Death of a Pope

So they buried Pope John Paul II today. As I read the news reports, I remembered something I read years ago. Nostradamus supposedly described every pope from his death in the 1560s to present day with a phrase of two or three words. What’s interesting is, according to him there were be only two more popes after John Paul II. The next pope will be “Gloria Oliviae,” or Glory of the Olive. Either that or the description means that the next pope will be named Gloria or Olivia, but I don’t think women are allowed to become pope.

(Unrelated side note: Olivia was the first name of Mother Jefferson. Remember her? She was only on for the first few seasons, played by Zara Cully. She never thought Weezie was good enough for her precious George.)

After “Gloria Oliviae,” the final pope will be named “Petrus Romanus,” or Peter the Roman. The prophecies seem to indicate that he will preside over the end of the world, which is kind of scary since his reign will almost certainly take place in our lifetimes.

Here’s my take on it: Petrus Romanus will actually preside over the end of the Catholic Church (and all organized churches as we know them). To Nostradamus, a Catholic, this would have indeed seemed to be the end of the world. But instead it will be the beginning of a new era of spirituality, where people begin to look inward to find truth, rather than looking outward to religious leaders to tell them what to do. In a sense, we will each be our own Pope.

Oh, man. The floodgates are opening in my mind. There’s so much more I want to write about this, but right now I have to get ready to go to Raiford’s. Priorities, you know. But, I hope to get back to this point and say more about religion and the role it currently plays in our lives and in society. It’ll have to wait until later though….

Sons of Saddam portfolio clobbers U.S. stock market returns

Around the time the war with Iraq broke out, I had a really strange investment idea. What if I invested in UDI and QSII, in honor of Saddam’s two sons, Udai and Qusai? Of course, I didn’t really do it. But today, just over two years later, I decided to check and see how I would have done.

On the day the war started, which I think was March 19, 2003 (I may be off by a day or two), UDI was trading at $22.11. Today it’s at $73.89, better than a triple in two years. QSII traded at $24 at the start of the war, and is now at $49.65 – but, the stock split 2-for-1 during that period, so each $24 share has turned into TWO shares at $49.65 each. That’s a quadruple in two years.

$10,000 invested in Sons of Saddam on 3/19/03 would have turned into $37,397.13, a 274% return in just over two years. To compare, $10,000 invested in an S&P 500 index fund on the same date would have turned into only $13,612.04, a return of 36%. Too bad there isn’t a stock with ticker symbol W – that would make for an interesting comparison to Sons of Saddam.

Mr. Squid

Last Sunday some people in my building had a sushi party, and I went. The instructions for the guests were to bring something Asian-themed to share. Now, of course, I don’t cook. So I went to the Asian market to find something already prepared.

I came across a red can that at first I thought was Pringles. But, upon examination, I discovered it was something called “Mr. Squid.” Apparently people in Thailand eat the stuff like we eat Pringles in the States – but instead of potato chips, it’s dried, baked squid. I bought a can to take to the party, and when I got it home from the market, popped it open and tried one. It definitely was squid – you could smell it a mile away. Texture was crunchy, and the taste was, um, interesting.

Mr. Squid is healthy, though. According to the can, a serving has only 110 calories and 12 grams of protein. Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen a fat Thai person. Maybe we should get rid of the Lay’s and Doritos and start stocking Mr. Squid in the vending machines. That’s my plan for a healthier America!

The Overton Square Crawfish Fest has jumped the shark

Last Saturday I found myself with a choice. I could either attend Mpact’s Beyond College event, and teach graduating college students how to network, interview, and find a job; or I could attend the Overton Square Crawfish Fest, and eat crawfish and get drunk. You can probably guess which event won out.

It was a nice day and I decided to walk to Overton Square from downtown. We’re having a contest at work to see who can walk the most steps in a 2-week period, so I had a pedometer on. It took me an hour and five minutes and 7700 steps to get there, but it was a beautiful April day and I didn’t mind.

The Overton Square crawfish fest used to be one of my favorite outdoor festivals of the year, but this year it jumped the shark. True, it was well-attended, but it wasn’t well organized and was way too expensive. I had to wait in a line of at least 70 people to get a box of crawfish; even during peak times, I can’t remember lines of over 15 in previous years. Also, five years ago I paid $5 and got a huge box of crawfish with a tater and a piece of corn (there’s nothing like vegetables cooked in the pot with crawfish and that spicy Cajun seasoning). This year, I paid $10 for a much smaller box of crawfish, no tater, no corn. I could barely tell I ate at all. It was more like an appetizer than a meal.

The beer was too expensive as well. $3.50 for a 16-ounce Michelob draft? Come on, even the outdoor bars on Beale Street don’t charge that much! A lot of people chose to skip the official beer table, hit the nearby convenience store, and buy 40s to sneak in. And the people manning the beer table were not nice at all. I got really bad energy from them, and didn’t tip, which is unusual for me, but I just didn’t like them. A guy in front of me in line had accidentally left change for a $50 sitting on the table, and it was gone when he came back to claim it, and the people behind the table were downright rude: “Well, ANYBODY could come up and say they left their change.” I didn’t expect them to pull 50 bucks out the register and hand it to him, but they could have been a lot nicer about it.

Then there was the bathroom situation. In past years, they’ve had entire rows of porta-johns available for use. This year they had TWO – one men’s and one women’s – for the 600 to 1000 people that attended. What were they thinking? When I coordinated an outdoor music event in Court Square, I was told the rule of thumb was one porta-john for every 75 people. There were long lines all afternoon, and I never remember waiting at all in previous years. I just snuck in nearby restaurants and used their bathrooms instead.

Not that the fest was all bad – the people made it worthwhile. I had several groups of friends there to hang out with, and I caught a ride back downtown with some people afterward and we had a few drinks at Sleep Out’s. The bands that played were excellent. And the weather couldn’t be better – sunny and 65 degrees.

I’ll be back next year, but I’m going to eat before I go, and if I feel like having a beer I’m going to keep that convenience store in mind. I hope that the Bayou Bar & Grill, which puts on the festival, focuses more on execution, logistics, and customer experience next year.

What I’m looking forward to, though, is the downtown crawfish fest Sunday, April 17. The downtown fest used to suck because they ran out of crawfish too early, but in recent years they’ve solved that problem and it is now far and away the better crawfish festival. Last year yhey had huge buckets, enough to fill you up, for $10, and they gave away the first 500 pounds for free. Looking forward to that one. See you on the 17th!

Marriage and the movies

Last night some of my neighbors invited me over for movie night. One of the movies was “Bridget Jones 2,” which was not a surprise since two women selected the movies. I have to admit, though, that I saw the first “Bridget Jones” a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I was looking forward to the sequel.

The verdict? Not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but only because the soundtrack saved it. I can’t totally hate a movie that has Barry White’s “You’re the First, My Last, My Everything” on it – one of my favorite songs.

But I hate the premise of the movie – the idea that a woman is somehow not complete, not a true adult, not a full-fledged woman, until she is married. That marriage is the be-all and end-all and something to be strived for at all costs. That happiness is dependent on something outside of her – a husband – rather than coming from inside.

This is why I rarely date women close to my own age (30 and up). I don’t mean to generalize to all women in that age range, but the stereotype fits many that I know. They’re so obsessed with getting married that the process of meeting someone, getting to know them, starting a relationship with them, becomes a task to get done rather than one of the most wonderful joys in life. All the fun and spontaneity slips away. I can’t tell you how many 30ish women I’ve known, incredible people with so much to offer, who have shown only their neurotic, catty, controlling, unattractive side because they were so caught up in the idea that they were somehow incomplete without a husband, or at least a relationship that showed serious promise of moving in the direction of marriage.

Last spring I was walking around downtown when I saw a group of women, many of whom I knew, on an outdoor patio. They were having “Girls’ Night” but asked me to join them, said they needed a guy’s opinion. One of them (who I had not previously met) had been with her boyfriend a year and wanted to him to “take things to the next level” – i.e. propose to her. They had gone through all of the motions of a year-old relationship – taken trips together, met each other’s families, etc. When she brought him to a family outing, her relatives all but came out and asked why he hadn’t proposed, but even then he didn’t seem to take the hint. But as she talked more and more one thing seemed to stand out – she didn’t even seem to like him that much. This was confirmed when I ran into her again a couple of weeks later, on the same patio. This time he was with her, and I could almost feel the unhappiness oozing from her. I certainly didn’t see anything that resembled a smile on her face. But I guess in her mind, she was taking the steps that would lead to what she thought she wanted.

So there’s the marriage rant I’ve been meaning to type up for at least three years now. It just seems like more women would wake up and realize they’re already adult and complete and wonderful, and they don’t have to look on their left hand and see a wedding ring to validate that. Let go of your all-important “goal” and enjoy the process of getting to know other people – and yourself.

Anyway, Happy Easter! Today I’m skipping Sunday at the Monkey for the first time in eight months, but never fear – my Easter basket will still be a champagne bucket. I have three bottles in the fridge, and orange juice to make mimosas. Later on I’m going to have Easter dinner with my neighbors (the ones who picked the movie last night) and they’re hiding eggs in the lobby. They plan on finding their own eggs that they hid, which doesn’t make sense to me, but then they’re blondes. All right, I’m out for the day – see you later!

Random stuff thrown together for your reading pleasure

Not one specific topic this time, just whatever pops into my head.

– Best meal I’ve had in a while: The Chicken Pontabla at King’s Palace Cafe on Beale, a chicken breast in Cajun spices over roasted potatoes and covered in parmesan cheese. Just unbelievably good. Actually, I ordered it next door at the Tap Room, which shares the menu with King’s Palace. The Tap Room has become my new regular place to hang out. It’s a good mix of locals and tourists, just a friendly environment where you can have a conversation, watch TV, listen to a band.

– Back to the topic of food, check out Blue Coast Burrito on Walker Ave. just off Highland out by the U of M. They have build-it-yourself burritos and fish tacos. Back when I lived in San Diego, fish tacos were the unofficial food of the city much as BBQ is in Memphis. And Blue Coast has a salsa bar with your choice of sauces for your food.

– My apartment building rocks. They’ve rented a party suite for us for the opening Redbirds game on April 7, with a free buffet and beer.

– The membership phonathon for Mpact, which I helped put together, turned out to be a success. I went to a dollar store and bought about 50 bucks worth of prizes. Every time a caller got a renewal, they got to reach in a grab bag for a prize.

– Ordering pizza for the phonathon turned out to be a challenge though. Papa John’s put me on hold no less than 10 times, asked me to repeat my phone number about 4 times, asked me to repeat my credit card number about 8. Then, after “hold on,” the guy came back on the phone and said, “Give me that credit card number again.” I told him that this was getting ridiculous, that it shouldn’t take 15 minutes to order pizza and if he couldn’t get it right this time, I was hanging up and calling Pizza Hut. Then I gave him my card number for the 9th time. He said, “Hold on,” and then I heard a crash, and in the background I heard him say, “That motherfucking bitch just broke the credit card machine!” Then he got back on the line and asked for my card number again. Pizza Hut got a $35 order as a result. It’s the first time in years I’ve been mad enough to get on a company’s website and complain.

– More fast-food stupidity: I went to Wendy’s the other day and ordered a Caesar side salad. “What kind of dressing you want with that?” asked the cashier. Um, let’s see…it’s a CAESAR salad, you think maybe CAESAR dressing, moron?

– Am watching the Democratic Party with interest now that Howard Dean has been elected as its chair. I like Dean’s grass-roots style and ability to think outside the box. I’ve always thought of myself as being a nonpartisan liberal, but with Dean in charge I guess I’ll go ahead and label myself a Democrat.

– My latest stock pick: SanDisk (SNDK). SanDisk makes the flash memory cards and sticks used in computers, MP3 players, and digital cameras. I think they’re already more relevant to the photography industry than Kodak. They’re about a $4.5 billion company right now; I put them at a $90-billion market cap in 10 years. I also believe SNDK will be listed as one of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow.

– Places around town where you’re likely to see me: Cafe Francisco Thursday night, March 24, where Mpact is having After Hours with singer/guitarist Drew Holcomb; later that evening I’ll be at the Flying Saucer to see The Dempseys. Friday, March 25 I’ll be in the South Main District for the Trolley Art Tour. Sunday, March 27 (and most every Sunday) I’ll be at the Blue Monkey. Friday, April 1 I’ll be at the Mid-South Coliseum for Artrageous, which is always one of the most fun parties of the year. Later in April there are two crawfish festivals (one in Downtown and one in Midtown), and I’ll likely be at both. It’s Paul On Tour! If anyone is stalking me I’ve just made it easy for them.

– What the bums are drinking this week: Last time I walked by the liquor store I saw an incredible EIGHT empty cases of Wild Irish Rose waiting for the garbage man. Also: Dark Eyes vodka, and strangely enough, Jagermeister. Then again, a lot of the bums drink NyQuil to get drunk, and Jagermeister isn’t that different from NyQuil.

– And that’s it for this journal entry. I kind of like this format, may do it again.

Attn music lovers: coolest app I’ve seen in a while

Found this in a weekly list-of-links I subscribe to called the Scout Report:

MiniLyrics is a plug-in that works with RealOne, Windows Media Player, WinAmp, Music Match Jukebox, and most other well-known music players. When you play a song, MiniLyrics comes up and displays the lyrics, following the song line by line. Just downloaded it and tried it out to “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, and it worked perfectly. Free and worth a download!

Mail bag

(I really do have several serious journal entries in the works, saved as drafts right now. But the spam coming in is just too funny to resist comment, so you get this instead. All of these are real e-mails I have received in the past week.

Subj: Add up to 4 inches

Last time I opened the mail bag, I mentioned that a man named D1ck Gr(o)wth had been e-mailing me with this subject, apparently expressing concern that I’m going to add up to 4 inches to my waistline if I keep drinking the way I have been lately. Well now, his brother C0;ck Gr(o)wth is e-mailing me too. What a wonderful family the Gr(o)wths are. Mrs. Gr(o)wth must be very proud to have raised two sons like D1ck and C0;ck that are so concerned with the welfare of others. And Mrs. Gr(o)wth must be quite independent-minded too; you don’t often meet people who use numbers as well as letters in their children’s names.

Subj: Make sure instead of 7 best she likes you first

Now, here’s something completely different, an ad for a penis enlargement system. And timely too. You see, last month there was this girl I really, really liked. Trouble was, someone so beautiful and popular was bound to attract a lot of guys, so I was bound to have competition. There were 10 of us, as a matter of fact, vying for her affection.

So one Saturday she invited us all over to her place. “Okay, boys, drop your pants,” she said, and then she got out the ruler. I came in as the 7th longest of the 10 guys. Needless to say, I was not the one selected to spend a romantic Valentine’s Day with her. I’m going to order the enlargement system mentioned in the e-mail to make sure that never happens again. Thank God for the Internet, huh?

Subj: don’t be an asshole Eileen

1980s rock band Dexy’s Midnight Runners has finally released the sequel to their smash hit “Come On Eileen.” And what great timing! I just opened a Mountain Dew and discovered under the cap that I had won a free song download from iTunes. I’ll log on in a few minutes and download “don’t be an asshole Eileen.” Hopefully it’ll be as good as the original.

And that’ll do it for the mail bag this time folks!

Cracker Jack

I recently read the story behind the name of Cracker Jack candy. 100 years ago, when it was invented, “cracker jack” was a slang term. If something was really good, people would say, “That’s cracker jack.”

Fast forward to the year 2105. A grandfather takes his grandson to the corner store and buys him a box of CRUNK candy, celebrating its 100th anniversary. “How did CRUNK get its name, Grandpa?” asked the little boy.

“Well,” the grandfather replied, “when MY grandfather was a young whippersnapper, people used to use the word all the time. It was used to describe a party that was loud and wild, with liquor freely flowing and the music turned way up. For example, my grandfather might have said, ‘I’m fixin to get crunk up in this bizzzzaaaatch,’ which would mean that a wild party was about to occur at his location. Of course, those days are long past, but every time we buy a box of CRUNK candy we can still think back to those simpler times.”

“Wow, Grandpa. People sure had some funny sayings in 2005, didn’t they?”

“They sure did.”

Prediction: the future of computers

Modern computers are based on the binary (base-2) system. Meaning, everything to a computer is a combination of 0’s and 1’s.

I predict that computers of the future will be radically different – they will be based on a ternary (base-3) system. However, this system will not consist of 0, 1, and 2 as you might suppose; instead it will consist of 0, 1, and that which is neither 0 nor 1.

I thought of this as I sat here typing on the computer, looking over there at the TV. The concepts of here and there are only possible because of the space in between: that which is neither here nor there.

One day I’ll probably be sorry I didn’t patent this or get it protected as intellectual property before I shared it with the world.