Sunday, October 31, 2004

Darth Vader Mugs Pizza Man.

Ah, Florida. Hot on the trail to take over the title of "Nation's Kookiest State" from the current champion, California. Darth Vader tries to mug a pizza delivery guy, but is unsuccessful. Delivery guy drives away, but not before being zapped by a light saber. Or maybe it was a stun gun.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Scary sights for Halloween.

Okay, so people don't wear costumes to work at my office. They do to work at the grocery store, though, and I saw a strange one today.

And you could tell that the employees had to wear costumes today, the work of a store manager who decided to make everyone feel the excitement of the holiday season, whether they wanted to or not. Some employees got into it: my groceries were rung up by a woman dressed as a gypsy. Some of the costumes were minimalist but effective (the WASP who costumed himself as a Mexican, by wearing a red checkered shirt and a straw sombrero, and sticking a Mexican flag in his shirt pocket), and others were just minimalist (one woman had an orange, Halloween-themed t-shirt; another had Halloween-themed deely-bobbers on her head).

But one guy was downright creepy. His clothes were raggedy, as though he wanted to be a hobo. His face and hair, though, were made up as a clown. The hair was clearly a clown's fright wig, but the facial makeup was bizarre. Very black skin, thin red lips, and white makeup on the top half of his face: nose and up in front, and just above the jawline and up on the sides. The effect was very strongly that of turn-of-the-last-century minstrel shows, with the Black performers in whiteface. "Why?" I thought to myself as I entered the store. "Why would a Black man today want to wear a costume that so clearly brings to mind performers wearing whiteface?"

As I left the store, I passed by this guy again, close enough to see his hands, which didn't have any makeup on them. Imagine my surprise to discover that he's actually Caucasian, which means that he put on a very thorough layer of blackface before putting on the white portion of his makeup. I decided I didn't need his assistance in getting my groceries to the car.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I'd asked him what he thought his costume was supposed to be, but I guess I was afraid that he'd burst into an Al Jolsen imitation.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Halloween at the office.

What a boring bunch of folks I work with. No one dressed up in a costume to come to work today. (Well, with the possible exception of the guy with khaki pants that had ducks printed [or embroidered, I didn't look all that closely] all over them. But since he wore them last week, I'm guessing it wasn't a costume and was, somehow, intentional.)

Still, people brought in candy. Loads and loads of candy. One of the stashes around the office was in a big cardboard box, and it was maybe 8 inches deep in little candy bars, SweeTarts, hard candies, Twix bars, and the occasional Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. At one point, someone was raking through the box, looking for the elusive last peanut butter cup, doubtless hiding at the bottom, and it sounded just like a cat in a litter box.

Ah, the images one conjures at the office.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Live strong. Sell high.

Incomprehensible, on so many levels. There are now people who are selling their Lance Armstrong Foundation “Livestrong” bracelets on eBay, where they’re getting upwards of $15 for them. For the bracelets that go for a buck apiece at Footlocker, or $10 for a package of 10 if you get them online from the Foundation.

I understand the sellers: they’re using eBay to make a profit off of stupid people, a time-honored eBay tactic. It’s the buyers I don’t understand. Sure, I can see that if you live in the middle of nowhere, and there’s no Footlocker or Niketown within a hundred miles, you’d have to get your bracelet through the mail. But why wouldn’t you order it from the website, where you’d get a package of 10 for $15, including shipping, and $10 would actually go to the Foundation and you'd have extras to give or sell to your friends, rather than from eBay, where you’d get one bracelet for $15, plus handling of $3 to 5, for a total of $18 to $20, of which nothing goes to the Foundation?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Going, going, gone.

Coming to the sky near you this coming Wednesday evening: a total eclipse of the moon.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A label is worth a thousand words.

Life sometimes presents you with opportunities you just cannot make up for yourself. I was out walking around at lunchtime yesterday, on a dreary, chilly, gray day that couldn’t decide whether or not it wanted to drizzle. Dull, crummy weather, matched only by the attire and visages of the other people on the street.

And then there she was: Radiant, and covered in vibrant, discordant colors. Her hair was brunette; well, the roots were. The rest of her hair was Bozo-the-Clown red. Lime-green sweatshirt, over an electric yellow t-shirt. A forest-green backpack. A mostly-red tartan miniskirt over blue jeans that were about 3 inches too long, based on how far the cuff went down over (and under) her shoes, topped with a five-inch wide belt made up of silver strands. Of course, she had a Walkman on, allowing her to be oblivious to her surroundings: not just the other pedestrians, but crossing lights and vehicles as well.

And the best part? Her backpack was emblazoned with what I presume was the name of its manufacturer but was also a fine commentary: DOLT

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

One last Eisenhower post.

And, with luck, I'll be off of this odd little Eisenhower kick I've been on of late.

There I was this evening, sitting at a traffic light, waiting for it to change, and staring at anything that looked at all interesting. One step before figuring out the prime factorization of the license plate of the car in front of me, I read its license plate frame: "Eisenhower Panthers." A high school and its sports teams, I suppose. But why in the world are they the Panthers? I'd expect the Generals, or even the Fighting Ikes, but Panthers? Was it the idea of someone who, being clever, translated "Panzers"? I just don't see it.

But what do I know? It's not as though the "Yorktown Patriots" is an especially inspired choice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

S'More or Less.

Hershey’s has come out with a new candy bar, called a S'More. (Well, it’s new to me, even if it’s not really new.) And a bag of them showed up at the office today, as a co-worker’s contribution to Using Chocolate to Avoid the Afternoon Blahs. The bar is clearly an attempt to render the impression of a traditional S’more, without the bother of building a campfire in your kitchen. It’s marshmallow, on a bed of something like chopped graham cracker pieces, and all covered in chocolate. No open flame to heat it over, and singing campfire songs is optional. (Perhaps not, depending on your workplace.)

It’s okay, but not grand. What I think it does that is awesome, though, is that it has found and filled a very precise candy niche: what to buy to give out at Halloween. It’s good enough that you won’t feel unhappy if you have bought too much, and end up with an extra bag and a half at the end of the night; it’s not so good that if you buy a bag of it three days before Halloween, you’ll have eaten it all by the time the 31st rolls around. And that’s a difficult line to walk. I have experience with both extremes, and neither one is much fun. (Well, okay. Actual experience shows that it’s easier to pretend that you’re not home by turning out all the lights so the little hobgoblins don’t knock on your front door than it is to eat two bags of chocolate-covered coconut bars when you despise coconut.)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Cognitive deficits.

Did you know? Ten years ago, George Bush was a skilled debater, capable of expressing his thoughts clearly, concisely, and quickly. As you've seen from this year's debates, that's not so much the case any more. If you need a refresher, watch this short movie. Then ask yourself:

Do we really need another president with pre-senile dementia?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

And more from Eisenhower.

Folk songs aren't dead. Here's one for 2004, shown in a movie complete with quotations from relatives and cabinet members of the President, and from former Presidents Eisenhower and Jefferson.

A couple of key quotes:

“May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. General, Republican Politician, President; Speech, May 31, 1954, New York City

"Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." -Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower

I like Ike's son.

John Eisenhower - son of the former president - explains why he's voting for John Kerry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

That's "PRESIDENT Drooling Moron," to you.

You heard him say so tonight: President Chimpie says that legal reform is necessary so that people injured by, say, contaminated flu vaccine should not be allowed to sue the manufacturers of that vaccine. Does that make sense to anyone?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Look before you leap.

A nice weekend for a change. Sunday was cool, but warm enough when the sun was out, and with a reasonably clear, blue sky, the sun was out most of the time. Great day to be outside doing something and enjoying the autumn weather, so I went to the Great Falls of the Potomac for a picnic. Nice little park, especially for a wild area in the middle of the suburbs, nice views of the falls. Well, nice enough until you notice the parents letting their toddlers climb on top of the railings at the overlooks, where there's a 3-foot drop on one side, back to the concrete or rock floor of the overlook and a 75-foot drop on the other down to the river. At least the adults who climb out onto the last rock at the edge so they can have their photos taken are (arguably) responsible for their death-defying decisions.

When one has a fear of heights, it's fun to go to a park like this with someone who shares that fear, so that you don't feel especially silly standing four feet back from the railing to look.

And it's also fun if your companion shares your opinion of the kayakers playing in the river rapids below the falls: Reasonably entertaining to watch them in the rapids, and probably would be fun to do for about 10 minutes, but not worth the time and aggravation to get the equipment and the training, just to be out in 55-degree water for the afternoon.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Stupid is as stupid does.

Boy, do I feel like a doofus.

One of the things that I like about my ISP – and I recognize that this isn’t a terribly unique trait for ISPs – is that you can access your email account from a web interface, so you can read and respond to your email from anywhere. Thus, I’ve been able to read email while at work.

(Brief aside: Work. Bah. There’s only one internet-capable computer for 25 people, so access to the web during the work day is mighty limited. And getting to read email coming to my main email account is the primary thing that makes the job almost tolerable. Almost.)

Yesterday, I was expecting reasonably urgent email communications from three people during the day. (Up from the average of about half of an urgent conversation per day.) Weekend plans, a possible reasonable job lead, and the like. So I was surprised to get onto my mail site an hour after getting to the office, and there were no emails waiting for me: none of the ones I expected, none of the far-too-many wine-related newsletters, and not even any spam. The next time I got on to check, an hour later, there still weren’t any emails.

Hmm. Did I forget to pay my ISP bill and they’ve shut down access to my account? Well, no, since I can get to it and send email. Is there something wrong with the server, and it’s bouncing in-bound emails? Well, one way to check: I went to one of my free web email accounts, and sent myself something. Yes, it showed up just fine. Good, it’s not broken, so I’ll just wait for something to show up.

A half hour goes by, and I log back in – and now the email that I sent myself has disappeared. Hmm. Did I delete it? No, it’s not in the trash bin – but the ones I deleted yesterday are. Did I imagine sending myself an email? Anything’s possible at this point, so I send myself another one. It arrives. I stare at it long enough to make sure that it’s real, and I log out. And immediately log back in, to see if logging out and in has any odd effect. Nope; the email is still there. Okay, I’ll log out and hope that I begin receiving emails that I haven’t sent to myself.

An hour later, I check in again: and once more, the email I sent to myself has disappeared. Now I’m getting frustrated: it seems as though there‘s Someone Out There who is logging into my account, and sweeping the server clean of newly-arrived emails.

And *ping* that little 15-watt refrigerator light bulb goes on over my head. There is someone out there doing precisely that, and it’s me. It dawns on me that I left my computer on when I left the house this morning, and the email program was running, and it automagically checks the mail server every 10 or 15 minutes to see if there’s any mail, and downloads it if there is. So all of those emails I wanted to see and respond to during the day will have to wait until I get home after work. (And unless I can get the cat to answer the phone and then follow my instructions to turn off the mail program and the computer, there’s nothing I can do to intercept the rest of the afternoon’s emails, either.)

In retrospect, I’m not sure which should cause me more concern: that I was forgetful enough to leave the house with the computer and email on, thereby denying myself access to my email during the day, or that I am geeky enough to have figured out what happened without having it happen to me before and without getting home to see the day’s pile of emails waiting for me.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Maybe it was from the other Weathermen.

I was listening to the radio as I drove along during one afternoon last week, and the announcer came on with the updated weather forecast:

"They're calling for a high this afternoon of 73, a low tonight of 76, and a high tomorrow of 75. The present temperature in the Richmond area is 78."

How could one possibly read that out loud without saying, "Hey! That doesn't make any sense!"? I suppose that if it's a weather forecast, you just don't expect it to make sense.