Thursday, July 05, 2012

10,000 year clock stuff

I'm always pretty behind the times, so I assume that most of the people who read this already know about the 10,000 year clock project.  The basic idea is to build a clock, or a series of clocks, that tick once every year, and chime once every thousand years, and last 10,000 years.  Why would you do this, you ask?  Well, they say because it symbolizes long term thinking - thinking about, planning for, being aware of the future.  Nutty idea?  Who knows.  I kind of like the idea but you wonder about productive use of resources and all of that.  It strikes me as a uniquely, well, modern America way of doing good.  We'll do good by taking on a huge costly extravagant project that doesn't really benefit anyone really in need, but it's still pretty cool, right?  But in spite of that, I still think it's way cool, I'm just a cynic.  But what I'm mostly interested in right now is this cool video!  It shows how they drill a 12 foot diameter hole straight up through 500 feet of rock.  They need the clock to be in a dry, protected environment (or it wouldn't last 10,000 years) so they're carving out the inside of a mountain!  I can't think of who else would do this aside from governments making missile silos and stuff.  So anyway, it's pretty cool and if you're bored check it out! And of course, in 20 years when they finish this thing (if they finish it that fast), if I'm still mobile I'm gonna go see this sucker!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Greek gods

This is a totally random post (unlike all the other carefully orchestrated posts that build to a sublime whole, right?).  I was running today (went very well, thanks for asking) and was thinking about the Greek gods.  No, I have no reason for this, you do weird stuff when you run.  Anyway, what occurred to me is that I doubt the Greek pantheon (Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, et al.) were all invented at the same time.  What I imagine happened is that there were different groups, tribes, towns, what have you, and each of those groups had one or a few gods.  As the groups came together, and started to communicate, they would naturally talk about their gods and as they did this, they would have to make some sense of the plurality of gods being brought together.  Unlike modern Christianity, which would just say "sorry, you're deluded, your gods don't exist and ours does" it seems plausible that any one group/town/tribe may have felt a need to account for the existence of their own local gods and the newer gods they were learning about.  Either as godly relations, allies, etc. (oh, your god is probably the brother of my god!) or enemies or whatever.  I'm just making all this up, of course, but as I am imagining it, assuming that there were "lore keepers" or priests or whatever caste claims ownership of divine knowledge, those individuals may have been the one with the task of reconciling or assimilating the different gods.

Taking  a step back, it would seem that as one group is confronted with a new version of the divine, it has several options.  Hostility (you don't believe in our god, we'll kill you now), benign disavowal (those silly heathens don't know the true gods, poor them), or perhaps some form of assimilation (fitting their gods into your system without changing it much) or accommodation (changing your system dramatically to fit with the new information, perhaps even to the point of resembling the new system).  This latter point is a bit tangential, but it does relate to how I am imagining the Greek pantheon would have been formed.  Based on my very spotty knowledge of Christian history, I believe that all of those approaches have been used over time.  The crusades to an extent exemplify the hostility angle, benign disavowal is the current "party line," and certainly if you look at the saints of the middle ages (I had "middle aged saints" there for a bit - think that lost something in the translation), the Christmas tree, Easter bunny, and so forth you'll find plenty of assimilation and perhaps a bit of accommodation (depending on which camp you're in about that last part).

So, getting back to the whole Greek pantheon thing, I suppose what struck me and motivated me to write this out was the realization that it is probably very unlikely that the pantheon was born whole cloth from one tribe/group/city.  It was probably a conglomeration that gradually developed but then was written down and enshrined through their art, literature, and so forth, and that I, as a relatively uneducated lay person, took initially to be a relatively constant, and always fully formed, set of ideas.

Although my thinking did not go this way at all this morning on my run, an obvious extension of this line of thinking is to wonder about how existing faiths, Christianity among them, will evolve over time.  There seem to be some very strong forces in place, have been for centuries, to try to prevent drift or evolution of ideas.  Christianity, which I am most familiar with, has its whole "canon" versus "apocrapha" thing, for example.  Depending on your sect, to be Christian means to believe very specific things, and to do otherwise gets you cast out from the group.  But even with that, there is undeniable change in even modern religions over time.  Very easy example (almost too easy, feels like cheating) - anyone been burned for not believing the teachings of Aristotle were 100% accurate lately?  Cheap shot, I know, but it illustrates the point.

Do I expect that any of this is revelatory to those who study this stuff and know about it.  Nah.  Just some random thoughts that I haven't taken the time, since I had them an hour or two ago, to look up and fact check. But there ya have it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

And a new goal!

Long time readers of this blog (are there any other types?  Both of you are very faithful, bless you!) will know that my running goals change just a little over time.  The last goal was to do 10 marathons.  Before that there was the running a marathon under 4 hour goal.  And way back when there was Finishing a Marathon Without Dying (check, check, and check).  Currently I  have two or three other goals.  An ultimate goal is to run down the Grand Canyon, across it, back up the other side, and then turn around and do the same thing again.  It can take 8 to 12 hours for "middle of the pack runners" (which is me).  This is not a formal event, but it's something distance runners sometimes do and I think it would be the pinnacle of distance running.  It's called "Rim to Rim to Rim" or, as a coworker kindly phrased it, RimJob 2013.  Sorry bout that, but I'm not the one who came up with it *grin*.  This is a 42 mile run, so another obvious goal is to get to where I can run more than 26 miles at once.  Those are called ultra-marathons and are, as you know, kind of insane.

The new goal, however, comes directly from this most recent marathon.  The fact that I was able to hold onto a pace that was not that far off 9 minutes per mile for 18 miles kind of surprised and very much pleased me, so now my new goal is to do another 4 hour or less time in a normal marathon.  I say "normal" because I'm not going to try that on a trail marathon or other insane kind of event - just on a flat old marathon course.  A sub 4 marathon is typically about a 9 minute pace, or just a smidge over.  I've done this before, but it was a few years ago and I had thought my (for me) speedy days were over.  But now I have new hope and I may try for it this fall in California.  The challenge will be to work on this while simultaneously upping my miles to more ultra distances (i.e, 50+ mile weeks with lots of back to back effort).  That will be, uhm, fun?

In service of this new goal I did 13.1 miles today at a 9 minute pace on a treadmill.  Well, it was just slightly above that.  A 9 minute pace for 11 miles, then about 9:20 for the last 2.1 miles, but still pretty close.  I went with the treadmill because a) it's 90 freaking degrees out, and humid to boot, but also b) I wanted a way of really tracking and regulating my pace.  I wanted to see if I could stay at that 9 minute pace for a moderately long distance.  Turns out I can, so now I just need to incorporate tempo runs into this summer/fall so that I'm training to run my distance runs at that speed.

Now that I've shared this goal with the (very small) virtual world of our readers all I have to do is implement it. Wish me luck and above all, no damn injuries!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Number 10 - Report!

The overview.

Well, marathon number 10 is finished!  It really wasn't a bad race.  I've run this particular event before and found it to be hot, and to have an insulting hill at mile 25, and this time only one of those things happened. The weather was beautiful up until about mile 18, and while there was a STEEP hill about mile 16, that was the only real challenge.  At the same time, I was not as well trained as I could have or should have been, and so I walked a lot of the last 6 miles (probably about 2.5 or so).  Here are just a few highlights of this wondrous and painful event.

The shoes.

A while back I read an excellent book called Born to Run which, in addition to other interesting ideas, claimed that shoes are just not that big a deal.  It noted that injuries tended to go up after people get new shoes and that despite millions of dollars in research and development on shoes, there have been no improvements in injury rates, performance, etc. overall over the years.  Taking that to heart, I decided new shoes were for wusses and didn't buy any shoes for over a year.  Which meant that all of the shoes I have, instead of having 300-500 miles or less on them, have about 750-1000 miles on them.  A few weeks ago I broke down and bought some new ones, not because of the miles on the shoes, but because they were literally falling apart.  So you'd think I'd be wearing my spanking new shoes in this event, right?  Wrong.  The shoes I got are a new model of the shoes I've been wearing the past 3 years (Saucony Progrid Triumph 9's).  The model forces you to land on your mid foot instead of your heal (i.e., not to "heal strike").  This innovation is probably due to the huge popularity of minimalist shoes and other innovations spurred on to no small extent by that very book, Born to Run.  However, as I have only had them a few weeks running in them hurts my calves and I was not about to wear them for 26 miles.  So I wore my backup pair, which were stained green with grass stains from mowing the lawn.  I think I was the only one there with lawn mower shoes on.  I felt quite the hick.

The pace.

Going into the marathon I decided that I wanted to try for a 4:20 finishing time, which is a 10 minute pace.  In order to achieve this I hooked up with the 4:15 finish time pace group, with the idea that in the last few miles I could drop back if I needed to.  This is generally a good strategy.  This time, however, two things happened that made it a bad strategy.  First, the pace group leader, a very nice lady, accidentally went out way too fast, so that by 13.1 miles we were on pace for a 4:05 marathon!  I was glad that I could keep up with that and actually felt quite comfortable for about 18 miles but then I bonked big time.  My final time?  4:35.  About the speed of my first marathon.  If I'd truly gone out at a 4:15 pace and stuck to it, I probably could have made at least the 4:20 because I wouldn't have bonked so bad.  I'd be mad at the pace leader except that she had just run a 30 mile race 2 weeks before and she ended up getting dehydrated and bonking hard herself.  We walked about a half mile together (both way behind the 4:15 target pace by then) and I felt bad enough about how she was feeling that I couldn't hold a grudge.  Pace runners tend to be highly experienced and competitive runners, and so I know it was really frustrating for her to be reduced to that pace.

The (lack of) a bus.
One of the things about this marathon is that although it is essentially a circle course, it ends up about 1.5 miles away from the start line.  I had parked at the start line, and when I finished up, hurting, limping, and tired, I realized I had to trudge all the way back to the start (uphill, in the sun, yadda yadda).  I was feeling quite bitter about this until I got to the parking ramp where I saw a shuttle bus leaving runners off.  Evidently the organizers had done the right thing and set up shuttle service and I had done the wrong thing and not realized that.  So then I just felt bitter and stupid.

The damn iPod.
When I got to the race I realized that although I had painstakingly made a Marathon Number 10 music mix for my iPod, and had charged the iPodt, I had forgotten to move the mix over the the damn machine.  I had to make do with some other music, which was ok.  But I needn't have worried.  I really have a love/hate/hate relationship with iPods.  They're amazing machines, and very well integrated with iTunes, and so convenient that I use them in spite of my philosophical differences with Apple.  See how pretty they are?  But they Cannot Handle Moisture.  About mile 9 my iPod Nano decided that its reduce volume button was being pushed, continuously, and so consequently showed the "reduce volume screen" and played no sound.  If I pushed the "increase volume" button it would have this little war, as it would increase a fraction, then decrease right afterwards.  I got disgusted and did a hard shut down.  I was tempted to do a very hard shut down by throwing it on the ground and stomping on it.  But as I was smart enough to get the replacement plan this time I will just exchange it and buy an even better waterproof case (like a steal safe tied to my belt or something).

The chaffing.

I typically use UnderArmor gear (shirt, boxer briefs, etc) because it wicks very well, is well made, and avoids chafing.  It is also, unfortunately, expensive so I only own a few items from them and I have been reluctant to buy replacements.  Today I found out that I need to buy some replacements.  I finished this race feeling like I had a bad case of diaper rash all over my damn body.  A quick bath in a tub full of A&D ointment has been only marginally helpful.  I've never had this happen with UA gear, and so conclude that my gear has gotten that "not so fresh" feeling and needs to be burned at once.  Ouch damnit.  Sometimes being cheap is just not worth it!

The verdict.

This part is what makes people call runners insane.  I am really glad I did this race.  I had a lot of fun, got to talk to a lot of nice people, and remembered that it is much more fun to run 20 miles (or 26 miles) surrounded by supportive runners and spectators than doing it alone.  The fact that I was able to keep up at a 4:00 pace for so long tells me that if I really train, focusing on some speed, I can probably do another 4 hour marathon (if I so choose).  It was a good thing!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Getting ready for Number 10

Five and a half years ago I crossed the finish line for my first marathon.

I think that means something different to everyone who has finished a marathon.  For me it was the achievement of the impossible.  Up until 2 and a half years before, I had been a professional couch potato.  Already in my 30s I had worked out only occasionally and run a mile perhaps 4 or 5 times in my life (and most of those in grade school).  I was one of the least athletic people that I know.  I had stumbled into running while walking around the indoor track at the Y after the birth of my second daughter.  One thing that I knew, with a sedentary job and two young kids, was that I absolutely needed some way to move around and burn off some frustration, anxiety, energy.  Walking was a nice start, and then it gradually turned into running for a few laps, and then it went all the way up to running a mile.  After a few months of that I gradually upped it until I could run maybe 2 miles at a time.  I was very proud of this!  I can remember distinctly being on the track and thinking "If I can get to doing 2 miles at at time, every day, that would be amazing!"  Having made this step I decided I should go buy some "running shoes."  When I told the guy at the store I was running maybe 10 miles a week he bluntly told me it didn't matter what kind of shoe I wore (because the distance was so short) and I ended up with a pair of Nike (and this is the real name, here) Extruders.  Yup, my first shoes were Extruders, and I never did find out what they extruded, other than failed marketing and bargain bin chic.

Eventually my older sister also got into running and, in typical older sister fashion, jumped way ahead of me by signing up not for a 10K, not for a half marathon, but for a full marathon!  I couldn't believe it.  I had no plans to do a marathon, the distance was ridiculous, but I did agree to come out and do a half marathon with her.  And that's pretty much all it took.  From that point on, I was hooked.  The first half marathon had a disappointing finish time, I knew I could do better, so I started to run longer and harder.  Once I knew I could do 13.1 miles, I knew I could probably do more, so I hooked up with a few people from work and trudged my way through the training for a fall marathon in 2006.  As I said, it was an incredible feeling, one of the most emotional in my life (not so intense as  the day I married my wife, or the birth of our kids, but right up there with the way I felt when I got my PhD).  I had done what I should never have been able to do!

Then I started to think.  I had done it, but so had literally 10,000 other people.  That day.  In that one race.  Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people were going to run a marathon that year.  Heck, Oprah has done it!  So while it was very cool, it wasn't exactly distinguished.  So I decided I wanted a new goal.  Lots of people have run a marathon - but how many have run two?  And how many have run three?  And how many have gone all the way up to 10 or more?  Turns out, lots more than you think, as I came to find.  But it was still a new goal, to finish 10 marathons. If I could do THAT, then I would have achieved something.

So for the past five and a half years I've been moving towards that goal.  Sometimes running towards it, other times jogging, other times barely walking, but always moving in that direction.  I've worn through a few pairs of shoes, run off a few extra pounds.  Got some new aches and pains.  As I said, I've since come to find that there are many, many people who have done things like this, and some who routinely do still more (any ultra runners reading this??).  But it's a goal and as of tomorrow, if all goes well, I will achieve it.  I'm not planning on a fast run, or even a good run.  I'm reasonably trained, but not for speed, and it's going to be a hot day.  One of the things I've learned over 9 other runs is that if you just slow down you can finish most anything, and that's going to be my strategy tomorrow.  I seriously doubt that this will be my last event - I've got some plans!  In many ways it'll be just another run, just another race.  But in that one important way, the "number 10" way, it will be more than that.

Wish me luck.

Friday, June 01, 2012

In awe...

Today I went to a concert.  A rare event but not all that noteworthy, in and of itself.  What was rare was that I know, very well, two of the musicians on stage.  They are not, at all, professional musicians.  They are, in fact, professionals who work in my facility, on my team.  But in their spare time, they play the keyboards, guitar, bass, and sing (between the two of them) and so they joined two other guys, practiced for 6 months, and put together a set of original songs and played it at a club tonight.  As professional bands go, they were really good but they weren't "all that."  But as a couple of guys form the office go, along with a couple of other guys they met, they were AWESOME!  I would so love to be able to do what they did.  There were maybe a hundred people in the audience, and we all had a good time, and we all enjoyed the music.  Just incredible.  I've been plucking at an acoustic guitar for the past year or so and I know just enough to be very, very impressed at what these guys were able to do.

So, nothing earth shattering or even funny in this post.  Just some admiration and, I'll admit, a little bit of envy.  Rock on, my friends.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The media"

This is my media rant post.  It'll sound weird, because the stereotype is that it's The Right who complains about the "biased liberal media" and makes a hobby of lambasting it at every opportunity.  And believe me, Ol' Shifter is not traditionally associated with the Right.  But I work in a job that draws a fair amount of media coverage, or at least has in the past 5 years or so.  I mean we're not on the evening news every night, but where I work gets mentioned every month or so, and usually not in a flattering light.  In fact, NEVER in a flattering light.  And there are thing about that which piss me off.

As I write this I"m reminded that one of the things that pisses me off is that media reports paint ALL parts of a huge system with a single, ugly brush.  Having said that, it occurs to me that I could be doing that very thing with discussion of "the media."  So while I will refrain from making any further generalizations about "the media" in a global sense,  I still have to say that all the media reports that have been on topics that I know, I mean really know, has been off.

Where I work has its problems.  And if you've read this blog in prior years, when we were still writing it, you'd have some sense for that.  And there are things about the system I'm working in that absolutely drive me batshit crazy.  I mean running up and down the halls, gibbering and crying, crazy.  So I'm the last person to say there's nothing wrong with our system, or nothing to report.  But what I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that just about every single news story that I've seen involving my place of business has been dead-on, flat-out, all the way, wrong.  Not a bit wrong, not a bit biased, just flat out wrong.  And it's infuriating, because it perpetuates a stereotype that is harmful not just to those of us working where I work, but also those who we are trying to help.  In a way, in fact, it is not harmful to the employees like me at all.  I pull the same pay check if we get good press or bad press.  And it's a big enough system that it will take more than a few local news reports to really affect me, or those who work with me, at all.  But if you just keep running inaccurate drivel about where I work, then those who really NEED to come and see us and get help are even less likely to do it.  So thank you very much, media.

I really don't think that is because the media is biased towards the left or biased towards the right.  I'm sure those forces are present, but what I mostly see is that there are many elements of media (that I've experienced) that are biased, instead, towards whatever will sell.  What makes a "good story."  And the fact is that "corporate healthcare workers providing good care and coping with challenging circumstances" doesn't make good press.  What also makes poor press are complex stories that cover numerous causes, implications, and elements of context.  Those bore people.  "Smoking gun" type stories make good press.  Even when there's no damn gun.  It's frankly to the point where I've decided that most news stories that I see, those I agree with and those I do not,  have to be viewed with skepticism.  I assume there are some facts in each report, but I also assume there are so many facts that are relevant and not reported, and that misinterpretations of the facts that are presented are so rampant, that a story's conclusion is at best only 50% likely to be accurate.  At best.

You can argue, with some justification, that the problem is that audiences don't have the tolerance and patience and interest for reality.  In other words, some media outlets are responding to market forces, to the will of the people as expressed through their dollars.  You can argue that but I doubt you'll like the implications.  I doubt you get many reporters saying their job is solely to entertain.  Presumably it is to inform, and if that's the case then accuracy and completeness should matter, right?  There should be a reason we watch or listen to news other than Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh, right?

I have no idea what's to be done about this, and if I did have an idea it wouldn't matter all that much anyway, right?  My only conclusion is the one I stated before - don't trust the press.  Not because they love Obama or hate him, because they're pinko commies or fascist pigs, but because the interests of many aspects of the media appear to be complex, multifaceted, sometimes hidden, and to include far, far more than a desire to report "the truth at any cost."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Geek Culture

One of the developments in our society that I think we can blame about 80% on the internet is the geek culture. You see, it used to be that if you were a geek, you were a social outcast who knew a few other geeks you met, say, at school but generally you were on the outside of things.  You had no specific uber-culture to refer to, or if you did it was such a rarified culture that very few people you met on the street would have any idea about it. You were a geek, and that meant you spent a lot of time alone.

Flash forward 30 years and geeks have grown by leaps and bounds.  They have their own TV shows (Big Band Theory, anyone), their own lingo, their own references (well, they've always had Monty Python, but they've expanded), in short, their own culture.  Again, the internet is fabulous for this because any geek, anywhere in the world, is just a click away from thousands of others with similar interests in science fiction, fantasy, gaming, math, computers, what have you.  Geeks are out of the closet!  They're geeky and they're proud.  And if they still get beat up after school from time to time, at least they can email hundreds of others to commiserate.

Now overall I'm very fond of geek culture.  I think it's awesome that Joss Whedon has an avid following of people who watch vampire TV shows and wear shirts proclaiming him to be lord over all.  I love that Lord of the Rings is now a much larger part of our day to day references and lives than ever before.  I smile when I hear even non-geeks using "w00t!" and other geekisms. Yup, overall it's a good thing to have around.  There's only one small problem.

Remember how the definition of a geek used to be someone who was on the outside of everything?  Well, what happens if all those outsiders get together and start their own little culture, their own country, so to speak? As soon as they do that, then it's possible to be on the outside of that culture.  And what do you do when you're too big of a geek to hang with the geeks?  That's gotta be an especially lonely place.  It's like getting told you're not cool enough for the wedgie-of-the-month club.  Ouch.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The talent show

Some people dread holidays.  They find Christmas to be sad, Easter to be pagan, whatever.  Others have certain anniversaries that cause them pain and apprehension - the death of a loved one, the day George Bush was elected (any of those days), and so forth.  Still others hate birthdays, as they remind us we are a little bit older, a little bit hairier and a little bit balder, and a little less fun,  all at once.  But me, I don't dread any of those.

I dread talent shows.  Those of you with children, you understand.

It is possible that the modern talent show is an example of the proliferation Lewis Carol's Dodo Bird in our society in which everyone wins and all receive prizes, because 80% of the "talent" that is demonstrated is just not.  It's about at the level of "you put on your own socks!  Good boy!"  So it's possible that 30 years ago talent shows were fun, impressive events where you really wanted to be there, not just for your own kids, but for all the kids who made it into the show, because they really were talented.  It's possible, but I doubt it.  My personal belief is that talent shows have always been this bad, and that this is proof that there is a not very kind God.  Talent shows exist, you see, so that the sinners have a chance to peek into one of the circles of hell and realize that it really is time to repent, isn't it.  Yup, I think talent shows have always been a chance for the parents, instead of the kids, to build some character and even save their souls.

Now don't get me wrong - I have two very talented children, and I'm proud for them to show their talents to the world.  And I suppose the whole auditorium or cafeteria or gym or cell block where they hold the talent show is just full of parents who think that very same thing about their kids.  The only problem is, all those other parents are, and don't go tell them I said this, dead wrong.  80% of their kids are about as talented as my left middle toe.  And you know what is special about my left middle toe?  Absolutely nothing.  It does what every other left middle toe in the world does, and not even a smidgeon more.  Now there's nothing wrong with that - it's a perfectly adequate left middle tow.  I'm happy with it!  If it died, I'd miss it.  But I don't feel a need to show it off.  And I certainly won't allow it to sing to a captive audience, or hula hoop to a horrendous pop song, or tell jokes that no one would laugh at even if you paid them and threatened them with a gun at the same time.  Or massacre Hot Cross Buns on the piano.  Nope, I keep it in its sock, where it belongs.  It's a good left middle toe, but you don't really need to see it, ya know?  You see my point here?

But given that I have to go to support my own talented girls, I have a few suggestions for modifications for talent shows to make them, well, less terrifying.  Some are obvious, but hey, they need to be said.

1. All talent shows should have a cash bar.  This will accomplish many things.  A) parents will be better able to sit and clap for the children.  Drunk people will clap for anything.  Even the crap at the show.  B) parental suicide after the show (or during the show) will be less likely.  C), and this is the most obvious part, it would make the school TONS of money.  Where else do you have such a large crowd of adults, over 21, absolutely DYING for a drink, who are NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE?  It's like selling ice water in the Sahara! You could charge $20 a beer and still sell out.  I think this would help to reduce the need for a school levy as well.  By the way, if they ever legalize marijuana, sell that too.  Then the shows could even bu fun.

2. It should be an absolute rule that EVERYONE attending a talent show - student or parent or proud friend, MUST bathe before attending.  Those rooms are small, they're hot, and they stink.  They should just do a BO check at the door.  Nuff said.

3. If a student wants to sing, they should have to demonstrate that they can sing better than a beagle before they're allowed on stage.  It's not a high bar, but half the singing students can't make it over it. No amount of alcohol or marijuana can mask some of the sounds I've heard in a talent show.

4. This one is just to be honest. You may as well put barbed wire fences and armed guards around the talent show, to keep the parents in there until it's over.  We all feel like they're there anyway.  Many of us suspect that they really are.  So just get it out in the open.  That will also help keep the unsuspecting public out.  You don't want some innocent soul without kids wandering in and getting exposed to all that talent unawares.

5. At the cash bar, if they also wanted to sell ear plugs, they'd make even more money.  Way, way more money.  Some people wear ear plugs at concerts to avoid hearing damage.  Talent shows make you wish for hearing damage.  They have made some people drive nails through their own ear drums.

6. I think it really only takes 1 minute to show true talent, don't you?  I mean if David Gilmour had a minute to play guitar, I'd know he was talented in that minute.  If Picasso had a minute to do a sketch, even though he wouldn't finish it, I'd get to see his talent in a minute.  So all of our budding young talents out there should have a minute each to demonstrate their talents.  And I wouldn't shoot them or anything if they went over their minute.  I don't want to be mean!  I'd just drop them into a pit below the stage and let their parents pull them out after the show.

7. And finally, instead of giving all the kids in the talent show a trophy at the end - give it to the parents.  They've just completed a marathon far more painful than the grimmest trail run out there.  They should get a medal.  Take my word for it on this one.  I've run a lot of marathons, and I've been to a lot of talent shows.  I have felt sicker after the talent shows.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Those of you who know me, i.e., anyone who reads this, also know that I am an absolute pioneer when it comes to getting lost.  I have an uncanny, innate ability to confuse left from right, North from Sideways, and East from the smell of pork.  I have, quite literally, gotten lost on the way home from work.  That, by the way, took some real skill.  I had driven the exact SAME ROUTE for the past SEVEN YEARS and I somehow got lost.  Not just anyone can do that, mind you.  A monkey couldn't do it - nope, damn furry thing is too smart.  Likewise a trained lab rat.  Nope, only someone like me could do that.  Pure talent.

Which is why, for me, the GPS device is the greatest invention since bipedal locomotion.  You mean my CAR can tell me HOW TO GET THERE??  It can tell me when I make a wrong turn, and after I do it anyway, it can tell me how to make it right??  It's the dream!  So a GPS is not, in and of itself, worthless.  Quite the opposite.

No, what is worthless is the "traffic alert" feature of my Garmin GPS.   It's a feature that monitors somehow or other traffic conditions so that it can let you know when your route is taking you into heavy traffic congestion, traffic accidents, that sort of thing.  On its face it's a brilliant idea.  Not only will it tell you the route, it could help you pick a route that won't lead to a missed appointment, waste of fuel, and a coronary.  In fact, when I bought this Garmin I was very excited about this feature.  Yes, on paper it's an awesome addition.  

In practice, however, there is only one time the Garmin ever tells me "traffic alert."  It tells me that after I've slammed on my brakes because I've just hit a miles long zone of slow-and-go or maybe even don't-even-go traffic.  In other words, it doesn't warn me when I am approaching traffic.  It warns me when I'm in traffic.  It's a bit like having a lookout in a watchtower who waits for the enemy to come inside and start shooting at you and then yells down "The Germans are here!"  Or someone who slaps you in the face and then yells "Duck!"  Or, even worse, someone snidely telling you "did I mention you're screwed?  Traffic alert!  Good luck getting home ... sucker!"  Yup, that last is more what it sounds like.  In its snooty computer lady voice.  Personally, I think it's trying to get back at me for all the times I ignored its driving advice and it had to do its "Recalculating" thing.

In any case, it turns out to be an absolutely worthless feature that, one of these days, is going to lead to a flying Garmin as I chuck it out the window.  If it happens to smack anyone in the head once I throw it out the window it will probably announce smugly "Incoming projectile alert" right after it brains the poor bastard.  Oh, so by the way, you may want to avoid my car when I'm caught in a traffic jam.  I'm just saying...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who's who in America

No real reason why I picked that title except that the one post I've done on WWIA tends to get one or two weird comments a year.  Which means every year people get the damn letters and turn to the internet to try to figure out WTF with WWIA.  The last comments we got, which we didn't bother to publish was, no offence, written by Ted Kaczynski's kindred spirit.  Or ghost.  I mean real unabomber manifesto kind of stuff.  The world is ending due to the horrible chaos of meaningless similitudes and medicrities upon which we subside bla blady bla kind of stuff.  So again, no offence to the gentleman who wrote the comments, but not something I really wanted to publish.

But on the other hand if you are someone else who is trying to figure out what WWIA is and why you got something about it in the mail, well, you've come to the wrong place!  A few year's back I did some digging, decided it was a self-glorifying kind of thing, probably only read by other people who made their list, and left it at that.  But stick around!  Maybe you'll find something in our roughly 2 posts per year that you'll like, right?

But that's not what I was going to post about.  I was thinking just now about just how freaking huge the internet is, and the shear magnitude of the number of conversations that are taking place on the internet all the time.  And I'm using the term conversation broadly here - perhaps I should say social interactions with language or soemthing - but as an example I view this blog post as part of a conversation.  It's just that you probably won't answer back *grin*.

Pondering the number of conversations taking place made me wonder if anything that any one of us says on the internet, any blogger, tweater, poster, whatever, has to say, is in any way original.  I mean what are the odds, for example, that I'm the only one doing a post about how there is guaranteed to be an absurd amount of redundancy in the communications taking place between so many millions of people who quite often think all too much alike?  I believe those are pretty long odds.  Almost any time I have an idea, if I do a Google search, I can find someone else who had that idea, wrote about it, and either made money off of it or was mocked mercilessly for it.  And what are the odds that only happens to me?  Pretty small again, right?  And the point is that if we have a population of millions and millions of conversations, there is just no damn way anything you or I may have to say hasn't been said already, and typically dozens of times in about 4 languages and maybe even Klingon (depending on how dorky your idea was to being with, of course).

I figure in most conversation that is NOT recorded and posted on the internet for everyone to see that is not such a big deal.  I don't talk about how much I love a certain kind of beer with a friend only to wince as I realize that someone else, probably oodles of someone else's, have said that very thing about the beer.  In fact, I probably want that to be the case.  Then I know that my good taste is vindicated!  But if I post about that beer, if I place my half of that conversation on line, for some reason I want that post to be at least a little different than all the other posts.  Somehow unique.  And I suppose that is because I'd like the post to be a contribution to the universe of conversation that is not entirely redundant, and so as a consequence also entirely unnecessary.  It is probably arrogance on my part, but I have this goal to want to say something new or different or even interesting.

Lately I've come to feel that this represents a probably unreasonably high bar.  We live and blog in an era of professional bloggers, and a surprising number of those bloggers are both very interesting and very skilled.  Which means that whatever I am saying has probably 1) already been said and 2) already been said better.  And if it hasn't been said by a pro, and better than myself, it may mean it wasn't all that interesting to begin with (insert your sardonic agreement here).

What does one do about this conundrum? This desire to be distinctive combined with an awareness of the staggering multiplicity and inevitable redundancy of ideas?  Not sure.  It's probably best to just stop worrying about it.  Quit over analyzing and either type or don't type, share the ideas or don't.  After all the consequences for failing to do so could include further boredom for those unfortunate few readers tricked into this post by the WWIA title and maybe even eventual mental breakdown for poor old Shifter.  I'm sure someone out there has driven themselves nuts thinking about this stuff.  If we just do a Google search, we can track that poor bastard down too.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

Fans of the Big Bang Theory (i.e., everyone) will be able to figure out the below figure. After watching Sheldon expand upon this in three different episodes, I decided to look it up and it is indeed a real variant of Rock, Paper, Scissors. I haven't bothered memorizing it but maybe I'll work on it on our upcoming loooonnngggg drive to Texas.

And just cause I want to add another picture, here is something to remind you of the first RPSLS eipsode...

For some reason, probably because I'm a hopeless geek, I just love this idea of RPSLS. So sure, I haven't posted in a year and sure, nobody is going to see this but if you're going to post just ONE TIME in a year, this is the post to do, right? Right?

So now just one more RPSLS pick, cuase it's cool too...