Friday, February 26, 2010

Government efficiency

Do you remember all those pleasant, completely trouble-free experiences you've had at the DMV in the past? You're about to become nostalgic:

The new rules are part of a federal law called Real ID, which Congress passed in 2005 out of concern that drivers' licenses were too easy to get.

The law is controversial and many states have rejected it as too costly to implement. Florida, where some of the Sept. 11 attackers got drivers' licenses, is among the first states to comply.

To get a state ID or driver's license, even if it is a renewal or replacement, you must come in armed with your original birth certificate or passport, Social Security card and two items mailed to you that contain your address.

If your name has changed because of marriage or divorce, you must provide certified copies proving it.

Those who make it through this document juggernaut become Real ID-compliant and get a tiny gold star on their licenses. At some point, this will be needed to go into a federal building or to board a commercial airliner.

And yet, people think that government-run health care is a good idea.

Fuck you, Walking Dead #70

The Walking Dead is one of my favorite comics. Not just, “lately,” or, “of those being published today,” but, “of all time.” It’s a great book about a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse. So, they’re not breaking any new ground, they’re just doing what they do in a very compelling way.

One of the very best things about the book is its realism. That is, once you accept that there are zombies, you don’t have to accept anything else. It’s a study in human nature. It’s a Jack London story of survival, but they’re facing the ravages of wraiths rather than weather, nature or time. I know there are those who scoff at comics as not being “real literature” or something like that, but you’re wrong. Books like Walking Dead give proof to the power of the genre.

OK, selling point over. This is why I’m pissed: While the characters in the book regularly have to deal with the horrors of their plights, and that can be intense on a reader, you’re able to deal with it because it is fiction. I mean, you become as attached to these characters as you would in any good novel. It’s hard to watch them go through their pain – physical and mental – but in the end, it’s fiction. It’s all “what if.”

However, in the most recent issue, a character recounts a story from the past. It so happens that the story he tells is a real one. This makes sense. Adds some realistic depth to the post-apocalypse. The story he told is not one I ever wanted to hear again, though. It’s one I had put out of my mind after first hearing it and, truly, caused me a lot of mental anguish then and now.

I won’t go into too much detail to spare you (read the issue if you really want to know), but there was a tragic event in the news about a year ago where a drug-addled father mutilated his four-year-old son in a life-altering, permanent kind of way. However, they printed a comment from the boy who just very matter-of-factly recounted what happened to him. The words sting. I can’t even think about them without nearly tearing up with a mixture of revulsion, a desire to want to protect the child (all children), and a deep sense of lament that something like this could ever happen.

The quote was just four little words, but it just made the book a bit too real.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


DRI, March 28 at the Hi-Tone.

This one goes out to Cara

Not a shark, but the end result is the same:

Witness: Whale Killed SeaWorld Trainer

I mean the thing is named a KILLER whale. It really was only a matter of time, right?

UPDATE: Now they're saying that the whale involved has been involved in two previous deaths. WTF guys? When do you take the hint?

Women on subs

Meh. I just can't seem to get too worked up about it. The Navy announced the change months ago. Not news until the SecDef makes it official though, I guess.

What I find interesting is that since I don't have issues with this, I guess I don't have issues with women serving in front-line combat units. And, surprising to myself, I don't.

But I'm not the one having to live with these decisions in the field. Feelings on the subject are, at best, mixed.

LOST: Final Season: Ep. 4 5

Everything below this sentence is a SPOILER. That’s all the warning there is. UPDATE: I forgot that the first airing of the new season was two espisodes back to back, so I've updated my numbering on this post.

Last night’s episode almost seemed like a throw-away. What did they really accomplish? We learned:
* Jack is important! (Well no shit, show)
* Things happening in the alternate timeline don’t necessarily marry up with what happened with our folks in the plane-crash timeline.
* Claire is crazy.
* The folks at the temple are toast.

My problem is that all of these point could have been handled in an episode that did a lot more to advance plotlines. Instead we get a lot of huggy-feely Jack and son time. It was interesting in its way, but frustrating realizing that there’s so little left to the show. To deconstruct for a moment here: I thought it was pretty obvious from season one that Jack was the man. I felt kind of cheated that we spent so much time dealing with that kind of a story line when there are so many other things going on. Though I did find it amusing when they got to the lighthouse, I asked aloud, “Right. How come they never saw that before?” and Jack asks, “How come we never saw that before?” Nice.

Essentially what we got last night was 5 minutes worth of meat and a whole lot of filler.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

I've got half a mind ta ...

I had to take Daughter Number 1 to the doctor on Saturday. All is good, but I saw this article - among many other health-related articles - stapled to a bulletin board in the examination room. Just too funny.

Apparently, it's a decade-old study.

Pertinent quote FTA: "We're not really suggesting anything about ability or performance of the task," Phillips said. "But what we have shown here is that the processing is different ... It may mean that men and women's brains are different."

MAY be different. Ha!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Best intros

Most of the workweek tends to be a bit too uptight to listen to music loud enough to matter, but Fridays are bit more relaxed. It's pretty much the only day I even bother to listen to anything at work any more.

Anyway, I put on the shuffle and what pops up as song 1, Into the Void (I hope that's a decent link, I can't actually watch these at work). Does this song not have one of the best guitar intros ever? I don't have the time or mental capacity at the moment to make a list, but I'm pretty sure that song would be on a top-10 list were I to make one.

There are many great ones out there: Anthrax's I Am The Law, the Misfits' London Dungeon, Pink Floyd's Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Megadeth's Peace Sells, But Who's Buying? ... that's what I can come up with off the top of my head.

Suggestions? I just might have to make a mix CD of best intro songs.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today in guitar

Because, I am, or was (I guess), all about the guitar, I wanted to link to Ace’s micro-review of It Might Get Loud.

I’ve been wanting to see this for some time. I don’t care much about Edge or Jack White. I don’t have anything against them, but nothing for them either. I do care about what Jimmy Page has to say and find the idea of having his input couched by a couple of more modern guitarists interesting. To be honest, without having seen more than a couple of clips, I think this documentary would probably be better if the guys from Them Crooked Vultures had been in it instead (with Page still, though).

Anyway, Ace offers up a couple of other music documentaries and while I think they’re interesting, I thought I’d offer up my own suggestions:

~ New York Doll: Here’s my review of this wonderful documentary about the New York Doll’s bass player. Moving.

~ Les Paul – Chasing Sound: Made more poignant by his recent death, this documentary delves into Paul’s history and his relationship with ex-wife Mary Ford and the guitar that bears his name. For a guitar-fetishist such as myself, it was light on technical details except the multi-track recording he pioneered, yet it’s an invaluable video about a American legend.

~ End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones and Too Tough to Die: A Tribute to Johnny Ramone: How fitting that the band featuring two polarizing personalities needs two documentaries to do them justice. I think End of the Century does the better job of balancing the history of the Ramones, but it is very Joey-centric. Too Tough to Die doesn’t really give you any new Ramones information that you don’t get from End of the Century. However, you get to see a side of Johnny that fans never saw until this point. And because of that, I think we get better insight into one of the America’s greatest bands. I found TTD more poignant because of the setting, the fact that much of Johnny’s story was told through close friends. Heck, it even made me like Eddie Vedder again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LOST: Final Season: Ep. 3

Is this supposed to be a take off from the Jacob and Esau story? I don't know but it makes for good speculation.
Everything below here is a SPOILER. Consider yourself warned.

So, it’s pretty obvious now that the island is a prison for Locke-Smoke Monster/Esau. We can use some supposition to figure out that Jacob and those who he brought there are the jail-keepers. That leaves us to wonder over the true nature of Smokey and some of the particular properties of the island.

I have some thoughts on the former. I’m still thinking about many of the issues regarding the latter.

On Locke, the first thing I wondered aloud last night was, “Is he the devil?” I sort of don’t mean that literally, but I do mean, is he some force of concentrated evil? See, as the episode played out, and we got hints about it being a prison for Smokey, I started thinking back to my favorite Twilight Zone episode - The Howling Man. In that story, a man comes upon a castle and is taken in by what appear to be monks. During the night, he’s drawn to a cage by a wailing man. The caged man winds up convincing the other man to set him free. Winds up that the caged man is the devil.

They’ve made no attempt to mask the fact that Jacob represented a good force and that Smokey is all bad. Now that we know the island is preventing him from being let loose upon the world, we have to wonder what it is that world is being protected from. The problem here is that our sense of a time frame is a bit askew. The temples are ancient – almost Egyptian. So, we could guess that Jacob/Smokey could have been on the island for thousands of years. However, in the episode where the pirate ship crashes, we get the impression that they were just settling in on the island, so maybe that’s only a couple of hundred years. I was trying to think about what things existed in those time periods that we don’t have now but I’m beginning to change that way of thinking.

What if Smokey isn’t a particular evil incarnate – not the devil or baphomet, etc. – but rather a manifestation of plague or something like that? He does say to Sawyer that he’s “A man, just like you,” but what does that really mean? Could easily be a lie, subterfuge, or a very literal description of his anthropomorphism.

I’m willing to bet that they tie this either directly to, or make some connection with, Pandora’s box. We’ll see.

What’s fun is that while J-mom gets more and more frustrated, I get more excited about how they’re going to resolve everything.

Things I useta

I don't know if it's the changing nature of preference or practicality, but when I saw the sun cracking the horizon at 6 this morning, I was happy. See, I used to look forward to the darkening days of fall, but, while it's still my favorite season, I find myself longing for the extended daylight hours of spring and summer.

The loss of an hour isn't pleasant though. That's something that spring has against it. The longer days meant longer play, but losing that little bit of extra sleep is tough. Tougher as the years roll on. Perhaps that's something that always set me against the warmer months.

It was just weird to experience a longing for those long hours of daylight when for so many years I've wanted just the opposite.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Photos of the week (ending 2/12)

I decided I needed to start taking more pictures. So I have been.

Our snow and ice woes are no worse than anyone else's, but when I came home one day and saw icicles hanging from my porch lights it drove home to me just how odd it is for this to happen to us.

Sure, it's a crappy photo, but if I climbed the stairs at all I would have ruined her pose. In fact, I got off two shots before she raised her head to try and figure out what I was doing. Isn't that just the saddest face you've ever seen? Surely she is the most abused dog ever.

This shot requires a bit of context. I am obviously the father of a girl, huh? Well, her older sister couldn't be less interested in clothes. Or shoes. But don't think that she's some anti-materialist. No, she just craves things like books, baking and cake making ephemera - and she made a list. A long list of all the cake-making items she wants. As soon as Daughter Number 2 realized what DN1 was doing, she made her own list.

It's official

They just e-mailed me my KCBS member and Certified Barbecue Judge number. I'm on the list now!

It was moist

There are words that bother me regardless of context. I'm not referring to words that are typically thought of as being profane, I'm talking about normal words that just seem off to me.

Moist is one of those words. Getting into barbecue, this word is used a lot and every.single.time. it makes my cringe.

Another one - gelatinous. Another - rectify.

Y'all got any?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I need some help y'all

Longtime friends know that I've been dealing with back problems for many years. Well, even after a couple of surgeries, I'm still dealing with back problems. I have two herniated discs. Only one was causing problems though, but it continues to re-herniate after surgery and the second disc is now getting worse.

I'm faced with some decisions. My doctor is suggesting doing the same kind of surgery I've done before - a microdiscectomy. That's where they go in and cut off the piece of the disc that pushing against the nerves. The other surgical option is to get a spinal fusion. For that they remove as much of the disc as possible and fuse the vertebra with screws and braces. My issues here are plenty. I kind of feel like why should I keep getting the same surgery done when it doesn't seem to be doing any good. From what I've seen and read up on the problem, my discs are likely to keep herniating as they degenerate. And the fusion is scary.

I want options. So I went to see a chiropractor yesterday who deals with a type of procedure called Vax-D Spinal Decompression. The doctor claims that the procedure - type of traction - straightens the spine, helps increase the space in vertebra again, and can even heal the herniated discs. He even claimed a 90% success rate. But, everything I've read online seems to dispute the effectiveness of Vax-D decompression. It's all nonsurgical and I wouldn't be putting my body on the line, but the procedure is very expensive and time-consuming.

Lastly, I'm considering just sucking it up and seeing if losing weight and getting some more exercise will help. This last one has got to help regardless, but I wonder if getting healthier alone will alleviate my issues.

I'd like to know if any of y'all have had, or know anyone who has had any experience with spinal decompression. Any advice would be appreciated.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

LOST: Final Season: Ep. 2

These conversations are SPOILERTASTIC, so if you haven't watched the ep yet, be forewarned.

So, not much was answered last night. The whole thing about stuff going south for Sayid was something that could have been easily guessed given what happened to Ben. The revelation about Claire was a little something, although we've known for some time that she's been working with the Esau/Smoke Monster to manipulate Locke.

On the "what if?" side of things, I found the circumstances surrounding Kate and Claire very interesting. Far more interesting to me was the appearance of Ethan as the doctor who first sees Claire. This doesn't jibe with pre-established events. We've already seen that Ethan was on the island when the plane crashed and was sent to post as one of the survivors. So, if in the "what if?" timeline he's not on the island and at the hospital, a heck of a lot more than just the passengers' histories have changed.

I guess we have to have some well-established set up for the finale, but I still don't feel any closer to having any answers.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monsters in the closet

At what age do you make your kids sleep in their own room?

That’s the question that’s been pinging around my skull the past few months. Until recently, my daughters have always shared a room. Heck, they’ve mostly slept in the same bed even though there’s always been another one available. They’ve just wanted that closeness. The security.

About a year ago (probably more, my memory is shoddy on this), my oldest daughter began begging us for her own room – partly because she was getting older, but mostly because she doesn’t share any of her sister’s interests. A few months ago we broke down and converted our spare room into a fourth bedroom. Every kid now has their own bedroom. All is well, yes? Well, no.

Daughter number 2 still craves that security of sleeping in the same room as someone. She no longer needs to be in the same bed, but she finds it difficult to sleep in her own room. So, she’s been sleeping on the top bunk in her brother’s room, effectually making her room one big closet. I can accept this emotionally. I understand that she’s scared. However, I can’t keep letting that space go to waste. She’s gonna use it for her bedroom or she’s going to lose it.

DN2 turns 9 March 1 and I’ve set this date as her must-sleep-in-her-own-room cut-off date. After the first I’m requiring her to sleep in her room (of course there’s some flexibility here – weekends, special occasions, etc.). I’ve given her plenty of notice – I told her last night. I’m being rather accommodating – I told her to let us know what she needs to make her more comfortable. I’m willing to help within reason. Night light? Sure. Lamp? You bet! Set you up so you can watch movies? Uh huh. I stopped short of running satellite to her room, but I’m even thinking about how I might be able to do this (I’m short a line. I’ll have to splice an input and she’ll have to watch whatever’s on another TV).

Am I being unreasonable? Is it too much to expect for a nine-year-old to sleep in her own room? I realize that some kids grow up sleeping two or three to a room their entire life, but that, in a way, is my point. She’s got this benefit (that she doesn’t want to lose, by the way – she just doesn’t want to sleep in there) and she’s kind of abusing it. I want her to learn to be able to sleep by herself, too.

Maybe I’m just being a mean old daddy.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Home maintenance

I used to have a red door. Now I have a white one. I think I like it better. Is that racist?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The beginning of the end of Lost

The first of the last, so what did y'all think?

I wasn't sure where they were going to go. And honestly, I had forgotten some of what happened last season (I didn't watch any of the catch-up programming). There is promise here.

Oh, here there be potential SPOILERS:

What I liked: The pacing. Nice going keeping things moving instead of dawdling over any one point for too long. Great way to start off a season.

> Benjamin being out-of-sorts. After season of this guy being the heavy, it's great to see him on edge for real.

> That they tied up things with Juliet. Instead of just having her disappear, they sent her out with style.

> The Locke-Smoke Monster knocking the shit out of Richard.

What I didn't like: MORE PEOPLE? How big is this freaking island?

> Sure were a lot of commercials for a two-hour episode.

> That Desmond was on the plane kind of throws off the theory that the bomb really did work, doesn't it? So, alternate reality? Dream? Quantum potential? Ugh. They should have just left him off the damn plane.