Friday, October 31, 2003

Living Hell - Fiction

The goblin lunged at Marcus, his intent clear. Revenge.

Witches, ghosts, vampires, princesses and a variety of sports figures witnessed the battle. None of them seemed interested in joining in, which was unfortunate for the little goblin. On this night, he would lose the spoils of his door-to-door efforts. The candy would go to the victor, and in this case, as with the other ten children before the goblin, it would be Marcus.

Marcus was evil. Not just because on Halloween night he stole candy from kids, but he was evil in ways that many normal people would never imagine evil could be. The professionals all agreed that Marcus had some sort of imbalance in his chemical make up. Almost all recommended that he be institutionalized for the protection of others. For some reason, Marcus fell through the cracks, and roamed the streets looking for trouble.

The police knew him well. From petty crimes, to torturing animals, Marcus has done it all. Unfortunately, nobody really knew Marcus. Nobody could even fathom the depths that Marcus had sunk to in his daily rituals. On the surface he presented an image of somebody to stay clear of, and most people in Los Angeles did just that. There was the typical staring, pointing, and talking as he passed, but that was all.

Marcus turned into an alley and entered into an abandoned store by pulling up the corner of a long-forgotten chain-link fence that was meant to secure the door. Inside, the place was nothing but a large empty room, filled with trash here and there, and many years accumulation of dust. There was a noticeable trail where the dirt had been trod, leading to a door on the other side of the room. Marcus followed the path he has taken hundreds of times before, and opened the door that led into the darkness of a storeroom below.

This was where Marcus called home. One dim bulb provided what little light Marcus required to do whatever it is he did down there. A small hotplate, microwave and refrigerator made up his kitchen, and a broken card table propped up on one side by a cardboard box was his only table. In one corner was a pallet with some blankets on it that he called his bed, in the opposite corner was a large hole in the wall.

Marcus tossed the candy from the nights haul onto the table, grabbed a handful and shoved it in his pocket, then walked through the hole in the wall which led to a ladder, and down into the sewer system. Once in the sewers he reached into a dark alcove and produced a small flashlight. The light clicked on and Marcus could see little things scurry from its beam. He felt most at home here among the rats and roaches, and enjoyed interacting with them from time to time. He directed the flashlight into the darkness and used it to guide him through a maze of tunnels until he reached his destination.

The door was closed, and if you hadn’t been looking for it you could easily walk right by. Marcus didn’t know what the room had been designed for, but it was perfect for his needs. The little room had power to it, and Marcus pulled the chain on the fluorescent fixture he had installed with some old wire he had found.

The light swayed back and forth throwing wild shadows around the room. Surprisingly, this room was better furnished then his home. There was a stainless steel table, and a long countertop with jars and a variety of odd instruments that seemed to be collected from many different professions from automotive to medical. There were a few cages in the room, some looking like plastic kennels you would use for transporting your pets, and others merely made from wire and sheet metal.

The table itself had nylon straps bolted to the sides in about six different locations, and it could be moved into various positions from standing straight up, to lying flat and low. Over the table was another light that circled a large magnifying glass. This was what Marcus considered his laboratory. This was his private place where he could perform ghastly experiments.

Nothing was safe from his work. The local rats, cats, dogs, and even the roaches themselves have all contributed to his quest for knowledge. What exact knowledge he was trying to obtain, was anybody’s guess. Marcus himself had no clue why he did what he did, all he knew was that he enjoyed his work, and saw no need to change how he performed it.

This was a rare occasion when he had no patience in the lab. The place was quite for now, but he was formulating a plan that would involve a few dogs, the candy he had gathered, and electricity. A smile grew on his filthy face as he began to plan the various experiments he could try, and what else he would need to do the job properly.

Marcus left his secret room, secured the door, and made his way back through the filth to the ladder. As he climbed the ladder his foot slipped from one of the rungs and he fell backwards about 15 feet onto the hard concrete below. He gave a grunt, and went to pull himself back up, but nothing happened. He could not move anything. He tried again, but not even a twitch of his fingers could be managed.

Laying there for a while Marcus thought that soon he would start feeling better and could once again move. He seemed to be able to see just fine, and breathing didn’t appear to be a problem. So he lay there a while looking at the intricate patterns of the walls. He noticed the ladder that betrayed him had a broken rung on it, and that must have been what caused him to fall.

Marcus had nothing but time on his hands. His mind began thinking of many new things he could do in his underground laboratory. Although he had yet experiment with humans, he had been toying with the idea for some time now. Maybe it still wasn’t too late tonight. The little kids were running around in their costumes, mostly unguarded. With everyone in costumes, and running amok, it would be the perfect time to gather a human specimen. His plans for the candy and electricity changed from using a dog, to using a small child. Then he saw movement on a pipe overhead.

His eyes were somewhat adjust to what little light the fallen flashlight was providing, and he could make out a rat scurrying along one of the many pipes that lined the ceiling of the sewers. Then he noticed that one was actually on his stomach, but he could not feel anything. He noticed it was doing something, but he could not see just what from his angle. The he saw it.

The rat had a little piece of flesh in his mouth, and some blood on his fur. Marcus began to panic inside, but still could not move. As he lay there, helpless as he could ever be, he saw more and more rats begin to crawl all over him. He knew they were tearing at his flesh, but could do nothing to stop them.

A cockroach crawled over his face, tickling his check as he crossed, then disappeared somewhere into his shirt. For a moment he was elated that he had felt the roach on his face. Perhaps he was getting better, and could soon show these rats who the boss really was down here. Another roach showed up, but this one stopped near his nose. The tickling of the tiny feet soon gave way to little painful sensations. The damn roach was biting his nose!

Terror welled up inside Marcus as the roaches and rats began to arrive in larger numbers. Hope was gone that he was ever going to be able to move. He tried to pinch the inside of his nose closed as the roaches ventured further into his nasal passages. He closed his eyes as they started crawling all over his face. He peeked out every now and then when he thought he had a clear moment. The rats now joined in with the roaches nibbling at his face, and the pain was excruciating but he could not scream, or move.

Marcus was trying to blow a rat away from his mouth when the flashlight started to dim. It wasn’t long before the light went out completely. Now Marcus lay in complete darkness, and the pain on his neck and face became surreal. He could feel a roach, or a rat, trying to chew on his eyelids as he tried to keep them tightly closed.

Nobody noticed that Marcus never came around anymore. He was one less vagrant to point at, stare at, and to wonder about. There were many more to fill his place as the weird and the strange on the streets of Los Angeles. There were no missing persons report filed, and no memorial services for him. Marcus had merely disappeared from the Earth.

Somewhere in the sewers of the city of angels, Marcus was distributed to feed the needy. The life of Marcus was finely worth something to nature, as a source of food.

Monday, October 27, 2003

It's Un-American!

I am starting to see a disturbing trend throughout politics at the state level, which is starting to trickle up to the federal level. This country is rapidly being sold to the lowest bidder. The capitalism that has made us strong is starting to tear us apart!

In the old days capitalism worked great because we practiced it, for the most part, within the confines of our own country. Over the years, however, more and more companies are either moving overseas to gain the cheap work forces, or bringing cheaper labor into this country.

The major infestation is from the South. People from Mexico have infiltrated this country by the millions. Now that we are beginning to crack down on this problem we have countries complaining because we are sending too many of their own people back to them. We catch these folks committing crimes in our country, export them to their legal country, and we’re to blame that the crime rates are going up where these people are being sent back.

Got a news flash for you countries. They’re your problem to start with! They are YOUR legal citizens, not ours. I think we should not only continue to round up these folks, but increase our efforts. If later on we believe that we need to bring a cheaper work force into this country, then at that point we can create a better work visa program to accommodate this.

The answer to a huge number of illegal immigrants in this country is not to make them all legal! I am reading scores of articles about the poor children who can’t go to college, drive, etc… because they were brought here illegally and now they have grown up here. Hey kids, it’s because your parents are criminals of this country. It’s not the taxpayers’ burden to support you; it’s your parents’ burden for doing this to you!

I really do feel for these people, and their kids. I’m just at a loss as to what to do about the situation. There is a part of me that wants to nationalize them all, and welcome them into America with open arms. Why not? Many of them are hard-working people trying to do what is best for their families.

Should we legalize them all and start giving them paychecks so we can tax their income? Something has to be done because out current methods don’t seem to be working. Maybe we can nationalize the ones who have already made it, and increase our border strength to prevent more from crossing.

It clearly is a complex issue, but giving people that illegally entered this country all of our benefits is also not the answer. They need to be identified, accept the responsibilities of belonging to this country, and become Americans to gain the liberties that we enjoy.

On the other side of the coin we are bringing even more people into this country through work visas. Rumor has it that a bill is being pushed up that will largely increase these numbers. This is mainly true for the cheaper technology workers of places like India who will work for cheaper wages in our country.

The problem is that those of us who work in the technology industry will be getting the shaft. It’s already evident in the fact that technology positions don’t pay near what they used to, and every help desk you call, from any company, has heavily accented folks working the phone lines. I don’t care if they are from other countries; I am not against equal opportunities for anyone. The trouble is that too many of our positions are being given to people from other countries, and they’re working on increasing these numbers!

I can envision the day when Americans may live in this country, but they no longer run this country! Soon, we’ll be tolerated as natives here, but interests will run this country from Japan, India, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. It’s already happening and apparently we are collectively too stupid to stop it! I don’t think it can be stopped any more then many countries could stop McDonalds from infiltrating their way of life.

What’s the answer? I don’t know. All I see is that we are losing our grip on what America is, and what it means to be American, and nobody seems to care. Perhaps this is the same feeling that other countries have regarding us moving our influence into their cultures? We’re quickly becoming part of a rising world community, and we should be planning in that direction, not fighting it.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Generally Speaking

You should know that I am not a religious man. Not in the context of any organized religion anyway. On the other hand, I am not an anti-religious man. Throughout history religion has played a major part in each race or people, and each country where human beings have sprung. I recognize its existence, and the role it plays in our society.

Recently, Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin has been placed in the spotlight based on some comments he made at church. What do I think about this?

In the military we are taught that we do not wear our uniforms to any organization or function we attend so that it does not give the appearance that the military is endorsing such a gathering. In fact, we are even discouraged from wearing our uniform outside the performance of our normal duties. For example, you don’t go to the mall in your uniform on the weekends to shop.

As with most things I comment on, I have not done a weeklong in-depth research into all of the facts of this case. My opinions spring from basically what I know by listening to the radio, watching the news, and reading brief news articles on the subjects. That being said, I’m not sure if the General wears his uniform to a civilian church, or to a church on a military base.

Now that I think about it, this should not be the issue either. The problem as I see it, is not that the general spoke his mind, based on his faith and belief system, or even that he slammed another religious belief in the process. The big problem is that he did it in uniform, and as a general. If he was talking wearing a suit and tie, this would have gone nowhere, but he was wearing a symbol of our country, and preaching against another religion in that uniform.

Every Sunday many military folks attend church, and say things like, “Lord please help bring our military home safely.” Some may even say, “watch over our military and protect them in their duty.” These comments are fine, and welcome in the spiritual uplifting that they provide to friends and family that hold the same belief system.

To quote Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility”. A general of the United States has great power, and great responsibility. Just as a political leader has to be careful what they say, how they say it, and to whom they say things, a general does as well.

Wearing of the uniform is not something you parade around in to impress people. You should not go into church in uniform so that everyone at church knows you’re a general too. A suit would be more appropriate in a civilian church setting on a day-to-day basis. Especially if you’re going to climb up on the soapbox and start preaching with a big dose of political commentary mixed in.

There is freedom of speech in this country, and that’s not what this is about. He has not been told he cannot speak his mind, or do so at church. Again, the issue was that he was doing so as a general of the United States military by wearing his uniform. This is wrong. And again, not wrong because he wore his uniform to church, but wrong because he began speaking about issues that can inflame a current situation.

Despite what Christians may think, there are many U.S. service men and women who are not Christian. I was one of them. Occasionally things would come out like Bible study after work, or praying in some meeting that would make me a little uncomfortable. If you start allowing leaders to attempt to rally their troops based on Christian teachings, eventually those troops are going to start feeling just as divided as the country does.

In the military we all shave our heads and wear the same uniform for a reason, so that we are all one big happy team. Start dividing that team by race, sex, or religion, and you will have a big mess on your hands.

If a general stood in a mosque, in uniform, and began telling of the joys of Allah we’d string him up big time. Or perhaps a general may stand up and pray to the goddess for strength and end the prayer with blessed be. How would you react then? Don’t whip out the, “well our founding fathers B.S.” either until you have read most of my articles on this site.

As I have mentioned time and again in my writings, we must be careful where religion is brought into the mix. Unfortunately, many of the Christian faith have not left the crusades behind them, and still believe that because they believe, the rest of the world should too.

A Matter of Life and Death

It bothers me more then a little that someone is trying to kill Theresa “Terri” Schiavo in Florida, and the entire nation is watching like it’s some CSI drama. To me this case is cut and dry, and there should have been no reason that it ever went to court in the first place!

Why do I think this is such a simple case? Let me explain my position and see if you agree.

First of all, there is no written desire by Terri to back up the statements that her sleazy husband claims she said. If her husband no longer wants to take care of her, then why is he fighting her parents who do want to take care of her? Some speculate that it’s the money if she dies. Her husband can take an insurance benefit and be with this other woman he is now seeing and having children with.

He claims that he is doing this because it’s what Terri wanted, which seems a little confusing, because if she is truly in a state where she is not aware of anything, then why fight so hard to keep her from her parents? Let them take her and care for her if it is their wish.

I realize that some people do not want to be a burden to their family, and so choose to fill out written instructions on what should be done in case they can no longer make decisions for themselves. Terri had made no instructions of this sort. Furthermore, her parents are stepping up to the plate to offer to care for her, and to take on the burden to do so.

There should be an immediate release of this woman to her parents so that they can take care of their daughter. Instead, the courts agreed to remove her feeding tube and kill her based on some stupid legality. If someone wants to care for a disabled person, no matter how disabled they are, who in their right mind would deny them that opportunity?

This is why I feel that this husband has other motives. Or maybe he’s been fighting this battle for so long that he really believes this is what his wife would have wanted. Now he has turned this into a crusade to “win the day” come hell or high water.

No matter the reasons of her husband, Terri has some loving parents who want to care for their handicapped daughter. It would be a sin against humanity if they are not allowed to do just that. A court ordering a handicapped person to be starved to death just because her husband says so is wrong no matter how you view the facts. Whether or not Terri is aware of any of this is not the point.

The time has come for her husband to give up this fight, and get on with his new life. You’ve got to wonder what this new woman in his life is thinking watching this whole thing unfold. In situations like these it makes me wonder why people say the lines, “for better for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we both shall live”.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Size Does Matter!

Years ago I owned a laser disc player. Even though it was a bit ahead of its time, laser discs were a great way to watch movies. One cool feature was that you could get many laser discs in widescreen format. It was fun to see the reaction of others as they came over to watch a widescreen movie.

At first it really freaks them out because for some reason our brains think we have a square television so everything that gets displayed on it must also be square. Those little dark spaces on the top and bottom of the screen would drive people downright crazy. Of course, one minute into the movie you adjust and they don’t bother you anymore.

Movies used to be cropped into what they now refer to as full screen versions so that they could be seen on regular televisions. In fact, doing this to a movie will cost more money.

What really bothers me about watching a movie in a full screen version is that you’re not really watching the movie how it was meant to be seen. Directors shoot scenes based on a huge number of variables, and some of these variables is where things will be placed in the scene.

Some scenes have a lot of impact when they are seen in their original widescreen format, but lose the message altogether when downsized.

Occasionally when watching a full screen movie I would notice weird blurring as the camera panned from one actor to the other as they were talking in a scene. At first I didn’t really understand why it bothered me until I started watching widescreen movies. That blurry pan was not the camera; it was a computer during the cropping session trying to pan between the two actors that were originally placed on both sides of a widescreen!

Another place the full screen falls short is on movies that have sweeping landscapes such as in westerns or other movies that have nicely shot outdoor scenes. Many directors get good use of the widescreen format in these types of scenes and it almost always lends itself to a breathtaking view. Then along comes a full screen botch job and the rolling landscape looks like just another shot with a video camera.

As I see people buy full screen DVD’s I wonder if they realize what they are buying, or if they even know the difference? Super markets I have noticed are notorious for only having the full screen versions of movies when they first come out. I’m almost certain that many people at the check stands just grab the movie without giving the screen size any thought at all.

Luckily, many DVD’s are now coming out with the widescreen and full screen versions on the same disc. I’ve also noticed that a lot of audio/video stores mainly carry widescreen versions of most movies. I can only guess that people who visit these types of stores do not want full screen versions.

Why then do they keep making these versions of their movies? Perhaps they still need to make them so that they can be shown on television, and they are just stuffing this version down unsuspecting customers throats to justify, or defer, the additional cost.

I think the day will come when you don’t see another full screen version of a DVD come out. It’s just going to take customers a bit to get used to asking, no demanding, that they only buy the widescreen versions.

What spurred on this article today? In Best Buy today they had “Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle”, which had just come out. They had an unrated version and the theatrical version. The unrated version was only in widescreen, and the theatrical version was only in full screen.

I’m not sure what Neanderthal did their ordering, but he needs to be slapped. Best Buy is offering to sell you both DVD’s for $25. This is odd because who wants to buy a full screen and a widescreen? Normally you prefer one to the other.

Many companies provide the two versions in the same DVD case as a special edition. Seems like the movie company is getting a bit greedy and trying to sell you the same movie twice. The sad part is, many people will buy both of them! To be honest, if they had a widescreen version of the theatrical version I would have been one of those sad people.

Oh well, what’s the point of this article? It’s to educate you on the different screen formats, and to tell you what you’re missing. And maybe the fates will be kind and allow the idiot who did the ordering for Best Buy to get a clue next time. Was that too harsh? Maybe, but these days I find I get annoyed more easily.

Don’t get me started about the people at fast food restaurants who put napkins in the holders backwards so you can’t get to the little flap to pull out a napkin. I mean you have a 50/50 shot at getting it right!

Monday, October 20, 2003

I'm An Addict

Hello, my name is Rick, and I’m an addict.

I know I am an addict because I have all of the symptoms. Once I began I couldn’t get enough. My mind dwells on when I can get my next fix. Sometimes I am up all night doing it, and suffer for the addictive behavior it has caused. Now, I am hoping to get better by sharing my addiction with you all.

What am I addicted to you may wonder? As a side note, I believe that this will be a highly read article. Oh, don’t stop reading now just because you’ve been caught wanting to see what terrible problem I am hiding. Read on and perhaps you might just join in on my addiction…

Running this web site might be one of your first guesses. While it’s true I have recently put a lot of time into this site, my writings tend to come to me fairly quick and I knock out an article in just a few minutes. You may have guessed that already based on the unrefined prose that I bring to you all on a frequent basis.

Can you tell I like to write? I think I have found a pretty good outlet for my writing in this web site, and it’s a much quicker medium then trying to write a novel. Now all I need is people who would want to read my strange outlook on life.

Yes, the web site is sometimes time consuming, but it doesn’t hold a candle to my real addiction.

Recently I have started watching “Alias” starring Jennifer Garner. I began my addiction toward the end of last season. The show grabbed my interest right away, and when I saw season one come out on DVD I knew I had to check out how this show began. That’s when it all started.

Up to this point I was forced to wait each week to see what was going to happen next, but now I had an entire season in my hands. My life would undergo a change. It really started that first night the family went to bed and I popped it in the player.

I started watching the first disc and remained glued to the television until the pilot, and the following two other episodes were over. When the DVD ended, and I would have had to change discs to continue, I was able to break the spell it held over me.

The makers of “Alias” sure knew what they were doing with this series. Not only do you get into the life of Jennifer’s character, “Sydney Bristow”, but you get wrapped up in everything that is going on around her as well. The absolute worse thing about this addiction is the end of each episode which leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat with the proverbial cliff-hanger.

Every single episode ends with something major either happening, or about to happen. The show grabs you by the shirt and dares you to turn off the DVD player! I have only watched the first three discs, but I can tell you that for each disc I had to watch the entire thing. All four hours per disc. The last disc I was smart enough to watch on a Sunday so I knew I would have time to get through it all without jeopardizing much needed sleep.

This addiction is complete. I know I can’t shake it, and I also know that if I place a disc into the player that I am there for the entire thing. No more late nights watching “Alias” are planned unless it’s on a weekend. I can’t handle it. I’m getting too old, and definitely need my beauty rest.

Nothing would please me more then to blurt out everything that is going on in the show, both current and in season one. I hesitate to do so because if you have not seen this show, I don’t want to spoil a thing for you. A simple explanation of the show would be that Sydney works for the CIA, and in the process of doing her job she gets firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place.

The show is basically about the CIA doing mission after mission foiling the bad guy’s plans weekly, but this doesn’t scratch the surface of what is really going on. The missions are almost just a backdrop for the intrigue and twisting plots that seem to undulate throughout the entire season.

Just when you think you have it all figured out you have a reality check and your mind is tossed back into the “what the heck?” mode. I don’t know how long the writers can keep things rocking and rolling, but they are well into the third season and there are no signs of things slowing down.

If you’re looking for something to grab you and slap you around a bit, may I recommend anything but “Alias”. Once you start watching, you won’t want to stop. The makers of “Alias” were smart in releasing the show so quickly to the DVD format. I was enjoying the show before, but now I’m downright addicted to it.

Damn you ABC for bringing out the television equivalent of an addicting drug. If anyone else out there shares in my addiction I’d love to hear from you. You can talk freely here, and maybe we can begin our own support group.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I was SUV, When SUV Wasn't Cool.

I’m really getting tired of hearing the whiney-butts complain about SUV owners. I can remember before I could drive I wanted a Ford Bronco. My Dad was a Chevy man, and he owned a Blazer. When I finally got my license there was no way that I could afford my dream car, so I settled for a 1965 Ford Falcon Ranchero. That was a sweet little ride, but this article is not about my little ranchero, so I’ll save that for another day.

Why did I want a Bronco? My Dad took us four-wheeling in Northern California when we were young, and I was hooked. He was in a four-wheel drive club and they went on outings, campouts, and road rallies, and did all sorts of fun things.

My first SUV came along when it was apparent that my little ranchero could not navigate the unplowed roads of the Rocky Mountains. I found a cool little Jeep CJ-7 hard top with a sunroof. That was another fun vehicle to own.

I joined the Rocky Mountain Jeep club and went on outings and road rallies just like I had always wanted to do. Since I had dropped a Wagoneer 360 into it, the gas mileage became an issue. Not so much as how much it consumed, but more that I had moved 21 miles from work, and it had a little gas tank.

A Bronco II, which was a bit tipsy and mechanically a piece of junk, replaced my CJ-7. After a short time with the Bronco II it was apparent that soon it would need a new engine. I traded it in for a 1989 Jeep Cherokee. We still have this Cherokee and it has been a great vehicle! It even got us through eight years of living in Fairbanks Alaska.

My wife began driving the Cherokee in Alaska, and I went through a 1974 Blazer and a 1981 Bronco until I finally got a nice full-size 1991 Bronco that I still drive. My dream vehicle, and it only took me about 15 years to get. If nothing else, I’m persistent.

Enough about the lineage of what I have driven, the focus here is on why. The main reason we still drive SUV’s, is that we live where it snows, we have three kids, and we haul a lot of stuff around. Most SUV’s are nothing more then trucks with an enclosed back-end, but I don’t hear anyone abusing truck owners. I can transport more people then a truck can as well, so an SUV is much more practical.

Even in suburbia there are a lot of reasons to own an SUV. I see many of them taking the kids to school, driving around the sports teams or scouts, hauling a ton of groceries. Heck, when I load in all of my scuba diving equipment I know it won’t all fit into some tiny car. Come to think of it, I barely fit into a tiny car!

If you want to drive a little clown car, and don’t have a lot of children or items to haul, then that’s fine. All I ask is that you shut your face complaining about people who own and drive SUV’s. Let’s cover some issues that annoy you the most.

SUV’s drink a lot of fuel. Many SUV’s get the same, and some better, gas mileage then large luxury cars. Most run about the same as trucks that tend to be everywhere on the road as well. And don’t get me started on these hugs land-yacht motor homes. Talk about your gas-guzzlers!

SUV’s are more dangerous. I’m fully aware that a high-centered vehicle can roll over easier then a low-centered one. This is why you won’t see me taking mountain roads like I’m an Indy racer (like you people driving little rice-burners do). I’m willing to bet that many of the so-called roll-over deaths from SUV’s were caused by some little zippy car cutting them off while driving like an idiot painting their nails, brushing their hair, and talking on their cell phone.

People hit by SUV’s stand a greater chance in dying. Buy an SUV! Why do you think I like them? I’ve discussed the survival of the fittest rule in other articles; the same applies on the road. Heck, if a semi hits you you’re a pancake too, should we outlaw all the big rigs so you’ll feel safer? Riding a motorcycle is even more dangerous, that’s why I don’t ride one anymore. I read one complaint that people driving smaller cars and getting hit by an SUV are four-times more likely to be killed. So, this means I should go buy a smaller car? Doesn’t this sort of trump the previous argument that SUV’s are not as safe as smaller cars?

The final straw is that people buy SUV’s for some macho trip. This is idiotic and so wrong. There are some who buy Hummers for the same reason they buy a Corvette, for the status symbol and feeling insecure. Some people buy those cars though, because dang it, they can! So what if they do! A Corvette is just plain cool, fun and a blast to own. Hummers, well okay, they’re not really practical for much of anything, but if someone has the bucks, and wants to own one for fun, let them!

I drive SUV’s because they fit my large stature, and I need to lug my dive gear, camping gear, photography equipment, family, etc… all over the place. It’s the best vehicle for my family and our lifestyle. If you are single, have no life, go nowhere, and do nothing, then of course you don’t need an SUV. Do everyone else a favor and get off your high horse about saving the environment, people’s lives, fuel, and the entire planet.

We’re moving in the direction of alternative fuel vehicles. Once they are more practical, I will be one of the first in line to upgrade to an alternatively fueled SUV.

Until I stop diving, and the kids have all grown up and moved away, you better not drive like an idiot near me, or the accident you cause just might be your last!

Thursday, October 16, 2003

One Nation Under Buddha?

The pledge of allegiance is back in the news for having the words “under God” as a part of its makeup. This time, the case is being brought before the highest court in our land.

If you do a search on this web sight you will find that I have covered this topic on a few occasions. It seems that the time has come to cover this once again.

Before I get into it, let me first submit a few questions for you to think over. Please answer the following questions honestly to yourself.

1. Is the United States of America founded on the principles of freedom for all?

2. Does the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...”?

3. Would you be offended if your children had to pledge their allegiance to our flag as one nation under Buddha?

If your answer was yes to these three questions, then you must surely see that having every child in school swear allegiance to our flag under God is not respecting everyone’s beliefs. How could you not?

I would rather change the pledge back to its previous form before it was forced to be changed by a religious group in 1954, so that all may pledge their allegiance without concern that they are also pledging allegiance to God.

You read that last paragraph correctly. The “under God” part of the pledge was only added in 1954. So all of you nut jobs that think it was something we have been saying since 1776 need to get a reality check.

I’ve heard Senator’s saying crap like, "Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. This is the worst kind of political correctness run amok, …" – Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri

As I have shown in previous articles, our founding fathers were not proponents of a government in which God was prominently a part. In fact, I recently found this interesting quote from a Baptist preacher who wrote about the proper relationship between church and government. John Leland (1754-1841) agreed with Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s view on religion and the government. The following is an excerpt from a July 4th oration on July 5th 1802.

“. . . Disdain mean suspicion, but cherish manly jealousy; be always jealous of your liberty, your rights. Nip the first bud of intrusion on your constitution. Be not devoted to men; let measures be your object, and estimate men according to the measures they pursue. Never promote men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual tyranny--the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. It converts religion into a principle of state policy, and the gospel into merchandise. Heaven forbids the bans of marriage between church and state; their embraces therefore, must be unlawful. Guard against those men who make a great noise about religion, in choosing representatives. It is electioneering. If they knew the nature and worth of religion, they would not debauch it to such shameful purposes. If pure religion is the criterion to denominate candidates, those who make a noise about it must be rejected; for their wrangle about it, proves that they are void of it. Let honesty, talents and quick dispatch, characterize the men of your choice. Such men will have a sympathy with their constituents, and will be willing to come to the light, that their deeds may be examined. . . .”

This is just one of many such views on the same subject. Our founding fathers fled religious persecution in England. Heck, many of our immigrants from the time this country was founded have arrived here for the very same reason. Religious freedom! This same reason is what continues to draw many people to this country.

Now, suddenly, Christians think they own this country, and its laws, and scream holy hell if someone tries to level the playing field. The fact is you zealots, you don’t own this country, or its laws, or the rest of us who live here and don’t believe as you do.

As I have said in the past, it’s the religious freedom that we are fighting for that will ensure that Christians will also be allowed to practice their religion unmolested however they choose. But when you start trying to shove it down the throats of people who do not believe as you do, then you cease to be good examples of your faith, and instead show the ugliness of humanity that people gather in spiritual groups to avoid.

I welcome your comments, and better yet, meet me in the forums and we can discuss your views if they conflict with mine. I welcome an opportunity to discuss this matter further.

A large part of living in this world in peace comes from the end of our pledge, which states, “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Monday, October 13, 2003

Life of the Party - Fiction

Jake McDaniels pulled the heavy wool cloak over his head, and fastened the antler buttons up his broad chest. He grabbed his brush, and pulled it through his wavy blonde hair watching each stroke in the mirror. Thinking that the cloak was going to be messing up his hair all night, he slipped his brush into the ample pockets.

Jake hated parties. It wasn’t so much the party aspect, or the chance to meet with friends and have some fun. After all, during normal gatherings he was usually the life of the party. He didn’t like the direction that parties always seemed to head. As the night goes on, people tended to have way too much alcohol, and they start to show their otherwise suppressed emotions. Normal people by day, the nightlife of a party would bring out their ugly sides.

The women get blubbery, and start to cry at the drop of a hat about this boy or that, and why they have not found someone as good as him. Never mind that they would be obnoxious and snooty to most of the boys at school. They would not remember the outpouring of their souls when the night had passed, or at least that’s what they would claim

Men, on the other hand, would start to become fearless. Most think they have become the world’s greatest comedians, and tell all of the jokes that were never funny in the day time. Vocabularies would degrade, and cussing, and yelling over the music would begin. Almost certainly there will be a fight, and someone would go home embarrassed, or sometimes even in an ambulance.

Musing why he even decided to go to this party, Jake knew that at a costume party he could be someone different. He didn’t have to be the football hero under his mask and cloak. In fact, he enjoyed the idea of making everyone at the party wonder exactly who he was. It always wigged out the girls, and he loved the idea of being the mysterious one.

In the light of day, when it wasn’t October 31st, Jake always felt like he was on the spot. As if he had to perform for his friends and maintain the image they always demanded of him. The costume party was the perfect place to see how people live out of the limelight. It felt good, and Jake was sitting on a couch watching others maintain their status in the social ladder when he caught her eye across the room.

She was a vision. Not in a storybook romance sort of way, but in the sense that he was drawn to her gaze immediately. The room between him and her seemed to go out of focus, as his eyes honed in on hers. Normally, Jake would have been worried being caught just fixated on a woman, but he could not bring himself to look away.

His head was spinning, and it felt as though he was coming down with something, but the sensation was only coming from his peripheral vision, the gaze into her eyes was sharp and steady.

The edge of her lips raised slowly into the cutest little smirk he had ever seen. Without breaking the gaze, her eyelids closed slightly to increase the effect that she was flattered by his attention.

Just then, a group of people wandered between the two, and the connection was lost. When the group moved on, and he could once again regain his view of the far side of the room, she was gone.

Jake’s skin became clammy, and deep inside he began to panic. Where the heck did she go? His eyes darted back and forth across the room searching for any sign that she was there. Anyone near him could not tell there was anything different occurring inside of him.

He didn’t want to come to this stupid party, and he shouldn’t be wearing this dumb costume. At least then maybe she would recognize him and he could use his athletic prowess to snare this awesome woman.

Suddenly a hand was on his shoulder, a drunken boy was trying to guess who he was. He was joking with his friends and they were all making guesses as to Jakes identity. Jake wanted no part of it, he was on a mission, a mission to find this mysterious woman and at least let her know that he was a football hero, maybe then he would have a chance.

It must have been an hour, or at least it seemed that long to Jake, when he finally spotted her out in the back yard, near some trees, staring into the water of a pond. The moon was full and high in the sky. It’s bright light casting a beautiful silvery glow on everything outside.

As he was watching her, she glanced sideways, just over her left shoulder, and reconnected that compelling gaze. Jake’s legs went weak, and he once again began to sweat. Why was he acting like some giddy school boy, he was the star of the football team, and not prone to be awkward when it came to women. She was somehow different.

There was not the usual fresh and innocent look that most girls had that was his age. Something about her was different, more seasoned. Perhaps she was a world traveler, an exchange student maybe, which would explain why he has never seen her at school before.

Was she wearing a costume? He didn’t notice it before, because he was so transfixed on her eyes. Her dress looked like it was dark purple from what he could tell in the glow of the moon, and she was wearing a dark choker necklace with some sort of stone in the center. Her make up was applied to give her a very pale appearance, and she had jet black hair. It was the usual female vampire look, but she really pulled it off great!

Jake had to meet this woman before she disappeared again. As he started toward her she turned in the direction of her gaze and faced him square. The pond was still, and as he got closer Jake could see the reflection of the surrounding trees on the surface of the pond. His eyes looked at her once again, and this time there was no coyness from either of them. Jake knew he was approaching her purposefully, and she had to know his course was for her alone.

Not a word was spoken as he got close to her, and she reached up and pulled his mask off, and down his hood, revealing for the first time that night who he really was. Did she know him? If she did, there was no reaction from her.

The lady in purple took his hands into hers after what seemed like forever, and Jake leaned down as she turned her head and he kissed her long and hard. His tongue darted in and around her mouth as he tasted her, and enjoyed it completely. He felt the sharp vampire teeth of her costume, and it excited him even more knowing that she was just as unknown to him as he hoped he was to her.

He pulled her away just a bit, and once again stared into her eyes. Not wanting to ruin the moment with words, he took in her features so that he might remember them forever should she depart after this night was over. Even under her pale makeup, her skin was smooth and looked like the surface of a china doll. Her eyes were a dark brown, almost black in this light, but he could see little features within them that intrigued him even more. She was exotic and beautiful, mysterious and passionate, yet they have never spoken.

She felt cold and he knew that the dress she was wearing did not have the ability to warm her up adequately. He wrapped his arms around her to warm her, and her lips once again met his with another kiss of longing and need.

Jake was lost. His mind was completely drawn into pleasing this woman, and to keep her warm and safe on this cool night in the garden. Their kissing subsided as he maintained his embrace, and she held him tightly as well. He began kissing her neck, and nibbling on her ear, afraid to break the bond, or to even speak and destroy the spell of the moment.

He felt her kissing his neck, and breathing heavily in his ear. She was enjoying this as much as he was, and he was completely, and utterly hers. Was it the passion of the moment, the beer he had drank earlier, or the sickness he thought he was coming down with earlier? He wasn’t sure, but he was once again getting light-headed.

Instead of warming his new found love up, he seemed to be getting colder. Oh God, what a time to be getting sick. It was just like the fates to do something as cruel as this. He held on to her tightly hoping the sensation would once again pass.

As he stood there clinging to her, and enjoying her attention, Jake lowered his eyes once again to the surface of the pond. That was odd he thought. It looked like he was just standing there by himself with his arms in the air. His eyelids became heavy as the cold seemed to sink into his bones. Was he dreaming this? Was he hallucinating?

The mysterious women in purple relaxed her hold on Jake, and let his lifeless body slide slowly to the ground. She looked once again at the party going on in the house across the yard, gave a slight smile, then turned and walked into the trees.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Halloween, A Religious Holiday?

Ever since I could remember there have been people that have claimed that Halloween was really about worshiping evil, and should be condemned. They don’t celebrate it, they scoff at those who do, and they generally like to make you feel like you’re a bad person for doing so. Luckily not all people feel this way; many have Halloween parties and activities.

Is Halloween about devil worship? Is it a holiday for witches? Do the dead walk the Earth? Time to set the record straight about just exactly what Halloween is, and I think it will surprise you…

Since the United States is such a young country compared to the rest of the world, many of our holidays started long ago in countries far away. Halloween is no different. Far as I can tell, it began as a Celtic tradition.

The ancient Celts celebrated the years harvest and end of summer on October 31st. The harvest festival is called, Samhain (sow-en), to ring in the Celtic New Year. Since this was also the time when the sun was losing its hold in the Northern hemisphere, and winter was coming on, superstitions called for this night as the time when the veil between the world of the dead, and the world of the living, was at its weakest.

Festivities for the harvest during the day turned to protecting themselves from the dead at night.

People would put out the fires in their homes so that the dead would not be attracted to their house. They would instead build large bon fires on the hill tops to honor the sun, and possibly to attract the wandering souls to the bon-fires and away from their villages.

It was no holiday for children, but adults would dress up as spirits to scare way other spirits that walked the Earth looking for bodies to inhabit. During this time it was common to blame things on the “tricks” of spirits much like we refer to gremlins doing things today.

When the Celtic people were conquered by the Romans, they were not very receptive to changing their ways to the Roman beliefs. As with all religious conversions, the Romans had to come up with some way to integrate these people into their own traditions.

In 835 Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration of all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13th to Novemeber 1st to coincide with the pagan celebration of Samhain. With this move the Romans also integrated the celebration of their harvest traditions, and the celebration of their Goddess Pomona, the Goddess of fruit and trees. The apple, common to many Halloween traditions such as bobbing for them and dipping them in caramel, was the symbol for Pomona.

All Saint’s Day is a day to worship the Saint’s, or the Holy Ones (All Hallow’s). The evening before, or the e’en, of All Hallow’s is where we get the combined name of Halloween. Essentially, the night before All Saint’s Day, thus, Halloween was created by the Roman Catholic Church. The term Hallow’s Eve means the Holy Evening.

On November 2nd the Catholic Church also has All Soul’s day, which is the commemoration of and prayer for all of the souls in purgatory.

On Hallow’s Eve people would go door-to-door asking for bread or cakes and in return, they would say a prayer for the recently deceased from that household. It was believed that when people first died, they would linger a bit before actually passing on. These extra prayers would help their loved ones on their way.

Trick or treating probably emerged from the “tricks” played on people by the spirits of the Celtic belief, and the “treats” gathered by the Roman beliefs. Today, the tradition has evolved into our children dressing up as all manner costumed beings, and going door-to-door asking for treats.

Since many modern Christian religions no longer have the deep associations with Saints, and don’t celebrate All Saints, and All Souls, it is understandable why they may come to view Halloween as nothing more then commercial trappings with an evil connotation.

So you see, the intent of Halloween is not evil, but to protect ourselves from evil, and to honor those who have died. Instead of wasting your energy worrying about superstitious beliefs that are unfounded, embrace Halloween as a time to reflect on the lives of those who have passed-on recently, and a time when children of all ages, can dress up and have fun before winter is upon them.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The American Way

The word politics used to bring to mind the dream of going to Washington D.C. and representing the will of the people. It once was a noble idea to champion a cause, and try to make a difference. This government claims to be run by the people, and for the people. After seeing some of the things coming out of various governments, whether local or federal, sometimes it feels like it’s just a political system run by career politicians with their own personal agendas.

It’s easy to look at government, and politicians, and just want to give up. Many people I have heard that don’t vote think that it doesn’t make any difference; things will go the way they are going to go with or without them. I too used to feel that way, but not any more and I’ll tell you why.

Several things have happened recently that gives me hope for America and democracy. Four examples where people stood up to the few idiots and made their voices heard. It seems like Americans are tired of taking crap from people of any kind. Foreign countries, governments, courts, and even television networks have been put on notice just recently.

Thanks to a strong president, the United States is once again commanding respect from the world community. I always feel a since of pride when we, as a country, don’t take any crap from anyone else. The people of this country have relayed their thoughts on terrorism to the top of this country, and they have responded. I’m all for diplomacy, but there always comes a time when it’s time to stop talking and start standing up for what you have been talking about. Afghanistan, and now Iraq have learned this, and other countries are taking notice. If G.W. gets re-elected, I think the rest of the nasty nations will fall into line as well.

What can we do to help? Stop paying any attention to any whiney-butts who say we need to pull out of Iraq. Regardless if you personally think we should have gone in or not, the fact is that we did and the only intelligent thing to do is to stay until Iraq can police themselves. Stop listening to the media, and a few ignorant folks who you call friends. The truth is if we leave Iraq now, all of those military folks have lost their lives for nothing.

We ARE making a difference over there, and if you think we aren’t, I’d love to hear your plan. Don’t just cry and say it’s all for the oil, or some anti-Bush B.S. unless you have exact examples and proof of your comments. The mass graves they have found with hundreds of thousands of people in them from the previous regime are strong proof that we have done a good thing by removing a sadistic leader.

The politicians tried to slap the people of California in the face and prevent them from taking back control of where they live. A legal attempt was tried to block the will of the Californian people, but they slapped back. It was such an overwhelming pressure that was building that the courts grabbed their heads firmly and pulled. After their cranialectomy, they supported the recall of the worthless governor. Hopefully, Arnold will work hard for the people. He does have a long road ahead with all of the fire damage on top of all of the past governors damage, but I believe he’ll go the distance for the people of California.

The people once again rose to the occasion by showing a judge that he is not all powerful, and he cannot bring his own bias into a government building by making him remove his Ten Commandments monument. I’m shocked at his continued attempt to fight this fight. It shows me that this judge does not understand his impartiality at all, and proves that our court system is prone to the bias of others. The scary thing is that every one of you has seen this type of bias from bosses and companies, and sometimes even neighborhoods where you live. Not just religious, but race, sex, and even interests. The last thing we need is a strong bias in our courtrooms. It’s nice to see the people win one every once in a while.

Finally, there is CBS, and their foiled attempt at delivering a mini-series about Ronald Reagan that was very unflattering, and mostly slanderous. This attempt at making Reagan out to be some sort of monster president was first excused by saying that it was only a fictional mini-series, and not a documentary. How silly is that?

CBS knew that fiction or not, if they had made Reagan say things in that mini-series, many people are dumb enough to believe that is how Reagan really was. The only reason to do something like this, and coming into an election year where the current president is very Reagan-like, was to try and bring down the current president.

Under extreme pressure from the people, they have decided not to air the show on CBS. It may surface on Showtime, but who cares about Showtime. The mini-series has been exposed for what it was, and a Showtime airing may just turn out to have the lowest watched audience in the history of the channel.

This last incident reminds me of the story the L.A. Times broke about Arnold groping women something like twenty years ago. It’s amazing how bringing out the story a week before the recall didn’t seem unusual for the paper. How stupid do the media really think we are?

Seeing the people finally stand up to the media for things like this Reagan mini-series, the Arnold story, judges for the California recall block attempt, the Ten Commandments monument, and finally to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, makes me feel good to be American once again. If you are against all of these recent victories for freedom, perhaps it’s time to take a long look into the mirror and ask yourself what exactly you do support.

Once again, I’m proud to be an American!

Total Recall

I won’t apologize for the title of this article. I’m sure it’s been used to death, although I have yet to see it in print. Not that I have been looking. If you’re lost already, that was the title of one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s science fiction action films.

Congratulations to the people of California for taking back their state! A record turnout for voting, and all because this was the first election in a long time where the people actually felt they had a say in their government. My prediction came true!

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been thinking about the political arena for a while now. At least that was the rumor when I was living in the state about a year ago. With the recall, the opportunity arrived, and Arnold did not have to jump through the usual political butt-kissing process of party politics to get on the ballet.

This was a great election! It reminded me of the Boston Tea Party. The people where tired of being taxed, and screwed over by terrible decisions. SUV tax, driver’s licenses for criminals? A village idiot could have seen this coming a mile away.

When I was living in Alaska the governor made a comment that even though the majority of the state voted to approve a concealed carry gun law, he was opposed to it. Let’s just say that in the election, which came shortly after, this contributed to him being placed back on the bench.

The only bad thing about Arnold becoming governor is we have to learn to spell Schwarzenegger.

It’s weird how movies can sometime predict the future. We were watching “Demolition Man” the other night, starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. The movie takes place in the future and it is brought up that Sandra got some of her information from the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. It’s a great movie if you have not had the pleasure of seeing it. Of course, it’s not a chick flick. It’s full of violence and testosterone which is typical of a Schwarzenegger science fiction action film.

Arnold will do a great job for the state of California. He has to. The spotlight will be on him 24/7, and he’ll have to produce results. This will benefit the state by getting it back on the right path, keeping business, and uplifting the spirit of the people in a time when its really needed.

Welcome to politics Arnold. Truly, a governor elected by the people. An awesome pressure to be under, but if anyone has the strength to pull it off, it’s Conan the Barbarian…er…Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Monday, October 06, 2003

Controlled Chaos

If they weren’t so dang useful, computers would never get used. How’s that for stating the obvious?

Thinking about the amount of information flowing through our computer networks at any given moment is staggering! We’re moving more information in one second these days then were ever conceived to have been available 100 years ago. Sure we had books, and businesses had ledgers and other info squirreled away in dusty files, but today it’s information overload! My job? To see that it all flows smoothly.

As a network administrator/network engineer I am responsible for managing the information pipeline at our organization. This covers everything from e-mail, to desktop computers, web page content, and access to a variety of servers and mainframes.

How was your experience setting up your own computer at home? Getting online with something like AOL? Getting a virus in your e-mail? Isn’t it fun?

This is why I view the management of a large network as controlled chaos. At any given time you’re balancing user support, with application support, with server support, with circuit support, with liaison support with other agencies, all while trying to stay up with where the current technology is heading, and trying to learn even more stuff that you’ve never heard of until the boss wants it now.

There’s new computers, old computers, updates from Microsoft, updates for every conceivable program the organization uses, hardware failure, software errors, user confusion, my confusion, talking on the phone, communicating through e-mail, communicating through reports, etc…

Most of that information you can probably keep up with pretty well. Now let’s dive head first into the depths of the digital world. Let’s talk communicating between computers. TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, DHCP, SMP, Smtp, NAL, SMS, NDS, Active Directory, SCSI, RLL, MFM, IDE, Frame Types, NetBEUI, Appletalk, FTP, http, html, xtml. There’s scripting through PHP, CGI, Pearl, DOS and Java. This paragraph could go on to fill up a large book, but you get the idea. All this without even listing the multitudes of software and hardware that’s out there.

Now, get all of this to synchronize, and play nice together, all the while following the structured rules that each protocol, program, and hardware device demands.

Why do I do this? Would you believe I enjoy it? Really! I love my work. I’ve always liked mysteries, and trying to figure out how things work. At amusement parks, while all the people are riding rides and having fun, I spend my time looking at the mechanics of how everything is working, and wondering what programs are need to run it all.

I’ve had folks sit in my office and watch three phone lines ringing, e-mail flooding in, and me remote controlling another computer while changing setting on three servers. They tend to just shake their head and wander off.

If small bits of time go by with no phone calls, I may sit down and try to finish a computer program that will make everything run even smoother, or perhaps tell me when things aren’t running so smooth.

Now that I think about it, perhaps controlled chaos is too tame a phrase.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

You Don't Know Jack

"I was just thinking about the life of a pumpkin. Grow up in the sun, happily entwined with others, and then someone comes along, cuts you open, and rips your guts out." So says Buffy the vampire slayer.

Why do we cut open pumpkins, carve little faces on them, and then insert candles for the final touch before using them to decorate our homes on Halloween?

It turns out, that this all began a long time ago in Ireland. The Irish have a story about a man named, “Stingy Jack”.

Jack was a very bad man. He stole things from others, and was about as cheap as they come. He’d love to wander through yards looking for things he could steal, and taking food from other people’s gardens. He loved to eat turnips, and stole these every chance he could get.

One day, some say on All Hallows Eve, Jack was in a tavern drinking when the devil appeared because it was Jack’s time to go.

The devil is not very bright in this story, so Jack manages to convince the devil to let him have one more drink. Being the stingy man that he was, Jack also wanted the devil to pay for the drink. The devil pointed out that he had no money.

Jack reminded the devil that he could change into anything, and talks the devil into turning himself into a coin to pay for the drink. When the devil changed into a coin, stingy Jack grabbed the coin and tossed it quickly into his coin pouch. It turns out that there was also a cross in his pouch, which prevented the devil from changing back into himself.

After a long time screaming and cussing at Jack, the devil was finally worn out and asked Jack what he wanted. Jack told the devil he had to leave him alone for a year. The devil agreed, and as soon as Jack opened his pouch the devil vanished in a puff of angry smoke.

One year later, while Jack was traveling down a road, the devil pops into view. He reminds Jack that a year has passed, and he’s come to collect his soul. Jack agrees, but once again talks the devil into something. He asks the devil if he would go up a tree and pick an apple for him.

While the devil is up the tree, Jack pulls out his pocket knife and quickly carves a cross into the tree trunk. The devil is trapped in the tree and once again strikes a bargain with Jack. This time, Jack wants the devil to leave him alone for 10 years, and to never take his soul.

The devil concedes, and Jack goes on his way. Nobody knows how the devil finally got out of that tree. Perhaps it’s a story for another time.

As fate would have it, Jack never makes it for ten more years and drops dead.

When Jack shows up at the pearly gates, would you believe they wouldn’t let him in? Instead they sent him straight to hell…

When Jack arrived at the gates to hell, the devil took one look at him and reminded Jack that he had made him promise to never take his soul. So Jack was stuck in limbo with no place to go. As he started out, it became very dark and Jack pleaded with the devil for a light.

The devil, apparently not all bad, tosses Jack an eternally burning hot ember. Jack could not carry this hot spark, so he hollowed out one of his turnips, and cut some holes in the sides so that he could use it as a lantern. This is how he became known as Jack of the Lantern. Over the years, the term was shortened to Jack ‘O Lantern.

In Ireland and Scotland people would cut open turnips and potatoes and carve scary faces in them the same way Jack did, and placed candles in them to scare off Jack and other bad spirits. The English use large beets to do the same. When immigrants came to the United States they found less turnips, but found these great large pumpkins which were softer and easier to carve. Thus, the pumpkin became one of the main symbols for Halloween the world over.

So now, you do know Jack!

Stingy, Jack O’ Lantern.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Wild Sexual Experiments

Are we alone in the universe?

Many very smart people say that there is no way that life here on Earth was a one time fluke that only occurred on this planet. Even the most conservative scientists concede that there is a very high probability that there is life elsewhere in the universe.

I suppose the real question is how far along the evolutionary path are they when compared to us? In the life-line of the universe, mankind’s mark on the cosmos is almost insignificant. If you think about it, it took us billions of years to evolve enough to even be contemplating these things.

What does this mean for life elsewhere in space? I think it shows that it had to have taken life on other planets at least as long as it took us. Following this train of thought, the universe could be filled with a bunch of societies that are just now in their infancy of exploring their neighboring stars.

Perhaps one day we’ll encounter another race that is also just learning to get around in the vastness of the universe, or maybe just start talking back and forth with some sort of cosmic ham radio.

Many people believe that we have already been visited by entities from other planets. I’m not so sure about this theory, but I do think there is something behind all of the UFO sightings. It’s probably our own government that has some sort of magnetic drive ship that is capable of silent flight, high speeds, and 90 degree turn ability. When taking the properties of magnetism into account, and the descriptions of these UFO’s, it makes perfect sense.

Think about it. These ships have been reported to be rotating (creating a magnetic field?). They can obtain high speeds (adjusting the magnetic poles?). They are silent (no outward thrust would be required). They can perform seemingly impossible maneuvers (by adjusting the poles, normal aerodynamics are not required). The government has worked extremely hard to keep the encounters classified, and denying anything of their existence, yet almost everyone believes that SOMETHING is going on.

Little green men from outer space? Highly unlikely. More like top secret projects that are so far ahead of their time that it will take many years to come before the technology is revealed to the common folk. Maybe one day it will be necessary to tip our hand and show the world our capabilities, but not today. Right now it serves the government well to have people droning on and on about being abducted by aliens, seeing flying saucers, and believing that Roswell New Mexico was the place a UFO crashed many years ago.

So rest easy tonight knowing that space aliens do not yet walk among us. They are not flying over our heads waiting to beam us up. And no, you won’t have wild sexual experiments performed on you during a strange lapse in time. Okay, if you hang out in nightclubs that last part may still happen…

Live long, and prosper,

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Only Gaim In Town

I admit it. I'm a closet instant messenger (IM).

Because I have friends on ICQ, Yahoo, and AOL, I use an IM client that can watch all of these IM services at the same time.

Up until tonight I was using one called Trillian from Cerulean Studios, but a recent change in Yahoo's protocol caused many IM clients to break. Although Cerulean was quick to find the fix, they were only making it available to their paying customers of the Pro version. I do understand, but I hope they will now understand why I am playing a different Gaim.

While doing my required Slashdot reading, I ran across an IM client that is free and provides the same basic service as Trillian. I will be the first to admit that it is not as pretty, but it works virtually the same, and quite frankly, the authors of Trillian seem to have become more greedy and snobbish.

I am also researching Jabber, which is a free IM server application, and will reduce the dependency on using services like AOL, ICQ, and Yahoo altogether. Of course, as long as I have friends on the other services, there will always be the need to at least be able to monitor these services as well.

If you'd like the ability to monitor multiple IM accounts with the same program, check out Gaim. So far, I'm pretty happy with the results.

IM me sometime...

ICQ # 2562899
AIM "KnightlyDuty"
Yahoo "FMV_Stardragon"