Monday, May 30, 2011

Zombie Review: The Zen of Zombie

The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead by Scott Kenemore

A self-help book for those who want to emulate the positive aspects of being undead. I bet you didn't think there were any, did you?

ZPAA rating

Late teen and up

Gore level

3 out of 10--The illustrations in the book are sort of gory but mostly cartoony (like the cover above); none of the descriptions are particularly rough.

Other offensive content

Lots of bad language (including f-bombs) mostly done for comic effect; some crass sexual references; discussion of Jesus (referred to as "Jebus" either in imitation of Homer Simpson or to be less offensive, probably both) as a zombie.

How much zombie mythology/content

There's lots of zombie content in here. As the title suggests, the slower moving, Zen-like zombie is looked upon as a model for successful behavior in modern life.

How much fun

As a mock self-help book, this is a pretty funny read. In fact, it may be to polar opposite of The Walking Dead. Who knew becoming a zombie could improve your life?

Synopsis & Review

This unique self-help book has two part. First, the author reviews the 24 highly effective habits of zombies. Being patient, focusing on a task without distractions, choosing your own path in life, accepting who you are, and treating other people equally are just some of the ways in which the undead show their natural effectiveness and efficiency in dealing with the modern world. Seeing so many appealing aspects of a zombie's outlook on life leads naturally into the next part.

Second, the book provides a 90 day program to achieve a zombie-like state without the inconvenience of being bitten, irradiated, or cursed by some master of the dark arts. Going step by step through various key ways a zombie behaves, the reader is encourage to retrain their reactions to situations in life and to deal with life in a more zombie-like fashion. Consider week 1: the reader is instructed to make a list of things which he or she fears and things that fear him or her. A true zombie fears nothing. And most everything else fears it. By keeping a journal of both categories, the reader moves items from the "I fear it" category over to the "it fears me" category by imagining how to reverse the fear (weirdos on the street aren't so scary when you are even weirder to them!). By week 12, acting like a zombie goes into autopilot, i.e. the training becomes instinctual and you just do what a zombie does.

I found this book very entertaining. Having a mistrust of self-help books, I enjoyed how the author poked fun at the genre using a patently absurd goal, becoming a zombie, as the key to success in life. He described a lot of interesting ways zombies are highly effective people. Consider how zombies are completely non-discriminatory. Your skin's color or your ethnicity does nothing to do with the tastiness of your brain. By not focusing on irrelevant details, a zombie is much more efficient. Often the author adds sidebar comments that are fun bits of self-help humor, for example, "When life gives you lemons...use them to lay some kind of trap for a guy who likes lemons. Then you can eat his brain." (p. 104)

Being a Christian, I was a little nervous when the author explores how Jesus is like a zombie. He points out some basic facts: He came back from the dead; He raised other from the dead; His followers have spread by person to person contact exponentially across the face of the earth. The author recognizes he might be on thin ice with some people, but his comments are pretty innocuous and clearly meant for humor and not for offense. Personally, I didn't find it offensive, but I know people who would.

The book is a fun and diverting read.

Sample Text

A warning for my zombie-creating children: "Woe betide the voodoo priest, medieval warlock, or late nineteenth century scientist who thinks he's going to create a zombie to do his or her bidding! Usually, these persons have the best of intentions, and certainly, the idea may be tempting at the time...but trust me, it never ends well." (page 42)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lucy Light Fingers

Grandpa is visiting this weekend and he brought a bunch of fun toys and books with him. He's been doling them out slowly. Jacob and Lucy found out where they were (the suitcase in his bedroom off of the family room) and occasionally they ask for something.

After dinner, Jacob asked for a car. Grandpa said to go in and get one. Lucy asked for a present. Grandpa told her the same as he told Jacob. Jacob came out with a cool camouflage truck. Lucy came out with $3 from Grandpa's wallet!

Grandpa asked for his money back but Lucy refused. She jumped up and down and shouted, "MMMIIIIINNEEE!!!" She was busy putting it into the toy cash register. At least she knew a good place to keep it.

After Lucy went to bed, Grandpa retrieved his money. Hopefully he'll keep his wallet in a higher spot for the rest of the trip!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Berry Hunters of Columbia

For the past two weeks, the local farm where we got our CSA vegetables (no, not that other CSA) last year has been hosting strawberry picking. We finally got our act together and went. Many of our playgroup friends showed up too. Here's a sampling of my berry picking pics!

Our berry picking gang, sans Zahra and Saree
When we arrived, Jacob saw a field with a white covering that rippled in the wind. He called it the ocean. I couldn't tell if he really thought it was an ocean or not. I explained to him that I thought it was another field either ready for new plants or they were trying to protect the plants from growing too early. Maybe it will be next week's strawberry field?

Lucy with Jacob's "ocean" in the distance
 Lucy was definitely the social girl, mixing with the other children regardless if they were in playgroup or not. Here she is hanging out with some older boys.

Lucy thought more about picking berries than picking boys

Lucy's berry haul
 Jacob, on the other hand, was not very social, though he did hang out quite a bit with the other boy in our playgroup. Guys have to stick together. They invented a game where someone was a fish and they would try to catch that person. Or they would check out the rocks. They did collect berries with a little encouragement.

Jacob learns the ways of a berry hunting master
When we got home, Lucy had some fresh berries with lunch. Jacob was uninterested. After the kids were in bed, I made a smoothie with fresh strawberries, some canned fruit the kids didn't want to eat anymore, yogurt, orange juice, and the only ice cream we had--butter pecan. Writing it out now, it sounds a little unsavory but it did taste quite nice. The blended little bits of pecan were unusual but a delight. I'm sure to make another tomorrow.

Thanks to Gorman Farm for having strawberry picking. We hope the farm stand opens up before we leave the country.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another Government Agency's Zombie Planning

Everyone looks up to Grandpa!
Ace reporter Frank Cerabino from The Palm Beach Post reports on the zombie preparedness plan of Okeechobee County in a recent article sent in by Grandpa.

Following in the vein of the CDC's recent report, Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal unabashedly promotes the work of his predecessor in creating a Zombie Apocalypse Annex. The annex was developed to "spice up" annual planning exercises, which can become rote if the same disaster scenario is run year after year. The result could be zombie-like disaster responders who don't think about the dynamics of an actual response. So the annex isn't really part of their disaster response plan, but it helps to keep it and their people fresh. The web page with the annex has many other valuable resources for a zombie apocalypse, such as this sign:

I wish I had a nickel for every time...

Details of the plan are fairly familiar to anyone whose read The Zombie Survival Guide or The Zombie Combat Manual (see the definitive comparison of those two works here). Find weapons in your home appropriate for your skills (if the only tool you have is a hammer, even a zombie starts looking like a nail) and for knocking down a zombie or knocking its head off. The advice is localized for Florida residents, as reporter Cerabino explains:

Homeowners who don't evacuate are urged to fortify their dwelling in the same way they'd prepare for a hurricane.
"Hurricane shutters strong enough to resist a 2-by-4 at 50 mph will hold up to the breach efforts of Zombies," it read.
We hope.
See, it is just like preparing for any other disaster! The web page even says that the zombie apocalypse is like a "response to a pandemic virus and a civil defense related social uprising" all at once.

Also, I have to admit that in my past, I helped with an unusual disaster preparedness plan annex. I volunteered at an American Red Cross chapter and worked on their disaster response plan. One of the annexes to the plan is a hazard analysis, which listed possible disasters in the chapter's jurisdiction, their likelihood, and their impact. Our little committee had a sense of humor, so in addition to the normal possible disasters we included "Godzilla attacks," which had a very low likelihood but a very high impact on the community if it did happen. The plan made it through the review process with the chapter leadership and the state leadership without comment or deletion. Whenever the people from that committee run into each other, we always smile and say, "Godzilla lives!" It's our secret code word. Well, it's not so secret now. Whoops!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Getting to Other Planets

My blog has achieved what I wish I could--it's on another planet!! Space travel for humans is a pretty limited affair, more so for zombies. Sure, there's the console game Dead Space and the movie Jason X, which is really Friday the 13th Part Ten. Someone must have killed Jason Vorhees at least once in the nine previous movies, so he's got to be a zombie, right? Anyway, regular joe zombies aren't traveling to the stars yet, until now.
My blog has somehow made it to PlanetCatholic.com. I'm not sure how it got there, but there it is. I was showing my wife how Happy Catholic comes up in most of the top spots when you google "Catholic Zombie Apocalypse" when I saw another web site with the opening line to my previous blog entry. My first thought was, "Someone's plagiarizing me? How flattering/annoying!" Clicking through brought the happy discovery that I am part of "Your window into the world of Catholicism". I am honored and humbled to be among the likes of Happy Catholic, Catholic and Enjoying It!, Just a Catholic Dad, Testosterhome, and the horde of other sites listed in the sidebar.

I hope your interstellar ambitious are as easily satisfied as mine!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Car for the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

Knight XV
According to Fox News, the new hotness in zombie survival automotives is the Knight XV from Conquest Vehicles. Like any proper knight, this car has a full suit of armor (and uses Roman numerals). Unlike any proper knight, it comes with a wet bar, flat screen TV, humidor, roof-mounted spotlight, and external surveillance equipment. It even runs on bio-fuel, so you can make your own fuel (if you figure out how) when supplies run out. Only 100 are being made, so this is sure to go quickly. Though not too quickly, since it cost $300,000.

In the words of Gollum, "I wants it. Preciousssss!"


Hat tip to Happy Catholic for posting about this and the CDC.

Makes a Hummer look like a compact car!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CDC Acknowledges the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

Finally, the Feds are taking this whole threat of zombies seriously. Or at least they are trying to convince us to take it seriously. The Centers for Disease Control have released some guidance and a lot of encouragement to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, or, short of that, a zombie outbreak in your own home or hometown. See what they wrote here or here.

The media is picking up the ball and running with it, so to speak. Naturally, the leader of the pack is Fox News, where my wife first discovered the story. They do seem to think the story is a smoke-screen for a secret agenda to get people prepared for any possible emergency.

I first saw the story on Facebook where my friend Mike posted the CDC link with the title "CDC Warns Public to Prepare for the coming 'Zombie Apocalypse'." I appreciate his dedication to disseminate this important news, but I think the scare quotes around Zombie Apocalypse are unnecessary. Isn't a zombie apocalypse scary enough?

The main point of the CDC is that you should have survival supplies (food, water, medicine, etc.) and an emergency plan for what to do and where to go in the event of a disaster. If you want to play a more active role during the zombie outbreak, you might consider joining or starting a local chapter of the Zombie Squad. They've been taking the preparedness message to the public on a grassroots level long before the CDC got in on the act. They describe themselves thus:
Zombie Squad is an elite zombie suppression task force ready to defend your neighborhood from the shambling hordes of the walking dead. We provide trained, motivated, skilled zombie extermination professionals and zombie survival consultants. Our people and our training are the best in the industry. 
See an interview with their upper echelon here. How can you not love an outfit whose motto is "We Make Dead Things Deader"?

I hope you are ready for the zombie apocalypse, or, failing that, whatever emergency might happen in your neck of the woods. I know we've gotten plenty of Costco-sized foods stored in our basement. We even have a plan to flee to England, if necessary!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reasons for Going to England #2--Tea!

One of the things we are looking forward to when we live in England is the tea. We love tea and have become increasingly disappointed in what's available here in the States.

Starbucks is a purveyor of fine coffee but their teas leave a lot to be desired. I can understand them making chai from a concentrated liquid, but that's never as good as fresh brewed. The selection of fresh brewed teas leaves a lot to be desired, too. The green tea has a bunch of other flavors added, including lemongrass, which I find to be very un-green-tea-like. Lately, they've even messed up Earl Grey by adding lavender to it and calling it "London Fog." For goodness sake, can't I get a straight cup of tea without any exotic and undesired flavors?

Teavana is a much better provider, which is only natural since they focus solely on tea. Lately, they've also been disappointing. We used to have half a dozen favorites there. Then they discontinued Coconut Aloha. And Thai Tea. And Lapsang Souchang (a smokey black tea). And Gunpowder (a tasty green tea, and, let's face it, an awesome name). The lady at the store recommended Morrocan Mint as a substitute for Gunpowder--basically it's Gunpowder tea with mint flavor added. See my objections to Starbucks above!! They do offer something called Earl Grey Creme but at least still have regular Earl Grey on the menu.

One consistent source that I really like is Trader Joe's, which has a very nice Irish Breakfast tea and a completely unadulterated green tea. They also have an awesome corn salsa and a bunch of other salsas that we like. But I digress.

We are looking forward to much better teas in England. When we were there last time I bought some Yorkshire Gold Black Tea that was quite yummy. Restaurants always had good selections of the finest offerings for after dinner drinking. And we went to tea time many days, almost every day. Having an afternoon snack is a great way to live. Especially with a warm drink, fresh scones, and clotted cream. But I digress again.

Exploring the teas of England are definitely high on my list of things to look forward to on our upcoming trip!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Update 2 on Jacob's Injury

Jacob's follow-up appointment for his broken collar bone (or clavicle) went really well. He had two x-rays which were no problem for him or the technician. There's a little bump on his collar bone where the break was. The doctor said that was normal and would probably go down a little bit as time goes by. He had Jacob do all sorts of arm movements (out in front, above his head, behind his back, etc.) which were both easy and painless for Jacob. So the doctor said he doesn't need any more appointments unless there's a problem later on. Whew! Back to Jump!Zone, Pump It Up, and all the outdoor playgrounds.

Speaking of which, we went to celebrate at a playground near the doctor's office. Check out the pictures below:

I swear Lucy was having fun on this swing. No, really!

Jacob said this plane's name is "Jacob the Airplane." They had a long chat.

Lucy loved the slides and the tunnel (infamous swing in the distant left)

How do I cross this desert?

Lucy enjoying a slide

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 2011

Today, May 7, is Free Comic Book Day! Every first Saturday in May, the comic book industry has free giveaways at local comic shops across the USA. Today we went to our favorite shop, Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, Maryland, to join in the festivities. In addition to the free comics, the store also had sales on pretty much everything, free cake, a book signing by the creators of Stuff of Legend, the 501st Legion (with a guest Jawa), an ongoing raffle, customers dressed up, and tons of fun. Check out all the excitement:

Book signing by creators of Stuff of Legend, strategically located by the cake!

I forgot to bring one of my issues of Stuff of Legend to get signed, but they did have a free comic with a synopsis of the story that I did get signed. The story is about a boy during WWII who gets sucked into The Dark, where the Boogeyman lives. His toys come after him and turn into what they really are (his teddy bear becomes a huge grizzly bear) in The Dark. The story is their hunt to bring him back. The art is great and the storytelling is quite imaginative.

Jawas are interested in cake but unsure if they have mouths to eat with!

The cake was carefully guarded by the 501st Legion, a troop of Imperial Guards who made an appearance last year with Darth Vader and Bobba Fett. Seems like they downgraded to a Jawa. I guess no one is really immune from the bad economy.

Lucy was interested in the Jawa, Jacob in leaving

Lucy was pretty fascinated with the Jawa but didn't want to approach him (or her). The Jawa seemed friendly enough and offered a high five but to no avail. Jacob told me he was afraid of robots and didn't want to go anywhere near the stormtroopers. I explained that they were men in armor, not robots. Jacob was unconvinced. It's time to show him Star Wars: A New Hope so he can tell Luke and Han in imperial armor from a robot.

The empire had a new recruit joining in:

Blond hair probably isn't regulation for the Empire

A customer came dressed as Lady Deadpool and posed with the stormtroopers, who wanted a demonstration of her commitment to the Empire. Here she demonstrates a menacing pose:

Don't get too close with that camera, buddy!

Lucy found Lady Deadpool pretty fascinating. The only problem was Lucy seemed to think she was Spider-man. It's time to show her some Spider-man cartoons so she can tell the web-slinger from an alternate reality hit girl.

We all had a great time at Third Eye. I got my usual comics plus a bunch of the freebies. Also I picked up Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson Games, so look for our first game review in the near (or possibly distant) future.

And definitely support your local comic shop. It's important to have well-stocked stores nearby when the zombie apocalypse comes, because you ain't getting anything from Amazon. And your local store probably has awesome staff like at Third Eye! We'll miss them when we move to England. I hope they celebrate Free Comic Book Day over there.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Achilles' Other Heel

We've written previously of one of Jacob's few weaknesses, which he is slowly overcoming. He used to be deathly afraid of hot-air hand dryers in public bathrooms. Nowadays, he is willing to be in bathrooms with such hand dryers and has even tried one or two of the quieter ones.

His new foible started about a month ago when he was at the playground. Some friendly bug decided to land on Jacob's face. Jacob did not take this as a friendly gesture, brushed the bug away, and ran home with his hands covering his face. I wasn't there, so I don't know what kind of bug it was but there was no bite or scratch on Jacob's cheek. Just intruding Jacob's personal space was enough of an offense.

We didn't think much of the incident until the next day, when Jacob freaked out about going outside. Eventually he admitted that he did not want to go because he was afraid that bugs would land on his face again. He'd put his hands up to his face, keep his eyes closed, and go almost kicking and screaming to and from the car. Poor guy.

When we were outside, he'd walk around with his eyes mostly shut and both hands shielding his cheeks. You'd think the Phantom of the Opera was lurking with his magic lasso. We tried to convince him that bugs were his friends (though I don't know how convincing we really were) and that they didn't really want to hurt him. We pointed out that Diego (of Go, Diego, Go fame) has many bug friends. Jacob still mistrusted the outdoors, whining and dragging his feet anytime we'd go out of the house. This continued for a week or two till we decided on a new tactic.

We went to Target to find him a hat. But not just any hat. This hat has special properties. It protects the wearer from bugs! At least, that's what we told him. He seemed to believe it, because he would start going out and walking through parking lots and such with much less trepidation. He'd still hold his hand up to his face, so I don't think he was entirely fooled. Maybe he's just playing along to humor us. As he's getting more time outside, he is starting to forget. He's even starting going back to outdoor playgrounds, which is great considering the rapidly improving weather here in Maryland.

Ready to face the world in style!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Many Books is Too Many?

One of the things we have to do for our trip to England is figure out what is going where (to storage, to England on the slow boat, to England on a faster boat, to England in our luggage) and how much each shipment will weigh. The website provided does a mediocre job of helping with this task. One of the main challenges for us is our collection of books, an item not listed on the website. Why would they have our book collection on their website? I don't know, but it would have been handy. Anyway, I did a little research (i.e. googling) for a solution to the problem.

Most, but not all, of our books

One of the first links to come up is this formula from Answer.com: weight of paperback books in pounds = (L x W x H) / 39. Of course, not all our books are paperback, nor are they of uniform size. In fact, all our different shelves are of different lengths as well, so after making several estimations, I applied the formula, changing the (L) to (Average shelf length times number of shelves).

Isn't it dreamy?
Our estimate is approximately 2000 pounds, i.e. one ton of books! And that is just for the ones going to storage. We also have another hundred or so pounds coming with us to England. That's after we purged out books we don't want to read again or loan out to other people or have our kids read some day. Something inside of me wonders, "Don't you have too many books?" But that is only a very small part of me. An infinitesimal part, in fact. A much large part of me wonders, "When will we have a library with one of those cool ladders that roll along the bookshelf?" We can't shop for such a home in England unless the library comes pre-stocked. But when we move back to the States, maybe we won't return to our humble home.

We are sad to see many of our books go on an extended holiday. But someday, we'll be reunited again! And we are sure to add some more wonderful treasures to our collection in the coming years abroad.