Monday, December 12, 2005

This is your public transportation on drugs...

Here in Chicago, the public transportation experience is usually so low key, and on average so reliable, that I don't even think about the few times when I do miss the cocoon of personal space I had when I drove to work every day in L.A. Yes, I do recall the times when I've ridden home on the 'L' late enough through the Addison Stop on the Red Line (for you non-Chicago folks, that's the stop for Wrigley Field...and about a hundred bars inside 3 blocks), where the guy who just got on sitting next to me really could go either way on blowing chunks right there in the train...or not...while asking his booty call on the cell phone whether he should just go ahead, or wait till he gets there (extra mints, cepacol, and some double-mint gum before you get there, right???). Rarely do you get the crazies riding the train during rush hour, you know, the assorted hardcore unemployable - the homeless who don't, or won't, take their pills cuz it means following "the rules" of whatever shelter they'd have to live at to get the free meds (they're the ones who mutter to themselves while looking at you straight in the eye); the gin-blossomed alkies (are they retired, or just layed off and liked living inside a bottle?) who look 70 but you know are in there 40s; and the druggies, usually not stoners (too early), but the tweakers who are just coming down from 3 days of meth-fueled orgies (does an orgasm count if it actually SLOWS your heart rate?). Usually, all these types share some kind of claustrophobia where they avoid crowded standing-room-only trains like the plague.
Today was one of those rare occasions when desperation met bad timing. Sitting behind me was a janglingly raw bundle nerves of a woman, ostensibly transporting a child of about the age of 4 home. It wasn't clear what the relationship was, but I never heard the boy say mommy. The woman was evidently coming down off of something, and it was terrifying to listen to as the panic in her voice got steadily louder and louder. For his part, the little boy was heart-breakingly acting like a little boy riding on the training...pointing out the window, singing songs, and generally well-behaved. The woman though...woah...Phrases like "Leave me alone!" and "Whatever" and "What do you want from me???" were her only responses to the boy's attempts at engaging with her. The only thing she wanted to know was how many stops until hers (Yes...we shared the same stop). The little boy piped in with every stop...Look Fullerton...Why are we waiting so long at Belmont...Addison, Cubbies! When she wasn't saying "Don't touch me" and "Whatever", she recited like a mantra "Almost there" (interjected with "Shut up, already" to the little boy). When my (our) stop came, they both got up and I finally got a look at what everybody else had been observing on the train. The woman was thin...very thin...with bedraggled thin hair and big bags under her eyes. The little (latino looking, I think), was clean, dressed warmly, smiled slightly at everyone who met his eyes, but did not hold her hand ("Don't touch me, what are you doing?"). The look of relief was in everyone's eyes on that train, but especially the woman's. The little boy seemed to be taking everything in stride, unfortunately, as if he deals with this lady a lot. I stepped off the train, walked down the stairs, and never looked back.
Was she a tweaker? A heroin addict? Could she have been a paranoid schizophrenic at the tale end of the effectiveness of her dosage? Any and all of these are possibilities. But that little boy, how he could maintain his good spirits, as if he knew that he had to act on his best behavior just to get through the train ride home, as if he were the one in custody of the woman instead of the other way around...I don't know. I want to believe she just needed her meds, that the little boy just happened to be one of those good little children (if you've been around enough little kids, they're the ones who seem to have a sense of humor, and responsibility, about life even at the age of 2) who knew what he needed to do to make the situation better. Yet, terrifyingly awkward to witness. I see some strange things on the 'L', but this one's going to live with me for awhile.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A little wrap of SoCal

So I was looking through Mike's pics of his cycling group's La Tuna Canyon ride and was thinking "That's a lot of tight spandex...on the dudes! Where the 'eck are the pics of the dudettes' behinds...cheeky monkey" and then I saw that one pic of them hanging out at Baja Fresh. And then I was thinking "Gawd Dayum, I'm jonesing for a Baja Fresh burrito!"
I need me some Baja Fresh...black beans, not pinto...mmm...some verde sauce...whoa those salivary glands are kicking into high gear! I wonder what it would cost to open a Baja Fresh franchise in Chicago. *hmm...note to self, look up franchise info on Baja Fresh's corporate page* All we got is McDonald's version, Chipotle *meh...s'okay* Definitely gotta go to Baja Fresh when I'm back in SoCal.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

PAC 10 Boy in a Big 10 World

Full Disclosure - I have rooted against the Big 10 for as long as the first day I finally figured out that there were regional conferences in College Sports (around age 6, I think), and I rooted for UCLA just because my dad was rooting for USC (and I've reinforced the instinct to root against USC by going to a Catholic high school where it was a tacit requirement to root for Notre Dame - who doesn't remember 1988?). If you don't like college sports, then...I feel sorry for you *heh* It's about the only excuse for Americans to act provincial (i.e. Acting out regional standards - remember those?) without the PC police labeling you a sectarian or *gasp* a Libertarian.
So UCLA, one of the last undefeated teams in the country before today, got stomped on today by Arizona, a 2 and 6 team that UCLA had no business losing to, and certainly not 52 to 14. Oh, you ask, did you see it on TV? Glad you asked, oh voice in my head, because you're a darned good excuse for a blog entry. No, I didn't see it on the Tee Vee. I had to see it AS A NEWS SCRAWL ON ESPN!!! Oh, v.i.m.h (that's Voice In My Head) asked, why wouldn't the Tee Vee, like CBS, ABC, (NBC only shows home Notre Dame games, so I don't list them here), Fox Sports Net, ESPN, ESPN2, and TBS (when did TBS get into the business of televising College Football Games, huh???) air such a game with National and BCS implications? Well, v.i.m.h, the only kind of football I could watch ALL DAY (except, thank God {not a joke} that Notre Dame was playing at home today on NBC), was Big 10 football. Every channel. Yeah, I really want to watch Ohio St practice genocide on Illinois...40 to 2...such a nationally important game to show, what with illinois being 2 and 6, and 0 and 5 against their own conference.
Yeah, I know, oh v.i.m.h, I live in Chicago. I should be used to seeing Northwestern on the Tee Vee just because their up ter road in Evanston, and maybe friends, neighbors, and alumni want to see their Big 10 schools. Well. Screw that! I want to see my Pac 10 teams! Especially when they're making news! ESPN is cable channel! When did they have to start playing this "Regional Action" game that the Broadcast channels like CBS, NBC, and ABC have to abide by? What we're seeing, actually, is the "new" business model of cable. Cable doesn't want to win the battle of nielsen ratings. They've given up that fight. What's the best national TV rating that a cable show ever got? Quick, you won't need 2 digits to report it. So what does Cable do now? "Targeted" viewing. Which means, regional viewing habits. Why is that important? Advertising dollars. And it's more pernicious than that. Did you know that if my neighbor and I are watching the same cable show, at the same time, with the same cable provider, we wouldn't see the same commercials? Yeah, that's right...that cable box is doing more than just preventing pirates from stealing cable. It's recording my channel surfing habits. If I fit a certain model of viewer, I get all the Video Game, Tech, and Beer ads package...no matter WHAT channel I'm on. Yep, I'll be on the Oxygen channel (Hey, I can't help it if it's in between the History Channel and The Learning Channel!), but what commercials am I seeing? The AXE effect...or the Coors Twins...or an ad for the South Park DVD collection (season 5, baby!). Yeah, even though the show might be some gyno-warrior approved movie on a female-targeted cable channel, I'm going to see a Gilette ad (the best a MAN can get), or, totally crazy, a Just For Men commercial (don't get me started on why that damn Enzyte commercial follows me everywhere...).
So here's my question. If I can get commercials based on my demographic, why can't I get my Pac 10 games? It's only a matter of time when actual broadcast content will by tailored to the viewer, and not just ads. I'm still debating with v.i.m.h whether that's a good thing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Revenge of the Star Wars Nerds: Episode II

In response to the ground swell of interest for a release of the Theatrical versions of Episodes IV, V, and VI on DVD (right now you can only get them on VHS, like on eBay, or Laser Disc, like from a crazy guy in Japan):

"Lap Ti Nek"

And a retraction:

"Han, mi buki."

Monday, October 31, 2005

Revenge of the Star Wars Nerds

On behalf of all Star Wars Geeks who have been made fun of for the mode of dress, and even worse, their mode of speech, I just have one thing to say:

Ee Chutta!

Oh yeah, and one more thing:

Bo Shuda!

That oughta cover it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Poetry Time?

It's rhyming time! Actually, it's more like "me being lazy" time, so I thought I'd post something more prefab. It's an excerpt from a long form poem I've been writing off and on for over 10 years...will I ever finish?
* * * *
Then Bacchus spoke
As though he woke
From some protracted daze.
"Drink up," he said,
"And fill your head
Until you feel the blaze.

"The sudden heat
From gut to feet
Is something you must feel.
All senses fray,
Then go astray;
All hurts begin to heal.

"First suffers touch.
At first not much,
Just tingling fingertips.
But as you drink,
You start to think,
'I can't control my lips!'

"And when you speak,
All habits break:
You start to feel your worth.
Forbidden Id
Cracks through the lid,
And evil thoughts spew forth.

"Censorious mind
Cannot now bind
Your acts: You start to change.
What was repressed
Is now addressed
Out loud for all in range."

* * * *
"Soon sight turns dim.
What once was grim
Is now all fun and mirth.
Discernments fudge
When next you judge
A 'beauty's' ample girth.

"Fair features merge
With those that verge
On nearing the bovine.
Beer goggles don!
You ogle on
The homely and divine.

"No longer shy,
Your luck you try.
Abandon all your fears!
In drunken stance
Begin the dance
You've wanted all these years!

"A stranger's face
In strange embrace-
Regret is yet to come.
Don't know her name,
Or who's to blame,
But, Hey! You've gotten some!

"Experience
Has brought you thence.
It's meaningless, that's true.
Sensation, though,
Is all we owe
And all we're ever due.

"So go! Enjoy!
You're but a buoy
Tossed by the waves of life.
On crests we fly,
In troughs we cry,
No grand design, just strife."

Then Bacchus stopped.
His chin had dropped
And fallen 'gainst his chest.
He said no more,
Began to snore;
He drank too much, I guessed.

-From "Letters to Cupid, or A Quest of Love", 1995 - present

Monday, October 24, 2005

Software Analyst or Glorified Monkey Button Pusher

I was talking to my Dad the other day about how work was treating me (it's amazing how much my dad wants to talk to me about work now that he's retired...when he was working, he wouldn't say a word about it...but that's a blog for another day), and it dawned on just how much context makes a difference in a conversation. Now, I can talk to my dad for quite awhile about office politics (for a dude, he really is a gossip hound), and he might actually have something to say about that, but the second I start talking about what I actually do for work, I can almost hear his eyeballs slurping as they suck backwards into his skull when his eyes glaze over.
So what the heck do I actually do every day? "Work with computers" is about all my mom can say. My dad can be a little more descriptive and actually say, "He installs software". But, man, is it way more than that. Do you really want to know? For those of you who don't know, I work for a software company that develops database software for the healthcare industry (I can hear the slurping eyeballs out there already). Database software platforms can be super easy, like Filemaker Pro or Microsoft Access, or incredibly complex, like Oracle or SQL. Fine you say, I'm with you so far. Database software can be as easy as a front end GUI for data entry, something prettier than a spreadsheet view. But it can also incredibly complex when you design a Relational Database. Now you have to worry about referential integrity, orphan records, indexes...okay enough of that. Okay, you say, but you install the software, how hard is that? First I have to install the database, then I have to install a front-end GUI client that actually links up to this database, and I have to do it on several different versions of Windows. Throw security settings on servers and workstations, and now you start to get the idea. Installing this software isn't like downloading a file from the internet and then running the setup.exe. Now, since my expertise is installing the software, I actually have to know how the software can break...I have to analyze these conditions...analyze software...Software Analyst! Eureka!
So we're making progress here. Your eyeballs are slowly slurping back down from their hiding place. I would love to have bullet proof software that never fails, thereby approaching the holy grail of all software installers...Glorified Monkey Button Pusher...Sometimes I have days like that...good days...no headaches...the installation goes exactly step for step...all the OK and Next buttons line up just so..."I push de button...de elelater go down da hooollleee", as Baby Plucky would say. Those are good days. I can't say I've strung a ton of those days together, but hey, I wouldn't be analyst if they did.
So the next time someone says they're a Software Analyst, act like you know a little (very little) about it, and that dude or dudette will talk your ear off about software that acts like a wild animal. Sometimes you eat the bear...and sometimes the bear eats you. And the quest continues for the state of being known as "The Glorified Monkey Button Pusher."

To Blog or not to Blog

So...yeah...
Now that I've forever insulted the Bard with a title like that, I might as well make an attempt to justify why writing a blog resembles anything at all to one of the greatest soliloquies of all time (big ups to Hamlet, yo). Not to bore anyone anymore than I have to, but Shakespeare was the first English playwright to attempt portraying a character's inner turmoil in real-time. In Shakespeare's plays, you see a progression of his use of the Soliloquy from simple plot device for inner dialog of thought already in action into actual stream-of-consciousness wrestling with a decision before the act. Heady stuff (oh yes, a bad pun...if I keep writing any more of these, it won't be the last one you read, either). With Hamlet, Shakespeare introduced a character that had his own running meta-narrative (oooh...a blog buzzword...now you see where I'm going with this....). Not only did Hamlet keep talking things over with himself, he did it in a public way. Remember his play within a play...Was Hamlet the first blogger? Gertrude and Claudius seemed to think so, otherwise their reaction to the play should have been much different. Instead, they both immediately saw it as Hamlet's innermost thoughts presented for all the castle to see. We even get to see Hamlet talking to himself as he composes his play...meta-narrative while writing a meta-narrative...just...wow...
So why tie Hamlet's meta-narrative powers to something as mundane as blogging? Vanity, pure vanity...not just my attempt at a blog here, but the whole enterprise of blogging in general. Bloggers want the world to see their filtered versions of a personal meta-narrative as they describe their own personal views of the very personal world they live in. Me? I'm just as intellectually vain as any of them, so why not express my own vanity? I have a bias. I can string reasonably well thought-out sentences together. Heck, I can even sprinkle these sentences with halfway clever wit every now and then. Even better, I'm getting the mea culpa out of the way early. I know why I do it. Why blog? First, to entertain myself. If anybody else is entertained (they don't have to like it, they just have to want to read more), that's just gravy.
Do I lead an interesting life? Doubtful. What's going on in my head might be more entertaining than what I'm doing...but that's just what makes meta-narrative more interesting. I can eat a grape. Hemingway-style, that might read as, "He ate a grape, seedless, slightly unripe." But if I describe what's going on with my thoughts as I eat that grape...that's what a blog is all about. Oh, and please don't point out that I didn't actually describe eating the grape...If I did that, it would be just...unseemly.
So now that I've got my admission of vanity on the record, let the blogging begin.