Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Well, When You Say It Like THAT....

I saw Batman Begins. I enjoyed it. I saw The Dark Knight. I enjoyed it. I had plans to see The Dark Knight Rises, and then there was the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

While I read articles about the tragedy, I ended up reading an old review of the second movie, the one I had seen and enjoyed. The reviewer summarizes the movie thus:

I will attempt to confine my plot spoilers to the opening: the film begins with a heist carried out by men in sinister clown masks. As each clown completes a task, another shoots him point-blank in the head. The scene ends with a clown – The Joker – stuffing a bomb into a wounded bank employee's mouth.

After the murderous clown heist, things slip downhill. A man's face is filleted by a knife, and another's is burned half off. A man's eye is slammed into a pencil. A bomb can be seen crudely stitched inside another man's stomach, which subsequently explodes. A trussed-up man is bound to a chair and set alight atop a pile of banknotes.

As I read that matter-of-fact summation of a movie I had enjoyed, I realized there was something terribly wrong with all of us in general, and with me in particular. I can't stand to read the review, but I can watch the actual movie? I decided to not see the third movie at all.

Recent blockbuster movies normalize the collateral killing of thousands. I don't want to be acclimatized to this. I dislike the idea of what we will allow to happen when we can say, "Oh, it's just like in that movie I enjoyed so much."

Removing PG-13 action movies from my viewing list leaves incredibly few films left for me to watch. And that's okay. I dislike the idea of constant entertainment as a distraction from existential pain. And I don't want my kids growing up with that ingrained in them.

Last week I subbed in a Primary class. We sang "What Do You Do in the Summertime?" The song might as well be describing life on Mars. "Do you fish in a stream / or lazily dream / on the banks as the clouds go by? / Is that what you do? / So do I." The boy next to me said, "No, I play video games." Yes, yes you do. Just like every other under-30 male in the world.

A few months ago at my son's Cub Scout meeting, each boy who came to the front had to tell his favorite hobby. Every single one of them said, "Video games." Including my son, who gets to play Wii for two hours on Saturday morning. He's alive for 168 hours in a week, and the thing he does for 1.19% of that time is his sole identifying characteristic? My wife tried to defend him by saying maybe he was just saying what the other boys said so he'd fit in. As if that's any better. When the weather turned warm we completely removed the Wii from the Saturday rotation. The kids have kind of noticed, but in their hiking, bike riding, and lawn mowing, they haven't had much time to formulate their objections.

Two Saturdays ago we hiked to the top of the highest point in Maryland. (That sounded like a much larger accomplishment before that last word, huh?) The Screamapillar rode in a backpack, completely quiet except for the occasional sigh in my ear as he took in hours in the woods. The way people were meant to live, whether you believe God created Adam (in the woods) or we evolved from lower primates (in the woods). Have we ruined him already, with entire days spent inside, some form of media constantly playing, unnatural colors and flashing lights on all his toys (and so many toys)? Is a Saturday afternoon in a backpack in the woods enough? Or is he going to grow up thinking "What Do You Do in the Summertime?" is as anachronistic as a strop and a full-time job?

It's probably poor form to end this post with a question, but I really don't have any answers.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Other Things Needing "Normalizing" Include the Sun and Crazy People on the Bus

The duchess formerly known as Kate Middleton had a baby last week. When she came outside for people to take pictures (talk about a terrible hospital; ours gave us a flyer advertising in-room photo shoots--now THAT's classy!), she had the stomach of a woman who had recently given birth.

The responsible journalists at ABC News have declared "Kate Middleton's 'Mummy Tummy' Helps Normalize Pregnancy."

From Adam and Eve to the decanting bottles of Brave New World, everyone in between has been or will be born through pregnancy. How can something so ubiquitous possibly have any room for "normalizing"? If pregnancy isn't normal by now, what is?

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she is changing popular perception regarding post-pregnancy body images. That's a more-accurate description. And, in my book, that's a good thing to have happen. But that's a far cry from making pregnancy seem normal.

Bee tee dubs, postpartum orgasms help shrink your uterus. New dads, you're welcome.

NB: The "math" label has been the "science" label for a while now, and today it becomes the "medicine" label, too.

Crazy Jane's Notes on Our Parenting

This was how I made a thousand dollars during the year she was six.

Imagined Expertise

Yesterday we took a bit of a road trip. My wife put Cake's Fashion Nugget in the CD player (and now you know my wife went to college in the late 90s). This reminded me of an item I saw in the last issue of Mental Floss. The issue's theme was the road trip, and in one section they had staffers recommend "essential road trip albums."

One staffer recommended Fashion Nugget, but then wrote, "I've never been on a road trip, but I imagine that...."

Wait. What? They ran this?!

Well, if that's the new journalism standard, here goes: I've never performed major surgery, but I imagine the following points are important.

  1. Get a good night of sleep the night before. If your buddy's bachelor party can't be rescheduled, just shotgun, like, three Five-Hour Energys while the patient's in prep.
  2. Remember your medical school training. Your parents want to get their money's worth. Also, it's important. If you find yourself relying on remembered TV shows instead, try to make it more ER and Grey's Anatomy and less Doogie Howser and Scrubs.
  3. Above all, remember to have fun in there! You're a DOCTOR, for Pete's sake! Never lose sight of the wonder of it all. In the words of a poem I've never actually read but once heard voice-overed in a tampon ad, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our Target Is So Hipsterish It Has a Ferret and Lives in a Repurposed Church in Williamsburg

I saw an article about how Brooklyn hipsters are drinking Mexican Coke (I can't link to it here; I'm blogging on my phone). Well, our Target is in on the act now. I didn't feel like I was surrounded by hipsters, but I guess I am. I wonder if I now need to have a favorite Turkish second division soccer team.

Threatening Shirt?

Going into Walmart, I had to pass a 20-ish black man wearing a shirt with pictures of Trayvon Martin and the slogan "No Justice, No Peace."

Assuming this man thinks justice was not done (a safe assumption, I feel), is his shirt slogan a threat?

It was the first time in my life where I felt unsafe because of racial considerations alone. Some "post-racial America," Obama.

The terrible thing is, Obama probably thinks this is progress. "Now you know how minorities feel every day, you child of privilege."

My vision of equality is to raise everyone to the highest-possible level, not to lower the privileged to the lowest-prevailing level.

Successful Dog 6

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Play It, Sam"

You must remember what

A slut is just a slut

A whore is just a whore

The fundamental danger is ignored

As AIDS is stored

Friday, July 19, 2013

Overheard (and Misheard)

I believe I've mentioned before my Chinese professor at Undergraduate U. Other students would swear they couldn't understand a word he said, and they blamed their poor grades on this. I was fearful before class began, but I hardly had any problems at all understanding him. In fact, there was only one time I didn't get what he said. My head was down, finishing my notes on the last thing he said, when I heard him say, "Why are you freaking the bear?" When I looked up in confusion, he'd written on the board, "What about inflation?"

It's not just foreign professors that I mishear. Once I would have sworn an American professor said, "How do you keep a Polish man gay?" but when I asked a classmate for clarification, he'd really said, "How do you keep a coalition together?".

Incidentally, "How do you keep a Polish man gay?" sounds like the set-up for a hilarious ribald joke. I'll leave it to you to create your own punchline.

P.S.: I had a Japanese professor who would try to say "bid-ask spread" and would say "big-ass spread." I'm pretty sure I wasn't mishearing that one.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"That's $50 for a T-Shirt"

I've been wanting to write an "Economics of Song" post for Macklemore's "Thrift Shop," but I haven't gotten around to it because there is actually so much in the song to discuss.

Meanwhile, the song has become dated. Kanye West will see Macklemore's $50 t-shirt and raise him a $120 t-shirt.

But there's no need to fear you're getting duped: it's not just a t-shirt, it's a "hip-hop t-shirt." So the first $1.98 is for the t-shirt and the other $118.02 is for the "hip hop." Which seems about right.

Post title from Macklemore's "Thrift Shop."

More From the Quotation File

"We have become accustomed to writing nobly of American ideals without either the historical accuracy or the common candor of recognizing that these ideals grew largely out of a mind and conscience that believed in God and in some eternal standards. Almost our subtlest form of self-deception is our amiable habit of talking about our 'cultural heritage' with the main inheritance left out." - Howard F. Lowry (1901-67)

"Most people suffer through life from too low an estimate of their own abilities." - Sterling W. Sill (1903-94)

"The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable." - Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008)

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates." - Thomas S. Monson (1927- )

"If we would find the solutions for our problems, we cannot blink at the extent of our difficulties, nor underrate the resolute, unafraid, and enterprising spirit by which they must be met." - Herbert C. Hoover (1874-1964)

"It is on disaster that good fortune perches; it is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches." - Laozi (6th century B.C.)

"He is not worthy to live at all, that for fear or danger of death shunneth his country's service and his own honour; seeing death is inevitable and the fame of virtue immortal." - Humphrey Gilbert (1539-83)

"So many people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and disguised as work." - Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931)

"It's rare to find that one woman who will destroy you slower than any other woman." - Emo Philips (1956- )

"Allow me modestly to claim that I am much better now at ambiguities. I think I can say, however, that I have been spared the chief ambiguity that afflicts intellectuals, and this is that civilized individuals hate and resent the civilization that makes their lives possible. What they love is an imaginary human situation invented by their own genius and which they believe is the only true and the only human reality. How odd! But the best-treated, most favored and intelligent part of any society is often the most ungrateful. Ingratitude, however, is its social function. Now there's an ambiguity for you!" - Herzog (1964), by Saul Bellow

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

County Tracking Determination

I just found out that Bedford Independent City VA was absorbed by Bedford County VA two weeks ago. This means Virginia has one fewer county (133 now).

But I've been to 134 of them.

What do I do about my total numbers? Right now our family totals stand thus:

  • A Random Stranger: 1,425 counties
  • My Wife: 901 counties
  • Crazy Jane: 805 counties
  • Articulate Joe: 870 counties
  • Jerome Jerome the Metronome: 503 counties
  • The Screamapilar: 119 counties
So does everyone lose a county from their total? Or is this like when I saw a list of the stadiums in which Barry Bonds homered (something like 37 out of 30 major-league parks)? I'm not sure how to handle this.

Broken Feedback

I have no idea if anyone reads my blog anymore.

I used to have about 30 page-views per day, and some days I'd have a spike up toward 75. But now my blog is visited by traffic-generating bots, which throw all these numbers off. Most days are around 90 now.

Using comments as an indicator, no one reads my blog anymore. I used to get at least one comment on most posts, and I averaged more than one comment per post. Several months ago I blew right past that 1-to-1 ratio.

Without a method of evaluating if people want to read what I have to say, I can't really tailor my posts to tastes. I've got a variety of posts available to me: embarrassing tales, stupid comics, anti-government screeds, Mormon apologia, personal travel maps, economics lessons, book reviews. Now that the only people reading are Russian malware websites and the NSA, I'm not sure which of these topics to address.

Let's Make This As Painful As Possible

Today's tale of stupid public officials comes from Maryland, but don't let that fool you; lots of states have stupid public officials, not just the obvious ones.

First, a quote from a news story:

Residents and businesses are urged to conserve water as WSSC repairs a 54-inch water line, a huge project in a remote area. Mandatory water restrictions went into effect at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Three hours later, WSSC shut down the affected water main. Water inside the main is expected to last customers 12 to 15 hours. "That clock started around midnight," said Lyn Riggins, WSSC spokeswoman, Wednesday morning. WSSC has been urging people to stock up on water and conserve what water they use. The more people conserve, the longer they'll be able to get water from the shut-down main. When the water in the main runs out, repairs to the massive water main begin. "We're going to work as quickly as possible," Riggins said. But it will take "three to five days" before the water comes back on, she said.
The main has to be empty before repair work can begin. But the main will empty more slowly the more conservative residents are with their current usage. And they can't return to normal life until after the work is completed.

My recommendation: empty the main and begin construction now. The water district's recommendation: take a long time emptying the main. This is advice for how to have the project disrupt life for as long as possible.

The construction will be of a certain length of time. Postponing the beginning of construction just makes life unpleasant for longer.

Part of me figures this is intentional, that the water district employees like the idea of people showering in a bucket and then using the bucket to fill their toilet tanks (as the article recommends). I bet in the public officials' view, the best scenario would be if they never have to actually repair the main and they can get Maryland residents to return to the Stone Age.

Utilities being run by people who hate utilities: one more example of annihilism.

(Bee tee dubs, Stone Age water usage was probably quite wasteful. It would be akin to the Stone Age in the sense that Stone Age access to disease-free water was quite restricted.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"I'm Deep Inside Your Children, They'll Betray You in My Name"

What's the point of public school? Well, a large part of its mission is undermining your religious and moral education.

An LAUSD spokesperson talked up a government grant to have students advocate for Obamacare in their homes.

The goal, she said, is to determine "whether young people can be trained as messengers to deliver" a broad array of school and government-sponsored messages to family and friends.

I once listened to a podcast where a woman said her Utah stake had a youth meeting to explain the church's position on social issues, and the youth of the stake argued with the stake president about why the church is wrong, citing arguments learned in school.

My children won't attend indoctrination centers.

(P.S.: yes, opposition to Obamacare is religious and moral education.)

Title from Rage Against the Machine's "Sleep Now in the Fire."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Annihilism Update: We Are All German Pessimist Mice

From G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy,

But nature does not say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all. He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first. Or he might feel that he had actually inflicted frightful punishment on the cat by keeping him alive. [p. 103]

The modern human kills unborn babies and senile geriatrics while insisting that no expense be spared to preserve his own life. Strangely, though, he uses entertainment and drugs to become oblivious to that life. He doesn't want to die, but he doesn't want to live, either, and he certainly doesn't want anyone else living if he isn't going to do it himself.

A Surprisingly Good Movie

I love the book Life of Pi, but I had avoided the movie. My wife said, "I thought you'd want to see it since you liked the book so much." I said, "But the movie seems like it's going to be all, 'Behold the majestic tiger!' instead of, 'Look how murderous the average person can be.'"

But I've got to hand it to the filmmakers: they did a really good job. It had all the murderousness and hardly any majesty. And I came to an understanding of the carnivorous island part, which had baffled me when I read the book.

Remember the inflatable monkey scale? I'd give this movie 6.5 out of 7 inflatable monkeys.

The Basis for the Movie "Bright Lights, Big City"

Success is a hell of a drug. But so is cocaine. And this chicken has had a lot of both.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

95% of People Can't Name a Personal Pronoun Containing the Letter "I"

I hate those dumb Facebook posts like, "I bet you can't name a city in California without the letter 'E' in its name." I immediately think, "Visalia, Oxnard, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Lompoc, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Solvang, Ojai, Thousand Oaks, Burbank, Oakland, Stockton, Yucaipa, Poway, Palm Springs. These people are idiots."

This isn't one of those posts. It's just more doodling on class notes.

Incidentally, my answer is

which simplifies to 485.

Something I haven't even begun to answer is how many of the triangles have their points up. It's not half (since 485 is an odd number), but it's not even close to half. Weird.

Clubbing a Wolf Is Mean, But a Clubbing Wolf Is Totally Rufus

From the same conference. The strange cropping is due to actual notes that needed to be discarded.

Worker or Parasite? A Soviet-Era Game Poised for a Comeback

From my notes at a conference.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Juvenile Noir Fiction

Our second son is now reading Darrel and Sally Odgers's "Jack Russell: Dog Detective" series with me. Tonight we passed the midpoint of "The Lying Postman." When we finished for tonight, we had this conversation.

A RANDOM STRANGER: Why do you think the postman hates dogs?

JEROME JEROME THE METRONOME: I don't know.

ARS: Maybe a dog murdered his entire family.

JJTM: No.

ARS: Maybe his wife left him for a dog.

JJTM: No.

ARS: Maybe he gave all his money to a dog to invest and the dog ran away with it all to live like a king in Belize.

JJTM: The Belize part was made up.

ARS: But the investing with a dog part wasn't?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Important Musings

Hottest Comic-Strip Moms

5. The mom from "Family Circus."

4. The mom from "Hi & Lois."

3. Blondie.

2. The mom from "Baby Blues."

1. The mom from "Dennis the Menace."

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Choosing the Better Part

Defacing church property is okay if your graffiti advocates choosing the right.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Doldrums

It's hard for me to care about anything enough to blog about it these days. No one wants to read posts about how terrible everything is. There's just not really a point in anything. We've seen what my life is like. I feel like it's the sixth inning of a blow-out baseball game; can't we just say we've seen enough? "The results are in, Amigo--what's left to ponder?" Wise words from Hansel (who's so hot right now).

Monday, July 01, 2013