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Monday, November 21, 2011

UC Davis Controversy

Warning: This video may be disturbing to some viewers.

So I'm sure many of you have heard about the incident that occurred at The University of California, Davis on November 18th. The video went viral on the internet after the incident occurred. Students at the college, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests going on around the country, were also protesting tuition hikes at the college and another incident of alleged police brutality that had occurred at the University of California, Berkeley on November 9th. Students had set up tents on the campus grounds during the protests, against campus policy. This is when the UC Chancellor Linda Katehi called in armed campus police officers.

Which is the first problem. After reading faculty member Nathan Brown's letter-which was extremely well-written, by the way-I was moved. There are multiple videos of this incident, and the actions of these officers is indefensible and heinous. Two of the officers have been suspended to this point, which is a good start, but there should be more to come, and I hope public pressure makes it so. Those who wield authority like these cops do and then exercise unnecessary power by spraying chemicals into the face of peaceful protesters as casually as someone waters their lawn need to be reevaluated. Immediately. 11 protesters had to receive medical treatment from this. Two were hospitalized. This wasn't some harmless slip.

The UC Davis Police Chief was also put on leave two days after the incident. After defending the officers in question. Annette Spicuzza, the chief, claimed that the officers had been circled and tried to leave but could not. Bullshit. Pure bullshit. I realize you have to defend your own, but do it without telling outright lies. Those officers could have left at any point. They're in riot helmets, for god's sake. Those kids were sitting, passively, with their arms linked. They could have walked around them. They could have disassembled the tents and left. None of this was warranted. One of the students was even shown coughing up blood after pepper spray was forced down his throat when he tried to close his eyes.

In the letter I referenced earlier from faculty member Nathan Brown, he calls for the immediate resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. I applaud him fully for this. Mrs. Katehi, you need to go. In a statement, Mrs. Katehi said that ,"she takes full responsibility for the incident." But guess what? She's not resigning. Big surprise. Mrs. Katehi is going to fight like hell to hang on to that $400,000+ salary.

Mrs. Katehi, you clearly do not hold the opinion that the Davis Faculty Association holds, or that many of the students hold. Too bad. You are unfit to do your job. For the chancellor of a university that claims to uphold Constitutional rights, your actions imply that you do nothing but the opposite. You do not support free speech or the right to protest. Free speech and protest do not only apply for things you agree with and support, but for all things. Thus why America is great. Anyone has the right to voice their opinion and peacefully assemble, no matter how wrong or misinformed their opinion is. You took away these fundamental rights in the worst way, by calling in armed police to a peaceful student protest on your university. You are unfit to do your job and clearly do not hold the moral character needed for a university administrator. You hold up the Constitution and declare your praise and support. But when it comes right down to it, you do nothing but piss on it, to be frank. As the protesters said to the cops that day, I say to you. Shame on you.

Good article on tips on how to stay healthy before flying.

Monday, November 14, 2011

5 seafoods to avoid due to contaminants.

Happiness. You Know It Don't Come Easy.

I'm writing today because I've noticed a lot of frustration from my generation. Frustration with the system. Frustration with parents. Frustration with government, with school, with work. I'm going to try to convince you to turn this frustration into desire. Into motivation.

Things have changed. When we were young, (and this is true in my case especially) my parents hammered into my head that I have to go to college to be successful. Now, successful they don't define as happy, sadly. They define it as being "comfortable." From now on, I'll refer to it as settling. Because that's exactly what it is. It's not that my parents don't care about me. It's not that they don't want me to be happy. That's not it at all. They just want me to go to college, get a decent job, make decent money, and settle down with a wife and two kids and a white picket fence around a decent house. Maybe that's exaggerated, but you get the idea. My question is...why is this what we're shooting for? I understand some people want security. Some people need security, more precisely. And some need comfort. That's fine. But for all too many in my generation, I think the sad reality is that you end up going to college for some degree you hate or don't even want to be in to get a job that doesn't fulfill you, for a decent paycheck at the end of the week.

Why has this become the new norm? I certainly hope things don't continue in this fashion. The reality is, if you don't become that dream, it's entirely okay. If you make enough so that you're only comfortable but you end up doing something you really love, it's okay. The cliche is: If you love what you do, you won't work a day in your life. It's cliche, but it's absolutely true.

We were force-fed this idea that we need to go to college to get a job, and now the sad part is, since everyone went to college, college degrees aren't all that anymore. When our parents were getting thinking about work, a college degree DID make a huge difference. In 1950, less than 10% of adults had bachelor's degrees. People were less mobile then, and more likely to stay in the town which they were born. That meant more limited options. So a bachelor's degree put you ahead.

Today, your $30,000-$100,000 bachelor's degree doesn't guarantee you anything in your field after you get out. Possibly ever. And now 40% of people with degrees now end up settling for a job that requires no degree at all. 

The good news? The world has changed. The world has globalized. This may not be good for our country, as manufacturing has been moved out to any other country where wages are cheaper, but it can be good for you. Which means it could eventually be good for our country. You see, it's easier to learn something now if you want to. It's easier to invest in a skill. A skill that makes you very appealing to people. The internet and social media are incredible tools that were simply handed to our generation, the only thing you have to figure out is how to use them correctly. Since the world is becoming interconnected in so many fashions, it's not that tough to put yourself out on the marketplace anymore. You can advertise yourself from the comfort of your computer, on YOUR time schedule. And if you can't help someone who needs some work done, maybe you know someone who can help. Who has skills in that area. Since you're constantly getting socially connected with other people all across the country and the world, you can be seen more of a producer, as a person who gets things done-not just someone who takes what they can get.

So you may be thinking, "But my skill has nothing to do with technology." So what? Let's say you're an auto mechanic. The internet is free advertising for your mechanic shop. Let's say you set up a Twitter account where you advertise some deals for your shop occasionally. (Shameless plug: follow me on Twitter!) Then you set up a Facebook where people can connect to you and ask you questions through your Facebook. You post links on Reddit and Digg to these accounts. All these means of social media go to benefit YOU. Maybe it doesn't happen right away, but once people find out that you do good work, your skill benefits them, etc. then they will do the work for you...simply by sharing through their walls, or retweeting your advertisement, or upvoting whatever you have to say on Reddit. This all goes to help you.

So don't be headstrong about charging into a college degree. Most parents will frown when I say this, but school isn't for everyone. Some people have plenty to offer without investing $100,000 in some papers that they might never have a job for. Read books. Get connected. Nurture a skill, and make yourself available. And don't be frustrated. Because you can always change, and you can always make a change. Why not start today?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pigeons have no problem hitchiking a ride on the subway.
Those microwave safe containers are safe for your microwave...but not necessarily for you.

The Grizzly Man Diaries

The Grizzly Man Diaries-Video

I got the opportunity to see "The Grizzly Man Diaries." I saw the 2005 documentary "The Grizzly Man," a while ago and I thought it was really well done. The documentary captures how Treadwell spent his life with grizzly bears for a third of the year for 13 years in Katmai National Park in Alaska. The bears were everything to Treadwell, and he really considered them human. Treadwell camped out in the park, and captured almost everything he experienced through video, photo, or recording it in his journal.

The documentary ends after explaining how Treadwell came to a brutal death at the hands (or claws, actually) of the very animal he had devoted his life to. A savage grizzly. "The Grizzly Man Diaries" does a great job of filling in the rest of the story.

While the documentary is a great recap of Treadwell and his endeavors, the Diaries is everything that's missing. You truly get a glimpse into how much the bears meant to Treadwell. Not only that, but the footage he gets is unreal. As you watch, you can't help but notice the massive powers of the bears that he came to love. In various instances, Treadwell comes close to a dangerous encounter with grizzly bears, but softly talks to them, and they end up leaving him alone. Treadwell, after this had happened a few times, was now convinced and overconfident in his abilities. He thought the bears loved him and cherished him, as he did them. He personified them. This was the mistake that cost him his life.

The Diaries is all the unseen footage no one ever saw that Treadwell took while living at Katmai. It also shares his journal entries, that he kept frequently while living with the bears. It truly is a remarkable thing to view, and especially after you take into account how much time Treadwell spent there, and how absolutely close and unafraid he was of the bears.

The footage alone is enough to make you surprised. On numerous accounts, Treadwell gets amazing shots of the bears fishing for salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. Time after time, the bears pull a champion fish out of the water, to tear it apart with their teeth and claws. Treadwell captures on film multiple fights between bears, both play wrestling and in a show of dominance, or for a potential mate. He captures the bears mating, and an intimate moment between a mom and her cubs as she nurses them.

All this is underscored by the fact that Treadwell, while he knew so much about the bears, seemed to dismiss how dangerous they were, and that they would not hurt HIM. Sadly, after his girlfriend Amie came to visit him in his last year at the park, a bear attacked and killed both of them. The entire thing is captured on audio, as one of them started recording before the bear struck, thinking that it would be a good opportunity for film.

The eerie thing when you watch the documentary is how Treadwell seems to note that his own demise is imminent. While never saying it outright, he seems perfectly comfortable with the fact that he would one day die because of a bear. This alone is shocking. Treadwell makes multiple references both on camera and in his journal that the bears could kill him easily and acts like he almost EXPECTS it.

I do recommend watching it, as it was very entertaining, educational, informative, and just an amazing sight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Legacy to End in Ruins (And Rightfully So): The Debacle at Penn State

So the indictment is in. Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator of multiple winning teams under legendary head coach Joe Paterno (JoePa), was indicted by a grand jury earlier today for sexual assault of minors, in multiple cases. Sandusky started a charity while coached, called "Second Mile", which was dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families. Second Mile raises millions of dollars through fundraisers for these kids, and the man who was running it, Sandusky, was essentially making it easier for himself to prey on innocent children through a good cause. Sandusky, who was no longer coaching after 1999 because he was dismissed by Paterno, still held full emeritus status at the university with access to almost all the facilities, a parking pass, and numerous other perks. Sandusky even still held an office there, and was present up until even last week.

The details of this case, after reading the grand jury case report through the Washington Post (Warning: some details are graphic) are, to say the least disturbing. I felt physically sick at points when reading the report and some of the details by the victims.

The hard part to swallow of this whole thing is that something very, very wrong was going on with the Penn State football program for around 13 years. Sandusky, a sub-human predatory monster, had been sexually assaulting kids, and had actually been witnessed on more than one occasion by more than one person raping minors, boys who weren't even teens in some cases. People knew this was going on. Paterno himself knew this was going on. It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that someone didn't go to the authorities on this and that it was all kept in house.

"Victim 2" as he is referred to in the report, was witnessed being raped by Sandusky in the shower by a graduate assistant, Mike McQuery, who stopped by the locker room one night and saw what was going on. Sandusky had a history of bringing boys into the showers after he started spending time outside of the charity with some of the children. McQuery clearly saw what was going on and was upset by it. He left, and called his father, unsure of what to do. His father directed him to tell Paterno. Paterno testified that he remembers the call and the report McQuery left him, and that he told the athletic director, Tim Curley, as well as his immediate superior. Curley, who was charged with lying under oath during the trial, claims that he was reported to as there was something going on, but referred to as "mere horseplay."

Lots of question will and should be asked about all of  this. Why did McQuery not do anything to stop what was going on right away? When Sandusky was terminated in 1999 did it have to do with his inappropriate and appalling behavior with kids? If so, why was he still allowed access to the facilities? McQuery was later promoted to a good coaching position in the organization. Was this a reward for his silence in not going to authorities? Why would he even want to stay there after he witnessed such a heinous act, and seeing nothing was being done about it? What did Penn State president Graham Spanier know and when? Spanier signed a "ban" of Sandusky bringing children into the facilities in 2002. How could you sign that ban and not ask why? Where was the follow-up? Why wasn't it enforced, as Sandusky continued bringing kids in after the ban was signed?

So much of this is completely disgusting. For those outside the college football world, Joe Paterno is a true icon. He is probably one of the top ten coaching legends of all time. He's been on the Penn State sideline, leading them for 46 years, the longest tenure of any head coach in FBS history. He holds the record for victories by a head coach in Division I football, and was instrumental in the brand building of Penn State. He was known as a "man of conscience" in the sport, leading a squeaky clean program and making sure his players did their school work and didn't use performance enhancing drugs. Over time, Paterno grew into a legend bigger than the university itself. Joe Paterno IS Penn State.

With that being said, none of it matters. Paterno needs to go, and he needs to go now. He wants to coach Saturday in Penn State's game against Nebraska. Are you kidding me? Paterno was the big man on campus, and he knew what was going on. He found out in '98, and got rid of Sandusky the next year. Related? I think maybe. Why wouldn't Paterno alert authorities? If his inaction led to even one more child being victimized by this monster, then Paterno's ethical and moral conscience is not fit to be a part of any university or lead any program. Paterno is a father himself, as well as a grandfather. How could he even go one day without feeling sick from guilt? He needs to resign. Paterno did what he was supposed to do, and told his superiors. Sometimes, Mr. Paterno, just doing what is necessary legally is not right. Sometimes, you just need to do what is right period. Paterno could have put a stop to this at any time, and he knew the events of what was going on. There was supposed to be a press conference at 12:20 today by Paterno, but Spanier canceled it and said it will not be rescheduled. Which is a shame, because I would have liked to hear the explanation. I was genuinely interested in hearing what he had to say. I don't think it would have changed anything, but maybe there's something we're missing. But now, he's missed his chance.

The bottom line is that the Penn State football program was more concerned with protecting their image than protecting innocent little kids. And for that, shame on all of them. Including you, JoePa. Especially you. This monster was enabled for over 13 years and 8 victims (that we know of, and I'm sure there will be many more) have been robbed of their innocence due to this monster. Paterno and Spanier need to step down, and they need to step down now. And if they don't, the Board of Trustees should remove them. This type of conduct isn't acceptable from anyone, regardless of your legacy. Regardless of how many championships you have won. Regardless of whose reputation it might hurt, or who might lose their jobs. Clean house, and clean house completely.

One has to wonder if this is just a sad progression and development of the era of big-money college football. Where legacy overrules common morals and conscience. I hope that this culture isn't what continues, for it's unacceptable. These heinous acts and the subsequent cover-up are despicable, and I hope any alumni writes the Board of Trustees demanding for action on the parts of Paterno and Spanier, or they will not be receiving any more support from you.

As for Sandusky, I have nothing to say. Should you be found guilty, as I pray you will be, I hope the Pennsylvania Justice System treats you severely and harshly, as you deserve.

To Paterno, I guess the biggest question I have to ask is...was it worth it?

Revised census report reports that poverty rate hits a record 49+ million, a record high.
5 prospects to play Where's Waldo if a potential Where's Waldo movie ever happened. And when I say ever happened, I mean probably will happen soon.
Man sees a unique bird on a lake north of NYC. Is that a...friggin flamingo?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

10 most expensive zip codes in America. 5 located in NY, 4 in California and 1 in NJ. Surprising.
Mark Sanchez of the Jets showing how real football players react to a feint by another player.


So this was the launch trailer for a new game that has come out, "Rocksmith". It came out at the end of last month and me and my friend split the cost and went out and bought it. The retail was $80, so a little bit more than your standard $60 console game, but it also came with the "RealTone Cable", the cord that plugs into your guitar jack and then goes into a USB port on your console.

The concept of the game was simple-Guitar Hero with real guitar. As soon as I heard about the game I was intrigued. After I saw the trailer, I immediately decided I had to buy it. I started getting into guitar a\bout 7 or 8 years ago. My parents and I went to a local Music Den and we picked one out as part of a birthday gift. I ended up getting one of those starter sets they offer for around 200 bucks, and it came with a shitty guitar and a shitty amp and all your basics, cords, strap, etc. About a week after I bought it, I was already becoming disinterested. Playing guitar was not as easy as I thought (or maybe hoped) it'd be. It was TOUGH. Very tough, as a matter of fact. But I could figure out a couple cool beginner riffs (i.e., Smoke on the Water, Iron Man, Whole Lotta Love, Sunshine of Your Love, etc.) and that was basically all I did with it. I'd pluck a couple of those riffs once or twice a week and I'd get to show them to my parents, and that was about it.

I really never got fully interested into learning all about guitar a few years later. After I started becoming more passionate and into music, I had a brief period where I was always with friends who were into guitar. After a while, I started to pick up some things. Guitar Center at this point was running an awesome deal where, if you were a member, you could go pick out any amount of equipment up to $1,000 and not pay a penny on it for over 12 months. Of course, heavy interest kicked in if you didn't pay it off before then, so I made sure I did just that. It was then that I got my first and only prize guitar-a brand new pure white Fender Stratocaster, with a decent Peavey amp and an impressive distortion pedal, as well as some brand new cords and a strap. A couple months later, I actually played a few shows to fill in for an ex-friend's band. The music wasn't anything incredibly complex and I was mostly playing some basic rhythm stuff, but it still made me feel like I was actually doing something.

After my ex-friend and I had a falling out, I put the guitar away for a while. A long while, actually. And when I finally picked it up again, I was pretty much right back where I had started. I remembered a few things here and there, but overall, I had regressed almost completely back to novice level. This was frustrating as all hell, because I actually used to be pretty competent with it.

The friend I split the game with, Jon, and I, had actually been starting to play together for a while before the game was released. He was showing some interest in learning and it had started to get me back into it a little bit. Overall though, improvement was slow, and trudging through basic learning and just trying to put in hours of practice just seemed like too much of a chore.

Enter Rocksmith. Like I said, I thought the concept was brilliant. Now that I've finally put a good 8 hours of gameplay into the game, I have to say, I'm very impressed.

This game will be perfect for any beginning guitarist. Not only do you get to play along with songs, the game also features a "Technique Challenges" mode, where you get to work on certain skills associated with guitar like hammer-ons and pull-offs and harmonics, but also a "Guitarcade", with mini-games that also develop these skills, and where you can work on scales, shifting, and tremolo, among others.

One part that is good, and actually a drawback, of Rocksmith is that the game automatically adapts to your ability. If you nail a particular section of a song, the game pumps it up a little bit. Didn't do so well in the last section? Then the game tones it down. Though this is a really awesome part, this can be frustrating as you don't get to set the difficulty yourself, and some players may find it a tad annoying.

The presentation in the game is really well done. Though they might rethink and reboot the format to present how the player is going to play the notes during songs, overall its really well done. The "venues" and "crowd" are lacking, but these are background aspects to your overall gameplay experience anyway.

All in all, the game is incredible, and I recommend to to people who are finding running through your scales and trying to establish finger dexterity incredibly frustrating. With this game, you're playing a game and learning a skill. You're learning to play guitar, through a game. It's mindblowing.

I've read a couple critics who have questioned whether or not your skill will actually improve, and I will testify that both my friend as well as my skills have improved since we've started playing. He's played a bit more than me already and has improved more so due to that, but I certainly have noticed an improvement with myself as well. Also, I'm no longer frustrated and giving up if I can't figure something out anymore. Because now, it's more of my gamer attitude where I'm like, "Well, I have to beat this part!"

I hope Rocksmith sets a new landscape for learning skills through video games, because I think this a really cool step for games to take, and I'm excited to see what comes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy Movements

I feel like offering an opinion an the "Occupy Wall Street" movements that have now swept across the country like wildfire. What was once just a movement located literally on Wall Street has spread across the country, to numerous cities in America-dubbed "Occupy Oakland", "Occupy L.A.", "Occupy Atlanta", whatever the case may be.

After reading Rich Lowry's editorial in the New York Post, where he makes the case that the movement is primed for violence and it will only get worse, I have to say they are getting a very unfair depiction through most of the mainstream press. While the events of Occupy Oakland were despicable, I do believe the message of the movement was hijacked by violent anarchists and malcontents who saw a great chance to be disruptive and act completely out of line. Starting fires in the street and throwing things at cops is no way to get your message across.

With that being said, I don't believe the movement has ever gotten a fair shake. Since it is (generally) a leftist movement, of course there is a knee-jerk reaction to dismiss the protests by the likes of Fox News and other conservative outlets, but even besides that it seems the main thing you see from the protests are an extreme outlier. While it's easy to categorize them all as communist, lice-ridden, freeloading hippies, let's be careful before we overgeneralize. I believe the majority of this movement is peaceful and has good intentions.

Just like the Tea Party, which was also mocked relentlessly in the media and touted as a bunch of gun-toting, Obama-hating racists, the fact is the majority there too were just concerned Americans, worried about the direction of the country and the country's spending and massive borrowing. All you saw during coverage of Tea Party rallies were a few crazies, holding their signs high, covered in whatever slander happened to be on there. The same thing has happened to the Occupy movement. Signs that read, "Death to Capitalism" scream a communist message that doesn't resonate with the majority of Americans, myself included. You're never going to win me over waving a flag with a hammer and a sickle. But still, isn't the point being missed?

Just like I agreed with the main point of the Tea Party, that government has become oppressive and overly bureaucratic to the average individual and small business, I agree with the Occupy movement's message that this continued influence from the very few obscenely wealthy has corrupted our political process and our politicians. This is one area where we don't have enough government. The government should be there in situations like this to bust up these giant mega mergers and corporations who smother competition and the average American's say in the political process. We need to get the money, the driving force of what leads to these decisions that constantly favor the big over the small, out of American politics. This is the only thing that would bring back capitalism. True capitalism. Not the phony crony capitalism we have now. For capitalism to work and succeed, it is essential to have competition. And giant corporations crush any competition they can as soon as they can, for it impedes on their profits. We have corporate socialism now, and believe me, that is not true capitalism.

Big Anything is good for no one. Especially the average middle class American. Whether that be Big Government or Big Business, it's all turned out bad. We need to put a stop to it. We, the people. When Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech in 1910 he warned the American people about the concentration of wealth in very few hands, and how it would be a great detriment to America and out society. Roosevelt was constantly at war with the tycoons of his day, the J.P. Morgans and the Andrew Carnegies, who he saw as essentially greedy and overbearing, not respecting their workers or their labor, and trying to turn the tables more for themselves. Conservative ideologues would argue these progressive policies kill free market capitalism. Nothing could be further with the truth. And if it's that argument or Teddy Roosevelt, I have no problem standing with Mr. Roosevelt, in fact I take great pride in doing so.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

History-Why it Matters

These are polarizing times for everyone, and it's easy to get caught up in this pessimistic idea that America is in the worst shape it's ever been. But honestly, this is just what happens. The country goes through rough times, and then it has good times. It goes in cycles. But, keeping this in mind, I think it's easy to get overwhelmed by things when we don't learn our history.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that Fewer than half of American eighth graders know the purpose of the Bill of Rights. Not to mention 3/4 high school seniors can't name one power given to Congress by our Constitution. Is this the new norm? Knowing the framework, background and values of your country should be essential to all of us, and we clearly aren't doing a good job in teaching it. For how do you fault someone for not knowing something when they were never taught or even made an effort to be taught it to begin with?

History will preserve the records of wars past and events long gone. But those who have passed and remember and experienced those wars will take with them to their graves something only they remember. The fight against fascism during World War II. Brother shooting brother during the Civil War. Airstrikes scorching Earth in Vietnam.

One day, we too, will be gone from this Earth, and we'll take with us memories of September 11, the tragic event that marks our generation. Will anyone remember at all after we are gone?

It's important for each generation to pass down their history to the next generation, for that is your responsibility. And a little bit of learning and a little bit of remembrance causes us all to stop and say, "Hey, maybe these times aren't so bad." At one point in this country, we were literally killing each other. At another, lines ran entire blocks for people who were waiting for just a piece of bread. And in the 1960's, our cities were literally burning.

So take a moment before you compare our political, social and economic situations now, in 2011, to the end of the country. And remember that we've been through this before. And of course we'll get through it again. And if no one was able to teach you what you should already know, then teach yourself. That's the best way to learn anyway. We shouldn't ever forget everything that's happened before us and the lessons it teaches us and the stories it brings. Not only for ourselves, but for our children and their children. Arming yourself with this information is the most effective weapon against demagogues who would try to redeem the dictators of the past, justify slavery and racial and religious persecution, and make heros of terrorists that threaten us today.

History is not just nostalgia, and it's not just an answer to a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" question. It's what will guide us into the future. So don't be afraid to pick up a history book, and learn from those who have learned before you.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Everyone loves Halloween. Except bitter old people and killjoys. But screw them. Everyone else loves Halloween. And why not? Happy little kids dressing up, cool decorations, candy, and just a generally "fun" sort of spirit. I know the spirit is supposed to be spooky and whatever, but the idea generally just comes off as fun.

In the spirit of October 31st, I'd like to share a few things. Both about what I see now and what I remember about Halloween.

First off, my house had maybe 6 trick-or-treaters this year. And I was dumbfounded by the utter laziness that all the parents of these children were in turn passing onto their kids. What is this nonsense with driving your kids to every single house? When the hell did that become the thing to do? When I was a kid too young to go out by myself, a parent or two (mine or someone else in the party's parent) would walk with us wherever we were going. There was none of this driving your kid to every single house. Sure, if you wanted to trick or treat in the next town over, a drive is perfectly acceptable. But literally escorting your kid 20 feet, having them run to the door, get their candy, then run back to the SUV and pull up another 20 feet? Not only is it completely lazy, it's a pain. I looked out onto my street when one of these groups of kids came to witness a virtual motorcade of cars and trucks. At least 5, in a line. One car for each kid. couldn't coordinate that better? Come on. When I was a kid, you walked the whole night until your damn feet hurt. And then you walked some more. And you were out there for hours dragging your pillowcase that felt like it weighed 50 pounds, and damnit you liked it. And if it was cold and the only thing you had on was your thin costume material, you sucked it up, cause that candy wasn't making its way into your bag by itself. And at the end of the night, after you got back, you knew you earned every single piece of candy in that bag. Every single piece of candy tasted that much sweeter. Not only that, but it was a bonding experience with your fellow trick-or-treaters and whatever parents came along too. Your parents got to see you having a great time and making sure your safe, (and checking your candy of course), and you were out there trekking with your fellow trick-or-treaters the whole night. And when you passed out in your sugar-induced coma at the end of the night with Hershey's chocolate all over your face, you were happy cause all that candy was yours, and rightfully so.

Now, enough with that. A few more points.

Remember those asshole kids who used to take more than their fair share at those houses with no one home, but they'd leave a bowl out filled with candy? What the hell. That used to tick me off then, and it does even more so now. Move along there, you already grabbed 4 handfuls. That bowl was brimming with all the good stuff before you got your ass up there. Then you'd get up there and there's like 3 Jolly Ranchers, some licorice and some candy I've never even heard of. Thanks, you greedy prick.

Also, what's up with the old people who hand out change? Or even worse, fruit? And why is it always old people? I respect you're trying to get kids to eat healthier or whatever with the fruit, but come on. It's Halloween. No kid wants to go to a door and get an apple after they say trick or treat. Plus, I don't even know where that apple's been, Grandpa. Just buy a bag of Reese's and save everyone the headache.

Where has all the creativity gone with costumes too? I actually did see some decent ones this year, but overall, it seems to be getting worse. And especially for people in my generation. And especially girls. Oh, you're a football player? Really? I thought you were a hooker. Since when do football players wear high heels, fishnets and a football jersey that my cat couldn't even fit into? Well, my cat is insanely huge, but still. You know what I mean. But in general, creativity...come on guys. We can do better than that! Of course vampires, skeletons, ghosts, witches and werewolves and stuff are always appropriate and classic, but that can't be your thing EVERY year. Even if you try something new and it's a monumental failure, hell at least you gave it a shot. This is also from a guy who's dad used to suggest EVERY year to "just be a ghost. Yeah, just cut out some holes in some bedsheets." Thanks, dad. Of course, looking at the cost of some costumes these days, maybe he has a point.

So I guess that's all I have to add. I know this post was a bit disorganized, but hey, it's Halloween. Cut me some slack. Be safe, and thanks for the read.

Awesome new song off I Declare War's new album, out of Seattle, Washington. Brutal. Still one of the freshest, most spirited bands in the current metal scene today. Give it a listen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More funny cat pictures

I knew you couldn't trust black licorice.

Everyone is Hitler...Not Really

Hank Williams Jr. comparing the President to Hitler

So this story is a bit dated I know, but I'd like to use it as an example for the utter rage I feel whenever one of these stories surface. Hank Williams Jr., a country star (more so because of his dad than anything else, but that's another story.)  and also known as "the guy who does the Monday Night Football" theme  on Fox and Friends on Fox News comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. Yes, that Obama. And that Hitler. After the appearance, ESPN decided to take his theme song off of Monday Night Football. Now, this wouldn't make news if some guy had said it, but because a "celebrity" said it it made all the rounds.

First thing's soon as this story broke, my Facebook feed and Twitter exploded with "Oh, what happened to free speech, man? I thought this was 'Merica, man!" Well, it is still America. And free speech does not apply to this case. Stop crying like little girls and learn your country's history and at least have a basic understanding of the Bill of Rights, one of the most important documents for our country, and, arguably, the world. The free speech and 1st Amendment apply to persecution by government for something you say. Not to private enterprise. So if ESPN wants to take his theme off of their show because they think his stupid comments are going to hurt their ratings, that's their right. No government official was going to come after Hank Williams for his comment. No agency was fining him. No department was arresting him or restricting his speech.

Second, stop the Hitler comparisons. All of you. And especially you. Not you, you're okay. But you, definitely. Why? Why Hitler? Let's leave Hitler as Hitler, shall we? I'm sick and tired of people comparing anyone they don't like politically to an evil dictator, racist, genocidal, power-hungry maniac who single-handedly started a world war and was accountable for millions of lost lives. The President is not Hitler. George Bush is not Hitler. Scott Walker is not Hitler and guess what? Chris Christie isn't Hitler either. Now, I get it's a comparison. If you were to say, "Stalin, man. He's like Hitler." I'd be like, "Yeah, that's fair. He is like Hitler." Or, "Mao Zedong, man. He's like...Hitler." Ok, also fair. President Obama? No. Not so much. President Bush? Nah...not really Hitler.

I know I harped on that a bit, but I really wanted to get that point across. Please...MODERATION! That's all I ask for. Just a little. I know people are passionate about their politics and the rhetoric is heated and people are mad and the country's going to hell and yadda yadda yadda...but does calling any political figure we like Hitler helping matters? Isn't that throwing gas on the fire? Let's lighten up people.

Oh, P.S. Hank Williams III is 10 times more awesome than Hank Williams Jr. anyhow. Especially in music. Hank Williams Jr. has the Monday Night Football theme song and (I assume) some lame country albums? How about Assjack, a punk metal band? Yeah, that's right. Assjack. Awesome. Here they are, doing Assjack stuff.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The snowstorm not many saw coming...

I gotta say, this snowstorm was a doozy. Growing up a Jersey boy (mostly) I've seen my share of blizzards and snowstorms, but I don't remember one of this scale before even Halloween comes. Not only was it a whopper, with over 8-10 inches having been dumped as I write this, but it was almost completely unexpected. Earlier I had heard some rumblings of a little snowfall over the weekend, but certainly not insane amounts with winds and the cold, and terrible, terrible roads.

As I write this right now, a tree lays on its side about 3 feet from the end of my driveway, and numerous phone lines and other trees came down on one of the main streets around here. I had to be out in the storm, by no choice of my own might I add, and I got stuck at least 6 times. The roads were literally impassable at some parts.

The problem with storms like this being so unexpected is that the small town municipalities get caught completely with their pants down. I'm not blaming anyone, because I hadn't heard anyone predicting this, but the storm was going all day and the first plow I saw out on the roads was around 6:30 at night. And even then they were still few and far between.

Getting stuck in the road causes tremendous frustration. My poor steering wheel in my car was at the back end of many of my angry, frustrated fists as I again shifted to reverse, then drive, then low gear, to make almost no progress at all.

However, as corny as this may be, born out of this frustration and helplessness and desperation, is a cool side of the human spirit that we usually only get to see in awful scenarios. The large majority of people don't even bother, but as I was stuck at an intersection trying to turn, the guy behind me on a snowmobile came up to my window and asked if I needed a push. I thanked him greatly and he gave me a push. Nothing. 2 minutes later, 2 other fellows on a snowmobile came, stopped, and without a word to either of us, got beside him and also gave it their all. And, boom, like magic, my car flew out onto the road. With my left hand I lowered my window quick to give them a generous wave and to shout "Thanks so much" as my car slid unsteadily out onto the road.

Later on in the night, I was able to return the favor to another fellow. I saw him struggling on the side of the road, and I pulled my car up in front of him a ways. I jumped out and jogged back to him and asked him if he needed a hand. He said sure, if I didn't mind, and remarked how he lived literally like a quarter of a mile away. Cruel circumstances. I got behind his car, and in front of his car, and went at it for 10 to 15 minutes. The 5th time I had gotten in back of his car to push when he changed to drive, I pushed as hard as I could, giving it my absolute all. And I felt the car and the restrictive snow start to give way. Gritting my teeth, I threw all my weight into it, felt the wheels dislodge, and fell onto my hands as his car got back onto the road. He pulled up, stopped, and I ran up to him. He shook my hand and thanked me, to which I said no problem, and he was on his way.

As I got back in my car, I had a good feeling. As frustrated as I was with my circumstances, the storm, and getting stuck many times throughout the night, there was still something very heartwarming about the connection of a stranger helping another stranger in your community-not for money, or for pride, or for the word to spread, but simply to help out another. To do a good deed. And though the large majority still just drive by as you shift to drive, and to reverse, and to drive, and to reverse, the small percentage that do stop mean more than that apathetic majority anyway. For they're the ones making a change, and not turning a blind eye to someone else's problem. A problem that could be solved with just a little bit of your time, and a little bit of effort. That's what makes the difference.

John McCain loves his moderately funny joke about Congress' low approval rating. He loves it 27 times on Twitter, at last count.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interesting take on a poll...

So one of my assignments today for my journalism class was to go out on campus and ask people a simple poll question. The question: If the presidential election were held today, would you vote for Barack Obama or the republican nomination? Then I was instructed to get the names and majors of those answering, or if it was a staff member, their job at the college.

Before I started polling, I thought the answers would be pretty balanced. Morris County is of high, extremely Republican, but I figured Obama as well as the Democratic party appear more appealing to youthful voters, so I figured the answers would be pretty even. The results:

Not sure/No opinion/Apathetic/They're all the same-4

Now I have to say I was surprised by this, that the results were so heavy towards one side. I thought maybe it was just my sample, but this seemed to be the norm for the results my classmates got as well.

So I began to wonder what may have led to this, and whether it was the fact that this was party allegiance (as Morris County is extremely red) passed on by parents, or simply disillusioned youth who weren't happy about the results of the current President. It's pretty clear that most youth out of high school or in high school are likely to follow the same political affiliation as their parents, but is this the determining factor?

It seemed pretty clear that most of the people I interviewed who said they would vote Republican were voting Republican no matter who the candidate was. One quote, from P.J., a business major, "Yeah, I would never vote for Obama in a million years. In fact, I'd take a juice box over Obama." That may be so, P.J., but I'm not sure a juice box can run for office.

Owen, the one staff member I interviewed, seemed to be a bit more thoughtful with his answer. Owen's job at the college, self-described, is he "takes care of the air conditioning." Owen relayed that he would probably vote Republican, but "both sides of the aisle have really disappointed me, and I'm still not certain."

The unsure answers seemed to be the most organic answers out of all of them. Max, a music major, had the best quote out of my polling. When I approached Max, he seemed rather hesitant to delve into politics. But when he saw that I personally wasn't going to cast any judgment on his response, Max went off on his disappointment with the system and both parties, as well as Obama. He concluded his thoughts with, "Voting for politicians's kinda like putting both hands on a burning hot stove and then trying to determine which hand feels better."

With the election still more than a year away, I'm surprised more answers weren't the unsure kind. But from my and my class's sample, the results were very heavily skewed toward the GOP. But, maybe Max is onto something. Maybe we're all just burning our hands, and trying to figure out what feels better. But burning your hands is better than cutting them off, which could be the end result of an apathetic generation of youth.

Funny cat pictures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just some thoughts on smoking.

So smokers have come under some pretty heavy fire and criticism over the last few years. I suppose it's easy to understand. It's not the most pleasant habit in the world to say the least. It smells, its not pleasant to inhale smoke (unless you are partaking) and, of course, it's not good for you.

With that being said, I have to say what I reject about how unpopular smoking is become is the people who become absolute zealots on the subject. And then, of course, government has to jump into the act too. (Why is that always what happens, by the way?) I still don't understand how it's government's authority, or jurisdiction, to tell a business what they can allow in their business. Unless it's something outrageously illegal, shouldn't this be left up to the owner of the business?

Maybe I'm beating a dead horse, but I really feel like it's stepping on people's liberties and choices. I don't advocate that everyone starts lighting up stogies wherever they go, as you should be mindful of others around you, but on the other hand, let people make up their own minds. We're supposed to be informed citizens here, not obedient disciples.

My school, County College of Morris, passed the most ridiculous smoking ban a couple of years ago. The ban was outright. No smoking on campus. The only time smoking is permissible is in your car, in the parking lot, with the windows all the way up. If you just said WHAT?! really loud, you had about the same reaction I did when I first heard of this ridiculous ban, except followed by THE FUCK after the what. Isn't college supposed to be about teaching us to make our own decisions? To become adults? Not some nanny school where they say, "You're all adults now, you make your own choices. Except for THAT! Are you crazy? Don't you know that that is bad for you?" What garbage. The school, when the ban was passed, said it was to deter people from smoking and for their "Clean Air Initiative." HA! Clean air. This is the same school that pretty much forces all their students to drive themselves to the school, with over 14 parking lots, and yet still has no emphasis or even TRIES for public transportation to school. That's gotta be better for the air...cough, cough. And really? That's bad for you? How much money has been pumped into anti-smoking propaganda and warning labels and taking the tobacco industry to court over every little thing? Too much. If someone doesn't know about the dangers of smoking by now, I don't know what the problem is.

The other problem with the ban is that people DON'T STOP SMOKING. You're not going to get people to stop, nor should you. Just set up designated smoking areas. Then everyone wins. People who don't want to be around smokers won't go near the smoking areas. Now, instead, whenever you come out of Demare Hall you're greeted by 70 kids huddled in a mass smoking cigarettes, and breathe in enough of the stuff to equal about a pack in the twenty steps past the doors. It makes no sense.

My main point is to let people make their own choices. Let's not jump down people's throats for doing something that they enjoy, and if they're doing it respectfully, get off them. Just my thoughts.

Washington's Mt. Rainier casting a unique shadow, as it does very rarely when it blocks the sun.

Earth will have a population of 7 billion's some photos to let that sink in.

Gotta say...looks pretty good. Clint Eastwood directing and DiCaprio is a can't miss his last few. Also, this is funny. Article detailing how the FBI said to the filmmakers that the former director didn't have a crossdressing fetish despite the rumors, and the movie depicts him doing so.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Funny bear

Awesome article on how DNA may carry memory of living conditions in childhood.

Ridicule of protesters goes a bit too my opinion.

I was listening to the Mark Levin show tonight for fun, and about 2 hours into the show he referred to the protesters across the country (starting with Occupy Wall Street) as "losers, has-beens, criminals" and the like. Honestly, don't any of the right-wing pundits see that marginalizing a major movement like the protests is doing the same exact thing the left did to the Tea Party when it first started? By that logic, everyone in the Tea Party is a crypto-fascist racist. Oh, the irony. Please people, all I ask for is a little moderation...
Interesting to see where this goes. A Goldman exec? Insider trading? No way...

Testing the Waters

So I'm deciding to try this out to experiment.  I hope it goes well, and I am hopeful...