Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I saw a something online the other day where the person pondered what boxes on the census form should be checked for a person of multi-ethnicity. A comment in response came from someone who's presumably marking the box for "White" on his census form—if he's filling it out at all—(and probably has some issues with the policy of Affirmative Action) where he remarked something to the effect of how it's better to check the boxes for minorities as those areas get a disproportionate amount of federal funding.

That may or may not be the case, but it did raise an inadvertent point: If the money is going toward areas more populated with those in minority groups, the best thing that could happen for someone who would implicitly lament such a policy would be for the demographic in which he is included to become a minority itself.

It's been estimated for years (by whoever estimates such things) that in some coming census it will be revealed that whites will no longer be the majority in this country. However, imagine if after the forms from this 2010 census are tallied it's discovered that such an event has already come to pass. At first glance one would expect those in the Tea Party movement (the I-want-my-country-back crowd) to be alarmed by this, but if Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and company think about it, such news should be welcomed by them.

They fancy themselves to be a persecuted minority, but as it has stood they haven't had the census numbers to back up that delusion perception. However, if it came out that their skin color was no longer the one shared by a majority of Americans they'd get to feel like they'd finally made it to be a put-upon portion of society. Sure, those of their race might still have most of the money and power, but it wouldn't have the numbers. They could revel in how their unfounded concerns had come to pass.

What a paranoid dream come true!


On the 2020 census form one can only hope that there's a box for "White, but please don't put me in the same category as the nutcases and whackjobs."

Or perhaps by that point we'll have ceased to track people on the basis of race or ethnicity (or whatever the heck those boxes on this census actually represented) and will group people on more logical grounds, such as those who know that it's is not the possessive of it and those who don't give a crap and will include an apostrophe even when they do not mean to indicate the contraction of it is.

Just a thought. Eh, we have ten years to get that figured out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On this date

Seven years ago on this date, at around the time of day I'm posting this, I was on a first date. How did it go? Well, I'm married to her now, so it must have gone pretty well.

If one could go back in time to that day, and ask the me that I was then as I got ready for that date if I thought there was the possibility it could lead to the way things are today, I think the me from seven years ago would have replied "Yes." Not that I'd know for certain, of course, but that I suspected it could.

If one were to ask that version of me from seven years ago to describe a best-case scenario for how things would be seven years later (assuming things worked out), his answer wouldn't have been good as they really are.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Photos... we have photos...

For those who've had enough of these rambling posts I'll alert you that over at the photo site I've added a bunch of pictures and if you think you may enjoy looking at them then you should click on over.

Among what you'll find:

More gorillas at the San Diego Zoo (from our trip there back in January)

And more shots from Hawai'i (when we honeymooned there last year) that I'm finally getting around to posting:
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park

In Volcanoes National Park, down an eight-mile road there's the Hilina Pali Overlook

And the Kilauea Iki Crater


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Talkin' Metric

Over the weekend I found myself ruminating on the metric system—for reasons not worth explaining—and the fact that the U.S. never adopted it. Almost certainly there's numerous reasons applicable to the explanation thereof, but it's not that Americans are too lazy or too stupid to learn it—heck, if drug dealers can get the hang of it, how difficult can it be? No, those obvious scapegoats aren't what's wrong with the metric system for Americans.

It's language.

When using units of measurement, we like terms with few syllables; the pattern of prefixes applied to the base units (meters, liters, etc.) in the metric system certainly makes sense and allows for grasping the increments throughout the entire system, but it makes the words too long. "Centimeter" is a mouthful when compared to "inch"; "kilometer" doesn't roll off the tongue accustomed to "mile."

Our words have even taken on these terms. Would anyone ever have named an inchworm a "2.54 centimeter worm"? I think not. My foot is close to being a foot long. How can the metric system compete with that?

And just think about Subway restaurant's latest marketing slogan: Would anyone sing a catchy jingle for "five dollar 3.048-decimeter-longs"? Get real.

Americans will adopt the metric system when someone makes pithier terminology for it. Sure, that will destroy the beautiful logic of it, but we won't care. Clearly logic is not what is of paramount importance to us.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our government at work

Obviously there's a lot of high emotions over the health care bill, with people worked up both in favor of it and opposed to it. However, it seems that the purpose of the government these days is to provide something to excite some people while at the same time angering others.

Whether the bill ever benefits anyone or bankrupts the country (or, more likely, falls somewhere in between), the debate (or "debate," regarding the nature of how that happens these days) is spurred has succeeded immeasurably in that regard.

Many people surveyed responded that the policy-making process is broken, but clearly they're harboring somewhat outdated views on what the process is supposed to achieve.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Out of bounds in the inbox

Professional decorum needs to change in the following scenario:  If someone at work replies to an email with a response that clearly indicates that person did not actually read the message, it should be perfectly acceptable, and even expected, for the original sender to send back: "Read what I wrote the first time, dumb ass."

We're losing too many hours of productivity having to find clever, unoffensive ways of rephrasing what was composed originally in an effort to avoid making the unobservant and attention-deficient feel as though they are unobservant and attention-deficient. Being nice is not working, and insults may not make these people any better, but clearly the only hope left is to allow those whose text gets ignored to have some outlet for venting. But ostensible professionalism prevents even that, so it's a lose-lose.

If it's good enough for the blogosphere, isn't it time to be good enough for the office?


Happy Springtime, everybody.

Monday, March 15, 2010

T-shirt idea

"Having the belief that you cannot be wrong does not make you right."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What do I know? Apparently it's big corn dogs

Something I learned from keeping tabs on who visits my little corner of the internet: I am a citeable reference.


Every so often I glance at the details provided by what sitemeter tracks about the instances of someone connecting their browser to this site.  That can show the location of the ISP, the time and length of the visit, and occasionally include the URL that directed the visitor here.

From looking at this data even informally over the years it is obvious that one post of mine gets the most hits from web searches. It was true a year and a half ago, and it's still true now. That post? This one from July of 2007, wherein I described a trip my wife (when she was still merely my girlfriend) and I took to the Orange County Fair and encountered... the world's largest corn dog. (At least that's what the sign said.)

There's photos and everything.

However, if you read it, it's not an attempt to document that behemoth batter-dipped frankfurter; it's a tongue-in-cheek tale of how we imprudently attempted to tackle eating at the end of the day, and how we failed.

Still, as evidenced by its popularity since then, there's a lot more people out there who are interested in deep-fried cornmeal and meat on a stick than I would have ever realized otherwise.


Which brings us to this past Monday, when someone was referred to that very post by a site called ChaCha. I'd never heard of that before, but apparently it's a place where one can ask questions and have "real people" (as opposed to fake people?) answer them. (Presumably for when they are feeling too lazy to just run the search themselves.)

The question asked? You guessed it: "How big is the world's largest corn dog?"

Here's what that page looks like, at least as of the time I write this:

Now let's zoom in a bit on that footnote (of sorts) at the bottom, at the "Source" used for that answer:

That's right. The person answering cited my post as proof of how big that corn dog is. Even though the "approximately 18 inches" I mentioned was merely a length that seemed about right when I thought back upon the event a week and a half later.

Little did I realize at the time I was chronicling that magnificent weiner for historical purposes.

So, until the rest of the world comes to its senses (or discovers this post), it would appear I am the world's foremost authority on the world's largest corn dog.

You're welcome.

Monday, March 08, 2010

At the San Diego Zoo

In honor of National Procrastination Week having been last week, I'm finally getting around to mentioning that over at the photo site a bunch of pictures from a recent trip to the San Diego Zoo. Click here to see the series.

There's pandas like Bai Yun (below) and her new cub Yun Zi.
And flamingos:
And gorillas, featuring Frank the baby:
As well as koalas:

And a number of other creatures.

Keep checking back. More zoo photos are still coming (whether I overcome procrastination to mention that or not).

Friday, March 05, 2010

Some utterly useless thoughts on the movie Avatar

As noted in the previous post, after it had been out for months we finally went to see the 3-D extravaganza that is Avatar. I'd been... disinclined toward seeing it... but that really stemmed from thinking what I saw in the trailers looked like watching a three-hour video game combined with fatigue from the hype surrounding the movie. The critique was mostly of the media and awards show voters who had heaped praise on it, not of the movie; I couldn't offer anything about that until I actually viewed it, of course.

We spent the $16.50 per ticket for a matinee showing on an IMAX screen, which seemed the best viewing experience. (With tickets at that price it isn't difficult to rake in high box office numbers, but I digress.) For the first showing of the day the theater was not even half full with less than 20 minutes until the start time, but when the lights went down it was not jam-packed but pretty close to capacity. (We overheard a woman near us remarking to her companion that it was her third time seeing it, so as "virgins" we may have been in the minority.)

Having sat through all 2 hours and 40 minutes of it, what was my opinion of it?

It's a good movie. On screen the animation looked much more realistic than the video game appearance it had on when seeing the trailer on a TV screen. It was a visually interesting science fiction film with a fairly conventional David-versus-Goliath story. None of the performances were anything to write home about, but obviously it wasn't about trying to really get us to care about the characters that deeply but to dazzle us with the spectacular world they were inhabiting.

I found myself thinking as I watched it—while I was still in the middle of watching it—that it didn't need the 3-D; the story, while not exactly groundbreaking, was entertaining enough on its own; the technological aspects of the visual presentation, which involved wearing special glasses for the entirety of the movie, seemed to suggest that Cameron had abandoned the notion that a good story doesn't need all the bells and whistles, and he'd stick with dazzling the audience rather than getting them to be emotionally invested in the narrative and the characters.

In short: He followed the same path that George Lucas blazed when he made the three Star Wars prequels. (I'd even concede that Avatar has a better plot than those three films—although that's not necessarily an impressive feat.)

I'm not suggesting that such a path is not lucrative; obviously it rakes in big bucks at the box office. People show up for the spectacle, which they've been doing since before Barnum and Bailey. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with giving people that spectacle. The performance-capture technology that he apparently developed in order to make the film certainly is worthy of every technical award that's out there to be won.

I know that people are going to see the movie multiple times, and if they enjoy it that much then by all means they should. Personally, I couldn't sit through it again (at least not in 3-D; I had a slight headache after leaving the theater).

I found the acting performances to be uninspired (something that's also true of all the Star Wars films), but that was never going to be the bread-and-butter of a sci-fi film. The story struck me as derivative of Cameron's own Aliens franchise, with the evil corporation obsessed only with making their profit margins. (The ships and weapons actively reminded me of those from the Aliens series as I was watching the movie.) Arguably this was akin to Alien 3, with Riley now as a scientist, and where the aliens were cute and humanoid rather than monstrous.

I'm not suggesting that Cameron cannot rip off himself (that's certainly his due), or that there's not room for a kinder, gentler aliens-versus-corporation movie.

In short: Avatar is absolutely a worthwhile movie. It is not, in my humble opinion, worthy of the laurel of the motion picture industry's highest honor. It's a good movie, sure, but it's not the best one.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Trying to meet the Oscar deadline

While the notion of the previous post (competition amongst films providing us with a necessary prompt to debate what it best) is arguable, there is one aspect of the Academy Awards that is undeniable: movies that get nominated are ones that my wife and I get more motivated to see. And it's not merely a matter of adding them to the Netflix queue; we're talking about trying to view them prior to the telecast.
Rarely are we successful in seeing all the ones we'd want. It has happened that we've seen all the Best Picture nominees but not necessarily the ones for the performance categories (that aren't also up for the big prize). However, now that there's ten rather than five vying for that final Oscar of the night it becomes a nigh-impossible mission to get them all in during that month between when the nominees are announced and when the award ceremonies occur.

Take three weekends ago, for example. We got up Saturday morning and went to a showing of Avatar that started before noon. This is a movie that had been out since December and we were seeing it in mid-February. Realistically speaking, with the way it has been going it's entirely likely it will still be in theaters well into March (although perhaps not on as many IMAX screens) and beyond. We'd specifically skipped it back in January when we saw Up In the Air instead. So what was the urgency now? Well, after it was feted at the Golden Globes and with it being touted as one of the frontrunners, it's obvious that the only way to have any sort of genuine reaction (good or bad) if its name is read from the envelope on March 7 is to have seen it; the only way to know if one is delighted or enraged by that is to have viewed it and have some sort of informed opinion.

However, one needs some perspective on other contenders; it's not enough to merely suspect that others were better or worse than Avatar, and as such my wife had The Hurt Locker in the queue to get the DVD since before that was available. But it had not arrived (presumably because everyone else who has undertaken that same mission had it on their queues even earlier), so she took to extreme measures: she added a second queue in my name with only that film in it, and deleted almost everything out of the queue in her name except that single movie. (And of course, we then got two copies of it in the mail on the same day.)

Would she have gone to such measures if not for this theoretical deadline? Doubtful. We'd had months and months since many of these films were first in theaters during which time we had not made the effort to see them. In the cases of The Hurt Locker and Precious we had held genuine interest in attending a showing (based on positive reviews) but that had not manifested itself in motivating us to actually doing so in all that time. Of course, last year, with the wedding and all, tended to give us other priorities, so the only one of the nominees we saw prior to the calendar changing was District 9.

I'm not sure that the point of announcing the nominees is to spur people to hurry up and see these particular films or if that's merely a side effect, but to the extent that it does happen it seems like the AMPAS should have allowed more time now that there's ten in the running.

Some people still have lives--not us, obviously, but conceivably some people do.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The glory of not winning at the Oscars

The previous post touched on sports and how the imperfection of human officiating allows for quibbling the result despite the score. With the "big game" for the motion picture industry coming up, let's apply that sort of thinking to the Oscars.

Unlike sports, where there's at least some rules to provide structure to the competition (flawed though the enforcement of those rules may be) and where the participants actively acknowledge the competition as their reason for participating, the awards show pits disparate works of art against each other without there being any prearranged set of rules (or even rough guidelines) to which all participants have agreed. Those creating the films merely make whatever they do, and those voting for the awards merely use whatever personal criteria appeals to them for determining which one they perceive as "best."

It's a popularity contest, but only amongst those who have the privilege of voting (which is a much smaller group than those who see movies, or even who watch the awards ceremony telecast). The group giving out the award for the "best" picture purports to represent motion picture arts and sciences. So, the winner should be, uh, artistic and scientific?

Well, by whatever means this group of people who are involved in the industry determine that which will be given the title of "best," it gets done. On Oscar night some producers stand on that stage with a statue in the hands of one of them who gives a speech (that is largely ignored because everyone at home is just glad the award they were staying up to see has been announced and the damned show is over).

Then the fun begins for everyone who actually chooses to give a crap about this moment of the industry patting itself on the back. (I'm not suggesting those involved in filmmaking don't deserve to pat themselves on the back once a year in this way, but let's not pretend it's more than it is.)

For those who are merely fans (i.e., have nothing to gain financially from the boost that a film presumably gets by having won an Oscar—not counting people who win their office pool) either the film they wanted to win did win, or, as is somewhat more likely (given that there's more movies that don't win), the film they wanted to win was not the recipient of that award.

Which is actually the better of the two options.

While there is some immediate value to having one's tastes in film be reflected back by the judgment of those whose opinions ostensibly count for more (if one's preference is what gets the award), it's far less interesting to simply have that modest satisfaction than it is to get the unending delight from the indignation of having one's tastes not be in line with the so-called elite (or, depending on whether the winning film was more populist than esoteric, having one's tastes be superior to the rabble who voted). It's fine to hear the announcement of the winner and be temporarily elated by hearing the desired name be spoken, but that's nothing compared to having the justification to scream at the TV screen "Did these morons see the same movie I did? Were they voting by doing eenie-meenie-minie-moe? I wonder how many people the producers paid off to get this!" (or something along those lines).

Arguing how the film that won was far less deserving than the one that you thought should have gotten the Oscar is an activity that never has to stop; you can keep debating the topic for years, fueled by the aforementioned indignation. The elation wears off, and doesn't provide sufficient motivation to keep defending it forever. At best it allows for ambivalence, where you dismiss the debate with, "Well, it's the one I liked, but hey, that's just my opinion."

It's not the same as the fury from being denied.


Does anyone get invited to the White House for getting an Oscar? I hear that happens in sports.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

On whose side are the refs? That's arguable...

A few weeks back I was talking with someone and the topic of the recent Super Bowl came up. And how, in his opinion, the referees gave the game to the Saints.

Obviously, this person was not rooting for the team from New Orleans.

Further, he felt the officiating in the NFC Championship game had been skewed toward the Saints, so he argued they shouldn't have even been in the big game (which, technically, is true regardless of one's take on the job the refs did, as the Vikings still were in a position to kick the winning field goal at the end of regulation; I doubt the officials forced Favre to throw that last interception.)

Now, I watched both games and, although I can see as how there were calls that went the Saints' way, I didn't find myself thinking that the refs were giving them the game. However, the point is not whether they were or not. The point is that I wasn't particularly invested in rooting for the Vikings or Colts.

As such, the calls didn't elicit that reaction in me. I can see as how Vikings and Colts fans could feel cheated, but none of what happened this year seemed anywhere near as egregious as a few years ago when the officiating almost literally gave the game to the Steelers. Yes, I was rooting for the Seahawks then, but the overwhelming consensus amongst the sports pundits was that the refs made bad calls that cost Seattle.


In sports one tends to be rooting for one side over another, and thus one is inherently not impartial. In any game or match or competition that's judged in some way there will be penalties that don't get called by the officials that probably should have, and penalties that do get called that probably weren't worthy. However, when your team is on the winning side you don't remember the ones that benefited them, and when your team is on the losing side all you remember are the ones that (in your opinion) prevented their victory.

The funny thing: If technology were developed to the point where human officiating were no longer necessary, where perfectly objective machines could determine precisely when penalties/fouls/outs, etc., should be assessed, with no errors and no omissions, then sports would be less worthwhile.

As much as we strive for sports to be fair, we actually prefer that they aren't. As much as we need the joy of seeing our team victorious, so we can laud that glory forever, we also need the justification for believing our side was wronged when they lose, so we can lament that frustration forever.

The role of sports: To allow for there to be varying perceptions of the same objective event, and provide the basis for debate on that event without end. We don't want officiating that's perfect, much as ostensibly that's what we claim.


Objective reality in general is dull.


Believe it or not, this is leading up to some posts about... the Oscars (sort of).