Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I met Satan today...

I just "tweeted" this a few minutes ago, but thought it deserved a longer explanation, and I wanted to re-tell the story here.

Today is Christmas Eve!
I was fortunate enough to have today off!
I had gone to our local grocery market a few days ago (Sunday), and saw that they had some awesome looking Danishes at Wegmans. I decided it was too early in the week to purchase them for Christmas morning desert (Thursday morn), so I thought I'd be smart, and come back on Wednesday to pick up some fresh danishes. Ha. Jokes on me! but wait... back to my story...
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. But it can also be a stressful and trying time of year for a lot of people.
Since I had the entire day off, I thought, I could take my time in heading out to the grocery store. I lounged around all morning surfing the web. Finally around noon, I mustered up the energy and will power to brave the crowds of people.
Off I go about 1:45.
Now, on Sunday night, I was stuck in some awful traffic on a major road because it was full of traffic coming and leaving from the local Mall. Today, I thought I'd out smart all those people and take a different major road that would eliminate that route. It was a State highway that would take me right where I wanted to go.
I approached the on ramp, as I headed over-top the overpass of the highway I just happened to glance left... much to my dismay, all I saw was brake lights and flashing police and fire lights! The major highway was blocked due to an accident! (I felt real bad for the people who got into an accident on Christmas eve). But, since I happened to see all the lights, I had just enough time to avoid getting onto the on ramp and thus avoided sitting in bumper to bumper traffic while they cleared the accident. Score one for me.
I happened then to think of another back road that could get me to the grocery store, and though it was slightly out of my way, it was much better than the other two choices. I was right - there was very little traffic and I got to the entrance way of Wegmans in no time at all.
BUT... as I got closer to my turn, I looked and saw traffic ALL backed up waiting to get into the shopping center that the Wegmans was in! Wow! So much traffic!
I decided at the last minute to avoid all that and continue down the road to Border's book store. I shopped for about an hour, (milling about a bookstore is a good thing to me!) Finally, I had my fill of books (managed to escape without buying anything for myself). Again, I thought of a backroad to get to the Wegmans. Success... it worked out well again to get into the shopping center.
I am still amazed at all the people who decided to go to a grocery store on Christmas Eve! Why?! Was everyone buying fresh danishes? (apparently so, because when I got there they were completely sold out! I picked up the very last "Cherry Strudel").

But... as I was searching for a parking spot it happened... I met Satan!
Of course I didn't realize that's who it was at first...
I was approaching the front of the parking lot when I saw reverse lights come on...
YES! I got a nice up close parking spot!
I put my blinker on and waited for the person to back out of the spot.
I waited... and waited... finally the car starts to back out slowly...
Then I see what the "problem" was... a little old lady with white hair and a handicap sticker hanging from her rearview mirror. Ugh.
I continue to wait thinking... c'mon this is the time for holidays and good cheer, and good will towards men (and women)... but the ol' lady was trying my patience.
She slowly backed up but never turned her wheels! She kinda backed up in a striaght line. So now she had to pull forward again, to turn her wheels and try again...
But now since she's taken all this time, people are walking behind her going into the store... everytime she saw someone walking, she would stop and wait for them to pass!
Ok, remain calm.
Finally... and I'm not exagerating, about 10 minutes have passed. She gets her car turned enough to leave her parking spot.
She drives past me and I got a good look at her... Just a sweet looking little ol' woman. I'm sure she was someone's nice grandmother who was off to bake some Christmas cookies or something.
Then it hit me...
NO! This was not some sweet ol' Grandmother! This was Satan in disguise!
What better way to ruin a person's holiday spirit than to disguise himself and really try to cause chaos and anger and hate than to act like a lil' ol' handicapped woman who can't drive!
So that's a long story to say: I BEAT YOU Satan! Today I did not get angry. I did not loose my patience. I remained sitting in my truck listening to Christmas music while watching her back up and making repeated attempts to leave her parking spot.
To top it all off... the parking spot that I thought I scored so close to the entrance was a special 15 minute only spot designated for people going into the pharmacy! Didn't bother me though. I drove around some more, and parked far far away.
I will say this though... NEVER again - will I attempt to go grocery shopping on Christmas Eve!!!
Lastly... as part of this twisted mental fantasy I conjured up in my mind while waiting for her/him to leave the parking spot... I imagined that as this little ol' woman drove her car out of my perception, and that it didn't effect my holiday spirit at all, that the car poofed out of existence and the demon spawn that was driving was cast back into the firey pits of Hell! :)

Merry Christmas all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Miso Soup

I tend to use my blog to vent some times...
I happened to think yesterday that I should throw some "non-vent" topics up on occasion :)

Miso Soup!
Ever had it? You should try it.
I think I first had it about 8-10 years ago. My friend married a woman who has a Japaneese mother, and she made a large batch of Miso soup. So my friend asked if I'd ever had it before, I had not. I was not a very adventurous eater, but I was just starting to discover Sushi, and Japanese food in general. Now... I'll pretty much eat anything with a few exceptions... (I'm not crazy about eating any internal organs ie: brains, stomach, liver, etc... I'd probably try it, but the thought doesn't appeal to me.)
Anyway... I really enjoyed the soup and asked if it was dificult to make. He said not really, and proceeded to give me the "recipe".
It's not an exact recipe, it's more like "this is what it's made of, just add enough to your taste".
1) Miso - I was told that Miso is just a slightly fermented Soy bean paste... I just now learned (via wikipedia here) that it can also be made from Rice, and Barley, and that it's made with salt and a fungus (don't think I needed to know that). What I do know about Miso is that there are different varrieties and that I have not experimented with them. I look for the "regular" Miso paste. It's kinda like peanut butter in color and texture. (I think there is also flavored Miso and Red Miso). Buying it can be tricky, because I've only seen it in the Asian food market(s). Several times I can't read the label because there is no english on it. The kind I usually get though has english, and I know it's made specifically for soup. I think it has Dashi already added to it which brings me to Ingredient #2...

2) Dashi or Bonito - again, I've only seen this at Asian food markets. I usually have no problem finding it, but it can take some searching if you can't read the Kanji type. Almost always, I've found it near the pre-mix Miso Soup packets (cheating, but I'm sure it tastes the same). It usually comes in little foil packets or a small glass jar. To be clearer... I believe Dashi is simply the name of a fish stock made with Bonito flakes. So techincally you're looking for Bonito to make your own Dashi. (Dashi on wikipedia here and Bonito here). Bonito is simply fish (usually Tuna, but I think it can also be anchovies) that has been dried, and then crumbled into a powder. So basically, you're adding dried fish powder to water to make Dashi.

3) Tofu! - I think everyone knows what Tofu is but just in case you're not familiar with it, it's basically made from soybeans. It's also called "bean curd". It's Soybeans that have been curdled, then pressed into "blocks". Again, there are different types of tofu, but it's best to use the plain.
Tofu is usually sold as "soft, medium, or firm" - personally I prefer the firm. It has a bit of texture to it, where the 'soft' is enough to barely hold it's shape and bit mushy. Extra firm is good too if you like the texture. There is no difference in taste, just texture. Tofu is in every supermarket now, so it's not difficult to find at all. It's usually sold in a sealed pack, with a liquid (water?). slice the pack, drain the liquid, then cut the tofu into about 1/4" or 1/2" squares.
(tofu on wikipedia). I should mention too... Tofu is extremely bland and tasteless. But it's really good for you, and adds texture to soups or veggy meals.

4) Seaweed - This can be tricky too, but the bottomline is look for anything marked seaweed. I think the techincal term you want is called "Wakame" (wiki). [Be careful though... do not use those "sheets" of seaweed that is used for making sushi. I mean I guess you could use it, but I wouldn't recommend it.] Depending on the market you go to, you might find it in a bag marked as Wakame... The market I go to, has bags and bags of different varieties of seaweed! Most I can't read the package at all, and I like to experiment. My favorite now is this stuff that looks BLACK! It's curly, and small pieces (dried of course). I like this for both texture - and it's cool! You throw one piece into water, and it enlarges to almost 4 times it's size! And then turns to a nice dark green (typical seaweed color). So be AWARE! that it may look like you're only putting in a handful to a large pot, it will enlarge to almost 4x it's size.
The small pieces are great too because you don't need to cut them. If you get the larger pieces of uncut seaweed it's nearly impossible to cut with a knife when it's dry!

That's basically the ingredients there! Most places will also add a little fresh chopped Scallions to the bowl just prior to serving. (It's good, but you don't need them).

Get a large pot.
Fill it with about 8 cups of water. Turn the heat up to high.
Get your miso paste - follow the instructions on how much to use (I think it's about 2 tablespoons per 4 cups) but it's really a matter of taste. You can use less or more depending how you like it. Start with two, and just put what you feel looks right. (I like alot).
Add your Bonito if you want - warning, a little of this goes a long way! And, make sure your Miso paste doesn't already have Dashi/Bonito in it already. Again, I like a fishy taste, so I add about 3 teaspoons (even though my miso paste has Bonito in it).
Add your Tofu. One package for 8 cups is plenty.
By now the soup should be close to boiling (you don't have to bring it to boiling).
Keep stirring gently until all of your Miso Paste is dissolved in the water. It can "clump" when you first put it in.
Last add your Seaweed. Again, this is to taste, if you like a lot, use a lot. I use about a handfull.
Note: the seaweed is salty! So think of that as you add it in.
Let everything simmer for about 5 more minutes and you're good to go!
(The scallions are optional).


If you have a better recipe or have an additional ingredient, feel free to leave a comment.

OH! I should have mentioned this...
When left for a minute or two, Miso soup will settle. The Miso will sink and group towards the bottom of the bowl, with just a clear broth on top. That's normal! Just give it quick stir before taking a spoonful.

Friday, December 12, 2008 complaint

I know... you're saying right now... "What, ANOTHER customer service complaint?!"

Yes. is on the top of my list tonight.
First the disclaimer - I'm a HUGE fan of I order a lot of books and other items, and really enjoy the easy at which money can flow out of my wallet and boxes show up on my doorstep.
That is... until something goes wrong.
A few months ago, I ordered a book.
I have a "prime membership" which basically means I pay a yearly fee (I think it's around $80!) so that I can have "FREE" 2-day shipping. It doesn't make sense to pay for this unless you order about 10 items from Amazon per year, and I do.
So, I get the usual email confirmation that says my order was placed.
I get the follow up email the next day that my order was shipped.
Then the following day (under normal circumstances) I get my package.
Not for this book. I go online to their "where's my stuff" page to find out where my box is...
Only to learn that there is a generic "in transit" status in the shipping status.
Hmm, that's odd I thought, usually there is a detailed tracking list as is with most UPS packages.
I learned (in a round about way, that my item - although the website SAID it was in stock) was out of stock at the time that I ordered it. And that in fact, UPS never got a package, but only the paperwork to initiate the billing. Long story short, about a week later I received a replacement order (at no additional charge).
Well, I'm stuck in the same loop - again.
This time though, I'm more worried, because the package is a Christmas present. I thought I was ordering it with PLENTY of time, but now I'm nervous that they're going to mess me up.
I called and spoke to 2 different customer service representative from India, and got absolutely no where, other than empty assurances that I would 'definitely' receive my package this Monday... and if I don't get it by Wednesday to give them a call. Ya, real confidence there... You'll get it for sure on Monday unless you don't. Nice.
I also emailed the customer service, and also got the same response from another person with an Indian name, who really failed to address all my concerns in my email.
I'm SO frustrated with the entire country of India tonight. How can an entire country take over EVERY customer service phone-line of every major American company? Really Corporate America? You can't afford to pay American's to represent you to your American customers?
While usually, they are overly polite, all you have to do is 'challenge' their canned script once, and you immediately get their attitude. I expect more from you. In this day and age, to be told that your package has been shipped, but we have no idea where it is - is ridiculous.
I have little doubt, that with additional phone calls the problem will be straightened out, (hopefully in time for Christmas), it's the frustration level of dealing with people who speak poor English, and offer zero common sense solutions to a shipping problem.
I asked the woman... isn't there like a "level 2" customer support that I can talk to? And either she played dumb, or she again lied to me, she said no... if I called back, I'd just get to talk to another person from India who will tell me the exact same thing she did. Grrr.
I've learned now... unless the item is shipped and packed by (and not a third party) chances are high that I will have a problem. I'm very disappointed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Verizon DSL tech support = fail

Quick rant...
A while ago, I started looking into what bit torrent is. I'm still not 100% sure I can explain it well, but I have a rough idea. Yes, there are a lot of people who use it to "share" "illegal" songs, and movies... But there are also a lot of people who use it for legal sharing. I had bit torrent working on my imac at one point long ago, but barely used it (found the interface confusing). I also know that it can be dangerous as far as viruses, and other nasties... it's sort of like the secret underbelly of the internet. (wikipedia here).
Well, a month or so ago, I tried to find a TV show on bit torrent. It was called "History Hacker" (a good show, but sadly the History Channel did not pick it up). I found it on one of the torrent sites and tried several times to download it. Nothing. I've since tried a few more torrent clients, and have had no luck at downloads. I kinda gave up on it all.
Well, the other day, I decided to try out a screen saver that I've heard alot about... called Electric Sheep. It creates these fantastic animations in these incredible fractal like movies.
I downloaded it, installed it, and tried running it... no luck.
I started digging around tonight on the electric sheep website looking for some sort of troubleshooting section. I found something that caught my eye... a "port test". Turns out, My port is blocked. Now, I'm a geek, but I'm not an ubergeek. Ports scare me because I don't know too much about them, and I don't want to go opening up my computer to unwanted attacks.
I then realized this is why my torrents were not working either (I swear they worked before, so I don't know if my ISP (Verizon) blocked them without me knowing, or somehow 'flipped a switch'. I thought, it might be worth a call, to see if I could find a nice tech support person to walk me through at the very least, an explanation.
Well, that was a mistake.
First attempt... I get a man with a heavy Indian accent,who starts with asking me some basic questions. (I had already made sure I was talking to the MAC tech support). I tried to explain the problem to him. Well, long story short, he had no idea what I was talking about. I didn't really get angry with him. I realize this is not a typical tech support question, but still. Then... he starts asking me "what virus protection program are you runnig?" Not to sound like a smart-a$$ I asked "This is the MAC tech support right?" (He didn't even get my joke). I realized this was hopeless. I asked if I could talk to someone else. Well, he didn't like that. He got snooty with me, and said "I was about to explain this until you interrupted me"... I apologized, and said "Oh sorry, go ahead" - Then it became comical. He floundered. He started telling me that when I "installed Verizon, that they automatically installed and ran a virus program on my computer called "VISS" - yeah right. I again asked to talk to someone else. He said he'd transfer me. Then a minute later, he came back on the line, and said he can't, that I should just call back again. ugh. I did.
Tech support two... (again heavy Indian accent) - he couldn't understand me when I recited my phone number to him. before I even got started, I made sure he was a mac person, he assured me he was. I asked if he was familiar with Bit Torrent... He asked me 3 times to repeat that... then he asked me to spell it (I assume so he could google it). ugh. This was going no where.
Finally, he fessed up, and said he understood my question about blocked ports, but said I would have to call back during daytime hours, to talk to "premium tech support" and that I should go through the billing dept to get to them. Right.
So, after a good hour spent surfing the web, and 30 minutes of wasted phone calls to Verizon, I'm still stuck here with no idea if I want to try and teach myself this, or just let it go.
Maybe I'll give "premium tech support" one more try.
If an ubergeek happens to find this blogpost, can you just tell me in the comments: Is there any real danger to going into my modem setup and opeing up port(s)?
I found and could prob do it myself, but it sounds scary.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Memory flash

This is a strange post - I realize that. I'm gonna post it anyway.

I just finished a nice 4 day holiday weekend. Sunday, I was a total slug... never changed out of sleeping clothes and never took a shower.
This morning, I started my usual routine which involves the shower. While I was just a tad 'ripe' it wasn't like I was that horrible. But for some reason, I was enjoying the clean feeling, and the warmth of the shower water, and my memory flashed back to some 15 or 20 years ago.
I was in a pretty serious moped accident. (long story, lets just say it involved brain surgery, and I was all put back together again). But one of the things about the accident... I was bed ridden for a long time. (I don't recall exactly how long). But one thing that flashed in my memory this morning with an uncanny sense of reality... how GOOD that first shower felt after I had recovered enough to stand, and risk getting my head wet. It was such an incredibly good feeling! It's hard to describe actually. But since it's only a few days after Thanksgiving, I'll just add this: I am thankful for showers.
I was also a bit stunned at how vivid the memory was. Odd.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm sitting here, with a FULL belly, a little bit of wine left in my glass, and trying to stay awake now. I had a nice Thanksgiving here. Computer games, relaxing, and cooking. I decided to keep things a little simple this year, and didn't over do things with the food. I bought a half-a turkey breast, and was worried it might not be enough... silly... it was plenty. I wasn't sure how I was going to prepare the turkey breast. I don't use my oven except maybe 3 times a year, so I don't feel confident on knowing how it works. I think I did this one year before (can't remember if I did it, or just thought of doing it?). I decided to cook the turkey in my WOK! Yep, like you, I was hesitant. But I figured why knot? It's not much different than chicken right? So that's what I did.
The difficult part was trying to cut the meat off the bones ahead of time. Wegmans included the wishbone, a few small rib bones, and the back bone in this package (A little perturbed at learning this... I thought I was getting just the breast meat, and not a package full of bones). But, after about 20 minutes of careful cutting, I managed to get a nice stack of meat. I cut the meat in heafty chunks (about 1.5 inches). I didn't want it to cook too fast and dry out.
I started my potatoes first as they took the longest to cook. As they were boiling, I was doing the meat cutting. It worked out perfect.
In addition to the turkey, I added one large onion, diced roughly, poultry seasoning, a little garlic powder, olive oil, a chunk of butter towards the end, and salt and pepper. That's it. Set the heat to high at first, then as I started to make the mashed potatoes (using soy milk), I turned the heat down to med.
After finishing the Mashing, I made some 'stove top stuffing' (quick and easy and tastes good - but NO where near mom's homemade stuffing!), I then finished everything off, by heating a small can of corn in the microwave. Oh, and as the turkey was done, I added (right out of the fridge) a small container of Wegmans (home made) gravy. I let that come up to temperature in the wok, then started to "plate" (fancy chef talk for putting the food on the plate). I put a layer of Mashed, Then a layer of stuffing, then poured the gravy/meat/onions mixture on top of it all. Corn in a sep bowl.
Man... it tasted good! Turkey was tender and juicy, not the slightest bit dry. I knew it was all fully cooked, so no worries about "is that section cooked enough"?
Much to my surprise, I have a LOT of leftovers too.

I hope your Thanksgiving meal turned out as well as mine did. I love it when I wing it and it works :)
Tomorrow's challenge... Pumpkin pie for Saturday dinner with folks. I've made them before and pretty easy. Yes... I cheat, and buy pilsbury crust.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm being scammed...

Well, this guy is trying to scam me, but luckily I'm onto his scam, and did not fall for his lies.
All I can say is "thank God" for caller id, google, and!
Whenever I get a phone number I don't recognize on my caller id, I usually don't pick up the phone. But occasionally, this person will call repeatedly when I'm not home, and then I start to think, this person really wants to talk to me. So Google to the rescue.
I just type in the phone number into google and most of the time, the number (if it's a telemarketer) will show up, with other people who have similar complaints.
This is what I did yesterday.
I looked up 201-210-3618. Sure enough, a nice long list of complaints. I particularly like the website so I clicked on that to read other people's complaints.
Calls around the same time each morning 8:40 am. So this time, I finally picked up, thinking I could get on the "do not call" list.
It went roughly like this:
him: Hello, is this "mr. x"?
me: Who's calling please?
him: Scott Anderson (actually I can't recall the name he used, but he had a heavy middle eastern accent).
me: Who are you?
him: Is this mr.x?
me: yes
him: (He spoke fast, and with his accent I had a hard time understanding him, but), I'm calling from Aegis .... about your credit card with bank .... from GAP. (This was the same line that others reported, so I knew it was a scam). You have an outstanding balance...
me: (I interupted his speech here) Can you put me on your "do not call" list?
him: No
me: (kinda stunned) No?
him: You have not given me a good reason
me: I don't want you to call me any more, and I don't want to talk to you, that's why! (starting to loose temper now)
him: But I'm just trying to collect the money that you owe...
me: Look, I know who you are, and googled your phone number so I know this is a scam. If you call here again, I will sue you.
him: You'll sue me?! I'll sue YOU! (he was angry now too).
me: (I realized I'm arguing with a crazy person so time to cut things short now)... Very slowly, I said "DO NOT CALL ME AGAIN" and then hung up on him.

I'm curious now if he will call me anymore, or if I was able to get him to stop calling, because I called his scam.

This just makes me so mad, because all I could picture was that he is calling other people who don't have caller id, who don't know you can google a telephone number, or who might be elderly or confused, and start to give the man personal information that could lead to identiy theft.
A very small part wants him to call again, so I can set up my phone recorder and perhaps get some more information out of him, that I could bring to the authorities.
The larger part of me, hopes he'll never call me again.

In the hopes that someone else out there googles the number I hope they find this blog post.

201-210-3618 obviously... do not call this number.

update: 11/19/08
Yes... they are still calling me. On Sunday afternoon they called again. I made another attempt to speak with them to get them to stop calling.
It was futile. They will not give up. They continue to ask the same questions over and over and over in the hopes that you will answer them - thus gaining one more piece of information.
I refused to answer any of their questions.
I spoke to two different men in India (at least that's where they said they were calling from, and they do have an Indian accent)... but oddly enough, both men are named Alex. Alex Anderson, and Alex Murphy. What are the odds? I had no idea there were that many Alex's in India.
I decided it's time to report these guys (there is at least one woman working there too). I went up to my local police office to file a complaint. I spoke with the dispatcher first. With respect - she had no idea what she was talking about. She finally said, she would call an officer to come speak with me. I spoke with the officer... I started to tell him the above story... but as soon as I said they were calling me from India, he just sat back in his chair and said "there's nothing we can do". Don't get me wrong... I don't expect my local Police to hop on a plane, fly over and arrest someone... but it seems to me, they should know how I would be able to stop these people from attempting to commit fraud on people. The officer said my best bet was to just ignore the calls, or to purchase "call blocking" from my local phone company.
I just felt like I was kicked in the stomach. Yes... I do want them to stop calling me. But I also want to report these people to the right authorities so that they don't scam someone else! But I've spent hours! online trying to find someone, or some agency to report them to, and I'm just met with wall after wall.
I've given up. I will pick up the phone if I'm here, and try to keep them on the line as long as possible, but I won't utter a word. I figure if I can keep them on the line for 40 seconds, that's 40 seconds they're not harassing someone else. I'm also tying up one of their workers, and hopefully making their phone bill go up (though they're prob using VOIP).
I am racking my brain to see if there is some other option I'm overlooking... at some point, I may consider the 'call block', but right now, I REFUSE to pay one penny to anyone due to these jerks.
I'll update if there is something new.

I don't have an exact date, but it was just over 3 months that they FINALLY stopped calling me.
It was an almost daily phone call, but I was determined not to give in. On the few occasions where I tried to pick up the phone and talk to them again, and try to reason with them, I was always connected to a recording. To those who are getting called by this number, and find this website, have faith that eventually they will stop calling.
For what it's worth, I found a lot of complaints with the California better business bureau regarding this company (or it's aliases). It does appear to be a "legitimate" collection agency in some cases. IF you do owe money, then obviously this is not a scam. Do your own research, and make your own judgments accordingly.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, how do you work this blog thing again? It's been a long time. In fact, just today, (somewhere on the intertubes) I saw someone proclaiming the end of blogging! That Twitter has taken over (and that in a year or two, some other service will replace twitter = gasp). I have to say based on my experience, I don't think I'd go that far as to claim the end of blogging. I think it still serves a purpose, and (like this post) sometimes you need to have more than 140 characters to put out to the world.
First off... Happy Halloween! It's always been one of my favorite "holidays". I don't really celebrate it though... although this year I bought myself a .99¢ tiny pumpkin on a whim. But I don't hand out candy or anything like that. I live in an apartment complex, and to me, it's just not the same as a neighborhood. (old man alert) Back in MY day, we used to have to walk blocks and blocks (miles?) to get a good haul of candy. Nothing like wearing a plastic mask that his just legally shy of putting a plastic bag over your head, because the 'air holes' to breath through are large enough to prevent long lasting brain damage from lack of oxygen. Not to mention how you usually ended up dressing for the chilly weather, but never failed that by the third house, you were sweating to death! Ah... Good times :)

Ok, onto my rants today...
I pulled into my bank this morning to make a deposit, when MUCH to my surprise, they had changed the name and all the signage on the building! What the?! I pulled into the drive-thru and asked the 17 year old girl, is this still "my bank"? She said yes. I said "Is all my money still here?" She said yes. I asked "didn't they send out some sort of notice?" She simply shrugged her shoulders. Nice customer service there huh? I hesitantly gave her my paperwork, and they did deposit it, and from talking with my sister who went through a similar situation, It wasn't like this was uncommon for the days we live in. But still. So after I drove away, I asked a few friends and family members if they knew about the name change, and perhaps I just didn't pay attention? No. two people I talked to, had no idea either. k, now I'm a little miffed. I decided to pay the branch a visit on the way home to ask some questions (and basically to give them a hard time about not telling me). I got a bit more of a shoulder shrug, but still it was a half hearted explanation. Basically, they made it sound like "Oh, the bank sent out some notices in the recent statements that maybe you threw them out without looking at them". (I just got home and went through my recycle, and no - no notice!). I asked them for a 'copy' of this mythological notice... and big surprise, they didn't have any. After taking up about 10 minutes of their time, it basically came down to... we did it, nothing changed other than the name, and we're sry you didn't know about it, is there anything else I can help you with?
I'm not mad enough to withdraw all my money and switch banks over this. Too much of a hassel, and I suppose they know this. But still... just 'burns me up' that this is how banks and financial corporations treat their customers today. We're just peon's to them, and they could care less about us. I noticed... all 5 of the people behind the desk today were under the age of 20. That's just sad.

Rant #2...
I know, this is getting long. I'll try to keep it short.
I've got a new enemy. I'm kinda proud, that overall, I have no personal enemies in my life. I still hold a few grudges against some people (like from 20 years ago, that I never see anymore). But as of last week, I have a new enemy. My neighbor. It is ashame in a way. I wasn't close or anything like that, but I always helped her out. I called and stayed with her the time she locked her self out of her apartment, I helped her carry heavy furniture in for her, I even tried to fix her computer, and I've never asked her for anything, except one time long ago, I asked her to turn her music down. Well, that's what triggered all this again. Last Sat, she had people over, and from about 8pm, til 11:40 she was playing her music loud. It bothered me, but I figured, I didn't want to be a grouch about it. It's Sat night, people were over, etc... I didn't say anything. But then... it happened again on Tuesday night. I had a rough day, and just wanted to come home and relax, but instead was met with the loud thumping of Latino bongos. I went down and asked her to turn it down. She did... for about 3 minutes, then to my surprise she turned it back up again. Nice. I thought of starting up my speakers, and all, but figured, no... that's what they want is to get a rise out of me. So I didn't say anything, or retaliate in any way.
Well, I bumpped into her again tonight on the way in. I asked her flat out... why did she turn the music back up? She said "I checked with the office, and 'quiet time' is from 10am til 10pm" So basically a big "screw you". So trust me... I'll be heading back up to the office to confirm this (I suspect she's wrong). And I'll file a complaint. I also won't give her the time of day anymore. Mess with the bull, you get the horns! Some people. If nothing else, this is yet another reason, to motivate me to start looking for a new place to live. (not like I need another reason, I've got plenty). I just hate to have to spend more money to rent a place.

Ok, rants over. See... none of the above would have fit in 140 charaters on twitter ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day (learn more here). I won't go into a huge post here, other than to say it's a time when bloggers are supposed to come together and post about one topic. This year's topic is: Poverty. I'll throw out two links for your consideration...
I am a member and have made donations on this site. I trust them. (though I admit, I have a fear that the site can be mis-used - such is the nature of any charity.) But at some point you have to put aside this fear, and just give in the faith of human nature to do good. If I hear the Kiva has made a mistake, or has been exploited, I'll simply look for another charity.
I should also say, Kiva is not a "typical charity". You are not just donating money to some corporation. You are simply making a loan to someone who: a) REALLY needs it! b) you'll get your money back (if you want it). I'll try to nutshell the kiva idea here, but please go to to read more about it... Kiva is based on somthing called "micro loans". You can make a loan for a small amount (usually $25). The idea being that I could afford to loose this money financially, in that it's not a huge investment. Then with lots of people who can afford this micro-loan, kiva collects the $, and then loans it out (yes, like a bank) to small groups of community organizers, who then in turn, carefully pick one person, or a group of people, to lend the money to. The idea is that for someone who lives in poverty, a $1000 loan could change their life forever and for the better. For example, it would allow "Salimata Diallo" a young woman who is a reputed dressmaker, to purchase materials and fabric, to expand her business. (yes, I donated/loaned to Salimata).
Over a course of time, the borrower is to repay the loan back, to kiva, who then repays me. (you can choose to "cash out" and get your money, or in my exmaple, I just turn around and loan the same money out again to someone else who needs it.
One last thing... (I really was gonna try to keep this short - fail).
Kiva is REALLY Popular now! So popular that at the moment there are NO groups to actually loan to! They are out looking for more people to loan to! That's amazing! To date, they've loaned out $46 MILLION to the working poor around the world.

I found this guy through a youtube video called the nerdfighters. His name is Shawn, a 27 year old Canadian, who is single-handedly making a difference in the fight against poverty. (I say single-handedly, but he accepts donations and help from others, but it's been his idea to do this project.) He runs a website called He travels in India and Bangldesh (I think he's currently home though at the moment). I'm not doing a good job here of describing what Shawn does... Instead, I simply encourage you to visit his website and check it out. IF you're like me and would prefer a video, try this one on youtube. About 6 minutes long.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Camping excursion

I just got back from camping, and am all cleaned up, and want to get some thoughts out onto this blog before I forget some details...
first off - On the way home, I drove through a lot of rural areas of NJ. Lots of farms. It's such a great reminder to me that the world (as I know it from my every day commute) is more than just strip malls, and shopping centers. There are farms, and woods, and trees, and fields, etc. So nice to be reminded of that. Anyway, on the way home, I passed several roadside "farm markets" ie: little shacks to sell mums, or pumpkins, or whatever is in season... well this one caught my eye as I thought it a bit unusual... 50lb bags of potatoes! Yep, a little shack, FILLED with 5olb bags! It's not so much the idea of a farmer having a surplus of potatoes, but rather WHO would buy 50lbs worth? That's a lot of tats!
So a little back story... I grew up where camping was a normal thing for our family. We all seemed to enjoy it very much. I loved it - getting dirty, playing with sharp instruments (knives and axes), burning stuff (in the campfire). What's not to love!? Well, As my family tended to fall away from the camping life style, I continued for just a bit longer. I used to go on a yearly trek to the upstate area of NY to an area around Lake Placid. I loved it up there. But alas (alas sounds a bit too dramatic), I eventually gave up on camping. part of the reason, I think, was because I lived in an apartment. I had no where to store my camping gear. Yes, my parents were VERY kind to let me store my stuff in their garage attic, but it was just one further 'hitch' in wanting to go camping.
Well, with my recent road trip to north jersey, I was taken by all the trees, and lakes, and streams, that it really made me miss my camping days.
I decided to give it go again. I pulled out the ol' cooler from when we were kids, and saw a checklist dated Aug '94. I think that was the last time I went camping 14 years ago! I was a bit nervous, and wasn't sure what to expect. Had things changed? Was there more of a serious reason I gave up on camping other than inconvenience? Time would tell.
I decided to just go lightly on the idea and plan a weekend overnight trip. One night... anyone can survive that no matter how miserable.
Well, I got my equipment out, (much to my surprise everything seasoned well, and needed little clean up). I did forget one KEY item when you go camping... paper towels! I managed to get by with an old pack of tissues :) (Note: That's another reason I like camping, it sometimes forces you to MAKE things in a DIY atmosphere). I ALMOST forgot my tent! What a nightmare that woulda been. I got about 1/2 mile away, and remembered, so that was a relief! Sheesh.
I also forgot to bring some newly purchased metal hotdog forks, for over the fire! But, with my handy pen-knife and a stick, I whittled the perfect hot dog cooker (complete with little barbs, so the hotdog wouldn't accidently slip off).
I got there around 1:30pm, and it was a beautiful day! All the trees and farm fields are changing colors with Falls arrival. It's unseasonably warm (Indian Summer?), but we still have cooler nights (more on that later). I proceeded to take my time in setting up camp (partly because I'm not as in shape as I was 14 years ago!) and partly because I just wanted to relax with no rush.
Eventually, I got all set up and kicked back in my folding chair (which after a while of slouching down into, is a Bi**h getting out of! :) I might have dozed off a bit but mainly I just relaxed and appreciated the woods. At one point a flock of small birds came to visit me. I heard them before I saw them. Lots of high pitched "tweeting". Then the more I looked, the more I could see them flitting about. Maybe about 20 gold finches, an un-told amount of chick-a-dees, a titmouse, and one other tiny bird (I think a type of finch) that I couldn't identify. I tried whsitling back to them, and in my mind had the impression they were talking back to me.
A little later a red-headed woodpecker showed up for a while too. (other birds this morning were a LOUD crow, a sqawking bluejay - who seemed to be yelling at the crow to shut-up! And off in the distance a hawk of some sort.
I really didn't explore much while there. I was going to go fishing, but forgot my fishing gear. It was ok though, I kept myself busy the whole time.
Eventually, the sun started setting. It seemed too early to cook up my hotdogs, so I practiced a test fire. I used to pride myself in being able to light a roaring campfire with only using one match! Well, first time out, it took me 5 matches! (hint: Leaves are bad! and it's all in the prep).
but eventually, I got hungry, and I built a second fire. This one I did right... took my time and boom, one match! I still got it! :)
I was a bit unorganized. I luckily brought a propane lanter (I hardly ever use that - too bright!) but all of my supplies of candles had melted into huge clumps of wax (I guess from being stored in the attic during the summer). I managed to re-create a lump of wax into a functioning candle, but it just wasn't throwing enough light. Propane to the rescue.
Side note: Hardly any bugs! I guess cause it's late in the season.
After a meal of just 3 hotdogs and a donut (wawa donuts were a lifesaver on this trip!), I settled into the chair with a book (H.P. Lovecraft's short stories!), an almost full moon, and a campfire on an october night. A bit spooky, but perfect! :)
As the sun had set, I put away my short sleeve shirt, and got out my long sleeve flannel. I thought this would be plenty. But as the fire burned, and my legs were nice and toasty (literally), I was still getting cold. Ok, I had a heavy hooded sweatshirt, no prob.
Eventually, I started getting tired and decided to go to bed around 10:30. (funny how rythms change when not around the TV or electric lights). I was surprised how cold it had gotten. I think it was only in the high 40's, but I'm tellin you, it was COLD! I decided to loose the sweatshirt (which was too bulky) and crawl into my sleeping bag with all my cloths on. (minus the bulky knives, cell phones, wallets, coins, etc). As I mentioned, I'm not as in shape as I used to be and just a tad bit older now. I found manuerving around on the 'floor' to be a struggle, but with an effort, I was ok. I get all situated, andsettled in, zipped up, and try to prop up my pillow (it was a little flimsy pillow I grabed at the last minute - I've forgotten a pillow before and that stinks... this pillow was just a hair above no pillow!) Lights out, and I lay down. Um... somethings wrong here. My head's starting to pound. DOH! I set up my sleeping bag, and pillow DOWNHILL! All the blood in my body was going to my head. This clearly was not gonna work. Back, up, and then you shoulda seen me in a "one man" tent trying to flip everything around - I had to laugh as it reminded me of the train episode with Laurel and Hardy. Finally... I'm settled in.
After a bit more reading, I fall asleep. But, shortly, I wake up again... it was FREEZING! My body was nice and toasty in the sleeping bag, but my head was like ice! I brushed my nose, and couldn't figure out why my mustach was soaking wet?! Then I realized it was from the condensation of breathing. Then, because I had my flannel shirt on, and it was a flannel sleeping bag, it was a lot like velcro! Every time I tried to roll over, or find a more comfortable spot, it was like some evil Lovecraft monster was wrestling me to the ground and wouldn't get off! I eventuall had to unzip my sleeping bag half way, in order to manuever... this was fine, if I faced one way, but if I rolled to the other side, my back now was exposed to the cold air!
So between all of that, fussin' and fightin' with the bleeping sag (as we used to call em), and the flimsy pillow that was like a rolled up T-shirt, and the -20 degree's, needless to say, I didn't get a very good night's sleep.

Finally - whew, this may be my longest post evah!
All said and done, I had a great time.
I'm not about ready to rush out again next weekend (the cold), but I think maybe I'm ready to get back into camping again.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


I don't think I'll ever understand how the human mind works. I find it both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
I've been caught up in the political race these past months. (not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.) Any way, one of the things that amazes me, is the way our minds work in what appears to be opposites. For example, after one of the debates, or even the conventions, (even some of the Couric interviews) I am literally stunned that two people can watch the same event on television, and come to completely different opinions on how that person did. Then... each person (I'm sure like me) will have the same thought, in that the other person must be crazy for having that opinion.
A rough example:
2 people in the room, and me. I hold up a card of a certain color.
Person A: Claims that color is green
Person B: Claims that color is purple
Obviously, the card is only one color, so one of them must be wrong, yet each one honestly see's that particular color. When told that the other person saw a different color, they just don't understand how that person could come to that conclusion.
I find the whole process fascinating as to the whole mind map/belief/perception/reality. I wish I was a psychologist at times, but I doubt that would help much to understand. It would probably just take me further down the rabbit hole.

This example is a tad more disturbing...
Earlier in the week, I was going through my flickr contacts photos when one caught my eye. Turns out it was one of the newer short video's that flickr now posts. The camera opens with a view of a cat while looking down at something in the grass, and the camera guy's feet. The cat is meowing. Then I read the description and the "something" in the grass is a bird. I thought the cat had already killed the bird. But no... the person filming, proceeds to nudge (almost kicks) the bird in the grass, and the bird starts to flutter... The cat goes full-on attack mode, and quickly grabs the bird and pins it to the grass. A second later, the bird escapes and flys a good 10 feet or so away, before the cat (at lightning speed) manages to grab the bird again. Then the video ends.
I'm just dumbfounded that this person found pleasure in both filming and assisting the cat in toying/killing this bird. Had it been me, I would have attempted to rescue the bird (which I've done in the past). I know, it's the natural order of things for a cat to kill a bird, but I also believe it's the natural order of things for a human to have compassion for another living thing and try to help it. Obviously, this is not true with all humans.
Then to make matters even worse, there were comments under the video... there were about 20 comments saying things like "awesome! That cat pwned that bird! you kicked that thing to..." etc... All but one comment praised either the cat, or the guy filming.
Really? Am I in the minority when it comes to this?
Why do our human minds have such black and white differences on what is right and wrong? How can our minds differ that completely?
Something tells me I'll never know the answer to this question.
ha... as I typed that, I just realized... If I think I'll never know the answer to that question, I'm sure there is someone out there who believes they have the answer, all I have to do is find him or her, and ask :)

note: I'm not trying to make some odd ball political comment with using these two as examples. These are not really related at all, other than they involve the human mind.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Disclaimer: I'm not the smartest guy when it comes to the Economy. Admitedly there is a lot I don't understand. That said...

With all the doom and gloom talk over our current financial situation (bailouts, bank failures, etc...) there is a thread of conversation that I keep picking up on, and I have not heard anyone address this directly.

So this is how I'm hearing it stated...
The banks lent out lots of money via mortgages to people who could not afford them.
(lots of finger pointing as to why this happened. Some blame the people, some blame the banks... I blame the banks. If was out and out fraud on behalf of the people, then they should be prosecuted.)
So, now, the banks have loaned more money that they have. Because of that, the banks (and this is the key point) have stopped lending (even to other banks) because they don't have the cash.
This giant bailout, is to give the banks a pile of cash, so that they can again start lending.
So, here's the part that bothers me... you mean to tell me our entire economy could collapse because people would not be going into debt anymore?
I understand the importance of borrowing money in the form of a loan. people need certain items 'now' that they are willing to pay (in some cases HUGE) interest on. But there's something underlying all this economic talk that bothers me in the sense of keeping people in debt.
Is that what truly runs our economy? Is that why we're the 'richest' country in the world, because we have the most debt? Why does this seem backwards to me?
If someone can explain this to me in 'laymans' terms in a comment, I'm all ears. And thanks!

If nothing else, these bank failures and bailout talks have showed me one thing... I personally am SO FAR removed over any sort of decision making in this process, it's clear to me that class is a very important issue when it comes to this money aspect of America. I saw this recent chart, and it was another example of who could run our country. Who is more like me? (well, neither, I don't own a house, or a plane, or a bike, but I do own one car).
If we let a RICH person make the decisions, we the people will foot the bill and remain in debt. If we let an average guy (I know, Obama's got some $ too!), he (or she) might be willing to hold the corporate big wigs accountable.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Orphanage

I watched a good movie tonight called, The Orphanage. I should warn those of you who have a phobia of subtitles, that this is a spanish movie with subtitles. Personally, that doesn't bother me. I've seen so many good movies with subtitles, that I would never rule out a movie just because it was in a different language.
I should say also, that I feel like I've seen every horror movie out there. It is a genre I've always enjoyed, until one day when I sort of 'out grew' them. I no longer liked any of the slasher style movies. Once you've seen 2 slasher movies, you've seen them all. And lets face it, in today's violent media, a slasher movie is not that unusual (sadly). For example, on Saturday, on television no less, I've seen about 3-4 people get brutally stabbed in a tv show or a tv movie. I'm not sure how this violence ends up on TV, but it does.
So, when a "horror" movie comes along that interests me, to put aside my cynicism and give the movie a rent, I'm very happy when I'm entertained. Let's face it, you wont be watching any great acting in these movies. So that's always a strike against it, but sometimes you find a movie that rises above that in story, and makes for a good movie.
Tonight's movie was "The Orphanage". It wasn't a horror movie per say, but more of a psychological thriller with some supernatural topics. My only complaint was that some of the sub-stories were not explained in much detail. I felt that certain parts of the movie were cut out. But, for the most part, it flowed fairly well. The filming was well done. One of the producers was Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labryinth), and I'm not sure how much of an influence he had in this movie, but I felt that I could see his fingerprints in some of the cinematography - especially the use of color changes to influence mood.
There were a few disturbing shots that I certainly would not recommend this movie for kids (It is an R rating). But you have to expect that in any sort of horror movie.
I won't describe the storyline at all... the less you know the better, because parts of the film are predictable.
Overall, a good story, decent acting, some creepy moments, and some nice cinematography.
If you like any of these, I'd suggest it's worth a rental.

Note: I'll link to the wikipedia page, here, but I should warn you that the plot synopsis is WAY TOO DETAILED. Best not to read any of it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

two political ads...

This was funny (and sad) to me this morning as I checked my google news.
McCain and Obama both released an advertisement today that appears to be the same exact attack message. That both senators consulted the wrong person for economic advice.
But... McCain's ad is based on a newspaper quote: The commercial's main charge is based on an April story in The Washington Post that said Raines has "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters." Reporter Anita Huslin says Raines told her that during an in-person interview.
An Obama spokesman called the ad's contention "a flat-out lie," saying Raines has "never advised Senator Obama about anything, ever."

This is political mud slinging at its best. I'm not impressed by either ad, and think neither campaign should have run the ad. Here's a tip... if you're Obama, the first words should not be "John McCain" and vice versa.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

UFO shoots rocket with beam of light

This is a crazy story that appeared on Larry King Live.
video via LiveLeak.

I'm not sure if the video shown is a recreation or actual footage.

Monday, September 01, 2008

a one day get-away

First a bit of a back story... I've wanted to get a gps unit for a long time, but could never really justify the reason to get one other than, "That's cool". I'm not much of a traveler when it comes to cars. I pretty much live in a 10 mile radius of my home, work, friends, family, movie theater, grocery store. So what did I need a gps for? I tweeted this and at the urging of some family units, they recommended, "get one first, then go on a road trip!"
Hmm, the more I thought of this idea, the more I liked it. I had taken a road trip several months ago (maybe a year?) to a Cabela's sporting good store, and it was a horrible drive! I was by myself, had my google maps to get me there, but didn't print the reverse directions. It was night, it was pouring rain! trucks barreling down on me, it was a miracle I got home in one piece that night! I could have REALLY used a gps at that time.
So, I decided to go for it!
I've found a key issue with my gps unit (a Garmin nuvi 350), it really stinks on driving directions if you know how to get to a certain place! I've found that by testing it in my local neighborhood, it has taken me down wrong streets, told me to make wrong turns (ie: A left on a highway with a concrete divider!), and when I have it set for "fastest" route, it sometimes takes me a mile or so out of my way, just trying to keep me on a faster highway. I've found that my years of driving the area, I know all the shortcuts, and optimum routes... BUT then I realized, that is not the purpose of this unit. The main point of these gps units is to get you somewhere that you don't know how to get to!
So this holiday weekend I decided on a road trip. Just a two day (over night) adventure. Basically, It didn't matter to me where I went, just as long as I got far enough out of my home town to make it feel like I went somewhere. A sort of mini-vacation.
All said and done, I enjoyed it.
I had some problems even getting directions to the hotel. Google maps was telling me one address, and the hotel website was telling me a different address! Same street address, just different zip codes! Never did figure that one out. I finally decided that google maps was wrong (gasp). I printed out a bunch of google maps, with the right address, and familiarized myself with my USA road atlas on the best way to get there. I decided to not trust my gps, and to force it after a certain point to get me there via the route I wanted to take.
Well, as I started to approach the first gps recommendation for a turn, I decided to throw my original intentions out the window! :) I decided, to just trust the gps unit (who I've nicknamed "moses" because he was known for being lost in the desert for 40 years!).
Long story short, it got me to my destination with only one minor problem (I panic'd and took an exit too early, it luckily was not a major deal at all). Then on the way home it took me a totally different route, which surprised me.
I ended up having a great bonding experience with Moses, and now trust him. I have to remind myself though, to always bring a map/atlas as a backup though. To fully trust a little gizmo on where I am, with no maps... I'm not ready to do that yet.
As for the trip itself...
It was a nice little get-away. Nothing fancy. I stayed at a "Days Inn". A bit pricey for my liking (I'm cheap, I admit it!) for about $83 a night. Room was clean, but the building itself needed some attention. (ripped wallpaper, dirty scuff and yuck in the elevator, a general musty smell, soda machine out of order, etc.) But on the things that counted, I felt like it was clean (sheets, towels, bathroom).
The area I went was in upstate New Jersey. It felt a bit like going back in time at points. There was a certain 1950's feel to the architecture (or older). The town was very small. No walmarts, no gas station convenience super stores, etc... there was really 3 places to choose from for food, a local diner/bar, an Italian restaraunt, and a pizza shop. I choose the diner/bar. It turned out to be really nice inside, and they had a nice menu. I had planned on going back there for dinner, but since I had a late lunch, I was still full around 8pm.
While, At the diner, I asked the waitress about a place to fish. I pulled up my gps maps, and showed her two lakes not too far away, and said "can I fish here?" Well, the waitress at first hmmed, and hawed (what do those words mean?) then finally said, I don't think I'd recommend it. She said there are houses and condo's all around the lakes. (made me sad, to think that it's really difficult in Jersey to find a lake to fish at). She recommended a local spot that she said there are always people fishing at (after her asking the guys at the bar). I took her advice.
It was a tiny creek, under a bridge of a busy road, and next to a plastics factory. (welcome to NJ). Seriously, it too made me sad, that this was the only "hot fishin spot" for these people that live up in foothills of some NJ mountains. (hills, to you people who have real mountains).
But, it turned out to be just a great spot for me on my mini-vacation. I ended up catching a tiny 6" bass! I couldn't believe it! It had made the whole trip worth it for me.
If nothing else, this trip made me miss my days of being outdoors on a more regular basis. I used to camp a lot, and fish a lot, then slowly that just faded away. I think now, I'll plan my next mini (or real) vacation around getting back into the outdoors. It's nice to know and be reminded, that my entire world, is not just limited to suburban sprawl of strip malls, and gas stations.
For what it's worth... I still am faced with the moral dilemma of fishing. I enjoy it (usually) immensly (especially when I actually catch something!), but every time I go, it bothers me that I'm hurting another animal (fish) for my enjoyment. I think that will be a struggle every time I go, and I'll have to learn to live with it. Some say the fish don't feel the pain, but I'm not buying that. What I can only hope for is that it's like getting your ear pierced, hurts a bit at first, but overall not a big deal.
I'm curious too... I wonder how much the prices have gone up for a nights stay at a campground. I can remember $7 a night, maybe $15 for a 'nice' state run place. Something tells me I should prepare myself for a shocker. That's a topic I'm sure for another blog post.

Oh, one more thing...I THINK I might have seen a bald eagle! I only got a quick glimpse of it as I was driving on a twisty road. I didn't have time to get a good look at it. By the time, I found a driveway to pull over on, I had lost it. But it was a hawk like bird, that was brown body, and had a white head. I won't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure. I WISH I got a better look at it!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Morning Groggieness

Here's a question I'm just throwing out into the internet to see if someone (You!) happen to answer...
How long are you groggy or mush-minded after you wake up in the morning?
Are you the kind of person who upon opening your eyes puts his/her feet on the ground, and starts the day off with a bang - or - are you the type of person who has to stay in bed for at least a half hour until you can muster some sort of energy just to open one eyelid halfway.
Then once you are up, are you immediately into morning rituals (ie: shower, breakfast, etc...) or does it take a while to 'spin up' and get moving?

Me? I'm the later. I have such a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I need usually an hour from the moment I'm "conscious" until the moment my feet hit the floor, then I'm still groggy for about 30 minutes after that.

I'm trying to understand why after a full nights sleep of about 8 hours, can a person feel tired when they wake? And - is it normal to feel that way?

Comments are welcome.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vote yardsign

I forget where on the web I stumbled upon this image, but it made me laugh. (No this does NOT represent my Bro-in-law's views ;)

In other political news...
Did ya hear? Sen Biden is Obama's Vice Presidential candidate. It was only on the cable news channels ALL DAY long yesterday.
I have not made up my mind about his choice yet. I don't know much about Sen. Biden. I have one faint memory of Sen Biden appearing on "the Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, and being impressed at how funny he was. (here's one clip, where Jon kinda nailed him for his controversial comments about Barack being "articulate, and clean", here's pt. 2 of that clip. Here's one from 2004 where he talks about the war).
I get the feeling, Biden is a straight shooter. He says what's on his mind... and that can be a good thing, or a bad thing, we'll have to see.
The part I do like about all this... I'm glad Barack picked someone who has more "experience" in the senate. This may help him with those who were concerned over this.
One final note: In watching the above clips of Biden, I became aware that he does one of the things that I have a pet peeve over... He uses two phrases, to answer almost every question... He'll start off with either "Look..." or "the fact of the matter is..." I don't know who started this trend (pat robertson?) but it drives me crazy!

Ok, sorry... THIS will be my last comment... So I get an email today, from Barack's campaign, offering me a T-shirt if I make a $3o donation. It's the first T-shirt that shows Biden's name (I was surprised at the designer's decision, to make his name smaller, and a lighter shade of color than Baracks). So it simply said "Obama Biden" - I couldn't help but notice the similarity of letters to "Osama" and "Bi -nla - den". I predict within 24 hours or less, we'll see a T-shirt or poster from the Right wing exploiting this odd coincidence.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

e voting machines

So the electronic voting machine stories are starting to roll in already. Here's a short one on slashdot about the difficulty some states are having at just ditching these $3500 to $5000 machines! The last line floors me though, that election workers were (I guess some still are) allowed to take the machines home the night before an election. What?!
I guess I should start getting my signs made to welcome McCain into the white house. ugh.

Oh, and I should mention... since in the past, Diebold caught so much flack for their machine, what's a company to do? Change their name of course. Say hello to "Premier Election Solutions" (wiki).

Here are just two mind boggling quotes from the wiki I linked to above. Why is no one upset over this!? This should be a public outcry!?
Quote 1:
Together, ES&S and Premier Election Solutions are (as of 2004) responsible for tallying approximately 80% of the votes cast in the United States

Quote 2:
Jeff Dean, Senior Vice-President and Senior Programmer at Global Election Systems (GES), the company purchased by Diebold in 2002 which became Diebold Election Systems, was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft for planting back doors in software he created for ATMs using, according to court documents, a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of two years

Saturday, August 16, 2008

been a while

Yep. I've been slacking off on this ol' blog. But twitter has been a good outlet for me, to get quick thoughts outta my head and into some other cyber-dimension. If you found this blog, I'd encourage you to follow me on twitter (and unless you're a spammer, I'll follow you back).
So whats new?

Can honestly say I'm not following them at all. With apologies to family who are HUGE sports fans and Olympics fans, It's just not my cup-o-tea. See... right there, I used a tea analogy to describe somthing sport related. People who watch the Olympics wouldn't do that. :)
I did happen to see the opening cermonies (was over at family's house), and I actually did enjoy that. I had a real sense of awe. And the geek in me, loved to see all the uses of the technology.
But the idea of people gathering to "celebrate" in a country known for human rights violation bothers me. And a country who is also known for Human Rights violations (US) trying to critisize another country for their HRV's is the pot calling the kettle black.
Then to see two world leaders shaking hands at the opening cermonies, while the one is preparing an attack on another nation just turned my stomach. Putin is out enjoying himself, while his country members are back home planning on how they can kill people.
My last rant over these olympics - It's all supposed to be about putting politics and our differences aside right? But every news broadcast I see, talks about which country has the most gold medals. It's just bragging rights with a hint of "we're better than they are". Which is not the right mentality to have when putting differences aside.
Ok, I'm done. Sry family.

I got a new toy! A new Gadget! I like toys and gadgets!
I got one of those road based gps navigation 'systems'.
I've wanted one for a while, just cause they are so cool! But couldn't justify getting one, because I generally don't travel anywhere. Work, home, friends house, family house, movie theatre, that's about it. But at the encouragement of others, I decided to spring for it. I hope to go somewhere now - cause afterall, I know how to get there now!
But all is not "sunshine and pumpkins" in the land of gps.
I've been running the unit through some tests between work and home. I've learned it def has some limitations. The first test, it sent me down a road that you could not make a left on, and told me to make a left. I had borrowed another gps unit and it too told me to do the same thing. So this is a fault of some bad data on their mapping systems, and not the fault of the individual unit. (why are they sharing the same mapping system?)
Then When I made it home, to my apartment complex the verbal directions told me to make a wrong turn, while the graphic map showed the right way. Grr. But, in it's defense, the roads are more of a parking lot, and not really roads. So they are very close together. Still, it bothered me.
After about a week... I've learned two things... the main purpose of this unit, is to get somewhere you don't know how to get to. Chances are, if you know how to get there, you already know the fastest way to get there, and the best roads to take.
All those negatives said - I'm still glad I got my new toy.
I hope to try it out soon on a trip somewhere.
One more "wag of the finger" at, where I purchase it... I learned the day that the unit was supposed to arrive, that it had been discontinued from the manufacturere! Amazon SHOULD have made that clear and posted that information. I did check the Garmin website and they still continue to support the model I got (the nuvi 350). So, I decided not to return it - but still.

Lets see... what else...
I think I'll stop here. This post is rather long now. More later...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Roxxor Beatbox

I don't know why this beatbox stuff fascinates me so. But when I hear a talented beatboxer I'm just in awe.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pelosi and Impeachment

First - had a small problem signing into my blog today. Odd. But it looks like everything is ok now. There was a mention on the blogger homepage about accounts on Friday being mistakenly flagged as spam accounts. I wonder if my blog was one of those? I'd hate to loose all of my blog posts due to a glitch. I should look to see if there is any sort of backup options for this blog. If anyone knows of any, please leave a comment.

Ok, this will be short, but I wanted to put it out there...
A few nights ago (last Sunday I think) I watched an interview with Nancy Pelosi on Cspan. I should say upfront here - I'm not a fan of Nancy's.
During the interview one thing she said, raised a red flag with me... She said that she was a member of the "Gang of four" and had been brought in and secretly briefed in the reasons to go to war with Iraq. Hmm... that's odd. Then she went on to say how she was against it and that not all the evidence presented to her was convincing.
SO, I couldn't help but to wonder now... The main reason behind Dennis Kuncinich's plan for Impeaching President Bush is that he knowingly withheld certain information to the Congress on his request to go to war. So, now I learn that Nancy apparently knew about this info.
Is this why she has said in the past that "Impeachment is off the table"? Is she also protecting herself?
Apparently I'm not the only one who is wondering this... do a search on google for "pelosi gang of 4"

Monday, August 04, 2008

UFO near Needles CA

A UFO story popped into my google alerts this morning that caught my attention. With a "new report" that is on youtube. I don't know why, but a lot of this news report looks suspicious to me.
First lets state the obvious... could they have found two "witnesses" that look like real characters in a hollywood movie about UFO's?
Why is this news story being reported on when it happened back on May 14th? I can't see when the original broadcast aired, so perhaps it aired at an earlier time and just was posted to youtube on Aug 1st? It's not clear. (ok, a little more digging and I found this blog post (all about ufo's) that reprinted the story and they have the date of 7-31-08) I have to laugh too at the graphic used on the blog post that has nothing to do with the story being reported on.
Ah, this appears to be the original story that the news anchor George Knapp based his story on. (interesting you can see that George Knapp is known for his ufo stories on his wikipedia entry).
I wonder why Mr. Knapp only interviewed the two guys (who both work at the radio station) and didn't try to interview "bob" on his house boat?
The interview with Bob can be read on the website with the original story where "bob" wishes to remain anonymous. Bob's story certainly does sound interesting, but I have to wonder why was he out fishing at 3am!?

Other than a few questionable eye witness accounts, this story is interesting. It's sad though that none of it can be confirmed.

Oh, one more thing... the graphics for the news report on youtube were nicely done.

Monday, July 28, 2008

NYPD and bicyclist

I don't know enough about this story to comment, but just from the few seconds on video... it just doesn't look right.

I also know little about the "Critical Mass" event(s), but from what I understand, it's a bunch of people who own bicycles, that want to "promote" riding bikes. But, some of their methods may be "controversial" in that they foul up traffic.
Again, I'm just basing this on comments I've read online.
Wikipedia to the rescue!

Argh... I just read this news report via and it makes it sound like what it appears on video. Officer Patrick Pogan has lost his badge and gun and is on desk duty pending an investigation. But here's the part that burns me...
Pogan told officials that Long was obstructing traffic and that the biker was actually trying to run him down.

I'm sry, but the video clearly shows Officer Pogan making a calculated intercept to knock him off the bike! THEN to turn around and charge Mr. Long with attempted assault?! Resisting arrest?! Disorderly conduct?!

Funny side note: So the camera person towards the end says something like "Bita, Bita Move" trying the get the woman in front of him to stop blocking the video. When the other man gently grabs here elbow to pull her aside, she shrugs his hand off like "get your stinkin hands off me!" :)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Impeachment hearings

I should have blogged about this sooner while it was still fresh in my mind, but I'll do my best here. Friday, There was a hearing on Capitol Hill for, that was originally called an "impeachment hearing" but was later re-named to "Hearing on Executive power andits constitutional limitations".
I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of this hearing was for, or what is to come of it, now that it is over.
It was a LONG hearing! Coming in at around 5.5 - 6 hours long. I actually watched most of it. (I missed the beginning). I'd guess that I saw about 4.5 hours.
It is difficult to sum up a 4.5 hour meeting in one blog post. So just a few thoughts.
There were some REALLY interesting gems scattered about the hearing. The person I most enjoyed listening to (yes, I said enjoyed), was Bruce Fein (A former Reagan admin assoc) - wikipedia. I had to seriously overlook the resemblance (both in physical appearance and sounding like) to the nerdy cop from the original "police academy" movie, and former actor on SNL - Tim Kazurinsky - sry, it had to be said ;) Mr. Fein gave the most direct and informative answers that really made a lot of sense to me. In addition to quoting some famous historical figures that really helped me understand how important this was.
In keeping with my humorous approach to this serious hearing... Rep. John Conyers, who was the chairman of this hearing, was so laid back, I had to wonder if he was taking some medical marijuana :) At times he seemed to just be having fun up there. I admire though, this clear headed thinking, and his approaches at dealing with some of the Republican's tactics on disrupting the hearing. (for example, in the clip above, during Mr. Fein's opening statement, the Republican Steve King, interrupted him and said "Mr. Chairman, the gentleman's time has expired". To which Rep Conyers just ignored him, and let Mr. Fein continue to finish.
Link to a segment by Rep King.
Speaking of Republicans... They did just about everything they could think of to make this hearing sound like a waste of time. Even to pointing out (several times) that this was Not an impeachment hearing.
My BIGGEST complaint though on some of the lines of speeches and questioning raised by the Republicans, was in the way they re-worded the argument. Let me demonstrate...
The main issue of Kucinich's reason for impeachment proceedings is this:
The President, while having intelligence reports from various intelligence agencies, that said (In a nutshell), that we do not feel that Iraq poses an imminent threat. But, what the president did, in approaching the congress while looking for them to authorize him to go to war, he did NOT MENTION this opposing view point. Instead, he picked out only certain parts of the reports, that said things like "Sadam had weapons of mass destruction", and only told congress that side of the story. So, it boils down to this... did the President, knowingly and willfully withhold important intelligence reports, at the time that he presented Congress with his arguments to go to war? That is the main focus here.
But here's an example of what one of the Republican's did...
He pointed out that the President did in fact say there were "weapon's of mass destruction" based on some reports. When the USA finally invaded Iraq, they didn't find any WMD's. So, the President may have made a mistake, but he did not intentionally make that mistake.
Grrr... that's such a gross misrepresentation of the argument here. It's a perfect example of being "intellectually dishonest" to present the argument like that.
At one point, Rep. Trent Franks, suggested that none of the witnesses should even use the term "impeachment" since it was not an impeachment hearing! (about 1 hour and 5 minutes in).
Moving on...
It also became clear to me, that there were certain witnesses on this panel, who were on the Republican side of things. And guess who the Rep's asked their questions to? Yep, mainly those two witnesses. Mr. Stephen Presser I think was the name of the one.

There's much more to go into here, but It's getting late and this post is going way too long.
I just want to say one last thing...
I am not sure that having the witness Vincent Bugliosi there was such a good idea. Yes, he was passionate. Yes, he made good points, but at times it just seemed like he was trying to simply plug his book in a shameless way. And to use words like "murderer" was to me inappropriate at this time. (speaking of which, There seemed to be a lot of book plugging going on here, that seemed inappropriate to me). See his youtube clip here.

IF you are a glutton for punishment as I am, and want to watch the ENTIRE 6 hour hearing, you can see it on C-span's website here. (not sure how long this link will work).
It might be best though, to pick and choose through some of the clips on youtube. You can find a lot of shorter clips here.

I am hopefull that those who have made mistakes will be held accountable. I am not overly optimistic though that actual impeachment hearings will take place, but I hope that those in power who are proceeding, will continue to proceed with everything they can. Go Dennis!

[edit: Wow, I really shouldn't post at 2am in the morning. I just re-read my post above and found a bunch of typo's. I've since fixed them. My apologies to all editors and writers out there.]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Oil question...

The other day, while surfing the internet, on one of my news websites I saw the horrible news that there was an oil spill at the mouth of the Mississippi River. I then heard a small report on NPR explaining a bit more of the details... Now, forgive me for possibly getting some of the facts wrong, as I didn't have a notepad to write on while I was driving home and listening to the radio. The ship has spilled 419,000 gallons of fuel oil. (now here are the facts I heard, but can't seem to find confirmation of in some of the online news reports). They mentioned that the ship had just picked up the oil from a local distributor and was headed to some country, when it got hit by a tugboat.
Then it hit me...
Wait... did he just say that the ship was headed for another country?
We are currently in an Oil crisis here at home (USA).
There are talks of offshore drilling.
There are talks of drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge area.
If we need oil so bad... WHY are we exporting it then to other nations?
I googled it this morning, and according to this chart, the USA is the 17th ranked nation for exporting oil! (this isn't the same chart, but it still shows USA at 17th).

So can someone explain this to me?

[update: 7/27/08]
This news item just appeared on tonight that goes to answering this question! I'm glad other people are paying attention to this.
Short answer if you don't want to read the whole article (which is short).
Large multi-national firms like Exxon-Mobil are not US property. They sell to the world and their allegiance is to corporate profits.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Bike Thief

Why does this not surprise me.q

Sunday, July 20, 2008


WARNING! This blog post contains some material that is gross. IF you are about to eat breakfast lunch or dinner any time soon, DON'T CONTINUE READING THIS!
Ok, still with me? So you like gross stories? ewww... why would you want to read a gross story?!
Why would I want to even re-tell this story?! I'm not sure, I guess to point out the fact that I will never understand some people in this world. I'll spare all the gory details that I had heard...
So after my movie last night, I was really hungry. I actually had dinner earlier at a Japanese Restaurant, but what a let down that was... I ordered a Miso Soup, and an Unagi Roll (That's eel by the way - I know, that's gross right there! But they taste good). I ended up getting a little tiny bowl of soup (more like a cup), for $2.50, and the Unagi Roll was around $7.50! Then I had to tip the waiter, so for $12.00 I had this measley meal. It tasted good, that's for sure, but I still felt hungry (and cheated).
So after I watched the movie "Wall-e" and waited for about another 40 minutes, I decided to leave the movie theater and head home. I realized, just down the road is a roadside diner, that I've always wanted to try out. I decided to stop in for a cheeseburger.
So, I place my order with the waitress, and waited for my food to arrive. A couple of women had come in after me and sat down in the booth directly behind me.
Soon, the waitress emerges from the kitchen and sets down my cheeseburger. I thank her and proceed to start to enjoy my hot fries. The waitress, takes a few steps over, and starts to interact with the two women behind me.
I'm not really making an attempt to evesdrop, but she's standing right behind me when inbetween the neural impluses to my brain of enjoying the fries, my brain starts to pick up on the conversation behind me...
The waitress is talking about how she used to be a hairdresser, and that one of the things they taught her was to never try to pop a pimple on your face! UGH! Pimple discussions?! While I'm trying to eat here? I cringe and figure ok, that's the end of that story...
But NO... The waitress continues to describe this big pimple that she got and how she decided to pop it anyway...
At this point, I can't take it...
I turn around and give her te meanest "stink-eye" I can muster and without actually saying a word (that shouldn't have to be said anyway!) she sees me looking at her, and says, "Oh, Sorry sir" - End of story right? NO!!!
She proceeds to lower her voice - obviously still at a talking level and not a whisper, and proceeds to finish her story to the other two women.
I couldn't believe it. She obviously knew it was wrong of her to tell this story as I'm eating otherwise she would not have apologised, but then to CONTINUE her story!?! And that it somehow makes it better that she had lowered her voice?! ugh.
If it were not for the fact that I was so hungry, and had a nice cheeseburger sitting right under my nose, I would have - and should have got up, and walked out!
But no... I tried to wipe my mind and tried to enjoy my burger.
I will say, that I did NOT want to touch anything that the waitress handed me, all I could picture was her in the bathroom while on break messing with her pimple.
ok, I think I'm gonna be sick now.
Sorry I had to share this story with you all... but misery loves company - and I DID warn you.
Needless to say, I'll NEVER go back to that diner!

Movie: Wall-e

Last night was another hot summer evening. What better place to spend it than a cool air conditioned movie theater! I chose to go for a Double Feature! Start the evening out with a light hearted kids movie called Wall-e and finish it up with a topping of "Dark Knight" (aka: Batman).

Wall-e > imdb
I liked this movie. Granted, it's def a kids movie, so I won't go into any sort of heavy plot analysis, but basically just sit back and watch the cute robots is how best to enjoy this movie. If I had one complaint - it was that it was too cute. I mean they even made the Cockroach look and act cute! But, all in all, that's what I had expected.
I was aware of some minor controversy over this movie also... The "president" they claimed made one single statement something like "Stay the course", So some people were saying that this was a "dig" on Pres. Bush. Yeah, it probably was! But in my opinion a well deserved dig. I can't see too many people getting upset over that.
There was another controversy over some people getting upset about how the humans were portrayed 700 years in the future - as being over weight. Um, not to sound crass, but have you looked around lately? We're almost like that now! I can understand how some people might get upset over this, but I don't think this is a fault of the film. I don't think they were making any sort of mean spirited comment over being over weight.
One item that I had NOT heard as being controversial... (which to me seemed like it should have raised an eye brow), was the corporate take over issue! It almost alarms me more that people would overlook that issue, and be worried that humans were portrayed as being over weight. Almost like saying "oh, corporations like Walmart - controlling the political process? No problem!"
As an adult, there were some political underlying themes in this movie. I happened to agree with those themes, so it didn't bother me, but if I were on the other side of the fence, I might have a problem with this movie. I actually thought - Every kid should see this movie as a warning against over consumption, and lack of physical activity! But that's for another blog post I guess.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. The corporate side jokes bothered me just a little bit in the sense that Steve Job's owns Pixar (who also owns Apple computer). There were defintely some nods to apple computer in this movie, which skated on the edge for me as being a commercial endorsement, but if you didn't know these things, it's not a big deal. (For example, when Wall-e gets a full solar charge, and starts up, he "chimes" - this chime, is the same sound that Macintosh computers make when they start up.)
Not sure how much longer this film will be in the theaters, but I recommend it, and at least rent it. Another winner in the portfolio of Pixar - who in my opinion, has not made a bad movie yet.

As for the double feature of seeing "the dark knight" - I had gotten to the theater at about 6:45pm. The three evening shows up until the 9pm show were all sold out! When I got out of the Wall-e show around 9pm, I went in line and bought a ticket for the 10pm show. A long hour wait, but they have nice comfy leather chairs there, and I was having fun doing some "people watching". Well, buy about 9:30, there was a LINE going out the main doors! I thought, this is rediculous! I actually went back to the ticket booth, and asked for a refund of my money. I don't want to see a movie in a PACKED theater. I could have waited around and tried some of the later shows (10:30, 11, 11:30, or 12am), but I didn't want to spend my entire night at the theater waiting! So, perhaps next week, or maybe I'll go mid week to see it. MAN They must be raking in the money on this movie!!!