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Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Scrunchy Soreness Syndrome
At lunch today I was speaking with a friend who is on vacation and kicking back at home this week. She reported to me that since she wasn't going to work she'd not worried about her hair and had simply been throwing it into a bun. Finally she had to let her hair down because she was suffering from 'scrunchy soreness'.

If she'd said, 'scrunchy soreness syndrome' it would have been perfect.

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I've been a long time user of Netflix. During that time I've had a few issues with them, one of which I'm reminded of during this gift-giving season.

Last year I gave my folks a subscription to about 4 months of Netflix. When it was time to activate the account, the system required a credit card from the user. (Which was odd to me since I'd already paid.) The system claimed that it was used to validate the address or some such thing.

As it turned out, after my parents subscription was up, Netflix just started charging them. - No asking, no warning - just continued the subscription by taking money from their credit card. Pissed me off... I won't give another Netflix subscription, which is a shame since I thought it was a pretty nifty gift. (Nor am I going to link to them, if you don't know what Netflix is - use google.)

Monday, December 18th, 2006

On CNN.com today the news headline, 'Las Vegas cracks down on the homeless' caught my eye.
Clicking into the story, I was struck by an ironic combination of images. On the left: a homeless woman; on the right: an ad of a scantily clad, Santa-hat wearing, Victoria's Secret model - hocking gift cards for Christmas.

 Las Vegas cracks down on the homeless abd Victoria's Secret

Sadly, it seems very unpopular to point out that being poor isn't criminal and that Christmas is suffused with rampant materialism.

Perhaps those are separate ideas, but this story and ad remind me of the dichotomy between our ideals and the divergence of our reality. We fancy ourselves a great and giving nation. We tell ourselves that Christmas is a 'time of giving'. And the reality is: we so often seek to hide the poor and give to ourselves.

Alas, perhaps some will read this entry as a bit of a downer for the holidays. Pass the eggnog.

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

My Coughing Monkey Pox lives on. The virus that had taken a lease on my body now seems to have gotten a mortgage. - A 30 year mortgage.

The plague is upon me. Twice now the Pox has subsided. The first time I had a reprieve it was at the start of some fun in NYC in mid November.
After a long weekend of hiking the Big Apple the virus would have no more of that and returned with a vengeance. A few more weeks and it was fading again until this weekend when it opened the door and invited in the dreaded head cold. Now my sinuses are are plugged and the cough is making a third showing, albeit weaker this time. Thats about two months of sickness (so far). People are pretty much ignoring my coughs now. - Their sympathies have been worn out. It is expected that I should be either better or dead by now. (They're mostly agnostic about the direction.) On the bright side, some coworkers use my hacking as a sort of coughing GPS to locate me.

I have no good segue to this next part, so let me just dive ride in. - I don't wear watches. I break them too easily. It doesn't matter if they were designed for astronauts, - I'll break them. After not wearing a watch for most of my life, I've adapted pretty well without them. But on occasion I've acquired a few watches for some reason or another. These watches are hidden in the forgotten corners of my life. (- One in a side pouch of my carry-on luggage, one in a coat pocket, another in a pile of stuff next to my computer at home.)

And what's weird is that sooner or later, their alarms get set on.
Sometimes they are purposely set (like a travel watch set for some long forgotten wake up call five time zones away.) At other times the watches just seem to get bumped on from jostling. All of this results in the tiny, but insistent beeps of alarm watches going off at random times in my life.

Often I'll try and figure out how to turn the little buggers off, but it can be so tricky. Each watch tends to have 4 to 5 buttons (none of which are ever labeled). And each alarm inevitably requires a combination of button presses in specific sequence, often with simultaneous pressings required. I'm not sure what the math is on it, but there are a lot of possibilities for each watch. - No two of which are ever alike. So, if the watch isn't set to some annoying time (like 5am) or stored in an location where I'll hear it all of the time, I've learned to ignore them, realizing that sooner or later the little sucker will either get jostled off again or run out of battery.

I have one such watch in my winter coat pocket. I never think about it until 11am every work day when I can hear its tiny voice calling to me from my coat reminding of me of an appointment long since passed. It only lasts 30 seconds and I only hear it about half of the time.
Therefore I will leave this watch to the fates or until I'm bored silly someday waiting at an airport and I feel like trying to decipher the Rubik's cube combination. Until that day: Beep...Beep...Beep..

Monday, November 27th, 2006

I have to admit that I've become germ phobic over the last couple of years. I strive to wash my hands after touching public door knobs, elevator buttons or other fomites. - Those little germy items that you and ten thousand other people touch every day.

It seems to have paid off: I haven't been getting colds with as great of frequency. However, about three weeks ago I caught some kind of bug. I've been coughing for over three weeks. Just when I was getting better I went on a trip where I pushed myself and I suffered a relapse. The actual sickness isn't that bad but I am simply tired of being sick.

The women in my life keep telling me to go see a doctor. Interestingly, the men in my life don't give me any advice on the matter.

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

The other day at work the fire alarm went off. The alarm isn't nearly as screeching as the one we use to have when we were on a different floor. This alarm is one that you can tune out. Many people are tempted to ignore the alarm since it is a pain to wade into the overcrowded stairwells only to wait outside (in the typically cruddy Pittsburgh weather) only to be told that it is a false alarm. As one files, cow-like, into the queue for the stairwell, you can't help but wish that the building is really on fire just this once to justify all of the fire alarms in your life.**

** Boilerplate caveat: Yes, you hope that it doesn't burn anything you own, or hurt anybody...yadda...yadda...yadda...(But you still think it.)

Also, why do we say 'mom' for mother? If it's a shortened version of mother, shouldn't we say, 'mot'? **

** Boilerplate caveat: Yeah, I know, short for 'mommy'.

Monday, September 11th, 2006

I was in New York City last week. A youngish, decently kept man was standing on the sidewalk yelling into the street various conspiracy theories about 9-11 and challenging anyone to refute him. After a few minutes of this, his attractive girlfriend came out from a store and he stopped his rant and they walked on their merry way. It was as if this man just switches to conspiracy screed mode whenever there is a little downtime. The most disturbing aspect of the man wasn't his yelling but how 'normal' he appeared when he wasn't.

I was half tempted to take him up on his challenge but I was reminded of the adage, 'Never argue with a fool. Someone watching may not be able to tell the difference.'

But the conspiracy purveyors piss on the facts of the day and do a dishonor to those lost. So, here is my yell into the public square (links open in new windows):

911 Myths
Debunking 911

'As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.'
- Josh Billings.

I toured the World Trade Center site and viewed the large hole and collection of construction equipment. I even saw homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff surrounded by a bevy of bodyguards while being interviewed by network news crew. I took lots of pictures but the closest I could come to capturing the site was this photo of the empty, overcast sky where the towers should be:

The empty where the World Trade Center Towers should be standing.

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Sure, everybody has misplaced their keys from time to time but losing an entire planet is just reckless and irresponsible. Somebody had better lose their job over this.

Solar system loses a planet.

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Walking back to work from lunch the other day I came to a crosswalk with 'Don't Walk' illuminated. I stopped and watched a fellow in a wheelchair careen across the street in front of turning cars which led me to think three things:

1) That is one fast wheel chair.
2) He technically did not break the letter of the law.
3) I can imagine how he might have ended up in the wheel chair in the first place.

A thought for the summer:

It is unfortunate that as we get older we usually don't spend much time in tire swings. I noted this to one of my friends and coworkers and she responded, 'Old tire swings that collect rainwater are great breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the West Nile virus.'

Friday, July 21st, 2006

Pixar's 'Cars' depicts a dystopian world barren of animal life and ruled by machines.

Yeah, I saw 'Cars' a few weeks ago. The bottom line: it charmed me. But I was inspired to write my opening line by the creepy fact that there are no people, - nor other animals in the movie's world. That's no big deal for an animated movie right? Well, sure - normally but 'Cars' begs the question what is a car with out people?

Stories and fictional worlds can be fantastic. I can accept androids, dinosaurs, wizards, superheroes and more as long as they obey the internal logic of their own story.
Pixar's Cars - 2006
I can't say that 'Cars' didn't follow its own internal logic, but the 'Car's' world calls on the viewer to suspend their disbelief by asking the viewer to forget that cars are made by people for people.

Herbie (the Love Bug) is a magical, autonomous car with a personality: fine. But Herbie was clearly built by people and in fact, drives people around. But I couldn't get it out of my head, 'Where are the vehicles from 'Cars' suppose to have come from? There are no people, so who built them? Other cars? Okay but what is the purpose of the car if not as a form of transportation? Do these cars have seats in side of the? Steering wheels? If so: why?' (The film's creators studiously avoid showing us what is behind the vehicles windshields.) Clearly it seems to me that the vehicles must have overthrown their human overlords in a bloody, apocalyptic prequel that we've yet to see.

Another John Lasseter movie (that I happen to love), has a similar 'begging the question' issue with its main characters: 'Toy Story'. In 'Toy Story', the toys have their own secret lives but they were clearly made by people for people. (So far so good: people exist, but the toys have secret lives.) But near the end of the movie, the cowboy doll Woody states that they must reveal themselves (as alive) to the malicious toy abusing child Sid in order to rescue their friend and action hero, Buzz Lightyear. Woody tells his fellow toys that they must 'break the rules just this once'.
That always bugged me. Because it always begged the question what are the other 'rules'? And who made them? Perhaps the toys in 'Toy Story' are preparing for the day in which they too may overthrow their human masters and conquer the earth.

(My half-joking aside) once I suppressed the question about the logic behind 'Cars', I was able to tune into the story. And even here, I have to say that I didn't find the movie very funny. But in spite of this, the movie succeeds in being fun to watch. The characters, the story arc, the morality play, the spectacle of the world all work to enamor the viewer.

And the animation? Its easy to start to take animation for granted. 'Cars' had about 10 other trailers before it of coming attractions by other studios. They all looked good before 'Cars' started to roll. But Pixar goes the extra mile in the animation details and the viewer is reminded once again why they've been so successful. (They care about quality.)

I highly recommend 'Cars' but I still think that director John Lasseter may be a twisted 'end-times' would-be prophet of doom.

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Bush and his intolerant cronies are once again pandering to their religious base in order to distract the country from issues such as war, gasoline prices, confusion over immigration, a disintegrating environmental policy, continued trade and budget deficits and a rampant national deficit. You can read my past comments on the specifics of why this call for a marriage ban is so outrageous from my Friday, February 27th, 2004 posting.

From CNN:

If you are one of those who make the hollow defense, that gays should be allowed to have civil unions but shouldn't be allowed to marry, then you really should re-read Animal Farm. George Orwell was delivering a warning and not suggesting a policy when he wrote "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

"Was there ever any domination that did not appear natural to those who possessed it?" - John Stuart Mill

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Cue the band. Unfurl the banners. Release the balloons, confetti and doves. Today is the 5th anniversary of:


Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

The Kitten Kommotion Trailer is now online at GoogleVideo. Please pass it around to your friends and family. If you have a website, please link to the trailer and the website KittenKommotion.com where videos are still being sold!

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Janeane Garofalo did a commercial spot for Comedy Central several years ago. In it, she talks about the nature of evil and I found it surprisingly meaningful.

Click here to see the QuickTime movie
(Opens in a new window and requires the free Apple QuickTime plugin. You may initially just see the "Q" QuickTime logo. Please be patient while the movie downloads.)

Transcript below.

'A lot of people think that evil is an obvious, somewhat tangible thing, but I'll tell you, it's a lot sneakier than that. Evil is in the face of every frat guy that every raised a beer cup and went "Wahoooooo!" It's underneath the melon stained tarps at a Gallagher show. Evil, is in the mouth of every woman who said to me, "Oh, you have to read the Bridges of Madison County, it's the best book!" That keeps the chain of mediocrity going in this country and that's evil.'

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Explosions go 'BOOM!

Note to Hollywood directors, writers and producers: people cannot outrun an explosion, even if you show it in slow motion.

Monday, March 27th, 2006

I was an early adopter of Netflix and have been a long time user but to my great frustration, the Netflix customer service number is not listed on their website. (Or if it is, - it is buried deep.) So, for all my fellow Netflix users, here's their customer service number: 1-888-638-3549.

If you do call, I'd like to suggest that you echo one of my comments to their representative: tell them to make their phone number more readily available.

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Sunday I spotted three bumper stickers on a small car:

1) Confederate flag with the words, 'Let it fly'.
2) 'Nuke the bastards'.
3) 'Vote Republican'.

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

Tubes of toothpaste are portals to alternate toothpaste filled universes. I can always squeeze more toothpaste out of a tube no matter how flattened and apparently empty it appears. The only reason I ever throw a tube away is because I get tired of extracting the toothpaste.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Phil's official forecast as read 2/2/06 at sunrise at Gobbler's Knob:

Knocking at the door of Punxsutawney Phil's house.

"It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Around the country there are many imitators of me.

In Harrisburg there is Gus who appears on TV
working for the lottery.

Then all around town,
Cute groundhog statues abound.
They all look like me, I found.

Today on the Knob as I'm doing my job,
I don't like this likeness of me.

It's my shadow I see. Six more weeks of mild winter there will be.

Punxsutawney Phil reads his proclamation.


Groundhog Day may seem like a silly, forgettable holiday to some, but the holidays and festivals that inspired it were once among the most important of the year. Occurring at the midpoint between the winter solstice and vernal equinox, these early holidays were, from the beginning, tied to the weather.

The fact that hedgehogs, groundhogs and other hibernating animals begin to stir around the first days of February did not go unnoticed by our predecessors, who interpreted their behavior as signs of coming fairor continued foul weather.

Step back in time and find out how Groundhog Day came to be.

Punxsutawney Phil - the wise groundhog who has been making predictions for over 120 years!

Happy Groundhog's Day!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

I'm breaking out in Stiller Fever and I don't mean that in the 'Rah, rah goooooo team' sort of way. No, I mean it in the black plague, boils and welts manner of speaking. (And in case you don't know, 'Stiller' is Pittsburghese for 'Steeler': the local pigskin touching team.)

Apparently the team did well this weekend and it has raised the volume of inane conversation on the subject from mind numbing to seizure inducing.

When people hear me retching during their tedious football dissections they invariably ask (in a tone pitched to question my masculinity), 'Why don't you like sports?' - As if the world of sports is made of three choices: football, baseball and hockey.
I've learned to answer that I love sports, I'm just not a fan of 'games'.

For my part I have a really hard time understanding the cult-like adherence to team sports. Team loyalty seems like an oxymoron to me since, from season to season the team changes and the only thing that stays the same is the name. To me that's as weird as saying I'm a fan of a musical band that has lost its original members. Put another way, it's like saying you love Captain Crunch cereal even if they replace all of the ingredients with gristle and clock gears just as long as it has the same packaging.

If I'm going to root for something, it is going to be an individual and not just some incorporated name and registered/trademarked logo. And even for the (many) sports that I do like, I'd rather participate than just watch somebody else do them. (I'm even far less inclined to pay to watch somebody else play.)

Of course if the 'Stillers' win the super bowel, I mean superbowl, it is highly probable that we will be rewarded by the fireworks of the fans rioting in the street (lose or win). Lovely. - Wake me up when it's spring.

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

It's a crazy nice day. 57 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. It's almost the middle of winter and I have my office window open. Spring on January 12th! What will they think of next?

I saw the latest incarnation of King Kong about a week ago. (The movie-going experience was great. A top notch theater that I and my two friends had entirely to ourselves.)
As for the movie itself? Well it seems clear that director Peter Jackson loved the story a bit too much because he was loath to edit anything out. At 187 minutes, the movie is about 100 minutes too long.

King Kong - 2005
But what really got on my nerves were the action sequences which denied suspension of disbelief. With the aid of refined special effects this type of silly action sequence is becoming more and more common. Example: the movie features characters running through a stampede of brontosauruses. Peter Jackson didn't think that was dangerous enough so he threw in some raptor style dinos biting at the characters' heels. But that STILL wasn't enough, so the stampede goes from a confined canyon to an eroding precipice where our protagonists stay one hop and one split second away from blocks of the cliffs as they break off and fall into an incredible abyss. Admittedly many of the minor characters are done in but you knew they were doomed from the beginning. (Akin to that one poor red-shirted ensign that beams down with Kirk, Spock and McCoy.) You never feel that the leading characters are in any real danger because the action is too outrageous.

The scene's sheer outlandishness reminds the viewer that this could only happen in the virtual world of computers and movies. This realization takes the viewer out of the movie thereby dispelling involvement and suspense (and therefore: enjoyment).

Attention Hollywood directors: just because special effects can make a scene appear photo realistic, does not mean that any action depicted will also appear realistic. (Or even plausible in a world that is supposed to be our own and where the characters are supposed to be normal humans.) Note: This notion should not be confused with alternate worlds and realities (example: The Matrix, Superman, Star Wars, etc. etc. etc.), where the 'rules' of the world allow the viewer to suspend their disbelief.

And yet! And yet: King Kong the ape himself, was masterfully executed. The giant ape represents the current pinnacle of a 'realistic' computer-generated character. The movie (and Ann Darrow) make the audience actually care about the big lug.

Sadly the King and Ms. Darrow are not enough to salvage this movie above a solid average flick.

'Twas over exuberance that killed the beast.

Friday, January 6th, 2006

A new year called for a little housekeeping. I've packed away some the essays from December 2003 to December 2004. And unlike past archives, I've finally wised up and decided to store the dusty old pages not by month but by year. Furthermore, I am going to continue leaving 2005's wares sitting out here in the main isle until January 2007 for ease of browsing.
(Wow, that dates looks like something from science fiction. And it is even weirder to think that in thirty years the kids born today will laugh at this by rusty bygone era. [- Damn little punks. Oh well, at least I didn't have to grow up fighting mutated, giant, irradiated rats and cockroaches in a post holocaust world.])

Happy New Year my loyal readers. Let's hope it's a good one.


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