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Archive for January, 2009

Cafe Crazy

January 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Wayne at K Ghallagher’s used to always tell me that crazy was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Most of the time he was referring to the fact that i used to come in there nightly and expect something to be going on (in truth I wasn’t expecting anything). This definition of crazy works for the most part, I am not likening the word “crazy” with “insane.” That’s a whole other word with specific medical connotations.

I was at the cafe today, just trying to read the Oxford Book of Villains, and generally observing the sorrounding people. The door opened and in walked a girl who sat down in one of the deceptively uncomfortable leather chairs, briefly. She got up and walked over to the large and inconvenient table placed in the center of the room since they remodeled. Shortly after that the door opened and in wheeled Rick.

Rick is one of those guys that seems to hang out at every cafe I’ve ever visited or heard about. He’s one of the crazy regulars. His craziness is subtle, and if you are used to going to cafes you can spot him right away. He just looks crazy, it’s not the wheelchair or the long white beard, it’s something ineffable. After fetching his coffee he pulled his chair up to the inconvenient center table.

Crazy cafe people are in a way beneficial to the solitary individual who isn’t crazy. They force people into conversations because those people are avoiding the crazy person. Rick forced this today. Rick’s craziness is that he quickly goes from “hey, how are you today?” to “they think they may have to amputate my foot,” with no transition or set up. He’s the depressing guy. I’ve been cornered with Rick a couple of times, in warmer weather I just go outside and smoke.*

Rick is also crazy in Wayne’s definition as well. Cafe crazies are usually the type that will keep talking if no one listens. A mark of sanity is that whatever you say outloud is usually directed at someone, and when that person isn’t listening the speaking usually stops. These coffee house people don’t do that. Rick said hi to the girl, then asked what she was working on.

As a general rule that I abide by, if a person is in a place of coffee selling with a papers in front of them that particular question is not out of line…depending on how busy they look. Rick wasn’t crazy here, he was crazy when the woman, Robin, put on her glasses and turned her back completely to Rick. I should note that they were sitting on the same side of the table, so her adjustment wasn’t subtle. Rick kept talking to her.

She started talking to me, having some information about me which was odd since I was sure that I hadn’t met her before. And Rick kept talking to her.

The true mark of cafe crazy is that he never got angry, or changed his tone of voice. He just talked as though nothing had changed, as though if he kept talking she would be able to catch up in the conversation. A conversation that was about his leg, and how he was soon going to be missing it.

*Those anti-smoking ads should come up with an alternative to this omni-pragmatic escape device. There isn’t a more effective socially acceptable way to abruptly leave a conversation.

Conversion Issues

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

This is one of those periods of time that I am extremely delighted to not be working in a tech support job at a cable company. I remember back in 2005, people would be calling in asking me about the conversion and what they should do. This was four years ago, but now the day is upon us, well almost, but you get the idea.

What I learned working in tech support was that there are some people that simply won’t take responsibility for their own inability to do something. The digital conversion will amplify this. On February 17th if you know someone that works in tech support for a cable or satellite provider give them a hug and buy them a drink they are going to need it.

Access to the coupons for the converter box was available for a while, those coupons have expired. People had months to redeem those coupons and didn’t. So what do they do? Do they (a) shrug their shoulders and say, “oops, I guess I’m out of luck;” or do they (b) call in to the radio complaining about how it’s unfair that the government won’t give them an extension? I’ll give you a hint, I wouldn’t be writing this entry if most people chose (a).

The government has much more important things to do than worry about whether Jane can catch American Idol. Just to summarize things that the government has to deal with: Transition of power to the new president, Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy.

It would be a different story if most people used their televisions to watch the news but they don’t. More votes are routinely cast for Dancing with the Stars than are for Senate and House elections. People can get their news from paper, internet, and radio; so the House bill sponsored by the newly emboldened Democrats to extend the conversion deadline has no logical basis. The Republicans were right to scupper it today.

That customer I picked on in the first paragraph well at least he called ahead of time. The rest of the people don’t deserve any help, if only those people could be hung up on.

Assassin’s Creed

January 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Assassin’s Creed is an interesting entry into the stealth-action genre. While it does have an element of science fiction in it (the animus machine) the game concentrates on being realistic, giving the character abilities that are not supernatural but rather extraordinary.

What separates the game from most is that the plot takes place in two time periods: in the near future (2012) and the late 12th century during the Third Crusade. In 2012, you are a bartender captured by a company. The purpose of this is to place you in a machine called “the animus” that will bring forward your genetic memory of your distant ancestor Altair Ibn La-Ahad, a member of the Hashshashin Sect of Islam from whom we derive the word “assassin.”

Most of the action takes place during the 12th century. Altair, is given a series of tasks-which involve the assassinations of several leaders of both the Christian and Muslim armies, as well as local overseers of the towns of Damascus, Jerusalem, and Acre. In order to complete these missions Altair must acquire information about the target through pickpocketing, eavesdropping, and enhanced interrogation. Through it all, we are told the enemies of Hashshashin are the Knights Templar and Templars are to executed on sight.

In between the 12th Century missions, control of the unfortunately captured bartender reveals an ongoing conspiracy regarding the search of an item the Templars once had and the Assassins stole.

The game is rich in story and plot. The 12th Century looks like the 12th Century. Altair Ibn La-Ahad, has nothing more than sword, dagger, and knife in which to fight. What he does possess is “free running” which allows him to travel up walls and across rooftops to evade capture (for an example of this watch the opening chase scene of “Casino Royale). This adds to the realism that is lacking in games of the Tenchu games, in which the Ninja possess a spiderman grappling hook. While the action is plentiful the conspiracy in the 21st century is what drives the story.

We aren’t exactly told what was lying beneath Solomon’s Temple that the Templars found. Only that the Assassins found it.

The biggest issue with the game is that it gets very repititive. The difficulty only increases with the wariness of the local garrisons. After five assassinations, they begin to look around a little more ardently after finding one of their members gutted in the street. After 9, you run every time you drop a body. However that is really all that changes. You still have the same six tasks to perform before every assassination, two pickpockets, two eavesdrops, and two interrogations.

Combat is done well, but again it gets repititive once Altair learns how to counter. If you are patient enough, it doesn’t matter how many soldiers are trying to kill you they will all die with little effort.

If the plot were anything less I would have become extremely bored. However the intrigue revolving around millenial old conspiracy theories, as well as the unique control system lend to a very “Lost-ish” atmosphere that is quite engaging. Some research was obviously done for the 12th Century, all of the targets and major players in the game are real historical figures: from Richard the Lionheart to Saladin, to Robert De Sable. The cities look like their historical counterparts and the view from the tops of the churches, temples, and mosques is quite attractive. A definite game worth buying.

Categories: video game review

NIMBY/NIMFYE

January 23, 2009 Leave a comment

So Obama held up one promise so far: he closed down the Guantanamo Prison at GITMO. Just so we are clear, the base isn’t closing just the prison portion of it, the one that we were given a tour of in the movie SiCKO. Yet there is one thing that the liberals, socialists, and leftist Democrats forgot to think about when they were clamoring for this for the last few years: what to do with the prisoners.

I occupy that middle zone of people that had no problem with the camp as long as the prisoners were given trials, charges, and access to their attorneys. I could forsee that just closing the base wasn’t good enough, moving them from one place to another doesn’t do any good if they are just going to be held indefinitely somewhere else. Now we are going to hear the familiar debate more well known to people that pay attention to the criminal justice system. WE NEED A PLACE TO PUT THESE PEOPLE AS LONG AS IT’S SOMEWHERE ELSE.

This is NIMBY, the “Not In My BackYard,” and NIMFYE, the “NOT IN MY FRONT YARD EITHER.” They can’t go to a regular prison for reasons including but not limited to: they didn’t commit regular crimes, some are not actually charged with anything and thus haven’t been convicted of anything. Is it fair to them to be placed in a prison with convicted murderers, drug dealers, and rapists? Conversely is it fair to those who have been committed “normal crimes” to be housed in the same facility as those who have attacked U.S. soldiers? Or are either of these choices moot, because really, who gives a shit?

Military prison is obviously the best solution since these people are considerred enemy combatants and were mostly captured by US Soldiers, how that doesn’t make them POWs is a technicality of law exploited by the previous administration. That legal techinicality has now been expunged by the new President, but logistical questions still remain.

So that’s one day, one promise kept. So far that’s pretty good for a politician.

Categories: current events, politics

Sanctimony

January 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I wonder what the people who bought the bumper stickers will do now that this day is over? There is one of them on my street, “January 20th 2009: Bush’s Last Day in Office.” Congratulations, you can read a calendar and have some moderate knowledge in Constitutional Law. I should have sold those bumper stickers on January 21st 2005. It’s not like they are specific to the new guy.

We watched the ceremony and part of the parade. Gwen paid attention just like she pays attention to the hockey games or when I play XBOX. I would like to think that she actually gets it, but more realistically she is probably more attracted to bright colors. She does pay attention to sounds, and for what it’s worth she was more silent during the president’s speech than the yahoos on CNN.

Wolf Blitzer said that himself and the crew of CNN were a special part of the whole day. A special part, I have to strenuously disagree. Him and company are no more a part of the events today then I was. The only difference was that he was on tv, giving self glorifying comments like that while became more and more frustrated with the press jerking itself off over their inflated sense of importance.

The fifth estate really thinks highly of itself. I suppose this is a symptom of 24 hour news channels, today you would think that nothing else happened. How’s the conflict in Gaza going? That cease fire still holding up? I understand that they have to cater to their audience but instead of repeating the same scroll bar giving us Obama’s schedule for the day it would be nice to some updates about anything else.

Or perhaps some analysis regarding something of actual import. Instead of giving us the history of the bible that he was sworn in on, or the head’s up that the vice-presidential oath is different than the president’s oath (it’s almost like they are two different positions); perhaps a history of those oaths. Most of the time it just felt like they were bored and needed to fill the air time. For a news channel that has been accused of being way too excited about this man, they had a alot of drivel today.

The press isn’t important in and of itself. They are only important as far as the stories they report and the interviews they do. That’s it, they don’t have the importance they think they do. Let’s see if they still soft ball questions and refuse to attack blatantly indefensible positions like Jim Lehrer did with Dick Cheney the other day.

Categories: current events, politics

Spectacles

January 19, 2009 Leave a comment

It has been a strange new year already, of course everything with little Gwen is strange. The weird clawings, the feistiness, the constant crying; but enough about me (it was too easy). So this being just over the halfway point of the first month of the year and I think that I may have posted about half as much as I usually do. While I’m going to try a new update schedule (I promise that the entire post isn’t this), instead of attempting to hold to a four post a week, I think it might be better if I make it an every other day thing. This should stop the “well posts,” that is the posts that are obviously forced, and should make it less of a chore on days when I just don’t feel like doing it. I’m also trying to figure out how to post it on facebook, but maybe I’ll just post a link or something. I’m not sure.

Since some of you like the baby posts, I’ll do a quick update on the little monster. She is starting to conform to a schedule, I already have her on a sleep schedule but as far as waking and eating it is starting to get predictable. I say “starting” because every once in awhile she throws us for a loop, which I swear she does on purpose. Developmental wise she now rolls over, which is good and bad. It’s nice to see her growing in physical ability but it also means that I have to watch her if I put her on the bed. She can stand as well, for about two seconds. The early reports of her crawling ability haven’t changed, it’s just now she needs to be “in the mood.”

Any desires of you out there for her to inherit my personality, you know, so I would know what it’s like: are still dashed. She’s much friendlier and communicative than I, we have regular conversations in which neither of us undertand each other but now it’s not so crazy looking when I talk to myself. I ask her questions regarding Continental Rationalism and British Empiricism, she makes a bunch of noises that I don’t follow: it’s just like teaching actually. She also loves being out in public and is perfectly fine with strangers. We have been to the mall, the bookstore, the library, the coffee shop, and the eye doctor’s and she has been quiet and giggly at all of them. In fact, she seems to prefer being out which means that she has inherited a bit of her father. I guess the real test will be the first time she pops in a bar.

The last part is in that above list of places that I have taken the little monster to. I went to the eye doctor because I have been sufferring eye strain alot more frequently than usual. It seems that now I need glasses for reading, computer, etc. It’s been awhile since i have had to wear them but now they are back, oh well I guess the old eyes couldn’t last forever.

So that pretty much wraps it up for updates, oh the wedding planning is going as can be expected: it’s tedious for the most part, frustrating for the rest of it, but it will all be worth it in late April. There, now that does it.

Categories: personal update Tags:

Spectacle

January 15, 2009 2 comments

While the Gaza conflict is continuing we are led into another moral issue: that of the human shield. Hamas has used the interesting tactic of hiding weapons, munitions, and fighters in areas like hospitals and schools. The result of this tactic can clearly be seen in the numerous pictures of dead children, women, and infirmed; because every photo journalist is looking to make Time’s images of the year contest.

So our dilemma is to ask who is morally responsible? On the one hand, the easy answer is to blame Israel. They are the ones with the fighter/bombers, large artillery, and tanks. Their military is also the one that is the most directly responsible for the deaths of these people.

More difficulty is being used in the press in assigning the blame on Hamas. However, it’s not that much more difficult. The idea of human shields is like pushing “all in” while bluffing in poker. You count on the other person to fold their hand. This way you can win the pot while preserving an important tactic. Ask the Milosevic’s people how that worked during the Balkan conflict in the mid 90s. They attached UN workers to radar installations essentially bluffing NATO, it had moderate success. NATO, the UN, and Western Nations tend not to bomb innocent civilians knowingly.

If however you know that your opponent isn’t the type to blink first you may have no one to blame but yourself. Hamas in this case, can earn the responsibility. Israel (despite your feelings on whether or not it should exist), isn’t the country that blinks first, it tends to also have no qualms about assassinations or preemptive strikes. “know yourself and your enemy and victory will never be in doubt” wrote Sun Tzu many centuries ago.

Yet Israel is still bombing the targets so we are in a real moral quandary. If Israel knows that a troop of fighters is hiding in building A, and they bomb it killing the soldiers we assume that as being as moral as your current view on war. In this respect it is a legitimate military target, we can cite numerous theories to make it at least ethically neutral (Clausewitz, Military Necessity, etc. most theorists who legitimize war will give a pass on this attack).

If building A is a hospital full of sick individuals, the stakes change on the condition that Israel knew what it was bombing. If Israel knows that it’s a hospital than we have a problem because it is deliberately destroying a building with known collateral damage that involves the loss of innocent life. In this case we can hold Israel morally responsible.

If, however, building A could be a hospital. That is to say that Hamas has a history of using human shields and could be doing it for building A than the water is as murky as Lake Erie. The whole conundrum relies on the amount of knowledge Israel has versus the likelihood of collateral damage versus the military necessity of the intended target (i.e. a nuclear weapon trumps alot of the collateral damage issues, while a couple guys packing AK-47s doesn’t).

In the whole it would seem that both parties are responsible. Hamas because it knows Israel’s tactics and still uses human shields hoping for some sort of propoganda victory and Israel becaue there is no way that they cannot at least suspect what the target buildings are since their intelligence network is efficient and complicated.

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