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Latest Humorous T-shirt Slogan:
"You Wish!"
This one has to be taken in context to be appreciated. The girl wearing this belly shirt was maybe 5'0" tall, with a muffin top going on, despite the fact that she was clearly in her third trimester of pregnancy. In addition she was wearing a thong that came up past her low-rise jeans and pushed her muffin top down over the edge to really emphasize the roll. I'm not in perfect shape so I don't expect that others should be, but when you are wearing that shirt, along with the rest of the outfit, you open yourself to scrutiny (and perhaps random looks of horror).

It's fun to hate:
The Soccer Moms who insist that they drive gas-guzzling SUV's for the safety of their children despite the fact that they are 6 times more likely to be in a rollover accident than any other vehicle. It's like beating your child unconscious with the butt of your gun so that he will remain on the floor, thus making him less likely to be hit by a random bullet coming through the front window.

When Shadowtwin reigns supreme:
There will be mandatory, passive birth control required to participate in any form of government assistance. If you can't afford to raise your child on your own we are here to help you, but we must first make sure that your reproductive organs are adequately contained. If you don't like that policy all you have to do is support your kids your damn self!
Vote Shadowtwin!

Wildly inaccurate, yet shockingly precise, predictions based completely on happenstance and arbitrary universal fluctuations.
Your Horoscope:

Sagitarius: 11/22-12/21
A typographical error in your Church's newsletter will lead to you performing sex acts on dozens of anonymous strangers in your pursuit of "oral highground."

Capricorn: 12/22-1/19
The stars did recently tell your wife to "listen to her heart" regarding whether or not she should leave you. The stars did not intend for you to listen to her heart. But once you used that bonesaw on her sternum (not trusting the stethoscope which just responded with a cryptic thumping sound), we're pretty sure she made up her mind anyway.

Aquarius: 1/20-2/18
The stars would like to apologize for stating in their last prophecy, "Be wary of the stranger you meet at beach this weekend. The stars aren't sure why, but they don't trust him." Through a cosmic hiccup, that information was supposed to be released this month. The August prophecy should have read, "A dark and handsome stranger will approach you on the beach, profess his love for you, and sweep you away for a jetset marriage. After which you will lead a long, happy, prosperous, healthy life as the Queen of a small island nation." We apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused.

Pisces: 2/19-3/20
Your new stopwatch will allow you to time how long you can hold your breath underwater down to the thousandth of a second. Unfortunately, poor planning will mean that you are not able to actually share the information with anyone.

Aries: 3/21-4/19
Your innovative new device for beauticians to use while giving pedicures can be wildly successful and make you quite wealthy IF you change the name. Trust us, no one is going to buy a "Ped-O-File".

Taurus: 4/20-5/20
Your Mother always told you to wear clean underwear just in case there was an accident and paramadics had to see them. But as you board that plane today, the stars want you to know that you needn't worry about it. The debris field will be more than 8 square miles, making it impossible to find most human remains. Not to mention that the ensuing fire burned so hot that it disintegrated not only all fabric, but most of the thin metals aboard as well.

Gemini: 5/21-6/21
You just had to get that genital piercing, didn't you? The stars tried to warn you not to, but you went ahead and did it anyway... Now all your worst fears will come to bear when, at a campground this weekend, you run afoul of this guy:

Cancer: 6/22-7/22
The less traveled by areas of the Grand Canyon's north rim offer some of the most breathtaking views of this natural wonder. You will soon find out they also include some of the worst footings and none of the handrails. They do, however, provide equally awe-inspiring, terminal velocity impacts.

Leo: 7/23-8/22
The stars heard your pleas, begging for someone who you could share your love with and embrace for the rest of your life. If you are still single, throw your arms around the closest person to you at 3:44pm GMT on Dcember 9th -That'll be the one. Trust us, you won't have time to be picky...

Virgo: 8/23-9/22
The stars have piled up most of your things on the front porch. You can stay at a friend's house, but you aren't coming back home until you admit what you did and apologize. The stars' Mother was right about you... (you must have really pissed them off; the stars were in tears while they told me this)

Libra: 9/23-10/22
The stars have been doing a little thinking and a lot of math. The population of planet earth is roughly 6,796,590,704. That means that roughly 566,382,558 people share each astrological sign. About 18,620,796 have the same birthday. Based on average life expectancy as many as 248,277 people were born on the same day, in the same year, for every zodiac sign. How can one statement possibly predict the future of all of them? Ehh, fuck it. "A full moon while Venus is rising is an omen of good things to come."

Scorpio: 10/23-11/21
They say you never know how you are going to react to a crisis. After a home invasion this weekend you will: You will scream, "Do whatever you want to my wife, but leave me alone!" You will then create a distraction by throwing your newborn at the assailant as you dive through the window to safety. Now you know.

Music lost to history:

Aerosmith - Dream On When I started doing these, I could never have imagined that I would be putting an Aerosmith song here. Since I was born in 1974, this song is well before my generation. It was recorded in 1972 and released in 1983 on Aerosmith's Self-Titled Album, but to read the information on it at Wikipedia most of us would become familiar with it from a re-release in 1976.

Like most of the music being released in the late 60's/early 70's that was pushing the rock-n-roll envelope, Dream On relies heavily on solid composition and and melody. Before the era of the modern effects processor, these bands had no distortion to hide behind (or very little), and synthesized instruments hadn't yet made their way into music. In that way the music always sounds more raw to us today because, quite simply, it was. While it seems laughable to think about today, music like this was so far removed from the bubble-gum pop of the 50's that it still wasn't accepted into the mainstream. As the baby-boomers became the target demographic, the rock-n-roll movement really started to pick up speed, with bands like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith clearing the path for the much darker and heavier bands like Black Sabbath.

While I (and most of my generation) are probably far more familiar with the Aerosmith of the late 80's and early 90's, the reason this song makes it onto my MLtH page comes down to one thing: Age. Not necessarily the age of the song; In fact, as I sat down to do the research for this today, I had no idea when it was released, but would have guessed (closely) the mid 70's. Tyler was born March 26, 1948, meaning that this song was written when he was only 24 years old. I'm not sure why, but I have always thought this song was pretty amazing given his age at composition. I suppose it is human nature to wax poetic about the days of yore and the imminent passage of time, but the melody sets a mood that makes you feel it right along with him. As the song nears the end and his lyrics become more more frenzied, you can almost feel the pain (longing?) in his voice. Listen to it with headphones and no distraction sometime, you'll see what I mean.

I wrote a short bit some time ago about Kelly Sweet's cover of this song (see the video on Youtube). While I have since gotten over the initial hatred I felt towards the cover of the song, I still just can't like it. The words are there; she hits the notes; but I just can't hear it in her voice. As if there is somthing very personal about the song and Tyler's deliverance of the lyrics that just can't be duplicated. At least to me.

That said, I have heard Aerosmith doing the song with an orchestra, and it also seems to lack the passion of the original. So perhaps the thing that I like so much about it is the under-produced, raw sound of it, or it may be that I am still hearing it through the ears of that impressionable youth that heard if for the first time in a dusty old Van with my Uncle Art. Either way, it seems it is Lost to History.

Music Lost to History Archive

I Can't Believe it's Not Porn!
WhorePresents.comYep, it's not porn. It's not a site with gifts for sale either, which is probably a good thing since I can't imagine that any woman would be at all flattered to get a gift -no matter how nice- in a box that says "Whore" on it.

Daily Reading:
Magazine Man
Shane Nickerson
Wil Wheaton
Hoyazo's Poker Blog

My reading list changes from time to time, and there are many sites that I visit that are not on the list. They are listed in the order that I visit them, enjoy!

Locations of visitors to this page

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving time!

Thanksgiving is the one holiday that I have really never understood. Most of the holidays that we celebrate here in the U.S. are based on mythology that goes back to long before Christianity. Chrsitmas is celebrated because some ancient cult had a festival at the winter solstice, it was sort of absorbed into Christianity as the day of the birth of Christ, as well as some jolly fellow in a red suit. I don't know why Christmas was scheduled a few days after the solstice,my best guess is that they (by they I am meaning the church in ancient times) wanted to give contemporary cults time to celebrate their tradition, while training their children in both... Bam!, Christmas is born (whether Christ was born anywhere near that time is a hot topic for Religious Scholars, doesn't matter a bit to me though).

Mythology is where the average U.S. citizen would place the Gods that the people of ancient Greece or Rome believed in. Add a couple of hundreds of years and I bet the Religious Scholars will be laughing about Christianity, then place it squarely in the Mythology category.

There are many holidays that don't celebrate any religious right (unless you consider secretaries Holy), but Thanksgiving has to be the most obscure of them all.

Thanksgiving is purported to be an annual feast that marks the day that the Native Americans invited the new settlers over for a grand supper. Wild Turkey was involved (whether that was the animal or the drink I certainly don't know). Next thing you know the Native Americans are being slaughtered to near extinction.

That is not a Holiday. How does that though process go? Let us all celebrate the day that the Native Americans invited us to a huge feast, then we killed them by the thousands, raped their wives and daughters, forced them to move more and more west, until they (the ones who didn't fight back) were eventually nicely stored in concentration camps reservations. Yeah! Let's celebrate that! Hell, nobody had anything to do in November anyway.

Thanksgiving has transformed itself a bit over the years. It has become more of a yearly family reunion than a celebration. It is one out of two Holidays, that I can think of, that you really have to be at. Doctors, Surgeons, anyone in the emergency medicine line of work really, Firefighters (though they are likely on call), and 24-hour convenience mart employees have to work that day, the rest of us really have to go to the November family reunion.

I long for those days.

Thanksgiving, for myself and most of the relatives on my wife's side of the family, is going to be a day spent at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. The Mother-in-law is still there. She had an additional surgery on Monday (to reinforce one of the bones in her upper arm), there is no way that she is going to be out of the hospital by Thursday. It is extremely important that everyone is there, not because she might die ( fear of imminent death has been resolved long ago), but because she needs to know that we are all willing her to overcome the issues ( some call it praying, but when it gets right down to it God created the cancer, therefore God has the cure, right? I put a lot more faith in my ability to just wish it away, hmm., I guess I am religious).

What is really, truly, sad is that I would likely have never written this post if my Mother-in-law had not been in the hospital. I have no doubt that the hospital's Thanksgiving meal is going to suck, but I am going to be there eating it anyway. I guess now is the time that I should be thankful that I am not the one in the hospital.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I hate plumbing

I hate plumbing. I hate it with such a passion that whenever I have to actually duel with the plumbing beast only one comes out alive, and then just barely. The concept of plumbing is so simple that it seems like it should be a pretty easy task to take care of minor household issues that arise, yet, in practice, it never is.

The only times that I really wish I lived in a new, mass produced house are when I have plumbing issues in my old, one-of-a-kind pad. New homes are made of little boards, Styrofoam and drywall. My house is made of adobe, bricks and mortar. Thankfully the issue at hand didn't require having to drill through all 18 inches of the wall again, that was damn near impossible with ordinary tools, but it still was not an easy job. I had to change a faucet in the kitchen.

The kitchen faucet has been in serious need of replacement for about (let's see... Carry the one...) two and a half years. My father-in-law actually gave me a faucet about two years ago (nice one too. Quite heavy, all copper inside) that has been just sitting in the junk room. I decided I really better go ahead and put the new faucet on, for real this time, the other day when I went to fill the dogs' water dish and more water was spraying out of the sides of the faucet than was getting into the bowl. On the up side, it only took half an hour to find the faucet (my previous attempts at locating it had not yielded any results. Most likely since I was only doing a half-assed job of looking for it since I hate plumbing so much).

The problem with the plumbing in my house is that it is old, really old. With the exception of the main water line (which I had to replace last year at Christmas) it is all galvanized. Really old galvanized. It looks perfectly fine on the outside, yet it is so rusted on the inside that if I touch it it is likely to break. And usually does. So I was a wee bit apprehensive about working on it today, but I was at the point where I either had to replace it or find a way to fill a glass with water shooting straight into the air.

I shut off the main water supply to the house via the valve that I added when I replaced the main line (as the shut off at the street doesn't work and the city has ignored my repeated requests to replace it). Those little valves under the sink might look like they are intended to turn off the water supply but, in practice, the are more likely to break off in your hand than actually have any effect on water flow. I didn't want to have to get into replacing those (heh, more on that later). I ever so gently removed the hoses from the valves under the sink (which I did first only because this was where major disaster could happen and if disaster was going to happen I didn't want it to be when I was damn near done), no breakage, I was home free...

I would have been home free, had I replaced the faucet two and a half years ago...

The minerals in water are an odd bunch. They have the ability to corrode the stainless steel and metal parts of the faucet, while adding a huge build-up of greenish gunk to the copper parts. Two and a half years of adding greenish gunk to the copper threads that hold the faucet in place are not easily overcome.

I happened to have a basin wrench at my disposal. That is a wonderful little tool (picture to the right) that is just absolutely fucking useless in my experience. I bought the thing (well one exactly like it) shortly after I moved into the house when I had to replace the faucet in the bathroom. The nuts on the bathroom faucet were so fused to the pipes that I bent the t-bar on the basin wrench and was still not able to make them move. I eventually had to use a hacksaw on the bathroom faucet, but I did have the basin wrench for future projects. Projects like replacing the kitchen faucet where it would prove to be equally useless.

The nuts that hold the faucet to the sink are made of plastic, they even have little ridges on them so that you can tighten them with only your fingers (I suppose the manufacturer theorizes that you can loosen them in the same manner, they are sorely mistaken). Since the nuts are made of plastic they neither corrode or get chemical build up on them. They were the only part of the whole damn sink that were in perfect shape. Thing is, there is no way to turn the little plastic nuts. They were meant to be tightened by fingers, not metal tools. When I tried to loosen the little things with the aforementioned basin wrench I was able to get about a full turn out of each nut before there was nothing left for the tool to grip. Bring on the hacksaw!

There is only about a two inch space behind your average faucet before you encounter a wall. That is a real problem when trying to saw, what with the sawing action requiring some actual forward and back movement. Even with the saw turned as sideways as I could get it I was only able to make strokes of three inches or so. It took over a half an hour to cut through the first of the two water supplies (above the sink, mind you). The cold water side was the one that remained. Since I am right handed, and the cold water supply is on the right, it was requiring a weird sort of underhand saw stroke which was hurting my arm and going nowhere. The diameter of the hole that the supply goes into is about an inch, the diameter of the nut is about an inch and a half... Hmmm. I wonder if I could just rip the whole thing out of the top without destroying the sink.

I did rip the whole thing right out of the top of the sink, nut and all. The picture to the left shows what was left of the faucet, as well as that stupid nut. Keep in mind that the nasty little nut (that being the ugly black thing) came out of a hole that was much smaller than it. I was so pissed off by the time I got the thing out that I literally just threw it in the direction of the door to the outside. The damage to the sink was minimal, there was a bit of bending involved in getting the hole back to level but that was about it. It was only when I dug this old piece of shit out of the trash (to snap a photo) that I started to wonder how in the fuck I managed to get that big ass piece of plastic through such a small hole.

Unfortunately the new faucet is now in place, with no leaks, thank you, and I'll be damned if I am gonna take it out just to snap a photo of the size of the hole it came out of. That nut has a flange on it. It is specifically designed so that you can't rip it out from the top. It took only anger, rage, anger, superhuman strength, anger, crying, anger, and a bit of finesse to rip that sucker out. That or I managed to catch an edge of the plastic from the top of the sink and the steel cut through the plastic as I basically unscrewed it. That wouldn't be much of a tale to tell though. Plus, I have photographic proof of my superhuman accomplishment!

The big downside to this all is that my jerry-rigged connection to the water purifier got fucked up in the process (cross threaded a brass connector into a PVC junction). I am going to have to actually replace one of the valves under the sink after all, or live without an ice maker. I doubt the wife will let me live without an ice maker (not that she will encourage me to fix it or anything, more that she will probably kill me if I don't). When I try to replace that valve tomorrow, and it breaks (oh yeah, it is gonna break. This is my life), I will have to replace another significant portion of the plumbing for the rest of the house (since everything else will break in turn).

Did I mention that I hate plumbing?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bionic Woman, First Edition

The Mother-in-law underwent the first (well first and second technically) of what is turning out to be a hell of a lot of surgeries on her bones this morning. It is sort of looking like the basic goal is to replace every bit of bone with metal of one type or another, well not quite, seems that way sometimes though.

The surgery that was done today added a steel rod that runs the length of the inside of one of her femurs, as well as completely replacing the hip on the opposite side. To think that they were able to do all that at the same time, get it done in only a few hours, and have her back to a normal hospital room in less than eight hours just blows my mind. Medical technology sure has advanced in the last couple of decades.

The surgery went well enough that they are going to take her in for additional bone surgery on Wednesday. The additional surgery is going to be adding more rods to her arm/shoulder region. See, the doctor thinks that she is going to be actually walking again within a week or two, but with the aid of a walker, and wants to sturdy up her upper body so that she doesn't break an arm when she first tries to use it. I guess I should just trust the doctor. Hell, he put a rod in her leg and replaced her hip in only a couple of hours, though he had set aside five hours in case there were major complications (which, thankfully did not happen). He seems to know what he is doing.

I still haven't quite wrapped my mind around the whole situation with her bones; She has cancer in her neck and the hip that they replaced, yet, there has been no mention of cancer anywhere else in her bones. Why is it that the bones that don't have any cancer in them have also been deteriorated to such a point that they are needing to be reinforced? I think I am going to go read up on cancer of the bones after I finish this post just to gain a bit of understanding.

So another radiation treatment for the neck cancer today, surgery on her arm/shoulder Wednesday, a re-evaluation of her other arm likely between now and then to see if it needs any work done on it, she has a pretty full schedule in front of her. After seeing her yesterday I have been in much better spirits about the situation, but I can't help but think this is a hell of a lot of surgery to be going through in such a short time. I certainly want her to get well as quickly as possible, and I am sure that the doctor wouldn't be doing anything that was not in her best interests (the whole Hippocratic oath thing), not to mention that the last thing I would want to see is her going through one major surgery, rehabilitating for a couple of months, going through another major surgery, rehabilitating for a couple of months...and on... After Wednesday she is going to have a piece of metal in every one of her limbs (I think), that seems like a hell of a lot of rehabilitating to do all at the same time.

The first step towards turning my Mother-in-law into a real life bionic woman was successful and I truly hope that the rest of the steps will go just as well.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Medical Update

It has been almost a week since my Mother-in-law was admitted to St. Jospephs. There are at least some facts to draw on at this point. The cancer that is traveling throughout her body seems to have originated in one of her breasts (and how ironic is it that my wife has been doing the breast cancer walk every year to fund research on breast cancer?). Her neck is still in pretty bad shape, and she has a broken hip on top of all of that.

They started to radiate the cancer in her neck a couple of days ago, evidently that is all going well. I am happy to know that. They are actually going to do a hip replacement surgery on her Monday morning, then take her to another radiation treatment that afternoon. I am happy to see that they are doing everything so quickly, yet I wonder how quickly it all should go.

I know that hip and knee replacement surgery is pretty standard stuff at this point, but I wonder how able someone would be to recover from a hip replacement, while undergoing radiation to kill cancer. I suppose they wouldn't be doing the hip replacement if they didn't think it was completely safe, I must just acknowledge that the doctors know a lot more than I do.

I am finding an up side to the whole situation though. I don't really think the doctors would be doing a hip replacement surgery on her if they thought the cancer she has would be immediately fatal. I really doubt that they would be replacing the hip were they not sure that she could walk away from this whole ordeal (pun sort of intended) with only a bunch of scars and a new hip. The cancer in the breast, lung, hip (likely will be removed with the addition of a new hip), were not the biggest issue. The cancer in her neck was the most pressing issue.

The cancer in her neck has been responding pretty well to the radiation. Whatever that means. Well enough that they are going to radiate her neck again only hours after she gets her whole hip replaced. The marvels of modern technology.

I am going to spend a couple hours with the Mother-in-law tomorrow, before she goes into surgery on Monday. While there will be little that I can do other than simply be there, I bet I can make her laugh a few times. I don't know if laughter will actually help her, but it will do volumes of good for me. High spirits are often the only thing you have going for you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Existential Musings

For the life of me I am not able to understand why it so important to religious people (only in the U.S.) to try to disprove the theory of evolution, or explain it away as only being a "theory" when the natural change of species has been going on for millennia, and is clearly shown through fossil records.

The religious belief that God created every living being seems to infringe on Darwin's theory, yet even the Pope (sorry for the lack of a link, lost the page. If you google it, send it to me so I can add it back) has acknowledged that evolution would fill a lot of the holes in the biblical record. Sure Noah could not have had 1.8million species on that boat, but he could have had several thousand species, which were created by God, on that boat. Those species have evolved into all the species we have today, over time. Yet, that has nothing to do with the current fight about evolution.

Intelligent design is supposed to be an alternative to evolution. It is an alternative, and also completely wrong. So much fossilized evidence exists to support evolution that it is laughable to try to explain it away. Species on Earth have evolved. Case closed.

The fight that the religious people really need to get into is existential. There is either 'Creationism', which relies on believing that some entity built the entire universe one day when he was bored, or there is the 'big bang theory', which supposes that the universe was formed when a small meteor hit a huge mass in the middle of space. Both of the possibilities seem pretty false. In either case we have to wonder what created the creator.

If you look at existence logically there would be no existence. Whether you happen to believe in a God, or a 'big bang', something had to have happened prior to make that happen. Some one, or some thing, would have to create the God. Some one, or some thing, would have to create the huge mass (and small meteor that smashed into it) to make the 'big bang theory' plausible. Human understanding has yet to evolve to a level where we can theorize about it.

Petroglyphs and Hieroglyphs of long dead peoples certainly pre-date the bible, and are very obvious in the oral traditions of most people. Tell the same story enough times and it becomes the truth. But quibbling about evolution is just silly.

Scientists only argue that species have evolved over time, religious zealots have only argued that God created everything, while giving the species free reign to evolve over time. It is only the nutjobs in the U.S. that have argued that God created all 1.8million of them (the species so far discovered) and put them on Noah's boat.

The existential part of the question is what we should really be looking at. Science doesn't try to explain away the formation of planets and universes (religion does), science just wants to know who created the creator. Religious people often argue that life can not be created without life, so, who created God?

I don't have any better answer on the atheist side. Someone had to send the huge mass that turned into the known universe rolling, then had to make a huge meteor hit it. Is there a God? That is an existential question. The problem becomes that, no matter how far back you go, you will never find the person who set the whole world to rolling. Even if you happen to find the creator of the whole universe, who created him?

Who created God?

I was actually looking around on the internet today, I didn't find much of interest (goat porn sites aside), what I did find was the Sims. In the world of the Sims, they have no idea that you are controlling their actions, but, they do whatever you tell them to. Could it be that the human race is just a huge game of the Sims on someone else's computer? They don't know that they are digitally animated little characters, they don't know that someone is watching their every action, they just do what they do. Were those little suckers to start to think existentially they might rule the world.

It all has to go back to who created the creator though. The most powerful entity of all time can't possibly have just materialized, there must be evidence of that, right?

Yeah, the bible.

I have duct tape, it is pretty similar. Similar insofar as it is horribly useless, means nothing and can't be substantiated. Yet, the duct tape performs fabulously, the bible gives way under the smallest amount of stress or scrutiny.

Duct Tape must have created the universe.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A cry for help

I have been a bit lacking in my blogging over the last few days. The truth is that there is one post that I really want/need to write, in fact I have written it several times only to delete it. Talking about myself and my own minor medical problems isn't much of an issue for me, but when I try to talk about other people (medical problems or not) I am always left wondering how much I should say, how I should say it, how sensitive or technical I should write it, etc. I am just gonna try to throw this down off the cuff, as such it will likely be deleted before it makes it from my mind to your eyes, but I just have to try. There will be no links. If it actually makes it all the way to posting I will likely go back and add them later.

My Mother in Law has been having problems with her hip for at least a year. She has been to several local doctors who all diagnosed it as osteoarthritis. She has been taking over the counter supplements to battle the problem, but it wasn't getting any better, in fact it was getting worse. Over the last week or so she wasn't even able to hold her head upright for more than a few seconds without enormous amonts of pain. Just how bad it had become came to light just this Monday, after a chiropractor, of all people, ordered an X-ray. She left the chiropractor's office in an ambulance. It was bad.

Thankfully she was taken to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital (far and away the best in the state), where my Father in Law, my wife, my Brother in law and his girlfriend, two of her (the mother in law's) best friends and myself waited anxiously for any news. The first that I heard, prior to getting to the hospital, was that she had a broken neck. If only it had been something so minor...

The Hospital went on to do a bunch of tests on her, MRI, CT Scan, multiple X-rays, something is horribly wrong with her spine. Her neck needed to be stabilized, and I thought that she was going to be going into surgery for that right away. Alas, they can't just start cutting on her until they know exactly what the source of the problem is, else they could do more harm than good. So it was that they just doped her to high heaven and held her in intensive care unit at the Barrow neurological Institute to await results of a biopsy. That was all on Monday.

Details were hazy on Tuesday, everyone was a bit too emotional to retain and repeat facts. Moving on.

Wednesday brought the news that no one ever wants to hear. A single word that can devastate any family: Cancer. Not just a little bit of cancer, she has it in lots of places. There is cancer in her neck, which is obviously the most important one, cancer in one of her breasts, cancer in one of her hips, a 'shadow' of cancer in one of her lungs, and another 'shadow' of it on one of her legs. I honestly just don't know what to think. The oncologist is waiting for the results of the biopsy before starting treatment, I suppose that is a good call. But if you have cancer in five distinctly different regions of your body, isn't that the point where you can rule out the cancer being benign?

The only good thing to take from the Oncologist is that he thinks that the 'shadows' of cancer are not really that big of a deal. Detecting those early enough might make it so that they can be treated before she loses the ability to breathe and the such. The neck is the worst problem right now, as the cancerous cells are the only thing keeping her spine in line. Were the cancer to respond a bit too well to the treatment (I assume radiation), a simple turn of her head could severe her spinal chord. She is in a bionic neck brace to prevent anything like that from happening.

The Oncologist thinks that she will actually be able to leave the hospital at some point, yet have to come back (daily? weekly?) for treatment. I think that is a pretty good sign. At the same time I am thinking that the human body is about an intricate a device as you will ever find; what works for one might not work for another. I hope and pray (I don't really have a religion but I am praying anyway) that she is going to be okay. At the same time I know that you don't really get over cancer, at least not when it is infecting your actual bones -you can only take out so many bones-.

Posts may begin to dwindle even more around here as I try to help my wife deal with what is happening to her Mother. I know there is nothing that I can personally do (like donate a kidney or something), but I have to do my best to make sure my wife is not an emotional wreck the whole time. That is a pretty tough task when the wife just keeps asking the same question, "She's going to be okay, right?", and there is no way to answer that question.

If you are reading this (regardless of religion), can you go ahead and just wish/hope/pray that she gets better. She is only 52, and she is a wonderful artist. She needs a few more decades down here...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More on Texas Hold 'Em

I have been playing way more poker than I care to admit, albeit online and completely free of any sort of money. I am pretty sure that I am getting a hell of a lot better at the game. I still don't think that I am really any good, yet, I am pretty confident in my ability to win against any of the other players, who are NOOBs every bit as much as me.

I have still not ventured back into any of the real money games, not even the nickel and dime ones I was playing before (which I did not actually lose any money in), but I am fairly confident that if and when I do venture back into them I will do a hell of a lot better than I did previously.

People seem to place way too much stock in the eyes of their opponents when playing poker. I can tell you right now that I could look you straight in the eyes, tell you that I am a princess on a pony, and not blink or shift my eyes as I do it. I am sure that there are other mannerisms that change while I am telling you that, but the eyes will remain constant, staring into yours. That is what I am finding so baffling about the online poker games; All the digital opponents have tells.

I spent about two hours today playing in a fake money room on PokerStars. I started with 500 tokens and left with 8,437. I know that I personally knocked out at least a dozen players (three of them on a single hand), and it feels good to know that I am getting better. Still, without the benefit of being able to look at someone as they are making a decision you can't really tell what they are thinking/holding, can you? Turns out you can.

When I entered the room that I played in there was one guy that had over 3,000, everyone else had under 1,000. I had exactly 500. The guy who had over 3,000 had a really weird tell: When he actually had a good hand he would bet an amount that would leave his chip count at an even number if he were to lose it (betting 137 when he had 3,137, for example. Perhaps he was thinking that others would view this as rounding out his winnings before he left?), yet when he was bluffing/unsure he would just bet in increments of 10. That was a simple pattern to figure out and the guy went out quickly.

There was another guy in the room that told his hand by checking/betting the minimum when he had a good hand, then betting 30, exactly 30, when he didn't have a good hand. That guy would fold if anyone checked his 30, but would raise if the little bet made it all the way back to him: He would bet 30 on a shit hand, but bet the minimum on a good hand hoping he could raise it. He went out pretty quickly as well.

Most of the other players just put way too much stock into their own cards (me for instance). The hand where I busted out three people was when I was holding a lowly 6-9 diamonds. The flop brought an ace of diamonds, seven of clubs and eight of hearts. The two people facing me both had the ace (which I found out only after the hand), but I had an open-ended straight. If the betting would have been a bit more aggressive I would surely have folded. When the turn gave me a ten (don't remember the suit), I checked, so did everyone else. The river came up an ace. Both of the ace holders thought they had the hand all but won, what are the odds that someone is still in the game with a 6 and 9 at this point. The third guy mucked his cards so I don't know what he was holding. I went all in. All three of the active players called me. Quick double-up. It must really suck to lose with 3 aces though.

Sadly, the trend continued. One guy would get a pair of aces and assume that he was invincible. Only to lose to a low level straight or flush. I logged into that game with 500 tokens, logged out with almost 9,000, and never made a really stupid call. I did catch a flush on the river once, but that was the only reason I was still in the hand at all. I made solid decisions based on the best possible hand, took a couple of risks (which totally paid off), and am now confident that I can parlay the fake money game talent into a real game. Whether I actually do that or not is probably going to be up in the air though. sponsors Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, and many other people I would not want to get into a showdown with. When you are just cutting your teeth at a game you certainly don't want to play against the best ever (at least I don't). Yet, I hope I could hold my own if I did. Luck is as important as skill in this game, I have luck in droves. Unfortunately my luck is all bad.

Friday, November 04, 2005

When toaster ovens attack!

The toaster oven is one of the most useful devices that currently resides in my home. Some of the less useful items include the dogs (what the hell do they ever do?), the exercise bike (simply digging that out of the back room would be more of a workout than actually riding it), my fabulous "you talk, it types" headset (which was apparently only programmed for languages I am not fluent in; If I said, after all of the "teaching it my voice", the word "open", I would invariably get a string of characters just like this: OVIPING. What language is that?). Frankly there is so much disused crap in the house that I really shouldn't be talking about (note my untouched guitars and equipment with a retail value of over a thousand dollars, might as well be paperweights for all the use they get).

The toaster oven, on the other hand, is in constant use. Often we use it several times in a day. This little marvel can warm food in about half the time of the conventional oven, yet it allows the foods to retain the texture they were intended to have. Frozen cinnamon bread becomes toast in only a couple of minutes while not becoming the glop of inedible crap they would have been if they were microwaved. Frozen food in particular is the main reason we have this device. Even the cheap, microwavable foods that are the better part of my existence are warmed in this device. Crunchy chimicangas, crispy crust personal pizzas (a note on that. Mom always told me that when I grew up I wouldn't want to eat the same thing every day. She was partially right. I don't eat ice cream very much at all, but I do eat either Pizza or chimichangas every damn day). Frozen foods come out of the microwave soggy, the actual oven takes too damn long, and heats the house up (when it is 120 degrees outside you try to avoid heating the interior of the house up). Thank you toaster oven.

The toaster oven is a wonderful thing to have around the house, but when that sucker attacks you better run for the hills. So it was that I was trying to check to see if the mini pizza in the back of the little oven was cooked, I reached well above the little pizzas in the front of the oven (didn't want to burn myself, you see). That was when the toaster oven attacked.

Of course the toaster oven didn't really attack me. The little, red-hot bars on the inside of the device were the ones that did. Even that isn't accurate, since had I not stuck my hand right onto one I would never have been burned in the first place. I guess I must have been trying to vanquish the toaster oven, screaming "taste 98.6 degree flesh, you monster!" , at the time. That seems rather unlikely, but who knows. At any rate, the boo-boo I got is pictured somewhere in this jumble of words (those being the last two paragraphs, and depending on your screen resolution settings).

The picture that I was able to get doesn't really show the extent of the burn (it was the only snap of the camera that I got before the batteries petered out). While it looks like just an inch long boo-boo (which it was) that thing was puffed up like a marshmallow at the time. I must also note that I was going to crop the photo a bit further, yet the juxtaposition of the fresh wound, being only inches from the scar on my wrist (bottom right) made me leave the whole wrist in. Pride in scars, gotta love it. I have found though that the "chicks dig scars" phrase is absolute crap. If that was true the human race would have been extinct long ago, what with every man trying, intentionally, to do something so stupid that he ends up scarred. Hell, if women could reproduce asexually they wouldn't need men at all, except for those darned jars that just won't open.

My hand has healed a bit, and it looks worse than ever. It kind of looks like I am trying to grow a vagina right there on my hand. That was certainly not what I was going for, but in the age of monkeys with four asses, who knows. The wound is better, in that it doesn't actually hurt anymore, but it still does itch something awful. Mom told me that I am not supposed to scratch when a wound itches. If I die from this simple little wound I will heartily laugh at her. Failing that, if the wound scars over I could host some paper football games with the goalposts being the scar on my wrist and the scar on the top of my hand. I can get the injury/scar to line up with less than a flip of the wrist, and it would make it look like a V.

Beware the toaster ovens, they are after your blood, the blood of your family and all heirs. The toaster ovens will not stop until they rule the world.

There is good news though. I just saved a bundle by canceling my car insurance.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pimping Guild Wars...

I have played a lot of video games in my time, probably more than I would care to admit. I have even paid monthly subscription charges to play one (Everquest). I have found, over time, that the majority of the game producers just don't give a shit about the end user once they pony up the cash for the game. Diablo II still offers the online multiplayer for free, but Blizzard doesn't really seem to give a shit about the community in general. Why should they? The game is like five years old.

Guild Wars, on the other hand, is actively doing all they can to keep the game both fresh and fun for all of the players, regardless of the fact that you don't have to pay a fee to play it.

See, they took a normal monster from the game, rebuilt it out of candy corn and put it back in. Just for Halloween. They made a lot of changes to other things as well, cauldrons and the such appearing in the middle of towns, skeletons and candles all over the place. I thought it was extremely cool. Everquest never did anything like that in all the time I was playing it, and I was paying for that service!

I should also note that these candy corn monsters were not merely a background, they were the actual fighting minions that my wife was using as she headed out into battle. That is my wife in the middle of the photo, looking a bit petite (as always) next to the lumbering hulks beside her. Much like real life come to think of it.

I can tell you, from first hand experience, that candy corn doesn't have to mutate in any way to become deadly. Have you ever eaten any of that shit? You kind of hope it is laced with cyanide about the time you taste it. Definitely better to be bludgeoned to death with it than to have to actually taste it.

Still, Kudos to Guild Wars for throwing in some creative and festive artwork. They didn't have to do it, but they did. I think little things like that are going to make Guild Wars into on of the longest running games ever. The fact that they do minor updates almost daily doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The dream is dead

In all of my self-deprecating musings, I am not entirely sure if I have ever covered anything I ever did that I was good at. I will remedy that right now.

I decided that I wanted to be a guitarist shortly after my dad died in 1990. There were three albums released within a twelve month period that made me want -need- to become a guitarist. The three albums were Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction, Metallica's Black Album, and Ozzy's No More Tears. Those three albums have some amazing guitar work on them, yet it is also achievable by a relative NOOB. To a point, there are some solos on those albums that I could never touch even in my prime. I did have a bit of a flair for the guitar, a fact I found shortly after dropping 40 bucks on the crappiest piece of shit you could ever lay eyes on (bonus points for that guitar having the brand name "Memphis" while I was using it exclusively for heavy metal pursuits, which was oddly unprepared for).

My ambition to become a guitarist would likely have faded away rather quickly were it not for the fact that one of my best friends decided he wanted to be a drummer. We were instantly half of a band, not a very good one mind you. What we lacked in skill, however, we made up for in dreams and desire. We practiced voraciously. We both practiced a lot on our own, but whenever we got the chance we would actually set up in his mom's living room and pound out our stuff. Which was damn loud. Another friend, Steve, would join up a lot of the time, he was also a guitarist, thus giving us everything except a bass player (bass the instrument, not the fish, we were not a country band).

For all the dreams and desires we had, we still had something lacking: money. When Steve, Dean, and I would get into a jam session we usually had to rent a second guitar amp. The guitars would both be sporting strings that had been on them for months, often breaking in a heavy riff and stopping the session for an hour or so as we tried to scrape up a buck to buy a new string, then had to go to the guitar store to get it. That said, there was a window where we were actually pretty good.

I would play the guitar for hours and hours every day. I had the guitar in my hand pretty much any time I was not at work, school, or sleeping. I got blisters on my fingers, which eventually turned to callouses. I was getting a lot better on the guitar, Dean was getting a lot better on the drums. In 1992 we got a huge equipment upgrade. I went from playing that piece of shit "Memphis" to playing a Jackson Charvel (fusion model. Can't find a good link for it). Dean went from a beginner drum kit to a full blown, Double Bass, Tama drum kit (two bass drums, four toms, a floor tom, a top-hat, and cymbals galore. That was a 2,000 dollar drum kit). They say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it turns out that our weakest link was the equipment.

The change was instant. My new guitar didn't just randomly go out of tune anymore, I didn't have to force the strings onto the frets with Hulk-like force, I was able to actually just play the damn thing. The same was true of Dean's new drum kit. Where he was previously using some janky double-pedal system to achieve the double-bass necessary for heavy metal, it was often faulty and the second bass hit was never in time. That was all changed by the new equipment. We went from sounding pretty crappy (even to us), to sounding pretty good (even to others) in very short order. In essence (while not quite literally), we went from the garage band that gets the police called on them a lot (which is true, it was damn loud), to the garage band that many other musicians in town wanted to be a part of (which is partially true, we only got the ones that were in the "stoner" demographic).

We still weren't performing public shows, but the garage doors got opened (though we played in the living room). People would actually show up to watch and/or take a stab at playing a song with us. It was a really good time. The one thing that I can say definitively is that there would be no way that you could tell that we were not actually Metallica had you listened to any of our Metallica covers (that is very literal. I recorded tapes with actual Metallica songs on one track, while I played guitar on the other track (only had a normal tape deck), after adjusting the volume levels of the two tracks, recording it back to a single track, then playing it for anyone, they couldn't tell the difference. That was just my guitar track, and I was always the weakest link, since I was not really good at keeping in time.)). Cover tunes do not the band make. We needed some orignal stuff.

I can remember the titles of exactly three songs that we created back then, it is probably no surprise that the three are all of my own creation. The first one, titled "Are You Afraid of the Dark", was a really catchy riff, had a bit of bad poetry in it, and never really came to much. The second one, titled "Dungeon Majyk" (that was not a typo) had a really pounding intro riff, then petered out into nothing. I know I wrote some lyrics for the song but I can't remember a single word, perhaps I should be thankful. The third one, titled "The Nature of the Beast", has an intro riff that I can remember to this day, it is was a heavy song that builds up slowly before going completely insane. The one drawback is, I seem to remember that after each verse, the guitars would emulate the sound of the vocals. That is only a problem because the quote "it's the nature of the beast", when emulated on the guitar, sounds a lot like the "Oscar Mayer has a way with B O L O G N A", but only the spelling of bologna part." At any rate, the first time we played that song, while Dean's mom was at home, she called up my brother to let him hear it as well.

We weren't the best thing since sliced bread, but we could play our instruments, we had the cover tunes completely nailed, we could have eventually been the next one-hit-wonder. Sadly, the need of a paycheck can often shadow over the desire to follow your dreams. It is the way of life, I suppose. Had I resigned myself to living in a gutter in rural Oregon, all the while chasing this elusive dream, well, who knows. I would either have found success or failure. Since my actions led me down a different road, I suppose I will never know. Yet, the memories remain precious.

When I arrived in Arizona I tried to keep the dream alive. Not a dream about being rich and famous, just a dream about doing what I loved and getting paid for it. The first few paychecks that I got went on clothing, after that it was all about getting a new guitar (I had no guitar when I arrived here). I bought the first piece of shit guitar that I saw, once I could afford it, and it has gotten much better since then. Over the years I have accumulated more than one guitar, I have exactly three at this point. And these are not low dollar guitars.

A have a Samson 12-string acoustic guitar, I have a Jackson Charvel fusion (three pick-ups and a Floyd Rose tremolo, 24 frets. that thing is the bomb), I also have a Jackson Kelly (Marty Friedman plays the Kelly, though mine is not his signature model) which has 24 frets and sharkskin inlays on the fingerboard, Floyd Rose tremolo as well (don't buy a guitar if it doesn't have the Floyd). I also have a Peavy Mini stack (looks just like the two-box, one head stacks that most musicians use, but it is 1/4 the size), a nifty multi-effects pedal, a wireless system, and...Hell, let me just say that I have a hell of a lot of guitar equipment, most of which I haven't touched in well over a year.

I think the dream ended for me a long time ago. To the right you will see a photo of me playing the guitar, in specific I was struggling with the quintuplets that Metallica happened to throw into the song "Disposable Heroes" (also, that is some nice framing). That is probably the only Metallica song (well, of the good ones, you know, prior to 1993 or so) that I actually couldn't play all the way through. It just fucking hurts! Your hand was not meant to move that fast, I look like I am in pain because I am in pain, my brother clicked the little camera at just the right time.

I don't really play the guitar much anymore. I do pick it up from time to time just to make sure that I will be able to remember how to use it, but other than that I really haven't touched the damn things in several years. I think there is a window of opportunity where you can or can't make it, I missed that window by, at this point, at least a decade.

My dream of doing what I love (playing guitar for a living) is totally dead. The question is will I ever sell off the equipment that I bought hoping/praying that I would be a musician. As the equipment sits in the disused back room, I just don't know. What if I don't have the equipment when the next "it" band is looking for an overweight, thirty-something guy to be their rhythm guitarist? Yeah, I really should cut my losses and call it a career, but I can't.

Now I am off to make sure that all the dead bovine in the meat case is fresh. That was nowhere on my goal lists in high school.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Mystery Machine

It was in late September/early October that Magazine Man did his giveaway of crap, while I am not the type of person who really needs to add to my extensive collection of crap, one of the items that he was giving away was a signature card of Daphne from Scooby Doo (it wasn't signed Daphne though, it had the signature of the person who did the voice of Daphne). That was something that I simply couldn't resist. But what to bid on it?

The spirit of the giveaway was all about giving (thus a giveaway) and what better way to keep in that spirit than to give away something also. The item I was to be receiving was going to be a gift to my young nephew anyway, he is still a little guy but is getting as enamored with Scooby Doo as I was as a child, I decided to just donate a few books to my local library. My wife and I have damn near as many books as they do anyway.

Alas, MM had lost the card before the end of the giveaway. Being a very kind person, he offered to send me a die cast Mystery Machine. The thing is huge! He described it as being about the size of a toaster, I would guess that he is about right, but I don't actually own a toaster to put it next to for size verification purposes. Also included in the package was a box of Scooby Doo collector cards, while I didn't actually take them out to count I would guess that there are about 150 different cards in it. All this loot when I just wanted the little signature card... Thanks MM!

I decided on seven books that I would donate to my local library (pictures of the pile of the books and the mystery machine will be coming soon, my digicam has dead batteries that I keep forgetting to buy), a small price to pay for such a Scooby Doo score. MM mentioned that the actual Mystery Machine would probably be far better received than the card I originally asked for, something I am sure he is right about. I can hardly wait to see DJ's little face when he tears the paper off of that package on Christmas morning. It seems fairly likely that I will not be there to witness that moment; between myself, my brother, and our wives, there are three different families involved in Christmas. While we all live in the same state, each family has different obligations during the holiday season and they often don't lend themselves to having fifty people under one roof on Christmas morning. I better buy a disposable camera for my brother before the fact just to make sure that I can get a couple shots of DJ and the snazzy new Mystery Machine.

I was hesitant to make any mention of this prior to Christmas, but after talking with my brother I found that he doesn't actually have an internet connection, doesn't know the name of my website, and, DJ is only 4 (which I knew), but what I failed to think about was that, at 4, if you can read little golden books you are way ahead of the curve. I will post the Christmas photos as soon as I get them, just guessing here but it might be a couple of months.

I would like to give Magazine Man a huge thanks for the Scooby Doo loot. If I had to name but a single person who was making the world a better place. A man so selfless and kindhearted that he would be willing to do anything to make the lives of others better. Well I would be at a total loss, but the first guy I would ask about it would be MM, he gives great advice!

Perhaps I should start a giveaway of my own. I wonder if anyone would be interested in one slightly used Kleenex...


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