Saturday, August 30, 2003

Scrambling and Rambling: The lion's share of my time is being devoted to getting going. Once complete, you will be able to read the first eight chapters of Business As Usual right there on-line -- no charge, no registration, no pop-ups, no ads. Naturally, I hope it will suck you in and you'll buy it. It won’t hurt that I believe there will actually be some promotion done for this book, which will be a first.

Anyway, I have been very jaded about writing and publishing since shortly after the release of Apple Pie; now I actually getting a bit more enthusiastic.

Once that settles down, more work on this place - I have some ideas for change. More articles. And a redesign to de-emphasize the weblog and highlight the writings.

And then, maybe, if I'm really lucky, I can spend some time on writing more fiction.
The Stupid Decade: Back in the '70s there were a lot of great movies released. I have only come to appreciate them as I've gotten older. From Annie Hall, to The Godfather, to Patton, to Monty Python and the Holy Grail - a killer decade. Of course, that's about all the '70s had going for them, as a viewing of any episode of I Love the '70s on VH1 will quickly demonstrate. I used to wonder whether my hatred of the '70s stemmed not from their inherent abject stupidity, but from my personal memories of my awkward, pathetic adolescent years. Nope, they were stupid. Profoundly, existentially stupid. And not just stupid, they were UGLY -- the hairstyles, the clothes, the music. Worse, there was the pervasive ignorance to how thoroughly stupid they were being.

And then there was the whole drug thing. Nowadays you have a decent stratification of drugs. There are the good-time, happy feeling drugs like Ecstasy, or Prozac for that matter. There are the grimey, slow-suicide drugs, like Heroin and Crack. And of course there's Pot for the folks who never quite made it out of their parent's basement. Civilized people now know what drug is appropriate for how they want to mess themselves up. (In my case, Maker's Mark Bourbon is my drug of choice.) But back in the '70s it didn’t matter -- if there was a drug placed in front of you, you used it. Otherwise reasonable people felt it was appropriate to behave like raging crackheads.

If anything, VH1 missed the enduring lesson of the '70s: Given the proper pharmaceuticals, people will do just about anything.
Broken Bones: Football season is shaping up well. Still no idea how I am going to follow it. I may just track the hometown Lions, since they appear to be fielding something resembling a professional football team this year, and my sentimental favorite Dolphins who have so much talent it is ridiculous. If they don’t make the Super Bowl this year, they will find they have officially become the Boston Red Sox of the NFL and will be cursed to heart-wrenching failure for eternity.

The big story this pre-season has been injuries to marquee players. That, and the Raider's Bill Romanowski punching a teammate and ending his season. For those of you who don’t know, Romanowski is essentially an unfrozen Neanderthal with severe schizophrenic tendencies. Here's a good summary of his existence. I may have to spend the season hating him and calling him names. Too bad, because I like the Raiders otherwise.

The other thing I want to do is get to Vegas and do some betting on the games. They say the best Sports Book is at the Hilton, but that's off strip. I've heard Mandalay Bay is also very good. I could do it right here from my laptop, but I don’t trust on-line gambling houses (note that on-line gambling is illegal in the US -- wrongly in my opinion). Betting on the games makes them a lot more interesting. And Vegas makes everything a lot more interesting.
Those Morons at Burger King: So I'm on the way home the other night and I stop at Burger King for dinner. I ordered one of those Chicken Caesar Club sandwiches. So I'm waiting and waiting and waiting. A good solid ten minutes passes before they notice that I'm still waiting. The counter chick and the manager begin discussing whether the guy working the grill knows about the order. They have a nice long discussion about it and then walk away, never bothering to actually ask the guy if he knows about it or not.

Another five minutes pass, so I ask them if grill boy knows to make my sandwich. They shrug and say something like "I think so." Really, you think so? Well I'll just wait here all night and by the time you close I guess we'll know, won’t we? So I call back to the guy in a rather loud voice, asking him myself if he's making the order. He claims he already made it. I ask him to come out and show the counter chick where it is so she can hand to me.

So he strolls out to the front, grabs one of the sandwiches, unwraps it, takes off the top bun, shows it to me and asks, "Is this it?" No -– that's a Chicken Whopper. He then repeats the performance with another sandwich and asks the same question. Wrong again –- that one's not even Chicken. So I point to the big flashy sign for the Chicken Caesar Club and say, "That's what I ordered." He gives it momentary blank stare and then ambles back to make it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is the reason people go into places like this and SPRAY THEM WITH UZI FIRE.

And actually, it's not such a bad reaction. You see, these are not sentient beings. They do not qualify as human in any legally binding way. The worst rap they can pin on you is animal cruelty.

Sadly, I wasn't carrying my Uzi. So I used about thirty napkins to wipe my face and I didn’t bus my own table. That hosed 'em right and proper.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Progressing Slowly: I've been working diligently behind the scenes on, where you can see my under construction note. More to come, including a good long teaser. I'll keep you all in the loop.

I wish I could tell you that is the only reason, but I've also been working my way through the previously described Bangkok 8 by John Burdett. I'm hooked; I'll probably have to review it when things slow down.
Gotta Have Drama: Speaking of things I'lll have more to say on, it's Sunday night but it's debatable whether I'll get this done in time to post it because the season finale of The Wire is about to come on. It will figure prominently in my next HBO essay, which by habit, will appear upon the season end of The Sopranos sometime later this year

At the other end of the spectrum, you could watch Good Clean Porn, an examination of the dramatic qualities of porn movies with the sex cut out. I''ll be sure to watch just as soon as I'm done listening my new CD, The Best of Fingernails on a Chalkboard.
Winning at Losing: Well this is what happens to journalists when they have some free cash and nothing to write about. The folks at ESPN paid a statistical service to simulate a seven game series between the '62 Mets – generally considered the worst baseball team ever, they lost 120 games – and this year's edition of the Tigers - who are on track to match them in the loss column – to determine the worst baseball team ever. The Tigers won by losing in seven ineptly played games.

Rising from the depression of the Tigers season, the Lions actually appear to be fielding an actual professional grade football team this year. Will wonders never cease? Still haven’t decided if/how I'm going to cover pro football this year. Whatever I do I won’t do it until about half way through the season because you just can’t make any intelligent prediction until the teams reveal themselves in real life. Of course, the more important event is that the always clever Gregg Easterbrook is back with Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Even if you only have a passing interest in pro football (passing – get it?) Gregg "that's two gees, three total" Easterbrook is a must read.
Letters, We Get Letters: Check out this one:
Sent: Sunday, August 24, 2003 6:33 AM
Subject: Dimensional Warp Generator Needed
Importance: High


I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003.
Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me.

Since nobody in this timeline seems to be able to deliver what I need (safely here to me), I will have to build a simple time travel circuit to get where I need myself. While it might be hard to find parts in this time to build anything decent, I need easy to follow schematics from the future to build one which is safe and accurate that will not disrupt the time space continuum with both forward and backward capability accounting for temporal location settings (X, Y, Z, n), which can be built out of (readily available) parts here in 2003. Please email me any plans you have. I will pay good money for anything you send me I can use. Or if you have a dimensional warp generator available, and are 100% certain you have a (safe, secure) means of delivering it to me please also reply with a secure way to contact you. Send a separate email to me at: [[omitted]]

Do not reply back directly to this email as it will only be bounced back to you.

Thank You
Brian Appel

Sorry Brian, I can’t help you out. You may have to just relax and enjoy this retro world. If you do get your time machine built, I suggest you first go back to the point where you cut the deal with LLC lasers and get your money back. That way you won’t have to spam us and we'll know you're OK because this post will disappear.

Or maybe it will have never been here to begin with.

Doh! Stupid temporal paradox. Now my head hurts.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

More of the Same: Still in slo-mo regarding posting, maybe something later this week. Still a lot to do for Business As Usual, lots of other writing to do -- no idea when things will get back to normal; maybe in fall for Back-to-School 'blog season.

I don’t know what I mean by that, either.
Lights On: So I was in Pittsburgh. It started out to be a disaster: I miscalculated the number of days I was going to be there and so ran out of clothes and my return flight was at 7PM the day after my conference was over leaving me almost a full day of empty time -- normally that would have been an opportunity to explore the city, but Pittsburgh, while a decent spot, is not exactly what you would call inspiring. But sometimes fate smiles upon thee.

My request to switch my flight to the previous evening was met with penalty quotes roughly equivalent to the price of another complete fare, so that was out. Lucky for me, because on 4PM of that previous night the lights went out all over the Northeast, including my destination -- Detroit. But not in Pittsburgh, so while everyone was struggling to get through traffic and find gas and light candles, I was sitting in the hotel bar sipping a beer and watching a baseball game.

The serendipity kicked into high gear the following day. I decided to check out about 11:30AM and make my way to the airport to see if I could get standby on one of the three afternoon flights. And boom-boom-boom: as soon as I checked out the shuttle arrived and I got the last seat; there were no lines at the Northwest counter or at security; the first flight I had a shot at was scheduled to leave at 1PM, about a half hour after I arrived and not only did I get on the plane, they put me in first class. If I knew that run of luck was coming my way I would have flown to Vegas instead.

When I got to Detroit there were about two hundred people waiting for the parking lot shuttles. Apparently the roads were flooded out and only a trickle of traffic was able to get through. It took a good solid hour to get to my car, so that sucked…but wait! It took just long enough that by the time I got home, the lights were back on and everything was back to what passes for normal.

So I must confess that I don’t see what all you people were so upset about. You really have to learn to not sweat the small stuff.
Words and Music: You should be listening to Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne. The best CD I've heard in ages -- a power pop masterpiece. It's been playing in my car ever since I got back.

I'm currently reading Bangkok 8 by John Burdett. It begins promisingly, if it holds up it will be astounding. Of course, for me, reading time consists of a stolen half hour here and there so it may be a while before I finish it.

I will probably have more to say about these in due time.
Spam's Victims: I occasionally receive emails similar to this recent message:
From: [not the real address]

Do you know how many rooms has in the pyramidal luxor hotel?
Thanks, David

I don’t really know what to make of something like this. I could assume that it is someone who read my essay on Vegas, and mistakenly took me for someone who knows something (clearly a stranger). But then I think, No it could be some sort of super-sophisticated spammer method to see if my email belongs to someone stupid enough to respond to odd requests. So poor djmak gets nothing but silence thanks to the atmosphere of anxiety created by spammers.

So, djmak, if that is your real name, the answer is No, I don't.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Don't Say I Didn’t Warn Ya: Like I forewarned, it has been a slow summer; well, slow for this place, but quite busy for me. Nothing has changed, Business As Usual is off to the printer and now all the ancillary work begins so I will continue to be neglectful. For now, I need to clean out everything I've been saving to share with you, so here we go. Ain't you lucky?
Health and Science Round-up: Some cool sci-health stuff I've stumbled on.
  • You should know about epidemiology. It's what will prevent you from flipping out over the alarmist nonsense that the media wallows in. Check out, this introduction from Michael Fumento.

  • The late Richard Feynman (Surely, you're joking…) chimes in on Stupid Science Tricks that he calls Cargo Cult Science.

  • A fabulous article on the state of cancer research in Wired, and why, though we just recently found out how phenomenally complicated cancer is, we're closer than ever.

  • A terrific series on misconception about diet and obesity by Sandy Szwarc over a Tech Central Station. Of course, some of it is old news to me.

Just Kidding: Once you are sufficiently jaded about science you can get a new perspective on the recent announcement that there is only a 50-50 chance humans will survive the century (thanks KK) by Sir Martin Rees. Wow – he's both a knight and a scientist, he must be an unquestionable authority.

Or not, check out this review from The Economist.
So how does he justify his suggestion that mankind might have only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century-our final century, to use the alarmist title of the book? Even before your correspondent could ask him that question at a recent literary event, Sir Martin confessed to being a fan of Bjorn Lomborg-a Danish academic who recently caused some controversy when he suggested that greens have been systematically distorting the fact that the environment has been getting healthier in many countries.

Sir Martin then took the reviewer's copy of "Our Final Century" and pencilled in a question mark after the title. His publishers had ruled it out. The American publishers even changed the title from "Our Final Century" to "Our Final Hour". Sir Martin is clever enough to know that the end is not nigh, but he put up with the chicanery in order to gain a wider audience. A small sin, perhaps, in such an important book.

Writers are such whores.
Tech Round-up: Some cool recent techie stuff I've read stumbled on.
  • It may be getting just too darn easy to play real money poker on-line. My problem with this has always seemed like betting on a coin flip with out actually seeing the result. If only there were more hours in the day…

  • I can’t think of a better use for nanotechnology than cheap big-screen HDTV.

  • What is the right cellphone for you?

  • Amazon is going to start a full text search of books. I'm not exactly sure of the value here, but if it sells books, I'm for it.

Random Round-up: Where do I find this stuff?
  • Ten Cars available in Japan that you won’t see here. Curious, but nothing all that compelling.

  • An article about tedious lawyerly doings – not worth reading, but check out this quote.

    The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is having a coming-out party this week. For three days starting Friday, law students and attorneys will hear speeches by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; attend discussions on the environment, abortion, gay rights, government surveillance, human rights and other subjects; and mingle with dozens of top legal scholars and judges.

    It's not all heavy lifting. There also is a Janet Reno Dance Party on Saturday night.

    Par-TAY! Get down with your bad socio-political self!

  • A fine review of Comerica Park (home of the Tigers, technically a professional baseball team) from ESPN, that makes points about Detroit that I have made before.

  • Fascinating article about the life of an EBay fraudster on the lam. There's a movie in that.

  • This looks like it might be a reason to live.

I Drink, Therefore I Drink: Courtesy of The Legendary KK, we have Signs That You Drink Too Much (don’t know why she thought of me).
  • That pink elephant followed you home again.

  • You're as jober as a sudge.

  • Don't recognize wife unless seen through bottom of glass.

  • Your job is interfering with your drinking.
  • Your twin sons are named Barley and Hops.

  • The whole bar says 'Hi' when you come in.

  • You have to hold onto the lawn to keep from falling off the earth.

  • Your idea of cutting back is no salt on your margarita.

  • At AA meetings you begin: "Hi, my name is... uh..."

  • Mosquitoes catch a buzz after attacking you.

  • The parking lot seems to have moved while you were in the bar.

  • Hey, five beers has just as many calories as a burger, forget dinner!

  • You fall off the floor.

  • Ozzy Osbourne shakes his head when he walks past you.

  • You can focus better with one eye closed.

  • Two hands and just one mouth... - now that's a drinking problem!
  • 24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case - coincidence? - I think not!

  • Your doctor finds traces of blood in your alcohol stream.

  • You lose arguments with inanimate objects.

  • Your career won't progress beyond Senator from Massachusetts.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

It's Been A Long Time: Whew. Final edits for Business As Usual are submitted (hooray!). And as a reward for your continued patience I offer you a couple of articles.

First, over at blogcritics we have an extend musing on cheesy action films, James Bond, Chopsocky and Stupid Hotel Tricks. As you will no doubt realize, this all came to me during my recent travels. You may notice bits and pieces of past material reworked with a stricking effect. Or not.

Second, months late, you get Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, a recap of my mid summer journey to Canyon Ranch Health Resort in the scalding Arizona desert.

And soon, I will get back to posting some of my garden variety nonsense, and get you all caught up on any recent developments.