Through The Looking Glass

For expression, for self-fulfillment… and for a grade

“Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful.”

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Before I get started, I commented last week on Texas governor Rick Perry’s thoughts about having his state secede from the United States. I questioned why he would do that when he was asking for federal aid to help out with the violent drug wars along the Texas/Mexico borders. Fair enough. Now, he’s asking for federal assistance with the swine flu. Could someone please remind this guy that he wanted no part of the United States just two weeks ago?

Speaking of the swine flu, this thing  seems to be getting a bit out of hand.

More cases have been revealed today in both the United States and Europe, and the stock markets, tourism, and schools across the United States have all been affected by the disease.

I find myself agreeing with President Obama, who said we should be alert but there is no cause for alarm. The article says there have been no deaths in the U.S. and those affected have been recovering quickly. It’s unfortunate that there have been hundreds of deaths elsewhere, but I don’t see any reason so far for news sites to start throwing the word, “PANDEMIC” into their headlines. Let’s see if this thing gets worse before resorting to a Hollywood movie outbreak scenario.

Speaking of scares, here’s one that happened in Manhattan today.  This is someone’s idea of a photo op?

Apparently, that seems to be the explanation for these low-flying planes over lower Manhattan this morning. However, no one thought to tell Mayor Bloomberg or citizens working in that area on Monday morning.

I was actually working in Midtown today, and didn’t hear anything about this until a few hours ago. However, I can understand why those in lower Manhattan were pretty freaked out. It’s only been about eight years since the 9/11 disaster, and that is a very short period of time to think that all those affected by the tragedy could recover emotionally and physically. Louis Caldera should be questioned extensively about this. We have technology that can make an illusion of airplanes anywhere, and he chooses to have planes fly over Manhattan for a photo-op. Fine work, sir.

All right, I’ve gone over two pretty serious stories so far. How about something a little less taxing on our psyche? Maybe some music… although it seems that crickets in Nevada might even argue with that suggestion.

Yes, readers get a very nice visual of masses of crickets invading parts of northern Nevada. However, residents used an idea from the 1930s (okay, so technology isn’t always the way to go) to ward off crickets with music. Mainly, artists like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.

Any idea that begins with warding off insects with British rock bands from the 1970s… count me in. I like the part about the bands getting played from early morning until night. Imagine driving/walking to work and you’re randomly accompanied by “Sympathy for the Devil” or “When the Levee Breaks”. I just wonder if the residents make playlists where softer hits like “Angie” or even “Stairway to Heaven” (gasp!) would be skipped over for heavier tunes. After all… stopping the crickets is priority number one in this scenario.

With that, I bid you all a fond farewell. The semester is over and I’ve had a blast keeping this blog. I do plan on blogging more, though, just maybe not under this title. Check back soon and I will post an address for a different blog that I will be creating that will probably focus more on sports and life in general. I appreciate everyone for stopping by, and I leave you with this quote from the great David St. Hubbins:

“Well, I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.”

Written by greatfoesofreality

April 27, 2009 at 6:40 pm

“I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash your badge, and make me nervous.”

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First off, a tip of the cap to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners in Journalism. Five of them to the New York Times! This is why newspapers simply can’t be erased, folks. Congrats to all the recipients.

For the first story on the docket this week, I’m going to stick with the local theme. Young drivers in New Jersey will be putting stickers on their cars to show everyone how old they are.

Starting next year, drivers under the age of 21 in New Jersey will be required to attach a sticker on their cars to show other drivers that they are a young driver. The initiative was brought on by the death of a student who was involved in a car accident while riding with a driver with a license on “probationary” terms.

I’m having trouble understanding what exactly this initiative is going to solve. I wonder if drivers on the road even care about whether or not there is a young person driving near them. The young drivers interviewed in the article are frustrated and I can see why. If there is one characteristic that is ageless, it is bad driving. There are people who have stacks of traffic tickets, detailed accident histories, and serious offenses such as DUIs. I think if the New Jersey government is serious about this issue, it should expand the scope to solve the real problem: bad drivers exist no matter how old they are.

Speaking of crazy ideas from state governments, Texas was taking their turn last week on Tax Day (April 15). Secede from the union?

It’s one idea that Texas residents have in the link above (in only a semi-serious fashion… I think). Apparently, they believe their government is doing just fine and don’t want any part of the bailout package that President Obama signed in February.

I’m not in Texas and I’m not in any position to comment on their economy, but Governor Rick Perry might want to be a bit careful. After all, another governor from Texas is the root of the backlash against the GOP that got President Obama and numerous Democrats into federal offices in the first place. Besides, is he really speaking for all of Texas in this scenario? It’s a pretty big state and Obama won 44% of the vote there last November. Maybe Texas should secede… then their government can worry about this problem instead of having Governor Perry call up President Obama to ask for about 1,000 soldiers and helicopters with night vision.

Finally, there was a crowning of a new Miss America this week (congrats to Miss North Carolina). However, the show was stolen by Miss California’s answer on a question about gay marriage.

Carrie Prejean gave her opinion on what she thought about gay marriage when asked during the interview portion of the Miss America pageant. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who is also openly gay, was the person who asked the question to Prejean.

I can see both sides of the fence here. I do admire Prejean somewhat because she gave her honest opinion. I don’t agree with it, but she answered the way she felt. Most contestants, especially in a nationally televised competition, would have given a more politically correct answer. At the same time, Hilton has a point that Prejean shouldn’t be representing America with a stance like that. She might be stating her beliefs but this is a title that doesn’t represent her or her beliefs, it represents our country. I also love how the article ends with Prejean claiming she has over 2,000 new Facebook requests. It might be some crackpots that agree with her, but I’m guessing it’s a bunch of lonely guys trying to “friend” her because she looks like this.

That’s the news for this week. Tune in again next week for some news, good or bad. I’d like to sign off by referencing this fiasco. Personally, reading this put a smile on my face for about ten different reasons. Good night!

Written by greatfoesofreality

April 21, 2009 at 12:16 am

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”

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First off, here’s the obvious news for the week: getting wisdom teeth pulled out is NOT fun. Unless, of course, you’re a fan of swollen cheeks, your teeth hurting every time you drink something cold, pain medicine you have to take that could knock out a charging rhinoceros, and getting food trapped in the holes where your teeth used to be. Great times. However, I believe I’ve avoided dry socket. So I’ve got that going for me… which is nice.

Okay, so judging by the Caddyshack quote, one can assume we’ll be starting off with some talk from The Masters this week. For those of you who don’t watch golf or didn’t get to see any of the action, you missed a good tournament.

Angel Cabrera outlasted Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell to capture his second major in two years. Not only did Cabrera have to contend with Perry and Campbell, but the gallery was following the pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson most of the day. The first and second ranked players put on a show, with Mickelson even moving into a tie for second at one point. However, Cabrera managed to be at the top of the leaderboard after 74 holes of golf.

I personally am a huge golf fan and would have loved watching this tournament even if Tiger and Phil didn’t manage to claw up the leaderboard. Cabrera, Campbell, and Perry all played great golf, though, and hopefully won themselves a few fans this evening. If Perry would have won, it would have been cool to see a 48-year-old PGA Tour veteran win his first major (and also become the oldest player to win The Masters). However, I knew even before Cabrera teed off that he would have the upper hand. He outlasted Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk at Oakmont Country Club, so it was no surprise to me that he grinded out a win at this major venue. Congrats to El Pato!

In other big news this week, most casual news viewers are probably somewhat familiar with the Somalian pirates and the increasing danger they are becoming off the coast of Eastern Africa. Well, a daring operation today ended up freeing Richard Phillips, who had been taken hostage by pirates seeking a $2 million ransom after kidnapping him from the Maersk Alabama.

Despite negotiations, the pirates had refused to release Phillips, who was reportedly being held in a covered part in the rear of a lifeboat. The U.S. Navy killed three pirates and saved Phillips… just in the nick of time.

I think this is an interesting story just because the stories of these pirates have increased in the past year or so. This is the first time that a U.S. citizen has been taken hostage and thankfully some quick decisions were made to assure that Captain Phillips made it home safely. However, my feeling from reading from reading these articles are that this will do nothing to deter the pirates and in some cases, they might be on the lookout for more American citizens for retaliation. We should all be glad that Captain Phillips is still alive and the U.S. Navy did a phenomenal job, but I hope that no repercussions stem from this in the near future.

Finally, this article from Slate was kind of an eye-opener for me. Considering that I’m not a coffee-drinker, these items are usually what I use for eye-opening in the morning (and no, I’m not a morning person).

Apparently, New York City’s health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, is looking to implement a tax on soda. The article lays out a five step plan on how this idea could come to fruition and thus lead to more money being taken out of the pockets of soda drinkers in the New York City area (approx. $1.2 billion in New York state alone, according to the article).

I admit, I don’t know much about bureaucratic motives here, but this issue is really grasping for straws (pun!) by Frieden, Mayor Bloomberg, and anyone else who supports this proposition. Yes, I drink Diet Pepsi religiously and I enjoy it very much. However, when I see something like Step 3 in this article (and kudos to William Saletan, the article’s author; I love how detailed these steps) about how one’s soda consumption can harm others, I have to laugh. If this were cigarettes and alcohol (which can harm others due to people consuming them), then there’s a valid argument. The state must not be getting enough money from its cigarette taxes, I guess. However, unless we get a general idea of what exactly this approximately $1.2 billion is going to be funneled to, I think it’s a farce. Do the Yankees need more money for their stadium? Even better, I’ll jump on board with this proposition if the cost to ride the subway is actually lowered. Until then, I’ll be hoarding Diet Pepsi as if December 21, 2012 is six months away.

All right, folks… thank you very much for reading. See you next week for more news… whether it’s good or bad. Good night!

Written by greatfoesofreality

April 12, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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Which ballgame, though?

Well, today is Opening Day and I couldn’t be more excited. After an offseason that saw the best player in baseball (Alex Rodriguez) reveal that he’s used performance-enhancing drugs, the Yankees budget over $420 million for three players, and Manny Ramirez go back to the Dodgers for a little less than the $100 million he was expecting, I think it’s time to get the games going on the field.

Also, there was a pretty big basketball game tonight. 

On Saturday night, the Michigan State Spartans and North Carolina Tar Heels both earned the right to play in the NCAA men’s championship this evening. The game, however, wasn’t very close and North Carolina ran away with it by a score of 89 – 72.

Much had been made of UNC’s 35 point victory over Michigan State since December, and there was a feeling that the game would be closer tonight. I thought it would, even though I had picked North Carolina to win the whole thing. Michigan State didn’t have their whole team healthy in December and their impressive victories over Big East beasts Louisville and Connecticut made me wonder if they couldn’t at least give Carolina a run for the money. However, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, and Tyler Hansbrough were too much to handle. Congratulations to coach Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels!

However, there is still plenty going on all over the world other than sports. Most importantly was North Korea’s launch of a rocket on Sunday. What does the world think of this development?

North Korea’s launch of a rocket went over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean. They claimed they were testing a rocket launch, but the prevailing theory is it’s a test to launch missiles with nuclear warheads. Obviously, the rest of the world has mixed reactions, as seen in the CNN article.

I think this has the potential to be a serious issue. Countries like China and Russia are asking for restraint, but that’s not going to be enough to quell the worries of countries close by like South Korea and Japan. This issue is indeed going to have to be handled very carefully, but I’m not sure how much restraint can be shown. There are many countries thought to have nuclear weapons or have attempted to gain nuclear weapons. I don’t buy North Korea’s satellite alibi, and they’re no strangers to previous nuclear weapons either. Also, I know the G20 summit deals with economics, but the rocket launch happening just after world leaders meet is a bit coincidental in my opinion.

Finally, this last story took me by surprise because it’s something I used to read almost daily when I lived in Boston for several years. However, the New York Times is seriously considering shutting down the Boston Globe newspaper.

The Times owns the Globe and the falling advertising numbers have forced the Times to ask the Globe to make some concessions. Unfortunately, this threat does have legitimacy since newspapers in Denver and Seattle have closed down, and a prominent newspaper like the San Francisco Chronicle isn’t immune from rumors of possibly folding as well.

On one hand, I do think it’s somewhat unfair for the New York Times to threaten to shut down the Globe. The article mentions that the Globe has cut the equivalent of 50 full-time jobs and they haven’t said no to the $20 million in requested concessions as of yet. At the same time, large companies (like the Times) and small companies alike have had to tighten their belts due to the economic crisis that our country is presently experiencing. I think it’s good that the Times is looking at options like selling their share of the Boston Red Sox before closing the doors of the Globe. However, if there is to be a compromise, the Globe will certainly have to do their fair share to make sure they stay in circulation. The bottom line is, I would hate to see the Globe taken out of circulation and I hope this situation finds a resolution that works out best for union leaders, ownership, and readers.

All right, the ninth inning has just ended for this blog entry. Turn out the lights and leave the ballpark, but be sure to check back next week.

Written by greatfoesofreality

April 6, 2009 at 11:45 pm

“So, if the Beers beat Detroit and Denver beats Atlanta in the American Southwestern Division East Northern, then Milwaukee goes to the Denslow Cup, unless Baltimore can upset Buffalo and Charlotte ties Toronto, then Oakland would play LA and Pittsburgh in a blind choice round robin. And if no clear winner emerges from all of this, a two-man sack race will be held on consecutive Sundays until a champion can be crowned.”

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First off, before I get too far into writing, I just want to welcome back Tiger Woods. I love golf and it was pretty cool to flip over to Tiger’s rally during the basketball commercials.

In news that’s somewhat less predictable, March Madness continues its run through this month (and the recurring theme of this blog). Congrats to North Carolina, Connecticut, Villanova, and Michigan State. Also, a great big thanks to Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Memphis for their solid contributions to ruining my bracket.

How about a look at the political side of March Madness to change things up a little bit. Cities like Detroit, Boston, and Memphis all have some appeal for regional and national finals, but how come Columbia, South Carolina doesn’t get a fair shake?

Ron Morris does a great job of writing about how the Confederate flag flying above Columbia’s state house likely affects why the city and its facilities are largely ignored by the NCAA. Morris notes the money, publicity and recognition the city would get from hosting these games.

I couldn’t agree with Morris more. Of course, I can’t speak for South Carolina residents who refuse to change the state flag. Morris brings up a valid point, though: why should cities about the same size as Columbia (and even ones in a neighboring state) be the beneficiaries of something that Columbia could be eligible for? At the same time, I have to commend the NCAA for staying away from the temptation of going to a place where a Confederate flag is still proudly displayed. It makes me wonder what other profitable opportunities that South Carolina could be missing out on due to their refusal to let go of the past. After all, it’s not like states can’t use the money.

Now let’s continue the journey south across the border to Mexico where movie film crews are now being affected by the country’s drug gangs.

Death threats were sent to a director for a movie about a drug smuggler in Mexico that was to star Josh Hartnett and Eva Mendes. Unfortunately, the gangs behind this aren’t only scaring Hollywood away, they’re also affecting the economy of their country.

Taking Hollywood out of the country and hurting the economy of Mexico are two big issues, but the numerous deaths due to rival gangs fighting territorial wars is the eyebrow-raiser here. It’s never a bad thing to be able to show celebrities enjoying their time while in a city but when spring break travelers (who would show up in large numbers with plenty of money) desert resorts like Tiajuana, the problem extends beyond exposure on TMZ.com. A “failed state” is a territory with a shattered political structure and as Hillary Clinton mentioned, there are ways for the U.S. to help out. As entertaining as movies based out of Mexico can be, I don’t see Josh Hartnett being an economic and political cure for what’s ailing Mexico.

Finally, the previous article mentioned cocaine smugglers. Did they have a meeting with Ashley Biden recently?

Probably not. According to this piece from the Huffington Post, the lawyer attempting to sell the tape has withdrawn and dropped his client. Apparently, the publicity of the tape allegedly involving the daughter of the Vice President of the United States was not something this lawyer wanted.

I find it interesting that this comes about two months after the Michael Phelps story. Granted, Phelps was identified and came clean about the marijuana use in his photo, but is the celebrity spotlight really meant to be a smoking gun? Furthermore, the article mentions that it was a 20-something woman with light skin and long brown hair in this particular video. This means it could be Ashley Biden or about ten million other women around the world. The article also brings up the surprise of other lawyers that another lawyer would be so willing to shop this tape to the tabloids. I’m surprised as well; money brings fame and this lawyer could be caught on tape doing something he doesn’t want others seeing him doing.

All right, another week is done! Tune in next week for a look at the men’s NCAA champion (or championship) and whatever news the world throws at us in the meantime.

Written by greatfoesofreality

March 30, 2009 at 11:05 pm

“You see, Billy, it’s like this: you either smoke or you get smoked. And you got smoked.”

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I’m back after another week of searching for news stories in between my steady diet of watching college basketball and… watching college basketball. I hope everyone is doing well in their brackets he/she  filled out that have no monetary prizes attached for the most accurate picks. I’m currently in a tie for third in my office pool… come on UNC (and Nova beating Duke and Syracuse taking out Oklahoma would be nice too).

I’ll start off the blog this week with this article on employers losing money on employees spending time focusing on March Madness. At least that’s what they want us to believe.

Slate reprinted this piece late last week from Jack Shafer (it first appeared in 2006). The article brings up the myth that employers lose money on employees watching games on their computers or checking scores.

Shafer makes two great points in this article. One, casual fans lose interest as the tournament progresses. Believe me, half the people in my office pool will not watch a minute of college basketball until next year after their brackets imploded over the weekend. The second point that Shafer makes is that employees do stuff during the work day that wastes time regardless. He mentions shopping, talking on the phone, coffee breaks, etc. as ways that workers spend their time if they’re not working. I’ll admit that I check scores when games are on. However, it’s literally for only two days during a standard work week when the NCAA Tournament begins. After that, the games are all on so late on the East Coast that employers should worry about whether or not their employees will set their alarms.

Speaking of madness, Dick Cheney’s in the news again! However, the twist on this story is bound to make some readers chuckle (and no, small game hunting is not involved).

This story from TheHill.com mentions Republicans are advising Cheney to lie low for a little while. His vocal defense of the Bush/Cheney administration has been making headlines, and the Republicans are trying to mend the GOP’s proverbial fences.

I can see what the Republicans are trying to do and it’s actually a pretty smart move. If you look at the major overhaul of the political landscape all across federal and state governments in November, Republicans have to undergo some serious self-examination to get the bad taste out of their mouths. However, the two symbols (Bush and Cheney) of what many Americans would point to as the root of the problem are not going away. I actually think Bush should be commended for taking the high road and letting President Obama do his job. Cheney has every right to speak his mind and disapprove of Obama’s progress, but when your allies are telling you to keep it down you should maybe consider going on a trip with no phones or television.

Finally, I’ll end this post on somewhat of an odd note (as I usually do). What would you do to make money in these hard economic times? It seems that some women are looking into dancing and stripping since there is no sign of the job market rebounding.

In cities like Chicago and New York and even smaller cities like Providence, RI, the job market for exotic dancing still can earn a woman a decent living. As long as strip clubs are still pulling in a consistent number of customers, women are finding that paying college loans and bills can be easily done even with the economic crisis in full effect.

Personally, a woman has every right to do what she wants to do. If she wants to dance, she should dance. If she wants to be an actress, take some acting classes. The possibilities are endless. However, the economic downturn has left talented men and women wondering when and where their next opportunity will be to pull in a decent living. Therefore, if a woman can make six figures in big cities and she has the confidence and ability to be a dancer, she should definitely go for it.

There’s the blog post for this week. Tune in next week for the trials and tribulations of a non-profit office pool and some recent news stories that might qualify as some form of madness… just maybe not March Madness.

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March 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

“There’s a… um… tradition in tournament play… not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you.”

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All right, spring break is over and I’m back in the saddle for the foreseeable future! Not a moment too soon either because one of my favorite times of the year is here: March Madness. There’s nothing like filling out a bracket and spending the next few weekends watching college basketball teams play for the chance to go to the Final Four. Lose and go home. NCAA football… are you paying attention?

March Madness actually ties in to the first piece I want to write about. An article in the New York Times discusses the lack of star power in the college ranks this year. This will likely not be helping the NBA Draft in any way when it rolls around at the end of June.

The article discusses players who have been recently drafted and have gone on to become NBA stars. The issue is that this year’s March Madness tournament really doesn’t have anyone (outside of Blake Griffin) that NBA teams can pencil in as a potential franchise savior.

The writers of this article do have some good points. There isn’t an O.J. Mayo or Derrick Rose on any of these teams in the NCAA. However, I think it’s unfair to say there won’t be any talented players in this year’s draft. They even mention the possibility of international players like Ricky Rubio. There won’t be any players that teams can build a franchise around, but there are plenty of players who will become serviceable NBA players. Besides, March Madness has yet to start. Let’s let the kids enjoy this experience before telling them you think they won’t be stars at the professional level.

From basketball to bailouts and bonuses… the saga of the nation’s chaotic nature of its financial institutions continues this week. However, one insurance company (AIG) already working with bailout money decided to award $165 in bonuses to its executives.

Long story short, numerous banks and insurance companies have been receiving bailout money due to the financial crisis and instability of the Dow Jones. The bailout money in this situation has been used by AIG to pay out bonuses to employees to honor contracts.

The defense of AIG is that their executives were under contract to receive these bonuses. Personally, I think those contracts should have been nullified the second one penny of bailout money went to AIG. Taxpayers are the ones who feeding the piggy banks of these firms and for them to award bonuses to the people who were supposed to be running the show as the business collapsed is a collective slap in the face. I realize that arbitrarily tearing up an existing contract is essentially impossible but with the economic standing of our nation, I think fulfilling these contracts could take a back seat to more pressing needs.

Finally, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Slate.com investigates what actually is greener (environmentally in this context): drinking beer from bottles or cans.

The article goes into great detail about which alcohol-holding container actually is more greener. The consensus is that if a homegrown brewery is close, glass bottles might be better. Otherwise, drinking beer from cans might be more environmentally friendly. However, the writer suggests drinking from pint glasses is likely the best way to go.

I think this article brings about a good point. The alcohol industry really hasn’t shown the effects of economic stability and production and monthly totals in 2008 were close to 2007 numbers. President Obama has promised to look for ways to create more environmental friendly jobs and even has a “green team“. I think it’s a great idea for an area that is consistent as the alcohol industry to devise ways to inform and educate consumers about something that can help the future of our country. Granted, some party-goers are indifferent to whether or not they drink from a glass, can, trough, etc. However, the opportunity to mix “green” with St. Patty’s celebrating and environmentalism is a unique occurrence.

That’s all for this week. Tune in next week for March Madness updates (and other general madness updates across the world).

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March 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm

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