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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JfZ making a mess of the web
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Monday, November 17, 2003
Save the manatee

Older people float less in water, 2003
I have been seriously slack in getting some exercise lately.  My favorite thing to do -- and thus, what I do most often -- is go swimming in the big community pool at the front of the complex. Most of my neighbors are pretty cool for being many decades older than me.  Some act like assholes at times.  I imagine they are no different, as a demographic, than any other group of people.  

The complex where I live right now is where we bought a winter vacation place for my mom.  It's not officially a retirement village, but then again, it seems to me nearly every residential development in Florida is a defacto retirement village.  Only about 5-10% of the residents live here all year and the vast majority of our local population come down here when the snow flies up north.  They are Snowbirds.  (Mental note: one day soon I will have to expound on the care and feeding of Snowbirds.) I think I've been slack in getting in my near-daily swimming exercise because of the Snowbirds.

I'm normally a very private person and most of my neighbors only see me during their waking hours when I go swimming or head up to the business office on an errand. Otherwise, most of them don't know I exist.  I prefer it that way. During most of the year, I can go swimming and never see anyone up there.  I can go swimming whenever I want.  In the evening, I can float in the water crucifix-style like Pink (Floyd), wait for the security lights to time off and check out the constellations of stars in the night sky. During hot afternoons, I can bring my little blue radio and play Eminem loud enough for me to hear Marshall bitch about his ex-wife while swimming underwater.

But now (sigh), it is that time of year again. Now I feel like Steve Gutenberg in the 1985 movie Cocoon.  I know where author David Saperstein got his plot outline: "When a group of trespassing seniors swim in a pool containing alien cocoons, they find themselves energized with youthful vigour". If I do bring my little blue radio, I have to bring a Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin CD so I can listen to some kind of music. It will drown out the chattering of the floating Q-tips in the pool who are catching up on a full year of gossip. If I want to swim, I guess I'll just have to smile, tolerate the usual interrogation from the pod of grannies and stop myself from tossing my little blue radio into the water with them.

Saturday, November 15, 2003
Meet Max aka NeCoRo Cat

No. Clawing your eyes out was a software bug in *earlier* versions!

  Meet Max, aka Robo Cat.  His pacific rim developers call him NeCoRo Cat.  He's one of the latest developments in robotic psychology.  According to the well meaning eggheads at Robotherapy, "Robopsychology is a new emerging field of research focussed on the problem of robots and human co-existence in the modern world, as well as psychological, sociological and philosophical consequences of interactions between humans and artificial creatures".

Ummm. Okay. I guess I'd put that description on a government research grant application too.  It sounds better than "I need a few million dollars because I want to make a furry kitty toy", right?

But the folks at Robotherapy are serious about this.  Alexander Libin, Ph.D., and Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, Ph.D, even wrote a research paper about the therapeutic benefits of persons with dementia interacting with NeCoRo Cat.

For all their serious study on this subject, I'm glad someone got smart and decided to change his name from NeCoRo to Max the robocat.  I don't think you'd want old crazy people in nursing homes mispronouncing his name and telling their visiting grandkids to " go get Necro cat! " (the dead cat).  Well, maybe Stephen King might say that.

Think for a minute about the prototype development meetings over at Robotherapy.  I can imagine this conversation at the conference room table while eating Krispy Kremes and slamming down some morning Starbucks:

Dr. Alex: " What happens if the auditory sensors fail and Max doesn't respond when you call it? "

Dr. Jiska: " Real cats act that way. "

Dr. Alex: " What happens if the motor functions surge and it just spins in a circle? "

Dr. Jiska: " Real cats act that way. "

Dr. Alex: " What happens when the batteries run out and it just sits there doing nothing? "

Dr. Jiska: " I've told you already.  We're covered. "

Dr. JfZ: " What if this happens? " <--[click this]

Friday, November 14, 2003
Imajica Fast Forward File v.02

Patriotic Kid, Ft Myers, 2002

Have you ever noticed that when people find something interesting, hilarious, or disconcerting in their email inbox, they feel utterly compelled to pass it along to everyone they know?  The Imajica Fast Forward File is where I get to comment on the jokes, animated GIFs, virus alerts and the all-out general warnings about the sky falling that slip into .

F3 v.02

It seems to me that this little patriotic kid most likely embodies the personal reasons our servicemen and women are enduring the hardships in operation Iraqi Freedom.  The sheer number of reservists alone currently called up to active duty approaches that of the Korean war and is estimated at about a quarter of a million people.

Recently, someone FWDed me an email that basically informed me that I should shop at Sears.  Why?  Because it seems that the corporation is doing the right thing for our reservists that are called up, have to leave their homes and jobs at Sears and go fight the war on terrorism.

Supposedly, the federal law tells corporations to hold the positions and paygrades of employees that are guardsmen and reservists called up on active duty.  In my experience as a reservist, back when the dinosaurs roamed the continent, many companies failed to do this simple thing.  Many companies view federal laws as a nuisance, as many pesky federal labor laws are to them.

Why pay anyone minimum wage if you don't have to?  Why adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules and regulations if you can get away without doing so?  Federal Labor Laws are just suggestions to some companies -- not just mom and pop store fronts -- but large corporations with an office building full of attorneys.

Currently, the basic idea of the law regarding called-up reservists is that they shouldn't lose their job while doing our country's business.  Many labor laws are only applicable to corporations with 50 or more employees.  Some provisions of the law require that companies not only hold the job position for the reservist at the same salary, or rate of pay, but also pay the reservist the difference between the reservist's service pay and his or her normal pay at the company.

The Reserve Officers Association (ROA) maintains a list of the "good guys", companies that support our servicemen and women by making up the difference in their pay and just as importantly, benefits.  I encourage everyone to do business with these companies and similarly, avoid doing business with companies that are not fully supporting our troops.


Thursday, November 13, 2003
After two years

Everyone loves a balloon

So, it's a long time since I needed these guys.  Two years ago, I chose to take on the responsibility and commitment of taking care of my mother in her last days.  I left my house, my job, my friends, and my life.  I moved down to central Florida and stayed with my mother in her little winter vacation home.  I slept on the couch out in the porch.  Taking care of her was a 24/7 endeavor.  Even though there were obvious personal sacrifices, I have no regrets.  Sometimes, you just have to do the right thing.

It's a little difficult to go out on dates with women when you really can't leave the house.  It's difficult to have any kind of social life when you live on the couch out in the porch.  Things eventually change.

Life goes on, whether you like it or not.  I've met some attractive women over these past two years but could never follow up with any one of them, until now.  So, for all of you that may have wondered if my monkish celibacy would last until the sun fizzled out in a puff of smoke and the universe collapsed in upon itself (I know I wondered), all is well now.  'Nuff said.


Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Temple of the High Priestess

Some call me Maestro Sartori  My new friend, High Priestess, did a work up of Tarot cards for me based upon my birthday (aquarius).  These cards don't change as a shuffled deck tarot card reading might, but are constant based upon the numerology of one's specific birthday.  Here's how mine worked out:

Signifactor card

King of Swords
Ideas are very focused and directed, but at the expense of the heart. Denotes rational mind, linear thinking, great skill and intelligence with machines and computers. May represent a debater of the law, one extremely intellectual and strongly opinionated.

Soul card

Magician / Magus
You are completely powerful and can manifest your goals. You are experiencing magical strength and can actualize your desires through your own creativity and will.

Personality cards

(1)Wheel of Fortune
Doors will open and all things will be much better than you can possibly imagine. Prosperity will descend on you. You will evolve out of a situation that is getting you nowhere. Set your sights high, and jupiter will set them higher and deliver.

Success, prosperity, glory, clarity, and contentment. There is business achievement as well as success in all endeavors. The Sun shines brightly as you radiate strong energy.

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