Tuesday, December 29, 2009
May your 2010 be a damn sight better than your 2009.
And also may this decade be a damn sight better than the last one. Yeah, Yeah, some people say that technically 2011 starts the new decade, but foo on that noise, symbolically it makes more sense to consider 2010 the beginning of the new decade rather than 2011. It's been a good year overall at the Little House in the Ghetto. I'm still living here. I've enjoyed pretty good health thus far. I need new glasses, the ones I'm wearing are about 15 years old. My right ear feels like it's stopped up, my knees are protesting. I can't throw a ball or anything else more than 30 feet. I've developed a stutter and my short term memory is shot to hell. But I'm still standing and breathing and best of all, still able to keep the blog up.
I'm not usually one to do resolutions because I never keep them. But I will make a very special attempt to keep these resolutions:
I will resolve not to tailgate police cars.
I resolve to no longer park next to fire hydrants.
And I resolve to drive closer to the posted speed limits.
These should not be hard to keep considering I don't drive. This last one presents a challenge.
And finally, I resolve to drink much less beer in future.
The '00's have been fun and i'm looking forward to what the 'teens have to offer. Maybe a better job, a love interest? A bunch of money...who knows, but the only thing there is is to experience it and see what happens on the other side. From the Little House in the Ghetto to all those who read this blog whether they admit to it or not, Have a happy New Year and come back in 2010 for more essays, blog posts and other literary nick-nacks from your favorite blog, The Moonlight Scribbler.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Mitch opened the galley doors and turned on the lights. We stepped into the galley and started turning equipment on. While we were waiting for the gear to warm up, Mitch handed out the assignments. In addition to him, there were four other guys on the watch. Myself, who would be doing the grill items, Gary who was on fryers and did some copper work, Wayne who was the other copper cook and Joe, was on ovens.
Gary was like me, a third class petty officer who had been in for three years. He liked his booze and his women the same way...strong and capable of getting his dumb ass into trouble. He would chase anything that wore a skirt and even remotely showed any interest in talking to him. The problem was that he had the fucking social skills of a sledgehammer. He had no tact whatsoever, and usually the first words out of his mouth had something to do with going straight past 'Hello' to "Hey, Baby. Let's Fuck!" Suffice it to say, this didn't get him very far in the date department. But he held his booze well, and was usually a happy drunk as long as no one mentioned his ex-wife, whom he caught doing the tube snake boogie with his best buddy back in Houston in 1980. Rather than killing them both and spending the rest of his life behind bars, he decided to divorce the bitch, let her have the kids and then enlisted in the Navy to make a clean start of it. From that moment on he had complete and utter disrespect for women and treated them like shit, mostly to get back at his ex. In the galley, Gary was a shit hot cookie. He worked his ass off, cooked good chow, got his assignments done quickly and helped the slower guys out just to stay busy. He had only one year left on his enlistment and was debating whether to re-up. He had the taken the second class test once, and did well on it but in the MS rating, the number of guys going for E5 versus the number of guys actually needed to fill the Navy's quota worked against him. He decided to take the exam again later in the year and if he didn't get his second class crow, he'd get out. But he didn't want to go back to Houston. He knew what was waiting for him there, and he wasn't going to let that ruin his life.
Wayne was an E3, a Mess Management Specialist Seaman from Chicago, who once was a third class until he decided to rearrange a Marine's face with a beer bottle in what could be described politely as an inter-service difference of opinion. It seems that he and this jarhead were drinking in a bar on the strip a few months ago when said jarhead started mouthing off about the Navy. He maintained that the Navy was full of prissy faggots and that no sailor would even make it past the first week of Marine boot camp. Wayne, being a proud Navy man took exception to this insult, and when challenged as to what he was going to do about it, promptly grabbed his beer bottle off the bar and clubbed the Marine upside the head. This started a hellacious bar fight which resulted in the destruction of the bar, 10 sailors and a dozen Marines being arrested, and poor Wayne losing his crow. The Captain reamed him out at Mast for getting into it with the Marines and lectured him about how squids and jarheads are all on the same team, and the usual interservice co-operation bullshit, but Wayne could also tell in the old man's voice that the CO was secretly proud of him for sticking up for the Navy. Wayne loved the Navy, and even though they took his crow away, he was hard at work doing his courses and exams to get it back. He grew up on the mean streets of Chicago's South Side. His father left him and his mother when he was six months old to take up with some slut he met on a business trip. He resisted the drug and gang scenes, did fair to middling in high school and in 1979, when the time came for him to decide what to do with his life, he went straight to the Navy recruiting office and signed up. He wanted to get out of Chicago in the worst way, and the Navy was his ticket. And living in Chicago, he didn't have to fly halfway across the country to start his career. He just had to go forty miles North to the Great Lakes Naval Base for boot camp. After boot, he went to MS "A" school in San Diego, graduated in the top 5 in his class and was assigned to the Alameda in 1980. Despite losing his crow, he had never had a cross word about his choice of career, and didn't tolerate anyone from another branch of the services talking shit about the Navy. Like all sailors, he bitched and complained about the usual shit that sailors bitch about, but he credited the Navy for saving his life. Like Gary, he was a good cook who did his job, liked his drink, and made the best of his situation.
Joe was the youngest of the crew. A MS Seaman Apprentice, he had just graduated from "A" school a month ago, and this was his first ship. From a forgettable one stop-light town in the ass-end of one of those big, flat midwest states, Joe had never been out of his hometown until he joined the Navy. He came from a family of military men. His father and grandfather were in the Army and saw action in Vietnam and WWII, respectively. He had one brother who joined the Marines, while he himself signed up to be a sailor. He was still very much a new boot having only been in the service for 10 months. He was very surprised when he reported to the Alameda about the sorry state of the galley equipment. Apparently, he wasn't paying attention to the MS "A" school Commanding Officer's traditional admonishment to the weekly graduating classes to forget everything they learned in school once they got to the Fleet. He was constantly bitching about this oven not working and that griddle being out of calibration, and the rest of the watch pretty much ignored him. He was quick to make his feelings known to the division chain of command, who politely listened to his grievances and then told him to shut up and turn to. As a result he had a bad attitude and let his work reflect it. He was lazy, slow, not particularly good at cooking and clearly didn't give a damn. Mitch wanted to get rid of the shitbird in the worst way, but the division was short-handed to begin with, and the galley sup couldn't spare anyone to take the kid's place. So he had to try and work with Joe to get him squared away. Although Mitch was starting to think that the asshole needed a more forceful attitude adjustment...like a blanket party.
End of Part Two
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
The ship named in this piece is modeled after a ship I served on while I was in the Navy from 1984 to 1986. The ship is no longer in commission, but still I have changed its name to the USS Alameda, and the names of my crew mates are also psuedonyms. The time frame for this story is set for 1984, the ship is tied up at the pier at the Naval Base from which it takes its name, Naval Air Station Alameda in Alameda, CA. The base has since been closed. Most of the descriptions in this account are pretty accurate. There is more than a little exaggeration, but the basics are true. If you're wondering why I do not mention women as part of either the ship's or the galley crew, keep in mind that in the mid-'80s, women did not serve on combat ships as they do now. I have decided to write this piece in multiple parts so that I can add as much detail as possible. Even though this blog is known for its long form posts, if I were to stuff the entirety of the piece into one post, the writing would suffer, so it's better to spread it out over multiple posts to keep the writing fresh.
Up at 0400. Shit! I just got to sleep not three hours before. I had come back aboard Alameda at 0100 after a night of heavy drinking with the guys on my watch. We had hit this dingy-ass dive on the Strip and had gotten royally fucked up. What was the name of that shithole again? The Dragon Palace??? I was drinking San Miguel and it was coming back to bite me in the ass. Fucking flip brew!!! Stumbled across the quarterdeck, hit the head long enough to take a wiz and splash some water on my face before collapsing in my rack.
Next thing I knew, I saw the ugly puss of my watch captain, Mitch, telling me to get my ass out of the rack and turn to. I thought to myself "This is why I spent six weeks in San Diego??" Goddamn that second class PN in reclassification at Great Lakes. Railroading me into becoming an MS. Then again. it was my fault for fucking up that great shot at becoming a DS. If I had worked my ass off like I should have in BE&E school, I wouldn't be in this shit. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. I hit the head for a quick shower and threw on a set of cook's whites. Grabbing an apron and my favorite 16 ounce ceramic tankard, I head out of S-2 berthing and make my way down the red-lighted passageways towards the galley. It's dead quiet on the decks as it should be for a ship tied up on the pier. A minute later, I hit the messdecks and stop at the coffee machine for the first of many cups of coffee to get my cranky ass through the day. The rancid taste of Filipino beer was still in my cotton-dry mouth, and I needed some good ol' Navy joe to wash that shit out. Now the stuff in the coffee urn, had once been coffee, about 18 hours ago. Now it was transformed into a pitch-black bitter swill that had the taste of battery acid, and looked like the shit that was dredged off the bottom of the fuel oil tanks. It tasted awful, but it provided the caffeine jolt I needed to get the alcohol induce fog out of my head and ready for another 16 hour day.
It was Tuesday, and we, the port watch, were on the dog ass end of a 5 and 2 week. We relieved the starboard watch section, the other cook shift, after breakfast yesterday so they could get some liberty after working the weekend. We turned and burned all day Monday cooking lunch and dinner and then cleaned up the galley. Once released, we hit the beach for some serious drinking, and womanizing and lurched back to the ship. Now, we had to pull a full shift today working breakfast, lunch and dinner before we could roll out about 2000. We then had to drag our asses back in at 0430 tomorrow to work breakfast, before the rested and refreshed starboard crew would come in and relieve us. We then had Wednesday and Thursday off before coming back in Friday to work the weekend shift. Next week, the situation would be reversed. Off Monday and Tuesday, work Wednesday and Thursday and off again on the weekend. Fortunately, for us we had payday on our rotation, and we'd be getting paid on our weekend off.
But that was an eternity away. We had at least sixteen hours of ass-kicking work ahead of us. We had to put out over 1,200 meals during the breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And the galley we worked in conspired to make the job that much harder.
I don't know who the dumbass was in charge of designing the space where the Alameda cooks worked, but clearly they, nor anyone they gave a shit about never intended to work there. The galley, or kitchen, for non-squids, was located on the port side of the ship, while the messdecks themselves were on the centerline. In port, this was not a big deal, but at sea was a different copper of fish. The Alameda was a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser, essentially a bulked-up destroyer, which meant that at sea, she would roll under even the calmest of waters. If we were in rough seas, she would do fifteen and twenty degree rolls with ease. Cooking under those conditions was fun to say the least. We had to lash down the shitcans, or else they'd be chasing the cooks all over the galley. The poor bastard who had to work the fryers during a meal had to hope and pray that the ship didn't roll too much or else he'd have about seven gallons of 300+ degree frying oil in his lap. When the galley decks got wet, they were as slippery as ice and once in a while a cook who wasn't careful would go flying ass over teakettle with a six inch pan of soup, splashing it all over the fucking place. During high seas it was common to see guys and their food sliding around the messdecks and dropped trays of food were commonplace. Honestly, I don't know how the hell we didn't get anyone killed in that space, what with all the gear that could either cut or burn people to death. But that was not a problem while we were alongside the pier.
The location of the galley, not withstanding, the rest of the machinery in the galley also challenged us in our constant battle to put out decent chow. The Alameda galley had four convection ovens, but only three of them worked. Of those, one barely got above 250 degrees and the other two were at least 100 degrees out of calibration. We could never remember whether they were high or low. The four steam jacketed kettles, or coppers, where the cooks would make their soups, sauces, or any other food that had to be cooked there were controlled by four separate steam valves that when working could allow each copper to adjusted as needed or shut off entirely. That is, when the steam valves worked. They leaked constantly, and never turned off completely. The only way the coppers could be controlled at all was through the main steam valve which turned them all on or off at the same time. Of course this would complicate things as cooks who had to have a copper going for one dish had to make sure that they didn't overcook or undercook whatever was in one of the other coppers. Now because the coppers were always on, that caused the safety valves to constantly blow filling the galley with a deafening roar of hot steam, which raised the already high temperature of the galley and its cooks another 20 degrees. The two electric griddles were foul-tempered bitches in and of themselves. Both of them were out of calibration by at least 50 degrees and had numerous hot and cold spots. Knowing where they were and how to use them required skills that we had definitely not learned in "A" school. About the only thing that worked halfway decent in the whole damn galley was the deep fat fryers. The only thing wrong with them was that the heating elements didn't swing out of the way which made cleaning them even more of a pain in the ass than usual. The whole fucking mess was a torture chamber personally designed by deSade himself. Despite all that, both watches were able to put out pretty decent chow. We got the usual complaints, and the quality of the food and the maintenance of the galley would not have qualified us for the Ney award, but we managed. To survive in Alameda's galley, we had to know how to improvise and use equipment in ways they weren't meant to be used. Otherwise, the meal didn't get out and that was the most important thing--getting the fucking meal out.
End of Part One.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I'm not a Linux fanboy. I'm not one of the open-source crazies that insist that my computer be running 100% free/open source software and insists on recording my music files in Ogg Vorbis, or recording videos in Ogg Theora which are the open-source alternatives to the mp3 audio standard and mp4 video standard, respectively simply because neither the Ogg Vorbis or Theora standards are not widely supported. There are media players that support that format, but you have to look for them. I'm lazy, I like my iPods just fine, thank you.
One of the great things about the current Linux distros is that the companies that maintain them have also done licensing deals with those companies that license the most popular technologies used in todays electronic equipment. Linux users can rip CDs to the mp3 file format and play them. They can use and view Flash movies on Linux boxes. They can create and read .pdf files. There are Linux music players that actually will work with iPods. Amarok is one of them. The open source purists may howl, but I believe that Linux has to be able to embrace those proprietary standards if it wants to be more than a bit player in the PC operating systems market. There are Linux distros that are 100% free, open source software available for those who are true open source believers, and want to completely cut the chain to Microsoft and Apple, and I have no problem with that. Go with my blessing. To go that route requires a level of dedication to free and open source that I and many other Linux users are not willing to take. And a lot of the hard core open source types need to learn that if they want the world to embrace Linux, it's a lot better to meet users halfway and teach them the rest than to expect them to come all the way into the geekiverse and seek wisdom from the Linux gurus. I'm off my soapbox now.
One of the advantages of Linux is that it is free. No charge, zip, nada, zilch, gratis. If you have a computer with a CD/DVD burner, a good broadband internet connection and an hour or so, you can get a copy of the latest Linux distro of your choice for only the time it takes to download an image and burn it to a CD. Some of the companies that maintain Linux distros may charge for tech support, or for versions to be used in business settings, but the average individual can get a copy of Linux for free. Have you ever seen the system that Microsoft has in place for the pricing of Windows 7? Starter, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate?? Upgrade editions? All-in-one upgrade disks? Student Editions? Some will allow you to upgrade directly from Vista in-line, but not from XP. You can upgrade from Starter to Home Premium to Professional to Ultimate, but you can't downgrade or sidegrade. Too complicated. Too many exceptions and confusing details and prices. Even most Windows gurus have a hard time trying to figure out all the various permutations. And if you think Windows 7's SKU structure is confusing, it's a great improvement from the Vista setup which made people want to beat their heads against the closest wall. Linux distros are simple. In all cases, there's a version that is 100% free/open source, with no proprietary software included and there's a version with code for the most popular proprietary software available. And its free. Just pick your poison, download and burn, and you're ready to go. And even if you don't have a computer with a burner (and who doesn't?), you can get a copy of your fav Linux distro sent to you through the regular postal mail.
Also, the current Linux distros have all the software you need to get online and productive right out of the box. The major distros have at least two web browsers, one of them being Firefox. They also include an excellent free open-source office suite called Open Office, media players, IM clients, photo managers, graphics programs, and even some games. Need to burn discs, check. Need to read email and check your calendar, check. Need to organize photos and send them to Grandma? check.
What about security? Is Linux susceptible to viruses, malware and all of the other crud that is clogging teh interwebs?? For the most part, the answer is no. One of the advantages of having the small market share that Linux has is that most malicious hackers and bad guys won't attack it because it's not a big enough target. Not when you have Microsoft Windows which is being run on over 90% of the world's computers. Also remember, most hackers black hat or white hat run Linux as their main operating system. As soon as the bad guys come up with an exploit to penetrate the Linux system, the open source community has a patch up and available in short order. Also unlike Windows which allows users to run in Administrator mode (never a good idea), Linux will not allow this. All Linux users run in a limited- access mode that shuts off the ability to alter crucial files in the operating system unless they consciously submit the root password. Root access is to Linux what an administrator account is to Windows. In either case, you are God on your computer. You can change any setting in the operating system, install software, alter important files, add, subtract and change user accounts, and totally control how your computer operates. And as God can create, he can also destroy. That saying, you can completely render your computer inoperable if you monkey around with the wrong files. Linux will only allow you root access to the whole operating system if you give the root password and will only allow you access for as long as it takes to do what you have to do, and once you're done, the systems sends you back to your regular level of system access. Any nasties that are infesting the Internet are written mostly for Windows, and won't run on a Linux system, and if they did land on your system, they'd need root access in order to get to the important bits of the OS. The average user will only need root access very sparingly. Linux works pretty well right out of the box, and unless you're installing software updates or new software, you won't need to go to root all that often. There are Linux viruses, but they are very few and very far between. However, it's always good to practice secure computing techniques, no matter what OS you run. Strong passwords, don't open attachments in emails, watch which websites you go to, and generally being aware of your surroundings.
Linux is also a very stable operating system. Accounts of Linux machines going months without rebooting are commonplace. Most software upgrades and OS upgrades can be done without rebooting. The majority of web servers that power the Internet run on some version of Linux.
I have laid out some of the advantages of Linux. Cost, security, stability, the wide range of software available immdiately before even going online. Part 3 will go into some of the disadvantages of Linux. And there are more than a few.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Some of the circumstances mentioned in this post have changed. My brother passed away a month after the original post was written, and because Thanskgiving falls after payday I will have money in my wallet, but not much. But much still stays the same. I have no girlfriend by my own choosing, my church is still losing parishioners, but we're getting the roof fixed and it looks like I'm not getting invited anywhere on Thanksgiving Day because I work the graveyard. But despite all the crap that I deal with, once again, by my own neglect and/or design, I still try to find something to be thankful for. I still live in my house and not under the Sixth St. Bridge. I still have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, friends that I can enjoy and respect and I still have the Denise. I can pay the bills and still enjoy pretty good health. God has been very good to me. But the 2007 post does serve to remind me and the teeming masses that read this blog, to find the silver lining in the cloud, to smile even when your heart is breaking and above all, in all things, give thanks. Now I give you "Thanksgiving"
I look in my wallet and there's no money...
But I'm thankful I have a wallet.
My house is old, in need of repair, in a crime-ridden neighborhood. I can barely afford to keep it up.
But I'm thankful I have a house.
Last week, a few of the neighborhood kids, with nothing better to do, kicked in my door,
But I'm thankful they didn't take anything.
My job is chimp work. The pay stinks, the benefits are a joke, I work on holidays and I hate what I do.
But I'm thankful to have a job.
I received an invitation by a good friend to have Thanksgiving at her place, I couldn't go because I had to work.
But I'm thankful that she thought highly enough of me to invite me.
My church is poor, the building is not in good shape, we're losing parishioners every year.
But I'm thankful that while we are poor in finances, we are rich in spirit.
My sole remaining brother is not well, he could go at anytime.
But I'm thankful he's still around for now.
I have made bad decisions all my life, They are my own and I blame no one for them. My life could be much better had I made better choices,
But I'm thankful that thus far, I'm still alive, I have had the chance to make any decisions at all, and have the guts to admit when I've screwed up.
I don't have a lot of friends, no girlfriend or lover.
But I'm thankful for the friends I have.
There are times I think that I'm the biggest failure.
But I'm thankful those times made me appreciate the successes I've had.
I have failed God more than a few times.
But I'm thankful that he has not failed me.
I didn't want to go to church this morning. Last thing I wanted to do was to give thanks about anything.
But I'm thankful I did, otherwise, this post would have never been written.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I sometimes wonder if I'm taking thanks that aren't really deserved. Too young for Vietnam and too old for the Gulf War. I'm purely a peacetime vet. I was marching with guys that saw combat and had stories that would straighten my hair, if I let it grow. I sometimes feel that I'm basking in reflected glory, that I don't deserve to be thanked for my service, when I consider what those guys went through. I don't envy the guys who saw combat, I would like to think that I would have volunteered or stepped forward should I have faced that situation. But I would never compare my tour of duty to those who really earned the title "veteran".
I'm glad I did what I did. Partially because coming out of high school, I didn't have very many options. I didn't have the grades or the maturity for college, and the parents didn't have the money. Had I gone to college right out of high school, I wouldn't have lasted one semester. So other than a dead end job or the streets, I joined the Navy. It did change my life. And I'm damn proud to say that I'm a squid, a galleyrat and a trusty shellback. But it still probes at the back of mind as to whether I really should be marching in the Veteran's Day parade when I barely consider myself a veteran.
That being said, thanks to all those who put on the uniform of their country and answered the call. Thanks to those who served before me, with me, and after me. And mostly, thanks to those who are serving now. Whether they do it because they truly feel that the country needs their service, or that they want to get money for college, and knock off a few rough edges. Their service is valued and needed, especially with the war in Afghanistan going as it is. Let's not get me started on that whole mess.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Witnesses say that Maj. Hasan was shouting "Allahu Akbar", which is Arabic for "God is Great" while he was shooting his victims. Here is a link to a CNN background story of Maj. Hasan. He was taken down by a courageous female police officer who shot the gunman four times with no concern for her own well-being. President Obama has already called the shootings 'horrific' and has pledged to get to the bottom of this.
There is still much, much more that is to be sussed out in this case. I don't claim to be a news source. It's not my place to dig and dig for every scrap of news whether relevant or irrelevant. I'm just a personal blogger who has a bad obsession with podcasts and Oh My Goddess. But a story like this would be important enough for someone like me who rarely blogs on current events of the day to offer up his two cents on the matter, which is about what my opinion is worth.
Here was a man, who was responsible for aiding others who had problems coping with the high-stress life of soldiers at war, who himself, became a casualty of those same demons. Here was a man, who had probably heard more horror stories about the death and killing that is part and parcel of war, than most of us would ever want to hear. Most people who hear these stories as a part of their profession, learn to cope with the constant exposure in a variety of ways. Some may go through periods of depression or "take their job home with them", but its highly unlikely that they will resort to measures such as shooting up a building full of soldiers. There are bound to be other factors that will be unearthed as the investigation of this incident proceeds.
But it is important for all involved to NOT jump to conclusions. The leading Muslim advocacy groups have already denounced this attack and have come out in support of the families affected as well as the country as a whole. There are thousands of Muslims serving in our military that are doing so honorably, and commendably. It's too easy to lash out at them because they are Muslims, and that somehow their peaceful, more tolerant strain of Islam has been confused with its radical violent cousin subscribed to by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The sad thing about all this is, this could be the tip of the iceberg. Soldiers are being forced into multiple combat tours without adequate down time to recover. The military is sending guys back over there that had problems on their previous tours, and should not be cleared to go back. Recruiting is in a downturn, the services are having a hard time replenishing the ranks after soldiers are either too messed up physically or emotionally to go back over there. Of course there will be the wackjobs who will claim that the shooter, because he was a Muslim was somehow a sleeper operative that was activated by Al Qaeda, and will advocate violence against all Muslims and those who are suspected of being or even looking like a Muslim. The wackjobs on the left will say that our military is out of control, and that our soldiers are psychotic killers. Of course some of the wackjobs on the right will figure out a way to blame Obama for the whole mess, claiming that he's a closet Muslim, and that he secretly supported the killings.
I know that soldiers from previous wars had meltdowns just like this, back in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam, but the difference between then and today is the pervasive media and the 24 hour news cycle. This is nothing new. It just seems like it. No one truly wins in war. All involved lose to one degree or another. And the tragic results of man's inhumanity to man may not be seen immediately or under the harsh glare of spotlights and TV cameras. It could happen years down the road, with no one around as a witness. The government, as well as the military have an obligation to these soldiers and veterans to insure that they get the care they deserve. If the government sends our men and women into harm's way to advance their agenda and/or interests, then it has made an implicit covenant with those people to care for them and to make them as whole as possible when they come back.
Prayers go out to the families of those who were killed. Also prayers go out to the killer and his family. Most of all prayers go out to the men and women who serve this country in the military as they continue to represent us in battle. I hope and pray that this is not the tip of the iceberg, but I have a strange feeling that there may be other meltdowns like this down the road.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
And then inevitably, I'd chicken out because my various handheld devices would not work with Linux or something would happen with my system that would piss me off enough to scurry back to the buggy, yet familiar world of Windows.
But now that I have a netbook that runs Windows XP and iTunes and the Blackberry Desktop Manager and all the other Windows software that keeps my various handhelds happy as well as insures that I no longer have to learn and live with Linux without a safety net, I went ahead and installed Mandriva Linux on Allegra and I swear on a stack on "Oh My Goddess" unflopped manga volumes that I will not reinstall Windows on Allegra again.
I'm not kidding this time!
I am really, really, really serious!
Hey, I'm swearing on a stack of Oh My Goddess unflopped manga volumes, which means that if i renege on this, Belldandy, Urd and Skuld will come down to earth and slap me around like a bastard stepchild. Which may not be a bad way to go, but...
With all that out of the way, I'm writing this piece to expound on my ongoing experiences living, learning and ultimately loving this geek-friendly operating system known as Linux.
First, I can see that some of yinz need a little education as to what Linux is and what the term open-source means. You can get the detailed information about Linux here But for those who don't want to slog through the geek-speak that Wikipedia article contains, suffice it to say that Linux is an operating system much like Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS put out by Apple.
The major difference between Linux and those other two OS's is that Linux is open-source and Windows and Mac OS aren't. Now what pray-tell yea, verily does the term open-source mean? Well grab your propeller beanies and sit down because Uncle Pee is going to expound from his vast knowledge of geekery and break it down to you in a way that even a past Phi Theta Kappa chapter President can understand it.
Open Source 101. The heart of any computer program, whether an operating system, an office suite, or even a Twitter client is its code. Code is the instructions that tell a computer what to do in order to perform a certain function. There are two types of code: object code and source code. Source code are the human-readable instructions that programmers write in a particular language to create a program. Here is an example of source code:
This is a simple BASIC program which asks for two numbers, adds them together, displays the sum and then asks the user if they want to continue. BASIC is an old computer programming language that many programmers learned as a first coding language back in the day.
10 input a
15 input b
20 let c=a+b
25 print c
30 input"Again?", a$
35 if a$="y" then 10
This is source code. It can be read by human beings that are familiar with the BASIC language. This simple program can be written in hundreds of other programming languages, but I chose BASIC because even the most ungeeky person can figure out what this program will do. While humans can read this code with ease, a computer can only understand 1 and 0. So this program has to be converted into a form that a computer can understand and carry out. In the case, of this BASIC program, I have to run this program within a BASIC interpreter which will convert each line of the program as it is run into object code that the computer will understand. Other languages like C or C++ use what is called a compiler that take the program as a whole and create a file out it that can run on its own with out needing another program to run it.
Now because I wrote this program, I own it. It is my intellectual property to do with it what I see fit. I can either compile the source code into object code, sell that code, and keep the source code for myself and alter it and expand on it as I wish and issue updates. Or I can choose to give the source and object code away to anyone who wants it, and also give them the ownership rights to that code, so that they can expand on it, add new features and so on. Microsoft and Apple subscribe to the former model. If the code I wrote belonged to Microsoft or Apple, you would not see it on this blog. It would considered a crime for me to possess that source code because they maintain that it is their code and they have not released it in source form. What you get when you buy either a computer with Windows or Mac OS preinstalled, or a DVD with those operating systems burned onto it is the object code. The millions of 1's and 0's that a PC or Mac can understand that make up the operating system. Microsoft and Apple maintain a tight control over the source code or the human readable instructions that make up the OS and their other programs. They make their money by selling the object code and maintaining ownership of the source code.
Linux is the opposite. The various companies that make Linux distributions like Mandriva, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and so on, make the source code available to anyone who wants it. You may have to jump through some hoops to get it, and obviously, you have to have knowledge about programming in order to update or improve on it, but it is available to the public. Unlike Microsoft and Apple who own the entirety of their operating systems, Linux has no central owner. The companies I mentioned, all have the same basic underpinnings of Linux as the foundations of their particular distribution, but they are free to add their particular features on top of that foundation to create a distro that is unique to them.
The central foundation of Linux is maintained by an immense community of very talented programmers who give of their time and expertise to update and upgrade the thousands of programs and utilities and such that make up the Linux operating system. It is a programming team that numbers in the millions. And any programmer that has the chops can contribute code to the community.
Now that code has to pass muster, and it is reviewed by the gatekeepers who maintain the various parts of the OS, but this is the concept of free, open source software. The source code is not locked away in a vault in Cupertino or Redmond, but is on the internet available to all. And just because it's open source does not mean that it cannot be sold. The companies I mentioned sell versions of their Linux based operating systems to individuals and businesses, the difference is that ownership of the source code and object code transfers to the person or business buying the code, and if they have the programmers that can upgrade that code to make it work for their particular need, they can do so.
Now this is just the basic premise behind open-source software, more detailed explanations of the various licensing schemes and their rules and limitations are available at sites like www.linux.org, which is the main Linux site. That site contains all the really geeky syuff about Linux.
I've decided to mak this blog post into a multi-part deal, so as not to overwhelm the readers. The discussion of Linux can't be contained in one post. There's just too much content to be covered. And I've barely scratched the surface, so stay tuned for the next installment of "Living with Linux".
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I don't know about the hot new eateries that the foodies go apeshit over. My tastes run towards food that looks like food and not something I'd see at a juried exhibit at the Three Rivers Art Festival. I don't read the City Paper or Pittsburgh magazine. Partially because in the case of the City Paper, I'm not some angst-ridden twenty-something hipster trying desperately to be pissed off about everything and anything, and in the case of Pittsburgh Magazine, I don't live in any of the 5 'S' neighborhoods that publication insists are the center of the universe.
Wha??? You don't know the 5 'S' neighborhoods?? Namely, Sewickley, Shadyside, South Side, Squirrel Hill, and the Strip. If you're not from those places, as far as Pittsburgh Magazine is concerned, you might as well be from Uranus.
But anyway, if you ask me whether I've had any of the latest offerings from the local microbrews, something along the lines of a triple bock, chocolate malt, dry hopped chipotle spiced porter made from an original recipe found in an Alpine monastery from the 1400's, I'll smile, quietly decline and ask for an Iron City. I'll admit to going to Starbucks, but I will shave my head, climb the nearest building carrying a high-powered rifle and 1000 hollow-point bullets and start shooting any and everything in sight, all the while cackling like a madman, the next time I get behind some coffee snob who orders a half soy, half goat's milk, extra hot, extra foam latte with jimmies and whipped cream that had to be just hand-whipped in front of that person five minutes ago. Just gimme a venti Pike Place and get me the hell out of here, I gotta bus to catch!
TV, you've got to be kidding. I never got into the Simpsons, and I think Family Guy is a bad knockoff of that venerable series. If you asked me to name the newest prime time shows on the broadcast networks, I'd have to say "M*A*S*H, The Cosby Show, Eight Is Enough, Three's Company, and 21 Jumpstreet. " Cable, forget it, who is Steven Colbert, and why do so many people think he's funny. John and Kate plus Eight??? No!, No!, No! Although I'd love to see the Octomom thrown into that clusterf**k!! Think about it, two wack job mothers trying to ride herd on 16 kids!!! Hilarity will ensue, someone will have a nervous breakdown on national TV and that's a trainwreck I wouldn't mind seeing. I smell Emmy, not to mention a houseful of stinky diapers!!! I love me some Schdenfreude!!!
Even in the area that I do try and keep up with, I'm waaaaay behind the times. Today Microsoft will roll out Windows 7, the latest operating system that is intended to make the personal computing world forget about that botched abortion known as Vista. Windows 7 is supposed to be faster, more stable, boot up quicker, have all sorts of gee-whiz features and enough eye candy to make even the most jaded geek sell his closest female relative into white slavery. Where have we heard that from??? Every OS the kids from Redmond has ever rolled out was introduced with that same marketingspeak.
But is your's truly going to join the Win 7 revolution?? Is the Pope Episcopalian? The computer on which I'm typing this post, Allegra, my faithful vintage 2003 Compaq Evo D500 does not have the horsepower, nor the RAM to run Windows 7. She's had more operating systems hitched to her than Liz Taylor has husbands. I've run at least three versions of Linux and two different versions of Windows on this poor machine. It's my belief that I should run my computers until they die. And try as I might, I can't kill Allegra. She's too damn tough. Then again, she's a business grade desktop that's designed for heavy corporate use. As long as she can still boot up and do the job, I'm not putting her out to pasture.
Besides, it's always best to buy a new computer with the OS pre-installed and it's also better to wait a few months in order to let all the inevitable bugs get fixed. I do have a netbook named Marrina running XP Home, that supposedly will be able to run Win 7, but I'm in no hurry to upgrade.
I do have an iPhone, and while I won't debase myself and act like the typical Apple fanboy and wax superlative about how life changing the phone from SteveCo is, and that it's the greatest invention since um...toilet paper, I will admit that it is one nice piece of technology. Although, now that an uncool, unhip schlub like me has one, it's safe to say that the iPhone is no longer cool.
You see, the issue I have with cool is, that cool is fleeting. I once heard someone say that "cool marches on.", that means that what's cool today is uncool tomorrow. In order to stay cool and up on the latest thing, one has to constantly keep their ear to the ground and suss out that which is cool. Which is an ongoing endeavor, and anyone who knows me knows that I'm a lazy SOB that has more important things to do than chasing after the "with it and hip". Like listening to 5000 podcasts and obsessing over the deeper meaning of Oh, My Goddess.
And the thing is, I would not mind being cool if I didn't have to deal with the people who are either trying to be cool or are cool and total assholes about it. To me, someone who is truly cool is cool naturally. They should not have to work at it. Nor should they have to try and show everyone how cool they are. If you're really cool, it'll come through and people who want to be cool will be naturally drawn to you. And there are waaaaay too many people who fit in that second category.
I'm not interested in the hot little bistro in the 'S' neighborhood that you and your cool friends went to. I'm not interested in going to the slammin' club that City Paper is gushing about where all the bartenders are hot and the drinks are fresh from New York, San Francisco, or any other place where the hip and sexy people go. Those are the places that are oozing with the poseurs who are trying to be cool, and coming across like the dude in the club that took a bath in his cologne and you can smell him from half a city block away. That shit makes me run off. If that is what the pursuit of cool is, then I'll just stay at home and obsess about Belldandy and why she won't appear to me. Remember what I look like people, I'm fat, bald, not particularly good looking, broke and can't dance!!!
I don't do cool, I'm not hip, I'm not trendy, I'm not chasing fads. I guess in some ways, that's cool in and of itself.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The NFL players union has already posed its opposition to Limbaugh being a part owner of the Rams, and the usual suspects including Al Sharpton have also weighed in.
Here's the ESPN story.
Sharpton's urging the NFL refusing approval of the bid.
The NFLPA's opposition to Limbaugh's bid
I posed this same question on the sports forum I help moderate,
The Pennsylvania Sportsboard
What do you folks think? Should Limbaugh be allowed to be a part owner of a pro football franchise in a league where a large percentage of its players have issues with statements he has made?
Personally, my feeling is that he has the money to buy the team, and he has the right to be a part of the ownership group, but this could be a public relations disaster for a league that bends over backwards to maintain its image. In order for this to work, Limbaugh would have to be silenced, and that will never happen. He makes his living with his mouth.
Players may decide not to play for the Rams as long as Limbaugh is an owner. There are 31 other teams that may need their services, but jobs are tight in the NFL. Are there players who will hold their nose (or stuff their ears) and play for Limbaugh knowing that he says things that are offensive to them because chances to play in the NFL are so few and far between, or will they stick to their principles and not suit up for him?
I think that the NFL will kill this bid because they are too protective of their image and Limbaugh is just too polarizing a factor.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
4th rotation, 3rd Interval, 2nd Period of Cycle 17 Year 2,800,000,000
Keiichi began his testimony. “As you heard the goddesses say, I'm not the best looking, or the smartest, or even the luckiest man on Earth. I've even heard such comments from some of the goddesses in the gallery. But that's alright. I guess that's why Yggdrasil sent Belldandy to me. It knew that I needed someone in my life that would give me a chance to show them what I was all about. And that someone was Belldandy.
“When Bell first came to me, I thought she was a joke played on me by my sempais. They were always picking on me and taking advantage of my gullibility. They knew that I had little experience with women, so I figured that she was put up to it by them so they could have a laugh at my expense. I made the wish that I made partially because I thought it was a joke, but deep down, I hoped that it was true that Belldandy was a goddess who had come down to grant me a wish. It was only after the wish was granted and I was kicked out of my dorm, that I realized that I had a living, breathing goddess from Heaven staying with me. And that I had to take care of her.
“ We had no place to stay, a kindly Buddhist priest took us in and left his temple in our care. During those first days together, we were barely able to make it from one day to another. I had to take part-time jobs to buy food for the both of us. But even though we had those hard times, Belldandy never lost faith in me. She has done so much for me. She kept my spirits up. Her constant encouragement gave me the strength to carry on. With her in my corner, I can take on the world. And I knew that I never wanted to do anything to let her down. I was even willing to put up with Urd and Skuld's antics as long as I had Belldandy. If that was the price to pay to have a goddess like her my life, It was a small one.” The entire chamber sat in complete silence as Keiichi continued to speak.
“For sure, living with three goddesses presented challenges that normal humans wouldn't face. Urd and Skuld are a handful. But I appreciate having them around. They liven up the temple. It's never boring with them." He looked at the two sisters as he said this. Urd looked back at him coyly and Skuld stuck her tongue out at him. Keiichi continued. "Urd becoming the Lord of Terror and then having her demonic and divine halves separated. Dealing with Hild and Marller. The Angel Eater. Skuld's crazy inventions. Outbreaks of bugs and being turned two-dimensional. Boy, that one was strange. So many crazy adventures. But also so many peaceful, wonderful days just living with this goddess and enjoying all the blessings she's given me. And I've had the privilege to face the good times and the bad with Belldandy by my side. Thank You, Kami-Sama, for allowing Belldandy to come and live with me.” As if on cue, Belldandy ran up and stood next to Keiichi. He turned to her and looked into her deep blue eyes. She smiled as a tear began to form. Somehow she knew what was coming.
He took her hands and said “I've been wanting to say these words for a long time, but I never had the guts to say them. I guess I needed the right time and to be in the right place.” Other times when Keiichi tried to profess his love to Belldandy, his words would get caught in his throat, his nervousness would get the best of him. He was afraid that maybe Belldandy wouldn't feel the same way. But this time, before all of Heaven, there was nothing to get in his way, nothing to stop him from saying those words that summed up his life with Belldandy to this moment. Keiichi peered deep into his goddess's heart and soul and confidently declared:
“Belldandy, my friend and my goddess, I love you!, and if you'll have me, I'd like for a goddess like you to stay with me always!”
Belldandy looked into Keiichi's eyes, and as the tears started to flow, and with a smile that spanned the length and breadth of Heaven, she tilted her head back and shouted for all to hear.
“I Love You, Keiichi Morisato!! and I will stay with you forever!!, I really do love you Keiichi!!!”
Her voice resounded throughout Heaven, and echoed off the infinite walls of the chamber. Every God and Goddess on the streets, in the buidlings, even those Valkyries at the Gate could hear Belldandy's declaration as if they were witnessing it in person.
For a few moments, there was total silence in the chamber, except for Belldandy's muffled weeping. Then at the very back, one goddess released her angel and began to sing. It was only one goddess but her voice filled the hall. Then another goddess joined in, and another and another. Soon, the chamber was filled with the complex, celestial harmonies of thousands of goddesses singing with their angels. The angelic choir was like none Keiichi had ever heard. One that no choir on Earth could reproduce. He could understand each word. He could see the runes that made up the song spiraling over his head towards the ceiling.
The song was about the love between a man and his goddess and how that love could never die. As the goddesses sang their song, Keiichi looked towards Lind and the others, they all had their angels out and were singing, including Skuld. He looked back at Belldandy and she too was singing with Holy Bell, a look of rapturous joy on her beautiful face. As the song filled his heart, he felt the lightness in his stomach again, but this time his mind had been even further expanded. He felt power surging through his body, the likes of which he had never felt before. This power started in his head and radiated out down through all his limbs and out through the soles of his feet. It cleansed him, invigorated him, transformed him. His senses were completely released from their human constraints. It was as if he had been removed from his earthly body and was floating free of the bonds and limits of humanity. The power gently called to him, beckoning him to let go and submit. He did.
He felt as if he could move the world with just a thought. He closed his eyes and drank it all in. He let his body go. And yearned to float freely on the notes of the song of the goddesses. He opened his eyes again to see that he had done just that. He was airborne with Belldandy floating high above the chamber. Her wings were fully extended. He looked at his clothes. The street clothes were gone, and they were replaced with royal blue and gold robes, the same color as the trim on Belldandy's uniform. Belldandy raised her right hand and produced a mirror. Keiichi looked into it and saw that he had indeed been transformed. On his forehead was a mark that looked like a crescent moon. With boundless joy, he grabbed hold of his goddess and pulled her to him and kissed her. She returned the embrace. This time, they knew, was the right time. There would be nothing to hold them back. He could give all of himself to her and she could give all of herself to him.
The song finally ended. The chamber returned back to normal. Keiichi and Belldandy returned to the floor. Keiichi could still feel the power flowing through him. He felt in total control. His senses could now experience the fullness of Heaven in all its eternal glory.. He and Belldandy looked around at the gathered masses and saw nothing but approval and joy on everyone's face...even Skuld's.
Kami-sama said “The council has spoken. Goddess First Class Belldandy, you have been acquitted of all charges against you. You are free to return to the surface world, if you so choose. And Keiichi Morisato, in recognition of your exemplary service to Heaven during the time that you and Belldandy have been together. You have been made a Second Class God with all the rights and responsibilities thereto...”
Peorth interrupted “Kami-sama, Before you go on, can you answer a question for us?
Why did the transition spell fail, and why was Keiichi able to still come to Heaven? I and my fellow goddesses are confused.”
Kami-sama though for a moment and said “Peorth, the spell didn't fail. Keiichi would not be here if it did. The spell was executed correctly, and despite what you may think, Lind performed her part quite admirably. You see, Keiichi is a one of a kind case. He had God-powers which were sealed unto him when he was born, but only a specific set of circumstances performed in a specific sequence would have caused these powers to manifest themselves.
“ It was pre-ordained by me that he and Belldandy were to meet, and she would grant him his wish. No other goddess could have put things in motion. Belldandy alone was the key. She knew this from the beginning, but was sworn to secrecy and forbidden to speak of it to anyone. This was a topic of special significance and even if Belldandy would have been tempted to reveal this, she would have been physically silenced. Once Belldandy and Keiichi met, his God-powers started to slowly develop.
“ Keiichi's wish was the next piece of the puzzle to fall into place. His wish for Belldandy to stay with him further unlocked his powers and also advanced the plan. This was the only wish that would have done so. That is the reason why his wish, as unusual as it was, was accepted by Yggdrasil. The arrival of Skuld and Urd into his life was not part of the plan, but just happened to provide an unintended benefit, because as all here know, Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld are not ordinary goddesses, at least not in the sense that there is such a thing as an ordinary goddess. They are the Norns of Time. Urd of the Past, Belldandy of the Present and Skuld of the Future.
“The presence of these three special goddesses in one place and the love and respect that Keiichi showed them over the years only served to strengthen his powers quicker than expected. But because Keiichi was still only human, his powers could only grow so much. He had to be released from his human bonds for his powers to fully develop.”
Belldandy looked at Keiichi, and with a touch of remorse in her voice said “I'm sorry that I had to hold this information from you, Keiichi. It was for your protection that this had to play out as it did. I would understand if you're angry with me about holding out on you.”
Keiichi said “Bell, there was nothing you could do. It was better that I didn't know. There's nothing to be sorry about. You really need to stop apologizing about things beyond your control.”
Kami-sama reasserted himself “Now, on to the transition spell. Belldandy forced my hand prematurely when she defied my order to return to Heaven. But after consulting with the council, I realized that this hearing would be an opportune time to bring Keiichi here and to see precisely why Belldandy was so willing to defy me. Do not believe that this hearing was merely a cover to bring him here. Belldandy was accused of a serious offense and had she been found guilty, would have been punished.
"The transition spell did work, but not precisely as the goddesses expected. You raised the dome of power and Keiichi's mind was opened and expanded as expected. But what happened was that at the precise moment that his mind had opened, he exerted a rush of power that interfered with the spell and caused the dome to collapse. So there was nothing wrong with the spell. The Song of the Goddesses was the final act that sealed Keiichi's elevation to Godhood.
“Keiichi, did you notice that whenever you and Belldandy embraced, both your hearts beat as one in perfect time with each other? Keiichi and Belldandy nodded together. “That was clear proof that it was your destiny that you and Belldandy belonged together. Such a phenomenon could only occur between a goddess and a human if they were meant to be bound together for eternity. Did you also notice that the testimony laid before this council was skewed more towards assessing your character than Belldandy's?”
Keiichi said “I was aware of that. I was wondering why it seemed like I was on trial instead of her”, pointing to Belldandy.
Kami-sama said “In a way, you were on trial. Look around you, every goddess in heaven is represented here. There are tens of thousands in this hall. For sure, I have had the rare case of goddesses defying my orders and had they been found guilty of disobedience without a legitimate excuse, they were swiftly disciplined. But Belldandy was the only goddess ever to defy an order from Heaven because of her love for a human.
“Goddesses like Belldandy are taught to always do what ever it takes to honor their client's contracts, but that orders from Heaven supersede all contracts with no exceptions. The fact that Belldandy chose to do this speaks highly of you and your ability to impress a goddess like her. Field goddesses are not easily impressed. They are trained not to be.
“Sometimes the contracts they undertake require them to witness the worst in humanity. And they have to put on a pleasant demeanor to make the client happy, even though they consider the contract to be distasteful and not worth their time. To a goddess, the fulfillment of the contract takes priority over their personal feelings about the contract, or the person with whom they have contracted. They can become cynical and jaded. Happily, Belldandy has never reached that point. She has always taken each of her contracts in a positive and upbeat manner. But it took a very special human for her to fall in love.
“And you were able to convince all these goddesses that you and Belldandy deserved to be together for eternity. And that could only occur if you were elevated to Godhood, hence the Song of the Goddesses. That Song served to finish the expansion of your mind and senses and the transition of your soul and spirit from your human self to your immortal self. From this moment forward, you and Belldandy are bound together for eternity. As you are no longer human, the contract between you and her is dissolved. You and Belldandy can either choose to stay here in heaven, or return to the Earth.
“Of course, you can come to Heaven to visit anytime you wish. With these great powers do come great responsibilities. You are expected to use your power for the good of the Earth and all the people on it. You will be held to a high standard of conduct. And know that you are subject to heavenly discipline should you misuse your powers. You are the only human to ever be elevated to Godhood. It is a testament to your goodness and your love for this goddess that you have received this gift. Go in peace.” Kami-sama waved his hand and the chamber and all it's inhabitants disappeared from Keiichi and the goddesses' view.
There was another flash of light and Keiichi and the goddesses were standing in the temple courtyard. He wondered whether his powers would remain with him on the Earth. He raised his right hand and conjured a rose that he presented to Belldandy. She accepted it and smiled “Thank You, Keiichi, my love. May our days be always filled with happiness.” Keiichi held Belldandy and said “Belldandy, they already are.”
Lind and Peorth came up to the happy couple, and congratulated them. Lind said “Does that invitation still stand?” Keiichi said “Anytime. Both of you have a standing invitation.” Peorth said “Well, well, well. I never thought I'd see the day. Keiichi becoming a God. I guess they'll let anyone into Heaven these days.” She tipped Keiichi a final wink and said “Au revoir, mes amis” Both goddesses stepped into the beam of light and disappeared through the gate.
Urd came over to Keiichi and Belldandy, gave them a thumbs up and said to Skuld, “Hey Brat, how's about I treat you to a big old ice cream sundae.” Skuld said “I'm not hungry, maybe later.” Urd said “Yes you are hungry, and you want a big ice cream sundae with lots of chocolate fudge and whipped cream and strawberries...”
“No, Urd I'm not hun-o-o-o-o-o” Skuld squealed as Urd dragged her little sister by the ear down the steps of the temple and towards town.
Keiichi and Belldandy were alone in the courtyard. Bell said “Well, Keiichi, ”
“We have some time before dinner, and there's nothing to do.”
“Oh, I can think of something.”
“How are we going to explain...” she pointed to his forehead “to Megumi and the r rest?”
“I guess I'll have to start wearing hats.”
Belldandy grabbed Keiichi's hand and eagerly led him towards the temple. “Well, we will have plenty of time to come up with an excuse.”
Keiichi picked up his goddess, held her in his arms, and said “Belldandy, we've got forever.”
And for the first time, Keiichi and Belldandy made love...as God and Goddess.
An hour later, Urd returned from the ice cream shoppe and walked by Keiichi's room. There she saw Keiichi and Belldandy asleep on a futon, his arms holding her tight against him. The looks on their faces showed that they had a very good time to say the least. Their clothes were piled up in a corner, and nothing but a sheet covering their bodies. Urd thought to herself, “Now this could get verrry interesting.”
Thanks to the communications faculties at the Community College of Allegheny County and Robert Morris University for awakening my dormant writing gifts. Also thanks to Kosuke Fujishima for creating, the finest manga I have ever read and for providing the source material to extend and expand. Also thanks are due to the largest OMG community on the web, The Goddess Relief Office for all their great content from which I drew inspiration.
There you have it, Boys and Girls...The Song of the Goddesses. To use a well worn phrase, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I have not decided whether I will do another fan fiction piece. Surely, while I am proud of this first piece, I could probably do better the next time...if there is a next time. Who knows? I've thought about writing a sci-fi short story. I just need to find the right plot, something that hasn't been beaten to death.
This was my first major writing project since the late, lamented "Just Another Lovely Day in Paradise" anthologies from waay back. Don't ask about where and when you'll see that content. We now return you to the usual hinky doings for which the Moonlight Scribbler is (in)famous.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
4th rotation, 3rd Interval, 2nd Period of Cycle 17 Year 2,800,000,000
The next in line to testify was Skuld. She was clearly very nervous as she had never seen the Almighty in person. The little goddess' stomach was doing backflips. And she still hadn't completely recovered from the incredible amount of ice cream she devoured.
Kami-sama called her forward.
“Goddess Second Class Skuld, please step forward.”
She almost jumped out of her skin at the sound of Kami-sama's voice. She slowly made her way to the witness box, and looked around at the vast sea of goddesses as well as the eighteen councilors and the Almighty who would decide her big sister's fate.
Kami-sama's voice changed from the omnipotent voice of power that befitted the role of the Almighty to a quieter, comforting fatherly one. “Skuld, I sense that you are afraid of what's going on. You think that we're here to hurt your big sister, We are not. We're here to discuss what happened down on Earth and whether or not your sister should be held accountable for what she did. It may sound unpleasant, but it must be done. We will listen to every word of everyone's testimony and weigh them carefully before coming to a decision. You have nothing to be afraid of. Just say what you have to say. Everything will be all right.”
Kami-sama's words did little to quell Skuld's fears, but she pressed on.
“Well, Belldandy is simply the greatest goddess of them all. She's so kind and caring. She's helped me a lot since my powers started to work. She always gets me ice cream and appreciates my inventions. No one else on Earth appreciates my genius, but Belldandy does. But then she had to go down and live with that Keiichi.” She stared at Keiichi with unbridled loathing. “Keiichi took my big sister away from me and now she'll lose her license because of him!!!” She pointed at Keiichi as she said her last sentence.
“Why do you think that Keiichi is at fault for what was clearly an act of Belldandy's choosing, Skuld?” Kami-sama asked.
“Because she had to go and fall in love with him! Goddesses don't fall in love with humans. It's not right. He's so nice to her and he's always doing things to make her happy and I just hate him!!! I wish he'd just go away and leave us goddesses alone!” Skuld ranted, her voice and actions becoming more animated. She clearly forgot that it was the goddesses that entered and disrupted Keiichi's life and not the other way round.
“No offense Keiichi.” Skuld continued, softening her tone. “You're not completely useless. You don't complain too much when I borrow your stuff for my inventions. And you tolerate it when me and Urd are fighting over the television. By the way, thanks for giving me my own TV, but you gotta know that me and Urd just like to argue. And you do understand my love of creation, although you can't come close to my brilliance.
“You're not a bad guy, Keiichi, but I just wish you hadn't summoned Belldandy, and I wish you two hadn't fallen in love. She really does love you, you know. She's crazy about you. Although I don't know why. Am I done?”
Kami-sama said “If that is all you have to say then you are done. Please step down.”
Skuld stepped down from the witness box and walked back to the line, satisfied with her performance.
Keiichi nudged at Peorth, and said “Isn't it odd that the testimony so far is more focused on me than on Belldandy's conduct? I don't understand this. There's clearly an ulterior motive here.”
Peorth answered “Yes it is a little strange. Then again, it's pretty much an open and shut case. Belldandy clearly admitted to us that she defied the order. Urd corroborated the accusation. Why else do we have to go through all of this. The Almighty should have just passed sentence and been done with it. Let's just let it play out and see what happens. By the way, do you really think I'm as sexy as Urd?? I'm way hotter than her. Too bad you won't let me prove it! I'm up next, wish me luck.” Peorth looked hungrily at Keiichi and turned away.
“Goddess First Class Peorth, please step forward.” Kami-sama intoned. Peorth strode to the witness box brimming with confidence. Keiichi had to admit, she was a looker. He hoped that Belldandy didn't hear that.
“Peorth, how would you describe your relationship with Belldandy?” Kami-sama asked.
“Well, I would say that it's a bit complicated.” Peorth responded. “I don't hate her, but there are definitely some things about her that I don't like. We get along well. I've spent a lot of time with her and her sisters on the surface world. And I've had quite a good time in her presence, but I would say that we are, shall I say, friendly rivals. We work for competing agencies. We have different clienteles. And she's much too goody-goody for my tastes. But as a goddess, she's the best at what she does. I'll give her that. And she definitely has Keiichi wrapped around her little finger. I honestly don't know what's so great about him. Like Urd said, he's a bit plain and boring, and despite my best efforts, he wouldn't give into his desires when he summoned me. But he's a nice guy and they do fit together very well.”
“Does your opinion of Belldandy stem back to the “grudge” you harbored against her?”
“I wish you hadn't brought that up. Kami-sama. I still catch a lot of heat from the Earth Assistance Agency about that. I mistakenly thought that she was going to take credit for that debugging. But I found out from her that the bugs had found their way inside me and she was willing to mark it as a team effort between her and myself. And after checking the debug logs, I found she was telling the truth. But we're all good with that now. That is one thing about Belldandy that I did appreciate. She could have taken credit for that job, but didn't. She is truthful to a fault.”
Kami-sama asked “Is there anything else that you'd like to say at this time?”
“Only that I ask the council to take it easy on Belldandy. She is not the type to go off half-cocked about things. She clearly had her reasons for what she did. With any other human, she'd have come back to Heaven in a minute. But there's something about Keiichi that when he's in trouble, she'd go to the ends of the earth to find him.” She'll protect him at the expense of her own life. It's not the most goddess-like behavior, but then again, Belldandy is not your usual goddess.”
“Thank you Peorth. Please step down.”
She stepped back to her place in line, and gave another wink to Keiichi.
Keiichi was still pondering the direction the hearing was taking. “Well, so far everyone has given Belldandy a glowing testimony. I'm not sure if it's enough to get her off clean, but it looks like she should just get her license suspended for a while. At least she'd still be able to live with me. I just wish I knew why it seems like she's not the main focus of this hearing. I seem to be on trial more than she is. Well, nothing I can do for now.”
Kami-sama called the last of the goddesses to the witness box. “Goddess First Class Lind, please step forward.”
Lind proceeded to the box, and her face was totally unreadable. She betrayed no emotion or intent. No matter how hard Keiichi tried to read her thoughts or her visage, he got nothing. “That must be part of the Valkyrie training she goes through.” he figured. “Demons can't get the jump on her tactically if she doesn't give them anything to work with. She's a pretty serious goddess. I'm glad she's on Belldandy's side. She'd be a nightmare as an enemy.”
Kami-sama opened the questioning of Lind “Lind, what experience do you have with the goddess Belldandy?”
Lind, still showing no emotion, replied. “I don't have a lot of experience with Belldandy except for the Angel Eater attacks. I was with her when her angel, Holy Bell was taken from her. It was only after that attack, that I realized that somehow, I had carried the Angel Eater with me down to Earth. That was a lack of vigilance on my part for which I am still haunted to this day. I pride myself on my combat readiness. But it failed me that night.
“ Belldandy is a truly powerful and incorruptible goddess. She sees the beauty in all things, and she knows how to provide encouragement to those who get down on them selves. I should know. She didn't lose confidence in me when the transition spell broke. She knew that my magic was not strong enough to ensure success, but she still had faith when others doubted.” Lind turned to look at Urd and Peorth as she said her last sentence.
“She was able to convert the familiar implanted into her by Hild, into an angel, albeit one of demonic origin. Even under demonic influence, Belldandy never lost sight of the light. Through the love that she had for Keiichi, he was able to support one of my angels long enough to head off the Angel Eater and Skuld's Noble Scarlet was able to eventually rescue those who were captured. It was a total team effort and a total team victory. And it could not have happened without Keiichi and Belldandy. Both of them are formidable allies for Heaven. And I feel that the council should think twice before revoking Belldandy's license. She possesses remarkable courage and great power for a Non-Valkyrie. She would be a credit to the Combat Section, if she were inclined to join us. That is all.”
Kami-sama excused her from further testimony. Lind stepped away from the witness box and returned to the group.
Keiichi knew that his turn was coming up. His mind raced as to what he was going to say. All he could do was just testify to what Belldandy had done for him over the years. But, he wondered whether it would be enough to save her license. He didn't want to be one that swayed the councilors vote to suspension or worse, revocation. Like he told Belldandy, standing up for one's convictions was never easy. But if he truly loved his goddess, and wanted her to live with him forever, now was the time to act.
Kami-sama announced, “Our final witness, Keiichi Morisato.” Keiichi's legs felt like jelly as he strode to the witness box. He could feel the eye of every goddess on him. He even heard a few stray comments hoping he'd fail to convince the Council. But those comments only seemed to ignite his competitive nature. Keiichi lived for competition. He had an innate desire to win. Belldandy fed that desire. They were both intense and single minded when opposed in a race, and together they were a team that was damn near impossible to beat. Both of them had won more than a few awards for the Motor Club in competition, but this time the stakes were infinitely higher. He didn't know if he convince the council, but he remembered the words that Belldandy spoke to Lind to spark her confidence. 'It's better to try and fail, than not to try at all'
Kami-sama spoke to Keiichi in an encouraging tone. “Keiichi Morisato, I know that this is something that you're not totally prepared for. You have been through a lot the past few days, and I would understand if you'd prefer to withdraw from testifying, but any light you can cast on the matter would be appreciated.”
Keiichi gathered up his courage and put it before him. “Kami-sama, no disrespect intended, but can you please just call me Keiichi? I've never been comfortable being referred to by both first and last names.” Kami-sama, a note of surprise in his voice, said “Keiichi it is, please continue.”
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
4th rotation, 3rd Interval, 2nd Period of Cycle 17 Year 2,800,000,000
Approx 4pm Monday Afternoon of the 17th week of year 2,800,000,000.
The goddesses and Keiichi finally made it to the head of the chambers. High above them in a horseshoe shaped balcony sat eighteen seats. Nine of each side of a large throne In each one of those seats sat either a God or a Goddess. They looked older than the rest of the crowd, but they hadn't lost any of their attractiveness. Keiichi could tell that these deities had great power and also great wisdom. They were also the only ones in the room that he could not hear with his mind. When he looked at each of the councilors, he heard nothing but silence. “They're either trying to intimidate me, or they know that I can hear and understand the language and they don't want to give anything away.” He thought to himself.
A single note from a deep bass gong resounded through the room. This heralded the arrival of Kami-sama, the Almighty. All looked to the throne at the head of the chamber. A shadow had appeared in front of the throne and took its seat. He had arrived. Kami-sama could not be seen directly, only by his shadow. The feeling of immense power that Keiichi felt earlier, rose even higher. It sent chills down his back. He immediately grasped the seriousness of the situation. This definitely was not an everyday occurrence. All the goddesses in the seats knelt down on kneelers in front of them. Skuld, Urd, Belldandy, Peorth and Lind went to one knee and bowed their heads in respect. Keiichi didn't know what to do. Should he kneel in respect to the Almighty as the goddesses did, or would that be considered an insult because he was a human and not entitled to show respect to him? After a few seconds, he figured, “When in Heaven, do as the goddesses do.” So he knelt to one knee and bowed his head. Keiichi wasn't the most religious person in the world despite living with Goddesses in a Buddhist temple. He hoped that the Almighty would not hold that against him.
A deep and powerful, yet fatherly voice rumbled through the chambers. Like all the voices in Heaven, Keiichi had heard this voice in his mind and in the language of Heaven. He thought “So Kami-sama knows that I can speak the language.”
“Today, we have gathered here for the disposition of the case of Goddess First Class, Second Category, Unlimited License, Belldandy.” Kami-sama's voice said in a totally neutral tone. “He's not giving anything away, either” thought Keiichi.
“Belldandy stands charged with one count of gross insubordination, and one count of defiance of an official order. Due to Belldandy's outstanding record prior to this point, it has been recommended by the council and I have agreed that the punishment of isolation will not apply in this case. Also because of her reputation, the maximum punishment that can be sentenced will be: revocation of license for a period of Five Years Heaven Time.” A murmur went through the crowd. As Keiichi listened, some thought that Belldandy should have gotten a heavier sentence, while others thought that the sentence mentioned was too harsh. A couple even thought the case should be thrown out and Belldandy left alone. Another note from the gong brought everyone to silence.
Kami-sama continued “Testifying on Belldandy's behalf as a direct witness will be Goddess Second Class, First Category, Limited License Urd. Testifying to Belldandy's character will be :Goddess Second Class, First Category, Limited License Skuld; Goddess First Class, Second Category, Unlimited License Peorth; and Goddess First Class, First Category, Special Duty License Lind.
“Special Testimony will be given by Keiichi Morisato, the person with whom Belldandy is currently holding a contract. If Belldandy herself wishes to address the council, she may do so after all other testimony has been given. The conduct of this hearing will be as follows: Each witness will take as long as necessary to testify as to the act itself, or to the accused's character. The Council will then sit in recess to consider the information gathered, and then render its decision. I will either agree with the council's decision or exercise my right to override that decision. However, as was made known to the accused, I hereby waive my right to override, and will abide by the Council's decision, either for or against the accused.”
Peorth whispered to Keiichi “That's a big concession. That should make it easier to get Belldandy a reduced sentence or a complete acquittal. As long as no one says anything too stupid, she should come out of this in pretty good shape.”
Keiichi whispered back “I know. I'm not a lawyer, nor am I up on Heaven's legal system, but it seems like there's something else going on here. Belldandy is not the real focus of this hearing.”
Keiichi thought, “That's weird, Peorth's heavenly body was just as amplified by her presence in Heaven as Urd's was, but I'm wasn't nearly as overcome with her sexuality as I was with Urd, and Peorth is just as sexy as Urd is. What is the deal here?”
Peorth heard that last bit, and turned to him, licking her tongue. Keiichi shook his head as if trying to shake something loose in his brain, and turned his mind back to the hearing.
Kami-sama spoke “Will Goddess Second Class Urd please step forward.”
Urd rose to her feet, stepped forward to the witness box and bowed her head. “I swear to tell the truth upon my honor as a Goddess.” she swore clearly.
Another murmur went through the crowd, Keiichi noted. “Apparently Urd's reputation for telling falsehoods has preceded her.”
Keiichi checked Urd's back to see if she crossed her fingers when she swore the oath. She didn't.
Kami-sama was quite familiar with Urd and let everyone know that. “Urd, your reputation for telling lies has gotten you in trouble on more than a few occasions. It would be in your best interest if you would just stick to the truth. Please do not give me a reason to put you before a hearing, or worse punish you outright.”
Urd was visibly shaken by that revelation. “Y-yes, Kami-sama, I will tell the truth.”
Kami-sama began the questioning. “Urd, were you with Belldandy at 220.127.116.11 when I contacted her regarding returning to heaven?”
Keiichi thought “4.3.7.whaa, what kind of time system do they use in Heaven?” Almost in response to his thought, one of the councilors spoke up. “Kami-sama, for the benefit of our guest, may I explain to him the way we keep time in Heaven? Our system is different from the one used on Earth.”
Kami-sama said “Yes, our visitor is not fully accustomed to our ways. Proceed.” The councilor stood and addressed Keiichi. “The Heavenly time system is divided into: rotations; intervals; periods; cycles; and years. Each period, or what you would call a day is made of four intervals of six rotations or hours each. The first interval starts at what you would call midnight and lasts six rotations, the second interval lasts six rotations and so on. A cycle is equivalent to your week and contains seven periods and each year consists of 52 cycles. So the numbers are all the same as your time system except for the terminology and the addition of the intervals. The format for a time reference is Rotations. Intervals. Periods. Cycles. Years. So 18.104.22.168 would translate in Earth time as 4pm Saturday Afternoon of last week. Is that clear?”
Keiichi responded “Yes, sir I understand. Thank you.” The councilor smiled and sat down.
Kami-sama continued. “Urd please answer the question.”
“Yes, I was at the phone with Belldandy when you called.”
“ And did you hear Belldandy twice refuse to comply with my order to return to Heaven?
“And what was the reason that Belldandy gave for refusing my order?”
Kami-sama said with a touch of irritation. “We're waiting for your answer. Urd.”
Urd was completely stiff with fear. She wanted to protect her sister with an alibi. She refused her First Class Goddess license because she felt it was sometimes necessary to lie to protect her younger siblings. But this time around, they had her dead to rights. She couldn't lie her way out of it if she tried. “Well, Belldandy and Keiichi. Sorry to drop you two in it, but I have no choice.” she thought.
“Kami-sama, the reason Belldandy gave, was that she loved Keiichi as much as, if not more, than being a goddess. And that is the truth.”
“Thank you Urd, you may step down.”
“That's it?, Can't I even say what I think about all this?”
“You were only brought up to testify to the act committed. But if you have anything else to add, I'm sure the council would have no objections. Are their any objections to Urd continuing her testimony?”
There were no objections noted, so Urd stayed at the witness box.
Urd composed herself, thanked the council and continued on with her statement.
“When I first met Keiichi, he seemed like a spineless wimp. He was indecisive, ungainly, plain, boring and frankly, I wondered what Belldandy saw in the man. He was so easy to mess around with. I toyed with him constantly.” Keiichi thought “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“But even though I was pretty rough on him, he always resisted my attempts to push him and Belldandy together. I tried drugs, seducing him, nothing seemed to work. It was as if those two were going to proceed only as fast as they wanted to and no faster.” Urd quickly realized that she admitted some things she should not have said and quickly shut up.
Kami-sama said “You're own questionable conduct in this matter not withstanding, is there anything else you want to add?”
Urd countered “Yes, as I said, I ran Keiichi through the wringer, but he seemed to have this indomitable spirit that kept on going no matter how much bad luck he had. Him and Belldandy never ever seemed to get down no matter what negative situations they went through. He showed a lot of courage when I had become the Lord of Terror and captured him. Any other human would have just given up. But he had complete faith that Belldandy would rescue him. And during Belldandy's illness. He was the only human to ever call heaven intentionally to ask me about how to cure her. I don't know of any human that could have pulled that off.
“ And the situation with the Angel Eater. He was able to support one of Lind's angels. The explanation was that it was the love of many goddesses that allowed him to do that. That may be so, but there is something more to Keiichi Morisato than meets the eye. And with all that's going on now. I have gained a new level of respect for him. He could have been destroyed when that spell collapsed, but he somehow survived to make it up here to attend this hearing. He's quite a man. I have to admit.
“ He's still pretty geeky, and plain and has no common sense and little in the way of social graces, and he still has no idea how to court a woman, but I'm glad to count him as a close and trusted friend. That doesn't mean that I won't stop messing with him. He's too easy a target to not have some fun. But he's my target. I can see why Belldandy would defy an order from you, Kami-sama. In his own way he captured Bell's heart, and as you and everyone else knows, it's very hard to capture the heart of a First Class Goddess.
“Believe me Kami-sama, there's no one else on Earth that would compel Belldandy to do what she did. Those two are deeply in love. And Belldandy was very much in her right mind when she made her decision. Keiichi did NOT put her up to it, as some may think. It's not in his nature. She loves Keiichi down to the very core of her being. Those two are one of a kind and they belong together. And that's all I have to say,”
She left the witness box and took her place in line. As she passed Keiichi, she looked him in the eyes and said to him. “And that's the truth. However, if you ever mistreat Belldandy, I'll kill you.” she said in a way that left Keiichi wondering whether she meant it or not.
Keiichi tensed up waiting for Urd's sexuality to overtake him. But nothing happened. “Thanks for the ringing endorsement, Urd. I think.”