Monday, November 27, 2006

Comics reviewed by a curmudgeon

Josh Fruhlinger is a man who reads all the comics and takes them very seriously. Funny stuff, with the occasional gratuitous beaver shot.

Gay Camp

Hey mom, guess what I
learned at gay camp!

Dan Savage writes again about the fascinating Ted Haggard story, focusing on the new line that he'll be in a gay reprogramming camp for the next three to five years.

You might as well change Haggard's DNA to make him into a mastodon or something while you're at it. Just like everyone else, my sexuality is intimately woven into my thinking and my senses. The magic appeal of women and their delicious, lubricious bodies is never-ending and always alluring to me and to all other straight men. (And that was my unspoken defense on Friday, when a co-worker completely busted me while I was checking out her ass.) Straight women must feel a similar way, or they would never, ever put up with men's foolishness. To remove that giddy, joyous feeling from me would be to remove all the thinking and feeling parts of my brain at the very same time. And if I felt the same passionate way about sucking dicks, well, that must be one hell of a Powerpoint presentation they have lined up for Ted Haggard.

I was raised as a devout Christian in the Southern Baptist church. Despite my later complete rejection of the faith, I still maintain an inherent sympathy for the Christian point of view, no matter how irrational and hateful it can become. Even so, this turn of events is perverse beyond all imagining. The guy likes men. So what? Let him be! (And maybe women, too: it's a bit hard to imagine you can have five kids while fantasizing about banging Orlando Bloom, or whomever.) Just a few days ago, a moderate pastor who had been appointed as head of the Christian Coalition was unable to change the group to focus on real issues, like poverty and the environment. Instead, he had to resign. They're sticking with their core issues: butt-fucking and abortion.

I've read the bible, very closely, many times. Jesus really, really didn't care about that shit. Despite my agnosticism, and despite some serious weirdness, the gospels are still mostly a beautiful set of beliefs. The world would be greatly improved if more people believed in them, especially if actual Christians believed in what's actually written in them: care for the poor, love your neighbor, don't flout your faith, don't abuse faith for money. Good stuff.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why science is cool

Elves? They're real. So cool.

Elf photo taken from the wide variety available at

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Virtual alibis

Hey Bunky. Has this ever happened to you?
  • Your daughter is involved with a much older married man who is also your boss. You find it inappropriate, but yet you are not comfortable speaking to your boss yourself.
  • You ran into an old friend and decided to meet to catch up. You have no intentions to stray, but your partner is suspicious and you are embarrassed to ask your friend to explain the situation. We can pose as a friend and talk to your partner.
  • You like the person you are dating, but you need your space and can't spend as much time with as him as he'd like. We will help you find an excuse, so that your partner is not hurt.
  • You have a business idea, but you are suspecting your partner is selling it to the competitor. We will pose as a competing firm and set your business partner up.
  • It's a matter of principle and neither you nor your ex are willing to make the first step to get back together. We will facilitate the meeting.
  • You know for a fact that your friend is being cheated on, but you don't want to be the one to tell him/her.
  • You have tickets to the ball game, but it's also your neighbour's birthday and you need an excuse to deny the invitation.
The Alibi Network is a real business set up to help you create a perfect alibi, enabling you to move through these difficult situations. In fact, every one of those scenarios, taken from their web site, was crafted by their own PR people. The common theme, of course, is that the fictional person addressed in all of these scenarios is either innocent or actually an aggrieved party.

I wonder what situations they are most typically involved in. Spousal cheating and con artistry would top of list. What else? Embezzlement? Industrial spying?

The different services provided are all "virtual": you're seen to be calling from a phone that is not yours, you're given confirmation of a flight that you're not taking, you're pretending to be a large company with a given location that you do not have.

However, none of services would really pass close inspection. The merest whiff of suspicion could lead to most of these cover stories being blown away: here's your emailed e-ticket, but I see that your luggage doesn't have a matching tag on it. It wouldn't take much.

I am a badass

A few months ago, I was working on our earthquake supply kit. Some of the speciality items I needed I found on and bought them online. Nothing, really, that I've thought about since they arrived.

Last week, however, I got the full printed catalog from Chief, and now I have little boy fever!
  • I am so going to get the UV flashlight.
  • I am probably not going to get the crime scene investigator kit, despite enjoyable hours as a youngster using more primitive versions of these.
  • Leg irons would be difficult to justify to the missus — but they're so affordable!
  • Unfortunately, they are quite strict about who they will send a Slim Jim to.
It's just a lot of neat stuff for police and fire departments.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


TriPod11: bush ain't THAT bad...he kinda knows what he's doin
idaredbeet08: Please. Monica Lewinski had more President in her than George Bush ever will.

Well, the most important election in about thirty years has just broken the way that I wanted. Bush is down to 31% in the popularity polls, so he almost entirely hamstrung. The war in Iraq is, if not ending, moving to the "end of the beginning" that rational people have long hoped for. Rumsfeld has been brought up on war crimes charges. A variety of Republican-type people have been put in jail or lost elections that were mere stepping-stones to their 2008 presidential ambitions. Britney has kicked her retarded sperm donor to the curb, and she is now walking around New York sporting a rack that looks like the tips of thermonuclear missiles.

But the largest question on my mind right now is: what the hell is wrong with sandwich-makers in California??

In New York City, the sandwich-making protocol is exceptionally clear. You step up to the deli counter. The skilled sandwich preparer stands ready for your order, pen in hand. You specify (1) main ingredient (2) bread (3) condiments (4) additional ingredients. The skilled sandwich preparer both writes down and repeats back your order. Once you have assented, the sandwich is assembled with loving care. Food is important to most New Yorkers, and every store is keenly aware of all the alternatives consumers have.

Here are some sample sandwich orders that are syntactically correct: "I would like a pastrami on rye with mustard, with Swiss cheese." "Can I have a roast beef sandwich on an onion roll with Russian dressing, onions, lettuce and tomato." "I would like a grilled American cheese sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise." (Although appalling to me now, this last sandwich order was actually said out aloud by me, at age 17. My black friend from DC commented that it was the whitest food order he had ever personally heard.)

As a computer scientist and amateur linguist, there is much to admire in this protocol. It is clear. It is precise. In the event of misunderstanding, there's a certain way to catch most errors. If you place an order with the ingredients in a non-standard order, the preparer will likely repeat it back to you in the canonical form mentioned above. Clear, precise, effective. And it leads to the correct construction of highly desirable food items, so it is, above all, important.

This enlightened sandwich protocol is not followed in California. In fact, no one here has any standard way of taking a food order. They look at you glumly, you tell them what you want, and then they saunter off. You don't know if you'll get a fish in a hat, or the delectable corned beef that you've been fantasizing about all morning long.

A few days ago, I was ravenous for the roast chicken sandwich that the local deli makes so well. When I got there, I asked for a chicken sandwich, with both mayonnaise and mustard. To my amazement, when I got home, I had a chicken salad sandwich, which had both mayonnaise and mustard on it. What insane person would put mayonnaise on a sandwich made of a salad whose second ingredient is mayonnaise? This is like bringing a hot date to Hugh Hefner's mansion. And who would put mustard on a chicken salad sandwich? That's just craa-azy.

I mention mayonnaise, and I do like the stuff, in moderation. It's just egg yolks and oil, after all, emulsified using the tiniest bit of mustard. Homemade mayonnaise is divine, and it's really easy to make. Unfortunately, my wife was raised by wolves, and she has adamantly refused to heed the culinary call of two kinds of delicious fat blended into an ambrosial scrumptiousness. The thought of this condiment, in fact, makes her ill. Lengthy discussions have failed to persuade her of her essential error in this matter.

Consequently, she has never, in her entire life, asked for mayonnaise on any food, ever. She would sooner ask for anthrax jelly. In New York, that preference would mean that she would never, ever be served the mayonnaise — if for no other reason than the deli worker could accidently force someone to eat something that wasn't kosher. In California, it means that, for about every third deli sandwich, she's scraping the disgusting stuff off with a knife, muttering gently to herself. Somehow the word has gotten out across California that all sandwiches could be improved with a little mayonnaise, and that this is secretly what every customer wants, even when they explicitly say they don't want it.

The situation represents a real challenge for politeness. If you ask for the sandwich you actually want, you'll get it, plus a dollop of mayonnaise. If you ask for the sandwich you want and also mention, with a smile, "oh, and no mayonnaise, please!" then you have made the crucial mistake — in California — of reminding them about mayonnaise! So here it comes with thick lashings of the white stuff.

If you loudly, aggressively and repeatedly point out that, of all the things in the store, you would put mayonnaise at the very bottom of the list of things that you would want on your sandwich, that you would welcome a festive sprinkling of lawn clippings on your sandwich before that particular condiment, that you do not not NOT want motherfucking mayonnaise on your motherfucking sandwich, bitch; well, then in that case, you receive some remarkably sulky service. And sometimes a little extra mayonnaise, on all four sides of the bread.

California is a mystery to me, in some ways. Once I asked for a turkey and avocado sandwich at a store that had turkey and avocado sandwiches prominently on their menu. When I got back to my desk, I discovered that the young woman, apparently freshly arrived from the planet where they do not make sandwiches, had put an entire half of an unsliced avocado between the bread slices. It fit like a bear under a blanket. What possible thought processes could have led to this result? If this sandwich were a child, I would have called Protective Services on the store.

Ultimately, it is a sad state of sandwich-making affairs, one that would leave many New Yorkers shaking their head in bemusement. The only method I have found that works is to place the order, and then, watch the preparer like a hawk. At the crucial moment, their hand will reflexively reach for the spatula in the mayonnaise dish, and that's when you shriek out your warning, startling everyone. There's little dignity in it, but this is the price we must pay here in order to get the sandwich we actually want.

John Montague, immortal inventor of the sandwich

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