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.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

104 Generals and Admirals Line Up...

SANTA BARBARA, November 17, 2008 - Retired Admiral Charles Larson, former Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, tops a list of 104 retired Generals and Admirals calling for an end to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy governing gay troops, the Associated Press reported today.

IT'S ABOUT FRACKING TIME SOMEBODY SPOKE UP. I know they're retired, and I know this hasn't killed the policy, but it's a huge increase (by 80 or more, if I remember correctly) of support from retired GO/FO's (General Officers/Flag Officers).

WaPo seems to indicate the public's view has changed since DADT's implementation. I was interested to see that the poll quoted only 50% of veterans as supporting homosexuals serving openly. I think those numbers should be higher, and would be higher, particularly among serving military. In the Navy I found out that sexual orientation rarely remained a mystery on a ship, and in general nobody really cared...they were more worried about if you knew how to do your job. Fancy that. Does it mean I don't think there would be any bumps? That's a ridiculous assumption. Of course there would be, but I don't think they would be severe ones.

I don't think we can expect the policy to vanish immediately - though it should - given Obama's statement that he would work with the Pentagon to build consensus rather than go it alone. But we should expect (and demand) it go away.

I can tell you that with the decreasing number of people who are considered "recruitable" (mostly due to health/psychological/criminal/etc. issues) by current standards, we do our forces, our country and our citizens wrong if we require any portion of them to disavow or conceal themselves in order to serve. Not only does it drive talent away, but it is wholly against the ideals we would ask them to support and defend.

I really hope DoD "nuts up" and gets this done.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Middle-Eastern John Lovitz Look-Alike Sues Michael Jackson

Well, at least that's my take on this tidbit from the UK Daily Mail.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa (lit. Abdullah, son of Hamad, son of Isa of the Khalifa) is suing ol' MJ for 4.6 Million Pounds Sterling (a shade over $6M) for not living up to a recording deal. MJ says it was a gift.

Sounds like a good candidate for Judge Judy.
But the sheikh, who is the second son of the king of Bahrain, said the money he spent supporting Jackson's lavish lifestyle was purely an advance on a music rights deal he agreed with the singer.

In a sworn statement read to the judge Mr Justice Nigel Sweeney, he said: 'I would never pay anybody millions of dollars for nothing in return.'

The collaboration started in 2004 and the pair agreed a deal to release pop songs to raise money for the victims of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, the court heard.

I love Bahrain. S and I lived there for three and one half years; L was born there, we vacationed in Australia from there, we were there on 11 September 2001. We made friends there that we will keep for life - among locals, among expats, among our fellow Navy families.

Bahrain became a kingdom (a constitutional monarchy) around 2000. Being a kingdom (and even before) there were several places alongside the road that had billboards showing the King and his sons, the Crown Prince and Sheik Abdullah. I always thought Sheik Abdullah looked like John Lovitz in a gutrah (what Bahrainis call a kefiyeh).

Can't find that particular picture anywhere, but hey, if you open the article you can see the King of Pop in an abbayah...

It's Official...I'm An Utter Maniac

Your SaniTest(TM) Results

Your score is: 146

For easier understanding, the HPLHS SaniTest assessment algorithm converts your raw score to a scale of 1 to 10. This number is your INSANITY INDEX.

INSANITY INDEX 8.44 This high score indicates that you're an utter maniac. People who score at this level are often highly productive, but tend to overlook some of life's more picayune details, such as grooming and all concepts of right and wrong. Some other notable people who scored at this level include explorer/conqueror Christopher Columbus and rock guitarist Keith Richards.


The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society SANI-TEST

Well, It's an "A-Thon" of Sorts

Today I found out one thing...doctors won't perform any sort of surgery, even outpatient, on you when you have a vasovagal syncope in their office. I wasn't feeling too well today, but decided to go ahead anyway, and that's what happened. So, another day. And as one post is enough on the subject, consider this follow up the last I'll mention it here.

However, I did promise an "Ow-My-Balls-A-Thon" and as I can't just broadcast dead air in it's place, it's officially kicking off now. Yes, rapidfire, low-quality posting mixed in with occasional updates to the page, now more because I want to than I have nothing to do.

Sigh...I had hoped to be relaxing, getting pampered, in my combination seat/toilet, with my big bucket of Brawndo the Thirst Mutilator sludge. Oh well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pre-Op Blathering...Finding A Way.

Okay, some may consider this TMI, and others may read on. Whichever you are, I do not care.

Nine years and ten months ago, I had just returned from a deployment to the Arabian Gulf, and my wife S and I had determined that after 18 months of marriage it was time to start having children. We now have four beautiful children, two of each. When we started we actually thought about having two more, but four will keep us busy and poor enough for a while. So we are done procreating.

Tomorrow at 1030 am, nearly nine years to the day after S gave birth to our first child, I will head to the urologists' office to make it officially impossible...or as close to impossible as possible.

I remember lying in bed one evening when we had decided to start trying, and thinking about what it meant. Not about being a father or anything like that; I don't think the reality of that really hit me until the first time I told L to do something and he yelled "No!" back at me. I think it was more about "taking my place" in the evolutionary history of the species, if that doesn't sound too hokey. In the billions of years since life first showed up on the planet, it has had but one purpose - to make more life. Life has adapted to its environment, it has transformed and even actively shaped its environment, for the purpose of being able to make more life. As much as I thought I had achieved by then, or would go on to achieve, here I was simply taking my place among the billions of other organisms of my species that were working to ensure its continuation.

One might think I found this depressing. It was just the opposite. I was overcome by a sense of wonder, like I was a cosmologist catching a glimpse down the road to a unifying theory of physics. It was more of a religious experience to me than most anything I'd experienced after. I was "doing my part".

I think of Jurassic Park by the late Michael Crichton. One of the many excellent morals of the story is that "Life finds a way". Whether on a molecular level (remember amphibian gene splicing allowing female dinosaurs to change sex to male) or on a group/societal level (remember the dinosaurs (velociraptors?) watching the tankers come in and leave) life finds a way to move forward. We have children because we want someone to carry our legacy on, to carry on our name, to make us happy, because our religion tells us to - all reasons "designed" to benefit us as organisms or our community. In reality, these machinations are simply "life finding a way". Our evolved brains and ability to reason expresses the primal drive to "find a way" in a way that better suits our more rational construct of the universe. At least in the developed world. In the developing world, "life finds a way" in part because larger families can experience greater economic benefit. Simplified, I know, but this is a philosophical rambling and not a research paper.

So anyway, for whatever reason, life has found a way in a very minute sense (exactly 4 ways in 6.2 billion) through me, and tomorrow we're making sure it doesn't find any more ways, so we can focus on making the ways we've found the best ways they can be.

Which means I'll be sitting around a lot. Which means I'll be on the computer a lot. Which means that the the first (and ONLY!) Cthulhu's Family Restaurant "Ow-My-Balls-A-Thon" starts tomorrow afternoon. From when I get home and settled in, I will either post or produce some modification to the format of Cthulhu's Family Restaurant every 1-2 hours (hey this isn't going to be an exact thing!) until I go to bed between 11 pm and midnight. I hope to finally get some changes made and things added I wanted to do, and pad my monthly NaBloPoMo stats as well.

As I ponder tomorrow and the experience, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with my 10th grade health teacher regarding human reproduction.

Young Stickthulhu: Mr. Health Teacher, I'm confused...what's the difference between a testicle and a seminal vesicle?

Mr. Health Teacher: Well, Stick - there's a VAS DEFERENS!

Ummm...not for long. TMI!!! TMI!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rare Customer Service Experience

The last few days have come at me really quickly, and even though I sort of had an idea of what I wanted to talk about a few days in advance, I didn't have time to "tee up" today. So, I'm going to talk about an experience I had today; because it was a rare experience for us, especially these days.

Last weekend we went to a local franchise restaurant, and when we returned home we realized we had left our "Tower of Power" there. The Tower of Power is a tower of stackable clear containers we use to transport our youngest child's (call him J) snacks in. It's a convenient contraption, and it truly does allow us to hold power over 14 month-old J. I called them the day after, and the person answering the phone confirmed they had it, and they usually hold things until people come and get them. I told them to hang on to it, we would be by to get it.

We figured today would be the time to go by and get it. My wife had been in the kitchen most all day making a birthday cake for my oldest son's (L) birthday party tomorrow (not his actual birthday - but it's when he's having his friends over) and neither of us felt like cooking.

We asked the host station about the T of P, and they said they'd have to look in back, but if we left it it was probably there. They seated us, but it being Saturday after 5 pm, we could see they were swamped, and I knew they would not get around to it. So, when our waitress came by to take our drink and app orders, we described it to here, told her our story, and asked if she could take a look. She said she would, and headed back.

Five minutes later, the manager comes out, saying he heard we wanted to speak to him. Huh? You need to call a manager about a lost and found question? That seemed odd, and being a boss myself, I thought it odd. Maybe she couldn't find it, and thought we might like it more if the manager came and spoke to us. So we tell him the story, and he says he'll take a look. Nope, I guess the waitress didn't go check (of course, it's Saturday night and they're busy) but I figured with everyone there someone besides the guy running the place would do it. But I can appreciate it when the man in charge takes an interest in a customer's needs. It can pay off some times.

Meanwhile, our food orders are taken, and and while we're waiting for our food the manager comes and tells us he can't find it, but admits it's busy and he's got a lot going on; so he takes our info, and assures us that if he finds it he'll let us know. Great. Of course, no trip to a restaurant is complete without the three year-old ("O") suddenly needing to go pee, so S takes her to the ladies'. L decided he has to go as well, and heads off to the gents'.

While they are out, the food comes, and they get S's order wrong. Let me say that I've never seen anyone have worse luck with orders than S. I'll give the restaurant industry a 3 in 10 failure rate when it comes to her. And she's not picky. She just doesn't like what she doesn't like; people just don't seem to pay attention.

Anyway, she ordered a steak salad, and the menu said it came with a "Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette" dressing. Unlike yours truly, who dreams of Bleu Cheese flavored gum, toothpaste and ice cream, S hates the stuff. So she substitutes a mustard vinaigrette. The salad comes with the desired dressing, but crumbled bleu cheese is piled on it. Bad. Next time the waitress comes by, we pull her aside, and explain. She says S asked for a change in dressing, but S explains she doesn't like bleu cheese. Plus, I think to myself, there was no mention of crumbled bleu cheese on the salad. She politely apologizes and takes it back saying it will only take a few minutes, but while she's doing so looks at S and sighs. WTF? Hey, I can understand if you're busy and there's a misunderstanding, but least smile, keep it quiet and piss and moan to your friends in back (I'm sure she did that, too).

We check the menu. Like I thought, there is no mention of crumbled bleu cheese. S has completely lost her appetite. "A few minutes" turns out to be 40. The kids are done, I've been stalling on eating the whole time, but S had insisted I eat, and I'm done. It's too late - S says so, I agree, they just need to take the salad back. Of course, F and O, the daughters, are behaving typically - they're done eating (not much) and are more focused on singing, coloring on menus and making non-euclidean structures with the leftovers.

So the salad comes out and, as is customary in most places, the manager brings it to us. It's an awkward moment. He's really been decent, especially since he personally looked around for the T of P. But the exchange is nonetheless clumsy -
"Here it is, sorry about that, you see, the Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette IS crumbled bleu cheese with a normal vinaigrette over it. They made a mistake and left the bleu cheese on."

"We're sorry, but the kids are done, it's late, and we need to be getting home." J is getting cranky, and in doing so bangs his head on the table. "We just need the check."

"Sure, I'll get it to you, and I'll take care of this. You want this boxed up?" we agree, and it comes.

Big surprise is when the check comes. We expect (though we don't always get) the unsatisfactory meal to be taken off. Well, not this time. EVERY MEAL AND EVERY NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINK IS COMP'D. That was about $58-worth of food.

I'm pretty floored. I would have done the same, but I consider myself a generous guy, sometimes too much so. And it struck me that the manager could be thinking we just showed up with some B.S. story about misplacing something that doesn't exist, then decided to whine about something else to get something for nothing. He may still believe that, though it's not true. However, it doesn't matter to him. He knows what I think too few people remember these days - that satisfying the one or two tables of dissatisfied customers is more important than collecting a hundred-or-so bucks in revenue.

And you know what? It works. While waiting for the check, S and I both said, "That's it, we're done coming here." Once we saw it, well, you think maybe you will; you almost feel obliged. We're still sort of tweaked about the T of P and hoping to hear from him - maybe someone with a kid of their own saw it and figured "hey, free stuff" - but it can be replaced.

Okay, there you have it. Discussion probably more suitable during coffee with my mom, but this time, you're the lucky recipient.

This is the sort of customer service we strive for at Cthulhu's Family Restaurant. If you're not satisfied with a post, please don't hesitate to tell the proprietor and he will gladly steal every shred of your sanity and feed you to the Elder Things.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Songs So Cheesy I Had To Put Them On My iPod 2

Okay, so last week I did some cheesy 70's rock. Well, I did some this week, too. Picking cheesy 70's rock songs is like shooting fish in a barrel. I'll branch out.

This week, a song that I forgot was there.

Throughout rock history, so many songs have followed the format "Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl (sometimes to a car crash, sometimes he kills her, sometimes she leaves him) boy laments." Today's song follows the format:

1. Boy is bored on Saturday night
2. Boy drinks and takes drugs
3. Boy wants to go to midnight show
4. Boy drives under the influence
5. Boy goes too fast and can't avoid crashing
6. Boy dies, but can't figure out why

The band: Kiss
The song: Detroit Rock City
The album: Destroyer

BTW I'm posting the full mix, for full effect...

Songs so bad they need to be on my iPod

Pure cheese. But rockin' cheese! So rockin', it's been covered numerous times. And so cheesy, it needs to be on my iPod, and I'm glad it is.

It was also a movie with a BITCHIN' soundtrack. Here's one of my favorite scenes, and it ends with another one of my favorite songs.

Oh...and lyrics...gotta have lyrics...

Lyrics | Kiss - Detroit Rock City lyrics

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chaotic Stream of Consciousness

Cthulhu enjoys randomness and in no particular order -

Urgh, I don't have a lot of time to do this tonight; I'm way way behind on writing a 10-15 minute speech for tomorrow's Navy-Marine Birthday Ball at my alma-mater NROTC unit. Great - local boy made good tell all the midshipmen about history, leadership, ethics. How about - study it, do it by example, and make sure yours are spotless, respectively. Seriously, I don't mind speaking, but in 9 months, I'm back to just a regular old mid-grade officer.

So a new study from Europe shows that excessive abdominal fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, because it is: a. between organs, and b. "active" in that it produces hormones and chemicals that can affect those organs. The study recommends men maintain waists below 40 inches. Now I'm not in bad shape, I actually outran a few young'uns this year on my PT test, but I am right on the border. I really need to get back on the wagon - a few years back I was in incredible shape, but rapidly expanding families and commitments did their thing. Time to do my thing again.

Some of you remember that I enjoy burffets. That's good, because Now I own one. Hah. But there isn't "what there is is there's burners". Can't wait to fire it up during this holiday season.

Wind? Solar? Fuzzyfoggy "New, alternative green energy sources?". How about developed, mature and stable technology that emits ZERO carbon dioxide? Ummm...nope. We're too needlessly scared of non-weapons grade uranium and thermal neutrons. We'll let the company sell it to everyone else though. Romania, Panama, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, coming in 2013.

Okay...done...wanted to find a criminal so amazingly stupid that it made my eyes pop out, but couldn't find one.

Time to write my talking notes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Make That, "The Award Winning" Cthulhu's Family Restaurant

That's right, I am the 264th recipient of the Superior Scribbler Award, a peer-awarded recognition of my bloggy awesomeness! I must say, it's about time, and it took my new bloggy friend less than a week to see that I was on the right side of the fine line between stupid and clever.

Here endeth the gloating...

Okay, what is it?

A high school journalism teacher writes a blog, and for her 200th post creates an award that is supposed to be passed on to "five deserving scribblers", and passes it to her first five. And so began the award's journey through the blog-o-verse until my new comrade-in-blogs, Dawn at MDI received it for her fine work and outstanding reflections and observations on weldable cookies.

Another NaBloPoMo member, I've enjoyed reading her her blog for the last week; but being that she is far more extensively read in the blog-o-splat than I, I am honored and humbled that she thinks so highly of my work. Thank you, Dawn. Unsolicited praise means the most, and that it comes from someone who wouldn't recognize me if I side-swiped her on the highway makes it mean that much more.

The awards creator also laid down some rules for recipients:

- Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

- Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

- Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

- Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

- Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Since I have fulfilled rules 2 through 5, but before I get on to rule 1 I have a couple of confessions.

First, I must admit that my blogroll is more than 60% "electronic tiger" - I don't peruse most of them and since "Blogrolling" has been down for a bit and cannot be updated, I just need to delete it and start from scratch.

Second, I have been a very introverted blogger since starting up - I started in part because my friends have blogs, and I have mostly kept to reading theirs until like, ummm...a week ago.

So while I do not have a wide and extensive list of potential blogs to choose from, those receiving are nonetheless very deserving. Especially since they have provided inspiration and set great examples for my foray into blogging, and because of that I see I can start building an audience outside those people I already know.

Okay, enough, on with the awards and then I'll take my blah-blah to the blah-blah-ologist. In no particular order:

1. Briwei is an old friend of mine from high school and college, now living in the best town I ever sailed a ship out of, San Diego. I enjoy his thoughts, his tales of family life, and the funny videos he digs up on It's a Bri Wise World.

2. Chuck is another great guy from the South Coast of Mass, who is honestly so freakin' brilliant he frightens me. A great photographer, political junkie, with a great scientific mind. His blog, Unbecoming Levity is a real treasure.

3. Julie is another friend guessed it, the South Coast, author of Hamster of Doom, The. Miscellany, eclectic stream of consciousness, PSA's and keen cartoon and film observations.

4. James is my cousin. I won't tell you where he is from, you can guess. He's been putting out his blog, Aces Full of Links for, well...since before the turn of the century. Science, activism, skepticism, everything from politics to song-slaying to coffee, everyone should read this blog.

5. Maggie married my cousin. It was an excellent choice for both of them. Her work on Pandora's Tea Room is can best be described as heartfelt, interesting and incredibly well-reasoned essays on education, religion vs. science/women/reason/you-name-it, the trials and tribulations of raising their two brilliant daughters, and a host of other relevant and sometimes uncomfortable topics.

Okay, so there are my five - all great, all fun to read, I hope you take the time to read them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Will Remember Them...

First, I hope everyone had a reflective and aware Veteran's Day. I use those two adjectives because I can't find any reason to celebrate the day. Not to mean that I view it as a negative thing, quite the opposite. I think reflection on and realization of the sacrifices of the American "citizen soldier" - and indeed those across the world - should ultimately have a sobering but positive impact on someone.

As my cousin DrMomentum points out, Veteran's Day is about peace and the price at which it was bought. Being a nostalgic type and something of a history buff, I tend to go way, way back - to the Armistice itself or before - to reflect. I have to admit World War I fascinates me. Why? One name. Frank Buckles. He's the only living American WWI veteran. He's one of maybe five in the world left alive, and when they die, any and all memory of "The Great War" will die with him. Of course, we will still have records, but still - when that final person passes, to me we truly lose the connection to that period. The finality of losing that connection, to me, is really something to ponder. It's a fate that ultimately awaits all of us and those memories and experiences we carry.

I make it a point to listen to the song "The Green Fields of France" at least once on Veteran's Day. This version is sung by John McDermott, and some elements of the millenial generation probably know the song, from the Dropkick Murphys' 2005 Album "The Warrior's Code".

The Green Fields Of France - John McDermott

I find the verbal imagery very powerful, the description of the horrors and consequences of war, and the thought that it is possible to lose the memory of a person and an event forever - "or are you a face, without even a name"? Which brings me back to Mr. Buckles and the rest of the 24.9 Million living veterans in the United States.

Today is the day we try to keep all those who came back do not become "faces, without even a name" - that their collective memory, their experience, is not forgotten.

Why? Not just for their sake, but for everyone's. We can't just honor what they did, we have to complete their work. The last verse of favorite poem of mine, In Flanders Fields, speaks to this:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Again, the poem is about those who did not come back, but the direction - to take up the quarrel, hold the torch high and to not break faith - means as much to those who did. Doubtless in 1915 this was an admonition to take up arms, to join the fight. But today, it must mean more.

We must seek out and eliminate terrorists. We must also work to eliminate those conditions that allow extremism to take root. We must secure our current supply of energy. We must also diversify our energy requirements. We must be strong and ready to defeat emerging threats. We must also be willing to more effectively use communication and diplomacy as a deterrent.

I do not think mankind - on an individual or societal scale - will ever overcome its competitive nature. The world will always be turning out more veterans. We as a people and a nation must do everything in our power to make sure we only do it when absolutely necessary.

Monday, November 10, 2008

America's Political Cartography - What Does, White, Rural and Regional Really Look Like?

Okay, I wanted to be done with election posts, but I guess not. America is one warped and fucked up looking place. Especially when it comes to politics. CNN, MSNBC, and other major news outlets want you to think America looks like this:

The thing is, and it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to know this, that this is the grossest generalization of the political landscape. It actually looks like this:

No, it's not how Pangea would have voted in the 08 election. This is a University of Michigan cartogram, a thematic map where a variable (i.e. population) is substituted for land area (according to Wikipedia). In this case, counties are colored either red, blue or some shade of purple according to 2008 election returns, and then a cartogram is generated using population as the variable impacting land area.

You can read through the process here. See those mushed-up red areas? That's the "white, rural, regional" Republican part of the country - actually most of the landmass.

Clear as mud? Thought so. Look at California on the squishy map. Now look at the two HUGE areas of California - the Bay Area and LA. Both >70% Democrat. Same for New York City on the east coast. They pretty much determine where their respective states (and a lot of electoral votes) go. It's actually pretty easy if you read through the page, and it makes sense to my brain. I'd love to see it on an election night, though. I can see Wolf Blitzer now, "And this just in, CNN is calling Wyoming for - hey, where the f**k is Wyoming?"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Habit vs. Belief

Hope I don't ramble too much or get too disjointed. Patriots win, workout, small dinner, big-ass rum and Coke Zero, and I'm what you would call "loose".

Went to church today...for the first time in months. It was the annual Veteran's Day Mass, and I have to say I felt obligated to attend, given the community nature of the event, and that I was asked. The last time I attended was a similar thing last summer. Church, or rather religion, is a bit of a hang-up for me right now. I found the experience an interesting contrast of habit and belief. Not about vets, of course. They deserve all the support we can give, and if it means walking into an uncomfortable grey area in my life to do so, I gladly will. More about veterans on Tuesday...

I started my "walk away" from religion more than 20 years ago. It wasn't because I had a falling out, or I disagreed over policy, it was a purely selfish reason. I was living at college now, I was my own boss, and I didn't want to get up Sunday morning to do something I'd been doing for 18 years already. Probably the same reason a lot of people do it. I just never went back. I tried, a few times, and it just didn't take. A "by the book" Marist priest in Brunswick, Maine who openly refused to baptize our stillborn son after an 18-week miscarriage, even as a gesture of comfort, based upon doctrine (intent to baptize = baptism ergo actual baptism not necessary) is probably the point where I said "F**k you" to any real effort - then or in the future - to return to "the faith". Never mind their backwards views of homosexuality, abortion, clergy marrying and female clergy. More twists and turns since then, but it's not necessary to bring them up. Where have I ended up? Somewhere between agnosticism and nascent atheism, probably closer to "don'tgiveashitism". Yeah, it's a tangled pile of spaghetti in the "belief" section of my psyche.

Anyway, habit vs. belief. Even having gone to church well below 1% of the "mandated" church days since I left for college, I've still got the major parts of the liturgy committed to memory. For both the Roman and Maronite rites of Catholicism. So the standard responses, prayers, Our Father, Nicene Creed, all rolled off the tongue as effortlessly as though I were still an altar boy (BTW, my experience as an altar boy was very good - my priest was a wonderful man, and a lifetime friend and mentor until his death). Resurgence of an old habit at it's best. All along, I know I'm just saying them to say them. Because I, with other "official guests" am there to be there in front of everyone. I even found myself criticizing the "altar servers" (as they are called now, as there are both boys and girls. Guess it's okay to serve as a girl, but not lead as a woman) - mostly for wearing sweats, jeans and sneakers under their garments. "When I was your age, I'd have been sent home or not allowed to serve!"

Until Holy Communion. The time comes for us all to line up for communion, and I sort of panic a bit inside. I cannot go and receive communion. Now this seems silly, because if I don't believe or don't care, then what's the big deal about putting a piece of unleavened bread in my mouth followed by a sip of wine? Really, what would anyone know? But the reason I told myself I couldn't go was the same reason I was taught in catechism all those years ago - my "soul" is not in a "state of grace" by Catholic standards, so it is therefore a sin to receive.

Holy shit (no pun intended). 40 minutes of rote repetition, and it culminates in falling back on "The Faith".

So I don't receive, and a few others in the official party do not as well, for whatever reason, and lo and behold it's not a big deal.

It left me feeling a lot. I have to admit the experience still leaves me feeling a sense of wonder. It's especially strong if I'm attending something like Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which I do once in a while. Why, who knows? Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the story, maybe it's the atmosphere of communion between individuals that you get at the right moments. It just doesn't feel like faith very much.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Flailing My Way Through Social Media

Yeah, that best describes it. Still a social media ignoramus. Build a blog in March, go on Twitter shortly thereafter, finally get on Facebook this fall. Great - met some new friends, I'm now connecting with many old friends on a regular basis, and spending way too much time jumping between programs. I even started my own H. P. Lovecraft group on NaBloPoMo. Hopefully, someday soon I'll figure out how to tie it all together through feeds, tweets, diggs, apps, and plenty of trial and error. Then, I will be a true Social Media Ninja! Whatevs, I'm still having fun doing it!

Since just reading my lame attempt at whining should not qualify in and of itself as a blog post, here are a few things that made me snicker during the week.

1. Obama supporters face their empty lives now that the election is over. Kind of like a "Yes we can" meets "Dawn of the dead" thingy. (humor, Obama, political campaigns)

2. Fantastic Contraption, a fun, physics-based problem solving game. Build simple machines out of basic components to move objects to a goal area. Looks like it would be great to do with kids. (game, physics, machines, learning)

3. Falling Bush, a lame-duck celebration of gravity, GWB and partially inelastic collisions. Can't laugh at the Dems without laughing at the Repubs. I am a raving centrist after all. (game, Bush, falling)

4. Real Ultimate Power. Did I mention ninja? This will show you how. (ninjas, humor, WTF)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Songs So Cheesy I Had To Put Them On My iPod

We all have them ... songs that are just so damned cheesy we enjoy the heck out of them. Some of them are meant to be humorous and cheesy, but I much prefer the ones that aren't. Those songs conceived with the intent of assaulting the charts - and maybe they did - but they are just so bad you have no idea how they became hits. And you love them.

Sometimes there are bands like that - where a significant portion of their body of work meets the standard. Such is the case with Sweet, a UK "glam rock" band that has endured many years since forming in the early 70's.

Their best known songs in the U.S. - "Fox on the Run" and "Ballroom Blitz" - are cheesy indeed and definitely have a place on my iPod, but their best is the wonderful 1974 tune, "Little Willy".

Why? Because I just a love "Star-shine shimmy shuffle smile". My wife thinks it's because I'm really trying to believe that "size doesn't matter".

I give you, (The) Sweet, with "Little Willy".

Songs so bad they need to be on my iPod

And in case you really need to know what they're singing...

Lyrics | Sweet - Little Willy lyrics

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hey! Nobody Told Me About This!

Dammit! Regent Releasing should have called me about this months ago!

It looks like a modern adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth and the wiki confirms. The basis is fairly loose and it has Tori Spelling in it, but what it does have going for it is an endorsement by T. S. Joshi, one of the foremost experts and biographer of Lovecraft. Just on that I can assume it's good, but the preview looks damn good, too. Read the reviews page, and it makes it look even better.

The thing that really pisses me off is that the last show in my area (Gloucester) is a date I have already set aside. All I can do is hope for a DVD or a wider release (doubtful).

Think I'm gonna' email and beg for more dates. Really, I can deal with Tori Spelling, especially if she gets eviscerated by Deep Ones.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sumthin' from Nuthin'

Pushing yourself to write SOMETHING every day was good while the election was winding down, but now what? Guess I'll have to make some effort now. I really didn't have a plan for today, and since I spent most of the night wrestling with E-Vite to get news out about a party, well...I got nuthin'.

Oh, I did do something today. I was invited to my son's school for a Veteran's Day chorus performance. It was pretty good; several local American Legion bubbas, myself, and a bunch of school kids.

I really didn't want to go at first. I was still very conflicted inside; glad that my candidate won, but in a real way feeling disenfranchised from the party I used to value, and somewhat unsure of what lies ahead in the coming years for myself, my profession, and my service. But I felt I needed to go; things like this are important and a big part of my job is outreach.

Waiting for things to start, the principal asked me if I wanted to say a few words when things started. I said sure, if I knew what I was going to say, and he said just talk about these vets here and what they mean. Fortunately, things were running late so I had time to think.

First, I asked all the kids there if they thought yesterday was a special day for America. They all raised their hands and cheered.

I told them that every 4 years we have a very special day - it's the day when every American who wants to can tell the government "This is what I want us to do."

Now sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes you don't (I could see some of the American Legion vets shifting uncomfortably - you can figure most of them voted McCain) but the important part is you get to do this.

Then I told them that a veteran is someone who says "I believe in this so much that I will defend it, and fight for it if I need to". I told them that because of the veterans that were in front of them, yesterday and every election day like it could happen, and that they should all stand up and show their appreciation.

The applause was deafening; I know kids can be loud, but damn!

The look on the vets' faces was priceless.

Made my day. Made me feel good. Put things in perspective for me as much as them, and I was able to go back to work. And holy crap, amid all this self-back-patting, I found a post.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Voting Experience

Now that everyone's about to call the election for Obama, I'll go ahead with this old news.

I live and work in Boston, but vote in RI, so instead of voting absentee or early (don't even know if RI votes early) I like to take election day and actually drive to my polling place. Also, after 18 years of voting absentee, it's nice to vote in person.

I had intended to get to my polling place in Bristol at 0700 when it opened, but didn't wake up until 0600, so that went out the window. At 0630 I hopped in the car and headed south, sure that I'd be stuck in an around the corner line, like the ones that I was already hearing about on the radio.

The drive down was pleasant, as I sipped coffee and listened to NPR until I couldn't get WBUR any more, then switched to WEEI sports radio.

I did not go to my usual polling place - my usual spot was closed, but the new place (a local school) was easy to find. A bit of frustration with some roadwork blocking the access from the main road, but it was really a minor setback. There was a small but steady stream of people coming in, and only 5 or 6 people ahead of me in the line. As in the primaries, the "A-D" line was the longest, with almost nobody going into the other lines.

Still, it was a matter of a few minutes before I got my ballot. Interestingly, I did not need to show ID to get it, but I did have to verify my address...while the poll worker was holding open the voter registry with my address on it right in front of me. I guess if someone really wanted to and knew who I was and where I polled they could steal my vote, but it seems pretty unlikely. Still, I would have felt more comfortable if they had asked for an ID.

My ballot was a "broken arrow" design just like the West Palm Beach ballot. But since I read the instructions, I knew what to do and voted correctly. No x's, no circles, and no sympathy for people who can't be bothered to read and figure out a ballot.

I don't remember what voter I was. They had "I Voted" stickers, but I forgot to take one. I went about my business and headed to Newport. Unfortunately, I had to return to Boston early and was unable to meet my cousin James for lunch.

CNN has just called for Obama. America chose well. It was not easy for me - it hurt some. I needed to break with a party that I identified with for almost my entire adult life, and my vote was very much against them and a "base" that no longer defines me, as a center-right person. I think a worthy candidate had to "sell his soul" to them to have a shot at leading this country, and because of that I could not trust his administration. I only hope they can re-invent themselves and become a reasonable second party some day.

Whatever, I'm too distracted now to write much more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

36 Days to Stupid

The only reason I'm putting it here than on Regime Turnover is because it's NaBloPoMo.

You know you're having trouble when the main publication you rely upon to spread your word turns against you. Such was the case when, on 26 September, National Review columnist Kathleen Parker admitted that Palin is in over her head and should bow out for the good of the party. The Republican Party immediately shot back that the complaints were coming from so-called "intellectual" conservatives - not Main Street Republicans. So...intellectuals are not prized by the Republican Party.

It must be true, because we all know that 18 days later Christopher Buckley left the National Review (can we say "was run out of"?) after presenting a well-reasoned argument for supporting Obama.

And 18 days later the coup de grace..."Main Street, anti-intellectual Republicanism" comes on nation-wide display as Gov. Palin actually believes she is talking to French President Nicholas Sarkozy on a freaking cell phone because, you know, foreign heads of state just call people up out of the blue and all.

Just three little events that tell me I've made the right decision in not voting Republican for the first time in my voting career. Though I truly hope the party can recover from it's anti-intellectualism (and the host of other problems it has) sometime before I die.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keeping Holy the Lord(Cthulhu)'s Day

Okay, so some time ago I posted about a band called The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets and linked to their song "Yig Snake Daddy". I've since bought their album "Cthulhu Strikes Back", the cover of which is a cool take-off on "Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back" and is full of great, sci-fi/horror/Lovecraft-based surf punk. One of my favorite pieces is an 11-minute audio feast called "Cthulhu Dreams". It's worth a listen, and headphones make it better. Particularly cool listening on a lonely, late night train from London to Portsmouth.

Anyway, this morning as I'm making breakfast for the kids, I have this song playing. My oldest, who has a vague idea of what Cthulhu looks like (enough to draw sketches and make lego figures) asks if he's some sort of "sea monster". Instead of saying yes, I tried to explain that Cthulhu and his merry band of beings are instead a sort of metaphor to demonstrate mankind's utter insignificance in the cosmos at large.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so) he got it, and the conversation carried on to using "scary stories" to teach morals, like "That monkey paw story you told me, or Frankenstein". It was pretty cool.

He told me he sort of likes scary stories, and maybe he'd want to read some of my H. P. Lovecraft books that he's seen down in the basement. I told him since he chose to read The Hobbit for his last independent reading assignment in school, I think he could take a crack at Lovecraft. He seemed excited.

Always happy to convert a new minion. In this case, it took a sort of catechism (or, Cthulhuchism) to make it happen. I always knew Sunday School had a place in the lives of children.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Decision - It's BloPo

Okay, so I've taken the easier path and decided to do NaBloPoMo vice NaNoWriMo - one blog post a day is a lot more manageable than 5000 words.

As this was a last minute decision, I didn't do any planning on what or even if I want to regularly post, if I want to take a day of the week and do the same type of thing, etc.

One thing I definitely want to do as I weed through my eclectic set of interests is post something dealing with Lovecraft and his mythos each week, so at least this thing may partially resemble it's name.

Okay. I have 13 minutes left in 01 Nov so I better post this so I don't blow NaBloPoMo on the first day. I know technically my last post counts for 01 Nov, but since I started it late 31 Oct, it doesn't count to me.

Wish me luck.

Luck, me.

Halloween - The Switch Witch?

Halloween where I live is interesting. The whole town pretty much gathers around the central monument here, holds a parade around it with all the kids (and some adults) in costume, and the kids trick or treat as they go. This is good because it's kind of cool to see the community come together and have fun like this. This is bad because they're all in one spot and when you're walking your small children from door to door, you have to deal with rude, inconsiderate, oblivious, pushy kids and the rude, inconsiderate, oblivious, pushy parents who raise them. This seems to be about 90% of the population here.

But we do have a few families here who are friendly to us (When you were not born here and did not grow up here, it takes a while to break the ice with the locals. Many people here still give us the "stink eye" ... there's a sort of Innsmouth Look to these people, but I digress.) and we managed to hook up with them this evening.

The talking was the usual stuff - how cute each others' kids looked, what a great time it was this year, how much candy they got - when one of them mentioned someone called "The Switch Witch" who may come later. When they saw the bewildered look on my face, they decided to explain.

Apparently, The Switch Witch will come later on Halloween night, and if the child wants to give some candy to the Switch Witch, she will leave behind a toy. The more candy you give, the better toy you get. I immediately wondered why someone would make this up.

My guess is this is done so the child does not have a lot of candy left, and therefore does not consume a lot of candy. Basically, bribe them out of their candy with a toy.

I guess that's one way to do it. We don't want you to over-consume, so we will try to get you to take less, and compensate you for what you give up. I'm guessing the McCain campaign and the far right would find some way to call this socialist re-distribution of candy the work of Barack Obama.

I'd rather let my children keep all the candy they get, and learn to moderate their consumption in a supervised way. For a few reasons:

1. I'd rather my children learn to responsibly handle incidences of "excess".
2. I'd rather they not develop the idea that candy and toys are fungible commodities and they need to get their hands on all the candy they can, so they can then immediately convert it into an equivalent value in toys.
3. They have enough damned toys between Christmas, birthdays, adoring grandparents, aunts, uncles, and "soft" parents. They have enough of an annual "expectation", they don't need any more.
4. The excess candy would just add pounds to my body and inches to my gut. C'mon, you don't think I'd throw it away, do you?!?!
5. For Chrissake, it's just CANDY. They're KIDS. They were meant to be together.

Then again, I could be accused of taking a joyous and wondrous thing for kids - an Autumn "Santa Clause" if you will - and ruining it.

Whatever. The Great Pumpkin never came to Linus, I don't think the Switch Witch will ever come to our house.