Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Tuesday, Oct. 30th

Well this weekend was QUITE the weekend. I did not write anything on Saturday because I split the day between sleeping in preparation for my evening activities and catching up on my television watching. Well some of it anyways. Lets face it since I did not have any good sex dreams about co-workers, past or present, the sleeping was not worth writing about and I have to watch how much I write about the TV shows or you cats will get BORED with it and head somewhere else for you hit of jackassery. Besides, all I can really say about the TV this weekend is that Reaper still rocks and Bionic Woman has settled into bare mediocrity. There, we're done with that.

I skipped Sunday because I spent the entire day recovering from the party I went to on Saturday night. I am not certain what to say about the party except that I really phoned it in on the costume front. I wore my suit, a black knit shirt, and a luchadore mask. The scenery was mighty nice and the live music was provided by BRC's Mutaytor. It was quite the show and quite the night. I am glad I went. Even if I spent ALL Sunday recovering.

I have to take a moment to give mad props to Scott for dragging me to the party and then putting up with my D-R-U-N-K ass afterwards. The man could be considered for sainthood if he wasn't a filthy protestant. Oh well, no one is perfect. (You know I am kidding, right?)

Yesterday I did some laundry, hit the grocery store, and dropped some stuff off at Scott's and then lost the evening. I was home at a fairly reasonable time but managed to accomplish absolutely nothing of any substance, which is almost the same story for tonight. Plenty of time to get stuff done. All of it wasted. The thing that is SLIGHTLY different about tonight is that my dad came in to town and took me to dinner. We went to the Riverside Terrace Cafe for dinner where we had the Jalapeno Chicken Wraps, which are jalapenos which have been wrapped in chicken which is then wrapped in bacon and fried. It is almost perfect food as far as I am concerned. We followed that with steaks, which were tasty although mine was a bit dry, and then finished the meal with some peach cobbler. Everything was delicious although I have to say that the service, while very friendly and busty, was rather slow.

In addition to taking me to dinner my dad brought along some belated birthday gifts for me. As a joke I had emailed him and suggested that he buy me this Spitfire. We had a bit of back and forth about whether I would rather have a Mustang in which I told him that I would settle for the Mustang but that the Spit was my first love when it came to warbirds. He told me that were I able to find one for 2 million he would talk to mom. Much to his dismay I then found this Spit on sale for his price. I sent him an email and he has since been teasing me about getting the financing right for my birthday gift. Somehow I knew he was not talking about the 2 million dollar Spit but I suspected that a Spitfire would have something to do with any gift he eventually got me. Well, I was right. He bought me a 1:72 scale pre-assembled model of a Spitfire Mk. V which was the most widely produced version of the plane, a 1:48 scale pre-assembled model of a Spitfire Mk. I, and two Tamiya plastic models in 1:48 scale, a Mk. I and a Mk. Vb. I think I am going to spend some time online looking for instructions needed to make the models more accurate and I am thinking about painting the Mk. Vb in Russian colors. I need to do a little more research to find out if the Spit was ever sent to the Russians. I want to do it as a pure white paint job with the red arrow along the sides. We'll see if I can find something close enough for a match.

Oh well, I have not written for an entire hour tonight but I have managed to screw around for about two and I really need to get to bed. I promise to post more tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I found this result slightly disappointing for some reason.

You are Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)

Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
River (Stowaway)
You are good at fixing things.
You are usually cheerful.
You appreciate being treated
with delicacy and specialness.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

At least I am hot. I also find it interesting that Nathan Fillion got the same top result and Jewel Staite is Wash. Now with this new found knowledge I am going to spend some time staring at myself in the mirror. Naked.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Friday, Oct. 26th

Well I have been a naughty boy this week and gotten exactly ZERO writing done since my last post. On the plus side I have managed to get more sleep this week than I usually manage to clock AND made it to work early every day this week except for Monday. This week was an excellent week! I slept well every night and despite my lack of posting I do not feel like I wasted too much time. Chatted with Kat for an hour or so on Wednesday night and it was good. I still feel a little weird talking to her and I am unsure what jokes might come off as being passive-aggressive bitchiness and which ones are actually funny, but we're talking and it is nice. I also have had a HUGE weight lifted from my shoulders as the one paralegal whom everyone in the office hates has been reassigned. For close to two years I have been handling her case load and it sucks. She is, to put it nicely, a bitch. She does not know how to treat people with a modicum of professional respect and spends all of her time telling everyone how busy she is. I could go on for days but lets just leave it at I don't have to work on her projects anymore and this change does not reflect poorly on me and move on, shall we? Good.

I spent part of this week reading through the scripts from Star Trek Reborn. Intended to reimagine Star Trek as a occupational drama rather than a straight science fiction piece, Star Trek Reborn was conceived of in 2005 and is a rather interesting take on the Star Trek context.* Rather than being a fan film series or a straight fan fiction series, Star Trek Reborn combines elements of both. There is a reimagined Enterprise courtesy of one Gabriel C. Koerner, who some of you might remember from Trekkies, redesigned uniforms, which actually look pretty tight, and a dream cast of Sean Patrick Flanery (H-town represent!) as Kirk, James Marsters as Spock, and Gary Sinise as Dr. McCoy. The creators of this series then present scripts for our reading pleasure. While I have only completed the first five episodes, so far I am intrigued. I have to say that this certainly feels like Star Trek written for the Smallville set, with more modern and soap opera-esque sensibilities, and it is most assuredly not for those fans who go into spasms over cannon. Other than that it has been a very interesting read and I suggest it to any of you nutjobs out there that need something to do. It is an interesting project and a unique take on the Star Trek mythos.

Since we're on the subject of Star Trek I would like to delve into the Star Trek comics for just a bit. I have been buying all of IDW's recent Star Trek output even though I have yet to really be grabbed by them. Most of them have felt like outlines of Star Trek stories rather than actual Star Trek stories and with the existence of Star Trek New Voyages I find IDW's recent foray into Star Trek Year Four as somewhat giggle-inducing. To being with these books are suffering from the same problems which plagued IDW's previous Star Trek output. To being with the characters are barely recognizable as themselves and this is an art issue rather than a writing issue. If you are going to be telling stories with Kirk et al. then we should be seeing Kirk et al. rather than something that might be them. Artistic license I am willing to let slide, this crap has got to end and fortunately it did in issue #4. On the writing front my only real complaint is that the comics do not feel like complete Star Trek episodes. On the whole episodes issue, I believe this series is intended to be a limited series. From the title one can assume that this is intended to be the fourth season of TOS (The Original Series) and if that is the case then one would think that this series would contain somewhere between twenty and twenty-four "episodes" or issues.

It's funny that I managed to wring a whole paragraph out of that because all of those points, while clearly of some import to me, are peripheral to what I really want to discuss which is that I am tired of metacomentary in my entertainment. We get it already, guys. We can all have a good giggle when Kirk says, "No on threatens my ship - not even the president of the network," as he did in this most recent issue of Star Trek Year Four, but I think in geek centric circles some creators are allowing their desire to inject a little metastory commentary to interfere with delivering interesting stories. This week's episode of Smallville suffered from a bit of the same in that they used the framework of a Warrior Angel movie filming in Smallville to threaten Lana's life and Clark's secret. In the Smallville mythology, the Warrior Angel comic takes the place of our real-world Superman comic and is used as a plot device to provide commentary on Clark's path. The comic has featured prominently in two other episodes and Lex Luthor was a huge fan of the comic during his days of innocence. In the case of Smallville the Warrior Angel metacommentary is generally used fairly well as a device rather than a crutch, but overall I am tired of these sorts of things going on. I think my problem with the Star Trek issue is that the commentary is not even given a somewhat clever veneer and my problem with Smallville is that to a certain extent I am tired of Clark sitting around on his butt in Smallville. It is time to get to work saving the world. I think we are going to see that towards the end of this season as I have a feeling that this is going to be the final season of the show.

And now for something completely different.

I guess it was about two weeks ago that Stephen Colbert announced that he was going to run for President in his home state of South Carolina. The reaction to this has been mixed and I am interested to see what actually comes of his shenanigans, but what made me laugh/cry is this quote in the New York Times poliblog** The Caucus:

However dismissive Mr. Dawson [Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party] may be about Mr. Colbert's plans, he said that he did not believe the Republicans could stop him from seeking both Republican and Democratic delegates.

"There is nothing in our filing that would prohibit him from running on both ballots, if he chose to pay the filing fees," Mr. Dawson said.

And what is that fee? A steep $35,000, said Mr. Dawson.

"The great thing about America," Mr. Dawson said, "is if you can meet the constitutional requirements to run for president of the United States, you can do so. In Mr. Colbert's case, we look forward to his paying the filing fee before Nov. 1."

Is it just me or can you just see Mr. Dawson leaning back in his fat-cat suit, twisting his moustache, and smiling in a very self-satisfied way as he delivers the last quote? I think what he means to say is that the opportunity is there for those able and willing to pay for it, and quite frankly I find that disgusting. By comparison the fee to be on the Democratic ballot is $2,500 which can be waived if you can collect 3,000 signatures. I do not want to turn this into a Democrat versus Republican thing because I believe it is a more fundamental issue than that, but holy smokes $35,000 is a lot of money.

Oh well, my hour is the Abyss is just about up. We shall see if I can dig anything up to write about on Saturday besides how not awesome my Halloween costume is going to be and all of the TV watching I did today. Till next time, take care!

* For more on Star Trek as a context see this post.

** Its like a poliwog that has no future as a potential prince.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Monday, Oct. 22nd

Well I ended up being busy and social until I fell asleep on Saturday and due to unforeseen sleeping complications Sunday ended up being a broken day for me, so it looks like I owe myself a couple hours of writing. I have already taken care of part of that with the posting of my review of The Children of Hurin and here I go to knock out another hour of writing. Have we all got our helmets on? Good then, let us begin.

This weekend was alternately really good and kind of bad. We'll discuss the bad parts first so we can end on a high note. The only bad thing about this weekend, besides the fact that I came home with more beer than I started with AND I did not manage to stay drunk the entire weekend, was the sleeping arrangement. I was put on the futon in the living room. The futon was nice and it was nice to be able to stretch out however sleeping in the living room meant that I had to wait for everyone else to sack out before I could crash AND it meant that any time someone went in to the kitchen they would disturb my slumber. This is honestly not a big deal, although the person who felt the need to get ice water could have shown some common courtesy and skipped the whole ice cracking thing, and avoiding sleeping in a smaller than James sized bed was worth the trade-off. The time this trade-off was not worth it was when, on Sunday morning, one of the girls decided she needed to read her Harry Potter book at six in the fucking morning and to do this she had to turn on the kitchen lights. Since the kitchen, living room, and dining area were all one big space this really meant that she was turning on one third of the lights where I was sleeping. Seriously, what the fuck makes you think this is okay? I could buy the excuse that she did not know I was sleeping in there until I woke up and made some noise except for the fact that according to Nikki and others I am not a quiet sleeper. Even so, we will give her the benefit of the doubt and say that I was ninja-like in my sleep that night. Once she knew that she had woken me up she should have packed up her shit and gone back to her room, or outside, or something and let me get back to sleep. She didn't. Her compromise was to turn off the overhead light in the kitchen and take one of the lamps to the other side of the room. This reduced the ambient light in the room by an insignificant amount and at this point she had been rattling around long enough that it did not matter. I was awake and there was no chance of me getting to sleep again before people starting fucking around. At this point I was so fucking pissed off at the girl that I opted to pack the car and leave rather than stick around and be dickish and snappy at people. Too bad because Scott was doing pancakes and they would have gone down much better than the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits I had on my way home AND I had wanted to stop at the LSFM Sunday before heading out, but since I was on the road by seven in the morning I did not bother to stop by.

The good parts about this weekend? Pretty much everything else. The house was pretty cool and way the hell down Galveston Island. I think this is the furthest I have driven down the island with the exception of one of mine and Nikki's trips to Galveston (for her birthday if I recall correctly.) I got there much later on Friday than I intended too because of this bitch paralegal and her inability to do shit right, but once I got there the fun began and it did not end until sometime on Sunday. I got to hang out with friends that I do not get to see that often plus some of my friends who I see all the time. Saturday was a fairly lazy day with Heidi cooking super spinachy quiche's for breakfast and then people doing their own thing. I got some reading done in The Children of Hurin, I think I might have taken a nap, waded in the ocean, and just hung out until a group of us decided it was time to go into Galveston proper to visit Col. Bubbie's. Now Col. Bubbie's is a place that childhood dreams are made of. It is a jumbled maze of military surplus items from all over the world. Along side the requisite redneck fashion t-shirts you can find Red Army mess kits from WWII, dress jackets made for the British Army, leather jackets from Italian motorcycle police, de-miled hand grenades, helmets of all sorts, entrenching tools, great coats, boots, caps, ammo pouches, Jerry cans, and anything else you can think of all wrapped in a vaguely musty and moth ball ridden smell. All of this material is thrown together in a haphazard maze which I could happily spend hours exploring.

When I was a kid my mom and some of her college friends used to get together and rent a condo for a long weekend on Galveston during the summer. One of the things I insisted we do each year was to check out Col. Bubbie's. I could spend HOURS in there as a child. I remember two of the things I always wanted from there were a decent pair of combat boots and a tankers helmet with the goofy ear pieces. I never got either, although I did spend some time trying on the tanker's helmets this weekend. If I had found one that fit well enough I totally would have bought it and worn it around the house. Maybe even taken it in to work just to mess with people.

Once we got done with Col. Bubbie's and wandering the Strand a bit we then went to the Mosquito Cafe for lunch. I have heard rave reviews about the Mosquito Cafe but I have to say I was a little disappointed. I had the chicken breast sandwich with bacon and the garlic-herb mayonnaise overwhelmed the flavor of the bacon. The sandwich wasn't bad but it was a chicken sandwich not worth writing home about. Rob raved about his back cheese burger and Scott seemed pretty pleased with his steak sandwich, so I may have just chosen poorly. Also for my side I chose potato salad however what I got was the bastard child of potato salad and coleslaw which, seeing as I pretty much hate coleslaw, is not a good thing. Basically it was coleslaw in which the cabbage had been replaced with potatos and while this substitution made it more tolerable than coleslaw, it was still not potato salad. By definition potato salad involves mustard and onions of some type and as far as I could tell this had neither. After that we hit a grocery store in which I found a very obscenely shaped yam, Wal Mart where we failed to find any kites, and then back to the house.

Once back at the house we continued to fuck off for the rest of the day. I walked the beach and took some photos and just generally chilled for the rest of the day until it was time to sack out. As I said, a rather nice weekend all things considered.

As I indicated in my review of The Children of Hurin I have recently begun frequenting a couple of the Star Trek fan film forums around the internet as well are reading the Trek Movie Report for all my Trek news needs. Now that casting is completed for the full crew, the bitching about the movie has started in earnest. I have mixed it up a little on the boards attempting to point out that as sci-fi fans we ALWAYS bitch and moan about stuff when we hear it but most of us are generally pleased with the result. Just look at Battlestar Galactica. I was one of the legions of fans who harumphed when we heard that the new BSG was going to be a reimaging of the series, even though it was not entirely clear what reimaging meant at the time, and my negativity continued through my viewing of the miniseries. It finally took Don and Rob to convince me the show was worth watching, and they were right. I suspect the new Trek is going to be much the same for people. Of course Trek fans suffer a bit from battered spouse syndrome, no matter how big a pile of crap Paramount puts out, as long as it says Star Trek on it an appreciable number of fans will check it out. (Lets face it, I bet more than one of you out there owns Star Trek V in at least one format.)

So all of the whinging and moaning about the cast and the fact that J.J. Abrams has been going on in full-force for a week or so when I stumble across this gem from an interview with Garfield Reeves-Stevens*:

Remember Star Wars is one long epic story, whereas Star Trek is a context for storytelling. So you have your bubble universe of Deep Space Nine where things are not quite as perfect or you have your pocket universe of Voyager where instead of exploring you are going home. And you can have the rough and ready approach of The Original Series and have the more mature and corporate approach of The Next Generation.

(The full interview can be found here. The emphasis is mine.)

It is really nice to hear someone out there talking sense about Star Trek in this manner, almost as though Star Trek could be considered a sub-genre of science fiction rather than just a science fiction milieu. I wish more fans would take this to heart and stop saying things along the lines of, "JJ's new movie is not going to be real Trek," and the like. Quite frankly it makes them sound like they are religious fanatics of the worst stripe. Can you imagine it? The TOS Crusade followed soon thereafter by the TNG Jihad and DS9 Intifada?

Oh well, that just about does it for this installment. I wish I had something funny to say here, but I don't really. Except to point out that I have done this in the past. Until next time may the Force be with you. Peace out!

No soundtrack tonight. I found as I was listening to Breaking Benjamin's Phobia I was thinking thoughts about my half-formed Shadowrun fan film series. Perhaps I will dedicate some time this weekend to seeing if I can get some more of the bible written for the series.

* Garfield Reeves-Stevens and his wife Judith are well-respected authors who have a long connection with the Trek franchise, their first novel, Memory Prime coming out in 1988. Their work with Trek continued through assignments as story editors and co-producers for the final season of Enterprise and their latest novel Academy - Collision Course which was co-authored with none other than William Shatner himself. They have a lot of street cred with Trekkies.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - The Children of Hurin

The Children of Hurin
J.R.R. Tolkien
Christopher Tolkein, Editor
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007
313 pages

I did not even know this book existed until I read a blurb about it on one of the Star Trek forums in which I participate. I cannot remember exactly what was said about the novel except that someone was opining on how good of a movie it would make and how sad the story was. I picked this book up the evening of my birthday as I was looking for Glenn Smith's The Call of Duty, which, much to my chagrin, I have yet to find in any of my local bookstores. I was a bit leery of the book as it is another Tolkien tome which has been edited by Chris Tolkien and while Chris does an admirable job as his father's literary executor, some of the prose to come out of his hands has been less than stellar. I went with my gut on this one and bought the hard cover as the people on the board seemed pretty enthusiastic about the book and besides, if nothing else it had illustrations and color plates by Alan Lee, which are almost worth the price of admission on their own.

As the title implies The Children of Hurin, or Narn I Chin Hurin, tells the tale of Hurin's offspring, Turin and Nienor, during the First Age of Middle Earth. After the disaterous defeat of the elves and men at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Hurin is captured by Morgoth and tortured. Morgoth is seeking the hidden city of Gondolin however Hurin defies Morgoth and even mocks him. In his rage Morgoth curses Hurin and his family and this is the tale of how the curse plays out over the next several years.

Ultimately I was a little disappointed in this novel for two reasons. The first is that the prose felt kind of dead almost like I was reading a poor translation of Beowulf. There was no real umph to the descriptions and rather than the surfeit of detail found in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings I found myself having to struggle to figure out what things and people looked like. The second issue I had is with the story itself. Throughout the story Turin is a bit of a whiny prick and I have trouble being compassionate to characters who behave in this manner. Also along this vein the character of Nienor, Turin's sister, was only dealt with sporadically until it came time for her destiny to become entwined with Turin's and then she became a real character.

The book was a challenging read because of the pace, which was very slow at times, and the penchant Turin developed for changing his name to hide from the curse of Morgoth. In fact this book was so challenging to get through that I began Charlie Wilson's War in the midst of reading this book and plowed through the latter without even pausing. I would not recommend this book to anyone except the Tolkien-o-phile or someone who has a strange fetish for the Eddas or other ancient poetry.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Friday, Oct. 19th

Well kids, sorry about missing last night. I came home from work, cranked one out, and almost immediately fell asleep. That lasted until around 8 PM when I realized I still needed to go to the comic shop and get dinner. For some reason these two tasks seemed to take longer than they should have and it ended up I only had time to write the review of Charlie Wilson's War, although writing that review took almost my whole hour. Of course in that case I was editing and rewriting just a little bit since the review is at least in form more formal than these dispatches.

As I type this it is about 2:30 AM on Saturday and I am sitting on the deck of the beach house some friends and I have rented for the weekend. There will be no soundtrack tonight as I am sitting here listening to the crickets, waves, and wind. Until I turned my laptop on I could see millions of stars. Orion is still visible, slowly swinging through the sky as morning creeps up on the world. This being the Gulf coast there are several blinking lights on the horizon which indubitably are drilling rigs of one sort or another. While I can see about four from the deck of the house, I can remember when we used to come to Galveston when I was a child and there would be dozens of them along the horizon. As the near shore reserves get consumed they are taking down the rigs. On the one hand it is nice because we are moving towards a more natural horizon, but on the other hand it was kind of neat to see them. With them gone from the horizon it feels as though another piece of my childhood is gone.

I mentioned Orion however the star that I keep looking at is a bit lower in the sky than Orion and almost in line with his belt. If I did not know better I would think it is a police chopper as it seems to flash blue and red. I imagine it is one of the planets, not Venus as that is known as the Morning Star, however either Jupiter or Mars would not be too surprising. Tonight we have been graced with a small meteor shower with Nyla having seen six or seven before she called it a night. I saw two myself, one of them a very good one which covered about a quarter of the sky. Sadly I had no wishes ready.

So what did I get up to on Thursday and Friday? Well Thursday was another typical day at the office. I was marginally busy because of one bitch paralegal making mistakes and I having to show her the error of her ways or correct her mistakes. To a certain extent that carried over to today where I spent all of my day working on correcting her errors and reloading one of the databases to account for her errors. It would not bother me however I have it on fairly good authority that this cunt bitches about me to management. Of course it was all made better by the fact that I was telecommuting today, something she complained about, and spent most of the day working in my britches. Scott and I got together for lunch today, and that was a very nice break.

Today I also learned that the only way to do laundry in the laundry room at my apartment complex is to wash everything on warm. The hot water will not run and the cold water will not run. Somehow this seems really retarded to me and frustrated the every living monkey out of me today as I tried to get laundry done so I would have clothes to wear this weekend.

Speaking of my apartment complex the bastards are keeping me from adopting a couple of kittens with their draconian policies. They require a $250 deposit PER KITTEN and require the entire deposit to be paid before I can bring them in to the house. This is the first time I have been asked for more than $300 as a pet deposit and the first time a management company has been unwilling to work with me and allow me to pay the pet deposit in installments. I am kind of pissed about this and will bring it up when my lease comes up for renewal, although I will probably re-up where I am right now. There are too many advantages to where I am currently living.

I was at the office when I figured out the whole not getting a cat thing, which I had been thinking about for a couple of months. To a certain degree I am tired of living completely alone and I think some animal companionship would help alleviate this. It would certainly do better than the occasional phone sex calls I have been making. The cat issue became a little more urgent to me when I found out that my friend Greg rescued a litter of kittens from his neighbors yard during a recent downpour. The kittens are taking solid food and have all been checked for Feline Lukemia and been given a clean bill of health. He needs to get rid of the kittens, which are in the five week old range, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to adopt. All I would have to pay for is the eventual spaying or neutering, so I started pursuing this with the company that manages my apartment complex.

As I said I was at the office on Thursday when I figured I was not going to be able to get a kitten and for some reason I started to tear up and cry a little bit. I really don't know why but the fact that I could not get one filled me with equal parts anger at my management company for being so unreasonable and just sadness. I felt very alone all of the sudden and I really missed Gurion.

I cannot remember if I have ever talked about Gurion here on the Opiate before. Gurion was my cat which I found when I was in Houston and I had for a couple of years in College Station before he escaped the house as some friends were cleaning after a party. Gurion was a very good cat and my first pet that was not a family pet or a fish.

Gurion came into my life when I was living alone in the garage apartment on Dallas street. I did not have a phone in this apartment and so in order to talk to Kat I would walk down to the payphone on the corner. I had been kicking around the idea of getting a pet but had been putting it off since at the time I was thinking about getting a dog but had a fairly busy social life. I did not want to start resenting the dog for cutting into my social life. I had tossed around the idea of getting a cat, however not very seriously. Anyways, I was there talking on the payphone with Kat when this tiny little kitten comes walking across the street. I thought that if he let me pick him up then I would take him home because he was far too small to be wandering alone. I picked him up and he immediately curled up in the crook of my arm. Right then I knew I had found the pet I had been looking for.

Gurion was a great cat except for his disturbing habit of wanting to play while I was on the toilet. He would always be in the same room with me and when he was a kitten he would sit in my lap while we watched TV. During my super short hair phase if he caught me laying on the floor he would spend quite a bit of time cleaning and grooming my hair for me. When I would get home from work he would want to spend ten to fifteen minutes getting stroked and talked to about my day. He was the best stress relief ever!

My favorite Gurion story happened while I was living in the trailer in College Station. Ever since he was a kitten his favorite toys were those little plastic mice with the rabbit-fur coverings. I would buy a package of those a month as he would play with them and they would inevitably end up under a piece of furniture. I would watch him stalk and pounce on these things all them time and became pretty familiar with his routine. One day I had been in the computer room, which was the bedroom off the living room and headed into the kitchen to get a drink. As I walked out of the computer room I saw Gurion hunched down beneath the futon staring at something very intently. As I followed his eye-line I saw that there was a field mouse right in front of the TV. I stopped and decided to watch how this turned out. Gurion crouched even lower and shook his butt, a sign he was about to attack the mouse. Then he shook his butt again and exploded from his spot, making a beeline for the mouse which was across the living room. It should go without saying that the mouse took off like a rocket, but the moment it moved Gurion slammed on the brakes and headed back under the sofa to reassess the situation. I can just imagine what was going through his head. "That fucker moved before I even got there! This never happens. Clearly my powers have grown and I will soon be able to face Darth Vader again."

My second favorite Gurion tale takes place at my garage apartment on Dallas. When Gurion was younger he was prone to freak out from time to time. These episodes usually took the form of running laps around the room and his favorite was my bedroom. On this particular night I was working at my desk, which was just outside the door to the bedroom, when I hear Gurion get spun up and start doing laps. I just shake my head and continue working on whatever project consumed me at the time when out of the corner of my eye I see Gurion go sailing across the doorway and down the stairwell. It turns out that Gurion had decided to stop on top of the pile of papers on my bedside table however he had enough momentum and the papers were loose enough that stopping there was not an option. Gurion was fine, if a bit embarrassed by the whole episode. I think I consoled him with a new mouse toy after that.

God Gurion was a good cat. We had a fun couple of years together and I hope deep down in my heart of hearts that some deserving family who needed him found him and that he is living out his years in a loving home. Where ever you are I love you and miss you, Gurion.

Well, I tear up when thinking about Gurion so I am going to go ahead and cut tonight's writing short by about ten minutes. I hope you'll pardon me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War
George Crile
Grove Press, 2003
550 pages

Charlie Wilson's War is the tale of how one man managed to work around and within the American government to bring unprecedented assistance to the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980's and in turn remake the world. In the summer of 1980 Charlie Wilson was early in his second term representing Texas' 2nd congressional district when he read an AP dispatch describing the waves of refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion which began on December 25th of the previous year. After reading this release he called the staffer responsible for "black operations" appropriations and instructed him to double the five-million dollar appropriation the CIA requested for Afghan operations. This phone call was the opening salvo in Charlie Wilson's war which pitted Charlie Wilson and an unlikely band of allies, including Israeli generals, Texas socialites, Congressman and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Pakistani generals, Swiss arms manufacturers, the Saudi Royal family, the Egyptian Minister of Defense, and an outcast CIA agent against first the CIA itself and then the Soviet's 40th Army in Afghanistan.

We all know how the Afghan conflicted ended for the Soviet Union. After close to a decade of pyrrhic victories and untold billions of dollars spent, the Soviet's began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan on May 15th, 1988 and completed their withdrawal nine months later when Lieutenant General Boris Gromov walked across the Friendship Bridge which stretches across the Amu Darya River and links present-day Uzbekistan with Afghanistan. Less than three years after General Gromov crossed that bridge the Soviet Union would collapse. Many believe this is as a direct result of the blood and money the Soviets were forced to spend fighting the mujahideen. While several characters in the book refer to the war in Afghanistan as Charlie Wilson's war, this is not what the book is really about.

Charlie Wilson's War is about the war behind the war. It is about Charlie Wilson and his allies fighting on several fronts to provide the mujahideen with the weapons and training they needed to take on the might of the Red Army. For Charlie Wilson himself this war would encompass the floor of the House of Representatives, closed-door sessions of appropriations and oversight committees, meetings with the CIA bureaucracy, and even long dark moments where he had to fight himself. Charlie Wilson had a reputation as being a ladies man and a bit of a party boy a reputation and lifestyle that would both open doors for him as well as cause trouble.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and cannot be effusive enough in my praise. I found it to be compulsively readable and considering the current state of affairs in the world incredibly enlightening. I suggest you read the book before the movie comes out in December. Much like Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind and the subsequent adaptation by Akiva Goldsman the forthcoming Aaron Sorkin-penned movie will not hold a candle to the book. The events in this book are too crazy not to be true.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Wednesday, Oct. 17th

Remember how I got started late on last night's dispatch? Well guess what, tonight's is even later and therefore probably going to be a thirty minute exercise in writing rather than a full hour. To a certain extent this is too bad because I had some stuff I wanted to write about tonight but now I am just not going to have the time. On top of that I was going to cut today's Dispatch short so I could write a review of Charlie Wilson's War, but as it is already 11:40 at night this is something that will have to wait for tomorrow.

First I would like to say that I was pretty much busy all day at work and that is an AWESOME feeling. I was so busy, in fact, that I did not have time to check all of my RSS feeds and forums whereas I am usually stuck hoping someone will post something I can argue with. I think one of the reasons I do not do well on internet forums is that the, "Me too!" post really bugs the fuck out of me but this is really the one way to get your number of posts into serious numbers and usually someone has already made my point. Argh! Anyhoo, being busy at the office was very nice. I was able to put my head down and get several projects knocked out by the end of the day. As nice as that was the biggest accomplishment of my day was resolving the vendor issue I talked about here. Ultimately I was able to give away something that was not going to happen anyways. This allowed me to not change my stance at all while appearing to have given in a little bit to their concerns. Once I got the email back from them agreeing to what I had laid out all I could think of was the scene in the second episode of The West Wing where Josh is going nuts after convincing some knucklehead not to run in exchange for a spot at the Democratic National Convention.

Josh: Victory is mine, victory is mine, great day in the morning, people, victory is mine!
Donna: Good morning, Josh.
Josh: I drink from the keg of glory, Donna. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.
Donna: It's gonna be an unbearable day.

If anyone in the office would have gotten the joke I would have done this little routine. Ah well, I can save it for next time I beat the Hun into submission and send him scurrying back across the Meuse. Have a good night one and all. I promise more extensive blogging tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Tuesday, Oct. 16th

Tonight is going to be an abbreviated Dispatch because it is already 11:37 at night and I am just now getting settled in. I did not have an exceptionally long day at work, thank God, but rather got home, changed, and then went to Scott's place for dinner. Dinner was excellent. Mushroom risotto with some sort of cheese, lemon roasted potatoes, and peppercorn & coffee bean crusted steaks. Very very tasty stuff!

The day at the office was predictably slow however I did get to watch from the sidelines as one of our vendors and a paralegal got in to an email battle royale over a billing issue which has come up over the past week or so. What has happened is one of our primary vendors has decided they need to make more money for what they do for us. This is certainly a reasonable decision and none of us in the office disagree with their basic premise. Rather than give us notice that as of such and such a date the new pricing was going to be this they took a job, processed it, and billed us at all new rates. These are rates which have not been discussed with us AT ALL before we received the bill. The bill was SIGNIFICANTLY higher than what we would have paid under the old pricing arrangement. It works out to something like 2.5 times the amount, pretty big dollars when we are talking about the amount of data we had processed. Now the person in charge of the project is, I believe rightly, refusing to sign off on the invoice and has stated that we will pay what we would have paid under the old prices and not a dollar more. The vendor is refusing to budge on this and keeps pointing out that the relationship has changed and that they need to make more money.

As I see it there are two separate but related issues here. First the vendor needs to charge more for the services they are providing us. My team has discussed this and we agree that they probably do need to change their pricing to get closer to what market prices for their services are and none of us have a problem with that. The second issue is that they implemented a new pricing structure without notifying us first. This second issue is the larger issue. Quite frankly if you want to do business with me then you will not try and take me out for rides like this. It is pretty clear to everyone I have talked to that there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this and this particular company has chosen the wrong way to approach the issue. I have to send an email tomorrow to one of the other guys at the other company and really lay it all out for him. At this point the amount we are going to pay is not negotiable. They will get what we would have paid under the old scheme. End of discussion. Once this issue is put to rest we can work on the new pricing arrangement. At this point all they have to decide is how much of my rapidly depleting store of good will are they willing to piss away trying to act as though they have done nothing wrong. Let me put it this way if it was someone I could walk away from I would have done it the minute they gave us that first invoice and did not go back and fix it when we called about it the first time. We shall see what happens.

I saw this a couple of weeks ago and I am not certain what to think about it. Honestly I am a little bothered at the way the commentator says things like, "Many members of the organization believe that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking number of pirates since the 1800's." It just goes to show that the person making this blurb either does not know what is going on or they have an agenda where they want to make this group look ridiculous. It is plain to everyone that these people do not actually believe that the decline in pirates has caused global warming, and if there are people that actually believe this then they need help. The intent of the original graph (shown below) was to demonstrate that the Latin saying Post hoc ergo propter hoc, which means after therefore because of it, is generally not correct. I do not think you could find a reasonable person who would agree that global warming has been caused by the declining population of pirates.*

It is a ludicrous proposition however it goes to demonstrate an important problem with blind faith. There are demonstrable cause and effect cases in the world however just because one event follows another does not mean they are connected. Blind faith teaches that EVERYTHING in the world emanates from whatever deity you happen to believe in therefore a person of faith will find themselves praying that they make it in to the office okay. When they make it to work okay they made it to work okay through divine providence. Of course this cannot be disproved however statistically speaking the person most likely would have made it to work fine regardless of any divine intervention.

Today during lunch I finished reading Charlie Wilson's War, which has been made into a movie starring Tom Hanks as the eponymous member of Congress, Philip Seymore Hoffman plays the lead CIA agent, and Julia Roberts as Texas socialite Joanne Herring. While the trailer looks interesting and I am definitely going to see it since the screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin, it looks like they might have Hollywooded the story up a bite much. We shall see. As long as they kept this scene in the movie I will be happy. To set the stage the Soviet Union has already started making serious noises about moving its military out of Afghanistan and there is a race on to get as many weapons into the hands of the mujahideen before America and the Soviets agree to anything however the largest weapons depot has just exploded. In an effort to replace all the weapons the United States and its allies in the effort pull weapons from the front line stores. During this effort the following takes place:

At an embassy function just after the explosion, the [CIA] station chief [Milt Bearden], dressed in a dark business suit, spotted his KGB counterpart and invited him into the garden. Overhead the sky was filled with American C-141s and C-5s in holding patterns waiting to land. "Do you know what that is?" Bearden asked, looking up at the Agency's air bridge. "It's a beautiful sight, isn't it?" His message was clear.

This made me smile. Talk about a fuck you.

* I think this premise might be flawed. If anything the global population of pirates has exploded over the past decade. So much so that the movie studios and music industry feel the need to blame pretty much all of their current woes on pirates rather than their shitty product. Perhaps this is the only time one might be able to put Hollywood and the religious right in the same category of delusional nutbar. Except for Walden Media which is the religious right's man in Hollywood; they're always delusional.

No soundtrack for you!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Monday, Oct. 15th

Today was payday! w00t! (See how cool I am?) I don't know why I am so pumped about today being payday, particularly since on the second payday of each month I pay my big credit card bill and my rent, which means by the end of the day I only have about $400 in the bank account until next payday. How is a boy supposed to live on $400? This is just crazy talk! Actually I kid, before I got my job here in Houston that is how much I had a week in take home, $300 of which was dedicated to paying the bills. I am so happy to be back in Houston and working at the job I am at, even if I was bored out of my mind again today.

I think the most exciting thing to happen at the office today was me figuring out that I could, in fact, get the first Puppini Sisters' CD Betcha Bottom Dollar from iTunes and then a buddy was able to scrounge a copy of their new CD The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo so without having to go to any record stores whatsoever I have gotten the majority of their recordings. Now there are just a couple of limited edition recordings to track down. All in all it was a good Monday at the office.

I spent some more time monkeying around with the desaturation/colorization trick I discussed here. This time I took one of the close-ups I shot of my newly minted sister-in-law, Olivia, at the wedding and only recolored the flower in her hair. Here is the end result:

The other image I actually finished was a picture of the Patton impersonator from the BMJP Open House this spring. In this case I just recolored the insignia on his shoulder. I initially I was going to recolor all of Patton, and then just the insignia and his ribbons. Once I finished the insignia on his arm I decided that was enough for this picture. Here you go:

I am trying to do this to the rose picture which won second place at the Midlothian Photo Extravaganza. (I am sure this is not the official name, but it is fun to type.) I keep having trouble keeping the cursor under control and end up with a halo around the rose. I will continue working on this because I think this picture would be very striking with a grey background. I'll probably work on it tomorrow and then I am done playing this game for a bit.

Over the last couple of days I stumbled across a couple of places on the internets which deserve your attention. The first is 'Lilformers, chibi versions of the Transformers brought to us by Matt Moylan. In these strips cute-a-fied versions of the Transformers make fun of themselves, GoBots, the movie (which comes out on DVD tomorrow), current events, and even other movies. Pretty funny stuff. The other place you should check out is not so much a site as a thread from the always entertaining Newsarama.com, which is one of the places where the unwashed masses of comic fanboys get their news and then bitch about it. In this thread, titled "Superman doesn't poo," we are treated to all sorts of theories on whether Superman has to use the john. It is only three pages of reading and, quite frankly, worth it if you have nothing better going on. And you're not fooling anyone with that TPS report open on your PC. Go on, check it out.

Speaking of peer pressure I meant to bitch about this last week but it kept slipping my mind. A bunch of my friends are suddenly into this geek-oriented MMORPG and I had to spend about 30 minutes the other day telling one of them that there was NO WAY IN HELL I was ever going to play this game, I don't care how cool it is. The fucker would not take no for an answer and had me so pissed off that I was about to just cuss him out and walk out. I have been down the road with MMORPGs before, although back then we called them MUDs and they are a nasty and addictive beast for me. My last semester of college I probably spent more time fucking around on MUDs than I did in class. After I explained all this to the guy he still would not take no for an answer. I explained that I have never played Everquest or WoW or Star Wars Online or any of those other games because they are the sort of crack I do not need to expose myself too. I know they're fun. I know you get to meet all sorts of interesting people. I know you get to kill shit and get l00ts. I also know that they will quite literally take over my life. I will be one of those sad fuckers who puts off doing things with friends to play the game. I will start staying up all night to play, being very late to work and then just calling in sick. After I explained this to him he still insisted on pitching the game to me. Very rarely do I get the point to where I have to force myself to walk out of a room because I am seriously considering giving violence a try but this cat had me there.

The thing that pissed me off the most about the whole thing? Ostensibly this guy is a friend therefore when I described the kind of problems I have with these games and that it is VERY MUCH an addiction and temptation I have to fight he did not do what a friend would do and relent. He actually mocked me about it. I am getting pissed off just typing about it!

Oh well, fuck this guy. He is pretty much an irritating POS anyways who seriously believes Communism is the wave of the future. He claims he believes in Socialism, however his true colors came out the other day when we were discussing socialized medicine. I think socialized medicine is something we need here in the States and I think it is something we will get in the next ten years. I also believe that if you have the money you should be allowed to pay for additional or "better" care out of your own pocket. I am not advocating that these people be allowed to opt out of the system and pay for their own care, but rather they should be allowed to spend their money on private doctors and hospitals if they are so inclined. This guy does not believe this should be the case but rather everyone should be in the same system and not allowed outside the system at all. From some of our other discussions it has become clear to me that he feels like people should not be allowed to use the money they have to make their lives better than their neighbors, which sounds an awful lot like Communism to me. Dirty Red. That's his new nickname. From now on I am going to call him Dirty Red around the office.

Phew. Fifteen more minutes of writing and I am all tapped out on the Dirty Red front.

Oh yeah! So last night I finished ripping pretty much all of my CDs to MP3. Now I jsut have to go through and get all the files tagged and then loaded into iTunes so I can load them on the iPod. Throughout this project I have had several "I own THAT?!?!" moments. Man I have got some terrible taste in music. On the upside this means that I will soon have plenty of soundtracks loaded on the iPod, which is better music for me to listen to at work than Breaking Benjamin or Linkin Park. I get a little wound up if I am listening to aggressive music. I think I would be an easily led automaton at times.

Right now I am CRAVING something nice and sweet, ice cream or a DQ Blizzard, however it is raining cats and dogs out there right now and I could not be arsed to put any actual clothes on. Right now I am kicking it in my black boxers and nothing else. That's for all the ladies out there. ;) I haven't got anything sweet in the casa except for some grape jelly. Looks like it might be a round of PB&J sandwiches to end the evening and take care of this sweet tooth I am suffering from. Oh well, time to call it a night. Sleep tight and don't let the oshiri kajiri mushi bite!

Puppini Sisters - Betcha Bottom Dollar
Puppini Sisters - The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Sunday, Oct. 14th

See what happens when I skip one night? Suddenly it does become easier to go ahead and miss the next night and that makes it even easier to miss the night after that. Next thing you know three days have gone by without me sitting down at my computer and pounding out my sixty minutes of rambling for you to read. So here goes. Sixty minutes. James versus the blank page. The excitement starts NOW.

Thursday was another typical day of suck at the office. I love my job but holy snooze buckets Batman, we have got to get busy so I have more than administrative lameness to take care of otherwise I might go insane. There is only so much of the internet I am allowed to see from the office and let's face it you only want to see a rather small portion of that percentage anyways. In a jackass move I managed to double-book myself for lunch on Thursday. Earlier in the week I had set a lunch with one of the sales reps who is trying to get a bit of my business however I had forgotten about this when Rob emailed me asking if I was free for lunch. Of course I was free for lunch at this point, having forgotten about my previous lunch, so Rob and I agreed to meet up and go to The Flying Saucer for lunch. The place has decent food, tends to be not very busy for lunch, and has VERY nice scenery. (What can I say? The Chick Magnet has a thing for girls in t-shirts and SHORT school-girl skirts. Like pretty much every other guy out there.) About halfway through lunch with Rob I got an email from the rep I had scheduled a lunch with. At this point I remembered. DOH! Fortunately we had not set a specific time but rather decided to have a late lunch so I was able to convince him that 1:30 would be a good time. After my club sammich and too many fries I then turned around and had a light lunch of sushi at Fish. I really like that restaurant and it would be an excellent place to take a date.

Thursday night was much better. Went to an industry networking event and even though I already knew a couple of the people there, it was nice to wander around and chat with some of the other people. This ended up lasting MUCH longer than I expected and I did not get home until almost 11pm. By that time I was so full on Guinness and my double-lunch that I decided to skip dinner and head to bed.

The networking event was held in the State Bar & Lounge, which has a really nice balcony right above Sambuca in the old Rice Hotel building. The girl who was our waitress, Elise, was real cute. I thought about asking her out on a date and by the time I managed to get up the nerve she had disappeared. Oh well. Here's one thing I can't figure out. It seems kind of, I dunno, wrong to ask out the wait staff. I do not mean this in any sort of class way (we all know I have no class) but rather, I dunno, it just seems kind of not right to me. Here they are working, having to put up with crap from customers and there you are asking them out. Any thoughts on this? Should I even bother?

Friday was telecommute day, which means I did not bother to shower until I was headed out to Downing Street to meet Greg and Scott for lunch and cigars. After another lunch which consisted of perhaps more beer than it should have and the first of the new Montecristo #2s out of the box I recently received (thanks Rob and D!) I headed back to the casa by way of the comic store and then Soundwaves. The comic store had all of my comics for the week (for once!) and then Soundwaves had the new Polysics CD so I am now inflicting Japanese electronica weirdness on anyone who is spying on me and will probably take the CD in to the office tomorrow so Wayne can check it out.

Friday night a bunch of people wanted to get together at the Kelvin Arms as the weather was perfect for sitting out on the porch and engaging in a little self-abuse however I learned an important lesson. When all you consume in a twenty-hour period is a sandwich and something on the order of a dozen beers things will not be alright down south, if you catch my meaning. I was not able to leave the house so I settled in with one of the many books on the night table, Charlie Wilson's War, which discusses America's involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation of that nation. I purchased the book because the American involvement in Afghanistan is something I am very interested in. For a couple of years I have had a story idea in my head where the main character is a CIA operative who has been brought out of retirement and sent to modern Afghanistan to help track down some terrorists. He was selected for the mission because of his experiences in Afghanistan during the jihad against the Soviet occupation. His experiences in the '80s and his experiences almost twenty years later start to collide, leading him to a confrontation with a mujahid whom he knew very well. The problem is I know very little about our involvement in the region beyond that we were arming the Afghan resistance. I want the story to have the air of reality, and if I could afford to I would love to travel to Afghanistan to get a feel for the country before writing it, however I think that will never happen. I am not very passionate about the story anyways, just something that dovetails nicely with current events. The book itself is pretty interesting. I should finish it in the next day or so and will post a review when I am done. It is funny how permanent some people's names are in politics. So far both Jack Murtha and Rudy Giuliani have made appearances in the book, along with a ton of people I do not know.

I ended up falling asleep while reading the book Friday night and therefore managed to miss our appointment.

Saturday was a BEAUTIFUL day. Scott managed to rally the troops for an afternoon picnic in Herman Park. It was almost perfect weather, being just a touch hot out, but regardless I had a blast. It is so nice to be able to walk over to Herman Park. I need to do it more often as exercise to start loosing some of the spare James I have accumulated over the years.

While at the picnic Rob dropped a bombshell on me that I have to share here. Apparently Tim, who I have previously referred to as UH Tim, is getting married to a reasonably hot Fillipino girl he went to high school with. Rob and I have discussed Tim's ability to pull the hotties a couple of times and the only thing we can come up with is that Tim is hung like a freakin' horse. Seriously, Tim is a nice enough guy, but to quote the great Jay he is one morose motherfucker. When I say morose I do not mean in a good way that would make the girls interested but rather he came off as being a bit of a whiny punter. Plus he is a pigeon-chested git who would rock the neck beard from time to time. No one looks good in the neck beard. No one.

Saturday night ended with me chilling at the casa and falling asleep reading Charlie Wilson's War once again.

Sunday turned out not to be as nice a day as Saturday however I had no outside activities planned so it worked out fine for me. I woke up, read some more in Charlie Wilson's War and then started to get caught up on my television from the week. I was only able to get through Big Shots, Smallville, and Chuck because Scott gave me a call. He was doing some running around and wanted to grab lunch and then go check out Play It Again Sports for a rowing machine. We have been discussing fitness lately and we're both thinking one way forward might be either eliptical or bike machines that we can work on while watching the TV. The problem is we had no real idea how much something like this would run us, and I certainly do not want to buy new. The trip to Play It Again was informative. Looks like I will have to drop between $200 and $400 to get the sort of bike I would like, which is fine. My only problem is that I really have no where I can hide the bike when I have people over. Oh well, I think getting skinny is first and then I can worry about the guests. It would be easy for me to knock out an hour or more a night on the bike in front of the television set. In addition to all of the shows I watch during the week, there should be at least two hockey games a week on the tube, and I have a ton of DVDs to catch up on, including the first season of The Wild Wild West which arrived at the office on Friday.

Those of you that actually read the soundtrack listing below will note the presence of a group called The Puppini Sisters. I recently discovered them thanks to someone posting on the Hidden Frontiers forum. They are a British group which specialize in close harmony vocal music reminiscent of the 1940s. To end today's entry I thought I would use a little YouTube science to let you check out the Puppini Sisters for yourselves. First up is their video for the Andrews Sisters' classic "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy":

And since Christmas is only more than two months away and I am nothing if not a lover of the Christmas music, here they are performing their version of "Jingle Bells":

If you like them check out their website or pick up either Betcha Bottom Dollar or The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo from Amazon.

And always remember, keep your union on ya!

The Puppini Sisters - Heart of Glass
The Puppini Sisters - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland - Promiscuous Girl
Benny Bernassi - Satisfaction
The Puppini Sisters - Heart of Glass
The Puppini Sisters - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Polysics - Polysics or die!!!! Vista

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Wednesday, Oct. 10th

Feh. Well I sat down at the computer about an hour ago, intending to check email and a couple of the forums I frequent for a bit before starting in on tonight's dispatch. Instead I found a post bitching about Israel taking more land. I in NO WAY support the Israeli plan to build a wall between them and the Palestinians on Palestinian land, however I am tired of the current trend in liberal America to paint Israel as being completely wrong, thus absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility for their current state of affairs. The tone of the initial post let me so fired up I ended up spending a good thirty to forty minutes writing, quite passionately I might add, about what it would take to fix the current situation.

I will not bore you with the details but ultimately it comes down to giving the Palestinians a hope for the future. It is time to stop thinking of Jenin and all of the other "refugee camps" as refugee camps. After you have been living there for more than a decade calling it a refugee camp is a bit silly. What they really are is slums. These slums need to be torn down and reasonable housing needs to be provided, with electricity, water, and all the other modern comforts of home. Palestinians need to be given jobs and allowed access to those jobs so they can make a living. Aid needs to be poured in to the West Bank and Gaza and controlled by reasonable people so that civil institutions can be created and a civil society can begin to grow. Provisions need to be made for the education of every Palestinian child through high school age. If a Palestinian can get accepted into a university or college in the United States, Canada, or Britain then they should be given a full scholarship to attend the school with the understanding that once they have completed their degree they MUST return to the West Bank or Gaza to teach school for a couple of years. Ultimately if you remove this unbearable load of hopelessness under which the average Palestinian currently labors then the Palestinians and Israelis can begin to work towards a permanent solution which creates an independent and sovereign Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

I believe we even had a chance to make this change happen in the recent past. With the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections the West was faced with an ugly choice. We could cleave to the democratic ideals we claim to believe in (Isn't the current rational for spilling more American blood in Iraq that we are bringing democracy to the Middle East?) even when the results are not what we might wish. Or we could pack up our toys and go home. Guess what we did? For the second time in his presidency G-Dub had, what I believe, was an opportunity to profoundly change the world for the better and he opted not to. (The first was right after 9-11 when the world was united in its condemnation of terrorism and Iran was making overtures to the U.S. about being a partner in Afghanistan, amongst other things.) The reason we walked away is because Hamas is a terrorist organization, a labeled that can just as easily be applied to the PLO, however the reason the Palestinians voted for Hamas is because they were tired of the Fatah/PLO old boy network which was about as corrupt a government as one can come by. All they wanted was for the aid money to help the man in the street, something Hamas promised to do.

Oh well. I hope someone starts making good decisions with regards to the Middle East in the next decade or so or things are going to get REALLY out of hand. Let us move on to a happier topic, shall we?

Like hockey, for instance? Tonight there were two games on television and I spent most of my evening flipping between the two of them. First was the New York Rangers versus the New York Islanders, which ended up being a very close game with the Islanders edging out the Rangers 2 to 1 in Madison Square Garden. Sadly I did not watch much of this game but rather I watched the Dallas Stars hammer the Los Angeles Kings 5 to 1. Marty Turco made some excellent saves throughout the game but these were especially critical early on when the game was a 1-0 and 2-0 affair. If the Kings had managed to sneak one past Turco at that point then the entire complexion of the game is changed. As it was the third period was hardly worth watching with Dallas scoring just sixteen seconds in to make the game 5-Love. By this time the New York New York face-off was done so I was stuck watching South Sydney Story on Versus. Now I want to see the rest of the series although I have to say that the first episode seemed like a whole lot of manufactured drama. We already know that Russell Crowe and his partner take over the team so the build up and drama about the vote, while probably the way it was, seemed like a whole lot of wasted time to me. For those of you who don't know (which I imagine is pretty much everyone but Scott) South Sydney Story follows the storied South Sydney Football Club as it struggles to revitalize itself for its 100th anniversary. Now I am looking forward to the next episode!

I managed to get some reading done on the train both on the way in to the office and on the way home. Right now I am working through Tolkien's The Children of Hurin and it is reading much better than the other posthumous publications to come out of Tolkien. I think a large part of this has to do with Christopher Tolkien staying out of the way and letting narrative drive the story. While enjoyable so far this book is certainly no Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, both of which I should reread in the near future.

T - You may want to avert your eyes from the rest of this post as I discuss morning wood and its causes while using the euphemism "High Noon on my sundial." Just thought I would warn you since you found my discussion of how I like my porn (over-easy with a side of bacon please) a bit much to handle. (Like how I made no grits or gravy jokes in there? I think I have grown.

This morning was a bit strange. I woke up in the midst of a dream about a girl I used to work with in College Station. While I was always attracted to this girl in a very base an ungentlemanly way because how else are you supposed to be attracted to a girl who tells you about letting two guys, neither of whom are her boyfriend at the time, double up on her, I had never dreamt or even really fantasized about her. I suspect a large part of this has to do with the fact that I suspect she was not very good in the sack. She constantly complained that none of the boys she had slept with made her cum, but then she would freely admit to not masturbating. I am of the opinion that you have to prime the pump a little bit, and my very unscientific polling of my female friends (not like that you fucking perverts! Although I do wish in some cases) tends to support this theory. Of course I am still of the opinion that she is probably lying about the not masturbating thing, something which Margaret claimed as well. Anyways, I woke up in the midst of a dream about this girl and it was high noon on my sundial, as they say. I totally do not understand this and am tired of the weird sex dreams about people I know. Monica Bellucci why hast thou forsaken me?

Oh well, time to wrap up another Dispatch with some pithy comment however you will just have to put up with nothing except an excuse for my lack of post tomorrow as I am going to a networking function right after work and will probably be too drunk to blog tomorrow night. Plus I need a break from dancing like a monkey for you people.

Much like the pithy comment you will get none and like it, sirs. I forgot to turn on some music.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dispatches from the Abyss - Tuesday, Oct. 9th

I am so not feeling an hour of writing in me tonight and so far I have managed to put this off for an hour however these are the times it is most important to buckle down and do it. Otherwise if I skip tonight, then skipping tomorrow night will be just a little easier, then skipping the next night will be just a bit easier than that and then the next thing you know I will have managed to skip an entire week. And then another week. And then a month. So here I sit, Miracle playing in the background, trying to pound through sixty minutes of random prose for your entertainment and my edification. I hope you appreciate the pain and agony I go through for you cretins. (I am kidding about the pain and agony part, and heck, the cretins part too. Most of you are not cretinous at all.)

While surfing some of my usual porn haunts I stumbled across the motherload of thumbnail links to Desirae Spencer's site Naughtyathome.com (NSFW, duh). I am not certain what it is but Desirae is my favorite web-based porn star. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that she looks like a normal woman, rather than being all So-Cal Porn-hot. She also plays to some of my favorite things, wearing heels, stockings, and glasses. On top of all that she has a FILTHY mouth on her and James? He likes the dirty talk. (So much so that I have offended more than one girl and have had to reign myself in over the last couple of encounters.) I still won't subscribe to her site, though. Just seems like a waste of money with all the free porn out there and Literotica.com (also NSFW) for when I need my old school Penthouse Forum fix. I bet this is more information than you really wanted to know but that is what you get when I have had a boring day and need to find something to talk about.

Today at the office I was messing around with some of the pics from the air show (sick of this subject yet?) and my office-mate Brian showed me a trick he has done with a couple of his fire spinning pics. First you desaturate the picture, turning it into a black and white photo (or rather the digital simulacrum thereof) and then you can use the healing brush to restore the color to section of the photograph. I have found the picture comes out looking like a b&w photo that has been colored with the inks, or at least a reasonable copy of one. Here is a picture I took at the BMJP Open House this spring which I fiddled around with. Here is the original:

Here is the re-colored version:

So what do you think? I am thinking about doing this with some of my air show pics before next year's picture showdown in Midlothian. We shall see.

I keep finding stupid things to distract me from writing. Just now it was the scene in Miracle where the boys tell Coach Brooks that they do not want Tim Harrer, played by Adam Knight, on the team. I really like that scene for some reason however the scene that always make me tear up, besides the moment where Al Michaels yells, "Do you believe in miracles?", is where Ralph Cox, played by Kenneth Mitchell, gets cut from the team.

Speaking of hockey, 'tis the season and all that. I have managed to watch most of two games this season. The first game was Dallas' only win of the season thus far, a 4 to 1 beating handed to the Boston Bruins in the Stars' home opener. The other game I watched was tonight's 7 to 1 ass-whipping delt to the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Carolina Hurricanes. Quite frankly the score should have been at least 8 to 1 but one of the Hurricanes managed to ring what should have been an open-net shot off the pipe. The shot was so open that someone in the broadcast truck changed the 'Canes score and then had to change it back. Carolina, under the leadership of Peter Laviolette, used five forwards on what is a very aggressive power-play unit. A unit which got far too much time on the ice for the Maple Leafs' taste and scored four of the seven goals. In the end this was not a particularly good game however there was a lot of good puck movement and possession by Carolina and, if nothing else, that can be a beautiful thing to watch. I am so looking forward to tomorrow night's game where the New York Rangers face off against the New York Islanders. Should be a nice, rough game.

One thing I have never understood is why soccer is referred to as the beautiful game. I played soccer for several years when I was a kid and so I have a decent understanding of the game and I have never really found it that beautiful. Quite frankly I find it a bit tedious to watch with brief if moments of beauty, which are usually marred by some jackass heading the ball in the wrong direction or some other mis-cue. Oh well, the rest of the world is weird.

What was it with the ho's out today? While I was riding the train to the office this morning I swear I was on there with three or four "working" girls. They were ho'd up to the nines in super tight tops which showed off their pierced belly buttons, pants of varying tightness, and either boots or shoes which can only be described as stripper shoes. The scenery was kind of nice, actually.

During the hockey game I saw and advert for some moisturizer that made me chuckle. It starts in the desert and there is this circle of ladies dressed in what can only be described as dirty tribal hot couture. They start to wave their arms around (like they just don't care) and suddenly this moisturizer falls from the sky. They all pause and this is where things go tragically wrong. Instead of the ad turning into a rip on the 2001 ape scene, which I was SO hoping for, they share the moisturizer with each other and then go into full tribal hoochie dance mode. They were nice to look at, but I wanted someone to smack a ho with a bone. (That sounds REAL dirty, doesn't it?) Now that I think about it perhaps the advert was on during Reaper, which is still funny as balls.

I am trimming this one short since I am starting to get a little tired and need to get some decent sleep tonight, which did not happen last night for no readily apparent reason. Until next time keep the immortal words of Ice Cube who said, "You better check yo self before you wreck yo self," in mind. Peace out my homies!

You'll get nothing and like it! Tonight I had the 2004 movie Miracle on in the background. It was either that or Mystery, Alaska since I do not own either Youngblood or Slap Shot.