Thursday, August 30, 2012

Live Blog: Mitt's Speech

Mitt Romney is kinda creepy. He's bad at making it look like he's not reading a teleprompter. Looking for something substantive, but feel like it's just talking points.

Mitt started Bain to help businesses. See Matt Taibbi's takedown of Bain—although inflammatory and liberal and crazy in all of the traditional ways, Taibbi is good at researching and his evidence for how Bain functions is solid. Take a look.

Mormons don't have a hell. Outer darkness. Blatant Protestant pandering. Mild but substantive annoyance regarding a figure of speech. Why doesn't Mitt celebrate his religion and its compelling take on the after-life?

Worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? Actually it was one of the better recoveries. I mean, there were a lot of things that happened that stifled the recovery—like people who wanted to deregulate and defund out of control finance industries.

Taking risk and striving. And about dreams. And the American Free Enterprise System. SYSTEM? Sounds awfully socialist. Guess Mitt doesn't believe we built that. Speaking of “we built it” I find it odd that the rallying cry of the Republicans this year is one, a response to the Democrats rather than a philosophical motto originating out of the GOP, and two, that it's based on a blatantly out of context quote that celebrates the same things that “we built it” supposedly refutes.

Better off four years ago line...hmmm...a little analysis shows that the quote is a mixed bag. Certainly many economic indicators show a “worse off” status, but what's important to remember is that legislation directly aimed at job creation—any legislation at all really—has been stifled in Congress and not at the level of the president. Least pieces of legislation passed and most partisan Congress unwilling to negotiate creates the circumstances we have now. Also, please read Winner Take All Politics for an analysis as to why these conditions are a decades long trend and not a four year one.

America needs jobs. Of course. But how?

I don't think any of Mitt's assertions about the pressures of the middle class are challenged. It's all about his approach. And his approach, while still fuzzy around the edges, does seem to indicate that many burdens would actually be pushed onto the middle and lower classes instead of the reverse.

Mitt, frankly there is no way that a small business will have more taxes to pay. This country continues to craft legislation that gives small businesses great advantages. Unless his definition of small business is actually the government definition of a medium to large business. In that case there are lots of loopholes etc that need to be looked at. Especially because these businesses often exploit dubious loopholes that are estimated to keep billions of taxes away from a government that sorely needs it. Especially if we are going to expand our military as Mitt suggests.

Can't type fast enough to keep up with the dubious claims. Suffice it to say that all I keep wondering is why does it feel like the attitude is not actually about crafting solutions but winning? I'm uncomfortable with a dichotomous mindset such as that where the only way to win is to defeat someone. It seems so archaic.

Energy independence is NOT going to happen by 2020. Markets would collapse if we did. How? Well, if we were to start drilling like there was no tomorrow and truly exploited enough resources to be energy independent then the price for those units of energy would drop to a point where businesses would no longer be profitable. Unless there were substantial subsidies and tax breaks, or even a nationalized energy company, energy independence in a 'free market' remains a mythology. Funny how economics only gets us so far.

Education sounds great, but don't we need government programs for economically disadvantaged children? If we don't how do you propose to help children from broken or near broken homes? Who or what organizations have the money, impetus, and ability to help all American children and not just those from stable middle and upper class homes? And why can't the government pay more for education? If it is the government that will be footing increased funding and more stringent programs, then how do you propose to pay for it while simultaneously cutting government size?

Better trade? Economic consequences via tariffs? Not sure where he's going with that. I understand that outsourcing jobs sucks, but what course of action can we take that wouldn't be a violation of our treaties or make us manipulators of markets? If the government is doing these things won't that require regulation and regulatory agencies?

What is wrong with China? Is it their human rights violations? Under a Romney presidency what concrete steps would the US take to address human rights concerns without affecting the American economy? Is war an option? If it is, how would we pay for war and what would be the consequences of going to war with a nuclear armed nation—it would be the first war in the history of man where the two sides had nuclear arms.

Balanced budget is great but you need to raise revenue period. How about taxing capital gains? If not, how is America going to balance its budget without increasing taxes and by following through on all the projects you propose?

Repeal and replace Obamacare? All indications of an alternative plan look strikingly similar to Obamacare as is. You'd replace it with the same stuff. If there are changes to be made wouldn't it be easier to legislate those instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water?

Mitt, you are a homophobe. Sorry. There's really no nice way of putting that. I don't mean to be so direct and inflammatory but there is no scenario where you are truly tolerant when you exclude so many people from your definition of family. Also, what about the many non-traditional families like single parents? What are you going to do for them?

Saving the planet obviously hurts families. The assertion that trying to stop sea levels from rising and curbing global warming are somehow hurting “families” is absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention scientifically ignorant. I try really hard to be open about this but global warming is real and it's going to hurt the economy badly. By turning a blind eye we risk security of food, defense, and population.

Obama's international apology tour. WTF? There are no words for that one. Blatantly wrong and kind of ridiculous. Obama has shown himself to be a deft foreign policy president capable of taking down the most wanted man in America as well as repairing frayed ties with nations all while pulling us out of two quagmires created by the last presidency. International attitude polls show we are consistently better liked as well as respected. No apology tour could possibly do that. And if there were an apology tour and those were the results, what is there to be ashamed of. In the international sphere the US is consistently getting what it wants more often and without costing America more money, whatever Obama is doing he's getting excellent results.

The chants of USA don't really have much context.0

War and economy and productivity and family confidence and children! Not sure if any of that meant anything.

How do we care for the poor, sick, and elderly when you want to cut all those programs?

Livin' in America!

Apparently there are only white people in America. Seriously, where are the minorities in the crowd?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Goodbye Jane 6: final

The Beatles emanated while Natalie danced in the sunset. The Olympic mountains cradled the pearl of yellow. Then they swallowed the sun and only a red glow remained. The red outlined everything; black and flashes of red.

Natalie and Ciera danced.

The wake of a boat rippled black and red, sending streaks across the glass; disturbances in a perfect setting sun.

The night turned purple blue black and though it was beautiful I felt bruised. I wrote gibberish on the white walls of the house with my finger as I walked down the porch.

Music blared and even though I loved the sound, I was overwhelmed. I glowed with the energy of the sun in my skin. My skin pulled tight against my muscles and bones. I felt flesh and blood and I felt alive.

But I was bruised like the night. My ears were shattered from the day. And my eyes were clear as the moon and stars rising slowly into the sky.

We sat under the tent in the blue night and talked. We talked about our favorite memories of Mama. It was a good circle. It was a hard circle. I remembered waking up in the mornings and always being greeted by her. There was always coffee and she had found her way into the crossword. The best mornings were the ones where we sat and read the newspaper together—saying little. She had a way with people. She let them be themselves. It was a rare quality that endeared her to everyone.

It also made her an exceptional grandmother.

We sat in a circle and talked. Then we didn't talk.

At some point we talked to each other and the formal conversation faded into chatter.

People came and went, the night wore on. Bottles and cans amassed themselves. I pulled out the telescope and we looked at the moon. It was bright and clear and white. And it was so far away. Out of reach and enigmatic.

I went upstairs to the yellow room to sleep. The yellow room always has the windows open to listen to the sounds of the waves on the shores. It is a peaceful sound or it is a tumultuous sound. I don't remember if I heard it at all that night. I was calm and drifted to sleep easily.

Inuzuka Reunion 2012 Day One

I made this as the first part of the Reunion Video


Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Pep Talk for Korena

So Kor is in Korea. And she just moved into her apartment. Her program isn't providing a lot of support and she isn't readjusting too well. I call it a sophomore slump. Given her descriptions I imagine her sitting in a run down apartment without furniture. Something is dripping down the walls and staining them. The apartment is dark and empty.

She asked me and my friends for a pep talk. This is what I gave her:

Pep talk: cooking is healthy and will give you good chi or something.  Seriously, boil some water and put some veggies in the water--it takes like two minutes.  And then you've created something.  Something delicious and it shows your independence and fuck those people that said, "you can't do it Kor or my name isn't Nick."  They were wrong.  Those assholes probably walk their kitten on a leash.

And you can do it.  You can cook and be an adult and you can kick the motherfucking shit out of life's challenges.  Korea?  No.  It's Korena and you are tearing up the place with the best cooking that apartment has ever seen.  So what if the fire alarms go off, the cops come and confiscate your hot plate because it caused several housefires in a country you've never heard of, and then you are reduced to microwaving cup noodles in a neighbor's kitchen?  So what.  Those neighbors smell like cat piss and kimchi that's gone bad.

And they can't cook like you can.  Remember--chocolate covered batter balls.  Way better than a tv dinner topped with leftover boiled chicken that the cat piss kimchi neighbors gave you out of pity after you actually burned cup noodles in their microwave.  That and you keep interrupting their sexy time to shove a styrofoam cup full of freeze dried chemicals in a barely functioning microwave for like 3 minutes and make small talk in broken Korean with them.

So what if your college is a bunch of crazy fucktards that don't understand investing in Ikea furniture for less than 12 months of life in a foreign land is possibly a bad investment?  Those assholes don't know about Korean craigslist.  And you are a motherfucking pro at Korean craigslist--nicknamed Koraigslist.  On Koraigslist there are weird pieces of furniture, most of them repurposed anime sex toys from Japan with poorly translated English directions.  But you know a good deal when you see it and when a fully functional microwave that smells like burnt cup noodles appears on Koraigslist you jump on the opportunity.  Tired and nutritionally deprived, you email with the seller and set up a meeting place.

When both of you arrive at the underground club with the techno and flashing lights neither of you are quite sure why that seemed like a good place to make a transaction for a gently used microwave.  But there you are, and there are a bunch of horny young koreans who keep trying to dance with you but you keep saying no, I'm waiting for a microwave.  They don't care, their favorite Kpop song is on and they see someone across the dance floor that isn't twice their height.  Goddamn American nutrition you think to yourself as you nearly punt a Korean clear across the dance floor.

But then you see it, a microwave, held high above the dance floor while the seller tries to navigate to the bar.  And you realize that the seller is actually the cat piss kimchi neighbor.  And she's still wearing her pink robe and hair curlers.  Does she ever take those goddamn things out?  Whatever, fuck it.  It's a microwave and you won't ever have to say hi to that crazy bitch again.

Except you will because out of sheer coincidence she turns out to be the receptionist at your school and she makes paper work a major headache for the rest of the year.  Why the hell does the paper work need to be filled out four fucking times?  Because SoKo is a democracy; they can afford paper unlike the North and they flaunt it.

Three months later, you are sitting in the apartment alone, eating cold leftover noodles over the sink and you realize that you have come so very far.  Before, you just boiled the noodles and dumped the powder in.  Now you have chopped up veggies and an egg in the mix.  Oh and a little sesame oil.  Mmmm...motherfucking sesame oil!

So what if you still have a blow-up mattress and all your clothes are in a pile in the corner?  You are living the life and you are going to kick ass because Korea is just a stepping stone to greater things.  Now if only you could remember which pile of clothes was the dirty one--you suspect that you chose the wrong pile today because your butt itches something fierce and homeless people keep offering you change.

Anyways, you should cook.  It's good for you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Land Leave: Alien Satellite 4/4

Cmdr Tam did not sleep that night.

For three years the satellite traveled to the outer reaches of the solar system. As the satellite approached the object, from miles away, it snapped a photograph. In the darkest corners of the solar system there is barely any light. What emerged was a grainy photo of a black square. All the sensors on the satellite started failing as it got closer though. At three thousand kilometers out, the earth satellite went dead and drifted aimlessly away.

Cmdr Tam did not sleep that night. After nearly eight years of work, the object at the edge of the solar system remained little more than the mysterious signal it had first been.

He had failed, and he would never get a shot at it again. The politics were changing. People didn't like space anymore. It was too empty. War came to another part of the world and money went to prop up a puppet government. The project died; the strange cube was not anyone's concern. It just faded away.

Late one night many years after he had retired, Cmdr Tam sat and had drinks in a dark and musty bar with Neil. It was a bar for the both of them, forgotten and dusty. A tv played a boxing match silently. The two fighters looked like mimes circling each other. Every hit seemed insignificant without the sound.

For a long time the two spoke of everything but the signal. Then they drank dark liquor and sat in silence.

Neil felt his bones ache and his sinews strain to keep his body together. He looked at his hand, full of veins and sunspots. There was little fight left in him. Cmdr Tam lifted his glass and let the last few drops of bourbon touch his lips. It burned slightly.

Neil spoke, “I'm sorry it never worked. I wanted to know too.”

“I'm sorry too. I fought for Gloria you know.”

“I know. I always wish I had been angrier. I wish I had fought harder. Now look where we are stuck in this bar and we both have everything; nice houses, good kids, and admirable records.”

“But we don't have RX4.”

“No. No we don't.” Neil pulled out a wad of cash. Tam smiled and put out his hand.

“Don't, I already paid.”

Neil smiled, “always a step ahead of me. Thanks.”

It was raining when they left the bar. When each one thought the other wasn't looking they both looked up at the sky, trying to peer beyond the clouds hoping to see something they'd never see. They shook hands and parted, feeling just as alien as that first day.

Land Leave: Alien Satellite 3/4

The square of their base system. Once arranged, the signal took on a pictoral quality. It demonstrated a hydrogen atom and showed a star system with seven planets. The signal indicated that the second planet was either the largest planet or the planet of origin. It was unclear.

The signal was long; nearly forty distinct pictures emerged from the signal.

The final string seemed to be a time-stamp. The 'second' was about three and a half Earth seconds, kept very accurately by what could only be a nuclear clock. But the base system appeared inconsistent in this regard. The way it counted up did not follow the established base six counting system and much like Earth time, was probably tied to forces local to its planet of origin. The team conjectured that one of the numbers indicated months, the next unit was seasons, and the final unit was years. They had only worked on the project for a couple weeks, and unsure of when each would change over, the team was unable to determine how old the ship was.

That was as far as the team ever got. Neil was looking at an enigmatic 'image' in the signal when it happened. The image was a dot with a line that went to a circle with a dot in the center. At first the team had thought it referenced fusing the hydrogen atom to show nuclear capability, but it didn't quite match. There was already a picture from that in the beginning of the signal. No, Neil looked hard at the signal, trying to interpret it. Such a simple diagram with such an obscure meaning. He sighed.

Then he heard the rumble of the trucks. Two large semi-trucks. They were unassuming; just freight trucks without specific purpose. Before he knew it though, all of the equipment and data was in those trucks, headed off to a destination unknown.

Neil and his team were all reassigned and given generous stipends. No one on the team ever wanted for grant money, but all were occasionally checked in on with the government. Two members of the team ended up doing government work—probably on the signal. They were seldom heard from and what they said always seemed forced.

Neil remembered that image for years. But he never decoded it.

For his part Commander Tam agonized over his decision for a long time. Knowing that the seal had been broken and humanity was no longer alone, he immediately recommended to the committee that all efforts to safeguard the existence and location of the signal be taken. They agreed, and allocated two semi-trucks and the necessary funding to keep the project obscure.

Three years later, Cmdr Tam shook hands with the flight control operator as $400 million in highly classified equipment went into space. The module was basic. It had to be. It was a simple array of equipment, a radio transmitter, and a very simple propulsion system. The satellite used the gravity wells of the planets to gain momentum.

On that day Cmdr Tam was distracted. One of the people on the RX4 discovery team had come out to the media and insisted on telling what she knew. With three thousand pages of mostly blacked out FOIA documents, she had assembled her case and tried to fill in whatever details she could remember. It didn't look good for her. Although out of his purview, Cmdr Tam begged the committee to be lenient with her—no one really knew the consequences of having the information public he argued.

Except she did. She knew that she would be silenced. Just as the satellite was making its slingshot pass by the moon three days later, the woman from the team was being arrested for public exposure at a playground. Invariably, she was found to be a pederast and emotionally unstable.

Land Leave: Alien Satellite 2/4

short story cont'd

“Millions of years?”

“With the right source of energy, a satellite could exist for billions of years without burning out. There is almost no way of telling how old or what it is without getting closer.”

Cmdr Tam leaned back in his chair and watched the green lawn. He felt alien. He felt like the cars and the trees were not his own. He saw the world and its strangeness with new eyes. For a moment, he was the satellite; alone in its journey, searching for something more in the universe. He turned back to Neil, “can we keep this classified?”

“Yes, but--”

“How long?”

“A while. Maybe even years, but nothing stays classified sir.”

“I know. But we have to figure out what the hell to do. Other nations?”

“Our team checked and no one is looking anywhere near that location for anything. We have some time sir.”

“Alright. Pending the findings of a committee of higher rank than mine, you and your team are immediately classified. You will be assigned a special agent that will look over your case and advise you on matters of national security. All reports will now go to me and the committee. Dismissed.”

Neil exited silently. He had hoped there wouldn't be a maze of red tape, that a discovery like this could be shared with all of mankind.

But he also knew the risks. If this thing had malicious intent, humanity could easily end up as little more than parasites that could be easily eradicated. That night he told his team, and they all nodded solemnly. They were just as aware of the potential consequences. They sat in silence for several minutes. Eventually they went back to work trying to decode the signal.

They worked, barely speaking to each other. Their work was the most exciting thing to happen to man kind. Ever. One of the engineers made the first discovery; the first string was pi using a base 6 numbering system. The second breakthrough was that the lines were 36 characters long.

Land Leave: Alien Satellite 1/4

“What do you mean a radio signal?”

“I mean precisely that, sir.”

“It's not another country's?”

“We've checked and double-checked. It doesn't even have any of the signatures of another nation. Besides, nothing is supposed to be out there.”

“Is it natural.”

“That's what we thought at first, a new phenomena coming from outside our solar system. But it's still in the solar system. In fact, it's orbiting.”

“Not a planet?”

“Can't be. It's too small. We can't see it at all from Earth. We just detect these...signals.” Neil wore a well-pressed suit, and was rarely one to be alarmed about anything. This was huge though and the reaction from Cmdr Tam was subdued to say the least. It appeared he hadn't even touched the briefing.

Commander Tam for his part wasn't willing to put his career on the line and wanted to be cautious. He sighed slowly, “Ok, let's go over this one more time. Three weeks ago you detected a weak radio signal that appears to have 4 types of 'letters'. These letters create a long sequence that repeats. In your opinion, this is what? An alien?”

Neil hesitated, “well no sir. My team and I think that it's actually a probe; a satellite of sorts. But if you mean to say that RX4 isn't human-made then yes.”

Cmdr Tam nearly told Neil to screw himself. “Fine,” he sighed, “made by aliens.” There was a long pause. “What does this mean? What do you want us to do?”

“That's really hard to say, sir. Of course the scientists want to send out a probe to immediately make contact, and if possible, to retrieve it. But our military engineers are a little more skeptical. We don't know anything about RX4. I'm sure you've seen enough alien invasion movies to know what would happen if tipping off an alien race to our existence were to backfire.”

“You aren't helping.”

“Sir, I don't know. This is about as blind as it gets. Even if we decode the signal fully I'm almost positive it wouldn't mean anything more than the signals we have sent out. It would merely indicate intelligent life—proof that the signal isn't random. Something like hydrogen and the basic building blocks of their species. It wouldn't ever help us decide how violent the creators are.”

“This RX4. Is there anything we know?”

“We know that it's irregular, we know that it's still in the Oort cloud, barely in the solar system at all. And we know it's big—small. It's big if it was made by something, small for a stellar object. Sir, it's approximately 3 km across.”

“I can't believe I'm going to ask this, and we're sure it doesn't have an invading alien force on it.”

“Almost definitely no. It's drifting, the orbit is irregular, and its velocity is consistent with an object that has been captured by the gravitational pull of a star, not of a directed ship. This is something that left its solar system and wandered—possibly for thousands, millions of years even—before being captured by the sun's gravity.”

Live Blog Bolt Bus 3

And so I show up early for the time that I believe my bus is leaving. Just to be safe—I get pretty neurotic about travel—I double-check the receipt that I printed the night before that had my confirmation number on it. It was at this point I realized my ticket was wrong. But the print on the ticket is indistinguishable from other text on the receipt. In fact, it's not even in bold. 11Pt Times New Roman squished between lines of bold text that have my confirmation number. Helpful but not enough.

And then there's customer service. My receipt has no number to call on it in case anything goes wrong. So, with limited battery on my phone, I had to make several phone calls. First, one to find the number that I needed—call to Ciera. Second, one that was a dead-end call to the wrong part of the company. Bolt bus does not have a call transfer system. Third, a call back to Bolt bus with the correct option. But only after going through a 'randomly selected survey' dead-end that kicked me off the line. That's four calls just to talk to someone about my screwed up ticket. I was unhappy.

Anyways, I went to the 12:00pm bus to try to get a seat and find out that it is actually a 12:30pm bus—a minor inconvenience but reflective of the disorganized nature of their customer service. Anyways, there weren't any free seats on the bus and I end up waiting until 2:00pm to leave—3 hours and thirty minutes later than I had originally intended.

And so here is where I don't think I'm a fuck-up. There were two people on the 2pm who had similar problems to mine. They booked round trip tickets for the same day as opposed to separate days. Now I assume these guys aren't complete idiots. I assume also that they believed in good conscience that they had correctly booked their tickets. This seems to indicate some difficulties with the overall system.

Now, I am on the 2pm bus as I write. And the service of the drivers and the buses is still excellent. They are friendly and helpful. The problem is in their digital service and phone service. The man I spoke with on the phone was less than sympathetic, uninformative, and I was unsure if he could help me with any positive outcome. The woman I spoke with the first time I called (the time that I went to the wrong line) was even less helpful and overall rude. I can't say that there was anything impressive about that end of their service.

So, the lesson? Book with Bolt but make sure that the ticket is precisely correct. Check, double-check and get on the phone if you have to. Their system is obviously not set-up to be forgiving of mistakes. Make sure you receive your confirmation email. Read that. Bolt bus will not do jack for you should you screw up.

If you can, make sure to talk to a bus driver directly. They are friendly and seem much better able to deal with customer service in the moment than their phone service or internet counterparts.

Live Blog Bolt Bus 2

Well, revising some of my statements about Bolt bus.

Their overall bus service is pretty good but their customer service is a wreck. As long as everything goes off without a hitch it's all good, but everything did not go off without a hitch for me.

I should have suspected that there may have been a problem when my confirmation for my return trip did not appear in my mail. I should have suspected there may have been a problem when their online booking system kicked me off their servers 3 times.

There is extraordinary value in checking and double-checking your work. God damn.

So now I'm stuck here in a Starbucks staring at local buses go by while a schizophrenic woman in layers of workout gear rambles next to me.

Anyways, here's what happened.

I tried to book my tickets three times. I was trying to purchase a ticket to Portland from Seattle and a return one three days later. Sounds simple, and the first time I did the ticket, before I had to make changes, it worked great. A window popped up asking if I wanted to return and I said yes. Then I selected the time I wanted to return. So that was great. But then I wanted to make changes and everything screwed up. I tried to delete trips but couldn't until I went to check-out. I wasn't ready to check out so I kept trying to find a change ticket option. That option was not available.

I left the site and returned, starting the entire booking process over. It was a hassle but no big deal. I accidentally screwed up there and had to start over for a third time.

On the third attempt I booked the two tickets I wanted and a third one for a time I did not want. At this point I suspected that there was a way to delete unwanted tickets without completely exiting the system. I found it in the checkout portion. There is an option to delete trips but not to change. I deleted what I thought was the trip I did not want and proceeded to finish my purchase.

I received two emails from Bolt bus, one that was a confirmation for my first trip out, and one that was my receipt of both trips. I never received a second confirmation email for the return trip. That should have been a big tip-off that something wasn't quite right. It also should have notified me to look closely at my ticket receipt.

At this point I have screwed up twice. I didn't read my receipt carefully and I didn't take action when I didn't receive the information I needed.

Here's why I'm mad at Bolt bus. Regardless of the trip I booked I never received the second trip confirmation email that would have clearly stated in large print that I had booked a trip from Seattle to Portland instead of the reverse. This is required protocol in their system to avoid these snafus yet I never received one—clearly a technical error. Minus ten points to Boltindor house.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Belt


I made myself a belt


Yay family reunion activities!

Land Leave Blast Zone

Short Story: excerpt from Land Leave

It didn't work. There was no teetering rumble, there was no twisting metal, and Jonah didn't feel his body distort in the vacuum of space. Something had gone wrong. He was disappointed and elated. Death, in the abstract, was a noble end that was under his control. He said when he would die. And that day was supposed to be today and that moment was supposed to have just passed. Death in the concrete and now was still scary. His end was not bringing him to a higher place; he was not a religious zealot. But he believed that his death would have more cause than his life. And he believed deeply that wherever he went would be better than where he was.

But it didn't work. And he wasn't dead. The ship still hummed gently.

The panic set in. If he had failed what could have possibly gone wrong? Did they know? Of course they must know. Of course. It was all a set-up, it was all a hoax. There was no underground. There was no resistance. And the AmU was still a monolithic tyrant, exploiting the poor.

Jonah found himself outside. He didn't remember running. Where was he? He looked around. He was on the upper landing strip of the ship, looking out at the Nebraska mega-structure. He would have to escape, the plan had been compromised and he would have to try again.

There was no safe house though. If they knew about the bomb then they knew about the safe houses.

Someone must have betrayed them. Which among them? He couldn't rendezvous, they were all suspect. He couldn't go anywhere. He could die. He could die.

He could die. He wouldn't get what he wanted though. His death would be truly meaningless. And that was why he was standing at the top of a carrier ship, why he was looking out at the luxury of a corrupt nation, and why he had tried to blow up every single bit of the ship.

Jonah looked at the pillars of the mega-structure, no smoke. Just another clear beautiful day. They had all failed. Every single one. Who was the intruder? How did they get screwed so badly? What could he do? He could jump. He could die.

He looked at his bootleg implants; eighteen black market apps designed to help him avoid the law. Things that cost him nearly all his life-savings. He accessed his police blotter. There was no sign of trouble; the waves were quiet. How had he been discovered? Who knew? Who was the intruder?

Maybe there was no intruder. Maybe the bombs had failed. Maybe their wiring was wrong, maybe whatever it was didn't work because he had been stupid. He pulled up the plans and compared it side-by-side with video of assembly. He had done it perfectly. It was perfect. Everything should have worked. He had tested and retested.

Nothing. Nothing.

He had to get off the ship. Descend to the lower levels, disappear in the poverty, the shadows. He had to go. Quickly. Quickly. Quickly.

The young officer cuffed Jonah and the old officer called into the secure line to Homeland Security, “we have him. That's the last one.”

“Could you give me a hand here? It's like he's lost control of his legs! He keeps saying he's got to get to the lower levels. What did DHS do to this guy?”

“Said something about using his implants to spy. I bet they did more than that.”

“Jesus, those fucks down there are scary. You think they fried him?”

“Maybe, he seems to think he's moving somewhere.”

“Yeah, It explains why we found him clawing at the walls of our building. It's creepy but I wish more criminals would just walk right up to Police HQ and turn themselves in.”

“Don't even joke about that. I don't want the government spying on me.”

“You are the government though, what do we have to worry about? We aren't this terrorist scumbag.” The two officers didn't speak. They both wondered about the implications of mind control.

The old officer went home that night and made love to his wife with his eyes closed and the lights off.

Goodbye Jane 5

The mid-day transitioned to afternoon. And the heat infected every inch of the property. The rocks on the beach were hot. The grass was hot. The shade was hot. The tent was hot. And everyone at the event was hot. We tried not to sweat while we enjoyed each others' company. Every one of us there for Jane.

I switched from water and juice to beer. Beer is nice in the afternoon when the heat is good but not overwhelming. And as the old people and casual people left the service, the day transitioned to recreational time. I spoke with family and relaxed, telling stories.

Then we headed for the water. The wonderful water. The stereo blasted and the sun baked; we were on a tropical island and it was good. I made a party of people and we headed out to make a party island.

The Mitchells drifted by and came to hang out.

I splashed in the water and we headed in. I found Olivia and Marsha painting their toenails on the porch. Marsha had an array of colors. All for the purpose of wasting time. But it was perfect. I recalled several years earlier when the girls had decoupaged seashells and rocks. The living room had been turned into a mess. The floor was littered with clippings from magazines, decorative markers and surfaces for decoupage. Their projects went late into the night monopolizing the living room. It broke the routine then, nothing happened in that space except dancing.

Just like then, the nail painting was happening in the wrong spot. Normally the far edge of the porch is seldom used, but for the day, it became the central point for us. Ciera and I sat with Marsha and Olivia. Then Natalie joined. Then Ricky. Then David. Then Crystal and Micah. And all of us were there for a moment. Young at a memorial, unsure of the future or where we would go.

The day turned to evening somehow. The days never have a clear transition. During the heat the sun is white hot, then yellow, then orange, then red, then it glows past its sunset, the sky turns purple, blue, and then finally black.

Somewhere in the dark orange and near red, we ate dinner. But dinner was just lunch. We ate but didn't eat. Our taste buds were numb and food was sustenance. Sustenance. What keeps us alive. I relaxed on every surface I could sit, every surface I could lay my weary self.

Live Blog: Bolt Bus

Alright, we are live blogging the Bolt bus experience.

So far much better than Greyhound. Even though they are owned by Greyhound. Pleather seats. Wi-Fi. Outlets for devices. And the people don't seem too weird.

Not to be judgmental about the usual Greyhound crowd but they are a rag tag group. I've seen prostitutes and ex-cons. I've seen single mothers and runaways. I've seen certifiable crazies and drugged out college kids. I've been on buses with crying babies the entire ride. And of course I have seen normal people too on the buses. But Greyhound seems to push those people out.

To the credit of the crazies and burnouts and really beat-up looking people I have seen on Greyhound buses they have all been very nice.

None of them really seem happy though. Greyhound is an awful purgatory on the way to hell.

By contrast this Bolt bus is an extraordinary experience. Akin to taking a plane, the seats are comfy, the people are—ahem, mostly white—nice, and there is even chatter on the bus that's not about where to hide shivs in prison. So I'm quite comfortable right now.

This is what traveling on the road is like in my mind. A comfortable cabin, nice stretches of road and pleasant company.

So why the hell do Greyhound buses suck so much? (keeping in mind of course that Bolt buses are a wholly owned subsidiary of Greyhound). I bet overhead has something to do with it. Bolt bus picks up at bus stops and not at terminals. This saves significantly on the cost of space and maintenance. There is no ticket counter, just a Bolt bus official that directs people where to go. The routes are limited. Portland to Seattle to Vancouver. No stops in between. It means that you have to be at a major hub to take advantage of Bolt.

All the cash goes to other services. And that makes for a very nice ride for the customers. The question: can Greyhound provide comparable levels of service without reducing the number of stops that they take?

My answer, to be decided. It seems that Greyhound wants, at some level to improve their services, but what that means is really up for debate. The economy hasn't helped them form a future either.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Goodbye Jane 4

I felt old. I felt like I had already lived life and this was just another.

A week later I dreamed about Mama. She was alive and she mentioned an event that she had gone to years previously. She lost a ring that had a lot of meaning to her because Papa had given it to her. She never thought much of the loss. But she really liked the ring. It was a simple gold ring with an engraving on it.

The memory of her saying this to me faded and I was at the memorial. I spoke to the family about this ring. Inside the living room of the beach house we decided to go find the ring. We would look for it where she had lost it.

The place was a popular and venue for events. It was a large dance hall that people used for all sorts of celebrations. There was an enormous green lawn and it was full of tables for an event gathered. The themed color of the celebration was a soft pink. There was a large eastern style awning and trellis that served as the gateway to the grounds. I briefly regarded the wood and stonework. Then I blew past the crowd and entered the dance hall.

In the background I could hear my family explaining to the guests that we were searching for Mama's ring. I looked around. And my eye caught a glint. I grasped for it hoping it was the ring Mama had described.

I was disappointed to find that the gold ring was not the simple design that Mama had described, rather it was a gold ring with a hamsa on it. I put it in my pocket and continued the search. I looked up and my family had also begun their search.

As I wended my way through the dance floor I came across many rings on the floor. Some were hoop earrings. Some were ersatz. And they were of all varieties. Gold and silver. Turqoise and ruby. Ornate and simple.

I picked each one up; hoping, hoping, hoping each one was Mama's. Day turned to night. I found myself outside in a sparse landscape on the edge of the world. It was rocky and my family was there, still searching for the ring. My hands were full of rings that were wrong.

At the edge of the earth we were looking. A group of people looked on. I heard one speak to another, “?por que ellos estan buscando para un anillo?”

Without looking up I replied, “porque es importante a mi abuela, ella se lo ama.”

And one spoke in another language I did not understand and finished, “y ?Por que ella no busca para el anillo?”

I puffed up with anger and faced the man. “Porque ella no puede encontrarlo, ella se murio.”

I awoke, hands empty. I did not have any rings.

Later, as I gathered my things to walk to work I thought about how cool it would be to smile and say good morning to everyone I passed on the street. By the time I finished packing my dream had faded and I lost the courage to smile and say good morning to people.

I realized later the significance of the ring with the hamsa. The hamsa is a sign of good luck in North Africa and Islam. It was traditionally given to women as an amulet of security and blessings. In Buddhism it is known as the Abhaya Mudra a symbol of peace, benevolence, and the dispelling of fear. It is the traditional hand gesture strangers give to each other to signal good will.

We were never going to find Mama's ring; a futile search. There was something in the search though. I did not find her ring but I found one I'd like to search for. Good luck, benevolence, and dispelled fear.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Goodbye Jane 3

It was with this sort of day encroaching that I went to the newly remodeled Key Center with David. Somehow we had aged into young men; capable of drinking, driving, and going to buy ice on our own. I later found some old pictures of David and I as kids. We were both scrawny bean poles. We were lanky trouble makers more than we were any seed of who we would become.

We rolled the windows down in the car but it did little to help. We turned up the A/C but it didn't feel good against our skin. We rolled down the windows again and felt the air blast against us. We sweated in our clothes; dressed to look nice. We didn't think much of it. Dressing nice for Mama was mandatory.

Mandatory not because anyone asked us to but because she appreciated the little things. She hated the big fuss but lit up when we looked nice. I could see her face break into a huge smile. I remember dressing up for her birthday the year before. She wore her perfect pink suit, drank a little too much wine and was so happy to have the family together. When I came downstairs dressed sharp for her she smiled.

And she gave herself away. Of course she was so polite and never wanted anyone to extend themselves on her account. “Why did you dress up?” She asked, knowing full well why.

“Because it's your birthday and I wanted to look nice for it.” I replied.

“Well you didn't have to do that.” But I did, and I wanted to. I wanted to show her how much her generosity meant if only it was to dress up for her. I was nearly broke, jobless, and completely unsure of my future. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had only months to live yet she took me in with a full heart and expected nothing in return.

I would have dressed up every day for her if I could.

And a little over a year later we were at her memorial getting it set up and wishing that she could see it.

We returned with the ice and the guests had started to arrive. I found my place as bartender and welcomed people to the house. I like being bartender at these events because it means I don't have to stand around. It means that I don't have to pretend to do something or extend myself and say hello. Instead, people come to me and ask for drinks and say hi and wander off. I can hide behind the limes.

Goodbye Jane 2

It was the morning, I wasn't wearing pants but helping set-up anyway. My pants, were being pressed and ironed by Ling. She had been quiet all weekend and I often wondered what thoughts passed through her mind. I guessed that the world was a bit lonely for her. A stranger in a strange land. Not even the trees or the bugs were the same for her as in China. But she was so kind. When I pulled my pants out to iron them, Ling came forward and insisted on pressing them for me. I thanked her profusely and went to help Ciera and Natalie tie up the sympathy cards.

Mama had received a pretty sizable stack of cards. Many were religious, others were general, all expressed real sadness at her passing. Ciera and Natalie tied the cards together with ribbon and hung them from the beach house pillars. They fluttered in the morning wind. But they belonged there. The cards pressed against the pillars in an embrace.

It wasn't even 10am and the sun was already beating down.

Around noon I went with David to get some ice. We had a ton of ice already; except it had all melted in the heat. The heat was humid and dense. The kind of heat that saps your energy and leads you gently to the water's edge.

But all of this hot air was good. Despite a nation tense from drought and the obvious effects of global warming, the Northwest had a mild summer full of gray days. Days where I wore a light sweatshirt and thought little of it. Days where I wondered if the sun ever came out. And this heat was the first inkling that the Northwest had seasons too. But more than that, it was a memory. I can only remember the beautiful days at the beach. The days where the sun shone perfectly, the winds picked up gently, and the hours passed slowly. 10 in the morning was the same as three in the afternoon and every moment was beautiful.

In my memory the sunset lasts forever; better than television and perfect. In my memory the campfire builds itself and marshmallows roast into golden treats. In my memory the sea lights up green with the phosphorescence. In my memory my family is there, unerringly and beautifully.

Goodbye Jane 1

We sat on party island. The third party island I had participated in during my time at the beach.

But today was the hottest day of the year. The heat pounded down in bright yellow rays of unrelenting sun. And it was wonderful. On days like that the air is invisible; only the land, water, and sun have any meaning.

The water retreats in the morning exposing the land to the sun. The water comes back in, heating the water and enticing the baked people to its rolling surface.

I leaned out the back of the boat and felt the cold surround me. I am not much of one for the water in general—it's usually too cold for me—but the sun had pushed me in. And it was, as always, a shock to the system. For a moment there was only white noise and cold; but never darkness. The sun still penetrated the liquid and I felt calm. And I was out of the water again. Baptized and rejoined with the living. With party island.

I couldn't help but inhale sharply. No matter how refreshing, the water is always a surprising.

It was a Saturday; a beautiful Saturday, free of clouds. To celebrate, we created a party island. That's what we named them. Everyone grabbed their inner tubes and boats and anchored themselves about 200 yards off the shore. This makeshift raft was how we avoided the sharp barnacles and the gunk. The changing tides always bring a long line of gunk—detritus, the proverbial flotsam and jetsam—that must be avoided. With party island avoiding the gunk is easy. Anchor away from the line and if the gunk changes course (as it often does) then move party island.

It is Eden within Eden. A cooler full of beers and good company makes the day wonderful and easy.

The beach house is swaths of color. My head emerged from the dark waters; a neon green inner-tube; an orange canoe; tan skin; a yellow kayak; blue sky; green trees; bleached white beach; yellow sun.

The beach is the place where I feel healthy and young. The sun warms my skin, lightens my hair, and bleaches the wood on the shore.

So Long and Thanks for All the Flops: Geek Chic

Geek is over. I wish it were here to stay but I'm calling it. Why you ask?

Because of the number of big box-office flops this year. I know it's a rough metric but think about it. The number of big budget Hollywood flops has been overwhelmingly in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre.

GI Joe 2 was pushed back until next year even though it is done. Prometheus didn't pull in the big bucks like expected. John Carter was hundreds of millions of dollars of loss for Disney.

Face it, Geeks are no longer chic. Not that it's a bad thing. Think carefully about what geek chic has wrought. Ironic hipsters. Terrible versions of treasured childhood memories rebooted into soulless CG hurl fests (Smurfs anyone). It's not that geek is bad in general or that I'm happy to see it go.

Just the opposite. I wish it would stay—everyone can be cool in geek and that's lovely to hear. The problem is that we (I guess I should throw my lot in with the permanent geeks) turned ourselves into comic-book guy from the Simpsons. We lived out our fantasies and found ourselves fat, covered in cheeto crumbs and little better for the wear.

Geek chic's death is not final nor is it some sort of extinction. Geeks will just fade into their parent's basements again waiting for the day that the Green Lantern movie has been erased from our memories.

So the hipsters have abandoned their geek cohorts and now what remains? Are the penny stocks of penny arcade pedestrians pushed into the red? Did Facebook come crashing down? What is left of the geek movement?

Well, hold onto the stock if you have a long term investment strategy. Otherwise, sell out now if you want peak value; it may be decades before we see another wave of geek this big.

So for all the girls who were putting in time on the geeks—now is your decision point. Do you ditch him for the trainer at the gym or do you wait until web 3.0?

Geek got full of itself and flew too close to the sun. Now the wax is melting and it is all too clear that geeks are boys with their toys and not birds in the sky. And the future? I doubt we'll fall back to the days of Nerds. But I do feel the minimization and marginalization of members coming. Likely, we'll stratify between cool geek and “back to thine parent's dungeon” with more discretion than before. “Cool Geeks” will become a smaller and smaller portion of the trend setting world. Big box office flops are sure to even out; action movies will have less sexy smart and more sexy.

But really, I don't think anyone should think much about this. It's just the world of fads and there is nothing substantive in a fad. The core constituency, the ones that keep their packaging in mint condition, those are the ones that have substance. They preserve what's good and stay true to their interests. And we should all be so lucky to care about something so much as the geeks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beach Memorial For D J and HD

This is going to count for five.  Ok?  Ok.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gameshow Board

This one is a gameshow board.  It'll look a bit different but the prop is generally there.

Buzzer


I've been helping conceptualize props for some of our programs.  Look out kids in the Seattle Area, this thing is coming to your school!