Thursday, December 3, 2009

Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons Part III

(Intro and Parts I & II linked at bottom)

Catalina Erantzo Journal entries for the ship ‘Rebellion’.

June 8, 1522 – Lisbon. Lisbon sucks for Silk Cloth and Cheese prices. Tell me why I decided to try trading again? I think piracy is starting to look better and better..

Apparently the King of Spain is upset I took a ship. He said something about my ‘head on a pike’, which I find really strange. How can I explain my actions if my head is on a pike? I think ruling families should stop inbreeding, obviously its effecting their smarts.

June 9, 1522 – Lisbon. I ran into a trader at the tea house who was in his cups. I think he was dinking more than tea. He was easy to get information out of. After talking with Emilio last night, he said we need funds to repair, refit and eventually build our own, more powerful ships. So we’ll try this trading this out some more, I suppose it will be good to help train up sailing skills among our navigators as well.

Just before sailing I heard a rumour the Spanish Fleet was headed this way. So I moored  my recent ‘acquisitions’ and also made sure I kept on my flagship the navigators I wasn’t too sure about their loyalty. I’m going to continue the planned trade route and see what happens.

June 13, 1522 – Bordeaux. Traded Rock Salt, bought Raisins. Also sold that Silk Cloth I bought. Didn’t make much profit on it, but it made more room in my hold for other stuff.

June 14, 1522 – Open ocean. Discovered Nantes.

June 17, 1522 – London. I hope no one recognizes me. I think a few of those British Naos look a little too familiar. Sold Raisins, bought Wool.

June 19, 1522 – Amsterdam. Sold Wool, bought Iron Ore and Glass Beads.

I’m beginning to think this whole ‘Spanish Fleet’ rumour was just some trick played on me. I hate humanity.

June 22, 1522 – Open ocean. Had a close call with the Spanish Fleet. Thankfully fog was our friend and we were able to slip away. Faith in humanity restored.

June 27, 1522 – Lisbon.  Sold Iron Ore for a nice profit, bought Rock Salt. Pulled the Caravel Redonda out of mooring, I’m giving Alonzo a shot at commanding a ship. He’ll probably run it aground in the middle of the ocean.

June 29, 1522 – Madeira. Alonzo didn’t run aground! Shocking I know. Madeira is a nice island, ugly women though. The men are complaining. Sold Glass Beads for a huge profit. Obviously the natives are not too bright. Maybe they are part of the Spanish Royal family? Bought Sugar.

July 3, 1522 – Open ocean. Oh Shit!  The Spanish Fleet found me! Not a good sign. Alonzo takes off, the coward! See if I ever give him a reference! After a  few broadsides we were able to get away. Trap! Another fleet is coming up fast! Its Commander Ezequiel’s fleet! His flagship, the Santa Cruz, is signaling that if I surrender that I’ll get a ‘special pardon’, but what about Emilio and the crew? I think I shall bravely run away!

Surrounded! Blast it! This is it. My brother and fiancé will go unavenged. Emilio and the crew are behind me, we’ll go down fighting. All hands prepare to be boarded! What’s that? Their ships are breaking apart. My God! Fire!

Fire has spread to a few ships. They’re breaking off! They’re fleeing! What a relief! Boson! Take that man’s name! What’s he on about wreckage? What am I some environmentalist who wants to keep the ocean clean for the fishes? Hrmmmm. A Spanish officer? Well bring him aboard then. We can always kill him later. Well well well,  Apparently this is the  arson. Andreas Paella is his name.

He looks oddly familiar… Hey! He’s the vagabond sailor we met at the tea house in Seville. The one who encouraged us to go on with this venture! Strange to see him in the uniform of a Spanish officer.  Apparently he knew my fiancé  at school and wants to help. I’m still not sure, but since Alonzo the coward ran off, I’m short a navigator. I’m sleeping with a dagger under my pillow tonight though.

Introduction to New Horizons AAR

New Horizons Part I

New Horizons Part II

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons Part II

(Intro and Part I linked at bottom)

Catalina Erantzo Journal entries for the ship ‘Rebellion’.

May 17,1522 9:30 am – Left Seville, Spain under cloudy circumstances. Ok…. I stole a ship. Not a big one! Well ok, maybe it was a big one. What was I supposed to do? The damned Franco family of Portugal killed my brother and fiancé! Besides, it was only one ship, its not like they are going to miss it.

10:30 am – Well apparently they count the ships in harbour. Who knew? My First Mate, Emilio, saw some guards pointing at us and running to the Commander’s office as we ‘test sailed’ this new Galleon. Maybe I should have picked an older model?

12:30am – As we sailed out of the Rio Guadalqulvir we discovered Ceuta!  So that’s where it is! Considering my navigation skill and that its only a two day sail away, I would have thought I would have known where it was, but apparently not.

May 20, 1522 – Docked in Lisbon, Portugal. The lion’s den. After storming up to the Franco residence it was quietly mentioned to me it might not be such a good idea at this time. Something about ‘training’, ‘proof’, blah blah blah…

Took a mission at the guild to deliver a letter to Genoa. Seven hundred gold. I have no idea if this is even going to cover expenses, but if it doesn’t me and this old man are going to have a ‘talk.

May 24, 1522 – Open sea. Discovered Palma, Majorca. Looks like a shithole.

May 28, 1522 – After and 8 day sail we entered Genoa. Delivered mail.  I was told I had to sail BACK to Lisbon to get paid. I am not happy. No one has heard of Cash on Delivery?

Picked up a rookie navigator named Alonzo Orieda who begged to come along.

May 28, 1522 – Sailed into Pisa and picked up 20 lots of silk cloth. I need to bring in some money somehow to build up a bigger fleet and trading seems a good way to do that.

Picked up another navigator named Miguel Solis. Seems a solid type. Orieda is annoying.

May 30, 1522 – Discovered Algiers. Another shithole. I think the dysentery has dysentery.

June 3, 1522 – I sailed, I saw, I conquered. Off the Cape of Trafalgar I spotted a British merchant fleet. In my single Spanish Galleon I took on these 5 ships and won! I captured 3 ships (Nao, Carrack, Caravela Redonda), while 2 escaped (both Naos). I bet this astounding victory will be remember for centuries as the brave battle where one Spanish ship destroyed an English fleet!

One ship was carrying a large cargo of cheese (thank you God it wasn’t Limburger cheese). Hmmm. Spending money to buy goods and potentially lose money trading, or ‘liberating’ cargo and capturing ships. I think I need to think about this some more.

June 8, 1522 – After some difficulty with my new ships I sailed into Lisbon harbour again. This might be a good place to set up our headquarters. This will also give me a chance to hire out some people to keep an ear out for gossip I need.

Finished the mail mission. Apparently holding a knife to the old man’s throat means we are banned from Woolworth's. I’m not sure if its just that one or all of them. Emilio thinks its all of them.

Introduction to New Horizons AAR

New Horizons AAR Part I

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons Part I

My name in Inigo Montoya, you killed my father! Prepare to… No no no. Wait! That’s not it!  *sigh* Oh God, this is going to be one of those days isn’t it?

My name is Catalina Erantzo and I am a pirate. I didn’t start out that way it just sort of happened. Shall I tell you my story? Well gather round children and I shall tell you my tale.

One fine spring day in 1522 I was walking towards the harbour in Seville to see if anyone at the dockyard had heard anything about my brother and fiancé's fleet. It was overdue and I was starting to get worried. It was common for other fleets to be late, but not with my brother Michael’s fleet. He was a fine navigator and sailor and was always able to edge a few extra knots that others couldn’t. Growing up I learned a lot about sailing from him and using that knowledge was able to get into the Spanish Navy, even though women were not usually allowed on ships. The navy was where I met my fiancé Hernan, who taught me everything he knew about gunnery. Ah… Hernan, I can almost feel that long gun he was so proud of… I mean… Never mind! Stop being so nosy! 

As I neared the docks a messenger comes to me and tells me I am summoned to Commander Ezequiel’s office. Hopefully word has been heard about the fleet! As I enter the Commander's office I know something is not right. Both the Commander and Lt. Emilio Sanude, my fiancé's best friend are there looking very troubled. Commander Ezequiel cuts to the quick and tells me the fleet is lost, wreckage has been found and he hands me Michael’s saber. I am in shock, I can’t believe it and I demand to know more, but there is no more news to be had. Lt. Sanude tells me to meet him at the tea house when I am able.

After aimlessly wandering around Seville, and after getting into a fight with a drunken sailor, thrashing a small boy begging for food and kicking a stray dog I head to the tea house. Lt. Sanude is waiting there for me. He’s tall, well build and handsome in a rugged way. If you like older men with a mustache that looks like a cats tail has been nailed there. As he tells me he is not going to rest until he finds out what happened to the fleet by asking at every town his fleet sails into, we overhear a few people speculating about what happened to my brother’s fleet. One said the fleet was attacked by giant sea monsters and another said that he had heard it was the Portuguese Duke Franco’s battle fleet that did it.

After hearing that I stormed back into the Commander’s office and demanded what he was going to do with this new information. ‘Nothing’ he said. Nothing? I could not believe my ears! I demanded a fleet to go and punish the Portuguese for daring to attack a Spanish fleet like this. Afraid that would provoke a war I was denied. I stormed back to the tea house to see Lt. Sanude chatting up the local whore and I promptly broke her nose. I told him he has no time for that we have to figure out what to do! Sitting down at a table he said he didn’t know what else we could do. Overhearing us was a man who was dressed in fine clothes, that looked as if they’d been worn for 5 years straight, but he said we should not give up and we should find proof that the Franco’s killed my brother and fiancé. After this masterstroke of genius I told Lt. Sanude to meet me by the docks.

An hour later I snuck up behind him as he was looking for me and put my gun to his back. You have a ship, I told him and I want it. He looked a quite shocked at this, then calmed down and asked me if I really meant that I would steal his ship. I am going to get proof that Franco’s behind all this and then take care of him myself I told him. He looked me in the eye and told me to put away the gun, he is with me, but if I am to do this, I am to be in charge, he will be First Mate, but not Captain. He even said there ‘may’ be some ‘leftover’ gold bars from the New World that ‘might’ have been stashed away to help us finance this little operation. I put away the gun and smiled.

We shook hands and he told me to call him Emilio, and I said he could call me Captain.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons

Ok, I haven’t been updating like I should, so here is what I’m going to start doing. There are things called AARs, which means ‘After Action Report’. This is a story based around video games, but that is not part of the video game story line. Its something you write to have and share with others. So this is what I’m going to do.

I’m going to use an old console game called Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons from the SNES. Its a great old game that has six different storylines you can play separately. If you have a Nintendo Wii, it is available to download for 800 Wii points ($8.00), I would highly suggest picking it up. More info on the game can be found here.

The story I am going to follow is this one:

Catalina Erantzo is a Spanish naval officer who believes her beloved and her brother were both murdered by the Portuguese armada. Vowing revenge she turns to a life of piracy and soon becomes a red haired scourge of the seas.

Its the only female lead character and I’m giving her a nice and heavy sarcastic side. In the time the game is set at (1522) any woman that might have been a crew member would have been pretty tough, so that’s the direction I am going.  While there are storylines I have never played, this is one I have played, but never finished, so I am going to start here.

Hopefully I can stick to a schedule of an addition every 2-3 days. I’ll throw in some more mother-in-law stories, since my wife seems to like those. lol

*edit* One thing to note is that there is a lot of geographical license taken in the game, and you are able to spot cities there is no way in hell of you spotting in real life, from the distances involved. Sailing times are also wildly off. So that's fair warning. I’m going off the game, not real life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A few cool things

Just a few of the things I’ve seen over the past few days that have caught my eye.

This girl has smarts! I wonder if she’s available for adoption?

Now this, this is not only cool in how it works, but a damned good thing to do.

Could our energy independence be far behind? 

This could change automobiles.

Now I donno what people think about global warming or anything else, and really it doesn’t matter. I don’t think too many people would willingly live right next to a coal fired power plant, regardless of their views on global warming. If that’s the case I simply do not understand people fighting against making things cleaner for our environment. These last two links are pretty cool. I hope they end up working out, cause that would be great. Anything so we are not so beholden to foreign nations (oil) for our own national security.

Just sayin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

I remember back in elementary school every Rememberance Day (Veterans Day) that we would all pile into the gym and sit through a recitle of the above. If possible we had Vets come and speak to us as well. Its stuck with me these many long years later.

Thank you to all the Vets from every country who have signed on the dotted line to serve and protect your country.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

8th Anniversary

Eight years ago my wife & I were married. While we have had our own issues to deal with, and my problems with her family, I can honestly say I am very happy with my marriage.

My wife and I have great conversations, we really enjoy each other’s company. When we were first talking we spent a lot of time on the phone, as well as emailing back and forth. In some ways starting off a relationship as a long distance one helped us to get to know each other better. If we had met face to face the first time we might not have gotten together. Both my wife & I had different ideas on what our preferences were, however by being able to talk first we ere able to fall in love with each other’s minds.

We have yet to spend any length of time by ourselves. Her mother lives with us, and considering the problems her and I have, has been very difficult for all of us. Since we are planning a move back to my hometown, we’ll have to spend some time living with my family. Something neither of us wants to do for long. It will be a great thing to be able to finally get our own place. We have a plan to be able to get our own place one year after we are both working, and that mostly consists of living on the bare edge so we can save as much money as possible, then buying a duplex and living in one side of it and renting out the other.

If you’re wondering if we have anything special planned for today, that would be a no. We simply do not have the money. We haven’t even gone out for dinner in over a year. I would love to take her out for a nice meal and just spend the night relaxing and enjoying the evening with her. Heck I’d love to have just gone away for a night or two. But, that’s just not in the cards tonight. So we’ll have leftovers and just enjoy what we can.

All in all I am in a marriage with a good woman, regardless of anything else, I have that. And that's something to be happy about.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Democracy in the US

Is this democracy in the US? Is this what we are trying to push onto other countries? This is what men and women in our military are sacrificing their lives for?

Is there any wonder why I want to leave the US? Its not just my mother-in-law, its that politics here is so vile and so full of corruption and lies it might as well be a 3rd world country run by a dictator. Nothing gets done without honest debate, and we haven’t had that in the US for decades now, and its just getting worse, not better.

I’ve never hated the US, but every time I see shit like this, I start to, little by little.

If you don’t like what I’ve written, and think, ‘well if you don’t like the US get out’, donate money to send me away. Frankly the faster I get out the happier I’ll be.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mother in law IV

So she’s annoying…again.

She’s already been pissed off the last week. Just not talking, making comments to my wife when I’m not around, and generally just being a pain in the butt. The one thing that pissed me off the most was that the wife & I have been wanting to do a fondue for a few weeks now, and we decided to do it this weekend. I told my wife we should call one of her nephews up and see if he wants to have it with us. Its a great social dinner and since we hadn’t seen him in a long time this would be a good idea. Well telling my MIL this she said that she should make something else in case he doesn’t like it. I explained what a fondue was, since I don’t think she really knows, she made a face, turned around and walked away.

If she goes to make something else I’m gonna lose it. Its bad enough she’s been pissing me off with her attitude this past week, I don’t need her to start in on a plan, and the reason we invited the nephew up in the first place. Right now I can just see her complaining the entire time we’re eating. I’m gonna lose it I swear.

In the spring we are gone, in the spring we are gone, in the spring we are gone.

This is my mantra.

I can’t wait.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PBS ‘The Warning’

It should be ‘The Warning, hung, drawn and quartered, minced, then staked, drowned in holy water, cremated and remains spread to the four corners of the earth’.

Go see the full episode (55 minutes) at the link below.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/

You really have to watch it. If you’re at all interested in how the financial meltdown happened, watch it. The amazing thing is that big business is still fighting against regulation and refuses to see the risk. The scarier part is that the President has filled all his financial advisers with people who don’t want any sort of regulation either.

The US economy is a house of cards, again, and there is a strong wind blowing. How are we going to survive the next collapse?

I’m not one for fear mongering, but this is scary stuff.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Equal Rights

Not much to say here. I’ll let the video do the talking.

Thank you Philip Spooner, not only for your service in WWII, but for fighting for what is right now. This is what you fought for.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rachel Maddow

Well I’m gonna post two videos, and wow, what videos. This is from the Rachel Maddow show, which is on MSNBC.  She is a left leaning commentator, but has gone after President Obama on stuff he has done too. Probably out of all the TV commentators on all channels she is the best, and she is new to it as well. She’s smart and researches the hell out of her topics, so when guests come on she is well up on their issues. She’s had both right wing and left wing guests on. She doesn’t ask fluff questions and doesn’t let her guests get away with anything. As you’ll see.

One thing to note is when Maddow questions some of the people Phillips work with, he rushes to defend their ‘patriotism’ when Maddow said nothing about that at all. This is a tactic that is used in arguments to deflect you away from the real issue and to get you to go on the defencive. I’m glad Maddow didn’t let that stand.

While I give credit to Maddow for being honest, and I don’t disagree with her, I am on the fence on if it was the right thing to do. This was a hard hitting interview that let both sides speak, both sides sat there and debated without yelling. Why is this so hard to do on other shows?

Now I agree with Maddow, Americans for Prosperity is hiding its sponsors which brings up all kinds of questions, and AFP president Tim Phillips gives lame excuses. It is not unknown for health insurance companies to pay groups such as this one to push their agenda. It has nothing to do with the regular Americans, they just dupe people to follow their lead by using phrases like ‘Obamacare wants to kill your grandma’ and idiotic stuff like this. In other words some of these anti-healthcare reform groups outright lie because they are paid to do so. None of these millionaires are ever going to be in the same position many of their followers are in. Facing foreclosure due to medical bills, getting kicked out of their insurance due to large medical problems,  losing insurance because they lost their job, etc… They are pushing this because they are paid to, and has nothing to do with patriotism, great Americans, freedom, democracy or anything else they are saying its related to.

I’m sorry that the blog has become more political lately, I’ll try and tone that down. Maybe its time for a Mother-In-Law update?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Orly Taitz Part II

First off, here’s a baby ripping apart Taitz’s legal arguments.

Actually I think Judge Land was laughing as hard as this baby was when he ripped apart Orly’s legal ‘arguments’ and handed down a $20,000 fine on good old Orly.

Heh heh. Pardon me but I’m giggling away at this.

Counsel Orly Taitz is hereby ordered to pay $20,000.00 to the United States, through the Middle District of Georgia Clerk’s Office, within thirty days of the date of this Order as a sanction for her misconduct in violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

I think the best part is when he says her responses are delusional and a waste of the courts time. Saying she used press conference sound bites and speeches. (see the above link for this)

If you’re wondering what this was about Orly Taitz conned another military officer into letting her represent their case. Which is more of this ‘birther’ nonsense. Obama’s not the real president so he can’t send me overseas…. Blah blah blah.

There is an attempt to get her disbarred, and I hope t succeeds, because as humourous as she is, she’s also wasting valuable court time with this crap.

But for now, I’m giggling away like the baby is.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two shockers revisited

Well Stephen Colbert talked about the Conservative Bible:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Conservapedia, Louvre & Honda Unicycle
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Michael Moore

I talked with my mother about this too, and she’s a Conservative Canadian, so not so far right as American Conservatives, but she listens to Dobson who is a far right American Conservative. I asked her what she thought of what they were doing and she was shocked. When I told her that Conservapedia claimed that the bible had a ‘liberal bias’, she started laughing out of shock. She asked what country this was coming from, and when I said the US, she said, ‘Ahhh…. That makes sense.’ And I suppose it does considering how crazy the US is getting these days. Which is a perfect segue into the next topic.

Hey ya’ll, lets go kill us some traitor democrats.

While that is not exactly what they’re saying, it might as well be. Rep. Broun (Republican – of course) of Georgia said (at a town hall meeting) this:

“You’re exactly right. We’ve lost a lot of freedom in America. People just don’t understand how much we’ve lost. I believe the First Amendment and the Second Amendment are the cornerstones of freedom, and we’ve lost a lot of our rights, the Second Amendment. In fact, I’m chairman of the Second Amendment Task Force fighting for Second Amendment rights. Those gun rights are actually critical to prevent treason in America, and we must know (applause). These First Amendment Rights, our freedom of speech and all the other things that are going on are just absolutely awful.

“I’ve gotten to be good friends with Justice Antonin Scalia, who he and Justice Clarence Thomas are the only ones who have any concept of what the Constitution is supposed to be and, and do what they’re supposed to do as justices by upholding the Constitution. But, in fact every, when I was sworn into the Marine Corp, I was sworn to uphold the Constitution against every enemy, foreign and domestic. We’ve got a lot of domestic enemies of the Constitution (applause) and one of those sits in the speaker’s chair of the United States Congress, Nancy Pelosi.” (applause)

This is from an elected public official, a Congressman. Its all hidden behind ‘2nd Amendment rights’, just like ‘Jim from Oklahoma’ tried to do. This is playing to the crazies out there, and one of these days something terrible is going to happen.

When President George W. Bush was in office and he went out to speak, people were arrested for wearing the wrong t-shirt (no, I’m not kidding this actually happened). Now the Republicans want to be able to take guns to Obama’s speeches. And with the amount of crackpots who are talking about killing off ‘traitorous  liberals’, and ‘taking back the country’, there is a very real threat of something very bad happening. Specially since no Republican thought they needed to exercise there 2nd Amendment rights under Pres. Bush. If I were in charge of the Secret Service, with every Pres. Obama speech that have people openly carrying guns, I would have two agents, openly having their hands on their guns following the nut with the gun. He touches his gun they take him down. You simply do not mess with the security of the president.

These are very scary times we are living in now. The media has a 1st Amendment right to lie (Fox News won that right in court), and they are using it to stir up the nutjobs in America. Cause that’s what gets ratings. It doesn’t matter they are giving voices to wackos that represent 1% of the country, they are the ones getting the attention. Its going to end very badly and no matter what happens its not good for America at all.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Two shockers today

I am simply stumped today. Perusing my daily news sites I came across these two things that frankly shocked me.

Conservatizing the Bible

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias

Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity

Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[

Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".

Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots" using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census

Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.

Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning

Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story

Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels

Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Wow, just… wow. Rewriting the bible to skew it towards your ideology. The ONLY things out of this list I could understand is changing ‘cast lots’ to ‘gamble’. Everything else is pure bullshit. Yes lets get rid of the word ‘peace’ because its changed meaning, and the bible should not talk about peace. I guess they are going to replace it with ‘war’. I think my favorite parts are they want the bible to push ‘free market parables’ and they want the bible to push how men should be bossing around women.

The other shocker today comes in video form:

I originally caught the link here. Don’t forget to hit the link to part 2 of the video on that page.

Can someone please get the Secret Service involved? If this guy is telling the truth he, and his ‘clan members’ need to be brought down and thrown in jail. What they are planning is nothing more than terrorism. You can dislike Obama all you want, but threatening to overthrow the government by violence is terrorism plain and simple.

While I am trying to leave the US its not because I don’t love the US. I do, its a great country full of great people, but frankly this kind of stuff flat out scares me. More and more its being quietly encouraged by hate filled talk radio and some politicians and the media. The more people hear it, the more they think its ok and that their views are in the mainstream, when they are not. I saw one interview (sorry I can’t remember who it was, or where it was) and this guy said that this was exactly the type of thing that was going on in Israel when the Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a radical right wing crazy, who felt as if he was saving the country from a ‘dire fate’. He also tried to defend the assassination on religious grounds. These are the fires being stoked right now and that scares me.

*edit* I actually did call this one in to the Secret Service. The guy may be joking, the guy may be real, but in either case its not something I want to just wait to see what happens.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Americans at their finest

Chicago was considered for the next Olympic games, in fact Obama went to the Olympic Committee to try and help Chicago get it. I don’t think he went because Chicago is his hometown, but rather that it would mean approximately $22.5 Billion dollars and over 300,000 full time jobs for the US. Isn’t that what is important?

Well Chicago lost to Rio and Republicans loved it.

 

This is from a meeting of Americans for Prosperity. They cheered when the US lost its bid to host the Olympics. They cheered when the US lost $22.5 BILLION in revenue. They cheered when the US lost 300,000 full time jobs. Someone needs to tell them which side they are on. This goes beyond political parties, this is a country thing, just as everybody got behind President Bush after 9/11 because it effected us all, so too the Republicans should get behind President Obama on this. But, sadly, we have seen time and time again that there are Republicans who want nothing to do with Obama, and will never get behind anything he does.

If a Democrat, or a Democratic group, had done the same thing Republicans would have called them ‘traitors, ‘un-American’, etc… We saw this when anyone disagreed with President Bush during his eight years in office. It didn’t matter what it was you were just supposed to obey. If you disagreed with the Iraq war you were said to be ‘endangering soldiers lives’, or ‘siding with the terrorists’, etc… Sadly looking over the past few days of media headlines I don’t see a major mention of this glee these people had because the US lost its bid. Why is there the double standard in the media?

There are a lot of issues I have with President Obama, I don’t like a lot of what he is doing, but on this issue all Americans should have been behind him. Shame on these people, and all others who were happy the US lost. Shame on them.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Relief

Well it looks like we can save our house.

My wife got an email on Saturday about a Los Angeles workshop at the convention centre about saving your home called ‘Save the Dream Tour’. There were even mortgage servicers there to restructure the loan. The organization that set this up is called Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, (https://www.naca.com/).

The CEO is Bruce Marks, a self styled ‘bank terrorist’, has made deals with the majority of large and small servicing companies. He’s been able to do this because if they don’t he starts a massive campaign against the company, and the CEO personally, until they give in. They don’t like this. They really don’t like this. When we were listening to the presentation they brought up a slide of the big servicer providers they have deals with, Indymac, our servicer was not listed, so we were a little disappointed, but the presenter then said there were a few more not listed that they had deals with, and just as they came in to LA they had signed a deal with Indymac, so that was very good news.

I should point out that Indymac, Countrywide, etc…  are just servicers, not the investors. They are not the ones lending you money, all they do is collect payment, foreclose on you, etc… They are just the ‘servicer’ of the loan.

Indymac has not been good to us. Not at all. Ever since they have had Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) available, they have dragged their feet. All the while calling and calling about payments. Their collectors lied to us on a regular basis, saying they hadn’t received the application, then saying it was denied, saying they needed more information (when they had that paperwork), etc… It got so bad we sent off a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to see if she could help. She wrote back saying she was willing to go to the regulatory agency that oversees Indymac and see what they could do. So while we were waiting on that we decided to make a complaint to the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) ourselves. Well apparently Indymac didn’t like that and denied us because we didn’t send all the proper paperwork. OTS sent us a letter saying the same thing. OTS never contacted us directly either, they just went on the word of the servicer. And the servicer is right, we didn’t have all the paperwork in, because since the paperwork you download from their website doesn’t describe everything they tell you they need. But you’ll only find that out after the fact, they don’t call you and tell you what else is needed, and the paperwork online is still has the original set of requirements. So Indymac is playing the game to say they are working with Obama’s HAMP, but not actually doing anything with it.

So this is why we went to the NACA event. They are very aggressive with these servicers and literally do not take no for an answer. Under HAMP they reduce the interest to 2%, bring down the principle of the loan, and in 5 years the interest starts going back up. With NACA what they figure out is how much payment you can afford, then let the servicer decide how they are going to get to that number. That may mean a 4% interest rate with no principle reduction but turning it into a 40 year loan, or it could be a 2% interest rate, principle reduction and a 40 year loan, whatever it takes to get you down to the payment you can afford. The best thing about this is its a permanent change, it will not go up in 5 years. What change they make is permanent.

So we have started our application process, and once that is done we will have a phone consult with one of NACA’s counselors and very quickly after that we should have an idea of where we stand. One good thing going for us is the fact that we are under about $100k in our loan. Our mortgage is about $250k and the house is worth about $150k. They said the lower the house value is the easier it is to get a restructure done, because the investor does not want to lose even more money if they foreclose. So oddly, this is good news. lol

If you are unemployed they will get you on forbearance where you do not have to pay any mortgage for 6 months, and if you’ve found work in the meantime that is when they will work with you get you a loan you can afford. If at the end of the 6 months you still don’t have work, they will put in another 6 months forbearance, as long as it takes for you to get back to work and able to start making payments again. Very cool.

A vile thing happened while we were standing in line. A realtor started handing out a pamphlet with his information on it that stated he has a program to help homeowners as well. What he really means is he wants to make money off of you by short selling your home. He has a ‘free’ seminar where he will convince you this is the best thing for you to do. He was preying on people who are losing their homes. He has zero interest in saving your home, all he wants to do is make a buck. That's pretty vile and pathetic.

Overall I am relieved though. My wife is happy and so is the mother-in-law. A lot less stress is in this house now.

Oh and the brother-in-law’s dog, Norma Jeane, is doing much better and is looking like she will make a full recovery. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My mother’s wisdom

I just thought I would share this. I read a blog called Rolling Around In My Head, which is a blog of a guy (Dave) who is disabled and he goes around the world and speaks about disabilities. I would encourage you guys to go read his blog, he has some amazing posts. In one he talked about a home care worker that didn't see the man behind the disability, he said, "How do people who don't value the person behind a disability, a disease, an ailment, get into healthcare?".

So I asked him this question, "What do you tell one parent how to deal with the other parent who just refuses to accept the disabled child? What advice would you have given my mother to help deal with my father?". This is what we had to deal with as my father just was never around, and never accepted my disability. I asked my mother the same question and I thought I would post her response here too.

My Dearest Son,
How good it was to talk to you today about family and your disability. Thank you for your questions and insight.

First let me try to explain what it is like for parents to discover their child has a disability. I read a story once that seemed to open up an understanding for me. I do not remember the name of the story or the author, so this is my version.

There were a number of young couples that together were getting ready for a big event. They were all heading for Spain. They studied together, saved money for the trip, learned the language, studied the culture, what to do and not do, and one by one each couple went off and arrived in Spain. There was much rejoicing as each couple shared their experiences with the other couples.

However one couple boarded the plane and instead of landing in Spain, they landed in Holland. Here nothing was expected, or prepared for. It was all so strange. It was a deep shock. Then they found Spain was no longer an option to them and while their friends talked about their experiences, this couple was learning a new language, a new culture, very different from what they had ever known or prepared for.

This is what it is like to become parents of a child with a disability. There is a new land to explore, a new medical language to learn, a new culture of people, most wear white coats and speak in technicalese. Mostly it is an adjustment to a new normal and one where you feel very alone. Your friends are enjoying their children in “Spain” where you thought you were going, and they do not understand your new world.

Internally, most parents feel guilt. They wonder what they could have done to cause harm to this new- born baby. Questionnaires add to this feeling and well-intentioned medical staff continue to probe. “What did you eat during pregnancy? Do you smoke? Have you ever taken any drugs? Is there a history of this in your family?…etc” Of course the medical staff is trying to be sensitive and make their diagnoses but each question raises doubts that bounce off the guilt inside. I used to go through my life and especially my pregnancy in my mind with a fine tooth comb…was it this, was it that?

One of the questions you asked was, “What happens when one parent defects? What happens when one parent is deliberately absent?”
Well, honey, that is what happened to us. We landed in Holland and Dad left for Canada. Although physically he stayed in the family at least for a few years, emotionally he was in a country of his own for most your growing years.

There are always consequences. I believe for myself I went into overdrive, learning all I could about your disability. I went through the maze of appointments, hospitalizations, brace fittings, neurological tests, alone.

It was not always easy but it was never a burden.
Your two brothers tagged along and lived between Holland and Canada. Once I worried about what effect this was having on them. I discussed this with a Pastor who knew our family well and he said “Don’t worry, you have three fine boys who have become stronger and more compassionate because they have experienced sacrifice early in life.”

The fact that I was in a position that forced me to take a strong role may have somewhat alienated Dad, although he always had a choice to join us in Holland (he was a pilot after all). My strength did come from my new faith but before that, inwardly, very early, I accepted you as who you are and was delighted to have a third son. I had no extended family to call upon in those early years and it was very lonely.

Dad went into such a deep denial that he could look at the x-rays of your spine which contained no normal vertebra, a lung which was underdeveloped and ribs on one side that were malformed and crossed over one another, and say, “There is nothing wrong with the boy.” Your lifespan prior to surgery was early 20’s. Dad knew that.

Some of the consequences that I saw in you as you grew into a young boy were delightful, frustrating, confusing and humorous. What a character you were and are. You used the Velcro straps on your brace to make a ripping sound when the teacher bent over on your first day in school. You struggled with things people said to you, questions people asked, or worse, didn’t ask but stared instead. Others just turned away. You felt this rejection and your Dad’s absence. You responded with strangers from the age of four to about eight by lifting up your shirt and exposing your brace and saying, “Hi my name is Brad, and this is my brace.” You seemed to be saying, this is me, all of me, accept me or not. You were quite assertive about this.

With Dad you tried to please him, you wrote the cutest notes to him expressing fun and love for him, (I still have some) and you did things beyond your capacity such as pulling fallen trees out of the woods behind our house. You worked for hours and it was heartbreaking for your brothers and me to see. These actions were your cries to be noticed and accepted.

At school you were teased, and some children thought you were “contagious” and would not go near you. I also experienced comments from neighbors who felt that “handicaps should not be allowed in the school. They take up too much of the teacher’s time.”
As a child you could not have confronted Dad because children do not have the voice or vocabulary to express the pain inside. It’s up to the parents to learn to read the actions as a symptom of something deeper going on inside, rather than just correcting the behavior.

You also had a very strong will which I found frustrating when trying to get you to school on time. I saw no purpose in this at all until I met Sandra’s parents outside the hospital one day and her mom spilled out some of the things Sandra did and said. (Sandra was born with part of a leg and was an amputee) I couldn’t believe my ears! She could have been talking about you.

I do believe that those with disabilities have an inborn compensatory personality and I realized that when, at the age of 12, you went through two 20 hour surgeries. You amazed the doctor’s with your fight. In fact they nicknamed you “Trouper”. It was amazing to see you bravely fight through the pain and learn to walk again.
Brad, you continue to amaze me and I am so very proud of you. I would not change our time in “Holland”. You have taught me many new things and I am richer for it. Our adventures in this country have helped both of us welcome other newcomers who arrive and need some kind of map and someone to encourage and comfort.
To go back to your question, “What happens when one parent is deliberately absent?

I believe in most cases it is because of a feeling of helplessness, and there is nothing worse than for a parent to feel helpless when it concerns their own child. If this is not addressed, along with the guilt most parents feel, it can lead to fractures in relationship.
Sometimes one parent just cannot face it and then the other parent needs to find a support system through other family members or friends or support groups.

There is a grief that takes place as well, with all its stages: shock, denial, anger, depression, acceptance. These may come in waves and in different orders. Most couples will need to understand that they grieve differently. They need help in working this through.
The grief is about the loss of normal, the realization that all their hopes and expectations may need to be redirected to fit the new normal. This grief will be there to varying degrees all through the life of their child. It is a chronic condition and part of living in “Holland”. It’s also a time to shed any selfishness and to realign your priorities about life. It’s a time to grow in character and find out what is important in life.

Some don’t survive, some refuse counsel, some opt out. We never know until we are tested in some way how we will respond. The one thing I know is that others have walked this way before and have paved the way. Seek them out and you will find many stories of survival and rich experiences that will give you hope.

In Dad’s case it led to denial and lack of acceptance, but I believe the issue is not yours Brad, but Dad’s inability to deal with his own guilt and helplessness. It is not that you were “not enough”, but rather he believed at some level, that he was not enough, that he did not have the goods to face something beyond his control. In many ways, he is the one with the disability and sadly he missed all those years.
I also believe it is never too late to build a new relationship with your father and I pray that you will be able to do that. Come from the strong place of forgiveness and the realization that the issues are not yours, but his. He may never own them but that doesn’t mean you can’t extend love to him just the way he is.

Write or call and we can continue to talk. Hope this helps. Love, Mom

Dave  hasn’t gotten back to me yet, but he is a super busy guy, and if he has time to get back to me he will. I would really encourage people to go read his blog, specially those of you without disabilities. You would learn a lot from Dave.

For those with disabilities I would encourage you to find an online support group. I found one for Scoliosis and it has really helped me out. No matter how much my wife tries to understand what I am going through, she hasn’t been there. (not her fault, nor would I want her to go through this, she has her own issues I can’t understand.)

Parents with children with disabilities I would also encourage you to seek out support groups. You are not alone, and how you raise up your child will effect them in later life.  I’m 38 years old now and if I take a class at college I feel my head getting squeezed, literally, there is this pressure inside my head that builds and builds. I have zero problems taking training for work, or learning things on my own, but once in a school setting it comes back. The reason is my father. He pushed and pushed me about school. I could get straight A’s (And I did) but get a lower grade in one subject and he would go after that. Say I wasn’t trying hard enough. I never got any praise for my good grades. One of the things I learned from that was ‘why try?’, its not going to be good enough anyway. The other thing that he did, and where I think the pressure comes from, is when I had math questions I needed help with my father didn’t sit me down and work through it with me, he just yelled at me while working through it. He didn’t show me how to do it, he just yelled at me until I finally figured it out on my own, then he would yell some more that I knew all along and I was just wasting time. It was during those times I felt the pressure in my head.

This is something I am going to need to work through. There are some college courses I want to take and I don’t want to have to fight myself to get through them.

Its been a bit hectic here, my brother-in-law’s dog was really sick and we have been dealing with that this past week. I’ll try and post more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trapped

Ok, I haven’t posted in a while cause I just haven’t felt like it. Lately I’ve been feeling more and more trapped by our situation. It just seems never ending the amount of bad stuff that happens to us. In my last blog update I mentioned our garage door opener breaking and that is still an issue. The mother-in-law is at least somewhat happy with me right now as when she went down to LA help her son with some stuff, she stayed a few days, I went out and raised the sprinklers that had sunk down pretty deep. In one I had to put a 6 inch riser on it. So now our front yard does no look like it has big potholes in it. She was happy to see that. But that’s gonna last maybe a week. lol

A few things have left me in a funk.

1) Jobs. There are none. My wife read an article that said 40% of working age Californians are out of work. Meanwhile the state says the unemployment rate is ‘only’ about 16%, but that doesn’t even come close to the reality of the situation. So finding work in this environment is almost impossible. I’m seeing jobs that anyone can do that are requiring college degrees plus years of experience.

2) We can’t save money. Everything we have is going to food and bills, nothing is selling when I pout it up and its frustrating. I have a ton of cabinet supplies, stuff that is worth a good chunk of money, but I get zero calls on it. So that is frustrating too. In this market it seems nobody is buying anything, and if they are its for so cheap its almost not worth selling.

3) Health. My health is not good, I’m almost out of pills and its a ton of money to refill em. I take Gabapentin and Naproxin. Its the gabapentin that is expensive. I am supposed to take it 3 times a day, but if I do that I run out in a month, and its $130 USD for 90 pills. So I take one pill a day just before I go to bed to help me sleep. In Canada those same pills are $50 CDN for 100 pills. Another reason for me to be back in Canada. Plus I have a number of other medical problems other than my back that need looking up. I need a full scale checkup cause I am just falling apart.

4) Frankly politics in the US is going to the idiots. I really don’t care what side of the political divide you’re on, yelling and screaming over someone you disagree with is not democracy, but its what we have here. Recently 60,000 anti-healthcare reformers marched on Washington, which is great to see them come out and protest. (Although I bet that when it was anti-war protesters they were saying how un-American they were) However the amount of anger I saw was truly scary. One woman reporter was threatened by protesters. She had been interviewing a few of them and after the interview one protester asked her name, so that if they didn't like what she wrote that they could ‘find her’. Then when she refused because she felt threatened a woman with a megaphone started screaming she was from Acorn and had a bunch of people surround her. This is not democracy, that is thuggery. So I’m just really disappointed that US policy is being made to appease this segment of the US population. The lunatic fringe should not be setting policy.

Add to that the pundits and talking heads of the republican side are just fanning the flames of this idiocy. Outright lying about stuff. It doesn’t matter if its pointed out its not the truth because they’ve already hit their target market with it, and the media puts on 4 republicans for each democrat, so its hardly an unbiased media.

I guess I feel this ‘model of democracy’ is anything but. And that saddens me.

I also got some bad news. I wrote to the Canadian consulate here in LA to see if they have any programs to help Canadians get back home, and the answer is no. So I’m really disappointed it that. I guess the next step is to write to Prime Minister Harper and see if he’ll help. It never hurts to try does it?

I did talk with my mother last night and she did calm me down a bit, but I’m still in a funk. My mother is great and I am blessed to have a great mother like her. She is just so supportive and just listens to me bitch without complaint. While my mother and I have not always agreed on things, she has always been there to help me through difficult times.

So thanks mom!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mother in Law Part III

I haven’t done a mother in law update in a while, and I was reminded of this last night when I read a blog I follow. (You should go read Dave’s stuff on a daily basis, so very very good.) The woman he talks about is a lot like my mother in law, without the chatterboxyness. One phrase really sticks out at me, ‘It was the smell of hope, dead and mouldering on the floor.’. That’s pretty much the way my mother in law is.

She has had a hard life. She was old enough to remember when the Germans came into her home country and killed her father and grandfather in front of her family during WWII, and dealing with all the troubles after the war as well. She has never had a loving marriage having had two arranged marriages, both of which she pushed for. So she doesn’t believe in a loving marriage, she just brushes that aside. Also has has lost a daughter to cancer and that has effected her deeply. She goes to the grave every day, and has turned part of the house into a shrine.

I also understand her frustrations with me, to a point. When I came here I was not able to work until I got a green card, and that took 3 years because we could not afford an immigration lawyer right away. So I understand her complaints about me not working during that time. I’m not to happy about it myself. However when I did start working she just switched complaining topics about me. I wasn’t doing enough around the house, I wasn’t cooking enough, I didn’t care, etc… She has said some pretty vile things about me to my wife, which is also pretty unacceptable.

Now that my back is worse than ever and am not working she starts complaining about that again. I am looking for work, but its difficult to find a job here in California when you have a disability, and there are not many jobs for healthy people. The Department of Rehabilitation here says not to tell prospective employers you have a disability. Which I just think is so wrong, not only on an ethical level, but also on a shame level. They make it seem as though having a disability is a shameful thing. I really do not like that attitude. I’ve actually gotten more responses from employers when I mention it, and how its not going to keep me down but only motivate me to do better, than  do when I don’t mention it.

Ok, back to the mother in law…When she complains about me not doing anything around the house, she’s right. I don’t. Not when she is around anyway. In the past when I have done things she has just complained nonstop about the mess or the length of time its taking or that I’ll never do what I set out to do, etc… I went through that a bit with my father, where nothing I did was good enough, I’m certainly not going to take it from my mother in law. I’ve removed two tree stumps from our yard and both times she has said that I’d never be able to do it, yet when I did do it she just shrugs. I installed plywood in the rafters of the garage for more storage space, then painted the rafters and plywood a bright white to bounce back light at night. She complained the entire time I did it, said it was a waste of time and I should not be bothering. When I was finished at what I set out to do worked very well, the single bulb lit the entire garage nicely, she just shrugged. I’ve mentioned painting the living room and hallway before, where I did a professional job, not the hack job of painting she does. But she complained the entire time I did that too.

Lately she has been better, sort of. The garage door opener broke, so she’s been unhappy we can’t afford to get it fixed yet, she’ll keep mentioning it as if we can miraculously get it fixed. If she’s upset at one of her sons or grandchildren she takes stuff like this out on us. We may have nothing to do with it, but we have to pay. This is fun…

Her church puts on a festival each year and she’s out baking for it right now. The house has a completely different feel to it when she’s out. Its a horrible thing to say, but its the truth. When she’s goes away for a month or two my wife have so much less stress. We are far more relaxed, our relationship is much better, we laugh more and we have sex more. All in all we are a much better couple when her mother is not around. Can you wonder why we need to get out of here?

Monday, September 7, 2009

An American Medical Story.

A number of years ago I had been having abdomen pains for a few days, getting worse each day. I was having problems sleeping and just in general very uncomfortable. My wife finally convinced me we should go to the emergency room. (I had no insurance at the time)

So off we go to the emergency and I was registered in pretty quickly. We should have brought a book, hell we should have brought a cot, cause I waited for 8 hours. At the 6 hour mark they took some blood though (I hate needles). Two hours after that I was brought into the back and put into a room. Where I waited some more.

I should mention at this point I was freezing cold and my back was killing me. It was 50/50 on what hurt more, my back or abdomen. When I have to deal with other types of pain my mind cannot hold off on my normal back pain, so I end up getting a double dose. Fun stuff.

There I am, finally in a room, in even more pain than when I walked in, and freezing cold on top of this (their air conditioning works wonderfully, but I’d say a tad too cold for my taste). In walks a male nurse who talks to me a bit to see how I am doing and what the problem is, the usual stuff. He then tells me he’s going to get morphine for me. I tell him thank you, but no thank you, and ask him why he is wanting to give me morphine. He says that is normal practice for people coming in complaining of stomach pains to just give them morphine, he said a lot of people just want the fix, so the hospital just gives them a pill (or shot or whatever) and they leave. Yeah that’s not me. I came to see what the hell is wrong with me, not to get a fix.

I have to say he was a really nice guy and we talked about healthcare in general at this point and I tell him my Canadian roots, so we talked about Canadian healthcare for a bit too. He was not very happy with a lot of the system he works in, and he said a lot of nurses feel the same way.

A little bit later in walks a doctor, I’d say he was in his 30s somewhere, probably upper 30s, a little older than my wife & I at the time I’d say. So he pokes and prods my stomach, asks if I am normally this ‘distended’ (when my wife reads this, I guarantee she’s laughing, I’ve never been able to live that down. But hey, when you’re supposed to be over 6 feet tall, but your back is held at the same size when you were 12 years old, and all your innards for a six foot tall person are squashed inside, you’d have a little belly too!). So the doctor says that he’d like to do a CT scan on me to see what the problem is. Except for the fact that CT scans do not work on me due to the metal in my spine (I’ve had one done, so I know this for true). I explained this, and he still wanted to go ahead with it. I asked how much money it was, because we don’t have insurance, he said $1,000. I said, ‘No thank you!’. lol

So I ended up with an xray, which found the problem. After 8 hours on sitting in the waiting room, in pain, freezing, and my back acting up, then being thought I was a junkie looking for a hit, then being told they want to do expensive imaging on me that simply will not work, I found…

That I am full of shit.

Literally.

I was constipated for 5 days and that was the problem.

And yeah, I’ve never been able to live that one down either (there goes my wife laughing again, cause now she has ‘proof’ of my full of shitness).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pain

The last few days have not been good for me. I've been in a lot of pain and not sleeping well. On top of that the weather has not been very nice. As a born and bred Canadian I'm not built for the hot weather here, add that to my pain and its not been fun.

My wife has been giving me massages the last few nights, which do help but I think my body rebels. I think it wants its knots back. lol

Today I really haven't been able to do anything really, just kinda mope a bit. Pain is distracting when you try and do stuff.

Well thats about it really, like I said, pain is distracting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The hearts and minds of war

I’ll come right out and say, I’ve never been in the military. If you’ve read my ‘Disability’ post, you know why. I did grow up in a military family though, my father was a pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces and in his early career flew off the Canadian Aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure. I probably would have followed him into the service, as of us 3 sons I was the one most interested.

I should also warn you this is probably going to be a longer post. I have a lot to unload. I just hope I get it right.

So what is this about? At the beginning of the Iraq war the Bush administration talked about winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Iraqi people. My belief, which you may not share, is that he actually did win the hearts and minds right at the beginning, but then lost it. The longer we stayed, the more Iraqis got pissed off. Probably one of THE best Iraqi blogs was from Riverbed who wrote ‘Baghdad Burning’. She wrote:

"Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them. Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue. Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so." - Riverbend, December 29, 2006

I’d like to point out that someone created a fake Riverbend blog called ‘Riversbend’ to try and discredit Baghdad Burning. I can only guess they didn’t like what she was talking about. Most likely it was someone who was pro-war, and most likely someone who has never been in the military.

I can’t recommend enough that people go read Baghdad Burning. My original link goes to her first archived post, and you can go from there. If you want a different viewpoint that what the mainstream media has fed you the past 6 years about Iraq, she is definately a good read. She left Iraq in 2007 and her last blog is Oct 2007. I haven’t heard if she has a new blog now or not. I hope she is well.

Lets go back a few years, actually lets go back 64 years, to WWII in Japan. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Moriwaki Yoko, but she wrote a diary talking about her days and her thoughts while her father was of at war. She died when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She wrote:

June 5: Today right now the battle on Okinawa continues. I think the girls' school students in the US and in England probably stand united. We cannot let them do that better than us. We cannot … During the day while I study, Osaka and Kobe are attacked by enemy planes. Probably there are students like me there who are being bombed into tiny pieces like cherry blossoms. Classmates, we are fighting the enemy at every turn. You can sleep peacefully under the ground.

There is two things about this statement that amaze me. 1) She understands that there are girls, just like her, who stand behind their fathers who are fighting against her country. Yet it doesn’t appear that she hates them. By looking at the media and the pro-war people this is something completely unknown to them, more in fact it seems they actually revile everybody other the other side, there are no innocents in their eyes. 2) She understands war, and its worst effects. That ‘real’ people are dying. If you remember during the actually fighting in Iraq, the American media showed planes taking off, soldiers and tanks, all showing off the American military might. However Al Jazeera (Arabic media) showed the dead bodies from the bombs dropped. The American media hid the cost of war from the American public, to keep the pro-war hysteria up. The cost to American soldiers was even kept hidden from us as we could not even see the flag draped coffins returning home. The Canadian PM Harper tried to do the same thing, and the Canadian public went ballistic, he had to reverse his decision from the pressure.

It seems to me that American culture has become very pro-war, specially with the media and the government hiding the true cost of war. Eight out of ten pundits seem to be of the pro-war variety, the vast majority of those have never seen service either. I get the feeling they just get off on the power of playing ‘army men’ with real soldiers, but don’t actually think of them as real people.

The other hidden cost of war is the soldiers returning home. What help is being given them? Suicide rates are very high, the new GI bill is having problems and in general I don’t feel the Pentagon really cares one way or the other about the Vets. Politicians (of both parties) play lip service to supporting the troops, yet their voting record shows the exact opposite of what they are saying.

My grandfather , who I am literally waiting for the phone call to say he has passed on (he is very sick and in the hospital), stormed the beaches of Normandy on Juno Beach. His best friend was beside him one second, and the next only his boots remained. That and the fact that terrible things happened in war are the only things he has ever said. I have never pressed him for more information as he gets really sad and withdrawn when talking about the war. We live in a different age and now we have soldier bloggers and soldiers writing books.

Which bring me back to where it all began. My friend told me about House to House a book by a soldier in Iraq and his accounts of Fallujah. Its on my Amazon wish list now, so I haven’t read it, but my friend said it was a really powerful book. And that conversation started me to writing this post and the one previous to it. What was my intent? I’m not sure, but war is a terrible thing and we should always believe it to be so. I’m not anti war, but I am anti war propaganda. We should also keep in mind that our ‘enemy’ is not every person over there, its only those taking up arms against us. If we truly do want to win the ‘hearts and minds’ we cannot dehumanize our opponent, nor discount why they fight us. If we do we only supply more propaganda for their side. This is not weakness, but strength, strength of character and something we are supposed to uphold.

Think about it.

(told you it was going to be a long post)

Again ignore this.

Windows Live Writer seems to want to edit my last post rather than post a new one, so I'm adding some fluff posts in between. So my appologies. I hope to get this figured out soon.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Finally!!

I am finally going to release something to the general public (those few who read this) something I wrote a number of years ago. I think it was 2006 when I wrote this. So the Iraq war was still in the media a lot, and people complaining about Iraq war protesters as being un-American, hating the troops, supporting terrorists, etc… I just found that really distasteful. I don’t think protesting policy means you want troops to die.  Its a little dated now, but I figure its time to release it to the world.

Plastic Patriotism
Its very ‘chic’ these days to display a flag on your car window, have a ribbon magnet that says ‘Support the Troops’, or buying little American flags that say ‘United We Stand’, or ‘We Remember’, or ‘September 11, 2001’ with an image of the Twin Towers on it. But what does this have to do with being patriotic or supporting the troops? Absolutely nothing.

Americans have been bamboozled, swindled and tricked into believing that buying these products makes you more of an American, makes you more Patriotic, and makes you believe that you actually support the troops. Almost every store carries an American flag something or other to sell to you, they’re usually at the cash register to grab your ‘impulse buying’ urge.

Of course many people will say that this is just an extension of the pride they feel, and they want to let people know how much they care for the United States. While there is nothing really wrong with that, should they be expressing their pride in such a way that hurts Americans? If you look at the packaging these things come in you’ll see they are made in Taiwan or China. Wouldn’t a better show of American patriotism be only buying these items if they were made in the US, or the profits going to actually support the troops? Isn’t patriotism a good enough reason to spend the few extra dollars it would take to give an American a job?

Why do I never see a sign next to these items saying ‘proceeds go to help buying soldiers Kevlar’, or ‘help support a military family’ or anything like that? The profits go to the store and the company that outsources its factory work. I fail to see how that supports the troops, or shows how patriotic you are. I suppose that is the beauty of marketing though, we see so many commercials and advertising that have American flags on them, we automatically believe that having an item with a flag on it means you are actually patriotic.

There are many other ways to be patriotic. Support organizations like ‘Operation Gratitude’ (www.opgratitude.com) or ‘Books for Soldiers’ (www.booksforsoldiers.com) or some of the many other organizations out there. Donate time at a local VA hospital, search for military families whose spouse is deployed and cook them a meal, walk up to a soldier and thank them for serving their country. You don’t have to support the war to do any of these things. You can give your support to soldiers, and their families, who risk their lives because they felt called to put their lives on the line so you would not have to. Theirs is the greater patriotism, and buying a foreign-made American flag to mislead yourself into believing you’re actually supporting the troops is a sad second place.

****************

So that’s what I wrote a number of years ago. What made me finally post it? A discussion with a friend of mine last night, that I’m going to go in to in a few days with another post. I’m actually separating it into two posts because I don’t want to make one massively long one.

I hope you liked this, please let me know if you did. Feedback is always nice.

Ignore me

Just testing Microsoft Live Writer for updating the blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pray for me

The lotto is 325 million friday night, which means its a take home, after taxes, of 204,600,000. (Yes, here in the US they tax you on lotto winnings) So pray that I get it, as I think, that might be just enough to help us on our way. lol

I've been asked to help moderate a forum I've been a member of for a number of years. This will actually be the second forum I help moderate. Both are centered on video games, but one of them is more concerned with Securom/DRM issues. Since I don't know that much about those issues I post jokes. (Thats my contribution) This new mod position is in a forum that is more all games, console and PC, I think I'm going to upkeep the industry news section of the forums. I've been pretty much lacking in motivation for the last week, which is why there hasn't been any blog posts, but being asked to help out on this forum has given me a new bit of energy. So thats a good thing.

Aside from that I'm still searching a number of sites daily for jobs, applying for what I can, hoping to hear back. I really wish that healthcare one had been closer, I'd be working now.

My back has been killing me this last week too. Yesterday it was hard to concentrate on anything, even just random internet crap. Thankfully it was gone by the time I went to bed, but that is very frustrating and a reason why I get lacking in motivation at times. Pain is no fun, as many people know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Disability

Ok, so I've mentioned before that I have a disability, so I suppose its time to mention that. I was born with scoliosis, and if you haven't clicked that link to find out what this is, its curvature of the spine. I was also born with jaundice and had to have a few blood transfusions. I wasn't allowed to come home right away apparently and had to wait few weeks in an incubator. My mother tells me the day I came home from the hospital there was a huge storm. A sign of things to come I tell her.

Apparently a few weeks after I was home my mother started noticing somethng wrong, although she could not figure out what it was. So she took me to the doctors and they did some xrays that showed each one of my vertebrae were different, I had none that were a normal shape, and also a curve. The doctors told her I would never walk, never speak, and be severly mentally handicapped. They then put my mother through an inquisition trying to put all the blame on her. Mabye she smoked, or drank or did drugs while pregnant. None of that was the case. Its just one of those things that happen in life. I can't imagine how it must have been for my parents at this time.

I was eventually put into a brace, I believe it was at about 2 years old, but I'm not sure about that. My memories of that time are not too reliable. (as with most people I think) When we moved from the east coast of Canada to Winnipeg, MB I had a new doctor named Dr David McQueen. He was amazing. He was both stern and supportive, not only to me but my mother. One of my first visits with him ended up with me being on TV in a news report talking about scoliosis. I don't remember if I spoke, but I was the 'scoliosis model'. lol

By the time I was 12 my scoliosis had progressed to 115 degrees curvature. Extremely severe and Dr. McQueen recommended surgery soon. They wanted to wait until I had gone through puberty, but now that was no longer an option. I was progressing rapidly.




That was my spine (in brace) at age 12. In brace means I'm actually straighter than I would be out of brace. I had to highlight where my spine went because part of the xray is so dark. You can see how the vertebrae are not 'normal'.

I was sent down to the Twin Cities Scoliosis Center to see Dr. David Bradford, who was probably the best doctor in the world for this at the time, and is still very highly regarded today. In July and August of 1983 I had my surgeries. They had originally wanted to hold me at 115 degrees but the second surgery was going so well they decided to straighten me as well. I think they did an excelent job.

Pretty amazing stuff eh? He used the Luque method of using wires instead of the more common practice today of drilling screws into the vertebrae with eyeholes and winding a rod through the eyeholes. (if you're interested a youtube search will bring up videos of this type of surgery) I'm guessing my vertebrae could not hold up to that, so the wires had to be used.

So what is my problem today? Well below my rods my discs have been ground down to pretty much nothing. A year and a half ago I had to stop working because of shooting pain down my leg, that ended up being 24 hours a day. Its gotten so bad I can't walk too far, or stand for too long before it gets too much for me. Even sitting for too long causes problems. My wife gives me massages, but my back immediately goes back to having lots of very large knots. She says they are like rocks. I tell her I should go to a massage school and have them pratice on me, I'd be available every day cause the knots will be right back.

Anyway, thats my issue right now. Its also why I get frustrated as well. How can I find work with these problems? I don't 'look' like I have problems, but I do. So there are days when I'm upbeat and happy and other where I'm not.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Job Interview

Good news. Just as my Unemployment Insurance runs out I have a job interview today. Actually I have three extensions I can use for my UI, but it would be better to work than just sit on my butt. The interview also includes my wife who applied for the same thing, which is cool, maybe both of us will have work by the end of the night.

The job is to canvass for health care reform. The site we applied though is Fund for the Public Interest and they have another website the told us to check out as well, California Public Interest Research Group.

This is a low paying job, but its better than nothing, and its also in a good cause. Being Canadian and having grown up in the single payer system I really see a lot of waste in the current American system. For the most part the doctors are much like the doctors you find in Canada. Some are good, others, not so good. The problem I have found with American doctors is being able to spend enough time with them to get proper treatment. A friend of the family has a sister who is a doctor, and she says her hospital keeps tabs on how long they spend with patients, too long and they get in trouble. They are supposed to see as many patients a day they can. The doctors that spend the least amount of time with their patients are praised as good doctors. This is not healthcare that is good. Its definately not healthcare that is good for patients.

So I hope the wife & I get the job. We'll be able to sock away money for our escape, and when we go at least I won't have been out of work for so long. At the very least it would get us both out of the house and away from her mother, and we get to spend time working for a positive thing.

I'll update this later after we have come back from the interview.

Update: Well no go. We had to drive an hour and a half and its an $8 an hour job. Spending two hours of wages on gas to get there, each day, is not a great idea. We would have to work out of that office, start the day there, and end the day there, so its just too far to go. The cause is good, but the distance added to the low pay is just to big a hurdle to continue.