The Life I’m Given: Book Review

Book Review: The Life I’m Given : The Life You Choose by Guy B Wheatley

Just released, Guy B Wheatley’s third offering in the Given series follows “Emily”…a modified/enhanced human female awakened with no memories, in the clutches of a powerful company who intends to use her as an operative.

She’s not alone…and has help escaping provided by a previous “product” of the same lab. She must recover what memories she can while discovering her new abilities, and choose a new life…or to embrace her old one.

This is a satisfying read and was hard to put down…Character driven action (with the scify element of human enhancement) set in the not-to-distant future and although it can stand alone, I recommend reading the entire series.

Pick ’em up in digital or softcover at Amazon…click the picture to go there.

Daniel Meyer

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Triple X…the Return Of Xander Cage (movie review).

“Attending your own funeral is some really surreal sh!t…”

I took that cute little gal I’ve been known to hang around with to the movies this week.

We were checking out the offerings and deciding on what to see when the wife (yes, that cute gal mentioned above) says, “Sometimes ya just gotta blow sh!t up!”

Yep…I agree. Seems blatant, stupid, over-the-top action was on the agenda.

There’s a reason I married that woman!

So…xXx3 it is!

A synopsis…

Vin Diesel is back as the smarmy, ultra-bad-ass Xander Cage. We get to see some gorgeous women, big, elaborate sets, lots of impossible, over-the top stunt work, government conspiracies, and explosions and gunfire everywhere.

That’s pretty much all you need. Okay, I admit…”synopsis” is a strong word for that. How about a tag-line instead:

Kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while you do it.

This describes the entire film to the “T”…or perhaps the X.

If it’s not what you expect, well, you’ve not been paying attention. This is a sequel to the first two movies in this series…which you can also sum up with, “Kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while you do it.” They work, and they’re fun…which is why many of us go to the movies. Why change things?

The characters are fun, colorful, and utterly predictable. The plot exists simply as a framework to assemble this cast and blow up those things. This is a formula action/combat/gruff guy saves the world flick…and it totally works.

We enjoyed it, and will add it to the library. It’s worth a big-screen look.

If you like action/set movies, or even Bond movies, and particularly if you liked the original, then this movie’s a good bet.

It comes in as #2 in my top well…three. I’ve only seen about 5 for the year (more reviews coming).

Oh…and we kill off Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson’s character) in the first scene in the film…but he’s not dead. I’d have warned you of the spoiler…but it’s not one…’cause you already knew that. The only way to kill off a Samuel L. Jackson character is to feed him to a shark in ultra close-up, blood spewing, yet laughable horror (yes, it’s been done). He is, apparently, eternal. He also, apparently, plays exactly the same character in every film he does.

xXx3 is my #2 pick for the year so far…

#1 Passengers
#2 Triple X…the Return of Xander Cage
#3 Collateral Beauty

There are plenty of good movie offerings coming up this year…so we’ll see you at the movies!

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I wonder…

I wonder if they think about me…later…the ones that almost kill me…

They run me out of my lane or pull out in front of me without looking. Some run up on my tail at speeds that make it impossible for them to evade. Some swerve in front of me and slam on the brakes.

I’m not talking about the minor stuff…I don’t even notice that anymore. In a city of millions those sorts of things are inevitable. They’re avoidable too…if the other driver is just…inattentive rather than aggressive or outright hostile.

It’s the ones that give me no chance at all…unless I take serious evasive action. Fractions of a heartbeat…fractions of an inch…between life and death. More than once I’ve wondered in passing just which side of that particular line I ended up on…


One day I might blink at just the wrong time. Zig instead of zag. Make the wrong decision. I ride defensively. I’m aware. I always try to have an “out”…a plan.

One day even that may not be enough. Will they think about it then?

Life…and death. Fractions apart…some…many…flip me off when they realize what happened.

What kind of fucked up world view would you have to have in order to almost kill somebody…and then flip them off?

Do they mean it? That may just be the question that haunts me.

I’m not sure what’s worse…some never acknowledge I was even there.

I wonder if they actually understand what they nearly did…that there was life and death on the line. They created death…it was only the actions of another that prevented it.

There was a person on that machine…one that wanted nothing more than to get home and see his lady…

…a person that might just need one more day…or perhaps just one more moment…to earn back another piece of his soul…

Does that matter? Does it cross their mind later? Do they wonder…in the middle of the night?

I do.

I’ll see you on the road.

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Passengers (movie) Review…

Took my woman out to the movies last night. Passengers, starring a sizzling Jennifer Lawrence and…the wife insists…an equally sizzling Chris Pratt, was on the agenda.

Caution…spoilers ahead…it’s not possible to discuss this movie without them…but I’ll stay shallow and they’re really not that spoiler(y) anyway…

We enjoyed the film overall…a very clean hard scify that is stunningly gorgeous in sets (ALL the sets), design, and effects…and we will probably add it to the library.

…but it has it’s problems. They are almost irredeemable.

The story is that the Avalon…a corporate star-ship/cruise liner crossup, is transporting 5000 passengers and a couple hundred crew, all in suspended animation, from earth to a new colony. The journey is to take around 120 years.

A malfunctioning sleep pod awakens a single passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) 90 years too early.

With no way to get back into suspended animation, he is stranded alone, doomed to spend the rest of his life on what is essentially, a space-going luxury cruise ship.

I really wanted to like Chris Pratt’s character. His motivation for undertaking the journey and his skills I readily identify with.

But after a year alone (believably and occasionally humorously rendered) and going stir crazy he becomes obsessed with a female passenger (Aurora Lane, played by Jennifer Lawrence) and ultimately, causes her pod to malfunction and wake her up.

He does this knowing he’s dooming her to die before the ship reaches its destination. This to me is a boneheaded, sociopathic, and unforgivable move. I could not have done it…and it nearly turns the film from a scify action/disaster love story to a psychotic stalker movie.

The crew, btw…was unreachable by Jim…he did try…but still…dude

Anyway, doomed to be together forever, and having obvious chemistry, over the next year they fall in love…of course…he’s not told her why she is awake…this naturally, does eventually come out with predictable results.

He is ultimately redeemed in that the malfunction that awoke him was much more serious than initially thought…and if she hadn’t been there to help in the resolution…the ship and everybody on it would have perished.

Laurence Fishburne makes a neat appearance later as a crew member woken up by another malfunctioning pod, and ultimately gives the couple the key (literally LOL!) to save the ship.

As I said, enjoyable if I could ignore Pratt’s character’s obvious shortcoming. I’d have much preferred Jennifer Lawrence’s character to awaken accidentally but I suppose that would have been too coincidental (beautiful, eligible, compatible female).

But that, added to the plot holes detracts from the experience.

1) As the increasingly serious error conditions on the ship become evident in the control room, the ship would have been programmed to awaken the crew…or some of the crew…to check on the situation.
2) No way to get back to sleep…I just couldn’t buy this…the crew would contain a doctor, and the doctor would be able to put folks in suspended animation and back into the pods. The crew had to have been done after takeoff (one would think), and would need to be awakened and put back to sleep in the event of any serious malfunction. We would expect those to happen possibly multiple times in a 120-year journey. Also…as automated and safe as the pods are supposed to be…waking passengers from 120 year hibernation unsupervised…the automated tech would have been there to put them back.

Additionally…one of the great scenes was a “slingshot around a sun” move…which any prudently designed vessel would have summoned some human supervision prior and during this time…*especially* with the cascading malfunctions.

The could have closed these plot holes easily enough…indicating the crew pods were unreachable as part of the initial malfunction or something, but I spotted no attempt to do this…

The action is fantastic, the effects amazing, and the chemistry between the characters works. The sets and rendering of the ship are downright inspiring.

The ending is ultimately uplifting and thankfully lacked any sinister corporate plot, corrupt politician, or outright incompetence.

Definitely worth a view on the big screen…but hurry…it’s nearing the end of the run. If you miss it in the theater pick up the DVD or catch it on Netflix.

My #1 pick for the year so far…but keep in mind…it’s only the second one I’ve seen this year!

#1 Passengers
#2 Collateral Beauty

There’s some good movie offerings coming up this year…so we’ll see you at the movies!

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There’s quite enough already…

NOT Big Iron

Departing downtown Dallas Friday…into inclement weather, heavy snow…icing conditions…they had predicted “flurries”…I came across a “situation”.

Big Iron…the 8000 pounds of 4×4, horsepower, and “gives no shits” is running smoothly. With any luck the heater would warm up somewhere in the next 10 miles. I’ve picked a “side-way” out of town as due to the weather the city’s core is starting to look like a full-on evacuation is underway.

Yeah, we’re southerners. Snow and ice are rare enough that it’s a great excuse to freak out about the weather.

Quick! Buy bread! Bottled water! Batteries! For gawd’s sake get clean towels and boil some water!

Kind of like the yankee-folk do when their temperatures rise high enough to approach our spring normals.

To be fair…there *are* good reasons for this. We don’t often get a “gentle, beautiful” snowfall here. Predictions of a “dusting” often turn into 4 solid inches or more of ice…which is trouble in any major city. When the weather dude starts to say things like, “Uh oh…” it’s time to get out of downtown. The problem is…there’s usually about 8 million people that got the same message at the same time.

Me? No panic here. My sense of urgency was that my bosses said something along the lines of “Early release” and I was getting the heck out of Dodge…in the Dodge…before they changed their minds. Spend the afternoon cleaning up 10-year old code that was apparently written by a madman (yeah, that madman would be me), or spend the afternoon with my warm, willing woman just waiting for me at the house.

No choice at all really.

Anyway, departing town. Left lane of a one-way. Large median/sidewalks between the roads. Coming up on an intersection there is a…temptation.

There’s quite large puddle of icy water in my lane and up against the curb.

I *like* puddles. This is the kind of puddle that any rational guy sees and yells, “Puddle!” whilst accelerating toward it at high speed. I may have actually licked my lips in anticipation…

That’s what big honkin’ Dodges are *for*.

Yeah, I’m a guy. Doesn’t take much I suppose…

I am what I am. I do what I do.

But wait! There’s more!

A group of pedestrians were standing at that curb waiting for the light, most of them staring at their phones and blissfully unaware of just what a day they’re gonna have when some car or truck comes roaring through that puddle.

So…what do I do?

I did what any man would do…what any real man with 500 horsepower Texican pick-em-up-truck would do anyway…

I slowed till the next lane cleared and moved over to miss the puddle. Glancing at the group…one of them…I believe…was aware of what they’d been spared as he began to usher the others to the side a bit…there were, after-all, more to come behind me.

Why did I do it? Ur…or…more accurately…didn’t?

I can be a hard man. Ruthless even. Life has taught me how and severely punished me on multiple occasions when I’ve not taken the lesson. I bear lots of scars from those lessons…some of them are even on the outside.

Hard. Ruthless. Severe. I am all of those things…as needed.

But I am not a dick. There’s plenty of those running around already and the world is screwed up enough without more.

It’s a little thing…but that’s what the world is made up of…little things.

Don’t be a dick.

I’ll see you on the road.

Daniel Meyer

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Movie Review — Collateral Beauty

Took my lover to the movies Friday evening…”Collateral Beauty” was on the agenda.

Minor possible spoilers ahead…

We were hesitant to spend an evening out on this one…movies have gotten expensive and Will Smith has gotten…well…let’s just say a lot of his recent projects have been less than satisfying.

But with this one…an interesting concept and an all-star cast got us out to see it despite our concerns. Heck, we’ll see pretty much anything with Helen Mirren in it…especially after her appearances as Victoria…the retired MI6 agent and current freelancer in the “RED” franchise.

Anyway…the premise…Love, Time, and Death as actual physical incarnations answer…in person…letters to them from “Howard” (Will Smith) who has lost a child.

We enjoyed it despite the tough subject matter (losing a child) that predicates the story in the movie…but doubt we’d see it again or add it to the library.

I was pleased that the incarnations apparently turn out to be the real thing despite initially appearing as actors hired by Howard’s friends in a somewhat…mean…plot to get him to authorize the sale of his failing company.

My problem with the entire premise…was not the incarnations…it was the characterization of the grieving father played by Will Smith. “Howard” is grieving and pretty much completely non-functional *three years* after losing a child.

It has destroyed his marriage (not uncommon), but also the company he built and pretty much all his friends. They seem to accept this…right up until the events in the movie.

This was treated by the movie makers as completely normal and a natural consequence/reaction to the premise.


We are not that fragile. We’ve *never* been that fragile. We *cannot* be that fragile. The movie makes a point that a loss like this will never “go away” and “be okay” and that’s certainly true…but a multi-year complete breakdown is not even close to normal and not what we *are*…or what we *should* be…and certainly not something we have the luxury to *can* be…even in a touchy-feely “we are oversensitive to everything and must go to our safe space” world that our leaders (and Hollywood) seem to think we should inhabit.

This character was portrayed as far beyond broken and suicidal, and in the real world would have not survived this long…or would have been committed at least once (both of which would have solved the problems the friends were conspiring to fix)…yet the movie treated his condition as rather unremarkable expected behavior and a normal consequence of the events in the predicate.

If this had been a month after the fact I might have bought his condition…but then the actions of his friends would have made no sense…but three years…nope. Doesn’t work for me.

And yes…grief hits lots of folks somewhat differently…but few (if any) like this…and the movie makers failed to create a character we could care about…or believe.

So…maybe catch it on netflix or a free viewing on Amazon prime…or perhaps the $3 dvd bin at Walmegasupermart…the incarnations and some of the subtle humor there are worth that at least.

The characterization of “Time” as a young, pushy thug is certainly right on and Smith’s delivery of a couple lines are fun…notably, “It turns out death…is an elderly white woman…”

Speaking of death…Helen Mirren is fun as that incarnation…Mirren…playing death…who’s playing a washed out, vain actor…playing death.

And before the comments go sideways…regarding the predicate and how it effects folks…in this regard my lover and I do know of what we speak.

So…till next time…I’ll see you on the road (or at the movies).

(also: This has become obligatory on my movie reviews (click) )

Daniel Meyer

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What has been seen…(a learning moment)

How YOU doing...

How YOU doing…

Spent the evening at The Dallas Arboretum. Company holiday party. Gorgeous lights to be found wandering the grounds, decent weather, gooooood hot chocolate.

Laugh of the night…”Olaf”…the snowman from Disney’s “Frozen”…was running around in mascot form (along with others) to entertain the kids…

Little kid…we’ll call him “Timmy”…gets a picture with him and then when Olaf turns around and waddles off, the kid gets a “look” and then says to “mom”, “Momma! He looks like a big dick!”

Mom: “Timmy!”
Timmy: “But he DOES!”

Watching him waddle away…ayep. The costume design, sewing lines, how it rode on this particular player…directly from the back…is quite plainly a big dick…waddling though the crowd.

Not even subtly so…yanno…so it would take a dirty mind (like mine). Nope. A big dick.

Once Olaf has been seen…Olaf cannot be unseen.

“Mom”, being ever wise in these sorts of things (I’m guessing “Timmy is *not* her first boy), looks at Olaf retreating across the room, nods, (Olaf has been *seen*), and decides to make this a learning moment.

“Timmy! We don’t use that word for that!”
“Sorry Momma. He looks like a big PENIS.” The last word said, of course, with gusto.

A learning moment…we are what we are. The cute elf-girl that had been accompanying Olaf, blushed as red as her dress.

I gave HER a thumbs up.

Yep…enjoyed the party. Spent the rest of the evening with a big grin on my face.

And folks think Disney is boring.

I’ll see you on the road!

Daniel Meyer

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Double Vision

Some of ya’ll may recall my father-in-law…shown here sporting the “Oldest Rider” award at this year’s Inzane.

My father-in-law Henry

My father-in-law Henry

The wife and piled in Big Iron to visit him for Thanksgiving week, with a quick stop on the way to visit her brother.

We took Big Iron as there was a need to pick up some furniture and stuffs Henry wanted us to have. He was trying to clear some space and some projects ya see…

The Rig

The Rig

We grabbed a trailer as we expected it to be rather a lot…and wanted easy loading anyway.

Sidenote…gotta love those Dodge V-10’s. Especially in a generation two 3/4 ton 4×4. Smooth. Powerful. Stable. Comfortable. Competent. We ran something over 2800 miles on the trip…over 1200 of that in one 21 hour period…but that’s another story.

Anyway, at the end of this summer, Henry decided that it was time to add a couple wheels to his “zoom zoom” time, and he was going to “hang it up” on the two-wheeled derring-do. So one of the things we were picking up was his Valkyrie. It’s an ’01 Standard…identical to mine…well…identical other than a few accessories and the fact that it has about 200,000 less miles on it than mine.

He wanted me to have it…saying, “I know you’ll know what to do with it.”

Henry’s extra wheels come in the form of fun little MR2 he purchased and has proceeded to fix it up including paint. Definitely some “zoom zoomige” there!

Father-in-law's new "zoom zoom"!

Father-in-law’s new “zoom zoom”!

All of that is to say this…there’s another machine in my garage. She ain’t visiting.

Valk...the sequel.

Valk…the sequel.

I now have two Valks.

I now have two Valks.

Bike’s gotta have a name…she’s given me a couple ideas already. Confirmation will no doubt come very soon.

I’ll see you on the road.
Daniel Meyer

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Let there be…

One of the cool things about owning a gen 2 Dodge Truck…I mean besides the 7000 pounds of steel, horsepower, and “not a shit given”…is that they made, literally millions of the things…many of the parts are common for the entire run from 1993-2001 (also includes the ’02 3/4 tons).

The other thing is that they tend to last…despite the plastic used anywhere on the things falling apart at random intervals for no apparent reason.

Millions of units…and folks tend to keep ’em…thus, the parts are readily available and since there’s a robust aftermarket, they are generally not terribly expensive.

Note that this does NOT apply to engine parts if you happen to run…like I do…the massive 8.0 liter V-10. Ah well. Prices to be paid and all that…

One of the things that fail on 20 year old cars/trucks nowadays are the plastic headlights. The tend to turn yellow, blocking as much as 30% of your headlight’s output.

Since, on the occasions I task “Big Iron” for something, it’s typically critical, intense, and many times, at night, I decided I needed to do something about my yellowed headlights.

Choices are to polish or replace. Places that “do” the polishing tend to charge about $30 per side. There are kits available for the consumer to do it for about $30 (for both lights). The reviews on the polishing are mixed…they have to remove the “yellow”…but often it’s more than just on the surface, and then, they have to coat the thing with a clear UV sealant. Lots of folks report only marginal improvement and 1 or 2 years of service before it’s needed again.

In my case the decision was made easier when I closely examined my lights. “Big Iron” has been through the wringer lately…enduring a severe hailstorm ($10,000 worth of dents in a $4000 truck) and many, many recent miles in “difficult” conditions. Turns out one light was clearly broken (on the blinker) and the other is cracked in several places. Well…hail. New ones it is.

The decision is also made MUCH easier by the aftermarket. Quality, new, replacement light assemblies for gen 2 Dodge trucks can be found “on the cheap”. I got a set (both sides) for under $70 including shipping and tax. I could not have gotten them polished for that.

The new parts ARE DOT approved and indistinguishable from OEM (there are other styles available, often cheaper construction and not DOT approved). The new assemblies also came with a new headlight bulb and the locking ring that holds it in…that’s a heck of a deal…

New vs Old. Note the break in the blinker.

New vs Old. Note the break in the blinker.

First one installed:

One down, one to go.

One down, one to go.

Y’all might note that I “buffed” the oxidation off my plastic bumper cover working on the new light (passenger’s side)…this is because, really, that plastic needs to be removed for enough space to remove/install these lights. Unfortunately it’s that famous Dodge plastic and can’t be removed and replaced again as all the clips that hold it on will break attempting to remove it.

So I left the bumper cover in place and…uh…finessed the light in there.

I may replace the bumper covers…that cheap aftermarket again. It’s a $30 part. For now though, I’ve got the light in. I’ll put the other in tomorrow. (I had about 15 minutes of daylight before I had to leave for work).

On the other hand…I may just spray paint the bumper covers black…

I’ll see you on the road…and now…even if it’s night time!

Daniel Meyer

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wearyA balmy Texas fall morning…one of those that stirs the soul…and summons the demons…the predawn light and racing clouds adding an atmosphere of adventure…or perhaps menace…depending on my interpretation of it. It’s difficult…this morning….that my perception won’t settle for one or the other.

Warm, humid, almost tropical breezes wash over my skin, punctuated by the occasional pocket of cool, crisp air to remind me I’m still alive…or perhaps living is the better word.

Living. Not just surviving. That’s almost my mantra.

There are occasional days that is in question. They seem to come more often lately.

Both feet down, sitting lightly in the saddle…the big Valkyrie cruiser grumbling beneath me, I’ve stopped at the end of the street out of my neighborhood to survey the beginnings of rush-hour traffic.

Or so I tell myself. Something deeper is troubling me.

The cages pump along the arteries leading to the main-lines into the heart of the city. Streams of high-speed steel and plastic, piloted by sleep-deprived, distracted, and occasional malevolent drivers…and I have to make my way through all of it…right to the very core of the entity…so I can do my day’s work at an arbitrary location decreed by the people that believe I’m their chattel.

The world has progressed to the point where I can do my job…and do it well…from anywhere I can get a solid internet connection…but still…egos and empires and the requirement to demonstrate authority all combine to compel me to be at a particular location…at a particular time…on particular days…to do critical things that require neither the location or the time to be controlled.

Arbitrary people…doing arbitrary things…to render their arbitrary existence relevant.

I wonder if I’m one of them.

A moment of doubt. I don’t like doubt. It’s the destroyer of men…and the killer of souls.

What I do used to be important.

Is it still? Was it ever? Has the task become inconsequential? Or have I?

I used to know those answers.

I used to be sure.


There is a rhythm to this city…even in the chaos. Distinct and pervasive, yet masked by the seeming frenzy on the surface. Intricate…with a subtle back-beat, so subtle that few can sense it. Fewer still can grasp it. Most don’t realize it’s there at all.

The rider damn well better. High-speed annihilation stalks those that don’t.

I’ve paused because today…I’m just not feeling it. The why. The what. The where. They’re important…not just about the city but about my role here…and today I don’t KNOW.

They are related. Those rhythms. Mine and the city’s. One can’t be comprehended while the other remains unclear. They have to mesh…to work together…or the resulting composition is discord. Confusion.

Chaos and destruction reign where there’s confusion.


The rhythm breaks. Changes. A beat I’ve not heard before…and I wonder what it means. It matters…or it should…but there’s no more time for me to ponder it today. Understanding will have to come later…assuming there IS a later. Now I’ve reached the arbitrary time set by arbitrary people to strive to reach a place to do what I do…for reasons I can’t recall at just this moment.

I slap the motorcycle on the tank. “You ready babe?” and bang the battered machine into gear as I ramp up the throttle and wait for a gap in the stream.

Today she doesn’t answer. I find that disturbing.

Finally I shrug. The rythm will come later. Maybe.

As a break in the cages approaches I grin wickedly and yell at the cars, “How many of you bastards are gonna try to kill me today?”

As I pull out into traffic I try to ignore the quiet voice in my head that wonders, “And is today the day you’ll succeed?”

I’ll see you on the road.

Daniel Meyer

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