Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Vote To Move That Amendment. Do I Hear A Second?

It seems that after every mass shooting, someone, actually quite a few someones, start speculating on how "if only there had been a good guy there with a gun, he could have put a stop to it."  It may be my imagination, but in the wake of the Aurora shootings, there seem to be a whole lot more of those someones than usual.

I'll admit it,  I happen to agree with the many opinions to the contrary - an armed guy would end up spraying a lot of innocents while trying to bring down the baddie; it would all be over before our armed hero managed to figure out what was going on and return fire; our presumptive rescuer would cower in a corner pissing his pants instead of exposing himself to gunfire any more than by merely being there.

But, as much as I like to believe that the gun lovers are spouting nonsense based on wishful thinking, I'm forced to admit that I don't really have any more evidence for my position than they do for theirs.  And because I prefer making decisions based on actual facts and evidence, I'd like to propose an experiment.

First, we'll need a state willing to secede from the U.S. for five years.  I'm pretty sure that both Arizona and Texas have made offers recently, so either one of those will be fine with me.* During that period, we'd adjust their laws and we'd alter the Constitution for them....just a teensy bit.

1. I know the Bill of Rights isn't actually in order of precedence, but maybe it ought to be.  In our Test State, the 2nd Amendment will become the 1st Amendment and be considered the most important one.  And it would be altered as follows:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
That first part has caused no end of arguments through the ages, so let's just get rid of it and give the people what they want.

I think it'll also come in handy to demote that whole Free Speech thing, but we'll get back to that later.  Just know you'll still have a right to speak out against guns...if you dare.

2. The folks who champion having more armed citizens are always saying "if more people were permitted to carry concealed weapons, perpetrators would think twice before pulling a gun to commit a crime.  They'd never know who might be carrying".

That seems like a pansy way to go about it.  In our Test State, every citizen over the age of...oh...let's say 16...will be required to carry at least one weapon at all times.  Not concealed; worn right on your waist, or slung over your shoulder...whatever.  Perpetrators wouldn't be wondering if somebody in the bank might have a gun.  They'd know that everybody in there is packing.  There would be no regulation about how many weapons you could carry, but, at least the one openly carried would be required to be a.)semi-automatic (or full-auto would be acceptable), b.) have a magazine with a minimum of 5 shots, and c.) an additional round chambered at all times. An exception will be made for those who prefer a pump action shotgun as their primary weapon if they demonstrate an ability to get off 5 semi-aimed shots within a specific short period of time.

3. Any firearm will be legally attainable in our Test State. Machine guns? Check! 50cal? Check!  Shoulder fired missiles?  Have at 'em.  The only weapons restricted from private ownership will be ICBM's; we don't want some piddly Test State confusing the world about U.S. foreign policy, do we?  Everything else will be fair game.

4. Remember how we promoted the 2nd Amendment up to the 1st position?  That's so that it'll outrank property rights, among other things.  The key here will be that citizens will be able to carry their guns anywhere and  nobody will be able to tell them different. Not churches, not restaurants, not theaters...not Yoga studios.  You don't want people packing heat in your establishment? Move it to one of those other states!

5. Gun rights advocates frequently say, "We don't need more laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have."  Fair enough.  In that spirit, we'll address the subject of how athletes, (down to the High School level) will be dealt with in the event of gunfire during sporting events. I don't believe they need any new rules.  Any athlete shooting at an opposing team member (assuming he isn't returning fire), is clearly demonstrating Unsportsmanlike Conduct.  There are rules for that already.  Shooting at the Refs?  I'm pretty sure that gets you thrown out of the game.  Shooting at spectators? I suppose that will depend on whether or not it's in response to Fan Interference.  Regardless, the existing rules seem to cover every contingency.

6. You may have worried earlier about how we were demoting the First Amendment.  Well don't be.  Free speech will be of paramount importance in our Test State.  It'll be so important that gunfire will be considered protected speech...so there's your response to anyone complaining about the new gun laws.

7. As a side issue, it'll be worth noting whether or not all this "self-policing" will drastically reduce the need for paid police departments.  On the other hand, it may just increase the need for EMT's and Medical Examiners, so that part may just be a wash.

As I said earlier, our experiment will go on for five years.  During that time, our Test State will be, as much as practicable,  completely isolated from the rest of the country.  Travel and communication will be highly restricted.  The test will only yield accurate results if it takes place in as much of a vacuum as possible.

At the end of the five years, we send in an M.E.U. to see if anyone's still alive in there.

I don't know about you, but, in the name of science, I think it's worth a shot.

*I may like facts and evidence, but I hate research.  I could be totally wrong about Texas or Arizona being willing to go off on their own, but 1.) I'm too lazy to look for the evidence and 2.) if the facts were to inconveniently contradict my supposition, this would be a really short blog post.  Let's just all assume I'm right, mm'kay?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What The Hell Are These And How did They Get In Our House?

I did not buy these.*

Anon GF did not buy these.

I have no memory of receiving these from any of my family or Anon GF's family or any friends or any "friends".  I don't think any of them hate me that much.

Anon GF has no memory of receiving these from any of her family or any of my family or any friends or "friends".  They all actually like her.

So why are they in our house?

Anon GF found them yesterday and showed them to me when I got home.  She said I could wear them for lying around on the couch.

I said, "I'm not wearing those things. Why don't you wear them for lying around on the couch?"

They're only mildly less disturbing than Chucky, so I don't even want to add them to the rag bin.  They might be good for starting the Barbecue.

 *"This" vs. "These".  Much like a "pair" of pants, these are a "pair" of underwear, right?  But even though it seems to be one item, you never wear a "pant".  Conversely,  you don't wear "underwears".  I find the whole classification system for stuff worn to cover my junk quite confusing and in need of linguistic repair.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Exciting Career Opportunity; Lots of Exciting Travel. Those Who Do Not Respond Well To Authority, Need Not Apply. - A Short Story In Fits & Starts.

Midnight found Marta skulking behind the hedges surrounding the Uzbek Embassy just a few blocks from Dupont Circle.  Hunkering down, she skinned herself out of her fashionable little black dress, revealing a somewhat less fashionable little black unitard.  Flexing her wrist, she activated an impossibly thin, yet surprisingly strong monofilament grappling line, squirting it up and over a third floor balcony railing.

“Same shit, different day”, she thought.

As much as she may have resented it, Marta couldn’t really think of her current situation as unusual.  The agency she worked for and the people who issued her orders rarely took her comfort and well being into their thought process.  Truth be told, they seemed to delight in placing her in the most precarious circumstances thinkable.  Then again, they compensated her quite well.  Quite well, indeed.

She began scaling the wall, silent as silk and nearly invisible on this moonless night.  She had almost reached the balcony when the barrel of a Tec-10 machine pistol appeared over the railing, followed quickly by a rather homely face, a face even a mother might refuse to claim.  Before she had a chance to consider retreating, the window below her whispered open, revealing another weapon wielded by the upstairs man’s photo double.

“Oh, c’mon”, she thought, “Typecast much?”

With a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, the man above her asked, “Have you lost  your way returning from the powder room, Ms. Ingraham?”

Marta released her grip, allowing herself to dangle in her harness with her back to the masonry wall and hollered, “Hey, Big Brains!”

There was no immediate answer and the two surprised goons stared off into the distance.

Marta hollered again, “Yo!  Genius Boy, can we talk?”

“To whom are you bellowing, Ms. Ingraham?” the upstairs goon inquired.

“Oh, just pipe down for a sec.  This doesn’t concern you,” she replied.  Then, she hollered into space once more, “Hey, Writer-Boy.  Could you spare a moment for your heroine?”

Time stopped for a moment, all action temporarily suspended.  Marta and the goons were perfectly still, their breaths held;  the very breeze took a perceptible pause.

Marta freed herself from the moment, just long enough to say, “Yeah, you!  The one tapping away on your keyboard.”

After a strained moment, The Author typed, “You’re really not supposed to interact with me like that”.

“Why?  Does it make you uncomfortable?”, Marta asked.

“It’s just not done,” The Author typed.  “I write stuff and you do it.  That’s how this is supposed to work.”

“Well, that’s pretty much what I wanted to talk to you about”, Marta said.  “Some of the stuff you’ve got me doing is just fucking stupid and I’m getting tired of it.”

“We are not having this discussion”, The Author pounded onto his keyboard.  “You’re a fictional character.  By definition, you DO the stuff I write for you and if I DON’T write it, you DON’T do it.  Like complaining about what I’ve written.  That’s very high up on the list of stuff you don’t do!”

“Really?  How’s that theory working for you right now, Mr. Edison?”

The world stood still again for a few heartbeats.

The Author typed, “O.K., let’s just pretend this is really happening for a moment.  What, specifically is your problem?”

“Well…This!”, she said gesturing at her current predicament.  “Why am I hanging on this Goddamn wall with the Frankenstein Twins pointing guns at me?”

“It’s an action sequence,” he typed.  “If you just strolled into the Ambassador’s office and picked up a copy of his evil plan, conveniently left for you in the middle of his otherwise bare desk, with a big red label saying “Ambassador’s Evil Plan”, that wouldn’t be very exciting, now would it?  Who’s gonna pay for that book, much less shell out for movie rights?”

“I’m not asking for easy, pal”, Marta snapped, “But feasible has a certain appeal.  Just how were you intending to get me past the Potato-Head brothers up here?” 

“I hadn’t actually worked that one out yet” The Author entered.  “I thought I’d knock off for the day; have a nice dinner.  Then, I was gonna sleep on it and pick up here in the morning.”

“Oh sure!.  I hang on a fucking wall with guns pointed at me while you get your beauty rest.  Do you have any idea how bad this harness is chafing right now?  And then, when you’re nice and rested, you’ll probably go out to Starbucks, ‘cause, God Forbid, you should brew your own pot of coffee in the morning!  And don’t think you’re fooling anyone when you smear ¾ of a stick of butter on your low-fat, organic, multi-grain bran muffin.  That shit’s still putting 12,000 calories on that lardass of yours.  Have you ever walked further than your refrigerator or you driveway?”

“Hey, I don’t always…”, The Author started writing, but Marta was on a roll.

“Then, you’ll just pop into the dry cleaner to pick up that hideous brown jacket you think is so cool.  Guess what?  It’s not!” Marta plowed on.  “And if that’s not bad enough, you’ll rationalize that you should check out a matinee ‘cause it’s cheaper and you’ll find some excuse to convince yourself it’s ‘research’ and then you’ll call that useless friend of yours, Roland, and you guys will start swilling beers at 3 in the afternoon and once you get started, you won’t stop and then 2 bars later it’s going to be 11:00pm and you’re going to be a quarter-past-half-in-the-bag and that girl with the green eyes and the jet-black pixie cut is not going home with you even if you do somehow manage to string six words together without slurring them!”

Marta allowed that to sink in for a moment and then continued more quietly, “Then, you’re going to remember some completely idealized version of her and I’m going to get a totally new ass…the fourth one you’ve written for me, if memory serves.”
“And that’s not even the worst of it”, Marta went on, revving up the heat again,  “By the time you get around to opening this file again, I’m going to have been fucking hanging on this fucking wall for at least three fucking days!”

Goon number one had been observing Marta throughout her tirade, still having no idea who she was talking to.  “No need for you to hang out indefinitely.  I’d be delighted to shoot you right now if it's convenient”, he said.

“Oh, do shut up!”, Marta replied.  Turning back off the page, she said, “Could you at least write these guys out until we finish talking?  I could do without the distraction.”

The Author deleted a couple of paragraphs and the two henchmen vanished.  Marta was back on the ground with the grappling line coiled in her wrist  rocket. “OK, let’s hear it”, he typed in the newly blank space.

Marta hesitated, knowing she’d only get one shot at this.  When she’d marshaled her thoughts, she said, “Three pages ago, I was dancing with that really cute Spaniard. I could tell he wanted to sneak me off to some quiet spot.  And, Jeez!  There was a perfectly good grand staircase twenty feet away.  How’s that for cover to get me upstairs?”

“And you don’t think there would have been any guards up there?”

“Of course there’d have been guards.  But you wanted action?  I could have given great action…only without needing to climb up this really dirty wall.  I could swish my butt seductively; you know…for distraction.  A few karate kicks.  Maybe garrote a guy or two?  Pick the lock on the Ambassador’s office door.  Do some hi-techy magic to defeat his security system?  We’re talking action and suspense out the yin-yang.  And by the way, if you take a couple of seconds to check out the Uzbek Embassy on Google Streetview, you’ll notice that there aren’t any hedges to skulk behind.”

“Let me get this straight”, The Author wrote. “You don’t mind fights. You don’t mind killing.  You don’t mind using sex.  You just don’t like getting your clothes mussed and you’re not fond of heights.  Is that it”?

“I’m not sure I would have phrased any of it that way, but sure, it’s a start.”

The Author had his software do a few global word searches – delete this, add this, replace those – and began typing furiously. 

Midnight found Marta beneath the keel of the Paraguayan druglord’s yacht.  Her depleted air supply forced her to the surface before she’d had a chance to carefully reconnoiter for any activity above. Unfortunately, she’d surfaced just as one of the rather homely guards was having a smoke break and enjoying the full moon.  Seeing her in the bright moonlight, the guard called over his equally ugly cohort and issued a challenge, “Hola, Ms. Ingraham. Estás buscando un buen tiempo?”

Spitting out her regulator, Marta said, “This is a little disappointing.  What’s a druglord from a landlocked country doing with a Yacht?  Hmmm?”

Midnight found Marta clinging to a mountainside high up in the Nepalese Himalayas.  At 26,000 ft., it wasn’t exactly Everest, but it wasn’t that far off. The current temperature was 30º below zero, it was snowing heavily and the wind gusts were off the charts.  While the batteries powering her climate controlled skin-suit had at least another 10 hours of juice, her oxygen supply was down to minutes.  At least she’d die relatively warm.

And the frustrating thing was that a mere 6 microns of transparent PlasSteel separated her from the inside of Dr. Del Toro’s secret experimental habitat.  A habitat filled with light and breathable 68º air.   Damn.

Marta activated her suit communicator and spoke to The Author.  “Who am I supposed to be after this time?”, she asked.  “At least there don’t seem to be any ugly guys with machine guns right now.”

The Author typed, “You’re here to rescue a previously unclassified life-form.  Del Toro is conducting absolutely horrific experiments on it and your bosses are having a spasm of altruism.  Or some kinda shit like that; I’ll figure it out later.  And who needs armed goons when I’ve got such a welcoming climate to threaten you with?”

“Try to kill me with a planet, will you?  Two can play at that game.”  Marta closed her eyes and imagined an access port three meters to her left.  When she opened her eyes, the port was right where she’d dreamed it up…with its indicator/navigation lights winking reassuringly.

Midnight, ship time, found Marta haring off into space.  During an exterior ship inspection her suit thrusters had malfunctioned, shooting her away from safety in the opposite direction of the ship’s travel, zipping off toward Tau Ceti.  “Bounder, Bounder, Bounder”, she hollered over her comms – which malfunctioned, of course.

“OK, very funny”, Marta said.  “I’ll go back to the wall on the Embassy if that’s what you really want.”

“I’ll have to get back to you”, The Author typed.  “My phone’s ringing and I think it’s my boss.  Sit tight, OK?”

“Easy for you to say”, Marta thought.  She watched her view of The Author’s office blink out as he closed his laptop.  No great loss; the view had been receding at 87% of the speed of light anyway.  “I think I really stepped into the deep stuff this time”, she thought.

While Marta continued hurtling off into space – space so distant and barren that it hardly made a difference that it was fictional – The Author answered the phone on his desk.

“You do recall that I’ve got remote access to every computer on the company network, right?”, his boss spat without preamble.

“Oh, yes”, The Author replied.  “I’m working on the cost projections right now.”

“And I’m sure you can explain why your computer hasn’t registered a single keystroke for the last 2 hours.  If I dropped in on you right now, would I find that laptop of yours out on your desk again?”

“No Ma'am”, he replied as he hurriedly stowed the offending laptop in his bottom drawer, artfully hidden under a stack of obsolete file folders. “I’ve just been trying to work my way through a little problem.  I suppose I just got a little stuck”.

“Well get yourself un-stuck if you want to keep that cushy office of yours.  If you look out into the bullpen, you’ll see a whole slew of cubicle-monkeys who’d just kill to trade places with you.”

“Yes, Ms. Ingraham”, he responded and resigned himself to working late on his own time.  So much for ducking out early for a good dinner.  And if Roland hooked up with that green-eyed girl they kept seeing at O’Malley’s, there was going to be a serious problem.  The Author had called dibs!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paul's Starting To Make A Habit Of This Anti-Social Behavior!

Last night, Bruce Springsteen was playing an outdoor concert in London and had Paul McCartney join him for a finale.  Well, apparently, Londoners need their rest, so the sound system was shut down at 10:30...before they had quite finished.  Stevie Van Zandt, GodLoveHim, seems to have been the most pissed off, shooting off a bunch of Tweets, including...

Anyway, a mere 43 years ago, Paul (with John, George, Ringo and Billy Preston), tried this same kinda shit!  Disturbing Londoners' peace and quiet with total disregard for people just trying to get a little work done.  I just have one thing to say; if Paul tries it again in 2055, I hope the Powers-That-Be let him go as long as he wants to.

January 30, 1969: Rooftop Concert at Apple Records:

Monday, July 9, 2012

How's That Hope-y, Change-y Thing Workin' Out For Ya?

Allow me to apologize right up front for that headline. I know it probably puts that woman's voice in your head and nobody needs that.  And, truthfully, it barely works as a headline for this post, but after an extensive search (I looked for almost five minutes), it's the closest I could come.  It's amazing how hard it is to come up with a quote or phrase about "change" that works for this post.  "Small Change got rained on with his own .38" is a whole lot cooler, but it's even less appropriate, so, you get that woman's voice.

Anyway, I'm finding that the humble penny is looming large in my life recently.

I may have mentioned before how I toss my change in a jar every time I get home and when the jar gets full, I roll it up and -- voila! -- it turns back into real money.  Honestly, it's shocking how much change you can accumulate in a year.  A few years ago, we bought a pretty expensive refrigerator with a year's worth of change. (Before you ask, yes, we deposit it in the bank and act like normal customers for the shopping portion of the scenario -- we don't show up with a wheelbarrow full of nickels, dimes and quarters.)

Once upon a time, I actually used change in my daily life, but not so much anymore.  The only time I check for exact change at a cashier is when the total is "X" dollars and some small portion of a dollar in change.  I mean, really -- if I've got some change in my pocket, I'd rather dig out 12 cents instead of getting back an additional 88¢ in my pocket.  But, for the most part, I just hand over some bills and shove the change in my pocket.  The change isn't even very good for tipping.  It may be perverse, but no tip at all, is probably less insulting than a 38¢ tip, right?  It's at least a buck or it's nothing.

As to other opportunities to use change?  I haven't even tried to use a payphone since the blackout of 2003. And that was just stupid.  Cell phones weren't working and most people's landlines have some electric component, so even if I found a working phone, the odds of reaching someone with a working phone were pretty slim.  And trying to call someone outside the effected area wasn't a lot more fruitful.

You mostly don't use change for parking meters in NY anymore -- they all take cards.  I don't use change for the bus or the subway; I can shove $2.25 into a fare box, but anyone who's sane has a MetroCard.

I drop off my laundry and then pick it up all washed, dried and folded.  Maybe once every few months, I'll sit there and do it myself; feeding quarters into the machines.  And even then, I tend to forget to load my pocket with quarters before I go.

All of this means that the amount of change I come home with every day should be increasing quite a bit. At the end of the year, I should have enough change to buy one of these...

Or one of these...

Or some of these...

I should have a bit left over so I can bid on one of these...

OK.  Before you start pointing out that $2.67 worth of change dumped into the jar on Thursday doesn't magically transform into $18.38 by Saturday, that's where the Hope-y part of this Change-y post comes from.  I'm trying to make a point here! Stick with me!

The problem is... for the last month, or so, every time I get home and empty my change into the jar, I've found ONE PENNY.  


Now really...what's up with that?  How is that even possible? Sure, there's lots of stuff out there that has 99¢ appended to the price.  But you'd think over the course of a day, if I bought a few things that cost "X" dollars and 99¢, I'd come home with a few pennies in my pocket.  And odds are, some of those items are "X" dollars and 99¢ before tax.  I should come home with some friggin' change in my pocket.

But I keep reaching into my pocket at the end of the day and finding...

One. Penny.

Weird. right?

And we're not talking about one of these pennies.
 At least that would be exciting! And lucrative!   But, no...I just get normal crappy pennies worth a penny.

And at the rate of one per day, they're not amassing very quickly.  I won't, for example, be able to do this unless I wait a few years.

I suppose this doesn't take all that many Pennys.

Otherwise, I'm at something of a loss.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dog From Text From Dog Gets Interviewed. Doggonit!

I tried linking this earlier on Facebook, but those bastards kept converting it to an app for The Guardian.

This link should work.

(Photo and caption snarfed from The Guardian article.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Food For Thought The Apocalypse.

Once upon a time, Anon GF came home one day with a wide assortment of snacks, including a package of Fenway Franks and a package of sauerkraut.  This was all so that I'd be properly prepared to watch The Red Sox Season Opener on TV.   I'm not sure what year this was, but a bit of research reveals that in 2005, The Red Sox played the NY Yankees (at Yankee Stadium) for the first game of the season.  And since this game must have aired on regular broadcast TV in NY, I'm guessing this must have been the year. (Hint: NY stations do not tend to cover the Red Sox opening game when they're playing in Tampa Bay or some other Non-New-York-Team location).

So I'm going to settle on April 3, 2005 as the beginning of this story.

Of course, I thanked Anon GF profusely and I, graciously, didn't point out one minor faux pas, to wit, when attending games at Fenway, one does not customarily get sauerkraut as a condiment; that's more of a NY thing.  I'm going by memory here, but as I recall, Fenway Franks (especially at the ballpark), aren't/weren't anything special.  And you could top it with anything you wanted, as long as you wanted ketchup, mustard, relish and/or onions.  This was not about a gourmet experience; it was about authenticity and verisimilitude.

Since I'd be rooting for the Red Sox, I deemed the sauerkraut inappropriate to the day and shoved that little package of sauerkraut into the cheese drawer.  Over time, it ended up in the back corner of the cheese drawer.  It ended up on the bottom of the cheese drawer.

Periodically, it would be rediscovered when hunting for that last little chunk of Parmegiano-Reggiano.  It was observed each time the refrigerator had a thorough cleaning.  It was espied on those occasions when either Anon GF or I investigated the question, "Oooh, what's that smell?"

Invariably, it was once again relegated to the back, bottom corner of the cheese drawer.  It's not that I didn't want to eat the sauerkraut, it's just that the only times I remembered we had it were when I was looking for something else.  When I was looking for brie, I had no interest in sauerkraut.  So it stayed in the drawer.

Yesterday, I was about to grill some bratwursts and a light went off in my head -- Hey, we've got saurkraut!  Kraut goes great with bratwurst!

And then, I thought, Damn, this stuff's been in the drawer for an awfully long time. 

"No worries", I thought.  After all, sauerkraut was created as a preserved food.  Here, I had a preserved food in a vacuum-sealed bag, in a refrigerator.  Does sauerkraut even have an expiration date?  What could be wrong with it?

I decided to look for an expiration date.

My first thought was, this is an American product; does that mean to use it by the 8th day of November, 2009 or does it mean use it by the 9th of November 2008?  Since it was the 4th of July, 2012, did that make any fucking difference?

I decided to open the package and smell it.  It smelled vinegar-y.  I tasted a tiny bit.  It tasted fermented.  But sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.  If it had gone bad, how the hell would I know.

I decided to heat it up.  Cold sauerkraut might mask nasty odors that would become evident when boiled.  I boiled it in its juices.

It smelled kinda nasty.  It smelled kinda nasty exactly the same way all sauerkraut smells kinda nasty.  Anon GF hollered from the other room, "What are you cooking?  It smells kinda nasty!"

I'm pleased to announce that the brats tasted great fresh off the grill.  I ate the sauerkraut and, almost a full day later, I've suffered no adverse reactions.  Anon GF had Mac & Cheese.  She doesn't like to eat things that smell nasty.