Thursday, May 29, 2008

He's so money and he doesn't even know it

You know you are a loser when ... your 7 year old son gets more play than you ever did. Alex just made his first two phone calls to young ladies in his class. They gave him their numbers after school a couple of days ago.

He scored digits from more girls in one day than I did throughout college. I don't know whether to feel proud, worried, or depressed.


Mike: So how long do I wait to call?
Trent: A day.
Mike: Tomorrow.
Sue: Tomorrow, then a day.
Trent: Yeah.
Mike: So two days?
Trent: Yeah, I guess you could call it that, two days.
Sue: Definitely, two days is like industry standard.
Trent: You know I used to wait two days to call anybody, but now it's like everyone in town waits two days. So I think three days is kind of money. What do you think?
Sue: Yeah, but two's enough not to look anxious.
Trent: Yeah, two's enough not to look anxious. But I think three days is kind of money. You know because you...
Mike: Yeah, but you know what, mabey I'll wait 3 weeks. How's that? And tell her I was cleaning out my wallet and I just happened to run into her number.
Charles: Then ask her where you met her.
Mike: Yeah, I'll ask her where I met her. I don't remember. What does she look like? ... would that be the money?
Trent: You know what. Ha ha ha Mike, laugh all you want but if you call too soon you might scare off a nice baby who's ready to party.
Mike: Well how long are you guys gonna wait to call your babies?
Trent, Sue: Six days.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Going Green Update

After 5 tankfuls with the new scooter, Michelle told me her average MPG -- 114. Not too shabby. She averages about 70 miles a week driving to work. A comparison between the Hyundai which she used to drive and the scooter:

70 miles / 30mpg (best case scenario with the Hyundai) = 2.333 gallons per week

70 miles / 114mpg = 0.614 gallons per week

At our current cost per gallon for unleaded, $3.799, that's saving $6.50 a week and producing a whole lot less pollution.


For the house, we just bought Gila window films (kinda like tinting for your windows). They are supposed to block 70% of the heat coming in. We're putting them on our West facing windows and and on South facing windows in our bedroom. Hope to have them up in the next few days. I'll let you know how tough they are to put up and if we notice a difference in our cooling costs.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


You know it's bad when you can't even muster a successful fundraiser in your own backyard (from Phoenix Biz Journal):

A Tuesday fundraiser headlined by President Bush for U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign is being moved out of the Phoenix Convention Center.

Sources familiar with the situation said the Bush-McCain event was not selling enough tickets to fill the Convention Center space, and that there were concerns about more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than attending the fundraiser inside.

Another source said there were concerns about the media covering the event.

Bush's Arizona fundraising effort for McCain is being moved to private residences in the Phoenix area. A White House official said the event was being moved because the McCain campaign prefers private fundraisers and it is Bush administration policy to have events in public venues open to the media. The White House official said to reconcile that the Tuesday event will be held at a private venue and not the Convention Center.

Convention Center personnel confirmed the event has been canceled at their venue.

Tickets to the event were to range from $1,000 to $25,000 for VIP treatment. Money was to go toward McCain's presidential bid and a number of Republican Party organs.

Anti-war protesters were planning to be out in force. President Bush's job approval rating stands at 31 percent, according to

The McCain campaign referred questions on the fundraiser change to the White House press office.

I had planned on going to the protest, but they've taken all the fun out of it by cancelling. They thought that it might not look good on the evening news to have their patrons outnumbered by protesters.

There are no guarantees that McCain will even win his home state in November. In a historically conservative state, his wishy-washy bonafides on the right will keep many Republicans home on election day. And Dems will turn out in record numbers to assure that we don't have 4 more years of Bush policies.

"The bedfellows politics made are never strange. It only seems that way to those who have not watched the courtship." -- Marcel Achard (French Playwright, 1899-1974)

Speed Racer

As usual, I'm going to refrain from giving you a straight plot synopsis. I don't want to tell you what happens in the movie. I'd rather just give you my impressions.

There's not a movie to do a direct comparison of Speed Racer with, though there are a few that had elements that I was reminded of by it. For some reason, it's look reminded me of Tron a bit with the neon-light visual trails. It even reminded me of the visual style of Robert Rodriguez in Spy Kids, with the alternating animation and live action (a comparison to Spy Kids 3D would probably be even more apropos, but I didn't see that movie). Using the term "live action" very loosely, mind you. I think the entire movie was filmed in front of a green screen.

Visually it's dazzling and incorporated several new technologies (from IMDb):

Technically, Speed Racer was a first in many areas but two stand-out. It was the first film to use the Sony F23 Digital Film Camera and also to record in parallel to Sony HDCAM SR, for archive masters, and to Codex Digital Data Recorders for on-set uncompressed HD playback, digital dailies and file generation for editing and VFX.

I think a large part of the audience didn't get the intentional campiness of it and today's younger generation may not have seen the original series (which the movie is reasonably faithful to). I believe this is a movie that will do well in the secondary market (DVD), much like the Matrix did.

Like the previously reviewed Iron Man, it sneaks a message in with the popcorn entertainment. In Iron Man, it was war-profiteering, here it is big bad corporations and the ubiquitous sponsorship deals of everyday life. It's nauseating to watch a post-race interview with NASCAR, where drivers feel it's necessary to spew out thanks to their laundry-list of sponsors before they even thank their family. Are we far from having company logos on the back of main-stream sports figures (baseball, football, basketball)? Though the movie is not meant to be a message movie, and it's told through the prism of sports, one can't help feeling that it's a reflection of even more. Admit it, whenever we see a politician talking, we wonder who they've been bought by. Wouldn't it be funny for politicians to have to wear suits that had patches for all their "sponsors"? "We now present Vice President Dick Cheney, brought to you by Halliburton and Diebold".

Made by the Wachowski brothers (of Matrix and V for Vendetta fame), Speed Racer continues their trend of not being predictable. The cast is good, with Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) in the title role, Matthew Fox as Racer X, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon as the parents, and in one of her most attractive roles to date, Christina Ricci as Trixie. Everyone seems to be appropriate for their role.

Typically difficult critic - my son Alex - gives it two thumbs up. Worthy praise indeed. It's funny and has some toned-down anime/kung fu type violence that wouldn't bother younger kids. Grade: B

"The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy." -- Australian author Alex Carey

"If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves." -- Howard Zinn

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Déjà Vu for Uncle Sam

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" -- John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Onward, Christian Soldiers

"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle." -- Benjamin Franklin

From Atheist soldier claims harassment on CNN:

JUNCTION CITY, Kansas (AP) -- Like hundreds of young men joining the Army in recent years, Jeremy Hall professes a desire to serve his country while it fights terrorism.

Spc. Jeremy Hall says the pressure to believe in God is so strong, "I was ashamed to say that I was an atheist."

But the short and soft-spoken specialist is at the center of a legal controversy. He has filed a lawsuit alleging that he's been harassed and his constitutional rights have been violated because he doesn't believe in God ...

"I'm not in it for cash," Hall said. "I want no one else to go what I went through."

Known as "the atheist guy," Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and -- just as severe to some soldiers -- gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.

"I see a name and rank and United States flag on their shoulder. That's what I believe everyone else should see," he said.

Hall, 23, was raised in a Protestant family in North Carolina and dropped out of school. It wasn't until he joined the Army that he began questioning religion, eventually deciding that he couldn't follow any faith.

But he feared how that would look to other soldiers.

"I was ashamed to say that I was an atheist," Hall said.

It eventually came out in Iraq in 2007, when he was in a firefight. Hall was a gunner on a Humvee, which took several bullets in its protective shield. Afterward, his commander asked whether he believed in God, Hall said.

"I said, 'No, but I believe in Plexiglas,' " Hall said. "I've never believed I was going to a happy place. You get one life. When I die, I'm worm food."

The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq. Welborn has denied Hall's allegations.

Hall said he had had enough but feared that he wouldn't get support from Welborn's superiors. He turned to Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation ...

"The average American doesn't have enough intestinal fortitude to tell someone to shut up if they are talking in a movie theater," Weinstein said. "You know how hard it is to take on your chain of command? This isn't the shift manager at KFC."

Hall was in Qatar when the lawsuit was filed September 18 in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. Other soldiers learned of it, and he feared for his own safety. Once, Hall said, a group of soldiers followed him, harassing him, but no one did anything to make it stop.

The Army told him it couldn't protect him and sent him back to Fort Riley. He resumed duties with a military police battalion. He believes that his promotion to sergeant has been blocked because of his lawsuit, but he is a team leader responsible for two junior enlisted soldiers.

No one with Fort Riley, the Army or that Defense Department would comment about Hall or the lawsuit. Each issued statements saying that discrimination will not be tolerated regardless of race, religion or gender.

"The department respects [and supports by its policy] the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs," said Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense...

Lt. Col. David Shurtleff, a Fort Riley chaplain, declined to discuss Hall's case but said chaplains accommodate all faiths as best they can. In most cases, religious issues can be worked out without jeopardizing military operations.

"When you're in Afghanistan and an IED blows up a Humvee, they aren't asking about a wounded soldier's faith," Shurtleff said.

Hall said he enjoys being a team leader but has been told that having faith would make him a better leader.

"I will take care of my soldiers. Nowhere does it say I have to pray with my soldiers, but I do have to make sure my soldiers' religious needs are met," he said.

"Religion brings comfort to a lot of people," he said. "Personally, I don't want it or need it. But I'm not going to get down on anybody else for it." ...

Take a moment to think about the statement that Hall was told - "faith would make him a better leader". Does giving up control of your life to a higher power make it easier to be a leader of others? Let's look at the dictionary definition of leader: "a person or thing that leads." It doesn't say, "a person or thing that follows". I'm not saying that religious people cannot be leaders of men. I'm just trying to point out that there is nothing that necessarily makes them more suitable to lead than an atheist.

It's not faith specifically that binds us, but rather common interests or concerns. Faith may be one of those concerns, but it doesn't have to be the only one. Especially in a wartime environment, the overriding concern should be surviving and taking care of each other.

The misconception that those without faith are less suitable lead may arise out of the belief that those without faith are without morals. Hall obviously cares about his fellow soldiers and is respectful of their beliefs - two things that seem considerably more important for leadership than faith. Because he doesn't believe in God doesn't mean he doesn't have morals.

It's ironic that a lot of soldiers find solace in religion while performing acts that fly in the face of a lot of the teachings of the bible. Do they feel guilty and are looking for redemption? Do they believe that God absolves them of their sins? The fact that our own President casts our wars as "crusades" and uses every opportunity to stress that God is on our side certainly seems to give them moral certainty that truly isn't there.

One last thing that I'd like to highlight in this article is this passage:

Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and -- just as severe to some soldiers -- gay ...

Demonization of people who have different beliefs seems to be endemic of this administration and many in the military. If we cast even Americans with different views in this light, imagine what we do with those of a different culture and darker skin. Is it any wonder that we don't understand Muslim culture and continue to exacerbate conflicts in the Middle East?


I'm consistently amazed that people are more distrustful of atheists than any other group. The article I link to talks about the study that most of us have heard of before. This particular article is amusing (unintentionally so) because of it's additional quotes and comments by local people. Here's my favorite:

Cole Ries, the president of the Maranatha Christian Fellowship said, "I don't believe that anybody is really an atheist. I believe that deep down everyone knows there is a god."

I know this is just one person, but it that really the perception of a lot of Christians? That's really scary if it is ... and delusional. I'm sure that most atheists don't hold to the same type of logic in their view of Christians. For ex. Nobody is really a Christian ... deep down they all know there is no God. While I don't believe in God, I would not deign to suggest that most Christians don't truly believe there is a God. I know there are some practicing Christians (and Jews) that do not believe in God but follow along out of societal or social pressures, but they are certainly not the rule.


For more in the the atheism/religion vein, Cyberkitten at Seeking a Little Truth and Jewish Atheist have typically good posts on their blogs this week:

Even More Good Quotes

Common Causes of Deconversion

"Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions. -- Blaise Pascal

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Four-eyes squared

Alright, this is all you're getting. I don't want to bring down the quality of the blog by sullying it with my mug too often.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Denial ... check. Anger ... check. Bargaining ... check. Depression ... check. Acceptance ... reluctantly, check. OK, I get it. After about 6 months of degrading vision, I figure out that maybe I should go have my eyes checked. That was a couple of weeks ago. 20/30 in one eye, 20/40 in the other with some astigmatism. No biggie. So I ordered some glasses and they came in Friday. None of my clients or friends have seen me in them yet. I'll try and get some pictures of me in them up sometime soon. Nothing to be nervous about.

Johnny Depp wears them:

Bono wears them:

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer wears them:

But those guys are cool. I'm a nerd having a little trouble with what wearing glasses represents. I'm not vain. It's not wearing glasses that bothers me - it's what it portends -- I'm getting old.

In my younger days, I thought it would be cool to have glasses. Men that wore glasses looked scholarly and intelligent to me. Well, now's my chance to test the theory. I figure if I'm going to wear them, I don't want them to be something boring. I never even considered getting contacts. Those might be the right answer for some people, but the the thought of me sticking my finger in my eyeball every day was unappealing.

I'm probably being a baby about it. I'm sure a lot of you wear glasses. My own son wears glasses and has since he was 4. But this is different. I've had perfect vision all my life but now that I've hit my upper 30's, my body is rebelling. Let's face it, it's all downhill from here. I'm joking ... mostly.

"I had some eyeglasses. I was walking down the street when suddenly the prescription ran out." -- Stephen Wright

Monday, May 05, 2008


Here are some pics from the Numb3rs shoot that we went to on Sunday:

Iron Man

I don't water to oversell this movie, but I thought it was great. It was perfectly cast, combining the sarcastic humor of Robert Downey Jr and the luminous quality of Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow reminds of us of why we'd like her to do movies more often. Downey's role in the movie is one of those inspired bits of casting that you first think is completely wrong when you hear who is playing the role (like Michael Keaton in the first Batman). But then you see the movie and you can't imagine anyone else playing the role. Former Oscar-nominated actors Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard capably fill the two other main roles.

Downey plays Tony Stark, a brilliant inventor and owner of a company that produces high-tech weapons for the military, but not just American military. It covers ground that was explored in Nicholas Cage's movie of a few years back, Lord of War. It's disingenuous for companies or inventors to claim no responsibility for the illicit use of things they create. Stark is very much a carefree playboy who seems to believe exactly that. Iron Man movie explores his transformation both physically and psychologically. I won't ruin the movie by telling you exactly what causes that transformation.

This is the world in which we live where terms like "surgical strikes" and "smart bombs" are tossed around like we are talking about a video game and not people dying. You wonder why people are desensitized and ambivalent about the Iraq war ... it's because they truly don't experience the grittiness of real war. The people in the Middle East do - acutely.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as serious a movie as it may seem by my above description. I'm merely saying that below the surface, it's addressing some real issues. The strength of Jon Favreau's (Swingers, Elf) direction is that it doesn't beat you over the head with a message. Favreau is good at witty banter and coaxing very funny performances out of his actors. I've read that he took a Robert Altman tact towards directing (naturalistic and ad-libbed) and let Downey have a lot of input into his role.

The chemistry between Downey and Paltrow is natural and very enjoyable. Downey is very good at showing the flawed nature of his character, Tony Stark, because he is obviously a good actor but also because he's lived the role. Whether it's real or not, Downey's real life seems to inform this performance immensely.

Though action really hasn't been part of Favreau's repertoire before now, I think he does a good job. The special effects, by ILM, look good and not hokey.

Director Favreau cameos in the movie. Another interesting and oddly apropos cameo was Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) as one of the militant Arabs.

I'd have to agree with Laura that the movie's primary purpose seemed to be to set up more movies. Well, if Downey continues to play the role, you've got me hooked. Grade: A


Please check out Wunelle's outstanding review of Iron Man:


and Reel Fanatic's:

Finally, the word on Iron Man ...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Zzzzzzzz ...

Just got back into town from Cali and I'm dog tired. So, no Iron Man review yet. But our last day in LA was kick ass. We got to go on set for the filming of some scenes for the TV series Numbers in downtown LA. My wife's uncle, Martin Price, is the set decorator for the show. We met the director and the F/X guy gave us a close-up tour of the stunts they were running that day. I got some very cool pictures, including Alex sitting in star Rob Morrow's chair and on the camera stand. I'll get the pictures posted and more details of the day tomorrow. But now, to sleep, perchance to dream ...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Long Beach -- Day 2

Alex fell sick last night with the flu or something, so our plans of the zoo or aquarium were dashed (he's fine now). I decided to adventure out on my own today and catch a little California local flavor in Long Beach. I picked up the Metro Light Rail just a mile or so from where we are staying and it took me all the way to downtown Long Beach. It was cheap, fast and convenient. I don't know why people complain about mass transit. It's the wave of the future and you better get used to it. And besides, you don't get to have a crazy lady with Tourette's dropping f-bombs when you drive yourself to work.

I did get to spend some time at the used book store that Laura mentioned, Acres of Books. Varied selection and, as the name would indicate, a lot of books.

Great book store that unfortunately might not be around for much longer ... at least not at that location. I bought about a half dozen books and a t-shirt. The books included Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (of Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash fame) and Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkein.

For a few more pics of Long Beach ...

Also, saw Iron Man last night. Loved it and will have a more extensive review on Sunday.

Manhattan Beach Day 1

Thursday, May 01, 2008

On the Road

We're off to California for a long weekend at my wife's aunt's place in Manhattan Beach. We're either going to go to Griffith Park and the L.A. Zoo or we might head to the LBC and visit the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary.

Hopefully, I can mix in some used book shopping.

I'm taking the laptop, so I'll try and blog about our travels.