gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
Dear person sitting in front of us at the Iron Maiden concert last night.

You are a self-centered ass, and completely ignorant of concert etiquette.

First of all, you skipped the opening act. Sucks to be you, Ghost was amazing. But then, once Iron Maiden took the stage, you spent the entire show with your phone out, taping the entire thing. Which wouldn't be so bad, but you had the camera's light on. You keep turning the phone to take selfies, meaning you kept shining that light right in my eyes as I was trying to watch Maiden.

So I hope that when you got home and reviewed the footage, you'll appreciate the fact that almost all of your selfie shots feature my raised middle fingers waving around behind you.

Up the Irons! And up yours!
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
Screw Facebook, screw the internet. We got along JUST FINE without them as I recall from the hazy days of my youth! Hell, let's dump telephones, telegraphs, the printing press and the ability to make paper, and go back to the Roman way of communicating, scrawling graffiti on the walls. It worked in Pompeii, after all.

What brings this Luddite rant on, and yes I appreciate that I'm using another form of social media to spread it, is the last 24 hours of my Facebook account. See, I was quite dim and trusted things to work as designed. Silly me, you think I would have learned my lessons before!

But no, I had to assume that a multi-billion dollar company would have decent tech support, and that a publication vetted by the Departments of Defense and the Army would be careful picking vendors when it came to managing their web content. I laugh now, of course. I can still remember how sloppy their were in vetting the taco truck guys at Fort Benning!

So here's what happened: yesterday, while doing my daily reading of the Book of Faces, I found a story on the Army Times page that was interesting. Even though I've been out for 30-odd years - and some of them were very odd years indeed! - I still follow stories about the Army as an interested veteran. In this case, the article was about a proposal before the Sergeant Major of the Army concerning facial hair.

See, the Army bans beards, unless you need to wear one for religious reasons or have a medical profile stating that you can shave. Even then, those beads need to be tightly trimmed and neat in appearance. Mustaches are allowed, but they can't extend beyond the edge of the mouth and again, must be neatly trimmed.

I think they allow mustaches just for the giggles senior NCOs get watching 19 year old PFCs trying to grow a decent 'stache. Gotta find amusement somewhere!

But I digress. The argument against beards was uniformity of appearance, being able to properly wear protective gear like helmets and protective masks (what we call gas masks), and the usual "why change?" crowd. The pro side was countering with the experience of our NATO allies, who do allow facial hair without problems, the fact that the US Army hasn't been gassed since 1918, and the fact that up through WWI beards were just fine in the service.

Interesting stuff, and there was a poll attached. Three questions on the subject. Being a noisy bastard, I took the poll, and because I have many friends who are veterans or military service all over the world, I posted the link to my Facebook. By Patton's Pistols, that was a mistake.

My initial post was cloning itself every three minutes. Copy after copy. With no way to stop it! At one point last night Kirsten was seeing 54 distinct posts of the same thing. Which meant almost everyone on my friend's list was getting spammed by this damn thing, as horrific a breach of etiquette as you can find in the more polite end of the ol' interwebs.

In between marathon deletions of the offending post, I was trying to wave down someone, anyone, to help me with this nightmare. Apester, the company that was handling to poll software at least got back to me, and I submitted a trouble ticket with them. I emailed the webmaster at the Army Times to tell him that there might be a bad code issue with the poll, and never heard back. And Facebook? I laugh because murderous rampages are really tiring.

Ever needed help with something on Facebook? Good luck. Rather than actual help you are faced with page after page of FAQs on common issues. No human, not even a helpful script to be found. Of course, my issue was decidedly uncommon, so not a single option they had applied. There's no email address for or the like. No toll-free number you can call. Just a sad little web form that still tries to force you back into their self-help pages before admitting you have a problem. No idea if anyone reads those submissions.

I ended up disabling my Facebook account to prevent everyone from getting buried in my opinion about soldierly beards. Which pisses me off now end, as Facebook is my primary way of staying in touch with friends and family. This stupid error also adversely affected my sleep as I was worrying about losing years of photos and information.

The happy ending. Sort of. One of Kirsten's contacts explained the nuclear option of deauthorizing all apps on my page. It worked, and my page is back up. A bit crippled, but it's there.

Now, If y'all will excuse me, I'll be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint in cuneiform on this clay tablet.
gridlore: Gold football helmet with red 49ers logo (Football - 49ers helmet)
Another Superbowl has come and gone. Leaving us with the etenral question, is Super Bowl one word or two? I've seen it both ways, honestly, and even the official NFL material seems to be of two minds.

The game itself was amazing, featuring an astonishing comeback by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. I was rooting for Atlanta, as I always want to see a city lacking in championships earn one. That first parade is always magical. But the football gods were fickle, and Boston gets the joy.

The end of football season means that baseball, and my beloved San Francisco Giants, are just around the corner. We're already seeing photos from this year's commercial shoots, and Spring Training opens next week! Rapture! Joy! Beat L.A.!

Seriously, Beat L.A. With a stick. I hate the Dodgers.

But along with the overblown end of the NFL season came something I've come to dread on social media. People adopting elitist, dismissive attitudes about sports. Sadly, some people I consider friends to this. It annoys me no end, and I have to keep from exploding every time I see it. So I'll just explain why here in this space.

Calling all sports "sportsball" and pretending to be confused by the basic concepts of the game are insulting. Refusing to admit that sports are popular to a wide audience of all backgrounds is delusional. Whining about people spending money on watching sports is rude and controlling. If I choose to spend money on a Brandon Crawford jersey and pay to go to a game that's my business.

I have friends, some of whom have done the sportsball thing, who spend thousands of dollars every year to attend science-fiction conventions. I love conventions, but you don't think that someone somewhere isn't rolling their eyes at this? Two men I am proud to call friends have devoted thousands of hours and an equal amount of money to creating fantastic costumes and props, all for their own enjoyment. Surely there could have been a better use for that money, some would argue.

But it's what brings these people joy. So fuck off and let them enjoy it.

So why do I enjoy sports so much? I love watching skilled people do things that I could never do. A Major League pitcher can top 99mph on a fastball. The batter has less than a second to identify the speed and motion of the ball, make a swing/no swing decision, and commit to the act. Literally the slowest part of this action is the signal from the brain to the muscles to move. Yet a good batter will make contact over half the time.

A NFL quarterback has to be away of the position of 21 people at the time he gets the ball. He has to be able to track his receivers and throw the ball into a crowd and get it to the right guy. See how well you do at this when being pursued by guys who are big, fast, and strong. A few years ago my mom and I get great seats for a 49ers preseason game. We were right down by the sidelines near the end zone. We saw exactly how fast these players are, and how hard they hit.

There you go, I love sports because I love seeing amazing things unfold live.

But there's another reason why I love sports, and football in particular. 49ers football is probably my one good memory of my late father. Dad and I never got along. I often say that he wanted children and got Californians. Dad grew up in England during the Depression and WWII in a military family. He simple wasn't prepared for kids with political opinions and a sense of personal freedom. We locked horns on everything.

But on Sundays, we were a family united. I was raised a 49er Faithful. I joke that my first words were "wait 'till next year!" We lived and died by the Niners. Even when all my friends were rooting for the Steelers or Cowboys, the two dominant teams of the 1970s, I held fast to my roots.

My parents had season tickets at Candlestick Park, 45 yard line, right under the press box. Sometimes, I'd get to go to the game with Daddy. I can still remember riding up the long escalator while holding his hand, cheering as John Brodie let the Red and Gold down the field, getting to eat hot dogs and candy, and mainly just being with my dad as we followed the family religion.

Even later, at the worst of our estrangement, I would call him every Sunday during the season to talk about the game. It was the one common thread that held us together. And when he died, I think my first reaction was that I was going to miss those conversations.

In conclusion, if you don't like sports, good for you. But don't think that makes you better than anyone else, and don't be a condescending twat about it.

Oh, and Go Giants! BEAT L.A.
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
This my last comment on the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. As we all know, a gunman with a entire menu of issues, who claimed allegiance to three terrorist groups who hate each other, entered the club and shot over 100 people, killing 49 and wounding 53 others. He uses a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 handgun in the attack. After a stand off lasting several hours, the gunman was killed by SWAT officers.

Much of the debate centers around the weapons used. The MCX was designed for sale to governments for military use. Read the site linked. It's designed for rapid fire even in semi-automatic mode, and built to be quieter than most non-suppressed weapons. A boon for special forces, perhaps, but for civilians?

Rather than repeat the arguments, I'm just going to point out another shooting incident that was remarkably similar in terms of the situation but had a very different outcome.

On December 8th, 2004, Damageplan was playing the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. The place was packed because the band was the post-Pantera project of drummer Vinnie Paul and Darryl "Dimebag" Abbott, legendary guitarist. The two brothers were thrilled to be back on the road and playing to 700 fans. Shortly after the band's set started, a 25-year-old former Marine named Nathan Gale walked onto the stage and started shooting. Dimebag was the first to fall. A massacre was underway.

That night there were four deaths, and seven wounded. Out of over 700 fans, band personnel and club staff. Why so low? Because Gale was using a 9mm Beretta 92FS pistol with a 15 round magazine. The police were able to approach and kill Gale while he was reloading.

The only difference here was the weapons used.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Fail Black)
OK, so the Fox Network is remaking the Rocky Horror Picture Show for broadcast. Why I don't give a flying piece of toast.

First Red Doritos: Hearken back to when the RHPS was just getting rolling. No one really knew any LGBT people. The closest most came was watching Billy Crystal on "Soap." Same goes for transvestism. So a movie with a bisexual, cross-dressing alien as a lead was edgy. On screen implied sex was edgy. Hell, implied cannibalism was edgy. Today? LGBT people are out and open members of society. And the cannibalism dinner scene? You can find much worse on YouTube.

Second Red Doritos: We were much closer to the source material. The "late night, double-feature, picture show", whether at your local theater or on a local station after regular programming, instructed us in the tropes that the RHPS played with. The two kids with a flat, the mysterious house, creepy butlers, mad scientists, and created monsters. Seeing the RHPS was like a best-of reel from great B-horror flicks of the 50s through the 60s.

Third Red Doritos: It was a social event where we broke rules. When you go to see a movie, you're supposed to sit quietly and enjoy. Not at Rocky! We danced, shouted call back lines, used props, and in most places there was a shadow cast, either ad hoc or a dedicated team acting out the film in front of the screen. You went to the RHPS to have fun with other people. Running around a theater in your underwear screaming obscenities at the screen then going to Denny's and eating fries with Ranch. Watching any production at home alone loses the point. Rocky was something out of the ordinary.

Finally, it was as close to a mystery cult as we could get. There was a fraternity among Rocky fans. The jocks and stoners went to see Song Remains the Same or Wizards, the Metal Dudes lined up for Heavy Metal (once it hit the midnight circuit), and the Art Nerds went to see whatever was playing at the Los Gatos Cinema. But Rocky fans showed up week after week. We'd see each other at school and give the briefest of nods, as our membership in the cult crossed caste lines. It meant something, damnit (Janet, I love you!).

I did Rocky Horror for well over a decade, Friday and Saturday nights for long stretches. Keep this pointless remake.

Because on our world, we'll do the TIME WARP AGAIN!!!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
OK, I'm a proud Democratic Socialist. I support Bernie Sanders, single-payer health care, fully-funded public schools, and higher taxes coupled with drastic cuts to defense spending. I'm a screaming, dyed-in-the-wool, ACLU card-carrying liberal.

But for the love of Halford, will people stop using European nations to support these ideas in the United States? Today I'm seeing a meme touting Denmark as a model for the US going around Facebook.

OK, the entire nation of Denmark has fewer people than New York City. The United States is about 230 times larger than Denmark, with close to 60 times the population. Also, the US is far more diverse in terms of cultures, languages, religions, and political opinions. What works well for a small state like Denmark isn't necessarily going to be easily transferred to the lumbering behemoth that is 'Murica. The same goes for Sweden, Norway, even Germany and France. Each is quite different from each other and the US. Canada? Population of 35 million compared to our 320 million. Makes it much easier to apply a national health service.

We need to keep fighting for the ideas I listed above, but we need to do so with an eye as to how to make them work in this country, not by saying how it works elsewhere.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
As Hollywood has completely run out of ideas, we're seeing more and more reboots of older shows, and not so old shows as now there a proposed reboot of Babylon 5. Which I won't watch without Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas playing Londo Mollari and G'Kar.

But why, I ask, aren't the show makers looking back farther? To a property that is perfect for episodic television because it was episodic? To a glorious vision of good vs. evil, strong-jawed heroes and magnificent villains? A story that can last for years written on a broad stage?

I'm talking about Flash Gordon. The tale of a trio of humans who find themselves trapped on Mongo, fighting the evil Ming the Merciless and his plans to add Earth to his empire! My updates to the classic characters:

"Flash" Gordon - Former USMC fighter pilot (call sign Flash) veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Expert fencer from his days on the USNA Fencing Club's team. At the start of the story he's trying to get into NASA.

Dale Arden - Journalist with extensive field experience. Met Flash in Iraq, where they started a casual relationship. Very capable and has a reporter's eye for details. At the start of the story, she and Flash are dating.

Dr. Hans Zharkov - Ex-NASA/DOD scientist. Considered a kook by most of his contemporaries. Manages to salvage a Mongo scout ship's drive and computer. Pretty much kidnaps Flash and Dale.

Mongo itself? I'm thinking mega-structures orbiting the stars in a K/M binary system. Not a ringworld or full Dyson sphere, but enormous platforms, thousands of miles across, each harboring a different race or culture. This also adds a potential plot point: the platforms are all ancient tech, and they are beginning to fail. Ming uses his monopoly on understanding the technology to keep the platforms enslaved by playing the various factions against each other. If only some hero would come to unite the peoples of Mongo and lead them to freedom!

Yeah, I'd watch 110 episodes of this, plus a few expanded universe movies. It's also make an excellent game setting.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - CAR -15)
I just spoke to our government again.

As I wrote about previously, we got a notice from the Feds that the State of California was no longer paying my Medicare Part B. That's about $100 a month. We filed the appeal. SSA called and said that I needed to talk to the state. Today, I called the number I was given to do this.

After three transfers, 20 minutes of hold and call back time, I finally reached a human being. Who, in her best Resting Drone Voice, told me to call Social Security. Who had previously told me to call the state.

No Kirsten needs to take the morning off tomorrow to call the County Health Office to schedule an appointment because I can't fucking do this! It's 1015 and my brain is already shutting down from stress.

This is why I want single payer. I'd still be getting my $900-something a month disability but there wouldn't be all this drama around my health care.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Exploding)

Just made a quick run to Smart & Final. Needed to stock up on fluids and I was out of sandwich bread. As could be expected, it was a little busy as S&F began life as a party supply place and still has plenty of stuff for big food gatherings. Not expected was the total store remodel.

But I found my stuff and got in line. My legs were at about a 3 on the pain scale, most of which was residual pain from walking at the con (if I hadn't had the chair, I would have been immobile and in agony.)

So I wait, moving forward slowly towards one of the two open registers (they only have three usable lanes and had already called for any available person to open the third.) when a lady and her daughter CUT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE to buy two gift cards. I point out the long line. Lady rolls her eyes and says they just have this. I point out that the woman who had been in front of me had one (1) gallon jug of Gatorade and she waited her turn, and that I have difficulty standing and walking. They ignored me as I outlined appropriate punishments for this trespass. The words "tiger cage" were used.

When I asked the cashier why she ran the transaction after I clearly called them out and they admitted cutting? "You get used to it."

No. Not at all acceptable. S&F has restarted their feedback survey. I am about to burn down their internet. I better win the rewards card as well.

This fuckery burned a lot of spoons I needed today.

gridlore: Gold football helmet with red 49ers logo (Football - 49ers helmet)
So, the NFL has determined that the New England Patriots did intentionally deflate footballs used by their offense in last year's AFC Championship game. And that QB Tom Brady more than likely know and approved. Now everyone is debating punishments.

I'd like to suggest one that I've taken from the NCAA. Next year, the Patriots are banned from the postseason. They can go 16-0, set every scoring record imaginable, be ranked at the top of the NFL in every category, but when the clock ticks down to zero in Week 17, they go home. No playoffs.

This would really hurt. The Pats are a very good team, with several Hall of Fame caliber players. Brady pretty much is a lock. To deny them a chance to defend their title would be devastating to the entire franchise. It would also cost them a lot of money. Not only from playoff revenue, but a lot of fans might decide that since there is literally zero chance of winning big, why both spending money to see the team?

This would also cause problems in player management. NFL players have a limited time to shine. The average career is 3-4 years. You might see some fan favorites telling their agents to get them out of there.

Finally, there would be the season long shame of being the one team locked out of the post season from the start. Everyone in the league is hyper-competitive. To know from the first kickoff of the preseaon that you are playing for nothing would hurt.

That's what I would like to see happen. Not because I hate the Patriots or Tom Brady (I don't) but because the Pats under Bill Belichick have played fast and loose with the rules for years. They need to be made an example of.

Sadly, what will actually happen will be a slap on the wrist. At least, Brady and Belichick need to be suspended for a calender year.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Exploding)
Over the last couple of weeks I have become increasingly frustrated with how modern news outlets operate. The fact that it's about viewer numbers and not actually reporting the news in most cases is a fact, but it has become pathetic.

For the record, I am down to watching The Rachael Maddow Show on MSNBC, and I don't even do that every night. I get my news from KCBS radio (740AM) and online from diverse sources like Reuters, Al Jazera, the BBC, and whatever domestic sources I can find for a story. I find network news unwatchable for the utterly shallow coverage. Even the weekend talking head shows have become less "Face The Nation" and more "give your prepared speech." Guest are selected based on the numbers they'll bring in.

What really pissed me off was the coverage of the death of Freddie Grey while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department and the resultant civil unrest. This was an important story, to be sure. It highlighted the institutional racism this country still faces, the over-militarization and excessive force employed by the police, and the problems of endemic poverty in creating a permanent underclass. This was a story that deserved close examination.

What we got was eight hours a day of talking heads moving from network to network, rash speculation, reporting of rumors as fact, and on-site reporters outnumbering protesters in some cases. There were days when there was nothing meaningful to report, yet the news outlets stayed on the story while ignoring other important stories. For example, did you know that last week the Supreme Court issued a ruling that shocked court watchers and may have paved the way for a challenge to Citizens United? I know because I follow a couple of legal blogs. But it got almost zero airtime because we had to interview a member of the Crips live on air.

I wish I was kidding.

The problem is that directors are terrified that if they cover something else the junkies who want that story only will change channels. Which is a terrible way to get real news out.

My other moment of frustration came Saturday. Saturday, something amazing happened in the world of sports. Two baseball games ended when a baserunner was hit by a batted ball. That's called Runner Interference in the rules, and the runner is out. (The batter gets credit for a single.) Never before in the history of Major League Baseball had two games ended on this call on the same day. Think about it; the Major Leagues ave been around (officially) for 112 years. Each season each team plays well over 100 games. And never before did this improbably thing happen.

So I tuned into ESPN to see some highlights and discussion. However, every other sporting event in the world was being ignored for an over-hyped welterweight boxing match that was universally described as terrible. ESPN spent three hours covering a fight where very little happened, cutting to interviews with everyone involved, analyzing each punch. . . it wasn't a good fight!

But it was a much-hyped fight. This was supposed to be the fight of the century. So ESPN ignored reality and ignored everything else.

There's a reason I don't watch much TV beyond a few favorites.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Exploding)
Ex-NYC Mayor and alleged human being Rudy Giuliani went on Sean Hannity's radio show and said "President Obama Didn't Live Through September 11, I Did"

WARNING! This post might be extremely triggery for people who were directly affected by the 9/11 attacks. )
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
The other day on G+ someone posted a picture of an imaginary Traveller - Space: 1999 game. The comment was "I would so play this!"

I asked, "so what's stopping you?"

One thing I hate about the modern state of RPGs is the refusal of would-be GMs to do any world-building. They wait for the official expansion, or just complain.

Take Space: 1999 for example. If you wanted to do a game set on Moonbase Alpha, everything you need is there for you on the net. Episode guides. Maps. Equipment. Timelines. Uniforms. Spend a long Saturday writing down notes, choose a system, and start playing!

If I were running this game, I'd change the reason for the Moon leaving Earth from a nuclear accident (people have done the physics, any explosion big enough to hurl the Moon out of the solar system would destroy it.) to a crashing Eagle smacking into a secret research lab working on dimensional portals. The nuclear waste site was a cover story. Now the Moon pops in and out of reality when it wanders too close to a deep gravity well. Nobody on Moonbase Alpha even knows the other base was there, which could be a long term plot line.

This would be a great episodic game. Each adventure would cover a new world encounter, conflict inside Moonbase, and of course the long term goals of figuring out what happened and finding either a way home or a safe place to settle. I'd give a clear indicator that the Moon is about to jump in a set amount of time as a way to force action ("Flash, I love you! But we only have four hours before the Moon jumps!") I'd run this game as a troupe style game. Everyone has a stable of characters, from command staff down to red shirts. So each adventure uses a different set of characters and we can add or subtract characters without too much trouble.

This would be an amazing GURPS game. Or, in a less gear-head way, FUDGE

There. Space: 1999 the Role-Playing Game.

That took less than ten minutes. You want a game in a well-documented setting, Do it yourself!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Bosch)
13 hours later, and I still cannot believe it.

Last night, about 2255, five minutes before I close and go home, the phone rings.

Now the night had been insane, mainly due to the massive number of weather-related flight delays. I had six drivers who were going to be out after I left, all with arrivals after midnight. Two had arrivals after 0100! So I had been hopping, updating ETAs, making sure the drivers had passenger phone numbers (when we had them), and generally trying to make sure that things would run smoothly for the answering service.

Then the phone rings )

The second insanity involves the BossLady snarking someone in email.

We charge an extra $10 for international arrivals. The reason is simple: we meet the flight when it lands. International passengers have to clear customs, which means longer waiting times, and a higher parking fee for the driver. People can avoid this fee by calling our 800 number when they clear customs. We send them out to the limo stand, and the driver, who has been waiting off the airport property, swoops up and gets them.

There is a company that has made calling the 800# standard policy. Yesterday, we has a No-Show at SFO for one of their Russian employees. Driver waited nearly 3 hours for the call. An email exchange revealed that Boris had "looked for his limo for 40 minutes and couldn't find him, so he took a taxi."

BossLady replied that these folks aren't supposed to look for their limo, they are supposed to call us. Any deviation from their policy needs to be specified. We're more than happy to send the driver into the terminal to wait, but you gotta pay for it.

What we got back was an epic whine. The company wasn't sure if he had his confirmation, or knew how to find a pay phone, or spoke English, or was competent in any way so it is all our fault.

If this guy is so helpless, why is this company flying him around the world?

I don't get paid enough.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Bosch)
There is too much to explain in detail, too much even for a summary. So I'll be brief.

  • To every stupid, lack-of-prior-planning, moron I dealt with; may a moose become erotically obsessed with your ass.

  • To every single airline I had to deal with tonight: may your trip to paradise involve a flight on your own airline, with a tricky connection in Chicago.

  • To my whiny, piss-ant drivers (not all of them, but a select few): may you be evicted because you didn't make enough money after demanding that every job that inconvenienced you be taken away.

  • and finally, To the webmasters at United and American; may your lives someday depend on machinery that is as stable and dependable as your fucking "track flight" pages.

But I have to give a shout out to the drivers who dealt with all the shit tonight professionally, calmly, and who asked "how can I help?" I'll remember you guys when I get add-ons and juicy trips.
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Saturday, May 4th is the 22nd wedding anniversary for Kirsten and me. I know, we can't accept it either.

In the last several years, "May the Fourth" has become an unofficial holiday for Star Wars fans. I liked Star Wars; but neither of us ever got into the Extended Universe stuff and don't consider ourselves to be hardcore Star Wars fans.

Anyway, our getting married on 5/4/1991 had nothing to do with Star Wars or any other science-fiction reference. We got married on that date because we had gotten engaged roughly a year earlier; while driving up Highway 1after seeing the Grateful Dead at Cal State Dominguez Hills. We stopped at San Simeon State Beach and I proposed. We decided to delay the wedding for a year just to make sure that we could actually stand each other. Turns out, we could. 5/4 was chosen because it was the best date for everyone involved.

So please, if you wish to offer us congratulations on this milestone, please don't make Star Wars remarks. It actually pisses us off. Because it makes it feel like people think we set our wedding date as a fannish gimmick. That may not seem like so much to y'all, but to us, after all we've been through together, it is an insult.

As for the actual celebration, that's tomorrow. We're seeing Iron Man 3, having lunch at an undetermined location, then going up to see the Giants beat the crap out of the Dodgers. It's Metallica Night at the ballpark. Science-fiction, Metallica, and baseball. It's a day made for us! Now if we could just get Duran Duran in somehow, it'd be perfect.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Baseball - Scream)
No shit, there I was...

After work today (and that was its own fiasco) I stopped by Safeway because I was craving Italian sausage sandwiches for dinner. Found what I needed, and with only three items, got in the express lane.

Behind the one human put on Earth to test me to the breaking point.

15 items or less, right? He had all fifteen... and coupon for each. None of which he met the standards for For example, coupon say X off when you buy three boxes of Spoo. He bought one. Argument. Takes spoo off ticket. Cashier voids. Next item, ineligible coupon, repeat.

He finally has about six things, cashier announces the total, and he pulls out a checkbook. A checkbook! It's 2012, people! Not only does he have a checkbook, he hasn't even bothered to pre-write things like the date or the payee. He then argues with the clerk over-writing the amount to get cash back. Assure clerk he's been there many times, and can get X amount. Writes check. As he's signing, the pen dies. Clerk offers a new one, blue instead of black.

Captain Slow (with apologies to James May) then dithers. should he just finish signing and initial the different ink color? No, he has to write a whole new check. By this time, our beleaguered clerk had called every available checker up, as the express line was no some ten people deep. I was wondering if I set fire to his pile of discarded coupons, would I be able to cook my sausages right there?

Finally, the check is written. Our long shopping nightmare is ove.. wait. The franking machine is rejecting it. Seem this dude lied about having a long check cashing history here. The cashier looks up from filling out his enlistment papers in the French Foreign Legion to direct the customer to the service desk. As he leaves, and I swear this was the moment when I truly understood the term "voluntary manslaughter", the guy says to no one in particular:

"Maybe I should have used my bank card."

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Thoughtful)
In the comments on an article about the death of Gregory Powell, one of the infamous Onion Field killers. One commenter wondered if the cost of the long incarceration of Powell would change the mind of anti-death penalty folks like me. Here's my response:

Sorry, but no.

The simple fact of the matter is that the police make mistakes or act in illegal ways to close a case. Not always, not even often, but it happens. Same goes for prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges.. the entire criminal justice system is capable of error.

So what do you do if evidence is found that someone was wrongly convicted? A judge can void the conviction and call for a new trial. In extreme cases the judge can declare the entire case irreversibly tainted and order the convict freed immediately. States have funds to compensate those imprisoned wrongly for their loss of freedom.

How do you compensate a dead man? Isn't the premeditated intentional killing of an innocent man the very definition of murder? Should we execute those responsible for the wrong verdict?

People are freed every month after their convictions are overturned. Your lust for blood and vengeance isn't justice, it's the howling of a lynch mob.

If you really cared about lowering prison costs you'd be advocating for an end to the war on some drugs, working to end the poverty and hopelessness that leads to a life of crime, and demanding alternative sentences for non-violent offenders.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
We get it. Y'all are so much more evolved than us Neanderthals who enjoy sports and like the spectacle of the SuperBowl. And they way you so cleverly mangle the game's name and feign ignorance of the event? Hysterical! Just like last year. And the year before that. Oh, and just about every year since I first got on the internet 20+ years ago.

Why people cannot just ignore the event and not try to show off their disdain is beyond me.
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
I haven't seen it and have no desire to do so. But if this was a five-man sniper team from the 3/2 Marines as has been reported, each and every one of these Marines needs to be charged and, once convicted, thrown out of the service with a Dishonorable Discharge.

This is a hard concept for a lot of civilians to get. "Wait, blowing someone up with a cluster bomb is fine, but peeing on a corpse is wrong?" Yes. American soldiers will strive to kill the enemy with all the tools at our disposal. That is our job. We, from a grunt Marine Rifleman to an Air Force Missileman in a silo, are there to Kill People and Break Things. This is what we do. We are very good at it. But we are also trained in the tradition of mercy to the enemy wounded, fallen, and to those who have become our prisoners.

Respecting your enemy is perhaps the hardest thing a soldier is asked to do. The enemy is trying to kill you. Odds are, the enemy comes from an alien culture which may be offensive to the average American. At worst, the enemy may be seen as a cheater who refuses to stand up and fight. When you actually get your hands on the enemy, alive or dead, the urge to take out your anger or frustration is near-overwhelming.

But we have to resist that urge. Because we are supposed to be better than that. The difference between a mob and an Army is discipline. We treat enemy wounded. We protected captured enemy troops and treat them humanely. And we treat enemy dead as we would one of our own fallen. With respect. To see that respect fail so spectacularly among an elite group like a USMC sniper team is sickening. For all the legends that surround snipers as merciless death-dealers, we're still humans. We are just held to a higher standard since we are expected to operate outside the normal chain of command much of the time.

Some will blame the high operational tempo, the endless and repeated tours. Bullshit. Every single service member serving today, a decade after we entered Afghanistan, knows what they were getting into. Stress is not an excuse. There is no excuse possible for the complete breakdown of discipline to the point where United States Marines would desecrate an enemy's corpse. None. These five Marines need to be loudly and publicly thrown to the wolves pour encourager les autres. If we're really cutting back on the military and making training harder, I suggest tightening the screws on discipline as well.

In my perfect word, once convicted, these five losers would be paraded in dress blues before as many of the 2nd Marines as can be gathered. On a stage, every piece of rank, insignia, awards... anything that makes the uniform a Marine uniform, is ripped off. The discharges are read aloud. Then the entire regiment turns their backs on the malefactors. I'd also deny any government benefits to those dishonorably discharged. That includes unemployment, Medicare, and Social Security.

Yes, I'm furious about this. These morons just handed the enemy a propaganda coup.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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