Mah Hair!

In reference to my title on this one, if you haven’t seen Oh, Brother Where Art Thou, get thee to the movie kiosk or the Netflix stream, or whatever flavor of movie rental you prefer!

I believe it was the first Christmas Jenni and I were together. We were recently married and had not known each other for very long in the grand scheme of things. Many people were betting against our success, and it was hard to blame them. In the first year of our marriage, we bought a house, had a kid, and our net income put us comfortably in the poverty bracket. I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.

I’ve got sensitive facial skin. Gillette ought to run the census, because their demographic intel is incredible! When I got to about shaving age in my teens, I started getting Mach 5’s in the mail. They were useless to me. None of those multi-blade monstrosities have been any good on my face, but lead to endless razor burn and breakouts. I found that Grandpa’s old safety razor made for a beautifully close shave without side-effects, but I was not comfortable using it. Teenage boys are not well-known for their minute dexterity, and it took me half and hour and several cuts to get a shave with the thing. So, I went electric. In my adolescence, I had an electric shaver that served me well, even if it didn’t ever shave very close.

Then, on that first Christmas of my marriage, my new wife gave me a really nice Panasonic wet/dry electric shaver. I might add that she doesn’t particularly like me to wear facial hair. Now, that would make the little shaver 11.5 years old. It has served me well for over a decade. But, in the last few months, its performance has suffered. The battery would need to be charged more often, and the blades were showing clearer signs of their age. A couple of weeks ago, it finally deteriorated to the point of uselessness.

I was shaving one morning, and the old motor was giving its hum, albeit a few steps lower in pitch than when it was younger. When I got to the tougher whiskers on my chin, rather than being cut, they got jammed between the blades and the screen, and pulled hard. No amount of turning the switch off would make the shaver release its death grip on my facial hair. I wound up gritting my teeth and yanking the wayward device from my face. That was the final straw.

The Panasonic has gotten to the age that blades and batteries are no longer readily available, and would likely require a seal kit to install. I don’t even want to think about trying to obtain that! A new shaver would probably be a better option. It appears that this early gift from my young bride deserves a Viking funeral at long last. As Murphy’s Law would have it, a new shaver has exactly zero priority in my life right now, as we are pinching pennies in every conceivable way, with the start of the business and all. So, I took up Grandpa’s safety razor again.

I have a few blades for the antique razor, and when they run out, replacements are cheap. I didn’t realize exactly how dilapidated the Panasonic’s blades had gotten until using a real blade again. Where I was shaving every morning with the wet/dry, I can achieve similar results with three mornings a week using the safety razor. With the repetitive use, in my adult life, I’ve gotten a lot more efficient using the blade. What took thirty minutes as a goofy teen takes five now – and that’s with a whole lot more facial hair. I’m starting to think that I won’t own another electric, even when I am not feeling so thrifty again.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been a bit of a slug on grooming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still showering and using deodorant. I just haven’t bothered to shave. Over the last couple of days, I was noticing that my head was getting a little fuzzier than I like it as well. So, this morning I decided to fix it. I got out the Wahl clippers and the #1 guard and went to town. I don’t often cut my own hair since it’s difficult to see whether I got it even in the back, but I thought that it would be far more likely to get done if I only had to ask Jenni to even up the back when she gets home from work.

Once I got all trimmed up, I looked really funny (to me anyway) as the hair on my head was roughly the same length as my stubble. So, out came Grandpa’s safety razor and I took care of that as well. Now, I look more like a respectable business man than an insane bum – always a good thing. Funny enough, I have not cut myself once in this round of using the old single blade. I’ve often mused about going to a straight razor, and I think I’d like to try that one day. The problem is that you don’t just need the razor, but all the peripheral stuff as well – the strop, stone, brush, cup, soap, etc. The initial investment is significant but well pays for itself in savings on supplies. There’s simply no cheaper way to shave in the long run. Until I do make such a jump, it appears that I’ll be using the old safety razor.

Make Them More Illegallerer!!!1!

Need a chuckle? Go read this. Jen emailed me the link this morning. It’s pretty much all the same talking points of the anti-gun crowd warmed over again. The author holds to the psychotic principal that we can stop the criminals by making there actions even more illegal than ever before.

He alleges that violent gun crime is running rampant in America without citing figures (as they tend to do). In reference to our very welldocumented arguments that concealed weapons do indeed reduce violent crime, I will paraphrase his counter-argument to a sophisticated “Nuh-uh!” He says that it is an illogical stance and that we should prevent criminals from getting guns. He prattles on with his “There ought to be a law” attitude, missing the point that thousands of existing, restrictive gun laws are not doing any good, and completely writes off the natural deterrent of would-be criminals risking their life to violate others. That’s natural law right there.

It drives me nuts when these morons refuse to see that the stuff that they want to be illegal already is. There are sick people in the world that will do sick things to other people. Period. He writes about “violence enacted by guns” as though the little suckers go gallivanting about of their own free will, just looking for someone to shoot. Guns do not kill people. Gun operators kill people. Whether out of malice or negligence, it takes human interaction for a gun to become lethal. Well, almost always. All jokes aside, the gun has no will of its own. It has no hate, malice, or danger to enact on anyone or anything.

It is illegal for criminals to have guns. Criminals are people who break the law and do illegal things. More laws won’t keep them from getting guns. The criminals will simply break more laws. Even if you could somehow magically wipe the guns off the face of the planet, the sick people out there would find other ways. A tire iron will kill a victim. A rope, a stick, a bowling pin, a barbell, or even a hammer or screwdriver. There is a video at that last link, but I don’t recommend watching it. It is very gory and given the choice, I’d rather be shot dead than go through what those teens did to that man. I made it about two minutes in and thought I was going to be sick. My point is that there are weapons all around us. Most of them are less than ideal, certainly not so much as a gun, but will do the job in a pinch. The gun is not the danger in crime – the will to do harm is the danger. Take away guns, they will use knives. Take away knives, they will use something else.

He goes on to describe the Brady Campaign as ‘non-partisan’. I find myself giggling at anyone gushing over the Bradys.

He then cites the Westside School shooting as evidence of his anti-gun stance, and to argue that there should be tougher penalties. What he fails to mention is that it was in no way legal for these children to have guns. They stole guns, possessed them underage, illegally transported them, took them to a banned location, and committed murder. How much more illegal does it need to be to keep such things from happening? My solution – arm the staff. Arm the parents. When the little turds open fire, sixth grade teacher Shannon Wright returns fire, and the shooters die instead of her along with Natalie Brooks (age eleven), Paige Ann Herring (age twelve), Stephanie Johnson (age twelve), and Brittheny Varner (age eleven). Beyond what these two boys did, it is criminal that the five deceased had no defense whatsoever. It violates their God-given right to further life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, not to mention infringing their inalienable right to keep and bear arms.

Our author then cites the Binghamton NY shooting which claimed fourteen victims. Although a tragic case, it is another that suits the pro-gun argument far better. The shooter, Jiverly Voong could not legally obtain or possess guns. He had hardware that was not legal to possess in Binghamton (with upstate NY’s draconian gun laws). He transported illegally. Then, he committed murder. I wonder how many of those fourteen victims might be alive if there were a few good guys in the American Civic Association legally armed. I wonder if Voong would have bothered with his shooting if that had been a possibility.

This sentence is the real gem in the article that stands out to me:

Tragic calamities such as these beg the queWhy was an illegal immigrant able to obtain such deadly weapons so readily?

It’s actually a very good question. The answer is that when people are committed to a goal, they will find a way to achieve it. The United States is not unique in having a very healthy black market for guns. In fact, there are black market guns in countries where guns are completely banned from private possession.

The bottom line is this: Bad people do bad things. No amount of legislation is going to cure bad people. No amount of disarmament is going to fix them. At some point, the most reasonable solution is a .45-caliber slug in the brain stem. Guns are expensive. Ammunition prices grow faster than grass it seems. A good holster is worth its weight in gold, though I don’t charge that much. Training and practice take time and money. They are still far cheaper than trials for evil people, repeat offenses, and broken lives of innocent people. I pray to God that I never have to use my gun against another human being. But, I’m more willing to carry the scars from having taken another life than I am to bear the broken heart from losing my spouse or child, or to leave them without a husband and father.

The Expendables (with Massive Spoilers)

Overall impression:

In a nutshell, this movie was made to make Sylvester Stallone feel like a bad-ass action hero one last time before his 65th birthday. The previews boast of a cast full of past and present action movie actors. In reality, several of those were no more than brief cameos. The screenplay was co-written by Stallone, who also co-produced, directed, and starred in the film. Yeah, this flick was basically his way of junk-greasing his own ego. It looks like his last hurrah, and seems like he wanted to take out as many action actors as he could with him. I shall henceforth refer to the film as “The Expendable Movie”.

What Happens:

The exhaustive storyline is that a group of elite-force type mercenaries (The Expendables) are contracted to overthrow a dictator of a banana republic (El General). Said dictator is largely a puppet leader backed by a jilted CIA agent gone drug lord. Stallone and another member of The Expendables scout out the island to determine whether the job pays well enough for the work that it will take to complete. In the process, they meet the beautiful daughter of the General and are found out by the bad guys. They leave a swath of fire-storm fed destruction across the island and determine that the job is not worth the money. Once back at home, Stallone has a pang of conscience and decides that he must save the girl. Meanwhile, an unstable Dolph Lundgren who was just excused from The Expendables is contracted by the General and the former CIA dude to infiltrate and exterminate his former boss, Stallone. A fight on home turf ensues ending in the apparent death of Lundgren’s character. With his last breath, he repents to Stallone and tells him everything. Meanwhile, Jason Statham’s character discovers that his girlfriend has taken to another man in his most recent, month long, mysterious absence. Stallone announces that he is going back to the island and nobody else needs to feel obligated to do so. Predictably, the entire team assembles to aid his invasion. On their second trip to the island, they load everything up with C4 (which magically appears in armloads when they are ready to administer it), and kill bad guys with an assortment of weapons that share a triangular range between standard U.S.G.I.-, gun range mall ninja, and silly exaggeration of Future Weapons. There’s quite a bit of a fist fight between Stallone and Steve Austin. When our heroes are cornered between the ex-CIA’s men and the General’s soldiers, the General himself makes a statement (directly over them no less) to his men that he’s had a change of heart and plans on kicking out the Americans that have oppressed them (presumably CIA dude and his cronies). Former CIA dude chose this moment to assassinate the General, and all hell breaks loose. The Expendables are caught in a three-way battle between the soldiers and the American gang. This is when Stallone pulls out a rather large detonator switch (which must have been uncomfortably hidden in an orifice somewhere), and the rest of the movie is basically explosions, burning puddles of fuel, and raw body count. In the end, our heroes have lost no men (including Lundgren, who has a miraculous recovery and turns back to the proverbial Light Side of The Force), and Stallone saves the day. The singular surprise in the ‘plot’ is that he didn’t kiss the girl when he was leaving the island, but did promise that he would return. She was presumably left behind to cure the ills of her home with her pure heart and wise leadership. Upon their return, Statham finds that his replacement has hit his ex-girlfriend. So, he goes to the playground and beats him up along with the other bullies. That’s about it. After about the first ten minutes of set up, there are no surprises, but the entire screenplay kind of flows in all the most obvious directions. Well, besides Stallone not making out with a woman a third of his age – I really didn’t see that coming, given the context of his character.

Notable Characters:

Sylvester Stallone has never been an attractive man, in my opinion. But, he has really not aged well. His characteristic saggy eyes, crooked nose, and Novocain lip are even more pronounced in The Expendable Movie. In the film, Sly plays Barney Ross, leader of the mercenaries. He’s a caricature of a big action hero, with old skin stretched over it. He’s a tattooed, motorcycling, jewelry-wearing, gun blasting bad boy who can pull himself out of the water into a lifting-off airplane by its door-frame while wearing body armor. He dual-wields a pair of 1911s and has a SA revolver which he carries in a SOB holster which he’ll whip out to palm-fan a last-resort burst of lead at the bad guy. Carrying his M4 rifle, as with his 1911s, he aimlessly, carelessly, and wildly waves the muzzle around. Rarely does he ever appear to look for a sight picture or even pretend to exercise any kind of trigger control. This is of course consistent with Stallone’s typical, sociopathic, Hollyweird liberal, double standard on guns – even though he’s good enough to carry a gun, nobody else is. Although in his mid-60’s, it takes help from multiple men for Steve Austin overpower the grunting and snorting Stallone. Many of the other characters spend much of the movie talking about how big and bad he is. This was actually some of the better acting that I’ve seen from Stallone, which isn’t saying much.

Bruce Willis, playing Mr. Church meets with Stallone and Arnold Schwartzenegger playing Trench for a short scene towards the beginning of the film. Church presumably represents the CIA and wants to hire a team of mercenaries to flush the island dictator. Trench is the leader of a rival team. Church wanted to meet with the two of them to determine who would be best for the job. There was a little playful banter between Stallone and The Governator, and Willis got in a few pointed threatening statements, but that was about it for these two big names in the film. I imagine that Stallone dragged on the pants leg of each of these men for weeks until they relented and agreed to do the uncredited but much flaunted cameo.

Getting back to shockingly less than absolutely terrible acting, Jason Statham really opened up his acting abilities in this film and made three facial expressions instead of his standard one! In different scenes, he managed to look pissed off (as we’ve come to expect) and hurt, and happy! Statham played Lee Christmas, a knife-flinging brawler who challenged his knife throwing against Stallone’s single-action shooting multiple times during the movie.

Jet Li played Ying Yang (I know, I know – who the hell named these characters anyway). Ying Yang is predictably the martial arts expert in The Expendables who uses caricatured Kung-Fu motions for every action (including the requisite swishing sound effects) throughout the film. He is obsessive about his diminutive stature and uses it as an argument that he should be paid more than the other mercenaries. Although his martial arts are impressive, he often finds himself helpless against the brute force of the larger characters. Although surrounded by men taller than himself, he was the giant if you count acting abilities. I’m saddened that Li even agreed to do this insulting role. He is so much more talented an actor than that.

Dolph Lundgren plays Gunner Jensen, who gets fired from The Expendables for acting recklessly and outside of the group’s code of ethics. Upon dismissal, he ominously tells Stallone that he won’t cause any trouble because he’s “a nice guy”. Gunner Jensen has a particular beef with the diminutive Ying Yang. Gunner is probably the character with the least surprises, including his betrayal and death, and his resurrection and repentance in the end.

Eric Roberts plays James Monroe, a two-dimensional former CIA agent gone cocaine drug lord. He operates the island using a team of American thugs who influence the military force on the island to keep the people in submission.

Steve Austin plays Monroe’s hired muscle, named Paine (I know – again with the silly names). He does a lot of posturing and head beating in the movie until he falls into a puddle of burning jet fuel in his final fight.

David Zayas plays General Garza, who is the only character in the film with an actual internal conflict. After years of oppressing his people, first on his own and then under the thumb of Monroe and the other Americans, he decides that his pure-hearted daughter was right after all. He comes around to an upright moral position just before his demise, for a Darth Vader-esque death.

Giselle itiƩ plays the beautiful, kind daughter of the general. In her one-track mind, she believes in good triumphing over evil even in the worst of odds. She refuses to flee the island, thinking that she can make a difference with her presence.

Mickey Rourke plays Tool, the lovable, wise womanizing tattoo artist that gives council to The Expendables.

And, I’ve saved the best character for last: Terry Crews plays Hale Caesar, who is the support character for the most important character, his AA-12 shotgun, which nobody has heard of despite being a 28-year-old design. In The Expendable Movie, the AA-12 is louder and more devastating than any other weapon, including M4’s, AK47’s, RPG’s, hand grenades, and belt-fed machine guns. It shoots a mythical, 12-gauge round that stabilizes with spring-loaded tail fins, that explodes upon impact. This fully-automatic shotgun fired hundreds of explosive rounds from only two drum magazines and was light enough that Caesar was able to haul it all over the jungle and through the palace, and finally had to drop it to make his escape from the exploding palace.

Final thought:

Don’t pay full-price to see The Expendable Movie. Wait until it’s in the dollar theaters, or out on rental. Make sure you are boozed up first. This flick would be fun to watch with a group that was pretty well buzzed. Other than that, it’s kind of a waste of time and money.

Murphy Has Struck the Network

The computer has decided to not play nicely with the printer. I hate it when this happens. I need to print out some more business cards. I would really like to break away from this nasty habit and get some cards professionally printed, but I’m not settled enough on a design to commit to 1000+ cards just yet. Thus far, I’ve been printing on Avery’s smooth-edge business cards with an old HP LaserJet. The printer does a nice job, but it needs a good cleaning at the moment.

Things that I like about this printer are that it’s been incredibly simple to use, and it runs well. It was manufactured in February of 2002. It has logged 22,573 prints in its lifetime. Of those twenty-two and a half thousand pages printed, the errors are well under a hundred. The system only stores the fifty most recent errors, but it was under that number when we purchased it used, several years ago. I’d like to completely tear it down, clean it out, install new, HP-branded supplies, clean the duplexor, and upgrade the ram. Then, it would be like a new one again. We bought the printer at a garage sale for $100 after confirming that it did indeed function. The toner cartridges were each under 10% remaining, but we still got many hundreds of prints out of them before we had to order new cartridges. We went ahead with remanufactured cartridges from a third-party supplier (which I have regretted), and it has largely run well. The price was kind of ludicrous. We were planning on picking up a color laser printer, and had planned on spending a few hundred dollars for a new one. When we found the big HP for $100, we kind of had to do it.

Plug it into the network, and it works. Mostly. When we first set it up, we had to tell it which network it was on, and we had to override DHCP a couple of times to get it to IP correctly. There are reasons that most households don’t see a printer like this one. For one, you’ve got to have a decent working knowledge of networking to get full functionality out of this beast. Secondly, they are big and heavy. Lastly, you can’t usually get a working example for $100. It has been running smoothly and trouble-free for quite a while now. Well, up until now, actually.

Over the weekend, it became clear that this was going to be a busy week for me. I’ve got quite a bit of work lined up to get done, and I’ve got several deadlines to meet. I gave out the last of my business cards over the weekend, so I hopped on the computer last night to print out some new ones. That’s when the trouble started.

Open Office was very sluggish opening my business card files. In fact, it acted as if it was freezing up. So, I shut everything down, restarted and tried again. Similar results. Ran a full scan with Spybot S&D and tried again. Now, Open Office will open my files (slowly). Good enough. When I went to print, it told me that the printer was not present. I tried to print from Adobe reader instead with the same results. I also tried from Notepad.

I’m running M$ Windon’t XPee SP3 on a FrankenDell with a P4HT and somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.25-Gb Ram. I opened up Printers & Faxes to see if I could diagnose the ‘missing’ printer from there. When I asked for properties on the printer in question, I was informed that the printer was missing.

I logged into the router via Opera and checked for DHCP clients. There, I can see the printer. I pinged the printer by IP just to make sure I wasn’t missing something obvious. Four sent, four received, nice fast connection, no problems. I shut off the printer and restarted it. I deleted the printer from the computer and attempted to reinstall it. In the printer installation wizard, I specified the printer by IP address, and the computer gave me an error, saying that it couldn’t find the printer there.

At this point, I’m at a loss. If I can ping the printer, why can’t I connect to it? I’m hoping that I haven’t screwed Windon’t up to the point that I’m due for a fresh install. I don’t have time to be monkeying on this crap. This week even more so than the last few, I need to be a designer, artist, and craftsman. Not a network sysadmin chasing ghosts in the ethernet.

It just figures, doesn’t it?