Saturday, May 26, 2007

now that was nice

On the spur of the moment David & I decided to see if we could get in to the new pirate movie last night. We got to the theatre about 8pm, but even tho they were showing it on 7 different screens, they were all sold out except for the 10:40pm showing. So we were about to leave when a teenage boy walked up and handed us two tickets for 8:10, saying "I don't need any money for them -- we just had extras."
So the movie was good, and we didn't have to wait, and it was free. Can't beat that.

Then afterward we got hamburgers at Wendy's and as we were driving away we saw they had given us french fries too, even tho we hadn't ordered or paid for them.

Seems like a good day to win the lottery, except that I don't ever buy a ticket...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

quotes for you

Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him they don't like him.
-Marlene Dietrich

It is impossible to win gracefully at chess. No man has yet said "Mate!" in a voice which failed to sound to his opponent bitter, boastful and malicious.

Devotees of grammatical studies have not been distinguished for any very remarkable felicities of expression.
~Bronson AlcottTable Talk, 1868, PMB

Correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays.
~George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

tired of phone trees?

To report a card lost or stolen, press 1.
To hear recent charges, press 2.
To pay your bill, press 3.
Para continuar en espanol, oprima el numero cuatro.

What they don't say:
If you don't want any of those things you're SOL, Charlie. Because you can't get there from here, you can't exit this menu, and you can't speak to a human. If you press anything other than 1,2,3, or 4, you're going to get a message saying "Invalid option selected." Really sorry about that. Are you positive you don't want to continuar en espanol?

So anyway, here's a list of numbers to skip phone trees and/or dial directly to human beings.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Quotes and Conversations

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
-William Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.
-William Feather, author, editor and publisher (1889-1981)

Camila: ... and you know how much I love my dog.
Bryan: Yeah, I do. In fact, if the three of us were in a two-man lifeboat, I'm still not sure which one of us you'd throw to the sharks.
Camila [smiling]: Well, let's not talk about that.

Maribel [pointing at something she drew]: This is a Caldecott.
Bryan: What's a Caldecott?
Maribel: It's something you get when you win a war.

Thought for the day: Go outside, the graphics are amazing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm not the only one who says foolish things

Camila's boss is Turkish; his name is pronounced oh-kay-EYE. Camila had a rough time with it when he first came to the hotel -- in complete innocence she asked a co-worker "What's his name, K-Y?" A minute later Okai himself showed up, asking "What's all the laughing about?"

Camila's daughter has a little friend named Christina; recently Camila met her mom, Lisa .
A few days later, she met Christina's grandma. Camila said, "So you must be Lisa's mom?" But the lady said no, her daughter's name is Brenda. When Camila looked confused, the lady explained, "Christina has two mothers."
For some reason, Camila was slow on the uptake, and thinking the lady was describing some biological miracle, blurted "How can she have two mothers?"

found items

one time i was driving on a mtn highway and a guy pulled out too fast in front of me and spilled most of his pickup load of lumber.

some of us stopped and helped him get it back in the truck; he offered to let us have some wood in thanks, which we declined.

someone suggested later that the wood might have been stolen; i think they were probably right.
* generally lumber would be going *up* that road, not coming down
* it was specialty lumber (ie, not just plain old doug fir -- it was purple, like cedar or purple heart wood or something)
* he didn't have it tied down
* he was in a hurry
* he offered to give away valuable lumber basically i guess i helped a guy get away with theft.

this morning at 6am i was driving Camila to work and saw a bunch of boxes of bottled water had fallen off a truck and were all over the road.
after i dropped her, i went back and pulled them all out of the way of traffic. while i was doing so, a couple other people showed up, including a guy in a beverage truck, who started throwing them in his truck. i and others assumed they had fallen *off* his truck, but he never actually said so, and upon further consideration i think he was just taking advantage of the situation.
i took a couple of bottles and he just waved and smiled as i drove away.

so anyway, that story was even more boring than the lumber one. sorry about that...

CW update

Camila's soon-to-be-married co-worker isn't.

Apparently the house-buying fiance didn't show up at the signing, changed all his phone numbers, and didn't return CW's calls. Then he *did* call, apparently to explain, but CW is now ignoring him.

However, CW appears unfazed -- she has since found a new boyfriend on the internet about whom she is very enthusiastic: "He's wonderful, I'm so excited, I feel like a little girl..."


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Winston Churchill on prisons

“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry of all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.”

Friday, May 11, 2007


Here’s a little Rorschach test for you…

Los Angeles Police to Review Use of Force During Immigration Rally

video here

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

while we're on a roll...

...of (boring) stories that demonstrate how dumb i am:

1) my senior yr of HS we toured the local community college on Career Day. when we arrived we were told to note the number of the bus, and be back by 4pm because the bus was leaving at 4:15 sharp.
when i got thru all the exhibits, i walked back to the bus lot, took a seat next to bus #328 (or whatever) and read a paperback book. eventually i noticed that it was past 5pm and my bus was still empty. because, of course, it wasn't my bus.
somehow it never occurred to me that there would be more than one bus #328, in spite of the fact that all kinds of school districts had bussed their kids there that day.
i think some nice student gave me a ride back to town. i really don't remember, but i'm pretty sure i got back because i'm not still there.

2) i had a Subway discount card that gave you a free 6" sandwich if you bought 5 at regular price.
i bought five 12" sandwiches, and couldn't understand why the manager didn't want to give me the free sandwich. she was very nice, but she was adamant that it only counted if i bought five 6" sandwiches, not 12" ones.
i was equally adamant that that was stupid because i was buying even *more*, so why shouldn't i get the free sandwich.
eventually she said "i guess i can't explain it to you, but i'll give you the sandwich because i don't want to argue with you." which was a good business decision, because it kept me coming back to the store.
after i left, it finally occurred to me that the reason they can give away a sandwich if you buy 5 6" ones is that they have a higher margin built in. they make less profit on 12" sandwiches, which is why they don't count in the promotion. duh.

nothing gets by me, ever

Unites Airlines chose a snippet of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as their theme music, for obvious reasons*. It plays several times on every flight.

A version of it also seems to be playing in the tunnel between the B and C concourses at Chicago's Ohare airport**. I'm not sure if that's coincidence or not -- did United pay the airport to play it, or did they pick it independently? These are important questions.

But my point, which I do have, is that it's possible to be intimately familiar with United's theme music, to the point where you find it quite irritating, and not be aware that it's the famous Rhapsody in Blue. You could, for example, be 42 years old and hear your daughter playing it on the piano and think "How cute, she's picked out the melody to that United Airlines song" and then have to have her explain that it's actually a major composition whose name you know, but because you're such a Philistine, you've never actually listened to.

I'm not necessarily saying this happened, but I'm not saying it didn't, either. I'm just saying it could.

*because it sounds like being happy in the sky. and because Smoke on the Water doesn't really set the proper mood for nervous travelers...

**why is Ohare's airport code ORD? that makes no sense to me...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

and speaking of being friendly...

Psychomamma posted recently about rage all around us.

Some posited that it has to do with excess privilege, which may indeed be a factor. But I also suspect that people have been ever thus (angry). It makes me think that maybe a loosening (or perhaps simply lack of consensus on) moral standards is in operation here. Moral relativism and all that. I think many of us are simply unable to “be good” (ie, exercise self-discipline, operate cooperatively/altruistically, etc) without the strong, simple, and consistent moral framework offered by religion or well-entrenched social custom.

As clichéd as it sounds, I also think violence glorified in popular culture (TV/movies, songs, video games) has an influence. To those (stupid) people who like to think that continual exposure to a particular behavior or message doesn’t have a significant effect, I point you to Calvin & Hobbes, where Hobbes responds to a similar contention with “That sound you hear is advertisers laughing.”

I also wonder if isolation plays a role. We're social animals, but now that we live together in such huge groups (ie, cities), it's not practical/possible to interact with everyone in a way that would promote empathy and cooperation -- it would take all day. So we develop the technique of ignoring each other except when necessary (ie, most of the ppl we see we treat as scenery). IOW, we necessarily develop the habit of de-humanizing most of the people we see every day.
In addition, we now have the ability to live in a way that insulates us from our dependence on others; because of electronics, mega-farms, smoothly-functioning transport infrastructure, etc, etc, we now have formalized, reliable methods of getting what we need (food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, etc) without interacting with other people in any meaningful way. So we don’t.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

It's nice not to be too old yet

MNSBC has a recent article entitled Who cares for childless elderly?

Apparently more child-free people are aging, and some are wondering who's going to take care of them when they're drooling in their jello.


I have to admit to a tiny bit of unseemly and totally uncalled-for schadenfreude, most likely stemming from a pro-family bias. I support 100% a person's decision not to procreate. Having children is definitely not for everyone, and no one should be made to feel obligated, or as if a child-free life is of less value than that of a parent.

However, having children is (usually) a very valuable and rewarding experience. Raising children is essential to the survival of our society and our species, and is very difficult to do well. It tends to broaden one's perspective in some ways, and focus you in others. If you're doing it right, it definitely beats some selfishness out of you.

And unfortunately, because some child-free people *have* on occasion been made to feel selfish or "less", and because it's sometimes wrapped up in the issue of hetero-/homo-sexuality, there's occasionally some resentment about it, and there's a bit of a backlash (gay people referring to straights "breeders", etc). To the point where I've met child-free couples who are aggressively argumentative about their choice.

My favorite thing (not) is when people act all smug about how they're taking a stance against overpopulation. In the first place, why exactly do we want fewer people? The only reasonable answer I can think of is to enhance the quality of life of the people who *are* born. But it seems to me that very few people would choose not existing to being poor & hungry, so who are we to make that choice for them?
It's an amazing coincidence that (as PJ O'Rourke said), there's "way too many of everybody else, but just the right amount of me."
IOW, when we argue for less population, we're essentially arguing for our own selfish interests (ie, we want other people to not exist so that we can have more of the earth's resources). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we should at least admit it.

And of course, if *everybody* stopped having kids, the species would die out; so to achieve the goal (fewer people), we really only need *some* people to stop breeding, not everyone. Which brings me to this: the places where we need fewer people are the places where the natural resources and political/economic infrastructure can't support large populations at any level above grinding poverty (ie, India, Africa, China?). If there was ever a place where it makes sense to make more kids, it's the USA, Canada, Western Europe -- where by virtue of their wealth and opportunity, a relatively larger percentage of the kids will eventually be doctors, scientists, etc who will make contributions to the world's benefit. But of course, these are the places where the birthrate is the lowest, where immigration is the only thing keeping their populations growing.

Furthermore, increasing the world's population by less than 0.00000002% (one six-billionth) has a negligible effect on the population question; and you can't get all Categorical Imperative on me, because as I said, if everyone did it your way, the entire species would disappear, wouldn't it? So IMHO, you can do just as much for the world by borning and raising a responsible, socially conscious child (who, incidentally, is likely to keep you from being a burden on everyone else when you're old) than by getting all smug about your vasectomy.

So anyway, when child-free people get old and suddenly start wondering who's going to care for them, I admit to thinking "Well, that's one of the differences between you and me: when I was changing diapers, cleaning up puke, and trying not to kill tearing my hair out trying to turn recalcitrant teenagers into responsible, productive adults, you were in Europe, or maybe just eating out or taking your dog for a walk." The point is that children are an investment in the future. Bread upon the waters and all that.


But my prejudices aside, the topic of the childless elderly raises some interesting questions:
  • Who's responsible to care for the elderly who haven't provided for their own care?
  • If we hold that a society is obligated to care for its members who can't provide for themselves, what standard of living are they entitled to?
  • What's the deal with old people not closing their mouths? Is it really that hard?
So anyway...

More often than we'd like to think, you can do everything right and still get nailed by bad people, bad luck, unforeseeable circumstances, etc, and end up poor and alone in old age.

But the unfairness of life aside, I feel we each have a responsibility to provide for ourselves as much as possible, whether by saving sufficient money, or by becoming of value to society, or by developing a social network (eg, descendents and friends) who will be motivated to care for us.

When I read (or see movies) about people who are in desperate straits, and it all comes down to lacking $1 for bus fare to somewhere or whatever, I always think “Where are their friends? Don’t they have anyone to help them? We’re social animals, we’re interdependent creatures. I feel like we all have an obligation to be social enough – and helpful/kind enough to others – to be part of a support network.

And the question of aging is part of that. If you don’t have kids, you need to make friends with some younger people. Help them out. Babysit for them. If they’re really young, you can hire them to cut your lawn, or listen to them complain when their parents won’t let them get an eyebrow ring. Loan them money for school, give them a ride to the mall, whatever.

I don’t mean we need to be manipulative and self-serving – I just mean make some friends. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of being judgmental and curmudgeonly about how things are now – open your mind and make an effort to be cool enough and nice enough that when you’re old and you need a ride to the doctor, you’ll know enough people who like you that someone might be available to drive you.

And of course, saving money is important. If you want comfort in old age, you might need to be putting some away right now. I’m considering whether I should start that also, or if I’ll just settle for being 100% a burden to my children (for the record, I’m leaning toward burden, but I’m still considering all the options.)

Money is the best thing (even better than progeny -- your kids may hate you, but money's always good) to keep you comfortable, especially if you live long enough to need more than taxi and meal service. With money, at the very least you can find someone who will take care of you -- and even pretend to like you -- in exchange for a mention in your will.

So there you have it. Plenty of opinion, backed by half-baked theories or even outright fantasy. Your opinion is welcome...

!Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

10 points to anyone who can tell me (without googling) what Cinco de Mayo commemorates...