Christmas Accomplished

Painful as it was getting here - Verily, though I come kicking, screaming, wailing and gnashing teeth - Christmas itself has come off quite well. I am thoroughly satisfied with my long-tormented gift selections. Though I began with feeling uninspired and apprehensive to spend, my few inspirations now appear to have been dead on, and the time spent brooding over them, worthwhile.

If I can say this without sounding like a cock... I occasionally catch a glimpse of myself from a perspective not my own. And I don't think it's anyone else's perspective either. But it's sort of, what I'd call, a hypothetically valid perspective; a way of seeing me that no one does - including myself - but that we all could without necessarily being wrong. Today I saw how all the stress and frustration I suffered picking out gifts and deciding how much to spend, could be measured as a positive personality trait. I see, not in an after-school-special, day-time TV way, but in a real, serious, human being way, that the anxiety and pain I experience in life is often evidence of my legitimate desire to please the people around me; to see people happy.

I was chewing acid all month trying to find the money to spend on gifts worth giving, and at the end of it all I witnessed the seeds of my suffering blossom in the delight of the people I gave to. When I was wracking my brain for ideas, all I could see was the lack of them. But today it finally hit me that the lack of ideas did eventually give way to ideas, and the reason they did was because I spent so much time thinking about them. And the time spent thinking about them was really time spent in consideration of another person's nature. So when I say I see myself from a hypothetically sound perspective, I mean that I now recognize how I too - cold, selfish, fickle old taciturn me - could be measured a considerate, caring person.

Hey! I did it! I managed to compliment myself without sounding like a giant tool!

Why to Dance

I wonder when I learned to dance. I danced last night and didn't know I knew the steps until this morning. She took my hand, quite unexpectedly, a beautiful girl in a sundress. Soft face, rose pedal skin, catty, curly, gently smiling lips. She took my hand in hers; pulled me onto the floor before I'd even seen her. All introductions were made, mid-dance.

I don't know that I've ever danced with a woman before, though I'm sure I'd never truly danced before I danced with her. Together, somehow, we were lighter than one. We floated, fluid slipping through the people, chairs, and things around us. I imagine she was leading then. Anyway it wasn't me. I was being drawn - not pushed or tugged - but coaxed along by an invisible force, the way a fast-flowing river moves around you when you give yourself over to it. Then, a whirlpool! We spun so fast and free I let her go for fear I'd hurt her arm in holding on.

The people around us smiled, felt our joy, and all began to dance as well. At some point, music began to play. We hadn't waited for it, after all. When we came together again I tried to take some sort of lead -- as much as one can lead when two are in such blissful harmony. I put my hand at her waist and gently bucked the current around us, teasing the shores and eddies of the river in which we flowed. We danced so beautifully. When I remember it, I feel as though we must have kissed, the memory has that flavor, that touching, caressing delight -- but we didn't. The kiss my heart recalls, the warm embrace and shared release of one into another: it was the dance. The dance was her kiss.

At last I put my feet down deep into the sandy soil of the river pulling at our waists and held fast against its currents as I dipped her. The dip was not the will of the dance, but my own; my fervent desire to dip, to have dipped, this wonderful creature of freedom and beauty and life. I loved the shape of her motherly body, I loved the fabric of her dress, I loved her golden skin and curled cheeks. I loved this girl who had come and seized me by the hand, who showed me now - not how to dance - but that I had it in me to. So I dipped her with all my gratitude and love. And though it was not the will of the dance that I should stop and bend us so and look so into her eyes -- though it opposed the currents under foot, this too was beautiful.

The dance we danced was a pure, unselfconscious delight the likes of which I've never known before and cannot imagine ever knowing awake. For sooth we danced in dream. Still, until this very morning I would not have believed I could know such a lightness in my being, even in sleep. My mind and heart and spirit are so often divided, so often at war... I could not before imagine them capable of such an armistice; of granting me the inner peace to truly, freely dance.

I keep imagining that I was visited by an angel. That some other being descended from a high place, to come into my dreams, dance with me, and show me what was hidden within; what I had gathered in pieces, and was lacking only a beautiful stranger's dance to bring together as a whole. Under my angel's tutelage, in one night, for a moment, I mastered the art of dance. I don't mean technically. I don't mean the motion and maneuver or the precision of step. These are but measures of the inconsequent. It is the unfettered, child-like joy; the complete lack of self awareness... That! That is dance! To know no mirror, no reflection, no vanity; to sense no other self floating overhead, no critical observer casting judgment; no embarrassed ego, mindful of the thoughts of others. To dance and be one. To dance with another and be two being one. I wake from a dream and suddenly know that dance is the fusing of self into self, and perhaps at its highest, of self into other. It is a harmony of inner strings that, well-tuned, allows the music of unbridled passion and joy to resound within.

The freedom of movement! To be led! To lead! To feel the unseen current tugging at your hips, choosing your path of its own flitting whims. Truly this is God. God, the gentle artist full of whimsy, painting airy scenes with long, delicate fingers and fine, horsehair brushes. He painted a tree, made the tree to leaf and flower, made the leaf and flower to fall, and in their falling God painted the dance. And was much pleased.

But God painted man to dance better. For when leaf falls, its dance is its falling: its complete submission and perfect obedience to the master artist's stroke. Man's dance is better because his dance resists the fall. And even God knows not what dance will come when he deigns paint of man. Man twists and turns and grasps and leaps and dives in his fall, first against it, then toward it. He resigns to it in one moment, drifting with the painter's will, and in the next he stands in violent opposition; in running right and left; in climbing up again from where he fell before. Man's dancing is the stroke and flourish not even God's brush can create. It is the movement come of soul seeking heart and heart seeking mind; division's desire to oneness; separation's yearning to embrace. Dance is man's becoming God.

This dance is in me. I know this now. I've danced this union, if only in dreams! My heart has loved purely, my soul has felt the invisible's ebb, and my mind has known only the now. That is how I danced with the lovely girl in the sundress. That, I think, is what it really is to dance. I may surely never dance this way while waking, but it is great encouragement and comfort to my soul that some part of me knows this freedom and joy. I felt it in my dreams. It's there. Somewhere inside myself I know not only how, but why to dance.

Parkour Training - Day 2

So I'm a few years late to the party... I showed, didn't I?

'Parkour' or 'Free Running' is that crazy stuff those kids on the news get killed doing on rooftops. No, wait, that's crack. Parkour is moving through your environment with precision, strength, flourish, and art. Imagine, for example, you come upon some high fencing in your path. Do you:

A.) Walk around it.
B.) Climb over it.
C.) Run up the side of it, punch from the top, hit the ground, roll out, and come up running like Neo, and shit!

If you answered 'D' please review the available options.

Free running seems to involve finding the upper potential of movement; coming to an understanding of your physical capabilities as a biped; and putting body momentum to your ultimate use and enjoyment. All this appeals to me. As does the aspect of cutting new, unseen paths through the otherwise rigidly defined world at large. Tic tac'ing walls, Kong vaulting embankments; sprinting over rooftops... Aye! It's the sailor's life for me!

Then there's the exercise benefits. I merely started toying with some of the basics yesterday and I am sorer today - deep down muscle-sore - than I've been in a long, long time. I thought I'd been using most of the same muscles Free Running called for in my ritual exercise routine, but I do believe we've found a good dozen or so that were dozing on the job. I assure you they sleep no more! I am beat, bruised, and battered like you don't even know. And you can go right ahead and interpret that statement literally, an' it please you!

"Hairy back incoming, sir."

I haven't had a real, honest to god, yellow-brown, bruise in years. I have to say I'm quite proud of it. I earned the two large welts seen here practicing some simple rolls. Yes, basic tumbling. I haven't quite found the sweet spot that will keep the horns of my hips from catching the floor yet, and what you see here is the result. Funny I don't recall this five-point, shoulder-blade, hip-horn, spinal-column bruising pattern from my childhood -- wherein I'm sure I must've performed the bulk of my lifetime's tumbling maneuvers. Oh to be made of mostly cartilage just once more!

It being winter and all, I seem to have picked a bad time to become enamored with a running sport, but such is my way: the hard, desperate, bleak, soul-sick, self-deprived way. That's what makes Roy, Roi. (Or vice versa) But enough of this! Let them eat...


Product shown does not represent actual item.


I was jogging down the street just after dusk when I heard a shrieking; a cry of pain and torture. For a moment I hesitated to follow these sounds, slowly easing my way toward the cries as I considered them. Ahead I saw a man emerge from the side of one of the suburban homes dotting the lane. Finally, I took to a sprint.

"Does someone need help?" I shouted. "You tell me," was the extent of his casually delivered words, his eyes and gestures alone directing me to the scene.

At first I came upon a thirty-something man lying on the ground on a sheet of plastic. He was in a sort of collapsed position with his head set partially against a wall, either faint or asleep. He looked peaceful enough. I took him for drunk.

Blood had pooled in the alleys formed by the crumpled plastic beneath his shape, primarily at the ends of his arms; the right more grossly than the other. Several of his fingers were gone. They'd been chopped off, cleanly and in straight cuts. I knew immediately that he'd done it to himself; and not at all by accident.

I continued around the back of the building and found another man, older than the first; middle-aged; in the prime of middle age. He was sitting on a stool at a wooden table beneath the hot, yellow glow of a naked light-bulb. The ground around him was bloodied as well. All of his fingers were gone.

He sat with a solemn slouch and his face held a complex expression. He had the look of a man who regretted having had to do something, but who refused to regret the actual doing of it.

Seeing both men now, I felt the pressing need to either take action or at least make some sort of proclamation. After all, I'd rushed to these men to aid them, not just gawk at the horrors found. But I didn't know quite what to do, what to say. Neither was bleeding any longer, and the amount of blood loss did not seem, to me, to be life-threatening. I knew, without a doubt, that both of these men had done this thing themselves, had self-mutilated. These were acts of free will undertaken by men who had fully known and understood the permanence of the losses they would incur when first they began whatever strange enterprise it was that brought them before me now.

I couldn't quite bring myself to say aloud that they should go to the hospital. It seemed too ignorant to speak such an obvious conclusion, like telling a man stood stoically at roadside, watching his house burn down, that he should call the fire department. If he hasn't already, he wants the house to burn.

"Well, you're not going to bleed out," I said. "That's what they tell me," responded the newly fingerless, middle-aged man, in a slightly bothered tone. All I could do was stand gaping at the sights before me, which I did for some time. Then suddenly the man's attitude took a lift, as though my presence had drawn him from his inner contemplations. Now he came upon me with the look of boastful satisfaction; the sort of gleeful pride a child takes in displaying a rare new toy he's only just acquired.

He held out the stumps of each hand, turning them in the light for my inspection. Then his own eyes settled on them, widened in wonder. His gaze seemed to peer right through the hands, as though he was looking not at the skin and bone and flesh of them, but at the thought and story, the secret meaning deep within and far beyond the hand.

With this glint in his eye he let out a chortle of a laugh, and as we both looked down into his digitless palms he said to me, with a little smile at the corner of his aging mouth, "This is the first thing I've ever done with my life." And I knew exactly what he meant.

Jungle Disk 3.04 - Update From Hell

A letter to Jungle Disk Support: (An Online File Backup Solution)

Yesterday my Jungle Disk Desktop software asked permission to update itself to 3.04. I allowed it. Because of this I spent half an hour recreating my backup set, reverifying my S3 information, and generally redoing and undoing everything the update did. This was a sloppy, mismanaged, poorly implemented, and unintuitive software rollout. Please consider all of the following.

You will surely agree that there is no situation in which any software update should wipe out all previous customization and user information, and yet that's just what this update did on my system. After the software updated itself and restarted the machine I was asked to enter my login information. It was poor timing that this coincided with your service outage yesterday, so I closed the program and waited for your website to go live again.

When I was again able to log in, my new Jungle Disk 3.04 asked for my S3 data again -- mind you this S3 data was known to my previous version of JDisk. Then it walked me through creating my backup job all over again, from scratch, as though it had never ever heard of me before; as though I hadn't done this very task when I first signed up! With all due aggravation I went through this tedious, and unnecessary process once more; again finding all the little check marks - invisible unless you click the "Advanced" radio button, hidden throughout the visually unintuitive Configurations tree - which describe my desired backup set.

"No, this is the only computer I use JDisk on, DON'T hit the server with a bunch of LIST requests every two minutes that I'll have to pay for at the end of the month." "No, don't store ten versions of every file that gets edited, 3 is more than enough for me." And so on.

When I complete the arduous and completely unnecessary task of resubmitting all my original preferences, I click 'Backup Now,' just to make sure that everything is working; to confirm that Jungle Disk still sees all those files it took me over a hundred hours, uploading to the Cloud at 90kbps, to begin with. To my complete lack of surprise, it doesn't! It wants to upload my entire backup set all over again!

Here is where I discover your new Vault format, and further that it is incompatible with your old Jungle Disk 2.0 file system. And, of course, if I'd like to use a Vault then I'll have to upload all my data all over again -- even though it's all right there in the same S3 account and could surely be moved laterally if your Dev teams were to invest that effort.

So, all the configuration I've just done is worthless because I'm not going to spend another whole week clogging up my bandwidth, uploading files that are already there! After reading the comments of some equally frustrated users at the forums I head back into the visual mess that is the Configuration tree, delete the Vault that JDisk just walked me through erecting, and again! again! go to work configuring my old Jungle Disk 2.0 archive. Again!

Thankfully, the JDisk 2.0 backup set recognized the files that were already in the Cloud and I plan to continue using 2.0 for some time hereafter. I have no interest in the Vault now, as it is the Vault that caused me all this trouble.

Summarily, when a user clicks "Update," they shouldn't have to worry that all their previous configurations will be lost, nor that their files might become stranded in a sudden obsolescence. And if you are rolling out a new format it should be stated over and over again in large font, on otherwise empty pages, that your current data will not transfer to the new format. "You will have to upload it all again." And thereafter the user should be given the clear two prong choice to upgrade to Vault or stick with JDisk 2.0.

Settings that I have used previously should follow me into a rollout of new service. If I didn't want to backup 10 file versions in JDisk 2.0, then I probably don't want to in JDisk Vault either! For that matter, you should have saved the configurations from my original backup set before the update and simply duplicated those selections for Vault service, if I wanted to use Vault.

I also suspect that had I just accepted the Vault transition and uploaded my data all over again, nothing would have been said about my old JDisk 2.0 data still sitting up there in the cloud, costing me $.15 per Gb, per month, for the privilege, and rotting away to no use. I'm guessing you don't have any system in place to notify or remind the user of the redundant data they'll end up storing after transitioning to Vault.

While I'm at it, I might as well add that I would like the option to update more often than once a week, without having to do so every single day of the week. Putting the scheduling option on a slider, like it is, instead of a series of checkboxes is plainly ridiculous. I don't know how you came up with that one.

I like your service. I like storing my backup in Amazon's Cloud. Your software has proven itself technically proficient, quiet, robust, and reliable. But this rollout was intolerable in every aspect. I couldn't possibly recommend your software to the average user as it is. Jungle Disk is presently for power users only. Anyone who doesn't want to, or hasn't the experience to dig through pages of settings and preferences cannot use this software reliably. It is visually unintuitive, the wizards are incomplete, the advanced settings all need tweaking right out of the box, and if an update comes down - God forbid you install it straight away: you might lose everything you've already done.

I hope you will take my experiences in this upgrade and the preceding criticisms to heart and make the kind of changes that would allow me to recommend Jungle Disk to friends, colleagues, and customers.

Windows Install Halts at 'Loading Files' or 'Inpecting Hardware'

The Problem

An HP 764c came in today for a new hard drive and a clean install of Windows 7. The install disc froze up early at the "Windows is Loading Files" screen. As soon as the status bar filled up all the way, the CD drive spun down, and nada.

After swapping out memory, graphics card, ribbon cables, dvd-rom, and disabling every bit of hardware I could at the BIOS, I finally tried booting a Vista install disc in place of Win7. It too froze at exactly the same spot. Then I tried XP. The XP disc halted even quicker at the "Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration" line. At some point I tried booting a liveCD of Ubuntu. (a Linux OS) Ubuntu booted happily; I opened Firefox; browsed Newgrounds... Ubuntu was running like a champ. This made it seem like a Windows hardware issue -- presumably a hardware fault Windows couldn't deal with, but that Ubuntu didn't mind.

This would prove a red herring.

The Solution

In the end, having dismissed every piece of hardware that could possibly be at fault, I discovered the culprit in the form of a snapped heatsink mount. The heatsink was only half secured and apparently the CPU was locking up the machine as it overheated. I confirmed this by laying the computer on its side and applying pressure to the loose side of the heatsink with a screw driver. So long as I held it down, the installs all scooted right passed their earlier failing points.

Ubuntu threw me way off the scent for a good, long time. Having seen a non-windows OS load into memory, run applications, and shutdown - all without hesitation - had exempted overheating from my suspicions early on.

That Ubuntu managed to run on a system with an overheating CPU is perhaps a testament to its efficiency. I can only imagine that Ubuntu never put a significant load onto the CPU, even as it booted from ram, installed drivers, and opened applications. Where, in comparison, all three Windows discs couldn't so much as query the PCI bus without tipping the scales and torching the CPU.

The Spooky-Ass Internet

Right now, right this very second is inaccessible, erroring 503. And at the same moment three other file transfer sites are not working correctly. All of them, every single one that I have tried to upload to, registers my 166mb upload in less than ten seconds. This is truly not the case. Even if I had that kind of bandwidth to go around, which I don't, these file transfer sites wouldn't receive any individual upload at such speeds either. After the upload bar shows 100% it just sits there like its waiting for something to happen. Meanwhile I can see from my packet activity that I'm transmitting up at about 30-40KBps, despite the 100% showing in the interfaces of these various sites.

I tried opening them in a different browser, thinking I had some strange file cache jam up in Firefox, but both Firefox and IE are affected, proving the issue to be browser independent. Add to these strange happenings that's flash interface came up doubly broken - unusably broken - until I refreshed by clicking the header image of the site, and I'd say that the internet is acting pretty spooky out there, folks. Best stay indoors today.

I'd like to suspect Flash, as the common thread here seems to be Flash based interfaces, but I haven't installed a new flash engine in either browser recently, and I doubt all three of the file transfer sites I've tried would update their swfs to new code, only to watch it break. Still, it's possible that some part of my own flash client has been bullocksed without my consultation.

Here's what I'm thinking: Maybe all these sites are using Amazon's Cloud services for their file hosting and databasing (unlikely) and Amazon has just issued a system-wide patch with a major bug in it. (more unlikely) Or maybe my internet provider has done something wacky that's causing the errors. (really, very unlikely)

Or there is a great big spooky howling ghost in the internet! Holy hauntings, Batman, what'll we do?! Steady Robin, steady.

Fly on Napkin

Alternately titled: Kindness and Death.

Not to ruin the illusion but this guy was still alive, last I saw of him. He was either injured or ghastly cold when I got hold of him; not moving too quick, nor at all venturing to take up his namesake and fly. He kept tripping on things and rolling onto his back. I'd offer him the edge of the napkin to grab onto, whereupon he would right himself, crawl onto the napkin, and immediately turn his back to the camera -- the thankless little fuck.

Blogger's Word Verification form gets Cut Off

The Bug

When 'Comment Form Placement' is set to 'Embedded below post' the Word Verification portion of the comment submission form gets cut off and left partially undisplayed, making it difficult for users to leave comments.

This seems to be a problem in some of the default templates provided by Blogger (including the 'Rounders' templates) where the height of the area containing the comment form has been rigidly set, in my own case to 275px. This is enough to encapsulate the comment submission area, but not enough to accomodate the 'Word Verification' form. (aka: The Captcha.)


Warning: You may wish to backup your current template before attempting these changes.

Click the Layout tab in your Blogger dashboard, then click the 'Edit HTML' option. Under the 'Edit Template' section click the 'Expand Widget Templates' checkbox. Press CTRL+F to open your browser's 'Find' dialogue and enter the text below:


Hit Enter and your browser should locate and highlight the first instance of that text on the page. If all is well you should be looking at this block of text:

<iframe allowtransparency='true' class='blogger-iframe-colorize blogger-comment-from-post' frameborder='0' height='275px' id='comment-editor' name='comment-editor' scrolling='no' src='' width='100%'/>

The problem is in the "height='275px'" portion. 275 pixels is not enough space. I recommend you change the height value to 420px. This should be just enough space for the comment field and the Word Verification form to expand into. Once you've set the height value, click the "Save Template" button and you're done.


This Christmas is not faring well, so says the lining of my stomach; so says the tossing, wearied, sleepless nights. The money goes out and does not come in. My recent Florida vacation adventures cost me half a month's pay and resulted in little of the vacation-y goodness I'd hoped. Now comes Christmas to add insult to financial injury.

Last Christmas went so well, I recall. I had such good gift ideas, and felt so fiscally unhindered at the time. I stumbled onto coupons and was able to give more than I'd hoped. It all came off so gloriously.

This year it's all a flop. I haven't but the one good gift idea, and it's for my father, who - as always - is calling off Christmas this year. He'll get his nonetheless.

I've found a series of heartless, dispassionate gifts to fill the place of the good ones I lack and my Christmas is now typified by anxiety and discontent. I've had one good gift brainstorm and found that even this rare, good idea is out to get me. It's a damned expensive gift to give and if I give it I can't bring myself to give much more. This necessarily places a great weight and importance on the gift and if it is not up to snuff I might just as well count all my giving-efforts worthless. There is further, a dread possibility that this gift would need returning, and the only place I can find to buy it is, and it's heavy as all hell, so the cost of shipping it back adds one more barb to the wire flossing at my ear canals lately.

Winter itself is an expense. I'm forced to drive everywhere now, so come the cost of gas. And winter entertainment is a bit more expensive than the other kind. The outdoors turn inhospitable and barren leaving men to amuse themselves indoors where the luxury of walls and heat take on a premium. I'll soon have need of coats and boots and such that I have somehow failed to retain from winters passed. All must be bought. Each has its cost.

And all this want of money has brought me to the sharp, deep precipice that is my current income. I once made twice what I make now, doing the same work, at the same location, putting in the same hours. But I came and left and came and left, and upon my last return times were bad and my services could nolonger be afforded at the going rate. Spiteful of money, never much of a capitalist anyway, I was happy to accept a pay cut while our business waned. And there I have remained.

But times aren't bad now. Times haven't been bad for a while, in fact. Oh, maybe for others; maybe for the economy in general. But as far as I can see our little shop has been pounding away with just as much business as we've ever had, and for quite some time now. Meanwhile my pay has not raised; my income has not returned. And though my worth is often noted and my labors very well appreciated, this appreciation has not extended itself monetarily, but only at the lip. My labor is billed at $80 per hour and yet I see naught but pittance of that, even as business booms. Five years exemplary service to the same employer: and my reward is poverty-level income. If I worked for a corporation this kind of thing would be expected, but I work for a friend, so it's an insult.

All this and more has been weighing on my mind and resting like a rock in my stomach. The gifts and deadlines of the season, paired with my regular obligations, tied to the one-time loss of a misfit vacation, bound to the rising costs of the season, matched with my unrewarded labor in the form of a flat income... And this not to mention the physiological effects of sunless, gray skies, lack of exercise, and a persistent chill that haunts me indoors and out. Well, I'm depressed, anxiety stricken, and my mind is taking every chance it has to redouble the weight of my woes. Even my dreams are starting to attack me.

So I've decided that it isn't a coincidence, but a meaningful, and charitable act performed in the greatest, and most magnanimous spirit of sympathy, that the potted tree on the other side of the room - that sits outdoors all spring and summer, basking in the warmth and sunlight, but never flowering, has decided -- yes, chosen this very day and moment to cast open a single flower as wide and as beautiful as any, for my soft consideration and health of mind. It is its gift to me. That only I had one as good to give to it or any.


Grandma made some experimental muffins to go with dinner the other day. They were really heavy and a shade too sweet to serve with dinner. I liked them anyway. She didn't. So out they go to feed the squirrels. And who come 'long to meat, instead of squirrels?

Hungry-Hungry Possum.

My best shot, after major enhancement.

As a Consumer, She is Complete

Anyone else having trouble coming up with gifts for people this year? It started last month with my Grandma's birthday. I looked all around her house, considered her hobbies and daily activities, her needs and desires... and found that she has everything in the world. Every thing she could possibly desire is in her possession already. Which is an odd situation, I should think. Not too many can say the same. But I believe it's more or less true in this instance.

She's got a computer that does all she could want of it, with a really nice flat screen my cousin gave her one Christmas, and a printer that gets the job done. Her TVs are just as she wants them. Her kitchen clock-radio is the only she has use for. She's often in the yard, when the weather permits, doing light gardening and heavy cleanup, but she has every utility and device that could assist her in these pursuits already. Her truck is pristine and she's loath to drive more than two miles at a time anyway. She plays bingo every Thursday - or so she tells us - but what am I going to get her a bingo marker? Clothes, furniture, kitchen appliances, toiletries, dishware, phones, electronics... She either has it or hasn't a need for it. As a consumer, she is complete. (There's an album title for you.)

So what do you do?

Meanwhile there's my mom who, as a new-ish home owner, has need and want of a number of things that spring to mind, but they're all just a few dollars outside my anticipated spending zone. I'm considering teaming up, to make the purchase of one of them, but the only other person buying for my mom this year is Grandma, and with two other daughters, each one baring her up another twenty-seven grandchildren, I doubt Grandma's fractional contribution would bring me any closer to my spending comfort zone. Maybe I'll just bite the bullet and spend the big bucks. It would do my miserly comportment some good.

Then there's sister Emily. What do you give to the child who would be queen? I feel that my gift should somehow express my disapproval of her generation's 'New Moon,' Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus mentality. But what gift could possibly contain all that? Maybe a Dead Kennedys - Mr. Bungle box set. (He said with almost no knowledge of either band's music. And then abruptly ended.)

Fossilized Chivalry

"[...]I will be his elder brother, and care for him and watch over him; and whoso would shame him or do him hurt, may order his shroud, for though I be burnt for it he shall need it!"

"Escape? Spare thyself discomfort, an that is all that troubles thee. For Miles Hendon is master of Hendon Hall and all its belongings. He will remain -- doubt it not."

Judge the Tree by its Fruits

In response to A Prayer for Ronald.

So just because Enron and Tyco and Worldcom and Haliburton and Blackwater are evil, doesn't mean I should assume they all are. And just because Ameritech, AT&T, Avon, B.F. Goodrich, Bank of America, Bank One, Bearsterns, Bellsouth, Citibank, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Cox Enterprises, Diebold, Dow Chemical, Eastman Kodak, Eaton, First Bank, GNC, Hershey Foods, J.P. Morgan, Marriott, National City, Nestle, PacifiCorp, Panera Bread, Proctor & Gamble, Sallie Mae, Sherwin-Williams, Southwest Bank, Southwestern Bell, Union Bank, Wachovia, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney, Wells Fargo, Winn Dixie, and Zale Corp...

...secretly took out life insurance policies on their employees for the express purpose of turning a profit on their deaths, subsequently bleeding insurance providers and their legitimate purchasers dry with these statistically guaranteed "dead peasant" policies...

...Just because a couple thousand of the apples are rotten to the core doesn't mean I should assume the last half-dozen in the barrel are? Okay, well, I disagree.

My government has, throughout the years, imprisoned it's own citizens in concentration camps, murdered church goers who sought only to escape the 'ways of the world,' poisoned its own soldiers on the battle field, illegally stripped citizens of their birthrights to citizenship, physically tortured captured soldiers and civilians alike in an effort to gather information known to be unreliable, secretly surveilled their own electorate's communications and then pardoned themselves of the crime, corrupted election results, redistricted voters for political gains, erected road blocks and denied people of certain colors and persuasions access to ballots, invented fictional international incidents to facilitate fiscally desirable wars, armed and sponsored terrorist forces to overthrow sovereign governments, entrapped and arrested civic leaders... COINTELPRO... Bay of Pigs... The Cuban Five... Yearning for Zion... Jose Padilla...

And these are just the documented, proven acts of my government. No conspiracy or conjecture in the list above. But I should withhold my cynicism?

The Summer of the Shark, Super Sunday, Shock and Awe, Howard Dean's red face, "Torture and the Ticking Time-Bomb" the lack of single-payer options in the healthcare "discussion," no footage of Bradley Tanks in the US, '60 Minutes' withholding video of ATF forces firing on the exits of a burning building, G.W. Bush pelted with eggs on inauguration day never shown on TV, Fox News refuses to show building 7's collapse, no images of death from Iraq and Afghanistan, "terrorists have weddings too," the term "religious extremists," Obama's peace prize...

Listen, you can deride the individual who shouts "there's poison in the well" without a reason to suspect it - go ahead - but we've all seen more than enough evidence of corporate evil and inhumane greed. We've all seen more than enough evidence of government plots to subjugate and/or outmaneuver the will of a populace. We've all seen more than enough evidence of media propagandizing, tabloidism, and self-censoring journalism. And the incidents have become steadier and more egregious than ever before in the passed ten years.

We have every reason, at this point in time, to approach any and every corporation, government, and media outlet warily and with suspicion of mal-intent, remitting trust only once these have overcome their own much deserved, and well-earned reputations of corruption, collusion, and outright evil.

Ronald McDonald may want you to like him and trust in his products, but no more than the crack dealer on the corner desires the same. Both will be your best friend right up until their mutually addictive and poisonous products eat your insides out and leave you for dead. Then it'll be your fault for buying it from them.