Friday, December 29, 2006

Dumbasses vs. Bees

I direct your attention to the following forums post with death defying pictures. Man, who the hell would do something so farking dangerous?

I'm looking at you Grimm.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's a filthy lie!

This following video is NOT of me. At no time have I ever attempted to affix coke cans to my head. This I swear. This is not me.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back in the saddle

It's been a while since my last website design gig. And to tell the truth, I am somewhat limited by the constraints of an ecommerce site. Things need to be a certain way, which limits the creativity a bit.

Luckily I've just picked up a new client and this site doesn't have to sell anything. This gives me the freedom to create something nice looking. Dare I say... artistic? The contract hasn't even been signed yet and I am already in photoshop sketching up ideas. It feels good.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Concert

For some reason I feel the need to see a live concert once every few years. This usually turns out to be a less than life altering experience. The venue is typically smokey and the music is WAAAAY too loud. It's typically standing room only or, if at a large venue, the band is over a mile away. It can be expensive, the the quality of the music always suffers. But that didn't stop me from heading over to the House of Blue in scenic downtown Cleveland last night to catch Gogol Bordello and I am glad I did.

The House of Blues is a nice venue. Not too big, not cramped. Well laid out and decorated in faux voodoo. We arrived after the first act had started to play. I can't recall their name but they were pretty good. Three guys and some solid skills. They finished their set and we found a space near the stage near the wall. We still had to stand, but the new smoking ban made the air quite tolerable as we waited for the second band to set up. I took this opportunity to insert my earplugs. I have learned from my past mistakes. Why a live concert must be played at ear splitting volume is beyond me, but it always is.

The second act came on and that is when things started to get interesting. The band, Valiant Thor (apparently they are from Venus) is a little hard to describe. It's as if they had found a group of homeless guys and gave them all jeans jackets. Lots of hair and beards that would impress ZZ Top. They got right to it with some very loud and VERY enthusiastic playing. The lead singer was REALLY working, and shortly into his second song, he took his shirt off. At this point, I believe I heard Lindsey actually coughing up a hairball. I could not blame her. This was not the buff bod nor wirey frame of a rock god, but the pasty and slightly paunchy frame of a man who does not like the sun or vegetables. I will say that these guys seemed to be having a good time. They enjoy playing and do it with gusto. All I can say is that if these guys are from Venus, it is a very loud place with a crucial lack of barbers. Then the lead singer engaged in the short banter that often happens between songs. And this is where we came to realize that this guy was more Ted Kazynsky than Jim Morrison. He ranted about how the banks had all the power, which they got from the sports teams. He rambled on about the spirits and justice. I swore he was going to pull out his slide of Dealy Plaza and explain where the second shooter was in the grassy knoll.

Thankfully the second act came to an end. Now the crowd came forward in anticipation. At about 11"15 the band started right up and they did not let up for the entire set. This was one fucking energetic show. And despite the volume, you could still make out the Acoustic guitar, violin and accordion players. after two songs the band was intermittently joined on stage by two oriental girls dressed in football attire (sans pads), who accompanied on washboards and (during the bands very catchy "Start wearing purple) a base drum and cyballs. The Cleveland crowd actually got excited and was leaping into the air and singing along. Ed got washed into the Mosh area but I tied myself to a balustrade. The music was very up and I was amazed the lead singer could keep up the frantic pace. During one short break he pointed to s sticker on his guitar and in his thick Russian accent asked if anyone knew what country it was.

"Finland!!" the crowd yelled.

"Yeah, and what is this one?" he pointed to another sticker.

"Spain!!"

"And what flag is this?" he pointed to a flag draped just beneath the drummer that featured a wagon wheel with a blue top and green bottom.

"Romani!" I yelled. Apparently I was one of only a handful of people who recognized the Gypsy flag, but then I Am a wellspring of useless trivia.

The group plunged back into the set that lasted until at least 1:30 am. The last song was a traditional gypsy song with only the three principles playing until the end. All in all, a great show. We finished the night at the only open restaurant we could find, Diana's on W. 117th. I can't stress enough, go buy their music. You'll like it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Coolest armor EVAR...


This artist is entirely too clever. Clicky the linky to see his gallery of armor for cats and mice. Amazing work here.

The straight dope...

I just found a very interesting blog entry that lays out 15 misconceptions about Marijuana. It's a good read and I'd appreciate your opinions on the matter.

"Well what about you, Steve?" I hear you ask. Fair enough. Confession time. I am in general, a tea totaler. My consumption of alcohol is relatively small and is limited to what the more sophisticated call "girly drinks". Mead, Smirnof, a few mixed drinks. Being of good suburban upbringing I didn't touch drugs of any sort for most of my adult life. To this day I generally avoid strong medications unless I am very sick or in a great deal of pain.

I came to try Marijuana for the fist time on New Years of 1999. I found it produced a mild euphoria and slower reactions. It did not induce paranoia, violence or even the munchies. My wife drove me home, heartily amused by my constant running commentary. (Apparently I was interested in conveying the experience in a reasonable and logical manner. Others call this 'rambling').

Trying marijuana did not lead me to trying other drugs. Why? Because I am not stupid. The damaging and addictive qualities of other drugs are well known to me. And I will never try them. Since my first experience I have 'gotten a buzz' about once a year. Typically at the end of an evening. I have RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) which means that I twitch when I go to bed. It isn't painful but it is REALLY annoying and keeps me from falling asleep, sometimes for hours. This can be mitigated by avoiding sugars or taking a hot shower. I have learned that after taking a few puffs of marijuana I am able to get to sleep much easier and sleep much more soundly. Even if marijuana were legal, I doubt I would use it much more often as I have a strong aversion to smoking in general.

Would legalizing marijuana bring about serious societal problems? In the short term, maybe. But the cost of prosecuting and housing tens of thousands of recreational users is staggering. If legalized, it could be come a taxable revenue stream. Grown domestically it could revitalize southern farms as well as provide hemp, a very useful byproduct. If regulated it would actually be harder for minors to get it. Could it lead to an increase in driving under the influence? I think it likely, and that is a strong setback. But people already drive while hammered. Oddly, people I know who will drive after drinking moderately (with food and waiting at least an hour or two) would not even think of driving while stoned.

In short, it's time America grows up. We're big kids now and we can handle it. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Guns Guns Guns

This post has NOTHING to do with my rant below. I would like to make this perfectly clear. It just so happens that a few days after this post I attended the a gun show in Medina. I've never been to one and was interested to see what they were like. A group of us planned on meeting up at the sight at about 10. Of course THAT didn't happen. I arrived on time and was COMPLETELY UNSUPERVISED. Knowing my exceptionally weak will I drove down the road and window shopped before coming back. Not that this group represented the voice of restraint.

My first impression, after gazing in childlike wonder at all the shiny toys, is that this is a very polite crowd. There were a lot of attendees. You were bound to bump into someone and this was always met with an 'excuse me'. The dealers were polite. The buyers were polite, the people selling hot dogs and pizza were polite. Everyone is polite. I imagine that if you even tried to enter the building looking pissed, you would not make it. This event is all about calm people. Calm people with guns. And that's fine with me.

Next, there are NO booth babes here. This surprised me a little. I'm sure that at the big manufacturers convention's there are plenty of hot chicks displaying big guns. Here? Not so much. The closest that I could find was a middle aged woman with a Semper Fi tattoo that looked like she could punch me senseless. This was a room primarily of white males from the ages of 23-45. I'm sure its hard to find hot women who know the infinite minutia of firearms but that's not the point. The babes draw in people, for photos or autographs, for handouts. This creates a crowd. Crowds buy things. But this is a new field for me and if they aren't doing it, there must be a reason. Still, it was a bit of a drag. 2 huge rooms with guys in drab clothes. And lots of guns.

Homeless guys with guns. At first, I was a bit confused. I kept seeing guys with rifles slung over their shoulders and signs plastered on their chest or taped to their hats. Apparently, these are attendees who are trying to sell off their guns (presumable to buy new guns) but the effect is very strange. "Will sell complete stranger rifle for handfulls of cash".

Did I get anything? I was sorely tempted. Thanks to the ingenuity of the soviets one can buy a Romanian knock-off AK-47 with 2 clips for about $300. That's pretty damn cheap. By comparison a well made pistol costs $4-500 on average. The AK is a very well designed weapon I am told, easy to take apart and pretty accurate. But finances just didn't allow for it. I found a supply of Mosin/Nagant bolt action rifles most likely built in the 50's for under $100. Despite their age they are a well built rifle and can be very accurate with a scope. This is the weapon used by the Russian Hero Vasily Zaytsev . I held off for now. Guns and I still have a few issues to work out. Maybe in the Spring

My last observation didn't come to me until I was driving home and it is this; These people are nerds. You heard me. These gun wielding red-blooded Amuricans are hard core nerds. Read the two following statements:

"The 223 has a range of about 300 yards and a dispersal pattern of about 8 inches. You've only got five shots so you needs to make them count. Penetration is pretty decent with 20 grain. It'll take out just about anything. "

"The magic missile has about a 100ft range (+10ft per level) with a 1d4+1 damage. It'll affect up to 2 creatures in a 10' area. No saving throw, it's a standard action that uses a V and S component."

Are we seeing an similarities? Both of these speakers are about 20lbs overweight and are drinking Mountain Dew though only one of them is wearing a button that says "Assassins do it from behind". I won't tell you which.

This is not to imply that being a gun nerd is a bad thing. It's simply a different kind of nerd. And I guess it made me feel kinda warm and fuzzy to know that we share a common nerd-ness. Unlike the gaming nerds however, I will NOT get into a heated argument with a gun nerd over some trivial technicality. These people have guns, remember? It would not end well.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

p0wned!!

A quick update to my Fred Phelps rant. It seems that the father of a deceased marine sued Freddy boy and won. Phelps made much of his money through frivolous lawsuits (this was before he was disbarred permanently, now he uses his kids). Suck it Phelps, suck it hard.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hatred

It's just past 3am in the morning. I really should be asleep. But I can't sleep. My chest hurts and my stomach is churning. It was the same last night when I stayed up til 3:30am reading something that disturbed me so profoundly that even as I lie in bed I could not close my eyes. My mind would not cease.

I have devoted a short rant here and there at the 'Reverend' Fred Phelps Baptist Church' in Topeka Kansas. He is the patriarch of a large brood of hateful children/lawyers best known for picketing at the funerals of famous gays and more recently, dead U.S. servicemen and women. His trademarks are the brightly colored "God hates Fags", "God Hates America" and "Thank God for IED's" signs.

His actions so outraged veterans that the Patriot Guard Riders were formed. They are motorcycle enthusiasts, many veterans, who show up (if invited) to funerals targeted by Phelps. They gun their engines to drown out the Phelps clan and hold up large American flags to obstruct the view of the hateful signs.

Recently the Phelps clan was forced to make a hasty retreat when a large crown turned hostile. They were ushered away in a van to the taunts of the crowd, a window broke from some object thrown at the van. You can watch the video here.

In reading about the story at Fark.com I scrolled through the comments section. The reactions ranged from the logical "Ignore him, its what he wants" to the "Someone should kick the crap out of these asshats" to the defenders of free speech "He isn't breaking the letter of the law and the Bill of Rights specifically protects unpopular speech". The debate is heated, and like most Internet discussion, it did nothing to change the facts of the event. Just as I was about to click away I saw a post:

If you want to learn about what a psycho Fred Phelps is, and how horribly abusive he has been to his family (who constitute his entire "Church"), read Addicted to Hate, a journalist's account of life growing up with Phelps, based on the testimonial of two of his estranged kids.

The whole thing is online.

It will send chills up your spine.

The man is Satan incarnate.
I clicked the link and spent the next few hours falling into the dark pit that is the story of this mans life. I want you to read it. It's long. I know that I try to keep things pretty light. I enjoy talking about gadgets and travel intermixed with humor and occasional witty observations. Not this time. This is a journey into the Heart of Darkness. Into the life of a deranged and abusive man of god. How he came to be and how he twisted his faith. How he created his own world with himself at its center and how he abused his wife, his children, his community, the legal profession and the name of the civil rights movement all in the pursuit of his sick, hurtful, greedy desires. My words cannot begin to describe how fucked up this man is and what he has done to his own family and to those around him.

I tend to fall pretty strongly into the "Rule of Law" camp. Several states have tried to create laws that are targeted directly at Phelps group and the ACLU has filed several suits challenging the constitutionality of these laws. The part of my brain that lets me walk upright understands that you can't just make up a law because you don't the message of a particular group. A lot of whites didn't like the message of Martin Luther King. To paraphrase Voltaire:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

But I ask you, would our founding fathers have considered the words and actions of Fred Phelps even remotely defensible? If, in the time of Lincoln, a proto-Phelps had stood at a street corner as the assassinated president's funeral procession passed and held up a sign that said "Thank God for John Wilkes Booth!" Would his message have been very vigorously defended? I doubt it. In fact I suspect that such a man would have been roundly thrashed for such a horrid breach of common decency. But we have become somewhat immune in our modern age to outrageous displays in public. And in many ways it is better that way.

But there is another part of the brain, the primitive little lizard part. It is a part that many pretend doesn't exist. When man reflects of the barbarity of War, when he thinks about it he sees its futility. he understands that violence is not the answer. But it isn't the higher brain that makes war. It is that lower, baser part. And pretending it isn't there doesn't make it go away. I understand and accept that it exists. I believe in civility and acting civilized, but I know that we as a species are not even close to civilized.

And what if he showed up and the funeral of a friends kid, killed in Iraq? A kid I saw grow up? What if he protested daily at the small shop where our surrogate daughter Lindsey works? What if they showed up at my parents funeral? I do not think that I could 'just ignore them'. And despite all the pleading of the higher brain functions I think that I would be sorely tempted to strike out at these brainwashed morons. Their twisted bible-hate is enough to make even me ignore my upbringing and my moral code. And that says a lot.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

He who lives by the sword....

So the local fundies in Virginia wanted to get their message out to kids and parents in the public school system. But the bad people running the schools said "We shouldn't be promoting religion or politics" Fundies threaten to sue. School relents and lets flyers go home with kids. Now fundies are unhappy that pagans are using the system. Suck it fundies, you made the bed, you lie in it.

This is why we have separation of church and state people.

Hi Def violence and punk gypsies

Last night I caught V for Vendetta at the Dale's. Ed had downloaded the movie onto his X-Box 360 and I must say that it looked freakin gorgeous. Super clear. HD is the future there is no doubt. The only real downside is that the 360's hard drive is only 20 gigs or so. Downloading a hi-def film means you have to delete most of your demos and videos to make room.

After the movie Ed introduced us to Gogol Bordello a 'Gypsy Punk' group who's 'Start wearing purple' just rocks. You find yourself yelling the lyrics like a drunk Kossack half way through. They're infectious. They do to hungarian music what Floggin Molley did to Irish ballads. Tons of energy. I highly recommend you take a listen.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Snap Preview

I'm playing with a keen new Web 2.0 technology on the sight. It's called Snap preview. Basically, when you mouse over a link, a tiny preview of the linked website pops up. You can click the link as normal if you wish. Let me know what you think about it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Efficiency

So according to Yahoo news, there is a brand spankin new poster that shows the '26 faces of global terrorism'. Sweet. This is a handy thing, a good thing. It even tells you about how you can get up to 25 million dollars for helping to prevent terrorist attacks or bring Osama to justice. Damn! That's a lot better than a 20k bonus for signing up with the Army to get blown up in Iraq and I can just sit on my ass. I'll take me some of that action! The news article even showed this thumbnail:

Check it out, stacks of money! Getting paid to fight evil? It's a no brainer. A click of the picture brings a slightly larger thumbnail. Hmmm, not much detail. I can't really tell one evil blob from another. Back to the article. Let's see, the State Department seems to be behind this. Lets check them out. Hmmm, nothing on the front page. Lets check the press room. Hey secretary Rice hosts 29th annual Kennedy Center honors dinner. I wonder if she'll grace us with a piano recital? Ok, this must be covered by the Department of Homeland Security. You know, the guys who's did such a great job in New Orleans and have made the airports safe from toothpaste. Lets check them out. Huh, nothing on the homepage or in the press or media sections. It's almost like they don't really want to let us know who these bad guys are.

Look, I'm not naive. John Q. Public isn't going to capture these guys. These guys aren't in the US most likely. But would it kill these guys to put up a pdf file?

Marching...


On Saturday Rossana and I drove downtown and joined an anti-war march. It's my second protest ever (the first being in New Orleans when the city decided to tear down structurally sound public housing).

I found out about it through an email. I keep a gmail account that I use for signing on line petitions etc. The descision to go was somewhat impulsive. The event was sponsored by the local AFL-CIO. When we got to the outskirts of the city there were long lines of cars. There are never lines of cars on Saturdays and my heart swelled with pride in my native city. That is, until I saw that the vast majority of these people were going to some kind of sporting event. Par for the course really. Bread and Circuses is what keeps the citizens happy.

We met up in front of the Crown Plaza Hotel. There were, I don't know...maybe 5-600 people. We were handed a flyer with the chants we would be saying. Make shift drums made from plastic drums kept up a steady rhythem. There was a squad of young folk decked out in black and balaclavas or scarves to hide their faces. These were the agitators. Among them were several people with arm bands with a red cross to indicate they were 'medics' in the event of..well unpleasentness. The crowd was a mix of the college hippie types and long time peaceniks. There were a few 'Veterans for Peace' members from the Vietnam era most likely. But there were also high school aged kids. There were Moms. Faces you wouldn't expect. And of course the Union folks.

The march began on time and headed out down St Clair. We were flanked by several police cars that acted like sheep dogs, hearding us to the right whenever we took up too much of the road. A city ambulance followed behind. It was an upbeat crowd. These were not angry people, or at least they did not act hostile, except for the black clad agitators who occasionally rushed at SUV drivers just to scare them. Way to make yourselves look like assholes, guys. The march took two turns and ended up in front of the Federal building. Rossana and I carried a banner the length of the march whch was difficult because it was a) large and b) not well made. It was cold and despite the urging to the megaphone wearing chant leaders I never really screamed our chants. Its not that I disagreed with them, but I guess I was overcome by a bit of shyness. Plus there was the fact that there just weren't a lot of people in that part of Cleveland that day. Drivers would holk their horns and wave in support. People waved from office building windows. But the masses were near the stadium waiting to be entertained by our modern day gladiators. The local news showed up, which is something, but it was Fox news so I can only imaginbe how the march was portryed at 10pm "Filthy hippies run rampant in city! Terrorist sympathisers cause mayhem!".

When we arrived at the federal building there was a small stage and a woman was playing a guitar and singing what I imagine are traditional pro-union songs. There were several short speaches, most were not great or impassioned. Only three were of interest, one by a Union chapter leader from S Carolina who spoke clearly and with feeling and got the crowd worked up. The next was a union organizer from Argentina who talked about how America 'helping'countries has led to widespread problems in South America and elsewhere. The third was an Iraqi workers organizer. I can tell he was passionate about his work and had hope for his country, but his grasp of English was poor and thus it did not convey that passion very clearly. The only non-union type was the wife of a National Guardsmen who was there because her hurband had been called up to serve in Iraq again. She read a speech he had intended to give about how he is proud to serve his country and he is happy to help others in need, but he questioned the justification and logic that led the U.S. into this quagmire.

That says a lot really. He knows its a clusterfuck, he knows the danger, he knows it's based on (at best) faulty logic (or as I call them 'lies'). But he'd going back to do what he can.

The march broke up after that. There were several workshops planned at the hotel later that night and Cindy Shehan was scheduled to speak the next day, but my back was killing me and I had done what I set out to do. I was not too disapointed, this is Cleveland after all. The march was well organized and executed. It was peaceful and the police were calm and non-confrontational. When I got home I looked through the various other flyers we had been handed at the march. There's another protest in January, this time in D.C. That's where the action is. That's the big show. I'm thinking of going if we don't have any shows. Anyone interrested?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Inconvenient

For the past year or so I have been enjoying the very inexpensive, quasi-legal and deliciously DRM-free service of allofmp3.com and their imusic purchasing and download application alltunes. But our friends at the RIAA and government have been putting the screws to my Russian friends and figured out that if they can't kill the company, then make it impossible for them to get money. As of a month or two ago Visa and Mastercard pulled processing from Allofmp3. The two choices left were Diners Club (with its fun fun $95 fee per year, no THANK you) or a card called JRF which is available to residents of, like five states. Things were looking dark, and just when I had located a stash of Polish punk music I wanted.

But wait! There is an answer! An overcomplicated and confusing answer. First, go to xrost.biz and sign up for an account. xrost is a kind of cashless receipt generating system in use in Europe in place of cash. Whatever, it's not important. Next, you will need to go to clickandbuy.com and register a credit card with them. Once you've set up the account, go back to xrost, fund their weird cashless card with money from clickandbuy.com You will get a serial number and a pin. Surf back to allofmp3 and give them the serial number and pin and Blammo! You're back in business. Fire up alltunes and your balance will show up there. Now, wasn't that simple? Well, no. But it works. Enjoy!

Child's Play


When I was a wee lad, we didn't have any of these fancy game consoles. There were no X-Boxen and PS360's or WEEEEEEEE systems. We used to go out in the yard and throw acorns at each other. That's what we did for fun.

Of course, I never had to spend several weeks in a childrens hospital with nothing to do. Sadly, a lot of kids do. This is where a very cool charity called Child's Play comes in. Founded by the clever mirth-mongers at Penny-Arcade in responce to the accusation that gamers contribute nothing to society the Childs Play charity provides games, books and other diversions to sick tots around the world. 100% of your donation goes to the kids. And the great part is that thanks to Amazon.com you don't have to guess what these childrens hospitals need, wish lists have already been drawn up. You can donate to a hospital of your choice of simply donate via PayPal.

Go ahead and bring some joy to a sick kid. I know you're good people.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I hate them...

The very clever monkeys over at Kropserkel provided some of the costumes for this spoof piece. These are some very talented monkeys. Which is why I hate them. I mean it. If these guys die in a fiery place crash I got dibs on EVERYTHING!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Calls for cthulu

This is some funny-ass Elder god shit.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Strange facinations...

You may just want to skip over this posting. Really. I'm giving you ample warning that it does not involve foreign travel, hot women in corsets of fighting off ninjas. This post is about an obscure 18th century Italian engraver.

Half Price book is a kick ass store. And when we were last there dumping off some old video games and books I picked up a two books dirt cheap. One was 'How to build a Gazeebo' and the other was called 'Piranesi - The Etchings'. I had no idea who Giovanni Battista Piranesi was but one look at the images in the book and I had to have it. Page after page of wonderful etchings of Roman Ruins, Tombs, monuments, temples, theaters and more. The book is in three languages with a short section on Piranesi's life and work in the 1700's. You can cut to the chase and breeze through his wiki page.

Some of his coolest work were his 'prisons'. Massive spaces with soaring vaulted ceilings, chains, raised walkways to nowhere and ancient gears. My biggest regret is that the images in the book are rather small and much of the detail is lost. Luckily a Japansese university has a website where you can zoom into his images and well as see modern photos of some of the places Piranesi drew. What amazed me was the number of locations that I had never heard of or seen before. A great deal of these places must surely have fallen victem to the modern city of Rome but I intend to look into some of the more interresting tombs using the internets. I'm hoping to get a book with larger versions of his work or maybe a few prints but they aren't cheep.

I have no idea why some things grab my attention so suddenly and firmly. I spend two weeks with my nose buried in a book about personal letter written in the Elizibethan era. Facinating stuff which I may have to write about in the future. And now, I must go, I think I hear ninja's in my laundry room.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Run Forrest Run!


They're getting smarter. The turkeys, not us humans. We're still dumb as posts. Apparently a group of wild turkeys, in a last ditch attempt to escape the murderous rampage of the humans, tried to take a train out of Jersey.

Good luck guys, many have tried to get out of Jersey. Most didn't make it...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Slacking towards turkey day

The past few weeks have been...well...we haven't had much to DO. And thats kinda wierd. Last year at this time we were down in Bolixi and New Orleans. It was trip I am glad I made. If you missed it, you can read about it here.

This year we finished up the shows, came home, put everything away and worked on the house. Now most of the big stuff it done and we have....spare tame! It's wierd. There's still a list of stuff that needs to get done (there is always stuff to get done) but its getting shorter and the things that are left I am finding easier to ignore. I need to get work done on my friends website, but I've stressed over his site every time its broken down. I've driven all over gods green acre to find a wifi spot to fire off emergency emails and try to figure out what broke while on the road. Sigh. I'll get back to it tomorrow.

We now have two cats. The Great Cat of Reh (Ray) who is a regular feature in the house. And a female who now lives in the garage. We call her "Little one". Destructo (or Dumas) went missing while we were at Pennsic. Its very likely that Little One is from the same litter as Destructo, they're practically twins. The two cats do not get on well which has turned out home into a french stage comedy. When one cat wants to come in we have to boot the other out their particular door.

Thanks to my friend Grimm I now know how to service my rear brakes AND swap out struts. Grimm had planned on doing his struts too and we managed to get both vehicles into the shop. But in the end all he needed was a couple of rubber washers to completely fix his front end problems. Total cost? $2. Me? I spent about $400 in parts. Next time I want to be the one who spends two bucks.

My rig is pretty much set up the way I want now. I drove up to Detroit last weekend for a LAN party of my friend Monkey's house. I had a great time. There were 20 people crammed into his basement blasting the hell out of each other. It was different from the Ohio LAN crowd. These guys are pretty quiet. Focused. Our local group is far more vocal with their smack talk. And since my FPS skillz are not exactly 'leet' (after all, I do have a life) I need to make up for it by distracting my opponents with taunts and trash talk. At one point, after having been killed for the umteenth time by a guy with the nickname ded_god I threatened to slash his tires, tear his head off and crap down his neck. Now THAT'S sportsmanship.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Meltdown

Yesterday my wife casually mentions that her computer isn't working.

"What's it doing?" I ask.

"Very little".

On booting up a cryptic message flashes on the screen telling me that LSASS.EXE can't initialize and I have to terminate it. Hmmm. Off to google.

According to the allmighty googletron LSASS.exe is a common file used by Windows to load account settings and should not be tampered with. However ISASS.exe is a trojan, a worm, a virus that will cause all manner of harm to my wifes computer and will likely herald the birth of the antichrist. Of course, because of the way fonts are displayed in Windows, A lower case 'L' and a capital 'I' look exactly the same. In any case the antivirus installed on her system might have missed something. Time to pull the hard drive. After 10 minutes of concentrated swearing and several cuts I get the drive out and scan it on my system. My antivirus finds 14 evil creatures living on my wifes hard drive. I perform deletions and exorcisms and re-install the drive. Still no boot, but as a bonus its giving me random blue screens of death.

It's off to the windows XP recovery console. Which finally 'repairs' her installation of windows. Except that again, it doesn't. I am forced to do a re-install. I pull the drive and put it back on my system, pull off all my wife's email and other files. Pop it back in her system and start the clean install.

Once its done I find I'm missing all kinds of drivers. I crawl around in my wifes closet to find the Dell drivers disks. Then there's the missing wi-fi drivers that must be downloaded, then a download of Thunderbird, Firefox, Avast Antivirus and an attempt to restore the email.

By the time most of it was over it was 2am. Fun Mcjoyjoy. Today I got her email restored and working again. I almost wish it had been a real hardware failure. Computers are so inexpensive now it's almost cheaper just to chuck one and get another. Wouldn't that be great? Your rig starts to slow down and you decide to get a new one. At the comp-u-mat you select B7 and rub your hands in anticipation. Then the new computer get stuck on that stupid spiral wire thing. You end up smacking the plexiglass front of the machine and trying to shake it for 10 minutes to no avail.

Of course, once you stop your rant the computer magically falls off the wire and you are able to pull it out the bottom and take it home. The old system? You throw it on the compost heap (because in my work computers are biodegradable).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wow

I've been up to a lot recently, including a ghost hunt at a decommissioned prison and using tools to fix things. But the bigger new is that we won. We fucking won! Control of the House AND the Senate. And just as I was enjoying that sweet savory taste I hear on the radio today the Rumsfeld has "Retired". I haven't read the transcript of his announcement, but if he uses the term "Spend more time with my family" it means he was fired. Fired or quit, I don't care. He's gone. I believe i did a little jig in the NAPA parts store.

It's been said by conservatives that the Democrates don't have a plan, well it's better than the Rebublicans who's plans have all been bad. I am inclined to agree with some of the pundits, that America didn't vote for Democrats so much as vote against the Republicans. Whatever, the glass is half full, the glass is half empty. I don't care so long as the glass has less than 50% Republicans, child predators, thieves, secretly gay homophobes and war profiteers.

I stayed up late to watch the results, but the more I watched, the worse my stomach felt, until I realized that I did the same thing in 2004. I stayed up and the news just kept getting worse. What were those people thinking??? I truly felt in my heart that once the American people got into that voting booth, that they could finally have their say without fear of retribution, that they would soudly regect Bush and his ilk. But they didn't. They still believed the lies. This should have happened two years ago. We might be out of Iraq by now.

And to put some numbers behind that:

We might have not have lost 1,472 U.S. and coalition lives
18,540 fewer coalition casualties
20-100,000 fewer Iraqi casualties/fatalities

Of course this is all speculation. But you know the old saying 'Fighting for peace is like fucking for viginity'. I'm wondering how many more kids are going to pay the ultimate price for this failed venture. How many more 'casualties' before we pull the plug. Remember, being wounded in combat can be anything from breaking your leg to having your arm blown off by an IED. And given the nature of this occupation, there are a LOT more amputations. There are also a lot more head wonds. The incidences of PTSD will be skyrocketing over the next few years. We will start to see a surge in the number of homeless vets.

I love my country and I support the men and women who serve. So I consider it my sworn DUTY to make sure that they aren't needlessly put in harms way. To fail in this is to fail as a person. I meet a lot of people in my job. I likely talk to several thousand people a year person to person. One day some young man or woman is going to buy something from me and hand me their credit card. Only they won't have a hand, or even an arm. It will be a prosthesis. I like to shake the hands of almost all my customers. Am I going to be able to shake this persons appendage, the stump thats left over after a mortar killed his friend and wounded him? Only if I know in my mind that I did what I could to prevent it from ever happening.

Uhgg. I know this isn't written very well. But I get worked up whenever I talk about this. It's off to bed.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Our usual table please...

Last night I met up with Bob, Cat and Ed (along with their significant others) at a Denny's in North Olmsted. We meet up on this date every year. It's an anniversary of sorts, and we've been doing it for 22 years.

A looooooong time ago I met Ed and a girl named Kim at a small Ren Fair in my home town of Bay Village. We hot it off and they invited me to a Halloween party. After the party we went to Lewis woods in the Metroparks in costume. As we tromped through the dark woods we talked about Tolkein and magic and a thousand flights of fancy. Then we went to Denny's. Over the years we have somehow managed to always meet up. Even when Cat moved away to Washington, she would go to a Denny's there and we'd talk on the phone.

This year our waitress hadn't even been BORN the year we first met up. How's THAT for making you feel old! We didn't stay as late as we used to. There's work and all. But we did get together. That's what friends do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Now witness the power of this fully armed Operating System!

Apparently Miscrosoft isn't satisfied with owning 97% of the OS market and has decided to 'Covince' people to use their new Vista OS by threatening them with a frickin' DEATH STAR.


Oh sure, it will supposedly be a bright, happy blue. But if you painted the Death Star blue, it would still be the goddamn Death Star now wouldn't it? You can make the planet-killing laser make kitten sounds but you're still blowing up Alderan. I don't know about you, but I'm heading out to reserve my copy of Vista at Comp USA today. (via Jonsey.net)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pics Online!

We finished today and began cleaning up the huge mess we created in building this thing. I used the new Picassa Web albums feature, I hope you like.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Before MTV sucked..

Years ago in the Pliestine age (1984) there was a video and song that I truly dug. I remember it was called "Land of Hunger" and it was by a group called "The Earons". Well, thanks to the Internets and youtube I am once again able to enjoy this very cool song, and so can you. The weird thing is that the band members were known only by numbers. Supposedly they were well known, but no one has any data on this. Go check the google or wikipedia. These guys were fucking ninja's!


I believe they call this ...work

When we moved in to Bag End several years ago we sat about drinking mead and dreaming of ways we could turn it into our perfect dream home. These dreams had to wait of course. Being a home owner means you can't bitch at the landlord to fix the leaks in the roof or repair the gutters etc etc. But after we took care of the biggest issues we dreamed again of wild, cool things. One of those projects was to replace the awning roof in front of the house. There was nothing wrong with this roof per se. It was well built and in acceptable shape. But its builder failed to take a few things into consideration. He basically extended the original roof to make a screened porch. But the math didn't quite work out which resulted in a very low roofline, a loss of natural light and and entrance that was only 6 foot tall and required some ugly cuts just to allow the doors of the house to open.

Enter the Michigan Renaissance Faire. Rossana and I wandered the site last year, marveling at the nice booths and in particular some of the cedar shake roofs. After some inquiries I was led to one Richard Heinzelman, woodworker and booth builder. On a lark I told him about my home and asked if he could turn our low, sharp, plain roof into something higher and more organic looking. We talked a while, he asked for measurements and pictures. We talked some more. We drew pictures. We discussed materials costs. In the end, he agreed to do the project if three things would happen:

  • I would need to find a source of fresh cut, green hardwood
  • I would have to help
  • It would have to be done in the last two weeks of October. (The worst time of the year weather-wise and during the Ohio Ren run).
I agreed anyway. If we didn't do it now we would miss our chance. Richard wasn't available the entire rest of the year. Thanks yet again to Grimm I found a source of wood from an Amish saw mill. We put Richard up at our house and last week we began work. And I do mean work. The first step was ripping apart and hauling away the old roof. This involved physical labor, something I eschew. Then came the more-funner job of post hole digging. By the end of the second day I couldn't actually hold tools. Did I mention the horrible cold that was still plaguing me? But after that things began to take shape. I cut the rafters and basically did grunt work and Richard worked his magic. The results, which should be done in the next two days, are nothing short of amazing. It looks incredible. Even better, the roof now lets in way more light. The entranceway to our house? Its now under a 7 1/2 foot arch.

Of course, removing the old roof exposed a LOT of wires, pipes, cinder block and other nastiness underneath that has to be covered up somehow. We (I) hadn't quite thought if that during planning. Covering the front of the house with stucco is our eventual goal, but that will have to wait until finances are available. Until then we're going to just cover it all up with some spare paneling.

Richard's labor costs were very reasonable and using me instead of bringing a member of his usual crew saved a lot. So did getting the wood from the Amish, who were very cool and eventually charged us LESS than we had originally agreed upon.(Cultural footnote: The Amish consider a firm handshake a sign of aggression and dominance, give 'em a limp-wristed shake and they'll consider you slightly less barbaric English) Grimm even helped out last Sunday while we finished up O-Ren. I thought this project would take two weeks but Richard thinks he'll be done in two days. This is what happens when someone knows their shit. I will post pics when we're done. The worst drawback to this project has been the damage to the plants near the house, which we have been walking all over. Its unavoidable and Rossana had been very stoic about the destructive, plodding men trampling everything in sight. And of course the new roof, being curved, has no gutters. I am slightly nervous about where the water is going to go in a heavy downpour. We may end up having to dig some French drains. More digging, horay.

The weather needs to hold on for two more days. Just two more days...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sweet Jeebus!

I took a drive last night to a lonely town located in the backwaters of Ohio. I was to meet with a man who's name I can't write here but who you may know as Codename: Monkey. There were dark deeds to be done and exchanges to be made.

When I arrived at the rendezvous I flashed my cars headlights twice as I had been instructed. The car at the other end of the narrow bridge did the same. I got out of my car and approached the large wall of a man who stood silently.

"I believe you have something I want" I said, trying not to sound nervous. I had no backup here, I was flying solo.

"Indeed I do. It's in the truck. You have the payment?"

I nodded and held the briefcase up flat. I flipped open the latches and opened the lid. Inside were rows of crisp bills. Small denominations, non-sequential.

"It's all here. Do you want to count it?"

"Count? No! I trust you completely."

That was funny, because I could easily make out the tiny red dot that rested over my heart. Placed there by some unseen sniper, very likely the Swede named Ander.

"Then you're happy?" I asked.

"Not quite, you forgot one small thing. My Hat."

"I didn't forget, you get the Pirate Hat when I see the Rig."


He laughed. "Always so paranoid my friend! Of course."

He pulled a squat box out of the truck. "Here you go. All the papers are in it and are in order"

I placed the box in my trunk and handed the large man a bag. "Your Pirate hat, I hope you like it."

He pulled the hat out of the bag and placed it on his head. "It fits like a glove. Sweet. So, we gettin wings?"

"Hells yeah."

Several hours later, in the darkness of my office...The last of the computers cables are connected.

whirrrrrrrrr

"My God, it's full of stars...."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Brick - See it

Last night I watched a film called 'Brick' on pay per view and I must say that I enjoyed it more than many films I have seen over the past few years. I highly recommend you check out this great hommage to film noir set in a California High School. It's original, funny, painful and well thought out. Great cinematography and a haunting score. One small complaint is that there is a LOT of slang used in this monie, most of it isn't the current kid/gangsta crap. It sounds like it's right out of Daschle Hammett. It comes fast and hard and you might need to rewind now and then to catch it. Check out the trailer (link above).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Update on my Rig..

Thanks for the links and advise and contacts. Chris (The Big Red Monkey) called me shortly after the post. He asked me questions. Questions I felt uncomfortable answering on an unsecured line. Several hours later an email arrived with specs that frankly scared me. This sort of technology is supposed to under lock and key at area 51. This kind of rig can kill people in many multi-player games just by logging in.

I got a call today from Monkey. He says "Dude, I may not be able to send you this rig."

"Is there something wrong?" I asked.

"Oh no, it's just that it's just too damn sweet. I may not be able to let it go"

I salivate... Soon, soon it will be in my hands. And then they'll learn, they'll all learn the meaning of the word FRAG.

Hack...wheeze..cough....

We returned triumphant from last weekend at Ohio Ren. It was one of our best weekends EVER. I have no idea how to explain it. Holliday weekend? Perfect weather? Alignment of the planets? Who knows? It just kicked ass for two solid days. It was so busy that of Saturday I paid patrons to go and get us food so we wouldn't pass out.

But no good weekend goes unpunnished and by Monday a creeping Crud over took Rossana and I. We did what we could and rested up because my mother gave us an early x-mas present in the form of tickets to see Spamalot at the State Theater and I wasn't going to miss that, no sir.

I will say now that I can see why many people find this musical so fun. It is indeed very silly. Great set design and some very clever numbers. I thought the sound could have been a bit louder given the high tech system I drooled over in the back of the theater. My biggest.... well... its not a complaint per se. It's jst that a super geek like me can pretty much quote a lot of Monty Python and the Hold Grail word for word. So it was very obvious and jarring where the new diologue and story elements (such as they were) were tacked on. Also, part of what makes Python so funny is the rapid fire delivery, which has to be way slowed down to work on the stage. There are some great physical comedy bits but it wasn't anywhere near as great as several other plays and musicals I've seen over the years. It's clever, but Tony award winning clever? Hmmmm. If you love Python, save the whacking large amount of money tickets cost for this show and buy the latest deluxe DVD release. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My Kung Fu is strong but my Rig is weak




It's been a while since I did any upgrades on my home built system. And there's a good reason for that. Because any attempt to update or overhaul this system will likely result in the delicate magic holding said system together to be dispelled leaving nothing but a pile of raw silicone and a weeping corset saleman. I simply cannot afford to have my computer down for any length of time. I rely on it, as does my business and those of my website clients. So I've let it slide. But its annoyances have grown. Plug and play is spotty, the video card whines, hard drive performance seems very slow. Etc etc.

Since taking this system apart is out of the question I need a new rig. This is where you folks come in. If you yourself, or someone you know, is a clever tool-using monkey, I gots a job for ya.

What I want:

Fast components. Not THE latest, as these are very spensive, just one step behind.
Video: I need to be able to kick my friend Jackals ass in BF2. Plan accordingly.
Lots o RAM. I deal with large photoshop files. 2 gig.
Dual layer DVD burning= Good.
Media card reader.
Legit copy of XP: OEM or boxed makes no difference. I can't have Microsoft giving me shit just to save a few bucks.
Dual Boot? Hey, I've heard good things about Ubuntu. I'd love to have that option.
Hard drive: Huge SATA is best. I also need to be able to hook up my current ATA drive to transfer over huge numbers of files.
Sound Card: Need not be fancy. I typically use headphones.
Lights, bells, whistles, windows and spinner need not apply.
Sound: Quiet. Fanless power supply would be nice.
No monitor needed.

Price: Under 1 grand if at all possible.

If you're interrested in the job please email me. I'd like to get this process rolling next week. Although I am by no means a huge blog I'd be very happy to plug you or your company or run your banner ad.

Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A tale of two Couches

There comes a time in a relationship when things get serious. The first serious step is cohabitation. At least it was for me. But an even greater commitment occurs when your relationship goes to the next lever. No, not marriage or kids. I'm talking about buying furniture.

When Rossana and I moved into the big farmhouse years ago, we arrived with a large sectional sofa that I'd bought from some cousins. It had seem many better days. Its appearance was not improved by my friend Ander sat down on the couch back after finishing the move and "Anderizing" it.

It was clear that furniture was needed. We shopped around and eventually went to Value City (because we were, basically, poor) and bought a sofa and loveseat. It is here that I will stop our tale and give a mea culpa. Those of you who know me know that I posses a fairly good sense of decorating style. It's been said that if only I had been born gay I would have had a very successful career as an interior designer. This great style sense led me to push for a lovely couch with turned wooden feet and brass nails in tan with tapestry accent pillows. We bought it and hauled it home and the second we set it in place and I laid my ass upon it I realized I had made a terrible mistake. This was the most uncomfortable couch in the history of furniture. Torquemada could have used this furniture to extract confessions of blasphemy. It literally tried to force me out of it every time I sat down. It's material felt like sandpaper to me. Rossana was, of course, oblivious. But she has always led a Spartan existence. But I hated this couch, with a passion that burns like Latin love. And it hated me.

Years pass. We move again. The couched look fine in our home. But things start to slip. One day Rossana mentions that the couch 'isn't as comfy as it could be'.

"Oh really?" I respond demurely, as if I'd never really noticed.

Quickly I put a plan into action. While down in southern Ohio we went to a Big Lots (cheapo closeout store) and I had her sit down with me on a nice, ugly modern sofa while I 'rested my back' for a few moments. Slowly it dawned on my beloved wide. Her eyes begand to slowly close and she smiled slightly.

"What is it dearest?" I asked.

"This couch is soooo comfy."

"Is it? I suppose it is. Much better than our couches at home. And look, they're on sale!" I pushed the price display over to her with my toe.

She looked at the price, it was actually very reasonable. We'd shopped for furniture before, browsing Arhouse Furniture and other trendy couchetoriums. But those were mere flights of fancy. Two years ago we could have bought our house, or a lamp and an end table from one of these places. This was Big Lots.

We went home and I called the local stores. The nearest one had a set in stock. I laid out my case;

"Dear, when we last bought furniture I chose style over comfort and I was frankly dead wrong. We sit on these couches, nap on them, have guests sleep on them, shouldn't they at least not cause rashes and bleeding, if not be somewhat comfy?"

In the end, she kindly agreed. We looked over our finances and agreed we could do it. Of course, nothing can go without incident. The local Big Lots had the couch, but it was the wrong material. We had to drive out to Norwalk Ohio but we got 'em. After much grunting and heaving they are now safely installed in our living room and they are sooooooo nice. I mean it's reeeeeally nice. I may just sleep on it tonight. The Old loveseat is in the Moroccan room, where it replaced an even more uncomfortable futon. The couch? Its on our porch now and we're trying to sell it off. If you're a massochist and have a few bucks to spend or you want to torture a friend with a +4 Couch of Discomfort drop me a line.

Religion

This is a pretty good short video about why athiests care about religion.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Assorted stuff and various things...

Haven't posted in a while. This can be traced to an insideous enemy called 'work'. This work must be stopped at all costs.

Most of the week was spent on the road. Ohio Ren has 2 kids days where I basically sit and watch the next generation dissapoint me. It is beyond pathetic. The younger ones seem to have some hope, but once they get into high school they appear vapid, or just stupid. I am sure that all previous generations have looked at their successors in this way. Spent friday on the road and then finished up the Michigan show. It was yet another rainy weekend, perhaps the wettest season on record. But they numbers were there. The place was packed to the gills. I didn't do gangbusters but there were extenuating circumstances. Heather (one of my sales minions) arrived Saturday with a toe she believed to be broken. This was confirmed after a trip to he ER. On her return the pain meds and a spike in blood sugar meant she was flying and was good only for entertainment value. Once she was pretty straight we sent her home. I also spent some time trying to help my friends Alex and Elizabeth try and find a booth to buy. The biggest deal was that I sold complete, custom made Demonatrix outfit. If you've seem me at any shows over the last year you may have notices an outstanding leather outfit with wet molded leather demon wings and hands that look like they are grabbing the wearer. I've been bummed that I have not yet found a buyer for this piece. Of course, the fact that it's $1800 may have something to do with it. But on Saturday a young woman returned and stated she wanted to order her own personalized Demonatrix at a cost of $2500. Yes, I did in fact do the 'Happy Dance' after she left. But I'm holding off on breaking open the bottle of Asti I have been keeping for this occasion until after I get the 50% deposit later this week. All indications are good. Keep your fingers crossed.

And then it was all over. Being a merchant (or boother) isn't the same as being on cast or being a patron. For them the end of the show can be a tearful and emotional affair. There are hugs and toasts, songs and exchanged phone numbers or email addresses. There have been breakups and marriage proposals. But the boother has work to do and it starts the moment the show ends. Tear down, clean up and load out. Thankfully my shop isn't filled with thousands of things. But the booth still needs to be cleaned up and winterised. It's been my home away from home for two months. Lots of 'bits' collect in that time. Then I need to tear down my camping tent. It can't be rushed. You work through each task methodically. You can't just throw all your shit in a van and drive off. It will only make your life worse on the next show.

Those on the security staff who handn't already packed up last night gathered for the best tortia soup I have ever had. This is a very cool group of people. Friendly beyond words and helpful beyond measure. They are truly a tight knit family.

It was a good year, and I'm not talking monetarily. I haven't even looked at the books. It was just a great, crazy season filled with a lot of laughter, some mild frustrations, new friends and lots of stange stories ("Ma'am, would you mind hitching your gimp to the fencepost?") I can't wait till next year.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Scalpel....forceps...duct tape...

Last weekend my minion Lindsey learned the painful lesson that laptop computers do not like to drink mead. She quickly drained said laptop and let it dry and suprise of suprises, it worked long enough to pull most of her files off it before the screen went blank.

She came over to the house tonight, and having nothing to loose, she let me take it apart to see if I could possibly make things worse.

Thanks to the internets I discovered a step by step guide to disassembling a Toshiba A15. Of course, this guide did not take into account stickiness and its detrimental side effects. I cleaned all the surfaces I could. Just as in High School biology I pointed out the various guts, indicating their function and condition and how they were most likely being damaged by my large, paw-like hands. There was a bit of bother when we removed the keyboard and the cable connecting it to the computer simply popped off without the piece of plastic that should have come with it. But really, she's in art school. What use does she have for a keyboard anyway? We live in a point and click world. Words just get in the way.

When I was done I re-assembled the device with only one mystery screw left over and a slight gap in one of the corners where I am sure ants will be moving in over the next few weeks to enjoy the sweet goodness we couldn't reach. We could not test my efforts as the entire system needs to completely dry out again for a day or two. Lindsey has kindly released me from any liability if my actions somehow let the magic smoke escape from her computer. I personally blame evil laptop pixies, but that just me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Have we won yet?

The 'War on Abstract Concepts (tm)' is making great strides. Thanks to better international cooperation Canada was able to quickly deliver wrong information about one of its citizens to the U.S. The U.S., in turn handed him over to our friends, the Syrians who tortured him for a year before informing us that "Uh, this guy doesn't know anything dude. I mean, we broke him and guess what, nothing".

And for those of you in the 'Well this is just an isolated case' crowd, its seems we did it with three other Canadians as well. Hell, Bush doesn't even deny the secret prisons any more. How far does this insanity have to go?

Have you had enough yet? Don't forget to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. I beg you.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Remember Wierd Al?

I do, and he's got mad rap skillz... or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Super cool...The Shire housing development

Many people have stated how they hate me because I live at Bag End, which they seem to think is a very cool place. They are right to hate me, it is cool. But if you're willing to relocate a little West I have JUST the place for you. It's so cool even I want to go see it when its done. I give you The Shire!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sometimes I don't want to think

Driving up to Michigan Ren this weekend I had my ipod on random play. Given my obscure tastes the music covered a fairly wide spectrum from Thomas Dolby to Mozart. But somewhere south of Detroit Moby's "God moved on the surface of the water" came up.

I had used this music for the video slideshow of our volunteer work in Biloxi and New Orleans last year. I realized that it was just over a year ago that Katrina hit and things went terribly wrong down there on so many levels. Due to work, I didn't see any of the tv retrospectives, but I also turned off the radio, and avoided the paper. In short, I subconsciously blocked the date out.

Why?

My brother has sent me several articles about New Orleans but I haven't read them. I haven't visited the websites for Common Ground and Hands on USA, the groups we worked with in quite a while.

Why not?

Didn't I care anymore?

But as I drove down the road I found myself crying almost uncontrollably. The same feelings I had when I sat watching the Gulf coast be destroyed were bubbling up. The same sense of powerlessness. The same anger, the same frustration I felt at being unable to figure out some way ANY way to fix it somehow. To make it better. It's those feelings that I had been trying to avoid, because they utterly destroy me every time.

I pulled myself together to handle the Mad Max rush that is Detroit traffic and by the time I got to the Michigan Renfair site I was feeling better. I still had the heavy feeling in my chest. If I hadn't heard that song I would have felt a lot better, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of life's tragedies. They define us, they drive us. They slap us across the face and yell at us to wake up and pay attention to the bigger world around us, to do something. Even if it makes you feel like you got kicked in the chest.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In my happy place

Last weekend was a big one. The opening of Ohio Ren and of course, labor day weekend. With three days to sell we had to pick up some sales and I'm happy to say that we did very well. Both Ohio and Michigan beat last years sales. But not all was well in Corset Land, oh no.

On Sunday my brand new sexy credit card maching refused to work. It wasn't just my machine though, my neighbor at Angus Harvey Kilts was also down. A call was made to tech support and we were informed that due to a power surge the server controlling our machines "blew up". There was no ETA for its return. What followed was six hours of me stressing as I tried to make sure I could still take cards. This is the second weekend I've had this thing and it cocks up. This is not what I want.

It came back online late in the day and worked fine Monday, but this shit will not stand. I'm going to try and get some answers as to why there was no backup system in place.

By Monday end of day my blood pressure was back to normal and the great sales really helped. I had help from a new minion named Sam since Heather and Diane were unavailable. She did a great job and worked her ass off.

I did manage to help my friend Alex get some sales and production help. His hats have been selling like hotcakes and his stock was pretty well decimated by Sunday. He needs to stay home and focus on making new stock. It's gotta be tough working a 40+ hour work week and then going home to make stuff.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Internets

I just got an email from a friend who lives even further in the boonies than me. Apparently he just got DSL and is giddy with joy:

"It's like Santa got the Easter Bunny to bring Halloween candy to the kids in the boondocks too..."

Congratulations my friend. Drink deep from the well of the internets. And to insure you waste ALL your free time, point your browser over to youtube.com

Ahhhhhh...Can't you just feel the productivity leaving your body?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back to business

Michigan Renaissance Fair, second weekend. Lots of people to help out. Diane, Heather, Lindsey, Rossana and a new girl samed Sam.

Despite unpleasant weather we managed to have another kick ass weekend. It was made even better by the fact that we could actually take credit cards!! My current machine went wonko about two weeks ago and would not work. Thousands of dollars in sales were left unprocessed. It got so bad I actually had my minion Diane driving around her neighborhood in her pajamas trying to get a signal for this stupid machine. I am eternally in her debt. In the end, I told my merchant account provider in no uncertain terms that they had failed me for the last time. (Alas, my Jedi powers are not sufficiently developed for me to shoke these bastards over the phone).

I contacted a new company called Merchant Warehouse. I recommend them highly. I called on monday and was set up with a new machine by Friday. The new hotness is called the Way System (waysystems.com) and its pretty sweet. Essentially, they grafted a credit card swiper onto a cell phone. It's small AND it gets signal at the Michigan sight. I pray it works at Great Lakes but I won;t get to test it for a while. For now, I'm up and running. I was able to manually enter the previous weeks sales info so I will soon be seeing my money. Shameless plug, if you are interrested in a merchant account or taking credit cards, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the guy I worked with. For every person who signs up I get $50. Let me say though that even if I weren't getting a kick back, I would STILL recommend the Way system and Merchant Warehouse (which had the best price for the unit bar none).

There is no rest for the wicked though, we're off to the Ohio Ren Fair site in a day or so to clean up and repair our booths and do planting etc etc. I managed to rent out my tent to a nice fellow who is new to the show. This should help defray the costs of buying the tent. Money coming in is a good thing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Funny

So, who's killed more people, God or Satan? You might be suprised.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Having...Trouble...Breathing




I think you will agree that the above product, which can be purchased from CostCo of all places for a mere $18,500 is an object so cool, that it may well be worth selling off a kidney for. That's the only way I could afford such a mind-numbingly cool thing such as this.

I spoke with my wife about this but the conversation didn't go well.

"I need $20,000"

She closed her eyes slightly as if she had experienced a small brain aneurysm.

"I'll bite, what for?"

"A pirate ship."

"Didn't we agree that putting 'Pirate ships for sale' into google was a bad idea?"

"This is a Pirate ship...in a tree!! Can there be ANYTHING COOLER??? I ask you, can there??"

"We need to replace the fridge."

I was taken suddenly aback. "The fridge? What's wrong with the fridge?"

"The milk is now a solid block of ice and the ice cream is now a chunky soup."

"Can't we just put the ice cream in the fridge and the milk in the freezer?"

"The door doesn't close right anymore. It makes a horrible rattling noise, it may be possessed"

I eyed the icebox suspiciously.

"Where's our Bible?" I asked.

"We don't have one."

"I could have sworn the Mormons dropped one when they ran screaming from the house a few weeks back."

"That was the UPS man with a package"

"Whatever. This demonic Frigidaire has me concerned."

I went to the bookshelf. What did we have that might dispell evil? I pulled out a book and waved it in front of the fridge.

"What's that?"

"Al Frankens 'Lies and the lying Liars that tell them.' it's all I could find."

"What about those ancient tomes in your study?"

"Good heavens woman, I want to dispell an appliance gremlin, not open a portal to an alternate dimension of evil. " I waved the book a few more times and felt satisfied.

"What was I asking about again dear?" I asked.

"Something about taking me to a movie."

"Movie? Why, yes! Something with Pirates....that's the ticket."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

War, but not the bad kind


I just got back from the Pennsic War. This is an annual trip I have made for the past 20 years or so. It's the largest SCA event in the world (at about 12,000 people) and you have to attend it to fully understand it.

This year we were blessed with great weather (a rarity) and a general lack of drama in our camp (a very good thing). The biggest event for me was the resurection of the Hell Party. We ran this party for 6 years before discontinuing it about 4 years ago. But last year's parties were so dismal, so completely devoid of energy or fun that with the help of my campmates we resurected the party with pretty good results.

The party has a slight historical petigree. It was roughly based on church or 'Mystery' plays in the middle ages where the institutions of the church were mocked with slapstick comedy and bawdy humor. Our party featured several carnival style games; Bobbing for Bourbon and the cock-ring toss. We also had a whip-chick area with a stocks and St. Andrews cross. We served great beer and a concoction called Swamp Gas (composed of Mountain Dew and Everclear). We also set up a stage and brought in entertainers.

The one day of bad weather was of course, the night of the party. The grey skies turned black and the rain came just after the first act on our stage. In the rain it was almost impossible to arrange my entrance with the stage manager. In the end I just game in hoping the crowd would notice a 6'2 guy painted red with horns and a pitchfork. They did. I ascended the stage and my makeup began to run into my eyes, blinding me. And then, the three propane torches giving light to the camp, blew out leaving everything in darkness.

This was one suck-ass opening.

I got off stage and did a quick intro by the fire, stumbled 'back stage' and got the worst of the makup out of my eyes. When the rain let up I used some scrap paper on the end of my pitchfork to re-light the torches. The party began to pick up steam. We brought out a fire eater. After that, it was time for our secret weapon. We snuck a generator into our camp (not permitted by campground rules) and used it to power a snow machine that blew fluffy soap-based flakes over the crowd. It was amazing and the crowd loved it. More people crowded in. We sold t-shirts, cigars and indulgences for donations to help defray the cost of the party. This was my biggest worry. Running an event of this size takes a lot of cash. My friend Ed personally fronted about $1200 bucks to make this happen. If the weather had been just a little bit worse, the party would have failed, and more importantly, we would have been left with huge expences. In the end, the donations covered the cost of the party and allowed us to make a donation to the Tuchux Breast-Cancer charity (The Tuchux are a loose affiliation of barbarian types who have gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years).

It was an enormous undertaking. And none of it could have happened without the hard work of everyone in my camp. From locating and picking up long-disused props to setting up the games, the stage and the whipping area to selling tshirts, setting up and running the bar.

I think we reclaimed the 'coolest party' award in the eyes of the attendees. As usuall, I ended up taking a shower at 4am to try and get the red paint off. And the next day my back informed me that lugging 150lb kegs can be hazardous to your health. I spent much of the next 2 days in a bit of a haze. Doing the party just burned up a massive amount of my personal energy reserves. It wasn't just the physical part of helping run the party, but all the stressing out I did in the days before it. Now that its over I am more relaxed. People are already asking me about "Next Years big party". Sorry, I am giving absolutely NO thought to this right now. The Michigan Ren Fair is open and the Ohio Ren starts soon. My garage and shop are disaster areas. It's back to work.

But it was one Hell of a party.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Beer


Beer
Originally uploaded by stevepack.
This is a small beer trailer we liberated for the upcoming 'Hell Nite' party. Our plan is to tow it around Pennsic while playing ice cream truck music at full volume.



This weekends sales have been slow. This bums me out. The weather has been great and a decent crowd today. Bah! Sacrifice more kittens!



I am eager to get back to Pennsic. Lots to see and do.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Impossibility of Unknowing

I did not write this, but I believe it states in the clearest way, my feelings about the times we live in. It comes via DailyKos.com:

Fallujah. Signing statements. Abu Ghraib.

Waterboarding. Stress positions. Free speech zones.

The theological and historical differences between Sunni and Shi'ite. How levees are constructed. Why levees fail.

These are things I knew nothing about until George W. Bush.

I've always considered gaining knowledge an indisputable good, but these pieces of the world I've come to know in the past six years have the feel of being forced into me under threat. They now carry with them a weight and a darkness.

The Ninth Ward. Haditha. Guantanamo Bay.

How much sweeter to have picked up these nuggets of geography and history as I always have, serendipitously led through a leisurely stepping stone process of one book or conversation suggesting another, and yet another, and now a couple of twists and turns ... you start out here, reading Faulkner and next you're drawn to learning about cotton production and before you know it, you're at civil rights.

Instead, in all cases above, I'd begun my acquaintance because of headlines and horrors and a screaming, driving voice in my head: There's something wrong! There's something very, very wrong! Learn about it! Fast!

The jumble of panicked facts I feel I've had to jam into my brain to qualify as a reasonably informed citizen makes my skull feel swollen, as though I've had to take a crash correspondence course - sometimes several at once - at the same time I'm in a sprint for my mental life.

There's a loss in that, a taint on the previously enjoyable process of innocent inquiry. I've found fascinating, for instance, the original historical split between the Sunni and Shi'ite sects of Islam. Yet if subjects are filed in the brain under a color-coded system, this tale is filed under black and blue (and red for blood). The accompanying score is Adagio for Strings.

The tone is completely different for, say, my recent thirst for jazz, which arose through my son's budding interest and the two of us watching Ken Burns' marvelous series over a course of several days, eating life-threatening amounts of junk food while sprawled on couches in the living room.

Some nights I go to sleep under this administration and wonder: What new horror am I going to have cram into my head tomorrow morning? What new form of torture? What unfamiliar town or province?

My brain's been hijacked and my eagerness to read news killed. I know too much now compared with how much I knew in the innocent 1990's. And there seems no way to un-know it or bleach it clean of the flavor of its original acquisition. (I still see the infamous picture of the hooded prisoner standing on the box, arms outspread at Abu Ghraib, on a background of baby blue because I first encountered the photo and the terse, stunned narrative of horror over at Billmon's Whiskey Bar.)

Certainly of all the atrocities and diminishments since Bush took office, having personal fact-flavor problems seems unworthy of even a footnote. Arguably, I should have removed my head from my sorry American provincial ass a long time ago to learn more about Islam or the precise wording of the Geneva Conventions. Still, the knowledge of foreign cities, dodges of the law, how Abramoff's money came to be laundered ... all of these facts feel IV'ed into me on a timetable set by an administration I despise. That seems a final, intrusive indignity, small as it is.

When I was 20, I was in a serious car accident. I fractured my back, collar bones, four ribs. I'd ruptured my kidney, I'd had a chunk of flesh the size of a Girl Scout cookie ripped out of my knee. I was hospitalized more than a month, and I'd been proud of being reasonably stoic and properly grateful to have survived.

The day I was released from the hospital, I went home and took a shower, the first in nearly six weeks. As I lathered up - a luxury I can still savor in memory after weeks and weeks of bed-bound sponge baths - my fingers found, underneath my arm and along my shoulder blade, embedded pieces of gravel and glass that had not been properly debrided. I realized they were going to be a part of me forever because my flesh had already healed over them. And finally, I lost it, completely. I stood in the shower and wept for twenty minutes; it was some sort of symbolic final straw for me, this discovery of physical objects in me from the accident, minor though they were in the overall injury scheme. I think what grieved me the most was that they were on the hidden underside, the most tender part of my underarm and back, and that although they were harmless, I'd spend a lifetime remembering, every time I bathed, the precise stretch of road they came from and how they got there.

I feel like George W. Bush and his policies are gravel and glass in my brain. Forever.

There's no debridement of the image of the little girl in a dress, crying in horror and crouching over a pool of her parents' blood after they were killed at a checkpoint. There's no erasure of Gonzales' calling the Geneva Conventions "quaint." There's no rewinding of the tape in my head that juxtaposes the president playing guitar at a birthday party while people floated face down in the streets of New Orleans.

I find myself longing for ignorance, and that's a weakness and betrayal of everything I'd believed until George W. Bush came onto the scene. Again, this is a minor personal complaint and I'm sure I'll recover, eventually. My real concern is that this is less than you can say with certainty about the effects of this administration on this country and the rest of the world.

Keeping ones head above water...

This weekend wasn't gangbusters so far as sales were concerned. Both shows were mercilessly hot. It rained during the week flooding parts of Northeastern Ohio. It rained during the show in Michigan.

These are the days that take everything out of you. You're trying to enjoy yourself. There are friends at the show, you get to talk and laugh. But the constant and oppressive heat grind away at your energy. You brain literally begins to cook. We ran through gallons of water, and remember, my sales people are wearing bloody corsets all day. The crowds are good, so why aren't we doing better sales? My sales minions are unhappy because they know we sell a great product. They "sell" this product with skill and zeal. They do a great job. But the final hurdle of price keeps getting in the way.

I start to blame myself. Stock levels are low. Lower that usual because we're running two shows at once. I had planned to steal some stock from Great Lakes and take it up to Silver Leaf in Michigan. But it can't be done. The stock just isn't there. I ordered a whacking amount of stock way back in May, but we had two big shows and several smaller shows before the official season opened. I should have reordered sooner. Now is the absolute worst time to ask for more corsets. Pennsic is coming up and Thomas needs stock too. But I need to replentish my stock or I'll loose sales because we're out of some sizes and styles.

These are the parts of my job that one can file under "Not Fun". Suffering through bad weather and supply chain issues. Once I'm in some air conditioning I can begin to think clearly again. I'm not sure how I'm going to solve my supply issues.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Super cool...

Anyone speak Russian? Here are some AWESOME pics from a former Soviet Sub base.

When I am God-Emperror of this miserable little mudball of a planet, I shall have a slew of such bases hidden across the globe. Just in case any of my subjects get uppity.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I know I feel safer...

I have a million things on my plate right now. 2 Ren Fairs in progress, 2 more coming up, Pennsic, book keeping, the Hell Nite party etc etc.

But I just had to stop for a second and read the following article that states that Air Marshals are basically under a quota system. This means that they HAVE to report at least one citizen a month as a person who performed a suspicious activity. Failure to find potential terrorists means no promotions, no raises, no career advancement.

So basically, completely innocent people are being reported to the TSA as having performed possible Terrorist surveillance. These names will likely end up in a database (the gubment loves their databases, they also like misplacing them). I wonder how long it will be before yours truly is simply refused entry on a plane?

Here's the Democratic slogan for all future elections;

"Had enough?"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pictures!


At long last here are pictures from the Bag End Bash 2006. If you have picture or video, please burn them to CD and mail them to me (Or just email the best ones) As usual I was just too damn busy running around to take many pics. I want to thank Don Nottage for some amazing pics this year. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Just another Salem

I urge you to go and read this important (if lengthy) testamony of an athiest and his struggles against the 'decent' god-fearing folk of a small Oklahoma town. It literally makes me feel ill.

I remember working the Oklahoma Ren fair 2 years ago. To kill time during the weeks and to make some extra money I contacted sign shops to see if they had any work. I made signs for 5 years and I figured its like riding a bike. It comes back to you. When I showed up to the sign shop I noticed the large collection of religious tracts on the front counter. They weren't the worst I had seen, but there were a lot of them. And here I was, driving my wifes car with the pentagram in the front window and some pagan stickers on the back along with the Scottish flag.

The man was polite, but I could tell he wanted to do his 'duty' and start the Jesus speech. The great thing was that I didn't NEED this job. So I didn't need to keep my opinions to myself for the sake of the job. The boss could only hold out about 3 days. Then he asked about me and my beliefs. I was honest and said that I was at best, a Diest. He asked what that meant and I explained that like Thomas Jefferson and many of our founding fathers, I believed that the universe may have been created by some supernatural force, but that his position is more of the master clockmaker than some big white-guy daddy-substitute. I told him that diests believe that reason and logic are more important than revelation or dogma. And I told him that my wife was wiccan and what that meant.

I don't think he was quite prepared for what I was saying (I was my usual long-winded self but I didn't want there to be any room for misunderstanding or confusion on his part) When he was done he tried to get back on script. I told him that I had no problems with the ideas of peace and love in Jesus' teaching, it was all the threats, the killing and violence that I couldn't get behind. He was kind enough (or confused enough) to leave it at that. When I left the shop my final day he shook my hand and said "Remember, Jesus loves you" and I gave him a "Blessed Be".

Friday, July 14, 2006

LOL - Rennie Personal Ads

Rennies are their own unique sub-culture and as such, have their own unique sense of humor. This is for any of my "homies" of there doing the circuit and to those who work so hard to make peoples weekend visits a magical experience:


Circuit Rennie into tattoos, piercing and drumming seeks same. Wolf
breeds a bonus! Hygiene negotiable.
No Jousters.

Campground Rennie looking for laundry partner, vehicle required. Will
not share white load until
second or third trip. No, I am not happy to see you, I DO have a roll of
quarters in my pocket!

Road Rennie seeks local w/plumbing for friendship and much more! No
costumes outside of faire please.

Fortune teller seeking someone who will surprise me! Tell me something I
DON'T know! Tall, Dark and Strange a plus!
No jousters.

Weekend entertainer seeking forbidden campground love. I have plumbing,
you must leave before my mom gets up.

Rennie bum looking for hard working RenGirl. Must have
home/vehicle/beer. Enable me. You: cook/clean
Me: not a jouster!

Morris dancer seeks partners for heathen fertility rite. Bell lovers a
plus, BYOB.

Townie party girl seeks place to shack up, travels light (just costume!)
Will be 18 soon.
Jousters a plus!

Local boy seeks fantasy dream circuit job, only willing to manage. Must
provide benefits, lodging
etc.

Local boy looking to get on circuit, looking for work. I am willing to
help you take all of the
buildings apart when the show is done.

Veggie Justice boy seeks saucy wench for sticky times. I will love you
Picante style! Kiss the
tomato! We will make beautiful catsup together!

Ditzy chick looking for established father figure with trailer. "Almost
21!"
Musicians a plus.

Neo-pagan, new age, golden dawn, sub-genius, left handed black dye job
boy (8 piercings-connect the
dots!) seeks neo-cabalist Gemini with Virgo rising, Goth, ambidextrous,
anti-pokemon (except for
butterfree) red head Grrl for tantric research. Satanist, Black Hats
need not apply.

Jouster with Big Lance seeks Philly to favor. I have a metal codpiece!
Wanna ride my pony? Included: Beer
and trailer! Not Included: breakfast.

Bored, overworked RenGirl seeks Local entertainer to spice up life.
Alcoholic ok, local connections
required.

Worried Mom seeks kid stolen by circuit. Jesus can forgive you so I will
at least try. You can still be
dull!

RenBoy with hard house and power seeks female with electric blanket.
Send picture of blanket.
Weekenders welcome: blanket stays.


Rennie with bus seeks Rennie with gas money. Dogs, wolves, mastiffs,
cats, ferrets, tarantula, hedgehogs,
snakes, rabbits, cooties and rats ok. No jousters.


Bodacious thespian seeks fodder for Wenching. Tights a plus, dance belts
a minus! Kilts bump you to the
top of the list. Tortugas welcome.


Verily and well met, good gentles. A lord of the SCA be I, in sooth, and
a kin to Elves on thine mothers
side, anon. Hear ye, unto the Fare do I Goeth, seeking mine Lady Fair,
be she thee? Huzzah! Unto
the house of Denny's go we in all our Garb, to sup as Lady and Lord!!