Monday, March 31, 2008


Included in a recent random "smart playlist" culled from my music collection prepared by iTunes: "Campaigner" by Neil Young (which features the line "Even Richard Nixon has got soul") and "Bad Time For Bonzo" by the Damned (which I'm pretty sure is about Ronald Reagan). Sheer coincidence, of course. Still, it made me wonder where the songs about George W. Bush are.

I concluded that restricted to the songs I have (such as these songs from the '70s and early '80s), I'm not necessarily hearing the contemporary songs that must be out there about the current president.

That, or the songs today that I've been inspired to get (ripped from CD or downloaded) are more subtle about their politics, and I'm not listening closely enough to the contemporary music I hear to discern the connection.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How we get there

Some months back in the parking structure of the building where I spend a significant portion of the daylight hours some new overhead signs were placed to direct people and cars. Okay, fair enough; drivers need to know things like the fact that there's two-way traffic coming down the middle lane.

One sign indicates the direction to where one can find the escalators. Again, understandable; people need to be able to get out of the garage after they've parked, and given that said escalators are (on this particular level) through a door and down a hallway, the direction surely comes in handy for the unfamiliar.

The signs have symbols or pictures on them, which too is worthwhile in a multilingual mecca like L.A. The two-way traffic sign has up- and down-pointing arrows. Okay. The escalator sign has a image of the sort of thick stick figure people that tend to represent humans on such signage. The image is of three figures side-by-side-by-side: two males on either side of a female.
(At least, I presume the middle figure is intended to represent a female; it could simply be a male in a skirt, with dots by the head indicating he has long hair. Certainly that's not out of the question.)

The thing is: The escalators only have two sets of moving steps--one for up, and one for down. And the width of each one is only wide enough for a single person; even two very thin people could not occupy the same step for the ride. Even if the steps were wide enough for two at a time, I'm not clear how three figures convey the sense of moving stairs going two possible directions. Yes, there's only two arrows, but there's three people.

(And if the figures are supposed to represent an elevator, why does the only text on the sign say "Escalators"?)

Now, I know where the escalators are without the signs, so this is of no consequence to me. My mind does not appease itself with merely concerning its thoughts to that which is of specific consequence to me.

Thus I continue thinking: Clearly someone put some level of effort into said sign. Clearly the figures were included in the configuration and number that they were intentionally.

It's not that I have a specific problem with not being able to understand what the person who designed the sign had in mind. Still, I like to believe I have a reasonable imagination, and with some effort can discern some logical pattern (or identify the intentional lack of logic).

The thing is: I presume that before someone went to the trouble and expense to produce the actual, physical sign with the design, that someone else—or possibly a committee of others—had to approve it. And clearly they did.

With what I post on the blahg here, there's no editor or other supervising entity; if I don't catch it, it doesn't get caught. But I would think that there's a longer chain of command with such an endeavor.

Then it occurs to me: The original design probably was just two figures. Then someone on the committee insisted that both sexes be represented. But then it looked like a couple. So there had to be two males and a female (the sexual overtones of which just hit me now); it became a competition between the males for the attention of the female—would she go up or go down? (Yes, that was intentional.)

Soon, to appease all the members of the committee the logic of the original design was chucked out the window and the sign had an inadvertent narrative that may or may not ever indicate to non-English speakers which way the escalators could be found but which would reveal a great deal about how sign designs get decided.

And thus I find some modicum of appeasement. I'm also reminded that although having no one to satisfy with the blahg other than myself means that I do all the work, it does allow it to be what satisfies me, not some ramshackle compromise that really satisfies no one.


It should be made clear: Not only is it not expected that anyone else thinks this way, but anyone who does has my sincere sympathy.

Bad TV

In years past I joked that if I reached the end of my days without ever having a dispute resolved on daytime television I would consider my life to have been a success.

However, I think now I must add another condition to that: If I ever have children, as long as when they grow up they do not become the subject of a "reality" TV show, I will have done my job as a parent.


It's pretty easy to feel good about one's life with minimal effort.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Use your brain... or don't

Check out new pictures posted to the photo site and if you can identify what kind of tree is featured in the shot below you'll win a prize.

(Prize is a glowing future post praising your knowledge.)

Friday, March 28, 2008


Four years, 583 posts. Thanks to everyone who has ever spent a little time at this little spot on the 'net.


Five years ago today I had my best first date.

Stuck in my head

I know the words to songs of which I'm not particularly fond merely through having heard them on the radio over and over. There are songs by artists I purport to really like that I couldn't remember without actively listening to them.

Perhaps what I like is that I haven't heard the songs in the latter category to death.

Perhaps I only think I like them.

Perhaps it's also that much of what gets played on the radio is not all that good.

Perhaps it's that I'm too old.


In my youth I could remember so much more. Or at least, I think I could; I can't remember.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Song lyrics du jour

And life is grand
And I will say this at the risk of falling from favor
With those of you who have appointed yourselves
To expect us to say something darker

- Camper Van Beethoven, "Life is Grand"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Justice goes to the dogs

Today's oversimplified notion

The trouble with our judicial system… well, one problem with it: From the standpoint of modifying unwanted behavior it's ridiculously ineffective. If one sues another person who has wronged him, even if one wins the case, the amount of time that will have elapsed makes it so any punishment levied against the wrong-doer is not associated with the action, so it leaves lingering resentment but not actual behavioral change.

If one were house training a puppy, when the puppy performed the unwanted action (taking a crap in the house), one would not hire an attorney, collect evidence, wait months, and then convince a jury that the puppy should get punished, then mete out the punishment and expect the puppy to learn that it should not do what it did. Only by immediately associating a negative consequence with the unwanted action would there be any reasonable chance of the puppy getting the message and modifying its behavior.

Am I suggesting that people are like dogs in the way we learn? Of course not.

Dogs actually want to learn how to avoid punishment by doing right. People want to learn how to avoid getting caught so they can continue to do wrong. It's not the same at all.

However, to the extent that people can be taught lessons that do result in genuine behavioral modifications (not just the appearance of them when the authorities are around), waiting months is unlikely to do the trick.

Am I suggesting that we need "frontier justice" back, where everyone carries a gun and disputes are resolved without involving the courts? No, I'm not suggesting that. (Besides, the way the economy is going, it may only be a matter of time before that happens anyway, so really, what's the point of implying it's good?)

I'm not saying I know how to deal with such situations in a way that isn't tantamount to lawlessness; I'm just saying that B.F. Skinner never would have gotten a dog to salivate by going through a judge and jury.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Just say... whoa

Today I wish to direct your attention to this post from my friend Tracy, an hilarious and gruesome tale of the birth of her daughter. Not for the feint of heart, but heartwarming.

The miracle of life is beautiful but nauseating.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On 'On Writing'

From the things-you-don't-need-to-know-about-Doug-but-thanks-for-reading-anyway department:

In a blog I found over the weekend the writer composed a piece noting his writing process. When writing, he could not listen to music—at least not music with lyrics. (Instrumentals were possible.) It proved distracting to his thinking about what he was writing about.

For me, I can write with music on, even songs with words. I've been writing on the train for years now, and every minute of it was spent with headphones in my ears. That, however, was not so much to enhance my creativity but to drown out the noise of those around me. It's not that I couldn't write without music playing, but that music playing became part of what was happening during the process. (Arguably, the writing has become associated with riding on a train.) However, the music doesn't get my conscious attention when it's just songs; the only thing that tends to distract me is if someone is talking (i.e., listening to a radio morning show where the on-air personalities are yammering on about something for extended periods between playing songs). That draws my attention to it, and will at least intermittently distract me.

Yes, the music playing essentially turns into background noise. It's true that often I'll pause when I'm writing, and allow myself to hear what's playing, and then I'll try to remember the last track played and I cannot do it. Sometimes I press the button and start to play a few seconds of that track just to appease my mind.

One could argue that I'm not so much a fan of the songs but of the sound of music. And I suppose during the period where I'm focused on composing whatever crap my mind seems to think worthwhile in that moment, that would be more or less accurate.

When I really focus on music itself is when I'm putting together a mix (generally for someone else). I'll spend hours listening intently to the lyrics, to the melody, to the tone of each track. I'll listen to it afterward to judge how well each track transitions into the next. In short, through repetition those songs get embedded in my consciousness.

Unlike the background songs playing when I'm writing. If a song that I'd previously put on a mix comes up during the randomized selections playing during the composition period, likely it will draw a bit of attention to itself that songs I don't know as well would not; for a moment it distracts me (although not necessarily in a bad way) from whatever my mind was thinking about when writing.

This perhaps begs the question: Which turns out better--something I write but without remembering what was music played while composing it, or a mix where every track is recalled in detail?

The latter. Almost always the latter. (This was composed while listening to songs I don't actively remember. Need I offer any further evidence?)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


There have been moments when I looked at the site meter on the photo blog and saw the low numbers and wondered why I bother. I would think about how I barely seem to have time to do (what I call) the "post-production" portion (any cropping, rotating, or adjustments in contrast or color, etc.—and I don't even do that much) and then try to determine which shots are the best (yes, I take way more pictures than I share—despite all appearances to the contrary). (At present I am over a month behind in what is posted to the blog versus what photos I've most recently shot.) If so few were looking, was it worth the effort?

Boo-freaking-hoo. I'm not looking for sympathy. This is merely admitting that, although I try to have pretty low expectations, it is nice every once in a while to think that if the celebrity gossip blogs can get hundreds of thousands of hits per day that I might be able to get a tiny fraction of those numbers. Occasionally.

Boo-freaking-hoo. Yes.

Anyway, last week I got a comment left from a woman who identified herself as being from "sunny Brazil." She noted having spent about an hour looking at what was on that site, and offered perhaps one of the greatest compliments I will ever receive: "I think you see things we don't."


My self-esteem is not entirely in the toilet, but that level of accolade blows away what I'm generally comfortable accepting.

But I'll try.

And I am reminded why I bother. Despite all the conniving shit-heads out there on the 'net, it appears there may be a network of truly decent human beings with whom it's unlikely I would ever come into contact were it not for me bothering (and them bothering).

Hell, if I never get another visitor to that site, I'll still consider it more successful than that of the gossip bloggers.

I may be a cynical piece of crap a lot of the time, but if only for a brief second I put one tiny bit of beauty in an ugly world and someone else enjoyed it, that's something. Maybe not much, but it's not nothing.

Song lyrics du jour

I should just get out of here and start driving south on Interstate 5
But I need to stay near, in case you suddenly remember that I'm alive

But I have this nagging fear that sex was all you needed
I've tried to persevere; I guess I've not succeeded

- The Wedding Present, "Interstate 5"

(thanks for some assistance on this to Lyrics for All)

Monday, March 17, 2008

L.A. goes green

On St. Patrick's Day, the powers that be in downtown L.A. make the water in the pond at Pershing Square turn green. It comes flowing down from a column and splashes in this frothy lime color.

(The green color the rest of the year is probably pollution.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Co-opting o' the Irish

This year Easter is less than a week after St. Patrick's Day. Although the former pertains to an entire religion (and arguably should be the most important holiday in that religion) while the latter is more or less merely a national holiday—for another country than this one. As a sheer numbers game, the former should be what more people would consider the best theme for a celebration.

At my place of employment, every year around this time, there is held a little party honoring some people who are essentially interns and who are leaving. The theme of said party is always St. Patrick's Day. Well, the decoration are green and shamrocky (inasmuch as that's an adjective). There's beer, although not necessarily Irish beer (maybe so, maybe not); it may or may not be dyed green. Beyond that, the theme is stretched thin. The fare served is not traditional Irish dishes but conventional cocktail foods. (One year it was actually Mexican-esque items, such as taquitos, where the tortillas had been colored green. I wish I were kidding.)

My point is not to criticize the questionable authenticity of the celebration, however. (Hey, free beer is free beer. And I like taquitos.) It's merely interesting how there's no stigma associated with co-opting Irish stereotypes for events that, when one gets down to it, have nothing to do with actually honoring St. Patrick. I'm not saying that's good or bad; it's simply something that does not significantly offend anyone. (Free beer is free beer.)

This year, the party could be postponed a week and the theme switched to Easter. As I mentioned at the top, that is conceivably a bigger deal to a larger portion of people. Except, of course, that would likely offend the crap out of certain people. However, I don't think it's merely avoiding causing offense that prevents Easter from being a suitable party theme.

What color is a caterer supposed to dye the taquitos? If one goes with the cutesy bunny pattern, that would go toward the pastel color range. Those colors aren't bold enough. Sure, there's plenty of Easter candy options, but the obvious Easter activity (the egg hunt) holds less appeal for adults than does the aforementioned free beer.

If one goes with a strict interpretation (the resurrection of Jesus)… what colors are associated with that? And let's not even consider what décor such a theme might demand.

It's not so much that St. Patrick's Day eschews complaints from the religious (or the non-religious), and it's not so much that St. Patrick's Day has more of an adult party association. While those are certainly true, the real appeal of St. Patrick's Day (from the standpoint of organizing a party): it's easy. And no matter how much one may fail to keep it authentic, no one complains about free beer, no matter how unappealingly green the food has been dyed.

We seem like a society that is limited due to fear of litigation, but when you dig down you see: we're really just kind of lazy.

Yum-oh no (don't let the idiots get you down)

After 30-Minute Meals, $40 a Day, Tasty Travels, the Rachael Ray talk show, the Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, and her face plastered on Triscuit boxes, does her latest special, Rachael Ray Feeds Your Pets, mark the moment that Rachael Ray has officially jumped the shark?

Trick question. The shark was jumped back with her ill-fated first attempt at combining cooking and interviews: Inside Dish.

This cooking show for pets merely proves that producers (and magazine publishers and snack food companies...) consider giving her yet another show to be a good idea. I have no idea if Rachael Ray simply doesn't know how to say no, or if she grasps the importance of taking advantage of her 30 minutes of fame (clearly she's stretched past 15) while the number of people who find her tolerable must theoretically outnumber the people who despise her, or if she's become so egomaniacal that she can coerce the R-whipped producers into doing this.

Frankly, having sat through most of the Pet show (only for the purpose of being fair for this post), it's not as bad as her other shows, because there's a number of expose pieces (where we don't actually see Rachael, merely hear her do the voiceover) to break up the cooking sequences. There's no pathetic attempts at conducting interviews. And much as part of me does scoff at the notion of spending that much effort preparing gourmet food for animals, the part of me that has fond memories of pets I've had can understand wanting to do special things for them. I wouldn't cook for pets (if I had any at this time), but I can't entirely dismiss the notion.

It is far from the worst thing I've seen on television recently. I'm not saying I'd recommend anyone else actually watch it (if you can't find anything worthwhile on, I'd still say turn off the TV rather than watch it), but it's not the end of Western civilization.


I won't expend any energy being vitriolic toward her persona. Her ubiquity is no longer tolerable, but that's why I don't buy her books or watch her shows (any more). In the words of Gary Anthony Williams' character in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, "The universe tends to unfold as it should." The novelty of Rachael has already worn off, yes, but eventually that will be realized by those who keep giving her airtime. In the meantime, complaining won't be as effective as ignoring her.


Speaking of less-than-worthwhile TV: We got around to watching The Return of Jezebel James.

I choose to believe Fox strong-armed it into being so bad, and that before they got their hands on it, the Amy Sherman-Palladino created series was tolerable. (If they took the laugh-track out it might be only bad.) However, the actual program... well, let's just say: my fiancée, a big Gilmore Girls fan, adorer of Parker Posey, devotee of Six Feet Under, and who really wanted to like the show, had to force herself to watch the second episode. (A "trifecta of disappointment," as she called it.)

Eh, at least Rachel Ray wasn't in it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Something for a rainy day

Working through the backlog of photos I've taken over the past month and a half but had yet to post, I have posted enough so that I'm only a month and a quarter behind. Included in the recent series of post is the picture above, yes, but a whole bunch more as well.

Please have a look by clicking here, if you like.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Swing on this

The Foucault Pendulum in the central rotunda of Griffith Observatory. This 240-pound ball swings on a cable over a this circular pit with a lighted ring around the perimeter.

Here's two virtually identical shots of the ball. Both use the same aperture setting (F/3.5, for the photographically inclined).

Here's what it looks like with a 1/15 second exposure:

Here's what it looks like with a 1/125 second exposure:

Hey look: That lighted ring is divided into 42 sections (numbered 0 - 41). All because we let the lens be exposed to the light for 1/110th of a second less (shorter than the blink of an eye).


"Photo" means light, doesn't it? Imagine that: Photography depends entirely on light.


These were taken during a trip to the observatory back in January. In case I haven't shoved it down your throat enough, I'll point out that there's more shots from that day over at the photo site.

And the Oscar guessing went to...

Following up on the earlier post from the "Things that were more interesting a couple weeks ago but I'm only getting around to mentioning now because... hey, it's not like I'm getting paid to do this and get off my back--oh, sorry about that. Please come back. Really, I'm sorry. I'm not upset with you" department:

The way my fiancée and I do our Oscar pool is not a pool, as there's no pot to win (other than bragging rights), but a straightforward contest. Unlike the office pools, which more or less require one's picks be made well in advance of the telecast, we have literally up until the moment the presenter says "And the Oscar goes to…" to throw our support behind a given nominee. There's no requirement to pick all ahead of time. About the only structure we impose is keeping our choices hidden from the other until after the winner is revealed.

This changes the dynamic of the selections versus the all-ahead-of-time format in that it allows for analyzing how earlier awards given may influence still-to-come awards; e.g., we can look at if a particular movie won a "lesser" category and speculate it indicates the voters threw it that bone (so to speak) and that it won't winner the more prestigious category in which it is also nominated. That kind of thinking typically backfires on me, of course, but our system allows for getting backfired by it. It also allows for noticing trends early on and choosing to jump on the bandwagon later. I did quite well a few years ago by deciding to ride Lord of the Rings like an elf on a steed and select it in every category in which it was nominated.

In short, it allows for maximum caprice in the selections. This can come in particularly handy when, as happened this year, I found myself down by two with only three awards left to hand out. To end up with a higher total I'd need to not only get the last three correct but they'd have to also be surprise winners; if I went with the favorites (which I figured she went with), the best I'd do is end up coasting into a score that would be three higher but still two behind her. Victory favors the bold, and perhaps on occasion, the desperate.

So our contest took on the added element of not merely anticipating what a bunch of Academy voters preferred but which they did that the other one wouldn't think they would. As though it wasn't already enough of a challenge.

Okay, really the way it works is we listen to the nominees be announced, perhaps see a snippet of the film and/or get a glimpse of them in the audience, and go with whatever our gut tells us. Unless we had a specific idea ahead of time (i.e., where Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem were involved). And on several occasions we changed our minds at the last second because we thought what our gut picked was too unlikely only to have that prove imprudent when what our gut picked gets announced.

It's a surprisingly rich experience, this pick-as-it-goes method, now that I think about it. No wonder we keep doing it every year.

And for the curious: Yes, I lost by two this year. Primarily that was because after The Bourne Whatever-It-Was won its first technical award I held no confidence that it would win the other two technical categories, unlike my fiancée who knew when to jump on that bandwagon.

Sometimes it's tricky to follow one's own strategies.


I should note for the record that I participated in no Super Bowl pool back when that was happening.


I suppose I should further note that of the five films nominated for Best Picture, we did see four of them (all but Michael Clayton). We weren't exactly shooting in the dark. And sometimes that backfires, because we must dismiss our personal preferences to try to anticipate the preferences of strangers. Knowledge is not always power.

Although this year we did jump on the No Country bandwagon.

And the Oscar went to...

From the "Things that were more interesting a few weeks ago but I'm only getting around to mentioning now because... hey, it's not like I'm getting paid to do this and get off my back--oh, sorry about that. Please come back. Really, I'm sorry. I'm not upset with you" department:

It has been proffered by some that the Academy Awards ceremony is tantamount to "the gay Super Bowl." While I think that's unfair both to gays and to the Super Bowl, I will concede there are certain parallels between the big awards show and the big game.
  • Both are day-long media events, where the pre-show festivities are filled with guests who are there primarily due to the need to fill the time. Before the big game Fox forced Hugh Laurie to attend the game just so Ryan Seacrest could interview him about a sport he didn't watch and get in a plug for the House episode following the game; before the awards show E! booked the pitbull from No Country For Old Men (I am not making this up). (The dog proved better, as he was actually involved with the event that followed.)
  • Both go on for hours and tend to not be that worthwhile as entertainment. This year's big game proved a nice exception to this, but generally any event intended to be watched by people in millions around the world must be bland enough for mass consumption. Complaining that the Oscar host doesn't get edgy enough is like lamenting that they don't book Arcade Fire for the Super Bowl halftime show; what would give you the expectation that either would happen?
Given that often the game and the awards ceremony don't end up being worth watching, why would we continue to have parties to communally view them? In the past, one could argue that it was better to be included in case something noteworthy occurred, but in the age of YouTube and on-demand access, anything noteworthy will not only be available afterward for the interested, but it will be discussed and dissected on the media outlets for days following the event. No, it seems like the only logical rationale is that we subconsciously long for those days when we were ostensibly joined in our communal experience, where most everyone saw the same thing. We haven't had a moon landing in decades, and even the last episode of The Sopranos wasn't anything like the last episode of M.A.S.H. in scope (because not everyone has HBO), so we have to find events like this to come together and have something to celebrate. Or at least something where we can lament together then next day.

There are worse things than having a reason to bring people together, getting them away from watching YouTube and reading blogs... hey, where are you going?


I'd say the biggest similarity between the Super Bowl and the Oscars is they're both events where people get involved who aren't particularly interested in the actual event. This involvement includes the obvious way—namely, actually watching the event on TV, despite having watched little or no football during the season or even the playoffs, or having seen few of the nominated films. (Ostensibly these events are promoting their respective sport or industry, but they end up promoting themselves primarily.) However, people who don't watch the telecasts (and have no interest in watching) can be involved through another route: the office pool.

Both involve making guesses about the outcome, although the Super Bowl pool is easier: It requires only picking an open square on a grid of 100 and hoping the numbers corresponding to it end up corresponding to the digits of the game's score at particular intervals. It doesn't matter which team the person may be rooting for. Heck, the only requirement is contributing the entry fee; one need not even know which teams are playing. No skill is necessary, nor, really, is even pertinent.

The Oscar pool is essentially a multiple-choice test. However, it does not rely entirely on random chance; some skill certainly helps. That skill is not having seen the works nominated and determining which held the highest artistic merit. No, the skill is trying to anticipate how a group of people much more deeply involved in the industry would most likely choose. Every year there's plenty of speculation amongst those in the entertainment media in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards about who the front-runners are. So with the Oscar pool preparation, one conceivably could see a need to spend five minutes on the EW website to feel better informed. That doesn't guarantee anything, of course, but it can at least get one the obvious choices (Daniel Day-Lewis, Javier Bardiem) right. But there's always categories like Documentary Short Subject that virtually no one actually saw and allow for moments of dumb luck to push one over the top.

Ultimately, this is why the Super Bowl is more popular. It's not so much the appeal of violence in the game; it's that one can win money on the game without having any skill whatsoever. That's what Americans like: reward without effort.


Really, given that it involves voting, the Academy Awards should be likened more to a national election, but there's nothing for Ryan Seacrest to host with that, so the analogy is unlikely to catch on. Of course, if during exit polls they start including the question "Who are you wearing?" then there's a bit more similarity that could be introduced.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Legally 3

Another basic cable trifecta (I'm not searching out these things, people; they just happen):

5:00 Comedy Central - Overnight Delivery
7:30 ABC Family - Pleasantville
8:30 USA - Sweet Home Alabama

All feature... Reese Witherspoon. (That's right. Oscar-freaking-winner Reese Witherspoon.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Greetings, gentle reader,
In addition to these pieces I post some photos on my other site, devoted to that medium. This post intends to remind you of that and to alert you that some more photos have been posted there (such as the one above). Please click over and have a look if it pleases you.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A little heavy reading for the flight

Last Friday morning—and by "morning" I mean that period of time before the sun has actually crept above the horizon but after point where the darkness is still called "night"—I was packing up my carry-on for a flight. I had intend to include the little lap desk on which I typically set the laptop when it's actually on my lap. It has a flat top and a bean-bag-like bottom. However, the tiny bean-bag thingies were spilling out when it was tipped on its edge, and at that moment this was infuriating me.

It wasn't that the item was super-expensive, nor was it even unusable when laid flat for its normal functioning; it was merely something that couldn't be packed without the tiny Styrofoam (or whatever they are made of) balls spilling out. Still, I fancied the notion of using the laptop during my trip (perhaps on the plane, but also at my destination) and I prefer to have something between my legs and the ever-warming bottom of the computer. And it appeared that would not be possible.

Having gotten less than five hours of sleep probably wasn't helping my reaction.

It wasn't that the situation was all that dire, of course. It was merely another instance where having a little thing like being able to have an otherwise insignificant detail go my way was thwarted, and given how many big things outside my control don't seem to quite go my way, it's just kind of nice to have some of the little things go right. Yes, it is completely transferring frustration from larger issues to these unrelated moments, but that awareness doesn't make it any less frustrating in those moments; it just makes it seem ridiculous to appear so frustrated over such tiny details.

So the little lap desk had to be left behind.

We got in the car and drove to LAX. At that hour traffic was a non-issue. I waited maybe five minutes at the curbside check-in to have my suitcase taken care of. And even though the line for the security checkpoint wrapped outside the building, it still took less than fifteen minutes. The gate for my plane even proved to be right next to the Burger King, where I was able to get some overpriced breakfast sandwich with only a small wait (unlike every coffee place I'd passed on my way down the terminal). There was even a table available in the restaurant area where I could eat my food and look at The Onion, all within earshot of the announcements for my gate.

I didn't rush when I heard the call that the plane was boarding. I finished my drink, got my stuff together, and went to the restroom. By the time I got to the gate there was no line at all. I strode down the hallway to the plane door and made my way to my row. I had the window seat. No one was already seated in the aisle seat next to it, so I didn't have to crawl over anyone to sit. There was plenty of room in the overhead compartment, although all I was putting up there was my coat.

I sat and pulled out my copy of America: The Book, which I got a couple years ago as a gift but hadn't read very much of. (It's the hardcover, and too large for carrying on my commute to work, which is where I tend to do most of my reading.) Shortly thereafter I heard the door to the plane latched, and the seat next to me was still unoccupied, so it appeared I'd have unobstructed access to the aisle and the option to put my bag under the seat next to me, leaving more leg room for me during the flight.

Yes, it was all going pretty well. A lot of little details had gone in my favor. Still, the lap desk for the laptop remained at home. I kept reading America: The Book.

The nearly lap-size, hardcover American: The Book.

Which proved to be a reasonable substitute for the item that was leaking little balls. As you may have guessed, it is on what the laptop was set as I typed the initial draft of this.


Yes, it all worked out in the end, and much better than I had reason to expect. I concede that fate more than smiled upon me, even though it didn't seem like that four hours earlier when I was packing.

Before dawn.


Interesting little basic cable trifeca this afternoon:
2:00 USA - Training Day
3:30 Comedy Central - Stuck On You
6:30 USA - 2 Fast 2 Furious

All feature... Eva Mendes

The residuals must be nice. Well, basic cable nice. Although she didn't exactly parlay the critical acclaim of the first one when getting the others; but hey, a girl's gotta eat.

Um, help?

So this past Wednesday evening I got off a plane at LAX and started walking through the terminal toward baggage claim when I noticed this:

Walking closer to the screen, I saw the specific message was:

It's not so much that I was surprised that they have computer problems. (I know all too well that the only way to ensure a computer will have no problems is to not turn it on.) However, there was that part of me that thought: Isn't there someone whose job it is to keep an eye on their computers?

I mean, sure, my plane landed successfully, and I would soon be retrieving my suitcase and going home, so I wasn't particularly concerned. I went on with retrieving my suitcase and heading home without giving it another thought.

I presume by now someone has noticed it, even if only because someone bound for Guadalajara mentioned it to someone who could mention it to the appropriate party. I hope so.


Cheap joke: Of course, given that they may have had to call in tech support, they may still be waiting to hear back.


[The slightly more clever material will return eventually. I hope.]

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Stealing my thunder

Back in January, I posted this tale of photographing Romanesque (aka "fractal") broccoli (and these shots of it).

This week a friend sent me this link of the cover of the February issue of Science magazine, which features... fractal broccoli (although they identify it accurately as cauliflower).

While it's flattering, part of me thinks, Oh great. Now the editors of scientific publications are using my site to get their ideas. Like I need that level of pressure...


I do occasionally watch the Discovery Channel. I guess that makes me a little scientific.