Thursday, December 25, 2008


As someone who reads a lot of stuff about war, you find some shocking moments of humanity in what is seemingly a sea of depraved indifference to a fellow man. One of the more poignant stories about such a moment of humanity is the 1914 Christmas Truce on the trench-marked fields of France.

1914. World War I had just started to rage. The men were in for a grueling four years of punishing trench warfare that would wipe out a generation of males in Europe and leave scars that would not be healed for quite some time. Nationalist fervor had brought upon a rivalry between nations that bordered on hatred. Ripe time for decking the halls, no?

Well, at least the Germans thought so. They began doing the customary decorating (Christmas trees are a German concept) and festivities. Scottish troops on the other side began singing carols. After a while, things warmed up between the sides enough that they left their trenches and began exchanging gifts in no man's land. Soccer (or football, since we are speaking of Europe) matches started to break out in no man's land. The soldiers had time to talk amongst themselves, and they realized things weren't so different. Many of the German soldiers spent summers in England as taxi drivers, and Bavarians and Scotsmen shared the same animosity towards the dominating force in their respective nations (the Prussians and the English, respectively).

The next day, things went back to normal. But this event occurred once again in 1915 and once again during Easter in 1916, along with some smaller occurrences. Nevertheless, it was a moment not forgotten. One of the best books about war that I've read is about this very instance in history, called Silent Night. It's one of the few books that I've read that has sent chills down my spine.

Recently, on Armistice Day (11 Nov 2008), they replayed the game at a similar spot where the original truce happened. Germany won the match, 2-1. But I guess you can figure out who the real winners and losers were.

I Like Revenge Served Like My Gazpacho

One of the basal instincts that many of us have as human beings is the desire for revenge, the desire to get someone back, the desire to see things evened out. That is the inherent basis for the establishment of a justice system, to ensure that the proper price has been paid by a party who has supposedly wronged another (even though modern justice systems have their flaws, which is a topic for a different time). But life is filled with injustices that happen that don't warrant such major addressing. So what do you do?

I recently decided to borrow a movie from my local library (now that all my papers are finally done with) called Rocket Science. The movie spotlights the life of a stuttering, awkward high school kid named Hal Hefner who probably has enough issues to have made me look well-adjusted back in the day. The film spotlights his immersion in the New Jersey suburban high-school debate world (how's that for a sub-segment of society) and we watch as he's allured into that world by a sharp, veteran high-school debater with a ridiculous drive to succeed. Oh yeah, the debater's a girl. And being an independent movie, you can probably figure that yes, it hits the fan quicker than you can drop the f-bomb. The second half of the movie is essentially his awkward fumbling in an attempt to win her back/seek some sort of redemption. And being an independent movie, you can probably guess where that leads.

I really did empathize with this kid's drive to seek some sort of payback, no matter how ill-conceived it was. And it make me think about a lot of things. For one, why are we so wrapped up sometimes in making others feel as miserable as we are? Is it because we sense some sort of pride that we have? Take that kid in the film. What sort of pride does he have?

Perhaps it is those who do not have much to give away that fight for it the most. An awkward, stuttering teenager is going to feel a slight like that much more than someone who's successful and more well adjusted. To have what could have been something successful and then lose it like that for someone who probably hasn't even sniffed the scent of it is a disastrous blow.

Remember that when you're seething with the desire for payback. How much did you lose? And how much will you gain?

Oh yeah, merry Christmas. And don't spit in the eggnog...unless someone really deserves it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Go WHAT Myself?!?!

Around this time of year, the problem of what one says to wish someone a happy whatever holiday (or lack thereof) surfaces. It's a serious major controversy, making the news every once a while. Fundamentalist Christians are railing against "Happy Holidays," as if all those naughty atheists are going to be rolling into town fornicating on a flat-bed truck and drinking Jack Daniels out of the bottle. More secular folks have been railing against saying "Merry Christmas" as it seems imperialistic and insulting to those who are not Christian, as if the perpetuation of saying "Merry Christmas" will result in something like the Knights Templar rolling into town on tanks (which I think would totally be cool until they identify my heathen ass and send me to kingdom come in a first class parcel).

Either way, it's a load of malarkey. Say what you want. Hell, say things that don't completely make sense. Go up to a rabbi and wish him a merry Kwanzaa, like I did. Go up to a priest and ask him how his latkes turned out. (For the record, the priest asked me why I was calling him from his own office at 2:00 AM.) Wish people whatever to just mess around with them. After all, it's truly the thought that counts.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Where I go to school, a lot of people start getting really really antsy if they've haven't been home in about a couple of weeks, probably due to the fact that they can't do their own laundry or make their own food (i.e. avoid adulthood and maturity). I've gotten used to not going home and come to accept it as a part of life and really could not care less.

Now that I am home, I see how this has affected me. A lot of the time, frankly, I've stopped caring. I've learned to live where I am pretty damned well, and returning is sometimes more of a hassle than it really is. And what am I returning to? Frankly, not a whole lot that is really alluring.

Sometimes I really don't understand people's attachment to certain places or things. Having to go home every so often is a prime example. Is it that hard to suck it up and live an adult life?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lies You're Told

There are a whole bevy of lies that I could probably expound upon, but I'm going to concentrate on one for now. If you want, you can go sign up for a blogger account and get cracking on your own set.

"Things will get better later when you're [different place goes here]."

I've been told that countless times. I was told it in elementary school, middle school, high school, and now in college. Man, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I'd probably be able to finance a better bottle of scotch whisky. And if that was the case, things would probably be...the same, really.

Things don't change, really, unless you change. There are just things that are not going to make a damn difference unless you as a person make some radical shift in who you are as a person. Until then, any hope that things will all of a sudden make themselves better because you're in a different place is simply false.

It is not the surroundings that make the man. The man makes the man. And even then, it's still a challenge to complete reinvent yourself. But just because you're in a different environment doesn't mean that all of a sudden you'll be a different person. You got to put some effort into it. And even then, the results aren't guaranteed.

My advice? Just tell people that life probably is going to be the same throughout and to accept it, deal with it, and move the fuck on. At the very least, they should stop lying.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lilies vs. Lunch-Pails.

People often seen the left as a bunch of hippies, bizarre academic socialists/atheists, or those annoying buggers on the street corners of Washington DC trying to get you to sign up for Greenpeace. That's a damn fucking shame.

When I was much younger, that was the way I felt. I lived a middle class lifestyle which would lend one to start adhering to those ideas and beliefs. Then I turned 17 years old and then had an epiphany: they were saying absolutely nothing.

Look, it's great that you're trying to help, but your effort is going to waste pretty much by going to Trader Joe's and buying the "free-trade" coffee at Caribou Coffee. Good for you. I might see those changes one day. And the fact that environmentalists advocating for public transportation haven't taken a public bus is really damning.

It was a true epiphany when I saw what amounted to silliness combined with some sort of mental pleasure stemming from their own notions of how great the world is with them contributing. Apparently they missed the memo that sitting around eating hummus and discussing how great a green and socialist world would be isn't helping.

One of the things that they have lost touch with is the man on the street. What the hell does he care about green policies when he can't pay for free-trade coffee at the local convenience store? And if you've lost touch with reality, something's wrong with your message.

The end point: Fuck the hippies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Return

I have a computer now in my own room. The wandering days are over. The worry about whatever super-flu I'd catch on the rationalist's computer have subsided a bit. Score.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Wandering Period, Part 8: I Only Like Radicals in My Equations

The tree outside of the rationalist's room looks really nice. Didn't know that Maryland could actually have foliage.

One of the overarching themes of the American psyche is its distaste for radicalism. The American War for Independence really saw no more than possibly a third of the population side with the Patriots (who were pushing for a conservative revolution). The Americans looked at the French Revolution with horror. Same with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. So to think that Obama or any other president is going to make radical changes and somehow enforce this radicalism in ways that are so absurd that I can even imagine is preposterous and unnecessary, no matter what side of the political spectrum you claim to sit on. Seriously, if you think that is the case, take a deep breath and get someone to slap you in the face, either with a hand or a leather glove. Or two gloves, if you're into that.

It is interesting to note that Obama's ability to get the black and hispanic vote out resulted in not only him getting elected but also Proposition 8 (and other "defense of marriage" acts) passing. Just goes to show you children that you should be careful what you wish for.

Came across this article in time via Yahoo. I think its a great idea. I spent pretty much four years of high school marking time. It was pretty much like jail, except jail probably doesn't smell like ammonia and they have a health care plan. I probably would have done well enough in community college or a regular college (I got good grades in the college classes I took while in high school). Anyone who actually thinks that the four years is necessary either was probably high during their experience or just was too dumb to actually process the bullshit that the place was.

Now I get to go find my ID, which will dictate whether or not I can have a half-way decent burrito for dinner or perhaps fried rice.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Wandering Period, Part 8: Really? You Serious?

One of the silly things going on on Election Day were the cheers for the networks calling certain states for certain candidates. Vertmont, for example. I could've called that a couple of months ago. Alabama for McCain? I could've called that a year ago. Calm the fuck down.

And then we have Putin returning to the Russian presidency. Really? Wow. I did not figure that out. Oh wait, some people did...

If anyone looked at the prognostications and still were surprised that Obama won, it's like watching the Passion of the Christ and being surprised that they nailed that Jesus fellow to the cross.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Wandering Period, Part 7: Losing Automatically Makes It Totally Cool to Be a Dick.

Sometimes I wonder why the rationalist's computer is sticky. But then I stop wondering.

When some people think that the US is becoming dominated by religious fundamentalists whose dream it is to set up a fundamentalist theocracy so they can oppress and restrict rights with glee, I tend to look at it a little leery. Mostly because these fuckers can't keep their goddamned mouth shut or keep churning out material containing their beliefs which vacillate between inane and intolerant. I believe there is a vast majority with actual stuff to do during the day (i.e. actually helping people like Jesus said instead of being a dick like whatever nutjob preacher says) and are not represented by these people. Doesn't make 'em any more wrong.

Saw this post on another blog. And I was...chilled by it. As such, I figure I should perhaps react to it.

10) "Emphasize political power as the means to ending abortion in America."

He mentions the whole "legislating from the bench" malarkey that a lot of anti-abortionists spout on about. That implies they're making it all up in their black muumuus in some smoke filled room where the rub themselves with pictures of Jack Kerouac and whatever else gets their liberal motors running. Sorry dude, Supreme Court justices actually use things like, uh, LEGAL THEORY to decide cases. Roe v. Wade had basis in that US Constitution thing you hear about and also precedents established in other Supreme Court cases, more specifically Griswold v. Connecticut. You don't like their interpretation? Too bad. Wait till the next one or see if you can get your own little special case on the docket. You want to change things? Stop bitching about the justices and move for a constitutional amendment.

9) "Continue stigmatizing pregnancy out of wedlock."

Continue? Continue? When did we stop? I guess I missed the memo when I was with the Justices of the Supreme Court rubbing pictures of Jack Kerouac in their smoke filled room. Marriage is no guarantee that the kid's going to get a stable household. Having support from one's family (whatever that may be) is. And furthermore, perhaps people are fine without having to pay for the wedding license and all the other hoopla and just having a common law marriage or whatever the technical term is. It's cool that you have your own little life paradigm; but keep it to your damn self.

8) "Criticize and judge people who vote for pro-choice politicians"

I'd go on and say that this is simply being a dick, but I do it I'll actually say this is advocating being a dick. Being a dick is not going to endear you to these people, nor will just berating them for their choice. Otherwise, any one of the nutjobs out there who believes this stuff would be instantly swayed by my musings. Furthermore, what the hell is he talking about with the African-American churches? What the hell does the cornerstone of African American society have to do with being a dick?

7) "Continue to encourage abstinence-only sex education"

Uh...right. Worked for Sarah Palin's children. This is only going to lead to more unwanted pregnancies since Billy and Jane didn't learn about wrapping it up. They're young; they're going to try things. At least prepare them for it. Preparing them for sex is not telling them "Go screw NOW!" Not hearing about contraception isn't going to kill their desire, nor does hearing about condoms make a teenager especially horny.

6) "Support purity rings and abstinence pledges"

The "statistic" he cites is pretty self-congratulatory. They probably wouldn't have had sex (or probably had no chance to, as I don't know how appealing these 10% are) without the pledge, so he's possibly mistaking cause and effect here. And apparently he doesn't get the idea that teenagers are going to have sex. It's been going on for ages. But you can advise them to operate safely.

5) "Crank up the shock tactics."

Being a dick part 2. Yes, show people gross pictures of aborted fetuses. Then expose yourself as windbag nutjobs who get aroused by disgusted looks on people's faces. Go for it, dude.

4) "Cut welfare, social services, and other similar programs."

Being a dick part 3 and 4. So instead of targeting the women who want abortions, you're going to dick over more people. Good for you. That'll make EVERYONE want to be you and ruin people's lives. The assumption that everyone has a religious organization they can turn to for "support"/someone trying to up their congregation numbers is pretty far-fetched. Some people in this nation use their freedoms to (gasp) not choose a religion. SHOCKING.

3) "Take what you can get."

Yes, talk up any mouth-breathing politico who'll side with you on abortion and how it is very naughty, and also just ignore all of his other stances on things. Great idea.

2) "Get more people into church doors and keep doing what you're doing once they're there."

What the hell is going on in there? Do they offer funny punch? Grape flavored Flavor-Aid? Magical cookies? Next time I accidentally wander into a church service, I'm avoiding the food and bringing a water bottle. Perhaps wearing a mask over my mouth to avoid breathing the clearly laced air.

1) "Piss and moan."

Being a dick billion. Yes, that'll totally work. Start telling lies and misconstruing things and eventually we'll all turn your way and start killing off abortion doctors and other godless liberals who join me and the Supreme Court justices in rubbing ourselves with pictures of Jack Kerouac.

It makes me wonder how it came from Jesus Christ advocating helping people to folks like this who make it their job to be a dick, but it's cool because it's for Jesus. I need a pocket US Constitution for myself.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Wandering Period, Part 6: Indecision Support Systems

I woke up about three hours ago and I want to go back to bed. It could possibly be the turkey sandwich. It could be the lack of coffee.

Love how there are promotions to vote here in the United States. In other nations, people brave some ridiculous conditions to finally cast a ballot. Can't take the right to vote for granted.

Oh yes. Vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Wandering Period, Part 5:Misappropriation of Resources

I've mused a little bit on whether or not the use of a library computer to watch things like YouTube videos, dance shoes, or the Giants beat the Cowboys 35-14 is a wise use of resources. Then again, most of my blog posts have been made on a computer connected to the network, so perhaps I shouldn't care so much. I'll leave that question up to the philosophers.

Currently I'm back on The Rationalist's computer (formerly known as The Nihilist), mostly because I'm too lazy to go to the library and mostly because there's nothing really I want to wander into on his computer. Sometimes I wonder if I should wash my hands afterward. I blame a wicked case of the flu I had a couple of years back on him. Shows that I shouldn't be picking up random used paper towels off the ground. Or inhale the air in his room.

Ha. Wow. One of the juror's in Ted Stevens' corruption case lied about seeing her dying father and instead went to a horse race in California. I don't know what that says: either Ted Stevens character is really easy to catch, or people couldn't care less about justice and nailing corrupt bastards to the wall. That or someone didn't do a good job during jury selection.

So when you're starving, the first thing you want is: A) food or B) soap, because you want to make sure your hands are clean before you eat. Clearly it's B) soap. Well, at least according to the UN. Remember, hygiene is key to survival!

And with that, I'll probably wash my hands right now to avoid catching yet another respiratory disease from the room.

The Wandering Period, Part 4: It's Not Vinegar, It's Paint-Thinner

I forgot to label the previous post. I might go back and change it, I might not. I probably won't in case someone has already linked to it.

I'm currently in the library, taking various breaks in writing to make a post.

China is now claiming some Japanese goods are tainted. First thing, this is sour grapes. China's had a long history of questionable materials in their goods and is probably one of the few countries were someone urinating in the dough-mixing vat is the least of one's worries. China pointing out Japan's alleged tainting is the proverbial pointing out the splinter in someone else's eye while you ignore the log in your own. Second, the two products are soy sauce and mustard. Why is China importing soy sauce? And why the hell is China importing mustard from Japan?

Apparently the short and clever title followed by the moderately-sized subtitle was not in fashion in the nineteenth century. I just had to type out a title that was two lines of text long. Were these people paid by the word? Interesting to note that the fellow (Jared Sparks) has a pretty unremarkable nineteenth century name.

Any of you folks who think that fleeing to Europe is an option for freedom from "oppression" and "the man," sorry. France just passed a law that kicks you off the internet if you're busted a third time downloading "illegally."

My only hope is to become a courted niche political demographic, much like the people described in this Newsweek article. Talk about trying just a little too hard. I'm still waiting on the demographic of "Future historians who prefer scotch and wear hats."

When historians get bored or need to feel somewhat loved by the public, they dig this crap up. I mean, I guess it's sort of important. On the other hand, do I really need to know about Carter's ass?

On that note, back to writing about real history.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Drink More Water.

So I happened upon this article on MSNBC, and I read the first paragraph. I instantly wondered what sort of damage drinking Kool-Aid did to me as a child, and how much clearer things would be had I stayed away from the powdery stuff.

I seriously did not know people still believed some of the stuff these nutjobs talk about. One of the fears they're trying to stir up fears that allowing homosexuals to become Boy Scout masters (and other rights/privileges) would put their children at risk because, as we all know, being gay means your trolling for little boys. Apparently someone forgot to read the memorandum that pedophiles are the ones you have to worry about, not homosexuals.

The Christian right, if this is the message that they want to push, should probably be reconsidered as a legit voice in politics.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Wandering Age, Part 2: The Nihilist's Computer

The Rationalist (editor's note: formerly known as the Nihilist, but with the same URL) has graciously let me borrow his computer. For someone who has a fairly nice window view of a tree (which hide the cars in the parking lot and the dumpster rather well), he's pretty angry. Figures.

I love how every news organization is trying to find "battleground voters." First it was suburban soccer moms, then factory workers, then Hispanics. What's next? Asian computer programmers living in the Pittsburgh suburbs? This is just a microcosm of the major news organizations (especially the cable 24 hour news networks) having to fill air time with something other than the two newscasters picking their noses or explaining to their spouses that the number found in their pants pocket was just a coworker. One of the headlines on CNN right now (at approximately 16:14 or 4:14 PM on US East Coast) is about Philadelphia fans going crazy because one of their sports teams won something. That's not news; that's just stating the freaking obvious. And how many of the random people out there really need that much news? And how many people out there can actually digest it?

Love how there's an opinion article on MSNBC about how Philly fans aren't going soft. The only way those guys would remotely go soft is if they either sober up, finally pass their GED, or serve the rest of their probation.

Good news MD and VA voters. You guys are returning to paper ballots in time for 2010. Technology is not always a gift from above. If so, I wouldn't be writing these series of posts from various computers I manage to secure permission to go on/covertly log onto.

LinkCNN has something for job cuts now at 4:48 PM on the United States East Coast. Lemme tell you something: Historians are so escaping that because you cannot escape zero. Ba-zing.

The Wandering Period, Part 1

This begins a series of posts that will be written on various computers and cocktail napkins since my laptop went bust.

Right now I'm sitting in IS 425. Really thrilling. Apparently the professor hasn't figured out a screen is useful for an overhead projection of what's happening on his computer is fairly useful. He's going over SAS, which is basically some sort of version of Excel for people who stuff that requires less features, such as easily accessible data, and a somewhat more intelligible programming language. The "excitement" is "overwhelming."

Now we're in a WinQSB program called "Inventory Theory and Systems." Real thrilling, no? There's a reason there's a History Channel and no Information Systems Channel. Or at least no Decision Support Systems Channel.

Most of the software we're using looks like it was either designed by engineers or artists whose only credentials was a gen ed AA degree from community college. They make 80% of the MySpace pages out there look well-designed and "artistic." Yeesh. Talk about alluring.

Dude next to me is looking at Budweiser's Wikipedia page. There's actually a Bohemian town called Budvar which also makes a beer called...Budweiser.

Oh man..."management science." I need to play Dilbert meeting bingo one day.

Ooh...math. We're doing square roots and division. That's why we had to take Linear Algebra!

He used "management science" again. It's still...mildly amusing.

Oh finally...the exam. Something of "importance."

[End post].

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Will Tell Funny Stories for Money

Most people like money. And a good number of the people who say they don't like it probably have a lot of it and aren't really in a position to say that they don't like it.

I like to know that I can get out of school and make a decent living at a job somewhere doing what I love: being a historian. Unfortunately, the only reason that the market for historians isn't reactive to economic conditions is because, quite frankly, there's not a lot of room to maneuver between zero demand and minuscule demand. And yet, there's still room for "rockiness," as this article claims.

Of course, once you actually get the job, then you realize that, lo and behold, you can only celebrate by getting the more expensive ramen noodles (the ones that already come in the Styrofoam bowls, and not Cup Noodles, as those are quite obviously cups) and having the privilege to make that fifth of Kentucky Gentleman last less than a month. The chances of striking it big are fairly slim.

I've thought about this recently as I've been working on a massive class I need to graduate and also going on a few job interviews with companies that have as much need for historians as most people do for a hangnail. Being a historian is not all about doing research on cellophane for yet another episode of Modern Marvels or looking up stuff on Wikipedia for a blockbuster Hollywood movie which will undoubtedly mess it up. It's about having to look through piles of old documents and other such paraphenelia to find some piece of data that has pertinence to your topic. It's about having to read through volumes of literature written by other folks (which ranges from brilliant to misguided to mindless dreck) to get a feel for historiography. And they reward you with pay that'll make a recent college grad doing menial tasks at a tech company sneer (well, sneer more than usual).

It makes me wonder and ask myself: "Is it worth it? Is it worth it at all to go through all this trouble so I can hope to one day make $60,000?" Good question. Perhaps law school isn't so bad after all...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things Ain't What They Used to Be

I'll fess up to it: I act like an old man at times. I hope one day I could be as cool as Humphrey Bogart in the movies. I wouldn't mind being some of the guys on Mad Men, without (most) of the chauvinistic touches. I'm a fan of the old-style drinks (Tom Collins, Manhattan, scotch and water), I wear a hat when in public, and, first and foremost, I adhere to the old-style rules of chivalry (except when I'm nervous and I freak out and forget).

I'm a firm believer in chivalry. So what the Constitution was amended to give women the right to vote. I'm still holding the fucking door. Don't hold that crap about the women's lib movement and such; me holding the door for you is not objectifying you at all. It's called "a nice gesture." If you want to be a prick about it, go right ahead. Basically, it's all about treating women with the respect they deserve.

The thing that many guys who purport to be "gentlemen" forget is true chivalry has two sides. It is a double edged sword. On one side, you have the gentlemanly politeness that you have when you and whatever special lady you're with (be it a hot date or a female relative) are out and about. On the other side is the more dark and vicious side. It's the side that comes out when it's time to use that double edged sword.

The basic tenet of this side is that you do act maliciously towards anyone of the female gender that is close to you. Anyone who flagrantly disrespects women in such a manner is not deserving of any respect from anyone else. Period. Even if she's done you wrong horribly, you do not act at all maliciously. And if someone does so to someone of the female gender you care about, it'd be best for someone else (the law, Satan, a runaway MTA bus) to get to him first.

And of course, now we have "the legal system" and "processes" which take care of that. But I do long for the days when a gentleman who was confronted with the dishonor of a woman deserving of the privilege would take it into his own hands and settle it like true gentlemen.

By the way, law enforcement, this is in no way, shape, or form condoning things like vigilante justice. I'm too cultured for that sort of barbaric practice.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Very often throughout my day I ask myself, "Why the hell am I doing this?" Sometimes I have an answer, such as "Because I'm hungry and haven't had a burrito in a few days" or "Because I can't show up to the meeting looking like some hobo who fell off of a malt liquor delivery truck." But a lot of the time, I really can't come up with an instant logical answer. And thus, the gears start to turn.

For the longest time, spite was a main driving point. I had a laundry list of people that I wanted to tell off one day and flaunt my success in front of. The mental image I had of myself going up to them and telling them how successful I would be and then flipping them off was priceless. I was willing to put myself through whatever it took to make sure I could do this. But after a certain point, I started questioning whether or not the dissatisfaction I was feeling doing what i was doing was worth the joy of spite. And after a while, I felt that it wasn't.

Now don't get me wrong; I'm going to flaunt success in front of clowns that deserve it, trust me. But I'm more driven by something else, maybe passion, maybe some overly strong instant coffee. I don't know what exactly gets me out there and doing what I do. And maybe...maybe I don't want to know.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When I Was a Young Boy

Judging by most of my Facebook "friends'" statuses, there really isn't much going on other than the fact that the Ravens lost to the Steelers in OT and that the new Facebook is probably the worst travesty to happen since "new" Coke. Perhaps the biggest (and possibly most overblown) news is that the stock market has the stability of a dinghy in a stormy harbor. I'd probably feel more comfortable at a blackjack table at Atlantic City than putting my money in the market at some points.

I've always had an interest in the stock market. Every time I saw it on the television when I was younger, it looked real exciting. The floor looked like a giant crowded playground, except they were dressed much funnier and no one yelled at them for littering. They were always energetic and yelling all the time and using words that weren't broadcast over the 5:00 PM evening news. It seriously looked like great fun and I thought it'd be nice to play dress up and yell when I was younger. (Wonder what that says about me as a child...)

I remember way back in the day when it was a real possibility to make a decently easy buck during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. It was rather alluring to me as a kid. When your life consists of having to endure the crap from your peers as a weird middle school kid, the fact that people who were just as weird as you were being able to make large amounts of money and seem cool was rather alluring. That dream always stuck with me throughout the years, even though the meteoric rise only meant a even more meteoric fall. As such, I've always watched the markets...just in case.

What If

In general, people like action. Sitting on your ass agonizing isn't usually the most amazing thing in the world, unless your name is Hamlet and your job (given to you by a ghost) is to kill your father. Other than that, it's nothing to write home about.

As such, it is often said that it's better to take a chance than to not know at all. Whenever people are tepid about making some slightly risky decision, others are all about taking the chance. "Come on," they say. "If you don't do [action x], you'll never know. And do you want to go through life not knowing what it would've been like?"

Now this only really works if you're not a fucking moron. Anyone who's played chess semi-seriously realizes that just because you can do something doesn't mean it's the brightest idea in the world. But again, that intuition pops up if you are not a freaking moron and can reasonably predict the maelstrom that picks up when you want to move your queen to f7.

Life is a bit more fickle. The number of variables is fucking mind-boggling. As such, people are either moved to inaction or acting blindly/at the wrong time. Next thing you know, you're left holding the pieces as you wonder what the hell went wrong.

So perhaps you should do this: Instead of asking yourself "What if I don't do this?" ask yourself, very seriously and with great import, "What if I do do this and it hits the fan?" It's really not worth messing up your current life for the prospect of something that can utterly and ragingly fail and leave you in the dust.

That is, of course, unless your life is totally horrid enough that it doesn't really matter. That case, just go bonkers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miss Misery

Schadenfreude. Depending on who you ask, it's probably one of the more twisted things you could feel. It is the joy that one derives from someone's misery.

For the most part, I really think it's more or less really messed up to derive some sort of joy from someone's misfortune. As someone who's been misdealt a few hands, it sucks. I really can't see how anyone can see someone's misfortune and find glee in it. It goes beyond lack of empathy; instead of feeling nothing from someone's troubles, you feel joy. It's mind-boggling.

There is an exception. I'm starting to find out that if someone did me wrong, I'll find the greatest glee in their misery. And I've found some joy in some really sick stuff. While it's almost alarming, I feel like it's some sort of karmic justice. Don't do other people wrong and you won't get wronged.

It does make wonder what sort of a dick I was sometimes though...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Say What?

Weird occurrence: giving up a vice simply because it does not give you joy anymore. It's weird/slightly amazing. New direction in life which is more positive and promising? Don't hold you breath.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Old Photograph

There is a song that I've been getting into recently written by Eric Bogle called "No Man's Land (Green Fields of France)." The story behind it is that a passerby at a World War I graveyard takes some time to rest next to the grave of a young soldier named Willie McBride. The passerby then wonders about Willie and how he died in combat and how he is remembered.

One of the more personal poignant stanzas of the song is the second verse. It is as follows:

"And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?"

I've always been touched by this part for some reason. It makes me wonder what sort of impact I have on people and how will I be remembered. Will there be people who actually remember who I am? Or am I some passing stranger that can easily be forgotten?

That thought is quite troubling at times, when you realize that you can be a non-entity to someone just as quickly as you can become something to someone. All sort of interpersonal relationships are nothing but air and thoughts. There's no tangibility or anything physically connecting you to anyone else. One day, something may change and it'll all be gone and nothing will have changed except in your mind, where the connection lived the entire time.

It's this that admittedly makes me tread the line as carefully as best I can in what I say or do, despite my best efforts to sabotage myself. But you can only do so much. Beyond that, it's up to the other people involved to dictate whether the bonds will hold and whether you'll be a memory or a photograph.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mediocrity as Superiority

For most of your childhood life, you realize that sticking your head above the crowd puts a target on you. Life sucks if you show some modicum of brilliance or talent outside of athletics or playing shitty ass screamo music/Dave Matthews covers.

It doesn't improve much when you get out, despite those adults that try to sell you that malarkey to make you feel better 'cause some meathead in an Incubus t-shirt decided to clock you against a locker. What those adults sell you is not true. If you aren't the typical whatever fucking categories are out there, you might as well brace yourself for the whirlwind with a handle of whiskey and a bottle of pills, 'cause you're going to need it.

Being an average person has such a great appeal for me. With the exception of having athletic talent or the ability to churn out crappy records that 15 year old guys who stay out till 11 PM hanging out in front of the 7-11 wearing tight jeans will buy, the large majority of people don't have pertinent talents. And having that talent that seven people will care about in your immediate area -- is that worth the scars of a rough life as a rogue wandering from place to place never fitting in? It's a question that I've wrestled with often, and the answer is often times no.

There is nothing I would give more than to live normally like everyone else. I hate having to scuffle through some of the crap I have to do to try to somehow acquire skills that should've already been there or that I should've learned 10 years prior. Sure, I have some "gift" or whatever, but who the hell is really going to care other than people who have gifts that other people don't care about either? And if that's the case, then why should I have to deal with other baggage that comes with it?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Selective Memory

It's weird how memory works. For example, I can forget that I have to do my accounting homework or I already purchased a macroeconomics textbook -- both things I should be remembering. But the things I should forget don't seem to leave my memory.

Which is really damn irritating. It's hard to function in society as a competent human being when you can't stop thinking about inane ass garbage going through every other thought. When you realize that you spent the entirety of your accounting lecture thinking about random stupid things instead of taking notes on what makes a liability, it's probably high time that you start forgetting those random things (or to drop the accounting class).

I mean, I've tried to forget. I've tried to forget and numb myself (something that this guy can vouch for). But it's only a temporary reprieve before the mental naysayers and demons start creeping back in and whisper in your mind. And that just leads to another temporary reprieve.

It'd be great to actually just snap your fingers and just erase a few things from your memory. Of course, that could be easily abused. But it'd be nice, just this once.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And You Just Remember...

"And you just remember that your old man walked Ben Wade to that station when nobody else would." -- Dan Evans, 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Failure in the end might happen, but if you gave it your all, then there's nothing you should worry about.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Please Stop Now

There are some people who just refuse to give up. Kansas City Royals fans, for one. They somehow persist in believing in the impossible will happen.

And then we have Gavin Menzies. A while back, he wrote 1421: The Year China Discovered America. While it was a nice idea, it is nevertheless a tenuous idea at worst with many holes and historical questions that could be raised. There was even a television special where he showcased his ideas and had those very ideas challenged at the end of the program.

Now we have Mr. Menzies talking how in 1434 the Chinese rolled up to Venice and "sparked the Renaissance" in Europe. The first book was nice and made people think for a bit and it also allowed us to play fantasy for a bit. But now? Now it's pushing it. Ridiculously hard. To have someone call your work "historical fiction" isn't exactly an endearing term in the field of history.

But this is the challenge of history. You don't have to have a "license" to practice it for the most part and you can't have your license revoked for being a loudmouthed dumbass. Anyone who can convince a publisher to put out their nonsense can get their half-baked ideas out there into the public where sometimes less than rigorous standards are applied. With the internet, the possibility for people to either make outlandish claims or manipulate history for their own personal agendas is much easier.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Chips in the Pot

The film Rounders is about more than just cards. There's a lot to be learned from that movie other than interesting slang terms about bottom dealing jackasses. One of the morals I took out of the film is that you shouldn't bind yourself to something just because someone else says you should do it.

One of the lines in the film uttered by the main character is "You can't lose what you put in the middle...but you can't win much either." It's an interesting concept when put in the framework of life in general. Emotional investment in life is like the ridiculous raise you make when you're drawing for the straight and the flush on the river: you stand to win or lose big.

It's one of the questions I have about life: Is it worth it to make that big bet only to see that your draw didn't pan out or to sit around and let the blinds whittle you down to the felt?

Losing bites, no doubt. But winning is equally as enjoying. And it really comes down to whether or not you want to accept the fact that you'll lose. A lot of the time I ask myself that question, knowing that losing is painful. And you know what? The answer is yes a good number of the time.

Yes, the losing is going to bite hard. Yes, I might disappear for a day or so to "get things straightened out." But it's the allure of finally hitting that outside draw on the river that makes it all worth it. (Note: this is not how I play cards.) If I lose big, at least I'm comforted by a life lesson and the fact that I'm sitting pretty on a large repository of chips.

Sometimes I do wonder if I should just remain uninvolved. It's a real temptation. I'd rather as much just not feel a damn thing in my life. At times in my life, I fantasize about just being a complete robot and avoid the trouble of emotions. It would save me the experience of negative feelings. But I'd never get to feel the joy of finally pulling it off and winning. And if you're going to just sit at the table and not take a risk, you'd be better off putting your money in a savings account in your local bank. Life isn't about watching other people live lives; it's about going out there and doing it for yourself.

While the trials and tribulations of life are sometimes more than a person can handle, it's part of being alive and human. Sure, you'd be able to sit at the table for a long time just getting blinded into oblivion, but is it really all that fun?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can't Find My Way Home

I wonder what would happen if I just gave up some of my vices? Is there anything to return to at all? Or have they just become such a part of me that taking them away will basically leave me with nothing? Really scary thought.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Truth, Bias, and the American Way

As some of you folks out there may well know, justice is never blind to anything. But sometimes, perhaps it should be wearing the blindfold just a little more often.

There is a brouhaha in the Justice Department regarding hiring practices. Much of it started earlier this month when various suits were filed by rejected applicants who suspect that they were not hired due to their past work with Democrats or fields such as environmental or social justice.

This is an issue which clearly does not fall under the umbrella of "borderline radical." The Justice Department was attempting to enforce a partisan hiring practice instead of a meritocratic one and made certain lifestyles preferential (i.e. conservative Christian). The government has no right to do this.

What irks me even more is the potential for the government to get away with these shenanigans. Does this mean I have to shift my leanings to conform with the current regime in place? Or even the fellow reviewing my resumes? Do I have to worry about whether or not some sort of deep seated unfounded belief about certain agencies may affect my hiring? These things should not play a part in government or any sort of hiring practices.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Bother Because...?

So for those of you expecting a witty commentary on news...check back in a few. I might feel compelled to discuss something of global note.

(You might want to direct your elementary schooler away from this. Just saying.)

I'm writing this as the mixture of espresso and Bailey's is eating away at my stomach lining, a sort of physical manifestation of my mental state.

Or perhaps not. A sense of pain as a result of a decay would indicate some sort of heed being paid. But in reality, instead of being an agony, it's just a sense of general apathy. It still bothers me, but I'm not going to remedy it. I could go get something to eat to provide some sort of barrier between that devil liquid, but on the other hand I could just adopt a "wait-and-accept" attitude.

There a lot of things that are less than amusing about where I'm taking myself. I'm staring at a career path which is necessary yet less than glamorous, I can barely maintain a semi-meaningful conversation with most of the human populous, and I spend a large portion of my public social interactions in a state resembling a partial panic attack. Hell, sometimes I'm too fucking lazy to maintain my vices. Now how wrong is that? You ever hear an alcoholic just say, "Eh...fuck it. I don't feel like making the effort to score a bottle of cheap scotch. I'll just ride it out with some fruit juice."?

I suppose the apathy has some sort of benefit, such as getting rid of those aforementioned vices that are so damned hard to maintain (cigarette smokers make that shit look real easy -- trust me, maintaining a vice is hard fucking work). But when I'm trying to make sure I don't sound like an ass when chatting up a pretty girl or finding a way to not slam back a scotch before a social encounter it's not helpful.

I don't know if it's that I'm just lazy or if I'm just tired of it all. It's probably a combination of both. I've gotten tired of "improving" and seeing it not work, and so I just give up with the (perhaps) misguided notion that anything that I try to do to better myself is solely to make myself sleep easier and without the help of a double shot of rum on the rocks.

It's an ongoing battle to keep myself motivated a lot of the time to keep trying. "It's a learning experience," a lot of people say to me. Heck, I tell myself that. But dammit, I'm tired of fucking learning. When's the lesson over? And why is my lesson taking so damn long? Great, I just moved forward a couple of feet in a mile long journey while the rest of the travelers can spit a watermelon seed across the finish line. Why should I even bother?

But then, after I calm myself and bring down the overdrive, I realize that I'd rather be a couple of feet on my way than only one foot. Or maybe I just don't care enough to try to finish the mile long journey.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Nah, you'll do fine in battle with this plastic butter knife and a couple of blow darts."

In an effort to possibly pander to the lumbering dictatorial and economic juggernaut known as the PRC, the US has decided to freeze the sale of weapons to the ROC.

Now I do understand that the US has a presence in the Taiwan Strait. But there is no real obligation for the US to be there. Looking at how things are going in certain parts of the world, the US isn't always going to be there. So if the US is really committed to defending the ROC, it should continue sales.

Unfortunately, the US has to utilize China to take care of problems that the US on its own cannot (or perhaps will not) solve. This was the same motivation that drove recognition during the later stages of the Vietnam War under Nixon.

It is unclear how long the US can dilly-dally on this issue. Even though cross-strait relations are improving, it is a matter of time when the saber-rattling gets more serious.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Update on UMBC's ROTC Bid

For those of you who read this thing while you're waiting for your movie to download from torrents, you may remember my earlier post on UMBC potentially receiving an Army ROTC post. Well, the powers that be at UMBC have made the decision to start the process of applying for an Army ROTC post.

This is a move forward in the correct direction. UMBC, if it is to be taken seriously as a school known for diversity, should be granted such an institution. Allowing for more ROTC candidates to go to UMBC will only add to diversity, not subtract from it. The claims made by those who are against ROTC are inherently discriminatory on their own.

Welcome to UMBC, Army ROTC.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Panic on Academic Row

There is a lot of controversy at UMBC at the moment regarding the placement of an Army ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) contingent in the school. There is some major resistance to the program, as show by an online petition against it. However, there is also a sizable group of people who are for (or perhaps not opposed) to ROTC being present on campus, as show by a group on Facebook.

The hoopla surrounding it is based on the fact that there is discrimination of homosexuals in the military and UMBC is supposedly a "homosexual friendly" environment. And while I support the campaign to grant homosexuals the marital and legal rights that I enjoy, perhaps this has come a bit too far.

As it stands, anyone at UMBC who wants to participate in an ROTC program has to go to Maryland - College Park (for the Air Force ROTC) or Johns Hopkins University (for the rest, I believe). This is a ridiculous inconvenience. If UMBC is to be considered a "diverse" college in any stretch of the manner, then it should tolerate a department on campus for ROTC. And while they can put certain restrictions on it to keep everyone fearing a militarization of the campus at ease, the option should be available. In addition, having ROTC on campus could open up many more options for education on UMBC.

The most important thing here is that no one is forcing anyone to join the military by having ROTC on campus. But it at leasts gives a wider option for those who do.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sharing is Caring

Seven years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the people in government still haven't figured out that they're working on the same side yet. In the latest issue of Newsweek, there is an article detailing a Pentagon back-door contact with some Iranians without those CIA folks knowing.

Parents, you might want to direct the children away from the next line.


Good lord, has anyone read any part of the 9/11 commission? Have they tried reading any of the literature about the failures of the intelligence community in the years prior? You know what happened? PEOPLE DIDN'T SHARE. Apparently the folks in government were absent that day in pre-school. If the United States is to use the intelligence it gets to its fullest extent, it needs everyone it needs on the same page to insure that nothing fishy gets too far.

Let's take the example cited in the Newsweek article. One of the two fellows who brokered the meeting (both of whom are Iran-Contra people, if you wanted to know), Manucher Ghorbanifar, has been classified by the CIA as someone who has a history of unreliability. Now you think the Pentagon would've gone to that guy had they known that? Do we want another Curveball to screw the United States again? Until the people in government start playing with each other and sharing with each other, the United States is susceptible to another con-man.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Taking It Too Far

It's cool to be proud of the stuff you enjoy. For example, you can have pictures of you and that massive fish that you caught that one weekend in the Catskills posted on your cubicle wall. You can wear an Aqua Teen Hunger Force t-shirt. You can wear your Rutgers Scarlet Knights sweatshirt.

There's a point where you take it too far. Like, for example, dressing up like the Scarlet Knight randomly during the day and wearing it to work. That's not right. Or those creepy [censored for the family audience] at Otakon, probably the only thing that can increase the likelihood of me avoiding Baltimore.

And there's this woman, who apparently is a Yankees Fan and allegedly ran over a Red Sox fan with her car. Now I'm a big Yankees fan and I have really thought about fun things to do to Red Sox fans (my current favorite is boiling them in either beans or white clam chowder), but there's a line that has to be drawn. I'm not about to break the law and kill someone because he/she is a Red Sox fan. I might make an exception for Phillies or Orioles fans, though.

At least she wasn't dressed like Derek Jeter when she ran the guy over.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

White Christmas

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. It was one of the tragic milestones in a conflict which had its roots in the years following the Second World War and that still has lingering sentiments today.

The image that you see to the left is probably one of the most iconic images of the Vietnam War. There were scores of Vietnamese with ties to the Americans in South Vietnam, many who were actually CIA agents. That iconic photo of a CIA officer (whose name escapes me at the moment, but his name is declassified if I am not mistaken) assisting Vietnamese into an Air America helicopter (CIA cover airline) was taken not at the embassy but at a apartment complex nearby.

Reading the book Decent Interval by former CIA analyst Frank Snepp, who was present in Saigon at the time, painted a disturbing picture of what it was like there at that time. It was a chilling reminder that there is always a human cost in the actions of nations, and sometimes that cost doesn't always have to be paid.

So why is this important? While this is a tired, old analogy, take a look at Iraq. The United States has to eventually leave sometime, but if and when it does, there is a risk of instability. People who are in danger due to their assistance to the United States should be evacuated for their own safety, well ahead of the final date of withdrawal, to avoid another Saigon incident. Withdrawal methods, the few that do exist out there, often do not discuss this. If the United States is not to be cheated at the market of human costs, then it should remember 30 Apr 1975 and plan ahead.

Friday, April 25, 2008


ANZAC Day is the Australian and New Zealand version of our Veterans Day and Memorial Day (and maybe a bit of an Independence Day tossed in there). It commemorates service of men and women in the armed forces of both nations and is celebrated on 25 Apr each year to commemorate the landing of the first ANZAC troops at the Battle of Gallipoli. It is often considered the day when Australia and New Zealand proved itself to Great Britain and therefore is considered a day of national pride.

So go celebrate the ANZACs and their sacrifices. A nation will understand.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pirating is Not Cool, Dickwad.

When we think of pirates, we think of those quaint folks talking about scurvy, rum, and whether or not eyeliner is appropriate for pirates. We also think that piracy of that sort died out when they did. Surprisingly enough, this isn't the case. Pirates were a serious enough problem in 1930s China that foreigners (British and Americans) were recruited to help fight the menace.

And now we have the modern day piracy problem that exists on the East African coast. The area has historically been a major area of nautical trade, and where there's trade of any sort you have people looking to nab it. The problem has grown increasingly rampant as Somalia has yet again devolved into a state more chaotic than parties hosted by these guys. Now the US and France are pushing for a UN resolution that would allow nations to chase after pirates into national waters.

Hold on. So you have to ask to take something of yours back from people that stole it from you by force. What the hell? Is this really necessary?

What should happen? What happened in 1801-1805 and in 1815: the Barbary Wars. Sure, there really wasn't a structure of international mediation in place, but why should that be necessary when punk-ass rogues and thieves start messing around with your merchant ships and disrupting your commerce? The US should replicate the basic lambasting of the Barbary pirates in the early nineteenth century today with respect to these Somali warlords who sponsor this type of thing: seek out who they are and destroy them with the mercy shown to an ant stepped on by a five year old.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Forgotten Heroes of a Forgotten War

As some of you know out there, I've been working on an independent study on the First World War in Africa and Asia. Besides the fact that I may or may not be insane, you might be wondering why I would pursue such an seemingly esoteric topic.

The answer is simply that someone needs to do so. When you picture the First World War, the first thought that pops into your mind are the trenches at Verdun or the Somme and the flights of the Red Baron (and Snoopy, of course). Yet it is called World War I and not "The War Fought in Europe and Europe Only." (There was also fighting in Eastern Europe, by the way.) My goal is to make sure that people understand that there were equally large sacrifices made by people worldwide in conditions equally or even more insufferable than those in the trenches of France.

If you want to get a sense of my motivations, listen to one of the incarnations of "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda." My preference is for the version the Pogues did on their album Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash for its raw power. While there's the regular "war is a tragedy" message that comes with it, there's also the message of "honor your veterans and never forget their sacrifice." The people that I have researched as a part of the independent study do not deserve to be relegated to a sentence in a dusty tome for their sacrifices.