Monday, February 28, 2011

2012 Olympic Logo

"Iran objects to the logo for the 2012 London Olympics."

I can see how someone might object to the logo on the grounds that it is fairly uninspiring (some might even say heinous), design-wise*... but I think you have to go out of your way to see what they see in it.

And honestly, does anyone except for the Iranians themselves really care whether they compete in any given Olympic games?  Actually... I don't care if any country wants to boycott them.  Boycott away!

*It goes nicely with the weird mascots!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Three Men on the Bummel

The latest book Donald and I read together-- Three Men on the Bummel, by Jerome K. Jerome-- wasn't quite as good as his Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), but still offered plenty of opportunities to laugh.

In Three Men on the Bummel, three middle-aged (youngish middle-aged, maybe?) British men of circa 1900 go on a "bummel" ("a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started") through parts of Germany.  Hilarity ensues (though, again, not quite as much hilarity as ensues when the same three men, in younger years, go on a boating holiday down the Thames in Three Men in a Boat).

Well, as we read the last chapter, we kept stopping to shake our heads.  Looking back through the prism of history (as they say (g)), it's amazing how right-on-the-dot Jerome K. Jerome was in at least some of his estimations of Germany and the German psyche at that time.  (Remember, this was published in 1900.)

Donald pointed out that in many instances (not all) in that final chapter, you can substitute "liberal" for "German" (and then toward the end, "conservative" for "Anglo-Saxon") and have a fairly accurate portrayal of some aspects of the character of the modern liberal democrat.

He selected some excerpts that he thought especially telling:

In the placid, docile German of to-day, whose only ambition appears to be to pay his taxes, and do what he is told to do by those whom it has pleased Providence to place in authority over him, it is difficult, one must confess, to detect any trace of his wild ancestor, to whom individual liberty was as the breath of his nostrils […]

In Germany to-day one hears a good deal concerning Socialism, but it is a Socialism that would only be despotism under another name.  Individualism makes no appeal to the German voter.  He is willing, nay, anxious, to be controlled and regulated in all things. […]

The German citizen is a soldier, and the policeman is his officer.  The policeman directs him where in the street to walk, and how fast to walk.  At the end of each bridge stands a policeman to tell the German how to cross it.  Were there no policeman there, he would probably sit down and wait till the river had passed by. […]

In Germany you take no responsibility upon yourself whatever.  Everything is done for you, and done well.  You are not supposed to look after yourself; you are not blamed for being incapable of looking after yourself; it is the duty of the German policeman to look after you. […]

If you lose yourself, he finds you; and if you lose anything belonging to you, he recovers it for you.  If you don’t know what you want, he tells you.  If you want anything that is good for you to have, he gets it for you.[…]

“You get yourself born,” says the German Government to the German citizen, “we do the rest.  Indoors and out of doors, in sickness and in health, in pleasure and in work, we will tell you what to do, and we will see to it that you do it.  Don’t you worry yourself about anything.”[…]

Carlyle said of the Prussians, and it is true of the whole German nation, that one of their chief virtues was their power of being drilled.  Of the Germans you might say they are a people who will go anywhere, and do anything, they are told.  […]

For the direction of German character into these channels, the schools, of course, are chiefly responsible.  Their everlasting teaching is duty.  It is a fine ideal for any people; but before buckling to it, one would wish to have a clear understanding as to what this “duty” is.  The German idea of it would appear to be: “blind obedience to everything in buttons.” […]

Hitherto, the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continue, it will go well with him.  When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine. […]

The worst that can be said against them is that they have their failings.  They themselves do not know this; they consider themselves perfect, which is foolish of them.  They even go so far as to think themselves superior to the Anglo-Saxon: this is incomprehensible.  One feels they must be pretending.

(The section I put into boldface is positively chilling, considering what the next fifty years were to bring.)

Well, Aren't You Special!

(...In which I am a grump.  ...Hey, you could at least try to look surprised or disbelieving that I could ever be grumpy...  Is that so much to ask?  ;o))

Irritant of the Day:
People who make a point of mentioning that they never/hardly ever shop at Wal-Mart. 

So they choose not to shop at Wal-Mart.  That's fine.  I don't particularly care where most people shop or don't shop, unless they've shown me something wonderful and I'm interested in buying one, too.  It's none of my business, anyway, where they choose to spend their money.  That's up to them. 

Just as I don't care where Random Person shops, neither do I expect Random Person to care where I shop, but (since I'm on the subject) I do happen to shop at Wal-Mart on a regular basis.  Do I love everything about the shopping experience and the company?  No.  But on the other hand, for me, it's convenient and affordable... and did I mention convenient?  (I don't like to make half a dozen stops on every shopping trip just to get all the basics.)  Also, I don't really buy into the "Wal-Mart is teh EVIL" stuff, so there are no pesky feelings of guilt.

I guess what irritates me isn't that some people choose not to shop at W-M (see above re: none of my beeswax).  It's that most people who feel compelled to mention that they've only been inside a Wal-Mart, like, twice in their whole entire life ("...Um, congratulations...?  ...You must be so proud?") seem to do so only to impress their readers. "See?  I'm cool.  I'm with-it.  I get it.  On the one hand, I am so totally unique and different and anti-establishment and stuff, because I'm not one of those mindless sheep who shop at (eww) Wal-Mart-- yet on the other hand, I'm part of the In Crowd, because I recognize that Wal-Mart is gross and Evil-- even though most of the time we don't really believe in the outdated concepts of Good and Evil, except when it comes to Evil Corporations (please accept me, please love me, please bolster my self-worth)." 

...Or maybe I'm reading too much into all of this, and the anti-Wal-Mart crowd just think we all really want to know where they buy (or don't buy) their bread, milk, and toilet paper...

In any case, I bolster my own feelings of self-worth by simply refusing to bore you all by writing about how I don't really enjoy going to Target, but will if I "have" to-- or how I genuinely loathe going into snooty department stores.  No, I choose to bore you instead with grumpy ramblings and posts about little more than the weather or the changing seasons.  Yeah, that's more my style.  ;o)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just Lovely.

This has been an interminable, depressing day.  Just one little thing after another.

The latest crap o' the day is the news that Boeing won the air tanker contract.  

I don't know all the ins and outs of the story-- and honestly, I just don't care.  (Every now and then, you're allowed to want what would be best for your area, regardless of almost anything else.)  What I do know is that when EADS was awarded the deal last time (a few years ago), Boeing kicked up a fuss and got the whole bidding process started all over again, and now that they've won, our local economy will suffer.  I can't say I'm surprised, though, the world being what it is. 

In conclusion, I can't decide between a sigh or an angry "grr".  Take your pick. ;o)

To add insult to injury, I feel fat and failure-at-life-y today.  *is depressed*

(...I hope I'm not turning into one of those people who are always down in the dumps when the weather is grey.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Akinator, the Web Genius

A few years ago, I got a computerized 20 Questions game/toy in a game of Dirty Santa.  It's pretty amazing how that little thing (smaller than a baseball) can figure out what you're thinking of, just by asking a series of questions.  Of course, it's not always right, but it is often enough to be very impressive.

The other day, Kimberly commented on a web-based version of a similar "game".  For an hour or more, Donald and I took turns thinking of someone (living or dead, real or fictional), answering questions about him/her, and seeing if "Akinator, the Web Genius" could figure it out.  Most of the time, it could!  (It even knew such obscure characters as Dr. Snuggles and Captain Haddock.)

Want to give it a try?
Just ignore the stuff (ads that are sometimes disguised as part of the game with "play" buttons) on the top and right side.

Now I'm going to go see if Akinator knows some of the more obscure characters in my favorite novels...

Preferred Parking

Somewhere in town, there are a couple of these signs marking parking spots in a particular (not-to-be-named) parking lot:


The funniest part?  They're closer to the building than the handicapped parking spots!

This type of preferential treatment is important, because people driving low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles are special and deserve to be treated as such.  After all, they're saving the planet. 

Scarlet Letter

Do I have much sympathy for Rep. Chris Lee (and others of his ilk)?

No, not particularly.

(You see, I am what is known as a big old meanie.  I particularly scorn people who can't either remain monogamous or separate/get a divorce before beginning another physical relationship.)

To those who would argue that his philandering ways have nothing to do with his ability to do his job, I ask why we should settle for someone who would cheat on his wife.  If he has so little trouble breaking his marriage vows, what makes you think he'll show greater fidelity to his constituents and their interests? 

...Yes, maybe there have been great leaders who have also been cheaters, but surely there are people out there who can lead and remain faithful.  If you want to wield political power, be prepared to be held to a higher standard (or at least to have your dirty laundry aired, if found).

(You'd think that fear of embarrassing, life-ruining exposure would be enough to make politicians-- if not people in general-- behave themselves, but apparently not.)

In Which I React to News Tweets

"2045:  The Year 'Man Becomes Immortal'"
(It was also followed by link.  Assume the same of all of these.)

Um, yeah, sure.  Come on, people.  In the 1950s, some thought men would be flying to work on personal jet packs by the year 2000!  Do you really think a measly 35 years will lead us to immortality?  I can't believe that physical immortality is possible, ever.  Besides, what would become of the world if no-one ever died and children continued being born?  In addition to somehow achieving immortality, they'd also have to ramp up space travel, find other inhabitable planets, and somehow convince/force people to move there.

Next I click the link and read a little of it...

And, oh, this is about "the Singularity" (which I'll confess, I've never really completely understood-- something about humanity being linked with a computer so that the person's mind will "live" forever).  Basically, the article's about how computers are becoming faster and faster, to the point that (inevitably?) they will be capable of artificial human-level intelligence-- then super-human intelligence.  It's at this part of the story that I think, "Well, let's just hope they're wrong.  I'd like to still be alive, come 2045, but I don't really want to see that sort of thing, thanks all the same."  Call me medieval, but I just don't like the idea.  What?  Is that a common, narrow-minded, non-visionary response?  Meh, whatever.

Anyway, thinking about the Singularity depresses me.  So let's move on to another tweet...

"Update:  Bottom Implant Op Kills Hip-Hop Girl."

First, I'm sorry for the girl and the loss her friends and family have suffered.

But second, why in the world would anyone want a "bottom" implant???
I mean, unless your own, natural, God-given bottom has been damaged somehow and requires reconstructive surgery, why not just leave well enough alone?  Then again, I feel the same way about breast implants.  (The bottom still wins out for weirdness, though.) 

"Study Links Diet Soda to Heightened Stroke Risk."

Well, at least until next month, when they will discover that diet soda actually prevents strokes.

Seriously, though, I would say that I'm glad I find diet sodas gross and switched to drinking just plain tap water when I last swore off the old sugar water (which was over a year ago, by the way)... but then I'd be reminded that there are probably all kinds of crappy, life-threatening chemicals in my drinking water!

"Lib media reporting fake Palin interview-- as real..."

So what else is new?

Look, she's not perfect, but I do get a kick out of how passionately so many liberals dislike her-- which is demonstrated so well by their over-eagerness to pounce on anything negative about her, whether or not it happens to be true.

"Professor Surgically Embeds 'Third Eye' Camera in Head."

Yes, I remember reading about this guy before.  It was gross then, and it's gross now (in addition to possibly being a foreshadowing of the coming Age of the Cyborg). 

"Scientists build thinking cap; zaps brain to make more creative."


"Get ready for higher food prices."


...And on that happy note, goodbye!
(At least it's Thursday, the third-best day of the week.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dear Mr. Al Gore...

Dear Mr. Gore--

You wrote in/on your journal about how all these snowpocalypses, snowmageddons, and (my personal favorite) snudgement days, far from providing cause for pause regarding man-made global warming, actually tie right into it: 
Last week on his show Bill O’Reilly asked, “Why has southern New York turned into the tundra?” and then said he had a call into me. I appreciate the question.

As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming:

“In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”

“A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

Yeah, yeah, Al.  We've heard it all before.

What about the fact that for many, the temperatures aren't merely "dipping below freezing"?  What about those of us who have experienced a colder winter than usual-- snow or no snow?

Never mind, though.  I'm sure you can find someone to explain away whatever inconvenient truth we may suggest.  (Life is so much easier when you just ignore or unceremoniously deny the importance of Climategate, isn't it?)

...I do wonder about things, sometimes, though...

...Things like the warm period of the Middle Ages... the Little Ice Age... the warnings in the 1970s of the threat of a looming ice age (which never came)...

I wonder if the type of weather described in (Laura Ingalls Wilder's) The Long Winter was just some sort of meteorological foreshadowing of all these global-warming-caused blizzards...

Get back to me on that, won't you, Al?
Thanks ever so much!

P.S.  Oh, and thanks again for inventing this whole Internet thing!  Did you know, that's how I met my husband!  Come to think of it, I really owe you a lot... so... sorry for being such a brat today.  It's these darn cold temperatures putting me in a bad mood!

Make Your Travel Plans NOW!

Not the biggest news of the day, but all the same...

The tennis court at former President Jimmy Carter‘s private home is swept twice a day, his pool is cleaned daily and his grass cut, his flower beds weeded and his windows washed on a regular basis — all at taxpayers’ expense.

Under an arrangement with the National Park Service, taxpayers are responsible for the exterior of Mr. Carter‘s home in Plains, Ga. — to the tune of $67,841 last year alone. In exchange, the government obtains the right to add the home to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site when he and his wife pass away.

Other presidents have had similar life estate agreements calling for their properties to be turned over after their deaths, but to have taxpayers footing the bill for upkeep and maintenance of the Carters’ property appears to be unique, and it’s drawing fire at a time of tight federal budgets.

What a great deal we're getting on this one!
...'Cause, I mean, sure, it's a little expensive having the place kept sparklingly clean, but what an investment.  Imagine how many people must want to visit the Jimmy Carter Historic Site!  I know it's at the top of my personal travel wish list.

(You can find the rest of the story here.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How Original.

Can we please come up with our own slogans from now on? 
Seriously, how hard is it?