Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#ROW80 2ND QTR POST – RUMINATIONS ON EDITING, A WILD TRIP TO THE FAMILY DOLLAR STORE, BOXING MANIA, AND COMPUTER VIRUSES FROM HELL


Being the lazy thing that I've become, I find it easier to just mash everything into a giant, 40-page post, to test the patience of my readership, heh. Just kidding. I got caught up in a clinical research study, now that my health is good enough to allow such a thing and my doctor is not the sort to have kittens over any participation. “Go forth and teach” is her motto and this will be fun, if any of these things can be said to be “fun”. It's for COPD and mine has improved on the one drug they are testing; adding a second, sort of as a “bumper” so I have a new batch of doctors to drive crazy. All those years spent working in a teaching hospital may not have made me a doctor, but it sure as hell didn't make me a better patient, in any regard. The doctors I have now have survived the cut; the rest lay bleeding by some proverbial clinical roadside, licking their wounds and vowing to choose their words more carefully, the next time they run into someone who sports an I. Q. over 75.

 
The atmosphere in the teaching hospital I worked in tended to be much like the one portrayed in the show "Scrubs" but with many, many more people, and many, many more personality disorders, including my own. Still, it was a fun place to work, or spend some time, pretending to work, while I asked endless questions of the teaching doctors, who were all too happy to answer. The term "docere" is Latin for "doctor" and means "to teach". An apt expression, indeed.


This may look like  a prison, but it is the old University of Michigan Teaching Hospital where I pretended to work for several years. The thing was built piece-meal, and when you went in the front entrance and through the little gerbil-tube (because, Michigan) you entered on the 4th floor of the main hospital. Down on the 2nd floor and around the back, were the morgue and the rooms where the 1st-year students learned the fine art of dissection, by one section of Medical Records; Archives. I worked on the 4th floor, next to the E.R. and Head Trauma Units, in the current Medical Records Unit. I saw some hair-raising stuff in my days there, but I've never been bothered by blood and guts, What gives me the heebie-jeebies is cleaning out the fridge.


So, I missed last week's #IWSG check in, for the umpteenth time; pasting it on my forehead doesn't work; I don't look in the mirror that much. Telling JC to remind me is fine, but then he forgets, or he tells Alex, who forgets to tell him, to tell me and so it goes. I also missed #ROW80, due to the aforementioned Clinical Trial, but now that that is up and running, there's no excuse. Have I mentioned how much I really, really hate editing? Should Skip Bombardier have a mad crush on the heroine? Should she be completely oblivious? Should the kid-alien-musical prodigy be loveable or a true pain in the ass, like prodigies can be? Or just a regular kid? And, shouldn't they all have loveable pets? Like cats? Or should I throw some hedgehogs in there just to mix it up, and because they're the "happenin' thing" now in the U. S.? I'm not really trying to build a world, just a few locations that feel lived in. In some cases it works, in others, not at all. But, I keep plugging away. Of course the best, most lived in, most real scenes are the ones that take place within the musical world, both on stage, and off, and in the computer world, because I know those worlds. So, best to stay away from say, bullfighting, no? As my Ma would say, “Quitcher bitchin' and get to work!” Good idea!


So, this past Saturday was one of those "special" Saturdays that get celebrated in their "special" way here on Nebraska Avenue, 33602, or 33605. Why is it special? Because, it's the first Saturday after “payday” for the folks who rely on Social Security. I'm one of them, but I paid my bills and rent and all of that, bought some food and then remembered I had to go to the Family Dollar Store, not 2 blocks from me. Now, lots o' folks around here act like it's the weekend every damned day, but Saturday after “payday” is especially wild and crazy. When I lived at the homeless shelter, we could look forward to one or four good fist-fights and a stabbing. I always enjoyed the knife-fights; scheduled and non-scheduled. There's so much more at stake. So, having lived in this environment pretty much sharpens up your senses for, if not danger, at least a good hissy fit, and this is what I thought was about to happen on Saturday evening, as I stood in line to pay for my cat food and some diet soda for JC, who is getting better, but isn't ready to go skipping down to the corner, just yet.


The thing that makes me sad about this is that we worked hard to get this store put in, in this area. In less than six months, the miasma of apathy has set in; there are not enough clerks to keep the shelves stocked and tidy; merchandise is scattered all over and bags of chips and candy are ripped open and half-eaten. This store cannot keep enough clerks working because of the area it's in, and the one "District Manager" didn't know what she was doing, so the problem remained unfixed. Unlike most of the stores, the carts are not "locked" to the premises, so they're already all over the neighborhood, serving as some bag-lady's or bag-man's cart to keep her/his crap in. What will make it really untenable is if one of the clerks is hurt or killed on the job; there's no job worth that and they already take enough abuse as it is. This is the "recovery" our stupid Governor talks about; we don't have 700,000 jobs that have been created in Florida. We have 700,000 new wage-slaves. 
As I'm trying to put my stuff up on the check out counter, this guy, in dirty bermuda shorts, a crummy-looking striped shirt, unshaven, 3 teeth in front and smelling like a distillery, is trying to give the clerk who is waiting on me, a bag with. . . something in it. I can't tell, but the guy is already pissing me off; he's rude and obnoxious. The clerk tells him to hang on, while she gets the Manager, a young black fellow named James. She calls him and he says he'll be right there. Drunk guy swings her bag carousel around, and she asks him to politely not do that, as it messes up her setup. James arrives just as he does it a second time, and takes the guy aside.

I'm trying to pay for my stuff and keep one “eye” on this dude, in the sense of being hyper-aware of him. The clerk and James are the only two people working this store and this guy outweighs both of them. Just because I have a cane and limited vision, does not mean I will not step in if necessary. Six weeks ago, I stood off two muggers at the same time; when they realized I would fight and fight hard, they backed off and left; I wasn't worth the two bucks or whatever. Never, never be an easy mark. Always stare 'em down; even if you can't see 'em. I also have that “rep”, y'know? The crazy one, that makes people wonder just how far I will go in a situation. Word is, I'll go far enough to ruin your day, if not your week, month and year. So, anyway, the conversation between James and the drunk becomes heated. I had paid for my stuff and put it in my backpack.

Another black guy stepped in, but James told him to back off, and sure enough, the drunk guy then started hollering about “black on white” crime. I pulled out my phone and called 911 and reported “drunk and disorderly” at the Family Dollar, blah blah. The clerk still had customers and there was another drunk lady in the store; not of and by itself a problem, but she's egging her drunk boyfriend(?) on. The drunk guy grabbed the bag out of James' hand and takes off out of the store, with James hot after him. I left the store, in time to see the drunk charge at James, in the parking lot and take the bag back (it could have been Tootsie Rolls for all I know), so James chased him down again, and grabbed the bag. 

This time the guy ran at James and tried to hit him and I ran at him, yelling “Leave him alone! I've called the police!” He called me a whore, which, Big Whoop; if you're a woman walking on Nebraska, chances are good you're a lady of the evening, or at least will be called one. I had my stick up and ready to hit him if he struck first, but he backed off from me and went after James again. It became this weird, hellish 3-way tag, as I hit redial and told the TPD dispatch that their “drunk and disorderly” had just become an attempted robbery and attempted assault. James and I darted back and forth to keep this guy from hitting either of us, and he finally lost his adrenaline burst or his nerve and left the area. What a way to have to earn your living!

James and I made sure we were both okay and I went on my way. Drunk dude went off up another street; I'm sure he got himself into some trouble before the night was over. After I left there, I had to go another store close by to buy milk. It was Saturday night alright. Some other, happy drunk said, “Hey, miss, two dollars to be your seeing-eye thingy! Hell, you're so purty, I'll walk ya for free!” I just laughed and said, “I got it, but thanks for the kind offer!” This neighborhood is like no other. I know everyone who lives around me and we watch out for one another. Probably one-third of us on my street were in the homeless shelter, so there's a real bond there. It's a fraternity like no other.


So, after I got home and ate, we found some boxing to look at. I love me some goddamned boxing! Love, love, love, love it! JC is just as crazy over it. We happened to pick up a couple of matches that aired on ShoTime a while back, but we hadn't seen them. Just for grins, I took notes, instead of trying to Tweet, because it wasn't live and frankly, when I Tweet live matches, all the igmos crawl out of the woodwork and they infuriate me. So, these here are my notes:

courtesy: Notifight.com

This was the best picture I could find of the two; Perez on the right is "soft" looking; his muscles are not as clearly defined as Sosa's, nor is his overall condition as sharp. Where you can see Sosa's clearly defined abs, you cannot on Perez. I may be over-reaching here, but Perez also does not look confident about his up-coming match.

The first fight was in the Welterweight division, Sosa v. Perez and I can't remember their first names, nor did I write them down. These two have actually fought one another as amateurs. Color me shocked! Perez looked really soft, as if he hadn't trained. It was his first professional fight, but still, I did not see one meaningful punch thrown in the entire bout. I've never witnessed so much butt-clinching either, by Perez (or any other fighter, I honestly didn't know that was a defensive move) and it was pissing Sosa off by the end of the bout. The thing I didn't understand about that fight, was the fact that the judges actually gave some of the rounds to Perez, leading me to wonder what fight they were watching, or maybe I was listening to one fight and seeing another, but I doubt it, since they kept yapping about Perez and Sosa, and those were the names on the fighters' trunks. Awful fight.

courtesy: pound4pound.com
McJoe is a terrific counter-puncher and here we see him beat Quihano to the punch. McJoe had been working the body pretty much through the whole match which slowed Quihano down some; a must when you're fighting in a division based more on speed, than on power! A fun fight to watch, even if Dabo's trunks ended up sideways on his ass; at least I didn't have to watch 8 rounds of butt-hugging!
The next fight was in the flyweight division and it has been ages since I saw flyweights fight. The most important thing to remember about them is that everything is sped up; it's like watching two gnats or two hummingbirds throw tiny fists at one another for a few rounds. Eventually, you get used to the rhythm, but not having seen them fight for awhile, it was a bit of a shock to remember how truly fast these guys are. Another thing, there aren't a lot of knockouts in the flyweight division; they typically go the distance because they aren't known for their power so much as their speed. There are exceptions to every rule, however, and boxing LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to break those kinds of rules.

courtesy: pound4pound.com

Here, Arroyo catches Quihano with his guard down. Many boxing matches are a lesson in watching boxers practice patience, as they look for that one split-second chance to get to through their opponent's defenses. It can make for some really boring boxing, and becomes more of a chess match. Of course, everyone is hoping that the two combatants will engage in all-out war, but it doesn't always work out that way. I'd wager it takes patience, fortitude, stamina and hella smarts to become a decent boxing fan.

This fight featured David Quihano v. McJoe Arroyo; Quihano has had seven knockouts, which surprised me; this was supposed to be a kind of come-back fight for him, but the only really noteworthy thing I got of this entire fight was his trunks being on kind of sideways, so that his knick-name “DABO” was somewhere to the left of his ass-crack, or was it the right? I don't remember. I guess this is why I won't be replacing Bert Sugar anytime soon as a great boxing writer, although it is fun to write about it in this capacity. I did have to remind JC to watch the fighter's feet. Quihano was becoming flat-footed and losing energy; I knew he was tiring, long before JC did. But JC can always tell the closer bouts than I can. Anyway, Arroyo won the fight, and Quihano will have to try again.

courtesy: bbc.co.uk
Prince Naseem on an honest-to-God flying carpet, making his "ring walk" prior to his bout with Marco Antonio Barrera, Certified Public Accountant, and oh, yeah, boxer.

After the fights, I regaled JC with the story of Marco Antonio Barrerra's and Prince Naseem Hamed's fight and how hilarious the Prince was, coming into the ring on a flying carpet, all pimped out and shit. Marco Antonio Barrerra is a CPA in his day job in Mexico City and acted like one on his ring walks, as well. No high-falutin' shenanigans for him. I just remember the look on Marco Antonio's face when the Prince drifted by on his flying carpet; it was a “I can't believe this shit; and I'm in BOXING for fuck's sake!” look, and then he went on to tear the Prince apart in a fight that went to the scorecards. As a contrast and comparison of just plain hard work and non-stupid entrances, versus one of the hammiest and self-aggrandizing displays of all time, that showed us nothing, this one was a doozy. It is also a metaphor for the entire sport itself and why boxing has so endeared itself to me. 


courtesy: eastsideboxing.com
This is as fancy as it ever got with Barrera. Retired now, and probably still running the family accounting business in Mexico City. Although he's got his game face on here, he's of a sunny disposition and "just a guy". But, not really; he's a boxer.


I've been fixing computers around the neighborhood for some of my pals, and I was going to tell you about the tesch.b virus and f5f5dc.com exploit, but that got so complex, it will wait for my next post. I will just say this; if you are running Windows, Adobe Reader (any flavor) and have JAVA you are at risk, and this time, the host server is in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the virus causes your browser to inquire for open sessions repeatedly. You end up with svchost.dll32 files coming out of your ass and your computer will be unusable, because it will be so slow. It's a horrible exploit, but I'll run ya through the fix next time!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

#ROW80 2ND QTR 2014 – THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS


It's been a long time since I've written ANYTHING for #ROW80, or really tried to start any kind of schedule, since the A-to-Z challenge, and it's really time I did. Without any kind of schedule or balance, I tend to zone for days, or just react to whatever is going on around me. Not much there to think about, and certainly not much of a way to live, when someone has gone through the hell I have. I could say I'm merely coasting, but that's not my style; now that JC has started to feel better and we seem to have put that behind us, and I've recovered from the “shock and awe” of A-to-Z, I feel it's time to start putting out some effort in the writerly part of my life once again. The viola part of it is never a problem, now that I have my e.t. (essential tremor) under control, but I do feel another chance has been tossed my way and I'd be stupid not to grab that brass ring, along with a mixed metaphor or two.

So, it's back to the beginning of “Music of the Spheres”, to untangle what is surely (or, maybe not) one of the more fucked-up ideas for a speculative-fiction, or sci-fi book in a long while and see if I can possibly straighten it out, do some editing mo-jo and make it something that people will want to read. To that end, I might try writing a few short stories, or something along the way, as I've never written fiction, so I might want to think “baby steps, baby steps” before attempting the Boston Marathon. Or not. Anybody who has ever told me “no” has had cause to regret it, although in this case, I might take the advice of much more seasoned authors than myself. I have a cute idea for #StoryDam; if nothing else, I get to hang with them on Twitter and they always throw a good party!

The only other thing(s) of note here recently, were these:


I do a butt-ton of work for SETI@home as a volunteer and Dan Werthimer lets us know what is going on with the project run at Cal Berkeley. He is Director of the SETI Research Center and he and Seth Shostak of SETI, along with countless and nameless others, have created open-source programming that have created spinoffs of the original SETI project. The full text of his speech to Congress last week can be found here.

I work on several different projects, but my primary team is located some 70 miles north of me, and is called “The ********”. I kid and tell everyone that my team are a bunch of retired Navy SEALS, spooks and people from the NSA, CIA and whatnot. Most of them aren't around and a 65-member team has 7 active members. But, between the 7 of us, we can crunch some numbers. Being a total numbers wonk, I go and look at our world-standings. We've been as high as number 462 on the charts globally; this week, in the U.S., we're number 71, ahead of U.C. Berkeley. We seem to be in a vicious winner-take-all war with the Iowa Hawkeyes, as we routinely swap 70th and 71st positions with them daily. This volunteer work is a stone-cold bitch! And this is just the USA! I haven't even mentioned the Russians!


I still can't believe we trounced MIT; they must have had finals. . .

Teams slap down challenges; I feel like they're holding Royal Flushes, and I'm stuck with a pair of 8s; the air is fraught with 18th century-style duels. Statistics are king and we have MIT huffing along in our rear-view mirror! Now, if only our errant spooks would return from their missions and do some heavy lifting, we could leave MIT in the dust; we've already buried “Get Off My Lawn”; it's time for us to take on “DigitalDingusBoinc” and sweep the field!


Is There Anybody Out There? Not just a cool Pink Floyd tune from "The Wall" but an existential and philosophical question. Math and Metaphysics are mapping the Milky Way.

But this is all in the BOINC realm of volunteers and people who believe that using their computers and their smarts to try and detect E. T. The spinoff from the original software is being used for everything from Breast Cancer research to mining Bitcoins. Metaphysically speaking, we have run the gamut from attempting to discover the origin of the universe to running what appears to be the selling of current-day Amway products, or possible Ponzi schemes. I may be misinformed, but at least it's misinformation I've parsed myself. Leave my shibboleths alone!

But that isn't even what sent me into an uproar last week. What happened last week was Dan Werthimer went and gave a nice little speech before Congress. I found out about it in the usual manner, which is a nag screen from my BOINC software, so I read the speech and thought, "Gee, wonderful things are happening up in the skies and all, and we're parsing and analyzing the data received from Areceibo just as fast as we can. Dan thinks it'd be a swell idea if Congress went along and helped on the funding". This isn't the first time in recent months that Congress has held a hearing on aliens. In December, the Science House Committee held a two-hour meeting about the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. The publication, The Wire said at the time that the hearing was the “best thing Congress had done in months.” I tend to agree.


"Congress Debates the Finer Points of Aliens" I suggest each member just look across the aisle; or better yet, in a mirror. Here is the HuffPo article.

What I got a bit pissed off about was HuffPo's coverage of Dan's speech. Understand that I exist in a culture where the idea of E.T. being here is taken for granted, and even though that is the text of Dan's speech boiled down, it's not that simple, and the wording of HuffPo's Headline sounds as though this is not a serious undertaking. We operate under the assumption that E. T. and friends have been here, (wherever “here” is; it doesn't necessarily have to be boots on the ground) for some time, and this is nothing new for us. We're crunching numbers fed to us from satellite arrays like crazy to prove uncategorically, that YES, THERE IS INTELLIGENT LIFE THAT DID NOT ARISE FROM THE PLANET EARTH. I have a scientist uncle who based a whole set of mathematical equations on his observations of flying unidentified craft and their motions that defied E=MC2 and the math works; you can't get much more truthier than that. He, for reasons obvious to anyone who's been around the naysayers for any length of time, disappeared off the grid several decades ago, not because he felt he was in any danger, but because he was tired of having his bona fides questioned. Who can blame him? If I had to play a four-octave scale and 50 etudes before every concert I ever performed in, I would have packed it in early, too.

But, as long as knowledge is used as a form of currency and it matters so in certain circles and in politics and in the establishment of world hegemony, there will never be a reckoning about many ideas and past events. Black helicopters and men in black will be talked about in whispers. It doesn't matter whether they exist or they don't; the IDEA of them does, because we see these things as a symbol of power and manipulators of populations, with the ability to either sway or silence us via covert means, and they are powerful indeed. So, when HuffPo (who should know better) posts an idiotic headline like the one above, I get a bit. . . cra-zy. Not in the sense of haul-off-to-the-Loony-Bin-Baker-Act cra-zy. Been there, done that. But cra-zy in the sense that, the journalism is irresponsible, and to me, that is unconscionable.

Although people who read HuffPo, are by and large, much better informed than the eejits who watch any type of broadcast or cable news, with the exception of BBC or Al-Jazeera, there are still a goodly number of people who are not well-informed and do not think critically at all who read the HuffPo. Just try reading the comments on a story that is not all that complex, and you'll see what I mean. Without any kind of epistemological imperative to seek the truth, they are more than willing to swallow any old guff handed to them. Maybe I am the one who is lacking here. I ferret out facts and snuffle up data to buttress my arguments, because I believe in the truth and I have no platform or agenda of any kind that I am trying to push onto someone else. I expected better of HuffPo. They're not Politico, nor are they WaPo; they usually try to gather news from many different sources, as well as using their own journalists, rather than rely on stringers, or feeds from other news agencies.

Or, maybe because the story comes out of Washington D. C.'s hallowed grounds, HuffPo just can't help themselves and they're caught up in the Never-Never Land world of Brobdingnagian shenanigans, or may have contracted the peculiar disease that seems to afflict all and sundry who end up in Foggy Bottom, although my Twitter pal, Jason Linkins, who writes for HuffPo and is a cracker-jack political analyst seems to have no trouble discerning the make-believe and wish-it-was from the slap-in-your face reality. But, I have really, really digressed. Color me pissed.

No doubt, SETI@home will survive on a shoestring and we'll all cobble together some wild financing and up our donations. I understand Bitcoin is in on this; oh, yay! A brand name that is better-associated with drug-trafficking and probably arms-dealing will bail out the SETI@home while taking a hefty chunk of BITCOINage for themselves. But that's alright; we're all one in this together on this big, enormous project that involves the entire world. Right?


About the only other thing that is newsworthy on this here home front is that no one has died here on Nebraska Avenue in a while. That's a good thing. That's not to say, we haven't had to run out in the middle of the street to make sure SeƱor Cerveza didn't get run over, when he fell down, but he'll live to annoy us another day. And that's all right.

Mama has a new thing. For those following along at home, Mama is the stray cat that adopted JC a few years ago, when she was pregnant and had been thrown away. We lost the kitten, and JC had Mama spayed and she's been with us ever since. When JC had his heart attack in February, he was in the hospital for several days. Mama is used to having the front door left open and coming and going as she pleases, but with JC gone, I couldn't take the risk of leaving it open, at all; day or night, so Mama had to become an indoor kitty, while he was gone.

Sweet Moses on a buttered cracker, I hope to never go through that again. It's supposed to be, if not easy, at least do-able, to turn an outdoor cat into an indoor one. Not so with Mama. She didn't tear anything up, or do anything bad, or not use her litter box. She's very clean, in all aspects. But, she became depressed, when she couldn't find a way out of the house. Oh. My. God. I took this sweet, little animal, who was already missing JC (at one point, she thought I'd stuffed him in the cupboards, I think) and made her become something sad and miserable. It was awful and it broke my heart. As soon as JC came home, I let her out and she ran off; I went in the backyard and cried and cried. She had run off and I was sure we had lost her. I cried more for the harm I had done this sweet animal, who had never done anything to anyone, than for what I thought was her loss, although it would have broken JC's heart.

Well, she came back, within half a day as if nothing had happened. She was so happy to see JC and is back to her normal self. She's pretty spoiled, but she deserves it. She'd been abused before, and bears the scars of either a beating, or a horrible cat fight and is blind in her right eye. The only thing that has changed from her sojourn inside the house, is that she comes inside to use her litter box. No more pooping out in the backyard for her. There's one other thing she does, that I have never had any other cat in my life do and this is really something.

The other evening, I was on my computer and Mama had been running in and out of the house all day. Generally, she's a stealth cat; you don't know she's around, unless she's hungry, and I usually feed her between 7 and 8 pm. JC feeds her in the morning, and I feed her in the evening. Cats are hardwired and if you mess with their routine it really confuses them. Mama is so hardwired, that for a long time, I had to sit in my chair on the porch; it was the only way she'd approach me. Now, she expects me to be in my computer chair. If I'm sitting on the couch, she's not too sure who I am, I suspect, until she gets close enough to smell me, then she's fine.

Anyway, this particular evening, I didn't have my headphones on, for a change, so I was conscious of the ambient sounds around me. My hearing began to register from a distance, a small “eeeeeeeeee” that was coming closer, but there was no cessation in the “eeeeeeeeee”, it just kept coming closer and getting louder. Now, it was “EEEEEE” but wasn't stopping, it just kept coming closer, and still, getting louder. Now, it was “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” and Mama came through the room at a brisk trot, on her way to the kitchen, where JC was making tea, or Ramen Noodles, or brownies; I can't remember. I was just astounded; I had never heard a cat do that. As she passed by, the “EEEEEE!!” gained it's apex, much like a Doppler effect, and then began to retreat in the distance, now “eeeeeeeeeee” once again, and then fainter, “eeeeeeeee”, as she arrived in the kitchen to beg from JC. A drive-by MEOW, without the M and the OW. Cats are a wonder; as da Vinci said, “The smallest of the felines is a Masterpiece!”


Mama, beside my leg, enjoying a siesta on the porch.

Sorry for the length of the post, and my apologies for my lengthy absence, between Mother's Day and now. This week is #IWSG, along with #ROW80 check in for Wednesday. I hope to have something to report regarding editing of both “Music of the Spheres” and the material I have planned for my e-book on my life. I have enough material that covers my early life and school, careers in music and computers, my days in the homeless shelter, up to the present.