Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pray for us


For we enter the belly of the beast....

We're going to Cabelas grand opening weekend extravaganza.

Mel has never been to one of these magnificent shrines to outdoor living before, so this should be fun. I think we'll try and grab an Elk burger while we're there.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Unsurprising considering I did in fact live there

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Conflict Resolution

Everyone has disagreements. The most agreeable guy and the most agreeable girl in the world will, if made financially and emotionally dependent on each other, sometimes have fights.

In a marriage, the most important part isn't so much the direct outcome of the disagreement, but how the disagreement was conducted. Try and control your spouse too much, or manipulate them, or just get too damned angry, and you are going to end up with a HUGE problem.

I love my wife more than life itself, I would do anything in the world for her, and she feels the same about me. Anyone who spends any amount of time around us knows, we generally don't fight; but when we do, it tends to be rather epic.

But really, we get along great mostly, because we talk A LOT, about just about everything, and because we generally share a similar outlook on things.

One of the reasons we can TALK about things generally, rather than fight, is because neither my wife, nor myself generally attempt to control each other emotionally; though Mel will tend to BE controlled without my intending to do so, because she sublimates herself WAY too much (more on this below).

One point of contention we have, is that sometimes she doesn't quite get the distinction between a disagreement, and argument, and a fight. This distinction is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL TO ME. I personally love to debate, and I love to argue. I'm stubborn, and I'm competitive (though not with my wife), and I just like the stimulation. Plus I think you get a better result with a good argument then just plain consensus.

The thing is, most women (and these days a lot of men), including Mel, don't have that same perspective on things. They have a hard time with CONFLICT, and in distinguishing between healthy and friendly and useful conflict, and unhealthy or hurtful conflict; and they don't know how to deal with any of it.

Let me illustrate my point a bit here.

We generally don't fight about money (the number one subject of spousal arguments), but we certainly have disagreements and some arguments about it.

The thing is, Mel has a very unhealthy attitude towards money, and that sometimes leads to her doing things that I disagree with, or her objecting to things I do. For example, she tends to hoard food (i.e. purchase far more food than we will eat), and then complain about small purchases I make that aren’t strictly necessary. Or, she'll avoid purchasing small things that she would like, because she feels guilty. In her mind, irrationally large food purchases are OK, because food is a necessity, but spending a few bucks on something she wants ISN'T ok, because it isn't strictly necessary; even when we have plenty of money.

On the other hand, I tend to make small frivolous purchases just because I feel like it. I don't spend a lot of money this way, but if I want something, and I can afford it, I don't see anything wrong with buying it. Of course if this is uncontrolled that spending can really add up (so I make sure it doesn't). However, even if it's just a little bit, this actually makes Mel really nervous, almost panicky.

I understand this is not a rational reaction on her part, and we discuss it AFTER we’ve had our 5 second argument, and I tell her she’s doing it again, and she gets all embarrassed and bashful about it, because she KNOWS she does it, but she doesn't realize it til afterwards.

Other than little stuff, my wife and I have only had one major cause for all of our FIGHTS (as distinct from disagreements and arguments), and that is her lack of self esteem and self confidence; and the fact that my confident and aggressive nature can tend to steamroller her.

Because she doesn't feel worthy, or doesn't feel able, to make good arguments; she either sublimates her own desires, or she falls into emotionally unhealthy conflict patterns, and what would otherwise be a rational discussion will turn into a fight.

The first part, it's just something that we'll have to work on over time. She needs to feel better about herself (and realize just how great she is); and then become more assertive about her needs and her wants. I need to be more careful about seeing this.

This isn't to say that she doesn't ever get what she wants, and I always do; we generally have a very balanced relationship in terms of our needs and wants being met. There are only a few times where it's become an issue, but the whole thing can make her feel too out of control.

On the other side of things, is when she really does want something, but she uses those unhealthy conflict resolution patterns to try and get them.

There are certain things that will just not go over with me. I react very negatively to them, and they will sour me on an argument right quick.

Basically I have a 100% no tolerance policy about certain modes of conflict resolution that goes something like this:

1. If you try and play head games with me, you lose

2. If you threaten me, you lose

3. If you give me an ultimatum, you lose

4. If you try to emotionally manipulate me, you lose

5. If you are passive aggressive with me, you lose


Mel started out in our relationship with some of these bad habits; but they've mostly been emotionally beaten out of her, excepting that she is still sometimes passive aggressive.

Mostly these weren’t really problems to begin with, because she is a far better woman than she gives herself credit for. Unfortunately, she (and most women in my experience) never learned valid conflict resolution skills, and so she fell back on anything she could come up with, and these unhealthy patterns are easy to fall into.

Some people learn early on that the five tactics above work, and will get them what they want, so they believe that is the best, or even the only model for functioning. MOST folks these days never had much of a model to follow when it comes to conflict resolution in the home; and things that they would never do to their friends, or their co-workers, seem to fly in the home, simply because they don't know better.

Worse, the pervasive media message is that these modes of conflict resolution are OK, or even desirable. The currently popular media depiction (primarily in situation comedy) of all men as loutish idiots, and all women as smart, capable "superwomen" who are always right at the expense of their bumbling husbands, or who have to manipulate them to get what they need... well lets just say it irritates me and we'll leave it at that.

When I have a disagreement with someone, I try to clearly state what my disagreement is, and why I have it; I then try to ask the other person for a clear statement of what they want, why, and why I should change my mind.

I consider this a reasonable and rational way of resolving conflicts, however it seems to me that most folks don't get it. In fact, this very approach (along with the rejection of those approaches above) seems to drive some people into anger and hostility.

If anyone in my life attempts to use any of the above tactics on me, in anything more than a trivial, playful, or obvious way, I INSTANTLY put a stop to it. I inform them of what they are doing, I tell them why it won’t work, and I make it clear to them how much they have just damaged their position with me. I then explain that if they want something, they had better ask for it, and give a clear argument why if I disagree.

I'll be honest, I react very badly to threats, games, ultimatums, and manipulations. I wouldn't say I'm irrational, but I am definitely inclined to be negative (if not hostile) towards someone making them. This isn't to say I fly off the handle or anything, it's damn near impossible to make me mad; but I'll DEFINITELY be unfavorably disposed towards someone using these tactics, and to their arguments if they have any. If you ever want me to just shut you down completely, and reject whatever it is you want out of hand, just threaten me, and you'll have your wish.

Do not bluff me, do not threaten me, and do not give me an ultimatum. I have zero tolerance for that, and I'll call you on it. If you say you're gonna do something, or you want something, you better damn well mean it, because I'mna make you do it. If you don't mean it, don't threaten me.

The thing is though, I'm always willing to talk, listen, debate, and argue. There's no reason things have to turn into a fight, or can't get resolved.

Most of the time I’m an easygoing guy, but I’m also stubborn and strong willed, so if it’s not something I immediately agree to, I need a good reason why I should change my mind.

Now I’m not saying all conflicts need a RATIONAL or LOGICAL resolution, just a good one. I consider making my wife happy a pretty good reason, if indeed I agree that getting what she SAYS she wants would make her happy, and that what she SAYS she wants, really IS what she wants.

In fact much of the time we disagree about things that she asks for, it’s because I don’t think what she says, is what she really wants. My wife has a habit of asking for strange things, because she thinks that she needs them to achieve a result she wants; but she never tells me what the result she wants are, so I of course say no. She then gets upset, and falls into some of her patterns from the above list, and I have to push her into telling me exactly what it is she REALLY WANTS TO ACHIEVE, rather than whatever conclusions she has so thoroughly convinced herself will get her what she really wants.

Rather an inefficient process really, but in the end, she usually gets what she really wants, and we don’t waste time with the thing she SAID she wanted, but didn't really.

Honestly, most of the time I am willing to do something I wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do, simply because it would please my wife, so long as she can explain to me exactly what it was she really wanted and why.

Now, if for some reason the person doesn't understand at this point you aren't going to put up with this… well the first time they never seem to. They usually continue trying to manipulate you in the way they were trying before, or they try to move on to the next method of manipulation. Like I said, they just don't understand or know other methods of conflict resolution.

At this point you need to make it bloody well clear to them that it won’t be tolerated.

“If you love me you would do this” needs to be turned around into “If you loved me you wouldn’t try and use that argument”.

“Why are you doing this to me” INSTANTLY gets turned around into “This isn’t about you personally it’s about {insert real issue here}”.

One should note, many women (and some men - heck all men about some particular subjects) have a lot of trouble separating what is personal and emotional, from what is logical or rational. If you make a logical argument against their emotional conclusion or statement, they are likely to take this as you disrespecting their emotions. You need to reassure them that the disagreement isn’t personal, and you respect them; but that these logical and rational issues need to be addressed.

I have THIS particular problem with my wife all the time. She just can’t seem to separate her emotional reactions to things, from their real world presence, consequences etc…

If it degenerates from there, and at least the first few times it probably will, you have to be hard. The first time she says “Well maybe I should leave then”, you say “Well, I don't want you to go; but if that’s the way you want it, then pack your bags, I’ll drop you off at your mothers as soon as you’re ready to go”.

Note, make sure you say “I don't want that, but if that is really what you want”, this is HER choice not yours. All you want to do is have a rational argument (please note, I'm writing this from a mans perspective, but the same thing is true for both men and women; it's just the words are usually a bit different).

“Honey, I love you more than anything, and this is going to hurt me tremendously; but if you feel that way about it, and you aren't even willing to talk about why, then maybe you really should leave"

Those are some scary words right there, at least if she really loves you; and if she doesn't, you’re better off without her anyway.

Early on in our relationship my wife thought that doing this was a good idea. She thought I was kidding.

When I started putting her stuff in the car, she figured out that I wasn’t.

That straightened her up right quick. Actually it made her collapse in a heap; because that of course ISN’T what she wanted. What she wanted was something else entirely, but she had invested so much unhealthy emotion into her conclusions, that it took something THAT serious to shock her out of it.

What she wanted was to get her way, or to reach a compromise, but she just didn’t know how to do it; and thus she broke down into the unhealthy habits above, and finally when that didn't work, she just broke down.

Sometimes, you have to go that far before a disagreement can be resolved in a healthy way.

Unfortunately, if by that point you haven't resolved the issue; well you really shouldn’t be dealing with that person.

There's one more issue that I'd like to address here, and it specifically involves dealing with people who are clinically depressive, bi-polar, "borderline personality" or excessively self destructive. Generally speaking, they will have all of the above habits, and then some, AND they have some very illogical or inappropriate emotional responses to things.

What you need to understand is that what they are really doing when they are abusing you, is they are deliberately hurting themselves. Their subconscious is using you, as a way of hurting themselves. Of proving themselves worthless, or useless, or deserving of pain.

Depression, and other mental and emotional illnesses, need to be treated. They need to be addressed, both by those who suffer from them directly, and by those who love them, and also suffer. Finding good, psychiatric, or psychological, or therapeutic care and sticking to it, and working it, are the best possible thing.

But some won't do it, it doesn't always work for everyone, and even someone who is responding well to care can have bad episodes; and their unhealthy modes of conflict resolution can trigger major life crises.

In those cases, there's three things you can do.

First you can try and smother the depression with love. Don't let them win the argument, just realize that the argument isn't really about the subject of the argument, it's about their depression, and FORCE THEM to feel how much you Love them and want them to be happy.

The second thing is to simply ignore the depression, and the fight, and concentrate exclusively on the logical argument. No matter how emotional they get, no matter how hurtful they get (and believe me they will, either of you, or of themselves), just be calm, logical, understanding, and reasonable.

Sometimes these two things work, sometimes it makes things worse. It can be hard to tell. Remember that depression is a combination of physical and emotional illnesses (hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, and past traumatic or depressive or otherwise negatively reinforced and reinforcing emotional experience), and that a depressives reactions are not necessarily logical or predictable. You just have to pick whatever you feel is the right course.

The third thing is far more drastic. If you've tried everything else, if nothing else works, if you resolved the REAL problems or managed them such that there is no reason left for their behavior excepting their emotional illness... there's only one thing left to do; and it violates my no ultimatums rule.

You have to say to them, and you have to mean it completely, and you have to follow through:

"If you love ME more than you love your misery, you HAVE TO STOP. If you love your misery, pain, and depression more than you love me, you have to leave."

It hurts. It hurts more than I can describe. You will feel like you've been stabbed, and they'll feel worse. It's also the only thing that you can do; or they will just destroy the both of you with their misery. If they're savable, then this will do it; if it doesn't it, then they are lost. Maybe some day they'll be ready, or be healthy enough to have a relationship, but that day isn't today.

Fortunately for my wife and I, we HAVE been able to resolve these issues. We went through this but we love, respect, and understand each enough that we were able to go through this and come out the other side.

Most people aren't so lucky or so willing to put in the hard work necessary. I can only hope that you're one of the lucky ones.

Your daily moment of Zen

Why dont you listen to me when I try to talk to you
Stop thinking of yourself, for just a second fool
Shut up, shut up, I dont wanna hear your mouth
Your mother made a monster,
Now get the hell out of my house
Bridgecant stand it for another day
I aint gonna live my life this way
Cold sweat, my fists are clenching
Stomp, stomp, stomp the idiot convention

Which one of these words dont you understand
Im caught in a mosh!
Talking to you is like clapping with one hand

What is it? -- caught in a mosh!
What is it? -- caught in a mosh!

Dont tell me how to do my job
Theres the door, your names on the knob
Youre always in the way, like a beast on my back
Were you dropped as a baby, cause brains you lack
Cant stand it for another day
I aint gonna live my life this way
Cold sweat, my fists are clenching
Stomp, stomp, stomp, the idiot convention
Which one of these words dont you understand?

Im caught in a mosh
Talking to you, is like clapping with one hand
What is it? -- caught in a mosh!
What is it? -- caught in a mosh!

Think-before you speak
Or suffer for your words
Learn, to give respect
That others, give to you
Aaaaaaaaaaah, the best you can do

Hey man!
Im trying to reason but you dont understand
Talking in circles, well never get it straight
Just you and me in our theatre of hate
Cant stand it for another day
I aint gonna live my life this way
Cold sweat, my fists are clenching
Stomp, stomp, stomp, the idiot convention
Which one of these words dont you understand?

Im caught in a mosh!
Talking to you is like talking with one hand
What is it? -- caught in a mosh!
What is it? -- caught in a mosh!

-- Anthrax, "Caught in a Mosh"

The Lesser of Two Lessers

Rockstar Supernova: Week 4 Elimination - Thank GOD he's gone, but why is SHE still here?

So, I started this week saying
Now, bottom three... I'm almost certain this is the week we see Zayra go. It would take a frikken miracle performance tonight for her to stay alive. Personally, I think that Phil did another horrible tune, but for some reason he seems to be immune to the fact that he sucks. Lukas probably belongs in the bottom this week as well.

Now, do I think the country will agree with me? I have a sneaking suspicion that Storm will see the bottom this week. I dont think her performance was worth it, but it's definitely her worst yet. Also, it wouldnt surprise me at all to see patrice or Josh there. No, I don't think they deserve it, I'm sure my picks were worse, but it wouldn't shock me either.
So, Zayra, Patrice, and Josh... not real surprise there; though as I said, Patrice wasn't really BAD, she just wasn't GOOD.

The reason I said Storm might show up in the bottom, is because not enough of the voting public LIKES the punk thing; but I'm so glad to see she gets the credit for the ROCK she deserves.

No question, both Zayra and Phil (and Josh) both need to go, As Soon As Possible, but I'm willing to give Patrice another shot.

Oh, and did anyone else notice Brooke Burke got another boob job, and this one is even worse?

The Encore: Storm, for her punked out stage diving. I just love this chick. Amazing energy, she really is a rockstar, and I think it's going to be her and Magni in the final.

The Elimination:

Patrice Pike - Radiohead, "My Iron Lung": Tough choice here. Thom Yorke is a hard guy to follow. Honestly I don't think Patrice has the guts, or the confidence, or the balls to stick this one out. She's not bad, she's just not a star. Now, that said, it takes guts to pick a radiohead tune for your do or die. Not bad, she started off a little stiff, but smoothed her way into it. Her energy and comfort came up... I think this girl really does much better in a full set than one song. She's jsut barely comfortable by the time she finishes her song, and her SECOND or third song is probably where she hits her stride. She definitely got better as THIS song went on, though I wasn't really terribly impressed here, she didnt do a bad job at all. GREAT scream there by the by. She's certainly saved herself here.

Zayra Alvarez - K's choice, "Not an Addict": Well, I don't know the song, or the band; but she seems to really love the tune, so hey. Anyway, this girl really has a great voice, but she just doesnt know how to use it. With a good coach she could really be amazing. She has the confidence, and the presence to really do something but she jsut can't back it up. She warbled a bit through this one, and there were parts where her breath control was iffy. Also her english diction is poor enough that it really effects her clarity here. There were moments here where she was great, but it was mostly just mediocre. Not bad, just not great. Better as she went on; if she could do the whole thing like her last minute I'd have actually liked her performance.


Phil Ritchie - Failure, "Smoking Umbrellas": I don't know this song or band either, and I just hate Phil anyway, but with a good performance here he could best Zayra. unfortunatel (or fortunately), he didn't even come close. He was off key, out of tune, flat, sharp, screechy, warbly, no breath control... honestly he was AWFUL, and that's not just my dislike of the guy. Seriously, I think he knew he was going home, and he wasn't able to deal with it.

Seriously, I think Zayra should have gone this time around, not Phil, but we need to get rid of both of them. Also, I think Gilby had a point, I don't think Phil particularly wanted to be in the band.

I'll say this, the more I watch Gilby and Jason, the more impressed I get (Tommy Lee is just Tommy lee. He is who he is, and we all know who he is). I've always loved Jasons work (Cliff Burtons ghost has unjustly overshadowed him his entire career), and he just shows how great a pro he is every night on this show. Gilby... well he was a drunk and a drug addict when I was listening to his music, so I didn't think I'd be impressed, but here he is, and he's a real pro too. When you think about it, thr three of them have a combined total of like 75 years of touring under their belts so I don't know why I'm surprised, but honestly I have a great deal more respect for these guys than I did before this show... not something you would normally say of reality show participants.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rockstar Supernova - What were they thinking?

Well now... looking at the song selection, all I could think was "What the hell were these people thinking". Honestly most of the tunes, the folks that picked them out have no chance of not screwing them up.

Well, I guess that's why we watch isn't it; so we can laugh at them when they screw the pooch.

Oh and what is it with there being a stones tune and a nirvana tune every single week?

The Reviews:

Lukas Rossi - The Verve, "Bittersweet Symphony":What the fuck was he thinking picking this song? I had hoped the vocal coach would have jogged him a bit... The vibrato monster is killing him. He COULD sing this song if he'd jsut stop growling in his throat. Also the drama level is once again floating around Freddie Mercury levels. Lukas, you are neither Freddie nor Mick Jagger. Get over yourself. Was it awful overall, no; but it WAS a bad version of this song. It's probably not bottom three but I hated it.

Zayra Alvarez - Blondie, "Call Me": When I saw her song selection I thought "Well, she could actually do this one. She's got the voice for it" and she does, but she doesnt know how to use it. God she would be great if she jsut had some training. Out of tune, flat, mispronounced... I'm sorry, great legs in a superhero outfit wont save you girl. To top it all off, her performance was robotic. I'd almost say she knows she's going off this week, but she's been so clueless and arrogant, she may actually think that was good. Bottom three, definitely.

Dana Andrews - Nirvana, "About a Girl": The thing is, she's TOO GOOD a singer for this song. She can't NOT sing it well, and that's not right for the song. As to how she DID sing it, not bad, but too country, and I don't think full acoustic was the way to go with this one. She should have put a solid bass line behind her. She did a good growl on this one, and got a great creepy look in her eyes. Very pro, very solid. The band loved it. She's safe.

Patrice Pike - The Black Crowes, "Remedy": Once again my thought was "wtf, does she WANT to lose"? I mean she's certainly no Chris Robinson. Wrong tone, wrong inflection, not enough energy she jsut sounded flat (in energy not in tone), no life. The band kicked ass on this one by the way. Not good, not horrible, probably not bottom three, but close.

Toby Rand - Billy Idol, "White Wedding": Well, he said he was gonna get down with it this week, and he picked the right song for it, but he's got big shoes to fill here. Odd arrangement, a little off in tone, not enough headroom or breath. Good pickup on the second verse though... overall not bad, but not quite right. A little too low in the high bits, a little too flat and growly in the sweet bits. Ok, not great, probably safe.

Magni Asgiersson - David Bowie, "Heroes": God I love this song, and I REALLY hate the Wallflowers cover of it, so I'm going into this one with high expectations... and it was pretty good. No it doesnt have the airy swings of Bowie, but he showed great range, and sweetness. Maybe a little too quiet, and not enough drama, but very good. It wouldnt surprise me to see an encore here.

Ryan Star - Live, "I Alone": Anybody who picks a "Live" tune for this, is either insane, or has balls of kryptonite (though I have a sneaking suspicion Magni could pull it off, plus he's got the look). Ed Kowalczyks vocals are so sweeping, dynamic, and powerful; with HUGE excursions all over the map... At least it wasn't lightning crashes, but... Ok, so he opens a little too soft, a little too breathy, but not bad. Transitions into the refrain, and he can't QUITE make it. It's a good try but thats HARD. The bridge is fine, and back into the scream for the finish... not quite, but almost. Better than I expected, and really not bad. Plus, a great performace, great energy, and climbing on the kit was cool.

Jill Gioia- The Rolling Stones, "Brown Sugar":Honestly, this is an easy song, especially for a serious pro Like Jill. The range on Brown Sugar is pretty much non-existent so this one is all about the performance. Does she have the balls, and the strut to carry it off. Also, will her clothes stay on for the whole performance (jesus she was wearing two handkerchiefs - I definitely saw ass cheek, and I think I saw Tommy Lees pubes... dude pull up your frikken pants). See this is where Jills background singer and studio past really hurts her. She isn't strutting enough, and what she IS doing feels a bit forced. Sure it's ok, and the vocals are spot on, but it's just not quite there on the performance side.

Phil Ritchie - The Wallflowers, "One Headlight": I hate Phil, and I certainly hope that everyone agrees with me after listening to this abortion. The refrain was actually good, but the rest of the time he thinks he's elvis crossed with Barry White. He was flat, the timbre was completley off, his performance sucked... I think he's secretly a bobblehead with a human body. Should be bottom three, but god knows why the chicks seem to dig him.

Dilana Robichaux - Cyndi Lauper, "Time After Time":I've given up trying to predict Dilana, either what she'l sing, or what she'll wear. This one was just weird on the second count, but I enjoyed the way she sang. THe vocal coach clearly helped. SHe was a little to quiet and breathy; and I think she could have handled the sweetness in the refrain with some practice instead of going back to the growl. That said, it was pretty good. Not GREAT, but really pretty good.

Josh Logan - Blind Melon, "No Rain": Okay, it's a good selection for his voice. He needs a little more breath, a little more in the highs... I actually liked his performance for the first time, in a rocked up arrangement of a seminal alternative tune. Not it wasnt great, it was jsut good, but it was his first performance I didnt actively HATE, so there's a plus; and hey he looked like he was having fun. He cut out like 2/3 of the song, flattened it out a bit... I didnt quite like it, but I don't think it was bottom three material.

Storm Large - Dramarama, "Anything Anything": Storm punks it up a bit, on a classic punkwave tune. Honestly, I think she went too crazy with it. She shredded it like a black flag tune, and the quality of her voice suffered. Her energy and performance kicked ass, but she may end up in the bottom three for this one. She way ALSO get an encore for it, because the band loved it.


Well, I'll say no-one had a truly excellent performance, but Magni, Dilana, and Dana all did pretty good jobs; and everyone else was all over the place.

Now, bottom three... I'm almost certain this is the week we see Zayra go. It would take a frikken miracle performance tonight for her to stay alive. Personally, I think that Phil did another horrible tune, but for some reason he seems to be immune to the fact that he sucks. Lukas probably belongs in the bottom this week as well.

Now, do I think the country will agree with me? I have a sneaking suspicion that Storm will see the bottom this week. I dont think her performance was worth it, but it's definitely her worst yet. Also, it wouldnt surprise me at all to see patrice or Josh there. No, I don't think they deserve it, I'm sure my picks were worse, but it wouldn't shock me either.

I'll jsut be over here collapsing in the corner

We had a massive power outage last nite; major class V thunderboomers, with 50+kt winds, and hurricane force gusts.

We had some direct lightning strikes in our neighborhood, including one that blew my next door neighbors fence into splinters, and shook my house to it's foundation. We lost a tree and part of our roof, and there are downed trees and lines everywhere. There were a few fires and traffic accidents, and some criminal activity in the area.

Anyway, the power was out from 9pm until just a few minutes ago, and unfortunately the storms didn’t noticably cool anything down. It was 90 degrees and 100% relative humidity, with no juice, all night. I'm jsut hoping my AC can keep up during the day, starting from 85.

We're all right here, but I haven't slept, and I'm about ready to drop. I'll be back to the world in 4-6 hours.

UPDATE: So we took a little drive around the neighborhood to view the damage/progress, and snapped a couple from my phone

Part of my neighbors shed



The REST of my neighbors shed (about 1/4 mile away)



A near miss on the house down the street



This one didnt miss



A slightly different angle



Man, we really got off lucky, just losing some shingles and a tree.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Paid in full

I got paid today, and it is a GOOD thing.

Now, for the first time since we moved in to the house, we actually have ALL OUR BILLS PAID OFF at the same time.

It's a remarkably liberating feeling I must say.

Of course we've recently acquired a fair bit of debt, so I no longer have the corresponding satisfaction of saying I am debt free (a condition I maintained for some years), but you can't win them all eh.

Actually, compared to most households we have very little debt. The average family of four in this country as something like $25,000 in debt OTHER THAN their house and their car.

That's a lot of debt.

We have no credit card debt, no student loans, we're on a lease to own so we've got no mortgage debt (and we're building offset against the purchase price of the home), the truck was a bit of a hit ($13.5k financed plus about $4k in interest if we follow the payment schedule) but at least the payments are manageable and the interest rate isn't bad...

That leaves us with about $5 grand in personal debt, none of which is accruing interest (actually about 1/3 of that is offset by debts owed me, but as to how much of that I'll see back, who knows, so I don't count it).

Really, we're a lot better off than most folks. I can't imagine living under the kind of debt burden most American families do, it's just nuts.

Look at a "typical" middle class American family in a moderately expensive cost of living state (in CA, NY, or MA these numbers go WAY up). They've got $25,000 of credit card debt (or other revolving debt - at 15% if they're lucky), a $300,000 mortgage (say at 6% - you're LUCKY to get into a decent house around here for $300k, or maybe $250k if you want to drive an hour to work), and two new $40,000 cars (leased of course - with an effective interest rate of 9% - because they couldn't afford otherwise. The only thing dumber than paying interest on a depreciating asset, is paying interest on someone elses depreciating asset); the thought of all that just sickens me.

Lets say it averages out to $400k, accruing at 8% a year, averaged out to 20 years (between the mortgage rates and periods, the credit card rates and periods, and the car rates and periods), you'd have to pay $3400 a month JUST IN DEBT SERVICE ($1800 mortgage, $1600 in car and credit card payments); and for all that you only end up paying half of it on an actual asset.

Now you have to figure, thats $41k a year, add in another $30k a year to live on; and with the governments cut, you have to pull in over $100,000 a year just to make the nut. MAYBE if you're smart and lucky you manage to cut your costs down all the way around to $30k in debt service, and $30k in living expenses, that's STILL about $85,000 just to live on.

That's just insane.

We live that same lifestyle, without all the extra debt (our costs won't change much when we convert the mortgage, we've already factored in our car costs, and we have no revolving debt), and we only need about $70k to live (including the .gov bite).

Basically, because of the INSANE debt that so many families put themselves through, they are paying at least $15,000 more a year for the same standard of living, and most are probably paying $25,000 more. Somehow running these numbers, it's not hard to understand why peoplein this country accumulate debt at 105% of their savings rate.

Honestly, every bit of debt you have, is like twice as much in income taken away from you; because it's money that you can't do anything with. Instead of making YOU money, YOU'RE MONEY, is making money for SOMEONE ELSE (as is every bit of taxes, but that's another discussion).

It's basic opportunity cost math, and it's what keeps so many people, including people who earn plenty of money, from really getting ahead.

Why struggle to push $15,000 to $25,000 a year down the tubes? Worse, why have to pay extra taxes at a higher rate even, on that extra $25,000 you have to earn, just to see no benefit from either amount?

Personally I'd rather work less and enjoy my life more... or more likely in my case work the same amount and save/invest more.

One more comic for the inspiration pool

Brevity, idiocy... sometimes it can be hard to tell...

My life writ small - Part Two


the art of European negotiation

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dead Mans Shirts

So, I'm wearing a dead mans shirt.

Sounds kind of like the semi-surrealistic opening line of a movie with dialogue far to clever for itself; perhaps Tarrantino would write, and bitch about the way Tony Scott directed it.

Though I suppose if it were my story (and I guess it is really), I'd bitch about Tony Scott too. I mean what has HE done that didn't suck except "Top Gun". No I think in my dream world I'd throw Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo DelToro, and Frank miller in a room with a chainsaw, a .45, and a cattle prod. Whoever came out of the room alive would get the nod.

I'd put my money on Miller. He's just mean that way.

But I digress... back to the dead mans shirt.

An interesting story behind that really.

Well, not so much interesting, as slightly morbid, and otherwise banal, but a guy can dream can't he?

The grandfather of a friend of mine recently passed away. It so happens that my friend wasn't very much emotionally effected by this loss, though of course he wasn't uneffected, after all it WAS his grandfather just dying.

Anyway, it also so happens that said grandfather was a large man. My friend is tall, but not large. My friend also recieved a large number of shirts from his grandfathers posessions.

Thus, I get a call Saturday afternoon coming out of a movie house, "Hey Chris, I've got a bunch of 3X shirts sitting here from my grandfather, want'em".

Being the practical sort I figured, what the hell why not. He's dead, he doesn't need them anymore, and I've been meaning to pick up some new t-shirts.

...and so I am the recipient of about 15 reasonably high quality, and quite comfortable shirts; from a dead man.

Not quite as romantic as a dead mans gun, but more useful I think.

Oh and, hey man, thanks for the shirts.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rockstar: Supernova - Week 3 Eliminations

Well now. My personal picks for bottom three were Zayra, Josh, and Phil; but I figured the country would think differently, and pick Jenny and Dana... well they did, AND they also dumped on Josh. Thank god.

I WAS suprised that Magni got the encore, I was expecting Dilana again after the audience reaction, but hey, Magni rocks.

The Eliminator:

Jenny Galt - STP, "Vaseline": She's out from behind the guitar, but the chick just can't rock. She didnt do a bad job singing, but she hasnt got the balls, the energy, the growl, the scream... Also what the hell is she thinking doing an STP song with Gilby Clarke sitting their judging her, AND THEN NOT DOING IT RIGHT? She needs to go back to folk music. She's gone.

Dana Andrews - Sass Jordan, "High Road Easy": Awesome. Sexy, fun, powerful, gutbusting; she rocked it. Perfect song (check out Sass Jordan BTW, if you don't know her. GREAT singer). Great energy, great tone, she proved here that she doesnt belong in the bottom three. This might as well have been an encore performance not an elimination.

Josh Logan - Nirvana, "Heart Shaped Box": WAAAAY better than he'd done before. He got the crush bits right, but HE STILL DOES THAT STUPID R&B WARBLE half the time. He's safe here, but I still hate him. He belongs on American Idol not Rockstar.

And indeed Jenny is gone. She gave the worst performance of the three, she's completely unsuited to the band, and it was the right decision.

Next week I predict Phil, Zayra, and Josh.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Incase shit

Insurance... hate it, can't live without it.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we had an electrical fire in out BMW. As a result of that fire, the car would cost more to repair than it is worth. Now normally insurance would cover a thing like that, but Progressive...

Here's the situation. The short was caused by water leaking into a wiring channel, and apprently fining its way into some terminals. It blew a fusible link, and then managed to fuse a control wire to my amp powersupply wire, and madness ensued.

The upshot is, a bunch of control modules (about $700 worth) were burned, as was part of the wiring harness; and assorted small items attached. There would also be about 8 hours of shop labor involved minimum.

So, the insurance adjuster doesnt get to my mechanic for three days after the incident and he says that because he doesnt see any water, there is no evidence of water causing the fire, it must be improper maintenance; and they deny the claim.

No water left over, in Arizona, in June, three days after the incident while my mechanic has been working on it.

DUH!!!

Anyway, I'd have to sue them to recover the money, and the $3200 asessed value of the car less the $500 deductible and court costs, just isn't worth it.

So we bought ourselves a truck; and jsut to get the truck out the door, registered etc... we transferred our current policy to the truck.

But I'm DEFINITELY leaving progressive. Sure they are convenient to deal with, but it's not the first negative experience I've had with them.

At first I was thinking about going back to USAA, because their service is jsut the best, but I'm a AAA plus member, and they sent me a special discounted insurance offer... the upshot is, I can have more coverage, for $900 A YEAR LESS than with progressive, and more under USAAs rates (USAA is not cheap, nor are they expensive, but they ARE good). Also I'll get a 25% discount if I bring my homeowners/renters and general liability policies over to them.

So the question now is, anyone deal with AAA auto insurance? Is their service acceptable?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rockstar Supernova - Bitchin

So we open with the catfight from the reality episode, and that pretty much set the tone for the night.

Seems like the rockers are getting a lot more serious about this; thank frikken god.

The Reviews:

Patrice Pike - The Beatles, "Helter Skelter": She did a great job, but I didn't like it. Is that fair? She sang well, though there was a bit too much sneer in her tone, and in her upper lip. She had a great smile on her face the whole time, maybe not so rockin, but well done... Comfortable, into it, relaxed, professional... I just didn't like it that much. It sounded too smoothe, too polished, not raw or screamy like it should be.

Josh Logan - Nirvana, "Come As You Are": Come, here me choke, my nasal voice, as I ruin this song. Come, kill me now, put you out, of my misery. And I swear that I wish I had a gun, yeah I swear that I wish I had a gun, yeah wear that I want to kill this moron, my memory ummm needs to be wiped of this shit. I HOPE he's bottom three, but I think the american idol girlies like him too much.

Storm Large - The Cars, "Just What I Needed": Kick ass tune, cool arrangement, kinda Blink 182, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. She's super hot but her wardrobe.. no. Also masturbating and humping the mike stand... no. Didnt like her performance at all. Quote from JohnOC watching with us "Is this a rock song or a pole dance?". Cool, professional, great vocal power. "Six letters, google", yeah check those pics out. Definitely safe (though not work safe at all).

Lukas Rossi - Rolling Stones, "Let's Spend the Night Together":Uhhhh, okay. He pulls a stones tune, and does a great job on the performance... he's REALLY got the balls and swagger. The problem is, he can't sing the damn song. I mean Mick Jagger is dramatic, but this exceeds Freddie Mercury levels of drama (vocally speaking). Note to rockers, only Freddie Mercury can pull off that level of drama, and he's dead.

Jill Gioia- Free, "All Right Now": Great, competent, gutsy singing. She started off a little wooden on stage, but she got into it real good. Got the balls into it. She has amazing power for such little lungs. Lotta soul and scream for a white girl.

Ryan Star - Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Fortunate Son": Still too slow and too low, but he rocked it. I think maybe he was pushing too hard though. He didnt have fun with it, he looked like he was in pain. The song is supposed to be a satire, not quite so angry. Also felt kinda fake... Not bad, safe, but not what I wanted to hear.

Phil Ritchie - Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit": What the fuck is he doing to that song. GOD HE SUCKS HARD. He DID go out and crush it, and Jason on the Bass didn't hurt, but HE CAN'T NOT SING LIKE AMERICAN FUCKING IDOL. Yeah, it was better, but I want to hear some damn rock and roll.

Dana Andrews - Bon Jovi, "It's My Life": Love the song, again professional, she's got the voice for it... not quite the right energy. A little bit of key in the refrain. She's having an off night. A bit stiff in the performance. Still too country, but not bad. She was forcing it a bit, and her voice broke a couple times. She might end up in the bottom for this one.

Toby Rand - Soul Asylum, "Runaway Train": He can sing, though it was a little flat and pinched in some areas, but he was using entirely the wrong voice for the song. He performed THAT song, much more like it was a harder rock tune, not like the sweet emotional sad song it was. Safe, but not great.

Magni Asgiersson - Stone Temple Pilots, "Plush": Good, not great. Not enough growl, not quite enough bottom. Needed more energy. Good, but not great. He needs to kick more ass on this tune. Move around, get some energy, get the gut goin... He can do MUCH better.

Zayra Alvarez - REM, "Everybody Hurts": Interesting arrangement. I dunno if I like it or not honestly. She didnt do a BAD job, but she was too PJ Harvey here, and not enough gutbucket. She really does have a good voice when she uses it, but that wasn't rock and roll. I think she'll still be bottom three, but it wasn't bad at all. Not right for the band, but I think she can be taught.

Jenny Galt - Incubus, "Drive": Nope. Hiding behind the guitar again. Way too much chickrock. Sad and waily. Gilby said ti best, "Lilith Fair". Maybe bottom three here, maybe not.

Dilana - The Cranberries, "Zombie": I thought she was going to blow it; but she has just enough sweetness for it, and more than enough scream. Maybe too much in the refrain, but cool. Much better fashion choices this time, though that's not saying much. Honestly, she just about nailed it.

Okay so my picks for bottom three are Zayra, Josh, and Phil, but I think maybe the teenage girls of America are going to disagree with me, and go with Zayra, Jenny, and Dana.

Honestly, there were no real outstanding performances except maybe Dilana, and no-one stuck out as particularly bad, except that I REALLLLLLY hate the way Phil and Josh sing.

Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches

Chris here... Yes, this is a "Recipe for REAL Women", because that's what we've decided to call the baking and desserts. The peach concoction here is my recipe, and the baked goods that go with it are Mels.

So, you might have noted the end of season peaches are in. I dunno about you, but I LOVE fresh peaches. Sweet, slightly tart, juicy, with a great texture... It's my third favorite dessert fruit (behind strawberrys and apples, and ahead of pineapples).

Ingredients (for peach filling):

5lbs of slightly under ripe sweet peaches (blanched and peeled)
2 cups of water (more or less. Orange, peach, pinapple, or apple juice can also be used for more flavor)
2 cups of brown sugar, lightly packed (more or less, to taste)
1 cup of bourbon whiskey
1 cup of lemon juice
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4tbsp natural vanilla extract (or more to taste)
3tbsp of cinnamon (to taste)
1tbsp nutmeg
2tsp allspice
2tsp of cloves (optional)
1/2 cup of cornstarch slurry (about 1/4 cup of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of water)

Preparation:

Okay, first step is to blanch your peaches. You want to get a heavy boil going in a pot with enough water to cover a peach or two (don't do too many at a time). Cut a cross in the bottom and top of the peach skin, just deep enough so that you can peel the skin off after the blanching. Dunk the peach in the boiling water and keep it under for 30 seconds, then transfer immediately to an icewater bath. Within a few seconds you should be able to peel the skins right off.

Then pit and section your peaches. If you are using cling peaches, you'll want to slice all the way around the peach down to the pit, then twist and pull apart. Section the peaches by slicing approximately 1/2' thick wedges into the center of the peach. When sectioned, drop into a metal bowl with some lemon juice in it, and coat the slices with the lemon juice (this keeps them fresh looking, but isn't strictly necessary).

Melt the butter in a 4 or 5 quart pot, and add the spices. Cook the spices for maybe 30 seconds, and add the lemon juice, vinegar, and whiskey. Bring it up to a simmer, and then the peach sections. Cook the peaches in the whiskey for about 5 minutes, basically until the alcohol has boiled off. Then add just enough water to cover the peaches by 1/4" or so, and half the brown sugar.

Simmer the peaches until they are lightly softened, then pull them out of the mix, put them in a metal bowl, and put them in the freezer.

Reduce the liquid til it's a thin syrup. Add the rest of the sugar to taste. If the syrup is too thin after the sugar is added (depends on how you want to use it), then thicken with 1/2 the slurry. Cook for five minutes, and test again. If it's still too thin, add the rest of the slurry and cook another five minutes.

If by some miracle, it's STILL too thin, turn the simmer up just a bit and continue reducing on the stove. The issue here is that when you add the peaches back in, they are going to thin things out a bit, so the syrup should really be a little TOO thick.

Add the peaches back in, including the pot liquor collected in the bowl, and stew until the peaches are as soft as you want. Again, this depends on what you are going to do with it. For a preserves, or even better, a cheesecake or ice cream topping, you want so soft as to be disintegrating. For cobbler or pie (or other baked goods), you want them to be just barely fully cooked, because they will cook more in the oven when baked.

Serving Suggestions:

Ice cream. Trust me. Last night I made a cookie based sunday, layered with a layer of the fruit topping, vanilla ice cream, pecans, more fuit topping, and then whipped cream.

You can swirl this through, or pour this over the top of, cheesecake. It's just amazing.

Pipe it into pastry or doughnuts.

Blend it into vanilla yogurt.

Blend it into smoothies.

Blend it into a milkshake with rum, brandy, and butterscotch liqeur... oh yes my yes

Cobbler, very definitely

Pecan Peach pie, even better.

Oh and also, this same topping preparation works with apples, pears, pineapples, and believe it or not, bananas, with slight variations (bananas need a lot more butter, less spice, and less syrupy preparation).

Recipes for the cookie base, and cobbler topping are too come...

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew

So Be It



"It's clear that in the Middle East, no one is sick of the fighting. They have centuries of grudges to resolve, and will continue fighting until they can get over them. And considering that they obviously have no interest in "getting over them," we're stuck with a war that will not end in any forseable [sic] future. It doesn't matter what we bloggers say. It doesn't matter what the President of the United States says. Or the United Nations. Or the usual bloviating gasbag pundits.

When two sides are this dead-set on killing each other, very little can get in the way. "
-- Markos "Kos" Koulitsas
Well, no-one is sick of the fighting, except say... 99% of the jews

He's entirely correct about the grudges bit, and about the nothing anyone says matters bit, but the fact of the matter is, the Israelis have done everything possible, and more than everything reasonable, to have peace.

The so called Palestinians (THERE ARE NO PALESTINIANS, there is no Palestine. Palestine was an arbitrarily created place that only existed between world war 1 and 1948. Most so called Palestinians are either Syrian, Egyptian, or Lebanese), Syrians, and Lebanese muslims who support them, (as well as most of the rest of the worlds muslims who are "supporting" them) are doing everything possible to kill every Jew.

Not a lot of jews, not some jews, not "the jews that are fighting us" or "the jews that are occupying our homeland". They want to kill every jew everywhere.

Yes, that is their goal. They make no bones about it. They don't hide it. They dont obfuscate. They clearly and unequivically state that they will not stop fighting until every jew is dead.

The Israelis just want to eat pizza without being blown up.

The Arabs, and the other muslims around the world that support them, initiated tribal warfare against all Jews world wide during WW2, and intensified this warfare after the world war was over. In fact, WW2 is still being fought, in one small section of the middle east.

I will concede several issues here. The creation of Israel was a blatantly illegal act, in so far as international law exists. The British and Americans basically drew some lines and said "Here jews; we feel guilty because we let 1/3 of you die, so you can have this country. Oh, there are some people here already, but we'll move them out for you".

Of course those people then fought a war against the jews, and they lost. They've been terrorists ever since. The Jews won, the Arabs lost, that was in 1948.

Its been almost 60 years, you lost, get over it. Move on.

And I'll also concede that Israel is often stupid, high handed, arrogant, a poor friend to their allies at times; and that a certain small percentage of Israelis (and other jews for that matter) are bigoted against everyone but other jews.

.......Funny, sounds kind of familiar doesn't it... but I digress.

But for the most part, Israel is just another democracy; and has been since 1948, if a vaguely socialist democracy with some overtly religionist elements.

The rest of the arab (and most of the rest of the muslim) world are essentially tribalist governments. They are almost all dictatorships or hardly different from "monarchies", really nothing more than typical third world tribal structures given guns and money. They have all pretty much decided that it was easier to focus their peoples anger and hatred over their corrupt axploitative governments and shitty lives against the jews, than it was to actually... oh I dunno.. govern properly maybe?

Tribal warfare is the bloodiest there is. It's a gang fight on a national, or even semiglobal scale; and it goes on until all of one side is dead; or utterly, humiliatingly, crushingly defeated.

The Arabs, and the muslims who support them, are a failed culture, propping themselves up with oil money, and an evil "religion" turned into a death cult. They hate and resent their failure; and their cultural and social imperatives force them to obscure and refuse to acknowledge it; but people can see with their own eyes how bad it is. They need a scapegoat, and like all throughout history, the jews have been very convenient scapegoats; as is America, and western culture for that mater.

When is the rest of the world going to wake up to the fact that the Arab world has declared war on EVERYONE ELSE; that it's a war to the death, and that Israel is fighting the front line...

Oh and that front line jsut happens to be IN THEIR HOMES.

Yes, America is on the front line too, but that front line is 8000 miles away from the majority of us. We've got 200,000 of our men and women at risk over there right now, out of 300,000,000. Israel has EVERYONE, all 7,000,000 of them at risk, every day.

7 million people, 8000 square miles (almost exactly the same population and size as New Jersey funnily enough), and in excess of 1 BILLION people trying to kill every single one of you (or supporting those who are). Someone tell me how the Israelis are wrong here?

No wait, don't, because they ARE RIGHT.

Like I said, Kos got some of it right, the Arabists and Islamists won't rest until every Jew is dead, and there's not much that can get in the way. Well, I don't think we as a nation are going to let that happen. I don't think that I as an INDIVIDUAL will let it happen beofre I'm dead.

Israel WILL NOT BE DESTROYED.

The Jews will not be destroyed.

Not while I live.

Not while America is still America.

By their choice, there will be no peace anywhere, never mind just the middle east, until every Arabist, and Islamist is dead.

So be it

I think I've mentioned my philosophy on this before



It pretty well matches the above. Yes, you may have a right to burn the flag, just don't do it around me, or I'mna get mightily pissed, and I might jsut excercise MY rights... and my lefts too. Do it on my property, or with my personally owned (or publicly owned) flag, and you WILL be assaulted.

Ja, genau. Fickt diesen scheisskopf Lichtblau

Monday, July 17, 2006

One of my favorite pieces...

Talking about the new Anita Blake book has brought me around to thinking about, and then of course to playing, one of my favorite pieces of Classical Music ever, Camille Saint-Saens "Danse Macabre".

The opening 3 minutes are both playful, and delightfully creepy; and are meant to invoke images of the devil playing a fiddle to riase the dead of the graveyard to dance for him on Halloween night. The piece then transitions into a carnival atmosphere, but there is always a faint undercurrent of menace to it.

I dunno about y'all, but listening to it, I can see it. The pieces makes the little hairs on the back of my neck rise when it's played right.

The piece has also been used in countless movies and TV shows as background music for wel... the macabre. Most recently I remember it being used in the background of the Buffy episode "Hush", where all the peoples voices were silenced. It was PERFECT.

You can get a free copy of the piece from wikipedia, but that particular version doesnt quite have the impact of some others I've heard. I think the best recording of it is from the Royal Philharmonic, as conducted by Charles DuToit (the 1991 re-release is technically far better than the 1980 recording).

Next up on the playlist, Carl Orffs Carmina Burana, followed by a full set of Queen favs to get me through the rest of the day (not in this order):
  1. Seven Seas of Rhye
  2. Hammer to fall
  3. Tie Your Mother Down
  4. Somebody to Love
  5. Show Must Go On
  6. I Can't Live With You
  7. Headlong
  8. I'm going slightly mad
  9. Play the Game
  10. Bicycle Race
  11. Fat Bottomed Girls
  12. One Vision
  13. A Kind of Magic
  14. Who Wants to Live Forever
  15. Gimme the Prize
  16. Princes of the Universe
  17. Sheer Heart Attack
  18. We Are the Champions
  19. We Will Rock You
  20. Bohemian Rhapsody
  21. Keep yourself alive
  22. Stone Cold Crazy
  23. Now I'm Here
  24. Killer Queen


Nothing like a little Queen to get my energy up; ESPECIALLY the highlander suite from "a kind of magic.

The Business



Click for full sized, it's worth it.

For those who find the text a bit small, here it is:

  1. What the Customer Described
  2. What the Project Manager Understood
  3. How the Analyst Designed it
  4. How the Engineer Programmed it
  5. What the Consultant Specified
  6. How the Project was Documented
  7. What was Installed
  8. What the Customer was Invoiced for
  9. How it was Serviced
  10. What the Customer Really Needed in the First Place

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why did I Bother?



So I just finished reading "Micah", in theory the second to last current novel in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. I say in theory, because calling this a novel would be far more than generous.

Oh it measures out to 250 pages; and I'm a fast reader; but one generally doesn't finish a 250 page novel (barely more than a novella really), in 90 minutes. There is basically one slightly long short stories worth of content here.

This was maybe 1/4 of a book, maybe a bit less (call it three chapters); stretched out to the minimum length for a mass market paperback release. If it had been a standard print hardcover, I don't think it would have been much more than 100 pages. I'm assuming she wrote this for contractual requirements, or as a little side money, because "Danse Macabre", which just came out a few days ago (and is on its merry way thanks to Amazon), is a 500 page standard print hardcover, about standard for the series.

Not only was the content thin and light, it was even more smut than usual. The series started off as a straight up detective fantasy; but as the supernatural romance genre got going good; and as Hamilton herself got more into the "Scene", the books have just gotten dirtier and dirtier.

Of the 250 pages, I'd guess 1/3 were sex scenes, and another third were Anitas internal emotional monologue; with what little was left going to the story. The entire story itself consists of less than one full day for gods sakes; and 90% of that day is fucking, or flying from St. Louis to Philly.

I don't know if Hamilton has just decided to keep the pot boiling for as much cash as she can milk; if she doesn't care; or if, as I'm hoping, Danse Macabre will actually be of the quality last seen in book 9, "Obsidian Butterfly".

Essentially with the introduction of the "Ardeur", an the character of Micah, the series has become nothing more than sexual fantasy fulfillment. Not only that, but in the four books I've read since (Danse... will be Five) the story line has only advanced a few months, and had essentially zero real development, or much of anything really to hold it together.

Narcissus in Chains was at least an interesting story, and had some good characters; plus the old Anita was still in control there, but Cerulean Sins and Incubus Dreams both only moved the story a few weeks, and were also almost entirely sexual.

I'm hoping for more here, I'm hoping for more guns, more character development, more story, less fucking, and less sulking.

Give us back the Anita Blake we love Laurell, you'll sell just as many books with the good Anita as with the trashy romance novel crap, believe me.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lawful Open Carry

I've mentioned before that I carry openly almost every day. This is true, but it's not as ... I dunno, brazen... as you may think; at least most days (an openly carried 1911 is generally fairly obvious).

See, In Arizona, lawful open carry means having more than 1/2" square of the holster (excluding the belt loops) or weapon exposed; presuming a conventional holster (that includes all IWB and pocket holsters etc... but excludes pouches, fanny packs, and holsters specifically intended to disguise a gun, like a PagerPal).

So with a small gun (in this case a Kel-Tec P3AT), in a simple pocket sheath, lawful open carry looks something like this:



And from the side:



Now that's just a plain T-Shirt and jeans, no special effort made to conceal anything, no special carry pants etc...

This is what it looks like, even with the t-shirt pulled up:


I've never had anyone even notice it who wasn't specifically looking for it.

Even with a slightly larger gun, and a loosely bloused shirt, you have lawful open carry; as with my Kahr K9 in a Galco Scout (shown here with a compact 1911)



isn't going to scare the neighbors. Yes, it's visible to someone who's looking for it, but most folks will never notice. Even better, without a cover garment, it's a HELL of a lot quicker to get into action.

UPDATE: For those of you who commented, "Why don't you jsut get a CCW", I HAVE one. I simply choose to carry openly much of the time, as is my right. I don't worry about how well concealed I am most of the time; unless I'm in a situation where carrying a weapon would be socially unacceptable (and where I'm willing to accept that limitation).

An odd day yesterday...

First, I got no sleep at all, because the dog kept alerting on something. I never could figure out what. Then the kids kept banging the walls in their sleep, then I had to be up at 6:30 anyway...

Overall not a great night.

So I mange to have a relatively productive morning, when I get a not very good phonecall from my mother.

Apparently she's been seizing all moning, and several times a day for the past few days; she thinks she may have had another stroke, and she needs me to take her to the hospital. S

he wont call an ambulance, she wont go to emergency after the last few experiences, she's arranged to meet her doctor directly; and she wont get my brother to take her because they are fighting (she's finally asked him to move out of the house).

Ok, so I cancel my meetings for the rest of the day, head up to my mothers (she's about 45 minutes away), and I go in to help her out to the car.

Now, I left the car running, with the doors unlocked, and the keys in the ignition. When I returned to the car maybe 2 minutes later, the car was still running with the keys in the ignition, but the doors were no longer unlocked.

Apparently the passive antitheft system automatically locks the doors after a minute or so, EVEN IF THE KEYS ARE IN THE IGNITION.

Even better, my phone, my PDA, and my wallet (with my AAA card) are all locked inside; and I havent had time to go down to the Ford dealership and have them reset the door code (the door handle has a keypad to unlock the car when it does this).

The car is now running in 110 degree heat, with the AC going full blast, on a full tank of gas, and no cooling air going through the radiator.

And of course, my mother still needs to get to the hospital right away.

So anyway, I call AAA, they send someone out, my brother will meet them; and I borrow the BMW that I'm so pissed about him just buying, and take my mother to her doctor.

It turns out she's alright, it was a medication imbalance that was corrected, and I was able to take her home in less than an hour. AAA had come and gone, and had no problem getting into the car. Even better, my brother hadnt stolen anything from me.

So I manage to get home, and I'm so exhausted I can barely move, but I still cant manage to fall asleep until after midnight last night.

Some mornings it's just not worth chewing though the leather straps eh...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rockstar Supernova - Week 2 elimination

Okay, so I was one off on the bottom three, it was Chris, Zayra and Jill, not Josh. I'm still holding out for the slow death by genital torture for Josh; and I think the Jill thing is more an expression of hatred for Hole and Courtney Love, than it is of Jill.

I missed the show because I was at my regular wednesday poker, and didnt see the encore; but I'm surprsed it was Toby reprising "Somebody Told Me"

Jill Gioia- Evanescence, "Bring Me To Life": Okay, the girl can sing; and although the courtney love thing sucked I didnt think she deserved to be in the botttom three. Thisng isn't right for her, but she had to show that vocal range, and it certainly did that.

Zayra Alvarez - The Kinks, "You Really Got Me": Okay, for some reason she chooses to do the same song over again. Yeah, she does a better job (much), but still not very good. Honestly I thought her performance was the worst of the three, but she had the guts to say "Okay I screwed that one up last night, lets do it again, but RIGHT this time".

Chris Pierson - Tonic, "If You Could Only See": Damn, he started off so well, and then all of a sudden, he sucked again. I think the guy COULD sing if he got some good coaching. Zayra is worse, but the band hates him more; and honestly he IS the worst performer, in general, the least professional certainly.

So, unsurprisingly it's Chris... I suppose Zayra actually does have some talent if someone could get her head out of her ass, and Jill didnt belong in the bottom three anyway, so no real surprise there.

So, who are my picks to go out next time? Weeeeelllll.... I think Phil, Josh, and Zayra are the worst. Phil and Josh can both sing, but they sing pop music and do silly things on stage. Zayra is just nuts. She could be good but she's too crazy.

Jenny, Patrice, Toby, Ryan, and Lukas, are all swimming around in the middle, and highly dependent on song slection. I think both Toby and Lukas could do better, but we'll see. I dont really know what to make of Dilana but if she gets the right songs shes higher than the middle, if she get the wrong songs she's not just lower, she's out.

Magni, Storm, Dana, and Jill are definitely the most talented, though how much ROCK Dana and Jill have in them is questionable.

Unless something weird happens with song selection, or personality clashes/freakouts etc... I'd predict at this point that it's going to come down to Magni and Storm.

Making an entrance....

A reader on Kims site asked, how would you go about picking out a secure door, or making an existing doorway more secure?

This is an issue on MANY folks houses; they may have hollow core doors fom the 70s, or old checked and split doors; or just not very good quality doors in general. Even with a well cosntructed home, with a good door, how can you be sure your door is secure? A good, secure entryway is one of your first lines of defense, especially against a dynamic home invasion.

So how DO you go about securing your entryways?

The first step is to choose a secure door itself. I personally prefer a solid hardwood paneled door, but a solid core metal skinned door works as well, or better (if properly constructed, like a 30 minute rated fire door). Hollow core doors of any type (other than security and firedoors) are an iffy security proposition, though if they are properly constructed they may be adequate. Do not choose any main entry door with a large amount of glass, or any glass at all below eye level.

If you are purchasing a prehung door unit with attached door jamb, you want to pick one with very solid jamb construction, including reinforcing strapping around the miter joints, and if possible screwed, or otherwise mechanically reinforced joints. Also, if the option is available, pick out a three or four hinge door with VERY SOLID, heavy hinges, rather than a two hinge door.

Next, the strongest door in the world won’t help you if the door frame could be kicked in by a 12 year old in a wheel chair (like most apartment complexes for example).

When you kick or ram a deadbolted door in, most often it isn’t the door that breaks, it’s the door frame. A man with a 5 pound sledge can usually take out your door jamb with one to three blows; and it makes surprisingly little noise to your neighbors.

Note: A good improvised door buster is a 10-20lb exposed metal dumb bell. You swing it in the normal arc for your arm and make a good solid hit, and most door frames will splinter; plus it's not as suspicious as a sledge hammer,

The best way to deal with this, is to reinforce the door frame as much as possible. This is a bit easier if you are installing a new door and jamb; but for a existing doorjamb the only way to do this without tearing out your door trim, drywall, or plaster, is with screws.

Note: If you have standard framing that’s up to code, this will work out just fine; unfortunatley sometimes contracters skimp and the screws wont have much to bite into. Even then, this will help, but not as much.

First thing, get yourself a about 3 dozen 4” (or 6” if you have a house built before the 70s) countersunk flathead screws.

On the hinge side, you are going to place 2 screws above and below each hinge (if you have a 3 hinge door, so much the better). Drill the pilot holes approximately 1/3 the way in from each edge of the wood, and 1/2” to 1” from the hinge. If you have the room to slightly vertically stagger them (1/2” to 1"), so much the better, because it will reduce the tendency for the wood to check or split. Oh and it’s important that you not tighten the screws down so much that you crush the wood, or warp the frame.

On the top of the frame, put 2 screws 4” in from either side, and 2 more in the center of the jamb.

On the entry side, you will want to put two screws somewhere about 4” below the top edge of the door frame, two about four inches above the bottom, two about 2” above your deadbolt strike plate, two about 2” below your door pull strike plate. and if there is enough room to do so without weakening the wood, two in between your dead bolt and door pull.

Note: you may need to use a stud finder to find where jackstuds and doublers are. Screw into doublers where possible, but avoid screwing into the endgrain of jackstuds (it can cause the wood to split).

Next, check the strike plates of your deadbolt and door pull, and the hinges themselves. On the deadbolt they should be at least 1/8” thick, and secured with 4” screws; or if they are decorative brass, they should have a thick hardedned steel underplate secured with the aforementioned long screws. The hinges should be secured to the jamb side with at least two 4” screws per hinge, one at the top and bottom of each hinge (some hinge plates have up to six screw points, it’s not necessary they all be long screws)

Also, your deadbolts should be secured through the door with long sturdy screws, and they should have a cut/drill shield. It’s preferable that your door pulls also have these features, but not absolutely necessary.

Alright, now that your doorframe is at least halfway reinforced (more on this later), you need to spread the load a bit. Enough force directed at the deadbolt area, and it’s going to splinter, no matter how well it’s reinforced, because by default, the deadbolt and the door pull are the only points of contact on the entry side of the door; and all the force of a blow gets focused onto that 1” bar. The next best thing you can do to keep your door secure, is to add locking bars on the top and bottom to spread that load out. Vertical bars extending into the floor and top jamb are better, but harder to install and less attractive. Horizontal are weaker, and require more reinforcing, but generally easier to install. You can also install a bar on the top of the door, and then place a security cleat into the floor. Bars that are mounted on the walls and slide into pockets or loops on the door can be more attractive, and also are often stronger. Look for types that anchor entirely through the door, with a decorative screw head showing on the outside skin of the door.

If you’re REALLY serious, you can add another pair of deadbolts to the top and bottom of the door, lockable from the outside (they can all be keyed the same), or add blind or keyed yale locks to the same spots; but at that point your door is more secure than your wall, so really what’s the point.

If you are installing a new door and jamb, or are going to be doing any kind of trim, paint, drywall, or plaster work around your door frame, you should take this opportunity to screw in (not nail in) metal strapping to the door jams and framing. Strong hinges and a good deadbolt secured as described above go a long way, but metal strapping really seals the deal, in terms of keeping your door jamb attached to your house.

The first step here, is to pull the door jamb trim from the jamb, and then nail in some thin galvanized sheetmetal strapping vertically along the edges of the jamb. This will go a HUGE way towards keeping your door in place, even if they take a sledge to your deadbolt area. For extra security, then screw in a relatively thin piece of angle iron or plate extending 4” above the deadbolt, to 4” below the door pull. Depending on how thick you go, you may have to slightly relieve the back edge of the door trim. Even if you dont use the plate, screw the strapping down in the same locations you would the plate, and this will help immensely.

NOTE: Be careful in your screw placement, not to weaken the wood. Screws should always be at least 3/4” from each other, and preferably further.

If you are going further and replacing drywall around the door frame, do the above PLUS, take the opportunity to install some frame doublers (standard studs cut to go up against the existing framing, thus doubling the thickness) in the spaces around your door jamb; and drill into the doublers through the door jamb using the longest screws you can (in some areas this is standard building practice, and may be code, in others it may not be). Then, in the same spots you’ll be extending the reinforcing plate to, take strapping material, and use it to literally strap the jamb to the house framing.

If you do all this reinforcing, the only way someone can get into your house is through a window, or a wall; and if your exterior walls are concrete block like mine… It’s kinda hard to move quickly through a window carrying your stereo.

Finally, get a 120 or 160 degree wide angle lens door viewer; and put a decent light in front of your door. Also trim back any foliage or remove and obstructions from around your door that could conceal an assailant. You’d be amazed at just how far to the sides you can see with a good wide angle door viewer. THis is also why I didnt mention a chain lock; I strongly recommend against them. Even the best chainlock can be broken with a good kick. A good viewer should let you know whether to open the door or not; but if you must have an entry limiting device (if you want to pass mail through a locked door or summat), I recommend getting a hotel bar, and anchoring it completely through the door; and through the door frame with 2” or longer screws.

The best part about all this though? Its CHEAP. The screws are about $5 a box, and the metal strapping is only a few cents per foot. You can fully secure an existing door for under $50, including the cost of the door viewer (about $20) and locking bars (about $10 each), assuming you already have a decent dead bolt lockset (add $30 to $50 if you don’t).

Of course that still leaves your windows as security holes, but breaking a window makes a lot of noise, and as I said before, it’s kind of hard to move through a window quickly. Put screamer alarms on all your windows, and keep a phone, and a loaded weapon at your bedside, and you should have enough time to defend yourself appropriately.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Baseline Rapist and Self Defense

From Mel:

People in the Phoenix area are more cautious than usual these days. Phoenix bears the unenviable distinction of having three serial killers on the loose, and despite 24 hour police investigations and a new $100K reward for information these animals are still out there somewhere. Two of them are linked to two series of random shootings, and one is the serial rapist and murderer referred to as the Baseline Rapist for his tendency to commit crimes along Baseline Road.

Now I'm not sure how other women feel about such things, but I would much rather be murdered outright than raped and murdered. Sure another person taking your life is not a good thing, but for them to take away your dignity as well.... that's a bit much. On my scale of Creatures I Despise, rapists rank up there with child abusers and pedophiles, way above your average random shooter. Rapists that then murder should be tortured to death quite slowly, starting with paper cuts to the genitalia they have used to commit the crimes. But that's irrelevant in this case....

What amazes me is that this rapist, who (unlike the random shooters) has to come so very CLOSE to his victims, has not come across a woman with a concealed firearm yet. Or even a grasp of self defense technique. There is a serious problem here, and it's not just a sicko out for rape and murder. Why should women have to lock themselves up at night in the middle of a Phoenix summer, not even risking walking their dogs? I understand it's a safety measure, but I can think of two more measures which would be much more effective and long-lasting.

Every woman, and every man needs to be armed. Every adult capable of operating a firearm safely, accurately, and with common sense in a crisis needs to be carrying. Every adult NOT capable of doing so for WHATEVER reason needs to learn basic self defense, awareness, and evasion techniques. Every child as well, as much as their age and ability allows. The ONLY reason these animals get past their first victims is because their victims were unable to stop them. Hiding doesn't work; there is always going to be an avaible victim somewhere on the streets of the city at night out of necessity. Not everyone works 9-5, and not everyone has transportation to their own doorstep. Just because that person isn't you doesn't mean it doesn't affect you. When a city is gripped in fear it affects EVERYONE.

So do yourself a favor, and your loved ones. Buy your S.O. a firearm and teach them how to use it safely. Get your concealed carry license, and encourage your loved ones to get theirs. Sign your kids up for self defense courses, be it basic classes or advanced martial arts. Any self-respecting dojo teaches their students how to escape headlocks and other physical restraint; a rapist who can't catch you can't rape you.

And most of all, don't let these animals stop you from living. While I hope it never happens, and I don't enter unsafe areas for undue cause, I pity the idiot who would try to rape me. If he somehow survives the gunshot wounds and manages to kill me, he would be readily recognizable by the missing pieces of flesh I have taken off. Just because I know the rapists are out there doesn't mean that I hide in fear. It only takes one armed potential victim to stop a spree and save the next person. That's more than worth the cost and effort of arming yourself, and everyone you know.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

Heh, Saltburger

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rockstar Supernova - Kickin it up and breakin it down

Ok so the band decided it was "bust everyone down a notch" day. If you didn't bring it hard today, you were trashed.

Thank frikken god.

Overall a lot more juice in the performances, but the just don't seem to have "IT" yet.

The Reviews:

Magni Asgiersson - The Who, "My Generation": MUCH MUCH Better this time. He had great stage presence, solid vocals, not QUITE enough ball kicking, but good. The band dug it, the audience dug it, he's a complete pro. He's definitely safe

Jenny Galt - Soft Cell, "Tainted Love": Boring, low energy opening, overly campy, vibrato monster into what was supposed to be a kick ass bridge, but really kinda sucked. American Idol grade performance. I wonder if she can actually hold a note for more than a second or so.

Jill Gioia- Hole, "Violet": Good Courtney love immitation, 'cept Jill can actually sing not just scream. Jason actually looks like he's in terrible pain listening to this. Honestly I HATE this song so I can't fairly judge it; but as far as it goes she performed it well. She had unGODLY stage energy and craziness, but she was creepy in the courtney love impersonation thing.

Zayra Alvarez - The Kinks, "You Really Got Me": Flat, out of key, nasally, screamy, she needs about three dozen cookies dipped in bacon grease... What the HELL was she thinking picking that song. Gilby absolutely trashed her, but she went right back at him. Tommy lee jsut loves her ass (which is I admit, worth loving). Bottom Three, 100%.

Chris Pierson - Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out": He just can't do it. He isn't professional, and he's shouting much more than singing. He ALMOST had it in the speedie section, but no. Really he just doesnt get it. Bottom three without doubt.

Dilana - Johnny Cash, "Ring Of Fire": SACRILIGE!!!!!! Cash mixed with indian hippy music. Thing is, she can DO Johnny Cash well, she should have done a straight version. I dunno... The band seems to have liked it, it was cool, but sooo wrong... Oh and way too much metal in her face.

Josh Logan - Creed, "With Arms Wide Open": Ok, he deserves to be cruicified just for the song choice, but the rest was more than worthy. Honestly, did he think he was on American Idol? Auditioning to be backup singer for Clay Aiken? The boy band refugee syndrome continues. If there was any justice he'd be castrated in public right now.

Phil Ritchie - Tonic, "If you could only see": The opening sucked, he funked it up and used the glissondo way to much. Way too low keyed, way too low tempod. Better than last week, probably kept out of the bottom three, but it's another popstar performance. Overacting a bit. NO ROCK in this boy. Jasons advice "Plant your feet and CRUSH IT" works for me.

Storm Large - Cheap Trick, "Surrender": Ok, that was pretty cool. Started off great, didn't QUITE have the range for it in the middle, but she good energy, and good grunt. They actually speeded this one up, which is saying something because the original is blazing fast. Oh and I should mention once agian the house band kicks ass. Maybe a little too much ham and cheese there. Seriously though, am I the only one who thinks this chick belongs in pro-wrestling... in a thong?

Patrice Pike - Nirvana, "Heart Shaped Box": She blew the opening, but picked it up pretty quick. The arrangement didnt quite work. She got the scream alright, but not loud or loose enough. Honestly just like last year, nirvana is a choice best left alone. The songs just can't be done properly. A competent performance, and she had good energy and she looked like a pro. She's safe.

Lukas Rossi - Coldplay, "Don't Panic":Okay, so he can do Coldplay, unsurprising considering he is an emo bitch boy, but it wasn't bad. Wrong song for the band, but he pulled it off, if a bit weirdly. The messianic wandering around was a bit much. When he picked it up after the bridge it was actually good. I still think the guy has J.D. disease. Oh and Dave really is the Paula Abdul bitch in this show; and Jason really has the good advice.

Ryan Star - The Rolling Stones, "Jumping Jack Flash": Too slow, pitched too low, wasy too country, vibrato monster... This guy needs to pick a Bush tune and jsut ROCK it. I bet if he sang glycerine he'd kick ass. The performance was a little weak, all the way til the end when he finally loosened up and kicked it up. Probably not bottom three, but maybe... I dunno I think he deserves another chance.

Dana Andrews - Steppenwolf, "Born To Be Wild": Ok, for a song that a woman should NEVER sing (unless she's Joan Jett), she did a good job. Still too much country, too smoothe, not "wild" enough, but great swagger, good stage presence, very sexy. She worked the crowd well, especially comin out of the bridge. I'd put her performance here as just under Magnis for quality.
Toby Rand - The Killers, "Somebody Told Me": HARD HARD song. Too nasal, but not BAD energy. Way less boy band, good speed, not quite enough energy, not smoothe enough in the chorus, still a bit wooden. WAY better than last week, enough to keep him safe, good potential to work with maybe, we'll see. Tommy really does not like this guy.

Okay so my picks for bottom three are Zayra, Chris, and Josh. Zayra is frikken nuts, and Chris and Josh just plain SUCK SUCK SUCK.

Josh should be tortured to death by being locked in a small room with Zayra, a large amount of meth, and a dull backscratcher.