Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's Like Coming Home

Once I was once again fully employed, the next step was obvious.


Yup, one of my very favorite activities. In this case, I could justify the expense by the dress code of my new employer, which is a bit more dressy than the last. (Not that I need justification to buy clothing, but it's nice to have one.) I hit six stores in 90 minutes, and made purchases in five. I even found a couple of shirts in H&M, surprise surprise, which is usually a place only for tall thin people. I was very disappointed to find that the shirt I saw and admired at Daffy's was just too big for me. Funny, because it was tagged "medium", but when I tried it on I was enveloped in what felt like yards of extra material. Since I hate baggy clothing, I reluctantly set the shirt aside. I made up for it with a black blazer that fits me as if it had been custom made.

I didn't have time for my post-shopping ritual; that is, trying on what I've purchased in various combinations, to see what looks best. That's tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Looking back on "The Stand"

I've been paging through Stephen King's "The Stand", and have you ever noticed that the female characters in that book do nothing but cry, get pregnant, and do little household chores? OK, there are two who don't fit that description, one of whom starves herself in a religious daze. That doesn't redeem King.

King's usually pretty good at making his characters come to life, but he was asleep at the wheel for "The Stand." It's a decent storyline, in part, but his characters are just boooooooring. Also, the uncut version was updated to 1990, when the original story happened in 1980. That in itself is not a problem, except he didn't update the characters accordingly. One 21-year-old character makes a reference to Pat Garrett, which seems kind of odd for a 21-year-old in 1990. The songs they reference are all pre-1980, as if the 80's music scene just never happened. Actually, that's a problem in all of King's books, but it's particularly noticeable when you compare the original Stand with the uncut version.

I like King's early work, I really do, but someone really needs to rewrite "The Stand." Someone other than King.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Does anyone remember...

...when TSR, formerly the owner of Dungeons & Dragons, published these tiny little games? They were sold in slim plastic cases that contained everything you needed to play, and they were cool. I had "Vampyre", "Revolt on Antares" and "They've Invaded Pleasantville", and there were three or four more if I recall correctly.

Vampyre: One side of the board depicted Transylvania, and as one of the characters from "Dracula" you chased the evil Count around the countryside, avoiding his traps and destroying his coffin, until you'd hounded him back to Castle Dracula. You then flipped over the board to see that selfsame castle, in which you'd prowl around, looking for the Count's primary coffin, which if you destroyed put an end to the master of the undead. The place was full of monsters, and you had to keep track of time because if you hadn't finished by game midnight, the monsters were replenished and you were back where you started.

Revolt on Antares: This war game had three scenarios: Revolt against Terra, the Silakkan Invasion, and Power Politics, but they were all great. Antares was divided into seven noble houses, each of whom had a specific psychic ability like illusion, hypnotism, precognition, etc. Admittedly, it was a stretch to call the woman who called lightning psychic, but what do you want from a game that fits inside a slim plastic case? I actually still have this game, which I have never unveiled at Game Night for no specific reason.

They've Invaded Pleasantville: This was a standard "aliens who look human" scenario, in the pleasant small town of, uh, Pleasantville. Anyway, you had to troll about town, killing aliens but (hopefully) avoiding killing townsfolk. Problem was you didn't know which was which until you'd already attacked, which was really only a problem if you cared about your fellow citizens. I didn't, so, you know.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Roe v. Wade Hypocrisy

With the anniversary of the (I'm supposed to say "landmark" here) abortion decision, I'll share a few of my thoughts. MediaGirl, listen up!

I think there is a certain value in turning the issue back to the states. I'm not anxious to see the procedure illegalized (quite the opposite), but letting each state decide the issue would force pro-life politicians to actually do something about abortion other than just rail about feminazis and activist judges. Reversing Roe, scary as it sounds, might help to sift out some of the bullshit surrounding the abortion issue, and that would be a good thing. Of course, it would also turn the public discourse into hell, but we're not far from that now.

What's bothering me right now is the complete and utter hypocrisy of pro-life groups who say, "It's time to turn the issue back to the states." Many of these same groups are on record supporting a right-to-life constitutional amendment that, unless I misunderstand American law, would take the issue away from the states. Either you support states' rights or you don't, and, frankly, I think these people don't. They're set on an agenda, not on a specific political philosophy.

I also note that many of the aforementioned groups are on record against birth control and comprehensive sex education (that being, of course, any education that is not abstinence-only). These are often the very conservatives who oppose government-funded daycare or other programs that would make childrearing more feasible. Therefore, they oppose using the very tools that would make abortions more rare, which tells me their agenda is larger that merely stopping abortion. They want to institute an entire regimen of sexual morality, and not one by which most Americans would really want to live.

I know for certain there are pro-lifers out there who aren't interested in a return to Victorian-era sexual mores, and I can respect that stance even if I don't agree with it. I have no respect for those who cloak a sweeping moral agenda in the vestments of concern for the unborn.

Uh, I can't think of a post title.

If you want a laugh, visit the help articles on a job-hunting Web site. Since most of those sites are equally useless, it doesn't matter which one you pick. My favorites are the multiple-choice quizzes, which are so laughably easy that you have to wonder how the folks who wrote them got their jobs. Here's a typical online job-hunting quiz question:

When asked about a previous employer you disliked, you respond by...

a) Saying, "I was always taught that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
b) Telling the interviewer how underappreciated you were, and how relieved you are to be rid of that employer.
c) Putting a positive spin on a negative experience.
d) Brandishing the severed head of your previous supervisor and warning the interviewer that the same awaits any who would dishonor you.

Now, do you have any doubt as to which is the correct answer? If you said c, then you are a person of average intelligence who understands the basics of life (fire burns, trees are green, you need air to live). If you said anything but c, well then you're the kind of person these quiz-makers are trying to help.

On a different topic, in taking the Smurf personality test I found on Sarcasmo's blog, I learned that Smurfette was created by Gargamel. Is this true? If so, does that mean Gargamel is God?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

An itty-bitty poem

A friend of mine used to have these really neat Christmas Eve parties, at which people would be asked for a performance. There would be singing, juggling, music, and what I usually did was write something I hoped was funny and read it. It was a good time.

Anyhoo, I came across this little poem in my hard drive, so I thought it made an interesting addition to this blog. ("Interesting" being my way of saying, "Shut up and read it.") A bit of background: In the gay community, young, tanned gym-polished blond boys are known as "twinkies", because they are short, golden-brown and cream-filled. I know, ick, but it's kind of important to this poem. Here goes...

If I Were a Twinkie
If I could have a wish from a genie or ring
It wouldn’t be for money, for cars or anything
World peace would be nice, and ending world hunger
I just want a body that’s blond and tan and younger
Hostess they make a bunch of nice cakes
Little Debbie, and Entenmann’s, and Carvel and Drake
But if I could be a twinkie I’d be so much better
I’d go from man-repellent straight to a guy-getter
As I walked down the street I’d be the first looked-at
Instead of coming in second to garbage and dead cats
At bars I’d be the center of all the attention
I could take the blue ribbon instead of honorable mention
When I stepped out my door in Spandex or tight jeans
I’d inspire admiration, instead of gross horror scenes
If I were a twinkie they’d fight to be with me
And I’d be called “hottie”, instead of “neato” and “nifty”
Of course, sometimes twinkies are dumber than dumb
In jeans they are beautiful; above the neck, numb
They may get the glances, the stares and the sighs
But they can’t write a good werewolf story like mine
Besides, when the bombs drop, and the world almost fries
Smart guys will build shelters. The twinkies will die
Sure, steroids keep them from gaining an ounce
But steroids ruin performance where and when it most counts
You know, I’d rather be short, brunette with no tan
Than be a gym-buffed blond twinkie with brains made of sand

I could go to the gym, and be kinda dim
I’d be pretty as hell, even though I couldn’t spell
I could turn any trick, I would have a big car
If I were a twinkie

(Remember that this poem was meant to be read aloud, so the last part is alot funnier. Or so I tell myself.)

Two Kinds o' Stupid

I aired this view before Movie Night this week, so I decided that earned it a place here. Before we get started, let me review what I mean by the word "stupid", which I think is an adjective that sees far too much use. In my view, there's a difference between "stupid" and "foolish." Stupid people actually lack intelligence, and thus have difficulty acquiring, remembering, processing and applying information. There are very few genuinely stupid people in the world. Foolish people may be quite intelligent, but they consistently make poor decisions and lack even basic intuition. There are lots of foolish people in the world. An example of stupid but not foolish is Sam Gamgee of the Lord of the Rings, who doesn't know very much in terms of information and isn't great at thinking on his feet, but who was wise enough to resist the lure of the Ring. An example of foolish but not stupid is Michelle Malkin, a conservative asshole who last year wrote a book called "Defending Internment", in which she attempts to justify the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII.

Back to topic. I find that stupid people fall into two basic categories: bird stupid and ox stupid. Bird-stupids can be manipulated because they are at least dimly aware that they don't know very much. Ox-stupids are convinced that they know better than everyone, and are therefore nearly impossible to sway. Give me bird-stupid any day.

Looking back on this post, I realize it was a long wind-up for a very short delivery. Eeep.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Even more envy!

After speaking with Sarcasmo about her trip, I realized two things.

  1. She made awesome use of her England time.
  2. My map of London has now been to London more than I have.
Both of these things please me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Good news and an unsettling observation

The good news: The Supreme Court struck down the feds' attempt to circumvent Oregon's assisted suicide law. I see that Republicans respect states' rights to do what Republicans want; otherwise, the GOP is happy to invoke federal power to get its way. As you'll see from the article, the decision was 6-3, which means the power-addled Republicans aren't going to get a change from SCOTUS any time soon.

The unsettling observation: Samuel Alito may be well qualified in scholarly or legal terms, but I don't want him on the court. No, it's not because he's unfriendly to abortion or privacy rights (which he is, despite his demurrals), but because he has spent the confirmation hearings backtracking on his record. He was part of a college group dedicated to keeping women and minorities out of Princeton, but now he says he doesn't remember it. He advocated to the Reagan administration the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, but now says we should just overlook that because that was expressed on a job application. He says that Robert Bork was "one of the most outstanding nominees of the century" with whom he supposedly disagrees with on just about everything. Either Samuel Alito is a dizzyingly complex jurist, or else he's a fairly simple conservative who is doing everything he can to hide it. Either way, I don't want him to get a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

I realize there's not much that can be done about it; Americans have given Bush their imprimatur to appoint these kinds of folks, and Bush has, understandably, taken them at their word. However, like the Iraq invasion and the 2001 tax cuts, we're going to be paying for Samuel Alito for a long, long time.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Underdog Victorious!*

I can now reveal that I have, after a job search that seemed a geological age, landed a job. I won't go into details about the company name or anything (after all, who knows who might be reading this happy little blog), but I will say that they've offered me more money, more vacation, more sick time, and a better 401K than my last employer. Also, they are located about .8 miles from my home, which means a commute to die for. All in all, I am pretty darn pleased about it. I've been walking around most of the day with a grin on my face, a grin worn only by the mentally deranged and those who have landed plum new jobs.

And, yes, I did a new-job dance, which was more vigorous than the getting-published polka, and yet not quite so sprightly as the I'm-done-with-college jig.

* This is also the title of a fabulous Jill Sobule album. Buy it. Listen to it. I command you.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Labor shuffles its feet!

Wal-Mart got a well deserved thumping today, courtesy of the Maryland state legislature. Naturally, the state's Republican governor did his level best to stop it (imagine a Republican going to bat for big business!), but the legislature showed both backbone and better sense and overrode his veto. Admittedly, the red states will resist this trend (if it becomes a trend), but if enoug blue states sign on Wal-Mart will have to give in. After all, the blue states are where the population is, and I doubt Wal-Mart will turn much profit catering only to states like Montana and Idaho, whose combined population is still less than NYC's.

I'm pleased to see that labor has not completely lost its teeth. As annoying as unions can be, I still trust them more than the likes of Wal-Mart.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Is it just me...

...or does this sound like a really bad idea?

The notion that public schools will benefit from competition is as erroneous as it is widespread. Public schools are, obviously, public, and that means they operate under a whole slew of restrictions with which their private counterparts do not have to deal. Public schools have to hire union, deal with the school board, and educate every child in the district regardless of learning disability or physical handicap. Unlike private schools, they can't cherry-pick the best students, thus elevating their test scores. It's maddening to hear private schools compared to public. It's not apples and oranges; it's apples and orcs.

However, if Houston feels the need to provide financial incentives to teachers whose students improve on test schools, why stop there? Why not just pay them based on how many of their students receive A's? I mean, if we're to buy the illusion of improvement, I'd like to purchase the best improvement available. No half-measures for me, no sir.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

HR stands for "How Ridiculous"

Aha! An external view of why HR departments are useless, just useless. I love the term "administrivia", which in my view sums up the bureaucratic nonsense to which HR professionals seem so completely dedicated. Enjoy the article; I did.

At one company where I used to work, they had five - count 'em - five full-time HR people who were so busy they had to employ an outside vendor to post open jobs on the career sites and screen candidates. They didn't even check references for potential hires. I'm not really sure what they did, except shuffle papers and tell us we couldn't have Yoga classes on site.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I Am Officially Jealous

Sarcasmo is even now on her way to merry old England, and I wish I were going with her. I've been there twice, and I am very much looking forward to visit #3. Sarcasmo tells me that, since I've been there twice already, I am not allowed to be jealous, but I am. It's my way of rebelling.

In honor of her trip, here's a pic of me, Ed and Dan during our 2002 England trip. We were wandering through Hyde Park when we came upon this wooden bench labeled, "Topsy - Scarlette - Chloe." As soon as we read those, nothing would do but that we must take a picture behind them. I got a passerby to take the shot, but that left Dan and Ed free to stake out their names and to leave "Scarlette" to me. At first I wanted Topsy, but now I feel more at home with my English-bench alter ego. Sorry the pic is a bit stretched.

Enjoy, Sarcasmo! May your plane slumber be deep, your seatmate amiable, and your landing as boring as they come.

Five Weird Habits

I heard this one from VisMajor, so I will try it out here. Five of my weird habits are...

  1. I leave glasses of water around whatever domicile I am currently using. Usually it's just one glass, but inevitably that glass spawns a twin, and then that twin spawns, and so forth. Some days it got so I'd have water available in every room. I like to drink water, so that works out, but it's a little weird nonetheless.
  2. If I am approaching a building that has more than one set of doors, I will purposely use the doors furthest from me, to see if the folks behind me will do the same. I have this theory that human beings have a deep-seated fear that they door they try will be locked; therefore, they always use doors they've seen open. Once, when I worked in a building with six sets of double doors, in two rows, I used the left-most outer door, then went all the way back to the right inner door, and don't you know, the woman behind me did the same. The fact that I do it is not as weird as the fact that people follow me.
  3. When I'm reading a book, I tend to idly rub the paper with a finger as I page along.
  4. For some reason, the first thing I do when I get into the shower is rub each of my Achilles tendons. Don't ask me why, but I do.
  5. I can't sleep in a room with an open closet door. It's not that I fear the Closet Monster or anything (trust me, I lived in the closet long enough to realize it ain't the monsters that make that place scary), but for some reason it bugs me to know that the door is open. It just does.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Take My Advice...

...playing Ultimate for an hour with people 10-15 years your junior, and then playing again with a different group for another 90 minutes is a bad idea. A really, really bad idea. My knee wishes I'd known that before I actually went out and did it.

I often mention Ultimate on this blog, so I'll take a moment to explain the game. Ultimate is like football in that you have to advance a game piece into your opponents' end zone. Unlike football, Ultimate is played with a flying disc (Frisbee), and you can't run with the disc. When you have the disc, you stop and wait for a chance to pass it to one of your teammates, who then freezes and tries to pass it again, etc. The player who catches the disc in the end zone scores a goal. The opposite team attempts to intercept the disc or knock it down, and if they do possession changes and the defense becomes the offense. Each team contains 7 players; if the game is co-ed, each must have 2-3 women. Normally, the game is played until one team scores 13 points, although some games go t0 15.

Ultimate is my obsession, I admit. It's easy to learn, and doesn't require a bunch of pads and helmets and all that felgercarb. Cleats are recommended, and when you start to get older you often want to use knee or shin supports. (Of course, I wouldn't know anything about that.) One of the best things about Ultimate is that it's self-refereed; each player is expected to police him/herself, and the other players accept this. Although I've seen a few heated arguments over rules calls, it's been nothing near what I've witnessed in other sports. Oh, and as West-Coast, crunchy granola as it may seem, Ultimate was invented in New Jersey.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Small Victory

Looks like the Garden State is continuing its tradition of progressivism. (From the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

The Senate passed, 39-0, a bill that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples regarding inheritances and funeral arrangements.

"Currently, same-sex couples have no rights when it comes to administering the funeral of a passed partner. It makes little sense to grant this right only to married couples and deny it of domestic partnerships," said a sponsor, Sen. John H. Adler (D., Camden).

The full Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill Monday.

It's really too bad that I don't care to live in New Jersey, because the state is really way better on gay issues than Pennsylvania. Still, it's nice to know that if PA gets too bad I can flee across the mighty Delaware. Actually, it's just this kind of thing, plus the loony Republicans in charge of the national government, that makes me more a supporter of stronger states' rights.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Very Westeros Post

Spoiler Alert! If you are reading George Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” have not yet read “A Feast for Crows”, be advised that the following post is spoilerific.

Since so many of us are ASOIAF fans, I thought I’d make my good and bad lists of the characters contained in the series, along with a few other sundry lists. Obviously, in GRRM’s books no one is purely good or purely evil, but I think some characters come closer to those extremes than others. Here they are, and please note that I’ve included only characters alive at the end of AFfC. There are so many dead ones I’d have been typing forever.

The Good
Danaerys Targaryen: She really wants to do good, even when she’s doing things that are ethically, uh, questionable. (Read: Wise Masters.)
Tyrion Lannister: Despite constant snubs from his family, he’s the most decent scion of the Casterly Rock clan. He just wants to be loved and respected, and the kicker is that he really deserves it.
Brienne of Tarth: Unlike most Westerosi, honor actually means something to her. What a concept!
Jon Snow: This guy knows the value of an oath because he’s broken one. How cool is that?
Edmure Tully: One of the few Westerosi lords who actually tried to protect his smallfolk when danger threatened. Not the tactically smartest move, I admit, but it came from the heart.
Samwell Tarly: He calls himself a coward, but when the Other came a-callin’, Sam gave it what for. He also protected Gilly from Small Paul the wight, when he could easily have left her to save his own skin. When the chips are down, Sam trembles, cries…and does his duty.

The Bad
Walder Frey: Not only was he the architect of the Red Wedding (curse him!), in “A Game of Thrones” he bartered his allegiance like a fishwife. Boning Robb to let him cross at the Twins evidently wasn’t enough; Lord Weasel had to shoot him like a dog at his daughter’s wedding. Frey’s an honorless wretch who just won’t seem to die. I guess evil preserves him.
Roose Bolton: His part in the Red Wedding will never be forgotten, but nearly as bad was the way he was working against Robb Stark from the Green Fork. How many northern lords, Stark loyalists all, died because of his treachery? Down with him!
Cersei Lannister: Not only is she power-hungry and arrogant, but she’s also got a dash of cruelty thrown in for good (or bad) measure. Go, valonqar!
Theon Greyjoy: Here’s a villain as pathetic as he his treacherous. He goes through the first book telling Catelyn, “Ned Stark’s like a father to me”, and then he works against his second father’s family the first chance he gets. What’s worse is that Theon isn’t even competent, which means I can’t even think he’s cool. He's just despicable.
Petyr Baelish: Most people might not agree, but never forget that Littlefinger helped Cersei and Jaime screw up the line of succession, and thus sparked the devastation that was the War of Five Kings. He also very cruelly wooed Lysa Arryn, only to give her a one-way trip out the Moon Door when she became inconvenient. It’s to be hoped that someday karma is going to jump on his head and go cock-a-doodle-doo.

The Schemers
Petyr Baelish: OK, he’s evil, but he does manage to manipulate his way from Nobody of Gulltown to Lord Protector of the Vale without ever mussing his clothes. That’s skill.
Varys the Spider: Everyone distrusts this guy, and anyone could kill him, but he makes himself so valuable that no one would lift a hand against him. He also managed to survive Aerys’s mad reign, which tells you just how cunning he really is.
Olenna Tyrell: Her doll-like form hides a mind as shrewd and calculating as Karl Rove’s. She pushes around her lord son like a chess piece, pisses off Tywin Lannister with impunity, and even manages to murder a king with no one the wiser. I adore her.

The Opportunists
Lord Swann: One son serves in King’s Landing with Joffrey, and the other first with Renly and then Stannis, only to swear fealty to Joffrey when Stannis is defeated. This guy has every intention of surviving. Maybe he’ll be king in the end.
Bronn of the Blackwater: He works for Lady Catelyn in dragging Tyrion to the Eyrie, then switches sides to defend Tyrion in trial by combat, then allows himself to be bought by Cersei in exchange for deserting Tyrion. It was getting hard to keep track of it all.
Taena Merryweather: This sultry Myrish noblewoman swings like a kitchen door, and not just in bed. She comes to King’s Landing with the Tyrells, but before you can say, “I’m a treacherous slut” she’s informing on Margaery to Cersei. When the High Septon finally sends Cersei to the hoosegow, Lady Merryweather is on the first train out of King's Landing, barely pausing long enough to collect her husband. I’m not sure whether to condemn her or admire her.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A New Jersey New Year

Thanks for Feanor and Poppy for hosting the Star Wars New Year's event, which featured the movies (good) and the holiday special (dreadful). A great time!

As Babyraven and Mouserobot and I drove to the aforementioned event, we discussed the talking-on-cell-phones-while-driving thing, which I am steadfastly against. Yeah, I know that I don't object to drivers talking to passengers, but in my view there's a long league between talking to someone in the car with you and talking to someone on the phone. When you're on the phone, you're really not in your physical situation; you're sort of somewhere between where you are and where the person you're talking with is. I've had phone conversations while screening a DVD and I couldn't tell you what happened in the movie while I talked. Plus, have you ever noticed that people walking around while gabbing away will step into the street, or right in front of other pedestrians, without looking? That's because they're not where they are; they're on the phone. Why would it be any different when they're driving?

I realize that there are a multitude of distractions in which drivers indulge: eating, drinking, putting on makeup, shaving...hell, I've even seen people reading newspapers. None of those are good things or should be permitted, but I just can't accept the argument that talking on the phone in the car is the same as talking to someone in the car. You know?