Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stupid Ideas

I actually had an idea that was not stupid, once. Naturally, others thought of it as well. I'll get to that.

I've had a number of stupid ideas, but can only remember only a few. Perhaps shame and embarassment have something to do with memory retention.

The first I can recall was rawhide frisbies for dogs. You know how your dog chews up your frisbee, and after some time it is no fun throwing it? Because the dog has torn up the plastic and little thorny protrusions of plastic from the teeth marks cut your skin when you throw it? So, I figured. Fine. I got my frisbee. Dog has his. Go ahead chew the shit out of that fucker. Of course, he still wants to chase and catch your frisbee. And his frisbee is all chewed up and yuck. And so...

Green lights on the back of cars. You got red lights to signal when your breaking braking (jeez, I cannot spel todya). Why not green lights to signal when you are stepping on the gas? Uh, why? I don't know. Maybe to give people a scintilla of hope in a traffic jam? Maybe alleviate the monotony of a sea of red lights? Moving on...

The warm water tap. Next...

This one I got while watching the opening of the Las Vegas Star Trek Experience on TV. Amidst the celebrity shots and celebration was a long angle shot of the hotel and, well, lookee, there, hookers. Or high class prostitutes. Or probably just Orange County babes in Vegas. But then I thought. Hey! Makeup artists and latex makeup and we create alien hookers for the Star Trek geeks. You know, Vulcan hookers, Klingon hookers.

I mean, who doesn't want to do a Klingon hooker?

I might have to join the team get set up as a Klingon Pimp Daddy. I wonder how Klingon Pimp Daddies dress up? I can see the leapord or zebra skin fur coat, the cane, the big hat, maybe. But a feather in the big hat, or high heeled shoes with goldfish in them? I can't see a Klingon Pimp Daddy in that.

Anyway, anyone notice a common theme here so far? Perhaps the sweet blue musty musky earthy odor of cannabis?

Well, duh! Not lately, though. Least ways, not so you could notice...

Which brings me to my idea. A little background. In fourth grade, I had a bout with some kind of viral crud which put me down for a week. I recovered, except that I had damage to the nerves in my ears. I lost a lot of the high end of hearing, which is kind of crucial in conversations. Old age and rock'n'roll abuse and power tools have not helped. So I am well on my way to becoming stone deef.

So, once DVDs came out and the machines had subtitle options. I was so on that. And then one day, I'm coming out of the theater, and it was an English comedy ("Snatch", if you must know), and I was a little disappointed that I didn't catch all of the dialogue that everyone else was laughing at. "It's too bad they don't have subtitles, or at least like heads-up display closed caption glasses that I could wear to see the subtitles without the other folks having to see them".


Of course, subtitle glasses. Fuck those 3-D glasses. I'm color blind anyway so they don't work.

Of course, a quick googling brought me down to Earth. Someone else had thought of it, and they were in development. Actually, they should be available now.

So where the hell are they?

(Oh, and if anyone makes monies off of the Klingon Pimp Daddy, I want my cut).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Two weeks off at the college before the summer session starts. Which means I am in full-on glorified janitor mode - at ramming speed.

The aftermath of each semester always amazes me. Here we have classes, well actually just the ceramics classes, that consist mostly of retired little old ladies. How is it possible for all of these sweet little old biddies to be... such enormous fucking slobs? I mean, they are like trailer trash messy, alcoholic fratboy messy, bad American tourist messy.

Shit left everywhere. Clay splashed on walls like they had a spastic shit fit, on spin cycle. Rotting food in lockers. Unknown suspect liquids spilled and left hidden under towels and newspapers that you need a scraper to remove. Wadded up tissues containing who knows what hidden surprises left in corners of lockers or behind counters. And that's the obvious stuff. Fuck!

Not only are they messy, but they break shit. That's the truly amazing thing to me.

Here I am, proud descendent of Cro-Magnon mammoth hunters, possessed of the upper body strength of a chimpanzee, with hands and fingers capable of snapping the necks of pro-wrestlers like dried twigs... and I would need to wield a four pound sledge to break the things these frail old biddies break regularly.

How the fuck do they do that?

And then there are my crybaby-generation student aides. It doesn't matter that I lead by example. That I dive right into the shit jobs. Oh, they start off a task readily enough. In fact, I admire their initiative. They recognize what needs to be done. They start in on it, and without complaint. They require minimal supervision. But they lack stamina. After only a few hours, the work pace slackens, and the whining starts. I thought my generation was supposed to be the spoiled one? Uncle John the old fuck ain't quitting. What's your excuse?

Oh, shit, am I whining? Fuck me, but I am.

Alrighty. Enough talkie-talk. Back to workie-work.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The 'Lost' Finale

I'm sorry folks, but I just can't give a shit.

If it weren't for the fact that I just happened to catch a snippet of news this morning, I'd never have known that ABC TV's show 'Lost' was having their series finale tonight. It doesn't help that time restrictions have kept me from watching much of prime time TV for the past five years. That and the fact that I don't have cable leaves me out of a lot of conversations. Is that bad? It's not like I'm a TV snob. Hell, I love TV. If I could, I'd be a fat, old slob on a couch. But I've got obligations to fulfill, bills to pay, a life to live. (No offense, couch potatoes).

I've had chances to watch TV shows. From the few viewing opportunities I've had, some shows look interesting. Other shows just do not engage me. 'Lost' is one of them.

I had a chance to watch a season synopsis, where the show summarizes everything up to now. I sat through the whole thing. At the end, I said, "Well, looks like I don't need to watch this for another year".

Now, I'm introspective enough to wonder what the buzz is about. Why are so many people fascinated with this show? Is it me? Am I suffering from Hollywood/TV imposed and inflicted ADHD? Is it possible I need everything explained and resolved?

No, its not that. I may not be a dramatist or TV critic, but I do recognize the need for suspense in a mystery. The question is, like in music or sex, how long do you prolong the tease before the resolution? Take it too far and it gets irritating. Leave too many things unresolved and I lose interest. Not because it is too complicated. But because it is too contrived.

It's a false mystery.

Questions are set up that do nothing to drive the narrative forward. Just as there are some action movies that make use of maddeningly jittery and quick cut edit shots to create a sense of velocity to the action (as opposed to, oh, I don't know, writing a good story) and create what I call false action, so you can have false mystery.

Not to mention I'm unable to empathise with the characters. They are all just too stupid. Like in frustration comedy, they have to choose the least straightforward course of action - not because they are flawed human beings, but because the law of melodrama - suspense for suspense's sake - requires it.

And then there's the whole "Save the World" theme. "The fate of the world depends upon what you do next". In today's TV and movie land, I think that's the corpse of a horse that's been pummeled into a thin veneer. Don't you think that's just a little infantile? Just a touch self-serving in an emotionally immature manner?

Am I a snob? I don't think so. Contrarian? Sure, why not.

Well, anyway. You 'Lost' fans. Enjoy your show.

(Oh, and uh, the 'Matrix' movies all sucked a big, red rubber cock. And I can give you ten solid reasons why).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Star Trek Ruined Star Trek

Kind of a violation of my own rules that there is no mindless happy, happy fluff today, but rather a half-ass attempt at pseudo-scholarly criticism of Star Trek. In a geek way, of course.

Over the course of the whole Star Trek franchise, with the various shows and movies, a common fan complaint is that "_____ ruined Star Trek" ( ____ being JJ Abrams, or Rick Berman, or UPN, or a series like Enterprise, which spoiled the canon). And what they mean by ruined is "not staying true to the origianl vision".

Uh, excuse me? It's not a real adventure. It was a dramatic series. In fact, when Gene Roddenberry pitched the series to NBC, he repeatedly called in "Horatio Hornblower in Space". One would do well to read C.S. Forester's novels to see what Roddenberry was talking about.

Obviously Captain Kirk is based upon the Hornblower character. But there is more to it than that.

Picture a time in the age of sail. It could take years to navigate around the world. Ports of call were truly alien and exotic. Because of the distances involved and the speed of ships, weeks or months could go by between meetings with ships of the mother country, let alone communications and orders from the home fleet. A captain, in this case an English captain, represented his country in a way not known in present day. His ship literally was England, and a captain had an amount of leeway - and responsibility - in action and judgement without precedent in scope and power.

So, you have all sorts of dramatic attractions. Romance, adventure, the seduction and fear of the unknown, and, above all, a lot of opportunity for error in judgement. Things can go Wrong, which is what drama (and comedy) is all about.

Naturally, modifications are made for setting. The ship can't really take weeks or months or years to get from one place to another, or for news to arrive from home. The times and distances have to be just right - both for the tastes of the audience and the boundaries of the show. The time it takes for news and orders to reach the Enterprise from Starfleet Command must be long enough so that Kirk has to, at times, take initiative and think on his feet, rather than merely following orders. (With the potential that he may make the wrong decision or one contrary to Command decisions). On the other hand, it must be short enough so that he will occasionally be ordered into an uncomfortable situation, or for him to potentially get in trouble when he fails to obey orders. This creates dramatic tension.

Which brings us back to error. This is the purpose of the triad - Kirk, Bones, and Spock. To visually, dramatically, play out the internal dialogues we all go through when making a decision. Spock, obviously representing the dispassionate and cerebral characteristic. Bones, the gut instinct, the emotional side. The two getting into arguments, yes, even getting snappy and snarky. Presenting Cat Fights, if you will. Kirk, vacillating between the two, questioning himself, but ultimately making the hard choice. And, at the beginning at least, making the wrong choice.

Human error. Foibles, flaws, judgement calls, prejudice, ignorance. And then adapting, improvising, overcoming. That's what we want to see.

But here's the problem. Part of Roddenberry's vision (in retrospect naive, overly optimistic, and ultimately self-defeating from a dramatic standpoint), is that as civilizations and people grow, they improve. They get nicer, and wiser, and well behaved.

Which means they get boring.

Cant' expect any action from the likes of them, and so we must introduce them to situations where interesting characters (read not quite as advanced - Special Guest Villians) put our protagonists into peril. In other words, drama becomes melodrama. The Perils of Pauline.
Contrived situations, which is, uh oh! a sure sign that a series, or a franchise, has jumped the shark.

But in Star Trek's case, not because they've run out of material (fer jeebus's sake there's a whole frickin galaxy of adventures out there!), but because of self-imposed limitations. "Nice people don't do things like that!"

My take on it, at least.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You get three wishes

Now that the genome is out of the bottle, you'd better make 'em good wishes.

The latest from those crazy kid scientists. They've created a cell with a synthetic genome. What that means is, the entire genetic code that is in these cells was manmade, and made from scratch. In other words, it's entire genome is synthetic. The cell itself is real. Ill-informed or ignorant news reports will suggest otherwise, connoting a Frankensteinian cast to the whole project. And no doubt the Stupids Fox News or similar will get their little panties in a wad over this. Not to worry, and here's why.

Up to now, genetic manipulation of DNA has been piecemeal and rather haphazard. This particular achievement finally allows us to make genetic changes in an orderly and systematic way. Far better and safer than what has occurred up to now - both in the lab and, more importantly, what occurs naturally out there in Nature.

No, really. Nature has a much larger and more thriving business in genetic spit swapping than humans could ever hope to accomplish, and with no protective laboratories or lab protocols in place just in case something goes wrong. Case in point: All of those "frankenfoods" that people worry about? All of those genetically modified crops? Changed naturally through existing bacteria that naturally pass genes from one species to another. We just noticed they did it, and took advantage of it. 

What happens to mutated creatures let loose in Nature? They get slaughtered. Nature has had four billion years of red-in-tooth-and-claw evolution  under her belt. There's not much she hasn't already tried and discarded that poor little monkey boys have thought of.

What about the grey goo scenario? How come some microbes don't find an advantageous mutation that allows them to take over everything? Answer again, four billion years of evolution. There are very few chemical reactions known to Man that haven't already been tried.

So, I'm not worried. I actually think that this the end of dicking around. We will finally have a worthwhile, dependable, proven nanotechnology to start making some truly cool things.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You're Not Crazy!

Well, maybe you are. A recent science article suggests that there is very little difference in brain chemistry between schizophrenics and healthy creative people. Specifically, the dopamine D2 receptors in healthy creative people have been found to be similar to those in schizophrenics.

Highly creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. This does not suggest that because your crazy uncle (or aunt) is crazy, you will be an amazing talent.

However, there does seem to be a connection. It could be because the D2 receptors are less dense in an area called the thalamus, which directs a lot of traffic in the brain. By having less receptors, the thalamus is more prone to allow many more random connections to form, in a lateral or tangential sense, rather than a linear or logical sense. These uncommon connections may be useful in problem-solving situations, or, as in too much of a good thing, result in the bizarre associations of the mentally ill.

"Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a less intact box".

You know, I've always felt that phrase "think outside the box" was created by a plodding ponderous unimaginative person who was stuck on a problem and was pleading for help.

And, yes, I am crazy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

Tomorrow, I will be 53. My dear friend Kristyn tells me that since I quit smoking (8 months come 5/22), I'm actually a year younger than I was last year. Honestly, I don't notice a difference. Maybe it will take 10 years to notice a difference, by which time I won't notice a difference.


Not that I believe in this stuff, but I'm a Taurus. Born in the Chinese year of the Rooster. Which means mine is a cock and bull story.

That was so fucking funny.

1957 was a weird year. When I was born, there were no satellites in orbit... I told this story before, didn't I? Yeah, I did.

I must be getting old. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Evil Twin

My brother requested that I write a song. Okay, here goes.

I want to have an evil twin.
And all the trouble we'd get in.
(I want the trouble we'd get in).

I want to have an evil twin.
He'd look like me but maybe he,
would sport a beard or a goatee.

I want to have an evil twin.
And his moral compass should be,
the polar opposite of mine.

I want to have an evil twin.
And he'd probably want to take over my life?
At least cause me unending strife? 

I need to kill my evil twin.
I have to kill my evil twin.

(Spoken during bridge):
Damn you, evil twin!
Damn your hide!
THIS is why we can't have nice things!

I am become my evil twin.
There is now some confusion,
about our shared identity.
And a soap opera mix-up
is the works for sure.

I don't know who's the evil twin. 
It's for the best you shoot us both
just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Real Science?

Perusing the science blogs at, I notice that the topic of the day - or the week - is Tony Stark as Iron Man, and how real science basically debunks the movies Iron Man 1 & 2. 

Like, how it is impossible for his suit to work, or how Tony Stark would be crushed like a bug by the acceleration of being hit with a missile, or a tank shell, or falling out of the sky. Yes, and I'm also very worried that you can hear spaceships cruise through vacuum like in Star Wars and Star Trek. Or how lasers make a noise like "voosh!", or "peeee-yoo!" And other important topics that movies get wrong for the sake of dramatic action.

For some reason, I can't help but envision every single one of these bloggers as looking and sounding like Comic Book Guy from the Simpson's. ("Worst blog ever! Rest assured I was on the Internet within seconds to register my complaint!")

Actually, I'd like to talk about some real science, which quite possibly might be exciting! So, here's a news article which got my brain a jingling. Quantum Darwinism.

Sounds weird don't it? What the heck does particle physics and evolution have in common? Well, here's what.

Poor old quantum mechanics. That word "quantum" has just been abused and mangled by every con artist and charlatan from Madame Blavatsky through Deepak Choprah. And the sad thing is, the interpretation that mind somehow effects mater through quantum interaction is not only so 20s (as in 1920s), but based upon a complete misunderstanding through the unfortunate use of the words "observer" and "measurement". As in "observer effect", or "experimental measurement". As if physicists are changing the world by measuring things. (They are not. Sorry folks, but experiments have been performed that prove that an objective reality exists out there that is independent of you. So sorry). And some interpreted this to mean that consciousness somehow is involved in physics, that the mind is choosing the reality. But, if you really think that you can change the universe with your mind, or that positive thoughts can change reality through quantum this or quantum that, try this very simple experiment.

I want you to not pee for a week. 

That's all you have to do. If you can control your bladder for a whole week, you are on to something. Otherwise... oh, what's that you say? Deepak Choprah says that is a ridiculous request because it requires Advanced Mind Powers? Okay, have Deepak Choprah, or whatever guru or superior mentality you choose to mention, not pee for a week.

But that's actually a good question, though. If the universe is fundamentally quantum, in other words, subject to sensitive changes, to odd fluctuations, to weird superpositions, where objects can be particles or waves, where you can pin down the position or the speed of something, but not both, then why isn't the world as we see it more unpredictable? In a state of flux? Why does it look so orderly and classical? (Well, actually you can see things quantum! Look at a shadow sometime. See how the edge of the shadow is not crisp and clear, but kind of fuzzy? That's light acting all goofy and quantum and refusing to be pinned down).

I mean, different people should be seeing different things, right? As we all learned in Quantum Mechanics 101, directly finding out something about a quantum system (read "everything" for "quantum system") involves taking a measurement (read "looking at") that inevitably disturbs that system. This is all basic elementary stuff, right? 

So how come, if we go to Disneyworld, we both see Cinderella's castle as the same? How come you don't see twelve spires and I see thirteen? How come you don't see blood seeping from every surface and the reanimated corpse of that notorious anti-Semite Walt Disney hovering above with glowing red eyes scanning and scouting the park for unwanted Jews? 

Oh, you didn't take the shrooms? Never mind... but why isn't reality like being on shrooms? 

Why is it we all see the same thing?

Well, a physicist at Los Alamos, Wojciech Zurek, has an answer to this. And I, for one, think he is on the right track. Quantum Darwinism. Reality, having just settled into a certain state (a particular regime of energy or configuration) , has a tendency to reinforce that state. It may be that that state, whatever it was that was "selected" may in some way be a lowest energy, or resting state. (Not necessarily). But once it is in that state, all the other fuzzy, weird, possible quantum states "collapse" to that selected state.

So, there's a parsimony going on in reality, just as we see in evolution. And there's no need for all the messiness - the inevitable Solipsism - that comes from trying to throw mentation into the mix. Cool by me. I'd just make a mess of things anyway, if I had to recreate the world second by second.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

End of the Semester Bitch

It happens every Spring. I will be SO... HAPPY... when I no longer have to deal with people for just a little while. This feeling of having to put up with people I have grown to - well, not hate, hate requires effort, but grown to feel increasingly irritated with, from overexposure, rarely occurs during the end of the fall semester. I think primarily because Winter Break is merely a respite, I will have to pretend to be nice for another four months.

I am slowly accumulating straws upon my back. Little straws, but they add up.

  • Little straw: one professor's passive-aggressive behaviors, listening to his infantile self-aggrandizing "stories" for the umpteenth time.
  • Little straw: another professor's queer little control-freak tactics with the supply budget.
  • Little straw: the other professor's incessant, stultifying boring blather as he pompously opines to his class on subject matters which are of no interest to none but him, and contain "sage observations" that are neither cogent nor insightful. (I realized years ago that the guy is an empty sack with a captive audience, waiting for retirement).
  • Little straw: whiny, needy, wheedling, crybaby generation students, who think that a crisis on their part is somehow a crisis on my part.
  • Little straw: the suck-ups, the sycophants who think that feeding the egos of their professors will grant them a higher grade.
  • Little straw: the politics. Academicians make spiteful corporate weasels look like pikers.
  • Little straw: the same damn faces, the same damn small talk, the same damn sameness.

Ah, its a good thing I'm not a violent person. I'm burden-tolerant. You know, I worked without oxygen in the corporate world for twenty-five years. I'm not sure why this place gets my goat so... easily.

Ah, but soon, I'll have the place to myself for a blissful two weeks.

And then the summer semester starts.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I'm not sure if this subject is quite sufficiently frivolous enough for Friday. I do consider dreams important. Just not symbolic. Or not nearly so. I don't consider dreams random machinations or fluctuations of the brain thrown into (occasionally remembered) conscious view. There is some meanings attached to them. Just not the meanings we think they mean. And thus not necessarily symbolic or worthy of analysis.

And I'm generally loathe to tell or listen to dream stories. As usually, since I (or you) have not experienced them, unless there is something really funny or weird, the recounting of the dream is generally uninteresting.

I do think that the conscious part of our brains is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a HUGE amount of processing going on in our brains relating to memories and experiences that is excluded from conscious perception. The conscious part, the part we get to be aware of, is only at the very last part of the chain of processing. Sometimes "we" (meaning are conscious mind) is completely excluded. So, should "I" feel bad if my brain fails to send a memo on some unconscious decision? I mean, it's my brain. Why should I feel left out? Isn't more like the captain of a ship really doesn't need to know if a bolt is replaced down in the engine room. Does he really need a memo on it, when he has a ship to tend to? (That memo only gores so far. It would seem that "I" as "captain" of my "ship" am actually rarely in command. Having said all that, on with the dreams...

Let's talk about the dream logic, or dream constraint. I'm sure you are familiar with it. This typically is some weird rule or restriction that your mind uses to rationalize a series of events that make no sense, or to explain a strange or contradictory or surreal situation.

For example, I still remember a dream I had involving a swinger's party. It started off normally enough. I'm at a party in a standard suburban ranch house. The hostess invites me further into parts of the house that could not physically exist, the party gets a little naughty, with people in progressive states of undress. At one point, the hostess explains that those that are completely nude are ready to have sex instantly, while those retaining their undies will have sex eventually, just not at the moment. She invites me to go mingle with the nude ones. "I'm not going to hang out with those sluts!" I snap, and wake up.

I wake up, and say "Oh, no, no! What the hell is wrong with you, Johnny??!! OF COURSE I WANT TO MINGLE WITH THE NUDIES! IDIOT!" But there's no going back into the dream. And I don't really worry over much about the symbolism of the dream. I know I'm not a prude, but I also know I'm not a pervert. It was just the weird setup is all.

Although I have noted that I am not nearly as courageous, both physically and socially, and not nearly as upright and moral, in dreams as I am in real life. A lot of times, I'm rather ashamed of my behavior in dream life. I'm only rarely ashamed in real life.

I do have recurring dreams. One in particular, which I've had for years involves living in a very dingy tawdry apartment. Were I to apply symbolism, I'd have to conclude that this apartment is my life. The problem is, I have this dream regardless of the pitfalls and fortunes I experienced. Perhaps it is merely a reminder to maintain vigilance over bad habits.

Lastly, I'm quite envious of people who experience lucid or directed dreams. People who are aware they are dreaming. I've only experienced it once that I'm aware of, and it has been the recent result of no longer smoking.

I'm dreaming I'm smoking a cigarette (and it is, unfortunately, fucking GREAT). then I realize I'm smoking a cigarette and get pissed at doing so. But then I realize that I am dreaming, and so the cigarette I'm smoking doesn't really count.

In fact, in one dream a woman came up to me and inquired "I thought you quit smoking?!"
And I replied, "It's okay. I'm dreaming right now!"

This is all well and good, but I think I'd rather be at the swinger's party.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I'd offer that as BP's advertising apology, since they've only "spilled" or "leaked" oil into the Gulf with the unfortunate accident that killed eleven men on their leased rig.

Just a spill. A little leak. Nothing a giant sized roll of Bounty won't take care of. No big deal. Let's just let it go at that. 

A cute phrase ought to patch the severed gushing arterial hole as BP bleeds out what little integrity it had. "Whoopise!" "Oopsie Daisy!" "My bad!"

Here's an interesting statistic. The amount of oil currently gushing out of the severed end of the pipeline where the Deepwater Horizon rig used to be - some 200,000 gallons a day, estimated to perhaps as much as three times as much - is equal to the amount of oil the US consumes from all of our offshore rigs.

In other words, the potential hundreds of billions of dollars in environmental damage in comparison to how petroleum independent offshore drilling makes the US of A equates exactly to- hang on, let me get the calculator - divide by seven, carry the three, ah! here we go! exactly JACK-SHIT!

ON a more positive note, lest you think I do nothing but bitch, there are things you can do to help.

Human hair, believe it or not, does an unbelievable job of sucking up oil. (For proof, look at old guys stuck in the 80s that use hair gel).

There are a number of hair salons who donate their clippings for oil cleanup and remediation. Maybe your local salon does as well. You can always check.