Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let loose the hounds!

Worked out yesterday. Booooooom! Good stuff. Two really intense circuits. An hour of yoga. Half an hour of cardio. Great great great time in the gym. So glad to be back. Why wasn't I this motivated 20 years ago?

Put in 11 hours at work today. Chasing a ton of problems. All four proxy servers in Las Vegas gave us fits. They had to be rebooted before we had decent internet connections. A print appliance blew up and started ARPing like crazy across the entire local subnet. It slaughtered the Player's Club and affected everyone for hours until we sniffed it out. And our WAN optimizer started showing its age, borking up connections for our Citrix-based Property Management System (PMS!) All of that simultaneously making our lives (and several thousand end users) miserable.

My brother, Jason, has strep throat AND a staph infection. Double whammy. Triple whammy if you throw his infant daughter into the mix. Thankfully he is off work Tuesday - Friday. He'll have some time to recover. He needs it.

No job for Kimmer. No job for Romie. New job for Adam. Eventually a new job for Lisa. In today's environment, I'm not rocking the boat. South Mississippi isn't exactly a sprawl technological Mecca. But I'm giving serious thought to tilling the earth and becoming a farmer. Corn production across America is down. Corn consumption is soaring. Simple math.

Had a flashback today. Back in 2004 I had a rare encounter. While walking to lunch in Atlanta, GA, I noticed a commotion proceeding toward me down Peachtree. Lots of people moving slowly. Light dusting of police presence. And fire. Bobbing down the middle of the street, a torch. But not just any torch. The torch. For the 2004 Olympics. I stopped and stared. Less than ten feet away, the runner stopped, too. He held up the iconic symbol, smiled, and passed it to another runner. And the procession continued down Peachtree.

What a difference four years make. Now protests mar the line of runners. The police have to fight off screaming, angry anti-China, pro-Tibet protesters. While I admire their fortitude, the protesters are wasting their time and ruining the dream of countless innocent runners.
Brave, but fruitless. Our government is going to do absolutely nothing to upset the balance of power with China. We need them to supply us with cheap goods and buy our rapidly bloating debt. It is a parasitic relation. But who is sucking the other's blood?

And thus my day draws to a close. Tomorrow brings another battle. I pray for victory.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Meg's Cool Trick

We were driving to the gym last weekend and Meg started doing the most amazing thing! I thought it was a fluke. But she could do it every time. Not only had we never heard her do it before, but nobody else could do it! I think it's pretty amazing for something she picked up on her own. So I recorded it for posterity. Maybe one day I'll get to show it at her wedding reception, for her new groom.

video

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deluged

Notable events of the day:
Hit the gym this afternoon. I was a little tired after yesterday's adventure with eight hundred pounds of topsoil (x3 sets!) But I continued to return to my former heights on the weights. Did 400lbs on the inclined press. 180lbs on the hacksquat. 160lbs on the bench. 185lbs on deadlifts. Plus everything else on the circuits. Great great workout and I really pushed myself. Concluded with a half hour of cardio. Lots and lots of sweat.

Put Mom and Dad back online with a re-formated PC. Took forever to do the updates. And took me a few minutes to figure out the printer wouldn't work because Dad had the USB cable in the modem port. Plus they are out of black ink. But I dumbed everything down and made it (I hope) simple for them to check their email and check eBay. And I know their new system isn't part of some botnet, now.

Ton of rain today. My front yard has a few lakes. But the holes I filled yesterday appear to have survived. Not that I went, but the Jazz Fest was flooded. New Orleans had a foot or more of water. Pictures of coolers floating across The Fairgrounds litter the 6-o'clock news.

I made the most of my limited weekend. But we all got deluged.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

But Kimmer LOVES Spam

A couple of closing thoughts for the night.

First, I watched Indiana Jones & The Raiders Of The Lost Ark with Liam tonight. His first. My seventieth. I forgot that my buddy Kimmer has his Big Screen debut in the movie, waaaaaay back in 1981. His German wasn't so good, but his fisticuffs were spectacular. If it weren't for the fact that he caught a spinning propeller in the face, Kimmer would have made schnitzel out of Doctor Jones! I snapped a clip (click to enlarge!) of him. Man! Was he in his prime, or what?

Funny how time changes. I think Kim is on the wrestling circuit, now. I found a more recent picture of him. He was saying, "You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I'm wearing these bad boys? Forget about it! You think anybody thinks I'm a failure because I go home to Starla at night? Forget about it!"

Starla is one lucky woman. Big tracts of land!

Finally, today marks the 30th birthday of my friend: SPAM! The first unsolicited piece of email was blasted out on this day, thirty years ago.

On March 31, 1999, Joel Furr was the first to call a spam a spam. It was an obscure reference to a Monty Python skit. In the skit, an English diner serves its food with lots and lots of spam, and the cross-dressing waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much spam is in the items. As s/he does this, a group of nearby Vikings start chanting:

"Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!"

Until the waitress hollers at them to shut up.

And so the meaning of the term "spam" is: anything that keeps repeating and repeating itself to the point of annoyance.

So, Happy Birthday, Spam! Here's a video to celebrate your namesake

Her Feminine Side

My Mom (Nana, to the kids) picked up some new clothes for Meg. Meg proceed to model everything for us. She doesn't like anyone to help her. And she likes to accessorize (sp?) by herself. Mom got a big kick out of it. Meg had a great time. Makes me so proud to have such a radiantly beautiful daughter. It is always refreshing to see her feminine side.

Landfill

When my builder, John, came over to demo the deck and carport in the back yard, we offered to do Miss Dees, my ancient neighbor, a favor by disposing of some concrete yard posts she wanted removed. Unfortunately neither John nor I knew the ground around her fence was a damp sponge. And John's excavator not only sank up to the treads, but it gouged man-sized holes in Miss Dees' yard.

Sadly, Miss Dees' brownie is no longer baked in the middle, and she thinks I should have been arrested for trespassing and destruction of property. Not only does she yell at me to fix it, she thinks every adult male on my property is me, and yells at them to fix it. She's yelled at my father. At my brother. At my father-in-law. I'm surprised she hasn't yelled at Liam, yet.

The other week, I put 2000lbs of sand and gravel in the holes. That settled down into the holes. And of course Miss Dees yelled about it.

Today, I put 20 bags of topsoil on top of the sand and gravel. Considering each bag weighed 40lbs, that's eight hundred pounds of topsoil. And I had to move them not once, not twice, but thrice. Loaded them onto the hand truck at Lowe's. Loaded them into my car. Then dump them on the holes.

After I filled and leveled the holes. I put down a thick coat of seeds. I forget the brand, but it has worked for me and I've filled some really ugly bare patches with them before. After they were down, I watered everything. Hopefully it will start growing in. And hopefully Miss Dees will climb out of my rectum.

While rolling up the hose, I spotted a couple of Cindy's friends. Two tiny green frogs. They were both green when I went to grab the camera. But when I came back, once of them had changed and was mimicking the color of the hose stand. The beauty and grace of nature. Made me smile. I needed that.

GAME: Kill Switch

Somehow, I missed this one back in 2004. It is your basic straight-forward military shooter. Set in the near-future with un-futuristic weapons. You get your basic rifle. A pocket full of grenades. Possibility to grab a sniping rifle at times. Under-barrel grenade launcher in there some where. Not sure who decided it would be interesting to have advanced communication technology (ie: a neural implant with real-time tactical communication) while keeping the weaponry unadvanced, but it didn't work for me.

Kill Switch also has a clever (at least it tries to be clever) twist on the combat shooter genre: it likes you to use "cover" to take out the enemy. Unfortunately, the enemy also likes to use cover. So the battles typically devolves into you hiding behind a column while the enemy hides behind a truck. And you wait for the enemy to pop up and shoot you, so you can shoot him. Not only is it repetitious and boring, but I typically ran out of ammo all-too-quickly and restored to rolling up on the jihadist and get physical with him.

Which brings me to my final frustration. For such a crack trooper, the character has an insanely limited skillset. He has one mode of jumping. He can pistol whip an enemy, but can't punch or kick them. And his ability to throw a grenade looks to be inferior to mine, and I'm not a gifted grenade-thrower.

The graphics aren't bad. The plot isn't anything special but I did like the unfolding storyline with the girl whispering, "Say my name." But overall, it didn't win any awards. And I'm not surprised.

Within an hour, I had deleted Kill Switch. Even if this were 2004, it would have been an under-performer. It did not have any redeeming value and wasn't worth the amount of space it took up on my drives.

However, if somebody is interested in trying it, the game can be found on eBay for $0.99.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The King's Biggest Role




Somebody sent this my way.

Thought I'd share.

"Elvis Versus Godzilla" is an excellent name for a band.

Long live The King.

Un-Illegal Aliens

The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (S.E.T.I.) has one job. It looks for non-natural signals originating from somewhere other than Earth. If they find signals, they know something, somewhere created them. In theory that "something" is an intelligent lifeform of some sort. S.E.T.I. has been looking at the sky since 1984. Almost a quarter of a century. And they have announced no significant findings. Not one.

SETI@Home is a "distributed computing" project where people donate the spare computational power of their computers to help sift through mountains of received radio signals from space and look for an intelligent needle in that cosmic haystack. The project has been running since 1995. Since that time, three million people from 256 different countries have contributed to the project. I am one of them. I joined on May 19, 1999. I've contributed a combined total of 142,546 hours toward the project. Almost 54B (yes, billion!) signals have been processed by the project in the past decade. But again, they have announced no significant findings. And I've wasted 142,546 hours searching.

Just to further elaborate on the depth of my futility, out of the 1,347,304 active users, I am the #8258 top contributor. That puts me in the top 0.6% of all time. And in the ranks of most prolific daily contributors, out of 1,347,304, I am currently #1416. That means I'm in the current top 0.1% of all active contributors. Which is no small feat. And makes the lack of a discovery all the more bitter.

The scope of the failure is rarely mentioned, only the efforts that have gone into it. The problem is that unless "intelligent life" is purposely hiding from us (a possibility) we can safely say we have no neighbors within twenty five light years of Earth. Not good. Even if we found a signal today, and we replied immediately, our neighbors wouldn't get the call for at least twenty five years. And it would take us another twenty five years to hear their reply.

Twenty five years to say, "Hello?"

Twenty five years to respond, "Is E.T. there?"

And we've been beaming our own signals into space since the 1936. That's when Hitler televised the Berlin Olympics. That means our sporting events have potentially reaching anyone between Germany and Zeta Leporis. Unfortunately, we've been broadcasting for 72yrs, without anyone getting back in touch with us.

If nothing else, I want to cling to this mortal coil until we've confirmed we are not alone in this universe. But we know we've got at least twenty five light years worth of silence to overcome. And the gap grows wide each second.

If I don't do it this May 19th (9 years) I'm going to throw in the towel next year. A fruitless decade of looking at the sky and asking, "Is anybody out there?"

Very depressing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MOVIE: War

Didn't Jet Li retire? If not, he should have. BEFORE he made War!

I like the guy. He has skills. He impressed me in the past. But he is supposed to be a martial artist. He shouldn't depend on computer generated trickery to try to impress the audience. He shouldn't try to prop the success of the movie up on the use wires to leap around doing fantastic, impossible moves. And if a proper demonstration of butt-kicking were displayed, he wouldn't need to try to crutch the nose-diving awe of him with large, loud firearms.

Take the special effects out of Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon, and it is still an excellent movie. Take the special effects out of War, and it collapses upon itself like a log cabin made of steaming ninja turds.

The writing was bad. The acting was laughable. The plot was unbelievable, but managed to avoid being predictable. The ACTION was pitiful. The dialog was pathetic. And not even the special effects could keep me from fast forwarding most of the scenes.

Oh, and somewhere, Jason Statham is in it. Hoorah. He needs to get back to filming The Transport 3: Return Of Pink.

Possibly one of the worst movies I've seen in 08. Not worth renting, even for free. If you watched War with a date, you have my condolences.

BOOK: Crooked Little Vein

My far-distant buddy, Kevin B, sniped Warren Ellis' Crooked Little Vein off my Amazon wish list last month. I finished it this past weekend.

Warren usually writes comics. He is also quite a prolific web celebrity. He is bleak, timely, and extremely knowledgeable about all manner of subculture trivia. He's an Information Age, technophillic, self-promoting Aleister Crowley. And I'm quite fond of his writing.

Crooked Little Vein is Ellis' first novel. It isn't a comic. It isn't for the kiddies. And prudish adults should likely steer clear of it, too. It contains lots of offensive material. Lots of it. Naughtiness at every turn. Right Wing Conservatives and Fans Of Bush should avoid this one.

It is a dark tale of adventure centering around pseudo-detective Mike McGill and his attempt to reclaim a lost tome. A legendary book that has special interest to the current Presidential administration. As is usually the theme, the journey is more important than the actual reward. And what a twisted journey it is. Ellis spins a web of shady characters that would be more at home in Malebolge of Dante's Hell than in the light of day.

Mike McGill is a spewing fountainhead of bad karma. If something bad happens, it happens to Mike. If there's a villain in the area with a raging hate-on, his first victim is likely to be Mike. If there's one plague-infected mosquito in a room full of people with Mike, he'll be the only person bitten. And of course, he'll have TB coursing through his veins before the end of the chapter.

Ellis' writing is very crisp and clean. He doesn't stay in one place too long. He doesn't drag out any points or wax poetic on any deeply philosophical themes. The pacing is quick. The characters are mildly shallow, but entertaining. And while I thought I was substantially well read, Ellis completely baffled me with some of the kinks and addictions he presented in Crooked Little Vein. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he was bluffing. But saline injecting juice monkeys are so unbelievably sickening, they must be real, or Ellis wouldn't torment me with them.

Quick. Entertaining. Funny. Creative. Enlightening. All in all, a very enjoyable read. I hope Warren Ellis produces more dark adventures for my perusal.

Kimmer's inspirational poster

In between cries of, "Woe is me," and pleas for some of my rapidly-dwindling supply of Good Karma, my buddy Kimmer sends me his latest inspirational poster. (click to enlarge)

Fortunately Cindy never views my page and won't confuse the image for something of MY creation. She has a lawyer on her speed dial. She'd put papers on me like fur on a Sasquatch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jibber Jabber

My Mom called me Saturday night. Unusual for her. Said she gave her two week notice at work. They took away her day off on Tuesday, so she won't have any days off with Dad. And they tried to write her up for "talking over a supervisor" on the radio. She's been there like nine and a half years, and they want to admonish her for hitting TALK too quickly on the radio? Puh-lease! So she said she'd give them two more weeks and that was it. And the rest is history.

Picked up Cindy from the airport on Sunday. Surprised her by waiting with the kids at the gates. She surprised us with a new haircut. Almost didn't recognize her. Was used to her hair being down by her collar bones. Now it is up by her chin. I've never been picky about that sort of thing. As long as she's happy, and not bald, I'm happy. The new cut does make her look younger, and hipper. And she feels better about this one. She's happy. So I'm happy.

Meg woke up at 0430 Monday, came into our bedroom, and promptly announced, "I threw up." Cindy took her into the bathroom to clean her up, while I made the mistake of going to Meg's room to scout the extend of the damage. I'll spare the gory details save one: there were chunks on the wall. Needless to say, Cindy stayed home that day with Meg. Fortunately, Baby Bear has been much better since then.

Liam got his first stripe in Bazillian Jiu Jitsu last night. It took him a while to get the hang of "falls." He reallllly doesn't like falling. I don't blame him. But he IS on a thick padded mat when he is doing it. So it isn't like he's getting hurt. Still, he didn't like to feign a fall and fought it every step of the way. Finally, after watching other kids get their stripe, he surrendered his fears, performed the falls correctly, and scored a stripe.

Last night, I hit the sack extremely early. Somewhere close to 9PM. Caught up on a lot of sleep. And felt great this morning. Hit the gym this afternoon. Kicked it up a notch and continued to inch closer to my former limits. No problems with my neck. No problems with my back or shoulders. Everything felt great. Followed up a couple weight circuits with an hour of yoga. More relaxing than challenging. And before I left, I checked the scale. Only re-gained gained two of the 8 pounds I lost. 209 right now. Down from 215 earlier this year. Going to work on getting down to an even 200 before I get to the beach in June. Just glad I didn't re-gain all that weight. Makes me less frustrated and more eager to resume my training routine. Pick up where I left off.

Work continues to keep me wrapped up during the day. There's a big political showdown in PA, tonight. I've been touching base with some of my old Atlanta, GA, amigos. Been swapping email with my old childhood buddies. Life is good. But August is approaching. I feel it in the wind.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

If ABC News hosted the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858


After my rant this week about ABC's utter chimpery of a debate, I'm glad to know other folks felt the same. I truly enjoyed Andrew Olmsted's version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, as performed with ABC News.

Here's an excerpt:

LINCOLN: In my opinion, slavery will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me, did an Elijah H. Johnson attend your church?

LINCOLN: When I was a boy in Illinois forty years ago, yes. I think he was a deacon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you aware that he regularly called Kentucky “a land of swine and whores”?

LINCOLN: Sounds right -- his ex-wife was from Kentucky.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did you remain in the church after hearing those statements?

LINCOLN: I was eight.

DOUGLAS: This is an important question George -- it's an issue that certainly will be raised in the fall.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce him?

LINCOLN: I’d like to get back to the divided house if I may.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce and reject him?

LINCOLN: If it will make you shut up, yes, I denounce and reject him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce and reject him with sugar on top?

LINCOLN: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No takesies-backsies?

LINCOLN: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Whoa, so you would consider a takesie-backsie?

LINCOLN: That’s not what I meant…


Thank you, Andrew. Good to know somebody is even more snide than I am.

Visit his blog for the rest of the debate.

GAME: Shadowgrounds

Found this from back in the '05. Likely before Katrina screwed up my day. Just fired it up this week and took it for a test drive.

You don't see too many over-head shooters any more. But Shadowgrounds was extremely well done and quite entertaining. It brought me back to my quarter-popping arcade days when a couple of bucks kept us busy for hours. Back when you had to figure out games on you own. Pre-internet. Pre-Gamespot.

Shadowgrounds is about an ornery mechanic on Ganymede who constantly finds himself taking on the crapiest job on the planet. Sure there are likely soldiers and scientists out there better trained and better qualified to do it, but the responsibility always falls on the common man to save the day. He starts with a simple pistol and a flashlight, initially splattering simple aliens in simple situations. But, image this, the plot thickens. Tougher aliens emerge. More weapons are discovered. And the weapons can be upgraded, to a degree. And, as usual, it all boils down to a man and a firearm slugging it out through a barrage of trigger-happy space scum and leaving only a trail of exotic guts in his wake.

What I liked:
  • The graphics are actually impressive and better than anything I used to play at the arcade. It isn't photorealistic, but the lighting effects were fantastic and I played with the flashlight through the whole game. Would have been interesting if they could have done something clever with the light!
  • The weapons were great! I especially liked the final electric-spewing gun. Endlessly fascinating to fire that thing up and watch tongues of lightning flickers across the screen and enshroud the baddies. The flamethrower also earned big points as well as the secondary firing option on the laser rifle.
  • Jumping was extremely useful in combat. It pulled my fat out of the fire many times.
What I didn't like:
  • There weren't enough upgrade points to REALLY try all the weapons' modifications. If you didn't like something, you couldn't un-do it and use the points elsewhere. Almost everything seemed to be useful, so it was a matter of weighing how much I really wanted a gas grenade vs a sub-nuclear rocket. More points, please!
  • The plot was sorely predictable (until the last cut scene.) Some of the story lines (ie: trip through the mines) were completely fruitless. The sub-titles didn't always match the audio. And at one point the game forced me to play some silly ass timing-related challenge when a scientist flipped a switch and I had to hit a button EXACTLY 10 seconds later. Except 10 seconds to me didn't match 10 seconds to the game. I used Liam's digital stopwatch to time it, but the game never conceded I knew how to count to ten! Finally, after 90 tries, an NPC counted to 10 correctly and flipped the switch for me. Why that scene was in the game is completely beyond me. It did nothing but tick me off and waste time.
  • Outside of dodging, jumping had no value and the environment rarely (if ever) came into play.
  • Small selection of monsters. Very limited variety and by the first third of the game, I had seem everything there was to see, with the exception of bosses.
  • The weapon I used MOST was the basic pistol (with all the upgrades.) It never ran out of ammo, it shot straight, it shot far, and it did fairly decent damage. The other weapons were great, but it was sad to keep reverting back to the pistol for either the range or the unlimited shots.
  • The game TEASED me with powered armor. It should have let me use it, or just removed the suggestion I'd get to use it. The freakin' suits were ON THE WALL, but I couldn't gear up? Maddening.
All things considered, a decent little game. Good for a couple of hours on a rainy weekend when nothing else is available.

Friday, April 18, 2008

TGIF

It has been an extremely long, fatiguing week. Most of the time I didn't know what day it was. I'd blink and it was 3PM. I'd blink again and it was midnight. Morning came too soon. As if I never slept. My bones would protest in the too-early light. But finally, Friday is upon us. A brief respite from the war.

Only a couple of updates tonight. I don't have the mental wherewithal for much more. Still spinning up to full speed and hopefully next week will come with more elaborate entries.
  • Cindy is in Atlanta. I bought her a plane ticket and a ticket to see the Braves. They were winning last time I checked. Hopefully she enjoys the trip and the break from the kids.
  • The kids are climbing back from colds. Meg from two weeks ago. Liam last week. However they managed to cast their pox upon me. I'm fighting it this week. Pretty bad caught last night. First time I've REALLY been sick since October of 2005. Not a bad run.
  • I'm really enjoying this last season of Battlestar Galactica. The opening scene of the premiere was staggering to behold. An epic work of art. Not that I agree with the direction or pacing of the current story line, but visually and aesthetically BSG is the finest piece of science fiction ever produced.
  • My amigos Kimmer & Uncle Ron still hunt the White Whale of employment. I know their pain all too well. Bad time to be looking. And the three of us can tell you, being unemployed is greatly over-rated.
  • The new summer heat has brought roaches. As I typed a minute ago, a slow brown one fell off the kitchen wall. Skittered feebly across the floor. The exterminator came earlier this week. And the pests are falling victim to his wares. Those that haven't died are (literally) on their last legs. Like run in confused circles. Until the shoe falls.
It is going to be a long, crazy summer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The First Great Undebate Of 08

So I was a little busy last night. Watching commercial-free runs of The Ultimate Fighter and DEA and Breaking Bad. So I missed the debate on NBC.

Unfortunately, I watched it today. That's, what? Two hours of my life that I'll never get back? Seriously. What was I thinking! It couldn't have been a bigger turd if it has popped out of the hindquarters of a Super-Sized Eurasian Shaggy Mastodon.

Other than having no discernible effect on any future decision I might make, my major beef is that it was completely irrelevant. Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolous spent the first hour beating an endless shambling parade of dead horses. I receive no value to further discussion of Hillary's Bosnia story or Obama's link to Rev. Wright. And what is was with the video question questioning Obama's of the American flag? As if the man is going to confess his secret fetish for wrapping himself in the state pendants and rolling around on a bed of lightly sauteed and still steaming grilled onions?

The rest was just noise in my ears. Nothing of any merit or strength. Easily predicted questions receiving easily predicted answers. The captive hearts and minds of half of America in their hands and the only thing Gibson and Stephanopolous can pitch are limp-wristed softballs?

But that is what American politics has become. Softcore Vaudville acts. Spineless hacks afraid to challenge the "candidates." Instead, they trade light-hearted slaps with them. Larry, Moe, and Curly fighting over a bandsaw.

And in eight months, they all have to tango with Shemp.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pieces Of Day

Long day. Liam's stomach has been acting up for a couple of days and last night Cindy had given him some medicine to help calm everything down. But he couldn't go to school in such bad shape. So I stayed home with him.

Just a couple of thoughts about the day:
  • My glutes feel like some large nocturnal predator gnawed on them all night and spit out the unsavory gristle. Maybe I over did the squats and leg presses? Otherwise, I feel great after yesterday's workout. No problems with my neck or back. Gonna try another circuit tomorrow.
  • We watched Pope Benedict XVI lead a prayer in Washington, DC. His first visit to the States. He did a fine job and I enjoyed seeing them doing a Latin mass. Lots of ceremony and tradition involved.
  • Liam taught me something about Venus today. (Yes, the planet!) A year one Venus (one roation of the sun) takes 224 earth-days. However one day on Venus (one rotation of the planet) takes 243 earth-days. So a day on Venus takes longer than a year on Earth. I totally didn't believe it. But when checked Wikipedia. Now I believe. Liam schooled me.
  • For dinner, we all went to High Cotton. Cindy didn't like her lemonfish because it tasted too fishy. Meg didn't like her fried chicken because the chicken meat was too white. Women.
  • A couple of my friends asked about the layoffs at MGM/Mirage layoffs. Yes, I was glad that I finally survived a corporate layoff (I was caught in three of them before!) But I was depressed because I had to dwell on the events for several days. Then I had to disable the accounts of everyone that was caught. And I knew several of the people. Not telling them was extremely unnerving. But I silently apologized to each of them as they went down.
  • Quick comment on Bittergate: Obama should have stuck to his guns and not apologized. Recession. Housing collapse. Inflation. Credit implosion. Unemployment. Who isn't slightly bitter these days? It is a shame that he slipped up and spoke truthfully for a change. He has lost a measure of creditability with me for back pedaling. Besides, the folks who claim he offended them and they won't vote for him prrrrrrrrobably would not have voted for him, in the first place.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Trapped (elevator footage)

Read a fascinating article today called "Up And Then Down" which is a great discussion of elevators in New York. The highlight is Nicholas White’s ordeal of being trapped in an elevator for 41 hours after he left his office at Business Week to go downstairs for a cigarette. The article is accompanied by an extraordinary time-lapse video of White in the elevator, pacing and sleeping and rummaging like a hamster on an endless wheel.

Situations like this are why I almost always carry my Leatherman Skeletool and an LED flashlight. Not sure if a cellphone would have worked (mine never gets any signal in the elevators at work) but I usually have that clipped onto me, too.

My motto: Always have a backup plan.

Back to the gym again

I think March 4th was the last time I worked out. A six week break. Certainly not what I had in mind. But it was, for the most part, unavoidable. I spent a couple of weeks working on the house. A could of weeks recovering from that. And a couple more weeks recovering from the pinched nerve in my neck.

But I think it is safe to say that I've made a complete recovery from my recent woes. I did two circuits, though nothing brutal, without any problems. Also did an hour of yoga, with no problems. Then ran for thirty minutes. And I feel grrreat! I'll see how I feel in the morning, though.

Planning to go back on Thursday. Perhaps tomorrow for some more cardio. But I'll play that by ear.

Sooooo good to be back in the gym. First time I've really smiled in weeks. Hope it lasts.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beast in the basement

Back in Atlanta, GA, I had my own basement. A massive thing with room for all my computers and servers and tools and macabre experiments. I thought I was a modern-day mad scientist.

At least until today, when I saw this guy. I think he's the genetic offspring of Liberace and Billy Bob Thornton.

UPDATE: Uncle Ron has notified me that the jackleg on YouTube who uploaded the video has disabled the ability to stream the video from other sites. However you can go directly to the YouTube page and see it there: Leon Berry - Beast in the Basement (improved version) It is worth checking out!


Gotta admit: he knows how to jam!

Onward and upward

Looks like the story finally broke on the national news:
"MGM Mirage is laying off 440 managers

MGM Mirage, the Strip's largest casino operator is laying off some 440 management employees at both the property and corporate levels, a response to the souring national economy but also part of a corporate belt tightening program begun last year.

MGM Mirage President and COO Jim Murren said today management and supervisory level staff reductions were part of a process that will save MGM Mirage about $75 million annually. Most of the workers in Las Vegas were informed of the cutbacks today."

I'm not one hundred percent sure about that number, though. The layoffs we had locally included a large percentage of that figure, if it is correct. But in the grander scheme of things, we only had to let go of 0.5% of our total headcount. Could have been much much worse.

Things like this always sour the mood. Down here on the Gulf Coast, it is worse because we all know each other so well. It isn't like Atlanta, with four million people. The community is smaller down here. We feel the impact more directly

Anyway, everyone was depressed today. Especially me. I've known it was coming a little longer than the average bear. Because I had to be on standby to disable the accounts. So I was torn up all weekend and completely not in a mood to post much of anything.

But I hope we've seen the bottom of this rabbit hole. I hope we can get past it. Move on with our lives. I'm going to try (again) to get into the gym tomorrow. Restart my program from the beginning. And sweat off the anger and frustration.

Only way to go: onward and upward.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

MOVIE: 10000 BC

I honestly think the value of certain movies is dictated by a) Your pre-conceived expectations, and b) Who you watch the movie with.

I went to see 10000 BC with my eight year old future-Mega-Pope and son, Liam. I knew it was going to be loosely based on reality and I knew there were no big-named-stars in it. So I had great company, but significantly low expectations.

And I loved it!

It isn't going to win any awards for acting or direction or music or anything else other than possibly special effects. But that doesn't men I didn't enoy it. It actually had a very subtle level of originality and it didn't spell out all its secrets to the viewers. I actually liked the plot. And the pacing was beyond what I expected. The effects were very well done. Some of the sweeping panoramic shorts were extremely impressive, especially toward the final battle. And I don't recall anything blatantly cheesy enough to make me roll my eyes.

10000 BC appears to have been well thought out and a serious effort put into make a semi-plausible revisionist version of history. I honestly enjoyed the suggestion that space traveling pharaohs fashioned the pyramids. I like the completely un-elaborated myth of Orion lurking in the background. And that the star pattern really was the constellation of the Hunter: Orion, complete his belt and shield. And I liked the protagonists tribe being based around the migration of mammoths, while revering them and selectively trying to only trap one of them per season.

Liam loved it, too. He had all kinds of great questions. And thought up some of his own theories. He was digging all of it and told him Mom that he had a great time.

Would I have enjoyed it with Cindy? Nope. With my friends? Probably not. With my parents or my brother? Probably not.

But Liam and I give it four thumbs up!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Employee Of The Year

Had a Man Date with bossfellah Parker & bossfellah Keith. The Employee Of The Year galla at Beau Rivage. Since my father won one yeah, my parents were there, too. Beautiful event. Phenominal food. Endless drinks. Good music. Lots of class and splendor. Very nice way to show respect to those few folks who earned Employee Of The Month and were going for the Employee Of The Year award. Everyone deserved it, but only one person could win. And in the end a chef won. He was so choked up he couldn't talk, much. He said thank you, waved, and left.

In the picture, Bossfellah Parker & Computer Engineer Carrie. We were still sober at this point. I think.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dressed in shadows

Been a long, dreary road to recovery. I've been more down than up lately. Rough week at work. Too much work at home. Odd weather. A complete lack of energy on my part. And I haven't been eating or sleeping right.

Anyway, I'm catching up on some old posts. They'll appear over the next few days. In the meanwhile, a couple of updates of the more boring aspects of my adventures:
  • My neck is much better. It is mostly muscular discomfort every so often. No more sharp pains. my range of movement is greatly improved. I think I'm about 90% recovered.

  • Still haven't been to the gym. Must be close to a month. Very disappointed to have such an interruption in my progress. But there was no choice on the matter. I could barely walk, let alone lift weights. I'm hoping to start back on Saturday and restart my training program from day one.

  • Still trying to unclutter my world. Two steps forward, but one step back. Cleaned out about half of my eBay-worthy goods, but refilled the empty spaces with items for remodeling the house. My garage is still a disaster. Cindy hasn't cleaned any cabinets. But the kids did do a good job going through their closets. We have four bags of clothes to donate. And I have a still have plenty to auction off.

  • Still trying to drop off the extra pounds. But after a month of sloth, I'm sure I gained back the seven or eight pounds I lost. But we have almost two months before we hit the beach. I'm hoping to make a dent on my waistline before then.

  • All manner of oddness among my friends: Kimmer is still searching for a new gig. Adam landed at SAIC. Ron's had a few leads but nothing solid. Lisa's on her way to Virginia shortly. And Kenny is watching the approach of a shockwave from the collapse of the real estate market. He hopes he can ride it out. We're all ducking for cover.
That's all that comes to mind, for now. I'll catch up on the rest. I've been dressed in shadow for too many days. And I'm ready to see some sunlight. I'll either find some, or make my own.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hrmmm #9

Large number of items on my list today.
  • US seeks to boost emergency stock - We've got 701,000,000 million barrels of oil in the reserve, but Dubya knows something ill is on the wind and he's storing up for a long winter. 76,000 additional barrels being added to it per day, he says. I wonder what we're not being told.
  • 2 arrested at LA airport over Chinese camera shipment - I really don't get this one. Surely China has access to better technology than this. And even if they don't, they could get it off eBay or Craig's List. But something is up in the New Cold War. This is just the first public acknowledgment of it.
  • Losses from loan fraud surging, say industry - This is good. The crooks are reporting that they're getting looted. The "mortgage industry" and the Realtors and lenders were robbing the middle class for half a decade, reporting record profits and artificially inflating the housing market. But now they're getting up in arms because people are returning the favor. Best part is "46,000 reports and 260 convictions." Less than 1% conviction rate. Nice!
  • Third Airline Closes Amid Worsening Economy - Fuel costs + slowing economic environment. No sign of this slowing down any time soon. We flew far too close to the sun and nobody should be surprised when the wax on our wings melts.
  • TSA Rules to Blame in Pilot's Gun Mishap, say Pilots and Airline - Staggeringly brilliant. The pilot who brought the gun onto the plane and mishandled it while storing it isn't to blame? His negligence is somehow the fault of the TSA and their rules? How about accepting some responsibility. How about admitting your mistakes. Be a man. And let's move on.
  • I like the duality here: Bird flu virus may have got entrenched in India and Bird flu fears wane. Good point: since 2003 only 373 people have been known to have contracted bird flu. Good point: Tens of millions of animals have been slaughtered and millions more are on the chopping block. All for 373 infections? We write "Won To Kill" on our helmet while wearing a peace symbol on our jacket. It's the Jungian thing.
  • New Massive Botnet Twice the Size of Storm - Amazing stuff here. Digital supervillains hiding in the ether. And the best minds we have are scared. The public won't ever get it.
  • Companies struggle as Safari pops up on networks - Nice to see some bad press on Apple for once. If it were Microsoft's doing, there'd be no end to the cries of foul. And, believe me, this is quite a problem on a corporate network.
  • EU clears path for in-flight mobile phone use - Hey, hey! First the UK, now the EU. And not a peep from American media to get the populace behind making the change on this side of the pond.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hrmmm #8

Big plate of Hrmmm to get the day rolling.
  • US consumers lose record sums to Internet crooks - It is so frightening to think that there are entire societies outside of the U.S. with full time jobs do nothing other than using the Internet to steal from Americans in any way possible. $239.07M across 200,000 complaints is mind boggling. And my money says for every reported complaint, there are plenty of unreported ones. Probably just the tip of the iceberg, here. As more countries join the online community, the villainy will surge.
  • FAA Inspectors Say Concerns Ignored - When "whistle blowers"catch the eyes and ears of Congress, it is bad bad bad. I expect the various airline companies will take a mad dash at repairing the things they have let rot for years. But ultimately, the American consumer will pay for it as flights get canceled and air travel grinds to a halt. Not the last we'll hear of this.
  • Corn Hits $6 a Bushel on Tight Supplies - This is why I need to be a farmer! Demand for corn is surging and supply is dwindling. God help us if the Chinese stop putting such high tariffs on imported corn, they'd eat us out of house and home. I need to get up to Hattiesburg and plant my retirement crops. Meanwhile, the consumer needs to be aware there is no end in sight to higher food prices.
  • FDA OKs New Rotavirus Vaccine - Any parent will want to hear about this! I wish this had come along about, oh, eight years ago.
  • South Korea Slaughtering Infected Birds - Almost half a million less chickens on the earth. I wonder how that'll affect global warming? Meanwhile I had no idea South Korea was the latest hunting ground for bird flu. Seems to be moving this way?
  • Reach Out And Hack Someone - New technology and new exploits. With VOIP in my house now, I think the public needs to be more aware of the looming threats.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

This Olde House - Drywall, Doors, and Casing.

Troy came by to finish up the last layers of mud on the walls and ceiling of the hallways, as well as the ceiling in the kitchen. The interesting part of that adventure was when he whipped out the stilts to do the high points. Troy's a big lad. Built like a freight train. And it was impressive to see him waltzing around the kitchen on a pair of 3' stilts. He was extremely nimble and had the job wrapped up in short order.

All that is left now is to sand the excess and paint everything. Troy recommended a one-inch "lamb's wool" roller to give the ceiling a suggestion of texture. It won't do anything radical but will obscure any blemishes left over from the popcorn. Hopefully Cindy can get to the painting later this week. (She and the kids are off for Spring Break.)

After Troy left, I swung by Lowe's and wrapped up the order for five new interior doors. Since the walls are open, I'm going to replace all the bedroom and bathroom doors. Not only are the existing ones flimsy and misshapen, but they do not have any locks, and don't close all the way. We'll be glad to see them go.

In a rare stroke of fortune, Cindy and I agreed on Masonite's "Belagio" doors. We like the subtle curves on the panes. And the solid core should lend not only fire resistance but also afford some noise reduction. So I ordered five pre-hung doors with oil-rubbed brass hinges. The should be here in ten days. I'm ready now.

While I was at Lowe's, I picked up enough casing and floor boards to trim the archway and the floors in the hall. I wanted to get crown molding, but I'm still burning braincells on how to transition from the hall to the kitchen. So I'll pick the molding up next time.

When I got home, I whipped out my monstrous miter saw and the cordless finishing nailer and put everything in place around the archway. Even got spunky enough to caulk it, spackle the holes, and sand everything. Viola! All done. And, another project ready for painting next week.

A good day's work. My first real efforts since my neck began to revolt.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

MOVIE: Leatherheads

Cindy got to pick, today being her birthday and all. Glad she picked this one. Tremendously enjoyable movie! Leatherheads is easily one of the best movies we've seen together in a while.

Clooney plays the cunningly named "Dodge Connolly", a sharp tongued devil and would-be football star with the goal of evolving his sport from muddy boxing matches to seat-packing professional spectacles. Unfortunately, the "sport" is on the verge of dissolving. And the movie is about Dodge's attempts to catapult football into the darling of American hearts rather than the gunky cruft on the bottom of its shoes.

Very good acting. Great, timely writing. Good pacing and plot. Fantastic dialog. I liked the subtle blend of dirty subculture and the nostalgia of the Good Old Days, when everyone smoked, booze was an unhidden secret, and there were no helmet laws for motorcycles.

Certainly a fantastic date flick. I'd recommend it to anyone over the age of 30.

FOOD: Hard Rock Cafe - Biloxi

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, Dear Cindy,
Happy birthday to you!

We all swapped cards and sang and spanked her weathered old bottom. Then Cindy got to pick what she wanted for lunch. (Well, she could have picked ANY meal, but she wanted us to all go out as a family.) And she picked the Hard Rock Cafe, in Biloxi.

We walked right in and waited only briefly while a booth was cleaned. Had the spinach dip for starters. Liam has (surprise!) a hamburger. Plain. Nothing on it. He ate most of it. Meg had (surprise!) chicken tenders. She ate half of it. Cindy had a massive cob salad. She barely put a dent in it. I had a spinach burger. It was waaaaay messy. But I destroyed it.

The location was awesome. Plenty to observe. The menu was very diverse. I only wish I could have been drinking! Service wasn't bad. Our waitress was spunky. But she strayed too far too long. The rest of the staff was somewhat frightening, though. One of the busboys had blue hair and enough metal in his face to build a landmine.

For dessert, we swung by Ben & Gerry's. Oh - my - god. What a tempting spread those dudes had! Picking just ONE flavor was the roughest part of my day. I had Chunky Monkey. (Banana chunks and chocolate chunks.) Liam had Half Baked (vanilla, chocolate, brownies, and chocolate chips.) Meg had Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Instead of icecream, Cindy rolled over to Starbucks. Scored a skinny vanilla latte.


Good food. Good family times. Really enjoyed the property, too. All in all, a great lunch.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hrmmm #7

Not much caught my eye, today. But, I wasn't looking very hard. Living on the Internet is tough on April 1st. I got caught off guard by Google's custom time trick before I had any coffee and Google's Virgle ticked off Liam. But everyone seemed to enjoy that all the featured videos on the YouTube.com frontpage are currently linking to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. Best hoax of the day, there!

Anyway, on with the news I think will go completely under-reported by the mainstream media.
  • Air Force leads push to liquefied coal fuel - Interesting news because if things go according to plan, MS will have the first liquid coal power plant. This could help push the timeline.
  • Impact of meat recall beginning to show - Not only do we rarely hear the full truth about meat recalls, but we rarely hear that it costs millions upon millions to destroy the meat properly. And there's often little consideration given to the revenue that flies out the window due to lost sales.
  • Little-known lung infection soars among children - TB, Sars, and bird flu usually hog the limelight. I hadn't heard of empyema. But with infection rates among children jumping 450%, I'm taking notice.