Archive for June, 2012

An Open Letter to Weather Underground, Weatherbug, etc*:

June 28, 2012 - 11:23 am 14 Comments

I’m not sure what reality you’re dealing with regarding the weather in Los Alamos, NM, but clearly it is not the same universe as the rest of us have to deal with. For the past few weeks, temperature predictions, and worse, observations, have ranged from 10 to 25 degrees below actual (as I type, you report a *modified* temperature accounting for heat index of 82f, while the actual unmodified temperature currently sits at a cheerfully skull-boiling 95F). Worse, every single day has carried a thunderstorm icon and the promise of a slight chance of showers. While this is technically true in the same sense that I have a slight chance to win the lottery or to be struck by lightning, given as the only atmospheric moisture comes from my own exhalations, this seems just a skosh optimistic. I can only imagine your crack meteorologists other hobbies, such as eating hamburgers in front of people dying of starvation, or using the last of the fresh water in the life raft to rinse your socks because they feel dirty.

Current reporting claims 45% cloud cover. Please, for the sake of us all, open the window and let the bong smoke out, you’ve clearly mistaken it for atmospheric conditions again, as the only thing covering 45% of the sky at the moment is heat, along with more heat and a side of dry. The remaining 55% happens to be covered by the same thing, but small details like that are easy to miss in the fever of inventing fictional climates. I imagine this fantasy Los Alamos which has been the subject of your reports and forecast for some time now to be quite a nice location, and while I’d like to consider the notion you’re merely reporting on what the weather will be in late September, instead of the end of June, I’m not sure I quite buy that level of prognostication.

I’m aware that most of this “reporting” and forecasting is the result of remote instrument monitoring. Isn’t technology wonderful? The same set of kit that lets me vent my frustration over having sweated through a dozen days of 105f being cheerfully misreported as the mid-80s lets another group sit cheerfully remote to read mis-calibrated sensors and copy and paste the same “Well, it’s almost monsoon season so I guess it might rain” forecast in day after day giving ever delightful false hope and spirit-raising disappointment as the cloudless sky (45% coverage!) bakes the last lingering shreds of sanity from our minds, at a perfectly accurate….let me check the readings here…. purple-bananna degrees. Kelvin.

Tomorrow’s forecast: Snow and earthquakes! How much snow? About a towel.

Please, check the sensors or at least call someone in the zip code and ask if there are any clouds in the sky.

*In direct response to challenge, this complaint contains no words which would not be acceptable in a family-friendly venue. Suck on that, bitchcock.

Conspirator Isn’t The 13th Law

June 26, 2012 - 5:16 pm 23 Comments

Oh Chuck Norris No.

Synopsis: Chuck Norris has managed to notice that James Turley, on the board of the Boy Scouts of America, has announced he will “work from within” to try and change the BSA’s no-gays policy. Chuck Norris has also managed to notice that the Obama administration has been moderately friendlier to gay people than those previous. He wants us to ask ourselves, at great and exhaustive length, if it is a coincidence that James Turley and the Obama administration both don’t hate homos. There are seventeen “is it a coincidences” in there in all, relating to the strange conspiracy that is their mutual lack of anti-gay sentiment and the fact that Turley is, apparently, a rich Democrat.

No, it’s not a coincidence, Chuck, it’s called having similar politics and it doesn’t require a motherfucking White House conspiracy, gifts, bribes, or favors. Contrary to whatever bubble of Barrens Chat you may currently dwell in, being against no-gays-allowed policies is a pretty common political stance now, among many people to the left of Rick Perry and even a few scattered folks on the right. If anything gay-rights advocates feel Obama has been REALLY squishy on that issue when he didn’t really need to be for his own political survival; the Obama white house isn’t exactly in the pocket of that particular lobby, and has plodded along just in the wake of the leading edge of public opinion like any well-trained weathervane. And the Boy Scouts, while they may ban atheists, agnostics, and gay folk, do not ban liberals or moderates.

My own general position is that the BSA should stop fucking around and choose whether it wants to stand on its principles as a private organization to ban whomever they choose (and maybe at the same time stop accepting multimillions of taxpayer dollars’ worth in federal and local public funding and favors- on principle), or act like the public organization they often function as and open their admissions to all boys in America. I’d like it a lot if that latter happened; my husband was a Scout and so was my brother, who made Eagle, and I genuinely believe they’re an overall force for good for boys in this country. But it’s not my organization, and I’m not on the board. Turley is.

And if you believe his position as such is so radical it requires back-scratching and favors under the table from the White House to explain, you truly have lost touch with America.

Response To Micah Clark: It Ain’t That Bad

June 21, 2012 - 9:43 pm 17 Comments

From the Illinois Family Institute: Warning To America: It Can Get Worse

By “it” he means atheism and agnosticism among young people.

The Illinois Family Institute apparently exists to “promote marriage, family, life, and liberty”. As poster Mr. Clark may or may not be aware, people who doubt the existence of the Biblical God generally get married more often than not, 100% of them have families, all of them are alive and all of them have a choice of positions on the issue of abortion if that’s the specific issue at hand, and most of them are broadly in favor of “liberty”, though most of them would also take a view of liberty that includes not being forced to participate in or mouth along with religious ceremonies, or be restricted by law grounded in an explicitly religious morality. Much as religious people object to laws restraining them from religious practice. (Anti-murder: not explicitly religious. Anti-contraception: generally explicitly religious.)

Fun additional quote:

By the way, everyone believes in something, be it the God, a god or themselves.

Missing from this list: family, community, the temporal order of law, the abstract order of morality, the sweep of human history… everyone believes in something, but not everyone believes moral authority is a chain of authority-people with eternal, personified authorities at the ends. (Lots of people who believe/d in multiple gods don’t, and those gods behave rather more like people freed of moral authority than moral authorities.)

Oh, I know, “family” associations are usually code for “Christian, and fuck your family if it doesn’t fit what we think is the Biblical mold, and fuck liberty if it in some way contradicts what we think God’s will is, even if God was pretty explicit in the Bible that everyone has a choice”. But today, for whatever reason, I am extra tired of the pretension.

Heatwave Misc.

June 20, 2012 - 5:49 pm 1 Comment

- It’s stupid hot outside. You know it’s stupid hot when the Akitas, no matter what time it is or how badly they have to go, pause in horror at the threshold when we go to let them outside and ask themselves if they really have to go THAT badly. We are unrelieved as yet by the traditional afternoon thunderstorms of summer. I’ve lived in Phoenix and New Orleans, and while the heat there is greater, there is nothing quite like several thousand feet of altitude to make sunlight really extra miserable. On the bright side, shade makes much more of a difference.

This is pretty nifty. It’s a pulp fiction dance track. The link warns me it might infect me with an earworm but so far all it’s infected me with is a burning desire for a vanilla milkshake and an In-N-Out burger.

– You might also like DJ Faroff’s mashups. Some of his more successful tracks, like the Cypress Hill/Beatles/Joan Jett one or the Gwen Stefani/Elastica/Smashmouth one, we now like vastly more than the originals and play as part of our regular music collection.

– So we finally got round to checking out Black Books, as recommended by eight million or so of the usual sources of “British comedies/sitcoms are more hilarious than US ones, also you should like this because you’re bitter cynical assholes too!” As it turns out, against all expectation, we do. Usually, when the primary source of comedy in a series is that everyone involved is a terrible person, we don’t (See: Coupling, Seinfeld, It’s Always Sunny In Philhedelphia, Fawlty Towers), but the people writing this seem to have advanced comedy fu in really stretching the “situation” in “situation comedy”.

Prometheus

June 16, 2012 - 1:07 pm 15 Comments

Spoiler-free portion:

Whether or not you go see this movie in the theater should be calculated by how much you liked Blade Runner times how delighted you are with epic visuals, divided by your tendency to analyze movies as you go along rather than just taking them in plus how many horror movies you’ve seen. Weight as you see fit, and by the time you’ve finished doing that you’ll already have your answer.

Spoiler-plus portion: (more…)

Vapors

June 15, 2012 - 1:24 pm 11 Comments

So it seems recently a Michigan representative got thrown off the floor for using language too salty for the sensibilities of the House.

The offending word was “vagina”. No, seriously. The one that gets, like, a couple of titters when it’s used in health class in front of schoolchildren. The actual anatomical term for that part of a woman’s reproductive anatomy that is surrounded by the vulva and terminates at the cervix, through which penises and semen enter and babies exit some time later. This is not a slangy nickname, let alone an offensive slangy nickname like “cunt” or “gash”, it’s the actual proper term for the body part.

The context for this entire episode was a speech given by Rep. Lisa Brown in opposition to a proposed bill that would, among other things, ban all abortions after 20 weeks. In the course of a longer speech pointing out among other things that anyone who would institute a flat ban on abortions after 20 weeks has not really thought through some of the medical realities of pregnancy, she concluded:

And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’

OK. Unquestionably a barb, a goad if you will, perhaps even an insult that might not have been appropriate*, but politics isn’t a tea ceremony. There are rough edges and thrown elbows and in days of yore the occasional savage beatdown. The roughness and occasional crudeness of politics was in fact advanced in days gone by as an argument for why women shouldn’t be allowed to participate, and not in the sense that they were going to frighten the men.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating and she was just thrown off for some sort of “no directly insulting the Speaker, also shut up my god you’re annoying” reason, here is a quote from one of the other representatives:

“‘What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. ‘It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.’

I see.

A glance at his campaign biography indicates that Mike Callton is married, to a woman, and has children, which means that unless a paternity test is failed somewhere down the road that Mike Callton must have interacted with a vagina at some point after his birth, in front of a woman no less. (This also brings to mind the horrifying question of what Mike thinks an appropriate term for the place he must have put his penis at least once is. My imagination is unhelpfully volunteering “vajajay.”)

His Wikipedia page reveals the rather more mind-bending factoid that Mike Callton has a biology degree, which I have difficulty imagining he obtained without ever learning what the proper anatomical term for the bit of a mammal that leads up to the uterus and opens to the world is.

There is, of course, always the depressing option that he thinks vaginas are inherently dirty things that must never be mentioned even in front of people who have to endure the burden of owning one, of course.

Either way, I feel fairly certain that if he, or any other member of the House, is unable to hear the word “vagina” or contemplate its existence without a fainting couch, they sure as fuck should not be allowed to write legislation affecting them.

*It wins over exactly no opponents but the stripe of pro-lifer who appears to be under the impression that women carry babies around in little suitcases under their dresses and not inside their bodies, which can get pretty full-contact gruesome even when nothing is technically all that wrong and the baby is fine, let alone when it is and it’s not, is pretty irritating.

ETA: Actually, two female representatives were barred from the floor, one of which wasn’t told why. Both women were trying to introduce an amendment to the legislation expanding the proposed new regulations on abortion to vasectomy. If trying to make a point through bill edits and amendments is somehow considered unnecessary roughness in legislature, it must be a very, very new development.

How To Learn To Roller Skate

June 14, 2012 - 8:56 pm 10 Comments

1. Obtain skates. You can either borrow them from someone close-ish enough for government work to your shoe size, rent them from an appropriate establishment (for some strange reason the local Methodist church is that establishment here), or if you’re really insane you can just buy them. Skates are not as cheap as you will remember them being when you were a kid.

2. Obtain protective gear. Do not skip this step. At the very least* you want kneepads and wristguards, being the most likely points beside your ass you’re going to fall on. Your ass is probably well padded already. (Except for one particular point, which you may- excitingly- discover.)

3. Locate a good place to attempt skating. The sidewalk is not a good place, as you will rapidly discover if you try it. Yes, that is probably where you learned to when you were eight. You aren’t eight anymore, you are much further off the ground, and the amount of mass you have to interact with gravity has increased greatly. Even if it looks fine to you, taking a broom and clearing the chosen space, if outdoors, of gravel will do you lots of favors. Skate wheels aren’t designed for offroading even a little bit.

4. Put on protective gear. Put on skates.

5. Stand up.

6. Attempt to move forward.

7. From your new position on the ground, assess yourself for injuries, and determine if they are serious enough to justify taking the damn skates straight back off again. Common options include groin pull and bruised tailbone.

8. Try to find either a friendly person to literally hold your hand, or a vertical surface that can be slightly leaned upon. Try to do this somewhere with walls. When you come back, if you can come back with a baby stroller or shopping cart, these tools will help enormously.

9. Practice skating in a straight line from wall to wall. Now is a good time to quietly explore and discover every single tiny stabilizer muscle you don’t use at all in any non-skating capacities.

10. Because you will be doing it whether you call it practice or not, practice falling. You want to fall onto the bits of yourself that are actually well protected, which in most cases if you bought remotely adequate kneepads will be your knees. Although you may be wearing wristguards, never rely on them; wristguards suck and they will only help you a little. Even if you don’t break your wrists, falling onto your hands is a good way to break your thumb. You are not supposed to fall backwards, but this will happen anyway; attempt to fall on one side of your ass or the other. Falling on it straight back and center will bring you naught but woe. If falling at speed and knees are not an option, try to fall on your hip and roll. Again, it is likely to be already well padded. If you are female, falling on your chest is undignified but also a well padded area. Try to keep your limbs pointed in roughly the same direction and not to sprawl.

11. When you are walking, running, or carrying something, the best way to stabilize yourself when you feel you are losing your balance is to lean your weight back on your heels. When wearing skates, this will have wacky results. The correct answer in skates is always to bend your knees and lean slightly forward. This will either stabilize you or lead the fall the way it’s supposed to go.

12. Your toe stops are not for stopping, unless you are rolling very slowly indeed. Your toe stops are for ninja tricks you may learn later. Also, if your skates are rental or stock, they are probably also mostly decorative. If you want to stop without the aid of something vertical, you have to learn to make friction work for you while wearing a device mostly designed to reduce friction.

13. Do all of this for many hours. Learn to do it on one leg, which is a surprisingly useful base skill when learning ninja tricks.

It helps to have a small, perpetually perky woman shouting at you the whole way, mostly in the sense that if you do learn, you will eventually be allowed to hit her as hard as you can. Good luck.

*At the very least for just absolutely green starting out. If you keep doing it long enough to be capable of any real speed at all, you NEED a helmet and you SHOULD also get elbow pads.

PSA

June 13, 2012 - 10:15 pm 18 Comments

Sorry for silence. Yesterday was busy. So was today.

People, please don’t let your cats roam. I know some seem happier that way, but even if you’re willing to accept its likely early, violent demise that doesn’t necessarily mean your neighbors have been in on your life decision, though they may be on what it does in life and may be on that final bit, whether they like it or not, too.

It’s Martini Time

June 11, 2012 - 7:22 pm 14 Comments

…Because it’s easy content, that’s why.

Matt polls his audience at large about the canonical martini, and its ingredients.

Agreeing with basically all of the commenters, in our opinion the original drink was made with gin, vermouth, and some variety of garnish, with the olive being the most classic and the lemon twist being another . (There are some who will say the kind with a cocktail onion is called a gibson; I tend to take the belief that unless you’re bartender with a showy repetoire, it’s a damn martini with yet another in a long line of pickled or preserved vegetable garnishes.)

James Bond popularized the vodka variant, and as Americans have never been nearly as fond of gin as the British (possibly due to cultural memory of associating it with cheap flavored poison from Prohibition days), it became the favored version in America. The argument can be made that after five decades or so of dominance in this country it is some version of “classic”, it’s just not the original.

Vodka martinis are easier to like (they used to be my preference too) just because there’s so much less pressure on vodka to be high quality not to ruin a cocktail. Really good vodka doesn’t taste of much, and bad vodka just tastes pretty much like any clear spirit; bad gin tastes like medicine-flavored paint thinner, and while bad vodka can be drowned out with just about any mixer, bad gin will destroy all it touches.

I didn’t really learn to like gin until Spear set out to convert me, and one thing I did learn is that, like absinthe, it’s a liquor you simply can’t cheap out on, and also that there is a huge variety in flavors and preferences for said flavors from drinker to drinker. What botanicals a distiller puts in besides the juniper varies tremendously, and those botanicals make all the difference in how the gin should be garnished and what kinds of drinks it should go into.

Right now there are five different gins in our collection: Hendrick’s, which is our general favorite for use in gin and tonics and tastes of a mixture of herbs with a bit of cucumber (and is best garnished with cucumber, or mixed with cucumber soda), Magellan’s, which I’m particularly fond of and always garnish with lime, basic Tanqueray, which goes into the martinis because Stingray likes ‘em dirty with pickle brine and that crushes any subtler flavors, Rangpur Tanqueray which is pretty much exclusively my drink, and Rogue spruce gin, a gift I favor as a true Pink Gin*. I probably won’t be able to lay my hands on any more of the Rogue locally, but they’re all there for a reason otherwise.

The choice of vermouth is up to you; sweet vermouth is the very original with “dry” meaning dry vermouth, but these days “dry” more usually means not much vermouth at all. I prefer the dry vermouth in general, and don’t see the logic in leaving it out of the drink entirely. If I just want gin with a garnish, that’s what I’ll drink, and I’ll pick the garnish to suit the gin.

As for the garnish: pick what you like and what plays well with the ingredients you chose. The twist of lemon goes great with the more citrusy gins, and the sharp saltiness of an olive or something pickled has its own appeal. Stingray likes his with any of the veggies pulled out of a jar of Farm Mom’s hot dill pickles; the cucumber slices themselves are the most numerous, the hot peppers give the hardest kick to the drink (and it’s surprisingly pleasant, in a martini- or at least I was surprised), though he claims the absolute best are the pickled garlic cloves.

And I… would almost always rather have a gin and tonic or pink gin. Though I think I’ll be trying that pickled okra variant just for grins.

*Meaning, I turn it into one, not that it already is one as opposed to simply being pink after aging in wine barrels. It plays quite well with the bitters.

Your Internet Distraction For The Month

June 7, 2012 - 9:45 pm 4 Comments

We feel like we’ve been shot at and missed and shit at and hit and that’s about enough for the Days of Our Lives update.

It feels like everyone’s already been here but me, but I know that can’t be true, so: The SCP Foundation.

I remember being linked here ages ago and I stayed about ten minutes and left relatively unimpressed. I don’t know whether they reformatted or stepped up their game or I was being an ass the first time or what, but now it’s a bona fide Internet Black Hole. Skip trying to figure out what it is exactly and just click on the SCP Series links. Each describes a self-contained Weirdness that is surprisingly addictive, like a set of skeleton notes of a show or anthology that never was- and best of all, like all the best short stories, do not require further explanation just because of the format itself. Some of them are funny, some are creepy, some aren’t much of either and are just a bit off. If you like Creepypasta you’ll like this.