Dave's Thinking

Drinks, Danger (Chapter 3 from Cambira Conundrum)

Excerpt from “Cambria Conundrum” by Dave Hovde

Big Peak Press, 2012

He was early, and took a seat in the corner of the bar and began to survey faces for what he was not exactly sure. Someone was watching, he knew it, they had to be, he was too close. There was the French couple in the corner he noticed right away having overheard them speak and noticing the woman when she walked in had on tiny yoga pants for her even more demure derriere which made them sadly baggy, a glace too long and Stongman was certain it would have been burned into his retinas and he would never be able to have sex with a woman again. But she was not carrying a gun, he was certain of that. The husband was dressed too well, it was conspicuous for San Luis Obispo. But the French couple never looked back. It was not them they had sent. It was someone. Farah was late, the waiting was intense.

The case had reached a critical point and the evening meeting with Farah Sanders made his pulse quicken. They had seen each other only 48 hours earlier but had their individual missions to accomplish. Farah had to go back to her cover job at the financial firm and continue to gather the evidence she claimed would bury Don Andeson or “the velociraptor” as they both had come to refer to him due to his aggressive and unpredictable behavior. Farah only had time to report she was on “lockdown” and Anderson had become suspicious of her poking around. Farah admitted that the last time she was caught in his office she had to “turn on the waterworks” with a story so complex even she couldn't remember it anymore but it involved a car accident and a Mexican drug cartel. It didn't make sense at all if you thought about the story. But it didn't matter now, she was either days from leaving or being caught.

They agreed to meet at Gusippie's an Italian restaurant in San Luis Obispo, it was open, you could see people coming but it also offered easy escape should it come to that. Strongman's skin still tingled from the adrenaline from an hour earlier having broken into a Cal Poly dormitory. He and Farah had gotten too bold and gone shopping. Their relationship had changed from when they first started working the case. Too many days in the dark recesses of financial intrigue had them stir crazy, how would shopping hurt? The answer came too quickly: photographed by Cal Poly freshmen on a treasure hunt or were they? Strongman had to find out to protect the case, to protect her. Now that job was done and his body heat waned, where was she? And where was the waitress with his order of hot dogs it was taking too long.

Finally Farah walked in. She was too pretty for undercover work. Despite pleas to dress incognito she couldn't help but wear heels, everywhere including on an ill-fated surveillance mission that nearly cost them their lives. No one has ever died on the Pismo Beach RV campground from exposure but Strongman and Sanders nearly did. Stumbling out to a darkened highway one with battery-drained phones and out of sushi they vowed never to run such risks again, yet they still did and this meeting proved it.

Sanders said she would clean up after a day at work and dress casually but her leopard print pants and pink lipgloss gave her away. Strongman again looked around the bar to see who was looking, now everyone was and it would be impossible to tell if they were being surveilled.

“Did you take care of the picture?” Farah Sanders said when sitting down.

“Yes.” Strongman said as the waitress returned. He turned his head with a glare, “Where are my hotdogs?”

“I told you sir, we don't have hotdogs and we don't have Pabst Blue Ribbon either. We are an up-scale Italian restaurant. Did you have a chance to look at the menu?”

“I will just have a glass of the Chronic Cellars and a 7-up chaser,” Strongman said perhaps too loudly. The waitress nodded with resignation.

“And for you ma'am?”

“I am no ma'am,” Sanders said also too loudly and curtly. She then ordered a drink and an appetizer following an exacting discussion of what exactly was in a fish taco. With a few additions but more subtractions the order was complete. “Nothing creamy,” she demanded as the waitress continued to scribble the order while walking away.

“What did you do about the picture?” Farah asked while leaning closer. Farah didn't want any floating around, due to her cover or so she said.

“I found the camera, and deleted the picture.” Strongman had lied, he had first copied the picture before deleting it. “Did they know who you were, or me?”

Strongman told her they didn't but he was not sure. He was the only private investigator with ten billboards and television advertising running 24-7. “Kids don't watch TV.”

(for more buy the book)

Why is this guy famous in parts of the world? (Part 1)

[this guy has it out for me.. he's back again.  I copied this from their website.. they took the story down yesterday]

by Evad Edvoh, writing for the London Streetsheet

I can't believe I am back again writing an in-depth piece about enigmatic author and meteorologist Dave Hovde once again.  I thought two book reviews I had penned for Imperial Book Reviews would have been enough for me and certainly the readers however I could not have been more wrong.  I am not sure if it is a societal case of Schadenfreude or if his work has really caught on.  His two books "Avila Addendum" and "Cambria Conundrum" while literally non-existent in the United States (unpublished except by the author himself) have been translated to most languages in the Pacific Rim and between the two books has already sold more than 800-thousand copies world-wide.  He has become famous in parts of the world and I am at a loss to figure out why.

"Dragon Door" as they call him in Korea (and several other countries) has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and his quizzical answers to even the most basic questions seems to have captured the collective fascination.  Recently Hovde was host for the Korean Grammys and famously began the show with a rant about the European Debt crisis prompting several moments of unending laughter for generally unknown reasons and kissing pop sensation Adele for an uncomfortably long time on the cheek before telling her she had not won any awards "anywhere tea was a popular drink".  His success was bizarre as he was not translated for the audience.

Last time I visited with Hovde he was sorting out the details of one of his first interviews with a radio station in Seoul as part of a review I did for "Avila Addendum" (You can read it HERE)  Now I was asked by Streetsheet to track Hovde down again.  Apparently he talks to few western journalists about his endeavors.  I was the exception and asked again to try again for some access.

I figured there was little point of tracking him down while he was overseas as his schedule (and behavior) is famously chaotic.  I chose to wait for him back on the Central Coast where he is the meteorologist for the NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo-Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.  It took three days to get to San Luis Obispo.  My flight from London to LA took the better part of the day, but it took two more days to get the last 180 miles as apparently there were a few clouds between LA and San Luis Obispo which is apparently flight-grounding.  When I did arrive my luggage did not.  Some students from the nearby university brought me downtown (as no cabs were available) where I found a shop selling Cal Poly sweatshirts and sweatpants.  I changed my three day old clothes and walked over to "The Firestone" for my first non-airplane food in days.  I walked in around 5pm to find most of the televisions on KSBY and watched the newscast.  I was stunned to see a sedate and controlled Hovde deliver the forecast.  It didn't even seem like the same swaggering quasi-hippy spitting out catch phrase after catch phrase I met at a London coffee shop only six months ago.

I had to figure out what was going on, but I had some time to kill.  I checked out a brick wall with thousands of pieces of gum stuck to it which passes as a regional attraction and also stopped by to pick up the latest gossip mags.  I figured since I was writing for one, I might as well read some.  The Royals and visitations by aliens were still dominating coverage but I did find a story about Hovde on the inside of The Sun.  He was rumored to be hanging around with Katie Price, the fashion model.  The tab had what was supposedly a picture of the two ducking out of a Berkshire pub however Hovde's abnormally large entourage covered almost the entire frame.  I made a mental note to ask him about it if I got the chance.

At roughly midnight I waited in the parking lot of the television station poised on a hill at the south side of the town.  I saw several expensive cars in the lot and parked my newly acquired rental near a BMW figuring it to be the kind of car Hovde would drive.  I didn't wait long.  I was shocked to see Hovde walk out of the station by himself and saunter over to a army green Kia Sportage.  I bolted from my car and rushed up to him just before he got in.  He extended a friendly smile and handshake.  He seemed like a different person.

"I'm not sure you remember me I am Evad Edvoh, a writer.  I interviewed you about six months ago."

"Oh, I remember you." (he said in a soft tone as if someone were listening and looked circularly)  "Hey, listen.  Let's not talk here.  Follow me we'll talk at my place."

About 15 minutes later we were at a sprawling house in the hills above Pismo Beach with a few cars in a circular approach to the front door.  I followed Hovde inside.  On large sectional couches at least ten different people stood to some level of attention including the 6 foot 8 inch bulk of a man I remember from our first meeting and the same three publicists.

The tall man extended an arm which was the size of my leg, at the end of it was a cell phone.  In a demure voice which did not fit the frame he announced, "Katie's on the phone."

Hovde expelled a mostly silent and exasperated 'ugh' and rolled his eyes.  The larger man turned and walked off.  I could hear him making some excuse to the person on the phone.

"You look ridiculous." Hovde said to me.

I had forgotten I was wearing clothing from the college store.

"You are staying right?  Chris, get this guy some clothes and get him a room.  (looking at me) We'll talk after you get settled in.  (looking at another group in the room, still talking to Chris) Those guys are still here?"

I looked over to see three young people hunched over video and audio equipment.  

"They have to finish their documentary.  I think.  I don't know none of em speak English, and I think they are having problems converting their power to ours.  They keep showing me cords and stuff.  They have been here three days."

"Just feed 'em.  They'll figure it out eventually."  Hovde walked off to a back section of the property followed by at least four people all talking simultaneously.

A few minutes later I slipped into the clothes offered to me by another person.  It was a shirt with "WWJSD" printed on it and a large picture of Hovde on the front.  I thought it was garish but if I hoped to interview Hovde I thought I would at least entertain him.  I walked out into the large living space and Hovde was no where to be seen but one of his publicists was, she was just getting ready to leave.

"What does this mean on the shirt?"

"What would Johnny Strongman Do?  It's a sensation overseas.  It's like the new Confucius.  We are writing several books right now to capitalize.  He's everywhere.  Sorry, I gotta go."

I stood in stunned disbelief.  The Johnny Strongman character in the books I reviewed was a nauseating narcissist, friendless, and dead by the fourth chapter of "Avila Addendum".  The lists of questions to ask Hovde was growing by the minute.

Book Review: "Avila Addendum"

$19.95 Big Peak Press

review by Evad Edvoh, Imperial Book Reviews, Edinburgh, Scotland

"It's another confounding read from an author increasingly difficult to fathom.  Fewer twists and turns than a Nebraska interstate highway.  Sominex for the soul."

I read Dave Hovde's first book, "The Cambria Conundrum" when on a longer train trip across northern Europe, my Kindle inexplicably broke. Digging in my backpack the only book pending a view was "Cambria Conundrum", and only on a dare from my editors to see what this first time writer, a Yank non-the-less, could manage.  After reading that I was certain I'd never thumb through another Hovde effort, and trust me "effort" is the key word here.

As fate would have it, similar circumstances dropped "Avila Addendum" into my lap.  Winter began early here along the north coast of Scotland and my older home was in dire need of new heating equipment earlier than I had hoped.  A night of 10 degrees C inside the walls was all I could take, I threw some clothes and books in a bag to crash at my friend Alec's flat.  That was three weeks ago, the heating problems so dire the work is not yet complete.

As excruciating as powering through "The Cambria Conundrum" was I couldn't avoid the sequel about reluctant and recalcitrant anti-hero Johnny Strongman.  "The Avila Addendum" picks up where Conundrum left off with Strongman staring out over the ocean with clouded over skies.  The protagonist, Stongman, is perhaps the most involved certified public accountant you'll find, doing more of his work at a bottom of a glass than on the right side of a spreadsheet.  I only say that last sentence because Hovde, the author, pens it in the book's jacket.  Inside the pages his anti-hero, Strongman, spends more time wandering around town running mundane errands than actually working on any project.  Those errands are well detailed, too well detailed.

In Avila Addendum Strongman is hired by some local land developers with a suspicion that local agencies are being paid off not to develop more land near the swanky beach town, Avila Beach.  We'd know more about this plot except Strongman nor the author ever reveal it.  Strongman, when asked by other characters in the book, simply and repeatedly when asked about his latest assignment,  "I'll tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."  Strongman also repeats, annoyingly, other catch phrases: "Another day another dollar" and "Hit me".  For instance, he answers every phonecall with, "Hit me" and less than whimsically uses "another day another dollar" speaking to another character at a funeral in what would have been a touching moment, then Strongman spins both phrases together seconds later ordering and paying for a drink.  Then again moments later trying to gain the attentions of the widow. 

Hovde never explains the plot in narrative either, rather he gets mired in exhaustive details about coin operated laundries and spends an entire chapter about spotty cell phone coverage in the sparely developed Central Coast, and another entire chapter describing (inaccurately) how the Civil War impacted California (how it drove out the dinosaurs for instance).  Hovde's character has friends, but none he involves in cases.  Strongman tells his friends in the book, "You nimrods aren't smart enough to tear through these books, there are some big numbers in here."  He also says of his relationships with women, "I don't have time to see anyone, these Excel spreadsheets are at least 30% more important than love.  Show me a walking, talking spreadsheet and you can book the church."

(Spoiler Alert)

Avila Addendum is ultimately a disappointment because Strongman dies in the 4th chapter, the case left in a awkwardly skidding abeyance.  The final 300 pages is a quagmire of dialogue from his friends.  First they determine Strongman died of food poisoning, unrelated to the case because he ate something very old from his fridge.  Then they make burial arrangements (complaining non-stop about the costs), they eat food and sputter on endlessly about themselves, and Bravo reality shows.

I was shocked when I heard Hovde plans to pen a third book about Strongman.  The working title is "The Pozo Paradox".  I had occasion to visit with Hovde about the project in London last week, it was not fruitful.  Hovde and an army of handlers met me at a small East End coffee shop.  After lengthy introductions to at least three people claiming to be his publicist I finally cornered the man who had burnt at least 7 hours of my life in a sea of un-navigated scribble.

"Hit me." Hovde says with a wry grin sitting down.  I almost spit up my latte, but gathered myself for a question.

"Why don't you follow a plot in your books?"

(Phone rings.  Hovde digs three different phones out of pockets, finds the one making noise and sets the two others on the table both flashing from missed messages of some sort.  He hands the phone off to a very tall man nearby.  He gathers himself...)

"Do you have one...a plot..I mean in your life?  What's it about?  I bet you don't.  No one does.  That's why people love these books."

I couldn't help myself, "But they don't.  We only read them around the office because they are the worst books ever written."

"That's not what Korean radio seems to think (as he points to a handler on the phone), I am gonna be on some radio show tomorrow morning.  4 a-m their time, we are still trying to figure out what that means in our time.  I'd write a book about that but time travel and physics are pretty hard to write about.  So is certified public accounting, that's why I killed Strongman off.  That's what you want to know right?"

"Yes, how do you plan to make a sequel?"

"Prequel man.  I'd tell you more but then I'd have to kill you."

I wanted to ask why he insists on printing on new paper (not recycled) after he bragged to a Danish paper his latest book had the largest carbon footprint on the planet and shouldn't be thrown because the ink used was so cheap it was a danger in landfills.  But just as I was about to Hovde finished his drink.  He and his entourage clattered out of the coffee shop leaving me with as much clarity as "Avila Addendum".  He only stopped by the counter momentarily stuffing a Euro in a tin.  I couldn't hear him or read his lips as we were too far away but I am quite certain he said, "Another day another dollar."

Sensible notions

Yes, from the long hiatus the blog has reappeared.  I get e-mails about this from time to time asking where they are and I wanted to take a quick second to explain that.  I have been working part-time for the NSA on deep cover in Borneo where some major developments are about to happen, I could tell you but I would be putting you at risk if I did.  OK, not even close to the truth.  The truth is: these personal blogs are much easier to do from home than they are in the buzz of a newsroom (or studio where I work).  I got into a habit for a while there of basically waking up each morning and plugging myself straight into a computer.  This is really helpful for long work days where I am going to be live at a distant location or if the weather looks challenging; I can do everything from home, include making the graphics that I use on air, post web stories, etc.  I love my job so it is easy to do it all the time if you are not careful.  So, I decided I was going to be sensible and try to get some control of that.  Not just about the bloging, but about nearly everything.  Perhaps I took it too far.

I have not looked in the mirror yet today, but perhaps a manila folder (with eyes drawn on it) would look back at me.  This movement started when I moved back to Paso Robles after spending a few years living near the beach.  It should be noted I moved to Paso Robles to be closer to my kids, completely sensible.  There was additional cost to the housing here and the commute gas, so I switched from picking up good coffee to brewing cups out of big tins with the brand names of big blue-themed stores on the label.  It says something like: "Coffee: drinkable".  I bring microwave dinners to work with cans of even more generically labeled diet sodas (with no promises of drinkability) to work in line with the great fiscal portion of my sensible-thinking initiative.

I bought a 35 dollar table and chairs for my kitchen from a yard sale, bought glasses from 39dollarglasses.com and cooked more than enough frozen dinners to have satisfied any oversight committee.  There are no protesters for these austerity measures, well, except for me.  I started waking up to the notion that I needed to take back a little living.  Not that I have done much about it yet.  I did quit my gym in Grover Beach and joined one in town (because it was sensible) and I am going over there right now (not because it is sensible but because it is what I like to do).

Mindset for Minnesota - Distant Interwebs

I don't want to imply there is no internet in Minnesota, what I want to imply is there is an inverse proportion from the cooing of the loons to the bandwidth available.  On quick examination you might simply cast this aside and berate the author for even wanting to merge on the world-wide interbues while glassy lake water or crackling fire beckons.  It is true there is simply a time to throw the phone into the water, but rather than pontificate about my Yoda-like awareness of the universe or claim I bonded with the elements I think I'd rather just admit that the whole experience made me realize I am sadly invested, upside down in the virtual world.  I have read Walden at least ten times, so I will be apologizing formally to the estate of Henry David Thoreau.  It is believed old Hank headed out into the woods to isolate himself from society to understand it better, so maybe in a way my internet deprivation chamber called Tamarac Lake, MN might have similar enlightening qualities.

This lake is about 45 minutes from the regional center of the universe, Fargo, ND and it's metropolitan throng of 192,187 (this includes Moorhead, MN both towns straddle the often spring-flooded Red River).  But once you pass Barnesville, Minnesota and it's sign proudly beaming the beginning of Potato Days next weekend the coverage gets spotty as buildings and concrete is replaced by cattails, fields, and meandering cattle.

It is hard to go from being a full time internet content provider and consumer to the monk-like state it takes to sit in a lawn chair and stare across the bright green grass toward the calm water.  This is not aided by the fact that after 5 weeks my modern-era kids also welcomed my arrival with requests to have my phone and tablet for game playing, so for what little information trickled in I was not even able to access because virtual farms needed to be tended and zombies eliminated by forces controlled by those ten or younger.

Eventually everyone settled into lake-time: that aimless drifting of hours with the distant hum of motor boats pulling laughing kids across the water or the plunking of my own kids running off the wooden dock which offers just enough distance from the top of the lake to the bottom to perform all kinds of various dives and cannonballs.

I really only had one day at this lake as it is home of my kids' grandparents on their mother's side, it was only a way-stop before heading to my parent's summer spot along the Mississippi in rural St. Cloud where the online conditions are even more furtive.

It was enough though.  Long enough to realize I have been gone a significant amount of time, that this was an enviable enterprise.  For those of you not from the area, you have to understand that all the big cities empty thousands of people every weekend towing boats and campers to get exactly this, a life less-connected and complicated.  It is a mindset I lost a long time ago, even when I lived up here I was not one of the lake-goers but it is nothing short of a religion and the draw is undeniable.  For many the status updates begging for you to copy and paste this or that, or announcing check-ins here or there can just wait.

That kind of thinking is nothing to poke a stick at.

(The adventure continues in the next post as time away from the river and into a bin of old toys leads my kids to wedding planning)

Mindset for Minnesota - Other side of the river

This is a look at the stunning vista of downtown Fargo, North Dakota as seen from my 6th floor hotel room at the Radisson.  Interestingly the Radisson is the second tallest building in the state at 18 stories and it's visage is like a spire on the otherwise flat as a pancake plains of the eastern side of the state.  When I tell people I am from North Dakota most people think I might know something about farming or other rural endeavor but I grew up not far from the cement of downtown.  Frankly I was embarrassingly under-informed about what happens in the other 90% of the state.  This was never more clear than when farm reporter Steve Wennbloom once asked me to get me video of sugar beets sprouts (a staple crop of the area) and I returned with wheat.  It is like the difference between a car and a whale.  That was my first year in TV, I learned about rural areas quickly after that.

I was lucky enough to snap this shot of a traffic jam in Fargo.  No, actually this was Sunday morning at 9am.  I picked the regionally swanky Radisson because I wanted to be only a walk from downtown.  I had gone out on the town the prior night with two friends from high school.  I have read a lot of stories about my hometown since I left years ago.  Stories from national magazines which talks about the downtown character and an active social scene.  While it was tame by California standards I thought what I saw lived up to the billing.  Place after place near capacity buzzing with the general exuberance which accompanies the arrival of a warm weekend and the stress of work days away.

My chums Tucker and Chuck and I walked from one end of the downtown to the other.  I had requested we visit only "old school" Fargo haunts and not the newer-trendy places.  We started at Rooters, famous for a off duty Fargo cop shooting his gun into the air apparently for kicks.  Then we walked up to "The Empire" the toughest of the places downtown, it once was a dive for only the truly diligent but now gets too many walk-ins by guys like us to brag of general toughness.  After that we hit "Sports" which had not changed a bit in the years since I left, in fact I am not sure the bar had been wiped down since then.  It was exactly the experience I wanted, a walk down memory lane with my friends then a walk back to the monolith for a night of sleep before my real vacation began.  While I am from Fargo my parents moved long ago into Minnesota and that is where I was headed Sunday, if I could get out of the downtown traffic snarl.

I had one other stop to make.  My life-long friend Bill who like me had moved to California years ago needed a new "Space Aliens" shirt.  "Space Aliens" is nothing more than a burger and fry joint with enough flair to keep the kids buzzing while you slurp down the recommended chicken tortilla soup.  Bill was hoping for a grey or black shirt with the authentically cheesy  branding and I looked for exactly that, but all that was offered was tie-dyed or pink or long sleeved for made out of the material Sunday softball jerseys are made out of.  So I was turned away (after having the soup while the TV in the bar played a feverishly sweated out ping pong match from god only knows where).

"Space Aliens" is right by I-94 the major east-west highway which was about to take me to my kids and lake country and as I was soon to discover radio-and-internet free Europe.

As with every trip back home there never seems to be enough time to walk my old neighborhood or sit on the swings at Roosevelt elementary or poke my head into city hall where I was a reporter for years.  The rest of the trip was calling and deeper excursions down memory lane will have to wait for another year.

(more on my trip to Minnesota later this week)

Mindset for Minnesota - The set up

The pool at my parent's summer place just outside of St. Cloud offered ample sunshine and upon jumping relief from the oppressive humidity which has hung in Minnesota for a month.  With my kids engaged at inspecting the subtle offerings at the bottom of the pool with about the cheapest goggles you can find (I bought them at the grocery store 3 for 5 bucks) I was afforded my first moments of the mindless wandering I sought, except it happened 3 days into my vacation.

I need to get better at vacations, for one I don't take many and secondly and more importantly reaching that zen relaxation point can be elusive, as we are about to discover.  Regular readers of the blog know that there is a yearly pilgrimage to Minnesota to bring my kids home from a 6 week visit with their grandparents on their mother's side, it's also a chance to spend time with my Dad and his wife.  This all sounds smashingly fabulous until you realize that my kids haven't seen me for 6 weeks so when I arrive they attach themselves to me like lovable barnacles.

By the time I see my kids after these summer trips I am also needing the hugs and love weeks distant.  The kids and I have different perspective.  When I show up they are ready to go home, when I arrive I am prepared for slow ambles in woods looking for sunshine cutting its way through pine or oak in bright slats which paint the grass uncountable colors of a bright green we don't see often enough in California.  I like time for contemplative musing, the kids call this boredom and want my cell phone and tablet and can't understand why the internet is so slow in rural Minnesota by the banks of the broadening Mississippi.

(In another blog later this week, I'll talk a little more about my new-found realization that I am addicted to the internet far worse then I thought I was)

Having kids keeps you young there is no doubt about that.  A week of being dragged behind a boat clinging to a tube with your son or daughter as they laugh hysterically makes you know you are doing the right thing.

Over the course of the trip I was at times: The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Transportation Secretary, Head of the Food and Drug Administration, and Secretary of State as I brokered several peace deals with my children over the use of various toys or preferred seating next to me at whatever table or in whatever vehicle we were traveling in. 

So my moments of zen perhaps were more limited than I would have liked.  But that doesn't mean I didn't have a chance to resonate with Minnesota charm.  I posted a great video of me and a wild deer, came right up to me like I was Nature Channel show.  I noticed the sign in Fergus Falls for the "Nice law offices" and the waitress that looked and sounded like Sarah Palin and noticed how many sentences were constructed to end with the word "then".  Part of me didn't notice much of that when I grew up and lived there because it was just the way it was.  Now having lived in California for about 11 years those normal Minnesota things stand out with the authentic uniqueness which makes me understand why Garrison Keillor has written and performed everything he ever did.  There is a magic in it, and for one a year it is special.

Over the next few days I hope to shine a little light on those signposts from the past.  The trip was worth it, but now it is time to shave off a week's worth of beard, iron a shirt, pour through some computer models and catch up on a week's worth of news.  Life resumes, do ya know?!

Tin Plated Over Bearing Swaggering Dictator with Delusions of Godhood, that's what we want.

The title of the blog is what Scotty told Captain Kirk that the Kligons said about him in the classic Star Trek TV episode "Trouble with Tribbles".  (The big fight on the space station really started when the Klingons called the Enterprise a garbage scow to Scotty's face, Kirk could have understood it if it was the prior.)

I think we like our TV beyond bold.  Thanks to Netflix I can watch all kinds of TV shows and boldly on display are the pantheon leading men with inflated self-worth toppling over the landscape they walk through, so bold and in charge, perfectly indestructible with unquestioned moral strength to boot which they summon instantaneously.

So, I certainly nominate the old Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek.  Not really the new one from the re-boot movies, thus-far he's more of an action hero than a swaggering presence, and don't ask me about Captain Picard.  Kirk made decisions, Picard held conferences.  In the 1990s did we really make all our decisions that way?

I know all of this dates me but I have been watching the classic Hawaii 5-0 as well and Jack Lord's Steve McGarrett is a simply marvelous construction of ego and self-importance with a impervious sealant of over-confidence.  They always get their man.  Everyone dies in one shot.  And Steve never does the hard work himself, its Chin Ho tailing someone, or Kono talking to the contacts or Danny in the shootout in the docks.  Well, Steve will shoot too but rarely in the middle of the show.  And of course it is, "Book 'em, Dano." never "Dano, I will take this guy down and book him you go get some rest."

I could go on and on.  I think we like our TV people this way.  And it is not just the throw-backs from the 60s.  Look at Gordon Ramsey, he's about as huge a TV star as there is right now and he pretty much yells at people constantly from a superior tone because he's learned everything there is to learn.

We like fast decisions and instant judgement from people who tell us they know everything.  And we don't care about hair.  Shatner and Lord both famously sported toupees, David Caruso (CSI Miami) is hanging on to a few orange threads, and Donald Trump...well, whatever that is on his head doesn't seem to impact the grip he has on us.

Do you have nominees for your favorite swaggering tin-plated dictator?

BTW, I am not a nominee.  I am a nice guy with real hair at this point.

Not exactly breaking news...but people just don't want to pay a lot for DVDs and BluRay

The recent announcement that Netflix wants you to either stream or get DVDs but not both at least without paying a higher premium has a lot of people dumping the DVD option with vows to head to the RedBox.  It is a significant jump from the 9 dollar price point to the 15 dollar area for one DVD out at a time and streaming, the three disk and streaming plan is almost 20 now.

I have already read this about a thousand times on various reviews of the situation, but like everyone else I have held a Netflix DVD hostage for about 4 months (Pirate Radio) and have just been watching the stream.  Interestingly I'll save a couple bucks a month going back to streaming only, but I suspect Netflix will save a lot more money.  For one they'll recover millions of dollars of lost inventory like mine.  Secondly mailing disks flat out costs a ton and with new digital agreements with studios you can be sure that more quality content will make it to the stream faster in the future.

It needs to be said that collectors will still buy DVDs and BluRay (though the rate of that has slowed).  But I think this is a pretty strong indicator that the financial issues related to hard media are significant.  For a high turn-over business like Netflix, you have to have a high cycle rate on those DVDs to recover the costs associated with buying them, mailing them and replacing scratched disks.  This decision was not made in whimsy, they looked at the numbers it simply wasn't working.

People are making a statement about what they are willing to pay for home entertainment.  It's my opinion people are fine with RedBox, and fishing in bargain bins for disks to bring home.  For the impulse watch, Netflix streaming offers more than most people need.  On demand pay-per-view covers a lot of the new titles before Netflix or RedBox has access.  This leaves the 30 dollar DVD or BluRay on the shelf to be purchased by collectors or people really excited by the film.

What's missing?  DVD and BluRay extras, but I would argue the people who watch those already are in the category of the passionate fans of the movies who simply need to own them.

I know a lot of people will opt for the disks still getting mailed to them and not stream, but I think the tide is turning there.  Why?  If for no other reason that people are having to make a choice.

The in the theater experience is getting to be pretty expensive, especially if you see a 3-d movie or have to take a family larger than two.  So when it comes to the rest of it people are being careful and so are companies.  Netflix wants to make ends meet so they change pricing, internet service providers are getting hammered on bandwidth since so many are watching video online that they are putting in usage caps, and cable and satellite providers are duking it out as many are opting to get almost all their entertainment through Hulu or Netflix or a combination of both.

This isn't the first volley of this war, and it won't be the last.  But it probably is a significant one as millions of people will be making choices on this one and I'm gonna bet they aren't all just going to pay more.  Streaming is coming.


My head had the clarity of the sky today so it was time to let my thoughts roam a bit and generally there is not way better for me than to find a solitary spot somewhere.  I'd tell you exactly where this is but just like surfing spots keeping the secret is part of the deal.  (Note: this is not very hard at all to figure out from the photos).

What is wonderful about this place is that my smartphone doesn't get service here so in a way I am off the grid both literally and virtually which is what I was looking for.  As the silence of phone became apparent so did the silence of most everything else.  This is far enough from a road that other than a passing plane I didn't see or hear much of anything man-made for about an hour and a half.

It is a bit of a scramble to get to this spot about 200 feet above the crashing surf.  I like it because it is kind of timeless.  Surf has been pounding away at this little cove for a lot longer than any of my concerns have been around.  The bee working on some pollen to my left is barely noticeable because of the roar of the surf, it didn't take long before I was drawing long easy breaths.  Other than making mental notes about what I might want to say in this blog, I managed to tune out the rest.

It is not a terribly elegant notion but I was seeing life parallels everywhere.  Certainly a function of the way I was thinking heading in.  I have been out to this spot a bunch, but like always I never sure the path to take to get there.  There are several branch points and I thought to myself, "Isn't life the same way".

I just kept walking the direction I thought I was supposed to be going in and eventually I ran across several wooden stands which reminded me I had been here before and that I was close.

When I crossed my legs and sat down I took off my shoes and socks and unclasped my watch.  I only looked to see what time it was when I noticed a chill had set on me having been a while since the heat I worked up hiking out here.  No conclusions reached but a calm repose enjoyed I turned and hiked back.


April 2014

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