Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 Presidential Election Pokemon

Found this while sifting through the interwebs and had to share.  Funny as hell.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Learning something new…

I'm not a math wiz or an economics expert by any stretch. I'm interested in current monetary issues because it affects me directly and I find economic systems intriguing. My overseas travel has made me keenly aware of currency valuations and the factors that cause them to fluctuate. Extrapolating from that starting point, I've begun digging deeper into world markets. To keep a narrow focus on your home country as the only means of monetary enrichment limits your growth. It also fails to take into account emerging markets from up and coming countries that finally got their act together. I'm not planning on playing global stock markets or invest in offshore real estate, but I'm always looking to expand my knowledge of the world. As the saying goes "chance favors the prepared".

In my research I've come across a fascinating blog - Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis. It deals with complex global issues in plain language that’s easy to follow. Since it's a personal blog there is opinion thrown into the mix, but overall I found it to be more about dollars and cents than a particular bias.

Two posts in particular were really eye opening from a local and global perspective. The first, "The Business of Walking Away" takes the current trend of consumers walking away from their mortgages and shows how businesses are doing the same. The second, "Things that 'Can't' Happen" goes into how firmly held "truths" are collapsing in the current economic climate.

Hopefully you'll find this as useful as I have.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Don't like the weather in England, wait 15 minutes.

Friday was an unexpected day off for me.  Though technically a holiday, most organizations in the States don't give the day off.  Thankfully, I'm working a government project so any excuse for a day off is taken.

My girl and I decided to brave the tourist spots for a bit of shopping and sight seeing.  After a nice breakfast we shot over to the Oxford Circus area.  Walking through the streets of London is similar to any other big city yet completely different at the same time.  For one thing, English is not the most commonly heard language.  Some degree of internationality is expected, but it feels as if the natives are far outnumbered by the foreigners here.  Couple that with the fact that most of them are tourists, not residents, and you have a very rude throng of humanity.  Having grown up in South Florida I'm used to the tourist bullshit.  No one respects where they are because it's not their home, they have a sense of entitlement since they're on holiday and tend to behave in a fashion completely opposite of what they would back home.  American's aren't the only "ugly" ones when traveling abroad.  As prepared as I was for the encounter, it still isn't pleasurable to experience.  You have to try to enjoy yourself in spite of it all really. 

Meandering through the streets we explored farther reaches of the Oxford Street area than we had previously.  No real goal in mind other than window shopping.  Some new places had opened up providing distraction for a little bit.  Purchasing things in the UK is so damn expensive with the weak dollar that you can't reasonably buy anything that's available in the States.  In the end we only picked up some chachkas for friends back home.

A nice break from the pushing, shoving and cursing under our breath was a Turkish restaurant named Grand Bazaar.  A narrow little place jam packed with atmosphere.  We ordered their banquet option giving us little tastes of a variety of dishes.  The food was very good and very filling.  While eating we saw the weather continue to change.  The day had started with a nice dose of sunshine (a rarity over here) but quickly devolved into scattered rain storms.  The wind was so strong that any weather system entering the area was gone in moments.    Making our trek back to the tube it began to hail.  I had to laugh.  Where else in the world would a sunshine day switch to hail in less than 10 hours? 

Saturated with the nasty energy from the crowds and soaked from the hail/rain we were very glad to return to the calm of our hotel room.  Venturing out into London can be fun, but sometimes the effort needed far outweighs the enjoyment.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shows that have been piquing my interest

I'm not much for television in general.  Haven't had cable in 8 years.  Most of the time it's word of mouth or an interesting premise that steers me towards certain shows.  I try to keep up with the big ones Heroes, Lost, Boston Legal, etc but it's the little gems that I really love discovering.  Something off the beaten path with good writing, strong characters and unknowns showing off their talents.

Here's a couple of shows I want to share.

Masters of Horror - There hasn't been a good horror series since Tales from the Crypt or Tales from the Darkside.  Sometimes they just try too hard, like the Body Bags series, and other times they just fall flat.  This series isn't exactly Tales from the Crypt but its heart is in the right place.  Horror film directors mixed with horror film veterans, add a dash of assorted star cameos with sometimes unique plots and that's a nice summation of the series.  Not all of them are winners.  Takashi Miike's episode "Imprint" was over the top surreal torture porn, so bad it was banned from playing in the States.  Then you get episodes like "Chocolate" featuring Henry Thomas.  Not what one would consider standard horror fare, but if enjoyed without expectations is an amazing tale.  "Cigarette Burns" is one that just blows you away.  Udo Kier in anything is worth watching but throw in one half of the Boondock Saints as the lead and you have a twisted tale of evil in an unexpected form.  I've dived into some of the second season (George Wendt is friggin' amazing) but haven't finished it.  If anything watch it for one of the best intros around.

*also noteworthy and in the same genre* Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital

Moonlight - A vampire private detective in LA.  Ok, the premise sounds like crap.  It's also produced by the same guy that made Angel... another vampire series.  Even though it sounds like an emo WB teenie wanker series, its surprisingly good.  It takes a couple of episodes to find its legs, but once it does the characters really draw you in.  The main character Mick St. John is a relative unknown actor with a great onscreen presence.  The development isn't forced or two dimensional.  The mixing of flashbacks is used tastefully and especially well done when introducing his ex-wife.  The vampire best friend is also a great character that strangely reminds me of Cameron from Ferris Beuller's Day Off.  Not a super heavy drama like Forever Knight although the parallels are noticeable, but an enjoyable show that will hopefully blossom further if the writer's strike doesn't kill it.

*also noteworthy and in the same genre* Kindred: The Embraced

New Amsterdam - Immortals seem to be popular these days.  It's been a while since Highlander was on the tube so I guess it was only a matter of time.  There are only two episodes out but the writing has pulled me in.  There's a pseudo Mulder from X-Files quality about the main character.. maybe its the way he dresses or the slight monotone his voice sometimes takes.  Either way the story is unfolding nicely making me eager for more.  There are a couple of pitfalls waiting for them plot-wise if they're not careful like being in danger of wrapping itself up in one season.  I have my fingers crossed that they keep the momentum of the strong beginning going.

*also noteworthy and in the same genre* Forever Knight - It may be about vampires but the searching for humanity and ennui of centuries of existence permeate this one as well.

Incomplete Gems - These are series that were ahead of their time, riveting in plot, amazing in their scope but cut short before the full story could be told.

  • Twin Peaks - If you watch the first season and nothing else, it's perfect.  Self contained, still retaining its mystery and not as surreal as the second season.  If there had been a third season, the craziness from the end of the second season would have been resolved.  Kyle MacLachlan is at his finest in this one.
  • Carnivale - HBO has a habit of putting out series like no one else. Who knew a dustbowl era show about a traveling circus could be so dark, magical and epic in scale?  Clancy Brown is frightening in both presence and zealotry.  Nick Stahl shows some real depth and Clea Duvall does too.  A strange series filled with so much promise, but was also cut short after its second season.  One more would have wrapped it all up.
  • Kindred: The Embraced - Loosely based on the role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade this marked a return to the small screen by C. Thomas Howell.  It had some great potential and the lead male vampire was a sex symbol waiting to happen.  Alas the series was cut short.  Not by budgetary concerns or network suits but by the tragic death of  its lead character in a motorcycle accident in Europe.

Complete Cheese - I love them for being the Velveeta filled guilty pleasures that they are.  Sometimes these throw away series have better writing than expected, but usually are churned out by C class writer hacks.  They are great to watch late at night in the syndication hell they've been relegated to.

  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. - Bruce Campbell... need I say more?
  • The Lost World - The CGI is bad and a lot of the time the stories go WAY beyond suspension of disbelief.  They try to be legitimate by invoking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's name in the credits, but its a sub-Hercules/Xena quality show.  The two female leads aren't bad to look at and the red headed scientist is a hoot.  Actually, now that I think about it, there are some striking similarities between Gilligan's Island and this show.  Two hot females, a kooky scientist making inventions out of whatever happens to be available (coconuts anyone?), all stuck in a place with little hope of escaping.  Add to that random guest star appearances by people that have no realistic way of being in the same situation and viola... Gilligan with badly rendered dinosaurs.

I know there are several other diamonds in the rough like Freaks & Geeks and Firefly, but I haven't seen them so can't provide any commentary.  If there are any that you've found and I've failed to mention please throw them my way.  I'll take great writing with intriguing characters over quick jerky takes and big budget effects any day.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It ended not with a bang but a whimper

Filibuster Cartoons

- from Filibuster Cartoons

Fidel Castro's resignation is a bittersweet victory for me.  Instead of dying a revolutionary's death in a hail of bullets (as many would have preferred) he has relinquished his power as an old man ravaged by time.  An icon in numerous ways he is both praised and reviled.  Enduring longer than anyone could have imagined, becoming the epitome of "bicho malo nunca muere"

Cubans scattered across the globe fleeing his tyranny forced into a gypsy lives.  Some settled in these foreign lands resigning themselves to their fate.  Others banded together plotting, scheming, waiting, dreaming of their return.  Those that couldn't make the escape were shackled by yet another oppressive dictatorship.

Because of the embargo the US has against Cuba I can never go there.  My familial homeland denied to me because of one man.  Sadly the land my grandmother knew no longer exists, destroyed through isolation and subjugation.  Even when the travel is allowed what is there left to see?  Are these folks raised in a Communist regime really my people?

If you knew me you wouldn't even think I was Hispanic let alone Cuban.  No accent in my English.  No dark Latin skin tone.  Even when I speak Spanish it's not with the comfort of someone who grew up surrounded by it.  I feel cheated of my heritage.   The roots of my parents withered away by separation and time.  Distant relatives merely voices on a phone.  A cultural identity hidden from me by politics.  The blood in my veins is all that I have to tie myself to Cuba.  Hopefully that's enough.  When my feet finally touch its soil maybe it will stir, reaching out for facets of me that have never been satisfied.

His stepping down is the first step on this journey and now that its started there's no turning back.  What's painful is that it has taken this long to get here.

Transatlantic Ping Pong

I'm flying out to London this Sunday.... yet again.  No matter how many times you do it, there's no getting used to 7+ hours in coach.  They call it cattle class for a reason.  It's even worse when you come back.  Due to the lovely head winds your flight becomes 9+ hours.  Fantastic!!!  Where can I sign up for that?

Other than the frequent flyer miles there's no allure in the travel for me.  Domestically my flights are much better, but going across the pond on a US based airline tends to suck and not in a good way.  The one time I was able to use a European airline was British Airways out of Dulles airport.  Just asking if there were any emergency exit rows left at the ticket counter turned into a complimentary seating class upgrade.  To this day it is still the most comfortable flight I've ever had.  More so than even 1st class on domestic flights with US airlines.

When you are a road warrior for work its the little things that make life nicer.  Being able to tap into all those travel programs helps.  I've heard horrid tales of companies that didn't allow their employees to use the programs and garnished all the status/miles/nights on their own corporate accounts.  It's bad enough being in the air just as much as the pilots, but to have the perks denied is just plain cruel.

Honestly I'm exhausted just thinking about the travel I will soon embark upon.  Ticket counters, security, customs...  They should turn it into a Disney ride for Halloween.  Nonstop fun for the whole family.

Its not always that bad.  My bitterness quotient is set to high coupled with serious burnout.  Having worked like this for about 2 years solid I'm the mood for a little change.  A nice Easter vacation should smooth me out for a bit.  Hopefully I'll be less crispy around the edges when I return.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Here I go again on my own

Keeping up a blog has never been my forte.  I was doing alright on MySpace but then that site began to suck so I jumped ship to Facebook.  The former has the better blogging capabilities, but the later was the more interesting social network.  Instead of trying to keep both updated I'm going with a third option, external blog site.  I finally finished a journal (wrote in it cover to cover) so if I can surmount that hurdle I should be able to stick with this.

In all honesty, writing is something I love yet recently I've left no time to engage in it.  Multiple attempts at NaNoWriMo ended in failure simply because I didn't allot the necessary time.  Time has always been a tricky thing for me, but especially these last two years.  I'm looking to change that in the very near future.  Until then I will try to squeeze in the odd post or two.

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