Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gusty WInds May Exist

That's my favorite road sign ever. It's in New Mexico, and I suppose it's supposed to warn you about the possibility of high winds. But it does so in a very cool way. It just invites you to consider the possibility that somewhere, sometime, there may be a broadly defined entity or class of thing known as gusty winds. What you choose to do with this information is entirely up to you.

I was going to write on this extensively, but then, when trying to find a pic of the sign on the intertubes (which failed - damn you intertubes!) I found this link, which discusses the sign as well as I could. So I'll just link to it and leave it at that. Anyone who drives through NM and Tijeras canyon though, know that I would really really love a pic of that sign!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In case you're wondering...

Who's Who in America is still sending annual emails inviting me to become a Who. It's all very Seussian, don't you think? Horton Reads a Who's Who. And the tiny academic in a pouch said "humph" too. I remain firmly grounded in my knowledge of being a Who's That, which is better than a What's That, or even worse, a WTF. But I know that, whoever who is, it ain't me. Evidently the editorial staff at Who's Who don't read the blog :o) Goes to show I'm not a Who now, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This struck me as right on...

The following is a quotation from a book by Steven Erikson called Reaper's Gate. People who know me know I've been addicted to the series this book comes from for the past several months. It's a truly sprawling and grim fantasy series called the Malazan Books of the Fallen, so named because each book involves, to a lesser or greater extent, the Malazan empire and its armies. It's quite good.

But that's not the point. Erikson is prone to some amateur philosophy and a lot of economic and political analysis in his books that mirror our culture and situation in the books. Sometimes I find this tedious, but sometimes I like it. And in the beginning of this particular book, there is a conversation between Tanal Yathvanar, a high ranked torturer and inquisitor, and his superior. I have not edited the conversation at all because I wanted to be true to what was written, and this is from pages 56 and 57 of the text. This is kind of a long quote so bear with me...

"Who poses the greatest threat to the empire, Yathvanar?"

"Fanatics," Tanal replied after a moment. "Like that one below."

"Incorrect. Listen to his words. He is possessed of certainty. He holds up to a secure vision of the world, a man with the correct answers - that the prerequisite questions were themselves the correct ones goes without saying. A citizen with certainty, Yathvanar, can be swayed, turned, can be made into a most diligent ally. All one needs to do is find what threatens them the most. Ignite their fear, burn to cinders the foundations of their certainty, then offer an equally certain alternate way of thinking, of seeing the world. They will reach across, no matter how wide the gulf, and grasp and hold on to you with all their strength. No, the certain are not our enemies. Presently misuided, as in the case of the man below, but always most vulnerable to fear. Take away the comfort of their convictions, then coax them with seemingly cogent and reasonable convictions of our own making. Thier eventual embrace is assured."

"I see"

"Tanal Yathvanar, our greatest enemies are those who are without certainty. The ones with questions, the ones who regard our tidy answers with unquenchable scepticism. Those questions assaul us, undermine us. They ... agitate. Understand, these dangerous citizens understand that nothing is simple, their stance is the very opposite of naivety. They are humbled by the ambivalence to which they are witness, and they defy our simple, comforting assertions of clarity, of a black and white wolrd. Yathvanar, when you wish to deliver the gravest insult to such a citizen, call them naive. You will leave them incensed, indeed, virtually speechless ... until you watch their minds back-tracking, revealed by a cascade of expressions, as they ask themselves: who is it that would call me naive? Well, comes the answer, clearly a person possessing certainty, with all the arrogance and pretension that position entails, a confidence, then, that permits the offhand judgement, the derisive dismissal uttered from a most lofty height. And from all this, into your victim's eyes will come the light of recognition - in you he faces his enemy, his truest enemy. And he will know fear. Indeed, terror."

What I really loved about this quote is that it described the ambivalence and doubt I feel about most "true faiths" including much of politics, almost all of religion, and just about anything else. And that includes the ideas that come from the "sides that I'm on" and those that don't. And what I really really love is that this conversation takes place between evil people. It is as if Erikson is saying "Look, here is a way of looking at things, but this way doesn't automatically make you into a 'good person' or superior or anything." In doing it this way he avoids coming across as preachy, as necessarily mandating this idea, which of course would run counter to the ambiguity the quote is espousing. Based on the rest of the series I've read, I think that Erikson in fact is in favor of such a stance (because it comes up in some of his main characters, though not typically with a happy result) but he's not hitting you over the head with it.

So, if you agree, disagree, or are just bored with this, chime in, Give a comment :o)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Me in the Girls Locker Room

Ok, so now that I have your attention (and the attention of a few folks innocently browsing for internet porn who were sadly misdirected to T&S - sorry guys) I'll have to admit that I did not actually make it into the girls locker room. Thank god. Here's what happened.

I was at the health club the other day, early in the morning, getting ready for a 7 mile run. I went to the MEN'S locker room, changed clothes, put my stuff into a locker, locked it, and went upstairs. I got there and realized I had forgotten something. I was fiddling with my mp3 player at the time and not really paying attention to what I was doing. I walked back downstairs and started into the first locker room I came to. I guess the autopilot in my head assumed that the first locker room was good enough. Only it wasn't. It so wasn't. I looked up and realized I was about three steps in the entry way to a locker room that was the wrong color. The right color is the Men's locker room. So the wrong color must be ... oh shit. And then it flashed into my head that something was very wrong. As casually as I could, I bolted back out Casually, coolly. Right. Fortunately, I had not actually turned into the locker room itself, so there was no way I could have seen anyone, but it was a very near thing! It was early enough and I was lucky enough that nobody saw me. Otherwise I would have had to cancel my membership. And I slunk to the men's locker room, thanking non-existent dieties that I hadn't gone in or been seen. And it was at this moment I realized I'm not British.

No all you Anglophiles, stick with me. It's not that I view the British as inveterate peeping Tom's or anything. It's just that the British, as I see them, based almost entirely on what I've seen on TV and movies, well they're very good at being embarrassed, and being sorry. As I was slinking back towards the right locker room I was wondering what if I would have said if someone had seen me. And all I could think of was stuff that sounded British. Stuff like "Oh I'm so very, frightfully sorry. Simply dreadful. Don't know where my head is." "I'm really sorry bout this, truly" and stuff like that. And none of it sounds right unless you've got a British accent. Like John Cleese or something. Try it. Say it to yourself with an American accent. Now say it like John Cleese. Which sounds better? You see?! It just seems that the Brits (at least the ones you see on TV and movies) have got being embarrassed or contrite down to a science, and we Americans just don't know how to do it. The best I could come up with in an American accent would be "whoops - bummer" or "Sorry Dude" or just running for the door. Check out Fish Called Wanda for some great examples of British embarrassment and apology ("I apologize unreservedly" - sure he was dangled out a window at the time but it was still a great apology).

So there are many things we can conclude from this little episode.

First, watch where the hell you're going at the health club.

Seocnd, going into a girls' locker room is not nearly as exciting as you imagined in 8th grade when you were watching Porky's.

Third, if you DO go into a girl's locker room, hope to hell you're British.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Running Song

Ok, so how is this for a desperate to think of something to post post? Want to know a good running song? You know you do! You know you were desperately searching the internet, hoping that someone, anyone, would tell you the name of a good running song. Even though you don't run, you wanted to know. And so then, as a last effort, you turned to good ol' T&S, hoping, praying that it may be here. And now, well, it is! Yes! It's the "Good Running Song" post you've all been emailing for, clamoring for, praying for (and you thought I didn't pick up all those blog-o-sphere vibes!).

"Enough torture!" you cry. "What's the song?! What's the song?!"

Well with a build up like this it better be a terrific super-duper black-helicopter-cool kind of song. And it is! The song is .... drum roll please ....

"Wolk Like Me" by TV on the Radio.

It's fast, it's smart, it's fun, it sticks in your head like gum to your shoe on a summer day.

"Lyrics!" you demand. "Give us some lyrics!"

Ok, ok, impatient readers. Here is a teaser, just a glimpse of lyrics.

say, say, my playmate, wont you lay hands on me?
mirror my malady, transfer my tragedy

gotta curse i cannot lift, shines when the sunset shifts
when the moon is round and full, gotta bust that box. gotta gut that fish

"More!" you cry. "Give us more!"

Well, urm, uh .... no?

Get your own TV on the Radio and leave me to enjoy mine! Get on with you, overly demanding and enthusiastic mass of readers! Leave me to devise still more deep and inspiring posts, for the betterment of all mankind.

(You're really wishing I could come up with some decent content now, I know. But the song DOES rock, even if you don't run to it).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Latest Timewasters

Well, seeing as it's a New Year and all (Happy New Year everybody) I decided to find some new ways to waste time. Well, that's not actually true, I've had these ways to waste time for a lot longer than the past 3 weeks, but I thought I'd put some of them down so that other people, who are perhaps just as awash in free time as I am (or perhaps, more honestly, more willing to give up sleep) could try them out.

Today's waste of time is (rum roll please) ... Monster Lab. Now because I like it, and I have a minute here, I'm going to try to describe the game. I'm not a game reviewer (that will become achingly apparent in a second here) so bear with me.

Monster Lab is a Nintendo Wii game in which you play the role of a mad scientist's apprentice (which makes you a Mad Apprentice I suppose) who goes on missions, fights monsters, and eventually learn to create better and better monsters yourself. It's reminiscent of one of my favorite, least played, and most coveted games; a game called Mail Order Monsters on the C64. It was least played because I did not have a Commodore 64 so I played it a few times at a friend's house in about 7th grade and wanted wanted wanted it but never got it. Mail Order Monsters was similar in that you created your own creatures (monsters) with different powers and stats and then fought them in an arena. I have not looked up Mail Order Monsters in the Abandonware sites because I'm afraid if I did I'd find it kind of sucks (now) and I'd rather live with those fond memories of all that potential.

But I digress. Endlessly. Did I tell you about the new tattoo my friend got? Just kidding. I mean she did get a tattoo but I wasn't actually going to tell you about it. I was making a reference to digression. Trying to kind of catch you off guard. Not that it's not a hysterical tattoo. More impressive, in fact, because it is a joke tatoo. But I digress. No the tattoo...

See how I did that, with a whole paragraph devoted to digression? Pretty cool huh? A veritable technique! Mind you, I'm not very familiar with writing conventions but ...

Sorry. I know that's annoying but I kind of had to play around. I actually won't make a habit of it because that particular kind of humor gets old really really fast. Especially when you're just dying to hear about Monster Lab!

So Monster Lab is just a lot of fun. That's it. It's not really all that deep. You go on missions, you don't pick em they just give em to you. You fight monsters. The combat is entirely turn based and so the skill is picking which parts to attack with and which parts of the enemy to aim at. You get lots of components that you then turn into parts that you then use to build your monsters. All really straight forward. And it's just really fun! I like the colors, I like the corny voice acting, I like the monsters! I partly like it because my 7 year old can play it with just a little help, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't put in many more hours than her in the game. I am actually not much of a console gamer (I'll babble about that in another post, perhaps, unless I get a bunch of verbal tomatos thrown at me for this post - feel free to comment with tomatos) but this one I hope to try to finish. Which would make it only the second console game I've finished in the past, oh, 18 years. I think I'm enjoying it because it is simple. I don't have to spend hours mastering a byzantine control scheme or learning to ride a freaking horse on the Wii before I can start a real mission - I can just play.

In case you are actually reading this, and actually interested, you could always check out the reviews here. They are mixed and I can totally see why. If you're a hardcore console gamer looking for the next Halo, of Final Fantasy, or whatever, you will be greatly disappointed. If you just want to play around with something where you build your own freaking mosters though, you'll like it :o)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

5 year old song lyrics

No, not song lyrics from 5-year old songs (what songs did come out in 2004, anyway?) No, this post is about lyrics as sung by 5-year olds. A few years ago, before the greatness that was Thwackum and Square, my daughters (the oldest of whom would be about 5 at the time) were learning a little bit about Rock and Roll from their mom. Since they were learning from their mom, they were learning about Bon Jovi and Daughtry instead of Pink Floyd and New Model Army - go figure. But anyway, a particular treat during that phase was listening to the way they reconstructed the song lyrics. My particular favorite was "You give love a bad name" by Bon Jovi on Slippery When Wet. That well known song has a refrain:

Shot through the heart
and you're to blame
You give love
A bad name

Only the 5-year old version was vastly improved. It went like this:

Shot in the heart
And you're too late
You give love
A band-aid

You probably have to see the five year old singing this, with great intensity, to appreciate the full genius of the moment, but it stuck in my head for lo, these many months. It's probably worth noting that with typical child-like optimism they've changed the song from one of bitterness and anger to one of hope and healing - now the target of the song is patching up love with the most important of all child-approved remedies, a band aid. In this version, you're not to blame, no, just too late to stop it. But not to late to fix it. Ah youth.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Warning! Late Night Googling Strikes Again!

Adam Roe, I don't know who you are, but you made me laugh really hard for like a whole half an hour. I think you maybe added years to my life.

(This one is even better.)

Read the copyright announcements at the bottom. It is mandatory.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The IKEA experience

So for Christmas this year my wife and I bought each other a wardrobe set from Ikea to organize our closet. Prior to said wardrobe set, we had these godawful wire shelves kind of drilled into the closet walls, which were pulling out of the walls and which sucked anyway. So it seemed a great solution to put these do-it-yourself-er wardrobes in there.

So most of you have been to an Ikea I assume, unless you live in some area where they don't have them. If you don't, Ikea is this gigantic Swedish based furniture store that is loaded with weird looking furniture. Some of it you'll like, some you'll despise, and some will just puzzle the heck out of you. Just one of those ".... what??" experiences. You have many of those sorts of experiences at Ikea. The thing is, everyone picks different furniture to love, hate, and "what" about. Go figure. The stores also have their own little restaurants and supervised play areas (like little shopping daycares) which make them popular with families. Who then go and buy confusing furniture.

One of the most confusing things about the furniture is the names. Each piece has a name, chosen by some marketing firm in Sweden. Unfortunately, Swedish is different enough from English that they don't always choose great names. The "Lack" is a case in point. This actual Ikea name refers, I believe, to a table or shelf of some sort. The name lacks something, but I'm not sure what (ha ha). They haven't named anything the "Krapi" yet, but I think it's just a matter of time.

In any case, we went to Ikea and bought our wardrobes (the "Komplement" style, if you were wondering), and if I wasn't such a lazy fellow I'd post a picture of the assembled wardrobes here so you could all see what the fuss is about. But I am lazy, so just picture the assembled wardrobes using your imagination and keep reading. Assembly went relatively well. I felt like such a grownup when I used a drill to join the wardrobes together and attach them to the wall! More than just a grown-up though, a man. I immediately ran downstairs, drank a beer, belched, and turned on a football game after wards. The Vikings won. But I digress.

So the point of this whole long and boring barrage of babble (can't think of any other "b's" to put in there, but let me know if you do) was that we had to use the Ikea instruction books for assembly. Now Ikea is Swedish, so they're truly international, and so their instruction books have no words. They have pictures, and some times, though certainly not all the time, the pictures make sense. But other times they look kind of like Dali drawing an assembly guide for a Lego set. Interesting, but not always helpful. So for all those of you who have had this Ikea Experience, or who would like to learn a little more of what it's like, I offer this youtube video, which explains it perfectly. It's worth noting that all of the pictures from the manual they show in this clip are actually from the Ikea instructions. I've put that table together myself, as it happens, so I know.

Happy New Year.