Sunday, June 24, 2001

Make that the third crushing blow....
:::::posted by
erratic :: 08-something PM EST linky

««««««««««««««»»»»»»»»»»»»»»

I am wayyyyy behind on emails...I know this. I am way behind on everything actually.

I will get caught up as soon as I can.

Life has dealt me the second crushing blow in as many days...and I am all but ready to lie in the fetal postion in the corner for a month or two. Too bad I can't do that.

I am going to be absent here for a few days though...just a few days...none of this "I need to stop blogging" followed by a retraction a week later.

The extreme height of "good moodiness" crashes into the pits of despair in less than 30 seconds. It's an amazing process to witness.

It's a crappy one to live.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I'll try both.

Be back in a while.
:::::posted by
erratic :: 01-something PM EST linky

Thursday, June 21, 2001

A couple of months ago I switched cigarettes again. This time, however, I made a more radical switch. My new self-inflicted respiratory damage vehicle of choice is Sampoerna Classics.

Yep, that's right... cloves.

They are worse for you than "regular" cigarettes, as far as personal observations tell me. They are stronger, more expensive, harder to find, and seem to annoy people.

That makes them perfect for me.

Some people do seem to like the smell of them, although more frequently I will be standing outside the office, or at a bar, and silently chuckle to myself as I observe people around me trying to figure out "what the hell is burning?"

I have been accused of scenting the air with everything from the essences of "inside of church" to "glazed ham." I have been told that smoking them is akin to lighting up a piece of pumpkin pie.

I think they taste pretty sweet, myself.

Earlier today, I was standing outside for a small nicotine/sanity break, trying to stay downwind of a couple other smokers, because I wasn't particularly in the mood for the whole "what is that?" guessing game, followed by the confused stares as people try to resolve in their heads that I'm not a beatnik, or something, but I have this thing hanging from my lips...when the weather started to turn.

There was a storm on the way. It had been predicted. It didn't phase any of the smokers too much, but it did cause the wind to swirl. That's the important part, as it relates to why I mention it.

I stub out my treat and head back for the door. A guy...THE guy...he's a regular visitor to the "bad kids" side of the building where all the ashtrays are kept...the guy who sounds like he is going to cough up a lung every time he lights up (oh please let me quit before I ever get to that point)...who's name I don't know, nor care, and vice versa...the guy stops me.

"What ARE you smoking?"

I was expecting someone to say something once the wind changed. I briefly explained them, showed off the pack, briefly told of the trip to California and the discovery of the brand and my appreciation of it, and made my way inside. Then it hit me...what he said. Delayed reaction, like my brain knew something significant had just happened but couldn't quite figure it out until that moment. I had to laugh.

I have been asked, "what are you smoking?" *many* times in my life...on *many* different occasions. They all, up until today, referenced some opinion or idea or action on my part that was viewed less than favorably by the person requesting my incendiary inhalation of choice. Today, for the first time, ever... "What are you smoking?” wasn't some crack about a bad decision...it meant exactly what it said. "What are you sticking in your face and lighting on fire?"

I'd love to assign some greater purpose to this, but I just happen to think it was funny. Besides, I was the acting deployment coordinator at work today, and there just isn't any way to make that sound interesting in the slightest.

Maybe something significant will happen tomorrow. I'll let you know.
:::::posted by erratic :: 10-something PM EST linky

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Dear Real.com,

You suck.

There is a degree to which only the most dedicated people, situations, and organizations aspire...one of the elite suckage, and you have surpassed that mark handily.

Once upon a time, back in the days when 56k modems were big news, you had a lock on streaming content. RealPlayer wasn't the highest quality streaming feed over a sodastraw connection, but it was fast, viewable, and ubiquitous. I remember after each new computer purchase or OS reinstall, I would happily tolerate the download time for the player because I knew it was well worth the wait.

I'm not sure exactly when that changed.

For a while there, Microsoft licensed your codec. This caused some initial consternation, since Windows Media Player sucked back then. In fact, the Microsoft player sucked as bad as you do now.

What a difference a couple of years made.

After the codec license expired, I had a bunch of dead Realplayer Associations in Windows media. My beloved .ra files wouldn't work anymore, with the rather curt error message proclaiming my system to be in possession of an inferior codec, how dare I, and please go out back and quietly smother myself in shame. Or, download the new player. Either one.

I should have realized that was a harbinger of future events to come.

There is a period of time where the RealPlayer status is fuzzy in my memory. I would like to think that is because of a period of flawless operation without any incidents to stick out in my mind. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that the truth is one of those hidden checkboxes in the setup of RealPlayer G2 Basic has wiped my recollection clean.

Bastards.

Enough about the past, let me point to the present situation for which the supreme suckage status you so ardently deserve. It started some months ago when I wanted to listen to a song sample on Amazon.com. I didn't understand what I was getting into.

It was a RealPlayer sample, and apparently I didn't have a suitable application on my system to listen to it. So, download the player. I've done it dozens of times over the years, what's the big deal?

I spent roughly 15 minutes hunting around your web site looking for the free player. I understand there is a deluxe player, with all sorts of neato cool gizmos that justify the price, whatever the hell it is. I just wanted to listen to a 30 second song sample, and had it been in .wav format, I would not be looking for RealPlayer at all. The RealPlayer advantage over other players (Windows Media, Quicktime) holds little swing with me anymore.

Getting the freaking basic player onto my computer in less than an hour holds a LOT of swing.

Once I found the "Click here for the free player" link, at the bottom of the page in text the same color as the background, it took me to a shiny "Download Now" button, which then asked me for a credit card number.

You bastards.

After some MORE hunting around, I found the second super-secret link to the free player. I poignantly recall the declaration that Real.com would make their money on the content providers, and the player would be free forever. Free, yes, but at what cost?

I am then prompted for an email address. Of course, I have spent countless aborted attempts at finding this crappy program by now, so I dutifully enter "fuckyou@youbastards.com". If you happen to have that email address for yourself, let me apologize now. You can't imagine how many fake "@loony.org" emails I get every month. I do understand what it's like.

I download and install the player.

Taking the "typical" installation was something I didn't pay enough attention to. They knew this. They counted on it. By the time I was done putting the player on my computer, every file type that Windows recognized was associated to RealPlayer. Every file I tried to download went through RealDownload. My wallpaper was reset to RealNetworksDeservesMySoul.bmp, a rather disturbing image I am still in therapy over, and the recipe for every Thai dish I ever tried was uploaded to Usenet, and crossposted over several hundred unrelated groups, with the tagline "me too."

Exaggerating? Well, maybe a trifle. But not much. I crawled through the options, and noticed several additional disturbing facts.

Everything I played was uploaded to RealNetworks. EVERYTHING. Why do you need to know?

I was subscribed to several newsletter type things. This was less than obvious, too, since the checkboxes that are selected by default are at the bottom of a scroll box. The top checks are cleared. Thanks for the spam, Big Brother.

The nagging for an upgrade appears every so often, just to remind me that I dare to browse some form of audio or video file without sending you some cash first.

You total bastards.

It took *weeks* to get the POS out of my system again, and when I did kill it off, all of the previous associations in the system failed to come back. It was a nice "and fuck you too" from your uninstaller to me. I don't need to hear *any* song this badly.

Now, what about Windows Media player? It's a crappy thing too, right? Well, yes and no. Versions 6 and 7 were pretty bad, version 8 is pretty good (IMHO). More importantly, my every move is not automatically tracked (it can be but not by default), and, even better, it don't ask me for money. It doesn't subscribe me to things I don't want. It lets me associate and unassociate file extensions whenever I choose. It doesn't mess with downloads, install a "Start Center" that can't be switched off without hacking the registry, and it doesn't thoroughly disgust me.

This is Microsoft we're talking about, too. A company that does thoroughly disgust me. If RealPlayer is going to pull the sort of crap that they pull, they had better have an operating system that I'm stuck with surrounding it. As it stands now, I refuse to stream Real-anything into my computer.

Lastly, there are a few game demos I like to peruse every now and then. Cute 3D-ish creations that showcase my PC's graphical prowess, and are fun time-wasters too. There is a series of them that are from RealArcade, although they go out of their way not to tell you that, until you install any of them.

Then, a program is installed, and all of the demos you have are listed, with suggestions based on what you have played and what you might like to try, do you want to subscribe to...? Do you want to send us your credit card number now?

COMPLETE BASTARDS.

There was a recent AOL/Microsoft pissing contest regarding Windows XP, AOL Instant Messenger, and RealPlayer. Windows XP will likely be devoid of any AOL or RealPlayer tie-ins. Good riddance. Anticompetitive practices or not, cutting out RealPlayer from the future Windows landscape is an act of mercy for us all. I'll deal with the anti-trust implications later. It's easier to break up a monopoly than it is to uninstall your fucking player anyway.

Right now I'd like to simply listen to a little 30-second sample of a CD I'm thinking of buying. Luckily it's in .wma format. I just don't like any song enough to put up with .ra anymore.

I'd rather keep my computer usable, private, and (if need be), in silence.

Bastards.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my experiences and opinions with your upstanding firm, and look forward to future correspondence should the occasion arise.

Warmest regards,
-John (fuckyou@youbastards.com)

:::::posted by erratic :: 10-something PM EST linky

Monday, June 18, 2001

The problem with thinking too much: a peek into the mental spiral that is my life.

On Friday morning, during a rather routine perusal of my daily news reads, I came across one of those stories that is interesting only because a clever headline could be used. It read:

Goldfish Bowl Sends 26 People to Hospital

Whoa...that is *totally* loony dot org material. I need to do a post about it.

I run across stories such as this from time to time. Either through my own discovery, through browsing other blogs, or from links sent to me via IM, email, phone, fax, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, it doesn't matter really. Strange stuff finds its way to me. I accept this.

So the typical brainstorming session follows...what can be said about such a strange series of events? It's rather Rube Goldberg-ish in nature...that's a point to be noted. What is it about Rube Goldberg, anyway? I know who he is; I think most people do...yet I have never found an official definition of what his cartoon constructions were really all about.

I filed this thought away in a corner of my mind for a later time, and wrote about breaking bones in high school.

Last night I retrieved the goldfish thought, looking for an "official" definition of a Rube Goldberg. The problem was, I had already determined what the official definition should be: "A contraption designed to perform a relatively simple task in an unnecessarily complicated series of steps." I couldn't find anyone else to say those precise words, though. After a while, I gave up the search.

What is so fascinating about Rube Goldberg type devices, anyway? I personally find them intriguing, and this is some 90 years after he began creating them week after week for the New York Evening Mail. The need to make simple tasks complex via machines is clearly against the core of what society is about.

Or is it?

As I pad these words, letter-by-letter, into a rather esoteric concept of space (computer memory) with a keyboard, a box at the center of a conflagration of wires patiently checks to see if anything has happened since the last time it checked, to the tune of 800,000,000 times a second. When I do press a key down far enough to make some hidden electrical contact, a manipulation of one switch bursts forth into bits flipping on and off, whizzing here and there, and circuits coming active and going dark, just to paste in the letter "A". If I were to flowchart the full action of putting an "A" onto the screen, it would be more hellacious than Rube could have ever dreamed of.

Then again, a computer is a tool whose power is versatility. It could just as easily calculate the trajectory of Saturn in the year 43,006 if an asteroid the size of Cleveland passed through the center of the solar system, as it could paste an "A" onto the screen. Perhaps that is not a fair comparison.

So let's get down to basics here. What does everyone do everyday, and why? Well, most people go to work...or rob convenience stores... or sit back and live off the fat trust fund mummy and daddy left them... everyone must provide for themselves. Food and shelter are needed, while anything left over after meeting food and shelter requirements would be considered leisure. People want leisure. Some people want it more than food or shelter. This is especially true in a world where food and shelter are, relatively speaking, easy to come by.

Therefore, being stuck in a traffic jam for 3 hours is simpler than clubbing a wild yak to death when it comes to acquiring dinner.

But that's not quite true, either. The history of humankind shows that someone did figure out that it was easier to live an agrarian lifestyle versus chasing wild things around. There was a bit more predictability, and a lot less stuff to carry. That wasn't simpler, but a tad more workable. I suppose given that you were less likely to wake up dead makes it simpler...or, at least, more likely to not care as much about the simplicity issue.

Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution. You see, within the confines of this discussion, I don't care about anything from 5,000 BC until the late 1800's. Not much happened.

The industrial revolution allowed a very small group of people to get rich beyond sanity. This was done by taking some idea, be it a product or service, and duplicate it many many times a lot cheaper than you sold it for. This was a vastly complex undertaking, requiring the ability to make the things that would make the things that you would then sell. It wasn't simpler, but it did make a lot of money, thus allowing for more leisure time. The complexity was simply shifted to other people, therefore making for more personal simplicity (think Rockefeller, Ford or Carnegie).

Technological innovations only make life simpler at someone else's expense.

As time went on, the inevitable trickle-down of socio-economic principles find smaller fish making use of the concept of personal simplicity at the expense of others. Sooner or later, you get someone else to do something that results in a complicated machine or process that screws something up for just about everyone but yourself. After more than a century of this "progress," the buck passing has gone full circle, and people are simply trying to simplify their lives again. We’ve all made our lives simpler, while others making their own lives simpler makes ours more complex again. No one knows how it got so complicated in the first place, and people start wondering why we stopped beating yaks to death thousands of years ago so, instead, we can move along the 405 at 6 mph allowing us to pay the mortgage in the swanky suburb that is 60 miles from the city that holds the company that paid well enough to move out of the same city so that life could get better. Add in the cost of the cell-phone so you can call work to tell them you're going to be late again because the traffic sucks, and get the call to pick up some eggs on the way home, and I begin to think that tending chickens is really the best way to go.

I can't even tell you why I needed to put these words here, when a simple pencil and paper would have done just fine. I don’t even know where here is, metaphysically speaking.

Not to mention the fact that this all started when some idiot put a bowl of fish in a shed in England next to a window on a sunny day, a fire broke out, a bunch of people got hurt, and the resultant system of instantaneously disseminating news prompted me to kill a weekend of thought on how I would come out and say just how strange it was that such a complex series of events could happen.

So now I've posted about the damn goldfish.

And people wonder why I don't sleep.

:::::posted by erratic :: 12-something AM EST linky

Sunday, June 17, 2001

The Great LA debate

Residents of Los Angeles are hotly debating the notion of splitting the city in two. Various facts, figures, and commission reports are flying to and fro as the citizens of the nation's second largest city make their respective cases.

However, there is one small point that no one seems to be making....

Does splitting one giant armpit of a city into two smaller armpits genuinely constitute an improvement?

Just, you know, a thought.
:::::posted by erratic :: 08-something PM EST linky

Friday, June 15, 2001

I drink a lot of milk. A LOT.

It's something I got from my dad. We started on divergent paths pretty early on in my life, although at the time I wasn't observant enough to understand the difference between childhood rebellion and true difference of character. But that is a novel for another time.

Anyway, one of the things I did pick up from him was milk as my beverage of choice. My mom would buy 5 gallons for 5 days. When I started drinking it, it disappeared from the house even faster. Dairy farmers worldwide offered anonymous praise to my family.

When I left home, I started up the milk habit on my own. I still drink milk...a gallon a day, give or take. Dairy farmers still rejoice in me.

I am a klutz and an adrenaline junkie. It's a particularly bad combination. When I was growing up, I was forever finding bruises or scrapes or cuts that I couldn't even remember getting. The ones I did remember, hurt like hell.

However, because of the milk thing (in my opinion), I've never broken a bone.

Well, that's not entirely true. I broke a collarbone, once. It just wasn't mine.

I entered high school as a diminutive freshman. I was barely five feet tall, if that, and 120 pounds soaking wet. This was something that worried me, too, because I was beginning to think that my lack of altitude would be a permanent state. My dad was six-foot-something, my mom five-foot-nothing, and I was starting to wonder if I would take solely after my mom, at least in the height department.

Two years later I would spurt to my now 5'9" stature, but I didn't know that at the time.

Participation in sports wasn't encouraged at home. It wasn't necessarily discouraged, either, however two working parents did make for a difficult time getting to baseball practice. I did play soccer for a couple of years, but I wasn't very good at it. I was a pretty good hitter in baseball, but I really wanted to play football.

I was too small though.

Not to be outdone, I decided I really didn't want to play football after all. In hindsight, I'm not sure if I have the proper jock mentality or not, but I took it all in stride at the time.

I would be able to wrestle.

The wrestling coach in high school was short himself. Mr. Ruch was maybe 5'3", maybe shorter, although I remember thinking that if he was short and could manage the sport, maybe I could too. I felt I was fairly strong for my size, and wrestling was one of those things where size mattered, and my size could be an advantage. I might gain a win for the school simply by being too light. Heh. Small victories, right?

Well, gym class came to the wrestling rotation, which is where the above observations and encouragement of the coach came in. I would see if I liked the class, then go out for the team if I did. No problem.

As it happened, there were a couple of people in my class that were close enough to my weight class to be paired up with. There is only one of those people that I truly remember, though.

He was nearly 6 feet tall. And he weighed about 130 pounds. I may be off on one of those measurements, but not my much. He was *very* tall and *very* thin. He was in my weight class.

We must have looked pretty comical sizing each other up on the mat. I don't remember how the match started, or who gained the first takedown, or anything else about the match until the end. I think I was winning, or I was only slightly down and ready to take the lead. All I remember was the final action. He was lying face down on the ground, and pushed himself up to his hands and knees. I grabbed his far arm and pulled it back, while driving him into the ground with all of my weight. I don't remember if I heard or felt the "snap," but he was in a lot of pain and I seemed to be the cause of it.

I ultimately didn't go out for wrestling.

For someone my size, who was picked on incessantly, it should have been a moral victory. Some form, any form of physical domination in the testosterone pit of high school should have been enough to carry me around the school, chest puffed out, with a "don't fuck with me" aura 10 feet wide...at least for a little while. I tried to use the experience for precisely that purpose, but it didn't really feel right. I started to wonder if others felt good about similar things or not. I still don't know.

Not to mention that the basketball team was pretty pissed off at me for taking out their star that year.

Computers are safer anyway. All I need to worry about with computers is carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, myopia, ELF irradiation, migraine headaches, and ulcers.

No broken bones, though.

No pissed off basketball teams, either.

Got milk?
:::::posted by erratic :: 06-something PM EST linky

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Thank you to everyone who participated in the first Blogger Trivial Pursuit.

After totalling up all the entries, I will admit it, this was TOUGH. It was supposed to be tough. I did suffer from the "has the answer key" syndrome, so I don't think I adequately measured just how tough it was.

There were people who were in the list of 22 that sent an entry, and while they weren't eligible to win anything, they fared no better than anyone else, even knowing their own fact. As it is, the winning entry had four matches.

That's right, only four.

Congratulations to Bill from Pants Candy, who did a splendid job of investigating guessing and picked up the $22 gift certificate.

Many of the participants sent in a list of facts, from which the best fit could be chosen. These were examined carefully for the proper "spoiler effect," and from what I can tell, it worked. Many of the facts that could easily be attributed to certain people were included precisely because they actually went to someone else.

Some of the people and their facts were missed by everyone who entered. Me, Amber, Daddyray, Zippygirl, Booboolina, JustLisa, StrangeCat, Coldmarble, and EvilTwinTheory all evaded detection. I am encouraged by that.

The list is long, and includes a varied group of people. As I stated in the beginning, this was done quite deliberately. In choosing a tidbit of information about each of them, information that may not be generally known, I wanted to show that there are aspects of all of our lives, and online creations, that would surprise even the most avid fan. Even with such a varied group, there are common threads that tie us all together, too.

OK, enough blabbering...here are the correct answers.

Stay tuned for the next installment of blogger trivial pursuit...with smaller groups.
:::::posted by erratic :: 06-something PM EST linky

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

I don't know if the threats of using the EZ-Pass timestamps to issue speeding tickets are true or not. After the drive home last night, I have a feeling that if they are, I'm about to find out.

I have mixed feelings about that whole thing anyway. On one hand, it is *way* too Big Brother-ish for me, on the other, it means that traffic on the GS Parkway and NJ Turnpike is actually moving fast enough to worry about speeders.

My car has a computer type thing in it...yeah pretty technical of me, I know...it computes the distance left in the tank, average mileage, and average speed. Being the nerd purist that I am, I have *never* reset the counters. The average speed, therefore, is computed over all of the 44,000+ miles I have driven to date. It settled in at about 37.1 mph. It's been there for ages now. You have to go reeeeeeealy fast to nudge that sucker up. It's at 37.3 today. Heh.

Thanks to some unusual luck, last night the drive was heavy but navigable. I covered the 60 mile distance in 60 minutes. This included 6 tolls and a quick stop for milk. If you happened to be on the Parkway or Turnpike between 6 and 7pm last night, and were in my way, I'm sorry. Sorta. Heh. 'Nuff said.

I am splitting time at two accounts now. I would be a lot happier about this were they not 80 miles apart. It's an interesting contrast, though, since one is primarily project based and the other is primarily technical. It feels good to be elbow deep in code gore again. I am currenlty rewriting a 40+ page script. My head hurts whenever I think about it, but it's a good kind of hurt, you know? Since most of my time is at this new place, which is too far away and at the other end of some pretty shitty commuting roads (well, not really, actually they are *good* commuting roads, it's just that everyone else thinks so, too), I have a lot of time to curse at strangers again. I suppose it beats cursing at friends, but my commute is now 1 1/2 to 2 hours each way on a *typical* day. Ugh.

I like the work, though. If it were closer I'd be pretty thrilled with the prospect.

I'm still waiting for a transporter to be developed. OK, well, technically a car is a transporter, but I am thinking more along the lines of the Star Trek style device. Then again, should one exist, I would not forsee myself using it to go to North Jersey. Not by a long shot.

Think about it! Breakfast in Hawaii, then leave for work at 8:58 am and getting there early! Work in New York, then pop out to California for an hour. Hey Amber, whatcha doin' for lunch?
:::::posted by erratic :: 02-something PM EST linky

Monday, June 11, 2001

"It's over"

I have heard so much crap about Tim McVeigh recently that I decided to tune out all news this weekend. There was only one thing left to hear: "he's gone, now onto *other* stories..."

At the same time, some "news" did accidentally trickle into my head this morning. I was waiting to hear the above sound bite, and caught a couple of inadvertent interviews with families, lawyers, protesters, observers, tragedy hounds, etc., etc., etc. This one was milked for more than it was worth. Go figure.

However, the biggest sham of this whole episode in history is the notion that "it's over." Reporters sticking a camera into the face of any weeping family member they can find stating the above...since it would make a good clip for the noon news.

What is actually over?

It's been a common thread, doubly so with tragedies...trying to declare "it's over," without ever explaining what "it" really is and what "over" really means. In this case, "it" is only just beginning.

Before I take the bold step of applying a little independent thought here, some disclaimers: I am a staunch supporter of the death penalty. I don't condone bombing daycare centers. Terrorism is, as a whole, a cowardly, atrocious, and (sadly) highly effective method of getting a point across. It should be punished in the manner that we've seen today.

But…

What was the message? Be careful here, because you have likely heard it so many times that you've missed it entirely. There was a vague transmission of "disgruntled vet" and "protesting Waco" which was a very convenient glossing over of one underlying fact: this guy knew *exactly* what he was doing. From the moment he rented the Ryder truck until they declared him dead, it was all meticulously planned out in advance.

It happened just as expected.

Psychopaths are good planners, right? Well, not that I am aware of (ahem, not from personal experience either, thank you), but Tim wasn't a psychopath. Sociopath? I think there's little doubt there, but the Army had no qualms about giving the guy a rifle and aiming him at the Iraqi desert. He is a trained killer, and war hero, fighting injustice over a patch of sand inhabited by foreigners (from the perspective of a US soldier) and kicking out a government that has vastly overstepped its bounds.

Now, stay with me here. The bombing is still a shitty thing, and horribly wrong to have done.

He comes home from the Gulf.

This man, citizen, this soldier, who dedicated his life to the defense of his country, believes he did just that. Defended it. That's not quite getting told by the government he targeted, in part because they trained him, in part because there is most likely more than we will ever hear behind this story, and in part because he had a point. Those last two are huge.

There are many others like McVeigh in this country. The constitution protects their right to exist, even with their seething hatred of the powers that be. There are many amongst those powers that are doing all they can to make that hatred illegal. Waco is seen, by some, as an escalation of that war. I do not happen to share that view, however I do share the view that the days of a government of, for, and by the people has long since been supplanted by a government *on* the people. I am a moderate (no, really!) without weapons experience, desire, or ownership (despite my traffic tirades). To have disenfranchised me should be a clear sign that the great "move to the middle" that modern politics has preached is actually a move away from anything substantive, replaced by a stream of feel-good measures that do little more than get career politicians reelected.

Laws are now passed, harshly worded yet with a promise to use common sense, then enforced beyond their intent once on the books. The proliferation of information has created a less informed society, in part due to the signal-to-noise ratio of the boob tube, and in part to distillation of the facts to such a point that the summary is meaningless.

Only actions speak anymore. Words are worthless in the economy of government.

Timothy McVeigh knew this. He weighed his own options and acted. He died with a smug realization that nothing ended today, it started.

There are others like him out there. They, too, believe in actions over words. The government that withheld 4000 documents from the defense of their new martyr and denied the opportunity to review them, put him to death. This was not the end of a terrorist action; it was another battle in a war. The press was trumpeting the words "collateral damage" through any medium that would carry it. Those words are not new. They were the same words used to describe civilian casualties in Iraq. People fighting governments are instructed to strike their target and minimize collateral damage, if possible. But be sure to strike the target.

At some point in the mid 1990's, a war began. Each side has been mobilizing for some time. The stakes are higher. With each round the ante is upped. I am not a part of the war. You are (very likely) not either. We are firmly wedged between fighting extremes, and neither side is telling the whole story (or maybe, in fairness, not having it told between Buffy reruns.) We are members of the collateral class.

This is the point where I stress again that I do not believe in bombing buildings. It seems that whenever I try and examine the maneuvers that have been playing back and forth right under our noses, I am viewed as some wing nut hell-bent on anarchy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do find it ironic that when we read about this sort of thing in Lebanon or Iran or Pakistan, it's nothing unexpected.

It's here, too.

One parting thought. For those who want to write me off as a paranoid delusional, ponder this: the public line on McVeigh that has been force fed to everyone reading these words is that he was a drifter with a burning hatred of the government, and had a few screws loose. Which would you rather? That a person playing with less than a full deck can manage to pull off such an intricate military operation against the most powerful government in the world? Or that it was another operation in a longstanding campaign that is far from over?

Think about it.

Sleep tight.
:::::posted by erratic :: 07-something PM EST linky

Saturday, June 9, 2001

The haze from the alcohol is still fresh upon my mind.

The dashed celebration has long since turned to anger, followed by a reluctant acceptance of the facts on the screen before me. Before all of us.

The badly covered music blares "Johnny B. Goode" in the background as several people decked out in the appropriate red and white garb bemoan their team's fate and begin to point fingers at the most likely parties responsibility for the embarrassment.

Sports mean big money. This is certainly no secret. A man who can hit a sphere of string covered in leather easily expects to earn ten times what the President of the United States (pretend for the moment either deserve 10% of what they get). The exposure...the endorsements...the pressure. Sports figures need to be perfect all of the time to get credit for their ability.

They still make millions though.

Sports are a strange thing. Regional for the most part, until the various eliminative processes weed out the inferiorly skilled or unlucky teams leaving a few remaining, until there are only two.

Then the exposure goes national.

Suddenly a market of a couple million people explodes to many many millions. Two teams only known in one region of the country are exposed to the entire nation. All of the support from the local fanatics is overwhelmed by the critical eye of impartial observers from places that still resent the fact that their local heroes aren't on center stage.

Suddenly, reputation is at stake. Of the stars, of the team as a whole, of the region they represent.

The problem now is that regardless of the struggle to get to this pinnacle of excellence, where all other teams have been eliminated, save two, is meaningless to most of the observers. Strangers looking at a game, or series of games, haven't followed the season's struggle, and do not give credence to the accomplishment of simply being there.

In truth, I don't give it much credence either, and I *was* following it.

The flaw of exposing championships nationally for regional teams is that the losing team sucks. At least, that is the prevailing theory. There is one game (or series) seen, and in that game (or series) there is one winner and one loser. The fact that the loser was still better than 28 other teams is all but forgotten.

There are two NJ teams I follow. The (NFL) Giants (yeah I know they are called New York, but Giants stadium is in East Rutherford, NJ, thank you) and the (NHL) Devils. Both teams were good enough to get to the finals in their sport. Both teams lost. Both teams will live as the team that sucked for the rest of the year.

Sometimes it's better to come in third.
:::::posted by erratic :: 10-something PM EST linky

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Question:

What do these 22 bloggers all have in common?

Answer:

Blogger Trivial Pursuit

I was watching the "ten things, nine are true" meme progress around the web. It was interesting, stimulating even. But by the time I had gotten to trying it myself, it seemed to have dissolved into "nine things I want to brag about, but could never find a reason to before."

That wasn't what I was after.

So, rather than ten things, why not eleven? Eleven's just as good as ten, but one better!

Then, of course, the boy/girl split became a question. Five and six? Six and five? Oh, the agonizing decisions.

So, eleven of each it was.

Here's the deal:

22 bloggers. 22 facts.
*ALL* of the facts are true.
EACH blogger submitted ONE fact about themselves.
Until they read this, they will not know who else is on the list.

Match the fact to the blogger. One each. No repeats.

Yes, I was purposefully tricky.
Yes, I selected a diverse group of people.
No, I don't expect you to get them all right.

I do expect this to be fun though.

There's a prize, too...did I mention a prize? A $22 gift certificate to Amazon.com for the first person to submit the most correct matches.

So what are you waiting for? Get to it!
:::::posted by erratic :: 04-something PM EST linky

Monday, June 4, 2001

U.S. Government Sued for Deceptive Practices

WASHINGTON, DC (Reuters) - A federal jury began deliberations Monday deciding whether the federal government of the United States, with several other state and local governments, engaged in deceptive practices in a case brought by U.S. citizens who actually read the Constitution.

In an interesting twist, the plaintiffs argued strenuously for common law fraud or violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations laws, which carry much stiffer penalties than a simple civil action. A guilty verdict on RICO charges can lead to the awarding of triple the damages under federal law.

RICO is also one of the complaints cited in the suit.

According to plaintiffs’ lawyers, the proletariat is seeking $1.170 trillion on deceptive governing practices, $3.6 trillion on RICO and $600 billion on common fraud.

The suit alleges theft by deception, wrongful imprisonment, and conspiracy to defraud citizens out of their rightful protections and guarantees under the law.

"The Declaration of Independence binds the government to holding 'the pursuit of Happiness' inalienable to all people. The Bill of Rights protects us against cruel punishment. Yet they toss college kids in jail for 20 years for smoking pot, and take their parent's house. If I ran a business with these bait-and-switch tactics I'd be in prison myself," claims one of the plaintiffs.

Similar anecdotes involving everything from erroneous tax prosecutions to forced DNA canvassing to coerced confessions later proven false were cited.

The lead attorney for the class action rattled off a laundry list of charges:


Intentionally creating a hostile environment to firearms ownership, which is explicitly guaranteed in the Second Amendment.

Fraudulently misrepresenting the best interests of the claimants with illegal seizures under the RICO act, which allows confiscation of homes and property without a conviction, or even an arrest.

Restricting the process and of government "of, for and by the people" from the very people it claims to consist of.

Collusion of deprivation of Fifth Amendment rights through intimidation and denial of legal representation.

In total, the suit alleges fraud and intent to defraud as it applies to the Second, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Additionally, extortion and bad-faith handling of public funds for personal gain, in direct opposition to the charter of government service, is listed as an accessory charge.

GOVERNMENT IS NOT PLEASED

"We're obviously not happy with this frivolous action, but we're pretty damn confident," Samuel Charlatan, an attorney for the United States Government, said soon after the suit was announced.

The government sought to have the suit thrown out on the grounds that legal accountability and civil liability are outside the realm of government.

"We continue to believe that this case has no factual basis, and should not have been tried,'' said US General Counsel Raymond Pickens. "We are confident that the Court will summarily dismiss this frivolous action."

"That attitude is precisely the reason for this action," the plaintiffs said. They honestly believe they are outside of the laws we live under, every day. They twist and tug at our emotions when the law prohibits an action, then hide behind their involvement and any responsibility for it. How many people in Congress wrote bad checks in the past 20 years? What happens to any of us who do that?"
:::::posted by
erratic :: 07-something PM EST linky

Sunday, June 3, 2001

Does anyone know where I can find one of those X-10 wireless cameras? I was thinking about picking one up and I can't, for the life of me, find anyone who sells them.

Christ. Enough already.
:::::posted by
erratic :: 10-something PM EST linky

««««««««««««««»»»»»»»»»»»»»»

You know, I have had the odd foible in my life. I have committed my fair share of faux pas, and have had occasion to say "oops" more than a few times.

Occasionally, I have ventured clear into the realm of "major fuck-up."

However, in all of the goofs and blunders that I have committed, regardless of the intent behind them, I can't say that I have ever mowed down eight people, including myself, with a machine gun.

I don't think I've ever gotten close to that, actually.

Oops?

Apparently members of the Nepalese royalty don't slip in the bathtub like the rest of us.
:::::posted by erratic :: 10-something PM EST linky

Saturday, June 2, 2001

Assorted miscellany

The moral of this story is: does it really need to be said?

Alternately, do a woman's breasts need to be drugged to cause men to lose their willpower?

:::

There is less than a 2% genetic difference between monkeys and men, and it shows.

:::

It's all a matter of perspective. When I was 5 I saw a slug for the first time on the sidewalk. I thought to myself, "yuck, what's that?" When I was 12 I saw my dad pour salt on one and thought, "wow that's weird." When I was 22 I poured salt on one that was in the closet of my apartment and thought "die, bastard!" Today, after the rain stopped, I saw one out back and thought, "you eat those fried in garlic butter, you sick-o."

:::

Beef jerky is just about the perfect food. Coffee is just about the perfect beverage. However, a meal of beef jerky and coffee is just about the nastiest thing there is. Yes, I know this from experience.

:::

Sometimes, I look at all of the impossible things that have already happened in my life, and realize that I wouldn't have expected anything else. What's possible is too predictable, too boring. The impossible happening is what makes it all so worthwhile.

:::

Wet cigarettes are really hard to keep lit.

:::

Certain words in the english language sound exactly like what they describe. "Sledgehammer" is one, "flower" is another, "razorblade" is a third. Other words, however, sound all wrong for what they mean. Words like "box", "odor", and "pencil." I have, thusfar, been unable to determine why this is.

:::

I found that I have a shitload more batteries in my posession than I thought I did.

:::

I'll never win the lottery. It's not that I really believe that, but I hope that by issuing a challenge to the universe, it will prove me wrong.

:::

If you stop and think about it, the ability to whistle is just the coolest thing.

:::

One of the fundimental differences between dogs and cats is that dogs are never quite sure when the next time they will eat is, while cats are convinced they can annoy or guilt someone into feeding them when they're hungry.

:::

If I had to make a choice, I would give up electricity before music. The only problem with this is that I happen to need the former for the latter.

:::

I still get "distain" and "disdain" confused. I have looked them both up numerous times, and it just doesn't help.

:::

I am often told that I think too much. This is done in such a way as to imply that thinking too little is somehow better. Sorry, I'll suffer the insomnia, hypertension, and predilection for developing ulcers over ignorant bliss any day of the week. If anyone ever hears me say otherwise, please slap me, hard.
:::::posted by erratic :: 01-something PM EST linky

Friday, June 1, 2001

Meteorology Update

I was 5-for-5 this week in predicting the weather. Two days it rained, both of which I had left the sunroof open in my car. The other three days were beautiful, which makes sense, since the car was shut up tight for them.

Fitness Update

The building that I work at is a warehouse/corporate facility. Basically it looks like any other corporate office except for the nearly 1/2-mile of extra building sticking out the back. Did I mention that consultants must use the rear parking lot?

A quick re-read of the Meteorology update will tell you how many 1/2-mile sprints I did this week.

Baby Update

Brigid is six weeks old today. She is rapidly approaching nine pounds.

The periods of time that she is awake, not crying, and not hungry occasionally have reached 20 minutes.

She still has issues with people touching her feet, and she still hates getting a bath.

Rattles are now slightly entertaining. The mobiles in her crib will keep her occupied, briefly.

Her attention span is mercilessly short. However, so is mine, so I don't hold out a lot of hope that that will change anytime in the next 30 years.

I have begun to explore some of her musical preferences. Stabbing Westward seems pretty good, Limp Bizkit is not quite as interesting, and Queensryche is *the shit* right now.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star ranks up there with Silent Lucidity.

Computers are still interesting to look at. She also seems to seek out the web cam even though I have my doubts that she really knows what it is for.

Yes, there are a billion pictures of her. I'm not going to post any at the moment, but Amber will vouch for the fact that they exist (she's the one who saves them all...my hands are full when the cam's on).

I have been spit up on three times, peed on twice, and can now change a diaper in under 30 seconds.

Everyone who has met her thinks she is awesome, although not as much as I do. Then again, I'm still biased.

OK, so maybe just one little picture.
:::::posted by erratic :: 07-something PM EST linky


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so be nice, 'k?