This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Welcome to the NBA Playoffs

We've arrived at the only time in the NBA that is enjoyable to watch. There will be no more superstars taking plays off, and no more matador defense on drives to the hoop. There will be no more 4-games-in-5-nights tiredness-fests, and no more LeBron or Kobe one-man-teams. It's called the playoffs, baby, and it's the only thing about the NBA that is in any way fan-tastic.

This year's edition of the playoffs is rife with mystery and fun. First of all, the defending champs are the decidedly non-super Detroit Pistons, who won last year based on stifling defense and a Team Concept. Conventional wisdom says that Supahstars trump all that, and we've got them all over the place. There are superstars in new places -- Nash is in Phoenix, Shaq is in Miami, Webber's in Philadelphia, Vince Carter is trying now and in New Joisey, McGrady's in Houston with Yao, and the list goes on and on. What this means is that nobody really knows what's going to happen in the playoffs. There are favorites, but for the first time since the second Kobe/Shaq year, we don't really know whether they should actually be favorites or not. Is Detroit really that good? Is San Antonio really that good? How hurt are Duncan and Shaq? Is Phoenix going to be able to win in the playoffs like they did in the regular season? Is Seattle as good as they were earlier in the year or are they as bad as they were later in the year? Will Dallas' lack of experience help or hurt them? Will Indiana be able to do anything with the black cloud of The Fight hanging over them? Is Dwyane Wade for real? How about that Ben Gordon?

So many questions, and I will now attempt to answer them.
(my wife thinks this whole sports predicting thing is silly. I would tend to agree, especially when I'm this bad at it. But it's in my blood, and I have to do it. It's a question of bragging rights -- bragging to nobody in particular. Bragging to the sports community. She's right, that is silly.)

First Round
The Wade/Shaqs (1) vs. the Kidd/Carters (8)

Shaq may miss the first game. Shaq may be kinda hurt the entire series, in fact. Kidd and Carter have come on strong as of late. Vince Carter once dropped over-50 games twice in one series. Remember that? Anyway, if you think that all this means the Nets have a chance, you're crazy. They might win a couple of games, but overall this Nets team isn't even as good as last year's Nets team. This will be Lakers/Nets all over again. Dwayne Wade will have a playoff coming-out party, and the Nets will go home and realize they live in New Jersey.
Verdict: Heat in 6

The College All-Star Team Bulls (4) vs. The Washington Weirdos (5)

This Washington team is the strangest collection of players I've ever seen on a team that doesn't totally suck. I mean, their three best players are 2 "tweener" guards and a freaky forward who scores 20 points a game with slashes and put-backs. If the Bulls were healthy, I would have to pick them even with their youth and inexperience. Since 2 of their 3 frontcourt starters are out, I think that Washington will be able to outscore them in enough games to win. This will make me kinda sad, since the turnaround of the Bulls is a great story that I think should continue. It will have to continue next year, however.
Verdict: Washington in 6

The Defending Champs (2) vs. The Allen Iversons (7)

Here's the thing: Allen Iverson is such an incredible talent with incredible gansta heart, it will be very sad to see his one-man show blown off the court by the Team Concept of Detroit. The X-Factor is of course Chris Webber, who is a great talent in his own right. Even if Iverson and Webber somehow totally gel overnight and become a Super Duo, it still won't be enough. Detroit has too much defense and too much relentless athleticism for Philadelphia to even hope to deal with.
Verdict: Pistons in 5

Lucky Sports Town (3) vs. The Brawl Team (6)

Why don't I believe in this Celtics team? They have the best player in the series in Pierce, another complimentary star who plays with great heart (at least for the Celtics) in Walker, and a bunch of good role players. They're built for a playoff run. Why do I keep thinking the Pacers will win? Reggie Miller still has to play a big role in the offense, for pete's sake. The Pacers have Jermaine O' Neal and the insane Stephen Jackson, the aforementioned elderly Miller and dust-farting Dale Davis. It'll be a close series -- can this Indiana team really win a game 7 in the hellhole that is Boston? I say yes.
Verdict: Pacers in 7

Steve Nash's Wet Hair (1) vs. Jason Williams' lack thereof (8)

Forget about Memphis being the team nobody want to face in the first round because of their "depth". Depth will get them exactly what it gave them last year -- a first round exit. They're not nearly good enough defensively to deal with this Phoenix team, and won't score enough to make up for it. Pau Gasol may be able to dominate at the Olympics, but this is the NBA, and they'll get all up in your jersey here. Also, J-Will isn't the right player to take advantage of Nash's defensive deficiencies. That will come later.
Verdict: Phoenix in 5

The Nowitski Force (4) vs. The McGrady Bunch (5)

One of the biggest questions at the beginning of the year was: Will the McGrady trade pay off for the Rockets? The answer turned out to be yes, although Yao didn't really live up to his part of the bargain. It's tough to know what Yao will do in the playoffs, since he's not really the type of player that can dominate by himself. He's not Shaq. Of course, Yao ultimately doesn't matter because this Dallas team is a steamroller that has caught fire and is now flattening and burning its competition. Dirk may not even have to show up, with how well they've been playing.
Verdict: Dallas in 5

The Best Team Spurs (2) vs. The George Karl Experience (7)

I don't hate people, but if I did, high up on that list of people I hate would be George Karl. Actually, I can't really hate him. He gave the Bucks some good times before attempting to destroy them. Having said that, this is easily the most interesting series of the first round -- it's the best team (Spurs) vs. the hottest team (Nuggets), and the best team's best player isn't 100%(not to mention the Karl vs. Glenn Robinson angle, which is personally my favorite part). This is also the same Spurs team that has been known to lose to vastly inferior teams in the playoffs (like the Lakers last year). The main question is: Will San Antonio's defense give the newly unselfish Nuggets fits, or is it the other way around? If the Nuggets won, it would blow these playoffs wide open...
Verdict: Spurs in 7

Ray Allen, Esquire (3) vs. The Freshmakers (6)

If these two teams were playing other teams in the West, I would pick them both to lose. Seattle is beat-up and sliding quickly; everyone seems to think their early-season success was a fluke. Sacramento is beat-up and not that great anymore. In the end, do I trust Bibby-Mobley-Peja or Ridenour-Allen-Lewis? Is this even a valid question?
Verdict: Sacramento in 6

Which by my account leaves us with:
Miami vs. Washington
Detroit vs. Indiana
Phoenix vs. Dallas
San Antonio vs. Sacramento

I'm not going to predict those series until later, but I will let you know that if poked and pressed enough, I would end up picking a Finals of Miami-Dallas. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

That Google AdBar

I am officially on my way to being a sell-out. Look at those ads at the top of this page. Just look at them. What the heck am I doing? Not only are they ugly, but this is the same company that totally dissed Tony Horvath. This is also the same company that provides the space and user interface for this blog. Which reminds me: I need to back up this thing to some sort of solid media, before Google decides that something I write is "hate speech" too, and savagely deletes it. In this day and age of Christian-hating, I'm bound to say something good about my God, which is totally hateful to those other gods out there.

Right now all the ads are for blogs and blogging resources. Who knows what they'll end up being when Google crawls this page and puts all the words in a database. The mind boggles. And googles. If you see something you like, I think I'm allowed to order you to click on it. Clicking on it helps my master plan. That's all I'm going to say about this. Probably ever.

Needlessly Political Post: Bush's Social Security Plan

I'm reading all sorts of interesting things about the President's windmill attack, er, Social Security reform package. First off, I want to say that I believe it's a bad plan -- it's way too expensive to set up and has effects that will be minimal at best. Allowing people to do what they want with 4% of their social security taxes is not going to help matters. However, you have to give Bush some credit for his stones -- he's attempting to tinker with the Third Rail of American Politics, after all. There's no way Clinton/Gore would have tried this.

I've found websites that say the the President's plan is necessary, which is to laugh. I've found sites that say that Social Security is in great shape and "There is no crisis", which I don't think anyone seriously believes. I'm convinced Liberals are just saying that because they hate Bush and everything he stands for. If he says something, they automatically assume it's: a) wrong, and; b) has some nefarious purpose behind it that benefits "the rich". As you might guess, this can be exhausting to listen to or read. I will now proceed to rip apart one such Liberal site, a wonderful haven of Bush-bashing called, "Think Progress". They have a delightful Q&A called, "How to Talk to a Conservative about Social Security (If You Must)." One would think a Serious Liberal Organization (SLO) would steer clear of referencing skeletal conservative vulture-woman Ann Coulter, but whatever.

It starts out with this introduction:

The White House and their deep-pocketed allies have launched a $35 million public relations effort to spread misinformation about President Bush’s Social Security Privatization scheme. This fact sheet will arm you with all the facts you’ll need to take them on.

"Deep-pocketed allies", eh? It's never too early to play the class warfare card, I suppose.

CLAIM: “By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt.” [President Bush, 2/2/05]

FACT: In 2042, enough new money will be coming in to pay between 73-80 percent of promised benefits. Even with this reduction, new retirees will still receive more money, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than today’s beneficiaries. [WP, 2/5/05]

Let's think about this logically. If (even by their unsubstantiatable pro-solvency figures), we'll have to cut Social Security benefits to between 73-80 percent of what we "promised", and we still end up giving out more in inflation-adjusted dollars, what does this mean? The only thing it can mean is that we've "promised" to raise benefits more than 20% over and above the rate of inflation over the next 37 years. We've done this because any time someone wants to reduce the amount SS benefits increase every year, old people start screaming about the SS “cuts” that are killing them. It’s a system totally out of anyone’s control, and we’re stuck with it.

CLAIM: “In the year 2018, for the first time ever, Social Security will pay out more in benefits than the government collects in payroll taxes.” [President Bush, 12/11/04]

FACT: “In 14 of the past 47 years, including 1975 to 1983, Social Security paid out more in benefits than the government collected in payroll.” [MSNBC, 1/14/05]

FACT: Under Bush’s plan, expenditures will begin to exceed revenues even earlier, in 2012. [New York Times, 2/4/05]

First they call Bush a liar (when the reality is he’s probably just using a more favorable set of figures for his argument), and then they shoot themselves in the foot. Bush brings up something he thinks means we’re in a crisis, and “Think Progress” tells us that Bush is a liar for understating that crisis.

CLAIM: “Under the current system, today’s 30-year old worker will face a 27% benefit cut when he or she reaches normal retirement age.” [GOP Guide to Social Security Reform, 1/27/05]

FACT: According to the Congressional Budget Office, younger workers would receive better benefits from Social Security as it exists now, even if nothing changes, than from President Bush’s private accounts plan. [EPI, 2/05]

They don’t even dispute the “claim”, they just tear down the convenient straw man of Bush’s slightly disastrous plan. The only reason we are having this debate is because Bush has proposed something, and his opponents have convinced themselves that he’s the devil incarnate. I like how they just gloss over the fact of the 27% “cut” that will need to happen. I’m sure if Bush tried to cut SS benefits by 27% over the next 37 years, Think Progress would be attacking that, too. But here it’s the hero of the scenario because it doesn’t involve privatization.


CLAIM: “As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts.” [President Bush, 2/2/05]

FACT: Analysis of the plan so far does not prove the accounts would be a better deal for anyone not working on Wall Street. Workers who opt for the private accounts would recover forfeited benefits through their accounts only “if their investments realized a return equal to or greater than the 3 percent earned by Treasury bonds currently held by the Social Security system.” But CBO factors out stock market risks to assume a 3.3 percent rate of return. With 0.3 percent subtracted for expected administrative costs on the account, “the full amount in a worker’s account would be reduced dollar for dollar from his Social Security checks, for a net gain of zero.” [WP, 2/4/05]\

Oh, and did they mention Bush’s plan was voluntary? Also, I like how they can make assumptions about how the stock market is going to perform in the future. It’s a risk with the potential for greater reward – what part of this don’t you get?

CLAIM: “You’ll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children or grandchildren.” [President Bush, 2/2/05]

FACT: Most lower-income workers will be required to purchase government lifetime annuities, financial instruments that provide a guaranteed monthly payment for life but that expire at death. Money in these annuities cannot be passed on to heirs. [NYT, 2/3/05]

This is actually a fairly good point. I can’t really find anything wrong with it, so Yay, Think Progress. I would ask what “most lower-income workers” means. Anyone who makes less than 10,000 a year? 75, 000 a year? It’s probably important to know where that figure is, but they’re not telling us.

CLAIM: “We must pass reforms that solve the financial problems of Social Security once and for all.” [President Bush, 2/2/05]

FACT: “A Bush aide, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity [said] that the individual accounts would do nothing to solve the system’s long-term financial problems.” The long-term gap in revenue would “have to be closed through benefit cuts that have yet to be detailed.” [LAT, 2/3/05; WP, 2/5/05]

And when those benefit cuts are proposed, Think Progress will stop thinking about progress entirely and fight them tooth & nail. This, dear readers, will mean much higher tax rates to pay for benefits that go up way faster than the rate of inflation each year. We’ve stumbled on the real issue. This “FACT” is meant to scare you into thinking that what Bush really wants is to pave the way for a dreaded cut in benefits. Of course, if we cut benefits a little now we can save the bloodletting later on. Don’t let that worry you, though. Keep fighting for higher taxes on the rich.

CLAIM: “A personal account would be your account, you would own it, and the government could never take it away.” [President Bush, 2/8/05]

FACT: Bush’s Social Security plan is a far cry from the private ownership he’s touting, however. For example, instead of private plans that let Americans control their own investments, there are tight restrictions on which conservative stocks and bonds the public will be allowed to buy. And, as the New York Times reports, “the more restrictions there are, the harder it would be for people to achieve the outsized returns the administration has generally promoted to sell the public on private accounts.” [NYT, 2/6/05]

This is a good point that demonstrates why the President’s plan is tepid and ineffectual. But do they mean to suggest that more freedom should be given to people w/r/t their SS money? Are they saying that these accounts should be totally free from restrictions, so that people can try to make something out of that paltry 4%? Again, they’re shooting their overall point (that SS must not change) just to hate on President Bush.

CLAIM: “Best of all, the [private] accounts would be replacing the empty promises of government with the real assets of ownership.” [President Bush, 2/8/05]

FACT: Social Security trust funds “hold nothing but U.S. Treasury securities,” recognized as “the safest, most reliable investment worldwide.” [Century Foundation, 1/26/05]

Bush makes a point about how much the government sucks, and Think Progress comes back with wild claims about Treasury Bonds. I don’t think they understand what privatization means, which sheds some light on their overall philosophy, don’t you think, comrade?

CLAIM: “The problem that we now face is not one that we can tax our way out of, for a very simple reason: The costs and the current program are growing faster than the underlying tax base. So if we were to raise taxes today to deal with it, and the costs of the program continued to grow faster than the tax base, then in the future, future generations would simply have to come back and raise taxes again.” [Senior White House Official, Press Conference, 2/3/05]

FACT: An alternative proposal by Peter Diamond and Peter Orszag would resolve Social Security’s funding problems directly and permanently through modest tax increases. The Congressional Budget Office states that, “under Diamond-Orszag, the trust fund balance would always be positive and scheduled benefits would be fully financed.” [CBO, 12/22/04]

I’m sorry about the delay, but I just fainted. Modest tax increase(s)? What does that mean? We’re already way overtaxed! You see, this is what Think Progress ultimately wants – full funding no matter what. I told you so. If we pay enough money to the government, there will be no insolvency problem, they think. Of course, what they don’t tell you is that there will also be no money in the economy. But hey, we’ll have the pleasure of living off our SS payments when we retire from our nonexistent jobs. Woo Hoo!


CLAIM: “Social Security was a great moral success of the 20th century, and we must honor its great purposes in this new century.” [President Bush, 2/2/05]

FACT: Conservatives have been trying to gut Social Security since its inception. Both Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan endorsed privatization in 1964. In 1983, the Cato Institute laid out a privatization plan similar to President Bush’s, stating, “We will meet the next financial crisis in Social Security with a private alternative ready in the wings.” [Miami Herald, 2/7/05]

Nothing in that FACT disputes anything Bush said in the CLAIM. This is just here so Think Progress can hate on Republicans, who to their credit seem to be the only ones thinking about doing anything about the SS problem.


CLAIM: “I think it’s important for people to be open about the truth when it comes to Social Security.” [President Bush, 2/4/05]

FACT: The Bush administration has lobbied hard for privatization while being notably closemouthed about the details. [WP, 2/6/05]

The details are pretty much out in the open, you political hacks. His plan sucks, so he doesn’t like to talk about it. That’s perfectly understandable. And what does that have to do with the truth about SS?

FACT: The Wall Street Journal reports the White House is quietly assembling a coalition of deep-pocketed allies “that will privately raise $35 million for an advertising and lobbying effort to push the politically risky measure through Congress.” [WSJ, 2/4/05]

Didn’t they already say this exact thing? Again, what does this have to do with the truth about SS?

CLAIM: “The role of a President is to confront problems – not to pass them on to a future President, future Congress, or a future generation.” [President Bush, 2/4/05]

FACT: Dick Cheney admits trillions of dollars in future borrowing will be necessary to cover the cost of establishing private accounts. This deficit would have to be repaid by today’s younger workers. [NYT, 2/6/05]

Bush has the right idea, but he doesn’t have enough guts or the right plan to pull it off. I do like how Think Progress brings up the old mantra of future deficit repayment, as in, “We’re leaving our kids with our horrible mess.” But is repaying this deficit really any worse than raising taxes? Isn’t that really the same thing? Our taxes are the horrible mess we're passing on to our kids, much like SS was passed on to us. The sad part is that SS reform will now forever be associated with this Bush failure, much like National Health Care is currently associated with Hillary Clinton’s shrewish face. I’m just glad that thanks to our National Fear of Change, neither one of these things has any chance of happening any time soon.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I'm Not Actually Poor, and My Life is Good.

My wife told me to tell you all that we're not really poor. The truth is, we live better than the vast majority of people in the world. I totally know this. The issues I discussed yesterday had just built up inside me, and I shared them for my own sake. Sometimes things add up, you know? I'm sorry if I gave anyone the impression that my life was turning to crap. It's not. I really am mostly happy, and more importantly am really blessed. God is awesome, NBA LIVE 2005 is awesome, and Dark Chocolate M&M's are awesome. Jill made chicken spaghetti the other night, and it was awesome. The Joe Schmo Season One DVD's we got from Netflix have been awesome, and probably worth their own post. I have a great wife who hates Oprah and chick movies. I have a great dog. My jobs aren't horrible in any real way -- It's not like I work in a coal mine or a collection agency or something. I live in a great apartment whose rent isn't going up next year. I'm doing fine. I just need some balance in my attitude.

For the most part, I don't let crap like this bother me. With that in mind, let me recount for you the things I have found outside our apartment patio, dropped from two floors above by our (psychotic) neighbors:
1) a toy gun.
2) child's shirt/pants.
3) A book on the Healing Light by Yogi Somebody-or-Other.
4) Four (4) presumably dirty balled-up diapers (I didn't investigate).
5) What appeared to be a clear pink plastic briefcase.

Looking on the bright side, I will tell you that they always clean things up within a week. I will let you know if they drop any more stuff, especially if it hits my dog.

Epth News: Wednesday, April 20 -- and you know what that means...

...The anniversary of Columbine, Hitler, and weed.

The conclave only took two days to elect Cliff Clavin as Pope, and he promptly named himself after the popular squirt-on antibacterial substance "Bactine". This Pope is clearly not going to stand for any bacteria in the Catholic church, if you know what I mean. The American and European media, however, hope he overturns centuries of church doctrine to be more in accordance with their political views. In all seriousness, it's been hard to watch the non-Catholic media cover this story, because they just don't get it. Some of the coverage is nearly as bad as my "Bactine" comment.

Most of it centers around the idea that liberal Catholics are "disappointed" they picked such a "conservative" Cardinal. That's like the Bulls being "disappointed" when Michael Jordan retired and Pippen couldn't lead them to the NBA title -- it was never going to happen! Whoever becomes Pope isn't going to just overturn centuries-old church doctrine because a bunch of people who haven't thought things out very well tell him to. There will never be female priests -- they don't allow priests to marry yet, for pete's sake. Stop hoping for things that can't happen!

Do Triangle Catholics hate Particle Catholics?

Not only does nobody have any money, but now we have to pay more for stuff, too. the worst part about this? The Fed's going to raise interest rates even more to head off the inflation, which will take money out of our already cash-poor economy. Happy Hitler's birthday, everyone.

The Chinese are still protesting Japan's textbooks, which apparently "lighten up" the atrocities committed in Japan's 14-year occupation of China during WWII. Of course, if they were protesting a textbook "lightening up" the atrocities committed by the current Chinese regime after WWII, they would probably all be tank treads by now. What a beaten-down people.

Heard of "cybersquatting"? That's where you register an internet domain name that you think someone with money might want in the future (such as, and then extort huge sums of money from that someone when he/she tries to buy the domain from you. It's very illegal. With that in mind, I give you:
The Register has the story.

Wouldn't being a manic depressive make the Enron exec who committed suicide more sympathetic? Because right now, he's just a money-grubbing-scum who couldn't face the music.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Two Words:

Boubacar Aw.

(pronounced Boob-uh-car Ow. I saw him on ESPN Classic the other day playing for Georgetown in 1996. Easily the best sports name ever, surpassing God Shammgod and the others.)


Esquire is a magazine. You can tell, because it's in italics. What does Esquire mean and how does that relate to what the magazine is about? The only time you hear the world esquire is when some pretentious guy tells you his name and it's like, "Blahblah J. Blahblah, Esquire". I have no idea what if anything the word signifies. I always think of horses when I say the word, so it may or may not have to do with horses.

If you go to, it appears Esquire has turned into Maxim or FHM. Maybe it was always like this -- I don't know, I've never actually picked it up and read it, or even browsed their website. I have a reason for bringing this up, don't worry.

Chuck Klosterman, lightning rod that he is, has produced a list of 21 Great Albums for the 21st Century. I don't really care about the list for several reasons:
  • First and foremost, it's got Courtney Love in it. Any "best-of" list that has Courtney Love isn't worth anyone's time or effort
  • I sample a lot, and I do mean a lot of today's music (probably not as much as Brian Riggins or any of you who are in bands, but you'd be surprised), and come away feeling pretty bleah about the whole 21st Century Rock Genre. This is because of when I was born and who I am rather than the music, I'm sure.
  • All "Best-of" lists suck. If I were enamored enough of my own music taste to reccommend 21 great albums from the past few years, it would start with Joy Electric. Does that sound like the sort of list you'd be interested in reading? These lists, even when they use a "pool of experts", are arbitrary and soul-crushing to those of us whose tastes lie somewhere outside the boring mainstream, which is pretty much all of us.
  • Hasn't the idea of a "Great Album" gone away in this age of iPods and iTunes and P2P and your mom? We make our own albums now, keemosabe.
And you're right: this post was just so I could rip on the word Esquire. Carry on...

(editor's note: I just read something that indicated that Esquire is a title you get upon graduation from Law School, in which case an article on Great Rock Albums makes even less sense being in a magazine with that name.)

Things I've Pretty Much Had My Fill Of (and yes I know that ends with a preposition -- it's 2005 for crap's sake)

Living in the world often bothers me, I won't deny it. If that makes me weak, I don't care, because weakness doesn't matter. Weakness is often good. But sometimes the sheer weight of living in the world for days and days without letting off any steam or even acknowledging in any real way the crap that exists in it causes me to run down like your car's brakes or Steve Nash in the Playoffs. When I become run-down like that, usually some watershed event makes me realize, "Hey, I'm sick of a bunch of crap", and I try to recount to myself the things I am sick of.

One time, in college, I did this for my roommate and his then-girlfriend (now wife). They seemed to enjoy it, probably because I'm normally so stoic. It made me a real person to them. You also may have noticed that I often gripe about things here on this blog. This is helpful to me. It keeps me from going crazy.

Several events have caused me to really want to vent my furnace-like mind lately. You may have noticed my job frustration. That's constant. But remember this post, where I had to give somebody their tip back? That's not so constant. That's downright unique. You may be asking yourself, "Mike, how come you can't just deal with that and move on?" But you saying that makes me think of, which makes my state of mind worse. Gosh, why did you have to bring up politics? Anyway, here are the other things that by themselves were no big deal but together have started to weigh on me:

The money problems I have alluded to a few times on this blog have started to press in on me. It's virtually all tax-related, which makes me mad at the MAN. Where is my tax-money going? To war in Iraq, which makes me think of politics again, and all the crazy people on both sides. Add to my own money problems the fact that the school my wife works at is putting a lower priority on paying employees than they are abiding by church council decisions (a long story which makes me really crazy, so I'm not going to say any more), which may cause us to not get paid* at the end of this month. They're having a voters meeting at church this Sunday, which I'm probably going to have to show up at, which will probably take at least 2 hours, which will ruin my Sunday. I now work 60 hours a week because of my own money problems -- I don't have time to ruin one of my two free afternoons just because these people can't get their priorities straight. Of course, adding to this feeling of utter exasperation is the fact that we don't contribute enough monetarily to church, which I feel guilty about but again, we have no money.
Think about this -- church is the place I go to get some persepctive on life, and all I think about when I'm there is how they're threatening not to pay us.

Good Manager is leaving Papa John's, which is a change. Change at the restaurant is usually bad, at least temporarily. I'm going to have to adjust to a new manager. This is a small thing, but if they get a psycho, I might have a quitting story to put up on the blog. And then what will I do about money?

Did you know there's a network called "Wealth TV"? We were watching it in HD at work. It's all about the lifestyles of the opulent and what you could be doing if you had more money. The real issue with me is I've had it with superficial people who never learned that money can't buy happiness. They walk around like it does -- it's amazing. The ancient Egyptians figured it out, but thousands of years later we still have people who seek after a swanky lifestyle and look down upon those who won't join in with them. But we're just jealous of them, right? It's not just Wealth TV -- we're being inundated with this crap. From Rich Girls to Laguna Beach to Sheer Dallas on TLC to Gastineau Girls to Everything on the E! Channel to yes, My Super Sweet Sixteen. They're just pushing the idea that people used to go to college to get drummed out of their heads -- that people are different (better) if they have more money, and that pursuing outward wealth is better than pursuing inward wealth. And they think that inward wealth means a trip to the shrink or a weekend at the spa. As My Super Sweet Sixteen showed us all, it's parents who let their kids be like this. Grow the heck up, all y'all.

And then there's the plastic surgery that is threatening to make all opulent women look like one of the Barbie Twins. I don't think I need to tell you that the puffed-up stretch-face is grody. Look at Jerry Jones. It's like they don't understand that their lives are empty. You know what I saw on Elimidate last week? A girl who was competing actually said that the guy she wold be competing for "had better be established". What the hell does "established" mean? I guess if you have to ask, that means you're not. No wonder the divorce rate is through the roof -- people are getting married based on level of "establishment". Whatever happened to being open to people and marrying a quality person you like? Was that just me? It's as if they're trying to avoid that whole "for better and for worse" stuff. And don't even get me started on the rich guys these girls pursue and their empty heads and hearts. Let's move on to something else before I project actual bile.

I was awarded two traffic tickets by the City of Richardson -- one for doing a rolling stop at a stopsign at 8:00 at night with no other cars around, and one for doing 52 in a 35 (in a tunnel with no cross streets for a quarter-mile in either direction. The cop was hiding on foot at the end of the tunnel with a radar gun. Why don't they just call it a toll tunnel and get it over with?). 'Nuff Said.

I found a website filled with drunk Chicagoans who are so cool that they view Christians as some sort of breed of neo-Nazi sheep. I'm not going to promote them, but they are way too cool for me. I guess viewing people as individuals goes out the window when they're not drunk douchbags like them. It would help if you saw the website, I know. Sorry.

I will get more general with it, since that's the order of the day, and tell you that I don't understand drunkeness. I don't understand smoking, either -- or pot, or X, or any drug at all, really. A lot of my day is spent trying to make myself clear on things, since I'm usually in a sort of haze from pillow to pillow. I can't imagine ever wanting to be impaired or more hazy, or wanting to just do things uninhibitedly and not be able to remember it. Is it because you become someone else, someone more fun? I'm mostly referring to drinking here. My wife does drink, and she knows I just don't get it. Part of the deal is that when I get a little buzzed I just want to crawl in bed and take a nap immediately. It's not a very social thing for me, and I don't understand how sociality can be helped by constantly fighting through a haze to get thoughts out.

And then there's smoking. I know a lot of smokers, and like a lot of smokers. But I really don't get it at all -- you're inhaling smoke, do you realize that? I mean, maybe I could understand if they were handing them out for free or something, but cigarettes cost a ton. Is it the looking cool thing? Nobody yet has given me an answer to this, and I'm beginning to think there isn't one, or that it's a big secret that people hope I stop talking about.

And if you're a smoker, and I mention that it's bad for your health, don't assume it's because I think I'm better than you. I don't. If you were sticking an icepick in your eye and getting blood all over your shirt and I pointed that out to you, would that make me a bad person? Would that make me a holier-than-thou hypocrite? In fact, while we're on the subject, never assume I think I'm better than you, because you will be wrong, and I will be perturbed.

Last night when I was delivering a pizza order to this one rickety house, I walked past a man sitting in his car in the driveway. He said "hi" to me, and I said "hi" back. He then started the car and closed the door as I walked by. As I got to the porch, I could tell that the guy said something, but I didn't know what that something was. I rang the doorbell. The next thing I knew, I was being called a M-F'er and being freaked out upon. He apparently had asked me what the price was, and didn't like the fact that I didn't acknowledge his question right away. He came to the door and I explained to him that I didn't hear him, but he didn't believe me. Oh, by the way, and since it's important to him, I will mention that this was a black man. He was sure I thought he was going to rob me or something. He made an explicit point of letting me know he wasn't tipping me, and I left angry. I'm going to speak right now for all white people in America, and I'm going to speak to the black man: This (and OJ) is why we roll our eyes every time somebody cries racism when there is no racism. I understand, postmodernism has taught you that you can never be either wrong or too suspicious. Postmodernism is untenable and based on nothing. Grow the heck up, al y'all.**

Last night on the radio I heard a guy on the radio assert that the appendix was evidence that God was not infallible. Because we know everything there is to know about both God and the appendix, apparently. There is nothing quite like agnostic presumptuousness. And he was so smug about it, probably thinking he was better than us Nazi Sheep. It was his tone that made me angry more than anything else.

There's also the Starflyer 59 iTunes thing; not being able to see my wife at all; working in a closet 39 hours a week; our non-economy that has produced a herd of affluence-addicted spongeheads and given the rest of us a stiff-arm to the jaw; and many, many more things.

But hey, the blog's going well. And I appreciate everyone's comments and e-mails very much. If you don't want to see me vent, go back and un-read this post. I'm joyful and content, I really am.

* I first typed "payed", stared at it for a while wondering what was wrong, and finally thought of what the word actually was. The fact that I have to waste time figuring out how to spell words because I'm an idiot is not helping the situation, let me tell you.
**You may have guessed that this was in fact the watershed event that forced me to compose this rant. You're right.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Funny T-shirts

I have often wanted to make and sell funny T-shirts. My first one would be a white one with black lettering that says, "Clothing is not a means of personal expression." That would make me laugh, if I saw that on the street. BTW, if any of you want to use that, you better negotiate with me first, because I will not hesitate to sue over something stupid like that and ruin our friendship just to get myself money.

Anyway, this dude has got some T-Shirts that made me laugh. For some reason, "High-Five" is my favorite. Some of them are very specific to the radio station I listen to all the time down here (such as "Hey...Dil."), KTCK the Ticket. One day I will have to tell you all about the Ticket, since I spend probably 4-8 hours a day listening to it at my two jobs and in the car. It is ostensibly a Sports Talk station, but only about half of the talking they do is about sports. Explaining this would take too long now. I've been looking for something new to post after that Delivery Night Story Two-Parter anyway.

In other news, the Yankees are spending more than anybody else by far, and they have started 4-8. Glee doesn't even begin to describe what I would feel if they fell apart this year. Like I have always said, the year the Yankees miss the playoffs is the year I start taking baseball seriously again.

Also, it appears that I'm going to have to eat my hat. Good thing I just made this tiny hat out of cheese.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Definition of Frustration

There are times in life where things allign perfectly. I had the potential for having one of those great times last week, since I have collected 10 free iTunes songs (from 20oz. Mountain Dew caps) and the new Starflyer 59 album "Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice" came out last Tuesday. Do you see where I'm going with this? Poof -- free great album for Mike. Free is especially good these days since I have no money. But there's one problem:

iTunes doesn't have the new album (yet).

I kept searching for it every day, but it never showed up. I tried looking online for news as to when it would be coming to iTunes, but could find no such list or information. The kicker was when I went to the Belgian iTunes sight to look for Milk, Inc songs (they're "techno", don't worry about it) and on a whim looked for the new Starflyer album there. Imagine my surprise when I saw that iTunes Belgium did indeed have the new album, and on top of that I couldn't get it from them because I'm not in fricking Belgium. I can only shop at iTunes America. Some One World Order this is.

(not to mention the fact that I can't get Milk, Inc from iTunes America either, or at the Virgin megastore. My favorite techno artist is shut off from me.)

My guess as to why this situation has been allowed to occur has to do with the fact that Best Buy is supposedly offering the Starflyer CD for the low low price of $11.99 for a "limited time". I suppose that during this "limited time", iTunes can't sell it in America. And good luck finding it at Best Buy, since they are probably only storing one copy at a time on the shelf. The forums I found online indicated people are having great trouble in locating it there. This just makes the band look bad and the label look greedy. And people wonder why music is "stolen" via PTP. Many times it's a matter of convenience -- I sure would like to have this album now, but I don't want to go out and buy it because it may show up at iTunes tomorrow. Maybe I'm the one with the problem, obsessing over the price of a CD. But the Taxman took all my money! $11.99 ain't that low a price for a 32-minute album anyway, no matter how great it is (and the samples I've heard have sounded pretty terrific). Why, oh why, did they have to hurt me by making that deal?

I blame Belgium.