Sunday, December 31, 2006

Crud Vapors

While I was on the proverbial can today and as I was being overwhelmed by entirely new and entirely foul gaseous creations by my own behind, I thought that perhaps it was time to turn on the air extraction device installed in most bathrooms for this express purpose. Problem was, I was sitting down and minimizing odor impact by forming a hermetic seal around the now terrible smelling bowl and being able to reach the exhaust fan switch would have required standing up a little and breaking that seal. Need I remind you that seal isn't there for freshness? I relegated myself to finishing my business and chasing it down with some water. After all, I could turn on the exhaust fan when I left, right? But darn, then I'd have to come back to shut it off. At this point, still perched upon my porcelain pot, I thought up of a great idea.

Why can't we wire up exhaust fan with an extra button that, when pushed, would turn the exhaust fan on for 10 minutes and stop. So you hit the button as you enter the temple or you hit it as you exit but either way, the poo gases that are lingering should be well extracted by the time the fan stops. And you don't have to go back and do an unpleasant but necessary olfactoral check of Da Latrine. An exhaust timer should be fairly easy to do. One could even wire it up like those timed lights so that guests can set a time proportionate to their own redolence. We are a civilized society after all, even if we have not yet been able to bio-technologically remove our dependence upon food and defecation.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

US Airways Blows

What should have been a 12 hour red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Philadelphia to Providence (admittedly already one connection too many) turned into a 26 Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Phoenix to Baltimore to Providence ordeal. I can sympathize with the airlines about a freak blizzard in Denver wreaking havoc across the Western air systems but I do abhor the irresponsible and apathetic attitude which most of the US Airways agents took (except for one America West agent at Las Vegas who went out of her way for nearly an hour to help me figure out a way home by Christmas). Screw you US Airways!

Come to think of it, I did a little checking with Skytrax a while back and there are in fact only TWO four-star airlines in the US and NO five-star airlines. The two that get four stars? JetBlue and Frontier airlines. Neither UAL, nor Delta, nor US Airways, nor American Air, nor any of their bloated companions could even muster up enough motivation to clear up their complection and rise to four stars. Shameful! Even UAL first class now officially 5UX0RZ.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Vagaries of Fortune

I don't suppose I should be so inconsistent as to presume this blog outside the influence of my oft-changing interests and obsessions so perhaps I should just blog about whatever it is I'm thinking about at the moment. Oh wait, wasn't that the kind of glorified narcissism that started the blogosphere anyway? Guess I'm going back to roots...if not my own than somebody's. In any case...

Ponderations and contemplatings about the future have made me more proactive about seeking out financial security. Real financial security is a goal for years and years down the road of course but it's never too early to start building capital. But what's a good goal? I'd say $1,000,000 would be a nice sum to hold. It wouldn't make me independently wealthy but it would definitely help support a decent life. OK, so what do I start with?


A pretty paltry sum but let's say you double your money every year. 2^10 = 1024 so you'd have approximately a cool million in about a decade. OK, but who earns 100% on returns every year right? True. How about 50% ever year? That will get you 437 times your original investment in 15 years. Let's say 16-17 gets you a million. 20% every year? That'll take you nearly 40 years.

But nobody is sitting on their butts all this time too. Putting in a few thousand each year will not only give you more savings at the end but increase your investment capital. 5% earnings per year on investment may not be spectacular and it's absolutely pitiful on $1000. You get $50! But on 1,000,000, even 5% represents a respectable sum of $50,000. It's just getting up over $1,000,000 that's difficult.

So my personal progress? Well I lied about that $2k. I actually started with $2k and put in another $1k less than a month later. Still, I started late October 2006 and now it's almost mid December 2006 and where does my account stand? $6k! So doubling in the first year has been achieved! How?

I'm fairly risk tolerant at this point because I'm a young'un and also because I don't have all that much capital to lose. So to maximize the efforts of my research and gains, I've been putting all my money into one stock. Risky, yes, but I also control losses fairly tightly and monitor company performance tightly. BRLC, so far has risen 50+% from the point at which I bought it back in October. OK, so where's the other 50%?

The other 50% almost gave me a heart attack and is not something I will attempt very often. I looked at a promising micro-cap stock that had been growing to absurd levels based on momentum alone. It had been steadily rising for more than week with accelerating gains in PPS and volume. The day before I bought the volume really started to kick in and I thought perhaps the next day it would accelerate even more. Checking up on the thought the next day, I saw it had risen by 20% already. The bounces off temporary drops and volumes all looked good to me so I went for it. By the end of the day, it was up nearly 50% from its open (and a none too shabby 17% from where I bought it). I set a sell trigger for when it dropped to +10% of my investment and waited over night.

The stock opened at at nearly +35% of my initial position the next day and was already halted. Uh oh. The news that eventually was released was basically "We don't know why our stock prices are going up." There was no question the stock was overbought. It was just a matter of when to sell. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the safest position at that point was to just sell as soon as trading resumes. I monitored news and sold a minute or two after trading resumed (caught the downward fall of a huge spike that took it briefly to +60%) for a tidy +40% profit.

Putting all my investment eggs in that one basket is risky for sure but I was set for at least 10% or so after the first day. Risk = reward I suppose. But now that I'm at 6k, I'm eyeing a 50% gain to end up near 9k by late april (half a year from my starting date). It's a rather lofty goal but I have faith in BRLC, especially over the holiday quarter. If BRLC meets its target of 14, I'll be pretty close to that 60% already.

The one downside of all this is that in buying my short term speculative stock (ATA), I missed a 6% jump in BRLC today. I knew something like this might happen soon so I'll just have to offset that with my 40% earnings to come out a bit north of 30%. Still not bad for a few days. As soon as the SEC allows me to trade though it's back in to BRLC I go.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If Only It Were So

Abercrombie & Fitch is selling a new cologne.

Abercrombie & Fitch Proof

If only the cologne works as its name applies, I'd be order a bottle right away!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Moo! had a little Skype freebie sale (promo code: freebie) so I created some cards. Since I needed to procrastinate as well, this is what I put on my 10 cards:

I require T.P. for my bunghole.
<>me< /nerd >
High!Way!To!The! DANGER ZONE!!!
Oh. My. God, Becky. (Printed 2 of this one)
I let the dogs out.
No, I am Spartacus!
It’s NAHT a TOOmuh!
7|-|15 15 |_4|\/|3

Friday, October 20, 2006

Evolution Explication

OK, now that all of Darwin is publically available online, nobody should have an excuse to get ideas about evolution completely wrong (I'm looking at you Curry).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Evolution Confusion

The theory of evolution as advanced by Charles Darwin is quite an elegant one and there is a reason why it is a very powerful and important concept. That would be, uh, because it's a powerful and important concept. For those who don't find it sacrilegious anyway, it does present a convincing framework for genetic propagation and trends. So my stance is clear: evolution is a good concept!

Partially because it is such a compelling idea, Darwin's idea has gained a pretty wide audience. This is a Good Thing[web cliché]. However, the basis of genetic evolution is often taken at less than face value. For example, just because one generation chooses certain traits to be desirable does not mean that preference will propagate to the next. Certain conditions and often quite a bit of time needs to pass before there will be an overall shift in the genetic trends of a population.

But let's take a real example:

I don't know if it's Curry's thesis that is bizarre or the BBC is butchering it but Curry's argument comes across as "because hot people like to choose hot people to sleep with, the future of the human race will split up into hot people and not-hot people." But let's be fair to the beeb/Lamb Saag and look at some of the claims.

"People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added."

I don't know when people have NOT been choosy about their sexual partners. If the argument is that there is a split between the more attractive people selecting people like themselves and an "underclass" that either doesn't or doesn't have the same selection, then it doesn't matter does it? The choosy and privileged have always been choosy and privileged and the less privileged and choose have always been, well, not very choosy. But if this is the case, why hasn't the human race diverged already? Surely even during the dark ages, the more powerful had more choice?

"The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures."

OK. Height and a slim body type could arguably be manifestations of a "health" gene, and which also has the side consequence of being deemed "attractive". And at first glance, it would seem reasonable to assume that we as a race would raise those positive qualities. Therefore, humans in the future may very well be taller and healthier given advances in nutrition and medical sciences designed to nurture those qualities but NOT necessarily because of a genetic shift. Also, in order for the dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures to appear, there would have to be a genetic mutation that produced that kind of a human and then that strain of human would have to dominate a certain percentage of the population. But wait, aren't people getting choosier about their partners?

"But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims."

And life-span has been increasing dramatically over the past couple centuries. Evolution? Really? Who wants to be the person to tell Medical Science that even without their field, we would still live much longer? That's bullshit.

And while we were at it two paragraphs ago, divergent evolution only happens when there are different environmental factors acting on separated populations (whether geographically or otherwise) and unless we start segregating ugly people and pretty people, I don't see how the genetic isolation of either populations could possible occur.

"Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises."

Oh come ON. Bigger penises? That is PURELY a psychologically desirable trait, not a physical one. If we were back to the cavemen era and a gene produced small penises but highly fertile sperm, then small penises would win out. There is NOTHING in the current biological context that selects large penises over average or smaller ones.

And while we're on it, how we select our mates is NOT the same as "natural selection". COMPLETELY irrelevant. Natural selection is selection by nature of those traits which are able to procreate more. You have a weird mutation that enables you to survive more and procreate more means you will spread your genetic seed more means natural selection. Liking anorexic girls with big boobs does NOT mean that anorexic girls with big boobs will procreate more. They might have an easier time attracting potential mates, sure, but in modern society that has no correlation to having more kids.

"Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people."

This is NOT genetic evolution!!! Skin color is not a binary dominant/recessive genetic trait like being able to curl your tongue. Instead, the end result is a mixture. Coffee-coloured people may indeed take over the earth (Go Brown!) but it would not because of a natural selection of the "coffee-coloured skin" genetic code.

"Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.

Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food."

AAAAAAARRRGGGGHHH!!! THIS IS NOT GENETIC EVOLUTION GodDAMMit! This is the most superficial reading and confusion of the concept of evolution. We watch TV and work with computers a lot more now, does that mean our eye sight will improve in the future? People don't have to walk as much anymore, does that mean their legs will atrophy? NO fucking NO!

The whole POINT of evolution is that natural selection privileges certain traits because those traits are passed on more frequently than other through procreation. Notice that last part: increased procreation is a necessity of genetic domination.

So, let's look at Curry's argument again. Mankind will split into two. Genetic upper-class and genetic under-class. How do we get there? Hot people choose out hot people, leaving the hoi-ugly-poloi to breed amongst themselves. Now, by its very definition, the upper class is in the statistical minority. That means unless we physically segregate those people and prohibit them from breeding with the lower class, they are already at a genetic disadvantage as far as numbers go.

Is that part about segregation sounding like eugenics to you yet?

But mankind ISN'T segragated into high and low genetic classes. That means the upperclass will have to out-breed the lower class in order to gain the genetic upperhand. Do you see that happening? What are famous people doing? Anglina Jolie? Madonna? Brittney Spears? Far from propagating their own seed, they're ADOPTING others. And Spears, well, you could either argue she's one of the genetic upper-class (*shudder*) who's choosing to mate with a genetic under-class or that she's mating with her own class in which case it doesn't matter much anyway. But no matter how much you dick around with studying social trends of how people choose their partners, it doesn't circumvent the simple fact that being in the genetic upper-class does not mean you procreate more.

Assuming that the BBC reported Curry's theories accurately, what he's doing is basically conflating social selection at the present with natural selection over a broader timeframe. Thin and waif girls may be all the rage now but larger girls were the standard for beauty during the Tang dynasty in China. Had Curry been living then, he would have been WAY ahead of his time in talking about evolution before Darwin came up with it but STILL wrong in predicting that people in the future (within 1,000 years) would all be large and healthy and slightly overweight just because that was what the prevailing norm was then.

So, in the end, evolution can be fruitfully applied to a whole bunch of different contexts but NONE of those should ever be conflated with each other. By proposing these theories, Curry may very well have just written himself into his own genetic under-class: surely the uber-people of the future would be intelligent enough to understand the basics of evolution?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Travesty of Modern Air Travel... I learned to stop worrying and start committing minor fraud against UAL.

I had a personal flight in the middle of a series of business flights a while back and so I decided to use my soon-to-expire 1,000 mile one-way upgrade certificate. Knowing that there would be many restrictions, I called a UAL agent to make sure that the flight I was poised to purchase would be eligible. The agent assured me that the certificate would be eligible and with his once, twice, three-times o' reassurance, I hung up politely and ordered the ticket online to get an extra frequent flyer mileage bonus.

As soon as I ordered the ticket online, I called a UAL agent again and asked them to apply the certificate. No go: I must apply it at the check-in counter. What? But then how can I reserve the upgrade request? You can reserve it by going on stand-by, which the check-in counter will put you in once they receive the request. But how do I request it? By reserving the request. Huh? Can I reserve my upgrade now? No, you must wait for check-in. BUT HOW WILL THEY KNOW THAT I WANT TO UPGRADE?! You must reserve the request! ARGH!

Turns out it was just a communications issue and I can request a reservation upgrade request (and put the ram in the ramalamadingdong) on the phone. I try to do that and am hit with the communicational equivalent of a loud "WRONG ANSWER" buzzer. No go. You need a full fair. But that's what I called earlier to check on! I hate UAL.

So I just go to the airport, check in, and ask for an upgrade at the gate. I'm put on standby and what do you know, right after Seating Section 3, I get a first class ticket for seat 2D. Now, the lesson is, know when to swindle UAL and that is right at the gate, not on the phone.

I should be happy right? Well not quite.

See, until the communist utopia comes (and it's NOT going to be a revolution no matter how hard and fast and cheap the proles want it), I like my bourgeois trappings so burn me at the stake later if necessary but for now, I'll take my Tea, Early Grey, Hot, in my Maybach thank you very much. And I do believe that air travel should be at least comfortable. Failing that spectacularly as most domestic economy class does, First Class, that last bastion of faux-aristocracy and supposed luxury, should remain an unassailable oasis of pampering and service.

Not so with United First (which if truth prevailed should be renamed United Last. ZING!). It might have been a fluke with my flight but no more silverware, no more salt and pepper shakers, no more HOT FOOD. It was a dinner flight for Iron Chef Morimoto's sake and the flight attendant, chipper though he might have been, didn't even know what kind of meat was in the sandwich he was serving which I swear had been brought out of a deep cryogenic stasis in an unsuccessful hurry. The word on the aisles (from passenger 1A) was that it was "smoked turkey upward inflection to indicate uncertainty?". Maybe. I would have understood if they were trying to get me back for using an upgrade ticket when I was not supposed to but EVERYONE in first class on that flight was treated equally[poorly].

One mitigating factor: At least the booze flowed freely. I helped this along by loudly declaring my need to slake my thirst with a White Russian and, upon overhearing me and becoming giddy with glee, 1C and 1D followed suit. No Kahlua but Starbucks coffee liquor did quite fine.

Touching down at my final destination though, I did marvel again, as I always do, the miracle of getting gigantic piece of metal to fly, safely, with people, luggage, and really crappy food on board. It's a trite thought but I always feel a tad inspired when I think about the complexity and immensity of the technology that all works together for a flight. It's really epic. And it is just too bad an experience of such a wonderous event leaves a nasty after taste in my mouth. Maybe it was the weird sauce on the smoked turkey...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Expert Advice

Starbucks is sued for withdrawing a coupon.

OK, but I like this part:

Legal experts do not think the case has much chance of winning.

This would imply that the lawyer taking on the case is not a legal expert. Riiiight.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Short Running

So I'm a bit of a running dork. I'm a runner wannabe but I'm not very good at running and it's not my top priority or anything. Still, i know about the different kinds of shoes there are and ailments such as ITBS and Planta Fasciitis. I like to think that I'm a runner and I make the appropriate gestures but, well, the results aren't always fantastic.

And what dork is complete without the outfit? My exercise pants were getting a bit annoying to run in (though I did train for and run a marathon in them so it's not like they're fatal) so I decided to get some real shorts.

Except, well, besides being real shorts they are real short.

I'm looking at this pair of running short and looking for the word "thong" somewhere on the label. Nope. Ah well. At least it's light. But then I notice the size. I'm a skinny lanky Asian guy so I usually wear small everything. Pants? Smallest waist size available please. T-shirt? Small. Shirts? Petite if you have them. And, of course, my running shorts say "S" for the US, the UK, Europe, both Yugo and Slavia, Botswana, and pretty much all countries and regions EXCEPT...

Duh duh duhn: Japan!

I really don't want to jump to conclusions or anything but those running shorts ARE very small. Even I think they're small. But if they are "medium" in Japan. My WORD. That's allI have to say about that.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Move the Stars

Try this: on a clear night, look up at the stars (you need to be able to fill most of your vision with the black night sky and stars). Look for a bright star like Polaris, the North Star, and focus on it. Don't blink. After a while, you should see only that star. Then what happens?

It moves.

It squiggles, it squirms, it goes up, down, left, right, in loops and all over.

Polaris, which is just light years and light years (and light years) away shouldn't move about like that. If it did, it would be moving faster than the speed of light and at your very whim.

So why does it happen? My theory is that once you focus on one star long enough your eyes start to defocus the rest of the starfield which is already fairly dim anyway. Pretty soon, you might as well have only one point of reference in your entire field of vision. But if that's true, then it's not really a point of reference because it is not related to anything else. You have one dot on a black field that doesn't indicate any kind of position. So your brain and eyes starts to go "huh?" and correctly assume that with so little information, that little dot can be anywhere. 30 degrees up, 50 degrees to the right, wherever. It doesn't know. So as you focus on it, it just kind of wanders around because Lord knows where Polaris is without the others stars to guide you. It can't wander too far away because if you don't focus on it everything else will come back into focus and it'll snap back. And if you do follow it then it will always remain around the approximate center of your vision anyway. Weird.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


John Adams wrote, in September of 1780, that

"England will never more have any honor, excepting now and then that of imitating the Americans. I assure you, Sir, I am not altogether in jest. I see a general inclination after English in France, Spain and Holland, and it may exend throughout Europe. The population and commerce of America will force their language into general use."

The part about the population and especially commerce is rather true, especially now in a globalized economy. What a smart guy he was! That statement is and will be true to a large extent for China too in the near future, and China's got a bit more commerce and population (a billion, give or take) than the US right now. Will the two big languages of the next several decades be Chinese and English? Not the two easiest languages to learn, unfortunately...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Advanced Airbags

Science Fiction is often more fiction than science, of course, but sometimes even within the fictional universe there are some easily overlooked points. One of the most important inventions in the Star Trek universe (or any future where interstellar travel is possible) is what has often been called an inertial damper. If a ship is going to accelerate to light speed at a moment's notice, everything inside the ship must remain stationary. Otherwise, anything with inertia that is NOT the ship will get smashed as the ship moves forward and objects (humans?) stay still.

So inertial dampers are essential. But inertial dampers are also basically really advanced airbags. If you crash into something, move suddenly, stop suddenly, you won't smack into your own carp/ship. So why doesn't every single starship and craft have emergency inertial dampers linked to its own exclusive power supply? If a ship gets hit or crashes, the emergency dampers activate and nobody gets hurt. Yet no ship in the Star Trek universe seems to have airbags. Everybody gets tossed about the moment a ship is fired upon. WTF?

And of course, no ship makes whiiiiiinevroom noises in space.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Return of the Grammar Nanny

"The only thing better than less bills is no bills!"

And you know what's better than that? Using the right comparative forms! Yes, grammar nanny is back.

Let's say I have 5 kids (omg, scary) and you have 3. For definite quantities, you should say "fewer". That's right. You have fewer kids than I do.

For indefinite quantities, you can say "less". You are less retarded than I am because you have fewer kids than I do. See? Doesn't that sound nice?

Now let's see what happens when you don't use them correctly: You are fewer retarded than I am because you have less kids than I do. Yes, and if I said that, I would be even greater retarded.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Life of a Salesman Part II

They keep on coming!

Got an email about my coffee table today and the buyer wanted to know how delivery option works. My thoughts? I'm not walmart. I don't do delivery. That and my car is way too small to fit my coffee table. So:

Buyer1: Hi, I'm here to look at the coffee table.
Me: Here it is.
Buyer1: *looks around, deliberates, etc.* OK, I'll take it.
Me: I'd help you transport it but my car's really too small. It's impossible.
Buyer2: That's OK, we drove my RV here.
Me: (RV? Whoa.) OK. Let me just wipe it down.
Me: *cleans glass and separate glass from rest of coffee table*
Buyer2: Oh. That's nice. I think it will definitely fit.
Me: Is there something soft in your RV? I don't want to scratch the glass.
Buyer2: No, I think it'll fit.
Me: I have some tissue paper here. Do you want me to tape it to the glass for a bit of protection?
Buyer2: Well I think that will fit in my RV, since I drove it here.

Now at this point I'm thinking this guy must really love his RV. But whatever.

So I offer to help the guys out to their car (I mean RV). They grab the glass and I grab the rest of the table. And you know what, it just fits, with about 2 inches of extra space on each side.

You may wonder, dear reader, how an RV could be so small? Surely a vehicle made to accomodate a person living in it could fit a coffee table with more room to spare than a few inches on each side?

Well, an RV can be rather small if it is a Honda Cf***ingR-V! You can not call a Honda CR-V an RV! There's even a freaking dash between the R and the V! That's like calling the Toyota MR2 plain old "R2", giving Star Wars fanboys everywhere a jolt in the pants ("My R2 has navigational capabilities! Glayven!") but just plain confusing the hell out of everyone else.

And speaking of Star Wars, what's up with Christen Haydensen (spoon!)?! Why did they pick an actor with the emotional range of a lobotomized carrot? First Jake Lloyd and then Hayden. Mark Hamill's acting was nuanced and deep compared to those two. Yeah yeah I'm late by 38 years. This is not the post you are looking for. Old references will do. Move along. Move along.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Life of a Salesman

I'm selling a few items on craigslist. Out with the old and redundant and in with the new and all that jazz. Among the items I'm selling are two tables with folding legs. I've moved on to tables with legs that don't fold. How posh.

So a buyer calls to ask about the table. Thanks to him, I realize how hard the life of a salesman can be, if only for a little while.

Buyer: Hi. Is this Wolf Blitzer?
Me: This is he.
Buyer: May I speak to Wolf Blitzer please?
Me: This is Wolf Blitzer.
Buyer: Oh. I'm interested in the folding table you have for sale?
Me: Ah ok. Yes, I actually have two. Which one are you interested in?
Buyer: The table that folds?
Me: Yes. I have two for sale actually. One is a big wo
Buyer: Can you describe them both to me?
Me: (Wouldn't it be easier for you to describe the one you want to me?). Yes. One is a big wooden one and the other is a slightly smaller one with a soft top.
Buyer: How big are they?
Me: (I've written those down on the freaking ad! How big is the one you want?). One is 24x48 and the other 20x48.
Buyer: OK. I think I'll come by to take a look. What's your address?
Me: *gives address* When are you thinking of coming to take a look?
Buyer: Today, probably.
Me: ...
Me: Uh...can you give me a time today? I may be going out later.
Buyer: Oh...OK, how about in half an hour?
Me: That would be great. Thanks.
Buyer: Bye.

*2 minutes later*
Buyer: Hi, may I speak to Wolf Blitzer?
Me: This is he.
Buyer: Is Wolf Blitzer there?
Me: This is Wolf Blitzer!
Buyer: Oh, I had another question.
Me: Sure.
Buyer: Will the table fit in my car?
Me: ...
Me: (maybe he's getting another thought out?) ... (guess not)
Me: I have no idea. I don't really know what kind of a car you have.
Buyer: It's a normal car.
Me: (Thank you Mr. Useful Information) Well what kind of a car is it?
Buyer: It's a Toyota.
Me: ...
Buyer: A normal Toyota.
Me: ...
Me: Uhm...a Toyota what.
Buyer: A Toyota Camry.
Me: Hmmm, I don't really know. But I've given you the measurments of the table...
Buyer: Oh OK, I'll go measure it first then?
Me: Yes, I think that would be a good idea.
Buyer: Bye.

Lord. Communication shouldn't be this difficult when two people are using the same language.

Oh, and my name isn't really Wolf Blitzer. But man, what a cool name. Wolf! Blitzer! It's almost some kind of wolf-reindeer animal party in that name, with the first name eyeing up that sappy last name and thinking it'd go down real well for dinner.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Army of Chodes

For anyone who has seen the recent U.S. Army commercials that portray former (or even current) members of the army interacting in civilian contexts: what is up?

There's this one commercial where a guy comes back to chat with his friends. They ask him what he's doing and he says he's "working with computers." His friends ask him "couldn't you have done that here?" The screen flashes to him "working with computers" in the field. And then it flashes back to him with this condescending expression and then he just says "no." What, he's too good for his friends now to explain what he means by "working with computers"?

There's another one that also involves the army person giving a one-word answer in a condescending tone in relation to how he's worked on helicopters before. The basic point here is: why is everyone from the army a total dick? If they all act like that, it's no wonder it's an "army of one."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Butt Can't be Trusted

Every time I see or hear about people complaining about the unreliability of Wikipedia, it really gets on my nerves. The reason is because usually these people are complaining about common sense. It is true that Wikipedia is not the most reliable source of information (what is?). It is true that there can be editorial content on some of the pages.


First of all, since when does one go to an encyclopedia to look up information about dynamic information such as current political events and then somehow expect it to give an impartial opinon? And since when have single-author texts been guaranteed to be less opinionated? Wikipedia's paradigm of presenting information is, after all, loosely based on the goal and format of an encylopedia: it gives you basic summary information. You're not supposed to trust it with your life and soul.

And for people who complain about how anonymous and open submission leads to false information: yes. It can. It can also lead to all the entries which make Wikipedia more useful than any static encyclopedia. There's really no other source of information that can give you a basic summary of everything from tensor analysis to season 7 episode 3 of The Simpsons. Nothing is perfect and it's anyone's perogative to condemn a tool if it has imperfections but I'd rather use Wikipedia with all its imperfections than not.

And on the matter of information being trustworthy in Wikipedia: most of it is. There may be mistakes in the in-depth details but the general gist of articles on things like the hydrogen atom or Venture Brothers are correct. An article on Kerry or Bush or the Israel-Lebanon may not be, but then what source would one trust for such subjects? Sure, you never "know" if an article is really trusted or right but, again, how would you "know" even for an article written by an expert? What guarantees that an "expert" will give useful or objectively tenable information (something the news networks want you to believe so that they can displace responsiblity)? It's really very constructive to point out Wikipedia's problems but it is less than useful to argue about its shortcomings against an impossible ideal of "objective truth".

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Snobbish Tendencies

At some point, I think, everyone becomes some sort of a "snob" of certain things. It's only natural. You start off consuming along with the hoi poloi but eventually you'll be exposed to something rather eloquent, rather good, rather above the standards of the peasant hordes. "Wow," you think, "this is way better."

So it was with the Hitching Post Pinot Noir "Cork Dancer" tonight.


And I used to think the Clos du Bois Pinot was quite decent. Well it still is but the HP is just so delicious, so drinkable, so smooth, so refined ... it's what a pinot should taste like and it's the understandable reason why people would want to chug a whole bottle of wine. There's getting durnk accidentally and getting drunk purposefully. For the latter, any cheap old wine will do. For the former, the HP Dork Dancer is a perfect candidate. You'll never want to stop drinking it...

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Don't Have a Single Fan

Santa Barbara has a fairly temperate summer. It rarely gets above 90 and it usually drops down to 60 at night. It also has a fairly temperate winter. And spring. And fall. Ok so basically it's one or at most two seasons all year round. But my apartment (2 floor studio loft) is a bit stuffy. There's no cross ventilation and I sleep on the much hotter second floor. The neighbors are also retardedly loud so I keep the windows closed if I can.

It's been on the warm side lately so I thought that I should get a fan. Home Depot: no fans. Linens n Things: no fans. Bed Bath and Beyond: no fans. Costco: no fans. Staples: no fans. Everywhere around Santa Barbara: no fans.

Now when I ask the customer service reps why there are no fans anywhere, they all say: "it's not in season. It's a seasonal thing."

Not in season?! It's the summer. It gets hotter. When else would fans be in season? Am I missing something here?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Inappropriate Advertising

Oh what an age of internet spam we live in. I don't really question people wanting me to take out a second mortgage on the house I don't have with the wife I've yet to marry. I do not take umbrage at total strangers showing overwhelming concern about my possible erectile dysfunction. And yet despite this tolerance, I am just baffled as to why Maserati insists on sending emails about their lease programs for the Quattroporte or the GranSport/Spyder variants thereof. I don't think my income level qualifies me to even look at a Maserati at a dealership never mind test drive and/or consider purchasing/leasing one. How did I get on to their mailing list? Are they mocking me? I bet they are. Well poo, I don't want a Quattroporte or even an MC12. Give me an Ariel Atom and a Spyker instead >)

Monday, July 17, 2006

I'm done!


As I've pointed out to some people, that is still a very large but(t) and an equally large dissertation so the term is somewhat misleading. Perhaps I should call myself D(one)W(ith)Q(uals). I'm DWQ! I'm Dairy Wicked Queen!


Friday, July 07, 2006

Thanks MTV...

...fer pimpin' my hide!

Monday, July 03, 2006

What Language Do You Speak?

This is too crazy not to post:

"camaro for sale - $5000
1996 camaro color red v6 3.8 tip top wery cline cd plear wery fast clin titale"


"ford van for sale - $1300
1987 blue very clien ran strong black windos 160000 miles comp staff low on gas v6 4.2"

I've ghost written for a Japanese writer before (who wrote in English, but needed a major grammar and idiomatic overhaul) and translating the above was nearly as hard. No wait. Harder. What the hell does "comp staff" mean?

Life According to Google

Got a hankerin' for a vodka martini just now but want to go for a run in a bit so that trumps my alcoholism. By serendipity, a Smirnoff commercial comes on the TV an claims to be the best tasting vodka according to some blind tasting or another. "Hmmmm," I grunted curiously, "I wonder what the best Vodka is..." And so, I go on to Google and search for "vodka." What does Google think?

1) Absolut (OK, I think. Kinda bland.)
2) SKYY (More balanced. Like it for mixing.)
3) Stolichnaya (A bit sharp for my taste...)
4) Smirnoff (Distinctive taste, but not so smooth.)
5) iVodka - A vodka guide
6) Vodka, Wikipedia entry (Go Wikipedia!)
7) Grey Gooes (Mmmmm. Always good. Smooth. Nice taste.)
8) Level Vodka (Never heard of it)
9) Finlandia (Never tried it)
10) Ketel One (My current favorite. Smooth and cool. Sharp and clear without sting.)

Chopin deserves a mention as it's still my favorite vodka to sip. There's a Van Gogh chocolate vodka that is very interesting and quite tasty too. And a Tchaikovsky vodka too, while we're on famous people, but the Tchaik is rye grain (methinks) versus the Chopin potato. Yum.

You Know Studying is Getting to You When...'re looking to see if a reference collection has an entry on "Developing Variations" and your internal monologue (is that weird?) is going:

"...hmmm Deschamps, Devi, Duchamp, oops...too far...let's see here... Djibouti! OMG! Hahaha! Djibouti! There's an entry for Djibouti in the New New Grove! Wheee! Djibouti! Wait, what was I looking for?"


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Poor Excuse

The Scene is in Staples. A clueless lady is looking despondently at an array of technological bits and pieces. I walk by an aisle and somehow she manages to make eye contact with me...

Lady: Oh! Hi! Can you help me?
Me: *Looks around. Sees no one else* Sorry, I don't work here...
Lady: OH! *fumbles around* But you're wearing black!
Me: (WHAT?) Nobody here wears black! (They all wear RED!)
Lady: *flustered, recovers, shoots...* Oh really?
Me: YES! Look around!
Lady: *...and not even close! indignant.* Well I guess that's my problem...
Me: *having briskly walked out of earshot by now* Yes...that is precisely it!

"But you're wearing black?!" Come on lady. It's California. Not even the store clerks wear black. If you're going to try to cover up your mistake, at least come up with a better challenge than that.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Managing Expectations

People rarely look beyond their own expectations and evalute the objective evidence of a certain scenario on their own and come to a reasonable conclusion. If you give people an expectation, they will take that expectation and run with it, even if the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Why? Well, there's an easy way out: if things don't go the way they wanted, it's always easy to blame the pesron who gave you the expectation in the first place, right?

Despite my bitter tones about this, I think the expecters have a right to do the expectin'. In an ideal world, everybody would be ultra-attentive and would not resort to relying on others' responsibilities. But we live in a practical world, not an idealistic world, so it seems perfectly reasonable to use people at the face value of their words.

Lesson learned. Managing expectations pays off in the long run...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

British Accents

Does every American talent-based reality show have to have a judge with a British accent? What up with that?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Crazy Things

I don't think people think much about war machinery and exactly how powerful they are. Our conception of guns is fairly clear: it's a high-tech way of throwing something REALLY fast. Our conception of cars are pretty clear: it's a thing which can move which carries people. But combine those two and jack up the power and its power potential goes through the roof and becomes a bit more than the sum of its parts.

So, realization of the day: Tanks are absolutely crazy. In the context of war, they're not unstoppable, though they are fairly powerful. But imagine a tank on the loose in a city. There is literally nothing in the arsenal of any SWAT team or police department that can stop a tank. It can run over cars. It can run through cars. It can take down buildings. And that's without firing a single shot. God forbid it starts firing its shells the size which are, literally, the size of a small RV. And since it's so damn mobile and powerful, there aren't any effective barriers that will stop a tank. You either get at the driver, which is not so easy to do, or you get at the tank and only the army/airforce has enough power to do that. Or you wait for the tank to run out of fuel, by which time it will have caused multiple millions of dollars of damage should it choose to do so.

War machines are damn scary yo. They're none too slow either...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Tasty Beverage

I go downtown to study sometimes. It's a nice change of scenery and helps me stay on track. Perhaps it's spending the energy to drive downtown that makes me want to not waste that investment and actually study for a bit, or maybe it's because these little outing invariably turn into a night at a restaurant I like or haven't tried before. Who knows!

In any case, I usually study at Java Jones, a nice little coffee shop on the main drag. It's not too quiet, not too loud, has some comfortable seats, and (important) has free wi-fi! Excellent.

I don't drink coffee though. So every time I do go to Java Jones, I'm usually confused as to what to do: submit to my guilt and buy something over priced to drink or stick to my guns and only buy a drink if I feel like it. The result tends to be that I buy a drink half the time I'm there. Coffees and mocha drinks don't excite me all that much and Italian Sodas seem kind of retarded conceptually.

But today, glorious day of days, I've found a coffee shop libation I actually rather enjoy: Iced Raspberry Earl Grey tea lemonade! Refreshing, not too sweet, and pretty reasonable for $2. I guess I'll start succumbing to guilt and buying iced tea lemonades now...

Things Long Forgotten

There should be a site called "The Annals (hehe, I said annal) of Forgotten Things" and in this site should contain icons of yore such as:
  • The Dell Dude, pre-ganja -- "Dude, you're getting a Dell!"
  • Sinbad -- "Sin! Bad!" "No no. It's Sinbad! One word, and it's alll good."
  • The Noid -- Voiced by equally weird-named Pons Maar, a skilled puppeteer.

For some reason though, probably because it's more obscure, perhaps, I think the Noid holds its own better than either Sinbad or the Dell Dude, . Referencing Sinbad or Ben Curtis doesn't give anybody street cred but referencing the Noid (Adam West notwithstanding), well, that's just classy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Moon Bloodgood

So how does one go about getting a last name like "Bloodgood" and, furthermore, how do parents with such a last name decide to call their daughter "Moon"? Moon. Blood. Good. It's some kind of crazy trifecta of double O words all strung together to form a name!

I can do that too. Let's see here: School ... drool ... cool. Drool and cool already match their counterparts (drool and blood are liquids and cool and good are value judgements). School isn't a celestial body, though it is a location, but let's let that slide.

So, the name of my child?

School Droolcool.

Obviously, it's a boy.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Memorable Quotes...

"Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash!"

As heard in Top Gun, said to Mr. Couch Jump Death Rays.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Annoying People

I can't decide who needs to die first in a more ideal world: Tucker Carlson or Richard Roeper.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Finish This Limerick

There once was a man who napped
and while he napped he crapped.
You feel for the sap
who crapped while he napped...

1) The last line should preferably contain the word "crap".
2) The last line should preferably be witty, and contain the word "crap".
3) Points awarded for the use of the word "crap".

I came up with: "and in his own crap was he trapped."

Anybody with a better ending line?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stupid Pro-Life Dumbnuts

Yeah that's right. I said it. Though I have to now qualify that title: stupid prolife dorktards trying to have public "discussion" at UCSB today. Let me give you a run down.

You're walking to class. You're listening to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" because you're having a good time. Because you're like a shooting star leaping through the sky like a tiger defying the laws of gravity. Because you are like a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva and burning through the sky at hundred degrees (and that's why they call you Mr. Farenheit). You look around at the beautiful weather and the sun and (pretend you're a guy), the oodles of young nubile female skin on display. You're thinking life is good. You see a lot of happy faces around. You see a picture of a bloody foetus. Yay! Happy happy joy joy!

Now of course, these were posters on a big pro-life display with various activists in front of them telling you what a terrible person you are for not stopping genocide and the murder of innocent children. Shouldn't a man take responsiblity if he rapes a woman?

Whooooaaaaaaaaaaa. Let's go through that slowly.

First of all, media used for shock value very rarely stands up to scrutiny. They rarely convey the true meaning of whatever cause they supposedly bring attention to and at their worst, which is often, they throw the rhetoric of "the cause" into suspicion. If pro-life activist believe that "the truth" is that every abortion leads us one step closer to desecration of all that is holy and apocalypse, then why can't they argue that point? Why must they throw a dead foetus in your face?

Second of all, there's no such thing as pro-abortion. If pro-life means that all foetuses must be allowed to live than it follows that pro-abortion means that all foetuses must be aborted. Short of those who would like the complete extinction of the human race, I don't think there are many pro-abortion supporters. It's a matter of semantics but when dealing with pro-life activists such as those I encountered today, it seems to be just that.

For example: genocide. How is abortion genocide? Even if you somehow take away the known associations of the word with the massacre of an entire race of people and equate "race" with the category of "foetus", you still have to kill all foetuses to warrant the word "genocide". If one inststs further that no, it's not genoicde of all foetuses but it IS genocide since all aborted foetuses die, then what is the inherent difference between a foetus that is about to be aborted and one that is not? Calling abortion "genocide" is not only inaccurate, it's manipulative. There is no other possible explanation for using such a word when the users know full well the horrific but non sequitur implications. No, I take it back, there is one other explanation. Whoever came up with those signs calling abortion "genocide" is clinically mentally retarded. Yeah right, I wish.

Then there's the matter of what the activists talked about: in a 30minute discussion, not once did I ever hear the issue of a woman's right to choose come up. The inherent difference between pro-life and pro-choice is that one gives every woman the right to choose while the other says to every woman "no, we know better. It is NEVER better to have an abortion." Now, I concede that there are situations where it IS better not to have an abortion but I can't imagine that it would be the case for EVERY situation for EVERY woman EVERYWHERE. So why aren't the pro-life activists spending time trying to prove me wrong? Why aren't they trying to prove that their choice is the right choice for EVERY woman in EVERY case for ALL time EVERYWHERE?

Instead, I heard talk about rape. About how women should have the child and that the man responsible should take responsiblity. How does this have anything to do with the core issue of choice or no choice? If anything, the case of rape is a better point for pro-choice people. It's easy to construct a situation where the rapist is unable to be found and where the woman is not financially or emotionally stable to have a child. What does the pro-life activists say about this case? From what I heard, they offer an idealistic candy-coated story. The man should be found and made to pay they say. Even if the man can't be found, a support network should be established for these women, they say. Where is that support network then? What happens if abortion is made illegal?

And why are we talking about rape anyway? Because the pro-life activists are somehow trying to establish rape as a case where abortion is not good at all and therefore abortion should be banned. What? That's like arguing that since there is one student at a college who got an F, all students at said colleges shouldn't be allowed to take classes because they're retards anyway. There is absolute no collection between the minority case and a blanket statement about all cases. That's a synechdochal convenience that should never be made.

In essence, the concept of pro-life is NOT equal and opposite to pro-choice and it is fighting an uphill battle. The concept of pro-choice is like a mathematical theorem. It says being pregnant = you should have the child in every case with no exceptions. A theorem can be disproved by finding a flaw in its internal logic or by finding a counterexample. In this case, the pro-choice camp have lots and lots of counterexamples they are throwing at the pro-life people and I have yet to hear a convincing argument from the pro-lifers that covers EVERY CONCEIVABLE CASE of a woman being pregnant and the situations surrounding that case. Why don't the pro-choice people have to go through this rigorous defense? Because they do not aspire to an absolute in the first place.

What about exceptions I can hear pro-lifers say. Maybe exceptions can be made for women with extenuating circumstances. Sure. But then you are admitting that an abortion is SOMETIMES a better option and that opens up a whole can of pro-choice worms. Why those exceptions? Who decides what is an exceptional case and what isn't? Why do those people get to decide? Etc.

In the end though, the main problem with the pro-life activists and display I saw today wasn't their pro-life argument. Sadly, I didn't hear much of that at all. What was problematic was the manipulative and empty way in which the activists tried to recruit people to their camp. It wasn't about the babies, it wasn't about abortion, and it wasn't about rape. It was about being pro-life and only about "being pro-life". There was no content behind it, no real philosophical or moral agenda. When a campaign comes of this empty, this lifeless, what is the point? Perhaps it's time to abort some of these events and think them over...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Something 2

Back when the net was still somewhat fractured according to geopolitical boundaries, several organizations sprung up. Most active among them was the EIO and the AIO, the Internet Organizers of the European and Asian continents. It could even be said that they were the only organizations that took themselves seriously as the most powerful net entity of them all, the United States, uncharacteristically chose to sit out the battle for the future of standards. It turned out to be a good decision, of course, since the AIO and EIO had to settle their differences before any progress could be made. As a stepping stone towards a worldwide organization, the AIO and the EIO decided to merge and form a broader union of internet organizers. The unfortunate name of this name organization would have been the Asian-European Internet Organizers Union. Whenever talk of the AEIOU came up, Ethan could count on somebody from his team to deliver a groaner. It has even become somewhat of a party tradition. Even at the last party, Winston was discussing the finer points of the history of the internet with Julia when Mark interrupted in all seriousness and offered "You know there's one blatant thing that the AEIOU forgot right?"

"No," answered Winston earnestly, "though I think they were shortsighted on many issues."

"But the most important and obvious item," insisted Mark and let his words trail off to build tension. He enjoyed this.

"I give up," said Winston and before his lips even closed to form the "p", Mark, quivering with anticipation, screamed "The only thing they forgot is why! Y! You get it?!" The groan from Winston and Julia was clearly audible across the room and Mark walked away beaming like a father who has just seen his son attempt his first steps...and fall. They were new. They'd appreciate the experience eventually.

Ethan smiled despite himself and decided that maybe going to the party wasn't such a bad idea after all. There are quite a few new recruits to the team and none of them had yet been hazed by such a bad pun yet. Maybe this time the leader himself would break in the senses of humor of his subordinates. "Or just break them," Ethan thought a hint of playful malice.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Something 1

There was no reason why Ethan couldn't make it to the party. In fact, he had every reason to be there: there were people to schmooze, booze to drink, and women to ogle, though that last item may not have gone over so well with Jasmine who through 9 years of relatively blissful marriage had learned to accept, if not be comfortable with, this little sin. After all, Ethan was a gallantly capable husband in most other situations and he had a way with words such that he had successfully sold proverbial snow to the trite and obviously foolish Eskimo. Not that Jasmine would ever buy anything that Ethan so glibly and casually marketed day in and day out. His specialties included elaborate excuses, preposterous propositions, and he was currently advertising a sale on whatever it was that justified him ogling women in front of his wife.

Ethan's male friends and coworkers also disapproved of his wandering eye but for different reasons as their own eyes were more often than not drawn to Jasmine. Ethan's female friends and coworkers also disapproved of his wandering eye, though for the same reason as Jasmine. "The Guys" and "The Girls," then, got along quite well in no small part due to Ethan. Despite divergent reasons, the stories about Ethan and his seemingly carelessly cavalier attitude towards life was a frequent topic of conversation. It was a good group of friends that the couple had though and Ethan especially enjoyed the camaraderie and humor that permeated most of their social gatherings.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rich Man's Burden

Don't let that title fool you. I'm not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I do OK within my social/economic context though, which is that of a starving graduate student. So I'm not uncle moneybags (though I have been called that once) but I indulge in some luxuries. In fact, I take back my sentence before last: I'm doing horribly as a starving graduate student. For one thing, I'm not really starving.

When I started as a graduate student, I had a standard 4 door saloon. Oops, too much British television lately. Make that a 4 door sedan. It got me around fine, had room for friends, and didn't break down much. Over the years, though in reality just one, I've abandoned that car for a convertible and all of a sudden, every thing is more expensive. This is to be expected, of course, since the better engine, wheels, brakes, suspension, transmission, and car in general costs more to maintain. But that's not really it.

The main reason why I feel my fancy schmancy please-don't-think-I-have-a-small-Richard car is so much more maintenance-heavy, expensive, and "unreliable" than my old car is that I unconsciously hold it to a higher standard. Something like a Toyota Everyone-Else's-Car LX is a means of transportation but a BMW I'///M-Compensating Roadster, let's say, is more fun and personal expression. Can anyone blame me for wanting to keep my automotive phallus in tip top shape? Speaking of which, I think I need to take it in for a wash. It's getting dirty >)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Responsiblity to Posterity

The "erosion of the English language" that is going on in America, as if we spoke "English" in the first place, is often attributed to the internet, or a lack of high educational standards, or a lack of good teachers, etc. etc. et cetera. The people making these attributions, all the while, sit in their ivory tower sniffing brandy, quoting Faulkner, holding entire conversations with nostrils pointed at others, and making the same mistakes. I am no less guilty in some ways, since I also live in an ivory studio, partake in good scotch, quote the Simpsons (the highest of high class humor), and talk with my butt facing people behind me. Close enough. But I do try to watch my grammar and what I write.

The decline of the English language in America can not really be blamed entirely on the stupid students. If a student sees, in a university setting, a professor confusing "it's" for "its" and "weight" for "wait", that student will take on an intuitive psychological justification for not paying attention to his or her own words. Sure, said example professor can probably write correctly for a publication. "It's just a lecture," the thought goes, "so why sweat the small stuff."? In this case, the small stuff has fairly large implications. Sweat the small stuff, because if you don't, all that sweat is going to build up and we're going to have a stinking chunk of an English language in no time at all.

Remember kids: It's not its!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Go for the High Score!

The past week has been both uneventful and...not. It was spring break here in It's No Tits land (It's manboobs!) and I was busy doing a lot of nothing. I also had a house guest here, J. J's a friend of A and that really doesn't mean anything to anyone. In any case, J was here for work during her vacation and I was busy working on my vacation. When we weren't occupied with our respective dominant activities though, we managed to do quite a bit in this sleepy little town of mine.

One of the most disgusting things we did, then, is the inspiration for this post. I'm a guy after all and I loves dem a good disgustin'.

I've been trying to be a good host to J by cooking a lot and suggesting good restaurants where we might go to fill our (probably)small but hyperactive stomachs as J seems to share, at least partially, my fairly high metabolism and capacity for eating too much. J's flight out was tonight and we didn't have much time for dinner so, naturally, we vaclilated for an hour. The requirements for our dining establishment of choice came down to two factors: the place needed to serve food fairly quickly and they needed to have good milkshakes. Preferably, their milkshakes would bring at least some of the boys to the yard, in which they would be like, it's better than yours.

So what do we pick? Yup. Carl's Jr..

In short, it's a burger joint, but they focus more on burgers than say the clown purveyor or the monarch of the burgers. They have six dollars burgers (100% Angus beef as opposed to 100% mysterious "all-beef patty"), jalapeno (tilda implied) burgers, and burgers with two patties, two slices of cheese, two slices of bacon, and two onion rings smothered in Big, Bad, Questionable sauce. Now if at this point, my tender, juicy, and medium-rare reader, you think that the victuals offered at this here fine dinin' establishment seems slightly on the atherosclerosis side of healthy, you would be dead on.

But "fear not!", says an anthropomorphized Carl's Jr., "we provide nutritional information so you can plan out the slow demise of your cardiovascular system." Great. But there's one problem. I get competitive sometimes and assigning quantitative values to the amount of unhealthiness I'm ingesting just makes it all that much easier to compete for the title. Observe:

EVIL. Try it and you'll see. It tell you exactly how many calories (and fats, carbohydrates, et celery) each item is and it adds it all up for you. A Double Western is 920 calories (good from) but a six dollar bacon cheeseburger, J's choice, is 1010 calories (oooh and she nails the landing!). Not to be outdone by the vagaries of our decimal system, I figured I'd eat at least 2000 calories. And since a Double Western is 920 and so is Chili Fries, together they already break 1800. Add a shake and you're north of 2500! Oh but that's so close to 3000! So, on a whim, I bought the 99cents spicy chicken sandwhich. 480 calories! Whoo hoo! I got a high score of 3110 calories for one meal.

Three Thousand One Hundred Ten.
Drei Tausend Ein Hundert Zehn.
Trois Milles Cent Dix.
三千百十(this one's in Japanese in case you couldn't tell).

Care to try and beat my record? >)

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Why is it that everyone who reads Catch-22 swears up and down that

1) it's a marvelous, stupendous, and fantasic novel and that

2) the only thing they remember about the novel is Major Major Major Major???

Friday, March 24, 2006

From the Mind of a Friend (and Me)

Let's start with the friendly bartender.
A very good place to start.
When you hunt you begin with

When you drink you begin with a pint-of-beer


The first three words that bartenders hear



Oh, let's see if I can make it easier:

Do. A beer. A female beer.
Ray. "Hey Ray, I'll have a beer!"
Me. That's me. I'll have a beer.
Far. A long way for a beeeeeer.
So, I think I'll have a beer.
La. La, la, la, la, la, beeeeeer.
Tea. No thanks, I'll have a beer.
and that brings us back to beer, beer, beer, beer.

Pilsner, Blond, Double Draft
Extra Stout, and Pale Ale

Whennnnn youuuu haaaaave soooooome beeeeers tooooo driiiink.
Youuuuuu shoulllllld driiiiiiink 'mooooost aaaaaaanyyyyyythiiiiiiing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Did You Mean "I'm Retarded"?

Oh come ON. said Monday it had modified the way its search engine handles queries for the term "abortion" after receiving an e-mail complaint that the results appeared biased.

Until the recent change, a user who visited the Seattle internet retailer and typed in the word "abortion" received a prompt asking, "Did you mean adoption?" followed by search results for "abortion."

That's just lame. If I search for my name on Google, it usually asks me if I mean "leukemia" instead. Should I be up in arms that Google thinks I am somehow related to that terrible disease? That's a rhetorical question but let me just make it clear: NO! The programs are just trying to help. Since when have we started taking programmed responses personally?

And besides, people spell poorly enough as it is online and I imagine many have been brought to their senses after being prompted by Amazon to consider abortion pills rather than adoption pills. And just what is so insulting about mixing up "abortion" and "adoption" anyway? It makes no sense really:

Girl1: You know, I think I'm going to get an abortion.
Girl2: I've never heard it said like that "get an adoption".
Girl1: Double U Tea Eff?! Abortion. That doesn't even sound like adoption.
Girl2: Oh ok then you're a spawn of Satan. Cosmos at 9 at the Liquid Lounge?


Girl1: You know, I think I'm going to get an abortion.
Girl2: I think you should consider an adoption instead.
Girl1: ...I want an ABORTION. I do not WANT a child.
Girl2: So why don't you adopt?
Girl1: Because I DO NOT WANT A CHILD, which adoption would give me. What is wrong with you you mentally challenged piece of discarded bacon bit from a dumpster?!

Monday, March 13, 2006


L: What are you doing there?
A: What?
L: You're mixing soy sauce and mustard.
A: Yeah. So?
L: You're making...soytard...
A: ...or mustsauce...
L: Haha. Soytard.
A: You're a soytard.
L: Hey! Your mom's a soytard. Soyturd. hehehe.
A: I'm going to call you soytard from now on.
L: I don't think so soytard.
A: No you're the soytard.
L: OK, nice try soytard, but no.
A: Whatever soytard.

Power Through Jargon

I find that whenever I immerse myself in the discourse of a certain field, I learn a set of jargon, a bucket of buzzwords, which allows me to efficiently and convincingly navigate the social waters of that field. Or, since I'm thinking of hobbies and not snooty academic fields (though I think my observation applies there just as well), one quickly learns to talk the talk, even if one is having trouble perambulating.

And often, talking the talk means being able to make sense of a dizzying array of abbreviations and numbers. Talking photography (and just Canon lenses), the comparison between a 70-200 2.8 L IS USM and a 70-200 2.8 EX APO IF HSM should be gibberish to anyone who isn't looking for a fast, professional, medium telephoto. Both are 70-200mm lenses with a maxium constant F-stop of 2.8. But what about the rest? L instantly designates the first lens as a canon professional series lens, the IS stands for Image Stabilisation, the USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor. And the comparable parameters on the other lens?

Not very. And it depends on what the definition of IS is =P

EX matches L in that EX is Sigma's top of the line series of lenses. But then APO stands for the use of SLD (Special Low Dispersion glass) and IF stands for Internal Focusing, which the Canon leaves out. And HSM is like USM but Sigma calls it the Hypersonic Motor but then DG (which is sometimes left out) means that it's a lens designed for digital cameras, equivalent to Canon's EF-S (which the canon 70-200 isn't because it's an EF lens, also sometimes left out of the designation).


But talking the talk IS (not Image Stabilisation here) fun. Knowing that the 17-40 and 70-200 (the F/4 version) are legendary sharp but cheap L lenses allows you to understand 1/4 of the gear talk that goes on in the forums. And when somebody asks you for an ultra wide on a 1.6 crop canon, you can rest easy knowing that the EF-S 10-22 is the best answer because you've read all the reviews and know what's up. 17-85 IS? Pssssh. Distortion, CA, and soft wide open and at 17. Tamron 17-35? No way, just go for the 17-40. Spotting eagles? Pleeeease, just sell your daughter, by a 500L and fugheddabadit. Because even though you're spouting other people's opinions, you're spouting them fluently, assertively, and even (seemingly) knowingly. It allows many to get their confidence level up to a point where they don't shy away from interaction with other who are already in the know. And once you start finding out who those people are, you can graduate and rise above the plebes because, seriously, why go with the 70-200 non-IS when you can get a magic drainpipe for cheaper?! I know, right?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ignorance Is Temporary Bliss

I hate it when I remember I have to do something just before I think it's bed time because there's only really two paths to take:

1) Go to bed and worry about it tomorrow. This prompts one to set one's alarm early and try to wake up early. Since one is not a morning person, one is really grumpy and disoriented when one does wake up, leading to a catstrophic sequence of events following one another in Rube Goldberg fashion until, wouldn't ya know it, one is sleeping away the time one needed to do what one forgot to do in the first place. Not to mention that now the balloon has been popped, the cat is on fire, and the bowling ball has fallen off the shelf. One is pretty damn lazy is what one is trying to get across here.

2) Do it. Do it now. While taking the initiative and avoiding procrastination is to be commended, this would be called the path of greater resistance for a reason. One loses sleep (which could upset one's schedule tomorrow) and one develops a negative psychological association with one's work. Work = lost sleep = lethargy = less time and energy to do work = more work to be made up = more lost sleep = more lethargy = more work left undone = necessity of Hair Club for Men and Rogaine with Minoxidil.

And you see, I really identify with Mr. One. What's more, before the "uh oh" moment, which is commonly associated with a cardiac ascent right into the trachea, I was perfectly happy! Yes yes, it's much better to have finished the work but sometimes I wish I hadn't remembered. I could at least be enjoying a worry-free slumber and postpone the heart troubles until tomorrow morning, at which point the shock would be hopefully mitigated by resignation at the futility of trying to rush it through before the deadline.

What a terrible work ethic I have.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It All Sounds the Same!

I was recently a judge for a Hong Kong Students' association's pop song contest, basically a karaoke contest incognito, which is what you might want to be were you to be forced into such a position of judgement. But not I. No. I relished the opportunity, truly.

I mean come on, how often do you really listen to Hong Kong pop (oops, sorry, didn't mean to offend), much less judge a contest? Unique opportunity here.

Now make no mistake. The contestants I heard were not talent passed over by Star Search or the Mickey Mouse Club (v. HK, of course) or anything. As the two judges who had musical training/background (one of my musicology friends also did this), we found plenty of ear-grating dissonances that, while perhaps interesting for its microtonal deviances in the context of crazy new classical music, has no place in HK pop. Still, the effort and motivation was there and it was fun to see the results. There were a few outstanding contestants as well who, from a purely musical perspective, redeemed the event somewhat.

Listening to ballade after ballade of cheesy Mandarin/Cantonese pop songs reminds me again the difference between Chinese and American pop songs: the former is a market whose consumers demand easily consumable memorable tunes while the latter is much less so. It's not that we LIKE cheesy songs that all sound the same but that we like singing as a social activity. And let's face it, it's much easier to sing a cheesy Chinese love ballade than it is to go tackle U2's latest hits (or GWAR). So yeah, they do all sound similar but there's a reason for it. (The same reasoning should not be applied to Asians' physical appearances unless you want to get a Kung Fu kick to the butt. Yes, we know Kung Fu. ALL OF US.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Vile Murderous Hatred

M: "So where are you?"
M: "I've got the window open."
M: "Which one?"
M: "The XYZ window..."
M: "Hmmm. I don't have that on mine mayb"
M: "What do you mean you don't have that window??? It's right there."
M: "Well I'm running the same OS but the customiz...nevermind. I found what you're talking about. OK, what do you see?"
M: "Option A - yadda yadda yadda..."
M: "OK goo"
M: "Option B - yadda yadda yadda..."
M: "No that's g"
M: "Option C - yadda yadda yadda..."
M: "OK!!! Are you listening to me at all?"
M: "Those are all the options."
M: "*sigh* Hit cancel."
M: "OK, I've removed option A."
M: "Nonono! Cancel!"
M: "What?? What do you mean? I removed it!"
M: "No, CANCEL."
M: "There is no cancel!"
M: "Yes there is! At the bottom of the dialog!"
M: "Oh! Well why didn't you say so? OK, I've cancelled it."
M: "Not now! Go back and add option A again."
M: "Why did you have me cancel then???"
M: "I am shoving a cactus up my anus and it feels rather nice in comparison to this."
M: "OK, I added option A again."
M: "Now perform action 3."
M: "I did, nothing happened."
M: "Oh that's because you must have made error x. It happens a lot."
M: "No I didn't."
M: "You must have. Let me explain. When you try to perform action 3, error x happens i"
M: "Don't explain to me! I didn't make a mistake! Fix it!"
M: "But I"
M: "Why do you not want to help me?!"
M: "What are you smoking?! Error X logically entails your having made a mistake!"
M: "What the holy high shit of FUCKnuts do you THINK I was doing? Spilling the blood of your viriginal daughter on the grave of your ancestors?"
M: "It's not about whether you're trying or not! You're doing something wrong and I'm tryi"
M: *click*
M: "ng to tell you what the program is doing so that you understand why you THINK you may not have done anything wrong but the unintuitive interface is...why are you not screaming at me? Hello? Hello?"

Does anybody have any viriginal daughters they'd like dead? I'm really in the mood right now. I promise to rape their eye sockets before I submit them to blunt force trauma with a two by four, finally disemboweling them. I need some(some) graves of ancestors too. And supersize that motherfucker.

Disclaimer: The preceding thoughts and events are ALL REALLY REAL. I was not using hyperbole AT ALL. This passage is SOOOOOO not sarcastic. I am SOOOOOOO serious. I have a thing for two by fours.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Whole New Deal!

Will you show me a deal.
Shining shimmering splendid
Tell me Paul Ma since when did you last
let your money decide.

You can open my eyes.
Take me discount by discount.
Price match, rebates and coupons
on a great fatwallet ride.

A whole new deal.....Another sale we should pursue.
but now from over here
it's crystal clear...
that now I'm in a whole new deal with you
(Now I'm in a whole new deal with you)

Unbelievable prices
Indescribable savings
Always dropping, freefalling,
To fuel our endless shopping vice

A whole new deal
(don't you dare close your eyes)
Another price match to pursue
(Hold your breath for the manager)
I'll buy from anywhere,
there's cash to spare.
Let me share this whole new deal with you....

A whole new deal... (A whole new deal)
That's where we'll be (that's where we'll be)
A thrilling chase
A wonderous place
For you and me......

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lack of inspiration!

Oh woe is me! What do I write about? I have no inspiration! I have no muse!

What I do have are bits of professional grade photography equipment that I've been putting to very frequent use. I suppose my "creative" energies are directed towards that for the time being. So instead of writing crud here I've been shooting crap elsewhere. Might as well write about that some more:

I find that part of the draw of photography for me is its distance from the subject. I used to not like taking pictures of people very much but have recently turned that around. But even as I take portraits, I realize that I don't like to interact much with the subject. If the subject poses for the camera of his/her own accord, then I'm glad to take a snapshot. Otherwise, the greatest photographic accessory I could ask for is invisbility. Candid expressions and unepxected moments appeal to me much more because of what I perceive to be a more authentic representation of the subject. At the moment, I can't imagine directing people to sit a certain way, try to smile a certain way, etc. for portrait photography because that would involve "contamination" from the photographer. I'd much stand back and capture naturally occuring phenomena, letting my choice of perspective, color, and focus express my own view of things.

Of course, with this attitude, I'll never get to shoot hot girls in bikinis. Damn!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Technology is useful

...but only if you make a point to use it. Like most tools, tech gadgets' usefulness is not inherent. And also like most tools, there's no one way one "should" use a tool.

Do any of you carry around a digicam everywhere you go? Or have a decent quality camera on your phone? That device is, for many, a great note taker. I'm using a Casio Exilim Z750 now and it even has a "blackboard" and "business card" mode that will automatically correct perspective distortion. Other uses for a small digital camera besides "just taking pictures":

Camcorder (perhaps)
Recording evidence at the scene of the crime
Bludgeoning people
Swinging it around
Load games onto its firmware (requires 1337 h4x0r 5k1llz)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oh pleeaaaase

Warning: This post is not suitable for children under 18, puritanical crazies, or you.

If you are one of the above, you may instead go look at the pretty butterflies.

US congressmen have condemned major IT firms including Microsoft and Google for helping China censor the internet. Yes, China is not a shining bastion of democracy. That's America's job, right?

Oh wait. OOPS.

What's the difference? China's more blatant about infringing upon its citizen's civil rights (since it often doesn't consider them as such anyway, those backwards hicks) while America's more subtle about it. America's wonderful and all but some of its leaders have to stop being so craaaaaazy puritanical and hypocritical as well. Or, to use the vernacular, so RETARDED.

Besides, "[the government] wants data from search engines to prove how easy it is to stumble over porn on the net." What kind of a transparent excuse is that? First of all, the internet is for porn. Second, how easy is it to stumble over porn? Very difficult. Let's say you search for "hard ass tits sex vagina". The result you get back is titled "Asian fuck finger fuck, hardcore fuck fuck machines."

"I wonder what that's about?" you say?

According to the description, "Asian fuck finger fuck, hardcore fuck fuck machines" is about "College fuck shit pics hardcore fuck free adult videos, gay ass fuck anime music video."

At this point, it is very hard to stumble over this site as a prime location to find "fuck shit pics" or "gay ass fuck"s. But suppose you're just really blind and you think "Alright! Anime Music Video!" Then you have ADD. But assuming you do, fine, then you could possibly stumble over the porn part but otherwise, c'mon man, it's pretty much staring you in the face. To not see it and stumble over it is just silly.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gustatory Nostalgia

Some tastes just brings back memories...

Chicken Nuggets and Ketchup: When faced with the abominable lunch courtesy of the school district, as I often was during elementary school and junior high, I'd often run away screaming for my dear life. That's not fair. That compares my lunch to the abominable snowman when he is in fact a much nicer entity. Chicken Nuggets and Ketchup was the only eatable concoction to spew forth from Hell's Kitchen, situated beside the school gym. Everybody would want seconds and nobody would get them. Still, chicken must be an infernal beast because as much as it would be processed, it still tasted passable. And with Ketchup too! What luxury!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Zoom Zoom Zoom

I'm not talking about Mazda, sorry.

I've been lusting after a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera lately to replace my Sony DSC F717. The 717 has served me very very well and I'm rather fond of it as a general media-capturin' machine but the amateur photography nerd in me has become unsatisfied with its speed and response. It has a decently fast lens but somewhat slower focusing and shot-taking speed. It's also not (of ocurse) on an interchangeable lens system so I'm stuck with the one lens.

So a DSLR it is. The problem with most entry level DSLRs (the only ones I can afford at the moment) is that there is a "crop factor." Imagine a piece of 35mm film, the standard against which most other things are relevant. A 1.5 crop factor DSLR camera contains a piece of digital film that is 2/3 the size of a 35mm piece of film. Said in reverse, we have to multiply the area of a digital piece of film by 1.5 to reach the normal size of 35mm film. But what is a "digital piece of film"? It is a rectangular sensor which converts light to electronic signals which are then sent off to be processed into a digital picture. The two main technologies right now are CCD and CMOS and while each has its own advantages and disadvantages, they are both sensors which convert light into electronic signals.

If you take a look at camera prices and specifications, you'll notice that a Canon EOS 5D is priced around $3k while the new (and in many respects much better) Nikon D200 is priced at around $1700. What's the deal and is the Nikon that much of a better camera? Well yes and no. The D200 certainly has a faster burst speed (5 frames per second), for example, but the 5D is a full frame DSLR while the D200 is still at a 1.5x crop factor. This means that for any given lens at any focal length, the D200 will only see the middle 2/3 of what a 5D will see.

This is a disadvantage for the D200 in some ways. Let's say we couple the 5D with a 12-24mm lens. In 35mm terms, a 50mm lens is about what the standard human eye sees, a 12mm lens is very very wide and a 200mm takes the human field of vision and "zooms in" roughly 4 times. On a 5D, the 12-24 is a very wide angle zoom lens. The lens can send the same information to the D200 but the since since all lens measurements are based on the 35mm standard, it is really sending a 12-24 field of vision to a 35mm piece of film. Remember now that the D200 can only see about 2/3 of this "film". The center 2/3 of a 35mm piece of film seeing things through a 12mm lens is about 18mm, hence the 1.5x factor. This is true for any focal length so all of a sudden the 12-24 lens becomes an 18-36 lens. Still wide angle, but not as wide. This is a big disadvantage in buying lenses because really nice, fast, wide angle lenses cost a lot of money. If you just dropped $2k on some kind of wide angle 10mm, you don't want the crop factor to all of a sudden bump it up to 15mm.

The reverse is almost true for telephoto shots. On a 5D, a 70-300mm lens will get you 300mm at full telephoto. On a D200, because of the 1.5x crop factor, you'll get a 105-450mm (!!!) range, effectively. It is not entirely true though because it is like saying you can get the same range on a 5D just by ignoring the outer 1/3 of the frame. However, since, area wise, the D200 has a higher pixel density than the 5D, you'll probably get a bit more resolution with a D200 at "450mm" than a 5D at "450mm".

Most people would probably much rather better wide-angle capabilities than super telephoto capabilities. Why? The more you zoom, the slower a lens gets and the less light it can gather. So at really high levels of zoom, you can only shoot brightly lit objects. A fast super telephoto zoom (such as ones used for sports photography or wildlife photography) is ridiculously expensive too. So in other words, the higher end of zooms aren't useful for most people, even amateur photographers, unless you specialize in sports or wildlife. A wide angle, on the other hand, allows people to get a lot into a shot and then crop as needed. It also solves the problem of not having enough space to "foot zoom" when one is indoors. In short, there tend to be more subjects for the very wide angle lens than a super telephoto lens.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


This post is Not Safe For Buddha.

I must have left some kind of viable source of biological energy out in my flat when I was in China because I've been noticing a bit of a fruitfly infestation these last few days. There's probably at least 10-15 of the little buggers flying around. They're not malicious or anything but I do notice them here and there and it's annoying. I've yet to find a reliable method of eradication though. If I see them in the sink, then down they go with a stream of water. Or I squoosh them if I have a napkin or a paper towel in hand and they happen to be on a flat surface. As phlegmatic as they seem when they're just crawling around on a picture frame or the cabinet door, they're quick little beasts when approached with a squooshing implement.

Interestingly, they also seem to be rather narcissistic creatures as they gather on my big mirror a lot and I've taken to using them as target practice with a whipping-towel. They leave a nasty trail when I'm on target but the mirror needs to be wiped anyway. I'm being a bit heartless towards the little flying nuisances but I don't have any greater plans for them (like for example establishing some basic rules of genetics through toying with them and their offspring) and so they're pretty much useless and just get in the way. In my opionion, drosophila should be like quantum fluctuations: if they spontaneously appear pretty much anywhere, then they should also spontaneously disappear within a few moments, annhilating with their anti-drosophilal selves.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Early Bird

I've been waking up obscenely early in the morning the last couple of days, (no) thanks to jetlag. Vulgar for me is 7AM so last night's record (5PM to 4AM) was pretty much hardcore with bondage and S&M thrown in for good measure. I've always been an evening person: I like dinner, I like procrastination, and I like fire dancing. Something else that the evening affords me is solitude, which I also enjoy quite often. The darkness of the evening surrounds me like a blanket, letting me pretend that I'm alone an insulated from the rest of the world.

But solitude comes in post-crepuscular and pre-auroral forms. Getting up at 4AM, albeit a bit excessive, has convinced me that morning solitude is as good or better than evening solitude. Perhaps it's the novelty of it all but I do feel more ready for the rest of the day with hours and hours to prepare before the start of any obligations or duties. The upshot is that I get home, eat dinner, and by 8PM I'm breathing heavily because my body is screaming at me to shut down. Perhaps 10-6 is a better plan...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

No Haggling This Time

Unlike the way it is with Chinese street markets, you can't haggle with textbook sellers. The best you can do is to get a copy of the book on Amazon but then again, you don't know which book to get until class starts and then it's too late because you'll need those books for homework and such and can't wait for Amazon delivery. This is how I get saddled with a $160 textbook for German. Scheisse. That's twice as expensive than a Canon 50mm 1.8!

It's not that I doubt these textbooks took a lot of money to produce. They're hard cover, they're printed on very nice paper, and the textbook comes with a workbook and a lab manual. But still, I have to wonder about the business side of it. It's well known that new editions of commonly used textbooks are soemtimes issued just to make money. Sometimes, the new editions aren't even all that different form the old editions but the page numbers are juggled a little bit so that users of the new editions aren't compatible with users of the old. The upshot? Everyone has to buy new editions.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to take all the money that students pony up for textbooks and use it to hire really great teachers. $150 per student, 20 students per class (3k), 3 classes per quarter (9k), 3 quarters per year (27k) would make a nice bonus for some deserving language teachers. Or recruit a good TA or two. What about the lack of a textbook then? Well what about it? Why is American education so enthralled with textbooks anyway? I learn more from my wonderful Japanese teacher in class than I ever do from my admittedly wonderful Japanese textbook. Without the book, I would just get a Japanese grammar dictionary instead, which I still have to get anyway.

Monday, January 09, 2006

That's Bad for the Piano!

As far as classical music is concerned, the 20th century has seen a broadening of what can be considered "music." Music is still, in most ways, organized sound but how that "organization" is perceived has changed. Aleatoric music is based on chance but is justifiable as "organized" sound in some ways because there is an organization to the process. It is based on random elements but not completely random. But modern "classical music", including pieces that call for trying to push a piano through a wall, isn't a pioneer of exploring what can be considered music. Early explorers in organized sound surely had broader boundaries for what can be considered music than modern faux zealots who might insist that "rap" isn't music just because it doesn't conform to the most banal examples of a melody supported by harmony all within the equal-temperament diatonic scale system. (And even there, the bassline, hooks, and harmony of most rap is purely diatonic and there is a cadence pattern of highs and lows that can easily be considered melodic.)

An extension, or perhaps parallel, of this kind of intolerance is stipulating how instruments "ought" to be played. Stravinsky started a riot with his Rite of Spring not so much because of the supposed vulgarity of the ballet and its choreography, hump-dancing a virgin to death and all, but because of the way the instruments were being "treated." There was pitch dissonance but also timbral dissonance as ferocious bowings were called for in the strings and obscene and strident blowing (har har har) called for in the winds. The Rite of Spring, of course, prevails as an innovative masterpiece and much of its materials remains astoundingly fresh even today. It explored new ways to produce new sounds from existing instruments and, more importantly, it did it convincingly.

Moving out of the realm of classical music, pop musicians who use instruments that overlap with classical instruments are also often accused of abusing their instruments (though not by the people who actually like their music, of course). One prominent example is Ben Scott Folds of Ben Folds Five fame. He has a pounding style that would be the nightmares of countless classical piano teachers. Yet his talent is indisputable. It's just that he has a different style. He sometimes steps on the piano, he sometimes uses his fists on the piano, and he will sometimes take his chair and pound the piano with the cushion by throwing the chair at the piano almost as a spear. Sure, it's not the best way to keep a piano in tune but if it's done for a reason (and not out of pure lunacy), shouldn't it be fine? After all, isn't Ben Folds just playing triple sforzando tone clusters? And what better way than with feet (broader than the hand) and fists (stronger than individual fingers)?

Of course, those that would balk at stepping on the piano might also balk at modern classical music as being unmusical.


You can say you don't like it and you can say that you don't understand it but if you want to get with the times, never ever quickly label anything as "unmusical". Music is everywhere. Why limit yourself?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The New Year from the Old

The moment that marked the beginning of the year 2006 came andwent like a reality-tv star, fussy and forgettable. My own moment was spent with one of my cousins, drinking some Lagavulin and criticizing a Chinese New Year's special on TV featuring a whole gaggle of finalists from Chinese Idol (female version), half of whom are at least partially tone deaf. The other half appear to be male. It wasn't a rowdy evening as so many others have been when I'm here with my extended family in China but I had thoughts on my mind, was tired, and appreciated a relaxed welcoming of the new year.

As arbitrary as the the beginning of a year may be, it's nevertheless a useful reminder and excuse to think, both backwards and forwards. It's often the case for me that while every year seems to flash by quicker than the last, there also seems to be more happening in the most recently passed year if only I take the time to think about it all in detail. I don't think it's because I am doing more things so much as I am getting better at thinking about them and holding on to valuable experiences better. I've pledged myself forever and ever to immaturity and puerile behavior whenever the opportunity arises but I guess I can't be all kid all the time. Still, if just thinking, pondering, musing, wondering, hypothesizing, and the like were an indication of age, I'd be an octogenarian brat going on thirteen, mental dentures paired with physical braces and all. As it is, I'm happy to be an infant making brief trysts into the realm of coherent thought and it is there that plans for the new year form.

Well, not so much plans. I don't want to call them resolutions either (I've already made one in the last post) because they really aren't actions I plan to keep but more ways of thinking I'd like to develop and encourage in myself. So, a list of vague thoughts then.

1) Look at more facets. Of anything. Segue my stories into inquiries about others. Turn inquiries into stories. Check under the bed and over the next hill.

2) Skeptical optimism. Remain skeptical for the sake of always finding out as much as possible but also remain optimistic. Why worry oneself to death by dehydration about the half-empty glass running out when one could at least drink the half-full glass and go on to searching for more water.

3) Don't begrudge things which are less than relevant in people. So what if he burps, he is great company. So what if she is cheap, she's a great listener. It's a matter of efficiency: get the most out of the good in people and let the bad slide by as long as it's not raping your daughter or forcing you to listen to bad Chinese pop songs.

4) Don't knock it till you've tried it or at least read up on it, as long as it's reversible. I don't think I'd like Goth Death Black Heavy Hardcore Violent War Metal but I couldn't really start getting out my bag of aspersions until I've at least heard it once. Avoiding listening to bad Chinese pop songs, on the other hand, is perfectly justifiable. The psychological damage may not be reversible.

5) Be tolerant of things. Resentment, especially, is something that needs to seeth and fester inside. Why boil the cauldron, toil, and trouble if the only one stoking the fire is you?

Sorry to get all cliche and philosophical. Verbal diarrhea of the more mundane kind will return soon and this chunky crap will all soon be a distant memory, only remembered by annals (I had to) of history.