Aug 012013
 

I switched (back?) to Apple in 2001 due primarily to being completely fed up with the crapability of Windows and how un-user friendly it was (is). Apple’s new OSX’s ease of use and simplicity was a big selling point. But I haven’t always been gung-ho over each new version of OSX.

In fact I have often, of late, greeted new versions with trepidation as Apple has increasingly begun trying to force their vision on the user. Things like reversing the default scroll wheel direction, or hiding key folders and locations that I regularly access (but, of course, I could always [and have] changed these things back to how I prefer them).

But as more features of the new OSX Mavericks are being released, I find myself cautiously optimistic, even a little excited. Many of these features so far announced are minor tweaks, to be sure. But they will eliminate the need for 3rd-party software by making certain functions and abilities native in OSX, as well as improving my productivity greatly. It also appears that the system will now significantly throttle down background apps, which could be incredibly helpful with the system-intensive programs I use for my art.

Jeff

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Jan 272013
 

Here’s the thing: I love Star Wars, but I really don’t get the whole love for the Fetts. I mean, seriously… what do they do that makes them seem so cool? And, no, I am not going to count anything in the Extended Universe or the Clone Wars series.

In The Empire Strikes Back we first meet Boba Fett. Badass bounty hunter, right? I mean, he looks so cool. But what, exactly, does he do that makes him so nifty? He outsmarts Han Solo by tracking the Millenium Falcon to Bespin. He then stands around while the Imperials do all of the work capturing Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO; proceeds to sound totally awesome by saying, in a raspy whisper, “He’s no good to me dead,” shots his gun once (ONCE) at Luke, and then takes off in the Slave-1 while Lando, Leia, and the others try to enact a rescue.

Really, think about it. He doesn’t do shit.

Flash-forward three years to Return of the Jedi, and we get to see Boba Fett hanging out at Jabba’s palace because, once you’ve captured the galaxy’s most valuable bounty, there is nothing like hanging out at the house of the guy who posted the bounty in the first place, right? Anyhoo… as we all know, our rebels stage a big escape attempt ensues at the sarlacc pit. We (briefly) get to see Boba Fett use his jetpack before, rather quickly, getting his gun chopped in half by Luke’s lightsaber. After which, a semi-blind Han Solo (humorously) accidentally ignites Boba Fett’s jetpack by hitting it with a vibro-ax (because nothing says quality engineering than having a jetpack accidentally go off when hit with a rod), sending Boba Fett flailing through the air into the side of Jabba’s barge. He then falls into the mouth of the sarlacc, whereupon the beast lets out a hilarious burp.

Wow. Boba Fett is, like, soooo cool (not).

Then, we get Jango Fett (and a young Boba) in the prequels or, namely, Attack of the Clones, since this time around Lucas felt that two times the Fett should only go into one film. And suddenly, for some odd reason, the Fett family now sports a Kiwi accent.

Whatever.

In his first major fight scene, we get to see a slightly more competent Jango Fett take on Obi-Wan Kenobi while Boba sits in the cockpit of Slave-1 generally making an ass out of himself. Jango holds his own well enough against a Jedi, using all sorts of tricks including the giant missile on his backpack.

Later we see Jango lead Obi-Wan on a thrilling dogfight through an asteroid field (looks those 3,720 to 1 odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are actually pretty damn good). Boba Fett chuckles like a chucklehead, almost totally negating any coolness that he may have had from the original trilogy.

Then we have the big fight scene in the Geonosian arena. Jango gets the drop on another Jedi. This time it is Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson in his best role since National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1) and Jango sets his cloak on fire. That’s right. Fire.

Against a Jedi.

I mean, if you get the drop on a Jedi, don’t try to burn him!

Because here’s the thing- you gotta finish the job, or else you’ll just piss off Samuel L. Jackson.

But, no Jango doesn’t finish the job because Samuel L. Windu hightails it out of there by doing this ginormous leap into the arena. The whole battle kind of gets sidetracked with clones coming in and Yoda talking to the left of normal grammar, but Mace L. Jackson remembers. Oh yes, he does. And finally it gets back to these two.

Jango and Mace Windu charge at each other. Mace Windu is easily deflecting Jango’s blaster bolts WHILE charging at him which, when you think about it, might make it a good time to vacate the premises. But, no, Jango keeps coming at Mace Windu and…

…Mace Windu cuts his damn head off.

The end.

So when you look at the sum of what the Fett family actually does, it ain’t really much. But I personally know people who have Fett-related tattoos. From actual images of Boba Fett, to the Slave-1, to the Mandalorian symbol- a mythosaur skull.

I don’t know… they seem fairly overrated to me.

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Jan 102013
 

At the recommendation of a friend due on the fact that we will be moving to England soon, I recently started reading “Watching the English, a humorous book by social anthropologist Kate Fox that describes what is considered to be proper etiquette and behavior among the English. Last night I read the section on queuing and found the behavior and expectations described to be fairly similar to the social standards and behaviors I am familiar with from growing up in the Midwest region of the United States.

This morning, the missus, our daughter, and myself were heading to our local CPAM (France’s social security) office to update my wife’s status. On the walk, we discussed what I had read the precious evening. One thing I brought up from the book is a habit that, apparently, the English share with many Americans wherein there is a situation where there are two tellers/cashiers/ATMs/whathaveyou, and no preset system of queuing (ropes, rails, etc.) exist. In this case, it seems the English will tend to form a single line, with the first person in line going to the next available opening. We laughed because the French totally don’t do this. Either they don’t know how, they don’t care, they don’t want to or, sometimes, they believe that they have the right to go to whatever is open next, regardless of who has been waiting.

Fast-forward about an hour. We have updated the wife’s status, and are now going to utilize the automatic kiosks near the front door in order to request our European medical cards*. The layout here is not done very well, it is basically a dead end with the two kiosks situated in a row slightly to the left, so there is really only one way in or out. Meaning that when you are done, you have to walk back out through the line of people waiting to use one of the kiosks.

Through a stroke of luck, we arrive when there isn’t a huge line, and are quickly at the front. Instinctively, we hold back so that we can move to the next available kiosk. A line forms behind us. Of course, you know where this is going…

That’s right. Despite 1) there being an obvious queue of people, and  2) the obviousness that we, being at the front of the queue, are forming a specific line for either of the kiosks, some woman comes squeezing past us to go wait behind the person using the kiosk which is further away.

I didn’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity of this French woman, or slap her around a bit. I eventually decided to call her out on it.

“Madame…”

I get her attention.

I jerk my thumb over my shoulder.

“Queue.”

She feigns surprise at her line-jumping, tries to mutter a sheepish “Je suis désolé,” and moves herself to the back of the line.

Now, some people may think this is a bit of a one-off but, rest assured, this is the general attitude here in France.

Queues, you see, are for other people. Not me.

Now, of course, some may also think that every French person acts this way, which is untrue. As evidenced by what happened in the line after us.

As we finally move up to the next open kiosk (the closer of the two), we start doing what we need to do. I see an older woman walking up to the further kiosk, and suddenly I hear a man loudly telling her that there is a line. I turn around and, sure enough the man is at the front of the queue, with people behind him, and this woman thought she could just skedaddle past them all.

In an astonishing escalation, she started to argue to the point with him. He is telling her that there is a line and she is responding with “Je vu ! Je vu !” Which, essentially, means “Yeah, I saw it.”

Uh-huh. She didn’t even care that there was a line, and thought a valid argument against the people who have been waiting and called out her line-jumping was to tell them that she knows the line is there (implying that she doesn’t care).

So, there you have the yin and the yang of it. I’d like to say that most French are like us or that guy and actively try to form logical queues but, regretfully, it seems that most are like the two ladies who thought that THEY d0n’t have to abide by the norms of civilized people. Over three years of living her has taught me this.

Oh, and NEVER go the McDonalds by Bellecour at lunch or dinner time. Trust me. There is no queue there, only a mob.

*This card allows you to receive medical treatment in participating European countries under your resident country’s medical coverage. We are getting it as a “just in case” thing for when we go to England, as we are covered under France’s social security for quite a while.

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Oct 222012
 

It has been a tough few months with my back being out of order. Taking care of an increasingly rambunctious baby all day long just adds to the difficulty.

However, good news came in the form of an x-ray that showed my left leg is about 7mm shorter than my right (shouldn’t they test for these things as you grow?). That may not seem like a lot, but it turns it can cause a whole crap-load of problems with your back because your pelvis is tilted which, in turn affects the spine (anyone who has a similar diagnosis knows exactly what I mean). This, coupled with my pre-existing back problems with my slipped disk between L5 and S1, just made things worse.

Based on those results I went to see a pogologue (podiatrist). After a battery of tests on my stride, gait, standing on a scanner, etc., etc. he put together a pair of insoles for me. Their purpose is two-fold. The first is to, of course, raise my leg a bit so that my pelvis is straightened. The other is to help with my terribly flat feet, by adding in some rigid arches.

At first, to get my back and hips back into working order I had to walk a minimum of 15 minutes a day with no stopping (well, I could stop at intersections and stuff). This was hard at the beginning but I soon began to feel better. It felt REALLY good the first time I could sit at the drawing table for an extended period, too.

Over the past month I have been getting better and better! This week, although just begun, has been stellar so far. Yesterday, for the first time in months, I took Vibeke out to the marché (farmer’s market) in the carrier we have, instead of the stroller. I used the one where she is mounted to my front, but she can either sit facing me or facing out. It was a short trip, to be sure, but my back and hips were only a little bit stressed afterward. Good news!

Today has been even better. I was able to go on my first power walk in months this morning. I made 3.75km (2.34 miles) in 36 minutes. Not much for a healthy person, to be sure, but for getting back on the horse, that is great news!

Then, later this morning, Vibeke and I took a casual walk (she was in her stroller this time), making a little over 3.8 km (2.36 miles) in 45 minutes! If my improvement keeps up, I may be able to start jogging again in a couple of weeks.

It feels so nice to be back on my feet again. It feels even better to be active and not have my hip and back hurt so much. It also feels better to know that I can begin to get some good exercising in, because I’ve really packed on some pounds! =o

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Jul 272012
 

Let’s be frank here- This was not good for the school. Despite Spanier’s asinine claims, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that he didn’t know what was going on… he did. They all did.

However, this completely and utterly disgusting cover-up was, most probably, restricted to the higher-ups in power.

My point is, this scandal, and the subsequent penalties enacted by the NCAA, in no way takes away from the accomplishments of the many football players who took to the field during those sordid years. In fact, it doesn’t take away any of the many accolades earned by many of the student athletes. In fact, it doesn’t, in any way, lessen the hard-won (if terribly expensive) advancement in personal knowledge and skill from the many students who trod the hallways of Penn State and earned their degrees during that near decade-and-a-half. In fact, it doesn’t detract from the great discoveries made by departments doing research in the sciences, humanities, and other fields. It definitely does not touch the thousands of excellent professors who have put their time in educating so many of those students. Nor does it have anything to do with Penn State’s support staff of all departments.

But, here’s the thing. Penn State really IS an insular community. You know it. I know it. And if the rest of the world didn’t recognize that before, they definitely see it now.

And when you insist on tagging every comment in defense of PSU with a “WE ARE”, you are just reinforcing the idea (however misguided) perpetuated by the student riots when Paterno was fired, and countless others since (and up until this day), that the Penn State Community just doesn’t get it. That they don’t understand the severity of these crimes, and that these crimes definitely overshadow the personal record of a coach who allowed a child molester to run free in order to protect the image of his beloved football program.

Listen, I know many of you do get it. I know, first hand, that a few don’t. But most of  you do.

But if Penn State is to weather this crisis without having its reputation tarnished FOREVER then, seriously, lay off the “WE ARE” for a while.

Continue to fight the good fight. Continue to calmly remind everyone that Penn State is not a bunch of blindly loyal idiots. Continue telling them of the great (if terribly expensive) education and research that is done there.

But stop with the “WE ARE” until the dust is settled. You think you may be showing pride, but the rest of the world associates this phrase with the stupidly naive solidarity that many students, alumni, faculty, and others expressed in the early days of this debacle.

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May 122012
 

*begin rant*

Apparently, “walk in single file” really isn’t in the French vocabulary.

As I am walking down the sidewalk with Vibeke in the baby carrier on my chest, I come up to two large French ladies walking side-by-side in the other direction. As we meet I make the movements to pass on the right.

Haha! Silly me! Here I was thinking like a rational person!

As we begin to close on each other it becomes quickly obvious to me that they don’t intend to form a single line to pass me on the right (as, you know, civilized people do). Instead, we come right up to each other and stop. The older of the two (they looked similar and I am assuming they are mother and daughter- one looked to be in her twenties, the other in her fifties) then says something rapidly in French and gestures that I walk around them to the left and pass them by walking in the street.

Mind you, our street, Cours Tolstoi, is a main thoroughfare and can be very busy.

So, I gesture to Vibeke on my chest and in my best broken-French say: “Je porte une bebe, vous passez moi sur la gauche en queue.” (which would sound in English like: ‘I carry a baby, you pass me on the left in queue.” [which can be seen as funny, because 'queue' can also mean 'tail' in French])

Well, the older of the two fat French bitches was having none of that, and began gesticulating wildly about me going around them so they can walk unimpeded while berating me in French.

So I says to her: “Je porte mon bebe. Je ne marche pas dans la rue. Donc vous marchez en queue. Vous etes trop grande. So get out of my way you fat-ass bitches.” (“I carry my baby. So you walk in line [or 'tail']. You are too big. So get out of my way you fat-ass bitches”)

And I pushed my way past them.

You see, the French “every man for himself” attitude is bad enough. But when I have my baby, you’d better watch your asses. Challenge me and I will use force to get you to back down every single time (which is not actually too difficult with these people).

This is especially true when Vibeke is in her stroller. Being an inherently polite person in public, I am incredibly conscious of how large a stroller is and do my best to be as unobtrusive as possible, especially when loading it onto the bus. I don’t go straight through the middle of the bus door, but always to the right side, to allow other passengers to mount the bus on my left.

BUT when I am loading the stroller onto the bus, DO NOT try to cut me off on the right and squeeze yourself on through the 2-3 inch gap between the stroller and the bus door.

This has happened three times now, and each time I have jammed the front-right wheel of the stroller into the culprit’s leg, pinning them to the bus, until they inevitably back down. This is incredibly fun because of the look of surprise on their face that someone is actually going to call them on their bullshit and challenge them. And the look of pain because, and I am being honest here, I am not gentle with the force that I exert pushing the stroller against their leg.

I was here first and the bus will not leave without you. Back the fuck off.

*end of rant*

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May 072012
 

Those of you who have known us for a while will remember back in State College when some drunk moron from Penn State (our mutual friends’ excuses: “He’s actually a really a nice guy!”) decided at 5am one Monday morning to tear our gas grill from the metal pipe it was chained to and try, unsuccessfully to throw it through the plate-glass window of our patio door. One foot chase later and he was hiding in the bushes like the little pussy he is, begging for me not to hurt him. And that is when the cops showed up and took him in. It turns out he also caused a lot of damage to the elementary school behind our apartment building, too.

The funny this is, when I chased him down and demanded to know why he was trying to throw our grill through our patio door, his reason was, and I quote: “I thought I was at someone else’s place.”

As if that somehow justifies his actions.

I guess he thought that he was two apartment complexes down the street, and was trying to throw a grill through some girl’s patio door (although this doesn’t explain why he was thrashing the school behind us in the first place).

Well, flash-forward a couple of years, and it seems that we have, once again, been the victims of misplaced vandalism.

Yesterday, after having brunch with friends downtown, we returned home to find the ‘false door’ to our apartment vandalized with what appeared to be some threatening language. “Yanis est mort”, “Nik ta mere”, “Nik milena”, etc., etc.

It turns out that some young hooligan came into our building and thought he was vandalizing the door of our downstairs neighbors. At some point, realizing his mistake, he did eventually manage to get his intended target after thoroughly marking up our door.

By the time we arrived home, he had alread been caught by our downstair neighbor, but they didn’t know that he had also damaged our door, too. And he obviously wasn’t going to volunteer that information. From what I understand, as Erika and I were trying to discern what exactly this stuff was saying, one of his buddies came up with some cleaner with the intent of erasing the evidence from our door before anyone noticed.

Erika, on the other hand, was having none of this. Lots of yelling and scolding ensued, our downstairs neighbor comes up and sees our door vandalized, too. Lots of frustration and yelling. The vandal himself gets hauled up to explain himself and, I kid you not, he basically says (in French) “I had the wrong floor.”

No, not “sorry for being a dipshit and vandalizing your door” or “sorry for doing this at all”.

Just “I had the wrong floor.”

Wow.

Anyhow, our neighbor got the kid’s name. Spoke to his mom. We all went to the police station to file a report (for us, mostly so we don’t have to pay for any damage).

All in all, fun time.

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Apr 102012
 

I’m pretty sure that I got children’s books read to me when I was a youngin’. I mean, what parent wouldn’t read children’s books to their kid?

I know my parents loved me (at least, at the time) and that they read to me.

But somewhere along the line there was either a disconnect from what children are supposed, or else a strong influence from what my parents read.

You see, I have no memories of children’s books. I have no memories of mom or dad reading me stories of Pooh or any of that shit.

When my friends were reading Pooh, Suess, and all that stuff for children, I read stories about John Carter of Mars.

By the age of eight I had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I had completed Asimov’s Foundation series by nine.

In a fourth grade book report, in which we were to portray a fictional character during an “interview” which was conducted by a classmate, I took a paper box, cut a round hole and covered it with red paper so that I could climb inside and hold a flashlight up to it.

Yes. I was the HAL 9000 computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and not the one from the movie.

You see, my parents let me be exposed to adult ideas and concepts at a young age. When my 4th grade classmate was “super-cool” because he had the most Cabbage Patch Kids (seriously), I was delving into the existential questions posed by “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. I saw Porky’s when it came out. I understood Alien was more than a space-horror movie.

When I was nine the movie Dune came out. The staff at the movie theater were supposed to hand us a print-out explaining all of the strange titles, names, and lingo from the movie. When the acne-riddled boy tried to hand me a copy and I refused him, he tried to explain to my parents how complex the movie was, and how this sheet would help me understand what was happening. My mom said to him (and this memory sticks with me to this day) “Oh, he’s read the book. He actually explains to me what it means.”

What does this have to do with anything? I don’t know. Other than that I am not going to candy-coat shit for my baby. I think the best thing that ever happened to me was that my mom and dad encouraged me to read beyond what a three, four, six-year old should read.

And that my child will be exposed and influenced by the same ideals.

Treat kids like babies and they end up being incompetent fools. They end up being a fourth-grader who owns a lot of fucking Cabbage Patch Kids.

Treat them like the little absorbant sponge-brains they are, and you will be consistently tested, challenged, and confronted. They will be observant, intelligent, ctitical.

One path is easy and produces drones. The other produces human beings.

Guess which one my baby will be.

 

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Apr 072012
 

This will make no sense.

Here’s the thing about babies: We were all a baby once. My anthropolology friends would probably be better suited to provide more detail on this next part* but, at least in recent human history, every baby probably has, at some point in its tiny little existence, been completely and utterly loved and adored by one or both parents. I know that I look at my little baby Vibeke and can’t help but feel an overwhelming adoration and affection for this little creature, as well as a hope that her future is bright, that she never wants for anything, and that she never suffers any of the trials and tribulations that myself or her mother have endured.

Back to the babies, though. Seriously. Think about it. Adolf Hitler’s mom and dad had to have, at one time or another, looked a baby Adolf thinking that he was simply the most precious little thing ever. Charlie Manson’s mother probably held him when he cried incessantly for no apparent reason, wondering what was going through that tiny brain of his. Heck, even Rick Santorum’s parents probably held little Ricky and looked into his infant eyes, so full of curiosity, and prayed that their child would end up to be a good man.

This, in turn, put me into a bit of a crisis mode as I began to think about some of the terrible things I have done to people. Teasing. Spreading rumors I knew weren’t true. Lying. Basically all of the dickish things I never could even have contemplated if I was looking at that person when they were a wiggly jellybean of cuteness and drool and dirty diapers. I mean, what the hell happened to them. They were cute babies once, and then they go and do something that I feel the need to ridicule.

You see, my parents probably thought the same things when they held me as an infant.

Hell, what the hell happened to me. I was once one of these little guys, too. When the hell did I turn into who/what I am now. What compelled me to be a dick sometimes and a nice person others?

I look at my little baby and, of course, there are things I want for her and things I hope to avoid. I hope she isn’t clumsy like her mom. I hope that she doesn’t have ear problems like I do. At one point, in what is probably a damned morbid train of thought, it actually occurred to me that, one day, she will pass away. Which led me to hope that she lives a long and healthy life with little-to-no misery or distress.

I have no idea where this is all going or what it signifies. It must be kind of a bummer since the last post was about death and this one seems like it is about life but turned out to be something out of whack and pretty odd.

Then again, maybe all of these thoughts do culminate in a reflection on, and a celebration of, life. Without that cosmic mystery of life, we would have Hitlers or Mansons or Santorums. I don’t know. I love my little baby girl, and that is all that matters.

I told you all this wouldn’t make any sense.

*However, we all know that anthropology isn’t a real science, right?

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