Aug 08

Dinner, the Great Leap Forward

I can’t speak for other bipolars, but when I’m down like I have been the past couple weeks I don’t turn into some Robert Smith or Morrissey-esque emo buzzkill. Stereotypes are a bitch.


Besides, I’ve always been more of the Peter Lorre type.

No, the real problem is I can’t get anything done. When getting up before 5 p.m. becomes a major accomplishment, things like cooking become about as feasible as making steel in my backyard.

Well, assuming I had a backyard. (Nothing like throwing in a random, snarky Chairman Mao reference, is there?)

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May 29

History Wednesday: A Lesson in Water Safety

I was going to write about Paraguay again, but it occurred to me earlier today I should bring as much geographic balance to History Wednesday as possible. Since I began SB at least one History Wednesday has been set on every continent. Except one, and I have regular visitors from it.


Well, two if you count penguins, but they don’t have broadband.

So it’s high time to take a look at Australia and an event which has a cautionary tale about water safety. Perfect now that summer is upon us. Or winter, as the case may be. Anyway, the Paraguay story is good, but it can wait.

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Apr 29

When Did I Turn Into a Hippie?

Like virtually everyone else in this world, I’ve held a few workaday type jobs in my day. I’ve been fired a couple times. I’ve been promoted a couple times. I have a fair amount of experience in management and such. On paper I have to say my resume looks pretty damn good.

The problem is I honestly think I couldn’t hold a job like that anymore, at least not for any significant period of time. I’d much rather work for myself doing something I love, such as writing and publishing. Also, being bipolar means it’s not a question of if I use all my sick days, but when. Accordingly I haven’t had such a job for nearly two years now.

If you’ve seen the “About” page here, you know that I have an LLC. I set it up with the thought of becoming a book publisher. Eventually I’d like to make that happen, but being sick with bipolar disorder effectively ground that process to a halt. As a result the business became more about writing Wikipedia articles, which I don’t do anymore.


Why? Because dealing with Wikipedia is like trying to get a rabid wolverine through Chinese customs.

I’ve thought about going back into insurance, or some other type of sales job, or even participating in one of those MLM things. Unfortunately, I’m simply not cut out for that sort of work. After years of denial, I’ve come to the horrible conclusion that I’m fundamentally one of those artsy-fartsy types.


But without the patchouli oil. That stuff is nasty.

That said, instead of resigning myself to a life of shopping at thrift stores so I can save enough to go to Burning Man – which really isn’t my thing, either – I need to reconcile who I am with economic reality. This is not to say I’m trying to avoid working. Absolutely not. Ambition is alive and well here at the Command Center.

I suppose until I put a plan together, I’ll have to be content with providing y’all with your daily dose of snark and cynicism. You’re welcome.

But hey, if you have any ideas, you know how to contact me.

Apr 24

History Wednesday: Kingdoms for Fun and Profit

Back when I wrote about the Deseret alphabet I mentioned in passing a place called Molossia. As it turns out, y’all are somewhat interested in the micronation near Carson City, Nevada. I can tell because the link repeatedly turns up in the “clicks” section of my blog dashboard.


I can see why. It’s a happening place.
Image credit: Kevin Baugh

That said, today’s History Wednesday isn’t about Molossia or micronations. That story has been covered elsewhere. Although inspired by Molossia, today we’ll take a look at the Kingdom of Sedang, one of the more bizarre chapters in the never-boring history of Southeast Asia.

This story has its roots in the mid-1880s when colonialism was all the rage throughout Europe. After a relatively successful war against China, France established control over the majority of Southeast Asia east of present-day Thailand. They called it “French Indochina.”


This caused some problems later on, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, shortly after the Sino-French War in 1888 Chulalongkorn the Great, king of the independent Siam, began claiming lands on his border with French Indochina. Unsurprisingly, this prompted the French to take steps to bolster their claims to the areas in question. Enter a certain Marie-Charles David de Mayrena, a rather sketchy character who owned a plantation in the area. Prior to his involvement in French Indochina, Mayrena worked as an arms dealer. He was suspected of embezzlement back in Metropolitan France. He had also been kicked out of the Dutch East Indies, which we know today as Indonesia.

Charles-Marie David de Mayréna1SMALL

In other words, a 19th Century Destro.

Ever the opportunist, Mayrena convinced the Governor-General of French Indochina that he was the perfect guy to negotiate treaties with people in the area who weren’t definitively subjects of the French-controlled Emperor of Annam. Upon arrival he magnanimously negotiated fair treaties to everyone’s benefit.

Heh, no. He totally took advantage of the ambiguous political situation in the immediate area. In June 1888 he was somehow elected by several local tribal leaders as their king. He took the title “Marie the First, King of Sedang.”


Because nothing says “Vietnam” more than a guy calling himself “King Marie.”
Image credit: Andrew Dinh

Mayrena rather incongruously declared Roman Catholicism Sedang’s state religion despite the fact most of his subjects in present-day central Vietnam were Muslims. Eventually recognizing his demographic error, Mayrena converted to Islam himself and promptly took advantage of the religion’s liberty regarding plural marriages. He also set about to create a flag, print postage stamps and establish a national award, named after himself of course.

Now Mayrena wasn’t the first random foreign dude to take over a distant land on charm and bullshit alone. He was, however, somewhat more pragmatic than some of the others. Much like the leaders of the short-lived Republic of Texas and the even more short-lived California Republic, Mayrena’s Sedang almost immediately resolved to negotiate a union with a stronger power. However unlike Texas and California, Sedang was, shall we say, less than successful.

He first tried his native France, offering the country to them in exchange for “monopoly rights” over the area. He also told the French government that if they weren’t interested, the Prussians might be. Predictably, Paris – infuriated this guy created a kingdom in “their” territory in the first place – passed on his offer.


As for Prussia’s Bismarck, he reportedly asked if the day’s Wienerschnitzel was properly tenderized.

Next Mayrena tried the British up in Hong Kong. They were similarly disinterested. Finally Mayrena went to Belgium, where he convinced another shady character named Somsy to provide him with money and arms in exchange for mineral rights. Finally fed up with his shit, the French refused Mayrena’s entry into Vietnam upon his return and seized his arms shipment in Singapore. The erstwhile king spent his last days in exile in present-day Malaysia, where he died in November 1890 under mysterious circumstances.

And so that was the end of Sedang, even though today a Canadian group wants to inexplicably revive it. As for Molossia, there may be a story there if I went to visit. Indeed, it’s on my shortlist after my planned junket to Thermopolis.

Apr 22

A Gift to Google

SB has been around for nearly three months. In that time I’ve managed to cover nearly 1,300 topics in over 70 posts and probably in the neighborhood of 10,000 words, the size of a short book. Naturally, that’s caused some disparate search engine traffic. Today I want to share the highlights of those searches with you. For one, it’s funny. For another, it’s yet another lazy-ass way to put a post together.

These findings are based on Google searches, as Bing and the others didn’t have a lot of material to work with. I know many of you were looking for something other than a silly-ass blog from Idaho, so I’m trying to help out with some facts about the topics you really want to read about. I’ve already covered SB’s top search query, “gr8tits2play,” several times. I’m not going to discuss that further today.

Main Street Guitar Company

Despite being mentioned a grand total of once here before today, SB appears as the third link in a Google search for this term. That tells me there’s not a whole hell of a lot of information on this company.

It appears Main Street Guitar Company is (or more likely, was) based in Cedar City, Utah, of all places. The company has no web site, and every indication is the Cedar City location is no longer in business. As for my Main Street bass, it was made in China. I can tell because the sticker on the back of the headstock clearly says so.


My phone battery is charging. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.

As for the quality, I can tell you I paid well under $100 for my instrument used. Glean from that what you will.

Feodor I

History Wednesday’s top contribution to Google appears to be its account of the hapless 16th Century Russian czar. SB makes a first-page appearance for the term, ahead of entries from such august scholastic organizations such as, um,


Feodor would be 455 years old if he were alive today. How about that?

As for Feodor’s much better-known father, Ivan the Terrible … yeah. I have my SEO work cut out for me on that one.

Honey Boo Boo

Uh oh. Google’s webmaster tools tell me SB has an average search rank of 11th for this train wreck. Thankfully, an actual search proves this isn’t the case. Google doesn’t even have me in the first 10 pages …


… yet. Oh, this could get ugly.
Image credit: ~AngryDogDesigns

My Favorite Search Terms

Of course, not all the search terms that stick around here have any staying power. Many are simply hilarious, such as:

“desirable outcome carnival cruise triumph”
“when did a trading post at moose factory get stupid”
“has anybody really thought about the logistics to the movie air bud”
“strom thurmond takes a dump”
“do cats try crap on astro turf”
“ghaddafi leisure suit”
“what in the hell is going on at idaho state university”

“The last time I saw people covered in that much feces they were touring the White House with Al Roker!”

Beautiful. Keep it up, y’all.

Oh yeah, for fans of SEO, “gr8tits2play.” Ha, ha!

Mar 08

Friday Crap Roundup IV

I’m feeling a bit stale this week. The fact a couple of my Cracked submissions went down the drain isn’t helping. So with that in mind here we are with another silly, rant-filled FCR. Hope you enjoy, or something ….

Droning on About Drones

If you follow politics at all, you know about Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster against the potential use of unmanned drones against American citizens on American soil. An impressive physical feat to be sure. Even more impressive considering Paul didn’t use the facilities during his marathon speech. Of course, Strom Thurmond spoke for over 24 hours for the much less noble cause of opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1957, preparing for that by taking steam baths every day to dehydrate himself.



Now while I have strong libertarian leanings, I’ve never been a supporter of former Rep. Ron Paul or his son Rand. This week’s news doesn’t change much. However, I do think Sen. Paul has a point here. Both Pauls occasionally put forth good ideas, but I wouldn’t want either as president. As a Democrat I’ve always been lukewarm at best about Obama. Hopefully in 2016 we’ll nominate a stronger libertarian in the mold of a Bill Richardson or Brian Schweitzer.

Chavez Under Glass

Another politician I have mixed feelings about, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, died a few days ago. Apparently he’ll be embalmed and put on permanent exhibit, joining such fun people as Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and both Kims of North Korea.

One wonders how long this will last. Unlike China, Vietnam, North Korea or even Russia, Venezuela has a viable political opposition. An attempt to recall Chavez in 2004 received over 40 percent of the vote. With the iconoclastic Chavez out of the picture, it’s conceivable the opposition will return to government there in the relatively near future. In the meantime, even in death Chavez continues to confound opposition both at home and abroad.



Fun With Dating Sites

Although I’ve been inactive on the dating site front for several weeks now, earlier today I received this unsolicited little gem:

Hi hun. Just browsing the site and came across your profile. I would love to chat and see how far we can take this. I could really use a good time out. Honestly, I’m ready to get together for some drinks soon! I don’t come on here often and I hate talking on these sites, so many restrictions. Let’s make this easier and just get a hold of me directly (e-mail redacted) I check that from my phone so I can get back to you right away. Just for fun, tell me what would you do to me if we got together? Would love to hear what you have in mind . I hope youre (sic) as serious as I am, Ill be waiting eagerly for your response.

Ostensibly she’s local, although for all I know she could be in Turkmenistan or something. While I suspect this is about as sincere as Strom Thurmond’s moderation of his segregationist views late in his career, which is to say not very, it should at the very least provide some new material for SB. Provided it’s sufficiently substantial and/or hilarious, more on this later.


While all readers are free to make comments, I don’t respond to them in the Comments section. This isn’t YouTube. However, I will respond to them here in FCR on occasion. Earlier this week “Rhodent” opined on the Basque language problem mentioned in “Expired Food

The “x” = /ʃ/ isn’t really all that bad, though, when you consider the fact that all i’s in Basque are pronounced with the /i/ phoneme. Thus, “Bitxi” is pronounced “Beachy”. In fact, you could just anglicize the spelling to that if you wanted.

This isn’t a comment from some random person. I’ve known Rhodent for years. We used to be in a fantasy hockey league together. More importantly, I respect his opinion. I’m also going to take his suggestion. For my daughter’s sobriquet, “Beachy” it is. Thanks to him for saving me the trouble of trying to be clever again.

Track of the Week

I came across this classic at the Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store of all places. Damn, has it really been 20 years?

Feb 13

History Wednesday: The Sad, Pathetic Tale of Qin Er Shi

As a native Idahoan, I take exception to the implication that the only culture around here is in the yogurt section at Albertson’s. In recognition of that, on Wednesdays Superfluous Bloviations takes a look at people in history way dumber than you.

Today’s journey takes us to ancient China, which made the Great Leap Forward look like Burning Man. Qin Shi Huang, the legendary First Emperor, is not only a truly badass figure in Chinese history, but in ancient history in general. Not only did he unify the country for the first time, he also built the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army and a still-unexcavated tomb which if ever opened will probably make Tutankhamun’s burial site look a like a rundown swap meet. Sure, he was unspeakably cruel and killed hundreds of thousands of his own people in the process, but Qin Shi Huang was a guy who knew how to get shit done. By 211 BCE he was the unquestioned master of a unified Chinese state of 20 million people.


He also invented cross-country skiing.

When he wasn’t busy beating the ever-loving crap out of ungrateful nobility, Qin Shi Huang obsessively pursued the secret of eternal life. As a result he avoided things associated with death, such as writing a will. On a trip to the eastern reaches of his empire in search of the magic elixir of life Qin Shi Huang suddenly died, reputedly due to ingesting mercury pills intended to make him immortal (go figure). Chancellor Li Si, chief eunuch Zhao Gao and the emperor’s younger son, Huhai, carted the decaying and possibly bio-hazardous corpse home to Xianyang while pretending Qin Shi Huang was still alive. Along the way they concocted a plan to take over the empire.


Like this, but for two months and involving carts of rotting fish to mask the smell.

Back in Xianyang Fusu, the emperor’s oldest son, was the acknowledged heir apparent. However, the trio would most likely lose their influence, if not more, under his leadership. Their brilliant caper? They forged a letter purportedly from the deceased Qin Shi Huang declaring Huhai heir to the throne and ordering Fusu and and his favorite general to commit suicide. Fusu saw right through this lame plot and had the conspirators killed.

Ha, ha. No. The plan totally worked and Fusu obligingly offed himself. With Fusu out of the way Li and Zhao were able to put the ridiculously pliant Huhai on the throne. What followed were probably the most slapdick three years in the entire five-millennia history of China. Huhai ruled under the name Qin Er Shi, or “Second Emperor,” but it should have been something more like “Fredo of Qin” as the inept new emperor immediately proceeded to drive the family business into the ground.

How much of a screw-up was Qin Er Shi? Well, over 20 centuries later his name is still referenced in a Cantonese expression for an incompetent, spoiled child raised by wealthy parents. Ouch.


Trust me, you DON’T want this tattoo.

Zhao Gao convinced Qin Er Shi, who was barely out of his teens, that as the “Son of Heaven” he must never speak or show his face in public, which in turn helped to give the eunuch exclusive access to the emperor. Zhao’s influence over the emperor was so strong that Qin Er Shi was effectively a figurehead. In other words, a man with no balls had the emperor by the balls.

Meanwhile through Zhao Gao, Qin Er Shi proceeded to levy trumped up bullshit charges on various out of favor nobles and high-ranking military officials and then put them to death, pretty much for the sheer hell of it. This included three of the emperor’s surviving brothers, who committed suicide rather than face the indignity of certain execution.

Needless to say, with a useful idiot at the helm of a shadowy, brutal regime which only recently subjugated its neighbors, before long the Qin state was engulfed in numerous rebellions. Qin Er Shi, having the leadership skills of a squashed slug, chose to avoid the matter as much as possible. Messengers who brought bad news were immediately put to death. My research suggests 3rd Century BCE messengers were not in favor of being hacked to pieces, so they quickly learned to provide the emperor with good news regardless of whether it was true or not. This gave Qin Er Shi an extremely false sense of security.


Although in his defense, it’s happened to others.

In 208 BCE, Li Si went to the emperor to ask that funds being used to build a palace be diverted to the military since they were fighting, um, you know, wars and stuff. Perhaps realizing a bit too late that installing a homicidal castrato as the power behind the throne wasn’t a terribly smart idea, Li was rewarded with a rather gruesome execution, ironically via a technique he himself pioneered.

Despite this, Qin Er Shi still had an enormous army left over from the First Emperor’s days of glorious conquest. At first it was able to keep the rebels at bay. Finally in 207 BCE, in a stunning victory at Julu in present-day Hebei Province, an army from the rebel state of Chu no larger than 60,000 defeated a Qin army of 200,000. The Qin general, who still had substantial reserves, fell back and requested supplies and reinforcements from the emperor. Zhao Gao then proceeded to tell Qin Er Shi the general, having the temerity to lose a battle, was obviously disloyal. The emperor denied the general’s request. Soon after, the remaining 200,000 Qin troops were surrounded by rebel forces and forced to surrender. The rebels then proceeded to bury all of them alive lest they become a pain in the ass later.

Realizing his father’s once-massive military had been killed dead and that Zhao Gao had been feeding him a load of crap since day one, Qin Er Shi tried to eliminate the conniving eunuch. But true to form Qin Er Shi managed to screw this up too. Instead of being brought to ancient Chinese justice, Zhao and his minions actually forced the emperor to commit suicide.

Soon after Qin Er Shi’s demise, Fusu’s son Ziying seized the throne and finally managed to liquidate the dickish Zhao Gao. But it was too little, too late. The Qin Dynasty, the first unified Chinese state in history, fell after only 15 years of existence. It was succeeded by the much more intelligent Han Dynasty after four more years of civil war.