Friday, January 29, 2010

The Wonderful World of Driving

I'm finally going to do an entry on something I've been doing for 27 years now and have a complete love/hate relationship's called driving a car. One of my favorite things to do is drive across large open country on a trip with the music on...doesn't matter if it's a flat plain of grass and a two-lane blacktop, or through a beautiful mountain pass. One of my least favorite things to do is sit in traffic or be in traffic that's moving and noticing the stupidity of other drivers around me. I think I'm a pretty good driver. I have been in two major wrecks and both times it was old people that ran into me. The second was questionable as to fault, but Allstate having both mine and the old ladie's policy decided to say it was all my fault and then dropped me (thank God!). Those both happened very early on and apart from a small fender bender in the parking lot here at work a few years back I haven't had any wrecks. As for speeding, sure I've done it, but I've only been ticketed twice and the first time was total bullshit since it the cop didn't use a radar and thought since I was passing someone going really slow in the opposite direction of him that I was speeding. I'm a very defensive driver and an observant person anyways and there lies the problem. When I'm driving in the city, all I notice is how bad the other drivers are. Growing up in Dallas, I've seen some pretty crazy 'driving'. Up there, the law is if you think you're driving too fast in a lane on the freeway there's always someone that will go up your ass and need to go faster. Here in Austin it's a little more laid back than that though more and more are moving here from Dallas, Houston and San Diego so that's changing. The problem here is the road network that was poorly planned from the beginning and hasn't really finished getting to a good place. In DFW all freeway interchanges have exit ramps for every direction. In Austin, not one single interchange has all the ramps! I know that's hard to believe but it's true. NOT ONE! I'm not sure which frustrates me more though, the slow pokes that drive under the speed limit in the fast lane and 'creep' around a corner or the crazy bastards that are constantly switching lanes (but not getting any further ahead) and perpetually crawling up your ass or someone else's. Cars are the last bastion of control for most people so they think that they can do no wrong in these machines. The first reaction EVERY SINGLE TIME when someone screws up and you honk is for them to flip YOU the finger! The windows are never rolled down but they yell at you from inside their little cubby hole. Then there's the inability to use a blinker, whether it's some asshole trying to cram his way into your lane or someone who eventually wants to get over but has to do it at the last minute because they never put on the blinker so that you could know they wanted over. I let people over all the time if they'll just give me that blinker. If there's an exit ramp and a line in the exit lane, people have to try and squeeze in at the last second. I'll let a few in while further back but as the ramp is literally splitting off the main roadway I hug the bumper of the car in front of me so that they will literally have to hit my car to get in. Then there's the people that are behind you in a lane, feel you aren't going fast enough, so they go around you then STOP AND TURN right in front of you! They couldn't wait another few SECONDS staying behind you before turning? I just don't get that at all. I know when there's traffic because I go online before leaving work and looking at a map, and I will go out of my way to be on a road that is at least moving instead of one that is just sitting and wasting gas and time, but if you get stuck there and NO ONE can move, why do people feel the urge to honk? What do they want you to do, drive 'through' the car in front of you? I love that shit. My final observation is driving and weather. Weather happens but some people seem to only know how to drive one way...FAST. So even if there's ICE on the road they will drive fast. Then there's the opposite who see one rain drop on their windshield and they slow down 10mph. ARGH! So there you have it...driving in the 21st Century. Still no flying cars (Back to the Future II is only 5 years away now, and Blade Runner 9) and the trains that were promised 3 YEARS AGO still have not started. I have noticed with more people fired that even the busier times of year seem to have less traffic. You gotta look for the bright side of the crap.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Return of the Gilded Age

As if the loss in Massachusetts wasn't bad enough this week, yesterday the Supreme Court overturned a decades old law that kept corporations and unions from using money from their treasury to support a candidate for office and kept them from using thinly veiled support advertisement right up to the actual election. This was of course led by Mitch 'Moonshine' McConnell, Republican from Kentucky. This means that now corporations, which already have a stranglehold on government and elections will have even more of one. They didn't overturn the 1907 law (though they'd like to I'm sure) that keeps corps from outright giving money directly to candidates, but the path we're following may be leading there. I really hope that Obama gets the chance to replace some more SC judges in his term because the SC has kept this country more conservative even in less conservative times like the 90's because Republicans appointed judges for all but 4 years from 1968 to 1992. Think about that! The 1907 law was one of many passed during the Progressive period that put an end to the Gilded Age where big business ran the country for 40 years after Reconstruction. Are we headed for a New Gilded Age? Are we already there? With all that has happened with banks and Wall Street over the past few years it's like they've set up shop in the White House so what's the fucking difference? And is it coincidence that this happens after Republicans get their asses kicked in 2006 and 2008 and now sentiments are changing and we have an election this year? I think not.

Color vs. black/white

I got into an interesting discussion with Russell yesterday about the visual perception of color vs. black & white. We were talking about old photos and he said that when he was a kid he thought that photos were shot in color but older ones were SO old that they had faded to black and white. I told him about my friend Tim who thought that everyone saw in black & white until 1939 when the makers of 'The Wizard of Oz' INVENTED color and put it in the movie and from then on everyone could see in color! I was mentioning how it seems like a black & white picture just looks older. I was looking up tornado info a couple of days ago and found black & white photos of the Topeka tornado of 1966 and they looked like photos from the Tri-State tornado of 1925 or even older ones, but then I found a color video of the same storm happening and it looked like it was current if not only happening a few years ago! We also discussed film vs. live action video. Recently I've been watching these DVD's with the live action broadcasts of the Super Bowls and some of these are from the 70's but for some reason the live broadcast looks clearer and sharper, and looks as if it could have been just a few days ago, but NFL films movies of the very same game are grainy and look old. We guessed that maybe it was the type of camera used because television broadcasts, especially of the Super Bowl, would have been using the latest camera technology to send the game to the TV network and into living rooms around the world and I noticed it was usually stationary in the booth above the 50 yard line with later games having a few other stationary cameras in the end zone and on the sidelines. While the same game is captured in a whole bunch of other angles for the NFL films show, but the camera may not have been as high quality. All of this is visual perception and you have to wonder if everyone sees it the same way? I was watching Super Bowl X the other week and apart from the quality of the video used, it looks exactly like it did when I'd last seen it at Danielle's first birthday party back on January 18, 1976 and of course that was viewing it through the TV technology of the time, i.e. the television brand and type we had at home, which back then was pure analog and going through an antennae and not a cable box.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I'm feeling pretty sick to my stomach right now. When Edward Kennedy died last year, his Senate seat, held by him for over 40 years, was up for grabs. Massachusetts has leaned liberal for decades and the Democrats figured it was a shoe in for Coakley to take Kennedy's place especially since she was backed by the Kennedy family. Then something happened, the same fucking assholes that have been scheming for the Republicans for the past 10 years got the machine going again and started spreading bullshit lies, and got probably every single Republican in the fucking state to go out and vote today and guess what? Coakley fucking lost! The ironic and really sad part of this is that the health bill, fought for for decades by Kennedy, hasn't been passed yet and this will tip the scale away from the filibuster break number needed by the Dems, SO the seat Kennedy once filled will now have this fucking asshole in it that will probably keep the very thing Kennedy fought for from happening. Even Obama himself went to the state over the weekend to campaign for Coakley! I like Boston mainly because it seems to be an intelligent city in an intelligent state but could the voters not see what would happen here? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?! I'm really getting sick of the whole thing. If the bill doesn't pass now and Obama looks more and more like Carter (one term only) I quite possibly will be through with politics. Someone on Facebook said something about 'the pendulum has swung' to which I responded, 'Sure, there are cycles but what the fuck happened to our time at bat? We've only had the President AND Congress for a fucking year, they had it for 8!'. I just don't understand how this could happen. I thought with Obama's election that things were finally starting to balance out, but now it's seeming like it was just a fleeting temporary moment and now things will go even further to the right...just what we fucking need! I'm sorry, but this makes me angry. Angry at the stupidity of people to believe everything they hear. Angry at their ability to let themselves be duped by the same retards that have been working it for the Republican machine. These are the same assholes that made sure we didn't have a serious green bill before we went to Copenhagen. And now without the fillibuster power, NOTHING will get done. NOTHING. Apparently this is what Republicans and a lot of fucking sheep want.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Societal and Personal Shift

It's funny that as everything in my life apart from my job has been turned upside down in my own life that's it's happened on a much larger scale for society with the Great Recession or whatever you want to call it. I just read an article called '17 Ways Consumers Are Changing' and as I read it not only did the changes seem to be good things, like less waste, frugality, less credit card debt and more cash and smaller is better, but I seemed to be doing most of the things listed. I'm in a smaller house, smaller car, volunteered the most I ever have, moved away from brands, and even though I still collect movies, I'm coming close to selling all my CD's since I've copied all the files onto a hard drive and my I-pod and I've even been thinking about getting rid of a lot of my books. The last one on the list, though, has hit me like a shot today. 'Redefining Success' and saying that it's not about money and things anymore but doing something you actually want to do and feel satisfied with. One of the reasons I was so down last year was because what I had been defining as success, tons of money and a gigantic house, were gone, but now it shouldn't seem as necessary and as time goes by it won't. Even when I was in that big house, driving the SUV and not worried about money ever, I still thought, 'did I need all this and is this what I really want?'. That last entry is talking specifically about my job. We've been losing people and you can tell that they are trying to restructure things so that they can 'lose' more but I was thinking about that. What if I lost my job? Would it be so bad? I'm making the most money I've ever made in my entire life but I'm not happy. I'm only happy when I'm up on the stage playing for people and hanging out with good friends. What I should do right now is think about what I really want to do. I had discussed possibly getting my teaching certification finally and I know that I love to explain stuff to people, especially the young and the next generation coming up. Part of my reevaluation of my life should not just be my psychology and my love life, but it should also look at how I'm spending the rest of my life with my career because it's something you do every single day until you retire. I have a lot to think about.

Aging Boomers

I was watching the Golden Globes last night and noticing all the women in their late 40's to 60's that still look good but thought about how much money they have and how much work it is to stay looking that good. My dad's been working out at the gym every day of his life since the 60's and when he goes to these Forest Ave. High reunions every once in awhile he says they all look like old people, fat, gray hair, tons of wrinkles and what not, while he still looks younger. I also thought about the term '60's the new 40' or whatever and about the term 'cougar' describing older women that date younger men (there's even a TV show about it) and once again I see the Boomer generation not wanting to admit that they are getting old. It's not bad enough that as they get older they're going to suck all of what's left of Social Security before it's our turn, but they have to run away from aging in such a manner. Now, if they actually did take better care of themselves and not be as much of a burden on our medical system that would be great, but most people I see in their age group look that age, NOT 40 or 30. You know what? 60's the new 60.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Today is January 17th. On this date in 1994, the Northridge quake wakened LA in the pre-dawn hours, hitting hardest in the Valley, but collapsing part of I-10 west of downtown LA. The very next year on the same date, an even larger quakes struck Kobe, Japan killing 5000 people. Now this same week and a few days ago we have the Haitian quake. Right now it's looking like 45 to 50,000 dead in the initial quake and who knows how many more from sickness and exposure over the next few weeks. Aid is rushing in and our government is leading the way. This hasn't stopped complete fucking assholes like Limbaugh and Robertson from not knowing when to keept their fucking mouths shut and saying stupid shit about this situation, but political angles to just plain crazy shit about pacts with the devil and whatnot. If this incident gets people to stop listening to Limbaugh alone, well...I can't say it's worth it since I don't wish death and destruction on anyone that doesn't deserve it, but it's sad that it would take something this big to do that instead of people just turning these people off. Now, back to the geology. I find it so weird that this same week of the year has been witness to three of the major quakes in the past 20 years. Unlike the weather and climate, which are more controlled by time (seasons) I can't think of any reason why earthquakes would happen around the same time each year during these years. I guess it's something to look at OR just coincidence.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Corporate Ways

Yesterday, one of my friends that I met at work got fired. She and I talked a lot about her department over the past months and I guess we saw it coming, but what bothers me is just seeing how companies do their dirty work. They had really put her in a situation where she could not win. She worked in the call center for our company, which meant being on phones all day long with our outside customers (my area does the same but with our inside customers). Coming from such an environment where I worked before, I know how the 'slave ship' works. What surprised me when I started working here was that the call center had little turn around and the employees seemed happy. I believe this stemmed from the managers of that area that seemed to genuinely care about their employees and made a rough job something to be respected and even enjoy with lots of team building and what not. Then they brought in a new manager for the area and not long after they lost two or three great managers and the turn around began in earnest. Unfortunately, the company doesn't step back and go 'hmmm...I wonder what happened?' they just let it run. Part of this could be that this manager is sleeping with a manager in HR. Anyways, another thing that happens in call centers and companies in general is that when the economy is good and other jobs are available out there, they tend to be more lax with the rules, but when the economy turns sour the screws are applied in order to weed out people and save money. Unfortunately the call center takes the brunt since they are at the bottom of the food chain. This along with a sub par manager leads to a disaster. Therese had tried to work with these people, but she was also very vocal about problems she saw in their methods and they did not want to hear this even if it was true. In the end they fired her. What's weird is I heard from someone else that it happened around lunch time, but we didn't get the email from HR about it until 5pm. This email tells us to delete their domain account and turn off email immediately and usually comes as soon as they are walked out of the building. We got another one at the same time, and last week two were let go in the same day. I have a feeling this is going to be a regular occurance now but I could be wrong. Like the ark, they are led out two by two. The company calls it a RIF (Reduction in Force). I wish Carlin could give his response on that bullshit. It's a firing, but lets call it something that sounds like nothing so no one has to feel guilty. We had a firing of 12 people in one day late last year and it included someone from HR who usually was the one walking people out so that was sweet. This just smells. Our area had our one on ones with our manager this week and he told us something that sounds a little cryptic. They want to actually get project managers to take over our projects so that we can focus on stuff that we actually are supposed to be doing. That sounds great but it also sounds like they won't need all of us to do that. We'll see what happens. There's a part of me still leftover from the battle scarred landscape of last year that thinks if I get let go I'll just store my stuff somewhere (dad's?) and hit the road or something.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Haiti Earthquake

It looks like a 7.0 magnitude earthquake has struck Haiti tonight. No one knows the death toll yet because it just happened but from the descriptions of the destruction it sounds like it will be high. Something like this always makes me wonder...why does this happen to the poorest possible place it can? Haiti is THE poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. But if you ask people which was the second independent nation in our hemisphere after us, most would not guess that it was Haiti. I pray that the toll will not be too high, but with poverty comes completely substandard building codes and you can only hope that most people got outside before their crumble ready building or shack came down around them. Aid is already being requested and pouring in and once again the Internet proves it's worth with the lightning speed the call has gone out to millions. How can a country so close to the U.S. be so impoverished? Then again, look at the border of Mexico. Juarez and El Paso could be on different planets. One in the richest country in the world and one of the safest cities in the US, the other a drug lord hellhole with thousands dead and more buried in sand outside the city while the ones that live there are in complete poverty. Could it be the color of the skin in Mexico and Haiti? Could it be the still radiating leftovers of our own colonialism aspirations over the past two centuries? Not to mention a laundry list of the worst possible 'leaders' money could buy in both places. Not an easy answer but one that's forgotten in the dust pall over Port-au-Prince tonight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Under The Dome

I just finished Stephen King's latest this past weekend. I've been reading Mr. King since I was 12 and my first book was the stories of 'Night Shift'. King is still my favorite author after all these years. I know he's a lot of other people's favorite and many critics over the years have considered his stuff to be popcorn and no more, but I know that I like his style, his character development and his outlook on the world. I fell in love with his horror stories first since that was his initial bread and butter, and 'The Dead Zone' is still my favorite book to this day. 'The Stand' would probably be second and I usually read both of them every other year. I'm so glad that a comic version of 'The Stand' has been coming out for a year now because it's much more detailed and has a good visual sense that I've come to expect from this masterpiece. 'Under the Dome' is similar to 'The Stand' in many ways. There's a horror element, a group of people cut off from everything, sides are taken. My initial response to the 'cause' of the dome was sort of down because I was expecting more, but then I realized that it was like Shayamalan's 'Signs', it wasn't about the aliens but the family that had fallen apart and how they were brought together to deal with this. This story isn't really about the dome or what it's done, but how the trapped town reacts and it's also a microcosm in a way of all humanity 'trapped' on the Earth with nowhere else to go. In that respect I definitely enjoyed it and there were several sections were I ended up staying up too late and was groggy the next day because I could not put it down. What more could I ask? I'm disappointed in hearing that J.J. Abrams may NOT be doing the 'Dark Tower' series now...but maybe it's impossible to be done and the soon to be coming out comic version will have to suffice. Either way, I know Stephen King will have to die one day and then I'll be in uncharted waters...or I could finally write my own novels to pay my respects to him.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Playoff Mania

Well, the first weekend of the NFL playoffs not only went exactly how I wanted them to, but the last game was a complete doozy that I just witnessed! Of course I wanted the Cowboys to win and the Patriots to lose and was not disappointed in either game. The fact that they were pretty much blowouts even made them easy to watch. The Cowboys looked damn good! I didn't really care if the Jets beat the Bengals, but I figured if they did it would lower the ratio of home teams losing since the Cowboys were playing the Eagles at home. I'm not sure if we've ever beat the Eagles three times in one season but we have now AND finally got that fucking monkey off our back - the reminder of how long it had been since we'd won a playoff game! Earlier today I enjoyed watching the Ravens take out the Patriots in their own house and figured the Cardinals/Packers game was going to be another blowout when the Cards went up 17-0, but boy was I wrong! The second half saw a complete shootout between Rogers and Warner and the defenses fold as the points kept being racked up. By the end of regulation they went into overtime 45-45 just after the Cards kicker missed an easy field goal. Green Bay won the toss, but the game ended when Rogers dropped back, started to get tackled and got stripped instead and the Cardinal ran it in for the winning TD! I jumped up and hollered because it was so exciting! This is why I love football so much.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Arctic Blast

Well, despite what I said a few days back about people thinking some frigid air means global warming is bunk (and some surprising backlash from people I thought would think gw was real over the past few days) we have had one frosty night. When I got back around 1:30am this morning from seeing 'Avatar' in 3D at the IMAX with Brett, the temp gauge in my car read 18 degrees. This morning checking the news8 site, it apparently got down to 3 degrees (coldest in the state) at a gauge NW of Junction while records were broken in all locations with 17 at Mabry, 10 at ABIA and 6 at Waco. That's probably the coldest it's been since that cold snap just before Christmas in 1989 when I felt 0 degrees in Denton. I remember looking up at the crystal clear skies and being to see even more stars than normal as if the pollution had been frozen off or something. A warming trend is supposed to happen starting tomorrow but tomorrow morning promises another one in the teens. Once again, this is not completely unheard of here. In February of 1899 the biggest blue norther to hit Texas dropped Dallas to -8 (all time record), froze Galveston Bay and the front was recorded as far south as the Yucatan peninsula! Now that's an arctic blast!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Arctic blast

The country is being creamed by an icy blast from Canada this week. We're at freezing right now (no snow of course) even though it's sunny and 3 in the afternoon. We're doing much better than other parts of the country where it hit -52 for a wind chill in North Dakota, and is below freezing all the way down to Florida where the crops are being watered to actually keep them warmer and apparently iguanas, who are cold blooded, are falling out of trees! Snow is flying and ice is causing crashes and 150 mile long freeway closures from Wisconsin to Georgia. It's quite a mess out there but hey, it's Winter and this has happened before. Last night on Facebook someone wrote 'Screw Al Gore and his Global Warming ass, I'm freakin' cold'. I wrote back 'How quickly we forget the 68 days we were at or over 100 degrees last summer'. We do quickly forget but even more importantly it's amazing how we all suddenly become scientists/meteorologists that are experts on this subject. At the same time we don't want to listen to the people that have actually dedicated their lives to the study of the climate and see the trend. I don't have a meteorology degree, but I've been studying weather and climate for 30 years, wanted to get that degree (but Oklahoma and A&M have the best programs and forget that!), and I did get my degree in Geography (minor) and History (major). I've studied and been fascinated by the history of weather since I was a kid and a tornado flew over our house the day after my 6th birthday. I know there's a lot of political windbaggery on the subject of global warming and of course when politics is involved there's people trying to profit from it. We just can't seem to help ourselves. What I try to explain to people is that weather and climate are about balance just like every other earth system. There are cycles to it all land if it's really freakin' hot eventually it will get really freakin' cold to make up for it. With the global warming issue, we may be too late to change what the earth is going to do by itself to 'balance things out' and we may just need to look at how to survive whatever that may be. I don't think it will be the end of human civilization like some scaremongers want to push. What I have seen is that galvanizing events can cause change. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire because it was so polluted. This led to the Earth Day movement a year later. Now cities are a LOT cleaner than they were in 1970. How much more cleaner do they need to be? Greenland melting, glaciers disappearing from mountain ranges, and each year being the new 'hottest on record' can definitely be a galvanizing force if we use it right and make the needed changes to at least try and slow the process. But a week of icy weather shouldn't take away the fact that we're still heating up. It's all part of the 'this is what's happening right this moment' syndrome. Global warming involves long range thinking, something we are sorely lacking.

Crazy Heart & Up in the Air

Over the past two nights I've seen a couple of movies, 'Crazy Heart' and 'Up In The Air'. The first stars Jeff Bridges as a burnt out country/blues singer playing crappy gigs across the Southwest and drinking/smoking himself to death. The story was familiar and reminded me a little of 'The Wrestler' with the redemption qualities, but what made it great was Bridges. I've always liked his style, especially 'The Big Lebowski' but that was just plain goofiness and this was some serious acting. I think he'll get nominated for an Oscar. I really liked the music as well and plan on getting the soundtrack. Shane had free passes for this pre-screening at the Arbor so I met him there with Fositi. The second movie is one of those rare ones that affect me the way 'Into the Wild' did. I saw it at the Drafthouse with Brett last night and was completely blown away. I laughed a lot since it's a comedy, but it had so much to say about us as a people today, about this time period (what a timely film with the unemployement story line), and also cried because I associated with the loneliness of Clooney's character and his flawed philosophy. The acting was unbelievable with Vera Farmiga as the tough companion in his home, the airport/airplane/hotel and Anna Kendrick, the young perky co-worker that has a lot to learn but still knows bullshit when she smells it. I knew I was going to love the movie with the opening credits showing the US from various locations as if seeing from a plane and edited in an amazing way, and with 'This Land is Your Land' (a funkier version) in the background. The music was also used well here and I'll be checking out that soundtrack too. While I associated with 'Into the Wild' as I was in my early 20's, this one shows that time period that comes in your 40's. It's so well written it hurts, and the comedy really bites at some points, but sometimes the truth is hard to hear. It's right up there with 'Inglourious Basterds' as my fave for 2009 now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year/New Decade

2010! Twenty Ten!! I can't believe the new year and decade have arrived. All last year, being as bad as it was, I was practically 'craving' for this year to get here and now it is upon me. 2000 sounded kind of futuristic but 2010 sounds so much more. Maybe it's because of that movie I saw when I was in high school so many years ago. I put a statement of my wishes for the coming decade in Facebook and got a few responses. I mainly want a new peace movement to take hold and all the divisions that have been so prevalent to go away if possible. Maybe we need something really big to bring us together, but hopefully not some disaster like 9/11 or Katrina. It would be nice for something good to happen and bring us together for a change. For my first weekend of the the decade, I stayed in my house the whole time like it was a cave, stayed on the couch hanging out with Mollie and only venturing out once to get a burger and run some errands Saturday evening. It started with a quiet New Year's Eve at the Humphries. Russell came over for the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day evening and I had a 'Lord of the Rings' fest on Saturday. I spent the rest of the time watching football DVD's of the old Super Bowls year by year. The last week of the 2009 NFL season was pretty good with Dallas shutting out Philadelphia and not only getting into the playoffs but winning the NFC East division! Texas plays Alabama in the BCS Championship this coming Thursday. I'm looking forward to start work on myself and get my life rolling down it's new path.