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December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas baby, you sure do treat me right
Otis Redding

Merry Christmas Christmas eve.
Work started out hellacious but ended up being only creepy.Action Comics
Waiting for my friend to arrive. Thousand mile drive. She's bringing 2 dogs. Big adventure for them. They've never been anywhere before.
Big adventure for her too. She hasn't been as many places as she could have been.
I loaded up the iPod with a clashing mix of Christmas music (my kind of Christmas music) old stuff and new. When I walked to work the melange suddenly worked and I remembered those days when the car radio was my friend. The warped mixture of CHristmas music, garage and rock made sense and made me nostalgic for those times when cruising Tommy's Hamburgers and talking about the Christmas surf made sense and all while the radio played our changing soundtrack.
The wonder of Christmas was long passed but there were still dreams of a new surf board, speakers for the car stereo, surprises galore, and maybe there was still some wonder. I remember sitting silent in the car with my buddies while we listened to the Bobs, The Trashmen, Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys all singing Christmas tunes mixed in with the latest top 40. I remembered that it felt good because the music and the guys were all friends that made the time of year something more.
Christmas eve.
I'm actually off Christmas Day, not with pay of course. My Christmas bonus was twenty bucks and a scratch off lottery ticket . . . couldn't give you Christmas Day off with pay. "A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every December the twenty fifth!"
Shows you how much I'm worth to the company. This isn't based on actual dollars or actual worth Santa Claus just their perception which there's plenty of evidence is devious, convoluted and untrustworthy.
So I'm waiting for my friend to finish her big adventure drive with two big dogs who are bewildered at best. And, while I was walking home from work, I was thinking about Christmas and the Jesus thing.
I know some people like to think I'm very spiritual and full of faith. Which seems odd to me because they're basing that on the fact that I believe in very little. I believe more in people than anything else. I was raised Catholic and one thing that is still true, once you're a catholic you are always a catholic. I've heard guys described as Catholic Bhuddists and even Catholic atheists. But being Catholic it is always what defines you. It's a pleasurable guilt thing.
So I guess my religious beliefs would be a bit of Catholic Pantheist Tao Swedenborgainism sort of thing. Which is a lot of words that don't add up to much and that is pretty much about how I feel about most religions.
This doesn't mean that I think anyone should be constricted in their beliefs. Even those whacky Captain Marvel scientology guys have that right. If they find peace in a hack failed sci-fi writers double talk that's cool by me.
My big problem with those guys is their deceptive practices and the nasty co-opting of the rapture. I don't think anyone has the right to do twisted things to other people because the world is going to end soon and because I've said the right words or read the right book all these bastards are going to die while I get spirited away by either angels or space ships.
I don't like the rapture being used to justify being a jerk, or to excuse deceiving people for their own good. Other than that what you believe is always cool by me. Just don't mess with the waves and the rocks, the reefs and the forests.
Charles Dodgson once wrote a letter to a friend who had turned agnostic and was starting to consider himself an atheist. Dodgson said some cool things about how his friends beliefs would not condemn him to hell or anything that retaliatory. But he wanted to convince him of the divinity of Jesus Christ because Dodgson seriously believed that believing in Christ would make his friend's life more pleasant and enjoyable.
These were a couple of Oxford Don's exchanging letters so a big part of the discourse was based around a whole lot of scholarly religioso stuff that escapes my interest. But there was one argument in Dodgson's letters that I found compelling and simple.
Dodgson proposed that for over 1800 years various groups and governments had attempted to emphatically disprove the existence of Christ as the Messiah and they had failed.
The Three Kings I liked that. I don't care much for anyone asking me to have blind faith, or compelling you to have faith because you needed it to believe. Too cyclical an argument for me.
The idea that the Romans of the time had the opportunity and the motive to disprove that Christ had risen from the grave and could not does resonate some. That the Christians bedeviled and eventually usurped the Roman empire despite brutal Roman oppression and constant attempts to malign and discredit Christ but they couldn't is a pretty decent argument all the way around.
I mean why couldn't they produce a couple of guys to say, "Hey, we saw Joe and Lou open up Christ's grave and carry the body out!"
It would have benefited the Romans greatly and put a cabosh on the whole thing. When those guys Mark and Matthew were writing the gospels and stuff why didn't the Romans pull out a guy to say,Donald Duck "He didn't walk on water! There's a sandbar on that sea. Anybody could have walked across it."
And on and on. It Christmas so my thoughts drift towards Christ but I think the same argument applies to Bhudda and Mohammed and Moses and most divinities.
I like that there are people out there that we consider divine. And all those divinities started out as people. People who believed in something and wanted to help others.
Its kind of cool. The kind of cool I like.

So it will be hours until my friend arrives all safe and loud and raucous, I hope. The dogs will have to reacquaint themselves and they'll be plenty of tussling and fighting, which spells a pretty exciting and Merry Christmas for me.
I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas. I'm certain its allowed. My thoughts are with you. Even if it feels like I'm ignoring you, I'm not. I just can't do as much as I used to do.
Merry Christmas.

December 20, 2009

The more you can dream, the more you can do
Michael Korda


The Star My puppy and I took a two hour stroll. It was supposed to be an historic ice storm.
We weren't very impressed. I only slipped 4 times, 1 near fall and 0 falls. It's early in the season Calvin and Hobbes but I'd say I'm on track to winning winter.
One the near fall I had to wind mill my arms. The frozen shoulder barely hurt. It didn't rotate around as much as I'd want but it worked. A few months ago I'd have just let the fall happen instead of enduring the pain of moving my arm. So I'm winning everywhere . . . except work. I hate my job. It's the kind of job you have to hate. They don't give you much choice.
I still think like a worker, a laborer, and that its us against them. Sadly, not many of my co-workers agree with me. I ignore them.
One of my coworkers was accused of stealing $1,200. Stupidly the accusation took place right in front of me, which is as stupid and as disorienting as it sounds. After a few moments of pretending I was unaware of what was going on my coworker began, in near tears to beg not to be fired. Management seemed, to me, to be taunting him, saying how this sort of thing usually meant instant termination.
I thought the scene crossed too many lines of decency and humanity. Its pretty bad to have to beg for a cruddy job, in this economy you often feel that sort of trembling fear and anxiety. I understand it too well. It's the only reason I'm still working there.
I felt frozen, I didn't want my coworker to see I'd seen his anguish. I tried talking to management directly and offered up a bit of defense and pointed out I shouldn't be here for this sort of conversation, that it was demeaning for all 3 of us. I tried to offer up a stronger defense but I kept thinking of the new laptop with 4G dongle he'd shown me the day before, and how he was encouraging me to join him in spending a couple hundred bucks for gifts for the other workers.
Xmas I always believe that people are innocent and if they're not then there are things and personalities that I can't understand. The only ones I assume are guilty are governments, management and the powerful who view society as an impediment to their success.
My doubts must have been pretty strong because I couldn't mount a more vigorous defense. I managed to finish up and leave offering up my support. It distracted me all the way home, thinking about the situation. I sent out 3 more resumes when I got home.
The next day I was stunned by an entire wall of edicts all demanding to be signed by me. I fumed and felt like walking out. They were mainly to prevent theft. I'm never to pleased to be accused of being a thief. I have a lot of things I can be called out on but not for being a petty thief. (I always work of the old edict about stealing from your employer: If you're not stealing a minimum of 3 times your annual salary don't do it. That includes taking pens or paperclips. I mean, you are going to get caught.)
It turns out the coworker offered to make up the shortage at $20 per month . . . that's five years by Holiday Comics my calculator . . . great job security or I'm the fool for being honest. I mean, a five year zero interest loan . . .
That didn't bug me near as much as the 18 new rules and procedures I had to stomach on Christmas week.
I didn't walk out. Not more mature and level headed, just older and more fearful.

I'm enjoying having the TV. Still have mixed feelings about the WDTV Live. Odd thing is my feelings are very strong on loving and hating the device. My friend is coming to visit (with both the crazy dogs - which means my Christmas will be frenetic and most likely happy - just the way I like it!) and she's bringing the AppleTV with her. It's acting up in a way that's affecting a couple thousand people and the New Apple, is of course, ignoring the problem. It's a port problem that seems to have been launched with the new AppleTV 3.01 firmware.
I'll get to compare the two, side by side and I'll try to get it to work.
I did get to watch two of the best films I've seen this year. One's even American made!
"Moon" was a well hyped low budget flic. I liked it. Found it amusing and liked the return of science fiction, as opposed to Sci-Fi, to movies. Its been pretty well hyped so not much need to go over it. I found it a nice reaffirmation of freedom and humanity. Something most American movies seem to ignore in the 21st century.
The other film was denser and more surprising. Since "Running on Karma" I've always figured Johnny To and Ka-Fai Wa as two monster talents waiting to explode. They've done some brilliant work separately and done some light collaborations. this is the first film since "Karma" where've Xmas they've worked together as a team.
The movie is different. Firstly it's a FRENCH production! And stars French icon Johnny Hallyday! It starts off as a pretty standard though superbly made thriller, a move titled "Vengeance" makes it pretty obvious what we're going to see. I figured there'd be some sort of culture conflict, Europe vs Asia sort of thing.
To and Wa are too smart for that, in fact the film proudly touts the humanity of us all, even amidst society's killers. There are plenty of cool scenes and plenty of mayhem. The movie starts to turn at a picnic ground where the prey meets their families for dinner. The hunters stand by refusing to engage while the children are present.
Everyone gets shot up pretty badly. While the hunters administer to their wounds it turns out that Hallyday has a bullet in his skull that will cause him to become a total amnesiac with no long and a very spotty short term memory. An idea lifted in cloth from the cool "Memoir". To is smart enough Action Comics to use that movie as a shorthand stop to dispense with boring exposition.
To uses the device effectively to get to his and Wa's central theme, the nature, purity and need for revenge. When Hallyday's memory finally goes he doesn't remember pictures of his murdered daughter and grand children. He doesn't even remember the meaning of the word revenge.
Anthony Wong gives a solid performance as the hired killer with values and morals as well as brains. Simon Yam plays the villain with over the top glee. Its important he be so despicable to prove the thesis of the movie.
Wong delivers Hallyday over to his pregnant wife and 8 children. He knows he and his crew are going off to die. Since Hallyday offered him everything he had for his revenge Wong leads him to the only safe place he knows.
There in the family Hallyday laughs and spends his days playing with the children. He's happy perhaps for the only time in his life.
The children and mother are upset when the news of their father's death makes the local news. Hallyday only has a polaroid of Wong to tell him that he even knows the man. But he feels the upset around him and feels some how responsible.
Confused and befuddled he falls to his knees at the edge of the ocean and he begins to pray. He has no memory of his religion but for To and Wa faith and belief are instinctual things. And in praying to nothing Hallyday is coming into the zen of his situation. Hallyday sits at the ocean locked in his meditations even as the tide rises and threatens to drown him, even after it recedes he stays locked in his position, until the ghosts of his memory seem to rise from the ocean. The people he has loved Santa and the people he has grown to trust and see as friends rise up and give him release with a kiss.
And Hallyday the blank man from another world rises from the beach and goes off to kill, to seek vengeance. And he's aided cleverly and safely, by the children and the pregnant mother who need their own vengeance.
The idea of vengeance so elegantly woven into a high octane action movie is hard to conceive. It works for me and the film is enough of a hit to say To and Wa pulled it off.
I have a hard time accepting the organic necessity of revenge but that doesn't stop this from being one powerful film that would rank as one of the years best in any year.

I mentioned before that my friend is driving down from Canada to see me for the holidays. I'm touched and pleased and worried. I hope the weather is calmed down enough for her trip to be uninteresting. She'll have the two dogs with her. I don't know if they'll make the trek easier or more Santa Claus Funnies difficult. I'm looking forward to seeing them as well.
I'm poised to have a broke but excellent Christmas. What could be better.

I sort of lost interest in the NFL when the Saints lost tonight. The idea of two undefeated teams meeting in the SuperBowl was staggering and blissful. The Saints with Reggie Bush as the sun, Coulston as the wind and Drew Brees as the tired warrior bringing self esteem to a city and making that his primary goal despite the horrors that his own life have instilled filled me with a pride in the human race. I loved Brees leading the Saints in that pre-game high school rocking cheer. Seeing pros get as up and excited as kids is unique. The Saints may not have own them all but they won my heart. And sometimes a loss like this brings them down hard enough to reality to see them through to win the rest.
Pure crap such an important game was stuck on that dreary contentious NFL network. It should be banned by an act of congress and the NFL's anti-trust exemption revoked.

My picks are in bold.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville - The Colts did their part and the Jaguars made it more than interesting.

Dallas at New Orleans - Curse this shabby Cowboys team.

Christmas Toys Chicago at Baltimore - The Ravens have disappointed this season but still have a shot a playoff spot. The Bears only interest is in drafting some wide receivers.

New England at Buffalo - When will be certain that Tom Brady is really back?

Arizona at Detroit - Two teams coming off embarassing losses. The Lions are used to that.

Cleveland at Kansas City - Cruddy game of the week. The Browns beat the Steelers?

Atlanta at New York Jets - Mark Sanchez should be back and Ryan has the Jets paying some D. The Falcons need more than an 80% Matt Ryan to compete.

Houston at St Louis - A game of no interest whatsoever!

Miami at Tennessee - Two teams whose play off dreams are fading fast, this could still be one of the better games this Sunday. Taking the Vince Young Titans because he's playing inspired football Junior Partners 5.jpg and is pretty fun to watch.

Oakland at Denver - This game should stop the Broncos from achiving an 8-8 record after an 8-0 start!

Cincinnati at San Diego - Game of the Week. Chad Ocho Cinco invites his twitter followers out for breakfast the day before a game and then walks with them to Starbucks for coffee. Plans to wear his dead teammates jersey knowing he'll be fined massively. A teammate dies and it will either inspire or deaden a team. I hope it inspires. This is my second fave team this year. The Chargers will probably when going away but where's the beauty in that?

Tampa Bay at Seattle - Another who cares game.

San Francisco at Philadelphia - I like the 49ers. I don't like the Eagles this year. They took Vick and lied to defend it. They have also played erratic football.

Green Bay at Pittsburgh - The Steelers lost to Cleveland . . . They should just cancel the rest of their season. Maybe they already have.

New York Giants at Washington - Big rivalry game or snooze fest?

Minnesota 41 at Carolina 14 - At sometime they most have thought this would be a relevant game. What records will Favre and Petersen break is the only thing of possible interest.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Peace on Earth!

December 12, 2009

He was the greatest coach who ever lived; he could take his'n and beat yourn and then he'd take yourn and beat his'n
Bum Phillips

Korean Girl
Click images for desktop size: "Korean Girl" by Unknown
Tired. Just tired.
Need a break. I'm not going to get one. Just have to keep soldering on.JSA
Big fight at work. I had to work Thanksgiving Day. To my chagrin the place was packed. I'd hoped it would be empty so that the bosses would think it'd be worthless being open Christmas. But it was packed.
When the paychecks came was when there was the hassle. All my co workers worked 4 hours shifts and got paid for 12 hours. I worked an 8 hours shift and got paid for . . . 12 hours. To the bosses this was fair. They claim I got paid the same as everybody else. I don't see how anybody but a boss could make that math work.
I took the day off to prevent me from freaking out and quitting. I bought a TV.
It's a decent enough TV. I'd have liked bigger and better but I could afford this one. I got a 42" Panasonic plasma for about $400. Lots of searching and coupons. I wanted plasma for the brighter picture and the wider viewing angle. Looking for now and into the future. After the LCD price fixing came to light today it also made sense.
For content I got a Western Digital TV Live. It lists for 120 but I got it for 50 from ebay. It's okay. Adding on an external hard drive makes it compare okay to the AppleTV.
It's a dense path to compare them. The AppleTV is simpler, has a more elegant interface and greater accessibility to internet content, mainly via hacks with Boxee and XBMC. The AppleTV is notoriously underpowered and greatly compromised as to formats it can play. Just another way that Apple has decided to compromise the product to appease content makers to the detriment of consumers. This is the new media age, the old refusing to acknowledge the future. Just fighting to gouge money from us while providing inferior product.
THE WDTV Live has a clunky interface, that's fit more for nerds than for ease. With a USB WIFI card Leto by Artemus Rosakis
Click images for desktop size: "Leto" by Artemus Rosakis
it connects to everything on my little network and streams everything less than 1080p without a stutter. Xvid and DivX look cruddy. They're dead end codecs and show it. MKV files look sparkling and breathtaking. The AppleTV used to stutter on 720p mkv files loaded on the hard drive! There's not stutter at all on the WD.
Some content inexplicably gets out of sync on the WD. It makes no sense as I encode everything the same way. I can't figure it out yet. Still with 1080p playback compared to AppleTV's 1080i the WD has a distinct edge.
Of course there's no iTunes integration in the WD. The WD also has a pretty poor access to the internet. It does YouTube, but without the AppleTV elegance. The WD has a nasty Flickr interface and no account sign on ability. One of the niftiest AppleTV features is the Flickr screensaver. The WD offers nothing but a flashing logo screensaver that is brutally ugly, something only a Windows user could tolerate.
I'll write more when I use it. On the flash I'd prefer an AppleTV with 1080p and the versatility of the Souperman WD Live.
I've suffered through work coping with crack addicts in the parking lot (I thought smoking crack was so 90's) attempted robberies and trying hard not to quit. I need to work. I need money, even small amounts.
On Wednesday I had my EMG test. I really wasn't prepared for it. I got 5 separate calls urging me to show up, constantly reconfirming. I guess that should have been a clue as to what to expect. When I arrived at the clinic 3 people recognized me. One as the fellow with the black dog and 2 saw me as the man from "the casino".
The test was pretty arduous. It lasted 3 and a half hours . . . The first part was attaching electrodes to various body parts and then shocking the hell out of me. On the computer this produced a pattern that looked like pink noise in an aiff editor. Just a block of jagged lines.
The next part was sticking needles into the nerves and then recording the electric pulse. This all hurt.
There was apparently three levels of damage to my nerves that had to be worked through. The first was from the neurotoxin laden chemo therapy from years ago. This was an abrupt sort of one time damage. The second is the nerve degeneration caused by diabetes. This is chronic but slow. The final one was limited to my right frozen shoulder, here the damage is from my "guarding" the arm so much as to have compressed and damaged the ulnar nerve. There is also traumatic damage. I was hurting to much to explain this was from the torture inflicted on me by the Canadian authorities.
The neurologist will examine the results and decide if there's a fix. I'll see him this Friday.
Lara Croft by Adam Hughes
Click images for desktop size: "Lara Croft" by Adam Hughes
All in all its been a rough couple of weeks. The only saving grace has been my puppy who never tires of delighting and caring for me. She's a good girl who tolerates my shortcomings and endures my oafishness.
My puppy and thinking about football.
I'm concerned about USC. I think Pete Carroll is a brilliant football coach. I have no desire to see him leave the program. I want him to prosper again and I feel confident in him. Which doesn't lessen the sting of this incredibly dire season. I think Carroll's meltdown about Mark Sanchez leaving early is explained pretty much by the poor play of freshman Matt Barkley. The kid has talent but this year he showed nothing that would let me think he could take USC to the National Championship in 2010, 11 or 12. I now have higher hopes for stud QB Jessie Scroggins. I think he'll press Barkley more than Corp or Mustain.
As the season progressed I saw no improvement in Barkley's, footwork, his reads or his forcing of passes. He still locks onto his primary receiver and recognizes the outlet pass too late. As opponents got more film of him he was easy to adjust to.Star Wars in Concert
USC was victimized with far too many crippling injuries, starting with the devastating near fatal loss of Stefon Johnson. With the bizarre nature of Stefon's injury coupled with the way the O and D line were pushed around its apparent to me that Carroll needs a new, invigorated Strength and Conditioning coach.
We also need a better O Coordinator. If Charlie Weiss hadn't been an ass and made his scandalous actionable comments about Pete Carroll I fantasized about him being the O-Coordinator. He'd actually have been a good fit and would have aggravated Carroll as much as Norm Chow had, and that partnership produced Championships. But with his criminally cruel lies I honestly think the man should be banned from football for life.
Jeremy Bates did nothing to develop Barkley and his play calling was far too NFL and completely dull and unimaginative.
The Emerald Bowl is too soon to see if there will be any chance for this group to rebound next year.
A to the NFL it's getting shocking in its mediocrity. Two weeks ago I was a very good 14-2 in my picks. Last week a not so stellar 10-6. I also got myself bounced out of the Survivor game by picking New England over Miami!

This week I've dreamed about the games and pondered them as I've walked and stalked the neighborhood with my puppy.
My picks are in bold.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland - Talk about a dire season. From SuperBowl Champs to getting hammered Little Men
Click images for desktop size: "Little Men" by Unknown
by the Browns. The Steelers are missing only one player, former Trojan Troy Polomanu. Without him it seems they are less than ordinary.

New Orleans at Atlanta - I've idolized Drew Brees since his days at Purdue and now he's proved its all worthwhile. Undefeated and looking indestructible, the little guy still finds time to be one of the major charitable rebuilders of the still devastated New Orleans. He's a great player who easily wears the demigod symbolism overcoming the suicide of his mother with his commitment to his community and his teammates. He is becoming legend and I want him to propel himself into history. The Falcons season is destructing with the injuries to Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. Ryan might come back this week but there's no word on Turner. The Falcons need the duo to compete.

New York Jets at Tampa Bay - Mark Sanchez is squawking? He's just a game manager right now Strange Invaders who needs to make a couple of plays a game. He's a good kid who listens and learns. The Buccaneers are showing life and getting competitive but now there's enough film for Ryan to adapt and fire up his under talented D.

Carolina at New England - The Patriots could be the biggest disappointment of 2009, except the Steelers seem to want that honor. They're at home and Brady is a new father. That should be Natalie Wood
Click images for desktop size: "Natalie Wood"
enough for some inspired play. Carolina is . . . 52 men strong or something.

Cincinnati at Minnesota - Game of the Week. The Vikings need to rebound. They were totally dismantled by Arizona last week. The Bengals need to win to keep their confidence up as they continue to over achieve. The Vikings have to prove that last week was a blip. They may have lost home field advantage in the playoffs but they still need to win the division. I'm taking the Bengals because of Carson Palmer and my love for Chad Ocho Cinco. I wish I could force the NFL to let Chad celebrate his scores. His antics and tough play are the highlight of any given NFL week. This one will be a burner.

Buffalo at Kansas City - Cruddy game of the week. I don't care that both teams are coming off of huge upset wins they stink.

Detroit at Baltimore - The Lions have decided to spare Matt Stafford a beating and sit him sown for this one. The Ravens will just be happy to get back onto a winning track I can't see the Lions Lonesome Cowboy
Click images for desktop size: "Lonesome Cowboy" by NFL Films
stopping them from doing anything they want to do.

Green Bay at Chicago - The Packer D is real and solid. I wonder if the Bears have anyone checking Jay Cutler's blood sugars. He is not as bad a player as he has looked. (I'm serious about the blood sugars)

Seattle at Houston - The Ho Hum game of the week. Two teams with nothing to play for. Why are we subjected to this?

Denver at Indianapolis - This could be interesting but probably not. The Colts are turning into monsters and the Broncos are working to stumble to finish the season at 500.

Miami at Jacksonville - This is a game that fails to fire the imagination. The Dolphins will be high off their stunning win over the Pats and the Jaguars will be desperate to save their jobs. It could prove interesting but won't produce much good football.
Swamp Thing
Washington at Oakland - Cruddy game of the Week II. The Redskins couldn't beat the Saints even though New Orleans was missing 4 starters. The Raiders beat somebody. We were all amazed.

St Louis at Tennessee - The Vince Young Titans hit the reality wall but the fantasy should start rolling again against the hapless Rams. Has Steve Jackson demanded a trade yet?

San Diego at Dallas - The Chargers are playing some decent football while the Cowboys are still pretending the NFC East is the toughest division in football . . . Philip Rivers or Tony Romo? Does Romo really think holding for field goals is going to spark the team? The HC agreed??

Arizona at San Francisco - The Cardinals look like they're ready for another run deep in the playoffs while the 49er's keep playing good football but just have too little talent to make it all work.

Philadelphia 27 at New York Giants 24 - The Giants look like a train wreck. The Eagles less so. I resent them allowing Michael Vick to contribute while not forcing him to honestly fulfill his promises to the community.