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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Tuesday, December 21, 2004
A warm patch of sunlight during the shortest day

Evil Stevie Activate!
I should have bought a lottery ticket tonight.  That's how lucky I feel right now.

I spent most of the afternoon trying to get a ride up to the corner stripmall during business hours since there aren't sidewalks on the route from where I live to that corner.  My handy-fucking-dandy electric chair doesn't do lawn or sand.  It's two-wheel drive, not four-wheel drive.  I had absolutely no luck in getting a ride from anyone.  I was little frustrated because it is only about a mile away.  So close, yet so far.  Apparently, I could have made it into a friggin' geo-synchronous satellite orbit easier than make it up to the corner.

I returned home and sulked for a little while.  I plugged the chair in the wall socket to re-charge it.  I took a cold shower.  It wasn't a me-so-horny cold shower -- my water heater has been screwed up for a long time.

I survived my cold shower.  While I was combing my wet hair, I glared at myself in the medicine cabinet mirror.  I mulled over the immediate odds of procuring a ride to a local barber shop versus another desperate, self-mutilating, office-scissors-and-beard-trimmer attempt at some self-esteem.  Neither option seemed very good, so I left my image in the mirror to scowl at itself.

I know you don't want to hear that I think it's cold outside because I live in Florida.  Whatever.  I decided to hang out for a few minutes again on the main blogdrive tag board while my hair completely dried and the charge on my chair topped itself off.  Was it a coincidence that after glaring at myself in the mirror, the first thing I read was that several people were chatting about haircuts on the tag board?

After just enough grumpy time on the main tag board to say enough snarky things, piss someone off and make a new non-fan of me, I decided to head out again since I was out of cigarettes.  Maybe I could find someone in the neighborhood before they all sat down to chill out and eat dinner.  Maybe.

My second venture out into the 'hood to scooter about aimlessly, with the nicotine craving raging in me as motivation, was when everything fell into place in a very rapid succession of coincidences that make me what to read Celestine Prophecy a second time.

I scootered to the one corner in the neighborhood.  The sun was hanging low in the clear sky.  It cast a little patch of sunlight among all the shadows on the street through the canopy of live oak trees overhead.  I stopped the chair in its small but noticeable pool of heat, squinted at the setting sun, and languished in its warmth for several minutes like a cat.

One of the concepts in Celestine Prophecy basically says there are no coincidences.  Another, as well as I can remember, is a little more Zen.  It basically says that once we become more acutely aware of the moment and our surroundings, the world gives us all clues to even the most seemingly insignificant points of decision.

I turned the chair to the right.  As I was heading along the fairly long street, I noticed two figures next to each other in the distance.  This really isn't unusual.  People walk around in pairs all the time -- morning, noon, and night.  What became odd is what I noticed as I closed the distance toward the pair.  They weren't walking.  They were simply standing there and looking off into the eastern sky behind me.

My cat used to do that and it always unnerved me.  It would stare at some imaginary thing above my head and a little to one side or the other.  It would do this as if I should be aware of something dreadful behind me.  These two people were doing that.  Murble!

Simply because I couldn't help myself, I looked above and behind me as I noticed that my approach didn't distract these two people from intently staring off into the sky.  I was close enough to realize that they were too older women, rather than just two indescriminant figures, right about the time I nearly ran the scooter off onto a lawn from driving in it one direction and trying to look in the opposite direction behind me.

My near miss accident or Evil Stevie chair-driving must have jostled their gawking at imaginary objects in the sky.  Even though they were strangers to me, likely just two retirees wintering in Florida, I had to stop and strike up a conversation with them.

As you might imagine the first thing out of my mouth, after a disarming smile and hello was, "What are you two staring at?"

It turns out they were looking toward the eastern sky above the tree line to try to get a glimpse of a rocket launching from Cape Canaveral.  I don't blame them.  It can be quite an awesome sight.  For some reason, I spent ten or fifteen minutes chatting with them.

After saying the obligatory, "Nice meeting you," I continued on to hit one of the several public bathrooms scattered around because the evening chill had grabbed me.  As I scootered back out onto the street again, another older woman who works in the mail room stopped her car next to me.

She told me a package had arrived for me.  Well, now.  I actually had a destination for my evening journey, suddenly.  I continued on for another thirty seconds and another car stopped next to me.  It was the woman who promised to stop by my house and cut my hair about a month earlier.

Appologies accepted. Hopefully, I now might get my long-awaited haircut tomorrow.  It's been over a year since I was able to get my hair cut by someone who knows what the hell they're doing.  Cutting one's own hair should be avoided, trust me.  You don't know how absolutely manic I suddenly felt after that little coincidence of crossing paths with her on her way home.  That was totally unexpected.

So, I scootered up to get my package and another stranger held the door to the front office open for me.  After thanking him, he talked to me for a few minutes and suddenly I had a ride to the store.  Could it get any better?

Well, yes.  After the quick trip to the store, I had to scooter back home in the dark.  I almost got to my door when the last coincidence occurred.  The neighbor across the street from me, who I do know, happened to be on the street.  She typically walks around in the evening, usually with her longtime friend.  I had only spoken with her for about thirty seconds when a golf cart with it headlights on suddenly pulled up next to the both of us.

The woman inside obviously knew my neighbor.  She asked loudly, "Do you know anyone that could use a water heater?"

Now, I realize that if you've read this far, you may be dismissive of my trivial concerns.  To an average person, what is the worth of a water heater, or a having your hair cut, or a cigarette when you want one?  I won't bore your intelligence with the admonition that it means a great deal and everything is relative to those things you have compared to those things which you desire.

I need not cite or point out that the majority of the people living on our planet survive on less than two dollars a day according to the last United Nations Development Program report.  You know to be thankful for what you have -- especially during this holiday season when your house smells of holiday foods and the sound of little children might be heard giggling anxiously in anticipation of holiday presents.

For you other people, like me, who may be spending the holiday season alone or just planning on simply eating a holiday tuna fish sandwich with some ramen noodles, I do have a moral to this rare type of introspective or personal blog entry on Thunderstorms in the Imajica.

Had I not stopped to enjoy the simple warmth of a patch of sunlight during the shortest day of the year, the chain of events that proceeded afterward would likely never have happened.  Enjoy being alive.

Monday, December 20, 2004
Winter Solstice

 It is all fun and games until your favorite body part freezes and falls off

On about December 21st of each year, Aborigines, academics, astroarchaeologists, Atheists, Celts, Druids, historians, Native Americans, Pagans, Shamans, Wiccans, Witches, etc., the world over will be celebrating the world's oldest holiday, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice.

-- Lowell Mcfarland

People view other religions in various ways, and thus treat the celebrations of other faiths differently:
  • Some people value the range of December celebrations, because it is evidence of diversity of belief within our common humanity. They respect both their own religious traditions and those of other faiths for their ability to inspire people to lead more ethical lives. Religious diversity is to them a positive influence.
  • Others reject the importance of all celebrations other than the holy day recognized by their own religion. Some even reject their religion's holy days which are seen to have Pagan origins (e.g. Easter and Christmas).
  • Some view other religions as being inspired by Satan. Thus the solstice celebrations of other religions are rejected because they are seen to be Satanic in origin.
-- B. A. Anderson, Religious Tolerance

Winter Solstice also known as Yule, Christmas, and Saturnalia, occurs in mid December. It celebrates the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of Winter. The Goddess manifests as the Great Mother and the God as the Sun Child. The God also appears as Santa Claus and Old Man Winter. Colors are Red, Green, and White. This is a festival of inner renewal.

-- Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

I don't care what B.A., Lowell or Selena say.  You might.  I know there are many beliefs on blogdrive whose believers all celebrate something this time of year.  And I know this is ancient human ritual, no matter how you choose to celebrate it.

I choose to mark the Winter Solstice in my own Thunderstorms in the Imajica way.  I know I'm not alone on this.  We're starting our own tradition.  So what?

[Headphones] :: Jessica: Pleasure Club Mix - JfZ

Friday, December 17, 2004
Freakin' Friday

 LeTigre - This Island
Thunderstorms in the Imajica is not just a place to look for serious issue topics.  If that's all I blogged about, I'd be even grumpier than I am already.  While I have been doing some research and do have several serious topics as entry drafts for you in the future similar to Armor-Gate, my time is too limited to publish entries with 40 outside links in them everyday.  Also, for you newbies to the blog, don't be afraid to use the [next page] link at the bottom of the page or the dynamically-generated [Last Ten Entry Summaries] link near the top of the semi-static left side panel.  I only display a limited amount of entries on the main blog address in order to make Thunderstorms in the Imajica graphically interesting yet remain dial-up friendly.

I was trying to alternate between the serious and the fluffy bunny entries, but sometimes news or topics like Armor-Gate require immediate or subsequent updations.  I know some of you are a little disapponted that my archive calendar isn't full of daily entries as I have maintained in the past.  Just know that besides some changes in my personal life -- about which I seldomly blog -- I have been working on several other projects around blogdrive.  When I feel it's time to announce these things, if at all, you can be assured I'll promote them in an entry for you.

Get Real AudioWatch this streaming music video.  Tonight, I feel the need to blog about something fun.  Remember the B-52s?  If you happen to hang around the main tag board with the other fanatical blogdrivers, you would have seen me pimpin' this video and links to the Le Tigre web site.  Someone, but obviously not Curiously Mad, then astutely thought this song and video reminded them of Love Shack.  While that may be true, I say it's bouncy and fun, by any measure.  I like the Le Tigre techno backbeat combined with the Drum Struck surfer guitar rhythms and riffs in their song called TKO.

Le Tigre is a band with some upbeat pop music sounds, but with a street-cred you won't find elsewhere.  It's an all-girl band with some cyber culture -- Digi-Chix talented and with a vaginally feminist message.  And I like them.  And I hope they stay together and surprise the whole country with their great music.

Speaking of feminist blogdrivers and pinknoise, I should thank SnarkyChick for not only her suite of very good blogs, but also for allowing me to discover the extremely entertaining rantings and ramblings of the published columnist, Mark Morford.  His columns define and are too friggin' snarkalicious for the average pic-a-nic basket stealin' Yogi and Boo-Boo bear.

If cartoons can ever get as good as Hanna-Barbara and Warner Brothers, it may happen on the net if not on Adult Swim.  Even when I had a mind-numbingly slow dial-up ISP, I would check out the latest thing going on at Liquid Generation.  While I was surprised to discover that Clay Aiken had anything to do with Dime-Bag Darrell's untimely demise during my usual fix of Suck My News, this week apparently seems to have a Snaggle-Toothed theme for the Badonka Butt and Who's Boob's? games.  If you need some holiday spirit, check out LG's Gingerdead Man.  It's said he puts the spookie back in cookie.

And for you film trivia buffs, like Brandon Starr, you might check out the latest Good Scenes Gone Bad short viddies.  Grab a set of eye forks from Stanley Kubrik's prop master if you need them to view the viddies, but these are some twisted minds at work here, as always.  Well worth your time.  Finallly I'd like to say, Happy Birthday to Monkey or whoever got stiffed with the tab for the friggin' happy meal dinner.


[Headphones] :: We Can Do Better - JfZ

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Armor-Gate updation

 Until March, it's Nascar?

I'd like to say that the Defense Department had another press briefing concerning the Armor-Gate topic today, but that would not be entirely true.  It was more like a long sales presentation for anyone that did not understand what a wonderful job everyone is doing from previous briefings or DoD/AFIS news articles.  When the Pentagon really wants to clear its name to the press and through the media -- utlmately to We the People who read the newspapers and watch the news reports on TV -- the Pentagon pulls out all the stops.

Watch this briefing via C-SPAN streaming video.  If the link doesn't automagically work for you, read this video help page.  DoD also has published a transcript.  I do have to say, this one was much more informative than the one given previously by General Whitcomb in theater.  C-SPAN describes this briefing:
Major General Stephen Speakes, Army G-8, Force Development, along with Brigadier General Jeffrey Sorenson, Director of Systems Management and Horizontal Technology Integration, ASA(ALT), will discuss how the Army is transforming to meet changing operational threats and specifically address the Army's strategy to armor (both Add-on Armor (AoA) and Up-Armor), its Tactical Wheeled Vehicle (TWV) fleet to meet the CENTCOM Combatant Commander's operational force protection requirements while at war. Discussions will include the three levels of protection within the light, medium and heavy tactical vehicle fleet; armor program overview in theater; production rate initiatives; and industry vendor program overview.
Once again, the Pentagon explained in great detail what the differences are when they speak of Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 armoring.  However, DoD did a much better job explaining the armoring status of the vehicles themselves.

General Sorenson described the armoring status of what the DoD refers to as the light tactical fleet, the medium tactical fleet, and the heavy tactical fleet.  This vehicle breakdown is basically descriptive of the vehicle's weight.  Humvees are light.  Long Haulers (semi trucks) are heavy.

What was unclear to me the first time around and caused concern was the armoring status of the semi trucks, or vehicles in the heavy fleet.  While the armoring of the heavy fleet lags significantly behind the Humvee fleet, there are level 1 up-armor and level 2 add-on kits for the cabs of these heavy trucks.

The military focussed more attention and priority on first up-armoring the light tactical fleet, or Humvees, because the casualty rate of the soldiers driving them jumped so significantly when Iraqi insurgents increased their use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.  According to General Sorenson, currently 80% of the Humvees in theater have some level of armor and DoD projects this number to be at 98% by March 2005.

This isn't a feel-good Armor-Gate updation.  I have to point out that with Iraqi elections scheduled to take place January 30th, it should be common sense to expect increased terrorism and insurgent activity in Iraq as the elections near.

Watching these videos of Iraqi insurgents attacking a convoy or even just the commute around Baghdad makes me wonder just how much armored vehicles are needed in Iraq.  How much armor is enough?  I don't know.

Add that on top of the likelihood of more city-clearing military operations as preludes to this Iraqi election, such as in Najaf and Fallujah.  I'd say it's going to get much uglier before it can get any better in Iraq.  I wouldn't expect a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year.  Maybe next year.

[Headphones] :: Allah's Helicopter (beta) - JfZ

Monday, December 13, 2004
Faces of the Fallen

 Fallen but not Forgotten
Due to overwhelming popular demand, the College of Marin in northern California recently put out a press release stating that they will extend the showing of their moving art exhibit commonly known as Faces of the Fallen.  The exhibition displays over 1100 student art portraits of U.S. military service members killed in Iraq and now will be available to the public until February 22nd.  Listen to the 5-minute WBUR On Point Radio Diary interview (real audio) with the exhibit creator, Professor of Fine Arts, Chester Arnold.

While the NY Times images of young American lives cut short in Iraq inspired Professor Arnold to create his student art exhibit, I was shaken and saddened by the Faces of the Fallen section in the Washington Post in a more left-brain, quantitative manner.  The WaPo Faces of the Fallen web section is tightly designed.  In other words, given the nominal thumbnail image size requirements of each U.S. service member, there is only so much room on their database-driven web page template to display them.

 American Hero

Each page generated by the date range drop-down menu can display a maximum of 108 Faces of the Fallen.  Unlike our handy month-by-month blogdrive archive calendar, the date range drop-down menu selections have date ranges that vary.  Each full page of 108 images of dead American heroes may span twelve weeks or as little three.

This is the holiday season.  While this time of year honestly means little to me and hasn't since I was five or six years old, it becomes poignant for most military families when dad is deployed in Iraq for Christmas.  I can figure that out all on my own.

Pull down the second drop list on the WaPo Faces of the Fallen page.  For an ever-growing list of American families, this marks the first heart-breaking holiday season that these soldiers will be thought of posthumously.

[Headphones] :: Mosh - Eminem

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