The cast and crew of The Real Life: Pflugerville is doing fairly well. It wouldn't be as exciting without the daily, some times hourly drama we all endure whether it be jobs, family, friends, relationships, children, money, health or ghosts. In fact, if you feel you're in a rut and need something new, I'll have the house mates at the Four Pines carve a spot out for you and you can come hang for a while. I guaranty that inside of a week, you'll have either found peace, the bottom of a few bottles or the inside of a padded cell...or if you're lucky, all three. (That's what we call Tuesday.)
I read back to the beginning of the year to see what I was worried about back then. It's hard to say what kind of year it's been by doing such a retrospective. On the one hand, if your concerns seem trifling it was probably a hard year and you may be surprised you survived at all. On the other hand, it could have seemed like a walk in the park and you may look back fondly as the year you made it, or the year you righted the ship. 2008 was a roller coaster of a year. I always seem to be saying I'm glad the year is over, but in truth it's just an arbitrary number of days and what has happened in the last few months will carry over into 2009. Strife, happiness and reconstruction don't care about seasons or the calendar. The best this time of year can offer is a respite and a chance to take a deep breath before putting your head back under water. That's why we force the cheer and gifts and food and songs, it's like a panicked realization that school's going to start again, that your vacation is short lived, that the pause life seems to take is about to disappear.
That's of course a secular point of view. Even as a non-practicing Catholic I can appreciate the humanity surrounding the end of the year, the desire to start clean, the push through till Spring, the ensconcing oneself in the love of family. Americans may have turned the ancient Pagan holiday into a commercial racket couched in the love for the birth of the messiah du jour, but Yuletide blessings aside, we can all appreciate the changing of the leaves, the start of spring and the warming of our faces and hands. Depending on what you believe, spring came and went and the winters were harsh for 6000x as many years as the central Christian figure has been part of Christmas. The candle oil may have lasted eight days, but humanity has been trying to keep fires lit for much longer. The cycle of light and dark is ingrained on our minds at a genetic level.
So when you see someone who says, "Merry Christmas" or at the most benign, "Happy Holidays," please try to remember that they are just people reaching out into the cold winds and ice of winter wanted to share the cold in order to warm it. Challenging their beliefs isn't going to make your presents any richer, your hot chocolate any warmer or your family any less the drunk idiots. And no one is wishing you a random-holiday-greeting because they want you on their team next Sunday or think you've been overlooked for greatness, they're just hoping you as a human being are safe, happy and want for not.
I'm on about two hours sleep as I write this. That's another experience you should try, get no sleep and then write. I ended up erasing paragraphs about football and planetary exploration and Hollywood's shortcomings. What's here is the most lucid bits I could save. If this is any indication on how 2009 will play out...
...I can't fucking wait.
Happy Holidays, Y'all!
Ms. A and her mom drove out to see her and see what they could do, if anything, to help. (A side trip to a haunted state hospital in a place called Yorktown will have to be told by Ms. A later. Look for it in her new book, Ah, Fuck I'm Crazy.) When they got there, she was in and out of sleep and remembering who was there. Very average affects of the stroke were evident such as slurred speech, and the loss of movement in her right arm and leg. She wasn't eating much.
It was sad for Ms. A and her mom, as it would be for anyone.
So they went out again the next day and I'd mentioned to Ms. A that it was good that it was a left brain stroke, those tend to recover quicker and easier than right brain strokes. I don't know why, I can't remember - something about the right emotional/egocentric brain prohibiting awareness of what it considers a lost limb. I also knew that most recovery from a stroke comes in the first few days if not hours. While she was there we shared text messages because voice service was spotty. She asked if there was anything they could to help her, any therapy they could suggest to the doctors.
Maybe I should stop and say why she kept asking me questions. Over the summer a coworker had lent me two books. Both were about neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change the way its mapped) and while both focused on different aspects of the cause of remapping or the attempted behavioral therapy that could be applied, both were solid on the premise that the mind does have a measure of control over the physical landscape of the brain. Volition can cause change in the pathways of your brain, concentration and applied will can cause new pathways to be formed even around damaged areas. It also isn't the age of the person that limits this malleability. Rote and the right methods can enable anyone to overcome a trauma - if you can learn something new, you are altering your cortical mapping.
I know, blah blah blah. So after she asked if there was anything they could do on their own, I suggested something I remembered about the use of mirrors. I have to say now that it wasn't even a stroke patient I'd read about, but an amputee. The Phantoms in the Brain book had studies where patients with phantom limb would have severe pain from a clenched fist in their non-existent hand. Being unable to send a motor relay to that hand, the sensory receptors were constantly firing saying the fist was clenched. They still don't know why it happens; areas around the "closed off" part of the brain trying to exert control, nerve endings damaged in the trauma stuck in a state of pain, etc. But an experimental procedure was to take a mirror and situate it in front of the patient and then ask them to move both arms. The trick is the person sees their good arm move and its reflection looks like the other arm. The brain understands it's sending a signal to the arm, the eyes confirm that and thus the brain thinks there's a working arm. What this did was to allow the patient to clench his fist and then release it and the phantom painful clench disappeared. (It came back after a while, but successive sessions allowed him to control the pain and eventually it was gone.)
So, I suggested finding a mirror and putting in front of her and tell her to move both arms. She'll see "both" arms move, the brain is tricked into thinking that arm moves and is able to re-map that area accordingly. The biggest issue you run into with trying to recover motion from a stroke is the patient's understanding of their body image. If they logically think they have no control over their arm, it takes a monstrous amount of will to overcome that. The brain is a stubborn bastard.
However, I think what they did in the hospital room was backwards from what I had envisioned. (The danger of 140 character physical therapy.) I had thought if you put the mirror so the person saw their good arm and its reflection, that if you said to lift both arms and you see both arms move, that's where the trickery comes from. However, they blocked off her good arm and made two bad arms. Then placed objects in front of her and told her to grab them. She tried to use her left arm and they kept holding it down, but seeing the reflection of her left arm and the comprehension that THAT arm should work, she was able to start moving her right arm. By the time they left, she could slide pennies around on the table tray, pick them up, point her toes, move her feet, flap her wings and flip Ms. A off.
She said it gave her hope that she'd get back to how she was. She was so excited and worked up that the nurse came in to check her heart monitor, thinking she was either having problems or the battery on the machine was going out. When she saw what was going on, she said to limit it to just a few minutes at a time so she can rest.
It made me feel good that I'd read these books. I enjoyed them so much but have had to sheepishly cast down my eyes and shuffle my feet while getting blank stares from people . I might as well be saying I like the feel of pudding on my skin but only when someone reads Russian poetry to me in the dark. It's weird and nerdy but dammit I like learning and how often does this happen where you read something for fun and it ends up helping someone.
While I was reading them, a coworker was telling me about her husband and his dyslexia and I'd suggested looking up some behavioral therapy. There have been cases where they take children with the disorder and slow down every day speech. Dyslexia isn't your brain's inability to see correctly, it's a hearing problem. At some point during infancy, when your brain is sorting new sights and sounds, if there's any hearing problem (early ear infections for example) there could be a problem in hearing what speech sounds like. Sounds come in packets, let's say 2-3ms long. It's how you learn to talk, you hear a sound and repeat it. When you get the hang of it, it's a solid pathway and you don't have to think so hard about it. When there's damage to this pathway, shorter sounds are lost. If your brain can only handle sounds greater than 5ms, you lose shorter sounds such as quick consonants. Since you can't hear the sounds, you don't have a frame of reference when that sound is applied to a visual symbol; letters. The word may be C-A-T, but all you hear is "at." Your brain does its best (being the stubborn bastard it is) to fill in the gap with like-sounding letters or even create its own.
They've been able to successfully treat this (I think something bug-fuck crazy like 90% of the time) by playing slowed recordings. The pitch is the same, but the recording has been stretched so patients finally can hear the sounds they may not have heard before. Pairing these new sounds with their corresponding symbols, helps the brain remap and inside of a couple months, the dyslexia is diminished if not cured. Isn't that freakin' awesome? Come on! After all you've heard about medical advances with surgeries and drugs and lengthy psychoanalytical therapies, isn't it great to know how simple some of these treatments are? Who knows how long Ms. A's aunt could have gone without being able to regain her hand. It could have recovered on its own, or she could have sat with a useless arm for the rest of her life. I think it's great we were able to help her.
I'm not letting this go to my head. I was glad to help, but I realize I'm just a messenger. I didn't do the treatment. I didn't go to medical school and become a neurophysiologist. I didn't write the books. I'm also not condoning applying everything you read to your own problems, especially if they are possibly life-threatening. I still feel bad that her heart rate and blood pressure went up - adding a coronary to the list would have been a tragedy. But what I do recommend, and none too highly, is to read. There's a brilliant world out there in which people are discovering new things every minute. Every once in a while you should put down the mysteries or romance or fantasy novels and read something scientific just to mix it up. A closed mind is an empty one.
Besides, you'll never know if what you learn could help make someone's life better.
The debate is, the state capital building in Olympia, WA had an Atheist sign up saying there are no gods or angels or demons and at this time of year remember that religion is bad. Someone stole it, a few days later it shows up. Now the pundits are all over this as part of their War on Christmas and I'm frankly a little tired of it. We've gone from subverting a spiritual time of year into a commercial enterprise, to turning that commercial enterprise into beltway, cable news talking points. Doesn't anyone want to just drink egg nog, sleep in and play with toys? Doesn't anyone want to ensconce themselves in the warmth of family and friendship, a few tokens of thankfulness and sing about the promise of spring? There are so many things to like about this time of year that I have a hard time understanding why people get so enraged.
Plus, let's be honest. Pagan does not equal Atheist. Atheist is literally someone who has no belief system that involves gods or goddesses. They are not Pagans. Pagans have all sorts of gods and goddesses. They have two big ones in fact. Solstice to a Pagan is the returning of the Sun King born from the Goddess. Is that something an Atheist is going to get behind? "Sorry, no gods for me thanks. Accept those green ones over there, yeah those. With the antlers."
This belies a larger point that we've become a collection of squabbling rodents, too focused on what's in our hands to realize that we're failing at being a sentient race - maybe the only one. Is it really so hard to look someone in the face and just be amazed at how different they are and how wonderful that is? Is it so hard to know that for every worry, idea, sorrow, joy or pain you've felt, that the very next person you see has had the same feelings? And that every person they see does too. And every one they see and so on until you understand that there is not one person on this Earth that does not at some point feel pain, sadness, loneliness, companionship or appreciation? What kind of existence must it be to look at your neighbor or coworker or random stranger and just be appalled at how much they aren't like you. We need to go back to the old definition of strange, that of remarkable, unusual, extraordinary or curious and worry less about unfamiliar and unaccustomed. Different is exciting. Different is new and fun. If we as a species feared the new so much, we'd have never left the caves, taken the boats across the seas, strapped ourselves to a bomb and shot it into space. Different is what makes us human.
Different is the reason we fight wars, and burn people alive, and slaughter millions. So it's not perfect, but can you imagine a life without it?
So the next time you feel the urge to turn your nose up because someone doesn't believe in Jesus, the next time you want to turn your back on a person because they haven't read the same books as you, the next time you want to rail against a petty issue involving decorations, try doing the exact opposite and see how it makes you feel. Listen to them, ask questions and try to understand their point of view. You don't have to believe it yourself, but if both of you stop and understand each other, you won't have to fight over a sign in a building.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm not a music buff, but I love singing along to good tunes. This will be a good experience for me at the very least, and I hope you find it interesting as well.
We're still sorting things out, but if you want to be involved, either drop me a line and I'll get you added (somehow) or send a message to jennie_z on facebook.
Yes with sites like Slacker and Pandora you can get a mix of music on demand, but unless you're crafty, you can't play them in your car or keep them once you hear them. Plus, I like seeing what people put together, it gives a little insight into them as a person. And if you're lucky they'll dress it up with cover art and inserts and lyrics. At the very least you'll get some new music.
We're not sure how to handle it yet, maybe a monthly theme or just a monthly track list and anyone who messages you can ask for a copy. Or maybe a monthly or bi-weekly pairing where two people just trade mixes.
It's still in the works, but if you're interested, come find me on twitter...
Or the fab dame who started the idea...
Now, I'm not saying I spent the Thanksgiving weekend with my veins hooked directly into a brewer's vat, but knowing we were going to have guests, we did spend quite a bit on various beers, wines and liquors. (Pronounced lic OOO rs.) Yet for some inexplicable reason, it wasn't until last night that the effects finally either caught up or my body decided it was done trying to fight it.
So what you see here is what we did all weekend. Ms. NOLA's family was in town and the Friday after Dia de los Gobble Gobble they came over for a few hours of TexMex breakfast tacos, Rock Band and a few card games. It was a brief visit but I gathered that they are fine folk and seemed very genuine and entertaining.
The weekend was capped by some flagged football, a viewing of Wall*E and a marathon of video game fake band-ness. RB2 comes out for the Wii in a couple weeks and I'm fairly excited as the songs we currently have are becoming annoying. I can only play "Say It Ain't So" a few million times before I lose the taste for all things tonal. The good news is, the RB2 Wii version will allow downloads so we can keep the library fresh. Ms. A found a new love for the game this weekend and made sure everyone within 100 yards knew it whether they wanted to or not.
So it's back to work for a few weeks until another bit of time off for the Yuletide celebrations. I have a few drawings to get done too, start actually. See, I packed away most of my drawing stuff when I brought out the LEGO, so it's not like I can just quickly roll out a bunch of drawings. First thing's first, have to get X-mas cards done. I seem to start later and later each year, though last time I didn't get it done till the 12th. Let's see if I can beat that. If you'd like a card, let me know via the electronic mailing transit exchange links and I'll make sure to send one off through ye olde fashion postal service.
No I didn't go to Target to get that Star Destroyer...and now I hate myself a little.
My life and the life of my family has changed over the years - it changed recently to something nearly unheard of. Through it all I was always able to walk up these stairs and see these faces and remember what it's liked to love and be loved, what it's like to know you have a home no matter where you live and no matter what happens there are people who care about you and want you to be happy.
So it is on this Thanksgiving Eve that I think about the things in my life that really matter and for which I truly grateful. It's been a unique year punctuated by world crisis, American hope and individual struggle. As the end of each year approaches, the mantra always becomes, "Next year will be better." But don't forget the good parts of the year, the good parts of your life. Don't forget that time you found $5 in your old jacket when you needed some gas until pay day. Don't forget that convenience store clerk who always rounds up your change. Don't forget the new friends you made while completing a task you didn't want to do in the beginning.
It's easy to forget the Good Samaritans, the generous, the caring, the nice. It's easy to remember the mean, the cold and the nefarious. All the talk from the neighborhood gossip to the political theater rarely bring up the joyful and kind nature that humans posses. So take this Thanksgiving, give thanks to something new. Parents, we know you're thankful for your kids, be thankful for their teachers and daycare workers. People with jobs, be thankful not that you have a job, but that your boss and his boss and his boss, in this climate, are still paying you and hopefully being decent people. Don't be thankful for the food you're about to eat, be thankful to the people who grew that food, shipped it, packaged it and run the stores from which you bought it.
Mankind needs to stop every once in a while and look at the pictures in its hallway and remember how it got where it is now. We're a violent, warring people by instinct. But if we stop and show others that we're thankful to be included in this world, maybe they'll stop and be thankful for us too.
The FBI running an operation against a dock warehouse. A freight truck appears (and looks to be steaming or covered in dust) and the FBI jump it, pull the drivers out and open the back to see a bunch of stuffed pandas. The head agent, Agent Loeb reports to Broyles saying they made a switch. Loeb shows Broyles a file on a Joseph Smith. During the debriefing, the Loeb starts convulsing and is taken to the hospital. The ER team takes paddles to him them opens him up. His heart starts beating normally as they crack and spread and the ER doctors all freeze stupefied as we see inside the chest cavity to what appears to be a toothed, gray growth around the heart.
For the rest, visit www.televisionzombies.com
For the last few months I've been pulling my old LEGO from the garage, dusting them off (literally, with a toothbrush) and doing all manner of playing, building, sorting, dismantling and generally messing up my room. I finally broke down all the Star Wars sets and had them sorted in a moderately convenient fashion. No sooner did I finish putting the last single 1x1 rounded plate into its bin did I start building a model I've been wanting to do for years. In fact, I'd begun even before all the bits were sorted completely - I'd find pieces I thought I could use and set them aside for later, I'd pull out all the browns I had because I knew it was an uncommon color.
The ship I wanted to build was seen in a Dark Horse Comic series called Tales of the Jedi. It was one of the better Star Wars stories and sadly one of the ones not to get much interest outside of the comic. There was no giant media push, no associated video game or novel or cartoon. My guess is because it was dark, deep and decidedly not cute. I owned the books for a long time but after a few times moving I decided to thin out what few comics I had and thus they were sold to a local shop. Figuring I could use the internet to find images of the ship, these are the two I was able to find.
I thought I had a long road ahead of me. The comic image is decent enough but is full of "comic detail;" the quick pen strokes that fudge the construction bits. (Not their fault.) And the schematic, while useful, had nothing indicating scale and only had the front and left side. I was really concerned my take on this ship wouldn't be as true to the design as I'd have liked and I really wanted to make my first MOC (my own creation) a success. So I was really lucky when I finally stumbled on to this. It was a godsend. I couldn't believe I'd found someone who'd made a model of this and shot it from so many angles. Finding this really energized me and while the shots weren't very detailed, they were good enough to give me an idea of how this needed to be built. (A good example, from the schematics, can YOU tell there are six engines? I couldn't.)
With the project revitalized, I set about getting it built. I realize now I should have taken some progress shots, but what are you gonna do. The next step was to determine size. I wanted to make it minifig scale (for the layperson - minifigs are the LEGO figures) but there were only the Wookieepedia references to length and weight. Given a minifig is 1.5" and a normal human is roughly 1.7m, you can get a basic 1inch=1meter ratio. Meaning this sucker was going to be two and a half feet long and that big ass wing was going to be almost four feet.
I wasn't going to have enough brown.
So I made do with a lot of light and dark gray and did a lot of internal construction with other colors. I started like I do every ship I've ever built by building around the pilot. I was trying to keep it simple, knowing I could always go back and add any greebles I'd want later. (Greebles - small bit of detailing to break up the surface and add visual interest.) But the more I built, the bigger it got and soon I was outside the realm of manageable model to giant UCS (ultimate collector series) sized model. And it was getting unwieldy - the wing itself was so heavy that I had to work on ways to reinforce it to keep it from just separating and falling off. If I were to do it all over, I'd build a different frame first, something that had all it's support based off that huge friggin wing. As it is, I'm fairly certain while the ship sits up on a shelf in the library that it's going to come crashing down and I'm going to lose a ton of parts. (I should move that tonight.)
So I finished this weekend and it came in at roughly 18" long, 36" tall and weighing about 4.5lbs. I'm very proud of it but I'm a little worried that I don't have anywhere to go after this. It's a big model and an obscure ship that (as far as I can tell) no one has built out of LEGO before. What's left to do? More of the same ships over and over again? I have a few ideas for things to build so I'll leave this bad boy together for a while then it'll be time to tear it all apart and start something new.
So this brings up two things I wanted to mention in closing. One, if you find any garage sales or online deals with LEGO sets, please let me know. I still plan on trying to get all the Star Wars sets as well as some older space sets, but now it's more for parts than to have a collection. I might get a few in boxes to hang on to. And two, if you have or know where to find cheap (see: free) storage bins, drop me a line. I still have half of my sets to break down but I'm out of bins and most of the parts are in Ziploc bags.
So, that's what I've been doing lately. You?
I drank over 7 bottles of water. My lips were still chapped and my voice was hoarse.
I had to recharge my phone three times yesterday. 800 phone calls is a lot! Thank goodness for free long distance.
Old people in Pennsylvania can be exceptionally mean. Let me tell you, MEAN. I was cussed out by a 97 year old woman named Estelle. Not even kidding.
At five thirty, Ben picked me up, we grabbed a quick beer downtown and watched the first few returns come in. Then we sped home and I grabbed a quick shower and went back downtown. I got back to the headquarters at 7:30 and got back on the phones, calling Nevada. They were MUCH nicer. I called Nevada until five minutes before their polls closed and then moved on to Alaska, interrupting the calls only to scream and cry when they announced Ohio. The roof nearly came off when Ohio was announced.
There was about 150 of us there when Nevada's polls closed and they announced Ohio.
After I finished about 100 calls to Alaska, I sat on one of the couches and drank a beer (paid for by the Obama campaign) and ate some peanut butter crackers. I'd been keeping to myself mostly, not much time to socialize when there is change to be made. I sat on the couch next to a woman for about five minutes, talking idly about the campaign and some of the reporters on cnn. Then they announced it.
And the roof did come off.
You could hear the screaming for miles.
You could hear the screaming coming from the streets. You could hear cheers from downtown.
I jumped into the air, landing about 10 feet in front of where i'd been standing. When i landed, I was crying. We yelled, cried, screamed and jumped into the air for what seemed like forever. I can still hear it echo. I've never felt such electricity in a room before and never experienced spontaneous contagious emotion.
I turned around and the woman I'd been sitting next to was standing very still, looking very calm with tears streaming down her face as well. We hugged each other and just let go this world of emotions. I'm convinced that if we hadn't been holding on to each other we'd have both been in the floor.
I found out later her name was Jennifer.
After things called down a little, and i'd had another cigarette and beer, I went back to the phones. There is always more work to be done.
I walked back up to the front and made my way to the big screen in time to watch McCain's concession speech. There were no more chairs so I knelt in the floor, the big screen in front of me, behind it, an open door and the view of the Capitol building. I hugged my knees and cried some more. I've never been more proud, if ever proud at all, to be an American. The man sitting in the chair next to me put his hand on my back and said very softly, "its over now. We did it. We don't have to worry about it anymore."
There were close to 200 people in the building when McCain spoke.
I realized that if McCain was giving his concession then Obama would be speaking soon. I packed up as fast as I could and drove 80 mph up I-35 to Pflugerville.
I made it home last night in time to watch Obama take the stage with his family. I woke Rowan up and brought her downstairs to watch it with me. I sat in the floor in front of Miia and next to Rowan and let the tears stream down my face as I watched history walk out of fiction, onto the stage of the American Presidency.
And there is more work to be done. Here we go!
This won't come as a shock to the family and you all probably know. Last weekend, Ms. A's SO moved in to the house. I want all my readers to know that I'm totally ok with it, and I'll spell it out in detail in just a second. They've been dating a while and the lease was up on her place so after some serious discussion, we agreed that she should move in.
For those just joining us, Ms. A and I have been in a not-married mode for a while, nearly two years. After roughly nine years of marriage and a couple great kids, Ms. A came out (I guess RE-came-out) and we decided to stick together as friends and raise the kids. At some point we'll probably file for an actual divorce but that's just not on the plate now. It's costly, it's not friendly, it's a pain in the ass, we're not doing it. No reason to just now either. I'm not dating anyone and with the two of them, well, we're in Texas so go figure that out for yourself. Ms. A and I are the best of friends and it just doesn't make sense to us to split up the family like that.
So instead, we're adding to it. Here's where the fundies are going to blow a gasket. The kids love this girl (she needs a nickname, Ms. Louisiana?) and I think she's pretty cool as well. She and Ms. A worked together for a long time at a photo portrait company that went bust. Now she works with a catering company and is putting in something like 150 hours a week. Still, it's an extra person in the house to help with things and it's not a bad deal. She brings home food from events, watches and plays with the kids and will eventually help with bills.
It's really not a bad situation, as weird as it may sound. Ms. A and I weren't going to stay together but because it was amicable and I didn't want to split my time driving around with the kids every other weekend, this just works out. Plus, I get the biggest room in the house, I can put my LEGO sets in my room, there's catered food most nights and honestly there's a new circle of friends. (Which is huge for me, I don't seem to have much luck with that.)
I'm ok, the kids are ok, Ms. A is ok. We're all fine. No one has any hard feelings toward each other, it's all just fine. In fact, I've got a serious amount of karma for being so groovy about the whole thing, which I plan on saving with interest for that future time I may need to fly to Rio with that physics student/poet/rollergirl.
I think the worst thing that will happen is there will be people who can't or won't understand what's going on. So far the people we know have been okay with the whole thing, supportive of in fact. But I do expect to get some hate mail or disingenuous writings saying nasty things about the lot of us. Someone's a home wrecker, someone's selfish, someone has no self esteem, blah blah blah. I'll read them all I'm sure, but I'll go ahead and save you the time by saying it's not going to change anything. Lose sleep over it for us, it won't change what we're doing or why or how we feel about it. If you need to make yourself heard in a malevolent way, there's always a political rally where you can tell people what you really feel with a sharpie and some cardboard.
My biggest concern is when I find someone I like and am courageous enough to open my mouth and tell them, the first few words are going to be about this situation and it will be a deal breaker. If they can't handle the situation, I'm not even going to waste my time. It's a fact of my life the same as people with disabled relatives they take care of or college students with dorm mates or folks who've hit hard times who may live with they're parents or siblings. It'll change eventually I'm sure, just not right now.
Speaking of moving, Ms. A's mom has finally moved out of Conroe. Ms. A and her brother and sister helped find her a place out here and got her packed up and moved. There was a bit of travel, a couple weeks staying at Ms. A's brother's house and she even sold her house and car on Craigslist. Isn't that something. So now she's about 10 minutes away (in Pflugerville) and Ms. A is genuinely excited that she's here. It'll be good for both of them.
Election day is just over a week away. If you're in the states and your state has early voting, go do it now. Don't wait, don't put it off. Election day is going to be a fucking nightmare and you don't want to lose your chance to vote or be part of the problem by waiting till the last minute. Get to it early. Also, if you're undecided, don't vote. If you haven't made up your mind by now, just tune into Wheel of Fortune or something and keep your mouth open while you breath.
Thanks for reading all, take care.
October 21, 2008 marks the continuation of John Hodgman's gift of knowledge. Complete world knowledge, that is. In Areas of My Expertise Hodgman revealed the world of the hoboes, including names for 700 hoboes. Now, with his new compendium, More Information Than You Require we learn of the deranged world below our own world of the strange naked-mole-rat-like people known enigmatically as "The Mole-men".
If you'd like to participate, just head over to the official list, pick out a name, and upload it to Flickr. Once it's on Flickr, add it to our official 700 Mole-men Flickr group to get it to show up on this site. Sound easy? It is!
And of course, thanks to John Hodgman for giving us these fake facts. Be sure to pick up a copy of his new book (and the old one too) for your enjoyment and inspiration.
It's just recently hit the wires and tubes that Connecticut is now the third state to allow same sex couples to be equally recognized under the state constitution.
First off, good for CT! With Cali's ruling in danger of getting a state congressional repeal, it's good the fight is still being fought.
Neither candidate nor their running mates support same sex marriages but 0bamiden does support civil unions and I believe that's important, but it's not going to be enough. Why? Because the country is still being run by and populated with those who believe "marriage" is between a man and a woman. And you know what? That's fine. Believe it, teach it to your kids, practice it, silently admonish others in your own house. I believe prisoners should be sent to the front lines of combat instead of college age kids. I believe the money we spend collectively on advertising and entertainment could, in one year, be funneled into a Globe Foundation that will both find a vaccine for cancer and AIDS AND distribute relief to areas of the world that need it AND solve our renewable energy problem. (Tag line would be, "Suspend your wants for our needs" and OUR would have the globe as the O. Eh? Eh?) I believe that there should be mass transit in every city over 500,000 people to such a degree that even if you had a car you couldn't drive it into the downtown or urban centers. It'd be all sidewalks and trains. And yet some how, these beliefs only impact my brain. I may talk about them with people but they're just MY beliefs, not yours. The slippery slope we run into is we want to live in a world where society is just and fair. We want bad people to be punished and good people to be rewarded. We want children to thrive and old people respected. The problem is, it all comes from which book you read. Our just and fair belief structure comes from religion and not a logical set of rules. And because everyone believes different things, those rules are going to break and be rewritten.
Think about it for a second and let's imagine there's a gargantuan religious society. In this religion there was a prophet who told his followers, say, 4,000 years ago that to eat the fruit from a tomato plant was sinful and wrong. There's something evil about tomatoes, they're used like a vegetable but are classified as a fruit. Pick a side! Over the years, this religion spread and many many people believed in it. So much so there were virtually no tomato growers and those that did plant them kept it quiet. Then this new country was formed and they used their belief system to create a set of rules. There's only a few hundred at first so everyone was in agreement. They all believed in not working on Sunday, being executed if you murdered someone and being hung till death for growing tomatoes. Over the years, as the society changed, people from different lands came into the country. They abided by all the laws as best they could and those that didn't were sent away or punished. Still, quietly and discretely, a group of farmers began growing tomatoes but not selling them. Theses farmers were from somewhere else so they didn't believe a tomato was bad, but wanting to stay within the rules they didn't tell anyone they grew them and had them.
More time passes until eventually this country is comprised of so many different people with so many different view points that things like tomato growing doesn't bother close to half of them. These farmers want to grow tomatoes just as they would corn and wheat, but the law says they can't. Why does the law say they can't? Because 4,000 years ago people were scared of/didn't understand that a tomato was different from other fruits and they were afraid that their god would punish them for eating it or even knowing people who ate it or grew it. Having faith in their beliefs dictated they eschew all things tomato, regardless of the logic because they were afraid of not knowing what happens to them after they die should their life have any tomato stains. The farmers don't believe in everyone else's afterlife and only want the right to grow whatever plants they want, they can't understand that why growing their own food impacts other people who aren't eating it anyway.
This might be a weak (and horrible elongated) metaphor for homosexuality but there are plenty of other stories, gospels, teachings from various holy books that didn't make it into 20th century American, French, Hindu, Shinto law - not because they were any less important to the people at the time, but because over time the people who followed these religions began to realize that it wasn't hurting them or their lives to allow other people to function this way. It always suprised me the most about Christianity's "love thy neighbor" and "live and let live" tenants that homosexuality was such a big deal. It seemed contradictory and hypcritical, which isn't surprising given who God is. If we're made in his image, and his words contradict themselves, it's no wonder we're messed up. But the point I'm trying to make is that something like "marriage" shouldn't be in the hands of the government any more than "football" should. "Marriage" shouldn't be in the hands of your elected officials any more than "Star Wars" should.
The other thing I wanted to bring up was this and I'll try to be brief. Government only recognizes a marriage between a man and a woman. Why? Because it's in the Bible. Ok. So you only recognize things from the Bible. What about handfasting? It's not in the Bible? If I know my Wiccan, it's not "the union of a man and a woman" it's "the joining of two souls." So, are Wiccan/Pagan marriages still legal under the law? There's no book guiding them to only be a man and woman, and it's not in the Bible. I know Pagans are a small subset of a fraction of a lesser group of a minor collection of people, but the premise still stands. Is it fair to legislate something that not all people believe? Majority rules, I agree, but are we still at the point in America where the majority of people believe that two ladies can't live together AND file taxes together AND adopt a child AND make sure that child can be put in a will AND (on and on.) Are the majority of people STILL in the belief that knowing your neighbors are gay is going to be any more detrimental that being in an abusive (but traditional) home?
Yes, the majority still believe that it is SO wrong that you have to make it a law because you can't KILL IT WITH FIRE! The majority would rather know that their daughter is marrying an alcoholic than another daughter. The majority sees nothing wrong with lying and cheating your way into the most coveted political post in the land, but will not vote for you if you believe in same sex marriage.
I'm not saying the majority is stupid...
Wait, yes I am. Grow up, majority.
36. WikiBot, the robot that is edited by volunteers
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
The holidays are coming up, you need that special gift for a niece or nephew, geeky husband, cartoon loving son or daughter and you don't want to get the typical toy that will be discarded after just days of use.
Why not get a customized and inexpensive piece of art that will show how much you care?
Stop by http://robotportrait.blogspot.com and put in a request.
You send a photo, I draw the person as a robot. Or you can just send a word or phrase that I turn into a lovable mechanical cartoon. Each portrait is done either on a 5x7 or 8x10 card and the drawing is recorded and set to music. Prices range from $15 to $30 depending on size. Discounts for multiple drawings.
And for you collectors, there's robot presidents and world leaders already available.
Thanks for looking!
Brooklyn, NY. Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” playing in the background as a waitress takes a very specific order for a hairless white dude in a suit. The man is observing construction across the street through 50’s spy binoculars that give him a very Terminator, highly advanced readout. He’s also checking a stopwatch and writing notes in a peculiar script. The waitress asks if it’s Asian because she studied Korean, he just says no. He then eats his rare roast beef, jalapeno, pepper and tabasco sandwich in about four seconds right before an explosion rocks the construction site. He calmly pays his bill, dons his fedora and shades and takes his briefcase to the site of the blast. With shining blue lights around the area he makes a call and says, “It has arrived.”
In the meantime, to cheer you up, here's a LEGO set I have for sale on Craigslist. Even if you're not a collector, you could definitely spend the time you now have by not watching your local NBC news shows building this fine (new in the box) set.
But, if it's not up your alley, at least tell a friend about it. Maybe while you're over at their house in Pflugerville or Kyle watching the debate on NBC tonight.
I wanted to write this down before I forgot.
As most of you may know, I've been writing a few reviews for the television podcast and review site Televisions Zombies. I don't mean to pimp it so often here, but honestly it's the most notable and enjoyable thing I've done for a few years now - hoboes notwithstanding.
Reviewing all the Charlie Jade episodes as well as the first couple Fringe shows, I came to the conclusion that I have no idea how to give something a five star rating. I've been reaching the end of my reviews (which technically are 80% recap and 20% op-ed piece) frustrated because I have no idea how to grade a show let alone a series of shows.
My brother-in-law (ex brother-in-law? almost ex...) my friend's come up with a pretty decent system for movies that I thought I'd try but it didn't work for serials. Here's how it goes.
5 stars - Pay full price to see it again in the theater.
4 stars - Pay matinee price.
3 stars - Rent it on DVD.
2 stars - Watch it on a premium channel.
1 star - Watch it on network TV.
Pretty good, right? Especially knowing him, I can now get a fair idea of what a movie will be like if he gives me that rating. It even allows for 1/2 stars; wait in line for hours before full price to see it again may even give it a glorious 5 1/2 stars. 3 1/2 stars may mean putting it high up on your Netflix queue. The lowly half star would be to watch it on basic cable with no HD if there was nothing else on. No stars would mean to never speak of it again.
I tried to adapt this to TV shows, but the first 3 don't really work. First, it's a serious investment to watch a show you've never seen on DVD. The sets are expensive and it generally takes weeks if not months to get through a series. I had to rethink. What I came up with isn't so much system where a show just falls into a category, but more like gymnastics scores where something starts out at a certain difficulty and is deducted points based off things that may have gone on during the show. I haven't finalized this list or had an opportunity to try it out, but I came up with the idea because I was getting tired of not wanting to grade shows poorly just because they weren't exciting. They may have been interesting, may have only had one or two small problems, but no reason to give something what amounts do a D (3 stars.)
So here's some ideas, and feel free to comment or add to it. Each show starts at 5 stars. There's no automatic deductions going in as I'm willing to let every show I watch have a chance to just wow the socks off my ass.
-1 if I'm not excited to see next week's episode. Week to week dramas may suffer in this department, and they should. If I watch an episode of In Plain Site and then miss a week and I'm not depressed about it, it's not an exciting show.
-1 if the show ends on a cliff hanger that's immediately resolved in the preview for next week. Yes this is out of the show's control, but you know what? It's an overall experience and you ruined any reason for me to wait with bated breath until next week's installment.
- 1/2 if I can detect a plot hole while watching. I'm not terribly bright when it comes to writing conventions, so if I see a major issue in the show WHILE I'm watching, that's a bad sign.
- 1/2 if at any point I roll my eyes at a piece of dialog. Be it sappy or campy or predictable or completely out of place, if I have a physical knee jerk reaction to something going on then it's at least worth a half - more if I start yelling at the TV.
- 1/2 if I can't follow along. With this in mind, I'd have constantly down graded The West Wing because I'd have to constantly rewind to see who said what, or ask fellow viewers what happened. If my big clue that something major happened is a musical cue then I'm having a hard time following along.
- 1 if I don't mind leaving the show while it's playing. Chances are I'd change the channel anyway, so what does it matter that I'm not paying attention.
- 1 if I don't plan on watching it again later. This may happen more to new shows, but also changes in shows that have gone on a long time.
- 1 if I get to the end of the show and either immediately forget what happened (because it's forgettable) or I feel like I just wasted a half hour/hour of my time.
It's general, it's vague, it's subjective, but I think it's a good start. I tend to write recaps while I'm watching the show (which is an interesting task) so I'd be easy to keep notes about any of these events. It may also mean some shows may seem good at first but end up getting a lower score and some blasé shows rate much higher than they otherwise might have. But that's the nature of critiques; it's all personal. I know that while I'd give Fringe a pretty good rating, other people I know very much despise the show and are now only going to watch it to make fun of the "science." To each his own.
I'm also trying to avoid feeling like I'm grading a show based on the series as a whole and not each episode's individual performance. If a new person comes into a TV show, they need to know if that was a good episode or a bad one based on the strength of that show alone. Later they can go back and say it wasn't the best of the season. Reason being, a five star show you see at 2am on cable versus a five star show you see at 8pm on Thursday night is going to show obvious differences. But to me productions values, while important, shouldn't make or break the show. This is then done to try and alleviate the comparison to other shows as well.
In the end, it's going to come down to what kind of mood I'm in, what time of day it is, if I have to pause it to go bath or feed kids or if I get a phone call that makes me have to watch the rest of the show on another night. It can't all be perfect, but I think this is a good start.
Yes I need to spend more time doing something else.
Last night the AMC series Mad Men won a few awards, were nominated for quite a few as well. 30 Rock won a couple as well. As I drove in this morning, a bit on the radio reminded me of something I'd read and discussed a while ago about product integration.
I'm not saying I was integral to what happened - I am but a small voice in a small city. I enjoyed a few emails from both parties but so would any customer who took the time to complain. I haven't read back on the posts I'd written, so let's just assume they were filled with golden and flakey civility.
Which made me laugh just a little bit when I saw a public service announcement saying that Time Warner and KXAN were having the same issue. Far be it from humble little consumer to point fingers or call names or throw flaming hot rocks in my sugar-glass house but reading the ins and outs of the situation was like going back in time. Here it is in a nutshell. KXAN thinks it's worth more, its parent company LIN TV goes to Time Warner and says, "Pay us cash for fair market value." Time Warner says, "We'll keep paying you what we're paying plus we'll increase some ad placement." (If they went that far at all, doesn't look like they came back with much.) LIN TV says they'll play hardball and KXAN is pulled from Time Warner. If all goes according to history, that will last a couple days until Time Warner picks up either a close affiliate or the two sides agree.
So it got me thinking, does KXAN really think it's not getting its value in the Austin market? Is it just the Austin market? I read originally that Suddenlink and LIN were also having a problem with a CBS station in New Mexico, so it's not just NBC stations. I honestly haven't read a lot of cable/broadcast TV business news, but having the only two instances I've seen in my city include the same owners, I'm wondering if there's something with LIN TV - something like...I don't know, delusional greed?
I'm sure that's not the case, but I'd like to reiterate that putting out ads for your customers saying the stations owners and the cable owners can't agree and you as the customer should call and complain is like your divorced parents telling you they don't like the settlement the court gave them and if you don't want your allowance cut you should contact the other parent. Getting customers in the way of a money/power struggle between broadcast companies is a shitty way of doing business. You want our input? You want our help? Bring in a la carte packages.
(originally posted by Chris Piers on TVZ)
The nominations are now open for the Podcast Awards. These are annual awards for the best podcasts, and we need the help of all of our readers and listeners to try for an award. Even if we don’t win, it can be great publicity, getting the TVZ name out there.
The nominations are here: http://podcastawards.com/index.php?option=index
The rules are very clear and enforced, so while we appreciate anyone taking the few seconds to vote for us, please don’t try to vote more than once. Spreading the word is appreciated, but we don’t want votes thrown out because someone tried to cheat on our behalf.
You can only nominate a podcast in ONE category, as well as either the “Peoples Choice” or “Best Produced” categories. We would appreciate the votes in “Peoples Choice” and “Cultural/Arts.”
All you need to do is:
- Follow this link to the Podcast Awards (same as the link above)
- Enter the podcast name (Television Zombies) and podcast url (http://www.televisionzombies.com)
Nominations are only eligible through midnight the night of September 30th. Thanks!
Greetings intrepid readers. You know, if you've read more than a year's worth of posts at LIA or have this blog on your RSS reader, I'd like to commend and thank you for your patronage. I often get the most random of comments from posts I'd forgotten about and it's nice to know that some people actually read the site...people I'm not related to that is.
That said, Deb, I'll also have to look at the Morning Star packaging. I generally don't eat the products with the exception of the veggie crumblies we put in spaghetti sauce or for burritos and I have no known food allergies so checking those boxes isn't terribly important to me. I will check it out though, but I'm sure Ms. A probably wouldn't eat so many of the breakfast sausages if there was stuff in there that she couldn't handle.
Moving on. Hurricane Ike has come and gone from Texas. It's now being a pain in the ass for the midwest in the form of rain and possible tornados. The hurricane itself never made it to Austin. Original models had it glancing off the hill country before traveling north, but the closer it came the impact became smaller until finally it was looking as though we'd not see any problems. Which we didn't. As the storm saturated everything along I-35 from Galveston to Hunstville, we enjoyed partly cloudy skies and some gusty breezes, but not a drop of rain. By Sunday morning we had bright blue skies and at present a cold front has moved through Central Texas bringing highs in the low 80's through the rest of the week. Not bad.
Ms. A's dad and step mom came out yesterday to leave the powerless Conroe. They tried leaving ahead of the storm, but decided not to and so they rode out the storm instead of riding a twelve hour car trip to Austin. Can't say as I'd blame them. Twelve hours to go 150 miles, I'd rather get punched in the nuts...but just once.
Moving on yet again, my LEGO addiction has taken full hold. All my old sets are built and I'm now debating on whether or not to go buy more older sets as well as new Star Wars sets or to dismantle what I have and start building on my own. It's the collector versus creator fight and sadly I've abandoned most of my drawing. Odd considering how many times on this blog I've bitched about not having enough time or motivation to draw. Amazing what one good weekend with an old familiar plaything can do for your morale. LEGO is a happy place for me. I could lose hours building with it, organizing it, coming up with ideas for new things. At one point in my life I'd even sent a letter to LEGO asking how to become a builder/designer. Turns out, at the time, you needed something crazy like an engineering degree or an architecture background. Later I became aware that you could get a Toy Design degree (which most major universities don't offer, but you can get them at art institutes.) Even later it became apparent that these accredited individuals were not sallying forth with the same creative spark as average LEGO fans so LEGO started Master Builder and Amabassador programs. These are hobbyists that are involved in the LEGO community but are recognized by LEGO (though not official employees) and as such have certain responsiblities and receive certain perquisites for being community role models.
How you get to be one I'm not sure, but from looking into it, I believe owning millions of bricks for more than 30 years is the only way. So I've got some work to do.
Talk about dream job. Long before I wanted to be a voice actor or comic book artist or cartoonist or comedian I wanted to build LEGO for a living. Wouldn't it be funny after 20 years of doing nothing but drawing I end up doing what I wanted to do from when I was 8? Don't get me wrong, I will likely still draw and doodle and illustrate when given the right motivation (good idea, money, familial request) but without daily practice that muscle will likely wither. I don't have 10 hours a day to draw and hone that craft, but I do have a few hours a night to build and building doesn't take as much practice, just a love of the bricks.
Moving on thrice fold, the 100 Artists Project is still going on. There was a snafu with the sketchbook so I had it sent back to me for corrections. So I got to see a year and a half worth of input and it was kind of neat. The book has traveled all over the US and to see it still in one piece was joyous - I almost teared up, honestly. I've received five short stories and one piece of artwork for the new project and so far about 50 people have signed up for the various charities. It's obvious this is going to be a long term project and I hope it gets its due at some point. It doesn't require a lot of work and I hope we can raise some good amounts of money for these groups. That's really all I want. If I wanted fame I wouldn't be doing a charity project.
Moving on completely and finally, the new season of shows are out and so far I've only caught a couple. I saw Fringe the other night and liked it. It didn't blow my mind but it didn't make me blow chunks either. I thought it was well rounded and it did admirably well for a pilot. I also caught The Sarah Conner Chronicles and was really impressed with that. I'm glad that show is back. I'm still watching Charlie Jade for the remainder of its sad little 2am run. It's not a bad show, honestly more well written and plotted than a lot of shows. Television Zombies has a current review and I've got more to come. Plus, keep an eye out for a Clone Wars commentary I recorded (yay voice!) that they'll hopefully play on the show or link on the site.
No more moving on today. I hope you all had a good summer and let's see if I can start posting more.
I'm still reviewing Charlie Jade over at Television Zombies. The season is a little more than half over and when it's done, it's done. It's a summer filler but so far it's more entertaining than the rest of the junk on Sci-Fi.
You can read the all the reviews here.
I'll also be picking up Dollhouse when it hits FOX in January. In the mean time, the fall television season is upon us. Make sure to stop by TVZ every week for their news and discussion and reviews of all things science fiction and television.
So let's hear it. What would you love to be doing with your time? What hobby are you doing that you'd love to turn into a business? What shot do you want to take?
Given the right timing, hours during the day or sudden inheritance here's a list of things I'd love to try.
Learn Mandarin or become fluent in French. I took French in high school and one semester in college. Too me it's one of the most beautiful languages on Earth with the possible exception of Italian. I did fairly well at it but where I fell short was being fluent in conversation. With all language, the easiest first is to read, then write, then speak. Not being an ambassador, I have little opportunity to use other languages. Which brings me to Mandarin. China is a superpower, like it or not. With 1.whatever billion people, it makes sense that we learn a little bit of their language. Plus, on one of my favorite shows Firefly they used Mandarin to swear and that was just cool. I've always admired polyglots and I realized most of my online friends are people from Finland, China, Argentina, Germany or Malaysia who know and speak both their native tongue and American English. It makes me feel less of a global human to only know my solitary, yet seriously complex, language.
Be a Lego builder. I've been collecting Lego sets going on 25 years but I've always kept the sets separate. I had a childhood friend who was an only child and had a lot of toys. He had a bag full of Lego pieces that we used to make all manner of space ships. We'd pride ourselves on creating Hatchet Fighters from Buck Rogers, giant space battleships, X-Wings, mecha, etc. My finest creation was a Gunstar from The Last Starfighter. Nowadays my Lego sits in boxes or Ziplock bags in the garage, unmingled and virtually unused. I watch the builders on Flickr create wonderful models of popular and original space vehicles and I get really jealous. But this kind of hobby takes time and a fairly large account to purchase bulk pieces. It also requires a large, undisturbed area of a home where the thousands of pieces can be stored, accessed easily and kept out of reach from little hands.
Be a voice actor. Some of my favorite big and little screen performers are those that provide the voices. Maurice LeMarche, Billy West, Frank Welker, John Dimaggio, Tress MacNeille all lend powerful and complex talent to any production. I'm sure it stems back to listening to Mel Blanc to a million Looney Toon voices. Having grown up a bit of a class clown, impersonating video game noises and cartoon characters, as well as having above average vocal control, I'd always thought I could be a decent voice actor. Draw backs to this currently include the facts that I don't know anyone in the business, I have no agent, and I know so very little about it all. I just watched a behind the scenes video about Dragonball Z: Bodukai 3 and the voice sessions they did for the game and I have to say I'm both inspired and more than a little scared at what it would take to get into that industry.
Narrow my artistic drives. The problem anyone with a 9-5 job that doesn't involve doing what you want to do is that the things you DO want to do get about 1% of your time and effort. It's all a conscious choice and the willingness to take a leap. You never know what awaits you if you take a chance on something and as countless success stories have shown, it's never too late. I'd personally like to find a focus for all the creative impulses I have running through my brain. I know I could be a good writer, illustrator, graphic designer, even web developer if I put my mind to it. What I have in creative "genius" I lack in motivation and focus. I burn through ideas like cigarettes and if a notion doesn't reach fruition in a short time, I leave it by the wayside. Because of that, in the last 15 years, I've done such an array of projects that I couldn't tell you what I'm really good at. Recently I had a guy posting about a lettering position tell me my work over the past couple years lacked variety - in lettering. I took it okay because I know he was right, but then I applied that to everything I draw, write or otherwise create and I realized it all looked the same. From the robot drawings to the way I color comic pages to the way I do cartoon hoboes, everything seems the same. Given time, I would love to explore more media, more challenges, in short be a true freelance artist.
Those are my big dreams. I have smaller ones like getting back into shape enough to play soccer, teaching myself piano or guitar, joining a band and playing drums or singing, getting involved in theater or do stand up, writing a sci-fi novel and going back to work on the comic I never finished. And here's where the dreams fall apart. I'm currently doing ALL these things, but I get about two hours a day where I'm not working and those two hours usually end up doing creative financing, mucking with daily problems about the house or cars or playing with and caring for the kids. It's not an excuse, it's a reality. At some point, I want to take a chance at something. I want to be able to say, "You know what, I'm going to do it. I'm tired of the grind and getting little in the way of enjoyment out of it." I don't know what I'm waiting for, a break? To be recognized? To become independently wealthy?
There's no advice anyone can give you, there's no tips or tricks to make it work better. The first step is to take the first step and the rest will either roll right along or fall apart, it's typically out of your control after that.
To that end, I'm going to go take a shower and then draw some robots.