John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Friday, May 27, 2005
Memorial Day

I started to write up this entry last night and got so pissed off listening to the Republican pundits trying to defend the Bush administration and condemning the Democrats for not rubber-stamping the nomination of John Bolton to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  I won't repeat that Dark Skies Section 60 rant here, but it might be helpful for you to take a minute to read it in order to understand some of what I'm about to say.

My initial motivation to blog about Memorial Day arose from my anger at the U.S. television news media's seemingly cavalier reporting about Iraq.  More often than not, they treat it as if they were reporting some friggin' sports game.  How many times have you heard, "Today, 2 Marines were killed today outside of Baghdad by a car bomb. 20 Iraqi civilians were killed?"

Then 30 seconds later, "Today in the Michael Jackson trial ..." It sickens me.

At the same time, I understand some of the problems any media outlet has trying to report anything in-depth concerning the Iraq War.  Besides the financial burden of sending reporters, hiring local stringers, translators, and security -- a media outlet then faces the accusation of reporting "nothing but bad news about Iraq," if they can even get out of the Green Zone and do any in-depth stories.

Hello?  Iraq is a friggin' war zone the size of Texas.  Without even researching the hard data, I'm going to make a guess that Texas has more law enforcement personnel from the federal, state, county and local level comprising an alphabet-fucking-soup of agencies.  And without including the civil service worker population, Texas 'protectors of Freedom' may just outnumber the 138,000 military service personnel in Iraq.  What the hell kind of news would one expect?

Iraq is not a baseball game or video game. Recent news reports of defacto al-Qaeda leader al-Zarqawi being injured has the media attention of a head coach firing on an NCAA basketball team.  Even more troubling, Donald Rumsfeld recently compared him to Hitler -- in denial of the fact that the insurgency and foreign terrorism in Iraq isn't ever going to copitulate for us to see some VE day.

And I don't criticize Rumsfeld lightly.  He serves at the pleasure of the Democrusader.  He and his DoD team are doing an amazing job at transforming the U.S. military out of the Cold War posture and into 21st century readiness -- while at the same time conducting a war.  Historically, this is a bit unprecedented.

My minimal respect for Rumsfeld doesn't innoculate him from my criticism, though. I find it ironic that Rumsfeld compares al-Zarqawi to Hitler when a billion people around the planet, and even millions of Americans, compare his Commander in Chief to the same icon of evil for unilaterally invading another country.

So what are we left with?  U.S. citizens are left with glib and cursory stories created from the one-sentence DoD casualty announcements, sometimes with some added file footage video, or perhaps a real syndicated seven-second video from the event once in a while.

I decided to pick one day, May 26th, and learn more about the U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq.  The image above shows 8 people whose lives tragically ended in Iraq on May 26th.  The first three died last year, and the rest in 2003.  Anger toward our political leaders turns to sadness when I look into their eyes.

This is why I entitled the Dark Skies rant Section 60:
"Beyond the Tomb of the Unknowns, in Section 60 of Arlington Cemetery, we have laid to rest Americans who fell in the battle of Iraq. One of the funerals was for Marine Second Lieutenant Frederick Pokorney Junior, of Jacksonville, North Carolina. His wife, Carolyn, received a folded flag. His two year old daughter, Taylor, knelt beside her mother at the casket to say a final goodbye."
-- past Bush remarks on Memorial Day
Sadness for our country turns into private sadness for their children or people who knew these eight people, when I read what their friends say on web sites.  Click the person's name to read comments left by those who knew these eight people killed in Iraq on May 26th.  If you need a big cry, just remember that there are 364 more days to mourn 1600+ young people killed or 6300+ gravely injured.  I'm not going to paraphrase anything about these eight people, you can click on their name and read it for yourself.

Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle W. Codner, 19, from Nebraska.
Marine Cpl. Matthew C. Henderson, 25, from Nebraska.
Marine Cpl. Dominique J. Nicolas, 25, from Arizona.

Army Staff Sgt. Brett J. Petriken, 30, from Michigan.
Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram, 36, from Wisconsin.
Army Sgt. Keman L. Mitchell, 24, Florida.
Army Pvt. 2 Kenneth A. Nalley, 19, from Iowa.
Army Pfc. Jeremiah D. Smith, 25, from Missouri.

Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years.  Death hangs over thee.  While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good.

Book IV - 17, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

 Florida Chapter

[Headphones] :: I for an I - Ten Speed Indian

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Jurassic Church

Sparky gets a Jesus Pony
I-75 is a north-south freeway (autobahn) that cuts down through the U.S. and takes you into the great midwest of the U.S. with which I am fairly familiar.  Living minutes north of Detroit, Michigan, I would head south on I-75 toward Florida whenever I had vacation time off of school or work, like millions of other people.  The scope of I-75 freeway is impressive.  I-75 stetches from Lake Superior all the way down to Fort Meyers, Florida, then heads east across the swamps near Lake Ockachobee to Miami, and then on toward the southernmost U.S., located in the Florida Keys.  Its old name is the Dixie Highway, complete with large cities, and tiny towns, and totally cheesy tourist attractions.

Like many north-south routes through the recently defined political red state america, I-75 has its (cough) unique places of interest.

Now, I've heard from unoffical sources that the politically correct term for Hill Billy is now Appalachian, referring to a specific species of redneck.  If Saturday Night Live uses that new terminology for the toothless and inbred in that part of the country, I guess I should use it too.

If you happen to be heading along I-75, for whatever reason, you could always stop at the increasingly popular Tennessee country music theme park called Dollywood.  Who and what is that about?  Think Burt Reynolds' Cannonball Run-era girlfriend, Dolly Parton, with the platinum blonde hair and pre-silicone tits, each as large as her own head.  She has her own theme park now.  Who doesn't like tits?

About 250 miles north of Dollywood, in Petersburg, Kentucky is another fascinating destination.  It's called the Creation Museum.  While DollyWood is full of stereotypical redneck fun -- good food, horses, and country music -- the museum boasts real Genesis Dinosaurs and a nifty sliver of the evangelical christian sect that so abjectly believes that all translations of the Christian Bible is the literal word of God, that they're spending $25 million dollars to construct this acre-sized museum all about it.

The kids will just love the dinosaur exhibits.  You know they will.  I remember a chat friend in Chicago was taking her seven-year-old to the Natural History museum for his birthday because he was so fascinated by dinosaurs from watching the Discovery Channel.

Between you and me, when I had this chat, I envied the kid.  Envy for not only for hanging out with his mom all day because she is a total hottie, but also in a childlike imagination and exploration way since I had never been to the Natural Museum of History in Chicago.  And my curiosity was high because I had just watched that Val Kilmer movie, Ghost and the Darkness.  The film was based upon a real story of colonial Africa and supposedly those lions were actually exhibits in the museum.

Anyway, we know how impressionable kids are.  But the Creation Museum is no Gator-Feeding rest stop.  It's a serious deal and is just the latest oddity in the embarassing battle between so called Creationists and so-called Evolutionists.  And like any dirty little secret in any country, the United States has a growing evangelical movement into the nation's public education system, just as it has had in politics over the last twenty years.

Sadly, during this Memorial Day weekend while we remember the fallen heroes of the military bringing freedom to the world from diffferent decades and conflicts in the last century -- and hopefully bringing some future enlightment to their religious and feudal politics of the Middle East, the United States is internally slipping backwards into the theologicial and political thinking prevalent during the era of Nostradamus or the Crusades.

Snowflake Children trump Stem Cell Research in this currently mind-numbed Democrusader environment.  Register to vote, please.

[Headphones] :: Evil Stevie: Activate! - JfZ

Sunday, May 22, 2005
The Real Nuclear Option

That ideological filibuster fight in the U.S. Senate is likely to happen this upcoming week when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist brings up George Bush's federal judicial nominations.  The whole notion of the 'nuclear option' is simply Senate Republicans changing the rules under which the Senate operates in order to make it easier for them to shut the Democrats up and get Bush's judges on the bench.  As witnessed by the 2004 election results, politicians like Senator Frist and House Majority Tom Delay have simply calculated their odds of getting re-elected on the power of the social conservative right wing of U.S. politics and decided to go for it.  While career Senators complain about the U.S. Senate becoming a partisan rubber stamp for the Democrusader, as the House has become, they fail to recognize the short term political gains and aspirations of its own members.

Politicians discovered the cold hard facts that social conservatives rally and vote -- while progressive slackers fail to get to the voting booth and keep their people in office.  There is some progressive hope that the Republican party may just collapse under the failures of its own success -- social conservatives bickering with the neocons, or limited-government republitarians fighting with theocracry wannabes, or simply the anti-economy the Bush administration is trying to sell to the American people, like Iraq Weapons of Mass destruction.  While the splinters in the Republican party are widening, slackers need to get off their ass and create the grass-roots activism and civic participation that their political opponents have already mastered at ten thousand pulpits across the country.

My prediction for the future

Continuing unchecked, the social conservatives win the abortion fight and Roe v. Wade is overturned by two new Bush Administration appointees to the Supreme Court.  Until the Slacker backlash vote gets a few progressive politicians in office, the social theocracy continues well past the next presidential election, unless another non-cultural issue jumps up to the front and center of the American voter's plasma TV.

What might that be?  It could be a deleterious Great Depression Era economic situation based upon the impact on U.S. industry by China or India.  It could be national security issue based upon the the distraction of Bush administration by domestic issues for the social conservative's like Terri Schiavo, abortion, and federal judicial nominations and total negligence or mismanagement of  the foreign policy issues of North Korea or Iran.

Perhaps another country, like Egypt, announces it also has nuclear weapons.  Israel would have a fit.  Perhaps by arming Taiwan to the teeth, China decides to up the ante on the simmering trade war.  One thing or another.  While the petty political aspirations of our legislators are so polarized and focussed on the retributions of past party politics and getting re-elected, bigger forces on the planet are thinking about their next move -- while our policy makers are not.

Not in the U.S. news

Every government has been at the United Nations these past few weeks discussing the issue of nuclear proliferation.  And some basic troubling issues confront the nations of our pathetic little spinning ball of mud.  For example, what motivation would a small country like North Korea have to give up its nuclear weapon technology when compared to the obvious dishonesty and pre-emptive aggression the United States has already displayed under the Bush administration?

Sending John Bolton to the U.N. is not going to magically fix the Democrusader's image around the world.  It's not like Bush can continue bribing and subcontracting countries any longer to offset the basic problem of the administration's lack of integrity.  He gave that money up for tax cuts, trade deficits, unchecked federal budgets and the money pit called Iraq -- where only his oil money cronies lay on the bottom of that mess like baby billionaire birds with their mouths open, chirping away for even more money.

And Iran recognizes that we are in the friggin' hood with 138,000 troops, but more importantly, the firepower of stealth bombers and carrier groups in the area.  Guess what?  The Iranian government is making friends with the fractionated Iraqi government along Shiite diplomatic lines.  Iran and Iraq are making peace with each other because they share a common threat to their own securitya nd autonomy.  So much for Paul Wolfowitz's vision of our troops being met in the streets of Baghdad with flowers and candy.

Didn't see that coming?  Oh, well.  Perhaps if the Bush Administration was paying attention to it rather than focussing the keen public manipulations of Karl Rove onto U.S. social engineering, we might not be continually stepping on our own integrity and then denying involvement or responsibility in avoidable embarassments like Abu Gharaib, Guantanamo Bay and Saddam Hussein's underwear centerfold spread.

[Headphones] :: Democrusader - JfZ

Thursday, May 19, 2005
It's the little things

Anal retentive dumb fuck obsessive compulsive bi polar perfectionist artistically challenged slacker
See that little red line above?  It's only 127 bytes.  It forces a table cell formatting of 600 pixels in all of my past 350+ blog entries.  Using it gives me a consistent pallette onto which I can regularly spread my linguistic bullshit and opinion about every topic under the sun.  Without that little red line, unreadable chaos.  You could fit 11,338 of my HRs on a floppy disk, almost as many as the U.S. military has had injured in Iraq, and then go skipping off to Walmart to buy an ice cream cone.

Not having my little red line among other expectations of subscripton, something so simple and true, drove me nuts.  No, that's not right.  It drove me fucking nuts.  For over a year, I heard bitching and whining that my blog was slow to load.  So, let's put all the elements on the same server and save me the grief of sprinkling the server demands for elements across the continent.  Yeah.  Good plan.

Nothing is as easy as you want it to be.  Magically, I could not upload files to blogdrive.  Helpee even monitored the situation and watched as I would upload a file, but then magically parse all the file manager options, and then delete the file.  Talk about a ghost in the machine. Gremlins. I installed anti-spyware, anti-virus, and firewall software. I still couldn't upload files to BD.

This happened about the same time that it seemed to be a good idea to dumb down my Thunderstorms entries for what came to be known as Dark Skies.  It seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  I am always totally flattered that anyone would put a link to my blog on their own blog or site, let alone get tossed onto the main page at Blogdrive.  So, I tried to reformat my bloggish lunacy into a low rezalicious treat on Dark Skies.

That's not the problem.  The problem was spending hours fighting the GUI at BD because I have a satellite ISP.  I finally lost it.  When normally it takes me twenty minutes to update any blog, but I have to dance around and hope to get lucky that my file will be uploaded for over an hour, and it's pissing me off, because that was the whole point of paying for a blogdrive subscription, I'm not going to be a cheerful guy.  No, not at all.
Trying to be witty enough to keep you and me entertained isn't that fuckng hard.  But, if I can't get to your house to visit you, there is no interaction.  If I don't pay my electric bill, the PC won't be that magical box of mirth, it'll just be a plastic boat anchor.  It's a confluence of little details that makes life good.

And I think I just found a way around the problem I was having with the BD file upload GUI.  It's the little things.  Simple little things.  A work-around.  Get it done.  That's my motto, now.  Even if I have to be grouchy.  Then, again, I never-ever promoted myself as a likeable guy.  No. Quite the opposite.

So, after an intense week of insomnia because the fucking cat was in heat and would not stop yowling every hour on the hour, it magically did a Jekyll and Hyde this morning and stopped.  Skiddy turned into the quiet, playful and lovable little bag of fur that I know and love.

Same deal with Blogdrive.  At least now, I can get back to the honest business of fervently hating all of you equally.

[Headphones] :: Evil Stevie: Activate! - JfZ

[Nothing to see here] More beta testing.

Saturday, May 14, 2005
Slow Motion Ninja II

I was checking out the DoD Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) information yesterday and saw some Army bases I recognized more than others.  You can check out this PDF for a state-by-state listing of the DoD facilities affected by this round of BRAC.  Some small towns are negatively affected when a major employer like DoD bails, same as when a one-factory town would feel a spiralling business crunch.  Generally speaking, I'm all for it.  If any government agency knows how to waste money through redundancy, let alone fraud and abuse, it's the Department of Defense.  I welcome Rumsfeld's team tweaking the military and transitioning the force structure from Cold War needs to expectations of its mission in the next decades.  I embrace the concept.  The headline about saving nearly $50 billion over the next 20 years is a bit hard to swallow, though.

Think about it. That's $2.5 billion a year.  If the U.S. continues to be convinced that the War on Terror is so important over the next 20 years -- since the current administration did leak out it would take a generation of people to "win" the GWoT -- we're likely to eat up the expected BRAC savings by growing funding needs in the Veterans Administration for proper healthcare and benefits in that program.

I fully support any funding the VA can obtain.  I'm a bit bitter that Bush's neocon team put such a burden on the agency that shortly after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the VA would not accept any applications from other veterans.  That's the little black hole into which I fell.

I can fully understand the logic behind the VA's rule making.  While it may not have been jacked off on FOX news daily like stories of victorious biblical Bushisms, the non-reported story is that the VA was totally unprepared for the healthcare needs of injured service members, or perhaps the sheer quantity of the 12,000-plus honorable men and women needing care, since the start of Bush's Bag of Tricks.

So, when I quit my job to assist my mother in FL -- in order to make her last days on the planet more peaceful than a nursing home -- and then fell ill -- I had no insurance.  I had served nearly a decade in the Army, active and reserve, but was denied any access to VA healthcare because of Bush's Iraq.

Especially so, when I got double-tapped with an illness, then an injury.  Only months after I recovered from the death-defying illness, I shattered my leg.  Weeks in between, my mom died.  See the original Slow Motion Ninja for background on that.  The hospital staff had me apply for social security benefits.  The SSA decided that my injury was just temporary, so no help there -- even though I have yet to speak or see anyone from that agency.

And now my 'temporary' injury has now been nearly 18 months old, temporary.  Imagine scrambling for income and survival, while laying horizontally in bed for months because the orthopedic surgeon advises you to not even sit vertically, upright at the PC.  What would you do for money that first month, or the secoind, or the eighteenth?

Imagine using the aluminum walker, the shower chair, and the electric scooter chair -- that you originally bought for the use of your deceased mother, but somehow you've been using lately -- for the last year.  That's just ironic grief fun -- because had I been healthy, I would have sold or given away those items that reminded me of my mom's troubled last year, but NO (Steve Martin voice).  I got to use those things.  No, I had to use those same things.  And to explain some TAG comments from people who know me: It was a bit traumatic when my mom died, because I never knew my dad. Ever.

So here I am in survival mode.  I happen to walk to the grocery store again tonight, prompting me to share a part II of Slow Motion Ninja.  I actually weighed my backpack (bookbag-sized) tonight.  It was only 25 pounds, but it felt heavier.

I only remember seeing my orthopedic surgeon twice.  Both times, I blogged it.  The day after emergency surgery and at his office on the only follow-up visit I ever had.  Then, it was just 18 months of stress and it still is that way, today.

So, this last week I took a week off.  A vacation from blogging, even though as many of you know, blogging can be a helpful venting of stress.  I went on another walk-about to the grocery store tonight.  Fine.  But, how many people would spend two hours walking to the store -- let alone, if they were injured?  Well, as you know already, I'm a phreek.  So, I did.  And not only do I just walk to the store, but I always push myself based upon their closing time.

Tonight, I arrived at the Winn Dixie, sweating profusely, with my backpack and cane about 10 minutes before their closing time.  I had pushed it.  I found a Zen way to distract myself from pain and discomfort, from burning sweat in my eyes, and from the click-click-click in my knee.

When pushing the limits of one's physical or mental self -- some people pray, some people chant to Bhudda, and some people crank up their Ipod.  Having neither Ipod or God on this journey, I decided to distract myself from the physical by doing something totally mind-consuming, as I click-stepped and limp-walked in my own silence of the night down the street.

It takes almost two hours to walk up to the corner and back.  That's about as long as many of you spend in church and likely longer than you actually spend praying or focussing on your God.  I'm just saying.  I was walking faster than my stupid lameness allows, sweating from the gills, and mentally, I was concentrating.  I decided to calculate the cubes of numbers, one through twenty.

While that may not sound as Zen as Buddha in black spandex, or as spiritually holy as Christ on an Eggo Waffle, I just prompt you to try it before you dismiss me out of hand.  After a while, I felt no pain.  Was that a miracle from the ghost of John Paul II, or John Lennon, or maybe even the good lord George Bush himself? 

Let me be specific.  I'm walking with my handy-fucky-dandy aluminum cane to the store about 3 miles away, round trip.  1x1x1=1  2x2x2=8.  3x3x3=27.  Cubes, dude.  I have immense pain, every step.  Distraction.  10x10x10 = 1000.  11-cubed ... step, step, step is 1331.  12, 13, 14 15 ... What was 12-cubed again?  Think.  Remember.

Apparently, my brain goes to 20 cubed on this trip.  But, it was fun to figure out numbers like 17-cubed, in my head: times-times, add-add, carry-carry.  Walk, click, step, pain.  17x17 is what?  Walk, limp.  Click-click, step.  289 times 17 equals what?  Multiply, seperate.  Remember.  Add.  Carry.  Walk.  Step. Click.  2890.  Remember that.  Step.  Pain.  Click.  What is 7 x 289?  Step.  Click.  Fuck!  My zoink-brain says 2100 - 77.  2023.  Step.  Click.  Pain.  Add.  4913.

What was that first number?  I got up to 20 cubed, then I memorized the answers because I was forgetting them an hour later on the way home, after I had to remember 12 numbers for the calculation of some other cube.  I checked my answers though.

My leg and knee surely sucks, but the brain still seems to work.  I got 1-20 cubed right.  I checked it on the PC calculator when I got back.  It's such a relief to realize that mathematic skill matters on my resume.  Oh, crap.  I forgot.  In the new Bushworld economy, I'd be better off being able to guess someone's weight at a carnival.

Here's a fun idea: I could travel to Mexico and give up my U.S. citizenzhip.  Then, cross back over the border illegally.  Maybe then, I could get some some health care and various other government benefits.  Mental note: refresh spanish language skills.

21-cubed?  I'm saving that one for another day and a fast-moving brass-n-lead Gonzo brain tickler.  I'm trying to stay positive here, right?  Okay, fine.  Click on the turtle. Check out the art of Darren Calvert.  He added some new stuff.  It's good.

[Headphones] :: Bush and Brando Debate - JfZ

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