gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
2017-07-10 06:11 pm
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Thirteen: A song you'd love to have played at your wedding.

Well, we're 26 years late for that, but should we ever renew our vows, I'd love to hear this.

gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
2017-07-09 05:29 pm
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The soundtrack rocked as well... Spider-Man, Spider-Man, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man...

Fair warning, this will contain so minor spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming. No major plot points, but some notes about characters and setting.

So, Spider-Man has finally come home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he belongs. Thank Odin! Because this is the movie that makes everyone's favorite wall-crawler the awkward kid he was for so so long in the comics. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a brilliant kid living with his hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) in Queens, NY. He attends a magnet school for science and technology, and, oh, is secretly the Spectacular Spider-Man.

The movie opens with Peter recording a video blog of his trip to Germany to take part in the airport battle scene from Captain America: Civil War. Despite being told repeatedly that he can't show anyone the footage, he keeps shooting. Because he's a kid. And that's what he is through most of the movie. He's what every 15-year-old boy is: eager to prove that he's an adult, and able to take on the world while not being ready. Having picked up a mentor/father figure in Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., who has played this character enough times to have bought Rhode Island on the residuals alone) Parker keeps waiting for the Avengers to call him for his next assignment. His only confidant is his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) a fellow geek outsider who thinks Spider-Man nearly getting vaporized is just the coolest thing ever.

What really makes the film work is you believe that these are all high school kids attending a science immersion school. Long-time nemesis Flash Thompson has gone from alpha male jock to arrogant academic jerk, for example. Which works. The writing is painfully accurate on just how awkward this age can be. Seeing Peter stumble with the girl he likes, trying to focus in class, it all works! Which makes the more fantastic elements work as well. Everyone is well directed and written, even a minor hood that Spider-Man tries to interrogate, but ends up getting helpful advice from.

But no superhero film can work without a great villain, and Spider-Man does not let us down. In the comics, The Vulture was a ridiculous figure, a senior-citizen with a flying suit. Here, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is a wronged everyman who takes his revenge on the system by selling weapons based on alien technology to criminals. He is a deep character with a clear motivation and his own set of moral codes. He also has the badass flying suit. In Keaton's hands, the Vulture nearly steals the movie. You believe in him, and oddly, sympathize with him.

The producers managed to stick in enough Easter eggs to supply the White House egg roll. From the classic comic book theme to the Spider-Signal, old fans of the character will have plenty of moments that make them grin. Captain America makes several appearances narrating videos shown to the students, which tie into one of the two post-credits scenes.

The action set pieces, big and small, work, although some are a little too busy. We saw it in 2-D, which I suspect has something to do with that problem. But there were a few moments where the screen was just a mess of flying objects. Spider-Man's advanced, Stark designed, Spider-suit is a character in its own right.

Problems? There were a few. Some of the jokes fell flat, Aunt May was critically underused, and Flash Thompson was never given the moment of humanity needed to make him more than an aggressor, though that they may be saving for the next movie.

As I said above, there are two post credit scenes. The first, coming in the middle of the credits, gives us a view of Adrian Toomes that raises a lot of questions. The second does nothing to tease the next Marvel movie or tie-in Spider-Man to the larger Cinematic Universe, but at our showing it drew one of the biggest laughs of the show.

One of my metrics for how much I enjoyed a movie is how well do I remember the trailers. Since trailers are designed to catch your interest and lodge the film in your head, how well you can recall those trailers shows how deeply you were involved in the feature presentation. In this case, I couldn't tell you what trailers we saw. Spider-Man: Homecoming was just that fun. I give it 4.5 Penguins out of a possible five. Go see it.

The only bad thing about the day was as we were leaving my right ankle decided to remind me that I have hypokalemic periodic paralysis. That was no fun, even though it loosened up pretty quickly.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-07-06 12:49 pm
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Thirteen: A song from the 70s

Oh, so many choices! But this is a song that I loved even as a very little kid, and still love today.


gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
2017-07-06 12:06 pm
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A quick note for the asshole at the show last night.

Dear person sitting in front of us at the Iron Maiden concert last night.

You are a self-centered ass, and completely ignorant of concert etiquette.

First of all, you skipped the opening act. Sucks to be you, Ghost was amazing. But then, once Iron Maiden took the stage, you spent the entire show with your phone out, taping the entire thing. Which wouldn't be so bad, but you had the camera's light on. You keep turning the phone to take selfies, meaning you kept shining that light right in my eyes as I was trying to watch Maiden.

So I hope that when you got home and reviewed the footage, you'll appreciate the fact that almost all of your selfie shots feature my raised middle fingers waving around behind you.

Up the Irons! And up yours!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-07-05 12:06 pm
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gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
2017-07-04 11:52 am
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gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
2017-07-03 04:14 pm
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Ten: A song that makes you sad

Soldier Field, Chicago. July 9th, 1995. Jerry Garcia plays his last concert. This is the last song he ever performed. A month later he died of a heart attack in a drug/alcohol rehab clinic.

Thank you, Jerry.

gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-07-02 06:14 pm

Ignore me, please.

It's my birthday in a couple of days, and I'm going to ask you all to please ignore it. I have a lot of reasons for not particularly like my birthday, which I'll go into in a moment, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I should be able to ask my friends to be cool about it. But that never works.

We'll go backward. Isn't it grand how every social media site trumpets that it is your birthday to hundreds of people you might not know that well? Well, I hate it. I've removed my date of birth from both Facebook and Twitter, but I have little faith in them remembering that setting. As a result, I have in the past received hundreds of birthday wishes from people I've never met and have little clue about. That reduces a birthday wish to a rote machine action. *Ping* Fred has a birthday. Send cake? y/n.

Screw it, let's go all over the place. I was born on Independence Day. Seems cool, right? All those fireworks and parades for you? Except that when I was growing up it meant my friends - the few I had - usually had plans with family around the 4th. Then I got a little sister for my 5th birthday. Yup, we share the day, five years apart.

So now I was not only sharing the day with the country but with a sibling. As you can imagine, this quickly meant having to alternate who got the big day. I'd celebrate my birthday on the 3rd, or the 5th, every other year. And still, trying to get parties together sucked.

To be honest, the only thing I liked about my birthday was a massive taco feast and my favorite cake. Even presents lost their luster as I grew older. I became extremely cynical about the entire 4th of July thing by the time I was 16.

Then I joined the Army. You think the US Army takes Independence Day off? Ha! I spent my 19th birthday marching in a parade in dress greens then manning a table where I explained the M-16A1 to a parade of goobers. Did I mention that this parade was in Columbus, Ga? It was near 100 degrees and the humidity had to be in the low 90s. And I was there in a freaking suit.

Needless to say, I didn't celebrate that much that year, or any year after that. I just endured my birthday. It's just another day, really. I don't see why such a fuss is made over the simple reality of surviving 365 days.

Because when I think of survival, I look at what I've been through. I've come close to dying several times since 1995, and it deeply affected how I look at like. This was where I started actively hating my birthday. I'll freely admit it was based on a rather nihilistic outlook. I'm doomed to die, why are you reminding me that I'm one day closer to that! It sounds silly, but as someone who is keenly aware of personal mortality, I prefer to look ahead and strive for the new, rather than celebrate the meaningless passage of time.

So on Tuesday, I turn 51. I'll be the same person I was the day before and the day after. Since we got the Omaha Steaks order, we'll celebrate with a nice steak dinner, and the next night we go to see Iron Maiden at Oracle Arena with Ghost opening. The weekend brings the new Spider-Man movie. This would be a great week if it were in June or August.

So this is my request to you all. If you know me personally. If we've spoken face to face or worked on a project together, if you are someone I KNOW, feel free to mention the landmark. You don't have to, but if there is some cultural touchstone that compels you to do so, go for it. If the only reason you know my birthday is July 4th is a notification, and you don't really know me, please refrain.

Look, I know this sounds really anti-social. But it's how my brain works. Last year I nearly smashed my computer over this. It's one of the myriad issues I hope to get into when I get a referral for a therapist. Who knows, this time next year I might be demanding a trip to Reno. After All, I'll be 52 and finally be playing with a full deck!

One birthday present I would like, the California Lottery's MegaMillions game is up to $167 million. The draw is Tuesday.
gridlore: The word Giants over a baseball (Baseball - SF Giants)
2017-07-02 12:32 pm
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Nine: A song that makes you happy

Flashback to 2010. The Giants win the National League West on the last day of the season. Giants Nation goes nuts with the hope that this might finally be the year. The Giants came west in 1958, and in that time managed only three National League pennants, and no World Series wins. We were due.

Bay Area musician/producer Ashkon grabs a karaoke version of Journey's Don't Stop Believing and writes lyrics to celebrate that this might be the season.

It was. San Francisco Giants, your 2010 World Series Champions. Swing and miss, and that's it.

This still makes me very happy, as it takes me back to the excitement of that October, as we came closer and closer to the win. Fun note, of all the players mentioned, only Buster Posey is still with the Giants.

Black and Orange 'till I die.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-07-01 10:39 am
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Eight: A song about drugs or alcohol

Yeah, I took a few weeks off. I'm disabled, I get to do that.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-06-27 10:05 am
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Catch me now, I'm falling

It's a common theme, almost an accepted fact, that the hardest thing is admitting you have a problem. I beg to differ. For me, the hardest thing is asking for help.

Last Friday I asked for help.

It's no secret to anyone who has known me for more than a few weeks that I've been dealing with severe health problems since 1995. Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma, messed up lungs, peripheral neuropathy that makes it hard to walk or stand, and of course the stroke that left me unable to function for more than a few hours at a time.

But through all of this, I soldiered on. Literally, I credit my time in the Army for my will to survive. After all, I could be in the ICU, tubes jammed into every orifice that can take one, and still think that I'm good, because Drill Sergeant Colom wasn't there yelling at me. I really hated that little fucker.

Yes, my sense of humor has helped.

But as I was saying, every time I got knocked down I pulled myself off the mat and went back to work. Even to the point of causing myself more injury, because I saw my intrinsic value as a person as being tied up in what I did for a living. I've always been a blue-collar guy. I was happiest when I was working jobs where I could say at the end of the day "I accomplished something." Getting people to and from airports, hauling PODS containers, and best of all, tackling the longest, hardest route at Lord&Sons and rocking it every single day.

It couldn't last. There was just too much damage from cancer and chemotherapy. My body was like a car that had been in a serious accident, repairs had been made but it will never work right again. So I lost my job at SuperShuttle to my health, lost Lord&Sons to blood clots in my lungs, and lost my last job, as a dispatcher, to the stroke.

That was almost four years ago. Four years of not having that essential part of the American identity. "What do you do?" is a question I can't answer. I'm not retired, saying that I'm disabled invites questions I don't like answering or scornful looks, and the idea of an outwardly healthy looking middle-aged man being disabled is something not a lot of people can accept.

The worst part is most days I feel fine. To quote the next President of the United States, Joe Walsh, "everybody's so different, I haven't changed." I really think that I could climb back into my truck and drive the Livermore Valley route, or dispatch for a limo or share ride service. But then reality crashes down. I can't work, not even as a grave shift cashier in a gas station because I burn out too quickly and can't handle stress very well anymore.

Which leaves me sitting here in my apartment. I have plenty to distract me; books, the internet, a TV with a Roku box attached (the Xbox 360 gave me a Red Ring of Doom a few weeks back, we need to find a replacement) but it can feel like a prison. I do get out for my writing group and the YMCA, but that requires me to be functional. Not a good bet on any given day.

None of this has been good for my mental state. I've found myself in a downward spiral of late. Getting angry and frustrated far too quickly at minor things. Catching myself falling into destructive patterns of thinking. Not at the self-harm level yet, but letting my inner demons take over and convince me that I am worthless, that I'll never be published, that I'm a drag on everyone around me. These feelings aren't constant, but they are there and they are becoming more frequent.

So last Friday I was speaking with my Case Nurse at Anthem Blue Cross. And I summoned the courage to ask about mental health coverage. I'm just waiting for a call from their Behavioral Health unit for a referral. I have no idea what kind of help I need, maybe I just need a person I can scream about the unfairness of life too, or maybe I need a prescription for happy pills to help me keep my head above water. Or both, or neither. I just know that I can't dump all this on Kirsten. She has her own issues to deal with and has already been a saint dealing with my decline.

I am entering unknown lands here. All I know is that I've probably needed this kind of help for years, but it took me this long to ask for it.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-06-12 05:27 pm
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Seven: A song to drive to

True story: I first heard of Bill Kirchen, and his amazing take on Hot Rod Lincoln while I was still driving for PODS. I had been sent to drop a container in the Santa Cruz Mountains during a raging rainstorm. It would have been a hard drop on a sunny day, and I was doing it in running water up to my ankles.

Driving home, with my shoes on the floor of the passenger side of the cab, and my socks on the dash near the vents, driving my big truck on Highway 9 in a deluge, I was listening to KPIG, and they played this. I was hooked. We've seen him a couple of times, and every time he plays Hot Rod Lincoln it's different.


gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-06-12 05:22 pm
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What Dreams May Come

It's not often that I wake up and remember what it is I've been dreaming, but today was an exception. I frankly had a bad night's sleep, caused mainly by some stomach upset and my legs being their usual awful selves. So I was a bit surprised when I woke up around 0645 with a vivid image of a dream still with me.

Having lost too many good ideas to procrastination, I got dressed and headed out to my computer. I was under a bit of a deadline, as I had an appointment for my regular blood work and after that my writing group, so I had to be out the door by 0830 at the absolute latest.

Even though I'm not at all a fast or accurate typist, and my spelling leaves much to be desired, I was able to flesh out the image in my head into a short, but serviceable, story. Printed it out for the writing group (I did have another piece, a long, pretty much complete story that we didn't get to this week. I'll be reading that one next Monday) and stuffed it in the portfolio and out the door.

My good seemed to be holding. I was the only car in the McDonald's drive-thru, there was an adorable baby at the lab, and everyone loved what I had written. Then I found I had locked my keys in the truck and things went a bit downhill. But I hope you enjoy this thing that has sprung from my head.

The Modern Cassandra

Working in San Francisco has many benefits, one of those being exposure to all sorts of lunatics. At least that's what I thought as I emerged from the depths of the Montgomery Street BART station on that June morning.

He was standing on a wooden crate, with a beatific smile and shiny eyes framed by what we used to call "Jesusbro-fro" back in college. What caught me eye was the silver jacket he was wearing, it looked like the cheesy space jacket we all wanted as kids. Seeing the growing crowd emerging from the station, he began to speak.

"Friends, please hear me out. I know I sound crazy, but I have just returned from . . . the future! And I leave for there tomorrow. Hard to believe, I know, but please hear me out, for I must warn you of something terrible. But first, here's Dave with sports." He subtly shifted his manner and spoke with the rhythm of a long-time broadcaster. For a lunatic, this guy was good.

"Thank you, Dave. Tonight, the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers 108-92, taking the NBA Finals in five games." That got a small cheer from to commuters passing by. "In July, the Giants will go on a record-smashing winning streak, take the NL West and sweep the Yankees to win the World Series. Finally, The 49ers will have a chance to make the playoffs as the Wild Card, but fall just short, finishing the season 9-7. Sadly, that's all the sports news left. Now that I've established my bonafides . . ."

At that point, I had gotten my coffee and muffin from the street cart and was hurrying up the street to my office. So I missed the rest of his rant. Once settled in at my desk, I took a moment to write the guy's predictions down.

That night, the Warriors beat the Cavs 108-92.

Then the Giants won 26 straight games in July. By the time the World Series rolled around, I wasn't even watching the games, I was too busy trying to find the man who had made the predictions. A friend got me access to surveillance camera footage of the plaza at Montgomery Street. There he was, ranting away. He spoke for about ten minutes after I left the scene, looked around, and dejectedly went down the stairs into the Muni/BART station. Those cameras showed him entering a station restroom and never leaving.

By the time the 49ers faltered during a late drive in Week 17 and finished the season 9-7, I was a wreck. The words "all the sports news left" haunted me. I even hired lip readers to try to figure out what he was saying and spent thousands on ads trying to contact anyone who might have heard more of his message.

In legend, Cassandra was cursed to know the future and have no one believe her. This man's curse was to know the future and have no one listen.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-06-11 09:40 am
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gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
2017-06-08 03:34 pm
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Five: A song that needs to be played loud

WHAT IS IT? CAUGHT IN A MOSH!!!
WHAT IS IT? CAUGHT IN A MOSH!!!
WHAT IS IT? CAUGHT IN A MOSH!!!

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-06-07 08:20 am
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gridlore: Photo: penguin chick with its wings outstretched, captioned "Yay!" (Penguin - Yay!)
2017-06-06 08:35 am
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gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
2017-06-05 05:53 pm

Rethinking the Zhodani

I'm going to mess with the Traveller default setting again. It needs it. This time, I'm looking at the Zhodani, those mind-raping scum! Or not.

The Zhodani might be the oldest official races in the game, first appearing as the "barbarians" defeated at the Battle of Two Suns. Then they earned a name and we began to learn about them. The Zhodani are human, the descendants of the stock taken from Earth 300,000 years ago by the enigmatic Ancients, and scattered across space. Many of those transplants died out, the Zhodani thrived.

Uniquely, they embrace the use of psionic powers and have made them almost the center of their society. The psionically gifted are nobles, everyone else the lower classes. Nobles hold all positions of power in the Consulate, civilian and military. To keep control, the dreaded Tavrchedle' - the Guardians of Our Morality - constantly scan the masses for thoughts or rebellion or anti-social acts.

Or at least that's what the Third Imperium would have you believe. Later remakes of the Zhodani softened the edges a bit, making them less leering villains in black capes and more an alien-human race. The capes stayed, because they are cool.

Here's my first problem. The idea of an entrenched psionic nobility. In Traveller psionic ability is unpredictable and not inherited. So there is no guarantee that a noble's children will have any psionic potential at all, While Zeb, son of a dirt farmer, but be a prodigy. There would be no institutional memory, outside of a true celestial bureaucracy. Even then, what's to stop a non-psionic son of a powerful noble from seizing the reigns of power?

The problem is the writers were in love with feudal autocracies when writing up the setting. The Imperium, the Aslan, the K'kree, the Zhodani, and even the Droyne all had some variant of "rule by tiers of nobility" as their government of choice. Which simply doesn't make sense.

Main;y because life as a member of the psionic nobility is pretty damn awful. Consider the fate of the Tavrchedle' officers. They spend day after endless day inside the minds of the sick and broken. Know any cops or social workers? Imagine their war stories if they had to probe deep into the raw psyche of each and every unhappy person they encounter. Then they have to fix them. I don't know how you say "alcoholic" in Zhedtl, but one thing for sure, there's no Alcoholics Anonymous in Zhodani Space, because the Tavrchedle' handle that as well!

No, being a noble in the Consulate means a lifetime of service. I would imagine that the word the Imperials translate as "noble" actually means "Servant of the People" or something similar. Because there will be a strong "you owe it to the people" push in this society.

Let's look at the life of Zeq Chtilnats/ On the occasion of his Third Olympiad (roughly nine years old) Zeq, like all the other kids his age, is tested for psionic potential. It's a big deal, and Zeq and his classmates have been preparing mentally and emotionally for a year. The tests are odd, but fun.

Several days later, the Chtilnats family gets the fantastic news! Zeq has tested as one of the highest potentials in the District! His family starts planning his big party while he studies his packing list. Because Zeq is leaving home. He's losing his family name. Zeq is now Zeqiepr and will stay that way until he is trained.

Zeqiepr's new school is a huge facility on an important world. Here, the new students both learned the usual lessons (with a lot of political indoctrination) and undergo more and more testing to see what their skills are. Zeqiepr turns out to be wired for teleportation, clairvoyance, and telepathy. Right then his career is chosen for him. Zeqiepr is going to be one of the elite Consular Guards, troops trained to teleport in full combat armor and use their skills to defend the Consulate!

His training shifts. He and the others destined for military careers live in a more regimented way. Endless physical training, weapons training, and learning about the threats facing the Consulate. Much of the time is spent honing his ability to teleport accurately while carrying more and more weight. And always, the reminder that he is a servant of those who have not been blessed with his talents.

Finally, after three Olympiads of training, Zeqatl claims his new rank as a Commissioned Assault Specialist and reports to his Legion. Fast-forward thirty years. General Zeqiashav, commanding the 35th Consular Guards Legion, steps down. But his career isn't over! He's invited to join the Regional Defense Council as a military expert, and help guide the Regional Council on defense matters. His is a life of unending service to the people.

Now being one of the elect doesn't just mean work! They get great perks and universal respect. The turban worn by nearly all Zhodani nobles is both a symbol of rank and of humility. The bind their hair in turbans, because they work too hard to have the time to style it.

A different look, one that makes the Zhodani a little more alien.
gridlore: Photo: penguin chick with its wings outstretched, captioned "Yay!" (Penguin - Yay!)
2017-06-05 07:54 am
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Thirty Day Song Challenge Day Two: A song you like with a number in the title

Iron Maiden - Two Minutes to Midnight.

We get to see them in ONE MONTH!!!!

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-06-04 06:02 pm
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Hark, a Meme!

Four names I go by:
1. Douglas
2. Sniper
3. Uncle Bullhorn
4. Traveller

Four places I have lived:
1. Los Gatos, CA
2. Fort Benning, GA
3. Schofield Barracks, HI
4. San Francisco, CA

Four things I love to watch on Tv
1. Baseball
2. Skill competitions like Top Chef or Ink Master
3. Science Fiction
4. Football

Four places I have visited:
1. Istanbul, Turkey
2. Montreal, Quebec
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Black Rock Playa, NV

Four things I love to eat:
1. Burritos
2. Spaghetti in meat sauce
3. Steak
4. Really sharp cheddar cheese

Four Things I love to drink
1. Coca-Cola
2. O'Douls NA Beer
3. Gatorade
4. Water

Four Things I Like For Breakfast
1. Scrambled eggs
2. French toast
3. Sausage
4. Orange Juice
(oddly, bacon is not a favorite of mine)

Four Genres of Music I Like
1. Thrash Metal
2. Punk
3. Grateful Dead
4. Classical