One of the more interesting ideas to come down the internet pipeline is that of micropayments, whereas you can easily make very small payments (down to a penny!) for goods or (more likely) services that are very low-ticket. My first micropayment was made to view Scott McCloud's new web comic The Right Number for just a quarter. Was it worth the money? Well, how much entertainment can you realistically expect to get out of a quarter now-a-days? The subject wasn't really my cup of tea, but the idea of it has me very entertained. Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that can save the ever-declining market for comic book artists. To start making micropayments of your own, head over to BitPass and buy a pre-paid card. There's not much on the menu to buy now, but it's an idea too good to stay small for very long.
1. What were your favorite childhood stories? Anything to do with mystery and/or magic.
2. What books from your childhood would you like to share with [your] children? There were a number of worthy books I remember enjoying as a kid... The Secret Seven and The Fabulous Five series by Enid Blyton; The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol; and the Half Magic series by Edward Eager to name a few.
3. Have you re-read any of those childhood stories and been surprised by anything? Just at how well they hold up for entertainment value over time. Especially the Curious George books, which are just as fun now as when I was a kid!
4. How old were you when you first learned to read? In kindergarten.
5. Do you remember the first 'grown-up' book you read? I had read a kid's book on Greek mythology while in grade school and was hungry for more, but the school library didn't have any other books on the subject. My mom took me to the public library where all I found was a more "adult" mythology books, so I checked them out instead. I remember it being a heck of a struggle to make it through those books, but the payoff was well worth the effort.How old were you? I have no idea... the 4th grade maybe?
I've now received my 5th e-mail asking if I've heard about the lawsuit filed a while back against Robert's American Gourmet Foods, who happens to make my absolute most favorite snack food ever, "Pirate's Booty." This comes as a bit of a surprise, because I thought that only two people were reading this blog, let alone caring about my Booty obsession. I can only guess that I'm a Google hit or something for Pirate's Booty searches (well, if there was anything I'd ever want to be noted for, that would be near the top of the list, so it's all good!).
Anyway, you can head over to the "Stupid Lawsuits" section of the Power of Attorneys site and read about it for yourself, but the gist is basically this: Good Housekeeping did some tests and found out that the claimed calorie count of 120 was actually 147, and the 2.5 grams of fat was more like 8.5 grams. A woman read this, and decided she was going to sue for FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS because of "distress over weight gain, mental anguish, outrage, and indignation." Now, Robert's claims that this was a mistake, that they changed their formula and somehow forgot to re-label the packaging, which could very well be true.
But even if Robert's was intentionally skewing the Nutrition Facts (which makes no sense at all)... FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS??? How much Booty was this woman eating that an additional 6 grams of fat per serving was causing enough weight gain and mental anguish that FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS seemed like a fair settlement? Such a stupid-ass lawsuit has caused me at least $100 million dollars in "outrage," so where do I sign up to sue whatever lawyer thought that this was a worthwhile case to eat up taxpayer's dollars?
The lawsuit was filed to "represent consumers who ruined their diets and had to spend more time in the gym because they ate mislabeled Pirate's Booty." Well, you daft moron, don't do us any favors. Sane people understand that Pirate's Booty is a snack food (but a far more healthful alternative to most of the hydrogenated crap that's out there), not a weight loss tool. If an extra 6 grams of fat is enough to ruin your entire diet and spend extra time in the gym, then you obviously have far more problems that FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS could ever solve, and should probably visit a few impoverished areas of the world where they don't have enough food to even keep children from going hungry, let alone worry about their weight.
I find it fascinating that there are people in the world who put so much time, effort, and energy into the destruction of the USA when all they really have to do is sit back, relax, and watch the show... we've got idiotic politicians, daft idiots, and piece-of-shit lawyers working overtime to make sure we destroy ourselves. What an ungrateful, petty, embarrassment of a nation we are that FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS is considered acceptable restitution for 6 extra grams of fat on some idiots's lazy ass, when we should instead be thankful that we've got food to feed ourselves at all. So happy birthday to the United States, and long live the American Way of greed and frivolous lawsuits!
I hate, hate, HATE those stupid "television station identification marks" that are constantly displayed in the bottom-right corner of just about every channel. For the life of me, I don't understand what purpose they serve... I mean, isn't it enough that we have to suffer through station identification advertisements between commercials? But now it's gotten ten times worse. Some networks are adding idiotic sound and animation down there! For example, in anticipation of a new series called "Nip & Tuck" running on FX, they have been running a little animated graphic of a knife blade whirling in WITH SOUND to advertise it. Well, there's a tolerance point I have for annoyance, and that crosses the line. I've de-programmed FX from my Tivo, and don't plan on watching again unless they come up with a program so compelling that it outweighs their stupid and abusive behavior towards their viewers. Somehow I doubt that's going to happen and, if this type of crap continues on other networks, I'll just give up television completely and wait for the decent stuff to come out on DVD.
1. Do you remember your first best friend? Of course.
2. Are you still in touch with this person? Not really. We see each other on the street from time to time, but have long since outgrown the things we had in common that made us such good friends.
3. Do you have a current close friend? Sure.
4. How did you become friends with this person? They were a friend to other friends I had at the time.
5. Is there a friend from your past that you wish you were still in contact with? Absolutely. Why? He died far too young.
I had huge reservations about seeing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, because it would not be helmed by original writer/creator/director James Cameron. A pleasant surprise, it actually turned out much better than expected. Where Matrix Reloaded disappointed, T3 delivers in spades. In two areas, it actually manages to surpass even T2 (but not the original... no sequel ever could!): 1) The new Terminatrix (played by Kristanna Loken) was even more ruthless (and far more beautiful!) than Robert Patrick's T-1000, and 2) Nick Stahl adds new depth to the John Connor character thanks to a haunting performance that makes me cringe when thinking of the whiny portrayal we had from Edward Furlong in T2. In fact, Stahl's Connor echos nicely the masterful performance by Michael Beihn as his father (Kyle Reece) in the original, which was the part that was so woefully lacking in the first sequel. Yes, it does have a few logical flaws (the Terminatrix should have been able to much more easily dispatch the leads given her vast superiority over Ah-nold's T-100 model) but hey — the action, special effects, performances... just about everything... were high entertainment value, and well worth the $6, which is rare for an action flick now-a-days.
In Washington State, you have two options for becoming "street legal" with a motorcycle. 1) You can drop by the DMV to take a written knowledge test and arrange a physical skills evaluation, or 2) You can take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Basic Rider Course." Passing either option will enable you to get an endorsement for your license to legally operate your motorcycle on public roads and highways. Since I haven't touched a motorcycle in 14 years, the last thing I wanted to do was use my new bike to take the skills test at the DMV, so the MSF BRC was pretty much my only choice (they provide motorcycles for you). Unfortunately, the MSF courses are always full-up months in advance, so it is no easy chore to actually get into a class. The $50 state-subsidized classes were booked well into October, so I ended up paying for the "unsubsidized" course instead (no big deal, since my $368 was reimbursable with my new bike purchase), which only required a month's wait.
The 12-person course itself is a bizarre mixture of classroom learning and hands-on skills building set over a Thursday evening and an entire weekend. As I understand it, the MSF recently did a complete overhaul of the BRC which made for some interesting times as our "Rider Coaches" were struggling to teach a new version of the class for the first time. The classroom stuff is pretty basic, and could have easily been a sleeper except for the great lengths they've gone to in making it entertaining with games, competitions, videos, and such. A different type of learning to be sure, but it does promote retention of the information for today's MTV non-book-reading generation. The multiple-choice a-b-c test itself (given on Saturday evening after an exhausting first day on the riding range) was really simple if you take the time to read the questions carefully (some of them are worded in a tricky manor). I breezed through the test with a perfect score (as did most of the class).
The physical skills training is where the real challenge is. Even though I had ridden before (albeit briefly several years ago) I can honestly say that a good 90% of the skills taught to us were ones I had never even considered doing in "the real world." Being able to make a figure-eight in a single lane of travel is just one of the odd challenges awaiting you in a series of fairly difficult lessons. Now, ultimately, none of the exercises are impossible, but the way you move from one to the other is what makes them harder than they should be. For example, you don't practice making a few low-speed sharp turns before you start in on the figure-eight stuff... you just jump right on into it. Also, you go from an almost straight-line cone-weave to a harsh staggered cone-weave with nothing in-between to prepare you. It seems as though the skills aren't really built from one lesson to another, but are instead forced upon you in rapid succession. To make matters worse, I honestly feel that the class size is too big to promote good learning of the physical skills. Simply riding around the range perimeter to practice shifting gears is made difficult because, with twelve riders, you are almost bumper-to-bumper (so to speak) and if the person ahead of you is slow or having trouble, a domino effect ensues that makes it hard for anybody to get a good practice in. Even worse, for some lessons, I only got one or two attempts at the skill being taught. This makes it impossible to figure out what you might have done wrong your first go-round and practice a correction. There should be a bare-minimum of three (preferably at least five) run-throughs for each rider of each lesson.
Despite my feeling that the physical training left me a bit unprepared for the actual evaluation at the end, I did pass the test (along with seven others in the class). I lost points for 1) crossing a boundary in the figure-eight test, 2) starting my braking before the allowance-line in the "quick-stop" test (they let you try this one again, and I did it right the second time), and 3) not going fast enough into my 135-degree turn test (which, in my defense, I only got to practice once from the left and just twice from the right... a few more practices, and I could have nailed this one easy).
The upshot of taking the MSF BRC is that I learned a heck of a lot. I was not a very experienced rider to begin with (made worse by the 14-year gap since I last rode!), and I can honestly say that the MSF has given me life-saving riding knowledge that I hope I never use, but am awfully glad I now have. I took a lot of notes each night for the skills they taught on the range, and fully plan to practice them every chance I get, knowing that I will be a much better rider because of it. I may even take the course again in the Spring to be sure that I've not picked up any bad habits since passing. With very few reservations, I highly recommend the program to anybody considering riding motorcycles, current riders wanting to improve their skills, or just about anybody looking for a fun (albeit challenging) way to kill a weekend. If you are in the Seattle area, you can take the course from the fine folks at the Evergreen Safety Council.
It's not the added security, long lines, rude people, freaky security agents, lack of seating, take-off delays, or even the noise that pisses me off about airports today... it's eating at the airport that sucks ass! On top of your choice of dining establishments being limited, your choices within those establishments are even further limited. Even if you manage to find a McDonalds, Burger King, or Taco Bell, you're assured of a gravely reduced menu that is extremely vegetarian hostile. And heaven help you if you have to use a crappy independent eatery... they have even fewer choices and far worse food than the shite they serve on actual airplanes! This morning in Milwaukee I stopped at a place that was selling a limited menu for "breakfast." The problem was not that hot dogs were considered a breakfast item whereas pizza wasn't, the actual problem went more like this:
me: Do you have any apples or bananas?
them: I'm sorry, we don't.
me: Oh. Can I get a toasted bagel please?
them: We don't toast bagels.
me: Hmmm... that's unfortunate, can I get it heated?
them: I could throw it in the microwave.
me: (realizing full well that a microwave will destroy a bagel) Okay then, I'll take a nuked bagel with cream cheese please!
them: We're out of cream cheese.
me: (refusing to pay $2.49 for a microwaved bagel without cream cheese, even if I was going to have to pay 49 cents extra for it) Alrighty... can I get a sandwich with cheese and vegetables only then?
them: You can take the meat off, but the sandwiches are pre-made.
me: Well, I guess I'll take a bag of Sun Chips.
them: Is that all? (oh the irony!)
me: Given that I'm a vegetarian, and my only food choices are a rubberized bagel with no cream cheese, a hot dog, or a meat sandwich, I think that's gonna have to be it, thanks.
them: Okay then, you have a good day! (Wisconsin folk are among the nicest people I have ever met, even when telling you that all you're getting for breakfast is a bag of chips).
How sad that you can't even get a piece of fruit for breakfast anymore. With every passing year, the American diet is heading further into the crapper, with the only thing available to eat on the road being foods littered with dead animal flesh, packed with deadly hydrogenated fats, or void of any nutritional value what-so-ever. Is it any wonder that, as a Nation, we're getting fatter and less healthy?
1. When was the last time you cheated? After thinking for a bit, I can honestly say I don't know... so it must have been quite a while ago. I firmly believe that cheating only harms yourself, and that if you must cheat to get through life, it's probably worth your time to figure out why that is (and even more important, what you can do to change it).
2. When was the last time you stole? That I can recall, I have never stolen anything. I guess I was raised right? In any event, stealing brings harm to another person, which is something I will avoid at all costs.
3. When was the last time you lied? In general, I find that life is much simpler when you do not lie, but not so long ago, I did not tell the full truth in order to spare somebody's feelings (which I suppose it as good as lying).
4. When was the last time you broke or vandalized another's property? That I know of, I have never intentionally done either, but I'm sure there have been times I've accidentally broke something belonging to another.
5. When was the last time you hurt a loved one? This is yet another thing I strive to avoid, as my spiritual beliefs are such that bringing harm to another person is a grave offense. That being said, I have brought harm to somebody when I thought it would save them from even greater harm.
Finally got around to going out on a good three hour ride on my new bike, and found out something very interesting... riding a motorcycle gives you the power of invisibility! That's right, hop on a motorcycle, and people can't see you! In my first three hours of riding I was forced to make two emergency stops because somebody was illegally turning into my path.
Idiot #1 pulled out from a driveway with barely a check to see if there was any traffic... and it wasn't like he was backing out, he was moving forward and would have to have looked directly at me if, indeed, he bothered to look at all! After he noticed me all up-close and personal-like (when I stopped at his window!), he just shrugged his shoulders and slammed down the gas pedal. Didn't check to make sure I was alright. Didn't seem to care that he could have killed me if I hadn't been anticipating that he was going to do something stupid (as they teach you over and over again in the MSF classes).
Idiot #2 was a woman in a pick-up truck that pulled into my lane from an intersection that I was turning into. Never mind that I clearly had the right-of-way... she didn't bother to look, and somehow couldn't see a bike with a headlight AND left turn-signal on! She never saw me. Probably didn't care. Too wrapped up in the song on the radio, recovering from her hangover, and trying to come up with an excuse for her husband as to why she didn't come home last night. I don't think things would have been any different if I had been in a car, except I probably wouldn't have been as careful, and ended up crashing into her redneck ass.
So, as a plea to you blissfully unaware car-driving morons out there, OPEN YOUR F#@%ING EYES WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING! Seriously, if you can't see a motorcycle headlight coming right at you, it's because you just aren't paying close enough attention. God help any PEOPLE that might be crossing your path... they don't even have headlights or turn-signals. If you aren't 100% when you're behind the wheel, you don't belong there in the first place.
Oops. Sorry, I hadn't realized that some of you have no idea what my new bike looks like (thanks Kenji!)...
It's a BMW F 650 GS Dual Sport. Sweet, I know! And it's perfect for where I live, because it's equally at home on the road, or in the dirt!
At the insistence of some raving friends, I've finally started tuning in to Bravo television's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In this latest twist to "reality television," a team of five gay guys render advice in fashion, grooming, style, design, food, and culture upon some poor straight slob. This show is funny. The only problem with it is that the advice they give costs major bank, and I don't see how the average guy could possibly afford to go to $500-a-day spas and shop at Ralph Lauren. Oh well... it's entertaining, which is more than I can say for most of the stuff on television.
1. If your life were a movie, what would the title be? Let's go with Being Dave Malkovich.
2. What songs would be on the soundtrack? I love the soundtrack for the film About a Boy (by Badly Drawn Boy), and think it would be a good swipe for the movie of my life. As for the musical score on my film, it would have to be by master film scorer Eric Serra (The Big Blue, The Fifth Element, Goldeneye) or Vangellis (Chariots of Fire, Bladerunner).
3. Would it be a live-action film or animated? Does it really make a difference now-a-days? Why? Computer special effects are so advanced now it might as well be live-action! Of course, if Hayao Miyazaki wanted to animate my life's story, I would absolutely not complain.
4. Casting: who would play you, members of your family, friends, etc? As long as I could play myself, and my girlfriend was played by Elizabeth Hurley, I wouldn't care who else was in the movie.
5.Describe the movie preview/trailer. I can't even guess... but there should be a lot of explosions.
Here I am in lovely Spokane, Washington! Actually, I am not a big fan of the city, because it's hard to get excited about something when you have to drive 3 hours in 106-degree heat to get to it. The thing I am excited about is the opportunity to eat the best damn pizza on the planet at David's Pizza. This is no joke. I have eaten pizza in every major American city (and oh-so-many not so major cities) along with a good chunk of other cities around the world... and none of them compare to the fine fare you can get at David's. Chicago thick-crust pizza? Fantastic, but this is better. New York stuffed pizza? Excellent, but this is better. Authentic Italian pizza in Rome? Amazing, but this is better. If you ever find yourself in the backwaters of Eastern Washington near Spokane, you owe it to yourself to have a slice (or three) of their "Da Vinci" pizza (with Feta cheese, basil pesto, fresh tomato, and mozzarella) at David's. They've been voted "Spokane's Best Pizza" for 6 years in a row, but I find it to be true no matter where I go.