Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meetings, meetings, meetings

A business meeting is an ideal gas. It consists of a set of randomly moving, non-interacting particles.

And it expands to perfectly fill the space available on a calendar.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dirty Harry vs. Rain Man

Dirty Harry: I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.

Raymond: Six. Definitely six.

Dirty Harry: Ah, crap.

Raymond: I'm an excellent driver.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Welcome to Socialist America

When I dropped my son at daycare this morning, there was a TSA flunky at the door demanding to see proof of health insurance before allowing us in. When I got home, I found a letter from Social Security informing me that I would qualify for full benefits at age 65 and death panel evaluation at 75. I felt so sick I called my doctor for an appointment, but the receptionist told me that all scheduling was now being done through my congressman's office -- and since my district elected a Republican, there would be no funds for healthcare here anyway.

Oh, wait -- none of that happened. It turns out that the Republican party have been lying their collective asses off all this time! Who knew?

Anyway, now that the Republican strategy of total stonewalling has failed and the old status quo is no longer an option, is there any chance that they will start behaving like a responsible opposition and actually engage in the process so that we can continue reform without having to buy off the Democratic congressmen most willing to play "chicken" with Pelosi? Or will they continue with their impersonation of a spoiled four year old holding his breath until he gets his way?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Star Wars Regrets

Greatest regrets of Star Wars characters. If I had any Photoshop chops there would be pictures to go with these, but I'm afraid you'll just have to use your imagination for the pictures that go with these quotes:

"Clones? Crap, I thought you said 'Send in the clowns'. What a mess..."

"You idiot. I said I needed a light saber, not a lifesaver!"

"You know, I think that actually those might have been the droids we were looking for..."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Congratulations, America: you're a 19th century society.

I understand that people have different opinions on the best way to provide and pay for healthcare. I don't understand people pretending that the current system is OK. The US has, depending on what specific metric you choose, between the 30th and 40th best healthcare in the world, at twice the cost (as a fraction of GDP) of any other developed economy. On infant mortality, for instance, the US ranks on par with countries like Cuba, Poland and Slovakia.

In the US, if you're poor and sick you're pretty much screwed. If you lose your job and get sick, you're pretty much screwed. And if you're middle class and employed, you're still increasingly screwed. And yet, America is full of people who apparently think that because they personally are not unemployed or sick today, all is well.

We need to stop thinking about healthcare as "insurance" and treat it like education: something that a rich, modern, civilized country provides because it's better for all of us for each of us to be healthy. We should stop talking about the "public option" and instead talk about the "private option": as with education, everybody should be entitled to healthcare at a level appropriate to a large, wealthy country; and those who choose to spend their own money should be able to opt for private provision for whatever private reasons they may have.

Intriguingly, US healthcare is already like education. Unfortunately, it's like education in Victorian England. If you're rich, you can afford a tutor or a private school. If you're poor, you work in a mine or a factory, get sick, and die young. Congratulations, America: you're a 19th century society.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Making Music

A few weeks ago I started taking piano lessons. So far I'm enjoying it, although I have a lot of disadvantages to overcome. Most obviously, I have very small hands. And yes, it is absolutely true what they say about men with small hands: I have a very limited span, barely a fifth. I wish I had bigger hands so I could span an entire octave.

That's right: I have pianist envy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Star Wars Again: Another thing that makes no sense

Obi Wan, to Anakin Skywalker: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."

Really, Obi Wan? Are you absolutely certain about that?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Another Thought About Star Wars

I just watched Phantom Menace for the first time (you know something's wrong when your five-year old son points out the plot holes...) and the abiding thought I am left with is this:

In a galaxy advanced enough to have mastered interstellar travel, every spaceship apparently requires narrow walkways that cross over deep pits. And across all the thousands of populated planets and civilizations and sentient species... nobody has invented the "handrail".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thought for the day: Web 2.0 and the death of the author

I'm currently reading Jaron Lanier's excellent "You Are Not A Gadget" and it provoked this thought:

In it's pernicious denial of the primacy of authorship and the value of an individual perspective in favor of the hive mind, Web 2.0 is to online social interaction as post-structuralism was to literary criticism -- except that Web 2.0 has impact far beyond the doctoral aspirations of post-graduate Eng Lit students.

Monday, March 08, 2010


I am not my Facebook page.

I am not my LinkedIn profile.

I am not my Amazon shopping history.

I am not my Google search results.

I have nothing to say that can be said in 140 characters.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

More Oxymorons

Fruit tea and herbal tea: It's only tea if it's made from the leaves of the, uh, tea plant. Those other things are "infusions". Also, they're disgusting.

Reality TV: Reality is what doesn't happen on TV. Nothing that happens when people know a camera is on them is "reality".

Reality TV Star: A double-oxymoron. Nobody whose claim to fame is that they appeared on a reality TV show is a "star". Unless you subscribe to the formula that a star is anybody who has appeared on TV by name; a superstar is anybody who has shaken hands with Ryan Seacrest; and a megastar is anybody who has refused to shake hands with Ryan Seacrest.

Drug Experience: You can take drugs, or you can have experiences, but not both at the same time. Something that happens entirely within the chemical balance of your brain is not an experience.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The most evil villain in a kids' movie?

This choice may surprise. For me it's "Mindy from the network" in Bolt. She only has two scenes. In the first, she warns the director and crew of Bolt's TV show that she will fire everybody in the room if the show loses "so much as half a rating point." In the second, she simulates concern and empathy while she pressures Penny into giving up the search for Bolt and working with a replacement dog, telling her that "people will lose their jobs. Good people, with families". The people that, a few days earlier, she was ready to fire over a tiny ratings slip.

The writers could easily have put those lines in the mouth of another character -- Penny's mother, her agent, or the director, for instance. But they chose to give them to Mindy, and in the process promoted her from being merely a ruthless and efficient executive to being someone who callously and coldly manipulates the emotions of a child while feigning concern, to get the commercial outcome she desires. That's a whole new kind of evil for a kids' movie villain.