Monday, September 29, 2008

What Are You Worth?

You Probably Owe Me!

I am not talking about the dollars stuffed into you mattress or the value of your house. I am referring to you as a person. This is something that has evolved with me over the years. Your value is like your credit score. If it isn't up to a certain amount, I don't want to know you.

This whole concept will take a little background to explain. Most of you probably know me as the charming, witty, satirical, patient and drop dead good looking stud that writes this blog. But what most of you don't realize, is that I have not always been this way.

Back in the days of my youth....way back, I was a pretty introverted shy person. In grade school I was the class clown and always wanted people to like me. This personality followed me all the way up to my college days, when I slowly started to learn something. The people that I wanted to like me and be friends with really weren't as cool or trustworthy as I thought.

I had been raised and taught that if someone was successful in this world it was due to natural selection. If you were a good athlete or owned a large business or were fabulously wealthy, you had to be smarter than me. It was only logical that stupid, ignorant, dumb-asses couldn't end up directing General Motors or driving around in Ferrari's. That just wouldn't make sense.

Boy, was I wrong. Idiocy and stupidity is spread equally throughout the entire population. There are stupid dumpster divers and there are stupid CEOs (Cheif Executive Officers). The only real difference is that the stupid dumpster divers can't screw up the lives of thousands of people the way a stupid CEO can.

As this nightmare of reality slowly set in over the years, I developed a system of 'grading' people based on their abilities. I leaned to ignore how they looked and their personality, and looked deeper into their abilities to deal with their world and solve problems. I strove to find out if they were proactive and attacked problems or if they were passive and complained. As I learned and interacted with more and more people, little dollars signs began to float above their heads like 'thought balloons'. (Not real thought balloons mind you, imaginary thought balloons.)

These dollar figures floating above their heads represented my 'cost' as a result of interacting with these people. If you have a positive dollar amount floating above your head, you are an asset to me and the rest of society. You help others understand and contribute to the general knowledge and problem solving of this world.

If you have a negative dollar sign floating above your head, you are a 'life thief'. Someone that steals other people's time and wastes their energies so that you can deal with your problems.

Every time I meet someone I don't know, the dollar amount floating over their head is zero. Based on their actions or in-actions over time, it starts to go up or down. Sadly, I have to report that the majority of people I have met in this world have a negative balance. Some of them have HUGE negative balances.

These are the people that can't figure things out on their own and constantly seek the help / input from others to make it through their day-to-day existence. They perceive every 'want and desire' as a 'need' that others must fill for them. Every time I have to interact with these people, in my office, on the street, over the phone, their little 'dollar sign thought balloon' starts counting downward like a pinball machine adding up a score in reverse.

As I stand on the threshold of 52 years of age, there are several people that have passed through my life that have given me thousands of dollars in life experience. But the rest of the planet owes me about $57,299,201,198.72. (That is fifty seven billion, two hundred ninety nine million, two hundred one thousand, one hundred ninety eight dollars and seventy two cents!) And for some reason, I don't think they are going to pay up!

My one real goal in this life is to invent a pair of special glasses that would allow others to see everyone's monitary thought balloons. They would help us all avoid a lot of pitfalls in life.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I Don't Do Warm & Fuzzy Very Well Anymore

We all have friends that instead of writing deep, satirical or witty thoughts on blogs simply forward on 'cute' things that they get via e-mail. I suspect that these folks have a lot of insecurities. Getting and receiving these little trinkets of cute animals and animated gifs makes them feel better. Sort of like electronic valium.

Since I like to consider myself more of a creator and interpreter of things instead of someone that just references someone else ideas, these types of spam e-mail don't go over very well with me. Especially the farfetched stories of hope, redemption or political backstabbing that can easily be debunked on

So when a good friend of mine sent me the following reminiscing narrative about the 1950s (complete with cute pictures of 57 Chevy's and Howdy Doodie) I had had enough. Attached is a truncated version of the 'spam' and my response.

I guess I am just not Mr. Warm and Fuzzy anymore.


It took five minutes for the TV warm up?

Nearly everyone's Mom was at home when the kids got home from school?

When a quarter was a decent allowance?

You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, all for free, every time? And you didn't pay for air? And, you got trading stamps to boot?

Laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box?

They threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed. . . and they did?

When a '57 Chevy was everyone's dream car... to cruise, peel out, lay rubber, or watch submarine races - - and teens went steady?

No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked?

Stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger?

Sharing this today because it ended with a double dog dare to pass it on. To remember what a double dog dare is, read on. And remember that the perfect age is somewhere between old enough to know better and too young to care.


(My Response)

I think I must see this or similar chain e-mail about 4 or 5 times a year, dreaming of the good-ole days and memories of youth and simplicity. It appears that this is a reaction to our general notion of how much things 'suck' these days and how our lives really aren't any better, and in fact have gotten progressively worse. So I want to give a bit of a counterpoint here.

While I have fond memories of my youth, the reality is that we are all lucky to have survived it. Lest we forget, these were some of the realities of life back in the 1950s and 1960s:


Cancer was a death sentence. If you got the big "C", you were pretty much written off. There were no radical mastectomies or radiation treatments. Once you got it, you went home, closed the shutters and waited to die.

An abortion marked you for life or was done with a coat hanger. There was no second chance or societal acceptance. You were usually sent away for 9 months, so that nature could take its course, and when you returned the next school year, everyone whispered behind your back. Gotta love that peer pressure.

One word: DDT - there was little to no government over site regarding chemicals or their manufacture and use.

Segregation - the 50s where great, as long as you were Caucasian and reasonably well off. If you were black, Hispanic or Asian, all you could aspire to was landscaper or man servant and when you got old you lived off your children.

No Air Conditioning / especially in your cars - you froze in the winter and sweat buckets in the summer. There was no climate control, even in your 57 Chevy. Ever try and sleep in a bed with the temperature at 90 degrees with 60% humidity. Owww, yeah, I want to do that again!

It took 2 weeks to communicate with someone on the other side of the world and traveling took weeks to prepare and execute. Now you have a cell phone, global transport and e-mail. Think about doing without them for a week and see how much you like it.

The threat of MAD. For those that don't remember this, MAD = Mutually Assured Destruction. The concept that every man woman and child in the US had over 5,000 TONS! of TNT aimed at us every day and night for almost 20 years. Yeah, that felt good.

The McCarthy Hearings - Absolute power corrupts without over-site. Back then you could be blacklisted and expelled or even put to death for your political beliefs. Those gay protesters in New York today would have been rounded up, put on a boat and sunk in the middle of New York Harbor back in 1950s.

Atmospheric Nuclear Testing - Nothing like the orange glow of nuclear tainted dust in the sunset just north of Las Vegas to give you that deep down warm feeling.....from radioactive fallout hitting your skin as it drifted toward Kansas.

Thalidomide - Side effects, what side effects? This drug (given to calm expectant mothers) caused more birth defects than any known medication in history. They hadn't quite perfected that Hippocratic Oath thing about 'Doing No Harm'.

Let’s not forget everyone's favorite contagious disease: Polio.....before Salk and Sabin put their heads together, every child rolled the dice when they went to school....and possibly came home crippled.

No Air Bags or Seat belts - if you got into an accident going over 40, you died. Pretty simple. The insides of cars had no padding, lots of glass and metal and no seat belts or airbags. Knock your head into a glass plate at 40 mph and see how it feels. There wasn't any OnStar to call for help when you rolled your Hudson either.

The Draft - Didn't matter if you were a straight A student or not. If Uncle Sam needed you, you went, and got killed if necessary.

If you were handicapped or in a wheelchair you were considered 'different' and usually shuffled off to an 'institution' where folks like you were out of sight from us 'normal' folks.

No Miranda Rights / Fleeing Felon Rule - If you got arrested for had no rights between the time the police put the cuffs on you and your arraignment before the judge. If you got out of line, a black eye was the least of your worries. If you ran from the police after 'allegedly committing a felony' the police had the right to shoot you, no questions asked.

These are the obvious things that spring to mind but I am sure I can think of others. It isn't so much that the world was such a better place back then, it is that we have 'chosen' to live a life that we are not happy with today. We can choose differently, but peer / media pressure sort of persuade us not to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Your Own Private Waterloo

The World Is Yours For The Taking

As mentioned in a previous blog about my current addictions, I play a game. Calling it a game might be a bit of misnomer. It is more of an epic simulation. The type of struggle that all men dream of, but few will ever get to experience in this day and age.

Do Your Duty

This simulation is called "Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition". It is a simplified war game that can be played against the computer or against other human players, either via a network or via e-mail. Calling it simplified may be a bit miss-leading. Considering that there are about 30 types of units, terrain factors, weather factors, supply/economic factors as well as some engineering involved. Keeping track of everything can be a pretty daunting task.

The Struggle For The Straits

Simulations such as this teach you how things work in a strategic sense. Finding ways to produce, transport, confront and triumph over an enemy that is far away and entrenched is not an easy task. Alexander found this out, Caesar learned this, as did Hitler, Eisenhower and Mao. It is a bit of a lost art, except for the few that have the patience and the time to learn it.

That is where Empire Deluxe comes in. It recreates all of these factors. The only thing left out are the politics, and even that factors in, in the form of treaties and agreements between the players.

Oil Fields and Infrastructure

Which brings me to the current game. We are in turn 332 at last count. The game has been ongoing for about a year and a half. We started out with four players, but one of them didn't fare too well and he was annihilated. That leaves three of us and by the looks of things, we will be playing this game well into turn 500. The turns are completed, and then e-mailed, round-robin to each player. Given about one turn every 3 days for each of us during the average week, that would put the game well into 2010at the current rate of combat.

Modern combat of this type teaches you some interesting facts about warfare. When you have oceans....sea power is key to assault and supply. Air-power is critical to sustain any assualt and counter attack. Suprise attacks are best when possible, and nuclear weapons have their limitations. These are things that bring the nightly news report on foreign policy into clearer focus. Although the advantages of airborne assault over a narrow strait have little value when watching American Idol.

The Fog Of War

The Opening graphic is the current game map from my point of view. This isn't visible outside the game application, so I created a graphic mosaic to show the scope of the entire conflict. Clicking on the graphic will take you to a larger resolution image that is 2000 pixels across. If you really want to 'see' the entire war in detail, you can try and view the full size map of the entire conflict in its original size (7000 pixels across), but be warned, it is a 9 megabyte file. The detail and complexity are astounding.

If anyone is intersting in learning this game or finding out more about it, drop me an e-mail at

Monday, September 15, 2008

Day Dreaming

Initial Shape Study

I had a productive weekend. Got a lot of stuff done in the garage, did a lot of landscaping, got some shopping out of the way. It was 3 days of bliss. Which is why coming back to my office this Monday is pretty depressing.

Basic Design Refined - Mirrored Skin

Working in State Government is like running a marthon in led sneakers. After a while, you just learn to shuffle. After so much shuffling, your mind tends to wonder to flights of fancy and the way things could be.

Final Texture Study

In the days before I took to writing everything down. I used to doodle. Not doodle with pencil and pen, but with computer animation models and raytracing software. If fascinated me a lot until I hit a bit of a brick wall when it came to complex structure design and textures.

Final Design and Detailing

There are still a lot of my old renderings on my computer at the office. Someday I might get back to it. When time permits. That is to say when I retire. These pictures are of a dream I had once. A dream of being severed from the led sneakers that drag me down and sailing amoung the stars in my own space yacht. When I dream, I dream big and in detail.

Final Rendering

It is images such as these that make me realize that I can discover so much more when I am freed from the rigid organizational structure of my job and set free to pursue my dreams. I suppose that most of life is a test to see if you can figure out what you realy want to do. It seems that life is full of TESTS.

These Raytrace renderings were modeled using Moray 3.5 and rendered with POV-Raytracer. Clicking on the pictures will take you to the full size renderings.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Current Addictions

I rarely do these

I have been tagged to do a 'Meme'. A meme is a list of questions that are sent to you by someone else in the blogsphere that you are supposed to answer, and then 'tag' other readers to answer them as well. From my time on MySpace, I grew to hate these things, since adolescents like nothing more than to pepper everyone they can with questions.

My temperament has cooled since those days and since 'Caz' has shown extreme intelligence by commenting on my blog, I figure I owe her. Besides, she just got burglarized and I feel bad for her.

So without further delay, here it is:

Now... the rules:
*Post at least five current addictions (with some details please)
*Mention the person who started this game of tag (Being Brazen) and also the person who just tagged you (in my case, Caz).
*Type your post with the heading "Current addictions"
*Tag at least two people and pass on the above rules.

Nintendo 64 / GameCube:

This sort of comes and goes, but I have always been a Nintendo man. Their games have always tweaked my interest more, ever since Super Mario. I am currently engrossed in "Medal of Honor: Rising Sun", where I am kicking some serious butt in the Pacific during WWII. I turned my wife onto the "New Tetris" on our Nintendo 64 (which is really awesome on an HDTV) and now she is totally addicted to that game. We go head to head on it and the games are similar to a World Wrestling Federation brawl. She is pretty competitive.


I have over 250 of them. Being something of a cinema snob, there are a lot of films on Laserdisc that you just can't get anywhere else. Just try finding a good copy of Fellini's "La Strada" on VHS or DVD. While they haven't been manufactured for over 10 years, there is still a hard core group of folks devoted to them. You can check out my collection on the Internet LaserDisc Catalog Site.

Empire Deluxe:

This is a computer game that goes way, way back to the days of DOS and floppy Disk. It was so simple and well thought out that it developed a loyal following of war gamers. It has since morphed and been acquired by various folks until it landed in the hands of Killer Bee Software, who currently markets the EDEE Edition (Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition). I am currently involved in a War with two other players in this game that has been going on for almost a year and half. We are at turn 320+ and still going strong. The turns are sent around via e-mail, played, saved and then forwarded. Currently each game turn takes about 30 minutes to complete. I can't go into all the details, but if anyone is interested in finding their inner Napoleon, let me know and I will fill you in. You will either love this game or find it somewhat odd. Slyde and Earl should play this just so they can bomb and nuke one another. The website for the game is here.


This goes way back as well, to my days in college. I am not talking digital here. I am talking 35mm and up. 120mm and 4X5 inch negatives taken with older view cameras such as Speed Graphics and Hasselblads. There is something about manipulating film in the dark and the smell of the chemicals as well as having an intimate control over the image that makes this much better than point and click. Besides, there is a thrill when you punch the shutter release and realize that for better or worse, you just blew $2 on an image. Check my Flickr page for proof.

The Garage:

The never ending project. I suppose I have this vision that it will be the ultimate creative zone where I will do woodworking, vehicle maintenance, dark room and storage library. I am almost there, but little things keep getting thrown into the mix that keep taking me off course. Wait till I retire. Then I will disappear into the garage and not be seen from again in this millennium.

As for who I would tag (and I loath to do so) I will be tapping those folks that I think might be the most likely to actually respond. But if they don't, I totally understand. So go for it girls, show me the love......

Cocaine Princess
I'd Rather Be Blogging

That is it, no more memes until the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Documentaries

(Update: I have been off line recently due to a 'Perfect Storm' of events around our home, jobs, family, etc. Hopefully things will be back on track in the near future. In the meantime, show me the 'love' by signing up as one of my Opinionated Readers on the right side tool bar by pressing the "Follow This Blog" link. So far Earl is the only one with enough guts to do it. Way to go Earl!

Now that the initial shock of Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has worn off I would like to comment on something that has been on the back burner of my blog list.

Hopefully, by the time someone stumbles across this blog in a few years they will ask the question, "Who was Sarah Palin". My nightmare scenario is that they will say, "Oh, you mean the President?".

Enough has already been written about her and I am sure there will be more. I don't intend to expand on that debate. As I have commented to others, I am just content to watch the new Reality Show called Presidential Politics and see who gets voted out of the Oval Office next. I see it as entertainment more than anything else. It has gotten too bizarre to be taken seriously. This may sound a bit harsh, but if you really want to know my views on it, check out the blog I wrote about 2 years ago called "Don't Vote".

The issue that Sarah Palin's candidacy brought up is that there are folks that DO think she is an excellent candidate. Most of my friends don't like her and believe that she is a bunt in the baseball game of politics meant to shake things up. However, there is also a large amount of the population that believe she is a God-Send and are now 'eager' to vote for John McCain. I got to see a great example of these folks on television the other night.

I have repeatedly lamented the state of the American Media (radio, television, print, Internet) and the way it manipulates us and skews our views. Regardless of the slant that ABC or CNN give Sarah Palin, they are giving her a bunch of air time. The thought of simply ignoring her as a one-off freak of politics never enters their mind. Viewers are like hungry puppies, they gather around any food dish you put in front of them.

In my disgust with the media, I have turned away from it to try and find other sources of information that might give me a balanced view, a different view. I want to turn over the rock of American Society and see what is crawling around underneath. Most media outlets don't want you to see what is under their.

One of the sources I have turned to is the Documentary Film Maker. The person that creates informational media outside the corporate umbrella and therefore is free to explore issues without fear of retribution. You won't find most of these film in wide circulation. They play at art house cinemas which are few and far between and on a few cable channels if you buy the premium package. I find them on the Internet and download them to my iMac, then transfer them to my AppleTV (a small DVR hooked up to our HDTV). I would gladly pay to see most of these, if they ever came to this state for viewing, but they don't, for good reason.

Major players in the media markets (political parties, mega-corporation, religious sects) don't want you to see these films. They peel back the veneer of society that main-stream media has created and show a world of manipulation and power that most of us are not supposed to know about.

A listing of a few of the more entertaining ones can be found below:

Zietgiest: Question everything you have been taught, with a bit of paranoia thrown in. Excellent propaganda. The "Triumph of the Will" of our time. Download it for free and watch it here.

Who Killed The Electric Car: Long before $4 a gallon gas, Detroit built the ideal commuter vehicle. Everyone loved it, except for big oil, so they killed it. Thanks Exxon/Mobil.

Bush's Brain: The story of Karl Rove and the making of the President ("W"). Talk about a puppet-master!

Jesus Camp: Making warriors for God in the upper mid-west. Nothing like teaching 9 year olds to speak in tongues and showing them what an aborted fetus looks like. These are the folks that will be voting for Sarah Palin in mass.

Lake of Fire: The extreme Evangelical Right-Wing and the issue of abortion in the Midwest. Residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles will think that mindless space zombies populate North and South Dakota after watching this.

Holes In Heaven: Ever hear of H.A.A.R.P.? Probably not, the government doesn't want you to. The old saying was "It isn't nice to fool with Mother Nature". Governments never got this message and they are fooling around big time.

The Fog of War: The memoirs of Robert McNamara and the horror of the Military Industrial Complex, recounted by the man that lead it for almost 8 years.

There are others, but the list goes on and on. After watching these films, I am amazed that nothing even remotely close to them appears on broadcast or cable television. The fact that 99.8% of the population will tune in to "Two and a Half Men" and "America's Got Talent" and only .02% of the population even know that these documentaries exist is one of the saddest thing I have had to come to grips with. We are all headed toward a mass grave with a Twinkie in one hand and a Remote Control in the other, and we are smiling all the way.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Time For A Change

100 Year Storm My Ass!

We get complacent sometimes and fall into the fantasy that we have control over our destiny. What silly little creatures we are.

Weeping Willow / Multiple Branches Down

I suppose that folks in New Orleans have begun to realize this. Folks in Tornado Alley have to deal with it on regular basis.

New Chrysler Sebring, somewhere under the tree

Here in Phoenix, we don't tend to get severe weather. It is mostly just really hot in the summer. But once in a while we get the 'Monsoons'. Really big thunderstorms that occur in late summer.

15th Ave / Major City Street

Every once in a while we get what is called a '100 Year Storm'. This is a storm so bad, it only happens about once every hundred years. But unlike the rest of the country, the storms here are very localized, usually happening in a 50 square mile area. They sprout up and are gone in 45 minutes. So for a particular part of the state, there will be at least one '100 Year Storm' each year.

One lucky Saturn owner

We got our 45 minutes of fame last Thursday night at round 9:30pm. Two inches of rain and 85mph wind gusts for 45 minutes. The aftermath the next morning was not pretty.

Tree falls on power line, power pole follows suit

We were without power for 3 days in 100 degree heat and 60% humidity without an ounce of breeze. In one night, Mother Nature took us back to the stone age.

The tree is obvious, the palm it took down with it isn't

We were lucky. Our house suffered no damage. The toll for the entire neighborhood is probably in the millions of dollars though. Several large old growth pine trees were uprooted from their base and fell onto houses.

Damaged wall, roof and car.

Just wanted to remind you all that life can change in an instant. So don't get too comfortable and smug. Nature is just taking her time getting to you. She gets to us all eventually.

Glad this wasn't my Jaguar

All pictures taken the next morning with my LG AX6800 cell phone.