November 2003 - Veterans Day
RayzRealm (c) November, 2003

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Saturday November 1

November is usually the Season for Thanksgiving, but let us not forget November 11, Veterans Day. Being a veteran myself, I always include our men and women who serve and have serve in the Armed Forces, both past and present, overseas and at home. Our current chicken hawk administration may make me nauseous, but I'm with our soldiers, sailors and aviators in spirit.

A number of people have asked me how I can claim to be proud to have served my country, while disliking Bush and most everything he stands for. Well, that's one of the things that makes America great, we can still (for now) agree to disagree.

I was recently reading a news article on the web that carried a picture that I now wish I had saved to disk. It's probably one of those stock news photos that most people never noticed, but I kept looking at it and thinking. The picture showed a soldier in Baghdad, in full battle gear, kneeling down to pat a small kitten. His face seemed weary, his eyes kindly looking down on the tiny creature. I wondered what was going through his mind; was he feeling homesick? Did he have a wife or sweetheart back home? Did stroking the kitten give him a sense of comfort in a strange and threatening environment? Was he at all afraid?

The only combat area I served in was the Tonkin Gulf. There were times when one of the carriers went off line and we had to pick up the slack flying around the clock sorties. There were a number of times I never saw my bunk for 48 to 72 hours, mostly living off caffeine, donuts, sandwiches and adrenalin, while we fixed black boxes to keep the birds in the air or running up to the flight deck to run diagnostics on a downed system among all the chaos and mayhem that is the flight deck during operations. And if we ran low on munitions, we steamed a bit further out to meet supply ships, where everyone from the brass on down rolled up their sleeves to praise the lord and pass the ammunition, and supplies. By the time we had restocked, we ached from head to tow, surrounded almost everywhere chest deep in palettes of military green bombs; on the mess decks, on the hangar bays and passageways. The ship was now fully laden with fuel, munitions and food. Flight ops would resume and the cycle continue until our replacement showed and and we could steam off into the sunset for a little R&R in some exotic port.

We had it a lot better than the guys who were in country fighting, but shipboard life carries it's own hazards. Luckily we have not suffered heavy Naval casualties since World War II. I was in A School studying Naval the avionics systems that I would maintain when we got the news of the USS Forestall fire, one of the worst Naval disasters in recent history. The Forestall was a carrier, and since I would be serving on board carriers, it didn't give one a warm fuzzy feeling. If a modern carrier was blown up and sank, you could loose 5,000 people just like that, and with all the rockets and missile and bombs "Oh My" and fuel, we were like this floating "Bomb" town. Butcha know what! none of us had the time or energy to worry about possible disaster on board our ship, we were too busy keeping everything running, that's what we had all been trained to do. So here's an early snappy salute and tip'o the Bigboote hat to those men and women who serve, may God bless and keep you from harm and the wind be always at your back.

Now on the domestic front, I had a pleasant day in town yesterday, went to visit Paul's folks and had a nice fried chicken dinner ($6.95) at a tiny store front place in Meffa (Medford), then came home to face the onslaught of trick or treaters. The little ones are cute, and since I had a warehouse size basket of candy, told them to pick a few they liked. The parents with their little ones thinned out early and we were left with the late coming teenagers who should have given up trick or treating 5 years ago. None wore costumes, had mouths like sewers and the manners of barnyard animals, "hey mistah, let me take a fistful. You don't need this fucking candy, dump it in my friggin bag." One asked me if I could spare a "fuckin" cigarette, and when I told him, "no I could not, and he should not be smoking anyway" his reply was "fuck you cock sucker" as he and his droogies ran off. I knew that bunch would be trouble as they came up to the steps passing around a bottle of Zima. This band of toads couldn't have been much older than 15. My downstairs neighbors and I agreed it was time to go indoors and turn out the lights, the night of the crash test dummies had begun.

I was up at 5AM today, put on coffee and surfed the web until 8, when I decided it would be a splendid day to trek into Boston. Today was a true Indian Summer day, with temperature in the 70's and clear skies. It felt good just to sit and have coffee and wander around. I made my way back to the BLC for lunch, and while eating someone from the front desk asked me if I would be interested in a Shiatsu massage. It seems someone didn't show up for their appointment and there was an opening. The center offers free massages on certain days and since I had not had a massage in.....ohh about 20 years, I said "sure".

The masseuse was a very pleasant woman and chatted with me first. I told her about my bad back and she said she would be careful in that area. After a half hour had passed she said, "ok you're done". Wow! it felt as if someone had slipped me some mighty good drugs. For the rest of the day the neuropathy was gone, as was my lower back pain. It felt as if I was a feather floating off the table. I managed to wander the Back bay and South End all afternoon without my legs or back bothering me.

Crap! it gets dark so early now. I left town at 4PM. It's now 5:30 and almost pitch black out. Winter's still 7 weeks away and already I wish it were Spring.

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Sunday November 2

This has been one of those rare weekends where I felt serene, centered and connected. The weather has been excellent, which probably contributed to my elevated spirits. It didn't matter that I didn't have anyone to share my time off with, as I was able to amuse myself, much like a cat left alone will with a bit of crumpled paper or ping pong ball when there's no one else around.

When I was in Boston yesterday I stopped by "The Sharper Image", that yuppie chain store of gadgets and assorted chatzkah; powered ball scratchers, nose hair trimmers, CD players that work in the shower, under water cell phones and other stuff that has no real purpose. OK, so I did buy my Grundig shortwave radio there last Summer, and a very nice one for the price I might add.

A small stereo caught my eye, an FM/FM/CD combo with two speakers and sub woofer that normally sells for $200, but was on sale for $99.95 with any other purchase. I asked a sales person if a 4 pack of AA cells counted as a sale, and she nodded. I thought for a minute, 'hmmm this could well in my bedroom', but rationality brought me back to reality, 'do you really need this? How often have you turned on your stereo during the past year? 2-3-4 times?

Anyway I have a perfectly functional small 15 watt per channel Omtimus receiver that I bought eons ago at Radio Shack for 1/2 price, $69.95 vs $129.95 plus a pair of the old cast aluminum cased Minimus-77's that I also picked up 2 for the price of 1 at the Shack. In my opinion, the Minimus-77 was probably one of the best speakers that Radio Shack ever sold. You still see them everywhere, suspended from the walls in restaurants, and cafes, doctors offices, other public spaces. I have the little system hooked up in my home office to my PC, along with my 12 year old Sony Diskman CD player (one of the early ones, when they were still well made). They don't make stuff like they used to.

Anyway, I passed on buying a small stereo system for the bedroom. Stores are really dangling enticing carrots at shoppers, "c'mon buy something please. We'll give it to you free!" Actually stores still make a profit. I know from my years working in electronics retailing back in the 70's. I worked part time at Radio Shack and Tech Hi-Fi, doing repairs, installations, consulting plus working the floor. When shipments came in we all helped unload the trucks, inventory the goods then restock the shelves. I'll give you a couple of examples of markups. I used to see all the shipping paperwork so have an idea of what an item cost to manufacturer, the cost to the retailer, and finally the price the consumer pays. A 4 pack of AA-C-D cells cost under a buck to produce, the cost to the store might be about $1.25, the retail cost winds up being $4-6. Another example is oohhh a 70 watt per channel receiver; manufacturing cost about $70, cost to store, about $125, retail price of about $300. A store can offer these insane %30-40-50 and more off sales and still make money, especially when newer models come out.

What sucks about the newer home electronics is that it's thrown together by slave labor out of duct tape, plastic and styrofoam. Take my old Diskman, all metal case and built like a tank, the same goes for my aging Onkyo Integra amplifier, and Yamaha top end CD player and cassette deck. The components are old, rugged and still perform (to my ears anyway) like new. The older electronics gear was also built on sturdier, more stable platforms, having metal chassis and cases. Now everything is moulded plastic, with the exception of the truly top'o the line stuff, which is still made in the Black Forest by PHD educated enchanted elves, all by hand. Let's face it, today's consumer goods are made on purpose to be thrown away rather than repaired; more fuel for the already overflowing landfills.

Speaking of disposable, we'll need to use the Grand Canyon to hold all of the discarded obsolete TV sets, once the FCC updates the broadcast standard to Digital in 2006/2007. It's either that or there will be a huge market for set top converter boxes, just like in the old days when many TV's lacked UHF tuners. When I worked at Radio Shack we sold bazillions of UHF converters. God! I have a million stories I could tell from my years in electronic retailing, most of them belong in the Darwin Awards archive.

I headed into Harvard Square early this morning after downloading some smut from the net. After getting a bucket of iced coffee I found a quiet remote park bench outside the Holyoke center and talked with Doug in Chicago for close to 2 hours. As I was listening to him a flock of 50 to 75 identically well muscled shirtless swimmer type guys in short cropped hair wearing running and hot shorts flew around me like a flock of birds, all with their Betty Grabel legs, sic pack abs, and hypnotic bubble butts. Doug and I laughed, him saying, too bad you don't have one of the cell phones with a built in camera. Within 10 minutes 3 or 4 more groups of similar young beef sprinted around me. The funny thing is all these college studlettes looked almost identically alike. Maybe they were the product of a secret Harvard medical cloning experiment, either that or it was a group of Mormon marathoners running past me.

No I'm not jealous, I had nail bending six-pack abs until I was 49 years old. The outline still shows but I have not worked out or set foot in a gym in years, plus a 57 year old bald headed geezer would look a bit out of place with ripped abs. A couple of the meds I'm on have also robbed me of some of my muscle mass.

I end today's entry with a comment on our national Narcissism. When I go into Barnes and Noble or any other book store there are entire sections dedicated to looking like gods and goddesses, totally lacking any soul, but you'll look absolutely f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s. There was one entire shelf with titles on how "you too" can have ripped six-pack abs. I have a simple solution, stop drinking so many six-packs, eat healthy and get some exercise (running from your parked SUV into 7-11 and back does not count)

Back to work and reality tomorrow. I will watch the Simpsons season premier tonight for sure before heading to bed.

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Saturday November 8

So much for the serenity of last week. The burning and aching in my groin is back, plus it's about 30 degrees colder this week. I was driving into Boston this morning on Storrow Drive and was passed by a Porsche SUV. I ask why? Just about every car maker has cashed in on the SUV craze (dontcha know, anyone who is anyone drives and SUV). I'm waiting for Mack and Kenworth to announce new lines of all wheel drive SUV, 18 wheelers. Now Biff and Buffy can have most of the comforts of their McMansions as they cruise America's highways and byways. I guess no one wants to be left behind.

My Dad often lectured me on not being a lemming. When I was in high school, 3 of my chums all bought motorcycles and grew long hair. I asked Dad if I could buy a motorcycle, wear skin tight torn blue jeans, grow a beard and long hair. His reply, "now while you're living under my roof. I suppose of all of your friends jumped off bridges, you'd want to too. Just because everybody else does something doesn't mean you have to also." Of course this was during the early to mid 1960's, and my parents ran a tight ship. The bottom line is people are like lemmings, someone buys a hot new product that announces "I have arrived" and the next thing you know, everyone else follows suit. I'm waiting to see what all the "suckers" who rushed out an bought big SUV's do when we begin running out of oil, not that we already haven't, but the gummint would never it.

I didn't spend much time in town today, it was too cold and I have not yet become internally Winterized. I wandered through Copley Place and the Pru Plaza, making my usually coffee stop, then book browse at Barnes and Noble. I also looked around in The Sharper Image and other yuppie toy stores. Some of the gadgets are getting truly ridiculous, CD and DVD players for the shower. Jezzzusss! are people that afraid of having 10 minutes of total silence. Of course there are the motorized nose hair trimmers, nose pickers and ball scratchers, self cleaning and deodorizing underwear, heated socks, talking bathroom scales, little robotic vacuum cleaners that wander around the store floors, web enabled digital cameras and GPS devices built in. All of this crap is fun to pick up and play with, then put back before a sales person asks if I'd like to buy one. Eventually a lot of this chatzkah will be fuel for the land fills and future yard sales.

I've been reading a growing number of articles, even in the mainstream that say Bush is the worst president in all of American history and should be impeached; I tend to agree here. If he were a Democrat or independent, he would have been given his walking papers or a nice orange prison jump suit to wear, but since he's a neocon Repugnican, I'm sure he'll get re elected, whether anyone votes for him or not, the $$$$'d elite will make sure of that.

I watched my copy of John Carpenter's "They Live" last night. I seem to watch this movie once every year or two. More and more it strikes a chord with me as a parable for the times we are now living in. If you're a sci-fi buff and have not seen it, it's worth a rental at least. The acting isn't stellar and what special effects there are will far from knock your socks off, but it has a message about greed and selling out humanity and the growing numbers or people who begin to see what's really going on.

Another little item that has me begging "Jesus take me now!" is the hot new term, "MetroSexual". Society is currently made up of Heterosexuals, Homosexuals, Bisexuals, TrySexuals (they'll try anything once), Asexuals, Vegasexuals and Transexuals; now we have Metrosexuals. Bostons's WCVB Channel 5 has a nightly news magazine called Chronicle that I sometimes watch. I used to watch it every night, but more and more their stories of interest are aimed at the "upper crust" SUV driving, McMansion dwelling, 6 and 7 figure income $15 for a latte crowd. Chronicle recently aired a program on the Metrosexuals; not homosexual, but sensitive, regularly get pumped at the gym, are salon rats for do's, manicures, pedicures, peach pit and cow pie facials, botox injections, plastic surgery, penile and pec enlargments, a regular army of Narcissists.

Of course no self respecting Metrosexual would be homeless or working as a bag boy at a supermarket. Most are well educated with equally well padded bank accounts (or credit cards with astronomical limits). They're elbowing the girls out of the salons, and are as primped and clothing obsessed as their female counterparts. Shhhh! here's a little secret, time and gravity are the great equalizers, their pecs will not be forever perky, their butts bubbly, faces glowing or abs as rippling. Am I jealous? Nawww! not at all, from the Metrosexuals I've bumped into on the street, they are as empty headed and self absorbed as the rest of the TV dazed masses, only more articulate and well mannered. I feel sorry for the gay bois out there. They'll need "Homo Decoder" rings to tell who's light in the heels and who's not. The non gay men are also becoming much better looking than their gay counterparts. Long ago, rumors were whispered that someone was gay because they were very good looking and had nice bodies. Now the tables have been turned, heh heh!

I can hear some of you out there now mumbling, "Ray you are so evil, what an old curmudgeon" Well, yes I am evil. C. Montgomery Burns is my main role model :-)

I'll end today with some news and journal links I read through during the week. Remember what the door mouse said, "feed your head."

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Saturday November 15

I've had a busy week at work, some final deadlines for annual projects are coming up during the the coming weeks, plus a lot of redesign work for next year. I had my annual performance review this week, which turned out quite high, although my company (like so many others that are feeling the pinch of Bushonomics) are hurting, so there is a salary freeze this year. I went through a few of those during the 23 years with my prior employer as well, especially during periods of severe business downturns. I look at it this way, I make enough to pay all my bills with a bit left over, have very good benefits, etc, so I'd rather do without a raise or two rather than be out of work.

As memory serves me, I think that the current abysmal job market is much worse now than the disaster of 88 through 93, fallout from the Reagan/Bush I years. What scares me (as well as millions of others) is the escalation of outsourceing of (now) white collar jobs to third world countries, just so fortune 500 companies can award their high ranking officers and stockholders with big bonuses.I got a pay check this week, whew!

My social life sits at a big fat zero, everyone is busy (the major American pastime since the Reagan years). I wonder if people purposely stay in a frantic state of activity to avoid having to face the void of themselves. We do live in desolate social and spiritual times. Everywhere I look people are rushing around, cell phones in hand, walkman headphones on, wireless lap top PC slung over a shoulder, valises clutched under an arm, and palm pc's dangling from belt; they need more hands and arms than Vishnu. it's all nonsense!

I'm also fortunate that I rarely ever have to put in more than 40 hours a week in the 5 years I've been with my current employer. I've talked to too many people that are working 10-12 or more hours a day, sometimes 6 and 7 days a week. I go into work focused and have always been known for a high level of throughput; very little time spent smoozing or in meetings. I pity the poor souls who spend 5-8 hours a day in meetings, then have to get their real work done after 5PM. I hope I never have to go that route again, because the last few years with my prior employer gave me a taste of the in by 6AM, out between 5 and 9PM, then chained to an electronic tether (beeper) for the remaining hours, just in case I got called in at 2AM to put out a fire or two.

My car radio decided to go dead on me a couple of weeks ago, so I don't get to listen to class rock, classical music or NPR during my commute, and no weather or traffic reports, no tapes; I commute in total silence, which is starting to get to me. When I get home I'll turn on the TV news until Bush or one of his cartel's faces appear, then change the channel. The only news I'm getting is via the web, and it's not from FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS or the White House.

Here are a couple of Area51 news flashes, some additional nonsense.

"New England cecedes from the United States, becomes Canadian province."

"Surgeon General declares mercury, lead and other heavy metals, arsenic, solvents, petroleum byproducts and low level nuclear waste as dietary supplements."

"Increase in greenhouse gasses not caused by burning of fossil fuels as many nay sayers claim. Government findings conclude that bovine flatulence and increase in world population all exhaling carbon dioxide to be main culprit. Department of transportation urging American to buy that SUV they've always wanted."

"Depleted Uranium particles in atmosphere, especially in Iraq and other war zones found to be beneficial; kills harmful micro organisms and helps prevent cancer growth; like getting a continual low level dose of radiation therapy."

"A recent investigation has revealed the reasons behind the government's long standing war on marijuana. It seems that pot smokers are able to decode the subliminal mind control signals that the government and advertisers embed in mass media. The vast majority of the non pot smoking population seems to be totally unaware of the subtle mind manipulation taking place; they just blindly obey!"

"COBOL source code discovered on walls in ancient Egyptian tomb. The code is believed to have been for payroll and project tracking applications used during the construction of the great pyramids.

"Increases in homosexual behavior detected in laboratory animals exposed to democrats in close proximity to cages. Exposure to Independent and Green party members caused outbreaks of cannibalism."

"Crop circles caused by Clinton administration."

"Bush family believed to be alien replicants. Striking resemblance between grandfather Prescott, father George Herbert Walker and George W, and siblings suggest some form of human alien cloning has been covertly taking place for at least 3 generations. Local Kennebunkport residents have regularly reported increased UFO sightings near the Bush compound, particularly during presidential election periods."

"The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was caused by Bill Clinton, so was the Chicago fire."

"Informant who was present at UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 made deathbed confession yesterday. He claimed to have seen Greatful Dead albums and Woodstock poster on board the recovered craft and said military and science teams were terrified by the discovery. Recovered bodies of UFO occupants were wearing Grateful Dead tee shirts. Also small amounts of marijuana were found on the craft. He was ordered by military personnel to say that all he saw was a giant dry cleaning bag filled with swamp gas."

"Surgeon General declares, average American 100 is pounds overweight by government standards."

"In a random national survey of 275,000 americans, 67% believe Forrest Gump was a real American citizen. 25% of American males think that beer and pizza are two of the 4 basic food groups. 25% could not locate their belly button. 15% of Americans surveyed believe they have been visited by aliens from another planet disguised as Mormons."

Speaking of mind control, I took a ride into Boston this morning and "praise God!" found a free parking space. I walked over to Newbury Comics and picked up a cheap copy of the new "Dido" CD, plus the Youngblood's greatest hits CD. I had lunch at the Living Center, sitting with a pleasant guy, chatting about the old days in Boston (fun fun 70's to mid 80's).Ahhh yes brunch at Rustler's or the House of Quagmire, shopping, then making the obligatory Copley Square "fruit loop" for tea; Darts, Buddies, Chaps, Styx, something to eat; dinner party or Ken's at Copley (great New York Style deli), then repeat the loop.

Winter has arrived. The mercury claimed it was in the mid 40's, but it felt more like the teens to 20's. I browsed in the Copley Place and Pru Plaza to stay our of the cold. Heaven help us all, Sharper Image now sells a gadget that "supposedly" translates dog barking into English. This reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer's half brother Herb invents a baby translator.

Although I was wearing a heavy sweatshirt and black leather motorcycle jacket, the cold still managed to get to me, so I cut my visit short as the sun was setting "at 3:30, God Winter IS coming!" All I felt up for after returning home was a walk around the corner for a BLT with fries and a Coke. Tonight will be a good night for curling up in bed with a book.

Here's this week's group of terrorist suspect news articles rounded up by the "Unfair and Biased" Area51 news and homeland insecurity teams.

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Saturday November 22

I saw the surgeon who operated on me 5 weeks ago for a follow up visit. She checked her handiwork, proclaiming that there were no residual signs of abnormal cellular activity and told me to book an appointment in 6 months with the specialist who examined me, to be checked again in six month intervals for the next 3 years. Her closing comment with a hug was, "as much as I like you Ray, I hope to never see you here again." At first I thought this was some sort of put down, but realized she meant that she hoped that the pre cancerous growths would never return...Amen!

Poor sick Michael Jackson is front and center again in the news. This will keep the spotlight away from Bush and his cartel. Americans care more about what celebrities do behind closed doors than about a band of pirates stealing Democracy. It seems whenever the media have nothing better to do, they drag out JFK, Bill Clinton, OJ or Michael for a round of tabloid smearing. Why doesn't this ever seem to happen with the neocons? Resident Bush could be running a Tijuana bordello and crack house from the oval office and the media and sheeple wouldn't bat an eye lash. I'm sure, no I know! that the far right have even darker skeletons in their closets. I'm getting flustered just talking about the double reporting standards, so will change the subject.

I watched all 4 movies in the Alien series during the past week. A few years ago I got a gift certificate from work to the mall or store of my choice for $75. Every quarter my employer used to hand out a bunch of them for people who had regularly performed above and beyond the call of duty; I got a few of them myself. Well I spent one at Costco on the 4 DVD Alien boxed set, plus got a couple of Twilight Zone DVD's. I never did watch the Alien movies, they just sat in my book case until last week.What is nice is that each movie has 15-20 additional minutes that were not in the original theatrical release, and fill in missing blanks.

I always liked Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. She always played a consistent role; gutsy, no nonsense, level headed. The original Alien is still a classic in my book, dark and subtle with a bunch of "BOO gotcha's" scattered in it. I liked Aliens almost as much and the DVD had a lot of extra footage that explained how the colonists stumbled upon the alien creature that was missing from the original. My favorite character besides Ripley was the Marine Sergeant. I didn't like Alien 3 quite as much, but Alien Resurrection was on a par with Aliens.

Another Sci-Fi movie in my library that I still enjoy is "Arrival", starring Charlie Sheen. This one was a sleeper, but I found the story and characters quite interesting and the aliens and their technology showed a lot of imagination. This one is worth a viewing if you have not seem it already. Arrival II is also pretty good and picks up where the first movie leaves off. I bought the two movies on 1 DVD at Costco really cheap. I also have a copy of another "sleeper" that I feel was very well done, the first "Stargate" movie.

I've been bored (lack of social life, etc) so have been dragging movies from the book base. I'll end today with this week's collection of articles I bookmarked during my news runs.

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Saturday November 29

Due to health problems, which are not helping my current state of mins, and a lack of desire to write at the moment, this ride is temporarilly closed!


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Shalom, Ray