Thursday, December 22, 2005

Guest Panel Discusses "Transit Strike: Friend or Foe?"

Loyal readers,

I know you'll never tire of my voice.
Of my crisp, clarion, and charming banter.
Of my priceless insight into such topics as SHPOSes, ways to choke people unconscious, and what I did this past weekend.

But I am a giving person, and I want to give more.
That's why I'm bringing in a panel of guest commentators while they're available.
Today's topic for discussion is "Transit Strike: Friend or Foe?"
But first, I think the panel members should introduce themselves.

First, your moderator is Brokk, the self-aware demolition robot:

Brokk!!! Pardon me. Thank you, The Litvak. I shall do my best to acquit myself without discredit. Brokk!!!

And the rest of today's panel:

Avast, ye SHPOSes! 'Tis I, The Whaler!
I'm Monica Bellucci. You may recognize me as the star of "Matrix: Reloaded" and "Brotherhood of the Wolf."
Who wakes the dead from their eternal slumber? The Ghost of Thorstein Veblen answers all.
David Lo Pan in the house.

Well, then, shall we get on with it? Today's topic is "Transit Strike: Friend or Foe." The Whaler, you spend a lot of time in the subways enforcing rules of mass transit etiquette with the business end of a harpoon. What do you have to say about all this?
Aarr. I admit I was influenced overmuch by the films of the nineteen-eighties. Still, the illegal strike is near certain to throw society into anarchy. I reckon we will soon see digruntled Iraq veterans assault and hold Central Park, demanding better pensions. Tommy Lee Jones showed how it's done in "The Park is Mine." Fine film, that.
HmmmMMMmmm! The 1980s gave us the greatest films of all time, there can be no doubt. I see John Leguizamo as the shell-shocked Marine sniper back from Falluja, and Jessica Alba as the gutsy reporter who is not afraid to have her hair blown in the wind, her cheeks streaked with leaves and dust in a makeshift Central Park sniper's nest, and her blouse...
...Lo Pan, you see Jessica Alba everywhere you look.
Yes, if only she had green eyes, like emerald lightning...
...enough film references-- we don't want a lawsuit here. Besides, I disagree that that movie advanced Tommy Lee Jones' career.
This, from someone who appeared in both Matrix sequels. At least the transit strike has had the salutary effect of disrupting the conspicuous consumption of the Christmas season. "Conspicuous consumption"--have I mentioned that I coined that phrase?
Only like a million times.
Brokk!!! Shall we turn the conversation back to the strike?
It does dampen me spirits. No subways means no SPHOSes with whom to do battle.
From what the recently departed SHPOSes tell me, it's not so much "do battle" as "impale from the shadows with thrown harpoons."
I'd fight 'em mano a mano, but they keep runnin' away!
This discussion is completely out of touch with working-class New York. The people the strike hurts most are not vigilantes, killer robots, ghosts, and demonic sorcerer-kings. Lower-income people who have long commutes and have lost pay right when they need to buy Christmas presents are the real victims. Them, and gorgeous Italian movie stars.
Well, that's all the time we have. This has been highly informative.

Uh huh. Thanks, guys.
I think there are still some kinks to work out, but we're on the right track with this format.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My Birthday Present

No, J.R., it's not a Ring of Power.
It's yesterday's opinion by Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a/k/a the Intelligent Design case. 
NYT coverage here.  Opinion here (courtesy of J.R.).
I happen to believe that 139 pages (which I have mostly skipped over) is much too long, but, your Honor, it's the thought that counts.  Thanks!
The Old Testament rocks. 
I bought a new translation of it a few months ago, and it's great.  Especially Genesis.
But it has parts--the creation of the world and its inhabitants, references to geocecentric astronomy, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel-- that are, how should I put it . . . not helpful as guides in trying to understand the physical world.
The Bible is an amazing work of literature, spiritual and ethical guide, and historical account of Jewish history. 
It does a lot!  It does it well!
But it is not a Swiss Army knife-- it's not a recipe book, a science textbook, a treatise on economics, or a cleverly-coded message foretelling the coming of Jesus or the date on which the world will end. 
Nothing's wrong with the Bible, but there are other books that do, or try to do, those things.
And Judge Jones's message, delivered on my birthday, translated into Litvak, might be:
Pick one up!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Transit Strike!

That's right, you heard it here first.
I've actually had a pretty nice time of it.
Last night Tenderfoot came by to surprise me for my birthday (which is today).
This morning, she gave me an excellent birthday present.
Can you tell I like the color orange?
Then we bundled up to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, like our fearless billionaire mayor-- who lives in Manhattan but came to my borough to take a constitutional and to show he has the common touch before settling down to work in front of, I presume, a roaring fire fueled with $50 bills.
So TF and I actually caught two empty seats in a cab on Court street, right after we'd picked up cups of the best coffee in the city from D'Amico's.
Our driver was an adorable 70-year-old guy (I think he was a member of the Tribe) hailing from parts ex-Soviet.
He sang "Happy Birthday" to me and told us stories about his kids.
One of our cab-mates chatted with us about pastry shops (our new daydream), and we then had a nice breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien next to some charming Israeli tourists.
You wanted to put the squeeze on me, Local 100?
Get bent.
You think retiring after 55 is too cruel?
You think there are too many disciplinary proceedings?
Remind me to tell you the story of the token booth operator who was disciplined for passing off a weekly pass as a month pass in exchange for my Transitcheck.  Even with incontrovertible documentary evidence (the metrocard, the stub of the Transitcheck, the guy's license number), it took the MTA months just to give me a refund for what he'd stolen-- and (not that I care what happened to the guy) the union gave him enough protection that he wasn't fired. 
I don't know of other unions powerful enough to keep thieving employees on the job, but I'm with Mike.  Make 'em sweat. 
I'll walk to work.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Subthig Wicked This Way Cubs

Just as the appearance in Gotham of Batman--detective, technophile, autodidact-- summoned Joker, Penguin, and other criminal masterminds...
Just as Superman--super-powered do-gooder--made his debut in Metropolis and spawned Lex Luthor and other kryptonite-wielding miscreants...
Just as the genesis of Spider Man--the webslinging teen--coincided with the arrival of Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, and other villains with whom he would do battle on bridges and skyscrapers... too has the good work of The Whaler--harpooning bane of SHPOSitude in New York's subways--given rise to an uber-SHPOS of unspeakable wickedness...

This morning when I got on the F Train at work, the first car I (almost) stepped into reeked powerfully of what the conductor later announced was "human waste."

Not human waste, sir, but rather subhuman-- and it was no natural smell, but rather a preternatural reek.

I held by dose ad walkt to the dext car. Oh, ban, did that sbell terrible.
I bead, peel-the-skid-off-your-flesh terrible smellig.
I was ad hour late for work!

Now, by Jove, it's over, and got on with my day.
I and my fellow commuters suffered only indirectly the evil that now lurks in the tunnels beneath the city.

Sbellig of putresedce ad waste, a shablig SHPOS spreads pestilece ad bisery...
Subthig wicked this way cubs... The Whaler up to the challege of...

Hobo Habilis-- the Proto-SHPOS?

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cat Burglar!

Some of you may remember when SHPOSes burgled my apartment.

Not to be outdone by mere subhumans, an actual non-human staged a full-on home invasion of Litak Keep.
That is, a cat named Lexi sneaked into my apartment on Thursday evening and hid there until four nights later when I discovered her presence and, with some help from a little girl and her mom, rousted her from her hidey-hole!

So. Last Thursday evening. I've just started training a little at a well-known boxing gym in Brooklyn called Gleason's, and I wanted to get some sleep so I could wake up early and train.

Around midnight, while I pondered weak and weary, something started making noise on my fire escape. It was a cat meowing pitifully.

I'd seen a cat on the roof before-- the lip of my roof is across from the 4th story windowsill of the building next to ours, where I figured it came from.

To get onto my fire escape, this cat pretty much had to jump down off the roof. But now it couldn't get up, and it couldn't get down, and its window next door was way out of reach.

Suddenly, I was its new best friend. And its me-owed at me while I lay in my bed by the closed window.

So I tried to go to sleep, hoping it'd find its way home. No luck.

I turned on the lights and opened a window to try to coax it in. More meowing, and sticking its head inside, but it'd shy away and run onto the fire escape stairs when I came near.

"I wanna come in, I don't wanna, well, maybe if you asked the right way..." this was clearly not a guy cat.

I decided to try the neighbors and see if they were home. I don't really know my neighbors, except in my building. Sad to say, because they live 12 inches away, on the other side of some brick and plaster.

Anyway, I went outside and tried the buzzer on the only unit with lights on, but there was no answer.

I looked up at the fire escape, and the cat had come down to the second story from the third, and was staring at me and shivering.

I wondered whether I'd have to watch curiosity kill her.

I went upstairs and closed the window, tried to go to sleep again.

Around 2 a.m., I heard her again, climbing up the screen on my window, trying to get to the roof. Clearly, that wasn't going to work.

So I tried letting her in a different window, but it was more coy feline ambivalence.

I think at this point I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, she'd gone down the fire escape or something. I closed the window and went to bed.

Woke up early, and the fire escape was empty.
Good-- she'd jumped down and gone home.
Gleason's was great-- jumped rope, shadowboxed, did some calisthenics. I had a productive day at work.

That night I went to my parents' for dinner, went out for a drink with my little sister (Doodles) and a friend of hers who plays poker for a living (I was really excited to pick his brain).

The next morning, I went to meet with a trainer at Gleason's. I noticed a cat hair on my bed, but figured it was just one from my parents' cats, who live to rub up against anything that's taller than it is wide.
I briefly considered that the cat might have gotten in somehow and called to her, checked under the bed and in the closet, then left the house.

I worked with a trainer at Gleason's-- worked on the "super heavy" bag, hit pads, speed bag (that's hard! Like chasing a fly with a baseball bat.), &c. Came home.

Then the cable guy came and installed my cable broadband in the office. I had to get a screwdriver out of the toolbox under my kitchen sink to remove the pullup bar in the office-- so he wouldn't crack his face open on it. He moved around, popping little fasteners all over the eddge of the walls to lead the cable into the office from the living room.

Hey, broadband cable is nice! I'm using it right now. Much better than creeping along with my neighbors' wireless connection.
Earthlink has a decent deal on cable broadband without making you sign up for phone and TV, too, which is good for someone like me who doesn't want TV and needs to do some work from home.

That's right-- if you want to hear the inspirational cat story, you have to hear to every stupid thing I did for the past 4 days.

Next, I visited my ex-roommate a few blocks away. He and a friend of his were playing with his new Xbox360 hooked up to an obscenely large flat HDTV.
It was awesome.
We played some Perfect Dark Zero, which looks more real than what's in front of my face most of the day, and has particularly satisfying gore and explosions and guns.

I walked over to my Dad's and helped him with some stuff (are we getting to the cat yet?); went to a restaurant in Manhattan for a friend's birthday dinner (is the cat gonna figure in somewhere?); then back to Brooklyn to meet Tenderfoot at yet another friend's party (we played Taboo! and roasted marshmallows).

On the way home, I noticed a guy standing outside the apartment next door.

"Do you have a cat?" I asked.

Well, he did, and she was missing. So I told him the story. He decided to look around the nearby lot, which houses a clan of wary alleycats.

The next morning, Tenderfoot sat in my papasan chair and told me an anecdote about her recently married friend, whom we'll call Guju, and her husband, Bubu.
Tenderfoot had been hanging out with them and put the evil eye on my papasan chair.
Bubu responded with envy, recalling the papasan chair he had owned and loved before being tamed by Guju, who asked him to get rid of it because it took up so much space and he never sat in it.
Man, first you give in on the papasan chair, next thing you have to go watch gospel performances, hold her purse, wear slacks instead of jeans, and see "breakup-and-make-up" and "coming to terms with things" movies.

Then, we were off to brunch to meet Guju, Bubu, and two friends of theirs from college for whom I'm too lazy to invent nicknames.
We went to Jaques-Imo's Cafe on the Upper West Side.
Oh man, that was good.
I even ate some alligator sausage cheesecake, and loved it.
Why will I eat gator and still conscientiously avoid pork?
Because pork is treif, of course.

Today I had to fly out of town for the day for a meeting, then came back to the office, did some work, and went out to Pratt to meet Tenderfoot and another friend (again, haven't made a nickname for him yet) at his sister's photo exhibition there.

The exhibit, which was about her grandmother's 100th birthday celebration in India, was great.

Tenderfoot was feeling sick from some bad Chinese food she'd eaten at lunch, so we walked in the falling snow to the subway and went to Litvak Keep.

Tenderfoot's keen eye noticed an interesting aroma in the Keep.
And a wet spot on the papasan she'd cursed.

The smell was cat pee. I'd stake my life on it.

There was also white powder spread in patches on the floor and on the papasan.

So we searched everywhere.

We checked under the bed, behind curtains, under the sofa, behind shelves, in every nook of the closet, bathroom, kitchen.
I tried meowing. I put out a saucer of milk.
Tenderfoot looked behind the cabinets, in the cabinets. I looked in the cabinets. I looked behind the fridge, in the trash, everywhere.

Tenderfoot noticed a pawprint on the papasan cushion:


I took the smelly papasan cushion out into the hall, and buzzed my neighbor until he yelled out the window.
When I told him his cat was hiding in my apartment somewhere, he said he'd send his wife.

And he did. She and their adorable daughter came by.
I was worried the daughter might be upset if she found her cat sick or starving or dead.

As soon as the girl started calling "Lexi! Lexi!", there was a pitiful meowing from the cabinets.
I mean, Dumbo-when-his-Mom-is-locked-in-a-cage pitiful.
Even then, it took five minutes for them to find her, squeezed into the back of a cabinet under my kitchen sink, with the door almost closed.
Tenderfoot had looked in there!
I had taken a screwdriver out a few days earlier!

The shelf was covered in white powder--Ajax--spilled from a cat knocking the open can around, which explained the powder around the apartment.

Lexi looked healthy, but was more scared than Saddam coming out of his spider-hole, and almost twice as adorable:

What can I say now?
Maybe this is a sign I should get rid of papasan.
In any case, I'm not opening my window for any horses.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

BJJ Move #70: "Crucifix" Neck Crank from Sprawl

Here's a fun neck crank you can do from a successful sprawl, among other positions.

WARNING! These techniques could result in serious injury or death if practiced incorrectly or even if performed correctly. They should only be practiced with the supervision of an experienced instructor.

"Crucifix" Neck Crank from Sprawl:
You can often do this move against someone who has just shot on you.
You are head-to-head, and you secure an overhook (say, on his right arm with your left arm) and an underhook (with your right arm under his left arm). Your head is on the top of his shoulders (otherwise, he’s the one in control).
Circle in the direction of your overhook (here, to your left, clockwise).
When your body is perpendicular to his, roll over your side—the side near his head (here, your right), “pointing the way” with your underhooking arm. This will roll him over his head and onto his back.
When he lands, hook your feet around his previously overhooked arm (here, his right). Specifically, your right leg here goes over and around the top of his right arm, then back beneath it.
Scoot onto your right hip, clasp your hands together, and, trying to keep his back to the ground, lever your back against the back of his neck and draw your arms up for a neck crank.

Comments? Please feel free to point out mistakes, describe tips on the techniques, suggest ways to make the descriptions clearer, etc.
Click here to go to the list of my BJJ move posts.