Thursday, May 29, 2003

News Briefs

An Islamic woman in Florida is suing to have her driver's license reinstated after it was revoked because she refused to remove her veil for a mandatory photograph. Islamic law may prohibit her from revealing her face. Fine. But driving is a privilege, not a right. So either take off the veil, or take the bus. Your choice.

The Laci Peterson story is sad, but it is not a national tragedy, nor does it warrant the attention it is getting.

CNN reports that Iraq came "within seconds" of wiping out a key American intelligenge HQ with a missile. A U.S. Patriot missile shot it down. That's why we have Patriots; it did exactly what it was supposed to do, and disaster was never as imminent as they're making it out to be.

The Concorde is being retired. Enjoy a Mister P. rerun with this movie clip of a kick-ass Concorde fly-over:
Concorde Movie


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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Why I Hate Apple Computer

A couple months ago I bought a new computer system, and treated myself to a mid-size flat-panel display. It looked beautiful, except for a single bad pixel in the middle of the screen that would always stay bright red. Always. It never turned off. Quite annoying. I went to the Apple Store to get it replaced, and they said that a few bad pixels was "acceptable". Maybe to them, but not to me. They would let me exchange it, but I would have to pay a 10% restocking fee, and there was no guarantee that the new monitor wouldn't have more bad pixels. The "Apple Genius" (yes, that's what they're called) told me "well maybe the bad pixel will go just away." Look buddy, I fell off the turnip truck last week, not yesterday, and I know that with monitors, over time you wind up with MORE bad pixels, not fewer. I grudgingly accepted that there was nothing I could do.

I recently realized that I hadn't noticed the bad pixel as much, and was thinking how remarkable the brain is at filtering out unwanted information. I assumed I just got so used to seeing the bad pixel that I was subconsciously ignoring it. But then I actually tried to find it, and I'll be damned if the screen didn't heal itself. All pixels work perfectly. A stunning display.

So why do I hate Apple Computer? I'm not happy unless I can rant about something, and now I can't complain about the screen. I will send a little extra something to Steve in my monthly tithing as penance for my lack of faith in him.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

L.A. is one of those stupid places where they place traffic lights right at the entrance to the freeways. Not just at the bottom of the on-ramp, but at the top as well, sometimes literally 100 feet before you have to merge into 60mph traffic. I don't care how many computer simulations they tried, in the real world these lights do nothing but cause MORE congestion.

Normally on my way to work, there is a backup of about 30 cars that runs from the traffic light at the top of the on-ramp down through 3 intersections. But today, I simply drove through the intersections and right on to the freeway. At the top of the ramp, I saw the traffic light smashed on the ground with the pole in several pieces. I don't know if a truck crashed into it over the weekend or if somebody with a sledgehammer simply got fed up with it, but traffic has never flowed more smoothly.

I will vote for any politician, regardless of political party, if they vow to get rid of the rest of the freeway traffic lights.


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Monday, May 26, 2003

At least I'm Not A Terrorist

I hate the song "God Bless the USA" (Proud to be an American). I hated it 20 years ago, and I hate it today. Since the media is dictating our need to have a resurgence of patriotism, the song is getting played over and over and over again, and I cringe every time. All because of two words.

The main chorus begins "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free." For starters, I'm not even sure that makes any grammatical sense. To be proper, it should read "I'm proud to live in America, where at least I know I'm free." Whatever. But the big problem I have is with the words "at least".

"At least" is a phrase you use as a concession that everything else sucks. For example, your car was stolen, your house burned down and you were fired, but AT LEAST you have your health. Who cares? Your pathetic little existence is ruined.

In the context of the song, by saying "at least" there is an implication that there is a whole bunch of really horrible stuff about being an American. Whether or not that's true, patriotic songs are supposed to celebrate the positive. What this song is saying is "we have high murder rates and moral decay and smog and congestion and homelessness and corrupt politicians, but at least I know I'm free to enjoy all of it".

I see people singing along to this song at memorials with tears welling up in their eyes and I think to myself "Don't you people understand what this song means?! It's actually ANTI-American! Are you all mad?!"

Maybe I really do walk alone to my own drummer. But AT LEAST my drummer knows what song to play.


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Sunday, May 25, 2003

I don't like getting junk mail for my father. He died 6 years ago, and I don't need to be reminded. I'm sending this back to the Republican National Committee.


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People in check-out lines are idiots, exampe #47

In my entire life, I don't think I've consumed 16 ounces of coffee. It might be less than 8 ounces. I am not a coffee drinker, but I have friends who drink it. I've seen people on TV drink coffee. So I understand the basics of how the drink works. You get a cup with black liquid in it, you optionally dump in some sugar and milk and mix.

I was in the checkout line at the supermarket and the woman in front of me puts a bag of brown sugar on the counter. She asks the cashier "is this for coffee?"


"Do you put this is coffee?"

"Well, usually people use granulated sugar for coffee"

"This IS sugar."

"That's brown sugar. That's mostly used for baking. You use white sugar in coffee."

"But is this sweet?"

"Yeah, that's why it's used for baking cookies and things. But granulated sugar... the white sugar... disolves better."

"But I could still use this in coffee?"

"I suppose so."

Brown sugar may very well be absolutely delicious in coffee. But you'd think you would figure that out BEFORE you got in line.


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Friday, May 23, 2003

Star Trek is back.

The franchise has been fizzing out faster than a dilithium crystal in an antimatter stream. We had the final stale seasons of Voyager, the yawnfest Insurrection movie and the dreadful Nemesis. The highpoints of the latest series, Enterprise, have involved shower scenes with the curvey Vulcan T'Pol rubbing "decontamination gel" (i.e. massage oil) all over herself and her shipmates. (before you start screaming "sexist exploitation!", know that Scott Bakula gets thrown in there too. They are equal-opportunity exploiters on the show.) But even geeks can only watch that for so long, and then they're forced to sit through ethical dilemmas as Sam Becket - I mean Captain Archer - struggles with the idea of whether or not he should interfere with another civilization.

Well it seems that the producers have recognized the problem and announced they were going to rework the show. Their efforts were first displayed in the excellent season finale this week. The show opens with an alien probe coming to Earth, blasting a 400-mile-long crater on the surface, killing seven MILLION people. Starfleet is pissed, and is giving the starship Enterprise a new mission: instead of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations, they have to go out and kick some alien ass. That's supposed to the over-riding story arc for the entire season. The ship has been retro-fitted with new weapons called "photon torpedoes" and an elite military team is being brought on board. Oh, and the Klingon Empire has placed a bounty on Archer's head. If they can maintain the momentum of the season finale (and throw in a gratuitous decontamination scene every now and then) we should be in good shape.

Now all they need to do is get rid of the 80s-hair-band theme song.


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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Why I Hate Los Angeles, Part 2

I am lucky enough to only have a 5-mile commute to work. (Actually luck has nothing to do with it; I planned it that way.) The freeway exit I use on the way to work is closed for construction. Yesterday, I arrived at work at 9:15, which is very late. This morning, I left home twenty minutes earlier, and arrived at 9:20. The earlier I leave, the later I arrive. If the converse is true, then I figure I should leave home around 9:45 and I'll get to work at 9.

Stupid Los Angeles.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Over 250 teams of four.
In a race against time.
Grueling mental challenges.
Bizarre physical tests.
All while being strapped to one another.
The clock is ticking.
The madness has begun.

A new reality show coming to FOX? Nope, it's how I spent last Wednesday night.

I entered "Minnie's Midnight Madness" at Disneyland with Jamie, Celina, and Kristy. It's a little tough to describe. Basically, they closed down the California Adventure theme park, tied your four teammates together with a single 5-foot rope, and then gave you 2 hours in the park to complete 10 challenges. We had to pitch coins against walls, go fishing for post-it notes, and solve puzzles like this:

"Mickey, Minnie, and Donald went to Disneyland where they parked on the Mickey, Minnie, and Donald levels of the parking lot, bought Mickey, Minnie and Donald toys, and visited the houses of Mickey, Minnie and Donald. If the person who bought the Donald toy didn't first visit the house with the same name as the parking level where the person who visited Minnie's house first parked, who went where when?" Or something like that.

I have new found respect (?) for game-show contestants. It's very easy to sit on your couch and scream at the TV when someone doesn't know the answer to a question or is having trouble solving a puzzle. But when you're up against the clock, it really does get stressful and you can't think straight.

We came in 95th place, which I think is fantastic. Many of the teams there were hard-core veterans who have been doing this for years and have honed their skills. We still had some minor problems figuring out how to sit down in the right order without getting tangled up in the rope.

Oh, and to answer the Big Question everyone has, no, you don't have to stay tied together to use the bathroom.


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Monday, May 19, 2003

Why I hate Los Angeles

About 6 months ago, I noticed a new storefront going up just 2 blocks from my house. It was called "The Final Frontier". A giant 15 foot model of the Starship Enterprise hung above the entrance, and the signs on the glass promised Sci-Fi toys and hobbies. This was to be the Greatest Store Evar, and it was walking distance from home.

Sadly, a couple weeks after the model went up, the would-be store disappeared. Apparently the owner lost the lease or couldn't come up with the payments to open up the store.

Fast-forward to this weekend, when I took my cousin's kids to see Daddy Day Care. In the movie, "The Final Frontier" is an old store the daddies want to buy to open up their day care center.

The Greatest Store Evar was nothing but a fictional set for a kiddie movie. I hate L.A.


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Friday, May 16, 2003

Just came back form seeing The Matrix Reloaded. Hated it. To the point where I was actually angry leaving the theater. You probably loved it. Then I hate you too.


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Sunday, May 11, 2003

Life Priorities

In the season finale of Survivor, the two final contestants spend time reflecting on how the experience has changed their lives... How spending over a month being one with nature, developing a synergistic relationship with the land, forces one to look inward.

Matthew had this epiphany:

"I will come out of this with a different perspective... I'm a very intense individual, maybe too much so... I should really go out and enjoy life more than I have. Spend more time watching TV vs. how I've lead my life to date. For instance I could spend 20 hours on a weekend studying Swedish."

Kudos to you Matthew, put down those books and turn on the tube.


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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

I am rather particular when it comes to ordering food, and I've learned to be patient when people don't seem to understand what I ask for.

To me, a "plain" sandwich is bread, meat OR cheese (not both), and butter. No lettuce. No tomato. No mustard.

A plain cheese sandwich is bread, cheese and butter.
A plain chicken sandwich is bread, chicken and butter.
A plain turkey sandwich is bread, turkey and butter.

It amazes me that many restaurants/delis don't have butter to put on sandwiches, but I've learned to accept it.

Today I ordered a plain turkey sandwich from a new deli in our building. I had to do my usual explanation: "I'd like a plain turkey sandwich, just meat and bread with butter." "No cheese?" "No cheese. Nothing on it but meat and butter." "Lettuce?" "No lettuce. Nothing but meat, bread, butter."

I watched as my sandwich was being made. He took a plain roll and put some plain turkey on it. Good so far. He took out a few scoops of butter. Great. He then put the butter in a small plastic cup and handed me the dry sandwich and the cup of butter. It never occurred to me to tell them I wanted the butter ON the sandwich, but I figured I should just be thankful for getting what I did.


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Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Vegas, Part Two

This story sounds more dramatic then it really was, but pretty much everything is exactly true. While in Vegas, I visited the Hoover Dam with 2 friends from high school. I'll call them "Mark" and "Alex". Mark is normal. Alex is... well, he doesn't simply march to his own drummer, he marches to his own orchestra.

Mark and I went to the gift shop, leaving Alex to his own devices. We go outside, and can't find Alex. A security guard walks by and we hear a voice coming over the radio: "...a man jumped the fence and is climbing up the rocks..." Ah-ha, we knew we found Alex. We watch as Alex climbs off the rocks and back into legal territory, and he starts walking towards us. I wave at the security people and say "don't worry, we'll keep an eye on him next time." They tell us "actually, you need to stick around for a bit. The federal marshal is going to want to speak to you guys." Quick-thinking Mark replies "nope, he just needs to speak to Alex". Yes, we were ready to sell out our friend and deny any association.

I'm not sure what the Fed's actual title was (marshal, agent, Man In Black). In reality, he was probably just a glorified park ranger, but they did make it very clear that this was under federal jurisdiction. Apparently, post 9-11 they frown upon strange men climbing outside the secure areas at a facility that provides power to the entire Southwest. The Fed turned out to be very friendly. He took Alex's license and radioed in a background check. While waiting for the response, he tried to explain to Alex why it's not a good idea to be jumping walls past a security check-point.

Alex's record came back clean (which was a shock to me) and he was allowed to go. This is pretty much a typical situation for Alex, so as the Fed turned around to walk away, I shouted out "next time, just shoot him."


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Friday, May 02, 2003

Vegas, Part One

I no longer fly to Las Vegas. I drive. Although all airplanes are 600 mph flying death cans, the Burbank-Vegas flight is particularly deadly. For some reason the rising desert air currents meet the winds coming down from the mountains surrounding L.A. to create particularly turbulent flights. After one especially bumpy flight, where I believe we were inverted for a good 20 minutes, I swore off flying to Vegas and started driving instead.

There are some advantages to driving. About 45 minutes before you reach Las Vegas is Primm Nevada, formerly State Line. Essentially a town of two casinos. This is the home of Buffalo Bill's and the world-famous Desperado roller coaster. I had always wanted to ride it, but if you fly into Vegas you don't have a car and it's inconvenient to get out to Primm. Last year, I finally stopped and rode the coaster. It has some of the scariest air-time you'll find anywhere. Very good ride.

I spent some time looking around the casinos in Primm, and had some pizza. Wow. It was by far the best pizza I have tasted west of the Mississippi. Let's face it, California does NOT know how to make a good pizza. But this crust was crispy and the top was oily and dripping all over the plate and there were big air pockets under the cheese. Fantastic.

Last week, I went back to Vegas and decided to stop and get some more of the West Coast's Greatest pizza. But I couldn't find it. It wasn't in Buffalo Bill's, so I assumed the pizza was across the highway at Whiskey Pete's. Nothing. There are more casinos in Jean Nevada, about 15 miles down the road. Was that where I had the pizza? I drove on to Jean and stopped at the Gold Strike casino. Nothing. I went to the Nevada Landing casino. Nothing. Was this sacred pizza place just a mirage? No, that's a different hotel.

I gave up for the night, but 3 days later on the way home I stopped back in Primm. There was a casino I missed: The Primm Valley Resort & Casino. Straight past the slot machines is a small counter with a sign above it that reads "Rosie's Pizzeria". I had my crispy crust and and giant oily cheese bubbles and a large cup of Mountain Dew.

Best Pizza Evar.


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Thursday, May 01, 2003

It's the little things that count.

There is a 76 gas station on Central Avenue that has the air hoses right next to the fuel pumps. You can put air in your tires while you're gassing up, as opposed to filling up, then driving 50 feet to the air pump on the side of the building. Simple but brilliant. If I didn't know better, I would have thought it was an Apple gas station.


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