Monday, July 30, 2007

Out there, somewhere 07-30-2007

When I start a post where I have to state something obvious, I typically hit a brick wall, because it feels kinda stupid to say stuff like:

"Inserting tracking chips into humans is bad pretty much any way you peel it."


"I've noticed that true censorship and erosion of many rights (like having to pass a drug test for a job) come from corporate culture, not so much the government."

So, screw that, and read the article about one company requiring employees to get a microchip inserted in order to have certain security clearances.

Even though I've grudgingly submitted to pee tests when required, I think if a company asked me to get a tracking chip, that'd be a deal-breaker.

10 things i hate about star trek

This one is so true!:

5. Rule by committee.
Here's the difference between Star Trek and the best SF show on TV last year:

Star Trek:
Picard: "Arm photon torpedoes!"
Riker: "Captain! Are you sure that's wise?"
Troi: "Captain! I'm picking up conflicting feelings about this! And, it appears that you're a 'fraidy cat."
Wesley: "Captain, I'm just an annoying punk, but I thought I should say something."
Worf: "Captain, can I push the button? This is giving me a big Klingon warrior chubby."
Giordi: "Captain, I think we should reverse the polarity on them first."
Picard: "I'm so confused. I'm going to go to my stateroom and look pensive."

Captain: "Let's shoot them."
Crewman: "Are you sure that's wise?"
Captain: "Do you know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I'll BEAT YOU WITH until you realize who's in command."
Crewman: "Aye Aye, sir!"

(Recent favorite quote.)

gazz: A bullet may have your name on it, but shrapnel is addressed "to whom it may concern".

Chris Rock is a national treasure. (Language NSFW.)

The big list: Female teachers with students
Most comprehensive account on Internet of women predators on campus

What kind of amazes me about this is the lack of wailing and gnashing of teeth about this in the news. If these were men, there'd be a new special every week.

And why do you suppose so many are dipping their toes into the student pool?

O hai. I fix ur bible now.

Great Ikea ad. It's about time someone did this.

Finally, ain't nothin' gonna break-uh my stride!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter Dreamin'

(Completely spoiler-free!)

Last night at 10:42 PM, I finished the final Harry Potter.

I thought it was glorious and a great ending to the series. (Said it before, I'll say it again) I think the Potter series is one of the best things written in our time.

Rowling is certainly versed in her Shakespeare, Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" (which this funny alludes to), with a little Robertson Davies mixed in there, too. (My recent post on my top ten books would've included Davies' "Deptford Trilogy" had it gone to eleven.)

Now that nothing can be spoiled for me, I've surfed around and read some reviews. My, but there seems to be some jealousy issues out there. I especially chortle at the ones that take a swipe at Rowling's writing itself, which strikes me as particularly petty and telling. Yes, her storytelling is her greatest strength, but her style certainly pulls you through the books. Name some other authors that combine humor, adventure, tragedy, and suspense in language that is effective for both children and adults. I guess it's easy to attempt to disparage her accomplishment until you think about how many others have done it.

Or perhaps it's just that American pastime of tearing something down simply because it's become so popular. My wife (trying to rib me a bit) even asked if I felt like a lemming as I was reading it in the car on our way to somewhere.

Getting to the end of the journey - something I've looked forward to for year like all the fans - was, of course, bittersweet. My biggest worry was that she'd spliff the ending, but it was as good as I hoped it would be. To avoid spoilers, lets leave it at that.

Maybe this is the best way to describe how vivid the stories are...
I'd forgotten about this until it happened again, but every time I'm reading a Harry Potter book, I have dreams that have Harry, Ron, Hermione, and other characters from the stories in them. Not the movie actors either, but how I originally imagined the characters myself.

A story has to be pretty vivid to find its ways into my dreams.

Thank you J.K. Rowling for a great time!


This is as spoiler-laden as it gets, so don't read it until you've finished the book. Rowling tells the stuff she didn't wedge into the Epilogue because [I]it didn’t work very well as a piece of writing. It felt very much that I had crowbarred in every bit of information I could … In a novel you have to resist the urge to tell everything.”

Good Girls

Our 2 1/2 year old daughter tends to stuff her mouth completely full when she eats, and then will open her mouth for another spoonful. We often have to say, "Swallow what's in your mouth, then you can have some more."

Another favorite game of hers is to fill her mouth with whatever we've given her in a sippy cup, and then let it drain out.

She was doing this last night with her tea, so we warned her we'd take it away if she didn't stop. Alas, it came to be, and we gave her a cup of water instead. Though she initially appeared to have learned her lesson by losing the tea (her favorite), a short while later she resumed spitting out the water, and I said to her:

"Honey, good girls don't spit, they swallow."

The nanosecond those words left my mouth, I couldn't believe I'd said that. I even slapped my forehead and said, "I can't believe I said that."

It took my wife a good 10 minutes to stop laughing hard enough so she could call all her friends and tell them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Aren't you glad this bozo is out of office?

Tom DeLay tells College Republicans that abortion, illegal immigration are linked:

"I contend [abortion] affects you in immigration," DeLay told the Washington-area gathering. "If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it."
Civil Asset Forfeiture expanded again

I have always groused about civil asset forfeiture - a legal right the govt. gave itself back in the Reagan days where they can take your possessions like your house and your cars if they suspect you of a crime. Note that: merely suspect you. It started with the drug war, but has quietly continued to expand to other illegal activities, such as hiring a prostitute. For instance, a mother once lost their only car because dad visited a hooker in it.

Well, just this week, Georgie expanded civil asset forfeiture again to include those who "Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq."

The outrageousness and dangerousness of this kind of thing speaks for itself, so I won't rant on about it.

However, even some Republicans are getting nervous the George and the gang intend to essentially declare a dictatorship, since recently George also gave himself the power to be a dictator should a national emergency occur. My wife, a polysci major, feels that even if they did, congress would step in and do something.

I'm I being unrealistically paranoid? I dunno. What do you think?
Yikes. Nuked. I hadn't previewed either of those closely enough. Sorry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DINKs gotta stop living up to their name

(For honest and true, I began putting this together before M. Blowhard posted his series (great, as usual) on breeders vs. DINKs.)

In case you haven't heard, a mother, Kate Penland, and her baby (19 months) were kicked off a Continental flight this week because the baby kept saying "Bye-bye plane."

A baby repeating a phrase, which they do because they're LEARNING THE LANGUAGE, got them kicked off a flight.

A lot of hyperbole gets tossed around about indicators of the impending fall of the nation - we're Rome, we're gonna be forced to join a North American Union, gay marriage, etc. - but when the entire crew of an aircraft thinks that cute baby babble is a threat, you wonder if the horses of the apocalypse are stepping up to the chute.

Pilots are a pragmatic bunch by nature. (Coaxing tons of metal into the sky and back down safely again will do that to you.) So I'm surprised the conversation in the cockpit didn't go something like this:

Flight Attendant: "Captain, there's a child out there who keeps saying "bye bye plane" and the mother refuses to drug the child with benadryl, so we need to return to the gate."

The Captain tosses a look at the copilot, takes a quite breath and says: "Do you feel this behavior is endangering the flight?"

Flight Attendant: "It's driving me nuts!"

(After another pause) The Captain: "Why don't you borrow a dose of benadryl from the mother and strap into your little seat for a while?"

Now, we parents have an obligation not to subject folks to the extreme behaviors of our kids, but this kid wasn't really doing anything all that bad.

A recent article about this on Salon relates another horror story (edited to avoid getting in trouble):

Flying the child-unfriendly skies
Carol Lloyd

Jul. 13, 2007 |

[snip - this was the story I related above]

Bring on the child haters, the airline critics, the lazy parenting theorists! If you think this story sounds like an urban legend designed to foment sippy-cup culture wars, I don't blame you. I too would have found it difficult to swallow had I not experienced a similar treatment on an airline just last month. The details are tedious -- they involve me tapping the flight attendant on the shoulder trying to pass along some trash, him informing me he didn't appreciate "being touched," and me asking why he was being so rude. He then snarled at me: "Your children are totally out of control! If you'd just discipline them, you'd be much better off."

Granted, my kids often give an unfortunate impression given that they both look two years older than they are, but definitely act their age. In public situations, I've been known to whisper, hiss, threaten, cover a screaming mouth, and take away beloved privileges until I'm literally dripping with sweat. But this wasn't one of those occassions. When the flight attendant -- a young man who I assumed had no children -- told me off, both children were sitting absolutely silent, enraptured by a Hello Kitty DVD. [snip]

Once we switched flights to Lufthansa and a number of smiling, toy-bearing German flight attendants charmed the socks off my kids, I couldn't help thinking that it wasn't air travel but an American cultural divide about the place of children in society. The recent story about a woman who was kicked off a Delta flight for not covering her toddler's head with a blanket while breast-feeding offers more evidence of some weird attitudes toward children. The experience of Kate Penland vindicates this hunch. [snip] But for a certain child-free percentage of the population, ordinary kid behavior is so reprehensible as to warrant turning around flights and creating child-free restaurants.

Some anti-kid stuff you just gotta deal with, because those that don't have them can't be blamed for not understanding what it's like. Everyone who has them can remember how they felt before kids and after. (Fun factoid: if you didn't like other people's kids before you had children, you still don't after you do.) The change is phenomenal - one of the seminal ones in life, right up there with sex and (reportedly) combat. Therefore, we parents know that we've got the curb the little monsters when appropriate.

However, sometimes I'm kinda flustered by people who think they have a right to a childless environment. Every summer there are free concerts up at the park by my house. It is a perfect kid-friendly event. Most of the crowd is happy families grooving and throwing a Frisbee. But there's always a minority of childless couples who sit there with a scowl that intensifies if a kid wanders near their claimed territory. Again, I have sympathy, but these folks have got to get a grip and quit having their fun ruined because a kid might be too loud or, heaven forbid, spill some juice on their precious blanket.

I've always thought this sign displayed the best attitude:

Lilly Allen is a hoot

One of my recent guilty pleasures is Lilly Allen's CD, Alright, Still. I thought I'd like the hit "Smile," but assumed the rest would be dreck - typical of most chanteuse releases these days. (And she's pretty, which is always suspect, sadly.)

It's pretty funny, which is always a plus with me. It's mostly reggae, with some touches of ancient British pop, and a little rapping (which I tend to skip - just won't ever warm up to someone talking when they could be singing). It's all catchy, though.

And it passed the big test - I tend to hunt it down and slap in on the player. But only when the kids aren't around; it's about the bluest disc I have. (The primary topics are screwing and breakups.)

On a British game show recently, she revealed that she has a third nipple (and I do mean "revealed") - watch the vid below. (I've noticed I've tossed a parenthetical at the end of every paragraph so far, gotta be consistent.)

I hope this woman has a long career. She's fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Top Ten Novels of All Time, According to Moi

A meme seed sorta ganged up on me.

First, Syaffolee announced her favorite book ever in this post*, so I went out to procure it from the library (I will always attempt to read someone else's favorite book, unless it's Ulysses), and on that same day, the "brand new" non-fiction shelves had The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books** out. (Btw, if'n yer curious, "top ten" is searchable on, so if you want to see if your favorite writers were included, or if a particular book was, just search for it.)

(*Thumbnail review of The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley: 'Twas a fine read. The language was regal in a unique way, and once the story started (it took a while), it was fun.)

So, I felt this was a sign to put up my top ten favorite novels of all time (thus far in my life). My old vanity site has an older, longer list, if you are interested.

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (see below for his top 10**)

This one has it all. No other novel has moved me as much as this one did. I'd be trying not to weep on one page, and guffawing on the next. This is one of the few books I was so hooked on, I snuck it into work and buried it in another book so I could keep reading. I doubt I'll read a better novel in my life.

2. Texasville by Larry McMurtry

Another perfect novel. I laughed on every page. Many say Lonesome Dove is his masterpiece, and it probably is because of the scope, but this is the best sustained comic novel I've ever read. McMurty nails that time in middle-age where a man just kind of pinballs around in his life, bouncing off family, friends, pets, and the wonder of it all.

3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (see below for his top 10**)

This doorstop of a novel has vast charms and I fell hard for all of them. Even though this monster is 1,000 pages, with 300 pages of end notes, I grieved as I drew near the end - one of the only novels (save for the two above and the set below) where I've done that; which appropriately compliments the title. I think that perhaps it may not age well, because the language and the particular mindset it beautifully and accurately portrays is a generational one that ones before and after will probably not share. Another way of saying that is: this is one of those you either "get" or you don't. Test-drive it here.

4. The "Harry Potter" series by J. K. Rowling

Few worlds have been as much fun to visit - and such a joy to read - as the Harry Potter novels. I've been clearing off my calendar at the latter part of July, and I've warned my family that I'm gonna be distracted, so the usual "Are you listening to me?!" invective will not be met with an apology, but a slightly miffed, "Of course not! It's Harry time!" I am convinced that we have witnessed the creation of a new classic that will do down through the ages.

5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Trilogy" by Douglas Adams

Much like Robert Fulghum's old, infamous "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten," this series contains a lot more truth that you realize at first. Don't let the recent dismal movie throw you. Even the TV series didn't really capture the novels well (which themselves were based on an original radio show). My mom, who I could never convince to read sci-fi novels, read this. She once got laughing so hard a neighbor came by and asked if she were OK. (Psst. You can borrow it here.)

6. Robots of Dawn by Issac Asimov

Before reading this, I had no reason to expect that sci-fi could be everything to everyone. To me sci-fi was usually nifty gadgets and concepts with the occasional cool twist ending, but not much else. This novel is moving, funny, and has a great mystery. Believe it or not, it's written beautifully, too - something Asimov was not known for. I recommend if you're going to give this one a go, read the two prequels first: 1) The Caves of Steel and 2) The Naked Sun. Or, if you'd rather, read them after, if you liked "Dawn."

7. The Stand and The Shining (equal favorites) by Stephen King (see below for his top 10**)

Top-notch stories with an even grander style. No one writes like King. Even if you're not generally a fan, these ones should thrill anyone who digs great writing.

8. Good Grief by Lolly Winston (Her 10 top ten can be found here - see? It's just a meme waiting to happen.)

This, like Bright Lights, Big City (McInerney) and Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), perfectly conveys the internal atmosphere of the narrator and her situation. Sophie's husband has died of cancer (most of which we are spared, thank God), and she slowly caves in to grief. The mixture of humor and an honest depiction of what it's like to go through intense grief is unmatched elsewhere. Surly the upcoming movie won't be able to convey this as well as the words do.

9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

As with Good Grief, above, The Lovely Bones tackles a difficult subject honestly without making the reader regret taking the voyage. A teenage girl is murdered by a serial killer, and narrates the book from Heaven (don't worry - all trappings of religion are completely avoided). "Graceful" is about the only word I can think of that comes close to defining this novel.

10. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

One of the rare reads that didn't flag once, or make me look at a clock. It also builds a perfect fictional world, which is a feat unto itself because it's a very absurd one. See, Charlie learns he is a Death Merchant - a sort of grim reaper who must transport "soul vessels" that contain said soul from the previous owner to the new one (the ontology is very Buddhist). Hilarity ensues. The whole shtick on what a "beta male" is could in itself comprise a novel, but it's just one of the many layers in this tricky story. My wife, who can sit through most standup with a straight face, giggled about every 10 minutes when reading this.

**Some of the authors' from above top tens:

Alas, the site that contained these is no more. However, you can still see each list by going to the book link, and searching for "John Irving", "David Foster Wallace", and "Stephen King" respectively.
Cats are Democrats, Dogs are Republicans

Found it!

A long time ago, I read this on one of those Xeroxes passed around the office that had been copied so many times, the letters had grown and formed white interiors - the thing we had before email for passing around humor. I've been hunting for it since.

A Yankee goes to a Texas Chili cookoff.
Like all the places that I found this warned, "You'll watch this one twice."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Personally I prefer the "Angels Bowling" explanation...

Still, this is cute:

Monday, July 02, 2007

Douglas Adams was right

In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Adams' postulated that machines with anthropomorphic personalities would prove fantastically annoying to most people.

While I didn't doubt that bit of wisdom at the time, I now have first-hand proof that it's true.

First, a lot of the places I frequent started putting in doors that open automatically, Star Trek style. If you've ever seen the wonderful blooper reel from the original series, it contains about 5 minutes of the cast bashing into a door because the guy who was supposed to swish it open missed a cue. Well, I have now walked right into doors that look like they should open automatically but don't. I can swear I hear the high-pitched laughter of sparrows after I've done that.

Then, I started encountering paper towel dispensers that operate when you wave at them, or place your hands beneath them. I don't know about you, but forcing me to wave or hold my hands out in supplication to a machine just makes me feel like a doofus.

There are sinks that tinkle on you when you hold your hands beneath them. Not such a big deal, but the sensors on them seem over-sensitive, and as I've been scrubbing sometimes, the water jets on and off like a little aqua-disco. Again, not a big deal, but it does make you pause and devotes a few cycles of synaptic work to grasp what's occurring. Sinks should not make you have to think, I think.

The most egregious offender, though, is the automatically flushing toilet.

I saw a report once where they were trying to prove if you could pick up stuff from a toilet seat (verdict: bacterial stuff, yes, but rarely; viral, almost never), but they did show how much splash-back was created by the power-flushes that most public toilets have. It leaves a pretty solid misting on the seat if you leave it down. You can test this yourself by putting one of those paper guards on and see what's left after a flush. The upshot (put intended) is if you have your rear on the thing when it goes, your tushie is misted with water that contains the leavings of those before you.

Let's stop and collectively shudder before I go on.

Well. One of the toilets I frequent mistakes a lean too far for an "all clear" and fires up the hurricane. So, you have to shuffle away until it finishes. A lovely moment, I can assure you.

Worse though is how you're "locked in" to the cycle if you come too near a toilet, meaning it will flush if get in general vicinity, then move away.

So what, you say?

In Colorado, we have water conservation pounded into our skulls via constant doom-laden public service announcements, and several-hundred-dollar watering bills. (Ours hovers between $150 and $250 during the summer when we're watering our lawn, which is HOA commanded. Some folks have Xerascaped, but we've heard horror stories about such efforts and want a lawn the kids can play on), so all of us hear a meter ticking when we waste water.

So, the rub is when I go in to just contribute back to the water situation, but someone has already taken up the urinal. (The following has occurred more than once, btw.) I can't just stand there and wait because one of the unwritten social rules of men's bathrooms is you don't wait if there's an open head. If there is one and you just stand there, it's assumed you're George Michael and have dubious intent. Thus, I travel on by to the toilet, but - lo! - apparently the other guy finished tapping off at that moment and leaves the urinal. Not wanting to waste gallons of toilet water, I stop and re-direct to the urinal. But, alas, the toilet had already spotted me and starts to flush. Oh no! Dash to the toilet in hopes of finishing before it does, but then the urinal has spotted you, too, and starts to flush as well!

And then you realize that two inanimate toilets have made you cha-cha around the can like a spaz on his first-ever hit of ecstasy at a rave (not that I'd know about that experience first hand, mind you - I'm just guessing).

Then, the resentment sets in, and you go snark about it on your blog.

More on Adams being right:
Weight of the Universe (and, thus, everything).
It's a planet! Who knew? Part 3

(Heard while traveling somewhere in the mommy-van with my family.)

In my daughter's 4th-grade science class this last school year, one of the students pronounced the name of the planet Uranus like I was taught to: "Yer-anus."

The teacher corrected him and said it's pronounced: "Urine-us."

After a beat, one of the girls piped up and asked: "How does THAT make it any better?"
A definition of Art linked to this great crash course in constitutional law, and while it is as advertised, it also makes a great statement of - perhaps even a perfect definition of - "what is art?":

"Also, you have no right to dance naked unless you are a really, really good dancer, in which case it becomes art." - Walter Delinger