weekly rounds

  • The 2009 leftover work-glut-that-never-seems-to-get-caught-up-with continues, although the past week has seen premium down time devoted to both Dragon Age: Origins and catching the first stop of Arch Enemy‘s current North American tour. There’s more to say soon about both of these, but for now, check out Ken’s review of the former.

i like coffee exceedingly…

Sometimes, life really is about the tiny pleasures. This morning, one of those was enjoying freshly brewed coffee from a mug upon the surface of which was imprinted the visage of H. P. Lovecraft expounding the virtues of said beverage.

I like coffee exceedingly... -H.P. Lovecraft
I like coffee exceedingly... -H.P. Lovecraft

I had the immense pleasure of winning Tor.com‘s contest for Day 1 of the 12 Days of Cthulhumas, which how I came to have this enviable fluid-holder in my possession. I will leave it up to your speculation as to whether or not I am adorned in the tentacle scarf and octopus ornaments as I enjoy this glorious caffeine.

[Many thanks to Torie Atkinson and everyone at Tor.com!]

weekly rounds

  • At the risk of inducing a recursive weekly roundup loop, it seems that Overlords Johnson and Miller are starting up a Friday Minion Roundup feature on the retooled Secret Lair site. Everyone involved is stupefyingly talented, which makes this an imperative thing for you to check out.
  • Jim has threatened to hit us with a weekly dose of critical gaming links on The Vintage Gamer, and he is making good on said threat. The only thing more interesting and awesome than the information he’s corralling together is Jim himself (which sets said bar orbitally high), so I command you to go and read.

The Secret Lair Comic 0020: Deck The Lair

The Secret Lair Comic 0020: Deck The Lair
The Secret Lair Comic 0020: Deck The Lair

The Secret Lair has been silent for the last month or so, but that doesn’t mean that the Overlords haven’t been engaging in plans most nefarious. The website has a spiffy new design, for one. As for the rest, well… let’s just say that Mr. Johnson and Mr. Miller’s concept of what makes the season festive may not entirely line up with your own.

Fortunately, Natalie has managed to document the holiday insanity in the latest edition of The Secret Lair Comic series, the full version of which is here.

Cmar is also… Croatian Metal and Rock

In which I will continue to note all things “cmar”…

The website Cmar-net.org, or Croatian Metal And Rock, has been serving the undoubtedly vast Croatian metal community since 1999. While much of it is in Croatian, the site is intuitively navigable and there are English forums, for those interested in poking about. While I can’t say this is a prime resource for my musical needs, the trifecta of 1) the excellent name, 2) shout out to my European ancestry, and 3) addressing one of my favorite auditory genres makes this site a win.

That, and any place that can advertise death metal, dance parties, and Extreme on the same tour page without any irony whatsoever requires my complete respect.


El Cmar, technico

[Edit February 7, 2016 – Shame on me for letting this lay fallow for a number of months, but El Cmar revealed himself in the comments below to be none other than Chris Harrington! Chris, who is better known as Mookieghana, is renowned in the pro wrestling world as the preeminent keeper of statistics related to all things in the squared circle. From both his Livejournal and other postings, it is evident that he actively worked as El Cmar from 1999 through 2006 or so in various wrestling promotions.]

Last week I directed you to check out Matt’s comments on present day gladiators. The entire thing is resonant for me (for particular reasons I have yet to divulge), and also an excellent starting point for some fascinating sociological and philosophical commentary on us as a species.

On a vaguely related note, today I stumbled across this video from independent pro wresting organization Next Era Wrestling, circa 2005. What it contains is a triple threat match in which one of the participants is clearly my luchador alter ego, El Cmar. The match is bad, and the videography is worse, but it’s worth watching at least the first few minutes to see El Cmar in all of his resplendent glory – in this case, a goofy white guy billed as being from Mexico wearing a football uniform with a luchador-style mask who’s ring entrance music is the “come on down!” tune from the Price Is Right.

Research indicates that El Cmar was active in at least two indy wrestling promotions during 2005, but is otherwise a mystery. While he is likely the masked identity of another wrestler who has (one can hope) moved on to bigger and better things, I would like to believe that El Cmar has crossed back south into Mexico, where he is giving syphilitic rudos hell to this very day.

weekly rounds

  • Natalie, wife of Tee, tragically and unexpectedly died this week at far too young of an age. Laura and I have had the privilege of counting them as friends for nearly a decade, and to say that Nat will be missed is an great understatement. A memorial site, including information about a trust fund and auction set up to benefit their young daughter “Sonic Boom,” can be found here.

directing you to read of blood and death

You don’t need to know exactly why is this is important to me right now – just know that you need to go here now and read this. I’ll explain later. In case you need a tease:

When there are no more heroes, there are no more gladiators.

Why does it matter? Gladiators are, and have always been, an important measure of a society. They’re the ultimate expression of our collective base desires, our darker angels. Do we choose to elevate men and women of steel who cling to arcane concepts like honor and nobility, or do we just want to get smashed out of our fat fucking consumerist skulls and give market shares to an unskilled Aryan gorilla and his corporate puppet masters?

Matt has captured the great spirit of an important thing, shaped it into words, and made them do his bidding.

H1N1 influenza: too close for hindsight

Many end-of-year medical commentaries for 2009 have naturally taken a look back at the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, as I did, in part, last week. Unfortunately, some are losing sight of the fact that while we are currently in a lull in influenza activity, the “flu season” isn’t over yet, and so drawing conclusions about the impact of the 2009 H1N1 virus is quite premature.

The US has currently seen two peaks of H1N1 activity, the first being shortly after its discovery, and the second ending just a few weeks ago. From the CDC’s site, the current trends in positive influenza tests being reported tell the tale:

In addition to this, the CDC has reported a mid-range estimate of 47 million people infected with the novel H1N1 virus, and 9,820 H1N1-related deaths from April 14 through November 14. When compared to traditionally cited estimates that seasonal influenza typically infects 5-20% of the US population and is responsible for ~36,000 deaths annually, this seems to paint a picture that the 2009 virus is panning out to be overall less lethal than the typical seasonal varieties. It has even been suggested that perhaps we should stop vaccinating against the new virus, to allow it somehow to “overtake and replace” the traditional viruses in circulation for this reason.

These latter conclusions are just plain bad, let alone unscientific, for a number of reasons:

  • we’re only halfway through the traditional influenza season – “Flu season” is tracked from October through May, so any numbers at this point are useful for tracking the disease progress, but too incomplete to make any conclusive statements from. Furthermore, seasonal influenza over the last couple of years hasn’t peaked until February or March, so it’s entirely possible that there’s more activity in store for us ahead.
  • comparing pandemic influenza statistics to seasonal flu stats during a pandemic is akin to comparing apples to oranges – As the WHO rightly points out, the numbers for people who are infected by, or die from, season influenza are based on statistical models that look back on the affected population and influenza season as a whole. In contrast, during this new H1N1 pandemic, the primary data reported on are the number of positive tests, not estimates based on complete data. While the CDC has been reporting the number of people affected as estimates, their margin of error in the April to November numbers quoted above is huge due to the fact that the season is still unfolding (between 34 and 67 million cases, and 7 to 14,000 deaths). Accurate numbers to estimate from won’t be available until we are well out of this flu season.
  • the novel H1N1 virus may return again, possibly in a more lethal form – Previous pandemics have taught us that there can be at least three “waves” of spread of a new influenza virus through a population, and that mutations the circulating viruses can pick up can make it cause more serious illness. While a post-holiday spike in cases that some predicted (due to increased travel, and increased clustering of people together) hasn’t shown itself yet, this pandemic is spreading in a strikingly similar way to that of 1957, which had another peak in January.
  • it is impossible to predict how this will impact seasonal influenza viruses – The usual seasonal varieties of influenza have yet to show themselves, although as mentioned before, it is earlier in the season than they are usually seen. It is impossible to say at this point if or when they may surface, and eventually if the 2009 H1N1 will join or supplant them over the coming years, or simply fade away. The answer to this lies in numerous complex factors that we can’t accurately model for right now, including viral genetics, population immunity from infections and vaccinations, and environmental components.

We may be in the eye of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic storm (or it may, in fact, have already passed us by), but it is still too soon to meaningfully analyze how “bad” it is on its own, or compare it to recent seasonal influenza. That said, this is an excellent time to look back at some of the human factors involved in the pandemic to date, and some lessons learned… which I will be doing shortly.

weekly rounds

  • Otherwise, this week has been about putting 2009 to bed, and relaxing before the madness of 2010 begins. Which, in terms of work, is tomorrow. Bring it on, 2010! I’ve got a bloody pus-filled syringe, and I’m a trained professional. Just try me…
Sunset at Sinai (Hospital of Baltimore), photo by John Cmar
Sunset at Sinai (Hospital of Baltimore), photo by John Cmar