Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keeping Focused

Last night I spent thirty minutes in misery when one of my contact lenses slipped and wedged itself in a place under the eyeball where it did not belong. Why thirty minutes? Because I was stuck riding shotgun in an old pickup truck bouncing along an isolated road during a rain storm with nowhere well lit to stop. It was a good thing I was not driving, because double vision does not begin to explain how bad my ability to focus was.

One of the problems facing any fledgling political movement is failing to maintain a tight focus on the message they wish to send. All too often, causes expand to cover too many things and large fractures become inevitable within the group once that occurs. I watched that happen with the Reform Party back in the 1990’s.

So it was interesting to hear what was going on with one of the local Tea Party chapters down in Decorah, Iowa. My father asked to distribute some FairTax information at their meeting last night and so off we trundled to it. They are aligned with the Tea Party Patriots organization and the gist of the message was about staying focused on smaller government and fiscal responsibility. That was nice to hear, since all too often intensity and resources get frittered away by expansion of unnecessary issues.

At the meeting was a Republican candidate for Iowa House District 55, Michael Klimesh. He’s a former mayor from Spillville and had run in the old district in 2010. The focus of his message was smaller government and encouraging small business development. Being at loggerheads with the state party should make things interesting for his race.

Unexpectedly, my dad got a chance to speak on the FairTax and that went very well. Six of nine people still at the meeting had heard of it, which is a lot better than I have seen before. The questions were all good ones too.

Something fascinating thing to me was the beginnings of Occupiers and Tea Partiers working together in Northeast Iowa. I had quite a cordial discussion with one attendee who has come over from the OWS movement to also participate in Tea Party activities. Some of the Occupiers have discovered there is common ground in regards to government corruption and have begun exploring what we have to say.

I suspect that more liberals have become disenchanted and disillusioned with their champions since Obama took office. While we on the political right are used to distrusting and disparaging our own leaders, there has been more blind faith on the other side. With rampant corruption becoming more obvious, some eyes are opening and questions being asked.

Where it all will end up, I do not know, but I find it quite intriguing. The people have begun to lose faith in our government in larger numbers and that should worry Washington, D.C. a great deal, but they are awfully insulated in the Beltway.

I am happy to report that Mabe’s Pizza still makes great pizza. My family spent a lot of time there back in the 70’s, so I have a lot of fond memories.

An old friend of Don Flatten’s was there, so that added a another nostalgic moment to the night. I can tell I am getting old from all the reminiscing about people who have passed away. It was nice to get out and talk to people again, the last two weeks of being ill has been more than a little annoying. If I only had the health to match my spirit!

Oh and that contact lens? It fell out of my eye as soon as I walked in a convenience store and into my hand. I was able to get it back in and finally focus again.

Regime Change Brings Nuclear Change to Korea?

Well, this is unexpected, but welcome news IF North Korea holds up their end of the bargain. Color me skeptical, but this kind of announcement has happened time and time again, only for the dictatorship in Pyongyang to renege on their promises and through inspectors out.

At least we will find out if the new regime is any different than its predecessors.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Health 2-26-2012

Another day of feeling rotten, this time with a mild headache as the bug will not let go completely. The only reason it is mild is because I am avoiding all intense stimuli and cannot handle even light classical music without throbbing beginning. That meant a lot of down time today. Quite a pity, for it was a beautiful sabbath day outside.

While fuzzy headed, I hope my planning is not. Losing weight is a priority, but being bumped up to the top. A perpetually whining lower back needs the load off and I will also be pursuing stretching exercises with an eye towards something more complicated as an immediate relief. I would like to do something like tai chi or yoga, but do not have the room for it. More research is needed.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kimi ni Todoke Ep. 2: Seat Shuffling

While discovering she is not completely alone in the first episode, Sawako finds her status with her peers to be unchanged. Summer vacation has passed and the second year of high school brings a change of seating to the class. What should be a mundane event becomes something truly moving and marks the real beginning of Sawako’s quest to break free from the chains of her loneliness.

Kimi ni Todoke Title 1Kimi ni Todoke 02 Title

In manga and anime, there is a genre called “slice of life” that is more popular with the female fans in Japan. Rather than having a tightly plotted storyline, a more episodic format of following every day life is featured. Kimi ni Todoke is often classified in that genre and borders on being that, but there is an over all plot to it, albeit one that very slowly unwinds. If there was ever a story that relished the journey, it would be this one. Fortunately for us, it does so beautifully.

Kimi ni Todoke 02 PuppyKimi ni Todoke 02 Scary Sawako

A gloomy gray sky spitting rain opens the second episode as we see Sawako Kuronama find an abandoned puppy in a cardboard box. Being pure of heart, she leaves her umbrella behind to protect the very hostile pup. Paying no mind to the falling rain, she is soaked thoroughly by the time she gets to school. Which, of course, makes her look even more like the villainess Sadako from Ringu!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Health 2-24-2012

Sigh. I thought I was over the bug, but today has been a day of relapsing. Chest congestion, sneezing, and general bleariness was the order of the day. It seems I can never get through an illness without a second go around of it.

While not as bad as before, I have no fight left in me physically speaking, so all the various things I was trying to plan out for the weekend are up in smoke. At least I do not have to choose between the county convention and the pinewood derby/chili cook off at Church tomorrow. I cannot do either one.

Redistricting Thoughts

No, this is not about censorship or anything Orwellian. Instead it is about political redistricting in my corner of Minnesota. Tuesday afternoon was a big day for wonks due to the state court panel presenting the new boundaries for congressional, state house, and state senate districts.

So I went from living in House District (HD) 31b to living in HD28b. What changed? Not a whole lot, though we finally have the complete counties of Fillmore and Houston in one easy to find district. It always bothered me that the cities of Fillmore and Houston were carved out to be given to neighboring districts. This makes more sense demographically and geographically. Rep. Greg Davids should be very happy with this, for he will not have to run against another member of the house like in other parts of the state.

Another bit of good news is that the Senate District barely changed and for the better along the lines of the house changes. I am glad to still have Jeremy Miller for my senator, so that was a relief. There had been a very real chance that district would be radically altered and I did not want to be paired up with Austin.

Changes to the Congressional district were bigger, but once again logical. Other districts did not fare as well. Michelle Bachmann is on the warpath over what happend to CD 6, with threats of suing. Being of the opinion that politics becomes both crazier and nastier the closer you get to metropolitan areas, none of this was surprising.

All in all, I am happy with the way things turned out locally.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Good Metaphor for the Times

Watching this video of a Brazilian rescue helicopter shaking itself apart made me think of of how current political and economic events going on across the world are being handled. My second thought was that it did not look real and appeared to be a RC model. Amazing how the human eye and brain responds to something it has not seen before.

I hope and pray those injured will recover quickly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Area 88 Ep. 2: The Setting Sun as Grave Marker

aka Boris

Any doubts about the seriousness of the anime series are dispelled by this grim episode that follows a pilot nicknamed “the Angel of Death.” Thrilling action scenes punctuate a slower moving story about survivor’s guilt and the tremendous toll war takes on those who fight it. While photojournalist Makoto Shinjo learns more about life on the base, the real star of the episode is attack pilot Boris. The ghosts of the Vietnam War are beginning to haunt the stories of Area 88.

Area 88 Main TitleArea 88 02 Title

There is a poetic quality to both the visual and verbal imagery of this series that sets it apart from most anime. The thoughtful and meditative scripts are matched by the art and directing, making for stories that are not easily forgotten. This particularly strong episode sets the tone for the entire series very early on.

Area 88 02 RingArea 88 02 SAMs Attack

After hearing a rumor about a pilot called “the Angel of Death,” Makoto becomes intrigued. Ominously wondering if he is Shin Kazama’s personal angel of death, the photographer sets out to find out about the enigmatic pilot named Boris. A master of ground attack missions, he is reputed as getting all his wingmen killed -- so nobody wants to fly with him.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Odds and Ends–Tech Edition

The Iview Cypad 760TPC I purchased earlier this month has been a lot of fun to monkey with. Being new to tablets and the Android OS, I have to say the stability leaves something to be desired. It appears to be app related and I did go in forewarned about the crash rates of mobile operating systems.

Battery life has been good since I disabled the telephone related drivers on it. I get better than five hours doing a mix of things including playing games, web browsing, reading, and watching videos. Performance has been fast, but with occasional slowdowns that seem to come from my monkeying with app installations too much. The temptation to play with new software is severe due to the plethora of freebies available.

One of the apps I really like is the Gospel Library one from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only are scriptures available, but class manuals, conference talks, and magazines. All of them can be highlighted and annotated with that synced up to your Church account online. This week I matched up all of that from my hard copy of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. This week I will get the Holy Bible synched up as well.

Another app I have gone nuts with is the Kindle for Android one. Yes, I now have the equivalent of a Kindle Fire in many ways. The sheer volume of public domain books they have up had me downloading like mad while watching a movie Saturday night. Being able to watch something and multitask on the Net is an unexpected bonus for me. The IMDB app makes it a handy “look up the actor” tool, too.

I purchased one book and read it, The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. It was nice to find a straight forward translation, since the one I had dated back to the 1980’s and was aimed a business men. There are some formatting errors, but nothing egregious and it was a quick read. Reading on the Cypad is easier on the eyes than expected and the ability to look up archaic words is very handy.

After testing multiple browsers on the tablet, I have kept three on it: the included Android one, Firefox, and Opera. If a page does not render correctly in one, one of the others usually can handle it. Opera is my main one due to its much better controls and rendering. I am disappointed that embedded videos do not work well, if at all, on the browsers. Dedicated apps appear to be the only way to go since websites are detecting mobile devices and do not act normally as a result.

With a new mini HDMI to HDMI cable, I finally was able to test out the video output of the Cypad and was stunned by how well it upscales to 1080p. With only limited space to play with until I get a new microSD card, I can’t test a full length movie yet. I can see using this to teach Sunday school lessons with downloaded Church videos and one of our new flat screens.

On the PC end of things, VLC 2.0 is finally out and it looks like I will be going back to it for my video playing needs. So far it has rectified all my problems with VLC, but further tests await. Besides the improved performance and compatibility, a lot of little things have been added and tweaked. The ability to jump chapters in ripped videos means I will be able to do screen captures more efficiently for my Blu-ray reviews. Anything that speeds that up is good with me, because I resent having those huge MKV files taking up room on my hard drives.

I have been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic with a friend online and have some issues with lagging despite a 100-105 MS. It may be my old video card cannot handle some of the areas with only 512mb of memory or it may be the fact I live in the middle of nowhere. More playing should give some clues. The game is good and if you liked Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you will love this.

Health 2-20-2012

Typing the date out in the title made me look not twice but thrice.

Anyway, last night was miserable and had difficulty sleeping due to coughing fits. I love it when an upper respiratory infection goes into the chest. That said, it appears that the end of the bout is nigh. At least I hope so.

It has been odd for my father to get ill with the same thing at the same time, so that has been a new experience.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Secret Investigation Record (2010)

aka Joseon X-Files: Secret Book

A stylish and intelligent science fiction drama from South Korea that offers up many questions and a few answers, Secret Investigation Record is highly entertaining  but all too short. Clearly a homage to The X-Files, it manages to be its own beast thanks to well fleshed out characters and historical setting. Being loosely based on real records from the era lends a Project Blue Book feel to it as well.

Secret Investigations Record TitleSecret Investigations Record Cast

I was a big fan of The X-Files during its early seasons, having watched it from its broadcast premiere. Unfortunately, it became clear around the third season that the creator of the show did not have a clue to what he was doing and was making it up on the fly. So it was with a mix of curiosity and trepidation that I approached this Korean drama set during the Joseon Dynasty.

Luckily for me, the made for cable television show turned out to be very good right from the first episode.

Health 2-18-2012

While it is no fun to report that the cold has started to move into the chest and I have used up what reserves of energy I had to fight it, it seems like a mere trifle after hearing from friends that their young son has cancer. Perspective brings clarity and I find myself worrying a great deal over the boy and not at all about myself.

My prayers go out to Jonas, for he and his family need them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Blu-ray

After a couple of low quality attempts to adapt Marvel Comics’ star spangled hero, Hollywood finally succeeds with this big budget period piece. Old fashioned movie making uses modern technology to portray the journey a sickly young man takes to become a super hero.  Nazis get punched out, evil rears its (very) ugly head, and lots of things blow up --  just like they should in a comic book movie. But the real message of the movie is that it is what is inside that counts.

Captain America Title

It was something of an article of faith amongst comic book fans that Captain America was a hero who could not be successfully adapted for a modern movie. His appearance was too hokey, he was too bland, and most of all he was too American. Being a remnant from a more innocent and patriotic time, it just would not translate onto the big screen in a way that audiences could connect to.

Fortunately for us, Marvel did not listen to the naysayers and neither did Paramount Pictures. Be warned and settle in for a long read, for this is going to be a big review of a big movie.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Health 2-15-2012

The sore throat started yesterday and the drainage is now terrible, which is making me a dim and irritable guy right now. It is the penalty for being with friends with small kids, so I cannot whine too much. Upping the H2O2 therapy to two glasses a day will help, hopefully.

We finally have above freezing temps and I’m wearing my thermal underwear to keep warm. Not a good sign.

At least the congestion has not gone into my chest.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

War Drums

As the world economic situation deteriorates, another problem is rising and that is the steady beat of war drums across the globe. Political, rather than economic, interests are the prime motivators as old grudges flare in some places and civil unrest lures in outside forces in others. The latest hotspot is one I did not see coming and would be ridiculous to fight a war over if it were not for changing geopolitical conditions.

Argentina is ramping up the rhetoric against Great Britain over the Falklands and it is getting more serious than any dispute over an island filled with sheep should get. After having lost the Falklands War in the early 1980’s, it appeared to be a nonissue until recently when South American countries began expanding their military arsenals. A steadily declining U.K. military is now unlikely to be able to defend their citizens living in the Falklands, so an opportunity has arisen for Argentina. Claiming the Brits are sending nuclear missiles to the area is an extraordinary claim, the kind that is usually ginned up for a war.

Another thing to consider is that they now have the backing of Brazil, which has become an economic and military regional power looking to expand their influence. There is a desire to get rid of all European influence in the area and also American influence. Throw in a presidential re-election campaign for Cristina Kirchner and things start getting restive.

While that little drama unfolds, the Obama administration is quietly preparing for war with Iran and an armed intervention in Syria much like what was done in Libya. That means bypassing Congress again and should be of concern to more people than it is. If we hit Syria, Iran will fight us since they have sent forces in to back the dictator Assad in what really has become a civil war. No matter what happens, I expect Islamic extremists to end up in control of Syria, just like Libya and Egypt.

Israel will most likely be forced to hit Iranian nuclear weapons facilities this year. Survival is an important thing to the Israelis and they need to protect themselves from the increasingly irrational Iranians. Civil unrest remains a fear in Iran and they recently cut access to large parts of the Internet in hopes of preventing more.

Asia is not exempt from all the “fun.” Continued over flights of neighboring countries territory by China is still causing tension and an arms race in the area. Their ships have been equally aggressive and have challenged Philippino sovereignty. Japan also has the Russians sending bombers over their territory as Russia tries to reestablish their might around the Kurile Islands. Oddly enough, tensions with North Korea appear to be abating or are on hold while the new regime sorts itself out.

Will any of these hotspots break out into actual fighting? I think the Middle East is the closest thing to a sure bet thanks to Iran and Syria. In the long run, Asia is building towards war, but internal stresses in China may derail that.

So why do I feel like the atmosphere is like that of the years leading up to World War I?

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Is the Droid I Was Looking For

After much deliberation, the replacement for my PocketPC ended up being an unexpected bargain. This post was composed on my new iview CyPad 7" Android tablet. I am trying out the Blogger app and typing with my thumbs, which is taking a lot of getting used to. At least the touch screen works for me -- iPhones and iPads usually don,t work with my fingers.

I  will write a proper review next week if I can get the latest ROM to flash. So far the camera is the only thing not working.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Odd and Ends 2-9-2012

Fighting off a sinusitis flare up makes getting up and out to get a haircut more of a travail then it should be. Despite that, I survived and am no longer shaggy. In theory I am more presentable, but theories and reality are very divergent I find.

Currently I am working on HD screen captures from Captain America: The First Avenger for a review of the Blu-ray and DVD release. As I suspected, the film looks better in 2D than 3D. I cannot wait for that fad to die out again and from the way theater attendance has dropped the studios will be forced to give up within the next couple of years.

So far subscribing to Hulu Plus has been a good decision. I am finding things of interest that are not on free Hulu and have begun to dip my toe into the waters of Korean dramas. The show I started watching last night is particularly interesting because it blends a 17th century historical setting with The X-Files. If it sounds strange, that is because it is! Secret Investigation Record follows the investigation of an honest magistrate in the corrupt government trying to unravel a sighting of a mysterious glowing giant gourd flying through the sky and the disappearance of an entire village. So far it has been very good.

Silent films are another thing I have been getting more into and Hulu Plus has a good selection of classics there as well. It has been decades since I have seen Nosferatu or Phantom of the Opera and as an adult I think I will appreciate them more.

There has been controversy over the Obama administration issuing waivers to some states in regards to the No Child Left Behind standards. For once, I agree with them on something. The program has done nothing to really improve public education despite having noble intentions. As it is, I suspect we are drifting toward the Japanese model of having private schools as the only way up and out, with public schooling being a death knell to one’s prospects. That is in the very long term, unless the coming economic collapse hastens things. Our systemic education issues will not be resolved through the government, I am afraid.

I am not sure how I feel about Smith Brothers Warm Apple Pie throat drops. If it were not for the cinnamon bits in them, they probably would be disgusting. As it is, they serve to remind me how much I like cinnamon.

One has to love translations from one language to another and the misunderstandings that can be involved. In this case, I just opened a booklet to a multimedia device and the second thing listed under notes says:

Avoid strong beat and collision.

But what if I want to put some techno on it?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


My father and I went to the local Republican precinct caucuses tonight and I  noticed that the local high school had put up signs directing the two parties to their assigned rooms. Both signs spelled caucus as “causus” much to my amusement and despair. Boy, public education is really working out well, is it not?

In a somewhat more serious vein, it was a fairly mellow caucus with only a little bit of angry debate on resolutions. Normally there is much more than what occurred. Rick Santorum was the big winner in our part of Houston County and it was not even close. This was no surprise and went the way I expected.

I will admit I was one of two “Other” votes, for I wrote in Sweet Meteor of Death aka (SMOD) to register my extreme lack of motivation/approval/endorsement of the remaining candidates. It really looks like the GOP is determined to assist in the Obama re-election efforts in every way possible and I am very weary of it.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Scandal Silver Lining?

Check out The New York Times article via Instapundit for the details.

Quotes that indicate something good may have come out of this fiasco:

The events of the past couple of years, though disheartening to chronic fatigue syndrome patients, may have a silver lining: Research into the disease, much of it privately financed, is ratcheting up.


“The disease had languished in the background at N.I.H. and C.D.C., and other scientists had not been paying much attention to it,” said John Coffin, a professor of molecular biology at Tufts University. “This has brought it back into attention.”

Dr. Coffin, who at first supported the mouse retrovirus theory but later disputed it, noted that the illness “does seem to have characteristics that would suggest infectious origins” and that other retroviruses could be involved.

It has been a bleak thing waiting for medical science to come up with anything to deal with the illness and I stopped holding my breath for even a treatment a long time ago. It is one of many things that caused me to lose what little faith I had left in government organizations to solve problems, but only one. My hopes are that the private sector’s ability to innovate will eventually pay off though I doubt it will be in my lifetime. So little is truly understood about the immune system that the science involved can only be considered to be in its infancy.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Bleach Ep. 14: Back to Back, A Fight to the Death

The duel between Ichigo Kurosaki and Uryu Ishida is finally resolved in an episode dominated by combat. However, more questions are raised than answered as events careen from serious to silly at a frenetic pace. While it may be a conclusion to a small arc, the episode feels like a setup to something bigger.

 Bleach1 Main TitleBleach 14 Title

Bleach is something of a high wire act, with rapid mood swings the norm and events usually threatening to go out of control. Yes, I do believe the word “manic” applies to the series and this episode in particular. The last Quincy, Uryu brings out the worst in substitute Soul Reaper Ichigo and vice versa with an entertaining mess being the result.

Going Intellectually Bankrupt

One of the more interesting chapters in the Intellectual Property (IP) wars was the takedown attempt of the Pirate Bay website. While Sweden sent the creators of the site to prison, it did not really end the site. Conspiracy theories abounded about the Unites States government being involved and now it has proven to be true. It is interesting material for those fascinated by IP laws getting out of hand, but there was a talkback post by an anonymous person that lays out the real reason this is going on. Read the whole post, but this is the best paragraph:

The drive is to twist the world into accepting intellectual property as if it were something tangible. The US pushes this hard because it is the only thing they have left. The idea is not to own the methods of production, but to own the instructions for the methods of production, and make others pay for using the instructions.

In a nutshell, that is exactly the situation and why Hollywood has disproportionate say in Washington, D.C. When NAFTA was passed back in the 1990’s, it was the beginning of the end for American manufacturing and, in my opinion, nation security/stability. What we are seeing today is the final result of believing in getting money for nothing.

And that is not going to end well.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Shades of Orwell

The FBI has a new flyer out suggesting people watch other Web users at internet cafes. If this isn’t playing Big Brother, I do not know what is. The vague definitions of what you should watch for cover a wide range of legitimate behaviors. For some reason I no longer mock people complaining about a growing police state.


Found at DSL Reports forums.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Over the past couple of years, my book reading has dropped like an ACME balloon launched by Wile E. Coyote over the precipice of a cliff. Since late December, I have taken steps to rectify the situation. Step one actually predates that and was the result of my realizing just how many books I had started without finishing them. So no more reading multiple books at once!

Step two was lining up the started ones and knocking them off, except I ended up inserting  Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom at the top of the order. So much for that part of the plan. It has turned out to be a compelling read that is also dryly technical, oddly enough. If I did not have so very many books to read I would get the rest of his writings.

Next up will be finishing The Confessions of Saint Augustine. It will be more of a chore, since  I find him to be a rather dull writer. While autobiographies are narcissistic by definition, there is a tendency to be pedantic in this book. But I will persevere.

After that I will be inserting a gift from my paternal aunt and uncle, Founders by Ray Raphael. Little did they know it, but accounts by and of forgotten players and everyday people involved in the Revolutionary War are my favorite parts of history from the period. I am looking forward to it a great deal and it will spur me to finish The Confessions.

Following it I will finish The Histories by Herodotus, which I started years ago. Yes, it is the book that gave the name to accounts of the past and I find Herodotus to be an entertaining author.

On the spiritual side of reading, I am keeping up with at least two pages of scripture a day along with the King James version of The Apocrypha. So far I have not found much of value in the latter, but I have only begun Esdras II. I finished The Old Testament straight read through in January after many years of nibbling at it. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves these days and I think many a Christian would benefit from reading every book contained in it – as would anyone trying to understand Western law.

The more I look at my bookshelves the more I believe a Kindle would not be a good thing for me to get. Maybe when I finish off every book I own, but they will have to come up with a way to extend my lifespan for that to work out!