Beer Hunting

Late last year, Narragansett Beer started releasing "private stock" limited-edition craft brews, beyond their seasonal offerings like Porter and Summer Ale. I managed to miss both of the first two; I went to both of the large local stores I tend to buy beer at, and neither one had either of them.

Then I happened to be over in Somerville's Ball Square one day and went into Ball Square Fine Wines, where Giuseppe from An Affordable Wardrobe works when he's not out scouring thrift stores for overlooked gems. He told me that his store had carried both of the previous limited editions, and observed that "this neighborhood is full of beer geeks."

The third limited beer, Imperial Black Steam, was released a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to make my way over to Ball Square again last Saturday and got a bottle. I enjoyed it last night with a burrito from Anna's. It was a lot like a stout, though at about 9% alcohol by volume it was definitely stronger than Guinness. A bit heavy for summer drinking, but still worth tasting.

Gold Proved by Fire

Stress brings out the best and worst in people. In the case of Anthony Weiner's campaign, the public has seen extraordinary behavior. I think he must be one of the biggest nincompoops in politics today. The morality of what his campaign does and says isn't even the biggest issue. The biggest issue is one of basic competence and intelligence. They don't have any. I don't know what the problem is with certain managers that have a little bit of power over subordinates, whether the power goes to their head or what, but insulting and belittling lower-ranked people such as interns looks bad. His campaign is a total no-go from the get-go. All I can say is, too bad he's a Democrat. We need him to join the Republican party.

Working Out vs. Work

I could get the same amount of exercise digging the arbor vitae out of the ground along my back property line, but I'd rather go to the gym . . . which is sort of sad, that I'd rather exercise for no purpose, instead of getting something done (but I suppose there's no chance of seeing any good-looking women in spandex along my back property line).

Tipping the Velvet

"Tipping the Velvet" may be the best romantic movie ever made. I watched it again today for the third time and it made me cry. I think that Rachel Sterling is absolutely brilliant in it, couldn't possibly be better.

An Observation

Hiccups seem to go away as soon as you stop thinking about trying to get them to go away...

It's All Relative

Watching my son Alex do "surf camp" in Sea Isle City last week was scary enough, so I can't even imagine how Garrett McNamara's parents felt when they watched their son careen down the face of a 100 foot wave in Portugal.

Nine-Passenger Awesomeness

The car show pictures from a couple of weeks ago got a decent response, and I will try to do more of that sort of thing if opportunities present themselves. Naturally there are plenty of websites dedicated to old cars, and I frequent a few of them.

My favorite is Curbside Classic, which has been around for a couple of years. Apparently all older cars go to Eugene, OR to live on forever, based on the volume of vehicles the site's founder finds and photographs in his daily travels. But there are other contributors to the site who live in other parts of the country and find cool stuff as well.

CC does occasional themed programming, and this week they are highlighting vintage products from Chrysler Corporation. I have a personal bias toward anything From Mopar (that's a colloquialism for a Dodge, Plymouth, or Chrysler), having grown up riding around in a Plymouth station wagon and a Dodge Polara (among other cars). You may remember that my car show posts featured a Chrysler 300E, a Dodge Polara, an Imperial Crown, and a Plymouth Satellite; I was pleased that I was able to get pics of at least one model from each brand.

The basic body style worn by the 1959 300E carried through the 1961 model year, before the fins finally got clipped for '62. Today on CC there is a magnificent 1961 Chrysler Town & Country station wagon from a car show in Moline, IL. I love station wagons in general, but I'm going absolutely nuts over this one.

I personally prefer the 1960 models, which look similar but have much more attractive front ends (those angled headlights on the '61 spoil it for me). But back to this wagon. What an incredible shade of blue—according to the brochure for that year, it was called Capri Blue and the top is Parisian Blue. And of course the interior is a matching shade of blue. That's one of the things I miss most about cars: interiors that aren't gray, beige, or black.

Only 760 of the three-seat models were made for model year 1961, which isn't surprising considering this was an expensive car at the time, listing at nearly $5000 before options. People who bought station wagons were somewhat less likely to care about luxury (that sure changed with SUVs), and people who bought luxury cars were less likely to want or need a station wagon.

Go look at it again. LOOK AT IT. It's 219 glorious inches long! It's so hard to believe that cars like this were ever made, and people drove things like this as big and outlandish as this as just their everyday cars. Look at the details: those doors have no frames around the windows, and there is no center pillar between them. That's right, this is a hardtop station wagon. Chrysler wasn't the first to build such a car, but I'm pretty sure they were the last.

Check out those chrome handles on either side of the rear window, the rear view mirror mounted on the dashboard, the nine decorative trim pieces on each side behind the rear wheels (because I guess eight would look too plain, but ten would be overdoing it). The steering wheel is clear lucite, for crap's sake. People sat around and thought of this stuff, and it got put on the car. Oh, and there's no shift lever coming out of the steering column because the automatic transmission was operated via pushbuttons on the left side of the wheel (out of view in the interior pic, but you can see them in this picture to the left of the speedometer and behind the steering wheel).

With modern cars, it's "if we make the tail light lenses out of a slightly thinner plastic, we can save six cents per car." And "beige and gray interiors go with everything so those are the only two choices we need, and let's only offer six color choices for the outside because everyone's going to want silver, white, or black anyway." I know Detroit's old ways were not sustainable, but this is some car. For what you paid for it, you really got something special.

(There are some additional pictures of this Chrysler, from a different event, here.)

Addendum: following up on my remark above about new-car colors, I just saw this chart that backs up my assertion. Over 60% of new cars bought worldwide in 2012 were white, black, or silver; if you include gray, the number jumps to 76%. Boring.

Namecheap, the Worst Web Hosting Company

Namecheap, Inc. just sent me an invoice for--well, I don't know what. They expect me to pay a bunch of money because, I guess, they need money. I haven't hosted with them in years and my domain is no longer registered with them. I'm not surprised their morals are amiss. Namecheap is possibly the worst web host in existence. Their service was lousy, with unexplained bizarre errors, and their tech support, which I frequently had to use, was foreign, incompetent, unresponsive, and uncaring. I was never so happy as when I abandoned my Namecheap account and moved to a different host, even though it cost me financially to do so. Namecheat is more like it.

The host I recommend is Bluehost, a class act all around. They may be Mormon-owned for all I know, but they do web hosting right, and on the extremely rare occasion that I have needed their tech support, I have talked to real, live American techies on the telephone who know what they are doing. I've never been talking to a Bluehost representative without feeling like they are intelligent and, perhaps more importantly, care. I've used Bluehost for many years. I don't know of any other web host that is as good as they are, although it's true I haven't tried many. Bluehost is even recommended by Wordpress, which I think is very impressive in itself. Their founder runs the entire company on Mac or Linux, scorning Microsoft. I've followed his blog off and on through the years. I doubt we would agree on politics, but as far as computers go, I think we are in agreement.

For the past couple days, my site on Bluehost has become inaccessible around midnight every day without explanation and stays slow until the morning. So I can't recommend Bluehost without reservation. I need to become more cautious about my enthusiasm for things. It seems like the very moment that I praise something, that's when I discover its shortcoming. In the case of Bluehost, I discovered their nightly slowdown about the same time that I renewed for two years. However, I think that this may have been a temporary glitch, possibly due to Wordpress attackers.

If this is the only post any visitor to my blog ever reads, then so much the better. Namecheap caused me hardship with their unexplained errors and incompetent service.

7/30/2013 Update: This post against Namecheap has been attacked on over ten separate occasions by spam comments linking to malware sites that try to infect people's computers with viruses. My policy now is that whenever that happens, this post will be updated to be the front-page, very first post; or else I may post another message about Namecheap and its sleazy, unethical business practices. There's no way that Namecheap can get out of their well-deserved poor reputation. They are going to have to live with it, no matter how many spammers they hire.

Applying for a Job

I applied for a job the other day online. The questions the employer asked me made me uncomfortable. Their web site required me to enter my SSN, driver's license number and date of birth. Am I stupid because I entered these things? Will I become the victim of identity theft in the future? Will they be able to trace all my online activities, including this blog? Will all my data be shared in a central database, so that any future applications I make can be fact-checked against this one? Will my data be sold to other companies? These kinds of questions freak me out. I don't think it's fair, but then again, I'm the one needing the job, and the company probably has tons of people applying. Supply and demand is not in the job-seeker's favor. There is so much less need for people these days due to all the labor-saving wrought by technology.

I gave them all the information they wanted to know, because I want the job. Maybe that's a decision I will later regret, much like my decision in the 1990s to invest my IRA in stocks rather than bonds, because "everybody knew" that stocks outperformed bonds over the long haul. Little did I know that the 6 - 8% interest rates then normal would look enticing well before 2013.

Some Balls (Metaphorically)

Last week in Sea Isle City, while I was walking home with some take out food from McGowan's, a twenty-something blonde woman dressed in a black waitress uniform shot across Landis Avenue at a fairly busy intersection on her pink beach cruiser bike, and she was texting as she rode across the main drag, and this wasn't at a light . . . I guess she had just gotten off her shift and really wanted to know what was going on (and she wasn't wearing a helmet, either).

This Week in Awesome (7/27/13)

Couldn't we have a few more days like Thursday and Friday?

Another Archer-based mashup, this time with animation from a different show. (Blastr via TV Tattle)

I feature a lot of stuff about Boston and New York, but Los Angeles is another American city that has long held a fascination for me, so I was pleased to learn of this site. (Hemmings Blog)

Speaking of Boston, there's a new blog on boston dot com that looks back on some of the area's older, less gentrified days.

This week's time-lapse is definitely not the usual stuff. (Laughing Squid)

And finally this week, Jalopnik's Patrick George takes a look back at BMW's "The Hire" series of short films, starring Clive Owen as "The Driver," which began appearing in 2001.


Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained may be a lot of things -- including gratuitously violent, profanely offensive, and way too long -- but it's certainly not boring, in fact, it's one of the most entertaining movies I've seen since Pulp Fiction . . . everything you want to happen, happens . . . plus a whole bunch of other stuff: nine phrenologists out of ten.


I feel lucky in comparison to all the people one reads about in the media that are in difficult circumstances. However, reading history certainly offers perspective. I think that even as bad as the modern age gets, in many ways, or at least in most areas, things are better. When one compares, for instance, the British Navy of 1812 and the British Navy of 2013, I think there is a fine example. Flogging is done away with, and seamen are treated to a fairer trial, and nutrition and living conditions are over the top better. Our ancestors could not have dreamed of air conditioning or for that matter effective and easy indoor heating.


I think where Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood miscalculated was in thinking they could run Egypt by themselves without anyone from the opposition. They should have bent over backwards to draw in people from all political parties, all power-brokers. Then if the army acted against them, they could present a united front. But now, the battle seems to be between the Brotherhood and the army. It's pretty horrible that the army is sending out sharpshooters to shoot people in the head. I think Egypt's revolution has just reversed itself, as revolutions so often do. A different set of players are going to have power, but the system remains unchanged, as was the case also in Iran after the Shah. After Iran's revolution, things only got worse. Between military despots and the Islamists, there doesn't seem to be much to choose from. Both will kill to get their way. I imagine the U.S. is backing the military merely because the military is easier to deal with.

Republicans Diminish the Postal Service

I read today that the Post Office has been pressured to curtail door-to-door delivery and even curbside service.

I knew, given enough time in office, the Republicans would harm the Postal Service. They hate the Postal Service, because it provides a service at low cost to ordinary working people, that is, those who are unimportant in the eyes of Republicans. Republicans hate anything that helps working people. I think the Republican idea of heaven is all workers dead, and the rich being served by robots and computers. That's the society we're moving toward, anyway.

Don't ever expect the Republicans to favor any cuts to the military, however. The military protects the rich and their interests.

Some Titles Are Literal and Some Titles Are Ironic

They should tell you this at the start, but instead I learned far too late that the title of Edith Wharton's fin de si├Ęcle novel of manners House of Mirth is an allusion to a Biblical quotation from Ecclesiastes (the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth) and so if you're expecting a happy, mirthful ending from this book then you are going to be very disappointed . . . it's a turn-of-the-century version of Mean Girls, without the jokes and the tacked-on happy ending; Lily Bart -- like Cady Heron -- has to navigate the world of the rich and popular, and though it's something of an anachronism to describe them in this way, they turn out to be just like "the Plastics."

Retro Video Unit (7/26/13)

Sometimes I just remember old bands and songs out of nowhere, with no prompting or a coincidental hearing of a song on radio somewhere—that's how this one got here. The band is Our Daughter's Wedding, and the song is "Lawnchairs" from 1981. I had a friend in college who was particularly fond of this one...

Documentary on Women in the 17th Century

The BBC churns out high-quality documentaries on a regular basis. I like to learn about history, but I also like shows concerning wildlife or any kind of science. I like best those shows that have a strong narrator, who may be seen or may be off-camera. Recently, I watched a documentary about housewives and harlots in 17th century England. I felt this was a good topic, because shows seldom touch upon women in history, because most leaders, scientists, generals, etc. were men. The narrator was Dr. Lucy Worsley, apparently some sort of academic who speaks in a compelling way, one notices right away. She is female in a male-dominated profession, rather tomboyish, and my partner noticed that she speaks with a lisp, most unusual in television, although to me it seemed she had a German accent. When I first saw her, I thought she was ill-looking, but the more one watches her speak, the better she wears. She conveys a zest for the subject and an engaging manner of speaking, lisp or not. One admits her learning and poise, and then her beauty. Her material is well-written, although I noticed that she does tend to harp upon the same narrow topics, when a broader view might have been more appropriate. I felt like some material was being repeated, and wish that the show had been heavier on facts and lighter on interpretation, leaving interpretation to the audience, in the style of Werner Herzog.

Paying to Shop?

So Gilt is having one of their periodic warehouse sales in Boston tomorrow, but they want me to pay $10 to get in? The only things I've ever bought from them are undershirts that I ended up returning because the website had misstated the fabric content, and a casual shirt that I only wore for a couple of years.

Maybe if the admission fee was going to a charitable organization like the Jimmy Fund it would feel worth it, but even then I feel like I would be unlikely to find anything good enough, at a good enough deal, to make me feel like it was time and money well spent. I suspect that fashion-loving ladies probably get the better end of the deal.

Suit Drive

Do you have unused men's dress clothing taking up space? You could donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but wouldn't it be better if you knew your donation would directly benefit people in need?

Men's Wearhouse has an annual suit drive for usable business-attire clothing that they donate to various organizations that help men get outfitted for job interviews. It's going on this month: you can drop off suits, dress shirts, dress shoes, and outerwear at Men's Wearhouse locations. I just donated three suits, three dress shirts, and a trench coat. You get a tax-deduction receipt and a coupon good for 50% off regular-price merchandise for one month.

I should have mentioned this a while ago, but there's still time for donations this year. And I suspect that if you missed it and went into a store in August, they would still accept your donations.

Alice Morgan and the Luther Effect: More Female Villains, Please.

With all of the summer tent pole movies premiering, there's been outcry from audiences (and critics) for the studios to make superhero movies with a woman as the lead. Wonder Woman, understandably, tops this oft-cited list.

While wondering where else in our pop culture there are a lack of female characters—the answer, sadly, is everywhere—something struck me upon viewing the third season of BBC's Luther.

There was something missing this season. It was harder to get invested in the characters and storylines, even though Idris Elba as Luther is charming and troubled as ever.

The thing missing was: Alice Morgan. In the first series premiere, Alice (Ruth Wilson) commits the perfect crime: the murder of her parents. DCI John Luther, a brilliant detective, who knows criminals' minds as well as he knows his own, engages in a game of wits with the deliciously evil Alice. Their intriguing relationship becomes the through-line of the first series, tying Luther and Alice together, even as he solves other crimes and deals with his marriage falling apart.

Even with the glut of crime dramas now on television, several of which have female detectives as a lead (The BridgeThe KillingThe Fall), none feature a woman committing crimes. All of these series involve women as victims of crimes perpetuated by men.

Maybe it seems a weird question to posit, in a day and age when women are not equally represented in Hollywood, in the boardroom, or in Congress, to ask why there aren't more female villains on our screens.

One common argument for more parts for women is women make up 51% of the population, yet in last year's top 100 grossing films, only held 29% of the speaking parts.

Out of homicide offenders (from 1980-2008), only 10.5% were women. White females of all ages had the lowest offending rates of any racial or age group, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's study of homicide trends.

So maybe choosing to have male villains over female is something Hollywood actually got right? You could look at it that way. But isn't the point to have more equality when it comes to every part of the industry (acting, directing, writing, producing, etc.) If there are well-written female superheroes, there should be well-written female villains.

Female villains are difficult to portray without easily falling into trope territory. Female 'baddies' tip over easily into emotionally unstable women—often stalkers--like Alex in Fatal Attraction (coincidentally, a role that earned Glenn Close an Academy Award nomination.) Women are often thought to commit crimes motivated by emotion rather than with a purely evil intent. Interestingly, in criminological and sociological studies, gender in regard to crime has largely been ignored. Until recently, the extent of female deviance has been marginalized. According to sociology professor Frances Heidensohn, one of the first to study female criminology, one reason for this is because female crime has been dealt with by mostly men, from policework to legislators.

But back to fictional female villains. Even as far back as fairy tales, evil women were often portrayed as obsessive. In Grimm Brothers' Snow White, Snow White's step-mother, the Evil Queen, is vindictive and obsessed with being the most beautiful in the land. According to John Hanson Saunders' book The Evolution of Snow White, when Walt Disney started to develop the fairy tale into an animated film, early concepts characterized her as “fat, batty, cartoon type, self-satisfied”. Walt Disney was not satisfied with this concept and spent time further developing the character. He saw her as a cross between Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf and wanted her to be stately and beautiful.

For a character that is obsessed with her appearance, it is rather ironic that she would choose to temporarily relinquish her beauty when she transforms into the Evil Witch--also referred to as the Old Hag—undertaking an ugly demeanor in order to poison Snow White. In 2003, the Queen (Queen Grimhilde) was named by the American Film Institute as one of the 50 Best Movie Villains.

The transformation of the Queen into an 'Old Hag' speaks to other frequent characterizations of female villains by Hollywood. They must be either be ugly, sometimes old, women or they must be beautiful sirens. In 2003's Monster, a film based on the life of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Charlize Theron was cast to play Wuornos. Much of the discussion about the film circled around the choice of Theron, a statuesque model turned actress, as the lead. Rather than discussing the merits of her acting, many simply wondered how it was possible to make such a beautiful woman ugly. Theron won an Academy Award for Best Actress for the role.

On the flip side of old crones and hags, Hollywood uses beauty and the sexualization of women to make them acceptable as villains, most often as femme fatales. The most notable example of this in Hollywood is the use of these characters in film noir, but the archetype dates back to Greek and Roman myths, as well as Biblical figures. A femme fatale is described as mysterious or seductive woman, who uses her wiles to capture men and lead them into dangerous situations.

Luther's Alice Morgan has a bit of femme fatale in her. “Kiss me, kill me, something...” she tells him in the first season. She flirts with Luther, has red hair and large lips and eyes, but her attraction and fascination with John Luther centers around his intelligence. He deals with London's criminal minds every day, yet still believes there's good and love in the world. This baffles Alice. A child prodigy, she enrolled in Oxford at the age of 13 and holds a Ph.D in astrophysics, studying dark matter distribution.

After the murder of her parents, Luther is questioning Alice and discovers she's a psychopath through her lack of empathy. She doesn't yawn when he yawns, a telling sign to Luther. However, he is unable to prove she committed the murders and moves on to other cases.

The relationship between Luther and Alice is so well-drawn and complex because it is not simply a protagonist vs. antagonist relationship. Alice is a foil for Luther and becomes a trusted friend, despite her psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies. While DCI Luther is on the right side of evil from society's point of view, sometimes he uses questionable methods to get what he needs to solve a case.

An increase of female villains in film and television always edges on a slippery slope, as it may lead to characters embodying common tropes and archetypes. Even if there were more female villains, it doesn't mean they would be as carefully developed and well-written as Alice Morgan.

But just as there are those asking for superheroines, there are actors asking to play the villain. “I would like to play a villainess in some great big action movie. That would be really fun,” actress Allison Janney said during the press tour for The Help.

Wouldn't it be great if Wonder Woman was up against an evil female mastermind? And if the film was directed by a woman?

Sex Scandals

I'm not impressed by sex stories about politicians in the media. Yeah, I know that they have sex. I don't think it is important whether a politico is sexting or having cybersex or hiring prostitutes or having an affair with an intern. That does not affect policy. It doesn't matter to us. That kind of thing should be between the official and his or her partner. On the other hand, it is disturbing to read about a politician accepting bribes or otherwise breaking the law. Boorish behavior, such as making unwanted comments to women, may be a concern.

I have not been impressed by the stories I have glanced at so far concerning Anthony Weiner. Nor was I particularly put out by the Lewinsky Affair of Clinton's Presidency. Who cares if the President has an affair with an intern? I don't. I also don't care whether Weiner makes use of his you-know-what with people over the Internet. That's not my bag in either case, but if that floats their boat, fine by me.

I was dismayed to read about San Diego's mayor making unwanted advances to women. That kind of thing is delicate. A man needs to be able to read the signs, the physical signs, before making that first move. A lot of guys have problems with that. I think it is due to lack of social awareness and lack of social skills. A politician who does this would seem an anomaly. He might not make a good politician. If he is already in politics, this kind of behavior may indicate poor effectiveness as a negotiator and manager.

U.S. Loses Face

The Attorney General felt he had to promise Russia that the U.S. would not torture or kill Snowden. That he has to do so, due to documented past episodes of torture and killing by the U.S., is a shame and points to the greyness of our nation's soul, floating somewhere between good and evil. It is also embarrassing due to Russia's own abominable record in human rights. Now Russia's elite has some small grounds to suppose their country is the moral equivalent of the U.S., which it is not. Russia is about ten times worse. The oppression of gays is only the tip of the iceberg in Russia. Russia is a kleptocracy.

I've been reading Walt Whitman's poetry and letters composed during and following the Civil War. Certainly the U.S. was far more wicked in the 1860s. Starvation and torture were common throughout Confederate prisons. The Southerners did not know any better than to starve, torture and kill captured soldiers. The South was completely immoral--slavery, rape, torture, starvation, treason. Over a century was required just to teach the Southerners basic morality, like don't enslave people, don't torture, don't kill. In comparison to back then, the modern era seems much milder.

Those who call Snowden a traitor do not understand what treason is. They do not understand what the United States is. I think that many of our politicians need to go back to elementary school and learn about the Revolution and what it was about, why the country was founded and the principles upon which it was founded. There are many in Washington, D.C. who have demonstrated an appalling poverty of principles.

True (but boring) Confessions #6

I don't ever floss, until it's three days before the dentist appointment (and I don't fool anyone).

Trey Bilings Show is Hidden Gem

Not too many people have seen a thirty-minute film called "The Trey Billings Show," but it is one of the best comedies around, and the star, David Drake, is completely incredible in it. With the help of camera tricks, he plays both a zany, self-absorbed talk show host and his interviewee, a fictitious famous actress fallen on hard times, appearing on the screen at the same time.

Watch Wednesday Follow-Up: The Departed

Over the years I've been writing this blog, I have posted around three dozen watches in my Watch Wednesday series, and that's only counting ones that I own, or owned. (I didn't know the exact number, so I had to go back and count the posts.) Over time I decided to sell a few of them, and there were a couple of others that I never posted because they were already in line to be sold for one reason or another.

Writing yesterday's post reminded me that there are a few watches that I'd posted that I no longer own, and that led me to the idea of doing a quick review of the ones I no longer have. Going back to look through the posts from the beginning, I posted a Seiko 5 automatic in May 2010 that I had purchased just a couple of weeks prior. It was a case of liking the look of it more than I ended up liking the actual watch. I didn't care for the hands, and it wore a little small on my wrist. I sold it not long after I posted it.

Then there was a quartz chronograph that I bought in 2008 and featured in June 2010. I wore it off and on for about four years, and it always ran perfectly, but by this past winter I was looking to sell some stuff on eBay and decided I didn't need to hang onto it any longer. It found a good home.

There was another Seiko automatic that I didn't like as much after I'd had it for a while, and that ended up selling this winter as well. Yesterday's watch is more or less replacing it, and I'm much happier with it overall and plan on keeping it a long time.

There are a few others that I still have, but have stopped working or are problematic in some other way. This Casio chronograph receives time setting signals every day via a radio frequency, but after I had to get the battery replaced it would not set properly. It's now running about four hours ahead of where it should be, and the only way to get it to the correct time is to set it to a different time zone (there is no crown to set the time manually).

A couple of my many old Timex watches are also no longer working properly. I like this automatic a lot, but it was never in especially good condition and I'm probably lucky it kept acceptable time for as long as it did. It's not worth spending whatever it would cost to get it running properly again. Then there was an old Timex Carriage quartz that looked just like the ones J. Crew was selling for $150 (they recently dropped the price to $98, which is still too high). For a watch that cost no more than $20 new it lasted a long time, but even with a battery replacement it just stopped running one day, so that's that.

I'll be putting a couple of my other watches up for sale soon, and will post a link when I do so.

Bluehost is Incompetent

Bluehost is a web hosting service based in Utah. A subscriber to a hosting service expects to be able to view the access log. Bluehost, however, does not make complete access logs available to the customer unless the customer calls them on the telephone to request it. Bluehost's CPanel archive download manager is broken. Available to the customer is only a truncated, incomplete daily access log. Activity from two days ago is not available to the customer. Bluehost does not make the monthly log available for some unknown reason. I wonder what they are doing over at Bluehost that they are so concerned they need to cover it up?

Downloading the daily log, which is insufficient and only provides a brief glimpse of activity, results in a .gz file. Inside the .gz file is another .gz file. Bluehost zips each daily access log twice for no apparent reason. There is no technical advantage to doing so. It is simply a quirk on the part of Bluehost and yet another inconvenience to the customer.

In addition to all these shenanigans related to the access log, Bluehost also throttles shared hosting accounts. I have a site that is throttled every day without fail. "Throttling" is a process by which Bluehost deprives the site of cpu share, which slows the site down substantially, often to a crawl. The site being throttled is a low-traffic site that receives no more than 20 visitors per day. I have seen Bluehost throttle this site when it has received 3 visitors spread over a twenty-four period. I should add that the site is highly optimized, and its cpu demands are more modest than this blog's. Clearly Bluehost throttles sites not based upon activity, but for any reason whatsoever, just to handle a very large volume of customers, more than they should be handling.

I can't recommend Bluehost in good conscience any longer to anyone. They seem to be handling too many sites per server and cutting corners in order to deal with the load.

True (but boring) Confessions #5

Before I go coach my son's soccer team, I religiously put two pint glasses into the freezer.

Watch Wednesday (7/24/13)

What's this? Someone in my financial situation shouldn't be buying a watch. Well, I got this one back during the winter, with the money the landlord pays me to clear the snow. You may recall that we had a lot of snow this winter, so it was kind of like getting a bonus. I only just realized that I had never posted it here.
I'd had my eye on this Seiko chronograph for some time, since I first saw it back in the October issue of Esquire. Right after that, Dappered did a comparison between it and a Citizen chronograph, with the Seiko coming out slightly ahead in their opinion. I started watching it online, and over the next few months the price drifted downward another $25 or so, which worked in my favor. During that time it also went in and out of stock a lot on various websites, suggesting to me that it was popular.

This watch isn't as large as the picture makes it look; the case is 41 mm across not counting either crown. 42 mm is about the largest watch I can wear that doesn't make my wrist look like that of a nine-year-old, so a watch like this looks substantial without being excessive.

It has the sort of large-numeral dial that I've mentioned my fondness for, plus a rotating compass bezel inside the crystal. It's also solar powered, but that had no bearing on my purchase, nor did the compass. In fact the compass is a superfluous feature to me, and the crown that rotates it (the one adjacent to the 10 o'clock marker) gets moved at the slightest brush, so I end up adjusting it constantly. It would have been better if Seiko had made this one screw-down, or at least made it so the mechanism required a little more force to turn.

I also didn't care for the tan strap that came with it (shown at the above link). I was hoping it would look better in person than in pictures, but it's just too light and orangey for my taste. This is mainly why I tend to stick with black straps for my watches—it's really difficult to find attractive shades of tan or brown. In addition, this watch takes a 21 mm strap, which is one of the hardest sizes to find.

I ended up doing something I don't like to do: I bought a 22 mm strap and squeezed the edges in a little before putting it on the watch. It fits fine and I don't think anyone could tell if I didn't mention it, but as someone who likes to customize his watches with specific straps, the odd sizes are another barrier to getting it just right. (Ask anyone who owns a Rolex or Tudor that takes 19 mm straps.)

True (but boring) Confessions #4

Sometimes I watch 30 Rock on Netflix without telling my wife, and then the next time we watch 30 Rock, I don't tell her that she's missed an episode -- so unless she's doing the same thing to me, I've seen all the episodes and she hasn't.

True (but boring) Confessions #3

Sometimes when I open my car door, I make contact with the car next to mine (and sometimes I even scratch their door . . . but I never tell a soul).

Birds at Play?

The Mrs. did a window display for our local coffee shop, Mystic Coffee Roaster in Medford Square:
It's just an informal arrangement, she enjoys doing it and it helps the shop fill its window space.

True (but boring) Confessions #2

Sometimes when I water the garden, I forget to shut the hose off.

This Week in Awesome (7/20/13)

The heat wave may be over, but it doesn't feel any less humid here, at least not yet...

Jimmy Kimmel and his writers are obviously fans of Schoolhouse Rock. (TV Tattle)

Coming soon: more stupid reality shows. Tastefully Offensive)

Great illustrations of classic unibody Mac models. (Cult of Mac)

Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Die Hard. Read a critical appreciation of the movie (Unlikely Words), and see a list of the 25 best action movies that have followed it (Vulture). (Be prepared to dispute some of the choices on that list and/or their placement.)

And finally this week, if you have an hour or so to spare and like Talking Heads, you'll want to check out this concert program from the BBC that was broadcast in 1984. (Laughing Squid)

One Hundred Years Ago, It Was Still Humid

Although I can't relate to the parties that Gatsby threw in West Egg, or the way the Gormers eschewed social conventions in Edith Wharton's House of Mirth and -- in a precursor to Gatsby --"started a sort of continuous performance of their own, a kind of social Coney Island, where everybody is welcome who can make noise enough and doesn't put on airs," but what I can understand is that going to one of these parties will be a good deal better than suffering "a broiling Sunday in town," as both The Great Gatsby and House of Mirth contain the palpable heat and humidity of the East Coast -- and this was long before the idea of global warming-- and both novels put forward the very advanced idea that no civilized person should stand this sort of weather.

Elisabeth Moss is into Scientology

I was flabbergasted to learn my latest favorite actress, Elisabeth Moss, a star on Mad Men, belongs to the Church of Scientology, but then again, I have to ask myself, how many Catholic actresses are there, after all? Catholicism has proven weird too, and Islam has never been a walk in the park, either. Even Judaism looks downright peculiar at times. I guess my main beef with Scientology is that it seems obscure and mysterious, even cult-like. The story about evil Xonad, alien from outer space who lives in a spaceship and is trying to control our brains with negative theons, just seemed too funny to be a religion. I was hoping that Moss might be a mild Methodist or even an Episcopalian at worst, or atheist or agnostic at best. But she actually believes in Xonog or whoever it is floating around in that spaceship and beaming negative theons into our brains. I guess to look at the matter objectively is to admit that her theology is no weirder than the competing ones. I'm glad she at least made clear that she does not support or condone any of the homophobia in the Church of Scientology.

For the record, I feel that Elizabeth Moss is a bright star, and when she's in the picture, one can't keep one's eyes off her. Even when she is supposed to be ugly, due to dowdy clothes and indifferent make-up, she's really not.

Ted Nugent's Wrong Again

I was amused to read that Ted Nugent said Detroit's bankruptcy was "all the fault of the liberal Democrats," which implies Birmingham, Alabama is a liberal Democrat bastion. Jefferson County, which encompasses Birmingham, filed for bankruptcy in 2011, so I'm expecting Ted Nugent to make one of his famous utterances heard 'round the media. Except he won't say word one, and why? Because talking about Alabama doesn't fit into his agenda.

Detroit's bankruptcy is due to corruption and incompetence on the part of the politicians over the last fifty years. I think the United States as a whole may have to file for bankruptcy one day, although entire states may do so before that time. Politicians don't seem capable of understanding long-term obligations, or if they do, they don't care about the long-term ramifications. Their brains are extremely limited, yet their powers are not. Giving so much power to a lizard-like brain is like letting a toddler behind the wheel of an automobile. Of course there will be a crash.

On the right, we have politicians absolutely determined to spend every last cent we don't have on foreign wars we don't need. On the left, we have politicians absolutely determined to do right by American workers. Of course, both objectives cannot be achieved indefinitely. Either the wars must be curtailed or the workers given the shaft. Seems to me that the workers are getting the shaft. Pensions are up on the chopping block, which must please right-wingers like Ted Nugent. Anything that hurts the workers pleases the right wing. The main thing that the conservative Republicans care about is killing foreigners. The more bombs and bullets, the better in their view. Perhaps that is why they hate Obama so much, because he's dialing down the wars in the Middle East, whereas they want to expand them, maybe take on a couple extra countries as well just for good luck.

True (but boring) Confessions #1

I haven't done a crossword puzzle in a LONG time.

Dubai Debacle

I wonder if those in Dubai realize how bad this case in Dubai and cases like it makes their Sharia law look. Geez, four male witnesses to get a rape conviction? That will never happen. If it did happen, wouldn't the four witnesses themselves be culpable for not stopping the rape? I wonder how that law's justice can be defended by a modern educated mind. I suspect it can't be defended in any honest and compassionate way. The underlying rationale for the law, I suppose, is that women aren't intended to ever put themselves outside the protection of men, that they are intended to be wholly reliant upon their male protectors. This is a way of keeping women down, lower in status than men, and out of public life.

How's the Weather?

This week, miserable. All week. I don't enjoy summer the way most people do. Even when the weather is more tolerable, I'd rather be inside. I've just never been an outdoors person, and I consider the sun to be an enemy in roughly the same way a vampire does. Growing up we had a pool in our yard, but if I wasn't swimming I was indoors, either reading or building model cars in the basement, where it was cooler.

So when it's this hot and humid, we leave the house only when necessary. We also have to manage our dog's time outside; she's almost 12 and has always been sensitive to heat, but she isn't smart enough to realize that she shouldn't be outside on days like today. The poor thing is wiped out after only a couple of minutes of walking, even in the shade.

We've had another issue this week: flies. Since Sunday we've had nearly a dozen of them in the house. We don't know where they are coming from or what's attracting them, but we have a suspicion that it may have something to do with the folks upstairs, who disposed of some truly vile-smelling garbage last weekend. When we take the dog out there are flies in the back hall, which suggests that they may be making their way downstairs from above.

Two Moving Rocks Are Better Than One

Two new songs from The World's Second Greatest Rock Band . . . one about community college and the other about not getting to have a midlife crisis; lyrics and more over at Gheorghe: The Blog, of course.

Rolling Stone's Big Dumb Move

Rolling Stone magazine has hit rock bottom with this decision to put the Boston Bomber on the cover. I can't imagine a stupider move, politically naive at best, but ghoulish at worst. I used to respect the magazine as a standard bearer of liberal values, but the magazine now seems value-less, really sleazy as a matter of fact. If I had a subscription, I'd cancel my subscription over this.

The cover reminds me of what I wrote earlier, that sometimes evil assumes a fair form, as in the case of Sauron as portrayed by The Simarillion, a great book about an alternative god with different angels and spiritual beings that give rise to mortal beings in a way that can't fail to remind one of our own theology. Tolkien placed no limits on his imagination. His book read somewhat like the backstory to Genesis. Many fantasy worlds make use of gods and goddesses, but Tolkien's system of theology seemed much more comprehensible and believable to me than the alternatives.

I've Been Waiting

Good news, finally: a new Arcade Fire album will be released on October 29th.

Psychiatric Tales Are More Fun If There Are Pictures

Darryl Cunnigham's eleven graphic stories about mental illness -- simply titled Psychiatric Tales -- is a terse and powerful reminder that we are not in control of our own brains, and that mental illness is just that  . . . an illness that is often beyond the control of our willpower and consciousness; the late great Mitch Hedberg said: "Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only one that you can get yelled at for having," and you can substitute any of the disorders from the book in that sentence and get the same result . . . a quick read and worth checking out.

False Alarms

Our upstairs neighbors (three single adults share the apartment) have had a couple of incidents lately setting off the smoke alarm while making food. This wouldn't necessarily be a big deal, except that any such occurrence triggers the alarms in the whole dwelling, including the ones in our apartment, the basement, and the front and back stairways leading to the upstairs unit.

These are the LOUDEST smoke alarms I have ever heard. They are piercingly loud, obviously meant to awaken sleeping residents immediately, and in addition to the beeping there's an electronic voice that repeats "FIRE!" Fortunately they haven't gone off while we are asleep, but when we're awake they just startle the crap out of us, and they are so loud we are forced to cover our ears. There's one about six feet from the desk where my computer is, so if I'm sitting here it's essentially right above my head, which is what happened the last two times.

They have gone off twice in the past week or two, and in both cases it seems one of the upstairs folks put something in the toaster oven and then returned to his bedroom, forgetting about the food until it was too late. (I was able to figure this out because, mixed in with the alarm sounds, I could detect his footsteps as he hurried from his room at the front of the house to the kitchen at the back.)

Depraved Business Criminals

Reading a recent case of food poisoning in India, apparently the result of a local store owner trying to make a profit on cheap cooking oil, reminds us of a fundamental fact. There is no limit to the depths of depravity of business criminals. They will sacrifice human life in order to make a few pennies profit.


It's more fun to brush up on Richard Pryor, then it is to brush up on Espanol (and I'm understanding a lot more of the content).

More Vintage Wheels

I have more pictures from the car show I attended on Sunday. Yesterday's batch ended up being roughly chronological, so let's continue that way.
By the end of the 1950s, the American car companies realized that they needed to offer smaller vehicles to compete with the growing threat from companies like Volkswagen. The result was the first generation of American compacts like the Ford Falcon and Plymouth Valiant. These were simple, practical cars that usually resembled scaled-down versions of their full-size siblings, and they can still serve as economical daily transportation today (if one is willing to overlook the absence of a few modern safety features).

As you can see from the front plate, this is another Pontiac, a 1962 Tempest coupe. This is another of my favorite old cars, though I prefer the station wagon version. The Tempest was more technologically advanced than most other American cars of the time, offering a four-cylinder engine, a flexible drive shaft, and a rear-mounted transmission that resulted in perfect front-rear weight distribution (which theoretically improved handling).
Ah, this is the shot where I cut off the front of the car. I had just taken a shot from a few steps further back, and immediately realized that a person passing by was blocking a good chunk of the car, so I hurriedly moved forward and snapped another shot without checking to see if I'd framed it properly.

Anyway, this is a 1968 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special, once upon a time the pinnacle of the Cadillac lineup and still an impressive-looking ride. This one is a bit unusual in that by '68 they were more commonly seen with a vinyl roof covering, and this one is also missing its badges and bright trim along the bottom of the body sides, but it may be a restoration in progress. The color does seem to match up with the choices available that year, so the owners could have had it repainted recently.
Paging Don Draper... oh wait, no, he dumped the Jaguar account. Regardless, it's always a pleasure and a thrill to see an XKE, and I couldn't resist three of them parked together. I have a relative who owned one of these, a white over red convertible, and I was fortunate enough to get a ride in it once—I think I may have been ten or eleven at the time.
Okay, now we're onto something good: a 1969 Dodge Polara two-door hardtop. The big Dodges, Plymouths, and Chryslers were all redesigned for '69, and the absence of vent windows on this car indicates it was equipped with air conditioning. It also has the rarely-seen Super-Lite option, a single high-intensity driving light mounted in the grille. Those road wheels are pretty sweet, too. (Behind the Polara is what I believe is a 1968 Plymouth Belvedere.)
I knew someone in high school who had a car similar to this, a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible, except it was maroon with a black interior. It's nice to see one that's been preserved, and not turned into a hot rod or a 442 "tribute."
I took this picture mainly because I recall A Proper Bostonian telling me that someone in her family had one. It's a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, one of the first-generation cars (1970-72). I didn't even bother to look at the grille to determine exactly which year it was, but I'm going with '71 or '72 based on the color, which I think is Placer Gold.
The Plymouth Satellite had gotten rather bloated by 1973 (this could also be a '74; they looked exactly the same). I took this shot because I liked the color (definitely not an original factory choice) and because my brother had one of these for a while, that he'd acquired from a family friend.
And finally here's a Triumph TR6, probably a 1974-'76 based on the big rubber bumper guards and the Union Jack decal on the rear fender. I always liked these and hoped I might have one someday.

I was also surprised by the cars I didn't see at this show: not a single 1960s Lincoln Continental with suicide doors; no Thunderbirds newer than 1966; and hardly any station wagons (besides the Nomad). We didn't get to the show until around 1, and I think some of the cars had already started to leave. It opens to the public at 8 am, and if I go back next year I'll definitely try to get there before noon, if not earlier.

And there was one car I meant to go back and get a picture of but forgot, a 1958 Edsel with the retractable hardtop from a Ford Skyliner. It must have taken a fair amount of work to create that car, and it was quite well-done.

Is This Genius or a Flaw?

We are coming to the end of the BBC series Top of the Lake and some bad stuff is going down in the New Zealand bush, but the show takes place in such a breathtaking setting -- snow-covered rocky mountains surrounding a deepwater mountain lake, that I'm often just looking at the scenery and thinking: I'd really like to go on vacation in New Zealand instead of being concerned for the people in peril on the show . . . and so I am wondering if this is a flaw in the show, or if it's done purposefully, in order to create some weird paradoxical friction in the audience, some detachment from the characters, some sensation of their puniness in the landscape.

Protesters in L.A. Miss the Point

Many of those behind the mayhem in L.A. seem like common criminals to me, but those legitimate protesters who feel that the Zimmerman case pivoted on race seem politically naive. Zimmerman is free because he had enough money to hire a good defence. The incompetence of the state attorney's office probably had something to do with the outcome as well. Florida's state attorney's office sounds like a bunch of nincompoops judging by that letter that their Managing Director wrote. Not that much money is ever required to hire enough brains to outwit the state. That is why poor people go to jail, and rich people write a check and go home.

Vintage Wheels

I enjoy going to classic car shows, but I haven't been to one in a long time. I happened to remember that a local club holds a big show each year in July, one that I'd been to once, decades ago. I looked online and quickly found the info; this year's show was yesterday.

Like much of this summer, it was uncomfortably hot and humid yesterday, but I'd gotten the idea of going into my head and decided to brave the heat. We drove to the Endicott Estate in Dedham, which is the home of the Bay State Antique Auto Club and the site of the annual show.

A lot of the motivation for going to car shows is the presence of less common vehicles that I'm unlikely to see in any other context. Muscle cars like GTOs and Road Runners are common enough sights; I'm always more interested in seeing more of what people used as everyday transportation 40 or 50 years ago. The best thing about old cars, to me, is seeing them cared for and enjoyed.

I remembered my camera, which is more versatile than my phone's camera. I am not an especially good photographer, but I can handle aiming at a car and pushing the shutter, and in most cases I was able to fit the whole car in the frame and avoid shots with people walking in front of my chosen subjects.
I took this shot for a couple of reasons: it's a 1957 Pontiac, and Pontiac no longer exists. It's also one of the earliest four-door hardtops, a body style that no longer exists (except rarely in Japan) and that has always been of my favorites. The color is really nice, too.
A 1966 Pontiac (also a four-door hardtop) happened to be parked next to it, which makes for a nice look at how far styling evolved over just nine model years.
The Nomad was a sporty two-door wagon offered by Chevrolet from 1955 to '57. (Pontiac had its own version, called the Safari, that's even rarer.) It's probably the most interesting to me of the '55-57 Chevys, which are among the most commonly seen classic cars. (I had the Hot Wheels version of this, in red.) I was also drawn to take this photo by the coral color, which was popular for cars in the Fifties. It's often seen in a two-tone combination with black, gray, or ivory.
That's a 1959 Chrysler 300E, a lavishly-appointed (for the time), expensive, high-performance "banker's hot rod" built in very small numbers. The 300's design managed to stay relatively clean and restrained while Chrysler (and all the other American manufacturers) got weirder and weirder in the late '50s. The 1960 version of this car is one of my all-time favorite vintage cars (so much so that I have a die-cast scale model of one), and I was hoping there might be an example of that year at this show, but this was the only 300 in attendance.
This 1959 Oldsmobile Super 88 shows what I meant above about weird, and this is its good side. Still, there's something about the batshit exuberance of cars like this one that I can't help but love.
Just three model years later, this Pontiac Bonneville (a corporate cousin of Olds) looks much more restrained and dignified. I didn't realize I'd taken pics of so many Pontiacs, but they had some of the best designs of the '50s and '60s, until GM bloat set in.)
But not everyone got that memo... this is a 1963 Imperial Crown, which was Chrysler's answer to Cadillac and Lincoln. The following year the Imperial would get a very tasteful redesign, though one heavily influenced by the 1961 Lincoln Continental (in fact, the same man was responsible for both designs).
Now here's something you are unlikely to see many more of, a 1964 Studebaker Avanti. Studebaker was one of the second-tier car companies struggling to hang on in the face of the product onslaught from bigger car companies, and the Avanti was an attempt to build something like a four-passenger Corvette, a gutsy move for a company on the verge of collapse (Studebaker would cease building cars in 1966). I'm pretty sure those wheels are not original to the car (they look like Buick road wheels, even if the center caps say Avanti), but they look pretty good on this car.
I'll have more car show pix tomorrow...

I Wish I Thought of This

My friend Adam passed along this list of "28 "Favorite" Books That Are Huge Red Flags" and I find it accurate, funny, and applicable; I am suspicious of any adult who advertises their "favorite" anything, and while I have sworn to finish Infinite Jest this summer, I'm not going to let anyone see me reading it, because that's just pretentious and annoying (like this blog).

This Week in Awesome (7/13/13)

I let this slip by last weekend, because it was a holiday week and I'd found only a couple of things I wanted to post. So I've carried those over into this week and added a few more...

This was supposed to tie in with Independence Day, but it's still worth a look. (McSweeney's via The Hairpin)

Also from last week: one man's ranking of cheap beers. Let the arguments begin. (Deadspin)

I haven't quite finished watching the new episodes of Arrested Development yet, but you only have to have seen the first couple to get this visual joke. (Vulture)

I imagine everyone has seen this by now, but if you haven't... it's pretty weird. I'm still trying to decide if she's aware of that or not. Of added note, this is from a TV station in my hometown. (Gawker, Tastefully Offensive, Guyism, etc.)

And finally this week, a slice of New York City life in 1969. (Life magazine via BuzzFeed)

Money Buys Impunity from the Law

Money is freedom, as Mr. Zimmerman and O.J. Simpson discovered. With enough money, one can get away with almost anything, including murder. For the poor, the slightest infraction results in heavy penalties. I think that is the lesson to be learned from the verdict. Morality and stringent adherence to every law and regulation is required of the poor, and vast armies of hired henchmen work night and day to detect and prosecute even the tiniest violation, real or perceived. No expenses are spared in apprehending those poor workers like Mr. Snowden that do something that displeases the powerful. Meanwhile, the rich do as they please, living like playboys, and even when they kill their playmates, as long as their playmates are poor, they often get away with it.

Gas is Funny

I was listening to the news on NPR, and when Soterios Johnson explained that the NYPD released some harmless gas into the subway system it made me laugh out loud in my car, which is pretty juvenile for a 43 year old man.

Florida Showing its Bare Butt to World (Again)

Florida can't seem to stop making a behind out of itself. The 2001 election was bad enough, but now the Zimmerman case just takes the cake. I don't know what to think about the case anymore, now that there are allegations of a cover-up in the state attorney's office. I tried wading through the six-page monstrosity penned by the Managing Director, but it was such a convoluted tale dripping with venom and pomposity, and my interest in the matter is so limited, that I confess I resorted to skimming before giving up. I really don't know who is in the right of the matter, not judging by the letter alone, which was boring, poorly written, difficult to understand, and angry. The art of letter-writing is in a sad state, I'm afraid.

If the whistleblower to whom the letter is addressed really got away with so many wicked deeds, then one wonders who is at fault for hiring him in the first place, and who is to blame for retaining him for such a long period of time, and who is to blame for permitting this damage to occur. The full-of-herself Managing Director fails to comprehend that the motives of a whistleblower are immaterial; his veracity is the only salient point. Truth and justice are of greater moment than petty personnel matters. The letter seems like a big shot venting their spleen for their own personal satisfaction, which is rather naive, because the letter has been entered into history and may be read by academics ten thousand years from now, if our civilization survives in some shape or form. I would shudder to think of such a relic representing me. I am sure it will provide fodder for many in the media and beyond.

Perhaps the Managing Director might have been genuinely provoked, perhaps she is in the right of things indeed, or perhaps the provocations are in her imagination, who am I to know? As the writer noted, none of us are qualified to have any opinions on anything because we don't have a law degree. We should just shut-up and let attorneys spoon-feed us and change our diapers and beat us when we get uppity. That sort of arrogance rubbed me the wrong way and turned me against the writer. Listen, if we the people cannot interpret the law, then the law is wrong, not the people. I don't like the professional arrogance of those who stand upon their expensive degrees as though their money grants them more intelligence than others.

She would have been better off writing a short dismissal notice of no more than two paragraphs or perhaps delivering the news in person. I may not be a big shot Director, but I at least know the value of conciseness and moreover the value of silence when circumstances demand it.

My Summer To-Do List

Here are some of the things I want to accomplish this summer -- and I think if I complete half of them, I'll be quite proud:

1) Brush up on my Spanish while walking the dog,

2) record an album,

3) move the arbor vitae from the back property line to the side property line,

4) install a fence on the back property line,

5) plant some screening shrubs or bamboo in decorative containers on the back property line,

6) get some steel or wire shelving units and organize the sporting goods in the study,

7) get my body fat percentage down to 12%,

8) strengthen my core,

9) get new lenses for my glasses,

10) restring my tennis racket,

11) finish Infinite Jest,

12) attend the 20th Annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip,

14) get over my triscadecaphobia.


I watched a superb old documentary about garlic made by Les Blank probably in the 1970s. Very good and well-worth watching. It is available on DVD. Some of the bright and happy young people in the film were of the so-called counter-culture, and perhaps because of that, were relatively deep in philosophy and history at least compared to today. One of the lines stuck with me for several days. I still ponder it when I am lying in bed at night. The film advocated Epicureanism in relation to eating garlic as a way of enhancing the pleasure of food, and to this end, placed text on the screen that read,

"When you're dead, you're done. Long live the living!"

It is not necessarily an atheist statement, but expressive of disbelief in the afterlife. I do agree with the sentiment. There seems no future in death at all. I find it very difficult to believe we possess any substance other than flesh and bone. I don't believe God plays coy with immortality, hiding it from us as some kind of test just to check whether we will believe in it because the Bible says so.

Of course, whether individual consciousness, that is, our own life, matters or not is purely a matter of perspective. I suppose the evolutionary purpose of our ego, which is so dominant in the human psychology, is to ensure we find great value in our individual consciousness and will do whatever is required to maintain and sustain it, even to the extent of conjuring up fantasies about surviving death in one form or another. An unhealthy ego may in turn lead to insufficient or ineffective maintenance--one may eat bad foods or use harmful substances or fail to perform all the little tasks that tend to prolong life. Yet I think a healthy ego may reject belief in the afterlife on the noble ground of reason. I believe truth matters. That is a judgment call on my part, a bias I have for reality. If a thing can not be so, then one should not believe in it.

Getting back to the film, I found it positively gushing about garlic, too enthusiastic by half, but that did not stop me from enjoying it. I do not believe that garlic can cure disease, although it does have antiseptic and antioxidant properties and makes a wonderful spice for all kinds of foods. I have always loved garlic and always will.

Retro Video Unit (7/12/13)

I thought of this band for no particular reason. A lot of their videos were kind of boring, at least this one has some camera movement, and this is arguably the song that put them on the map anyway, several years before the John Hughes movie borrowed the title and featured a reworked, inferior version of this song on its soundtrack.

So, here's "Pretty in Pink" by The Psychedelic Furs:

Would You Rather (a Transcript of the Dumbest Dialogue Ever Held by Cognizant, Literate Human Beings)

We are eating dinner, and my eight year old son Ian says to me: "Would you rather get baked in an oven or eaten by a donut?" and, idiotically, I answer him . . . the rest of the conversation goes down like this: "Eaten by a donut? . . . yes, eaten by a donut, instead of you eating the donut, the donut gets revenge and eats you . . . well, I definitely don't want to be baked in an oven, so eaten by a donut . . . me too, eaten by a donut, you might live ten seconds more of your life in its stomach . . . wait, how big is this donut? . . . as big as our house, so even if it eats you, you might still be alive in its stomach . . . okay, then definitely eaten by a donut."

Caught in a Downpour

Near the end of last summer, I got a pair of Vans that I really like. The Era 59 style is trimmed a little differently than the regular Era, with a leather heel tab, round laces instead of the usual flat ones, and better cushioning inside (at least my feet think so).

A couple of weeks ago I got caught in a thunderstorm while walking the dog. I was wearing my Vans because we'd been out and it was well past the dog's normal afternoon walk time, so as soon as we got home I rushed back outside with her, forgetting that it was about to rain and that I should change my shoes to the junky ones I wear to walk the dog.

The Vans got quite dirty, and since they're off-white it's very obvious. Because the insoles are not removable, they can't go in the washing machine, so I'm at a loss for how to clean them, or if it's even possible. It's unlikely that I could get another pair, as the 59 styles tend to be issued in a certain color combinations for only a few months each.

I applied some Oxy-Clean stain-removal gel and worked it into the uppers with a wet toothbrush, but I didn't get any noticeable results. I welcome any suggestions. If I can't clean them up, they may have to be relegated to permanent dog-walking shoe status.

The Secret of Mummies

Mummies are not a popular species in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, and looking at the aptitude chart explains why--they suck at everything. By far, they are the weakest species on paper. It would seem that the developers hate Mummies and wish to defeat whoever plays them.

However, like vampires, mummies do not need to eat, so they can remain on a level for as long as they like until their aptitudes improve or they find whatever it is they are looking for. Unlike vampires, mummies do not lose their undead powers due to lack of food, and they regenerate without food.

I prefer to play mummies for a simple reason. Eating is a bother. Not having to eat allows me to focus upon more interesting aspects of the game. In addition, not having food occupying inventory slots allows a mummy to carry more. I believe that the ideal worshipper of Nemelex Xobeh is a mummy for any number of reasons, but being able to carry more decks of cards is certainly a big one.

I suspect mummies and vampires are an essential rationale the devs have for generating out-of-depth (OOD) monsters, in order to provide a modicum of risk to those players that hang around the lower levels biding their time and building up their skill levels.

Elisabeth Moss Is Not a Kiwi

I am enjoying Top of the Lake, a moody crime-drama set in the wilds of New Zealand -- the tone and structure of the series is similar to The Killing . . . a troubled female detective obsessively investigates one crime over the course of an entire season, and while there is some comic relief . . . Holly Hunter plays a bizarre empowered wild-woman named GJ and the small town folk of Glenorchy are creepy and amusing, but what really threw me for a loop is that Elisabeth Moss -- who plays Peggy Olson on Madmen -- is not a New Zealander, she's only pretending to be a New Zealander . . . and she fooled me (for more on this, watch the video . . . Sir Ian explains it quite well).


You wouldn't necessarily expect that a coffee counter in a supermarket would be a place that you'd find really good soft-serve ice cream, especially when the coffee sold there is downright mediocre (I'm sorry, New England Coffee; I know your roasting plant is less than a mile from my house and I can smell it sometimes when I'm out walking the dog at night, but your coffee just isn't good).

We were shopping at the big ol' Market Basket in Chelsea today, we had just checked out and I was waiting for the Mrs. I rolled the cart over by the coffee counter and a sign for soft-serve caught my eye. I've always loved soft-serve ice cream and I try to have it at least a couple of times a summer, but I hadn't had any yet this year and there it was right in front of me and it was so muggy outside, so I gave it a try and it was excellent, way better than most of it that I've had.

I don't know what makes theirs so good, but it's worth getting if you are in the market and maybe worth going there to get if you aren't. A generously sized cone is a mere $2 plus tax.

Learning Spanish Is Good For Your Head

One of my summer projects is to brush up on my Espanol, so I am listening to the Pimsleur Spanish course as much as possible -- because learning a second language is good for your brain, and can stave off dementia . . .  and not only is it good for your brain, but it is also good for your head; I was cleaning up after our bbq, and had to put some chairs into the crawl space -- and inevitably, no matter how much I think I am crouching, I bang my head on the low door frame when I am exiting the crawl space, and this time was no different -- I banged my head, harder than usual, but it didn't hurt . . . and then I realized why: I was wearing my old school giant headphones, so I could listen to the Pimsleur Spanish course while I worked, and my headphones are made of thick plastic, sothey protected my head from the bump . . . they protected mi cabeza from the bump . . . and I staved off a little bit of dementia.


We've spent years avoiding the trap that many dog owners fall into. We've never allowed our dog to beg for human-food treats. We've even refrained from giving her affection in the kitchen, and she is not allowed to hover when we are in there preparing food. She gets yogurt with her food, but other delicacies like cheese and chicken are given rarely and as a surprise, so she doesn't get used to the idea of having them.

But now that she has aged into a senior-citizen couch princess, we're getting soft. Some time ago the Mrs. started giving the dog the milk left in her bowl after eating cereal, and you probably remember the picture I posted back in December when I let the dog lick the inside of the empty ice cream container. Predictably, the dog is now starting to expect these treats as her dog-given right, and it's our own fault.

Last week I was enjoying some ice cream, while confronted with this visage staring at me the whole time:
"Let me know when you're finished with that, okay?"