Archive for the ‘Life Slices’ Category

Mad Max

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Story from Wisconsin, driving toward Milwaukee, several years ago:

I’m heading north on Rt 43, a divided highway with a speed limit of 65MPH. Two lanes going my direction. Light to no traffic. I’m cruising along in the right lane going 65 (give or take). I come up behind a guy going about 45.

No problem; it’s two lanes and I can easily pass him. I swing over into the left lane and accelerate. He accelerates with me, matching my speed increase so that I’m pretty much glued to his blind spot. I’ve seen people do this before of course, but usually they accelerate no more than about five to seven MPH before you can pass. This guy? No matter how fast I went*, he matched it. He accelerated hard if he had to — whatever was needed to stop me from actually passing him.

Well, Hell. If they guy wants to drive fast, I don’t care if I’m behind him or not; but I don’t want to cruise along in his blind spot. I back off and slip back behind him. He promptly slows to 45 MPH. I pull out to pass him again. Exact same thing. He accelerates hard to prevent me from passing.

This went on for about 15 minutes. Speed up, slow down, repeat. This clearly wasn’t that unconscious acceleration that many people do when passed. This was deliberate. For whatever reason, he was NOT going to let me pass him, and would only let me up to the speed limit if I was riding his left rear fender.

I finally managed to pass him by backing way the heck off (slowing down even slower than he was going, and falling back about a quarter mile), and then speeding up so that by the time I reached him again I was going 20 MPH faster than he was. No chance for his car to accelerate hard enough for him to keep up. Got in front of him, stayed at 65MPH. Strangely, or not, he made no effort at that point to match my speed, and fell behind quite quickly as he continued along at around 20 under the speed limit.

(This post was inspired by How to get on the Highway in SE Texas, via Mostly Cajun)

*: Of course I never exceeded 65MPH in my attempts to pass. Any reports that I was pushing 90 are strictly exaggerated.

Sunday Poetry Corner

Monday, April 25th, 2011

One day late, perhaps, but I thought I would share this anyway….

I was at a friend’s house last week for a party, during which one of the guests decided he was going to, on the spot, compose “a limerick for Holy Week”. Without further comment, here is what he came up with:

We follow a crucified Jew
Who suffered, then bid us Adieu.
But he knew beforehand,
For his Dad had it planned,
That in three days he’d be good as new.

Hope Y’all had a nice holiday.

Stealing from children

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Had a guy knock on my door recently. Claimed he was raising money for his own education in participation with a charity organization called Worldwide Circulation (WWC). He was looking for donations to WWC, which took that money and purchased books for sick children who are in the hospital. He explicitly named a local hospital. Friendly guy. Good schpiel.

Scumbag stealing money from sick children.

He was lying his ass off. Worldwide Circulation is not a charity organization. It’s a foreign corporation with a front “headquarters” in Michigan. (Technically, they are selling magazine subscriptions.) They drive to neighborhoods and go door-to-door until someone catches on, then move on to another neighborhood. If you see these folks, call the police.

They appear to operate pretty much nationwide.

I made the mistake of telling him I knew he was a scam artist. He was long gone by the time the police arrived. My suggestion is just close the door and make the call, so they’re standing at your neighbor’s door when the police pull up.

Chicago “Tea Party” photos

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I was at the “Tea Party” rally in Chicago on Wednesday, and I did take pictures.

NOTE: The “gallery” is at a temporary link. If you wish to link these photos from another site, please link to this page.

Here is a gallery of the photos I took. Please note that photo #27 was taken after about half the crowd had dispersed — so if that looks like a lot of people to you, you can imagine what it was like when the thing was in full swing!

Anniversary

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

This blog premiered on November 6, 2003 — five years ago today. In that time I’ve done over 400 posts, with just under 300 total comments. I’ve been linked by some fairly significant bloggers, including the immortal Steven Den Beste (though no Instalanches… yet), and had some good conversations in comments and across this and other blogs in the time I’ve been doing this. My second blog, Nerdaphernalia, has had some success of its own. The site overall has existed since the late 90s, and is still chugging right along.

Overall, a nice milestone for any blog.

It’s kind of fun to go back to the very first post and observe that I did a decent job of fulfilling the prediction therein. πŸ™‚ Won’t you join me for the next five?

The Parable of the Sports Car

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I remember a number of years ago (probably a decade or so now…) when a British actor came on one of the late-night talk shows. Frustratingly, I don’t remember the actor, and I can’t recall if the show was Conan’s, or Dave’s, or (less likely) Jay’s. He talked about how he absolutely loved the United States, and had an interesting statement as to why he thought things were better here than in England.

He said (paraphrasing):

“In America, a guy with no money can be walking down the street and he sees a hot sports car parked along the street. He’ll stop and look at it, saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s awesome. I love this car — one day I’m going to make it big and I’m going to have a car just like this.’

“In England, that car can be parked along the street, and the guy with no money will come along, and he’ll get mad. He’ll say, ‘Screw you you bastard with your fancy car.’ And he’ll pull out his keys and key the car.”

I thought it was an interesting distinction, and it’s really the type of thing that a non-American is more able to observe. Americans don’t see it, because we’re too close to it to realize it exists. We used to talk about it. We used to see it. We even have a name for it. But in the crush of media manipulation and the politics of class envy, we’ve lost sight of it. That interview was probably over ten years ago, and it’s only gotten worse since. Our name for the phenomenon the actor was describing? The American Dream.

Something that Americans often don’t see about the wide world around them is just how unique this country is in terms of social and financial mobility. A person can be born with nothing and become a multimillionaire, and vice versa. More important is the fact that people in this country aren’t born into “classes”. People are not so segregated into the groups into which they are born. Again, politics (this time of identity) has caused some damage here, but the proof is in a little girl named Condoleeza who started life in the segregated 60s in a poor Alabama neighborhood, and grew up to become the Secretary of State.

In the story of the sports car, the hypothetical American knows that even though he doesn’t have much today, tomorrow is another story. The course of your life can go in whatever direction you take it. The Englishman in the story sees his life as much more set. He resents that somebody else has such desirable things because he knows that he will never have it. There is a divide between the wealthy and the “common folk” that can’t be crossed, so why try?

What brought this to mind was the recent attacks by leftists against Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber”. I read a lot of blogs, and in the attacks against Joe, the most common I’ve seen is that he’s a liar because he doesn’t make the $250,000 that would cause him to fall under Obama’s take hike on “the rich”. If you’re paying attention of course you know that Joe didn’t say he did. He said that somewhere down the road he was going to buy a business. He was talking about the future. Why is this important?

The attacks on Joe go beyond the simple fact that he doesn’t make that amount of money. I have seen, over and over again, very pointed statements that he doesn’t make that much money, and never will. That is, he’s a liar because he says that some day he’ll make that much money, when “we” all know damned well that he’ll never make that much in this lifetime.

“In this lifetime”. I see that particular turn of phrase in many of these statements. Apparently they believe very strongly in the lesser model that you are born to a particular station in life. You’re a fool (or, for Joe, a liar) if you think otherwise. What happened to the American Dream?

I personally know a plumber who has millions of dollars to his name. He’s in his 70s now, and retired; but he worked hard for years, invested his money, built a good business, and made good. Need I say that he is an immigrant with a heavy accent? I don’t think the fact that he is foreign-born is a coincidence. People born in this country are in recent years inundated with a message that the rich “got lucky”, whereas those on the outside looking in know that American opportunity — the American Dream — is something you have to jump at, grab on to, and use, actively.

When I was shortly out of college I had a job at a bookstore. I worked full time, quickly became a supervisor, with corresponding pay raise and added responsibility. A co-worker was a woman hired around the same time I was. After we’d been working together about six months, we had a conversation in which she was stunned to learn that I had only worked there as long as she had, and she became angry that she wasn’t a supervisor too. “You work part-time” I pointed out. I then discovered that the reason she worked part time was that she was on welfare, and if she earned more than X amount per week she would lose the government payout. This folks, is not “bad luck”. She had explicitly chosen to keep herself on welfare when there was full-time work for the taking. (Not unrelated, she also had the “bad luck” to be unmarried and pregnant.)

This is why I am so infuriated when I hear politicians such as Barack Obama refer to the wealthy as the ones who “got lucky”, and conversely the poor as the “less fortunate”. America is not a lottery — success is far more likely the result of hard work, and responsibility. As the founder of Jimmy John’s Sandwiches once said, “Tenacity will beat brains seven days a week.” Tenacity. Work. Guts. Luck is in there somewhere; but as in poker, luck will carry you for a hand, but not for the whole game.

When Obama talks about the “fairness” of evening things out between the tenacious and those resting on welfare payments, it is a lie. When he acts as though success is just a result of being “lucky”, it is a lie. When he talks about tax cuts as “giving” something to the rich, rather than letting them keep what is already theirs, it is a lie. When he refers to his plan for writing checks to people who don’t pay taxes as “tax cuts”, it is a lie. It is an offense against reason, and it is a direct assault on the American Dream. His brand of socialism threatens to destroy the very thing that makes this incredible country unique in the history of mankind: the ability to have such dreams, and for such dreams to be attainable by anyone willing to take responsibility for their own fate.

[Update: Brian links and responds.]

Music For a Darkened Room (2008 Edition)

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I reprint this article every year around Halloween. As I did last year, I’ve added a song to the list — so check out what’s new, and revisit what’s old, and most of all, enjoy. Happy Halloween!

I’ve got a lot of music in my ol’ iTunes Library — well approaching 3,000 songs — and in the spirit of Halloween, I have assembled a short playlist of the very, very best creepy songs I’ve ever come across (but you probably haven’t).

The Poor Clares - Resurrected LoverNext, we have “Lover’s Last Chance”, by a little-known Celtic group from New Orleans called The Poor Clares. It starts off sounding just a bit cheesy, as the singer goes on about Halloween night and “werewolves a-howlin'”, but it quickly takes a turn for the dark, moving to a haunting ghost story and… well, give it a listen and tell me if it doesn’t give you the creeps.

The album is called Resurrected Lover, and though it may be a bit hard to find, it seems they pop up on eBay and the like from time to time. Get going in time for next year! If you like good Celtic music, one of the singers, Beth Patterson, has released some other albums that are available as well.

Note: The Poor Clares’ rendition isn’t available online that I could find, but another singer’s version is on iTunes. I like the Clares’ version much better, as the haunting background vocals really make the song.

Kate Rusby - HourglassNext off is I Am Stretched On Your Grave, as performed by Kate Rusby.

Creepiest. Song. Evar.

No, really. If Edgar Allan Poe had been a songwriter, this would have topped his greatest hits. It’s a traditional Celtic song (what is it with those Irish makin’ wit’ the creepy, anyway?), and it has been performed by others before, but this rendition really takes the cake, with a minimal rhythmic drive carrying you along down a very dark road. The only thing a bit odd about this song is that it is a woman singing what is lyrically clearly a man’s “role” in the story, but that’s easily ignored. it’s from her album Hourglass. Go get it! (link is above)

Third in the list is yet another Celtic tune (funny, when I started this post I hadn’t realized the common source of these three songs — the sound of them is different enough that they are far from sounding alike!) called “She Moved Thro The Fair”. Finbar Wright - A Tribute to John McCormackThis one is performed by Finbar Wright (former member of Irish Tenors) on his album A Tribute to John McCormack. There are several versions of this song out there, but again, rendition means a lot when looking for the truly creepy song. The interesting thing about this one is that it can sneak up on you. It’s entirely possible to hear this one several times before it suddenly hits you what happens in it — the lyrics are clear but subtle, in a way sure to appeal to fans of ghost stories.

New for 2008 I present a song by “the Geeks’ Weird Al”*, Jonathan Coulton. A couple years ago he underwent a project he called “Thing a Week”, in which he created a new song every week for an entire year, and put them up on his web site. Some are hits, and some are misses; but when he’s good, he’s great. One of these productions was a song called “Creepy Doll“, and tells the story of a house, and a locked door, and (naturally) a doll. Heck, you can listen to it on his site, so rather than me describing it, head on over there and listen.

Sting - The Dream of the Blue TurtlesLet us not forget Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street“. A song written by Sting, inspired by Interview With The Vampire. ‘Nuff Said.

Okay, okay, okay I’ve got a bonus song for you. You’ve all heard this one, you just didn’t realize how creepy it is.

First, it’s story time:

A man comes home late one night to find his wife murdered, lying in a spreading pool of her own blood. He actually catches the killer in the act! There is a struggle, during which he clearly sees the man’s face, but the man overpowers him and escapes into the night. The police never catch him.

Years pass. The man never really recovers from his wife’s horrible death, or the thought that he was so close to catching the bastard who did it. That face — those eyes — are seared into his memory.

Late one cold winter evening he is walking at night when he hears faint cries for help in the distance. He follows the voice, and comes to a frozen lake, where someone has broken through a thin patch in the ice. The man runs toward the lake, grabbing a fallen branch along the way that he can use to help the man trapped in the icy waters. He gets to the edge of the ice, and slowly starts to work his way out closer to the man struggling desperately for purchase on the slippery edge of the hole. Suddenly he stops.

He knows that face.

He knows intimately the face of the man in the water. He has seen it exactly once before and will never forget it. After standing there for a moment, watching the man reach out to him from the freezing water, he turns and makes his way back to the shore and drops the branch, then turns and sits down.

..and watches.

Now go listen to Phil Collin’s In the Air Tonight. It will never be the same song again.

Happy Halloween.

“the Geeks’ Weird Al”: Yeah, I know seems redundant, but it really isn’t. If you listen to Code Monkey or RE: Your Brains (also kind of Halloween-y) you’ll know what I mean.

Election Funnies

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Just got an interesting email. It’s one of those “pass this arround to everyone you know!!!1!” kind of things, but this one has the odd distinction of being, apparently, both timely and relevant.

Here’s the deal — in many parts of the country, the ballot has a box you can mark/punch that is “straight ticket” for whatever party — that is, you mark that box and you’re voting for that party for all offices on the ballot.

Simply put: Don’t use it. Your vote for President might not be counted.

It is perfectly okay to vote for all one party if you choose, but go down the ballot and vote for each office separately — do not mark the “straight ticket” box.

Why? In some states, marking “straight ticket” includes a vote for president, and in some states, it does not. To further confuse things, if “straight ticket” does include a vote for president, then separately marking a selection for president can be counted as a double vote, and thus invalidate your vote for that office.

Sigh.

So… feel free to copy this and email it to everyone you know. πŸ˜‰

More info at Snopes.

Still Life

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

This is very neat: Frozen in Grand Central

That is all.

Cookery

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

My wife has been learning to cook over the last couple years, and some of her creations are quite excellent.

The other day she made some cookies, and man… She should sell these. Basically peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, but she’s (semi-accidentally) discovered a top-secret technique for keeping them soft long after they’ve cooled. (She made them two days ago, and I just ate one — still out-of-the-oven soft. Yum.) Yes, I know commercially made cookies do this frequently, but I’m a bit afraid of what they put in them to keep them that way for weeks — ingredients with lots and lots of syllables. Nor did she do the old “only bake them partway” trick. Subway appears to do that with their cookies, and I’ve gotten some from there that were inedible they were so undercooked.

So anyway…. a little more practice and she could go into a new line of work! πŸ˜‰