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Stenson Blues Now Available

Stenson Blues Now Available

Stenson Blues, book 2 in the Kingdom of Haven series is now available on Amazon. Download it to Kindle or buy the paperback—either way, I’m happy. If you like it, please leave a review. I appreciate any feedback.

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May 29, 2014 · 3:04 pm

Axe

Axe

The name says it all (and look at the awesome album cover). If you like your basic rock guitar band from the 80’s, this is one of my favorites. I have their albums Offering and Nemesis. Most people my age would recognize the band by their most famous song – “Rock and Roll Party in the Street.” This song played on the radio quite a bit, back when people actually listened to the radio. It is on the album Offering that came out in 1982. I can’t say it’s my favorite song, because I like every song on both albums.

Obviously, there were many rock guitar bands in the eighties, and I like many of them, but Axe stands out to me because of the lyrics. I wouldn’t say the lyrics stand out—most of the songs are about sex, which is pretty standard for many popular songs of any era—Axe stands out for me because I can understand the lyrics. Their music isn’t just screaming guitars and a screaming lead singer. There is a lot of keyboard in there as well, and I can sing along to the songs. I’m not saying you want to hear me sing, but my wife gets to hear it when we’re on long car rides. Hey, it’s what she signed up for—for better or worse and all that.

So if you like 80’s style rock music that is easy to sing along with, give Axe a try. I recommend listening to them in the car when you have a captive audience. It makes the drive go quicker, for you.

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April 29, 2014 · 3:11 am

Xam’d Lost Memories

Xam'd Lost Memories

Did you ever watch a show that made no sense, but still was enjoyable? Seems odd, but that’s how Xam’d Lost Memories worked for me. The animation was awesome, the characters engaging, and storyline action-packed, but I’m still not sure what exactly was going on.

My happy confusion starts with the theme song. It’s catchy and I found myself wanting to sing along, but the words don’t make much sense. We’re falling down, running away, and doing something with lemon drops, but hey, your toes tap involuntarily so why worry. It’s not like I can understand the words of half of the songs I listened to when growing up.

So there’s a war going on between North, South, and Eastern factions. I can’t positively say who was fighting who. Then there are humans that transform into alien creatures, some intentional and some not. I’m also unclear as to whether this was planned or accidental—it seems like some of both. I’m pretty sure humans are on an alien world and this is part of the deal.

Amidst this confusion is a jewel of a character story. I won’t get into specifics, but the interactions between the main characters are very well done, and the characters drive the story. The backdrop is the war and the real story is the characters stuck in the middle. Even the supporting characters have full backstories and have depth.

If you like action-packed, character driven anime, then give Xam’d Lost Memories a try. And if you can figure out the backstory, let me know.

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April 19, 2014 · 4:45 am

Garden Time

Garden Time

I don’t know what first attracted me to gardening. My family never had one when I was a kid. We always went to the grocery store for vegetables. Actually, I don’t remember eating too many fresh vegetables growing up—our vegetables came out of cans. Now that I think back on it, I have no clue why I started my first garden. It was about 1990 and I had just bought my first house. I lived in the desert in California, which wasn’t exactly the best gardening spot. Whatever the reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to grow a garden.

For my first attempt at gardening, I followed the Square Foot Gardening method. I had a small yard and had bought and read the book on “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. I must admit that I was not very good at it to begin with, but kept at it. When I moved to North Carolina in 1993, I had a big yard and went with a traditional row garden, but I always wanted to go back and try the “Square Foot” method again.

They say all things come back again, and now that I have a small yard in Charlotte, I have decided to try the “Square Foot Garden” method again. So I dusted off the old book off my shelf and got busy. Here is the beginning of my new garden. There were actually some railroad ties lying in the back of my yard that I used to create the outline. I always wanted to do a raised bed too, so this seemed to be fate. Hopefully, the next picture I post will be of a thriving garden.

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March 20, 2014 · 2:25 am

Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Oyster Cult

What I like most about music is the memories. Music brings back memories of memorable times in my life. So when I was sitting down to decide what musical artist to write about, the recent winter storms reminded me of the worst winter in my memory, and a particular song.

When I think of Blue Oyster Cult, I think of snow and Idaho Falls. I spent the winter of 1983 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The snow stayed on the ground all winter. I don’t remember it melting until late spring. I had lived in southern California, North Carolina, and New Mexico up until then, and had never seen so much snow before. I didn’t have much to compare it to, and still don’t really, but the locals told me it was the worst winter they had had in years. Just my luck, it was the winter I was stationed there in the US Navy.

I had the Blue Oyster Cult album Spectres on cassette. That album always reminds me of Idaho Falls because it was playing in the car the day I rolled into town. It was actually late in the evening after a long day of driving, and I remember Blue Oyster Cult playing as I drove into town. Now that memory is probably enough to tie the group to the town, but another memory cemented the two together forever.

I lived in a house with three other guys and we worked shift work at the base. We were all on the same shift, and that Christmas two of my roommates decided to go down to New Mexico to visit one of their families during our long break. We had five days off. I thought they were crazy because it would take them a day to drive down and a day to drive back, but off they went.

We started to get worried on the last day because they had left New Mexico earlier, and there was a major snow storm raging outside. This was before cell phones so we went to bed that night wondering where they were. Two o’clock in the morning we got our answer when the phone rang. They had gone off the road just south of Pocatello, about fifty miles south of where we lived, and needed a ride back. Oh, and we both needed to go get them because they had brought a bunch of stuff back in their truck and it wouldn’t fit in one car.

Imagine driving down the interstate in a major snowstorm in Idaho at 2 am. I had a Chevy Chevette hatchback with no snow tires or chains. It felt like the twilight zone because there was no one else on the road and you couldn’t see the blacktop because of the ice and snow. Did I mention they had gone off the road in a loaded down truck with snow chains on the tires and I had never really driven in the snow before? Luckily, I had my favorite album to keep me company on that ride—Spectres by Blue Oyster Cult. There is nothing like sliding down the road in a blizzard with “Godzilla” playing full blast on the radio.

So we got there in one piece and picked up the lost ones. Packing their crap in both vehicles (my other roommate drove some big American made monstrosity of a car), we headed back home. Now comes the best part. One the way back my Chevette starts acting up. It starts chugging and hesitating every time we hit a hill. By this point we’ve lost the other car, and I’m tired and wrung out from the stress of getting there and wondering if we’ll go off the road before making it home. Again, Blue Oyster Cult came to the rescue. In the midst of the car troubles “Golden Age of Leather” started playing:

“Raise your can of beer on high
And seal your fate forever
Our best years have passed us by
The Golden Age of Leather”

Oh how I wanted a beer at that moment, but the song lifted my spirits and we chugged out way back to town. We got there just in time to get dressed and catch the early bus to work.

“Golden Age of Leather” is still my favorite Blue Oyster Cult song, and it’ll always remind me of snow and ice and the little Chevette that could.

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March 17, 2014 · 11:53 pm

Welcome To The NHK

Welcome To The NHK

I like all types of anime, but I prefer the ones that are different. Don’t get me wrong: school girls, mecha, vampires, zombies, magic, or whatever are all fine and dandy, but the anime that stand out for me are the ones that make you think.

Welcome to the NHK is definitely different. All the characters are flawed. They all have issues, and the story is about how they deal, or don’t deal with life. Social Anxiety is the overall theme. One character is afraid to leave his apartment; another believes in conspiracy theories; yet another was abused as a child, and the list goes on. They are all real social problems condensed into a single story. So there is a hint of realism but overall watching the show makes you a bit uncomfortable, like witnessing an accident in progress but unable to stop it. The interactions between the different characters—how they help and hinder each other—are what make this anime worth watching.

So if you like anime and want to watch something a bit out the ordinary, yet still worth watching, give Welcome to the NHK a try.

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March 14, 2014 · 1:01 am

The Scorpions

The Scorpions

In my current job, I travel quite a bit. I live out of my laptop bag and spend too much time in rental cars. My current travels remind me of my younger days in the Navy when I drove cross-country from duty station to duty station. It was the early eighties and there was a lot of great music to choose from to keep me company on those long trips. My favorite band for driving down the road was The Scorpions.

I think I drove back and forth across the US as least 5 times within as many years. I lived on McDonald’s cheeseburgers and stayed awake by listening to The Scorpions at full volume. I had two of their cassettes at the time: Blackout and Love at First Sting.

Blackout was my favorite album for driving down the freeway. Several high intensity songs like “Blackout”, “Dynamite”, and “China White” kept me awake after long hours on the road. Of course there were more popular songs on the album like “No One Like You” that everyone knew from the radio.

Love at First Sting is a close second. I don’t think the songs are as energetic, but they are just as good. If you recognize any Scorpions songs it will be “Rock You Like a Hurricane” from this album. I would say that “Still Loving You” is my all-time favorite rock ballad – the guitar music perfectly complements the sentiment of the song. It’s probably one of my favorite air-guitar songs too, but I get funny looks from my daughter when I indulge in that pastime. And she doesn’t think it’s funny to play with a fake guitar (Guitar Hero). I don’t see a big difference, except it’s harder to keep up with Guitar Hero after a couple of beers, but my air guitar is still on fire.

I also own two more of their albums (CD’s actually, but old habits): Savage Amusement and Crazy World. I like all the songs on all four of these albums. If you like 80’s rock and roll, give The Scorpions a listen. They go good with McDonald’s cheeseburgers and long lonely highways.

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February 25, 2014 · 2:17 am

Winter Blues

Winter Blues

My magic chant didn’t work. This is the view from my back door. I’m going to close the blinds and work on those re-writes now. Maybe when I open the blinds again it’ll be sunny and a girl in ruby slippers will be asking me for a ride home in my balloon.

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February 12, 2014 · 10:11 pm

Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan

At first glance, this anime seemed a bit lame and gory. The first time a Titan appears on the screen they look a bit odd, but not all that menacing. Then the blood starts flying and you realize they’re pretty damn indestructible.

I like this anime because it keeps you guessing. There are so many predictable stories out there that it is refreshing to find one that isn’t. The story is told from the perspective of a group of young humans that are trying to fight back against the Titans. This works to enhance the mystery of the storyline because the audience finds out things as the characters do. The story moves fast and the truth of what’s going on is revealed a clue at a time with a few shocking twists to keep you guessing.

If you like a good mystery and can get past the blood and violence, this is definitely one for you. It’s the best anime series I’ve seen recently and worth a watch. This one’s not for kids though.

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January 30, 2014 · 10:05 pm

The Smithereens

The Smithereens

I have an i-pod in my car that has over 5000 songs on it from all the cd’s I bought over the years. I have it set for shuffle and I never know what tune from what era of music is going to play next. Most songs bring back memories, but certain bands or songs stand out. The Smithereens is one of those bands.

If I had to choose the one band that reminds me most of the eighties, it would be the Smithereens. I was single, in my twenties, and spent way too much time in dance clubs and bars. The one song that is guaranteed to bring back memories of that time would be Behind the Walls of Sleep from their album “Especially For You.”

When I hear this song, a specific memory flashes before my eyes. I’m in a bar in San Diego. I can’t remember the name of the bar, but I remember what it looked like. The dance floor consisted of off-white floor tiles like the ones you see in a high school hallway. It’s well-lit and surrounded by a wooden rail. There is a long wooden bar at the back of the club and clumps of tables and chairs in the half-light between the two. The opening riffs of Behind the Walls of Sleep starts to play and the crowd lets out an excited murmur as they scramble for partners and rush to the dance floor. There were certain songs from this album that I heard night after night at this club and others like it – Blood and Roses was another Smithereens’ song that was popular at the time.

The Smithereens followed “Especially For You” up with my favorite of their albums – “Green Thoughts.” This album is not so danceable, but I like all the songs. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite. I like to listen to the cd straight through. If I had to choose it would probably be the cover track Green Thoughts. I also have their “11” album, which has very good music on it as well. You can’t go wrong with any of these.

The Smithereens had a different sound. I called it mellow rock, but it was music with a message, like a folksy pop music. The songs were good to sing and dance to, but they also made you think if you listened to the lyrics. Thinking back on it, it seems strange that this was popular in the dance clubs. Most dance music today has a different feel to it.

I still love to listen to the Smithereens. They’re a good prescription at the end of a stressful day. Their music goes good with a beer or two, especially if you just got out of your kid’s car listening to some of the current music trends.

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January 13, 2014 · 10:53 pm