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Friday, September 30, 2005

Broke Ass Threepio


Buy Threepio before it's too late! (really the ad makes it worth bidding) :)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Guantanamo Bay: The Movie ( theatre experience )

I was lucky enough to see the Corpse Bride last night. Super short review: "Nightmare Before Christmas Light" While Cheryl has written a great a review, I wanted to review not the movie but the experience.
There has been a security ramp up that is getting openly ridiculous and all of this is to prevent taping of movies and their subseqent posting the Internet. I have some bad news: they've lost.
Last night, we had to line up until EVERYONE who would attend was in line. This was probably an attempt to get the cat herd of security people into position. Finally, they opened the doors.
A team of security people stood guard at the entrance. They were basically tough burger-flippers. In other words, if they were less malicious, they would either be asking "Do you want fries with that?" or "Can you spare some change?" One of them ushered me forward in broken English to go to another one of the security. I took two steps forward. The other "one" waved it's non-gender specific arms and said, "whoa, you'll have to step back."
The security split up people and wanded them with these scanners. I am pretty sure that they were metal detectors. I am also pretty sure that the security people didn't know what to do with them. They were testing to see if we had any cellphones or cameras on our person. Swell, but there are two problems with this sweep: A) My wife and I each had our cellphones, they were on and they were not detected; B) Why leave a recording device on in the first place? After the first wave, they questioned. I said I have a cellphone but it was switched off. With my wife, they shone a flashlight at her bag. Unless it was emitting X-Rays, I don't know the point behind that.
People trickled past the gauntlet and filled the theatre. While we were waiting, one of the theatre staff propped open the exit to the outside and left it open for probably five minutes. Great: ticket holders get searched but anyone can walk in from the outside with a camcorder.
Here's the characteristics of this spiral:
  • They need previews to generate buzz because Hollywood is so good at churning out crappy movies. I have seen more free movies in last four years than I have in the 30 yrs. before that. If they don't give away the tickets, no one will see the movie.
  • Because people get to see the movies early, someone could slip in with a camcorder and beat the premiere. Of course, wouldn't it look suspicious to be the guy in a crowd with a camcorder? If I did it, I would do in a nearly empty theatre or from the projectionist booth. Okay, as I don't work for a theatre, it's not what I do. It's what a $10/hr. usher would do if they hated a job where they had to scrape popcorn and congealed soda from the floors every two hours.
  • Because the US is so keen on offshoring, they probably offshore film duplication. This would explain why some movies are sold in Bangkok streets before they're released in theatres.
  • Right now, they're wanding people walking in for a freebie.This trend will worsen. Eventually they'll wand you when you walk into the movie you pay $10 to see. When that happens, people will be too pissed to bother and the system will fall apart.
This is what will drive the problem. Hollywood is ill-equipped to fight this with their current arsenal. Here's what they need to do (and will fail to do):
  • Lower production costs. If you can deliver a $30 million movie, it becomes profitable faster than a $60 million movie. You can market it less. It means you can take risks and not lose so much if the risk fails. Remember Star Wars? It made money. Blair Witch, El Mariachi, Deep Throat and many more low budget outtings have reaped big dollars and huge percentages.
  • Lower ticket prices. If you take a family of 3 to a movie: it will cost $30+popcorn. If you get the DVD on the day it comes out, it costs $27 but you can see it twice even thrice. Skip the expensive chance to get wanded and see the movie at home. If you can take three people for less than the cost of the DVD, you will take three people. You'll like the movie. You'll buy it later. Don't go the other way and raise DVD prices. That approach is a BitTorrent ad.
  • Tell good stories. Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. They stitch plots together like they're making a stew. The Corpse Bride was the first movie I've seen in a many months where people cheered and laughed. Cheering should be rule, not the exception. I'm waiting for the novelization of the movie of M*A*S*H based on the TV series based on the movie based on the book. Who knows? Publication of the novelization may spark a conflict in South Korea to come full circle.
If Hollywood doesn't do anything it's on its way to the toilet. Productions will flow out from LA to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. No? Here's the country list rephrased: X-Men, Matrix and, Lord of the Rings. Those movies where largely filmed in those respectively countries. Soon: Korea, China, Japan and India will get tired of delivering IT solutions for $20/hr. They'll fail to reach a world market if they try to popularize Bollywood. But, they will mop the floor with Hollywood when it comes to CG movies. Hungry actors will fly to Bangalore to voice anything.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Phew. I Was Almost Worried


I saw this interesting bit on CTV News this morning about UFO sightings in Mexico (Tula Hidalgo). For a minute I was worried. After all, you easily dismiss one flying saucer at night. It could be jet exhaust or a weather balloon. Or Venus. Or a flock of seagulls-- spherical seagulls that move rapidly around one another and can spontaneously disappear.

The media is so likely to ignore something like this that aliens will be panhandling and washing our windshields; while the media plays creepy music and shows the footage after midnight sandwiched between a Blind Date re-run and the "Too Hot For College" informercial.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Stay Away From My Room

For just $30: Every first person shooter has a level where you have to get past a bunch of automated motion-detecting turret sentries in order to get to your objective (likely rescuing the progeny of somebody with mega-influence). It's FPS 101. Now you can live out those FPS scenarios in the real world with the Room Defender and still live to tell about it. When activated (either via motion detector or via included remote), the Room Defender will shoot up to fifteen foam discs up to fifteen feet away!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trendy!

Do you want to play the Trend game? Yahoo and O'Reilly have powered "The Buzz Game." Check it out.
There is more to it than just trends. There is also the "Wisdom of the Crowd" at work. If you can predict a trend in behaviour, you can predict styles, commodity usage, potential crises and opportunities.
Google has blogged about this concept. They have also open sourced their, "Idea Futures" application. In my line of work, trend prediction could allow gear shifting in dynamic content service. From an associate program standpoint, you could sniff indicators for trends and then make relevant product links available. Hurricane on approach? Link to place to download roadmaps. Michael Jackson in the news? Get a book on how to keep your children safe from child molestors. Trend prediction is a key way to make an opportunity for yourself based on good data and the capability to react.

Extreme Makeover Has An Extreme Problem

This from New York Daily News Online:
The producers of "Extreme Makeover" promised Deleese Williams "a Cinderella-like" fix for a deformed jaw, crooked teeth, droopy eyes and tiny boobs that would "transform her life and destiny."

But when the ABC reality show dumped the Texas mom the night before the life-changing plastic surgeries, it shattered her family's dream and triggered her sister Kellie McGee's suicide, says a bombshell lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court.

Doh! Long haired freaky people need not apply.

More...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Super Short Post

When you have a fear of heights, people who love you don't take you to the top of the tower.

More on Mile Zero

Don's blog has more details on Mile Zero. He met with one of the producers and discussed the show, the creators and its prospects for being turned into an ongoing series.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Skip The Waterbed Sale and Sign Up for the 9/11 Walk-- or ELSE!

Anyone who joins Sunday's Nine-Eleven memorial Freedom Walk without registering could be arrested.

Pentagon officials tell The Washington Post that the route from the Pentagon to the Mall will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing. US Park Police will keep out interlopers. Hundreds of officers will patrol the route on foot, horseback, motorcycles and in a helicopter.

Park Police Chief Dwight Pettiford says anyone who joins the march or the subsequent concert on the Mall without a permit and refuses to leave will be arrested. The media will also won't be allowed to join walkers on the route.

Police have approved a permit from a small group of protesters that plans to stand along Independence Avenue.

Walkers have until 4:30 p.m. Friday to register online at www.asyfreedomwalk.com. There is no walk up registration.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

One more New Orleans story...

This was forwarded to me from Ana Voog and this seems to be the original posting:
http://www.emsnetwork.org/artman/publish/article_18337.shtml

I think when this is all done: there needs to be autopsy of the autopsies. It's important to know how many people drowned and how many were shot with law enforcement issued weapons. The New Orleans situation looks like a combo platter of the Indonesian tsunami coupled with the Tianammin Square crackdown.

Trapped in New Orleans

By LARRY BRADSHAW and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY

(Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics frorm California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.
[California])

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreens store at the corner of Royal and Iberville Streets in the city's historic French Quarter remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing, and the milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat.

The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers and prescriptions, and fled the city. Outside Walgreens' windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry. The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized, and the windows at Walgreens gave way to the looters.

There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices and bottled water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead, they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home on Saturday. We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreens in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and police struggling to help the "victims" of the hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans.

The maintenance workers who used a forklift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hotwire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the city. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens, improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes and had not heard from members of their families. Yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20 percent of New Orleans that was not under water.

* * *

ON DAY Two, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina.

Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources, including the National Guard and scores of buses, were pouring into the city. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible, because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the city. Those who didn't have the requisite $45 each were subsidized by those who did have extra money.

We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and newborn babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived at the city limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By Day Four, our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously bad. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that "officials" had told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the city, we finally encountered the National Guard.

The guard members told us we wouldn't be allowed into the Superdome, as the city's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. They further told us that the city's only other shelter--the convention center--was also descending into chaos and squalor, and that the police weren't allowing anyone else in.

Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only two shelters in the city, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that this was our problem--and no, they didn't have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement."

* * *

WE WALKED to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing--that we were on our own, and no, they didn't have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred.

We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and constitute a highly visible embarrassment to city officials. The police told us that we couldn't stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp.

In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge to the south side of the Mississippi, where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the city.

The crowd cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation, so was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves, and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group, and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news.

Families immediately grabbed their few belongings, and quickly, our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, as did people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and other people in wheelchairs. We marched the two to three miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armedsheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we wereclose enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions.

As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us that there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.

* * *

OUR SMALL group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and, in the end, decided to build an encampment in the
middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway--on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned that we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway, and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet-to-be-seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away--some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot.

Meanwhile, the only two city shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery that New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an Army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts.

Now--secure with these two necessities, food and water--cooperation, community and creativity flowered. We organized a clean-up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom, and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas and other scraps. We even organized a food-recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was something we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. But when these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the city with food and water in the first two or three days, the desperation, frustration and ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many
decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery-powered radio, we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the city. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway. The officials responded that they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking city) was accurate. Just as dusk set in, a sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces and screamed, "Get off the fucking freeway." A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims," they saw "mob" or "riot." We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" attitude was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements, but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next day, our group of eight walked most of the day, made contact with the New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search-and-rescue team.

We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

* * *

WE ARRIVED at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We eight were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a Coast Guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There, the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed
on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses didn't have air conditioners. In the dark, hundreds of us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport--because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly and disabled, as we sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we weren't carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heartfelt reception given to us by ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome.

Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

LARRY BRADSHAW and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY are emergency medical services (EMS) workers from San Francisco. They were attending an EMS conference in New Orleans when HurricaneKatrina struck. They spent most of the next week trapped by the flooding--and the martial law cordon around the city.

Open Letter to Jann Arden

Re: Celine Dion

Dear Jann Ardren,
I have liked your music for a long time. What I find is really special in you is your disdain of our fellow Canadian, Celine Dion. After seeing Celine Dion's exhibition on CNN's Larry King Show, I feel that enough is enough. This warbling cabaret singer's claim to fame is backing the popcorn-romantic classic, Titanic; and she was lousy in that capacity. She is a blight. For some reason, the US Cable News Network saw fit to tap Celine Dion for her sage insight into the Hurricane Katrina affair. She jitted and wept and then broke into song. It was embarassing.
Ms. Adren, I don't have a lot of money. Regardless, I would like to fund an expedition that is of great import to all Canadians. I don't think we can weather another bout of Celine Dion. I have taken out enough money for you to travel from Canada to Las Vegas. I have also set aside enough money so that once in Las Vegas you can take advantage of lax US gun laws and purchase what you need when you are down there. >wink< >wink< Please don't take this as an encouragement to harm Ms. Dion. I would be content if you locked her in a hotel room, strapped to a bed and force fed her corn chips for six months. Or, you could use CIA deep sleep techniques to wipe her memories and replace her persona with an alternative personality. Here are some of my suggestions. Any of these would be better than the Celine Dion we encounter today:
  • Beth-Earl Polson: voracious Bingo player from Alabama. "Bingooooo!"
  • Jo Hurl: grunge rock singer from Detriot. She does a Kurt Cobain tribute rock opera. For the climax she plays the roles of Cobain, Courtney Love and an aimless drifter; and renacts Cobain's "suicide" with a super-soaker. Here, her jitting would come in handy.
  • Aimee Latrine: French Canadian fry-cook who works off the Vegas strip in a dive frequented by loners.
  • Robo-Skeleton: a mime who works in Golden Gate Park near the Safeway. (Ms. Adren, make sure to equip this persona with a cellphone that has the ambulance service on speed dial: if the mime routine doesn't earn her frequent beatings, her similarity to Celine Dion will.)
For sake of us all, I ask that you consider my offer. Can you really live in a world where Celine Dion is allowed to run free?

Thank you,

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Victoria: A City of Fakers

Codewalkers had a question about PHP certifications. Zend's PHP Certification was the lead recommendation. I don't have my certification, yet; but I am planning on getting it in the next 12 months. So, I went to the Zend site and looked for the procedure. Buy the exam guide; take a test at one of the exam centres-- hold it! You can't do that in Victoria. Vancouver: sure. Burnaby: sure. Fort St. John: sure. Fort St. John? I have nothing wrong with that town way in the middle of nowhere, but if the have a test/certification centre, why is it that Victoria-- provincial capital, third largest city, and a place brimming with tech colleges-- doesn't?
I have one good reason: Victoria's IT colleges are mostly scam outfits. If they had a test centre, their students may take the PHP certification and fail. Then, the students would have to ask "Why can't I even pass a test based on what you've taught me?" The good news: there has been some bleach added to the pool.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In Memory...

Aww... thanks, guys. I am really touched that someone out there has set up the Michael DeWolfe Memorial tournament.
This is ironic, because I am so bad at golf. It is likely that if I ever did play, I would be struck down by a golf ball while on the course.
This is weird, because I was explaining to Alice that there is more than one Mike DeWolfe in the world. Here it turns out, there is actually a Michael DeWolfe worthy of a golf tournament in his honor.
This is probably tied to a bunch of DeWolfe realtors in New England. My theory is that the DeWolfes who could stay clear of the law headed south. The others were in Nova Scotia jails at the time.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weasels: LIFESTYLEHEALTHY.com

Are you tired of getting your blog posts spammed by weiners? Here is the WHOIS information for LIFESTYLEHEALTHY.com

If you try to contact them by this information and cannot find a legitimate contact, contact ICANN and register a formal complaint.

Registrant:
Domains by Proxy, Inc.

DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: LIFESTYLEHEALTHY.COM
Created on: 26-Jan-05
Expires on: 26-Jan-06
Last Updated on: 09-Feb-05

Administrative Contact:
Private, Registration LIFESTYLEHEALTHY.COM@domainsbyproxy.com
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States
(480) 624-2599
Technical Contact:
Private, Registration LIFESTYLEHEALTHY.COM@domainsbyproxy.com
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States
(480) 624-2599

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Code (of conduct) Library

I’m a geek and programmer. But there are constructs in programming that have a relative metaphor in real life. Case in point: the code library. In coding, it’s a command that is nice and concise, like print() that at the core is full of ugly commands, instructions and qualifiers. You say, print(“Hello”); and out pops “Hello” All of the machine language is hidden and compacted. What about a code of conduct library. Your life experience condenses from a set of ugly commands and controls into a reaction to input-- to stimuli. A code of conduct library. Let’s assume there is a code of conduct library. The function in discussion: trust().

Flashback to my childhood. For a variety of reasons, I have a really faulty trust mechanism. I think it's the peril of being from a single parent home. My daughter has two people hammering her with the messages, morals and the leadership of adults. Children from broken homes have one parent and a vaccuum. That leaves the people who almost as close as their parents: their friends. In a way, the collective of your friends becomes the surrogate parent. But really, who wants a multi-headed teenager as a parent? By definition, they're petty and immature. They commit this sort of erosion that forms you as an adult.

One friend used to run around me and shout, "I'm orbitting Mike!" He was the single-parent-nightmare poster child: at 12, his Dad gave Hash or 'shrooms or similar. Another friend came from a loving environment where his Dad threw hammers at him. The guy I'm get to later in this post was too much of a mixed-bag to go over here. Three boys you wouldn't let emotionally guide your pet hamster snugged into the emotional/parental void that you would leave for an adult. On the face it, they were good boys. They didn't drink (much); they weren't vandals (well, one of the four wasn't); they weren't into drugs (well, one of the four wasn't). They all came from emotionally crippled families. Like puppies that nip and bite, they didn't know that they puked out insensitivity. They didn't know they broke rule after rule of social norm.

The one thing this did well: they nosed after each other's romantic interests. Man, if anyone in the group liked someone, a couple of the group also liked her. It was really sad. It made you develop this retarded fortress mentality when you met a girl. Was it paranoid? Yes. Just because I think their chasing me, doesn't make it untrue. Three of them nipped for this mediocre shoe clerk. One guy tried to steal another's girlfriend on a camping trip. The other guy called me for a girl's phone number while I was trying to start something with her. The incident of note for me: it's the subject of this entry of the Code (of conduct) Library.

Move forward to my early adulthood. I was this hapless, dire idiot who thought in pitched, histrionic terms. Infatuation was love; dislike was a blood feud. Young people are stupid, and I was no exception. I fell for this girl/woman. We got along really well. The problem is: she sort of got along really well with a bunch of guys. In retrospect, it was hard to figure out if she and I really had a connection or if she was a social universal donor. Since then, I have met a number of women who were also universal donors. They send all the guys around her into a twitter. They all have a chance; she likes them; et cetera. One side effect of this early encounter is that I suss out universal donors and resist them. While all of the guys are eager to skate on the ice, I see the cracks.

I fell into the sway of this young woman. Months before, one of my friends had tried to woo her and splashed pretty bad. I got along with her and on a fateful Sunday night I asked her for a date. She said yes. I was ecstatic. We were to go out of the following Friday night. Five days to live in the clouds.

Back in this era my friends used to “forget” to invite me parties. They’d hang around my house; eat my food; play on my computer; get jobs from my Mom. But they would sometimes neglect to call me. On the Thursday night before my date, they had the chance to see this tribute band. From what I heard the band was good. I didn’t get the invite. C’est la vie. That’s not the big deal—not the core of this part of the code library.

What did happen there did stick. An old friend of mine was there. So was my soon-to-be date. This friend of mine had a little chat with my would-be date. A long conversation about me and she. A mutual friend overheard some of the conversation and related it to me; so much of the substance is a mystery. His plan: the scotch my chances. Sufficed to say; on Sunday she agreed to date Jo Blo; by the end of Thursday night, she was convinced she was hooking up with Ted Bundy. Why? Why would a friend who I had grown up do this? It turned out that he liked her. He could have shared this with me and I would have stayed away—he worked with her and I just knew her through them. Whatever his reason, so be it. He was practicing something I’ve come to call the “calm wedge.”

The calm wedge is something I haven’t mastered. I call a spade, a spade. My buddy did have it mastered. He would just smile, shrug, wedge and repeat.

So, I had my date with a slightly spooked woman. I was on cloud nine and totally infatuated. For her, she had escaped a beheading. Things were cordial from then on. I was totally obsessed and working hard not to go over the top. She still thought I was okay, but that was about it. My chances were zilch. With me out of the way, my old friend was free.

He had some cool tricks. My personal favorite was the “accidental run-in.” She shows up at the mall and voila—he’s just walking into the mall too? Why don’t they shop together? Why don’t they get to know each other better? What a lucky happenstance.

At the end of the day, he got what he wanted. I was in total misery. She was due to move overseas. He broke up with her supposedly because of the grief I was enduring. Truth of the matter, it didn’t matter. He got what he wanted and moved on. Maybe I was an excuse. A boogeyman. “Don’t make any sudden movements during the date.” “Mike is going to jump off a cliff, I have to buy you a ticket to Dumpsville.” Etc..

A classic trick: the blatant lie. One time he puked in my bed. Okay, there was a sliver of doubt. He walked into an empty room with a bed that was sans vomit. A moment later, he left a room that had a vomit deposit. Maybe it wasn’t him.

The one he was trying on until it broke: "always leave them wanting more." He's really aloof: playing video games, picking his toes and who knows what. You try to get ahold of him and nada. When you finally do make contact with this guy, you think, "I'm so lucky!" Yeah, you're not. I have accidentally done this to other friends and I regret that. Between, a daughter, job, family and feeling sick most of the time; sometimes I too am absent. People have written me off because I've been so aloof. I regret that, but I can understand their feelings and their actions. You dont want to have a friendship with an answering machine; or a blog comment field; or a gmail account. That is, unless those are all more interesting that the person behind them.

Fast forward to the current day. In almost two decades, I had long forgotten his contribution to my code library. I had forgiven him and mostly supressed the incident from that tribute band. He stopped talking to me seven months ago. I thought something was wrong so I would email and call. Nada. I was worried if he was in trouble. Turns out that he only stopped talking to me.
me: Is something wrong?
him: Nothing is wrong. Why? Why do you ask?
Is this the 2005 version of the calm wedge? Well, I am still calling a spade a spade. Nice game: you’ve tried this on me before. As a strange contrast: with the exception of one of his girlfriends, I have met all of his other girlfriends only once apiece. I guess should I ever try a homemade version of the wedge, he thought that with one visit I wouldn’t have an opportunity to practice it.

Unlike every other blog I have ever commented on, he actually deletes my comments. He snugs this into the "Nothing is wrong. Why? Why do you ask?" part of his behaviour. Could he have said, "I didn't like that. I'm taking it down"? No, that would be obvious and a contravention of the "calm" part of the calm wedge concept. Did I mention he's a big advocate of Free Speech? More to the point, he's a big advocate of "(what I agree with is) Free Speech." I, on the other hand, have taken heat for allowing even reprenhensible people speak their mind. I dislike a lot of what I hear, but if I shut it down, I would expect myself to be muzzled.

The power of the calm wedge, is that it takes very little effort; being sick with worry is a full time job. It’s like a Chinese finger trap. Unfortunately, I have picked up this gecko-like trait in the last few years. When a gecko is trapped and in trouble, it can drop its tail off of its body. The predator is left there staring at this squirming detached thing and the prey can escape. Stare at the detached tail, old friend.

I admit I have trust issues and I intend on working them through. Starting with my only counter to the wedge: He can go to Hell and stay there. I lost him as friend many years ago; he only stopped talking to me more recently.

To sum up with a code analogy:
if calm_wedge is on then:
trust() = none;
We'll see if I can rewrite that chunk of the code library to be a little more elaborate. In other words: keep the calm_wedge counter measures; gain some trust as well. Oh, and choose less emotionally disabled friends.

ew... I like Neil Patrick Harris

We were lucky enough to find a cheap copy of Undercover Brother. It's a great movie. Not like Citizen Kane or Gone With The Wind-- but like A Night At the Roxbury or Dude: Where's My Car? You know: you won't put it on your shelf. It's a movie you'll use as a layer of protection video between prying eyes and your stash of porn.
One of the supporting cast is Neil Patrick Harris. Doogie Howser. Doogie! When I went to see Starship Troopers on opening night, he appeared and the audience yelled, "Doogie!" I came to disturbing realization: I've liked every movie he's been in. Does this mean I like Doogie? Oh, do I not hate Neil Patrick Harris? How can this be?
Undercover Brother: Neil Patrick Harris works for B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. a secret organization of black men who are trying to counter The Man. Why is NPH in this black enclave? Affirmative action.
Starship Troopers: This is such a hated and gory movie, but I love it. NPH plays a psychic who enrolled in the military to fight the Insectoid threat.
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle: Two stoners go on a quest for little White Castle burgers. Mmm... Who do they run into? Neil Patrick Harris playing Neil Patrick Harris: a coked out celebrity who loves prostitutes, carjacking and White Castle burgers.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bush's September Surprise

In the summer of 2001, George W., had squeaked into an election. He squared off against China over a downed spy plane and it seemed like he was heading for a new Cold War. Past that, this hapless former cokehead and conman was on his way to inherit Gerald Ford's role as unelected, loser Republican president. Then came September 11th.

Theories abound about the real origins of the September 11th plot. It was theorized that it cost $1 million. That's chump change. That the staple-and-paper-clip budget for CIA. It would be very easy for an large organization to hide it. More than that, it would be easy for the same network that funded Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan to direct him to carry out this work. That network was the CIA. Regardless who greased the wheels, it's clear that Bush and his masters capitalized on 9/11. It felt like Bush neglected his role president for as long as he could as he could get away with it and the made up for it, like an alcoholic who goes on the wagon. A nine month binge followed by the War On Terror. I had a concern that this wasn't a one-off. It was a game plan. Get into office, arrange the desk, have a few friends over, go for a long vacation and then command a nation in a time of manufactured crisis. Over the last few years, I came to call this "Bush's September Surprise."

September 2005. The opportunistic Bush Administration did little to prepare for Hurricane Katrina. Conodoleeza Rice was shoe-shopping. Bush was wrapping up his long vacation. He took as much time off this year as Franklin D. Roosevelt took off during FDR's whole time in office. On the weekend, they could have sent down buses filled with troops and left with poor citizens and sheltered them in other states. No, instead the highways north were packed with SUVS, cars and white people.

Soil erosion, global warming and bad luck brought Katrina down like a hammer. Poor people loot. America loves guns. So many stores have guns that the looters can find guns with great ease. Now you have armed looters. Looters can tap on a car window and escape to neighbouring states. The U.S. is not a large country. You can cross it in four days. From Louisiana, you can travel by car to most spots in less than three days. Katrina hit five days ago. Armed gumen who don't want to end up in Guardsmen crosshairs can escape the region and shoot up truck stops in Iowa, Colorado, Idaho, Ohio. They can fence their stolen goods and get hard cash. An onslaught of chaos can spread through the South. The situation will spiral out of control.

There are calls for action everywhere. People want the troops out of Iraq. So many more people want Bush to act on the aftermath. The problem is manpower. To get this done right and done fast, Bush will have to recall National Guardsmen from Iraq to enforce a temporary state of Martial Law down there, thus pulling the US out of Iraq to the glee of many. As long as people are safe they won't care about the details. Troops will quell issues in the South. When looters with Louisiana plates start showing up in other parts of the country, the troops will have to be deployed to assist local law enforcement. Unfortuately, poor people and activists look alike. Detaining the unsavory elements in the fall of 2007 will stymie people who oppose Bush and the neo-cons. Yes, that's three years in the future. That's a long time. But then, the War On Terror started four years ago and its still going strong.

Who does this help? A spike in crude oil prices takes six weeks to end up at the pump. With that said, pump prices spiked this week at the same time crude oil prices fell. This is good news for the people for whom a price spike means lots of extra cash. With gas prices through the roof, Bush's Oil friends can be happy. Iraq can do what it wants as long as it starts producing oil again. If the Americans aren't there, they can get on with installing who ever they choose as long as Iraq's new boss gets out the oil. With Iraq and Saudi Arabia pumping out oil, OPEC is stronger and wealthier. By pulling off this trick in September, it hits people when they need oil the most: in the Fall. In the Fall, you don't bicycle to work. You need to heat your home. You need to truck Christmas presents to the WalMart loading dock. With Santa in jeopardy, you don't question oil prices.

If Venezuala closes the taps while all of these soldiers are perched on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, a few US citizens will be harmed by Chavez's military and Bush will have to invade to save American lives and neutralize an Al Qaeda conspirator in the Southern hemisphere. The saber rattling towards Venezuela looks alot like the saber rattling vs. Aghanistan in 1999 to 2001. A disaster would haven't allowed Bush to position troops in the South. But, a disaster that brought a rush of chaos, does allow a military force to be ready, armed and one plane ride away from Hugo Chavez and all that precious oil.

What does it take to deliver Bush's September Surprise? All it took was a little bit of atmospheric bad luck; and some short sightedness in infrastructure funding. Besides, the power base of his electorate, may actually agree with his actions-- or inaction.

Good managers solve problems. Bad managers manage and nuture problems.


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