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2.6.1 Upgrade August 29, 2008

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , 2 comments

Tonight, I upgraded my blog to WordPress version 2.6.1 and hopefully it will all be as smooth as it looks to be so far. It is now about an hour after midnight, and I just got a chance to do this update. I spent the rest of Thursday (the 28th) evening hanging out with friends, some of whom are only in town for DragonCon. Although I managed to squeeze in Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, and convince everybody to watch it, we spent most of the night reminiscing and catching up on each other’s lives. Friends, politics, website upgrades… All in all a good evening even if I am really tired from talking online to Michael Goodwin about Exalted Infernals until the crazy hours of yesterday morning.

Isn’t She Wonderful August 25, 2008

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , add a comment

Michelle ObamaWhen Michelle Obama’s speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention concluded, the organizers queued the music, and the lyrics rhetorically asked, “Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful?” I had already decided that I wanted to write something about her appearance at the convention, and I was frankly torn between the first and the second of those declarative questions as a title. Ultimately, I felt that, as lovely as Michelle is, the fact that she is bright, well-spoken, honestly dedicated to public service, and generally impressive, meant that I simply had to go with “wonderful” rather than focusing on beauty.

If you didn’t catch her speech, track it down. At the time of this writing, it is hosted at BarackObama.com. I am fairly sure I heard that CNN.com said they would host it, and surely it will appear on YouTube. Really there is no way a few paragraphs here is going to substitute for her powerful performance.

Hearing her talk about her father’s long life of hard work, with a strong sense of appreciation, was very touching. I am lucky that even though my parents have worked hard all of their lives, they are still around for me (although unfortunately far away). Her father perished relatively early, yet his legacy clearly left Michelle with a powerful sense of family and dedication to community.

The introduction by her brother was very human, too. He was not the powerful speaker that his sister Michelle and her husband Barack Obama are. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, his words rang clearly and authentically. There was a sense that he spoke from the heart, with emotional rawness rather than great skill. His introduction was real. It was something that struck a chord of empathy in each of us.

Seriously, you should watch Michelle’s speech to get its full effect. If you have a sympathetic bone in your body, she will say something that impacts you. For me, the finale, when Michelle’s daughters joined her on stage, hit me pretty hard. I miss my ex-wife’s youngest daughter Deva, who was raised to think of me as “dad” even though I am not her father by blood, and watching Obama’s daughters talk to their dad by satellite, while basking in their mother’s love, brought tears to my eyes. My ex seems determined to destroy every vestige of family bond that 6 years might have engendered, perhaps to recreate her own fatherless childhood for whatever reason.

I suppose it is difficult for us to identify with political figures who cannot provide us with experiences that resonate with us on a personal level outside of their own experiences. Though my own life has confronted me with numerous challenges which have not ended well—numerous challenges which have resulted in harsh sadness—I still find hope in the American story of the Obamas. The comfortable charisma that they bring to their public lives gives me hope for the future, a hope far stronger than that which I can muster on my own in these times.

Factoid: Barack Obama is the first presidential candidate of a major party to refuse public campaign financing since the taxpayer-funded government program was created in 1976.

Watchmen, Take 2 and American Psycho August 25, 2008

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , add a comment

I meant to climb Stone Mountain again today (Sunday August 24th), as I have once again taken to doing every week if possible. I slept late, however, after hanging out with friends pretty late last night. Michael Caposino was back in Atlanta, for DragonCon, and he came by to visit. His girlfriend that I had never met came along, and my friend Joe’s girlfriend also showed up. In general, the weekend night gaming group was swelled well beyond its normal size and diluted with folks that weren’t going to play. Only a little gaming happened, but it was cool hanging out with old friends again.

Anyway. Today, by the time I got up today, the sky was threatening, and I kept delaying going to climb the mountain. Soon, the rain set in, and I settled for starting to read the Watchmen again. It was sitting on my shelf, and I recalled seeing still shots of the upcoming movie on the internet. So far, I am enjoying it as much as I did last time.

Eventually the rain slowed to a trickle, and I was hungry but didn’t feel like cooking dinner. Thus, I walked down to a local neighborhood bar which opened a few weeks ago, and got a couple of beers and some food. I still miss the Kingfisher, which once filled this role, but closed. However, Take 2 (as the new place is called) got me through the evening. The staff and owners were watching the Democratic convention in Denver on TV, and we spent some time discussing politics and the future. The rain poured down, like the sky was falling, as I wiled away a couple of hours. Eventually it slowed again, and I walked home.

Once I was home, I determined to actually watch another of the Blu-ray DVDs that came with my PS3 that the company gave us for Xmas. Somehow I still hadn’t worked my way through them. Tonight’s choice: American Psycho. I don’t believe I had ever seen this movie, despite it being around a bit. Christian Bale’s take on serial killer insanity was interesting to see. Given his proximity to Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight movie, I found the shared gestures of psychotic sweeping back of sweaty hair to be strangely similar. I guess that sort of parallel comes more naturally when you see movies close together that everybody else saw years apart. Girl Interrupted and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had a lot of similarities to me, too, because I saw them one week apart despite decades between their releases.

Anyway. It is technically Monday morning now, since it is past midnight, and I imagine that my dreams are going to be weird considering today’s blend of thunder, lightning, rain, politics, and comical and dramatic psychosis.

Your Sign August 11, 2008

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : Poetry , add a comment

VoteI see your election sign
flat in the dirt
overgrown with weeds
I don’t remember who you are
maybe you are still paying
whatever debt you incurred
chasing your shattered dream
maybe you make little laws
that affect my daily life
and I don’t even know it.

Virginia and the Loch Ness Monster August 2, 2008

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , 2 comments

Loch Ness MonsterWork has been encouraging my department to take our vacations recently. Last week – from July 22nd to the 28th – I headed back to Virginia to visit my family. Driving up interstate 85 North presented all of the familiar landmarks: the giant peach-shaped water tower in Gaffney, the outlet malls and cigarette warehouses, the omnipresent road construction… As usual, the long drive gave me lots of time to think about life and wish that I had my favorite job, family and friends all in one place.

I stayed at my sister’s house in Midlothian, and started off the week kind of slow, just hanging out and watching my nephews cheat at Oblivion (using the iron-arrow equipment multiplier exploit). Then I caught up with my best friend Brent. He has totally become a family man, and I think it has been good for him. Of course, we talk on the phone, but I usually only see my friends and family from Virginia once a year, around Christmas time.

The main thing I did that qualified as just good old-fashioned fun was to spend a day at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. I hadn’t been there since something like 1996. The park was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster, which was the first roller coaster I ever rode. My sister’s husband didn’t have the day off work, so it was alternately amusing and irritating to watch people assume that she and I were a couple bringing our kids to the park. Watching my sister with her kids made me think about my ex-wife and her youngest daughter Deva, but I managed not to let that ruin the day.

The Loch Ness Monster was still a fun ride, after all these years. Apollo’s Chariot was pretty cool. The most impressive of the new rides was the Griffin, which drops more than 200 feet straight down on its first big hill and is constructed with a wide, wing design setup rather than a train of cars in a row. They bill it as the tallest floorless dive coaster in the world, but I am not sure what the heck “floorless” means in this context. Anyway, a fun time, and I wish I had written about it sooner after I came back so that maybe the details would have been more fresh in my mind.