Monday, December 31, 2007

2008...The Best Year Ever?

posted by John Blanco @ 12:19 PM


Hmmm, maybe the impossible question, but 2008 will be one heck of a year if your name is John Edward Blanco Jr. :-)

First, there is the Presidential race. I'm for Barack Obama in case you've never met me. :-) I hope to do some volunteer work for the campaign, and I hope the campaign is still going by Novemeber. ;-) OBAMA '08!

Second, there is the US Senate race to replace the old do-nothing, Wayne Allard. Mark Udall is the Dem candidate and I appreciate and support him. UDALL '08!

Third, Cedric turns 1 year old, and it will be super fun to see him starting to really grow up. :-) I look forward to all the new things you can do with a 1-year-old!

Fourth, I look forward to re-shaping my physical well-being. I have mentioned specifics in my 2008 resolutions, so I don't need to detail it here. 2007 was a flabby year. :-)

Fifth, I look forward to getting back to chess. It's been a long time. I'll really look forward to sharing it with Cedric when he gets a little older!

Sixth, my new job at EUI will really begin to change me as a developer (and already has). I look forward to seeing where I'll be on New Years '09!

Confrontation by Otep

posted by John Blanco @ 9:21 AM


The Ascension

Don't be silent


Here's your introduction to destruction
And the hate sustaining me

Are we safer or in danger?
Drowning in atrocities?

Riot gear, the slaves are here
Piling corpses high

Its the rich man's war
But it's the poor that fight

More capitalist crimes,
More enemies than allies

No WMD's, who gives a fuck
If they die

Just kill em all, watch em fall
Skin the world with their lies

Its a rich man's war
But it's the poor that fight


Stand up
Speak out
Strike back

Stand up
Speak out
Strike back

They don't know
What they started


My religion of resistance
Challenging everything

Radicals & dissidents
Of creativity

We are the children
Of the siege you hide
In this rich man's war
Where the poor just die

More deception & greed
More wars & disease

More lies from the hive mind
That seek to deceive

A weak nation of need
Like silent thieves in the night

It's a rich man's war
But it's the poor that die


This is my
Battle cry

Defy the lies
Of the tyrant race
With a fist in the air
And a finger in their face!

Defy the tyrants
Don't be silent


There's no
Way they
Can stop us

So let them try
We fight or we die

Monday, December 24, 2007


posted by John Blanco @ 9:30 PM


(Our Christmas card photo this year...) :-)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

S.M.A.R.T. Resolutions for 2008

posted by John Blanco @ 9:27 PM


Ah, a new year, and time for resolutions! I actually love doing this, and this year, after a bad 2007 resolution season, I will get back on track. DAMMIT I WILL!

Without further ado, my 2008 New Years Resolutions:

1. Stay in better touch with my extended family.

Having been separated geographically from my New York family, I've become uber-isolated from my extended family. I'd like to change that.

I'm in good contact with my cousin, Dawn, and I'd like to leverage some recent correspondences with other family to make things more consistent from here on out.

2. Become a Rubyist -- comfortable scripting with Ruby like a spoken language.

On again, off again. Yes, yes, I have been bad in recent years picking technologies and sticking with them. Side work is partially to blame. I'd like to get things more focused this year.

Firstly, I am a Flex developer through and through. That's the day job and I love my new workplace.

Secondly, I'd like to couple Flex with Ruby to give me server-side and client-side strengths. I've already authored a Ruby on Rails site, but I am going to recommit myself to Ruby after the sizable layoff.

Thirdly, my leadership role at the new job is providing me the opportunity to think about technical challenges in a clear way. Too many years of being stuck in obsolete code has made me jaded and uncaring. Now I care.

I have a bunch of bad habits to shake off, and good habits to regain.

3. Rebuild my chess foundation and participate in the 2008 Winter Springs Open.

This has taken a lot of thought. When I am ready to renounce chess, it tears me up to get rid of something I love so much. When I am ready to embrace chess full force again, I realize the time investment is ridiculous and I have better things I want to do with my time (Michele and Cedric!).

I have finally found the happy solution.

I will be, sadly, packing up almost all my chess books to be put in the basement. All but 5. Choosing the 5 will be difficult, but 2 will be easy.

I am going to commit myself to Lev Alburt's Russian Chess Course System utterly and completely. I will take it slowly, but consistently, and focus on just the course. Nothing else. The other 3 books will be focused books on clear topics -- likely an openings book, an endgame book, and a challenges book.

I will become a tactical player. I will not focus on openings. I will not focus on endings. I will focus on chess.

To conclude the year, Michele and Cedric and I will go to Manitou Springs and I'll participate in the Winter Springs Open, 4 years after my last appearance. :-)

And I will win it.

4. Win a game of chess blindfolded.

This is something I've always been fascinated with, but part of rebuilding my chess foundation is to visualize the board a lot better. Winning a game blindfolded would be a good proof I'm handling this.

And damn it would be fun. :-)

5. Volunteer for a political campaign.

This will either be Obama '08, Udall '08, or whoever wins the Democratic primary (if not Obama).

6. Find at least one new client for Rapture In Venice.

Got a first client in 2006. Got a new client in 2007. I'd like at least one more in 2008. Bonus points if I combine this with resolution #2 and find Ruby work. :-)

7. Build the Rapture In Venice Web site.

An easy one. I have to do this. I have been lazy. Look at my incomplete site.

8. Strength training.

This is a lousy S.M.A.R.T. resolution, but I don't want to make up some arbitrary number. I'm going to be doing some weights and strength training this year. Diet and walking is not all I will do.

9. Marry my pedometer; wear it every single day.

I got lazy with it the last part of the year. It goes back on 1/1/08. I'll wear it every day of the year.

10. No french fries. No potato chips.

I will go a whole year not eating a single french fry. Why? To encourage me to have more nutrional alternatives than a freakin fried potato. NO FRENCH FRIES IN 2008.

A Review of my Resolutions for 2007....

posted by John Blanco @ 7:23 PM


As 2007 comes to a close, it's time to look back and see how I did on my resolutions for the year. (Hint: NOT GOOD.)

1) Learn how to play, and win one game of, Go.

Nope. With fatherhood came a complete re-prioritization of time. At some point during the year I just decided to pass on Go, at least for now. Plus, chess still smolders in me and I barely get time for that either. :-)

Go won't make it in the list for 2008, but who knows, maybe I'll do it.

2) Pay off all our remaining credit card debt.

Yes. Although, funny story. I kinda mis-under-estimated on my taxes for last year and we had to pay a bunch, plus property taxes. So after paying off the debt, some went back on. It's stayed on, too, as we still see some bills for Cedric! WARNING: Do the birth yourself!

It will be paid off soon, though. Within a couple months more than likely.

3) Teach Cedric baby sign language.

Yes and no. He's just on the fringe of doing it. For a day, he was doing 'More'. He's at the age where it will start to click in and it's exciting. :-) He understands certain signs...he's just about ready to start doing them back now. He wasn't able to do the three signs I'd hoped for, but it's not our fault. ;-)

4) Play DDR 100 times.

Yes and no. After having Cedric, we found it difficult to play DDR and keep an eye on him. So, we did a lot of power walks. 4-5 miles each. This plus DDR definitely hit 100. So, the "spirit" of the resolution was matched.

5) Learn how to type.

No. I did start, though. Got a $5 tutor program at CompUSA when it was closing. :-) Just didn't have the time.

6) Obtain at least one work certification.

No. I was intending to do it for PHP, but I switched to Ruby early...and then changed jobs...and, well, I still want to do accomplish this task so let's leave it at that. :-)

What's The Difference?

posted by John Blanco @ 10:36 AM


Obviously, you know the difference. Right? Don't ya? Do you think they do?

Taking a Look at Socialized Healthcare

posted by John Blanco @ 6:37 AM


A lot of people who call themselves Republicans are quick to assault the idea of socialized medicine. What I've found is most don't even know what it is. The most common complaint you hear is "I can't choose my own doctor!" It's not really true and, if you think about it, how many times do you choose your doctor here? And if you don't like your doctor, just as we do here, you can switch of course.

It's not Riad. ;-)

This is copied directly from Daily Kos blogger Jerome a Paris. It's a great read and gives you a good idea of how this sort of medical architecture works. (Sicko is another good look, but doesn't give as detailed an end-to-end account as this single blog does.)

:: ::

Today seems like an appropriate day to repost the text below, first posted on DKos last April. I can't help crying each time I read stories like Nataline's, or any other brought up by nyceve, because it does not need to be that way - just lives wasted for no good reason: money is not a good reason. In this case, Nataline's death is so appallingly unfair that one can only scream. Consider this my contribution to the outrage.

:: ::

I have not written a lot about my son since then because all seems to be going well, with quarterly exams showing nothing, and his having an almost normal life at school. No news is good news. He's very much looking forward to Christmas!

* Jerome a Paris's diary :: ::

As a reminder, my (then 4 years old) son was diagnosed 2 and a half years [ed - now 3+ years] ago with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery, then chemiotherapy for a year and a half. Early last year, he appeared to have been cured, but the tumor reappeared last autumn, and he underwent radiotherapy this winter. Next week we'll know how that is working. [ed - the news (back in May) were positive]

In the meantime, as a consequence of surgery, he is handicapped and only very partial use of one arm.

:: ::

He was first diagnosed by our pediatrician, a private sector doctor, who sent us to the (public) specialised pediatric hospital in Paris for additional exams. We did a scan and a MRI the same day, and that brought the diagnosis we know. He was hospitalised the same day, with surgery immediately scheduled for two days later. At that point, we only had to provide our social security number.

Surgery - an act that the doctor that performed it (one of the world's top specialists in his field) told us he would not have done it five years before - actually took place the next week, because emergency cases came up in the meantime. After a few days at the hospital, we went home. At that point, we had spent no money, and done little more than filling up a simple form with name and social security number.

Meetings with the doctor in charge of his long term treatment, and with a specialised re-education hospital, were immediately set up, and chemiotherapy and physical therapy were scheduled for the next full year.

Physical therapy included a few hours each day in a specialised hospital, with a varied team of specialists (kinesitherapy, ergotherapy, phychologist, orthophonist) and, had we needed it, schooling. As we lived not too far away, we tried to keep our son at his pre-school for half the day, and at the hospital the other half. Again, apart from filling up a few forms, we had nothing to do.

My wife pretty much stopped working to take my son to the hospital every day (either for reeducation or treatment) - and was allocated a stipend by the government as caregiver, for a full year (equal to just under the minimum wage). Had we needed it, transport by ambulance would have been taken care of, free of charge for us (as it were, car commutes to the hospital could also be reimbursed).

During the chemiotherapy, if he had any side effects (his immune system being weakened, any normal children's disease basically required him to be hospitalised to be given full anti-biotic treatment), we'd call up the hospital and just come around. Either of us could spend the night with him as needed. We never spent a dime.

After a year at the specialised hospital, ongoing re-education was moved to another institution specialised in home and school interventions. In practice, a full team of 5 doctors or specialists come to see him over the week, either at home or at school, to continue his treatment (such follow up, possibly less intense than at the beginning, will be needed until he reaches his adult size). Of course, they manufacture braces and other specialised equipment for him and provide it free of charge to us.

Check up exams take place every 3 months, with all the appropriate exams (usually including a MRI), and we've never had to wait for the appointments. Again, no cost for us, no funds to be fronted.

When he relapsed, our doctors considered all available options. In the end, the most promising technology was in another Paris hospital. Such technology, linked to nuclear research, exists only in 3 places in the world, one in Boston and one in Switzerland, so the French system itself was able to provide a cutting edge option. But had we needed to go to Germany, the UK or even the USA for treatment because that's where the best hope was, the costs of that would have been covered too by French social security.

Now that our son is in first grade, he has the right to special help for handicapped children at school (a fairly recent law), and he now benefits from part time help - a person who is around about 20 hours per week to help him do his work and catch up when he is absent for his therapy. This is paid by the city of Paris and the ministry of education.

Oh, and as he is officially handicapped, I recently discovered that we actually benefit from an additional tax break (in France, the taxes you pay are roughly divided by the number of people in the family; the handicap counts as an additional person for that purpose).

So, we did not have to spend a single cent. We got support to be available for him. He gets top notch treatment. We never had to wait for anything. And this is available to absolutely everybody in France, irrespective of your job, age or family situation. If you are badly sick or injured, you simply do not have to worry about money at any time, nor about lack of care.

An interesting twist to that story is that we do have private healthcare insurance in France. Basic healthcare is covered by social security, but only partly: except for the poor (under a certain income level), there are co-payments for most expenses like medecine and doctor visits, and doctors are also allowed to charge you more than the official tariff (and you have to pay the difference, in addition to the co-payment on the official price). Thus many people buy private (or mutual) insurance to cover that difference partly or fully. Such insurance is often provided by your employer. But whenever you have "major" expenses, you switch to 100% coverage of expenses by the public system - except that, if you had a private insurer, it has to pay to the public entity a portion of the costs. In my case, as I had a good insurance via my bank, this is what's happening, and thus the private sector bears a portion of "catastrophic risk." (And they have no say in what care is provided. They just pay an agreed fraction of it.)

Thus there is solidarity across the sytem.

:: ::

This is not to say that all is well in French healthcare. As in other countries, costs are barely under control, spending increases every year, and there are many ways the system could be improved for doctors, nurses and patients. But the fact remains that if you are badly ill, you will be taken care of; you will not need to give up your job (or if you do, you're helped); you will not need to sell your house; and you will not be denied healthcare (see my second comment below).

It's been tough enough to deal with a sick child; I simply do not want to imagine what it would have been like if I had to beg for care or to scurry around for money in addition. It's just inconceivable. And thus, I was happy to pay taxes before, and I'm really, really happy to pay taxes now to provide that level of care for those that really need it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Chess Needs A New Ranking System

posted by John Blanco @ 9:14 AM


Here is a prime example of why chess tournament rankings suck:

5 William Lim unr L3 L7 D11 B-- W13 W12 3.5
6 Joseph H Pahk 1502 W4 L2 W8 W11 L1 L3 3.0

So, Lim scored higher than Pahk. Well, Lim was unrated and Pahk was a solid 1502. So, Lim had to be good, right?

Wrong. Lim got wins against the #12 and #13 finishers. Let's take a look at them:

11 Cynthia Langseth 789 L2 B-- D5 L6 L12 W13 2.5
12 Kathy Schneider 723 B-- L4 L7 L10 W11 L5 2.0
13 Barbara Deis unr L9 L10 B-- L8 L5 L11 1.0

Now, let's be honest. Deis is unrated so who knows her skill level (unrateds are usually n00bs). Kathy Schneider, a very nice woman I've met, has been playing for years and frankly never wins games in tournaments.

These were Lim's only two wins. He also got a draw against the third to worst finisher, another extremely low-ranked player. That's 2.5 points, so where did the other point come from?

A BYE. A free point because there was an odd number of players and he couldn't get a matchup.

Now, let's look at Pahk. He had not two wins but THREE wins. And look, he beat the #4 place finisher! Not shown here, but that's Rob Bucholtz, who's rated over 2000!! That is an extremely exceptional win considering that's 500 rating points above him and that is a BIG gap!

He also beat #11, whom Lim could only draw.

However, While Pahk was busy being a 2000-rated player, Lim got a free point for going to McDonald's for lunch and resting his brain so he could beat the bottom 2 players.

According to these rankins, Lim did BETTER. Are you f***ing kidding me? need a better way to score these tournaments. Dear god.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Michele & Her 8.6 Hubby!

posted by John Blanco @ 7:23 PM


Michele has it good these days. A cute little boy named Cedric, yes...but, that's not all. Just for a goof after reading a political article (I swear it), I posted my pic on and -- dude, check me out. ;-)

Not even a very flattering picture. I need to pull out the big guns...

Not everything is rosy, though. This is causing a big rift in my friendship with one M.O.B.A.T., who in a desperate attempt in self-validation (and dignity suicide), he has also followed suit and posted his pic.

Let's pray for him.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Broncos Done

posted by John Blanco @ 7:55 PM


Well, that was about the most inconsistent, frusterating season I've seen in a long time. :-/ The Broncos looked as good as ever, but just couldn't put points on the board (though yards came easy), way too many injuries (seemingly on every play), and a mix of surprising wins and heartbreaking defeats.

The best example has been the last 7 weeks. With the Broncos seemingly down and out at 2-3 having lost three in a row, they came home to face the Steelers in what looked like a game they'd lose big. Surprisingly, they won quite handily! The next week, facing a 5-1 Green Bay team, the Broncos looked like the game was about to be theirs rallying late and just yards away from a TD and a win. Amazingly, they managed not to score and settled for a FG and overtime. Favre threw on the first play of the overtime and 80 yards later the game is over.

The next week, finally a team not so ferocious: the Lions. Well, wouldn't ya know it, the Broncos got the most severe beating of the season!! Now 3-5, and the season looking over, the Broncos had to play IN Kansas City, where they almost never win. Guess what? THEY WIN EASILY.

Then the next week, home to a tough Titan team -- we win quite handily again. All of this after the balleyhooed players-only meeting and things were looking up! If we can just make it to the playoffs, our team has really come together...

And it looked good!

A HUGE game against the Bears -- IN CHICAGO. We had it. We were up big. With just 7:30 to go, we were up 2 TD's. Would ya believe the Bears put together two kickoff returns and a blocked punt and took the game to overtime and beat us on the first drive?


But it's OK, at least we get the Raiders the next week, right? We can get to 6-6. right? Wrong! The Broncos put up a major league STINKER (at Arthur's place no less -- I still blame him.) So now we're all but done.


The Broncos *murder* the Chiefs in Denver! We're still barely alive! If we can just win next week against the not-so-hot Texans, and get a break with a Charger loss, we might come back!


The Texans embarrass the Broncos. Up and down. Geesh. Bad year. But so much talent. Brandon Marshall is poised to become a top-flight receiver. Jay Cutler has really improved! Selvin Young might be the surprise rookie in the league! And the defense has some serious talent.

Wait til 2008, I guess. Blarg!

Remember Us, DDR?

posted by John Blanco @ 3:35 PM


Proud to say that Michele and I played DDR for the first time in about 6 months last night. :-) It's been a while because it got hard to manage Cedric while we played. You see, we used to have to sit him up on the couch, and it got tricky. Now, he can play by himself (and has been able to for a while), and we realized that after a few months of long walks, the abnormally cold Fall has prevented us from doing such...


We were a little rusty, but actually pretty good. Give us a week or so. :-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Never Vote For Fear Mongering

posted by John Blanco @ 6:07 AM


This is an excellent example of the current politics (the last 8 years) of the Republican Party and why it must be stopped. Check this out:

"Hillary Clinton's death tax is just another tax on assets that have already been taxed," Nehring said. "Under Clinton's plan, family-owned businesses and individuals stand to lose half of everything when the business and/or property pass from one generation to another." - California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring

Now, read the article to see what the real discussion is about and the reasoning behind the estate tax.

Note that Mr. Nehring won't even call it by it's legal name. How can you have an intelligent conversation about an issue if the person won't even call it the estate tax?? Is he a 5-year-old?

Note that he is saying it's Hillary Clinton's tax. How ludicrous! If you were to only listen to Mr. Nehring's case against the "death tax," would you have known this law has been around since...oh...1797?!?!? This same law is instituted in most other civilized countries to protect against mass inherited wealth.

Would you have known that passing estates to your spouse are exempted?

Would you have known that, in fact, Bill Clinton signed into law the 1997 Taxpayer Relief Act which raised the cap on inheritable estates? Gosh, that seems a long way from Hillary Clinton's law, doesn't it?

The point of this post is that, yes, politics can get nasty -- but the current Republican brand of politics is all about misinforming the public to make an issue sound nasty. It's also about pinning every law the Republicans hate on Hillary Clinton. (Ever notice she gets the brunt of the legalized abortion arguments? And they want to send her to Mars, too?)

As Bill Clinton says, "If You Want to Live Like a Republican, Vote Like a Democrat."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Byrd-ie Nails It

posted by John Blanco @ 8:36 PM


"It is extraordinary that the president would request an 11 percent increase for the Department of Defense, a 12 percent increase for foreign aid, and $195 billion of emergency funding for the war, while asserting that a 4.7 percent increase for domestic programs is fiscally irresponsible," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia.

Fiscally Conservative my ass. Open your eyes, Paula, Republican voters...!!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

120 Stars

posted by John Blanco @ 11:47 AM


Michele and I solved Super Mario Galaxy (for the Wii) last week, but we were not content. We kept on grinding until we got EVERY LAST STAR. All 120 of them. In the end, a "new world" opened up to us, but I won't spoil the surprise. :-)

What a great achievement! We battled through some TOUGH levels to get there! WHOOOT!!!

Mitt Romney Goes Overboard?

posted by John Blanco @ 10:36 AM


"Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone,"

Ummm, what? Looks like Romney is trying to be philisophical as a way to distract from the Christians who won't vote for a Mormon. But, none of the above makes sense. Freedom has nothing to do with religion. There is religion without freedom, and vice versa.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Heed the Call

posted by John Blanco @ 11:46 AM