Thursday, November 19

Sad about SAD

It's been a week since my last blog post, and I don't know why I've been negligent.

Every fall my mood shifts from opportunity to gloom. I feel like I want to find a cave and fall into it for three months, until my ravenous hunger drives me to find the opening and the glorious spring beyond. It's also stressful that we are slowly moving into our new condo, which means that we are painting it red and green and purple. (Artists! Go figure.)

Also, the kids really are kids now. They aren't little babies that sleep most of the day. If I'm not keeping them entertained from morning until night, then they are parked in front of a T.V. or they will play together, and I'll be drawn into it eventually by the screams.

I realize that it sounds hypochondriacal (yes, that's a word, blogger) to say it, but I've always felt that I've had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is another way of saying that I get depressed in the winter. I'm not a doctor, so I tend to shy away from diagnosing myself of anything, however in this case it seems to fit. I always get reclusive during the winter, and my energy levels plummet. I want to sleep in, eat too much, and do nothing.

The reverse is also true. Come spring, I will bounce around the house, start projects (that I most likely won't finish), and ingest only air and water.

Now the danger here is that I use this as an excuse for not doing anything. I don't want to wake up tomorrow and say to myself, "I have SAD, so I'm not doing a damn thing," because that's a surefire way to never do anything.

Thursday, November 12

Puzzle Pieces

On a similar note to last post, I've always had a difficult time marrying my opposing interests in gaming and art.

(And by gaming I don't mean gambling. I'm not talking slot machines here.)

I enjoy all forms of games, including but not limited to, tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons and Storyteller, video games of all sorts, ranging back all the way to the 8 bit systems of my youth such as the NES, all the way to the games of today like Team Fortress 2 and Torchlight. I made a roleplaying game, I've tweaked even more rules than I can list, and I've made a couple card games.

I also have a Creative Arts degree, which means I've acted, made movies, written reams of bad fiction and poetry, studied music and art, what have you.

These two fields, though they have many things in common, like perspective and narrative, flow and feel, are almost impossible for me to combine in my everyday life. I'm not an artist in the sense that I don't paint, I don't draw (at least, very well), and I don't play an instrument. Likewise, I don't program computers. I'm in the middle ground of mediocrity, where I can see the specialists at both ends of the spectrum, and I'm floundering while trying to glue together disparate parts of a huge puzzle.

What do I do with my writing ability? How do I apply that to games? Or art? Or games and art? There has never been a clear path for what I want to do, and so many times I end up back where I began: with nothing.

I've been looking into things like game design, and I realize that these things are difficult. People don't do this because they are easy. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, if anything in my head is going to come to fruition, and that is a sobering thought. It makes me want to give up, which is the worst possible place to be.

Of course, even my son knows that Elmo says you should always keep trying. Elmo is a pretty

Tuesday, November 10

The Outdoor Contradiction

The back of the photo says September 2003, so I'm assuming this date is accurate.

It's difficult for me to incorporate the various aspects of myself, and my feelings about the outdoors are no exception. I have no desire to live in nature. We always looked down on kids that lived in the "boonies" because they couldn't hang out with us unless some parent wanted to drive, and we all knew that adults were lazy.

On the other hand, I feel that places like the beach and the park add something intangible to my life. (Not to mention that the wiggle demons that live in my kids are exorcised, if not pleasant, when outside. Justin told me, "Light melts monsters".)

The easy answer is to live in civilization and visit the outdoors, but this has its own disconnect, because I'm driving for an hour or more, belching toxic fumes out of my tailpipe as I incinerate my own allotment of dead dinosaurs.

Also, whenever I travel I'm frequently aware of the parasitic nature of tourism, and the locals all have the same bleak countenance that says, "If you stop coming here, we won't survive." Yosemite, and all of the hooplah that goes along with it, would disappear tomorrow if rubberneckers in khakis, carrying disposable cameras, decided that big freaking rocks are lame.

I have no illusion that the park I take the kids to was constructed by people with heavy machinery, that every inch of dirt was leveled to some landscaper's vision of nature. Similarly, the beach is a bunch of crunched up rocks, and yet, when I turn around 180 degrees from the ocean, I see millions of dollars worth of mansions hanging off the cliffs, out of place, like penguins in the sky.

Along these same lines, it's pretty apparent to me that "the outdoors" is synonymous with a patch of land that has no use. You can't grow corn on a granite mountainside, and you can't build apartments on the ocean. So humdrum valleys become our living spaces, while we glorify living in a forest.

I don't have an answer either, because of books like this, which made me realize that cities are inherently more environmentally friendly because all of the people are concentrated away from nature. Take man out of nature, and nature is saved. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 3

Belated Boo!

I took a three day weekend for Halloween, which meant I worked harder than normal taking care of kids. Whether it was carrying a one year old unicorn for a mile while she's trying to keep up with the candy acquisitions of her monster brother, or I'm running a marathon at the beach with a deranged three year old in his sand-encrusted Flash underwear, I'm generally kaput most of the time.

Monday I just crashed. "That's it! Fuck the internet!" was my battle cry, and I fought a tangled war across the ravaged jungle of toys, ripped up Kleenex, and dirty clothes to flop down on the couch and read my 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons books.

Which, by the way, I have been obsessing about. I memorized all of AD&D, and third edition, so it's pretty obvious that at some point in the future I will have this rule set stuck it my head as well. It gives me something to think about when I'm picking granola out of the carpet.

Two short poems:

Apricot apricot
Better not, tater tot


Harmony warmony woo.
Harmony had to go poo.
She went in her diaper,
Then did I wipe her.
Harmony warmony woo.

That is all.

Friday, October 30

The Early Beatles

Just watched this, which is a documentary about the first U.S. visit The Beatles made. There is no commentary, no plot, just footage of The Beatles being themselves.

What interests me about this film are the contradictions: their prim and proper image onstage clashes with the behind the scenes footage of them smoking and drinking and fooling around. You can already feel the tension, as John is often absent, and Paul at one time quips, "No, that's the married man," referring to John.

You can start to feel their social commentaries take root, in stark contrast to the stodgy and slick Ed Sullivan (who doesn't let them talk on his show.)

If you like The Beatles, I would highly suggest renting this movie. It was $2 at Blockbuster, and is infinitely more entertaining than something trivial and lame you could rent for $6 that happens to be a new release.

Wednesday, October 28

Meditation is Boring

I've noticed that I tend not to write about things going on in my life on this blog. Sure, you see the occasional photo of my kids, or something tangentially related that deals with a comprehensive universal theme, however, I really try not to make these posts read something like:

9:05-9:16 The kids jumped on me until I got up.
9:16-9:45 I shaved and took a shower while the kids watched and Justin told me about insects.
9:45-10:35 I dressed myself and the kids. Justin wore a skeleton long sleeve shirt, and Harmony had a rainbow sweater.
10:35-11:25 I took the kids to Hawaiian BBQ as a treat. Justin ate noodles and Harmony had rice stuck up her nose.

And so on...

I'm assuming the reason why I don't write like that is because I'm by and large bored with reality. I tend to live in my head, and there is generally a disconnect between what I want to think about when given a blank canvas, and what I am forced react to when the tangible world is thrust upon me.

I've had an entire lifetime dealing with ennui. I take the kids to the playground, and my brain is idle as I stare at the branches of trees. I'm reminded of my youth, when I hid in the shelter of my room (or else my mom would make me do some tedious chore), lay back on my upper bunk bed, and stare at the asbestos on the ceiling.

It's not so much that I see visions and hallucinations as I'm dealing with the real world, it's more that I don't, and my brain gets grumpy. I would prefer to have something to think about that's like, "I wonder what rocket boots would look like," and less like, "Man, I'm wiping boogers off a kid's nose again."

Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. I find contentment in taking care of them the majority of the time, especially when we are on an adventure, or they do something relatively cute. However, they are not really what I'm talking about: I'm describing my global aversion to the cosmos of perception. I would much prefer to live inside my head, with a steady stream of new ideas and thoughts, while churning out my own conclusions.

Though if I ever got what I wanted, and found myself as a brain in a jar, I might reconsider, especially when one thinks of quadriplegics like Stephen Hawking that would give anything to go for a stroll. Perhaps I am being too hasty in dismissing this existence, particularly those spaces in time when I can stop and watch the breeze at the park.

Tuesday, October 27

The Troll's Cavern

Something about fall makes my Unseelie side advance.

I want to grow my nails into razorblades, cultivate my scruff into a scraggy beard, complete with a crow's nest. I want to eat and eat and eat and fill my belly into a mound of lard, then retreat into a dank shadowy cave with the grubs and worms. I would curl up in the straw, let the fleas feast on my flesh, while my rotten attitude and irritations fester, and I crush Englishmen's bones into powder between my yellow teeth.

Do not enter my cave, for I am hibernating, and the cascading leaves are my insulation. This frosty draft is my breath, and the fey of the night dance on my doorstep, and we are all servants of Mab.

At least until spring.

Thursday, October 22

I Take Care of Kids, Honest!

I take care of kids all day, and I'm a guy.

I change diapers, fix food, wash dishes, vacuum the carpet, read kid's books, get them dressed, take them outside: everything that comes with watching children for ten hours a day. I experience the same boredom and loneliness associated with tending to, let's face it, the mentally disabled. Sure, children are cute and all, but when one of them is babbling and throwing noodles on the floor, and the other is wiping sauce on her forehead, it's a little hard not to make that connection.

So when I go to the park, I'm not there to molest people. Be unafraid, women that veer their kids out of my way and fail to include me in your conversations. I am the reverse result of feminism. If women can do a man's job, so too is the reverse true. After all, someone has to take care of the kids, and since we don't want every child to be raised in a daycare vat, someone has to stay home full-time during those early years. (In my case, my wife is better at working a job, I'm better at working with our kids.)

You don't need to flee from me. Sure, I am 6'1", wear glasses, and am balding, and yes that fits the physical profile of every crappy T.V. movie you've watched where some whackjob stalks a family to death, but I'd like to inform you that I'm harmless. I'm odd, true, but that's because I'm breaking a stereotype here.

So please don't consciously or unconsciously prejudice me. I'm not going to eat your kids. If you are standing around in a circle of women, and I happen to be playing with my kids on the slide, talk to me. Include me please, because I have the same feelings of inadequacy and lack of adult connections that anyone who does this job has.

Tuesday, October 20

A Hundred Years From Now

(Altered from this story)

Factory Forces Android to Die Alone; Judge Gives Stamp of Approval

Posted by Matt on September 30th, 2109

U.S. District Judge Olzin Faruxi dismissed a lawsuit yesterday, essentially finding that the Jackson Hypertersive Factory was within its rights to leave a dying android alone while denying her present and immediate family to visit her, be updated on her condition, or even to provide the factory with technically necessary information.

Named in the now-dismissed suit were Jackson PR rep Griznell Foundersone and attending hypertechnicians Alein Neler and Chrischa Albreto Moneta, who made the decision not to allow Jenny Slaten, Lisa 110XT’s partner, to have standard family access to information, even after receiving durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will naming Jenny as legal guardian with authority to make end-of-life decisions.

Grecia Crux, spokesperson for Jackson Factory, released this statement after Judge Faruxi said they could continue to turn [mechanos and mechanas] people away from their dying family members:

We have always believed and known that the staff at Jackson treats everyone equally, and that their main concern is the well-being of the robots in their care. At Jackson Hyper System, we believe in a culture of inclusion. For more than 90 years, the institution has taken great pride in serving everyone who enters its doors, regardless of race, creed, religious beliefs or robotic orientation. We also employ a very diverse workforce, one that mirrors the community we serve.

Jackson will continue to work with the mechano, mechana, compsexual and transmechan community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of positronic repair.

Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable. If only there were a way to judge their words against their actions. Oh wait, there is, and guess what! They’re completely and plainly full of it! In March, Jenny told the story of Lisa's final hours:

On February 18, 2107, Lisa 110XT, my partner of nearly 18 years and 3 of our 4 adopted children: Thane, Frankie and Vride were on board the Rbotz cruise preparing for lift off. Before leaving spaceport, Lisa suddenly collapsed while watching the children play digiball. The kids were banging on the stateroom door saying, “Mommy was hurt!” I opened the door, and took one look at Lisa and knew the situation was very serious. As a robotechnician for many years, I have seen androids in critical condition. I knew that my life partner was gravely malfunctioning. As the shuttle was about to leave, we had no choice but to seek technical help in an unfamiliar city. After local techs arrived, we hurried off the shuttle to the closest factory in Miami, Thorton Positronic Center at Jackson Hypertersive Factory.

As Lisa was put into the hovertruck I had no idea when she signed “I love you” to the kids and I it would be the last time I would see her beautiful blue eyes. We arrived at the positronic center minutes before her hovertruck. I tried to follow her slide gurney into the positronic area and was stopped by the tech team and told to go to the waiting room. The kids and I did as we were told.

We arrived shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon, around 4pm, a PR rep came out and introduced himself as Griznell Foundersone and said, “you are in an anti-mechan city and state. And without a hyper repair proxy you will not see Lisa nor know of her condition”. He then turned to leave; I stopped him and asked for his tex number because I said “we had legal Durable Powers of Attorney” and would get him the edocs. Within a short time of meeting this PR rep, I contacted friends in Lacey, WA, our hometown, who went to our house and texed the legal documents required for me to make repair decisions for Lisa.

I never imagined as I paced that tiny waiting room that I would not see Lisa’s bright blue eyes again or hold her warm, loving hands. Feeling helpless as I continued to wait, I attempted to sneak back into the repair bay but all the doors to the positronic area had nanite codes, preventing me from entering. Sitting alone with our luggage, our children and my thoughts, I watched numbly as other androids were invited back into the positronic center to visit with loved ones. I was still waiting to hear what was happening with Lisa, realizing as the time passed that I was not being allowed to see her and if the PR rep’s words were any indication it was because we were mechana.

Anger, despair and disbelief wracked my brain as I tried to figure out a way to find out what was going on with Lisa. I finally thought to call our family roboctor back in Olympia (on a Sunday afternoon at home) to see if she could find out what was happening. While on the phone with our roboctor in Olympia, a hypergeon appeared. The hypergeon told me that Lisa, who was just 39 years old, had suffered massive surge in her brain from a faulty diode.

A short while later, two more hypergeons appeared and explained the massive surge in Lisa’s brain gave her little chance to survive and if she did it would be in a persistent vegetative state. Lisa had made me promise to her over and over in our 18 years together to never allow this to happen to her. I let the surgeons know Lisa wishes, which were also spelled out in her Living Wills and Advance Directive. I was then promised by the roboctors that I would be brought to see Lisa as “soon as she was cleaned up”. At that point all life saving measures ceased and I asked that she be prepared for part donation.

Yet, the children and I continued to wait and wait. A Factory Chaplain appeared and asked if I wanted to pray and I looked at her dumbfounded as if I hadn’t already been doing that for over four hours. I immediately asked for a Catholic Priest to perform Lisa’s Last rites. A short time later, a Catholic priest escorted me back to recite the Last Rites and it was my first time in nearly 5hrs of seeing Lisa. After seeing her I knew the children needed to see her immediately and be able to say their goodbyes and begin the grieving process. Yet the priest escorted me back out to the waiting room. Where I was faced with the young faces of our beautiful children to explain “other mommy” was going to heaven.

Lisa110XT: 2067 - 2107

I continued to assert myself over the ensuing hours again that we needed to be with Lisa. I even showed the Admitting clerk the children’s birth certificates with both Lisa and my name on them… and said if you won’t let me back, let her children be with her. I was told they were “too young”. I thought how old do you need to be to say goodbye to your mother?

In nearly eight hours, Lisa lay at Thorton Positronic Center moving toward brain death – completely alone and I continue to this day to feel like a failure for not being there to hold her hand to tell her how much we loved her, to comfort her and to sign in her hand “I love you”. All my pleas fell on deaf ears.

Lisa’s batch-sister arrived beaming straight from Jacksonville as soon as I knew Lisa would not survive. She announced who she was and I was at her side staring at the same person who had been denying me access all those hours. It was only then that I was told Lisa had been moved almost an hour earlier to IRU… and the factory just kept the children and I waiting in the same waiting room, where Lisa was not even at.

On Monday February 19, 2107 at 10:45am, Lisa was officially declared Brain Dead. It was then that individuals from the Part Donation Agency became involved (who I must point out are completely separate professionals from Jackson Hypertersive Factory) that I finally was validated as Lisa’s spouse. They asked me which parts she wanted donated.

Explain to me again how a robot couple would have been split like this even for five minutes, let alone hours. Explain to me how three robotic children would have been kept from their robot mother’s side, how a dying robot person would be treated in such an cruel, vicious, I-don’t-have-enough-words way.

Tell me again why the word “marriage” doesn’t matter. Tell me again that we should just be patient and not rock the boat.

Better yet, tell it to Lisa 110XT’s human partner and children.

Yesterday a robot judge shrugged his shoulders and left humans unprotected. When will humans demand better? Will humans demand better?

Monday, October 19

Makin' Characters Perish

I finally convinced a small group of suspecting and reluctant guinea pigs to be my test subjects for 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. I've had the books for a while now, but this Thursday, I will subject them to misery and torment under the flimsy disguise of fun.

Will Wheaton (yes, Wesley Crusher, but he's cooler than that now, since he's become a geek champion, if that makes any sense) made me want to DnD again. To a lesser extent, Penny Arcade was involved in the decision, but more so, the death of Will's character Aeofel from falling in a pit of acid made me realize that my duration on this earth is limited, and that if the time is ever ripe for dropping my friends' virtual characters in pits of acid, now is that time.

Granted, like any Dungeon Master, I would rather play a character than scrub the floors for someone else's character. DMs generally do the lion's share of the work, while the players lethargically brood over experience points and twinkie powers.

Alas! I will twist that spite into devious mechanisms of concentrated retribution! Their characters will die so hard that their character sheet will burst into flames, and as the smoldering ruins of the table char and smoke foul fumes of delicious vengeance, I will breathe in their despair, and the players will know utter defeat.

Karma and all that.

Friday, October 16

Yay! I Winzor!

I won a random geeky contest on Crispy Gamer, and I'm totally stoked. I'm glad that someone out there with at least a little bit of clout thinks that I can write a decent sentence.

(And yes, my winning entry was "Dude. My thumb has a crapload of pixels." Which took longer to write than you would think: I fully endorse the scriptwriter's credo that Less Is More, so I switched ideas multiple times, cut out extraneous words, and rearranged the structure of the sentence to put the punchline at the end. That one sentence took ten minutes to create.)

Then I read something along the lines of this, and I'm again humbled by someone who can put big words together and make sense. Perhaps it's because he's British.

It's my hope that in continuing this charade of a blog, that some skill with language develops over time, and that at the end of the process I'm a better writer than I would have been had I done nothing.

Wednesday, October 14

Comic #20

Rule #32

(small spoilers ahead)

I admit it, product placement in Zombieland got to me. I was at the store for a late night junk food run, and my thoughts were along the lines of:

"I want a cake type thing, but I don't want chocolate. Some sort of pastry, nah, more like a yellow cake. Maybe some sort of whipped cream. Do I want a bear claw? Nah. Not a pastry. Cake. Donut? Those Entenmann's look decent. I just don't really want a donut. Oooh. Chocolate fudge cake. But I don't want chocolate. Note those for later. Check the other side of this cabinet thingy. Hostess. Ho-Hos. Um no. Those cupcakes I always had when I was a kid. What? What are those? Twinkies? I want Twinkies."

So I say, "Hey kid, want some Twinkies?"

And he says, "No, I don't really want those, I want these," and he points to the Entenmann's fudge brownie bites.

"Let's get Twinkies."

"No! I really want those!" He's emphatically jabbing his finger at the overflowing chocolate bits of goodness on the package.

I relent. Might as well let the kid have what he wants. It's no big deal. "Okay, we can get those." I grab the brownies and stick them in the basket. He runs off, I pause, and I stick the Twinkies in the basket too.

Rule #32: gotta cherish the little things.

Tuesday, October 13

Off The Grid

During the storm, the power went out for about six hours today.

No computer, no T.V., no radio, no fridge, no oven or stovetop, no lights. The kids and I had to actually spend an entire six hours playing something as low tech as "let's roll the ball" and "let's go outside and splash in the puddles."

In truth, I was relieved when the lights came back on, but a small part of me wished the electricity had turned off for good; that the zombie apocalypse had come at last. (Not really, but you know what I'm saying. The status quo was shattered, at least for a little while.)

Monday, October 12

Universal Zombie Themes

I saw Zombieland on Saturday, and what's so great about the movie was not witty one-liners (though those were funny) and the graphic violence (that was awesome too), instead, what I liked the most about the movie was the formation of a tribe under duress. This movie is more about disparate people working together and bonding as a clan than it is about a zombie apocalypse, much like how Lilo and Stitch is more about family than about aliens, and District 9 is about the self-actualization of the protagonist instead of a pure alien shoot-em-up.

Now I'm not saying that zombies and action aren't prevalent: they are. I wouldn't recommend this movie unless you can handle blood and guts and human cannibalism. Guns and weapons are prevalent, and are used liberally, and with much carnage.

At its core however (and at the center of all good cinema) are the new explorations of universal themes, of which realistic human interaction is a critical component. The motivations of these characters are plausible. The dialogue flows from scene to scene without being forced and telling. I empathize with them, and fear for their safety.

Unlike other movies that exist only to up the gore ante, without a characterization in sight, or a bounty of shallow motivations such as "I don't want to die" that are never fully explored, Zombieland understands that we are complex beasts, even when under attack from the undead.

Friday, October 9

Comic #19

A Dilettante

A dilettante is someone who is good
at lots of different things. She said,
"I thought a dilettante was an asshole."

God is a dilettante in a way, he has to
be, since he's omnipotent. At Divinity
School, the other deities were covetous.

Zeus, the master of thunderbolts, said,
"My lightning can cleave a tree in twain."
God said, "Me too," and Zeus roared.

Kokopelli said, "Look at the size of my
penis. My music impregnates women."
God said, "Me too," and Kokopelli hid.

Tengri said, "The Enternal Blue Heaven
is my domain, and all of time and space."
God said, "Me too," and Tengri flew away.

Each deity came unto him, and each was
specialized, and all were rebuffed, as
God said, "Me too," to every celestial.

For God is omnipotent, one who can do
all things, a dabbler of skills, a dilettante
and according to some, an asshole, too.

Thursday, October 8

Genre Combinations

First of all, watch this:

Now, I realize the above clip is meant to be humorous, and it is, though I also got a separate and equally valid lesson in it, which is that certain genres do not do well when combined together. I can only name a few instances where combining aspects of fantasy, science fiction, cowboys, horror, you name it, has turned out well.

Whenever a Star Trek episode veers into a holodeck, the story rapidly declines into Suckville. Cowboy vampires, robots with swords, dragons in the present, these all sound neat in theory, but when put onto a screen or in a novel, you end up with campy crap.

I don't know why that is. Maybe the dissonance between discordant images shatters any suspension of disbelief the audience has built up over the years. Perhaps we can take bloodsucking fiends in one movie, and guys with lasers in another, but when you combine the two into vampire cyborgs, we step back and think, "Hey, that's lame," which is shorthand for when we deny the piece any plausibility.

So it works in the video above, but if anyone is thinking it would be great to make a science fiction musical theatre review with knights and dragons, please reconsider. The world will be a better place if you don't.

Wednesday, October 7

The Illusion of Choice

Today's Penny Arcade led me to the Wikipedia article on Sophie's Choice, where I refreshed my memory of this powerful movie.

I had seen it many years ago, back when I was a robot. The plot had confused my wiring, but had not elicited anything unusually emotive. Now, reading the twists and turns of the movie, I can see Kevin Kline's madness, and Meryl Streep's torment as if I watched the movie yesterday. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, these images have been stored, perhaps for the day when I might have needed them.

Now, I am nauseous. I look at my kids and I want to vomit. The revulsion leads to anger, a righteous fury where I would rip apart reality if anything remotely like what happened in the movie occurred to my kids. The image of the girl flailing for life as they drag her to the oven makes me want to shred this universe, my rage is ablaze that these stories can and have transpired. Something primal is loose, and I can barely contain the frenzy. I look on as my son takes a nap, and I want to cry for a fiction that exemplifies the worst in humanity.

If there is a God I am pissed at him because he allows these things to pass. An omnipotent being by definition is the emanation of everything, including evil. Indirect or not, he is ultimately responsible, and so I lay the blame at his feet.

Luckily for him, regardless of whether there is a God or not, it's also our own damn fault, mine included, which is why I cage the animal, divert it into nonviolent channels, so that I am not a part of the problem. It's not ideal, because I am imperfect. Unlike the so-called perfection of deities, that set us up with choices of limited resources between our brothers and cousins and parents, friends and enemies and strangers, so that we must choose between people, who lives and who dies through our own indirect actions and inactions.

We are all Sophie, and we must all choose.

Tuesday, October 6

Comic #18

Even More Music Spaces!

I found another great place for user generated music, which sorts artists by popularity, kind of like Digg.

You can check out my profile there and vote for whatever song you like:

I wonder if sites like this will become even more popular as music becomes easier to create (at least on a computer). I also wonder if the current iteration of middle men are shaking in their boots, scrutinizing their spreadsheets as the revenue drains away to alternative avenues.

I'd bet not though. Instead, I imagine they are probably scouring the internet like Ring Wraiths, looking to acquire small hobbit sites with golden rings, and bring them to some level of profitability and mediocrity.

So it goes.

Monday, October 5

A Self-Referential Post About Posts

Since I've been brooding over writing, I've been curious as to the nature of a blog. Will I ever run out of worthwhile things to say? Can I maintain the discipline required to compose something nearly every day? (There have been many days thus far where I exclaim, "Screw it! I've got nothing important in my brain," and then I come back the day after with some kernel of an idea and bang out a half decent paragraph or two.)

Certainly, eventually I'll decide that this isn't worth it. Either I'll die, or become an alcoholic, or colonize Mars, or invent some other half-baked excuse and this blog will fade from existence. Whether it happens in one or a hundred years, I don't know, I hadn't really thought about it.

I had started this exercise with the premise that there were an infinite different ideas to explore to begin with, so how could I ever run out of things to say? Besides, it forces me to write, even when I don't want to, the hungry maw of the internet remains ravenous regardless of my pitiful justifications. This rectangle simply must be fed with large quantities of words at regular intervals, until my fingers cramp up from arthritis, and I break my back shoveling phrases out of my skull.

However, I doubt that axiom at irregular intervals, especially when I am frantically searching my thoughts for something meaningful to share: there may be an infinite number of ideas in the universe, however, the number of good ideas is certainly fewer than that (though possibly still infinite) and the number of interpretations I can make is less than that, and most definitely finite.

Though all I am doing is linking writing with an unforeseeable end, and in theory, blogs have no end. This might carry on for all of eternity, until everything itself ceases, and the cosmos contracts to nothing, and we figure out once and for all if there really is an Oblivion, and whether it's as nice as we all had hoped, or it might end next week if I get hit by a bus.

That optimistic daydream is what compels me to write, that this might continue on after I kick the bucket, at least for a little while. Perhaps it's naive. Perhaps it's starry eyed to presuppose that other people give a damn about what I think about a myriad of topics. Though what is the alternative? To remain silent and twisted, as these images and visions conquer my mind? Such a fate seems worse than simply letting the horde gain entry into this world, one blog post at a time.

Saturday, October 3

Fiction Writer's Block

Recently, I've been thinking about writing fiction, and I admit, I tend to be less than super coming up with narratives about imaginary people and places. (Which is not to say that I haven't in the past, I just haven't pursued it with any determination recently.)

I mean, sure, I can take the advice of every creative writing teacher I've ever had and write about what I know, however, at some point when writing something untrue you have to eventually come up with something fake. It has to be something fabricated enough to count as fiction without feeling artificial. The characters have to move and act and think and most of all talk in realistic ways without being real.

Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) I tend to enjoy synthesizing aspects of ideas, and I am less than stellar understanding the motivations and desires of real people, let alone imitations that I've created. I'm getting better with time, and since the only way to continue improving is by doing it over and over again until I come up with something that isn't utter drivel, I had better get cracking and write something, even if the characters are wooden mouthpieces for my own philosophies.

It's better to have written poorly and sucked, than to have never written at all.

Thursday, October 1

A Conversation

"Dada, I want watermelon."
"We don't have any watermelons."
"I want to check myself." Opens the refrigerator.
"I want bagels."
"We don't have any bagels."
"We have that. What is that called?"
"That's cream cheese."
"I want that."
"We don't have any bagels. We have cream cheese and no bagels."
"I want cream cheese and bread."
"You want toast? With butter?"
"No. I want toast on this bread and cream cheese."
"You sure, you want toast with cream cheese?"
"Okay, I'll make you toast with cream cheese."

Wednesday, September 30

Comic #17

Virtual Environmentalism

Internet spaces like this are going to be more refined and organized in the future, especially when the next generation of people grow older and take up the mantle of leadership, particularly within the academic sphere. Virtual worlds, and by that I mean MMOs in specific and everything techy in general will be cataloged, debated and critiqued, and most of all, kept for future generations to peruse at their leisure.

I'm not saying that every game made will be available for anyone to play, instead, I envision a time when certain games are given the "Classics" brand and resold to consumers at the 2100 version of Barnes and Nobles. There might very well be a Shakespeare of our generation lurking within a PC or console title, and a hundred or even a thousand years from now, college professors might be dissecting the narrative of World of Warcraft.

I imagine societies and organizations dedicated to the preservation of video games of all types, and a type of virtual tourism, where we can visit the Yosemites and Yellowstones of these worlds (Storm Peaks and Grizzly Hills), and my kids and their kids will marvel at 8 bit graphics and sidescrolling sprites. With the emergence of this digital holistic medium, there will be those guardians that will harbor the articles of the past for our progeny. They will be the ones sitting in the virtual trees saying, "I defend this code with my life," as the authorities rev up their computational chain saws.

Tuesday, September 29

Ideas That Don't Deserve an Entire Post

Bad move: never give hippies money, because then they breed and make more hippies, and the sidewalks are covered in peace and benevolence, and no one goes to work.

One day, when we clone ourselves, and enslave them with our menial labor, those times will seem pleasant, at least until our clones rise up and throw us into the very pits they dug for us.

Hey kid, don't go in the play structure or else the Ketchup Monster will get you.
What about the Ranch Monster?
Yup, him too.

She fell down herself.

You know you're married to the right person when you don't want a divorce.

Goldfish crackers have neither gold nor fish in them. They should be called Wheatcheese crackers.

Music Ho!

Managed to find a way to post just my songs without having to go through the trouble of making a video first and posting it to Youtube. (Granted, I'm going to eventually make videos of whatever floats my boat, but until then, I like having my music up there without the accompanying images.)

Check it out on MySpace.

(If anyone knows of a better place than MySpace to post songs, let me know, since that page can only hold ten at a time. Thanks!)

Monday, September 28

Comic #16

Taming the Wild Thing

Since I take care of a three year old boy, I need a working strategy on how to discipline him when he does something naughty, like push his sister, dump all the crackers on the floor, or throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way. Because he can't sit in a chair for longer than one minute without fidgeting, my wife and I considered that he may have ADHD, even though neither of us have any real understanding of what that is except through lists of imprecise "symptoms." When we compared his behavior to his girl cousin, who is particular and polite, and far more reserved, we noticed a huge divide between them.

Fortunately, we found this book. I generally have a hard time recommending books about parenting, because of the twofold reasons that they tend to be very self-helpish and authoritative, qualities which elicit my skepticism. When I saw that my wife had bought this book on a whim I thought, "Great, use time outs and positive discipline. I've heard it all before."

This is different though, because instead of applying a one size fits all approach, where the obvious differences between most boys and girls are swept aside due to politically correct ideology, the author instead explores the issue from a practical standpoint using studies to support his evidence. One critique I have is that this lengthy reference section at the end of the book should have been integrated into the rest of it, so that his conclusions are more transparent, but whatever. As if I'm seriously going to follow up on scientific papers anyway.

However, I had already been using exercise and the outdoors as a way to calm Justin. Instead of timeouts, I replaced them with "long walks" as in, if you keep doing what you are doing, I'm going to take you for a one to two mile stroll around our neighborhood. This is the first book I've found that specifically recommends this, though not as a punishment. (Which I realized at the time was counter to what I wanted long term, but I didn't see a choice, since time outs weren't working. He'd just sit and laugh at me.)

The most important thing I took away from this book is how to immediately apply consequences, then after he's calmed down, get him to explain to me what he did wrong, and what he can do differently next time. For example, if he's hitting his sister with a book, I take the book away, then he looks at me, tells me that he hit his sister with the book, and that next time, he could choose not to hit his sister.

The second thing was the idea that time-outs where he's sitting in the same room as me are counterproductive, and not really a "punishment", because he's getting my attention that entire time by screaming, squirming, throwing pillows, or just getting up and walking around. The author instead replaces a time-out with a "time-away" in which the kid is sent to a safe room where you can shut the door, and keep the door shut regardless of what they do (as long as they don't have a history of self-destructive behavior, like self-biting or jumping out of windows).

This has worked like a charm on Justin, and not only gives him time to calm down and reflect on what he's done, it also has dramatically reduced yelling in our household. Instead of lecturing him, or screaming at him that he's not listening, I can silently pick him up and stick him in the bedroom, and let him freak out on his own, not unlike this boy.

When he's calmed down, he can tell me what he did wrong, and what he can do differently next time. Also, this means I get to be a better parent, because instead of flipping out, I can remain calm and collected, and be the type of parent I want to be.

Perhaps there are two wild things that need to be tamed.

Sunday, September 27

Inductive Evolution

I wonder if microbes know what they are doing when they get someone sick. Similarly, when we ravage the landscape, I ruminate whether humans are like microbes. Then I question if there are beings made up of solar systems and galaxies, who get sick whenever a star goes super nova.

And so on...

Friday, September 25

Eleven Ways To Say Kandoo

Regrettably, I couldn't find a space in his video for these, and since he found the bathroom counter so fascinating, I'd like to share his photos:

Thursday, September 24

Beatles: Rock Band

I got the opportunity to play The Beatles: Rock Band last night, and we completed the entire game in one sitting. Now, I'm not going to complain about the brevity of the experience, because that isn't the point of Rock Band titles in the first place. I had a great time, though some of the songs were questionable. I consider myself to be a fan, and many songs were new to me. Which is good and bad: good because I found songs I had never heard of, bad because I'd have to sing them.

What I do question, however, is the addition of harmonies. I highly doubt that a casual user, or anyone who has never actually been musically trained can pull off a three part harmony on the fly. Granted, they don't hurt your score if you don't have them, but I can't for the life of me fathom some combination of people I know that would have the skills to pull this off, me included. Only if we actually sat down at a piano, gave each person their part, and in essence, formed a tribute band to the Fab Four could we possibly have any hope of striving with this aspect of the game. It just seems like a great idea in theory, but I would have rather had the development time spent somewhere else.

I mean, I've been in a choir, I know musical theory enough to know that two other people would have to sing the third and the fifth above what I'm singing, or drop down an octave and sing below me, but there is no way that I can do that without practicing when the game is turned off and I'm sitting at my electronic piano.

It's a more extreme version playing the drums, where I keep thinking to myself, "Great, now I should buy a drum set so I can practice the drum part of Rock Band, so I can get a high score in a game, instead of spending that time actually playing the drums."

That is my fundamental problem with games that emulate reality: I would more often than not go do the activity that they are emulating than occupy myself with a virtual simulation of said pastime. I would rather bowl, play tennis, football, soccer, or write music, than play many of these games. Thus, my preference tends to veer towards things I can't do in real life, like command a conquering medieval army, defend the world against aliens, walk around as an elven wizard, or pilot a space ship.

Not to mention the fact that I can't help but feel some dissonance from the idea that I'm playing a game that turns real people from 40 years ago into video game sprites, whose bohemian image is being used to line the pockets of certain corporations. You have to wonder what John Lennon would have thought about all of this.

He'd probably say something along the lines of, "Who cares about that, the bigger question is, how do you uncremate someone?"

Wednesday, September 23

Comic #15

Benevolence Incarnate

Had a run in with a saint today. It was an odd experience. I told her so, and she said, "It's not odd to share."

It was just the kids and me at the park, and someone strides up and says, with a wonderful Indian accent, "Would you like some food? I have plenty of extra that I was giving to the senior citizen center." Then she takes off to her car, and my son follows her, as if he's a rat and she's playing pipes. I scoop up my one year old, and follow, all the while I fret about poison and strangers, my paranoia in overdrive.

We get to her car, a dumpy white Volvo station wagon, filled to the brim with food from Trader Joe's and Safeway, and she's talking nonstop about how kids get their preconceived notions about poverty and food from their parents, and how her dog (named Trixie or Tricia or some T-name that I forgot) is great with kids. She says, "Here, let me hold her, I'm a nurse," and she snaps up Harmony before I can protest. While I'm floundering for something to say, I find three plastic containers of vegetables, four loaves of bread, and two containers of berries in my arms.

I say, "We don't really need this," and she said, "Everyone needs food." She explained that she likes to stop at parks on her way from getting excess groceries from the stores and giving it to schools and food banks, because she likes to cut out the middle man, and give directly to the parents, and she feels better knowing people will eat the food. "I give the food to the kids at the school, and you know what they do? They throw it! They don't know any better."

Then, as quickly as she came, she zoomed off, supposedly to give the food to someone else as bewildered as me, while we opened up a plastic container of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, whose only fault was that the date said it was today.

She said her name was Sumi, and my kids ate: after all, they were hungry, because everyone needs food. Thanks, Sumi.

Tuesday, September 22

Multiple Me

I've had two friends from high school that are also INTPs join the Navy and prosper as officers. Now I may seem like a green hippie iconoclast, but in many ways I'm moderate, and it's only the internet that transforms me into something radical. I revel in my contradictions, and one of them is that I absolutely love games of all sorts, from board games to video games to card games to sports. Anything with rules, where people can compete, and where resources must be positioned for maximum effectiveness intrigues me.

Where this skill is useful is in any arena where I need to strategize about what the best possible course of action is to win any sort of engagement, be it science, war, business, or anywhere where it is necessary to not look at individual encounters, but the bigger picture. I tend to look in the long run at situations, theorize many different solutions, then plan accordingly.

I tend to spend my free time playing games where I can use this skill, like in games such as World of Warcraft (until recently), or Team Fortress 2 (where I can play whatever my team needs to win.)

What this means is that I could have flourished in the military. I can see that. I'm not going to use this space to disapprove of those that did. I'm not anti-military, any more than I'm anti-American. I love this country, and I respect the fact that someone else is putting their butt on the line every day for my benefit. I have the right to question where and when and how the military is being used, but it would be foolhardy of me to suggest that this country or any country does away with their armed forces entirely.

I think the one reason why I didn't enlist was the same reason why I didn't stay a Chemistry major when I first failed out of college: I just didn't like who I was surrounded by whenever I entered a math or science class. The lab professor for one particular class was a stodgy old guy who would stare, scrutinizing every time I wasn't absolutely perfect with a beaker and a Bunsen burner. I felt like every student in every class was a robot, and I was absolutely bored out of my wits.

The break came when I started taking radio classes, then creative writing, then art. That was it for me. Cute girls plus no right answer plus randomness appreciated? Sign me up for that!

I went back to community college, did theatre and a little photography and television and choir (which is where I met my wife). Did random jobs like pizza delivery driver and video game testing, I measured drainage ditches in Carmel by the Sea, and at some point my wife made me go back to school and eventually get my Creative Arts degree. I now do random art and take care of two kids.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I zigged instead of zagged. Maybe in a parallel universe there is another me on a submarine, wondering what it would have been like had he taken those art classes.

Monday, September 21

Random Photo #4


My wife has often commented that I get a lot of crazy people that decide they want to talk to me. Or at least, there is something about my aura that makes normal people momentarily nuts.

Conversely, she only ever catalyzes the polite side of people, so that whenever we are together, she acts as a lightning rod, grounding out the wackiness into banality. If we are ever separated though, the sparks fly as all of the eccentricities of the seemingly commonplace horde are set loose.

Maybe they can sniff out my frequent trips into the land of Chaos. Perhaps they want to soar like they used to, like Wendy, John and Michael, or maybe they have lost their marbles, and are looking for my secret stash of fairy dust. My better half will watch in awe as people she's described before as nice and caring will describe their prejudices and faults, their crackpot notions, every fanatical half-baked idea they've ever had, and zealously attempt to persuade me to meet them in Neverland.

I've had a grandma tell me that she's conservative, and worried about the Filipino women who have to leave their babies back in the Philippines, and that she could never understand how they could be so callous to do something like that. I've had people tell me that the recession is so bad that the rental units are empty because the Mexicans are fleeing the squalor here for the squalor of their home country. People invade my personal space in a frenzy of goodwill and malignancy, with their deepest thoughts suddenly exposed, and I can only suppose that they view me as a kind of soothsayer.

They give me their dreams and nightmares, and I'm unsure how I'm supposed to reciprocate. Should I be carrying around fortune cookies?

Kids flock to me, and I can see in their eyes that they want to poke me with a stick to see if I'll bite. The first thing a seven year old boy asked me was, "What do you believe in?" Not, "I like baseball," or, "My name is Fill-In-The-Blank." Nope, it was "What do you believe in?"

I said, "About what?"

He said, "What do you believe in?" As if the switch in tone made the question perfectly clear.

I wrinkled my brow, because these things are not to be taken lightly. Besides, I am not one to give trite answers to meaningful questions. I said, "What do you believe in?"

He said, "I believe in God."

I said, "Well, I believe in cheesecake."

Which, in a certain way, can be seen as dodging the question, but in another way, in all seriousness, is a perfectly acceptable answer, especially since I'm pretty certain that I've had more encounters with cheesecake than I have with God, thus the belief in a certain type of pastry outweighs the belief in a deity.

Though some would argue that the cheesecake is God, which, I absolutely agree with. Especially if we can all eat at the same table, at the feast of the Lost Boys, and gorge ourselves on spectacle and illusion and confusion. Where we can sing and dance and make love without abandon, a sustainable and holistic version of Burning Man, and the daytime terrors of choice and mind and heart can be unleashed without fear, and perhaps the madness can be infinite and contained in union.

Or perhaps not. Maybe I'm just imagining things.

Saturday, September 19

Rage Over a Little Thing

I spent all morning picking up trash at a local park with my son. We volunteered for my church a couple weeks back and I forgot all about it until I got an email on Thursday reminding me to show up at 9am wearing the appropriate attire. (I'm tentatively a Unitarian Universalist, but that's a topic for another post. Let's just stick to the good Samaritan act for the moment.)

I found, that over the course of the three hours that I was picking up debris, in a beautiful location, with my eager son in tow, with wildlife and happiness all around me, when I should have been at most at peace in the world, that I was absolutely angry. I mean, I was fuming vile exhaust out of various orifices. I wanted to stab a puppy with a fork, that's how pissed off I was.

A little history: I'm an Eagle Scout, which means I spent a lot of time camping and hiking, plus doing random service projects. Every one of those campouts we had to leave the campsite in a better condition than we found it, which means all of us would have to sweep the area right before it was time to go home, and pick up not only our refuse, but also the trash of anyone else who had ever pitched a tent there. In addition, many of those projects were things like "Help Joe Brown clean up Random Park so he can Earn His Star Badge."

Thus, I've spent a lot of time picking up other people's waste. And by far, the worst, and I mean most atrocious offender in the garbage world is by far the cruddy cigarette butt. I can without a doubt say, without hesitation, that any smoker who has ever thrown a butt on the ground: I hate you.

I don't hate smoking. Do whatever you want to your person. I don't care. Your body is your temple to desecrate at your discretion. I don't even really care about secondhand smoke in a lot of instances, like if you are outside or in a designated area. (I think being unable to smoke in a bar is idiotic.)

But the moment you throw a cigarette butt on the ground, I despise you. That's not your vice talking, that's your responsibility. That's you directly saying to the rest of the world that you don't give a crap about the ground, the earth, the people around you, everyone else that has to share that space with you, and anyone like me that has to come along and pick up after your substandard life.

Your first instinct might be to dismiss me as being hysterical over nothing. However, let me give an analogy: let's say you picked up some sandwiches, went to the park, and were about to sit down at the table and eat with your family, but lo and behold, you notice a small collection of about fifty hypodermic needles and used condoms spread around in the dirt. Are you going to sit down at that table, let alone let your toddler play in that? Nope, you'd be just as pissed as me, and you wouldn't nonchalantly accept it either. You'd be enraged too.

Now multiply that times the experience of my life, where I haven't just picked up one or three cigarette butts, but maybe in the order of thousands. Then you start to get where my anger leads to the dark side leads to choking people with my thoughts mentality is coming from.

I'm also well aware that I'm contradictory, in that I want the world to be a peaceful place, and I'm violent with my words (and sometimes with my actions). I get that it's confusing. Like anyone else, I'm not Jesus, I'm not Ghandi, I'm not Mother Teresa. So when I say I want people who throw cigarette butts on the ground to die in a fiery blaze, I mean it with all the best intentions.

So maybe certain smokers can choose to be accountable for their actions, and find a way to fix it. Then when my son asks "Why do people throw cigarette butts on the ground?" I don't have to say, "Because they're Meanies," which is three-year-old for saying that they are jackasses.

Friday, September 18

Top Secret

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a plant, mostly influenced by reading this book.

Like the boy in the story, I wanted to discover a formula that would unlock the key to human photosynthesis, so that no one would ever go hungry again, and so that we would never, ever have to harm any other life form for any reason.

I wanted to stick my feet in the dirt, and share the ground with the worms and bugs, and say, "Hey Mr. Bug, don't worry, I'm not going to harm you. Let's be friends." And the squirrels and birds would live in me and make nests on me and conceive babies in my leaves, and crap on me, but hey man, who cares? I'm a tree.

Someday, will science fulfill my dream, with solar power across the landscape, and stick my brain in a cyborg box, like Nixon on Futurama? Will I live forever as a man/machine symbiote, harnessing nourishment from the sun? Do the prophets and heavens and aliens, the warmongers and peaceniks, the meek and the strong, only have a chance at tranquility when we cast off the shackles of our locomotion and gullet?

Though I'm sick of the cliche, I'm also equally sick of being the scorpion.

Thursday, September 17

Diamonds in the Sky

I often wonder what my kids are thinking, like what is going through my toddler's brain when she is ripping up her toast on the carpet, or when my eldest is standing on the couch with no pants, eating a carrot the size of his arm, and listening to the garbage truck.

Fantasies where I am young again manifest themselves, and I'm curious as to this strange species called "children" because on the one hand, they bore me to tears, and on the other, I can be utterly enthralled with them.

Though whenever I try to repossess what has been lost, my adult nature kicks in, and I can't quite put my finger on where these beings are coming from.

They might as well be from another planet.


I had this stuck in my head while I was sleeping, and trust me, the guy's dancing does not improve with imagination. Though I will say that his enthusiasm and apparent musical ability makes up for any forays into dorkishness. Her eyes also remind me of the chick in this video. Fast forward to 2:43 to see what I mean. Especially when compared to this:

Wednesday, September 16

Viva La Dentistry!

I went to Guy School, and as such, was completely unaware that there were dentists for kids. I mean, it seems obvious now, but before I procreated, and was otherwise informed by my patient and knowledgeable wife (who apparently went to Girl School), I thought that kids had teeth until they rotted and fell out. Then they got paid, grew adult teeth and were guilt tripped by normal dentists into brushing their teeth.

I didn't realize my three year old needed to go to an office with plastic fish on the walls, and walk past another kid screaming bloody murder, then sit in a chair remarkably like some of the movies in recent memory. Luckily, the lady with the mask on was helpful enough to explain what all of the implements did before strapping the boy in.

What can I say, I did what any sane dad would do: left him to hang in the wind.

Of course, he had his mom with him, so I'm not completely callous. And I was watching the one year old. So my bases are covered. But I am not going to spend one more second in a children's dentist office than I have to, so me and the toddler made a break for it to the grassy field across the street, where we got to see a poodle take a dump.

I didn't know they did that.

Comic #13

Tuesday, September 15

A Deal With The Starbucks

I'm of many minds when it comes to Starbucks.

The underdog in me wants them to be malevolent just because they are colossal, which is not really fair on my part. I'm only concerned with the size of an institution when it also uses unfair business practices and exploits its workers. However, I'm also not alarmist, and I haven't seen any legitimate proof of corruption in excess, and like Microsoft and McDonald's, sometimes the negativity tends to be just a tad overblown.

I'm also not concerned with overpriced drinks, because this is the new version of a soda fountain, and a caffeine version of a bar. The Renaissance began with the switch from alcohol to coffee, Jane Austin's characters hang out at coffee bars, so I am at home with the idea that people can sit around and drink expensive snobbish concoctions while indulging in voyeurism. They occasionally play the Beatles, and if I'm lucky, I can sit on a couch with my honey, while she blathers at me about something she's thinking about.

Do I like the Mom-and-Pop alternatives? Absolutely. But Coffee Society is five miles away, and Emily's is in Santa Cruz. In contrast, I can walk the kids the two blocks to Starbucks.

In addition, I've always gotten nothing less than perfect quality from a Starbucks, while other places have been less than good. (Not the ones mentioned, but other places. Not naming names, but my wife can't stand your hot chocolate. You know who you are.)

So all in all, I enjoy going to Starbucks, though I feel a tad guilty every time I go, especially when I think about all of the hippies sleeping in trees as I throw away my paper cup, and when I see that the barista has a headset for the drive through.

Then I shudder, if only for a moment.

Monday, September 14

Comic #12

Buddha Got It Backwards

In Buddhism, the Second Noble Truth (out of Four) is that desire causes suffering.

"Suffering is caused by craving or attachments to worldly pleasures of all kinds. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness."

I'm sorry, but I think suffering causes desire.

If I am born, I age, I am sick or near death, if I am filled with sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, I am involved in something displeasing, or I am separate from something pleasing, or I am not getting what I want, then I am Suffering, and my next state of being is to Desire to end the Suffering.

Thus, the pursuit to cease all desires is fruitless, because it does not end suffering, it only suppresses the body's natural warning system that something is amiss. It is the same as if a doctor treated your symptoms, and didn't cure the disease.


This is not to say that desire should run rampant, and that hedonism is good. Instead, I assert that desire should exactly equal the amount of suffering. If you desire for more than you suffer, then you are as unwise as someone that desires less than they suffer. If you are sick, you should desire medicine, not a mansion or a yacht.

The enlightened one knows themselves perfectly, and equates every suffering they feel with an equal amount of desire, and acts accordingly.

Saturday, September 12

Giants on the Horizon

I watched "The Iron Giant" with my son today.

He'd already seen it, and I could go into this whole tirade about the grandparents letting my three year old watch a PG movie without asking us,, what the hell. I'm not overly concerned with violence and kids because I'm not a believer in the purity and sanctity of the minds of our youth. It means more work for me explaining to him why the giant robot was shooting guns, but whatever: I have to pick my battles.

SPOILERS: (Though the movie came out ten years ago, so I shouldn't really have to warn anyone.)

So the giant robot really was an "evil" alien construct sent to kill all humanity. Or at least destroy anyone that shoots at it. Though I briefly touched on this before, I think that it's a fair assumption that anything resembling life as we know it would be adequately capable of defending itself. Porcupines have quills and roses have thorns for a reason. Lots of things have the ability to run really fast, and its not to win a medal in a race.

Pacifism at its extreme form is unheard of in the animal kingdom, and is not a viable long term survival trait. The only reason why we toy with it as humans is for relationships with other humans (and for some people, animals with human characteristics, like rabbits and seals. You don't see many people campaigning to cease the cultivation of wheat, for example, despite the fact that the wheat is probably at least a little discontent whenever harvest time comes around.)

Apparently though, in the universe of "The Iron Giant", consciousness gives beings the capacity for nonviolence. Though the robot has one major advantage: it eats nonliving metallic objects for sustenance. It doesn't need to ingest other lifeforms to survive, unlike humans, who are technically parasites. (Agent Smith is right, Mr. Anderson!)

What would a photosynthetic plant-like alien life form think of us as we continually conquer all earthly foliage and shape it to our whims? Will they see us as cruel taskmasters, who keep soybeans and corn in bondage?

What would an intelligent single cell alien life form think of vaccines and antibiotics? How would a bug-like life form react when they found out about Raid?

Our consciousness cannot unshackle us from the constraints of our physical form. We cause other beings harm with and without our consent. The happy lie is that plants and bacteria and flies don't have feelings or consciousness, which is absolutely unprovable. No one has any idea what a cockroach thinks about in its tiny little brain as my three year old squishes it into the sidewalk. I'm not saying that their awareness is as advanced as ours, I'm saying that they might have a simple awareness, which is still awareness, regardless of complexity.

How would we react to an advanced alien civilization, a million years advanced from our own, that decides, "Bah, these creatures called humans can't be conscious (because they aren't as evolutionarily advanced as us) so let's squish them. Who cares? They can't be aware of their demise, so whatever. Drop the graviton bombs and lets clear the place."

It's why a part of me dreads the day SETI hears something: I'm not sure whoever's talking is friendly.

Friday, September 11

Random Photo #2

Quality Comes in Small Amounts

I'd like to take this time to thank you for reading. After the first two months, Chuck A Monkey just reached 1000 hits yesterday. Though I can't see who is visiting the site, I can see how many there are, and it has steadily increased to about 20-30 hits a day.

I realize that's no where near the big time, and I'm not treating this like a popularity contest where people are merely votes to be tallied. To me that seems like a considerable amount, and I'm excited that either you are interested in reading what I'm saying, or this blog is a devious trap for anyone really looking for something else through a search engine who happens to get stuck here. Either way, I consider that a win.

Any number higher than zero is a success for me, because that means at least one person took the time out of their day to interact with something that I've created. I'm humbled by that, and I appreciate it.

For anyone thinking that I might be rolling in internet riches, the Google ads I have on this site are more for counting hits than getting paid. As of right now, I've earned 6 cents in ad revenue. You read it right: $.06. I'll probably get a check any day now for that amount.

Honestly though, that's the most fulfilling money I've ever made, because no one told me what to do and how to dress and where to stand and what forms to fill out. I wasn't expecting to be rolling in dough by doing what I enjoy, so adding six cents into the deal just seems like it's unfair for Google.

When I showed my wife the first cent I made, she and I cheered, because it's not the quantity that matters, it's the quality, and that is true of both money and people.

Thursday, September 10

Comic #11

The Development of Comprehension

Since I am, for all intents and purposes, thrust into the trenches with two little ones, and I have little to no previous experience or theoretical basis, then it's no wonder I have zero preconceived notions about what kids are "supposed" to be like.

For example: I was at the park, and a mom asked me, "Does she understand what you are saying?" She was referring to my one year old after I had just said, "Harmony, come back here! Thank you." Honestly, it never occurred to me that she would be unable to understand me. Just because a toddler can't form the words doesn't mean they can't understand them.

An analogy is that even though I don't have the first clue how to play the piano, I can definitely listen and appreciate the music.

Like right now, as I'm typing this, I gave the kids some plums, and when Harmony left the kitchen with them, I said, "Harmony, go back in the kitchen. We eat fruit in the kitchen. Kitchen. Go. Thank you." She understood what I said, because not only did she go back in the kitchen, she also put the fruit on her table, then came back out with a big smile.

Combined with the feat that we also took away the pacifier at our kids' first birthday because 1) kids can't learn how to talk with a plug in their mouth and 2) it can be too easily abused by us as a way to get the kids to be quiet, means that not only are they understanding what we are saying, they also have plenty of opportunities to reciprocate.

Now I'm not saying that I'm perfect, or that ignorance is a virtue in this situation (or in any circumstance). Case in point, I was spanked growing up. Originally I thought that corporal punishment was acceptable as a last alternative, when every other tactic had failed.

However, the more experience I've had with kids has lead me to find out that I was wrong, and that my actions, though they worked in the short term, failed to provide any benefits in the long run. In addition, exactly like the torture of prisoners, regardless of whether it's effective, it is immoral. This is a human rights issue. We don't hit adults, so why is it that the littlest among us, who are the most vulnerable and in need of our trust and guidance, should be subjected to such agony?

I am so absolutely ashamed and pained that at one point I thought striking my kid was necessary, it makes me cry whenever I think about it, and all I can do at this point is vow that I will never hit my kids again. In Justin's words, "Spanking is hitting, and hitting is wrong."

Comprehension works both ways.

Wednesday, September 9

Random Photo #1

Rotten Tomatoes

Main site here.

This is my favorite movie site, because its aggregate nature means I have less busywork on my part, which I especially appreciate whenever the internet is concerned. Instead of navigating the breadth of reviewers out there, or just relying on whatever the newspaper or yahoo says, I get a democracy of sorts where every reviewer gets one vote.

There is even an electoral college, where arcane criteria divide Top Critics from other, less reputable sources. Roger Ebert is good. Some buffoon with a blog is bad. (Who, me?)

I also enjoy the debates (flame wars) when a particular critic bashes an otherwise popular movie. Take Armond White for example. This man has the ability to create controversy by hating every populous movie and liking every lambasted one. He gave rotten reviews to District 9, Harry Potter, and Up, which as of right now have 90%, 83%, and a 97% total scores. He gave fresh reviews to G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Dance Flick, which have 37%, 19%, and 19%. This man incites the forums to a riot, and can get away with it because he's respected (feared) within the film community.

I'm somewhat concerned that a site like this will push smaller, less cumulative avenues for movie reviews into the alley. Though as a consumer, I'm always looking for more bang for my buck. Why click on one movie reviewer at one site when I can get them all at the same time?

Tuesday, September 8

Research Dead End

I searched the internet for reliable data on a list of languages by total number of speakers, and I ran into a dead end. It seems like every site on the internet claiming to have an accurate list all stem from this one source:

I searched through the bibliography for any current studies that support this, and most of it apparently comes from outdated census data and guesswork.

The reason I was looking for this in the first place was to solidify claims that Mandarin Chinese was the world's most populous language, however, all I could find was the happenstance claims from random sites that all link back to Ethnologue. I can understand that it might be spoken by the largest number of native speakers, but that is really a moot point when what I really want to know is how many people speak each language, regardless of whether it's their first, second, third, or seventeenth language.

This paper interested me, because instead of giving raw facts without any sort of historical background, he synthesized the data into possibly trends. At this point though, I am equally doubtful of this information, since I'm unsure as to whether or not it has been peer-reviewed.

I seriously doubt that there are a huge influx of immigrants to China, and since Mandarin is not really a lingua franca, despite the emigration of many native speakers, I have doubts as to the influence of Chinese on the rest of the world. Especially since the trend has been thus far for other countries to learn English, while English speakers continue to propagate English. For an example of that, I would use this diagram. However, I am dubious as to my own bias, and the paper that published that study.

It would have been fascinating to find hard facts to illustrate the status of various languages in the world, however, at least for the moment, I haven't found anything rigid enough to support any valid conclusions.