Dickens of a Blog

(November 2008)

If you want to comment, then you can contact me. I will post comments to the journal as soon as possible, unless you ask me not to share them.

December 01, 2008. Monday.

(10:05:28 AM CST)

I've Been (December 1st, 2008)

I've been working on a poem. Nothing super-duper yet, just a poem. Once, when I was broken hearted and lonely, I could write them super fast. I didn't really have a journal then, and would spend better parts of full days just walking and thinking to myself. Also, my life kind of sucked. I wrote a lot. It was a therapy, essentially. Now, I talk to people too much (customers!!!) and I have a loving wife and my life doesn't so much suck as not-suck, and so I never sit down in good old funks like I used to sit down in and I just don't write much. Nine times out of ten, when I do get in the mood, the poetry is a lot cleaner and better, but I sort of miss the moods. I wouldn't give up my life for it, but I do miss the moods.

Here is a brief sample, with line breaks removed: "The words spoke then age the same as white haired men, in long grey suits, Reading yellowed newspapers, unable to not feel old in the waking, Another day and eveything's changed in pretty much the exact way everyone expected, Quite surprisingly, And not just one man died but he did die and one man stood aside and quietly wondered."

I've been reading "Stationary Bike" by Stephen King and I am of mixed emotions. I bought his newest short story collection—Just After Sunset—largely for a chance to read it. I had picked it up as an audiobook at one point in time and found I mostly can't do audiobooks. I miss too much. They read too slow. The intro got my attention, though. Man is found to be overweight, starts exercising downstairs on a stationary bike. Creates this fantasy world to work in: imagines going down the road on said bike. His fantasies get out of control, and a mural he has painted of an idyllic road scene begins growing dark, changing beyond his control. His fantasy world turns awry...and this is where I stopped the audiobook. Now that I know what the ending is, I'm hoping the other stories end better. The ending is ok, maybe a C or C-, but much of the story sets up for something different. I have a couple ideas about how I would have went about it, but I'm not Stephen King so what do I matter? The book did get second place on Brian Keene's top horror books of 2008, mind you.

I've been listening to the BBC adaptation of Phantom of the Opera. They are playing it on BBC7, and if you are interested in it at all (note: this is not a Weber version, very little singing outside of the play-within-the-play and the Phantom is not all sexy-dark-anti-hero): you can listen to it here. The first part (of four) is going to be available through Sunday when the second part plays. There you go.

I've been watching the third (and presumably final) series of The IT Crowd. I'm still hoping this makes it to DVD in the States because I would adore a chance to support it. The first episode was funny, but a little behind the chuckle meter as far as the second series goes, while the second episode was one of the funniest ones in a while. I recommend them both, as well as the previous twelve episodes. As I have mentioned before.

Lastly, I've been talking to my brother Danny. Looks like he is going back off shore after losing his last job and most of the jobs drying up around Evergreen. Just wanted to wish him luck and for anyone else reading this who feels like doing the same, going off shore this time of the year is rough, and I'm sure he might need it.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 29, 2008. Saturday.

(11:38:42 PM CST)

Black Friday Injury? Radio! (minor Iron Bowl commentary)

Sarah has asked me to stop referring to Thanksgiving as "Black Friday Eve". I don't think that is going to happen. BFE is just way too catchy. I will, however, stop doing so with such a jocular term. Instead, rest assured that as I type the phrase "Black Friday Eve" out, I am shaking my head morosely with a lugubrious expression drifting over my face.

I may have earned my first legitimate Black Friday injury. Hell if I know what caused it, but yesterday after my shift my right food had a minor blister (which has healed) and my left foot felt sort of stiff around the toes. This morning, my left big toe (or big left toe?) was swollen enough to be unmoveable. Since this morning, it has ranged from really swollen to not so swollen and popping. I put some ice on it, took some pain killer, and will stay off of it tomorrow. I think it should be fine. It could range anywhere from a byproduct of standing so long (especially after I was already tired from the hike the day before) to kicking a box or display or something while walking by and not noticing. My bet is that I favored my right foot (or is that backwards?) because the blister was more noticeable than the stiff toe, and so put too much pressure on my left foot to relieve the slight ouch in the right. That, or martians. Have you heard of exsanguination, Scully?

Today, I picked up a tiny little AM/FM radio from Radioshack. I had a coupon. That's partly the reason. I've been dying to listen to NPR while going for walks or waiting at the mall. That's another part. Finally, I had a coupon. PS: I dig communication in all it's forms. It was this model which is fairly cheap (with batteries and the warranty, it was the price of a single CD from FYE) and seems durable, conservative power wise, gets fair reception (but without any little digital tidbits to clarify signal), and pocket sized. As I said, I went ahead and got the year warranty. This had two reasons. (a) I plan to take this hiking and camping. (b) I know workers get screamed at for not selling enough of them and I figured it might help the man to relax. He was fussed at, as it is, because his manager wanted to know why he was in the back getting a product. I'm sure there was some reason she asked that question. I just don't know what it was.

I know that radio is something of a dying art form, and it has mostly nailed it's own coffin shut and there isn't much to be said, but my love of old timey radio plays, NPR, British Broadcasting, and Shortwave Communication (which this device doesn't support) has inspired me to play around with it some. See what I can pick up. The Iron Bowl was also playing today and since I tend to get annoyed watching football, I thought it might be fun to listen in and try to follow a game that way. It turns out that it is about ten times better and I enjoyed listening to Auburn have the snot kicked out of them for a couple of straight hours. As a Tuscaloosa student, it warmed the cockles of my heart. 36-0, huh? HA HA HA HA. That does some to repeal the multiple trouncings UA has received at the hands of AU over the past few years. The crowd was cheering so loudly they were having trouble with the microphones.

Now that I have the radio, I need something to listen to. 730AM, which apparently broadcasts sports and possibly specifically UA stuff, came in kind of clear, but I'm still only about 4% interested in sports. NPR will get about 80% of my listening time, of course, but that leaves 16% or so to fill in. I know Huntsville has some AM presence, and a fair amount of FM presence, and I dug around until I came up with these search results for the 35816 area. Most of the mix seems uninteresting to me. Our talk stations seem to be Conservative in bent, which doesn't thrill me. In my experience, conversative-leaning news tends to be saturated with a strange mix of paranoia ("THEY ARE TAKING AWAY OUR RIGHTS!") and extreme egotism ("WE ARE PRETTY MUCH THE GREATEST!") that as a whole is nonsensical and in pieces pointless.

What I would adore would be something like an audiobook channel, or an American version of BBC7. Something that broadcasted Creative Commons music all the time, or allowed local groups to do more. I'm sure I'll find pieces of those as I surf.

Anyhow, enough of that rant. It is bed time.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 28, 2008. Friday.

(09:26:30 PM CST)

Black Friday and Black Friday Eve

I wasn't trampled to death today, like some people, so I'm going to consider today to be a win, though I did nearly take a picture of myself flipping off the world with a huge rant about people in general. I've decided against such childish behavior, so will sum it up with "Fuck you, you know who you are."

The sum-total of my Black Friday shopping consists of a sending Sarah for a single smoothie, a 2 GB micro-sd chip that allows Sarah to now take about 1500 pictures with her camera at a time, and being told by three stores that they do not have Looney Lab's Three/Ice House pieces but that they can order them. I suppose I will toss my support in behind Bookmark, who has long done me right and only done me wrong maybe twice, though the "GO! Game Kiosk!" or whatever it is called might win me business if they get them sooner.

My Black Friday working was a 8.5 hour love affair with the consumerist nation. Like most love affairs, it was mostly just a lot of back and forth that tired me out without really solving any existential crises. It went well, with most people polite and actually glad to talk to a salesperson that was friendly and not trying to shove a, excuse me while I vomit just thinking this gods-awful phrase, doorbuster down their esophagus. Towards the end, a few pissed-off types started surfacing, knocking a calendar around here, leaving a calendar there, or (usually) just flipping everything over and then walking off in a huff. That's all there is to say about that.

True fact. "Calendars", with an a is the thing you know and love. Well, not love, but stick on your wall so you can forget to turn them over, later. "Calenders", with an e, are, according to theFreeDictionary.com, "A machine in which paper or cloth is made smooth and glossy by being pressed through rollers."

Now on to a discussion of Black Friday Eve, which is a traditional day for carb-loading and eating lots of turkey to build up stamina for a long day of shopping. As most traditions go, such as the predominance of cranberry sauce which some believe represents the red-stickers retailers use to mark down prices, I'm sure it's origins are pretty much lost in time. Since Christmas trees, Christmas music, Christmas decorations, and Christmas sales have already started prior to Black Friday Eve, it is obviously a day of little importance; besides hampering the all important Christmas shopping by the annoying fact that most stores are closed.

BFE was spent doing two primary tasks, with a single subtask. The subtask was preparing a portion of a meal. I made green bean casserole, Cajun style, and a soup I referred to as Mushroom-Florentine, composed of mushrooms and spinach and tomatoes and butter with a bit of cumin and soy. Sarah made pumpkin pie (the night before) and peas and carrots. And these added to the meal made by Sarah's mom, a combination of roast beef, mashed potatoes ("Mash taters" in the vernacular), gravy, and bread. That made for a large, and mostly well-rounded, BFE-Feast. It was good, but by the time we ate it, the time was near 9pm and Black Friday loomed, so we didn't get to stay much afterwards.

The bulk of the day was composed by the as-of-yet unmentioned second task (the meal was the first). Sarah, Alicia, and I went hiking up on Monte Sano. Last year, the first annual "Black Friday Hike" occurred as a snub at commercialism combined with an attempt to burn off the mega-caloric BFE-Feasts the participants (a different three, with Sarah and I being the constant theme) had participated in the day before. This year, with my rear firmly fettered to the feverish shackles of Christmas shopping spirit, I was unable to to celebrate the second annual Black Friday hike on the holiday proper. Instead, I absconded from more traditional familial outings and moved the hike forward a day. I didn't really mention it ahead of time, because I assumed (yes, I know: mother, all, fuck ups) that most would be unable to dedicate five to six hours of their BFE family plans to hiking with mine and myself, and, by the end, neither did we three participate in a five to six hour hike. We participated in a seven hour hike. Who loves healthy calf muscles? Cows, that's who. Loving cows.

Without a lot of detail, the hike went something like this. Started a little after 8am. Scooted along all tickery-do through North Plateau until we got to Cold Springs, and then literally placed our lives in the hands of fate by walking down leaf covered rocks. This may sound trivial, but to such doubts I reply pithily: pppfffbbbht. It is kind of nerve-wrecking to feel your feet slip on ground that rolls with you from time to time, with no visual connection with anything to verify exactly what is going under the blanket of leaves. Cold Springs' big happy ending is some sort of cave with a stream. I know not where it is, so it's mostly just this trail, you know? The second happiest ending, to it, is the log bridge you can cross on. I enjoy such things.

Mountain Mist was next, with the highlight being a half-chewed opossum ('Possum, in the vernacular). Up a bit of Sinks and up some more around Logan's Point and up some more to the still mostly neglected Panther Knob. We picnicked, here.

True story. That's not a racist word.

Down from the Knob (yes, yes, that's what she said), we went through Stone Cuts over to Golan's Point (Knob, Peak, something) which is something of an unofficial trail but quite fun to walk because it's this quiet little ridge with a great view. This time, the view was even greater, because we saw a herd of wild goat. They looked quite healthy, and had a healthy fear of humans. I wish they didn't have that healthy of a fear, so I would have been able to see more of them, but they were pretty while they lasted.

To end the hike, we went down Sinks, down Mountain Mist, and then around South Plateau and left. This was in the neighborhood of 3pm. I think that's the whole of it. Total mileage? I don't know. More than one and less than a hundred? 5% chance of error?

It was fun, and tiring, and relaxing, and I wish we could have done it on Black Friday proper so others would have had a better chance of attending. Next year, I'm going to do what I can to make it happen so the third annual can feel like a more proper "screw you [and again, vomito] doorbusters!" That will fix them.

True fact: after Sarah left a tube of tennis balls in her mom's car today, her mom called her back. And, in a wonderful fashion that proves where my wife got her sense of humor from, giggled upon saying the phrase "You left your balls in my back seat." Ah, humor.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 25, 2008. Tuesday.

(10:49:07 PM CST)

Best Ignored Advice? Good Reads blurb, part 1. Intriguing picture. Yaoi lawsuit. Amanda Palmer. Cuddle Parties. Et cetera.

Here is a general question. I'll ask it a couple of times before I answer it, because I am thinking about it, but I want to hear your answer: What would you say the best piece of advice you have ever given that got ignored was? Interpret that question however you like.

Secondly, this is a general invitation for everyone to join Goodreads.com. It's a simple little website where you keep track of books you are reading, have read, review books, compare books, discuss books, and so forth. I am on it as wyrmis so feel free to add me as a friend if you do join, or have joined. I'll probably also return to this theme at a later date.

Another bit of randomness: tonight I came across the following picture. For some reason, it makes me giggle. Sure, the book choice could have been a tad bit better (in my opinion, especially the left-most one) but the contrast of facial expressions makes it worthwhile. I have no idea from whence it came originally, but I'm half tempted to track it down and see if I can get a print of it. I've been scoping a handful of literature themed print and poster places and have picked out some choices for my library. Anyhow, if you have any idea about this picture, I would appreciate:

'Twins' on a couch, contrasted in styles, one is reaching for the other's cookies

Now that I have those out of the way, let's get to the meat of me post. I read this morning, in Neil Gaiman's blog entry "...is nothing sacred?" about a man who is in trouble because he has yaoi pictures that aren't of children, but due to cultural differences and lack of body hair and whatnot, might be perceived of as children. I'm a bit agog at that, and for several reasons. First off, does this mean that men who date young looking women are in danger if someone assumes she is younger than she is? Secondly, I can understand wanting to crack down on kiddie porn, but surely the law has to recognize an honest and true difference between actual pictures of a seven year old girl and black and white line drawings of men who could be in their teens. Third, let's just say the man has an actual issue with wanting to look at younger men. If he is participating in a form that actually doesn't harm any child, that might prevent him from seeking out further images, isn't that potentially a good thing? I've not actually seen studies on this subject so I don't know, but I'm just guessing from the top of my head.

The second link of interest for me was the Amanda Palmer video at the bottom. Fun song to listen to, both similar and different from her Dresden Dolls stuff. But, in the middle, there is a repeated lyric about "Who needs love when we have law and order?" (or is that Law & Order?). "Who needs love when you have Southern Comfort?" The reason this line stuck out for me, besides the choice of Southern Comfort, is because I spent some time reading about Cuddle Parties (Wikipedia Entry) last night. There was an entry on BoingBoing (the video, including a wonderfully creepy toe sucking bit, seems to be down but maybe just un-embedded). Then a friend pointed out that if you search for Alabama on the "find a [Cuddle] party" page there will be on December 20 down in Montgomery. Of all places.

I'm...of mixed emotions. When it comes to cuddle parties. Toe sucking is right out, mind you, but in general as well. The idea of going and hanging out with complete strangers and just leaning against each other sounds like it could be fun in that "once in a lifetime" way. Also, I remember what it was like back in mid-2003 for me. Despite having a varied and nearly wild social life during that time, and quite tumultuous undertakings were afoot, there was this sensation that pretty much all human contact came at such a high cost. If I was holding someone's hand, it was a fight to get there. If I had the option to lounge around with strangers, then, I would probably have jumped at it. I wasn't lonely, I was just tired of how many strings had to be attached to everything I did with people.

Then, though, it seems to fix the problem of loneliness in the way that a whore does. It's something that you do and you plan for and you have a fun time doing it, but you end up walking away from it because it is over and the reasons that you felt the need for it to begin with are still there and you may have alleviated some stress but you have not banished it. Maybe they can be good in that you can learn to trust others, more, or you can make sure that when lasting contact does come, there isn't so much tension attached to it that it is potentially ruined. I don't know. I guess I say "go and be happy, I'll not judge". Unless you suck toes of strangers for "light physical bonding". Then, well, I kind of judge.

In the comments section of the BoingBoing entry is a link to the music video "Toe Jam" by The BPA featuring David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal. It's safe for work but you might have trouble convincing your boss of this (for this reason, I didn't embed it). It's a whole lot of fun. Imagine a bunch of sexy people stripping nude and then playing various games, except the video is a creative use of black bars to cover body parts. They enact a game of pong, play limbo, switch between covering nethers and breasties, and spell out words. It's kind of infectious. I guess I should pay attention to the words. If you don't like heavily implied nudity or a couple of dirty jokes, probably want to skip it. If you enjoy heavily implied nudity, well, there you go.

And, on the subject of Youtube videos, I want to send you over to this LJ entry (or you can view the video directly here) to watch a fun clip about fire dancing hula hoop style, shot and edited by a Huntsvilllian (right? nearbyish? visiting royalty, whatever he is...) for pretty much anyone who likes swirlimabobs and fire. Most of the people on my LJ are mutual friends with the original journal owner, I think, but just in case this isn't the case, it deserves to be shared (besides, non-LJ people who read this on my original site deserve to see it, too). I would say it's a fun video, but I've already said that twice now about other videos. It would turn into a cliche. It is pretty not un-fun, though.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 24, 2008. Monday.

(01:00:15 PM CST)

Kurt Vonnegut's "The Noodle Factory"

In my last post I bemoaned, as I often do, the fact that the book industry is starting to collapse in and so many in charge of it are still pushing flavors of the week (perhaps I should have said "weak" as a delightful malaprop) and turning bookstores into general stores with candy and cards and whatnots and whizits and waging wars against copyfighters and condemning ebooks into detrimental proprietariness. Things that don't seem to be helping. Well, recently, I came across a speech titled "The Noodle Factory", dedicating a new library, in Kurt Vonnegut's book Palm Sunday and it is all about the act of meditating with art and the decline of reading. Of course, it was written in 1976 which means that we have been declining for awhile or we are not declining at all and it just seems like it, but I figure the former is the truer case. At any rate, you can read a pdf of the whole thing [whole thing = four pages of speech, not the whole book] with the link above or you can just read the excerpt below, or you can head over to Amazon.com or your local library and try the whole of Palm Sunday which is a quite interesting read.

Ten percent of you may be wondering by now why I called this speech 'The Noodle Factory.' One hundred percent of me is delighted to explain:

It is very simple. The title is an acknowledgment of the fact that most people can't read, or, in any event, don't enjoy it much.

Reading is such a difficult thing to do that most of our time in school is spent learning how to do that alone. If we had spent as much time at ice skating as we have with reading, we would all be stars with the Hollywood Ice Capades instead of bookworms now.

As you know, it isn't enough for a reader to pick up the little symbols from a page with his eyes, or, as is the case with a blind person, with his fingertips. Once we get those symbols inside our heads and in the proper order, then we must clothe them in gloom or joy or apathy, in love or hate, in anger or peacefulness, or however the author intended them to be clothed. In order to be good readers, we must even recognize irony—which is when a writer says one thing and really means another, contradicting himself in what he believes to be a beguiling cause.

We even have to get jokes! God help us if we miss a joke.

So most people give up on reading.

So—for all the jubilation this new library will generate in the community at large, this building might as well be a noodle factory. Noodles are okay. Libraries are okay. They are rather neutral good news.

Si Vales, Valeo

(10:46:27 AM CST)

Ab irato! List of random annoying things!

Happy UnThanksgiving! I figure that literally hundreds of Americans will be thankful for things this year (e.g. Stocks are down to what they were a decade ago, so thank heavens that gas prices are the lowest they have been in, oh, three years!) and there is nothing wrong with that. Fact is, most of us still have the basic building blocks of civilization all around us: loved ones, enough calories to survive, reason, and entertainment. Things could be worse (we could run out of entertainment). However, today is not Thanksgiving day so I'm not giving thanks for anything. Instead, I'm giving unthanks to a handful of items. Most of them have come out of recent mall experiences, but not all of them. Enjoy, or unenjoy, whichever you choose.

(a) Whose brilliant idea was it to put high-fructose corn syrup in hamburger-dill pickles? Pickles? The American apotheosis of salty snacks? High-fucktose corn syrup?

(b) Why is it that so few people know the basic etiquette of "let the people currently on the elevator get off before you try shoving your way on"? Nearly every time I see the elevator in Madison Square Mall stop, I witness people stunned and shocked that they might have to wait for a few seconds to enter, some refusing to step back and resorting to such tactics as stepping over baby carriages and stuff in their weird confusion.

(c) Why the damned Christmas music in the mall? Why constantly? Who is that one person you are terrified of forgetting Christmas altogether, and how much could that person possibly be going to spend? And for the love of all fucking holy anything, why the damned Jackson Five Christmas album?

(d) Why do the same Yankees that make fun of us Southerners for drinking sweet tea drink even sweeter colas and why do these sweet tea mocking Yanks put artificial sweetener in their idiotic "diet tea"?

(e) In this world where $20 for a book is too much to spend (it might cut into a videogame or haircut budget), where Barnes & Nobles is suffering, where Borders is terminal, where Random House (only the biggest publishing house in the history of pretty much the world) is cutting pensions for its workers to make ends meet, where libraries are having funding cut due to lack of interest, where most of the most successful books are the least written ones and bookstores cling to them in desperation; why do we care so much about copyright that The Great Gatsby isn't available free to school children and French school children are fined for making their own translation of Harry Potter to share with their friends? No one is going to pay for books anymore, why the fuck do we want to punish those few sad suckers who are left who want to read them?

(f) Why does the phrase "Latin Rap" not mean what it awesomely should mean?

(g) Why do we constantly stop gays from having the right to marry to protect family values in a world where divorce is legal, adulterers aren't stoned to death, and parents are so removed from their children that they have no idea what they are surfing on the Internet and/or let their damned children tear up stuff in stores all the time? Don't puss out. Protect some damned family values if that's what you are up to.

(h) Finally, when did my fellow poor people become convinced that they were being rewarded for hard work? And when did we get to be the fat ones with all the damned addictions?

Si tu iratus es, iratus sum

November 23, 2008. Sunday.

(09:50:56 AM CST)

Bag of Links, The Sunday Before Thanksgiving Edition

I have a series of links that I have built up over the past week or so, figure I would share them with you, some of which have a vaguely thanksgiving theme.

I'll start with some book information. For some reason, Evany Thomas's The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couples Guide to the Thirty Nine Positions really caught my eye, and strikes me as something that several of my friends might be interested in thumbing through. It seems to be a book that is part-humorous, part-series about the various positions that couples sleep together and what it says about the relationship. Sarah and I usually sleep facing awa but with our feet touching. I wonder what that means.

Also, in the realm of books, is a twofer of Gaston Leroux's Joseph Rouletabille novels now available on Project Gutenberg: The Mystery of the Yellow Room (text only) and The Secret of the Night (text and html). Leroux is known essentially exclusively for writing The Phanton of the Opera in the States, and his version of the Phantom seems to be the least popular (most American readers seeming to prefer the conflicted, near-anti-hero of the Weber musical). If you get a hankering for old school mysteries with all their odd subplots, strange twists, and dark motifs, Leroux is fairly fun.

For lack of a better place to put this, here is the story of a man whose face is consumed by a twelve pound tumor. Vaguely lovecraftian images are inside. Seriously, the pictures are quite odd to look at; his face is essentially a series of lumps and folds now and looks like a mask. Bonus content: a discussion of Jehovah's Witnesses and their laws against accepting someone else's blood, and ways surgeons are working to get around such issues.

Not really a good segue, but an interesting thing nevertheless: the dead parrot sketch of Monty Python fame (pining for the fjords) has an ancient Greek "dead slave" forefather.

Then there are these, more directly related to Thanksgiving in general. You have the clip getting tons of attention on Youtube.com right now, in which Sarah Palin gives an interview while turkeys are being slaughtered in the background. It's safe for work, but depending on how well you deal with animal slaughter might not be safe for your soul. It is surreal, and seems to be even further proof that Chris Morris is somehow in control of the universe. You can't help but picture him saying "mmmmmm....JAAAAAAMMMMMMMM" at some point. A lot of people seem to be angry at her, which is nonsense. Where the poop do you think dead turkeys come from? I personally have my beef (pun kind of intended) with the guy in the background, who keeps nodding at the camera and looking confused and apparently stops slaughtering a turkey half way through to enjoy the interview more. And who planned that shot when ten feet to the right would have no included the slaughter. No, that was intentional (note the fact that she says this is more lighthearted than politics, meaning this is a "statement). Which made it funny and/or horrifying. I laughed, but then I'm a bastard.

Assuming that PETA would be all up in arms about it and calling for her slaughter (they disappointed, at least as of yesterday) I went over to their because I adore their random extremism and oft-hypocrisy. Well, not adore. You know what I mean. What I did find made me far more happy? An unauthorized Cooking Mama ripoff called "Mama Kills Animals" which features gross-out gameplay including bloody eggs, plucking a diseased looking turkey, making gibblet gravy and so forth. Straight propaganda for kids, no doubt about it. You can apparently download it. Awesomme.

Let's round out the links. How about these two? 7 Food Myths [most of which I haven't heard of] that the Internet thinks is true because it made me chuckle, a little. Finally, the cutest and most depressing youtube.com (hosted on fark) clip around: the inevitable WTF of a dog whose best friend is an older duck. You really, REALLY, have to stick around for the "surprise" twist. You are allowed to hate me afterward. I'm ok with that.

Be thanksful!

(09:01:09 AM CST)

Off-trail hiking. Being in a horror movie plot. Injuries.

Yesterday, Sarah and I went hiking. Our original plans are something mute (not moot, which would be nonsensical) because there was some sort of marathon-like event being held on the trails: The Dizzying Fifties. This seemed to mean that North Loop, South Loop, Mountain Mist, and Sinks were out. Since most of the trails use those trails to connect, that pretty much meant most of the trails were out, unless we wanted to backend around to Panther Knob and Stone Cuts or something. I promised Sarah, instead, to do McKay Hollow. Since once side is semi-independent (it crosses, but does not join into, North Plateau) and the other side requires exiting through South Plateau, I figured we would take the semi-independent side (which is the sheerer hike, anyhow) and go down it and then, after maybe playing around on some of the lower trails that lead off the mountain, come back up it.

This plan lasted about as long as it took us to start hiking, and then an odd idea struck us. Had it turned out for the worst, that odd idea might be labeled as from "the imp of the perverse". It turned ok, though, so it is mostly a questionable idea. The plan was to start off at the little water-drop shelf near the top of McKay Hollow and then follow the dried stream bed down, as opposed to the trail. We knew the trail passed by the stream at some point, so it would eventually meet back up. At the start, the dried stream bed looked fairly safe to travel, and it sounded like a fun way to mix it up.

Over the next two hours, we picked our way down slowly and usually carefuly, of old rocks and mud and leaves. Most of the time, it was perfectly safe, especially during the first half. It was just a matter of taking time and lowering yourself down over some short (two to three foot at the most) ledge. A few problems would occur when leaves would obscure gaps in rock, or would cause rocks to be slippery, but they were generally minor. The big turning point was the midway mark: the dead waterfall.

Two dried up stream-beds came together at the dead waterfall, which was now a dry, mostly clean and smooth rock face that led up to a drop off of about twenty feet. It makes for interesting scenery, in that you can sit on it and picnic on it or possibly even camp on it due to it's fair flatness and nice view. It also marks the part where a bit (and only a small bit of danger) interjects into a hike down becuase you have to hop off a six or so foot ledge to sloped ground below. I nearly hurt myself because the backpack sort of hung up on the rock, and my foot got nice and wedged on this bit of wood that was sticking out, and between the two it essentially jammed me into the thing. I had to take the backpack off while holding myself up with one arm and then jerk my one leg up and over.

Shortly after the dead waterfall is a series of runoff troughs: smooth, high angled rock with little debris on them. The traction on my boots was effectively gone, and so shortly after starting down this I began to slide and only had a few spots where I could stop. I took a few bruises here but eventually chickened out of sliding over the drop of several feet (the angle probably wouldn't have hurt me, actually). Then came the last bit of rock scrambling. It was much like the first bit, except the rocks were a lot looser (and several times would pitch with me, or break off at the edges and cause footing to go out from under me). Most of my injuries were sustained here, which I am about to discuss.

Due to a rock coming out of the mud and causing my food to slide into a jagged crack and twist, slamming my left knee hard into a large rock on the side, I received a bruise and a knot on my left knee as well as soreness in my left hip. Due to a rock that broke off while I was lifting myself over an edge, which then popped up and came down on my hand, bending it backwards, I have a stiff thumb. Due to leaves disguising a gap in the rocks, my foot got twisted up and my right foot is a bit stiff. Overall, though, not that much in the way of injuries. A few other bumps left me sore and bruised yesterday, but have more or less faded today. What would have been the worst injury of all was caused my right foot snagged on the endge of a rock and I was pitched forward. What stopped me smashing shoulder first and chest soon after into some rocks below me was because, at this very time, my walking stick became wedged into a rock and this caused it to catapult back into my chest and stop me. After that incident, we sat down and gave it a few before continuing.

After this was all said and done, we ended up finding the trail with absolutely no problem (in fact, we started walking on the trail for a few seconds before we realized that we were). Going back up McKay is a good work out, and a couple of times I had to stop because my left leg (which took the bigger beating) was hurting and my right leg (which was having to make up the difference) was starting to wobble. I got some liquid and some food in me and about half the way up had enough energy that we made it the rest of the way (about 300 feet of elevation change) without stopping except for a few seconds at a time to admire a view or talk about something. That's not bad for an out-of-shape American, about thirty flights of stairs and not even that winded afterwards.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was finding the five rusted out steel drums that were partially buried at various places down that stream bed. Whatever they had been used to store was long gone. It's like a perfect scene from a horror movie. Some chemical lost from decades past, a young couple heading down a trail that hasn't been travelled in years, no one knowing exactly where they went. Etc. I fully believe that if our picture had been taking at the onset, the living dead and/or mutant bears would have attacked us (and the "and" in that sentence is terrifying). I actually have no idea about those barrels. Anyone could have dumped them. They may have been put there to act as artificial burrows for animals. They may have been filled with toxic waste illegally stashed on public land in a place it was assumed no one would explore. They may have had some chemical that was meant to keep mosquitoes down. They may have been brought down as a place for party-goers to build a fire in. Most of them were near the stream, which also says that they may have been together and during some strong rains and winds of years past they were washed down and ended up in different points. I assume they were waste containers (in at least they, themselves, were waste) that were tossed out with the assumption that no one would ever look, but that seems awfully foolish considering how close to the main trail we really were, and don't they offer primitive camping up there? Which means people heading off the main trail to set up campsites?

Anyhow, we survived, thought it was touch and go in a couple of places. And no mutant bears. At least none that attacked us.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 20, 2008. Thursday.

(10:45:50 PM CST)

Bug. Government. Taxes. Painters of Light. Whole Shebang.

Sarah and I went to see Bug tonight (ze Vikipedia Articul). That's the play, not the movie. I've not seen the movie. I've seen bits of the movie, but not the movie. Kind of like if you read a piece of a book, you haven't read the book. If you just touch pieces of her, you haven't touched her, that sort of thing. The play was put on by Renaissance Theatre which I know next to nothing about except where it is located, how looks on the inside, and that it has a website. And, when leaving, people will hit your car with their car, and drive off. Don't know who did that, but it would have been polite to stop. I'm sure it only happens on rare occasion, but it has happend 100% of the time I have attended. Take it for what it's statistically worth (read: not much).

I consumed candy and soda after leaving because I was too drained. Now I'm too [insert the opposite of drained]. Spastic. No, that makes me sound like colon. Jittery? Yeah, we'll go with that.

Tickets are $12. I don't know how to segue from that to something else, so I won't. The play utilizes only one scene, and five characters, with most the screen time dedicated to two: Agnes and Peter. Agnes's life is in a downward spiral. Well, damn near rock bottom, really. She is terrified of her ex-husband. She lives in a ratty motel room in Alabama. She mostly hangs out with a friend who is prone to drama and scrapes enough money to drink booze and smoke all day. One night her friend brings over Peter, a strange, off-putting man who is quiet and speaks cryptically. Agnes is drawn to him, and invites him to stay. He talks about being able to see things that others don't pick up on and apologizes for bringing her into it. Agnes's ex-husband shows up and becomes quickly abusive and assertive. He confronts Peter, which leads to a long series of confessions between Peter and Agnes. They end up sleeping together and that night Peter finds a bug in the bed that Agnes can't see at first, but she begins to see them everywhere, too. From then on, the play is about their continued descent into insanity as well as their desperate love for one another and fear of everyone else.

The acting at first was a little stilted, and the timing of effects was a bit weird, but as the plot strengthens, the acting did as well and by the end the actor playing Agnes (alas, I seem to have left the program in the car so you'll have to forgive me for not naming names) scored several emotional hits and Peter, who took some warming up, started to blend intelligence and insanity into his diction just right. The direction is good, especially the "montage" scene that helped speed the whole thing towards its end. I recommend seeing it, but it's essentially a story about how these people lives bottom out without any real hope for redemption, so keep that in mind. It's not a thing that you enjoy, it's a thing you appreciate. There are only two more showings (Friday and Saturday).

Let's see, other odd things. An LJ friend posted a link to a quiz (LINK TO QUIZ!) about civic literacy. In other words, history and economics and politics. I got 31 of the 33 correct. I submit this, however, under protest because one of the ones I got wrong (#33) I did so because of the way the answer was worded. However, the other one I merely looked at it wrong and failed to note a distinction I should have. If you go and look at the findings, though, there are some horrible things. A lot of people don't know basic American concepts, and usually the "citizens at large" beat out the "elected officials" taking the test.

For those not in the know, one of my big concepts of change I'm likely to push if I ever run for political office is revamping the school system so that it requires economics, civil history, constitutional law, and logic/rhetoric in order to pass high school. Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic is a bad, bad standard. Especially when the most direct use of public schools should be creating citizens that understand how their own government works. A small ratio of us use math or science above a certain degree (by the way, we should retain these, I'm not saying replace them) but we tend to live constitutional law, civic history, logic, and the like.

To end my ramble of the day, just three things. One, those people at the Miracle of the Dead Sea kiosk are amazingly annoying. One grabbed my hand today and tried pulling me toward the kiosk (along with a joke about "How many wives do you have, sir?"). Two, when I was walking around with some fliers, some guy thought I was handing out resumes, and apparently was almost ready to hire me on the spot. When I walked off he got agitated and ended up finding me downstairs to just glare at me.

Now, for this last bit of news, you might want to sit down. Of course, you probably are with the whole "surfing the net" thing, but just in case, lean on something really hard. Brace yourself. Ready? Thomas "Painter of Light" Kinkade (Wiki) is coming to Huntsville this Sunday!!! I'm sure the Wiki has a link to some personal page with info. I bring it up mostly to be silly, but for those who want to (a) heckle or (b) tell a grandparent, there you go. I mostly find it funny, because I can't help but ask "Wonder what he's going to piss on in Huntsville?" That, and I know most of my friends either hate him or couldn't give a rat's ass if it was made of stale caramel. There are people that just adore the man, though. Oh, he has some movie coming out? I have no idea...awesome, maybe?

Si Vales Valeo

November 19, 2008. Wednesday.

(11:49:07 PM CST)

Sex Survey Thingie (For Some Reason)

So, this "sex" survey thing is going around except it is about 26 question on sex, and others that aren't. Which is weird. With that many questions on sex, it seems that the whole point is to be about sex, and someone wussed out. I wussed in, however, and brought us back to topic, more or less.

1. Is there anyone on your friends list you would ever consider having sex with? Yes. In fact, there is one that I do have sex with. Outside of that, I'm...I mean, how much money are we talking about? All at once or payment plans? Freebies, however? Sure, why not. Like, I don't know, three people?*

2. Sex in the morning, afternoon or night? Um. Well, someone's not a morning person. And someone goes to bed early. And let's just say someone's porridge is just right, and leave it at that.

3. On which side of the bed do you sleep? Widdershins from the head.

4. Pork, beef, or chicken? What does this have to do with sex?

5. Have to pull over on side of road to puke? After sex? During? What? There are signs to slow it down, to live at least a little less la vida kinky, and this is one of them.

6. Have you ever taken your clothes off for money? No, but I've paid people to watch me take my clothes off**.

7. Shower or bath? Shower is definitely a better place to have sex. Bath gets all splashy.

8. Do you pee in the shower? HAHAHA, ewwww. Ixnay on the oldengay owersshay.

9. Mexican or Chinese? That's racist. And definitely Chinese.

10. Do you want someone aggressive or passive in bed? Um. Hmmm. Moderate is sort of my option. Agressive leads to bruises and deep scratches. Passive leads to the sensation of despair. Passive aggressive leads to "Are you sure, dear? Tonight? Are you up to it?" being used as a weapon meant to make you question your masculinity (or so I have been told).

11. Do you love someone on your friends list? I'll repeat my answer to number 4: What does this have to do with sex?

12. Do you know all the people on your friends list? I don't know who is on my friend's list, much less whether or not I know them.

13. Love or money? ...do you mean am I gay?

14. Credit cards or cash? What kind of prositute takes charge?*** Cash!

15. Has there ever been anyone in your family you wish wasn't? See nos. 4 and 11. Except I could assume you mean "So that they would then be available for lovings?" Before I answer "Yes" to that, keep in mind this is Alabama, and that is moot point.

16. Would you rather go camping or to a 5 star hotel? Latter. I like roughing it with my honey, but getting honey in the rough sounds like no fun.

17. What is the weirdest place you have had sex? I...don't know this one. I mean, I assume I do know, but I'm not sure. I guess I'll leave it up to these eight words: Monte Sano. Teenagers behind us. Got nervous, they.

18. Would you shave your entire body (including your head) for money? I like the "including your head" part, like that's what this question is really about. My wifey doesn't quite go for the newborn baby look, hence the reason she is married to a fairly hairy, bearded guy. No. Lot's of cash? Yes.

19. Have you ever been to a strip club? I don't think so.

20. Ever been to a bar? Yes? Sex bar? No. The Rectum? Are you La Tenia?!

21. Ever been kicked out of a bar or a club? Not for having sex.

22. Ever been so drunk you had to be carried out of somewhere? I've...no

23. Kissed someone of the same sex? I think so, but never with feeling...ladies.

24. Favorite drink? Eww?

25. Had sex in a movie theater? Only if you count that gods-breath long orgy at the beginning of the second Matrix movie. We all had slow, awkward sex with Keanu Reeves that night.

26. Had sex in a bathroom? Yes, but nothing involving a toilet, because eww. Except, well, no. I mean, ixnay on the blumpkin-eww, ok?

27. Have you ever had sex at work? Never while I was on the clock...at least...no, I signed out first.

28. Have you ever been in an "adult" store? Of course not, those things offend the good, sweet citizens of Alabama.

29. Bought something from an adult store? Yes. But rarely anything that would involve me. Directly...involve, me. I mean, I would presumably be in the same room.

30. Have you been caught having sex? Thin walls. Loudish...moments. Yes. Visible confirmation? I...don't know. I think not, but my friends are perverts.

31. Does anyone have naughty pics of you? I don't know. And that's scary to me.

32. Have you ever called someone the wrong name during sex? I don't say names during sex because my mind, as expansive as he or she may be, is a dick of the most magnanimous caliber and would love to share fun for everyone.

33. Who do you think has the guts to repost this? You know who you are.

Si Vales, Valeo

*: I may or may not have stated a specific number just to make Sarah get curious. The actualy number may or may not be lower...ladies.

**: I'm talking about a doctor. Cold hands. Good bedside manner.

***: I'm strangely ok if they accept Paypal. "Do you wish to send funds to bum2gob_cindy@irishwhores.net?"

(11:18:35 AM CST)

Lost Dreams, Irreversible, Odd Mood Swings

There was a post about a dream I had, involving trying to find two orphans that I felt an attachment toward, and the ups and downs of investigating in a dream world where common sense is hard to find. It was lost, because I apparently didn't save it and just had it up in edit mode when the power went out last night. It's probably for the best, there wasn't much to be said for it. I just posted it to my journal for record keeping because it was one of those dreams that had a sense of vividness to it. It also had what could be construed as far more of an ending than most dreams.

The power outage hit, what?, about 2am. Maybe 3? I woke up to the sound of silence and darkness, and didn't really think much of it. Until Sarah tapped me and said the power was out. I realized, then, that I had noticed the power being out and had mostly assumed "c'est la vie". The absolute cutest thing for anyone who has read The Road was when I heard a couple of muffled thumps and saw a flash of light come through our curtain. Still don't know what that was, possibly a neighbor coming out to see with a flashlight? Maybe a transformer blowing? Lightning? Anyhow, my response to that was largley "c'est la vie" as well, or maybe I should say "c'est la fin du monde".

This morning, I've had a hard time waking up. I'll get to why in a bit. That's going to be a joke, since I'm going to talk about something that happened first, last. You won't get the joke for a moment.

I watched Irréversible this morning (IMDB.com entry, Wikipedia entry). This might have been to remind me why I hate the world. This was mostly to remind me why I hate French films. Hate is a strong word, and it is not universally true. I enjoy several French movies. However, my enjoyment of a French film is inversely proportional to the square of the frankness (pun intended?) of sexuality in a French film. When French films take a "frank look at sex" it often involves teenagers getting raped, incest, genitalia mutilation, sadomasochism, and, in one memorable instance, poo-eating. The eating of poo. You don't get more frank than that. I digress, horrifically. Let me start again.

I watched Irréversible, again. It's a right bastard of a fillum. Without going into much in the way of spoilers, the film is about revenge, except it starts out with the aftermath of revenge. Then it shows the revenge. Then it shows the build up. Then it shows the build up to that. Then it shows the attack. Then it shows what led up to the attack. Then it shows what led up to people being so fucked up that they were in a position to lead up to an attack. Then it shows you some sweet loving scenes. And, look, how happy the couple are.

By reversing the footage, you get the one thing the film does well. It robs you of the standard process of digesting a film. Normally you start with a happy couple. You see some breakdown in their machine. They have a fight. Something is exposed. Then the horror hits and you realize that you should be on the look out for horror at any given time. This movie, though, starts out showing all of the horrible imagery and then moves backward, and shows you how happy the couple was before great douchery got involved, and ends at this tremendously loving scene and you go and gouge out your eyes because you realize you just let a French movie make you hate yourself and the world around you. It, of course, suffers from the same basic problem that a movie that plays in forward suffers from. You lose a sense of the sweetness in the standard plot. By time the horror happens, you have somewhat left the beginning behind. That is true, here, too. By the time the sweetness occurs, you've kind of forgotten horror. It doesn't help that the director shoots the beginning scenes (that happen later in the timeline) in a different sort of style than the ending scenes, it feels almost like two movies that meet up at a party, one is a drama and the other some sort of splatterpunk film.

At the core of the movie is an extended anal rape scene. Single take, nine minutes or so. With much brutality following. Alot of the debate about the movie centers around this scene (as pretty much the movie itself does, I haven't checked but I think that scene is about dead center). People fight over whether the scene is realistic, too much, silly, effective, and all other sorts of adjectives you would hope you would never have to apply to any phrase involving "extended anal rape". For my two cents, it's a wastrel of a scene, an interloper that tries to make it too real. It feels, to me, like a couple of actors trying to bring this horror to life but being actors with it. There is just something off with the motion, the reaction. When you force a camera to shoot such a scene, with two people who are not actually having that happen to them, you expose little bits that make it feel unreal. The violence afterwards feels more real, but even that has a certain quality that frustrates because it tries to be real when obviously it isn't. The most heart rending portion of the scene is when a witness comes up, and then sees what is going on, and runs off.If I was the director, I would have shot it from the viewpoint of the witness. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe that's the most realistic scene ever, but it just seems to me that a shortened version that didn't try and go for realistic and went more for immediate reaction would have been more effective. Had they removed the scene in it's entirety, the movie would have worked about as well. The horrors we can't imagine often outspeak the ones we can, and this seems true of film. Violence must be tightly controlled and realism must be tightly held in check, or it forces the audience to pay too close of attention, and things go awry.

Anyhow, my view of the movie hasn't changed much from the first viewing. I'm still slightly unsure why anyone would want to watch it, outside of existential debates about the futility of happiness, and on top of that most of the acting didn't quite work for me this time and the camera work (with the exception of the scene where she walks into the tunnel) just never quite worked. You know what they say, les visionnements de répétition détruisent tout.

Yesterday was a weird day. I had at least two bouts of odd mood swing. I guess it's just something built up that I had to get off, because I do feel better today. Almost too relaxed, even. Last night, while washing dishes, I became so irritated at this little Tupperware type thing (it refused to sit in the washer properly) that I snatched it up from where it was wedged and tossed to the a side. I heard the sound of plastic cracking, and when I picked it up there were a couple of breaks in it. I then smashed it to the floor a couple of good times and shattered it. I was quite furious at the time (one has to be to be able to smash Tupperware to bits).

Earlier, getting on the bus to come home, I heard the woman in front of me asking about the Space and Rocket Center. I felt this urge to point out to her that we were on the Number 4 (University/Wal-mart) Loop but she was wanting the Tourist Loop, which met on the other side of the mall. Except I wasn't sure that's exactly what she asked, and I wasn't 100% sure what time it was and if she would be able to find the other entrance without missing the bus anyhow (going to the transfer station and then taking the Tourist Bus would definitely work, except that she would have to wait for nearly an hour). I kind of felt like I should have gotten back off and then walked her and her friend to the other side and made sure they got on, but I didn't becuase I was tired and felt out of it and wasn't 100% what she had said or the other things. Then I felt like crap for an hour. I'm now mostly over it, but I still kind of wish I had at least said something. Even if she didn't have time to make it to the Tourist Loop on the other side of the mall, then waiting in the mall might have been preferable to waiting at the visitor center (or maybe not). I don't know.

Puny human emotions.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 17, 2008. Monday.

(02:51:18 PM CST)

Questionably Handling of Documents, Answer to Student Loan Question

"and some great bellies ache with many bumblebees, and they sting so terribly"

I'm resting up after work, which was actually kind of a restful shift today. My legs are a tad bit tired from a 4 mile hike yesterday, but nothing major. I mostly feel good to have moved about in a way that wasn't largely standing still. In the way of all retail shifts, and hydrogen atoms, the day was a mixture of activity and empty space. Today the space was a bit wider than activity, and last shift the activity was a bit wider than the space. I'm sure there is some formula.

Probably the cutest incident to occur today was being handed a packet of information designed to help "specialty" retail do well during the season. It had a handful of tips (I want to say 25, but that might be a certain subconscious Christmas link bubbling up) that were sure to drive business. That's the term used when retailers talk to retailers about increasing profits. I suppose it implies that the retailer is the ultimate controller of how well business does. It implies a state of activity, as opposed to the traditionally perceived inter-/re-active business in which the customer's desires set the basic flow. You do not sell stuff, you drive the business. You do not fill a need, you create one. Et and Cetera.

The humor largely came out of the message of the packet, which was clearly meant for managerial ears. There were such gems as "hire often and fire often to bring focus to heavy volume sellers", "enforce breaks because it helps the worker to smile more", and "forbid eating in the work place because customers do not feel comfortable disturbing workers". A fair amount of the paper was how upselling increases customer satisfaction because they get products they did not know they even wanted. What proof is offered for this? "Survey after survey shows customers prefer knowledgable workers." That's right, the logic goes that people who upsell and suggest add-ons know their product, therefore customers are happier buying things they did not want because it convinces them they bought from someone who knows product. Bullshit? The truth? Honestly, a little bit of both. And I do agree with the statement that customers often don't ask for help even if they need it and sometimes letting them know you are there is a necessary icebreaker.

The bit about demonstrations made me laugh, though. "Teach your workers to give demonstrations." I would love to see that one put into place. "With this wondrous device, you can literally tell what the date is!" Somehow, though, thinking about it, calendars strike me as one of those devices hard to explain if the person doesn't already get it. "What if I don't know what day of the week it is? What if I'm confused by how many weeks the month has already had?" That's an awesome question, by the way. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to use the calendar if you don't currently have the information the calendar gives you?

Enough of that. I got back home and found that the number 718-475-3725 called me about 8 billion times this morning, and 12 billion times last week. That's hyperbole, but they had called about every two hours from the hours of 9am through maybe 5pm since sometime last week. I mostly haven't been there to get the call, so I've not been ignoring them so much as ignoring them. Meaning that I haven't been skipping out on answering them so much as not paying attention to the random number calling five times a day and not leaving a message. Today, though, a call came through when I was here and so I looked it up. Turns out it's another student loan collection agency, which I wrote about some problems with a few weeks back. I called them and asked them what was up, and they told me that they had been looking for a Michael Chiles. I don't know who that is, and I know he hasn't had this phone number for nigh on 4 years, and I told them that. They apologized and said they wouldn't call again. I'll wait and see how that works.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 12, 2008. Wednesday.

(09:31:02 PM CST)

Educashional Fillums. Crack in Space.

I'm currently downloading about 600 meg of educational films, what could be politely called "propaganda films designed by fringe groups, supported by tax payer dollars, and shoved unto children via class room environments" except that doesn't make a good acronym. PFDBFGSTPDSUCVCRE. PuhFiDbifig...you get the point. This is inpsired partially by by this Cracked.com article and more specifically by this clip they link to in the article. You need to wait for the last few seconds of dialogue. It makes it all worthwhile:

Ok. I lied. It either crushes your soul or exposed it as a dark, shriveled mass that laughs at bad jokes. I choose "B", by the way. Maybe you will, too.

Telling frumpy women to pretty themselves up so I can feel like a human, aside, the other weird thing of the day was me reading through Philip K. Dick's Crack In Space (man, that's an unfortunate flow of words). The reason I read it is because it is unnerving. Written in 1966, it talks about the first black president (what the book refers to as "Cols"). While not necessarily prescient in and of itself, so many of the side quotes are scarily similar. Claims that he is trying to drive good white people out of jobs. The realization that he has inherited a lot of problems and so will have to spend his entire term, if he gets in, trying to fix others mistakes. His opponents already playing the game of "if it works, it was the last guy's idea, if it doesn't work, then it's your problem". Last minute crisis changes everything. Attacks on empty rhetoric. People jumping on him before he even takes office for things that he should fix. Discussions of assassinations. The questions of how to get resources to people who don't have any. What is also kind of crazy is the political parties. You have Republican-Liberals and States-Rights-Conservative-Democrats, which sounds backwards until you play out what the words actually mean. Republican implies you believe the government should oversee the people, not be directly influenced by it. Which party seems to make those claims? Democrat implies you are a populist movement who is direclty working for the little man. Which party makes those claims?

Even though it's climax is one of the worst in any PKD book I have read, the build up to it is one of the best. Humans are desperately overpopulated and they find a tear in space that leads to a new world. They start making plans to go over and waken up their millions of cryogenically frozen citizens. Except the world is inhabited. When a technological gaffe occurs, the plans start crumbling.

Interesting book which disturblingly mirrors the rhetoric of the recent election, enough to give me a sense of deja vu.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 11, 2008. Tuesday.

(10:56:34 PM CST)

More pics from the concert, other random notes about "Let the Right One In"

Found out from my sister-in-law that there was at least a brief "Meet and Greet" after the concert for fans that has bought the CD. That sucks that we missed it. Maybe for the best in that it would have largely played out as us waiting in another line for who knows how long to get a CD hastily signed and a couple of polite greetings exchanged, and then would have sat out for home an hour more exhausted and still without a good plan on how to get out of the city and not knowing if our car had been towed by shady dealings. Still, though, suck. However, we had a bass pick personally thrown at us. I think that wins in many ways.

Alicia posted the "rest stop" pictures. My favorite one is below, but mostly because it is obviously an "action shot" but the action makes almost no sense. Is Alicia about to pounce Sarah? Is Sarah being blasted sideways by a psychic blast? Does Sarah really have to pee? Is Alicia terrified of the camera? How is Sarah maintaining her "photoshoot smile" in the midst of all of this? And so on. I will just leave you with the teaser and work on putting them in a photo gallery or something later:

I'm almost done reading Let the Right one In. If you are, like me, mostly concerned with vampires when they are honest to damned goodness vampires, and none of this frilly little things, then you might like the book. If you also like your horror novels to be as much about the despair of the human condition (remember the quote: "Horror is the new punk.") as boogeymen, then you might like this novel. If you want to be creeped out by Sweden, then this is a one stop masterpiece.

It seems that, in America, vampires have divided into three rough groups and all of them trade power for social coherence. You have your Matheson derivatives, in which there are tons of vampires who tend to cling together in tribes or rough groups and have some sort of tribal structure but are largely beatable by kids or really determined old men and are backed down in fun ways (holy water condoms, chopstick crosses, etc). Your second group is your Rice derivatives. These tend to dominate right now. They are hot, sexy vampires who are mostly about bemoaning their condition while playing complex political games. When they feed, it causes sexual desire in their victim. Roughly half of them are good guys who only feed on bad people or feed so little from their victims that they keep the relationship going for years. They almost always require their victim to also drink their blood to transmute the curse (and it is almost always a curse, as opposed to biological infection). Last you have the Elrod derivatives, who are solo vampires trying to fit with society at large, usually by being a detective or reporter. At some point in time, a loved one will get mortally wounded, and questions about the morality of saving them by infection will come up.

Yet the core of the vampire mythos in the west is still the concept of an extremely powerful, very evil being who stays alive because he or she is ok with sacrificing hundreds of lives for their own. Yes, there are sex and social concepts in early vampire novels, but old school vampires are a force of death. Crops wither in their presence. People become distraught for no apparent reason. Babies are born deformed. A single vampire will require a group of dedicated hunters who can resist their traps, their games, and their lure. I'm not saying all vampire novels need to be like this, but it's fun to finally read a novel that actually treats them as something to be feared as opposed to something that is designed to make girls giggle (or to make boys picture killing en masse in a run down bar south of the border).

What is interesting, considering Twilight's and Anita Blake's current hold on the genre, is that Let the Right One In is also largely about a love story of sorts, and in many ways a heartbreakingly sweet one, except it is a twelve year old boy who is bullied at school, and the vampire he falls in love with, despite outward apperances as a enigmatic twelve-year old girl, is something that kills and kills bloodily. Whether she does it willingly is something to be read or watched (the movie is coming out, watch the redband trailer to see more, if you want).

(09:39:12 PM CST)

Random Links Post!

I've picked up a few links, here or there, and figured I would share some with you.

(1) "This is what I always do. I'm like, O.K., God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door." Warning: Folksy Language Ahead! Bonus: What Palin really thinks of Barack Obama and the year 2012.

(2) Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought it could happen to me. Then the bitch walked in, gorgeous blonde with red-tips, big brown eyes, long legs, firm stomach, and a tail that just wouldn't quit. She practically backed me into a corner. Warning: That last line is a quote from the article. Also: Bestiality. Also: Jesus H. Christ at the "lovingly stroking the bitches' teats" quote. Bonus: hot homo sapeiens blonde at the bar to the right. Worst (or best) pic to article match-up ever?

(3) Hello. My name is Franz Reichelt. I built this proto-type bat cape thing that would enable me to fly before Batman was even born. Then I jumped off the Eiffel Tower. I died. Bonus: 5 other folk including "hold your Wee for a Wii" woman and the man who tried to demonstrate that a window 24 stories off the ground would take him slamming into it. Warning: TWICE! HE SLAMMED INTO IT TWICE!

(4) Kill Zombies Old Arcade Style. Warning: LOUD. Bonus: Um...see link?

(5) Sure Obama is ahead in the polls, but doesn't the Bradley Effect pretty much dictate that his single point lead will actually turn into a victory for McCain? Or is this a case where, for the first time ever, polls are amazingly accurate? Nah, must be a "McCain Effect" where people say they will vote for an old white man but don't. That's it. Warning: It's Al.com. Bonus: I don't know if there is one, unless you are the kind of guy that loves it when statistics come together.

(6) You want one good reason to spend like crazy this Christmas? To stop the end of the world as we know it!. Ok, not really. But let's not forget the real victims of the economic crunch, and some are bigger victims than others. Warning: Wal-mart is doing just fine. Bonus Warning: Articles like this get published every year right before Christmas season, this might be the first time it's actually true.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 10, 2008. Monday.

(07:34:30 AM CST)

Twelve Step Program to Feel Your Age

Sipping through some homemade sweetened black tea and listening to Opeth's new(ish?) album Watershed. Progressive Black Metal with some folkish inserts. Entertaining, both of them. Now, let me relate to you a twelve step program towards feeling your age.

Friday, met up with Allen and Austin (who were both back in town) so we could go to MASALA (on Jordan, near the Holmes intersection) with their parents for lunch. Masala used to be Vinnie's Authentic Indian. Excellent food for a buffet. About ten with tip (I got water, so maybe a bit more with a drink). A wider mix than what I've seen as the standard "Indian Buffet", including something called Chicken '65 that was hot enough to be noticed. I tried random things and enjoyed most of them. Recommend, amongst several other things, the Chickpea Masala and the Potato Stew, which is surprisingly spicy. There was a chicken dish called something like "Makini" or "Mahani" or something that was good. It didn't use much meat at all, was mostly an orange, sort of sweet curry sauce.

Then, the brothers Drago and I headed down to the HUMIDOR, Huntsville's own pipe and cigar shop, just to browse around. It has been about six months since I have been in there. Pipes seem largely on their way out, with a few of the diehard pipers swapping over to cigars, and most of the non-diehards tend toward cigars anyhow. I don't get to look at expensive pipes that browsers are showing off much anymore. I found a good mid-quality pipe and put it aside in layaway, picked up a couple of ounces of the extreme vanilla (and local) blend known as "Big Spring Vanilla", and a small black pouch which will be for Virginias once I get that plastic smell out.

Afterwards we came back here and played SETTLERS OF CATAN (with more "distribution of wealth" and "overtaxed industry" jokes than what were good for us). They smoked a couple of mid-ring Churchill's (see above point about cigars v. pipes in popularity) while I broke out my original, now four year old Full Bent Grabow and lit up some BSV. After about an hour and a half, Allen managed to win for what he says is the first time in his whole history of playing the game. To fill the gap between the time they had to go and the time it was, a difference of about a half hour was needed, and so we played POSTSECRET BINGO. You each get one of the Postsecret books, name some secret from horrible to banal, and then you see who can find a secret of that category the first. The categories included: abortion, rape, strange sexual fetish, and someone who hates their job. Some interpretation has to be used.

That night, Sarah and I went out SHOPPING to pick up some stuff for her weekend outfit. At Victoria's Secret we got one of the new "Miracle" bras which I suppose is a joking one-upsmanship against the "Wonder" bra. They do seem to accomplish the hard-to-accomplish feat of handling fair sized breasts, showing off cleavage without using some painful trickery, and giving actual support. Take it for what it's worth but the brand gets both the wife and husband's thumbsup, wink and a wink and a nudge nudge. We then picked up some black lipstick and some fingernail polish from Hot Topic and a crucifix bauble from Hobby Lobby.

So, we are pretty much around to where the weekend got long and tiring, eh? Let's start it, then.

Alicia got here about 10am and we started getting ready for our trip. Some of you know what I'm talking about, for those that don't, we were going down to see DIR EN GREY in Atlanta. They don't have a lot of American tourdates, so this was something of a once-or-twice in a lifetime trip for Alicia, to see her favorite band. Those that know the band probably have an immediate "awesome" or "Jesus-god, why?" reaction. My truly lukewarm right up until the spitting out mindset makes me go "They're ok". If I had my druthers, the one Japanese band that has occasional tour dates in the States whom I would adore a chance to see would be the Pillows, but until that happens, DEG isn't a bad stand-in.

The INITIAL TRIP was not too bad. We took 72, minded the 13 miles of construction for about fifty foot actually containing men doing anything, and then shot for I-24 right past the state line. Took that towards Chattanooga, and then took I-75 south for the last half of the trip. Somewhere in here we stopped off at a rest area and took some pictures (which I kept proclaiming to be "Our last happy photo together before the horror started. It was like you could draw a line in their life....") that I would like to get (poke, poke, Alicia). We didn't stop much besides said rest area (the one time, at a McDonald's in Scottsboro, Sarah and Alicia got hit on by a teenage boy trying to show off his drawing of Obama, which really could have went either way).

I actually got a handful of pages from Let the Right One In read, which was pretty cool. Used to, couldn't read while going down the road. Motion sickness would have caused me to get very dizzy. Didn't really bother me this time.

However, the END OF THE TRIP was where all the frustration and confusion really began. Exit 250 noted that some detour work was going on, which could have but didn't change our directions. The one road we need to turn on wasn't marked, leading to having to go down and then come back so that we could scoot over to 17th street. We then found West Peachtree and saw the already huge line (this is about an hour and a half before the doors open, about four hours before DEG was to show up) but soon after turning unto Peachtree the road did some fork, we weren't sure exactly where to park so we said "let's go up a little ways and then we can loop around the block and pick". Except there was no "around the block". There was merely some long, limited access corridor that led us about four or five miles out of the way with no way to turn around. We eventually went down a slightly decayed street or two and got back on the freeway just so we could get off on another exit and come in from something like the opposite direction. We picked the first parking garage we could find, which seemed a tad shady but fuck it, we were there.

Then came THE LINE which was about as awesome as you can imagine. Hundreds of teenagers wearing black frills and make up, smoking cloves, talking about how people just don't get them, how funny rape would be if used in advertising, blowing bubbles, snarking about how they were gothier than some other person, and how some of the hotter goths were just skanks. They said this last bit (their wording was something about "Look at me, I'm attractive and a goth. Such a skank!") about the time Sarah and Alicia were coming back from the car after dropping off some stuff and taking the below picture, while I waited in line. They may have been talking about the sisters Ridout, because they shut up for a few seconds after they realized the large guy in front of them might know the two people approaching, but that is mostly circumstantial evidence. However, if you saw the two guys in question, they weren't the kind that shut up much, so it actually makes for something of a strong case.

My gothic attire, by the way, was a large black t-shirt, loose fitting jeans, comfortable shoes, and a well-read copy of Vonnegut's Palm Sunday (yes, I took two books with me on a day trip, shut up). I win. Well, I would, if it was 1993 goths I was standing around.I miss the days when the intelligoth overshadowed the emogoth. Sarah and Alicia were wearing largely homemade outfits, which made me quite proud of them, since so much of the goth culture now is essentially just whatever Hot Topic says it is, as opposed to a handcrafted style.

PRIOR THE CONCERT I found a trio of seats that were awesome. Third row back, dead even with the stage, and just out of the pit enough that you could watch everything going on in it without having to actually be in it. Then, I got to do the awesomist brother-in-law act ever and go and stand in another line for 20-30 minutes. This was to pick up some swag for Alicia. Skipping to the end, here, she got a concert shirt and a CD/DVD before it is released anywhere else (it doesn't officially come out until next week). I missed the beginning of The Human Abstract, but that was largely ok. They were pleasantly loud in concert, enough to hurt, but I can recall nothing about them outside of their constant naming of themselves "This is The Human Abstract, and this song is..." and I think he said something about "revolution" at some point in time. Oh, and he stage dived a couple of times and both times barely made it back to the stage, with help from security guards, because the pit was unable to hoist him up properly.

THE CONCERT itself was awesome enough. They have an interesting stage show, largely consisting of the band playing and Kyo running around and jumping up on this little ministage in the middle and warbling and vocalising and screaming while the backscreen has images and videos playing on it. Nothing unique, but definitely enough of a show to justifying seeing them live if you like them in-studio. The whole shebang lasted a good number of songs, and Alicia danced the whole time and Sarah danced for most of it. I sat, but partially because I didn't want to be in anyone's way (the average height of the concert goer was probably about half a foot shorter than me), except towards the end. They played the four or five songs I wanted to hear live, so I consider it a win. Potentially the coolest bit came towards the end in which Toshiya, looking right at Sarah and Alicia, threw the pick he had been using at them (and, after a moment's hassle we were able to get it). Alicia now has this unexpected memoir. My ears ringing, my head feeling like the loud drums and bass had changed its shape, we headed home.

Except, of course, we knew nothing about leaving the area. THE TRIP HOME came to its first wrinkle when the directions given to us by an absolutely massive security guard (massive, his arms were the size of my thighs) turned out to require us knowing that the one little unmarked street we passed had a name. We got a tiny bit lost, and then a helpful convenience store worker gave us directions to get out which worked a lot better, but we were confused by the fact that there are two exits to get on I-75 North (the express and the normal). Since we counted, essentially, as a car pool, we ended up having to take the express exit rather than try and circle back towards the normal one. After which, though, we headed home with barely any incident (outside of being slammed by exhaustion around Scottsboro, which is what I assume most people from Scottsboro feel just being alive). Total trip was about 14 hours, with roughly 7.5 of those on the road, 2 of those in line, 1.5 of those waiting for things to begin, and 3 of those being things.

Next day was a recoup day. We went to Kroger and got some bread and cheese and tea. Then to Garden Cove were I picked up some various squash and other veggies and made a thick squash, beef, and cabbage soup to help return some vitamins and anti-oxidants to the blood. Sarah and I lounged around after Alicia had left and watched some X-Files episodes and stayed warm. We finally passed out, and how.

I felt kind of old on Sunday, but today I feel a lot better. I'm not too old to take such trips, but I'm old enough to need more than a six pack and a bed to sleep one off. You know you've reached a turning point in your life when you make green tea with rose hips as a way to finish a night. Heh. But that's it, my twelve steps towards feeling my age. For those that kept count, you will notice that I counted the concert twice. That was on purpose. Now get off my lawn...

Si Vales, Valeo

November 07, 2008. Friday.

(09:52:20 AM CST)

Some TVA Headlines

I've been meaning to post this for a few days now, but here goes: Something like one month after we got another rate increase, citing fuel costs and drought induced shortages, TVA CEO is awarded a half million per year pay raise.

This gives him a compensation of about 3.2 million (and a salary of about $850,000).

Of course, in this article where TVA justifies cutting costs in weed control along Lake Guntersville (I'm not 100% the specifics of this program) the justification rolls out: "TVA is huge, (and) [al.com used parentheses and not square brackets, making me thing that's a parenthetical remark and not an assumed ellipsis...and yes, that was a joke] Mr. Kilgore is an amazing man. His compensation is based on the market rate." An amazing man? You justify a pay rate increase to people who have no choice but to accept it by citing panic words over coal prices and fuel costs and rampant drought conditions, and then you pay your CEO a massive pay raise, a pay raise that in itself is more than the president of the nation makes, with the justification that he is an amazing man? Dude must give awesome neckrubs at the company party.

I'm one of those that believes that you can't really have price gouging. Kind of. I think that much in the same way that putting a gun to someone's head in order to get money from them is considered mugging, that drastically overcharging for a necessary item is the same basic principle. "Oh, your family needs this gas to flee a life threatening storm, ka-ching!" Life threatening is life threatening. I also have no inherent problems with pay raises for people already making lots of money. I guarantee that a man who gets a half million dollar pay raise is working with an amount of capital that makes that sum seem insignificant. Well, I think I know this. One second.

325 Million in Net Income with something like 9 billion dollars in total Revenue (for a portion of the year in question) in 2006. Beautiful. So yeah, half a million is less than a 600th of profit they make and less than pip of their total revenue (I'm assuming that "net income" would be post-compensation).

And I accept that our rates are lower than most places in the nation, or that's at least what I've been told over and over. I've not actually seen rates in other parts of the nation, at least not enough to form a real opinion. I mean, it's not really lower than the rates in South Alabama, at least not the ones I saw at my parent's house, but I'm sure the TVA will explain to me that I am not accounting for the fact that value of the adjusted thingerding by the rate of shinderling is much conglorious and quite spifferitic in light of something another, and so therefore cheaper is more expensive while more expensive is cheaper and the exact same rates is the most expensive of all. Etc. But still, it sucks when you have a government enforced captive audience and then you increase their rates after a month of justifying it with operating costs and whatnot, and it turns out that the rate increase includes a compensation increase for a man who already makes as much as some town in North Alabama, especially when current profit levels could already have swallowed the costs, the word "shitty" comes to mind.

Anyhow, I don't think there is much we can do but protest, and no one in the South cares about protests, so I guess we get to take and be thankful that are rates are still low enough that we can also afford lube and whatnot and with a bit of spit, and some natural slick, we will see the long night through.

And look, I didn't even use that "I wish I could quit you" line, even though it would have been way appropriate. Dude, my restraint is legendary.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 05, 2008. Wednesday.

(07:52:56 PM CST)

Michael Crichton, RIP

Michael Crichton passed away. That caught me off guard. It's probably been a decade since I have read his work with true delight. For various reasons, as I got older, his style just clashed with what I wanted to read more and more. Still, though, I used to love reading him and the little science and history bits he would throw in. It just made it fun. I wasted a good number of hours reading his stuff, and the only bit I ever regret was that damned Timeline. God.

Around 2000, while suffering from fairly strong depression, I went on a trip with my parents. I took Jurassic Park, which had mesmerized me as a kid. Out near Lake Guntersville, we camped out for the night and a huge storm hit. At that time, my fear of storms was still fairly prevalent (this may have been the night the overflooding stopped the phobia) so I couldn't stand the concept of being out in a flimsy tent or, as it was, in the back of a truck on a sleeping mat. I ended up heading up to the public bathrooms and I took the book with me. I figured I would read for a bit and let my nerves settle. I eventually read the entire book while sitting up on the bank of sinks in the men's room while a terrifying storm hit outside. For hours, at least five or six, I read and hoped the wind would die down. I was essentially separated from my family since the storm had picked up enough that I would have had hell trying to get back. I remember thinking: "This science isn't quite right". I did enjoy it, though.

Around dawn, I wrap it up, and find the storm has slackened. I head back down to the campground. While coming out of the restroom, I watched a slightly overweight woman slip off the top of a fair number of steps and land on her butt about ten feet down. I wasn't sure if she was laughing or crying, and so I assumed laughing.

I was, of course, wrong.

She had apparently hurt herself severely and was screaming like a baby. Good times. Good times. Dinosaurs! All that...

That's probably my weirdest reading story, ever.

Si Vales, Valeo

(11:42:16 AM CST)

Question about 1-800-848-0981

Quick question for my friends in journal land. Sarah and I get a phone call from the number 1-800-848-0981 about once a week, sometimes more often. There is no name besides "Tollfree Number". The message left, and there is also a message left, essentially says "This is Student Loans, we need to talk to you about your records. Call us back at 1-800-848-0981." That number is linked to the collection department at the US Dept of Educations student loan division.

I'm made suspicious about calling them back by three things: (1) Several messages left with pretty much the same script, which is really vague about what the issue might be, though it could be a couple of recordings to save time; (2) absolutely no mention of a name, no "Mr. Bolden", no "Sarah Bolden", nothing; and (3) neither of us have any issues with student loans. My government based ones are paid off, and Sarah's are in the process of repayment and are doing fine.

That's all I know. I'm not going to call back a stranger who might, as far as I know, be calling a lot of random people and just got lucky in our case, and who has not identified themselves outside of a potentially recorded, at least scripted message, with no verification outside of a legitimate callback number they may be spoofing.

I'm just curious if any of my friends have had this happen to them, and how it turned out? I might be being paranoid, but the facts seem to hint towards that not being a bad course of action until something is verified.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 04, 2008. Tuesday.

(05:47:54 AM CST)



Ok, ok. Sure. We are in Alabama. Most of us. Some of us. I don't know, eight of us? And those eight of us will probably not matter in a state whose power center is located in the strip between Birmingham and Montegomery, but so what? And, well, our entire state only gets nine votes, which is about as many as, say, downtown Miami gets, but that's ok. We can work with that. One day we will screw up voting machines and on that day, a SCOTUS (which is a fancy way of saying Supreme Court that everyone likes to use nowadays) will tell us that our vote only counts so much as it gives the election to the guy that SCOTUS likes, and that no, we may not have a do-over.

For serious, though, brave the lines and go and cast your lot. No one will blame you. Whichever man gets put in office, he will do so with the backing of millions. You will only share, like, one-fifty-millionth of the blame. And, the good thing about voting is, unless you have an annoying bumpersticker, no one knows. Not really. Lie if you are embarrassed about it later.

Besides, the eight of us in Alabama, keep in mind one important thing, since our vote doesn't matter, feel free to write in whomever you want: Ron Paul, Jesus Christ, Lily Tomlin, Stephen King. It's a freedom to not matter.

[For those that are listening, the word "Vote" is the only thing you should pay attention to in this whole thing. For those that are interested in me being a smart ass, please continue.]

For those still confused, here are some last minute notes to help you see it through.

Parker Griffith is a doctor who abused patients with a whip. Wayne Parker told me this. Wayne Parker got so excited telling me this, he forgot to tell me anything he has ever done. Parker Griffith has about eight hundred friends who call me on a daily basis and tell me that the whip was soft foam and highly overrated.

Jeff Sessions is Jeff Sessions, which is kind of like saying "Jeff Sessions is the man who votes however Richard Shelby Votes". Whoever his opponent is apparently assumes that Jeff Sessions is going to win, because she sure hasn't said much that I've seen. She apparently doesn't have eight hundred friends.

Barack Obama is a Marxist, Maoist, Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jew. He hates hard working people, or white people, and loves lazy people, who the message boards on Youtube.com assure me are all black. Obama is of mixed heritage, but seeing as this entire country follows Mississippi's three-quarter law, this means that whites don't want him. He will increase taxes indefinitely and allow Muslims to blow up this country.

Joe Biden is his running mate. Joe Biden has never, ever done anything important in this country. He is also the most establishment VP candidate in the history of the world. The reason he is so establishment is because he is old and white. This brings us too...

John McCain. Who is a clone of George W. Bush bred in the Emperor's clone tanks to insure another four years. He hates the environment, wants to see our economy destroyed, and delights at people being kicked from their home. He should be blamed for every bad thing that the Republicans have done since the beginning of time. If you read those Youtube comments, this apparently includes the Emancipation Proclamation. Since the Democratic campaign has done very little to blast him besides the phrase "McSame", I have nothing to go on. Oh, yes, very hot daughter. There is that.

Sarah Palin is his running mate. She hates people who hates this country, unless those people also love Alaska, so that's ok. She knows just how mythical Joe Sixpack feels, even though she buys more clothes than Joe Sixpack will ever be able to buy in his entire life. She wants books banned, hates polar bears, and eats the souls of small children, and is a bastion of immense Christian morals. She is folksy, and something of a redneck, which appeals to people in Alabama, though being from the North, she doesn't know to put sugar in their in her tea. You know what happens when you're a redneck who doesn't know to put sugar in your tea? Do a Google search for the "Jersey Devil" or "Pine Barren Kallikak".

There are also some third party candidates, but the news media doesn't like talking about them, so they probably won't win. Or maybe they probably won't win, so the news media doesn't like talking about them. Chicken-egg. That sort of thing. But let's just say it's ballsy for a certain folksy VP candidate to say "Let's vote for a woman!" when another party has a woman running for president. Oh, that's right, that party doesn't matter.

Ok, now that I've been a smartass and mocked the whole system: Go VOTE.


November 03, 2008. Monday.

(09:05:09 AM CST)

Amazon's New Green Packaging

I got a note today that Amazon is going to be trying out new green packaging. You can see a video of the new packaging versus the standard packaging. I'm not 100% that link works, since Amazon loves to use enormous URLs to refer to pages. Just cross your fingers and click.

The new "green" packaging is composed entirely of recyclable cardboard with some plastic bag inserts (theoretically of the recyclable kind). It is meant to eliminate blister packs, paperboard inserts, plastic-coasted metal twist-ties, and the frustration of spending several minutes trying to saw into the package without damaging anything inside. A few toy companies (like ThinkFun and I think Steve Jackson Games) use sanity-saving blisterpacks that lock together instead of are glued together, so you can just pull them apart but they stay together during shipping, but Amazon's packaging would eliminate even this "meant to be thrown immediately away" plastic. I guess there is a danger of damaging in shipping, unless the inserts are specially designed. Amazon can get away with this as an online retailer since they don't have to lure people to buy things through readily packaged display models, but it does make an interesting test case. I've often wondered about stores that use display models as a front for simple boxes, instead of making every copy of a product a display model in and of itself.

I find this interesting since I just recently read the chapter "Polymers Are Forever" in the book The World Without Us talking about, in part, one of the catch-22s of plastics. They last for a very, very long time. No produced plastic has ever ceased being plastic (even burned down, it is some waste). No pill blister pack, no water bottle, no medical supply, no mixed CD. It's all there in some form (actually, largely true of a huge amount of our nonplastic waste, too, sadly). Just think about it, ever Pamper you pooped in as a kid, somewhere in some form. However, if we come up with a bacteria than can eat plastic, it might get rid of the main attractiveness of it, that it lasts for a very long time. The whole point is that it will choke the oceans long after we are dead. If they ran the risk of breaking down, we would find something else that could keep our high fructose corn syrup for a thousand years.

Si Vales, Valeo

(07:11:54 AM CST)

Bound to be a new warning by the Red Cross for next Halloween: "Avoid ex-cons with guns"

from Trick-or-treater, 12, shot to death, police say: An ex-convict who said he thought he was being robbed gunned down a 12-year-old trick-or-treater, spraying nearly 30 rounds with an assault rifle from inside his home after hearing a knock on the door, police said Saturday.

I've known some high strung people. I'm related to a few of them. I once was locked out of my own house (the one where I lived with my brother) because my brother refused to answer the door, somehow thinking that I was a man trying to beg money off of him. The concept of a man shooting at a door after a knock is insane. Maybe he saw the masks, but surely the concept of "Halloween" had penetrated his mind at some point in time. And if he saw the masks, he had to see the fact that the people outside were less than adult-sized in height?

I'm not sure what's worse: that he might have shot without looking, meaning if someone had a flat tire or had gotten an address wrong they would have died as well, or that he might have looked and induced that four kids in Halloween costumes were an actual threat warranting thirty shots through a door without any questions asked? How widely observed is the porch light etiquette, could he have laid a trap because he wanted to kill someone? Or was he terrified that his yard would be unlit, that robbers would assume that no porch light meant no one at home?

How does this man even sleep at night without being afraid that someone will choke him to death? How does he order food from a restaurant without assuming he is poisoned. There is paranoid, and then there is being out of your mind, freaked out by drugs or some horror movie on cable, and blasting down a group of kids who shout trick or treat. That's going to be one hard dude to defend in a court of law. "Your Honor, he thought he was being robbed by kids, on Halloween, in costumes...candy ain't cheap, you know!" Five bucks says the Defense goes for mental damage caused by time served.

By the way, I'm assuming he chose trick.

Si Vales, Valeo

November 01, 2008. Saturday.

(10:11:23 PM CDT)

The Unbearable Lightheadedness of Sickness, The Joys of...um...

Last night was All Hallow's Eve. Which has been losing ground in Huntsville every year since I got here, which I take to mean that it is losing ground everywhere. In fact, the only true significance of Halloween nowadays is as a yearly reminder for retail stores to switch to Christmas mode. The holiday season began, a simplistic reward of candy for costume was doled out, and Jack-o-Lanterns lit by glow sticks because candles are far too dangerous are tossed the the trash before their gourdy-fruit flesh can breed contagion unheralded since the days of the plague. Life moves on. And sure, a friendly, truly innocent day of celebrating campy witches and goofy goblins as well as other, darker, interests that seem to be an honest expression of the human spirit in the same way as any thanksgiving, has been passed on as either Satanic or, worse, pointless, but it's now the Christmas season and money is to be spent.

I sound bitter because I am bitter, or at least saddened at how such simple rituals got turned into acts of fear mongering. Halloween stores price a dollar's worth of disposable plastic as a twenty-five dollar purchase, pumpkins are jacked up to near the ten dollar mark, and kids don't get the simple pleasure of dressing up as their favorite hero or bad guy and hanging out in a huge group that runs around and gets fun, tasty candy from neighbors without it all being about sex-offenders and why they shouldn't go out and why they might get hurt and and reflectors and how the mall is safer and offers a larger treat. I see kids run around these apartments everyday. I talk to a good number of them from time to time. And, on a night when they should be out and bobbing for apples or something, they aren't. I had three whole trick-or-treaters last ngiht and I know when I return to work on Sunday there will be Christmas decorations all over the mall and Christmas music will be playing.

Ah, well.

I watched Pumpkinhead and Cabin Fever and I read some Edgar Allen Poe and I bought the Spaced box set and watched some of that and carved a pumpkin and burned candles (oooh, look at that, Red Cross, I played with FIRE and I knew how to be SAFE, take your glowstick and shove it...we need to let our kids play with FIRE so they can stop being fucking afraid of forces of nature and start being curious about the world again). I was, and am, turning to the virally sick side of life as whatever contagion pummels me from all sides, so by 11:30pm I was ready to pass out and how, but I had fun. I just miss the days when we all had fun and it was all about good ghost stories and creepy sound effects.

Today, amongst other things, Sarah and I went and picked up a copy of Munchkin Booty and we went and stopped by Mikes Merchandise. My first time. It was kind of amazing to me. I got to see discount medical supplies. Specimen jars. Hysterectomy kits. Tubing. Scalpels. Gloves. Air tubes. Awesome.

And I got to see their book selection, which answered some questions. When I worked at Book Gallery, some people would occasionally come in and point out that the book we had was at Mike's for less than we had it, which my standard answer to such things was "ok", that happens. Some stores has some stuff for cheaper. Today, it all made sense. Not only are their books in need of cleaning, however slightly, the vast majority I saw were "book club" editions. For those not in the parley, "book club" editions have a cheap glue binding and and a loose, hardcover shell. They are often sold as hardcovers and sometimes they are treated as being identical, but they are not. They last longer than mass markets, but have many of the same weaknesses (the binding picks up the "slant" and pages can come unglued). They tend to be slightly weaker than a trade paperback edition. They are usually sold at half the hardcover price, but aren't quite worth that. I get them, and kind of regularly, because the sort of books I am into aren't in high demand and so have to be special ordered. Plus, as a long time member of SFBC I get some good deals. But, to go into a store and to buy them, they aren't as hardcover as they seem, if that make sense. In other words, to defend Book Gallery a little, they are cheaper than some of the books than BG carries, but BG carries the honest hardcovers with the stitch-binding and stronger stock pages and boards.

Si Vales, Valeo

Written by W Doug Bolden

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