I really miss red light cameras.

These cameras were really gaining traction a few years ago. They began to appear at traffic signals all over the place. The concept seems sound to me – it just takes a photo of any vehicle cross against the signal, and then captures their license plate. The owner of the vehicle is automatically sent a ticket in the mail. You get the fine, but you don't get points on your license.

redlightThere are a couple of things wrong with the concept. First, you don't really know who's driving. So you have to throw out a certain amount of tickets if they're contested in court. Second, they're susceptible to "plate cloning," which students did in Maryland to get revenge on people they didn't like. I love plate cloning – you just find a similar vehicle and print out fake plates to tape over the real ones. Then you drive around and run lights. Awesome. Third, some people feel it's a very "Big Brother-ish" privacy violation. Normally, this would be a very compelling argument for me, but if you're blowing through red lights, I want you to be fined.

There's one light right near me. People fly through this thing all the time. When we had active cameras, I enjoyed watching them break the law knowing that a letter would be on its way to them with a nice, shiny fine.

The only problem is this: Maine banned the use of red light cameras back in 2009. Richard Cebra introduced the bill.

"While on the surface these cameras may appear to increase public safety, recent studies have shown that they actually increase the occurrences of accidents at intersections where the public is aware that there is a camera," Cebra said in a statement. "The placement of these cameras is also a civil rights issue, creating the issuing of a summons and possible fines and jail time to the owner of a vehicle and not necessarily the actual driver of the vehicle. In many places around the country, these cameras have become nothing more than a money-maker for municipalities."

Now, I understand that there have been a few bad eggs. In fact several cities actually shortened the time of the yellowintersection (amber) light so they could get more revenue from violations. There's only one thing shown to decrease the likelihood of traffic accidents at a traffic signal – increasing the duration of the yellow light. Shortening the light makes an intersection more deadly. So, to increase profit and at the risk of harming motorists, they shortened the yellow lights. That's a little rude; even I understand that.

However, I don't like the idea that we've banned these cameras just because it's a civil rights issue. Driving is a privilege, not a right. That's what my driver's ed teacher always used to say. We agree that only those who learn and accept our set of laws will drive on our publicly maintained streets. One of those laws says that you can't blast through a red light. If it takes cameras to enforce that, then I think we should use them.

I've got this friend, let's call him Chris Christofferson (without all the K's, because, you know...), and the other day he asked the age old question – "What's more important: living a long time, or enjoying the pleasures life has to offer?"

I'm paraphrasing because I didn't really enjoy the way he phrased the question (at least the way I remember him phrasing it). 

CornFlowerIt's hard to argue against trying to stay healthy. I think that even when I've been my most wild and carefree with food, I've still felt guilty about indulgence. So, you enjoy the taste of something delicious and you get to: hate your lack of will power; hate the way you look; and hate the way you feel. Louis C.K. said recently – "I didn't realize that you were supposed to eat to help you feel good. I thought you were just supposed to stuff your face with both hands until you felt too sick to keep going." I'm paraphasing because I'm not nearly as clever as he is.

Exercise is a pretty simple equation for me. As much as I hate to admit it, I feel way better when I'm getting regular exercise. I don't think it's just because of pride, either. I think that my energy level, joints, sleep cycle, and attitude is just better when I've done something. I had to take a break recently for about a month and it was terrible. I felt like my body was falling apart.

Starvation is hard to defend. Studies have shown that caloric restriction in rodents can increase their lifespan by 67.5%. Caloric restriction in humans seems to only yield a 7% increase. That's good news, I guess. You don't get to live forever by dropping to 1500 calories, but you don't have to feel like you're killing yourself if you're not starving. It's a weird tradeoff that I'd be happy to not undertake.  

Have you ever heard of exercise bulimia? That's where you binge on food and then exercise like a crazy person until you feel like you've burned all the calories. There's also a form of anorexia where you eat a reasonable amount of food but then you exercise so much that you're underfed the whole time. You need an easy way to gauge whether you've gone past reasonable. I know people with a terrible body image and they use that as an excuse to starve themselves constantly (I bet you know some too). 

I'll leave you with some warning signs that you may be an exercise bulimic:

  • Missing work, parties or other appointments in order to work out
  • Working out with an injury or while sick
  • Becoming unusually depressed if unable to exercise
  • Working out for hours at a time each day
  • Not taking any rest or recovery days
  • Defining self-worth in terms of performance
  • Justifies excessive behavior by defining self as a "special" elite athlete

 

I don't mean to be snarky and rude, but... 

Wait, that's a terrible way to start because I started with a lie. In fact, I do mean to be a little snarky and rude. This is a Blog; snarky and rude are requirements. Here's my point:

I don't care that my dog just farted.BrunoSmall

It's like you're telling me that "sometimes the moon is visible during the day," or "pleated-front khakis are an abomination." These are all things that everyone already knows. What's the point in announcing that you've smelled a dog fart? Did you expect that if you didn't say anything everyone would assume it was you? Did you think that this is practical knowledge that I might need in order to better care for my dog? Are you worried that you'll drop into analphylactic (get it?) shock, and the only way to save your life will be for me to say to the paramedic:

"By the way, this person JUST SMELLED A DOG FART."

At which point the rescuer will congratulate me – "Thank goodness you mentioned that. You probably just saved this person's life."

And I'll have to admit – "Well, they have themselves to thank. I'm so glad they announced that to the room!"

Do you have a child? If so, then at some point you had a child running around with actual poop strapped to them in a skin-tight poop harness. Should I have mentioned it when that smelled? Yes, probably, because it would be a direct call to action for you. Poop smell + child = actionable information. Dog + fart = OMG, maybe if you wait all of 20 seconds, it will dissipate and life will return to normal.

It's almost like you're accusing me of being a bad dog caregiver, or accusing the dog of being a bad dog. Truth be told, no lie, the dogs almost never fart. They mostly do it when we have guests over; probably from the extra excitement or stress of having guests over. It's really your fault. So, sincerely, thank you. Don't mention it. Really.

You ever think about what you're eating? I try not to; it's too scary. You've got this incredibly complex machine that runs on an enormous variety of fuels, and nobody has any idea what the best one is. You've got a million choices all the time and your entire life depends on it, but nobody can tell you the perfect thing to eat.

Everyone has a theory though. Think about how much data and how much control you'd need to exert to really study the issue. Perhaps if you had a few thousand subjects and you placed each one on a different diet for sixty to ninety years, you could come up with a good, definitive answer. I can imagine the platitudes now – just don't stress about it; eat to live; everything in moderation, including moderation. But this is your life, your entire being. We should have a better understanding. The approach that makes most sense to me is to back up and think of how we evolved. Consider only what's natural, and eat that. There's a problem with that approach though – we didn't evolve to eat fruits, vegetables, and animals that were produced using chemical fertilizers and factory farming. Even our basic foodstuffs are tainted.

kalamatasI'd like to share with you a couple of my favorite foods. These are not my favorite things to eat, just my favorite foods. I like Kalamta olives, but I will not eat them anymore. I've been fooled by them too many times. The word "Pitted" on the label should be in quotes. In fact, the federal government should step in and DEMAND that they put quotes around "Pitted." I guarantee that in every single jar of "Pitted" olives that Pastene has shipped, they've included at least three Surprise!Pit!Shards®. It's like a game you play with your teeth. Olive, olive, olive, olive, olive, Surprise!Pit!Shard®. Yay! You found it – now off to the dentist with you!

girl-scoutNext, I present Edy's Slow Churned, Rich & Creamy, Limited Edition, Girl Scouts®, Samoas, Cookie, Light Ice Cream. Look closely, the "Light Ice Cream" part kinda fades into the background to the right. There's a reason for that – this tastes as much like Ice Cream as the Kalamata Pits do. I have it on good authority that it wasn't a legislative or regulatory body which stepped in and demanded that Edy's downplay any similarity to ice cream. It was the board of the company who decided that they had a moral obligation to make the claim of "Ice Cream" the smallest feature on the label. They just couldn't sleep at night otherwise.

popcornMy FAVORITE favorite is off-brand popcorn. Namely: Shur fine, Movie Theater Style popcorn with Xtra Butter. 

popcornIngredientsIf you take the time to read the ingredients, there's nothing butter-ish about this popcorn, unless you count the "Natural Flavor." When it comes to labelling, I like to think that the word "Butter" is such an absurd abstraction that nobody bothers to enforce that it have any meaning. You could probably produce salsa and drop a "with Xtra Butter!" on the label, and the FDA would turn a blind eye. What they won't let you get away with is the word "Extra." You don't need butter to claim "Butter," but you better damn well not claim your product has "Extra" anything. Use the meaningless "Xtra" unless you want to get fined into oblivion.

Take a look at this picture. What's this Home Depot shopper doing?

Let's make this multiple choice:hdcustomer

  1. She's carefully reading the instructions on the side of a box to make sure that she has the skill and tools needed to install/use the merchandise.
  2. She's comparing the features of two different brands to see which most closely meets her requirements.
  3. She's stealing two of the "interlocking double-helix side vernacular screws" because you can't buy them individually and the box she has at home was missing them.

Of course you know that the answer is 3. She'll steal those two screws and then the next customer will have to come back to steal two, until eventually someone gets fed up and just returns the incomplete merchandise. That's when logic takes over because a Home Depot employee gets involved. Unlike a stupid customer, the HD employee won't just put the incomplete box back on the shelf for the next unsuspecting purchaser. No, the HD employees are much more sophisticated. They'll carefully take inventory of the box (this is accomplished by scanning the barcode with lasers), then they'll close the box, put tape on the box, and ONLY THEN will they put the incomplete box back on the shelf for the next unsuspecting purchaser.

hdproThis is why people don't treat HD like a store. People treat the Depot like a potential store. Any of the things inside might potentially be merchandise, but one must not assume. It's common to walk through Home Depot and see someone picking through an entire shelf of potential merchandise looking for one item good enough to buy. People camp out near the bundles of 2x4's, waiting for an employee to cut the steel straps so they can pick through 1024 boards to find one that's straight. It won't be straight by the time they get it home, but the dream of a straight 2x4 is enough for some.

Walk into a Home Depot and it's like you're auditioning everything there to see if it will be purchasable. That's okay though, at the same time Home Depot is auditioning you to see if you're good enough to be a customer. They have signs on all the best parking lots designating them for "Pro Customer Parking." What are they going to do if any old schmoe parks there? Arrest them? Tow? I figure I'm a "Pro" just because I've figured out shopping there is generally a bad idea. 

Have you read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry? Here's a version of it on the intersweb: http://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html

I'm sure people had different ideas about gender equality back in 1906, but something about this story still bothers me. You remember the story: the wife wants to get her husband an extra-special watch chain for Christmas, so she sells her hair. The guy wants to get his wife some combs for her hair, so he sells his watch. Oh, what a merry mixup!

The story starts with a good cry. Della can only scrape together $1.87 to buy a present, so she flops down on the shabby little couch and howls. Then, the author gives us some very specific details: Jim brings home $20/week and the rent is $8/week. First, they're spending 40% of take-home on rent — that's too much. You're not supposed to spend more than 25-30% of net pay on housing. He mentions that Jim used to make $30/week, which is a much better ratio, but if you take a pay cut at some point you have to adjust and start living within your means again.240px-William_Sydney_Porter_by_doubleday

Still, the money is a little confusing. Della saved up the $1.87 by saving every penny and managing the expenses. She's upset because she thought she should have saved more. That's understandable, she's managing all the expenses and she wanted to put enough away to get Jim something nice, but where is Jim supposed to get any money for her present? If she's managing the money, shouldn't she be saving for both of their gift budgets? Maybe he's skimming something off the top before he hands over the dough, but you think O. Henry would have mentioned that in his careful accounting of the income.

Anyway, she cuts off her hair. All couples have a certain responsibility to each other. Certainly a relationship is not all about looks, but it's also not all about personality. There has to be some physical attraction for a couple to stay together. It seems a little insensitive that she would change a major aspect of her appearance in order to get him a Christmas present. This hair fell below her knee. Seriously, that's a lot of hair. You gotta figure that some of Jim's physical attraction to Della came from that hair. At least we should consider the possibility that this sudden hair change might be a big turn-off for Jim. After the act, Della looks like a "truant schoolboy," or a "Coney Island chorus girl." Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think that if Jim wanted to marry a schoolboy or a chorus girl, he wouldn't have hooked up with Della. In fact, after she gets her hair lopped off, she whispers, "Please God, make him think I am still pretty." So, she does consider that he might be pissed, but she did it anyway.

Also, Della got $20 for the hair. That's a week's take-home pay. She must have grown that hair for a decade and she sold it all for $20. Today, you can sell 35+ inches for $2,000, which is considerably more than a week's pay. So, not only did she potentially take away Jim's desire for intimacy, she also got ripped off. I'm assuming that hair a century ago is no less valuable than it is today. They didn't have nearly as many synthetic fibers competing with hair, so it might have been even more sought after. I guess they had more access to horse hair though. Who knows. I can't find a good graph of hair value by decade anywhere on the intersweb. If you find one, please let me know.

My final problem (or should I say O. Henry's problem?) with Della's choice is what she decided to buy. She gets him a watch chain. When Jim comes home, O. Henry says, "Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves." I can't decide, but it sounds like O. Henry is either saying, "Jim really needed gloves and a coat (dumb Della)." Or he's saying, "Jim really needed a divorce (from dumb Della)."

Luckily, when Jim gets home he says, "I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less."

What a nice thought. Kinda strange, but nice. Why would a shampoo make someone less attractive? And what part of her needs (or doesn't need) shaving? Odd.

"My hair grows so fast, Jim!" she says. O. Henry is pointing out to us that Della didn't really give up anything afterall. She's probably only 22, or younger, so her hair will grow back in time for her to still be pretty in time for the Great War. Will Jim get his Grandfather's watch back? Nope. So, the woman is emotionally out of control, inconsiderate, financially incompetent in two ways (she keeps money from Jim and gets ripped off when she sells her hair), and impractical (watch chain instead of outerwear). Maybe O. Henry is just saying "Della is dumb," and not "wives are dumb," but this is a parable, so I think we're supposed to see Jim as every husband, and Della as every wife. The more I think about this story, the more I dislike Della and Jim. Was that the point?

I woke up on Saturday and decided to watch something from HBO. Not HBO, just something from HBO on the DVR (yes, I know, DVR's are so 90's). Football is probably the only thing I watch live anymore. Actually, if it's not the Pats, then even football is more often than not on the DVR. There's nothing like skipping by all those stupid commercials and half-time shows so you can squeeze in five football games in one day. Sorry, I've wandered off-topic. 

Let me just say this one more thing about DVR's: mine is the best. It has 1.5 TB of space. That's about forty days of high-def programming. Forty days (i.e. 1000 hours). BMH will carefully explain why my DVR is the biggest pain-in-the-ass DVR ever created, but I enjoy being able to record nine programs at the same time.

Having all this space and capability has turned television into a chore. I could sit and watch for about five days and not catch up. Actually, it would take closer to seven days to catch up because more things would record while I watched. It's rare for me to actually settle down and clear out some of the backlog, but that's what I decided to do on Saturday morning.

When I turned on the TV and started up "Real Time" with Bill Mahr, I saw an amazing thing: a commercial for HBOGo. Have you heard of this? It's the best invention ever — you can get all the great HBO programming delivered right to your computer, iPad, or phone. This is just what I need! Sure, I don't have enough time to watch all the programs I deemed important enough to record; now I can get instant access to HBO in the car, or while sitting on the toilet. I had to ask myself, which of the following is most important:

Clean drinking water for all the children in the world? NOPE.

Taking an active role in the community to help shape public opinion which turns into legislation over the way I live my life? NOPE.

Spending more quality time with the people I love? NOPE.

Global access to mediocre subscription-based programming which I could enjoy more conveniently through Netflix if I just waited a few more months? YES!

Having set my priorities, I decided "I must have it NOW." I loaded the app on my phone and fired it up. It wanted a user name and password, of course, so they could verify that I'm an actual subscriber. Seems reasonable, I'll just dig out my Comcast user name and ... wait a second — do I have a Comcast user name? Why would I have a Comcast user name? I don't use their email or anything on their (challenged, extra chromosome) site. I guess I'll just use this "forgot my user name" link.

Oh wait, it's not Comcast anymore it's "XFinity." Cable companies go through these rebranding efforts every few hours so that creditors and customers can't track them down. It's all part of a successful business model — 1) charge insane amounts of money, and 2) make sure nobody can get you on the phone. I stalled out at that point, puzzling over the new company name. Are they trying to conjure images of "infinity," or perhaps "affinity?" Are they trying to be boundless, or are they describing an attraction to something? Perhaps they're suggesting they have an attraction to things which are "out of bounds," like a lust for conifers. Maybe, I thought, the "X" stands for "Christ" like in Xmas. "ChristFinity" doesn't make much sense either. 

It turns out that "forgot my user name" is code for "connect me via chat with a non-native English speaker." This evolved into a marvelous twenty-minute session of me trying to guess what information they might have logged against my account. I began this relationship with Comcast about a decade ago, back when they were Susquehanna Communications (their slogan was "If you can spell our name, we'll change it!"). Home address is not unique in their system apparently – giving them that information led nowhere. I rattled off every phone number I've had in the past twenty years, but they didn't have any of those logged. You should know, I've had a confrontational relationship with the cable company for a long time. I once threatened to close my account if any of their service people even set foot on my property. When I set up the account I probably gave them 867-5309 as my number (ask for Jenny).

After about twenty minutes, the kind random-character-generator on the other end of the chat announced that it had located my account. All they needed was my full social security number to verify my identity.

"Huh?" I typed.

"1 ju$t n33d your full 9 d1gits s0ci4l s3cu1ty numm3r to cont1nu3 sir," it replied.

"No," I typed.

It told me that it couldn't reset my password without that verification.

"No," I typed.

With the second refusal, it told me my user name and asked me to use the web site to reset my password. I happily closed the window, one step closer to HBO on my Phone (WOW!).photo

Turns out, the bot was wrong. The website told me that I wasn't allowed to reset my password and I would have to engage in a second chat session to have them reset it for me. The second robot didn't ask me for anything more than my user name. Weird.

Once I had armed myself with the correct user name and password, I confidently logged into HBOGo. I'm not sure why I ever believed it would work. I found myself both surprised and disappointed. I verified that I could log into Comcast with my new credentials, so they should have been correc.t

The next morning, I placed a call to 1-800-XFINITY. They have an awesome touch-tone menu system. After each menu prompt, they ask you to type in your full 10-digit phone number. It's a lot like one of those old cop shows, where they're desperately trying to keep the perp on the line for more than thirty seconds so they can trace the call. All the Comcast people (sorry, Xfinity people) huddle around the console, egging on the phone-answerer-guy – "Make him type in his phone number again, we just need him to stay on another fifteen seconds!"

Just when I was about to give up, a woman came on the line.

"Thank you for holding, my name is Memory, can I have your 10-digit phone number please?" she asked. I'm not sure she spells it "Memory," maybe it's "Maim'oree" or something, but it sounded like "Memory" to me.

I explained my HBOGo problem. When you're forced to say it out loud, it seems like a really dumb request – "I just want to be able to see the HBOs on my phone instead of my television."

"Uh-huh," she said.

She put me on hold for a long, long time. Turns out, they'd never heard of HBOGo until that very moment. From what information they could cobble together on short notice, HBOGo was rolled out to a small number of subscribers back in March. In May, the system went "live." As far as they knew, it wasn't working with Xfinity yet. She did give me another phone number to try, but I found out later that the number was dead. She did offer one suggestion: "Did you try typing your user name in all lower case?"

"No," I said.

She never actually asked me to try my user name in all lower case. She probably realized the absurdity of that suggestion even as she spoke. Just for the record, I did try it. Of course it didn't work. At some point, if the system had said "wrong user name," or "your password doesn't match your user name," then my credentials could have been the issue. But, if you look at the screen cap you'll see that HBO didn't question me, just my subscription. I guess she thought the intersweb hates caps.

We had a brief conversation about why I called them. I felt it necessary to point out that her number (not the broken one) was given to me by the website.

We parted as friends. Memory told me that, "If you ever have a problem, night or day, we're here for you, ready to help." That's an interesting line to close your script with. They might want to consider adding a little decision bubble before they deliver that line. If you didn't manage to help someone, it's a little rude to suggest they call back night or day for help.

decision_tree

That's as far as I've gotten. As I said, the Xfinity people don't know a thing, and the alternate number they gave me didn't even connect. HBO doesn't publish a phone number of any sort. Given the amount of money I've sent them (indirectly) over the years, it's a little strange that I have no relationship with HBO. 

The whole experience was pretty damn strange. I can't imagine how HBO decided to announce their fancy new system.

"Does it work?" asked the executive.

"Not for Comcast," replied the project manager.

"Are they big?"

"Biggest in the country. Hell, they own NBC," replied the project manager.

"Ship it!" 

Raise your hand if you have one of the following in your bedroom or adjacent bathroom:

  • an illuminated clock,
  • a television,
  • an iPod dock,
  • an electric toothbrush,
  • a power strip,
  • a cable box,
  • a charger (or power adapter) with a light to tell you it's charging (or adapting),
  • a laptop,
  • a monitor, or,
  • anything electronic?

This is not some anti-technology diatribe. I like my gadgets as much (or more than) the next guy. But I have all of the above AND I have a wireless acces-point / router. Instead of a cable box I have a DVR, but same diff. Anyway, my point is this: ENOUGH WITH THE F-ING LEDs ON EVERYTHING.

sony_clock_radioMy television has a light (green) to let you know that it's on. That's really handy. I wouldn't be able to tell from the picture on the screen with all the garbage moving around, or the sound coming from the speakers, or even from the light-gray that passes for a black background when there is no picture. As if that's not bad enough, my television also has a RED light to tell you that THE TV IS NOT ON. Seriously? Was there a fire sale on red LEDs that day? Do they think that I won't know where to point the remote if they don't put a red light there? What exactly is the point of a red light that's only on when the TV is off? Perhaps they're trying to streamline one in a million customer service calls: "Do you see a red light?"

Customer: "No."

Service rep: "Ahhh, is it plugged in?"

Customer: "No."

Service rep: "I think I see the problem. Let me have you try something..."

At least my alarm clock has a convenient dimmer switch on the side. When set on "high," you could comfortably read my alarm clock from space. When dimmed to "low," neighbors can read books by the light it emits.

I have a power strip under the desk in my room so I can plug in the light, my laptop charger, and the clock. The power strip (of course) has a giant,jvc-dual-ipod-dock-nx-pn7glowing red light to let me know that it's turned on. This has come in handy almost once in the ten years since I first plugged it in.

The dock for my iPod defaults to a "demo" setting, which means that two giant light-bars on either side flash all the colors they know about if you haven't hit a button in the past forty-five miliseconds. 

My laptop has a white light on the side which slowly fades up and down to let you know that it's asleep. So cute! It's nice that something in my bedroom can sleep.

I finally had a brainstorm about a year ago. I searched around the intersweb and turned up a site called polarization.com. If you poke around there you can find sheets of adhesive polarization lenses. The neat thing about this stuff is that if you put two sheets together (rotated at 90°) it will block out most light. You just cut little rectangles (rotated at 90, of course) and stick them together for a good light filter. It won't completely eliminate all the light, so you can still tell that your TV is not on (which is REALLY important).

The tragic thing? The bedroom isn't even the worst in the house. Have you ever walked through your kitchen or living room with all the lights out? LIAR! You can't. You always have a million little lights looking at you. Even if a storm knocked out all the power lines, something finds a way to light up. Why can't all the electronics manufacturers stop assaulting us with all these unnecessary lights? If we could just solve this problem then maybe would could move on to why they feel the need to put a f-ing clock on everything. I have about two places where I look for the accurate time, and guess what, my electric toothbrush is not one. A few months ago my sister asked me how to spring forward her electric toothbrush for daylight's savings. I told her I had no idea.

 

I've got a lot of old bits built-up here, so just skip over anything you've heard before...thors-clothes-1

A bunch of friends get together at the house on Tuesday nights to eat dinner and watch TV. One of those guys, let's call him Chris Christofferson (without all the K's, because, you know...) ((by the way, his real name is Èmílîö, but those accents are a bear to type, so I'll call him Chris)), likes the same podcast that I do. We like this podcast so much that we could spend hours talking about how much we hate everyone responsible for creating it. The podcast is sometimes very funny, but mostly it's just irritating. The main appeal for me & Chris seems to be that we know everything about it. We've spent so much time listening to this drivel that we get all the in-jokes and meta references. I would tell you the name of this podcast, but I'm currently so mad at them that I could spit.

111207181_2d4597c3a9_oAs I said, Chris and I could spend hours gabbing about this stupid podcast. Unfortunately, everyone else in the Tuesday group couldn't care less about it. Actually, it's gone farther than that now. They're beyond apathy; as soon as Chris and I start talking about the podcast, everyone else in the room groans and rolls their eyes. They look at us like we showed up to a Christmas party and then started making out on the couch next to the fondue pot. The only thing worse is when I start to talk about P90X (day 44, WhuWHAA?). Let that remote control stray near my hand and I'll punch up my latest favorite workout so I can talkthors-clothes-2 about how awesome Tony Horton is. Even Chris rolls his eyes at that. By the way -- BMH's synonyms for "making out": snogging. swapping spit. tonsil hockey. angering the PDA-police. Frustrating the prefects. giving each other a furious tongue-lashing.

Speaking of P90X, week six was awesome, but I'm not sorry to see it go. On the plus side, I didn't $h*t myself during the Legs & Back workout (not even once!), so it was already better than week 5. On the down side, I watched a maraton of Big Love right before working out and I kept confusing Tony Horton for Bill Paxton. "Why don't you go marry some more underage women, and THEN you can tell me how many plange pushups to do!"

thors-clothes-3Here's my P90X "Tip of the Day": Record your reps, weights, and how you felt after each exercise. A handy place to keep track of your stats is on the back of a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form. It would be tragic if you happened to collapse from cardiac arrest during P90X. Worse than that: to be shocked back to life by paramedics only to find out you still have twenty-five minutes of exercise to do. Play it safe; sign a DNR.Mindi_Abair_with_saxophone

The people working out behind Tony have got to be the best part of the videos. They're fit, but you can tell that some of them used to be downright fugly. Some careers demand a less attractive individual. The more good-looking a comedian, the less likely they are to be funny. Sax players have to be careful as well. If you're a decent saxophonist, don't get too buff or wear anything too slinky. I have two examples which easily prove my point: the guy from Lost thors-clothes-4Boys (Tim Cappello), and the lady from American Idol (Mindi Abair). They just look ridiculous. A good sax player should be at least thiry pounds overweight.

Speaking of overweight, I need to mention my friend Thor Heyerdahl (his real name is Tom). He's not at all overweight, but he believes he is. Anorexia is characterized by a distorted self-image (check), fear of weight-gain (check), and eating extremely little (okay, he eats almost normally, but still). Sorry Thor, but two out of three ain't bad. The other day Thor left his clothes at my house. I know what you're thinking, but we were working out, that's all. Seriously, that's all. Anyway, the next weekened, a bunch of us thought it would be funny to dress up in Thor's clothes. Wearing other people's clothes is fun. Dressing up a baby in Thor's nice shirt and perching her on top of a horse -- classic!

Speaking of fun things, ticks suck.

Also:

  • Baked Potatoes = good
  • Potato Chips = awesome
  • Baked Potato Chips = abomination

thors-clothes-5I texted that to BMH (Brian Mutha-effing Holdt y'all,  -pop-  !POP!), and he almost lost his mind. He's a big fan of Baked Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar chips. Ugh. BLECH! He replied "BLEXCELLENT!" He's a zealot for these chips. People get crazy-angry about the strangest things.

Have you ever gone to leave the house, forgot something, and walked back in? You slink in like a criminal. God forbid someone catches you. A well timed "Back so soon?" comment is enough to send me into a murderous rage. My friend Copernicus (his real name is Anthony) reminded me of another good one: you get halfway to the parking garage before you realize you left your keys back in the office. On your way back in, someone says (read this in a goofy, sing-song way) "You're going the wrong way!" I believe all criminal charges should be waived for retaliation to a statement like that. In fact, if a person says "You're going the wrong way!" then you should be legally obligated to punch them in the face.

thors-clothes-6 Here's a picture of a baby girl dressed up in Thor's clothes and sitting on a horse. Classic, right? Finally, I've secretly posted a picture of my abs for Katie Chandler (her real name is Shannon). I think they're underneath Thor's shirt though.

It didn't happen again. We didn't manage to have any armageddons. If you were a fan of the TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (and who was, really?), then you may remember that last Wednesday, Skynet went online. Today is the day that Skynet became self-aware. That means that there was supposed to be an earth-shattering Ka-Boom!

There are two reasons it didn't happen:

1) We're lazy, and,

2) Teledildonics.

I'll address the first one first, if you don't mind. I'm sure that when you read "We're lazy," most of you just skimmed past it or nodded just a tiny bit. No doubt you couldn't quite muster the energy to argue the point. But let me clarify anyway. In the early 60's, Ted Nelson coined the term "hypertext," which you've probably heard about. Those little links on webpages are common forms of hypertext. You click on a hypertext link and it's most likely going to take you to related information. That can really help you get context for what you're reading, or give you a trail to follow if you'd like to branch off and dive into a different subject.

This is a natural extension of the sentence. You've got a pile of words which are grouped together to give context to each other: 

"She drove that red car."

These words modify and clarify each other until an idea is conveyed. Then, the hypertext link elaborates further for anyone willing to click. But Ted Nelson didn't intend for us to stop there. In fact, Ted Nelson believes that the Worlds-Wides-Web is a really lame implementation of the hypertext model. Ted wants everyone to be using Project Xanadu. Imagine taking linking to the next level by having a giant, cross-linked tangle of non-sequential information where you could navigate through any way you desired. I'll give you second to let that sink in. Make sense? I think Ted could explain it better, if you have the time.

When I think about the Intersweb, it seems like a giant mound of data. IBM recently proved that you can take all that data (plus a whole bunch more) and if you've got a good enough query engine, you can win at Jeopardy. The problem is, that data doesn't contain context. Pop the word "drove" out of the sentence above. What does it mean?

Drove:

  • a group of animals (a herd or flock) moving together
  • a moving crowd
  • a stonemason's chisel with a broad edge for dressing stone
  • drive - travel or be transported in a vehicle; "We drove to the university every morning"; "They motored to London for the theater"
  • drive - force: force into or from an action or state, either physically or metaphorically; "She rammed her mind into focus"; "He drives me mad"
  • drive - to compel or force or urge relentlessly or exert coercive pressure on, or motivate strongly; "She is driven by her passion"
  • drive - repel: cause to move back by force or influence; "repel the enemy"; "push back the urge to smoke"; "beat back the invaders"
  • drive - compel somebody to do something, often against his own will or judgment; "She finally drove him to change jobs"
  • drive - push, propel, or press with force; "Drive a nail into the wall"
  • drive - cause to move rapidly by striking or throwing with force; "drive the ball far out into the field"

There's no way to know. But, if you linked that word over to the specific meaning, you wouldn't need the context of the other words. This is the level we haven't reached with our webs. This is the level that Ted thinks we should reach.

How will we know when we get to this level? Let's call it the Guttenberg test.

In Short Circuit, Steve Guttenberg hands Number 5 a coffee stain on a piece of paper and asks him what it is. After describing the chemical composition of coffee (in other words, he just provides a pile of raw data), the robot tells him it looks like a butterfly or something. This proves that he's "alive." As soon as our information is so well correlated that we can find the butterflies, then we can have self-aware artificial intelligence and we can usher in Judgement day where the machines will go to war with us. But, unfortunately, we're too lazy.

Reason 2:

The other reason we don't get to have awesome metal killing machines is even more disappointing: Teledildonics. These are computer-controlled sex toys that can be operated at a distance. Can you guess who invented this term? Yes, you're correct, this term was also coined by Ted Nelson. He came up with teledildonics about 1975. So, after pushing his revolutionary scheme for turning data into intelligence for about ten years, he decided to do something useful.

I can only assume that we go so wrapped up in our teledildonics that we're just going to have to keep waiting for the self-aware killing machines.

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