Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More about me - just what you wanted!!

The rules:
Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention; add a question of your own.

Why do you blog?
I just like to keep a journal of things I think about. It’ll be interesting to come back to it over the years and see what sorts of things were on my mind. And, as for all bloggers, there’s a little bit of narcissism.

Do you nap a lot?
No, although I’ve considered taking up the habit.

Who was the last person you hugged?
Vanilla Bean on the way out the door. Imagine hugging an actual vanilla bean. Now imagine it 17.4 times sweeter. Then add a dollop of whipped cream on top. That’s what it’s like hugging MY Vanilla Bean.

If you were a tree, what tree would you be?
The kind that drops yucky sap on people when they walk by.

How many?

Have you ever had an altercation with the police?
Nope. I’m totally subject to the Man.

What was the last thing you bought?
Lunch at this AWESOME pizza place in town - La Candelara or something like that.

What are you listening to right now?
The guy in the cube next door discussing the weather. So I’ll probably crank up the Pandora soon. (UPDATE: I have since cranked up Pandora, set it to my movie-music station, and am listening to Jerry Goldsmith's score of The Medicine Man.)

What is your favorite weather?
Cold and rainy. Last Saturday was perfect. Except for the part where the car almost flooded.

What’s on your bedside table?
A clock-radio and a lamp. Oh, and a box with my laptop power adapter.

Say something to the person/s who tagged you.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
That’s an easy one: Vancouver. I’m still not sure why I haven’t packed up and just moved there.
Favorite vacation spot?
A cruise boat anywhere.

Name the things you can’t live without:
My cell phone. The Internet. Ann’s homemade breakfast burritos. If they made an Internet-connected burrito with integrated cell phone, I’d buy one.
You should put these two things together, Science.

What would you like to have in your hands right now?
The case full of Star Wars action figures that my mom gave to some poor kid. To make up for it, I’d sell one of the action figures, give the money to the poor kid, and put the rest of them in a display case over my bed.

What is your favorite tea flavor?
Earl Grey. Hot. (Bonus points if you get the reference)

What would you like to get rid of?
20 pounds.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
That little sushi restaurant in Tokyo.

What did you want to become as a child?
Either a pilot or an astronaut. I figure I got pretty close.

What do you like better, e-mail or telephone calls?
Don’t waste my time making me listen to you on the phone. I can ignore you much more effectively by e-mail.

What do you do when you get time alone?
I have two small children - what is this “alone” you speak of?

Fathering is...

Being able to pretend it's nap-time with your daughter with the left side of your body while wrestling with your son on the right side.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of my favorite movies is Contact. Besides the fact that it has Jodie Foster, I like it because it's less about alien contact and more about how people would react if we really DID contact aliens.

Likewise, World War Z isn't so much about zombies as it is about what people would do if there were a real zombie infestation. As much as possible, Brooks keeps a realistic bent to the events in the book. The infestation is presented as a highly virulent disease, and the author "interviews" people all around the world about how humanity recovered from the disease. Each story is told by a different person, from a different perspective. As a result, the reader is presented the facts exclusively through the experiences and biases of the characters in the book. It's a book that ultimately is much more about humans than zombies.

I'm not a particular fan of horror books, but if there are more of them that are written this well and executed so intelligently, I'd definitely read them.

View all my reviews.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hierarchy of toilet papers

From best to worst:
  • Charmin Bathroom Tissue Plus a Touch of Lotion with Aloe
  • Charmin Ultra
  • Cottonelle
  • Quilted Northern
  • Angel Soft
  • American hotel toilet paper
  • Wal-Mart generic
  • Japanese hotel toilet paper
  • Argentine toilet paper
  • Argentine hotel toilet paper
  • Argentine gas station toilet paper

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to know...

When both sides of the argument can trot out so many experts presenting so many facts, how is someone supposed to both stay open-minded and make a rational decision? When both sides can scream so loudly, shake their fists so boldy, and use such strong language, how do you know which one is right? If I choose to listen and analyze, think and ponder, how do I respond to those who would claim I am indecisive or wishy-washy?

When both sides are completely opposed, and yet each one is utterly convinced that they are completely right and the other completely wrong, how are those caught in the middle supposed to choose?

If I choose to not participate in the shouting match, how do I make my voice heard over those who would choose only to shout?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s been at least 15 years since I read Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the first time in high school. Since then I have earned an engineering degree and gotten SCUBA-certified, both of which, needless to say, lend me a new insight into Verne’s work.

When reading 20,000 Leagues, it’s crucial to be aware of the time in which Verne wrote. The book was written in 1870, in an effectively pre-industrial France. Submarines of the time were horrifically primitive by any modern standard, so Verne’s premise of a submarine that could cruise the world, completely self-sufficiently, operated solely by electricity, must have seemed like complete fantasy at the time. His idea of men wearing suits that allowed them to walk around on the sea floor was a technological impossibility. Today, of course, nuclear submarines and SCUBA gear are, if not commonplace, at least well-understood by most.

Interestingly, Verne showed a keen fascination for electricity at a time when few understood its possibilities as a power source, particularly for vehicles. Nemo’s Nautilus is completely powered by electricity, although it’s never completely explained what the actual FUEL source is. At a time when coal-powered steam engines, or even old-fashioned cloth sails, drove sea-faring vessels, the author is able to fairly accurately predict how submarines should and eventually would be powered.

Verne’s predictions for how SCUBA-gear would work are both eerily accurate and completely outrageous. At one point the narrator implies that two different plumbing systems exist in the tank, one for inhalation and the other for exhalation, and the user blocks off one or the other with his tongue, moving his tongue back and forth with each breath. I have to assume that even pre-Industrial Frenchmen had heard of check valves, so maybe I just read that wrong. On the other hand, Verne is able to describe a remarkable example of a chemical rebreather, even if some of the details are wrong

Also of interest is Verne’s perspective on nature and Man’s relationship with it, a perspective which I assume is distinctly Victorian. The characters are clearly respectful of nature but they firmly believe in Man’s dominion over it. The Nautilus itself is set forth as an example of technology allowing Man to conquer Nature. Several references are also made to the near-limitless energy resources the Earth has to provide, an interesting counterpoint to today’s struggle for long-term energy efficiency.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is absolutely required reading for any sci-fi fan. Verne set the tone for what would become modern science-fiction. A dense read, to be sure, but completely worth it if only for the insight into the mind of a 19th-century visionary.

View all my reviews.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hierarchy of Mexican food

A hierarchy of Mexican food, from lowest to highest:

  • Jack-in-the-Box or Dairy Queen 99 cent tacos
  • Microwaveable taquitos
  • Burritos sold at gas stations
  • "Mexican" food from north of the Mason-Dixon line
  • Taco Bell
  • Taco Cabana
  • Pappasito's
  • Generic Tex-Mex restaurant
  • Lupe Tortilla
  • Food sold out of a taco truck with a name like "La Mosca Loca"
  • Food actually made in Mexico

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pipe cleaners

When I was a kid and we used pipe cleaners for projects, I have to confess that I always wondered why it was called that. I mean, obviously it was used for cleaning pipes, but I thought they meant the water pipes in my house. I never could figure out how this flimsy little thing was supposed to be used for cleaning pipes.

"Ma'am, it looks like you've got a dead cat stuck in your toilet. But don't worry, I have all the necessary tools right here."

It wasn't until much later (like, mid-20s?) that I figured out what "pipe cleaner" really meant. Now I find out that they're changing the name. Ann has informed me that on two separate occasions she has seen them referred to as "chenille stems." There are only a couple reasons I can think of why they would change the name:

  • Kids can't figure out what "pipe cleaner" means. I myself am a living example of this. But who cares? That's not what it's being used for anyway. And if you're a kid smoking a pipe using material you picked up at Hobby Lobby, then you make me sad for multiple reasons. Do you think a kid is going to be able to figure out what "chenille stem" means? I'm a grownup and am not even sure what "chenille" is.
  • They're afraid of making references to pipes. Like, the smoking kind. I get political correctness. I understand that words have power and we need to be cautious in how we use them. But I doubt many kids are going to take up smoking because they made a llama out of something with a smoking reference in its name.

Although I'd be a little worried about the kid who made Aliens out of pipe cleaners, but for completely different reasons.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Extinct animals

If you've got a few minutes, this is an interesting article that includes photographs of animals that have gone extinct.