Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer

51dp9x2F0SL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“Holy shit, it’s Professor Marchuk! Run!”

Robert J. Sawyer‘s latest novel Quantum Night explores psychology and has me wondering if I’m a Q1, a Q2 or a Q3. Or maybe I’m sometimes one or another, depending on the time of the day and whether I’m wide awake or not. Right now I’m awfully tired and feel like I’m just going through the motions, much like a classical Q1 p-zed.

Jim Marchuk is a professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg who developed a procedure that determines whether someone is a psychopath or not. Because of this, he is asked to be an expert witness at a murderer’s trial in Georgia.

Jim travels to Georgia for the trial. Though he’s only there to explain his procedure, the prosecutor grills him about his past and he does not remember things that he should remember. When he returns to Canada, he discovers that he’s missing six months of his life.

Jim’s missing six months are the result of an experiment he took part in twenty years earlier. The experiment changed him from a fully conscious, thinking human being (Q3) to a mindless animation (Q1). Jim is determined to understand what had happened to him during those six months, and what had he done?

A good read and quite fun.

Counting Crows in Blues Traveler’s Run Around Video

Although it’s 3 in the morning and my eyes are pretty heavy, I still got a few beers left and I intend to make use of them before I crash for the night.

What’s the title of this thing all about, yo?

Well, you know, I love Blues Traveler. Remember Woodstock ’94? Yeah, me neither. I wasn’t there, of course. I think it aired live on HBO, but… I didn’t have HBO either. I remember that I really wanted to be at Woodstock ’94. Some of my favorite bands performed, but just like most other people, I didn’t have a ticket and I didn’t really have a way to get there either. It was just a pipe dream.

About a month or two after Woodstock ’94, my brother and I found a VHS tape at, I think, the Walmart in Lapeer. We bought it. It wasn’t the entire festival , but it showed one song from several bands. The third song on that VHS tape was Blues Traveler’s But Anyway.

That was the first time I ever heard Blues Traveler and I was blown away. I loved Bobby Sheehan’s deep basslines and I loved John Popper’s singing and harmonica playing. Since then I couldn’t get enough of Blues Traveler. They quickly became one of my favorite bands.

I saw the Run Around video for the first time on some late night TV show about music videos, when I was still a teenager. Aside from the song being great, one of the things about the video that fascinated me was the guy dancing on the stage.

The way that guy moved, danced, grabbed the microphone and sang, and played the harmonica, I thought that was really neat. If I was twenty years younger and performing Run Around in front of an audience, that’s how I’d want to do it.

So, why am I blogging about this video? That was twenty years ago, man. Who gives a shit, right? Well, my friend Kathy and I were just talking about it a few hours ago. It started with me pointing out that I think the guy dancing on the stage is the singer from Counting Crows.

It’s something that didn’t occur to me until about a year ago. See, I never really got into Counting Crows, although I had heard some of their songs and I “think” I saw them at the DTE Music Theater way back before I could purchase beer legally. I still have the same wallet I had when I was a teenager. Actually, I had this wallet since I was about nine years old. I might have a Counting Crows ticket stub in my wallet somewhere, but I don’t feel like digging through it right now.

I saw this video about a year ago.

I couldn’t help noticing that the singer in the Mr. Jones video was moving exactly like the guy in the Run Around video. And I just thought that was interesting.

When I told Kathy about that and showed her both videos, she decided to do some digging around. She found this article, which was published in the Los Angeles Times back in 1995.

The article says, “The main theme of this video is to make fun of the Counting Crows, something which I applaud. Without actually flashing the name Counting Crows, it pokes fun at this one-hit wonder of a band right down to the bad Van Morrison impression, rhythmless dancing and bar haircut of the lead singer, Adam Duritz.”

I was like, “Huh?” I mean, neat, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the guy in the Run Around video moved like Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz in the Mr. Jones video. But, “make fun of the Counting Crows” and “it pokes fun at this one-hit wonder of a band right down to the bad Van Morrison impression, rhythmless dancing and bar haircut of the lead singer, Adam Duritz”.

Um, really?

I sure as hell didn’t see the Run Around video as making fun of Counting Crows. As far as I’m concerned, the Blues Traveler video is respectful to Counting Crows. It makes Counting Crows look pretty awesome.

Really, you shouldn’t take people who write shit like that seriously. I’ve found time after time that I simply can’t trust people who write negative reviews. I review books and movies all the time, but I don’t write negative reviews. If I really don’t like something I read or watched, I won’t review it. This is because I don’t want to trash someone else’s work. Even if I don’t like the work, someone else might.

I was skeptical about that article from the Los Angeles Times and I decided to do some digging myself. And yep, it turned out that whoever wrote the LA Times article was blowing shit out of his ass, because I found this article on BluesTraveler.net, which contains quotes from an interview with John Popper:

Likewise, the band’s big 1995 hit, “Run-Around”, was sung with Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz’s style on the hit “Mr. Jones” in mind.

“I felt like I was ripping him off on that one, but I don’t think people really make that connection,” he says. “At the same time, though, I’ll hear Sister Hazel and say, ‘God, that guy was thinking of me when he did that.’ ”

“Everybody’s songs can be melded into everyone else’s. I love that tradition of not trying to rip each other off but still musically hear each other. I’ll rip off a Flintstones Chewable Vitamins ad if it’s got a good melody.”

Doesn’t sound like Blues Traveler was making fun of Counting Crows at all. John Popper felt like he was ripping off Counting Crows. I imagine both bands were cool about the whole thing and having fun with it. It’s like how people thought Ronnie Van Zant and Neil Young did not like each other, when in reality they were friends and loved each others’ music.

Okay, it’s 6:15 AM and I just finished my last beer. Good night.

Jack the Bear (1993)

71CFG3vpnHL__SY445_I was delighted to see one of my old favorites is on Netflix. Jack the Bear. Before tonight, I probably haven’t seen it since the end of the 90’s, but it’s a movie that I’ve thought about from time to time.

It’s 1972. Danny DeVito plays John Leary, a widower raising two sons, Jack and Dylan. Jack is the lead character, he’s around twelve, and Dylan is three.

John works as an actor.. He hosts a TV show and does commercials. He also has a drinking problem.. John’s drinking affects his parenting and Jack assumes responsibility for Dylan.

When a neighbor kidnaps Dylan, Jack has to handle the situation himself until John gets home. They’re desperate, angry, scared and they do what they can to find Dylan.

Great acting and a powerful story. I’ll probably watch it again within the next few days.

She Wrote on Clay, by Shirley Graetz

51qgQPZtmhL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_She Wrote on Clay, by Shirley Graetz, is a historical novel. The story is set in Sippar, which was a city twenty miles southwest of where Baghdad is today, and takes places centuries Before Christ.

At the beginning, Iltani is a young girl who wants to be a scribe. Her father is a respected scribe and she is anxious to follow in his footsteps. In order to become a scribe, she needs to go to the gagû where she will learn the art and become a naditu.

So, Iltani gets to the gagû and settles in with her aunt who is a wealthy naditu. Iltani begins her education, but soon runs into trouble.

The story spans over several years. Iltani meets many challenges and secrets are revealed.

I thought it was good read. I looked up some things mentioned in the book because I wanted to know more about them. When I was younger, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Though that didn’t pan out, I still have an interest in ancient civilizations and I feel that this book put me in one.

Jennifer 8 (1992)

81FRnCGQZNL__SY445_Andy Garcia has the lead role in this hard boiled police drama-mystery. Jennifer 8 was filmed in the time before everyone had a cell phone, the internet boom and all that. The scenery really takes me back.

Garcia’s character is John Berlin, a detective who just transferred from the big city to a small town.  While investigating a separate case, the police stumble on a human hand. John Berlin takes the case. After digging around, he learns that the victim was blind and he suspects there were other victims who were also blind. He also meets the woman who he believes will be the next victim.

I watched this movie last night and I was up until 4:30 AM because I couldn’t bring myself to turn it off and go to bed. It was that good. It’s one of those movies that keeps you on your toes and makes you eager to see what happens next.

Soul’s Blood, by Stephen Graham King

41j55fpceFL__SX322_BO1,204,203,200_There’s lots of action in this new science fiction novel by Stephen Graham King. Soul’s Blood doesn’t begin with an explosion, but with a comfortable flow that leads to excitement. With rolling prose, Stephen settles you into the environment with ease and brings his characters alive.

Keene and Lexa-Blue are in the space shipping business. They haul merchandise through space from one port to another, but they also have a reputation for being very skilled fighters. Their ship is the Maverick Heart, but it’s more than just a ship. The Maverick Heart is also the body and mind of Vrick.

Think of Kitt from Knight Rider. Vrick is the ship. Ey thinks, ey talks, and ey helps Keene, Lexa-Blue and their friends. If Vrick was human, I imagine ey would wear a leather jacket and shades. Just like Kitt, Vrick is cool.

Keene’s former boyfriend, Daevin, is like the King of Brighter Light, a city state on another planet. Daevin wants Keene’s help in dealing with conflicts between two different cultures that don’t understand each other.

At first Keene is not so keen about helping Daevin, but eventually he agrees to, with Lexa-Blue and Vrick coming along. There is much conflict, a romance rekindles, friendships are made and mass destruction is witnessed.

Soul’s Blood was a fun read. I was impressed with the world building and I could relate to what some of the characters felt.

The Internet Lied To Me About Switzerland

Yeah, I really bought into some articles I saw a  few years ago. The articles described Switzerland as a country with a very strong gun culture and a very low crime rate. They had me convinced that just about every home in Switzerland had at least one fully automatic SG 550, that most children learn to use guns at an early age and people are often seen open carrying.

There is much I admire about Switzerland. It seems to be a country governed by commonsense and open-mindedness. One example is the stance the Swiss took during World War II. They held their borders against the Axis and the Allies, refusing to take either side in the war, and yet they welcomed in refugees fleeing the Third Reich.

Being the gun nut that I am, I was kind of excited about Switzerland’s awesome  gun culture. I mentioned it in arguments about America’s gun culture, upholding Switzerland as an example of how more guns in the hands of good, responsible people could mean a lower crime rate.

Well, I recently had the privilege to talk to someone who lives in Switzerland and I found out that what I heard about Switzerland’s gun culture is not entirely true. I’m now under the impression that the articles I read a few years ago were written by right wingers bent on spreading propaganda.

Switzerland does have a gun culture, but it’s not as popular as I had thought. Guns are tightly regulated in Switzerland and permits to own guns are expensive. Some homes might have full- automatic rifles in them, but those are likely the homes of people serving in the Swiss Army, as soldiers are allowed to bring their issued weapons home with them. Switzerland’s lower crime rate probably has more to do with the population not being as large as it is in the United States.

None of this changes how I feel about guns or my belief that guns can and do deter crime. But Switzerland might not be the best example of that theory functioning. While I’m mildly disappointed about that, I enjoy learning about different countries and I still think there’s much to admire about Switzerland.

Tula .357 Magnum Ammo Might Be Wrong for Your Revolver

1Okay, I know Tula Ammo is cheap. But I’ve been using it in my 9mm for a while now and have had no problems. In fact, it seems to run better than some other brands of ammo that I put through my 9mm. Some people say it’s dirty ammo, but far as I can tell, it doesn’t dirty up my gun any faster or worse than any other ammo I’ve used. Maybe some day I’ll do a throughout experiment on the dirtiness of different ammunitions, but for now I just have a glimpse observation and I don’t notice a difference.

I buy Tula Ammo because it costs less than pretty much everything else. The Tula Cartridge Works, as a company, has a long history. They’ve been a manufacturer in Russia since 1880 (I’m not sure if The Tula Cartridge Works is part of Tula Arms Plant, which has been making guns in Russia since 1712.). So, I wouldn’t dismiss Tula as a maker of junk. If you have a Russian design, such as an AK-47, SKS or even one of those Mosin-Nagants,, I think Tula Ammo will run like a dream through it. But there are non-Russian designs that don’t like Tula Ammo.

The other day, for the first time, I tried .357 Magnum Tula Ammo. I loaded the six chambers of my Rossi R461 and fired at the target twenty feet away. No problems there. It fired like it always had. But when I rolled out the cylinder to remove the empty casings, the casings were stuck.

The empty casings couldn’t be pushed out and they couldn’t be pulled out. I had to hammer a screwdriver in through the front of each chamber. That’s what it took to get them out. It wasn’t terribly difficult, but it was a hassle.

I tried the Tula Ammo twice, shooting a total of twelve rounds, just to be sure. It was the same thing with all of them. Every empty casing was stuck in its chamber and could only be removed by hammering a screwdriver in through the front.

My dad and I inspected the empty casings. The casings were swelled. That would be why they were stuck in the chambers. My dad has a tool for measuring things down to millimeters. He measured the widths of a live .357 Magnum Hornady round and a live .357 Magnum Tula round.

The Hornady measured 9.59 millimeters and Tula measured 9.56 millimeters.  I’m not a hundred percent sure that this is why it’s happening, but I think because the Tula is a pinch thinner than the Hornady that there is space in the loaded chamber that gives the Tula room to expand when fired.

I didn’t have any other .357 Magnum brands, but my dad had a .38 Special round that he also measured. .38 Special can be fired from a .357 Magnum pistol. The Tula round was a pinch thinner than the .38 round.

So, it would seem that Tula .357 Magnum rounds are thinner than they’re supposed to be, which might very well mean they have room to expand in the chambers. I think my gun might have been damaged if I had continued firing this ammo. I won’t be using anymore Tula in my .357 Magnum revolver.

Upside Down American Flags

I recently found myself in a discussion about upside down American flags. Whenever I see our flag upside down, burning or being disgraced in any way, I feel a degree of sadness. I really love Old Glory. I love what it stands for, I love its history, and I love that it represents those who fought and died for our country.

During the discussion, I was reminded that turning the flag upside down is a signal of distress. However, I don’t think these guys are signaling distress. They claim they are, but that’s bullshit. Flying your flag upside down because you’re pissed off about the government is not signaling distress, it’s expressing your feelings. I think that’s the wrong reason to turn your flag upside down. I think it’s disgraceful.

This distress signal, as I understand it, is really intended to be used by the Military. But I guess anyone can use the signal. However, you shouldn’t use the signal unless you truly are in distress, as in you need help because your life is in immediate danger.

Now, because so many people are turning their flags upside down to express their feelings about the government (No, you are not signaling distress.), if people who really need help use the signal, it might be assumed that they are just making a political expression.

I won’t tell you how to fly a flag on your own property, but I think it’s wrong to fly the flag upside down because you don’t like the direction the country is going in. Don’t try to tell me it’s not about politics, because it is. Don’t try to tell me you’re signaling distress, because you’re not. Don’t try to tell me it’s not disgraceful, because it is.

Goodbye Megatron

Well, wow. Wasn’t expecting this. Calvin Johnson is retiring from NFL. Johnson, man, he ruled. Season after season, I watched the Lions, missing very few games. Johnson was one of the players who gave us hope for a winning season. I think Johnson was the best thing to happen to the Lions since Barry Sanders.

But I understand why Johnson is retiring. He’d gotten pretty banged up in the course of his career and he’d dealt with several injuries in his last few seasons. Thirty years old seems pretty young to be retiring, but not when you’ve spent years getting smashed into by really big guys .

We’ll miss you, Calvin. Good luck in whatever you do next.