Friday, December 29, 2006

11,000 Football Fields

Now that both James Brown's and Gerald Ford's corpses have cooled off a bit, I noticed CNN has decided to report on other stories again, at least until the impending and inevitable demise of Saddam Hussein (Oh No! No 'Zabiba and the King II'! Don't leave me hanging!)

One story today was about the ice shelf snapping off in the Arctic, specifically off Ellesmere Island in Canada. Reporters always like to put the sizes of things in terms you, the layman can understand, one popular unit of measurement being the football field. So in this case, 11,000 football fields. How is that gonna help me? I've never seen 11,000 football fields together. 11,000 is a big number. Is that how many grains are in a bag of rice? Am I supposed to spill the bag on the floor, and then imagine each grain is a football field? I'm kind of adrift here. That's like 'the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. That's like 2x10^13 network TV commercial breaks.' It doesn't really help.

Update: Saddam Hussein was hanged 2 hours ago. That's the time it would take a cheetah to travel 140 miles, if he were running on the Bonneville Salt Flats, and had plenty of water stations along the route.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some Stuff I learned this Holiday Season, aka Christmastime

This December, my daughter and I watched the 1964 Christmas special 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' more times than I care to admit or contemplate. Thank God for DVRs, I guess. When I was a kid, you got to see it once, and that was it until next year, forget about it.

The big revelation watching it now at 36 as opposed to 6 is that every authority figure in that show is a complete asshole. Santa is a grumpy old prick who treats his loving wife like crap, and tells Rudolph's father 'you should be ashamed of yourself' when Rudolph's nose starts glowing. The elf boss gives would-be dentist Hermie no end of crap, and is totally closed-minded about Hermie's toy ideas. Rudolph's father forces him to wear an embarassing prosthesis, and the reindeer coach is completely unable to ignore the nose after Rudolph kicks every other reindeer's ass in the 'Take Off' game.

The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, the riots at the Chicago convention, even the Prague Spring and the student strikes and riots in Paris in '68, it all makes sense now. Adults in the 60's had a stick up their collective ass, and by God, they had to go down. Too bad things didn't work out better than they did.

In other Christmas viewing we saw the new Christmas Classic that is the Polar Express. It is a spectacle to be sure, and scenes like the one with the ticket that flies out the window but eventually makes it way back on the train make the movie worth watching, and worth looking past the eerie rubber-faced creepiness of a lot of the computer-animated humans (check out the article 'The Undead Zone' for more on the phenomenon, observed by a Japanese roboticist back in 1978. From the article:

In 1978, the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori noticed something interesting: The more humanlike his robots became, the more people were attracted to them, but only up to a point. If an android become too realistic and lifelike, suddenly people were repelled and disgusted.

The problem, Mori realized, is in the nature of how we identify with robots. When an android, such as R2-D2 or C-3PO, barely looks human, we cut it a lot of slack. It seems cute. We don't care that it's only 50 percent humanlike. But when a robot becomes 99 percent lifelike—so close that it's almost realwe focus on the missing 1 percent. We notice the slightly slack skin, the absence of a truly human glitter in the eyes. The once-cute robot now looks like an animated corpse. Our warm feelings, which had been rising the more vivid the robot became, abruptly plunge downward. Mori called this plunge "the Uncanny Valley," the paradoxical point at which a simulation of life becomes so good it's bad.


Anyhow, if that weren't bad enough, the creepy simulation of a human being that is Steven Tyler of Aerosmith appears toward the end of the film as an elf on a unicycle, singing some song about rocking on top of the world, and the moment is such a jarring, whiplash-inducing distillation of repulsive stomach-churning awfulness it somehow manages to ruin the movie utterly. Why oh why is that scene in the movie? It didn't really bother my daughter, though.

Finally this year I finally got to see 'A Christmas Story' from start to finish, which was a mistake. Better to catch the odd 5 minutes here or there, which you can't help doing if you own a TV and aren't afraid to use it. Seeing it from start to finish seems wrong somehow. Also, the movie seems to completely unravel during the last 10 minutes ('and that was the year we discovered Chinese turkey').

Anyhow, Happy Kwanzaa to those of you celebrating that, Happy New Year, so on.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

That one band with the one good song

I was listening to Retro-Active on MusicChoice the other night (typically I listen to Electronica (Uncensored), the only channel with the (Uncensored), though mostly the lyrics are happy e-damaged nonsense when there are lyrics).

They played the 12" of 'Uncertain Smile', by 'The The', one of the worst band names ever ('The This. The That. How about we call it The The? Heh heh heh.' this conversation was held thousands of times and the possibility dismissed, until Matt Johnson decided to go ahead and use the name).

The song is really good, it's got a jangly simple guitar bit, nice use of synthesizer, and a great vocal performance. So, thanks to iTunes I soon had a copy (of the non-12" version, I kept getting an error on the 12" version) of the song in my collection.

Around there things started to break down. I listened to some of the other tracks from that album (Soul Mining), and from other albums by The The, but nothing really moved me to fork over $0.99. I would then go to, where 'Uncertain Smile Radio' would serve up a series of similar shoulder-shrug selections (The Ramones' 'I want you around'? Joe Jackson? Dave Matthews band?). Eventually I gave up and listened to 'Hallogallo Radio' (The first song on Neu!'s album, Neu!), which if you're me is consistently good, even when it whips out the art-rock era Genesis ('Submarine'). If you are anyone else, it probably sounds like art-damaged music that's alternately boring and grating.

Whilst writing this I googled up "The Making Of Matt Johnson's 'Uncertain Smile'", on a site that makes the most Ritalin-addled mySpacer's page look like a model of clean and readable web design. It was somewhat interesting to see that Matt Johnson himself had a hard time reproducing the magic when he re-recorded the song for the album:
The song Uncertain Smile featured on Soul Mining, the subsequent The The album. A completely new recording was made back in London, which must have disappointed the punters who bought it after hearing the original single. Both at this remove and at the time, it sounds curiously confused and unfocused, as if trying for whatever reason to make a fresh statement of the song but unable to escape from the grip of the first single.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The SBC/CWA micro-strike, Part II: Sitzkrieg

I was there, kids, back in '04 when the CWA (Communication Workers Of America, 'Fighting for jobs and healthcare') went up against Ed Whitacre and SBC (now AT&T, 'anti-job, pro-illness-induced-bankruptcy'). I was on the management side, although, as I explained in Part I, the only thing I managed was the microwave in the breakroom. I delegated heating up Hot Pockets to it.

I know a lot of arch-conservatives and Libertarian types start to pleasure yourselves when you hear stories about management employees taking over jobs abandoned by Union Workers during strikes, sticking it to those ungrateful commie bastards by showing them anyone can do their job, but the reality was not so glamorous in this case.

Around April, after a lot of posturing by both sides, the Union voted to authorize the strike. They gave SBC a 30-day warning. As part of our 'BCP', business continuity plan, we were to receive strike assignments - we'd be told what Union jobs we'd be pretending to take over.

I hoped I would get something cool like driving a repair truck or working at a Central Office, but I got what was to me the worst possible assignment - taking calls from customers who were having trouble with their service.

Some people fear flying, some fear public speaking, but in my case the thought of spending who knows how many 12-hour shifts taking calls from angry assholes while another asshole gave me grief about not taking enough calls or spending too long on a call filled me with fear and dread. I started having nightmares about it. I started sending out resumes and spending large chunks of the days and nights working on a Sanity Continuity Plan.

We were assigned, via e-mails that were machine-generated using threatening templates ('up to and including termination' being a common phrase) a list of on-line training courses we were to take. These familiarized us with the antiquated mainframe-based systems we'd somehow be using to get information. They all had 3-or-4 letter unpronounceable acronym names.

After the online training, we got to spend several days in the classroom. This was especially great. For some reason they did not have a test version of the fresh-for-74 software to use for training. I found this out after the instructor noticed I was goofing off, submitting fake tickets for cities in Ohio. Suddenly she had to stop the class so she could cancel the tickets, so repairmen would not be sent out on wild goose chases all over Ohio.

If I still gave a shit about the company at that point, I would have been mortified, sitting up there in one of the front rows, answering her questions about what I'd put in, watching the people in the rows behind me resentfully glare at me for managing to make an already tedious class even more boring, and jeopardizing the most glorious mission of exalted management in service of number one cowboy asshole Ed, but somehow I had crossed over into a kind of temporary sociopathy, and found the whole thing really amusing (I made an effort not to smirk, though).

Eventually the trucks were called back and class resumed. We did a lot of role-playing, pretending to be angry customers and all that. We watched recordings of actual calls, which were neat because they showed the reps goofing off on the internet during calls. After 2 days of this, miraculously I was not fired, but was deemed ready to man the phones if duty called.

Next time: duty calls, I let it go to voice mail.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Linux: It's the Journey. There is no destination.

I was reading wake up and smell the asphalt recently, by another running and DBAing person (she apparently has escaped IT for greener pastures recently, good for her), and ran across an entry about Linux: Sorry Linus, I tried. I could relate, particularly to this bit:
Tried to make sense of man pages that went on forever and ever. Refrained from asking questions that would only be met with "have you read the man pages?". Did a lot of gooling instead. Spent an entire 3-day weekend installing Oracle and was so disgusted with the process that I never started the service anymore after that.
I've been there. The thing is, I love Linux, always have. It's just a matter of understanding what Linux is about. It's an Albert Ellis, Rational Emotive Therapy kind of thing. Given a situation, you can make your own choice as to whether to love it or hate it. I choose love!

There was that time I spent a weekend figuring out how to get an old scanner to work on my RedHat system. I did a lot of Googling. Eventually it became evident I'd have to go into the source code itself, some C code I did not understand at all (knowing next to nothing about device drivers and all that), and make some changes based on on the advice of strangers on the intarweb. And then find out those recommended changes did not work. And then make some educated wild-ass guesses, and compile everything again.

At that point, I scanned the cover to my Soundtrack to 'The Harder They Come' CD (it is a true classic of reggae, of pop music in general in fact). It worked! I scanned a parody of the company newsletter I cut-n-pasted together in 1991. It worked, too! Hallelujah!


There was no need to. I had won! Similarly, I figured out how to get the proper drivers and what-not to get my printer working under CUPS after installing Fedora Core on a system that is so hosed up it won't run (or even install) XP anymore. I have printed 2, maybe 3 maps from mapquest using it, but that's it. I won! I got it to work! I don't want to actually do anything with it. I don't give a shit about printing or printers, but I made it work. w00t! Fuck this computer shit, time to go for a run!

Linux is great for shit like this. Sometimes, I get stuff to work and find myself using it more than once or twice, but that's gravy. The point is getting stuff to work. Check out SourceForge. It's the repository for open-source projects, is what people will tell you. The truth is, 90% of the projects on there, if they were rock bands, they'd be stuck in the 'we designed the album cover on a page in our English notebook' stage for all time. Version 0.0.9. Forget about it.

I know. I'm a developer on a project or two there. No, I won't mention names.

The point of Linux is not necessarily that you write any great software or do anything with it. I remember Christmas Break of 1995. I was working a job I hated, making $10/hour writing C++ code for the US government. We were using Linux workstations, which were pretty cool. they were about all that was cool about the job, in fact. I called in sick one day and spent it installing Linux on my machine at home, Slackware. I watched the messages tell me what I'd be able to do when I was done. I could write code in C, C++, Perl, Fortran, Python, Tcl/TK, I could create my own programming language with bison. I could do anything! I felt tremendous power. Once I determined everything could boot up OK, and that everything seemed to work, instead of writing code to change the world, I went to my roommate's room (he went home for break) and watched Godfather II. It's a great movie, kind of long, though.

I read a 'News Of The Weird' story once about a guy who spent 17 years building a plane. On the first flight, he crashed and died. He probably had a lot of fun building it. He never should have finished the plane. He never should have flown it, had he finished it. And that's what it's all about, Linux. Making stuff work, not necessarily doing anything with it. It's the journey. There is no destination.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What did you do in the Class War, Daddy? - The SBC-CWA micro-strike of 2004, Part I

In 2004, SBC hadn't yet bought AT&T and changed their name back to AT&T. I worked in the Indianapolis SBC building as a code monkey putting semi-modern web application skins on decrepit ancient Mainframe applications. It was a living.

Every day I reported to a grey building and went up to a crummy cubicle off in an out-of-the-way area on a largely abandoned floor of the 18 floor building. Most of the people I worked with were in St. Louis, hundreds of miles away. Alienated? Yes. I hardly felt like a part of anything, but soon my arm would be twisted to stand alongside 'management' against 'labor', as labor's contract was up for renegotiation, as happens every 5 years.

The thought that I was part of 'management' was a joke. Nobody reported to me. I was classified as management so I would be unable to join the Union. I later heard on the SBC yahoo message board, where a lot of the posturing and mind-games around the strike were to take place, that people like me were called 'gerbils' in Union lingo, but that was the only time I heard the term, and half-assed Google searches didn't turn up much.

For several months in that year, 2004, our group essentially wasted our time on ineffective training so we could 'replace' the Union workers if it came to that, and our Union counterparts got to wear t-shirts with snakes on them and have the protests with the inflatable rats, satisfying some intrinsic need humans have to mob together and do the protest thing now and then. We already wasted time on stupid shit like the United Way, making sure everybody filled out their timesheets and TPS reports properly, and various programs to encourage us to do the hard sell on our family and friends, but during the strike it was like we all said to hell with any pretense of doing anything related to telecommunications or whatever the company was about. Some of my 'management' counterparts were very gung-ho, ready to fire everybody affiliated with the union in anyway (had they known how I felt about things, I probably would have been hung in the conference room as a class traitor) and re-build the company from there.

next time - going beyond the call for some asshole Texan cowboy not named George

Friday, November 10, 2006

Media Crimes Court - The Time is Now

When one person spends 10 minutes watching 'Deal or No Deal' or 'I Love The 70's', or 'The 100 most Fabulous Fashion Moments in Rock', it seems insignificant and harmless. But when 5 million people watch, an entire man-life (person life) of potential productivity is squandered. Every day, countless life-equivalents are destroyed by shitty TV programming, mediocre music, and blogs.

Time is pretty valuable. In the song 'Return The Gift' by the Gang Of Four, a schmuck who's won a radio contest begs the guy congratulating him 'please send me evenings and weekends'. Stuff isn't going to do him a damn bit of good, stuck as he is in a shitty soul-killing job. Similarly, Kirkegaard or somebody like that said in addition to buying books we should be able to buy the time to read them.

Maybe we should just shut the TV off, but we can't! We are lucky to be alive now, with YouTube and OnDemandTV and iTunes and NetFlix and so on. So many entertainment options! Our grandparents spent their lives in a grey Milton Berle and Lawrence Welk tedium I shudder to even ponder (that and that World War II thing. and the Depression).

Things have really gotten out of hand, and something needs to be done. There needs to be some court where people can be tried and convicted for wasting so much of our time on stupid shit. If Aaron Spelling were still alive, he would be the first one to go before such a court, and we'd make an example of him, but the terrible monster lived a long, full life blowing huge chunks out of the only lives Love Boat viewers will ever have. He slipped away like some Nazi living under an assumed name in Brazil, enjoying the climate while his comrades rotted in jail and his fellow Germans suffered countless indignities like the TV show 'Hogan's Heroes'. So it will have to be someone else.

This rant will be continued later. Against my better judgement I post this now.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Great Memories, Shitty Cellphone pix: World Series 2006

Approaching the stadium

I don't really have the hang of this blogging thing. It's supposed to be immediate, friction-free. Something happens, I react and I post. I can take a picture with my phone, and post it, and write something about it, regardless of where I am. I can get my words out there before the sluggish-ass press can do anything.

Sounds great in theory, sure. But here it is, a week after World Series Game 4 in St. Louis, and finally I've gotten around to getting the photos from my phone to 'pixplace' to flickr. And, truth be told, they are pretty crummy photos. But they're my photos, dammit. I was there!

I was also there (well, a couple hundred feet away at the old Busch Stadium) in 2004 for Game 3 of that World Series. That was the series where the Red Sox swept them, winning their first World Series victory since 1918, getting all kinds of fake-ass fans to crawl out of the woodwork and pretend they were Red Sox fans. At that game, the Cards played abysmally badly. They were ruining my experience of seeing the World Series with my Dad, who is their most dedicated fan! I got so discouraged and pissed off I stood up and yelled at Scott Rolen: "HIT THE FUCKING BALL!", which, until about a week ago, was my Dad's big memory of seeing a game at the World Series with his son. (Rolen, like the pro that he is, ignored my heckling, and did not hit the ball).
You can tell this is the World Series because of the logos on the field

This year they were back, against all odds, defying the experts' predictions, and the optimism was about as cautious as optimism can be. But they pulled it off, winning it all in 5 games, so the deciding win could happen in front of a hometown crowd.

Actually my sister was at the deciding game (Game 5), which is as it should be. She is the biggest baseball fan out of the 3 kids. She went to school in St. Louis, which is more of an actual claim to being tied to the city than any of the rest of us have (although there have been years when my Dad has gone to so many games and spent so much time there, he had to fill out both Missouri and Indiana state tax forms).

We had a great time at game 4. We were surrounded by other faithful Cards fans, except for the guy who got up and left during the 8th inning when the game was tied (the commissioner should ban him for life from attending any Major League Baseball events). Though the game featured some spotty playing, particularly by the Tigers, it was exciting nonetheless, and great fun was had.

Afterwards the streets of downtown (such as it is) St. Louis were filled with celebrating fans. All the cars on the streets were honking their horns. My Dad was not really into soaking up the atmosphere or dallying, instead moving with impressive speed and efficiency through crowd and traffic, though we still ended up not getting back to the hotel till well after midnight, and were so fired up between the excitement about the win and the mad dash from stadium to car that it was quite a while before I finally went to sleep.
Postgame Hoop-la

Monday, October 23, 2006

David Grubb: Indiana Outlaw on Youtube

Back in May, I wrote about Bloomington's resident coot, David R. Grubb, who's currently in jail for hitting a small child who wouldn't take candy from him.

Bloomington's Cable Access Television Station, CATS, at one time was the home of the early 90's slacker TV phenomenon that was J&B on the Rox, later just Rox, but mostly it's a county-government-level C-SPAN, broadcasting local government meetings, including meetings where Mr. Grubb flexed his oratorial muscles during the public comment segments, railing against Greed, Crud, and Fraud.

A few months ago, somebody known as 50YearRanger posted a series of 9 of Grubb's appearances during 2004 on YouTube, as 'The Grubb Files'. In the series you can see Grubb's gradual transformation from not particularly bad-looking old Midwestern dude with actually not a bad voice (in a different, better life, he might have narrated 'The Dukes Of Hazard') to a grubby (sorry) mountain man figure, complete with a leaf hanging from his beard in Episode 8: We Don't Need Michigan. I found out about this via Bloomington's 'Herald-Times', in an article last Sunday about this cool new thing called YouTube.

A couple notes for viewers from outside Monroe County:

Jeff Ellington, who Grubb attacks in Episodes 2 and 3, owns Ellington Stables, the home for PALS (People, animals, learning services) which is a facility specializing in therapuetic horse riding for individuals with special needs. So he'd appear not to be such a bad guy.

Bill Cook, who Grubb refers to as a 'taker' in Episode 7, Seduced By a Devil Worshipper, is Bloomington's benevolent billionaire, founder of Cook Inc, a company that makes medical devices. Cook is known for his generosity, including a $600,000 donation to a free medical clinic, and a $1 million donation to COPS, a charity for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. Both of these donations are very recent examples, and there are many more.

Friday, October 13, 2006

We got robbed on the Nobel Peace Prize!

The gloomy Guses who wring their hands with their sob story about Americans can't compete in Science had to give it a rest for a while with this year's Nobel Prizes, when 6 Americans were awarded the prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, and economics, and we dominated the awards like we do the Super Bowl and World Series. Then the dark cloud came back when we were denied a sweep, with some Turkish guy getting the literature prize, and the Nobel Peace Prize going to Bangladeshi economist Muhammed Yunus and his Grameen bank, which gives innovative micro-loans to entrepreneurs, which has the effect of lifting the bank's customers out of poverty. By reducing poverty, they create a more secure and as a result peaceful society. As it happens, the bank makes money, too, turning a profit in all but 3 years since its creation in 1976.

It hurts that this prize could not go to an American. When Yunus says "They're not asking for charity, charity is no solution to poverty", he sounds almost like a College Republican reciting the right-wing saw: "a hand up, not a hand out". Further, in America, companies like Cash King, Cash One, CheckMate, EZLoans, Money Mart, and Check'n'Go have been making small 'PayDay loans' to poor people for years. Poor Christian people wanting to borrow money from fellow Christians can go to Christian Faith Financial.

Of course, there are some differences between Grameen Bank and the typical Payday Loan franchise. Grameen Bank requires borrowers to belong to five member groups, so there is a motivation to pay back the loan to avoid the shame of having the other people in your group know you are a deadbeat. Also, according to the website: "Since the bank does not wish to take any borrower to the court of law in case of non-repayment, it does not require the borrowers to sign any legal instrument." Payday Loan companies threaten jail time as a way of collecting debts. Grameen offers interest rates of 20%, 8%, 5%, and a rate of 0% for 'Struggling Members'. Payday loan interest rates average just under 400%, although thanks to a measure passed by House and Senate Republicans that has nothing to do with the fact that Election Day is right around the corner, there is now a 36% cap on payday loans for service members and their spouses.

"We need to enact these new protections for our troops and their families because a growing predatory lending problem has impacted our operational readiness,"said Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who pushed the measure in the Senate.

So, apparently by preying on the poor and increasing poverty, Payday loans cripple the U.S. military and threaten our readiness to go out and start wars. If that's the case, why can't whoever it was that started 'Check'n'Go' get the Nobel Peace Prize? If he's American, I mean.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So I have to write about the dog shit brownies

So anyway, I got this email from my sister, it was one of those chain inspirational emails, and it was about some kids that wanted to see a dirty movie, and their dad teaches them a lesson by painstakingly baking them brownies with dog shit mixed in.

It turns out the source is Danae Dobson, daughter of James 'Focus on The Family' Dobson. I fou nd this out from the 'Shakespeare's Sister' blog. The entry is from 2004, so these things just don't die apparently, they float around wasting precious email server resources and disk space forever, a tragic misuse of technology rivaling the 'Benson' marathons they always seem to be having on the 'TVLand' Channel (also a tragic waste).

Now's a good time to listen to The Evolution Control Committee's 'Acid Family', which chops up and re-assembles some Focus on The Family propaganda tape.

As a father, I have had moments where my daughter has frustrated me, but I certainly can't imagine going out in the back yard, or maybe a nearby park, collecting dog shit, making brownies, mashing the shit so it's not in big clumps, then mixing it in with the brownie mix, then baking these brownies nobody is going to eat, just so I can have some grand 'wisdom of Solomon' moment where I teach my kids profanity is wrong (but apparently, wasting precious food is A-OK). Anyhow, there probably was no shit in the brownies, the Dad was just lying. What a fucking hypocrite. All his daughters are gonna grow up to be crack hoes for sure. Perhaps in an ironic twist, one will star in 'Copro Hoes VIII - Dog Shit Day Afternoon'

It's also curious to note that there is shit in a lot of our food. I recall reading about regulations as to how many insect parts or how much rodent excrement is allowable in peanut butter, things like that. You can also Google around and find stories like this about our food being fed shit:

Britain Seeks Stricter Beef Labels. Britain's Agriculture Minister Nick Brown says he will order stricter labeling on meat following a European Union report that accuses French rendering plants of using sewage in livestock feed. Brown says it is "a pretty horrible and disgusting thing" to use human and animal excrement in animal food. "I am going to tighten up the labeling be more explicit than we are now," says Brown.

As Bruce Willis points out in the film Fast Food Nation: "We all have to eat shit once in a while". So I guess Dad's point is invalid. No matter what we do, the world isn't perfect. Even George 'Direct Line To God' Bush acknowledges that you may get some arsenic in your water, and too bad, that's just the way the world is. In fact, I believe what he and his people said was something along the lines of 'stop whining, it's a small amount, it won't kill you'. So too, people aren't pure or perfect. Life isn't pure or perfect. Pretend otherwise or expect otherwise and before you know it you're carrying a backpack full of explosives into the market, with not dog shit but nails mixed in.

And now, to further the tragic waste, is the story:

Not long ago I became interested in foreign films. I began renting various titles, selecting those that had been applauded by the critics. Not surprisingly, I found some of the videos pretty trashy. The Lord brought one word to my mind: discretion. I was not exercising good judgment when renting these foreign films; I needed to be more discerning.

You might be asking, "What's the big deal, anyway? It's only entertainment-why does it matter what we expose ourselves to?" Let me try to explain with a story.

A father of three teenagers set a rule that the family could not watch R-rated movies. This created a problem when a certain popular movie opened in local theaters. All the teens were bent on seeing the film, despite its "R" rating.

The teens interviewed friends and even members of their church to compile a list of pros and cons about the movie. They hoped that the list would convince their dad that they should be allowed to attend.

The cons were that it contained only a few swear words that misused God's name, only one act of violence ("which you can see on TV all the time," they said), and only one sex scene (and it was mostly implied sex, off camera).

The pros were that it was a popular movie-a blockbuster. If the teens saw the movie, then they would not feel left out when their friends discussed it. The movie contained a good plot and two hours of nonstop action and suspense. There were fantastic special effects! The movie also featured some of the most talented actors in Hollywood. The teens were certain that the film would be nominated for several awards. And Christian friends at their church who had seen the movie said it wasn't "that bad." Therefore, since there were more pros than cons, the teens asked their father to reconsider his position just this once.

The father looked at the list and asked if he could have a day to think about it before making his decision. The teens were thrilled. Now we've got him! they thought. Our argument is too good! Dad can't turn us down! So they agreed to give him a day to think about their request.

The next day the father called his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into the living room. They were puzzled to see a plate of brownies on the coffee table. The father said he had decided that if they would eat a brownie, then he would let them go to the movie. But just like the movie, the brownies had pros and cons.

The pros were that they had been made with fresh walnuts and the finest chocolate. These moist frosted brownies had been created with an award-winning recipe. Best of all, they had been made with care by the hands of the teens' own father.

The brownies had only one con. They had a little bit of dog poop in them. But the dough had been mixed well-the teens probably would not even be able to taste it. And their father had baked the brownies at 350 degrees, so any bacteria or germs had probably been destroyed. Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat a brownie that included "just a little bit of poop," then they also would be permitted to see the movie with "just a little bit of smut." By now the teens had lost their smug expressions. They turned down the tainted brownies, and only Dad was smiling smugly as they left the room.

Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something he is opposed to, the father just asks, "Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?"

Friday, September 15, 2006

Each of us brings our own special ignorance to the table

It's been observed that back in the day (the early 80's), you could pretty much know everything there is to know about the Apple ][e. You didn't even have to necessarily be Steve Wozniak. The Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide came in at under 500 pages.

Well,apparently you couldn't get 'Hello World' in J2EE in under 500 pages these days. And that's just the beginning. Once you know everything there is to know about programming, or at least have fully mastered Java (not just core Java but JMS, JSP, JAX, JNDI and Hibernate and JSF and JKE and JRP and cetera), C++, Python, Ruby and probably thrown in a good mindfuck language like Haskell or, why not, Brainfuck, you will still be regarded as a fucktard by the DBA where you work. And best to steer cleer of the Network Engineers altogether, is my advice to you.

You will have your hands full explaining to the non techy types why you can't fix their printer (leaving out that if you could you wouldn't because you ain't the help desk, dammit), because odds are saying 'I dunno how to do that' while wearing a practiced expression that just radiates ignorance and obliviousness is just plain not an option.

(a really old draft)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Martin Amis On the Spraying of Hair, Blood and Bone Fragments

Amidst the almost robotic by-the-numbers treatment of the 5th anniversary of Sept. 11, this was worth reading: "The age of horrorism". Amis goes into much greater details on Qutb's disgust with the Americans he encountered in the 1949 Sodom of the dry Greeley, CO, and closes with this quote from Joseph Conrad which sums things up beautifully:

'The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is - marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvellous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural, which (take it any way you like) is but a manufactured article, the fabrication of minds insensitive to the intimate delicacies of our relation to the dead and to the living, in their countless multitudes; a desecration of our tenderest memories; an outrage on our dignity.

'Whatever my native modesty may be it will never condescend to seek help for my imagination within those vain imaginings common to all ages and that in themselves are enough to fill all lovers of mankind with unutterable sadness.' ('Author's Note' to The Shadow-Line, 1920.)

Next time: more goofy shit!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Random Toughts In The Larry King Vein - The Political Edition

It must really suck to lose your job these days, via layoff or even your own overwhelming incompetence, and then see Donald Rumsfeld on the TV just cruising along, everyday outsucking himself.

Ahmadinejad is the embodiment of evil and all that, yet on TV he mostly looks like a creep working at Radio Shack wearing a Members Only jacket.

I saw an interview on TV with a top guy from Hamas, and he was very charming, articulate, immaculately dressed - he almost made you forget his job was to convince confused adolescents to spray hair, blood and bone fragments all over Israeli pizza places.

Sayyid Qutb thought Americans were shallow and soul-less because of their pre-occupation with lawn care, and I guess I can kind of see that. But he also hated Americans for our haircuts, and I think we can compete with any nation, hair-wise.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Passive Consumer of Entertainment Product: The $1 CD Rack at TD's CD's and LP's

There was a time I could afford at most one new CD a week. That time is gone, but that doesn't mean I should ignore the $1 CD Rack at TD's, esp. since the job where I could buy (usually mainstream) CDs for $2.50 is a distant memory now. Anyhow, here's what I found last week:

The outstanding find was the Lionrock CD, worth it for song #2, Rude Boy Rock, alone (fuck you iTunes! I'll play the song on any computer I want! I ain't got to authorize NOTHING!). Rude Boy Rock is built around various reggae samples and snippets of Jamaican Patois, a.k.a. 'rasta guy talk'. There are horns, there is the somewhat cheap-sounding organ, there is, of course, the big dumb beat that puts it in the 'Big Beat' genre. Big, kinda dumb, but likeable, like a clumsy, sloppy dog slobbering all over you. And actually, the whole album is pretty good. 'Cellar Full Of Noise' and the Title track are favorites.

G-Stoned has a cover that's an obvious parody of or homage to Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends, something people who like both K&D and S&G (like me) were quick to notice. But there are no interviews with the elderly to be found on this CD, just that 'yuppie chillout music' that K&D built a career out of. It's not bad, but it's no Rude Boy Rock.

Finally we have the CMJ Volume 13 album, which I bought because there was a Faith Healers song I had never heard on it. Imagine my disappointment on finding this was the Faith Healers from Arkansas, not the ones from the UK that did the very noisy, repetitive but oddly hippie-ish music in the early 90's. The presence of Tone-Loc and Slick Rick tells us this CD dates from the late 80's. The presence of the Fall was no help in determining what year this came out, as they have been around forever. A hip-hop song from the forgotten 'Big Lady K' uses a James Brown sample, forgotten group S.K.A.M. contributes the song 'We Didn't Even Need James', as in 'we didn't need a James Brown sample to make this song', but maybe they did need James (or, like Tone-Loc, Van Halen), to keep from dropping off the face of the earth completely.

All in all, not a bad use of $3, or of the brief time I spent after my visit to the Laughing Planet Cafe upstairs for a burrito.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Who can('t) end racism with his smile?

When I was in college, I had this friend who, like me, was into hip hop. This was ca. 1989, a very good year for hip hop (Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, De La Soul, Yo! MTV Raps!, all of that and more). We also liked Spike Lee's movies (esp. 'Do The Right Thing', which as the song notes came out in 1989, the summer). We were both from whiter-than-white towns (Danville, IN and Brownsburg, IN). My friend was attending Purdue University, and in the spirit of promoting racial harmony and combating racism he decided he was gonna say 'Hi' to every black person he saw. Not all the black people enthusiastically said 'Hi' back. He was very disillusioned and shortly after that he started listening to Rush Limbaugh. He also later was about as cold about Biggie Smalls' death as Ted Nugent was about Kurt Cobain's, if that's possible.

Anyhow, around the time he started getting all disillusioned, as an experiment, I spent a day saying 'Hi' to every white person I saw, and that didn't go too well either. Try it yourself!

I grew up across the street from a kid who became a 'non-racist' skinhead, and would learn that 'non-racist' is skinhead slang for 'just homophobic'. It's kind of like how some vegetarians eat eggs, but others don't. Don't go around assuming vegetarians aren't eating eggs. Apparently at one time skinheads were working-class youth that liked ska music and wore funny little hats. Then some old racist dudes with funny little hats infiltrated skinheadism and twisted it, or something, and from that point on skinheads spent the time they used to spend listening to ska explaining the difference between racist and non-racist skinheads, and telling people which kind they were, after which the explainee would make a joke like 'ha ha, non-racist skinhead, is that like a non-rock punk?'. Google for details.

Prior to the head shaving and gay-bashing, he showed signs of being intelligent, which just goes to show 'he seems intelligent' is about as nebulous and pointless and generally worthless a statement as 'he seems nice'.

This has nothing to do with anything but I am old and like to ramble on with the stories.

One time, we tried using a railroad crossing as a Dukes of Hazzard type ramp in winter, and we flipped over the car.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Comix 'n' Scabies at Boxcar Books

Before my vacation to Lake Michigan I was in Boxcar Books getting some reading material. They were having a meeting of the Midwest Pages To Prisoners group. They give books to prisoners so they'll have something to do other than shank each other or sex each other up or just spend all their time lifting weights (or waiting for the really big guys to finish lifting weights). OK, all I 'know' about prison I learned from watching the HBO show OZ, plus 'Midnight Express' when I was a kid, up to the point where the 2 dudes start kissing, which is when my parents turned it off.

There was a guy with long hair and an interesting beard talking to one of the tattooed girls near the cash register. I wasn't really paying attention until 'I have scabies, but it's not active now'. Then I think he asked her for money. All she had to say to him was 'I'm sorry, I can't help you', and shortly after he left.

I got really uncomfortable, wondering if he'd passed on inactive scabies to me. Maybe it would lie dormant, just waiting until I was old and weak, at which point it would flare up. I might even be suffering from the diabeetus, like Wilfred Brimley, and the scabies would be the straw that broke the camel's back, last nail in the coffin, all that.

I picked these up:

  • Fuzz and Pluck by Ted Stearn (via the inarticulate starving-to-death-monkey Stearn mocks ascetics and mystics, who probably aren't a big chunk of Fantagraphics' readership)
  • Found #4 (aka 'Come into our World')
  • The Comics Journal (requires you to give a shit about details of the industry more than I do, but did tip me off to potentially interesting books)
  • The Believer (again introducing me to books/writers/artists I've never heard of, but suddenly find very interesting, for example: Marjane Satrapi)

I read them all (except the Comics Journal, I skimmed it).

I read this book, which largely has a 'it's a rough and tumble world out there, Data Warehousing ain't no game, son, you best knuckle down and get ready for some pain' tone which was off-putting, but I need to know about this stuff.

I read this book, which was a nice where-are-they-now follow up to Louis Theroux's old 'Weird Weekends' show.

The books were rung up by a friendly young woman with interestingly colored hair and a very detailed, black and white photo like tattoo of Niezsche on her arm.

That's it for now, gotta keep the entries short as in brief (to work on next - more frequently as in often).

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fun Facts about Limerick, Ireland

Limerick is called Stab City because criminals there have to resort to using knives as guns are not as readily available as they are here in the U.S.

Limerick has nothing to do with the 5-line poems of the same name.

In Limerick, they have professional darts on TV EVERY NIGHT!

The Gaelic translation of 'Arnold Schwarzeneggar' is 'Arnold Schwarzeneggar'.

Between April 15 1919 and April 27 1919 the city faced a not unsuccessful period of self-rule which was called the Limerick Soviet.

There are a lot of Polish immigrants in Limerick, who do not like the local food.

Guiness does in fact taste different in Limerick.

I am told Budweiser also tastes different in Limerick, but I did not try to verify this.

People in Limerick are very polite, and don't go on about what a moron George Bush is until you first signal to them that you think George Bush is a fucking moron.

More later!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Each of us brings our own special ignorance to the table

It's been observed that back in the day (the early 80's), you could pretty much know everything there is to know about the Apple ][e. You didn't even have to necessarily be Steve Wozniak. The Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide came in at under 500 pages.

Well,apparently you couldn't get 'Hello World' in J2EE in under 500 pages these days. And that's just the beginning. Once you know everything there is to know about programming, or at least have fully mastered Java (not just core Java but JMS, JSP, JAX, JNDI and Hibernate and JSF and JKE and JRP and cetera), C++, Python, Ruby and probably thrown in a good mindfuck language like Haskell or, why not, Brainfuck, you will still be regarded as a fucktard by the DBA where you work. And best to steer cleer of the Network Engineers altogether, is my advice to you.

You will have your hands full explaining to the non techy types why you can't fix their printer (leaving out that if you could you wouldn't because you ain't the help desk, dammit), because odds are saying 'I dunno how to do that' while wearing a practiced expression that just radiates ignorance and obliviousness is just plain not an option.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Punks Over 40 and Still above Room Temperature

I found the early '92 (it's missing the front page) 'Punks Over 30 And Still Giving a Shit' issue of Maximum Rock 'n' Roll in the garage recently. It makes for an interesting window into the pre-internets, pre Green Day as background music on a Seinfeld clip show days of punk.

Within, youngsters are asked what they predict they'll be doing when they're 30 (then 17-yo Nicole Gonzalez: "Hopefully I'll be a singer of a really cool punk band, and I'll be, like, not rich, but not poor, just well off"), whether they'd fuck a punk who's over 30 (Tait, age 20: "Why does MRR always ask such vapid questions, when its readers are intelligent enough to answer more important questions?"), and then there's the main feature article, where prominent scene-type-people over (or at least close to) 30 are interviewed.

In the interest of science, with Google at my disposal, I tried to see if I could figure out what happened to some of these people.

Tom Pig, 33, Guitarist, Poison Idea

Quote from interview: "I always had a fairly questioning mind, was always curious. I was trying to find out why I am so fucked out, why do I hate my parents and why do they hate me, why I can't get along with anybody - so I had to start reading books to find out what was wrong. My quest. Also, taking massive amounts of LSD, multiple hundreds of hits - I was out there, trying to figure things out".

Where is he now?

Found dead, Feb 1, 2006, of kidney failure

Blew out my flip flop
Stepped on a pop-top

Dave Dictor, 36, Singer/Lyricist, MDC

MDC stood for 'Millions of Dead Cops' or 'Millions of Dead Children', depending on who's amateur leather jacket art you were looking at.

"One thing I don't do anymore is skateboarding. Falling down and hurting myself. I gave away my skateboard".

Where is he now?

Still with MDC, as is the rest of the band. You can read about them on the internets.

This week on Rock Star: INXS

G.G. Allin, 35, Singer(sic)

Infamous for live shows featuring cutting himself up and defecating on the stage - pretty standard MTV stuff these days thanks to Johnny Knoxville. For a while he kept promising/threatening to kill himself onstage when he turned 30, but like pretty much everybody else he chose to get in a rut and turned into a parody of himself instead.

Quote: "Going to prison...was a learning experience for me that made me a better criminal"

Where is he now?

Dead, dead, dead. Heroin overdose following a show.

I didn't go to art school,
but my wife did.

Thurston Moore, 34, Guitarist, Sonic Youth

Quote: "I remember reading an interview with Lou Reed where he said 'I don't make music for kids, I make it for adults'. I was repulsed by that."

Where is he now?

Still guitarist for Sonic Youth, who released an album in June.

Rob Wright, 38, Bass/Guitar/Singer, NoMeansNo

Quote: (When asked 'what's the secret, Rob?') "Starting late and having no hope of doing anything else! It's either this or washing dishes, folks!"

Where is he now?

Continues to give a shit.
New album coming out this year. Also a member of The Hanson Brothers.

Steve Spinali, 34, Writer, MRR


Steve Spinali: I've been trying to see how my thoughts, actions and beliefs reflect and change outward reality.

Interviewer: Huh! So, can you make the Ramones good again?

SS: There are some things far beyond my ability

Where is he now?

Apparently still kicking. Wrote something in MRR 256, the current one is 278, so that'd be sometime in 2004 I guess.

Sometimes things spring into
existence fully realized.

Joey Ramone, (3?), vocalist, The Ramones:

He and his stage brothers invented punk rock, just like Iggy Pop and the Asheton Brothers and the MC 5 and the Velvet Underground invented punk rock before them. The point being, it was not invented in England.

Quote: "I exercise, actually I've been sober now 2 years. I see a homeopathic chiropractor, and I guess I'm into something different now than I was previously, ya know what I mean?"

Where is he now?

Sadly, no longer with us. Died of lymphoma April 15, 2001.

What have we learned from all this?

Old people are kind of pathetic with the nostalgia, regardless of the youth culture they loosely aligned themselves with in the past.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Stephen Hawking: Chinese Women Are Hot


At a seminar in Beijing last week, famous physicist Stephen Hawking, who holds the post of Cambridge University's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics once held by the great Sir Isaac Newton, told the audience of 500: "I like Chinese culture, Chinese food and above all Chinese women. They are beautiful." He also said some stuff about global warming potentially destroying the earth.

On hearing the news, the Fundamentalist Scientists of the IDEA club immediately sprung into action, assembling and distributing a list of 'over 500 physicists who prefer white women'. Within hours, the list came under fire in the physics blogosphere, as several physics bloggers or 'blogons', as they are sometimes known, pointed out that many people on the list were not Physicists, but merely people who had taken Physics in High School.

Chinese Woman.
The IDEA club immediately fired back in a press release, noting that not only did all these people get 'A's in the classes, but further that in several instances, the classes were AP classes, meaning the students could have gotten college credit for the classes from participating Universities and Colleges.

Asked for comment, Sir Mix-a-Lot, who holds the 'Sir' title once held by Isaac Newton, said: "I like big butts, and I won't lie."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Environment of Non-Compliance - The Kelvin Sampson Story



IU fans will want to see this upcoming made-for-TV movie about the new IU basketball coach's experiences at Oklahoma. The title role will be played by Joseph Gannascoli, better known as gangster and Johnny-cake aficionado Vito Spatafore on HBO's The Sopranos.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I'm Santa Claus, Dammit! (GRUBB UPDATE)

An earlier entry here at words of advice for young people introduced our reader(s) to Monroe County character David Grubb and some of his outsider art.

Recently the man himself has been in the news, as with a story in the June 8, 2006 edition of Bloomington's 'Herald-Times'. I can't link to it, because you have to be a subscriber, so I will just share some excerpts in a manner I hope is consistent with 'fair use'.

One of the most universal and fundamental pieces of advice old folks pass on to the kids is: 'don't take candy from strangers'. It seems some Bloomington kids were trying to follow that advice, but the stranger, none other than GRUBB, took offense. From the article:

"David Grubb, who got 212 votes in the 1998 GOP primary and who is a fixture of public comment periods at local government meetings, is charged with felony battery of a 5-year-old boy by hitting him on Sept. 23, 2005, after he and another boy refused to take candy from Grubb."


"The afternoon's testimony was anticlimactic, with a 7-year-old boy, two 14-year-old girls from across the street and two mothers who got involved testifying about the incident. The 5-year-old victim, now 6, was deemed too young to testify.

The 7-year-old boy said Grubb offered the two boys candy. When they refused, he said it was OK because he was Santa Claus, but they still refused. According to testimony, Grubb then took a swing at the 7-year-old. The boy ducked, and Grubb then hit the 5-year-old in the forehead, causing a bruise over his left eye.

The two girls across the street plus adult witness Michelle Ricardez said they saw Grubb swing at the boys. Ricardez, the girls and the 7-year-old boy all said they never heard anyone tease Grubb before or during the incident.

Baggerly said that Grubb never hit the boys but that they had been taunting him, and that the witnesses got together later to "close ranks" in their accounts. "

For his part, Grubb evoked Roger Miller and borrowed a favorite tactic of his idol 'Pres Bush' in his comments:

"The nation is at war and everything is in chaos," he told Harris outside the jury's presence. "I'm not sitting in front of a bunch of women. They're going to hang me, dang me ... I can be innocent and they will find me guilty."

Eh, at least he didn't blame gay marriage for his plight.

The trial continued today and is probably over now. We will follow this story as it develops.


Actually it is over. Here's the headline:

Man convicted of battery
David Grubb could face a new felony intimidation charge for a remark he made to prosecutor Thursday at his trial for striking a 5-year-old boy who wouldn't take candy from him in September 2005

The article elaborates:

David Grubb hadn't even been convicted Thursday of felony battery of a 5-year-old child when his own remarks started police on paperwork for a second felony charge.

Grubb, in jail after being convicted of the battery, may face an intimidation charge for saying in court of prosecutor Lynda Robison, "I'd like to cut her throat."


Grubb rambled at length about his life, jobs, feuds with public officials and problems with the law over the decades. Grubb is 67.

"I get run out of this county a lot because I see wrong, and I raise hell," he said. "I'm a little scattered, radical because I've had to fight for my life all my life."

One after another, he made allegations against people in the community, alive and dead, by name. He blamed many of his life's woes on "Democrats, idiots and queers."

Scratch what I said earlier. He did play the gay card.


"I love kids. I don't hit kids," he said. Except for one case, he began recounting, to Baggerly's dismay.

It was in 1962, and two boys were throwing hay out of his barn loft. Their dad was drunk at home, so he cut a maple branch, called them out and switched them. He said it got him hauled into court for battery, and "it cost me money," so he didn't hit kids after that.

As for whether he struck the 5-year-old boy on the forehead on Sept. 23, 2005, after the boy and a 6-year-old had refused to accept candy from him, even when he told them he was Santa Claus, he denied hitting the boy.

"I'm Santa Claus, damn it!" he said.

"Take me out behind a building and shoot me," Baggerly moaned during the jury break that followed.

Neither he nor his client will be shot, but sentencing will happen June 15, according to the article.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

No Irony

racist clowns

Here's a charming little photo that was in Bloomington's Herald Times this morning. The caption:

Lorraine Hensley, 18, sits between signs held by Alexis Hensley, 8, left, and Linda Jerome during a demonstration against illegal immigration Saturday near the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans in downtown Columbus. President Bush urged Congress on Saturday to find a middle ground between mass deportation or instant U.S. citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living in America. Bush's radio message was the third time this week he has spoken out about immigration. Andrew Laker | Associated Press

I would consider it to be an A-OK use of my tax money to round up this lot and ship them back to where they came from. Probably that would be Lower Assclownia.

Not sure if these folks will achieve the fame of the 'Get a brain morans' guy, but they tried.

get a brain morans

Follow up 06/06/06:

'LEMA_ODA' on has a great post on livejournal (wow, there's a phrase I neve imagined myself typing, 'a great post etc etc') about the 'NO AMNETY' photo, along with other anti-immigrant spelling bloopers. He notes:

On a personal note, i have now been to two very large immigrant rights protests at which there were thousands of mostly Hispanic immigrants for whom English is a second language and i have yet to see even one misspelled word on any of the English-language signs and banners they carried. 5/25/2006 12:08 AM

He also has a quote from the photographer who captured this comic moment:

Hi. This image was taken with a still camera, and the video on the web site was shot with a different camera. And how do I know that? I shot them both - that's how. Thanks everyone for the kind comments. It was a funny situation. The down side is that my poor editor has been inundated with phone calls from angry protesters.

Here's a link to that post: click.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006



One thing this blog needs is some pictures. So, in order to add some images to this otherwise logocentric site, I bravely ventured into GRUBB COUTRY (sic) on Bloomington's industrial West side with my digital camera. Occasionally you will see Mr. GRUBB sitting out in front of his house, but he wasn't there today. He will never wave when you wave at him. He used to have a grey beard, but the beard is gone now.


One morning, on the way to work, I saw Coutry Commissioner GRUBB coming out his front door, followed by a very large TV. The TV sped up and passed him going down the front steps. He was laying flat on his back. The TV was laying screen down on the ground. I stopped the car and asked if he needed help. 'No, no' he said, and waved me off. He was able to get up and that was all the convincing I needed. I hopped in the car and sped off.


Just as Ol' Dirty Bastard once proclaimed 'Wu-Tang is for the children', so too is GRUBB concerned about the well-being of our young people. The truck used to say 'KIDS NO DRUGS' along with other slogans including 'THANKS REPS BLACKS DEMORATS (sic)' and 'POWELL AFTER BUSH'. Now it says 'KIDS KIDS KIDS KIDS KIDS'. KIDS what? I'm afraid to ask

Worth noting: the satellite dish. In related news, the number of homes without plumbing recently surprassed the number of homes without satellite TV.


Our last shot shows the truck from the other side. As you can see, still shaken by my previous visit, I was afraid to get out of the car to take these photos. I would be surprised if more than 3 of the people who graduated from IU this year ever saw GRUBB COUTRY in their 4 or more years in Bloomington. But like Skull Island, it's out there, with its own rules and logic, best left alone by those from the outside.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Scenes from post-graduate life ca. 1990

Congratulations, graduates!

I graduated from college 16 years ago. W's Daddy was in office, and things were pretty bleak. He hadn't yet started that hoo-ha, let's feel good about ourselves war in the gulf yet, but plenty of people were graduating with seemingly not too bad degrees (various engineering disciplines) from not too bad schools (like Purdue, not too shabby in the technical area), yet getting fuck-all response to their job searches.

I was able to land something using some of the same pestering nerdly skills that had met with a 0% success rate in dealing with the opposite sex. Anyhow, they got sick of me calling and generally annoying them all the time, and gave me a job at what everybody called the 'Naval Air Welfare Center' in Indianapolis. It was about the only place I could think of where you could work in Indianapolis with a Physics degree, seeing as it involved creating and testing devices that could be used to kill people. It was where veterans and college grads with no self-esteem went to die. This dying process could take anywhere from 1 to 40 years, and involved such indignities as

  • sitting in the cafeteria eating horrible, horrible food, listening to your Lovecraft-esque boss talk about his sex life with his wife
  • listening to grown men talk for an hour about the merits of competing brands of lawnmowers
  • listening to increasingly icky guy co-workers make lewd remarks about the women in the cafeteria
  • watching the new boss, who had a body resembling a melted candle, pull a room-temperature (no microwaves available at the time) hot dog from his cooler every day as he ate lunch at his desk
Anyhow, dealing with this day in and day out created a level of angst and dread so intense I had to listen to the Smiths and read Kafka after work to step down from the heights gradually. It really woke me up to the nail-gun-repeatedly-to-the-head banality and tedium that apparently was what really made post-collegiate life so horrifying, and made attending graduate school and working for $4500 a semester seem like I had died and gone to a better place.

So, enjoy your new jobs!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

They killed Mr. Softie

Here's some tired crap you hear a lot - it's one of those memes that people hear and pass on and on and on, without ever pausing to think about how fucking stupid they sound first off for repeating something verbatim which probably everybody has heard many times to begin with, secondly, for doing so in a complete mental vacuum in re: labor history:

Unions were fine organizations, 100 years ago. Back when the federal government was not addressing certain crucial labor issues, unions brought them into the public's view and created needed debate.

Today, however, unions do little but increase the costs of doing business. Sure, some select people benefit by earning more than they would otherwise get in a truly free market. But the majority suffers from higher prices and union corruption.

It's from here, but oh god it doesn't matter. Anyhow, I am on a mailing list for They have taken on the Quixotic task of getting techies to Unionize. Quixotic because among other things techies are anti-social creatures, so the whole getting together and organizing thing seems a bit absurd. Also because they are highly competitive, so the whole working for the common good thing seems a bit absurd. You could probably be a passable manager of techies just by insinuating to your various reports that 'employee X might do job Y better than you'. They would then bust their techie asses to prove you wrong. Anyhow.

Here's an article from a former Microsoftie, The WalMartization of Microsoft.

I left Microsoft to be a full-time parent to my newly adopted daughter in 2000. Since then, not only is the stock stagnant, but the wages and salaries are too. In fact, wages and salaries seem to have stagnated at the same time Microsoft hired a top Wal-Mart executive. That same executive has just been promoted to Chief Operating Officer.

Meanwhile, according to anonymous sources, managers at a recent Executive Retreat were encouraged to make everything like “Wal-Mart.” How deep will this exhortation go? Will wages continue to be stagnant and perhaps decline?

She goes on to reference Steve Ballmer's advice to fire 6.5% of your staff every year. That might actually please 'Who da'Punk', the individual behind Mini-Microsoft, a blog with this mission statement:

Let's slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine! Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!

Sounds good on paper, but who is he kidding? You can't go back to the garage. Once a company reaches a certain size, all it can do is hang on and make modest but safe gains, picking up new products by buying out little guys here and there, hopefully without accidentally destroying them with your hamfisted clumsy big fucking corporation hands, and eventually you just die. In the meantime, the blog is an interesting window into Microsoft, as many Microsoft type folks vent spleen within (here's the big revelation - middle management: not good!), and it's also a good source of Schadenfreude for Microsoft-bashers or maybe just people who wished they worked someplace of significance.

For the record, I actually like a lot of Microsoft products. XP, which I'm using now, SQL Server, I even think C# is pretty cool despite the Java resemblance. I got no personal beef with Microsoft. I'd get much more Schadenfreudic enjoyment seeing Oracle or Sun go down the toilet, actually. Larry Ellison's role in life seems to be making Steve Ballmer seem all cuddly and Care Bear like.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Series of Progressively More Painful Indignities

I recently read The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle, a book seemingly written for these times, and by these times I mean the times where the immigration debate is on everyone's mind, with immigrants even marching in Burlington, VT, of all places. Actually the book was written in 1995, and is set in California, which is usually ahead of the rest of the U.S. in things like popular music, fashion, drugs, and racism toward Mexicans (I visited L.A. back in the 80's, and what struck me the most was how all the white people would speak disapprovingly and condescendingly of racism toward African-Americans in Indiana, then turn around and rant about 'beans', apparently completely oblivious to the irony of the conversation's turn. But this was before Alanis Morrisette brought the concept of irony to the masses.)

The novel revolves around two couples, well-off white liberals Delaney and Kyra, and immigrants Candido and America, who live in a camp in Topanga Canyon not far from the white folks' gated community. The book opens with Delaney striking Candido with his car, and Candido and America suffer a series of progressively more painful indignities as the book progresses, while Delaney's liberal ideals slowly (and Kyra's less slowly) unravel under the influence of paranoid and decidedly creepy upper-class neighbors.

As I've mentioned before, I'm fascinated with Mexico and its culture, so I found the book very interesting independently of the timeliness of the subject matter, and it is definitely worth reading (as is the other T.C. Boyle novel I've read, Drop City, in which a hippie commune self-destructs in a highly interesting way, in Alaska, of all places). It will give the reader a better understanding of what immigrants have to deal with, although I suspect people clamoring to round up all the illegals and ship them South of the Border might not be too inclined to give this book a chance.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I visited the NorthEast Kingdom, and all I got was this lousy virus

We all flew out to VT last Friday for an extended weekend visiting grandparents and cousins. I didn't mention this before, because you can't be too careful with all the burglars clicking that 'show me next blog' link until they see that somebody's in Vegas next week, which they note for either their own fiendish purposes, or to pass along to somebody else in the sophisticated network of 'blog-burglars'.

One of the highlights of the trip was going up to Craftsbury, VT (the name sounds like it was created by a team of marketing professionals tasked with coming up with a cute, rural-sounding Vermont name, but as far as I know, it was not), where my brother in law works for a small college as a farmer.

Craftsbury is in the Northeast Kingdom. It's in the Northeast part of Vermont, and it feels like another country. Actually, it feels like another planet. The light is different. I'm not sure why, maybe it's the latitude, maybe the lack of pollutants - car exhaust and general industrial filth, but it's very bright and clear and eerily different. So much so if I were to look up and see two suns, I might even be relieved to have an explanation of what's up with the light.

I noticed that the last time I visited the Northeast Kingdom, a couple years ago, when we visited my brother and sister in law on the organic yogurt farm where he was working. That trip was very memorable because I got to see a man stick his arm into a plastic sleeve, then up a cow's ass, and clear out a lot of cow crap so he could stick a 3 foot long needle into the cow and get her pregnant. I dodged a very thick stream of cow urine that started flowing during this process, and watched my brother in law stick his hand in a cow's mouth and pull out the ruminant. Prior to this gig, my brother in law worked on a farm camp for at-risk youth, run by I think the Farelly brothers.

Anyhow, my daughter was along this time, so I was hoping we wouldn't be seeing any of that. It was springtime, and it was time to see the baby animals. So we all walked down the street to see the chickens. There were numerous chickens walking about in the yard, and my brother in law scattered some feed for them.

'I want to go to the farm.' my daughter exclaimed.

From there we went to a greenhouse where spinach and other greens were growing. My daughter ate some spinach, and pronounced it yucky. Later during the trip, she would try to grab some gum under a seat at an airport.

'I want to go to the farm'.

The next stop was inside a shed where we heard the peeps of real live baby chicks. We got to look at them and even got to hold them.

'I want to go to the farm'.

After that we went to the barn to meet a mama goat (who had an unfortunate swollen teat that had the effect of making her look like the goat Ron Jeremy) and her two babies. They were extremely cute and jumped around a lot. We were able to pet them although they were hard to approach.

From there we went to the field populated by sheep (mamas and babies) and a llama. We were told to bow to the llama, and we did. The llama didn't really do anything in response, but apparently it's more a matter of what happens if you DON'T show the llama respect.

After the sheep we saw the cows, including some calves. There was cow excrement everywhere. I was amazed how much those cows produced. It didn't smell particularly bad (in the Northeast Kingdom, the light is different, and cow shit smells ok), but it was everywhere.

My daughter by this time was convinced we were finally at the farm.

The other highlight was riding the shuttle in the Detroit airport on the way back. It takes you back and forth along the terminal. We got at one end of the train, where if you're 2 you can ignore the signs saying 'don't sit here' and sit right there looking out the window pretending you're driving the train, and further pretend that it's not the shuttle at the Detroit airport but Gordon from the 'Thomas and his Friends' show. It's great family fun and created the
only good memory I have of Detroit after visiting Detroit on a couple of different occasions.

Friday, April 07, 2006

My spokesmodel is a Jewish Carpenter

Need Peace of Mind?
call on God and
Kelley's Termite &
Pest Control
(phone number)

(actual Bloomington Area sign)

If business goes well, Kelley can gradually phase God out,
like Sears phased out Roebuck.

True Story:

There is a business in Southern Indiana. We won't mention the real name. Let's call it 'Drywall For Jesus'. The main point here is they use a reference to Jesus in their name; Jesus is part of their 'brand'. An acquaintance hired them to do a job. With the job half-finished they stopped showing up. Much time passed, but no word from Drywall For Jesus. Aforementioned acquaintance called and asked for an explanation. Explanation: you have alcohol in your fridge and therefore your house has demons in it. We can't go back there.

When this goes to Court, we'll see what kind of game the law firm of Miller, Baker, Johnson, Oglethorpe and Christ has got.

The Moral of this story:

Alcohol in your fridge might attract demons. Do all your drinking at a bar or acquaintance's house. Or smoke weed. Demons hate that smell.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Van Driving Yahoos Are Ready to Steal Gas!

I thought people were pretty much over the 'gas is so expensive' gripes when it went back under $3, but apparently that's not the case. At the gas station today a very angry white dude of the Tom Arnold type driving a Van complained to a young guy of the Eminem/Kevin Federline type (a future entry will go on at greater length on the Theory of White Guy Types) that gas was too gosh (sic) damn expensive.

"It's 2.64 and it goes up 10 cents every week. Before long people are gonna start stealing gas. This van gets 13 mpg. I can't afford it."

"I know what you mean. I have to put premium in that piece of shit." (points to dark green, somewhat old but still in pretty decent condition BMW with the pimped out rims whose main function is to make the rest of the car look like shit).

"People are gonna start stealing gas." (the other guy again)

At this point K-Fed mentioned how motorcycles get great gas mileage, and tried to sell Tom Arnold one of his for $800, but he didn't bite, saying he didn't have that kind of money and couldn't afford it.

He should have at least got K-Fed's address. Then he could have stolen the bike at least.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Elmo's Coloring Book, live at the Murat (WARNING: SPOILERS)

My wife, daughter, mother, father and I had wholesome family fun at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis last Sunday, where we saw a production of Elmo's Coloring Book. The last time we were at the Murat was to see Chris Rock's Black Ambition Tour in 2004. Neither daughter nor parents were with us for that.

People who don't have kids probably see going to things like this as a good reason not to have kids, but all in all, it was a well-done production featuring nice sets, much dancing and decent music, although I suspect Elmo was lip-syncing.

Actually, a nice thing I noticed about ECB, as those in the know refer to it, was it didn't throw in a lot of half-assed pop-culture references to try to reach the parents. This seems to be a welcome trend in kiddie entertainment away from the 'Robin Williams as the Genie does impressions of 80's celebrities' thing that was big for a while, as Curious George the Movie didn't pull any of that shit either, aside from the King Kong references, but how do you expect them to do a monkey movie without throwing in a nod to King Kong? Actually in this case, there was an interesting subtext having to do with Imperialism and the White Man's appropriation of other cultures. It was a message similar to that put across by Gil Scot-Heron and the Last Poets in their track 'It Ain't No New Thing' ('release the album 'John Wayne sings the Blues'/release the album 'J Edgar Hoover sings James Brown'), but in this case presented in a fashion that would entertain toddlers, and definitely would not require you to explain to them what 'cultural rape' means.

In the story, Professor Art, the only human cast member, creates a device that enables the characters to put themselves inside coloring books depicting scenes including ancient Egypt and Dinosaur times (in a bold move, during this sequence they acknowledge that yes in fact the Earth is more than 5000 years old, which would have enraged the IDers if there had been any there (nobody walked out angrily)).

Colors start missing from scenes, and even Oscar the Grouch loses his color, becoming as white and clean and annoyingly cheery as the Snuggle Bear. The culprit turns out to be a Polar Bear named Blanche, who lives in the color starved (except for the Northern Lights I suppose) Arctic, and thus has to resort to stealing colors from others to enhance her environment. Obviously there are direct parallels to White America's appropriation of blues and later hip-hop from African Americans here, as well as the British Empire's appropriation of elements of the various cultures it conquered in its Colonial days. It's an interesting message, but of course to the kids it's all about singing and dancing Dinosaurs that look like they rolled in a bowl of Skittles and seeing the Sesame Street gang pretty much Live On Stage.

At the end, everyone reconciles and all is well. Then confetti cannons go off on each side of the stage, startling especially small children and reminding the rest of us that even when peace and harmony are achieved, they are fragile things that require constant attention and care, with the possibility of war and violence always lurking in the background.

Overall it was quite thought-provoking, and the kids dug it too. My daughter was sad it was over and wanted to see it again, and it seemed the production was well-received by other children in attendance.

Recommended for people wanting to entertain people who can't read this sentence.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pimp My Senator

The recent woes of Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, and Duke Cunningham remind us that in the U.S. we truly have a government of the people, by the people (with a shitload of money) and for the people (with a shitload of money). It's easy for the individual who does not have access to millions of dollars and a stable of lobbyists to feel shut out of the process and alienated.

I personally can not complain, though. For one brief moment a couple years ago, I had an opportunity to throw my lot in with a political action committee and be partial owner of a Congressho, the way a stockholder can be a partial owner of a corporation. I worked for a huge telecom company that had an employee PAC, and one day there was a mandatory PAC-related meeting for all the 'managers' at the company. Like 90% of the managers there, I had no underlings, but because I was called 'manager', I couldn't join the union, so it was a win/win. I had a meaningless title, and the company had no need to worry that I might ever try to stand up for myself in an inconvenient way.

At the meeting, the sub-sub-demi-President of our local nodule of the corporation made a few remarks and introduced our bi-partisan presenters. There was a former Republican State Senator who looked like the president of the Lambda Chi Alpha Chapter. There was a former Democratic State Senator who looked like an AME minister. They told us about the hard life of the state representative. It is a part time job that doesn't pay very well. Lots of very
thick bills full of legalese end up on their desks. "There is no way we could read it all". Fortunately, there is help for the overwhelmed freshman senator.

These guys were approached by lobbyists for the corporation. "Hey, we spent a lot of money on your campaign" they said. "We think we deserve some access as a result". Access means getting to tell the senator how to vote.

These guys acquiesced, but they weren't just two cheap trollops that got used up and thrown away by the lobbyists, it turns out. They ended up getting really nice jobs with the corporation after their stint was up. God Bless America.

The way the PAC worked was pretty clever. When you signed up, you'd chose a percentage or amount from your paycheck that went to the PAC. You'd also choose a charity from the corporation's approved list, and the company would match your PAC contribution with money going to the charity. That way they got your money in exchange for charitable contributions which, unlike your PAC contribution, were tax deductible.

After the presentation was over, a cynical old bag at the back of the room said, in a voice ravaged by thousands of smoke breaks: 'think of this as your management union dues'. The ex-congresshos laughed, but said 'well, we aren't allowed to say that, ha, ha'.

Some chump I worked with signed up to pay a dollar per pay period. He lived in fear and was really under the corporate fist. He slept at his desk regularly, but feared if he checked from his work computer the goon squad would take him away. Beep beep. I'm sure he thought if he didn't give them any money, his days were numbered, but I'm surprised it didn't cross his mind that the $1 would look like an insult.

As for myself, I signed up to give them nothing. I guess I only have myself to blame for my position of powerlessness and lack of say in what the government does.

(BTW, I don't know what happened to the grizzly story. Looks like blogger ate it.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why we're not yet really fascists: where are all the Superstar Generals?

Though Americans are proud to be without a royal family or a tough-but-fair autocrat who took charge via a military coup running things around here, we do have a history of superstar Generals who even veterans of our public schools can rattle off without even thinking: George Washington. Ulysses S. Grant. 'Blackjack' Pershing. Douglas MacArthur. George S. 'like crap through a goose' Patton. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Even more recently, during Gulf War I, aka American Gets Its Groove Back, fat middle aged men sitting on the couch watching the ass-kicking all teary eyed fell in love with fat, middle-aged General Norman Schwarzkopf, whose aw-shucks memoir 'It Doesn't Take a Hero' was a phenomenally successful best-seller for a while. General Colin Powell became 'the black man everybody at work can agree on' before Will Smith took the title, and middle Americans unable to pronounce the word 'wash' properly marveled that 'he speaks so well'.

Then, somewhere, somehow, things went awry for the military as a path to celebrity. Though MacArthur famously said 'Old soldiers never die, they just fade away', and Schwarzkopf appears to have done exactly that (note to self - Google to see if he's still alive after typing this), Powell introduced a new model for old soldiers - the political career that crashes and burns because you hitched your wagon to the wrong star.

With Gulf War II, aka this time we mean it motherfuckers, you'd expect a whole new Rat Pack or Brat Pack or what have you of military superstars to come out and start shining, but mostly they've been in the shadows. The only Generals I could name associated with Gulf War II when I started writing this were Gen. Janis Karpinski of Abu Ghraib infamy, and General Vincent Brooks, who gave all those press conferences in the pre 'Mission Accomplished' days, charming us with strong and powerful oratory like this:

It's unlike any other targeting process in the world. It takes into account all science, it takes into account all capability, and we do everything physically and scientifically possible to be precise in our targeting and also to minimize secondary affects, whether it's on people or structures.

The words seemed carefully crafted to fade from memory the instant your neurons processed them. Kids in no schoolyards proceeded to imagine themselves bravely minimizing secondary affects on structures.

While military folks are regarded as heroes in this go-around, they are kind of faceless everyman dad-went-in-to-work-even-when-he-had-a-fever-of-103 heroes. The days of the Superstar Generals seem to be gone. Now its ex-CEOs and academic neocons running things. Where have you gone, Dwight D. Eisenhower? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo.

P.S. - He's alive!

Friday, January 27, 2006

This week's brilliant online persona

CAPS LOCK shouldn't be as funny as he is. The all caps thing has been done before, both by clueless n00bs and people who know better mocking clueless n00bs.

His Diary about the death of Pope John Peel (sic) II includes this gem:


...and later...


In his Diary, MY MATE ASIF, he tells the story of a young Pakistani man's transformation from star-struck youth who would follow in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury to suicide bomber taking a busload of civilians down with him. In another diary, he tells a dying friend he's going to hell:



Like b3ta, Monty Python and of course Benny Hill, CAPS LOCK reminds us that the best comic minds come from the UK.