Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Music

Here's some music to get you in the mood for the second scariest holiday of the year (after Arbor Day):

Rest In Peace, Warren.

Not really Halloween in content, but what the heck.

Scary for all the wrong reasons.

The title says it all.

Terrible video, 80's style. On the upside, the song has been cut from its original thirteen minute run time:

History's Greatest Monsters

Halloween is upon us, and what better time to take a look at the monsters of myth, legend, and nightmare and put them in a list in ascending order based on arbitrary criteria I make up as I go along? No better time, that's when.

13. Wolfman

I watched the original movie a few months back, and I must say it wasn't scary. Basically, a guy gets attacked by a wolf, turns into one himself the next full moon, goes after his love interest and gets shot by a gypsy. Or maybe it was a guy from town. There were definitely gypsies involved though. But really, it was as simple as shooting him. The werewolf hasn't got much tougher in the intervening years.

12. Zombie Zero

This is a stand-in for all zombies everywhere; the protozombie, if you will. Terrifying in Night of the Living Dead, the years have not been kind. 28 Days Later tried to liven things up by giving them the ability to run, but dozens of videogames in which you kill thousands of them with everything from a howitzer to a steely glare make them the red shirts of the monster kingdom.

11. Mummy

I first saw this as a kid and it was plenty scary. The idea that this implacable thing would just keep coming after you, never making a sound was very frightening. Then I realized it was all a metaphor for taxes and it fell apart. Oh, and Abbot and Costello kicked his ass.

10. Frankenstein

Easily the most sympathetic of the lot. He didn't ask to be. Some dude bolted his head on someone else's body like a bad nudie photoshop, shot him full of lightning, and made him wear uncomfortable platform shoes. All he wanted to do was be nice, make contact with people and fall in love. He had a bad temper, but so does Al Franken. Whoa.

9. Freddie

Could have been one of the greats, but multiple sequels diluted the product until it became a parody of itself. Still, the original idea of a pedophile getting burned to death in the school basement by parents then coming back to seek revenge by giving free haircuts in their kids' dreams was plenty freaky.

8. Pinhead

The image of a WWI soldier sitting in a room playing with a puzzle box that, when solved, opens a gateway to Hell is just awesome to me. Pinhead, number one evil dimensional time traveller and leather trenchcoat afficiando long before New came along was super creepy, as all people with British accents are.

7. That Head-Spider Thing From John Carpenter's Remake Of The Thing

One of the great unsung horror films of all time, this movie is still freaky as all-get-out even with the 80's special effects. The chest-giving-way-sprouting-teeth-and-chomping-the-guys-arms-off was bad. The dead guy's head detaching itself from the body, sprouting legs and running away was badass.

6. Jason Micheal Voorhees-Meyers

The implacable silent killer with a mask was a great concept in its original iteration. Personally, Halloween was a far better movie. But I've had nightmares about Jason, never about Michael. Weird.

5. George W. Bush

Maybe should have been considered for the top spot. I mean, here's a monster reputed to be the cause of every single thing that went wrong for eight years, and is still being invoked today! 9/11, flu scares, lead in toys, gas prices, hurricanes; he's been blamed for all these things!

4. Little Japanese Girls

True story: when Macy was two she would sometimes wake up early in the morning and come into my room to wait for me to wake up. She would do this by standing silently by my bed and stare at me. Eventually I would open my eyes and see a ghostly figure standing silently in a darkened room six inches from my face, just staring. And that's why I have rubber sheets.

3. Dracula

The original mac daddy. He can change into wolves and bats, he can command the same (and rats!), chicks find him irresistable. Then there's the less-suave, far scarier-looking version from Nosferatu, which the makers of the TV version of 'Salems's Lot later ripped off. Freaky freaky.

2. The Original Alien

The best horror film of all time featured the most terrifying monster in space. The thing had one form where it launched itself at your face and latched on like a spider and pooped eggs down your throat. The baby form exploded out of your chest and had stainless steel teeth. Then it grew up, became ten feet tall, could crawl on the ceiling, had a mouth that could shoot another mouth at you. Then, if you got lucky enough to wound it, it bled acid that would burn through every level of your spaceship until you lost compression. The best part of the film is that all the characters are grossed out by the gross stuff, scream when they see the monster, and scared to death the rest of the time. Just like you would be in that situation.

1. Shelob

I do not like spiders. The Shelob scene in The Lord of the Rings scared me when I first read it as a kid (see also: Mirkwood Forest in The Hobbit) and when that friggin spider came after Frodo in the movie theater I squirmed the whole time. The way spiders move freak me out. The way Shelob rolled Frodo while it spun webs around him made me want to throw up. I would gladly fight an army of zombies or a space cruiser full of aliens rather than take the chance that I might be awake when Shelob started rolling me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nannyarchy In The U.K.

London is a city that has CCTV cameras on every street corner. Citizens are caught on camera an average of 300 times a day. They are mandatory in pubs. Gun ownership is restricted nearly into non-existence. These measures are all justified by the U.K. equivalent of the old "national security" cliche here in America: public safety.

The overzealousness for public safety leads to police loitering around bars at night to hand out flip-flops to drunk patrons in heels. It leads to babies being taken from families the state decides is too fat to be trusted with raising a child. It leads to talk of creating a file for every child born so it can be monitored for signs that "the child is suffering significant harm" (no potential for abuses there, and one guess who decides the definition of 'significan harm').

It has now led to forcing parents who take their kids to a park in Watford to watch from behind a fence. They aren't allowed on the playground itself because they might be pedophiles.


The Watford council defends its actions by saying they're only following the law:

"Councillors insist they are merely following Government regulations and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds 'unchecked'."

Kids on the playground are to be supervised by government-vetted "play rangers"; adults the council has deemed responsible and safe enough to be allowed around children.

In fact, it seems Britain has taken the idea that anyone could be a pedophile to the extreme. In the U.S. if a person is convicted of certain crimes, he or she is placed on an offender's registry, a scarlet letter if you will. The problem with that system, apparently, is, what if you just haven't caught somebody yet?

They solve that apparently by having a sort of bizzaro sex offenders database. It lists people who are deemed not to be pedophiles. If you aren't in the government's computer, you either are one or perhaps just haven't been caught yet.

"It comes amid an escalating row over the Government's new anti-paedophile database, which will contain the names of more than 11 million adults cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults."

The idea that government knows best and citizens are children to be taken care of is anathema to many people. Even those who support big government would, I believe, strenuously object to measures like these (except for those who would be playing the role of nanny: they love this stuff). I'd like to think that if these sorts of things were introduced in America there would be outrage, perhaps even revolt. My question to those in the U.K.:

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Birds On A Wire 10/27/09

Spending Someone Else's Money

You are the executor of the late, lamented Ernest R. Megabucks, millionaire philanthropist and adventurer. His well left you in charge of caretaking his vast fortune, now liquidated, by doling out monies as needed for the care of his many children, siblings and other dear friends, all of whom, in the words of Ernest, "should be taken care of for life". Essentially, you have to sign checks.

In the beginning, this is all new to you. You meticulously weigh each request. Does the eldest son really need a car? Is the sister's request for a little spending cash for her vacation warranted? In the end, you okay these things because, well, you are supposed to be taking care of them. Besides, Ernest was a millionare. Fifty thousand here and two thousand there is nothing.

As the years go by, it's just easier to sign the checks rather than fight. You stop checking the account balance every other day; there's plenty of money to go around, and besides, it's not like it's your money being spent.

Eventually, the requests are for larger amounts and even more frivolous things. It's not for a doctor visit; it's for a nose job. It's not for a replacement car; it's for a third one. Still, the money isn't yours. It's theirs. The various heirs have become accustomed to having their every wish granted, their every request fulfilled. Eventually the money runs low. You can't give what isn't there. You try to figure out where the money went, but record keeping was never your strong suit. You know basically where it went; it went to Ernest's heirs. But you don't have any idea how much went to whom or what it was spent on.

Now read this article and see if you can understand why, while the author pushes this stance...

"The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That's one-third of the nation's health care bill," Kelley said in a statement.

"The good news is that by attacking waste we can reduce health care costs without adversely affecting the quality of care or access to care."

...I take the opposite: billions of dollars of waste is endemic to a government-run operation because they aren't using their own money.

Private corporations have plenty of problems. Not knowing where the money went is not one of them: they'd be out of business [*]. Private businesses have to obsess over where the money goes. It's how they control costs, grow the business, and create return on investment for the shareholders.

When you're spending someone else's money it's way too easy to sign the check and worry about the accounting later.

[*] Unless someone steps in and bails them out, of course. With someone else's money.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Tale Of Two Executives

The Obama administration is going after executive pay. This is no surprise; if a company gets in bed with the federal government by taking taxpayer money, they should expect the said government to step in and start taking the reins in some form. This is why bailouts were a bad idea in the first place.

But regardless of how you come down on the executive pay issue, there is an executive whose pay is untouchable. You just have to work for the right company. One that has always been in bed with the government.

"Freddie Mac is not just another company. It's alive today, and nearly 80 percent owned by the government, only because almost $51 billion in taxpayer funds were pumped into it over the last year. More bailout money also may be needed in the quarters ahead as losses from its troubled mortgages mount."

Private companies are being increasingly isolated as "bad". Government cronyism is increasingly being rewarded at taxpayer expense. That's saying something; cronyism has been around since George Washington first gave his half-brother's horseshoeing outfit a no-bid contract with the Continental army.

As long as their are two sets of rules, one for government-approved business and one for "evil" private companies, the economy will not recover. As soon as profit and competiton give way to favor-currying and tax money-fueled payoffs, a company is no longer a free market entity, and we're all the worse for it.

Early Halloween

We took Macy to Zoo Boo in Little Falls, Minnesota this weekend. The local zoo does it up right with spooky tableaux and free candy. Despite putting Macy's costume in a bag with our duffel bags we managed to leave town without it. So a quick trip to Wal-Mart and some makeup wizardry from Donna and Macy was ready to to roam the lands as a witch.

After some early trick-or-treating we celebrated Donna's nephew's 5th birthday. Happy birthday, Cole!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hippie Mail 2: The Return

Donna got some more hippie mail recently. Unlike some earlier correspondence, it didn't revolve around massacring wolves with apache helicopters. Instead, it revolved around buying various animals for various indigenous peoples from this place and that. They're very professional looking mailings. It's only when you open them and start reading that the crazy becomes evident.

Don't get me wrong; charities are wonderful things. Helping others is a noble goal. If a girl in Peru is given a chance to choose one thing that will lift her out of poverty and she picks an alpaca, hey, I've got no problem with that. Personally, I would say, "just give me the cash value", but I've never been a ten year old Peruvian mountain girl.

It seems to me though, that these charities could just buy a few goats, alpacas, rabbits, water buffalo, chickens, etc. Make sure they get some boys and girls and, you know, let nature take its course. They should only need some farmland, some feed, and maybe some mood lighting and Barry White CDs.

The other piece of mail makes a pitch for a much less nebulous form of help for those people suffering from third world maladies like measles, malaria and Madonna buying up all their children. It asks for money to do things like provide cataract surgery for the blind, provide training for healthcare workers and building community gardens. Noble goals, to be sure. Then it goes for jugular, and well, misses.

Bob Barker was a very vocal proponent of spaying and neutering your animals. Pamela Anderson extolled you to go naked before wearing fur. Ed McMahon told you how easy it was to sell your gold online. Who will stand up and plead the case for third world eye surgery?

This guy.

I am not lying.

Here is how he is introduced in the catalog: social activist, clown, author, Co-Director of Camp Winnarainbow.

Social activist and author make perfect sense. I have no idea what Camp Winnarainbow is (I'm afraid I might have a bad trip just from typing it into a search engine) but I'm sure it's brought a lot of something or other to an unspecified number of people. But clown? Unless you're the co-director of Kamp Krusty or possible a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, is that really an adjective you want attached to your endorsement?

Are You A Sucker For Taking That Raise?

An article in Forbes points out the many disincentives our tax code lobs at people whose goals in life are some combination of: make more money, get married, get college educations for the kids.

It does a lot of soul-searching over the whys involved in giving incentives to those who don't work as hard and don't move up the financial ladder. It seems pretty clear cut to me though. Our tax code is constantly tweaked and tailored with the goal of equalizing income. The goal is to take money from those who have it and give to the government, who will give it to those that don't. Think that's crazy?

"There are now more than two dozen federal tax breaks, including seven created or expanded by February's $787 billion stimulus, that disappear (often simultaneously) as income rises. As her adjusted gross income climbs from $60,000 to $90,000, a single parent could lose some or all of the $1,000 per child credit, the $2,500 per college student credit, the $400 Making Work Pay credit and the $8,000 first-time home buyer credit, as well as deductions for contributions to an individual retirement account and for interest paid on a student loan. Such gotchas can push up the marginal federal income tax rate--that is, the tax on the next $1 earned--far beyond the top 35% rate imposed on rich folks."

It's easy to say, well of course tax breaks go away as you make more income. We have a progressive tax system, after all. True enough. The problem is, in the rush to hand as much money as possible to those in the lower income brackets, the definition of "rich" or even "well off" grows to encompass more and more people. That's the only way to explain the graph on page one of the linked article, which plots the marginal tax rates for single parents.

Obviously, there are people that need the help. But the goal of society should not be to increase the number of people on one dole or another. It should be to provide people with the means to get off the dole forever. Our tax system, with its perverse incentive to make less money, doesn't do that.

Birds On A Wire 10/23/09

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fun With Spam

The spam filter on my work's email servers is pretty fantastic. I never see any spam in my inbox, and only very rarely does a legitimate email get stuck in the spam filter. I still check the filter every once in a while in order to catch those two or three a year that get caught. Here are some of the subjects:

  • What Britney hides?: I just imagine a guy getting stopped by customs officals: "Okay, Johnny. Where are the Brtiney hides?" "What Britney hides?" Johnny replied innocently.

  • Your Love Stick won't get tired: Especially if I ever called it that in front of my girlfriend. I'd never need it again.

  • This is not a potion for making you a womanizer. This is better than that: Better than tequila? Cause that stuff makes me sleep with all kinds of women then I say "later baby" and leave them all alone and crying in the bed.

  • Madonna is a moslim now: First she was cathalick, then she was into the cabbala junk. What's next? Vudu?

  • Pants off, Lavigne: I think this got sent to me by mistake.

  • Chest pains chasing you. Get them off track: No, no. Charley horses keep chasing me. Chest pains just call and hang up.

  • Renew your organism: I'm trying to kill the tapeworm, not renew it.

  • Oh shit!: I almost opened this one.

Rights I Just Made Up: The Right To Trespass On Your Land Without Seeing You Naked

A man in Springfield,VA is facing charges in connection with an incident in which police say he exposed himself to a woman and her daughter. In this case, however, the man was in his own kitchen and the two females cut through his yard from a path on which they were walking.

The police's theory seems to be that this man was making coffee in his kitchen naked because he somehow knew that someone would leave a path that runs along his property, cut through his front yard, pass the kitchen window, and look into his kitchen.

So let that be a lesson to all you perverts who think that, just because you're in your own house on your own land, you can just walk around naked. Other people are trying to walk through your yard uninvited and they have the right to look in your kitchen window and not see you naked.

Whither The Blame For The Flu Vaccine Shortage?

Remember back in 2004, when flu vaccine shortages had everybody up in arms? No? You should. It was all over the news. Pundits wrung their hands in disbelief that this could happen. One guess who most blamed for this.

Well, here in 2009 we are in the midst of a shortage of N1H1 vaccine, but I don't see a lot of finger pointing. Where are all the stories about the Obama administration being to blame for ignoring a health crisis, not being prepared for flu season and generally not caring about Americans in general?

For the record, I don't believe the current administration is to blame for the vaccine shortage any more than I thought Bush was responsible in 2004. But if you're reading this and wondering why all our news outlets aren't raising the same questions now as then, congratulations! You're starting to realize just how in the tank most Obama-Approved news organizations are.

Online Education Can't Come Fast Enough

I put college money away for my daughter in a 529 plan because I want her to be able to get the type of education she's going to need in order to compete in the job market come 2023 or so. I do this even though I secretly believe that by the time 2019 gets here she will be able to take all her classes from home online. That's assuming the earth isn't destroyed by Mayans or whatever in 2012.

I hope this comes to pass (online college, not the Mayan thing) despite my feeling that colleges will fight it tooth and nail. Why? Money, of course. While there would be money to be made in online classes, there would be less:

  • No (physical) textbooks. They would all be online. Cheap to generate. Cheap to revise. No more changing some punctuation, calling it a "new edition" and charging $150 for it. This practice is one of the most egregious rip offs ever devised by bureaucrats.

  • Less teachers. Lesson plans, syllabi, etc. could come from more centralized sources. Right now there are thousands of English Lit 101 classes being held, and each one has its own professor, who creates a syllabus, conducts the class, has office time, etc. With the internet, syllabi could be condensed and standardized to the point that there are a few hundred (or dozen) to choose from. There would of course be a need to update them, but this could be done by far fewer people. Office hours could be replaced with more of a help desk model. Hopefully not outsourced to India.

  • Cheaper college credits. Since all colleges would be online, you could easily bargain shop. The more colleges to which you are accepted, the more choices you have. College A wants to charge you $200/credit while College B charges $150? If other factors (equivalence of degrees, prestige, etc.) are comparable you can save. Colleges will have to compete on price, something they've never had to do before. Imagine being a high school senior and being bombarded by emails offering 20% coupons to Harvard.

  • Travel and housing costs eliminated. Of course, not all college-age people want to live at home but it becomes an option. Sorry, mom and dad.
Why should you be hoping for this future as well? Because of this. College tuition is the one thing that is absolutely guaranteed to rise in price regardless of economic conditions. Economy in a recession? Tuition rises. Cost of most consumer goods declining? Tuition rises. Enrollment falling? Tuition rises. Enrollment climbing? Tution rises.

It rises faster than inflation. It rises when colleges promise not to raise it. It should be a t-shirt: Tuiton: It Rises.

The excuse right now is that colleges are being forced to pass on "their own financial problems". That sounds plausible, except that tuition rose when colleges didn't have financial problems. It rose when Harvard and Yale's endowments were $36 billion and $23 billion, respectively. It's risen now that those endowments are at $26 billion and $16 billion. It's true that their big cash piles have had several shovelfulls removed. But "we have to raise tuition: we've only got $23 billion in the bank!" just doesn't sound right to me.

When you consider that tution rises outstrip inflation, it sounds really bad:

"The price increases came despite painful cost-cutting by colleges on everything from faculty to cafeterias and sports travel. And as usual, the rise in tuition outstripped the overall inflation rate. In fact, during the period covered by the report, consumer prices declined 2.1 percent. So the latest tuition increase at public colleges was closer to 9 percent in real terms."

Think about that for a minute. Can you think of another business (and let's be honest, that's exactly what a private university is) that would look at declining demand for it's product (declining enrollment), a deflationary dollar (the dollar is worth more) and an economy in which people are having to make hard choices on where to spend their money, and conclude that raising the price is the way to go?

How do they get away with this? I see it as three-fold problem: First, bargain shopping doesn't apply to colleges. Little Suzy wants to go to Harvard. Or maybe Yale. If she can get in that's where she's going. If she can't get in (or can't afford it) she's probably going to Mystate U., the local school.

Second, a college education is looked at the same way as gasoline: it's a must-have commodity regardless of price. We may bellyache about the cost when it goes up but we pay it anyway.

Third, the role of subsidies. Financial aid isn't called that, but that's exactly what it is:

"The estimated net price – what the average student actually pays after financial aid is taken into account – is still much lower than the list price, at about $1,620 at public four-year colleges, and under $12,000 at private ones. Both figures are up slightly from last year but still lower than five years ago."

The dirty little not-so-secret of universities is that they tend to tie tution increases to the available pool of federal and state tuition grant money available each year.

So, cheaper education from the comfort of your own home and lower taxes (that's where grant money comes from, after all) all thanks to the internet. The only thing opposing it is a monolithic higher education entity that relies on increasing tuition, text book sales and housing payments to increase an already-giant pile of cash.

I'm going to keep up those 529 payments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So THIS Is What A UN Meeting Looks Like

Instapundit put this up as a poke at President Obama's Afghanistan policy. While I can get behind that a bit, the first thing I thought of was a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Birds On A Wire 10/21/09

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dragging My Computer Into The 21st Century

I'm not a tinkerer. Although I use computers every day while working in the software mine, I'm not the guy who is constantly tinkering with the clock speed on the CPU or swapping out the video card every time PC Magazine writes a glowing review. My current computer is over five years old.

After my recent bout with Facebook-related viruses I beefed up the firewall and virus protection software on my machine. This led to a pronounced slowdown in performance. I finally got sick of it and decided to update the RAM. It was only then that I noticed how much RAM my computer was rocking. 256MB. Yep. I doubled checked to make sure the front of the tower didn't say Commodore. How pathethic is that?

Like I said, I'm not one to tinker. The machine worked fine for a long time. Performance wasn't an issue. But still. 256MB? I was surprised the thing would even boot. At this point in history, 256MB of RAM is like driving around in a horse-drawn carriage or mowing your grass with a yoked goat. It's like washing your clothes with a rock. It's like using a hammer and chisel to look inside the brain instead of ordering an MRI.

I'm proud to say my computer is now humming along nicely with the maximum allowable RAM for its model: two 1GB DDR RAM cards. Which are already obsolete, since DDR2 (the current standard) is soon to be replaced by DDR3. But hey, at least my copy of Lotus 123 runs like a champ.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday In The Park

After a week of rainy, cold weather we caught a break Sunday and got sun and more fall-like temperature so Macy and I headed over to Lindenwood Park for a bike ride. I think we got cheated out of the whole colors-of-fall thing with the cold snap last week, but I took my camera anyway:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Higgs Boson Is Ruining My Life

This story is simultaneously scary-awesome and laughable. I honestly don't know which attribute will turn out to be defining.

First a little background: a Higgs boson is a hypothetical particle that is believed to be responsible for imbuing all matter with mass. It is predicted to exist by particle physics but has never been observed. It's one of the big things the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is looking for. You know about the LHC -- it's the enormous particle collider that brought about fears that turning it on might destroy the universe. Now that's how you do science.

Anyway, a couple of respected scientists are positing that the reason science has been unable thus far to detect said boson is that they themselves go back in time and prevent it. It would, they say, explain why the U.S. collider project was defunded back in 1993. They also point to problems with the LHC when it was first fired up; problems that shut it down for a year. Just recently, one of the scientists working on the project was arrested for doing jobs for al Qaeda on the side (physicists are not immune to the down economy it seems).

As far as conspiracy theories go, this one's got legs. It seems so clear to me now I don't know how I didn't see it before. It probably had something to do with not knowing what a Higgs boson was. Long story short, I think Higgs bosons have been going back in time and screwing up my life.

That time I didn't make the baseball team? Higgs boson. Maybe it got in my eyes and distracted me in the batter's box, or messed with my reflexes so I couldn't get to that ground ball. And all this time I thought it was because I was lanky and uncoordinated!

I know damn well a Higgs boson is the reason I was only runner up in the district spelling bee all those years ago. It's the only explanation for why I was asked to spell "quietus" when the winner got friggin' "triangle".

I didn't get a lot of interest from the girls in my high school. For years I thought it was because of my sullen nature and the widely held belief that I was either on drugs or perhaps crazy. Nope. Higgs boson.

I bet that lottery ticket I bought in 1997 should have been a winner. Damn you, Higgs boson!

My eyes have been opened! Nothing that goes wrong is my fault. It's all the result of sabotage by a malicious particle from the future. Right now, I bet they're plotting against me, getting ready to send an agent back to 2009 and keep me from dating Kate Beckinsale or discovering oil in my back yard.

I must say, it's liberating in a way. Nothing I do is my fault. I'm free of responsibilty for myself and my actions. This must be what people who want to expand the welfare state feel like.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Soccer Seasons Ends With A Shiver

It's been decided that our last game (which was "colded-out" last Saturday) won't be made up. The decision was made after getting feedback from parents during Sunday's game. I can't say I'm surprised, though I am disappointed. At least I won't have to make up a practice plan, I suppose.

This was a weird season, as we had three games postponed, made one up on a Sunday after cancelling a make-up the day before due to weather, and ended up playing four games in a five game season after cutting a sixth game for a weekend tournament that never got scheduled.

All that and I may have made a mortal enemy of our photographer after cancelling pictures for fall (and rescheduling them for spring). That came about due to the total fiasco that was getting a schedule put together and rosters finalized.

Anyway, I'm glad it's over since it's turning colder by the day (it was 41 for Saturday's game) and there are still parents out there that can't figure out to dress there kids warm or buy them a water bottle (I bring spares, but still).

Where's Our Marilyn Manson For The 2010's?

I watched The Filth and the Fury on Saturday night, a documentary about the Sex Pistols. A good portion recounted the public outrage over the band and it's [screw] everything mentality. There were calls to ban the group's music, protestors outside their hotels, that sort of thing. It reminded me of the uproar over heavy metal in general and artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and even Prince in the 1980's (remember the PMRC? Was there ever a time someone in the Gore clan wasn't trying to tell us how to live our lives?).

Before that was Elvis. Remember when it was forbidden to show him on TV from the waist down? I don't, actually, but it happened. Something about his pelvis ruining the moral fabric of America. That fabric appears to be very fragile,: it can be torn by teenagers masturbating!

More recently was outrage over Marilyn Manson, who took the shock antics of Alice Cooper (another target of the morals police) and gave it a 21st century special effects upgrade. We were all assured that his music caused teen pregnancy, devil worship, and school shootings.

(As an aside, isn't it amazing what a musician with a goth aesthetic and a penchance for controversy can accomplish in the field of "getting women ordinarily out of his league"?)

Anyway, after watching the Sex Pistols drink, smoke, wear swastika t-shirts and generally act like jackasses for two hours, I began to wonder who will be the next band to take up the mantle of "destroyer of the moral fabric". Somewhere out there, right now, are a bunch of obnoxious kids practicing in mom's basement. They're going to grow up, write some catchy songs and adopt something, some look, some profane tendency, some public persona, that will convince a sizeable portion of the population that the band will kill America once and for all. That this time it's for real; they'll succeed where Elvis, The Beatles (after they found drugs), Judas Priest, Ozzy, Public Enemy and Marilyn Manson all failed. I can't wait. I just hope it's after all this emo crap dies out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Maybe Soccer Shouldn't Be An Outdoor Sport In North Dakota

We're trying to play a makeup game today for Macy's soccer team after cancelling makeup games yesterday due to wind chills in the low 20's. Two weeks ago it was in the 70's and I was more preoccupied with remembering bug repellent for the mosquitos. Today I'm telling my girls to put long underwear on under their uniforms. On the upside, there won't be any bugs out today. A night in the teens tends to slaughter the mosquito population. Nothing like a cold night to get your bug genocide on.

The winds are supposed to be lighter today and the temperature should be close to 40 at game time. If we can dodge the snow flurries we should be able to get the game in. Donna is going to brave the elements and get some video. I'm going to attempt to take a team picture in case we can't make up our last game next week. Right now that looks about 50-50. There's no money in the budget for plowing snow off the fields.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

10' 30"

Macy did her mile run today, finshing 2nd among the girls and 7th overall. Her time was 10 mins, 30 seconds.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Oktobertfest Diaries 2009 Part 5: Here Come The College Kids

Saturday night at the festgrounds is when the college kids come out in large numbers. LaCrosse is a college town, and it shows. Whereas the festgrounds are busy but harldy packed on Friday and Sunday, Saturday is a massive crush of bodies, most of them in the 20-25 age range.

Two things that I have yet to see in any of my trips to this event: fighting and boobs. It's weird. With all the drinking you'd think there'd be an abundance of drunken jerkbags throwing punches over a spilled beer or a girl, but I haven't seen it. You'd also think I'd get to see lots of coed boobies with all the drunk girls around, but no. That makes me sad.

Anyway, with all the noise and (inadvertent) pushing as people try to manuever the grounds, we headed downtown about 11:00 pm to catch our collective breath and get a drink. It was pretty uneventful as compared to the rest of the weekend, which I guess just goes to prove that when it comes to fun and partying, college kids have nothing on career alcoholics, barflys and people with mullets.

A few of the highlights:

The focus of this picture is actually the mullet in the background.

True story: Three of us saw this guy coming at the same time.
Me: "Look -- Greg Allman!" Tim: "Look -- Edgar Winter!"
Mitch: "Look -- Gandalf!"

And of course, what Oktoberfest would be complete without white people dancing inappropriately:

Anyway, that's about it for the trip. We headed back to Minneapolis on Sunday, a little hungover but no worse for wear. I'd definitely call it a successful trip. As of this writing I'm showing no ill effects from the visibly syphillyitc and possibly leprotic woman that coated me in spit at the bar. I'm sure it's all the alcohol that's responsible for killing the germs.

Macy Is A Star Music Student

Macy got the star student award in her music class. It goes to the student who pays attention and works the hardest. Nice job, Mace!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Soccer Update

There hasn't been much on the soccer front lately. I was out of town two weekends ago for Oktoberfest, so I was not there to coach. Macy's team lost 3-2, which is actually pretty great since they were playing a team with several 4th graders on the roster. In a weird computer quirk, my roster had only 3rd graders even though 3rd and 4th were combined in our league.

The fact that we lost by a single goal is pretty cool. Macy tells me she had a goal disallowed because, in her words, she "must have kicked it out of the goalie's hands or something. I don't know." Sounds like our first officiating scandal of the season.

Anyway, last week's practice and game were rained out, so there's nothing to report there. I've been responsible for drawing up the practice plans and handling in-game roster moves, so that's been interesting. I've learned that if you call it a "game" rather than a "drill" and give it a funny name like "Busy Bees" or "Soap Bubbles" rather than "2-on-2 Pressure/Cover Defense" or "Close-in Ball Control" the kids are much more interested.

In realted news, there will be pictures of Macy playing soccer at some point.

Rights I Just Made Up: The Right To Keep The Library Coffee-Free

It really makes me wonder if some town councils have any purpose if they spend their time on things like this. Granted, this "right" comes to us from the U.K., but I can see this happening in some small town in America.

This guy doesn't want to harm your child.

It seems that a local group of retirees who enjoy a morning cup of coffee at the local library are being forced to find other accomodations after their local council passed an ordinance. Said ordinance is designed to protect toddlers from a nearby nursery from having scalding hot liquids poured on them. Seriously.

I had no idea retirees in Cambridgeshire were so bloodthirsty.

It seems like there's more realistic dangers to be found in a library than a random old man throwing coffee on a child. What if a stack of books falls? A rickety old shelf gives up the ghost and clocks poor Timmy in the head with a copy of War and Peace? A book is mistaken for a biscuit and eaten?

Leo Tolstoy, however...

If the town council of Eye really wants to protect children at the library, maybe they should ban books.

Every Woman Is Going As A Hooker For Halloween

So Macy, Donna and I headed out in search of Halloween costumes this weekend. The guys' section took up one very long wall, and I quickly identified a few potentials. I showed them to Donna, we picked out two, and headed to the womens' section to look for something for her.

So, when exactly did all female halloween costumes become hooker dress? Donna's choices boiled down to vampire hooker, nurse hooker, nun hooker, pregnant nun hooker, viking hooker, zombie hooker, policewoman hooker, businesswoman hooker, ballerina hooker, or pirate hooker. The only costume that covered anything was, ironically, the hooker costume.

Knowing what a prude I am, Donna was looking for something a little more Halloweenish and a little less reality TV slut. Luckily, we found a different store that was stocked with something other than stripper outfits.

Inspiration hit us when we found a certain prop. From there it was an easy time to create a backstory, find the appropriate costumes and props and get out of there. Our costumes are almost ready; we've got a couple of minor touches to add. But they're awesome and you're going to be so jealous that you'll want to puke.

If you're local to the Fargo area you can see them live the night before Halloween. Otherwise, you'll have to wait for pictures.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Oktoberfest Diaries 2009, Part 4: On The Rocks Means 'Put Ice In It'

I already related the good time we had at a hole in the wall in downtown LaCrosse. We heard a fantastic singer while we sipped drinks poured strong by a friendly barkeep. Our second trip to that bar did not go so swimmingly.

It started after a trip back to the hotel to freshen up, call the loved ones and pop some ibuprofen in anticipation of the night ahead. When we got back to the bar, the bartender and clientele had changed. Where genteel and mild tipplers had previously occupied lopsided barstools, now there were full on drunks, faces staring fixedly on half-empty beer glasses or slurring over the top of a neighbor trying to tell a story.

Where there had been a smiling, congenial bartender making stiff drinks, there was now a young, pretty-if she-hadn't-been-covered-in-tattoos-and-a-see-you-next-tuesday-to-boot girl with long black hair behind the bar.

I can usually read the mood in a room and this one wasn't hard to read, like a large-type edition of Dick and Jane. In retrospect, I should have convinced the rest of the group to head to the festgrounds. Not wanting to be a puss (and owing to the fact that I really wanted a drink since I hadn't had one in two hours), I didn't.

I wander up to the bar and order a Southern Comfort on the rocks. Now, as far as cocktails go, this is a pretty simple one to make. You put some ice in a small glass (known helpfully as a rocks glass) and pour some Southern Comfort into it. You're done and you've barely taxed your cranium at all.

Anyway, as I order the drink one of my companions (he will not be known as a 'friend' on this day) is talking to an obviously wasted barfly. You know the type. She was pretty 20 years ago, except she's probably only 30. Then you realize she's had a really rough life and you feel bad for her. Then your companion says, "you should meet my friend Jay".


So she turns to me and tells me a rambling, incoherent, and vaguely racist story about her "mulatto nephew". Her breath reeks. I mean rotting flesh reeks. To borrow a line from Futurama, it's like there was a party in her mouth and everyone was throwing up. As she's talking she's spraying me with spittle, so I close my mouth and eyes and de-flare my nostrils to try an avoid catching the plague or ebola or failure or whatever else this woman has that might be contagious. It's kind of like when a spaceship loses structural integrity and all the blast hatches close automatically.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the "bartender" mix my drink. She's pouring SoCo into a glass of ice. Then she takes a second cup and pours the contents of the first cup into the second. She stares at the cups for a moment then pours the second cup back into the first.

Next she inverts the second cup and fits it over the first one like a strainer. Then she takes a third cup and strains the SoCo into it. Here's the conversation verbatim:

Me: "No, I wanted it on the rocks. You don't have to strain it."
Her: "Well, I did."
Me: "Can I have a cup of ice?"
Her: *takes the money and walks away*

That was my only drink in the bar that night. I kept thinking, what if I had ordered it neat? Would she vacuum the alcohol through a Hoover? Put the drink in the dishawasher and run it through a rinse cycle?

Next up was the free entertainment. Unlike a few hours earlier when we got to hear some cool music, this time the floor show was the owner of the bar, a squat fat fake blonde who danced around the barroom floor and sidled up to our table repeatedly. The first couple of times she pressed her sweaty mass into me while throwing an arm around my shoulders. I don't know if it was because I didn't smell good or because I shrank away from her in revulsion, but she eventually got the hint that while her sugar daddy may indeed be out there, he was not dressed like me.

Like I said, the whole vibe changed. After that first round we took off and headed back to the festgrounds, where more adventure awaited.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Oktoberfest Diaries 2009 Part 3: Sometimes You Get Lucky

While the things that Oktoberfest call to mind: beer; brats; music; being drunk; intoxication; vomiting; getting wasted; drinking too much; are all fun, it's the cool experiences that hit you out of the blue that make the trip worthwhile. After killing our memories of The Remainders with enough alcohol to kill all the clone troopers and all the trade federation droids in the Star Wars universe, we entered a dank hole of a bar where we found something beautiful and cool.

We were just sitting there, drinking heavily, when an attractive twenty-something took the postage stamp of a stage with an acoustic guitar and played an amazing set. She went by Abby Lane which was her real first and middle names, so I'm guessing mom and dad were into the Beatles. It wasn't just that she could play the guitar or that she had a voice like Kathleen Turner (before she got old and went insane). Check out this set list:

Genesis -- Taking It All Too Hard
Bonnie Tyler -- It's A Heartache
Radiohead -- Creep
Pete Townshend -- Let My Love Open The Door
PotUSA -- Lump
Fleetwood Mac -- Landslide

This girl has talent. She was never a Remainder.

It was incredible. In the middle of the set, a guy who had been sitting at the bar with no shirt on got dressed and took the stage. I had pegged him as a meth addict who had wandered in off the street looking for change but it turned out he was a musician friend. With Ms. Lane on the guitar, he belted out a ridiculously good cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Breakdown, with his dad doing the high end backing vocals.

It was by far the coolest and most interesting thing that happened all weekend. How we could wander into a tiny little bar with pee stains on the floor and get a free concert from an amazing singer when we're paying to watch the likes of The Remainders I'll never know.

The whole vibe in the bar was great; Abby's boyfriend was really cool, the bartender had a big smile on her face and made great (read: stong) drinks, the professional alcoholics were the friendly banter-for-a-moment-then-leave-you-alone type; it was just a damn good time.

That would all change when we went back in the evening. That story involves a bartender that is to mixology what The Remainders are to music, an owner who drank more before 6:00 pm than I did all weekend, and a barfly that I think gave me the black plague just by talking to me. It's also a story for another time. Like tomorrow.