Monday, September 29, 2003

Movie ideas

They can make anything into a movie these days: a comic book, an old TV series, a Saturday Night Live skit, just about anything. You know what I'm waiting for? Victoria's Secret: The Motion Picture. That's what I'm waiting for.


My friend Bob creates some interesting electronic music using thumb pianos and other instruments. I like the way he explores the overtones and subtle distortions of the tones.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Cat Reddick

OK, here's my theory. Right before today's game, Cat Reddick was bitten by a radioactive spider and acquired super-powers. I don' t know how else to explain it -- In the U.S. victory 3-0 over North Korea, she was all over the field, scoring two goals and making numerous incredible defensive plays. I've never considered her a star before, just an average player, but today was her day.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Mia Hamm, part 2

In a comment to my previous Mia Hamm post, koshtra says:
Some athletes have such a purity of concentration that it seems like you're watching a transfiguration or a transcendence -- this is what all human life could be if we just paid attention for once...

Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about! Watch Mia when she is on the soccer field. Look at her face. There is a transcendent beauty there. It is not because she is physically attractive, although she is. It is an intensity, a kind of purity of intent and purpose that could be terrifying if it weren't so beautiful. Many players have a lot of skill with the soccer ball, but few have this.

And I think koshtra is right: if only we paid attention . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Mia Hamm

I'm sorry, but I'm a bit crazy. When I see Mia Hamm do something wonderful on the soccer field, I get kind of choked up. Several times when she has scored a goal, I have actually started crying a bit -- especially if it happens during a World Cup. (The only other player I've ever had that reaction to is Pele.) Today when Mia scored her second goal against Nigeria on the free kick, well that was one of those times.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Outsourcing, our road to paradise

Offshore outsourcing is good, because it drives down costs, which drives down prices. The rise in unemployment is balanced out by the cheaper cost of everything to consumers. If you follow this to its logical conclusion, eventually no American will have a job, but we won't need (or want) jobs or incomes because everything will be free. We will live in a slacker's paradise. ("Been spending most their lives, living in the slacka's paradise . . .")

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Supply Side Jesus

The comic parody The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus is pretty funny (via boingboing). But I thought Jesus really was a supply-side thinker. It's right here, Matthew 13:12:
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

(Note: this is a joke, so please no flames from theologians. Hey, I like saying that.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Stand up and be counted

Howard writes:
Wedding Bell Blues: I've always wondered what it would take for me to stand up and be counted when the person officiating at a wedding said: "If there is anyone gathered here today who knows why this couple should not be united in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your piece."

Now I know -- a reception that included a Krispy Kreme wedding cake.

The problem is, they never ask that at weddings except in the movies, because they know that somebody in the audience won't be able to resist the temptation. It's the ultimate invitation to rant! If they ever asked that at a wedding I went to, it would be really difficult not to shout out something like, "Stop, man! She's just marrying you for your Pokemon card collection! Can't you see that?"

Monday, September 15, 2003

We Need More Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs are the spice of life. Admit it, saying swim/swam/swum is much more fun than swim/swimmed would be. Irregular verbs have more character, more of what food marketers call "mouthfeel."

When we coin new words, we should make a little extra effort to make the verbs irregular. For example, the verb "to Google" is a fun word, but "Googled" is boring. Instead, try the irregular version:
  • I compulsively Google for my own name.
  • Yesterday she Gaggled for a Keanu Reeves fan site.
  • That web page was frequently Guggled.

Ahh, that's so much better.

On a platter

Social Reject blogs about this news story:
Adventurous ladies looking for new ways to flirt, here's a suggestion from New York's Museum of Sex -- go to a restaurant, head for the bathroom, take off your panties and put them on your date's plate.

If someone did that, I would put my socks on her plate. I mean, really -- that might fly in a movie or an episode of Sex and the City, but I think in real life it would just seem weird and disturbing.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

MP3 of the day

Killing Sugar, by Sahina. ( site requires free registration.)

Independent music

Last night I ordered some more music from CD Baby. From their "About" page:
  • We only sell CDs that come directly from the musicians. No distributors. Musicians send us CDs. We warehouse them, sell them to you, and pay the musicians directly.
  • Cool thing: in a regular record deal or distribution deal, musicians only make $1-$2 per CD, if they ever get paid by their label. When selling through CD Baby, musicians make $6-$12 per CD, and get paid weekly.

It's not too hard to find interesting music there, either, since it is well organized and described, and you can listen to the tunes online before you buy. Considering how bad major label record deals are for musicians, I think supporting independent music is essential. Independent artists are like the bloggers of the music world.

The Joy of Sharing a Computer

Rachel writes:
I did what I could to fix the computer, and yet I woke up to a note from the roomie informing me that he'd changed my admin password and that I was to never delete anything off his machine again (This is the version minus all the expletives). So, imagine my satisfaction when we got the new copy of Nortons and it showed that all FOUR viruses were on his side of the computer. I'd have loved to have slammed his face against the monitor and rubbed it there, like a big, dumb puppy.

Computers are already one of the most frustrating things around; "cohabiting" one can only make things more maddening.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The Threat of Gay Marriage

The biggest threat to straight people from the prospect of same-sex marriage has got to be the knowledge that all of our straight weddings will be completely upstaged by the gay ones. Their weddings will be more hip and fabulous, and we will look bad by comparison. We can picture our guests standing in one corner, saying, "this reception is OK, I guess, but it's not nearly as cool as the reception for that gay wedding last month. Phil and John really know how to put on an event!" "Tell me about it. They had better music, better catering, the whole deal. Straight weddings are a bore. These days, I only go to them as a show of support for heterosexuality."

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Mulholland Shire

[Warning: Mulholland Drive spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen Mulholland Drive and the Lord of the Rings movies, the following won't make much sense.]

Cross Mulholland Drive with Lord of the Rings and you would get a dark, edgy movie called Mulholland Shire.

Mulholland Shire picks up where Two Towers left off, but with a shocking twist. We learn that the character "Frodo Baggins" is actually a burned-out loser named Lou Gollum whose long-term abuse of drugs has left him friendless and unemployed. He lives in a slum apartment in the bad end of Mulholland Shire. One of his few posessions is his drug pipe, which he calls his "precious."

Lou had come to the Shire expecting fame, fortune, and opportunity. But fate seemed to deliver all of the advantages to another man, Bill Sauron, who kept lucking into adventures, finding valuable antique rings and armor and becoming extremely popular. At first Lou befriended Bill, and the two had a brief but thrilling homosexual relationship. But later Bill rejected him to climb the social and political ladder in the Shire, and Lou Gollum sank into a deep depression.

The events of the first two Lord of the Rings movies have been a dream that Lou Gollum was having, in which he idealizes how his life should have turned out. In his dream, he is the imaginary Frodo Baggins, loved and trusted by Bill(bo), who recieves a precious magic ring and must go off on an adventure to save the world. Frodo is a tiny "hobbit" representing how small and powerless Lou feels at this point in his life. On the other hand, Bill Sauron has been transformed into larger characters, showing the large role he plays in Lou's life. The part of Bill Sauron that Lou hates has been transformed in the dream into the giant figure of Sauron, the dark lord responsible for all the evil in the land. But the Bill he still loves has turned into the tall Gandalf, a wise magical father-figure. (The invisibility episode near the very beginning provides an early clue that all is not what it seems -- Lou wishes he could just make Bill(bo) "disappear." And as we will see later, he already has.)

Though in the dream Lou imagines himself as the saviour-hero, the "Gollum" character manifests to remind him of the insecure, selfish, evil aspects of himself that he tries to deny. "Gollum's" babbling about the "precious" is a warped representation of Lou's drug addiction and crazy behavior. Indeed, the physical appearance of "Gollum" suggests an addict: the thin, wasted body, the hollowed, sunken face, and the crazed eyes are a giveaway.

Various bizarre images in the first 2/3 of the story suddenly make sense when understood as Lou Gollum's dream. For example, consider the scene where the Ents release floodwaters that destroy Saruman's machines and drain into deep holes in the ground. This absurd image of powerful talking trees and watery destruction would make little sense if taken literally. Instead, the giant "talking plants" represent the drugs that Lou is addicted to. They unleash a "flood" of problems, destroying the things that matter to Lou, and the image of the water draining into the ground shows Lou's life "going down the drain."

Sauron's powerful "giant magical tower" is an obvious phallic symbol in the dream, relating to Lou's prior relationship with Bill. The fact that the tower is no longer "available" to Lou/Frodo but instead guarded by giant gates and monsters shows Lou's frustration.

As the dream story goes on, Frodo looks more and more exhausted, and wonders if he can go on. This represents the crumbling of Lou's denial. The dream Frodo has been involved in many violent episodes, rationalized as combat with various "monsters," but really representing Lou's violent behavior in the real world.

At this point in Mulholland Shire, viewers will wonder how we possibly could have been taken in by the first 2/3 of the story and believed it to be real. The plot was so full of absurdities -- talking trees, wizards, Orcs, giant flaming winged demons with whips -- that it could only have been the deranged dream of a violent drug addict who has lost his hold on reality.

Frodo's quest to destroy Sauron is really about Lou Gollum's decision to take revenge on Bill Sauron by killing him. All of the obstacles that block Frodo's quest show that Lou's subconscious mind deeply regrets his decision to murder his friend, and wishes that his plan had been derailed. When Gandalf is killed by the balrog, but later miraculously appears alive again, it shows how Lou wishes that his murder, too, could be undone.

But wherever the hero Frodo goes, "Gollum" -- the real, deceitful, murderer Lou -- keeps tagging along. The evil "black riders" who constantly search for Frodo and the Ring are really the police detectives who are looking for Bill's killer. Some black riders are even mounted upon flying monsters (police helicopters).

In the end, Lou can no longer deny his situation. He must acknowledge that, far from being a hero, he is "Gollum," a twisted, evil man who killed his ex-lover in a fit of jealousy and rage, and has only his "precious" drugs left to console himself. Finally taking responsibility for his evil deed, Lou kills himself.

Though depressing, Mulholland Shire is an interesting look at the tricks our minds can play on us. As far as Lou Gollum has fallen, some part of him still desperately wants to be a hero, on a grand adventure to save the world from evil. At some level, he wants to save the world from himself.


I've been playing video games so long . . .

. . . when I see the words "Solid State" I misread it as "Solid Snake."

. . . I think of real-world objects as having a "high polygon count."

. . . when I walk into a room I look for a "save point."

. . . whenever I see boxes or barrels I want to smash them open for the power-ups inside.

. . . it bothers me that most real coins are silver, not gold.

. . . objects in the real world seem to travel much too slowly.

. . . when I get a performance review at work, I keep expecting to hear that I have "levelled up."

. . . I expect all stores to buy my old items back from me . . . even if it's not the store I bought them from.

. . . when I find something I'm looking for, I'm disappointed when the act of discovering it doesn't make a sound.

. . . I find it disorienting to drive with my point-of-view inside my car.

Monday, September 08, 2003

The shy ones

I read this journal entry at about "how a woman can tell when a man is staring at her chest" (via makeoutcity). It made me think about how funny it is that guys who are simply too shy to look women (or anyone) in the eye when talking to them would probably give the impression of ogling, whether they actually were or not. And that reminded me of how shyness can be misinterpreted as other things.

For instance, a while ago several women I know told me about a certain man they had just met, and they described him as "creepy," "strange," etc. Some of them seemed extremely anxious about him to the point of being scared and saying that they "wondered if they should call the cops" or something like that. They also said that he wouldn't give them a straight answer about anything.

I went and met this guy and observed his behavior. I quickly concluded that he was just very shy. He stared at the floor instead of making eye contact. He glanced around. He did answer questions awkwardly, but I think he was flustered about being around so many people he didn't know. Nothing about this guy seemed the least bit threatening, except maybe that he was of above-average height.

I think that shy people must have a hard time, because not only are they shy, but other people aren't good at recognizing shyness, and can interpret it as being all sorts of even less desirable things. Shyness can come across as being unfriendly, aloof, stuck-up, creepy, insincere, etc.

Actually, I tend to have the opposite bias. I am automatically suspicious of people who are too "smooth" because I figure that they must be manipulative. This is also not necessarily true though. Just another distortion for the collection.

It won't make you as happy as you think

The September 7, 2003 issue of The New York Times Magazine has a great article called "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness" by Jon Gertner. Gertner writes about a Harvard psychology professor named Daniel Gilbert who studies happiness. Gilbert's studies have found that people are bad at predicting how things and events will impact their future happiness. To summarize, people consistently overestimate how happy or unhappy a thing or event will make them, and also overestimate how long that happiness or unhappiness will last. Gilbert calls this tendency to overestimate "impact bias."

As Tim Wilson says, "We don't realize how quickly we will adapt to a pleasurable event and make it the backdrop of our lives. When any event occurs to us, we make it ordinary. And through becoming ordinary, we lose our pleasure."

To distill this even further, change never matters as much as we think it will. Knowing this, logically we should care less about change, craving good things a bit less while also fearing bad things a bit less.

Another interesting quote from the article:

George Loewenstein sums up this human capacity [of adaptation] as follows: "Happiness is a signal that our brains use to motivate us to do certain things. And in the same way that our eye adapts to different levels of illumination, we're designed to kind of go back to the happiness set point. Our brains are not trying to be happy. Our brains are trying to regulate us."

How to pronounce "Prius"

People have wondered how to pronounce the name of the Toyota Prius. My theory: "prius" is a Latin word meaning "first" or "before." So it ought to be pronounced pree-us as it would be in Latin. But I have heard people say "pry-us" also.

Sunday, September 07, 2003


I did not know there were other people who did this sort of prank -- making fake signs, pamphlets, and so forth. In my youth, I did many similar pranks.

Our college cafeteria often had little signs on the tables. The signs had a short essay about nutrition, and basically the point was to tell you how the cafeteria food you ate was helping to prevent some dire condition like scurvy or rickets. They usually ended with a list of things you could do to prevent [insert disease here], by eating [insert specific cafeteria foods here].

A new sign would come along every month or so, but they were all pretty boring. I started to wish for a more interesting sign. So I created a convincing imitation of the real signs, with the company logo and everything, but my sign was about the Black Plague. It described the effects of the Plague in gruesome, distinctly unappetizing detail, and gave advice for prevention like "reduce contact with plague-infected rats." I made enough copies to put one on each table in all of the college's cafeterias, and I enlisted a few friends to go in just before mealtime and distribute them.

The only problem was that the signs disappeared immediately. People thought they were so funny that they kept them, instead of leaving them on the tables for the next diners to enjoy. I wish I still had a copy.

Rain on

In reply to my plea on Friday, Michelle sent me rain -- a thunderstorm just appeared to thwart the smog. I did not realize that weather could be sent from blogger to blogger over the Internet. What will they think of next?

U.S. 5, Mexico 0 (Women's Soccer)

Within the last few months, Abby Wambach has gone from being just a good striker who is effective in the air, to an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Early in the first half, Wambach, with her back to the goal, suddenly turned and rocketed a shot into the upper corner of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. This was a Mia Hamm-style deceptive shot that looked like it would be a pass. Wambach seemed to be all over the field, creating a variety of attacking opportunities. Mexico self-destructed by giving up 3 penalty kicks in the game, but 2 of the 3 penalty kicks resulted from fouls committed in an attempt to stop Wambach. So Wambach really contributed to 3 of the 5 goals.

The difference between Wambach and Shaq is that a basketball team might reasonably give up some free throws in order to slow down Shaq. But for a soccer team to give up 2 penalty kicks to slow down Wambach, well that just looks crazy. In the foul that led to the final PK, a Mexican defender went down, flailing her legs at Wambach in what looked an awful lot like an NFL lineman style leg-whip. The leg-whip, by the way, is not only illegal in the NFL, but often results in a monetary fine against the offender.

But speaking of appalling fouls, the one that got Kylie Bivens thrown out of the game only minutes after she came on as a substitute was probably the worst of the day. Bivens slid cleats-first at a Mexican player, missing the ball but clipping her opponent's leg just above the knee, in a play that made no sense at all. The U.S. already had the game in hand at that point, and there was no need for a dangerous challenge like that.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Grey tan orange

The smog, the smog, it's driving me mad
I need it to rain, I want the rain bad.
Horizons should be so much farther away
Than this one, approaching, so blurry and grey.

Outside I breathe in and instantly feel dirty. I want to put just the filter part of a cigarette in my mouth and breathe through it. The city smells like distant burning garbage, like rags discovered in an abandoned garage. Forest fires. Smog. Forest fires.

It's like waking up the next day and smelling the smoke in your hair from last night's pub crawl, smoke you didn't even notice at the time but now seems disgusting. And it reminds you of things you may have said, which seemed clever at the time, but now seem disgusting. I wake up just like that and realize -- I stayed in last night! But I still feel coated in invisible essence of disappointment.

Do something. I don't know, put up big fans on the hilltops to blow it away, and on ordinary days turn them into windmills, generate some electricity. We keep flashlights for blackouts, water for earthquakes. What do we hoard for this, air? A garage full of air tanks? "What are all those?" "Oh, nothing, I was just thinking of maybe someday, you know, opening a scuba supply shop or something."

It's still everywhere. Rain for me.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

U.S. 5, Costa Rica 0 (Women's soccer)

It's hard to be disappointed by a 5-0 victory, but I will attempt it.

The U.S. team played virtually the whole game in Costa Rica's end of the field, and the majority of that in or near their opponent's penalty area. For all that they got 4 "deserved" goals and one fluke goal, when a Costa Rican defender fanned on the ball and allowed it to roll straight to Mia Hamm 5 yards away from the goal. The problem with this is that against better teams, there will not be 100 scoring opportunities in a game, and converting only 5% of them will not seem so impressive.

For all the attacks the U.S. generated, they actually created relatively few threatening shots on goal. In addition to the 4 "good" goals, I saw the Costa Rican keeper make maybe 3 difficult saves. So that only adds up to 7 on-target, threatening shots in the whole game. What happened the rest of the time? A lot of shots were blocked by defenders, a lot of shots were far off target, and a lot of crosses went to nobody in particular. Time and time again, close range shots that should have been easy goals went wide or sailed high over the crossbar.

To win the upcoming World Cup, the U.S. will have to create a better goals-to-chances ratio.

Danger: USB

Tim: What was the name of that British show from years ago about the bomb defusers?

Me: Danger: USB. No, wait, Danger: UXB. Danger USB would be a show about unsafe computer peripherals.

April: [mimes plugging something into the USB port of a laptop and then getting electrocuted]

Acronym madness

Friend: How do you pronounce XSLT? Is it "ix-ult?" "Ix-let?"

Me: No, XSLT is pronounced "ex-slut." See, it was developed by an ex-slut . . .

Miss Gullible My Girlfriend: Was it really??

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Great Moments in Software Documentation

The CiscoSecure ACS 2.3 Installation Guide dispenses this pearl of wisdom:
Step 8 If the CiscoSecure installation procedure fails during the database upgrade phase due to a fixable condition (such as database resources errors), do the following:

(a). Fix the condition that caused the failure.

Thanks, I'll do that. And when I get an "out of memory" error, I'll try to forget a few things, to free some up. And whenever it says, "this application has executed an illegal instruction" I'll go lobby Congress to change that law.