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    History 1101: The Iron Maiden Way


    2010 - 04.21

    There you are, a sophomore in college, staring dully at another of those holier than thou liberal arts teachers trying to convince you that the eating habits of the indigenous peoples of Micronesia actually have a relevant role in your education when a thought crosses your mind. “I just want to be a freakin modern history major. Is this really the best way to go about doing it?”

    In a word, no. It’s a pretty shitty way of going about getting an education. It’s time consuming and mostly useless. Fortunately, I’ve got the perfect solution for your predicament. Without any further ado, I introduce to you History 1101: The Iron Maiden Way!

    Iron Maiden is not your run-of-the-mill metal band. They’re actually pretty intelligent. Bruce Dickinson, their lead singer, is an airline pilot and he flies their chartered jet whenever they go on tour. That’s hardcore legit. The majority of their popular songs are either about a work of literature or some event in history. Basically, you listen to one of their songs and then read the corresponding Wikipedia article, and instantly you have a working knowledge of some event in history. You can’t buy a better mnemonic. Let’s look at some examples…

    Murders in the Rue MorgueFrom the Killers album (1981)
    This is an early song by the band and is based on the short story of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe. It features the original lead singer of the band, Paul Di’Anno, rather than Bruce Dickinson. It’s not the most literal of translations from the story, but you get the gist. There’s a reason Dickinson joined the band and remained for 20 years; he’s a far better lyricist and singer.

    The Number of the Beast – From The Number of the Beast album (1982)
    Like several other early Maiden songs, this one was misinterpreted and thusly, some labeled the band as “Satanic.” (Much like everything else in the early 80’s.) I assure you, they’re not satanic. The song was written after the bass player, Steve Harris, had a nightmare after watching Damien: Omen II late one night. The storyline follows that of the classic poem Tam o’ Shanter by Robert Burns. A comparison of the lyrics and the poem show striking similarities. This is one kick ass song.

    Run to the Hills – From The Number of the Beast album (1982)
    Twice in my life I’ve heard this described as the “most offensive song ever” usually because of these lines:

    White man came across the sea,
    He brought us pain and misery.
    He killed our tribes, he killed our creed,
    He took our game for his own means.

    and

    Soldier Blue in the barren wastes,
    Hunting and killing’s a game.
    Raping the women and wasting the men,
    “The only good ‘Injuns’ are tame.”

    The song follows the battle between the Native Americans and the Cavalry during the Sioux Wars. It’s written from the points of view of both sides, but essentially the message is that the Cavalry slaughtered the Native Americans needlessly. It’s easy to misconstrue this with a cursory listen to the lyrics, but a more thorough review reveals that the song is not nearly as politically incorrect as at first glance.

    Quick aside: I almost got beat up for singing this song one time at a karaoke bar by two guys who earlier in the evening were rapping to a Juvenile song. Tell me, which is more offensive?

    Where Eagles Dare from the Piece of Mind album (1983)
    This song is based on the 1968 film of the same name. It’s a WWII action-adventure spy film starring Clint Eastwood. I’ve actually seen it, it’s pretty good. Check it out on Netflix or something.

    The Trooper from the Piece of Mind album (1983)
    The Trooper is based on the Lord Tennyson poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. It’s about the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War and written from the viewpoint of the slain soldiers. This is really the only song of theirs to ever get a lot of airplay, and it’s one of my favorites.

    Aces High from the Powerslave album (1984)
    Yet another song written by Steve Harris, Aces High tells the story of a dogfight between the British RAF and the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Also, here’s a bit of trivia: The chorus contains an antimetabole. See if you can figure out what it is.

    Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Part 1 Part 2)from the Powerslave album (1984)
    Finally, we’ve reached my favorite song. In case you can’t tell from the name, Rime of the Ancient Mariner is based upon Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem of the same name. It very closely follows the text of the poem and contains two direct passages from it:

    Day after day, day after day,
    we stuck nor breath nor motion,
    as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.
    Water, water everywhere and,
    all the boards did shrink.
    Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.

    and

    One after one by the star dogged moon,
    too quick for groan or sigh.
    Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
    and cursed me with his eye.
    Four times fifty living men,
    (and I heard nor sigh nor groan)
    with heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
    they dropped down one by one.

    This song is epic. I will not count your life as a success until you know verily, the dread of the Albatross…

    Montsegur from the Dance of Death album (2003)
    After a few years with a different lead singer and some mostly pointless experimentation albums, Iron Maiden returned to form with 2000’s A Brave New World. In 2003, however, they got back to their historical songwriting roots with the Dance of Death album.

    Montsegur was written after Bruce Dickinson visited Montsegur, sight of the Cathars last stronghold during the Albigensian Crusade in 1244. Rather than being a direct tale of the event, the song is written as a modern day tale with flashbacks to the history of the fort. The song also makes mention of the Knights Templar, based on a supposed connection with the Cathars.

    Paschendale from the Dance of Death album (2003)
    Paschendale is about the Battle of Paschendale during WWI. It’s good. Listen to it and read the Wikipedia article. That’s how knowledge happens.

    The Longest Day from the A Matter of Life and Death album (2006)
    This song is often considered a sequel to Paschendale. It’s about being a soldier during Operation Overlord on D-Day during the Battle of Normandy in WWII. the song received a lot of critical acclaim and was described by one critic as “brutal.” Not bad for a bunch of 50 year olds.

    There are a lot more songs I could have written about, but I tried to hit the high points of their most popular songs. You could literally write a book on the subject matter of Iron Maiden songs, and perhaps one day I will. The fact remains that I wish my History or Classic Lit professors had just handed me a couple of Maiden albums and told me to go drink beer and listen, then return with a paper in a month, because that’s essentially what I do now. Up the Irons!

    I've got shoes with this picture on the side

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    An Interesting Microcosm of the Healthcare Debate


    2010 - 04.20

    Pretty much the entirety of the populace has been up in arms in recent months over the Healthcare Reform Bill. I won’t get into my feelings on the actual politics of it all, except to say that no actual reform was accomplished by the bill. There’s really only two ways that healthcare can work, the free-market way or the Government Option way. I happen to prefer the free-market way, because I believe our government is horribly inefficient and mostly incompetent, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that the recent Healthcare Reform Bill still leaves us in that gray middle area we’ve been stuck in for the last twenty years. I.E. it doesn’t make healthcare more affordable or better.

    There are many “cost containment” factors in the bill, but price controls rarely work so I’m sure our premiums will still go up. My biggest gripe with the bill is the health insurance mandate that requires every individual to purchase health insurance. Other than the fact that I don’t think the government should be able to require you to purchase anything, I can see the logic behind the decision. However, there’s two things that really put the kibosh on that whole idea. 1.) Insurance companies can no longer reject you based on pre-existing conditions (At least once this thing kicks into gear in 2014). 2.) The penalty for not purchasing insurance is far less than the cost of the health insurance. This invokes a little thing that’s referred to as the law of unintended consequences.

    Here’s how this works: requiring that everyone purchase health insurance is supposed to add people to insurance rosters, creating a larger pool to distribute costs across. However, if you’re young and healthy like me, it might behoove you to forgo health insurance and just pay the annual penalty. Then when you leave a goodly portion of your epidermis on the pavement in a freak grocery cart accident you can just call up Blue Cross/Blue Shield and get you some insurance and they gotta pay for it.

    There’s always a chance that youngans won’t bail, but if they do, premiums for those with insurance will go up significantly. All that will be left in the insurance pool are high risk people who cost the insurance companies a large amount of money every year. The young bucks who fill out the profit margin aren’t there to subsidize the old-timers’ Crestor and Cialis prescriptions. Thusly, prices go up. I can illustrate this point quite accurately with my current job. Let’s take a jaunt through the wholesale tire industry.

    The tire industry is an interesting one. Most independent tire stores are run by grizzled old men who then hire fellow grizzled old men  or soon-to-be grizzled young men as employees. When these employees grow tired of busting tires, they either open their own shops or if they’re articulate enough, move up the chain into sales for a tire distributor. That’s the position I find myself in today.

    With the exception of a couple of guys that work in the warehouse, I’m at least 15 years younger than anyone in my company. It’s a similar situation at the other branches of our company. Many of the older employees have reached the age where the insurance company has to pay out on a regular basis; for doctors visits, prescriptions, treatments, whatever. I think five of my coworkers have gotten colonoscopies this year alone. That stuff adds up.

    In contrast, in the nearly three years I’ve worked here I’ve only been to the doctor once. I got a blood test, a checkup, and a urinalysis. (A lot of work for an ear infection, don’t you think?) I also got a generic Amoxicillin prescription. What’s that, maybe $250 worth of insurance payout, if that much? Bottom line, the insurance company profits off of me, which I have no problems with as long as my premiums remain reasonable. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.

    My first year here, the amount deducted from my weekly paycheck for healthcare premiums was $27. That’s between $115 and $120 a month, totally doable. That’s not much more than I was paying when I was independent and this is before taxes are taken out, plus the coverage is better and it offered dental insurance, which is a must-have for me and my tremendously British set of teeth.

    My second year here, they offered a two-tier health plan. I chose the least expensive option, with lower co-pays for doctor’s visits but higher deductibles for hospitals and specialists than the previous year’s plan. This plan ran roughly $37 a week. That comes to about $160 a month, and that’s no small amount of change. What kept me on this plan was the fact that I was using nearly $1500 worth of dental insurance a year, and since the premiums were paid with pre-tax dollars and the benefits were slightly better than the independent plan I’d previously had, I felt that it still made financial sense.

    In 2008, I made just enough money to put me into the 25% tax bracket, but due to the economy and the raising of my commission thresholds, in 2009 I made a lot less, dropping me into a lower bracket. This really cut into the benefits of paying for my healthcare pre-tax. For example, in 2008 I saved $6.75 in taxes on every paycheck ($27 x 25% = $6.75) but in 2009 I only saved $5.55 per paycheck ($37 x 15% = $5.55) despite the fact that my premiums were $10 higher per week. On top of that, any benefit I may have seen from a lower tax bracket was offset by the ridiculous amount of capital gains taxes I had to pay (the benefits of investing in a down economy).

    Yesterday, our company had a conference call to discuss this year’s healthcare plan. They’ve done away with the two-tiered system, leaving only the lower benefit plan I was already enrolled in. The only real difference to me is the price jumped once again from $37 a week to $44 plus $5 for dental coverage (This is the first time we’ve been able to just select or decline dental coverage). Grand total: $49 a week. That’s a bit steep considering what I’m getting and the fact that I expect to remain in the same tax bracket this year as last. I decided to explore my other options.

    My Current Plan (all the relevant stuff)

    • $44 a week plus $5 for dental, $212 monthly, $2548 annually
    • $25 co-pay for doctor’s office visits
    • $500 deductible on hospital visits, insurance pays 80% after that
    • $300 deductible on emergency room visits, insurance pays 80% after that
    • $500 deductible on out-patient procedures, insurance pays 80% after that
    • $5000 annual out-of-pocket max
    • Total maximum cost to me in a year $5500 (deductible plus annual max)

    I did some threat assessment and decided that since I haven’t been to the hospital in 15 years, the likelihood of me going in the next year is rather low. I skateboard, which increases my chances for a broken bone, but my mom works for an Orthopedic surgeon, so I’m gonna call it a wash. My eyes are good and I can purchase our company’s quite good dental insurance for $5 a week.

    Here’s my alternative plan, the Tonik Part-Time Daredevil Plan

    • $85.11 a month plus $5 a week for dental, $1281 annually
    • $30 co-pay for doctor’s office visits
    • $3000 deductible
    • Insurance pays 100% of hospital and out-patient procedures after $3000 deductible is met
    • $3000 annual out-of-pocket maximum
    • Total maximum cost to me in a year $6000 (deductible plus annual max)

    As you can see, my alternative plan costs roughly half as much and doesn’t sacrifice much that I’m likely to use. In a worst case scenario, if I’m in a bad car wreck and I wind up in the hospital for a few days, I’ll only pay a max of $6000. That will by no means bankrupt me. On the other hand, with my current insurance, that same incident can cost me up to $5500. Not a whole lot of difference. The difference in premiums  is all the stuff in between. An older person who is going to go for annual checkups and physicals and colonoscopies and the like will greatly benefit from my current plan. Me? Not so much. Even when you factor in the potential tax savings ($2548 x 15% = $382.20) I’ll still save nearly a grand. That’s a third of the deductible for my alternative plan. Additionally, I intend on using all of my allotted $1500 in dental insurance in my continuing quest to not have any real teeth to worry about.

    My current plan includes several extra benefits that I’m highly unlikely to use such as a prescription drug plan and some specialist coverage that doesn’t have such a high deductible. These additional benefits are used almost exclusively by the older workers in my company, and every year as the average age of our company creeps upward, more people utilize them and our premiums creep up with it. It’s a fact; old people cost more to insure, and since my company is dominated by older folks, with very few young, healthier adults to even out the mix, we each pay more each year for a little less.

    Besides demonstrating how to effectively compare healthcare plans, the point of this tome is twofold. 1. To demonstrate exactly what will happen if young people are able to loophole their way out of a healthcare plan when this reform bill kicks in. (BTW, I’m not advocating that we increase the penalties. If given my druthers, I’d say repeal it and start with something that makes sense.) 2. To demonstrate how a la carte health care plans are far more reasonable than their one-size-fits-all corporate counterparts. As always, choice and competition will lead us to the promised land.

    Addendum: It’s important to understand how group insurance rates are calculated. Here’s an excellent article that sums up my point and explains how your health insurance rates are calculated. The Tonik healthcare plan is so cheap comparatively because I’m a low-risk candidate with a high deductible. The insurance company stands to make a lot of money off me and others like me at a rate that’s mutually agreeable.

    UPDATE: I applied for the Tonik Healthcare Plan this morning and the total cost of my plan came to $114. A bit more than the $85 that’s advertised, but I’m at the upper end of the age spectrum for the plan, so I still think that’s reasonable. I’m going with it.

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    What have I been up to? Mostly BS…


    2010 - 04.15

    Well, it’s been a week or so since I last posted. Since then, Google Adsense deleted my account, taking with it roughly $160. That discouraged me for a few days. They said it was “fraudulent.” I don’t really have any control over what they said was fraudulent, but whatever. I’ve switched to a new ad company. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to polish my writing resume a bit by writing some new articles for Helium.com. Mostly, I just tried to write about subjects no one had written about yet. Take a gander if interested…

    How to bring a garden into your loft or apartment
    Starting even a small garden in your apartment can add character and make the space more enjoyable. There are a multitude of options for almost any sized apartment, whether you want some thing small like a few flowers or a herb garden to something larger like a tomato plants or fern.
    Read more…

    The difference between grilling and barbecuing
    Although you’ll often hear the two terms used interchangeably, grilling and barbecuing are two entirely different forms of cooking. Typically, people who say that they are “barbecuing” mean that they are grilling, they’re just misinformed. Grilling involves cooking directly over an open flame, whereas barbecuing typically involves meat being smoked for an extended period of time.
    Read more…

    The best tailgating games
    Tailgating before a sporting event has become a ritual almost as big as the game itself to many fans. People arrive many hours before the game to get the best spots. They set up grills, tents and sometimes even TVs to prepare for the event. It’s a social spectacle unto itself, but no tailgating experience is complete without some sort of game to play to pass the time.
    Read more…

    How to keep a keg cold
    No backyard party is complete without some cold adult beverages. If you have a large number of guests attending, a keg of beer may be your best option. Kegs are more economical on a per ounce basis and are often fresher than their bottled counterparts. The major drawback of kegs is their sheer size and keeping all that beer cold.
    Read more…

    How to play Cornhole
    Cornhole, also known as Bag Toss, is currently one of the most popular backyard or tailgating games. It’s appeal is wide-ranging. Almost anyone can play and the necessary pieces are easy to make. All that’s required are two platforms, four feet long by two feet wide with a six-inch hole cut near the top. The platforms are inclined with the rear of the platform 12 inches off the ground. Six six-inch square beanbags are also required.
    Read more…

    Disc selection: How to choose the correct disc in frisbee golf
    Choosing the proper disc to use in Disc Golf is just as important as choosing the proper club in regular golf. Just like in real golf, each disc is designed to be used in a particular circumstance. In most circumstances, you’ll use one of three discs, a driver disc, a mid-range disc, or a putter disc. Each has a different shape and requires a slightly different throwing technique, but all are eight to nine inches in diameter and weigh between 150 and 180 grams.
    Read more…

    Tips for throwing sidearm in disc golf
    Imagine you are in a heated game of disc golf. You’ve just thrown a great drive from the tee. It sails straight and true, but it bounces off a tree in the fairway and comes to rest directly behind it. You’re close enough to the basket that you might be able to hit it from that distance if that tree weren’t in the way. A normal backhand throw is going to require an additional throw to get around the tree. But what if you could lean around it and throw sidearm?
    Read more…

    What is the hammer throw in disc golf?
    The hammer throw, also known as the tomahawk or pan toss, is a type of specialty throw rarely used in disc golf. It does have it’s uses, however. It’s typically only used when the course is very short or the player lacks a decent short game. It’s also useful when a player has to navigate over an obstacle, such as bushes or shorter trees, in the course.
    Read more…

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    100th Post – Hits That Were Missed


    2010 - 04.06

    This is my 100th post here on biloxxxi.com. I haven’t quite been doing this for a year yet, but it’s been a hell of an adventure. I got nominated for Best of Atlanta (but lost to some cupcake blog) , I’ve honed my writing skills quite a bit, and I’ve made some jingle. In honor of the past 100 posts, I’d like to share what I think are some of my Greatest Hits, in chronological order.

    1) You’re Colonoscopy Just Isn’t Funny – Read about the time a girl described her colonoscopy to me. Not one of my fondest memories.

    2) Who Knew Tequila Could Be This Much Fun? – Me and Bill get in a car wreck on the way to the bar and hilarity ensues. One of my favorite stories.

    3) The 2nd Most Embarrassing Story Ever – I think this is some of my best work. Probably not my finest hour though.

    4) We Started One-Letter Rappin and That’s How it Happened – Even after seeing Jenna do this multiple times, it’s still amazing to me. I’ve actually got a video of her rapping I need to upload. It’s pretty F’n cool.

    5) Hang On Goose, We’re Going DownA continuation of the One-Letter Rappin evening. This was one of those legendary weekends where way too much is never enough.

    6) Nice Guys Better Be Built For Speed – Further proving that no good deed goes unpunished, I meet a girl at the bar, and then meet her parents on the walk home.

    7) Dia De Los Muertas – Dead bodies, golf tournaments, and gawking onlookers. This one has it all…

    8 ) Grammar? I Don’t Even Know Her… – I bitch about grammar. One of my more popular posts.

    9) I Would Do Anything For Love… – A classic post from my original blog. Still funny as hell though.

    10) The Legend of Biloxxxi – The story of how I acquired my name.

    11) Either Urine or You’re Out – I catch Roman pissing in my living room and he denies it.

    12) Dating: Shoot Me in the Face Style – Episode one of my previous dating chronicles.

    13) Dating: The Kiss of Death – What’s this? A dating story with a happy ending? Episode two of the Dating Trilogy. This one actually got me a comment on Facebook from the girl involved.

    14) Dating: A Fiery DUI Wreck – The last in the trilogy. Originally there was supposed to be one more. Maybe I’ll write it. Maybe I won’t…

    15) El Chup 1, Harley 0 – Essentially, I drive to Milledgeville and wind up sleeping in the cab of my truck.

    16) The Parable of the Obama Bumper Sticker Probably my favorite of the “Treatises on Life” category. Just so you know, that’s where I try to educate you on something in my own special way. This one deals with how Obama Bumper Stickers ruined the economy.

    17) The Continued Adventures of Bullet Bob – My favorite of the Bullet Bob adventures. Perhaps I’ll do a few more of these in the future.

    18) Alec Baldwin’s Gargantuan Cranium – Far and away my most popular post. This one chronicles the ridiculous expansion of Alec Baldwin’s head through the years.

    19) Who’s the Better Boxer, Mike Tyson or Rocky Balboa? Another of my most popular posts. Pretty self explanatory.

    20) Life Lesson #137 – The reason why I don’t wear my Gamecocks t-shirt anymore.

    21) If I Were the Marketing Director at RJ Reynolds – I thought this was one of my more brilliant pieces. Not gonna lie, I’m a little disappointed it didn’t get more play.

    22) How to Win a Bet: The Story of Africa – I think this article was the most fun to write. It traces the origin of the Toto song, Africa. Mostly true.

    23) Terrible Christmas Songs Part C: Last Christmas This is part 3 of my 4 part series on Christmas songs I hate. This edition is about Wham’s Last Christmas, a completely shitty Christmas tune.

    24) The Case for Santa Claus – One of the happier moments of my childhood. No matter how the Democrats try, they can’t tax that.

    25) Cover F’n Letter – I wrote this in about half an hour and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. I’ve actually used a version of this cover letter twice, but I’ve yet to hear anything back. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    I enjoyed this jog down memory lane. I don’t pay much attention to things after I write them unless someone comments on them. Hopefully, some of my newer readers will catch something they’ve missed and some of the older ones can relive past glories. Thanks for reading and here’s to another successful year of biloxxxi.com!

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    Hank Johnson is a Window Licker or Vote for Victor


    2010 - 04.05

    In light of recent events in the political spectrum, I’ve decided to be a bit more proactive in exerting my influence and standing up for what I believe makes this country the greatest on Earth. The first subject of my wrath is Hank Johnson.

    I’m registered to vote in the 4th Congressional District in Georgia. It covers most of DeKalb County, some of Gwinnett County, and some of Rockdale County, as well as a small portion of Atlanta. This district has a rather checkered history of electing ridiculously poor politicians. Cynthia McKinney, who you may remember from this Capitol Hill incident, was our previous rep. She’s as batshit crazy as the day is long. Fortunately (at the time), she was replaced a few years back by Hank Johnson. He seemed like he had some sense about him, maybe he could just lay low and not screw us over too bad. No such luck.

    Last week, during a House Armed Services Committee meeting, Johnson was questioning Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific. Their discussion was centered around the impact of more soldiers being stationed on Guam. Here’s the exchange:

    This article covers the exchange in more detail. Now, in his defense, his staff did say he was joking about Guam “… tipping over and capsizing,” but either way, this exchange is painful to watch. His voice doesn’t change at all, and mostly he just sounds like he’s wasting Rear Admiral Willard’s time. I’m tired of this man representing my interests in congress. I’m sure many other 4th district residents feel the same way I do. Fortunately, a suitable alternative has presented itself.

    Victor Armendariz has been a customer at my father’s tire store for several years now. I bet I’ve rotated the tires on his truck fifty times over the last few years. Like me, he’s tired of all these dumbasses representing us in Congress. He’s decided to do something about it. He’s running against Hank Johnson for the 4th District seat.

    He’s running as a Republican, which is a tough road to hoe in this district, but the guy is legit. He supports the Fairtax, which is a huge issue in my book, and he’s also very pro-small business, which would be a nice change from the current administration.

    I’m not going to go into his stance on every issue, but check out his website and Facebook page and see what you think. Inform yourself on the issues and encourage your friends to do the same, then make an educated decision as to who you’re going to vote for in the fall. That applies to every district, not just the one I live in. Remember, elections have consequences.

    Victor Armendariz for Congress Website and Facebook Page

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