Monday, March 31, 2008

Computer, Hello, Computer?

Well, my 4 year old laptop finally kicked the bucket. It was so sudden. I was sitting there, when all of a sudden it stopped registering the power cable, and the battery just drained. For a little while, it recovered, then started flashing between power and no power with shocking speed. It was a bit lit Schroedinger's CPU, stuck in a quantum state of both fucked and unfucked. That is, until I had the sheer audacity to try and check my E-Mail, then the whole thing went to shit. It's a shame, because I had some interesting stories about this weekend involving clubs, liquor, Jeff, trains, buses, zombies, hailstones, and lesbians. We'll see how much I can remember once the new computer comes in.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Bank Job

The Bank Job is a movie about a heist. This automatically puts it three steps closer to awesome because I, like Dane Cook, believe that every man truly desires to someday be part of a heist. Similar to another favorite movie of mine, The Inside Man, this heist has far reaching political implications. In this case, it cuts all the way to the royal family. The film is also based on a true story, which ratchets the intrigue up a few notches.

The Bank Job is set in 1971 London, with all the post-mod chic and squalor that accompany that setting, and stars Jason Statham, of Snatch and LSa2SB fame. Statham plays Terry, a down on his luck used car salesman who owes a lot of money to some unsavory personalities.

Opposite Statham is the tall, beautiful, and bisexual Saffron Burrows, currently featured in ABC's Boston Legal. Burrows plays Martine, a friend of Terry's, who happens to be sleeping with the owner of the security company who's going to be overhauling the alarm system at Llyods Bank.

Outside of the two leads, there aren't any big name actors, but it doesn't hold the film back. The acting as a whole is solid, but no one truly stands out. It's a solid film, definitely worth watching in theater. And this isn't a case of my tastes simply being different that everyone else's, as evidenced by it's garnering a 79% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

For those of you who want a more in depth explanation, or don't intend to see the movie, but still want to know what happens, I'll give you an idea here. But I warn you, here there be spoilers.

As mentioned earlier, Terry has a large outstanding debt, and Martine knows a bank that will be without it's alarms for a while. They put two and two together, and come up with a team of six, later seven, people to rob the safe deposit box vault.

They rent a nearby store, and proceed to drill their way 40 feet, and up through the floor of the bank vault. While in The Inside Man, the robbers had everything go off without a hitch, and generally thought circles around everyone in the movie and their cousin, the criminals in The Bank Job are far more human. They hit snags along the way, everything from old catacombs under the city, to an amateur ham radio operator accidentally intercepting their communications. Despite their blunders, through sheer luck and moxie, they pull of the heist, and make off with the contents of over 300 safe deposit boxes.

Here's where the movie gets real interesting. Inside those boxes was over $4 million in cash and jewels, and other assorted goods ranging from a case of vintage champagne, to an unwashed pair of panties. Among those objects that the owners wanted to keep away from prying eyes and fingers were several more insidious objects. The owner of a local bordello kept a series of pictures of powerful politicians making use of her house's services. A local pimp and smut peddler kept a ledger detailing his bribes given out to corrupt cops. And the crown jewels of the Pyrrhic haul was in lockbox 118, owned by a black rights activist named Michael X. Mr. X kept a set of pictures capturing Princess Margaret in the midst of a 3 way tryst during her recent vacation in the Caribbean.

Needless to say, everyone wants these items, except for the criminals who now find them in their possession. Now, rather than simply the police, Terry, Martine, and co. find themselves trying to dodge, stave off, and appease the local thugs, the clean cops, the corrupt cops, and Britain's own spooks from MI5 (or MI6, they never keep them straight). Terry finds himself flying by the seat of his pants, and pulling off decisions by the skin of his teeth. Deals are cut, people are kidnapped, and people are killed. It all gets quite exciting towards the end. Which is why you should go see it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Into to Liquor: Celtic Crossing

Celtic Crossing is an interesting liqueur, made by Castle Brands, a distillery specialising in high quality spirits. Known for making Boru Vodka, Celtic Crossing is another excellent piece of their portfolio.

Celtic Crossing is a combination of Irish Whiskey, Cognac, and honey. It's every bit as smooth as the ingredients suggest. Despite being 30% alcohol by volume, the alcohol is barely noticeable. This makes it an excellent secondary spirit mixer for high alcohol content drinks. It also makes the drink enjoyable on its own, served neat, or on the rocks.

Speaking of on the rocks, distilleries that decide to add a cocktail booklet to the bottles of their spirits need to hire some bartenders to come up with a decently interesting drink. Not every company does this, my bottle of LeBlon Cachaca came with a dizzying array of drinks that you could make with it, but a lot seem to just mail it in on these things. The worst I've seen lately was on a bottle of Jose Cuervo Black Medallion Tequila. The booklet came with two recipes, Cuervo Black and Cola, and Cuervo Black on the rocks. On the rocks is not an independent cocktail! It's a method of serving the drink. Adding ice does not make you a bartender.

Castle Brands does this right. There's a decent booklet attached to the bottle, but the real tool is their recipes list on their website. There you can peruse their extensive list of cocktails, and search based on spirit used, glass served in, color, or even by holiday it celebrates. Good job.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patricks!

Well, in honor of he who banished the serpents and converted that fair Emerald Isle, get to drinking! The weather sucks, and I've got a final exam tommorow morning, so I'm not going to get ripped at the bars tonight, but I've got a green shirt, a bottle of Jameson's, a bottle of Celtic Crossing, and a bottle of Bailey's. I think I'll do just fine. And I hope you will too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

3rd in the World

Rumbanana, the Corvallis based Salsa group that pretty much is the greatest thing since sliced bread, just returned from the World Rueda de Casino Championships in Munich. Because when you think salsa dancing, the first place that leaps to your mind is obviously Germany.

They took third place, which is awesome, seeing as it's the world championship. They also thankfully took some sweet videos of their performances.

Rumbanana in the first round.

Rumbanana in the 2nd round.

Rumbanana in the finals.

Congrats to everyone who competed. Coming off their second place showing at the World Salsa championships at Miami six months ago, Rumbanana is really cementing itself as a premier dance group.
There's going to be a celebration at Platinum on the 14th. If you're in Oregon, be there. It's gonna be a great way to blow of some steam prior to finals.

Resolve to Win

Thanks to Blackfive for bringing this to my attention.

There is a group, calling themselves "Resolve to Win", composed of retired servicemen who returned from duty in Iraq, who have decided to march from South Carolina to Washington DC. They have the expressed goal of increasing American resolve for victory in Iraq. They are now in day 12 of their 16 day march, intending to finish in 4 days, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

I haven't heard anything about them in the mainstream media. But they have a well written and well planned blog that can be found at

In my opinion, the possibility of victory in Iraq has never been a question. The American military is orders of magnitude stronger than any other on the planet. The question has always been weather or not the American people have the fortitude to let the military do its job.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Card Carrying Member of the E-4 Mafia.

Well, I apparently impressed someone at drill this past weekend, because after I gave a class on military reports, my squad leader and PL pulled me to the side and informed me that the CO was signing a time in service waiver to promote me to Specialist ahead of schedule. Hot damn.

On the upside, that equates to about $30 more per drill, $100 more per AT, and around $3K more in the event of a deployment. On the downside, the CO pulled me aside and congratulated me on showing "knowledge above my pay grade", and that he "expected it of me from now on." No more slacking. Damn.

Outside of the promotion, drill was the same old, same old. Periods of fun training, stuck in a mesh of overwhelming boredom. We did NBC training, working with the new JLIST suit, which is much more comfortable than the old MOPP suit. We followed that up with heavy weapons training on the Mk. 19 and M-2. One of the M-2s I disassembled had a serial number of 6664. Given that the M-2 has been produced from 1919 onward, that low of a serial number was probably built back in the forties. It still worked like a charm too. to close out the drill, we got some time in the Humvees to continue convoy training. It was good stuff.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Drink of the Moment: Caipirinha

As some of you know, I enjoy drinking, and as such, I have a wealth of knowledge on the subject of alcohol. So today, I present to you, the Caipirinha, the national drink of Brasil.

To make a Caipirinha, you'll need the following: Half a lime, sugar, crushed ice, and Cachaca.

Start by cutting the half of a lime into quarters, or eighths of a whole lime. Drop the half lime into the bottom of the glass, then add the sugar. The IBA standard is two teaspoons, but depending on the drinker's sweet tooth, you might go as high as 3-4 tablespoons. Muddle the lime and sugar together. Then add 2-3 ounces of Cachaca, and mix. Usually you stir it, but if you have the resources, it works very well as a shaken drink. Pour the mix, lime rinds and all into an old fashoined glass, and fill with crushed ice. Stir the drink a bit more to ensure the wedges sink to the bottom of the glass. Garnish is optional. Enjoy the drink, and picture yourself on Ipenema.

There are several variations on the drink. If you vary the fruit, you go to the group of drinks known as Batidas. For citrus fruits, you can keep the wedges, because the oil from the skin adds to the flavor. For fibrous fruits like apples and pears, it's easier just to throw an ounce of juice into the mix, rather than attempt to find some way to muddle it without creating a mess. I've found that a mix of Passionfruit juice and Coconut Milk is wonderful.

Some people prefer to add an ounce of half and half or condensed milk. That thickens the drink, and neutralizes some of the acidity. This variation is one that you either love, or hate. There is no middle ground.

You can also vary the alcohol. A common variant is to replace the Cachaca with vodka. People refer to this as a "Caipiroska". My personal favorite, if I'm not in a Cachaca mood, I'll replace it with a spiced rum, like Captain Morgan's.

For those of you who aren't experienced in making your own drinks, here's a helpful video.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Games!

I picked up three new games today, Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War: Soulstorm, Army of Two, and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty.

I haven't had too much time to play them yet, and I haven't cracked open Turning Point, or installed Soulstorm, but I've put in about an hour on Army of Two, and I'm impressed.

What impresses me about the game is the teamwork aspect. You find you and your partner pinned down in an urban environment, while in most games you would either try to snipe the opponent or grenade him into submission, Army of Two is no ordinary game. While those remain viable strategies, AO2 encourages more team oriented solutions. In this case, I ripped the door off a nearby car and carried it like a riot shield, while my partner fired over my back. Other situations find you outnumbered and outgunned with no cover in sight, so you go back to back with your partner in an adrenaline filled shootout with the enemy.

Also interesting is the incorporation of aggro into a shooter. Aggro's normally a staple of MMORPG, but the way it has been implemented makes sense. For those who aren't in the know, Aggro is essentially the enemy's attention. If you start shooting, then the enemies focus their fire on you, if your partner is shooting, they focus on him. If you both shoot, they focus on whomever has the biggest gun.

Stylistically, the game looks real good. It's got a real edge to the characters appearance, the masks kind of make them look like Jason goes to War. The Characters have real character, however, the enemies are kind of bland. If they were in Star Trek, they'd be wearing a red shirt and be dead by now. In AO2, they were turbans, and are dead already.

The controls could use some tightening up, but that's really my only major complaint. It's soo much fun in Co-Op mode though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Pain Beam

This satellite dish looking thing adorning the top of the Humvee to the left is the Active Denial System (ADS), more colloquially known as the US Military Pain Beam.

the ADS is a vehicle mounted, less than lethal, directed energy weapon. It has the intended purpose of being used for riot control. It attains said control through the use of a stream of electromagnetic radiation at 95 gigahertz to impart energy to the water molecules in the human skin. If that sounds familiar, it's because your microwave does the exact same thing, only at 2.45 GHz, not 95 GHz, and to a TV dinner, not a human being. It's the same principle, though. The high energy level of the water molecules imparts the sensation of extreme burning, without the permanent damage or bad smell. And with a range of nearly 700 meters, it keeps the operator out of the range of thrown rocks and clubs, the staple weapons of rioters.

In over 10,000 tests of the ADs on humans, there have only been two incidences of serious injury. Both were second degree burns, hardly fatal, or life changing.

This weapons system provides the possibility for less than lethal force to be applied at distances which render the situation controllable. Most less than lethal weapons employed by the military or police force has a range on 25 meters or less. The Self Propelled sponge grenade has the longest range, at 50 meters. The ADS's range is 14 times that.

The ADS has proven itself to be more effective than CS gas in crowd dispersal, because CS has a tendency to incapacitate people and leave them on site, whereas the ADS causes people to flee reflexively. This weapons system would make its money in situations where there previously was no middle ground between lethal force and no force. A prime example would be the Sep 12th, 2004 riots in Baghdad were civilians attempted to loot a damaged Bradley Fighting Vehicle. An Army helicopter ordered the civilians to disperse with his bullhorn, and when they continued to swarm the vehicle, the helicopters dispersed the crowd with the next step up in their arsenal, a 30 mm chain gun. 13 people were killed, including a Palestinian reporter. The ADS could have dispersed the crowd without the need for bloodshed.

The Pain Beam is up for approval to be deployed in country to units. It has already been rejected once before, due to the political controversy over the Abu Gharib abuse scandal. Politicians fear that the ADS will be used maliciously, to burn and torture prisoners. Anyone who's watched Reservoir Dogs knows that torture doesn't require a high tech weapons system, just a razor, gasoline, and a matchbook. And while politicians fear the political backlash of deploying the weapons system in Iraq, I think that this system is far more humane than CS Gas, and certainly more humane than a bullet.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A weekend of Salsa!

This was a pretty eventful weekend for me. Things got started off on Friday. I met a few of my friends from the salsa group for dinner at the Tokyo Steakhouse and Sushi bar. For those of you who haven't been there, it's a Hibachi style grill house, with a sushi bar built in. They've got some real good food there. Most of us opted to eat from the grill, but Bill and I decided to have sushi instead. While we waited, the conversation ranged from trips we've taken to other countries, to the hope that enough people register to start up the level 3 Salsa class, to an entertaining little chat between Tristan and myself about the merits of CS gas for clearing your sinuses. The chef came out to cook, and as usual, it was a fun show. Onion volcanoes, juggling eggs on spatulas, throwing food into peoples mouths, the whole nine yards.

The only thing marring the meal was the fact that my sushi took a half hour longer to prepare than anyone Else's meal, for some unknown reason. Even Bill, who ordered more sushi than I did, got his food before I did. I guess they had a tough time killing the salmon...

Once my food got brought out, everyone else was nearly finished with their meal. They were nice enough to not pressure me about it, but I still felt kind of sheepish about it. So, in my somewhat masochistic method of eating, I slathered the sushi in enough wasabi to make my eyes water, and wolfed it down. It was frustrating having to wait that long, but the food was good, and for 7 pieces of nigri and 8 California rolls for $14.95, the price was right too.
At about 9:15, we left the Sushi Bar and went over to Platinum. It was a little early, and Mike and Simona were still trying to get the sound system working right, so I grabbed my friends Rob and John and played a game of cutthroat. I'm not the greatest at shooting pool, and Rob's actually a pretty good shot, so I was kind of doomed from the outset. However, things went from bad to worse. On my second shot, I was pressing a little bit, and on the follow through I rammed my hand into the metal grating on the side of the pool table. The impact gouged a chunk of skin off the index and middle finger of my right hand. It stung, but it wasn't bleeding, so I kept playing. A couple of shots later, I hit the Cue ball, and watched a glob of blood go flying off my hand and onto the table. I looked at my hand, and found that it was bleeding, profusely. I handed my cue off to Shelly while I went to the bathroom to get some paper towels to soak up the blood. When I returned, Shelly noticed the blood saturated rag covering my right hand, and asked me if I wanted some band aids. Lord knows where she managed to find band aids in the bar, but she really saved my night. The girls wouldn't exactly be lining up to dance with me if I was just going to bleed all over their blouse.

Right about when Mike got the sound system to where he liked it and Simona got the music going, Sheridan showed up. Sheridan's a beautiful girl from the Salsa class at OSU that I help out with. She's got some very real potential as a dancer, even if she doesn't think so herself. She's easy to talk to and very intelligent. She's also shares a name with a tank, what more could you ask for?

I took Sheridan out onto the dance floor for several songs, a few sons, a merengue, and a nice bachata. It was nice because it was before things got really crowded. I asked if she was feeling a little adventurous, and took the nervous giggle I got as a yes. I took her over to a Rueda de Casino that was forming on the dance floor. We jumped in, and she acquitted herself well. Afterwords, I saw my friends Amy and Shannon had shown up, so I brought them over to meet Sheridan. It turns out they all knew each other from their freshman year in college. They immediately started catching up on what they'd missed, so I left them to their devices and danced with a few other friends from my salsa class.

Later around midnight, Simona kicked off the Leap Day Leap Frog contest. I looked around for Sheridan, to see if I could get her to partner up with me, but it turns out she had left a little while ago. I had hoped to get her phone number, but I'm sure I'll see her around again. I found a guy named Dylan who was willing to team up with me for the competition.

The rules of the competition were pretty straightforward, the team had to leapfrog the length of the dance floor, chug a beer, and leapfrog back. There were six teams, broken down into two heats of three. The winner of each heat would face each other in the final. Dylan and I were in the second heat, so we watched the first heat go through. Rob and John, the two guys I was playing pool with earlier, dominated the first heat. Although I suspect it might have been closer if Naomi and Alana remembered that they needed to go back after chugging the beer. The second heat rolled around, and we were up. We smoked our competition. This meant that we had to go against Rob and John in the finals. That last run was filled with Olympic caliber drama, if the Olympics were conducted in a dark nightclub by drunks. We hit the beers at a dead tie, but Rob botched the landing, slipping on spilled beer. Thinking we had the win sewed up, we let up a little bit on the return trip. But Rob and John came back with a vengeance. Right as we were coming up on the finish, Rob completely laid out in an attempt to snatch our victory away from us. But we were not to be denied. We edged them out by a nose, and claimed our victory. The reward for the champions was more beer, and a stuffed frog. It's good to be on top.

Afterwords, once I was done with my victory beer. I ran into one of the girls who were brave enough to compete in the leap frog contest. Her name was Kara and we hit it off nicely. We sat down at a table and talked for a little while. As we were talking, my friend Kyle showed up to say hi. Turns out he knew Kara. I thought it was kind of odd to see Kyle at a Latin X night, he always struck me as a Wild West Wednesday type. He admitted as much, but I wish he had gone out and danced a bit. There's a picture of him on the Latin X website where he's just sitting at the bar, looking completely out of his element. I'd probably look the same on a Wednesday night.

The conversation with Kara progressed nicely, until Simona decided to start playing some merengue again. At which point I felt the need to take Kara for a few dances. A little merengue is great because you can dance it no matter how much alcohol you've imbibed at that point. The music went from Merengue to salsa after a few songs, and Kara continued to keep up, which impressed me. She definitely has done salsa before. I'll have to make sure she comes out for the next Latin X night.

At this point, it was real late, and the party started to die down. Security hit the lights, and everyone staggered their way out into the night. I stayed behind to help Mike break down some of the decorations. My height comes in handy with some of the higher lighting setups. On my way home, I watched some poor SOB get lit up for a DUI. It was their own fault, every night the cops stash cars at the same place outside every bar, and every night, someone's stupid enough to try driving drunk right in front of the cop. I'm just glad I live close enough to walk.

Saturday morning brought up a new set of challenges. Rumbanana was holding a fundraiser party at Aztec Willie's in Portland. The goal was to raise money for their trip to the World Rueda Championships in Munich, Germany this week. The side effect of this fundraiser is an awesome party. However, the party's in Portland, I'm in Corvallis, and there's 90 miles separating the two. These are the days I wish I had a car. But I don't, so I do what's needed to get what I need, I beg, wheel and deal, and call in favors. But sometimes, things get a little out of control. This was one of those times.

Initially, I was supposed to get a ride from Alana. We were going to leave around 11 AM, and I'd bum around Portland for the day before showing up at the party at 9. I called her at 10, and she said that she decided to leave later. Fine by me, lets me loaf around home, rather than in Portland. But then, at around six, she calls me and tells me that somethings happened over at her place and she won't be able to give me a ride. Well, shit.

I go into panic mode. I start calling up everyone I know who has a car, to see if I could get a ride up to Portland. Alana was helpful, she sent me a ton of numbers of people from Rumbanana, and I started going down the list. Eventually, I found a ride up there. Thankfully.

We drove up to Portland, and found our way over to Aztec Willie's. We got there right as Mike and Simona kicked off the Rueda lesson. As that got going, I went over to the bar, and opened a tab. I was in a Kahlua type mood that night. I started off with a Smith and Wesson, and through the course of the night I went through a few White Russians and B-52s too. Yum...

Aztec Willie's is a nice establishment, it's got a couple flat screens with SC on, a Mexican grill, and a nice dance floor with a classy looking glass DJ booth. The problem is, the partition between the grill and the bar and the dance floor creates a brutal choke point. It really makes things a lot more crowded than it should be.

After I opened up my tab, I noticed the grill. But the bar had my debit card. The food actually looked pretty good, and even though I wasn't that hungry, I seriously entertained the notion of asking if I could put an enchilada on my bar tab. I bet they get asked that alot. But I thought better of mixing Mexican food and excessive amounts of alcohol.

One of my favorite things about going to a salsa night at the club is finding new people to dance with outside of the rumbanana circle. I was sipping on my drink after dancing a Bachata with Sara, I was walking over to the bar for another drink. On my way, I saw a pretty woman, about 5'11", blond, and slim. I walked over and asked if she wanted to dance. She said she didn't know how. So I taught her a little LA style salsa, because it's easier for most women to pick up on the fly than Cuban salsa. We danced some salsa, and some merengue (because let's face it, anyone can dance merengue). She had a good sense of rhythm, which made things easier, but things were still a little cramped on the packed floor. We went back to the bar, and engaged in the typical small talk. Her name was Kelly, and she was a Massage Therapist who had just moved to Portland from her previous job at a spa in Malaysia. Sexy. I'm definitely calling her the next time I'm in Portland.

Eventually, I had to leave, given as I was 90 miles from home, and my hope, to crash at Chelsea's place, fell through when she got a house sitting gig that night. So I bummed a ride back to Corvy, and passed out the moment I hit the bed. I spent most of Sunday recovering.

It was awesome.