Month: December 2007

The 2007 Wrap Up TMI #116

1. Last week was “The Most Wonderful time of the Year”, but what are your favorite 2007 memories?

Oh there are lots. Watching a new administration come in whose only priority was “Where do we park our cars?” and who defined clueless many time over.

Moving into the new place was nice though. More space for less money. Can’t beat that. And of course Keyron got his B.Sc so that was a plus too. Spending the holiday down south was also very cool.

2. What is the best thing you learned in 2007?

I learned to depend more on my first impressions of people because 99% of the time, they’re right on the money. People call me judgmental but it’s helped me more than hurt me many times over the years.

3. On a scale of 1-10, how good was your 2007?

I’d give it a solid 8. For a 10 I’d would have to hit the lottery for an obscene amount of money so I could personally deliver “Fuck You’s” to lots of people. That would make it a very good year indeed. If you’ve ever read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy you know about Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. My list wouldn’t be quite so exhaustive as his, but there are quite a number who I’d like to just walk up to and use that line from Falling Down “Fuck you, fuck you very much.”

4. What is your wish for 2008? What is your wish for someone else for 2008?

I hope to find a regular job again. This consulting gig is nice, but a regular pay check is better. I would also hope that Keyron could find a job too.

5. If you knew that you were going to die in 2008 what one thing would you do?

That’s a tough one. Those of us of Italian ancestry are pretty expressive people. So I don’t think that would be a problem. Instead if I could I’d like to visit Italy at least once.

Bonus (as in optional):Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What is/are your’s for 2008?

Resolutions are for amateurs. I have never in my life made New Year Resolutions, ever.

The North vs. The South

I took a walk to the library today to drop off some books that were due. On my way there I noticed a number of cars with what I’d class as atheistic bumper stickers on them.

The one that made me chuckle said “Religions are just cults with more members.”

Here in the northeast our dominant institutions are most definitely education and entertainment. Providence is the 2nd largest city in New England with a land mass of roughly 18 square miles.Yet we have Brown University, RISD, Johnson & Wales, Providence College, Rhode Island College (Providence and North Providence), URI, CCRI, and Roger Williams right in the city. For entertainment we’ve got something for everyone, from strip clubs, night clubs, 400+ bars, theaters, movie multiplexes, and fantastic libraries.

I think those items tend to displace religion, as evidenced by the rising number of atheists in this area. There’s no room for a god that cannot be proven in our lives.

That is the reality of living in the northeast.

Now we’ll contrast this with the south, namely my recent visit to North Carolina. As I said before we spent time in Pasquotank (Elizabeth City), Perquimans (Hertford) , Chowan (Edenton) and Tyrrel (Gum Neck) counties. It’s so spread out that you literally spend a lot of time driving.

And what you see while driving is a number of churches of varying protestant denominations. This is funny to someone who grew up in a Catholic dominated state. But the thing that really grabbed me were the open proclamations of faith.

Many vehicles sport what I term “Praise Jeebus!” type bumper stickers. In addition those “I’m in the Book – God” billboards are as ubiquitous as the NC Tourism billboards telling you that “Just around the corner feels like a million miles away.” Indeed, I felt like I was in another world

The big thing down there is to go to the sad little Southgate mall in Elizabeth City on a Friday night. Then of course on Sundays you go to church. Keyron and I were at a Golden Corral in Edenton and I’ve never seen so many people dressed to the nines for church! And Golden Corral isn’t all that.

There is a decided lack of culture where we were in North Carolina. The other thing I noticed is that here in the northeast you’ll get a Happy Holidays greeting, while in the south you’ll get a “Merry Christmas” from everyone. It took time for the northeast to lose it’s religion, hopefully the south will lose theirs soon enough.

The RIAA is out of line

Now they’re claiming ripping to your own computer isn’t allowed. How the hell else was I supposed to populate my iPod? Buy each of the 1,000 tracks I have on it from the iTunes store for $0.99 each, for a total cost of $990 to fill an 8GB iPod? And whoa to those who have iPod’s with 60GB drives, it’d cost about $7,920 to fill one of those babies.

While I’m on the subject, iTunes makes it REALLY easy to rip a CD. Just pop one in the drive and it automatically rips the tracks to digital form so that iTunes can play it. And burning a CD is as easy as dragging tracks to a playlist. Yet I haven’t seen the RIAA go after Apple, I suppose it wouldn’t be nice to bite the hand that feeds you.

Because the only place where the record industry is making any money these days is online sales. The thing about online sales is that you don’t have to buy a whole crap CD just for one song you might want to hear. Instead you just get the individual track.

And that buck a track is WAY too high. More realistic costs in my opinion would be about 25 cents a track. After all, the recording industry doesn’t have the overhead expenses associated with pressing of CD’s. And they really don’t have much in the way of marketing expenses either.

Our holiday trip to North Carolina

For the holidays we decided to travel to see Keyron’s family (My in-laws, not technically but as much as one can have such a thing.)

We flew down on U.S. Airways from Providence-PVD to Washington National-DCA (I refuse to call it by it’s given name since Reagan was a horrible president too.) and from there to Norfolk-ORF. The flight into ORF was a half hour late which meant we missed our
party there but we got the car rental and the GPS unit (Nicknamed Miss Navigator) and started out.

What we found out was that there has been a lot of construction both roadways and buildings along U.S. 17 through Virginia and North Carolina, so much so that Miss Navigator didn’t know very much about the new bypasses to U.S. 17. We muddled through though. The area is changing but not fast enough for my tastes. It’s funny, it’s taken Providence close to 25 years to get to the point it is at now, I suspect Elizabeth City (E-City) will go through the same thing.

Miss Navigator was able to find Keyron’s mom’s place though, in Edenton, NC. During our stay we went through Pasquotank (Pronounced as spelled), Perquimans (Which I pronounced Perkimans, not Per-kwimans.), and Chowan (Ch-ow-in was my pronunciation, but it’s actually Ch-oh-w-ah-n) counties, or from Elizabeth City to Gum Neck in Tyrrel County.

Elizabeth City is interesting. It’s experiencing some pretty heavy growth. It’s such a large land mass that there’s literally only one high rise (all of 10 floors) and that’s the old folks home in downtown E-City. But the downtown has promise, it’s very cute and reminds me of what Providence once was. The population of the city is a bit over 40,000 people, and the murder rate thus far this year was 4 people. If you extrapolate, it’s the same murder rate as Providence with 17 murders for 173,000 people.

Now there is one thing that made me absolutely fall in love with North Carolina. One night we’re returning from visiting Keyron’s brother Cory in E-City and we’re driving along U.S. 17 to Edenton. I noticed the view in my rear view was pitch black and the half-moon so big you could almost touch it. So I pulled over for a better look. Unfortunately I didn’t have the camera with me because that would have made the mother of all photos now that I’ve figured out how to keep the shutter open for more than a sixteenth of a second, granted it’s a max of 4 seconds but I can work with that.

What I saw left me stunned. I haven’t seen a night sky view like this in many years. You don’t even need any binoculars or telescopes to resolve so many stars, you can even see the thread of the Milky Way. Spent a good 30 or 40 minutes there without seeing any other cars and identifying as many constellations as I could. It gets better, I was able to take the clearest picture of the late afternoon moon that I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately that was the only clear night we had. I really want to go back during late spring. It’d be awesome, especially in Gum Neck because it’s so remote.

One foggy night as we were returning to Edenton, I caught site of a rather large deer in the middle of the road and stopped about 250 feet from the deer. It looked at me and then took off running. A few days later we saw the mangled carcass of a deer in the middle lane of U.S. 17. It took the highway patrol the better part of two days to move it off to the side of the road. And then every day we looked at that dead deer on our way to E-City. Of course our friend Gina did a road trip to North Carolina and counted 22 dead deer on the side of the road in a 20 mile stretch. Having grown up in New England I’d always heard stories of people hitting deer with their cars but as much as I have driven through New England I’ve never SEEN a deer in the road. In North Carolina you not only have deer but bears, wild turkeys, and a whole assortment of fauna that this city boy has never seen. The flora seems to consist mostly of pine trees.

It was really nice to meet all the people Keyron has always told me about. I’d never really understood how nice, welcoming and gracious they were.

Vandora was the first one I met Vandora and Keyron. That whole family is sweet as can be, they welcomed me into their home. I now understand why Keyron loves her so much. Vandora by the way is Michelle’s aunt. Michelle is Keyron’s brother Cory’s girlfriend. She’s also sister to Michelle’s mom Jean, someone whom I shall reserve my opinion about. I also met Peggy who I’m not clear but there’s a striking family resemblance to Van so I’m assuming its another sister. Then there was Sheree who’s got her M.D. and is doing her residency but still has a, how shall I put this gently, still believes in the Jesus thing. I’ve noted that many doctors have a firm belief which shocks me as their profession is steeped in science and empirical observation, the very things that would challenge faith.

The Jesus his sidekick God thing is big in North Carolina. Several gospel stations on the radio dial and the ubiquitous “I’m in the book. -God” billboards. And did I mention that there’s a church of some sort every mile or so. It’s about the only entertainment available in most counties. Keyron’s mom is a believer too, but I realized something. She and I came to the same basic conclusions about respect and love, hers from the Bible, mine from living life. Anyhow, I’ll write more on that subject later as this post is rapidly becoming my opus on North Carolina.

Back to people next up was Gail Ward. Gail was one the 4H people that Keyron ran across while he was there 15 years ago. She’s a very eclectic character and her husband has the most absolutely amazing collection of salt water tropical fish I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the fact that she lives right on the waterfront and the views from that side of her home are absolutely stunning.
Keyron and Gail

While at Gail’s place we got the 411 on all the people that Keyron knew in 4H, who turned out to be gay, who married who, etc.

Speaking of 4H, I got to meet Travis, the one Keyron always told me about. Travis is very enthusiastic about agriculture, so much to the point that one feels the immense need to get away from him within about five minutes of talking to him. In ohter words it’s either get away or kill and Keyron’s mom validated my assessment.

Then of course there’s Vera. Keyron, his mom and I went to visit her but she wasn’t home. As we’re getting ready to turn out the highway we see her pull in so we turned around and spent a couple of hours there. Vera is a salt of the earth type who loves everyone. Vera is also a riot but a very loving person I truly wish her the Keyron and Verabest.

While in E-City was visited the Museum of the Albermarle. It doesn’t have a whole lot of exhibits, the majority of what it does have can be seen on my flickr site. It does have a lot of promise though. I hope to check it out again in a few years, hopefully by then the squabbling over exhibits and acquisitions will have died down.

Also checked out a little restaurant and pub called Thumpers. Best damned crab cakes I’ve ever had and Keyron’s sea food platter was excellent too, again pix are on my flickr site.

By about the third day I didn’t need Miss Navigator as much. I was learning how to get onto U.S. 17 and around and about. The speed limits on 17 vary widely, from a low of 35MPH in E-City to twice that as you’re going from Chowan to Tyrrel county. The funny thing is I didn’t see many police from Wednesday to Sunday, and then Christmas day I saw Edenton PD, Chowan Sherrifs, E-City PD, and even NC Highway police. Otherwise people sped like demons, so did I.

The distances between points of interest are bewildering to this northern city boy, where everything I need is within a 15 minute WALKING distance. Down there it’s a minimum 30 miles between E-City and Edenton. And along the roadways there are North Carolina tourism signs that state “A million miles away is just down the road.” My response is that you have to DRIVE a million miles to get there. When we got the rental, a 2007 Dodge Caliber it had a bit under 200 miles on it. When we returned it, the car had close to 2,000 miles on it.

One highlight was hearing Keyron’s brothers hip-hop recordings. Cory is very good, and I’d like to see him promote his recordings because the guy has talent. One of his recordings is really catchy, now he just has to press it on cdbaby and get it into some clubs.

Overall it was a very pleasant trip. It let me see the people Keyron always talks about and get to know them a little bit. It also lead me to understand why Keyron left North Carolina.

Finally the trip home was a pain in the ass. It took 13 hours and 41 minutes to get from Norfolk, VA to Providence, RI and required some creative re-routing take place.

While driving to the airport I pretty much predicted what was going to happen and sure enough, Murphy was in full effect. It was very rainy and windy which meant not a lot would be flying in or out of Norfolk. Sure enough, air traffic control delayed a lot of flights.

Coming back we flew United. United is shit, plain and simple. The first flight from Norfolk to Dulles was delayed by close to an hour due to mechanical issues. This in turn caused us to miss our connecting flight to Providence. The weather wasn’t being very cooperative either. The issue with United is lack of maintenance personnel. I was chatting with a gentleman who also missed his connecting flight. Turns out he’d taught at Brown university during the time I was working there too. Both he and I agree that air travel is dying a slow painful death and that subsidies should be shifted away from air travel and into rail as has been done in Europe. Leave the airlines the international routes.

We finally get on stand-by for a Boston bound flight, I figure it’s a 9PM flight, we can take the MBTA commuter back to Providence since it’s last run is 11:59PM. The stand-by tickets say it’s gate C14. Around 8:45PM I ask the gate agent how it looks to get on th e flight and he tells me it isn’t good. By this time Keyron is getting very upset and so talks to another United rep who tells us they’ve been announcing the gate change which we NEVER heard and it’s now on D-18 and hurry, it’s about to leave and there are seats available. We get to D-18 and get our boarding passes at 9:15PM. I figured we were going to make it and jokingly said to Keyron that we wouldn’t get home until after midnight.

Turns out my prediction was right on the money. We were scheduled to go out on flight 898 to Boston and it was supposed to leave Dulles at 9:36PM. We began getting updates saying maintenance was being performed on the 737-300. After 10:30PM we found out that it was the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), the device that provides the power to spin up the jet engines on the aircraft. A part had to be flown in from Chicago to resolve the issue and we were finally allowed to board at 10:45PM. Didn’t take off until after 11:00PM.

Luckily were were able to get in touch with Gina and she picked us up at Logan and drove us down to Providence. As a nice gesture I filled the now empty tank on her car. Got home around 2:30 in the morning.

In order to get us on the Boston flight they had to fake route us through Manchester, NH. What that did was cause us to get to Boston and our luggage to get to Manchester. They say we’ll have it back tomorrow as it is in fact in Manchester and I sure hope our luggage had a nice trip.

Later this afternoon I called United’s baggage handling operation since their web site said it couldn’t find out luggage. Hmm, early Thursday morning their baggage agent at Logan (BOS) told us it was in Manchester, NH. Talking to a representative confirmed my thought that the luggage was on a truck heading down from Manchester and that it would be delivered between 6PM and 12AM tonight.

The luggage was delivered at precisely 12:00AM on Friday.

Air travel sucks

So coming down to ORF we were on USAirways. That went off pretty much without a hitch though about a half hour late coming in.

Flying back we went United. United eats shit. I’ll explain why.

Our flight from Norfolk (ORF) to Dulles (IAD) was delayed by more than a half hour. Since we had only a forty-five minute layover I knew it would cause issues. It did, the connecting flight to Providence was scheduled fro 5:24PM. We got in at 5:45PM.

Got re-booked on a Boston bound flight, I figured we could take the MBTA commuter back to Providence, you know, things would work.

But then a gate change happened. From C concourse to D concourse. We hustled for no reason whatsoever because a flight that was supposed to take off at 9:36PM is till being serviced at 10:22PM. We’re due for an update at 10:30PM, probably telling us they’re canceling the flight .

Air travel is a major inconvenience in this day and age. I want the subsidies given to airlines to be revoked and the money re-invested in high speed rail that criss-crosses the country.

But to really fuck up travel, it takes United Airlines. Right now they’re putting the replacement part into the aircraft, they say that they’ll update us at 10:45PM. It’s a good thing we have a ride from Boston to Providence otherwise I’d be going ballistic about now.

Do yourself the favor though, don’t fly United.

My Last TMI before the new year

TMI #114 is up!

1. Are you done with your shopping yet?

Yep, all done. The diamond ring was a big hit.

2. What is your favorite sexual position?

Position or role? Position is probably doggy-style. Mmmm mmm. I think you can probably guess the role.

3. On a scale of 1-10, how open are you to trying new sexual things?

I’m about a 4. I don’t know, I just don’t think it needs to be embellished all that much. Sex is pretty spectacular as it is.

4. What present are you hoping to get this year?

Got it already. My Norelco razor. The razor blade routine was killing me, I’d only been doing it a few years. Now I’m back on electric and loving it.

5. With your current partner (or your last partner) how often was the sex better than just good?

I have totally lost count. Every orgasm for me is pretty mind blowing stuff when it comes to Keyron.

Bonus (as in optional):Can a relationship that you are part of survive on sex alone? Could it survive a prolonged period of abstinence?

No, sex alone doesn’t work and a prolonged period of abstinence would just destroy it that much faster.

Snow Removal

If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s cops who don’t do their duty. For example, I was passed by several Providence Police officers in their cruisers while I was WALKING in DePasquale street today. Why was I walking in the street? Because the sidewalks are impassable.

I wanted to flag one down and tell him about the ordinance that governs snow removal in the city. But then when I was about to cross Atwells Ave. I watched a Providence Police cruiser go through the yellow light, and a guy in a Lexus behind him just went right through the red light. An alert cop would have done something. This particular officer did nothing.

But then, it’s been PPD that’s blown past me in crosswalks so why should I expect anything different? To Chief Esserman, a professional police force goes beyond ending the corruption in the ranks, it goes to extended courtesy to the citizens as well as protecting us.

President Bush, the Cluster Fuck

It appears that Vanity Fair has done a rather nice dice up of the Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

There is still a lot of chatter reverberating regarding the outright theft of the elections in 2000, and now the evidence for that happening in 2004 is ever greater. Just check out this site.

I for one cannot believe that we re-elected someone that was so beholden to corporate interests for a second term. All you have to do is ask the question, who benefits most from the current debacle in Iraq? If the answer to that was big corporations congratulations, identifying the problem is the first step.

The next step is making damned sure we don’t elect a repeat of Bush. And by that I mean Romney, Huckabee, McCain, et al. on the Republican side. And on the Democrat side I distrust Clinton immensely. She’s definitely playing it to win but I cannot read her true motivation.

Want to know who I’d love to see get the nod for President? Dennis Kucinich. Here’s a guy who’s been through it all. Mayor of Cleveland, a U.S. Rep and most importantly a gorgeous wife. If a guy that looks like that can score like that, he’s got to be good for this country. Plus he’s ultra-left liberal which in my book makes him a pretty ideal candidate.

Once we’ve accomplished that step I think we really need to make a grass roots push to take the money influence out of congress. It will mean sponsoring a third party, and sponsoring it well enough that it can capture a majority in congress. And make damned sure we elect people who will hold to one rule:

The will of the people, excluding corporations, is their highest mission. If one is caught taking finance money from a corporate entity, all bets are off and at most they serve one term.

Of course people need to break away from the television and the other diversion that keep most of us from noticing what is really happening. Try it sometime, block out an hour or so after dinner to sit and read, be it books, be it foreign newspapers, just read. Be sure to do so in a well lit area, and turn off any distractions like the television or radio, unless of course you can listen to music while reading without it distracting you.

Anyhow on to the third phase, codifying discrimination against corporate abuse and power. It will only take one little change to the Constitution to do so, make the 14th Amendment explicitly state that corporate entities are excluded from rights enumerated by the Constitution.

Then we can start taking out country back from the greedy arms of corporations. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think corporations should be abolished, I just want them to be accountable.

For too long now (Just over a hundred years.) they’ve hidden behind the same protections offered to you and I. It’s time we strip away the hiding places and make them answer for their crimes.

Benny the Rat (Benedict XVI) proves once again

That his head is firmly planted in his ass.

Now it’s his decrying “Pleasure at all Costs”.

I’ll paste the whole article so you can laugh along with me. That gives me great pleasure too, to laugh at the religiously ignorant like Benedict XVI.

Pope Decries ‘Pleasure at All Costs’

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 16, 2007; 3:29 PM

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI warned Sunday against seeking happiness in drugs or other “artificial paradises” and the self-centered quest for “pleasure at all costs.”

Instead, the pope held up Mother Teresa _ the Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor in India and elsewhere _ as an example.

“Every day, she lived next to misery, human degradation and death,” the pope told thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “Yet, she offered the smile of God to everybody.”

The pope, speaking during the traditional Sunday noon Angelus prayer, said real happiness cannot be found in cultures “that put individual happiness in the place of God, a mentality that has its emblematic effect in the quest for pleasure at all costs, in the spread of the use of drugs as an escape, a shelter in artificial paradises, which turn out to be completely illusory.”

In an annual tradition, children came to St. Peter’s Square bearing Nativity figures of baby Jesus for the pontiff to bless.

Earlier Sunday, Benedict consecrated a new church on the outskirts of Rome, blessing the parish’s children.

For more on Mother Teresa the scheming and fraudulent bitch, see Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! expose of her.

Then of course we have Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. He’s such a smug bastard I just want to pop him one every time I see him on the screen. This guy has something to say about just about everything and everyone. He reminds me so much of Bill O’Reilly. I think the common factor is that they’re both blowhards.

I’d love to see the Catholic church bankrupted. I’d love to see all religions destitute and bankrupt so that maybe those of us who don’t have the neurotic need to look to a higher power can get on with our lives without having to hear or read the foul emanations from the likes of Benny Prada (Aka Benny the Rat, Pope Benedict XVI) and Billy Boy Donohue, though I note that the Catholic League now trots out a rather attractive female spokesperson who is every bit as loathesome as Donohue.

Thoughts on burglary during the holiday season

When friends moved into the Olneyville area they were fearful that they’d be burglarized. I did my best to allay the fears they had, explaining their biggest issue might be seeing a drug deal go down.

Olneyville is a section on the western end of Providence that comes just shy of bordering with Johnston, RI. Olneyville is also one of the poorest sections of the city despite efforts to bring money to the area with projects like Rising Sun Mills.

Interestingly the Rising Sun project brought a ton of money into the city. Two friends whom I worked with way back at Emblem & Badge bought the little hardware store and they’ve been there for five years now, they did improvements to the front of the building and it’s actually a nice store.

But I explained to our friends that burglary in the Olneyville section of the city is relatively low compared to other parts of the city, for example the tony East Side area, home to Brown University, RISD, et al. Most burglars tend to be poor themselves and won’t prey on their own people, but they’ll prey on students and residents of the East Side because that is where they think there is a higher potential for valuable goods.

The only thing that gives lie to this is a troubling statistic I once saw about sales of home entertainment systems. A greater majority of buyers of large HD sets and other gear are lower income families.

So I was proven correct when a string of burglaries recently came to an end in Providence. And where did the burglaries take place? The East Side.