Saturday, September 29, 2007

Today in History: September 29

September 29, 480 BCE: The Greek fleet under Themistocles defeated the Persian fleet under Xerxes I in the Battle of Salamis. The battle was very important historically because it was the last time in history that an army used a type of sausage as its primary weapon. After conquering much of the known world, the Persians discovered to their chagrin that salamis are no match for swords in battle.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jogo bonito

Marta takes a pass with her right foot, juggles it and flicks it off the outside of her left foot (behind both her and the defender's backs), spins to her right and leaves the defender behind, recovers the ball, fakes a second defender almost off her feet, and beats the keeper. Brazil thrashed my team, but it almost doesn't matter when it's as beautiful as this.

Good reads/random cool sites (07.09.28)

Latte Day Saints has funny and spot-on Mormon-themed cartoons.

Large over at sports blog No Mas reviews Floyd Mayweather and Helio Castroneves on "Dancing with the Stars."

"Telemarketers make use of a telescript - a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cat & mouse: interview edition

Juggling Cat's most recent cat & mouse "meme" is a good one.

1. give us the story behind the name of your blog.

My very first post was all about that. The shorter version is that I looked at this blog as an experiment, a way to fling some words at whoever passed by and to see if they'd catch some interest. I actually find the name kind of pretentious now, and I've thought about changing it, but inertia has always been a powerful force in my life.

2. how have your views on god and religion changed from what you were taught as a child to what you believe as an adult?

Hmm. Well, my mom was really into New Age-y kind of stuff -- reincarnation, Edgar Cayce, astrology, parapsychology, and stuff like that -- when I was a kid, so I kind of went along with that. I wasn't really that into it, though, and by my mid-teens I decided that it was mostly nonsense.

Along the way, my mom sent me to a Baptist-run junior high school. (She wanted me to learn the Bible, which I did.) So I got "saved" and all when I was going-on-12. But it only took a couple of years for me to decide that all that born-again stuff was nonsense too. Seemed to me that there was no way that God could be so unfair as to let people be born where there wasn't even access to Christianity and then send them to hell forever for not accepting Christ. And the born-again Christians that I knew were no different from anyone else, anyway, except maybe some of them were more smug about their salvation than most people are. So I decided that maybe what was happening was that we all get reincarnated over and over until we're just about ready for enlightenment, and then Jesus takes us the rest of the way, and that's how he's our Savior.

Damn, this is getting long. Anyway, when I was 20 I became a Mormon. I've also blogged about that, in verse. I was a true believer for a long time. Now I think I'm kind of a Buddhist philosophically, an atheist intellectually, and a Mormon religiously. In other words, I'm not sure what the hell I believe anymore. lol

3. what was the single most important influence in each decade of your life?

60s: Parents, obviously.
70s: Still my parents, I guess.
80s: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It gave my life direction and structure. It led me towards marriage and children and indirectly towards a career.
90s: Wife and kids were number one, of course. Church was still a big, big influence. Also grad school taught me how to think systematically. I already did that instinctively to a large extent, but grad school really grounded me intellectually. And the internet eventually forced me to confront ideas that I'd sometimes hidden from.
00s: Still wife and kids. The internet for letting me work at home. In the last year or so, CrossFit.com for making me healthier than I've been for a long, long time.

4. what was your single most significant achievement in each decade of your life?

60s: I dunno -- I was 7 when the decade ended so I guess I didn't "accomplish" all that much?
70s: Getting through childhood/high school alive and sane. Nobody back then knew that childhood depression and Asperger syndrome (which I don't have, but I'm awfully close in several ways) even existed, so getting through my first 17 years without professional help and not killing myself was a good accomplishment for me.
80s: Marrying my wife. I got the girl that every guy wanted. As she said once, if I pursued my career as aggressively as I pursued her, I'd be a rich man. As I said to her, I'm already a rich man for having her.
90s: Fatherhood. Breaking the cycle of poor fathering in my and my wife's families.
00s: Still fatherhood. Seeing that my children are growing up to be reasonably decent and accomplished human beings.

5. you can take a 2 week, all expenses paid fantasy vacation. where are you going & who are you taking?

That's easy. I'd take the family on a safari in Africa.

The truest words I've read this week

May not be safe for work.

"Men think about sex more than they will ever let women, or each other, know. Teachers think about fucking their students, fathers think about fucking their daughter's[sic] friends, doctors think about fucking their patients. And right now, for every woman with even an iota of sex appeal, there's probably a man somewhere in the world who's touching himself and thinking about what it would be like to fuck her. She may not even know him: He may be that businessman who walked past her on the street or the college student who sat across from her on the subway. And any man who tells a woman otherwise is most likely doing so because he's trying to get in her pants, or the pants of some woman within earshot." -- Neil Strauss

The world capital with the most painful-sounding name...

...is Bangkok. Ouch.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good reads/random cool sites (07.09.26)

Skull-A-Day puts up a new skull picture every day. You can get a free skull font there. (Found via murketing.)

Paul Krugman has started a blog. His first post is about the history of inequality in America.

Arthur Frommer, the Frommer's Travel Guides guy, answers travel questions at Freakonomics Blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In 1492, Columbus sailed off the edge of the ocean blue

Sherri Shepherd, the new host of "The View" on ABC, doesn't know if the world is round or flat. Seriously.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My kind of woman

Over at CrossFit, where I get my workouts, Spider Chick wrote about the big improvements she's made in her Army Physical Fitness Test scores (including 70 push ups in one minute) since she started doing CrossFit. She finished by saying:

Put that in your pipe & smoke it, you docile little, spandex wearing, hair-in-the-mirror checking, aromatherapeutically-chakra-aligning, breast implanting, liposuctioning, jeez-i-hope-some-man-comes-&-saves-me, swiss ball bouncing, aerobically enslaved, spinnning class, trimspa chomping, heart-rate monitoring, Gold's Gym twit bunnies!

I think I'm in love.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Celebrating 9/11

Lots of people are talking about how they commemorate 9/11. My family usually celebrates the day with cake and ice cream, or sometimes even a party.

Since it's my wife's birthday.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Today in History

On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Charles Laughton subbed for Sullivan, who was recovering from a car accident. Elvis performed a pair of two-song sets: "Don't be Cruel" and "Love Me Tender," followed by "Ready Teddy" and "Hound Dog." Here are the first songs from the two sets.




Friday, September 07, 2007

North Korean news item of the week

From Korean Central News Agency of DPRK:
Gift to Kim Jong Il from Vietnamese Delegation
Pyongyang, September 7 (KCNA) -- General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with a gift by the visiting delegation of the Central Committee of the Fatherland Front of Vietnam led by its President Pham The Duyet.
The gift was handed to Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, by the head of the delegation today.

[That's the entire news release. Because now it's time to play Guess the Gift! Let's see... it's from Vietnam... it's small enough to be handed to someone... was it an áo dài? Noodles? Um... a Ho Chi Minh t-shirt? Argh! I give up! What was it?! C'mon, tell us, please. Pretty please?]

One-Sentence Movie Reviews: "The Lathe of Heaven," "Pulp Fiction," "Heat"


Heat (1995)
7/10
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Like every Michael Mann film, it's good -- OK, like every Michael Mann film except Ali -- it's good, but it didn't really make me care what happened to the characters.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
9/10
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An all-time classic.

The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
7/10
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The intelligence and acting in this old PBS adaptation of the Ursula K. Le Guin novel are more than enough to make up for the low budget and the poor-quality of the DVD transfer.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cliffhanger

I came across this truck crash story at CNN.com. Seems that back on December 30, a guy went through a guardrail in his pickup --
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and somehow cartwheeled over a culvert and came to a stop facing the opposite direction he started from --
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on the edge of a cliff --
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a 200-foot cliff! Holy crap!
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And this has been confirmed by both CNN and Snopes as a true story.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

You are now free to move about the country (unless we think you look too slutty)

According to this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, one Kelly Ebbert, age 23, was escorted off a Southwest airlines flight from San Diego to Tucson by a customer service supervisor and asked to change her clothes. When she refused, she was finally allowed back on the plane. In a letter sent later, Southwest said it reserved the right to remove any passenger whose clothes are "lewd, obscene or patently offensive." Sounds reasonable enough. But according to Ebbert, this is what she was wearing:

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It's kind of a sexy outfit -- those legs will definitely draw attention -- but "lewd, obscene, or patently offensive"? Puh-lease. You can see women dressed like that on a warm day on just about any college campus in the country. And it's not very different from the way airlines used to make flight attendants dress back in the day.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Today in history

On September 3, 1189, Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) was crowned king of England. Richard was always my favorite king, because he was so cool in Robin Hood and Ivanhoe.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Gremlins and Hornets and Pacers, oh my!

The sweetest car anyone in my family has ever owned was a 1966 Ford Mustang. It looked a lot like this one, although it was a sort of dark maroon, not red.
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My dad bought it new in 1966, when I was a little bitty kid. I loved that car. We all did. Or so I thought, until only about a year later when my dad traded it in for a station wagon. I don't remember if my sister and I actually cried when our father said he was trading in the Mustang, but I do remember that we kissed it good-bye before he drove it away.

"Ah," you may be thinking, "the family man sells his sporty car to buy a station wagon to suit his growing family. That's kind of admirable." But you'd be wrong. There's nothing to admire. Because A) there were only four of us. We fit into the Mustang just fine. And B) the station wagon he bought was an AMC Rambler. That's right. My father traded a 1966 Mustang, one of the most beautiful cars ever made, for a piece of junk that looked a lot like this:
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We lived in San Diego, California, at the time, and we were going to drive cross-country that year to visit my grandparents in Michigan. I guess somebody told my dad that he should get a station wagon for the trip. Since we were in a Rambler, though, we barely made it over the Arizona border before it broke down. We spent a couple of days in Prescott, Arizona, waiting around until it was fixed.

But that was really only the beginning of my family's long nightmare. You see, my father had been struck by a dreadful mental syndrome. From around the 1930s through the 1970s in America, a lot of men were car company guys. There were self-described "Ford guys," "Chevy guys," even "Dodge guys." A Ford guy would only buy Fords, a Chevy guy would only buy Chevys, and so on. To our great sorrow and dismay, however, my dad inexplicably became an "AMC guy."

From that point on, he only bought AMCs. And since he liked to get a new car every couple of years, and since Southern California culture pretty much required that he and my mom each have a car, from 1967 through 1976, he bought six of them. At one time or another, my family actually owned at least one of each of the models shown in this picture, from left to right, a Gremlin, a Pacer, and a Hornet.
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Today, people look at those cars with a certain amount of nostalgia. The very oddity of their looks gives them a quirky appeal. I can see that. I saw it when we owned them. But one thing I vividly remember about them is their absolutely atrocious quality. People today can't imagine how awful American cars, and especially, especially, AMCs were in the 1970s. They broke down all the time.

When I got my license, our Gremlin became sort of "my" car. I drove it all the time. And it was an adventure. I'd be driving along, and "HSSSSSS!" the radiator hose blows out. I'd step on the brake, and "Whoa!" the power assist to the brakes goes out. Off the top of my head, I can also remember the power steering, the alternator, the carburetor, and even the battery going bad. This was mostly within the first year or two, mind you, while the car was still under warranty.

My favorite breakage was something a little different though. As you can kind of see in this picture,
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the Gremlin was a hatchback, but it didn't have an actual "fifth door." Only the glass part opened. And it was a solid piece of glass in a thin metal frame with supports glued directly onto the glass. Not only that, the way the latch was designed, you couldn't close it gently. You had to give it a little slam in order to engage the latch.

"But wait," you say, "didn't that obviously increase the likelihood that -- " Yep. One day my mom came home from the store, took her groceries out of the back, and closed the hatch just like always. CRASH! The glass was in a thousand pieces in the back of the car. Simply craptastic.

That's not to say my memories of the Gremlin are all bad. Eventually, after we'd had a long succession of defective parts replaced, it became fairly reliable. And I had all the usual high school experiences in it. No, not that experience -- that would have been a remarkable feat in a Gremlin, especially since I was already over six feet tall when I got my license -- but all the rest of them. I can't hate the car I drove to my senior prom, for gosh sakes. But they just don't build 'em like that anymore. And we should all be very, very glad they don't.