Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Begging for Jurassic Park

Whilst listening to NPR today (that's National Public Radio for the Brits among you), I heard of a biotech company that has genetically enhanced zebra fish so they'll glow in the dark. Yes, Americans now need fish that glow in the dark. Pardon me for being the Voice of Skepticism, but what happens when these fish get into the general fish population and start breeding? You know they will; people who get tired of pet fish often flush them down toilets or toss them into lakes or ponds. Do we know what their offspring will be like? What happens if someone eats one? Of course we can't answer any of these questions, yet some company eager to profit from the American passion for useless bullshit is charging ahead nonetheless.

I'm not opposed in theory to messing with genes, particularly if we can head off in fetuses some pretty nasty diseases or deformities. However, I'm troubled at the notion of fiddling with DNA just so we can have more attractive pets. Genetic power is pretty awesome, if you think about it, and such power should not be wielded lightly. The results could be pretty gruesome.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Rude Candy Update!

I have eaten the Yorkie, and can report that I do not feel any more manly than I did before. However, I think that perhaps a better subject is required. Yorkies may not work on queerboys.

Rude Candy

One of my coworkers gave me a chocolate bar she picked up on her recent trip to Ireland. It's called "Yorkie", and the tag-line is "It's Not for Girls!" The "o" in the name even has the stick-image of a woman in the red circle with the line through it. How politically incorrect! That kind of thing would never fly here, that's for sure. Fun!

I just had a meeting with our HR rep about transferring within my company or to another branch of the parent company. She asked me why I wanted to do so, and I decided to tell her. She was very diplomatic, of course, yet she managed all the same to communicate her own unease with our current commandant's rule. She related that he had once said to her, "When you're put in charge of this company, you can run it your way." That's what you say when you've been asked a question to which you have no good answer, and it tells you all you need to know about the prez of this company. He's basically said, "My way or the highway", so I choose the highway.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Save me from the suburbs!

I haven't blogged in ages, as this weekend I was busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Here goes.

I was at my sister's for Xmas, which meant venturing into the dreaded suburbs. I probably come off as a metropolitan snob, but I have very good reasons my disdain. They are:

1) Suburban development overstrains local roads, requiring more state money for highway expansion. Like the movie says, "If you build it, they will come" and so it has proven with roadwork. Widen a highway today and in five years it will once again be over-capacity.

2) Suburbs ruin the cities by encouraging white flight. The white folks leave, taking their tax dollars with them and shrinking the tax base. The cities respond by raising taxes on those who remain, further encouraging departure, while suburban municipalities lure city businesses with low-tax office parks.

3) Suburbs increase auto dependency. The 'burbs are built for people with cars; hell, some of their streets don't even have sidewalks. That increases fuel consumption and air pollution, makes auto accidents more likely, and denies to an already dangerously sedentary society an opportunity for exercise.

On top of all these reasons, there's something else that has always nagged at me. One of the primary reasons people give for moving to the 'burbs is safety, yet once they relocate, nothing changes. They still lock their doors at night, drive their children everywhere because they think walking around is unsafe, and they still buy and keep guns. I don't know if these people are statistically safer, but they sure don't act as if they are safer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

A not so very special blog...

This is a less sharey blog than the one I posted a few days ago. I'm not very sharey, and I still have an emotional skidmark from the last post. But here goes.

I feel pretty good today, a feeling that started last night as I talk a long, late-night walk. This year hasn't been the best for me. You see, problems normally require action, and I am all about action. Present me with a difficulty and I can overcome it. (Hear the "Laverne & Shirley" theme music?) However, 2003 was about uncertainty, which I don't handle so well, probably because I am not quick to make life decisions. Once I make a decision I stick to it come hell or high water, but it's getting there that takes me awhile. I'm arriving (I think) at some clarity, and I feel enormously better because of it.

"Come hell or high water"...isn't that a funny saying? I mean, first you have hell, a place of fire and pain and suffering and doom, where your hopes mean nothing and despair and misery reign. Then you have high water, which...ruins your carpets and makes you file a claim under your homeowner's insurance. Somehow the two just don't seem to go together. "Hell and velour sweatsuits" that's scary.

Friday, December 19, 2003

A Disgruntled Observation

I'm pretty disgruntled with my employer, and have been for about a year. I'm not going into the why and when (I get angry just thinking about it), but suffice to say that the company has dealt me several direct face-slaps, all the while telling me how valued I am, how good with the clients, blah blah. Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about corporate America in general. Is it really any more efficient than the public sector?

Sure, it's easier to fire a private employee, but what does that matter when you're replacing him with an even bigger dunderhead? By keeping Dunderhead #1, you're at least getting consistency, if not quality. Don't think it happens? The new prez of my company goes on and on about a worker (who will be known here as Annoying) who's really a better talker than she is a doer. "Annoying is such a great worker...she'll go far in this company." That's a direct quote. Fact is, she's knows nothing, but she can talk a great game. And she's pretty, which I am sure accounts for much of that acclaim. Annoying isn't alone, either; this company is rife with people who do great B.S. but know little and do less.

I've held seven jobs since high school, six of them in the private sector, and in most of 'em I was surrounded by people who definitely did NOT put government workers to shame. This is the breakdown I see:

30% - Waste of oxygen, good only for keeping chairs warm, but obviously so.
30% - Average worker, basically earns keep.
10% - Also a waste of oxygen, yet presents the appearance of productivity and talent. The most pernicious of the breed.
20% - Motivated and fairly talented, definitely worth keeping around.
10% - Bright and gifted, assets to organization.

It sounds cynical to say that only 60% of the workers in an average company are at least fair, but IMO it's the truth. Why not get rid of the other 40%? Because many of those are in management positions, and they don't eat their own. In fact, those in Group #3 tend to rise to management, which shows you just how pernicious they are. It's one thing to be a fool; quite another to be a fool in charge.

I once heard someone say on a posting board that someone who can succeed at business has the requisite skills to hold public office. Judging from the "successful" people with whom I've worked, I'd say they're barely qualified to hold a spoon.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

More Things I Like

Quaker Corn Bran: The best cereal ever, and it's not even sugar-coated. Picture Captain Crunch but puffier, hollow, and made of corn. And tasty. Unfortunately I can rarely find it at stores, and I'm seriously considering attempting to buy directly from the manufacturer.

The Green Party: These folks stand for all the right things, and I support them strongly. I suggest you do the same.

Meatball sandwiches: I use turkey for my meatballs, but once they've stewed in the marinara it makes no difference. Put 'em on a roll and slap some provolone cheese on there, and I'm a happy man.

Ebay: Even if you're not buying, you can make every browse to this auction a trip down Nostalgia Lane. There's neat stuff to buy, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Making January look good...

I hate Christmas.

The commercialism. I'm not a very acquisitive person, and in fact I've developed a dislike of the practice of buying stuff that one really doesn't need. This partly accounts for my contempt for SUV's, which are vehicles that are purchased simply as fashion statements, not to answer a need. Needless to say, I'm less than wild about a holiday that centers on buying things.

The overdose of religion. Everyone goes on about what Christmas is really all about, at they same time they jam stores and go into debt to fund it. They run to church, even if they rarely go any other time of year, and act all pious. They also bitch about how they can't put Nativity scenes in public places any more, as if Christians were somehow oppressed in that nation.

The "music." Christmas music is always bland, boring, and full of canned sentiment. The songs center on the same damn things: snow, holly, mistletoe, Santa, Jesus, and stuff that's merry. Inexplicably, everyone feels like the world needs one more cover of "I'll Be Home for Christmas", so they inflict their version upon a world that's really seen enough retreads of that piece of crap.

Christmas is the only time of year I actually look forward to January.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Greatest Gift of All

No, it's not childbirth; that happens all the time to just about anyone. And it's not a realization of self-worth, either; that's the greatest love of all. One of the rarest qualities in the world is the ability to admit when you're wrong.

Think about it. How many people do you know who can actually admit when they've been wrong about...well, anything? Most people, when confronted with something they've done wrong, simply rearrange the facts of the situation to make wrong right. We all want to think we're the heroes of the story, and some people would rather reimagine reality than admit, even if only to themselves, that they've perhaps played the villain. I don't understand it and never have.

Part of the foundation of my atheism is my belief that my goof-ups really don't matter all that much in terms of the universe, and I like that. It takes the pressure off, and helps me keep my blunders in perspective. So what if I spoke harshly to someone the other day? The earth will still orbit the sun, water continues to flow downhill, and matter has maintained its basic integrity. That means I can apologize to that person without feeling that an apology will destroy my world. It's a good feeling.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Kill that driver!

I was reading Tuesday in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a woman in New Jersey who hit two boys in her car. She said she didn't see them because she was driving with ice on her windshield, but the kids were at a crosswalk and being tended by a crossing guard. Now, those of you who read my blog regularly know this gets my hair up right off just because the authority of a crossing guard was disregarded. The main question is this: How much ice was on that blasted windshield if this woman saw neither the crosswalk, the crossing guard, nor the boys? Hasn't she ever heard of using an ice scraper to clear off car windows before driving?

I'm a driver and I love my car, but I have zero sympathy for those who drive irresponsibly. I'm a Nazi on this issue, I admit it. I believe that if you're found driving drunk, you should lose your license forever. If you're found driving a car that's unsafe (for example, one whose windshield is covered with ice), you lose your license for a really long time. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and if you can't handle that privilege responsibly, you don't deserve to drive. Period.

(Wow...I feel positively conservative.)

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Things I Never Again Want to See in Movies

In no particular order...

1) Courtroom scenes: Done to death.
2) Hostage situations: Done to undeath.
3) Explosions: Villains are only truly dead when something has exploded.
4) Car/Plane/Boat/Carriage/Spaceship chases: Chases in any other damned vehicle also count.

Funny thing is that some older movies did any or all of these, and well. "And Justice For All" did #1, "Dog Day Afternoon" did #2, and "Star Wars" does both 3 and 4, and yet they don't suck. Would that I could say the same of more modern flicks.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Pacino - Hot or Not?

I watched "Dog Day Afternoon" last night, and the aforementioned burning question presented itself. (The movie was pretty good, BTW.) I've seen Pacino in a variety of flicks, and I just can't decide if he was cute when he was younger. He definitely didn't have a good body, and he often appeared really haggard. However, sometimes you get a camera angle that shows those dark, intense eyes looking smokily out from a mop of untamed black hair...oh my goodness. Save me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A shining planet known as Earth...

I went over Ed's last night to watch the new "Battlestar Galactica", and I was pleasantly surprised. The thing wasn't an award-winner, mind you, but I thought it worked pretty well as a reinvention. Perhaps my expectations were low because I'd heard such dreadful things, but I think there was some real quality.

Here's what I liked. First, the Cylon attack was much more plausible than in the original, which was pretty much, "The Cylons kicked our heads off." In the redux, the Cylons first infiltrated the defense network and set some cyber-traps that gave their attack fleet an enormous boost. Second, the characters were a bit more gray, as opposed to the original, in which good and evil were plain to see. For example, the new Baltar did not betray the colonies out of malice, but was manipulated into doing so. He was really just foolish and conceited, not eeeevil. He even shows a teensy bit of nobility towards the end of Part I, and that's a nice touch. He also looked great in a suit. :-)

Here's what I didn't like. The human-looking Cylons suck. The redesigned Galactica is too sleek, and resembles a child's toy. The old Galactica was much more how I thought an actual battlestar would appear: clunky and rather awkward-appearing. (Remember: In space you don't have to build ships that are aerodynamic, because there's no aero.) Also, I miss the male Boomer, who was cool, calm, and was the secret backbone of the fighter squad. Sure, Apollo and Starbuck got the spotlight, but they'd have been meat if Boomer hadn't been there to make sure things were squared away. Go Boomer!

All in all, I enjoyed the new Galactica for what it was. Hopefully Ed will make good on his promise to tape Part II, or else I will be sad.

Monday, December 08, 2003

(Not) Snowbound!

Thinking I'd be stuck inside all weekend, I rented a bunch of movies Friday, which I have not done in a while. Turns out I was not stuck inside all weekend, which is lucky for me because I was getting weird after just 24 hours in my house. Here's what I got:

Black River: A Dean Koontz story turned into a terrible movie, but I was in the mood for something cheap, and Jay Mohr, who stars, is tasty. Mucho tasty.
Girl Fight: This was a film I'd meant to see when it was at the Ritz, so I was glad to see it now. Not bad. I like the way a major source of conflict goes unresolved, which is much like real life.
Sleepy Hollow: This stars Johnny Depp, who is also tasty and such a bad boy in real life...if only I could tame him. Sigh. Anyway, this was a story that could have been more interesting had they chosen not to include a bunch of Hollywood action scenes, such as fighting on top of a stagecoach or leaping backwards into the saddle. I hate that crud.
Dog Day Afternoon: I actually haven't watched this one yet, but I thought I'd best mention it, since three movies really doesn't qualify as "a bunch."

BTW, I really was getting weird by Saturday evening. I'm pretty good at being by my onesome (that's what nearly three years of single life will do for you), but in this case I couldn't even get out for a good long walk, something I'm accustomed to doing every day. I get rammy when I don't get exercise, and shoveling snow is no substitute for a brisk, refreshing walk. Neither is a handful of Hershey's Nuggets crammed into my mouth whilst I play Warcraft II.

Friday, December 05, 2003

With the white comes my hate

You know what I hate more than snow? Discussion about snow. Everyone in work thinks he/she has the final word on how much will fall, if it will stick, how long it will last, what it will do to traffic, etc., and it pisses me off in a tremendous manner. Couple that with the rush to grocery stores for bread and milk and I'm cocking my rifle and climbing the steps to the bell tower.

Why on earth would a person living in the fifth-largest city in the United States, a first-world country, feel the need to stock up his larder for four inches of snow? Does anyone really think he/she will be cut off entirely from the world, with all phone service gone? Will anyone really starve to death a quarter mile from a Wawa? Do you know that people hoard the bottled water too? Folks, that white stuff that's falling from the sky is frozen water. It is! Therefore, in the unlikely event that the water lines break all over the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and all other sources of liquid refreshment are exhausted, you can simply put a pot under that falling white stuff, boil it, and then drink it. That should stave off dehydration long enough for someone to shovel a path through the four inches of snow so you can walk your fat ass to the grocery store and buy a Jolt or something.

Ugh. I've way abused the use of italics in this post, so it's time to make an end.

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Yesterday I encountered a dilemma the likes of which...well, I had never before encountered. I was at 12th & Walnut, and there I saw a Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) truck preparing to tow an illegally parked SUV. My natural loathing of the PPA instantly asserted itself, yet was rivaled by my equal contempt for SUV's. I didn't know what to feel. I hate the thought that the PPA was making more money, but at the same time I danced an internal jig of glee that some SUV owner was going to find himself sans vehicle, and thus temporarily unable to further degrade our environment and clog our streets with his behemoth, dangerous, conspicuously consumptive death machine. When I realized that the PPA was the cause of my glee, I was sent spinning through a hole in the fabric of time and space.

I've given it some thought, and I've decided that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, at least for now. By towing that SUV, the PPA is not only preventing for a day or two more damage and degradation, but is taking money from the owner to add to the city coffers, thus (indirectly) enriching me. Furthermore, as much as it galls me to admit it, the PPA does serve a useful purpose, at least in theory, by making sure that people don't hog parking spots all day. That SUV does nothing except suck up gasoline, make the highways less safe, and puff up the egos of those who drive them. Therefore, if the PPA wants to tow those suckers, I say, "Faster pussycat! Kill, kill!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Evolutionary Revolutionary

You know who rocks? Eugenie Scott.
I've heard her speak out against "intelligent design" (the new package in which creationism is delivered) and she is intelligent, cogent, well-spoken and one hundred percent correct.

I'm's not creationism; it's intelligent design (ID). That's the Trojan Horse in which creationism now arrives, given a pseudo-scientific veneer by religious wack-jobs who have been balked in their efforts to insert blatant proselytizing into the public schools. What's worse is the traction this has given them with a public who only reluctantly accept the theory of evolution. Their new approach is even more insidious than ID theory; now they want to force schools to teach "the scientific controversy about evolution", and to stress that evolution is "just a theory." Input from the Voice of Reason:

1) The layman's definition of a theory differs sharply from that of the scientist. To laymen, a theory is mere speculation. To scientists, a theory is an entire chain of reason, backed by empirical evidence, that explains natural phenomena. Therefore, the second law of physics is also "just a theory", but you don't see creationists trying to add disclaimers to that.

2) There is no scientific controversy about evolution. The vast majority of scientists accept it, and the ID crowd has not been able to sway them. Scientists don't ask if evolution occurred (they know it did); they ask how it occurred. The only controversy is among religious folks, not among scientists.

Bunch of nonsense, really, but it's disheartening how much public sentiment has been swayed by it. Proves that the American people will buy anything if it's properly packaged.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Another political post

Let me preface this post by saying that I voted for Ed Rendell, both in the Democratic primaries and in the general election. I'm very glad he won, because I think he can do the good job for Pennsylvania that he did for Philadelphia.

And Pennsylvania needs it, let me tell you. Right now that chowderheads in the legislature are balking at Governor Rendell's plan to increase state funding for education. I guess the honorable representatives and senators feel that Pennsylvania's place as 47th in terms of state contribution to education is a mark of honor, or that as long as Mississippi remains in the union we don't look so bad. That sucks for a number of reasons. First, the inequalities bred by the current funding of public schools (i.e. through property tax) are just unacceptable. Why should a kid in Lower Merion have access to far superior facilities and smaller class sizes than a kid from North Philadelphia? Hell, the kid from the city arguably needs the extra attention much more than his suburban counterpart. Second, if we want to make Pennsylvania an attractive place for people to live (and I'm assuming we do), then we have to make our educational system as strong as possible. People with children who are looking to relocate are strongly influenced by the quality of the schools in the area, and we're fools not to recognize that.

Evidently, the legislature likes the current inequality and stagnancy of the property-tax-funded system. Bully for them. However, I don't want to hear them complaining that Pennsylvania is an area in decline, because they are directly to blame. If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got.