranks quite a ways below Fido, let alone Shaun of the Dead, but it does have its own strengths, including a likable cast and one of the most awesome scenes of zombie destruction by farm equipment in movie history. This one will probably only play to fans of the genre, whereas both Fido and Shaun have the potential to bridge the gap.

Resident Evil: Extinction:
Third (and possibly final) installment in the video-game based franchise finds a world almost completely overrun by T-virus infected being, with a few small pockets of humanity staying constantly on the move to survive. In terms of the franchise, I thought Extinction didn't live up the first film, but was better than Nemesis by far. A few too many "Why the heck did so-and-so do such a stupid thing?" moments for my liking, and the final battle with the mutated bad guy was a bit anticlimactic, but as far as mindless horror action movies go, you could do worse.

Shoot 'Em up:
Cartoony, over-the-top, incredibly stylized action film about a crazily proficient gunman named Smith (Clive Owens) who is trying to save an orphaned baby from a never-ending army of mercenaries led by the almost preternaturally perceptive Hertz (the incredibly effective Paul Giamatti). Let me first start off by saying that before starting this movie, you need to check your brain and sense of disbelief at the door; the action sequences are so mind-bendingly unrealistic that they make Crank and The Transporter films look like documentaries; if you go in prepared for that, you might be able to make it through. For me, it wasn't the unbelievable action scenes that pained me, it was the horrible one liners and mostly unlikable characters. In effect, if the moments which liked high-octane violence didn't contain Paul Giamatti, my interest was nil; I guess it's lucky that there were practically no non-violent scenes in the movie, huh?

Bland, unengaging "thriller" about a rogue assassin (Jet Li) starting a gang war between the Yakuza and Triads, while being hunted down by an FBI agent (Jason Statham) with a score to settle. Honestly, I just didn't care enough about this film one way or another to inspire any sort of rant about it; I will say that my favorite scene in the film was the one where Devon Aoki (Miho from Sin City) ordered a sandwich, which is really much more entertaining than it sounds. No, seriously.

Dragon Wars: Incredibly disappointing fantasy about a girl born with the power to elevate the giant serpents known as imoogi into full-fledged celestial dragons, a power that is coveted by the evil imoogi Baraki. Man, what a mess this was; horrible dialogue, execrable editing, plot holes you could herd a giant killer snake through . . . pitiful, pitiful film. I will say that the big battle sequence in the middle of L.A. -- the sequence which made up the bulk of the trailer and made me actually want to see the movie -- was pretty well done, but overall, the film was a waste of time.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

TV Tues - HELLGA!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, not a whole lot of TV watching going on right now, but there's one thing that definitely bears talking about:

American Gladiators! (NBC 7:00 Mondays): It's amazing how much excitement this updated version of one of the staples of my TV watching youth has generated in the ranks of HyperForce 3000; the power of nostalgia, eh? From the moment we saw the first commercial for the revival, we've been counting down the days. And now that the show has landed, how are we feeling? Pretty favorable, overall. Yes, the behavior of a couple of the Gladiators is a bit over the top character-wise almost in a WWE sort of way* -- I'm looking at you, Wolf -- and the lack of any Gladiator participation in the Eliminator is mildly disappointing, and I wish they had gone with anyone other than Hulk Hogan as an announcer**, but still, the allure of watching gigantic guys and gals beating the heck out of everday folk retains its appeal. During the initial flashes of the new Gladiators, one of the female Gladiators stood out to us due to her size; then when they did the roll call we were anxiously awaiting the unveiling of her identity as they called off the names of the other female Gladiators one by one: Fury, Venom, Crush, Siren, Stealth, and, finally . . . Hellga.

Yes, that's right, Hellga, with two Ls, insinuating that when this 6'1" 205 lb bodybuilder comes at you, Hell is coming with her***. Unfortunately, Hellga has not yet lived up to the promise of her name -- or her "Hellga Smash!" frame, for that matter -- so far competing only in The Gauntlet and not proving super-effective in the bulk of the runs. And yet, we remain hopeful, if for no other reason than we love to yell "HELLGA!!!!!!" The initial episodes have gotten pretty good ratings, apparently, so with luck we'll be able to see another season soon; and, if the contender tryouts come anywhere near here, I'd lay good money on PigPen trying out.

And I couldn't finish the post without sharing the entertaining promo clip below.

Good stuff.

*Which shouldn't be surprising, I suppose, since one of the over-actors, Toa, is actually Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's cousin.
**Fun drinking game: take a shot every time the Hulkster says "yo," "brother," or "unbelievable." You'll be plastered before the first commercial break.
***Of course, after listening to her disturbingly deep voice in an interview, the general consensus among the HyperForcers is that there's a good chance she once was a dude.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Filmtastic Friday - "Guilty Knowledge?"

The Kingdom: Entertaining thriller about a group of FBI agents who travel to the Middle East to investigate the terrorist bombing that claimed one of their own. Now, from what I remember of the trailers, they focused on the fact that one of the team members gets kidnapped and has to be rescued, making it look like that was the focus of the film; instead, the film is much more of a procedural, with the FBI team doing their investigative work while having to work around the red tape created by the local officials who don't want to admit that they need help from the Americans, with the kidnapping and rescue attempt occupying only the final act of the film which is pretty much a non-stop action sequence. Interesting characters, amusing dialog, and likable actors all added up to this being an enjoyable film. I especially liked Jason Bateman's turn as the smart-mouthed agent who puts up one heck of a fight when he's captured.

The animated tale of a talented rat whose unusually developed senses make him eschew the garbage consumed by the rest of his kind and pursue a world of culinary delights, forming an unlikely alliance with a garbage boy at a Parisian restaurant. I must admit, the trailers for this one never really appealed to me, and the only things that me me even remotely interested were the massive amount of rave reviews it received and the fact that it was created by Brad Bird, the creative genius behind The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, two of the best animated films of the last 10 years. Sure enough, my faith in Bird was upheld, as Ratatouille turned out to be a clever and amusing film which far exceeded the low expectations generated by the trailers.

Hannibal Rising:
Prequel to Silence of the Lambs/Red Dragon/Hannibal which details how young Hannibal Lecter first gained a taste for murder and human flesh. Like so many popular fictional villains, the character of Hannibal has transformed from an intriguing foil for the story's protagonist into a full-fledged anti-hero, and it is that view which holds sway here, presenting a sympathetic origin to try to explain the horrors Hannibal would later commit. As a revenge tale, the film works fairly well, and the relationship between Hannibal and his aunt gave the film much more emotional resonance than I would have suspected; as a satisfying examination of the intriguing and complex character which made Silence of the Lambs such a brilliant film, however, not so much. Trying to use the samurai armor to act as a foreshadowing of the infamous muzzle mask of Lambs was laughable at best and the whole "Do you have any guilty knowledge?" exchange still strikes me as some of the most clunkily constructed pieces of dialog ever to be shoehorned into every single trailer for a film; sadly, it did not seem any less clunky in the film. Still, not a bad film, per se, just not a great one either.

Balls of Fury:
Goofy comedy whose "Enter the Dragon"-esque plot finds a former ping pong champion recruited by the FBI to help infiltrate a massive ping pong tournament hosted by an international crime lord (Christopher Walken). Often predictable, this is one of those "it had its moments" films; if you're looking for silly, escapist comedy, you could do far worse. Walken is a gas, as usual, and relative newcomer and Tony Award winning actor Dan Fogler does a capable job in the lead.

Indie film set in Dublin about an Irish busker (played by The Frames frontman Glen Hansard)

whose encounter with a Czech girl (established musician but first-time actress Markéta Irglová) leads to musical collaboration

and possible romance. This was one of those movies that got in my queue because it made almost every critic's list of "best films of the year" and, after watching it, I understand why -- loved this movie. I'm generally a big fan of the intricate and complex in filmmaking, but I have to admit, I found the simplicity and directness of Once's plot to be a large part of its charm. Not that the film is simplistic, mind you; the characters are fully fleshed and while nominally a romance, the plot avoids many of the usual cliches. The movie is also nominally a musical, but in the same way that, say, This is Spinal Tap or That Thing You Do or even Cabaret are musicals; the characters are musicians, and their songs are not random outbursts of song with full orchestration swelling in the background -- instead, like in the above clips, the songs are performed by the characters in realistic settings and realistic situations.

The music is a huge factor in my love of the film, which is why I've included so many clips in my review; this soundtrack has moved to the top of my "must buy" list. Hansard and Irglová wrote and performed all of their characters' music themselves, Hansard taking some of his pre-existing songs from The Frames and both of them writing a few new tunes as well. Loved the music, loved the characters, loved the film's intimate feel, loved the humor. Might not be an inimitably quotable film, or be dripping with witticisms, or boiling over with action, but I was entranced through the whole thing.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Shanghied by Shack-Fu

On Monday (a.k.a. New Year's Eve) PigPen and I met up with Cap'n Shack-Fu for lunch. Since The Mav had borrowed my car to go in to work at 5AM, and PigPen was heading straight for work after we ate, I asked Shack if he would mind giving me a ride back home. He said sure, and at about one o'clock, we hopped in B.A.R.T. and left Chick-Fil-A.

It would be almost five hours later before I made it home.

You see, earlier that day, Shack-Fu had gotten word that due to the strong winds and low humidity it was a prime day for fires, so he was eagerly listening to the scanner in B.A.R.T. for news of a conflagration. No sooner had he pointed B.A.R.T. towards my place then a call came over the radio saying there was a huge grass-fire in the nearby town of Justin, and that assistance was needed. It was like a switch had been thrown in my buddy's brain, and everything else faded from consciousness except for the siren call of firefighting. Next thing I know, B.A.R.T. is zipping through traffic as Shack-Fu agitatedly calls various numbers trying to get clearance to help out. As we sped over to I-35W, Shack turned to me and said "Now, when we get there, you'll need to put on this hard-hat and stay in the truck."

I assured him that me staying in the truck while fires were raging around wasn't going to be that difficult for me although, as it turned out, being around the fire wasn't nearly as nerve-wracking as the drive to the fires. Don't get me wrong: I have the utmost faith in Shack-Fu, and I know he would never purposefully endanger anyone's life. At the same time, if you could have seen the manic gleam in his eye at the prospect of being able to play with fire, you probably would have been bracing yourself and praying for safe passage as well*.

After a couple of calls, Shack-Fu finally made contact with the appropriate personnel, and we soon hear a call going out on the radio announcing that Shack had volunteered his services. Once he was officially cleared to be part of the team, Shack was able to turn on B.A.R.T.'s flashy lights and really speed to the scene.

Unfortunately for my fire-fighting fanatic friend, the speed of our travel proved fruitless, for the fire had already been mostly contained by the time he checked in with the central command. Still, since we had driven all the way out there, and since there was still some burning going on, Shack-Fu drove on over to the burn site to see if there was anything he could do. The fire had ravaged the fields of some poor farmer, and among the large burnt black fields you could see the remains of numerous bales of hay being consumed by flame as the volunteer fire fighters drove around trying to put out anything burning too close to the unburnt sections, and a bulldozer pushed the undamaged hay bales out of harm's way.

Eagle-eye Shack noticed a clump of hay bales which were burning way too close to the edge of the blackened area, and quickly drove B.A.R.T. over to check it out. He waved down the bulldozer and after they inspected the area, the dozer operator called for a brush truck to come over and help contain the potentially dangerous scenario.

After that potential crisis was averted, Shack decided to get out his axe and start breaking up some of the other burning piles of hay to help speed up their consumption.

It wasn't long before the command center started releasing all of the extra help which had answered the call. We were starting to head back towards I-35 when a call came over the radio for another fire in Justin. Shack-Fu began fumbling for the GPS unit, trying to get the address programed in, when we met one of the brush trucks. Shack yelled out to ask them if they were headed for the fire that had just been called in, and when they said yes, he fell in behind them. We then began an incredibly long and dusty drive down the back roads of Justin, the road barely visible because of the great cloud of dust being kicked up from the gravel road by the truck in front of us. After numerous twists and turns which left us wondering if the fellows ahead of us actually knew where they were going, we finally reached the scene of the second fire. Once again, by the time we had arrived, the situation was under control. This time the fire had come dangerously close the propane tank behind a nice home, into which the current occupants had just moved a month or two ago. Once again, Shack-Fu wielded his axe to spread out burning debris to allow better saturation from the fire hoses, but since there was only one debris pile, it wasn't exactly a grand endeavor.

As we were leaving the scene, Shack-Fu recognized some folks he had worked with before, and so we stopped so he could visit and compare the relative merits of the shiny lights installed in each of their vehicles. After a bit, everyone vacated, and we started the trek back to Denton. I'm afraid that Shack wasn't much of a conversationalist on this drive, as I often found myself shushed into silence anytime an alert would sound over the scanner; most of the time the alert was for an EMT call, and a dejected Shack-Fu would try to return his attention to whatever we had been discussing. We were probably a good 15 minutes from my place when another alarm sounded, this time for a massive fire in Sanger. Shack-Fu had me type the address into his GPS, and once again we were off -- and, once again, by the time we got there, everything was under control. He had just gotten back into B.A.R.T. after finding out his assistance was not needed at the Sanger fire when a call went out for help for a fire in Aubrey. We had some difficulty getting his GPS unit to accept the cross streets named in the call that went out, and we wound up having to just make up an address for one of the streets and then follow the road around until we saw smoke. Three guesses as to whether there was anything for Shack to do by the time we got there . . .

By the time we discovered the Aubrey fire in capable hands Shack-Fu decided (reluctantly, I might add) to call it a night, since we both had not only a New Year's Eve party to attend a bit later, but he also had dinner plans with paintballer Fearless Leader Juliet and his new fiance. So, after being dragged all over the back roads of Denton county by my obsessive pal, I finally was granted my freedom a little after 6 o'clock. Not quite how I had planned spending the penultimate day of my Christmas break, but I suppose it was better than just sitting around the house doing nothing like I would have been doing otherwise. I mean, sure, most of the 5 hours I spent in the clutches of Shack-Fu also entailed me just sitting around doing nothing, but at least I got to see lots of stuff burning up.

Oh, and I also got to fear for my life while riding with a Shack-Fu enraptured by visions of his first chance at fire fighting in many, many months, so that has to count for something, right?

*Later that night, Squiggly would remind him that crashing the car on the way to help people wouldn't be in anyone's best interest, since it's hard to respond to a situation when you're not responsive.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yes, I'm Alive (No Thanks to Shack-Fu . . .)

As often happens, time off for the holidays has thrown off my blogging momentum. But, since many of my regular readers have been otherwise occupied by holiday travel, I doubt my posting has been missed all that much.

My biggest news of the day is that, exactly six months following the initial injury, I had my final post-operative check-up today*; my hand surgeon said everything seems to be healing well internally, and the physical therapy sessions have been showing diminishing returns so I don't have to worry about those anymore either. Which means I might soon be done paying medical bills, and will be able to put that extra money towards paying off some of my other bills.

As for my subject line, well, there's a story there, but one that will require me to download some pictures from my phone which document my best bud's kidnapping of me in B.A.R.T.** on New Year's Eve when he transformed from Cap'n Shack-Fu to Super Tiger Dragon Hyper Action Rescue Hero Edition Shack-Fu, now with more Fire-Fighting Actiontm .

*Quoth Zinger when I told him the news: "Next time, have PigPen break a more easily healed part of your body."
**Bad Ass Rescue Truck for those of you with short memories