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, July 16, 2004
ANFSCD...



All Hail the Hypno Toad !!

And now for something completely different since we've been getting so political and serious lately.  I thought in the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal my true political ideology, bias and loyalty.  Thank sideshow for the link.

You only need to have a sense of humor for a week on the main page.

If the Hypno Toad is really irritating you, causing a rash or you experience dizziness -- you can read Thunderstorms via the Permalinks until the bad nasty Hypno Toad goes away.









Thursday, July 15, 2004
BBSes 2 Blogs


Things are never just black and white
The namesake for this blog is from my old BBS, Imajica.  Imajica was the first fantasy novel written by famed horror guru, Clive Barker.  Like the many worlds or dominions of Barker's Imajica, Imajica BBS had more than one personality inside its collective digital mind.

To the first time visitor, Imajica BBS was an interesting, but fairly tame board with local message bases, Fidonet message bases (similar to usenet news groups), handy shareware files to download, and some addictive and well-liked online games to play.

If I knew you, or a trusted Op or friend knew you and could vouch for you, Imajica was an adult board.  Typical of adults-only material was the ever-expanding file system of porn .JPGs and .GIFs, of course.  Most of the images were quite small or of lowest resolution to today's standards because people were downloading them using dial-up modems as slow as 2400 baud.  I also brought in and zoned for specialty message and file networks like CATNET for adults because people seemed to enjoy participating in the daily interactive erotica.

If you could really be trusted, Imajica had several elite personalities to it.  People would make long distance calls from various dark, monitor-lit basements around the planet and transfer files.  Although it was tempting to fantasize that Angelina Jolie might call from a payphone dressed in a red latex outfit someday, I remember much tamer visions of the actual callers.  While it was fairly exciting when I might see someone making an international long distance phone call and knew many of the Europeans that would call up and say, "hallo", the one guy I remember the most lived in the middle of nowhere in Homer, Alaska.  He would call regularly, and mostly download games -- and oftentimes just new shareware -- because, well, he lived in the middle of nowhere in Homer, Alaska.

While my background and introduction to digital communications was in the Army dealing with strategic and tactical message switches, I enjoyed running Imajica for more than just learning about and playing with some technical toys.  The hardware and software made that early precursor to our modern internet possible and fun.

More importantly, it's what we did with those toys.

The one epiphany I had early on while running Imajica in Metro-Detroit was that the BBS was blind.  It couldn't heap prejudice upon the caller for being fat, or ugly, or whatever.  Being blind, or more specifically color-blind, Imajica afforded its users something completely different from the normal interaction between people on the street (in meatspace).

Detroit is one of the most segregated cities in North America.  This is supported by census data.  I feel Eminem's movie, 8 Mile, could have been called Berlin Wall.  For those of you who know or have read about the Cold War and the former Soviet Union, you'll understand the reference.

Unlike meatspace, or the real world, users on Imajica could get to know each other without the burdens of instant physical prejudice, like the color of one's skin.  A person could argue, debate, agree, or cheer for any topic of discussion without ever actually seeing what the other person looked like.  You had to get to know people from what they wrote, from what they said, from what was in their mind.

Maybe because of that unusual quality that the bulletin boards like Imajica operated under, people did get to know each other better.  And, it was the birthplace of online dating, and some people who met online did go off and get married, as well.  It may have been the dinosaur era of the digital age but most of the friends I have now, I met then.

With the huge number of weblogs continually churning out entries like this one, authored by one person or a group, the opportunity has never been greater or more available to the netizens of the world to do just one important thing -- get to know each other a little better.

This morning, I read the blogs of different members of the Jarrar family.  They're Iraqi.

Raed is a secular muslim who seems to dislike long-bearded fundie-extremists like Osama bin Laden as much as he dislikes the arrogant neo-cons of the Bush Administration.  He's in Amman, Jordan working on a thesis paper right now so he keeps in touch with his Irani girlfriend, Niki, on a shared blog.  Since he's on hiatus from Baghdad right now, Raed's original blog (with extensive archives) is being updated by his friend Salam who posts about the lowdown on the streets of Baghdad.

Salam posts some serious stuff because, well, the situation is serious in Baghdad.  I gathered he also must be a secular muslim, like his friend, Raed.  I laughed my ass off when I read:

I frikkin' met an Ayatollah! a real life Ayatollah, I watched him eat a banana and then he put his hands on my shoulder and prayed that I get married soon, my mom was beside herself with joy and I just couldn't stop laughing.  The heretic fagot getting a blessing from an Ayatollah. that is how great those four days were.

Raed also has two brothers with blogs.  It may surprise some of you to hear how very much like typical U.S. teenagers they are.  On Khalid's blog, he talks about the big political issues we blog about too.  But he also laments failing an exam in school, just like we do.  The last entry I read was about the show Malcolm in the Middle.

On Majid's blog, (the younger brother), he hasn't really posted since the middle of last month when the family went to Jordan but he talked about graduating from high school.  And Iraq.  And Majid is filled with teenage angst.  And he seems to like Metallica.

Raed's mom, Faiza, has a blog.  It's in Arabic and English.  Last week, they were still in Amman.  Faiza is an amazing, eloquent writer.  She bought some books on U.S. History last week in Amman and shared some of her thoughts about America.  After reading only a few entries, it isn't surprising to hear her maternal compassion and wisdom come through:

When I was in Baghdad, I used to listen to news and events directly from the people, or see them with my own eyes, but here, I feel that only a small margin reaches us…and many details are skipped, then I imagine the people in the west and how would they get the news… they being very far away from all this reality, from the true picture of matters…and I do not blame them when they think about us in a way very different from the truth.

Maybe she is right about one thing.  I think we'd all be better off turning off the television once in a while, abstaining from the fast-food media propaganda being shovelled into our brains for a day or so, and taking that time to get to know someone better.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004
YCMTSU - McUSDA


 No ... you eat it !

Scanning my personal archives, I just came across an article I had submitted to Plastic in July 2002.  Everyone was still pretty raw from 9-11, so it never got published.  All this happened sometime this very week that summer.  How soon we forget little items of concern in the news.  Recently, no one in the U.S. media seems to be that concerned about Mad Cow since we are all now so entranced and pre-occupied with our ongoing shock and awe in Iraq.

But that summer, the Baltimore Sun had reported that the USDA just announced a recall of 19 million friggin' pounds of beef due to contamination from e. coli 0157:H7. The Food Safety and Inspection Service categorized the recall as a Class I recall: This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

As if just reading Robin Cook's novel TOXIN wasn't enough that summer, my neighbor Dennis also had just finished taking antibiotics for the previous two weeks because of an e. coli 0157:H7 infection.  He was very sick.  He may have been sickened by bacteria in the water.  I do have to drink from the same water supply as my neighbor.  Personally, I didn't plan on becoming a vegetarian, or a camel, but this was getting ridiculous.
 
Infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps; sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea.  In some people, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.  In the United States, hemolytic uremic syndrome is the principal cause of acute kidney failure in children, and most cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome are caused by E. coli O157:H7.

In 1999, people became sick after drinking contaminated water in Washington County, New York and swimming in contaminated water in Clark County, Washington.  About a week ago, all three NYC newspapers reported about a localized outbreak near a Bronx daycare.  Three or four toddlers were hospitalized and eighteen more became sick.  Today, in Washington state, 15-year-old Jenna Richardson lies in a hospital bed showing early signs of kidney damage and pancreatitis likely from eating under-cooked beef.  She is only one sick little girl with e. coli infection, but Washington state alone will report between 125-200 cases on average each year.

Health officials take cases of e. coli seriously because children can get sick and die very quickly.  They also monitor whether or not several cases of infection may point toward a larger outbreak from a food source.  In late 1992 and early 1993, more than 600 people were sickened and three children died after eating contaminated, under-cooked hamburgers sold at Jack In The Box restaurants.  The hamburger was tainted with the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.  The epidemic prompted several lawsuits and settlements totalling more than $15 million.

Even with that history, sometimes I hear of some very odd cases. For example, back when I wrote the article for Plastic, Colorado inmates were served meatloaf made with the recently contaminated beef and it wasn't the first time this had happened.

With the serendipity of my reading Robin Cook's TOXIN, Dennis being very ill, and the recall happening about the same time, I was more than a little concerned.  Looking behind some of the headlines, I started thinking about just how much ground beef was involved in that 2002 recall and did some math.  19 million pounds of beef would probably make a meatloaf the size of your favorite major league baseball stadium.  If it all were packed into 18 wheeled semi-trucks, it would create a bumper-to-bumper convoy 4-5 miles long.

Although the contaminated beef was served up more than once to a group of people like those inmates who would not get much sympathy from anyone, the everyday consumer of fast food burgers continues to be at risk because of the burger wrapper-thin veil of government oversight in this industry.  And then, an hour ago, I'm treated to more government bullshit.

The bottom line: I honestly can't recall eating a fast food hamburger since 2002.  Atkins can flip burgers in hell, for all I care.

You Can't Make This Shit Up





Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Tales from the Crypt



It's a muggy night to be stuck in a windowless room staring at hanging chads down in South Florida, but Dave Ortega is a veteran of the infamous 2000 election and he wants to keep his spirits up for the rest of the team.  Silently though, he says a small prayer for a fast-moving,  cleansing rain storm to come in on the sea breeze to clear the humidity and send the gaggle of television news crews outside scrambling and stumbling away.  In charge of announcing the elections results, Dave imagines himself having a Jimmy Hoffa moment and mumbles, "Ants at a picnic," under his breath.

Interrupting Dave's slightly vindicative daydream is Manny Hernandez, one of the technology student volunteers from the university assigned to help the team makes sense of the electronic voting results that have been a pain in Dave's neck since 2004.

"It's pretty clear," says Manny, "Hillary Clinton has won the 2008 presidential race."

[... to be continued?]

Look, I know some of you didn't realize I could write horror fiction, but maybe like you, I grew up on Stephen King, too.  I appologize if my little future scene made your stomach tighten or your socks become stained with a little trickle of urine.

I stopped short of bringing up the Hillary topic in comments yesterday to Brandon Starr.  Even though it is related, I thought it better to have an entry about it rather than going off topic in comments.  But I've been thinking about this for a few days now.

As I've mentioned in the past, I like to have C-SPAN droning away on the television set at times because it is so helpful in overcoming my insomnia and putting me fast to sleep.  This past weekend, I caught part of a BookTV broadcast with Dick Morris speaking about his new book, Rewriting History.  Being part of the Clinton Whitehouse at the time, I thought he might be in an unusually good position to comment about the Clintons.  Some people have said that rather than simply reviewing or commenting on the Hillary Clinton autobiography, Dick Morris wrote Rewriting History as a response to Hillary Clinton's Living History.

What struck me were some comments Dick Morris made during this book signing and in the question and answer session.  He basically stated that the Clintons, being faithful Democrats but very savvy politicians, want George W. Bush re-elected.  They aren't going to anger other Democrats and bad-mouth Kerry directly.  Dick Morris posed this framing question, "What might you do if you're Bill Clinton?".  He then went on to say how Bill Clinton's My Life was timed to come out this summer.

The hope is that by having Bill Clinton doing so much publicity for his memoir book, it will steal the spotlight away from Kerry and flatten any momentum his campaign would normally garner from naming his VP or the Democratic National Convention.

Another brand new book talking Hillary and the Clinton "plan", is Christoper Andersen's American Evita.  I caught about three minutes of Andersen's appearance on Hannity and Colmes in the middle of a channel surf, tonight.  Maybe some of you regular Hannity-ites can comment more on it.

I just scanned some info on Amazon.  Andersen is a venerated celebrity author who has had best-sellers on members of the Kennedy family.  Interestingly, not only is Morris' Rewriting History suggested as a related book, but also Sean Hannity's Deliver Us From Evil.

All in all, I think it may come down to this.  Bill and Hillary don't want to wait until 2012 or 2016.  If Bush gets re-elected, he can't run again.  Dick Cheney is not going to run and, from the look of the Republican Party, there isn't a very promising stable of up-and-coming stars to run against Hillary Clinton in 2008.  On the other hand, if Kerry wins in 2004, he or Edwards would be the presumptive 2008 Democratic candidate.

So, I think I may have a subtitle for my own little horror story:

"How the short-sighted christian-right voted for Bush and helped get Hillary Clinton elected"


Monday, July 12, 2004
Bush Bashing 101


Vote
for

Kerry - Edwards

in 2004

Does it really matter? Vote
for

Bush - Cheney

in 2004
















I just thought I might point something out to some people who may think that I'm pro-Kerry because they think I'm bashing Bush.  To me, it honestly makes no sense to vote for the "lesser of two evils", or for the idiot son of a billionaire power family like the Bushes, or for a politician who married into another billionaire family.  See, if you vote for the lesser of two evils, you still get evil.

Look, for all you staunch hereditary Republicans, I'm truly sorry George W. Bush isn't acting like a Republican.  Republicans are supposed to be for less government.  Bush's government is probably one of the largest in history and its burden on tax payers is growing larger by the second.  Dubya certainly hasn't remembered what the Reagans taught us about less government.  I hope you saved your $300 Dubya-bucks Fun Park certificate for the ride he'll take you on during his second term.

For you Born-Again-Christians who are going to vote for Dubya because you're so tickled to get 'a man of faith' in the presidency, get over it.  The RNC is going to promise you some things about morality, family values, yadda-yadda ... things the government should not be in the business of doing.  Your 'values' are your values.  The government can't mandate them.  This is still the United States, not Iran, so move there if you want to live in a theocracy.  Church-State seperation not only protects non-christian citizens from discrimination, but also protects you.  If the government mandated christianity tomorrow morning, what are the odds that it would be your brand of christianity?  Look, if you want your kids to pray in school, send them to Bible Camp, or enroll them in your church's madrassa.   The seperation of church and state is there for a good friggin' reason.

As far as the Kerry - Edwards ticket goes?  There's another Fun-Park ride.  Sheesh!  I feel like there should be a little plywood cut-out in front of the voting booth with an arm sticking straight out and a caption reading, "You have to be this gullible to vote for me!".  Kerry has been a professional politician for decades -- and just how in touch with the common man do you think he really is?  He's married to a friggin' heiress and doesn't even know how many SUVs he owns.  Edwards?  At least he's a fresh face.  It's likely Kerry picked Edwards as a running mate because of his good show at the Bilderberg conference in Italy, last month.  Edwards may actually be more connected to the world's power elite than Kerry himself -- or at least he makes a good poster boy for them.  At the same time, he comes across as concerned for my well-being as the successful ambulance chaser that he was for most of his professional career.  Call me now! 1-800-suckers.

Why haven't I been bashing Kerry as much as I seem to complain about Dubya?  Dubya and his cronies have had four years to prove to me that they are truly pathetic, and devious, and pompous, and short-sighted, and outright thieves.  If I haven't bashed Kerry, I think it's mainly because I don't know enough about John Kerry to intelligently bash him beyond what I see most Dubya-defenders do -- parroting some FOX news political pundit, or Hannity, or O'Reilly, or Limbaugh. 

While they are all professional critics and complainers
, they take themselves way too seriously and that's just not my style.  If I think of something witty that I can use to bash Kerry - Edwards, believe me, you're likely to see it here first.


 
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