Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Order to Get Better, You Must First Look Worse

The blue beetle has been stripped bare, with not even a gown to protect its dignity. Today I ordered replacement gaskets and moldings from a vendor in Southern California.

Next month I'll shop around for bumper restorers. I'd rather rechrome the German originals than buy replacements made in Brazil or China. Rechroming is expensive due to the skilled labor and powerful chemicals employed. I'm still hoping that this labor of love doesn't turn into a time and money sink, but the signs aren't promising.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Precious Bodily RFIDs

Our minds have been on food this weekend, but it won't be much longer before "mindful" food will be in our stomach, heart, and precious bodily fluids. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags broadcast detailed information about objects to which they are affixed. The technology is already available--consider medical tracking--to put RFIDs into food.

In the name of food safety, nutrition, and stores management (smart refrigerators would sense when we are running low on eggs) a London engineer has advocated "Nutrismart" tagging. Of course, once we consume these tags, anyone with the right receiving equipment would know what we've eaten, where we've been and when, and other information that perhaps only our doctor knew. And there is no off switch to RFID like the GPS in our cellphone. What could go wrong?

On a restaurant sign of the near-future: "Our food contains no pesticides, herbicides, hormones, or electronic devices."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

The 23-lb. turkey came out golden brown but ever so slightly overcooked; it took nearly eight hours for the oven thermometer to ping at 165 degrees. (Last year a bird of the same weight reached that temperature at the six-hour mark.) Ladles of gravy easily overcame the dryness, and you don't have to advise me twice.

I hope that you were able to dwell at least for a moment on the good things in your life, dear reader. Whatever your troubles may be, few of us would choose to live in a place and time other than the United States of America at the beginning of the 21st century.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Feature, Not a Bug

Photo from Forbes
Google continues to improve its mobile operating system at breathtaking speed. Android 4.0 will be installed on the Galaxy Nexus and will use facial recognition as one of the methods to lock/unlock the phone.
However, Google warns users this isn't necessarily the safest method for locking a phone. Case in point: I was able to unlock the phone by holding a photo of my face [bold added] up to its lock screen.
Stranger-thieves are unlikely to have pictures of the phone's owner, but parents and other relatives who don't want to steal the phone but merely peruse its contents may consider such easily bypassable security a feature, not a bug.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tone It Down Through Sound

The stars of Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I explain how sound can tone down an R-rated movie to PG-13 (text of interview requires purchase from Entertainment Weekly):
Robert Pattinson: It was really Kristen's fault it was going R-rated. [To Kristen Stewart] Your fancy moves--no one's seen moves like that in a PG-13 movie! [Laughs]The thing about ratings is, it's about noises.

Kristen Stewart: Like if his thrust coincided with my ohhhh--that's not okay.

Pattinson: If a sex scene is rated R, the first thing you do is take out the sounds and put music over it. Same thing if there's a horror scene; you take out the screams.

Taylor Lautner: Or in an action scene, if you're punching someone in the face you take out the sound effect of the fist making contact.
Take out the actual sounds, put in some music, then it's safe for kids. Like political commercials.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Man Knows Turkeys

William Shatner makes a timely public service announcement about the dangers of turkey fryers:
Shatner says in real life, he has burned himself, and almost burned his house down, as a result of mishaps stemming from deep-frying turkeys.
In 1989 William Shatner nearly killed off the Star Trek franchise when he wrote, directed, and starred in Star Trek V: the Final Frontier, universally judged to be the worst Star Trek movie ever.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Not All of Us Can

At last, the winnowing:
" Michael Bloomberg is my hero," Mr. Mills said. "He catapulted us out of all this lethargy. He threw out all the drunks, all the hypocrites, all the liars, all the people who were here for a little bit of fun, and brought us down to the people who are smart enough to get things done and really have something invested in this."
1) If you can't police yourselves, how can you police others?

2) Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is part of the .0001%, "is my hero." No irony there.

I'm Not Listening

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."
There's a lot to be angry about:

1) the banks, both commercial and investment, reaped enormous profits during the go-go years by taking risks that we now know to be reckless;

2) if the bankers had paid up or had gone out of business when the deals went bad, the system would have seemed fairer. But, we, the taxpayers, footed the bill.

3) now that conditions are better, bankers have resumed paying themselves handsomely and congratulating themselves on their smarts.



1) The Occupy protesters want to seize the "one-percent's" property because the rich got that way immorally according to the protestors' standards (but not illegally--go get them, I say, if laws have been broken);

2) The abrogation of property rights affects us all. I don't want someone taking away my 401(k) or my house because I meet someone's definition of being rich. "First, they came for the billionaires, then the millionaires, and then they came for me."

3) Filth--if any business operated under those conditions it would have been closed immediately by public health authorities--and violence--rape, murder, assault, robbery, and drug use--are rampant. [Update: here's a list of over 70 incidents - a few are speech "crimes" for which a Tea Partier would be pilloried, but most are actual crimes.] The banks may be bad, but I'll take that world over the one the protestors are offering. People admire, then follow, those who lead admirable lives.

4) Don't youngsters bear any responsibility for the choices they made in their education? In 2011 graduates who majored in computer science, mathematics, and the hard sciences have no lack of job offers in the Bay Area and are well able to service their student loans. Decades ago, in a bad economy, I took courses then a job in the non-fulfilling field of accounting. I had bills to pay. Following my passion when I didn't have any money seemed awfully self-indulgent.

5) If a protestor claims "we got sold out", I sympathize completely if she pays income taxes. But if she doesn't pay anything and the protest is about her government goodies getting cut, then I'm not listening.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mumbling Through

We make fun of our leaders for their verbal missteps---George W. Bush's "nukular" and Barack Obama's "corpse-man" come to mind---but don't sneer too loudly or too often. Mockery originates from pride, and we know what pride precedeth.

Speaking of judgment, yesterday was my turn to read the lesson in church. Unfortunately, the lectionary pointed to one of those dreaded Old Testament passages that contained over a dozen Hebrew names. If it were just two or three, I could look them up in one of several Internet pronunciation guides. However, through sheer numbers (another dreaded OT book, BTW) the fourth chapter of Judges overwhelmed this strategy.
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, `Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'"
When unsure about pronunciation, I followed the basic rules: 1) speak quickly; 2) slur the long and short vowels so that they can be interpreted either way; 3) sound and look like you know what you're doing.

Knowledge is power, but the appearance of knowledge is almost as good.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Nothing to See Here

Today's headlines are rife with sex scandals and sex crimes, the prospective collapse of the European currency and European economies, the crashing stock market (the Dow is down 400 points), and the occupation of urban centers by legitimate protestors or violent criminals, depending on one's perspective.

A deceptively sleepy countenance
In our quiet middle-class suburb of 30,000, however, it's another slow news day.

Last night Foster City elected three members to its five-person City Council. The tae kwan do teacher and Olympic medalist got in. Like current and former military men and football players, he radiates toughness. Fiscal and physical discipline, that's the ticket.

By 7:20 it warmed to 41.
Overnight temperatures have fallen to the 30's. After several days of trying to outlast the "temporary" cold spell, I re-lit the pilot light and let the furnace run a couple of hours. Our natural gas consumption has been reduced dramatically because of the tankless water heater installed three years ago. We have much less guilt, and our bills are a lot lower due to the graduated rate schedule, when we raise the thermostat.

A Foster City woman did float to the top of the national news, however briefly.
A Bay Area woman said she lost her sense of taste for more than a week after using a popular alcohol-free mouthwash....The Foster City woman said her sense of taste didn't return to normal until eight days after using [Crest Pro-Health Complete mouth rinse].
Maybe our City Council can look into this.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Shared and Unrushed

Once in a while it's okay to indulge, especially on one's birthday. I forsook the usual chicken or hamburger and went to the Lobster Shack in search of the Crustacean that I only allow myself once or twice a year. The lobster arrived bright red from the steamer. The dish was served with little adornment: butter and lemon, cole slaw, corn, and a plate of fries on the side.

Whole lobster is one meal that can't be rushed. The shell must be cracked carefully so that one doesn't splatter liquid on the dinner companions who aren't wearing bibs. The flesh must be teased delicately from the carapace. It tastes much better and is easier to dip in whole pieces than in shreds.

It took nearly an hour to clean out the claws, tail, and even some of the less meaty parts of the thorax. My dinner companion, who was done with her lobster roll, started nibbling on the legs. Certain experiences are made more pleasant if they're shared and unrushed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Screenshot from iBooks "Steve Jobs"
I downloaded the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs and have been making my way slowly through the 927-page electronic document. At the pace of a chapter a day, I won't be done till mid-December.

The juicy bits--tantalizing hints about Apple's future products, Steve Jobs' opinions about powerful and famous people and the advice he gave them--have been well-publicized.

What's intriguing to me are the stories of the people and experiences that shaped him: the adoptive parents who inculcated their values, the birth parents who struggled with culture clashes (his father was Syrian) and economic hardship, the teachers who recognized his talents, the youthful nerds who competed and collaborated with him, and above all the unique confluence of engineering can-doism, risk-seeking capitalists, state-of-the-art science, and social informality that marked the soon-to-be-nicknamed Silicon Valley in the Sixties and Seventies.

More who knew Steve Jobs will undoubtedly write their first-hand accounts in the months ahead. We'll pay attention in the vain hope that we can better understand how Steve Jobs could combine vision and action unlike anyone we have ever known.

Because he was right so often about so many big things, his pronouncements have become revered as the closest thing we have to Scripture in these iconoclastic times. Steve even anticipated this development; he advised Tim Cook to never ask what would Jobs do but "to just do what's right."

Too late for that. Until the moment he left us Steve Jobs continued to see truths to which most of us are blind. "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

The "Steve Jobs" display does remind one of the 1984 commercial, nicht wahr?