Thanksgiving thoughts and National Treasure

To begin by finishing where I left off on Thursday, the remainder of the Thanksgiving went rather well. It was unfortunate that my Mother-in-law was not able to sit at the table for the meal (due to extreme pain in her hip, something I certainly can’t/won’t fault her for), but the food and the company were both good. I might add that this is the first time that one of the guest actually did the dishes before leaving, which was nice (especially for the wife, who had been busting her ass for the last couple of days to get everything ready for the feast). Of course when I think about it, no one except my wife ever seems to have to put so much time into the preparation of the meal, which includes washing most of the pans a couple of times along the way to use them to make additional dishes. Perhaps in the future we should require additional help in the final clean up. Now that is something that we could truly be thankfull for.

• Having nothing of any substance planned for this Sunday, I decided that it would be nice to go and see a movie. There were three movies playing that I had an interest in seeing, those being “Saw”, “National Treasure” and “The Incredibles”. Our theatre of choice (which is only our theatre of choice because it is always slow, especially on Sundays.) was not showing “Saw” at all, and the nearest other theatres were only showing it much later in the day. Left with the choice between “The Incredibles” and “National Treasure”, I went to check the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. “The Incredibles” has an amazing 96% positive rating over there, while “National Treasure” is being beaten to death. I was thinking that we would go see the former, however, when I presented the options to the wife, she chose the latter. You guess which one we went to see.

How was the movie? It was pretty good.

A lot of the critics are ripping at National Treasure for being basically Indiana Jones meets The Davinci Code. That might all be true, since I have yet to read the Davinci code there is no way for me to know. Of course critics have only opinions, and opinions are not to be taken as fact. When almost every major critic is saying the same thing, however, it seems to push it from an opinion to a more-than-likely that the plot is ripped off from the aforementioned book. The fact that I didn’t read the Davinci Code might have made it possible for me to enjoy the movie, as such, I just hung on for the ride.

I am not sure whether the fact that I don’t watch a lot of movies made me enjoy it more than a seasoned movie-goer, but I must say that it kept me entertained from start to finish. There were a couple of pretty dull moments in it, as well as a couple of times where completely abstract clues were solved just a smidge to fast (putting it mildly). But in my rating system I judge only by how many times I check my watch. I checked my watch about a half a dozen times during this one, however the watch checks were not based on boredom, but on curiosity as to how much time had passed since I last checked. The first time I looked down was over an hour into it (counting the previews), so I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t having some weird episode with ‘missing time’ or something. The rest of the times that I was checking the watch were much later in the film, and then just because I really, really, wanted to see exactly what the treasure was, and wondered how much longer they could hold out on letting me see it.

Being a veteran of a lot of video games, I was not surprised to see references to the Knights Templar in the film. There have been rumors of the wealth of the Templars forever, tons of books have used that as a premise, as well as a lot of point-and-click adventure games. It is good solid mythology to base them on. Not quite as popular in the U.S. as it is abroad, I think the movie will do extremely well overseas, where they really eat these stories up.

The tie-in of the Masons was certainly meant to draw in the conspiracy theorists here in the U.S. The Masons are a society that is pretty well known, yet not many people over here know exactly what they stand for. While it is certainly true that some of the forefathers, George Washington for instance, were Masons, it is pretty likely that a lot of people who opposed the U.S. having independence were Masons as well.

Trying to combine the Legend of the Templars from centuries long ago with the Masons of today (or 200 years ago) just doesn’t fit. The Masons have set up a helpfull little page on their website for those who watched the movie and thought that every minute of it was true.

Just to venture a guess, I am gonna say that anyone who knows anything about early American history is going to have a lot of problems with this film. I don’t know much about it at all, but I still know enough to doubt the Templar/Mason aspect of it. There is also the fact that some of the clues are on printed money. While the bills have remained (virtually) the same for quite some time, there were not paper bills going back as far as necessary to make that premise work for this film (this was, I think, a way for them to avoid having to find the actual paintings that the bills were based on, which would have made the movie go a lot longer.).

Further, anyone who knows anything about modern science will point out that the shadow that is cast from the tower at independence hall will vary not only by the time of day, but also by the day of the year. My wife pointed out (and I noticed) that the place the shadow was pointing to was pretty clearly marked when viewed close up anyway, the problem with that is that the film made you believe that it could only be seen at exactly 2:22p.m. (and why p.m.? The moon will make things cast shadows on clear nights). That is not even bringing to light the fact that if 200 years had really passed since the original clue was left the shadow wouldn’t fall the same anyway. A couple of hundred years can make shadows fall a bit different, if you know what I mean.

Finally, at least as far as ripping the movie apart, the opening sequence is all too easy. Why would an old, wooden ship be anywhere near the Arctic Circle in the first place (I understand it is a bit chilly up there). Even if it was, why would it be common knowledge to everyone who signed the declaration of independence? How did the Hero in this story find information to lead him to the ship when all his ancestors had failed? (that part is not touched on at all. No mention of why he was looking there as opposed to looking at the South Pole.) Yes, ocean currents could dictate the direction of the ship, but when the ship is lost it is usually because of catastrophic disaster, not sailing into a little nook that then freezes over trapping you. Even if that did happen, why did the people die in the ship? It is then solid ground (well ice, but ice that huge motor vehicles can traverse), why not try to find a way out? Ohh, right, had they done that, they might have lived. Had that happened, I would not have had a movie to watch in the first place.

Wow, that sounds pretty brutal, and I actually liked the movie.

The movie flows pretty well. There are some times when there are far too many cut-scenes, which I suppose add to the drama, but kind of fall flat in the greater scheme. The movie is pretty long (which was a good thing in this case), which kept me wondering how much the good guys would be able to find before the bad guys got the upper hand again. The ‘riddles’ are all a bit too unbelievable, especially in the solving portion of them. Yet, it was entertaining from beginning to end. That seems to be a difficult thing for a film to achieve.

I really enjoyed the film, even when it tried to tie the Templars to the Masons. It kept my curiosity high enough that I wanted to see the final frame, just to see how it would all turn out. There was never a doubt as to whether the good guys would win, yet, the bad guys were close enough to get the upper hand quite a few times. There are a couple of unexpected twists (unless you have read the Davinci Code, evidently), that don’t really throw you off, but at least make yoy question your theory about how it will all work out.

Long story shorter, I watched this film for more than two hours and I think I got my money’s worth. You might want to make sure that you get it at matinee pricing though. Not great, but a good ride for sure.

Ebert actively hated it. A quote from the final paragraph in his review:

Cage, one of my favorite actors, is ideal for this caper because he has the ability to seem uncontrollably enthusiastic about almost anything. Harvey Keitel, who plays FBI agent Sadusky, falls back on his ability to seem grim about almost anything. Jon Voight calls on his skill at seeming sincere at the drop of a pin. Diane Kruger has a foreign accent even though she is the National Archivist, so that our eyes can mist at the thought that in the land of opportunity, even a person with a foreign accent can become the National Archivist. “National Treasure” is so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line.

What, did this film kill his mom?

Turkey day and Rollercoaster Tycoom

Turkey Day!

Technically, I think it is only turkey day in the U.S., but since I am relatively sure that my readership has yet to venture beyond the state that I live in, let alone to other continents, I am pretty sure that all eyes upon this page celebrate thanksgiving (or at the very least acknowledge it).

This year, the wife spent hours and hours over the last couple of days trying to get everything ready, and did a marvelous job of it. Unfortunately, being that it is a holiday, things must go awry. Nothing terrible this year; the turkey is done, as are the rolls and other such fare, we are simply waiting on the potatoes. The unfortunate part of this is that the potatoes are my responsibility, at least in theory.

We were up at about 8 this morning to start with the turkey, you know stuffing it and getting it into the oven. That task was completed by about 8:40, and with about five hours until it would be cooked. That was a pretty ideal time, I thought. Have the turkey ready by about 2 so that you can start to use the oven to make the sides (sweet potatoes and the such), and such it was. Even as I type this I can smell the pleasant aroma of the turkey that shall soon be on the plate in front of me. The rolls are golden, fluffy and beautiful. We are waiting on my mashed potatoes to begin the meal. Unfortunately the potatoes have not yet arrived at the house. Makes it a bit tough to cook them.

The potatoes appeared just after I finished the last sentence and have since been peeled and set to boil. The Thanksgiving feast should be here within about thirty minutes. That makes us just about an hour and a half from our goal of eating by 4, but what are you gonna do?

• On to discussing horribly outdated video games!

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that it seemed that roller coasters was not really the meat of how to win the scenarios in roller coaster tycoon. Today I tested that theory, albeit on only the second scenario. I was able to meet the goal (barely) with only roller coasters (and some bathrooms, food, etc. No other rides though). Unfortunately, I still have not found a way to build one of my own that people actually want to go on. If I use their pre-fabricated designs, there are people lining up to ride them. If I build them myself, even when I am trying to make them tame, I get intensity and nausea ratings that are ‘very extreme’, while the excitement of the ride remains unusually low. I am still working to remedy that problem.

There is yet another annoying aspect of the game (which would have been solved had it come with the instruction booklet) regarding the trash in the park. I did not know that you could build trash cans. Who would think that you would list trash cans under the ‘Scenery’ option? As a result of that little oversight I was forced to have at least double the amount of mainenance guys that I needed. Once again, it was a lesson learned, and a lesson that anyone who plays the game probably learned a half a decade ago. At any rate, I did discover that a bunch of trash cans can easily replace a bunch of idiots that just walk around looking for trash to pick up. It turns out that some of the people will put trash into a bin if it is available. Of course there are others that will throw it on the ground three steps from the can, but this is America…What do you expect?

I mentioned, in a previous post, that I bought this game based on my enjoyment of the game ‘SimCity’. One of the things that always annoyed me about SimCity was that you could not control whether the buildings that you built would turn into condos’ or the projects. Well, you could, but that would require moving power stations, adding parks, putting police and fire services closer, etc., etc. That is not one of the issues in the roller coaster game. All you have to do here is build big rides, put in the shops, sweep the vomit off of the sidewalks, and build a few trash cans to be successful. That is my kind of game. More of the building of enormous rides, less of the worrying about where the local fire department is. Of course I did have 16 deaths in an accident that I could have avoided (changed the configuration on the cars on a self-built coaster), but that was just a drop in the pan…Knocked the price down on the ride for a week or two and it was back to normal.

Simulations are nice when they don’t simulate real life, only the way that life should be.

• It seems that my potatoes are almost ready for smashing….almost…At any rate, enough for today.

Games and Religion (come to think of it, just games)

Yesterday’s missed post can be blamed directly on Roller Coaster Tycoon. I took the liberty of breaking the EULA so that I could install it on both of the pc’s here in the house, since I recently gifted my wife the Age of Mythology game (since she seemed to love the Age of Empires game so much). After that point, I was playing the roller coaster game and not typing much at all. It seems I have grown accustomed to the split keyboard, while I can still type on a normal keyboard, the typos would be horrendous. Well, that and I really wanted to keep playing the game anyway. Pick any of those excuses and take it to heart, ’cause that was the real reason… Now, on to bigger and better things.

• Interesting article in the news, or not. I do suppose that it would depend a lot on your personal religious beliefs. No need to link to it here, since the story itself only seeded a thought in my mind and has nothing to do with the story that I happened to see the quote in. While I don’t remember the quote verbatim, it went something like this:

“I don’t know what the truth is. The only way we will find the truth is to put all of the parties on the stand, under oath, then we will know the truth.”

That is a very good argument. Unless you happen to be talking to someone who is not religious. You see, I am not religious, and as such, I would lie with my hand on a copy of the ‘Holy Bible’ without a second thought. Is there really someone, anyone, out there that is so naive that they think that a person who would openly break ‘God’s Commandments’, would admit to it if they had their hand on a bible? Like you kill 39 women, then deny all of the crimes, but the second you put your hand on the bible you start saying you killed them all? Yes, interrogate him under oath…No one lies, ever…

Lest you all start thinking that I don’t believe in god, I offer you this tidbit. I don’t believe in god, it is a sham that organized religion created to get you to give them money. Yet, when I do commit the mortal sins, I ask for forgiveness to cover my tracks. That is religion in action! Instant gratification for hell-bound practices…Damn, I may be Republican after all…

• Thanksgiving is tomorrow, in the U.S., and everyone is celebrating it. My number one question is why the ‘native americans’ are celebrating it. Was this the last holiday they had before the white man started killing their warriors, raping their women, and forcing them into the reservations that they eventually made it into? Is the ‘white man’ remembered fondly for his ability to trade vodka for gold?

• My mind is in a bit of a flurry right now, please excuse me for ending this shorter than expected.

Warlock and Zelda

Unfortunately, I did not get any email about the movie discussion yesterday. That really leaves me without a lot of bitching fodder. Of course that is the main reason why my posts have become less frequent in the first place. Not that I am actively looking for publicity or anything, just that it would be nice to think that someone other than myself, or my wife, was/is reading what I write. That, too, is a bit of a catch-22; more people would likely read if I were to update more often, while I would update more often if more people were reading…

That is the beauty of having my own website. There is certainly no one wanting to advertise here, nor are there any sponsors. That allows me to say what I want, when I want. How this differs from starting a site at Blogspot is that I can use profanity to make a point. Which, when I think about it, doesn’t really seem to be worth the price I pay to host the site. Noting that, I will call this site a hobby, something I do to keep me from doing something worse… You know, like, becoming a priest.

• Now that it is pretty well established that I do not have a point to talk about (not that you would expect one, had you read the site previously), I will move on to a subject that is sure to please the masses. I am sure that you are asking yourself what subject that could be, well, puppies, of course.

Here we see the puppy ‘Zelda’ (who is a vicious pit bull, and thus a confirmed killer), doing her best to look exactly like the Sphinx. This is how she lays down all the time, not a pose. Well, when she is sleeping she doesn’t lay this way, but the rest of the time she does. Usually her head is resting on her paws, but when she sees someone looking at her she gets all Egyptian. Most dogs are not able to lay just like that, her hind legs are not actually under her body, they are sticking out behind. That is why it looks like her back end is as wide as her shoulders. This is something that she has always done, however, we are forced to feed her gluosamine for that malady (which I think may be Canine Hip Dysplasia, but certainly hope is not). She lays like that with or without the glucosomine, but she seems to be in much less pain when she gets her daily pill.

Yes, I know there will be arthritis problem much later in her life. I know that she will be in a lot of pain until she dies, but when you see how happy she is now, you kind of have to disregard the future. Take yourself, for instance, if someone was able to tell you what you would die from (be it kidney failure, car accident, etc.), would you want to die just then? Chances are that you would want to live as long as possible. Which is the goal with the puppy ‘Zelda’. She will be alive right until the time that she no longer seems to be happy. If she is in constant pain, it would be better to ease the pain for the pet than to prolong the pain for both her and us. Now I am getting misty-eyed thinking about that decision, which is many years away. Glucosamine is working for her now, she is happy and healthy, we will destroy bridges once they are reached (and hopefully after we cross them).

Fear not! We have multiple puppies!

Some might argue that dogs are no longer ‘puppies’ once they reach a certain size or weight. I am not ‘some’. Can you look at those cute little puppies lying there and try to call them dogs? Here we see both Warlock and Zelda viciously killing what they kill most of the time, that being the better part of a day. Perhaps they were off mauling children earlier in the day, being vicious dogs, I dunno, I doubt it. Unfortunately, both of the dogs looked up when I stood up with the camera, else you would have seen them laying with their backs/bodies/heads right together (it was cute, trust me).

Okay, that was the puppy story for the next random amount of time.

Vicious, vicious killers. Stay away from them, they might lick you right to death.

An interesting side note, both of the dogs really hate mexicans. I am not saying that to be stereotypical, I am saying that because of you are hispanic, and you knock on our door, the dogs will be extremely vicious. If you are anything other than hispanic, the dogs will jump up and lick you. I don’t have any explanation for this behavior, but I do find it both unfortunate and humorous.

Commercial law, Games, and Bad Santa

I decided to take a week off of updating this page, and for no damn reason whatsoever. This should lead to one of two responses; either you are angry that I didn’t mention I would be taking the time off, or you didn’t even notice. Most likely the latter I suspect.

Fear not, nothing terrible has happened to myself or my family. I don’t have intentions of shutting down the page. I just didn’t feel like typing much over the last week. Not to mention that I didn’t find much of use in the news. I instead spent my computer time like I always did before I started this site, I played a lot of video games. And not even very good ones!

• Here is one of those things that I could not believe when I saw it, but when I clicked through to read the article I found out that it is true. Congress is sitting on legislation that would make it illegal to fast-forward through commercials on shows that you have recorded. How true that is, or how likely the legislation is to pass, remains a mystery.

While reading through the article linked to above, and having read a couple of other articles about the issue, it seems like what they are actually trying to get rid off is peer to peer file sharing software. How that has anything to do with fast forwarding through a commercial is beyond me. The thing is that this is just exactly how a lot of really stupid laws get passed. It starts with a fairly decent idea like banning peer to peer movie sharing software. Then someone in the advertising lobby says, “And while we are at it let’s make it illegal to fast forward through the commercials if they record the movie from tv.” Everyone laughs, but no one reads the fine print. Next thing you know you are in prison for skipping a kotex commercial.

Democracy in action. How sad is that.

• So I finally got around to buying Roller Coaster Tycoon. That is something that I had been thinking aobut doing since it came out, at which point I was pretty seriously into SimCity. So five or six years later, I actually boosted the nine bucks for the game. The first thing I gotta say is what a difference half a decade can make in system requirements. I have every one of the major requirements beat by 500%. Even the so-called ‘optimal’ ones. So, at the very least I don’t have to screw around with the choppy gameplay I would have had I bought it when it first came out.

As for the game itself, it is pretty fun. It is certainly not the type of game that you want to sit there and play. You really just want to get the park set up fairly well and then let it run in the background while you are off surfing porn sites and what not. Check back in once in a while to build new attractions as funds become available. That’s about it. Much like any simulation type game, you really have to have a taste for it in the first place. The type of micro management that you have to do is all a bit tedious, sometimes borderline boring. But it is fun to be able to quadruple the price of umbrellas when the weather forecast shows rain. It is good to be the king.

There are two things about the game that really annoy me. The first is that it is called Roller Coaster Tycoon, while it seems (at least early on) that roller coasters are far from the meat of succeeding in your objectives. They have some prefabricated coasters that you can put up, which cost a ton of money, that can attract a crowd. That is great for just getting started, but I want to build some really monsterous ones. Which I did. And while it costs me about 350 dollars an hour to operate it, it routinely goes through the course empty, almost all of the park goers say that it is too intense for them. Honestly now, most good theme parks are built around one very intense roller coaster. Some people will travel thousands of miles just to try out the next big one. Why is it that no one wants to ride the monster that I built? Oh well, it was a lesson learned.

The other annoying thing about it is that there are four different angles that you can view the park from. Depending on which view you have it on it will make it look like your coaster is a complete circuit, while if you rotate the view it turns out that you are off on the height or distance of a couple of sections of the track. This really only happens after you build one freestyle only to find out that one of the hills is too steep to make it up, thus forcing you to cut the section, tone it down, and try to reconnect later. I spent a good half an hour fucking with that problem yesterday, quite annoying. It is possible that this was all covered in the instruction booklet, however the game didn’t actually come with one, only a blurry version of it in .pdf format, which is quite the annoyance in and of itself.

These problems were likely solved in the second roller coaster tycoon game, who knows maybe I will buy that one in another five or six years.

• My wife and I took the time to watch the movie Bad Santa over the weekend. I found it pretty amusing. It was sort of the type of low brow humor I was expecting, while it did have moments that were damn near touching. The funniest part of the movie though was when Billie Bob Thorntons character said that the north pole was like the suburbs. When asked which one, he replied “Apache Junction”. You would really have to live in the Phoenix area to understand just how funny that is. A.J. is the butt of every joke ever made about rednecks, hispanics and indians. Of course it is deservedly so, there is nowhere else in the valley that has so few teeth, and so many non-functioning cars, per capita.

As far as Billie Bob, I don’t know that I had ever seen a movie with him in it. At least if I did he left so little impression on me that I am blanking it. I only knew who he was because of his previous relationship with Angelina Jolie. I can say this much for Billy Bob, he sure does play a convincing drunk. Whether that is the skill of a finely hones actor, or the easiest role of his life since it was not an act at all…Who knows?

Funny thing about my wife renting the movie was that the other movie she wanted to rent was not available that day. The other movie was ‘Elf’. I am just guessing here, but those two movies seem to be on opposite sides of the holiday film universe. Of course it could be that watching Elf after Bad Santa would negate some of the horrible Christmas thoughts that I now have in my head, but I guess I will never know.

I am pretty sure that the only reason that she was looking to rent Elf was that it has Will Ferrell in it. I like Will Ferrell as much as the next guy, but I am afraid that he is going down the same road that Jim Carey did early in his career. They put them in movies to get butts in the seats, then just make them basically do the same comedy routine that we have already seen hundreds of times. Then it just starts to get tired and boring. Hopefully this won’t be the case with Ferrell, or if it is he will overcome it as well as Carey did. Of course I don’t really care, so this is kind of moot anyway.

Well that is about it for today.

Religion in the News

So let us start off with some fun with maps, shall we?

This is a humorous little map that the wife emailed to me the other day. Well, it would be humorous were it not so close to reality. I post it here mostly only because of a piece that I was reading at the Washington Monthly about red and blue states, and how the colors for the parties seem to have switched recently -which I might add was explained in more detail on that site today, if that is something that you really care about-. While the colors in this map aren’t the correct colors for the way the election shook down, it sure doesn’t take a genius to figure out why it is divided the way that it is.

My only regret is that I live in part of Jesusland in that picture. And I mean it, seriously, my only regret in the entire world is that.

Which leads nicely into today’s ‘What the Fuck is Wrong With You People?’ segment. Yet another one of those stories that makes me wonder just what century we are supposed to be in. The headline reads Judge to Rule on Georgia Evolution Disclaimers. Here to quote a bit from the story:

A public school board in Georgia violated the U.S. Constitution when it placed stickers that challenge the theory of evolution on biology textbooks two years ago, a lawyer for a group of parents said on Friday.

That part makes sense to me. This is the United States, after all, and there is supposed to be a separation between church and state (although that seems a bit clouded judging by the current administration, and the half the country that voted for it). Challenging the theory of evolution in textbooks seems to go a bit beyond a child praying during a recess break, that is the administration knowingly forcing religion onto the students. That is a violation of their rights, right?

The U.S. Supreme Court (news – web sites) ruled in 1987 that creationism could not be taught in public schools alongside evolution.

Seems pretty black and white doesn’t it? I mean honestly, even if you are religious, and you really believe that the earth is really only a few thousand years old, and that God personally created Adam, etc. None of that changes the fact that it is illegal to be teaching it in schools. It is absolutely fine for you to tell your own child that the idea of evolution is such nonsense and holds no merit whatsoever, then show them the first few passages of the Bible which state in no uncertain terms that God created man. Explain to them that it must be true since it was written a really long time ago; That they should count their lucky stars that God spared Noah and his wife when he flooded the entire world, else humanity would have been extinct; Anything that anyone else tries to say is the devil talking. That is all your choice, to do as you wish at home, not force it on others in school.

Off topic, how do people who believe in creationism explain things like dogs? There are hundreds of different kinds of dogs. The ones that live where it is cold have really thick fur and are usually pretty stocky, while the ones that live where it is warm tend to have very thin, short fur and are more athletic. Did God create all of them like that in his infinite wisdom? If so, how can the breeds of dogs that man himself created be explained away? I have seen a few shows on the discovery channel showing some of the strange breeding that kennels have done to make a dog more suitable for a certain task. Is it really believed that God decides that since the kennels are fucking with the purity of his creations he will reward their efforts by divining a brand new breed of dog? Does that really make more sense than evolution to them?

Digressions aside, I guess I am getting a bit too worked up over the whole thing. I am not religious, don’t plan on ever being religious, don’t plan on ever having children who could have religion forced on them, and when I read the disclaimer that was on the books I guess it might not have been as bad as I had thought. It merely says,

“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

While reading that I guess it doesn’t actually say anything about religion at all. What I do find a bit disturbing is that it says that the material should be approached with an open mind. Isn’t that sort of the polar opposite of how religion approaches things? If someone religious were to read the bible with an open mind, I am pretty sure that they would come away with a far different view of it than they currently have. The problem seems to be that really religious people have selective amnesia about the bible. That is pretty easily evidenced in the fact that when you are at church (if you have ever been there), you will be instructed to open your bible to certain passages, not certain chapters, just one line, from one chapter, from one book, from the bible. Were you to read the passage before it, or after it, you might be in for a nasty surprise. It is that sort of reading between the lines and taking things totally out of context that makes religion seem so frightening to me. You can grab any random book off of the shelf and open it up to four different pages, pick a line, then throw them together to make a seemingly good point.

“They appeared abruptly from behind every tree and statue.”
“Then the Emporor smiled.”
“He’d walk through the city on that first great day and the people would be silent when they saw their natural leader.”
“And then someone hit him again.”

Just for fun, I did just grab a book off of the shelf (which happened to be Terry Pratchett’s novel Interesting Times) and opened it to four random pages. I didn’t take the first line that I saw on each of the pages, but they were each from the page that I randomly opened it to. It really does read almost like I remember the church services from my childhood. In this scenario it would likely have been making a point that arrogance brought down the mighty emporor, while the penitent were spared. Hmmm. I like that story. Maybe I should become religious. If I can extrapolate a moral from four random lines in a humorous fantasy novel just imagane what I could do with the power of God behind me…I could be the richest televangelist ever! But I don’t think I would like to rape prepubescent boys, so I guess I am out. Oh well, it was a thought.
That’s about it for today. Tune in next time to see where my convoluted mind takes me.

Mad Cow inaction, Survivor, CD’s

The day/days since the last survivor have gone horribly bad. The best player got voted out tonight (which is likely open to discussion on a ton of sites.) I will say, instead, that ‘my guy’ got voted right out of there. Strongest player in the game, to be sure, most loyal guy, absolutely, just the next guy in the pecking order of the women. The absolution of what began all of those days ago.

I normally follow one or more of them through the whole endeavor, yet, when they voted out ‘Sarge’ tonight, I lost a lot of interest. Voting out the stronger players is just self-preservation, voting out the only guy who has helped/can help your game is just plain silly.

• This story, with a rather innocuous headline, Trade to Dominate Bush’s Farm Agenda , has me somewhere between angry and dumbfounded. The story is about the import/export of agricultural products, embargoes and other such dribble. One of the key things contained within it, though, is Mad Cow Disease.

I am not sure why this problem didn’t surface at all during the presidential elections, it certainly should have. I, as you likely know, am a butcher, and probably a bit more sensitive to the beef market than most people. I think it is pretty much common knowledge that there are over 20 countries that have banned the import of U.S. beef. It should be common knowledge that not only has the USDA not done anything to try to remedy the problem, but has in fact ordered at least one company to stop testing their own cattle for the disease. How this can possibly get us back into the international beef industry really escapes me. The only two possible reasons that I can see for this action is that either the USDA is afraid that really poor health standards over the last couple of decades have left a lot of the U.S. cattle with the disease, and they don’t want to make matters worse. The other option is that the USDA simply doesn’t give a fuck.

Now a fact that I didn’t know prior to reading the article is that the US imported more agricultural products last year than they exported. Not only that, the projected reports for 2004 are going to show that the defecit of export to import is likely to be in the billions. Knowing that fact, I am inclined to believe that the USDA is terrified to actually test the current cattle supply in the U.S.; knowing that sloppy standards have likely resulted in far more contamination than they let on to. The only reason that I assume that is that there is simply no way any agency would voluntarily let their product be banned, unless they had reason to believe that the truth is far worse than speculated.

Following on that same logic, and with the popularity of the Atkins Diet, I really believe that the standards of raising cattle in the U.S. have been altered enough to get rid of the disease in new cattle. However, the possibly infected supply of cattle must be exhausted before they dare to start testing them properly. In this scenario, this means that the USDA is knowingly feeding infected beef to the American people. In another couple of years they will start to test the cattle properly. Anyone who happens to die along the way will likely be swept under the rug so as not to cause another rush of fear in other countries. I know it sounds like a really bad conspiracy theory, but what other reason would there be for not allowing companies to test their own cattle, with their own money?

• Now for a random musing about the cost of cd’s.

This is a subject that I have been into a bunch of times before. While I am not going to try to find the pages where I went into it, I will just give you the basic idea of my previous arguments in a quick sentence or two. In 2002, I was able to buy 100 blank cd’s, jewel cases, labels and a program to print out the inserts for each cd. Net cost for each cd? Just under fifty cents, not counting the ink, which might have bumped it up to fifty-two cents. Now if that is how much I can do it for by myself, only buying 100 of everything, how much could it cost a company that buys their supplies by the millions? The second point was that you can buy a video game for the pc that has 5 discs in it, all with artwork on them, for about ten bucks once they are a couple of years old, note that the ten dollar price also has to pay the people who create/program the game, cover artists, etc. Also, it costs just as much to buy the latest music cd as it does to buy the latest hollywood blockbuster on dvd.

Today I found something, for the millionth time, that finally slapped me in the face about this whole issue. When is the last time that you were going through your mail to find that an old ‘LP’ fell out of it? How about an ‘8-track’? What about a ‘cassette tape’? That never happened, did it? The cd, however, is everywhere. It was falling out of one of the little pamphlets that I got in the mail today, there was a huge stand of them in the corner of the post office, even though the post office was closed, they were not stolen/missing/vandalized, no just sitting there. Of course these are all AOL cd’s so I guess it would be a bit tough to do anything with them, unless, of course, you were thirteen and really liked to watch what happens when you put one into the microwave (which is not all that spectacular, don’t try it). Is it really cheaper to send out cd’s (for AOL) than to pay for newspaper advertising, or just more effective?

The answers are all lost somewhere in time…Or at least in AOL Time/Warner…

Government News

My erratic posting schedule continues, and for no damn reason I might add. Consider it a respite from the mundane garbage that I throw up here, or not, it is all up to you.

• The Presidential election went horribly to shit, as we all know, and now we are starting to see a bit of the aftermath. This first item is just a bit depressing, but at the same time it is someone with the cajones to do what so many of us want to:

Ground Zero Suicide Driven by Election
NEW YORK – A 25-year-old man from Georgia who was apparently distraught over President Bush (news – web sites)’s re-election shot and killed himself at ground zero. Andrew Veal’s body was found Saturday morning inside the off-limits site, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. A shotgun was found nearby, but no suicide note was found, Coleman said.

“I’m absolutely sure it’s a protest,” Mary Anne Mauney, Veal’s supervisor at the lab, told The Daily News. “I don’t know what made him commit suicide, but where he did it was symbolic.”

Now that is just the type of ‘take action’ attitude we are looking for in this country, right? Of course it is difficult to try to blame an action as extreme as suicide on a political election, but haven’t most liberal people at least thought about it? Especially considering that:

Bush to Seek Gay-Marriage Ban in New Term -Aide
Rove said Bush would “absolutely” push the Republican-controlled Congress for a constitutional amendment, which he said was needed to avert the aims of “activist judges” who would permit gay marriages.

There is a lot more to that article than the little part that I slapped up here. The only reason that I chose that particular quote to slap up here is that it just seems so humorous to me, well it would be were it not an actual view that someone has…Especially when that someone is in charge of the country and likely capable of buying enough people off to suit his own agenda.

Honestly, aren’t the ‘activist judges’ trying to protect the rights of every man or woman when they make a ruling stating that same sex marriage is not against the law? I know that it really pisses off a lot of really homophobic people from the south, but that should not be the point. This country was (supposedly) built from the ‘melting pot’ of the entire world, yet, as little as twenty years ago marrying someone outside of your own race was still considered taboo (likely still is in some of the more Southern conservative states). That is pretty much how homosexuality is today.

Allowing homosexuals to marry is not going to hurt anyone. It is not going to make the ‘sanctity of marriage’ any less valuable. It is only going to allow a couple of people to have a piece of paper to prove their love for each other. It seems so simple a point that I get really irritated about it. How is it possible that the most powerful nation in the entire world can have such closed-minded beliefs? Oh, wait, that’s right, it is all about the bible (which, I assure you I have read cover to cover more than once. It is possibly the best pulp fiction of all time. Rife with incest, rape and murder just to name a few of its best qualities. If you have never read it, why not? Best novel ever!).

I don’t really know why I really start to rant when homosexuality is the issue, I think it might be because of the horrible hypocrisy of the church/state issue, i.e. Why is it that Priests can rape six year old boys and get little more than a slap on the wrist, while sex between two consenting adults, of the same sex, is considered a crime against God? What of the Priests who are not only gay, but gay pedophiles? They don’t love, or want to marry, any of the little six-year-olds that they molest and rape. Why aren’t there more of these priests being put on the stand to answer for their sins? Did the state and the church meld again?

Of course Bush was reelected based on his ‘war on terror’ schtick, and there is some pretty solid evidence of his sincerity right here:

Terror Financing Fines Fall After 9/11
The average penalty for a company doing business with Iran, Iraq (news – web sites), North Korea (news – web sites), Sudan or Libya dropped nearly threefold, from more than $50,000 in the five years before the 2001 attacks to about $18,700 afterward, according to a computer-assisted analysis of federal records.

Now that is the type of thing you would expect to see from a country dedicated to stopping the funding of terrorists, right? Hmm. I think there might have been at least a bit of misleading information being thrown about in the last election.

I have said it before and I will say it again, “Hell in a handbasket”.

• I am left to wonder one thing. Does the entire world only see the same headlines that I see? Being totally honest, I really hate the USA based on the headlines that I am seeing. Perhaps not as much as the rest of the world hates us, as I don’t have plans to kill innocent people based on it, but enough that I really wish that I was a citizen of some country that is not going to be the site of jihad for the forseeable future. And that is why I am a bad American, I like to look at things objectively and form my own opinion. Maybe I should just go watch Springer, intelligence and objectivity don’t seem to be as usefull as I thought they’d be.

Diablo and Republicans (you never see them in the same place at the same time)

After my last post, Diablo happened. I got stuck, once again, in that neverending cycle of ‘just one more waypoint’, but then I have the area cleared so might as well do whatever act related quest is necessary, etc. That consumed most of my day on Monday. Tuesday brought about election day, and with that I found myself watching the news all night just waiting for them to say that they had grossly miscalculated the votes and that Bush was actually way behind in voting. Of course several hours of that didn’t yield any results, nor did it result in my typing anything here for you to read. Wednesday was just a late day at work, as that was the day of our bi-weekly grocery delivery. That leaves me here on Thursday wondering how it is that I have not updated this page since Sunday. Time sucks.

A question that I asked my wife last night, that I am really curious to know the answer to, is “What point is there in having a democracy if the majority of the people vote for the wrong person?” I know that the question is based on some pretty faulty logic, but in reality I think that it is a lot more true than it appears. This year’s elections have made it so that all three branches of government are being ruled by Republicans. Not just any Republicans in many cases, but the evangelical, second-coming-of-Christ type Republicans. I am sure that I am being a bit cynical here, but, isn’t that sort of like having a dictatorship? Well, I guess it does differ from a dictatorship in the fact that 51% of the people voted for it. Why this happened truly escapes me, makes me sick to my stomach, and further pisses me off since I have been paying money into Social Security since I was 16. While I have only been paying it for fourteen years, I will still be pissed when Dubya gets something through congress to do away with it completely. I also know that they (Republicans) are not actually trying to do away with Social Security, only change the way it is managed (like a forced retirement plan for people who don’t ever save money).

Here it is in all its pixelated glory. My breakdown of why I really, really, really hate the Republican agenda. Really rich people pay more taxes than poor people, which makes sense if you do it all by percentages. Really poor people pay no taxes, then get government assistance programs to send a bit more money to them, since they are so poor that they can’t afford a house, car, food and other necessities. The very wealthy people feel that they are being taxed too much for the sake of supporting the poor. The poor think that they aren’t getting enough assistance since life didn’t give them a fair roll of the dice. The solution, in the Republican’s eyes, is to decrease taxes on the very rich, and decrease government assistance programs to the very poor. That is where the problems all start. The rich (current administration included) don’t want to give any money to the poor, don’t want to take back tax cuts made for the very rich, and don’t care to hear any proposal whereby the poor can make it up to, at least, poverty level. So taxes must be raised, but on whom? Well, the middle class of course. So it pushes on, the poor staying poor, the middle class getting closer and closer to poverty, while the upper class roll around in their collective piles of money.

This might have made me sound like a freak, might even have worked itself into a full blown Manifesto, were it not for the fact that the day Dubya cut taxes on the wealthy last year, my state and federal taxes went up. I am all for a smaller government, I mean, hell, if we were to take away the wages of all of the Senators and House Representitives we might be able to work things out. How many millions of dollars did each candidate spend on the campaign trail this year? Imagine if that money was just sent to underfunded projects across the country, we might have been able to do some good.

With luck, I might be back to normal form tomorrow (be it good or bad). That is all for today.