Can I borrow your towel for a sec? My car just hit a water buffalo.

March 13th, 2015 @ 11:54 am
Fifteen Years of Blogging!

balloonsAnd just like that: It’s been fifteen years since I started blogging on this site.

It seems like only yesterday that I wrote a post celebrating my fourteenth year, and the spaces between the years get smaller every day.

The University of Florida Alumni Association challenged the University of Georgia Alumni Association in an epic Twitter *.gif battle using House of Cards and West Wing references.

March 2nd, 2015 @ 10:14 am
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2

According to The Writer’s Almanac:

musicBeethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata was published on this date in 1802. Its real name is the slightly less evocative “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2,” and its Italian subtitle is translated as “almost a fantasy.” In 1832, five years after Beethoven’s death, a German critic compared the sonata to the effect of moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne, and the interpretation became so popular that, by the end of the century, the piece was universally known as the “Moonlight Sonata.” Beethoven himself had attributed the emotion of the piece to sitting at the bedside of a friend who had suffered an untimely death.

The Gun You Buy to Protect Your Family Is the Greatest Threat to Your Family

Babies Are More Sensitive to the Prenatal Environment Than Once Believed

#

[W]ith a great moral issue involved, neutrality does not serve righteousness; for to be neutral between right and wrong is to serve wrong.
Theodore Roosevelt – February 22, 1915

February 20th, 2015 @ 6:24 am
Friday Five: Favorite Pixar Films

Up Official Movie PosterMy five favorite Pixar films:

  1. Up — 2009
  2. Cars — 2006
  3. Toy Story — 1995
  4. The Incredibles — 2004
  5. Monsters, Inc. — 2001
February 13th, 2015 @ 6:44 am
Friday Five: “Love” Songs

Heart

The only people who don’t think the entire health insurance system in these United States is irreparably, tragically, insultingly broken are the incredibly healthy and the absurdly wealthy.

Everyone else is screwed, and we know it. And yet nothing changes because the incredibly wealthy make the rules.

February 6th, 2015 @ 9:35 am
Friday Five: Podcasts

Hardcore History: The American PerilHave you finally finished listening to Serial and now are looking for something new? Here are my five favorite podcasts right now:

  1. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (iTunes)
  2. Retro Disney World Podcast (iTunes)
  3. Freakonomics Radio (iTunes)
  4. WEDWay Radio (iTunes)
  5. Radiolab from WNYC (iTunes)
February 5th, 2015 @ 7:18 am
Four legs good, two legs better.

Anthem BlueCrossWhat bothers me the most about the recent cyber-hack of the Anthem BlueCross system is not that a company that large and that profitable — one tasked with the care of the most personal data of millions of Americans — did not have adequate security in place to prevent such a thing from happening. That’s irritating and somewhat obnoxious and indicative of how little most giant corporations care about their members. But it’s not what really, really gets under my skin.

Continue reading …

Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writers

January 28th, 2015 @ 10:38 am
On Pride and Prejudice

Happy birthday to a book I’ve never read: Pride and Prejudice was published for the first time 202 years ago today.

“I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
Mark Twain

January 26th, 2015 @ 6:44 am
Los Angeles Monorail

MonorailDid you know that way, way back in 1963 Alweg Research Corp. — the company that built the Disneyland monorail — offered to give a monorail system to the city of Los Angeles?

I’ve ridden both the Disneyland and the Walt Disney World monorails hundreds of times in my life and I’ve wasted thousands of hours sitting in LA traffic. I mean, really, can you just imagine the wonderful benefits of having such a 21st century mode of transportation in the City of Angels?

A friend of mine recently complained on the Facebook about not being able to find a parking place, and I posted a mini rant in reply about the fact that the whole automobile culture of America is just awful.

Think of how many thousands — tens of thousands — of lives would be saved every year if we ditched the whole concept of everyone having a car. I’m not just talking about the 30,000 people annually killed in auto accidents, either:

  • Less pollution!
  • No drunk driving!
  • Fewer heart problems and obesity! (Everyone would walk a little bit more.)
  • No more deaths from texting and driving!
  • No more idiotic police chases!

And think of how much money you’d save:

  • No more car payments!
  • No more car insurance payments!
  • No more gas to buy!
  • No more oil changes or brake pads or tail lights!
  • No more speeding tickets or parking meters!

And then there would be all the other side effects:

  • Less dependence on foreign oil!
  • Hell, less dependence on domestic oil!
  • You could text or read or play a video game on your way anywhere without killing anyone!
  • You could party all night and not worry about needing a designated driver!
  • No more road kill! Think of all the cats and dogs and armadillos and deer!
  • No more ecosystems destroyed by roads!
  • So much more room for parks and houses and playgrounds and bike paths!
Traffic is terrible everywhere you go.

I don’t currently own a home, so if you consider car payments, auto insurance, maintenance, and gas, the “luxury” of driving my own car is the most expensive thing in my life. And the two cars in my household are also by far the least efficient investments I’ve ever made. Almost every day of the week there are two cars sitting there doing nothing for something like 23 out of every 24 hours! And I am almost always annoyed while driving. Traffic is terrible everywhere you go, and most people are horrible drivers. And, for the love of all that is good and holy, cars are dangerous beyond belief.

MonorailThere’s no good reason for there not to be a robust monorail system in Los Angeles. Seriously. How could you possibly argue against that? Have you ever had to drive anywhere in LA? Then you must agree.

Four decades ago the cost was estimated at $105M dollars, which translates to about $750M in 2015 money. Let’s just go crazy and round that up to an even billion dollars. The Westside extension to the Metro line right now is pegged at something like $4.6B and it’s not supposed to be completed until 2036! And when it’s finally actually done (in what will probably be 2043 for a few billion dollars more than projected) Angelenos will be in the exact same pathetic situation they are in now. Only with a stupid amount of money having been wasted and even more of the city sacrificed to a method of transportation that should have gone extinct a century ago.

What can we do it about?

Continue reading …

January 23rd, 2015 @ 1:26 pm
Friday Five: Pearl Jam Albums

tenMy five favorite Pearl Jam albums:

  1. Ten
  2. Binaural
  3. Vs.
  4. Yield
  5. Vitalogy
January 17th, 2015 @ 5:27 pm
Life in Space

SpaceI recently read an article in The Atlantic titled 5,200 Days in Space that is incredible. We use words like “awesome” and “amazing” pretty cavalierly most of the time. The fact that there have been human beings continually living in outer space for almost fifteen YEARS is awesome and amazing.

It is mind-boggling to think that the United States is spending about $8,000,000.00 per day to help maintain the International Space Station (ISS).

And some of the details are really just hard to fathom, like this tidbit about the way the station was built:

[T]he station’s exterior elements have a remarkable engineering feature: although the station is made up of more than 100 components, with a surface area spanning almost three acres, most bolts the astronauts work with are a single size. That way astronauts almost never have to worry about changing sockets. Imagine constructing a whole building that way.

If you have a few minutes to spare, it’s a fascinating and well-written article.

January 16th, 2015 @ 1:15 pm
Friday Five: Steaks

steakThe five best steaks I’ve ever had:

  • Lakeside Golf Club — Burbank, CA
  • Oceanside Country Club — Ormond Beach, FL
  • Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse — Lahaina, HI
  • The Palm — Hollywood, CA
  • TIE:
    • Spago — Beverly Hills, CA
    • Mr. Chow — Beverly Hills, CA

#

“Growing up in a place that has winter, you learn to avoid self-pity. Winter is not a personal experience, everybody else is just as cold as you, so you shouldn’t complain about it too much. You learn this as a kid, coming home crying from the cold, and Mother looks down and says, ‘It’s only a little frostbite. You’re okay.’ And thus you learn to be okay. What’s done is done. Get over it. Drink your coffee. It’s not the best you’ll ever get but it’s good enough.”
Garrison Keillor

January 9th, 2015 @ 7:54 am
Friday Five: Soul Coughing

Soul CoughingMy five favorite Soul Coughing tracks:

  1. Screenwriter’s Blues
  2. The Incumbent
  3. Super Bon Bon
  4. Soundtrack to Mary
  5. Unmarked Helicopters

#

We are as happy as people can be, without making themselves ridiculous, and might be even happier; but, as a matter of taste, we choose to stop short at this point.
Nathaniel Hawthorne