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Friday, July 07, 2006

White Russian Dreams

I caught the tail end of the Big Lebowski on cable the other night. It's one of those movies that gets funnier the more you watch it, but you really have to work to sit through the first time.

Anyway, inspired by the Dude, I opted to drink White Russians at the bar last night rather than my usual (and not so appetizing) choice of Bud Lite. I don't think I've ever had a White Russian before last night, but let me tell you: They're so good. A good one tastes like a Jamocha shake, but with a bite, and for a lightweight like me, they go down easy.
On the surface, me and the Dude have a lot in common. We like White Russians. We share some of the same recreational activities, although I'm not really into bowling. We're "self-employed." We need a haircut.

But I'm not the Dude. I'm James, and after drinking three White Russians (and a beer) I was pretty tore up.

And when I lay my head on my pillow last night, I was tortured by dreams, dreams of a highly emotional nature regarding my ex-girlfriend. Why? A few things. The recruiter I spoke to yesterday about my latest job opportunity shares her name. A few things here and there got me thinking about her, too, and like a snowball rolling down hill, all these thoughts coalesced in my subconscious while I was sleeping.

I don't remember any specifics about the dream, but I woke up feeling pretty shitty (and hung over). See, I've been meaning to ask this girl out. If you've been paying attention, you know which one. But it's just not working out the way I had planned, and it's almost as if the two sides of my brain are warring over the reasons why.

One side, the optimistic, hopeful side can already envision the beauty and joy of dating and being with this person. The other side can only see doom. Don't fall too hard, it seems to be saying. It's gonna hurt when you land.

And that is a depressing thought that doesn't need any help from liquid depressants like alcohol. Counter-productive too.

Garden Photoblogging

The Ghetto Garden, flourishing.
Shasta Daisies

Wildflowers and then some.

Flowers? Nope, cucumbers. I think I'm going to have a lot this year...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wurkin

I worked today. At a job. For the first time since March.

Funny thing, I signed up for this temp agency a few weeks ago. I finished up their online tests early this week and low and behold, I get a call yesterday asking if I was available. I've been occupied in war blogging (or is that a blogging war?) and tending my garden and watching movies and going to the bar and not much else, so of course I was available.

It's a two day assignment, just routine office stuff. Today I did some filing, made some labels, put together some letters, took some hard drives out of some old computers that are going to be recycled. No biggity. Tomorrow I'll rearrange their storage space and that will be that. I'm getting paid $10.50 an hour, which is peanuts, but I'm really doing it out of the kindness of my heart.

The place is a non-profit organization dedicated to organ donation, so in some small way, I'm probably helping someone live longer. In another, the agency I signed up with employs a friend of a friend, and so by taking this job, I'm in a way helping her out. She's doing her job, and her company is getting their fee. And me? I get a little paycheck next week and something to do.

But like I said in a previous post, the job search has been bearing fruit.

I got called back from two other companies that I had applied for in my flurry to meet my unemployment quota. The first, Time Warner Telecom, one of those big telecoms based in Denver I was talking about the other day. I don't recall the job exactly, but I can do it. (We're playing phone tag now.) The second was from a recruiter for Regal Cine-media, a theater chain (also based in Denver) for a Network Engineer position. That one sounds alright, even with the shift work, and may indeed start as early as next week...

It's temp to perm, which is fine with me. I got my job at Qwest the same way, both times, and I think it's a good way to vet potential employees for certain types of jobs.

It's not like these two-day admin assignments. It's a, in human resource parlance, career path.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More Scare Tactics


This one cracks me up. That little rat monster is creepy and the guy's reaction is hilarious!

Coke or Pepsi

Ah, the benefits of a free market system where the rules are enforced.  Some industrial spies were arrested after trying to sell Coke secrets to Pepsi.  Coke and Pepsi have been in a decades long war for the world’s soft drinker (new word), but Pepsi didn’t hesitate to turn the potential saboteurs in.
"Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal," (Pepsi spokesman Dave) DeCecco said.
I’ll let you extract your own lesson from the story.

Scare Tactics

A very elaborate scare prank from that show Scare Tactics, a meaner version of Candid Camera. Worth a laugh or two.

The part where he hops into his buddy's lap is priceless.

Kenneth Lay - RIP

Remember, greedy people: He who dies with the most toys...still dies.

Rovism is Dead

Proof that Rovism hasn't swallowed every Republican from Texas. Ron Paul (R-TX) issued a statement to Congress on June 29th, in which he manages to repudiate Rove's cynical election-year maneuvering while sticking to his conservative principles.

In part, it read:
But no one is allowed to ask the obvious. How have the 2,500 plus deaths, and the 18,500 wounded, made us more free? What in the world does Iraq have to do with protecting our civil liberties here at home? What national security threat prompted American’s first pre-emptive war? How does our unilateral enforcement of UN resolutions enhance our freedoms?

These questions aren’t permitted. They are not politically correct. I agree that the truth hurts, and the questions are terribly hurtful to the families that have suffered so much. What a horrible thought it would be to find out the cause for which we fight is not quite so noble.

I don’t believe those who hide from the truth and refuse to face the reality of the war do so deliberately. The pain is too great. Deep down, psychologically, many are incapable of admitting such a costly and emotionally damaging error. They instead become even greater and more determined supporters of the failed policy.
I've asked those questions many times on my blog, and have been assaulted as a crack smoking, tinfoil hat wearing commie meathead. Representative Paul addresses that, as well:
The major obstacle to a sensible foreign policy is the fiction about what patriotism means. Today patriotism has come to mean blind support for the government and its policies. In earlier times patriotism meant having the willingness and courage to challenge government policies regardless of popular perceptions.

Today we constantly hear innuendos and direct insults aimed at those who dare to challenge current foreign policy, no matter how flawed that policy may be. I would suggest it takes more courage to admit the truth, to admit mistakes, than to attack others as unpatriotic for disagreeing with the war in Iraq.
Read the whole thing here. It's worth your time.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Heroes

I’ve been digging on this Shinedown song called Heroes. It’s got a great driving riff, some lilting bluesy vocals, and a catchy chorus.
All my heroes have now become ghosts
Sold their sorrow to the ones who paid the most
All my heroes are dead and gone
But they're inside of me, they still live on
This isn’t necessarily true for me. Some are indeed gone, Hemingway and Philip K Dick among them. But there are still a few that are still alive and kicking. John Elway is one of them, and so is Muhammad Ali, although in diminished form. Some, like Indiana Jones, never even existed at all.

Still, a cool song. Check out the live performance below.

More Bull-Pucky from the National Review

By mistake, I accidentally clicked onto the Corner, the National Review’s group blog that I swore I wouldn’t read again after thoroughly debunking Jonah “Me So Dummy” Goldberg’s excursions into the outer reaches of absurdity.

First the funny stuff. At 7:04AM (Eastern time, presumably) Goldberg whacked Google for not being patriotic by neglecting to put up some Independence Day graphics. Never mind that Google has no obligation to provide themed graphics. Never mind that Google is headquartered in Mountain View, CA and it was 4:04AM California time when Goldberg made his complaint. (I assume Google has a 24X7 staff, but perhaps not in the “Themed Graphics” department.) Never mind that there is now a cats and flags theme up at Google now.

They deserve to be slammed for not conforming to Jonah Goldberg’s expectations.

But this post is what really got me scratching my head.
So CIA analysts concluded that Osama bin Laden wanted George Bush to win the 2004 election, and this is why he released a video tape just days before the election? If true, this is just more evidence that the spy agency needs a thorough cleaning.
James S. Robbins obviously doesn’t buy the CIA’s conclusions on that one, and he has a point. Bin Laden wanting a Bush victory does seem counterintuitive, but no one ever accused Bin Laden of being a rational human being. It might even be argued that Osama’s dominant personality trait is his unhinged irrationality, so who knows what he’s thinking.

Perhaps he’s thinking that as long as Bush is in charge, he will remain free and unaccountable. Can you think of anything that would dispute that conclusion?

This certainly doesn't.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Turing Test

I came across this blog post about the MSN Encarta bot that works through MSN Messenger. I decided to give it a little whirl myself. The exchange went this way.
James says:
Can you pass the Turing test?
Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Why don't you pass the Turing test?
And that, my friends, is the perfect answer to such a question. Philip K. Dick would love this thing.

Deadwood Blogging

Did anyone watch Deadwood last night?  Is it just me, or is Al Swearengen showing some vulnerability?  It’s too early to say if Hearst’s bullying “unmanned” him, but in the last couple of episodes we’ve seen an Al Swearengen who knows fear and self-doubt, quite an unusual contrast from the brutal, unforgiving Al we’ve come to love.

And I have to say, Ian McShane is one helluva actor.  His eyes can be as cold as steel or as warm as freshly baked muffins.

Get the recap here, or better yet, set your Tivo to pick up the repeats playing this week.  

Poets Row Update

I have probably made more than a half dozen false starts on “Chapter” 7 of Poets Row but so far have been less than impressed with my efforts.  The process I’ve chosen, which could colloquially be called “making it up as I go,” has been interesting, but I think I might need a little more planning on the next one so I can avoid these tricky “where do I go now?” situations.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I effectively finished the first act of the book with the last chapters.  I’m not consciously trying to follow a three-act structure, but every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end.  I’ve already established the characters, the stakes, and the scene.  Now it’s time to keep all these plates spinning.

After reading through the manuscript again, I also realized there are a few things that I need to change.  They are all minor things, but they’re bugging me.  

For instance, I need to change the name of Tony’s bar.  The concept of a bar named Charlie’s run by a guy named Tony just isn’t as funny as I thought it would be, and it’s probably more confusing than amusing anyway.  Also, during Pride, I was reminded that Denver already has a pretty well known bar called Charlie’s, a gay cowboy bar off Colfax.  I’m not worried about the connotations;  I just don’t think it’s right for me to steal their thunder.

So instead, I’ll have to come up with a new name for Tony the Croat’s bar.  My first idea is to call it the Dalmatian, not for the dog but for the region of Croatia.  Originally, I envisioned Tony coming from Zagreb, but it’s a minor point, and I suppose he could have just as easily come from Dubrovnik.  Unlike Zagreb, Dubrovnik was famously shelled during the Yugoslav wars in the 90s, and I always envisioned Tony as a guy who emigrated to the states to escape the war.  (Of course, it’s a little known fact that Tony got the bankroll to open his bar in America through the illegal arms trade, so it wouldn’t exactly be fair to call him a refugee.)

Also, the restaurant scene with Max and his wife and the whole subplot (although it’s not really much of a subplot) about the police shooting needs to be changed.  A few things bug me about that.  First, it’s not relevant to the story and I spent too much time (too many words, actually) developing it.  Secondly, if I had thought it through a little more I could have made Karen’s call out an echo of the story.  Perhaps instead of a legal advisor called out on police shootings, she could be a victim’s advocate called out to a sexual assault.  

Of course that’s going to take some hefty rewriting and I’ve vowed not to do too much of that until I have at least a first draft done.  But it still bugs me.  

Mahmoudiya

I really need to lighten up my blog…but they don’t call it heavy for nothing.

More on the Iraq civilian rape-murder case.  An arrest has been made.  Steven D. Green, who was discharged for a “personality disorder” before the crime was revealed to the world, was led out of court in a Johnny Cash T-shirt and handcuffs.

Most reports are calling the rape victim a woman, estimating her age anywhere from 20 to 25, but it’s even worse than that.  The Washington Post identified her as 15 year old Abeer Qasim Hamza.  

She was only a child!

I’m pissed about this, pissed almost to the point of not being coherent about it.  These motherfuckers killed a family because they wanted to rape a child!  It’s despicable and  indefensible.  It’s a betrayal not only of American values and the American military, but of the basic standards of human decency.

And it certainly won't help our cause in Iraq...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Once a Marine...Always a Marine

I just read an article about Oliver Stone's forthcoming movie about 9-11, World Trade Center. Oliver's one of my top 5 directors...okay, so maybe he's number 6, after Spielberg, Scorsese, Spike Lee, and the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony.

Here's an anecdote that I had never heard about, but is going to be in the movie:
And the former marine who leaves his job as a suburban accountant, rushes to church, then dons his pressed battle fatigues, stops at a barbershop for a high-and-tight, heads downtown past barricades saying he's needed and winds up tiptoeing through the perilous heap calling out "United States Marines" until Mr. Jimeno hears him and responds. Mr. Stone says he is adding a note at the end of the film, revealing that the marine, David Karnes, re-enlisted and served two tours of duty in Iraq, because test audiences believed he was a Hollywood invention.
This has nothing to do with the movie, but in my world, I always capitalize Marine. It's probably not gramatically correct, but I do it in honor of my blustery Uncle Jim and my Grandpa Espinoza.

Grandpa retired from the Marine Corps as a drill instructor so I grew up with all kinds of intersting stories that make Grandpa seem like a brighter Forest Gump.

As a young Marine, Grandpa was involved in some of the early nuclear testing during Operation Castle. (Bikini Atoll anyone?) It was on the ship that he had the opportuntity to come face to face with Oppenheimer and Einstein.

Another time he was in an Alaskan bar and had a drink with Ernest Hemingway.

As a DI at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Grandpa barked at the recruits alongside fellow drill instructor R. Lee Ermey, probably best known for playing the part of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. (Talk to any Marine, and they'll tell you just how accurate the boot camp scenes in Full Metal Jacket are. From my understanding, they are dead on.)

There's even the story about how Grandpa used to be Chesty Puller's driver, although I think that was a special situation rather than a full time job.

And those are just some of the stories I know...

More Politricks

Some good news in Iraq this weekend. Another school opening. Er….wait a second….I misread that. That article is about a car bombing, a kidnapping, and an attempted assassination. Surely there’s a school or a power plant opening that the media could have focused on instead of all that negativity…Doesn’t the NY Times want us to win this war?

Speaking of the media, I’d like to see the right wing media try and spin this one as an understandable product of war. The investigation is ongoing, but if the story is true, it brings shame to our whole country. I can just hear it now. “If someone wants to rape and kill my family, by god, I’m going to do it to them first!”

Some good posts (amazingly) over at the Huffington Post this weekend.

First, RJ Eskow comes out with a line that could be a bumper sticker.
“Every time a Republican attacks our freedoms a terrorist gets his wings.”
As Borat would say, I like. And there’s more:
Every time the Republicans attack the liberties that make our country great, the terrorists win. Every time this Congress and this Administration sanction illegal wiretapping, read your bank records without a warrant, or spy on peace demonstrators, they're saying "we don't think we're strong enough to defend ourselves and the Constitution."
It’s funny how Bush keeps telling us that “terrorists hate our freedoms” and yet he has done more than any terrorist every could to chip away at the those very freedoms. I’m not saying Bush is a terrorist. I’m just saying that he’s an asshole.

And turning the American government (which supposedly is of the people, by the people, for the people) into Big Brother is a very…bad…idea.

Digby has a few things to say about the recent Supreme Court decision which effectively cancels Bush’s blank check and undermines his blatant power grab. The part that I found relevant is this:
(C)ivilized people have come to recognise that show trials, kangaroo courts and lynching are immoral --- and counterproductive. If you want to stress liberal values, the rule of law and democracy as the way forward in these fundamentalist religious cultures, you can't behave this way. It doesn't make you look tough or strong; it makes you look like you don't believe in your own system --- and that makes you weak.
And when he’s talking about “liberal values,” he’s not talking about Democrats. Nope, he’s talking about this. See, folks, liberal isn’t a bad word. If you believe in “a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power, especially of government and religion, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports relatively free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of minorities are protected” then you’re a liberal! (It might also be useful to point out that when they're talking about "minorities," they're not just talking about ethnic minorities. They're also talking about Bush supporters. See the Time poll below for more.)

But I digress…

Greg Sargent, also on Huff Post, discusses the coordinated right wing attack against the NY Times, which in the current mythology is little more than an Al Qaeda buttwipe. Sargent says:
Here's the situation in a nutshell. Those hurling these reckless charges of treason at the Times have a very specific agenda: First, they want to reunite the Republican base, which is fracturing because of the Iraq war, the GOP's betrayal of various conservative principles, and the fact that Bush's Presidency is so obviously a failure that all but the most diehard supporters can see it. And second, they want to convince great masses of people that there's a traitor in our midst that would weaken America -- an obvious ploy designed to divert attention from the catastrophic failures of the Bush administration, the Republican Party and, most important, the discredited ideas which drive them. At bottom this is all about salvaging a political movement that's in real trouble.
Or maybe, as Glenn Greenwald points out here, they’re just fucking crazy people. Apparently the NY Times exposed the secure non-disclosed locations of Rumsfeld and Cheney’s summer homes. A reasonable person might see that story, buried in the Travel section, as a puff piece of very little national interest. But if you’re insane, you see it as an attempt to assassinate our dear leaders.

Greenwald sums up the pile of bullshit like this:
So, to recap - America is currently at war and its enemies are domestic liberals and The New York Times. This war was started by Al Gore and Jimmy Carter when they opposed the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times is allied with Al Qaeda and their latest plot against America is to provide their terrorist friends with a roadmap to the vacation homes of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld so that they can be assassinated. That is what is being reported today by three of the largest "conservative" blogs on the Internet, along with Horowitz, the leader of the conservative effort to wipe out anti-conservative bias on college campuses.
And that, my friends, is complete bullshit. There’s not even one scintilla of truth (or even credibility) in that plot line. You can think the NY Times is a shitty paper (many do), but allied with Al Qaeda? That’s completely ridiculous.

And lastly, Time’s latest survey finds that two thirds of the country think we’re on the wrong track. I’ve always shared the President’s skepticism about polls. No matter how carefully they are conducted, they are still just a sampling of public opinion, and it just might be possible that the sample doesn’t accurately represent the larger view. Still, this two-thirds thing is significant. 66% is a damn solid majority.