Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Poke it... I dare you!

Never show someone something on your laptop. No matter what you do, no matter how impressive what's on your screen may be, it's not worth the pain and torment you will experience afterwards. When you pull out your laptop-- whether it's an adorable iBook or a thick and heavy HP-- and turn that thing around to show an audient, they will almost immediately, and inadvertantly, poke your screen. When they do, a piece of your soul will die.

Why people have the urge to poke at LCD screens I shall never know. Perhaps it's because they are so much brighter and nicer looking than a CRT. Or maybe it's because people enjoy the ripples that come from that brief little jab from your index. Or perhaps it's just because people know they aren't supposed to. For whatever reason, everyone does it.

Since I do so much design work on the road with my iBook, I'm often showing my wares to passers by. Each one of them reaches out to the screen, as if touching it will reassure them that they are merely looking at a picture, and not the actualy flyer or brochure that I've created. Sometimes I move the laptop out of the way, other times I distract them with a loud "yelp," or maybe I'll just swat their hand away like a nasty bug.

I'm not the only one having this problem either. My friend Chris is adament about the celebacy of his screen. Dr. Jerz, just the other day, mentioned his outrage after a fellow faculty member took a jab at his LCD. It's one of those things that happens to all laptop owners, you just don't find out until you start complaining yourself.

But why do you get so upset when people poke the screen? After all, it does look really cool to see the images ripple like a clear pond in the summer time. Each and every time you press your digit into the soft liquid crystal, you are actually killing those crystals! Pushing them around, confusing them, and leaving them for dead. It's like God sending down a bolt of lightning into a beautiful field of unicorns! And of course, this will lead to a shorter lifespan for your laptop, and some permanent dark blotches down the line.

So next time your friend says, "Hey you, come here and check out this sweet pic I made in Photoshop!" Don't stick out your finger and charge toward his screen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Who Knew Church Could Be So Awesome?!

I'm posting another one. Right after my last one. Who am I? James? Just kidding, J-dawg.

When I post something it's usually a small thing in my life that I extrapolate into a huge rant. Well this one is a big thing. I don't know how many of you saw the big article in the Post Gazette about the emergent church movement in Pittsburgh, but I go to one of them. The Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community. My picture is on the site with my son and his mom. :)

Anyways, this church is so cool. No one says their church is cool. But ours is. The two guys that run it, Jim and Jeff are freakin' awesome. Jeff is from the Presbyterian church and Jim from the Methodists. But they've come together to make something not new at all. Re-do something quite old.

Every Sunday, we all get together, pray, there's a drama instead of a sermon, something is acted out from the Bible and they link it to people today. We also eat every Sunday. This is what the first church did. The got together every day, hung out, talked about Jesus, helped people, and then ate. So this church is to get back to that.

Cause it's not just Sunday. I've been going to a men's group from the church and it's been really helping me, and I have this crazy hunger for God that I never had before. I've also never seen the presence of God so vivid nor the power of prayer. Everyone in the church has crap that they bring to God and just let him take care of it, and the crazy thing is that He actually is. It's not like you see in other places everyone sits in pews and signs the same songs over and over and looks and listens quietly and then they go back to their little lives and God is put back in the box for six days.

NO! God is living and breathing in this place and in the people. I never did community service unless a free T shirt was involved. I'm finding that I WANT to do it. There is a wave of the Holy Spirit hitting the Burgh like gang busters. It's crazy, weird, and exciting. There are only about 100 people in this faith community, but there are so many kinds of people and we all bring our pain and happiness and give it to God.

For instance, our men's group has former alcoholics, a punk guy that graduated college early, a father of two, a college sophomore, former junkies, and two young pastors. I look forward to everything I do with the church and for the church. I've actually picked up my Bible. I've read stuff on my own, and I'm slowly becoming less of a jerk. I know that concerns some because my jerkiness can be funny sometimes, but do not despair. Also, I'm writing some of the dramas for them (I've only done one so far.) and I've been in a few too. I'll be in one on the 15th of May. It's funny, but poinient.

I'm not saying everyone come to my church because most people reading this wouold be about an hour's drive away, but I do encourage you to get into some house of worship because God is moving and dammit, it's exciting.

Mike the Tall

Monday, April 25, 2005

What's Your Damage, Heather?

I now work at Blockbuster. It's a good job. I don't make much, but I like it. It's very good for right now. Here are some helpful hints to help both you and the staff next time you visit one.

IF you don't want something, take it to the counter. Don't just stick it on a random shelf. You wonder why you go into a store and ask "Do you have Lolita?" and they say no because they can't find it. And then six weeks later, it's found behind a cover box for the Incredibles game for Xbox. What is going on there?

If you only have a VCR, get a DVD player. Come on, people. You're spending $4 to rent a movie. You can get a DVD player for $40. Stop watching movies for a month and make the purchase. Blockbuster is quickly moving to all DVDs, so all you VHS hangers-on will be left in the dust very soon.

Piggy backing on that: don't expect anything to be in both DVD and VHS, it will most likely be in DVD and widescreen, so deal. For those of you who don't like the widescreen because of those "black stripes." You don't realize that you are actually seeing more of the picture that way. When they make that full frame version, they chop off the sides of the picture and you lose stuff. Widescreen is better even on a regular TV.

Blockbuster movies and games must be returned to the store from which you got them. You can't just take them anywhere. Blockbusters are not connected and their computer software is older than most of their employees. So bear with the weirdness of it and just be responsible.

And if you want something you've rented, keep it. The computer will sell it to you. It's yours congrats.

I've also found that there is a movie nerd at every store. Apparently I'm it at our store. I didn't even know how much I knew about movies until I started working there. I have so much useless info in my head. WOW! Incredible.

Weekends are super busy, especially when the weather's bad. So don't expect to go in on Sunday afternoon and find the hot title. It was gone on Friday afternoon. That's common sense.

I highly recommend the job I have. I am looking for a career job and I might go back to school. If these things occur, I might have to stay there to keep living and eating.

Really, just use your head, and be polite. Others will respond well.

Mike the Tall

Friday, April 22, 2005

This Guard Has Holes in Him

For the Pope's funeral, the Vatican brought in Italian fighter jets, warships, and soldiers from a bunch of different countries to ensure that everything went safely. But these high security measures aren't always present at the Vatican. During the funeral you may have noticed those folks with the red-plumed helmets... those aren't Spartan soldiers who happened to travel back in time to attend the services. Those are the Pope's first (and only) line of defense, his body guards, and his mery band of mercenaries: the Swiss Guards.

How did these ridiculous looking soldiers from the most well-known neutral country in Europe come to protect His Holy Pontiff? Well, let me tell you...

Part ninja, part gladiator, part award-winning seamstress, the Swiss guards are not to be trifled with. They are a highly trained group of warriors from the land of Swatches and anonymous bank accounts who stand proudly at the gates of the Vatican, swearing their lives to the protection of the Pope.

This all came about in the late 1400's when the Vatican held an alliance with dirty, dirty France. France was constantly getting their ass kicked by invaders, and because they couldn't defend their way out of a paper bag, they began looking for some mercenaries. It was back in this time when Switzerland was but a small, mysterious, land-locked nation who didn't really know too many people. But one day France saw in the European Gazette an ad for Swiss Mercenaries. Feeling bad that no one liked to talk to the Swiss (rumor was going around that they smelled bad... but this turned out to just be the French the whole time) the French hired 1,500 soldiers to defend Basle. According to legend, and a diary by Louis XI, the guards not only kicked ass, but they killed 20 times as many men! (It's still unknown how many that number is...) And so after seeing this hella-cool display, the French sent a recommendation over to the Pope.

In 1497, Pope Sixtus IV brought in the guards as mercenaries. He built some barracks for them, gave them a cask of wine and a toasted sub and set them up for the night. It was at this point in Church history that the Vatican found itself under constant attack from the Polish Cossacks. These Cossacks, while absolutely terrible at stealth (due to the amount of pots and pans they strapped to their belts in those days), managed to wreak havoc months earlier at the Vatican's annual Induldgence Carnivale. And so to test the Swiss waters, 150 guards were brought in to fight off the Cossacks. Turns out they did so in amazing fashion, using their long staffs to disarm the Cossacks (and making their pants drop in traditional comic fashion), and defended the Vatican in under an hour.

In 1506, Pope Julius II brought in more Swiss guards and made them the official Pontifical Swiss Guard. They would forever protect the Pope and Cardinals from crazed invaders which may include, but are not limited to, ninjas, mummies, large squids, and various Evangelical Protestant solicitors. The guards have been doing their job with a smile for about 500 years now.

But what makes these guards so special? Why are they so darn good at what they do? Well, the novice humorist may say "Because they use Swiss Army Knives, eat lots of chocolate, wear Swatches and K-Swiss shoes, etc..." but come on, you and I both know that's about as true as the Swiss Navy. The truth behind the guards lies in their training regimen, their weaponry, and their optimistic attitude on life.

Every morning the Swiss guard is awoken by a splash of fresh, chilled Alpine Water. Sitting upright, they hop out of bed and do 12 jumping jacks (one for each Apostle) and go get some breakfast. On their way to breakfast, however, they are ambushed by several forms of sand-filled enemies. Punching bags drop from the ceilings of their barracks, forcing them to react with lightning quickness. After breakfast, the guards watch four hours of MadTV. This gives them the urge to kill. The rest of their day is spent watching the gates of the Vatican, posing for pictures, and letting kids know how tall they have to be to ride the Pope-coaster.

Their weaponry consists solely of a flexible pole with a pointy knife at the end. It is with this staff that they are able to disarm any enemy in a matter of moments. A few quick swipes and the intruder is defenseless. Then the Swiss soldiers finish them off with a series of forceful kicks and slaps. A force only comparable to the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Swordsmen of Croatia.

The Swiss Guards have a great sense of humor and a very uplifting outlook on life. Each guard, upon entering the service, is given a copy of "7 Habits of Highly Effective Swiss Guardsmen" and a cassette tape of the Broadway Recording of "Anything Goes." It's always been a tourism legend that if you go up to them at the gates and say "Knock Knock" they will tell you one of the funniest priest jokes you will ever hear in your life (but it's not a sin for them to tell the joke because they protect the Church.)

And so if you ever get a chance to visit the Vatican, check out these excellent gentlemen. Next year should be their 500th year anniversary of service, and if you are lucky you may just meet one of the original mercenaries.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


So, by now you've probably all heard that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected the new Pope. I'd like to take this moment to extend my congratulations to the new Pope and wish him luck in his upcoming papacy. It was a short but none the less intense campaign. In the end I guess Ratzinger simply ran a better campaign than I did. I hope that now that the Cardinals have voted we can forget the ugliness of the campaign trail and move forward united. I know that Ratzinger will make excellent Pope, and will fill the pope mobile well.

Now, I want to thank all the people who supported me in my campaign and those Cardinals who voted for me. I encourage all of you not to become discouraged. We knew going in that it would be an up hill battle to Rome. After all, I do not speak Latin. I am not a Cardinal. I am not even Catholic. I guess the Catholic church just wasn't ready for its first openly Protestant pontiff. But we will continue this fight. If nothing else we have proven to the fat cats in Rome that a small grass roots campaign can thrust itself to the forefront and make some serious ecclesiastical noise. Now, it is important that we maintain this structure and energy we have forged on the campaign trail. Let Rome know that even though we lost this round, we are going to be a major voice in the Church for quite some time.

Finally, allow me to reiterate the importance of unity. We must not grow bitter in this defeat. We must not allow ourselves to make snide, sarcastic, remarks toward the current administration. Even if Ratzinger did choose the ultra-homo name Benedict, when I would have gone with the super cool Pius moniker. It is important that we do not lose hope. Even if this is the latest in a long line of crushing defeats after failing to be elected student body president, treasurer of the English Honorary in college, and most likely to succeed. Despite all this, remember we must work hand in hand with this new pontiff.

And chin up my little soldiers. Benedict is only a buffer pope. It is only a matter of time until we gird up our loins for the next papal election. Until then I wish you, my followers, and the new administration, good luck and godspeed. Bless you.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Tax Dollars at Work

Since September, I've been living in a truly swinging bachelor pad smack dab in the middle of hip, bustling New Brighton, Pennsylvania (official motto: 'Always within walking distance of a bar'). Now, I like my adopted hometown just fine, although I have noticed a few tiny aspects of the town which are not quite up to snuff. For instance, while you are technically always within walking distance of a bar, sometimes the bar is over a whole block away, making it quite a precarious trip on foot. Also, the town could use more hot chicks, hot chicks with low standards, hot chicks with James-low standards. So, imagine my joy when I found out New Brighton has been awarded $1 million from the state for improvements.

Of course, my joy was short lived when I discovered that this money was not going toward moving in bus loads of lonely and confused co-eds from the University of Miami beach volleyball team. Apparently the money's for renovating main street, and that doesn't mean putting in more bars. The grant will be used to add new lighting, replace sidewalks, plant trees, put in benches, bicycle racks, and blah, blah, blah. The list goes on. What waste of a million bucks. I mean couldn't they think of anything better? A million dollars falls into their laps - Courtesy of the taxpayers of my fair state - and the best they can come up with is this stupid little downtown beautification project.

Just think about it. What would you do with a million dollars? That's right. You'd do the same thing I would: Something completely stupid (Don't bother arguing with me on this one. Face it, if you're reading this blog you're already prone to making bad decisions.) It's just more fun that way. For instance, if I had ten extra dollars right now, the chances of me putting it in the bank toward paying rent or student loans would be pretty slim. The odds of me buying a new wiffle ball bat on the other hand are much better.

So, why should the municipality of New Brighton look upon this extra $1 million any different. Instead of spending this money on some boring been-there-done-that renovation project, why not blow the whole wad on something completely ridiculous but fun. Here's my proposal. First, obviously, forget the whole main street fix up deal. Second, take all the money and throw a big, totally bad ass party. That's right, a huge, town wide no holds barred party. I'm talking par-tay. And with $1 million it would really rock. We're talking kegs of good beer, not beast. We're talking about name brand party mix, not generic dollar store brand. We're talking about getting good music, not that drunk guy with an out of tune guitar who always shows up at parties.

Just imagine, an entire town wasting $1 million dollars of tax payer money in one drunken orgy of frivolity. I know that a lot of you might be a little disturbed by this, but you know you'd be there, drinking government beer and getting your freak on, New Brighton style.


Oh, and in case you were wondering, any money left over from the party would go toward building a water slide...a huge, sweet ass water slide.

Shalom (again)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Recent thoughts from recent movies

I have begun a job at Blockbuster. It's not illustrious. It's pays decent. I get enough hours. It's very close to my home. Plus, I get to rent five things a week. Working full time and watching five movies a week is a pretty full schedule.

I've also been thinking about the political ramifications of some of the movies I've been watching. The one that really struck a chord is I, Robot. In the not so distant future robots will do all the things we want them to do. And the movie showed robots doing a lot of different things. However, this made me think. Robots delivering FedEx. Robots as bartenders. Robot maids. These jobs are held by unskilled or semi-skilled laborers. I don't want a robot serving me drinks. I want a big burly guy that understands trouble with the ladies or a hot girl wearing tight jeans with no waist so you can see if she's wearing underwear or not. These things are important.

There needs to be a human touch to some jobs like picking fruit. We have migrant workers who do a lot of that in this and other countries. There is something right about a person doing it that a harvester just won't do. Also, if houses were built by robots, would they all be the same? Or all too perfect while still being different? And if we're worried about clones, won't the same problems arise from increasingly better AI in robots?

There is a theory that technology expands exponentially. So when the first working robot hits, (which may not be too far off with Honda working so hard on it) more will come and better will come like a wave and spread all over the world.

My biggest concern is this: What happens to the economy and our waistlines when this wave of robotics hits? I don't do much as it is. If I no longer had to clean, what would I do? It's hard to find a job now. What happens when robots are doing half of them? I could still be a bartender or bricklayer or work at an assembly plant. What happens to all those people if they're replaced by robots? Our economy would collapse! Just look at automobile plants in Detroit that had thousands of workers replaced by robots. In those future movies, people are all bustling off to some job, but what are those jobs?

It may seem weird, but look at the Jetsons. George Jetson flys to work without driving, rushes into an office to push a button to start a plant to make sprockets for robots. There are supervisors to check the machines that work, but that whole plant probably employs six or seven people including Mr. Spacely. If our population increases at the same rate as it has been, where are these people going to go or work? And with more spare time do you really think the population is going to shrink? I doubt it. It'll probably grow faster because we all know that men are hunters, and most of them are hunting for women.

Plus, all these Americans that are fat and gross because they do nothing (I'm not too far from this myself. I'm chunky and mildly unnerving) will be made obese in months from having robots cook and clean for us. Fat D&D nerds won't even have to leave the game to waddle to the fridge to get some Mountain Dew anymore. Maybe that's the real plan of the robo-geeks. Replace workers with robots, more people will get fat and lazy, they will literally eat themselves to death, lowering the world's population, and the geek will inherit the earth with his robo-helpers.

Sounds like a deceivingly simple plan. But how do we know it's not already in effect? Oh well, I'm going to go cook a pre made meal in the microwave and sit and play some GameCube on this beautiful sunny day. (I hope you know I'm kidding. I'm going outside before I have to go to work. While I still have a job that's not replaced by robots.)