Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FLASHBACK: December 23, 2001

*A 13th Anniversary Special FLASHBACK*

Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky. A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.

Destruction of the Fourth World - Hopi cosmological prophecy

As Ric and I finished up the 18th hole at our usual course, Lake Orlando Golf Club, we made plans to have a few beers at a new neighborhood gay bar we'd not yet visited on Edgewater Drive in College Park. I was a little apprehensive since we had just spent the afternoon together the day before at Sea World, the whole day here golfing and I was reaching my Ric-overload point. But my buzz was wearing off from the beers we'd had during our round of golf and I had the urge to keep the party going.

I felt on top of the world. A couple weeks earlier I was on a business trip to West Virginia and Ohio and upon returning back to work last week, my boss and his boss congratulated me on feedback they'd gotten from the branch managers at those locations. They were even talking about wanting to mentor me in obtaining an executive position with the company at the headquarters in Longwood.

The weather this weekend had been exceptionally warm for December and Ric and I made the most of it with a theme park visit on Saturday and golfing today. So, yeah, I wanted to keep the celebration going.

We got to the place and there were immediately signs that made me try to convince Ric to go elsewhere. First off, the place was dead. Well, of course, it was only around 6:00 pm. Next was the fact that although it was a gay bar as evidenced by the pride flags behind the bar, it was after all a neighborhood bar so it was small, dark and smelled of stale beer and desperation. As patrons started filing in, it, like Hank's just down the road, was looking like mainly a bear hangout. Not a twink in sight. But the beer was cheap and came to us ice cold in good-sized plastic pitchers so...

Before long we were both smashed. It wasn't even 9:00 before we were politely cut off. Ric tried to convince the bartender to give us one more pitcher. The guy was very nice about it but held firm to his stance. Ric "forgave" him and we stumbled out to the parking lot. He was trying to get me to follow him to another bar but even I knew I'd had enough and I saw he could barely stand. I told him I was going home. He asked if I was okay to drive and I insisted I was.

I knew I was seriously drunk but like I always do when drunk, I was also seriously in denial of my handicaps. The fact I could hardy walk meant I was more apt to be focused when sitting. The fact I fumbled and dropped the keys when unlocking the car door was just moisture in the air. The fact I stalled my car twice when starting it because I forgot how to ease up on the clutch was the stupid car's fault. The fact I had to close one eye to compensate for the inability of my drunken brain to process the optical parallax distortion was just simply ignored.

So with one eye squeezed shut, a shaky left foot riding the clutch and the stereo blasting loudly to keep me awake I cautiously made my way home. I turned up the A/C, opened the vents to alleviate the noticeably building fumes of alcohol spewing from my noxious beer breath and popped a Breathsavers into my mouth.

I can do it, I thought to myself. But then I noticed I was starting to forget where I was. I quickly remembered back to the night of my first DUI and realized that getting lost was the biggest mistake then. So I focused really hard and made my way to OBT. I knew if I made sure I was heading south on OBT, I'd get to easily recognizable landmarks very close to home.

"Just hold it together and stay in the left hand lane. Keep going straight for about 10 miles. Just 10 miles." This was my mantra and it was actually pretty good advice. Had I made it without incident, I would have likely been able to make the turn at Americana and been home free. But I forgot one very important fact.

This route took me smack through the heart of Cracklando. The area around OBT (Orange Blossom Trail) where it intersects with Kaley and Michigan. About halfway through this 10 mile quest. Of course I needn't be concerned about the drug dealers, but the police cruisers in the area watching out for them were another thing.

On this night, Officer Meeks was assigned to patrol this area. Likely he thought he'd be bringing in someone intrinsically tied to the milieu of the area. Drugs, Violation of Probation, Robbery, Theft, Assault, etc. These are the crimes of the hood. Little did he know when he started his shift that his nab around 9:45 pm that night would be a middle-class white guy driving drunk through the ghetto.

I stayed in the left lane as I'd self-instructed. Good. No slowing down or stopping unexpectedly for people turning right or cars merging into the four-lane thoroughfare. It was a big broad boulevard traversing the city and pretty much a straight shot and flat throughout. Thousands of cars each day travel it without a problem. In 2001, it had just emerged from a two-year makeover and was smoothly repaved and very well-lit.

But it was the last weekend evening before Christmas and there were miles of strip mall after strip mall on this road so traffic was a bit heavier than usual for a Sunday night. Staying in the far left lane also meant you were constantly under pressure from cars behind you to speed up. Being so far gone as I was, I maintained my slow and steady 35-40 MPH average regardless of the hot heads around me and though I noticed the honks and cut-offs I had to endure from other impatient drivers, I just nonchalantly ignored them.

Unfortunately that nonchalant attitude was shifting rapidly into a non-conscious attitude and I found myself continually fighting to stay awake. During one nod-off I veered too far to the left into the concrete curb of the median and my front left tire rammed hard right into and over it. I jolted awake and pulled the steering wheel to the right to get back onto the road but this brief lapse in driving ability was not to go unnoticed. Officer Meeks, parked in his cruiser in a strip mall parking lot just 50 feet away saw the whole thing.

After hitting the curb and coming to, I realized I was going to have to try harder to focus to make it without hitting another car. What's more, this area of "The Trail" as Orange Blossom Trail is also known locally, is littered with obnoxious or idiotic pedestrians. They walk across this massive multi-lane boulevard constantly and you had to be aware of them since some would boldly walk in front of your car forcing you to reduce speed and sometimes outright stop for them. I hated this section of OBT and forced myself to wake up and get over into a middle lane in order to get ready to make my right-hand turn which I saw was only a few miles away.

I came to a red light, now in the third lane from the right and noticed a white and green Orange County cruiser pull forward parallel to me to my left. It was Officer Meeks, of course. Though I was conscious of his presence, my body and brain also knew I was stopped at a red light and it conspired to make me extremely sleepy since I wasn't actively moving in my car at the time. I remember thinking, almost abstractly, that it might not look good to the cop watching me that I was dosing off at the wheel.

Of course, as the light turned green and I moved forward, the cop changed lanes, got right behind me and snapped on his flashers. He politely, yet firmly ordered me through his loudspeaker to pull over. I complied, safely using my directional lights and parked to the right in what I thought was a fully sober frame of mind. But I realized, I wasn't chemically sober. It was just adrenaline. I knew I was fucked.

"Do you know why I'm pulling you over?"

"I hit the curb back there?"

No doubt smelling it on my breath, "Have you been drinking tonight, sir?"

"I've had a couple of beers."

"Would you step out of the vehicle for me, sir?" Mumbles into his walkie-talkie. He needs backup.

Of course I failed the field sobriety test. I remember thinking after he gave me instructions for what I needed to do; recite the alphabet or follow his penlight with my eyes or stand on one leg or walk a straight line, that I'd ace this. Simple, I thought. Then I watched almost disembodied-like in utter amazement as I so laughably failed.

Clickity-clack, clickity-clack went the handcuffs around my wrists. I was read my rights. I was placed in the back of the cruiser and the cop, now joined on the scene by another, was chatting outside the car with the other officer. I looked back at my beloved 2000 Ford Focus and hoped she'd be safe.

I didn't cry. To my drunk mind, though I knew what was happening, it was simply an interesting yet somewhat-disjointed experience. I was tired but adrenaline was pumping me up. I watched what the cops were doing, I looked around the interior of the cruiser, I looked out the windows of the car at the stores around me and the cars moving past on the road. I looked up at the stars in the sky. Was this really happening, I thought?

At the DUI Testing Center I blew well over twice the legal limit.

I was transported to 33rd Street. The Orange County Jail. There I was booked and processed, that is, photographed, fingerprinted, relieved of my possessions including my belt and shoelaces and placed in a holding cell.

I sat uncomfortably for hours on a hard metal bench surrounded by cinder block walls under harsh fluorescent lights. My alcohol buzz wore off and I was hungover. I was tired and wanted to sleep but my handcuffs were still on painfully constricting my hands behind me. Though I begged them to be taken off or at least loosened I was ignored. I later found out that they keep drunk inmates cuffed for eight hours after intake since they tend to be an outburst risk while they're still under the influence.

Well into the wee hours of the morning, my handcuffs were finally removed. I noticed I had numbness in one of my hands and this symptom percisted for almost a year thereafter. Nerve damage. I was instructed to shower, had de-licing agent sprayed on me and donned my dark blue XXL jumper suit and orange rubber flip flops. I was ready for central holding.

You see, I had spent the time up to now in essentially a drunk tank, a smaller cell which at the time I was there had only one other passed out inmate. Here I had to stay eight hours until I could be placed into general holding, a much larger room filled with rows of double-decker bunk beds.

I selected what appeared to be the only vacant bunk out of what looked like 60 or so in the large room. It was an upper bunk. Though it was uncomfortable and I was constantly in fear of falling off it, I was extremely tired and eagerly laid down to pass out for a few hours.

After I came to a few hours later when the CO's (Correctional Officers) were rustling us up for breakfast chow, I became somewhat overwhelmed by a flood of executive function thoughts and worries: When can I get out of here? How will I make bail? I don't belong here. Look at these losers. They're clearly druggies and criminals. I need to get out of here!

I tried to get information from a CO who was just then on his way out of the room through the security doors. He flatly told me he couldn't help me and was being a total dick so I continued to pursue him trying to make him realize I was an educated white-collar professional white man with a brand new car, a luxury gated-community apartment and several major credit cards. He was decidedly unimpressed. And when I made the jailhouse no-no of following him out through the security doors beyond the painted black and yellow lines on the floor warning inmates to go no further without permission...oh the look I got. He immediately tensed up and assumed the stance with right hand on his baton. Two other COs nearby perked up and stared steel-eyed directly at me. Had I not backed up, I knew, I was looking to get a severe beating.

I dejectedly backed off and made my way back to my bunk. I found out later, from inmates who saw I was a total noob and took pity on me, that I could queue up for the phone and call for a bondsman. Of course this had been the way it was back in '97 during my first DUI arrest but it had been mostly forgotten.

The bondsmen wouldn't talk to me of course. Like last time, I had no property to put up for collateral. And this time I had no family to do so for me. So I called JT, my boss at Sears, but he was unavailable each time I called. It was a workday, being a Monday, but methinks he was not much in the office since it was, after all, Christmas Eve day. I finally got ahold of him and told him my predicament. I asked if he could help me. He said he'd try and do what he could. Hours went by. Long painful hours. I called him back several times but couldn't get ahold of him.

Finally, as I'd surrendered to the concept that I'd be spending another night in jail, I was called for and a CO brought me to an office. There I was offered an opportunity for release under a monitored personal reconnaissance program. I would be allowed to be released if I agreed to call each day until the pre-trail into a probation office hotline. I signed the paperwork, thanked the worker and was sent back to the holding cell where about an hour later I was told to go to the releasing area where I received my clothes and possessions back and was shown the door.

Living only a mile or so away, I joyously walked home that late afternoon a free man. But now, fully sobered up, I also knew that the foolish decisions I'd made that got me into these horrific circumstances would hinder my freedom for years to come making the joy I felt quite bittersweet.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Places Everyone!

Finally after eleven months away I'm returning to the theater. I can't believe it's been so long. Not sure why, really, other than the fact I hadn't seen any email alerts, news or advertisements for shows I'd wanted to see. (Jersey Boys: Forget about it. Motown the Musical: No-town. Phantom of the Opera: Was great...the first three times I've seen it (four if you count the very similar "Love Never Dies")

But mainly, of course, I was waiting for the brand new Dr. Philips Center to be completed rather than endure even one more depressing visit to the horrible Bob Carr Theater.

The show will be the much anticipated musical comedy "Book of Mormon" and I think it'll be a hoot. The date I reserved is for New Years Eve. What could be a greater send off to this cloyingly Christian dominated "Holiday" season of phoniness and duplicity than an evening of good ole' heretical spoofing of one of the more twisted facets of this weirdo religion?

Of course I did have a bit of back-and-forth with myself over the decision to yet again break my self-imposed freeze on spending, but I had indeed been wanting to see this show for years now. When I found out that during one of the scenes the lead character sings out his secret wish and prayer advocating to God his desired placement to serve his missionary obligation was none other than here, Orlando, well, you know I couldn't resist. How cool it'll be as the actor belts out the name of his dream city and he actually happens to be performing in that city. I can't wait to witness the reaction.

Here's the number I'm talking about. The stuff about our fair "City Beautiful" starts at 2:17.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The End Of Civilization?

Two days ago I decided to temporarily thaw my freeze on spending and finally bought Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth. It's been out for a couple of months or so now but I'd hesitated buying it since the reviews were decidedly mixed with many reviewers saying they saw it as little more than a new skin on what's essentially Civ V.

I'd hoped to find out that they were wrong but unfortunately I agree. After about 8 hours of gameplay I feel quite disappointed. I spend $50 for what could have been done in a free mod to Civ V.

On the bright side, during my research into what the 4x strategy gaming community felt about the latest Civ iteration, I learned of another new 4x strategy game that's been recently released called Endless Legend. After a couple of rave recommends from gaming YouTubers I went and turned up the heat on that freeze a tad more and sprung another $35 to buy this. All I can say is wow!

Endless Legend is, albeit a fantasy setting rather than future sci-fi, what the new Civ game could have....nay...should have been. I've been playing it and haven't bothered with Beyond earth since.

Don't get me wrong, I won't boycott Civ:BE forever. It is pretty and the interface is oh-so familiar (since it's the same Civ engine and UI, but there are just some really bad problems with it.

First, it got really boring, really fast. Unlike Civ V, the factions have no soul like the historically-derived civilizations have and the map terrain is a bit crisper and certainly more colorful than Civ V but the hue is quite dark and the hex-hugging, straight-edged territorial borders do nothing for me.

Units, both human and alien, look great and have cool animations but, as stated before, this is done by many mods available for free for Civ V so if Civ:BE is just going to be graded on visuals, than it's a big failure since it's neither unique nor cost-effective for the Civ V fan.

But in contrast, Endless Legend is not just pretty, it's gorgeous.

Given, it's an entirely different game and a wholly different publisher so it did suffer from the "been there, done that" effect of Civ:BE so boredom was avoided, but it also seemed better balanced in the decisions it imposed upon the player. I don't feel like it's such a grind.

The different races in Endless Legend seem more fleshed out and have really significant differences from one another.

And the map and battle graphics are super exciting. It's very evocative of the CG faux-model stylings of the animated map sequence during the opening credits of the TV show "Game of Thrones." Fantastic castles and spires that gracefully and dramatically erupt from the flat map surface, as the chunky cliffs, springy foliage and blocky outcroppings all morph into 3-D around them is pure genius. Battles are set up in somewhat the reverse wherein the combatants from both sides position themselves as the 3-D map details subside and morph down into a flatter, more streamlined battleground arena. And all these effects done with such great use of that oh-so-popular photographic effect of tilt-shift focus.

I could go on and on about the differences between these two games but I do thinks it's sad that finally, after all these decades of Civ's hedgemony...

There's a new king on the throne, baby.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Small Changes To ABIR

In the previous post, just published earlier this morning, you'll see I've put together my 7th annual end-of-the-year collage called "A Blog In Review." As always the pics represent selected posts to this blog over the past year broken down by month. Like last year, I've decided to omit labeling the strips by month since I think most people can figure it out...first strip is January, second is February and so on.

A few changes this year...

Not only are there more than four pics per month, but they're larger this year.

They no longer link to the month of posts, they instead do the standard thing when clicked on...they allow you to view the original strip in its larger size. If you want to display the posts of that month to hunt down what each pic represents, simply do so the usual way using the sidebar archive list.

The pictures are also unique this year in that none are from the original post. They may be a different version of a pic used in a post or something else altogether that also represents the post subject matter.

Also, just for fun, I made sure that each person or face in this year's review wasn't smiling. Frowning, sneering or just looking bored, but no smiles. It's not an indictment of the year like saying I hated 2014, on the contrary I thought it was a good year...just thought I'd give myself a challenge in finding similarly expressive photos.

I'm a little early in getting this up this year so there are a couple of pics for December's strip which haven't any posts yet. One of them, the "evil elf" is going up the morning after Christmas Day. That's right, I'm bringing the carnage count back!

By the way, FYI, do you know it took me almost 10 hours to complete this? And I'm using two really simple editors: Irfan View and, gasp, Microsoft Paint. Hey, it's easy, and gets the job done...plus it's free.

SCRAPBOOK: 2014: A Blog In Review
























Friday, December 05, 2014

Could It Be...?

So I get a call on my cell a few hours ago and didn't bother getting up to answer it since I could see it was not from someone I knew. But looking at the number closer I realized it looked really odd. It was from phone number 999888777. Huh?

I just finished a search on Google and it pointed to a bunch of "Who Called Me" forum sites. You know, where people bitch and moan over telemarketing/collection calls and the like. Well I'm not the only one who got called by this number. Seems to have been happening over the past week or so to a lot of people. And all seemingly people with phones that have a Florida area code.

Most people report that they, like me, didn't answer it. Some tried to call back but got a service provider recording indicating it was not a valid phone number. Only 9 digits, see? Weird.

Many people state they did answer when it rang and the "person" on the other end either hung up, in most cases, or, others claim, they heard someone speaking an unintelligible language and then the caller hung up.

All I noticed, almost right off the bat, is the very odd sequence of the numbers and, like one of those sequential or differencial IQ test math riddles, what the logical next three numbers would be.

999888777

So the next 3 would be?

Like the Church Lady says: "Hmm, well now, who could it be...?

Secret Muhammad Time

At work, the annual Secret Santa exchange is taking place today. Several staff get small gifts for a other staff members who have been chosen from a random draw and deposit the gifts for them in their office or work area. Later at the "Holiday" party next week, each will have the option to play a round-robin swap of their gift with others. Oh what fun, right? And you don't have to be Christian in order to participate...it's just friendly fun.

I stick out among most of the rest of the staff in that I never participate. And until recently, I've never been questioned about this choice. The same one I've made for four years. Now, it seems I'm getting sideways glances from people when I let them know that I am not participating. I haven't said exactly why other than to state that I don't celebrate the "holidays" and leave it at that.

I don't bother explaining because I already know that most people don't "get it" when it comes to being an atheist.

Workplace Secret Santa exchanges sound on the surface secular enough since the company is using "Santa" in the modern American sense as a supposedly secular icon of the "Holiday" season so as not to promote one religion over another.  But all supposedly "good" intentions at inclusiveness aside, lets talk about the facts behind these "politically correct" traditions:

The Santa tradition may well hearken back to Germanic paganism and Odin's Yuletide but today's Kris Kringle is the jolly fat man in the red suit intrinsically tied to Christianity and the celebration of Jesus' birth.

When companies call the December get-together the "Holiday" party, supposedly they are including other "cultural" end-of-year celebrations. But really, they're not. It's Christmas. No matter how you say it. Even Chanukah is seen by most American Christians as a "Jewish Christmas."

This morning, a co-worker, Mary, who's a nice lady and seems genuine asks confused, "So, what do you celebrate?" with her face crunched up slightly. She's subtlety betrayed that she's quite afraid of the potential heresy of my answer. She wouldn't, of course "get it." So I simply, yet honestly say "I don't celebrate anything. I just try to ignore it."

Her look of pity and near-revulsion was just precious.

I would love to see her suddenly and unceremoniously dropped into some alternate universe Fundamentalist Muslim America where corporations have a slightly different version of "Holiday" traditions...

"So Mary, daughter of Allah, are you participating in the Secret Muhammad exchange?"

"Um, well, I'm Christian so I don't celebrate that."

"But we have named the celebration a "Holiday" party so infidels, er, I mean even non-believers feel welcome...and maybe you'll see our mutual joy in the glory of Allah and come to join us? No?"

"I think I'll just try and ignore it."

Wrong answer. Her co-workers just behead her, shriek "Allah Akbar!" and call it a day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Veruca Report

I've been busy today with my financial accounts working on interest rates and credit limits and the like. Here's the new rundown:

Major Credit Cards:

BankAmericard Cash Rewards VISA
Credit Limit: +$2,000 to $6,000
Opened 8/11
Current Balance: $644.18
APR: 18.99%
Annual Fee: $39

Fairwinds Credit Union Platinum Rewards VISA
Credit Limit: $5,000
Opened 3/12
Current Balance: $1,418.37
APR: 18.00%


Chase Amazon.com VISA Rewards Card
Credit Limit: +$1,200 to $2,000
Opened: 6/12
Current Balance: $64.98
APR: 21.24%


DISCOVER Card
Credit Limit: + $1,500 to $4,500
Opened: 9/12
Current Balance: $413.90
*New* 12 mo. 0% rate ending 12/2015
with 3 mos. payoff grace ending 3/2016
then back to APR: 22.99%

Citi Simplicity Card VISA
Credit Limit: +$1,100 to $3,100
Opened 12/12
Current Balance: $910
All under a Balance Transfer 0% until 7/2015
then APR: 16.99%


First National Bank of Omaha AMERICAN EXPRESS
Credit limit: +$2,000 to $5,000
Opened 12/12
Current Balance: $387
APR: 0% on current balance, new purchases: 15.99%


Barclay Bank Choice Rewards VISA
Credit Limit: +$2,000 to $4,000
Opened: 2/14
Current Balance: $895
APR: Intro 0% until 2/15
Still waiting on adequate resolution on points problem and a 24-48 hr credit for fraud charges...we'll see. Horrible customer service and lousy rewards redemption value. :(
New Card:

Citi Double Cash Rewards MASTERCARD
*New Card As of Today*
Credit Limit: $1,500
Opened: 11/14
Current Balance: $0
APR: Intro 0% until 3/2016
Going to balance transfer remainder of Barclay balance come Feb.

Merchant Credit Cards/Lines of Credit:

Walmart Credit Card
Credit Limit: $3,300
Opened 11/11
Current Balance: $1,015.66
APR: 22.9%


Dell Financial Services
Credit Limit: $3,000
Opened 11/11
Current Balance: $0
APR: 0% if paid in 12 months.



Auto Loan:

Fairwinds Credit Union Auto Loan on 2013 Chevy Spark
Initial Amount Financed: $8,000
Opened 10/13
Current Balance: $5,400
APR: 8% (currently working to reduce)



Current Debt: $5,600
Credit Limit Total: $37,400
Credit Utilization: 14.97%

EDIT: The credit for the fraud charges on the Barclays card was in fact applied within 24 hours and a week later I requested and received an increase of $2,000 on the credit limit for that card. This amount is reflected above and the totals given above were adjusted accordingly.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Moral Dilemma


As an atheist, I've at times been asked, with varying degrees of intelligence, how I can have morals without a belief in a higher power representing good triumphing over evil. The simple answer is that morality is not the sole purview of theists but is a touchstone of an individual's maturity and acknowledgement of the most effective practices to maintain a healthy community. In essence, it's a vital part of being a thinking human. This is where there's a disconnect in regards to people who consider themselves moral only due to their religion. They don't think about morality, they just act on guidelines set down by people (but they think "God") before them without questioning those rules. That's why some of the most heinous crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by people who believed they were adhering to the wishes of their god or gods. Bringing you hits like: "The Inquisition, what a show!" and "Allah Akbar...KABOOM!!"

Tonight I discovered something that has me in a bit of a quandary but I know that because I am a moral person I'll do "the right thing."

Last week I reviewed my paycheck and noticed it was off from my estimate. I glanced at the allocation of hours worked on the stub and there was a block of over 10 hours attributed to my standard rate which is paid only if I work hours outside of my regular overnite hours since those get a differential. I knew I had attended a couple of mid-afternoon meetings that payperiod but not ten hours worth...should only have been a couple of hours. My assumption was that the finance director had made an error and paid my regular rate instead of the differential rate for some of my overnite hours. Determined to point out this error and get my pay corrected I asked for a tally of the hours worked in the payperiod. (This tally used to be printed right on the stub but for some reason it isn't anymore as of a couple payperiods ago.)

But when I computed the hours according to the tally, I found the error. I had actually been overpaid.

During one of the afternoon meetings, the building experienced a brownout and when the meeting adjourned, none of us hourly employees who were not regularly scheduled for that time were able to clock out. So the timeclock still had me on and, for some reason, hadn't clocked me "out" when I clocked "in" at 11pm later that day. So I got paid for about 7.5 hours I hadn't worked.

Now we have a system for exceptions to the time clock punches in the form of a, well, form, that we write on to indicate such things and I did indicate my correct clock out time at the end of the afternoon meeting on it. But it musn't have been reviewed, lest the time clock accounting of my hours would have been adjusted. What's more is the likelyhood that this error affected at least 2 other staff who attended the meeting, thus overpaying them as well.

So here's the dilemma in a nutshell.

When I tell Christine, the Finance Director, about this not only will I be looking at reimbursing the company for the overpaid hours, but since it put me in overtime for that payperiod by an additional 7.5 hours, the OT would have to be included in the equation as well. Altogether we're talking over $150. Ouch!

But it could expose 2 other staff to the same debt of repayment if they too got overpaid.

And it would put egg on the face of our new Financial Director as she'd have to fess up to her mistake to the CEO.

But, in order to protect herself, Christine might lie and say that the exception report form hadn't indicated the inability to clock out thus putting blame on me (and the other staff) making it look like we committed time clock fraud and this could get me (and my co-workers) fired.

Oh my.

Makes me wonder if it'd be better to just forget all about this and ignore it altogether.

Hmmm.

WWRDD? (What Would Richard Dawkins Do?)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interstellar

I went to see this movie today, thankfully in IMAX since I think it was made for this format. Any other would be a travesty.

I'm feeling 100% confident, just a few hours after seeing it in saying this is the BEST sci-fi movie I've ever seen. Period.

That's right "2001: A Space Odyssey" you have been usurped.

This review I found is exactly what I would have said had I been asked:

It's oddly strange, and yet somehow comforting, how tales of space travel capture our imaginations. I suppose it's that sense of curiosity, that need to explore and to feel. Humanity has never been one for standing still, so it makes a certain level of sense. Think Manifest Destiny, if you will.

That being said, films about space always seems to dredge up something deeper than simply exploring the unknown. Think back to the epic that was "2001: A Space Odyssey" or even the original "Star Wars" trilogy. These films manage to reflect the mood down here on our little blue ball in the sky in a way action flicks or thrillers just can't.

"Interstellar," though, goes deeper than that. Directed by Christopher Nolan, it's not enough for this tale of space travel to sate our need to explore. This time, it's a personal tale wrapped in the premise that if we don't find a new home somewhere out there in that vast, dark expanse, soon there won't be anyone left to do it. This tale is one of regret, a marvelous adventure mired in the deep pain of sorrow, dread and a desperate, yearning need for forgiveness.

They say no one can hear you scream in space. I guess the same could be said for crying.

But fighting back against that near-impossible weigh is the glimmer of hope, that humanity may find a way to save itself from the ruin inflicted on Earth. Some sort of message is making its way to the planet, sent through a wormhole near Saturn by an alien race we believe is trying to help us save ourselves. That data, having made its way across galaxies and time itself, forms the plot structure for most of "Interstellar," where scientists on Earth are rapidly try to solve the coded message's riddle in a bid to prevent the extinction of the human race.

You see, Earth isn't doing so well. A global environmental epidemic has ravaged the planet, which we first see as we're introduced to a scene that would remind you of pictures from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. It's a rural stretch of America, farmland as far as the eye can see. At this point, nothing seems out of the ordinary, until a laptop shows up and reminds us that all isn't what it seems.

This family holds central characters in "Interstellar," particularly Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a single father who lives with his two kids and father-in-law (John Lithgow). A man "born 40 years too late, or 40 years too early," Cooper was once a NASA pilot who now grows corn. Which, by the way, is the only crop that will grow after a blight has destroyed nearly everything else. (Even okra!) Humanity has shrunk to a mere pittance of what it once was, but that doesn't stop those who are living from going about their days with some sense of normalcy. (Good to know beer will be available even when the world is dying.) Still, a sense of conclusion, that the end is near, doesn't hide far beneath the surface.

In fact, humanity for the most part has just about given up. Gone are the days of us going big, of ambitious dreams. Now, we've returned to our agrarian roots, at odds once again with science and technology and simply trying to survive each day. All the while, though, everyone knows not many days are left.

But director Nolan (and writer/brother Jonathan) doesn't do small. He's all about the ambition, and he goes for the throat when it comes to going big. His vision in "Interstellar" is grand and risky, fighting every second to "rage against the dying of the light."

That famous Dylan Thomas villanelle fits Cooper well, who we can easily see doesn't belong tethered to this planet. This disconnect opens the film's first act, a haunting, emotional tone that establishes a premise for why he does what he does, and why those whom he loves do what they do. The stakes are made clear, especially when it comes to Cooper's children. A loving and protective father, he shares a love of learning with his daughter, Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy as a child and Jessica Chastain as an adult). When he leaves as part of a NASA mission to find suitable worlds for which humanity can relocate, it creates a schism between father and daughter, one that leads Murph to pursue a career working for NASA. Some might consider it tribute, others an act of defiance. Take your pick.

But that's not the only father-daughter plot we have going on. Enter Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway), a scientist traveling with Cooper whose father, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), is the one responsible for developing the theories used to send them through time and space to find a new home.

But thanks to relativity and the massive effects of gravity, those traveling through space are aging far slower than those at home. The effects are acutely felt during video transmission being the pairs, especially after the time differences start becoming noticeable.

What happens in the deep reaches of space will remain a mystery in this review, as saying just about anything more will ruin the suspense and surprise the Nolans embed in their story. (Even the casting was a surprise.) The two other astronauts on the Endurance are played by Wes Bentley and David Gyasi. Oh, and there's an awesomely witty robot voiced by Bill Irwin.

And music. Oh, the music. The score, by the talented Hans Zimmer, is brazenly and over the top, but somehow, even as close to pretentious as it gets, manages to succeed in capturing your attention. Even when it's unnecessarily screaming at you.

In the end, "Interstellar" is more than just a tale of space exploration or of trying to save humanity. It's more personal than that, finding its home on a raw emotional level. It uses the magic of cinema to sweep us into this epic of regret and grief, of time moving inexorably forward despite the best intentions of our adventurers. But, even against all the noise, despite all the mistakes and ego and good intentions gone awry, "Interstellar" reminds us that hope -- nay, optimism -- has this funny way of springing eternal. If nothing else, let's hope we never lose that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

So Lo Koyo?

So does the new apartment signal a so-long to the lingering remnants of Koyaanisqatsi? (Why I abbreviate it Koyo I don't know. I started coining it that cute nickname and it stuck. Even though it really should be Koya, Koyo it is.)

Koyo began (arguably) in late 2002/early 2003 as my comfortable and somewhat secure middle-class life in which I was finally rising in my business career dramatically came unraveled in a devastating financial and psychological collapse. The details of this tumultuous epoch can be read in the Koyaanisqatsi Chronicles on this blog.

One of the most observable things I lost during this time was the standard of living I'd enjoyed prior to the commencement of Koyo. Now don't get me wrong. I was in no way well-to-do or even near it. I was still using payday loans and my credit was shit. My income was only in the lower middle class range as well. But I don't measure the comfort level I had then solely by raw financial numbers. In fact, to be honest, I look back at my Microsoft Money files from those days and I was as vulnerable then as anytime during the Koyo years. (And that financial vulnerability was exposed right quick once the winter of '02-'03 set in, believe you me.) But the one thing I had which was destroyed during the Koyo years was confidence. I tacitly acknowledged my paycheck-to-paycheck existence but it didn't worry me...I thought I was on the verge of greater things and nothing was going to stop me.

This cocksure mentality had its pros and cons. I pushed limits and acted quite entitled which I'm sure caused more grief than good. But at least I didn't live in constant fear.

Chief among the tangible assets that I felt was a symbol of my security then was my apartment at Park Central. Though small by many peoples' standards, being a 600 sq. ft. one-bedroom, it was condo-like (later to actually become a condo) and in the heart of a beautifully landscaped resort-style gated community of similar young professionals.

Now, some twelve years later, I finally am back in a very eerily similar place. How similar? Well let's see:

THEN
  • Large living/dining room in a vaulted ceiling top floor unit with an open floor kitchen/living area plan.
  • Kitchen: White stick-built cabinets with European hinges and brushed nickel pulls. Faux-granite laminate counters.
  • Dark brown living room seating.
  • Large European-style bed with extra firm mattress.
  • Light oak TV stand.
NOW
  • Large living/dining room in a vaulted ceiling top floor unit with an open floor kitchen/living area plan.
  • Kitchen: White stick-built cabinets with European hinges and brushed nickel pulls. Faux-granite laminate counters.
  • Dark brown living room seating.
  • Large European-style bed with extra firm mattress.
  • Light oak TV stand.

Eerie, huh? Well, I'll admit some of those similarities are due to my own unchanged design sense and others due to the construction standards of the late eighties when both complexes were likely built.

But it does feel like I'm "back" in a sense. Comfortable job I like, okay pay, and this "young professional" apartment. Though I'm certainly no longer young and not quite professional, many of my neighbors are so they conduct themselves accordingly. A very much appreciated difference from the recent Bellagio apartments milieu.

So to get back to my original question...is Koyo over?

Maybe the best answer would be to make an analogy to a cold. After the initial symptoms of the onset of a cold and then the coughing and congestion and body aches and such give way to the waning affects and the return to good health, are you then done with your cold? The answer is, of course, for now. Your body has successfully fought off this variant of the cold virus and would be immune to repeated incursions of this specific variant. But the cold virus is ever-changing and there's no guarantee regarding contact with another variant on down the line.

So I guess the last chills and sniffles from my original bout of Koyo are just now a memory.

But it doesn't mean I can't catch a new variant again. To be honest, unlike a cold virus, there's actually no immunity against the same exact thing happening all over again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Another Apartment Video

Can you tell I'm lovin' my new place? Here it is pretty much finished except for some minor pieces and a wall hanging. Not sure about the accent chair in the living room but it'll do for now. The Goldfinger tally is up to about $1,200 or so with every card in my wallet (except Chase) sharing some of the burden.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fickle Finger Of Fame

Of course we know about the fickle finger of fate, but fame too has its own fickle finger. And when we're talkin' YouTube fame, it's REALLY fickle indeed.

Will and RJ have been griping again about the negative comments on their videos, oft times not even pertaining directly to the video's content but rather to viewers' perception of either Will or RJ's perceived flaws. Same old ones: Will is fat. Will (or RJ) is bitchy and mean to the other. They mistreat Dobby. They live beyond their means. They live off YouTube...a big one for many. I gotta say, my old fashioned traditional upbringing also struggles with the concept of how lolling around the house taking videos of yourself all day can be a real job. But maybe I'm letting my jealousy show. After all, doesn't vlogging sound like the easiest job in the world? Makes my current employment seem down-right grueling and oppressive in comparison.

The newest issue the guys are having is that someone is posting their home address again. Well this time it can't be traced back to me. I have nothing to do with it. Though it is cute reading the astonished viewers' comments thinking someone must have gotten ahold of their public records or account profiles or shit like that. Um, no, clueless one, it's actually much, much simpler. All you have to do is be very observant and very patient. Oh, and being really good at geography and map reading is gonna help a lot!

The recent illness of Dobby and possible MRI requirements are putting a strain on their YouTube financed budget. But like flashing the Batman symbol onto a dramatically darkened sky, YouTube fame came to the rescue in the guise of a Twitch live-stream "Dobby-thon" where the boys were able to raise $10K in a day. From their vlog shot that day, and their updates as the day drew on of the amounts raised thus far, I half expected Jerry Lewis with his greased down coif and persistently-refilled glass of scotch to come staggering in, exhale a softly curling wisp of Lucky Strike smoke and belt out a tearful rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone." Will and RJ would look on this spectacle thoroughly confused and disconnected. They're too young to remember iconic '70s Jerry.

But, getting back to the crux of this post, they aren't TOO young in comparison to the newcomers in the very fickle YouTube young gay vloggers universe. A universe where Davey Wavey is a down-right Crypt Keeper and along with that other gay vlogging couple Billy and Pat are now in the soon-to-be-dead zone of over 30 elder gays. Even the reigning queen of young gay vloggers, the one and only Tyler Oakley can only go so many more years with his pre-teen girl entourage in tow. In other words, watch their numbers drop.

In the young gay vloggers universe, age will set you free. Free of subscribers, that is. Actually, come to think of it, it will do the same whether you're gay or not. YouTubers have always been a young crowd as far as average viewer age goes but it seems to be getting younger and younger. Founding father oldsters like Renetto who used to be cock of the YouTube walk have tried valiantly to make a comeback but as Father Time continues to do a number on them, the fewer and fewer teeny-boppers
are likely to stay interested. It's one thing to do stupid skits and have funny characters with silly voices but start to vlog real life as a mature adult and, well, you now just became their dad and they want none of that shit.

Will and RJ are starting to look haggard and frumpy when compared to the hot fresh young thangs around the YouTube corner like the much younger and adorably cute Matthew Lush and Nick Laws
or the unbelievably hot and super sweet Mark Miller and Ethan Hethcote. Just those two couples' chans have amassed a vast YouTube subscriber base in about a year. Like multiple hundreds of thousands, bitch!

But then there's the uber-youth segment. In other words, the video blogs of pretty little underage gaylings that make old fucks like me look down right pervy to even be watching. Like Pano T, and lohanthony. Oh my, if they only knew what I think of when I see their vids. Gulp. TMI. Now I feel dirty. But, it's a YouTube truism, that for whatever reason people are watching, the content provider should be very young and very cute. Lest they be relegated to that dark, dusty part of YouTube where nobody goes.

Soon, as time does its inevitable thing that it does, Will won't have anything to bitch about. There won't be many negative comments on their videos anymore because at first, the views will start to peter off and subs will tire of the minutia and elder 20s-ish adult shit of "those two old gay guys."

Then the videos will drop from daily to just occasional to eventually non-existent.

But hopefully they'll keep their catalog of videos public for future younglings to see what
it was like to be young, gay and almost YouTube-famous in the way-back decade of the 2010's.

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Apartment Walkthru, Day 5

Now, pretty much the same steps as the first video, four days, and many sub-compact carloads later.

New Apartment Walkthru, Day 1

Here's some video I shot with my phone of my new unfurnished apartment on move-in day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Goldfinger!

So I moved into the new place over this past weekend and now that I have bigger digs, I got room for more stuff. So, like George Carlin identified years ago, I've fallen into the MORE STUFF endless abyss. Now that I have more room, I have to buy more stuff...until I have too much stuff and then will need to move so I can have more room...for more stuff...and so on and so on.

But for now I'm enjoying the thrill of playing interior designer. Only bad thing, unlike outfitting my creations in the digital world on a game of The Sims 3, shit in the real world costs REAL money!

Much like the Bond-film-esque musical cue ascribed to the occasional mention of the mysterious "Mr. F." in the third season of "Arrested Development," I hum (to myself) the opening notes to the real Bond film song "Goldfinger" every time I even think about buying something for the place. Like the eponymous character in that film, I'm acting like a madman about money. Only instead of nuking the gold in Fort Knox, I'm nuking my credit cards. Well, not really, I'll pay them off. Only now it will take more time. Like maybe years. Ugh.

Just got done ordering my new loveseat and bed from IKEA. $850+.

GOLDFINGER!

Last night I spent over $200 at Walmart on area rugs, bath accessories and knick-knack items.

GOLDFINGER!

Still need a dining room table and possibly the chairs.

GOLDFINGER!

And my the bedroom walls and windows look bare.

GOLDFINGER!

Well, good thing I can't be billed for royalties on songs I sing to myself in my head. Otherwise Eartha Kitt's estate would be demanding a big check from me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FLASHBACK SPECIAL: The RIARC Summer Vacations

When I worked in the group homes of Northern RIARC, or just RIARC as we commonly called it, it was a custom for staff to hook up with one of the residents each summer for a week long vacation to a relatively local destination of their choice. Over the course of several summers in the early nineties I had the following very memorable road trips with some very special residents.

Alfred in Maine

Probably the summer of 1991 since I do remember having a beer or two (or three) when bowling, eating out or back at the hotel. Though Alfred chose Maine, he couldn't define where in Maine or why Maine in particular. I knew he liked fishing and the water so I selected a destination near Old Orchard Beach. We fished for all of an hour or so before he wanted to go bowling. And everyday for the rest of the vacation in this picturesque touristy seaside Maine town, all he wanted to do was go bowling. Alfred was obsessed with bowling. And smoking. And, as you could do back then, smoking while bowling. I bowled with him but mostly I just kicked back with cold one and chilled, enjoying a free vacation while getting paid. Oh yeah.

Doris in Quebec City

I think it was the next summer, in '92 when Doris and I went to Quebec City. Though technically an international trip, for French-Canadian descendants of Woonsocket, it's just considered akin to a ethnic pilgrimage to the homeland. Doris wanted to see Canada, and she especially wanted to see the "old" Canada of her family verbal folklore. I knew well what she meant. My family too had many a tale of the "old country" when gathering for festive occasions. But when we got there, other than old historic buildings and structures, there wasn't what she really wanted...a bunch of olde tyme Cannucks sitting around the sugar shack singing drinking shanties to a fiddler's strummin'. They didn't offer this in the travel guides and brochures. But she did enjoy the old fort with the period costumed staff and the museums. One vivid memory of this trip though was the fact that I probably risked Doris overdoing it physically as I had just lost a lot of weight recently and was very fit walking rapidly to and fro all over town with Doris panting and sweating to keep up with me. Oh, and she was overweight and in her 60s. Oopsie. Well, luckily she didn't have a heart attack and she probably lost a couple pounds herself, so all's well.

Doris in Pennsylvania

The next summer, I though about Doris' wishes to see "olde tymers" and thought, "How about the Amish?" Turns out, there was a bus group that was organized by a local travel agency that had regular week-long vacation packages out to the Pennsylvania Dutch country from Rhode Island. With everyone else on that bus in Doris' age group, I was the only person under 30, but this was the trip she wanted. I gotta say, I had fun too. We stayed in a regular "English" motel, of course, but visited the Amish farms and shops that were open to the public and each evening sat down to a real farm-fresh Amish feast. It was cool and right up Doris' alley.

Alfred and Mary in Kingston

Now that I was working at the Elm Street apartments group home I took Elm Street residents on vacation but it turns out Alfred had moved from Gaskill to Elm so I again went on vacation with him, this time with his live-in girlfriend/fiance Mary. Mary was non-committal on any specifics, she was fully willing to do whatever Alfred wanted to do so he chose our destination. He again suggested Maine but knowing that last time all he wanted to do was bowl I suggested a summer cottage nearer to home in "South County" Rhode Island. (It's really Washington County but Rhode Islander's call it South County.) This week was a bit of a chore since all Alfred wanted to do, again, was go bowling but now, once there, Mary wanted to do other things and balked at the non-stop bowl-a-thon ambitions of Alfred. So they fought. Oh only verbally, of course, but they could both get very loud. So much of the week was spent just sitting around the house doing nothing with me having to calm each of them down when they got into each other's face. They were two stubborn people set in their usual rituals. Not really a great mindset when on vacation. We ended the "week" a couple days short and once back home they both fell back into their usual routines and were much nicer to each other. Traveling was never going to be their thing. Oh well, live and learn.

Kenny in Boston

Kenny was closer to my age so he was enthusiastic to do younger things and liked the idea of visiting and staying in a bigger city so we set off for Boston. He (and I) were really into exhibits and educational/cultural activities so we went to the Computer Museum, Science Museum, Art Museums, outdoor concerts and a Broadway musical. Budgets were fairly ample for these vacations (the money coming from some grant or donor I guess) so I made sure we made the best of it. We were pooped from this high-energy vacation by the end of the week but I'm sure he talked about it for years afterwards.

The Games Landlords Play

I'm in the midst of the moving game. That's where you find yourself frustratingly playing games with both your current landlord and your soon-to-be new landlord. Not surprisingly, they each have their separate but similar goals...to fuck around with you simply because they can.

Let's get you up to speed. As you know I decided not to renew my lease here at the NOT luxurious Bellagio. After a grueling day of munching on reality pie I found it rare to find a decent new apartment in my acceptable price range but I finally settled on one that was...okay. Now the thing about this new place isn't so much the amenities and physical appearance of the apartment. I have yet to see those, even though we've been going through the pre-lease process now for almost three weeks. It's the behavior of the staff there. Amazingly, it reminds me exactly of the shady-ish staff here. Is there a college course in apartment leasing management that teaches people how to be this, well, weird?

You know about Alex (aka "Stretch") the maintenance guy here at Bellagio who during a repair visit rubbed out incriminating evidence of poor maintenance as he's vowing he's all about doing a good job for the tenants.

Then there's Miriam, the lady in the office. She's not the original one who I signed my first lease with but she's the one I signed the second with. Is she the manager? On the web site it seems to indicate that position belongs to a guy named Will who I've seen through the glass wall in his office but never met. Well this chick was the one who sat there and poorly tried to justify the retroactive billing of yet another dubious fee which the leasing company somehow "forgot" to bill us for over the previous year. She didn't have her rebuttal script rehearsed very well and was ill-informed as to what the fee was for and why I shouldn't be upset over it.

Let's not forget Edwin. Though he seems so nice and our mutual gaydars should set off some unspoken "family stick together" bond so I can get special treatment, especially as a respected Elder Gay, I get the sense he's been screwed over for a promotion in his job. A couple years ago, he was acting as the de facto manager before Miriam and Will showed up. He pranced around the property with his little chihuahua and made sure everyone received a queenly wave. Well, maybe he wasn't that obvious but it felt good having a visible, approachable management team member around.

The soon-to-be new place, Landmark at Woodland Trace reminds me of Park Central a little, Though I'll see the place tomorrow, my unit should be very much like the apartment I had at that complex so many years ago. It'll be, believe it or not, my first solo full one-bedroom apartment since 2002. (All Koyo dwellings have either been studios, shared, boarding rooms, or just a temporarily available mattress or couch.) With vaulted ceilings, updated cabinets, and an in-unit washer and dryer, it really will be like my pre-Koyo life. Or so I hope.

The staff at the new place have been a bit flaky and I've caught them several times already "forgetting" concessions or discounts promised. They have a funky system insulating them from calls too. I swear, it seems like if they don't have your phone number "approved" your call to them automatically goes to an off-site call center where the rep implies they're in the leasing office and the manager is "not available right now but they can take a message and have her get back to you" sounding like a well-repeated script. Very shady. The reviews online for this place are almost as bad as the reviews for Bellagio. Well, almost. They have a 38% approval rating. Bellagio's is 9%.

Well Daniel, the twink "family" leasing rep at Landmark who's been handling me of late just called back, and within an hour of me calling him so I guess that's a good sign. The apartment is ready for my walk-through later this afternoon. I told him I'd be able to come by tomorrow. Oh, but he surely doesn't neglect in informing me that the lease will be forwarded over to me for me to sign. Oh yea, he wants me to sign it first before even seeing the unit. Ugh. Doesn't he know us Elder Gays are too smart for that?

Plus, I'm a freakin' dinosaur, I want to sign my name in real ink on real paper. The way we used to do it over a decade ago. Back in the stone age.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Scammed!

Back when I was doing customer service for that big bank credit card provider who's name is a simile of the verb for "to run after," I took many a call from hapless cardmembers disputing charges on their card by companies that went by such odd names like Colon Cleaner or PenisBeHardNow.com or shit like that. Right away, I knew they'd been scammed.

These "companies" usually charge a one-time amount supposedly for the product itself then keep charging repeatedly for a subscription of the so-called product that the customer actually never ordered. When reviewing these, sometimes I'd see they got charged multiple times over the course of many months and hadn't noticed until the day they called me. I always thought two things: First, how the hell could they not notice a repeated dubious charge of $49.95 and second, how stupid they were to have probably visited some scam web site offering some bogus digestive aid or erectile dysfunction pills which they often tout as a FREE TRIAL or shit like that.

Well now this shit happened to me. Both the repeatedly un-noticed charges and the origin likely from some phishing spam or the like.

Some "company" has been charging my Barclay VISA card $49.95 not once, not twice but THREE times before I noticed. The one number of the three that I called said it was for a diet aid. Now I do recall nonchalantly googling around for a substitute for the Phen, but I didn't actually visit any of the many fly-by-night, shady-looking "pharmacy" web sites that Google happily provided for me (evil Google enabler of crooks)...or did I? I could have been Drunk Browsing...an act arguably just as dangerous as drunk driving. I won't deny that I've woken up several times with a hangover after a blacked-out night of drinking only to find my wallet sitting beside my desktop keyboard. Oh my.

Well, even if Mr Hyde did foolishly order anything, I'm going to deny it and dispute the charges with Barclay in the morning, of course. I'll change my card out too to avoid any future charges. Unfortunately there's a legit pending charge that I'll have to tag as OK so it can transfer to the new card number.

I wonder if the rep I call will think exactly as I did years ago that I must be some big clueless idiot letting this shit happen. Well now I know better. It can happen to even observant and intelligent card holders too.

Especially those that know how to use credit cards online while shit-faced. Ugh.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

And Then There Were Three

So now I'm down to my last three little blue and white capsules of Phen. I'm planning on keeping them to use as PRNs for those really tough days when I just can't control my hunger. And yes, it can get that bad.

I haven't logged any of my progress since I started this new initiative a month ago but to sum it up in a nutshell, I lost about 20 pounds so far which is not bad considering the shift away from my usual routine because of the trip and one true "slip" just two nights ago when I had four Stouffer's Veal Parmigiana entrees with an oil can of Foster's and a bottle of Chianti. Oopsy.

I think I'm back on track now but I know I'll be challenged again soon. And without my Big Brother Phen helping me in these schoolyard scraps I may get a bit ruffed up. (What a totally oddball metaphor that was!)

But I'll have the Trinity, which is what I think I'll call the three pills, just in case things get totally out of hand. All cower in the presence of my new god, the Phen Trinity.

In other news, I think I may have found my replacement apartment. Much closer to work and almost twice as big as my current apartment, it fits my budget and I think the complex looks great. I'll go Monday to check it out in person but if it looks anything like the model pics online, it should be great. Yes, BTW, I'm going to stay in Florida. The California visit helped me make up my mind. LA would be too much of an adjustment right now. And it may never be a good fit since the sharp disparity between rich and poor, the massively overpopulated urban sprawl and an equally oppressive summertime climate in comparison to Florida make it seem less than the utopia I was dreaming of.

Yesterday I bought the just released "Wasteland 2" sequel to the original granddaddy of classic RPGs which was also the spiritual precursor of the Fallout series. How many hours did I devote to the original Wasteland and the Fallout games that followed? Countless. So I expect my weekend will be entirely devoted to this new game. I may need a pill to help keep me awake so I can play non-stop.

And then there were two.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

TRAVELOGUE: Los Angeles Vacation, Hollywood Revisited

Although LACMA had much more to offer, I only saw a little bit more from the other collections. (Oddly, just like the New Orleans Art Museum I visited a few years ago, I noticed in the rooms the really priceless art (Picasso, Monet, Warhol, etc.) was located, there seemed to be less of a guard presence.) By mid-afternoon, my body was giving out and after looking at my sweat-soaked shirt and beet red face in the restroom mirror, I decided I needed to call it a day. Damned I was pissed. Was this my prior day's drinking or my chronic health issues or my obesity or the heat? Or maybe all of the above.

Then to make matters worse, as I prepared to get on the bus back to downtown I felt for my Metro card, which still had a good $12 or $11 on it and it was gone. Sure enough, as I had to let the bus pull away, leaving me on the sun-baked curb, I realized I'd somehow lost it. I had cash but nothing smaller than a ten so I had to go to the 99 Cent or Less store, passing a particularly pungent homeless guy in the aisles, to buy a bottle of water so I could get change for the bus. I caught the next one and luckily it had one seat available but I had to pry my fat self in-between a tough-looking Hispanic guy sleeping slumped on the seat and a burly black dude with a hard hat. As we passed by the famous MacArthur Park, I saw all the people trying to escape the heat, jammed, and I mean jam-packed along the tread-bare grassy knolls, litter-strewn pathways and graffiti-covered picnic tables. Not meaning to sound racist, but it was a sea of black and brown. This was the real LA.

The next day, my last full day in LA, I scaled back my plans since I realized recovery from my symptoms was going to be slower than I expected. I woke up still feeling like crap and, as I expected, I was again weak and a sweaty mess throughout the day. So instead of Exposition Park and the Natural History Museum, instead of historic downtown LA and instead of Santa Monica Pier, I opted to use the easy (and somewhat cleaner) transit mode of the subway and went back to Hollywood. But again I was overcome by the heat and my ability to endure even a walk from Highland to Vine, maybe a quarter of a mile, was just about all I could muster.

I did make it, kinda by accidentally stumbling on it, to the In and Out Burger I'd planned on visiting and had a really good cheeseburger with fries there. But it was extremely crowded and by this point in this adventurous week, I'd had my fill of crowds. I can hold my social anxieties at bay only so long before I start to feel paranoia and threatened by throngs of people. I was way over it.

After lunch, I decided to go to the famous Cinerama Dome theater (now Arclight Theater) and chose whatever movie was available which was "The Drop" which I think was James Gandolfini's last film. It wasn't that bad. Normally I would have waited for a movie like this to come out on Netflix but it was okay. The only other option available at that hour was "Dolphin Tale 2".

When buying my ticket the cashier held up what looked to be a tablet computer showing an diagram of the theater seating and asked me to select which seat I wanted. Aside from the obvious foolishness of having assigned seating for a half-empty matinee showing, I swear that the hipster millennial actually rolled his eyes as he flatly told me "Sir, it's not a touchscreen." when I attempted to press my preferred seat on the screen. On closer examination it turned out this display was just a tablet-sized backlit sign and I was supposed to just tell him the seat number verbally. Really Mr. Smartass Cashier? How low-fucking tech is that? It's your generation that got us used to the touchscreen-everything existence all around us. Roll your eyes at me like I'm a moron again, I'll show you what a "clueless" middle-aged dinosaur can do to you. Well, of course I didn't say that...out loud that is.

After the movie, the timing was right for one more activity, but I was still physically depleted. Partly because it would have meant another $50 or so in cab fare and partly because of how I felt, sadly I had to give up one of the venues I'd been most looking forward to for this trip...going to see Griffith Observatory. And as for my dream of hiking up to it...seeing it high up on its mountain peak in real life made me realize that even in great shape I doubt I could do it. I could also spot what I assumed was Runyon Canyon trail from Hollywood Blvd. and I have no idea how people can do it. Just the fear of heights alone would prevent me from doing it, let alone the physical requirements.

Here are some of the final shots I took of the Capitol Records Building, Hollywood and Vine, the Cinerama Dome (Arclight), the Pantages Theater and an ornamental display of old style movie cameras at the subway entrance on Hollywood at Vine. Also, a near rush-hour shot of the 110 Freeway downtown.






TRAVELOGUE: Los Angeles Vacation, The Grove And LACMA

Passing out while watching a movie in bed the night before hadn't accomplished anything positive. At least I wasn't too hungover, but it certainly didn't help my dehydration. The focus of the whole day would be on enduring the again relentless sun and drinking lots of fluids. I must have drank a gallon of bottled iced teas, lemonades and iced water throughout the day, and, probably a good indicator of dehydration, I didn't pee much out and not until evening. I vowed that this experimentation of reacquainting myself with drinking, under the excuse of "vacation," wasn't a great idea. So I had no more.

I was determined to make the best of it though and set out around 9:30 for LACMA, the art museum the tour bus went by yesterday. Here are some shots of the streetscape on the way from the hotel to the Metro station. Cool sculpture at the entrance to the Ernst & Young Building. Not sure what the office workers passing this each day think about it. To me, it seems to be making a "head in the sand" reference to the idea of the mindless corporate drone white collar worker archetype.




The subway only goes as far west on the Purple Line under Wilshire Blvd. to Wilshire and Western. I had to get out there and continue down Wilshire to Fairfax via bus. LA buses are horrible. Old (compared to Orlando's new LYNX line) and poorly air-conditioned. The buses, like the subway, and so many sidewalks also have the ever-present homeless too. I knew there would be a sizable and visible homeless population before arriving, of course, but the numbers are daunting, even when compared to my experiences of New York City. I really don't think I could endure seeing this day-in and day-out. And, sorry, but some of them reeked so bad, what with my already queasy stomach, I was nearly losing the banana I had for breakfast.

I got off at Fairfax and feeling a bit better after a block of walking in the fresh air and shade, I decided first to head over to the Farmer's Market and The Grove. Again I was surprised to find the walk a lot farther than I'd planned out weeks ago on Google Maps. And much of it was shadeless. So I was again feeble, sweating and tired. 

I thought low-blood sugar may have something to do with it too so I decided to have a fairly hearty lunch of a grilled BLT and fresh-squeezed lemonade at Short Order, a small overly-pretentious eatery just on the outskirts of the Farmer's Market. The wait staff seemed to take it personally when I had them take back the "diet Coke" I'd ordered since it was some local brand diet cola, not diet Coke, and was a flat, chemical-tasting assault to my taste buds. This place was a bit "organic, all-natural, local grown" hippie-dippy and the soda was undoubtedly a beloved hand-crafted, all-natural soda maker. Well, maybe it was naturally carbonated by Mother Nature's farts, but it definitely was sweetened with the decidedly un-natural artificial sweetener saccharin. The lemonade I ordered to replace it was pretty good although it tasted just like a Mike's Hard Lemonade without the alcohol. The BLT...well, how can you fuck up a BLT? Well, come to think of it, the bacon was way overdone. Aw hell, the lunch sucked. And at $17 for a soft drink and a sandwich, before tip, it was overpriced too.

As I made my way into the alleyways of the Farmer's Market proper, I saw multiple concessions I could have ordered good eats at. Damn!

I took a couple of pics of the stalls at the Farmer's Market but they came out very blurry so I didn't include them. Instead, here's a few pics of The Grove, the somewhat posh shopping/dining area adjoining the Farmer's Market. The trolley is an operational one, but it runs only back and forth from The Grove to the Farmer's Market...a short walk even in my condition so I saw no reason to ride it. The old-tyme car is outside the Farmer's Market.





Made my way in the brutal sunshine back down Fairfax to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) which had this long walkway under this huge boulder. (Notice the people under the boulder in the first pic as size reference.) Cool looking, but as I was making my way up the walkway from the gully under the rock, in the searing heat, I was grunting and sweating like a pig. 



Before entering the museum proper, I opted to view a special exhibit by a minimalist artist who set up one huge room with special lighting and covering designed to reflect the ambient colorful light to create quite the visual equivalent of an acid trip. I was made to take off my shoes and don little white gauze foot protector slipper-things and stepped up a few stairs into this room which was sloped, had no discernible boundary between floor, walls, and ceiling and had a glowing portal at the far end, down the slope, that the docent said would have a four-foot drop off and I was cautioned to avoid. It took only a couple of minutes and I was again thoroughly dizzy and nearly nauseous. Great, just what I needed.

In the Contemporary Art building there were some interesting pieces and this huge glass-walled room-sized elevator (which also made me more queasy). On the top floor there was a walkway to the outdoor stairs which, despite the slight vertigo to add to my symptoms, afforded these views...note the Hollywood sign again off in the distance.