Monday, August 31, 2009

And We're Back

Well hello there, Company, we are back after a weekend layoff with fresh, new and exciting things. Well, not really, it's probably going to be more of the same old stuff.
I am a little bit disappointed though, that no one has commented on how brilliantly we managed to gloss over the fact that we brought you nothing new for the last THREE DAYS! I mean, seriously folks. I know that way back in the beginning I asked you for a little leniency when I miss a post or two, but come on. This was blatant and ridiculous. Let's take a closer look at the signs.
1.) Day 1: Picture. Oh come on. All I did was get a picture of books and make up one, terrible, completely non-random comment. It was almost like Twitter, and that should have been insulting to you right then and there. I mean, it was painfully obvious that I put no effort whatsoever into that post but I just desperately wanted something to go in there. I mean, I didn't even care enough on Friday to assign an Unpaid Intern to do it. I mean, I guess you apologists out there could say that it was probably because I had all the Unpaid Interns helping with the big move to the new Worldwide Headquarters, but that's not true. I actually made them all go away and hired real movers to do the work. Don't worry, I put tracking bracelets on all the Unpaid Interns like the cops use, so there is a base station hooked into a phone line in the house and if they go like more than 30 yards away from it the thing notifies my private security team and shocks the hell out of the Unpaid Intern. So they got a weekend pass home but they still are sort of in captivity. Anyway, the fact that all the better I could do on Friday was a crappy picture and one line inspired by watching the movers move the extensive Big Dave and Company library should have tipped you off that I was going to be phoning it in all weekend long, but it obviously didn't. I mean, that isn't even a picture of my books, for crying out loud.
2.) Day 2: Rerun. Yeah, it's the blog version of a clip show. In my own defense, there are lots of posts from back in the early days that I have always thought that people who have just started reading recently should see. I know, I understand the way it works. If there is one thing that I have learned over the last year and a half of grinding out posts for you almost every single day it is that when I think a post is golden, you guys generally don't think it's anything special. Way to ruin my day, Company. However, when I write something that I think was just average or maybe even terrible, it is usually one of the best received by the public. But I don't care, I want to bring you the ones that I want you to hear, so there. But I digress; I have that intention, certainly, but that is not why I put that post up on Saturday. It is because from the moment I put up that crappy picture on Friday I had no intention whatsoever of giving you anything new on Saturday. I thought, however, that I could put up and old post and sort of pass it off like I was trying. Now if I were you, Company, I would feel insulted. And if I were your intelligence I would feel even more insulted, so there. You should have not let this pass. The first time I posted something from The Filing Cabinet some anonymous person called me on it, so why not now? I am so confused.
3.) Day 3: Nothing. Yeah, I've got nothing. And you got nothing on Sunday. So sad. And you let me get away with it too. Even sadder.
Anyway, we are back. We are all moved into our new digs here at our post new Worldwide Headquarters, although there is much unpacking left to do. See, I paid the movers handsomely but it turns out that unpacking generally is not part of the deal. So there are boxes everywhere, waiting for the Unpaid Interns to return from their weekend furloughs; technically waiting for the authorities to round them all up and return them to me. I am real excited to be here and can't wait until all the boxes are unpacked, mainly because somewhere in one of those boxes are my underoos (as Sally would call them) and I kind of need those.
I actually spent a good part of the weekend, while the moving was going on, negotiating with the new owners of the old Worldwide Headquarters over what the fate of the space will be. I was trying with all my charm, charisma, money, and might to get that space converted into a Big Dave and Company museum. It would have been the centerpiece of a Big Dave and Company self-guided walking tour, which isn't as simple as it sounds since the exhibits are in many different cities and it would take four plane flights, two inter-city rail transfers, and a public ferry to complete the tour and the audio tour tapes that you can rent are only on Sony MiniDisc, and you have to provide your own player, but the owners of the building just wouldn't buy into it. They wanted to put in a roller disco, which I thought was a fantastic idea. I was very open to maybe making it a roller disco that you could like roller skate through the exhibits, but the people who owned the old building are getting into their late 80s and unfortunately their dipwad son has like a controlling interest in the fate of the building and he wanted some awful loft condo conversion project, so what we did was we all compromised and the building is being torn down and a parking garage erected in its place, albeit with a plaque stating that this was at one time the site of the Big Dave and Company Worldwide Headquarters. At last check, that plaque was being set into place between the second and third floors in a service elevator shaft, so I would think it safe to say that your opportunities to view it will be rare, unless of course you are an elevator repairman or a secret agent. Or maybe one of Ocean's Eleven.
So, to get to the point, that is where we were all weekend long and we do apologize for the lack of new material, we make the promise that it will be better as time goes on. I mean, we can only move the Worldwide Headquarters every so often, right?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Living with the BVM

I like to help my elderly neighbors. They are very good people and they have been very good to me since day one that I moved in here. So whenever they need me to move something, lift something, get their mail while they are out of town, shovel, mow, whatever I am happy to do it. It inevitably leads to an argument when they try to pay me and I refuse, but I am always happy to do it anyway. So when they asked me and my landlord (who lives right below me) to help them move a statue I was happy to. When we arrived to pick up the statue I found that it was a 6 foot tall, cast iron, beautifully painted statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM).
Now that is fine. My landlords like to put out their statue of the BVM in the summer. Last summer they did it to me for the first time, and I took a lot of flak from my friends. They like to make jokes and give me a hard time, which I richly deserve whenever they get a chance, but I don't have a problem with it. I mean, it is never a bad thing to have the holiest woman in the christian doctrine watching over your home. And it's not like they have buried an old claw foot bathtub halfway in the ground and placed the BVM inside of the half shell it created like people do in every small town in the Midwest, or like they did down the street by the electric company garage. They just put it tastefully in the front yard among some begonias or tulips or whatever type of flower they put in there to die when they forget to water them. So that is what I was expecting out of my neighbors. And that's what I got. But it's the location of that little flower patch that makes me whither and cringe. Because they have placed the BVM to stare directly at both the stairs to my door and the side of my apartment.
You are wondering why this is a big deal, I can tell. And it really shouldn't be. And It wasn't until the landlord came out and started talking about putting a kneeler there and whatnot. And we were laughing and joking. But I was thinking about someone praying outside, genuflecting in front of the BVM in all her splendor as I walked up the stairs. That's when I saw that she was looking right in my direction. Right at my stairs and my driveway and my deck and my bathroom window and my bedroom window. All of the places where I like to commit sins, or at least to attempt to commit them. So what am I supposed to do now?
I hang out in my driveway or on my deck drinking alcohol and using curse words. I make terrible jokes about everyone and anyone. I carouse and eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent and use the Lord's name in vain. Over and over and over. I beak the law and the rules by having a grill on my deck and speeding up my driveway and all sorts of stuff. Every time I come home with a stolen road sign she will see me trudge up my stairs. Every time I stumble home from the bar in a stupor she will see me. Every time I try to bring a lady home with the intent of committing all sorts of sins she will see me. And that's just the outside. Where do you think I will trying to commit all those sins? She can see right into my bedroom window. Or when I don't get a chance to commit some sins with a lady she can see into the bathroom while I sin in there. And she can see me while I defecate, which is creepy to be honest. I don't want Jesus' Mom looking at me while I poo. And she probably doesn't want to see. I mean, I close the blinds but she HAS to have X-ray vision. I mean, if she can get pregnant without having sex, she can see through the green siding and blue drywall. That's just how it has to be. And she will shame me about the things she witnesses. Being a relatively good Catholic boy the guilt will ratchet up to unbearable levels until I am bringing around lepers to convalesce or baking eleventy billion cookies every week for the church bake sale. And let's be honest, nobody want lepers hanging around their apartment. That's why there are leper colonies way out on islands and peninsulas in places that are hard to get to. Not in my apartment. And all of this is going to happen because the BVM is all up in my business.

This post originally posted on June 3, 2008.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Books


It's really amazing how much these things can weigh when you add them all up.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cut the Cord

Have you ever seen a Van de Graaff Generator, Company? Sure you have. It's one of those things that you have seen like down at the local science museum, or maybe on TV or maybe on TV at school that has a cage and inside the cage there is a gigantic elevated ball. When the scientist or museum curator or other stuffy adult flips the switch you can feel and hear all sorts of electricity in the air and pretty soon it starts throwing bolts of lightning from the ball to the cage or vice versa. Yeah, those things are sweet, aren't they company? It's especially sweet when the person operating the machine sticks someone inside and lets the lightning flash all around them. It's also super cool when they put it in mini form and sell it at Hot Topic or one of those type stores as a little device that causes a stream of light to go from the center of the globe to wherever you are touching.
Anyway, as cool as all that stuff is the important point about the Van de Graaff Generator, at least for our purposes here today, is that it was developed in an attempt to move electricity wirelessly from place to place. So like, in lieu of a huge network of wires strung to and fro across the countryside, we could shoot electricity into your house or my apartment without the wire. Think about the ramifications of that, won't you please? Everything in which we use batteries we would be able to shoot electricity to. Imagine power shooting out to all of our electronic devices from like every cell phone tower. That would be neat if they could make it happen. But it's probably not going to, because I don't know if you've noticed, Company, but nature has been shooting electricity though the air since time immortal: it's called lightning and it hurts like a bitch when it hits you. Just ask Roy Sullivan.
So, as you have probably figured out, shooting electricity though the air probably isn't feasible. That being said, there are still a lot of people out there scheming how to free us from batteries, much like Van de Graaff was when he developed his generator. Some of those people work for Nokia, and they have been able to take an absolutely huge step towards achieving that goal. Recently they unveiled a phone that is able to recharge its own battery without a plug. Now that's pretty cool as far as I am concerned.
I was interested this new technology for use in the wireless fence collars I put on The Unpaid Interns. I spend an awfully large amount of money on batteries for those things and we here at Big Dave and Company loves to save us some money. Anyway, I was interested in this technology so I read up on it. What I found was pretty cool. What these phones do is to harvest the ambient radio waves that are always in the air around us and they turn those into usable energy. Not a whole lot of usable energy, but enough to recharge its own battery. How awesome is that?
This idea is similar to the ideas that Van de Graaff and Tesla (who developed the Tesla coil) were working with only on a much smaller and more modern scale. The cool thing about the Nokia technology is that it doesn't really care from where it gets its waves. It will pick up wasted TV, radio, cell phone, or whatever kind of waves it finds flinging around itself, and it will use them regardless of their power or their wavelength, to create a more traditional electrical current that will go to recharge the battery. So we aren't totally free of the battery, but we are free of the cord. That's gotta be good for something, right?
Right now, with this technology in its infancy, Nokia isn't able to get very much power from the ether. We are talking roughly 5 milliwatts, which is a tiny, tiny fraction of what the light bulb in my ceiling fan uses. They need about 10 times that much in order to do anything practical, but they are on their way. And while the 50 milliwatts for which they are shooting won't be enough to power your phone, for instance, while you are making a call, it will be enough to slowly recharge your battery while your phone is in standby mode, which it pretty much is when you aren't talking on it or texting someone or taking a picture or surfing the web. So it would work almost like the battery and alternator in your car: you'd draw the battery down and then it would recharge while you are not using it. I love it, and I can't think of something cooler than what the folks at Nokia are doing with this. It's just one step closer to cutting the cord.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Sneak Peek at the New Worldwide Headquarters

I am sitting here in the Worldwide Headquarters looking around and I am feeling kind of melancholy. As time goes by and more and more things are packed up and moved into our exciting new Worldwide Headquarters, our current digs cause me to feel more and more sadness. It was a big deal when we picked up all of our swoop, and with much help moved it all here roughly one year ago. Like the Colts moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis, one day it just sort of happened. Anyway, I like the Worldwide Headquarters; it is large, comfortable, and has a lot of charm. That being said, it is time to move on. So maybe, just maybe it's time to describe the new Worldwide Headquarters to you.
In case you haven't notices the gigantic countdown happening on Big Dave and Company, pretty soon we will be going online with the Big Dave and Company Podcast. As such, we are moving to a posh new Worldwide Headquarters complete with a modern, acoustic recording studio. It is located in the basement, for maximum soundproofing and to keep the hoards of fans from crashing into it, the studio is large, modern, and luxuriously appointed. Included are dressing rooms from the regulars on the podcast, and a green room for our many guests. A glass elevator connects the studio to the helipad on the roof and the private entrance in the back where the celebrities arrive. This glass elevator would be much more impressive if one could look out over a lobby or something I am sure, but as the building is quite old and had to be renovated the only view riders get from the glass elevator is of the concrete walls of the elevator shaft.
Anyway, aside from all the wonderful studio features, the new Worldwide Headquarters is still pretty sweet. As I said it is an older building, renovated and revamped at great cost into the dynamic, impressive, and comfortable home of this nearly award-winning blog. There are living quarters for myself and Mike-a-licious, with whom I am consolidating operations. Actually, he lived in and owned the new Worldwide Headquarters, and so it was nice of him to let us move in. I am guessing the guy on the steam roller and the crane with the wrecking ball attached outside his front door one morning was a pretty good motivation to allow this expansion, but I can't confirm that.
Another feature of the new Worldwide Headquarters is a modern new dormitory for the Unpaid Interns. It is actually more like a bunkhouse, like the loggers would have lived in back in the day, except it's not made of logs and it's not out in the woods, it's just like a separate wing of the place. It features things like bunk beds and foot lockers for them to store their possessions with a recreation area containing all the old furniture that I don't want and an old floor-model Curtis Mathes. I understand that you probably don't think this is terribly impressive, but it meets the requirements of OSHA, 100% of the major universities in the United States which provide our Unpaid Interns, and most importantly the friendly local judge at the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals who felt that keeping the Unpaid Interns chained up in a dirt floor dungeon in the basement of a 1920s-era building was not a valuable learning and survival experience but was in fact "cruel and unusual punishment." So it's got that going for it, which is nice.
One more super exciting part of the new Worldwide Headquarters is the extensive system of gardens in the courtyard. I was able recently to become intimately familiar with these gardens when I got drunk, stumbled into them, and got lost for over an hour before passing out in a bed of gardenias. When I woke in the morning soaking wet from dew with the sun and the gardener staring me in the face, what I saw through the haze of hangover was absolutely gorgeous. There were flowers and plants of colors and types that I have never even heard of before. Either that or I was still drunk and couldn't properly understand the gardener. But they are really worth checking out if you can get your hands on a postcard or intricate series of mirrors or something, because goodness knows that we aren't going to give tours. But you won't need a tour, because you can live it vicariously though Big Dave and Company, Mike-a-licious, or the Big Dave and Company Podcast. How do you feel about that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Caution in the Information Age

In the grand scheme of things one would probably say that we live in the Information Age. There was the Bronze Age, the Ice Age, the Stone Age, all good ages. But today is generally called the Information Age because very rapidly, in a J-curve-style manner, our access to knowledge and information has increased like at no time in human history. If you really think about it, a century ago the printed word was the only manner in which to disseminate information, which is fine but in 1909 that meant that for news from San Francisco had to travel across the country - a relatively quick process with the advent of the telegraph - and then be written down and printed down for the world to see. That's a long and arduous process. However, in just those relatively short 100 years we now know about events faster than we even realize that they are news because of media outlets like radio, television, and the Internet. There is a big problem with this however: there is a this terrible oversaturation of knowledge. I understand that knowledge is power, but only when wielded tactfully and appropriately. That's where so many of us go wrong.
In this day and age there is no reason whatsoever to go into a situation uninformed, okay? Let's just start with saying that. Like, if you are going to buy a car there is no reason not know about specifications or available options before you walk into the showroom. Or there is no reason that you didn't know about the sale down at Carson Pirie Scott. That gives. Anything that you would ever want to know is out on the Internet somewhere, and just about every public library in the nation has a computer terminal, so sit down and search around a little. If you can't find the actual information you want the Internet has a phone number you can call. The thing about this is that you actually have to read the articles, you actually have to process what you see. Just reading the headlines and then going in with the assumptions made from those just doesn't cut it because the headline never tells the whole story, okay? The first article you find when typing in "transcendentalism" into your search engine won't always give you everything you need to know. Don't jump to conclusions based on the tip of the informational iceberg, that totally negates the profit of having the information available to you in the first place.
On the flip side of that, don't be over-informed. I know, it sounds like that can't be possible but it is. To return to the car buying example, asking the salesman about the torsion bolts that GM uses to connect the left front strut to the body is going to make you seem just as dumb as when you ask what the difference between a sedan and a hatchback. That is something that people often forget. Knowing too much can actually make you seem like you don't know anything at all. You don't need to know everything, okay? You only know what you need to know. By that I am saying you just need to do enough research on any given subject so that you aren't taken for a fool or worked over; one doesn't have to be an expert at everything. Too much knowledge, or more correctly too much knowledge that isn't handled properly will actually be counterproductive to you as it will cloud up the actual point from being seen. Learning every last detail about every last thing is sort of like killing a dandelion with a flame thrower, okay? Sure it will do the job but you would have been much better served by just plucking it from the ground with your hand.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that the most important thing in this the Information Age is to use caution and common sense. Have the right information for the right situation but ask questions like you don't know a whole lot. That will usually get you to where you need to go because the slightly more general questions will get you pointed in the right direction and your background knowledge will allow you to know if you are being misdirected. That's they key; that's what you are looking for. It's sort of a fine line, which I know is tough, but that's just the way it is. You have to use caution while navigating the Information Age.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Flip of the Coin

Well, I have nothing but bad news for you today, Company. I know that you are a big fan of doing "Train, train, Number Nine, rolling down Chicago line, when the train goes off the track, do you get your money back? Yes, no, or maybe so" whenever you have to make a decision. But that only really works when you are choosing between a big group of things, like when you are trying to pick which apple to throw at that clown or which of your gentleman callers to let into your pants. It doesn't work when there are only two apples in the bowl or maybe when it's just a little Navy ship that came into port and there aren't that many sailors floating around. In times like those I know that you always turn to the coin flip. Yeah, bad idea, Company, because recently it has been determined that the odds in a coin flip aren't really fifty-fifty.
"Wait, what? Did I read that right? Did those words really appear on my screen just now? I mean, what the hell is wrong with our coins that I don't have an even chance of getting heads or tails? Is it those state quarters? I bet it's those damn state quarters screwing everything up. Well I am through. No more of that coin flipping for me." I can hear you saying that, you said it out loud. In fact, I could hear it in the next room. And I don't blame you for freaking out...this is bad. As it turns out, nothing is really as random as it seems, including the coin flip, which is exceptionally shocking because the coin flip has always been the metaphor for pure chance, for even odds, for complete and utter randomness in something. That's why it is used for NFL games, and that's why the refs just make up the call on the coin flip anyway.
The problem here is that recent scientific research has come to the conclusion that coin flips are controlled less by the laws of chance as they are by the laws of mechanics and the physics of the actual act. Here's the deal: for natural flips, whatever those are, it turns out that the odds of the side facing up when you begin the flip coming up when the coin lands are actually about 51%. For instance, if you start with heads facing up, slightly more than one half of the time heads is going to win. Now that is startling. As the article I read states, head facing up predicts heads; tails facing up predicts tails. That's about the best way to explain it.
So why...why...why would this be so? I mean, is there something about the way coins are struck so that maybe the heads side carries less weight than the tails side or something? No. The odds don't say anything about whether heads or tails is more likely to come around, all it speaks to is which side is up to begin with. Three academics: Persi Diaconis, Susan Holmes, and Richard Montgomery did the research on this. As to who did the funding, I have no idea. They could have used that money to feed the poor or to buy me new shoes. But I digress. The researchers went ahead and constructed a coin with balsa wood on one side and metal on the other and the same results came out with the coin always landing on the side it started on when flipped by a machine.
Yeah, the three researchers sort of figured out the very complex mathematics governing the flipping of the coin by building a machine to flip a coin with the same amount of force time and time again, filming it with a high speed camera like they use on The Discovery Channel. What this did was confirm that flipping a coin really isn't random. The machine could make the coin come up tails a million billion times in a row if they wanted it to.
As it seems, the relative randomness of the coin flip comes when we humans do the flipping. Way to screw it up, Company. The odds were 100% until you got involved. Anyway, there are several reasons for this. First of all, and more intuitively, is that from one flip to another the force is never exactly the same when a human is doing the flipping. It can be close - damn close - but it can never be the same. When was the last time you flipped a coin the exact same height on multiple occasions? Yeah, I knew that shit doesn't happen. The other thing that makes the coin flip in human hands much more random is that coins flipped by a human tend to rotate on more than one axis, sort of tumbling through the air like a rag doll as opposed to just flipping one way heads over tails.
In the end, it all really doesn't matter. After all, as Homes pointed out, the odds of the coin flip are really not that far off of being 50-50 when done by a person. I mean, it's 51-49 and that's close. Plus, in most coin flip situations the person calling the flip is not the same person flipping the coin are not the same person, if that makes any sense, so that helps to keep anyone from taking advantage of that one flip out of one hundred advantage. Also, the more the coin flips on multiple axis the more random the results become. So it's not all so bad. I, and all the three researchers who were part of this study, think that it's okay to go ahead and keep using the coin flip as a basically random way of making decisions between two choices. So don't sweat it, Company. Flip away, but only if there's two. If you have three or more you are stuck with "Eenie, meanie, miney, moe." I'm just saying.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Boys Are Back In Town

The boys are back in town. Or at least they were. And they brought a girl with them - who even knew what she was getting into ahead of time - and that is always exciting. As you may have guessed, my friends from back home came to visit this weekend on their annual pilgrimage to the Worldwide Headquarters. As is customary, along with Bucko and CoCo there were some new faces, and that is always fun to see. A friend of Bucko and CoCo is always a friend of mine, especially when they are as cool as Kyle and Kristy are. I for one, had a blast as usual, I always enjoy when they visit. I am going to spare everyone the details of their visit, but I will say that I am sad to see them go.
I think that one of my favorite things about their visit is the baseball tradition, which is young as far as traditions go since it only started last year, but I like it anyhow. Here is the deal: the boys bring a baseball with them when they come to visit. They all sign it, I sign it, and we all put like a number on it as if we were baseball players signing an autograph. The fun part, though, is that we also ask all of the people we meet along way to sign it as well. So seemingly random waitresses and grocery store cashiers and other people get asked to sign this baseball as a sort of record of what happened and were we went. It doesn't matter that we can't read 80% of the signatures, that our numbers change every year, and that come next week they won't remember who signed it and where they were from. It is still a neat and quirky tradition and it makes for nice little mementos to keep on a mantle or in a box in an attic.
So anyway, thanks for visiting guys and girl, you are always welcome. I hope you had a good time. Enjoy your Sunday everyone. I will be off picking up an obscene number of beer bottles.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Return of the Arctic Sea

So Company, I don't know if you remember this but not too long ago we were looking into the stunning saga of the Arctic Sea, which was hijacked and then sort of disappeared somewhere beyond France. Well, it has been found, thanks to the might of the Russian Navy and the propensity of its admirals to find ships whose locations they already know.
Wait, what? Yeah. This story is getting more and more bizarre and complicated as the details come out. First of all, let's start with this fact that if you look, a very handsome and friendly local blogger said that they would find the ship floating somewhere around the Azores. Well, I was wrong, but the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, which is where the Arctic Sea was found, or at least reported found, are not all that far away, so basically I was as close as I could have been without actually being correct, and I was right in THEORY and SPIRIT, which is about all the more one can ask, isn't it?
Anyway, on August 17 the Russian Navy reported that the 15 crew members from the Arctic Sea had been taken aboard a Russian Navy vessel and were basically fine. Well that's a relief. Does anyone care to tell us what happened to them? Why they were inept enough to be hijacked off the Baltic Coast of Sweden. Why they then passed perfectly normally through two of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Why they were spotted off the coast of France and then they disappeared into the ether. Why no one ever set off a distress signal. Why, why, why...
First, let's look at how anyone managed to get hijacked in Sweden. That is quite a feat if you think about it, because that is a major, modern European democracy. Apparently the hijackers approached the ship in a dinghy and declared that they needed help to fix their vessel. Okay, let's think about exactly what is wrong with that scenario. Now I know that you aren't going to refuse help to a small dinghy at sea, but still...that doesn't jive. First of all, who is out in the Baltic Sea hanging around in a dinghy? Really, who does that? That's just not right. So that should have been the first sign that something was seriously amiss. But they did the nice thing of the sea apparently, and look at where that got them. The Cape Verde Islands. The people from the dinghy pulled guns and forced the crew to sail south.
So why did it get through all those sensitive areas without so much as a peep or a whisper? Why was there never any distress signal let off? Well that is a question that is answered easily enough. If you were a hijacker would you let the crew give off a distress signal? Would you let them tell the controllers in England that they had been hijacked? I certainly wouldn't, and that's why I have never been arrested for being a pirate. Check mate. What I would have done was to have put the crew like down in the hold somewhere where there is no radio, porthole, air, oxygen, daylight, or hope of escape. But that's just me. And apparently a consortium of four Estonians, two Latvians, and two Russians think the same way as I do because that is roughly what they did. So you could imagine why there was no real distress radioed by the people on the ship.
Okay, so then how was it that this ship managed to get lost bobbing on the oceans? That's the question I asked before. Well, turns out that it was never really lost. HAHAHAHA! OH MAN, WE GOT YOUR GOOD YOUR FUCKER! That's what the Russian Navy is saying to the world right now, except they are probably saying it in Russian. And the authorities in Malta. They told us, after it was all said and done, that they had been tracking the ship the whole time it was supposedly "missing." Well isn't that a slap a face, Company? I think so. Turns out the Russians knew where the thing was the whole time too. They have said that they kept the location of the boat a secret because they wanted to protect the health and welfare of the crew. I am not exactly sure how me or Mike-a-licious or Mitch Stetter knowing where the ship was located would make the pirates angry or more volatile, but apparently the authorities thought it would. So we all had to sit and sweat it out and wonder what the hell was going on while everyone who was in the know totally knew. Great.
Now, even though the Arctic Sea has been found, and the crew is as safe as one can be on a Russian Navy vessel, there are still a lot of rumors and confusion surrounding the story of the Arctic Sea. Finnish police have said that they were working on a ransom demand, although they didn't know whether or not it was authentic. There have been reports that the ship was hijacked a second time off the Portuguese authorities have said it was never in their territorial waters. And if the Russians know more, then they certainly are not telling us, but then again that shouldn't surprise anyone because they didn't even tell us when they knew where the ship was located. Now, a safe berth somewhere is trying to be secured for the poor ship so its seaworthiness can be determined, and it looks like ever more strife in the life of the Arctic Sea.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hawai'i 5-0

Now Company, I would suspect that you are not as versed in the history of Hawai'i as I am. The reason that I know so much about the great state and former sovereign nation is that one of my Unpaid Interns has a father who is the foremost expert in Hawai'ian history at Santa Clara Community College and I made him talk about it all the time. So there. Anyway, being the Hawai'ian history buff that I am I can tell you that today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Hawai'i's admission to the Union.
And it has been a bit of a tumultuous relationship between Uncle Sam and the beautiful Hawai'ian Princess. It all began at the wedding. See, the Hawai'ian Princess had a bit of an independent streak to her, okay? She was single, she was among the prettiest of the mid-Pacific nations, and she was in high demand. I mean, who wouldn't want to stop and load their ship with coal and provisions somewhere as beautiful as Hawai'i, right? So everybody wanted a piece, but not all those who tried succeeded. Just ask James Cook. He died on the sandy beach on the Big Island in 1799, and all he was trying to do was fix his sail and get a stolen boat back. On the Islands themselves, while there were plenty who supported statehood, there was a small but important vocal minority that included most native Hawai'ians that were opposed to the union.
It's not like there was complete agreement on the side of Uncle Sam, either, okay? So let's just settle down. While the initial attraction and infatuation may have been hot and heavy, when the time came to tie the knot of statehood Uncle Sam drug his feet an awful lot. I mean, he thought what they had was great, she was hot and he got to have the beautiful Hawai'ian Princess on his arm at all the UN functions, so who can blame him? It was all the benefit without all that nasty commitment. The opposition to statehood was led on the mainland by the southern Democrats, who were not fans of the large Asian and Pacific Islander segments of the Hawai'ian population, and others who somehow got the idea into their heads that Communism was running rampant in the Islands. It took a lot of convincing from a lot of the right people from the Islands in order to bring those on the mainland around.
And so it went down, the two sides hooked up: white bearded Uncle Sam with his giant hat and the beautiful Hawai'ian Princess with her harbor of pearls and flaming hot volcanic peaks. It hasn't always been a harmonious marriage, however. While both sides can say that they have come out pretty well in this deal; Hawai'i has one of the largest tourist economies in the world in part because Americans can travel there domestically, and she has received a lot of federal money for infrastructure, improvements, etc and America has had an important outpost in the middle of the vast Pacific for its military and civilian travel uses, there have still been hard times. While any opposition to having Hawai'i as a state has faded over time on the mainland, there is still a formidable section of the Hawai'ian population that is dead set opposed to statehood, even fifty years on. I would expect, being the Hawai'i expert that I am, for there to be protests at the 50th Anniversary celebrations, but I would expect them the be orderly and peaceful. This isn't a violent-style confrontation, it is much more civil than that.
So anyway, Happy 50th Anniversary Hawai'i. I know you've been around as a political entity for much, much longer than that, but still happy 50th as a state. I, for one, am glad to have you on board. And I am pretty excited too because I never thought I'd see such a young anniversary when it came to a state. I can't wait for Alaska next year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deconstructionism

Silly me, I thought that when I left David Nathaniel and Guy H back in another state I would maybe be able to leave the usual state of projects behind. Because I was never a fan of our usual state of projects. Whenever we had a sort of projecct to do, it always evolved from something simple and easy into something incredibly complicated. For instance, we would go to install a ceiling fan and before all was said and done we would be soddering pipes in the basement because we would have had to have removed the pipes to access the junction box for the electricity so that we could pull the old knob and tube wiring from here it ran in because we found out that the new stuff that we were running couldn't hook into the existing. And so on and so forth. That's just how it always went.

So anyway, I was hoping that I would be able to leave those types of shenanegans behind. I really did. But alas no. I learned today, to my dismay, that I am the common denomonator in the string of these stories. Like, if these stories were fractions, I would be the common denomonator that one would have to use to do addition or multiplication. Maybe some long division. Anyway, I learned that the curse is me, because today Mike-a-licious decided that we were going to engage in a realtively simple, normal, everyday activity. We were going to move all the stuff from his guest bedroom into the basement in order to clear space in the bedroom.

Sounds simple enough, right? We thought so. Thousands of people around the world have done this thousands of times with no problem whatsoever. I am not thousands of people though. Since I am cursed it turned into a massive cluster. I am not sure what was running through Mike-a-licious' head, but I am guessing that it was a mixture of cursing me and wondering what the hell he got himself into. The reason that this nasty mixture of thoughts would be running through his head is because he was in the process of deconstructing his house.

Yeah, you read that right. Here is how it all went down: literally, please excuse the pun. We got the dresser down the stairs with no problem. We got the mattress down the stairs with no problem. The box spring? Not so much. See, box springs, unlike their mattress cousins, are rigid. They don't bend and flex at all, which means that it is fairly easy to wedge into areas that the mattress went through with relative ease. So of course we got the box spring wedged into the stairway down to the basement. And I mean wedged in. Couldn't move up, down, left, right, any way really. Yeah, it had turned into a Big Dave Project. Right at the moment that it couldn't move anymore that's what it got turned into. So once the railings and wooden structures lining the actual stairs were removed everything was peachy.

The signs of future trouble, though, showed when we were reconstructing Mike-a-licious' house after the box spring had finally given in. Wod was splitting. Things weren't going back together exactly as they should have been, as would be expected. But we will all forget about that I am sure before the next time that we have to do something, which will inevitably turn into the same, overly complicated thing. But that is the fun of the whole thing, now isn't it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 Mindset List

Every fall, a new crop of students walk onto the campus of Beloit College, a small, private, liberal-arts school in southern Wisconsin, to being their college careers. In anticipation of this event, the college prepares what it calls The Mindset List, which it uses to prepare its staff and professors for just how these incoming freshmen see the world. For instance: professors can refrain from using examples from before the students' time, or they can sort of tailor their teaching to incorporate those historical events. While it is not really intended for this, the national media has a tendency to latch onto this list as a sort of barometer of the passing of time. And it's amazing. I look at some of the points on this list and it amazes me because I remember these things happening as events, not as just normalities of life. Some of them will surprise you. Because most of this year's freshman class, who are generally regarded as the Beloit College Class of 2013 even though no one finishes college in four years anymore, was born in 1991, you need to prepare to feel REALLY old as we look at some of the more interesting points on the 2009 Beloit College Mindset List.

- They have never used a card catalog to find a book. I am not so sure about this one, because I am sure there is a nerdy nerd-mo-tron or some kid from a tiny town that has used a card catalog to find some sort of book, but by in large I believe it. Most kids these days won't know what a card catalog is, let alone know what to do with one. I bet though, that any eight-year-old can probably sign you up for an account with Amazon.

- Salsa has always outsold ketchup. I did not know that was true today; I am shocked that it was true in 1991. I know that salsa is healthy and delicious and that long ago it started being used on WAY more than just tortilla chips, but wow. Maybe it's because I am from the Midwest, but I ear ketchup on EVERYTHING and when I was a kid I ate it on even more stuff. Blows my mind.

- Rap music has always been mainstream. Thanks Run DMC.

- Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive. Actually, in the article I read about the Mindset list that let me know it was out for this year, they noted that many of the kids polled for the 2009 Mindset List didn't actually know that Magic Johnson played basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, seeing him run up and down the court in those short shorts and knee pads sort of makes me wish I didn't remember that part, but still those born in 1991 only know him as an AIDS awareness advocate. That's good because that means he's been a successful advocate for the eradication of the terrible disease, but it's also too bad because he was one hell of a basketball player.

- State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods. Okay, few people realize just how much of an oppressive institution the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been over the years. First of all they make me have a PO Box even though they refuse to deliver mail to the Worldwide Headquarters. Second of all they imposed a five digit code on every home in America, making the city and state that you write on the envelope basically obsolete. Despite that, just to be jerkwads, they forced us to change the way we wrote those cities and states, specifically the states. Back in the day if you were going to send a letter to your buddy at school in Boston you could address it to him in Boston, Mass. If you were asking for money from your Auntie you would write to her in Alliance, Neb. Bellingham, Wash. Fort Worth, Tex. And so on and so forth. Then, the USPS decided that every state needed to have a two-letter abbreviation. That's why we now have MA, NE, WA, and TX. And Nova Scotia is NS because they made Canada follow suit. And I can never remember the difference between AR, AK, AL, and all the other A-states. Or the M-states for that matter. But the incoming freshmen have never known anything different.

- Condoms have always been advertised on television. So we have all been sluts and man-whores since 1991. Interesting. Good thing we can't advertise cigarettes on television though.

- Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves. I am not even sure that a lot of people in the sports world have realized this one but it's pretty impressive. Eighteen years at the helm of the same team means that you are good at what you do or the owners don't care, and to be honest in this world of extreme impatience this just plain doesn't happen anymore. Except when you are talking about Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves.

- They have never seen Saved By the Bell. Well, this isn't true. First of all, Saved By the Bell can be seen all the time as reruns, so I would doubt that they have never stumbled upon it. Second of all, Saved By the Bell ran as new episodes from 1989-1993, so they were like two-ish when they stopped making new episodes, so they could have seen it even though they probably didn't know what the hell they were watching. That being said, I get where Beloit College is going with this particular point. They have never been exposed to it at the level that say, my sister or I have been, and so even if they stumbled upon it while flipping channels it probably didn't mean a whole lot to them. I bet they'd like Saved By the Bell: The College Years if they'd seen it though.

- Someone has always been asking "Was Iraq worth a war?" Okay, this one is sort of laid out in an awkward manner, but the crux of the point is this: during these kids lifetimes the United States has always been in Iraq. That's strange to think about. First with George H.W. Bush, then with the planes and the No-Fly Zone during the Clinton era, and then full-on again during the George W. Bush administration. We've always been over there doing whatever we do over there. I remember the First Gulf War, and I remember the Second Gulf War, and there are vast differences between how those military actions were seen here at home, but those kids stepping onto the Beloit College campus for the first time this fall will always have known that we were in Iraq fighting and won't know that we once pumped arms and ammo and money to Saddam Hussein when he was fighting with Iran. Leave that to the history professors to explain I suppose.

- There has always been blue Jell-o. Does anybody eat blue Jell-o? I mean at a time other than Fourth of July? I didn't think so. But it's apparently been there for almost twenty years, which is longer than I can say for those slacker blue M&M's, which haven't been around for nearly as long but of which these slacker kids probably think have been around since the beginning anyway.

- They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix. The only people who eat Berry Berry Kix are the ones eating the blue Jell-o.

These are just a few of the high points from the list, which, when you read it, has more the air of something I have done as opposed to something done officially by member of academia or a think tank housed in some soulless Washington D.C. office building housed just inside the Beltway. And that makes sense, because like I noted before, the list isn't meant for media consumption and usage, it's just meant for the men and women at Beloit College to help understand their incoming freshman a little better. It sill speaks wonders on our society and the passage of time. And it makes one feel awfully old, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Big Dave and Company Podcast

Well, since Mike-a-licious let the cat out of the bag, we might as well talk about the Big Dave and Company podcast.
Yeah, I said podcast. With readership numbers climbing into the high single digits, over one third of which are direct hits, we decided that it was time to bring our voices to the masses. So on September 3, 2009 look for the very first of the Big Dave and Company podcasts. They will be weekly, most likely coming out on Thursdays for yours and everyone else's consumption. You can access them right here on Big Dave and Company, or on iTunes, yes, THAT iTunes and they will always be free. Oh, so you want to know what you are going to hear?
You will hear me, and Mike-a-licious, and whatever special guests we can round up. We will talk about all sorts of topics, from the Canadian parliamentary elections to the pros and cons of the silver standard to judicial robes as comfort dress for the portly gentileman. Just kidding. But we will be bringing you our unique perspective on whatever we think you need to know about. So you can look forward to that.
So yeah, let's go over the basics again: Big Dave and Company Podcast, to come out weekly, starting Sept. 3 right here on Big Dave and Company.com or on iTunes. I hope you enjoy. Hell, I just hope you listen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

In 1978 Judi and Ron Barrett sat down and created a wonderful children's book called Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, which is about an fantastical place where the weather comes three times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it always consists of food. Since I was a young child in the early 1980s I was lucky enough to have this book read to me, and to have read it a bunch of times myself. It was a classic, and since I like food so much and in this book the weather is food, I am going to go ahead and give this book the credit for my love of weather and all things associated with it. Except for like draught and devastation. I am not a big fan of that part.

...anyway...

In 2006 some unimaginative a-holes at Sony decided that they were going to make a movie out of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. Since the people in Hollywood are either too busy or too lazy to come up with their own ideas, they have apparently that they are going to just look around the library and steal old books and films for their storylines now. So anyway, Sony decided that they would be best off jading my childhood, so they plucked Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs out of my memory and pretty soon are going to release what will probably be a pretty crappy movie based on it.
You know what the problem is here, Company? I'll tell you what the problem is. The problems is two-fold. First of all, there is a generation of children who will only know the movie version of this great story. There will even be a few who think that the book, upon which they will stumble one day in the public library while trying to figure out there the books with the naked chicks are located, is based on the movie. That is a crying shame. I guess that I am a little upset that the kids of today are being deprived of one more thing that they could be reading because they can be watching it on TV, or in a movie theatre, or on DVD or Blue Ray or whatever medium become popular next. The reason it is so important that the kiddos have old books to read is because there aren't any new books coming out that they can read. Think about it...Dora the Explorer? Please. Yeah she has books out, but she started on TV. They all start on TV and then maybe if there is a dollar to be squeezed out a book might appear. So what are the kids supposed to read? No reason to read Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.
Problem Two is the age old problem: no movie is ever as good as the book. Unless of course you watched the movie first in which case it was better than the book. Because Hollywood has no imagination of their own anymore, just stolen ideas and special effects, everyone has read the book first. So everyone has an idea in their head as to what the pictures look like; that's all imagination really is anyway - movies that play on a little screen behind your forehead. So you have already seen the movie, or at least what you would expect the movie to look like, and when you see what the director or the producer saw inside THEIR head it just doesn't jive, now does it? So the movie is always worse than the book because it isn't the movie that you made in your little noggin'. So sorry. The reverse is true when you saw the movie first: the book just doesn't conjure up the same images and so the whole story gets sort of skewed and awkward and so you just don't like it.
So I won't like the movie Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs when it comes out. It's almost a metaphysical certitude. If I was playing Powerball, I would pick "I Won't Like the Movie Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" as my Powerball, which is a bold strategy because it's not even a number, but I would pick it anyway and somehow that ball would pop up and I would win at least a dollar, maybe more depending on what numbers I picked for the other spots. So I suppose then it's a good thing I am not playing Powerball or I would upset the space/time continuum or something.
Needless to say I won't be seeing this movie, unless of course some cute girls wants me to go. Or maybe a little kid, because little kids are fun. But other than that, not so much, because it will ruin a nice little part of my childhood, a part that adulthood hasn't been able to get its grimy little hands on, and who needs that, right? You can go see it though, and if you would like you can tell me all about it. I will listen. And then maybe I will go get the book and read it. Wouldn't that be a nice turn of the screw? I think so.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Adrift in Indianapolis

"It wouldn't be a trip to Indiana without me standing next to my car parked in a traffic jam for an hour on the freeway in the middle of nowhere." I said that to Friend Steven on Saturday as I made my way towards Indianapolis. And it's true. Every time I have visited "The Crossroads of America" I have ended up encountering a massive, rural traffic jam, generally caused by an accident or road construction. It is at this time that you get to see a truly unique Indiana phenomenon: because the median of the freeway tends to be flat and without barrier, when these colossal traffic jams happen people just start driving through the median to get onto the other lanes to go back the other way to the last exit to get around the traffic jam. I have never seen this in another state, not even the other flat ones, but I never realized that it would be a portent of things to come.
I am not in rural Indiana right now, okay? Let's get that straight. I am sitting in a hotel room in a town that is, from what I can see, mostly made up of corporate office parks, medical office buildings, and strip malls. Across the freeway, which is about two blocks away, this bastion of American suburban hell ends and Indianapolis begins. And let me tell you something: Indianapolis is nothing like the rest of Indiana.
Except the drivers. They are the same. Turns out that all those crazy drivers who are too impatient to wait in traffic on the freeway like the rest of us ALSO are crazy as shit and don't know where they are going. I am sure that if you live in New York City or LA or maybe like Milan, Italy you are going to totally going to come here and be like "Are you kidding? That's kids stuff." But for what I am used to it is out of control. If you are a fan of people cutting across lanes and having no idea where they want to go until they are about 50 feet from wherever that place is, then this town is for you. It's nuts. Part of the problem I think is that Indianapolis is really bad about marking their "turn only" lanes until you are already in them and you notice that it's painted on the pavement, so then at the last minute you realize that you are stuck in a left turn only lane when all you want to go is go straight, so you end up making some crazy traffic moves. The other part of the reason is that, at least this weekend, there are a TON of out-of towners around, and I will admit I made more than my fair share of contributions to this crazy driving phenomenon. But I am not alone. Not only is the Indiana State Fair ongoing in town, but GenCon, which is a GIGANTIC meeting of nerds from across the country for a gaming convention. So yeah, lots of people in town, which I am sure is contributing, but a lot of the crazy driving has been from cars with Indiana plates, and Indiana plates have the county of registration on them and an awful lot of them sport local counties. That's all I'm saying.
Aside from that though, Indianapolis doesn't seem like the rest of Indiana that I have seen. First of all, there are trees here. Lots of them all around the city. I mean, there are trees in the rest of the state, to be sure, but they tend to be concentrated in windbreaks and around the edges of farm fields. In Indy though, they are everywhere, which is cool. There are also several hills in town; the only in all of Indiana except down by the Ohio River.
All in all, Indianapolis is actually a really unique, vibrant, cosmopolitan city. First of all, one of the main drags into town in not populated with overwhelming mixture of strip malls and commercial ridiculousness, it goes straight through the area of town that is filled with the hundred-year-old homes of the founding movers and shakers of Indianapolis. So as you make your way towards downtown you are cruising down this narrow, multi-lane road lines with ornate mansions, which is pretty cool. Once you get downtown you find a downtown area that is probably the coolest downtown area of any city that I have ever seen. Sorry, Cleveland. It is open, friendly, well-marked, and totally user-friendly. There are the usual assortment of government buildings and landmarks, including the Indiana State Capitol, and they all have open squares that are filled with people. There is also a giant mall that spans several blocks on several levels. Top it off with the usual sprinkling of sports facilities and a pretty awesome waterfall/monument and you get a top-notch downtown experience. I was really, truly impressed.
So yeah, Indianapolis is pretty cool, and I have enjoyed my time here. We had an hilarious and fin time celebrating Friend Steven's birthday and rehashing the old days. All in all it was good. I am not relishing the ten hour car ride home across the plains of central Illinois but such is life. At least I will be away from the nutso drivers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The County Fair

So, the friendly local county fair is ongoing this weekend, and I am not there, which makes me sad. I am away across the miles in a strange city attending a super awesome party in honor of Friend Steven, which makes me pretty happy. Anyway, I am missing the fair, which in a small, small town is a pretty big event, and I am a little sad about that because I am just sort of getting the feeling that it is going to be one of those events that I miss every year for one reason or another.
The reason that sort of eats me up inside is because I love the fair. In the days before I booked town I could hear it from my living room and I could see the bright lights from my back deck. And it's wonderful. I love the county fair. I heard some naysayers ripping on the fair the other day and I had to tell them to settle. There is something about a fair that gets everyone excited, and there is a fair to excite anyone. County fair, state fair, renaissance faire, antique fair, whatever. Boss Lady took her family hundreds of miles last week to go to the state fair. Heck, Garrison Keillor wrote a whole article for National Geographic about state fairs, and he toured like a dozen of them last summer. Or this summer. I don't think it matters which.
The county fair is like a miniature travelling version of the state fair, which is neat; all the prerequesites are there. There are lots of neat rides, like a ferris wheel and a tilt-a-whirl and that Gravitron thing that spins around and then the wall moves up and you are suspended by forces that only Newton and your high school science teacher can understand. They also have that terrifying swing that always gives me visions of snapping chains and people flying everywhere with no control or safety equipment. All those rides are still super fun though, and the intense fright is all part of the game.
Then there is the midway, the pulsing, heaving heart of every fair. It is wonderful. There is something about the very unique mix of smells and sounds that come out of the midway: fried food, generators running, grease, children, corn, hawkers announcing all the games, and farm animals wafting in from the 4-H barns. It's a certainly magical mixture that is recreated in hundreds of thousands of towns all across America but can't be created anywhere but in those hundreds of thousands of places, if that makes sense. To get that you have to go to the fair.
So I love the fair but alas I am missing it. I will be thinking of it, and maybe, as I go through my travels I will find one somewhere and then I can get a taste of it all. That would be nice, because a summer just isn't a summer without the certain flair of the county fair. If your is passed and you didn't make it, too bad, so sad. Catch it next year. But for those of you who still have a chance, take it, enjoy it, and let me know how it went.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Naked Men, Alligators on Bicycles, and Winnie the Pooh

Lot's of craziness going on in the world today, Company, so much so that I think I might feint. So let's cut the bullshit and get right to it.
First of all, 38-year-old Peter Allen Steele is being held on $60,000 bond in Redwood City, CA for a series of incidents in which he would appear nued at random homes and ring the doorbell. This, I think, is a bold strategy. I don't know who told 6' 7" tall, 250 pound Steele that this was a good idea but that was really a terrible piece of advice. I can only imagine being at home, sitting comfortably watching television, and hearing the doorbell ring. It is, of course, dark outside so you flip on the porch light and open the door and there, standing among the moths and bugs in the cool Redwood City summer night is a hulking, naked figure. If you were a much smaller person, perhaps a child, his junk and whatnot would be right in your face. That's about as unpleasant as it can be on a Tuesday, at least in my opinion. If that wasn't bad enough, when the police came to ask him about his shenanegans, Steele decided it would be in his best interests to lead them on a car chase, without clothes of course, that ended with him streaking into an Redwood City home and the out the back into some local woods. Isn't that fantastic? Think about that one for a moment; what would you do if someone streaked into your house unannounced with a police escort. Now that's just plain crazy. I guess that you just need to learn to lock your doors if you live in Redwood City.
Halfway across the country, in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, another 38-year-old, Terron Ingram, was stopped by Sheriff Deputies while riding his bicycle down a local highway with a three-foot-long alligator slung across his shoulders. A three-foot-long live alligator slung across his shoulders. This, to me, is more impressive than illegal, especially seeing as it would awafully hard to keep your balance on a bike with a reptile on your shoulders for one, especially if it were alive and moving, and for two those things are known to bite. No one with the Sheriff's Department knows what Ingram was doing with the alligator, or from where he got it, because, as would be expected from a person who would ride their bike down the road with an alligator slung across his back, he took off when officers approached. He ditched the bike, ditched the alligator, and took off running. He was booked for resisting arrest, possessing drug paraphaelia (ahhh, there we go), and cruelty to animals by abandonment. I bet he didn't see that one coming. Officers let the alligator go into a nearby bayou, free to be carried on someone's back again. Ingram was not so lucky, however, and remains in jail in lieu of $15,000 bond.
You know who's not in jail? A white male, between 35 and 40-years-old, 6 feet tall, about 225 pounds with a medium build, who strode into a Chicago area bank and made a forable withdrawl despite the fact that he does not have an account there. Well, he might have account there I suppose, but what I am trying to say is that he robbed the place. From what I read he looks pretty much like your typical hard-nosed criminal, all the way down to the sweatshirt he was wearing that featured a giant picture of Winnie the Pooh. Yeah, that Winnie the Pooh. So now the folks at the FBI, who are long on time yet critically short on imagination, are asking for public help to find the "Winnie the Pooh Bandit," which is the least creative nickname since the Boston Red Sox names themselves that because they wore red socks. Hopefully they can catch this heinous criminal and put him behind bars, if only to find out where he got that sweatshirt and maybe advise him to wear a black one or something the next time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Encounter With the White Shirts

So I went to my friendly local grocery store today, and there were a bunch of kids, I assume from a local high school, bagging groceries. The young man who bagged my groceries was very friendly even though he neglected to ask if I wanted paper or plastic. He gave me paper, which I would have chosen anyway, so now I am sort of concerned that he can read my mind. Anyway, as I walked away from the checkout towards the door, there were two large containers on either side of the door, one on the right filled with money, and one on the left filled with grocery receipts. There was no sort of sign to tell me what was going on, so I was very confused. All I knew for certain was that the money was not for me. So I left a dollar in the money bin and left (I wasn't about to leave me receipt; I don't want strangers knowing what kind of stuff I just bought). As I made my way to the car I suddenly realized how many things were wrong with that situation.
First of all, I don't think that a bunch of people should be wearing the same clothes at the same time when together unless they are all employees of the same business or they are all on some sort of sports team. Seeing 20 kids all dressed in super bright white shirts that say a lot of things but that don't actually delineate who they are, or what group they belong to, that should have been a big red flag right off the bat. They could have been thieves involved in a very unorderly yet peaceful robbery of the grocery store. They could have been slowly advancing towards the cash drawers when I walked up. I had no way to know. They are lucky that I didn't jump up on the conveyor belt and start kicking ass. I had some canned vegetables and a plastic basket, I am sure I could have done some damage. It would have been my civic duty. And all they had to work with were shopping bags and all the cigarettes from behind the service counter. And I don't care if they are called a hard pack, they still aren't that hard. Not compared to my canned green beans of death. Plus, they were all wearing bright white T-shirts, so there is no way I wouldn't be able to keep track of them. Now I know what you are saying "They would have outnumbered you quickly and probably sent some of the guys over to the alcohol section to get some glass bottles or something to take you out." Well of course, that's what anyone with a brain would have done, so I've already thought of that. I would have protected my flank by sharpshooting them one at a time with delicious Rolos from the candy rack. Nobody can survive a Rolo thrown with the precision of a chubby guy in a supermarket. All of that could have been avoided had they just put who they are on their matching T-shirts. It's so simple.
The second thing that I wonder about what the normal baggers. The professionals. I mean, you wouldn't think that there would be a difference between one greasy faced high schooler in a bright white T-shirt bagging up my frozen foods and another greasy faced high schooler in a maroon collared shirt bagging up my produce but there is. One of those greasy kids is getting paid. So if the White Shirts were doing the bagging for free, then that means none of the regular baggers were working that day. So granted, they get a nice Saturday off, but what about the next Saturday when the White Shirts show up? Or the Saturday after that. Pretty soon the regular baggers will be out of a job, replaced by White Shirts who are happy to bag my groceries for free because they don't have to follow the bagging rules. I get to choose between paper or plastic. My frozen things should be in their own plastic bags. Do not put all my cans in one bag. Those are the rules that I want to be followed, but the White Shirts don't have to follow them at all because they are not paid. So now all my canned pasta is falling out the bottom of my paper bag and onto my feet. Uncool. Well here's what's going to happen. I am going to recruit all the regular paid baggers to be my army on their days off, and I am going to equip them with cloth shopping bags filled with oranges that they can swing over their heads, and we are going to root out the White Shirts. And it will be glorious.
The third, and possibly most disturbing thing about my whole experience with the White Shirts was that there was no sort of sign or posting or flyer or billboard or information sheet anywhere explaining to me what was going on. Yet I blindly and obediently put a dollar in the big basket 'o money. That scares me. And it sets a very dangerous precedent. If I, the great leader of the massive bag boy army, just put a dollar in, imagine how many other people probably did. Pretty soon, anyone who wants money will just dress the same as a bunch of other people and put out a basket. They won't even have to play the saxophone. Or do a mime act. Or say that they are a church. There will just be collection baskets everywhere and we will be expected to contribute. That's nuts. And what's with the basket for receipts? That is a blatent invasion of my privacy. Yet it is hidden right out in the open. It's diabolically genius. They get all sorts of financial information and market research for free. Well no thank you, I choose not to participate in that business. If they want to know what kind of groceries I am buying, they will have to find out the old fashioned way. By tapping my phone line or digging through my garbage. I am not going to let some White Shirt sit on a pile of donated singles and look through my grocery receipt. That's not going to happen on my watch.
The bottom line is this: Just tell me what is going on and odds are, I will be more than happy to participate. Put on the front of your shirts who you are. Have the White Shirt explain to me that they are raising money for while he bags my groceries. Put up a little sign by the collection basket explaining how it works. I am sure that the White Shirts were out there for a good cause. I am sure they mean well. But you've got to be forthcoming if you want charity. That's how it works. And it will keep me from having to do a drive-by with Rolos in a shopping cart pushed by a paid grocery bagger. Because let's be honest, nobody wants that. Least of all the intended victim. Am I right?

This post originally posted on April 5, 2008

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Voyage of the Arctic Sea

If you were to go ask Craigster, he would tell you about the days when he was in military intelligence. One of the things he will note if you can get him to get that far is that in the end, the Chinese, the Soviets, and the Americans always knew what each other were doing. As secret as everyone always thought they were being, the Americans always knew what was going on in the deepest Russia, the Soviet authorities always knew what the Chinese were up to, and the Chinese knew when the American had a truck parked in the wrong spot at the base. Much of that was done with satellite, even in the 1960s and 1970s, and while many of those satellites aren't even up there floating around anymore, if they could pull that stuff off back then I am sure they can do the same thing, with even greater accuracy these days.
With all that being said, I find it absolutely astounding that there is currently a Russian cargo ship out floating around somewhere in the Atlantic, we think, but which no one really knows for sure where it is or what it is doing.
Well, let's sort of qualify that a little bit, okay? The ship, the Arctic Sea, was actually sailing under the flag of the tiny and ancient Mediterranean nation of Malta, known for it's various high points by many, many people I am sure. Oh, and it wasn't leaving from Russia OR going to Russia. I was leaving Finland and heading for Algeria with $1.5 million worth of the finest Finnish timber that Algerian money could buy. So I guess the question is why the Russians recently sent out a bunch of their naval vessels, reportedly including a nuclear submarine, to find this ship? Well, the crew is comprised of fifteen Russian nationals and it was reportedly hijacked somewhere off the coast of Sweden. No, that is not a typo. I said Sweden.
Yes, Sweden. Not exactly a traditional hotbed of piracy. Sweden, whose only coastline is on the Baltic Sea. For those of you who aren't geography majors, the Baltic Sea is that big chunk of water that juts into Europe and is bordered by countries like Sweden, Russia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, and the Baltic Republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Not really an area where one would expect pirates to be especially active, considering the relative strength of all those aforementioned nations and the fact that the only safe way for most ships to leave the Baltic Sea is through either the Öresund (or Øresund if you are Danish), the Great Belt, or the Little Belt, all of which are narrow, treacherous, and spanned by bridges. In fact, the Little Belt is actually too narrow and shallow for ocean going ships to pass. The Great Belt is very intensely monitored by the Danish military, and the Öresund is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the world, carrying most of the traffic in and out of the Baltic, as well as more ferries between Copenhagen, the Danish capital, and Malmo on the Swedish side.
So needless to say it's pretty tough to escape the Baltic Sea if someone is looking for you, so it is generally not a place where there is a lot of piracy. Yet the Arctic Sea was reportedly boarded by roughly ten masked and heavily armed men claiming to be anti-drug police of July 24 when it was somewhere just off the Swedish island of Gotland. We know they weren't the police because the Swedish police have noted that they were not operating in that area at that time, but whoever the masked men were they tied up the crew and the beat up the crew. So far so good, pretty normal as far as hijackings go I would say. This, however is where things get a little strange.
It was reported that about twelve hours later the masked pirates left the ship via a high-speed inflatable boat. There is no way to confirm that though, and authorities from a handful of different countries are saying that there is no way to know who exactly is in charge of the ship. Seeing as it did not show up in Algeria on or around August 4 like it was supposed to, I feel pretty confident saying that the pirates are. Or are they?
See, the strange thing is that while we don't know where the Arctic Sea is located at this very moment, for a long time after the supposed hijacking we knew exactly where it was. First of all, there was never any sort of ransom demand, and unless you live in a timber starved part of the world there really isn't a reason to steal a ship full of timber other than to ransom it, so that is strange. Secondly, after this supposed attack and then abandonment by the pirates, the Arctic Sea continued on its way as if nothing happened. It never stopped to talk to Interpol. It never made a Mayday or a distress call. It didn't go back to Finland. It just sailed on. It just cruised out of the Baltic under the noses of the Swedes and the Danes as if it were any other day, and they made no attempt to stop it. On July 28 it contacted British authorities with a routine check in as it entered the English Channel just like every other ship does, and it reported as normal in any way. Two days later, at about 1:30 am local time on July 30 it was reported off the northern French coast near Brest and all seemed normal.
Since that time the Arctic Sea has sort of become the Elvis of the high seas. It may have been spotted by a Portuguese airplane out over the Atlantic. No, no, say the Portuguese authorities, the ship is not and has not been in the waters around Portugal. It's somewhere in the Mediterranean. No, no say the Maltese authorities, the ship has not approached the Straits of Gibraltar, it must be headed out into the Atlantic. The problem with that is there isn't a whole lot out in the Atlantic past Portugal. The Azores are out there a little ways, but those are Portuguese and if you are going to go there you might as well have just saved oneself the trouble and landed in Lisbon, don't you think? I can't really imagine where else they would go; I would be surprised in the ship has enough fuel on board to reach the Americas if it was only meant to go to Algeria.
So I don't know. For all we know it could just be floating on the waves somewhere out in the Atlantic, laying low for awhile. I would put my money on it being headed for the Azores was we speak, but what do I know? Some people who are sort of experts on the whole shipping security scene have offered up the possibility that there was a commercial dispute and that one of the parties sort of took matters into their own hands. But no one knows, except for the people on that ship and maybe the people who sent to pirates out to get it. No one has brought this up but what if the Russian crew just sort of wanted to desert, so they stages a hijacking and now are going to ask for asylum in some warmer country. It is said that all fifteen were from Arkhangelsk, which is WAY up in the northern latitudes of Russia where it's cold and dark most of the time, except in the summer when it is chilly and light all the time. It works pretty well if you think of it. Fake like you are under attack. Get rid of the pirates after twelve hours and proceed business as usual. Then, when you make your move everyone is still thinking that the pirates are on board. Before anyone knows what's up you are begging for asylum on a Spanish or Portuguese island, sipping a tropical drink and ditching your parka.
The problem is that one of the groups who still thinks the ship is under the control of some sort of mysterious Swedish pirates is the Russian government, and those guys don't fuck around. They have set all of their ships in the Atlantic to looking for the Arctic Sea, and when they find it I assure you that it won't be pretty. I guess that the biggest question that I have is why they don't fly a plane or two out there. Planes go over the ocean all the time, I know it for a fact. I also wonder why, instead of sending a bunch of Russian ships and nuclear subs, whose piss poor record for safety since the fall of the Soviet Union is pretty well documented, out there to find this proverbial needle in the haystack, why don't they just take a peek down there from their satellites. If the Russians can see the sweat dripping from my man-boobs while I am weeding the garden, and they can I guarantee you, they can see a bigass boat filled with timber floating on the Atlantic. Pulling out the satellites to find the boat would be like getting out a metal detector to find the needle - I can't for the life of me imagine why you wouldn't do it. The Russians have never been shy about that kind of stuff. Secondly, you and I both know, Company, that the Arctic Sea has satellite navigation capabilities. For that to work THREE satellites have to know where you are, so why isn't someone working with the company that provides that service? I just don't get it.
Maybe they wanted to go old school. Maybe they wanted to sort of flex their naval muscle and make sure their boys are still awake. Who knows? Either way the Russian Navy is out there looking for the Arctic Sea, and I expect it will turn up in the next day or two. There aren't a whole lot of places to hide in the world these days, it's gotten pretty small. Especially when the playing field is the central and north Atlantic. And then the truth in this whole matter will come out. I would not be surprised if this whole things ends up with corporate types biting the bullet in a Finnish courtroom. I still bet you will find the ship in the Azores though.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lovers Geometry

Well Company, I've been a guy for over 27 years now, and if I am not mistaken I went through puberty around 12 or 13, so I've been, how do we put this tactfully...aware of my penis and its various functions for about 15 years or so now. During that time, I have been steadily gaining the social awareness that goes along with that phallic awareness, so I guess that I am qualified enough to say that there are very few ways to get one's penis glued to another part of one's body. I mean, short of doing it oneself on purpose, or being involved with a hilarious but tragic adhesive-related incident, I couldn't really imagine another way of going about it until I read about this little incident that happened in Wisconsin and then I realized that there was another, much more sinister way to get your pecker glued to your thigh: piss off a woman.
That's what an unnamed Appleton, Wisconsin-area man did in order to get his penis glued to his stomach. Actually, to be more precise he pissed off four women, who lured him to a friendly local motel. Somewhere along the way the man's wife and his two girlfriends, all of whom were madly and truly in love with this man - none of these were purely sexual relationships, all the women professed that they were in love with the man and they all planned to spend the rest of their lives with him - found out about one another. The details of exactly how that happened I am not sure of, but basically what happened is one girl, we will call her Girl 3, met The Man on Craigslist, a website from which nothing good has ever, EVER come. Somewhere along the way she learned that he had a wife (Girl 1) and another girlfriend (Girl 2). So she contacted them. They concocted a plan. Someone went to the hardware store and bought some Krazy Glue. The rest is history.
Girl 3 lured the guy to the friendly local hotel with the promise of a sensual massage, and he didn't seem to think twice when Girl 3 tied the man up and blindfolded him. I know, I know, he's a man so he probably thought this was cool as shit. If I girl that I had past relations with called me up and offered that to me I would be waiting at the hotel door with some rope and a blindfold and maybe some cowboy boots too just for good measure. If, however, I was the type of guy who was married and had two girlfriends, I think I would be a little suspicious of anything that would hinder my ability to escape. I am thinking that if I were juggling lovers - which is akin to juggling running chainsaws that were on fire and that had Ginsu knives attached to the chain - I would be like "Why don't you just massage me without all the kinky tie-downs, baby?" Not this guy. He was all in like a poker player with a royal flush.
So in he goes, and he settles down on the bed, rope goes on, blinds go down, and out comes the cell phone. Wait, what? That's the strangest massage that I've ever heard of. I don't know, maybe in Japan they have a strange massage that uses a cell phone, but it sounds to me more like something that only a teenage girl could love. So out whips the phone and text messages come out, and before you could read the first chapter of "Love You Forever" OUT LOUD to a group of schoolchildren in a public library Girl 1, Girl 2, and Girl 3's sister, who we will call Girl 4, were there to join in the game, if that's what you could call it. So they let him have it verbally, Mom-from-Malcom-in-the-Middle-style for a little while. We can only assume that was fun. Then they let him have it GoldenEye 007-for-the-Nintendo 64-set-to-slappers-only-style. By that I mean they beat him up a little. Then they let him have it anti-Lorena-Bobbitt-style be gluing his member to his stomach. This, to me is terrible AND amazing. A little amazing because he either had a HUMONGOUS johnson so that it could be glued to his stomach or he had a HUMONGOUS stomach so that it hung down over his johnson. I am not sure which would be more amazing or which would be more terrible. But I know what IS terrible is that the guy got his penis glued to his stomach with Krazy Glue. That shit is potent. That is what they used to glue a midget to a beam in all those commercials, and everybody knows that midgets are known for flailing wildly when glued to anything. Anything at all.
So that's what this guy is dealing with: tied to a seedy motel bed with his penis glued to his stomach. Now, it may be difficult to believe here, Company, but he got lucky on a couple of different counts here. First of all, I can only assume that he had an erection at the time that his member was erect at the time the gluing occurred. Now you boys can imagine that if it were glued there when flaccid, and THEN for some reason he became erected that would be extremely painful. Like in a "consult your doctor for erections lasting more than four hours" kind of way. So that is good I think. I hope for his sake. Then, he is lucky because he was still in the hotel room. I am sorry, but if I were one of the girls I would have suggested that we pick up the bed and set him out on the lawn by the highway for someone to discover him in his...um...predicament. So anyway, he had that going for him, which is nice. The man was left to chew himself out of his ties and binds after the women fled, and once he was done eating the rest is history. For those of you wondering and those of you cringing at the thought of what happened at the hospital later that evening, sort of comparing it to yanking your tongue off a frozen flagpole or something, relax, there are solvents for that kind of situation. So he is I guess really no worse in for the wear.
Or is he? I know that the girls kind of come out to be the villains in this situation, and rightfully so. They are all spending some time in the finest jail facilities that Calumet County, Wisconsin have to offer. Jim Stingl of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made the very cogent observation that, for the women, tying the man up was a felony but gluing his member to his stomach was only a misdemeanor. Strange; I am sure that all your boys out there would agree that seems very, VERY backwards. So they are awaiting their turn with the legal system. And so is the guy. He's awaiting his day in court on charges of child abuse, theft, and harassment, the last count coming after he broke into his wife's house and threatened her a bit. I guess he had reason to be mad, but I am really glad that he's in a different jail from the girls. That wouldn't lead to anything good.
In one last surprising twist, when the Associated Press called the house of Girl 3, who turns out to be very much the ringleader of this whole fiasco, to see if she cared to comment on the events that occurred, her husband answered the phone. Yeah, we have come full circle here. No word yet if he and his friends plan to glue anything of hers to anything else of hers, but I am assuming that he will just let sleeping dogs lie. And hopefully they will be able to lie without blindfolds and rope ties in a small hotel room in rural Wisconsin. We all know where that leads, now don't we?