Friday, October 27, 2006

And now, something uplifting...

I just love this song. The video clip is a the song just makes me want to get up and dance.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you...O-Zone and Dragostea Din Tei.

In the above video the sound is slightly off. It's only a heart beat behind the action but it's enough to be annoying to a quasi-perfectionist like me.

In the below version of the video, which is essentially the same video as the one above but with extra bits making it about a minute longer, the sound is spot on :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Rodger and the Barrett

Here's a short clip of my coworker, Rodger, firing the .50 Barrett M82A1.
I love the way the people in the background react when this thing goes off.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Big Guns are more fun

The sound is a little off (might be better at Youtube itself. Nah, it's not.) but here's three clips from yesterday and one pic.

This is Zac with a Barret M82A1 .50 rifle.

Youtube video is here.

This is Zac shooting a Browning M2 .50 caliber, semi-automatic "machine gun".

Youtube link.

Finally we have Zac shooting a Winchester lever action rifle in .30-30 caliber.

Youtube link

And just so you don't think Zac had all the fun, here's a pic (not a moofie) of me with the Barrett M82A1 :)

Welcome back to work

We just had an office meeting regarding a charity campaign. We're supposed to feel honored to be in a position that we can afford to allocate a small percentage of our paycheck each week to a charity to help out those less fortunate than us. Maybe I'm getting jaded in my old age, maybe it's the Republican side of me coming out, or the Libertarian side which knows that many (not all, but many) of the people you see on the street begging for change are there by choice and if they were offered a regular 9-to-5 job they'd choose living on the street any day. Maybe it's that so many people who benefit from charity programs don't need it or deserve it, or they only qualify because they have 5 or more kids (and they won't stop popping them out, again, lifestyle choice), and maybe it's because I know people who could benefit from charity programs but refuse to accept it and would rather live day-to-day, paycheck to paycheck, than accept welfare or any form of charity or handout.

So this one woman got up and talked briefly (thank heavens) about the environmental program she belongs to. And all I could think about was the story my sister told me of the Tongans (yes, from the Kingdom of Tonga) who have a tourist program that greatly benefits the economy of Tonga. Tourists come from all over the world to spend their dollars in Tonga, and they all pay a small fortune to swim alongside the whales as they migrate past the Islands. Now Greenpeace (a name almost synonymous with Ecoterrorism) decided that people swimming alongside the whales as they passed through the Tongan-owned waters off the Kingdom of Tonga was somehow harmful to the whales (despite real life encounters which showed otherwise, and included whales seeking out boats and tourists and playing with them (non-violently) for hours), and so they approached the Tongan leaders and asked them to put a stop to this activity.

The Tongans thought for a while, and decided that yes, they could afford to not allow tourists to swim with the whales, because the drop in tourism and loss of income in tourist dollars could be offset by the amount the Japanese were willing to pay the Tongans to allow them access to the whales. The Japanese, of course, didn't want to do anything as harmless as just swim with the whales and when Greenpeace were made aware of this alternative they quickly withdrew their appeal.

Similar situations occur here in the U.S. Very few people know that Hunters also pay a small fortune for their licenses and the right to hunt and take deer, and the fees they pay usually go a long way towards maintaining our national parks. But when "people with good intentions" step in and stop the hunting, there is a subsequent drop in revenue and Park maintenance suffers, because these same "people with good intentions" are also often the ones who ask why they now have to pay to access the National Park they used to visit for free, and so they stop going. And as the number of people using the park drops fees to access the park increase and less people come to the Park, until eventually the Park closes because it's not cost effective to maintain the Park just for the handful of people who still use it. Finally the Park gets sold off to developers who tear down most of the trees and subdivide the land and build shopping centers and office buildings and houses, etc. and only then does everyone complain about the loss of the National Park.

So I'm very wary of environmental groups and "people with good intentions" in general.

Then this other woman got up and talked for far too long about all the good United Way does, and again, I'm leery of charity groups because far too often all they want to do is raise money to pay for the salaries of people who sit on committees talking about how to solve some problem that they don't really want resolved because then there'd be no committee for them to get paid to sit on. And this woman talks for ages, and she asks everyone to stand up, then asks half the room to sit down, and she explains that those of us sitting down represent the kids who drops out of school in 9th & 10th grade, and how sad it is that those kids can't go on to graduate from high school, and she asks a 1/3rd of those still standing to sit down, and how sad it is that 1/3rd of high school grads don't make it into college, etc.

I decided not to burst her bubble by asking how many of the kids who dropped out did so because they got an apprenticeship somewhere. And I decided not to ask her if it was true that kids who get an apprenticeship at 15 or 16 are often financially more secure than their fellow students when they meet again at their 10-year Reunion. And I decided not to ask her "What's so great about college anyway?"

Look at it this way. I'm a college grad. I'm currently making around $30/hr in my cushy government job. To get to that level the average person needs a 4-year college degree, and then they usually need to have been employed by the City for approximately 5 to 6 years. Some do it faster, some take longer, but on average, it's 5 to 6 years to get to where you're making $30/hr. That just happens to be around about what a common Union Laborer makes, per hour. Someone who digs a ditch, pushes a broom, etc, gets around $30/hr. Now if I'd done an Apprenticeship and become a licensed Carpenter, Electrician, etc, I'd be making $40 to $50 per hour as a Journeyman (a skilled laborer). A standard length Apprenticeship is 3 to 4 years long, about the same as earning your college degree. But as a 16-year old Apprentice you'll probably have a two year head-start on your classmate who is going on to college. In 12 years time (2 more years of High School plus 10 years to the reunion) the Apprentice is pulling down $50/hour (or more), he owns his own car (or truck) and is making payments on a house. The College Grad is probably making $30/hr (unless he's lucky and actually got a job in the field appropriate to his degree) and he's living paycheck to paycheck while struggling to pay his rent and make payments on his $50,000 (or more) college loans.

Granted not everyone who drops out of high school in 9th or 10th grade has an Apprenticeship waiting for them, and many of them go on to learn such valuable skills as how to say "Would you like fries with that?" but a lot of college grads get their degrees with nothing waiting for them but the exact same minimum-wage job they've had for the last 6 years. The only thing is, that college grad is now working for the guy who dropped out in 10th grade, who was the only one willing and able to work all those odd hours which got the manager's attention and so promoted him to assistant store manager.

Back to the woman who is talking for far too long and dropping statistics like how 80,000 people in Los Angeles county are homeless (and yet our shelters which only house a few thousand often have beds free), and how a $3/paycheck donation somehow buys 3 hours of tutoring for 5 students every single week, and other typical socialist bullshit that doesn't sit well with this Republican-flavored Libertarian, so I mostly tuned out of what she had to say.

All in all it was a wasted and unproductive morning, but I'm happy to be able to rant here and also glad I was able to shoot a lot of really big guns yesterday. Pictures (and moofies) of which will be added shortly :)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Loong weekend

My Mum, my sister & her husband are here for a few weeks. It's been strange not playing WoW for that time, even more so going to bed usually before 11pm :P The kids are both in our bedroom. Mum and Sue are in Amber's room, and my sister, Carol, and her husband, Zac, are in JE's room.

Liz has been taking care of making sure everyone does a lot of shopping. I've been doing my best to make sure Zac is not bored out of his skull. I think he's been playing a lot of Lego Star Wars on the Gamecube while I'm at work. I'm taking a day off here and there but I didn't have enough Time Off to take off the entire three weeks. I had last Friday off as my Regular Day Off, then had yesterday off for Columbus Day. The loong weekend was very busy.

Friday we got up early to go to San Diego. We stopped at Guasti on the way to have breakfast at the Homestyle Cafe. Liz chided me for talking Zac into getting the 3-stack of pancakes. My argument was they're only here the once (well, they'll be back someday but who knows when) so why not get the 3-stack. Now it used to be big, and I knew that, but that's half the fun in getting the 3-stack. I don't know many people who could probably eat a 3-stack by themselves and live to tell the tale, but now, the 3-stack is Fhuge. Yeah, that's right, huge with a capital F. Seriously, if you did manage to choke down a 3-stack all by yourself, I pity you, because you either weren't well for the rest of the day (& maybe the next) or you're already dead.

After breakfast at the Homestyle Cafe we resumed our trip down to San Diego and Seaworld. JE was entertained by our new portable DVD player and Mr. Bean DVDs. Everyone else was entertained by me taking photos, singing, etc. What can I say? I'm a fun guy :)

Sea World was pretty cool. We had lunch not with Shamu but with another Orca. The beer was free so Zac and I had a taste test. Oddly enough he actually liked Budweiser. There was no Miller on account of Seaworld being owned (I think) by Anheuser-Busch who produce Bud. Funny was the men's toilets which had anti-Miller Q&A trivia signs over the urinals, proclaiming how American Anheuser-Busch was, and how Miller is owned by a South African brewing company. We sampled Bud Light, as well as Michelob Ultra (another Light beer) and Michelob Lager (Michelob is also owned by Anheuser-Busch). Bud Light tasted like weak soda, the Michelob Ultra was ok until I tasted the Lager and then it was just ho hum. Zac has almost helped me finish off the case of MGD Liz bought a while back, so I might replenish it with Michelob Lager once the MGD is all gone.

After seeing numerous sights at Sea World (and going on a water ride/roller coast thing, where we got an excellent picture of the girls screaming their heads off) we called it a day and made our way to our hotel where we discovered the pool was heated, but the Spa even more so. Oooh, after walking around a theme park all day nothing beats relaxing in a Spa. Afterwards we hit the local BJ's for dinner but they were crowded (Friday night, go figure) and the wait for a table for 7 people was going to be over an hour, so we ordered Take Out which we ate back at the hotel.

Saturday was spent at the Wild Animal Park. We decided not to do the Feeding Tour where you sit in the back of a truck and feed the giraffes and other critters. Not at $80/person :P They also have a Hot Air Balloon for a bird's eye view of the park, but I think that's more of a gimmick than anything else. You see more from the train that runs around the park than you would from a balloon 100 meters up in the air. While Liz, Mum & Sue did more shopping, Carol, Zac, JE & I did a walking tour around the park. The little guy actually did the entire walk. Of course he fell asleep on the ride back to the hotel afterwards :P

We hit the Spa again, then got to TGI Friday before the crowds so the only wait was for the staff to set up a table for 7. Zac & I returned to TGI Friday a few hours later hoping to catch the Formula 1 Grand Prix (live from Japan) but we were out of luck. The BJs had no TVs, and we were SOL at Rock Bottom as well. Although the bouncer did asked us for ID before he would let us in :P

Across from the Rock Bottom was a trendy Mexican restaurant and it was our last hope. There the female manager (who I think liked talking to the two Aussie "tourists") actually went through every single channel of her cable line up, and she found the Speed Channel. Unfortunately they don't subscribe to it so we missed out on watching the Japanese Grand Prix while drinking Cerveza and eating Nachos in a Mexican Cantina :(

Sunday Zac, JE & I went to Legoland while the girls went shopping in a nearby Outlet Mall. We got JE on the fastest Lego Roller Coaster but he refused to go back on it a second time. The rides weren't too bad, and JE actually went back for a second go on one of the tamer Roller Coasters. We foolishly finished the day with one of the wettest rides where you get to sit in a small 4-seater Pirate Ship and shoot water cannons at the other boats and the crowd as your boat sails a preset course. Lining the walls of this ride are water cannons manned by people in the crowd, who use them quite enthusiastically to shoot back. Unfortunately their water cannons seem to have a greater range than do the cannons on the boats, and they don't have to crank handles to shoot the water either. We all got pretty wet on that ride (& JE was no use as a human shield). Lucky the day was hot enough that we were almost dry by the time the girls picked us up. The final ride of the day we found on the way out. It was a ride called Knight's Torment. Not Tournament, Torment. It has 5 settings so Zac and I naturally chose Level 5 - Extreme. JE said he wouldn't have gone on it even if it was on Level 1. It was basically a Robot Arm that swung your chair around, upside down, etc. Because of that last ride we were late getting back to the girls and they tried to tell us they'd got a ticket waiting in the Passenger Loading/Unloading Area for too long.

I don't know how everything fit into our Highlander. It might be an SUV, but we had 7 people in there, and there wasn't a lot of room going down to San Diego. I don't know where it all fit but the girls still managed to get everything they'd bought inside for the ride back home, and nobody had to sit on the roof.

Monday JE was back at school so Zac & I hit 6-Flags Magic Mountain. That was a lot of fun too, except six of the rides were closed. According to one of the ride attendants on the Superman Ride, even though Columbus Day is not a recognized Public Holiday half the staff didn't bother turning up for work so that's why the rides were closed. Luckily Tatsu, 6-Flags newest ride, was open. That thing was insane. Not scary (scary was when my harness slipped open a notch mid-ride) but intense. Apparently on its most severe corners Tatsu subjects you to 4.5g forces. I'm not positive, but I think that means for the period of time you're subject to those 4.5g's you technically weigh 4.5 times your normal 1g weight. We went on Tatsu a few times and got a good photo of Zac and I screaming our heads off to go with the photo of the girls on their Sea World ride.

And now it's back to work.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

From Guasti to Sea World

If you don't know where Guasti is, it's very close to the Ontario Intl. Airport, off the I-10 near the 15. The obvious way to get from Guasti to Sea World is to go south on the 15 until you hit the 8 down in San Diego, and Sea World is not too far away from there.

Click here to see the directions Google Maps gave me. Oddly enough, Yahoo Maps told me to go the same way.

As much as I like Google, I think I'll follow Mapquest's directions.

*EDIT - Guasti is no more. The Homestyle Cafe has moved, and the Winery has been torn down.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Freeway vs Surface Streets

I was heading back into downtown Los Angeles on the 110 and around the 91 the traffic started to backup. One of those large freeway signs said it would take 35 minutes to get into downtown, and sure enough, within a mile or so, traffic was stop-go, stop-go. At one point we were completely stopped for what seemed like almost a minute, meanwhile traffic in the other lanes seemed to fly past. Of course when you're stopped, even 30mph looks fast.

Around Slauson another sign said it was now 20 minutes to downtown. I looked at my watch again. Sure enough, exactly 15 minutes had elapsed since the sign proclaiming the 35-min trip into downtown.

Now I would much rather be on surface streets stopped at a red light than sitting on the freeway, stopped for no reason at all, other than the fact that someone had jammed their brakes on at that very spot, 2 hours ago, and people were still stopping there. Residual slowing/stopping they call it. You stop your car, and the car behind you is forced to come to a complete stop. You then move on but before the car behind you can move on, the car behind him is forced to stop, and the cycle repeats, and if traffic is heavy enough people can still be coming to a stop at that very spot where you hit your brakes two hours before.

So I got off at Slauson and headed north into the city, and within 15 minutes I was at City Hall gassing up my car.

20 minutes to downtown indeed. Yeah, if you want to stay on the freeway in stop-go traffic.

Of course it doesn't always work out to your advantage to get off the freeway, but as I said, I'd rather be on surface streets stopped for a red light, than going nowhere on the freeway.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Amish Paradise

Just coz we're on a Wierd Al kick ;)