The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

April 25, 2007

What Made Cho Do It?

It’s a question that a lot of people these days are asking. Some folks think he was just an evil sonofabitch, and that people like him should be locked up simply for existing. Other folks have a bit more of a nuanced view, because they have a little bit of an understanding of the conditions that lead to a guy like Cho.

I would point out this post at Jacqueline Passey’s blog, where she mentions that she had the occasional fantasy when she was a young’un of sending mythical dragons (yep, she’s a sci-fi fan) off to take her childhood tormentors to experience the celestial dirt nap. Quite a debate has taken off in the comments, as the epic battle between those people who were picked on in school and those people who weren’t rages. At the same time, I’d point out a post that Mike at the No Angst Blog brings up about one of Cho’s victims. This is one of those kids who would have been described as an “at-risk” youth, but turned his life around to become a truly model citizen, the sort that any father would have loved to have court his daughter.

Clearly, the comments at Jacqueline’s place point out a disconnect between those who understand Cho and those who don’t. To put it simply, the folks who understand him know exactly where he came from, and exactly what sort of hell he might have gone through during his life. Not that this in any way excuses what he did, because nothing is justification for murdering innocent people. But I think that Jacqueline, her commenter Phil (who occasionally stops by here), Mike’s subject (and Cho’s victim) Matt La Porte, and even I, understand what might have led to Cho’s actions. We might have seen the same sort of treatment that led to his actions, but we had enough strength as people to overcome that experience. Obviously I can’t speak for any of them, I can only tell my own story.

Childhood, for the popular kids, is a land of milk and honey. For kids like me, it was hell. I can’t for the life of me understand what it was that made me so much “different”. But I know from an early age, probably at least back to 3rd and 4th grade, I was picked on. I think part of it was a defensive thing, because I was one of the “nerds” who was in the gifted program. I know for a fact that part of it was my voice, which for some unknown reason has an odd nasal characteristic (which I think, thankfully, has lessened over time, thanks to puberty which made it deep, and years of smoking which took out some of the nasal character). But a great deal of it, I’m sure, is that from an early age I never really understood or took part in the social hierarchy. I never really understood the rules. I never knew how to stand up for myself and fight back when I was picked on. The even stranger thing about it was that early in life, I found myself growing bigger than those people who were picking on me. As a freshman in high school, I was bigger than most of the seniors. But the nasty thing about it is that those people who would pick on others can sense when they’ve found a target that won’t strike back, no matter how big they are, and they torment that sort of person even more aggressively.

When you’re in a place in life like that, you have a sense of despondence that most people don’t understand. They don’t even have the capability to understand it. After all, to the kids who weren’t picked on, “it’s just high school”. “It’s not that bad.” No, sorry, assholes, but it IS that bad. When you’re in middle school and high school, you don’t know anything different. There were times in high school that I even contemplated suicide, because I simply wanted an escape. But I just had this sense inside that maybe, when I finally got out of that hell, I could triumph. I thought to myself that the real world can’t be as superficial and idiotic as the high school land of cliques and “prom court”.

Luckily for myself, I had a couple of things in my life that helped. None of them were really related to school, though. I was in a large high school, and that made it a little easier to have a few acquaintances who faced some of the same challenges. Thankfully, I also have a very close friend who I’ve known since I was 2, that helped me through some of these times. He wasn’t as much of an outsider as I was, since he found his niche in the band, but I think he was able to understand some of what was going on in my life. As a result, he’s been my lifelong best friend, was best man in my wedding, and is the only person in my entire high school with which I keep regular correspondence.

But the real thing that made it bearable was withdrawal to a safe haven. When I was 11, my parents enrolled me in martial arts, and I was able to take my experiences there and run with it. Much like the victim of Cho that Mike profiles in the above link, the sort of rigidly-enforced rank structure, and the idea that anyone who applies himself can succeed in a merit-based system, allowed me to both express myself and find an outlet for some of my issues. As I grew into my role at the karate school, I started to also be given responsibilities and privileges. I became an instructor, and I saw how some of the younger students looked up to me. This started to give me the sense of self-worth that classmates were trying to take away from me. The day I earned my black belt, I really began to gain confidence in myself, and understand that I was actually accomplishing something pretty special. Even more fulfilling was the school’s demonstration team. The largest demonstration we ever gave was in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000. It was my participation in that team that made me realize that I had talents and skills, and that there was a world out there that would value those talents, even if my classmates would not. (That experience was also what helped me conquer my fears of public speaking.) To this day, I consider my martial arts experience as something that really saved me as a person. Had I not had something that could both be an outlet for the pain I felt at school, and which could also fulfill my human needs for achievement at an age where I really needed to feel some self-worth, I have no idea where I’d be today (or if I’d be here at all).

I never really faced those people at my high school as an equal, because I had an outlet and never really felt that I had to. Things got a bit tougher when I got to college, and again, I was lucky enough to use the lessons I’d learned to get me through. When I got into college, I never thought I’d have joined a fraternity. But one night, I went up with a friend from the dorms to the house he was pledging, and immediately felt a connection with some of the folks there. They were a group of laid-back, relaxed guys. They weren’t the pretentious jerks I’d seen at other houses. It seemed like they were a group of guys I could be happy living with. So I ended up rushing, getting a bid, pledging, and moved into the house my sophomore year. It was then that I began to face some trouble. You see, when you live in a house with 50 other testosterone-fueled 18-23 year olds, there’s a lot of back and forth ribbing that goes on. But I’d never been exposed to that, other than being picked on as a child, and so I fell into my old patterns of being hurt by that behavior, instead of standing up for myself. And began to fall into the despondence I had experienced in high school. But I struggled through it, and I suddenly had an epiphany. If I didn’t show them that they hurt me, they didn’t get any enjoyment out of it. All of a sudden I started to learn how to play the give-and-take of jocular insults, instead of being the victim. I began to see a very pronounced change. Suddenly the people who would get on my case and throw out a jagged verbal barb weren’t the people who were trying to hurt me. Those folks would head towards easier marks. The people who would do something like that were the types who knew I had something to throw right back at them. All of a sudden I understood the difference between playful ribbing, and hurtful attacks. And when I learned that, I realized that nobody in the world could hurt me unless I let them.

There are days that I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone through what I have. And truthfully, I’ve grown to really like the person I’ve become. I don’t think I’d be that person if I didn’t have the experiences I’ve had. Part of what has made me a fiercely independent person is the fact that I was never part of the “in” crowd, and I grew to choose my own values instead of what the “popular” kids chose. But I look back on all the things that have gone on, and I see the ways it could have been different. I’ve seen what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had to face. I’ve seen the sort of treatment that Cho Seung-Hui endured. And I understand what might have driven them to the actions they took. It’s not right. It’s not something that should have happened. But I’ve been in a despondent stage where all I wanted was an escape, and where I felt rage towards the people who were making my life hell. I was strong enough to fight through it, with the help I had available to me. I was raised by good, loving parents who gave me other options. I took those other options, and used them to make myself a stronger person. And these days, I consider myself to be a strong, independent, ethical person, who took the attacks of youth and fashioned them into armor which has protected me ever since. Folks like Cho or the Columbine kids didn’t have those outlets, and didn’t have the tools I had to work through those problems. And they lashed out as a result.

I look at the kids who are sitting in the position I was 12 years ago, as a confused, hurt, depressed 16-year-old, and feel truly sorry for them. I know what it feels like to be an outsider in the high school culture, where it’s only acceptable to be “in”. People who have never been there don’t have a clue how painful it is to think that there’s no place in the world where you have value. It’s a false belief, to be sure, because in the grand scheme of things, high school culture is stupid and pointless and has nothing to do with the real world. But how many kids see beyond that, when the world around them doesn’t seem to offer any understanding? It’s a false belief, but it SEEMS real.

So there’s a message in this story. And that message goes out to the people reading this who are in the same place I was 12 years ago. I have a feeling that those sorts of people have followed this story to the end, because I’m sure you feel like I’m speaking right to you. And I am. I’ve been there. I know how much it hurts. And no matter how much it feels like there’s no way out, it gets better. The world’s a really big place, and the speed at which everyone forgets who the prom queen was will make your head spin. 10 years after high school, when that prom queen is on her third kid and has lost her figure, all she has left to hold on to in life is her memories of the “good old days”. You, on the other hand, have the world open to you. Dream big, hit the throttle once you graduate, and leave the rest of those assholes in your dust.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 12:20 am || Permalink || Comments (7) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Personal Life

April 24, 2007

Scientific Proof — Kids Made Of Rubber

I have no other explanation for how a four-year-old child could have survived this:

The child survived with no broken bones, just some cuts that required stitches, and probably some monstrous bruises.

The parents survived unharmed, but if anyone knows who they are, they deserve a serious beating for letting a four-year-old onto the sideline like that.

And if that autographed football ends up on eBay, it’s time to send in DCFS.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 11:47 am || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: College Football, Sports, YouTube

April 23, 2007

Book Review: The Multiplex Man, James P. Hogan

I teased this one in my bookaholic post, so I figured I might as well get around to reviewing it. The book is The Multiplex Man, by James P. Hogan. I’m not even sure where I first heard about this one (a libertarian blog somewhere, probably), but I picked it up used from Amazon for a very nice price, so there wasn’t a lot of risk in trying it.

The book describes a time in the not-so-distant future. The Western powers (US and Europe), driven by the environmentalists, have begun to clamp down on capitalism as a waste of resources, while the remnants of the old Soviet Union have embraced unbridled capitalism and are rapidly expanding (even into space). The governments of the West have built up enormous propaganda about the dangers of those capitalist nations to control their own citizens, and the people fear that capitalism in the East will collapse, leading to an attack by the East on the West. Thus, they rule their people through fear of an unlikely enemy.

In this world you find Richard Jarrow, a government history teacher who’s bought the lie— hook, line, and sinker. But one day something strange happens. He goes to the doctor, is put to sleep for some routine tests, and then suddenly wakes up 6 months later, 1000 miles away from his home, in a strange hotel room. And in a different body. Furthermore, he tries to head back to his home, only to find out that Richard Jarrow died a mere month after his last memory. Confused and disoriented, particularly by the fact that he has gained incredible fighting ability, he goes on a search to find out exactly what’s going on. He soon determines exactly whose body he’s inhabiting, and starts to see that there are forces of the Eastern capitalist countries who want to use him to further their own ends. Not to mention that the former fiancee’ of the body he’s inhabiting wants the original inhabitant’s personality back. As he starts down the eventual road to the climax of the story, you see how various personalities inside him all start to meld together and fall apart, and you watch as his own psyche starts shorting out.

To go any farther would give too much of the plot away, so I’m not going to do that. The book itself reminded me of a suspense-thriller much like Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. You have a man who isn’t quite sure who he is or why he’s capable of doing what he can do, unsure who to trust and how to survive his situation. It’s a bit more sci-fi than the Bourne series, though, and again to get into the details would give away too much of the plot. Last, for the libertarians in the bunch, it’s certainly got a dystopian vision that is distrustful of state control, sees the government as the enemy, and views unbridled free-market anarchist capitalism as the driving force of prosperity.

As a suspense-thriller novel, it is a bit formulaic at times. You have the protagonist, trying to figure out exactly what is going on in a world that seems to threaten him from every direction. You have the supportive female, who distrusts him at first but grows to push him to his destiny. You’ve got shadowy government figures all around, and you’re never sure which of them is working to help the protagonist and which is not. However, to call it formulaic doesn’t make it a bad book. Hogan throws in twists and turns in places that I hadn’t seen coming, and in general it’s an engaging read.

I’d say that if you’re looking for a new author to check out, and you’re into the suspense-thriller genre, it’s certainly worth a look. If you like the Bourne series from Ludlum, and you’re a libertarian, I think you’ll like this quite a bit. This is a decent novel with libertarian themes, but not to the extent that it beats you over the head with it. As I’ve said with a few other books, this one won’t win any awards, but it’s definitely a nice book to while a few hours away.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 11:24 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Books

April 22, 2007

The Fire Will Set You Free

So, tonight was fajita night… This is how I do it:


We got some beef, some onion, some red and yellow pepper, and one special ingredient. One whole habanero pepper… (I actually cut out some of the seeds/membrane, because I’m not insane, but I leave enough in there to make it hurt).

One of the disadvantages to my wife being out of town is that I have to cook for myself. One of the advantages, though, is that I can eat all the things she doesn’t like. She’s an exceptional cook, but doesn’t have quite the heat tolerance I do. I usually have to poke and prod to get her to put a serrano chile into a Mexican dish. So this was a nice little treat.

However, with a post like this, a public service announcement is in order. Kids, don’t eat a whole raw habanero pepper. It’s a religious experience… You know, the “lake of fire” kind…

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:15 pm || Permalink || Comments (15) || Trackback URL || Categories: Food, Personal Life

April 20, 2007

Did They Just Say That?!

Last night I was listening to XM Radio online, Channel 47 (Ethel). This was while I was reading, so it was probably already well after midnight. I heard a little promo (they don’t have commercials, but they do occasionally have segues), and it took my attention away from the book.

Ethel Channel 47: Delightful tunes, even if you’re stoned.

All of a sudden the statist brainwashing I got in public schools kicked in… “Are they really allowed to say that?!” Then I realized it’s XM, but I was still surprised they had the cojones. Of course, then as I started to settle back into my lawless personality, I was pretty impressed… Even if they’re not allowed to say it, good for them! After all, when the FEC was considering regulating blogs under campaign finance rules, I pledged that regardless of what laws and regulations they imposed, I wouldn’t stop blogging. If they wanted to come after me, they could come after me.

But I thought about it a second… XM radio, along with the internet, and the rest of the “new media”, is a sign that they’re losing control. Not XM, of course, but the FCC and regulatory establishment. They can do all they want to punish Viacom for letting a breast be shown on national TV, and they can fine Howard Stern, and 15 years ago, that would have been enough to actually put a stop to a lot of that activity. But now, they’ve been outflanked, and people are getting used to having the ability to choose for themselves what to listen to and read.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a dangerous thing for the government to accept. And they’re not going to take it lying down. They’re going to try as hard as they can to get their regulatory hands into the new media. But I think the arguments they used back in the days when they were regulating TV and radio won’t work. People aren’t as willing to submit to the government as they once were. The regulators can’t claim that bandwidth is limited on the internet. And there are too many voices out here that are willing to be loud and fight.

So to answer my original question, “Did they just say that?!” Yeah they did, and what the hell are you going to do about it, bureaucrat?

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 1:33 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Blogging, Internet, Media, Pop Culture

My Name Is Brad, And I’m A Bookaholic

One of the advantages of having a wife who’s out of town (with the dogs), and no TV, is that it has really helped me to start catching up on my reading list. So I sat down with James P. Hogan’s The Multiplex Man tonight. It’s a pretty fast-paced story (sort of sci-fi/thriller meets “The Bourne Identity”), weighing in as an easy 370 pages. I think I started reading about 9 PM. And finished it around 3:30 AM.

So now I’m stuck. At this time of night, I can’t go to sleep, or there’s no way I’ll have the willpower to get up in time for work tomorrow. It’s not like I’ve never pulled all-nighters, but that will leave me groggy tomorrow and throw off my sleep schedules for a few days. I used to be able to do this sort of crap with impunity when I was in college, but as I near 30, it’s not quite so easy.

Of course, what do you do at 3:30 AM on a Friday? Thankfully I don’t have a TV, because I won’t have to complain about the fact that there’s nothing on. So I found myself dismantling my keg (as I finished off my batch of Sierra Nevada-inspired pale ale the other night), cleaning the whole system. I’ve been through enough kegs now that it’s about time to replace the dispense line, so it needed to be done. Now I’ll probably wander through the house organizing stuff, maybe start answering some work emails, do a little blogging, perhaps reorganize my CD collection in alphabetical order of lead guitarist’s middle names… You know, the usual. I’m sure it won’t be long before I put a pot of coffee on, while I wait for the sunrise.

I have a tendency to do this. Specifically with fiction, I have a severe aversion to putting down books. It’s an addiction. I pick up a book, and it takes over life for several hours until I get to the last page. My parents used to worry about me growing up, because I’d pick up a novel at 8 AM, read continuously until 6:30 PM, and then wonder why I was so hungry. It seems that it had something to do with not eating during the course of the whole day.

As I’ve gotten older and busier, I’ve tended to shy away from reading 8+ hours straight. The occasional times I’ve picked up 600-page novels make it far too hard to devote that much continuous time to a book. And I’m sure when the baby comes, I’ll be happy to get more than 10 minutes at a time. But I’ve never quite understood why I do this to myself. The book would be there tomorrow, I could easily have stopped about midnight and still gotten a nice full night’s sleep. But instead, here I sit, wondering how to pass a few random hours where I can’t sleep and have little useful to do, I’m beginning to wonder whether continuing to read a midnight, when I still had half a book left, was a good idea…

The Unrepentant Individual linked with Book Review: The Multiplex Man, James P. Hogan
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 3:37 am || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Baby, Books, Personal Life, Ponderings

April 18, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Hey, I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of a ruling class. Especially since I rule.
Randal Graves, Clerks

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:10 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Quote Of The Day

April 17, 2007

Big Networks Have Jumped The Proverbial Shark

Or, so the WaPo laments:

“Everyone can appreciate the business pressure that the networks are under, but when did they [start] ceding their responsibility to cover these stories?” said Tom Kunkel, the dean of the University of Maryland’s journalism school. “It does kind of make you wonder how big a blood bath there has to be warrant their attention in prime time. How bad does it have to be to supplant ‘Dancing With the Stars’?”

I actually got this story sent to my by my buddy Jim, who gave his own thoughts on it via email, with which I heartily agree.

with this. obviously it was newsworthy, it led every newscast in the country and was on the front page of every newspaper i looked at today from overseas. but how much more did we NEED to know last night? Had things changed? Were we headed to war? How would exploiting the tragic event for an extra three hours of coverage have helped fulfill the networks’ responsibilities to the nation?

Below is my response to his email…


I hear you on this one, Jim… You know what this article is lamenting? Not that the big networks didn’t cover this, but that the big networks are no longer the driver of the news cycle:

“They’d rather run reruns than preempt their regular programming,” Rosenstiel said. “It’s not a surprise, but it is unfortunate. If the networks have lost their role as arbiters of what’s significant in our culture, then they’ve been complicit in that loss.”

They’ve been outdone. They can throw up the local news at 11, but really. If you wanted coverage, where were you going to turn? CNN. Fox News. The internet.

We don’t need the big networks to be the main arbiter of how to handle the news. We’ve got much more specialized avenues of getting that information that do a much better job. Yes, that may mean that Granny Eunice, with her rabbit ears on top of her 19″ Zenith, doesn’t get the same sort of news she got back in the old days. So what? She can wait until the news at 11, or she can catch it on the Paul Harvey show on her hi-fi.

What really gets me, though, is that when you actually watch the constant coverage of cable news, you begin to see that sometimes the news cycle is faster than the actual news:

“Well, although we just talked to him 12 minutes ago, we’re going to go back on scene with John Ondaspot, who is standing outside the Virginia Tech building where this all happened. John?”

“Well, Wolf, if you can see behind me, you’ll see that one of the detectives has moved 6 feet to the left of where he was 12 minutes ago. Other than scratching his ass, he hasn’t really done a whole lot since. No new information has been released on the gunman, of course, and probably won’t for several hours. Back to you, and I’ll check in with you in another 12 minutes.”

Worthless, the whole damn lot of them. Life got much better when I sold my TV.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 5:48 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Media, News, Ponderings, Snark

April 16, 2007

Inside The Mind Of A College Shooting

By now everyone’s heard the horrific news of what happened at Virginia Tech. And horrifying, it truly is. We live in a world where things like this aren’t supposed to happen. People like this aren’t supposed to exist.

The students at Virginia Tech right now, are quite a bit shell-shocked. They’re asking two questions:

1- How could this happen here?
2- WHY?!

I know what they’re thinking because– unfortunately– I’ve been there. Readers Sober John and Sam will remember this too, we were all residents of Wiley Hall at Purdue University when a student shot his counselor, before turning his gun on himself. That student was Jarrod Eskew, and the counselor, Jay Severson was the RA on his floor at Wiley.

Given that I know the circumstances behind what Eskew did, I’m not going to say that it’s the same thing that happened at Virginia Tech. Eskew’s act was one of despair and escape, not one of a madman. Not that I’m excusing it, of course, but that it appears to have much different motivations than what anyone who would gun down 32 people was doing.

I knew Jarrod’s roommate (who, in retrospect, was a very bad influence on him), and actually played Euchre with Jarrod one night. He lived a floor above me, all the way at the end of the hall. He seemed like a pretty normal kid, and from all the stories I’ve heard about him after the fact, I think that was not an unfair characterization. He came from a small town not far from Purdue, where he was an athlete and general good student. But things took a turn for the worse when he went to college.

Like many college students, he took his newfound freedom too far, getting involved in drugs. I wouldn’t have guessed it the night I met him, but it wasn’t all that long afterwards that his RA (Severson) caught him one night with cocaine. Eskew took off before the cops could show up. The next day, he came back from Crawfordsville, where he’d gotten a shotgun, confronted and shot Severson, and barricaded himself in his room.

I came back from class to see that Wiley Hall was shut down, with police tape all the way out at the street (see the picture midway down the above linked story, I was in that crowd). Nobody really had an idea what was going on. But it’s not usually a very promising thing to look up at the Co-Rec (recreation center), which was across the street from Wiley, and see sharpshooters on the roof. At this point, it’s believed that Eskew had already turned the gun on himself, but the cops hadn’t gone into his room yet.

Later that afternoon, they finally allowed most of us back into the building, and eventually let the third floor residents (where Eskew and Severson had lived) back in (either late that night or the next morning).

After all this happened, the grieving and the healing began. For myself, and the other folks who had met Jarrod, this was an odd time. How could I reconcile people acting as if he was a monster, with my impression that he was someone who just got caught up in something that was way too big for him, and made the worst, most irrational choice in front of him? For almost everyone at Purdue, who had gone through life in towns where this sort of stuff doesn’t happen, it was a bit of a wake-up call, that there are life-and-death problems in the real world. Eventually for most of us, a sense of normalcy returned, but it’s a time in my life that will never be forgotten.

Why am I telling you all about this? Truthfully, I’m not sure I know. I think that there’s still something in my head that tells me that it’s not right, it shouldn’t have happened, and I want an explanation for it. It was 10 years ago, and I still don’t like accepting that it did happen, because it shouldn’t have. Nobody deserves responsibility for what happened except for Jarrod Eskew, but you have to ask whether things like the war on drugs were a factor. Because of the seriousness of being caught with cocaine, he must have felt like his entire life was over, and then he made it so. Jarrod should have sought help; he shouldn’t have given up and taken two lives. I look back on it to this day and just think it was wrong and didn’t have to happen. But it did, and I need to accept it.

I guess that’s the only message I can give to the people at Virginia Tech right now. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and you all know it wasn’t supposed to happen. Everyone wishes they could go back to yesterday, before it occurred. But you can’t. The only thing you can do is try to accept it and get some sense of normalcy back. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m sure it will be even harder, since the attack at Virginia Tech seems so much more senseless than the one at Purdue (which already is pretty senseless). You can never make it disappear, you can’t go back to the past and stop it from happening. You can’t get rid of the understanding that stupid, senseless, violent things happen in the world. I wish I could tell you that I had answers to the questions above. But there are no answers that have ever made sense to those questions. As far as I am concerned, the answers don’t exist. All you can do is accept it and move on…

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 3:15 pm || Permalink || Comments (4) || Trackback URL || Categories: News, Personal Life, Purdue

April 15, 2007

Is This Covered Under NAFTA?

Both teams at home in US-Mexico border volleyball

It was never like this at the Olympics.

U.S. and Mexican volleyball teams faced off over the rusted border fence in southern Arizona on Saturday and played as part of a binational goodwill festival.

The scene offered a festive contrast from the usual tensions surrounding the U.S.-Mexican border. Illegal immigration from Mexico and border security have become a potent political issue in both the United States and Mexico.

The game was the centrepiece of a party held occasionally on the border since 1979 by residents of the town of Naco, Arizona, and its namesake in the Mexican state of Sonora.

“For us, it represents the celebration of the union of two countries,” said Jose Lorenzo Villegas, the mayor of Naco, Mexico, as U.S. and Mexican youngsters tapped the ball across a net set up on the dusty international line.

“What’s unusual is that both the Mexican and U.S. teams are playing at home, with the fence as the net,” he added.

Thank god for NAFTA… I’m sure the import/export duties on that volleyball would have racked up quickly!

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 6:49 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: News, Snark, Sports

April 14, 2007

Book Review — Mean Martin Manning, by Scott Stein

Some of you have probably notice me link the Scott Stein a few times in the past. I found him a while back, when he was looking for examples of humorous writing for a class he was teaching. In fact, I even got him to give me a literary critique of The Search For The Beast, which was quite helpful, and I hope to incorporate into future writing.

So I decided to pick up his new book, Mean Martin Manning. I actually paid for it, because his publisher apparently doesn’t give review copies to unknown bloggers with limited readership, but that’s alright, it was worth it (partly because it comes with little “extras” in the package, which is nice).

The book is a novel describing an exciting episode the normally uneventful life of Martin Manning, an elderly man who has spent 30 years shut off from the world. Surviving on cold-cuts, television, a collection of clocks and porcelain frogs, and ordering everything he needs from the internet, he’s quite happy to live without any human interaction whatsoever. But one day, in order to comply with a new government “Life Improvement” program, social worker Alice Pitney shows up. And all hell breaks loose.

Armed with the full force and power of the state government, Pitney is determined to help a man who wants no help. He’s forced into the improvement program, where he’s expected to eat healthy foods, interact with all sorts of crazy characters, and the self-sufficient shut-in is treated like a child to be trained in how to be a better person. In his first group therapy session, Manning says it best:

“You poor saps can go for Pitney’s bullshit if you like— I won’t hold it against you. I just want to give you fair warning. It might not look like it, but as we speak, I’m in an epic struggle with Caseworker Pitney for my very soul.”

Immovable force meets a nanny-statist who won’t take no for an answer, and all sorts of hilarity ensues. Oh, did I mention that Stein is funny? This book doesn’t read like Atlas Shrugged, it pops with it’s collection of smart-assed narration and just-cartoonish-enough characters. The book has an air of the fantastic about it, but then again, when you hear about some of the things going on in Britain, it almost seems like it will be here shortly.

As for the politics, I can’t see many libertarians not liking the book, or not cheering on Martin Manning as he fights against those who want to control him for his own good. It gives a face and a name to the insidious nature of the nanny state. It reminds you that you should stand extra guard when they try to come after you for your own good, as C.S. Lewis once said:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Overall, the book gets a hearty recommendation. It clicks in at just over 200 pages, so it’s a quick read, but long enough to develop the characters, put together a cohesive plot, and make it all interesting. As for distribution, I think you may need to go to the publisher directly on this one, though, unfortunately it’s not up on Amazon. Either way, check it out.

the Scott Stein linked with A few good men ... and women
the Scott Stein linked with Response to a review
Atlas Blogged linked with Mean Martin Manning
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:17 pm || Permalink || Comments (4) || Trackback URL || Categories: Books, Libertarianism

Why My Wife Is The Perfect Woman

As mentioned, she’s out of town in advance of her sister’s wedding, helping to get things arranged. Unfortunately, that meant that we spent our 4-year anniversary apart. So what did she get me? (Note: disregard how I managed to mangle the crust getting it out of the pan…)

Lou Malnati's

Yep… She shipped me Lou Malnati’s pizza. A slice of home (Chicago) in a box. Any of you unfamiliar with a Chicagoan’s love for pizza may not be that impressed, but I know my buddy Sober John understands. The kegerator she got me last year for Christmas was an awesome gift, but this has a true personal touch.

Nothing gets a man through a bachelor Saturday night like deep-dish sausage pizza…

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:16 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Food, Personal Life

Soaping A Fountain Writ Large

Suds fill streets in Idaho

City streets got an unscheduled cleaning as a sudsy citrus-scented foam erupted from manhole covers like geysers.

The bubbles spewed from a three-block stretch on the city’s east side Thursday after American Linen accidentally released detergent into the municipal sewer lines. The combination of gravity and churning water whipped the soap into a sudsy foam.

“We have never had a situation like this before,” said Vince Trimboli, the public works spokesman.

Officials say the company had a malfunction, caused by human error, in its automated detergent loading device, releasing 167 gallons of a harmless but concentrated detergent.

Crews worked during the day to disperse the suds before they reached the treatment facility, then used soft-spray hoses and yard blowers to reduce foam levels closer to the plant.

Why is it I can’t find any pictures of this?

But I’m sure if I lived in Boise, I would have found this very cool. Of course, if I lived in Boise, I’d probably find grass growing and paint drying to be pretty cool, so the bar is set a bit low :-)

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 4:55 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: News, Snark

Why Tempt Fate?

If anyone is looking for gift ideas, I don’t want one of these…

Pieces of Titanic transformed into luxury watches

Steel and coal from the Titanic have been transformed into a new line of luxury wristwatches that claim to capture the essence of the legendary oceanliner which sank in 1912.

Geneva watchmaker Romain Jerome SA billed its “Titanic-DNA” collection as among the most exclusive pieces showcased this week at Baselworld, the watch and jewellery industry’s largest annual trade fair.

“It is very luxurious and very inaccessible,” said Yvan Arpa, chief executive of the three-year-old company that hopes the limited edition watches will attract both collectors and garrulous luxury goods buyers.

“So many rich people buy incredibly complicated watches without understanding how they work, because they want a story to tell,” he said. “To them we offer a story.”

They want a story? Well, the first time one of the wearers of these watches ends up in a plane crash, I’ll bet they’ll have a story. Even stranger if it’s on the maiden commercial voyage of an Airbus A380…

I’m not a believer in “fate” or “luck”, or any of that stuff. But hey, I’ll hedge my bets when I need to. I’m not getting on an airplane, or a boat, or even a BUS with one of these watches.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 2:08 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: News, Ponderings, Snark

April 13, 2007

Good Thing I Brought My Camera

And, the neighbor and I won… I told you it was good beer.



Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 2:33 pm || Permalink || Comments (4) || Trackback URL || Categories: Beer, Personal Life

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