Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remembering Star Blazers!

I just finished watching the movie "Speed Racer" on DVD.

Boy I wish I had a Blu-Ray player and humongous High-Def flat panel TV.

Or, better yet, I should have spent the $12 to see the IMAX version at Pointe Orlando.

It was everything I'd hoped it would be. A day-glo rush of blazing CGI graphics, excellent live action and traditional animation tossed together but presented in an understandable and thoroughly exciting way. I loved it!

I hesitated seeing it at the movies when it came out this past spring mainly because I feared throngs of noisy and insolent unsupervised teenagers would be filling the theater with their giddy laughter, noxious smells of popcorn and candy and feet kicking the back of my seat. No thanks.

Also, the reviews were, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.

Well they didn't "get it" obviously...I thought it was exactly what it advertised itself to be.

It was a perfect update of the original classic cartoons of the '60s. I remember watching the cartoons during their mid-'70s syndicated reruns, and I loved it then, but it was the precursor to my true love of the art which would eventually be called "anime", the late '70s Japanese-imported series dubbed in English and renamed for US audiences as "Star Blazers".

This played on one of our local TV stations in RI around 3:30 in the afternoon on weekdays, so I remember that after I became addicted to the show, I just rushed to get home from school to catch each episode. I remember they had an ongoing story arc for each episode unifying the whole season into one grand animated space-themed soap opera. I was sooo sucked in from the first episode.

...They had me at "konichiwa".

I loved this dramatic and rousing theme song so much, I made the melody the national anthem of Nastralia.

If you too remember this cartoon and loved it like me, here's a present...

Enjoy the ride!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

They're Back...

Who?

The oh-so-familiar spectral four horsemen of my inner proto-apocalypse, the harbingers of a never-ending state of Koyaanisqatsi.

Self-Doubt, Despair, Agoraphobia and Pessimism.

They relentlessly haunt me in consciousness and in sleep, day and night just as they did periodically throughout the tumultuous years between 2002 and 2005.

Time has become abstract again. I have just in the past few "days?" changed my sleep pattern about four times. I currently stay up until dawn, sleep for a few hours and then try to remain awake throughout the day. I have to keep consulting the computer to know what day it is. I needed it last night when I woke up and saw my alarm clock displaying 7:35. I saw it was dark outside, but I was certain that it was just a very heavily overcast morning. Mildred had to inform me of the fact that it was actually 7:35 PM.

I stay sequestered away from the rest of the world, here in my 10' by 12' self-made isolation chamber. The blinds remain closed.

I don't turn on the TV since I know that images and depictions of happy people with friends and family abound on that evil, evil box. They sing their silly songs of love, joy and seasons greetings. They are indifferent to my desires or needs. The incessant commercials only want me to spend what precious last droplets of money I have left on their products or services which all offer the same false hope and deceptive lies of a better life, more liberty and the pursuit of happiness...if only I call now or visit my neighborhood store...with credit card at the ready, of course.

And now, a fifth galloping apparition has begun to besiege my psyche.

Fear of Death.

I wait for dawn to attempt sleep because I've convinced myself that my heart will fail if I let myself drift away in the darkness of night. I'll start to doze and my thudding heartbeats will grow louder, stronger, faster until they begin to trip up on themselves and in a shattering burst of agonizing pain, I'll begin the frightful and unstoppable rapid countdown to my final minute of life on this earth.

How did I end up on this dark path?

Ever since meeting with Ric two weekends ago at Jax and coming, once again, to the conclusion that our friendship had ceased being real, I decided to cut off, yes, again, all communication with him. He called, of course, and left a voice message or two, wondering why I was "mad at him". I think deep down he must realize, since I've said it to him before and reiterated it that last night at Jax, that I'm not "mad at him", per se. I just don't feel, especially now with what I predict will be a challenging period of employment and financial instability, that his presence around me is conducive to building my self-confidence. In fact, as we know, it's quite the opposite. This dark path would be darker still if I had to endure his criticism and mocking.

But the darkness exists of course in this cold realization:
I now have absolutely no friends. Period.

Even for a self-proclaimed loner like me, that's a scary thing to admit. And socially, it sounds as if I'm the biggest loser there is. I think, at times, well...maybe I am.

Relying on the severance and unemployment checks to come in, I've carefully budgeted for up to the next 60 days and I find it very livable, monetarily.

But there's a toll to pay in such a plan. Though I pride myself at being a slacker, I know too well, that unless a person is truly hoping to become either a dependent sycophant leach to someone who befriends them and agrees to support them, or, to "opt-out" and drop into the world of the homeless and destitute, one must have a means to provide for themselves. And for someone like me, it means employment.

So, at this juncture, I'm continually torn by two opposing desires...

One to live for today, and eat, drink and be merry:
My "Apres mois le deluge" mentality.

The other is, make the effort to search out resources of gainful employment and apply time and labors towards securing a job, without haste:
My "Paris is well worth a Mass" mentality.

Daily, I subconsciously ask, "Which King of France will I quote today?"

Much to the consternation of my Henry IV side, Louis XV keeps winning out.

So the ghostly memories of squandered opportunities past float eerily and persistently towards me from a metaphorical sacred burial ground I've decided to irresponsibly develop my short-sighted house of cards over.

Speaking of ghosts of the past, I must apologize to Ms. Morin, my 7th grade English teacher. Not only is the grammar of this post hopelessly contorted, bombastic and maligned, I've mixed so many metaphors that frankly my head is spinning like a great roulette wheel, to which I've somehow bet it all on green double zero.

Friday, November 28, 2008

FLASHBACK: January 1999

She looked like another little girl altogether. Curly locks in a hairsprayed coif and makeup on her tiny face...this wasn't Tascha! But it was. It was the funeral director's version of Tascha. And she was made up to look as pretty as can be so she can be displayed to her loved ones as she lay dead in her coffin.

But she was only six years old! How can this be?

When I scurried back to Florida after the ill-planned and soon-abandoned idea of me moving back to Rhode Island almost a year before, I was offered the opportunity to live with my friend Chris whom I'd met at the Orlando Gay and Lesbian Center. He was a somewhat regular patron, though only there for the LGBT library services, and I was a volunteer manning the reception desk and incoming calls.

Chris was short and chubby and spoke with quite a lilted affectation. But he could spar well in a wit-upon-wit match and wasn't catty or bitchy about it which means he usually won by consensus since he stayed "above it all". We clicked easily enough, though for him it was obvious he wanted more than just platonic friendship from me.

When I'd decided to leave to return to Rhode Island, I told none of my friends in Florida, including him. I hated goodbyes and felt that if I hadn't given them to my RI friends before I left for Florida back in May of last year (except Chiafalo), why should I now?

So when I called him after the end of my second week back in Rhode Island from Wayne's house, I had a lot of 'splainin' to do.

But Chris, who I'd later find out, had lots of experience with transient behavior, understood totally and when I said I'd love to come back to Florida but didn't have a place to stay, he didn't hesitate a second. I was offered a room of my own for a very low price...if Claudia, the homeowner approved.

I showed up at the door of the house after my long drive back. Claudia answered the door with her hair wrapped in a towel, she'd just finished her shower. I told her about the situation and she gave me a good look. She realized I was earnest and she agreed to me becoming her new roommate.

The room I'd use was originally designated to become Tascha's, Claudia and her boyfriend Richard's young daughter, but she had developmental difficulties, namely Multiple Sclerosis which prevented her from, even at the age of 5, becoming more independent. She still slept in a crib near her parents in their bedroom.

When I met Tascha, she immediately opened up to me and we were best buds. She and I would play together and both Claudia and Rich were amazed at how well we got along.

I understood Tascha, and though they didn't tell me there was a dual diagnosis, I could also tell that she was developmentally disabled. My years of experience in the field was invaluable in this determination.

Claudia and Rich later admitted that they knew of her mental capacity limitations but they weren't going to let it diminish their love of their daughter and the opportunities she would have. I agreed with them wholeheartedly.

Throughout my months there, Tascha was a little bug. She'd sneak up on me and shout "boo", scaring me, so I had pick her up and to pretend to gobble her up.

She and I would sing together to amuse the other house mates. We'd both have our fake microphones and pretend to be the next best musical duet. She usually sang better than me though.

One day, Tascha jumped up on me as I lie on the couch watching TV in the living room. She said, loud enough for all the others to hear, "I want to be your girl friend, Mi-Coh! (That's how she pronounced my name). I said, smiling, "But I only like boys, Tascha!". She replied, "Then I want to be a boy!".

By the end of the year I had moved into a new apartment with Ric, a new friend from work. I needed to have my own place but I still kept in touch with my buds from Spinnaker Drive, including Tascha who came on the phone whenever I called.

In late January, I got a call at work, it was Rich, Tascha's dad. He told me that Tascha had been brought to the hospital overnight because she was severely sick. They found out it was because of a brain embolism. They did everything they could but she died.

So now, here I was, my eyes sore from crying, watching all Tascha's loved ones come before the congregation to speak about her. I looked at her little tiny corpse in the coffin, it looked fake. Plastic. I touched her cheek. It was cold and hard like a doll. Was this real? How could a youthful, energetic, vibrant little child end up like this?

My friends and I hugged, and even though I had exhausted all the tears I thought I could, I somehow cried again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Busy Unemployed Day

Lately my days consist of nothing more than playing computer games and eating, with the occasional shopping trip to get more food, or sometimes, beer.

But today was unusually busy...

9:05am - Woke up still groggy from the Benedryls.

9:10am - Took shower, shaved, brushed teeth, etc.

9:20am - After dressing in shorts, t-shirt and short-sleeve button down, got in Nugget and drove to McDonald's on 17-92 in Sanford. Ordered 2 Egg McMuffins (2 for $2 special) and a large black coffee. They messed up the order and I only paid for the breakfast sandwiches, I got the coffee for free.

9:35am - Loaded 2 loads of laundry into washers at the Seminole Laundramat and, rather than sit in the landramat, I sat in my car in the parking lot of this strip mall and ate one of the Egg McMuffins and drank the coffee.

9:45am - Before I had finished my coffee, a hornet flew in the car through the open driver's side window and landed on my left forearm. Somewhat freaked, I quickly flicked the bug off my arm and it flew away, but not before I'd spilled about an ounce of hot coffee on my leg and carpet in my car.

9:48am - I noticed in my rear view mirror a pale-looking, thin guy loading a huge frozen turkey into his small pickup truck. That's it, just the turkey. He soon thereafter drives away.

9:51am - A bald guy working at RadioShack next door to the Laundramat came out of the store and smoked a cigarette. As he is finishing, a teenage guy on a bike asks him if the job opening, advertised on the sign in the window, is still open. He answers that it's been filled. The teenager rides his bike away.

9:53am - Another teenager, this one on foot, walks into the RadioShack where the bald guy has already reentered. He soon ambles back out after just a minute or so. Perhaps he was looking for work as well?

10:05am - A Chinese guy holding a folded apron makes his way to the small Chinese restaurant to the left of the RadioShack, the Rent-A-Center and the Cash Advance America stores. It's locked. he looks impatient and paces up and down for the next few minutes amongst the stores obviously irritated. Methinks he's a cook at the Chinese restaurant and the owner hasn't yet shown up to open the place.

10:10am - I transfer my washed clothes to the dryers, insert enough quarters for 40 minutes of drying time, and go back to my car. Before I go, I hear that two women have broken out into a verbal argument and others are staring in amazement. I hear one of the ladies shout to the other as a comeback: "Well keep on truckin', bitch!". No wonder I sit in my car.

10:12am - A Lexus pulls up in front of me and a perfectly-coiffed blond gets out, retieves a wedding gown from the trunk and brings it into the Laundramat, which also serves as a dry cleaner specializing in fine fabrics and wedding gowns.

10:15am - Bald RadioShack guy keeps messing with some contraption above the door. Then he takes another cigarette break.

10:16am - The owner finally shows up for the Chinese restaurant, opens the door, lets the cook in and turns on the neon "OPEN" sign.

10:25am - More people, usually pulling up in older beater cars enter the Landramat, start their laundry and either stay or leave. No other stores get traffic.

10:25am - Bald RadioShack guy, not having any customers all morning, stands outside and smokes another cigarette.

10:55am - I gather my now dried clothes, fold them and cram them into my basket. As I'm leaving I notice the two women who were arguing earlier have since made up and are chatting happily like old friends.

11:03am - Head over to Albertson's, get some essential groceries including Barilla Ziti, Classico D'Abrussi Sausage, Pepper and Onions Pasta Sauce and yes, a 12-pack of Bud.

11:18am - At the Post Office, I drop off my viewed Netflix selections and pick up my mail from my PO Box. Good news: I can receive unemployment benefits starting 12/1/08. I got the hookup, baby!

11:22am - I call Symantec HR Hotline to check on the severance package. They say they never got my signed paperwork despite my having sent it early last week by Priority Mail. She says I can fax a copy if I have it. I tell her that Charles Schwab has not yet changed the status of my employment with Symantec, thus I can't apply for full withdrawal. She said I'd need to call them on that.

11:29am - I'm back in the same strip mall that the Laundramat was located and go into the Office Depot to use the public fax. $6.10 later, my paperwork is faxed to Cupertino.

11:40am - I call Schwab and let them know that I've been laid off yet it still states I'm employed by Symantec so I can't apply for the withdrawal. The rep says he'll contact Symantec and get it cleared up.

11:45am - I call the HR hotline and confirm that they have received my paperwork. They say everything is all set and I should receive my severance pay in 7 days.

12:01pm - Channel surfing; decide to watch the news.

12:30pm - News is over, quickly change channel to avoid any glimpse of the soap opera coming on next. Watch the Food Network. It makes me hungry.

12:55pm - Call Cheng's (Speed Dial 4 on my cell phone) and order lunch.

1:09pm - Drive to Lake Emma Shopping Plaza and pick up a large order of House Special Lo Mein at Cheng's. As usual, Cheng's is almost empty with only one party at one table. I hope they don't go out of business, they're the best Chinese food in the area.

1:20pm - Back home, I dig into the Lo Mein, and start on the 12-pack as I watch the History Channel.

Mmmmm. Life is good. For now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

SCRAPBOOK: Late 70s Pet Parade

Before 1975 when my parents bought their first home, we lived in various rented housing throughout the Woonsocket area. We never had a pet in any of those apartments probably due to landlord restrictions. Or, they likely had to put up a pet deposit fee and my cheapskate parents weren't going to do that.

So when our family finally had a house of our own my father was scanning the classifieds of the local newspaper looking for a pet.

Here are some pics I found that approximate what I remember the family pets looked like during the years we lived at Pearl Street. The year is roughly the year that that particular pet resided with us. As you can see, we wore them out rather quickly...

SHEP
1975

As you no doubt could ascertain from his name, given to him by my oh-so-creative dad, Shep was part German Shepherd, part "something else". All our dogs, of course, were mongrels. Since we would have got them free, it's unlikely they'd be purebred. Shep was a bit on the hyper side and one day one of us kids must have left the gate open, 'cause he just up and bolted.

BUTCH
1976

As a replacement, my father wanted a more mellow, low-keyed pet. So naturally he decided on a pit bull. Seriously though, despite the reputation they have, this dog actually was gentle and docile.

Of course my father treated him like a drinking buddy once he discovered Butch's true passion: beer. Yup, every night my father would twist open a bottle for himself and one for Butch. Then another, and another...he loved seeing that dog stumble. It was hilarious and it made quite the show for us kids. Good times.

Butch died mysteriously before the year was up. No one could figure out why.

LASSIE
1977

Sporting another one of Dad's amazingly creative names, this collie mix was kinda sad and grubby, like the one in this photo. She was already quite old when we got her and she walked like she had a broken hip or something. But pets in our family best say their doggie prayers since my father would never take any pet to the vet.

So perhaps more conscientious care could have prevented her demise, or, maybe it was just the old gals time. Who knows? In any event, her paws soon turned skyward only a few months later.

BEBETTE
1978

This time Mom had her say in the choice and we got this little, itsy-bitsy puppy toy poodle mix.

One day, the three of us kids were bored and decided it would be fun to play catch with Bebette. No, no, not catch like we had her fetch a ball. She WAS the ball. She was so "compliant" too, rolling up like an armadillo so we could toss her to each other just like a furry ball. More good times. Unfortunately, one of us got butterfingers and, well...let's just say we all freaked out a bit when she fell onto the linoleum kitchen floor head first and just lay there, twitching. But smiles returned to our faces after a couple minutes when she came to and started moving around again.

She never was quite right again though.

Before long she got older and wasn't as cute and tiny anymore. She was given away to some family friends who were looking for a pet. We'd grown bored of her.

HITLER
1979

This fat scraggly black and white tom cat showed up on our porch one day and after we fed it and took it in, it became ours. My father suggested we call it Hitler because of the black coloration under his nose, kinda like the one in this pic, but actually a little more evenly positioned like a little squared-off mustache. Oh what questions the neighbors must have had when our cat, who was a free roamer, would be called in to eat his supper! "Gladys, why are those Chausse kids yelling "Hitler" at the top of their lungs?"

One bored afternoon while rubbing his belly I accidentally discovered that male cats had a little red penis that could be aroused to an orgasm. Yup. How many people do you know who can say they gave a handjob to Hitler?

BUTTONS
1980-1983

Not quite in the 70s, but topping off the pet carousel is our beloved tabby Buttons. I think she was another stray we took in. This pet actually lasted a while too. We doted over her. She was so gentle and attentive. Unfortunately, she was a whore.

One could tell it was spring around our house, since Buttons would be pregnant again. And each time, the litter was snatched away from her shortly after she gave birth. My parents always said that they found people to give the little newborn kittens away to so they would have nice loving homes like their mother.

But one year, shortly after Buttons had yet again birthed her kittens, my little brother saw my dad walk to the woods near the house with a large paper bag in one hand and a tire iron in the other. Curious, he quietly followed him and as he remained hidden, he saw what my father really did with baby kittens. Horrified, my brother cried and ran home and told our mother. She knew, of course, but was pissed that my father had been careless enough to allow us to find out.

So, for the first time ever, a pet of ours was brought to the vet. To get spayed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Universal Orlando Walk-thru: The Sequel

Though I didn't stay long and didn't shoot any video yesterday, my visit reminded me that I still had quite a bit of footage from the last time I was at Universal.



Filmed in May 2008, and lost in a hidden corner of my hard drive, this is the remainder of my video tour of Universal Orlando from a local's perspective.

Here we start in Port of Entry IOA but are soon making our way through parts of CityWalk towards the "old" park. Then we stop for a bite to eat, proceed past the "Back to the Future" guy through the New York set and quiet Central Park. Then we're thrust suddenly into Hollywood and make our way to the exit where we take our parting view of the misty Universal globe.

Sorry about the audio, not the best.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Look Familiar?

Back in May I visited the Universal parks and took some video footage of my day. Part of the narrated video tour can be found here.

Due to hot weather, massive weekend crowds and waning interest, I hadn't been back since. Until today.

Here are some pics I took, this time with the still camera function on the Aiptek 1080P HD, so they look a bit clearer than the video captures I posted here back then.

Not many, that's 'cause I didn't stay long. Sadly I'm too big for most seats on the coasters and I was in a fragile mood today so I wouldn't have ridden them anyway. Also, in May, I was down to around 295. Now I'm back in the 3-teens so I was just too tired after walking briefly through barely a quarter of the original park. I didn't even feel like seeing any shows.

How sad. Now that I have all the time in the world, the weather is sunny, cool and dry and the park attendance was minimal since it was a weekday and a there's a little chill in the air. I could have easily hopped on rides with nary a wait at all.

That's my life for ya. Opportunity, if it does come knockin' at all, ends up being way more than a 'day late and a dollar short'.

FLASHBACK: Easter Sunday 1974

The allspice and clove infused aroma of ham baking in the oven woke us kids up with smiles on our faces this chilly Easter morning. Though not very religious in the church-going sense, this was one of the given days of the year (Christmas Eve being the other) that our parents brought us kids to Mass, and before we could dig into the traditional Polish-style ham, kielbasa and boiled egg feast this afternoon, we had to get dressed in our Sunday best and go to church.

Once we were ready to go, my father snapped a Polaroid picture of the three of us. I wore a plaid polyester red and white suit with a big red clip-on crushed velvet bow tie, Cindy wore a pale blue dress with white lace trimming (and a sour puss on her face since she hated wearing dresses) and Russell's little suit was also plaid, his in dark blue and white with a dark blue clip-on bow tie. After Mass we drove to a sanctuary in nearby Cumberland to pose with a large statue of the Virgin Mary for more pictures. My father even brought his new Super8mm movie camera.

This was the third occasion in the past 6 months that we all had to wear these outfits.

Just before the Christmas season of the previous year, my father's younger sister, my aunt and godmother Leona, who we all called "Neuna" (not "Ma Tante Neuna", that was reserved for my father's aunt Leona), had lost her many months long battle with cancer. She was 30 years old and had just given birth to her only child Monique a year before.

As her godchild, I was selected, despite my young age, to be one of the six pall bearers for her casket at the funeral.

Neuna loved all us kids but I being her godson got the majority of her attention. I especially remembered on day a couple years before when she and I went to an amusement park which was, to my recollection, a long drive away from home. As we neared the park, there appeared a large sand-colored lighthouse looming on the horizon and she pointed it out. "There it is!", she said, herself getting excited as she saw my grinning anticipation build.

The park was wonderful and had all the usual amusement park rides and facilities, but one that stuck out in my memory best was a moon rocket ride simulator. I remember breaking out in a cold sweat thinking that perhaps this wasn't just a simulator, but that we would actually be blasted into the deadly dark vacuum of space. (I'm not sure if this fantasy/reality confusion took place before or after the other incident of around the same time when I was with her sister, my aunt Ruth.)

I thought back to that golden memory day now as I stood here on this cold and blustery Easter morning, holding the concrete-molded hand of the blessed Madonna and waving to the clickity-clackety movie camera, trying half-heartedly to paste a smile on my face.

The next occasion to wear this suit was only a couple of months ago. I vividly remember it was an unusually warm and sunny day for February in Rhode Island. My family made mention of the weather often throughout that day.

I sat in the seat across from my mother's aunt Connie in the back of one of the long black limousines reserved for immediate family members. She stared blankly out the window as our motorcade procession slowly wound it's way through the streets of Woonsocket towards Precious Blood Cemetery. As we passed a playground she saw children and families laughing and playing in the much-appreciated warmth. "To them this is just an ordinary day.", Ma Tante Connie very matter-of-factly remarked to no one in particular. Then she again started to cry and said solemnly, "Maybe they're right when some people say that Hell is right here on Earth. Our lives are lived in Hell."

It was her sister Rita whose body was being carried in the hearse in front of us. My mother's mother, my grandmother, had also fallen victim to the scourge of cancer after a long and painful fight.

The sky started to darken and the chilly wind began to pick up now as we wrapped up our holiday photo-shoot cum ad hoc religious homage before it started to rain. Easter dinner would be waiting for us at home.

Before we left though, my mother and father, in an unusual display of piety and for reasons we kids were too young to understand, quietly embraced each other. They knelt down, closed their eyes and softly, almost inaudibly recited a Hail Mary. Once done, they gazed teary-eyed upwards to the gracefully smiling face of the statue for a moment in peaceful silence.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together

And you know, despite it all, in retrospect, I really am.

Last day at work. Emptied the cubicle, cleaned out the desk and shut down the computer. Looked out the window one last time. Had one last lunch with the gang. Good luck guys!

It's been real...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

53 Hours

So I'm sitting here thinking about what to write for this post and it dawns on me that I should mention something about the upcoming "D-Day"...the last day of employment here.

I mean, it's so apropos to my day so far: I made arrangements with Jill to scoot out for a couple hours tomorrow morning to attend an interview at another local software company, emailed to my personal email account copies of all communication from Sharon regarding the severance procedure (must make sure I don't mess it up), and checked again all my online accounts for an estimate on the size of the "war chest" I'll have to live off of in case I don't find something right away.

One must be prepared.

It's T-minus 53 hours and counting now.

Unemployment compensation should be available to me (once I payback the $185 or so from 4 years ago, if they still have record of it), and you know I'm cashing in that plummeting 401k next Monday. Add the severance and this Saturday's last paycheck (which should be inflated a bit with the remainder of my unused PTO) and I should be in good shape.

We'll soon find out.

I don't know how long it will take to find an adequate replacement job, though. It looks grim out there, and Central Florida is not alone. It's quite a bit lackluster all over. I'll try hard not to "settle" though. Doing that only increases stress and decreases the bottom line since I end up having high absenteeism and eventually quit in frustration to only be worse off than before. I've been through it too many times. It's not worth it.

So, if need be, the tit of the government I shall suckle, for as long as I can. Oh, there'll be prospects, like this potential job I'll see about tomorrow, but it will have to meet my high expectations. I'll hopefully have the advantage of being able to be picky.

We'll soon find out.

53 hours is so short an amount of time.

BTW, when I googled "53 hours" to grab a pic for this post, I was informed that there's actually a song called "53 Hours".

And the song is by a band called "Exit"...

Exactly what I'll be doing in 53 hours!

Eerie co-inky-dink, huh?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

10 Year Memorial - Redux

I present this reprint of my tribute to the memory of Matthew Sheppard.

It was originally posted on October 27, but I decided to delete that post due to it being linked by some twisted, insane hate-crime support site encouraging hits to my blog to, perhaps, incite trolling comments. No comments were written. If they had been, I would not fear them, but I will not have a flame war on my blog. The mere connection to that abomination of a website sickened me so I eliminated the link.

We Americans have come a long way over the years but where civil and equal rights of our fellow citizens are concerned, it always seems that it comes down to a "win some, lose some" situation.

Such as electing an African American man to lead us as President, but allowing the state legislatures of California and Florida to "defend marriage" and effectively make sexual orientation a diviner of first or second class citizenship.

And when we think that, as a people of this bastion of freedom we call America, we're overcoming the prejudices and ignorance that have plagued our nation for time immemorial, we need look no further than the persistence of hate in the form of sites of the sort I have mentioned to discover that we still have a long way to go.

Here's the original post, lovingly dedicated to the memory of a teenager in Wyoming who was brutally beaten to death a decade ago, simply for daring to be openly gay:




"And where he was in that spot up there. If you sit exactly in that spot up there, Laramie sparkles from there. With the low lying clouds, it's uh, it's the blue light bouncing off the clouds from the airport and ah, and it goes 'tsss, tsss, tsss' over the whole city. I mean, I mean it blows you away. And Matt was right there in that spot. And I can just picture, in his eyes, I can picture what he was seein'. The last thing that he saw, on this Earth, was the sparkling lights of Laramie, Wyoming."

- Dialog by actor Steve Buscemi in "The Laramie Project"

In Memory of Matthew Sheppard
1976 - 1998

Friday, November 07, 2008

Tomorrow's Technology Today

FLASHBACK: October 2001

The lack of humidity in the air is a nice respite, I thought to myself, but I don’t know if I could deal with this overwhelmingly bleak landscape day after day.

I was peering out the window of my Hampton Inn hotel room, watching cars zoom along on the nearby highway as I sipped from a plastic cup of refreshing Jose Cuervo margarita on ice. I was in Mesa, Arizona on a Friday evening, watching the sun set behind the mountains on the horizon across the desert in the distance.

I was a little jet-lagged and the Chinese dinner I had at a nearby buffet-style restaurant, along with the drink, was making me even sleepier. But I was hyped-up by the fact that I was in a career which featured business traveling. Ever since the ABM “pilgrimage” to New York when at DM, I had decided that I really enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the “same-old, same-old” routine and get paid to fly free to various locations. It was a perk I took full advantage of.

For this jaunt, my stay here would be for a whole week as I introduced the management training program I had developed to the crew in our company’s Mesa call center. I’d be conducting a few refresher courses with the reps as well, but the focus was to train the supervisors.

So I was excited not only because I knew that Earl and J.T. were thoroughly impressed with my work on this project and convinced the V.P. of Marketing to send me on this trip (as a precursor to an eventual promotion), but also because I would have the whole weekend to basically play tourist.

I was going through a bunch of brochures from the lobby of the hotel trying to decide how to spend my time for the next two days. It didn’t take me long. Even though it would mean a 4 hour drive, I absolutely, positively could not pass up this chance to visit the Grand Canyon.

After the combo of fatigue and finishing the 4-pack of margaritas the night before, I was a little hung-over, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I popped a couple of ibuprophen, downed them with the bitter coffee brewed with the in-room coffee maker, and made my way downstairs to my rented Mercury Sable.

The drive was interesting; I had never really been to a desert before and it was fascinating, especially when contrasted to my familiar lush-green Florida environment. The real drama came as I entered the mountains. Not since my occasional northern New England trips had I seen anything but flat or just slightly undulating terrain. And here, the mountains were quite big. The feeling of your ear drums popping, other than due to air pressure in a plane, is eerie. Within the span of just a couple of hours I had climbed thousands of feet.

By the time I reached Flagstaff, the surroundings had thoroughly transformed. Here, it looked more like a ski town in New Hampshire than in a state one equates with desert sands and cacti.

As I made my way towards the parking lot after entering the park gates I peered around, hoping to see the canyon, but all I saw were trees. Were it not for the signage, one would be hard pressed to distinguish they were so close to one of the world’s most ancient and vast natural ravines.

But after I parked in the lot and walked to the rim, I saw its grandeur laid out before me. It was breathtaking.

I had arrived midday and the sun was high in the sky. It was a beautiful cloudless day. The temperature here was a bit cooler than back in the Phoenix area, being much higher in elevation.

There were tours available but I decided to self-direct my experience. After spending time at the main viewing spots of the South Rim, being ever so careful to not get too close to the edge (I was surprised to see that the fencing was minimal and would not prevent a determined person from throwing themselves over the edge. In many spots, there was absolutely no fence at all. Yikes.) I made my way to some of the other interesting spots on the map.

First were the ruins of an Anasazi-culture settlement and the nearby tiny museum housing some artifacts. Very cool.

Next was a stone tower built right on the edge of the canyon, offering dramatic 360-degree views. Nice, but yet another thing that made my acrophobic palms sweat. Looking far off on one of the ridges, I could just barely make out a row of people and mules making their way down one of the insanely steep trails. I got dizzy and nauseous just thinking about it! Never would I ever do that!

As the afternoon wound down towards sunset, I went back to one of the main scenic lookouts. There were benches there and I sat, watching the multiple layers of red, orange and brown rock strata glow in the waning sunlight.

I had a sort of epiphany, not in the religious sense, but in a pure spiritual sense. The spirit of wonder and awe at the marvels of life.

I also could not help but think, this being just one month after the horrors of September 11th, that I was indeed living in troubled times. But, like the great canyon stretched out before me, shining like a beacon in the amber-hued light, this country and her people would endure.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

SPORE...What's That?

Ok, now that the election is over, I can get back to the really important stuff. Like what computer game is dominating my every free minute!

A few weeks ago, SPORE was my obsession. I even had my Creature Creator widget displayed on the right-hand side panel of this blog for a while to show off my many imaginary beings that I made with my own two hands.

Now, this week all that feel-good "let's help develop a simple species up into an advanced and utopian civilization" crap has been shoved aside so I can blow shit up with rocket launchers and mini-nukes!

At first, if you remember, my Fallout 3 experience wasn't going so well, since it was virtually unplayable with all the crashes. Well, a couple more sticks of RAM took care of that problem, baby! Mildred is Fallout-ified!

Oh how wonderful it is to again be roaming freely among the radioactive ruins of a parallel future McCarthy-esque America, ignoring pre-war cash for all-important bottlecaps, and layin' out anyone or anything that looks at me cross-eyed with a range of nefarious weapons. All to either the scratchy yet vexing tunes of syncopated early-to-mid-20th century pop music or a rousing little montage of Souza-esque patriotic marching songs.

Or, as I prefer, no music. I like to hear just the chilling sound of the post-apocalyptic wind blowing through the crumbled concrete and twisted steel wastes as my background ambiance. All the better to hear the slushing sound of a raider's throat being ripped apart by my well-placed V.A.T.S.-assisted .32-caliber round.

So, for now and perhaps the next few weeks at least, I banish thee, SPORE, to the CD-rack to sit and wait while Mildred and I abandon your lofty and uplifting spirit of ever-forward evolutionary progress for the dank, dirty bowels of the depressingly desperate remains of humanity's nightmarish insanity.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ghosts Of Dangling Chads Past

Even though I've lived here quite a while, today was the first time I voted in Florida.

I usually ignore local races or even statewide elections since I don’t consider myself a head-over-heels lover of the democratic process. I tend to be pessimistic towards most candidates and for most races I tend to think that voting would simply be choosing between the lesser of two evils.

In 2004, I voted for John Kerry, but that was in Louisiana where I was living at the time.

I was in Florida and favored Gore in 2000, but really wasn’t inspired by Lieberman. I just saw him as untrustworthy. (It turns out I was right…look at him now…sucking up to the Republicans, the traitor!)

I meant to register, but I totally forgot, and the next thing I knew, it was too late. I’d become jaded and it cost me my right to vote.

When the shit hit the fan over the following weeks after Election Day, I kicked myself several times thinking that with the count so close here in Florida, I should have voted. This was one of those rare circumstances which really hit home. If you combine my “woulda-been” vote with the hundreds of others lost due to the controversies, it may have been a very different outcome.

For all prior elections I was in Rhode Island.

So by this morning I was well prepared to cast my all important Democratic vote in my mostly-Republican town. I couldn’t help but feel that there may actually be something to what the conspiracy mongers are spewing regarding election fraud.

Here’s a little rundown of some of my strange (or perhaps imagined) experiences today:

• I get to the polling place, a local Presbyterian church, at 6:45am. As expected, there’s a line already queuing up, about 60 people. Everyone in line is white. Not one minority. Well, it is Lake Mary after all, but everyone? I just found that weird.

• After the polls open at 7, the line moves along. Once inside the church, I glance around. I look past the altar and see this obnoxiously gigantic cross hanging on the wall. (Well, it is a church after all) But not used to seeing these things much these days (thankfully, who wants to look at an execution device all the time?) I shuddered and made a slight face. One of the polling officials takes notice and I see him frown at me. I think later: Will he have my vote withheld because I'm not a Christian?

• I get to the incredibly fragile looking old lady who is manning the huge rosters filled with registered voters names and addresses. I hand her my driver’s license and mention the address on the license is the old one, the current is what’s in her book. She takes a minute or two to process this and glances over her shoulder at one of the other polling officials. She proceeds. Sure, why give me a hard time, they’re just gonna rip up my ballot anyway and burn it with the other heathen “votes”.

• I bring my paper ballot over to an empty little cheap plastic standing carrel, jostle it a bit, taking note of its flimsiness and smile, mumbling, “How chinsy”, under my breath. Another election guy (the place is crawlin’ with ‘em) hears me and also frowns at me. I just know he’s saying to me in his head…”How dare you mock the County’s voting tools, you Godless house-hopper! At least they’re not butterfly ballots, fatboy!” Chance number 3 my vote won’t count.

• After I mark my choice for President/Vice President, I want to consult the sample ballot that I have pre-completed for all the other candidates and amendment decisions, so I reach into my pocket to retrieve that and unfold it on the desk surface. The little plastic partitions don’t hide much and the nearby polling guy kinda cocks his head to see what I’m doing, still glaring at me with his scowl. That’s it, I think, I may well be just wasting my time. Surely now to these conservative old volunteers I’m a worthless Christ-hating fatso smartass, disrespectful of the property of the government, probably doesn’t even live where he says he does and is now, no doubt, cheating on his ballot. I imagine I can already smell the smoke my soon-to-be-torched ballot sheet will be making.

• But then, to my surprise, when I get to the scanner where you put your ballot sheet in, a smiling African-American poll lady is there to greet me. I put my sheet in the machine, it sucks it in, and then, ejects it back out. I look at her and say, “Oh oh, it came back out…” She gives me the most discrete of nods and instructs me to go ahead and put it back in. This time it stays in. But thanks to her, I think we know that I escaped the wrath of the other poll workers and maybe, just maybe, my vote counted not just once, but twice.

Take that would-be Republican vote thieves!

Will Florida Go Blue?

Though we can't be entirely certain, it seems that, thankfully, tonight Barack Obama will be elected President of the United States.

But how will my state vote?

When I lived in Rhode Island, national election day news coverage of the votes there was virtually non-existent. It was like we didn't exist. And that was for a few reasons. First of all, it was never a question of how RI would vote. It was always Democratic. I think we had gone for Reagan in '84, but so did every other state (except Minnesota, Mondale's home state). Secondly, RI, the smallest state in the country, has only 4 electoral votes. And lastly, there was never any technical problem with the mechanics of voting. RI used, and I would guess still does use, those old-fashioned lever-operated booths. They may be old, but they work perfectly fine. Why each state and county couldn't invest in these or a more updated version of them is beyond me.

Here in Florida though, it's quite a different scene.

Though it's considered pretty much a red state, big sections of the state are getting more and more blue; like Miami-Dade and environs, and, here in the Orlando area. The dynamics are a' changing.

Next, the population of Florida is around 18 million, making it the 4th most populous state and holding 27 electoral votes. And with the election so close, especially here in Florida, the jury is definitely out as to how the state will swing.

So do you think we citizens of Florida have been inundated by TV, radio and print ads of late from both parties? Um, lets just say I'm a consumer that has no idea anymore what to shop for since all merchandise advertising has pretty much been displaced by campaign ads!

Who would have thought I'd be wishing for commercials to come back? I miss my GEICO cavemen, Raisin Nut Bran fanatics and bathtub-soaking Levitra lovers! :)

And as far as voting technical issues...

Um, remember 2000? Hanging chads, non-felons with similar names told they were ineligible, absentee ballots being counted without verification they were received before election day, Kathleen "I never met make-up I didn't like" Harris, Supreme Court awarding the win to someone who didn't win the national popular vote! And it all came down to Florida swinging by court order to Bush, with a margin of victory of just 0.0092%!

Not this year we can only hope.

You can be assured that when I filled-in the oval with my marker ink next to the Obama/Biden slot I made sure it was well filled-in.

We won't have "partially filled oval" as the new controversy!

At least not with my vote.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Domo Arigato For Smoking Responsibly

Despite it's status as a forward-thinking and well-educated society, Japan still accounts for much of the tobacco consumption in Asia, and is less subject to bans on public smoking than it's fellow industrialized nations.

But at least they have a sense of proper etiquette regarding the use of tobacco products amongst the general population.

Here are some funny public service announcement signs that are positioned prominently in public places to remind folks how to utilize the "miniature torch" in their hands more politely.

Yes, well, I guess 700 degrees is pretty freakin' hot now, ain't it?

Sunburn = ouchie. Mosquito bite = ouch! Lit cigarette = Ahhhh!!! What the fuck!!!!

Gotta love the illustration of the guy with the burned-out hole in his coat...notice the "shock" rays shooting from his head. What kind of hat is he wearing anyway? Is that hat in fashion in Japan?

"Shall we have some tea, gentlemen? Oh, and would you mind if I pull out this gun and shoot you all?"

Be kind to the sewer rats please! That floating cigarette butt may block their access to a lovely turd log.

Don't worry kid, if your daddy is smoking cigarettes as big as a snowman, he ain't gonna be around much longer to pester your ass. BTW, does it really take more than an hour to build a freakin' snowman?

That's right, buddy! If you burn that kid's eye out, the helicopter above your head will start shooting!

One For The TMI Files

From TCPalm, a South Florida online newspaper:

FORT PIERCE — A 27-year-old woman accused of shoplifting cologne and trying to touch an officer with a “well-used and bloody female sanitary napkin” Tuesday is facing charges, according to an arrest affidavit released Wednesday.

Ermith Emonfils, of the 400 block of North 14th Street, was stopped after allegedly walking out of a Walgreens on Orange Avenue without paying for a $29.99 box of Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean cologne. Emonfils also had a bottle of bright green Sinful Colors nail polish and a package of “extra long” black fake eyelashes.

She pulled what appeared to be a dollar bill from her overalls and tried handing it to an officer, but the officer didn’t take it.

“The woman began speaking strangely and trying to get close to me,” the affidavit states.

Emonfils said, “Sex? Sex?” while walking toward an officer before she was handcuffed.


As officers put her in a patrol car, she “grabbed behind her and pointed a well-used and bloody female sanitary napkin” at two officers.

“Both officers told her to drop the well-used and bloody female sanitary napkin, but the suspect refused,” the affidavit states. “I delivered a firm, lawful command to the suspect to drop the object and told her it was gross.”

A female officer eventually put the “offensive and potentially dangerous biohazard item” in a plastic bag.

Emonfils faces three misdemeanor charges in connection with the incident.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fallout 3 Woes

Okay, I kinda knew I was pushin' it.

I read the minimum and suggested system requirements. It's no secret, they're posted to every gaming site. The gaming community should be well aware by now that the publishers (Bethesda Softworks) are admitting, quite unashamedly, that this game will push the limits of most home PCs. No doubt, at the highest graphics settings, resolutions and refresh rates, even "gamer" systems may actually have to take benefit from their water-cooled high-powered, very expensive guts.

What are the PC system requirements?

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Windows XP/Vista
  • 1GB System RAM (XP)/ 2GB System RAM (Vista)
  • 2.4 Ghz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor
  • Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 256MB RAM (NVIDIA 6800 or better/ATI X850 or better)

Recommended System Requirements:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 2 GB System RAM
  • Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB RAM (NVIDIA 8800 series, ATI 3800 series)


Mildred is an XP Media Center Edition machine with 1GB RAM and a 2.0 Ghz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 3800 +. Graphics are handled by NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE w 256MB RAM.

So, I thought, I might, just might, be able to get it to work.

I went to Gamestop yesterday and bought it. Despite it's hype on the online game sites and even the Midnight Madness release day opening of Best Buy stores for this game, here at the Gamestop in Lake Mary, it was inconspicuously tucked amongst the slim pickins of the sad 3 or 4 shelves positioned in the far end of the store for PC games. Remember when console games were the tiny hidden shelves in the back? (I even remember the days when Commodore 64 games commanded the lion's share of shelf space at the Electronic Boutiques and Babbages of the "Olden Days" known as the 1980's!)

After what seemed like a 3-hour install (at least, again, back in the day, you had multiple disk swaps (be they floppy disks or later CD-ROMs) to keep you busy...now it's just one DVD-ROM but it seems to take sooo long to install) the installer tested my system for optimal performance settings.

Gulp...here, I thought, is where it might come up with an error message telling me that Mildred just didn't make the cut. But it passed. With what amounted to a D- though...graphics options were all set to the lowest possible selection. No anti-aliasing, shadowing, fog effects, etc., all that eye-candy that is so pretty, but ultimately non-essential to game play. So, I thought, no big, the Fallout games were never about the graphics anyway. Hell, I remember the spiritual ancestor to the series "Wasteland". And that had minimal 16 color graphics in a small window. It was all about the game play.

When the game got started, you begin, well, at your beginning...or your character's anyway...your birth. And I saw everything was hazy and silhouetted and started to worry that the graphics would be too horrible to play the game. But then I realized, I was a newborn baby and that's why it looked that way. I soon, grew older (in the game) and saw that even with the lowest graphics settings, this was still the most visually stunning game I have. It looked great. And it ran pretty much without issue, until I left the Vault.

Once "outside", the system lagged and my movement was slowed and choppy. Not as bad as the stupid "LOST:Via Domus" aka "LOST: Me A Dumbass" which I wasted $20 bucks on since it's totally unplayable. (Thus is why it was only $20 I now see...poorly-coded games dive straight for the bargain heap!)

It wasn't long before the thing froze up and crashed. Tried it again. Again it crashed. I read up on a "How To" site about streamlining the multiple hidden processes that are running all the time on one's machine. Man I had a lot of useless ones running. Disabled them and now the game runs much better, I made it to Megaton and was able to scout around there and interact with a whole bunch of NPCs, even had me a gunfight or two. (Blowin' a dude's head off in this game rocks!)

But if I venture out of Megaton, I don't get far before Mildred poops out.

I don't blame it on the game. It seems tight. It's Mildred. She needs to be Fallout-ified.

Well, I just got done ordering another Gig of memory from Crucial, so that might help. But I think it might be the CPU...darn thats another $60 for a 2.5, well the memory only came to $27 with S&H and taxes, soooo....

But aren't I gonna be unemployed soon?

Look on the bright side, I'll have plenty of time to play Fallout without a pesky job in the way!

Of course, you can have a sweet, kick-ass upgraded computer but it's freakin' usless if you can't pay the electric bill! (Well, my electric's included but you get the idea.)