Saturday, December 31, 2011

Same old Old Year's Day post

Happy Old Year's Day. Again. (That still hasn't caught on. Oh well.)


The end of the year approaches, and as with everything else in life that holds significance only because we choose to impart some onto it; the calendar of the dominant economic and/or military powers over the last two millennia has its last day before the year changes coming in a few days and our proclivity is to consider that as some cosmic reset button having been pushed.

There are calendars that some observe that do not end upon December 31, but those aren't used by society in general so we won't bother with them; if one is not part of a community where those have significance they're merely an excuse for a celebration (if one is so inclined).

Well, okay, to be fair, New Year's Day is ultimately nothing more than an excuse for a celebration; it's not religious or cultural, but just a national holiday that corresponds with the changing of the calendar.

What does this say about us?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Breaking down Xmas

Now that Xmas is nearly a week past, can we admit something?

If the celebration with all the overblown decorations and songs about and general overindulgence that is associated with Xmas were instead directed toward a 16-year-old for her birthday, we'd pretty much consider her to have serious self-esteem issues and think her to be more insufferably spoiled than the Kardashians, "Real Housewives," and the entirety of reality TV personalities combined.

I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas carols (sort of)

"...Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding before we pound your head into pudding!"

- Carolers whose anger management classes aren't proving effective


"I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus--"
"And I saw daddy file for divorce..."

- Caroler with some unresolved issues


Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy winter

(You didn't notice the solstice nine minutes ago, did you?)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Effective Music in Commercials

A recent VW commercial for the Passat spotlights the stereo system by first showing people singing the wrong lyrics to the chorus of Elton John's "Rocket Man," then having the driver of the Passat be able to sing the accurate line due to clarity of the sound system in the car:
And although it doesn't inspire me to actually purchase said vehicle, I must admit I don't always fast-forward through it, because it did strike a chord (so to speak) with me; I, too, was for quite some time mis-hearing that line.

My particular take on the oft mistaken one: "Burning down the streets of heaven, now." (Hey, it seemed to make sense at the time. And at least had the first word correct.) And even after I figured out the correct line ("Burning out his fuse up here alone"), I still tended to hear my interpretation when the song played.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hey! Watch as I make a sweeping generalization!

On the latest Culture Gabfest podcast they took on the topic of a Kurt Andersen Vanity Fair piece about how styles haven't changed in the last twenty years, which they all pretty well summarily dismissed. There were nuggets of worthwhile argumentation, they conceded, but they proceeded to pick apart all the things that had changed that he conveniently overlooked in the essay.

I can't speak to the piece, having not finished reading it, but what they mentioned about it on the show made me think of this general statement about making general statements about society and culture: There's too much to society and culture for any generalization not to be wildly inaccurate; only by focusing on very specific elements can there be any accuracy, but of course that is not a general statement.

I can only conclude that such arguments, either consciously or unconsciously, are offered not to be persuasive but to spur reactions. It's not that there won't be those who already agree, but they were not swayed; the piece might be an effort by the author to find others who share his myopic opinion about the topic while at the same time hoping to elicit responses to some level of the contrary.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not the wedding photographer

Last month we attended the wedding of some friends—not ones we see very often these days, but ones where we were invited to a relatively small ceremony. And as someone who has a photo blog, you'd probably think I would have brought my trusty Canon S3 to capture the festivities.

You would be wrong about that.

As we were almost about to walk out the door I grabbed the small camera (that we actually got to take the underwater shots from our Maui trip), but that was as much effort as went into having any camera with us. And when I actually did attempt a few shots during the ceremony, I quickly was alerted by a little symbol on the back display that the battery had not been recharged. Of course, from my position at the far end of about six rows back (against the wall) it's not like the few shots I got were coming out that well, so the battery dying likely was a blessing of sorts that kept me from bothering with more.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Email in its place

Given how email is far and away the predominant method of communication I use at work it may seem odd how little I send emails from my personal accounts when I'm at home. A decade ago I would sent out personal emails with some regularity but now if I have something to say to folks in general I would just post it here on the blahg, or (intermittently) write it on my Facebook wall. (Also, for my personal email accounts, were I to try to send a message to a large number of recipients it would get rejected as spam, so there's little point in attempting that.)

My personal email addresses become more something to use to associate with the logins for various websites, and thus that means many of the email I receive in those accounts prove to be those sites promoting something. At work my inbox is mostly filled with items I need to do or be aware of; at home my inbox is mostly filled with items I'll delete without bothering to read them all the way through.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

And a partridge in a... bowl of pears

When putting out fruit for co-workers in the break room, be careful not to let plates cover parts of the note.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Muppet Surprise

What's perhaps really sad is that it's already Thursday and I haven't mentioned the best part of the previous weekend.

When we were planning the visit to relatives for Thanksgiving my wife made it clear that we had to come home on Friday because we had a "seminar" on Saturday afternoon to which she'd gotten us tickets. She explained it as a surprise so I didn't press for details. She said it would be good for our marriage.

So on Saturday we headed up to Hollywood, parking at the Hollywood & Highland center, and walking across the street. Then as we were almost there she handed me the tickets she'd printed out and had me read the address.

They were tickets for The Muppets showing at the El Capitan theater.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How dragon boating changed my mind

Recently I happened upon an episode of a show on the Cooking Channel called Easy Chinese: San Francisco. The host was preparing seafood down on the pier, but in the segment I saw a woman was standing next to her wearing a jersey with the words "Diesel Fish" on it.
I didn't recognize the woman, but I recognized the jersey. Diesel Fish is a Bay Area-based dragon boat racing team. I didn't need the host's introduction (I was able to rewind the show to see the segment from the beginning) to tell me that; I knew it from the years I was on a dragon boat team here in Southern California, and we'd see Diesel Fish at tournaments (both when they'd come south and when we'd head north)

The sport of dragon boat racing is much bigger around San Francisco, and being of Chinese origin it's not surprising that it would be included in such a show. Also, I can say from my years of experience that dragon boaters enjoyed eating almost as much as racing (or perhaps at times even more), so selecting the team as ones who would appreciate the food was also apropos.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Black Friday"

People may think "Black Friday" is named for how the sales put the stores' ledgers "in the black," but really it's named for the darkness that emerges from sleep-deprived shoppers in the wee hours of the morning (or perhaps even late hours of the evening on Thanksgiving itself), when violence seems perfectly justifiable against one's fellow shoppers as long as it's in the pursuit of bargains.

One can only hope this proves a ritual catharsis of sorts that gets it out of their system to allow for an actual period of peace on earth during the remainder of the holiday season.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A moment of sincere gratitude

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in America today, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all of you who visit this little corner of the internet. Whether you're a regular visitor or whether you've merely come across my post about a big corn dog in a search, I really appreciate the time you've spent here.

For that I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving (or just happy Thursday to the rest of the world).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Commenting about commenting about TV

There's no shortage of people writing about and commenting on various television shows on the various media available these days*, and even limited only to the areas of "new media" (internet, podcasts, social media) there's many people who devote much more time and energy to the shows they review and/or follow than I spend thinking that critically about the shows I watch.

That admitted, let's also acknowledge that the beauty of this era is that anyone who has even the slightest inclination can get his/her thoughts out there without needing to put all of that effort into a massive production… like, say, a TV show on any network.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Speaking out on... and to... the Occupy movement

Thursday morning my wife saw the news covering how the protesters were organizing right out in front of the building and immediately got so concerned that she asked if I could just work from home until the protest was over. I reminded her that I have a dentist appointment (right across the street from the office). I then blurted out (without having seen the TV yet) that if the protests are now so actively dangerous that I cannot even go to work in the general vicinity of one that they're no longer a movement and merely a [expletive deleted] mob.

And that's from someone who was more or less empathetic to their cause.

Of course, when I actually walked over and looked at the TV there were less than 100 people, which paled in comparison to the actual march I witnessed at lunch a few weeks back. That was no cause for concern in my mind. Obviously when you get a large group of people together there's the potential for the situation to get out of hand, but these protests still seemed far safer than, say, it would have been at opening day at Dodger Stadium.

(Too soon?)

As the protests tout that they want everyone's voice to be heard, and so here's what I was thinking as I rode the train in to work:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

GOP gaffes: What the Perry and Cain moments taught us

Let's touch briefly on the "gaffes" by Rick Perry during the Republican debate last week and by Herman Cain two days ago during an interview.

That was no fodder for obvious mockery, nor for everyone had a good laugh about it. Let's acknowledge the reality of the situation: Everyone who was on the Perry bandwagon or the Cain bandwagon must be dissuaded by the lapse of memory or long pause; everyone who has dismissed Perry or Cain because of the incidents previously really considered them viable.

By no means was the only effect on the race to be the GOP nominee it might have had was allowing those who didn't consciously realize they didn't think Perry or Cain was the one to grasp that was how they actually thought.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Common Sense and the Medias

On a recent Common Sense podcast ("Second-Guessing the Navigator"), Dan Carlin, somewhat in response to a piece by David Brooks in the New York Times about "red [state] inequality" (and the tacit goal of addressing societal problems), discussed how part of the problem we face is that those who are donating to the politicians and implicitly setting the agenda do not have an interest in, for example, improving education in America (especially when it allows for the excuse of outsourcing jobs under the guise that Americans are not educated enough). If the government is to solve these problems (and if not the government, then who?), who is setting the agenda to get the solved?

This is not going where you think it is, but before we get there, briefly I will note some other things he discussed in his monologue:

Friday, November 11, 2011

1/1/01, 2/2/02... 11/11/11: The eleventh day is the eleventh hour...

As far as I'm concerned today was Veterans Day. It was payday. It was Friday (although I'll have to work from home over the weekend so it isn't really the end of the work week, but that's neither here nor there). However, by the (arbitrary) means by which we identify our years, it was also the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th-numbered year in this century (but if you started the century—and millennium—on January 1, 2000, it's the twelfth year, but let's not digress about that), and by the way we truncate the first two digits off of years when thinking about dates, that made it "11/11/11" as well.

And there was no shortage of people who placed some level of importance on that. It may have been nothing more than noticing the symmetry of all the 11's and it may have been of great numerological significance, but one thing is certain: There was no avoiding hearing someone mention it. (I heard it on the morning news, and then noticed it trending on Twitter, and that was all before I even got in the shower.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Rock-y time

On a recent WTF podcast Marc Maron interviewed Chris Rock, and as expected it was a good interview which I certainly recommend if you like Chris Rock even slightly.

Toward the end they touched on Rock having dinner with Woody Allen, and Rock alluded to how Allen was big on the president, which led Maron to ask Rock his opinion of Obama.

(Stick with me.)

Rock said he was fine with the president; like everybody he wished for more action, but he noted how all presidents' first terms are essentially four years of running for a second term, at which point they can actually do something. He referenced how even with George W. Bush it wasn't until the second term that he could "really fuck up the world," so perhaps in a second term Obama could really "do some gangsta shit" (euphemism for actually accomplish something, I presumed).

(Egad, I'm not presenting this part of the interview well. Please keep reading anyway.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Two spaces after a period. Period.

While trying to find something unrelated I came across a piece from back in January composed by the Slate technology editor wherein he decried the use of two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence as "wrong!" He blathers on about how it bothers him when people think it proper and eventually gets around to some modicum of a supporting argument when he references how typographers apparently decided long ago to go with a single space, and mentions how much the use of two spaces appears to bother them. He mentions how with typewriters in the 20th century and their monospace typefaces the use of two spaces came into practice, but contends that when they changed to have typefaces that accommodated variable width characters it should have stopped.

He closes with an attempt at declaring the aesthetics of a single space as proving its worth; it's all arbitrary, he concedes, but we should go with the standards the professionals agree upon.

At no point does he make an effort to understand why those who prefer two spaces do so; in his mind it is a clear case of stupidity, and he arrogantly dismisses that there could be any justification for it in his tone throughout.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Waking up from Standard Time

Everyone touts the "extra hour of sleep" we get from resuming Standard Time in the autumn (after months of Daylight Savings Time) but that's only of benefit to those whose sleep patterns comply with waking up at the moment the clock strikes a particular moment. If one has regular sleeping patterns, it merely means that when one is accustomed to waking up one finds the clock reading an hour earlier than one was expecting it would be. It also means that the Sunday night after the "fall back" one gets tired at an hour earlier than one is expecting to want to go to bed.

Thus, that's not really of general benefit.

Say what you will about whether Daylight Savings Time is a good idea or not, but the thing that the practice offers those of us who live in areas where it is observed do get this first workday after the switch to Standard Time. The hour seems later to our circadian rhythm than the clock says it is, and at least for me, it proves so easy for me to get out of bed—not merely on time but (dare I say) early.

Frankly, from the sense of being ahead of the game on this one morning a year I find myself thinking, This is so great that we should "fall back" every weekend. Imagine how easy getting up Mondays would be if only we threw off our body clocks this way all the time.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Over on the photo site, you can see how this cilantro...

...turns into flowers like this:

Click here to see it.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

We need teepee for our TV-hole

Beavis and Butthead returned to MTV last week, and my wife recorded it. I had heard about it, of course, and I had no disinterest in seeing it, but seeing it on the DVR queue was something of of surprise; being MTV I figured it would be something I'd simply come across while flipping through the guide (the digital era equivalent of flipping through channels just to see what's on), which is pretty much how I saw the first incarnation of the show back in the mid-'90s. It wasn't something I sought; it was something I encountered.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Intercourse the Penguin! (the annual Halloween costume recap)

Saturday night we attended the same Halloween party we have for years. The hosts select a theme (which in past years have been Alfred Hitchcock and a 1920's speakeasy), and this year's was... Monty Python's Flying Circus. So when my wife and I saw that on the invitation, we put some effort into crafting appropriate costumes.

And for reasons that I cannot explain, the first sketch that came to mind as inspiration for mine was the one with the one with the exploding penguin on the top of the TV, where Graham and John (as pepper pots) listen to the radio drama "The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots." (Thanks to YouTube it's easy enough to find.)

Would I dress in drag and be one of the ladies? No. Would I be the penguin? Not exactly. I'd be… well, let me back up.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Knowing when to say goodbye (Chuck and the Simpsons)

On the latest Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast, critics Ryan McGee and Mo Ryan discussed the final season of Chuck (which starts Friday night). Both are fans of the show, and were on the one hand pleased to get a fifth season (they'd seen screeners for the first three episodes at time of recording), there was still that extent to which everyone was surprised that NBC had renewed the show at all.

The ratings have never been great, and it's only through fan outpouring that it lasted as long as four seasons. Given the way the fourth season concluded, with resolutions for the major character situations, it seemed pretty clear that the producers figured they needed to wrap it up; there was little interpreting that they expected a fifth season. And as such, the show did a good job of wrapping it up.

Let them go, Chuck fans.
Ryan mentioned how fans have already asked if there was any chance that NBC might extend the season from the 13 episodes that were ordered. At that, McGee admitted he hoped that didn't happen; conceivably the writers came up with an outline for where to take the season, knowing that they had 13 shows and a definite ending, and to reconfigure that to come up with another ending or to pad out the middle ultimately might not be what was best for the show. As he put it, at some point the desire for more episodes (while understandable) becomes merely selfish.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An open letter to Jason Segel

Mr. Segel,
My wife and I are fans of you as an actor. We liked you in Freaks and Geeks. We enjoy you on How I Met Your Mother. We thought you were charming  in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and appreciated the different sort of character you played in I Love You, Man. We are looking forward to your upcoming Muppets feature film and likely will go see it opening weekend. In short, we are on the Segel bandwagon.

For that reason, I must ask that you please exert some discretion in the roles you accept to play. I think we deserve that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Over the weekend we were at the LA County Museum of Art and in the modern art collection there were a couple of sculptures by Picasso (whose birthday is today).

Of course, when I was looking at them, I couldn't help but think, He never got called an asshole.

I'm so freakin' cultured.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A strawberry from the beginning

Over on the photo site, I've resumed posting some shots from the garden (remember this?), starting with this subject:

In case you don't recognize it, this is the early stage of a strawberry. See what came of it here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupied with the Occupying

A couple weeks back I talked about my direct experience with the Occupy L.A. protests, and that topic clearly has only gained more traction in the public consciousness...

Tuesday's The Daily Show includes this genius piece where John Oliver covers the Occupy Wall Street protests and how the protesters that were get the most attention were the freakishly dressed ones rather than the rational-looking ones, and how that undermines the message in the media.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The 99%
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At the end he sits in a bar with some people of (what we'll call) regular appearance who discuss the topic in a calm manner. They all support the movement, but when Oliver mentions they are the sort who should be the ones down there at the protest getting the attention they all note how they had to get home to the kids, or to work, or just home to watch the Jets game.

And I think: Such is the problem with the 99%: We don't like what's going on with the financial sector or the government, but we have lives and cannot camp out in a park for weeks on end.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I don't pretend to know the solution to the homeless problem. Where I live and, even more so, where I work, I encounter them with some regularity, and typically I address the situation by not having any change on my person as I'm walking, so if I get a panhandler soliciting any "spare change" I can reply honestly that I don't have any change. Consider that a chickenshit technicality if you wish.

I'm not saying that I've never given such a person some coins if I happened to have some in my pocket, however. I am fully aware that doing so is not really doing anything more than enabling their pitiful circumstances and it's rewarding the wrong behavior, but there are moments when it's not easy being the complete asshole it takes to have no empathy for someone who probably slept on a sidewalk the night before, especially when I have those coins jingling in my pocket.

But I'll tell you what makes that easy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reading the past

If I could go back to myself some 20 years ago, I think the one thing I'd try to encourage my college-aged self to do would be to actually read all the books assigned in my university courses, not merely get through them just enough to get the paper written. It seemed okay at the time, especially given that I was working full-time to put myself through school, so I had limited time for reading that wasn't for pleasure, and because I read slowly and couldn't keep up with the pace assigned in most classes, and I always got the gist well enough to get good grades on the papers. I'm not apologizing for that.

It's not so much that I'd necessarily be any better off in my life now, but I'd avoid the minor regret that I didn't make better use of the time in my life when I might have actually read these books.

I mean, it's merely having done what I was supposed to have done; I doubt it would have changed my destiny in any significant way, and thus not thrown off the timeline that led me to where I am. That's what I'd want: to avoid making a change that would significantly alter the likelihood of ending up married to my wife.

Which involves little reading, I should admit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Considering the tragedy in Seal Beach

Wednesday a heavily armed man went on a shooting spree in a hair salon where his ex-wife worked, killing her and seven others in the shop. What made that more of note for me than other such senseless tragedies was this occurred in Seal Beach, a place I've visited many times (and which would only be a little over a ten-minute drive from where we live), but it wasn't merely a local story; it garnered attention on the national news because of how unimaginably awful it was.

This is the sort of event that unnerves everyone, whether or not one knew any of the victims or was a patron of the salon. There is obvious empathy for those who lost loved ones in what, by all accounts, appears to be the crazed act of a madman. (Early speculation suggests he may have been upset over having to share custody of their 9-year-old son with the ex-wife. Well, he won't have to worry about that anymore, but he also won't have any custody of the son, as undoubtedly he'll be in prison or an institution—perhaps for the rest of his life, or at least well until the son is grown.) But beyond that it's all about putting yourself in that scenario and imagining how horrific it would be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Welcome to the Occupation

Last Thursday I went to lunch and found myself amidst the protesters who'd assembled in downtown for the "Occupy Los Angeles" event. I didn't realize that was happening before I left the office, but as soon as I noticed the presence of security personnel outside each of the nearby buildings I put together what was happening before I actually saw the protesters.

By the time I was walking back from lunch they'd pretty well taken over a good portion of the Bunker Hill part of downtown, streaming across streets and marching in front of the entrances to buildings with the large letters spelling out "Wells Fargo" and "Bank of America" at the top. They carried signs and chanted "Make banks pay!" as they marched. I don't know how many there were but it was easily hundreds just from what I could see.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breaking up with 2 Broke Girls

Really, girls--it's over.
It's Monday and I know what I won't be doing tonight: watching any more episodes of the new sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Now that I've given up on the show I must admit it is comforting.

Going in to this fall's TV season I was flummoxed about how Whitney Cummings—a comedian whose act I did not care for—could be involved in creating her eponymous sitcom (which looked hideous) and the aforementioned one (which seemed like it could have potential, although that was mostly due to the actress starring in it, Kat Dennings). The incongruity of this was subconsciously troubling.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Politicians aren't talking to me

I don't think of myself as wildly out of the mainstream in my views but I grasp politicians don't cater to me because my views are somewhat complicated (and perhaps not even such they are ideologically consistent), and not easily wrapped up into an easy demographic picture.

And thus I am a freak on the political landscape.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Waxing non-nostalgically about the future of nostalgia

A recent Chuck Klosterman essay on Grantland touches on nostalgia, with a start that questions why we feel nostalgia (specifically for music) and whether it's really nostalgia for the song or merely for the time in our lives with which we associate a song. Further he suggests that the nostalgic appreciation of a song may be more a matter of repetitive exposure—of having that expertise with the material—than of anything else.

He then talks about how that experience that facilitates this nostalgia is, itself, something for which in the future we'll only be able to feel nostalgia.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The story of Pizza Man and the Train

Friday evening's commute home on the train was cut short by technical problems. While already on the train we heard an announcement that there were issues with the overhead electric lines and at one station short of the halfway point on the line the train would have to stop, and would turn around and go back north to Downtown. Buses would be provided to shuttle passengers down to a station past the problem area.

Having ridden the train for 12 years now this was not the first time I'd run into such a scenario. I knew that there'd be some delay in dispatching buses, and then even after they arrived passengers would cram into them like sardines (and waiting for latter buses would be no better, as more southbound trains would just keep coming and depositing more stranded passengers). So I immediately pulled out my phone and called my wife, with the hope that she was still on the road driving home from her job and that she could swing over and retrieve me.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

English majors in action (perhaps)

If you ever wondered if English majors who end up getting jobs in the software industry ever get to use those multi-syllabic words they fancied in their technical writing, allow me to offer what I saw while installing the drivers for the new Canon printer/scanner/copier we bought recently.

Hovering over the option called "Solution Menu EX" the description of that option displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Rock 'n roll fantasy (or something)

Some of the happiest moments of my life have come while playing music. I was never a particularly good musician, but for the few years I was the drummer in a garage band with some friends (back in the '90s) I could at least keep a beat. I was never motivated enough to devote the time it would take to be really good at it, but it was about having fun, not about being able to quit our day jobs. Also, lugging a full drum kit to gigs is a pain.

That doesn't stop me from having little fantasies about having a band where I'd be good enough and motivated enough, typically while I'm brushing my teeth. Nothing makes songs pop to mind like being at the bathroom sink with that toothbrush in my mouth.

Let's not dwell on that statement.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

R.E.M.'s fall did not fall on me

R.E.M. broke up last week, and I must admit I wasn't that dismayed by the news. Don't get me wrong—I do like much of the music produced by those guys from Athens, Ga.; I owned all of their albums up through 2001's ho-hum Reveal; I saw them in concert back in the late '90s at what I recall was a good show. However, if I'm being brutally frank, to my ears their best days had passed them by.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Preparing for the future direction of the U.S.

We cannot get our country moving in the right direction because: a) we cannot agree on what the right direction is, and b) a lot of people in power are willing to ruin everything as long as it thwarts what the other side supports.

Stock up on canned goods and fresh water, ladies and gentlemen, and get a "Mandarin for Dummies" book to read in your basement or bomb shelter. You'll need to be able to converse with who's around when you emerge.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Maui: The photos conclude

A few weeks ago I directed your attention to pictures from our recent Maui trip over on the photo site. I've posted a few more now, but it occurs to me that between the previous mention and this one some other posts went up without notice, so just for the record, if you click over you can see photos like...
Ohe'o Gulch
Banyan tree on Pipiwai Trail
Bamboo forest (also on Pipiwai Trail)
This butterfly.
Waimoku Falls
Over on West Maui, Nakalele Blowhole
Offshore on South Maui, a waterproof camera got shots of this giant sea turtle.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Not paying close attention to the news...

So, this week, Netflix announced it's splitting into two companies and that brought down a satellite. Also, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was discontinued by the U.S. Armed Forces, inspiring Facebook to continue their policy of not asking whether people want change and not telling people when they're going to change. And the president's job's plan killed off Charlie Sheen's character on Two and a Half Men.

That's what happened, right? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How I stick with How I Met Your Mother

Note: This post is recommended for fans of How I Met Your Mother. But if not and you have some time on your hands, I certainly encourage you to read on anyway.

On the latest Talking TV podcast* they discussed the state of How I Met Your Mother. Contributor Maureen Ryan recently wrote a piece over on her AOL TV blog about the show, and her "trust issues" with it given the way the show keeps putting energy into the played-out "mystery" of the identity of the eponymous mother, and now how the show is creating a sub-mystery by flash-forwarding to Barney's wedding but not revealing who he's marrying. (It's going to be Robin, by the way, but let's not digress to that.) It strikes her as a contrivance that was interesting in earlier seasons but now is merely annoying; I fully concur the strength of the show is the characters, not the framing of the narrative, and any focus on the latter can result in taking away from the former.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Surviving Contagion in the theater

They've seen how this post ends.
Over the weekend we did something we haven't done in a while: saw a movie in the theater. It wasn't so much that we had an overwhelming desire to see something that's out at the moment; we had some passes (so it wouldn't cost anything) and that vague sense of missing the experience of going to see something on the big screen—something that years ago we did with regularity. Perhaps it's some subtle nostalgia for an era in our lives when we weren't so busy, for when going to the local Cineplex every other weekend seemed feasible. In any case, it worked out that this past Saturday we considered ourselves to have those hours to spare.

That didn't necessarily coincide with the availability of a film about which at least I was excited to see, and as my wife had some interest in Contagion (and I didn't object) that's for what we exchanged our passes for tickets. (The other one of mild interest: Drive, with Ryan Gosling.)

The movie came out a week earlier, and was (at least in my little realm of what I pay attention to) a significant topic of conversation last week. A couple of the pop culture podcasts to which I listen (Culture Gabfest, Extra Hot Great) discussed it, replete with disclaimers about spoilers. I listened nonetheless, not realizing at the time I'd be seeing the film in a matter of days. But the thing about Contagion: There is no spoiling it. That's not saying it's a worthless waste of time; it's merely a movie where you can know exactly what's going to happen and your enjoyment (or lack thereof) will be the same as if you went in knowing nothing.

Of course, knowing nothing is not realistic; these days if you see a movie you probably saw at least trailers for it ahead of time. It's so unlikely that one wouldn't have at least a modicum of expectations from what one saw on billboards or ads on TV prior to getting in the theater.

And with this film in particular, there's no big secret that could be revealed that would spoil it. I'd argue that if you know what you're getting better than what you'd get from those trailers, you're better off.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Too up for Up All Night

I know someone who, due to her job, sees the pilots for new shows well before the fall season starts, and thus the first episodes of those shows she watches to see whether they left the pilots intact or reshot them in the interim. I watch going in having heard her assessments to color my expectations.

Wednesday night NBC premiered Up All Night, a comedy that she liked from what she'd seen in the preliminary version of the pilot. However, the episode that aired was significantly changed from that original she'd seen, and even partway through she commented, "It's not as funny." I found myself less than impressed—it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't something that made me pay full attention after the first five minutes (so the remainder of the episode it was competing with the laptop). It was something of a letdown.

The show after it, Free Agents, looked hideous from the previews I'd seen, and from the preliminary pilot she saw a while ago that was her take as well. That I started watching only because I didn't change the channel, and it proved to be about what I expected (which was not much). And thus that show was not as much of a disappointment, and in a way, I find myself feeling a little softer toward Free Agents than toward Up All Night, even though clearly it was worse. I doubt either will end up making it into my list of shows I look forward to from week to week, but the latter (by virtue of having less of a high bar) presents me with less disinclination to watch it if I'm really bored on a Wednesday night.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 from the vantage point of 9/12

Hey, apparently yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. How did I not hear about that? You'd think the media would make a big deal of it…


Our internet connection was out much of last week, and that may have been somewhat fortuitous, as it prevented me from posting any thoughts during those days leading up to the big event. I assure you: That was for the best.

Even after getting our connection issue resolved Saturday morning, I intentionally did not post anything over the weekend. While I understand the impulse to reflect on September 11, 2001 and what one was doing that day, and those who wish to share their experiences are more than welcome to do so, the reality is I have no interesting story about that day; they closed the building before I got to work, and so I turned around and rode the train back home, then watched CNN all day with a friend. Even I cannot muster any justification for boring anyone with blathering on about that (and given some of what I've posted, that's saying something).

Monday, September 05, 2011

Maui: The photos commence

Over on the photo site I've started posting pictures from the recent Maui vacation, including sites such as:
Honomanu Bay
Wai'anapanapa Park


(More coming soon.)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Chopped at the Panda Express

If you have ever been to the Chinese ("Chinese") fast food restaurant Panda Express and seen the chopsticks next to the forks, napkins and soy sauce packets and found yourself wondering, Who uses those to eat at freakin' Panda Express?, I have found such a person.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Little League: the last time everybody wins

On one of the sports shows this morning they debated (which is to say that two guys sat and offered their particular opinions) about whether they were more excited about the start of the college football season or the NFL season. The one who grew up in Queens, with two pro teams nearby, not surprisingly favored the NFL, where he also noted that the inclusion of pre-season gets the teams better ready for their first game; the early college games (which have already started) tend to be ridiculous blow-outs where good teams tend to schedule markedly weak opponents as essential warm-ups. The other panelist, having grown up in Oklahoma, had an affinity for the college side.

But all seemed to agree that going to a big college game was a better experience, because the way people feel about their alma mater cannot be matched by the emotion toward a group of overpaid professional athletes.

Not that the major college programs are much purer than the pros, of course.

This got me thinking about the recent Little League World Series—where the final game is literally between the best U.S. team and the best international team, making it more of a "world" series than the series that decides the MLB champion each autumn. We did watch much of the title game between the U.S. representative, from California, and the team from Japan.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gratitude for lack of gratuity

I'm not one to write reviews of restaurants or hotels or any of the other myriad things that can be reviewed on myriad internet outlets. In large part, I don't perceive that my tastes and standards are necessarily such that they're really applicable to the general public (I'm not saying they're better—in fact, I'm implying that they're worse, but let's move on), and in even larger part it's because my brain doesn't tend to think of such experiences in terms that would make for a pithy assessment. And by eschewing reviewing things I also avoid my brain's tendency to overanalyze; you see how these posts go when I'm merely blathering on about whatever pops to mind, without specific focus when I start, so imagine how out of control attempting a review could get.

So what follows is not a review.

Actual view from our patio.
When recently we vacationed in Maui we spent the first two nights in Hana, at the only resort in that small town on the eastern side of the island: the erstwhile Hotel Hana (now called Travaasa, as it was just bought by that company which is now a chain of two—its other facility is apparently in Austin). I will note that we had a splendid time, and were I inclined to offer a review I would recommend it if one were considering a stay there. Spring for the extra bucks and get one of the cottages with the ocean view.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Passing along Freakonomics' Scionology to another generation

A recent Freakonomics episode from earlier this month (not the latest one), "The Church of Scionology," talked about the prudency of nepotism for companies. Was passing along the reigns to the company to a scion the best thing for the business?

Overall, the answer: It can be, but not always.

Monday, August 29, 2011

VMO from the VMA's

It's never been our inclination to watch the VMA's, but last night we did flip by and catch a little bit of the broadcast. A large part of why we don't watch it stems from how we don't really follow contemporary pop music like we used to, and don't feel the need to see a bunch of artists with whom we are unfamiliar accept awards for songs we never heard in the first place. That is not something we would actively choose to spend our TV-watching time on.

But still keeping up with pop culture to some extent we weren't above having it on in the background when there wasn't really anything else on.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Looking out for taxis

When I am a pedestrian (which I am with some frequency) I try to be assertive when crossing the street (when I have the right-of-way) but two vehicles I don't mess around with are buses and, even moreso, taxi cabs. Cab drivers tend to operate their vehicles with a recklessness that makes conceding to them—even if I'm the one with the green light—seem the prudent course of action.

However, when I am a passenger in a taxi, with the meter running, what I want is that maniac on the other side of the plexiglass who's just barely on the side of not killing anyone but keeping the fare from going any higher than necessary.

It's hideously inconsistent, I know.

It's fascinating how perspective utterly changes depending on circumstance.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fixing the economy. Or not.

On a recent Dan Carlin "Common Sense" podcast (and I cannot help but suspect this latest listening discovery of mine is something that others who are better in-the-know have known about for a while, but such is the way things go; one knows of what one knows of), he talked about the erosion of the American middle class and how he believed in economic nationalism as the way to address that issue.

In a nutshell, that means each country should do what's best for its citizens economically, which he admits is viewed as naïve by those who understand the global economy that we have. It's not that isolationism is what we should do; the American legislature merely should be primarily looking out for America first. And by that what's suggested is doing what it would take to get American employers to pay their employees a wage that allows them to have a middle class lifestyle; having crappy, low-paying jobs that lift people only out of unemployment and into the "working poor" is not going to allow for the continuation of what has come to be seen as the "American way of life."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Solving the issue of sexual harassment

After sitting through a presentation on sexual harassment in the workplace recently, the conclusion I drew was if humans who work could simply not have sex (nor aspire to have sex, nor attempt to exhibit dominance through the pursuit of sex, etc.) then there would never be another sexual harassment lawsuit.



So, for the many Americans who find themselves out of work and unable to find a job, you can take some solace in knowing that you probably could be as sexually harassing as you want to be and get away with it; there's no potential for the creation of a hostile workplace environment if there's no workplace environment.

I'm not encouraging that sort of behavior, of course, but hey, if you're really desperate for a silver lining and you're an unemployed asshole who has no other outlet for those hideous inclinations, you may be heartened to realize you might be able to get away with it.


I probably should have paid closer attention to some aspects of the presentation.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The unnecessary tale of how I wasted the summer of '95 (because I didn't have the internet)

Warning: Maximum self-indulgence is found in what follows.

Part of the beauty of the online experience is the ease of sharing. That's not saying that all sharing is equally worthy of being shared, but without any printing presses or broadcasting networks involved, and the availability of free blogs and Twitter/Facebook accounts, etc., it's not such that even if nobody reads what was shared it cost much.

With internet access (which too can be found at no cost if one tries) and the most important freebie—free time—there's nothing to stop the sharing other than one's own personal standards.

When I think back on the period of months in 1995 when I was unemployed and what I would have done were it that I had a computer at home and had the internet been what it is today, I shudder to think what kind of havoc I could have wrought in the area of over-sharing.

Instead, I devoted way too long to a series of (we'll call them) mix tapes to represent a sampling of my musical tastes of the time.

That was certainly no more of a waste of time (in retrospect) than was even the most banal tweet, but it was a hell of a lot more effort.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Graduating the graduation

Recently we attended a college graduation ceremony where there were two featured speakers (not including a student valedictorian-esque one who preceded them). The first gave an excellent, rousing speech that offered germane advice for graduates and an inspirational story at the end; everyone paid rapt attention, and commented on how good he was. He got an enthusiastic standing ovation when he finished.

The second speaker droned on way too long about personal accomplishments (okay, we get it) and was so dull that I saw people in the crowd who literally fell asleep. During his speech you could hear murmurs of conversations throughout the graduates and the audience, as people clearly were not paying attention. The applause he received at the end was in part polite, and in part joy that he would not be talking any longer.

So, I offer this advice to those involved:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Get your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty not-a-monkey!

On the latest Culture Gabfest they discussed the weekend's box office champ, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But of course, I'm not going to talk about the movie, but about something that occurred during the conversation about the movie.

In a clear slip of the tongue, when alluding to the chimpanzee lead character, Caesar, one of the panelists used the word "monkey"—which was caught by one of the other panelists (as it's apparently a plot point in the movie)—but despite that, the first panelist did use "monkey" once more later on in the discussion. And the thing is: It's not that the panelist in question failed to grasp that apes and monkeys are separate (she poked fun at her faux pas while reading the copy for the podcast's sponsor after the segment), but that didn't stop her mind from using the terms interchangeably those two times; even a person of obvious intelligence could make that mistake.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Debt ceilings, and 2012 in that swamp by the Potomac

The more I think about the debt ceiling debacle in our government (the abject inability of the participants to achieve the goal without putting us at the brink, whether you like its outcome or not), the more I envy dictatorial regimes. Sure, they're horrible to live under, but at least there's no delusion that the government is supposed to be working for you.

Or perhaps, through reinforced mass brainwashing, the delusion that the government does work for you effectively makes you believe it does.

Nothing is as depressing as utopian rumination.


Sure, the poor economy is not a positive harbinger for the President in 2012, but more and more I wonder: Why the hell would Obama want to be re-elected? Congress is against him, what he's tried to do that he thought was good was roundly spun to seem bad, and his personality and compromising tendencies clearly are out of step with what it takes to actually get done what presumably he'd want to get done in the current political climate; why would he want to subject himself to another four years of this?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Spotify on the spot

I'd seen a references to Spotify online (particularly this post on Flowering Toilet), another system where one can stream music on-demand or essentially rent music for a portable device. It's not the first such service; it's merely the buzz-worthy one at the moment.

Here's the thing: I have not tried it yet, and if I'm completely honest, I don't find myself inclined to. But something gnawed at me, making me feel compelled to explain why. However, as I ruminated on that, it didn't gel into a nice, simple explanation.

Of course, rather than worry about having to explain, the question may really be: Why do I feel compelled to say anything?

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Change Lantern

Another movie trailer mash-up:

In The Change-Up (opening today) it appears from the trailer that Ryan Reynolds plays a womanizing bachelor and Jason Bateman plays a button-down father and husband, and somehow they switch bodies, Freaky Friday-style, so each can experience the other's lifestyle.

When Reynolds, in Bateman's body, has to change diapers, I imagine the first thing he mutters is something about wishing he still had the Green Lantern power ring.

Talk about evil he does wish could escape his sight...

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Right of way

Last Thursday morning, as I walked from the train station to the office in downtown L.A., I found myself in the crosswalk, heading north up Flower, crossing Wilshire. Flower is a southbound one-way street, so oncoming traffic is headed toward me, not with me. Anyway, I had the green light and the "walk" sign and strode out into the crosswalk (as I mentioned—it was just two sentences ago; surely you haven't forgotten) and a Jaguar (the auto, not the big cat) was in the lane to turn left on to Wilshire. It had moved about a third of the way into the intersection from the other side.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Everything you never realized you wanted to know about emceeing the dragon boat festival

This past Saturday morning after breakfast my wife and I headed to Marine Stadium in Long Beach for the 15th Annual Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival. As some of you know, I was an active participant in the sport of dragon boating from 2000 through 2006, but I haven't held a paddle in nearly five years. My participation in the local tournament was what it has been several times (both during those years when I was racing and in the time since): I was there to emcee the opening ceremonies.
(Look! I'm reading off a clipboard!)

People who know me probably think of me as somewhat introverted, and with the bad habit of sometimes speaking too fast, so me being the one to get up on a stage in front of over 100 people and be the one to keep the festivities lively might seem odd. And it is.

In any case, for some reason they keep asking me to do it, and for some reason I keep not coming up with some excuse to get out of doing it, so there must be something about the relationship that works for both the organizers of the event and for me.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reading a magazine, and the eventual HIMYM anachronism

In the How I Met Your Mother episode from 2009 titled "Benefits" Marshall (Jason Segel) is embarrassed by carrying a magazine down the hall at work as he walks to the men's room, feeling the judging eyes of his co-workers and imagining them thinking poorly of him for what he's about to do while reading that magazine in their shared restroom.
Such is his shame that he goes by Ted and Robin's apartment (he still has a key from when he and Ted (Josh Radnor) were roommates) instead.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I am not a poseur but sometimes I pretend to be one

On last week's Pop Culture Happy Hour touched on poseur-dom, spurred by an article in the New York Times written by someone who avoided Harry Potter but after some condescending elitist rhetoric apparently concluded the only method of dealing with having missed out on it was to pretend to have knowledge of it.

Or there's the way I approached the exact same topic last week. But enough about that.

However, to be a poseur is to not merely feign familiarity with something but to do so for the benefit of fitting in with some situation. While I have overcome the need to seem in-the-know for pop cultural phenomena (because I am no longer young and have come to grips with the fact I know what I know, that I've seen what I've seen, that I've read what I've read, I've heard what I've heard), it is those areas of what some might consider "high" culture—classical music, opera, Shakespeare, literature, art, etc.—that put me in situations where I find it's easiest to just go along with the conversation rather than have to explain I don't really know the subject well (or hardly at all).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nevermind how the '90s don't seem so long ago

When reading a chapter in Tina Fey's Bossypants I saw a reference to how she moved to Chicago in 1992 after college and had a roommate and could only get a crappy job at the YMCA. This was her starting out. See how far she's come.

Here's the thing: Obviously 1992 is now coming close to being two full decades ago. But when I think of 1992 it doesn't seem like some kind of distant past. I know it was, but it doesn't seem that far back.

When I think of the '80s, or certainly the '70s, they seem like a completely different era; the '90s, however, somehow seem part of a different period in the current era. As to how I draw that distinction, I can only surmise that in the '90s I was in my twenties and living on my own (I did, in fact, move out from living with my parents in 1990, coincidentally) and thus that's the start of what could be considered being a full-fledged adult (by at least a rudimentary definition thereof). I earned a paycheck that paid the bills (and put me through college), and while compared to how I am now I was an utter dipshit, I still remember 1992 pretty well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Big buck resolution-off

So, who had the NFL lockout being resolved before the Debt Ceiling talks?

Of course, most Americans would be upset about no football this fall more than they would if the economy falls apart—no one seems to be exactly sure what would happen if the U.S. defaults on its debts, but the country would definitely go to shit if there's no pro football on Sundays as the leaves change color—so clearly the more important battle over ridiculous amounts of money got done first.

Or at least it proves that some organization with opposing sides grasps that if they cannot come to some agreement in time, everybody involved loses.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

127 Hours Down in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Upon seeing ads for the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie with James Franco, I found myself thinking: Okay, in this movie, when he falls in the crevasse, it's the ape he taught sign language that cuts off his arm.

That taste of dismembering humans must be what puts the apes on the road to overthrowing humanity.


Yeah, let's stop this before someone starts to wish that a chimpanzee were writing this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A California Wonder from the beginning

Over on the photo site, you can see (over the course of 17 shots) this little bud grow into a "California Wonder" bell pepper. Click here and go see nature in action (or as much as what happened out in our little patio garden qualifies).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Google+: Is there room for another social media site?

Can Google+ supplant Facebook as the most popular site (as Facebook did with MySpace, and MySpace did with Friendster)?

I have not even seen Google+ yet, as I am not one of those who has received an invitation (as they did with Gmail accounts initially, they're doling them out sparingly presumably to create a sense of exclusivity—when in fact the early adopters are likely just beta testers who don't realize they're helping get the kinks worked out), so I cannot comment on whether I think this new player has the likelihood of usurping the king.

But that won't stop me from offering unfounded speculation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter, missing out, and fitting in

Over the weekend the final Harry Potter movie set box office records, and it made me realize more than at any point over the past decade that a tremendous pop cultural phenomenon completely passed me by.

And I'm okay with that.

I have no doubt that the books and movies are entertaining works. I know many people personally who were adults when the books first came out and loved them, but for whatever reason I never felt inspired to even get on board. I did see the first movie back when it first came out (in the theater) with someone who was a fan of the novel, and it was fine, but nothing struck that chord in me like clearly happened with many, many others worldwide.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The ups and downs (and ups) of the Women's World Cup

Sunday I made it through the emotional rollercoaster that was the Women's World Cup final match between the U.S. and Japan—and it was an event that fans of either nation's team did have to make it through, whether their team emerged victorious or not.

Without thinking about it, I was rooting for the U.S. team. Of course I would pull for the representatives from my home nation. I'm not a "rah-rah, go U.S.A.!"-type guy who thinks his country can do no wrong, but still when it comes to these tournaments where there's a team of my fellow Americans there as part of a national team I cannot deny there's something that kicks in on a subconscious level to make me identify with them.