Monday, August 6, 2012

All stories end.  And all children, except one, grow up.

I'll be in California for the next few months.  I probably won't be writing here but might start up at a new location.  It's nice to have a fresh start sometimes.  Still, instead of adding a lot more blog-noise to the Internet, I plan on using my time in California to do some art, a little creative programming, and socializing with my neglected high school friends and family.  I just hope the weather warms back up.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I was going to write a post here lamenting that I'm now middle aged, but according to wikipedia I'm not quite there yet. I still feel like this is an unpleasant milestone. 30 is such a round number. It's one of those points where you think, "I remember 5 years ago, and this is about where I was then as well." The same job, though now I work from home and my pay grade in the office has probably about plateaued. My wardrobe is a bit different. My computer is a little smarter. My tv is larger. Lots of great accomplishments, as you can see. I suppose my current apartment is much nicer, but that's about to change.

Today I went to the zoo for a bit. Maybe I should have been going more often because it's free and all.  I saw some joggers who look like they run through it regularly.  I was there hoping for a summer rainstorm but the weather wasn't accomodating. Instead it was just cloudy, hot and sticky, and the only large animals you could see were donkeys. Every animal that could go indoors had done so. We give these zoo animals too many options.

I also spent some time trying to make a good mojito. It's much harder to do than you'd expect. People on the internet like their mojitos either tart or bitter, and I prefer mine sweet. But all these ingredients (there are only about five possibilities) somehow don't add up to a sweet beverage. Even adding lots of sweetened syrup doesn't really work. There must be a secret ingredient somewhere.  Now I'm discouraged and my kitchen is all sticky. Lots of failed mojitos poured right down the drain too. I guess I'm lacking that alcoholic gene.
Well I've been screwing around for 30 years, it's time to start making something of my life.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Got lectured by a tourist on the metro train because I was sitting in a handicapped seat while a completely able-bodied lady was standing near the doors with a stroller. Since when is pushing a kid around the same as being handicapped? I get up for pregnant women, people with disabilities, and old people. Or even people who look like they might be unusually uncomfortable standing, on a case by case basis.

The lady in the doorway looked totally capable of standing on the train, and in the shuffle of people getting off and on at stops she didn't look at all interested in grabbing one of the vacated seats. So I didn't get up, and the tourist in the handicapped seat next to me, who was also young and ablebodied and had clogged up the aisleway with her own stroller, bitched in my ear and to her lucky husband for two stops about what despicable person I am.

I didn't call her any names but maybe I should have.  Instead now I just hate people. Happy birthday, America.

(from "W." George Bush to Condoliza Rice after a frustrating telephone call with the president of France)
Next chance that comes up, remind me to veto something French. 'Cause I'd be damn glad to!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm watching Made in Britain. I should rename this blog "Movies you've never heard about- And probably don't want to." It's an older British film, Tim Roth's first. It might be made for TV, I'm not sure. Tim Roth plays a British juvenile delinquint going through the British government's JD reform system. It's not a very entertaining movie. For some reason the social worker is convinced that Tim Roth's character is smart and reformable, but he continually frustrates everyone by refusing to adopt the straight and narrow. The entire film is watching a punk commit random crimes and consequentially get in yelling matches with well-meaning social workers until everyone in government washes their hands of him.

There's a scene in the Breakfast Club where the one punker teenager aggravates the principal and is given a bunch of extra detentions. Hmm. According to the internet, that scene goes something like:

Richard Vernon: You're not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.
John Bender: Eat my shorts.
Richard Vernon: What was that?
John Bender: Eat... My... Shorts.
Richard Vernon: You just bought yourself another Saturday.
John Bender: Ooh, I'm crushed.
Richard Vernon: You just bought one more.
John Bender: Well I'm free the Saturday after that. Beyond that, I'm going to have to check my calendar.
Richard Vernon: Good, cause it's going to be filled. We'll keep going. You want another one? Just say the word say it. Instead of going to prison you'll come here. Are you through?
John Bender: No.

The parody in Not Another Teen Movie of this scene was particularly funny.  Anyway, now you remember the scene. Take that scene, stretch it out to an entire movie, add a few racist rants and some benevolent authority figures, and you've got yourself Made in Britain. Talking to this guy is like trying to convince a Goth kid to save himself some grief and change his makeup. He'd rave about "conformists" and "sell outs" and there'd be nothing more you could do.

Tim Roth does an fantastic job. By the end of the movie even I wanted to punch him. You get the sense that the kid knows that he is spiraling downward, but that by this point his highest realistic ambition, to be a taxi driver, would require swallowing an unmanageable amount of pride and admitting mistakes. Tim Roth can't do it and instead steals cars and breaks windows. Some people have to choose between being true to themselves and being happy.

(from Moby Dick)
"Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!"

Friday, June 8, 2012

I saw The Avengers yesterday. I should retitle this blog "The Movie Snob." I'd been resisting The Avengers, mostly because I've been continuously disappointed with Marvel comics' movies. I'm also reluctant to contribute to Hollywood's "more is more" mentality, where more explosions is equated to more money and all the finer subtleties of filming are ignored. So I'd skipped Iron Man 2, and Fantastic 4, and had only seen Thor and whatever else on DVD where I could read or play solitare on my laptop at the same time. But Kate Reid wanted to see The Avengers, and she was kindly helping me pick out glasses frames downtown, so I compromised my values and went to see another Marvel comics movie. I'm a rather inexpensive whore, as whores go.

The movie actually wasn't half-bad! Maybe because my expectations were in the gutter. Robert Downy Jr's endless quips were only a little annoying, same with Captain America's pouty earnestness and Thor's archaic way of speaking. Iron Man's archery still look silly, but you can see why everyone might choose to politely indulge his idiosycrasy.

I found myself appreciating how they stayed true to my childhood memories of the comic books. They show Captain America's shield magically absorbing the vibrations of Thor's attack, how Mjolnir can only be lifted by the righteous, and I was quite entertained when Bruce Banner walked into a scene wearing ill-fitting, unnaturally large pants (by coincidence in the story, but we all know it was in preparation for his pants-stretching transformation).

It turns out that if you throw enough 2.5D characters into a scene, you stop noticing their individual lack of dimension. Also if you squish enough layers into a premise, you stop noticing that there isn't really a narrative plot. Marvel pulled a lot of tricks with this one. The only thing they can't disguise is that this is a franchise movie and no permanent changes can be made to any of the characters. Captain America might get randomly bruised and cut, but none of those bullets are going to blow off a finger or hit an eye. The characters are invulnerable, and they know it. They are cartoonishly carefree when in supposed danger. The one somber part of the movie is when a minor soldier guy dies. And you know its the sad part, not because any actors pretend to be saddened, but really because the characters take a few minutes off from their usual quips. (Looking back now, I suppose I complained about this same thing a few entries ago regarding Burn Notice. I guess it's something that bothers me more than most viewers.)

Even the hook after the credits was entertaining. Possibly only because of my particular circumstances. I had to explain to Kate Reid whose face it was that we saw, and then she asked me if his line therefore had a double-meaning, and it was only then that I saw that it did have a double-meaning. Usually I hate waiting for post-credits hook scenes but I appreciated how that bit of cleverness snuck up on me after the fact.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

This afternoon I reached out to kill a tiny spider that was on the wall. No big deal; I'm a man. Somehow I missed it though and the next thing I know a tiny spider is running around on the back of my hand. I yelped and viciously shook my hand like it was on fire. No idea where the spider is now.

I was worried that the barista at the local coffee shop had given me her phone number without my asking for it, which would cause some awkward coffee orders in the future.  But now I think this to-go bag just coincidentally has someone's name and phone number written on it. It also has some kind of weekly schedule, with AM or PM written for each day of the week, but it doesn't say "call me" or anything. It's be a very organized and impersonal note, if this is a note. I'm hoping it's not because Starbucks is a long block further to walk.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I've been watching Burn Notice because my cousin David recommended it. I guess it's like Justified, but I don't like it nearly as much. Justified takes place in the dirty south among hillbillies and disgusting druggies while Burn Notice is in Miama and all the characters are Miami-slick. Every episode is like Ocean's Eleven, where the emotions displayed range from pre-mission smug self-assuredness to post-mission, "I knew it would work," smug self-congratulation. When a good guy finally gets captured, I find myself wishing that the resulting interrogation/torture would involve some actual emotional display. Instead it's all carefree witty banter amid violence, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith or James Bond. I find myself hoping for interrogations that include severed fingers or something else that might wipe the smirks off their faces.

I guess comparing the show to bad movies is a sign that I don't like the show, but I did manage to watch the entire first season and it had some entertaining moments. Bruce Campbell is of course endlessly likeable and the main guy has occasional funny moments. There's also a one and a half-dimensional character of a woman the writers threw into the mix but she doesn't ruin every scene (though she does try). It's all mildly entertaining, but it's no Justified.

(from the Veep)
Oil Lobbyist: This bill is a f***ing disgrace. And I'm going to see to it personally that it gets chewed up like a dead prostitute in a woodchipper. Just wanted to let you know.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I only have one beer left in my fridge and safeway stops selling alcohol at 10pm, which would require some late night jogging to make it on time. It's quite the predicament. Exactly how lazy am I feeling? But it just occurred to me that my mom bought a half-gallon of OJ when she was here last weekend, and I have a lot of old vodka in my freezer. A solution presents itself! It's like they say, when a door closes, God opens a window.
I thought about wandering down to the Adams Morgan karaoke. Somewhere inside me is a star. But I'll save that for a night when I'm prepared to stay out later than tonight.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Champions at trivia tonight! Probably not due to my contributions. Don't listen to me when I talk about chewing gum being a non-food choking hazard, but do listen to Rachel when it's about Charles Lindbergh's age. (I think I ballparked that one with my contribution of "Well, James Stewart wasn't super young or very old." ...Actually, Wikipedia says James Stewart was 48 years old when he filmed The Spirit of St. Louis, which was one of the noteable inaccuracies of that movie. Whoops.)

None of us knew about the "Hubble length". Though the trivia DJ's understanding of it was wrong. He said the Hubble length is the width of the observable universe. That would be true if the universe wasn't expanding, but due to its expansion we can observe much further. (Actually, he may have said "visible universe" which I guess would be accurate.) (And I just noticed that I messed up the addition on my credit card bill, so that the bill+tip does not equal the total. Nobody's perfect.)

There was some discussion in the car about why our team does so poorly in Arlington but so well in DC. The Arlington crowd is a little older, but I think its more important that the trivia DJ in DC is our age, and I'm not sure where he gets his questions from but they're less about history and geography, and more specific about current pop culture or quirky facts you might notice on wikipedia. Tonight's music round, for example, was mostly pop singles from the 90s, with a bit of Michael Jackson from the 70s and one song from the 60s. No classical music, no country music, nothing too werid. It's like music you or I would have on our ipod.  Also, there was a round entirely about "most profitable film franchises" and wikipedia has a chart showing exactly that.  I think the DJ guy just researches random stuff off Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I have a Korn sweatshirt given to me long ago by an uncle. You remember that hard rock band?  I was once a big fan.  The sweatshirt has "Korn" spelled out in skulls on the front, and I always thought it was kinda cool. Then tonight I wore it to walk to 7-11 and the cashier there asked me what message my shirt was trying to say about the Koran. Hrmm.

Saturday I went with Rachel to Flying Dog brewery where we got a tour and drank some small-sized "mugs" of each beer. I didn't especially like any of the beers, but they were free.  I'm not sure what I expect of a brewery, but this one seemed exactly the same as the only other brewery I've seen, which was some brewery out by the ocean. (Dogfish Head?  Maybe.)  They're both somewhat cool buildings with a handful of rooms, each with large metal vats. It was an alright tour. Fairly quick with some interesting trivia.  Rachel had to wear some rubber shoes over her sandals, maybe because they're worried about airborn foot fungus? I'm not sure what the reason was. We stayed afterwards for some brewery festivities, then we accidentally took the long route back to VA and went to visit Puja and Sunjeev. It was a very pleasant day.

Now more details in list form, because I'm tired of narrating:

-Rachel pointed out undiscovered grey hairs on the side of my head that are too far back for me to see. I'm not sure I appreciate it.

-We discussed what to do if you're eating alone and start choking. It's a grim scenario for me because my desk chair has wheels. I try not to watch anything too funny while I eat.

-I'm pretty sure we decided that the only people whose house you can just show up at without calling ahead are your parents. Or I decided that anyway. Rachel said it also goes for any house to which you've been given a key, but I'm not so sure. (Just to be safe, none of my neighbors here have my spare apartment key.) This was discussed in connection to just showing up at Puja's house without calling ahead, which Rachel was initially for. Maybe she thinks we should be more of a "just drop in" society.

-I tried some french fries seasoning that everyone was surprised I hadn't heard of before. Yet now I can't even remember the name of it. It was like some crab favored powder. I wasn't a huge fan. I prefer mustard or just salt on my fries.
All for now.  Eric is somewhere around DC.  I might see him today.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Joe critiques various tv shows.

I've been watching Downton Abbey, and it's, um, not bad. I caught a middle episode in New Orleans long ago and it didn't impress me, but I think you can't really understand a show unless you begin watching from its first episode.

It is a lot like a soap opera, but with the drama level dialed way down, and the over-reactions, due to everyone being proper ladies and gentlemen, dialed up to compensate. Anyway, it too isn't super funny or dramatic, but it seems like my tv standards are lowered these days. I wonder if a regular soap opera would appeal to me if I only started watching it from the beginning. Perhaps I should stop looking down on those drone-like people who religiously watch their soap opera "stories."

I've also been watching The Thick of It, which is hilarious. It's a lot of British politicians bumbling around. I wasn't very familiar with the UK government before, but apparently the Prime Minister is elected, and then he appoints a bunch of sub-Ministers for the various departments. These ministers mostly just sit around and try to think up new law policies to announce. And they all get harassed by the Prime Minister's office, in the form of an angry, sailor-mouthed old "enforcer" guy, any time they have a public relations screw up. Which seems to happen daily.

Am I the only one who thought The Veep was a little disappointing? Online reviewers loved it. But it's by the same guy who did the Thick of It, and he wrote the movie In the Loop, which I also thought was hilarious (though I remember Kate W didn't appreciate it), and the Veep doesn't seem nearly as good. Both those British productions were great, but the Veep is slow-paced and inarticulate in comparison. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus asks her aid what she thinks of another congressional staffer. We know her aid hates this other guy, but all she can say when asked is that he's a s**** sandwich. She doesn't even look up from her blackberry to say it. Maybe cursing just seems more colorful with an English accent, or more exotic when it's made up of English phrases. Also I guess it's okay to verbally abuse your employees in the UK government, while we have to tip toe around a bit more in the US.

The other thing that's annoying is the blackberries. Everyone has their head stuck in a blackberry through the whole show. I know that it's real life. A lot of government employees in DC have their face glued to a blackberry by default (happens to some people with their iphones too) unless something more interesting is going on. But watching a tv scene where every character is looking down at their phone and each only looks up briefly to say his line, well it's not a very dynamic scene.

Maybe that show will get better. I've only seen one episode. But the first episode I'd give a 5/10, certainly not "hail to the veep" like every online review is proclaiming.

I've also been watching more of A Game of Thrones. Peter Dinklage is still doing a good job but the dialogue and story overall are just okay. The machinations of court are nothing compared to the political backstabbing of The Thick of It, the action is pretty non-existant, and the actors, with the exception of Peter Dinklage, the others on the small counsel, and the heavyset boy at the wall, all seem a bit stiff. There are way too many characters to actually get into it, but none of them seem like characters who are comfortable in their own skin. I'm thinking of all those characters from the North, the kid out by the sea, and the evil incest family in particular.  I take it as a sign of unexceptional acting that is unremedied by unexceptional writing.

Each episode likes to end with a cliffhanger that will then get glossed over by a time jump and re-cap dialogue in the begining of the next episode. It's the same annoying thing the books do. They build up to action, jump to another character on a different continent, and then jump back in time to reveal all the missed action through post-action dialogue. I think it's because George Martin is unable to write actual action scenes.

And I still don't care about that blonde girl walking around in the desert. I wish she and her brother had made a suicide pact in the first episode instead. Put us out of our misery early on that plodding story line.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I don't normally talk about work on here but I'm making an exception.  I'm writing two appeals today.  I believe the current backlog of BPAI appeals is 25,000 cases.  In 2006, with a 1500 case backlog, it took 2 years for my first appeal to get a panel response.  Now I have 3 appeals pending, am in the process of writing 2 more, and it's looking like they won't come back until after I'm retired.  It's a bummer because appeals get my best writing and most persuasive rhetoric (I like to picture myself storming up and down the courtroom while dramatically lecturing everyone about the differences between this and that), but nobody has time to fully appreciate them.

Also, this is entertaining:

I just read some other blog where the guy was upset about how short his recent response from the panel was. He thought they were lazy.  Well, I hope they're getting more efficient than they used to be.  We need to get through these cases.  Except mine, take the time to read through mine.  And double-except if they decide I'm wrong.  I want reasons!

Also I've been watching DS9.  I have a very large text file of how much I hate almost every episode, but I'm reconsidering posting it here.  Nerd anger isn't something that's new to the Internet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I tried to watch Death of a Salesman today (the 1985 Dustin Hoffman and John Malcovich version). I think that movies have a more careful pacing that this play-turned-movie lacks. This play is just constant bickering and yelling and crying, followed by sad reminiscing and then more yelling. Highly emotional stuff, and I lasted about 45 minutes. If it had been written as a movie they'd insert scenes of light humor or sometime to give you a little breathing room. There's something to be said about dozens of people reviewing a movie script before it's made.

I also saw My Week with Marilyn and quite liked it. It's not especially dramatic or funny (though it has some funny parts when Laurence Olivier is frustrated); in fact it's not really strongly evocative in any way, which is one of my usual criticisms when I decide that a movie is mediocre. But it has the Love Actually angle where unspectacular guys somehow romance hot girls, and it has sort of a tragic fantasy aspect, like the 2003 Peter Pan, due to Marylin's perpetual unhappiness and the fact that Marylin is only in England briefly during the filming (and she's married). Anyway I enjoyed it. Hermoine Granger makes a small appearance as the girl who can't compete with even Marylin's friendship. She does alright.

I think the stars are sufficiently aligned tonight that I may go to the gym.

(on the phone with an inventor whose response is very overdue)
me: Did you intend to respond to the rejection sent in September?
Inventor (he's already borderline upset): I suppose you wanted me to read what you sent and then figure out some kind of response!?!
me: Um... yes?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I wrote a much longer post about how to change a text file into a vcard file but then deleted it. I spent about an hour doing this earlier this week and then more recently noticed that "do it yourself" blogs are much more appreciated. But the "how to" ended up being so long and indepth that if you've read about the vcard format and understand how to use Excel's concatenate, then it was 95% redundant. If you have a nack for scripting it was largely irrelevant. And if you don't like scripting or know what the vcard/concatenate are then it would likely be tedious and go over your head.

Other than putting together these basics, the reason it took me so long to make the vcard file is that apparently concatenate won't output line break formatting characters. So the only actual trick to the process is to use a special character string ($$$ works because not a lot of contact info includes dollar signs) for each line break, copy and paste (only the values) into MS Word, where Word's replace function can replace $$$ with ^p, which inserts the line breaks. Save as a txt file then rename to vcf. Done. These endless reformats of my cellphone will never leave me without contacts again!

Friday, March 30, 2012

I got tricked into seeing The Hunger Games yesterday. I read the book 6 months ago. That wasn't very good, and the movie is pretty much the same. The movie has some of the most annoying camera work I've ever seen though too. Every camera shot is a close up, either on someone's face or hand or in a couple cases their eye or lips. And even when two characters are just standing around talking the camera would jump from close up to close up. Sometimes it would pan from close up to close up, which is even more annoying. And the action scenes became an unwatchable blur due to the camera being set too close. Anyway, thumbs down.

I wouldn't have agreed to even see the movie except Kate Reid couldn't remember the name of it so she made it sound like we were meeting to see that Taylor Lautner movie where he's like the Bourne Identity guy but in high school. (It's called Abducted, but neither of us knew the name. That movie didn't look very good either, but at least I didn't already know the story.) Then I showed up at the theater and the Hunger Games is playing and Kate thought we'd been talking about that movie the whole time.

What's the appeal of Hunger Games? I could kinda see why girls like Twilight. But this doesn't even really have a romance (at least in the first book), nor is the protagonist an unexceptional every-woman that's easy to identify with, and there aren't any vampires. From what I remember, the girls in my high school english class weren't particularly fond of the Lord of the Flies.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Inspired by my sister Lauren's christmas present I've been playing old video games. Mostly SNES games that I never had growing up. Here's a summary.

Super Mario World is pretty easy. Jumping from platform to platform is just like Mario 3 on the NES, I rocked at that game. Also it makes my stomach lurch when Mario has a really close call and sometimes I unconsciously wave the controller around to empasize how far I want Mario to leap. It's an effect video games haven't had on me since playing NES games in jr high.

Gradius III is super difficult. I've played it a dozen times and can't get past the first boss. I just read a faq online and there doesn't seem to be any tricks, just be super careful. I can get to the first boss, and almost beat him, but then in a stroke of bad luck I'll get killed and not be restarted far enough back to get the power-ups needed to even come close to beating him the second time. It's like Mario 1 that way. If you die in the last castle of Mario 1 and have to restart it small it's 10x as difficult because there're no power ups.

Aladdin is pretty easy, though it took me a while to remember how to beat that boss in the market place. And then that lava stage totally ramps up the difficulty. That lava stage is killer.

Super Ghosts n Ghouls is a difficult game. The main guy moves as slow as mollasses and can barely jump. Zombies appear right at your feat and they run faster than you! It took me a while to discover that you can double jump but that made things at little easier once I'd figured that out. It's weird how all the weapons power ups are actually worse than your starting weapon. Why would you want a sword to swing at zombies when you start with infinite spears to throw at them? I also think it's a bit cheap that the zombies can walk through pillars that you have to jump over and can't throw spears though.

Played a bit of Zelda but that game's boring. And a bit of the Lion King but I don't like the way it controls. Super punch out is mildly entertaining but somehow more frustrating than the NES version.

(Mack puts on ~40 pounds and Dennis doe not approve.)
Mack: We've been through this. I'm cultivating mass.
Dennis: Stop saying that. And if you are, stop cultivating and start harvesting!

Friday, March 23, 2012

I've been watching a little Battlestar Galactica. It's sometimes hard to watch because it takes itself sooo seriously. That and the characters like to say "frack," which sounds idiotic, and about 1/4 of each episode is spent watching people running around on some far off planet (and I'm pretty sure their story will never rejoin the rest of the characters). There's also a worrisome "ends justify the means" thread running through the series, almost like 24.

My last and biggest problem with the show is that every cylon spy is a woman who uses sex to manipulate unsuspecting/sex-crazed/stupid men. Not a very flattering depiction of women, or men I guess. And I think we're averaging like 2 lingeringly slow sex scenes per episode because of it.

Meh. I watched the first season while doing work this week and I don't think I'm going to watch any more of it.

I've also been watching this brit show Doc Martin and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I recommend it much more than Battlestar Galactica (which I guess I don't recommend, actually). It's like Northern Exposure except the doctor is like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

(Dale gets a job as a waiter at Hooters)
Hank: I can't believe you took the job.
Dale: I had to! They only offered me the job 'cause they thought I wouldn't take it. They were calling my bluff. Now I'm calling their bluff! It's a classic double bluff reverso!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I met up with Rachel and Puja (and their spouses) yesterday in Arlington. It was a good time, and we didn't spend the whole time arguing but I did receive a lot of criticism for my practice of microwaving chinese food without first removing the metal handle.

I feel like Puja knows the theory involved but has unrealistic expectations of this practical application. And Rachel tried to convince me with a lot of cautionary webpage quotes and videos of exploding tin foil. Everyone thought my reasoning was hilariously unrealistic, much like when I tried to explain to Eric and Dave why birds don't get electrocuted on the power lines and they accused me of making things up. But, just like then, I'm still right.

A good title of this blog entry, if I were still titling entries, would be "Vindication!!!"

So a microwave works by directing microwaves into the little food chamber. The microwaves bounce around in there until they are absorbed by water and wet-ish foods, or they hit a metal object and the microwave either is reflected or is absorbed to electrically charge or heat the metal objected (which also causes reflections), or if the microwave chamber is empty they just bounce back and forth until your microwave burns out due standing wave feedback. Metal objects that fold back on themselves (like crumpled tin foil or the tines of forks) will easily spark and burn or melt, and metal objects that can't spark back to themselves (like a knife) will accumulate more and more charge until they can spark all the way to the microwave walls or ceiling and cause damage to your appliance.

The chinese food container has a metal handle that's just a heavy wire wrapped into loops at both ends where it holds the paper container. Put in the microwave, the loops at each end will create little sparks where the metal loops, and it might singe the paper container a bit and get the metal handle hot.

The middle/top of the metal handle may develop a slight net charge but it is insufficient to create a spark to the walls of the microwave because most of the charge is dissapated by the frequent looping sparks at either end and the chinese food itself (condensation inside the food container which means the handle isn't well insulated from the food) will slowly also bleed off electrical charge from the handle. Any microwaves reflected by the metal handle will bounce around a bit more but they won't cause much feedback into the magnetron because they'll be absorbed by the chinese food. (The capacitance of the entire "handle plus damp food" system is too large for it to develop a charge that can cause a spark to the wall to damage your microwave. It's like putting two piles of spaghetti on a plate and dropping a knife on top such that it has one end in each pile. Then microwaving the plate. No sparks will result because the spaghetti has too much capacitance.)

Net result: I save 30 seconds of struggling to unbend and remove a chinese food handle, and my microwave experiences exactly the same wear and tear as heating up the chinese food without the handle. (Once I did burn my hand by grabbing the handle too quickly. You just gotta be slightly more careful.) The next time I get chinese food I'll videotape it being microwaved and we'll see.

Update: You might have read "vindication" and assumed that I had evidence and not just reasoning based on assumptions and approximations. But that's not how I roll.

me: Hi, I'm calling for Chris _. Is he available?
Lady: Will he know what it's regarding?
me: Umm, no, would you like the case number?
Lady: Sure, then I can get the file for him.
(I give her the case number and get put on hold)
Chris: Yeah?
me: Hi is this Chris _ ?
Chris: Yeah. I just got handed your file. Let me look through it for a second to see if I can remember it.
me: Sure, no problem.
(30 second pause)
Chris: Okay, I don't remember this at all. Let's see what you've got.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Finally changed my voicemail. I think I three people complained that the delay until the beep is too long, (it's because I couldn't find the # key on this touchscreen phone). Just a warning, the new voicemail greeting might be confused for one of those annoying "hello?" voicemails that try to get you talking before revealing themselves as machines, but it would only fool you the first time, and even that is doubtful.

Also, today I got my hair cut, called Comcast (they're still billing me for tv I cancelled) and called Verizon (update my billing info). It's been a super productive day of annoying leg-work.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I got a coupon with my new graphics card that's for a free download of Dirt 3. Supposedly a $50 value but I don't play racing games so I was going to just give it away. I had just finished writing up a craigslist post for it when I noticed that this coupon has a expiration date of before I even received my purchase! The whole offer is a scam! Now I'm not sure whether to give Newegg an angry call or just forget the whole thing. I wasn't going to play the game or even make money selling it.. but maybe it's the principle of the matter? What would Jean Luc Picard do?

I was going to get a haircut today but I think I'm too lazy. My hair still looks alright. It's not a complete sphere yet.

Instead I'm going to a soccer game with my cousin. It will be my first soccer game since my little sister used to play in jr high. Will DC win? Will we lose? Will it end with a 0 - 0 tie? All very possible.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Just ordered this baseball cap for myself. Soon I will be worrying passing liberals who will think I'm a crazy conspiracy theorist, while simultaneously serving as a painful reminder to conservatives of the racist undesirables who continue to make up an embarrassingly large part of their voting base. Ah, good times to come.

I'm feeling much better now and I have a whole bag full of new medicines that will probably expire before I fall sick again. I also did fix my phone, but the fix involved wiping out all the phone numbers on there so unless your number is a 202 or 707 number I won't even have a guess as to who's calling. I'll probably figure out how to import all the numbers into the phone again at some point but for now I have a text file on my computer with everyone's phone numbers that I use to look numbers up before dialing. It's like being back at my parents house growing up, except there we had a large sheet of paper with telephone numbers on it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Still sick. Probably even more sick, somehow. I haven't been going out, haven't been working, haven't been doing anything! It's swelteringly hot in here. I nap as often as possible, drink endless hot water and eat hot oatmeal. Sometimes I watch movies if I'm unable to sleep. Not even any video games! And what has it gotten me!?! Where has that superman's immune system gone to?

I just noticed today that all my cough medicine expired in 2010. (Apparently the last time I was significantly sick was in 2008.) So tomorrow I'll get new medicines. And go see the doctor. Bleh. I hate going to see the doctor normally, and going to him sick is just asking for trouble. He'll probably take advantage of my weakened state and abuse me with his medical instruments.

And my phone is still broken. I tried pulling out the battery, letting it sit, and then rebootting it but that didn't work. More extensive measures to come.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I think the taxi driver on my way to the airport got me sick. I guess he thought we had bonded because he wanted to shake my hand before I left. Or maybe some guys slip their tip into a handshake like a gangster.

So I've been sick for two days now. Actually, since Sunday in California, but only on sick leave for the last 2 days. It's nice to have a job that doesn't care whether you're there or not. Though I have a case that's going to be due so I can't be sick tomorrow.

I think you don't appreciate being healthy unless you get sick occasionally, and I hadn't been sick for a very long time. Like when you're trying to sleep with a stuffed up nose, and then there's a moment that your nose miraculously clears. Sheer bliss.

Back to napping. My phone is on the fritz so don't try calling. I'll fix it next week.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I was about to send an attorney a document calling his statement an "unclear jumble" and then had a sudden worry that maybe "jumble" has some kind of racial connotations. I had to look it up in the dictionary to be sure it wasn't. That's how you know you've been working too long. I'm not sure how I would have even picked up racist words, but anything could happen.

I'm watching New Girl. It's sort of a girly show, but I find it highly entertaining. Surprisingly, mostly because of the character Schmitt. He's the superficial one of the group. He constantly takes his shirt off, which is weird and something I don't think any roommate outside of a frat house would tolerate, but other than that he has all the best lines. He's like Jonah Hill in Superbad. If Jonah Hill was physically fit and loved to take his shirt off.

I've been meaning to write more here. But not now. In 2 hours I'm flying to California for a cousin's wedding and a late Christmas. And there's barely any Internet access out there so I'll updated again next week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm flying tomorrow. So if you hear about a plane crash, worry for me. I always worry about flights for some reason. I start thinking about leaving a will and putting all my affairs in order. The problem is you're so dependent on the system when you're flying. If there's a problem and they can't solve it, there's nothing you can do. It's like being an astronaut, something I would never be. I would like a personal parachute and an eject button on my seat. Then at least I'd have a hope, an illusion of self-reliance. I've read too many plane crash reports on wikipedia I think.

I was reading an interesting article about why black and white film is more flattering for some movies than color, and somehow I clicked a link to this. Apparently an internet sensation. Rebecca Black - Friday. You're welcome.

I've removed my link on the left to ars technica. I've gotten tired with how a lot of their articles are news with interspersed author opinion telling you what to think about what's being reported. It's the Fox News of technology websites. It's like the opinion you'd hear if you were getting your news from Sheldon Cooper too. Lots of backhanded condescension. Bleh.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The cashier girl at Chop't today wished me a happy Valentines day. Is that coming up already? We just had Christmas! And Kristen's birthday is like directly after Christmas. They should move Valentines day to the summer. Saint Valentine was born in April, they could move it to April.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Watching more Hoarders on tv. They say it's a sentimentality about these random things, and I can kinda understand that. Sometimes I feel irrational about getting rid of things like birthday cards or ill-fitting clothes. These people on the show always seem like they're mostly stable people, and their one vice is hoarding junk. So it's like me, but a little more extreme about feeling bad about tossing things.

The one thing I don't get is how you go from hording stacks of junk to storing jars of urine in the corner of the room. Okay, so the water was shut off. But don't you start making phone calls when the water gets shut off? You get the water back on. Urinating into a bottle would not be something I'd even consider. And then storing the urine? This sounds questionable now that I'm saying it, but why not pour the urine down the drain? I know, I know, different pipes go different places. But it's gotta be preferable to storing the stuff in a bottle on the floor.

These's some hidden element to this disorder that I haven't figured out yet. I need to watch a few more episodes and then I'll be an expert.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I don't know about The Big Bang Theory anymore. Last night I watched the newest episode and it had what seemed like a 10 minute scene of Sheldon saying "I have wood," when talking about his boardgame, and the other two guys snickered and egged him on. It went on for an unbearable length of time. This is material that, back in the earlier seasons, would have amused one of Penny's idiot boyfriends. Then the smart guys would make a joke about him being a neanderthal because of his idiot jokes. But now they're all idiots, and judging by the enthusiasm of the laugh track, the audience is Penny's old idiot boyfriend.

Raj has been de-empahsized because he doesn't have a girlfriend. All Howard really had going for him was his creepy pickup lines and constant rejection, and Bernadette has killed that. She was good for a few episodes, but now she has been hanging around for way too long.

Same with Amy Farrah Fowler. Actually, I never really liked Amy. Maybe it's because I don't know any girls like that. But I also think her flat line delivery and constant smirking isn't very convincing. None of her lines flow out like they're being naturally said by a person. Apparently she's played by an award-winning actress, but someone told her "walk and talk like a robot" and that's exactly what she does. She needs a different role.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

At Starbucks this morning both the guy infront of me in line and the guy behind me in line ordered "the usual." My sister Irene used to work for a Starbucks and said that some customers get angry if they come in regularly and you don't remember their drink. But I feel the opposite. I want impersonal service. What starts with them remembering your coffee drink eventually turns into buddy-chats when you stop in. It always happens.

I actually avoid the closer Starbucks because the girl there always asks about my work and weekend plans and I have to be nice to her. It's a hassle. I don't care about her weekend plans; she probably doesn't care about mine. Let's stop pretending already. I should just be real for a change one day. "We're not friends. Just make me a mocha, coffee wench! Please. Thank you." (One should always remember his pleases and thank yous.) But if I said that someone would probably spit in my drink. There's no winning.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm watching Extras. That British series with Ricky Gervis from a couple years ago. I know I'd seen the first episode once, and the first few episodes aren't great. But it builds. Season 2 is almost like Curb Your Enthusiasm gold, though I'm not sure you'd appreciate it if you skipped to Season 2. Also last episode of Season 1 is especially good because Patrick Stewart plays an idiotic version of himself.

Today I wanted a chocolate milk. All I could find at the local mini-mart was YooHoo, which I was going to get, until I noticed there was no expiration date on the bottle. And then I noticed they don't even call it milk, it's a "chocolate drink".

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm watching Hoarders. Mostly because nothing else is on. According to Wikipedia, most hoarders are men, but I think all the ones I've ever seen on this show are women hoarders. (And I'll tell you right now, it's definitely not because TLC is pushing the T&A for the young adult male audience.) Though I've only seen maybe 4 episodes.

I wish I could say that everything I have in my apartment serves a purpose. I have this efficient, minimalist ideal in my head that I think I inherited from my mother, but I also have a hard time throwing out old books I've read, which sounds like my dad's influence. I also tend to save gifts even if they have no use to me. That might be out of guilt. And I find that I can easily throw out any books if I can keep the digital Kindle version, so now my book collection is actually shrinking. It's like I have this fear that I might want to randomly look up something in an old book I've read. Though I don't think that's honestly ever happened. Every quotable thing is already on the internet, and I don't have gobs of time to sit and re-experience old books.

Ha! Now Toddlers & Tiaras is on. Some show about little kid beauty pageants. TLC FTW! It's a little weird to tell your 7 year old kid to be flirty and sexy. But if you don't push too hard, that's probably better for the kid than sitting them in front of the Jersey Shore or other reality tv influences. Most of the kids in this episode at least seem to be fairly happy. Besides, I think Britney Spears grew up doing these pageants, and she used to be well balanced.

I should find something useful to do.

Update. Now watched the whole episode and I take it back. This should be illegal. It's kinda funny and cute or whatever when the parents are practicing with kids at home, but everything changes when they put these kids in makeup on a stage and make them strut back and forth. Something very unsettling about it. And kids grow up in that environment, don't they? There's a 3 year old league, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9... it just keeps going. The 3 year olds are disturbing because they're showing a bare midriff while being dragged around stage by a parent, and the 9 year olds are disturbing because they're like miniature people!

I also tend to think kids should try not get emotionally invested in competition before high school. Kid life should be carefree.
I'm thinking of selling my couch and loveseat and getting one of those light gaming chairs that sit on the floor instead. Something like this one. It may look kinda silly when you walk into my living room and instead of a couch I only have a little chair sitting on the floor. But I rarely get visitors, I almost never sit sideways on the couch, and these couches will slow me down when I look for a new apartment.

Speaking of which, I'm not entirely sure what to do about moving. The new rules at work indicate that they'll let you move wherever you want, but they may adjust your locality pay accordingly. (The DC locality pay is 23%.) I want to wait and see how exactly they're implementing that. But I also want to get out of my apartment. Management has increased my rent by the legal maximum, which I do not appreciate, and is simultaneously offering a $200 discount if you recommend a new tenant. So I would like to get out of here ASAP and hopefully stick it to the man with a pricey apartment they will have trouble filling. Punitive relocation. That's how I roll.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Watching Runaway Train. I started out having no idea what the movie was about. Instantly my expectations were lowered to the ground by over-acting and cliche prison boxing scenes. Then Jon Voight stepped in and saved this movie. And then it was fantastic.