Tuesday, May 31, 2005

K2, Part Two: The Secret of the Ooze

Wonderful little rip on our Soldier Boy.

Sith Happening Sooner!

Looks like MJ and I are going out tonight to see it! woo!

Sith Happens

Remedial course is over. We finished Episode 2 last night.

Tentatively, we are going to see Revenge of the Sith Wednesday night.

Jeez, you don't think Anakin will REALLY become Vader? I mean, that
would be too obvious. Maybe Obi-Wan and Anakin each have an out of
body experience and then return to the wrong bodies. And Obi-Wan
really becomes Vader! No one would see that coming!

I just hope this one is as Jar Jar free as possible. If there was one
loose end they forgot to tie up (whatever happened to Jar Jar Binks?),
that would be MORE than OK with ME.

Dial-An-SOB

Remember this toll free number:

877-SOB-U-SOB

This connects you to the Congressional Switchboard.

From there you can ask to be transferred to the SOB of your choice.

There are about 537 to choose from.

Roots

Going through my old papers continues. I find a letter from my mom with photocopies of some old typewritten notes, and notes written in her hand -- with a post-it note that says: Keep this, you'll want it someday. It is all family history information, stuff from both sides of the family. The handwritten notes are in my mom's hand, and they are notes of a conversation with my great grandmother Mildred Brennan in the mid 1970s. The typed notes are from a cousin of hers I think, and they trace back to the American Revolution! There is a lot of information missing -- lots of names without exact dates, lots of birthplaces missing. A lot of it I think would have to be verified if I really wanted to trace my roots.

Lots of interesting things - but one item that jumps out at me is the ancestor who served in the Revolution under a "Captain Hammond." Knowing how much Doc Hammond has researched his own genealogy, next time I see him, I am going to have to ask if he is aware of any of his ancestors serving in the Continental Army. Probably not -- but what a bizarre coincidence if it is so.

Another interesting thing is my mom's note from her talk with Nana that great great uncle Leon Holcomb, at the age of 19, "fell" off the Golden Gate Bridge. I assume that is a polite way of saying he jumped.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Anarchy on the Highway

My politics are pretty simple: I'm a conservative on fiscal matters, a liberal on social matters, and an anarchist on traffic matters.

What is wrong with people on the roads today? It is easy to blame it on the Buick drivers, but its more than just them. Yesterday a woman in a Toyota travelling right in front of me came to dead stop in an interesection to let a van on the left AT A STOP SIGN proceed. WHY??? I have no earthly clue why! Is this supposed to be courtesy of some sort? How about showing a little courtesy to the people BEHIND you!

And how about cell phones? I don't think we should make it illegal to talk on the phone and drive at the same time. But if you can't do both, then DON'T! And a lot of people CAN'T! Somehow, when you stick that phone up to your ear, you forget how to use the gas pedal, you forget what lane you're in, and few of you forget what planet you're on.

My new car has a sunroof. I really miss the ragtop, and here's why. It is hard to throw stuff out the top of a sunroof. With the top down on the ragtop, I had nothing to get in the way of my throwing arm. Granted, I can still get the job done. Just the other day, I pulled over on MLK Drive because there was an ambulance coming the other way. The bastard in the Ford Expedition behind me decided to take that opportunity to pass me instead of pulling over himself (its only the law, asshole!) Lucky for me, my window was already down, my bottle of Aquafina in hand, and I nailed his terrorism-funding gas-guzzling urban assault vehicle with it. I grant you, it bounced off his truck harmlessly -- but the point was made.

In 1996 (the statute of limitations has passed), I was driving down the Jersey Turnpike. This SUV got on my tail. The next lane was open, so he COULD pass. But did he? No. I tap on my brakes... he crawls up my ass a little more.

So what's a guy to do?

I found a Minute Maid orange juice bottle in the backseat -- back then they were glass. I whipped that bad boy out the window and back. He backed off quick! Dumb bastard. He didn't get within a quarter mile of me after that.

Of course I'm kidding. I'd never adovcate violence against my fellow man. Not even the ones that drive Buicks.

What to Do about K2...

Most of you already know what happened: K2 Apologizes for his Fool Ass Behavior

Another number one pick by the Browns appears to be lost. So for the first two seasons on his contract, he's played TWO GAMES, and made FIVE catches for FIFTY yards. That's it!

Now, the first season-ending injury, against Dallas last year -- that was just bad luck. I'm not even going to blame Butch. But tearing his ACL and knocking himself out for another season because of a motorcycle accident, when his NFL contract specifically prohibits motorcycle riding -- that is completely and totally his fault. His apology where he states he should have had a professional present teaching him to ride is ridiculous, because he still would have been in violation of his contract. Memo to K2: no motorcycles means NO MOTORCYCLES!

Under the contract, the Browns can make K2 pay back millions. Most of the fans want the Browns to make him pay back the money, or make him pay it all back and cut him. I think they are being hasty.

I agree that I don't feel sorry for him at all.

The Browns signed K2 to a six year, forty million dollar contract -- a contract for which he held out, if I remember correctly, the entire preseason last year. If he recovers from the torn ACL, and a 100% recovery is NOT certain, he will only have four years left in the contract.

K2, his agents, his family -- they all know the Browns could exercise their rights under the contract and make him give back the money. So under threat of that, here is what the Browns should do:

Tear up the old contract and let him keep the money has so far -- as long as he signs a NEW six year contract.

We've already lost two of the six years we were supposed to have him. Yeah, the injury his first year wasn't really his fault (or was it -- if he'd been in camp, he might have been better prepared and better conditioned.) The Browns should say, ok K2, you can keep the money, but in exchange, you have to sign a new 6 year contract -- full of incentive clauses. If you don't play, you don't get paid.

If he doesn't recover, the Browns aren't really all that worse off. Yeah, its a few million they could be taking back, but this is the same club that "gave" Butch $12 million when he "quit" last year. K2 may be a dumbass, but he's our dumbass -- let's lock him in.

If he does recover, I want the benefit of seeing him on the field for a full six years. And if his agents don't think that's fair, then the Browns should make him give back some money.

K2's father is a football legend. It remains to be seen if K2's greatest contribution to the sport will simply be to serve as an example to others of how NOT to be.

But if he is going to salvage his career, it should happen here.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Urban Riders

Finally... MJ and I went on our first bike ride of the year.

We went from Martin Luther King Drive, along Lake Erie, past Burke Airport, past the Rock Hall, and then around Browns Stadium. From there we went up West Third to St. Clair, up West Ninth to Superior (and gave some people directions to the Rib Cookoff). Turned right and went over the Veterans Memorial (Detroit-Superior) Bridge to West 28th. Rode around Ohio City (the historic area mostly.) Then headed back downtown via the Hope Memorial (Lorain-Carnegie) Bridge. Up Ontario Street past Jacobs Field (Indians were leading the A's in the first), past the Rib Cookoff below (white smoke means a new Pork!) Over Huron to East 9th. Up East 9th to South Marginal to East 55th and back to the Lake. Along the Lake and back to MLK.

The sunset on the Lake last night was beautiful.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Trust

Can you really trust anyone? Is it unreasonable to expect any friend or loved one to be so faithful and devoted that you do not question their faith and devotion? If you maintain such expectations, aren't you just asking to be disappointed? Knowing that everyone is self interested, at some point, ones own self interest may conflict with yours. When that happens, this person, in whom you have placed unconditional trust, will betray you. And when that happens, what do you do? Can you ever trust them again? Do you just hold them at arms length? Can you forgive? And if you can forgive, can you forget?

Certainly there are differing degrees of trust. You might trust someone enough to loan them $20, but not enough to loan them your car. You might trust someone enough to enter into an agreement, but not enough to just shake hands on a deal. You might trust someone enough to go to dinner with your wife, but not enough to go on an overnight trip with her. Or perhaps it is your wife you don't trust.

At the same time, when someone questions your own fidelity and trustworthiness, isn't it fair for them to do so? Or, if it is coming from someone you thought you could trust without reservation, is that questioning justifiably offensive?

You are often told that forgiving and forgetting is the mature or healthy thing to do. But some offenses are too grave for that. In those situations, if there is anything that can be done that is healthy, it is simply finding a way to accept what has happened, and then move on. And when you move on, how do you deal with that person? Avoidance? Shut that person out entirely? Or just accept that person as the flawed creature that he or she is? Can you love that person again? How can you if you cannot trust them again?

The problem with trust is one that has plagued me my entire life. I am not sure exactly why that is. But I do not forgive betrayal easily, and try as I may to forget it, I never entirely do. Take romantic relationships, for example. I find that love and trust are intertwined. In the past, my ability to have a romantic relationship with someone was destroyed once my confidence in them, my ability to trust them, was destroyed. Every serious romantic relationship I have had has ended this way. Recognizing that, knowing that, how do I avoid repeating that yet again in the relationship I am in now? Are my expectations wrong or misplaced? Aren't I holding others to a higher standard than I am capable of myself? And if I cannot change how I feel, am I doomed to repeat the cycle? Can I avoid it if I just don't put myself out there like I once did?

Today I was cleaning out my desk. In the back of the drawer was a stack of email printouts from over a year ago. I knew what they were. I read them anyway. And it all comes back to me like it just happened. This is why it is on my mind today.

Nothing can change what has happened. But what can I learn from it? How can I avoid it from happening again?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Affordable Family Formation

An interesting analysis of what separates the red states from the blue states.

Steve Sailer sums it up as "Affordable Family Formation." In short, in areas where it is economical to buy a house with a yard with decent public schools, you will generally find more Republicans. He explores this further by looking at "four gaps":

The Dirt Gap
The Mortgage Gap
The Marriage Gap
The Baby Gap

"Buick" and "Quick" Do NOT Rhyme

I've said this before, and now I am going to write it here...

At the front of every traffic jam, there is a Buick.

I think if the White House were to issue an executive order suspending indefinitely the drivers licence of anyone who either OWNS a Buick or DRIVES a Buick, then most of our nation's highway congestion problems would be solved.

There is something about that car that makes people drive obnoxously slowly. It doesn't help that most people who drive them are advanced in age -- as if by driving slower, they are somehow escaping the reaper.

But it isn't just oldsters. Having had a couple of occasions to drive a LeSabre and a Park Avenue, I can tell you this first hand: the ride is soft and mushy, and it promotes driving slowly. You just float everywhere, without any sense of purpose or urgency, oblivious to the growing line of traffic behind you on that one lane road.

And if there is any question that Aerosmith has gotten too old -- its that "Dream On" campaign Buick has now. Are you an over-the-hill, detoxed, balding, sagging survivor of the 1960s and 1970s, whose idea of a recreational vice is greens fees at the country club? Here is your car!

Dear GM: bring back the Oldsmobile, and retire the Buick... Before the masses with their pitchforks do it for you!

This Is CNN. This Is News?

I wake up this morning with CNN on the TV. CNN is reporting on a man who is the leading suspect of the beating death of his girlfriend in Florida, now standing atop an 18 story crane in Georgia. He hasn't had any food or water in 48 hours. Drowsy and hungry and thirsty, will he fall? Will he jump? Will they talk him down?

Here are some better questions: Who cares? Why does this matter? Is this the best that a national new channel can offer?

Shouldn't news channels take the important and try to make it interesting? Instead, they take what appeals to our basest interests, and they make it important.

And as the camera focuses on this suspect, we stare, waiting for him to fall or jump. And if he does, you know they'll cut away -- because to actually witness him hitting the ground -- that would offend us. Yeah, only at that precise moment will they find concern with giving offense.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

An Evening with Porcupine Tree

Alright, here's how it went.

I meet up with Haves at 5:15 at Flannery's. Flannery's is right by House of Blues, but Flannery's drinks are a LOT CHEAPER, and its still a nice place. We watch the end of the soccer game, Liverpool rebounding from being down 3-0 and winning it in sudden death! I am not really a soccer fan, but even a non-fan like me could feel the excitement! Or maybe it was Haves, wearing his red Liverpool jersey, jumping up and down that I felt.

RKD calls me. RKD is my ex. Not an ex-wife, but at risk of offending my ex-wife, she probably means and meant a whole lot more to me than my ex-wife ever did. (That sounds REALLY bad, I realize, but its true, so I'll leave it.) Anyway, I knew RKD was going to be at the show, we'd talked (nice to be on pleasant speaking terms with the ex) and she was calling to see if I'd made it to Flannery's and who all was there, because she was partying at the HOB restaurant. We compare drink prices: me, $2 for a pint of pilsner; her, $6 for an amaretto sour. I was staying put at Flannery's.

MDC and MVC get there around 6:30. MDC is an old friend from high school -- really my only friend from my graduating class at GHS that I keep any regular contact with. MVC is his wife, and I've known her since we were all freshman at college at U of Toledo. We are about to round people up to head over to the venue when RKD calls again -- since she is at HOB, she just got to enter the venue before they open the outside doors, and, as we all have general admission tix, she ran up and has space in THE FRONT ROW -- and she says she'll try to save space for us. I look at Haves, about a halfway thru a Murphy's Stout, and say -- we gotta head out now! And he wants to finish his beer, so we take off and told him we'd see him there.

We jog around the corner to HOB, and get in line out front. The doors open in about 90 seconds, but SUCH A LONG 90 SECONDS it is when one woman (even an alpha female like RKD) is trying to save space in the front row. Finally, in the door. Finally, through security. Finally, the tickets are scanned. Finally, our hands are stamped, and wristbands fitted. We hurry through the floor, and ...

This is odd. There is an area that is standing room, and then there is... general admission seating? And a lot of it. And we walk toward the seating area (we can see RKD!) and we get stopped. Our tickets are for the standing area in the back only! Not the general admission seating! WTF!?! When I bought them, I didn't know there was a difference. No one explained that to me at the box office. So I tell the usher that, and he says that the front section still has a few tickets and they are only $5 more if we want to upgrade. So I make a break for the box office!

And boy are they SLOW at the box office. And I am obviously impatient! And even though I get right to the window with no waiting, I am waiting at the window while this (rookie? newbie? slug?) is working (if I can call it that) with no sense of urgency whatsoever. Her supervisor walks by and I look at her with this pained look, and she asks if there is a problem, and I say, yeah, I was sold the wrong tickets and I'm trying to upgrade, and here is my money, so what is the holdup? And she says well this is going to take a few minutes, and I say well, if I had been sold the right tickets in the first place ... etc etc. I call Haves and tell him to get over here to upgrade his ticket. The line behind me grows and grows, and FINALLY I have the upgrades -- oh please let there still be good seats.

I run back in, find MDC and MVC, and with new tix in hand, join RKD in the FRONT ROW, STAGE RIGHT. YES! I order a round of drinks, and buy one for RKD, least I can do for her for saving the seats!

MDC calls his brother -- we leave him a voicemail razzing him because we have front row seats and his ass is at home because he has to work in the morning ... boohoo we all have to work in the morning! OK, ESC has to be at work like at 3am or something for KYC, but c'mon he's young and he's already downtown! It sucks getting cranky and old at such a young age. And I know he would have enjoyed this show!

Haves finally arrives! And he takes a seat at dead center just a few rows back. I walk back and let him know we have a seat saved for him, but he likes where he is, and I can't argue. Great view, dead on center stage.

With seats secured, we hit the merchandise stand. I pick up a couple of old PT CDs I didn't have, as well as John Wesley's Shiver...more on that below. The shirts... the only 2X is the "work shirt" and I wasn't dropping $50 on a tour shirt. I didn't do it for Rush, I am not doing it for PT.

It turns out there is no opening act, it is an Evening with Porcupine Tree. Fine by us all! On the stage, Gavin Harrison is on the drums upstage left, Richard Barbieri on keyboards upstage right, Colin Edwin on bass downstage left, John Wesley on guitar downstage right, and Steven Wilson on guitar and lead vox front and center.

They open with Deadwing. The videoscreen is full of images reminiscent of the artwork from the CD -- those scratchy, semi-sepia toned photos. And the music is tight! Punchy and rocking yet ambient. And Wilson makes it all look so effortless.

The full set list is posted below.

The music just moves. I don't sense how long the songs take, because each one is so engrossing.

The great thing about being stage right was that we were right in front of Wes, so we a got a great view of everything he was doing. Wes is only with the band when they tour -- he plays guitar, leaving Wilson free to both play and sing, and play must of the guitar solos. Wes really beefs up the sound, and he sings too. He harmonizes wonderfully with Wilson. His new solo CD Shiver was just released, and the Cleveland show was (I think) the first show where it was available. Steven Wilson mixed it, and things that he touch turn to musical gold.

The bad thing about being stage right was that we were a little close to the fog machine! And I felt like we could hear Wes's monitor, so the music might have been even a little more guitar heavy.

Just a word about Gavin Harrison. I am no drummer, but I love creative drumming. I am a huge fan of Neil Peart, and all my favorite bands have excellent drummers. But Harrison doesn't get his due. When people list great dummers in rock, is name is nowhere to be found. This guy would give Neil a run for his money! The beats, the fills, that roll in Lazarus. His reinterpretation of Shesmovedon.

Highlights... Halo simply rocked. It couldn't have been better. Arriving Somewhere But Not Here -- that song is nearly 15 minutes long, but where does the time go? It still feels sleek and trim, a very agile prog rock song. Even Less might be my favorite song by them... and they closed the main set with it.

Criticisms? Well, there is one obvious one that they set themselves up for... on Deadwing, Adrian Belew sat in on a couple tracks, including Deadwing, and played the guitar solos. The Belew sound is very distinctive. And Steve replicated his solos fairly well (though the one they just kinda riffed through), but for as great as Steve is, he's not Belew. No one is.

At the end of the encore, I stand up to applaud, and to applaud Wes (since he was three feet in front of me) and ... he hands me his guitar pick. This has never happened to me before (although MJ can tell you about me getting hit with a foul ball at an Indians-Tigers game last month -- closest I've ever come to catching one!)

We get in line to get our Shiver CDs signed. MDC/MVC have to go, as Aunt Pam is watching the kids. But I take his CD case so I can get it signed. And I do.

Talking with Wes after the show, I thank him for the pick. He says that from the stage he recognized me from the other shows (both Porcupine Tree and Marillion ... he was the opening act on the North American leg of the Marbles tour.) Helluva guy, easy to talk with, to see him is to like him.

Haves and I hang out for awhile to try to get signatures from the rest of the band. We get some. Haves has to leave, but then I wander back. I wait around waaaay too long. Silly in a way. It is not like I don't have other autographs from these guys -- my very first PT show at the Agora Ballroom, I got all five of them to sign my Signify and In Absentia CDs. But this evening I do get a minute with Steven Wilson, he signs my Deadwing and my Marillion single of Don't Hurt Yourself which has his mix of Angelina as the B-side track. What's this? he says. Your remix of Angelina. Oh! Marillion! And I thank him and tell him I enjoyed the show.

The only signature I don't get is Harrison's. He walks by carrying some things and I don't want to bug him with his hands full. But he never comes back.

Overall, a great night! If you read this far, then you have to check out this band! Even if they don't come to your town, pick up Deadwing and listen to it! It has barely left my CD player since I bought it.

Lunchtime Happenings

Had lunch with RPC and RF. Went to #1 Pho -- yummy Vietnamese. We
shared an order of soup, every one of us spilled it on our shirts.
Then we shared war stories of legal battles past. I feel like RPC and
I might have bored RF in with a couple of ours!

Then we went to Cleveland MetroBark -- to see RF's doggie. He takes
Angie there when he goes to work. We pulled up, looked over the
fence, I think there were 40 dogs running around -- and when they saw
us, they all started barking! Nothing like having 40 big dogs barking
at you! I was glad to be behind the fence. Yet, they were beautiful
dogs, all well taken care of.

With all the commotion, the dogsitters came out to see why they were
all barking. They saw us and came over to the fence. I asked how much
to watch a doggie. Only $19/day. RPC sd that he pays more than that
for is daughter's daycare, then asked how much to watch a baby.

I realized this is where DJB and SB take their dog, Beaubridges! I
remember SB sharing the doggie-cam! So I asked if Beaubridges was
here today, and she said, no not today. Too bad. I would have said
hi to Beaubridges.

I think its funny that MetroBark is so close to the Vietnamese
restaurant. Funny and wrong of me to think its funny, but funny all
the same.

Porcupine Tree Set List

House of Blues, Cleveland, May 25, 2005

Deadwing
The Sound of Muzak
Lazarus
Halo
Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before Its Recycled
Hatesong
Arriving Somewhere But Not Here
Fadeaway (John Wesley on vocals)
Shallow
Mellotron Scratch
Blackest Eyes
Even Less

Encore:
Shesmovedon
Trains


Review to follow. Executive summary: it rocked!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Proud of Our Ohio Senators

I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh a lot, but I did tune in for a bit yesterday and today. He sure is crying about our Republican Senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich.

DeWine was among the GOP senators who struck the deal to allow votes on three of the nominees and not exercise the nuclear (nuke-u-ler?) option on the fillibuster.

Voinovich is getting hammered by Limbaugh because now, after having held up the Bolton nomination in committee, he is circulating a letter to the other Republican senators urging them not to vote for him! check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/24/politics/24text-letter.html

Its refreshing to see sensible and honest conservatism prevail over the radical agenda of the Bush administration. Even better to see it from our boys here in Ohio.

While I am pleased with DeWine, I am not surprised. With Voinovich, I thought his first term in the Senate was unremarkable, except for his stand for fiscal responsibility in the face of Bush's proposed tax cuts, which led to smaller tax cuts. At the beginning of his second term, the man who shines his own shoes is calling Bolton as he sees him: the wrong man in these dangerous times.

Cheers to that even smaller minority in the US Senate: senators who are conservative, but not stupid.

PT Tonite

Going to see Porcupine Tree tonight!!!

House of Blues, Cleveland -- doors open at 7pm!

Party before hand at Flannery's on Prospect, just around the corner from HOB!

I believe tix are still available -- if you are in town and are looking for something to do... come on out!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Putting Words in Howard Dean's Mouth

From Meet the Press, 5/22/05 -- http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7924139/:

Tim Russert:

But in order to have a civilized debate about these kinds of issues, a robust debate, can we be doing this to each other in the political process? Here's the Democratic National Committee Web site this morning. It is, in effect, a mug shot of Tom DeLay. You can see his height in the back with inches there, a serial number, 18821. Is that appropriate, a mug shot?

What Howard Dean said in response:

I don't think it's appropriate for Tom DeLay to be in Congress, Tim. I really don't. Some of his own party has suggested he step aside while this ethics investigation is going on. I think he ought to at least step aside while this ethics investigation is going on. We didn't start this. Look, we're not going to stoop to the kind of divisiveness that the Republicans, are doing and we're not going to stoop to the kind of abuse of power, but we are going to be tough as nails. This is a fight for the soul of America between the Republicans and Democrats.
What Dean should have said:
No. But it will do, until we get the real mug shot.

Dean was not smooth, not well prepared for this interview. His talking points were not well rehearsed. He wasn't thinking on his feet. It was painful to watch, and eventually I shut it off. But not before he mixed up Osama and Saddam -- he said that there was no evidence that Osama was behind 9/11 when he surely meant to say Saddam -- since he spoke of it in context of invading Iraq.

There are plenty of Bush supporters who are trying to make hay out of the point that Dean apparently can't tell the difference between Osama and Saddam. Perhaps the more appropriate thing to say is that Dean can't tell the difference between Osama and Saddam either. At least Dean didn't follow through with his slip and commit American armed forces to the wrong country.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Icee, baybee

More from ADD Saturday... I stopped at the Burger King by the Home Depot -- not to eat the food (gawd no) but to get a Coke flavored Icee. A little frozen Coke goodness was sure to hit the spot. I parked and walked in, since the drivethru lane was backed up.

I order at the counter. While I am waiting, I see an employee look at the screen, shake her head, and then proceed to the fries. No, the manager says, next up is the "Icee left." Icee left? I look at the Icee machine, and I can see the slush spinning for both flavors: Coke on the left, blueberry on the right. Ohhhhhh, I get it. Coke is "left."

Well, the employee didn't get it. She grabs a cup and walks over to the Icee machine. She shakes her head back and forth, left/right, left/right. And then she pauses. And I realize: this girl doesn't know her left from her right! She then shrugs her shoulders and takes a 50-50 chance, and guesses.

Happily, she guessed right. I got exactly what I ordered, but I am certain there was an even chance I was going to get a cup full of blueberry.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Kadence's Day

On Sunday, MJ and I went to a baptismal reception out in Jefferson for little baby Kadence. Kadence sure looks like her daddy, yet she's still a cutie! (I tease JED and the missus.)

The reception was tasteful and fun, and many old friends were in attendance.

Celebrating the little one's entry into the church, I find myself thinking again about my own faith, or lack thereof. The Catholic church is really the only one I've known. Culturally, I appreciate my Catholic upbringing, such as it was. But I don't feel at home in the church anymore. I haven't for some time. But there is a difference now.

I used to feel that the Catholic church was my church, and that when I was ready to go back to church, I'd be back -- at a Catholic church. I no longer feel that way. If I find myself practicing a religion again, I don't think it will be a Catholic church. Maybe its this new pope. Maybe its just a realization that I just don't share those values, and I know I don't aspire to attain those values. I am not going to pretend to be something I'm not.

I do think that human beings are hardwired to seek answers, to seek truth. Well, not exactly. I think a lot of people need to be told what to think, and so they find a series of positions they can accept and adopt as their own. For a lot of people, those "answers," that "truth" -- is enough. That is not enough for me. Most people cannot handle the responsibility of independent, objective thought. I'm still open to it!

But one thing I no longer doubt -- the Catholic Church is no longer, if it ever was, a church that permits any sort of meaningful, intellectual questioning of the faith. You are not allowed to ask "why." You get a series of positions, and you are told to accept them. And I don't agree with a lot of them. I have no use for that. What is the point in trying to believe in something, when you not only know you don't, but you have ideas and thoughts that are contrary to those beliefs? So why fight that? Find something else!

But to Kadence, I say this: your life began a few short weeks ago, and your spiritual life has begun today. Whatever you find in life, whatever happiness you make, whatever truth you seek -- don't settle, don't give up, don't be satisfied easily. Question, be skeptical, be true.

ADD Saturday Addendum

Mustard barbeque sauce is something I first had in South Carolina, and its something you just don't find up North. I suppose that my recipe for mustard barbeque wouldn't past muster (ha!) with any real Carolinian.

But here is my sauce recipe...

Simmer all the following in a saucepan for 10 minutes
8 tablespoons yellow mustard
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup of white vinegar (nothing fancy)
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of black pepper

After 10 minutes, remove from heat. Stir in a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a tablespoon of butter.

I was going to grill the chicken and the veggies... I turned on the grill to preheat it, and a few minutes later, noticed that the gas lines leading up to the control knobs were flaming! And the knobs melted too! I killed the gas, and took everything back upstairs. Back to the Foreman grill! The mustard barbeque was still good -- but I was REALLY looking foward to grilling out! And now I have to "fix the grill" again! grrr.

And MJ prefers a sweeter sauce -- but she ate the mustard barbeque all the same. She suggested adding some honey next time. Well, yeah, if you want honey-mustard sauce! Well, like most recipes of mine, whatever ends up in it is whatever suits me at that moment (and whatever is in the cupboard).

Friday, May 20, 2005

WTC2

Rebuild it!

http://www.teamtwintowers.org/

http://www.triroc.com/wtc/

Who Are You Calling a Jedi?

MJ and I watched Return of the Jedi last night, and there are things that are bugging me again about that movie that I haven't thought about in awhile.

For example, in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda and Obi-Wan urge Luke not to leave until he finishes the training. From there, Luke rushes off to the cloud city, (and its a mining outpost, so what exactly are they mining up in the sky anyway?) He fights Vader, loses his hand, learns that Vader is his father, and then escapes. They then orchestrate a plan to rescue Han from Jabba. And RotJ begins with that rescue.

Then Luke returns to Yoda to finish the training. And Yoda tells him "no more training do you need." Now, did Yoda tell Luke that just because he was dying, and couldn't train Luke any more even if he wanted to? Yoda does tell him he won't be a Jedi until he confronts Vader. This doesn't sound like ordinary training to me. It sounds like getting your equivilency or something. Yoda could have said, "well you dropped out of school, but then you fought Vader and survived, and then you killed a giant slug, so we're going to give you your Jedi [G.E.D.-I.] diploma -- provided you go face Vader again." Is this an education, on the job training, or some bizarre hazing ritual?

If its hazing, I'd like to see Kevin Bacon getting smacked in the butt with a light sabre while crying "Thank you Yoda may I have another." And then John Belushi could have appeared, stuck Luke with a pledge pin, and belched, "Your Jedi name is Flounder." With CGI, Lucas could do it. Watch for it in the next edition.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Filibuster

Gonna keep this one short.

Left-leaning activists are looking to create a grassroots movement to
save ... a parliamentary procedure. One that once blocked civil
rights legislation for years.

Have the Democrats decided that they are and will continue to be the
minority party? That winning back the Senate is nothing they have
designs on?

Conservatives usually like procedures that impede government action.
The Filibuster rule does that. Democrats are all backwards on this
issue. The GOP is going to pay for these Bush administrations. And
the Democrats, if they had any vision, would be planning to take over,
and be glad that once the GOP is in the minority, would be powerless
to filibuster themselves.

And this threat that if the GOP does away with the filibuster, that
the Dems will unite to impede progress on everything else? C'mon.
Who does that really hurt? Democratic constituencies or Republican
constituencies? What kind of threat is it that Democrats will prevent
the government from making more laws and spending more money? Isn't
that what conservatives generally want?

True conservatives, perhaps. Not today's GOP, which is full of borrow
and spend, big government conservatives. The conservatism of Barry
Goldwater is as dead as he is. So, maybe it is a "real" threat -- as
real as any threat premised upon the fantasy that the Democrats ever
could unite to do anything.

Arriving Somewhere but Not Here

Never stop the car on a drive in the dark
Never look for the truth in your mother's eyes
Never trust the sound of rain upon a river rushing through your ears

Arriving somewhere but not here

Did you imagine the final sound as a gun?
Or the shattered windows of a car?
Did you ever imagine the last thing you'd hear as you're fading out was a song?

All my designs simplified
All of my plans compromised
All of my dreams sacrificed

Ever had the feeling you've been here before?
Drinking down the poison the way you were taught
Every thought from here on in your life begins and all you knew was wrong?

Did you see the red mist block your path?
Did the scissors cut a way to your heart?
Did you feel the envy for the sons of mothers tearing you apart?

- Steven Wilson

See his band at HOB Cleveland, May 25.

Modern Dentistry

I got a call today from my dentist's office reminding me that I have
an appointment tomorrow. I am glad they call, because I often forget
to mark down dentist appointments when they are scheduled 6 months
out. But I am dreading going, because I need to have my fillings
replaced. I have only two fillings, but they both need replacing.
And I've known it for a year now.

Last time I went to the dentist (November), I was gently scolded for
not coming in before then to have it done. I told him I'd be back
after the holidays. Well, I guess by "holidays" I meant "May Day" and
"Memorial Day" instead of "Christmas" and "New Years Day."

I know it needs to be done. And its not that I really mind sitting
the chair, having the fillings removed and then put back in (not that
its especially fun either.) But the thing is, I don't have dental
insurance. So, I have to pay for this out of pocket, and that means
money not spent on something else. Like sushi or gasoline. Or
miscellaneous repairs to my cars.

I feel bad complaining about it, because I know lots of people who
don't have decent (or any) healthcare coverage, and mine is great, as
far it goes. I just don't have any dental or vision coverage.

Now I know I could find a cheaper dentist, but I want quality work.
In fact, the one filling was never right, and that's why it needs to
be redone. And its an amalgam filling, so I'm probably being slowly
lead poisoned by it. I trust the dentist I have now to take care of
me -- he's going to replace it with porcelin, if I ever let him. I
just don't feel like shelling out several hundred dollars. But I also
know if I don't take care of it, eventually there will be negative
consequences. Not just more money, but pain. I don't like pain.

I kicked my appointment to Saturday morning. But that doesn't really
buy me any time. I'll just have to hem and haw about why I haven't
been in. My dentist knows I pay out of pocket. I should just make
the appointment to redo the fillings next month, suck it up, and hope
that I can avoid anymore suicidal groudhogs or other unforeseen
expenses.

Cleveland Heights, the ongoing saga

Cleveland Heights did fax me the police report. Now I get to file my
complaint letters with the city and with those warm, cuddly road
construction folks who are always so happy to open their checkbooks!

I should really keep track of the time I spend on this project.
Sometimes I think that letting go and moving on would be the wiser
course. But if you do that, irresponsible people are never held
accountable for their behavior. And then what incentive do they have
to ever improve?

The Mean Streets of Cleveland

Driving downtown today, I think I ran over something. I didn't see it
before I hit it, I didn't see anything in the mirror after I hit it,
but something sure didn't sound right. I am just waiting to go out to
the garage later to find a flat tire.

Learning the Ways of the Force

Episode 3 debuted in the wee hours of the morning. I wasn't there. I
am giving MJ a remedial course in Star Wars. We've gotten through
Empire, and she was all ready to watch Return of the Jedi when she
realized how late it was last night. So two down, three to go --
before we head to the theater.

I don't think you even have to like Star Wars -- this is just a movie
you have to see if you want to remain even remotely literate in pop
culture. Then again, I obviously don't care about remaining literate
since I don't want most reality TV anyway. I did get a big kick out
of the Anna Nicole Smith show for awhile, just because it, and she,
are such a trainwreck.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

My First Testimonial

"I'm doped up on cough syrup and stopped in the middle of Britney 'n
Kev to check out your blog. I think it kicks ass. Pardon the potty
mouth and bad spelling, I'm real sick." -- KB

Bad Car-ma

I adhere to the scientific method. I am not religious. I am not superstitious. When Obi-Wan said "there is no such thing as luck," I could relate and respect that statement. And after careful consideration, I have reached one inescapable conclusion: my new car is cursed.

I bought a 2004 Volvo S40 in February from the dealership in my neighborhood. It wasn't actually brand new, just new to me -- it had only 6900 miles on it. And it had been on their lot -- a Toyota lot -- for nearly month. And I thought, "what is this car doing here, and why has no one bought it yet?"

Well, now I know the answer: because the car is cursed. I neglected to ask the salesman when I bought it whether the car might be cursed. I don't think they are required to disclose curses. Odometer tampering, yes. Curses? The law is silent on that. And curses don't show up on the Carfax report either.

I hadn't even made the first payment on that car when I backed into a pole at a gas station in Michigan. Didn't see the pole, it was below my sightline. And judging by all the other dings on it, it looks like its backed into pretty regularly. Nevermind that the damn thing was practically in the middle of the parking lot, a good 4 or 5 feet away from the corner of the building. And wanting to get away from Michigan as quickly as possible, I got a speeding ticket THAT SAME DAY on the Turnpike near Maumee, Ohio. He wrote me up for 87 even though his laser only showed 81. But I wasn't going to drive to Maumee to fight it.

Mere possession of the cursed Volvo (hereinafter referred to as "Meatball") was enough to cause a tree to fall on my OTHER car, my Sebring convertible (aka "the Vapor Trailer.") It is not that I need 2 cars or even want 2 cars, I just knew that I wouldn't get anything on it for a trade in February. My plan was to hold onto it until the weather warmed up, and then sell it privately. But instead a tree fell on it during the second to last snowstorm we had here! Completely destroyed the roof of the car. And now the insurance company has fixed that too. (Nothing like filing two claims less than 5 weeks apart.)

And its good thing too... because ...

Right before the Vapor Trailer was ready to be picked up, I encountered a suicidal groundhog on Interstate 71 somewhere between Columbus and Mansfield. At least, I think it was a groundhog. Assuredly, it is not a groundhog anymore. But it took out the engine shield, the lining of the wheel well, the washer fluid reservoir (how it did that I have NO idea) and the tire. This one I didn't even report to my insurance, I just paid the $540 out of pocket.

But while Meatball was in the shop, I was driving the Vapor Trailer in Cleveland Heights when a woman in an SUV backed into me. We exchanged information, but there is not enough damage on my car (just a scuff on an already scuffed bumper) to make it worth my while. So I filed a
police report to document that it happened, and I didn't file any claim with her insurance company.

And then I got Meatball back, and over the weekend, where the construction is going on at Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, between Coventry and Cedar Hill, I blew out the sidewall of the other front tire (not the one the groundhog took out.) Apparently Perk Construction cut away strips of pavement and then filled them only with gravel rather than covering them with metal plates. Well, the gravel settled, and one of these manmade potholes took out my tire. Naturally Meatball has performance tires, so that set me back another $172.

I filed another police report at Cleveland Heights (they're getting to know me down there.) First thing on Monday, I called in to get the form to file the claim for my money (haha, but you don't get what you don't ask for). And I am told I have to come in to get the form. I ask if they can mail it to me or fax it. No, they don't do that, per the policy of the Police Chief. So then I ask if my girlfriend, MJ, can pick it up for me (since she didn't have to be at work till 1) -- but no, they require it be filled out on the spot. She can't leave with the form! So its not even like they are too cheap to spring for a stamp or a phone call for the fax. Its obviously just meant to make it harder to file a claim.

Well now I'm mad. And I look up the city's website to see if I can locate phone numbers for the members of city council. I find them, but also learn that there is a city council meeting THAT NIGHT. So instead of calling, I went.

The room was packed. There were a bunch of resolutions to be voted on, including one on an expansion of a medical facility. But luckily for me, the citizen's comments are at the beginning of the meeting, right after the approval of the minutes. So I got up and went on about 3 or 4 minute rant about how unfriendly city hall is, that if you work during the day city hall is closed to you, and we pay too much in taxes to have such shoddy service, etc, etc. And they video
these meetings to run on the community access channel, so I'm about 30 seconds into my rant when I realize the camera is turned and focused on me. So now I am ranting alternately at the council and the mayor, while glancing occasionally at the camera for the benefit of the people at home. And then Mayor Kelley steps up and directs me to two people who he says can help me RIGHT NOW. And if they don't, I should call him at home. Yaay!

So now I talk with two refreshingly accommodating city employees, who tell me they'll get me the form I need. The next day, the form I wanted was faxed to me, with instructions to include a copy of the police report. Of course, if I want a copy of the police report, I have to go to city hall between the hours of 9 and 5 to get it! Here we go again!

So I called the mayor last night. Reminded him that I am the lunatic from the night before at the city council meeting. And someone is now supposed to be faxing me the police report today. We'll see....

But yeah, the car is cursed. Between crashes, traffic tickets, and being thrown into the morass that is Cleveland Heights City Hall, I am certain that supernatural forces are at work. And if anyone who knows voodoo or the black arts could contact me to set up exorcising the demons from Meatball, I would be grateful. Don't think Mayor Kelley can help me with that, and I wouldn't presume to ask.

Britney and Kevin, Brides, and Enterprise

So Britney and Kevin have a reality show now. One more TV show I won't watch. I remember when watching reality programming meant watching the news. But now CNN and the other networks chase runaway brides and other missing children -- because that's what the people want. And whether you are watching TV cover Britney and Kevin at home or analysts pondering the reasons why Jennifer Wilbanks bolted at the thought of marrying a dorky Sunday school teacher in front of 600 plus family and friends -- its all about voyeurism. We like to watch.

But the thing that really irked me was enduring the ads for Britney and Kevin's show last week during the series finale of Enterprise. UPN cancels Enterprise, which admittedly was never that good, the weakest by far of all the Star Trek series. Still, I was a faithful viewer. But this is UPN for cryin' out loud! Apparently, UPN can't be content delivering a Star Trek product to a core audience -- they'd rather do Britney and Kevin.

Speaking of Enterprise -- its amazing how the writing got so much better after the series was cancelled. Through the Mirror Darkly were two of the best episodes I can remember. But the finale itself was terrible. They killed off the one character that anyone could give a damn about (which, when you think about it, is probably the only character they could have killed off and had the audience care) , and they needlessly turned it into an episode of Next Generation by bringing in Riker and Troy and running the Enterprise story as if it were a holodeck program on the Picard led Enterprise. That might have been a neat mid-season episode, but to end the series that way is an insult to the cast of the Enterprise series, and an admission that even the creators of the show didn't think Enterprise really stood on its own.

With NYPD Blue gone and Enterprise gone, with the news networks showing reality programming instead of real news, and with only two regular series I enjoy on a regular basis (Arrested Development and The West Wing) -- I am beginning to wonder why I even have TiVo or a dish at all! Oh, because Bill Maher's Real Time is on HBO -- which is now on hiatus till August.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Another Upcoming Show

They Might Be Giants

7/15 Cleveland, OH @ The Odeon 9 PM

Live Music!

Two concerts I'll be attending in the near future:

Porcupine Tree, at the House of Blues in Cleveland, May 25.

Marillion, or more accurately: Los Trios Marillios (3/5 of the band playing an acoustic set) at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, June 12.

Porcupine Tree is probably the greatest band you've never heard. And you can fix that right now by running out to Best Buy and buying a copy of their latest CD, Deadwing. What do they sound like? Try a cerebral, progressive version of Nine Inch Nails. And Adrian Belew sits in and plays guitar solos on a couple of the tracks, so how can you go wrong? This CD has barely left my player since I bought it!

The No-Debate Club at the Vatican

Today's debates about the Catholic Church are not about changing the Nicene Creed or the Gospels. No one is arguing that Jesus didn't die on the cross. No one is arguing that Catholics should acknowledge more than one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. It used to be the church's position that the earth was in the center of the solar system and the universe and anyone who thought otherwise was a heretic. It used to be the church's position that slavery and anti-semitism were ok. But these things have changed, because they don't really define
what it means to be a Catholic. And frankly, neither should gay rights, or whether women may be priests, or whether a priest may be allowed to marry. Jesus never spoke on these issues. It is the institution created by man that has set these policies. And thus I think its fair for Catholics to debate them.

But that being said, I think the Catholic church is and will continue to be an increasingly reactionary and backward looking institution. I don't practice anymore, and the selection of Pope Benedict XVI only affirms my stance. I've walked with my feet. If others want to stay
and fight, its their church too, they should do that. I'm done with it. Been done with it. Twice as done with it now.

Stepping into the Blogosphere

OK, I am going to try blogging. Been thinking about doing this for a
long time, and its hardly cutting edge to start it now. But I want to
blog, so let's blog.

TEST

Sharpen your pencils. This is a test.