Sunday, August 31, 2008

WTF of the Day

A while back, PengDad gave me one of these mini remote controlled helicopters. They are fun little toys, especially around cats. I wish I had video of the time one of our kitties decided she had been buzzed by the minicopter once too often and pulled a King Kong, batting it out of the sky. Trust me, hours of amusement, divided into neat 15-minute segments to accommodate battery life. Coincidentally, that is also my attention span with most playthings.

Today, while out and about browsing at purveyors of another one of my favorite diversions, I found this. Yes, someone has turned minicopters into a Nintendo Wii game.

Now, look closely at those two links. Notice something? Here's a hint: the MSRP is the same on both items. Yep, someone decided minicopters were so cool that they needed a virtual simulation game--an assessment I do not disagree with--and then decided to price it the same as an actual minicopter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Two Years And Counting

It has been two years since I wrote this. Still sucks mackerel drippings. I don't expect it ever won't. But, time marches on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Missed the Metaphor by That Much

Much Monday-morning political quarterbacking is being devoted to a forum over the weekend featuring Barack Obama and John McCain at Saddleback Church, mostly devoted to whether or not John McCain was or was not in a "Cone of Silence" while Barack Obama took the first shot at answering the questions. I did not watch the forum, so I can't assess it for myself, but apparently, the contention is that McCain was just a little too good at answering, like he knew the test questions in advance.

Get Smart, the TV show that introduced the world to the original Cone of Silence, was first on TV in 1965, and the first season has recently been released on DVD. Go ahead and pick up a copy. It is a hilarious show, and Barbara Feldon is worth $17 by herself. When you watch it, keep alert for one detail of a running gag that might be relevant to this news cycle:

The Cone of Silence never worked.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Do Not Heckle A Professional Comedian. You Will Not Win.

Last night, Emp. Peng. and I spent a mostly-lovely night out seeing Lewis Black's Let Them Eat Cake tour from the mezzanine of the Palace Theater in Columbus. If you have never heard of Lewis Black, here is a 5-minute sample that, while a few years old, is a fairly decent representation of his work. If you will be offended by f-bombs used as every part of speech except an adverb or use of other words that would be bleeped on basic cable, or are currently located in an environment that would not appreciate such things, please do us all a favor and do NOT start the clip playing.

So, last night, after doing about a half hour of material on how golfers are the second-biggest gamblers on the planet--behind people who lose their virginity on their wedding night--Lewis Black started in on some humorous commentary on current events, such as the headline in yesterday's USA Today, "TSA Considers Airport Gun Ban. He had much the same reaction as I did when I saw that, ("You mean they're not already banned, when I can't bring nail clippers?") only his was much funnier. The guy sitting two seats to my right, who had spent way too much on the $6 mixed drinks at the lobby concession stand, apparently had a different opinion on the overall hilarity. After the first segment, he started getting fidgety and complaining loudly to his date, the lady sitting immediately to my right. Five more minutes of material later, he pulled a cigarette from a pack, threw the rest of the pack at his date, proclaimed he did not need this (excrement), stood up and started storming off. He got almost all the way out before he decided to stop at the edge of the mezzanine railing and yell down to the stage, "I didn't pay to hear the (bleep) news. If I wanted the (bleeping) news, I would have stayed home and watched TV!"

As you can imagine, this brought the performance to a grinding halt, much to the annoyance of those of us who did not pay to hear a drunken heckler. Now, the other thing about Lewis Black is that he has been a touring stand-up comedian for at least 20 years now. In short, this is not his first day here. He calmly strode to the edge of the stage nearest Mr. Drunk Guy and asked if the guy was familiar with his body of work, because this is what he (bleeping) does. There was a too-lengthy back-and-forth between the main attraction, the heckler, and a couple of other people down in the pit who apparently decided that this had turned into Audience Participation Night, but the real show was in the seat next to me. While 99.8% of the audience (me included) was hoping that we could get back to what we paid to come see, I watch the reaction of the guy's date. When the heckler first started shouting, she had that familiar expression of "Why isn't the Earth opening up and swallowing me?" which morphed into "This is going to be a very uncomfortable conversation when we get home." As it became apparent that when you heckle a veteran comedian you will not win, and that the back-heckle was quite funny (though not as hilarious as his usual material), she started laughing right along with the rest of us. She even laughed a little at the bit he used to regain the long-lost audience control, about how one of the bad things about becoming more successful as a comedian is that he used to have an audience who knew what to expect at his performances, and now that audience is bringing their friends.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Skunk Saga, Addendum

Note to the North American native nocturnal marsupial population (and, yes, I believe opossums have internet access): when I said I do not find the odor of skunk offensive, I did not mean that I wanted it to be my new room freshener scent.

Man, that crap lingers.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Adipose Nation

We take a break from the odor to bring you the most useless piece of health "reporting" I have seen in a long time, courtesy of Reuters: All U.S. Adults Could be Overweight in 40 Years.
If the trends of the past three decades continue, it's possible that every American adult could be overweight 40 years from now, a government-funded study projects.
Actually, I shouldn't blame the reporting too much. This is actually some decent reporting on a stupid study. We'll gloss over the "Government-funded" part of the lede (although one wonders how much we paid for what is essentially a graphing and extrapolation problem that a reasonably competent eighth grader could handle) and get to the meat. Extrapolating the trends of the past 30 years out, in 40 more years, every single adult in the US will be overweight.

Kudos to the reporter for pressing the point that this will never actually happen. For one thing, as long as Hollywood is still in the U.S., there will be at least a handful of normal-weight or underweight people. For another, there is almost certainly a point at which anyone who is even slightly susceptible will be overweight. Data on childhood obesity show we may be hitting that point in the younger set, with childhood obesity levels plateauing. The methodology of this "study" is akin to a quote I heard some time ago (which appears to be Google-proof, so I can't source it), "At the rate the Mississippi River is growing, in 100 years, it will reach Brazil."

There is a batter-dipped nugget of truth hiding in the article, though. Overweight is becoming normal, something I have become particularly conscious of as my depenguification efforts get me closer to the clinically Healthy weight range.

It has been an interesting transformation, psychologically. When I started my depenguification last November, I was 45 pounds from "normal." That seemed like a LOT in raw numbers, and even more in the mirror. Having always been heavy, but with a frame that tends to wear extra pounds about as well as they can be worn, I had difficulty seeing where the 45 pounds could be hiding. In the supermarket dairy aisle, 45 boxes of butter seemed like a huge volume, and it didn't seem like there was room for that much excess fat anywhere on my body without evicting a spleen. And that was just to get to a BMI of 24.9, when the Healthy range is 18.5-25.

I have since found and lost 38 of those pounds. Believe me, they were there, and now that I am 7 pounds from the upper edge of the Healthy BMI range, I can definitely see where the rest are, too. Here is where the tale takes a turn to the shallow. For a while, I was going to be content with having lost around 20 pounds. That put me at about the weight I was at when I graduated high school, and 20 pounds is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, I was still clinically overweight, but no longer in the obese range. It seemed like nice progress. Then, Emp. Peng. and I rented The Transformers DVD. There is a scene where Megan Fox, wearing something that barely qualifies as a halter top, raises the hood of the Camero and leans in. In that moment, I decided I wanted that tummy. I told you it was shallow. I realize that I have about as much chance of achieving the physique of #16 on Maxim's Hot 100 list as my Mr. Potato Head has of achieving sentience and winning the Nobel Prize in Physics. Still, there was proof that such a tummy was possible for someone. There is an outside chance I could at least get close. If nothing else, there was a target to shoot for.

That is the danger, as much as the health concerns resulting from a 100% overweight population, if the trend line continues. Our perception of normal gets distorted (and yes, I see the irony here that my Dream Tummy is not normal either, being under the healthy weight range). When we re-normalize physiques so that overweight is the new average, we lose the ability to perceive what a healthy-weight body should look like. When I first started my depenguification efforts and declined offers of unhealthy foods with the comment that I was trying to lose some weight, the almost universal reaction was "You don't look like you need to lose weight." Mind you, at the time, I was clinically obese. I can't discount that such comments were mere politeness, but that does strike me as anecdotal evidence that, even at the current rates of overweight and obesity, we are getting to be terrible judges of what healthy builds look like.

Skunk Saga, Chapter III

OK, it seems there are some pros and cons to ignoring a skunk carcass in the hostas and hoping it goes away. On the plus side, it actually did go away. The prospect of having to inter the aft portion of a deceased skunk kept me up most of Saturday night, but by Sunday morning, there was naught but a tuft of black and white fur where the skunk had met its end. Relieved of the duty of skunk mortician, I went about my business until Monday night, when, in the middle of watching Friday night's episode of Stargate: Atlantis on the TiVo, Emp. Peng. and I noticed a certain unmistakable odor wafting through the living room, seemingly originating near the window air conditioner. The aroma also settled into his office, which has a window located carcass-adjacent. This was, to put it mildly, not good. However, there was nothing I was going to do about it at 10:30 p.m., so we set the Ionic Breeze up to try to clear the odor out of the office and once again resorted to the "Ignore it and hope it goes away" tactic.

Once again, the strategy worked. By morning, the odor was gone, as were any remaining skunk fragments. Life was good and fresh. Until about 10:30 p.m. that night, when the smell was back, bigger than before. This time, I hit the porch light to get a visual inspection, fully expecting to see that the skunk had a relative taking its revenge on us. It was a somewhat more distant relative than I expected. There, just off the stoop, was a fully three-dimensional and mobile opossum, apparently looking around for anything he had missed. Opossums being carrion-eaters, it is a reasonable conjecture that he is the one who extracted the skunk carcass for me. I suspect it is also reasonable that he did not take care to avoid the scent glands and is now roaming the area bathed in a full dose of skunk musk.

The thing I am learning about skunk musk (other than that I am in the minority of the population that doesn't find it an offensive odor): it lingers. After two nightly passes from the Bearer of The Skunk Musk, there is a persistent, faint skunkiness around the entire front of the house. I expect that at this point, it is a matter of waiting for it to dissipate naturally, since there is no fixed point-source of the problem.

It does give me a good idea for a home security system to deter the door-to-door religion salespeople and trick-or-treaters, though. You take an infrared detector and a vial...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Nice run while it lasted

So much for Woodrow's friend. I'm not a wildlife expert, but that sure looks like a skunk carcass between the hostas and the dicentra. Not that I'm planning on getting up close to check for sure that he hasn't just found a really odd place for a skunk to take a nap. For that matter, it's a really odd place for a skunk to keel over.

This, of course, leaves me with an interesting problem--namely a skunk carcass about 10 feet from my front door--that is only going to get worse if scavengers don't find it soon. Suggestions?