Friday, September 30, 2016

The Upload Project #1

So, in a vain attempt to find the battery charger to our weed wacker, I rolled up my sleeves and started emptying out the last boxes in the basement and discovered that I have a metric ton of burned CDs that have piled up over the years and, in the name of wanting to well, figure out what the hell is on all these bad boys and significantly downsize my gigantic pile of random CDs. Happily, with my computer getting a new hard drive, that meant that the iTunes cupboard was somewhat bare as I had lost everything I had when the last hard drive crapped out. So, The Upload Project was born...  and it's been a weird combination of 'what the hell was I thinking' and nostalgia trip from the past ten years- and who knows, maybe even before.

So, for the sake of length (there are a lot of CDs and it's sort of time consuming) I'm going to upload ten CDs a month and finally find out what's on them all. Songs in italics are repeats that showed up on multiple CDs. Here's the first installment:

CD 1, Untitled:
Jordin Sparks-One Step At A Time
Ciara feat. Justin Timberlake-Love Sex Magic
(the rest were all scratched and effed up, so I couldn't save 'em)

CD 2, Untitled:
Didn't even want to load, so I had to force eject it.

CD 3, Untitled:
General Public-Tenderness
Sara Barellies-Love Song
Miley Cyrus- See You Again
Madonna- 4 Minutes
Gossip-Standing In The Way Of Control
Pussycat Dolls-Beep
The Pink Spiders- Hey Hey Little Razorblade
Rancid-Ruby Soho
Green Day-Longview
The Clash-Clash City Rockers
Coldplay-Violet Hill
Shakira-Hips Don't Lie
Less Than Jake-The Science of Selling Yourself Short
Talking Heads-Crosseyed and Painless
Warren Zevon- Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
Fall Out Boy- The Take Over, The Breaks Over
Daft Punk-Harder Better Faster

CD 4, Untitled
ABBA-Voulez Vous
Led Zeppelin- Traveling Riverside Blues
Black Kids-Hit The Heartbrakes
Sugarland-All I Want To Do
The Hives-Tick Tick Boom
Black Kids-I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
Marilyn Manson-Dope Show
ABBA- Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
The Cure-Just Like Heaven
Coldplay-Viva La Vida
Brad Paisley-Ticks
Green Day-Warning
The Jam-Town Like Malice
Mark Morrison-Return of the Mack
Richard Thompson-Turning of The Tide
Billy Joel-Why Should I Worry
Dexy's Midnight Runners-Come On Eileen
The Who-Baba O'Reilly

CD 5, Untitled
Outkast-Rosa Parks
Mint Royale-From Rusholme With Love
Kanye West-Touch The Sky
Siouxsie and The Banshees-Cities In Dust
The Black Eyed Peas- Pump It
Matisyahu- King Without A Crown
The Offspring- Hit That
Billy Idol-Dancing With Myself
Kelly Clarkson-Walk Away
The Stranglers-Golden Brown
Pearl Jam-Jeremy
Billy Squier- Everybody Wants You
Weezer- Undone (The Sweater Song)
Maroon 5- Sunday Morning
Phantom Planet- California
Dashboard Confessional-Vindicated
Staind- So Far Away

CD 6, Untitled (4 Repeats From Other CDs)
Brad Paisley- Online
Nelly Furtado- Maneater
Flo Rida- Low
Madonna- Hung Up
Timbaland-The Way I Are
Justin Timberlake-Sexy Back
Foreigner- Hot Blooded
Sweet- Ballroom Blitz
Golden Earring- Radar Love
Black Eyed Peas- Don't Phunk With My Heart
Dead Kennedys- Holiday In Cambodia
The Grateful Dead- Casey Jones
RHCP- Dani California
Nickelback- Savin' Me

CD 7, Untitled
Kevin Rudolf- Welcome To The World
Snow Patrol- Chocolate
U2-Window In The Skies
Daft Punk- Around The World
Lady Gaga- Fame
Cascada-Evacuate The Dancefloor
Taylor Swift- You Belong To Me
The Specials- Pressure Drop
Bruce Springsteen- Living In The Future
Lady Sovereign- So Human
Prince- Pussy Control
Tears For Fears- Head Over Heels
M.I.A- Paper Planes
Head East- Never Been Any Reason
AC/DC- Dirty Deeds
Gladys Knight and The Pips- Midnight Train To Georgia
Cobra Starship- Snakes On A Plane
The Airborne Toxic Event- Sometime Around Midnight

CD 8, "2" (one repeat from another CD)
Buckcherry- All Lit Up
Grandmaster Flash- White Lines
Fall Out Boy- Thnks Fr Th Mrms
Goldspot- Float On
Phil Collins- Sussudio
Meryl Bainbridge- Mouth
Jack Johnson- Good People
Chris Cornell- You Know My Name
Ellie Lawson- Down With You
New Radicals- Someday We'll Know
Envy Corps- Story Problem
Jason Mraz- The Remedy
Los Lonely Boys-  How Far Is Heaven?
Robbie Williams- Millenium
The Shins- Phantom Limb
Styx- Come Sail Away
Johnny Cash- Ring of Fire
INXS- Pretty Vegas

CD 9, Untitled (But actually a Liz Phair album? WTF?)
Why Can't I?
It's Sweet
Rock Me
Take A Look
Little Digger
My Bionic Eyes
Friend of Mine
Good Love Never Dies
Red Light Fever

CD 10, Untitled (three repeats from other CDs)
Brewer and Shipley-One Toke Over The Line
Derek and The Dominoes- Anyday
Ram Jam- Black Betty
Lady Gaga- Poker Face
Butthole Surfers- Pepper
Jimi Hendrix- All Along The Watchtower
Shinedown- Second Chance
Quad City DJs- Come On Ride The Train
Wishbone Ash- Warrior
Britney Spears- Womanizer
Klaxons- Golden Skans
Bob Dylan- The Times They Are A Changin'
Miley Cyrus- The Climb
Bruce Springsteen- Lost in The Flood

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I blog pretty regularly and a general rule of thumb, I like to keep my day job separate from what I do on here. Discretion and confidentiality are a must in a job like this, so I've done my best to keep it out of my public writing sphere. That's not say that I don't talk about what I do or write about it. I just haven't- at least not until recently- put any of my thoughts out there for general consumption. So pull up a chair, because this is going to be one of the few times I talk about my day job.

For anyone happening by who doesn't know, I'm a 911 Dispatcher. And right now, APCO International (The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials- basically, the broad industry wide advocacy group for 911 Dispatchers) is making a push to get Dispatchers reclassified in the Federal Government's Standard Occupational Classification system. It's a little bureaucratic and somewhat involved, but basically, the Federal Government currently classifies 911 Dispatchers as 'Administrative Support Occupations.'  APCO wants 911 Dispatchers reclassified as 'Protective Services' the same as police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, crossing guards and TSA Screeners. The currently definition places the job in the same category as clerks and secretaries.

This might seem excessively nit-picky, but it's not. While it's true that 911 Dispatchers do perform a lot of administrative tasks for the Departments they serve, the job is changing rapidly, which is why I think a APCO's push for reclassification makes more sense than many people might realize. The biggest change? The increasingly widespread use of Emergency Medical Dispatching. 911 Dispatchers in many places now have the ability to start medical assistance for a person in need right away instead of waiting for other first responders to arrive. And if you think that's just basic CPR and the like, you might be surprised. I am trained to provide pre-arrival instructions and aid for anything ranging from abdominal pain to delivering a baby. (That last one pretty rare, but if I gotta do it, I'm trained on how.) Dispatchers do more than just answer the phone and work a radio these days.

But the level of coordination required for the job also raises this job higher than just an 'Administrative Support' position. Larger 911 Centers than mine have to dispatch for Police, Fire and EMS, each of which is Dispatched in a slightly different way. They've got to do that while handling incoming phone calls and monitoring the radio.

There's also legitimate life and death situations that 911 Dispatchers deal with every day.

We're more than just Administrative Support. Plenty of people call us 'the first First Responders' because the whole chain of response starts with a 911 Dispatcher and this isn't a job that just anyone can walk in, sit down and do. Somewhere between 2 and 10% of the general population have the multi-tasking skills necessary to be successful at this job. It takes organization, it takes skill and it's not your average every day job.

I have a love-hate relationship with this job. I think it's made me more cynical. I think it's made me dislike people more than I should. I've taken calls and heard things that I would have preferred not to hear and deal with. But I've also helped people. I've had problems dumped on me out of the blue that I've had to figure out how to solve. I like the variety. Every day is different. I don't know what's on the other end of the phone when it rings. Could be someone locked out of their car. Could be someone having a medical emergency.

I picked the cartoon above because I think it summarizes both the best and the worst of the job. Some days, everything is on fire and you just have to deal with it. Some days, everything is on fire and it really is fine, because you can handle everything that it throws at you.

I don't know if I'll do this forever. I hope not. I hope there's something after this that's a little less hectic and a little more chill- and given the fact I dispatch for a Campus Police Department, it's not like I see what thousands of other Dispatchers deal with on an every day basis. No, we have our brand of crazy- it's a little different, but I know that this effort at reclassification is the right thing to do- it would, at minimum be a more accurate way to describe what I do every day. But really it would make what we all know to be true, official. Dispatchers are the first link in the chain of First Response. Recognizing that would be an amazing step forward for the profession as a whole.

So I'm going to be doing some homework on this over the next month or so to find out where my elected officials stand and urge them to get behind this. We'll see what I find out.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Boozehound Unfiltered: Drinks By The Dram

This bad boy represents my first foray into the world of Japanese whiskey and- my first time sampling one of the awesome products of Drinks By The Dram. Exactly what it sounds like, these mini dudes arrive in this compact, waxed sealed little containers (this one came from across the Pond from my Uncle after a recent Parental visit) and live up to their name perfectly. It was the perfect dram of whiskey- not too much, not too little, pretty much the perfect amount to get a good sense of what the whiskey is about and what it tastes like.

This particular dram is the Yoichi 10 Year Old Single Malt, which Master of Malt hails as "the jewel in Nikka's crown," The company dates back to 1934- but the founder Masataka Taketsuru went to Scotland all the way back in 1918 to learn the craft for a couple of years before returning to Japan to join Kotobukiya, which is now Suntory. (Yes, that Suntory.) The company is headquartered in Tokyo, but the Yoichi Distillery is located in Yoichi, Hokkaido, which is the northernmost island of Japan.

Master of Malt loved this stuff...  it's got a solid five stars- though it only has 14 reviews to it's name so far. (And honestly, I need to do some exploration of this website...  my experience is that if you like a whiskey enough to bang out a review of it on your blog, you probably like it quite a bit. Be interesting to see if there are any bad reviews buried on this website somewhere.) Here's what I thought:

Color: Pale yellow/golden. It's not dark at all, but it took a pretty decent examination on my part to land on a color. From the side of the glass, it looked darker than it was when I held it up to the light and looked through the bottom of the glass. 

Aroma: It's very light. Lots of vanilla- there's an underlying note of fruit here as well, but I'm not sure what. I want to say figs, but it feels a little too crisp for that. Possibly melon?

Body: Nicely balanced- it's not too syrupy and not too watery- the MoM review uses the descriptor 'oily' which is probably more accurate. There's some smoke in the taste- as well as hints of something harsh that seems like it could be citrus peel. No spice, which is surprising, given the notes of vanilla in the aroma.

Finish: Hits the back of the throat first- it's harsh, but not unpleasantly so.

Overall: I'm a little hesitant at pronouncing a verdict- I did this tasting on the back half of a cold, so I might have to revisit this at some point in the future to see if my impressions were correct or not. I do want to dip into Japanese whiskey more and there's a lot to like about this whiskey. The aroma was light, the texture perfectly balanced, but the finish left something to be desired. I did like the touch of smoke in the taste- it's subtle and not overwhelming in the way a lot of the Islays can be. My Grade, a solid B+ but with an asterix. I need to find more Japanese whiskey and revisit this in the future.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This Week In Vexilollogy #183

Quick! Name the only two flags in the world to feature a building!

If you guessed Afghanistan for one, you'd be half right, but the other is our flag for This Week In Vexillology- that's right, we're continuing our grand old meander around Southeast Asia with the flag of Cambodia:
The building in question is, of course, the Angkor Wat, which has been on the flag of Cambodia in one form or another since 1850 or so. This particular flag was first adopted in 1948 and then readopted in 1993 after the restoration of the Monarchy. The first run of this flag last from 1948-1970, when the Khmer Republic was established. Their flag looked like this:
The Khmer Republic lasted from 1970-1975 when the forces of the Khmer Republic were overthrown by the Khmer Rouge, who used this flag- and changed the name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea.
But wait, there's MORE...  Vietnam invaded and overthrew Pol Pot in 1979 and then they adopted this flag and changed the name of the country yet again! This time to the People's Republic of Kampuchea.
Then in 1989, the transition back to a politically unified Cambodia began, with the People's Republic changing the name of the country yet again! To the State of Cambodia while pursuing a peace deal with all Cambodian factions- to help facilitate the transition, they changed the flag yet again- to this:
And that gets us back to the flag being readopted in 1993. So between 1970 and 1993, Cambodia went through four different flags before ending right back up where they began in 1948. Weirdly, the flag adopted by the Khmer Rouge regime (officially called Democratic Kampuchea) was also used from 1982-1993 by the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea which was an internationally recognized government-in-exile consisting of the three main Cambodia factions.

In terms of the overall design of the current flag, it's pretty simple. The Angkor Wat is an important national symbol of Cambodia and red and blue have long been considered traditional colors of the country. What's even more impressive is that despite decades of political instability, war and genocide, the overall design of the flag didn't shift all that much- hell, apart from the Khmer Republic, the color scheme hasn't shifted all that much either.

That's the flag of Cambodia! Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bookshot #92: King Charles II

Why do I do this to myself? I seem to have collected a large amount of historical biographies over the years all of which could double as doorstops and they are long and somewhat arduous to read- happily, Antonia Fraser does her best to ease the pain and dullness and makes her biography of King Charles II a fairly engrossing read.

Why King Charles II? Well, I've had this long-standing desire to wrap my head around the English Civil War (or wars, in this case) as I've got a decent grasp of it's American counterpart but couldn't for the life of me figure out the complexities of Cromwell, Charles I and Charles II and how they all figured into the whole ball of wax that was the English Civil War.* I've got a biography of Cromwell waiting in the bullpen (also by Ms. Fraser) but wanted to start here to see if I could get a grasp of the guy who not only survived the overthrow of the monarchy, but came back to England to restore it.

So, clocking in at 612 pages this is an astonishingly complete portrait of the monarch and it's revealing in the fact that you see how the experiences of his youth before and during the Civil War helped shaped Charles into the monarch that he became after the Restoration. Loved by his father (Charles I), Charles proved to be a doting and loving father to his children (all of the illegitimate, as he and his wife, Catherine of Braganza were unable to bear children of their own)- but the experience of his father left him with something of a lifelong dislike of Parliaments. After the Restoration, he recognized the political necessity of working with Parliaments, but wasn't about to let them eat into his prerogatives too much either.

I also think the prolonged exile Charles experienced after the final Royalist defeat at Worcester helped mold him into a monarch that was markedly more aware of the struggles that everyday people faced than most of his predecessors. Charles spent nine miserable years wandering around Europe and he was poor. Not like 'out of a job monarch poor' but like, 'depending on the kindness of strangers and loans' poor. Real people poor, in other words.

The Civil War- or, more precisely, the Three Civil Wars was the crucible of Charles II's life. (TL;DR: Civil War 1: Charles I v Parliament, Parliament wins. Charles I cuts a deal with the Scots who invade and start Civil War 2. Charles gets beheaded and Charles II flees to the continent before signing his own deal with the Scots and starting, you guessed it- Civil War 3, that ended at the Battle of Worcester.) His escape from England to the Continent is the stuff of legend- yes, he really did have to hide in the Oak Tree, but it made him into the monarch that England needed after the Restoration.

After years of war and chaos, the Restoration felt like a relief to many and Charles II, if he did anything, stabilized things- at least for a little while. The inability to produce an heir laid the seeds for the Glorious Revolution of 1688- as the issue of his brother, James' Catholicism became politically controversial (he too, converted- but on his deathbed.) Charles may have accepted the need for the continued existence of a Parliament, but it wouldn't be until William and Mary take over after 1688 that the idea of the absolute monarchy ended once and for all.

As a biography, this is dense stuff (again, it's 612 pages) but Antonia Fraser's writing style is elegant, poetic in parts and very accessible. It's not a chore to read this- at least for the first two thirds or so. Toward the end of the book when Charles was fending off attempts to pass the Exclusion, I sort of got lost in an avalanche of names- Buckinghams, Sutherlands, Monmouths and the like. But as biographies go, it was informative and readable and you can't ask for much more than that.

Overall: If you're looking for a good door stop or just to get your knowledge about the English Civil Wars on, this is a good biography to read. *** out of ****

*I stumbled across the Revolutions Podcast awhile back and have been devouring episodes at a fairly brisk clip, their run on the English Civil War/Revolution was an incredibly helpful enhancement to this book and (as I'm sure I'll discover with Fraser's biography of Cromwell) showed that this Revolution laid some interesting groundwork for the American Revolution of the next century. Plus, it's just an excellent podcast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Albums2010 #82: Horses

I sort of tripped and fell and discovered Patti Smith accidentally at one point- I'm not sure exactly when, but I know the song that did it: Because The Night. The Natalie Merchant version spent a good summer or two in my youth chewing up the pop charts and I kind of dug the song. But then I found out that Patti Smith had done what I thought at the time was the original (turns out none other than the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen wrote the song originally) so I ran down a compilation of Patti Smith's greatest hits, snagged it and gave it a listen.

It was awesome. (Along with 'Gloria', 'Summer Cannibal', 'Dancing Barefoot' and a great cover of 'When Doves Cry'.) But the album that everyone seems to talk about when you're they talk about Patti Smith is her debut album, Horses, so I jumped on my Spotify, did some searching and gave it a whirl.

The album opens with 'Gloria' which I had heard before and continues to rock. It starts nice and slow, almost like a dirge in many way and builds to a rockin' climax.

The second track, 'Rendondo Beach' is reggae infused simplicity, but it's the third track, 'Birdland' that really grabbed my attention. Beat poetry, jazz infused, it slowly builds to a beautiful crescendo. It's probably my favorite track on the whole album. It's got a friend in 'Land:' which has a lot of the same elements of spoken word/Beat poetry going on, but turns left when you don't expect it to and suddenly ends up in 'Land of A Thousand Dances'. Which needless to say, I wasn't expecting at all.

'Kimberly' has just a touch of the reggae feel that 'Redondo Beach' has but is also one of the more accessible tracks on the album- I could see 'Redondo Beach' and 'Kimberly' getting radio airtime easily, but at 8-9 minutes a pop, 'Birdland' and 'Land:' probably not so much- maybe back in the day, but highly doubtful today. (But then again, what the hell do I know about radio, right?)

'Break It Up' and 'Free Money' also seem to fit well together on the album. The former is a big, mournful, majestic ballad (a tribute to Jim Morrison of The Doors) and I couldn't quite figure out the latter- it seemed to have, weirdly, a Jefferson Airplane vibe to it. Which worked for me, because, well, I like Jefferson Airplane.

'Elegie' is a beautiful ballad that reminded me a lot of Smith's take on 'Because The Night'. It's spare, mournful- pretty much just her voice and the piano until it culminates in a tribute to her idols- in this case, deceased rock God, Jimi Hendrix.

(I guess I must have stumbled across the 30th Anniversary edition of this album, but there was a nice bonus track: an excellent punk cover of  The Who's 'My Generation', that's so full of angry punk rage that it's almost transcendent. It got me excited for a second, because she name checks a John Cale on the song- and I think she was talking about J.J. Cale, but she wasn't. She was talking about this guy- who's got an equally cool resume in my opinion.)

Overall: Short, compact, beautiful, poetic...  I loved every minute of this album. Whatever lead me to find the music of Patti Smith in the first place, all those years ago turned out to be a piece of serendipity and this album only confirmed that. My Grade: A+

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Pre-Endorsements: Confronting The Inevitable

If I could go to sleep and wake up sometime after Election Day, I probably would. It's awful, it's unbearable and while actual news is happening (you remember, the shit that actually matters) the media fixates on Hillary's hacking, wheezing coughing and hangs on every piece of verbal poo that flies out of The Donald's mouth. I honestly don't want to think about this train wreck of an election, but it's creeping up on me, so it's time to dip my toe into this kiddie pool of shit and see what I'm thinking about...  yes, it's time for The Pre-Endorsements...

For President:
I have no earthly idea who I'm going to vote for.  I can't stand Trump. I'm not a fan of Hillary. Jill Stein, despite being a candidate worth voting for in 2012, seems to have gone slightly off the deep end. (Though props for getting an arrest warrant- might be the only Presidential Candidate in history to get arrested in consecutive elections while running for President, with the possible exception of Eugene Debs.) Gary Johnson, despite needing to consult an atlas for the location of Aleppo,Syria, remains the most well-rounded and experienced candidate in the race. His wobbly on foreign affairs though is sort of worrying.

This is an incredibly frustrating choice to be contemplating and the two major candidates aren't helping matters any. Trump's little Tweet about sexual assault in the military was so disgusting that for the first time in the campaign, I seriously felt like I could potentially hold my nose and vote for Hillary. But now there's a question mark about her health* and she had to go take a shit on half the country and that doesn't exactly make me want to run out to the voting booth and cast a vote for her.**

But, looking at this handy-dandy list of candidates I found on the Auditor's Site, I've got some homework today. There's more than four options, that's for sure.

For Senate:
This might be the year I break with Senator Grassley and vote for his Democratic opponent, Patty Judge. To be honest though, I can't remember if I voted for him in 2010 or not. I feel like I probably went 3rd Party that cycle, because, well, it was a boring race and really I didn't care. But this time...  hmmmm...  it's a balance between the potential of losing a lot of influence for Iowa (Grassley is the Chair of The Senate Judiciary Committee) and Senator Grassley's stance on the reclassification of 911 Dispatchers from Administrative to Protective Services annoys me***. The whole Supreme Court dust-up doesn't really bother me all that much, because if you switch the parties on both sides of that argument around, you'd still have the same exact arguments. There are some 3rd Party Options out there- I see that the New Independent Party Iowa is still around and fielding candidates, so I'll have to do some homework here.

For Congress:
Honestly, this one is probably the closest to a no-brainer that I've ever seen. I've got no particular objection to Congressman Loebsack and therefore, I've got no particular reason not to vote for the guy. Is voting for someone the same as endorsing them? That I don't know. My overall reaction to the dude is a sort of 'meh.' He's doing his job competently from what I know- which admittedly, isn't much, but you have to figure if he's not in the news for fucking something up, he can't be that bad, right?

Everything Else:
No State Senators on the ballot this cycle, but there's a state representative seat- Mary Mascher is, of course, running unopposed in District 86.

Board of Supervisors? Three candidates, three to be selected. Gee, I wonder who's going to get selected in this race.

Auditor, unopposed.

Sheriff, unopposed.

LIFE GOAL for the non-partisan offices: figure out what the hell the Agricultural Extension Council and the Soil and Water Conservation Commission actually do.

Judicial Retention? I'd vote to retain. (After the whole dust-up with outside money after the Varnum Decision, I've tended to vote to retain across the board just because I don't want my state's judicial system used as a play thing in the national culture wars. I see no reason to change that practice this time around.)

Iowa City Ballot Measure? Hell yes I'm supporting this... if for no other reason than to bring our City Charter in line with the Iowa Code. But in general, streamlining and making the petition requirements simpler- if not necessarily easier has got to be good for our local democracy and anything that's good for our local democracy I'm in favor of.

We'll see what the next month shakes looks, but for now, it's time to get to it, roll up my sleeves and start doing my homework.

*She's working a schedule that would kill a normal person in a sprint to the finish of a very nasty election. Of course she's gonna get sick- that's not the problem, the problem is the video that legitimized every tinfoil hat whack-a-doo conspiracy theorist out there and it's not the facts that matter with stuff like this, it's the perception. Maybe it won't matter by Election Day, but on the other hand...  maybe it will.

**Look, she's not wrong. But again, it's a perception thing. I don't know how many undecideds are out there but any soft Trump supporters or any 3rd Party types that might be considering a tactical vote against Trump as we get to the finish line won't take it well. It's like Mittens and his 47% remark. It wasn't wrong, per say- but people thought he was talking about them. And they'll think the same wit this. I saw a great quote yesterday: "You can't spit on people and then tell them it's raining." I think that applies. Again, might not matter by Election Day. But then again, maybe it will.

***I'm planning a future blog post on this issue. So stay tuned.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #182

This Week In Vexillology, we're still running around Southeast Asia, slipping just over the border from Laos to take a look at the flag of it's next door neighbor, Thailand:
The interesting thing about the flag of Thailand is the evolution it's had over the centuries. The first flag of Thailand (then called Siam) was a plain red one that made it's debut around the middle of the 17th Century. A white chakra was added around the end of 18th Century and then an elephant was placed inside in during the early parts of the 19th Century. From the middle of the 19th Century until the flag assumed it's present form in 1917, Thailand doubled down on the elephant, going for a large white one, facing the hoist of the flag, once again on the field of red- first without any regalia and then for awhile with some regalia on board for the ride.

Then 1917 rolled around and King Rama VI entered World War I on the side of the Allies and this flag emerged not long after. The colors are said to represent the unofficial motto of Thailand: 'nation-religion-king.' The red stands for the land and the people, the white for religion and the blue for the Monarchy. The fact that they entered the war for the Allies was also noted as red, white and blue were all the colors in the flags of the main Allied powers as well.

Per Wikipedia, the impetus for change came from a flood, where the King at the time saw the old flag hanging upside down. Wanting to prevent that from happening again, he changed to a symmetrical flag. The middle color was originally a lighter shade of blue, but was changed to dark blue/indigo which was seen as an auspicious color for Saturdays which was the day the King was born.

And that's the flag of Thailand! Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, September 16, 2016

'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' --A Review

For reasons passing understanding, I signed up for a double over Labor Day Weekend and, with the Missus and the Kiddos heading up to visit the Mother-in-Law and The Nieces, I did my best to stay up a little later than usual the night before so I wouldn't be completely wrecked for the overnight portion of my double the next day. My movie of choice? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice...

I had sort of been of two minds about this movie when it was kicking around the theaters in the spring. Part of me wanted to try and find a time to go and see it, but part of me also thought that it seemed like a solid lock for a RedBox rental and it turns out that latter instinct was right. Don't get me wrong: it wasn't a bad movie, in fact, it was pretty solid and there was moments and flashes of brilliance and the outlines of something really really good were visible throughout the movie.

But, I think they still haven't quite figured out Superman* yet. I don't hate Henry Cavill in the role and Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane, but their relationship feels...  I don't know if 'underdone' is quite the right word, but it, lacks context. There's a great moment at the end of the film, where Superman is about to do the last great climactic thing in spoiler-free climax of the movie and he looks over at Lois Lane and says, 'this is my world.' And you feel the emotion of that moment and then you find yourself wishing that the movie had made that true. Both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman want to make Superman be both an alien and separate from this world and yet part of this world at the same time. Yet they haven't been able to pull it off. He just feels like a loner who can fly and do shit with his eyes.

The character who carries this movie though, is Batman. I was dubious about Ben Affleck stepping into the role, but you know what? It works. It really, really works... his motivation for wanting to take down Superman is perfectly placed in a post-9/11 world and the movie makes it clear from the start: the carnage and destruction in Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel has consequences, one of which is Batman wanting to kick your ass. While I wasn't crazy at seeing the origin of Batman and the death of Bruce Wayne's parents for about the one millionth time on screen- I mean, is there anyone alive in the world today that doesn't know what Batman's origin story actually is at this point? Between you know, Batman, the movies, and the video games, we all know. We get it.

The appearance of Wonder Woman was probably the highlight of the movie. She. Kicked. Ass. Plus, I love the way that they handled introducing her. She just showed up. And Bruce Wayne finds out that she's been around for a long, long time.

Does Jesse Eisenberg work as Lex Luthor? Meh. Yes and no. He's nicely twitchy and eccentric, but by the end he seems to have tipped over beyond twitchy and into just plumb crazy. Maybe I don't know enough about the character of Lex Luthor in the zeitgeist, but to me, it's ambition, power and greed that are the cornerstones of that character, whereas the Joker tends to go into the little more 'crazy-ass' area of things. Eisenberg seemed to be more Joker than Luthor by the end of the movie, but overall I would say that Eisenberg manages to actually inhabit the role more effectively than his predecessors. I haven't seen too much of Gene Hackman's take on the character and any cheesiness for Kevin Spacey as more than made up for by the fact that he's just having so much damn fun in the role.

The final third of the movie sort of lost me a little bit. Everything felt very ponderous and unwieldy. Every one is very sad at the end even though it's only been eighteen months since Superman showed up in the first place. It's...  jarring. Or, it might have been creeping past the three a.m. hour and I was starting to fall asleep. Not sure which.

Overall: Decent movie. Batman is great, Wonder Woman is awesome, there's bones of an excellent movie here that doesn't quite emerge, but as a prologue/set-up movie for Justice League it works quite well. I'd say ** 1/2 out of ****.

*To me, Smallville is the only Superman that's clicked with me. At the heart of the story, Superman is about an alien trying to figure his shit out and where his place in the world actually is. The process of growing up fits that to a T. And it's a shame that the CW didn't call Tom Welling off the bench to suit up for Supergirl, because that would have been amaaaaaaaazing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Randomness: Let's Do This, Hollywood

So, for some reason at work the other day we ended up talking about the Meiji Restoration. (As 911 Dispatchers so often do.) And my co-worker and I had a brief discussion about the name of the American Naval Commander who broke Japan's isolation in the 1800s, which all the world knows is Commodore Perry. So I looked it up on Wikipedia (as you do) to see if I was right (I was) and look at the handsome fellow I found:
And his full name? Commodore Matthew C. Perry- and then it hit me: this is a biopic waiting to happen! (And no, Shogun and The Last Samurai don't count.) Plus, you've already got the perfect actor just waiting, just begging to play the part. Who else?
HOW HAS THIS NOT HAPPENED ALREADY? If he turns his smile upside down and eats a lot of cheese so he can look a bit constipated, Matthew Perry is a dead ringer for Commodore Matthew C. Perry. I bet they're even related! How insane would that be? Matthew Perry playing Matthew C. Perry a distant ancestor of his on the silver screen? Let me repeat myself: how has this not happened already?

Come on, Hollywood. Let's do this thing! (I mean, at the very least, there's got to be a decent SNL sketch buried somewhere in this premise right. I mean, I'm not sure when Matthew Perry hosted last or even if he has hosted (he must have, pretty much everyone has at this point, I think) but gosh. Smart, funny, historical humor. I'd be all about an SNL sketch like that.)

Thus concludes this month's post of randomness. Tune in next month for whatever my brain churns up and outward into the world.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Can We Talk About The Dakota Access Pipeline?

If you want proof at what bullshit our media has become, look no further than what's going on in North Dakota right now. Then check your the news... I guarantee you won't see a damn thing about it. Local news is a little better about it. I've at least seen news articles float by me about the protests in Iowa about the Bakken Pipeline (which, admittedly, I didn't read, but I've at least been vaguely aware of the controversy, which is more than I could say about the North Dakota section of the pipeline, which confusingly is being called Dakota Access- but is actually part of the same big-ass pipeline.) has a pretty good round-up of the basics of what's going down in North Dakota and has been all over this- they've got the latest here. (Speaking of which: I always appreciate news sources that are dedicated to the actual news instead of fluff and Trump. I will have to peruse it more often.)

What's bullshit about all this?

First of all, the dogs. I don't give a damn if they weren't non-violent protesters as one side has claimed and yes, I know, I know- YouTube/Social Media videos can be suspect sometimes because people can edit them to show whatever they want. But that said: come on now, private security/mercenaries with K9's? What the fuck country is this anyway? Bad enough we had police rolling through places like Ferguson in frickin' tanks, but these guys aren't even fucking police. If your pipeline requires attack dogs and private goons, call me crazy, but move your damn pipeline.

Second of all: there's a bit of vague language about this- it's not clear whether or not burial grounds are being desecrated or if it's 'sacred ground.' I'm going to assume that if you're a member of an indigenous tribe, then you could make a very convincing argument that all land is 'sacred ground' in which case...  I like your argument, but you can also see how the other side could pick that apart, right? If there are actual burial grounds being disturbed, desecrated or destroyed, then OH HELL NO.

Look, the older I get the more dismayed I am at how incredibly ignorant I am of the history of this country. Is the relationship we have with the First Peoples of America all that great? No. They've gotten the fuzzy end of a very shitty lollipop for centuries now. Can it be completely fixed? No. And I'm not a Native American, so I won't speak as to what their community or individual tribes might hope for or want. But what I do know is that like it or not, good and bad, their story is part of this country. Cultures, languages and tradition of all native peoples deserve to be protected, by law if necessary.

Third of all, there's the matter of tribal sovereignty. This is the part where I get a little fuzzy about things. Looking at the maps of the route out there it appears to go around the bulk of the Standing Rock Reservation. While the tribes have some very real objections about the route (it crosses the Missouri upstream of them, which means if there's a spill, which you know, happens from time to time with pipelines then their main source of water would be effed. Hard.) I'm confused how and why this construction ended up on tribal lands? If it's on tribal lands, it needs to get off. I don't know who set this route, but someone should have anticipated this and steered clear of tribal lands whenever possible.

I get it. We're a nation thirsty for oil and this pipeline means construction and jobs and money, but tribal sovereignty matters too. With the full costs of things like the Animas River spill still being counted and felt, it's not surprising that there's a concerted effort to protect the Missouri from the potential hazards of a pipeline. I have been on record stating that building something like Keystone XL seemed to be a good idea. But this situation has forced me to reconsider my position. There has to be a way to respect and protect tribal lands and sovereignty while building a pipeline. The people who want to build this just didn't look hard enough for it. And at the end of the day, we've spent centuries as a nation violating the sovereignty and desecrating the lands of the First Nations of this entire continent. It won't stop until we stand up and say, 'no more.'

So: no more. Or as the hashtag seems to going around: #NoDAPL.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #181

This Week In Vexillology, we're heading down into Southeast Asia to take a look at the flag of a country that's actually had a passing mention or two in the news this week thanks to President Obama. That's right, it's the flag of Laos!
In the great cultural zeitgeist of contemporary American pop culture, Laos is probably on people's radar mainly due to King of the Hill, but if you go back a little further in our history, there's that whole secret bombing of the place ordered by everyone's favorite President, Richard Nixon. So, we've got some not-so-nice history with the country.

While Laos as a country is a relatively new concept, it's precursor was the Kingdom of Lan Xang, which lasted from 1354-1707 and was a major power in Southeast Asia during that period- it provided the cultural and political foundation for the state of Laos that exists today- and indeed, until the Communist regime began in 1975, Laos was a monarchy. (Coolest thing about Lan Xang Hom Khao is the translation of the name, literally: 'The Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under The White Parasol.')

Another uncomfortable truth about Laos: between 1964 and 1973, we made Laos the most heavily bombed country on Earth with B-52's dropping an average of one bomb load, every eight minutes, 24 hours a day. More ordinance that was dropped during the World War II as a whole. (h/t to Wikipedia for that sad statistic.)

But, the flag!

First of all, it's rare among Communist states: other than Cuba, Laos is the only communist country to have a flag with no obvious communist symbols. It was also first adopted between 1945-1949 by the Lao Issara movement which was actually non-Communist and nationalist- and aimed to prevent the French from restoring their control over Laos after World War II. When that failed, they disbanded in 1949, but the Communist regime brought back the flag when they assumed control after the Civil War in 1975.

Then, there's the symbolism of the flag itself. The white disk represents the unity of the Lao people (which includes a nod for future reunification of Laos with the Laotian region of Northeastern Thailand.) It's also meant to represent a full moon over the Mekong River. The red stripes represent the blood shed on both banks of the Mekong in their struggle for independence from the French. The blue, of course, represents the Mekong River, a symbol of prosperity for the country.

That's Laos...

Remember, until next time keep your flags flying, FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Squawk Box: The Post-Frasier Grab Bag

After chewing through eleven season of Frasier, I was left without a direction, so of course, I went in about five different directions and launched into binges of five different shows, all at the same time. They're pretty wide-ranging, to be honest and somewhere better than others. So, without further ado: The Post-Frasier Grab Bag!

The Newsroom: There's an irritating thing that Aaron Sorkin does that you just have to sort of accept if you watch his television shows. They all have threads of commonality and similarities that run through them, from dialogue to character types, to whatever- there's supercuts of his Sorkinisms out there on the internet. That doesn't mean the writing's bad...  it's just ice cream. There are multiple flavors of ice cream out there in the world- they might taste different or look different but at the end of the day, it's still ice cream.

The first season of this show was rough stuff indeed. I hated the initial conceit of having the show set a couple of years before it aired- because it seemed to be a lazy excuse to sermonize on the part of Aaron Sorkin. The major news stories of the year- ranging from Gabby Giffords' assassination attempt to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon- we would get to see them covered by our heroes the way that they should have been covered. The West Wing has this rep in some (usually conservative) quarters of being scornfully dismissed as 'The Left Wing' which it isn't shy about- but it's sermonizing is rarely as grating as The Newsroom's is in the first season. Thankfully, they start to tell actual stories by season's end and the subsequent seasons start to head in intriguing directions before it all ends in Season 3. Individual performances work for me here more than the overall show, Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner, Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy and Olivia Munn as Sloane Sabbith about steal this show all by themselves. TL;DR: rough start, shows promises but dies an early death. If you're bored with your regular flavor of Sorkin, this one can be a nice change up.

Limitless: Did CBS fall and hit it's head? How the hell do you cancel a show this good? I assumed, given it's cancellation that it must have gone sideways somewhere in the back half of the season, but the few episodes I saw were great and as I made my way through season 1, my sense of bafflement only began to grow. How the hell do you cancel a show this good? Seriously. The cast is great (Jake McDorman, Blair Brown, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Ron Rifkin, Jennifer Carpenter amongst others) the writing is great. The show has depth: it can be meta, funny, dramatic- it's playful and self-deprecating almost.

I understand that the network television environment is rough these days, but there's no way this show didn't deserve at least another season. Hell, ship it to the CW with Supergirl if you want it off of CBS, but this show deserved at least one more season to prove itself and it's cancellation remains the most baffling decision of the last television season. There are whispers and rumors Netflix might be willing to swoop in and give it a second season, but I haven't seen anything firm on that yet.

The Last Kingdom: I liked this, but I feel like I could have liked it a lot more if it would have been just a touch more than eight episodes. The subject matter is awesome: King Alfred, the last king of free England, must fight for his Kingdom of Wessex against the Danish domination of the rest of England. Helping him is Utred Ragnarson, who was born a Saxon, kidnapped and raised by the Danes and doing his best to straddle both worlds to try and get his father's land in the north back and revenge for the murder of his adopted family. It all sounds so damn great, but after some investigation, I learned that they were trying to squeeze two of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories (The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman) into just eight episodes and I don't know if they quite pulled it off. I think in the books, you probably have more in-depth exploration given to the relationships Utred has throughout the book, but in the television show, other than Brida, a fellow Saxon who escapes south with him after their Danish family is murdered, Utred seems to move from his new wife Mildrith to his pagan girlfriend/seeress Iseult very quickly indeed- so quickly, it seems almost jarring in many ways.

Netflix is taking over for Season 2, set to drop in 2017- and they've got ten episodes instead of 8 set to go. It'll be interesting to see how that works, but I have a feeling that the extra two episodes are going to make a lot of difference in how this show flows.

Stranger Things: This could have been any number of movies from the 1980s. There's a touch of ET, a touch of Goonies, a touch of Stand By Me- it's a nostalgia trip/period piece that could have easily been a kitschy trainwreck, but actually it's amazing. From the synth driven opening titles, to the music, to the fashion, the pop culture throwbacks to old school D&D, it's just a blast. And at eight episodes, it doesn't take up that much of your time. Love every minute of it and can't wait for Season 2 to drop.

Mr. Robot: Jesus, talk about a red pill vs blue pill kind of experience. It's the movie Hackers, all grown up in 2016 with a touch of The Matrix, Fight Club and a hefty dose of LSD all thrown in for good measure. Do you go down the rabbit hole with this show? Absolutely. But it's a savage critique of modern capitalism and blows every other modern portrayal of hackers/technology and that culture out of the water. Its one season in so far, but holy hell, where might it go in Season 2? Who knows. But I want to find out.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

40 For 40: Year 3

Well, I'm officially 33. Which I guess makes 2016 my Jesus Year? I'm getting depressingly close to being halfway through my third decade of life (and therefore, that much close to death, which is always a cheerful thought.) How's it going? I honestly can't complain about most of it. I have two beautiful kids, wife that loves me, beautiful new house. Life is good. A little sprinkle of change could make work a lot more bearable right now, but failing a sprinkle of change, there's always the tantalizing possibility of another chapter in my career.

How's the list coming? I've got a couple of more years before the big 3-5 gives me the opportunity to change anything on the list, but so far, so good. There's been progress and I think I can get more done this year. Here's where we are:

1. Publish my novel.
2. Get another tattoo
3. Finish all 4,532 pages and 12 volumes of Winston Churchill's 'The Second World War.'
4. Run a 5k
5. Visit All 50 States
6. Get ripped and get myself in shape.
7. Pay off every single dime of my student loans.
8. Write more novels, publish them.
9. I would like to ride a mechanical bull.
10. Go on a Caribbean Cruise with the Missus.
11. Drive to Alaska.
12. Find out if St. Louis and Kansas City are pretty cool, since people keep insisting that they are.
13. Have at least one culinary adventure a year.
14. Vikings/Packers at Lambeau. 'Nuff said.
15. Read one fiction book a year that's well outside my usual genre preferences.
16. Work on my backlog of non-fiction and history books, my Fraser biographies of Charles II and Cromwell, The Steel Bonnets and my Jenkins bios of Churchill and Gladstone are at the top of the list.
17. Read Wuthering Heights and understand/appreciate it.
18. Re-read and finish The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire
19. Read Pride and Prejudice and understand it/appreciate it.
20. Master my ukulele!
21. I would like to shoot a gun. Because I've never done that before.
22. Be the best Father I can be.
23. Be able to buy a really rare bottle of whiskey for my 40th Birthday.
24. I'd like to visit Kentucky and check out the Bourbon Trail.
25. I'd like to visit NYC.
26. Ride a day of RAGBRAI.
27. Ride the whole week of RAGBRAI.
28.  Learn how to make bread from scratch.
29. World Travel Wishlist: Brazil, India, China, Europe.
30. Brush up my foreign language skills and achieve moderate fluency in Chinese and Hindi.
31. Get something pierced again.
32. Go skydiving.
33. Go to Trekfest.
34. Take the family back to the United Kingdom for a vacation.
35. Make our house perfect (or move to a bigger and better house.)
36. Be able to afford subscription to The Economist.
37. Road trip it up to Winnipeg for Jets game.
38. I'd like to see an Iowa away game somewhere. (Football and Basketball.)
39. Go to a Major League Soccer Game
40. Go to a Cubs game at Wrigley

Okay, so not a lot of progress with the list this year. I have to step up my game a little bit- but I also know that I'm close on a lot of these things. I just have to find the willpower (the time and the money) to do some of them. What's reachable this year?

#2, #3, #16, and #26 are probably the closest. #25 is a tantalizing possibility- maybe for the Missus' birthday next spring? #34 we both keep talking about, but we just need to go. #36 might go on my birthday list. In fact, you know what? I think it will go on my birthday list.

Hopefully I can get a few more things done this year. We'll see.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Adopt-A-Team 2016-2017: Eredivise Edition

I love soccer. It's not exactly a secret to anyone that gets to know me a little bit. I love Arsenal, I'm still pondering an MLS team to support. I'll sit down with a Bundesliga game when one's on. I love Men In Blazers. It's my sport! But the more I watch soccer and plug into it as best I can, the more I realize that some leagues get more love than others, so that's when I had a thought.

What about exploring some leagues that maybe aren't quite as prominent as say the Premier League, La Liga or the Bundesliga? Why don't I pick a league, pick a team and follow them for a season- in other words: go down the rabbit hole and see where it takes me?

Thus was born Adopt-A-Team!* And because, well, I have a great affection for the Dutch and their football, I figured why not start with the Eredivise!

So, I looked at the latest Eredivise table, wrote down every team playing in the top flight of Dutch football on little, teeny scraps of paper and put them all in a bowl, like this:
Then, I got Little Man to stop watching Paw Patrol for a second and come and pick out a scrap of paper and you know what he drew:

N.E.C Nijmegen! Currently, they're sitting at 1-2-0 on the season and with 5 points, they're at a solid 7th in the table. I did a little exploration to get to know N.E.C. and you know what? I sort of like what I see. First of all, there's the name: N.E.C. stands for Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie, which sounds pretty metal. Or maybe like a distant cousin of a band like Kraftwerk. Second of all, there's the origin story- at least the Wikipedia version of the origin. Basically, the club started in Nijmegen Lower City, where the poorest people live. A bunch of boys from downtown played football everyday on the streets and on November 15th, 1900 they decided to start their own football club. No one helped them and the fee was two cents a week. They started out with just the name Eendracht and after a few years playing other teams from Nijmegen they were crowned champions of the local association and won promotion to the lower divisions. 

Then they got serious about things and in April 1910, merged with a nearby club called Nijmegen and thus, Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie was born! Let's see where they go this season!

*I had originally conceived this idea as a Podcast Segment, but since I have no idea when or even if I might get around to launching a podcast, I figured why not give it a go in written form and see how it goes?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #180

This Week In Vexillology, we're heading south and a little bit west from the Caucuses and back to South Asia, where we're going to take a look at the flag of Bangladesh:
Adopted on January 17, 1972 as the national flag of Bangladesh. It's almost identical to the one used during the Liberation War in 1971, except that a yellow outline of the nation of Bangladesh that had been placed in the center of the disc was removed- they reckon the difficulties of rendering the map correctly on both sides of the flag. What's unusual and somewhat striking about this flag is that the red disk is slightly off-center- they also wanted to avoid any use of the Crescent and Star symbol seen on the flag of Pakistan, because well, let's just say that the events leading up to the Liberation War and the independence of Bangladesh weren't exactly fun and pleasant.

What stands out about this flag though is that it's got a specific origin story-- and unlike, say the American Legend of Betsy Ross (which I was surprised to learn has never actually been verified, which is sort of a bummer) this one is verifiable and specific- at least per Our Font of All Knowledge, Wikipedia:
The first version of the flag was designed and made by a section of student leaders and activists of Swadheen Bangla Nucleus on 6 June 1970, at room 108 of Iqbal Hall (now Sergeant Zahurul Haq hall), Dhaka University;students involved with the design were namely Kazi Aref Ahmed, ASM Abdur Rab, Shahjahan Siraj, Manirul Islam (Marshal Moni), Swapan Kumar Choudhury, Quamrul Alam Khan (Khasru), Hasanul Haq Inu, Yousuf Salahuddin Ahmed and few others. The flag was made from clothes donated by Bazlur Rahman Lasker, the owner of Apollo Tailors, Dhaka New Market. A map of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was first traced on a tracing paper from at atlas by Hasanul Haq Inu, Yousuf Salahuddin Ahmed and Enamul Haq, at Enamul's room (312) in Quaid-I Azam Hall (now Titumil Hall), EPUET. Later the map was painted in the red circle by Shib Narayan Das. On 2 March 1971, this initial version of the flag was hoisted in Bangladesh for the first time at Dhaka University, by student leader A. S. M. Abdur Rab, the then Vice President of Dhaka University Students' Union (DUCSU).
Okay, let's break this down a bit. Let's go ahead and say that even though I got this 'graph right out of Wikipedia, it's all true. If so, how crazy is this? I mean, the know the origin story of their flag right down to the room numbers and which dorms people did what in and when it was first flown over Dhaka University. Meanwhile, in America, our university students are more concerned about safe spaces, trigger warnings and micro-aggressions. Makes you think, doesn't it? This flag has an origin story that's worthy of any superhero out there and that's kind of cool, at least to me, because well, I'm a flag nerd.

The symbolism is simple though: the green stands for the lushness of the land of Bangladesh, while the red stands for the sun rising over Bengal and also the blood of those who died for the independence of Bangladesh.

Until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, September 2, 2016

True Confessions: This Shit Is Hard

I should have paid more attention in math class. I never quite believed it when every math teacher I ever had tried to tell me that 'this is important' and 'you're going to use this in every day life all the time.' And while it's true, I have yet to find a practical, everyday use for trigonometry or quadratic equations, the older I get the more I realize that adulting, as the young and the hip like to call it, is nothing more than one long equation that gets more complex with every element life throws your way.

Family. I try and be as present as possible in the lives of both my children. I have to learn how to fully unplug from work and just be present with them, because they're both awesome in totally different and unique ways. I want to read more to Little Man, because I feel like I never get the chance too. I want to lay down next to Little Dude as he chills on his mat, playing with his toys and smiling, laughing and making all kinds of neat and adorable faces. I am terrified that I'm fucking up at this fatherhood thing somehow.

When it comes to the Missus, I just want to find time to be with her whenever and wherever I can, because she remains the love of my life. It's still, even after all this time, a source of constant wonder to me that someone so amazing could put up with me- even when my current job makes us both single parents more often than either of us want. I want to find time so badly, but can never seem too.

Life. The self-esteem movement sort of screwed our generation a little bit. It's not enough we get a job and work, no our lives need to have meaning. Not hobbies. Not relaxing weekends tinkering with the car or grilling outside. No, meaning. Fucking meaning. You have to matter. There's sort of a ridiculous pressure to conform to what society wants and yet you have to know that none of it matters. But you do need to figure out what feeds your soul a little bit. I think that might be writing. I think that might be finding what interests me and not being afraid to explore that and learn as much as I can.

But there are barriers everywhere. Break them down? Learn, learn, learn? How do you market a book when you know nothing about marketing? You want people to read your book, right? Lower your shoulder, get to the grindstone and keep trying. That's all you can do.

Work. It's Sisyphus right now. We get the boulder up the hill, maybe achieve equilibrium and stability and then the boulder rolls back down the hill again. Lucy takes the football away and we're back in the trenches. Living here, when here is the last place I want to be most days. I look for other opportunities and get nowhere. I feel like I have to be doing something wrong, but damned if I know what it is. It's not that I don't like the job. There are opportunities here, but unless something changes, I feel like I'm reaching my expiration date here, but I can seem to find an escape clause. There's got to be something else out there if I need it.

But it hasn't presented itself, so, in the words of Churchill, "If you're going through hell, keep going." And so I shall, because in the (hopefully correct) Japanese phrase, 'Shikata ga nai,' there is no other choice. And just to keep going with the quotes, there's a scene from Elizabeth: The Golden Age that kept running through my head, where she goes to consult with her scientist/soothsayer guy about what's going to go down. The Spanish are closing in, the Kingdom is under threat (there are so many epic, existential moments scattered throughout British history. It's really something when you think about it.) I actually ran down a script to grab the exact quote:
"When the storm breaks, each man acts in accordance with his own nature. Some are dumb with terror. Some flee. Some hide. And some spread their wings like eagles and soar on the storm."
I'll survive. Day by day, week by week. At some point, something's gotta break our way, right? We won't be standing on quicksand. I'll probably have a miserable few months, I'll admit, but I'll make it through. The irony is that life is the ultimate dispatching job. You have to multi-task, juggle all the chainsaws and it never stops. At least not until you're dead. Time to plunge headlong into the storm.

Can't flee.
Can't hide.
Can't stop and freeze.

Guess I've got to figure out how to spread my wings and learn to fly. Tack into the wind. [Insert any more cliches/inspirational platitudes that I've left out here.]

This shit is hard. That's fine. Life isn't supposed to be easy, but right here, right now, I'd be okay with it being just a little bit easier, you know.