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Horrid, unsettling dreams last night. I was a student at some school somewhere. I stabbed myself in the chest with a pen and then, despite horrible choking pain, proceeded to stab at least ten others all the way to their hearts.

Unsurprisingly, I was delighted to be awakened by the crashing of thunder outside and some nice heavy rain. Lightning terrifies [livejournal.com profile] datalopez but I love thunderstorms. I understand Atlanta has been pounded by them for the past couple of days; perhaps some of that is now headed this way. It'd be nice since, y'know, we live in the middle of a freakin' desert.

Unusually, my mood has not been lifted by the rain. I think I will put on a lot of somber music today and attempt catharsis in that manner. First up: Chroma Key's debut album Dead Air for Radios, still one of the best somber albums ever.


[[The Oracle would like to know what you dreamed last night.]]
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Driving through my apartment complex today on our way out to lunch, I saw one of these parked outside one of the nearby apartments.


That's right: an actual Vector M12. Only 18 of these cars were made, and here was one sitting not a hundred yards from where I live.

Unfortunately, it was gone by the time we came back from lunch, otherwise I'd have gotten pictures. Beautiful machine, though. I wonder who it belongs to.


[[The Oracle would like to know the most interesting thing you've seen lately.]]
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This one popped into my head randomly yesterday after dealing with an incompetent coworker. "I'm convinced that some people are randomly grown in vats and injected with weapons-grade stupid."

Don't know where the hell it came from but I was paralyzed laughing at my brain's random neuron firings. WTF, brain?


[[The Oracle would like to know if you prefer stripes, solids, or patterns.]]
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From [livejournal.com profile] pope_guilty comes word that the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue is "close to shutting down unless emergency financial help arrives soon".

Troy Newman, the group's president, is of course blaming the economy, and not the fact that his group has finally so sickened the general public that even the most rabid right-wingers can bear to support them anymore.

Wah, wah, wahhhhh. Call the wahhhhmbulance.

Ahhhhh, what a NICE way to start off the morning. That puts a smile on my face.


[[The Oracle would like to know what drugs you take -- recreational or medicinal.]]
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Good lord, I had no idea this was even as popular a trend as it (apparently) is. There are hundreds of these pics.

Stop Making That Duckface!

Safe for work, NOT safe for your computer screen. The commentary on these ridiculous pics will have you doing spit-takes within seconds, so careful with your beverages.


[[The Oracle would like to know your favorite game show.]]
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A few months ago contemporary instrumental musician Yanni released a new album titled Voices. For the first time, he's taking a new direction, as this album features reimaginings of previously-released songs, re-orchestrated and with vocals added. The album features several unknown singers and one of them, Nathan Pacheco, is absolutely amazing. The tune "Omaggio" (a reworking of the title track from the Tribute album) features him in full, astounding, breathtaking voice. Below is a Youtube video of the orchestra, Yanni, and Nathan live in Acapulco. Turn the volume up for this one, won't you?

The lyrics, in case you want to follow along (I do like to follow along with songs, even if I don't speak the language), are underneath the cut tag.

Lyrics to Omaggio (Tribute) )

Happy Friday, all.

[[The Oracle would like to know your most recent accomplishment.]]
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Q. What's more annoying than calling up Georgia / Hall County's Traffic Violations department in late August and being told your speeding citation "isn't in the system yet" (for a ticket received on July 29th, no less) and to call back in early September?

A. Losing the English-language copy of the ticket and having to root through the trash basket in your computer room for the Spanish-language copy of the ticket that you tore up and threw out weeks ago, since you didn't need it, but now DO need so you can get the citation number from it and call the Violations department again to try and pay for the fucking thing.

Piecing together fragments of a flimsy carbon-copied citation paper? NOT FUN.

[[edit: what sucks still more? Finding out that the bloody thing is $175. That's right, $175 for not even 20 over the limit. Fuck you, Hall County.]]


[[The Oracle would like to know whether you'd rather be rich or famous.]]
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The Duggar family of Arkansas, a family that has already produced 18 kids, is now preparing to have their 19th.

I have one thing to say to these people: A VAGINA IS NOT A CLOWN CAR. This world is overpopulated enough as it is. KNOCK IT OFF and stop adding to the crowding.

I cannot believe that this family has the resources and the ability to care for 18 separate kids and give them all the same amount of loving care and attention that is needed to raise a child properly. I also can't believe that they're doing this all on their own without government assistance or reliance on handouts from others. Their website, of course, is silent on the matter.

What is the matter with these people?

I already know this will be an unpopular opinion amongst my child-having friends. Sorry, but my view on this stands. There is no call to have 19 kids in this day and age.


[[The Oracle would like to know if you have a favorite orchestral instrument.]]
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Pursuant to my last entry about atheism and why I strive to be a decent guy even though I don't believe in a god, here's a link to a well-written post on Atheist Revolution, called Then What Do You Believe?. It brings up some excellent points, including some of my own core beliefs, but because I'm feeling philosophical, I'm going to write today about what I, myself, personally believe.

I believe that no gods or Supreme Beings exist. Define a Supreme Being. Define a "god". Can you reconcile the three attributes "omnipotent", "omnipresent" and "omnibenevolent" with each other? Can you show any evidence for the existence of these beings, anything concrete beyond the tenets of blind faith? These are the primary reasons why I do not believe in any supreme being.

I believe that it is not just a choice, but a moral imperative of every human to explore, question, and expand their worldview. By the same token, I do not refuse to entertain discussion about religion or religious concepts. I will happily listen to arguments, viewpoints and opinions that differ from my own. Religion makes many good points, and those few who actually espouse the good principles of their religion are, at their core, Good People even without their religion. This is my firm belief. I can learn from them just like I would learn from any atheist. Closed minds gather nothing but dust.

I believe that people should be good to others, until they give you reason to do otherwise. I went over this in the last post, but it bears repeating. It is Good and Right to be cool to others. I believe this with all my heart.

I believe that truth is always preferable to fiction. Although I'm often tempted to play ostrich when something unpleasant happens in my life, I will always confront it sooner or later. Because truth, pure truth, is the last, greatest bastion of human thought. I would prefer to see reality as it is, even if it interferes with my own worldview, even if it shakes me to the core, even if it rips me apart. Reasoned, clear thought, science and demonstrable evidence will lead -- MUST lead -- to truth, unvarnished truth, and it's that truth that I prefer to any fiction which might be more attractive.

I believe that there is no afterlife. For similar reasons that I believe there is no god, I believe there is no afterlife. Because this is the case, I also think it's a moral imperative for people to make the most of what little time they do have here on earth. Make the world a better place with your actions, your presence, and the memories and things you leave behind.

I believe that there are many things in this universe that we do not understand. Albert Einstein is the source of one of my favorite quotes: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." By this same token, I believe that there are many strange and mysterious things out there in this universe that we don't yet understand. I say this not as a fallback position for when science fails to explain something strange, but because I freely admit that humans are tiny creatures and our knowledge is limited. Are there other races out there, beyond the stars, with greater knowledge of the cosmos? It's possible. Do I hope to meet them one day? You bet. And going back to what I said about exploring and questioning -- just because we currently don't understand something doesn't mean that we might not be able to understand it one day. I do not think that anything is "unknowable" or "unutterable", merely misunderstood due to insufficient knowledge and understanding.

I believe that people are entitled to their own beliefs and that my own is not the One True Way. I, personally, believe I am correct in my belief (of course I do). But I also believe other people are entitled to whatever beliefs they choose. I don't agree with those beliefs, and I may not understand why you believe that, but whatever gets you through the night. I'm not going to call you a Godded right-wing Jesus freak because you do believe in a God. You're entitled. I won't try to convert you, or change your mind, unless you want to discuss it freely and openly.

What about you? What do you believe?


[[The Oracle would like to know if you have a magic or lucky number.]]
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[livejournal.com profile] traceroo brought up some things recently in her own journal that prompted a few thoughts from me as well.

Isn't it better to be a decent person just because you think it's a good idea, than it is to be good because your religion tells you to do so?

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm an atheist, and have been for many years. I am not constructed in such a manner as to be able to accept the existence of a God without some kind of real, concrete proof. I am simply not built to take anything purely on faith. If there isn't testable, solid evidence of its existence, then I have little use for it and it's just philosophy or speculation. Now philosophy and speculation have their place, all right, and provide many interesting discussions, but I don't see a philosophical concept as being something I should build my life around -- especially not something I should be looking to as one of the pillars to hold up the rest of my life.

Because I don't believe in a God, I also don't believe in the things that go along with that belief: that God requires our worship, that he becomes petulant with you if you do not do so, that if you do not specifically come to him and ask to worship him you'll wind up in hell for eternity, forever roasting for your sins. This, even if you've been a good person all your life, being kind to your fellow man and making the world a better place. Not only does this not make sense to me, it seems cruel and spiteful. You want me to worship a God who would do something like that?

So I don't live my life because I think the Bible tells me to do something, or because I fear hell. Instead, I'm a decent person because I think that's what I should be, because my conscience tells me I should, because intrinsically at my core I believe that it's the right thing to do. I believe that I should tell the truth always, that I should treat everyone with equal respect and kindness, that a person's race or sex or age or religion is completely irrelevant to their quality as a person and fellow human being.

Do I have my flaws? Hell, yes. I have an explosive temper. I am too quick to condemn people for doing stupid things, and too quick to sink to the level of those who're doing things I find personally repugnant. But I still feel that you should treat other people with respect and kindness until they do something to earn your disrespect. And again, this is something I believe personally, not something I've been taught by religion. And I think that in the final balance I'll come out ahead, as a pretty decent sort. If there is an afterlife, then I would hope that the balance of my life as a decent person would be enough to earn me a place there. If there isn't, as I expect, then I'll at least have the satisfaction of knowing I left a record of being cool to others.

Understand: I don't hate those who're religious. I DO hate those who kill and commit atrocities in the name of religion (any religion), but that's a topic for another entry entirely. But as far as I'm concerned, you can worship whatever deity or concept you choose, as long as you don't hurt anyone and you leave me alone to make my own choices. If your belief gives you strength, then more power to you. I just don't share that belief, so I make my way in the world without divine guidance.


[[The Oracle would like to know if you're a dog person or a cat person (or perhaps both).]]

Passing on

Aug. 21st, 2009 08:53 am
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My uncle Jim died this morning at about 1 AM, surrounded by his loving family.

Thank you to all who sent good wishes via email, phone or leaving comments here.

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My mother called me this morning to say that my uncle Jim is dying.

This is not, unfortunately, a real surprise. He was stricken with Alzheimer's disease a few years ago and has been going downhill rather swiftly. About a month ago he was moved into a nursing home so they could give him the full-time care he needed (his wife Mary could no longer see to his needs anymore). Since then the decline has been much steeper and today my mother told me that he's now lost the ability to swallow and hasn't eaten in a week. The end has to be very near.

I'm torn about this. On the one hand, it's a relief to hear, because Uncle Jim was a vital, active person and would hate to be trapped in the prison his body's become. Death would have to be a release for him. On the other hand, he's my uncle whom I love very much, and the death of someone you love is never an easy thing.

This must be even more difficult for my dad, since Jim is his last living brother (their younger brother Melvin died many years ago). I know he loves Jim with all his heart too, but I also know how much it has been hurting him to see the brother he knows slipping away from him. I've talked to him about this and I know he thinks this is a relief as well, but it's still going to hurt. And comforting someone over the phone is just not the same as being there in person to give them a hug.

So if you can spare a few thoughts for my mom and dad, and Jim and his wife Mary, then send them along. Good thoughts are never unwelcome.

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Also, today's xkcd is an absolute riot.

[[edit: for those who (horrors!) have never played Oregon Trail, you can play online using an Apple IIGS emulator in your browser, here]].


[[The Oracle would like to know your favorite classic video game.]]
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Much to my dismay, Les Paul died yesterday at the age of 94.

Les was one of the greatest guitarists ever. This is not an opinion. This is fact. The world is poorer for his passing.

That link has some great quotes from Les, including this one: "The secret is not how many notes you play, it's to play the RIGHT note. The RIGHT note is what's important". Today's shredders really ought to remember that. Les had blinding speed, too, before age overtook him, but even then it was his tone and attack that set him apart.

And his influence on others goes without saying. No recording engineer today works without his techniques and technologies. No electric guitarist playing today can say they weren't influenced by Les Paul. This too is not an opinion. This is fact.

All hail the mighty Les Paul! I salute you, sir.


[[The Oracle would like to know your favorite actress.]]
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Back in Texas after a very packed couple of weeks in Georgia. Had a great time with family and friends but I do kind of hate rushing about pretty much every day to ensure I get to see everyone.

I guess that's the price you pay for being Attractive and Popular. Heh.

Now scrambling to catch up with all the workstuff that piled up during the three days I was actually off work (Friday - Tuesday). Boy, do I love it when problems that should have been fixed before I left are STILL going strong when I get back.


[[The Oracle would like to know what medications you take regularly.]]
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Went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night with [livejournal.com profile] datalopez and my mother. Good film with some very effective scenes, but (as with the previous five films) not as good as the books. There are some book-to-movie adaptations that I prefer the movie over the books, but the HP series hasn't been one of those. They just seem rushed and horribly compressed, a result of trying to cram a 700+ page book into a two-hour movie. They suffer for it. At least the final book will be split over two films.

The trailers beforehand were also a curiously mixed bunch. A clearly-aimed-at-kids film called Shorts from Robert Rodriguez that looks like garbage. A reimagined Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. that looks -- ehh. I like some reimaginings but I don't think Holmes should be an action hero and don't like this idea.

The next three, though, were definitely right up my alley. The first was a big ol' disaster film from the modern-day czar of disaster films, Roland Emmerich. It looks like this latest one, 2012, is going to be full of explodey CGI end-of-the-world doomy fun. I can tell it'll be a fun popcorn film.

The second, the latest from Tim Burton, is a curious and twisted-looking piece called simply 9. Burton's dark and demented design is very much in evidence and the story looks like more post-apocalyptic fun. This looks like it has the potential to be very interesting and the animation seemed top-notch.

The third is a remake of one of my favorite books, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I wasn't keen on the idea of this one when I first heard about it but it looks like Spike Jonze has done a fine job reimagining this classic, sticking very close to the look and feel of the original but expanding it to movie length. We shall see how it is received...

Anyway, a good night out, with one good movie seen and the promise of at least three more interesting ones to come soon. At least, it was good until I got a speeding ticket on the way home. Ah well. Play with fire, get burnt...


[[The Oracle would like to know what your first pet was.]]
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[livejournal.com profile] slipdragon sends me word that the "Flynn Lives" website has the full Tron Legacy trailer in high definition. Parts of this appeared as a trailer at Comicon last year, but in abbreviated format and it was only available in a leaked ShakyCam version up till now.


(that link also provides multiple copies of the trailer in various formats, including high-def).


Also delighted to see they got rid of the ridiculous "TR2N" title.

Oh, and [livejournal.com profile] datalopez and I made it to Georgia with only a few issues on the way. I'll be catching up with my local GA peeps soon.


[[The Oracle would like to know what kind of car you would drive if money were no object.]]
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I spent most of the weekend dealing with severe lower back pain. No, I don't know how I triggered it THIS time. If I knew, I'd be able to prevent it from happening again. It is improving today but I still have to say back spasms are something I would really rather do without, thankyouverymuch.

I've definitely decided I like Facebook much better than Myspace; its layout and tools seem worlds better. The one problem with it, at least for me, seems to be that all of the people I'd like to reconnect with have annoyingly common names. Kind of hard to decide between seventy people with the same name, especially when you have no idea where they might be living now, the profile picture they've posted is tiny and sometimes not even a picture of them, AND many people choose to hide all details of their profile from everyone except those they have added as "friends". Where's the logic in that?

Sean Bean's been tapped to play Eddard Stark in the upcoming HBO series of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. THAT is some kickass casting.

Finally got a chance to watch my new Blu-Ray of Kingdom of Heaven this weekend ([livejournal.com profile] datalopez doesn't care for the movie, but she's out of town this weekend so I can watch it if I want). I am extremely annoyed that they removed the roadshow presentation that appeared on the 4-disc DVD version and also didn't see fit to include any of the magnificent extras on that same set. You get the director's cut version of the movie. That's it. Good grief, what is Blu-Ray FOR except showing off your system? At least the picture and sound are magnificent.

I'm hoping I haven't killed one of [livejournal.com profile] datalopez's plants. A few of its leaves have withered (I've been watering it only every other day while she's gone and I found out when she called Sunday that it should be watered EVERY day). I hope it will recover. Phil the plant-killer strikes again....*sigh*

My friend Helly sent me season 10 of "Top Gear" last week and I spent most of Friday night and Saturday morning watching it all. Good gods, how the hell did I not know about this show until now? It's fantastic. If you love cars, and you love British humor, this show will be like crack for you. It kicks enormous amounts of ass.

I also spent a fair amount of time this weekend playing Tomb Raider: Underworld, which I'd found new at Gamestop for twenty bucks. It's an interesting game but has some serious camera issues and I'm having trouble adjusting to the control scheme as I've always been a PC player for first-person or third-person shooters. This is the first Tomb Raider I've played. It looks freaking gorgeous, though, and the gameplay is good.

Going to see Billy McLaughlin this Wednesday. Looking forward to that as I haven't seen Billy in years, since before he was struck with focal dystonia.

Also looking forward to our upcoming return to Georgia for a couple weeks. [livejournal.com profile] datalopez and I will be heading back to visit my parents and my Georgia friends from July 23rd - August 8th or so. If you want to see us, let me know!


[[The Oracle would like to know where your ideal vacation would be.]]
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Some of you know that I love the Finnish band Poets of the Fall. I have a couple music videos to pass along today from them.

The first is a newly remastered HD version of their award-winning video for "Carnival of Rust". This is one of my favorite songs by them and the video is just breathtaking. If your monitor's got the capability and your processor has the horsepower, click the little "HD" button to see it in high-def.

The second is a video version of their recent "live studio" recording of Chris Cornel's "You Know My Name" (originally from the Casino Royale soundtrack). Another great rendition.

Poets are a truly underappreciated and underrated band and I'm always happy to get the word out. Go pick up some of their albums, you'll be delighted you did.


[[The Oracle would like to know the last book you read that knocked you for a loop.]]
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The phrase is "I couldn't care less." Not, and this is important, not, not, NOT "I could care less." If you COULD care less, it means you do actually give a damn about the subject of your conversation. STOP FUCKING SAYING IT. STOP FUCKING WRITING IT.

This has been your grammar rant for today.


[[The Oracle would like to know which Elder God you fear the most. IA! IA! CTHULHU FTAGN! ]]
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