Saturday, January 29, 2011

Denial of Service

Verizon's Novatel MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot
We've been having problems with our ISP keeping us connected to Qwest (red light on the modem), so today I signed up for Verizon's 5-user home hotspot. A bit dicey to set up on Linux — you need a Mac to install software which will "authenticate" the device.

It turns out our ISP (ABC Solutions in Amana, IA) was blind-sided by a third party who seems to have cut them loose, essentially killing their business and chopping off our internet access without so much as warning or a by your leave. The flood of complaints clogged up our former ISP's voice mail machine, so not only did we have no network, we had no phone to contact them with.

That was the situation until this afternoon, when I got our Verizon MiFi connections up and running. However, the only box in this house that can run Verizon Access Manager is our Apple Macbook; and, of course, that's the only way to check on our gigabytes of usage that we get billed on monthly. Also, the MiFi card has a minimal set of user controls and an even more minimal user's guide, along with a three-volume novel's worth of unanswered questions. Go figure.

We'll have to change our email addresses before the end of February. If you're on my friends list, you'll be getting a change of address notice from me. Meanwhile, ABC Solutions was kind enough to keep our email onboard and limping along for the next month.

It's like seeing your doctor or teacher get run over by a truck. Very unpleasant, since the company closest to hand is the victim one is inclined to blame.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011


I've given up Grand Theft Auto in all its various tropes for pre-Lent, that is, between now and March 9th. GTA isn't so much a game as a vocation, in which the various imps and demons of Hell try to be holier for awhile. Apparently, this involves dry wit and becoming more in charge of everything in a risible landscape of urban textures and double-ought moral grit. It does go on forever. Time to step out of the game for a bit.

So what is more-or-less demonic but a lot more fun in short rattling bursts? Well, golf, for one. I've been looking at the Hot Shots Golf game for PSP. This seems to have all the technical merit of the old Jack Niklaus game controls, while it lacks utterly any whiff or hint of Tiger Woods, especially that dogmatic "intuitive" swing algorithm. Hot Shots is still demonic, of course, for all its chibi charms — the game is Japanese, and features pocket golf courses in urban parkland — like all golf.

Golf? Demonic? Well, yes. Obviously. All golf courses, from the great links courses of Scotland to the dinkiest putt-putt course in Bypass, Mississippi, belong among the outlying precincts of Hell, because only in Hell is golf possible. If St. Peter wants to play a quiet round of 81 Sundays worth of golf, he has to spend a few unusual hours in rustic Dys to do it.

There's rigorous logical proof! I've known Methodist ministers to give up the game in favor of fishing, after hearing this. If golf were played in Heaven, which admits no imperfection, every hole would be a par one, and every stroke is a hole-in-one. Since putative Heavenly Golf admits no Boredom within the pearly gates, and since Perfect Golf is utterly boring, not to mention violence to the spirit of the game, there can be no Golf in Heaven. By corollary, you can only play golf in Hell. Which is self-evident if you think about it. Q.E.D.

Ash Wednesday. I traded all my GTA games in on store credit, so I could buy something a little easier on the nerves than co-dependent commitment. Little golf games, e.g. Real golf is another sort of demonic aggravation.

C. S. Lewis argued in his book The Great Divorce that earthly existence overlaps both Heaven and Hell as a kind of outlying common precinct of both respective domains. The final status of the Earth could be resolved after the Last Judgment. Lewis always was a stickler for the preposterous denoument, since there is no time after the End of Days, just as there was no time before Creation. He ended more than one of his books by waking up.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Ceci ne pas une cible

Marx was right; there is no Sanity Clause.


Thursday, January 20, 2011


Getting old can be full of surprises, such as finding out that one's MELD score is 14 and that if I hadn't had surgery for a liver tumor last summer, my life expectancy was one year.

I shake that kind of information off. Doesn't apply to Immortal Me, cruising down de Nile. I am on record about liver transplants, though. None for me, thanks. If the angelic Christina Green, the 9 year old girl murdered in the attempt to assassinate U. S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, donated her liver and corneas to other children, brava, a beautiful gift. I, on the other hand, am a cranky old man of 66 years with a shorter life expectancy than most of us old farts sneaking up on 70. That kind of sacrifice would be wasted on me.

Those who hate me should take merry solace in the fact that my morphine isn't always that helpful. Those who know me well know me better than to hope I will compile my life's assets as though I deserve thanks. Any good I've done, what little there is of it, was inspired, and I have been privileged to witness the play as it unfolded. I am mindful of my blessings, which are, my wife, my daughter, my friends.

I'm a skeptic of demise,
our last days should us surprise,
so let my beaten bones be spread
around about a rhubarb bed —
there let thee my passing no wise dread.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Threat as Rhetoric

What's in a word? You may recall that airport security cops always go ballistic whenever somebody jokes about their luggage, usually mentioning the B-word in a totally jocular way of course. That's because of some old psychology exposited several centuries ago by Patanjali, the yoga sage who maintained it was easy to tell what people are thinking simply by listening to what they say, and observing what they gather to themselves.

A joke about a dead king, Patanjali would say, suggests dead kings are on one's mind. Finding pleasure in implements of war, such as javelins or archery, suggests dead kings who die of projectile weapons. A little wine, and the prevalence of such conjectures in one's speech to the exclusion of all else including naked women, and that drunkard becomes an individual marked for special attention. Finding him slowly progressing through the crowd toward the king, a wise cop signals his companions and gravitates toward the fool on his fool's errand. As Patanjali said, reading minds is easy.

Reading Sarah Palin's mind is like watching tarantulas in a glass box. On the other hand, we've never gone in much for lèse majesté in this republic of democrats, not at the gilded levels of contempt royalty reserves unto itself. In my lifetime, JFK, RFK, and MLK have died at the hands of assassins, none of whom died on the rack, and Ms. Barracuda within the sovereign scope of political debate — thanks to New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964) — is free to say whatever kind of inflammatory bat guano most pleases her. Of course, that cuts both ways as soon as she runs for office, even Wasila dog catcher. Such encrusted irony is thicker than unicorn snort, but we do enjoy the spectacle.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reince Priebus

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pale in America

Miami Vice... err... VICE CITY STORIES...! Hm. This Grand Theft Auto incident, dated 2006, for the Sony PSP handheld is rated M for its 17+ content, but could just as easily be rated JJ for Jackass Juvenile.

Unfortunately, for such a bucket of Hillary Clinton-baiting sleazebag wifebeatin' rednecks and viciously repulsive lack of even moderately insipid character, the technical values of GTA Vice City Stories are brilliant, and the humor (when and where it surfaces) is gut-wrenchingly funny. The story is set in Miami, 1984, the Reagan Era, and the plot line (if there actually is one) apparently is a conflict between unreconstructed bubbahood and immigrant hispanics who occupy too much space in the old South.

The "radio stations" illustrate it all: R-r-r-r-r-adio Espantoso leaves us all a bit aghast with a vicious rip at Antonio Banderas (?) and itty little fuzzy animals, plus mainstream Latino stuff like Oye como va; while Emotion 98.3 features wall-to-wall power ballads exploring a deep wellspring of hormonal weepiness to drown in — music by Pat Benatar, Toto, The Pretenders, Foreigner and many others. There are six other stations, including mind-bending "public radio" and the all-music Paradise. I hate it. I love it. No, I hate it. I really do. I... I... Oh my god, those tiny Venezuelan villages!

By the way, there are other famous brain traumas to give us all hope for Gabby besides Jim Brady. It's fictional, sure, but I do rather like The Bride from QT's Kill Bill. — Thanks, and tip of the "Hell, No!" hat to Sarah Barracuda

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tang tungglement

Can you say "tracking tragic traffic" three times fast? Thought I was having a stroke.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Assassin Characterization

When a police mugshot is presented like this without name or identity and no numbers, it behooves us to question the purpose of the image.  The word "propaganda" rises unbidden to mind. 

Arizona's officious idiocy knows no bounds; the masterminds behind the Loughner booking photo have handed his capable defense team a full-blown insanity plea on the proverbial silver platter while simultaneously tainting the entire North American jury pool.  Stupid and unprofessional.

That said, yeah — creepy as hell, like something Karl Rove would dream up. Sarah Palin is now calling Gabrielle Giffords' calmly prescient warning of consequences likely to follow the crosshairs SarahPAC pasted on Gifford's candidacy — get this! — a "blood libel" and blaming attempted bloody murder and the holocaust of a nine year girl old on one obviously deranged lone gentile. But there was no conspiracy!!! (Thank you, Pima County Sheriff's Department, for the presumption of innocence.)

Well, now! Who told Sarah Palin there was such a thing as a blood libel and does she not understand that the libel label has generally been used throughout history to kill Jews? Like, say, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is Arizona's first Jewish Congressperson? Can Sarah see Dachau from Alaska?

The Barracuda really needs to takes off that downright unflattering "God is My Fangirl" tee. Her Boobness already passeth all understanding.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

GTA Chinatown Wars: Dragon Haul Zen

There are no tips, really. Just practice, eventually you'll succeed. An observation, though. The first part of the mission is a chase, lots of highspeed twists and turns, plenty of opportunity to wipe out, get busted or get wasted. So, high adrenalin. The second part of the mission is the dragon dance, and for that you need steady nerves and a brain that knows where your other left is. Take time between parts, and let the cutscene play out to get your breathing under control. If you do this right, you'll be able to do it every single time, and you'll find it odd that your normal urge to celebrate is clamped down so tightly you may not even smile. I was disappointed. But I slept well.


Treason in Tucson

The very word, Arizona, is now synonymous with treason. And Sarah Palin should be flogged to the bone for publishing a flyer with a target over third-term U. S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Palin got her wish, and her wish was plain sedition.

Gabrielle Giffords, by all accounts, an intelligent, graceful, genuine, friendly woman with more courage than the press-ducking Palin has ever revealed, was shot in the head by a Tea Party stooge on January 8th, and is now fighting for her life in a Tucson emergency ward.

God help Gabrielle Giffords. God save the United States of America. God explain it to The Barracuda.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

GTA Chinatown Wars: Dragon-Haul-Z

This gets 7 out of 10 on the Pesky Missions Meter. You have to track down the Chinatown Festival truck, stop it in its tracks, steal it, drive it to a back alley behind the Liberty City Bank, meet up with Zhou, practice dragon dancing, perform the actual festival dragon dance and at the end slip away to safety.

The pesky bits are coordinating the fire breathing dragon's turns left, right and around in tiny circles, while breathing fire on cue. You've gotta use your arrow keys (← and →); correctly whether the dragon is going north or south, and get it right every time or else.

Ten out of ten on the PMM is the inconceivably inept Midgard Serpent bug in Tomb Raider Underworld.

As non sequitur goes, though, it's nice that NewSouth Books, who have tried yet again to expurgate Huckleberry Finn, are finally as offended by the word "nigger" as everyone else... even if they have missed the point entirely about Mark Twain's deliberate N-bomb tossing. Sure beats explaining the concept of racial slurs in class to southern white kids, when you're not entirely sure about that one yourself.

"Oh, mah! Did ah say something wrong?" — matronly Indian elephant, referring to Walt Disney's African elephant child, Dumbo (Shhh... You can tell by the ears.)

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Stuff Top Scientists Don't Want You To Know

Fig. 1 – Genuine Berkeley Tinfoil Hat: The Classical

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Conduct Unbecoming

You can't handle my kind of fun!
Our favorite Top Gun, old-school tailgater Capt. Owen Honors of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

To put his story in context, imagine Will Riker producing videos of himself, Counselor Deanna Troi (as played by Commander Data in drag) and other allegedly female officers, wearing shower caps and pretending to daisychain in Captain Piccard's ready room sauna. While the cat is away, the mice will play, 'ey, wink wink nudge nudge... Ah, the privileges of rank!

So, DADT still applies to heterosexual drag queen humor? Not really. Owen's offense is not the videos, but the abuse of authority that used the resources of the United States Navy to produce frat house amateur theatrics without fear of failure.

Every budding clown needs his pie-in-the-face critics, but Capt. Honors felt entitled to sidestep peer review. It was an expensive decision. For that gross error in judgment, Honors should be stood down and shuffled off to a desk job as Latrine Requisitions Officer in the Pentagon, there to wonder whether Julian Assange has those videos ready for YouTube yet.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Arkansas bird kill caused by lake turnover?

About a thousand (and maybe more) red-winged blackbirds have fallen out of the sky, dead, in Arkansas. Plus what appears to be a large, but curiously coincidental, fish kill. What's going on?

My first suspect would be lake turnover, a massive outgassing similar to the 1986 Lake Nyos incident in Africa.  Hot Springs isn't called "hot springs" for nothing. There is vulcanism in the region, including ancient diamond pipe structures similar to those in Nigeria and South Africa.

And Arkansas is contiguous to the New Madrid fault in the Reelfoot region of the Missouri boot heel.

Suddenly, thinking "zebras" when you hear hoofbeats makes a bit of sense. That is, there may have been an eruption of CO2 gas from any one of several likely culprits in Arkansan geology yesterday. If there was, it should have shown up in seismic recordings as a measurable minor earthquake.  And any lake turnover should look downright evil, the morning after.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy 1-1-11

Says it all....