Monthly Archives: June 2008

One of the long list of things that made me unpopular in junior high school was that I refused to wear jeans and would instead wear slacks (among other things, see below). It wasn’t a fashion decision or a desire to go formal and look sleek. Had it been that, I would have showered and groomed, two more reasons for my unpopularity. No, the main reason was that I thought jeans were the most uncomfortable thing ever. So from about the fifth grade to about the eighth, I wore no jeans.

It’s funny how little things can have a disproportionate effect on things. The things that you didn’t know that if you had… Looking back, I think that the reason that jeans were so uncomfortable was that they were tight. They were tight because I have large legs in comparison to my waist size. Slacks generally allow for more leg-room, so they were more comfortable to me. They may have made Relaxed Fit jeans back then, I really don’t know because I didn’t shop. Or they may not have because baggy pants weren’t all the rage back then.

Whatever the case, I didn’t have access to them. I want to say “Gosh, if they’d only existed” or “If I’d only known about them” as if it would make all the difference in the world. Looking back, by itself it likely would have made very little difference. I was unpopular for a lot of reasons, my jeans only being a part of it.

The local fashion scene broke a little luck in my favor when I was in the seventh grade with these pants called (I think?) Skidz. Skidz were these thin, baggyish, colorful, stylized non-jean pants that from my recollection were more similar to pajama pants than actual pants. For hot southern summers, they were great. Increasingly, I also pestered my mother for at least a couple shirts that were “in”.

So at least a couple days a week, I was dressing not too far off from some of the most popular kids at school. Yet… somehow… it didn’t help… at all. My tormentor at the time (who later became a friend when I figured out how really to win those people over) accused them of being fakes and so I was one big, fat fake. Also, and this certainly came as a shock to me, Skidz were unbelievably easy to pull down. So even when I was doing things the way I was supposed to, it was still somehow turned around to my disadvantage.

That’s not to say that my aversion to jeans made no difference. The most popular kid could have gotten away with wearing slacks, but not someone like me. It was merely another thing that cemented my level of popularity with other people that couldn’t wear jeans because their mommas wouldn’t let them (like Orson Millard).

Several years later, I was in an English class where we had to write a paper about ourselves. My teacher didn’t like any of my papers and that one was no exception, so I was called in to class early to discuss it. One thing he didn’t understand was my usage of the fact that I wore slacks instead of jeans as indicative of my unconventionality. Out of nowhere, this girl who was serving morning detention interjected and explained exactly what I was trying to say.

When the teacher moved on to someone else, she moved to the desk in front of me and struck up a conversation. She was asking me all sorts of questions about myself in small talk that I would later figure out was the sort of chit-chat you involve yourself in before asking someone out. I think the kids call this “flirting”. I was of course utterly oblivious at the time. She mentioned in the course of the conversation that I reminded her a little bit of this guy that she knew. I jumped onto the familiar name and expressed how completely and awesomely cool the guy was. Turned out that they’d dated and it didn’t end well. Oops. That remains one of the missed opportunities that I’m sorry that I missed. She was a lot more interesting than the girls I actually wanted to date.

Category: Ghostland, School

Writing about The Big Bang Theory, Orson Scott Card makes the following comment {link via Abel}:

The weak spots in the show are the ever-randy weenie, Howard (Simon Helberg), and the Indian guy who can’t talk when a woman is present, Rajnesh (Kunal Nayyar). These are throwaway characters that Lorre himself treats with contempt when he writes the scripts.

I disagree with with Card about the alleged contempt that Lorre treats Rajnesh (Howard is pretty contemptable, though), but I very much agree with Card about the proper role for these characters. They’re indicative of something that I’ve noticed as I’ve been pouring through a lot of old television shows with my Bluetooth and Pocket PC. Some characters — even good ones — are meant to be temporary. It seems that few sitcom writers seem to realize this.

Somewhere around season six or so of Just Shoot Me, the producers wanted to add an actress (Rena Sofer) to the cast and more-or-less forced the writers to come up with a character for her (Vicki Costa). to make room for her they more-or-less abandoned a regular guest character named Kevin Liotta who had become really popular. The audiences hated the new character and Costa was dropped from the show after half a season and Liotta came back for more regular appearances towards the end.

Costa was a pretty awful character. The writers never seemed to get a good idea of what to do with her and it showed. But what I found interesting was that Kevin was a lot less interesting when he came back. In retrospect I think that dropping him (at least to more irregular appearances) was a good thing. In fact, I think that dropped characters, even ones that aren’t necessarily bad ones, can be a good idea. Shows, however, are pretty reluctant to ever do it. That’s a shame, though, because cast changes can really reinvigorate a show. Cast additions, which they usually try instead, can also help… but sometimes you need to create room by subtraction.

I recently finished watching the TV show Becker all the way through. In the first season a character named Bob was introduced. Bob was a loser in high school that had made good and felt that his success should have made Reggie, a former model who landed as the proprietor of a crummy diner, feel regret over rejecting him. He was a good character. For half a season. The problem is that they kept him around for five well past the point that he was remotely interesting. For the last season they replaced him with another character named Hector (played by Jorge Garcia, who plays Hurley on Lost). I wish they’d added Hector a whole lot sooner.

Another example of a cast change being good for a show was borne of tragedy. When Michael J Fox’s illness became too much for him to handle while doing Spin City, they replaced him with Charlie Sheen. Sheen’s character may have been better than Fox’s or may not have been, but Sheen’s character in the two seasons he was on the show was a lot better than Fox’s was in the last season he was on that show. The show had started to become stale and Sheen brought new life into it. Spin City didn’t last but a couple seasons with Sheen, but Sheen did well enough on that show that they gave him a part with virtually the same character on Two and a Half Men.

Speaking of Two and a Half Men, they dropped the character Rose somewhere in the third season or so. Rose was a girl that Charlie Sheen’s character (also named Charlie) slept with who had become obsessed with him. They should have gotten rid of Rose sooner than they did, but at least they got rid of her. They did bring her back for more periodic appearances as a sort of scheming mastermind, but it worked. I think that the break was needed and the lessened frequency of her was a net gain for the character and the show.

There are cases where lost cast members hurt a show, of course. News Radio never recovered from the death of Phil Hartman, Spin City lost more than just Michael J Fox and never were able to replace them, and The Drew Carey Show needed Kate, but I think that had to do with inadequate replacements more than anything else (Does anyone consider Jon Lovitz funny?).

In general, though, I think that shows should have more fluid casts. Most casting changes are done by simple addition or because an actor left or was fired. It’s usually in response to something rather than saying “Hey, this is a good character, we should make room for them” and “This character has run its course, it’s time for something different.” It would be even better if they’d audition characters to see which ones the audience takes a liking to or which ones fit and then use them for a while until the roles have run their part. One example of auditioning working out is Mimi from The Drew Carey Show, who was meant to appear for one episode and instead became a staple for the series.

Overall conservatism is one reason that they likely don’t make cast changes that aren’t absolutely necessary. They’re also probably afraid of losing actors to other shows if they don’t lock them in as a regular. Even so, I’d like to see more experimentation in this regard and less simple reaction.

Category: Theater

Things I find annoying about the way that Windows names files and moreso how it sorts files:

  • It would be extremely helpful to allow question marks in filenames and it’s annoying that it won’t let me. I’d say that it’s actually even more important than periods.
  • By default, Windows does not include extensions on filenames. You can change this, though, which is good. Unfortunately, when you show extensions it changes the order in which files sort because the period is sorted after the space. So if you have an MP3 entitled “Troy Thomason – Black Coffee.mp3” and another entitled “Troy Thomason – Black Coffee (live).mp3” the former will appear first if you’re hiding extensions but the latter will appear first if you’re showing them. This comes up more often than you would think. If you have the American Pie movies on your computer, “American Pie” will show up before “American” if extensions are not hidden.
  • Windows 2000 does not sort numerically. If you have a file named “Test Document 2” and another named “Test Document 10” the latter will appear first in Windows 2000. This actually wasn’t a big deal because I could fix it using filename trickery. So this isn’t a complaint so much, particularly since they fixed it for Windows XP, but it’s kind of annoying that Windows XP and Windows 2000 treat this differently. There are supposed to be ways that you can get Windows XP to stop figuring out numbers, but I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I wish one of the Windows 2000 SP would have addressed this issue. Yes, yes, I know that’s not what SPs are for, but still.
  • On the other hand, there are some discrepencies between Windows 2000 and Windows XP that have no logical explanation. The way that non-numeral and non-alphabetic characters are sorted changed. I had found a filename trickery way around previously mentioned problems by sticking certain characters in front of the filenames like !’,-…. but Windows 2000 puts them in a different order than XP, so the order changes depending on what OS I’m using and that’s pretty lame.
  • Also lame was Microsoft’s decision to make the dash a non-sorting character for XP. I wanted to add a dash to put certain files ahead of other files because it’s less intrusive to the exclamation point that I had been using (if I wanted a file to appear at the top of the directory, I simply renamed Filename.ext to !Filename.ext).
    Most of these could be fixed if I could go into the registry or some other setting place and change how the files are sorted alphabetically.

Category: Server Room

I’m not up to date on the whole airline industry, but here’s something that I don’t understand:

Starting Oct. 6, most United fares will require a one- to three-night or weekend-night minimum stay, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

The new rules, which apply to nearly every ticket, are bound to be unpopular with business travelers who prefer to catch a flight out early in the morning so they can make it back home in time for dinner.

Major carriers scrapped most minimum-stay rules — put in place largely to discourage big-budget corporate travelers from snatching up the cheapest seats — years ago, although a number of airlines have been tightening up restrictions and tacking on fees in recent months as the price of fuel has soared.

Does this mean what I think it means? Cause I think it means that the airline is trying to dictate your travel schedule. But that doesn’t make any sense. There’s no way that I’m going to stay somewhere longer than a couple of days because the airline won’t sell me a ticket home. I’d buy two one-ways with two different airlines first. I’d certainly never buy United. Even apart from the hotel costs, it’s not worth it to me to stay some place that I don’t want to stay.

I also don’t understand how this would do anything except alienate business travelers, who are often the most lucrative set. I mean I guess it would mean fewer people trying to get flights at prime times since they won’t try to game the clock to leave Thursday and be home Friday, but wouldn’t an easier way to do that to be to just raise the costs of morning and evening flights?

The only logical reason I can think of this policy is to make pricing a lot more complicated. Allow people to think that they’ve purchased tickets for $X and then to apply a surcharge for breaking some inane and pointless policy about minimum stays.

The more logical thing is that this is about something other than what I think it’s about and that I am a fool for misunderstanding. So can anyone tell me what the heck is going on here?

Category: Market

This post will contain massive spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica TV series, so if you’re not up to date, don’t read forward. Note to the people that I ruined some spoilers from the end of last season, please don’t let that prevent you from watching. Those events are nothing compared to some of the surprises dropped at the end of this half-season. (more…)

Category: Theater

Sucks to be proven wrong. Some people are speculating that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not the United States. A person that I was talking to – making an argument about media bias – said that several months ago the media was saying that John McCain might be ineligible for the presidency because he was born in Panama and is thus not a “Natural Born Citizen”.

I called BS, but he was right and I was wrong. There were in fact a couple of articles on the subject that suggested that there could potentially be an issue, though the tone of the articles leaned towards the notion that it was likely that McCain was eligible but that it wasn’t a “slam dunk”.

It’s all a pretty silly question. There is no way that any court would ever rule that someone is ineligible for the presidency because he was born overseas while his father was serving our country in the military. It’s also extremely unlikely that if Obama was in fact born in Kenya that Republicans – who also nominated a foreign-born candidate – would suggest that neither of the two party’s nominees could Constitutionally be elected president.

What is a bit distressing, though, is reading a few blogs and whatnot where people have actually invested themselves in the argument that McCain is not eligible. It’s such a transparently political argument (made both by Democrats and anti-McCain Republicans) dressed up as Constitutional scholarship.

Category: Newsroom, Statehouse

One of the surprises when I relocated to Deseret was that state trooper highway patrolmen would often hide behind large structures waiting for speeders. This surprised me because in Delosa from what I understand they’re not allowed to do that. As I understand the law to be, the police shield, word “Police”, or overhead lights must be visible to oncoming traffic unless (a) The police officer is mobile in the middle of routine business when he catches the violator or (b) they are supervising a construction or school zone and are not visible because they’re behind another vehicle.

The city of Phillippi actually replaced a bunch of police cars and police lighting systems that didn’t have overhead police lights because lawyers were getting tickets dismissed. When the car was parked on the side of the road, the shield wasn’t visible and there weren’t overhead lights. It was a small investment to bring in a lot of future revenue.

Cops in Delosa work around this rule in a number of ways. There was one popular place in Phillippi for cops to hide wherein most of the car is obstructed by brush but there is just enough to see the shield in the right slant of light. Since judges have signed off on it, the local constable’s office used it right up until something was built there. It’s also not uncommon for some police departments to schedule routine operations to involve going back and forth in areas where people frequently speed or red lights are run.

I was informed upon moving to Estacado that the laws here are the same as they are in Delosa where cops can’t out-and-out hide. Santomas cops are very, very innovative when it comes to skirting this requirement. Their highway fleet has no overhead lights and are atypical police car colors (Silver, gray, green). The cars are marked with the word “Police” but you can only see the marking if your headlights on are on and hitting the car. The cars are always parked at a 45 degree angle or so. In other words, despite meeting the letter of the law, it’s difficult to tell that they’re police cars until people know what to look for.

That’s just it, though. People learn what to look for. I’ve already figured it out. The cars are parked at a 45 degree angle, are Chevy Cavaliers or Cavalier-looking cars (adding them to the Camaros, Caprices, Impalas, and Crown Vics as cars to be suspicious of), have a slightly unusual hew of whatever color the car is so that the reflective paint blends in, and are parked at a 45 degree angle or so.

But to me, though, the really odd part is that they don’t actually have to cheat. The average flow of traffic on I-31 is above the speed limit in all but the right lane. The city of Santomas has lower speed limits than the freeways in surrounding counties. It is nearly impossible for me to believe that they couldn’t find speeders without resorting to such tricks.

Of course, the law that protects us from cops is a bit silly in and of itself. It’s not illegal to knowingly speed in front of a police officer. It’s unlawful to speed at all whether a cop is present or not. Theoretically, then, the police officers should be able to deploy any means they wish short of entrapment or Constitutional abridgments in their pursuit of “dangerous” drivers. In a sense, laws like this as well as caps on ticket revenue and special outs to avoid your insurance company finding out about your misdeeds underline what a game this all is.

If we were serious about speed limits, there’d be speed cameras placed everywhere. Any time you speed you get a ticket. Even if the ticket is $5, it’ll start adding up and drivers will modify their behavior accordingly. Cars will start coming equipped with a new kind of cruise control where you set a maximum speed so that you inadvertently don’t go over the speed limit. Revenue from tickets would go towards something other than the general funds of the municipality to avoid incentives to set speed limits to low.

None of the above changes are coming down the pipe any time soon, so we’re back to the games of wackily-painted police cars hiding behind not-completely-opaque bushes.

Category: Courthouse

In 1997 an Australian movie entitled Thank God He Met Lizzie was released. It was released in the US under a different title, The Wedding Party. The short rift of this post is that I strongly recommend putting this movie in your Netflix queue if you like bittersweet and thoughtful romantic films.

In the outset of the movie it appears that the relationship is going to be about Guy (Richard Roxburgh) and Lizzie (Cate Blanchett), who meet-cute in the first few minutes of the film. Instead, the movie forwards pretty quickly to their wedding and the focus shifts away from Lizzie and towards Jenny (Frances O’Connor), a young woman that Guy dated and lived with and was trying to get over at the time of the meet-cute with Lizzie. The film cuts in and out from the wedding party to a retrospective on his time together with Jenny and their highs and lows. What it all means is subject to debate.

The question is a classic one about The One That Got Away versus The One You Settle For. Or alternately it’s a question of struggling to make a wrong relationship right and the ease with which things can be right with the right person if you just let it be right. It all breaks down to the question of whether the (original Australian) title of the movie was meant to be ironic or not.

I don’t personally believe that the movie ever answers this question or if they were seeking to answer it they could have done so much more clearly than they did. In this vein, the movie does a remarkable job avoiding the traps and archetypes that they could have saved effort by using. Guy’s relationship with Jenny is not depicted as a never-ending alternating of good and destructive passion. His relationship with Lizzie is also elevated to more than the safe girl to settle down with.

Rather, the movie seems to explore two very different kinds of love, both perfectly valid. His relationship with Jenny seemed to revolve around the premise that a relationship is something that makes one happy while his relationship with Lizzie is built on the notion that the right relationship is one that helps its participants find happiness in all respects. Jenny agitates for children but one gets the sense that the two of them spend so much energy on one another (worrying what’s wrong, trying to repair things, or being enthralled with one another) that it seems unlikely that they would have the energy to rear little ones. On the other hand, a marriage with Lizzie without children or something external for them to focus their energies on is one that seems unlikely to hold on its own. Whether one prefers the first style of marriage or the second is rather subjective.

Then again, ask ten people what the movie conveyed to them and you’re likely to get at least five different answers. This is not a movie that does your thinking for you and it has no grand point where everything comes together and you figure out exactly what it’s trying to say. Rather, it simply weaves together a great story with three interesting characters and allows you to make of it what you will.

The acting and characters throughout are superb. Maybe he can’t shake his Australian accent because that’s about the only reason I can think of for which Richard Roxburgh (Guy) isn’t a full-fledged star. O’Connor (Jenny) was in Bedazzled, but other than that her resume is thin. The only one to go on and make a lot of movies is Blanchett (Lizzie) who had the least demanding role of the three. In fact, for a lot of the movie it seems that Lizzie is going to be a rather weak character, but she has her moments in the end where she makes her mark as more than just the stand-in for the safe choice.

This movie isn’t for everybody, though. There isn’t much in the way of passionate love scene or sparks-flying romance. It’s a relatively realistic portrayal of the mechanics of relationships somewhat at the expense of the magic. Nor are there any dramatic confrontations with dramatic consequences and drama, drama, drama. The pacing is a little bit slow as well and it’s not always easy to see where it’s going, though it gets there in the end. It’s extremely low-key. If you need very eventful movies, I wouldn’t recommend this one. If you ask for good characters and an interesting story and are willing to watch it unfold one piece at a time, I strongly recommend it.

Category: Theater

A few days ago Clancy came up and said, “Will, we’ve got to do something about the garage. It smells awful in there.”

To which I replied, with not an ounce of sarcasm, “Hot damn! That’s great!” and rushed down there in excitement.

Clancy did not know that I was running a little experiment and the smell in the garage confirmed a relatively best-case scenario. As I mentioned in the original DAMN That Odor post:

Oddly enough, my car has begun to start smelling, too. Clancy noticed it first, but I noticed it almost immediately after. It’s something recent. She thinks it smells like a pee bottle. She really hates that I ever do that and is kind of paranoid about it. Just to be sure I cleaned out the car and there really wasn’t much of anything in the way of likely culprits inside of it. Doesn’t seem to be tied to the air conditioner, though.

With time, that smell only got worse and worse and I was sort of able to pinpoint the smell to somewhere in the trunk. There was a jug of fake fuel or anti-freeze or fertilizer or something (the label came off) and I had hoped that was it. Taking it out seemed to do no good, though. The rest of the contents of the trunk seemed pretty straightforward: Some CDs, a few comic books, roadmaps and atlases, some dominoes, and some gift that was directed to Clancy’s mother that somehow ended up in my car trunk. I thought maybe it was the gift, but it was from a place that didn’t do anything food or perishable. So my fear was that it was the Mystery Bottle and that some had spilled into the trunk and that it was going to smell this way for the rest of the car’s natural life.

So I decided to take the contents of the trunk and put it all in the garage. After a day or two, either the car would still smell and the garage would be fine or the other way around. Whatever the case, the odor was something that I was going to have to take care of before I swapped out cars with my father.

So the garage stunk and that meant that my car was not terminally stinky. Unfortunately, as with the trunk, it was really difficult to isolate the smell. I could tell that it was coming from the trunk, but I could not smell any particular item and notice that it smelled stronger than the other items. That’s what made me think that maybe something had spilled. And so it was in the garage. By process of elimination, I determined that it had to be either the domino can or the mother-in-law’s gift. The domino can contained… dominoes. So we said “screw it” and opened the gift addressed to Clancy’s Mom, which contained… gravy.

Extremely pungent gravy. Noxious gravy. Gravy that, as near as we can figure, has probably been in there since last Thanksgiving. The smell was hard to pin-point because it was leaking out of the sealed box. Even when I held the thing in my hands and sniffed through the cracks I wasn’t sure. It was only when it was opened and the garage exploded with foul that it was settled. The sealed box was likely something that the mother-in-law had simply re-purposed and was strangely thorough about repackaging tightly.

So the car is fixed. Now… if only I could figure out what to do about the damn smelly garage.

Category: Home, Road

Before Sunrise asks:

I was at GAP Kids the other day, buying an early birthday present for my 9 year-old niece. As I was browsing through the clothes, I noticed that there was a “plus-size” section. {…}

When I was growing up there was no such thing. Children who were overweight just bought clothes that were meant for older children. I can’t help but ask myself – does this sort of thing indirectly encourage children to stay fat?

I actually had a conversation tangentially related to this with a coworker recently. My wife and I have had such conversations on multiple occasions. All three of us refuse to buy more clothes or nicer clothes that fit because we are dissatisfied with our weights.

Our thinking goes along the same lines as B-Sun’s. If being heavy (or heavier than you would prefer) becomes too comfortable, it removes incentive to lose the weight. I know a lot of women that hold on to their thinner clothes simply as an incentive to lose weight. I think that there is something to all this, though maybe for women the promise that you’ll buy a fantabulous new warddrobe may be a better enticement.

In regards to childhood obesity, though, I’m less sure. Fat kids still face some pretty harsh consequences for their flab. It strikes me as very unlikely that that’s changed in the last decade or so. Unfortunately, since nothing can really top the social and health consequences inherent with obesity, I’m really not sure what else can be done.

Category: Kitchen