Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I walk away

All evidence to the contrary, I'm a lover not a fighter. I don't like conflict, not because I'm not good at handling it, but because I find it counter-productive in nearly every situation. Take yesterday's little road-range incident: Rather than speed-up/slow-down/yell expletives at each other, why not just shut the hell up and drive? You'll get there in one piece (well, probably) and probably faster than had you wasted time dicking around with some stranger. So in general I avoid conflict, which means I walk away. It's not something young men are frequently able to do, but since I'm approaching "older than dirt" I don't find it makes me feel less manly. I'd prefer to be GENTLEmanly, than just plain manly anyway.

Example the first: One of my interests is personal finance, specifically helping other people with their finances, getting out of debt, making smart money decisions, etc. There are a number of "gurus" with radio and television call-in programs to which I enjoy listening. One of them, however, laces his financial advice with a HEAVY dose of fundamental, evangelical Christianity. I don't have a problem with fundamental, evangelical Christianity, in theory, but I don't think it has anything to do with personal finance. Unfortunately, from my perspective, this guy is one of the most popular of the "gurus" and was even profiled on 60 Minutes last week, but they left out the God part. Now, before you think I'm just splitting hairs let me recount the story of why I just cannot listen to this guy anymore-

A woman called, in tears, asking for advice on how to divorce her husband and get half of the marital assets. His response was to ask why. She admitted that she has a problem with alcohol, but her husband is even worse with a drug habit and won't make any effort to clean either of them up. His response was to suggest that they get counseling instead of a divorce. She said that she's tried it, several times to no avail. She said her only option at this point was to get away from him. His response, and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest, was to tell her that alcoholics are habitual liars and that she hasn't tried hard enough to fix her marriage. He verbally bashed her for no less than 5 minutes on what a terrible person she is for trying to destroy the "sanctity" of marriage and he wasn't going to help her do that. She was sobbing louder than I've ever heard someone cry before or since.

So I walked away. I can't abide someone who hates in the name of his God. It's entirely my choice and within my power to turn off the radio, which I did.

Example the second: I read a LOT of blogs. I'm up to 68, though it was 69 (*snicker*) earlier this evening. I used to read the blog of an undercover cop here in Texas, one who used to tell a lot of interesting stories about drug busts and the like. Last week he wrote about how difficult it can be for cops to make routine traffic stops. I won't retell the stories, because I'm sure you can imagine the adrenaline-level required to deal with the unknown on a daily basis. His general take was "shoot first, ask questions later". I'm not a cop, so I'm not going to second-guess his area of expertise. I wish it weren't so, and I wish cops wouldn't automatically assume that I'm the same asshole that took a shot at him last week but it's a dangerous job that I sure wouldn't want to have to do. Tonight's entry, however, was a little outside his area of expertise, so I think I'm within my rights to question it. He wrote about the people who either refused or failed to evacuate from New Orleans and are now dead, dying, or otherwise suffering. His take was, "you're stupid, you deserve it". In his defense, he excused those who made an attempt to flee and I can't really argue whether those that didn't are truly stupid or not. The obvious problem is saying that someone deserves to suffer. How on earth do you justify wishing harm on someone? I just can't do it, even those who wish harm on me (of whom I'm sure there are plenty). Now I know Zelda and Jethro are fans/friends of this guy, so I'm not going to badmouth him by name. I'm just going to exercise my right to remove those who openly and proudly hate from my life. I deleted the shortcut and walked away.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not perfect. I'm well aware of my shortcomings, but at least I'm working on it. I'm certainly not proud of my faults, and I don't blame them on anyone else (let alone God).

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I'm just going to dump on you today, because we're friends and we sometimes do that. You're a good listener when I need to dump on someone, well... [pointing] not so much you, and certainly not [pointing again] you either. But definitely, for the most part, the rest of you are merely adequate.

[But first: Thanks for the prayers/well-wishes about my family. I don't know any more than you do at this point, and we all know it doesn't look good. There's a good chance my 2nd cousin lost both of her stores in addition to her and her mother's houses. As for my aunt, I haven't seen any news reports about the northshore suburbs, but considering the damage to the causeway & I-10 bridges...]

I'm not happy with school this semester, and I spend too much damn money on this not to be happy. I'm taking 3 classes this semester, and having been to each of them at least once, I can say I'm only interested in one of them. Of the two "international" courses, one professor has issued a blanket-prohibition against term papers about China or Japan. Hello? The other international course is apparently (despite the catalog description) going to focus on the international aspects of energy markets, of which I know nothing, in which I have no interest. That leaves the one remaining class with the only foreign professor of the three, whom I should dislike for being a foreigner (this being Texas and all) but I don't. He's cool.

So there's that, and then I did a bad thing on my drive home tonight- I gave in to road rage and cut off another motorist. Coming off the freeway the sign reads, "Do not cross double-white lines" which extend for 30 yards or so past the off-ramp. Like the good driver I am, I signal but do not cross the double-white lines. The car behind me however dives across the lanes as soon as possible and begins to pass me, once the double-white lines end and I begin to get over, forcing me to slow down for him. He honks, I honks. We both turn onto the surface street from the feeder but end up in different lanes. Now he realizes he needs to turn again, requiring him to be in my lane. This time I speed up, forcing him to slow down to get behind me. And then I slowed down, slowing him down further. No, I'm not proud. He would have been well within his rights to shoot at me (this being Texas and all), assuming I hadn't shot him first.

Hmm, that's enough dumping for tonight. I could dump relationship stuff, but I see your eyes starting to glaze over. I'm going to go take a handful of pills...

Monday, August 29, 2005


If you were here you'd understand. Then again, maybe you wouldn't. Maybe you'd just do that thing like when you're talking to a dog and she cocks her head to the side in puzzled wonder at the variety of sounds you're able to make. I'd demonstrate, but I slept funny and my neck is killing me, so use your imagination.

I spent the weekend with family, my grandmother's 80th birthday. Lot's of people I'm related to in one way or another, just don't ask me who's who. It's best if I just grab the wall, stay out of the way, and take pictures. I did give a little bit of a toast - "Here's to the reason we're all here: free booze. But seriously. You know, the Chinese have a saying. I don't speak Chinese though, so it doesn't make any damn sense..." - Otherwise the nephews and cousins just climbed all over me like I'm a piece of playground equipment. Maybe that's why I'm in pain today. My 9-year-old cousin, the sweet girl I babysat a few weeks ago, loves 2 things in life: Sitting on my shoulders (whether I enable/allow her to do so or not) and screaming directly into my ear. God forbid I try to prevent her from doing either one, grandmother yells at me for such behaviour.

I may have some homeless relatives after Katrina came through. I have a lot of family in the New Orleans area, most of whom were not at home this weekend due to the birthday party. By the time the storm zeroed in on New Orleans it was too late for them to get back into the city to board up their homes and secure their possessions. It's too early to tell whether or not there's anything for them to go home to.

I'm going to go take a handful of pills...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Learning to BowLearning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, by Bruce Feiler

This is not the book I thought it would be, though I confess to having no preconceived notion of exactly what I thought it would be. It is the account of an American in small town Japan, teaching English to middle-school students. "Mista Burusu" is continually amused to find that the Japanese are amazed that he can eat Japanese food and use chopsticks, and I think I recall having that experience once or twice when I wandered off the beaten path. What's not funny, however, is the description of the stifling education system to which the Japanese are forced to conform. Forced by the government, forced by the elders of the educational system, forced by the parents, and the students themselves. The first half of the book is a sort of acclimatization for both the author and the reader to life in Japan. The second half of the book delves a little deeper into the Japanese psyche, including subjects such as marriage and suicide. Mr. Feiler's experiences took place over 15 years ago, and while I'm tempted to believe that a lot can change in 15 years, I suspect that less has changed than has stayed the same, especially outside of Tokyo. Naturally I would love to read Theic's review of this book, should she ever return from gallivanting husbandless throughout Europe. One of my classes this semester is on the management of multinational organizations and I intend to use this book as a resource in my term paper. As usual, I'll leave you with an excerpt...
One of the most impressive aspects of the Japanese school system is its ability to foster among students an allegiance to the state. In the United States, students learn early about their rights as Americans. "It's a free country," adolescents often say, "I can do whatever I want." But do they learn about their responsibilities? In Japan, this balance is made clear. From cleaning the windows of their classroom to picking up trash in their neighborhood, students learn the importance of serving their community. The essence of citizenship, I believe is the feeling that people value their place in a group to such an extent that they are willing to sacrifice some of themselves so that the group as a whole may prosper. Japanese schools' biggest service to the state is their ability to create among most students this overwhelming sense of belonging.

Two quick music reviews:
The first is another one I can't mention by name, but you'll remember the band from their 1991 hits that were something like "Little Prince Can't Be Wrong" and "Two Misses". The overpopularity of those two songs couldn't be reproduced and their subsequent albums were commercial flops, the last released in 1999. But they're back and I've already heard their first single on the cable music channel. In my opinion, there's a better single on the album, one that sounds more like the band you knew back then without the overwhelming feeling that they're just clinging on. The album on the whole is a decent effort, I just don't think it has the energy that it needs after such an extended absence. They're on such a tiny label now, I don't expect to hear much on the actual radio.

The second album that arrived for review this week is already in stores, so I can tell you that it is Twentythree by Tristan Prettyman. When I click on that link, Amazon pairs the album for sale with Jason Mraz- Not too surprising as they both hail from San Diego and Mraz is featured on track 5, which he co-wrote with Prettyman. Stylistically they're very similar, and if you're a fan of Mraz or fellow breezy-singer-songwriter Jack Johnson (whose buddy G. Love also appears on the album) you'll like Ms. Prettyman's tunesmithing as well. Most of the album has a nice, laid-back, head-bobbing, mid-tempo rhythm that makes nice background music while slaving away at the keyboard. I've heard the first track on the cable music channel already and I would not be surprised to hear it overplayed on the local Mix station. The short answer: I like it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Computer crashed again. I'm going to have to find other means of entertaining myself...

Ok, I did not drink NEARLY enough last night to be as hating-it as I am today. I bet those damn med students put all manner of controlled substances in their drinks. Either that or I'm old. Yeah, it's probably the roofies. I didn't have enough garlic last night at the Vietnamese place (where it's so good straight, grilled with the Bo Luc Lac juices *drool*), I should fire up the BBQ grill and roast my happy ass another head of the sacred root. Yeah, I'll put some chicken on too, in case the neighbors ask what I'm up to. I made the world's best (shut up, it's my world) garlic mashed potatoes using that freshly roasted crack- half a head of garlic, a ton of butter, whipped spud. The chicken wasn't anything special. 'HBO Boxing After Dark' means things are finally starting to go my way.

So now I'm sweating pure garlic oil, but nobody's complained yet (at least not through formal channels). Weatherman says it's supposed to get into triple-digits today. I better turn off the A/C and flee to where I don't have to pay for a livable climate. There's a library around the corner, that might be nice- air conditioned, reasonably quiet, and I can read peacefully all by myself. I was right, for the most part, and I even brought my own book. The library closed at 5, being Sunday (yeah, I shut that mother down!) but I wasn't ready to go home, so I took my book and went to the mall. I finished my book (review pending) but still wasn't ready to go home, so I hit the Central Market. More eggrolls (one can never have too many), my favoritest chocolate cookies, pepitas by the pound, some fresh croissants, and some chicken salad for said buttery, flakey croissants. No, they still don't have my grapefruit Hansen's.

Computer operational again, but for how long?

Monday, August 22, 2005


I was just about to go get some ice cream and settle-in for a night of chatless boredom when a buddy called. Hey, some friends are coming over and then we're all going out. Don't know where, just come on over, but dress for possible clubbing. So I got dressed, poured myself a to-go cup, and went over. Beyond the first I wasn't driving, so ease up cowgirls. We caravaned over to WestU to pick up some dude, then over to the MedCenter to a party. Apparently the med school(s) just finished a round of exams so all the students were throwing parties and we knew a friend of a friend of a med student, so we're IN!

Party 1- Ohmydamn it's hot. We're in a 600 square foot apartment with about 50 other strangers. The hostess was a cute 20-something of, I'm going with Indian-descent (not that it matters- cute is cute), who kindly served me several glasses of, I'm going with rum & blue Hawaiian Punch. There were several other cute girls (yes, sadly they were all girls, not women) in attendance, but having arrived late the only standing room available involved the corner of the coffee table pressed deeply into my calf. A room full of med students and I couldn't find anyone to check me for a hernia. *sigh* The group expanded to include the friend of the friend (or maybe it was just the friend, it's not like I know any of these people) as we left for party 2.

Party 2- Caravan back to WestU where some more med students had gathered at what must have been a rented house. Cheap-ass IKEA furniture and no pictures on the walls? Yeah, rented. Ohmydamn it's even hotter here. Now we're in a 1200 square foot house with about 250 other strangers, spilling out into the garage, front yard, back yard. (This was not a difficult party to find.) Ok, it seems most of these people are third year, but still no one to check me for a hernia.
Some girl: Are you a third year too?
Me: No, I'm retired.
Some girl: You don't look old enough to be retired.
Me: No no, I'm quite old and I don't work.
Some girl: That's a cool jade pendant. Very asian.
Me: Yeah, I got it in Hong Kong when I ... (she walks away)
So I found the cooler full of trashcan punch which reportedly contained a whole bottle of Everclear. I say 'reportedly' because drinking a cup of that made me more sober than I was previously (which was unfortunately still pretty sober). Time to bust out of here and to a "club".

Club 1- Hey, let's drive around the block ONE more time, ok? So we go to this club that's pretty nice, but I'm the only white guy there. (Not a problem, mind you, just an observation.) So friend goes to the bar to retrieve drinks and brings back some rather large shots of something vaguely maple-colored. A little taste to see what it is, because not only can I not hear what he's telling me it is, I can't hear anything ever again, and it tastes like cough syrup. So I drink the shot of 'tussin and quickly order a 7&7 to wash it down. Dancing, merriment, more boozé, yadda yadda. Time for late night food.

Food 1- Late night Vietnamese. Garlic and bo luc lac and garlic and spring rolls and softshell crab and garlic. And then a meteor crashed and everyone died.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I'm not the kind of person who looks for patterns or meaning in everything, but I noticed 3 things this evening on my walk:

3) My mp3 player changed to the next track, Sugar Hill Gang - Rapper's Delight, just as a frog went hopping across the path in front of me. ("I say hip hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop..")

2) The next track, Bob Marley - Three Little Birds, as I get dive-bombed by bats outside the Mexican restaurant (They are Mexican free-tailed night birds, after all)

1) As I walked past the yoga place, class was letting out and there were hot girls everywhere. At this point, my mp3 player changes tracks to Elvis Costello - I'll Never Fall in Love Again. (Draw your own conclusions)

Naturally I couldn't have a sign associated with The Bloodhound Gang - The Bad Touch. My luck tends to run more towards Stevie Ray Vaughan - Crossfire.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It was

It was a good hair day. Don't believe me? Just ask LaVonica and Chevelle down at Colonel Chicken. (We can't afford that! Enjoy it, it might be our last.) And while you're down there, find out why I didn't get my biscuits. It says right on the sign- "Chicken and biscuits" (emphasis mine). True, I need a hairscut and I'm planning to go Friday, but that's no reason to withhold the flaky buttery goodness. Going Friday gives the hairs the weekend to settle down before school resumes and a full week before grandmother's birthday party. Ahh, I'm already looking forward to my Persian goddess (the stylist, not grandmother, sicko). Conditioner? Why not.

It was a hit song a long time ago but I still like it. I've finally gotten to the age where I just don't get what the kids these days are listening to. I'm not quite to the point where I'm outside yelling at the kids to get off my lawn (lack of a lawn helps) but I definitely roll my eyes when the kids come rolling up to the stoplight with something blaring out of the sound system. I don't like it, but it's not offensive to me. Actually, I think it's kind of funny, like a joke. But it's a little frightening to recognize the beginnings of "out-of-touch". Even my 9 year-old cousin is becoming "cooler" than I am (of course, the kids don't say "cool" anymore, I'm sure they have a new code word that they don't use in my presence). So I ask questions like "Who is Mike Jones?" and she responds "Who is Mike Jones?" This goes on for about 30 minutes, then I need a nap.

It was warm today. At least I felt warm all day. It rained a good bit in the late morning/early afternoon and stayed overcast which I'm sure kept the temperature down a bit. Still, I couldn't shake the stuffy feeling. I kept myself well-lubricated with iced tea (say with your best Forrest Gump voice- "Ah lahk sweet tay.") to no avail. Even now, as I've switched to my favorite sports drink [Ed. note: Name withheld] I can't get entirely comfortable. Such is summer. Some pray for rain, I pray for November.

It was a long evening. The afternoon was long too, sped along in the company of someone with a dirty mind, which is always really cool. I particularly enjoyed the bit where a coworker walked up behind her. I then spent the evening in the company of two of my best gals (they like being called 'gals' - shut up) which normally means it's over all too quickly (and not that kind of over too quickly either, sicko) but we talked about all manner of things. A little verbal berating about my love life from one while the other painted me a picture. Balance. I managed to avoid thinking about my latest crush, well until just now that I've written that. Damn, and there's no take-backs with memories either.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Reviews aplenty

But first...
Star-gazing and the meteor shower was nice, definitely not the kind of thing that happens everyday. I saw a good number of meteors that night, mostly fairly dim & quick, but a number of really bright ones. I didn't have a good tripod, so I didn't get any pictures. You should have come with me.

MolvaniaMolvania: A land untouched by modern dentistry, a jetlag travel guide by Santo Cilauro et al.

I have to say that the criticisms of this book are mostly true. The main criticism being that this book is just one joke repeated over and over, so it's fortunate for the reader that it's less than 200 pages. Nevertheless, the disturbed minds that thought up these jokes probably have some pretty good blogs. The writers are quite proficient at turning a normal situation into the absurd and this is one of the most original books I've read since the Letters from a Nut series (I highly recommend the first one, skip #2 & 3). One other complaint I read about this book is the obvious disparagement of east-European peoples and cultures. It's hard to dispute that criticism, but at the same time it's pretty funny. If you're easily offended, you're probably not reading this review anyway. The best way to tell the story of Molvania is to excerpt a couple of short passages:
Despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, the Republic of Molvania has much to offer the discerning tourist. Panoramic scenery, magnificent neoclassical architecture and centuries of devotion to fine culture are, admittedly, all in short supply. But the intrepid traveller will still find plenty to enjoy within this unique, landlocked nation state - from the capital Lutenblag, with its delightful gas-powered tram network, to the heavily-forested Postenwalj Mountains in the south, where visitors can share a glass of locally brewed zeerstum (garlic brandy) while watching a traditionally-dressed peasant labourer beat his mule.

No visit to Lutenblag would be complete without a stop at the Molvanian Space Museum, where visitors can learn of the country's major role in the early Russian space program. During the late 1950s Molvanian scientists designed and built the first spacecraft to be fuelled by refined mineral turpentine. Tragically, Splutfab I exploded on launch killing its entire crew and stripping paint from buildings within a 5km radius. Splutfab II was more successful and, in 1963, Molvania became the first nation to successfully land a man on Poland.

Tourists tend to be a little wary of western Molvania, perceiving it as little more than an arc of polluted factory towns full of high-rise tenement housing and even higher crime rates. They are, of course, right. But the west of Molvania is also something of a paradox: much of it was despoiled by 40 years of post-war industrialization, but here and there you can still find areas of great natural beauty that were only ruined a few years ago. Certainly, much of the region is windswept, barren, cold, isolated and completely lacking in visual charm, but on the upside, it's relatively untouched by tourism.

Also new this week are two albums that came for review. I'm contractually forbidden from mentioning them by name as they aren't officially released yet. The first is from a band named after the police code for indecent exposure. I enjoy their music, but mostly just the few tunes that have made it to the radio. You might hear one or two from this album in the near future. Their latest attempt is more of the same kind of fun you've come to expect from them, good (but not great) mid-energy, ska-ish, alt. pop/rock available Tuesday. The second is from one of the few bands sporting a harmonica-toting (and much more slender, these days) frontman. Unfortunately, these guys hit their commercial peak in 1997 and then spun off into freeform jamming, leaving fans wondering "was it me?" Their last few albums have been commercial flops, and don't expect to hear anything on the radio when this one hits shelves in mid-September.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Potpourri for $400, Alex

I'm going to try to make this quick because I want to drive out to the country and try to take some pictures of the Perseid meteor shower. If you're too lazy to gahooyoogle it yourself, the Perseids are an annual August meteor shower caused by the Earth passing through the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle, so named because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus. If you missed this one, the Leonids are in November, so stock up now on your ISO-1600 film.

I haven't talked to my favorite white supremist in a few days. (Yes, of all the white supremists I know, she's my favorite, though I neither support nor condone white supremacy.) She's the one who suggested I attach an anniversary virus to my blog for the 1 year anniversary. I said it was too much like Christmas Syphilis and then she showed me her t-shirt that reads "Will Fornicate For Food".

When I suggested to another friend that we make t-shirts that read "Don't Pet the Hedgehog" she insisted it should be "Don't Pat the Echidna." I don't necessarily object, I just think it requires too much explanation for the North American market. You know, substandard public school system and all. Anyone have a preference?

I had dinner with a buddy last week and in the course of conversation asked about his girlfriend. "Oh, she got married." He said it just like that, matter-of-fact. Awesome.

Lastly, I had a rather disturbing dream last week. I dreamt that I got to meet my unborn daughter. She was about 6 or 7 years old but I was meeting her for the first time. She was beautful, though I couldn't describe her beyond dark brown ringlets. For some reason she was British (a lovely accent on a little girl) and informed me that her name was Liz'beth. As I lay on the floor next to her, she was playing with her dollies and colouring, not paying a whole lot of attention to me but politely answering my questions. The circumstances of her birth and the mother weren't really part of the dream, it was mostly about the feeling that I didn't know her and was supposed to get acquainted. Plus, the overwhelming feeling that she was the most beautiful child I'd ever seen. I awoke too quickly and was really sad that it was just a dream. The echidna and I have our own thoughts on the meaning. What's your interpretation?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Today's meme

The lovely and talented Sass tagged me for a meme, and although my new policy is not to accept these without postage (read: Paypal), she offered to model her Catholic schoolgirl uniform for me, so...

10 Years Ago Today
I was finally getting my shit together at university. My girlfriend had just graduated (having starting a year after me) and I still had one more year to go.

Five Years Ago Today
I was interviewing for my second job out of school and preparing to celebrate my 1st wedding anniversary.

1 Year Ago Today
The calendar read 2004. Everything else is exactly the same. (*sniff* I need a tissue...)

I was caring for my pint-size cousin and hoping I'd be offered the low-paying job that I don't really want.

I will be caring for my pint-size cousin again and looking for another job, since today I got passed over for the low-paying job I didn't really want.

5 Snacks I enjoy
I don't snack nearly as much as I used to, but I like Snow Pea Crisps (like Funyons, but made from snow peas, not onions), Guacamole-flavor Doritos, dark chocolate, cheese popcorn (cheese-flavored), HEB-brand brownie bites.

5 Bands That I Know the Lyrics to Most of Their Songs:
I suck with lyrics, but - Smash Mouth, The Eagles, The Police, The Beatles, The Beach Boys.

5 Things I Would Do with a $100,000,000:
Establish an annuity to take care of my family, pay off Alliegirl's house, buy Lisa a classic Taylor guitar, replace my entire wardrobe with custom-tailored suits/shirts/shoes, sell the remainder of my possessions and disappear.

5 Locations I Would Like to Run Away to:
Ireland, Kyoto, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Switzerland.

5 Bad Habits I Have:
Staying up/sleeping too late, postponing important conversations, finding an excuse not to exercise, disregarding the suffering of others, always wanting "more".

5 Things I Like Doing:
Blogging (reading & writing), driving through the park with the top down, skiing (snow and/or water), eating out, vacuuming.

5 Things I would Never Wear:
Anything from Old Navy, anything from the Gap, "designer jeans", brown shoes with a black belt, anything under my kilt.

5 TV Shows I Like(d):
Boston Legal, Lost, Desperate Housewives, ER, Sports Night.

5 Movies I Like:
Hard to pick only 5: The Great Escape, Raising Arizona, Sixteen Candles, Swingers, The Last Emperor.

5 Famous People I would Like to Meet
Tenno Heika Akihito (Emperor of Japan), the Dalai Lama, W, Sting, Kevin Smith.

5 Biggest Joys at the Moment:
Seeing your IP address come up in my Site Meter, reading your comments, downloading a new album or movie, making the niece/nephews/cousins laugh, watching the rain.

5 favorite toys:
Digital camera, computer, home theater, bread machine, mp3 player.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Monday After

I know you're wondering what kind of job an IT-guy with an MBA is qualified to hold: Babysitting.

I looked after my 9-year-old cousin today. She's between summer camp and the regular school semester this week and auntie needed me at the last minute. She and I had fun, though we didn't do anything we had planned on. We played "Presidential Flashcards" and I helped her look up Space Shuttle stuff online in the morning (she's a brilliant child, by the way). Met 'momma' at Jennie's for noodle bowls at lunch and then planned to drive down to the 'burb to go swimming.

[ We interrupt this story... oh my good gawd, you should have seen the beauty parked at the next table. I know most of my readers are women, but seriously, you would have choked on your noodles as well. Hmm, maybe "choked the noodle" wasn't the right turn of phrase here... ]

Unfortunately, my car had other plans and decided to overheat. We limped home and she exacted retribution (for failing to make good on swimming) by making me watch every crappy afternoon show on Animal Planet. I was operating on about 5.5 hours of sleep and that little devil child poked me in the ribs every damn time I tried to catch a wink. (Blogging 101- Repeat that last bit.) Every.damn.time. Auntie eventually came home and we took my car to the mechanic. So, we'll see what kind of balance swings my way after I get the bill. Karma demands twins.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Year in the Blog of a Life

Our story begins in the summer of 1953. Both my parents were 8 years old and would meet for the first time about 13 years from now. Fast-forward to 1971, I was born. Fast-forward 32 years to the summer of 2004, when I would create an account on Blogger.Com and create my first post. My first post really was inspired by watching the Miss Teen USA contest, and was the first of many posts that would start with some tiny nugget of truth warped into something most of you just shake your head at and close the browser window for fear you'd get caught reading blogs at work.

The next couple of posts were crap, and within a week I had already changed the name. As I noted a little later, "The View from My Skull" was wholly inappropriate to the kind of crap I was going to be publishing. The first post I wrote that really made me laugh was AFV , which is entirely ficticious since I would never admit to watching that show. I then went through a bit of a dry spell, although I thought The Immaculate Secretion and Dead Hooker, SCHMED Hooker were slightly amuzing. In late October/early November I had a bit of trouble with squirrels that led to a few good posts and some lusting over Cute Chinese Girl. Usually I just give myself a little chuckle at the image of something ludicrous like a Hooters girl moving into my attic or punching my nephew so hard that he blacks out.

I always thought Motivation was a damn fine post and I'm a little surprised I don't still get mail on it. I thought my China series was both informative and amuzing, though you all seemed to like the photos better. Not taking the hint, I continued writing about it and later wrote a couple of entries about Japan, where again the photos were the most interesting part.

As I scan entries from the Spring, nothing in particular jumps out at me. Some funny turns of phrase here or there, but nothing I'm particularly proud of (aside: nor ashamed of). Three that seemed to be well regarded were Late, Other blogs, and Without Borders, the latter two taking full advantage of the comedy powerhouse that is the ninja. There may be one more ninja-related post lurking in the recesses of my imagination...I can hear Jethro cheering from here.

So, to sum up, in short, to recap it in a slightly clearer version...All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the creative writing I've done here and totally amazed that I've kept at it for a whole year (173 entries- not too shabby). I'm somewhat indifferent to the personal stuff I've posted about my real life. Not because I'm either proud or ashamed of it but because I don't blog as a 'release'. If that's your motivation for blogging, I'm happy to read it and offer whatever I can, be it useful or smartass. I am somewhat pleased that I've stayed with Blogger through thick and thin, with the same template and very few other changes- I prefer to think it's about the writing and not the pretty pictures or geeky add-ins. But the thing I'm most pleased with is that you take a few minutes out of your day to read what I've written. I'd love to list you all by name and thank you individually, but I'd leave someone out and then you'd bitch non-stop because it's all about you, isn't it?

[Ed. Note: Apologies if this seemed entirely self-indulgent. Try sharing an office with him!]

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Book Review

The Last SamuraiThe Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, by Mark Ravina.

This is the true story of the last samurai, having very little in common with the recent movie of the same name. I should qualify "true" to say it's probably about as accurate as possible, because there are many debatable details about Saigo's life, made all the more difficult by subtle differences in translation from Japanese to English. In any case, Emory University professor Mark Ravina (yes yes Regis, we know) makes a good attempt at keeping the story interesting and moving forward, but I'm afraid that only serious students of Japanese history or asian studies are going to find this interesting. This really isn't light bedtime reading, and it may have as much to do with the editors at John Wiley & Sons (who publish a lot of university textbooks) as it does the fact that Japanese names and places are awfully damn hard for Westerners. The reason I mention the publisher is because I read another biography they published several years ago (Harford's Korolev) and distinctly remember thinking it was as dry as a textbook. Nevertheless, Saigo Takamori is one of the most important characters at one of the most interesting times in Japanese history. The destruction of the shogunate, the opening of Japan to the West, the elimination of the samurai class, and the reemergence of the Emperor as ruler all happened within a few short years near the end of the 19th century.

Comparing the book to the movie is apples to oranges, but it does have a bit of value. First, remember that the 'last samurai' in the movie is named Katsumoto. This is apparently an attempt by the filmmakers not to disparage Saigo's continued reputation as practically a diety. Second, note that the movie isn't really about Katsumoto, but the fictitious 'Captain Algren'. This is because the details of Saigo's life are actually pretty boring: He was born into one of the lower rungs of the samurai class and rose to political prominence through no specific heroic actions. Third, Katsumoto's primary antagonist is a reformer named Omura, and while Saigo and Omura were at one time opponents, the real Omura is such a minor character in Japanese history he almost didn't make it into the book. Saigo's actual opponents were often former allies, who later became friends again. Finally, the climactic battle at the end of the movie appears to take place in one battle on one day, while the actual battle was a full-fledged war (with cannons and rifles on both sides) that lasted nearly a year. Ravina's coverage of the Satsuma Rebellion (as it is most often called by historians) is covered in only the last 7 pages of the book, turning what should be the climax into an anticlimax. The two most interesting facts about the real last samurai are his attempted suicide and the fact that nobody really knows what happened to his head, removed in the honorable ritual seppuku (aka hara-kiri).

If you're interested in Japanese history, the only book I can recommend is Jansen's The Making of Modern Japan, a behemoth volume of nearly 1000 pages which unfortunately skips through the first 1000 years pretty quickly. If you're interested though, Jansen will get you up to speed on your Japanese names & places very quickly, not to mention being a more complete history than just the biography of one man.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What the heck

Regis knows I wasn't going to write, but I've been slack with the tell so I'd better update. Ev'rything 'membered, ev'rything straight...
I know I said no more secrets, but...
So the interview last week with the IT recruiter went fairly well. I was told there were a number of positions available at more money than I was expecting. I took a computerized 'skills assessment' and did horribly (in my mind) only to be told that it was about average, and considering I haven't touched a server in over 2 years and don't have any formal training it was pretty admirable. Told to get in touch with another guy at the firm and stuff would start happening, which I did and it hasn't. Admittedly I haven't been pestering him, but I've been preoccupied. Still, there's a pretty good chance of them finding at least a contract position for me in the near future.
The site-meter was never a secret,
The second interview, referred to in Thursday's post, occurred Monday afternoon. It went better than the first, mostly because the interviewers didn't know anything about IT and didn't poke holes in my illusion of expertise (jazz hands!). Less money than I want for doing IT (though still more than I'm making now) but a small, friendly office would be pleasant enough for the short term. The only problem would be if they sensed that I'd be bored on or around Day 2. I wouldn't be surprised if they call me back Friday or Monday to offer it to me, not that I know what my answer will be. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if I never hear back from them. My experience has been that employers feel no obligation to be civil to job applicants.
I just made it white so it wouldn't be a 'status' symbol, good or bad.
The third interview, which has yet to be scheduled is really the job I want. Non-IT, non-coldcalling/insurance sales, a huge salary (actually, not important), and all sorts of continuing education training benefits. The guy said "send me an email if you still want to set up an interview" which I did, and he didn't. So I reminded him today that I'm still interested and everyone else in town wants to hire me so we need to meet soon. Of course I said it with more tact than that (because I'm nothing if not tacky ... wait, no) so we'll see.
I know I've mentioned interesting searches. Pay attention!
Summer school is over as of tomorrow night. I know, big whoop. I have yet to register for fall classes which start on the 22nd. I know, big whoop. My computer is just about back to normal except for a few little apps here & there, cookies, & whatnot. The 47G of mp3s are safe. I know...

Monday, August 01, 2005


My computer completely crashed, I tore my left big toenail right down the middle, and have a gash in my right heel. My life is in balance again.