31 July 2010

The most frightening thing I have seen in my life

Now, I know I've written about some scary stuff in the past. Corrective rape. Attempted murder. A Shakespeare-inspired MMORPG.

Watch this video, though, and tell me it isn't the scariest thing you've seen in your entire life.




Yes, you heard right: a 35-cm centipede with lethal poison that catches bats out of mid-air. It also lives in the dark. I'm never, ever going to Venezuela.

30 July 2010

Oh, you wacky weather balloons

Current weather in Seattle: 56 degrees Fahrenheit and foggy. What?

Meanwhile, in Moscow: 100+ degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. What?

Meanwhile, in outer space: an asteroid about 10 times the size of the 1908 Tunguska comet might or might not (probably not, but, hey, there's a chance) hit us about 172 years from now. Hurrah!

Meanwhile, in Europe (notice how these things are getting further and further away from me?), my good friend CEJ has (according to Tumblr) apparently met the prime minister of Poland. Congrats, dude... you're awesome. And I'm not talking about the PM here, though I'm pretty sure that he or she is a lovely person.

Anyways - all y'all have a great morning. I'm off to class, then back to the apartment to study for a wee bit, then off to critical mass this evening. Should be a good day.

29 July 2010

Many congratulations

just a quick shoutout post:

Congrats to BH and AHH! You guys are awesome, and the newbies will be, too... best of luck with the renovations, and here's hoping that the next month or so passes quickly for all y'all.

peace.

This is my body [freewrite]

This is my body - this flesh I pay for with ink and sweat and long days hunched over ink and paper and computer screens, this flesh I discipline and burn into compliance through mornings and evenings of thick breath and pounding pulse, this flesh that whistles like a flag in a hurricane's band, this unmarried thing discrete and silent except for the sound of pounding keys, this is my body. Taciturn and staring, my slow tongue kissing each syllable before it flees my mouth, my eyes gauging each impact before I let the next word go, my shoulders tensed in anticipation of the response I know in my gut is coming, this is my body, straight back and twisted gut both shielding me in every conversation I've ever had, my arms crossing like swords in front of my chest, the scars and stories on my chest and my shoulders whispering to me that I should not speak, I am word and thought and dream, this flesh twisting and straight at three AM between sheet and mattress, this bead of sweat dripping quietly through the hollows of my ribs, this rustle of down and fabric tossed to one side, this is my body that I write with every word I think and do not say and do not write, this is my flesh that I write into being, eat and drink. This is my body.







[completely unedited, and I know it's not my usual. sorry for the occasional cliches. this isn't for publication or anything, I've just been studying all day and felt like throwing something at the internet while I try to click myself back into writing-the-essay mode]

28 July 2010

Pantoum of the Great Depression

Pantoum of the Great Depression

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don’t remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don’t remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

---------------------------------------------------------------


Such a good piece. Love Donald Justice's poetry. Many thanks to DQ for reminding me how much.

26 July 2010

15 men on a dead man's chest



Love that so much.

In other news... yeah. Working on the second draft of my MA essay, trying to get it to my satisfaction. Still haven't heard back from my advisor with suggestions from my first draft, a lack which is a little worrisome, but I'm pushing through, setting my own deadlines and sticking to them.

In still other news, there's this chain letter floating around Facebook. Or... not really sure what to call it. Chain note? Idea is [c&p]
Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the note - upper right hand side.) Anyone else who wants to play along, please do.**


So I'm not gonna do it on FB, but I figured I would here, just because. Ranking them chronologically from the time I came across them. Brief note follows each with my musings.

1. Bible.
Early and often through most of my childhood, and not something I'm likely to shake anytime soon. Can still recite decent-sized chunks.

2. The Prince -- Niccolo Machiavelli
Shapes a lot of how I view the world. Has since I was youngish.

3. The Republic -- Plato
Read in tandem with The Prince.

4. Meditations -- Marcus Aurelius
Read in tandem with The Prince and The Republic. Maybe the most influential single work on my worldview, if only because I spent so much time trying to make myself fit with it that I sort of got stuck in that shape.

5. Ender's Game -- Orson Scott Card
The first book I read of Card's, and my introduction to Ender Wiggin. Also, more generally, my introduction to the 'I'm a young genius and NOBODY UNDERSTANDS' genre. Now I'm a little older, I see a lot more of its flaws, but it still has a significant place in my worldview.

6. Nightfall -- Isaac Asimov
The first book I read of Asimov's, and it fit oh so neatly into my perceptions of humanity. I usually have significant issues with humanists - they're a little touchy-feely and overly optimistic about human nature for my taste - but Asimov
managed to break himself a little bit out of his usual mold here.

7. Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography -- John Toland
In case you haven't noticed by now, there are a lot of books in here about how to seize and hold power. It was something I was kind of obsessed with when I was younger. It's something I'm slightly less obsessed with nowadays.

8. Xenocide -- Orson Scott Card
I got this before I did Speaker for the Dead, and it made a much bigger impact. I know it's a little preachy in places, but that was kind of what I was into back then.

9. The Idiot -- Fyodor Dostoevsky
This marked the beginning of my very brief (when I was 12 years old) Russian literature phase. What can I say - I was all out of Nancy Drew books.

10. Notes from the Underground -- Fyodor Dostoevsky
Remember how I mentioned my very brief Russian literature phase? This was part of it. I actually forgot I'd read this book for a long time (okay, so like 7 years) until a professor mentioned that a line from one of my stories resembled it, I looked it up, and I realized that I knew the story almost by heart.

11. Stories and Prose Poems -- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Remember how I mentioned my very brief Russian literature phase? This was also part of it.

12. Traitor -- Matthew Stover
Yes, this is a Star Wars book. It's also a really good read, one that I've come back to a few times since then. Read it first when I was 14 or so.

13. City of Golden Shadow -- Tad Williams
Note a somewhat escapist bent to these last couple of novels? I know I did. Another really solid sort of science fiction novel, if perhaps a bit less
philosophical than Traitor.

14. The Blank Slate -- Stephen Pinker
Came across it my first year at university... and then my second year at university... and then my third year at university. Disagree with a good bit of what he says, but he says it pretty well.

15. Discipline and Punish -- Michel Foucault
It's just so goofy and fun! Everyone's favorite French intellectual (because, really, who likes this guy?) takes you on a thrilling romp through various apparatuses of governmental control.

25 July 2010

Not just liars...

but bad at it, too.

In case you haven't been following: BP's been caught three different times faking photographs of their oil spill cleanup.

These are the guys we're supposed to trust are doing their very, very best to clean up the gigantic freaking mess they made?

Statement from the so-called government: “I think it's genuinely on the stupidity part of the transparency scale.”

Stupidity? Not the famous combination of stupidity, arrogance, and disregard for the citizenry that has marked both corporate and governmental responses to this whole fiasco?

Eh. All y'all have a good day. I'm going to get back to work.

Random dreamlog

[recounting of a dream I've had each of the last four nights, apropos of nothing]

I walk up to myself, standing next to a set of cast-iron gates. They're thin and wholly conventional, but growing roots into the ground. It's winter. There are patches of ice in the dirt, and nothing growing anywhere - just flat dirt. There's a camp of some sort - steel buildings, it looks like - a few hundred yards beyond the gates.

"You're new," the I standing next to the gates says.

"You're observant," I say.

"Infantry tactics?" he says. "Kind of antique, isn't it?"

"There's always going to be a need for boots on the ground." I shrug.

I look down. I'm holding a pistol magazine in my left hand. I count the nine .40 caliber rounds, see the metal casings twisted and melted like candle wax. I look around for other, undamaged ammunition. I'm inside the third metal building from the left, waiting for something. There's a fishing pole hanging on the wall, and a tackle box on the shelf underneath it. I open the lid.

There are puddles of molten metal - silver, maybe - in each compartment of the tackle box. I blow on them, but they don't harden; they only push hot air back into my face. I feel my skin tighten.

Then he's standing in front of me. I click the magazine into position, thumb the safety off, and pull the trigger twice, directly into his chest at point-blank range. Nothing happens - no noise, no click, no nothing. He flickers like a candle.

I feel like I should run. Unsurprisingly, I can't. I never can.

"Special," he says. I don't think he means it in a complimentary way. Then he calls me a leech and grabs the front of my shirt.

Then I wake up.

24 July 2010

This ship ain't big enough for the two of us






"You're the one who invented jazz, right?"

"That's what they say. And you're the one who can't play unless he has the ocean under his ass, right?"

"That's what they say."

"Excuse-moi, sil vous plait."


A couple of great actors, there. Always been a fan of Tim Roth. Fun little movie, too.


Maybe a better scene, though lacking CW:

23 July 2010

[excrement] makes me angry

So here's a true story for you people - The Story Behind The Story, if you will.

Some of y'all may have noticed my Facebook status yesterday. I know at least TB, JK, NC, MB, and BL did, because y'all commented on it. Others of y'all don't have Facebook or aren't friends with me on there, because, hey, you might not know me in that giant scary thing called Real Life. And that's cool... this is an open-to-the-public blog, and intentionally so.

Anyways, here's the status I posted:

[Mike] offers a note to the station wagon driver who trailed me up 15th today: honking, flipping me off, tailgating, and yelling at me that I'm an intercourse-having piece of excrement who would be well advised to exit your intercourse-having road posthaste is only going to make me pull my bike in front of you, slow down, block you when you try to pass, and generally make your life a living hell for the duration of our time together. Unless this is your desire, I suggest that you CALM THE F DOWN and share the road. Also, you're fat.


...and, for your enjoyment and edification, here's the full story.

I was biking back from the gym mid-afternoon (about 4:30 PM), heading up 15th avenue in the U-District. It's a fairly busy street (two lanes on either side, plus a turn lane in the middle), so I was hanging out in the right lane, generally minding my own business, and actually keeping up with the cars around me (something I generally manage to do pretty well, as those who bike with me can attest). Then this fat dude in a station wagon pulls up behind me while I'm stopped at the red light at the corner of 15th and 42nd, about four blocks south of my apartment.

I'm like, okay, you're driving a station wagon, you enjoy the twinkies maybe a little too much, whatever. Then he honks at me. I look back at him - remember, I'm stopped at a red light, all of a foot and a half behind the bumper of the sedan in front of me - and I'm like, dude. what? I laugh and tip the brim of my helmet at him. He doesn't like this, apparently, since he rolls down his window, sticks his arm and head out the window, and starts yelling at me in the terms described in my status. He also starts revving his engine, which seems kind of pointless given that we're stopped at a red light.

I start laughing more, and resolve that this jackwad isn't going to get past me. The light turns green, he revs his engine some more, and I shift into my easiest gear ring and start sloooowwwly moving through the intersection. Cue more yelling and gestures from him, more laughter from me. Cue him changing lanes - cutting off a couple of other drivers, btw - and me quickly shifting gears to accelerate and get back in front of him, then slooooowwww dooooowwwn again. After two blocks (when we stop at another red light), cue him starting to get out of his station wagon, then realizing that I'm bigger and fitter than he is, plus I'm reaching for something in my bag. Cue him getting back into his station wagon.

So I turn off at the corner of 15th and 47th and he speeds away (as much as a station wagon can speed, I guess) to do whatever it is that overweight thirty-something guys in station wagons do.

Did I handle the situation well? I'd be happy to get y'all's opinions on that.

From my perspective: I probably could have avoided most of the confrontational stuff by giving in to him when he started yelling at me, and probably could have avoided escalating the situation. But I was tired, and a little stressed out, and I figured if this jerkoff was looking for some cyclist to target (as he seemed pretty obviously to be doing), it's probably better that be me than some 110-pound kid struggling up Eastlake. In the wake especially of stuff like the Fabian case that I blogged about earlier this month, I figure it's probably good for cyclists to be able to stand up for ourselves. Plus, hey, this particular ill-tempered twinkie-loving road-hogging gas-guzzling station wagon driver deserved his ten minutes of frustration, and it's not like I hurt him or anything.

Anyways. Yeah. All y'all have a great day.

22 July 2010

The Top 5

I know I put a lot of newfangled indie music up on here, but I wouldn't want for that to give y'all the wrong impression. I still got myself a lot of love for the classics.

Oh really, you say? Possibly with an owl, to which I shall not link due to the played-outness of that particular meme?

To this, I respond with a 'yeah really', similarly sans linked owl. To prove it: here's my top five most-played songs, according to my iTunes. I'll even present them in a countdown format, linked to YouTube clips, with explanations of why, exactly, I find them so awesome. Sound like fun?

Well, if not... I'd say 'tough', but you could just, you know, not read the rest of the post.

-----------------------------

Song Number 5: Lynyrd Skynyrd - Simple Man

I'd call this an underrated part of Skynyrd's ouvre, and maybe the only song of theirs that can match Free Bird for pure straightforward majesty. That guitar part at the beginning is just absolutely lovely.



----------------------------------

Song Number 4: The Felice Brothers - Don't Wake the Scarecrow

Not exactly a classic... yet, I'd say. Certainly has a vintage sort of sound to it, though, doesn't it? I find this song to be kind of gorgeous, certainly worth repeat listens - like, for example, the repeat listens I seem to have given it.



------------------------------------

Song Number 3: AC/DC - Hell's Bells

You know it, you love it. You can't get enough of it. Another song with an absolutely iconic sort of opening, another song that you absolutely can't resist singing along to - even if, like me, you can't come anywhere close to matching those high notes.



------------------------------------

Song Number 2: Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night

Jaw-dropping. Intense. Dude. Awesome. Adjectives. Adverbs. I really like this song, and I'm not the only one. I mean, I like a lot of Nirvana's music - Heart Shaped Box, Lithium, and others are among my favorite songs - but the unplugged performance, and this song in particular, make my spine go all tingly.



-------------------------------------

Song Number 1: Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

If you know me at all, did you really expect anything else? One of the greatest songs of the 20th century, absolutely an amazing piece of music, and one that I listen to over and over again and never seem to get tired of. I've listened to this song easily more than any other on my iTunes, and I don't think that's going to change any time in the near future.





So. There's my top 5. I'm not going to say that these are my five favorite songs, but they're the ones that I keep coming back to more than any others, and I'm guessing there's a reason for that.

All y'all have a great evening, I'm going to go get some work done.

20 July 2010

Tell me true






Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Dream Song 29

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry's ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;
thinking.

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

16 July 2010

into the midnight sun

There were a couple of episodes where I almost gave up on Glee. Then I realized that I could always just fast-forward through the occasionally horribly awkward emotional bits and just watch and listen to the musical bits. Did I mention yet that these folks have some awesome voices? Because, if not, I should.

The Road



Anyways -

It's the weekend

The STP starts tomorrow morning.

I'm doing it with some friends.

It's gonna be awesome.

[disclaimers: doing it in two days, not worrying at all about speed, just having a nice relaxed weekend ride. For 200+ miles. Hurrah]

Something about going on a long ride, or a long run, always tends to clear my head for a day or two and convince myself that everything's going to be okay, that I'm doing worthwhile work, that I'm not just wasting my time going through graduate school. Hopefully this ride will similarly help, for at least long enough to get me through the first draft of this blasted essay.

Question: what in the hell am I doing here?

Answer: I don't know, but hopefully I can stop asking myself long enough to muddle through the rest of this quarter.

In a situation reminiscent of every other academic experience I've had, it's not like the work is remotely difficult - I've just got to muster up the motivation to do it. I was chasing a challenge when I got here, and I still haven't found it... or, at least, I developed a wicked tolerance long enough ago that I don't remember a time before I had it. My feeling now is eerily like my third and fourth years at Stetson. I've got this sick hollowness in the pit of my stomach where I know I need something harder, but I also know that the more I chase it, the quicker I'll go through it. What was it John Berryman said? Ahh, that's right:

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.



But - I digress. This weekend will be fun. I'll spend time biking, with friends, and I'll forget about these pesky existential questions for a couple of days. The weather's supposed to be pretty nice, too.

All y'all have a good day.

15 July 2010

Inexplicable

...not quite inconceivable, but it's close.





In other news...





Now, I'm gonna fold some laundry, study a wee bit more, and then get some sleep. All y'all have a great night.

How did I forget

about this band for so long? Seriously, it's been something like two years since the last time I listened to Brad Sucks, and that's seriously remiss of me.

This band is awesome.

Brad Sucks - Bad Attraction


Brad Sucks - Look and Feel Years Younger



So good to be listening to that ish again.

In other news, I'm busily studying and researching and writing and trying to figure stuff out. Brain.

Here's a poem I've been busily revising into nothingness.

Motion like sun
at mid-day. Light

crawls across
skin, deliberate

as water. Drops
carve lines.

Swell veins.
Glisten. Tremble.

Sweat-clad legs
tauten, bridge

waist and floor.
Curve. Angle.

Skin glints, pale
as watching eyes.


...and here's some more music, just to ease you into the evening. Time to get back to work.

14 July 2010

Guess who's back?

Or, rather, what. It's the middle of summer, and, ever so slowly, the good shows are starting to filter back onto television. Not that I have anything against the mediocre schlock that dominated the tube (okay, so in my case, the Hulu) for the last couple of months, but it's good to have awesomeness once again. If you watch these shows, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, here are some pictures to inspire you.



If you aren't watching True Blood yet, and you have HBO, and you aren't averse to massive amounts of so-called Adult Content (i.e. nudity, sex, violence, drugs, etc.), and you like watching pretty people do crazy awesome things in the Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, then what the heck are you waiting for? Trot on over and get into it. Oh, btw, the guy in the picture above this text? He's a vampire. And a Sheriff. And a drug dealer. This is, I think, the show for the people who grew up watching Buffy... and, therefore, now find themselves with horrible vampire fetishes, pseudo-goth stylings, and nobody to go out with. (I kid with love. and stuff.)



For those of you who have tastes that are perhaps a wee bit more traditional, might I suggest the newly returned White Collar? It's fun. The guy in the picture has a lot of nice suits. He's an art thief. Who works for the FBI. And his girlfriend got blown up at the end of last season. One of these things is not like the other... (and, yes, he's the same guy who plays Brice Larkin on Chuck)


Anyways... all y'all have a great evening, y'hear? I'm going to study for a little bit, then go join some good folks for dinner.

13 July 2010

Forget your problems, just dance



As in one's hand a lighted match blinds you before
it comes aflame and sends out brilliant flickering
tongues to every side -- so, within the ring of the
spectators, her dance begins in hasty, heated rhythms
and spreads itself darting flames around.

And suddenly the dance is altogether flame!

With a fierce glance she sets her hair alight.
Unexpectedly she turns with daring artfulness
the swirling flounces of her dress within this
conflagaration, out of which her upheld naked arms,
clapping the castanets, appear like serpents striking.

And then, afraid her fire were diminishing,
she gathers it all up and flings it down
with an imperious haughtly gesture, and watches
as it lies there writhing on the ground, unyielding
and unwilling to concede the dance has ended.
Yet she show victory in her sweet swift smile
as she lifts up her face, while with her small firm feet
she stamps out the last of the dying embers.

09 July 2010

Oakland

In case you haven't heard, an Oakland police officer shot an unarmed man in the back and killed him. The best defense he could come up with for his actions was that he grabbed his gun by mistake, thinking he had his tazer.




From CBS News:

At least five bystanders videotaped the New Year's Day incident in what was among the most racially polarizing cases in California since four Los Angeles officers were acquitted in 1992 in the beating of Rodney King.

The case was a rare instance in which a police officer stood trial for an on-duty killing and that was captured on video from so many different angles.

The verdict followed a three-week trial in which prosecutors played videos by bystanders, and witnesses recounted hearing the frightening gunshot that killed Grant.

Mehserle, 28, testified that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station. Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein said in his closing argument that Mehserle let his emotions get the better of him and intended to shoot Grant with the handgun without justification.

One of Grant's friends, Jackie Bryson, testified that Mehserle said "(expletive) this" before firing the fatal shot.


Unsurprisingly, when the officer was convicted of 'involuntary manslaughter', a pretty minor sort of charge compared to what he could have gotten (though if anyone really expected him to get anything more serious, they were kidding themselves) folks in Oakland weren't too happy.

From MSNBC:
OAKLAND, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division will investigate a white former transit officer who was convicted in state court of killing an unarmed black man — a verdict that touched off angry protests and more than 80 arrests in Oakland.

In a move reminiscent of the Rodney King beating case in Los Angeles, the federal government said it intends to investigate Johannes Mehserle, who was found guilty Thursday in state court of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. He had been charged with murder.

Mehserle faces a range of possible sentences — from probation to 14 years in prison.


I've heard different stories (some that kind of match up with the news reports, some that really don't) from people who were/are there... number-wise, I heard (though can't confirm) that there were in the neighborhood of 500 protesters and 500 riot cops. All that I can say about it right now is that, hey, when you see injustice, anger is good. Rage is good. And if that takes, in some cases, the form of setting dumpsters on fire, I'm not going to condemn it. Might not be my response, but I'm not going to stop you.

08 July 2010

...but I'm not getting married











Yup. And if you get the allusion, you get extra-special Mike points, redeemable at many fine locations across the United States.

All y'all have a great day. I'ma go study.

07 July 2010

This.

Article from Dominic Holden, a writer for Seattle newspaper The Stranger:

'What Could Possibly Go Wrong'

[excerpts]


On a Monday between now and the middle of August, the Seattle City Council is likely to approve a contract that gives the State of Washington permission to dig a 54-foot-wide tunnel under downtown Seattle. It will be the widest deep-bore tunnel attempted anywhere, ever.

It will cost an estimated $4.2 billion to replace the dilapidated Alaskan Way Viaduct on Seattle's waterfront, making this underground highway the most expensive megaproject in state history. The state has committed up to $2.8 billion, the city has pledged $937 million, and the Port of Seattle is supposed to pay $300 million. The single most expensive element, the tunnel portion itself, will cost about $1.9 billion.

A state law passed in 2009 says Seattle property owners must bear the expense of any cost overruns on the state's project. This is unprecedented. "The cost overruns on a state highway should not be borne by the citizens of Seattle," says state senator Ed Murray, whose district includes Capitol Hill and parts of downtown. "We have never done that to any other jurisdiction in the state." The law also says, unequivocally, that the state won't pay more than $2.8 billion. We simply have no plan for who will pay cost overruns. Under the current rules, if something goes wrong, Seattle taxpayers are on the hook for cost overruns.

[...]

he city council will decide the conditions of our contract with the state within the next six weeks. By approving it, the city gives the state permission to begin construction. Seattle has basically no leverage after construction begins.

Most of the city council is arguing that we don't need to fix the state law, we don't need to see bids, we don't need to see the state's environmental impact statement, we don't need to increase the bonds for the company doing the tunneling, and we don't need any provisions that allow Seattle to back out if, say, bids show the tunnel will cost too much. They also say that the time for debate has passed.

But Seattle has never debated this issue. (When Seattle voted on a slightly different tunnel in 2007, we rejected it.) There was certainly never a public debate about the terms of this contract, and Conlin has done all he can to avoid having that debate now. Conlin has also attempted—with an assist from the Seattle Times—to paint the mayor as an irresponsible obstructionist when, in point of fact, the mayor appears to be the only person at City Hall looking out for Seattle taxpayers.

"The bottom line for the planning process," say Thom Neff (McGinn's outside expert) and Gary Brierly in an article titled "Bullshit as Applied to Tunneling Projects" in the April issue of TBM: Tunnel Business Magazine, "is to let the games begin: debate, argue, make your claims and counterclaims, and do everything possible to come up with the best possible project." The authors, who are both authorities on the runaway costs of tunnels, warn that "errors in the planning effort can lead to... inadequate financing, unreasonable debt for the local citizens and agencies, and, in rare cases, a tunnel that should never have been built."

[...]

On June 28, the mayor gave a draft of the contract ordinance to the city council that says the city won't give permission to build a deep-bore tunnel under downtown until the state legislature removes the provision that caps state spending on the project and says Seattle must pay for cost overruns. The city council disregarded the mayor's proposal as a delay tactic. Laura Lockard, spokeswoman for the city council, says the mayor's proposal was "theater."

The council is expected to remove the mayor's provision, the mayor has vowed to veto any tunneling bill that doesn't contain a provision that protects Seattle taxpayers, and the council is expected to attempt an override the mayor's veto.

[...]

Rasmussen, chair of the council's transportation committee, says he would support O'Brien's plan to let the city opt out if bids "come in way over" the state's spending cap. But he dismisses the idea of voiding a contract simply because the impact study shows the tunnel wouldn't solve transportation problems. (Think about that: The chair of city council's transportation committee is willing to spend a billion of your tax dollars—and potentially hundreds of millions more—on a transportation project that doesn't solve transportation problems.)



Doesn't that just give you the warm Keynesian economy-stimulating fuzzies? ...or, alternatively, this sick angry feeling in the pit of your stomach that stuff is happening, in your city, not far from where you live, that will directly affect you, and that the government is not only unwilling to listen to your opinion on, but actively working to go against what you've repeatedly told them you want? Good times. Unsurprising, yet still anger-inducing, good times.

FIRE THE LASER



Lol.

Also, these guys performed at the 4th of July party at Gasworks.



I didn't watch their show - not a huge fan, plus they were in the part of the park where the cops were searching everyone who was trying to get in (which I'm not down with really at all) - but, hey, it's kind of cool that they still exist and stuff.

06 July 2010

Carmageddon

Welcome to the American court system.

If you don't feel like clicking through, here's the entire article, cut & pasted:

The second of two Chicago men who purposely took turns last year striking bicyclists with their car in Brookfield pleaded guilty today to aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and leaving the scene of an accident.

Erik Fabian, 20, was sentenced to two years of intensive probation, which will include a strict curfew and community service.

Assistant State's Attorney Mike Pattarozzi said Fabian was driving in Brookfield with his friend, Armando Reza, 18, about 6:30 a.m. May 31, 2009, when they saw a bicyclist.

Reza bet Fabian he wouldn't hit the bicyclist. Fabian took the bet and struck David Silvis, 52, of Oak Park, knocking him off his bike in the 9200 block of Washington Avenue. Fabian and Reza then drove away.

Pattarozzi said Fabian told police they laughed about the incident, then switched places so Reza could find another bicyclist to bump. A few blocks away Reza struck Juan Gamboa, 34. They were arrested a short time later.

Reza pleaded guilty to aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and driving under the influence of alcohol last week and was sentenced to 10 days in jail as well as two years of intensive probation.

Cook County Judge Carol Kipperman sentenced both men.

Neither victim was seriously injured, although Silvis was taken to Loyola University Medical Center, where he was treated for scrapes and bruises.

The Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, said in a statement that it was "outraged" at the "insufficient sentences" given Fabian and Reza.

"Violent behavior has no place on our roads," the group said in the statement. "This instance should have served as an opportunity to condemn aggression toward bicyclists, which frequently ends in serious injury or death. Instead, it reinforces the complacency around traffic violence in our communities."


Awesome. As a guy who rides his bike through city streets, often late at night, this both worries me and makes me really, really angry. As a citizen, I feel like our cops and our courts are focused on entirely the wrong things... which both worries me and makes me really, really angry. I sense a theme.

04 July 2010

Takeru!!!

NEW YORK -- A Japanese eating champion who sat out this year's Coney Island Fourth of July hot dog contest apparently couldn't resist the temptation to hotdog afterward.

Competitive eater Joey "Jaws" Chestnut gobbled his way to a fourth consecutive championship Sunday. But he was suddenly upstaged by the surprise appearance of his biggest rival -- six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, who did not compete but crashed the stage after Chestnut's win and wrestled with police.

"Let him eat! Let him eat!" the crowd chanted as police handcuffed the world's No. 3 professional eater, dubbed "The Tsunami."

The 32-year-old Kobayashi did not eat this year because he refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating -- the fast food equivalent of the NFL. On his Japanese-language blog, he said he wanted to be free to compete in contests sanctioned by other groups.

But a few days ago, he told Japan's Kyodo News: "I really want to compete in the event."

Kobayashi, wearing a black T-shirt that said "Free Kobi," mingled with the crowd watching the contest, standing inside a police-barricaded pen just under the stage. When the eating ended, he slipped up the stage stairs.

Then, several security officers appeared and tried to usher him off. He grabbed a metal police barricade with both hands, holding on tightly as the officers pulled at him. Finally, they dragged him down the stairs, with Kobayashi resisting vehemently.

He was under arrest Sunday afternoon, charged with resisting arrest, trespass and obstructing governmental administration.



Happy 4th of July, everybody. Article is from ESPN.com.