Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Day New Year's Eve Really Started To Mean Something

So once upon a time somebody decides arbitrarily (or maybe not so arbitrarily) that the planets current location in its orbit around the Sun is the beginning of its next orbit, and that day is called January 1st, the first day of the New Year. All these centuries later, as if we're passing "Go" and collecting another $200 we're supposed to celebrate it. I did for a while, until I realized that a drunk December 31st is just like a drunk (month/day here) only riskier because everyone else is out being stupid, too.

So New Year's Eve just became another night quietly spent, especially once I became a husband and father. Have some drinks, have them at home, relax...

Until 31 December 2003, when the fetus inside my 38-weeks pregnant wife failed a non-stress test/bio-physical profile. She was already transitioning into labor, so the doctors helped her along with some additional hormones and at 10pm EXACTLY my oldest daughter came into the world.

So for five years now, I've finally been given a reason to celebrate December 31st. That reason is a bright, artistic, athletic girl, who is an amazing singer (her whole life is a musical, to hear her tell-no, sing - it), a wonderful improvisational dancer, and a great soccer player. Oh, and she's hard-headed, knows what she wants, and is not afraid to ask for it or just go get it for herself.

Happy Birthday, my dear.



Monday, December 29, 2008

Miskatonic Institute of Shitty Poetry

Today is a day of firsts. My first remote blog post from my iPod Touch (courtesy of overpriced coffee house wi-fi) and the first poem I've written in the strange aeons since high school, the last time I was required to do so.
So hold your nose:

Laughing poison of decay
We stare like helpless fools
Dancing broken
By trust in naked greed.

Thank you, thank you, I promise I won't do it again. But you see, a friend of mine pointed out this here site and I had to give it a try.

H/T @billmarrs

Thursday, December 25, 2008

For Those Who Cannot Be Here

The kids have long since fallen asleep, and the gifts are finally wrapped and we can go to bed. But before we do I'd like to share one more Christmas song, based on accounts of Christmas on the battle fields of World War I. I usually don't care for modern songs (or Christmas poems!) that support/thank/pay tribute to servicemen or put them on pedestals. Many of them just seem too contrived - drop some buzzwords like defending freedom, flags, etc., with a catchy tune and voila...people feel good an you make money. They seem more born of the desire to idealize and generalize than empathize with someone "standing the watch".

This song is more heartfelt, to me.

Christmas in the Trenches

It was interesting reading of these occurrences when I was young, though the meaning really didn't sink in until later in life. It's a hopeful song. If Christmas, whatever it is/means, is enough to get mortal enemies to put aside their quarrel for even a day, then there is hope.

To those of you standing the watch, walking a post, far away from your friends and family, Merry Christmas. Stay safe, and come home soon.

UPDATE: WOW!!! Check the history note for today! I had NO IDEA that's what it was going to be when I started writing!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kick-Ass Steak and Stout Pie

The last 48+ hours of ball-freezing weather we received in Boston has really been an experience. We had hoped Saturday to travel south to Somerset to my cousin's annual Christmas Caroling Party but the 24+ hours of winter storm prior to the party left me little doubt that the safe play was to stay off the highways for 60+ mile drives. Damn. I was looking forward to the food, the beer, the company, the beer, the glogg, the beer, the caroling, the beer, the whiskey, the beer, and the beer.

As a humble donation to the festivities, we had made a steak and stout pie. It's one of my favorite dishes, great pub food, and perfect on a cold winter's day. We have a recipe we use, and it is not written down at all. Until now. I will tell you up front. Make this. It is so good, you won't know whether you should eat it or hump it.

You'll need:

1 lb top round, cut into bite sized pieces
4 strips bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
8 oz stout
Broth - beef or chicken
Pastry - either short crust or puff pastry.

Fry bacon and onions together until the onions are done (translucent, but not browned). Remove and set aside, leaving as much fat in the pan as possible. Working with the big iron skillet, I needed to add some olive oil to make sure I'd have enough to brown the beef. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Dredge the beef in the flour mixture and immediately place in the hot oil to brown. When browned, return bacon and onions to the pan. In this case, I transferred the entire contents of the skillet (including the brown crusty bits - they make it yummy! - to a large pot. Add carrots, worcestershire sauce and stout, and then add broth to just cover. Set heat to medium and simmer for several hours. We cooked this one for about three hours, but we've done this previously when we simmered it all day; the longer you can leave the mixture on, the better! Replenish liquid - using either broth or water - as it cooks off. We find the carrots are a good thing - if the stout you use is an overly dry kind (like Guinness Extra) the sugars in the carrots will balance it out nicely. Plus, they allow you to say "Hey, this is healthy...see? I put carrots in!" The brown sugar is optional and can be used to cut the bitterness of the gravy if you wish. We haven't done that before, but we were using particularly strong stout (the final, flat 8 oz of the Poszharnik Imperial Stout) and it needed it, so after about 90 min of simmering we put it in. When done, you want to have a rich, thick (I mean thick!), dark filling - then it's ready to put in the oven.

My favorite way to do this is to make a deep-dish, two-crust pie with a traditional short crust. This time we simply put it in a baking dish, covered it with pre-made puff pastry, brushed it with milk and put it in a 400° oven until the crust was done. We had to cover the edges with foil after about 30 minutes to keep them from over-browning.

It's great as the meat in a "meat and three". Enjoy with a nice, hoppy ale. Tremendously satisfying, as the last steak and stout pie I had was a pre-made frozen one in a "pub" near the hotel I was staying at across the road from Heathrow Airport in October. Very disappointing to be in England and get a piece of crap like that!

This recipe will serve four. Two if you want seconds. One if you're a pig. I didn't have seconds yesterday, but I did polish off the last two servings (like a piggy) today. The coffee flavors in the Pozharnik was evident in the gravy, I was surprised to taste it, but even more surprised that it really enhanced the flavor of the whole dish.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Musical Suckfest

Last week I posted five of the best, now here are five of the rest. I find that pop stars and rock stars screw up many, many more Christmas songs than they get right. Whether they take an old standard and spin it so horribly that if flies apart or they try to capture the spirit of Christmas in an original work and just plain miss it. Either way, I hate them; but I LOVE to hate them.

So here they five worst* Christmas songs:

Deck the Halls - Mannheim Steamroller. No band in the history of mankind has ever sucked the life and soul out of Christmas music as completely and effortlessly as Mannheim Steamroller wit the cheesy synthesizer, the bouncy electronic drums, and the overdone sustain. The only thing wrong with this piece is everything. I really don't know why people buy this crap.

You Make It Feel Like Christmas - Neil Diamond. I guess it's just the overall "Neil Diamond-ness" that kills this song for me. The whole "So wake up the kids...put on some tea...light up the tree...". Light it up LIKE THIS? Cuz' that's what you make me feel like, Neil. In fact, I'm going to watch that one again while listening...

Same Old Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg. Oh. My. God. Shoot. Me. Now. I've gotta' give Dan props for working the frozen food section into a song, and I guess it's not REALLY a Christmas song, but he does say that the snow was falling Christmas eve. It's And he downs a six pack in a car with his ex and doesn't get any play? Wussy, girly-man.

Early Christmas Morning - Cyndi Lauper. James brought up another lousy Christmas song of hers. I've hated this one for years. Said it before I'll say it again. She has one of the ten most annoying voices in the world.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Coldplay. No explanation needed - it's freakin' Coldplay.

Worst Christmas Tunes

And if the widget will only let you play 30 sec of each song (it's been known to happen) you can link here for the entire awful package.

*excluding that Gawdawful "Christmas Shoes" song! That is truly the "Al Qaeda" of Christmas songs and I refuse to link to or provide any other means to play that musical turd on my site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Everybody say PENIS!!!!

In the "I don't want to blog about anything even remotely mature or socially redeeming" department...

Northern California town has brand new pedestrian barriers that look like big dicks.

Sorry had to use the word "dick". The video said there was "adult language" in the story, and since all I heard was "penis" I figured I'd use an adult word. Be happy I didn't use "fat, steely cocks".

Really, now..."penis" and adult word?

"By God, they're penises," Debra said. "And it's a nice sturdy one at that."

"I've heard people leaning out the window, saying, 'Love the penises!" she laughed, "which you don't hear very often.

"Winters is a jewel, and this just polishes the jewel," he said.

Just don't polish the sidewalk pee-pees. You don't know what could happen.

Full story here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Apple Crisp, Imperial Stout and Quantum Theory

I'm a sucky photographer in general, but believe me, it tastes awesome! I haven't done a food post in a while, and as I'm too distracted to do much else, that's what you get to read tonight...

My wife made an amazing apple cobbler last night. So amazing that between her, my son and I we nearly wiped it out. We ate it in an "English" style, pouring fresh cream over it, though we lamented the lack of vanilla ice cream. Today, when I was shopping for some din-din, I bought some vanilla ice cream.

Plain vanilla ice cream is good, but it's best when you have something warm and baked to eat with it. Since I din't feel like making a crust for a pie, I decided to make an apple crisp since it's soooooooo simple.

2.5 lbs apples (we used 2 each cortlands, red romes, and honey crisps) - peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/3 c each of flour, sugar, rolled oats
1/2 stick butter (cold, unsoftened)

Toss apples and lemon juice. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, add to apple/lemon mixture and toss to coat. Combine dry ingredients. Cut up the butter and cut into mixture until you get a crumbly mix. By the time you're done cutting the butter in, the apple mixture should be nice and wet, with a small puddle of syrupy mixture in the bottom of the bowl. Put the apples in a buttered baking dish, sprinkle the crisp mix on top, and pop in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream. Repeat as necessary.

Found here and modified only slightly.

The Pozharnik Imperial Stout is absolutely UNBELIEVABLE. Most aromas are pretty muted, but the taste is great - initially chocolaty and roasty, with some toffee-like notes, then a hint of sweet vanilla and a finish that brings out the oak and whiskey of the barrels it was aged in. Drink chilled, not cold, the character changes wonderfully as it warms. In a wine glass or snifter. I opened it yesterday, resealed and continued today. Most of the carbonation is gone (evident in the photo), but it's still amazing to drink. This is my holiday brew. I am definitely getting some of this to cellar for a year.

OH WAITAMINIT!!! Look at today's history note. It's the 108th birthday of Planck's Theory that the energy of a photon is quantized and proportional to it's frequency. E=hν baby!!! Without ol' Max, we wouldn't have this here blogging thingy we love so much...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kinky Bing Oi! Bloody Orchestral Drummer Christmas

There are still plenty of cheesy songs on my iPod, but this week I've decided to start trying to get into the Christmas spirit with music. So I'll push a few of my favorites right here...not a lot of traditional songs (well, only one really) on my favorites, though I like many of the traditional ones...

Father Christmas - The Kinks. Good riff, tough lyrics, good message - "...but remember the kids who have nothing when you're drinking down your wine."

Jingle Bells - Bing Crosby. I love the fat big band sound, esp. the explosion of horns after the second verse. I couldn't find the live version I wanted to put here.

Oi! To the World - No Doubt. A 1997 cover of a Vandals song and the only No Doubt song that I really give a shit for.

Hey Santa Clause - Kevin Bloody Wilson. A raunchy Aussie singer's dirty take on Christmas. NSWF/NSFK - if you are offended easily, do not listen. And if you do and are offended, don't complain. I warned you. Funny as s***. My Australian feminist wife says so.

Carol of the Bells - Trans-Siberian Orchestra. 'Nuff said. They sound like they could beat up Mannheim Steamroller. Which would be a good thing.

The Little Drummer Boy - Johnny Cash. I really like the message that it doesn't take wealth, power or status to do good. Ultimately, the greatest thing you can give is to give of yourself.

Best Christmas Tunes

And one bonus...

Carol of the Old Ones

Next week...the suckiest Christmas songs...

Steak and Beer Make Bull Healthy and Strong!

The reality is we don't get out much with 4 kids (only one of which is school-aged) and now that our babysitter is in Toronto tending to her ailing sister, it's effectively nil for some time.
So I was pleasantly surprised this Wednesday when I arrived at the Charles/MGH T-Station more than 40 minutes early for a nearby doctor's appointment and had time to poke around Beacon Hill for a while. Beautiful brick buildings housing specialty shops and some great looking restaurants - there's a Thai restaurant there I'm dying to try. I only had time to walk up Charles St. a bit, and ended up going into two places, Savenor's Market and Charles Street Liquors, pretty much right across the street from each other.

Savenor's was a cozy little place that had just about every kind of meat and poultry I could think of, including meat byproducts like rendered duck fat, which is absolutely superb for roasting potatoes (put about half an inch of fat in roasting pan, heat to 400F, parboil potatoes, throw them in the pan and roast, turning occasionally - they come out with an awesome deep-fried-crispy-outside-creamy-inside-book-your-bypass-surgery-now flavor). A great deal of it is fresh, butchered right there, and raised more naturally than the usual stuff you buy from the grocery store. They make plenty of specialty meats there, and they import some hard to find (buffalo, wild boar, kangaroo) flash-frozen stuff as well. Throw in a produce section, a cheese section and a good selection of gourmet specialty groceries and it's a place I'll be returning to when I go back next week. All their beef is grass-fed, as corn tends to seriously f**k a cow's shit up. The stuff is expensive, but I was still curious to see their prices. On my way back to the T station I picked up a piece of top round (slightly more than a pound, about $11). We're cooking it this weekend; I'll let you know how it tastes. I also grabbed a piece of aged Vermont cheddar.

Charles Street Liquors is, well DUH you know what it is. I could spend hours in there - they do an amazing job optimizing what little space they have. A little more pricey being in Boston (as a benchmark, Sam Adams Chocolate Bock costs $16.49 a bottle vice $15.99 at most other places) but their beer selection alone is worth it. Tastings Friday and Saturdays from 4-7 pm. In addition to a bottle of Chocolate Bock to replace the one I've consumed, I bought the following to haul back home on the T.
The Lindeman's Kriek (cherry) is the second bottle of lambic I've bought since James gave me a big bottle of their cassis (currant) on my birthday. My last bottle was a framboise (raspberry). I think I'm hooked on lambic. I'll get to this when I do over the holiday season, but the other two are what I'm interested in. I have the Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale in the fridge right now, and will open it later. According to the bottle, the brew is "wet-hopped" with freshly-picked (the previous day) hops of the standard Pacific Northwest variety. Some of the reviews called the beer "piney" but I'll see for myself. (note: I drank it between writing this part and publishing; the hop character was excellent - very complex, citrus, spice, floral and pine accents, strong but not overpowering at all, and you can still taste the malt. Well done, I would drink it again and would love to try it on tap.) And the one I'm saving for later this weekend - Pozharnik Imperial Stout - espresso, vanilla, aged in a whiskey barrel. The bottle states it's great to try now, but recommends "afficionados" cellar it for a year or two. Like Hell I am - it has me as excited and intimidated as "that girl". You've hooked up, and you're gonna' get something you've got from others, but you know it's gonna' be different, and you think probably better, but just HOW better? Or is it going to be lame? Or is it going to be just so damned freaky that you need to cut her loose right now? Lower your expectations, man, lower your expectations...hey waitaminit, this is just beer. Keep 'em sky high! If it's good, then I'll get some to cellar!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Historical History...And The Day Of Reckoning Is At Hand

Ugh, it's late again, and I need to be getting to bed. I have my rescheduled surgery tomorrow, and the requisite recovery time where I'll be sitting on my ass, so I'll get to hammer out some stuff tomorrow. And more meaningful than the last time, as I have a few things lined up I want to post'll also give me time to catch up on reading and commenting on some recent posts on my favorite blogs, in which I am quite delinquent. I haven't tracked down any further threads of the "Bus to Arkham" beyond Crummy's.

But that's not what I came to write about. I work in the history field right now - Naval History, to be exact - even though my degrees are Electrical Engineering and Physics (go figure!). Love the Great Age of Sail, and WWII in particular, and I've often thought about, once or twice a month, putting something in here about history. Maybe I'll start doing that next week.

In the meantime, check out the cool historical history widget I got...216 years ago today was not a good one for Louis XVI.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lovecraft on Astrophysics: Yog Sothoth Found At Center of the Milky Way!!!

...the last, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fantasy and mathematics alike.

From the direct statement of
German astronomers say they have discovered conclusive proof of a supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy.

...or the poetic musings of
Like ballerinas pirouetting around an invisible leader, a collection of stars orbits our galaxy's gravity sink, or black hole. New infrared images of the cosmic dance confirm that this supermassive black hole weighs as much as 4 million suns.

...only a congeries of iridescent globes, yet stupendous in its malign suggestiveness.

Yog-Sothoth knows all and sees all. To "please" this deity could bring knowledge of many things.
The study also enabled astronomers to calculate the distance of the earth from the center of the galaxy, now measured to be 27,000 light-years, and enhanced by six times the accuracy to which they were able to measure the positions of stars -- the equivalent of seeing a one euro coin from a distance of 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles).

It seems that The Beyond One, The Gate Where the Hemispheres Meet is granting us some knowledge after all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Viral Story

Okay, so this is what I'm taking part in, and here is the previous chapter (both chapters, actually). After the whole "serious scribbler" thingy, I've tried to shy away, but this looks like fun. Here endeth the intro...


I could feel my heart beating in what felt like my throat, and I began to sweat again, reflexively wiping it up before it reached my electric eye. The eye that seemed like such a good idea after that horrifically ricocheting Yachtzee die two years ago claimed the one I was born with. The eye that got me into this sanity-draining predicament in the first place.

It was just this morning that I was presenting my proposal for my doctorate in theoretical physics, explaining how the inadvertent discovery of zero-mass gravitons at the Large Hadron Collider makes possible the existence of black holes that are mere "portals" - rips in space-time without gravitic influence - to other dimensions, presenting theory and a proposed re-engineering of my electric eye that could detect the EM spectrum emissions surrounding these portals and anything from the "other side" that could exist here. The reaction of the board members was less than encouraging. They jumped upon each other's attacks, like sharks on a bloody chum-bucket. "This is so underdeveloped, seriously, how much time did you take on this?" ... "We don't deal in such pseudo-science" ... "You do realize this is a secretarial junior college, don't you?" All except for the leering silence on the fourth board member. A mister "A. L. Hazred", who simply watched as I dejectedly gathered my work and walked out.

Two hours later Mr. Hazred called. He told me he found my proposal interesting, he would love to see my eye developed to its full potential, and he had pulled some strings and got me a seat on the graduate staff of Miskatonic University in the Department of Theoretical Paranormal Studies. I told him I wasn't interested, I'd just burned that piece of shit proposal and what the hell is Miskatonic University anyway. He said there was a more than generous research grant waiting for me at the university, as well as a ticket on the 1:15 bus to Arkham at the bus station. I have until tonight to get to the university, someone at Arkham will show me to the university. If I was not on the bus I would not hear from him again, but it would be such a shame and waste my talent if a shoggoth were to ooze out of the overhead ventilation of my apartment and decapitate me. It was just about then I heard a faint piping coming from the crapper. I bolted. No coat, and only the aforementioned wallet, nine-volt, pen and paper that I keep slung across my ass in my trusty fanny pack during every waking minute of the day. I made the bus with minutes to spare, without even time to grab a bottle of water after my hectic run across cold, slushy streets. My mouth and throat were parched. I needed a drink. I wondered if I might get any relief from the foetid, eldritch goo that was seeping out of the box. I fought off the thought. But I needed to drink. I stared again at the puddle. Grants. Waiting for me. How much? Who? Where? Arkham is not a nice place, I'm told. What am I doing here? What am I doing here?

"What am I doing here?!?!" I found myself croaking, almost too loud, as I snapped out of my my skyline-induced trance and instinctively looked at the closest face - it's face as fortune would have it. It emanated a brief sound that sounded somewhere between a cough, a grunt and a wet fart.

"Ooourglphghprblbl ... yew ookay, sonny?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, thanks," I toed the box again as I wiped his cheap-whiskey-and-rotting-marine-life-smelling spittle from my lower lip, "hey, how easy is it to get to the university from the terminal?"

It looked me up and down for a brief moment, it's neutral facial expression broken only by a tentacled appendage pushing a Riccola cough drop past his slavering, putrescent lips. It sighed briefly, turned, and lurched its way back to the front of the bus. I felt waves of exhaustion coming up through my body and into my head, along with a frantic, panicky nausea. My hearing grew fuzzy, the gross, ululating murmurings of the other passengers fading and white noise, ever so faint at first, growing, becoming louder, as my skin seemed to vibrate into concentrated gooseflesh, a dark tunnel enclosing my view of the bus as my vision failed me and my oxygen-depleted brain, leaving me only vaguely aware of a dim glow in my right eye socket as my eye shut down.

I sat bolt upright in a freezing cold bus, my billowing breath - the first thing I noticed in the dim light coming in from the bus lot - wrapping itself over the top of the seat in front of me, along the windows, and into the darkness of a now empty bus. How long had I been out? Where had It, the miniskirted maniac, and the rest of the degenerate, vaguely fishy-looking occupants gone? I felt my pockets again. The wallet and battery were still there.

As I rose up, I kicked something solid and heard it skid across the floor. It was the tentacled spawn, now out of its box, the watery ooze now freezing into a slushy ice in the cold. Looking quickly through the seats I found a small plastic shopping bag left by another passenger. Dumping out the contents I saw a half-eaten granola bar and a pair of nail clippers encrusted with some dark, fibrous material. I pocketed the clippers, maneuvered the bag over the half-frozen thing, and slunk out of the bus into the abandoned terminal - cold, exhausted, and unsure of where exactly I was or where I was going.

Here endeth the chapter.

Hmmm...a few creative writers - Briwei, DrMomentum, Dawn. (I know at least one of you doesn't care for these, so no can kick me next time I see you if you want.)

Randall, thanks for this.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Commemorations and Great Men

So today was a pretty busy day for me; my calendar looked like this:

1130 am - 3 pm Toys for Tots brunch, Charlestown Navy Yard
1200 pm - 1230 pm Pearl Harbor Commemoration on a ex-USS CASSIN YOUNG
2 pm - 3 pm Pearl Harbor Commemoration, Faneuil Hall
4 pm Christmas Tree Lighting, Charlestown Navy Yard

My plan was to hit the brunch, drop off toys and glad-hand, head to the first commemoration (CASSIN YOUNG is on the Navy Yard) and slip back to the brunch for another mimosa or two before I had to head to Faneuil Hall.

The weather shot my plans in the ass a little. The first snow of the year here in Boston came today; as the decks of CASSIN YOUNG were getting slick, and there were going to be some elderly Pearl Harbor survivors at the ceremony, it was delayed 30 minutes and moved indoors, and then move back to the ship for a wreath laying. Great - no mimosas. It doesn't matter, it's the kids and the survivors that matter today.

At the Toys for Tots brunch I ran into the first of two remarkable people. His name is Rudy. I was excited to go to the brunch because I knew he'd be there. To meet him is to meet a thoroughly pleasant, smiling and jovial old man, still in is USMC Sergeant Major's uniform - one that has a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts on it, as well as a master parachutist and diver's pin. To know his story is amazing; I once heard it from him when he spoke at a memorial event. His first landing was at this hellish place known as Iwo Jima. There he received his first Purple Heart. His second landing (and Purple Heart) was at Inchon. He was also at Hue City and Khe-Sanh, and got his third Purple Heart in there somewhere. Dunno' where he got his Silver Star; you just don't ask people where they get them. I made this mistake once; I was a young midshipman, and during "Marine Week" in summer training I asked a grizzled old Colonel where he got his. He looked at me and smiled, "Well son, this one time I got my ass in a crack and had to pry it out." I remember he smoked a pipe, but kept it upside down. He was more open about this, "That way I can smoke in the rain."

Okay, so back to Rudy. Between WWII and Vietnam he has 30 years of service and retires. He then spends the next 20 working security at U.S. embassies across the globe. And finally, when he's done doing that, he retires again and spends his time doing Toys for Tots. I wish I had a picture of this man. I can only guess the horrors he has seen and lived through in supporting and defending the Constitution, and all the stress and trauma he has been through. Yet he is just the happiest, kindest and most upbeat and caring person you could meet. Old but spry, you can tell he's a Marine for life. To me, he is an example of service. He had every right after WWII to say "I'm done America, and now I'm going to live my life secure in the confidence that I have done my part".

So, I drop off my toys, have a quick bite, the mimosa line was too long, and I head to the CASSIN YOUNG Pearl Harbor Memorial. There I run into another man I've met several times before. His name is Don, and he's a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had just joined the Navy and had been stationed on Ford Island for about a month before the attack. In the two years I have been going to these memorials, he's brought up some interesting stories. If Rudy is spry, Don is the opposite; he's hobbled and slowing down and he knows that his "turn" is coming soon. But he's out here every year, running this memorial. The most moving part of the memorial for me was shaking his hand after wreaths were laid taps was played; he extended his hand and said, "I'm sorry about my eyes. Taps always does that to me." I could see the tears behind his glasses and running down his face. I told him it was okay; it's nothing to be sorry about. He also spoke at Faneuil Hall, giving the same remarks, but it was just as interesting to hear them again. It saddens me that as the years pass, less and less attention seems to be paid to this event.

The Christmas Tree lighting was fun.

Okay, it's bed time. But before I go, I'd like to talk about Toys for Tots one more time. Initially, it was intended that the Marines would actually work in Santa's Workshop for part of the year. It didn't work too well. There is early video of these failures:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Songs So Cheesy I Had To Put Them On My iPod 4's early. I need to be in bed. But oh well. I also needed (wanted) to get this done!

Even though it's advent, I still don't want to get into the cheesy Christmas spirit just yet. Instead, I wanted to do something VERY METAL.

As well as from the UK, just like Viv here. First, I have to state - I FUCKEN' LOVE THIS BAND. I have seen them twice (long, long ago) and they blew me away. They always had a great way of taking literature (Samuel Taylor Colleridge, Frank Herbert, Alfred Lord Tennyson), history (Battle of Balaclava, Battle of Britain) and Egyptian Mythology (Horus / Osiris) and turning out beautiful, overpowering, epic head-banging tunes.

And then there was the time they took on Greek mythology. They came out with a freakin' awesome song, but took a great amount of liberty with the story - as they are entitled to do. So really, I guess I don't have any complaints about this song. It's not really that cheesy. I just wanted to put some Iron Maiden on my mix.

Yeah, baby! That banner is The Trooper, but the song I'm posting is The Flight of Icarus.

Songs so bad they need to be on my iPod

Lyrics | Iron Maiden - Flight of icarus lyrics

And hey! With an epitaph like that, Maiden NEEDS to be on this site!

I want to come back as Eddie after I die...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lose Your Virginity To A Whopper

Get your mind out of the pr0n here. But pr0n might actually be more palatable than this unbelievably fucktarded bullshit.

Hey. I like a whopper every now and then. Especially with bacon and cheese. And if you could stuff a chicken breast fillet in there as well, you'd have the perfect trifecta of cooked meat on one bun! But I honestly don't give a rat's ass what a Croatian goat shaver thinks of it.

America says they are tired of the world knowing us only by our bombs. That includes grease-bombs.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Self Interest Wins the Day

So a close, long-time friend of mine poses a question on Facebook - to paraphrase:
Do you expect people to do the right thing and be disappointed when they don't, or expect people to be bastards and be pleasantly surprised when they do the right thing?

As you can imagine, answers were numerous and interesting. Replies ranged from positive to negative to non-judgemental to absolute moral relativism. Then there was my response, "Expect the right thing and ensure no good deed goes unpunished." I wrote it mostly because I was thinking very hard about this and I didn't want to write a book on this Facebook comment, so I was somewhat tongue in cheek.

I fall squarely in the first category. I expect the right thing to be done, and I'm perpetually disappointed when so many people don't do it. The more I think of it, the more this flies in the face of what I know of human behavior.

As Dr. Perry Cox says,

"Lady, people aren't chocolates. D'you know what they are mostly? Bastards. Bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling. But I don't find them half as annoying as I find naive bubble-headed optimists who walk around vomiting sunshine."

Well, maybe not. People are organisms. Organisms compete. To quote Michael Pollan, "All life is competition". Actually I'm leaving out "...for energy" because I don't want this to run off on a tangent about energy; it'll have enough tangents as it is. But to paraphrase him, plants compete for solar energy, herbivores compete for the plant energy, predators compete for the herbivores, blah blah blah. In other words, organisms are programmed to compete for what they need to survive.

In the case of us so-called "higher organisms" we compete with each other to satisfy our self-interests.

Man is fundamentally self-interested. I believe people do things largely out of self-interest. Even so-called "unselfish" acts have an element of self-interest. The unselfish actor feels that it is in his or her self-interest to do something for someone else, whether it directly affects or improves his/her well being / situation, or it provides a level of satisfaction knowing that you did something for someone.

When self-interests coincide and the individuals can (roughly) agree, they become a code of conduct of sorts, a law, a rule, an ethos, an ideology, what have you. They become "good" or "right".

So there it is - "right" or "good", an artificial classification of the self-interest of one or common interests of a group of highly evolved primates. If you're lucky, you get to be in a group that agrees on common interests and provides adequate room for you to pursue your self-interests.

Urgh. Dangerous ground. So I'll come out and say I am not into "relativism" and this "who am I to judge what is good just because I don't agree with it". These artificial classifications are necessary. How else would you know who the bastards were?

What's my point? I'm not sure, let me re-read what I wrote. Nope. Don't see one yet. I could go on forever but I need to wrap up, so I'll just say this - I don't think we'll ever overcome this "programming". So why am I constantly disappointed? Maybe my programming is better, and people really are bastards.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Have Some Work to Do

In trying to set goals and a future vision for Cthulhu's Family Restaurant, I first decided to assess where I am at. I used a scientific set of analysis tools to obtain a snapshot of where I am.

Specifically, I used:

Typealyzer - a tool to analyze the writing on a website and return a (rough) Myers-Briggs Type Indicator of the author (h/t @drmomentum), and

Gematriculator - a tool to analyze just how evil a website is (h/t Randall).

Cthulhu would not be happy.

Apparently, Typealizer returned an MBTI of:
ESFP (Performer): The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

(Author's note - of all the MBTI's I've had done in the last 5 years, I've never been an SF - I've come out NF, strongly. This could indicate the test can't tell S from N, or it could...COULD be the result of me using NaBloPoMo to put more "thinking" into my writing, hence de-emphasizing the "N" in my personality, which is quite strong. Enough psycho-B.S. back to the issue at hand!)

And the picture accompanying the ESFP analysis is:

Holy crap! Dread Cthulhu is an apparently intoxicated bar-fly in a skirt and "CFM" boots? Like this?

Azathoth save us...this is not good.

Oh, and if that were not enough, here's the "Evil" score:
This site is certified 29% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Crap. Now Azathoth definitely will not save us. 31%?!?! Well, I can actually deal with that better; Cthulhu, a cosmic force to be reckoned with, is only "evil" by humanity's standards - in reality, humanity is just a pawn (at best) in his larger scheme of cosmic warfare. We are simply here to either be enslaved of trampled altogether. Still, that evil score must be upped.

And for that, I need a domination plan. And for the domination plan, I went to for their Evil Plan Generator - bwahahahahaha!!! (h/t Electronic Replicant)

Congratulations on being the creator of a new
Evil Plan (tm)!

Your objective is simple: Soul Accumulation.

Your motive is a little bit more complex: So another race can take over

Stage One

To begin your plan, you must first devour a military general. This will cause the world to slaughter a sacred calf to appease the gods, terrified by your arrival. Who is this nightmare beyond comprehension? Where did they come from? And why do they look so good wearing the skin of another human?

Stage Two

Next, you must seize control of the pacific ocean. This will all be done from a underground secret headquarters of doom, a mysterious place of unrivaled dark glory. Upon seeing this, the world will gibber like madmen, as countless hordes of cultists hasten to do your every bidding.

Stage Three

Finally, you must reveal to the world your armies of destruction, bringing about an end to sanity. Your name shall become synonymous with the spice girls, and no man will ever again dare interrupt your sentences. Everyone will bow before your supreme might, and the world will have no choice but to make you their new god.

I think Lovecraft, were he alive today, would certainly find the Spice Girls synonymous with the insanity and destruction that Cthulhu could bring.

So there I have it - properly executed, this should change that uncomfortably elvish, mildly evil internet booty-call into a full blown, mountainous and horrific visage of insanity and destruction, ready to unleash an evil upon humanity not seen since the Posh Bob.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wrapping Up

Until this month I'd really had trouble getting things to move from my brain to the keyboard. I knew in my head pretty much what I wanted to say, but when it came time to say it, I got too wrapped around the axle getting it out. I felt that every time I wrote, I had to provide a well-researched, airtight and rock solid argument, supported by verifiable sources and subjected to a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that was published in a peer-reviewed professional journal before I could hit "Publish Post".

Finally, I realized "Why the Hell do you need to do that? This is a blog ferchrissakes, not a PhD dissertation! Just throw it out there!"

And I'm glad I did. Until then, I can honestly say I was just going through the motions and not really seeing the (personal) value of this medium. I wasn't having fun doing it. It felt more like an obligation that I didn't see the value in keeping; as such, I did not keep it. It's interesting how forcing another - essentially the same - obligation upon myself and setting a simple goal for those efforts has turned that around.

Actually, it's not. Think about the statement "I plan to lose weight". Work off that, and unless you are a truly instinctive and 100% self-starting person, you may lose a few pounds, but you won't have much success. Say "I plan to lose 15 pounds in the next three months by training with weights, doing cardio and eating right" and you're more likely to succeed. Same sorta' stuff. Take a little time to define your goal and the path, and things become much easier. Okay, enough motivational speak.

Even though I didn't post every single day (there was one day I posted 2 minutes past midnight, and being the ethical guy that I am, I can't count it) I had a great time doing this. So I'm going to keep doing it. I was hoping to get a more "routine" pattern (topically) out of the month, but it didn't really happen. I did start my weekly post on cheesy music, and I'll keep it up. I can't wait to get into cheesy Christmas songs this coming month!

Which brings me to another great point about doing this - the people you meet. What an easy way to expand personal communication and relations outside your normal social circle, to people you'd almost never "run with" normally. I've "met" some interesting people in the blogoverse that have made it easier to do this - Dawn, MrMacrum, it's been great reading along and I'm going to keep on keepin' on. Thanks for your own blogs and your comments here.

So yeah. NaBloPoMo has been a good thing. Will I do it next year? Maybe, but I'll need another goal in mind for my second go-round. If all I can think of is "post every day for a month" then it won't be worth my time. However, if I can maintain an increased posting rate (thinking 15-20 a month) I'll have plenty of "growth" ideas to choose from by next November. I think 15-20 a month is a good goal; I think that's about where I can get right now and maintain some sort of quality. If I can get more, then great, I'll get more.

Ugh. Is this what I've done for my final NaBloPoMo post? A sappy, happy, touchy-feely, Kum-ba-yah group huggy "I love you guys!" proclamation? Hey, it is what it is.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ruminating Through The Smell of Puke

Nothin' ... I got nothin'. I mean, I don't even have a stream of consciousness right now. That's bad news, as I still have today and one more day to go. And my daughter's Wednesday night puking has turned into my oldest son's Saturday night puking and my and my wife's not feeling so hot. Ugh.

Oh the humanity. Or lack thereof. I know, I know, I'm probably the last guy in the blogocrap to mention it. Lack of a reasonable plan or security on the store aside, how people could just leave their decency and humanity in the car like that never ceases to amaze me. It shouldn't, but it does. Fuck people. This is the only Black Friday I care about.

I'm finally reading my Lovecraft again. I just finished At The Mountains Of Madness after not having read it in some two decades. Still reading the paperback edition I bought back in college, too.

Love the mixing of sci-fi and horror, the describing of the Old Ones in human terms (or us in their terms?) and the author's realization and attempt to deal with the upheaval of all he thought to be true and mankind's being taken down a peg as the "most advanced" to ever walk the planet.

Speaking of dealing with is the Kentucky State Office of Homeland Security dealing with the terrorist threat? By acknowledging, first and foremost, that
"The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God."

Dunno' about that. Think a certain Great Old One who dwells in the mountain realm of Kadath overlooking the desolate Plateau of Leng might have an opinion. It makes about as much sense. He might even loan you some shoggoths - from what I've read they'll keep the terrorists decapitated and covered in black putrescence fairly cheaply.

Urgh! Just threw up in my mouth a little bit! Mmmmm, Turkey-Day leftovers! It probably won't be long before I'm spewing noisome secretions full bore. Need to wrap this up.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Songs So Cheesy I Had To Put Them On My iPod 3

And it's a teenage sadness everyone has got to taste...
An in between age madness that you know you can't erase...

I think those two lines (and one tag line to follow) really create the anxious, hormonally charged and dirty feel to this upbeat, power-pop anthem - an homage to high school lust and "the kill" - because to hear this song is to understand there is no "thrill of the chase". In fact, those lines and several others made critics dub the song (which is amazingly tame by today's standards) "misogynistic". I have to admit - when this song came out in 1979, I was a touch too young (well, actually, a touch to innocent) to really get it. "They don't what? But I do what?" Until one of my dirtier-minded friends told me. Yeah, I get it! She DOES it. Heh heh, cool. Hey Butthead, I think I got a boner.

I promised I'd break with the "70's Hard/Glam Rock" theme this week, and I have delivered. This band gave us a lot...most notably, a number one single that I'm still sick of (and is for some reason also on my iPod), and oh yeah...skinny ties. Holy shit, skinny ties. Did you wear one in the 80's? It was because of these dudes...

What the!?!? They tucked their ties into their underwear creating a sort of uber-treasure trail? Maybe you don't recognize them like may recognize them on stage, though:

Okay, I gave it away with the picture. The band is The Knack. The song - Good Girls Don't. A song so cheesy it defies description. Still, I am somewhat blinded by my inexplicable love for this song, so I had to confirm it's cheesiness with my wife. She looked at me funny. "Is a bear catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?" Yeah, it is cheesy. But it's also awesome.

Songs so bad they need to be on my iPod

Lyrics...and ooh look! The video even! (WARNING! You may shake your head and reflexively blurt "What the f*** were we thinking back then?")

Lyrics | The Knack lyrics - Good Girls Don't lyrics

And holy bad haircuts, Batman - they're still touring! That evil Billboard #1 Hit about one of their young groupies (that was 30 YEARS AGO) carried them a long, long way! Okay, I'll admit that I do like several of their songs, and they do have some good ones. However - we live on a historic landmark that gets LOTS of outdoor wedding receptions in the summer, and I hear that "evil hit" at EVERY FRACKING ONE!
UPDATE: I forgot to mention, notice the disparity between the "safe for radio" lyrics in the video and the actual lyrics scrolling...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hey! I - er, I mean, my son worked hard on that!

The great thing about the intarwebz is that you can see so much of the human story that would normally cruise right under your radar. For example, today I learned that a woman welder in a British WWII shipyard who became the first woman to earn equal pay (in England, presumably) turned 100 this week. I also learned that Osaka University has produced what they claim to be the first human-robot artistic collaboration.

Then, after reading about a historic woman and what could be a great step forward in scientific achievement, I read a single story about a crazy woman ensuring that her son won't be part of any future scientific achievement.

It seems she brought her 7th-Grade son's science project to school for him (he couldn't bring it himself?) and dropped it off outside the science teacher's door so as not to disturb her class (couldn't call the teacher to arrange a drop off?).

This was bad, because the janitor found it and apparently threw it in the dumpster. When she finds out he did this, she goes "dumpster diving" to find it. She did it for her son, who apparently doesn't give a shit, caring more about video games than science projects.

You can read all about it here.

So what's the big deal? Why would this have me shaking my head? Behold...the science project:


Known as Newton's Cradle, or "that thing on dad's desk you like to fiddly-fuck around with", mom apparently paid $25 for it. Great. We get our science projects at Sharper Image now. It was, apparently, about the concept of momentum - a little understood thing that requires further exploration (pardon the snark...but this is like a second grader doing a science project on snot...pick, smear, write name). Holy crap...I'd have at least made the ungrateful turd make one. You see, in doing so, you kind of sort of get a grasp of the physics at work behind the contraption, and it helps on the "findings" portion (i.e. it wouldn't be perfect like the ones you buy, you could explain why, etc etc).

I guess that gets me to my point. Now there's some detail missing in the story but I think I have a good read, and I'll push my chips all in - because having held my own kid's feet to the fire over more than one science project, I'm pretty sure that "Little Timmy Video Game" didn't do crap on this one, except maybe write his name and the word "mowmintem projikt".

This saddens me. Our populace is not scientifically literate enough. (Hell, I wondered if I should have deleted "enough".) Helicopter parenting your kids through school will guarantee we remain that way.

On the lighter side, the do-it-yourself Newton's Cradle looks pretty cool! I think I'll make one with my kids this weekend. They can save it in case someone springs a science project on them...

Happy Thanksgiving!

So we stayed home and had a great Thanksgiving anyway! Dinner's eaten, the kitchen is clean and the dishwasher's going, waiting to have some homemade apple pie (not big fans of pumpkin pie here).

No observations, no thoughts. Just Happy Thanksgiving and thank you very much for reading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-Thanksgiving Whatevs...

First thoughts on commencing this four-day weekend is I need this...holy crap it's been a busy summer and fall. It'll be a great chance to recharge a bit and, more importantly, give my wife some time to recharge by taking a little time to chase the kids around so she doesn't have to...

I love Thanksgiving. Why? Because I spend it with my family. S and I love packing the kids up in the car and heading to the South Coast to be with my parents, grandfather, and my aunts and uncles. Been doing it for decades, and it's always been about family. Not sure who I'm giving thanks to, though. Maybe to my family. Maybe it's just expressing deep appreciation through gluttony. Who knows.

Yaaaaay, Comicky Goodness!!!

What's it have to do with Thanksgiving? You'll see...well, they don't have as much to do with it as they are "along for the ride". But I bought these today, the first comics I have bought in God knows how long. I bought The Watchmen graphic novel last month, mostly because it's been 20 years since I read it last and I wanted to get it under my belt again before the movie next year. I tried to get into comics when I was young...I really tried. I told myself I liked the X-Men, Batman, all that stuff. But I was lying. Guess I was just a minor geek.

So as we were out with our kids at a nearby mall early this evening, I noticed a comic store and went in. Had no idea what I was looking for, but I did find something. Ender's Game caught my eye big time. Best science fiction book ever. Bar none. You have another best? You're wrong. Simple enough. Had no idea it was being adapted to a comic, and it turns out that Card himself is overseeing the adaptation in prep for a movie. Supposedly, it's getting great reviews and I can't wait to read it.

Fall of Cthulhu is an all out gamble. I took a flip through an issue, it looked pretty cool, so I bought all the current issues. From the Facebook Page I could confirm what I thought - a Lovecraftian tale concerning the minions of certain "gods" of the mythos going to war with each other. Seems worth a try.

And that center That was a cool find. I remember reading Sgt Rock of Easy Company as a kid, so I had to buy this one. First of six issues in a new series. Now if DC could just get Weird War Tales back in print...or come out with a bound edition reprinting all their issues.

So anyway, after dinner, these comics are all along for the ride back home, when our youngest daughter, O, vacates the contents of her stomach into her lap. Details not necessary; let's just say the combination of fried cheese sticks, ice cream, M&M's and stomach acid was very unpleasant. We thought it might just be that she ate too much, but she's thrown up since then, in bed, and we're pretty sure she has a stomach bug.

So, Thanksgiving on the South Coast is out. I have a 92 y/o grandfather there who just got out of the hospital, he's still getting his strength back, and the last thing one of his great grandkids needs to give to him is a virus. Soooooooo, a rapid trip to the grocery store, and we have what we need for a quiet Thanksgiving at home tomorrow, which is disappointing in some ways, but just fine in others. Hey, I may even get some time to read those new comics.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Platters Now Available!

That's right, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Christmas and New Year's after that! And what holiday party would be complete without a Holiday Platter from Cthulhu's Family Restaurant?

My first Photoshop project...I was looking at a Play-Doh cutter that my kids had - a pineapple shaped one, and thought it would look a bit like Cthulhu if it were inverted. So I went with it and made a "Cthulhu head". Then I put it on a cracker with some cheese and voila - a Lovecraftian Hors D'ouvre! Photo courtesy of my wife.


Having Another Kind of Talk With Your Kids

Nothing can describe what I feel when I consider some of the unthinkable things that happen to children these days. And nothing could prepare me for what I had to do today - try to explain these things to my son.

He loves our digital cameras. Lately it's become a mildly frustrating but humorous occurrence to find a new "viral" picture or two on our Cybershot or Flip every time we fire it up.

Until today when I turned on the camera to find a close up of his younger sister mooning the camera (she's been doing the "look at my butt cheek" thing a lot lately). Given the way people are today, my wife and I could imagine what would happen if a well-intentioned but unknowing person found the camera and saw the pic. So we decided to have a talk with him.

He knows where babies come from. But trying to relate:

a. the idea of how visual stimuli make grown ups want to have sex
b. some grown ups do bad things to children and would get the same stimuli from pictures like the ones he took, and
c. someone else who saw them might think that mumma and daddy are like that and our family would be in a lot of trouble

...was a real challenge, but he got it in the end. It was good to see his innocence coming through, and the trouble he had grasping the concept. It felt bad to give him these pieces of information that, once he really processes them, will take away another piece of that.

We could have just hidden the cameras from him but we want to continue to encourage his creativity, and taking that avenue from him would not be helpful. We have imposed rules for asking to use the camera though.

The last thought to hit me was how glad I am that it was a digital camera, and not a wet-film camera. We may have never known what hit us. I wondered for a second if we were being too paranoid and cautious, but I don't think so. The last thing I need, on the extreme end of any improbability, is to have my family put through the ringer over two kids clowning around.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Thursday, You Can Shove Your Carbon Footprint Up Your Ass

Did you know that stuffing with sausage generates 4x the carbon of vegetarian stuffing? That pie a la mode is not environmentally correct?

Thanksgiving is, generally, not an environmentally friendly holiday. But it can be.

Hey, at least I can drink wine from Europe and not feel bad about it. So I'm going to make sure I do the wrong thing and drink wine from Australia - wine that has to come here by ship and then drive across country. Oh, and screw the environmentally friendly Thanksgiving. I want to eat a shitload, drink, watch football, and pass gas. You know, that methane stuff all the cows are already making from feeding them the corn that they are not genetically designed to eat.

But seriously, this article makes me think...

The modern industrial food chain seems ridiculously unsustainable. From both the production and consumption side. Each calorie of food produced (non-organic, though "big market" organic isn't a whole lot better!) consumes 10 calories in petroleum energy - in fertilizer, in transportation, in packaging, you name it. That's a lot of energy if everyone in America was just consuming the average daily requirements posted in the article. But since when has America done that? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that Americans consumed nearly 4000 calories a day on average in 2000-2002. Think that number's gone down in the last six years? Now I'm not pointing fingers or being holier than thou - I will readily admit that I can consume with the best of them - but that is simply ridiculous.

I'm not even thinking about carbon footprint here, just the total amount of petroleum energy that gets used producing 4000 x 300,000,000 = 300 BILLION calories of food a day (by my very presumptive swag) or more, considering how much gets thrown out. And I'm thinking about the known health impacts of over-consumption on the average individual, given that America is a mostly sedentary nation.

We're turning fossil fuel into heart disease - the number one killer in this country. We're killing ourselves with the stuff and it has nothing to do with carbon footprints or air quality. And we are most likely going to continue down this path of production (sorry folks, alternative energy right now probably will NOT be able to sustain food levels needed to feed the country). So, we'll pay more and more for oil (just wait, when the economy starts to recover, these nice sub-$2 gas prices will disappear faster than a drunk co-ed's virginity at spring break) and then we are going to collectively pay huge sums to insure everyone against the ill effects of all the oil we're feeding them.


It's so freaking obvious, but it had never really smacked me in the face that our costs for health care - insofar as paying for treatment for all the obesity-related illnesses that come from over consumption - are tied to petroleum consumption. We eat more and more and more food, sustaining demand for food and driving petroleum prices up (again, assume recovered economy), and at the same time increasing our own financial burden to treat the ill effects.

It would seem to me that the most important part of national health care would be national health. It's going to take more than a federal program to create that. It's going to take a complete shift in the way we think as a people; we do not have a preventive mentality. Some of us do. If we did as a country, we wouldn't be eating 4000 calories a day, we'd be exercising more, we wouldn't need so much goddam gas just to feed ourselves, and we'd be in the hospital less often, not paying as much for health care, and the cost for a basic "national health care" might not be such a big concern.

Just sayin'.

Still...screw yourselves, WaPo. Interesting article, but don't crap all over my thanksgiving. At least one or two days a year, I want sausage in my stuffing and ice cream on my pie.

Gobble, gobble.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Name Change

What's in a name? Not much some say, but if it's going to be a nickname it should be one that you like. So I'm going back to the old one...and I mean matter where I ended up growing up, this name followed me without me even bringing it up. The one I picked to start this rambling experiment up was supposed to be related to the title (Stickthulhu, a stick figure of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu), but never really took with ME, the important one here.

So, from here on out, please call me Bull. I like it.

Names are important. Important to get right. I remember going to a Chinese restaurant with my family when I was young, and I was reading the menu and making fun of the names. My dad told me to make an effort to pronounce things correctly and be more "respectful", reminding me that it's important to people from different cultures or even from the same town to try and pronounce words and names correctly.
I've carried that with me to this day.

I also remember reading Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea around the same time, and in that book the way to truly hold power over anything was to know it's name. He uses this to defeat a demon he inadvertently released when he was a young apprentice by realizing the demon's name was his own. Good book. Suck on that, Harry Potter.

Not to mention my Commanding Officer when I was stationed on a frigate. He was very technically savvy, wanted to know things in detail, and never liked getting explanations about "the switch that you manually flip to provide alternate power to the place where they cook". He wanted "The MBT for the galley equipment". He always said, "The beginning of wisdom is to call everything by it's name". A Chinese proverb I believe. It definitely has it's place on a ship at sea. The fortune cookie wisdom of the Chinese restaurant had come full circle.

Not just that, but I find people are more appreciative when you make an effort to pronounce their name correctly. It's a small thing I know, but it tells them you're not lazy, and that they are important to you, even if just in the limited context of the circumstance at hand. And these days, that's a nice touch.

Okay...finally, I'm going to break out this guitar that's been waiting for me for two days and see if I can tune it. Wish me luck.

I Blew It

Oh party ending a couple of minutes too late, and guess what? NaBloPoMo out the window...

Oh well. The last three weeks have served their purpose, and I will still continue to post every day for the rest of the month.

No regrets.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Best Birthday Present Ever

...was my oldest son, L. He was born 20 November. I was born 21 November. So that makes it my birthday today.

40 years old. I love the whole "Oh my GOD, 40! How does it feel to be 40?"

It feels awesome. Really and truly. I'm happy to be 40. The alternative, never making it this far, is not so happy. I don't worry about getting old. I worry about ceasing to get old...

Anyway, so a decent day today, pretty low key, cleaning the house for a party tomorrow. We got L his first musical instrument for his birthday - an acoustic guitar. Then my wife got me my first musical instrument for my birthday - another acoustic guitar.

I call it my first instrument, though technically it isn't. I gave some kid $50 when I was in high school to take his beat up electric guitar off his hands and then bought a really cheap amp. I was into "speedmetal" or death metal or whatever back then, and I think I fancied myself becoming the next Kirk Hammett if I didn't get into college. Anyway, Kirk Hammett I wasn't, I bought a guitar book, tried it for a week, broke a string, then it sat around until I sold it to a friend who was serious about playing. He took up playing, and a couple of years later we got together with a couple of other friends and formed a punk band, with me screaming. Lots of fun. Dunno' what that's got to do with my birthday...oh yeah, I got a guitar again. I think taking it on now that I'm older and wiser, and with a partner, I'll show more promise. Really, I just want to be able to play some chords and pick out some dirty old sailor songs. Maybe a Clash tune now and then.

A birthday isn't a birthday without cake. And if you want a good cake, you have to start with a good cake mix. Here's my Birthday Cake Mix:

Birthday Cake Mix

This was a hard mix to make, for a few reasons. First, picking songs was a challenge. They have many more good songs - I particularly like their cover of the Sabbath song "War Pigs" - a very good take, but I also didn't want to pick songs that were their big hits, covers or had a lot of air time on commercial radio. Then I wanted to limit the number of songs - to approximately the baking time of a cake. Well, I guess I did. Some dense bundt cakes can bake for 45 minutes or so. Then I had to deal with incorrect song titles on the songs I found posted by various imeem users - well, not deal with as much as put up with. It annoys me. Get it right. Look at the album, look at the song number, read it and spell it correctly. Cases in point:

Song 1 is "Commissioning a Symphony in C" - found as commissioning the symfony in C. And the album is "Comfort Eagle" not "Album".

Oh, and song 13 is called "Nugget", not "Shut the F*** Up" but obviously the person who posted it can only remember songs by the dirty words in them. Whatever.

Some great songs in there, too; some of the more personally significant:

Comfort Eagle - The line "We're building a religion..." just like Cthulhu is...

Carbon Monoxide - their music is very "car heavy" but this is different, talking about, of course, the pollution they create. "I wish I was in that Mercedes Benz, sealed away from my sins..."

Guitar - great song about breaking up and moving on, the syncopation of the vocals is what makes the song for me. Probably my all-time favorite Cake song.

Alpha-Beta Parking Lot - when I hear this song, I am back living in San Diego, it's 10 years ago, and I have a specific Alpha-Beta (grocery store) parking lot in mind, and it's sunset. Not watching anyone leave me, though...I was (and still am!) happily married...I just loved the imagery created.

Italian Leather Sofa - "She's got a black dress, and healthy breasts that bounce...on his Italian leather sofa." Hmm heh heh heh...boobies.

Nugget - not for the profanity in the chorus, but the imagery of "sharpened knives through Chicken McNuggets". Spent 18 months of my life I'll never get back cooking those goddam things. I'd have much rather shoved them up the ass of my managers...either right out of the freezer or the fryer, depending on my mood.

So I did get some music in this week - "Songs so cheesy I had to put them on my iPod" will be back next week.

Okay, 34 more minutes of my birthday, and 34 more minutes to get this post in. G'nite.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Aaaar Me Hearties! It Ain't As Cool As You Think It Is.

Holy crap, it's late and I have a deadline...another speaking engagement tonight, but this one had a two-hour lodge-type-meeting-thingy attached to it. Oh, and it was an hour away. And I hadn't even remotely thought of anything to post about.

So here I am watching The Daily Show make fun of the whole pirate situation in the Gulf of Aden. Wish I had the time and inclination to really write what I think...but instead I'll go quick and dirty with gaping holes.

Piracy = increased danger to merchant shipping = fewer seamen hire on and higher maritime insurance rates and ships taking longer routes.

Means shipping companies pay lots more money to transport goods.

Since 90% of world trade travels by sea means YOU PAY MORE for shit.

Navy can only do so much - history shows piracy is defeated ON LAND.

No land forces really available. Europe won't go. Somalia a shithole and festering with extremism as it is - if all you did was carpet bomb Harradera and send in the Marines (again, if you had any to spare) you'd only make more angry pirates willing to ally with extremists.

But you can't let the f**kers get away with it.

Sooooo, we (and by we I mean everyone, not just the US) need to figure out a way to:

1. Get rid of the pirates.

2. Get rid of extremists while keeping new ones from popping up.

3. Improve socioeconomic conditions (really helps with number 2).

Oh...and do them all in tandem...

Sound hard?

It is. It's a vast oversimplification, too.

But unf**king Africa is at least as important to our long term security as the Middle East.

We have some (thousands) already there, working on number 3. But that's just one prong.

Too tired to be more lucid. Like I said, big holes. Just hit post already.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To My Son, Upon Reaching The Age of Nine Years

Now you sleep in your bed, waiting for your early wake up, breakfast in bed and presents before leaving for school on your ninth birthday. But as it is already after the hour of 2:00 am on November 20th in Bahrain, the country you were born in, you are already nine.

What an amazing person you are. Bright, energetic, funny, a natural at math, writing and singing. A mind hungry to learn about the world around you and the sciences that make it work, and a voracious appetite for boyish silliness. A caring and loving big brother and a fine young gentleman. I could never have foretold the joy you have brought me.

There was a boy born in India nearly 150 years ago, who grew up to be a great author. He wrote great stories, poems and books, for grown-ups and children. He wrote of men, women, children, animals, wars and adventures. He wrote of bravery, honor, decency and commitment. There are some today who think he was warlike, prejudiced and imperialist; maybe he was, but he was also wise. I would like to pass some of that wisdom to you:

by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run --
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!
Happy Birthday, son.