Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Motorcycle Poetry — “November”


The pavement, streaked
Blood red and brown
Shards and moist bits scattered about

Cars drive through
Unseen, uncaring
Grinding to a paste
Smearing across the roadway

Nothing identifiable remain
Only streaks and smears
Waiting for a November rain to wash it away
Waiting for it to happen again

Some leaves have yet to fall

[“Motorcycle poetry”: imagery that comes to me and percolates into poetry while I am riding.]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Movie Review
    — Cars

Quick Reaction

Cars was useless.

More Details

For starters, I don’t like NASCAR (or other car racing).  And mind you, this isn’t in isolation: I went with a date to a car race one time; I don’t think we went out again after that.  90-minute drive to get there, and another hour to get into the racegrounds and park (and an hour to get out again later).  Then lots of cars going by a few at a time, and expensive concessions.  What was the point?  Not even any crashes.

(There’s a theory that says there are two types of sports.  In one, you go to see someone doing something impressive — track & field, for example.  In the other, you go to see someone get hurt — football.  Car racing: in person, you often can’t see the whole picture of the race, just a couple hundred yards of the track, so frankly, you’re there in hopes of seeing a nasty crash.)

(Baseball doesn’t seem to fit into either category.  Maybe it’s not really a sport?  And Ice Dancing falls in both categories.  <grin>)

Beyond that, with Cars in particular, I found the character designs to be ugly.  And while I expect a simplified story in animated films, since they are largely aimed at kids, I typically expect enough non-kid content in a Pixar film to make adults not feel the film was a waste of their time.  I didn’t get that in Cars: shallow characterization, predictable plot, and a “message” throughline so worn that it could get a blowout on any curve.

Say Something Nice

Beautiful work on the landscapes.  Can I get a short film just of them?

Movie Review
    — Clerks

Quick Reaction

Clerks was crap.

More Details

After disliking Mallrats so much, what did I expect, watching an even earlier Kevin Smith film?  Glutton for punishment, I guess.

Neither Dante nor Randal present as well-formed characters.  Randal’s dialogue, in particular, never comes across as realistic; not just being delivered like a swiftly memorized, passionless monologue but apparently written in the same way.

I still have Chasing Amy and Dogma in my Netflix queue.  They are newer films, so Smith’s skills should be better, right?  They can't get worse, can they?  Can they?

Say Something Nice

I watched this in 5-10 minute chunks over the course of a month.  (That it took me a month to finish it says something.)  I have no problem doing that with most any movie; I have read comic books for thirty years, and they present a 22-page chunk of story once a month, unfolding over 4, 6, 12 months, so doing a movie that way over days or weeks is not much different.  Clerks itself is very “chunked”, even with segment titles throughout, so it works even that much better viewed in pieces than most films will.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

High-Octane Gas: Boon or Scam?

For years, I’ve always wondered about the three grades of gas offered at the gas station.  While I know that they recommend the higher grades for certain vehicles — I always use the mid-grade for my Land Rover, and I’m supposed to use the high grade for my scooters — you have to wonder if there is really any difference between the grades.

Can you get better performance (better gas mileage is the most measurable thing) from using higher grades?  More importantly, can you get enough better performance to make it worth buying?

According to this Time Magazine article, a test by Car and Driver magazine says “No”.

However, that’s not exactly what they said.  Here is the actual article, from 2001.  Summarized, what it says is that cars which are intended to run on regular unleaded get very little or no added horsepower and speed from a higher octane, cars which are intended to run on premium fuel experience a drop in horsepower and other performance from a lower octane, and carbon buildup over time means cars designed for lower octane fuels may need to upgrade due to carbon build up and the like.  (One thing I note is that they used only low and high grades — 87 and 91 octane — not the midgrade 89 octane which is also an option.

Before I saw this Time article, though, I had decided to do my own test.  I had noticed that while gasoline prices have climbed — I remember that I paid $1.99 a gallon for low grade on Labor Day Weekend in 2001, and that was the lowest in months, vs. $4.15 a gallon yesterday for high grade — the price difference between the grades has stayed the same, about 10 cents a gallon.  Which means that as a percentage of the price per gallon, premium grade gasoline has effectively become cheaper — it was a 5% markup in 2000, but only about 2% in 2011 — and that means that the viability of any performance (mileage) increase is only half as much to make it worth while.

So let’s look at my Land Rover.  I get between 16 and 19 miles per gallon, depending mostly on city vs. highway driving, although factors like weight in the rear end also factor (if I add a 50 pound piece of equipment, my mileage on a highway trip increases by about 1 mpg).  For the sake of the argument, let’s call it 18 mpg.

I have roughly a 15 gallon tank.  At $4.00 a gallon for 89 octane (it’s a little more than that now, but round numbers work the math easier), that’s a $60 fill up; at $4.10 a gallon for 91 octane, that’s $61.50.  Yup, just $1.50 difference, less than the price of a drip coffee at Starbucks, less than half a gallon of gas; put up against a $60 fill up, that’s almost insignificant.  More to the point for doing math, it’s a 2.5% change in the price.

So back to the mileage.  If I pay 2.5% more for the gas, then I need to get a 2.5% increase in my gas mileage to compensate.  (I’m not sure that’s completely right. With the way percentages work, it’s more likely that I actually need something like a 2.4% mileage increase, but the difference there is not going to be enough to alter the test results any more than my use of “round numbers” will.  If someone wants to work out the numbers more exactly, feel free.)  On an 18 mpg average, that means 18.45 mpg — increase just 1/2 mile per gallon and I will have “won”.

What did my tests show?  I shifted to premium octane for several fill ups, including a road trip to Portland (about 180 miles each way).  My highway mpg increased to over 20, and my city average was over 18 (city would normally be in the 16–17 range); calculated out, I got an increase of between 1.2 and 1.7 mpg over the course of the tests.

That is, I got 2–3 times as much increase in gas mileage as I needed to make the increase in cost worthwhile.  Which means I actually save about $2–3 per fill up by not needing to do them as often.

Let me note a couple things where my tests differ from those of Car and Driver:
  • I’m driving a 2005 vehicle.  Technology changes may have improved the performance differences.
  • Car and Driver used expert drivers, test tracks, multiple vehicles, and more controlled circumstances, while my test was more informal, real world, and isolated to a single vehicle.
  • I tested miles per gallon, while they tested horsepower and speed.
  • I used a change from 89 to 91 rather than from 87 to 91, on a vehicle aimed (I think) at the midrange to start with.
  • The change in gas prices in the past 11 years has magnified the value of any performance benefits gained, which changes the impact of the results.
  • My Land Rover gets relatively low miles per gallon.  Cars which already get higher mileage need to have a bigger value increase to compensate.  (A car which gets 40 mpg has to break, hmm, 41 mpg.  Ooooo…)
I’ll also note this:
  • Time Magazine relied on an 11 year old article, but didn’t identify that and the limits that go with it in their article.  Shame on them.  (Some education for when you read something referencing other sources: check what the original said rather than trusting a summary of it, since that might reflect their own biases.  That’s why I’ve provided links to both stories.)
So what is the net effect of this test?  For myself, I have shifted over to premium on my Land Rover (which frankly I don’t drive much anyway; I have put at least twice as many miles on the scooter as on the car for the past 3.5 years).  Should you do likewise?  No, not just on the results of my tests.

But if you are pained by the cost of a fill up these days and if you are curious enough to track your gas mileage for a month or so, I think you should run the same informal tests for yourself.  Get a mileage baseline for both mostly city and mostly highway driving for a few fill ups at the grade you currently use, and then switch to one grade up and track how things change.  Worst case, you’ll see no change of note and you’ll be out the cost of a few cups of coffee over the course of a month.  But I think there’s a good chance you’ll also see enough of a difference to consider making the switch completely.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bury the Bone: Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill

According to this news piece, October 2011 is the 20th anniversary of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.

Although I remember the hearings going on, my one real memory of the event comes from a couple weeks or a month later.  Walking in the hall at work one day, one of the Human Resources people called me into her cubicle and gave me an apologetic “talking to”.  Apparently, a month before, I had been wearing a t-shirt I bought in Tijuana in September, which carried an image of two dogs fucking, labelled “Bury the Bone” (much like this one, down to the color scheme), and someone complained.

In retrospect, that was a (very) inappropriate shirt to wear to work.  I happened to be wearing it that day as well, I think, which was what caused the HR person to talk to me.  (I was 24 and trying to be brazenly out, I guess.  Or I just wasn't thinking, take your pick.)  After that, I was much more sensitive to the messaging what I wore would send — not that I refrained from shirts with gay imagery and messaging, just that I gave more thought to it and refrained from wearing some of them to work.

But the complaint that the HR person was responding to — which she had not acted on for at least a couple weeks, meaning she didn’t think it was very significant — was not about the content of the shirt.  Rather, it was about the political intent: someone had thought I had work it as commentary on the Thomas/Hill hearings.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Molotov Cartail

Back in the 1980s, there were a couple book collections of Sniglets (a “sniglet” being “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should”).  Looks like you can still buy the books and such from Amazon.

Several favorite sniglets remain in my personal vocabulary more than 25 years later, including “Alfred Hitchcooking” (repeatedly stabbing a block of frozen vegetables to make it cook faster), “arping” (moving your head in circles trying to read the label of a playing record), “Adam69” (two police cars facing opposite directions, exchanging information), and “Essoasso” (the person who cuts through a gas station in order to bypass a stoplight — guilty!).  I still have the original books somewhere, I think.

(Hmm, with the rise of cook-in-the-bag veggies, the demise of vinyl records, the old Adam-12 TV show being long out of circulation, and Esso being absorbed into ExxonMobil, those terms become way more obscure and less valuable as time goes by.)

Here are a couple web pages with lists of sniglets: one with many of the classics and one with new ones.

When I was in Las Vegas in August, though, I had dinner at the Palace Station casino and I parked next to this car.  I never thought I would see a “Molotov cartail” in the wild.  (That’s a car with a rag used in place of a missing gas cap, of course.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — More Tongue, Please

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This bank of video slots was at the Paris casino in Las Vegas when I visited there in August.

Every set of lips on that display is closed.  Someone seems to be unclear on the concept of the “French Kiss”.

TV & Movie Review
    — Firefly and Serenity

A couple years ago, on a trip to Canada, my boyfriend picked up a copy of the Firefly boxed set at a thrift store, telling me how good it was.  We proceeded to watch the first disk’s worth of episodes the next few times I was at his place, but then he had a break-in where his big screen TV and most of his DVDs were stolen.  The TV and some DVDs were later recovered, but not this set.

I added the set to my Netflix queue, and eventually finished them a month or so ago, plus the follow-on movie, Serenity.  (Particularly of note in the boxed set is that it includes a handful of episodes which did not get aired during the half-season run of the TV show.  A must for anyone who enjoyed the show.)

In no way am I about to become a Browncoat (fan of the show) and rave about how it is the best television show ever.  (Sorry.  That would be Twin Peaks.  Or maybe Lost.  Or I’ll accept The Dick Van Dyke Show, if someone insists.)  And I won’t ever quote lines of dialogue or do Firefly cosplay.  (I will drool over Jayne a bit, though.)

Actually, it took several episodes for me to warm up to the show.  The first disk’s worth, it was simply okay: solidly a “Western in space”, with an intriguing mix of conflicted characters and unrevealed pasts.  Good enough for what it was, but not necessarily anything I would have pursued weekly if I randomly tripped over an episode.  By the end of the second disk, though, I was solidly interested in the show, because it was interesting, different, and engaging.  By the end of the boxed set, I was invested enough to be bummed by the doomed nature of the show.

The Serenity movie, though, is a must for fans of the show.  (Hard to say if it hangs together adequately by itself without the background of the television show.  I rather suspect that the Inara and Shepherd subplots would be pretty obscure.  But this definitely didn’t come across as just a double-length episode of the show, like some Star Trek films did.)  There were two big unanswered questions left over from the show — what are the Reavers, and what the fuck is up with River — and those both get answered in the movie.  (Or at least resolved.  I still have no idea why they did what they did to River — it felt rather like they came up with a solution and then stitched it backwards into her character to pretend it was the cause — but the subplot gets resolved, which is sufficient.)

The scenes with Serenity passing through the Reavers were very well done, a space battle/ballet which brought to mind the attack on the second Death Star from Return of the Jedi, but doubled.  And although I mourn (NON-SPECIFIC SPOILER) for the characters who died in the film, I also appreciate that Whedon did kill some of his precious children, making the story that much more heart-felt.

And a nagging non-question from the show — where does this actually take place, how big of a “universe” is it set in — also gets answered.  We’re so used to Star Trek and Star Wars, where the ships blithely skip all the way across the galaxy, that it was a bit of a shock to realize that the entire show occurs in a single solar system (albeit one with a couple dozen planets).  This information changed the perspective I had on the show a little bit, making things a lot more plausible for the characters to periodically run into people they knew.

(One thing that did annoy me with the extras on Serenity were the repeated comments that the movie was very special in that it was a movie based on cancelled television show, and that never happens.  Well, never since Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, thirteen years before.  And double never since Star Trek: The Motion Picture, thirteen years before that.  So yes, it’s rare, but hardly unknown.  Or “thirteen years” is the definition of “never” in movie land.)

Now Dark Horse Comics is releasing collections of their Serenity comicsAmazon, I’m coming for you.  (But still, no brown coat.  I promise.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dream Journal: September 27, 2011

I slept really lousy on the night after returning from Folsom Street Fair.  Every time I woke up from this dream, I kept sinking back into it:
For whatever reason — dream logic doesn’t requires these things be explained or even make sense — I sat bare-assed on a chocolate frosted cake.  I then proceeded to clean it up by scooping big fingerfuls off my ass and licking the brown frosting off my fingers.  (Yeah, so it looked like that.)

At the same time, my father videotaped this.  He then posted the video to YouTube, under the name “kbd hong” (so I guess I was Chinese in the dream), with the title “Look what I did on my honeymoon!” (but I wasn’t even married in the dream).  The video immediately scored 80,000 views, and soon thereafter broke 300,000 views, and then got featured on Fox News.

My father refused to take it down from YouTube, so I sued them, and I sued him for both defamation of character and for damages (including the money made from page views and ads that came from YouTube).  And I had to deal with a media circus, and repeatedly send cease & desist letters and sue people for reposting and remixing the video.

Worst was the mashup of the video with the song “Chocolate Rain”.
I think I’ll blame this on the Reuben sandwich I had for dinner last night.

Let me revise the intro to this: I didn’t sleep lousy.  I slept crappy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Review
    — Zoolander

The only thing redeeming about Zoolander was that the previous movie I watched was The Devil Wears Prada, a far more realistic, funny, and enjoyable movie about the fashion industry.  Many people over the years have told me how good this was, but I think they need their heads examined.

(Then again, many people like sitcoms, but almost every time I watch one, I can’t fathom most of the appeal.  They usually just aren’t funny.  Like with the movie A.I., I pull out of the show and listen to the music or the laugh track and see how those things lead the audience to what is intended to be funny, even when it isn’t.  It reminds me of the final episode of Ellen, which had no laugh track, and which was made that much funnier/deeper by people who told me they didn’t get it because of that, that they didn’t know what was supposed to be funny.  Boy that’s sad.)

Back to Zoolander, though…
  • Fashion models are goofy, inept, and vapid.  Yup, got it.
  • Fashion designers are goofy, inept, and warped.  Check.
  • Anything else?  Nope.
(Okay, I did like the scene at the gas station, replayed with the statue at the end.  That was twisted.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Movie Review
    — The Devil Wears Prada

I bought The Devil Wears Prada on DVD when the local Hollywood Video closed.  I had seen it when it was in the theaters and damn, I forgot how much fun it was.

One of the things I like about this film is that it isn’t a romantic comedy (it’s a “coming of age” film).  She doesn’t meet a guy from the opposite side of the financial/political/upbringing spectrum, find herself attracted to him, decide she hates him instead, grow to love him, and then end up happily ever after with him.  (They tease at a subplot with that, with the editor she meets, but it is only a sideline and it doesn’t end up ending pleasantly.)

Then again, maybe it is a romantic comedy, but instead of a hunky guy, the opposite lead is Meryl Streep’s “Miranda Priestly”.  Their relationship, although it technically is a mentor/student type of thing, does follow the standard tropes of the romantic comedy genre, without sex and marriage being the end goal (but with “become part of my life and lifestyle” replacing it).

On top of all the glamour and publishing/fashion insight and the love her/hate her relationship the characters end up having with the Priestly character, the final quote from Priestly (“Everyone wants to be like us”) and Sachs’s reaction to it (and the mixed reaction that viewers have — some would agree with Priestly and some would not, adding an extra layer to things) are a fantastic kicker that tie the movie up with a dandy little bow.  (A cerulean bow, of course.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie Review
    — The Wild

When The Wild came out, I was right there at the head of the pack, saying that their tagline should be “Hey, we can do Madagascar, too!”  (That is, "Madagascar 2”, as though it were a sequel to a much more successful computer-animated “New York zoo animals escape to a wild jungle island” movie from about a year before this.)  In reality, I realize that it was probably in development well before Madagascar came out, perhaps even with completely separate influences.  (See the comics industry releasing X-Men and Doom Patrol or Swamp Thing and Man-Thing at basically the same time.  It’s a form of “convergent evolution”.)

I finally saw it (via Netflix), and my quip was both wrong and very right.

First, the character designs for the animals are some of the most realistic we’ve seen when it comes to a fully computer-animated film.  In comparison, the animals in Madagascar are roughed-out cartoons.

Second, the thrust of the plot is a bit more organic and adult-friendly, with the kid being upset at his father, running away and getting in over his head, and the father and friends setting out to rescue him.

But then we have the turtle curling match, and the animals steering the ship (sorry, but the penguin cell in Madagascar, while not any more believable, was at least funnier), and the breakdancing, and the dance choreography of the wildebeests.  Once you get into these facets, then the cartoony nature of the Madagascar animals becomes more warranted… or if you prefer, then the realistic character designs break hard against the non-realistic actions.  And since this occurs repeatedly throughout the film — it could be somewhat excusable only at the front and back as a framing sequence — the viewer is constantly shoved back and forth.

In the end, if you have to choose between realistic (ugly) choreographed wildebeests and cartoony (cute) choreographed lemurs, chose the cute ones.

(It’s also interesting to examine that movie poster, because it’s not very representative of the film.  It implies everything occurs in New York City, it paints the characters are more cartoony, it is missing two of the main characters, and it positions the dogs and alligator as much more significant than the three minutes of the film they actually appeared in.  Almost as if they were trying to paint the characters as more like those in Madagascar, but to distance the plot from being seen as similar.  The Wild only brought in about 15% of what Madagascar did; in fact, it only brought in half as much total as Madagascar did on its opening weekend.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jiffy is the Worst Peanut Butter… Right?  Right?  Um, Maybe.

At some point, years ago, the message filtered into my brain that “Jif peanut butter is bad for you because it contains more sugar, added to make it more attractive to kids.”  Like most such social messaging (see “Coors is anti-gay”, etc.), once this made it into my consciousness, I accepted it as truth without every questioning it.

And yet, I continued to buy and consume Jif in preference to Skippy or other national brands.  Every couple years, I try something else — be it Skippy, or one which needs to be stirred (and thus sloshes half the peanut oil out of the jar onto the floor, leading to inconsistent consistency over the life of the jar), or chocolate hazelnut Nutella — and every time, I come back to Jif.

Recently, buying a new jar, I remember this “truth” and decided to look at the nutrition labels:
  • For Jif — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  (About what you actually use for a sandwich.  You know that isn’t always the case with serving size values.)  Calories: 190.  (Mmm, that seems high, in this era of 100 calorie sized snacks.)  Calories from fat: 130.
  • For Skippy — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  Calories: 190.  Calories from fat: 140.  (Interesting.)
  • For Adams (which needs to be hand-stirred) — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  Calories: 210.  (What?!)  Calories from fat: 150.  (What?!)
  • For O Organics (Safeway brand) — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  Calories: 200.  Calories from fat: unclear, but has higher saturated fat amount than Jif/Skippy, so figure at least the same as Skippy.
Isn’t that interesting: same calorie count for both Jif and Skippy, and both are lower than the presumed “better for you” Adams and O Organics brands.  Also, Jif is higher than Skippy in Vitamin E and Riboflavin; there is no listing of those for Adams and O Organics (could be they just don’t list such, could be that they are additives in Jif and Skippy).

Jif actually has lower from-fat calories, which certainly could map into higher from-sugar calories (the difference has to come from somewhere, after all), which means that the data portion of the “sugar message” from years ago may be technically true.  But that then raises other questions: is it worse for the sugar calories to be higher, or the fat calories to be higher?  If the “better” peanut butters are 5-10% higher in calories, are they actually better?

Of note as well, this website rates brands based on issues such as trans fats, water usage, and community support.  It tags both Jif and Skippy very low due to trans fat inclusion, but the brand’s websites indicate no trans fats in their peanut butter products, so the website info is a few years out of date.  (Many companies removed trans fats a few years ago.)

In the end, my limited research is inconclusive.  There is no clarity that one brand is notably better than another in terms of nutrition — a little higher here, a little lower there — which leads back to the only thing that really counts, taste preference.

I admit that I’m probably going to try the almond butter at some point, and maybe non-chocolated hazelnut butter (if such exists), but in the end, I know what I’ll come back to: “Choosy Jims choose Jif.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Movie Review
    — Fight Club

Halfway through Fight Club, when they were just beating the snot out of each other, I thought to myself “Okay, this movie is fucked up.  I have no idea why I’m watching this and I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone else.”

At the end of Fight Club — which I can’t say anything about, since “The first rule of Fight Club is: ‘You do not talk about Fight Club.’” — I thought to myself “Okay, this movie is fucked up.  I have no idea why I’m watching this and I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone else.”  Just for completely different reasons.

I neither enjoyed it nor didn’t enjoy it.  It was twisted, but while twisted is an okay reason to see a film, it isn’t a reason to recommend a film.  But at least I get the references now; that’s something.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Movie Review
    — Doogal

Doogal is, um, a computer-animated kids movie about a dog and a singing cow and slacker rocker rabbit and a snail who take on a quest from a good wizard spring to stop a bad wizard spring from freezing the world solid, and who do a lousy job of it but eventually win anyway (for not much reason other than because the good guys always have to win).

If that sounds both stupid and not especially enjoyable — probably including for the kids it is aimed at — you’re right.  As bad as Barnyard was, this is the computer-animated film that will make you swear off of watching anything in that mode that comes down the Netflix queue.  (Then again, I haven't dared to watch Hoodwinked yet.)
  • Unattractive character designs.
  • A melange of characters apparently based on the toys left ignored in some kid’s toy chest, given how poorly they mesh as a group/team.
  • The classic quest concept of recover the magic objects, and in the process lead the bad guy to each of them so he can get them instead, never mind that he would have apparently never found them otherwise.
  • Loads of pop culture references and anachronisms (a laser grid in an ancient Aztec temple?), the sort which break you out of the thin story over and over again rather than enhancing it.
  • Subplots which go nowhere (like the snail’s unrequited love for the cow).
  • Atrocious matching of the voice work to the character mouths.  (Apparently all the characters but the cow and good wizard spring were redone for the American release, and they either did a lot of ad lib or the script work was really shoddy in terms of retaining the timing.)
The only reason I would recommend this is to put something in front of a 4-year old that he or she hasn’t already seen twelve times.  If the kid has seen something else only ten or eleven times before, put that on again instead of this.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Movie Review
    — Barnyard

Remember those foam “stress relief” toys from the 1990s, the ones you could squish into a malformed ball and they would slowly restore to the original shape?  That is the apparent basis for the design of the cows in the animated film Barnyard.  It’s also the only redeeming feature of the film.
  • The male cows all have udders.  According to IMDB, the director says this was an intentional joke.  That may be true, but that doesn’t make it funny.
  • Other than the cows and a couple other barnyard animals, the bulk of the character designs are simply ugly.
  • While this is positioned as a movie leading into a Nickelodeon television series, it’s obvious that the reverse is true: they took several episodes of the proposed TV series and strung them together  The entire film is structured in roughly 20-minute chunks, and several of the pieces have characters who do not appear in other chunks.  If you’ve going to give us a movie, give us an actual movie, not a re-edited batch of TV shows.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saves water… or invests it?

This little placard (about 4" high) was posted near the urinals at Safeco Field.

I hate messages like this, because they are often used to lie with statistics, using math comparisons to hide the real information, usually to make it seem more impressive than it really is.

In this case, though, the placard is outright wrong!

“This urinal flushes with only 16 oz. of water” — okay, that’s clear enough.

“A standard one-gallon urinal” — points for good hyphenation, but deduction for switching from ounces to gallons.  How many ounces in a gallon?  (I had to look it up to be sure, got it wrong at first: 128.)

But the word after the comma, this is where the placard text is wrong.  If it had said “This urinal flushes with only 16 oz. of water, using 88% less water per use than a standard one-gallon urinal”, it would have been correct (albeit overusing “use”).  87.5% of 128 oz. is 112 oz., so saving 88% leaves 16 oz being used:
x - .88x = 16        (where x=ounces used by a one-gallon urinal = 128)
But they had to try to go green and put the word “saving” in there.  That changes the entire meaning.  It is no longer about using less than another urinal does; now it is about saving more than another urinal (saves).  That unwritten word is the key.  It means that we are comparing this urinal and the regular one to some unspecified third option, a presumed baseline.  But what is that baseline?

The EPA refers to an “older, inefficient 1.5 gpf flushing urinal”, and the state of Alabama mentions “older flush type urinals used 2.5 gallons”.  Or going to sit-down toilets, new pressure-assisted flush toilets use 1.4 gallons, and post-1994 ones used 1.6, while ones before then used 3.4 gallons.  Flushometer toilets like those in commercial restrooms also use about 1.6 gallons.  (Interesting side note there: urinals use less water than sit-down toilets, but still more than 2/3 as much, a far higher percentage than I expected.)

If we were just comparing one urinal’s volume to the other, our math formula would be what I listed above.  But with the mystery toilet involved, it is:
128-16 = .88 y        (where y = ounces saved by a regular urinal)
(additional amount saved by special urinal = 88% of amount saved by regular urinal)
Per this formula, for these special urinals to save 88% more than a regular urinal, a regular urinal saves about 128 oz. (one gallon), meaning that the baseline item uses 2 gallons, which doesn’t fit any of the profiles noted.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — Mexico, Peru, What’s the Difference?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Encountered this Mexican restaurant in Richland, WA.  It is part of a small chain in Eastern Washington.  Here is their website.  (Warning: Flash-based, plays loud music, and features dancing animated chilis — very obnoxious.)

I wonder at what point someone said “I don’t care that the Aztecs were in Mexico and the Incas were in Peru, 2500 miles away.  I don’t care that Mexican cuisine is different from Peruvian cuisine.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — Dingleberries

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Holy crap (literally!), what were they thinking to name a product “dingleberry”?  I doubt I could order it without snickering.

This company sells chocolate-dipped berries at Safeco Field for Seattle Mariners games.  As an added curiosity, “shishkberry” is the nickname for a strain of pot.

I’m not even gonna comment on what sort of sex toys the stacked coated berries look like.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Movie Review
    — Basic Instinct

I finally saw Basic Instinct (1992) this week, thanks to the wonders of Netflix.  This film had been on my “Don’t Watch” list for the last 20 years.  Due to the gay protests over it when it was being filmed and released, it was a big no-no to support this horrible anti-gay film about an ice pick-wielding bisexual murderess.

I’m glad I finally saw it, because that was a load of horse crap.  Or rather, twenty years down the road, it now looks like a load of horse crap.  At the time, maybe making an example of the film was the right thing to do.

I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area (to San Jose, an hour south of San Francisco) in August 1990, at age 23.  I had come out over the previous year in Eugene, Oregon.  I think my first trip to San Francisco proper didn’t occur until November or December of that year, for a Silicon Valley gay techies dim sum brunch.

(I still remember walking up the stairs into the cavernous dim sum restaurant, not knowing what anyone who would be there looked like.  I scanned the entire place and figured that the table of white people must be those there for the brunch.  And then saw many other people in the next half hour come up the stairs and do the exact same thing.  This was back in the days where we knew people online pretty much only by their name and e-mail address; there were no social networking or cruise sites where we could see a photo.)

Soon after that, I was regularly coming up to San Francisco at least once per weekend, to country dance at the Rawhide II.  After I joined the San Francisco Saddletramps a year later and eventually moved to San Mateo, halfway up the peninsula, my trips to The City would be three or four per week.  San Mateo was a great place to sleep, but a lousy place to have a gay life.

One of the first pieces of gay political activism that I remember was the stuff surrounding Basic Instinct, although as one of the first, it’s also something that I only have hazy memories of.  The biggest memories I have of the time are the involvement of the activist group Queer Nation, and that the gay country bar Rawhide II was used as one of the sets in the movie, and gay activists did drive-by paint bombing of the front door because of the “sell out” nature of the owner and the business.

Ray Chalker, the owner of the Rawhide II and the Sentinel gay paper, eventually earned himself a worldwide reputation as a jerk — I was once in Florida at a gay country-western dance event and met a couple guys from London who said “You’re from San Francisco?  Do you know the owner of the Rawhide?  We hear he’s a complete asshole” — but now I wonder what portion of this might stem from the Basic Instinct stuff?  That is, while running both a newspaper and a bar already put you at odds with some people in the community, when you get publicly branded as a sort of a traitor to the community and members of the community conduct repeated vandalism against your business, I can see how that changes your view of the community; you start to mistrust motives and you become a degree less pleasant to work with, and that can certainly spiral in intensity over time.  Add in the gay community’s institutionalized memory, where we hold grudges and refuse to take actions for years after the reason to do so has evaporated — like the Coors Boycott [see here] [and here], or dare I say it, avoiding seeing the movie Basic Instinct — and it’s easy to see an unfocused perpetual animosity toward Chalker and the Rawhide II festering in the community for years, continually being reinforced by Chalker himself in the way he reacted to things.

(On the flip side, Chalker’s anger and behavior eventually resulted in the creation of the Sundance Association for Country-Western Dancing, a strong non-profit which “owns” and directs the Bay Area gay country community now long after the Rawhide II ceased to be a gay country bar.  And Sundance has been an inspiration and model for Seattle’s Rain Country Dance Association, which formed after we lost the Timberline as a dance location up here.  Mmm, there’s a lot of stuff thet we can tag as possibly having some roots in this movie!)

Part of the fun with this movie, as with any one taking place in a familiar-to-you city was in identifying where things occur and what has changed since then, such as:
  • Nick’s apartment is in North Beach.  Although I don’t know that neighborhood much from driving, that is also where some of Tales of the City takes place (Russian Hill is right next door; the TV mini-series was released the next year), so I recognized some of the street locations used in both.  (Alas, I don’t know that area of the city well enough to tell where they turn down a one-way street, or turn on one street and end up clear across town.)
  • The construction pit where Roxy’s car crashes?  That is what would become Moscone Center.  You can tell by some of the other buildings seen on the other side.
  • As noted before, the country bar is the Rawhide II.  The real one’s 7th-near-Harrison location isn’t what is shown in the movie, nor did it have a neon cactus.  It never had room inside for a live band where one is in the movie; the room was only 20–25 feet across, narrow and long.
  • The looming freeways threw me for a loop at first, since I couldn’t place the locations as near the 101 in SOMA.  But when Nick is walking on the pier with the city behind him, I remembered that there used to be a freeway along the Embarcadero, damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and torn down in 1991, after the movie was filmed.
Also fun was freeze-framing the scene in the country bar (scene 18), which according to the DVD notes featured as many as 100 of the bar’s regulars:
  • Right as the scene opens, a guy with a bushy moustache and a white cowboy hat is seen dancing as the camera zooms through the ceiling fan.  That is Jeff Hines (d. 1998), longtime instructor at the Rawhide and prominent member of the San Francisco Saddletramps dance troupe.
  • As Nick pays Gus’s tab, a curly haired woman is at the bar.  I think that was Jackie, whom I knew from the 931 Cloggers.
  • As Gus and Nick leave the bar, they pass by the pool table.  Behind the black woman is a blond man in a black shirt, with a pool cue.  That is Tim, another of the San Francisco Saddletramps.  (Tim and I joined at the same time, in late 1991.)
20 years down the line, and with early 90s AIDS in the mix, a few other people looked familiar, but I couldn’t identify any of them by name.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bloggenfreude (definition)

Taking joy in adding to the pain of others via exaggerated and even ridiculous online comments.
A portmanteau of “blog” and “Schadenfreude”
  • Whatever the latest Apple story is, the “Apple haters” dogpile on, tearing things down with increasingly ridiculous claims and theories.
  • Right-wing pundits jumping on the birther “Obama was born in Kenya” bandwagon, even though probably none of them really believed the concern was legitimate.
  • People ripping into Rebecca Black’s song “Friday”.  The lyrics might be simplistic and the Auto-Tune-ing a little bit obvious, but did it deserve that level of attack?  (Kudos to Glee for salvaging the song!)

Sure, when you feel compelled to comment on the latest trend or meme, you have to have your own spin, but if there’s truth in the Thumper Rule (“If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”), then there needs to be a corollary: “If you must say something mean, you don’t have to be meaner than everyone else.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Prhyme (definition)

Any word which has no known rhyme (in the same language).  A portmanteau of “prime” and “rhyme”.
A “prime number” is a number whose only divisors are 1 and the number itself: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 23, 101, etc.

Thus, a “prhyme” is a word whose only rhyme is the word itself.  (Maybe there should be a word-equivalent of the number 1, which rhymes with everything?  I guess it would be <whitespace>.)

(Looks like Prhyme is also the name of a metal/ska band and a rap/hip-hop artist.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adobe Reader Needs to Build Its Confidence

Poor Adobe Reader.  There, there.  It's okay.  Stand up straight and just try.  You can do it!  I know you can!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gasp!  More mutants!

Isn’t Wolverine supposed to be like 5'2" tall?

So how long is his wingspan?  Apparently wide enough from elbow-to-elbow to go from one side of Iron Man to the other side of Spider-Woman while they are flying alongside one another.  One twitch of his arm and she’ll lose her armpit webbing.  (Click the image to see it full size.)

(Wolverine’s head is obviously bent forward here because Spider-Woman just kneed him in the back of the head.  Although that also means she must be only about 4' tall, if knee to armpit is only as long as Wolverine’s head to claw.)

The obvious explanation is that Wolverine has a new mutant power along the lines of Mr. Fantastic.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gasp!  Mutants!

Here’s a poster for X-Men: First Class.

Don’t tell anyone, but I think the guy second from the left is a mutant!  No, not because his head is the wrong size for his body, or because he emits fog from his armpits, but because his left hand is a vampire — it doesn't cast a reflection in the highly polished floor!

Yes, this has been submitted to Photoshop Disasters.

Butch Fun Cars IV

Scooter: Kymco Downtown 300i, nicknamed “Tula”.
Color: Burnt Orange (or “Galaxy Gold”, like the original color of the Space Needle)
Purchased: April 4, 2011 at Seattle Cycle Center
Location: April 17, 2011 at Snoqualmie Pass

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — To Preserve A Severed Extremity Until It Can Be Reattached, Pack It In Ice

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This ad for a contest at the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival was on bus shelters in Vancouver, BC in early April.  Take a peek at that leg’s position.  Poor guy: it got ripped clean off in the avalanche.  He must be in shock and numbed from the cold, since he’s not reacting to the amputation.

Aware of the sensitive nature of the image, they declined to show the severed leg on the contest’s Facebook page.

Yes, this has been submitted to Photoshop Disasters.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Found this at Safeway last night.

I guess that's one way to bypass any trademark issues!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — Pull My Finger

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This poster is outside a computer repair businesses on Davie St. in Vancouver, BC.  It has been there for years, as long as I can remember (and I’ve been up to Vancouver at least once a year for years and years).  Sidestepping the question of what typo the white patch is covering up (and why they haven’t fixed it in a decade), the image itself always seems bizarre to me.  What is she pointing at?  What does her smile mean?
  • Is that what a computer looks like?
  • Windows 95?  You’ve gotta be kidding me!
  • If I stop smiling, I’ll cry because of all the viruses on this thing.
  • God damn this old junker is heavy.
  • Kittehs!
  • What do you know, you can beat Minesweeper after all!
  • I’m with stupid.
  • Come on, little guy.  Reach higher.  Pull my finger!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Review
    — Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Out of all the things I could say about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, one sums them all up:
After watching this movie, I wanted to put the disc back in and watch it again.  Immediately.
That’s a pretty rare thing for me.  The only other movie that I can think of that gave me that urge was Memento, but that was because I wanted to see all the clues again know that I knew the outcome.  Mmm, and Mulholland Drive as well, again one of those films where all the threads change right at the end.  Scott Pilgrim isn’t one of those.

I’m still in the process of reading the comic book series that Scott Pilgrim is based on — I need to go pick up a reorder of vol. 5 that came in last week — but up through vol. 3, the movie is one of those ultra-close transfers from comic to film that only Watchmen and Sin City have managed thus far.  But with the comic itself a mash-up of slacker, music, and video game content, the movie version takes that a level further, mashing comics, music, and games into a whole which works amazingly.

Another of the great things I can say is that the last few minutes of the movie kept me guessing about what would happen.  That so seldom happens for me (unless there’s an intentional mystery in the film) that I was enthralled.  Of course, it’s also a plus that I haven’t read the end of the comics series yet, so it couldn’t be spoiled for me that way.

(Hmm, that’s an interesting thought for how to approach movies based on books and comics.  If you know too much of the original, you can’t enjoy the movie as a movie — you’re always picking at the inadequacies — but if you know too little, you can sometimes be lost or be aware that you are missing backstory [which is my complaint about all the Harry Potter movies after the first couple, that you could increasingly recognize the places where subplots and entire chapters were chopped out to make the content short enough to film].  For Scott Pilgrim, I knew a lot but not too much, so I could enjoy the first half due to the match ups to the source and I could enjoy the last half due to knowing enough to really be settled into the movie’s world.)

In some ways, the movie works better than the comics.  Smart screenwriters know when to avoid some of the diversions that a comic book indulges in, and when to play up things which are subtle in the original source material.  They succeed in both of these with Scott Pilgrim, for example amping up Wallace’s gay angle, while completely cutting the Stephen Stills “recording an album” plotline (with its own gay angle).

I heartily recommend this movie for anyone who has at least a passing interest in upcoming indie music, slacker culture, video games, and non-superhero comics.

Now someone explain to me: how does a film about a rock band and loaded with cool and way different special effects (unless you want to just call them updates of the 60’s Batman show) not even get one Oscar nomination in the pertinent categories?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dream Journal: March 27, 2011

I had this dream a couple weeks ago:
I was walking in a mid-size town waterfront area — the sort with boat slips and local shops, but also parking lots for a moderate amount of tourist activity — with either my mother or my ex-boyfriend.  We stopped by a green van, where an old Asian woman gave us a styrofoam ice chest.

Inside the ice chest were four or five puppies, each the size of a small loaf of bread.  They were asleep, and young enough that their eyes were barely able to be open.  We were told that they were Bhutanese Yak Hounds, and I was shown a picture of an adult one, which looked like a single-color St. Bernard with an Akita’s tail.

As we walked back to the car, me carrying the ice chest, my mother or my ex-boyfriend (I guess it wasn’t important which one) walked ahead, leaving me behind.  The ice chest started to get heavier, and puppies apparently woke up and started moving around.  Peeking in the ice chest, I saw that the puppies were larger than before.

As the dream continued, the puppies kept getting larger until they started to climb out of the ice chest and on my shoulders and head.  I tried to call out for my mother or ex-boyfriend to wait for me, but either I couldn’t or she/he couldn’t hear me.  Soon I had five puppies, each about the size of the original ice chest, clambering all over me as I stumbled along, trying to get to our parked car.
Most likely, I was tangled in the sheets and my head had slipped off and under the pillow as I slept.

There is no such thing as a “Bhutanese Yak Hound”, although the Bhutia Sheepdog, related to the Tibetan Mastiff, might fit the bill.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coined Phrase: “xxx Tourettes”

iPod Tourettes
The way someone grooving on their iPod or other music player will spit out random bits of whatever song they are listening to, sharing them with the world.  Usually the worst bits and probably out of tune.
Several years ago, when I was commuting by bus — on the glorious MT 7 route up Rainier Ave. — a teenage boy in the back of the bus was suffering from this.  Swaying slightly in his seat, he suddenly sang out “Fuck you!”, then a second later “I’m gonna fuck you, girl!”  Presumably the song by MITCH.

Bible Tourettes
Randomly inserting Bible verse numbers into your speech, especially by Christianists promoting their agenda on the news.  The verse numbers usually do have contextual meaning, but only to people who already know the referenced bits by heart.
In computer programming terms, this is “indirection” — pointing to something that points to what you means.  Used to be that they would include the actual verse, but with sound bite news these days, there’s no time for extraneous words, so they just spit out “Ephesians 2:8” in the middle of a sentence and go back to their talking point.  This Victoria Jackson video on CNN inspired the phrase; you can read her followup blog posting and see that Bible Tourettes populates her writing, too.

Show Quote Tourettes
Blurting out quotes from show tunes and TV and movies and comedy sketches in the middle of conversation.
Visit gay bars, you’ll hear it.  Or visit science fiction conventions and hang around the Trekkers and the Whovians; same difference, different source.  As with Bible Tourettes, there is contextual meaning to those who know the quote, although rather than indirection, this is bonding over shared cultural touchpoints.

(With apologies to those who suffer from genuine Tourette Syndrome, and to drag performer Pussy Tourette, who frankly looked better in drag than when backstage preparing to dress.  You can catch some of her music on Rhapsody.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — Shopping?  Meh.

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Worst.  Store Name.  Ever.

This is one of those airport stores that you go into during your layover between flights, not because they have anything you want but just to pass the time.  (This one is at the end of one of the terminals at SFO, near Gate 74.)  Sells “travel goods and accessories for humans and pets,” according to the Shopping at SFO page.

Under that idea, maybe it’s also “Most Accurate.  Store Name.  Ever.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Movie Review
    — Blazing Saddles

I recently watched the classic Mel Brooks’ Western comedy Blazing Saddles, as part of my quest to refresh on all the Mel Brooks movies.  (I also watched The Producers — the original one — soon after.)  I’m not sure I had ever seen this one before.

It was interesting seeing (hearing) the word “nigger” being used abundantly during the film.  Admittedly, it was done to make a point rather than as casual dialogue.  According to the bonus features, this was controversial even at the time, with some actors declining to take a role where they would have to say the word.  Today, I don’t think you could get the movie into the theaters; in a drama or a documentary, said by someone clearly depicted as “bad”, yes, but not in a comedy with the word being used by general populace characters.

The most interesting part of this DVD was extras, which include a number of alternate versions or extended scenes done for the television version.  Yes, extended versions: some scenes edited for the movie were actually restored for TV.  When does that ever happen any more?

No idea if “nigger” made it onto the TV; I expect not, given the other bits which did not.  Particularly noted in the behind the scenes stuff was the campfire bean-eating scene, where they had to remove all the fart sounds, leaving the cowboys mysteriously standing up and sitting down repeatedly, in a weird slow motion dance.  Also of note was Madeline Kahn’s character, whose last name (“Shtupp”, meaning “stuff” in Yiddish, a double entendre) couldn’t be said on TV, so she gets introduced as “Lili von…”.

(Side angle: while the use of “nigger” throughout the film was shocking and bizarre based on what we are used to today, stuff like the campfire farting scene slides by as trite and common juvenalia.  But it isn’t, or at least it wasn’t: apparently this is the first movie fart joke of the sort.  This is the prototype.  Mel Brooks is to blame for all those fart jokes we endure in inane comedies today.  Sigh.)

(Per IMDB trivia on the film, the fart sounds are from the old “soaped up armpit” method.)

In the end, Blazing Saddles is more of a curiosity today than a landmark, but Brooks is apparently working to recraft it for Broadway.  Then again, I saw the original version of The Producers a couple weeks after seeing this, and compared to the stage version (I haven’t yet seen the movie version of the stage version), it also feels quite remote.  Brooks did a fantastic job reconfiguring that film for the stage, so I have some hopes for Blazing Saddles on Broadway.  (Then again, I didn’t think Young Frankenstein did all that great on stage.)

But God knows how he’s going to manage to get “Nobody move or the nigger gets it!” in there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dolly Parton, the Coat Check Girl

This was my coat check ticket a couple weeks ago.

For the three people out there who don’t quite get the reference

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — Seattle’s Worst Advertising

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Billboards from Seattle’s Best Coffee have started cropping up around Seattle.  A more square version of this one (“Anywhere Great Coffee Is Needed”) has been up above my chiropractor’s office for about a month.

The first time I saw it, I took it for a flat presentation of colored circles, each with a USB drive sticking out of it.  I’m not alone in that: I showed a pic of that billboard to Cliff and he said “What’s that?  Bubbles?”

(What it is meant to be, of course, is stacked coffee cups, seen from above.  Unfortunately, seen directly from above, you lose perspective [ahem] on what you are looking at, and the brain is free to make other connections.)

In the wake of the recent logo rebranding of Seattle’s Best Coffee — where a major complaint was “Why is the ‘coffee’ in the logo red?  This looks like the logo for a blood bank” — you would think they would want advertising that is clear.

And maybe advertising that actually includes coffee.  Because an ad full of clean, empty coffee cups kind of implies that they are waiting for coffee.  Apparently for something other than Seattle’s Best Coffee.

This site doesn’t think they are very good ads, either.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Best Inflatable Ad Ever

The seafood restaurant Jake’s in downtown Portland (near Powell’s Books) had this huge inflatable King Crab on its roof this past weekend.

Totally fucking cool!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is This Better When I’m Not Listening?

To date, there have only been three country songs that I actively despise.  (These would be “hit” songs, of course, ones with enough radio airplay to boost them from “I don’t like this but won’t likely hear it again” to “God, I hate this, change the station!  Make it stop!”)

Those would be:
But they are now joined by a fourth, currently #1 on the Billboard Country charts, Blake Shelton’s “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” (also heard on Joe Nichols’ album from 2007, but not released as a single then — probably for good reason!).  Check out these first-verse lyrics:
My oh my, you’re so good-looking
Hold yourself together like a pair of bookends
But I’ve not tasted all your cooking
Who are you when I’m not looking?
Gack.  Make it stop.  Banal.  Insipid.  Lyrics that don’t add up to anything.  The second line doesn’t even rhyme.  (And I’m generally forgiving more forgiving about whether or not something rhymes when it is sung.)

No one has tasted all of my cooking, hon, not even me!  I keep making new stuff.  That pan-fried tilapia with paprika and bacon fat last night was nummy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What Were They Thinking?
    — Rub-a-Dub-Dub

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

When I was in New Zealand a year ago, this sign was in the public restroom at the park in Taupo.  (Click it to see a larger view.)

While it’s always good to remind people about this stuff:
  • There was no hot water.
  • There was no soap.
  • There were no towels or hand dryers.
Kind of reduces the value of the reminder, huh?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Every Thing There is a Season!  Turn!  Turn!  Turn!

“Forget World Peace… Visualize Using Your Turn Signal” — that’s what the bumper sticker I remember from the 90s said.  And no place needs it to come back more than Seattle.

Not to say that Seattle drivers don’t user their turn signals.  They do.  Most of them do every time they make a turn.  The problem is, they don’t use them until they make the turn.  (Hint: it’s intended to signal what you’re going to do, not what you are doing.  It’s supposed to be a help to other drivers, so they can drive more efficiently, and so they can give you space to turn rather than hitting you when you suddenly lurch out into their lane.)

The light turns green, and Seattle drivers just sit there, or maybe they creep halfway into the intersection.  Are they asleep?  Are they playing with their phone?  (Probably.)  Are they waiting for ducklings or little old ladies to finish crossing the street?  Did they stall out?  You’re a car or two back, so you can’t tell.  All you really know is that they are sitting there with no signal light flashing, apparently doing nothing.

(Magnifying matters is that I’m usually on my scooter, and in Seattle, it’s probably raining a bit.  And I can’t always lane split to get to the front and bypass the hold-up, especially if they are legitimately blocked [because then I feel like an impatient fool].)

Then, just as you’re reaching for your horn (or maybe after), they start to turn and suddenly now there’s their flasher.  What, did they hit it with their thumb by accident as they turned the wheel?

You can’t even go borderline racist and blame this on DWA, because lots and lots of cars/people do it in Seattle.  I wish I could go back in time and smack their Driver’s Ed teachers upside the head.

I suppose I should note two other things:
  • We all do this by accident now and then (me, too), but I encounter someone doing it almost every day.  That goes beyond random chance.
  • This is nothing new.  I remember trying to follow my father’s car once, probably after my sister’s college graduation in 1990, and having a bitch of time because he didn’t use his turn signals until he was in the middle of a turn.
[Title reference: The song “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” by The Byrds.]

Monday, February 14, 2011

October, 2003–June, 2004 blog posts

I’ve finished incorporating the October, 2003–June, 2004 posts from my old “Bouncing Off the Walls” blog into this one, a whopping 64 items.  There were 202 items in the old blog, and I've now passed the halfway point in the merging process, moving in about 4 old posts per week.  (The Q3 2004 batch was the busiest, though, with 30 posts to merge in.)

In the process, I’ve re-edited all the entries, adding and correcting weblinks, clarifying text, and sometimes adding new comments.  Here are links to the 9 months covered, so you can read what I was up to back then:
October 2003 (2 items)
November 2003 (3 items)
December 2003 (5 items)
January 2004 (11 items)
February 2004 (8 items)
March 2004 (9 items)
April 2004 (9 items)
May 2004 (6 items)
June 2004 (4 items)
A few of the adult (sex-related) posts are on my other blog, here:
October 2003 (1 item)
December 2003 (2 items)
February 2004 (1 item)
March 2004 (2 items)
June 2004 (1 item)

What was going on in the world (and my blog) back this?  War in IraqJanet Jackson’s nipple.  A bunch of “What Were They Thinking?” items.  And a little milestone in Massachusetts: same-sex marriage.

Between the two blogs, I’m now at 401 posts total.

Do Your Religion and Politics Extend to Your Pets?

Coming into work today, I was following a bus with an ad from the Humane Society (or maybe the SPCA) featuring a cat nursing a scad of kittens, labelled “Spay Me”, with a subtitle saying that family planning isn’t just for humans.

(It was totally LOLCat-able.  Photoshop the mama cat’s eyes a little bigger and add a word balloon saying “Please.  And soon.”)

It reminded me of a thought that came up a few weeks ago:
Do pro-lifers spay and neuter?
Spaying and neutering pets has long been a standard concept put forward by animal and pet groups.  I don’t think I have ever heard anyone take a stance against it, making it one of the (in theory) most non-controversial pieces of social messaging out there.

(I despise using the term “fixed”, though.  The pets are not broken.  You can argue that it is “fixed” as in “stabilized”, but few people think of that definition first.  It’s like using “catholic” when you mean “broad” or “universal”: everyone will have to work past the religious meaning to get at what you really mean, so why make them work that hard?  Unless you’re writing poetry, of course; you’re supposed to make people work hard to figure out what the fuck you really mean with poetry.  [Kidding.]  [No, I’m not.])

But with pro-life/anti-abortion people, though: for the extreme among them, any mention of “family planning” seems to inflame them.  And what is spaying/neutering, really, but abortion in advance?

I don’t know.  There is undoubtedly a theological difference between a fetus (post-conception) and an egg and sperm which don’t get together, but what about when it is the work of man keeping them from getting together?  The political philosophy is generally opposed to condoms and other birth control methods as well, under the belief that man blocking God’s will is wrong.  So following that logic, forced sterilization of a human — preventing the possibility of conception — should also be wrong.  (Presumably there are levels of wrong: abortion is worse than birth control, which I guess should be about parallel to sterilization, so long as you ignore the invasive/permanentness of it.)

(Hmm: is getting a vasectomy a sin?)

So back to the pets: if you’re opposed to birth control and to forced sterilization in humans, does that religio-political philosophy extend to your pets?  Should you be opposed to spay and neuter services because they are a form of birth control?  Or are they somehow okay because pets are dumb animals/lower lifeforms/unable to control themselves/creatures with no souls/whatever?

Talking about this with a co-worker, he did say he knew a pro-life couple who doesn’t spay/neuter their pets, so apparently some people follow this through at all levels, but they apparently keep pretty quiet about it.  (It’s hard to imagine people out picketing the Humane Society in opposition to spay/neuter services, isn’t it?)

Of course, we can flip this whole thing around from the right end of the spectrum to the left end: cats and dogs are carnivores, or carni-omnivores at best.  If you’ve decided to be vegetarian or vegan, do you require that of/force that on your pet as well?  (Myself, I can’t imagine a cat being happy with tofu and brown rice with a side of stewed lentils, instead of tuna.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Movie Review
    — Mallrats

Mallrats had been sitting in my Netflix queue for a year or more.  No idea why I put it in there, really — recommendations from others about Chasing Amy and Dogma, I guess, since they are both in the queue as well — but whatever.

I’ve started using the Watch Instantly feature some, watching movies 10 minutes or so at a shot when I’m sitting at the computer.  There really isn’t a lot of stuff available for watching this way: right now, I have 122 movies in my Queue, with only 23 available for this feature (including oddities like half the Star Trek films available for play but the other half not).  The real quirk has been that stuff ceases to be available from time to time; I’ve had more films go away half-watched than I’ve been able to complete.  (Which explains why Mallrats ended up at the top of my queue: when it was no longer available to watch online, I popped it to the top of the queue so I could watch the last 15 minutes.  Grr.)

(As for watching a film 10 minutes at a shot: I understand why some people feel unable to do this.  But me, I’ve been trained to do this via 30 years of comic book reading.  I am used to reading 20 pages of a story which will takes 4–10 months to complete (if ever), and waiting a month for the next piece.  And doing this with 30 different series at once.  And a novel or two.  And for several years, a daily soap opera.  So watching 10 minutes of a film each day for a couple weeks is really no problem, although I avoid doing it with more than a couple films at a time.)

Back to Mallrats

What a waste of a movie.  Nothing redeeming in the characters, nothing illuminating in the story, and not even anything fun or funny.  (And I wanted to hit Brodie in the face several times.  A character who screams about things every time he opens his mouth and overreacts to everything may reflect some real people, but it doesn’t make for a good primary character.)

(Okay, Stan Lee’s small bit was reasonably good.)

So why am I covering the film if it’s not even worth Netflixing it?

Because of the recurring joke about the autostereogram in the film being a picture of a sailboat.  You can see the trailer here.  The stereogram appears almost full screen at 0:57.  Freeze frame and view it for yourself.

It ain’t a sailboat.  (Not that I’m the only person to ever notice that, of course.)  But that sort of a continuity flub really takes the enjoyment wind out of my s…

No, I won’t even write that.