Dickens of a Blog

(July 2008)

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July 31, 2008. Thursday.

(12:05:20 AM CDT) The Month The Computers Went Crazy?

Is today the day that computers go crazy? Is that it? I've been trying to help one of Sarah's co-workers get her computer fixed. From intial reports, it seemed that a DLL is missing. It NOW looks as though the harddrive (a 40 gig or so drive in a Dell laptop) just forgot all of its data. I am waiting to get a special recovery disk before I proceed. I've heard of harddrive crashes before, and this might be the ugliest one I have seen.

This is on top of the recent work to get my sister-in-law's computer up and running.

And a month or two ago, my monitor stopped being able to turn off. And, this month, the same coworker mentioned above had a monitor sort of give up on her.

And, to top this all off, when I sat down to look up something, my keyboard tried dying. From what I can tell, it assumed the control key was being held down.


July 29, 2008. Tuesday.

(11:56:58 PM CDT) Hellboy II + "Which?"

Went with Jimmy to see Hellboy II tonight. We both enjoyed it. I was glad to see that it did it's own thing. Sequels that are likely "bridge" stories to a third movie often play by a relatively small set of rules. They increase at least one relationship and then they smash it to bits. Hellboy sort of had it's own rules, while playing the bridge movie at the same time. I liked that.

Monaco is a hell of a theater. It's kind of fun to walk around, and not that much more expensive ($1 more). My favorite bit is that you can view how many seats are sold to movies you want to see. If you are like me, and hate crowded viewings, it's a way to double check before you buy a ticket and walk on in.

Of interest to everyone is my special report that Bridge Street is where the popped collar guys go to make out with pastel wearing chicks on benches, in front of fountains. Clunky sentence? You bet. Slip her the tongue? Damned tootin'!

To end this post before it gets as ponderous as the list of political shifts that McCain has pulled out of his belt trying to play the "win in the polls, if not the poll booths" game - I bring you a special edition of Bag O' Links which I call "Which?".

Si Vales, Valeo

July 28, 2008. Monday.

(02:51:17 PM CDT) The Long Weekend. + Bag O' Links

I'm listening to some String Cheese Incident. I don't know much about this band, besides that it has some fairly die hard fans (but then, again, what doesn't?). The sound isn't quite what I expected, but it's not bad. It's sort of like the Tin Roof Tango, a mix of folk and country western and something else (Calypso? Paul Simon circa Graceland?). I have some concert by them that seems to be considered legendary. And I picked up a studio album. The concert is free on archives.org: String Cheese Incident Live at Hornings Hideout on 2004-06-19. I recommend that one. Two reasons: (1) free and (2) they are a jam band and jam bands always are best at concerts. If all I had was the studio album, I would consider them mediocre. But I like the concert.

The weekend was fairly long. I'm almost sick today from being so tired. I guess I should break it down bit by bit and explain why I'm getting too old for this. Heh.

Thursday. The night began with a round of man-style drinking chess. Make a move and then take a drink. After which, I did some long distance Terminator watching. The movie is not bad. It's quite good. The logic behind it? Horrific. The soundtrack. I'll just quote my friend Allen on this one: "Prison sex is less invasive." At the core of his complaint is rampant ontological paradoxism. At the core of mine is rampant Jesus syndrome (John Connor = JC = Jesus Christ). Sarah is John Connor's mother. Sarah is the mother of Isaac, who is a symbolic standin for Christ.

For thos curious, I've started playing chess via chat. You just list the move algebraically. It works out quite well.

Friday. Met up with a friend for lunch and later went to see X-Files: I Want to Believe with her and a couple of others (one of which was the wife). I don't think the friends liked it, but the wife and I did. Sarah hasn't seen any but the smallest amount of the original show, so for her it was interesting seeing the conflict between the ration and irrational mind. I summed my thoughts up in my review. After that, she went over to a friend of hers and me and my friends tried out the Dirty Jobs drinking game. I am going to post an update to it later on tonight because the original rules are just too rough. I got good and tipsy for the second time. I also watched Beast with a Billion Backs which I found to be funny, but overly long by about half an hour. When Sarah and I watch it later, I'll post a review of it.

I don't remember much else about the night, except reading Koji Suzuki's Birthday and I think Hot Shots Tennis was involved.

Saturday. Saturday was something of a wash with random events until Katie's bash. She wanted her birthday party to be "back to the age of 7". Innocent fun and old school board game type of action. It was a good time, but by the time I showed up I was already starting to feel the last couple of nights. I did alright, though, and wish to say Happy Birthday to her.

Sarah and Alicia and I came back here and played Zigity and watched part of Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were just too tired to stick it out, though. I actually found myself enjoying Rocky Horror even more than I remember. I remember enjoying it as something of a "so bad it's good" experience. I actually consider it something of the opposite "so good it plays off as bad". I found out Saturday night, though, that you can drink a lot of Arbor Mist and not only not get that drunk, but have no hangover. This may be because of the near liter of gin I had drunk over the two nights previous.

Sunday. Shopping. Picked up some excellent goji berry cereal and some whole beans (black and garbanzo) from Garden Cove. Got some excellent meat from Johns Big Brother. And a good amount of our purchases from Kroger were borderline whole foods. That's a trend I want to keep going, cutting back on refined and prepackaged stuff until it is below half. Canned soups and ramen are something of a necessary evil, but I would like to start handling our own bread and whatnot.

Sunday night we had a doubles match between Sarah and Alicia versus Jonathan and I. The Bolden boys won it, but it was rough. I'm kind of stiff this morning. I also had cut back on the allergy medicine and getting that much exposure last night was a bit much. My sinus are pretty sore this morning. I sweated an enormous amount. It was the most fun playing tennis I have had in awhile, because it really does take on something of a party atmosphere when you do doubles.

Then we finished Rocky Horror before Sarah went to bed. Alicia and I stayed up to watch Dark City and play some more Hot Shots Tennis. We also talked about the nature of friendly racism, stupid remakes, and moving off to college (in one week, she moves South). I feel asleep with the promise that I would wake her up at 9.

Then I slept until nearly 1pm today. Woooo

Si Vales, Valeo

PS: Bag O' Links

Today's links come from all over, just FYI.

July 25, 2008. Friday.

(03:45:36 AM CDT) Battle Royale. Ultimate Edition 3.

Just a minor blurb to focus my thoughts on something. I finished reading Ultimate Battle Royale 3 a few minutes ago. For those not in the know, the evolution goes like this: novel, movie, manga, "ultimate manga" (collecting three volumes per "ultimate" volume and including some new features). Taking the manga as one collective (there are no real differences between the 15 original volumes and the 5 ultimate volumes), I find myself really enjoying how the storyline has three different sort of flavors. The novel goes into detail about the strategy and structure. The movie is a bit flashier, adding in a little bit of story but moving things around. The movie, however, changes the director's role into something more central to the plot. He's not just a fat bastard in the movie, he has more flavor. The manga, then, expands some of the stories out, kind of reduces a few of the others, and turns the graphic nature WAY THE HELL UP. Nudity, blood, gore. In Ultimate 3 alone we have a terrfiying sex scene involving a dying guy and another guy's guts falling out due to a gunshot. This guy gets up and runs around with dangling guts for a bit.

My random thought is that it works well, though, because there are no real definitive versions of the story. The manga expands some things that needed to be expanded, but most people aren't going to want children's face explode slowly outward. The novel is the original and has more of the strategic aspects highlighted, but there are some that will always prefer the visual. The movie has some excellent moments, but also cuts out a fair amount of the story and goes toward camp every once in awhile.

Anyhow, that is all...sort of. My horoscope for today (well, yesterday as of the time that I write this) was: "You know something that could ruin the hopes of a friend -- break it to them gently." I really don't think I did, do...whichever.

Si Vales, Valeo

July 24, 2008. Thursday.

(03:30:02 PM CDT) Dirty Jobs Drinking Game (the Doug Edition)

I've tried looking up drinking games based on the show Dirty Jobs since I am going to probably be doing this with a friend on friday night. Almost all of the ones I have found have involved from one- to three-dozen events. That's a lot of things to keep in mind while drinking heavily and pretty much means that half-way through the first episode, you have the printed out list and are trying desperately to recall your name, so you can remember just who it was that drank three shots because Mike Rowe stubbed his toe.

Anyhow, here is my simplified, easy to recall while blitzed Dirty Jobs drinking game. The amount you drink is up to you, just keep it consistent. If you do half-shots (also half a glass of wine or half a bottle of beer) then get everyone to do it. If you do sips, then do sips (but that's not all that much fun). My plan is to do about half a shot of gin per event. The number of eps you watch is up to you (I'm guessing most of the others is for people who plan on watching one) but I figure I'll let it run to three or four.

The opening montage does not count, except for his introductory speech (which requires at least six drinks).

Take a Drink When:

  • When Mike says any part of his name (Mike or Rowe. His full name counts twice).
  • When Mike says the words "dirty" or "job" in any context (theme song does not count, unless you really want it to...and good luck). Derivatives and synonyms do not count: "mud" and "task" are safe.
  • When Mike says "poo", "butt", or any synonym or derivative: butthole, poop, crap, shitcreek. For funsies, assume any beeped out word counts.
  • When Mike points out a camera man or crew member but does not say "Doug" or "Barsky", pour one drink into a larger glass (if he says Doug Glover's full name, then go ahead and pour another drink in). Every time Mike says "Doug" (but not the full name "Doug Glover") or "Barsky", you then drink whatever has built up.
  • When Mike gets injured, screams or jumps back. One drink for each (more if he does more than one).
  • When something gets splashed on his face. Double drink if he spits.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:45:25 AM CDT) First Book Circle Meeting

We had the first meeting of the Book Circle tonight. It doesn't really have name, and probably never will. It is just the Becca + Doug + Katie + Sarah + ??? Book Circle. The first book chosen was The Spire by William Golding. I actually meant to choose The Inheritors. He wrote that one right after Lord of the Flies. The Spire came a decade later. Oh well. It was an interesting read. It's symbolism is more obvious than it's plot, but sometimes that makes for fun book discussions.

The second book will be Tess of the Dubervilles. This is one where I know the story, but it has been a long time (I guess right on a decade) since. Reading it now will hold plenty of surprises, except the ending which I strangely retained over all the rest.

We could use two or three more readers if anyone wants to join. After Tess it will be The Road, then Wuthering Heights and then either Passage to India or Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. After those, we will probably do Ishmael and then let the group decide on 5-6 more to go with if we are still into it. Anyone who wants to join, the basic format is that we meet twice a month (second and fourth Wednesday) and discuss half of the book each time. I'll talk about where we meet prior to the meet ups. Tonight it was at my house. Next time, probably somewhere else.

Anyhow, was fun. Looking forward to the next one.

Si Vales, Valeo

July 23, 2008. Wednesday.

(03:59:03 PM CDT) New Amendments That Make Sense

I've been thinking, today, about some new constitutional amendments that make sense to me. They are:

  1. "The Right to Bear Arms" will include reasonable access to more than just physical handguns (since wars are not fought on a hill with flintlocks anymore): privacy, encryption for citizens, technological defense, certain monetary investments, etc.
  2. Any politician that does not spend reasonable effort to bring about campaign promises will not only not be able to run for re-election, but will be held on criminal charges.
  3. The vacation time of all politicians will be set in stone. They will earn sick days like the people they represent.
  4. All wars must be declared by Congress. All wars must include a renewal date. If this renewal date is longer than the current terms of the politicians that vote for it, the war must be decided by general election. All wars must have specific enemies and goals in mind. No war can be declared against an abstract concept. If, at the time of the renewal date, the war fails to be renewed, the war is immediately over.
  5. The phrase "non-binding resolution" will be struck from the lips of any and all people who get more salary from tax money than the average tax-payer gets from their own money.
  6. Senators need term limits. Justices need them as well.
  7. No administration will increase spending (say, for a war) and decrease taxes. This is especially true in cases where the difference is made up by selling off our country to foreign investors.
  8. The electoral college will be disbanded as pointless. Popular vote will decide the election. All votes in all states will be subject to an immediate, mandatory recount by a different party from whoever did the first count.
  9. Tax payers have the right to decide at least general categories of how their tax money is spent. If this means that wars, or education, or whatever, go underfunded, then so be it. Taxpayers who directly interact with a governmental service (medical care, state park, education) will be expected to shoulder a larger burden towards that service than those who do not.
  10. Political parties should be treated as extra-governmental (caps on how much tax money and power they can wield, no state shall make a law that protects some political parties over others, and son on).

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:13:48 PM CDT) Bag o' Links!

Today's link round up include a handful of odd ones and interesting ones. I'll let you decide which is which.

  • Domino's Scientists Test Limits of What Humans Will Eat (Oninon.com): this is mostly pasted for Sarah, but manages to make me chuckle thinking about it. It's a video link, so it needs sound to get the working and all that jazz.
  • In the first of my "Justice Gone Bad" links for today, we have Child Molester Hasn't Served a Day of His 43-year Sentence (CNN.com). Seemingly, by the article, well convicted for two years of repeat offenses, culminating on spreading rumors and offensive material about his victim once his victim pulled away, the man was still left to go free while awaiting appeal. My response to this is that (1) either a judge made a very odd judgement call or (2) the article rebalances the facts to seem worse than they were. At the core, there seems to be a conflict about whether the boy was a willing particpant for at least parts of it. While the first line of the article says "forced", several of the later quotes seem to imply some freedom of choice (for instance, how does a rape victim jilt his rapist?). I suppose I need to look the case in question up.
  • In the second, and, for now, last "Justice Gone Bad" link: Bomb Threat Turns Out to be String Cheese Incident (FoxNews.com by way of Fark.com). It was thought to be a bomb but turned out to be a string cheese prank? Without pics, I'm afraid the article is sort of useless. What is interesting about the article is the claim that the store lost thousands of dollars, including dairy that went bad. This was over two hours. It seems off to me to say that dairy went off in two hours, but it doesn't say what portion of the "thousands of dollars" that included. It could have been $20 of dairy turned bad (but hey, if the milk spoils...more cheese!)
  • Of possible interest to my Southern readers, Project Gutenberg posted a short piece called The Oaths, Signs, Ceremonies and Objects of the Ku-Klux-Klan. It has some interesting bits in it, and doesn't take too long to read. Give it a whirl.
  • I'll finish out today's "bag" with I'm Hatin' It (Harper's Magazine). The UK design for an "ice cream cone" product in Burger King offended some Muslims when it was considered to be a parody of Allah. Looking at it, it's pretty obvious a swirled soft-serve cone, but the symbol is close enough that changing it slightly doesn't sound like a bad idea. At the same time, when the guy who brought the issue to light says "How can it be spinning? It is static!" it makes me think the man has never seen, nor heard of ice cream. Maybe they don't do soft serve in Britain? Maybe he doesn't eat out much?

Si Vales, Valeo

July 21, 2008. Monday.

(09:46:09 PM CDT) Now That I Have Overhyped the Thing, and Some Links

Since Saturday, I've been mentioning catching you up on the hike we went on, but really, there wasn't much to it. Sarah and I head South of Huntsville (South-east?) on 431 to the Hays Nature Preserve (The POWER OF LINKAGE!). It makes for nice wandering. Fairly flat, very quiet, and with a nice amount of swamperific fun times to be had for everyone. It's not "true" hiking, in that it is more akin to walking around an abandoned, dirty mall with nice trees and a swampy place where you can fish. Meaning that it's flat, easy on the knees, and more about taking it easy than feeling tired later.

There are several trails, but none of them are marked super clearly. I know we were on something called "Beaver Dam" and something called "Flint Trail" and something called "Tupelo" I think, but there were other trails that I never saw a name for. We ended up taking a 2-3 mile side trip up a long, paved walk/bike path that came out in Hampton Cove. That I could have done without. It's harder on the feet than natural turf, too much sun, and is mostly like the equivalent of going down the Interstate at 3 miles per hour. However, there were a ton of rabbits on this portion, so bunny lovers take note. Also, the spot it comes out at in Hampton Cove has an outdoor, free, non-electric gym that looks like it could be effective as a warm up if nothing else.

The critter quotient is better than either Monte Sano or Guntersville (otters, rabbits, several types of birds, several types of visible fish, frogs, turtles, dragonflies, and butterflies). The insect count is kind of high, but most of the ones that come up to bug you are benign and kind of pretty. There are some spiderwebs, less than Guntersville.

One of the strangest aspects is that a golf course wraps around outside of the thing so you kind of hear or see golfers more than you see other hikers. This golf course is equipped with large fans. I see no reason not run over and enjoy a man-made breeze if you must. I figure, if they wanted it exclusive, they wouldn't allow trails to open into it.

And, in the opposite of state parks, it is open an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset. So cool. I like twilight and night style hiking more than middle of the day hiking.

I will be returning.

Now for a link that is the opposite of hiking: Chocolate Cake in 5 Minutes!. Not a bad little recipe. Haven't tried it, yet.

And, as a "what the hell, I just posted about food", there is Cracked.com's 7 Most Bizarre Fast Food Lawsuits which is funny and informative as always.

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:51:31 AM CDT) The Hike Story is Coming Soon, I Promise. But, for now, Braggarts...

I have realized lately that I don't like braggarts. This is a term that requires some definition, but I'm not sure if I can give you one. How does that old phrase go: "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it." I'm not really talking about people who are self-assured, or talk about themselves positively, or admit they have well-done a job. What I am talking about is a little different. People who can't help but summon forth a grocery list of quasi-accomplishments in casual conversation. People who attempt to force a trial of their life just so people will judge them worthy. Does that make sense? People who lie on resumes, who insist that taking a dance class in college gives them "years of dedicated study to classic dance method". How about that? There are no good terms to sum up those I am talking about, moreso than I have. Like I said, I'll know it when I see it.

I just don't like them. I can't even tell you why. Maybe because I am Nietzschean enough to feel that a person prostrating themselves on public opinion is a bit weak. If you really do know all there is to know about office management, then why tell me? There is also the classic "actions over words". People who are good at their job tend to do their job, and not talk about all that much. Usually, if you have time to talk in depth about how good you are, that means you are avoiding the very thing you claim to be superb at. They brag about how success is an internal device, and fail to mention how many external forces come into play. How many favors their parents have called in. How much money went into their "internal" success. How having a new suit for a job interview is just as, if not more so, important to their getting hired than their meager student resume. How some students get screwed by one bad counselor, one bad professor, and others get into the right connections and broker what come out to be the same basic thing as white, corporate, lies.

And I think the ultimate piece of the puzzle is when you look at these people, these braggarts, and you notice how they just aren't that good at their job. They talk about how kick ass they are, but they somehow fail to prove it in the real world. Even when they are good, their need for success cripples them. They suffer from young heart attacks, bad blood pressure, immense stress. They cry at a slightest failure. They overreact to the same external forces they say have no power over them. They try to define success in terms tangential to their job. They are successful because they make money. They are successful because they won some award.

Maybe I'm just bitter. Maybe it is because all I tend to care about is quiet happiness, and the idea of too much money and too much rush bothers me. I want a job I can do well, effeciently, proudly, and a job that I can make a difference in. I don't mind being stress, busting my ass, but I want it to be because I work for a library and have spent the past two days helping someone due research; or because I work for my own, rare book bookstore. I don't want to get rich from my job, to broke awards. I want to be known as the one who can get it done. My merits and my faults simple and open.

I also realize that I am overgeneralizing. Just because some stresses out or basks in an award does not mean they are bad at their job and faking it. Sometimes it just means they take it really personal. I understand that, as well. My wife is much like that. She does not brag about her abilities, but she feels it when they work well and she feels it when they work poorly. And we are human. We need to know that we are doing ok. We need to feel good about what we do. This can mean getting a little praise from friends. It can mean placing an award on your desk.

Probably the single best example of what I am talking about can be found in the very thing that made me start thinking about all of this. I picked up a beer bottle tonight, filled with "eh" beer (not bad, not good) that had a paragraph of text about how it was based on age-old traditions and was of the finest quality. Don't tell me you are of the finest quality. Be of the finest quality. If you tell me that you are of the finest quality then assume that you are not, and feel the need to convince me of the fact. You feel the need to implant the suggestion in my head. To fool me.

I guess the bit that bothers me the most about all this, is that we seem to be in a place and time where it is working. In my various jobs, several of the most "successful" people are the ones who claimed to be the most successful. Also, especially in the retail business, my experience has been that they are some of the worst about actually taking care of the real sort of problems that a store faces. However, when they tell the manager or the owner that "BLAH restructing basic BLAH quota enhancement BLAH pretty", the manager or the owner buys it. We are in the world of TV, make believe, rockstar dreams, and short pointless news articles claiming to be a balanced, fair look at the world. We are used to things being summed up. Complex analysis is slipping away. When someone says they kick ass, we can take them at their word or dig deeper. It just seems like we are not quite able to dig so deep, anymore.

And maybe I am just an old, cranky man, but there just seems to be too many damned Ozymandies (I don't know, how would you pluralize it?).

Si Vales, Valeo

July 19, 2008. Saturday.

(04:01:22 PM CDT) About the Hike After These Commercial Messages (i.e. After I Sleep)

Ok, I'll get to today's real post in a moment. For now I want to sleep, but before I do, I thought I would share this XKCD Style Political Brochure. Discussing the fact that he wants to run on a scientifically progressive campaign, a pro-privacy campaign, and needs open money to do it, Sean Tevis copies the style and portions of the humor from XKCD (the most often linked comic from my blog). Not only are some of his complaints valid, but his method is refreshing. For a $500 donation, you get a DVD of his mom thanking you.


Si Vales, Valeo

July 18, 2008. Friday.

(01:17:53 AM CDT) Ecce Weekend

I have no idea what's going to happen this coming up weekend. A couple of potential plans (geek alert, you can make it sound smarter by saying "plans in potentia") are still just that, limboed and unsolid, potential but not definite. A movie might be involved, but I think crowds would make me choke a bitch. My sister in law might be coming over, this weekend or the next, but I'm not really sure. The only thing that is for sure is that I want to read, and to relax, and not worry about the severe money crunch that will be the next two weeks (give or take a week) for Sarah and myself. There are also numerous issues, most of which are either too personal, too general, too surreal, or too immovable weighing on us right now so I am sure we will do something to chill out. I'm just not sure what. I've thought about locking myself in for the weekend, making a large quantity of gin and tonics, and watching Dirty Jobs until I pass out. Maybe screw the Dirty Jobs, if you catch my drift (yes, that was a joke about how sexy Mike is). Or maybe doing a light's off thing Friday and/or Saturday night. Since there is actually a fair chance that it won't rain between now and Saturday morning, Sarah and I might take Saturday to be a good hike day. I'm not sure, I'll guess we'll just sit down and flip a coin tomorrow and see what comes up.

And then we hunker down and hope for the best for the week or two to come. Which sounds fatalistic. But I have been reading Ecce Homo (which won an award this year for "Book title most likely to inspire a misunderstanding at Lou Dobb's dinner table.") Which, I suppose, says don't be fatalistic. But be fatalistic. Getting a grip on what Nietzsche means and what he means to make fun of can be hard. I did get what he was saying about guilt, though. Once you do something, let it be done. Grow from it. Embrace your successes but moreso embrace your failures. You change when you fail, in a way that success will never affect you, and if you are strong enough, you become stronger. Amen to that.

And, on that note, I suppose I should pass out now.

Si Vales, Valeo

July 16, 2008. Wednesday.

(01:45:20 PM CDT) The Monday Hike

This post was meant for yesterday, but one thing and another...yadda yadda...

My friend Kerry and I were interested in hiking somewhere around Lake Guntersville. This is, all told, about an hour out from Huntsville once you take into consideration snaking around the park and whatnot to get to our destination, a trail named Tom Bevill. I picked the trail for three reasons: (1) the name, (2) it was a not-too-long loop, and (3) it was mild on elevation shifts. It had all the makings of a fair, relaxing hike. It had an added bonus (4) of connecting to Cave Trail, which lead to a "small cave". I have no idea what this means, which I'll get to in a minute.

We set out about 9am. Got to the Park Office on Highway 227 about 10am, and after a moment's confusion (trying to figure exactly where the trail started) we set off on the trail. The first stage was kind of surprising, since it was essentially all elevation change. That's fine, a hike up 100-150 feet isn't that bad. I don't like doing it right off the bat, I like to warm up and all that, but it didn't kill us. We get up to the top of the elevation change and then we, following the map, take a left. Except it turns out this isn't the left we were looking for. Fisherman, or hikers looking to blaze their own trail, had cut a new trail, branching off and heading down to the lake. We essentially hiked by down the elevation that we had just crawled up, and so, at the bottom, turned around and hiked back up. We are now looking at about 300 feet of hiking up on a trail picked because we wouldn't have to hike up anything.

We head to the right, which seems to be what was indicated as "straight" on the map, and after another hundred or two feet, we come across a second fork. Both trails were marked with orange blaze (the color of the trail) and all was well. This time we take the left, again. The plan is to hike around to the left of Ellenburg mountain, and then go down Cave Trail, visit the cave, and then either take an abandoned rode back out or to go back up the Cave Trail and finish out the hike around Tom Bevill. This seemed to be working until, another hundred or so feet, it came to a third fork. Again, both trails are marked with orange blaze. I'm not sure what happened between now and when the map was made, but somehow the trail ended up having several little offshoots. We stuck, again, to the left, and headed around. According to our distance calculations, it should take about 1.3 miles, or about an hour (assuming rest and looking at things) to make.

Keep in mind, it was about 10:30am at that point.

The trail was way overgrown. If you have any fear of snakes, or spiders, it might not be advisable. I never saw a snake, but with that much undergrowth right up to the trail, they have to be a possibility. I saw lots of spiders. I interacted directly with a couple of them. There are webs across the trail, beside the the trail in the undergrowth, and all around the trail on either side. There are also ticks. I found one on me after the whole thing was done. My advice would be to bring insect repellant, wear long sleaves and full pants, and go in the fall or so. There is also a fair amount of poison, but not an excessive amount for an Alabama trail.

One of the first things I noticed was the trail started sloping down. The map gave the indication of maybe 30-50 feet here or there, but it was more like another 100 feet down. Orange blaze was all around us, so I knew we were on the trail, and I figured tha map might just be wrong. We kept going down, and around, and stomping through a few places where the trail was completely overgrown. We had to stop a couple of times and track around slightly to find where the trail went. The marking is very inconsistent. In some places, three or four trees in a row will be marked. In others, you have dozens of yards between the paint. And, sure enough, we eventually came to spot where the slop went back up and we found ourselves going up a good 50-100 feet. The weird thing about this slope is that looked kind of minor, but it winded me worse than anything on that trail. I could barely move up it. As far as I can tell, it somehow gave the appearance of being shallow and wasn't? I'm not sure.

Anyhow, we are now around the 400 feet, if not more, of elevation change on a "flat" trail and feeling winded, so I'm thinking this is a good thing. We obviously needed the workout. We now hike around Ellenburg, picking up some speed, and starting going, again, down. Amazing. Around here, the main highlight was a couple of deer. A six- or seven-point buck and his doe. Besides a tree that made a natural arch across the trail, these two deer are the natural highlight of the trail.

1.3 miles, remember. Even at a slow hike speed, that would put us getting done at about 11:30. It was closer to an hour after that when we finally found the Cave Trail. And, get this, we passed another fork. I have a theory, here. I think there was an old Tom Bevill trail that was shorter and flatter, and then some hikers wanted to beef it up and give it some more elevation change. They forked it off and led it down Ellenburg instead of just around it. By sticking to the left, we managed to take the new and improved trail. Not really a problem, per se but it did throw us behind schedule and gave us more of a work out than we were planning on. This is an Alabama summer, too. We only had a liter of water each, and by this time were chugging pretty hard into our stash.

We finally found the Cave Trail branch, and it seriously made the Tom Bevill Trail look well hiked. It just meandered on down off of Ellenburg and through a couple of ravines and and whatnot. There are at least two places where the trail was completely overgrown, indicating almost a complete lack of hikers. I'm kind of tempted to go back with some friends and some machetes and open the trail back up, some. There were also a few dilapidated buildings, and what looked like sewage pipes, scattered around. Weird little shoutouts of humanity. About the most interesting natural aspect of what we saw here, despite the fun little ravine to hike around, was the trail passed between trees in a fun way. That is it. Doesn't sound interesting? That's my point.

Across a bridge, through a short, trailess section of undergrowth, and a couple of moments of self-doubt about our ability to stay on path later, and we come to the "Closed Road". It is close to 1pm or so, which was when we were supposed to be done with hiking, not at the mid-point. And, what's worse, the "small cave" wasn't by the closed road, as I had assumed, it was by the main road about a half a mile later down Cave Trail. Sure, that's only half a mile, but half a mile is a mile altogether, and then as much as two miles back to the car. We were looking at 2-3 more hours of hiking. We said "screw it" to the cave, for today, and headed on down the closed road.

In what can be described only as "awesome", we got to hike up a hot, cracked asphalt path with little shade (and by some grace of God, a lot of uphill) with only one bottle of water left for each of us. Then, again unpredicted by any map, we come to a damned fork. This brings our total of unexpected forks up to four. It's pretty obvious that we take the right branch this time, because the left branch would be going away from the car. Assuming God could have any pity on us, the right branch would not just end and force us to hike back around (probably uphill going backwards, too, by some weird mathematical principle that only Alabama can offer). Every time we came to a shade, about every quarter mile, we would stop for a second. And finally, we seemed to be making progress.

The closed road had two offerings: first there was the awesome "trail head" marked "Hiking Trail". Guntersville State Park has a huge number of trails, and here is a little wooden sign, completely unconvincing, that says "Hiking Trail". Our first assumption is that some cannibal lives down it, and is trying to lure in suckers. This is still our primary assumption. The second assumption is that if you were to take it, and go up some unaccounted number of feet, you would somehow come back to the Tom Bevill trail. Maybe. Or maybe you would come to the Forest of Infinite Forks. At least I know the way out of that one (Up, Left, Down, Left).

The second amazing offering was a group of utility vehicles blocking the road. For a distance, we could just see people cutting things and putting them in the back of a truck. There was, I shit you not, a fair chance we were about to have to go back and trust "Hiking Trail" or head down to the Cave Trail and go all the way back around. That, or fight men for the right to pass. Fight it was. It actually just turned out to be brush cutters and they were either done, or just used as excuse to pretend to be done because as we came up they hopped in the truck and made to drive off. Oh, but the good news that they weren't leaving us alone. They had stirred up some yellow jackets for us. That was nice. A gift.

A gift they renegged on, since I didn't have to run from one single yellow jacket. Oh well. A few seconds later, we make it to 227 and now have to head South back to our car. While this road has more shade, and isn't just a series of sharp rocks in a generally straight line, it does have the notable disadvantage of almost constant traffic and no good way to get off the road and walk at the same time. We would go fifty feet, step to the shoulder, and let three cars go by. Then repeat. It was going to be a long mile or so back to the car.

We ended up being saved by a nice man with his young daughter (more on this in a second). He stopped when he saw us hiking down 227 and gave us a ride back to the park office. We were two exhausted people in the middle of the summer sun with a definite droop to our shoulders. We probably looked to be about as harmless as you could be, assuming you weren't food, pain-killer, or drink. We had been talking about picking up hitchhikers earlier, and how hard it is to hitchhike now. To have someone stop without us asking was kind of this cool loop to the day. It ended up saving us at least half an hour of walking, if not more (depending on traffic).

We got back to the car, chilled out on a park bench, and watched some couple try to have some sort of secret conversation. While it might be improper to joke about "clandestine" meetings while out on a hike outing that would have been considered improper a century ago (a single woman and her married man friend), it still made me chuckle. The sheer volume of secrecy the couple was trying to evoke made what was probably a married couple meeting for lunch or something seem dirty.

While here, we also joked about the nice man's daughter. She had stared us the whole time in this quiet, odd way. "What if he kidnapped her, and she was trying to get us to help her?" Ha! Except, well, what if? Damn. If there are any missing eight year old blonde girls from Guntersville missing, I can kind of describe the kidnapper.

The third round of laughs came when we took another look at the official Guntersville Trail Map. Turns out the trail we took was the Tom Bevill INTERPRETIVE trail. What does that mean? As far as what Google tells me, an interpertive trail is one with a lot of natural highlights. Certain trees, rocks, habitats of interest. Except we saw none of those. I'm thinking that it has something to do with forks that aren't supposed to be there, random spots of undergrowth, random elevation shifts unaccounted for. I think maybe Google lies. Damned Google1.

After that, it was all over except the shouting2. We stopped off at Outlaw Steakhouse3. Fair enough place to eat. Good scallops and sirloin tips. They have a 72-oz steak that you can eat and get for free. If you fail to do so, it's $70. Considering how hungry I was, I could have given it a fair shot. Maybe. Ok, not really. Tenderloin has about 330 calories per 4 oz serving, with 200 from fat. Sirloin has about 200 with 60 from fat. Assuming an average of those two (I don't know the actual cut the big steak was), that gives us about 265 calories per 4oz, with about 140 from fat. 72oz is 18 servings, so a total of 4770 calories with 2500 from fat. Did you just vomit in your mouth a little, right then? I sure did.

Then home by way of Union Grove and Arab. And then having to send some e-mails and turn in some paperwork and do a couple of mixed errands until 6pm or so. And eventually passing out real good. And sleeping. Glorious sleeping.

Si Vales, Valeo

1: the actual definition seems to be that it's a trail with ample information about the trail. From this [short] website. I did see numerican markers, so I am guessing that somewhere there are brochures to pick up and look at that correspond. That's less funny than my definition, and one should never let the truth get in the way of a good joke.

2: well, the shouting, and the sitting at a railroad crossing for several minutes as a train was stopped. And smelling the straight vomit laden aroma from the poultry processing plant. Imagine a dog eats his poo, and then vomits up his poo. Now call that smell "poultry". There you go.

3: perhaps the most interesting bit about Outlaw Steakhouse is their barstools use some sort of tractor/saddle/bucket seat system that has a bulge for the crotch. While this might not be the best thing for men to have while drinking, it does seem like it might make bar hopping ladies especially enjoy that fruity mixed drink.

July 15, 2008. Tuesday.

(09:32:21 AM CDT) A Couple/Three Interesting Cracked.com Articles

It's been a little while since I have shared the joy of Cracked.com with you guys, so I figured I would post a couple of my recent favorites.

The first one is 6 Retarded Gas Saving Schemes. These aren't of the sort like "boycott for a day" but are of the sort like "put this device in your gas tank!". I've heard of a couple of people using a couple of these, but a lot of people have bragged about the #1 (you will probably recognize it when you see it). I notice that there is the standard "You are just stooges for the gas companies! These things work and the gas people are keeping them down!" responses in the replies, partially because Cracked.com points out that while garage-centric inventors might be bought off by the gas companies, who the crap is going to buy off Ford or General Motors? When they invent a device that will make their car years ahead of the competition?

I was must more excited about this one: Where Are They Now: 6 Stars of Embarrassing Viral Videos. There are some good ones, here. Remember that "grape squishing lady"? Turns out she had the oppurtunity to face the railing but chose not to, and that is about 80% of her accident there (the other 20% was her cheating and inciting karma, heh). The "Don't Tase Me, Bro!" is there. You can see an incident that seems to be the mildest of the "tasers gone beserk" series of videos, but probably got the most press. Partially because everyone laughed at him. Ah, police violence is funny. My two favorites are, I think, the top two. The cop who shoots himself in the leg (and then walks it off) and the Afro Ninja. Whose pratfall is funny, but apparently it was caused by him being really damned tired after a flight and them needing him to shoot almost immediately.

Good stuff all around.

Si Vales, Valeo

July 12, 2008. Saturday.

(08:20:44 PM CDT) Double Post! Catching Up to the Last Couple of Days...

I've been somewhat busy the past three or four days. On Wednesday, played by nephew in tennis again. Technically won 7 games to 4, because we called it at 1-1 in the second set due to the heat. My tennis shoes broke on Tuesday while playing, and so I tried to play barefoot. It wasn't super hot outside, but hot enough that my feet got blistered trying to play on the court in just socks. I'm not sure when the rematch is.

On Thursday, went with Kerry to see Cathedral Caverns. My first time. Hers, as well. It was quite fun. It's this nice, hour or so long walk in a massive cave that can hold up to something like 10,000 people at max capacity. It has huge columns, and some extremely fantastic stalagmite and stalactite formations. Our guide came out playing off the country bumpkin, but turned out to be a really cool guy when you talk to him, and he is good with the kids and people. Sort of a perfect mix of taking care of us and letting us do our own thing. I want to go back, and take some pictures.

Yesterday, did some basic shopping. Bought Sarah some new things. We haven't treated her in a while. Usually the treat is for both of us or me. It was nice buying her new clothes, lotion and whatnot. The money for this month will be pretty tight, though, so I'm still trying to figure out how to afford everything. But there is no reason for her to work 80 hours a paycheck and to watch it all go to bills. Besides that, just petered around.

Today, was supposed to go to a company picnic, but she was sick yesterday and some today. On top of that, one of her friends wasn't going, it was a good distance to travel, and my damned belt broke. Remember "tight on the funds". That's right, had to make $20 come out of nowhere to buy at least a temporary replacement. Came back here, made her a massive hamburger to make up for her missing the picnic, and then we just goofed off.

Tonight, she is out with friends. I'm on me lonesome. I haven't decided what I want to do, yet. Possibilities include tracking down some friends for some drinking, sitting around and reading (with tea and a pipe and maybe some wine), or watching through some of Gasaraki. I'm probably going to go with the middle option. It requires the least showering and I want Sarah to see Gasaraki with me.

Si Vales, Valeo

(07:48:40 PM CDT) Woo! 13th Post = Bag o' Links with Law Enforcement Theme!

I'll make this short and sweet, a series of links with a "law enforcement" theme.

  • We'll start with Smoking Gun's "Popped and Collared" Mug Shot Round-up from July 11, 2008. Pay special attention to the very first mug shot. These are from, if I understand correctly, two different incidents involving her being pulled over for drunk driving. And, according to the run on the right, wearing a bra and being taken down to the windiest police station in existence?
  • Alabama made Fark.com! "The Dothan City Police Department scored a win in the War on Obesity Friday when the bomb squad detonated a suspicious package that turned out to be full of snacks." I don't have anything to say about this besides the fact that random, unmarked boxes can be assumed to be bombs, and can be assumed to be snacks, but in some ways blowing up $5 in chips seems better than losing an eye because you went the other way. But still...tee hee!
  • Deputy sues. Says He Was Fired for Arresting Another Deputy, Who Was Driving Drunk. Comments on the article fall in the "Bastards think there is one law for them, and one law for everyone else!" camp and "You don't turn on your own!" camp. Very little moderation. In this case, I am definitely towards the former more than the latter. It does sort of depend on the BAC and other things, but a cop that is allowed to break the law in no way related to pursuit of a criminal is a bad thing. The article is full of beauracraptastic quotes: "The law firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore claim that Holtz’s actions are barred by statute of limitations, because he failed to exhaust his available mandatory administrative remedies and by the doctrine of clean hands." This says to me their policy is you can't sue them, so they figure you can't sue them. Another great quote (remember, he pulled over a fellow cop for breaking the law): "The defendants claimed that Holtz violated department rules and regulations regarding 'respect among members' [i.e. he pulled over a cop -Doug] and 'conduct reflecting adversely on the department or employee' [i.e. he pulled over a cop -Doug]". I mean, really, their counter-complaint is basically two ways of saying "He pulled over a cop". I don't know what the best outcome for this will be, but damn.
  • And while this last one isn't about law enforcement, a restaurant banning a handicapped woman because she driving away other customers does have that sort of tangled web we weave flavor to it that the above story had. Frankly, this strikes me as lose-lose, no matter how this turns out. She is unable to stop food from falling out of her mouth unto the floor, and to keep her pants up (on at least one occasion). Now, people walking out without paying after ordering food, that sounds like a bunch of idiots getting free food. What the owner is to do, I don't know. You have a non-life-threatening disability (by which I mean, she doesn't do things that threaten other's lives) that causes her to do distasteful stuff, and she wants to eat there on a nightly basis. I don't know. I really don't.
  • Si Vales, Valeo

July 10, 2008. Thursday.

(01:19:35 AM CDT) Two Things that Make You Go "GOD, WHY? DOUG!"

In stupid news, I blistered my feet up real damned good today. Seeing how that isn't really interesting news, I'll share with you these two tidbits.

Due to a group of three guys planning on having a little "necrophilia party", Wisconsin has now made it illegal to scrump the dead. There are all sorts of little issues, here, that make it more complicated. The main two being (1) the law was altered, not made, to bust these two men because a new law would have been invalid if passed after they committed the crime and (2) if you say that the dead can't give consent to sex, therefore all sex with the dead is rape, what does this mean for things like autopsies? Does being dead automatically give consent to surgery? It seems like they are dancing around semantics, here, and leaving all sorts of bad loopholes. If you are going to make necrophilia illegal, make it illegal in its own right. Not as a matter of consent.

If that wasn't enough, here is another: a short documentary clip on teeth chiseling. The tribe finds it more beautiful for women to have sharp teeth. Besides the horrific looking act itself, there are all sorts of horror. I know it is impolite to judge other societies, but come on. Not only did she go through a surgery that will decrease the quality of her life, and shorten it, just so that her husband won't leave her for a more "beautiful" woman; she also picked up the habit of smoking and buying cheap clothing from western culture with none of the benefits. Lots of lose-lose quotes in that one.

Si Vales, Valeo

July 08, 2008. Tuesday.

(10:45:37 PM CDT) Misread the Headline! Busy Day!

When I read this headline*, my mind translated it as "cell tower toppled to take out a policeman". Imagine my disappointment when I realized that it is mostly just a sad, sad story about idiots. Sad. Did I mention sad? SAD.

In other news, apparently I am wrong for saying "Guide Wires", too. Damn.

And here is a fun tidbit. There are about 11-12 pennies per ounce, so about 176-192 per pound. Split the difference and say 184. Ignoring the cost of manufacture, each pound of penny nets .975 pounds of Zinc and .025 pounds of copper. At the current cost of Zinc (roughly 80 cents to the pound, 78 cents to the pound of pennies) and the current cost of Copper ($3.80 per pound, or about 10 cents to the pound of pennies), you get a pound of pennies, worth about $1.80, equal to about 90 cents. You know that Internet rumor that said that a dollar's worth of pennies was made up of $1.10 in metal? No longer true, exactly. And yes, it was sort of once true, but I'm not sure if pennies were made at that time. **

On to news not related to scrap metal. Today has been busy. I spent the better part of four hours fixing Alicia's computer, and an hour or so playing Twisted Metal: Head On as she backed stuff up. In the midst of that I had my brother Danny call about a water pump, a phone call that killed my phone battery, and then had a dozen other phone calls go down, most of which I simply could not answer due to the lack of power.

This afternoon, played and beat my nephew in tennis: 6-0, 6-3. It got kind of rough at one point. But I whupped him. Then came back here, showed him some episodes of Stacked and we watched The Tripper together. I am tired, now. Woo.

Time for some reading and then some sleeping, I reckon. Have a good one. And no more toppling towers to get coppers.

Si Vales, Valeo

*: on the off chance that the article is gone or the headline has changed by time you read this, the article's headline was "Cell Tower Toppled to Get Copper".

**: two important things. The first is that the "rumor" probably started due to the fact that the cost of maintaining pennies, counting down in drawers at night, hiring people to make penny rolls, and so on, coupled with people's tendency to just let them sort of drop and build up in jars, probably means that enough value is loss to barely make them worth it, if at all. Also note that if you take the numbers from about Fall of 2006, Zinc was at or over $2.00 a pound. This would make the metal per penny worth about $2.10 on the $1.84 of pennies. This fits the rumor closer. Now that Zinc is returning to 2003 or so prices, the rumor no longer has as much validity. You can read the numbers, yourself, for Zinc and Copper.

July 07, 2008. Monday.

(03:17:43 PM CDT) Running on Fumes

I am running on fumes. I got something like 4 hours of sleep last night, over 3 bouts of trying. For some reason, I am unable to sleep more than about 45 minutes without my body waking up. The two times I have been asleep and drifting towards the deep end of the spectrum, I have been woken up. The first time was by an incident involving Toasty and a Cricket (though not related) and the second involved me shouting at a mailman (who really is sweet) to stop knocking because I was trying to get there. At any rate, I have been far more awake than asleep today. I figure I'll get some food in me in about an hour and a half, finish up Fool's Moon, and then probably randomly pass out sometime tonight. I know my body, though. If I try to go to sleep before 11pm or so, I will wake up and then try and stay up all night. For some reason, the 7-11pm is a no-sleep-zone for me. Before that, and I can nap. After that, and I can sleep the night away. That time frame, though, and I'll wake up in an hour or two and then be restless for hours.

Si Vales, Valeo

(03:41:08 AM CDT) Where Have All the Reasonable Republicans Gone?

Let me start this off by saying that I know plenty of reasonable Republicans, men and women with strong heads and hearts whom I would gladly accept the opinion of as valid, even if I did not agree with it. This makes my next question somewhat farcical, but I just want to get that out of the way. I am not looking at making a reasonable claim, beg a reasonable question. I am trying to talk like they talk. Who are they? Well, I'll get to that. But first: Where the hell have all the reasonable Republicans gone?

I know part of the problem is that I see most political debate on the Internet. I don't have it in person, anymore. Not much, anyhow. Most of my friends are (a) like minded or (b) disgusted by politics. I turn to the Internet to fill that void. The place where a reasonable movie debate tranforms into "U are a turd. I hope you diaf, moran!" and websites exist for women who want to get pregnant without their husband knowing, presumably because their husband doesn't want a child. It's the greatest communication device the world has ever known, excepting language, and much like language it has turned into an excuse to say the word "fuck" loudly in close quarters. I can't trust what I see, this political debate, because it is to political debate what a loud fart is to music. It has much the same quality, much the same physics, but comes from a different source altogether.

Except that people who should know better are using the 'Net's idiots as justification for things. I assume this, because I see them making up buzzwords to be used by bloggers all the time. "Liberal talking points" is such a Republican talking point that it causes migraines if you stop and think about it. Go ahead and try. The Republicans are so quick to imply that Democrats have no original thought that they share an overgeneralized term to make a point.

How much sheery balarky (how is that spelled?) have we heard resulant from the recent election. Remember Obama, the candidate being attacked as an anti-religious Muslim in the thrall of his Christian pastor? Let's look at other gems of Republican wisdom. Obama is a weaker candiate than McCain due to his lack of war experience, says the same party that passionately pushed Bush over Kerry. Obama is a weaker man than McCain due to his lack of national experience, says the same party that passionately pushed Bush over Gore. Sounds to me like Bush was a crappy choice indeed, by the standards they use to bash Obama.

And then there is the crap about how (1) we had a recession at the time Bush I, (2) we have a recession brewing with Bush II, (3) Clinton was president in between, therefore (4) Clinton is somehow to blame because he could have fixed everything. Oh, that budget surplus we had? Don't talk about that. Instead, say things like "We are in an unprecedented deficit, and dems are in charge of congress!" That's right, that election in 2006 where Dems got elected in, and took control in 2007, 18 months ago? They are to blame for the past 8 years of deficit. Sounds like a dumb argument? The man who made it (or something like it) gets paid 33 million dollars per year to make more just like it.

Part of the problem is that the Dems took about as much control of the reins as a dazed schoolboy suffering from narcolepsy. They can't stop saying "impeach" long enough to stop passing non-binding resolutions and to start recapturing that momentum they had, say, February of last year. They essentially pissed away one of the largest free rides that American history has ever promised. All they had to do was set things in the right direction and Democrats would have taken this nation. Die hard Red Staters had voted them in. Now, though, the budget is worse, the war is worse, the fuel situation is worse, and so on. They deserve to be called to task. But they are not the starters of this. The war did not start because of Democrats. The fuel prices did not start their historic climb because of Democrats. The budget did not get massive tax cuts and massive rises because of Democrats. Their problem is they allowed trends set by Republicans to continue, and now every Republican pundit with a Livejournal gets to insist that Republicans would have had everything under control if they had still been in power. The faults of the Republican leadership get passed on to the Democratic leadership.

Consider this the writing on the wall, in many ways. If Obama gets elected, and fails to fix everything, then the Dems failed. If he gets elected, and fixes everything, then it is because Bush had it going in the right direction. If he gets elected, and the Leg switches to Rep in his term, and everything gets fixed, it was due to Rep. If not, then it's the Dem fault. Etc. Maybe I should stop asking where the hell have smart Republicans gone, since that's not the problem, but where the hell have smart, politically savvy, intelligent Americans gone? The ones who don't insist that a war that has driven up deficits, deprecated the dollar, skyrockted fuel costs, killed thousands if not million, and guaranteed continued strife in a region that has been war torn for centuries all to take down a somewhat petty dictator whose general skills allowed him to do little more than effectively stalemate his neighbors and enemies (which he might not have been able to do without American aid in the 80s) was all to ensure our freedom in generations to come? Wow, that's a convulted setence. Maybe you see my point?

When someone on my LJ's friend list (a somewhat abandoned thing) praised McCain because his sons were defending American freedom in Iraq, and was called out for citing the f-word without justification, her retort went something like this. (a) Delete the reply that called her out so she wouldn't have to respond to it specifically (she always deletes replies that disagree with her), (b) say that people who disagree just don't understand because (1) soldiers will tell you that we are fighting for freedom and (2) soldiers who don't are just in it for the money. Now, that argument is full of win. I mean, it's not. Because it's that same broken logic that say a Republican congress gave us the surplus but, magically, the same Republican congress stopped going so hot after Clinton was out of office and, oh, look...Dems are back in congress so it was their fault the whole time. And believes it. Because the people who say it believe it.

Too bad the other side is debating just as poorly.

Si Vales, Valeo

To show what sort of thing started me thinking, I will post three quotes from political forums:

  • "Here comes all the McSame, Bush III, ******** again. All the libs don't even read the story, they just start spewing their rhetoric immediately. ATTN. ALL LIBS!!! SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND OPEN YOUR EARS. Nobama does not have a plan an that is obvious. Only a smoke screen of liberal dog ****. I see that NOBAMA hasn't come up with a plan yet nor will he. Maybe he is just HOPING for one." That's right, he calls them out for using pointless rhetoric in the same post that he claims a presidential candidate won't have a budget plan. Oh, and he calls that presidential candiate Nobama. STING!
  • In response to "Read the chart AGAIN idiot. The chart CLEARLY SHOWS REPLUBICAN ADMINSTRATIONS have consistently SPENT more money than the government is taking in.", one brave but eternally idiotic soul replied "Who gives a fvk, what choice do they have after a lib president totally screws the US? In other words, had lib presidents been doing their job then spending should be about equal when you disregard inflation and budget increases. Essentially, GOP presidents have had to clean up after lib disasters over the last 60 years. Name one lib pres and i'll give you a gop cleanup pres. Name one gop pres a lib pres has had to clean up after? You can't and never will. Libs are totally incompetent and prove it every time." I could type a reply, but that would be pretending that idiot had an argument.
  • "Only an idiot lib would ever believe in a 'peach dividend' when most of this world is run by socialists, commies, dictators and thugs that wish nothing more than to rule you.  But then again, there are those in this world that can't think for themselves and must be ruled by somone." I'm assuming the same Republican* wit that gives us NOBAMA also gives us "peach" as a play on the word peace, but something you can squeeze juice out of. That, or Republicans are afraid to say "peace" three times because it might come true.

*: While I am sure no one believes me, I'm only picking Republicans in this case because they were saying the dumbest things. As I said before, I know too many smart Republicans to think that these idiotics represent anything besides an overall decline in the entire American system.

July 06, 2008. Sunday.

(03:48:00 PM CDT) William Denton's 1882 Scientific Evaluation of the Flood

The Biblical Flood is the second most impressive act of God in the Old Testament, only behind Creation itself. Like Creation, it's literal description is one of the hardest things to accept. A boat, large enough to carry between two and seven of every living creature except those aquatic, and all the food stuffs they would require, is manned by eight people for over a year. Old Testament, nothing, this story is one of the largest miracles in the whole Bible. William Denton points out these problems and more in his "The Deluge in the Light of Modern Science: A Discourse" (free, Project Gutenberg text, also available in many formats at ManyBooks.net.

I have never really been a Deluge-Literalist*. I was when I was very young, but by the time I was a teenager, I just couldn't accept it. Too many things are awry. As Denton points out in his short study, why is it that dogs were punished for the wrong doing of man, but not dog-fish? Of course, the water balance would have been all wrong for ocean going fish, but assuming the waters of the world were fresh and not salt, cat fish would have been fine. There is the slight problem that the Bible doesn't mention any special provisions for salt water creatures, meaning they were not preserved, yet somehow spontaneously regenerated after the Flood. Again: a Miracle.

For those that will not read the study, and wonder what some of the problems with the Flood are, some of my favorites are:

  1. The question of food. How much was needed? Genesis 6:21 clearly says that food for the animals is needed.
  2. The question of species. How many were there? Does "two of every kind of animal" mean two elephants, or two African and two Indian elephants? I'll assume the former (the 5000 or so years post-flood seems to have been plenty for differentiation).
  3. The question of meat eating. After the Flood, Noah is given the right to eat meat. Probably the nadir of animal populations, and suddenly Lamb is on the menu.
  4. The question of inbreeding. 'Nough said.
  5. The question of aim. If God hates humanity, why destroy everything else that is alive (but only the other living things)? And if God hates humanity, why not destroy the rest of Creation, too?
  6. The question of decay. There was a lot of dead stuff: plant and animal. Imagine the stink that it put off and the sort of disease that had to be rampant.

Those are my favorites. I'm sure others can think up others.

Si Vales, Valeo

*: Unfortunately, for me, Jesus sort of was.

(12:48:34 AM CDT) Busy Weekend (Up Til Now)

Sarah and I have had a busy weekend up until now. Very sleepy, though, so the story will have to wait.


July 04, 2008. Friday.

(11:50:10 PM CDT) Some Reasons Why the YouTube Logs Things Is a Bad Idea

File this under something that will be expanded later if it turns out to work out the way the rumors are working out, but I've been thinking of a few reasons why Viacom getting the YouTube logs is a bad idea:

  1. The Rick-Roll Effect. Sometimes friends link to things with descriptions like "Dude, check it out!". All YouTube shows is a file name along the lines of PXVNT_g. The end user who enters into it from this way has little way of knowing of what it is he is seeing. A cat video shot by a friend? A cheesy 80s video? Copyrighted material?
  2. The LJ Effect. Likewise, a friend might post an embedded link. Once you click on it, to find out what video you are watching, you see what's there without knowing the copyright history.
  3. The Viability of YouTube as a Distribution Source. This means that Viacom's competitors, big and small, have things on YouTube that are perfectly legit. Viacom will get an unfair chance to spy on how their competition is doing.
  4. The Needle in the Haystack. Not only are we talking about IP address and video watching history, but insane amounts of messages and Video responses and all that. The information will take months if not years to completely sort through. This means that Viacom will have to hold on to the information for a long time and in the process of sorting it will be able to do a huge amount of additional research on it.
  5. Parsimony. Google can turn over such things as the amount of hits that Viacom's interests received, the IPs that uploaded copyrighted material, and how often people reported them for being copyrighted. This can take up a few hundred pages of reports, not thousands and thousands of pages. This will stop Viacom from getting information it does not need and would be possibly used for extra-trial information.
  6. Viacom will be getting a ton of information for a civil case. That seems wrong, for some reason.

I can think of several other issues, but these seem to be the most serious. It just seems like extreme overkill and likely to cause more headaches than it helps. It also seems likely to set a bad precedent of businesses becoming quasi-legal powers enforcing laws that the government hasn't put into place.

Rick Roll!

(02:50:17 AM CDT) Four Links for the Fourth of July!

First Link. Things to Love About Expensive Gas. The gist? Well, we can stop being ugly Americans. Some of the points are valid though, a world with less gasoline is a world with less pollution, more public transportation, more logically designed cities, and fewer housewives in oversized vehicles trying to swerve into you.

Second Link. Youtube (Google) Ordered to Turn It's Viewers. The gist? Not so much for legal action, but to see their viewing habits and how Youtube impacts copyrighted material. Bonus gist? Uh oh.

Third Link. Christopher Hitchens Undergoes Waterboarding: It's Torture!. The gist? After coming down on the "it's not torture" side, he has had a change of heart. He goes so far to say that it's calculated drowning. Something interesting to read, in an intense way.

Final Link. Watermelon Can Lead to Spitting More than Just Seeds. Alternate headline? That's not just juice on her chin. Another alternate headline? Love you long rind! Final alternate headline? HAPPY JULY FOURTH! WOOOOOOOOO....

Si Vales, Valeo

July 03, 2008. Thursday.

(02:42:09 PM CDT) I just reviewed Donald B. DeYoung's Dinosaurs and Creation and I didn't like it

I'm going to go into fine detail why I didn't like Dinosaurs and Creation, the review says it all. I will go ahead and post some key points (in other words, my problems with the book) from my review, though:

  1. DeYoung's reliance on extra-Scriptural narrative clashes with his literal acceptance of things such as the days of Creation.
  2. DeYoung's constant misuse of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Either it is about entropy as a gradual change of diuse and inertness or it is not a physical law (I also point out, briefly, that his use of the 2ndLT would seem to rule out things like computers ever being made).
  3. His reference to a giant sphere of invisible water vapor that surrounded the Earth.
  4. His reference to fire breathing dinosaurs.
  5. His chastising evolutionists for an incomplete fossil record followed by an argument, get this, of why none of the other modern animals who died in the Flood have as many fossiles as dinosaurs. Turns out fossil records are incomplete. Who knew?
  6. His insistence that evolutionist find pre-human life to be way simpler than modern life.
  7. Dinos on the Ark.

If you want to read more, check out the review. If you want to read the book, I'll loan you my copy or the review has a link to Amazon.com which has some used copies left.

Si Vales, Valeo

July 02, 2008. Wednesday.

(11:47:37 PM CDT) Sarah and I Partook of Historical Houses, Tonight. + Doctored Photos and Fox News

Sarah and I weren't able to play tennis, tonight, due to the fact that the courts were taken up by a handful of players. We instead went downtown and walked around all the old houses in the neighboring sections. Lots of wonderful, beautiful old houses so far out of our price range that we could save up for twenty years and have a shot and buying them at 1985 prices. Oh well, I still find it nice to be amazed at 6000 square feet of hardwood floors and 150 year old windows. With a stone fence garden, and ivy growing up the cast iron gate. Ah. Sigh.

Rather than wax nostalgaic for things I never had, how about some intringuing little ditties of links.

Apparently manipulating photos has been going on as long as there have been photographs. Some neat historical examples there.

The reason I looked that up is because someone called Fox News out on similar shenanigans. Which I found more funny than problematic. But there you go, at least they are "Fair and Balanced".

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:09:00 PM CDT) The Trip Down South

Sarah and I set out about seven in the morning on Friday. We had a bit of puzzle to solve along the way. We had three bills due on Friday or Saturday that we could not be in town to pay, being that we would be out of town by the time they opened on Friday, and did not have the money to pay them early (say the day before). Long story short, it all worked out.

Flatrock was the same as it always is: a tendency to humidity with hot summers, pop-up showers, and partially clear cutted (a good amount of the land is pine farms, where trees will grow for about twenty years and then be cut down). The trip south was uneventful, and the gas mileage was good (about 28mpg, not bad for a 14 year old car). We got in around noon and chilled out for a short period of time before my mom showed up (she had went grocery shopping). Most of that first day was just hanging out with her, joking around, and the like. Danny came over to visit, and the two of us (along with my nephew Jake) went for a walk around the "Flatrock Block", a series of four roads that form a rough square through a "pine farm". The region is rented out to hunters, who have a series of 18-20 numbered and settled deer stands, somehow representing the worst of the deer hunting phenomenon. The idea that grown men pay money to keep people off land they don't own so that they can be assigned to various deer stand...just sounds wrong.

The Flatrock Block has a lot of memories for me. I used to walk it, almost daily. At the time, it felt a great distance. Now that I have taken up hiking in earnest, it simply can't be. I doubt it is even as far as the South Plateau Loop on Monte Sano. Let me see what I can dig up:

The purple X in the bottom left is my mom's house. The red line represents the block. The scale is something like 1000 feet per inch, I think. Meaning the whole thing is about two miles, a little less. This means that is about the length of, say, North Plateau Loop on Monte Sano (and about the same difficulty). When I was younger, it seemed like such a long way, like I would be gone for hours. When I walked it last, I realized it took me only 30 minutes or so to do it. Just another one of those episodes of childhood rewritten by the hindsight of adulthood.

Now, you may have noticed that I mentioned hunting towers and people being kept off the land. Because we are not supposed to walk it. It's actually quite annoying, too. On that sat-map I made a yellow/green circle squiggle in the upper right corner. That is the Flatrock Ford (and a couple of spots to either side). It used to be a very important and popular swimming and fishing spot for our community and neighboring ones. The closest thing we had to a community identity and landmark. However, when the hunters wanted to get the land to themselves, they essentially declared a well used road (the Flatrock Ford Road, the left most red line, but continuing from there to the squiggle) as a pointless, unused road only surrounded by private land. Now, you can't own a river so the spot is a public spot. The land to either side was owned, true. But the road and the river were not. However, by declaring it in disuse and saying there were no public spots down it, they could close it off, they essentially lied to get a better chance to shoot deer without competetion, ending a decades long tradition of swimming there, and what is technically a historical site since the Ford was part of an old stage coach road.

In many ways, screw them. I imagine that someone could take the case to court and at least get the one road reopened. They would still close over 3/4 of the "block", but that's ok. It's a principle thing.

Anyhow, hung out with Danny for a good portion of the night, and got to see Donna for some of it. Watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and just chilled. By bedtime, I was exhausted but tried reading some of the Harry Dresden novels. Unfortunately, the humidity down there caused some of the pages to start turning up and I gave it up.

The next day was more of the same. I got to see my mom's garden, eat some of her vegetables she has grew this year. In the afternoon, we traveled over to McKenzie. Which is a small town mostly composed of homes (not enough to keep more than a handful of businesses alive, it would seem). Visited by grandmother (and, because they were visiting as well, my Uncle Roy and cousin Stephanie (and her husband or boyfriend)). We spent an hour over there, which turned out to be very short. My grandmother was very sad to see us go. She didn't even seem to be paying much attention to us, but I only see her about once a year. Because of that, I am sure that one day I'll have to find a way to spend about a week down there, so I can do things like have real visits with family instead of 4 hour polite blocks of conversation. Afterward, we went over to my brother David's house and spent some time with him. Just relaxed and picked up my nephew. Brought him over to mama's house with us. We all just sat around and talked and had a good time.

About 9-10 that night, we headed north. Due to some construction in Montegomery, we detoured down highway 31 and up through Prattville and then re-entered the interstate. That was about the only exciting bit about the whole trip. It was nice to get to spend some time with my nephew Jonathan again. We talked about goofy things. I don't remember all of what. By time we got back to Huntsville, we had to deal with 2:30am traffic caused by the Black Arts Festival. I'm not sure what that is, but it involved a lot of drunk people shouting and a lot of noise. Oh, and a policeman directing traffic into a Waffle House so packed that people were standing and ordering. And a woman shouting in Walgreens about how she couldn't walk "over there" (Waffle House? The Gas Station across the street?) because she would "get a DUI. Drunk while walking." Entertaining, somewhat, in small doses. But I was tired and soon passed out afterward.

The trip was all over good, but it left me really tired. I think the heat and humidity somehow triggered it, like a low level sinus infection that won't let go. I'm not sure what it is, but I've been really drained (yesterday was the first day I had energy, and I don't have any today).

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:31:14 AM CDT) 'Allo! 'Allo! First Post of July, 2008!

A vertible lot of stuff has fallen into my lap since the last time I have made a post. So much so that most of it will likely fall through a sense of built up parsimony. Imagine that you have not seen your brother in five years. Imagine you only get three hours to catch up. That's what I am talking about. If I did sit down and crack out the "sure to be the size of Gibbons's as of yet unpublished The Rise and Fall of Doug's Trip to Evergreen, 2008" post, you would spend as many hours reading the post as I did living it. As it is, you have already spent a few minutes reading about how long it could be. I suppose I should just dig in.

I'll save the trip details for tomorrow and just jump into today. I woke up pre-9am after some wistful and not-fulfilling sleep. At some point in time, after doing nothing, I went to sleep on the couch and stayed there until woken up by Kerry, who was up for a walk. We headed downtown and spent a couple of hours taking in the sites (sights?).

We got to stop by Sam & Greg's, which is nice but we didn't get to stay for long. All I got to try was their Brat-dog. Which was good. I'll go back sometime and have a better try. We also looked at the churches, and Kaffee Klatsch, and the park, and the soon to not-be Family Clinic. Downtown really does have some great stuff. I still would love to live there or near there, but I cannot foresee having enough free money to ever justify it.

Much like I can never see having enough money to pay $850 for a limited edition collection of Richard Laymon's short stories. I would love to read them, but I simply can't take that level of expense. Besides, just as soon as I fork out money for them, I bet Leisure would release a mass market version for $7.99. Hint, Leisure. Hint.

I could, however, afford used copies of Hogfather and Stacked via Amazon (I had some birthday money that had been put on hold until after it was confirmed we could afford the trip, I spent half or so of it on the collection of Metal Gear Solid games and the rest on the DVDs). I am starting to be enamored of the used DVD market. They are usually less than half price, and most people simply watch them once and then return them. I'm sure it will eventually melt down or something, but for now it is enabling me to get things that I like (Hogfather) or kind of like and would mostly like to own due to the theme of "Breasts in a bookstore" (Stacked) for the price that either one of them would have been.

Anyhow, after the walk downtown, came back here and made a rather mediocre thing of spaghetti. It was good, but somehow the flavors were in too much of a competition. I have no idea why. Watched part one of the Hogfather with Kerry and then went out to Bandito Burrito where she treated Sarah and myself to a pitcher of Dos Equis. From then on out, the day has tended to the boring side.

I finished watching The Dunwich Horror which is unforgivably dated, but still interesting, and started listening to the Gervais podcast again. I found out that Audible.com is a Linux hating bitch. I'm not even going to bother with Wine for that one. When Ereader.com screws over Linux, it doesn't quite bother me. They are primarily aiming for a handheld market. Audible.com is dumb, though, in that I can't even download the damned things without Windows. At least with eReader I can download them and get them running with no problem. Sigh.

Ah well, I guess that is enough random ranting.

Si Vales, Valeo

Written by W Doug Bolden

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