As some of you may know, my iRiver H-120 passed away in its sleep last week. I tried to wake it before our trip to Tennessee and it would not move. I am still in mourning, and I am still very much in shock. Why did it have to go? Why did it have to leave me, right before the road trip we were so looking forward to? So much time to spend together on the 7 hour journey. Why, H-120?

We shared so much, iRiver. Ireland… Ireland part 2…Hours spent in planes. There were 20 gigabytes worth of music we shared, almost daily. Do you remember that time we got really drunk, or, I got drunk, and walked around outside barefoot in the middle of the night, holding each other close? Do you, iRiver? No, you don’t. Because you’re gone now, gone forever. Sleep well, my prince. Sleep well.

Now, some of you may call it hasty, but I think my iRiver would want me to move on. It will be hard, but I’m going to make some phone calls and see if I can get another mp3 multi codec jukebox back into my life. I just can’t go on this way. So alone. So cold. Who will put the music back into my life?

I’m mulling over the options. A free refurb “replacement” of my lost love? My lover’s sister, the iRiver H10? A Toshiba Gigabeat? A Cowon X5? That would require a job.

I still don’t know what will fill this gap I have in my pocket and my heart. I just hope I find the answer soon.

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We’re all a bundle of nerves, making it through our days the best we can. Some days, we wake up and get suckerpunched. It’s a part of life. We all have our own hurdles thrown at us. Existing, even in its most basic form, is harsh. That’s what life is. A struggle.

Obviously, some people have it rougher than others. Here’s an example of what Suckerpunched means to me, only, it’s not an everyday hurdle thrown at most people – it’s a crippling blow dealt to a select few, for no reason given other than “that’s life.”

Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. A boy is born with a condition that causes his skin to fall off. When touched, he blisters and bleeds and is subjected to great amounts of pain. His hands will be rendered almost worthless because of the continual damage done to them. They bulge, wrapped in gauze… two, large useless stumps. Bandages over his entire body must be changed every week. His back is one big, open sore. Because of this condition, the boy will never reach puberty.

What’s amazing about the thirty-six year old man in the short documentary I’m referring to is that he kept a “can’t keep me down” attitude. He could make a joke out of anything. And despite everything he had been through, he kept going and didn’t give up. Myself, I would have done my best to kill myself long ago.

That’s being suckerpunched – being handed something you have no control over and being forced to deal with it. I recommend you watch The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off on TLC if you get the chance. It was a sad thing to watch, but it made me realize how lucky I was to not be dying of cancer and to not have my skin falling off continually. Really. What can I say?

Most of all, I think it’s just a good demonstration that this world is not a good one, and we are all fucked. So make the best out of it while you can, and keep rolling with the punches.

I’m on a roll!

June 23, 2005

Two political posts in a day…

Homes may be ‘taken’ for private projects
Justices: Local governments can give OK if it’s for public good.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses — even against their will — for private economic development.

It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

I find myself wondering why we fought so hard against communism and fascism for years, only to turn around and let our own government seize our houses for shopping malls. Truly baffling. How is having another huge concrete slab filled with Gap’s and Abercrombie’s “for public good”? Isn’t the public having homes, and more importantly, the right to land they’ve bought beneficial to us all?

There is one thing more important than Jesus to a good, wealthy, God-fearing American. And that is The Flag. The Flag stands for all that is good and prosperous. It stands for freedom. Freedom to live your life, become successful, buy SUVs. We have created a list of a few things you cannot do with this freedom of yours, however. Quite a few things. It’s still freedom – we promise you. You trust us, don’t you? We’ve got a catchy anthem, and after all, we have The Flag. Why wouldn’t you?

Number one on the list: You are not free to burn The Flag which stands for your freedom. That would be truly blasphemous and degrading to yourself, a free person. So don’t do it, or we’ll throw you in jail.

Aw, shucks. I love this country.

I would point out that flag burning should be the least of our concerns, but I would probably be wrong. It should be a concern for the House of Representatives. We’ve got a president known worldwide as a blundering moron, who just so happens to be plunging our country into massive debt while waging a costly and pointless war in Iraq. They should be concerned with flag burning, and a lot of it.

WASHINGTON, June 22 – The House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday proposing a constitutional amendment that would enable Congress to prohibit the destruction or debasement of the flag without violating free speech rights.

The vote was 286 to 130, more than the two-thirds of the members present and voting that is required to approve a proposed amendment.

The House has passed such resolutions many times in the 16 years since the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the First Amendment protected flag burning, but the proposals have never passed the Senate. This year, though, the conservative tilt of the Senate has given the proposal an unusually strong chance of success. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve the resolution shortly after the Fourth of July holiday. All 50 states have already passed resolutions calling for prohibitions on debasement of the flag.

By the beard of Zeus, this game fucking rocks. I guess I seriously jumped the gun on calling the demo crap. America’s Army is going to have to move on over, because BF2 is now my new lover. It’s a warmonger’s dream. I can feel my eyes turning bloodshot and begging for mercy as we speak. While I definitely can’t play the game on high settings, I can play it on medium and it still looks pretty good. All of that choppy stuff is a thing of the past. Besides, the graphics really take a back seat to the communication and team work that’s been brought into the game. The maps are huge, and when you get on a fast server with 64 people playing against each other, well, there’s nothing quite like it yet when it comes to video games.

You can be a commander, calling in artillery strikes and giving intel to your men from satellite view, assigning missions, etc, or you can be lower on the rung and be a squad leader for up to 6 people. The commander can relay orders to you and you can choose to accept them. Or, you can give orders to your squad and request artillery from the commander. Even supply drops.

Communication is big, too. You can talk to people with your microphone and give orders or just use the in-game communications. Ie, look at an enemy vehicle and hit the “comms” button, then hit “enemy sighted” – it’ll tell the commander and everyone else there’s an enemy tank nearby and place it on the radar. And because it really does take teamwork to achieve objectives, people are more likely to stick with their squad leader/mates and follow orders and help each other out. Not to mention they’ve added medics into the game, so if you’re hit and you don’t die, you get to lie on the ground and stare at the sky while listening to the muffled fighting around you…until, praise be to Allah, a medic shows up, kneels over you, and treats you. Then you’re back into the fight, killing Evil Terrorists or slaying the Great Satan. Whatever floats your boat.

It’s fun. It even sounds like you’re in a war, with distant gun chatter and explosions. I’m sad that my new, expensive computer doesn’t cut it for high quality graphics settings, but for now I think I’m happy so long as I can play Battlefield 2. I think I smell a new addiction coming on. I’m gonna be geeking out and getting red eyes from this for a long time.

Like any good wargamer, I downloaded the Battlefield 2 demo today. From what I could see in the slide-show my computer was giving me, it had a real “war” feeling to it. That is, it was impressive to watch, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to try and take on an Abrams. Especially with my computer choking the way it was.

My first experience was defending against U.S. Marines at our (Arab?) base. I hid in a bunker because my computer was chopping up so badly that I was warping around and running into walls head first. Allah would not be pleased! In between the lag spurts I noticed an M1A1 tank rolling down the road in my direction and I did what any good Jihadist would do – I fired my RPK machine gun at it. I did it more or less so I could feel like I was doing something more productive than cursing at my computer and shitting myself in a bunker, but we all know it takes a lot more than a machine gun to blow up a tank. I tossed some of my grenades through the slit in the sandbags out of desperation and ducked down as I saw the tank’s turret swing at me. I stumbled into a soldier behind me and jumped out of the bunker, shortly before a tank shell rocketed into the bunker and exploded. We lived, but a U.S. Marine then came running at my fellow Jihadists and jumped over them like steroid-addled Jean Claude Van Damme, killing two of them before landing. Then the game crashed.

I had killed the marine, but trying to fire at him as he jumped around sporadically and flopped on his belly like a fish was difficult. Why does EA do everything they can to make a game look and feel realistic and then make the combat a cartoon? Marines should not be jumping around like John Fucking Woo – sailing through the air and over their enemies, landing sprawled on their bellies, blasting away with their M16’s. It’s stupid.

Oh, and that’s when I could finally play the game. I spent about 10 minutes trying to get my controls straightened out, which are just as clunky as the original Battlefield, if not worse. For instance, there’s a button to “pick up pack.” What is that crap? In games like America’s Army, you have one button to open doors, take objectives and pick up all sorts of objects, which is great. Keep it simple, stupid – like they say. The crew over at EA apparently didn’t get that memo.

And apparently I’m going to have to spend more money just to play this thing. I would like to at least try to enjoy killing some acrobatic marines & jihadists.

A portable rotary phone. What can I say? I want to make it my first cell phone. There would be nothing like lugging that thing into a restaurant and plopping it down on the table. Bbrrrring, bbrrrring. “Yes? What can I do for you? Alright, I’ll call him and see what’s up.” — Commence dialing with the genuine rotary portion of the phone. Then you could exchange smug looks with those guys who are yapping into their little pieces of palm-sized plastic and looking annoyed at the loud ringing coming from your huge, manly phone. You know, those assholes who can’t seem to put their cells down, like they really are that important?

Driving down the road with this thing would be even better. You can pretend you’re one of those villains from an old Bond movie with an actual telephone receiver in your car. I think that would be worth the price alone, except I just looked around and someone said the phone was $400. So I guess I won’t be getting one of these any time soon.