Friday, July 29, 2005

Why There Ought To Be A License to Have Kids...

Ok. I don't really think there ought to be a license. If there was, interest groups would twist it to their own ends and the wrong people would still procreate. I just wish there was a way to stop people like HER from having them. This genius left her 4-year old boy by the side of the beltway because she was mad at him. Sorry if I'm reacting so strongly, but I have a 4-year old boy and I know the area where she left him. He's lucky to be alive. So is she.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Leg Up For The Struggling Oil Industry

So, I saw a report on Reuters today that man of the people Tom Delay has added a provision to an energy bill already bloated with giveaways to energy industry insiders. The additional provision gives 1.5 BILLION dollars to an energy consortium that happens to be in his home district. Ok, it doesn't explicitly give it to them. It just directs the DoE to contract with a consortium with those funds. Wonder how many other energy consortiums there are. This one includes Halliburton. The money is for the ever imprtant deep sea oil and gas drilling. How much of that money do you think will end up back in Delay's campaign coffers?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

That's Frickin' Annoying

I needed a little snack to get me through the rest of the day. I decided to suck it up and spend the 75 cents on a 1.25 ounce bag of pretzels. The only problem? I didn't have any change or any ones. Lucky for me, the machine takes five dollar bills. And it does, too. It even gives you five dollars credit. That means $4.25 in change coming my way. Oh well, maybe I'll land one of the state quarters Maya still needs. Boop boop boop. Here come the pretzels. And here comes my change. What the crap?!? The credit is decreasing in five cent increments. Better look in the change tray. Sure enough, there's a HUGE pile of nickels there. Plink plink plink plink plink plink... (seventy-five plinks later)... plink plink plink! Now the door to the change slot barely opens.

When all was said and done, I had to get a cup to collect my slot machine I don't think my pockets are weight rated for 85 nickels either. So, they'll have to become my snack fund. Grrrrrrrr.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Aristocrats?

There is a movie coming out soon that has piqued my interest. It's called The Aristocrats It was created by Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza and has caused quite a stir. Penn describes the film thusly, "no nudity, no violence, and unspeakable obscenity"...

The premise of the movie is the world's dirtiest joke. The joke has been a game of one-upmanship for comics for decades. It's origins are in vaudeville. The joke itself is not particularly funny. It is in the telling that the humor is supposed to come out. I think this is one of the reasons I am intrigued by the movie. I know the framework of the joke and can't see how it could be funny. And yet, if you look at the cast of the film, I can't see most of these people *not* being funny: Robin Williams, Eric Idle, Penn and Teller, Steven Wright, Jon Stewart. The list goes on. There are also some surprises on the list, too. Bob Saget? Carrie Fisher? The Smothers Brothers?!? Telling the world's dirtiest joke? How can I not watch?

The template of the joke goes like this:

A talent agent is sitting in his office. The door bursts open and in walks a family, a father, mother, son, daughter, and a dog.

"We have a great act and we think you ought to represent us," says the father.

The agent shakes his head and spreads his hands apologetically. "I don't do family acts. Too cute."

"Please," the mother begs. "Once you see the act you are going to want to represent us. I know it!"

"All right. I can spare you five minutes," says the agent, knowing full well that nothing they do could be of interest to him.

"Great!" say the family as they spring into action.

*** What follows is the individualized part of the joke. Each comic spins a tale describe offensive, obscene, and disgusting acts performed by and among the family members and their pet. The only boundaries are those imposed by the teller on him or herself. The agent is of course shocked. The act ends. ***

The agent sat stunned for a long while, his cigarrette hanging limply from his mouth. Finally he exhaled and spoke. "That's quite an act. What do you call it?"

"The Aristocrats!"


So, you can see why my feelings are mixed. But the movie is also supposed to talk about the comic mind and the comic process as well as the limits and freedom in speech, which is certainly an interesting topic nowadays. I think some of my discomfort and even revulsion comes from this site which is devoted to the joke itself. WARNING: The narratives linked to on this page are probably the viliest filth I have ever seen. Seriously. You'll need a shower if you read more than one. People are invited to submit their own versions here. This site suggests one of a few possibilities to me. One, this joke is not for me as none of the versions I read provoked so much as a smirk from me. Two, the people rating these jokes are missing the point and are voting based solely on who can be more obscene. Or, three, the humor is in the telling and it does not translate well to paper. I think it is likely a combination of the three. However, all this does is pique my curiosity.

I told my wife about the movie and the basic joke. Her first instinct was that she had no interest. I said, "Aren't you the least bit curious to see Bob Saget and Phyllis Diller tell this joke? Howie Mandel?" Her expression softened. "All right. You've got a point."

Then you add the controversy in and that becomes another factor. AMC theaters, the #2 chain in the country, has refused to carry the film. AMC is trying to downplay it, but the decision is puzzling. According to the CNN article, their justification of shying away from unrated or NC-17 content doesn't hold up to history. They've aired the NC-17 version of "Inside Deep Throat" and the unrated version of "Passion of the Christ". I resent the theater making such an arbitrary decision. I may be jumping to conclusions, but as the theater is not saying much in its defense, I have littel choice. This makes me want to support the filmmakers more.

Provenza and Jillette, for their part, are unconcerned about the flap. They aren't trying to ambush anybody with the film. They want people to know up front what they are getting.

Frank Rich may have the best explanation of the value of the joke and the movie. And in light of the controversy, he may be spot on. It may not be funny, but it has value.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

The Perfect Storm - Software Style

Apologies for the dearth of new material. We are in the midst of a unique confluence of events here at work. We have three software releases going out at the same time. Normally, we would have only one due at a time. One of the products (the one I am working on) is a brand new product. My boss has been on vacation the last two weeks. It was planned for a long time and he was not changing it just because all the scheduled slipped and/or were pulled in such that they coincided. The acting boss just came back from a three week vacation the Monday after our boss left. So, the two of them have not really done any knowledge transfer for five weeks. Add to that my safety coordinator duties. This normally amounts to 1-2 hours per week. This week, it has amounted to almost 20 hours because of a Flourine hazard. I've worked three weeks of hours in the last two and am not done yet. So, for the moment, this apology is all you get! :)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Gas Guzzler Loophole

Here's an interesting essay I found on the gas guzzler loophole. I was researching fuel efficient vehicles. I'd like to go biodiesel or hybrid. But I'm not there financially yet. I was also considering a short range electric car as a commuter vehicle. Anyway, I found this article. The short form is that fuel wasting passenger vehicles are taxed extra for being fuel wasters. This impacts your Jags, Rolls Royces, Crown Vics and the like. However, Congress exempted light duty trucks and SUVs because they didn't want to hurt farmers and small biz. Back when the tax was passed, those were the primary owners of such vehicles. Since then, Hummers have become commuter vehicles for upscale soccer moms. These gas guzzlers are now being marketed as commuter vehicles and the importers do not have to pay the guzzler taxes on them. Where is the outrage?

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thanks for missing the point

I'm so glad I was able to read about this woman and that the McDonald's diet works for her. Apparently she started her crusade in response to Morgan Spurlock's excellent film, Super Size Me. She was upset about the movie and felt it "insulted the intelligence of fat people by implying that they couldn't resist the offer of a gargantuan portion for a few cents extra".

Now, I don't remember that being the thrust of the movie. In fact, as I recall, Spurlock was trying to do a couple things. First, the fast food lawsuits failed because the judge felt there was no proof that McDonald's food was the cause. What better way to show that was not the case than by eating nothing but that food. Second, he was trying to show how average Americans got the way they are. So, he reduced his physical activity and he ate all his meals off the McD's menu. He only supersized when asked, which was around nine times out of ninety meals.

So, the thrust wasn't that people went for oversize portions because they are inexpensive. The thrust was that people ate foods based on convenience and were often unaware of what went into their bodies.

In two months, she has lost about thirty pounds by eating nothing but McDonald's. How can this be? Well, for one thing, she is a construction worker. It's unlikely she lives the sedentary lifestyle of many Americans. For another, her start weight was 228 and "she's memorized the calories in almost every menu item, and limits herself to 1,400 calories a day". Hmmmmmm. Moderate physical activity and limited calories. And she's losing weight? It boggles the mind.

What boggles the mind even more is that she thinks she is in some way fighting back against Spurlock. While she is likely not getting the vitamins she needs, she is paying attention to what she eats and gets at least some activity. These are two of his biggest criticisms. The only thing she has really proven is that it is possible to lose weight regardless of what foods you eat. Didn't we already know that about calories? And lest you think she was just trying to disprove Spurlock out of pure altruism, she "dreams of becoming the McDonald's Corp.'s Jared Fogle, the Subway weight-loss poster boy". Lovely. So, she is hoping to make money convincing others that MCdonald's is GOOD for you.

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In honor of Potter Mania

This is really just a short form Kiersey personality test with the results being applied to one of the major HP characters. Not sure if I equate the Weasley twins to ENFP, but I have come up as that before on the longer version of the test.

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

10 is big. 40 is bigger!

A couple weeks ago, I passed a momentous milestone. No, I didn't pass it that way. You people are sick. You see the words 'pass' and 'stone' in a sentence and you get all silly. Focus. So. The milestone. My wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary! Yes. She has put up with me for 10 years. Twelve really, but the first couple were the no obligation, risk free trial...

I had wanted to do something special to mark the occasion, but the timing didn't work out right. So, it came to pass on our family vacation up at Sequoia National Park. Maya reminded us throughout the day that it was our anniversary. When we went out to dinner, she and Josh told us to pretend they were not there. They made us hold hands and gaze into each other's eyes across the table. It was funny and cute. Not as epic as I would have liked for building a marriage that continues to get better after 10 years when so many people can't even last five years, but still, a good time.

But that isn't the most impressive thing to tell you about. It was just the appetizer. You see, my parents' anniversary is the day after ours. And they just celebrated 40 years together! Yes. You read that right. 40. We wanted to throw them a big party with a tent in the driveway and all that jazz, but they said no. We'll likely all go out to dinner with my sisters, brothers-in-law, and nephews when we come to town. They don't even want that, but I think we'll have to insist. Congratulations Mom and Dad! Thanks for showing us the way.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

MIT Blog Survey

Click through on this if you have a blog and feel like helping in a statistical study of bloggers and communication and such.
Take the MIT Weblog Survey

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Baja Anti-Rice Front

Karma is on a new crusade. You aren't surprised are you? I've named it for her. I hope she doesn't mind. Naturally, she'll head up B.A.R.F. What is the goal? Apparently, to prevent "yet another chicken-rice-vegetable" restaurant from springing up in the San Diego area. Sounds like a worthwhile thing to be worried about, eh? I think the most amazing part of the story is that it only cost me half-an-hour...

You are no doubt wondering where this even came from and how I got sucked into it. I wondered that myself for the first third or so of the conversation. I went over to get her to send me a script so I could do some work. She was attempting to convince one of the IT guys of something. He was unconvinced. As I arrived, she sought to enlist me to her cause. "Would you want to eat rice every day?"


"Would YOU want to eat rice EVERY day?"

Well, THAT cleared it up for me. I could have asked for clarification or context, but what would be the point? A zombie could have figured out which way I was supposed to answer. And so, naturally, I replied, "Yes."

That answer wasn't entirely born of a desire to annoy. Of the starchy side dishes, rice is the one I'd eat most often if I could. The effect was as I had desired. I made points with the IT guy, who is Asian, lost points with Karma, and probably endeared myself to the other Asians that sit around her.

Still she pressed on. "But wouldn't you get tired of it if every restaurant you went to was the same thing? Chicken. Rice. Vegetables."

I tried to puzzle out where this place was. All I could think of was that we were talking about an Asian country that she didn't enjoy traveling in due to a lack of food variety. And I still wasn't getting her point. "What? You mean all prepared exactly the same way? Same seasonings and everything?"

"No. Just chicken, rice, and vegetables."

"But there are dozens of dishes that you can make with different vegetable combinations, different seasonings, and even kinds of rice," I said

"But it's still the same thing!"

I was lost and it wasn't getting better. I decided a different tack was needed. "What are we talking about?" I boldly ventured.

"A new restaurant that is opening up."


"I am trying to save San Diego from yet ANOTHER restaurant that serves chicken, rice, and vegetables. Every restaurant you go into, it's the same thing."

"Don't you have the option to get something other than rice?"

"Chili's for example. You can get rice, fries, noodles, potatoes..."

"Asian restaurants."

"And where is this restaurant?"

"I don't know."

Mm-hmm. "And what's it called?"

"I don't know."

How deep does the rabbit hole go? "What kind of restaurant is it?"

Wait for it.

"I don't know. It's an Asian restaurant of some sort."

"Well, Asian restaurants are different. Chinese, Japanese, and Thai foods all taste very different. And you could get noodles there, too."

"But rice is the staple."

"There's jasmine rice, white rice, brown rice, basmati rice, long grain..."

"But it's all still rice. Everywhere you look. It's rice...taco...rice...taco...rice...taco..."

"So, you're actual complaint is that there are too many Asian and Mexican restaurants in an area with large Asian and Mexican populations?"

"Are there really that many Asians here? San Francisco, sure. But San Diego?" This statement is particularly bad when you consider that she said it to someone who is Cambodian and within earshot of a Vietnamese woman, and two other engineers from China.

"Well, if you go to the good quality specimens of these establishments, you find a good portion of Asians dining there. So, clearly there is demand."

"No you don't. Asians don't dine out. They like to save money. They're 'frugal'. Look around you. All the Asians in this department eat together. And what do they eat? Rice. Rice that they cooked for dinner the night before. The average people who dine out are white middle-class folks."

Now, before you get any ideas about her. I should remind you that Karma is NOT a racist. We covered that pretty thoroughly back in the linked tale from April.

IT-guy pointed out that he eats out pretty much every day. I told him he couldn't be Asian then. If the union found out, they would kick him out.

Karma was not amused. "How many Asian restaurants is too many? 2000? 10000? Why can't we have something different?"

ITGuy shot back "You mean like burger and bun?"


"You know. McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, etc."

He had a point. They were at least as abundant as Asian and Mexican and she wasn't complaining about those.

"Oh, don't you know anything?" she condescended, "McDonald's didn't become successful because of their hamburgers."

This was news to me. "They didn't?" I said, somewhat surprised.

"No. McDonald's was all about marketing. They had all these cartoon characters like Ronald McDonald, the purple guy, and the cookie monster. That's what made them a hit. That and the playgrounds. They marketed to kids."

While it was true that the arches had, since the mid 60s, targeted kids with their marketing, Ronald was not around until the franchise had been around almost 10 years. And they were expanding pretty successfully without it. But that was beside the point. The point was that there are plenty of burger and bun places in the area and she wasn't complaining about them.

I tried to switch back on track, insomuch as this conversation had a track. I suggested that the restaurants in the area were a result of meeting demand. If people didn't want them, they'd go out of business.

"But shouldn't they try something different so that they stand out from the other places to eat?"

"I imagine that if they were smart, they did market research to make sure there was demand."

"Not necessarily. You'd be surprised."

I was still missing something. There is some Asian restaurant somewhere that is opening up sometime. We don't have any specifics. But we are upset over it. Why? So, I asked the IT guy if he knew someone who was opening a place.

"My sister."

Oh-ho! So, IT-guy comes to Karma to tell her abut his sister's new venture. Bear in mind, IT-guy frequently brings Karma treats and is very nice to her. If someone like that came to you, your first natural reaction would be to berate them, wouldn't it? So, Karma has established that IT's sister didn't do her homework and is opening a superfluous restaurant. What a good friend.

So, I decided to find out a bit more about the restaurant. Surely if his sister had planned to open a restaurant, she had some details. "So," I asked, "what kind of food is it?"

"Thai barbeque."

My taste buds perked up. So did my ears. "Sounds tasty."

"Oh, who ever heard of Thai barbeque?" Karma snapped, acting hastily to quell the flow of positive energy. "Nobody is going to want to go there. When families are in the car trying to decide where to eat, they think Italian, Mexican, American, Chinese. Nobody ever says 'Thai Barbeque'." Her reversal of position was so smooth, you'd think it was her position all along. Now she was arguing against something different. Something that stands out from the other places to eat. Still thinking me an ally, she turned and asked, "Have you ever heard of Thai Barbeque."

"Yes," I lied. I had heard of Mongolian Barbeque and Thai food in general. So, I could certainly conceive of Thai BBQ. And I certainly wasn't going to give her any ammunition.

"Well, *I* haven't heard of it, so it can't be very common." This is her litmus test for many things. There isn't racism in the South because she's never encountered it. Most people haven't heard of Thai BBQ, because she hasn't. Asians don't eat out, because five of the six she works with don't eat out. You get the idea.

I pressed on in support of ITGuy. "It sounds really good. I'd definitely eat there. What's she going to call it?"

IT guy has a bit of an accent, so Karma mistook the name. It's up to you whether or not she did it intentionally. "Lemon GLASS Barbeque? GLASS? G-L-A-S-S?" she asked in an exaggerated way as though it was the dumbest thing she had ever heard.

It's actually Lemon GRASS BBQ. You know, the whole overdone Asian L/R bit? Karma claims to have never heard of Lemon grass. I told her that lemon grass chicken was one of my favorite Thai dishes.

"Well, I've never heard of it." she groused. "It's not a very good name. Nobody is going to know what they serve there. No one will come."

"Well, nobody would know what a lot of restaurants have to offer when they open. That's why they do a marketing blitz when they first open. It lets people know what they have and gives enticements to come in. Discount coupons. You know, stuff like that." I felt like I was talking to an idiot child.

"Well, that's my point." she said, as though she had been arguing this all along. "There is going to be a phase of educating the public. And that is costly. They'd be better off if people knew what to expect there. That way they could go when they were in the mood for that type of food."

So, to sum up to where we are now. These are B.A.R.F.'s demands:
* No more Asian or Mexican restaurants. We have enough.
* New eateries MUST offer something different.
* These different things must be the same as things already around that Karma likes, such as Italian, Soup and Salad, or Indian. (Yes. I know India is in Asia. Don't go there.)
* The name must clearly indicate the type of food. So "Passage to India" had better serve Indian Food and "Joe's American Bar and Grill" is good ole USofA. "Tony's Place" is right out.

"I think some people will be interested. Lemon grass is a common Thai ingredient. People who like Thai food will want to go there. You just need a memorable name. There was a great Thai place back where I used to live called 'Lemon Tree'. They did great business. But the name doesn't tell you anything."

To this, she had no answer. For this, I was grateful. I decided to find out more about LG BBQ. "I think I'd like to go there when it opens. Where is this going to be?" I asked ITG.

"The food court of UCSD." ITG told me.

"Darn," I said. "I don't really get down there ever." As I said that, another though hit me. "So, we are arguing over a restaurant that is nowhere near us and that we are unlikely to patronize?!?"

"Well. I didn't know it wasn't near me. That's a relief." Karma said.

"I'm still a bit confused. Why are we railing against rice so much? I find rice more interesting that mashed potatoes or french fries, the other big starch staples. Those would get pretty boring on a regular basis, too."

"Rice is bad for you." she explained.

Here we go again. Last time she crusaded against a food it was the bagel. ITGuy waved goodbye and made his exit. I should have done the same. I shouldn't have taken the bait, but I did. "Why is rice bad for you?"

"It raises insulin levels. It causes diabetes."

"Wouldn't mashed potatoes and french fries do that, too?"

"Yes, but they aren't as prevalent as those rice places." she reminded me.

"Rice is not necessarily bad for you." I pointed out, "Asian cultures eat rice as a staple and don't have America's obesity problem."

"It is bad. My diabetes doctor told me."

"There are multiple varieties of rice. Minute rice is definitely bad for you. But there are other types of rice. There's long grain, jasmine, basmati, brown rice..."

"Those are all white. Except for the brown rice. And white rice is bad."

"Well sure, if you eat a big bowl of it. But it's bad as much for the calories as it is for its refined nature. If you eat a meal with a side of rice, some vegetables, and a protein, you're essentially eating a complex meal and it will be broken down by your body accordingly."

"My dad has diabetes. The bad kind. He takes shots and everything. He can't have rice. My diabetes doctor told me not to either."

She doesn't have diabetes as far as I know. She eats chocolate and other sweets regularly. These, apparently, are not bad for her. Certainly not as bad as *shudder* RICE.

"My dad has diabetes, too." I countered. "He takes insulin shots and he still enjoys an occasional bowl of rice with his meal."

"My diabetes doctor said..."

I debated internally whether or not to introduce her to the word 'endocrinologist'. Common sense won out. There was a long pause as she waited to see what facts she'd have to refute next. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and said "do you have the script for generating the diagnostics?"

She looked disappointed, but agreed to e-mail it to me. I made a hasty retreat and began writing furiously...

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

See Us on TV!

Well, if you are local you can anyway. Maya, Josh, and I made the final cut of the two commercials for this year's San Diego Renaissance Faire. If you live locally, you will be able to see the commercial on KUSI, NBC, and The History Channel during the last couple of weeks of July.

If you aren't local, or don't want to wait, you can view the commercials online. I am in the tail end of commercial 1. You have to look for me as I am part of a shot where the Mayor and assorted sundries are bowing toward the camera. The kids are both in commercial 2. Josh is the only pirate and Maya is in a blue dress with a tan chemise. Both have really good closeups. The fair should be quite an event this year.

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Rule Brittania

"Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves."

I would be remiss if I didn't include a post of support for the people of London and all of England, for that matter. It's sad that innocents have to suffer for the actions of tyrants.

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In 'light' of my recent procedure...

I'm sure THIS must be what Chuck is referring to. ;-) I present to you Working Where The Sun Don't Shine (The Colorectal Surgeon's Song) by Canadian musical humorists Bowser and Blue. The link takes you to the lyrics. Click on the MP3 link to hear it. You'll thank me later.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Long Awaited Lemon Tree

The Long Awaited Lemon Tree
Originally uploaded by briwei.
Check it out! I have finally posted a picture of the lemon tree in ouryard. The tree is actually a little fuller than that, right now. That picture was just after its haircut. We seem to get a small lemon crop every three months or so.

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