Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Vehicle for Sex?

Funny link on cars and sex for the comments at the bottom of the page. If I had to argue for a vehicle, I would say the Honda Element. A friend of mine had an Element. Sitting in the back, there is a lot of horizontal and vertical room. Seats can be manipulated. Lots of possibilities in the somewhat dorky looking vehicle. It always reminds me of a Lego creation.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Review: True Grit

Caught a late show for True Grit. This is the latest Coen brothers film, which is a remake of an old John Wayne classic. While it is a remake, I'd consider it a reimagining since it feels far grittier and more realistic than the John Wayne version. The directors argue that they are trying to create a film more true to the book. Whatever their aim, it was steady and executed well. This is definitely a Coen brothers film, but it has plenty of mainstream appeal.

Coen brothers films have great characters, and True Grit delivers. The little quirky characters present in all Coen films are here too. I enjoyed the 'dentist', the Colonel and even nasty Ned Pepper. They reeked of the Coen touch. The characters that carry this film, which feels like a two person play at times, are Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn. The actors, Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges, have a good onscreen relationship. Mattie Ross is unrelenting in her desire for revenge and justice. Rooster, the experienced and questionable man of law, wants to slow her down a bit as things are wild in the old west. It is an odd pairing that with time becomes a father-daughter type of bond. Beneath the gruff and intelligent exteriors of them both lies a grieving girl who lost her father and an old man who has nothing, no family and lives behind a Chinese grocery. This brief quest for vengeance is a chance to create substitutes for what they do not have while not admitting they really need or want them.

That relationship is the core of this film. The cinematography is pretty, music is well chosen, and set design is superb. Damon & Brolin are billed stars but Damon has a very 'supporting' type part and Brolin has maybe 5 minutes of screen time. This is a good film that goes by quickly. The film is gritty, but not nearly as dark as Unforgiven. My wife and I both enjoyed this film. I strongly recommend watching it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Game Community

For a while, I have been reading blogs that are part of the game community. This community is the pick up artist community trying to help regular joes and nerds navigate the dating scene and have more success with women. This is not a slam on the concept. I do believe that a lot of their moves work. There is also room for applying these concepts in small doses in long term relationships and marriages. A lot of their advice is natural to me (much to my wife's dismay, I can talk to anyone), so it makes me laugh when they advise people to stand a certain way, say things, or just approach girls. WHY GO TO A PARTY AND NEVER APPROACH A WOMAN???? There is no problem with these ideas, moves or concepts. The problem lies in the complete douchebags that seem to populate this universe.

The world is full of jerks of both genders. I'm not denying this. The men trying to learn are not bad guys, as often you read their comments about being the nice guy and being mistreated. They are just trying to unlock the key of hiding their status as a nice guy friend to a desirable personality for mating. That is a sad enough indictment on society. I had an aunt a decade older than me who told me at age 15 that girls would chase bad guys and jerks for the next decade, but I shouldn't be like them and should stay a nice guy for when the girls come to their senses. It took me 3 years to figure out my aunt was partially right that young women would chase after jerks, but she was partially wrong in that I should stay nice. This was the paradox of young adulthood for my guy friends: act nice and be a friend or be a jerk and get attention. As I grew older, I passed down knowledge to younger men like "do not tell a girl you like her ever" and "never be the first to say I love you". I got laughed at by them, but after their freshman year in college, they understood. One poker night, a friend wondered aloud if we'd have to marry 28 yr olds who had 2 kids from when they dated assholes? It never crossed his mind that at 28 he could date down in age. My friends who got caught in the friend zone with girls would not leave the situation and would continue to be a self esteem booster for the objects of their affection. They could have used some schooling in 'game'.

The men running the sites or frequent commenters are an interesting symptom of modern society. One I frequent for his social commentary and links, which while darker than mine, is pretty interesting. Another is a lifestyle and travel writer as well as pick up 'teacher'. He has a life plan and is committed to it. The rest are mostly lame, and I only go to them if they are linked by the first two. The weird vibe that they throw off is not anti-women as much as anti-anyone who is not doing what they are doing. It is as if the game lifestyle is the only play in town that is right. This is further devolution of society as men are cads, then women behave worse over time, then men decide to sink to newer, lower levels. I'm now afraid to hit the clubs even as an observer with my single friends again for fear of catching airborne Herpes VII.

I decided to call one guy out on his blog. He posted on his game action, with perfect description of his clothes, and how no one in the club was rocking it like him. He doesn't score that night. Honestly dude, you're a fucking blogger with a day job who goes to clubs. You are not George Clooney. In the comments I saw him post how he's tired of the game and looks forward to meeting the right woman to escape it.... at age 29. HAHAHAHAHAHA, how the heck do you call yourself a disciple of the game and teacher if you are tired of it at age 29? A true playah wouldn't settle down until maybe 40. Wait, he's black so he has to contradict himself in everything he does (ex: "I'm not fag but let's go shopping for clothes for a whole day. Blue looks great on you."). I called him out for this statement saying that betrays his carefully crafted internet image. He disagreed despite his mask slipping. I typed that you can't create an entire website devoted to being a playah and then lament the fact that you tire of it and want to enjoy a life exactly opposite of it. I checked back the next day for his response, and none was there. Also missing were the back and forth comments between him and I. I guess the carefully constructed playah persona won out. Funny thing is, if you go through his archives, you see the development from a guy who read pick up artist books & had to learn & grow as a playah later become this persona that constantly implies he never had to learn. Once again, this hits on my theme of what is real or more real when considering the lives we lead vs. our Internet self. When you type it on the internet, it stays out there forever. This is why my college era livejournal will remain anonymous and forgotten.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays

Saw this on the Internet and it made me laugh....

To my Democrat Friends;

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year of 2011 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society hav ehelped make America Great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemispher. Also, This wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To my Republican friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NY Times Vows: Celebrate Rich Family Destruction

The NY Times has a section called "Vows" which celebrates weddings. They recently spotlighted a wealthy NYC couple that set off a comment, letters to the editor, and response article firestorm. This couple started as friends, with their spouses as friends as well, and then fell for each other. They wrecked their families to be together.

My favorite line is from the woman, "Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can't have him?"

That is life. Life tempts you all of the time. I'm not a big believer in the soulmate concept, and I'd bet big dollars on her feeling the exact same way when she first met her first husband. You took vows with that first husband and implied with those children. What happened to those vows? This new guy was an infatuation whom you had a friendship with, which is the most dangerous type of attraction. The tougher choice for your personal needs is to cut him out of your life and be honest with your spouse. The tougher choice for your family is to end everything to join up with him. I feel bad for the kids. That has to be awkward. Looking at the photos, they are in those delicate years for divorced kids. Let's do a follow up with them in 10 years... and of their kids.

Half of the time, I think the NY Times selects people for different articles and spotlights to get any reaction and generate buzz. If that is the real reason for showcasing these assholes, then excellent job NY Times. I hope that is the reason. I hope the NY Times is not that clueless that they do not see how people will not sympathize with the subjects of their article. The holiday season begs for articles about couples who met during the winter holidays whether in an upswing or downswing in their life. It might be cliche or too middle class suburban to have an article like that, but I'd read a story of the lonely or depressed duo who meet through a mutual friends Christmas party that they did not want to go to at all and smile. This is why Christmas stories have happy endings.

More British Snow

I had seen and posted elsewhere a photo of the British Isles half covered in snow. There is a new photo, and as you can see, everything but the very southwestern tip (I assume near Portsmouth) is covered in snow. Awesome.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Book Review: Leonardo The Artist and the Man

Leonardo da Vinci is a magnetic figure in the history of art and Europe. He is like a modern man sent back in time to live amidst the 15th century simpletons. Da Vinci is not just a genius artist in the middle of the Renaissance, but a figure in the intrigues of Medici/Borgia/city-state Italy. Serge Bramly's biography (buy here) is nice attempt to make sense of his life.

His contributions to art, study of the body, engineering and mechanics are peerless. Reading this book, you will discover something new he figured out or added to our collective library of intelligence. Da Vinci was not a prolific artist. He has very few finished works, and even fewer paintings and sculptures that survived. This built will get you acquainted with what he created and why his creations were so amazing.

That is not why I bought this book. I was looking for a biography that was not a psychbiography, but a biography that talked about what made Leonardo think and how he fit into his era. Bramly does not shirk from going after Da Vinci for his inability to follow through with works, his almost ADD nature in skipping across subjects, and the torment he put himself through because of his birth and childhood. Because Leonardo kept extensive notebooks, we can look into a small, limited opening into his mind. They are not diaries, but they can reveal his fears, concerns or joys in those moments. His focus on creators and inventing is wonderful to read about. His spirit of creation and natural inquisitiveness are well documented here. There is good discussion of his sexual persuasion and likes, and reading this, you get a feel for why his paintings depitcing humans look the way they do. You can read about the man behind the myth.

Bramly's book does a great job of celebrating Da Vinci's genius while tackling the myth of "Da Vinci". It is a touch over 400 pages, but the book has illustrations which probably takes up 20+ pages. It is a quick read, and I could run through 50 pages in a clip. I would have enjoyed a longer book with even more detail. I wonder if Bramly himself was actively trying to keep this a book for curious minds rather than a textbook type biography. Whatever his motivations, I would recommend this book if you do have a fascination for Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Cheer

My favorite original Christmas song of the last 20 years.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. I hope you all get what you wished for, and that you have a safe holiday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Remember When: Shaggy

Last weekend, I started laughing fits by pulling out my Shaggy Boombastic album and playing it for my cousin. I bought the album as my friends and I loved every song on it except for the hit "Boombastic" for the great beats and the unintelligble vocals of Shaggy. There are parts of songs one needs to rewind just to hear the gibberish again. Shaggy has duets with has beens and does terrible remakes like "Day O" and "In the Summertime". It is a great album to do classic late 80s-early 90s dance moves along with, and great for listening while driving.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Review: Tron Legacy

The sci fi kid nerd in me forced me to see Tron Legacy. Tron was a moderately successful sci fi movie from the early 80s that became dated almost instantaneously due to its special effects. Disney needed some sci fi loving, and rolled the dice with a 28 year delayed sequel. A movie like this will be dependent on good special effects, good action and a solid story. Cast really did not matter. You are not going to see this to see an explanation on the human condition; you're there for sci fi awesomeness. Tron Legacy delivers. It is popcorn fun.

The movie starts with a scene set in the 80s with Jeff Bridges in CGI form telling a story to his little son about the Tron world. This helps people not familiar with the original to learn some basic skeleton work of the Tron universe. The CGI Bridges was OK. It looked like a young Jeff Bridges crossed with the older brother from The Wonder Years. We see some awesome rebel son action when he grows up and pranks his company. What a rebel! They could have cast a chimpanzee as the son and we wouldn't care. No one cared. He gets sucked into the Tron world and it is ON!

Shit gets real right off the bat. There is some awesome design detail to Tron World. It is dark. It is stormy. It is clean. I enjoyed just looking around. There is action and adventure which make the battle and light cycle scenes from the original movie look quaint. The electronic unfurling of cycles and planes are cool special effects. Character wise, I loved how Jeff Bridges turned his character into the "Dude" so that it felt like the "Tron Lebowski". "You're messing up my whole Zen thing, man" could have been a line from the Big Lebowski 12 years ago. It made his character a bit fun even if out of place, and this includes his interior decorating choices. Weird thing was how his son did not call him dad in regular dialogue until a couple scenes pass. Odd. I did enjoy "Zeus", working in the character Tron, and the latex/leather girls like Jem (truly outrageous) and Olivia Wilde's Cora. Tron seems to always be about world domination. Couldn't we just get some action in the Tron world without it having to involve dominating one world or the other?
This movie will not dig deep. It is popcorn, action flick fun times. I did see it 3D, which was cool. I recommend seeing it at matinee pricing. Just turn off your brain or lower it down to a 1 out of 10 and just have some fun. If you are a rich asshole who has a 3D HDTV already, then you might as well wait for this to come out on DVD.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie Review: Black Swan

Saw Black Swan yesterday afternoon with a true blue dance critic (my wife the dance major and teacher). The film is directed by Aronofsky and stars Natalie Portman. The film was to portray the gritty life of ballerinas that is the true substance beneath the pretty exterior of ballet. The film is a character study, and the film has small clues and effects to get you thinking about the Swan Queen.

This is not a love letter to Ms. Portman, as she was good but not Meryl Streep. Portman has to perform, and does deliver a great performance as the perfection obsessed ballerina. Portman is a stereotype of the white swan, perfect little ballerina, but she has horrible issues in her head. Her mom, played by Barbara Hershey, is the stage mom living through Portman. The subtle hints here and there is that Portman is the result of a director-ballerina romance. Portman is the distilled product of the ballet and shows all of its grace and flaws. What type of dance would destroy the very bodies it seeks to showcase?

Portman's view is highly unreliable. Aronofsky uses small effects and sequences to show that Portman's "Nina" is an unreliable narrator. What do we make of Mila Kunis' "Lily" when nearly every moment with Lily on the screen, it is through Portman's eyes? Kunis' Lily is the bad girl ballerina that straight men daydream about, and is she truly that free spirited and bad or is it just Portman's mind and view that shows her being the 'bad girl'. Aronofsky uses special effects to really twist the viewers conception of what is going on here. I give Aronofsky credit, I did not know what direction this movie would go in nor if it would be revealed to be real or a huge delusion.

In my dancer wife's eyes, the movie did show a lot of the dirty little bits. The morning wake up snap crackle pop routine was a scene I have witnessed countless times. The little, petty cattiness was classic. We both enjoyed Portman's Nina character shouting at her domineering mom "You never made it out of the corps, I'm the SWAN QUEEN!" Wonderful moment spotlighting that intergenerational competition in sport-art families. Her biggest beef was with the final black swan dance sequence where the black swan did 5 fuetes instead of the required 32 fuetes of the black swan solo in Swan Lake.

There are entertaining moments in this flick, and there is rarely a dull moment. I did not look down at my watch, and was not bored. Enjoy Aronofsky's good direction, nice pacing and Portman's work as Nina. You will have plenty to talk about after the film.

Which One is Real?

People could have all social interaction with their internet websites, social media platforms and blogs. They can create a fake persona or brand. If they spend significant time managing this, at what point does their online persona become the dominant one? At what point is that the real person?

I don't think it becomes real, but it can become dominant. The true, real life personality will become atrophied and underdeveloped. The Internet allows us to tell the greatest lies about ourself and mostly for personal enjoyment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How is Al Franken a Senator?

Al Franken wrote a pathetic essay for the Huffington Post about how he is so bummed out he voted for extending all of the Bush tax cuts. As I typed before, Obama was in a tough position and did cave incredibly quick. Part of the problem is that he acted without considering his own frickin' party. Sen. Franken and his cohorts in the Senate should have approached Obama. They truly should have acted on this earlier, but they still could have approached Obama and said "no way we pass anything unless the top marginal rate goes back to 39.6%". As silly as it sounds, this small measure would resonate. I find it comical that Sen. Franken laments extending the millionaire tax cuts but within his rationale he reveals that extending the Bush tax cuts is HUGE for middle and lower class families. Go figure, for all of those years (2001-present) the tax cuts helped all Americans. Screw you Al Franken. You are only a Senator because Acorn worked their magic to get you a win. 225 votes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I took the new to me car out for a spin last Friday. I plan on driving it around the neighborhood each weekend to make sure it sees the road and stays in shape. It is a 30 year old car with 120K miles on it, and needs the use or the fuel injection will get messed up and the battery will drain. This sounds so silly, but that short drive felt fun. The V8 felt good. I have never had a fun car. I love road trips, and have always enjoyed driving with good music on the radio. Few things match that joy of your first drive after you get your license. It's freedom. It's a self imposed and liberating isolation. I can't wait to put the top down and take it out for a real road test next spring.
I can't thankt he previous owner of the car enough for his generosity. Besides new tires and brakes prior to our transaction, in the month between our initial agreement and the close, he tuned it up, corrected the fuel injection issue and put in a new battery. He said it didn't drive right and wanted it tuned up. He's also 80+, and has some class. I love the Midwest.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Zen Reading

Read a book on practicing Zen Buddhism. It is always fun to read up on Buddhism as it is a nice way of thinking. Good stuff to practice and to think about in this book. Zen is life. Be mindful of your life.

Note: at page 150 or so he starts writing about the problems of the world and the future. It was 1974 when he wrote the book, so he had no clue that the agricultural green revolution would be able to feed billions more, that globalization would raise millions out of poverty, and some of his history was ahhhh, odd and probably colored by the revisionist historians reporting in that era.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

With Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises and Fred Hayek books selling like hot cakes the last 2 years, I decided to try some Rand writing. While Atlas Shrugged was so unbearable that I returned it to the store, the novel The Fountainhead is an absolute winner. It was incredibly hard to put down, and I would read 40 pages at a clip. Rand really hit a home run with this, which is what probably allowed her to take some chances and go further into her philosophy in Atlas. If you buy this, there are many reasons to read it.

The Fountainhead is set in the 20s and 30s, so there is a nostalgia factor at play. There are references to speakeasies, the boom and bust, the style and architecture and the growing socialism and collectivism plague of that era. There is a charm to reading about that era. The novel happens to have people of all income levels, but there is an elegance to the way Rand describes their lives. Even when reading about the poor characters in novels set in those days, there is a touch of dignity or integrity to the characters.

The real success is in the characters. Rand creates characters you will HATE and characters you will support and rally around against his or her foes. Everyone knows a Peter Keating, and those who are aware of a Keating hate the Keatings of the world. When I read passages focused on Keating I could see many of my college peers and some people I have know through work. To see his story arc and his rejection of the one person who he truly felt at peace with will stir you. Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon appear as the realization of good ambition and purity of spirit who compromise themselves to fit into the current world. Gail is a fun character and much more enjoyable than Dominique. Gail is 3 dimensional and not just the rags to riches tycoon archetype. I enjoyed how he gets that 2nd wind in midlife due to his marriage to Dominique but reaches another level through his friendship with Roark. Roark reminds him of what he could be, and Wynand is reinvigorated by his presence. Dominique's story arc is more interesting prior to her relationship with Roark. It is as if her awesome independent mind collapses when she meets up with Roark and becomes part of a whole rather than herself. Maybe that is the point, but I enjoyed her earlier in the book.

The two main characters making up the protagonist/antagonist battle are Howard Roark (the hero) and Ellsworth Toohey (the jerk). Roark is Rand's version of the Nietzchean Superman. He is committed to his love, creating buildings. That is his purpose in life. He holds to it. His goal is to do it the best way he can and to do it free of restraints. Ellsworth Toohey is the snidely little douche you knew in school who grew up to be a manipulative bastard who uses people for his own gain. Toohey was Rand's over the top representation of the "I know better than you what is best for you" progressive socialists of the day (they are still amongst us). I think Toohey's final outcome is decent and shows how no matter what happens, no matter how small the stage, he will still be the same manipulative douche. One thing I did not like was how blind everyone was to his actions and motives. I might just be too much the skeptical person to believe almost everyone, including Keating who told Toohey's niece to not introduce him to Toohey as he would use him, could not see his obvious motives. Roark is the heroic opposite of Toohey. Rand makes the world around Roark extremely lame to further heighten how wonderful Roark is and endear him to you.

Rand is very obvious with her beliefs and with her portrayal of what she thinks is right and what she thinks is wrong. One has to keep in mind her spot in history. Rand's family left the Soviet Union, having seen the rise of the murderous Soviet machine of collectivism. While in the USA, she saw the transformation of a small and relatively passive federal government to a much stronger, centralized federal government over the course of the Depression and WW2. As The Fountainhead would push, and Atlas Shrugged would shove, let us remember that all great leaps and changes came about because one person was not satisifed, wanted something different, or dreamed the 'impossible'. This was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Women's Health Report Card

The National Women's Law Center released a health report card for the ladies of America (you can view individual state results). It did not go well. Obesity is up, binge drinking is up (10% of women), leaisure time physical activity is down, and more women have chlamydia. I did see my home state's smoking stats dropped, which is good. While I support efforts to fix these problems, these specific issues all relate to individual choice. Change and healthy living starts with the person in the mirror.

Obviously the patriarchy is doing its best work right now. I bet this study gets discussed in my next "Young Patriarchs of America" meeting, bwahahahaha.

The Frank Lloyd Wright House that Time Forgot

Frank Lloyd Wright has been called America's greatest architect. His designs are pretty interesting. To own or live in one of his homes had to have been a treat, unless you lived in Gary, Indiana. Mr. Wright designed a home in Gary, Indiana and it eventually fell victim to the decay in that city. The following is a video of the home and the designs to show its original form. The home completely burnt down in 2006 (arson is the suspected cause).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Potential GOP-Obama Tax Deal

This is a stunning lay down by the President. Yes, unemployment benefits were extended for select individuals, but what exactly did the GOP give up? Nothing. They got it all tax wise and even some extra goodies (2% payroll tax break). What I find shocking is that Obama could not even get the highest tax bracket marginal rate to go up 3% (back to the Clinton era rate) nor move the capital gains tax rate up to 20%. This is being hammered by the mainstream media as weakness, by the liberal netroots as a betrayal, and by lame duck Democratic congressmen as unacceptable. It is also the only thing Obama could do.

I would not defend him if I didn't see the position he is in (by his own making), but Obama is in a rough position. It is weak that he could not negotiate a better deal with a party that was in the minority by a considerable margin, but what is he going to do in a few months when the GOP has the House of representatives under control and many more senators. Does anyone seriously think the GOP won't get a better deal then? If the Democrats reject this deal in Congress it makes Obama look isolated and very very weak. I don't recall a time where a president brokered a deal to see it rejected by his own party. It would also make the GOP look good as they could say in 3-4 months that they tried to work with the President but the sour grapes, lame duck Democrats sabotaged the deal.

As a running theme in my writing, this falls into the poor priorities/bad decisions of 2009 realm of Obama. In early 2009 when Obama had the wind at his back and lots of good will, an effective 'stimulus' program could have been a temporary extension of Bush tax cuts (to alleviate uncertainty in America of their end result) except for the highest earners combined with a slight payroll tax break just as is inserted now into this deal. He also could have expanded that payroll tax break or had some of stimulus spending (build nuclear reactors) that was based on real things not just welfare extension programs. This is the fiscal difference between the GOP and Dems. Both are bad at runnign deficits, but the GOP reduces taxes and let's you decide how to spend that money while the Democrats create goodies to hand out to earn your favor and create a voting bloc. Maybe in addition to the original stimulus, as ill written as it was, figuring out a future for the Bush era tax cuts would have been a good idea instead of the suicidal health care reform. This period in time, pre-Scott Brown election GOP, was when the GOP was at its weakest. Making a tax policy change the focus would have removed health care reform out of the Massachusetts special election, helping Martha Coakley. Obama could have negotiated a much better deal in late 2009/early 2010. He and his policy advisors made a mistake and read the economy poorly. They are paying for it to this day.

Fighting Winter Weight

Candy season is in full swing. Candy season start at Halloween and ends with Easter. It is a horrible half year of sugar, sugar and more sugar. This sugar, when combined with holiday feasts, can end up all over your body. This is why I joke that the Jews created Passover in the spring as the first Atkins style body shock diet. It is cruel that summer and bathing suit season is right after this 6 month period of sweets, so we all must fight the good fight against the winter bulge. If you want to combat winter weight gain or allow for some sugar snacks, here's my regimen for keeping my midsection looking fit. You can also go here for even better ideas.

1. Get proper rest. Stress causes the body to retain body fat. You have to calm your mind down and get your rest for your body to act in tip top shape. If you get 5 mins of alone time in the evening, try dimming the lights and meditating. Laugh, but it works.
2. Drink water and take a multivitamin. Your body needs micronutrients and needs a way to deliver them. Plus, a stomach full with water eats fewer Santa shaped cookies.
3. Cardio. No sense in punishing yourself with sit ups, crunches and leg lifts if you have a lot of fat layered over those muscles. When women ask me about 'ab work', usually in April-May as bikini season creeps up, I always say "rock the cardio". I have a fast metabolism, for now, so I limit cardio to 10 mins after a weightlifting work out and 20-30 mins on 2 days other days. For me, that is 5 days total. If I did not lift weights, which boosts your metabolism more than a cardio session, I would do 5 sessions of 30 mins a piece.
4. Crunches-Sit ups. If done right, they can engage all 8 ab muscles. They will focus more on the top 4 muscles. I do sets of 20. Start just doing 1 set. Once easy, do 2, then 3. Once 3 sets are easy, hold a slight weight behidn your head when doing crunches. Look at the ceiling as you lift your body up.Breathe out as you crunch up, which keeps your diaphragm compressed and prevents your ab muscles form developing a bulge over the diaphragm.
5. Leg lifts. You do need to target your lower abs. No one wants a pot belly except for that annoying French girl in Pulp Fiction. If you can't get to a gym, just do leg lifts while lying on the ground. Extend your legs and lift them up, hold the lift and slowly lower them down. If you can get to a gym, use a roman chair or hang from a bar and lift your legs up and slowly lower them.
6. Planks. Sometimes I end a midsection workout by doing planks. I just hold the plank position as long as I can. I do this a few times. The Wii fit has a plank challenge. This works your lower back as well.

Just doing some of the things on this list can greatly help fight the battle of the belly bulge. At the very least, you can eat gingerbread cookies feeling a little less guilty.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

First Christmas Away From Home

I have already been guilt tripped for this, but this Christmas is my first Christmas away from my parents. Because of my wife's pregnancy, we will not be flying home for the holidays. I'm not really bothered by this as I always knew this would happen, and I looked forward to carving out my own traditions with my own family unit. I just know it is going to crush my mom. My birthday is before Christmas. She had a horrible delivery for me, and crossed her fingers we'd be released for Christmas. She brought me home Christmas Eve and to this day always sends me a card or email that says I am her "favorite Christmas gift". This is not saying much as my grandparents and my dad are not good gift givers. In all seriousness, Skype will help but will not substitute for being there. Next year will not be easier, and you might ask why won't they fly out for Christmas, but then you'd be forgetting that when YOU move away it is YOUR duty to keep contact and make the effort to see people.

At an early age, I was dead set on having a family of some sort. I also was dead set on having my own family come 'first'. I will not be trekking 1000 miles with a newborn or toddler on Christmas. Santa will come to his house and eat cookies that he leaves out for Santa. My dad had a pathological desire to place his family (parents/siblings) and their issues above our family (my mom/my sister/me). It was pretty obvious. I swore never to do that to my wife or kids. It needs to start small, but be a steady theme. Things like where Christmas is sound petty to some, but to me are important. I hope you all have a safe and joyous Christmas season wherever it takes you.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Remember Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This sneak attack by the Japanese was the start of an amazing and breathtaking offensive by the Empire of Japan across the Pacific. It would take until the middle of 1942 for the US to use codebreakers and some great tactics to turn the tide of war. Thank you remaining Depression-WW2 Era folks who sacrificed, labored, fought and gave for a better tomorrow.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

First Snow of the Season

Growing up in Maine, I was blessed with years ended by a White Christmas. I hate winter and cold weather, but I did love snow for the holidays. Some nights during or after snowstorms, I would grab a beach chair and open the garage door. Sometimes I would sit in the garage and just watch the snow fall. Other times, usually after the snow had stopped, I would sit in the chair out in the snow. The stillness and purity of the air can not be matched in other seasons. There are no bugs alive, few if any birds around, and the chill in the air reduces water vapor, making the air feel thin and light. It is beautiful.

Friday, December 03, 2010

70s Pop n Rock Tonight: "Lonely Boy"

The lyrics to this are really lame, seriously pay attention to the verses, but god the chorus and melody just stick.

Wonderful range on display. The lead vocals sound as if they were sung in an empty, large shower. There is a hollow sound to them.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Grade Inflation for Teachers' Pets... Who Knew???

Hmmm, schools are finally catching on that grades might be affected by how the student behaves in class and not pure performance with the subject matter. This is so SHOCKING. People would NEVER allow personal feelings to influence how they punish or reward students. So people actually reward ass kissers? No way! People reward those who toe the line and make nice rather than pure ability? You're kidding me. This happens everywhere with everything we do, and I find it a bit odd that leaders in the field of education never considered this... especially with all subjects that involve essay answers or papers where grading is not true/false or specific answer. As if the education world is immune to the problems that plague the rest of human nature.

Money quote: "Over time, we began to realize that many teachers had been grading kids for compliance - not for mastering the course material".

Many people are hurt by this. Smart kids with bad behavior. Not as bright kids who are 'good kids' that follow orders that get artificially pumped up into thinking they are geniuses. Imagine being a parent with a 'smart kid' who isn't getting grades and might be a bit rebellious. Think a teachers description of unruly behavior combined with bad grades leads parents to drug their kids with ritalin? Think some kids get screwed in the college acceptance game by a teacher grading with a behavioral influence rather the pure ability? Think some young college freshmen get overwhelmed when a lifetime of A's overrode a lower SAT score to get them into a premier college or program and they just can't cut it when being Johnny Dogooder doesn't mean shit? We end up rewarding ass kissing and brown nosers up the ladder with no concrete aptitude from the moment they leave their house at age 5.

Ass kissing and brown nosing works. Human beings love flattery. Human beings in charge love it when everyone else does as they desire in their controlled environment. Someone easier to do business with or to teach makes life easier but is not always the best person for a task. A concrete life example of this was in my AP US History class in high school. Two kids: Nick the quiet daydreamer who sometimes fell asleep in class and Chris the ass kisser. Chris got Bs in our class; Nick got low Cs. Nick actually got a D one quarter, and we talked him into staying in the class to potentially get college credit. Nick was my friend and Chris was on the basketball team with me so I'd hear one way or the other how people did. Chris had been born an amazing ass kisser to every adult he came into contact with while Nick worked at Radley's Market weeknights at 15. Our entire class took the AP exam. Some for potential college credit, and some because the teacher said if you took the AP exam he'd not give you a final ($100 for no final is a deal when mom and dad pay). We got our scores back and B student Chris got a 1 and C/D Nick got a 4. We felt so happy for Nick because every US college would accept a 4 on that test for credit, and we experienced schadenfreude (without knowing that's what it was) at the teacher's pet getting a 1. Mixed in that happiness I remembered how he received Cs and Ds on papers from our teacher in that very class. A part of me knew then why the grade disparities happened between Nick and Chris, and even then I was a cynic, I thought that brown nosing was rewarded. I hated it then, and I hate it now.

Constantly teachers talk about how they shape the lives of children and how they do so much for our society. This is true. I'm all for paying teachers more earlier in their career if we could also fire them like every other worker and if their benefits were a bit closer to the rest of the nation's workers' benefit programs because of the important part school has with molding the young minds of our nation. They do shape children's lives through their engagement, their lack of engagement, their wonderful hard work and their unintentional, sometimes intentional, slights and negative actions. Grades do matter. Grades do have an impact on the trajectory of a human life. These things should not be taken lightly, nor should they be affected by Suzie or Jimmy being a good, compliant robot in class.

Gimme Shelter Sliced and Diced

Run, read this post and listen to the different parts of Gimme Shelter. The points about the female vocals are amazing. I never noticed her voice faltering during her wails 2-3 mins in. Nowadays, they'd redo the vocals and autotune them. Leaving in her faults actually adds more feeling and flavor to the song.

Gimme Shelter is the ultimate "shit got real" song for movie previews, war montages, '70s protest montages, and bank heist movie action scenes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks WTF

The latest Wikileaks information terror attack (the diplomatic cable release) should be their last. Barry needs to man up, for once, and take this guy out. This is classified, secret information. If it is a crime, prosecute. Heads need to roll at State and the Pentagon when they find out who leaked this information. The Iraq War leak was not as bad as it said a lot of what we already knew, destroyed some myths, and answered some questions of a war zone that we are slowly disengaging from and have been disengaging from since 2008. The Afgan War leak was horrible as it put active sources, spies and servicemen at risk. This was in an active war zone that we are increasing our presence in with a shaky leader in a 4th world nation. There is a big difference though in the leaks.

This leak touches a lot of people high up the food chain. Leaders are mocked by others or are the named source of a tidbit of information. We cannot keep secrets. Who will feel comfortable sharing information with us? How do you think our 'insiders' will feel now that their countries or governments know the US has a nice resource within the cabinet? My favorite part is how the Arab world hates Iran's growing presence, but never says it in person. Funny how some people already thought this, but nope, the mainstream media always has to position it as Israel vs. Iran. The docs on worries that Iran has advanced missiles from North korea will not help anyone sleep at night, but Barry will probably still keep that open hand extended out to Iran.

This is not the Pentagon Papers. That was the release of a 'white paper' done by the dept of defense of the US involvement in Vietnam from the inception of the French-Indochina war. It told a story of how we got to where we got, and was old news by multiple years when it was published. it also told of massive lying by the Johnson Admin to everyone else in America. That was a service to our country. This wikileaks data dump is like a hacker, ADD version of that. It is a massive data dump of sensitive material that is critical today. The sad part is that it exposes the State Dept, and the White House, as incompetent or ineffective. How does this happen? How did the first two leaks not lead to an arrest or shut down before this leak? How do you look allies, spies and potential resources in the face and say "you're secret is safe with me as a member of the United States foreign service"?

Letter from Former Slave to Former Master

A piece of US History is here on display that is both awesome and heartbreaking. The first two paragraphs sound like a letter from an old friend with some weird touches, but one would expect some oddities when dealing with post-Civil War, former slave/master communication. The final paragraph and post script are a great screw you to a former slaveholding asshole. There is something to be learned here by many current individuals that you can be vicious and classy when finally getting the opportunity to stick it to a true oppressor.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Reminder of Horror

The Holocaust did happen and we are still amongst people who lived it. Please read this short tale. Dr. Mengele was a deranged individual who used humans as living dolls to do as he pleased. It is a shame he drowned in shallow water in South America instead of at the end of a rope in a Nuremburg or Israeli tribunal.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

America's founding fathers are usually viewed as austere, wealthy and stuffy old white men. While not a historical record of all of our founding fathers, Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton will shatter that myth as he chronicles the life of our greatest founding father to not become president. If you have a $10 bill, look at it. That is Alexander Hamilton. Why is he on the $10 bill instead of the many presidents we have had since his death in 1804? Read this book and you will understand.

While many Revolutionary War era figures are stuffy blue bloods (John Adams) or really out of touch as slaveholding, aristocratic landlords (Jefferson/Madison/Monroe), Hamilton has a very modern rise and existence. Hamilton was born as the illegitimate son, whom even then it is questioned if his father in name is his biological father. He has amazing aptitude, and uses his amazing talents to leap to the continent, to the precursor of Columbia University, to the aide de camp to General Washington, to the Constitutional Convention, to the Tresury Dept all before age 40. It is truly amazing how much he learned through study all the while organizing & administering the army for Gen. Washington. His hands touched a variety of things from the creation of the Bank of NY, the Federalist Papers, the entire structure of our Federal Government's monetary system, to the very legal definition of libel that is used today.

Hamilton is a bit of a hot head who does not know when to stop. His constant brushes with duels are fun to read amongst the serious tangles in politics. In one stretch, Hamilton gets into two duels in a matter of one afternoon, claiming to the 2nd fellow that he will deal with him after dispatching with the 1st challenger. Hamilton feels modern, flawed, driven, and most importantly for the founding fathers, human. Hamilton is a man of amazing talents who still has his flaws. The author does not shy away from pointing out Hamilton's flaws, and I enjoyed this even handed handling of Hamilton's feuds. Hamilton made some bad decisions. The author points them out as well as how easy it would have been for Hamilton to avoid negative outcomes.
Chernow weaves a story that is focused on the man, Alexander Hamilton, but heavily incorporates the many famous figures that shaped his and the early American republic's life. George Washington's mentorship and then close friendship with Hamilton is truly touching as it develops between the General who had no children and the Colonel who had no strong father figure growing up. It is the best male relationship in the book. This is not too hard as Hamilton's relationships with other memorable luminaries of the day were antagonistic (Jefferson, Burr, Adams). Chernow starts and ends the book with the figure of Eliza Hamilton. Their marriage is a nice constant in the book. It endures a rocky period as Hamilton did cause the first sex scandal in US politics, but their devotion to one another is beautiful to read. Not just in Chernow's words, but in the letters left behind by Hamilton. It is difficult to read Hamilton's goodbye letter to Eliza the morning before his death in the famous duel with Burr and not get choked up. This is not a stuffy biography, but a lively and vivid tale of one of our nation's greatest public servants.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Movie Review: 1984

With no work for 5 days, I managed to hit up my netflix instantque to catch up. I passed on the Monica Bellucci movies, Dexter season 2, and settle on 1984. Orwell's masterpiece is one of my favorite novels of all time. I had seen bits of the movie but never the whole thing.

Despite minor differences here and there, the film 1984 is one of the closest adaptations of a novel I have ever seen. Not just in actual plot points and characters, but in the mood and atmosphere. Supposedly, Orwell's widow would not sign off on a movie adaptation unless there was a promise to not use flashy special effects. I think this helped the film. Oceania is not a totalitarian super state with technological advancements that suppress the people. It is a totalitarian state that employs communism and a constant state of war to the nth degree which fails in every way to provide for its people. It is post-WW2 Soviet Russia with even less success. The lack of special effects and use of disgusting sets, poor make up and Godfather lighting all create a mood of depression, oppression and despair.

Special recognition should be given to John Hurt's portrayal of Winston Smith, the protagonist. Part of his success in this film is just that gloomy appearance Hurt just happens to have. Winston starts his diary by explaining that he has committed thoughtcrime and thoughtcrime is death so he is already a dead man. He is a character that knows his future doom and has no real hope. Even when he is intimate and feels love, he wonders if there truly was a time where that was ordinary. Hurt's resigned depression fits the character so well. I personally loved when he finally gets down with Julia the blank face he holds while explaining that he hates any purity and wants everything corrupted. It's not really a seductive explanation of why he likes sex, but it fits very well with his character. Winston is the everyman, and you have to connect with him to get through the depressing story. Hurt does a wonderful job in the film, and his story arc resonates with viewers.

This is a depressing film. It is entertaining. If you loved the book, do see this film. It is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. It breathes visual life into the characters and settings. If you compare this film to the cinema in your mind that runs while you read a book, you will not be upset.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thunder and Lightning

This was one of the amateur entries in the National Geographic photography contest. This would make an awesome 1970s rock album cover.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robots vs. Total Immersion Virtual Reality

There is realistic thinking about the future of technology like 3D printing/fabricating (think Stephenson's the Diamond Age), stem cell research and energy breathroughs/efficiency improvements. There is fantasy thinking like robots and total immersion virtual reality (VR). What could be here in the next 20 years? With my economics background, I always look for the market and how an idea might win out because it is cheaper to make and easier to diffuse (VHS vs. Beta). Rarely does quality win out over cost, and Apple has made the last decade its mission to make their products be associated with cool so that their higher cost and quality (sometimes) products would be big sellers. Will we see a future of robots to make our lives easier and more fulfilling or will we see virtual reality immersion 'holodeck' type systems win out?

As I have typed randomly, I love the idea of robots (especially sex robots). I have read up on total immersion VR. The core comparison of these two systems is that robots would be an enhancement (potentially) to our current lives while VR would be an escape to a different reality. When we work, interact, are fed by or have sex with robots, it's still us as the prime actor and our homes as the setting. We might add robots to the mix that look like Brad Pitt or Grace Kelly 1953, but it's still us in our current bodies with our current surroundings. There is also the fear, unfounded for a few more decades, of robots becoming sentient and killing people. This might hurt robot development. Then there is the cost of each robot. Will specific robots be designed for specific functions or will there be an all in one? Manufacturers will have to recoup costs to produce a product.

It's obvious with alcohol, drug and food use that a lot of people like to escape their current realities. VR can be the next step. Developing computers fast enough to render physical sense manipulation is not too far away. Selling one unit can form the construct which users can play in or modify. Upgrades could be sold and different adventures. Think Total Recall, Matrix training sequences and even Inception. A great thing would be code writing barriers of entry being lower than robot design and manufacturing. There are many applications for the normal world, and a big source of demand would be training of highly dangerous occupations. An action adventure or mountain climbing sequence would be good clean fun. Maybe a violent Old West gun battle could help let some stress off, and maybe a harem program could prevent in the flesh adultery. Best of all, in a VR world, people could render themselves in their idealized fashion. The perfect you could be with Brad Pitt or Grace Kelly 1953. With the flick of a switch, people could escape not just their ho-hum existence, that they could enhance on their own with enough effort, but themselves.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is regarded as the greatest or second greatest President of the United States of America when newspapers poll historians and pundits. Because he died a martyr to the cause of union and freedom, much of his life is wrapped in myth and legend. There is textbook Lincoln who always does what is right and is the beacon of stability and leadership during the Civil War who rose from a humble birth. There is TV Lincoln with the deep voice, long build, beard and giant hat. Read Lincoln by David Herbert Donald and sweep away those cliche images of Lincoln.

Donald uses primary sources only to take you on a journey from birth to death. You read Lincoln's words, read reports and contemporary accounts of his actions and deeds, and read how he handled the problems of secession and the civil war. Lincoln comes across as a good guy who sweeps into the White House because of a split in the Democrats and just happens to be devoted to the Union to preserve it at all costs. Donald traces Lincoln's rambling ways as a young man, and his aversion to manual labor which lead him to law. The build up of young man to young politician is wonderful, and some of the qualities that would help him later in life were displayed in his younger days.

Readers also get to see that Lincoln was bothered by constipation. Abe also had a squeaky high voice, was always looking too thin, and was a bit weird when it came to whether he should marry or not. So much for the deep voiced savior. He was a loser in multiple elections, and was a lawyer for corporations as well as the little guy. Abe had some peculiar habits and traits. One thing that shines through is that despite his limited formal education, he constantly read and worked to understand the world around him.

Old Abe's time in the White House is tremendous. Donald does a great job of showcasing how Lincoln ran the WH, and how he handled multiple wildly different personalities in his cabinet. Lincoln was a bit of an aloof dictator in how he handled the presidency. Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus is shown as truly tough, and one must remember that Lincoln was working to preserve the union. yes he trampled on some rights, but it was to save the entire system. A world with a victorious Confederacy or a Confederacy negotiated with would be far scarier to imagine. Lincoln would not stand for such a world, and in the end, he would give his life for it. Lincoln also recognized the changing way of war, far sooner than European leaders. Lincoln cursed Gen. Meade for not pursuiting the Confederates as they retreated after losing, and made the hard as nails Ulysses Grant leader of the Army of the Potomac. This was not about showmanship, but about attrition and making the Confederates submit to the will of the union.

Please read this book, as it is a touching biography of one of the most celebrated Americans of our young history. Reading this book, you get a glimpse of the stress and responsibility of the office of the president of the United States. Lincoln is human. Lincoln seems a little goofy at times. He also grows, learns and leads. David Herbert Donald brushes away that film of sweet romanticism and inserts in its place a powerful picture of a historical heavyweight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Keep Four Loko Free

The FDA is considering banning Four Loko and other alcoholic drinks with caffeine in them (hot air link with video). Some states have already 'taken action', and my question is why? Yeah some people have been sick from drinking too much, but the same could be said about any other alcoholic beverage. The Brits already have experienced this with Buckfast. I've never drank Four Loko, but I have imbibed its older sibling: the vodka red bull. It lit me up and was a great pep juice for gambling binges at Foxwoods Casino. I learned my lesson lying in bed at 4am, hoping to fall asleep. This is a really silly thing for our government to focus on for public health.

Movie Review: The Strangers

A couple weeks after Halloween, my wife and I watched the recorded horror/thriller flick "The Strangers". Simple premise; a young couple spends a night in a remote summer home terrorized by strangers for no identifiable reason. We have a theory now with horror movies: the movies show leads making dumb decisions or doing dumb things in obviously dangerous situations to make you the viewer feel smarter. The Strangers is full of moments that will have you discussing strategy and cursing the characters.

The movie has a great mood. I loved the tense feeling from the first bad knock to the very end. Just having the intruders standing around doing nothing with the masks on felt so unnatural. The film uses a handheld camera for certain moments and many shots are framed to partly hide the object being viewed. Wonderful way of hiding the creepy things that are out in the night and of making you feel like one of the interlopers. There are multiple 'jump' moments. My wife was startled multiple times. The female mask selection was great. Retro Halloween or costume party masks that have aged. The never changing expression makes the toying, playful aggression and violence even scarier. The male's mask looked creepy but didn't see optimal for stalking people in the dark. It looked like a toaster cover with holes in it. The scares are nice punctuations in the sentences of tension in this film.

I want to thank the filmmaker for giving us 20 minutes or so of the couple establishing themselves as maybe people we would care about vs. killers. Liv Tyler, playing the slightly pretty girl next door, rejects a marriage proposal and has to spend an evening with her doting Mr. Perfect that was supposed to be romantic but is sad as she 'isn't ready'. Problem is that he is perfect and does everything for her. Dude, should have been a jerk during the whole friend's wedding instead of super romantic. Just once in these movies, I'd love to see someone screw someone else over or hurt someone and then when shit gets real, the hurt person doesn't defend or help the other person. Wouldn't that be a bit realistic in the aftermath of a rejected marriage proposal?

This was a cheap movie to make and was very very profitable. There is a sequel in the works. The randomness of life and unknown motivations of the universe are explored superficially in this flick, but it does play on a basic fear many people have. "No matter what you do, trouble will find you." I'd love to see a sequel where the strangers get fucked with by their prey. Like the prey would be some woman who watches her man get slashed and she ends up killing the woman with her hair color and takes the mask to then go and ice the other two. Mayeb it could be the guy who sees his lady get slashed and then he goes all Rambo in "First Blood Part 2" and takes them out in the woods. This is an entertaining film. This is a tense film. This has plenty of thrills and even Dennis from "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" shows up. I recommend it for your next slasher flick night or in prep for next Halloween.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Cruel and Dumb Human Mind

A simple house party near Atlanta. A small fight breaks out. After that fight, a young man gets jumped and dies. Four men beat another to death. Why? Because two girls got in a fight and one of them hit a man in the course of their fight. Instead of laughing and brushing them off, he said he would not hit a woman but would jump the next man that came by. Wrong place, wrong time.

People get hit inadvertently if a fight breaks out at a bar or party. Oftentimes, you brush it off, especially if its a weak punch, which usually happens when someone accidentally hits you. An indirect hit usually hurts less than a strike intended for you. No, this guy couldn't let it go, BUT he would not hit a woman. What a gentleman! He and his 3 friends jumped a 5 foot 6 125 lb 18 year old, and stomped him to death. Whatever happened to just hitting the next guy, ? No, they had to stomp him to death. I bet had the 18 year old victim had been 6 foot 6 and 250 lbs, they would not have touched him.

Georgia has the death penalty. They better plea this out or face a jury of twelve in the deep south. A jury full of parents might think twice on the death penalty, might.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Fed Money Printing Wonderfully Explained

The cute animation makes this easier to swallow. The message is clear, concise and pretty damn funny. I love the use of 'the' before nouns. I also like how Ben Bernanke is pronounced Ber-nank.

Smartphone Suggestions?

Anyone have an opinion on available smartphones?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Psychology of Car Design

I figured out how the Ford Fusion hit the scene and has been a success for Ford. They look good and have decent reliability. I would buy one. I figured out why I like the design. When they made the Ford Fusion, Ford built an affordable, reliable Cadillac CTS. Ford knew how awesome the CTS looked in the Matrix movie and made their own.

Here they are. Ford Fusion....

Cadillac CTS....

Depending on package and upgrades, you could save anywhere from 17K to 44K. A completely loaded Fusion is still cheaper than the cheapest CTS, plus Fusions have better reliability scores. Allow your mind to be manipulated by Ford's duplication of a 'luxury' design on the cheap.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Video Game Idea: Harry Potter Style World of Warcraft

Someone should design and market a Harry Potter style World of Warcraft (MMORPG). A player could become a wizard by going through a school like Hogwarts or Durmstrang and then wander through the HP world. You could learn about the Dark Arts and go bad. I see huge potential for this. Lots of winners here. A video game company would make billions. JK Rowling could add another royalty revenue stream. HP nerds everywhere would rejoice.

Update: Corrected that typo.

Thank God I am Not Single

Last weekend, one of my oldest and closest friends came to visit. About 21 years ago, he and I were assigned to the same project of designing a pulley system that kids could use for lifting large weights. We had to draw plans and then mime how it would work. It was a fun project, and out of that we became friends. Two decades later, we still email during the week. His visit was to see the new life I had here in the Midwest, catch up, see some sights and enjoy the nightlife. After two nights out on the town, I am thankful I no longer am single.

It would be a lie to say I didn't think about it occasionally when we were out, but the single landscape appears to be a chaotic landscape. It was a laugh when young women guessed my friends upcoming birthday was his 24th (nope, it's the big 3-0). Plus, we're a good team together. Some broad generalizations will follow. When did all women start wearing super tight pants? This is new as little as 5 years ago, not all women wore tight pants out. I mean pants where you can see VPL. Even the overweight women were wearing tight pants. Can we create a privately funded 'appropriate clothing' police force? This goes for men, too. Men were dressed as if in their living rooms. We had collared shirts and stood out. Men also have weight issues that get complicated by sweating. I saw plenty of pit stains. Bad. Thing is, they still can get laid even tubby and stained with sweat. I think it is possible to meet someone at a bar or club, but the screening process is much much flimsier at those locations. I now understand the appeal of internet dating sites.

For all of the men out there, just because you hit the gym once a week and do the same 3, upperbody exercises and look husky, does not mean you are a future model for You are tubby, not built. This is a double standard where husky guys can pull the "I work out" card because they have mass but no real definition or shape. Women can't do that. The closest female equivalent I can think of is when slightly bigger girls with large breasts talk about their wonderful bosoms, but we know the truth. At least I could see those women and estimate how they'd look in 10-20 years. These guys wear Ed Hardy shirts. They also tend to shave their heads. I'm trying to picture them in 20 years and I can't. That must be tough for women out there. In the end, neither the husky guys nor the bragging husky, top heavy women would engage in that behavior if it did not pay off with sex or relationships!

The final change I noticed was the increase in the percentage of women at the strip club we went to. I was rather shocked by this I had last been to that club 3 years ago and saw maybe 2 lesbians that night. We saw probably 20 women, most seemed straight, like they were out on a date as they entered on the arm of a man. It is just my view, but I'd never take a date to one. Dancers also told us straight women don't tip as well as other patrons. My friend and I still think we could run a fantastic strip club. After hearing how the money system works at that particular one, I think we'd figure out a sustainable system. I'd also have to grow a goatee, change my sleep schedule and become a slezeball.

If I were single, the double standards of aging and women seeking older men would work in my favor. It is totally unfair, but all men have to do is make decent money (+40K annually), maintain a healthy weight and either keep their hair or look good with a shaved head. My friend and I talked much about marriage, and as he put it "why get married when so much is available?" With a carefully managed internet dating profile ( for sex, eharmony for relationships) and a bit of game for 'real' situations, a man could continously hop from bed to bed with women between 18-27 if that was what one desired. You could put off marriage for as long as possible while still satisfying sexual desires, and still marry a young woman to keep the child bearing window open. I am a hopeless romantic and enjoy having a wife who is my best friend, so I don't think I'd be happy in my friend's situation for as long as he's run his game. It does work for him, and I am continuously amazed by the situations he can arrange with attractive & intelligent women. He's happy with his choices and so am I. That's what matters. I just thank God I am no longer on the single scene.

*I also know why many of my divorced female friends with one kid have not remarried. Ed Hardy wearing husky guys might not be the best candidates for weekday 'dad'.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Perfect 90s Timing

This link has excerpts from the Rolling Stone Cobain '94 interview. Check out the cover image and script. LIZ PHAIR is mentioned as a "Babe in Boyland". I loved Liz Phair. Exile in Guyville is still in my car for listening on an annual basis when feeling the effects of seasonal mood disorder. That album has some really interesting songs, with songwriting that is not a timestamp for the 90s even if the instrumentation is. For the youngsters, listen to this album. I still can rattle off the lyrics to "6'1"", "Soap Star Joe", "F*ck and Run", "Help me Mary" and "Flower". I always wished it had been Liz reaching number 1 and touring arenas rather than Alanis Morissette.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans' Day

Thank you veterans of the United States military. Thank you uncles, aunts, my grampas, and friends for serving our country. Special shout out to the Marines who celebrated their birthday yesterday. If you take the right tour in Philadelphia, you will hear how the Marines formed. Yes Samuel Nicholas received a commission from the Continental Congress to form some Marine units, but there is alwasy a juicier story just underneath the thin film of sanitized history. There is a bit of Revolutionary apocrypha around the Marines birth. Legend has it Nicholas and a friend were drinking in a tavern in Philly and said "we want to be the first guys in everywhere the colonies fight", and after sobering up, they decided to take this wish to Congress. With the Marines I have known, this makes a ton of sense. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great Detective Story

Vanity Fair and Esquire manage to produce pieces that are interesting and entertaining. Last year's Esquire profile on famous football flameout Todd Marinovich won an award for outstanding profile. Vanity Fair just printed a piece about the capture of a serial rapist by a private detective hired to help a hotel in a civil lawsuit. Protecting a company's backside turned into a hunt for justice. I loved the marriage of good old fashioned detective thinking with the use of modern technology. Check it out when you have 15 minutes.

A Critique of Social Media and "The Social Network"

This essay/review is a spectacular review of "The Social Network" and Facebook in general. Then there is a nice response to her article. I do use Facebook, but there is more to it that I dislike now than enjoy through my use of it.

Twinkie Diet

A professor at Kansas State just spent 10 weeks eating Twinkies, Doritos and other crap and lost 27 lbs. His good cholesterol went up and bad went down. He did also take a multivitamin, a protein shake and the equivalent of a can of vegetables each day. The key: he stuck to 1800 calories a day. Pushing away from the table is a huge factor. Knowing when enough is enough is the key, whether poor or rich. Golly, I guess those poor people exploited by megacorporations must be just consuming too much.

This reminds me of Supersize Me, which was a mega-hyped and entertaining documentary. I liked Morgan Spurlock's presentation about health and food in general in that film, which the quest for 30 days of McDonald's served as a framework to weave around for 90 minutes. He shows some interesting statistics in the documentary, and it is worth a watch. What I did not like was a slight "not the whole truth" fault in his 30 day quest. If you hear his doctor talk to him when the doc gets worried, he says Morgan has to cut out the milkshakes. It also looked weird that his bags were always so full if he was just eating a meal deal (even if supersized). Spurlock was sucking down milkshakes on top of his regular 3 MickeyD's meals. He boosted his calorie intake to 5K per day, and look at their menu, it's tough to get to 5K with just 3 meals. A Canadian professor ate only McDonald's for 30 days and lost 17 lbs. Swedish research showed similar non-scary results. I liked Spurlock's message of eating healthy, but his non-stop demonization of McDonald's got in the way of doing a documentary. He turned the truth into a truth he wanted to portray. If you read the Les Sayer essay on why he did his month long McDonald's diet, there is that fear that people see something and accept it as truth. As Howard Zinn once wrote, there is no pure fact.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Cat Ownership Rises in America

If you read through this little article, you can read contradictions that the author just slips in for fun. It can't be incompetence, it must have been for enjoyment. The number of women without kids is up 80% in 30 years. The article cites the part about people (couples as well as single women) delaying marriage, working on their career, enjoying their young life of fun, and then Dr. Corio mentions "a lot of women can't find someone, or they're very picky or very educated". Umm, hello, smart and picky women find husbands all of the time. This might be a subset of the group, a very small subset. I'd go back to the delay of marriage, the waste of 4 years of life delaying real life by going to college, and the enjoyment of fun things. The trappings of the mature adult life are shunned by young people today. Heck, their baby boomer parents barely shouldered them.

One thing that annoys me about articles that talk about trends in society is that they like to give excuses or focus on how that economic go getter group of young-ins is the cause of changes. The average US salary is 41K here, but I've seen median salary numbers in the mid 30s. That means the average person is not working on some hot shot career. Hell, half of America makes less than 40K a year. Johnny or Joannie Wall St ladder climber is not the cause of the dramatic shift. The shift is much bigger. One thing my mom noticed years ago and told me was that she was shocked how many of my female friends would openly say "I don't ever want kids". We laugh now as most of them have kids, but my mom would say how no one her age would have ever said that out loud even if they thought it. Kids are not for everyone, but when I hear many young women say they don't ever want kids, I think they picture a life like Samantha from Sex and the City. The reality is closer to cat lady.

Tina Fey

I don't like her. I sometimes like 30 rock, usually it's because of Tracy Morgan's insane work and Alec Baldwin's fake seriousness (the fake serious king since Phil Hartman's death).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Music in the 90s

Great series here at the AV Club about music in the 90s. The three essays are fantastic so far, and I really enjoyed the Pearl Jam entry. The author's first essay touches on something my cousin and I were discussing recently: will music or a music scene ever be that big again? I doubt it. The internet has made us the seekers of music rather than passive listeners consuming music through the radio and even MTV. Has there been a "Who do you like more?" question since the Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam debate? Each decade had a rivalry, but this one does not. The band "The Killers" was built for the industry to turn into rock gods. It did not happen. I saw it as a failure of the band, but now I think it might be on the entire structure of music today. This series touches on that, and it explains why the alternative nation was so distinctive and memorable.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Marriage Can't End Can It?

Pretty horrible stats here on the decline of marriage in the US (more here). The decline does have phases, but I find it weird the mention of Vietnam as a shock. I don't see how Vietnam would cause such a shock to marriage, unless they are alluding to people not getting married for the marriage deferment when the US switch from the draft system to the lottery system. I worry about the decline of marriage and other things that highlight our devolution. The basis for a good society rests on good homes and communities. This is not just an American issue, but an entire Western civ issue.

I disagree with the conclusion to this article, as I do not see the marriage rate dropping in dramatic fashion as it has in the last 30 years. My rational is that there will be a bottom bouncing effect, where we reach a level where marriage rates cannot get any worse in the segments that are really driving it down (lower income). The other factor is a reduction in the social safety net system and a reduction in our living standards. This will cause women, the gatekeepers, to make better decisions on how their households are formed. While men and women both share responsibility, women have the final say in many if not all matters. Once living standards have dropped and our governments do not have the money to cover for their bad decisions, forming lasting households with reputable partners will be a priority. It may take some hard work, but lasting relationships reap benefits superior to just satisfying every passing carnal desire.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

2010 Election Prediction

The GOP will win a net gain of 52 House seats, 8 Senate seats and 10 Governorships. This is a bit higher than most governor predictions, but I think a couple of wild cards are out there (Massachusetts being one of them). Let us hope that they don't f*ck it up and actually stop runaway spending, extend the Bush tax cuts, patch the AMT, and reduce government intrusion in American lives.

Imagine if Al Franken had not won his Senate seat with the help of Acorn's illegal activities in 2008?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Morphine Cure for Pain

Totally downer song from the early '90s. No one dressed slutty on Halloween, people were afraid of AIDS still, and we didn't have the internet yet.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2011

Next year, my son and I will dress up as Luke Skywalker with Yoda on his back like in Empire Strikes Back. Only one year away.

Enjoy Halloween tonight!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hillary is cackling in her Mansion

As I blogged here months ago, Hillary is biding her time. This AP poll must encourage Hillary. The most frightening thing for Obama in this poll has to be that Independents are against him beign reelected 46-36, and this poll is kinder than the other poll that says 56% do not think he deserves another term. This is all very very early, but Hillary has to be thinking about going for it. If she wants to go for it, she has to break with Barry early 2011. She would also be calculating that things do not get much better in the economy from now to mid 2012.

People forget that the Democratic leadership took Michigan delegates away from Hillary and gave them to Obama even though he was not on the ballot. He won caucus states and lost primary states because it is tougher to rig primaries. People forget she had the momentum in March and April, and Barry struggled through the summer. They chose to toss the old news woman out for the shiny new thing.

The Harmful Self Esteem Boost of the Internet

I've blogged on the Internet 2.0 Me-Me-Me side evident now with the Internet. It's an enabler of the self absorption of modern folks. This is an actual problem in our current society as people do not understand that being a proper citizen is not just looking out for yourself. There are responsibilities to being a citizen, recognizing where your country's total interests lie and how you fit into that. French protests over the increase to the retirement age to 62 (from 60), is an example of this selfishness. The protestors do not understand that to make the whole system continue, they have to give 2 more years back to society before they start their slow, steady drip of pension payments. The self centered behavior of so many people is amplified by the funnel effect of social media websites, twitter, tumblr, youtube and even internet dating websites.

There are positives to these applications and platforms. The ability to connect and share information are two great effects. The downside is that a lot of people start feeling like they are rock stars. No, you are a normal person, and that is OK. Just because 25 people 'like' a status update does not make you special. When in college, a professor told me that the tough transition for so many idealistic college students is when they hit the real world, find out they are normal people who can do great things, but realize they are not going to be President, rock star, great inventor, etc. Some people crumble as that reality hits them, and they fail to take risks or face challenges because the big prize is not there. They don't reach the limits of their potential because they now know their potential doesn't include mass fame or fortune. Others have Walter Mitty level delusions that they dive deep into. The internet enables this.

The clearest example of this I see on a day to day basis is the non-stop attention and self esteem boost of any single, semi-attractive woman through their internet applications by the mindless, idiotic men who give attention to any woman who have a decent picture to share. The unending small likes and comments continuously boost people's perception of their own value. This creates monsters. South Park handled this wonderfully in "The List", as the ghost of Abraham Lincoln explains that beautiful people don't develop character, and that ugly people have to work hard for things earning later rewards. This is true as beauty is fleeting in a society that values youth so highly. If all a person defines their value is through their perceived beauty, they will face a crushing shock when it goes.

I wonder what will happen to all of these attractive or semi-attractive single women once time creeps up on them. What happens when the stream of picture replies, ;) flirt posts, and 'likes' dry up or are shifted to a younger cute person. As a man, I know that any single straight guy sending a single woman a friend request wants to sleep with them. We're simple creatures with simple motives. When the thousands of tumblr followers that stuck around for your bikini or nude photos find the next hot thing and those numbers dwindle to just your friends, how will your ego withstand the assault? Many people have a midlife crisis, but will the snapback to reality or the sign of a few wrinkles or gravity throw a lot of young women into a 1/3 life crisis? The idea of another X-life crisis ties into the self absorption theme. The world really doesn't care about your little updates and tweets, and you better believe it now. Far better to be honest with yourself and grow from there than to delude yourself and stagnate.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Flashback: Bust a Move

This was my favorite song in 4th grade. I loved the line "she's dressed in yellow, she says hello, come sit next to me you fine fellow". Oh my gosh, that is Flea playing bass in the video!

A Money and Meth Murder

The jury got this one right. "Ninjas" went in and murdered a couple (Billings, CNN data here) for supposed millions. The couple had adopted many children, and had 9 special needs children living under their roof at the time. These "Ninjas" used a gun. Seriously, real ninjas don't need guns. Too bad Byrd Billings didn't sleep with an AK-47 in his bedroom. If you're going to keep lots of money at home (family safe had 165K+/-), it is probably a good idea to keep some weapons handy to defend it. I put Meth in the title as the ringleader and his dad look like they are meth heads, don't they? The dad has that super wrinly meth look like in the 'faces of meth' project. A person would have to be on meth to convince others to dress up as 'ninjas' and kill a couple with 9 children in their home that had surveillance cameras.

I hope they all get life in prison and sissies for some bigger bubbas in Florida's prison system.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Household Robots Coming Soon

I can't wait for household robots. Check out this video. A master chef robot would be fantastic, just imagine if that robot could also play the piano for you after your meal. The possibilities are only years away now, not decades. I, of course, am looking forward to sex robots. One entertaining writer has written about the ramifications to different groups when sex robots hit the market. I see divorce decreasing as men will act out desires with the robot rather than a human mistress. Marriage might also change in that partner selection might be focused more on the woman's qualities less than her looks that she would offer for companionship, for building wealth, and what she could pass down to children. The beautiful ditz with no personality or a crazy personality might just be relegated to physical affairs and never be proposed to, as a guy will have the plug in version of her at home. He might really want a long term relationship with a well rounded woman. Imagine a world where men value mental stability, common sense and intelligence moreso than beauty in a partner because they can always crank up the sexbot. This could create far more stable children with better aptitude. This could backfire, and men could hold out until the hottest chick they think they can ever get becomes available. I keep saying men, because men are visual creatures when it comes to mate selection more than women. The more I hear women talk about how they select partners, the less I understand.

I freely admit I would buy a sex robot. I'd probably go with a Grace Kelly 1953, Marisa Miller 2008 or Salma Hayek 2002. I would be perfectly fine with my wife having one as well. It's only a robot. The first generation or two would probably be simple, one look designs. It would take a few years, but the 3rd generation or 4th could be when the robots would change their look on command or photo upload. Apple would totally sell iSexbots, design them wonderfully, and continuously release a new version every 9 months to piss you off. Apple has to figure out something new because laptops and phones eventually become price battlefields.

I do agree with the above linked author that if marriage did decay to nothing in a sex robot world, it would be the end of western civilization.