Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Glad I'm Not "That Guy" or Just Stop It!

As many of you know I've been doing some online investing lately. I've been doing OK. OK (to me) means not losing the initial investment (my principle) and beating the S&P 500 (which is an index of how the top 500 stocks do).

Seems simple, eh?

No.

No it is not and not for the reasons you may think.

There are really two characteristics one needs to do OK in the stock market.

Research and Knowledge
Fairly straight forward stuff. You gotta know how the market works and about the individual company you invest in.

Balls
Call it what you want: arrogance, audacity, backbone, boldness, brass, gall, nerve, or spine it doesn't matter how much you know if you're not willing to take chances. But you can't take stupid chances. It's like you have to find the "Goldilocks Level" of risk. Too much you lose (a lot) and too little you lose too (you might as well have your money in a CD). This is where people mess up.

But this isn't about the stock market.

It's about how happy I am I'm not, "That Guy".

To review, nearly everyone has a "That Guy" friend or acquaintance. He or she is a decent person, but their life is a wreck typically due to poor choices. Occasionally I write about a "That Guy" that I stumble across. The last post I wrote about this topic was how I'm glad I'm not the state of California (check it out it is funny).

Tonight's "That Guy" is someone I came across while checking my email. I belong to a Yahoo investing group and I get posts from it's members on a regular basis.

This was the post...

Out of 100k of my life savings I am down to 20k I'm to the point were I don't even care any more , the more I put into stocks the more I lose I'm going to just go out with a final bang and dump it all in opmg if anyone knows why I shouldn't do that please let me know my email is I'm leaving this part blank or if u have any other good penny stocks

Yikes.

My response was...

Stop investing for the love of God! You are bad at this! Give yourself a time out... a long one and figure out what you have done wrong.

I probably won't win any friends by writing that, but I have a lot of friends already. I'm not in dire need of any new ones.

And that's my cautionary tale of investing within the city limits of Purgatory.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My New Best Friend or Who The F@ck Are You?

I had innocently logged onto Facebook and checking stuff out when I realized I had a new friend request. I have a policy about adding new friends. Now, I know a lot of people use Facebook for networking and they are Facebook whores (I don't mean it in a bad way) they'll friend anyone.

Me?

Uh-uh.

I know I should be more "friendly", but I really, really dislike a lot of people. I don't like talking to them, I don't like being around them. Maybe it's a character defect deep down in my fictitious soul. Maybe these aforementioned people are assholes.

It's a mystery. I'm comfortable with that.

Anyways, I decided this would be my friend policy: If I'm not willing to sit down and have a pint of beer with you (or something like that) than you're not gonna be my Facebook friend. I'm forty-one and I've avoided being superficial this long with nary an ill effect. I think I'll make it to my dirt nap following this policy with nary an ill effect.

But I'm not here to talk about my Facebook friend policy.

I'm here to talk about girls.

This person who attempted to friend my is named Ying Gallenstein (I'm sure it's her real name). Supposedly she is twenty five years old, blond and by her picture likes to rub against walls (someone should sanitize that wall). On her Facebook wall she writes about her latest pajama party with her girlfriends and she has a video of it to boot. She kindly points out that she is in her bra and panties in the vid.

Wow. It's just like a Jane Austin story.

Needless to say I didn't friend her. Sorry, I've hit my quota of confused lunatics a long, long time ago.

This is not the first time a twenty-something girl has tried to be my friend. I wonder how they found me? Did they search under middle aged DWG (Dopey White Guys)? What's scary is that this tactic must work some of the time otherwise they wouldn't do it.

It's just another day of Facebooking in Purgatory.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Raising an Atheist or X-Men, X-Men, X-Men

I was moving my personal library from one room to the other (keep reading this gets better!) when I stumbled upon a copy the the X-Men graphic novel, "God Loves, Man Kills".

Tell me you all know the "X" basics.

OK here are the Monarch Notes:

The X-Men are a superhero group first created in the early sixties by Marvel Comics. They are very popular having spawned three movies, a few cartoons, and a variety of X comics (X-Men, Classic X-Men, New Mutants, X-Factor) titles. The mutants are the next stage of human evolution (homosuperior). The X-Men were founded by Dr. Charles Xavier.

I think that brings us all up to speed.

I thumbed through the pages and I reflected on how the X-Men have been and will be very useful in my boy's education.

Examples:

Evolution

Yep, Will's first exposure to evolution has not been through school (which is sad... I mean how hard is it to explain to a second grader that animals and plants change over time?) but through the X-Men.

It's important to state that my boy doesn't think real mutants can control the weather (ala Storm) or anything like that.

Racism

The X-Men have to deal with people judging them because they are mutants (and not by the content of their character). A modern day fairy tale on how not to be an asshole.

Having Power= Having Responsibility

Yeah, yeah, yeah you may say every superhero story has that moral.

Yes

and

No

X-Men are there to protect mutants as well as non-mutants (you know even the folks that are prejudiced towards them).

Individuality

Every mutant has his or her own cool superpower. Each has a gift that separates them and makes them special.

Teamwork

It doesn't matter if you have a really cool special power if you're fighting other dudes/dudettes with special powers. It's all about functioning as a team... and kicking ass.

However, I am not letting my 7 year old near, "God Loves, Man Kills".

Why?

The story opens with two young kids getting shot by racists known as Purifiers. These Purifiers want to go Holocaust on all mutants.
I don't want to expose Will to that kinda violence just yet.

Unlike many religious folks I don't want to traumatize my child (look out or God's gonna turn the Charles River to blood!).

Call me crazy...

maybe the root of morality is more about compassion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brockton

I was browsing through Yahoo News and thought it might be funny and sad to see how my home town Brockton is doing. For those of you not familiar with Brockton it really is an open sore on the face of Southern Massachusetts. Brockton's heyday was about one hundred years ago when the main industry was shoes. Now it's major export are crazy stories of urban decay that one occasionally hears on the news. My favorite is when the Police Chief was caught stealing cocaine from the evidence locker (this occurred when I was in high school).


There appears to be a meeting going on tonight about how to make Brockton a better place to live.

There were many, many online comments to be had on this topic:

From TrooPatriot:
build a nuclear power plant on Legion Parkway, pray for a leak, and bury the city under 10 feet of concrete

How poetic, it brought a tear to my eye. I had never thought of going Chernobyl on dear old Brockton, but I think TrooPatriot is on to something

From sean37isback
Cape Cod Cafe delivery. I fear for my life when i go to pick up pizza

Cape Cod does make an excellent pie and they really should do delivery for the aforementioned reason. It's interesting to note that back in the day I lived close to Cape Cod Cafe.

From the Sage of our times: rattletrap
Do a complete citywide sweep for illegals,,start profiling...If the police see what looks to be thugs walking the streets stop them and search them...If the police start doing that on a regular basis the gang members and thugs wouldnt be hanging out on the streets..Stop all the thug cars and search them...When they park in the middle of the streets ticket them...Everyone in the city knows who the problem people are,,,start treating them the way they treat the rest of us!!!!

Question: Now I have an old car does that make it a thug car?
Answer: Not when you have a DWG (Dopey White Guy) driving it.

Rattletrap's ethnic cleansing argument is airtight! Gimme an armband, a torch, and show me where the book burning is!

Those were the most interesting comments.

I wonder if there will be a followup article tomorrow to see how the meeting went.

I want to know if the Nuclear Power Plant Plan got any traction...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spinning in Purgatory or I Do Not Woooo!


I occasionally spin.

Like in the exercise.

Exercise in a particularly painful vein.

Many of you are smart enough never to have gone spinning and probably don't even know what it is.

Spinning is a fancy term for bicycling in place. The bikes are special though, to quote from an advertisement for a spinning bike, "Developed with specific geometry parameters to ensure an authentic cycling experience." If you think that's Orwellian for expensive you are correct.

Spinning is also a group activity. I know that you know that I dislike being around even small groups of homosapiens (at least without having some of the drink in me). Adding to my general discomfort with spinning is that for the hour I am exercising the instructor (typically a small waif of a girl) is screaming all this Type A personality crap designed to motivate me.

It doesn't work.

My motivation level is fine, thank you.

One of the instructors noticed that I always had this look of foreboding when I entered the room.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

It's hard to imagine, but the class I had yesterday was actually worse than usual.

I typically spin with my wife (See? Spinning counts as exercise and "together time"). Yesterday was no different, but she was on the other side of the room. Why does this matter? You see I typically pick a bike by the wall (I really pretend I'm doing this ridiculous activity by myself). Karen (my wife) being next to me means I'm not... distracted. The woman that day who was immediately to my right... was distracting. There happened to be another woman/distraction directly in front of me (there is quite a bit of bending over so you imagine my view).

Being a man in his early 40's one of my goals is not to appear to be a pervert. I get anxious about these things. So I couldn't really look to my right (due to distraction/girl #1) and looking straight wasn't really an good option either (due to distraction/girl #2). My plan (for I need a plan to control my general anxiety and to fulfill my goal of not being seen as a pervert) was to look left a lot. When necessary I could look right, but not too far right because then I may appear to be checking out the woman next to me. And I could look straight, but more of straight and up.

There are other factors that made yesterday's spinning loads of fun. The Instructor/Task Master likes to cry out "wooooo!" and get the people in the class to "woooooo!".

I am not a wooooo-er. I have been known to do a "woo-hoo!" (in a Homer Simpsonesque way), but that's as far as I go. Screw her. These spinning classes get awfully close to those Nazi Nuremberg Rallies (what are those torches doing here?). I will not wooo on general principal. Principally I'm not an idiot.

So... it gets worse.

She likes to talk to people while spinning. She asks questions. She makes small talk and I am so not there. You see, five minutes into the class I am in survival mode. It's as if a legion of zombies (the fast moving kind) are chasing me and hey, I don't have the desire or ability (air flying in and outta my lungs) to chat. Also I have tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in my ears (this is not a new thing I've always have had it).

You're all saying to yourselves, "Christ Andy! how many things are wrong with you?"
Let's not focus on that question right now.

So I have a ringing in my ears which means whenever there is a lot of noise around me, like in a spinning class where there are huge fans blowing, my hearing is shit. I hopefully dissuaded her from talking to me during the session when I gave her my patented "WTF?" look to some chit-chat she directed to me.

Leave me alone, let me sweat and not appear to be a pervert.

Why do I do spin?

It's the best cardio exercise around and I can't bail outta class early because I'd be known as a big pussy.

And that was my Sunday 9:15 AM Spinning class in Purgatory.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What is D? or I Think I'm Gonna Walk

Once again, I'm not making this up.

"Is this a good idea?" I queried.

This was not the first time I made that statement and it was certainly not the last.

I was only fourteen and in the backseat of my Mum's car. My sister was in the front and Mum was being... herself.

"Your sister is ready to drive." She pulled the car over.

To give you a fair and balanced picture of my sister imagine a pit bull.

Got it?

Now imagine a pack of wild hyenas devouring a zebra

Good.

Now imagine...

OK, you're right I'm just screwing with you.

Regardless, Sis had what could be considered a global lack of impulse control. Oh, there were other issues bubbling away, but we'll leave that for another story.

Mum and Sis were demonstrating a low "D" score at that moment. D is a term I cooked up to describe a person's basic ability to make a good decision. Now it's not necessary to be smart to have a high D score. I have seen first hand the shenanigans that occur when a high IQ is matched with low D. You will say, "Andy, some people make bad decisions in certain areas (money or relationships for example)." This is true. It is important to remember that IQ is an abstraction also. Howard Gardner is famous for his Multiple Intelligence Theory (smarts broken down to discrete categories like Interpersonal IQ and Intrapersonal IQ). So we agree (hopefully) that D is useful when we talk about raw decision making ability.

But I digress...

So Mum pulled the car over and Sis (who had never had a driving lesson in her life) got into the driver's seat.

My hands got sweaty.

That was a sign.

My heart was beating faster.

That was also a sign.

That little voice in my head that warns of danger was sounding the Classic Star Trek Enterprise's Red Alert.

"I'll walk." I got out of the car ready to make the half hour walk home.

"Are you sure?" Funny how Mum was questioning my D score.

"Oh yeah. I'm good".

They drove off.

I started walking and I felt good. I felt good because I was following my, "Duck and Cover" stratagem that had served me so well in the past.

It doesn't always pay off. Sometimes you still get stuck in trouble though at least you knew you didn't knowingly walk into it.

That day I avoided trouble.

Within ten minutes Mum's car drove up from behind me.

Sis was not driving.

And there was a new addition to the car, a nifty dent and a broken head light.

I got into the car and figured that it was not the best time to say, "I told you so."

That's because even at that age I knew...

I was in Purgatory.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Martha, Martha, Martha or The Necessity of Assholes

Many of us are reflecting on the latest political twist with the election of Mr. Brown to the US Senate.

I think it is clear that a lot of the blame can be fixed on the Coakley campaign.

Now, Martha Coakley is not a dumb woman. She graduated cum laude from Williams College (typically ranked at the top of the country's colleges), and went on to graduate from BU law school. And she is experienced in running for office... I mean she's Attorney General and they just don't give someone that position because they're the millionth customer at the local Walmart.

What the fuck happened?

My theory?

Groupthink.

What is Groupthink?

It is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas (I got this from Wikipedia and the definition is correct).

It's when everyone in the decision making group symbolically drinks the Kool-Aid. The individuals think they're invulnerable and nothing bad can happen. Examples? The occupation of Iraq. I mean the Bushies basically thought that it would just work itself out. Another? Major leaders of World War One thought the conflict would be over in six weeks.

Yikes.

So here comes Martha and her crew. They won the primary and everyone in the media was saying, "Hey! You just won the general election!" If only they heralded this sage advice from a Quenton Tarantino movie

WARNING CRASS COMMENT IN...

THREE...

TWO...

ONE...

Let's not start sucking our own dicks just yet.

And Ladies and Gentlemen this is the secret of defeating Groupthink.

This is why you need assholes like me.

People who will rain on your parade.

Will take the wind outta your sails.

Tell you that home prices will not go up forever.

I recognize it can be difficult to be around me. The smack talk... the drinking... and the smack talk that comes with the drinking. And of course the obligatory "I told you so."

But if you are about to put your head into a bear trap and don't realize it, I'll do my best to pull it out.

That's what I do.

Because I'm an asshole...

and this is Purgatory.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fun With Conservatives or Call Me The Bus Driver!

Sometimes I just fuck with people.

That's what I do.

When I see Mormons I want to go up and ask them questions like:

"What's up with the underwear?"

"Does God really live on the planet Kolub?"

and

"Why all the hatin' on the Gays?" (Mormons were big financial supporters of the anti-gay marriage vote in Cali).

I have Conservative friends on FB and I usually don't start trouble.

Usually.

Today was different.

I'm going to recall a back and forth I had today. I am going to condense the argument because there was a fair amount of blah, blah, blah.

The Other Guy (TOG) status update: I want to know why, if it's such a good deal, the only people supporting this health care 'reform' are the ones being exempted from it???

Me: You all should come to Massachusetts land of Universal Health care, Gay Marriage and the Lowest Divorce Rate in the nation (oh yeah...Low obesity and good schools).

TOG: All of which has NOTHING to do with my post...

Me: Jealousy... It's sooo ugly.

TOG: Not jealous. All the same things you mentioned are here as well. Just wondering why that was your reply to my post. It was as irrelevant as if you had an
about an hour ago

TOG: id puppies are furry. Nice, but nothing whatsoever to do with what I said, and certainly nothing answering my question. By the way, Massachusetts, thanks

Me: I'm just saying that states (and people who live in those states) have a lot of positive things to learn from MA.

TOG: Do you have an answer? I'm dying to hear it...

Me: Are you suggesting that the only people in the country that support health care are in the House and Senate.
Ohhh my friend that basic assumption is wrong and ergo your little logic train is derailed!

TOG: You keep ignoring my original query.

Me: No. You are saying that the only ones supporting the reform are ones who would be exempted from it. That is absurd.

Conversely, there are people who would be exempt from the reform who do not support it.

Ergo, being exempt or not exempt has nothing to do with supporting reform.

There are many folks who would not be exempt from this reform who do support it.

And lastly you are just using a cheap rhetorical device... an ad hominem attack (attacking the people supporting reform as against the reform itself).

Dude, call me the bus driver I just brought you to school.

TOG: EVEN in Massachusetts it is unwanted. Thus this close race in America's bluest state.

Me: I accept this as your concession.
You should come to my "Yay! Obama Hasn't Gotten Shot Party" unless you don't support that statement...

TOG: The concession will come from Coakley Tuesday night if she has any class. Oh, wait a minute....

Me: Once again...
You have conceded by not arguing your non-point, that I am right. (Yay me!)
Two, you understand that just because Coakley is a piss poor candidate doesn't mean you are making a coherent argument?

That was the end of our conversation.

As you will notice, I played within some loose rules. This is like dirty boxing in cage fighting (when ya got a guy against the cage and throw short punches/elbows) it's legal but it is dirty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Obama Hasn't Gotten Shot Party or Yay! Obama Hasn't Gotten Shot Party!

So I had this party last February to celebrate Bush leaving office and I realized that having a party at that time was good.

Why?

February sucks. Any reader of this blog knows my dislike for this particular month. It's cold and it's dark. You may say, "Andy, we do get progressively more light through the winter and by the time it's February it isn't dark at 4 o'clock anymore."

True.

My response?

It still sucks. We will have been blanketed by night and cold for quite a while. It's like running a marathon (I never have run one, but I get the basic premise... one foot after another for a long, long time) and I would guess the last leg of the marathon is the one that sucks the most ass.

That should be February's motto: This month sucks the most ass.

Back to my party.

So I decided to throw a party this February. Seeing that I am easily amused I decided to brand it, "The February Sucks Party".

Kinda catchy eh?

It got vetoed by my wife (the name not the party).

Her idea for a name? Thirty Days Until Spring Party.

Needless to say it really doesn't jive with my whole, "Optimistic Pessimism" thing I have going on.

So I thought...

and I reflected....

I watched Bully Beatdown...

and I came up with a new name!

It's the, "Obama Hasn't Gotten Shot Party"

I think it's an idea everyone can get around. The wife didn't like the it though.

She said something like, "That's wrong!"

I replied, "We both agree that it's good that he hasn't been shot."

She's used to my cheap tricks. "Yes, but it's wrong to celebrate it not happening."

Innocently I queried, "Why?"

"Because bad things shouldn't be celebrated when they don't happen!"

Oh...

I humbly disagree.

You can't tell me there weren't, "Yippee! The Plague Hasn't Returned Parties" during the Dark Ages? I mean, I'd be celebrating everyday just being alive. And think about all the abandoned/free stuff I'd have. (It is a historical fact that in the post-plague Europe the survivors' quality of life went up do to free/abandoned stuff and less restrictive labor markets).

So I decided to lighten up the name. It's now the, "Yippee! Obama Hasn't Gotten Shot Party!" See, there are two exclamation marks to amp up the positive vibe.

If events dramatically change I'll have to alter the name of the party...
and we'll all be in a world of shit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Zombie Self-Help Guide III or You Gotta Have A Plan

I was going to put this under my, "Parenting In Purgatory" bit but it seems more appropriate with da Zombies...

Will was getting dressed yesterday and he had these large black and blue marks on both of his knees. I asked him where he got them from. His response, "I don't know." Who would think a seven year old would be a poor historian of their assortment of cuts, scrapes, and bruises?

I later found out from his mother that Will had earned those badges of honor on his quest to ice skate. She reported that the difference in our children's raw athletic ability was obvious the day they were on the ice. Ali (4) took to the ice quickly... Will on the other hand had a bit harder time on the learning curve.

This was no surprise to either one of us.

Last year Will had been diagnosed as having Hypotonia. Hypotonia is when one's muscles don't maintain proper tone. It is the opposite of (obviously) Hypertonia which is evident in individuals who have Cerebral Palsy where there muscles are stiff and always contracted.

This was also not a complete surprise to me.

I never knew the name of what was "wrong" with me as a kid. I didn't speak until 3, and no I didn't spit out complete sentences then. I barely got out vowels. I was once asked how bad was it and I replied, "I went to the "special school" for kindergarten and rode on the van with a kid in a helmet." On a side note he was a good kid, but he had a helmet on for a reason. Afterwards, I went to a "normal" (for Brockton) elementary school though I participated in pullout classes for speech through the 4th grade.

The reason for my speech impediment?

The muscles in my tongue and mouth didn't do what I wanted them to do.

Hypotonia.

Speach impediments are common along with poor co-ordination.

You wouldn't know Will has this problem (or me for that matter) unless I told you.

Why wouldn't you have noticed?

I have a plan.

From early on Will has been immersed (sorry for the pun) in swimming classes, karate classes, gymnastics classes (when he was younger), soccer practices all that other sporty stuff that white middle class kids do.

Will doesn't know it, but it's therapy.

At the end of the ice skating session Will was able to skate on his own and he was even able to get up onto his feet after falling (which is hard since you have to get up off of only one skate on the ice).

In the Zombie Apocalypse if you don't have a plan you are dead meat (again... sorry for the pun).

In real life, if you don't have a plan...

you find out there are worse places to be than Purgatory.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Zombie Self-Help Guide II or Getting Your Head Outta Your Ass

I say it all the time.

"Why did I do... (insert a lazy and or stupid act/choice I did here)?"

"I had my head up my ass."

This statement typically gets me out of whatever trouble I may be in. It's difficult to be angry with me when I fully admit my head-in-ass tendencies.

I get this response quite a bit...

"Isn't it difficult to get it up there?"

No.

No it is not.

In fact, I have found my head's natural abode is firmly where the sun does not shine. It's too easy not to pay attention to... stuff. Just yesterday I lost a half hour watching "Bully Beatdown" on MTV2. (For those not in the know, Bully Beatdown is a reality show where a bully gets a beatdown by a professional cage fighter. Yep, it's pretty crazy, but it is addicting! See I just wasted some of your time too.)

But what does this have to do with Zombies?

When looking at the Zombie Literature and Film Resources I can only come to one conclusion. To survive a Zombie Invasion/Infestation it is imperative to get your head outta your ass and pay attention to the shit going on around you!

Example: I shouldn't be looking at my Facebook updates on my CrackBerry when the Undead are out there looking to get their snack attack on. I mean, how would I be able to check Facebook if I were a Zombie? Zombies don't care if their friends like their recent post. It's disturbing.

My policy?

My head is officially outta my ass on what I regard to as "Vital Areas".

Vital Areas include:

My Health

Relationships with Friends/Family (I may need allies/human shields in the future).

and

Any Other Potentially Dangerous Situations

One must keep alert!

Good Luck!


DISCLAIMER: Having your head out of your ass all the time does not ensure happiness, wealth or even basic survival. But it will help...
probably.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Raising An Atheist or Why Do People Believe In Things They Can't Prove

I had just picked up my boy (Will is age seven though he will tell you he is seven AND a half) and driving to pick up his sister from school.

Me: What did you talk about in school today?

Will: Animals and their habitat.

Me: So what's our habitat?

Will: Our house. Some people don't think humans are animals.

Oh-oh. You always have to be aware of a stray enemy meme (Ways to understand memes: as gene is to chromosome so is a meme to an idea; it's a unit of an idea that can be transmitted from one person to another; some memes are very, very bad).

Me: Those people are wrong. Humans are very special animals.

Will: Angels are only around during Christmas?

Me: Angels, which aren't real, are supposed to be around all the time.

Will: Heaven isn't real.

Me: That's right.

Will: What's it supposed to be?

Me: It's a place where people go after they die. It's a good place.

Pause. He took some time to chomp that down.

Will: People become angels after they die?

Me: No. Angels were made by God, that make pretend guy, to do his work.

Will: If it isn't real why do people believe in it?

Now here is the rub.

There are lots of reasons why people believe in things that they can't prove. One of my favorite cocktail quotes is from that crazy Nietzsche guy "People believe in God because they are afraid to live in a world where there isn't any." A more in depth reason may be that some of us are have the G (God) gene expressed more strongly than others. Don't laugh! There have been several books by really smart people with letters after their name (PhD) supporting this idea.

I probably didn't answer in the nicest way (coming from me that says something). What's worse is that I gave an Atheist knee jerk response.

Me: Churches want your money to do what they want with it. They convince people God is real.

Ouch.

Me: It's a bit more complicated than that.

One of my goals is not to use cheap rhetorical devices to make a point with my son.

I'm going to have to work on that as he gets older.

Will: Maybe they just haven't figured out a way to prove he exists.

Socrates would be proud of my boy.

Me: People understand gravity more or less? And other stuff like how a plane flies, right?

Will: Right.

Me: How long have people been around?

Will: A million years.

Me: A long time. Don't you think if God exists someone would have proved it by now?

Will: Yeah.

We were pulling up to the school.

Will: Who are priests?

I wasn't going to give him my smart-ass answer to that. I'd have to explain what a pedophile is.

Me: They are men who do God's work.

I stopped the car. We got out. Parents and children were bustling about.

Me: The thing about God not being real...

Will: Dad, we can't talk about it out here.

And he was right.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Paramore and Twilight or For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic

I just downloaded the song "Ignorance" by Paramore on my BlackBerry. Paramore is a new band. New to me at least (I'm a bit behind the curve). They first appeared on my radar screen when they did some music on the Twilight soundtrack.

I must digress for a moment and respond to the multitude of snickering being snickered at me. Yes, I have read two out of the four Twilight books and have seen the two movies that have been released so far (Twilight and New Moon). I can defend these choices in two ways: I am a fan of the vampire genre and we can learn alot from the success of Stephenie Meyer the author. The former point is self evident. Who doesn't like vampires? Maybe werewolves. But who cares about them there lycanthropes (the fancy word for all were-creatures like werebears, werewolves, etc...). What can we say about Stephanie Meyer? Her books ain't that great. Her story telling has a lot to be desired, but as we have all seen Twilight is crystalmeth for her audience. Women of all ages love it. A buddy of mine was at work in a hospital (he's a Respiratory Care Therapist) and overheard nurses debating/discussing the finer points of the books. The moral? Know your audience and give'm what they want.

Back to Paramore. They released their self titled album in 2005. Due to the wonders of idiot-proof technology even a Luddite like me can listen to it (from their website) while I write. Not knowing a lot about the current music jargon I would call it Alternative/Indy Rock. It's pretty high energy and cathartic. They do have amusing song titles like, For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic.

Ahh music to my ears.

The song I just downloaded is from their newest album Brand New Eyes. Don't know if I'll download anymore. I'm fairly cheap... and lazy. I think this latest song will serve as my music fix for a bit.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Geekdom Is A Harsh Mistress or Hey! It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia Is Funny!

Geekdom is a harsh mistress.

I'm sure you think it's all about watching TV, playing games, eating really bad for you food.

And you would be partially right.

But it's far more complicated than that.

My current theory about geekiness is that it is akin to being autistic. The afflicted has a very narrow but laser-like focus. This explains the stereotypical geeks complete mastery over an arcane subject (like the development of the X-Men over their 40+ years of existence). Check out your local geek and tell me I'm wrong.

On the other hand I am a rare multi-focused geek. If there were a Renaissance Man Geek I would be it. You may think that's not a bad thing to be.

You would be wrong.

See, my interests cover a large area. By nature I'm a news geek. I check out the Times on my BlackBerry while waiting in the checkout line. I am also a big history geek. I geek-out on the History International Channel (the regular History Channel have those irritating reality shows) on a regular basis. There is also the movie/TV geek that is nestled in my heart like a parasite. I seem to have recently developed a new vice with my fixation on mixed martial arts (cage fighting/UFC).

The problem is that there is only so much time I can dedicate to each. The children want to be fed occasionally, there are times that I need to work at my job (Damn them!), and the holidays have thrown me off my Geek-game quite a bit.

I have become a Geek-of-many-trades and Master of none.

This was painfully illustrated this past New Years Eve.

The wife, kids, and I were at our friends in Stoughton. I felt pretty good about my G Quotient (Geek Quotient or rating as a Geek) after winning a Scrabble game against some fairly good players. Yes, I did have good letters, but I used words like jo (a friend... from the Middle English) effectively.

Then it happened.

My young associate (he turned 21 recently) asked me if I have ever seen "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia".

My jaw clenched.

"Sunny" (as I will call it) has been on my short list of shows to watch... for a few years. I regard it as a failing in my "keeping up with the TV zeitgeist geek" role.

So I watched the pilot episode of Sunny.

It was all I thought it would be, a perfect storm of good plotting and dysfunctional characters.

My inner geek felt like a punk for not having watched it before.

At that moment I rededicated myself to watching good wholesome programming like Sunny. During the New Years weekend I dived into some of the David Tennant episodes of Dr. Who, watched some Looney Tunes and saw Jeniffer's Body (a recent horror movie featuring the lovely Megan Fox as a succubus).

Best of all I watched another episode of Sunny this morning. It was "The Gang Restarts The Rivalry" episode in which the main characters focus on the tradition of "Flipadelphia". I won't go into the plot any further but I laughed out loud several times. On the Laughter Scale Laughing Out Loud is second only to peeing yourself.

I now feel like I can raise my head a bit higher knowing that my G quotient is back on the upswing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

To The Courageous Legislators of Uganda

To the Courageous Legislators of Uganda,

I am writing you today to urge you to stay the course concerning your Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 that is poised to protect your Christ-centered society.

I say stick to your guns!

Many in the liberal, decadent, American Idol loving West will threaten to take away all the foreign aid they lavish on your poor country.

And for no good reason.

So you want to hang convicted homosexuals? Good for you! I hear there is talk of dropping the hanging provision to life imprisonment. This is bad. Stand strong and listen to your hearts.

Believe me I know from personal experience. I am writing from Massachusetts the hotbed of the Gay Cabal. Look at what has happened to this fair Country once the Gays started to marry in 2004.

The CDC states that the marriage rate is 7.1 per 1000 people.
The Divorce Rated is 3.5 per 1000 people (of the reporting 44 states and DC).
The Divorce Rate is about 50%! (Thanks CDC FASTSTATS)

Our States with the highest Divorce Rates.

Nevada
Arkansas
Alabama
Wyoming
Idaho

(care of the CDC 2007)

Obviously the Gays are at fault.

It just shows how insidious the Gays are since 4 out of 5 of the above states have passed the Defense of Marriage Act (Wyoming hasn't voted).

What's worse is that the Gays are using their mind-control satellite to keep Massachusetts the state with the lowest Divorce Rate!

Now some may say that as an American I should not interfere with your internal affairs. I am only following the path that others have blazed before me. Evangelical celebrities like Caleb Lee Brundbridge (having been cured of Homosexuality he leads others to the straight and narrow via his "healing seminars"), Scott Lively (author of "How to Recruit-Proof Your Child") and Don Schmierer were just in Uganda preaching God's support of your repression of the Gays.

I will close my letter in the words that the faithful of Uganda have used to identify the homes of homosexuals:

Die Sodomite!



(I got the motivation to write this from a New York Times Article today: "Americans' Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push".)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Growing Up In Purgatory

Ah high school the cauldron of hormones, blackboards and... more hormones.

I went to Brockton High School. Brockton had (and still has) an Uber-High School. Not Uber in a good way of course. My graduation class tallied about 900. The beautiful campus resembled a Super-Max prison and rumor had it the school sank slightly each year since it was built in a swamp.

What was I doing in high school?

Honor Society?

Artistic Endeavors?

Dating?

No. Why would I be doing such "worthless" activities?

I was playing Killer.

For those of you who had no life in high school you already know about Killer. For you "healthy normal types" here's a primer.

Killer is a game originally designed by Steve Jackson. Mr Jackson has developed a myriad of games for the Geekier portion of the population.

(It's important to remember that I am old. When I was in high school there was no such thing as "Geek Chic".)

These games ranged from strictly strategy (Ogre anyone?) to role playing (think Dungeons and Dragon-esque).

Killer was different.

It is a live action game which means it borders on being a sport.

You may think, "Hey that's great! You put down your twenty sided dice and get out your parent's basement."

You would be wrong.

The object of the game is to kill the other players (ergo the name... Killer). You would have a list of people who were playing and they were open targets 24 hours a day 7 days a week until the game ended with one player left.

There was one basic rule:

You can't actually hurt anybody.

This lead to a variety of weapons and tactics...

Exlax in chocolate milk (poison).

Poisonous rubber snakes in book bags.

Me? Call me old school but I liked shooting people. Every player had a weapon to protect themselves and each weapon said something about the player's character.

One of my buddies had a single-shot suction cup dart pistol. It had decent range, good reliability and it was a precise weapon. The problem of course was that you had to reload the pistol after every shot.

Another buddy had a pistol that shot small plastic discs. This thing shot really fast and far but the discs scattered everywhere nilly-willy.

In a pretend fire fight willy-nilly is bad.

My choice was a Zip gun. The pistol shot small yellow balls. It shot far and precise but the thing had a tendency to jam. A quick shake of the pistol usually got the thing working again. It was also small and easy to conceal.

You may call this next story about Killer funny or sad (or both... it is Purgatory).

One of my friends (we'll call him Target from here on in) worked at a Burger King near Brockton High School. I had a good idea of his hours. Seeing that my social schedule was free that particular Saturday (I know it's hard to imagine) I staked out the Burger King. There was a fine rain that afternoon with the scent of saturated fat thick in the air. My plan was to hang outside at the supermarket close by and periodically do a sweep around the restaurant.

I'm not going to lie to you. This took time.

A few hours in and I was doing one of my sweeps and there was Target.

It was beautiful.

I hit the frackin' jackpot.

Target was taking out the trash. Both hands held transparent bags of the King's refuse.

Now I could've just started firing, but Goddammit I had spent a lot of time in the rain so I wanted a splash of panache.

I levied my pistol at him and called out his name.

He turned horrified...

I fired...

My gun jammed.

Target dropped his bags and went for the disc gun in his sock.

I hit my pistol to unjam it and shot.

I missed.

Target had his disc gun out. I was in trouble.

He shot and a disc spun off chaotically past me.

I summoned all of my Black-Ops training. I aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger.

The pellet landed in my buddy's chest and he was "dead".

I walked over and consoled him on his loss.

He recognized it was a good kill.

Did I go on to win that game?

No.

I got killed a few days later at the Department of Motor Vehicles when I was about to take the road test for my license (I failed that time).

Meh?... That's life.

If I was a student today playing Killer in our post-Columbine world the authorities would probably have my miserable self heavily sedated.

But that's life in Purgatory.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I'm Glad I'm Not that Guy or Mobocracy Anyone?

This is the first of many posts with the "I'm Glad I'm Not that Guy" theme.

The purpose of this type of post is not a sort of schadenfreude (enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others... thanks Merriam-Webster Online dictionary) but rather to feel good about ourselves. No matter how badly you and yours may be doing at least you're not "that guy".

The proper term for the I'm Glad I'm Not That Guy Principle (or I.G.I.N.T.G.P. for short) is Downward Social Comparison.

I like the former name... it's more jaunty.

So let the good times roll.

Today I'm glad I'm not...

the State of California.

Yep, the entire state. There's a lot of good feeling to be harvested there.

Why?

If there was a race to complete fiscal insolvency California would be in the lead. California has a budget deficit of more than 24 billion. That's about 25% of the state's general fund.

It's a lot of money.

It's not a recent problem either.

If one is to google the query of California's ill'n fiscal condition you would get articles from 2009, 2007, 2002... you get the picture.

Now you can blame the Governator if you want to. After all he is the Big Meanie proposing all those budget cuts. Seeing that Schwarzenegger is a Republican it is easy to lump him in with the Bushies who ran the country into the ground.

You would be wrong.

There are two (from what I see) main problems with Cali.

1. Gerrymandering. First popularized in Massachusetts by then Governor Elbridge Gerry (yay Massachusetts!) Gerrymandering carves up nice safe electoral morsels where fat cat incumbents can gnaw on for the rest of their elected lives. In California this has produced radical Lefty and Righty enclaves where the elected officials can vote to their base and never compromise. In California you need a 2/3 Super Majority to pass a tax.

What you get is gridlock.

As a note Arnold did try to get these boundaries changed by a non-political commission. That idea was shot down by the voters.

Yep. It was a Proposition Question and people were too greedy, stupid or lazy to vote for it.

This leads me to my second point...

2. Direct Democracy doesn't work if it is left unchecked.

It's what I call the American Idol Syndrome.

American Idol is the perfect example why democracy doesn't work. The voters mostly cast their votes for one with the dreamiest eyes or bestest hair and not on the quality of their voice.

In California there is a cottage industry run by various interests to get questions on the ballot for the people to vote on. These interests do not always have the public good in mind.

My Massachusetts friends may say, "We have ballot questions in our state and we haven't driven off a cliff."

Right.

But our Legislature can alter such decisions.

Example: In 2002 a Massachusetts ballot question rolled back the state income tax from 5.95% to 5%. In 2002 the State Legislature altered the rollback to 5.3% (thank you CLT website...yeah it's ironic).

That's a check and balance system.

California only has checks (bad ones at that) and no balance.

Whatever the California voters choose (by a 50% margin) is transformed into law regardless of what it does to the state budget.

Wow!

That's mobocracy.

That's financial suicide.

That's California...


I'm glad I'm not that guy.

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