Friday, November 22, 2013

The Max Headroom Incident

There are more times than I can count where some article catches my eye on the internet and it leads me down this path of blogs and terrible Angel Fire sites until I finally am too tired to read on and instead of counting sheep, I'm counting conspiracy theories once my head hits the pillow.

One such incident is the Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion.

On November 22, 1987, during the WGN Chicago nightly news, a pirate broke into the TV signal and took over the airways.

It was a person wearing a Max Headroom (A CGI, comedic British A.I. character that was popular in the 80's. He sold Coke Max.) mask, dancing around, to a loud buzzing noise.

When the broadcast ended, a confused sportscaster merely commented, "Well, if you're wondering what happened, so am I."

Then, later that night, during a Dr. Who rerun, the masked man appeared. This time, he disguised his voice creepily, uttered some non-sense about a cartoon, made fun of the owners of the TV channel, and had his bare butt spanked on air.

It's one of those unsettling times where this structured set of rules that we think we have complete control over is shown to have incredible vulnerabilities that someone at home can break.

When you boil this down to it's simplest terms, we know that this is just a person in their garage (And from their humor, probably someone young) just poking fun at the FCC and the TV station.

It's like John Draper (not from Mad Men) that figured out how to make free long distance phone calls using a toy whistle.

Or Adian Lamo, who would break into the systems of large corporate and then tell them about the vulnerabilities.

It shows that humans want to feel safe by setting rules. But as long as their are rules, someone is going to try to break them, just to see if they can. And when that happens, our stomachs sink, and we feel uneasy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Like This

Social media drives me nuts a lot of times.

I hate that people give live play-by-plays of sports or TV shows on Twitter and Facebook.

I don't like the pictures with walls of text that boil down a complicated issue into three lines.

I don't like when I get tagged in posts on Facebook that I don't care about and then deal with the notifications all day.

I hate that people can't just eat their meal and have to take pictures of it.

I've long shed MySpace, Linked In, and Four Square. I've refused to join Instagram or Snapchat. Just enough people! ENOUGH!

But, the one thing that social media does do well, is give little positive boosts to people. Every time you get a like on Facebook or Instagram, or someone favorites your Tweet, you get cheered in Untapped, or get a +1 on Google Plus, you get a little boost in your day. It's small, but it's there. 

So that is my half-hearted attempt to bring a little optimism to the cesspool that is half full known as Social Media.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Chill Out Man

I went to the gym this morning. It wasn't a good session. My arms were tired, my legs felt like weights, my eyes just wanted to close to sleep. I ended up giving up about 20 minutes before I should have, but it was just one of those mornings where you aren't feeling it.

On my way home, there were two cars that were trying to race down Chippewa. Both drivers looked really stressed out like they were late to somewhere.

I was driving 38 when the speed limit is 30. These two drivers would jump in front of me, only to get stuck behind the car I was stuck behind. Then they would jump to the other lane, make it a car length ahead, and get stuck behind that lane of traffic. Essentially, we were stuck at all the same lights all the way down Chippewa, but I was having an infinitely more casual drive.

It's a weird emotional state we put ourselves in. When we're running late, somehow being really stressed out, driving dangerously, and trying to speed makes us feel like we're making some progress, when in fact, we're getting there as fast as we probably would otherwise.

After the Chippewa International Speedway, I turned onto Morganford and immediately had to slam the breaks. Some very large woman started crossing the street in traffic, about 100 feet past where you turn. So all of these cars making the turn, unable to see this lady, were having to slam on the breaks not to kill her. And she just slowly made her way across the street as more and more cars entered the bedlam. I'm not sure how no one hit each other.

Then, I made it about another 150 feet, and a car had pull up on a sidewalk to park for a minute. I guess to let their kids out to get to school. This SUV then tried backing out of their makeshift parking spot without looking and almost hit someone on the sidewalk.

The lady that was almost hit then slammed the palm of her hand down on the hood of the SUV and scream, "Watch the f*** where you going!" Something I think we all wish we could do at times.

Anyway, crazy way to start the day. I'm going to get a fire going tonight, drink some beer, and make sure I do the opposite of that.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Volunteering to Get Grief

Sal and I volunteered to help direct traffic for the St. Louis Track Club this morning. So while most of the world was enjoying their extra hour of sleep, Sal and I were up and ready to rock.

I had a terrible night of sleep. It was one of those nights where I woke up to go to the bathroom at like 3 a.m. and when I came back to bed, my brain started saying, "Come on Dan. Get back to sleep. SLEEP NOW! You have to wake up in 3 hours. You need this sleep."

So naturally, I never really fell back asleep. I stared at Newbie, who was sprawled out as comfortably as possible between Sal and I and envied the crap out of him.

When Sal's alarm went off at 6, I rolled out of bed immediately and felt terrible. My neck was really stiff, my eyes hurt, I felt a little nauseous, and since we were running a little late, we didn't have breakfast or coffee before leaving.

But that's ok. The 38 degree foggy air woke me up almost immediately. There was a point I thought, maybe this won't be so bad.

The intersection Sal and I were in charge of was at was Grand and Union. There's an entrance to Forest Park Parkway (cars going almost highway speeds) and a bike / walking trail that went through the intersection. So it was a fairly busy place to be stationed.

View Larger Map

For the first hour, things went smoothly. We cheered on the fast runners and most of the cars wanting to come through sat patiently, or flipped a U turn to get out of there.

There was a large amount of people not paying attention to our directions and often getting stuck at the intersection for much longer because they were playing on their phones or staring off into space.

Then, a lady rolled down her window. She asked Sal if she could drive through, which she could. The roads weren't closed, we were mostly there to make sure cars didn't come flying into the park, killing the runners.

When Sal told her she could drive into the park, just be careful of the 500 or so runners, the lady flipped out. "You ruined my f***ing SUNDAY!" She flipped a U turn, almost running over Sal's feet. Sorry lady, the happiness of the several hundred runners does outweigh yours at this three hour period on this one Sunday morning. World can't revolve around you.

I can guarantee this lady was probably headed to church too. With that mouth, she could use a confession session.

Maybe 45 minutes later, there was a huge pack of runners. These three cars had been stuck at the intersection for a good 10 minutes.

Finally there's a break in the runners. I look down the bike path both ways and it looks clear. So I wave the cars on. About 30 seconds later this older guy on a really nice bike comes zooming through and yells at me, "Don't wave cars on when people are coming on the trail."

Now, there are stop signs for the bikers on the path. They aren't supposed to zoom through this intersection because cars are coming off of the road at high speeds. Had I not been directing traffic, this guy would've almost been hit by cars anyway.

Not to mention, the path he came down was winding from up a hill behind trees. I didn't see him.

ANNDDDDD.... my primary concern was the racers. I tried my best to watch for people on the path too before waving the cars on, but they were on their own as if I wasn't there.

So I yelled to him, "There's a stop sign" and before could slip in "JACKASS!" as punctuation, the biker that was going somewhere around 25 mph screams back at me again, "You NEED TO WATCH FOR BIKERS AND NOT WAVE CARS ON!"

This is why people hate bikers. They want to be able to use the road like cars, but they don't want to follow the rules of the road.

Anyway, Sal and I survived. We came home, ate some soup, and napped. After a mid-afternoon cup of coffee, I finally feel normal again.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Full Sized Memory House

Today is one of my favorite sort of days. The sun is highlighting the colors on all the trees, while the breeze plays the leaves like a harp. I pull my nostalgia close like a jacket and revel in feeling the crispness blowing across my exposed face.

More than anything, autumn pulls at my memory strings.

I have a playlist I've built specifically to fit this happy, almost tear inducing feeling I get on these days. The song above sort of fits the tone of most of playlist. It's bittersweet, terribly sad I can't relive moments of my past, but happy knowing that there will be many more memories to come.

I remember going trick-or-treating, dressed as a Wolf-man in 1991. I wore an old Universal monster mask and mittens that my mom glued fake nails and fur to. I went out with a good hockey buddy of mine, Jason, who ironically dressed as Jason from Friday the 13th and our ginger-headed buddy Nick, who went as a ninja.

We were allowed to run around the neighborhood for three hours, unsupervised, filling pillow cases with what felt like thirty pounds of candy slung over our small shoulders like Santa and his presents.

This film plays in my mind where we are laughing and I have this overwhelming feeling of happiness and never-ending energy. This memory begins after being handed a full sized bag of Skittles at this house tucked away in a court. It was the only house with a light on and we almost skipped it, but we pressed on.

And although I don't remember the person that handed the candy out to me, it was one of those virgin moments of pure happiness that caused a synapse to fire off in my brain, filed away as a permanent memory.

It's such a powerful recollection that I can still sense the smell of cooking meat as we rounded the street where the school janitor had his giant barrel grill, cooking burgers, hot dogs, and popcorn for the entire neighborhood. Everyone was happy to stand around his gruesome scene complete with cop car and fridge filled with fake body parts and blood.

It was a sense of community I don't know that I will ever reclaim.

Sal and I handed out full sized candy bars last night. It was a deliberate decision to be "that house."

I hope that the kids who came to our house last night remember the year they ran around in the pouring rain, filling their plastic grocery bags, and smearing chocolate on their princess costumes.

I hope that we will be a faceless couple who lived in an almost description-less brick house that those kids recall to their children. I hope that every time the crisp fall air blows oxygen into the embers of their memories of Halloween, that they smile.