Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sneak Peek: The first three chapters of Shadow of the Giant are available over at Hatrack.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

To Young For Nostalgia: So EGM let a bunch of kids play some old video games. See what they said at Child's Play and Child's Play II.

Some of my favorite bits:

On Pong:

Kirk: I'm sure when this came out, it was better than whatever else was out. Want to play chess with me, son? No way, Dad.
Brian: I want to play Pong!
Tim: Oh, I'm starting to suck. John, you drained my skill.
John: Yes, I used a power-up.
Tim: What? There's no power-ups in Pong. The concept of a power-up hadn't been invented yet.

On Star Wars:

EGM: Do you feel like you're in the middle of the Star Wars universe right now?
Everybody: No.
Parker: It feels like we're in some barely 3D universe.
Bobby: Maybe it feels like we're in the Star Wars universe where you can't see that well.
Dillon: Go up, go down, go up, go down. [The X-Wing blows up.]
Rachel: And be dead
EGM: What do those TIE Fighters look like?
Anthony: Stars.
Garret: Fireworks.
Bobby: Fireballs.
Parker: Psychadelic snowflakes.
Dillon: It's snowing up.
Rachel: This looks like a game out of Willy Wonka or something.
Bobby: It's like, "I'm Willy Wonka. I've created a new Star Wars."
EGM: Are they scary?
Anthony: No. It feels like they're trying to give me flowers.
Dillon: But flowers that you're allergic to, so you're trying to blow them up.
EGM: Do you feel like you're using the force?
Dillon: No.
Garret: We're not using the Force right now. I just crashed. I feel like my grampa.
Parker: It looks like they didn't finish the game.
Dillon: It looks like [the TIE fighters] are made out of little sticks. If they made a game like this now, someone would definitely get fired.

Clarke: Arthur C Clarke has posted briefly regarding the tsunamis from his home in Sri Lanka, and promises more.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Like Hotcakes: Also on Sci-fi wire, we learn that Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince is already a bestseller.

Color me not suprised.

There It Goes Again: Amazing Stories is fast becoming the Sci-Fi publication equivalent of bungee jumping. Looks like it's about to go on hiatus.

Guess Who's Back: A big thank you to the folks at Angelfire, for bringing back my other, more popular website.

Speaking of which, I will also be launching a second blog on January 1st. You'll see the gist of it when it opens up on Saturday, but suffice it to say it's a little more ambitious than this one.

I also hope to get some things going on

All in all, it should be an interesting year.

Christmas Presents: Well, I think my daughters now officially have more Little People stuff than the kids of the CEOs of Fisher Price.

For books, I got Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For More Food and Glorious Accidents.


Not only that, but the best part is you can skip to whatever scene you want. I mean, seriously, I love this movie, but I think its running time is measured in the same units they use to track astrological phenomena. Civilizations rose and fell during its premiere in Hollywood. If I could get my girls into it, my wife could have a few weeks to herself while it was on.

I also got a nice coat, a nice shirt, and a few episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD.

I did not, however, get the two must-have PDF files everybody's been raving about--Just in Time: Sony Talks About PSP and No PSP for the Holidays: Sony Delays the PSP Launch in North America. Those price tags may seem a little steep, but the reviewers seem to think they're well worth it.

But I hope everybody's Christmas was as merry as mine.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

That Said: Isn't it ridiculous the way that sexual gestures and references that would constitute junior-high level immaturity if you saw somebody do them at work are considered "witty" when done in the "respectable theatre?"

"Billy, don't say those things," said the English teacher. "They're inappropriate for the classroom. Now, let me explain the dirty joke Shakespeare is telling here."

To See The Face Of God: I saw Les Misérables last night at the Pantages in Hollywood, a fantastic Christmas present from my parents.

I'd seen the play once before, and have read the book--the big book, the 1500 page one, not the abridged version.

Converting a book that long into a play--even a three hour play--is a bit of a task. Even harder is converting it into a musical. Musical numbers are called "Show Stoppers" for a reason; they generally stop the action cold as the characters sing about whatever situation they've just found themselves in. Creating interesting and beautiful music that actually moves the story forward is hard. Moving forward though that much plot is downright miraculous.

Or is it? Hugo's book is definitely abridgeable. Hugo is the epitome of "Show, Don't Tell." Rather than just telling us "The priest was a kindly man," Hugo spends the first hundred pages of the book telling us about the priest's exploits, to the point where the uninitiated may be disoriented by the book's shift in viewpoint character after so many chapters have gone by.

A chapter goes to chronicleing an entire battle, solely so we can see a man picking pockets at the end. A chapter goes to the history of the Paris sewers, so that we can understand that carrying a nearly dead man through them is probably really, really gross.

What's left when all this is brushed aside is extremely sentimental and moral fiction. Hugo creates genuine moral dilemmas for his characters--does Valjean save the man who is to be convicted in his name? Or does he keep the promise he made to save an orphaned child? If he turns himself in, the promise will be unfulfilled and he will leave all of the people he employs jobless and destitute. But he will have to live with the knowledge another is suffering in his name.

The story is about selflessness and sacrifice, of giving when there's no chance of reward, even giving your life for a cause you believe in despite the futility of your gesture.

That's an oversimplification, yes. The play also says a lot about government and religion and personal responsibility and economics and justice and mercy. But I think it's the message of sacrifice that resonates the most with me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

An Open Letter:

Dear Father Time:

How's it going? I know it's been a while since I've written, but I got a little sore when you didn't answer my phone calls. I still believe you could have made that phone booth go back in time if you had really, really wanted to, but I understand you have your reasons why you wouldn't do it. If you change your mind, there are still a few phone booths around.

That's not what I'm writing about, though.

What I'm writing about is Christmas. It's like, this weekend. And I know, a whole bunch of people (especially kids!) are really excited about it and looking forward to it, but you know what?

It's just not going to work for me. Any chance of bumping it back a bit? Like maybe next Wednesday? I'm sure the kids would understand, especially if we didn't call it a "delay" but if we called the extra days "bonus days." I've learned, in business, that if you put a positive spin on things people sometimes don't notice if they're bad!

Please reply to this quickly.

And please, don't give me that lame excuse that you don't have the time. If anybody has the time, you do.

Thanks a lot,


PS If you can't find a phone booth, a Delorean would be even better. Maybe you and Santa could get together and hook me up. He can tell you how good I've been.

Although I don't really know if you care about that sort of thing.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What To Get: Dave Barry's annual Gift Guide is up.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Weird Laws: Somebody said they'd heard it was illegal to own a dog and a cat in Provo, UT. As in, you could have three or four dogs or three or four cats, but no mix thereof.

Apparently, this was true, but it's now being changed.

While looking, I found this other website: Dumb Laws

Some of the stuff in it's pretty crazy. In Riverside, CA, where I work, "One may not carry a lunch down the street between 11 and 1 o'clock." In Florida, "You are not allowed to break more than three dishes per day, or chip the edges of more than four cups and/or saucers."

Some are clearly left over relics of bygone eras. In Redlands, CA, for example, it says, "Motor vehicles may not drive on city streets unless a man with a lantern is walking ahead of it."

However, while some posts contain links to the original laws, not all do. Since there is no source attribution at all, I'm left wondering about the veracity of laws like San Francisco's alleged law, "Persons classified as "ugly" may not walk down any street."

And on many of the laws that do contain text, a quick reading of the law lets the air out of the strangeness. For example, it says that in Fresno, CA: "Permanent markers may not be sold in the city limits." Sounds nutty, right?

Well, the actual law reads: "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation doing business within the City of Fresno to store, stock, keep or display for sale or transfer any aerosol spray paint container, or any indelible ink marker pen . . . . in an area other than a place that is locked and secure or is otherwise made unavailable to the public and which is accessible only to employees of such businesses."

Slightly different than what the blurb asserted.

So who knows whether Los Angeles, CA could really arrest you for hunting moths under a streetlight or crying on the witness stand? Who knows if the Chico, CA town council really thought a $500 fine was the appropriate punishment for detonating a nuclear device within the city limits?

I don't.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Voyage of Discovery I gave the speech to introduce next year's theme at our region's Christmas Party/Awards banquet tonight. They'd adopted a space theme before I came to the region, with stores being called "Starships" and managers being called "Captains." Area Management are called "Admirals."

Two years ago, the theme was "Reach For The Stars." This past year, it's been "Reach Beyond The Stars." For next year, our theme is going to be "Voyage of Discovery." As in, now that we're beyond the stars, let's see what we discover while we're here.

For my speech, I outlined four ways discoveries can be made, and gave four examples to go with them.

Exploration The most famous example of discovery is Christopher Columbus. Not so famous is the reason why most nations were reluctant to fund his voyage. It wasn't because they were backwards and thought the world was flat. It was because they had good mathematicians around who knew his estimates for the size of the Earth were too small. In fact, even the mathematicians had the Earth too small! Columbus was just wrong.

However, he was still determined to make the journey. And while he didn't come back with the tea and spice and silks he'd set out to find, he still came back with chocolate and coffee and tobacco and gold. The point was he explored, and in exploring, he discovered.

Inspiration The greatest scientific discoveries of the last century were not made in a lab. Many of them were done by a very smart man sitting on a park bench, and were done entirely in his head. Albert Einstein's thought experiments, as he pondered questions like, "What would happen as I get close to the speed of light?" he was able to get his mind around the very interesting answers he found. Inspiration comes as an answer to deep thinking and pondering.

Observation Nearly everybody knows the story of penicillin. Sir Alexander Fleming found a bit of mold had made its way into one of his Petri dishes containing bacteria. Rather than throwing it out, like you or I would have done, he sat back and observed the results. When he saw the mold killing the bacteria, he set about figuring out what the chemical that had killed the bacteria.

What not as many people know is why he was so quick to observe this was that he'd had a bit of luck with a Petri dish a few years before. That time, believe it or not, he had sneezed, and a little bit of mucus had made it into the Petri dish. A few days later, he noticed the bacteria around the mucus had been destroyed. He discovered lysozyme, a lesser known antibiotic, was a chemical in the mucus.

So by observation, we can discover solutions and answers in places we wouldn't have thought they would be.

Perspiration Thomas Edison is known for this one. He didn't get to the wrong place--he set out to make a light bulb, and he knew it should work, so he kept right on going until he found the perfect filament.

But he also knew the value of hard work, no matter what the results. He once said, "Just because something doesn't do what you wanted it to do doesn't mean it's worthless."

Hard work is bound to get you something you didn't have before, and you'll be better off for it.

More Than Meets The Eye: Interview with the producer of the Transformers live action movie up here.

From Mr. Willy Wonka: If you haven't seen the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory trailer, or if you still aren't conviced that Tim Burton is out of his gourd, click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Geeky Stuff: It's been confirmed all over the internet that Orson Scott Card will be doing a 6 issue mini series for Marvel Comics featuring Ultimate Iron Man.

Not quite sure how I feel about this one yet. It's not quite the same level of excitement as when H*R and TMBG hooked up.

Iron Man never really set my world on fire. My brooding, alcholic superhero with no powers of choice was Moon Knight.

Stop laughing, I'm serious.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Blogging: You know, there's nights I wonder what the heck I'm really blogging about, anyway.

I look at other blogs which, although they do not have a written agenda, still follow a cohesive pattern in the majority of their posts--whether that's promoting a certain agenda or proving info on a certain topic--simply because their owner's personal interests focus so strongly on one cohesive line of conversation.

This blog contains nothing of the sort. Yeah, I blog about specific topics a lot. Cooking, writing, magic, finance, diet, and politics all pop up pretty regularly. The problem is that while it may be regularly it's not often. Anybody interested in what I have to say about, say, magic, would get sick of waiting for me to say something else about it to bother to keep checking back.

Blogshares (A site which I still do not understand) has me listed as "satire." I like that label, but have a couple problems with it, not the least of which is that any time I think of something funny, I feel guilty about putting it here instead of over at my other, pitifully neglected humor site.

I don't really consider myself a "life blogger" although on occasion, I'll post something like this, that's just my random thoughts on no particular topic, or a picture or two of my girls if they're too cute to pass up. Usually, if I find myself mentally composing a blog post in my head, it's something borderline preachy.

I realize that I'd probably get bookmarked more and get more hits if I actually pinned down one or two coherent topics and stuck with them, or if, perhaps even better, I put more thought into making each blog post I made entertaining and coherent rather than just spouting whatever sprung into my mind. Then I might have someone reading this blog besides just people who know me and are trying to avoid an awkward moment where I reference something I blogged about and they have no idea what I'm talking about.

Or, for that matter, more people who do know me might find the prospect of reading the blog less repulsive than the prospect of the awkward situation.

So will I change anything based on these thoughts? Who knows. But aren't my daughters cute?

Endangered Good Eats: In case you're wondering, pirarucu is delicious.

I would recommend, though, that if you have a choice you go with the tucunaré--peacock bass. Fantastic fish, when it's fresh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Obscure Movie Review Of The Day: Shaolin Soccer

Imagine if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix got together with The Bad News Bears or maybe The Big Green and spawned a film offspring, with a tiny bit of Naked Gun's genes thrown in as seasoning.

You'd have Shaolin Soccer, a Hong Kong action comedy about a group of Shaolin Monks who have had trouble adapting their Kung Fu skills to the real world, until they come across Golden Leg, a former soccer star who's now a bum after having his life ruined by the sadistic coach of Team Evil.

Perhaps no scene sums up this movie better than the one that comes early on in the picture--after a bystander proclaims that sometimes, "I just have to sing, other wise I'll explode!" the camera zooms in to show a raging fire in his pupil.

Suddenly, we zoom in on a half dozen pupils, and find the same fire in a half dozen eyes.

And just as suddenly, all half-dozen people launch into a dance number to a rousing version of "Celebrate!"

The entire film is such a blend of intense special effects used to pull of goofy gags. Surprisingly, while much of the film's humor is goofy, they still give the audience credit for intelligence. For example, one of the teams they play in the "Super Cup" tournament is clearly made up of women disguised as men in order to play. However, this is never once referenced or pointed out--it's left to the audience to figure out what these girls are doing and why.

I highly recommend it to any fans of goofy comedies, Matrix-style special effects, or Hong Kong comedies.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Speaking of Money: I also recommend Dave Ramsey for good, basic, nuts and bolts financial stuff. His radio show started up a few weeks back here in town, and since I've read good chunks of his books standing in the Business/Finance section of Barnes and Noble.

His Baby Steps are as good (and sane) a place as any to start a financial turn around.

Isn't Technology Wonderful: Well, I just got 52 emails from late September to mid-October that I hadn't seen before. Was there some kind of two month long internet traffic jam?

Robert Allen: While I can't recommend the whole book, since I haven't finished it yet, I do recommend the first chapter of Multiple Streams of Income. While 20% interest does sound awful high (He made his first fortune off 70's real estate jumps) the information is still sound (and the 70's real estate jumps are back).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

From The "Everything's Coming To DVD Eventually" Department: ::coughs::

I Feel Good: James Brown has been diagnosed with cancer. He says he can beat it, and I believe him. If he can survive appearing in The Tuxedo, he can survive anything.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Tip O' The Day: Took my daughters to see the fireworks at Disneyland last night (We sat in the "O" in "CALIFORNIA," which worked out fine) and since I got there a little early I took my daughters to look at Christmas lights and managed to get myself lost (I knew there were problems when I saw the sign that said "Coastal Access --->").

However, it occurred to me there's a free map in every major grocery store--it's in the Apartment Guide. My wife grabbed one from a Ralphs and we were right back on track.

And I have been assured the name of the street we ended up on (Bolsa Chica) means "Bag Lady."

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Scared Ya, Didn't I?: Good article today in Parade Magazine about how a lot of the hype about everything that's about to kill us is just that--hype.

Ironically, it's written by Michael Crichton, who has made his living the last few years off of novels like Jurassic Park and Prey, which exploit the same fears.

So if he's able to make a fast buck off your fears, doesn't it make sense the media would be able to as well?

Of course it does. And we all know this, up there in our grey matter. But with some of the dangers being real--terrorism, for one--it becomes harder and harder to sort out the genuine from the artificially inflated.

So go have a look at why killer bees, saccharine, and other thing aren't as bad as you think.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Burnin' Nation: You've surely heard about the controversy surrounding Bush's new appointment.

The question on everybody's mind is, why didn't Bush just nominate Trogdor? Because anybody can smite Kerrek, but nobody can kill Trogdor.

And, since Kerrek, like Bush, is a teetotaler, I'm sure the late-night crowd will soon be painting him as a wild, raucous partier.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

An Idea To Steal: In science fiction, there's a sub-genre called steampunk. The premise of it is, what if technology had advanced without electricity. What if computers were mechanical devices, rather than electrical devices? What modern technologies could have been constructed by alternate, more primitive means?

So I've invented a new sub-genre. I'm calling it greasepunk. What if modern technology had been invented using 1950's technology? Instead of your computer having a CD-rom drive, there would be a really big phonograph hooked up to it, sort of like the tape player "drives" on the old Commodores. Home VCRs would be big reel to reel VTR's.

And the internet would be a reference librarian with really, really fast fingers. Although it would sometimes take them longer to get pictures.

Helping With Your Holiday Shopping: So, you still haven't found just the right gift for that special somebody? Well, customized classics is here to help.

Need something for your significant other? How about a copy of Romeo and Juliet, with your names in the place of the fate-crossed lovers? Now I know what you're thinking--didn't the bard off them both in the end? Not to worry! There's an optional additional scene where, I quote, "It turns out the apothecary's poison didn't work and Romeo survives, and Juliet's stabbing of herself merely made her pass out."

Need something for your boss? How about a copy of A Christmas Carol with their name in the place of Ebenezer Scrooge, and your family in for the Cratchits? Pick which of your kids gets to potentially die to eek a little sympathy--and maybe a raise!--out of your employer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Coolest Tradition Ever: Alright, the family has given me permission to disclose the coolest Thanksgiving tradition ever. This picture pretty much sums it up.

Yup. That's a pumpkin. By Thanksgiving, Halloween pumpkins are just perfect for letting into with a baseball bat. And you can get 'em dirt cheap the day after Halloween.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Because I Know Best: I have a love/hate relationship with stuff like talk radio and the blogosphere. There are times when I need to just wallow in conversation about stuff I feel matters, and these are places to do it. But a lot of times I get frustrated with either how, either because they're uninformed or biased or more interested in converting than in looking for truth or in some other way locked into ignorance, some people and hosts and pundits and bloggers and columnists can be.

It reminds of something Douglas Adams wrote about. In a bit called "Turncoat" in The Salmon of Doubt, he talks about why he's so pro-science, despite having " . . . made [his] reputation making fun of science and technology: depressed robots, uncooperative lifts, doors with ludicrously overdesigned user interfaces (what's wrong with just pushing them?), and so on."

Despite having become entranced at a young age with comedy as a means whereby "extremely intelligent people could express things that simply couldn't be expressed any other way," he came to feel, by the end of his life, that maybe we had "too much comedy these days."

But nowadays everybody's a comedian, even the weather girls and continuity announcers. We laugh at everything. Not intelligently anymore, not with sudden shock, astonishment, or revelation, just relentlessly and meaninglessly. No more rain showers in the desert, just mud and drizzle everywhere, occasionally illuminated by the flash of paparazzi.

He says further:

There's always a moment when you fall out of love, whether it's with a person or an idea or a cause, even if it's one you only narrate to yourself years after the event: a tiny thing, a wrong word, a false note, which means that things can never be quite the same again. For me it was hearing a stand-up comedian make the following observation: "These scientists, eh? They're so stupid! You know those black-box flight recorders they put on aeroplanes? And you know they're meant to be indestructible? It's always the thing that doesn't get smashed? So why don't they make the planes out of the same stuff?"

The audience roared with laughter at how stupid scientists were, couldn't think their way out of a paper bag, but I sat feeling uncomfortable. Was I just being pedantic to feel that the joke didn't really work because flight recorders are made out of titanium and that if you made planes out of titanium rather than aluminium, they'd be far too heavy to get off the ground in the first place? . . . There was no way of deconstructing the joke (if you think this is obsessive behavior, you should try living with it) that didn't rely on the teller and the audience complacently conspiring together to jeer at someone who knew more than they did. It sent a chill down my spine, and still does. I felt betrayed by comedy the same way that gansta rap now makes me feel betrayed by rock music. I also began to wonder how many of the jokes I was making were just, well, ignorant.

Not only is he right about comedy, but he exactly describes how I feel about any sort of thought. We've so cheapened the concept of "insight" as to render it meaningless, become so glutted with people who proport themselves to be knowlegeable while offering little more than pap.

So many people want to live in a world where Dr. Laura can solve all their problems in time for the hard break on the hour, where watching a 30 second news bit makes a man capable of casting judgment on entire nations, let alone an obviously evil or stupid person here or there, where anything someone who disagrees with me does can instantly be explained, because all you have to do is assign them the most sinister or boneheaded motivation you can think of.

Which is all well and good until one of the mouths stumbles onto a topic you actually know something about, and you realize that all their ramblings are probably as uninformed as the one on subject xyz.

At such time, I always end up fleeing back to experts. Reading actual books. Talking to people who sincerely know something about something.

Into such a place I go again now. Reading suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Turkeys: Oh, and you're probably wondering how the Thanksgiving meal went.

Well, we did two turkeys this year--we roasted one and we deep fried one. The original plan was to smoke one and deep fry one, but we decided that if we did two experiments and they both failed, we'd not be forgiven. So we roasted the big turkey, just to make sure we had plenty of meat, and we deep fried the 12 pounder.

I brined both birds all morning in a mix of water, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, and orange juice, as per Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food. I did it in a huge 5 gallon ice chest, with ice thrown in to keep the temperature low.

The fun started when my two-year-old pulled the spigot on the side open, releasing turkey-juice infected brine all over herself and my floor. After decontaminating the kid and the floor, things were uneventful until I stuck the thing in the trunk of the car to take to my parents and realized the ice box lid didn't have a lock.

Of course, all of this was out of site of relatives and onlookers, so if I didn't mention it here, no one would ever know.

The big bird was smothered in oil and thrown into a 500 degree oven for half an hour. Then we turned the temperature down to 350, stuck a triangle of foil over the breasts, and stuck a probe thermometer in the breast and set it for 161. All that was left to do with it was pull it out of the oven when we heard beeping. It would be either the thermometer or the smoke alarm, and either way it would be time to take out the bird.

In the meantime, we set up the deep fryer. Basically, this thing is a rocket engine that runs on propane. Rather than straight peanut oil, like everybody recommends, we went for about a half-and-half mix of peanut oil to canola oil. Not only is canola oil cheaper, but the smoke point is actually higher than peanut oil, making the mixture a little less temperature sensitive (fortunately for us).

As for the frying itself--you know how, when you fry something, the oil looks so still and calm and unthreatening until you toss the food item in, and then it starts to snap, crackle, and pop? This was something like that, except that from the moment the tip of the bird contacted the oil, that oil became the way the surface of the water becomes in the movies, when they want to denote that something really, really bad is happening underneath the surface, usually involving pirana.

You'd be amazed at the potential energy inside a turkey. I can understand why people use steam to power ships and turbines.

The hardest part was controlling the temperature. You're supposed to cook it between 350 and 360, but with this rocket engine down there, we were hard pressed to keep it under 400. We turned the gas off altogether at one point--a risky move, since 25 degrees too low is way worse than 25 degrees too high, but it paid off.

Deep fried bird is just as good as everybody says. Working with a scalding vat of oil is just as crazy as everybody says. Don't let the kiddies around.

The whole thing was done in 45 minutes. We set the thing up out of the box, heated the oil, and had the bird out before the roasted bird was out of the oven--that bird took just over three hours, total, which is still fast, if you're talking turkey.

We thought we had saved some money by borrowing the deep fryer from a friend, but I think it just became an ad for us buying our own. Any other year, I'd have got compliments on how good the roasted bird came out--because it was good. This year--I think it was barely noticed.

That hot vat of oil has won another family of converts. Thanks, Tako.

When I Grow Up: Well, now that I'm 29 going on 30, I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.

This is sort of a big deal for me. Among the various problems I've had throughout my education experience has been the problem of actually figuring out what I wanted to get my degree in. My AA degree is in Communications-Television. At various points I've either majored in or seriously considered majoring in Film, Business, History, Library Science, English, and who knows what all else that isn't coming to me right now. But as far as choosing a career based on any of those?

Film This is what I would really, really love to do. However, when you start with internships and work your way up to lousy pay, which only comes intermittently--just can't do that with a wife and a couple of kids and bills and health insurance.

History Still probably my second choice. Starting out, anything I did with this degree would probably make me less money than I'm making right now. But it would be a great boon to my writing, which I'll still do no matter what career path I pursue.

English Never all that high on my list of options, since every writer I admire strongly advises against being an English major. However, as a major it would have been a lot of fun, and teaching it would have been fun, too. Grading papers, not so much.

Library Science Even if I'd have got my four year degree in business, I still would have gone into this for my masters. It seems like the best career path of all to me--you're still in a teaching environment, still surrounded by books, no papers to grade--what's the downside? Also, the paths are pretty open. You could also work in a Film or Special Effects Studio archive, archives of a government agency like the CIA, or any number of historical archives--pretty cool possibilities.

So that leaves my final choice as . . . Business. The biggest detractor I had from this one was that a lot of my peers have four year degrees in business. In other words, I've already got the experience that's equivalent to a four year business degree.

But what I have is management experience, and management isn't where I want to stay. I want entrepreneurship experience, and that's what I want my emphasis to be. That's the only drawback to the library science degree--what I ultimately want is the freedom of owning my own business, not the regiment of a 9-5 job that puts money in other people's pocket.

And the best part is, I'll still get to teach. I've stared working on a commercial education product that, while it may be a few years off, has me really excited about where I can go.

So it will be a big relief to everyone that I've finally gotten my act together and developed a career and life plan I'm happy with and excited about.

It's a big relief to me, at any rate.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving: What's the Doc grateful for this year?

Post-it Notes, DVD extras, huge bookstores, demo versions of expensive software, stickers for which toddlers will do anything, Mormon cinema, free elections, Alton Brown, short story collections, people willing to defend freedom, digital cameras, talk radio, the ability to get away from talk radio once in a while, fabric softener, my laptop, modern medicine, spiral bound notebooks, good friends I don't see nearly often enough, the family I grew up with, and the family I have now.

Their, Um, Something Given Rights: You knew this would happen eventually, right?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Airport Security: So the airport security thing has basically come down to two choices. First, they could grope you to feel if you have any dangerous things on you. Second, they could put in giant X-ray cameras that would let them see if you have any dangerous things on you.

So the debate has become whether people would rather have their private parts seen or felt.

Count me firmly in the category of, "People should have a choice." Why does the federal government get to decide which is best for everyone, when clearly both have advantages and disadvantages? Security should just be left to the airlines, who would get to chose their security measures, and then customers could decide which airline to fly based on which held the particular balance between personal privacy and public safety they were most comfortable with.

One airline could be the "We're safer than staying at home in bed" Airline, and subject all passangers to a strip search and psyciatric evaluation before boarding. Another airline could be the "Techno Savvy Safety" airline, where they used bomb sniffers and other such sensitive equipment to get you onboard safe, but with your dignity intact. Another could be the "Quick and Dirty" airline, where they didn't have any equipment, but they gave you rudimentary pat-downs and did thorough bag checks.

For the Federal Government to step in and not only mandate, but take over the entire security process of airports--look, am I the only one here who feels that the most ridiculous and pointless parts of their job and/or day were implemented at the behest of the Federal Government? Don't you think the Airlines could, if their survival as an industry depended on it, come up with easier, less intrusive, more effective measures against terrorists than a bunch of Washington beaurocrats?

I think they could in a heartbeat. So why not let them?

Because the Federal Goverment isn't interested in their answers. Like all government agencies, this one is interested in only one thing--being as intrustive as it can. Like all government agencies, the more in-your-face and blown up it is, the less likely it is to get cut out of next year's budget. The last thing you want to do, as a government organization, is operate quietly, effectively, and at a low cost. If you do that, it makes you a real easy slice to cut off come budget time.

So you have to run your roots as deep as you can into everything you can, so that cutting you would be more like emergency surgery than an outpatient procedure. Never mind that this means you're really the most deserving of being cut and trimmed. We're legislators, and we need to get back on the campaign trail. What can I do that will look like it's doing the most. Don't bother with what actually gets anything done.

So to the CEO of the future "Techo Savvy Airlines," count me in for your frequent flyer program.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Oh, And Speaking Of Cooking: Yes, I do plan to make my turkey this year based on the advice of a talking octopus in an internet cartoon.

Cooking With The Doc: Okay, so when I roast chicken, I usually do it the way Alton Brown describes in his book I'm Just Here For The Food. That is, I stick an unglazed terra cotta flower pot in the oven with its base, crank it up to 550, let the pot heat up while I put the rub on the bird, then I put the bird on the base, put the pot on top upside down to cover the bird, leave the oven on 550 for twenty minutes, then turn off the heat until the bird registers 170 on my probe thermometer. As the heat of the pot goes down, the heat of the bird comes up.

Makes a great bird. Crisp and golden outside, and juicy and--dare I say?--succulent inside.

Only today I had a problem. The last time I did it, I left the base part of the setup on the counter, and some butter got spilled on it. Despite my best efforts at cleaning the thing, I was stuck with the effects of butter's very low smoke point all through my apartment before I'd so much as finished applying the rub to the bird.

So what did I do? I tried to recreate the same effect using the oven. I stuck the bird into a round metal cake pan--almost exactly the right size for a broiler/fryer. Then I set the oven at 550 for twenty minutes, and then I dropped the temperature 50 degrees every five minutes until I hit 350. I left it at 350 until the bird hit 170 on my probe thermometer.

The bird was absolutely gorgeous, and as juicy as anything I've ever pulled apart with my fingers. I highly recommend it.

Unless your flower pot is butter-free.

Hang It All: Want to show your friends you support commercial spaceflight? Like cool pictures on your wall but get bored with them after a month? Want to know what day it is without clicking the date icon in the toolbar? Want to steal the designs from the ship that won the last X-Prize to help you win the next one?

If you answered "Yes" or "No" to any of the above, then rush on over and get one of the calendars the SpaceShipOne folks are selling right now.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

To The Point: Rather than blathering on, I should probably just be abrupt and sarcastic.

Like, this post should have just read, "A bunch of kids won a lawsuit today guaranteeing their right to work hard for and make a profit for a corporation that hates them. Way to go, guys."

Speaking Of Awards: Mel Gibson should officially withdraw The Passion Of The Christ from Oscar contention. This just seems obvious to me--this isn't the kind of film you want people making glib remarks about in Oscar Buzz columns--and, in light of the current--and incorrect--idea that Born-Agains decided the last election, it's only going to draw partisan fire.

Mel, I know you say you're not doing a paid ad campaign for Oscar, but give it some thought, man. Pull the film from contention.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Congratulations: To Ray Bradbury, for receiving the National Endowment for the Arts Award, and Madeleine L'Engle, for receiving the National Endowment for the Humanities Award.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Quotable: Having done the 100 greatest films of all time, and the 100 greatest comedies of all time, and the 100 greatest heros and villains of all time, and the 100 greatest title sequences of all time, and the 100 greatest camera moves of all time, the American Film Institute is now going to officially declare the 100 greatest movie lines of all time. They've got the 400 the members are voting on posted on their website.

I got a quote for you guys: Lists ain't news. Lists have about as much legitimate news value as a poll. The only, and I mean only time polls matter is in an election, and the exit polls in this election proved how unreliable those are.

So let's all stop getting all hyper just because AFI or Rolling Stone or John Doe's Big Crappy Magazine officially declared your favorite song or movie is or isn't one of the fill-in-the-blank number best movies of all time.

These things are all just publicity stunts to make money and sell magazines. Please ignore them so they will go away.

Otherwise, you're going to come to your senses one day while you're watching the Twenty-Seventh Annual Awards Show Awards and reading Lists magazine's Top 100 Lists of Lists of All Time.

A Personal Note: To the person who found me by googling the question "What disease did Jamie Lee Curtis die from?":

I'm sorry. She's not dead. She just looks like that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Discrimination: Discrimination seems to be in the news a lot lately, what with Dr. Rice's appointment and the recent lawsuit settlement against Abercrombie & Fitch.

I've always been sort of skeptical about discrimination. Only twice in my life has my boss ever been a white man. Every other person I've ever had to answer to has been a woman, a minority, or both.

But every time I want to say racism is dead and buried, I encounter it again. I recently overheard a couple of white kids in "thug" attire mocking a black woman at an ATM who had asked them to step back a little while she finished her transaction. Though they were polite to her face, once she walked off they muttered about how insane her request was.

"It's not like we're the n----rs."

I was shocked. I've never really been around that attitude. Even in a high school as racially charged as mine was, I was in mostly advanced classes, so every everybody I knew or was friends with, of all races, were intelligent, witty, clever kids who were as nice as anybody you'd want to meet. If any of them were racist or held racist attitudes, they had the good sense to keep it to themselves.

But I know that racism is real, and that it's ugly, and that even though it isn't the 1960's anymore, ignorance is still alive and well.

But there's a catch-22 in trying to enforce non-discrimination laws. Since all the law can do is change behavior, and not actually modify beliefs, what did these kids in this lawsuit win? The right to work for someone who wants to oppress them? Why is that something they would even want to win?

I had friends deal with some degree of this as a kid. When they'd try to get into Christian private schools, many would be excluded simply because they were Mormon, and the common idea among Protestants at the time was that Mormons weren't Christians. Ergo, there was no room for them at the inn.

My feeling at the time was, why fight it? If they don't want you, why would you want them?

Groucho Marx is famous for his quip against one club that wanted to exclude him for being Jewish, only to accept him later--"I would never belong to any club that would have me for a member."

The answer to that was, and still is, that people want to work for people who would otherwise oppress them have something to prove. They want to prove that they can be as effective, as profitable, as good an employee as anybody else out there.

I must admit to feeling some of this sentiment myself. On one occasion, I was told by a store manager that having a black employee in their store was a bad idea. "The people in this community will be very uncomfortable with it."

So I deliberately left the employee in the store, hoping that by exposing such a community to a friendly, helpful black girl would go a long way to softening up some attitudes. Did I lose some customers because of it? I sure hope so. I hope I lost every one of them whose support I don't want.

With all of that said, I must say I have a hard time believing in any means of enforcing anti-discrimination law that isn't, in and of itself, discriminatory. People need to be free to hire who they want, for whatever reasons they want.

If you, in your business, want to make it a goal that you're going to help teenagers who are just starting out to get business experience, and so you hire nothing but teenagers, should you be sued for discrimination against the Elderly?

If you, in your business, want to help out little people by giving them work, should the tall be able to sue you?

If you, in your movie, are casting Abraham Lincoln, should little people and women be able to sue for a chance at the role?

By telling any of these people they can't hire who they want, aren't we discriminating against those groups as surely as we're trying to avoid discrimination against anybody else?

Supporters of affirmative action programs would say yes, but that this "reverse discrimination" is carefully targeted to only affect those who traditionally have had it the best off, been given a "free ride," so to speak, up until now. The "free ride" the opponents of affirmative action claim people get with its practice is just a way to equal the playing field.

Such is definitely the case with the Abercrombie case. There's no doubt in my mind there was racism there.

There's racism in Hollywood, where they can't let an actor like Jackie Chan or Will Smith open a movie by themselves, unless it's an "ethnic" movie--they always have to pair them with a "popular" white actor or actress(although I, Robot and Ray should both go a long way to changing some minds on this).

Well, in the end, I still say power to them. Let the ignorant run their companies in ignorance. Let them limit themselves and their possibilities, so that I can be as free as I need to be to offer whatever help I can.

And I'll keep supporting every means that teaches every man, woman, and child how to succeed, so that not even the ignorant can stand in their way.

And thank you, Dr. Rice, for proving it can be done.

VSE: Well, good news and bad news. In checking out the Virtual Stock Exchange today, I was delighted to see that it's gone back to being free. It's now owned by CBS Marketwatch, and if you put in your old VSE username and password, it pulls up all your old, pre-subscription service data.

Unfortunately, it seems to be even buggier than it was before. Hopefully, they'll have it straightened out soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The AP: Hawkish? Hawkish? The only adjective the AP can come up with to describe Dr. Rice is hawkish?

Um, Something's Missing . . .: Hearing that Disney might be making a Toy Story sequel without Pixar is like hearing that The Beatles might be making another album without, well, The Beatles.

Answering Becky's Question: I was actually puzzled, back when I first started blogging, about how in the world people figured out who was linking to who and where what links were coming from--it was like everybody had a strange sixth sense I didn't know about.

Fortunately, Lynn, who has an entertaining blog over at Reflections in D Minor pointed me to the little multi-colored box at the bottom of her homepage and whispered the secret word "Sitemeter."

Now I, too, bear the multi-colored mark on my page, and can see the invisible footprint of all who pass.

Monday, November 15, 2004

And The Real Estate's Still More Valuable Then The House: One thing they're leaving out of this story? The beaver was the one in the ski mask.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Speaking of Becky: The links in my sitemeter page show me that Becky now has a blog. Among the interesting things to be found there is a link to the new Charlie And The Chocolate Factory poster.

I'll be adding her to my blogroll as soon as I'm not lazy.

Going Public: Well, since accountability is the only way to create any real sense of responsibility, I've decided to put my journal online, as a motivator to get myself back down to my fighting weight.

Although, according to their charts, 220 still counts as "Moderate overweight" for somebody of my height, it's a good place to start.

Come, laugh at me as I try to stop being laugh-at-able.

The Sci of Fi: Here's an article on The Science of Super Heros from National Geographic.

Here's the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics site refrenced in the article.

An exerpt from that site's review of The Abyss:

Harris decides to stay on bottom which proves to be a wise move. He's taken in by the aliens who place him in a room and do a Moses-style parting of the waters to provide him with a breathing space. They turn on the TV to make him feel at home and the reception is exceptional. This is all the more impressive since they're on the bottom of the ocean and no human has ever figured out how to transmit electromagnetic waves at TV frequency through salt water. Apparently they have cable.

1980's Christmas: Yes, that dream Christmas from when you were a kid is still possible. In some ways, it's more possible than ever. Your kids just might be asking for the same stuff you did.

Whether it's Transformers, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, or Strawberry Shortcake, it's been repackaged and reissued for the new generation.

If GIJoe is your bag, they have the 3 inch figures, the 12 inch figures, and, of course, a trading card game. They even finally made the Kwinn figure all the comic book readers wanted so bad.

What about the Worlds of Wonder stuff? No sign of any new Teddy Ruxpin. Lazer Tag is still around, but changed to the point where it's unrecognizable.

Of course, there's always Ebay.

That Peterson That Ain't Me: I am so glad that trial is over. When it started, back when I was in junior high, we could all see "Sociopath" tatooed in huge letters across Scott's forehead. So it's been like watching an eighteen year long Lifetime movie with an obvious ending.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Oh, And Speaking Of Movies: There's this little indie art film out there you should really go see. I don't know if you'd get the chance to hear about it without my recommendation, but it was a hit around here. Go see it, and make the guys who made it a couple of bucks.

It's called The Incredibles.

Obscure Movie Review Of The Day: Piglet's Big Movie

Alright, I've had it. Either Carly Simon goes or I go.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Don't Let The Door Hit You: What a beautiful story.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Doc's Obscure TV Review Of The Day: Drew Carey's Green Screen Show

This is Drew Carey's new improv show, where, after the performers make up skits on the spot, the scenes are sent to pro animators who fill in the imaginary backgrounds and objects the performers describe.

I was a big Whose Line Is It Anyway? fan. I find improv comedy hilarious. When it's well done it's great. The tension of knowing that everybody's working without a net and could screw up at any time adds something special to performances. If you knew everything was scripted, the show wouldn't be nearly as funny. Part of the humor comes from the pressure you know the performers are feeling, and that you're feeling with them.

When it's done poorly, though, it's really, really painful. It's a bunch of people prancing around like idiots, and that's the entertainment equivalent of watching people drown. Not the best way to spend your time.

Drew Carey's Green Screen Show, fortunately, isn't that bad. The improv folks know what they're doing. Unfortunately, the green screen aspect seems to take more away from the improv format than it adds to it. I don't know why this would be. Maybe it feels like a safety net, because the animation was all added in later, so it takes away the spontaneity of the show.

But I think the real reason is this--part of the humor of improv comedy comes from figuring out what's going on. Humor is, to a large degree, about the moment when you "get" a joke--that connection that gets made in your brain activates some type of pleasure center and makes you laugh.

A lot of improv humor is funny the same way pantomime can be funny--it gives you lots of chances to make connections in your brain. When Red Skelton is pantomiming showing a button, and he suddenly winces and sucks his thumb, we laugh because our brain had to make the connection that he'd hurt himself.

But if the needle was drawn in, and blood was drawn in squirting from his thumb, we've lost the chance to make that connection on our own. In a very real way, this means the moment has lost its humor.

So the show's okay. I try to watch it, if I'm available. Some of the animation is even fun. But it still doesn't stack up to my imagination.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Breakin' Down The Ballot: Okay, here's a breakdown of what all the issues are, and my recommendations.

I've got a San Bernardino County, CA ballot in front of me. Here we go.

1A: This measure would require that any money the local government makes has to stay with the local government. The Governor and two thirds of the legislature would have to okay any variance from this.

Pros: Most police and fire departments are locally funded, and leaving more money in the city coffers would be a big boost for them. Plus, it prevents local governments from being left in the lurch when the state has a fiscal crisis and pawns it off on the local communities by taking their money.

Cons: A lot of the services that are used locally are tied closely to the state--the state needs some degree of ability to reallocate funds as necessary. For instance, if a drug problem in Orange County is related to Meth Labs in the high desert, Orange County has an interest in paying to solve the problem.

My verdict: Vote Yes. I'm a big believer that the most effective level of government is the local level, and more power should be put there than in Washington. Think about it--who knows better that the park around the corner from you is falling apart? A congressman or a city councilman? Who should have more money and power to take care of things?

So anything that shifts money and power back to local governments is fine with me.

59: Would create an amendment to the state constitution to acknowledge the public's right to attend government meetings and read government papers. It doesn't repeal any of the existing exceptions--it just preserves the rights that are already there.

Pros: If this passes, then if someone was trying to sue to get access to government documents, they would have a definite constitutional right to do so. It's like the bill of rights--it acknowledges something the people are supposed to be able to do.

Cons: However, because it doesn't change anything from what's already in place, it seems kind of pointless.

My verdict: Yes. But I really feel like there's something I don't know here. Either somebody has made a challenge regarding certain documents, or someone is going to make a challenge regarding certain documents. Or meetings.

Either that, or it's just a token gesture on the part of the state government to offer us something that we already have. I have no idea which it is.

60: Would require that the top vote-getter in each party primary would end up on the final ballot.

Pros: This was put up in opposition to Prop 62, below. It would stop "open primary" elections.

Cons: But it doesn't go far enough. Critics say that while it looks like it's opposed to prop 62, it actually leaves the door open for prop 62-style primaries.

Verdict: Vote no. The system ain't perfect, but let's not mess with it.

60A: Would require the state, when it sells certain property, to pay off certain parts of its debt.

Pros: Would save us money as the debt was paid off quicker. Sometimes you have to force the state to do what it won't chose to do. Think of it as an automatic transfer from checking to savings on payday.

Cons: Any money made off these sales would be tied up, and would not be available to go to other causes.

Verdict: Vote no. Complicated restrictions on how the state is supposed to use money and where is part of what has dug us into the hole we're in. If you keep tying the government's hands, the less they'll be able to wiggle free, Houdini-like, from the bonds of debt.

Yeah, I know. This would require them to pay down debt--it's like requiring that Houdini start sawing through the box--but what if that money could go to other bonds, that are higher interest? What if we need to buy another property, that could house three or four government offices and save us money on the land?

There's lots of good ways to use money--why not decide as we go, based on what's good for this year?

61: Would sell $750 million in bonds to raise money to pay for children's hospitals.

Pros: Who doesn't want to help kids? Don't we want them to have the best care possible?

Cons: After 30 years, the $750 million would come out to be $1.5 billion after interest. That's about $50 million a year. And unless we spend more money, our newly-paid-for hospitals will then be 30 years outdated. Or will we just go into more debt then?

Verdict: Vote No. There's lots wrong with health care. I love kids. But better for us to cut other excess programs to pay for these things to dig ourselves further into this hole.

62: If this passes, then instead of voting for your own party in the primary, you'd be given one long list of all the candidates from every party. The two folks who got the most votes would go on to the election, even if they were from the same party.

Pros: If Republicans only vote for Republicans, you're going to end up with a middle-of-the-road Republican, but he'll be too far to the right for the moderates. Same for the Democrats. This will help us elect some nice, centrist, moderates who can reflect the views of all of California.

Cons: What it actually reflects is the views of the majority, to the exclusion of the minority. What about libertarians? What about the socialists? Don't they get a voice? Do voters have any right to decide what candidate should represent a party they don't belong to?

Verdict: Vote No. There's plenty wrong with the system, but this won't fix anything. It might mean your guy won't end up on the ballot at all, and does nothing to increase his chances, no matter which party you are. Forget about it.

63: Anybody who makes more than a million dollars a year pays a 1% tax to fund mental health services.

Pros: What's wrong with this? You don't have to pay it, and it helps people who really need it.

Cons: Critics say this is just a way of throwing money at a complicated problem.

Verdict: Vote no. We can't just force the rich people to solve all of our problems for us, first of all, and the insinuation they should is scary.

64: Would prohibit lawsuits against businesses that didn't actually do anything to anybody.

Pros: This is meant to stop "Shakedown lawsuits." Groups like the much ballyhooed Treavor Law Group have a habit of looking up obscure environmental and safety laws and then filing lawsuits on behalf of "consumer groups" that consisted of themselves and their spouses and friends. They'd usually settle out of court and keep all the money. It's a predatory practice, and this would bring an end to it--lawyers would be forced to represent a real person with a real complaint who would receive the actual money.

Cons: But if lawyer's don't have a financial interest in prosecuting environmental violations and other "victimless" crimes, won't those laws all get broken, with no punishment or consequence?

Verdict: Vote yes. Shakedown lawsuits are terrible, and government agencies can still prosecute for "victimless" crimes. This just means nobody gets any money out of it who wasn't actually hurt.

65 Just vote no. The people who put this up want 1A instead.

66 Would require that, in order to qualify for life sentences under "Three Strikes," the third strike would have to be violent. It also changes the definition of violent a little. It's also retroactive, so all the current prisoner's sentences would be reevaluated.

Pros: It's possible, under the current laws, that people can get life sentences for less serious crimes, if it's their third strike. There are stories about people who committed small crimes, like stealing aspirin, who ended up in jail for life because of this law. It's cruel and unusual punishment and needs to be fixed.

Cons: Opponents argue that most of those stories are false, or incomplete--a lot of those sentences were already overturned, because the current system allows for plenty of judicial discretion, which means a person with a brain makes these decisions, not just a law. On the other hand, the stories of the people who would be released under prop 66 would make your hair stand on end.

Verdict: Vote no. Three strikes is working. Crime is down. Bad guys are locked up. That proves that three strikes is a deterrent, and takes criminals off the streets. Please don't take the teeth out of the dog, or all you'll have left is barking.

67: Currently, the state requires hospital emergency rooms to help anyone who comes in, whether they have insurance or not. This proposition would establish a phone tax to help pay for some of the costs of those uninsured patients.

Pros: The state's already established it wants everybody to get medical help in an emergency. If they want it, they should have to pay for it--and this way is as good as any. It's just a small hike in the existing 911 tax on every phone, and those exempt from that tax for financial reasons would be exempt from this too.

Cons: There's no cap on it for cell phone users, there's no cap for small businesses, and it's a 400% increase in the existing tax.

Verdict: Vote no. If the tax hike is as small as they say it is, they can find the money somewhere else.

68: Would amend the state compacts so that the Indian casinos would either have to pay 25% of their winnings to the state or the state would get to allow 16 non-tribal casinos to be built, which would each give 33% of their winnings to the state.

Pros: California would finally be getting their "fair share" of the tribal money, or a third of the money from casinos built right here in CA, apart from the Indians and apart from Vegas. All the money would have to go to social programs.

Cons: This is a bizarre, upside down initiative. What it really does is open the door for legalized gambling in California--because that will be the result, unless a unanimous vote of the tribes says they want to give up a quarter of their profits. Opponents argue the threat of losing their monopoly will "force" the tribes to comply, but the vote has to be unanimous. Ergo, 16 new Vegas-style casinos will probably open.

Verdict: Vote no. We'll eventually negotiate something equitable with the tribes--it's inevitable. In the meantime, if people want to gamble, they can still go there, or they can go to Vegas. As for the asinine assertion that this will help social programs--They sold the state lottery as being anybody know a single employee of a school district who ever said, "Thank goodness for all that state lottery money!"

The sad fact is that lotteries and other state-permitted "games of chance" legalized to raise money for the state are an inversely scaled tax--a tax where the poor actually pay more than the rich!

69: Within the next five years, this would require anyone charged with a felony to submit to a DNA test. Their DNA would then become part of a searchable database.

Pros: This is a win all around. Felons with their DNA on file will be spared the embarrassment of false arrest because their DNA, already on file, will prove their innocence without the need for questioning. On the other hand, the guilty ones will have less chance to get away with crimes. Also, knowing their DNA is on file may deter criminals from committing sexual or other crimes.

Cons: Because the test happens upon arrest, innocent people will end up in the database--a type of "search" of very personal data. It's not clearly spelled out what steps an innocent person would take to get his name and DNA out of the database, once exonerated.

Verdict: Vote Yes. This is a tough one, for me. I'm all about personal civil liberties and privacy, and having a bid database of everybody's ID is creepy to me, in a big brother kind of way.

But you know, it really is just a high-tech fingerprint, and I have no problem with fingerprinting suspects to help in the quest to prove them guilty or innocent. And the idea that this will deter or help catch rapists, molesters, and murderers makes it really, really hard to vote against.

70: This one would provide that only Indian tribes can do gaming, that they'd pay the same rate as any other business, that their compacts would be written up in 99 year renewable terms, and they would have to have meetings and put up notices before they could expand.

Pros: Under this, the Indians would still get to make money off their gaming, no extra casinos would open, and they'd pay the same rate as anybody else.

Cons: This is an appeal to the voters to try to jump over some negotiations the Governator has already made with the tribes. Basically, opponents say to vote no because he got a better deal.

Verdict: Vote no. I don't like the money arguments of this--basically, I really do feel the Indians should be treated as sovereigns until they declare themselves otherwise, but they do use regular state services, like fire and police.

But that would make this the equivalent of international negotiations, and good negotiators never take the first offer. This would be a big, big win for the casinos, and they know it.

71: Would create $3 billion in bonds to pay for the "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine," which would give grants and loans and regulate the advancement of stem cell research.

Pros: If the research pays off, it will be great for everybody. Everyone talks about how much it could help the sick and afflicted. However, it would be great for the economy if all these advances happened here. California needs a new industry--the defense industry isn't what it was, and now that the dot com bubble burst, we need a new thing to spur on the state economy. From what we've heard, this is where it's at.

Cons: There's really no control over where this money will go. The wording of the law exempts this "Institute" from the type of public meetings and information release listed in prop 59, so they don't have accountability for their usage of the money. While stem cell advocates say there are means of harvesting stem cells that don't involve the destruction of fetuses, this law contains to safeguards against such action.

Verdict: Vote no. First, almost without regard to the issue, $3 billion is a whole lot to spend right now. And while I know the government often has a role in advancing research that may not seem immediately financially lucrative in the private sector, there's enough private interest in this topic I don't think there's a need to dip into it more.

72: Would require all business with more than 20 employees to pay for a minimum amount of health care coverage for all their employees.

Pro: Just like the minimum wage law makes sure everybody makes a certain amount of money, this would insure everyone would have a certain degree of health care coverage. This would reduce the number of people getting state coverage or using the emergency room without coverage. Plus, since this would allow people to get their regular check-ups, many problems can be fixed quickly and cheaply rather than progressing, undiagnosed, into big problems the state has to pay for when they go into the emergency rooms.

Con: First, this would hurt small businesses, like restaurants, that hire mostly part-time workers and have high overhead and low profit margins. Also, it would discourage other businesses from coming to California and bringing more jobs, since they know they could do the same thing cheaper in Nevada or Arizona.

Verdict: Vote no. Many part-time workers are covered by other forms of insurance, and many people, especially young people, consider health care coverage a luxury expense. Forcing it on them--when they'd have to pay 20% of the costs--is bad--forcing 80% on businesses is bad.

Yeah, if I had a business, I'd want coverage for all my employees. I work for a company that offers coverage to all it's employees. I encourage all employers to do the same. But we really shouldn't--we can't--force them.

County Ordinance:

Measure I: Would allow a half cent sales tax to continue for 30 years in order to fund road improvements on the 15, 215, and 10 freeways. An independent auditor would verify the funds went where they were supposed to.

Pro: Read the initiative! We'd have improved 15, 215, and 10 freeways. Who can argue with that? Have you seen the 15 north on a Friday night? Practically ever mayor, city councilman, and driver supports this one.

Con: We'd have to keep paying the extra half a cent in sales tax.

Verdict: Vote no, believe it or not. First, the way they've done this stinks. The 15 is a mess right now--the interchange from the 215 north to the 15 south has been closed for weeks, and the 15 southbound traffic is being diverted into lanes of the 15 northbound while they work on this.

In other words, they've put us knee-deep into this project right when they're voting for the funds to support it.

On top of that, Nevada should really be kicking in some of the money to pay for the northbound 15 improvements, since they're the primary beneficiaries of its travelers.

On top of that, if 1A passes, we should have more money left over locally anyway.

Look, it's going to pass anyway. They've spent about $150,000 of taxpayer money to send out fliers targeted at everybody from college kids to old people to get this to pass (I've received all of them). Just vote no in protest.

City Measure:

Measure G: Revises the city charter to allow for the creation of a "City Manager" to run things from day to day.

Verdict: What the heck. Let's give it a whirl.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Oh, And That Guy With The Beard: Oh, it was good to see Bin Laden release a threatening tape.

As with all Terrorist threats, it means he's got nothing.

Vote away.

Teasing With The Teaser: In case you haven't seen, here's what's going on.

A couple days ago, the teaser poster for the last Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, was released. It shows Anakin with his cape billowing up to form the head of Darth Vader.

So the poster comes out, people start debating if it's any good or not, and then, as they go at it, they start seeing other faces in the cape.

Is it intentional? I don't know. I actually see one of the faces here--but what it says is the Emperor is a guy holding a lightsaber with a hooded face(those two lines going up are the lightsaber).

But I also see circuses in the textured ceiling above my bed.

They Might Be Alphabetical: Clips and quotes from the new TMBG project with Disney.

The Alphabet of Nations was first played at the show in Anaheim I went to with my brother. It's sort of cool to think my kids will be learning their ABC's from John and John,

Friday, October 29, 2004

Pumpkins and Dictators: While I was out, the folks at pointed out a cool pumpkin stencil for the kids, and an interesting theory about a couple of madmen.

A Picture Is Worth At Least One Post: So the newest "thing" in the campaign is the "photo of things that may or may not contain explosives."

The right's entry: Trucks that may or may not contain the missing explosives.

The left's entry: Barrels that may nor may not contain the missing explosives.

So I think everyone, everywhere, should post their own photos of a container that may or may not contain explosives, and thus help us locate them.

Seed Money: Blink and you'll miss the most amazing part of this story.

I mean, yeah, the story itself is cool enough. A Kenyan street urchin found the "Treasure Hunt" prize a local radio station had hidden in the park, and ended up winning 5,000.

But the amazing part is the kid's quote at the end:

"I want my mother to have a good life, buy a piece of land and build rental houses," Kamande told the Standard.

Did you catch that? An illiterate 17-year-old Kenyan homeless boy understands more about the real power of money than most American adults.

Bling-bling did not even come up. He's going to invest, and let the money work for him for the rest of his life. And he's probably smart enough to invest what he makes off that, too.

Way to go, kid.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Kudos!: . . . To Dish Network.

For the last few months, I've been getting only local channels on my Dish Network, by my own choice. But Dish has been generous--during the Olympics, they offered many of the channels covering the events for free during the run of the games.

Now, during the election countdown, they're offering all the news channels for free, presumably as a service to those of us who vote. It's a grand gesture, and much appreciated.

I found a few things interesting, though--included in their free "news" channels are Comedy Central and MTV, so that the youth, who are to "hip" for propaganda like CNN, can have their propaganda in bite-sized chunks.

I have also found myself, for the first time, able to watch FOX News, and I found myself surprised, much as I was the first time I heard Bill O'Reilly on the radio, by how . . . how can I put this? . . . less than completely partisan it was. I'm not saying there wasn't a partisan undercurrent, that there wasn't an underlying right-wing tilt, but it wasn't the all-out extreme nutso stuff I've heard it made out to be.

As an example, here in California, one of the upcoming ballot initiatives involves amending the "Three Strikes" law to make it less severe on criminals. Being a right-wing organization, it would be mandated for them to spin against this law. However, the strongest interview they had was with the grandfather of Polly Klaas, the little girl whose murder led to the three strikes law, who was arguing in favor of this initiative.

Because He Has Real Powers: The website of the ever-entertaining Clifford Pickover has an ESP test.

This is actually one of the oldest self-working tricks in all of magic, and not why you have to go see it. Why you have to go see it is to read the delightful emails he's recieved from those who've participated. They're posted after you do the trick.

There's even a couple media quotes.

On The Election: John Kerry, apparently not challenged enough by having to reconcile his argument There was no terrorist threat from Iraq with his argument that The terrorists in Iraq are winning, has now decided to give himself the added challenge of reconciling the argument that Iraq had no dangerous weapons to give to terrorists with the argument that Bush let some of Iraq's dangerous weapons fall into terrorist hands.

There can't possibly be any undecided voters left out there. It's just not conceivable to me. I think the vast majority of Americans made up their minds who they were voting for back around 1927.

I think the only statistic we've learned from this election is that 10-15% of polled Americans really, really enjoy messing with pollsters minds.

The Return Of The Doc: Now that the good folks at Dell have issued me this lovely new laptop to replace the one that was emitting smoke a week ago, I'm able to get back in touch with you.

This laptop is full of fun and exciting new versions of Microsoft products that make my desktop look more and more like a Fisher Price product every time I click something.

Oh, the humanity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Alright, Brace Yourselves . . .: Because the Doc is back.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Workin' Ain't Work: Sandefur wrote me a while back with this:

Good post on hard work making success. One thing I would add is, it's true that if you enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Objectively, one might say that I've worked my ass off to get where I am--went to college, went to law school, borrowed and worked to get the money for these things, spent years studying and researching and practicing every waking moment for what I do--learning about the law, practicing arguments, doing research in very old cases, spending my weekends in the library, going to the office on the weekends, staying late on the weekdays...

But to me, none of this has been work. It's all been "easy" for me, in the sense that this teacher would probably use that word, because I've loved every minute of it, and I rush to do it again. I do it when I don't have to, because I consider it fun. So if a person were to ask me, "Do you think you've slaved your way to success?" I'd answer no--it's been easy for me. But if you took another person with the same intellectual endowments and made him do just what I'm doing, he'd probably hate it, and consider it the worst drudgery.

I think of this because I'm trying to learn to play the guitar. Then I listen to, say, Kenny Wayne Shepherd or Jonny Lang--guys who were 18 and 15 when they issued their first albums. These guys were better at half my age than I will ever be. That comes from constant, godawful, back-breaking practice. But I'm a better lawyer than they ever will be, and that come sfrom constant, godawful, back-breaking practice, too, and they probably look at the idea of reading Coke Upon Littleton as being just as awful as I do when I think "Oh, God, I don't want to play scales!"

Which shows you how jealous I am of Sandefur. As pretty much everybody knows (Including my 12 year old self, as of last week) I haven't "worked" in a field I enjoyed since I left the Children's Book department at my University Bookstore.

It reminds me of a story Henry B. Eyring tells about his father, scientist Henry Eyring.

One evening he was helping me with some physics or math problems in the basement of our home. I was in college and he had high hopes for me, as he did for my brothers, that I would follow him in science.

He looked up as he saw me stumbling on a problem and said, "Hal, didn't we work on a problem just like this a week ago?"

I said, "I think we did."

He said, "Well, you don't seem to be any better at it this week than you were last week."

I didn't say anything to that.

Then he looked at me with a shock of recognition on his face and asked, "Hal, haven't you been thinking about it during this last week?" I looked a little chagrined and said that I hadn't.

He put down the chalk, stepped back from the blackboard on our basement wall, and looked at me. He then taught me something, with sadness in his voice, I will never forget. I am just beginning to understand what he meant. He said, "But, Hal, what do you think about when you are walking down the street or when you are in the shower? What do you think about when you don't have to think about anything?"

I admitted that it wasn't physics or mathematics.

With a smile, but I think with a sigh, he responded, "Well, Hal, I don't think you'd better make a career of science. You'd better find something which you just naturally think about it when you don't have to think about anything else."

For me, that's fiction writing.

So I better get back to it.

Get Some Culture: Yeah, the Doc's got a station on Launch over at Yahoo! Have a listen, hear some stuff you're not used to.

Then rate some stuff and make your own station and never listen to the radio again.

Como se diz: Jon Scieszka, who I'm sure has a lot of experience with this problem, has created a guide to pronouncing authors' names.

Since he's the author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Squids Will Be Squids, you can guess it's funny.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Survey Says!: Over at, I found another survey page to go with the one I alreadly posted about.

Soon, I'll have the whole set!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Erik's The Kid: Okay, I am now officially able to pass the "Would your 12-year-old self think you were cool?" test. Conversation goes something like this:

Kid Erik: So you're me, huh? You're a little fat.
Big Erik: Well, at least I've learned to comb my hair.
Kid Erik: Okay, okay. Let's not get personal.
Big Erik: So what do you want to know?
Kid Erik: You rich or anything?
Big Erik: Not really. I have a decent apartment, in a part of town where I don't hear gunfire.
Kid Erik: Are you a scientist? Did you go to CalTech and discover time travel?
Big Erik: No. I'm area manager for a financial services company. I don't even have a four year degree.
Kid Erik: You didn't finish school? Did you at least go on a mission?
Big Erik: Sure. I was in the Amazon jungle, in Brazil.
Kid Erik: Well, that's sort of cool. Then what?
Big Erik: I dropped out of college when my wife got really sick. I got a job to keep me in insurance. I've been in and out of school ever since.
Kid Erik: You didn't write any books or anything?
Big Erik: I write stories. I had a science fiction story published when I was in college.
Kid Erik: In any magazines I've heard of?
Big Erik: No. But hey, ten bucks is ten bucks.
Kid Erik: Did you ever do anything with your life?
Big Erik: Sure. I have the entire first season of Sledge Hammer! on DVD.
Kid Erik: What's a DVD?
Big Erik: It's sort of like a CD, only for movies.
Kid Erik: What's a CD?
Big Erik: It's sort of like a record, only with lasers.
Kid Erik: Lasers are cool. The future sounds pretty awesome.
Big Erik: Yup. Now I'm just waiting for them to release the second season.
Kid Erik: There's a second season? But how do they resolve that cliffhanger ending?
Big Erik: I'm not going to spoil it for you, man. You'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Make-a Your Own Pumpakin: New printable stencils up at

Man, is that Poopsmith scary.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Aragorn's Lies: Michael Moore's new documentary, Fellowship 9/11, is truly, truly . . . something.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Losing Superman: When I was four years old, I broke my arm trying to fly. I was wearing a red cape with a big S on the back my mother had hand made.

One of my first memories of my aunt and uncle is them buying me every poster Kay-bee toys had from the first Superman movie.

I knew that, when I finally got to fly, I would have one arm folded up below me and one stretched out in front of me, because that's how Superman did it in the posters.

I still plan to do that.

Thanks, Superman.

Kerry's Pre 9/11 War: I posted at Hatrack a while back with specific responses to Kerry's plan.

My argument is basically that Kerry still wants to fight terrorism the way we used to--and he recently backed me up. Apparently he told the NYT:

We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance.

In honor of that, I thought I'd repost my thoughts from Hatrack on why Kerry's ways, as outlined in the "Plan" he constantly says is on his website, are the old ways:

Launch And Lead A New Era Of Alliances

The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale - to utilize every available resource to get the terrorists before they can strike at us. As president, John Kerry will lead a coalition of the able - because no force on earth is more able than the United States and its allies.

See, to me, this just sounds like buzzwords for "We aren't going to do things that will upset sovereigns." He doesn't make allowances for the idea that some nations will only align with us in hanging back from the fight.

Because he can't seriously be suggesting that he will be able to pull out the magical "Create allies" wand in the secret drawer in the oval office, and make everybody come on board with what we want to do. The only way to gain more allies is to align your actions more with their desires.

In other words, fight the war they way the French and the Germans want, just so we can say they're on our side.

This is the way we fought terrorism before, never taking a step more than we thought the international community would accept. Clinton would have loved to do more against terrorism, but he was, among other things, afraid of jeopardizing our situation in the international scene (read the 9/11 report).

Modernize The World's Most Powerful Military To Meet New Threats

John Kerry and John Edwards have a plan to transform the world's most powerful military to better address the modern threats of terrorism and proliferation, while ensuring that we have enough properly trained and equipped troops to meet our enduring strategic and regional missions.

So this would be why he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it.

Seriously, this is just more of the same. Every President says he's going to be strong on defense, amass troops and get good weapons. This is hardly innovative thinking.

Deploy All That Is In America's Arsenal

The war on terror cannot be won by military might alone. As president, John Kerry will deploy all the forces in America's arsenal - our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas - to make America more secure and prevent a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

Again, this sounds like political speak to me, code words that basically mean, "We're going to be real nice and hope the terrorists will start to like us. When Islamist propaganda bombards potential recruits about what a bunch of infidels the Americans are, it will be rendered powerless by the sheer force of our good will."

Again, this is old, pre 9/11 thinking. We thought that if we stayed out of their business, they would stay out of ours. It's hard for some people to grasp that, just like the High School Quarterback, some people hate and resent us just for who we are, irrespective of what we actually do.

No matter how many kids we help who are picked on, no matter how many kids we tutor or hang out with, there are still going to be kids who hate and resent us.

As for the "diplomatic and intelligence" statements--this basically says if specific information is received, we'll take specific action against individual threats. Again, that's what we've always done. He's just saying we're going to try to do it better than we used to.

Free America From Its Dangerous Dependence On Mideast Oil

To secure our full independence and freedom, we must free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil. By tapping American ingenuity, we can achieve that goal while growing our economy and protecting our environment.

Environmentalism is hardly new. But believe it or not, this is the one I'd most support him in. I'd love to see us get away from our reliance on oil.

I drive a car that, while not a hybrid, gets over 30 miles to the gallon. My dad rides a scooter that, while not electric, gets just over 8 million miles to the gallon, or something along those lines. We're both seriously looking at hybrids.

What all of that says, though, is that this is already happening. When enough of us want to use less oil, somebody's going to provide it for us.

Kerry can either force production of these cars, which could cause companies to lose money if they produce more than what is consumed, or he could tax or ban gas vehicles, which again, I would see as an imposition, my distaste for our oil dependence notwithstanding.

It just comes across as more environmental feel-good talk to me.