Dec 27, 2007

I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member


My dear Tracie told me I haven't written just a random post or rant in awhile. With her permission, I'll quote what she said this post could be about. "whatever you want, musings, rantings, creativeness, how great I am, do a survey, write more facts about austin, share a memory, write a funny random post, like a list of things that bug you."

So, in true Austin fashion. I'll do just that. All of the above. Etc.

But first of all, notice the new blog features. A poll at the bottom and a few links on the side. Take the time to take the poll, and you can go to the links if you like. I enjoy each immensely.

Whatever I want
Well, since I already got pretty much everything I want for Christmas, I'll skip this one for now. Other than saying that when you get everything your heart desires, you don't feel empty inside. Your stomach does the cha cha, your heart does the conga, and your lungs do the paso doble. It's a remarkable feeling.

Musings
I think it's funny that they say putting a big mirror in your living room makes the room look bigger. We have a very big mirror in ours, and no one has ever said, "Wow! This place is huge! Look, Margaret, they have a whole nother room in here! It looks just like the one we're in! What the-- How did I get in there?" Though, in all fairness, none of our friends are idiots.

If I ever have a stalker, I'm going to take a bunch of different pictures of him (or her) and leave them lying around all over my house. Then, when he (or she) breaks in, they'll see the pictures and go "What the-!? How did he get pictures of me? I feel so violated! Is that how this feels? Sheesh. I'm stopping right now." Then I'll sick my rottweiler/doberman mix attack dogs at them.

Rantings
I haven't ranted in awhile. So, I'll just quote Family Guy, or rather, Dennis Miller on Family Guy.

Dennis Miller: I don't want to go on a rant, here, but America's foreign policy makes about as much sense as Beowulf making out with Robert Fulton at the first battle of Antietam.I mean when a neo-conservative defenestrates it's like Raskolnikov filibuster deoxymonohydroxinate...
[Peter is watching this on TV]
Peter: What the hell does rant mean?

Creativeness
Well, the only creativeness I've done lately revolves around my slowly progressing novel, so, here's an excerpt.

The kingdom of Kotas was the pride of the citizens from the lowliest peasant to the richest lord, the green kingdom was loved by all. The good king Eckred’s throne room was always a busy place, except for the king. Eckred believed his people were too important for him to deliberate about in a palace, so he was often among his own people, whether helping a local farmer sow crop, mediate a dispute among his barons, or fighting in his armies to push back invaders and encroachers. We’ll learn more about him (and even meet him!) later, but our scene takes place in the throne room with Talia.

The long bearded but perpetually sweaty Steward of Kotas, Piffle (yes, that was his real name) took it upon himself to act in what way he felt the king would, and spent his days in the polished halls of Kotas Castle trying to interact with the populace the best he could. This particular day, Piffle spent most of his time meeting adventurers and fortune seekers, who Piffle found to be at best insane for going on so many deadly expeditions simply for wealth, or “adventure” though he did so enjoy to hear them tell of their exploits, and admittedly slightly guilty in rewarding a bit more richly those that had more interesting or deadly sounding adventures than even those whose adventures benefited the crown more.

The beautiful cinnamon haired Talia (it may sound like a silly comparison, but Talia’s hair truly looked like cinnamon) was a regular in the halls, as her devotion to the kingdom (and her skill as an adventurer) rivaled none.

A rather short (even for an elf) elf with pompous looking robes had finished his tale and collected his prize walked out of the throne room carrying a large back jingling with gold, as he passed Talia he gave her a rather lewd look, and remarked, “Good luck, he’s in a mood today.” Talia was not surprised, Piffle the steward was always in some kind of mood. Though she was more annoyed att his elf's brazen leer, she would teach the little elf a big lesson, were she not next to speak with Piffle.

The throne room of castle Kotas was said to be the most beautiful and expensive room in the castle, if not the entire kingdom. The floors were black marble, polished so as to sparkle like clear undisturbed water at midnight. The walls were filled with alcoves holding some of the great and significant treasures of Kotas: The diamond sword bestowed upon the first king, Dromind, the golden armor of his son Hanpol, in which he slayed the fearsome firey dragon Xul’raxxamagretaconachofinkobinkozimmyzummygummyslat, the mystical ivory musical box of princess Dumi, which no one had ever opened. (Of course, no one had ever tried). Talia, washed up and looking her best, approached the sweaty steward, and prepared herself for the formal speech of archaic Kotasi, which she somehow spoke and Piffle was quite fond of using.

“Greetingseth, nobleth Stewardeth ofeth Kotas. Eth. I haveth cometh toeth announceth thateth I eth haveth defeatedeth the Blackmasketh campeth thateth hadeth stoleneth the eth kingeth’s treasureth. Manyeth are deadeth, the eth otherseth areth noweth ineth prisoneth.”

“Dear Talia, there be no great need to speak in the old tongue here. Middle speech will suffice. What is it you want?”

Talia sighed. She hated middle speech worse than old speech. The middle speech of Kotas consisted of arguing back and forth with shows of humility, sometimes for hours, about how undeserving each party is, until they reached a proper settlement.

“Well, you saideth I mean said I would be rewarded, but service to the king is my greatest reward.”

“Oh, Talia, no. For you have done our kingdom proud, and the king thanks you. But please, you are so deserving of the treasure you have collected, I implore you to take it.”

“Nay, kind steward. I have brought traitors and heathens to justice, and one in service of the crown cannot ask for more.”

“But Talia. The king has little need of this treasure…”

They went on like this for quite awhile until she walked out with her treasure, though she insisted half of it go to the poor and needy, and she would be shocked if the steward didn’t take his share.

“Before she left, the steward’s apprentice, the Vice Steward approached her and said, “Come back tomorrow. There is a quest that King Eckred has for you, and you alone. One of much importance and prestige.”

Talia thanked him, promised she would return, and walked through Kotas at dusk to her abode. The sun painted the buildings purple and orange, and, though she had seen it hundreds of times, Talia marveled at the beauty of the city.

Talia spent that night in her home, or hovel is more like it. While she enjoyed the adventurer’s life, Kotas was the center of civilization, and she liked having a place to call her own, at least when she was in town.

To call Talia’s home modest was an understatement. There were holes in the roof, it was terribly dusty since she spent less than a night a month there, and it was terrible small; more of a room than a house. But it was hers. Talia smiled to herself as she surrendered to her night’s sleep, thinking of the silly bureaucracies and double talk they have to put up with just to do her job, and she wondered what tomorrow would bring.



How great I am
Tracie is so great. Great great great. She's great. My wife is really the best.

Do a survey
Do I like Beans?
Yes
Do I like George Wendt? George Wendt? What has he done since Cheers? Anything?
Would I like to see a movie with George Wendt eating beans? Not particularly.
How about Beans eating George Wendt? Now that's just silly. Of course!

Write more facts about Austin
Austin likes bubble baths.
Austin loves Tracie's new black bean chicken burritos
Austin wishes he was ambidextrous just so he could use that word in his everyday speech more often.

Share a memory
I was supposed to do the laundry at lunch today. I forgot.

Write a random funny post
Check.

Write a list of things that bug you

My thanks to the writers of Scrubs for giving me Dr. Cox's rant that I will paraphrase for my own evil purposes.

I suppose I could riff a list of things that bug me. Let's see... low carb diets, Michael Moore, the Democratic National Convention, Kabbalah & all Kabbalah-related products, Hi-Def TV, the Bush daughters, wireless hotspots, the OC, the UN, recycling, getting Punk'd, Danny Gans, the Latin Grammys, the real Grammys, Jeff that Wiggle that sleeps too darn much, the Yankees payroll, Rosie O'Donnell, Barbara Walters for letting her on the View then firing her, the View, every hybrid car, people that say we don't know what it was like in Vietnam who have never been to Vietnam, people who badmouth our president, people that don't badmouth the president, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, the state of cartoons today, taking out the garbage, having a metal leg, Cholera, Dr. Elmo, Michael Vick, war, people who "get" Andy Kaufman, Andy Kaufman.

That's about all I can think of for now.


Dec 26, 2007

What a haul!


Oh the weather outside is frightful! But the gifts are so delightful! And since we've no place to go: Let it flow let it flow let it flow!

Instead of just pasting some cool facts about Christmas (since my mistletoe post was SO well received) I'll write about my Christmas haul. Because THAT'S what you came here to read about: What AUSTIN got this Christmas!

Makes one all warm and tingly.

OMFG! (that's Oh My Fetching Goodness! for those of you who are curious) I haven't been this spoiled since I was a kid! And it feels good. I must thank all those people who gave me presents. Tracie, Mom, Dad, Alex, Andrew, Tyler, Cheryl, Tyson, Alan, Kris, Nana and Grandpa and Nana and Grandpa, and Santa. We got lots of great stuff. Among these were a: iPod(!), marble, 7 seasons of shows, (Friends 8&9, Sliders 1&2, Lois & Clark 4, Animaniacs 1, Scrubs 4), 3 video games for our Nintendo DS (Jam Sessions, Brain Age 2, Drawn to Life), 4-in 1 grill and griddle, 3 Cary Grant Movies (Bringing up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace), 2 Tolkien books illustrated by Alan Lee (the Children of Hurin, and some book called "Hobbit"), candy candy candy, i got a fog free mirror for admiring myself i mean shaving in the shower, Tracie appealed to my nostalgic inner child and bought me 2 of my favorite G.I. Joes (Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes), the Alchemist (the book by Coelho, not an actual Alchemist. that's for next year), the Complete Collection of Calvin & Hobbes, The Austin Powers Trilogy, Stardust, and MORE! (Some of those were things for Tracie, but I love them too).

I'm greedy, I know, but like Tracie said, everyone deserves some spoilage.

Merry Materialmas! I mean Christmas! I miss my family very much this time of year, but I enjoyed spending Christmas McNeil style. That is, great food, lots of laughing, family bonding, karaoke, and getting my butt kicked at Halo 3.

It was also great to see the California McNeils, Maddie and Eric and their parents, Troy and Jen. They're growing up and getting cuter by the day! (Maddie and Eric, that is. Troy and Jen maintain roughly the same levels of cuteness)

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, and will have a happy new year!

Dec 18, 2007

The origin of Mistletoe

This is from About.com

Few realize that mistletoe's botanical story earns it the classification of "parasite."

When the Christmas decorations come down, mistletoe fades from our minds for another year, receding into the mists of mythology, rituals and enigma. Particularly in regions where the plant is not native (or is rare), most people do not even realize that mistletoe does not grow on the ground, but rather on trees as a parasitic shrub. That's right: as unromantic as it sounds, kissing under the mistletoe means embracing under a parasite....

The variety common in Europe was imbued with religious significance by its ancient denizens. We find the source of "kissing under the mistletoe" in Celtic rituals and Norse mythology. In Gaul, the land of the Celts, for instance, the Druids considered it a sacred plant. It was believed to have medicinal qualities and mysterious supernatural powers.

KISSING UNDER MISTLETOE
This ancient Scandinavian tradition comes from the myth of Baldur.

Baldur's death and resurrection is one of the most fascinating Norse myths and stands at the beginning of the history of mistletoe as a "kissing" plant.

Baldur's mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm Baldur. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant -- and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Ever the prankster, Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with an arrow fashioned from mistletoe. The demise of Baldur, a vegetation deity in the Norse myths, brought winter into the world, although the gods did eventually restore Baldur to life. After which Frigga pronounced the mistletoe sacred, ordering that from now on it should bring love rather than death into the world. Happily complying with Frigga's wishes, any two people passing under the plant from now on would celebrate Baldur's resurrection by kissing under the mistletoe.

It goes without saying that, if we were to peel off the layers of custom and myth surrounding "kissing under the mistletoe," we would find ourselves in the midst of ancient erotica. Mistletoe has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and fertility herb.

THE NAME MISTLETOE: Crap on a stick

The word originated from the perception in pre-scientific Europe that mistletoe plants burst forth -- as if by magic -- from the excrement of the "mistel" (or "missel") thrush. According to Sara Williams, "It was observed in ancient times that mistletoe would often appear on a branch or twig where birds had left droppings.

'Mistel' is the Anglo-Saxon word for 'dung,' and 'tan' is the word for 'twig'. So, mistletoe means 'dung-on-a-twig'." Not exactly a word origin in keeping with the romantic reputation of mistletoe plants!

A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice.

ONLY SEVEN DAYS LEFT!!!

I've made an interesting discovery: even though I've got all my Christmas shopping done, (I had it done last week) I still have to shop. I still have to deal with the crowds and long lines. But, I don't have to deal with the stress. I can smugly look down on all those that haven't bought their presents yet, and claim that I know the true meaning of Christmas, i.e. shopping early.

No, no. That's not right. I'll talk about the true meaning of Christmas later.

This Christmas I think I've looked forward to more than any Christmas since I was still under the magic of believing in Santa. Why? Well, sadly, the reason is pure materialism. I'm really excited to give my wife so many things I know she wants. But I'm MORE excited I'm going to get so many things I want. Yes, yes. I know. I'm a horrible person. But, in one week, I'll be a horrible person with a lot more STUFF!

Why is it that we feel so much joy in receiving? I mean, I know we receive joy in giving, because it makes you less selfish, you're able to make others happy. But still, we can't deny the pleasure of opening a gift from someone else and going "Wow! This is now mine! thank you so much!" I know it's not typical holiday behavior to address the joy of acquisition, but it's still there. We still feel happy seeing presents under the tree with our own names on the "To:" column. Don't we? Is it simple selfishness that makes us feel good receiving?

I don't know. All I know is I'm getting lots of presents! (I'm giving lots too)

Now that you know what a horrible person I am, let me move on.

Well, the semester is over, and I didn't humiliate myself too much. In fact, I did well. I think I'm ending with an A in Student Success (aptly) and a low B or high C in Math (depending on how understanding and nice my professor is, and how I did on my final). That brings me to NEXT SEMESTER!!!

We already know I'm taking English Writing 101 again, as SVC credits (now known as SVU credits) aren't acknowledged by UVSC, (soon to be known as UVU). Oh well. (Soon to be known as DANG IT!) I'm also taking Art History again, which I'm excited about, and I'm taking Geology. That's right. Rocks. There's a whole class devoted to rocks. It fills my Physical Science requirement, plus, now if I'm ever at a party and someone says "Who knows the difference between Igneous and Metamorphic?" I can say something besides "Well, metamorphic is the hidden ability held by all the Power Rangers, (in addition to marketing marvels), and Igneous is one of the bad guys they had to defeat with their Zords." I'm looking forward to all three, though I'm looking more forward to the more advanced and therefore more interesting classes they are prerequisites for.

Work is still work, though it's barely that at times.

I really miss my family, and am heartbroken that I don't get to see them this year. I don't think I saw them at ALL this year, except at the beginning, when we were in Texas for New Year's. I am really looking forward to seeing them again, though, as 1 year is much too much too long for a self-proclaimed Mama's boy such as myself to be away from his Mama. (And Dada, and brothers.)

The true meaning of Christmas isn't family. It isn't traditions, (many of which have a base in Pagan beliefs). It isn't gifts, giving or receiving (contrary to what I say), it isn't decorations, peace, or goodwill to men.
The true meaning of Christmas is that we celebrate an event, the second most important event in the history of the world, and the history of God's children. Approximately 2007 years ago, in a stable in David's city, a child was born that made it possible for each of us to return to God's presence. Though his birth was humble, angels sang Alleluia!, something that had been promised since before the Garden of Eden was finally coming. The Savior and Redeemer of the world, Christ Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas to all!

Dec 12, 2007

The Twelve Days of Christmas Fun! (Ok, actually there are 13 left) And not so much fun.

We all know the song, right?
I'll sing the abridged part.

On the First Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
A Partridge in a pear tree.
On the Second Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Two turtle doves etc.
On the Third Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Three French Hens etc.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Four Calling Birds etc.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Five Golden Rings etc.
On the Sixth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Six Geese a laying etc.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Seven Swans a swimming etc.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Eight maids a milking etc.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Nine Ladies dancing etc.
On the Tenth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Ten Lords a leaping etc.
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping. etc.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me:
Twelve Drummers Drumming etc.

I did this once in Elementary school. If you add them all up, that makes for 12 Partridges in Pear trees. 22 Turtle Doves. 30 French Hens. 36 Calling Birds. 40 Golden Rings. 42 Geese a laying, 42 Swans a swimming, 40 maids a milking, 36 ladies dancing, 30 lords a leaping, 22 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming. Final Total: 364.

Here are my questions: First of all, over 12 days, your "True Love" gave you 364 things of poultry, people, and golden rings. What did you give them? Next, what exactly do you mean your true love gave you 40 maids a milking, 36 ladies dancing, 30 lords a leaping, 22 pipers piping, and 12 drummers drumming? Is your true love a slave dealer, just giving you 140 people? And if so, what do you plan to do with them after the 12 days? Regift the lords & ladies? Keep a few of the maids and pipers for yourself when you get lonely? And when you get the 42 swans a swimming, what exactly are they swimming in when they're given? Did you get 42 ponds as well?

Those of you who think this is a rant, you're right. But here's another song that cracks me up about the infamous 12 days of doom.

The Twelve Days AFTER Christmas
By Frederick Silver and shared by surfer Jennifer H.

The first day after Christmas, my true love and I had a fight
And so I chopped the pear tree down and burned it just for spite
Then with a single cartridge, I shot that blasted partirdge
my true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

The second day after Christmas, I pulled on the old rubber gloves
and very gently wrung the necks of both the turtle doves
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

The third day after Christmas, my Mother caught the croup
I had to use the three French Hens to make some chicken soup
The four calling birds were a big mistake for their language was obscene
The five golden rings were completely fake and they turned my fingers green

The sixth day after Christmas, the six laying geese wouldn't lay
I gave the whole darn gaggle to the A.S.P.C.A
On the seventh day, what a mess I found
all seven of the swimming swans had drowned
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

The eighth day after Christmas, before they could suspect
I bundled up the eight maids a milking, nine pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, eleven lords a leaping, twelve drummers drumming (Spoken: "Well, actually, I kept ONE of the drummers" ) and sent them back collect
I wrote my true love, " We are through, love! "
And I said in so many words,
" Furthermore your Christmas gifts were for the birds! "


Merry Christmas to all!

Dec 7, 2007

Austin's Top Ten Christmas Movies!

You love them. I love them. It's not Christmas without them! Here's my top ten picks for Christmas movies Countdown!!!

10. Mickey's Christmas Carol
This was chosen for three reasons: 1) It's fun to see your favorite Disney characters playing a different role than themselves. 2) We had this movie when I was younger, and so I watched it alot. 3) It (to my knowledge) introduced Scrooge McDuck, one of my favorite Disney characters, to the western world!

9. It's a Wonderful Life
I didn't want to put this movie on my list. I really didn't. But, this is a Christmas movie list, and it's the law to include it. Not that I don't think it's not a superb movie (I do think it's a superb movie) I just think of it more as a "this is a good movie that happens at Christmas" rather than "this is a good Christmas movie."

8. Ernest Saves Christmas
It was either this or Frosty the Snowman, and, when I was young, believe it or not, Ernest was cool. I loved this movie, as Jim Varney's Ernest was just such a great big hearted gomer, he had the spirit of Christmas thing to a T. Know what I mean, Vern?

7. Scrooged
Even as a kid, Bill Murray's humor killed me. Even when I didn't get it. I especially loved the scene when he's talking to the Ghost of Christmas Future in the Elevator. "Did our people do that?"

6. The Santa Clause
You can't go wrong with this new Holiday Classic. And you're not American if you don't like Tim Allen. Tim turned out a great performance that everyone enjoys, and looks remarkably like Santa when the time finally comes.

5. Muppet Christmas Carol
Yes, this is the third, and yes, this is the last Christmas Carol adaptation in my list. Any movie with Michael Caine is not only worth the cost of admission (or owning the movie) but you're certain to get a return on your investment. The same can be doubly said for the Muppets. It's the fact that Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie, Rolf, Sam the Eagle and friends are in this movie is what makes it my favorite adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic. (Any movie with the Muppets is my favorite. Muppet Treasure Island is my favorite Treasure Island Movie. The Great Muppet Caper is my, um, favorite... Great... Caper... movie.)

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
That's right. The 1964 Claymation masterpiece. The movie that reached new technological levels of cheesiness. The songs. Sing along! "Silver and gold! Silver and gold! How do you measure its worth?" "Why am I such a mis-fit? I am not just a nit-wit! You can't fire me, I quit!" "We're on the island of misfit toys! How would you like to be a cowboy who rides an ostrich? Or a water gun that squirts jelly?" Ah, memories. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is like fruitcake. No one admits to liking it, but without it, it just ain't Christmas. "She said I'm
CUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTE!"

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version)
We're down the final stretch now. Even the song "Fa-hoo-dor-ay" can't ruin this movie. What makes this one of my favorite holiday classics isn't the Grinch's superb voice, done by the monster man himself Boris Karloff, it isn't even the Grinch's sneer when he gets a "wonderful, awful idea" or the cute dog Max. What I love about it is that for the entire movie, you side with the Grinch. Those Who's in Who-Ville are annoying! Take their roast beast! Then, when he discovers the true meaning of Christmas, you discover it too! (Not really, I was kind of let down when he didn't ruin their Christmas.) Great movie.

2. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown
Besides having one of the best dance numbers of ANY movie (Ammon knows what I'm talking about) this is the only Christmas movie that I can think of that actually quotes the Bible and tells the Nativity Story. Lot's of movies have Christmas, but this one actually brings up the first part of Christmas, minus the -mas. Plus, there's the horrible little Charlie Brown tree that only needs to be loved. A++

1. A Christmas Story
Well, what did you expect? While I could list the classic scenes of this movie (Ho, ho, ho! You'll shoot your eye out! Oh, no, it's OLD BLUE! Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra ra! Flick getting his tongue stuck to the Flag pole. Show me how the piggies eat! The battle of the Leg Lamp. Frah-Gee-Lay! Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine! He looks like a pink nightmare!) I'm not going to. It would take too long, one might as well watch the movie. A Christmas Story shows the importance and magic of Christmas in the eyes of a child better than any movie ever made. Period.



Thanks for reading my top ten favorite Christmas movies, sure to warm you up better than the best cup of cocoa!

Dec 5, 2007

Christmas, glorious Christmas! Around which the entire kid year revolved.

It's Christmas! Hooray for Christmas! I've been looking at Christmas quotes online, it seems there are a lot of too bitter people talking about Christmas. But I ain't one of them! Here's a funny quote, followed by a sentimental quote.

"I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas, with a note on it saying 'toys not included.'"
-Bernard Manning

“Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.”

-Oren Arnold

Seriously, kids. You know what I'm talking about. The joy of giving. The joys of receiving. The beauty of the first snowfall. The traffic to and inside the stores. Generosity of spirit. Selfishness when picking out presents. The overabundance of materialism. The magic of Santa. The smells of cookies and goodies baking. All the lights and decorations of Christmas. The time spent with family. Holiday Traditions. The time we celebrate the birth of our Redeemer. Christmas has it all.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one!

I'm particularly grateful I have nearly all of my Christmas shopping done, so I can just enjoy the holiday and feeling of giving, not the stress of not giving. We bought our first Christmas tree, a beautiful very fake tree at a beautiful very reasonable price, especially since it came with lights on it. Even though our other decorations are sparse (the tree has 3 ornaments on it at the moment) having a tree with lights in the living room makes it Christmastime.

So long, NaNoWriMo! Yes, November is indeed over, as is my attempt at 50,000 words in a month. Final tally: 18,961. I've been stuck quite literally in a pit, with a case of writer's block. But, I finally have it now, and so the NoWriMoDe (novel writing month of december) should go better. I'm hoping to add another 20,000 words or so to my count before 2008.

As the year draws to a close, that means the semester will soon be over. I am sad, as I enjoyed both of my classes immensely, and will miss the instructors. But, I'm also looking forward to next semester. I plan on taking 9 credits, or 3 classes, though I'm having trouble deciding what third class to take. There are surprisingly very few classes being offered at 9 am. Right now, I'm finishing Student Success: Becoming a Master Student, and Math 1030 Quantitative Reasoning. Basically, the required math course for Liberal Art majors. I enjoyed it, as, with exception to logarithms, it contained a lot of information and math I may actually use in my life! I'm currently enrolled in English 101 Honors, the basic writing class for kids smart enough to be in Honors, and smarter enough to go to UVSC. ;) I'm also taking Art History, from the Renaissance to present, and debating on taking an art or computer class, or take one of my science GEs. The Science will probably win, as most art classes are all full. I'll keep you updated.

And that's about it, not too much interesting or wild & crazy stuff happening. Just the regular Austin Barrel o' fun!

Until next time, eat all your vegetables, clean up after yourself, listen to your parents, remember who you are, make good choices, and always, always, read my blog!

Nov 30, 2007

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.

Warning: This blog entry will be more melancholy than the wild jungle circus of fun you've come to expect when going to austindm.blogspot.com. Not that anything tragic or horrific has happened, but I'm in a serious, contemplative mood, and I haven't written while in one of those for a very long time.

I just found out my plans for school have had a big wrench thrown in them. My original plan was to take the student success course, then apply for the UV Mentor, which would get me a full ride scholarship. Well, I didn't know I had to be a full time student to get that, and, we're planning on starting a family next year. (Well, we're already a family, but we want to add a little someone to the family next year.) So Tracie will stop working full time. Which means I'll be in school part time, taking 8 years or so to get my bachelor's, meaning I'll be in my 30's. Sigh. Well, no one said it'd be easy. I honestly don't know how people do it. I asked Tracie, and she said "carefully." I love her so much. She's my strength, that's for dang sure.
"Unless you love someone, nothing else makes any sense." E.E. Cummings. Thanks, Tracie, for making my world make sense. I love you more than I can comprehend.

I walked past the owner of my company today, a really nice guy, probably no more than 10 years older than me if that, and I entertained the notion of doing what this company pitches- make tons of money in E-Commerce, Real Estate, Stock Market, and forsake an education. But then I thought, I'd rather regret not making a fortune than regret not having an education. So, I'll take the time I need to.

I'm going to meet with a counselor/advisor today to talk about Majoring in Arts & Visual Communications with an emphasis in Graphic Design, and getting a minor in Creative Writing. I'm looking forward to it. I just wish we had lots of money and more time in the day so I could get schooling done sooner. Oh well.

Maybe I'll publish some of my stories that will help pay some school. I'm just mortally afraid of debt. Tracie and I (in my humble opinion) have done pretty good in the keeping out of debt department, and I wanted that to continue.

Anyhoo, I'm going to be optimistic. This way, I'll have 6 or 8 years of school! I love to learn! I'll be a dad in a year or two! Nothing is better than that! (Besides being a husband, which I've been for a year and five months TODAY!) I'm just scared of the future, scared of giving my all and it not being good enough. You know, the same stuff Austin's been afraid of since before he could walk.

Sheesh! All this complaining is annoying me, so I'll stop now. I'll end this impromptu blog entry with a Happy Birthday to Clay Aiken, Ben Stiller, Mandy Patinkin, Elisha Cuthbert, David Mamet, Ridley Scott, Billy Idol, and... Ammon B! Happy Birthday Big Brother! Miss you and your family so much, thank you forever for always being one of the best examples I've had on being a student, a brother, a son, a husband, a father, a latter-day saint, a member of our family, and a person. You've always given me a whole lot to live up to, and I thank you so much for that. Hope you get the birthday you deserve, and I hope I'm as happy and wonderful as you are in 5 1/2 years when I'm 31!

Nov 28, 2007

Behold the New and Improved Blog!!!

Tra-la-laaaaaaaaaa! Don't go away! It's me, Austin! With a new and improved blog! Ta-da!

A special thank you to Lynette for helping me make a blog I'm not embarrassed about. And to Tracie for her help as well! So, how do you like the new look? I've been admiring it constantly. So pretty. And witty. And BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!

I love the header Lynette made, it's artistic and funky. Like me, right?

Ambrosius, turn around or I will never feed you again!

Anyone who can name what movie that quote is from and what character says it, gets a special prize.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm sure you're dying to hear how it was, unless you're McNeil related, because then you already know. It was wonderful. True, it wasn't the most relaxing trip, but it was one of the best.

First of all, I must say Heather, thank you again for opening your home and hearts to us. We really felt very welcome.

The drive there was very nice. Yes, I had to sit in the back seat of a Honda Accord for 12 hours (I thought the trip to Tucson was 7 or 8 hours) but we got to visit with Justin and HayLee, and though my squished legs were in pain, they were kept warm by Mocha, their too cute Shih-Tzu who sat on my lap for a lot of the trip. I am thankful that I didn't have to do one second of driving for the entire trip.

Once we got there, I felt like a rockstar. All of Heather's well behaved and adorable kids greeted us as if we were. Though I was tired, I think I stayed coherent enough to enjoy their company and unpack.

Thanksgiving was as I expected, fun and deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious. Everything was too good, and so I stuffed myself until I had to go lay down.

Our accomodations were very nice. Not private, but nice. I also learned to ask for things when I need them. We had the office as our bedroom, which isn't the best for privacy, and the light was burned out for most of our stay, and there was no door, just a curtain that people seemed to enjoy walking through when you or your wife are changing or are feeling a bit romantic, but what can you expect when a house of normally 6 people is invaded by 9 more people and a curious Shih-tzu? (Heather, I hope you don't think I'm complaining. I really loved our vacation, and am very grateful you let us stay in your beautiful and well-decorated home. I just found it funny the different circumstances and situations we had there. :)) The next day we went on a hike and picnic to Saguaro National Park, which, you guessed it, has lots of Saguaro cacti, it was very pretty and fun, especially once again, the being treated like a rockstar by Leah and Matthew, Heather's two youngest kids. Who, incidentally, probably liked me so much because I frequently carried one or the other throughout the hike. Tracie just told me it's called Sedona Canyon. Oops. Well, I was right about the cacti though. *Heather told me it's called Sabino Canyon. I'm going to compromise and call it Sbarro Canyon. That day we also enjoyed Alan's scrumptious Turkey soup, probably one of the best soups I've ever had.

Like I said, goodbye diet.

Most of the family (Tracie and I excluded) went to see Beowulf, and nobody liked it. Most of everybody hated it. That dampened my desire to see it, though I'd still like to, as Neil Gaiman co wrote the screenplay, and he happens to be
my current obsession. I loved Stardust, I just read Neverwhere, and am currently reading Anansi boys. I highly recommend any and all.
While many McNeils moved to the movie, those of us that remained had a lot of fun with Tracie's early Christmas present, the Leadsinger Karaoke. Basically, a microphone you plug into your tv that comes with over 2000 songs, and you can add up to another 1000 on the thing. Lots and lots and lots of fun, that. I also had some quality time with Tracie in the hot tub, which I would highly recommend, but first make sure that Matthew is in the house, not in the hot tub with you. :)

The next day, we went to a swap meet, most of you (if not all of you) that read my blog read Tracie's. We got 2 churros for a dollar, (each) some Shoupies and gel pens for $5 total. Not bad. It was a lot of fun, it made me remember the swap meets I used to go to with my mom when I was little, and I called them swamp meets. (This made sense to me, as the whole place was so scattered and disjointed, it was like a swamp, get it?) we then went to see "Enchanted," which I highly recommend, if you like Disney cartoons and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.

The next day, we drove back, again squished in the back, but Mocha chose to honor Tracie with his cute little self for most of the trip, so I got some (not a lot, but some) writing on my novel done.

All in all, it was great, mostly because I got to visit with the Powells probably the most I ever have, secondly the food. Yes, I'm a pig. I've lost 10 pounds before the thanksgiving holiday, gained 9 back after the thanksgiving holiday. But, I'm still working on it, and hoping that one pound I still don't have will soon get some friends, or lose his friends, depending on how you look at it.

Writing! NaNoWriMo! (National Novel Writing Month) Or should I say WriNoMo? (Write No More). No, I haven't given up, though the deadline IS this friday, I'm hoping to have
half my 50,000 words by then. I'll write the other 25K in December.

As tribute to those that promised to mock or support me, I'll tell a little bit what it's about (as of now, in the 18,000 word area). Two adventurers meet, stalking a creature called a manticore. the male adventurer, Aydane, wants it's pelt because it's so valuable, the female adventurer, Talia, wants the creature dead because it's ready to breed. When manticores reproduce, their offspring is in the 10,000's. Why is that bad? Well, imagine a locust, only the locust has the body of a lion, 3 rows of razor-sharp sharklike teeth, the tail of a scorpion, giant, bat-like wings , the face of a very ugly man, and an attitude like a really hungry, cranky, well, locust. Now imagine 15,000 of them. They encounter the manticore, kill it, then encounter it's mate. Only she's about the size of a house. It chases them to a deep ravine, which is only a few feet wide, so they fall down it, getting bruised, but not eaten yet. It turns out, the female is called Jovocchil, and she's one of the Seven legendary parents of all monsters and evil things, and the king's enemy is trying to awaken or free the seven to cause havoc so he can presumably take the throne.

Meanwhile, a group of thieves lost in some caverns previously occupied by orcs discover another member of the Seven, the giant wolf Luvog (all the names are subject to change. The title currently is Aydane, Talia and the Awakening of the Seven, almost certain to change). Luvog eats most of the group, when one summons fire, the monster stops. Only two are still alive. The creature is trapped by a chain that only fire can destroy. (Lame? a little, but i really liked those two characters, so i had to think of a way to keep them alive after they freed the wolf).

Also, the king and his wizard are heading to kill Jovocchil, as it's believed only the sword of the king can slay her. that's about it for now. Tell me what you think if you like it, if you don't, keep it to yourself! My muse is fickle!

That's about all the news I have for now, though I must give a shout out to Lynette. Stay tuned, cuz the best blogger I know is helping me revamp this ugly, ugly blog.

Til next time, Thanks for reading!

Nov 19, 2007

The one with all the Thanksgivings

Yes, I stole my blog title from an episode of Friends. This year, I've had 2 Thanksgiving dinners, and I plan to have a third ON Thanksgiving. Aren't I lucky? (Yes, the word is "lucky", not fat) we had a dinner last sunday with our friends Aaron, Heidi, Aaron and Adrienne, which was delicious (especially Tracie's pumpkin pie. mmmmmmmmmm boy). How good is Tracie's pumpkin pie, you ask? Well, it's her mother's recipe, and as wonderful as Tracie is, I would have married her just to get the recipe of that pie! (I am of course kidding. Her mom would have to throw in her Chocolate chip cookie recipe too).

The other was a Valantine Thanksgiving, as much of our extended family (Tracie and I included) have other plans for turkey day. So, we celebrated thanksgiving there on saturday. (which is just fine with me. It's a well known fact that Grandpa Valantine makes the BEST turkey on the planet. That's right. Planet.) We also celebrated Nana's birthday, which is another family tradition, as it's so close to thanksgiving. It was nice seeing most of my Valantine cousins, their spouses/sweethearts, nana and grandpa v. (still each other's sweethearts), and my uncles and their sweethearts/spouses (same thing, in this case :))

Like I said, we have a third Thanksgiving coming up on (aptly) thanksgiving. Bye bye, diet.

We've been invited to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with Tracie's sister Heather and her family. Enough McNeils are going down that we didn't want to be left out, because, as most people know, when enough McNeils get together, the only thing better than the fun is the food. And, if you don't know that I LOOOOOOOOOOVE fun and food, stop reading this right now. You don't know me or ever will.

Those of you remaining, I appreciate your condolences to my waist and your congratulations to my stomach.

NaNoWriMo UpDaTe!

Well, I have 11 days left, and 37,000 words to write. That would mean I have to write over 3,000 words a day. Do I think I'm going to make it? No. Am I disappointed? A little. Am I going to keep writing after the deadline? You betcha!

My novel, though still in it's relative infancy (I have just over 13,000 words) is still exciting and surprising me enough to want to know what happens to my characters, though I just killed two that I think I'm going to go back and rewrite because I like them too much.

Once again, I'm sorry, you can't read it until I'm done, and I don't know when that will be. My editor/wife has read enough to let me know that it needs LOTS of work before it's ready for the general public. General public meaning friends and family who read my blog and are asking to see it.

I'm writing this now, as we'll be driving to AZ on Wed.


Until next time, when I'll be made up of so much turkey the blog may just be me gobbling.

Nov 13, 2007

The other 24

I've been challenged to write at least 30 fun facts about meself, ok, I've been challenged to write 30 facts about myself. But let's face it: If they're facts about Austin, they HAVE to be fun, right?

Well, I've written 6 facts you probably don't know, here are 24 that many of you probably do.

1. I hate tuna
2. I love cranberry juice
3. I am writing a novel
4. No, you can't read it yet
5. I am a cancer survivor
6. I have been to Italy
7. I have lived in 6 different states. That's lived in, not been to.
8. I am balding
9. My favorite type of food is Greek
10. I'm hopelessly, devotedly, obsessively, romantically, gramatically, practically perfectly in love with Tracie. (Remember, I said they were fun facts. Not new facts)
11. I know all the words to most Disney cartoon movies.
12. I've had to clean up excrement, puke, and dead animals out of carpet multiple times.
13. My first teddy bear's name was Scruffy, and I still have him. (though he's missing an arm, and lives in a trunk with other mementos)
14. When I grow facial hair, it's bright red
15. I am an incurable quoter, my favorites being Family Guy, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, Scrubs, Seinfeld, Friends, Bill Engvall, and homestar runner.
16. I drink applesauce out of the container like milk.
17. I had a star named after me, which promptly exploded into a supernova, then became a black hole. Ok, that one's not true.
18. When I was young, my dream occupation was either a doctor, or a stand-up comedian. Or a Chinaman.
19. My favorite toppings for pizza are pepperoni, pineapple and jalapeƱos.
20. I know all the lyrics to all the songs of the following Broadway Musicals: The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
21. I've been in all the above plays, as well as The Lottery, and I co-directed Eleemosynary.
22. I used to be in Comedy Sportz in High School, and secretly want to do it again in Provo. (there goes THAT secret...)
23. I'm a recovering Star Wars addict. (Episode II
really helped me kick the habit)
24. My favorite car game is "The Bug Game" where you call out bug ____! with the bug's color filling the blank.

There's 24 Awesome Austin Facts! If you want to do it too, feel free!

TAG! I'M IT!

I've been tagged by Ammon!
The game is easy. There are only three rules:

1.The rules are posted at the beginning.
2.Each player lists 6 facts/habits about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 0 people and posts their names, then goes to their blog and leaves them a comment letting them know that they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog for the rules/details.

Here are
my 6 random facts:

1. Although I'm married to the best (and most beautiful) chef I know, at
least twice a week when she asks me what I want her to make for dinner, (with me helping, of course) I ask for Kraft macaroni & cheese. (I'd ask for it more, but I ask when I think I have a shot of getting some) Tracie hates when I ask for it, (she must think it's a waste of her talents or something) but it's just so good! It makes me feel like a little kid on a cold day and warms me up all over!

2. When I was about 4 or 5, one of Ammon's friends was being a jerk to me, picking on Ammon's little brother. Ammon, who didn't always love his little brother tagging along (I was kind of annoying back then. No, it's true) didn't stick up for me, so I bit the kid on the butt. I must have done it pretty hard, because all the kids in the neighborhood began to treat me with more respect, and had given me the nickname "Mad Dog." A name feared by neighborhood children everywhere. In fact, I remember walking to a friends house some years later (I was probably 10 or 11) and some older kids walked past me, saying "That's Ammon's little brother. Watch out, he bites butts."

3. Weird things I love to eat: Spam, (I went on a mission to Minnesota, where Spam comes from (Austin, MN to be exact) but only when it's fried); Grilled Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwiches, (something my nana taught me, don't knock it til you tried it.); Cranberry Sauce (in fact, in most of my relatives' households, it's known colloquially as "Austin Jello" I would eat the whole can of the stuff it they let me (maybe that's one reason why I've never had a UTI)); I AM a lover of the Beckstrom Biscuit, as Ammon said. (For those of you who don't know, the Beckstrom Biscuit is crumpled up bread, microwaved for 15-30 seconds.) What Ammon didn't acknowledge, is that I coined the term, Beckstrom Biscuit; though I hate pickles, I never order a hamburger without them, I order it and then take the pickles off, maybe it's the taste of pickles, or the dill that I enjoy, who knows, but I love the
hint of pickles; Baba Ghanoush (or however you spell it) basically greek eggplant dip; I love everything Tracie makes, (big surprise) especially P.C.S., Potato Chicken Surprise (another culinary creation whose term I coined) Tracie cuts up potatoes and chicken, then adds whatever she feels like that tastes good (sometimes cream of chicken soup, different spices, onions, etc. (hence the surprise)) and bakes it for an hour. Tracie is the best chef!

4.
I am the inventor/discoverer of the color Peepaw. The story of Peepaw is an interesting one, though it's a bit long, so I'll try to sum it up. My parents, being good parents, wanted us children to learn to buckle our seat belts in the car, so they would have us race to see who buckled their seat belts fastest, whoever did it first got to shout out "Gold!" the next two following with "silver" and "bronze." One time, I got the gold, and shouted it out proudly, but my dear brother Ammon, not to be out medaled, announced "Platinum" and then informed me that platinum is more valuable than gold.
Not believing for a second that anything could be more valuable than gold, I assumed he had made it up. So in the next car ride/race, I shouted "Peepaw!" Which was made of all the precious metals AND precious stones, therefore, couldn't be beat. I even drew on a paper with crayolas an approximation of what Peepaw looked like. (Using every crayon in the box, it looked more black than anything)

5. I am a very good dancer. I don't know when (or how) this happened, but I've heard enough people tell me now to believe it. I think it's because I just stopped caring what people thought or how I looked. Not bad for a guy with a metal femur.

6. I love Dungeons & Dragons. The game for 13 year old nerds who can't get girls. I absolutely love it. Even though all my friends I used to play with moved away, I read about it, I even kind of play it with my best friend Justin who moved to Nebraska. I don't know if it's my love of fantasy, my love of acting, love of storytelling, or good old escapism, but my secret guilty nerdy obsession is D&D.

There are 6 things you didn't know about me. If you want to do it, go ahead, but I don't like tagging people myself. I'm too shy.

I've also been challenged to write 30 things about myself, which I will do now, though I may just put 24, as I've done 6 already.

Nov 7, 2007

NaNoWriMo!

What rolls downstairs, alone or in pairs, rolls over your neighbors dog? It fits on your back, it's great for a snack, it's Blog, Blog, Blog!

Hello happy people!

It's Wednesday, and you better know what that means: Bloggin time!

The big topic I want to talk about is my NaNoWriMo, (remember, National Novel Writing Month) where I've already started 3 novels, but one of them I'm going to keep writing.

My first novel was going to
be a fantasy/murder mystery, which I'm still going to write, but I didn't have a good enough grasp of the characters, and I realized I need to do a lot more research before tackling that.

Also, it was boring to write, and so I assumed it would be boring to read. So I scrapped that idea.

My second attempt at a novel is one I will also be writing someday, it's about a kid who is accidentally sent off to space and makes contact with a peaceful alien race. But again, the story needs much more research before I can write it, and the goal is to write as much as possible (50,000 words in a month).

Therefore, I went with what I'm most comfortable with: humor. The story has little plot as yet, as I've only written about half of what I need to for me to be on schedule, (I've written about 4,000 words for this story, I need to be over 8,000) but I'm enjoying writing it, which to me is more than half the point of writing in the first place. The working title is Aydane and Tlee, it's a typical adventure fantasy with a romantic aspect, and a humorous under(and sometimes over-)tone. Like I said, it may not be published, or enjoyed by the reader, but it is being enjoyed by the author, and this exercise of writing a novel in november is mostly a goal for me to see if I can do it, not to see if i can make it good.

That's for December.

I'm also planning on going to a "write in" with nearly 50 of my fellow "NoWri"s tonight, as apparently there's a big competition with the participants here vs those in Salt Lake. NaNoWriMo is actually a pretty big thing, an international thing, and Salt Lake & Utah Valley people find ways to compete and decide who is better in this way too. (Btw, the answer is Utah Valley).

Tracie and I are starting a new exercise and healthy eating regiment, I already FEEL healthier, though it may take me some time to look healthier.

That's about all for now, school is good, I really like my job, (I'm already making about 2 or 3 more per hour than my last job) the people are really friendly and helpful, I believe in what this company does much more than the last one, and they seem to keep their promises to employees and customers, which is important.

Until next week, or, in the odd chance that I feel like writing again before that, adieu.

Oct 30, 2007

Blog Withdrawals

I'm ba-ack! Wow, it's been several weeks, hasn't it?

So many (ok, like 3) people have asked me when the heck I'm going to blog again. Yes, I admit, it's been awhile.

Not to say that nothing's been happening, quite the opposite. A LOT has been happening, and I was hoping things would slow down enough for me to take a breath and talk about it, but life doesn't seem to be slowing down, so here it goes.

First of all, Alex is doing much better that I'm aware of. He's out of the hospital finally, but I have yet to talk to him. I thank you for your prayers, and I'm sure he does as well.

Second of all, school is going very well, I get A's on all my homework, and B's on all my tests. I'm even learning some things occasionally.

Third of all, and maybe biggest news, I have a new job. But Austin, I thought you just got a new job like a month ago, you say. Yes, but now I have another one. MarketPartner and I agreed that it wasn't a place for me, with my faults being honesty and integrity, and their faults being lack thereof. If anyone wants to know the details, I'll fill you in, but it basically stems from them telling me I wasn't meeting expectations, or doing my assigned tasks, and I told them they never told me what my expectations were, or how to do my assigned tasks, (which I had told them multiple times in the past) as well as their promising to pay commissions next week, I mean next month, I mean next month, and the fact that every customer I spoke with was very unhappy with their service (or lack thereof), and so I felt it was time to leave. So they fired me before I could quit.
Anyway, I spoke to Pat, my old boss from QualitySmith, who said there's still a spot for me at Prosper, so I'm filling that spot for one week now.
I'd like to thank my wonderful and patient and amazing wife Tracie for putting up with me, and promise I will always strive to be employed and to do my best there, even if this is my 6th job this year. Sheesh. It's a wonder ANYONE puts up with me. But, I'm in school, trying to better my situation by eventually getting a job I will (dare I say it?) enjoy (I dared). I love you, Tracie, and am very grateful I married you. More and more grateful each day.
At Prosper, we help people (you guessed it) prosper. We do this with different web training, workshops, trainers, etc. in such fields as Real Estate, Stock Market, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, and Personal Finance/Getting out of Debt. I call people and see if they'd like a free trial of our website. And yes, it's exactly as fun as it sounds, but it's a job, and I have a few of my QualitySmith friends there.

Utah Beckstroms:

I'd like to welcome my Uncle Jim and Aunt Jan and cousins Nikita, Max, Ivan and Andre to the beehive state, recently moved from Texas to Spanish Fork. Tracie and I had a wonderful Sunday dinner with them on (you guessed it, if you didn't that's sad) Sunday.
We also saw Justin and Catherine Spagnolo down from Idaho for a baby shower (theirs) the week before. They look wonderful, it was fantastic to visit with my cousin/best friend/former mission companion/guru/thorn in my side and his lovely wife, and we're all looking forward to joining with you to welcome Lily Ora Spagnolo to Earth, and say with all of us, I hope she looks like Catherine.

Holy Halloween parties, Batman!

Even though we're still picked last when we try out for little league, Tracie and I were invited to 3 halloween parties! One was a semi-intimate murder mystery dinner, where we were dressed as classical monsters, with a very tongue in cheek tone to it. I was the mummy of King Aldrinktotat, Tracie was the flamboyant clairvoyant Madame Aretha Garlique, who turned out to, not only be a vampire, but also a cross-dresser who was in actuality the supposed murder victim. Confused? So were we, and we were AT the dang party! But it was a lot of fun, and we got to see several close friends we hardly ever see anymore.
Party #2 was in Salt Lake, one of Tracie's old friends and her boyfriend held a halloween extravaganza, we went as the gods Apollo and Aphrodite (the costumes were Roman God and Greek Goddess, though people asked me if I was 1) Marc Antony, 2) Caesar, 3) a Princess, 4) Hephaestus (ok, no one asked me that) but we decided (ok, I decided) I couldn't be Mars/Ares because I didn't have a helmet/sword/shield, and I didn't want to be Hephaestus, because he was ugly, and let's face it, even I'm not that good of an actor, and there's only so much makeup you can wear, but my natural cuteness burns through.) The party was a lot of fun, we painted pumpkins, had a costume contest, a halloween movie quiz, karaoke, and dance party. Tracie won the halloween movie quiz (14 out of 15! Go Tracie!) and got a nice fleece blanket, I won third place for costumes, mostly because part of the judging was on our walk on the catwalk, and though I didn't shake my little tush on the catwalk, I was entertaining enough to merit third. With that, we won Simpson's clue, with Homer as Colonel Mustard etc, the murder weapons being things like a slingshot and poisoned donut, and the rooms places like the Kwik-E-Mart and Moe's Tavern. We also won 3rd place for best couple, a bit dubious as there were a total of 3 matching couples, but we still got our pictures taken by a professional. But the BIG news of the night (besides the fact that you all surmised, I went home with the prettiest girl at the party) is Tracie sang on the Karaoke in front of strangers! (And did a KILLER job, I might add (not only might I; I DO!) She sang that Christina Agliera song I turn to you, people commented to me several times through the song what a good singer she is. I'm very proud of her, even though she was shaking noticeably after, I'm so proud she still did it in effort to overcome her stagefright.
Party the Third: This was the annual McNeil family Halloween party, this year blessed by the presence of 2 ninja turtles, Rambo, Spiderman, a fisherman, and maybe the cutest pumpkin ever. The highlight was either Tyler's AWESOME chili, or the pie trick played by Trent. I'd expound, but it's one of those you had to be there to appreciate it, and Tracie's getting after me for writing so much, and I still have quite a bit more to write. Hey, you asked for it! Also, I've never played such a dangerous or interesting game of Red Rover, not to mention with the age group I did.

Goals update:

Well, those of you paying attention, I've obviously shirked a bit on my blogging goal, but just because I'm not perfect doesn't mean I'm giving up. As this novel of a blog shows. My losing weight goal is similar, I'm still on my one helping only kick (except on Sunday family dinner, and on Monday because that chili was so good) and one sweet or less a day. People are commenting that I look thinner, but that jerk Mr. Scale keeps lying and saying I weigh the same, which is still a lot better than saying I'm gaining weight. If he said that, I'd have to have words with him and kill him.

Speaking of dying, last week, my car died. It's ok, we resurrected it (for now). I was headed to work at my new job, and it wouldn't start, so last week I took the bus and rode my bike to work. But Tracie's car gave Ella a jump, and now she's as good as she was before (which isn't any good) but at least she's moving.

Finally, (the word you've been waiting for! He's almost done!) one of my old friends from my college days in Virginia told me about this website, NaNoWriMo.com, which means National November Writer's Month, where you commit to write every day in November, which should help motivate me to write, which I've been wanting to do for quite awhile now. (Not so much the November part, just the writing part.)

I'll let you know how it goes with next week's entry!

Oct 10, 2007

Did You Ever Wonder…

Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Since bread is square, then why is sandwich meat round?

Why do you have to "put your two cents in"...but it's only a "penny for your thoughts"? Where's that extra penny?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up like every two hours?

Why are you IN a movie, but you are ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

How come we choose from just two people for President and fifty for Miss America?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They're going to see you naked anyway.

Miracle

Well, it’s Wednesday, and I’ve set a goal to blog at least every Wednesday.

So here I am. Am I done? No, we just started, silly. Oh. All is right. Where should we start? I don’t know, make something up. This week I taught bears the finer points of Absurdist Theater. They took to it surprisingly naturally. Now, instead of saying “they took to it like a duck takes to water,” I’m going to say “they took to it like a sleuth of bears takes to The Bald Soprano.”

Ok, not really. I just wanted to say something weird because I don’t know how else to introduce this. I might as well just do it. On Monday, my brother Alex was hit by a car. Even saying it now makes it sound like an absurd joke that’s not real and not funny. He seems to be all right, that is, he’s alive with a broken leg, a cracked palate, a bitten through lip and a lacerated liver. This happened in Texas, so I haven’t been able to see him. When my mother first told me, I was so stunned and shocked I couldn’t react. A few hours later, I bawled like an abandoned baby. It is a miracle he’s alive, and that all he needed operated on was his leg. As my mother said, “Our family has been blessed with many miracles, I wish we didn’t need them, but I’m grateful we get them when we do need them.” He was walking to Target, apparently crossing the street where he shouldn’t have, and was hit. His shoes were found 50 yards away, one on the road, one in a tree. I am so grateful my brother is ok, and not one of those shoes. I apologize if I seem callous or trying to make a joke, but it’s how I deal with things. I love him so very much and wish with all that I have that I could be there. Something he said that makes me laugh and cry is: “This has been a bad day.” But I’m so grateful he’s all right. He also asked my mom if he was going to get cancer now, as he’s in the hospital and getting surgery on his leg. I’m told he’s been very brave this whole time, able to tell the EMTs who he is and how to contact his parents, and been very strong in the hospital. None of that surprises me. Alex is an amazing person. Once again, I thank Heavenly Father for protecting Alex, because we need him in this world.

Any other news seems trite at this point, so I’ll just be very general and say work is ok, Tracie’s started her job, school is good, and I look forward to seeing my family, especially my brother at Thanksgiving.

Oct 3, 2007

More Crazy (But True!) Country Western Titles

I Don’t Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling

I Changed Her Oil, She Changed My Life

I Fell In A Pile Of You And Got Love All Over Me

I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim’s Gettin’ Better

I’ll Marry You Tomorrow, But Let’s Honeymoon Tonight

I’m So Miserable Without You, It’s Like Having You Here

You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly

You Done Tore Out My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat

She Got The Gold Mine And I Got The Shaft
Please Bypass This Heart

Updates, Goals and Anniversaries

Update! Update Everybody! Read all about me!

Well, let’s see. I’ve been at my new job almost a month, so let’s talk about that. I really like working at MarketPartner. The people are friendly; the job is fun with a lot of positive stress. The pay is good, and it mixes high stress time with relaxing down time, which I am obviously on right now. What I don’t like about it? Well, it’s still in American Fork, and they still haven’t moved us to the higher pay tier with bonuses yet. But, I digress. I like it well enough for a job, and it has enough promise to stick around, and it’s turning out to be a fine successor to my favorite job which was at QualitySmith. I have also chosen to NOT go work at Prosper for my old boss Pat at this time. I really love working for him, and it is in Orem, but the pay is less than here, I’d be doing more telemarketing, and the potential for advancement is much greater here at MarketPartner.


Next? Well, for those who don’t know, Tracie and I have been called as (drum roll, please) Ward Librarians! And the crowd goes, “huh?” We like it, it’s fun, easy, and better than our first calling as a married couple, but we’re hoping to be teaching again soon, corrupting the young minds of the church.


School is going very well; I think I’m getting A’s in both of my classes. In my Becoming a Master Student course, we just learned about goal setting and planning, and I’m pleased to say I took it to heart (how long it will last, I don’t know, but I’ve set a goal that it will last at least until next April) and am setting realistic SPECIFIC goals with specific plans. For example, I’ve been telling myself I need to lose weight for I don’t know how long, but I finally set some ground rules like 1 sweet limit per day, 1 helping at dinner, and exercise at least 3 times a week, with a goal to lose 5 pounds a month until new years, when the goal shifts to KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF. I think I may have something revolutionary here, instead of a new years’ resolution, it’s a resolution to get a certain weight BEFORE new years’. Math is similar to work, I’ll go from very difficult what the heck are they talking about one day, to this is so easy I learned this as a freshman in kindergarten the next day. I.e.: Binomial Theorem, followed by how to find the range, mode & median in a set of numbers. I’m not complaining, and I like all of my teachers, which hasn’t happened since I was in college in Virginia, 7 years ago.


Speaking of years ago, 6 years ago TODAY I went into the MTC to begin my mission to wonderful (and f-f-freezing) Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have some regrets in my life, but the two things I will NEVER regret is going on a mission and (of course) marrying Tracie. In fact, I praise God that I made the choice to do both, and, it being 6 years since one and 3 years since the latter, (Tracie and I started hanging out in October, 3 years ago) I am more grateful every day, and still see blessings every day from both decisions.

Also, next month will mark 10 years since I was diagnosed with cancer. That’s one thing I probably could have done without, but it IS a milestone to look back at who I’ve become, and what I’ve accomplished, whether because I had cancer or in spite of cancer, I am one heck of an awesome guy with one heck of a limp.


On a different but related note, I finally have a handicap placard again, so it’s hello sweet parking spots again. I remember once on my mission, when my companion and I were first driving together, I told him we could park in handicapped, and he exclaimed (without thinking) “Wow, you’re so lucky!” Yeah. I am. You can be lucky too! Just come here and I’ll break off one of your femurs! No, no. I just hit him upside the head a little. His femurs are fine.


That’s all I can think of now at any rate, I’ll post again, someday. (Like when my conscience gets the best of me. Darn blog! If I knew my conscience was going to get after me for not posting, I’d never had started it in the first place.)

Sep 18, 2007

Fun at work

I found these quotes on the newsletters I’m helping people set up at my job. I was hesitant to put them on my blog, as they’re not to do with me. But then I thought the blog police probably had better things to do than check up on my posting habits. So, here’s some quotes, song titles and a joke that made me laugh. Hope it does the same for you:

Eat well, stay fit, die anyways.

The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.

I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.

I read this article that said the typical symptoms of stress are: eating too much, impulse buying and driving too fast…

Are they kidding? That’s my definition of a perfect day!

I’m no country fan, but these songs make me tempted to be:

Crazy Country Western Titles!

How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

I don’t want your body if your heart’s not in it.

I keep forgettin’ I forgot about you.

I meant every word that he said.

I’m not married but my wife is.

I’m the only hell my mama ever raised.

If I can’t be number one in your life, then number two on you!

If the phone don’t ring, baby, you’ll know it’s me.

I gave her a ring and she gave me the finger.

I liked you better before I knew you so well.


And

When the type on the office printer began to grow faint, the office manager called a local repair shop where a friendly man informed her that the printer probably just needed to be cleaned. Since the store charged $50 for such cleanings, he suggested that the manager might try reading the printer’s manual and doing the job herself.

Pleasantly surprised by his candor, the office manager asked, “Does your boss know that you discourage business?

Actually it’s my boss’ idea,” the repairman replied. We usually make more money on repairs if we let people try to fix things themselves first!

Sep 17, 2007

One Week: The beginning

So, last week marked my first week at MarketPartner. Long story short, I love it. If it wasn't marred by the memory of all that was QualitySmith. Sigh.
I can liken my first week at MarketPartner by comparing it to trying to take a drink out of a fire hose. Doing customer service and sales and tech support for something you really don't understand is a bit overwhelming. I'm the only person in my department, so I have no one to account to but M-E.
Let me start over. (See why I haven't written in awhile? I can't form a coherent snentence.) MarketPartner does advertising for 3 fields: Carpet Cleaning, Remodeling, and Real Estate. You'd think, with my past experience as a Carpet Cleaner and CSR for Remodelers, I'd be there. Well, you'd be wrong. So very wrong. They stuck me in Service For Life!(tm) Which is basically a lead generator tool for realtors. I call up realtors to walk them through their online orders with our system, which somehow saves them a ton of money and gets them a ton of leads. Which would be fine, except when the website won't help work or they have any questions. See, I was hired because they REALLY needed someone, and so no one has really been able to train me that thoroughly. At first, I would say, "I'm sorry. I'm new here. Let me go ask someone who knows what they're doing." Which would mean either a) I would find someone there to answer a simple question that made me feel dumb, getting an answer that made me feel dumber, or b) that I would wait while someone who knew what they were doing became available, I would ask them a question, but I had to wait so long that the person I had on hold hung up.
Now, before you think I was being sarcastic when I said I love it, hear me out. (You've read it this far, just stay with me) That was just the first 3 days or so. After I got the hang of things (ie: just promise them whatever they want, they'll love you!) and know what I'm talking about, or at least know enough to fake it, it's a lot of fun. Being able to help people, the good kind of stress of doing 7 tasks at once, taking people's money for a product I'm not sure is good for them. It's awesome. Moving on.

My courses are great, I really enjoy my Math class (haven't said that since, well, forever) and my Master Student course is fun as well. Tracie is still looking for a job, it's hard to find somewhere good enough for her, she's too over qualified for pretty much any editing job around here, but we'll find somewhere she can bless with her talents and labors soon.

That's about it for now, keep reading, maybe someday I'll write something interesting! (ie fiction. I mean creative fiction ;) )

Sep 6, 2007

UPDATE!

Wow. That last one felt so good, I'm ready for another! The question is: Are you? (the answer is of course 42).

Well, life has been better. I'll try not to sound too depressing, k?

2 weeks ago, I lost my job. QualitySmith, that handles all your roofing, siding, windows, remodeling and HVAC free estimate needs, is doing cutbacks, and our entire office in Orem of 30+ people have all been sent down the toilet. I wasn't worried about finding another job, I found several that wanted me after just a few days, but I was (and still am) worried about finding one I liked as much and that had people I liked so much. It was a place where people just get you, no one was fake, there's sunshine 24 hours a day and free skittles. FREE SKITTLES! Not to mention I was Top Performer of the Month twice and Employee of the Month, or that I would consistently win little prizes like a gift card to Applebee's or Macaroni Grill, or free movie tickets. OR not to mention the Nintendo Wii I won. Sigh. I start this upcoming Monday in American Fork at a place called MarketPartner (what is it with me and compound name companies?) that sounds fun, rewarding and promising, but then, so did QualitySmith. I'm doing my best to remain optimistic, while I work my last few hours at QualitySmith so they'll give me my week's severance pay.

Covenant Publishing in American Fork Utah just made their biggest career mistake ever. Tracie Beckstrom, the greatest editor I have ever had the privilege of knowing, was thinking about becoming an assistant editor after graduating from BYU, and those idiots hired someone else. Well, I hope they don't go bankrupt too quickly. I'm sure there are some good people that work there. I'm not too worried for her, she's a genius, and now has a degree to prove it, I'm just worried about her finding a job that's equal to her. We are in Utah, not exactly the publishing capital of the world, nor is Orem the publishing capital of Utah. Sigh. (yes, I'm doing that a lot, and yes. I probably will continue to do that. SIGH).

We've just moved into a new apartment (hooray!) that doesn't have cable (boo!) but it's a lot nicer and cleaner and quieter than our old one (hooray!) but the rent is more expensive (boo!) We are pretty much broke right now, what with our work situations, and having to pay a big deposit for our new place, AND paying rent for 2 places last month, times are rough and money is scarce. Our outings consist of window shopping and using up the last of my free QualitySmith movie tickets, and of course World of Warcraft. It's not that we've never been poor before, it's just that the timing of all of this kind of sucks. Had I known I was going to get laid off, I would have gotten a less nice and less expensive apartment, and not gone back to college.

Yes, college. TOLD you I'd be back! After 2 or 3 years of my sabbatical (not sure what that means, but I think it works in context) I have returned to Utah Valley State College. I am currently taking Student Success, a prerequisite to becoming a UV Mentor or Leader or whatever they're calling them, (so I can have my tuition paid for I mean so I can help people. Yes. That's it, my pretty). And Math 1030, Quantitative Reasoning (ie: precalculus stuff. It's my math GE). Oh, and I've finally chosen a major! Arts & Visual Communications, planning on being a Graphic Designer are we? Yes. We are.

Before anyone asks, no news on the baby front, so stop asking! Sheesh. We'll let you know. Trust me. When little April or Morgan are on their way, I will shout it from the rooftops, or at least text you.

And that's all for today, I think. Now comment! Comment, you silly people! :)

Let's get this party started!

Do do do dooooooooooooo! Dear People! Friends and Enemies, Austin has officially blogged for the first time ever! That's right, Austindm.blogspot.com, for all your blogging needs is now available, just $19.95! I can get it on eBay cheaper than that. Blogspot, where ALL Bloggers eat!

Yeah, the real reason I've resisted the whole "Blog" phenomenon is I really don't know what to write about. (Can you tell? Be honest with me)

Let's start with all the Holden Caulfield kind of crap. Not because you want to or need to know all my history, but it gives us a starting point, which is always nice to have.

I was born in Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, CA. Why, you ask? As James Whistler put, "I wanted to be near my mother." I grew up at an average rate as most babies do, did all the normal things like go to elementary school, wrote on the walls, picked my nose, experimented with fire. At the age of about 14 my family (2 excellent parents and 4 wonderful-ish boys) moved to Houston, TX. I did things an average boy my age did, I fished a lot, stayed up way too late watching way too much tv and playing video games, I kissed a girl, got cancer. Yes, if you didn't know, I had bone cancer at age 15. I'm fine now, but it did define me somewhat, whether or not that's a good or bad thing, I don't know. I try to take the positive out of it, as it seems to be the best course. If it wasn't for cancer, I wouldn't have discovered painting, a dear love of my life, nor would I have been able to travel to Italy! That was awesome.
Anyway, high school was a time of learning, not learning, and cancer. After High School, I went for a year to Southern Virginia College, loved almost every second of it, even some of the learning parts. I met friends I hope to have forever, and a few I know I won't, but, as they say, memories are a precious thing you wouldn't trade for a room of gold, but sometimes would give said room of gold to be rid of them for some new ones. Ok, I just made that up.
As most good mormon boys do at age 19, (not to say I was a good mormon boy, but I was one who really wanted to and who qualified) I served a mission for my church and my God. 2 years in beautiful and freezing Minnesota and Wisconsin, the land of 10,000 lakes and America's Dairyland. I still miss the cheese almost as much as I miss the awesome people there. After the mish, I moved to, as most returned missionaries hungry for a wife I mean education do, to the Beehive state, wonderful Utah, beginning a reluctant love affair that, as most reluctant love affairs often do, began as animosity. I did not like Utah. I moved there because I felt that was where I was supposed to be. Several doomed relationships and worse jobs later, (and about a year) I finally discovered the reason I came, and the love affair of all time. I met Tracie McNeil at iArchives, the hole I worked at.
To say it was amazing is to cheapen it. And simply not true. Our story sounds somewhat like a Jane Austen novel, to tell you the truth. Perhaps I'll tell you the story sometime. All I will say is I didn't know God made women as fantastically wonderfully amazingly stupendously other adjectively tiggerific as Tracie (my mother notwithstanding). When I found that there WAS such a practically perfect person as Tracie, I did the only thing that made sense. I married her.
We've now been married one year and 2 months as of this post, and I love her so much. She's my very best friend and everything I could want, everything I do want, and Oh so much what I need. Basically, she's pretty cool. Tracie. Everyone should have one. But you can't have mine. Sorry.

That's about it in a rather large nutshell, grew up, did some stuff, got married to the Princess of my dreams.

this blog stuff's easy!