Monthly Archives: March 2007

Many states in the US have banned smoking in the car when there is a minor present. I don’t have strong opinions one way or the other on the subject, but probably lean towards the law being more of a good idea than a bad one. India, on the other hand, has gone a step further and banned smoking in cars at all:

Declaring “New Delhi roads dangerous to human life,” the city’s High Court on Monday imposed a slew of new measures aimed at deterring habitually bad drivers, including the smoking ban and a prohibition on using a mobile phone while at the wheel.

“Anything that distracts the attention of driver is dangerous. The human mind cannot do two things simultaneously,” said New Delhi’s traffic commissioner Qamar Ahmed…

Fortunately for car-smokers in America, this law originated in India. Had it originated in Europe, a bunch of anti-American Europhilic snobs would be aching for it in the US so that we can catch up to Europe in maturity or whatever. Had it originated in Japan, a bunch of anime geeks would be agitating it… which might not actually be such a bad thing because where they lead no one else will follow. If it were Singapore, conservatives would have eyebrow cocked. But I don’t think there’s any demographic in the US that wants us to emulate India, so we’re probably okay.

Honestly, I think that a safety case could be made for smoking. I have not been a car-smoker in quite some time, but when I was there were times that it proved hazardous when a cigarette was dropped or a cherry came flying off (into my ear, once!). But that’s generally pretty rare. Contrary to the article, it’s not comparable to being on a cell phone or even, in my opinion, listening intently to the radio.

But no doubt the moral scolds* will seize on this opportunity to portray smokers as the scum of the earth. Not only do they have that filthy habit, but they’re also worse drivers. So, ha! But they will do this while assuring us that they’re not targeting smokers specifically except insofar as smoking in the car is dangerous so they’re just targeting dangerous behavior. And they have a point.

But only if they propose to ban eating in the car, too. Eating is a much, much, much more distracting activity by just about any measure. But that will almost certainly never happen because nobody thinks that they can’t eat and drive at the same time. People that have absolutely no experience with smoking in a car will tell you that’s much more dangerous.

It’s not a debate that I look forward to as the smokers’ losing streak continues.

* – I have recently been informed that “scold” is an offensive word to use as a noun because its roots are somewhat sexist. I’ve been using the word most of my whole life and not any more at women than men, as far as I know, so I’m not going to stop using using it. Suffice it to say, however, that I am using the term to describe moral nannies of both genders.

Category: Road

I took a trip to the dentist last week for another unsubsidized cleaning. Unfortunately my mouth is not doing as well as we would like it to be, so she had to put in some anti-bachterial powder in between my teeth and gums. I managed to surpress my smile when she told me that it meant that I couldn’t floss for a couple weeks. She also told me to avoid certain foods, namely crackers and chips.
I had absolutely no idea how much I eat in the way of crackers and chips until the past few days:

  • I bought three 10-packs (with six a piece inside) of those sandwich cracker snacks just the other day. Now they sit in my desk and taunt me.
  • I ordered soup that I couldn’t eat crackers with.
  • I declined to order salad cause I would have wanted crackers with them.
  • No Mexican restaurants cause they come with chips and salsa.
  • No chips from the vending machine.
  • I have to get cookies instead of chips at Subway with the combo meal (okay, so that’s not such a sacrifice…)
  • Not mentioned by the dentist but implied was hard candy. I’m a sucker for hard candy that gets rooted deep into your teeth. Hence my dental problems.

I’d almost rather them tell me to give up refined sugar.

Category: Hospital, Kitchen

Reuters has an article on “cyber-bullies” of a particular sort:

“Girls might send [a topless picture] to their boyfriend and she is pressured to do it thinking he’s just going to see it. So she gives in and the next thing you know it’s all over (the place).”

The images are even more likely to be passed on if the couple breaks up, said Mishna who headed a research team that held focus groups with 47 students in grades 5-12.

An interesting article, but I have two problems with it.


Preliminary results from the research show so-called computer geeks are becoming the new schoolyard bullies.

As a so-called “computer geek” I’m sayin’ I don’t think we’re to blame. For better and worse, he advances in technology have made it so that you don’t have to be a computer geek in order to do the things described in the article.


Students also thought it was pointless to tell parents about cyber bullies because they could not identify the culprits.

If it’s a case of a bitter exboyfriend (or reckless current-boyfriend) letting the picture get out, there’s no anonymity protecting the primary culprit. If we’re talking about online boyfriends that the reluctant strippers don’t know the real name of… well I could only suggest that you don’t do such a thing for a guy whose real name you don’t know.

Category: Server Room

When I was twelve or so we took a trip to Great Britain, wherein we ate at some of Britain’s finest restaurants. And everywhere we went that offered it, I ordered a hamburger. I probably get it from my father, who knows the Landlover Special at just about every seafood joint in Mayne.

I really wish I could go back to Britain and do it right, restaurant-wise. I wish that I’d understood that you don’t tailor a restaurants menu to what you want, you try to find the best thing that the menu has to offer at the place that you’re eating. You can get a better hamburger at the average hamburger joint than you can the most upscale restaurant in town that prefers to serve duck… and there aren’t many places you can get good duck.

During my conversation the other day with Pat, I mentioned that El Taco Patio, a very prevalent Mexican food chain in the area, apparently does not exist in 47 of the 50 states. In talking about the chain Pat commented that Californians were in her experience more into burritos so a place called El Taco Patio (that makes a pretty mediocre burrito) may not do as well there. A lot of the state’s California immigrants that go there order burritos and come out disappointed that a place with “taco” n the name serves substandard burritos.

It reminded me a bit of my former roommate Hubert. There was a little Mexican restaurant that we absolutely loved because of their Macho Burrito. The thing was absolutely huge and only $4. Just about everything else on the menu was smaller and more expensive. Hubert, who was a bit of a tagalong because he (correctly) thought that my group hadn’t really accepted him as one of us, insisted on coming with us to the burrito dive… and order something else. We tried to explain to him that burritos were the only reason to go to this place, but he said he didn’t like burritos and after a few times started insisting that we go somewhere else and insinuated that we lacked his taste in food. When he realized that we were happier going to the burrito dive without him than we were somewhere else with him, he started coming along and eventually found something else on the menu he liked, even if it was overpriced.

The conversation with Pat actually started on Asian food and her brother’s tendency to order Chinese food at any restaurant that served Asian food, even if it was a Thai or Japanese restaurant. And whenever he was eating at a Thai or Japanese restaurant, he would complain that the Chinese food was subpar.

There is a restaurant in northern Santomas that bills itself as “The best in Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine.”

I can guarantee you what happened. They opened what they thought was going to be a restaurant serving Salvadoran food and after being asked for the umpteenth time why Enchiladas weren’t on the menu, they caved to market demand. The Onion had a great article on how an American family went into a Spanish restaurant and were upset that their favorite Mexican offerings weren’t on the menu.

Apparently, It is not customary in Mexico to offer free chips and salsa before the meal. However, if you go to certain tourist towns down there a lot of them will offer it because they got tired of angry American customers feeling that they were being slighted. As a fan of chips and salsa, that’s one kind of American cultural imperalism that I can get behind.

Category: Kitchen

My best friend Clint is a very bright guy, though he always had trouble applying himself. He went to his mother’s alma mater Southern Cross University, a conservative Christian university in my home state of Delosa and initially majored in Music Education to become a music teacher. Despite his smarts, he struggled a bit to balance his newfound freedom (his parents were a little too protective of him at home) with his academic responsibilities, but the former usually won out. But all was not lost until he decided that he was going to change his majors from Music Education to Music Composition. The reason he gave was that he would do better following his passion rather than being forced to take classes that he didn’t want to take.

The results were disastrous. His grades never improved. It took him eight years to get through and he ended up nearly $75,000 in debt, despite the fact that his first four years were paid for. Clint is certainly to blame for his own failures, but I believe a lot of it could have been avoided had his parents prevented him from changing majors in the first place. He may have graduated, he may have dropped out, but he would not have a financially worthless degree with several years worth of earnings to pay back.

Capella wrote a great post on a New York Times article on parents subsidizing their kids’ fancy New York lives and a spectacular discussion ensued in her comments. There are at least three areas of interest in the post, but first I want to tackle the main subject of Capella’s post: how appropriate is it for parents to attach conditions to the financial support they give their children. Most of the commenters lean towards it being inappropriate most if not all the time. I disagree.

I think back on Clint and my other friends where the parents did and did not intervene at crucial points and with only a couple of exceptions the ones where parents did intervene ended up much better off for it. And I honestly believe that all of the parents had the moral right to intervene, even when they did so wrongly. As long as they’re footing the bill I believe that they get to call the shots.

If Clancy and I have children*, they’re not going to get $100k from us (or whatever college costs 20 years from now) to major in basket-weaving or comparative literature. I believe that we’d be doing them a disservice by subsidizing a degree that will take them out of the economy for five years and give them a degree that is completely unmarketable. If they want to major in computer science or engineering or business, they’ve got my blessing.

Some degree of flexibility is important in all aspects of parenting. Parents that have a pre-determined that they will insist their kids will follow are likely to have a lot of problems. Though within their rights as parents, withholding money unless their kid goes to their college and chooses their major is almost certain to backfire even if that’s what they otherwise might do. I might have gotten a military economics degree from the University of Delosa like my father did, if given the choice, but it would have a bitter pill to swallow and the chance that I might have failed there where I would otherwise succeed.

I don’t mind an English degree so long as it’s a double-major with an education degree so that they can teach or involves a masters degree in something marketable. If they want to major in philosophy or political science or psychology in order to get into medical or law school, then that’s fine provided that they continue to make the kinds of grades that will get them accepted. If they major in something like physics and plan to go to graduate school, it’s possible that we can come to some sort of arrangement. One way or another, though, I’m going to know how they intend to make a living majoring in whatever they’re going to major in or they’re going to pay for it themselves. That’s not blackmail, that’s responsible parenting.

Beyond college, I think that the same is true if they’re going to live life in The Big City on our dime. Life requires making tough decisions and one of those decisions will be to accept the conditions of our support or decline our support. I’ll love and support them (emotionally, if not financially) either way. We will love them if they choose to to cohabitate with a lover over our objections, but we’re (probably) not going to pay for it. But to allow them to accept money and then demand autonomy is to give them a sense of entitlement that would do them more ill in life than good.

When she was working her way through high school, Clancy wanted nothing more than to escape the influence of her father. This motivated her to make sure that she did well enough in school to get a full-ride scholarship out-of-state (despite being ineligible for need-based financial aid). Her parents were happy to help, but she knew that taking their money meant that they could exert a degree of unwanted influence in her life (as it did with her sister, wherein they insisted that she major in finance in addition to French, her preferred line of study) and that propelled her to be self-reliant well ahead of most college students and independence she achieved ultimately helped her relationship with her dad, which is now rock-solid.

Autonomy is earned, and that’s one of the most important lessons parents can teach their children.

* – always a risky hypothetical as she and I discuss the issue of having children.

-{Note 1: None of this post was run by my wife, who may have some… uhhh… different ideas about this. Really, though, she’s more the stickler about much of this than I am.}-

-{Note 2: I’m not talking about attaching strings to every bit of money given and I only consider big gifts, not a sofa or even an old, used car, as being worthy of attaching conditions}-

Category: Coffeehouse

trumwill: I’ve been getting error messages the last day or two where I’m sending files and the “specified folder” suddenly becomes “unavailable”… boy do I hate moving files in Windows.

quinkyle: Is this with your Egyptian copy of Windows?

trumwill: No, with the plain jane version. On the Egyptian copy, though, I do have this message popping up in Arabic every time I boot up my computer and I have no idea what it means. I need to know what “die infidel” is in Arabic and make sure that’s not on the message anywhere.

Category: Server Room

I have to confess, I’m a little bit skeptical of this story. Not that such sexism does not exist within parents, just that it’s an odd way to manifest itself and there’s just something “neat and tidy” about the story as a parable to our sexist nation tryin’ to keep a young girl down. Stranger things have happened, though, and I wouldn’t doubt that some variations of it has happened somewhere in the country.

Anyway, supposing that the story did happen, I found the woman’s assumptions to be interesting. From a social standpoint I’d probably be more worried about my son carrying around a lot of big books. Reading, like learning, is considered a feminine or even vaguely homosexual activity in testosterone environments. Maybe the girls faced similar prohibitions, though, and I didn’t realize it because I was a young boy rather than a young girl.

Books actually can be a bit off-putting to an interested guy, but generally only in the sense that an iPod with headphones would be: it makes it harder to start up a conversation. Of course, for many women this is a feature rather than a bug!

Category: Market

The Netflix queue program is generally quite impressive. It does a fantastic job of balancing waiting discs that are hard to get with making sure that I’m not discless. If I’m trying to get a series with high demand or low supply, such as The Commish, and I send in four discs it’ll hold back on one of them to wait for the next disc of The Commish to come in and then keep going down the list so that I’ve always got something to watch.

The problem, though, is sometimes I am perfectly willing to wait for something, but I have no way to communicate to Netflix that I want something when it first becomes available and am willing to go discless until that happens. They recently released the fifth season of NewsRadio, but it’s either long on demand or short on supply. If I knew that sending in one at a time would result in it holding back and waiting for it, I’d do that, but I really don’t know how exactly it’s going to prioritize and fear that I might just keep getting the next one. I don’t want to send in all four three times just to get that series cause that might put me on Netflix’s “naughty” list of customers that they lose money on for turning around discs too quickly.

Speaking of NewsRadio DVDs, I made an interesting discovery. They have one episode, The Injury, on the collections for both Season Two and Season Three. Apparently they filmed it to appear early in Season Two but for some reason didn’t air it until Season Three. Odd that they would put it on both DVD collections, though.

Category: Theater

My family became close to another family, The Charleses, through church. We go vacation together annually and they’re almost like family. The second-youngest Charles daughter was getting married and the Charleses were stunned to discover that our pastor, Father Shelby, refused to marry them in the church during lent. “But we’re Episcopalians! We don’t let things like that get in between us and what we want and we want a spring wedding!”

It eventually became such a big deal that it contributed to Father Shelby’s ouster a couple years later. The new pastor wisely did not follow Shelby’s policy.

I’d always thought of Lent as primarily a Catholic thing, I’m not sure why. All I really knew about it growing up was that it began right after the Pancake Supper and before the Easter Eggs. Looking back I remember fish on Friday, but I didn’t know that there was a connection except that it was something that the Pope told us to do, even though we were dissidents from the Pope’s command. It’s all kind of a haze.

Anyhow, Estacado has a relatively high proportion of Catholics due to its significant immigration population and those fast food positions that are not taken up by high school (and some college) students are generally filled with Latinos. Often Catholic Latinos.

My coworker Pat has resorted to planning where she eats on Fridays based on Lent-based customer traffic. Long John Silvers, for instance, is a very poor place to eat lunch on a Friday in Estacado for Lent. Taco Bell has special Lent meat-free offerings that I’d never seen before arriving here, though maybe I missed it, as does this other regional chain. Pat even has to avoid those places or find meatless entres because they will often put the order through without meat either because they assume she wants it that way or she ought to want it that way. She has apparently resorted to going to burger places cause, obnoxious in-your-face vegetarians aside, it’s a safe bet that you don’t order a Big Mac without the actual meat so it’s impossible for anyone to assume that’s what you ordered.

It reminds me of the whole debate regarding pharmacists that object to dispensing birth control pills and the like. One proposed solution was to allow individual pharmacists to decline to fill the prescription but require that each pharmacy be required to have at least one pharmacist under their employ that will fill it out. Maybe local restaurants can do the same, “Hey Mike, this guy wants to order meat, can you take over the register for a minute?”

Category: Kitchen

There’s a heated discussion going on over at Half Sigma about the appropriateness of statutory rape laws regarding sex and minors. I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot cattle prod at the moment, but I thought I would comment on one of “Gannon’s” arguments in opposition to the laws: Some girls are really mature for their age.

As it turns out I got involved in a certain social circle growing up where relationships between older guys and younger girls was not at all uncommon. In fact, the guy that Tracy jilted me for was 23 and she was sixteen and the age gap was barely on the periphery of the circle’s discussion. I knew a 19/14 couple in which age was the least of the issues between them. One guy I knew dated a 33 year old when he was 18 and then married a 17 year old girl when he was 23. And that’s excluding the DJ, who was one of the few that manage to escape our very wide range of acceptability. And even then only barely.

The argument went like this: we all mature at different rates. Girls, on average, mature faster than boys. Some girls, as though touched by the scepter of the mighty Jove, are considerably more mature than their peers. When this is the case, it makes more sense for her to be with a more “mature” (read: older) guy than for her to waste time with her “immature” friends.

Looking back over ten years later, I can safely say that was a hot, heapin’ helpin’ of crap. But it was a feast in which we all have incentive to dine. It allowed guys to go after younger women with moral impugnity. Some were guys that could not get girls there own age, some were genuinely more comfortable about the younger set, others simply enjoyed the malleability of the younger ones, and the particularly odious ones (who were relatively few) enjoyed tainting innocence. And it allowed the girls the self-esteem boost of feeling superior to the guys around it and a chance to feel outright womanly at the tender age of 15.

If we were serious about pursuing this theory to its logical conclusion, we would have to have admitted that the opposite was true as well: if a 15 year old girl that dates a 23 year old guy is mature for her age, a 23 year old guy that dates a 15 year old girl is immature. But we never thought of it that way. That was a bummer and we were all about empowerment! In reality we used a certain circular logic that any 15 year old that’s willing to date a 23 year old must be mature for her age because… well because she’s willing to date a 23 year old.

I remember a late-night conversation I had with my best friend Clint, wherein we were talking about a younger, pretty girl that had at one point or another been interested in each of us. We were talking about the maturity theory and that girls can be mature for their age. I can’t remember which one of us came out with it, but one of us said “But she’s not, really. Is she.” It wasn’t really a question. “No. She’s not.”

That sent a ripple through our perspective on the matter. The truth is we weren’t even looking for sex. We were so inexperienced that we only had a vague idea of what sex was (in addition to celibate, we were insufficiently familiar with pornography). But we did want a girlfriend in a dopey John Hughes kind of way. And we’d moved heaven and earth to convince ourselves it that the ends would justify the means if we broadened our horizons just enough. But at some point we were able to take a step back and admit to ourselves that no matter how much we wanted to, we had nothing in common with these younger girls. We considered it a shame, though of course looking back it was actually a sign that we weren’t as warped as we thought we were and that good things would catch up with us in time.

Maturity is not something that magically happens. It is something that occurs with growth and growth occurs in conjunction with responsibility. Most sixteen year olds, boys and girls, have relatively similar sets of responsibilities. Even responsible teenagers have very limited responsibilities from the perspective of an adult. They have varying degrees of fake responsibilities wherein if they don’t live up to them the consequences are minor and/or are not immediate. Whether or not we consider this a good thing is open for debate, but right now it is what it is. And as long as expectations don’t vary too greatly, neither will maturity vary outside of certain parameters too often.

With that in mind, I have known some young ladies that were mature for their age. I was vaguely involved with one significantly younger girl that at least acted more mature than most women my own age. But that was because her father ditched her, her mother was never sober, and she was more-or-less taking care of herself since she was 14. Far from being an accomplishment her maturity was instead a sign of tragedy. And even then we had come by our maturity in such different ways that it was hard for us to break through. Even then, she needed someone that could relate to her experiences, not just her maturity level.

So as such, I am generally pretty suspicious of relationships where the age gap is too wide, particularly in the younger years. Looking back at those relationships I saw with the 19 year old guys and 14 year old girls, the only reason their years didn’t matter was because there was hidden in the tall grass of all their other problems. I do think that sometimes two wrongs make a right and such relationships can work out in the long run, but I think when it does it’s usually as much a sign of personal, familial, or cultural failure as it is true love finding its way against all odds.

On a side-note, a slight touch of irony is that as much as I’d flirted with the idea of dating younger, almost all of my successful relationships have been with people very close to my own age or slightly older.

Category: Coffeehouse